Wednesday, December 19, 2007

How to stick it to Bush

The American public spoke loudly and clearly when we sent a bunch of useless Republicans packing last year in the mid-term elections. It seems that many Democrats in Congress still didn't get the message, though. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) didn't get it, and still doesn't even after Cenk Uygur laid it out for him. Democrats have been bending over backwards to give Mr. 29% everything he asks for, then they wonder why we're all pissed at them. Here's a clue for Congress: do your damn jobs. We're sick and tired of your capitulation whenever Bush and his cronies throw tantrums when any of you propose bills he doesn't like. Make the Republicans filibuster in the Senate. Make Bush veto popular bills. Ted Kennedy gets it.

The President has said that American lives will be sacrificed if Congress does not change FISA. But he has also said that he will veto any FISA bill that does not grant retroactive immunity. No immunity, no FISA bill. So if we take the President at his word, he's willing to let Americans die to protect the phone companies.
Let him veto FISA. Let him show the world who he really works for. Americans aren't all complete idiots. Those of us paying attention understand what's happening. We expect you to protect our rights. We expect you to uphold your oath of office to preserve and protect the Constitution. If you don't, we'll find someone else who will.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Is the human race doomed?

James Lovelock, the scientist who first detected the widespread presence of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere, sat down with RollingStone magazine a couple of months ago to discuss global warming:

At the age of eighty-eight, after four children and a long and respected career as one of the twentieth century's most influential scientists, James Lovelock has come to an unsettling conclusion: The human race is doomed. "I wish I could be more hopeful," he tells me one sunny morning as we walk through a park in Oslo, where he is giving a talk at a university. Lovelock is a small man, unfailingly polite, with white hair and round, owlish glasses. His step is jaunty, his mind lively, his manner anything but gloomy. In fact, the coming of the Four Horsemen -- war, famine, pestilence and death -- seems to perk him up. "It will be a dark time," Lovelock admits. "But for those who survive, I suspect it will be rather exciting."

In Lovelock's view, the scale of the catastrophe that awaits us will soon become obvious. By 2020, droughts and other extreme weather will be commonplace. By 2040, the Sahara will be moving into Europe, and Berlin will be as hot as Baghdad. Atlanta will end up a kudzu jungle. Phoenix will become uninhabitable, as will parts of Beijing (desert), Miami (rising seas) and London (floods). Food shortages will drive millions of people north, raising political tensions. "The Chinese have nowhere to go but up into Siberia," Lovelock says. "How will the Russians feel about that? I fear that war between Russia and China is probably inevitable." With hardship and mass migrations will come epidemics, which are likely to kill millions. By 2100, Lovelock believes, the Earth's population will be culled from today's 6.6 billion to as few as 500 million, with most of the survivors living in the far latitudes -- Canada, Iceland, Scandinavia, the Arctic Basin.

By the end of the century, according to Lovelock, global warming will cause temperate zones like North America and Europe to heat up by fourteen degrees Fahrenheit, nearly double the likeliest predictions of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the United Nations-sanctioned body that includes the world's top scientists. "Our future," Lovelock writes, "is like that of the passengers on a small pleasure boat sailing quietly above the Niagara Falls, not knowing that the engines are about to fail." And switching to energy-efficient light bulbs won't save us. To Lovelock, cutting greenhouse-gas pollution won't make much difference at this point, and much of what passes for sustainable development is little more than a scam to profit off disaster. "Green," he tells me, only half-joking, "is the color of mold and corruption."

The man is a ray of sunshine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Conventional wisdom

Ever wonder why you don't hear anything but standard talking points on the regular news shows? This video may explain a lot.

Arthur Silber is right again

Given the recent revelations that many Democrats were made aware that waterboarding was being employed by the CIA back in 2002, Americans should be raising holy hell. This is beyond outrageous. As usual, Glenn Greenwald is all over it.

This story was obviously leaked by Republican operatives to damage the Democratic leadership, and it has had the desired effect. Rightfully so. Senator Biden is right about what should happen next: a special counsel must be appointed to conduct a criminal investigation. Every member of Congress who knew about this, Democrat or Republican, must be held accountable. If Jay Rockefeller had any integrity, he would resign from the chairmanship of the Senate Intelligence Committee immediately. His inaction is inexcusable. The whole purpose of his committee is to provide oversight of government intelligence activities and ensure conformity with the laws and Constitution of the United States. They have failed miserably.

What happened to the very explicit statement by George Bush that "this government does not torture people?" After World War II, the United States prosecuted Japanese soldiers for waterboarding American soldiers because it was considered torture. What happened between then and now to make it not qualify as torture any more? Is 9/11 going to be our perpetual excuse for every evil act committed by our government that we ignore?

Several months ago, Arthur Silber said,

But for the reasons set forth above (and a full case would fill many volumes), the Democrats are not going to impeach any of these criminals, barring events entirely unforeseeable at present. And they will not for one overwhelmingly significant and determinative reason: always with regard to the underlying principles, and frequently with regard to the specifics, the Democrats are implicated in every single crime with which they would charge the members of the administration. The Republicans' crimes are their crimes.
Anyone want to take any bets on what becomes of this affair? I predict it will get swept under the rug, like all the other illegal activities perpetrated by the current administration, for precisely the reasons Arthur put forth. Democrats won't do anything about Republican lawbreaking because they are just as guilty. Despite their protestations to the contrary, Democrats have demonstrated that they are not actually opposed to the "corporatist, authoritarian, warfare state" that is the United States government. Unlike their Republican counterparts, however, Democrats are just too wimpy to come right out and say it. Their base wouldn't stand for it and there would be little left to differentiate the two parties. The Democratic strategy is to express phony outrage and publicly condemn the actions of the administration, but not actually do anything about it because they will find it useful if they win the presidency next year as they anticipate. The real battle is not between Democrats and Republicans; it's between the have and the have nots. All of us in the latter category just don't realize it.

Another Bush cheerleader has a change of heart

Former Bush speechwriter, Mathew Dowd, was once a part of the 2004 Bush Campaign's all-star team responsible for smearing John Kerry when he called for withdrawal from Iraq. Dowd's 22-year-old son is now getting ready to be deployed to Iraq and he's suddenly changed his mind about the war. Funny how that happens, isn't it? Kind of like how the brave souls of the 101st Fighting Keyboarders talk all tough, but refuse to put their money where their mouths are despite being of prime military recruitment age.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Iraqi Christians gone or dead

Oh, the irony.

From the time of Jesus, there have been Christians in what is now Iraq. The Christian community took root there after the Apostle Thomas headed east.

But now, after nearly 2,000 years, Iraqi Christians are being hunted, murdered and forced to flee -- persecuted on a biblical scale in Iraq's religious civil war. You'd have to be mad to hold a Christian service in Iraq today.

[...]

"You were here during Saddam’s reign. And now after. Which was better? Which was worse?" Pelley asked.

"The situation now is clearly worse" than under Saddam, White replied.

"There’s no comparison between Iraq now and then," he told Pelley. "Things are the most difficult they have ever been for Christians. Probably ever in history. They’ve never known it like now."

"Wait a minute, Christians have been here for 2,000 years," Pelley remarked.

"Yes," White said.

"And it’s now the worst it has ever been," Pelley replied.

To understand the history of Iraqi Christianity, start with the Last Supper. One saint to the right of Jesus is the Apostle Thomas, who took the gospel and headed east after the death of Christ.

In modern times, under Saddam, Christians were treated much the same as Muslims; Saddam's right hand man, Tariq Aziz, was Christian.

Before the war, it's estimated there were about a million Christians in Iraq. They were a small minority, but free to worship, free to build churches, and free to speak the ancient language of Jesus, Aramaic. But, after the invasion, Muslim militants launched a war on each other and the cross.

On Sunday, Aug. 1, 2004, five churches were bombed. The Iraqi Christian community, which had survived invasions by Mongols and Turks, was driven out under American occupation. No one can be sure, but Canon White estimates most of Iraq's Christians have fled or been killed. Those still here are too old, too ill or too poor to run.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Ahh, torture -- can you smell the testosterone?

As has been noted in the past, conservative Republicans, especially Catholic ones, love the idea of torturing people. It must make them feel manly to think about going all Old Testament on people who aren't white conservative Christians. This was once again in evidence during the last Republican debate when a focus group of undecided Republicans registered their responses to answers by each of the candidates electronically.

When John McCain started talking about torture--specifically, about waterboarding--the dials plummeted again. Lower even than for the illegal Children of God. Down to the low 20s, which, given the natural averaging of a focus group, is about as low as you can go. Afterwards, Luntz asked the group why they seemed to be in favor of torture. "I don't have any problem pouring water on the face of a man who killed 3000 Americans on 9/11," said John Shevlin, a retired federal law enforcement officer. The group applauded, appallingly.
Fox's "24" certainly appears to have had the desired effect. Naturally, these same Republicans who sport wood and drool uncontrollably at the thought of crushing a man's testicles in a vice believe that us dirty libruls who oppose torture are a bunch of pussies and terrorist lovers.

Americans are supposed to be better than this. In a previous era, enemy soldiers tried to find Americans when they wanted to surrender because they knew they would be treated humanely. Given that the military now regularly recruits white supremacists and individuals with criminal records so they can meet their recruitment goals because nobody with a conscience (or a functioning brain) is signing up to be IED fodder for the Bush war machine these days, we now have some soldiers who actively seek to torture and kill innocent civilians. Granted they are a very small minority, but it's still happening. And they're doing it in our name.

It's sad and shocking, though not surprising, to see the effect that some of our knuckle-dragging leaders have had on the populace. It's past high time for people of character to take charge again and call these Neanderthals out on their disgusting beliefs.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Roy Blunt is an idiot

My three-year-old can see through this argument.

"With one of the Democrats' leading war critics now saying the surge in Iraq is working, it's difficult to understand why the majority continues to push an irresponsible withdrawal plan that jeopardizes critical support funding for our troops," House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, said.
Tell us, Roy, how would withdrawing troops from Iraq to the safety of the United States jeopardize critical support funding for the troops? The House already passed a bill giving Dubya another $50 billion to play army, but Senate Republicans voted against it. And it's about time a Democrat of standing finally said this:
"We have provided every penny that is currently necessary to fund Defense Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world," Pelosi said. "It is President Bush and his Republican allies in the Senate who are preventing extra funds from reaching our troops."
Democrats need to wrap this war around the neck of every Republican who has supported it since day one.

Religious lunacy

Two stories this morning highlighting the idiocy and narrow-mindedness of religious fundamentalists:

In Sudan, protesters are calling for the execution of the British teacher, who allowed her Muslim students to name their class mascot, a teddy bear, "Muhammed". And Muslims swear that Islam is a religion of peace. Yeah, right.

Not to be outdone, in the great state of Texas, the director of the state's science curriculum has resigned "after being accused of creating the appearance of bias against teaching intelligent design." Let me get this straight. The director of the science curriculum shouldn't be biased in favor of teaching actual science in science classes? Applying that logic consistently, astrology and alchemy should be legitimate topics for science class too. The moral of the story: check the background of the people you vote for. Too many of these morons are getting elected to positions of power.

Why is it that so many religious people think that the 10th century was the golden age of man?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Are you on the list?

The "terror watch list" has grown to more than 755,000 names. Are you on it? While a large number of people who are on "the list" are undoubtedly actual terrorists or suspected terrorists, how many people are on it simply because they've voiced discontent for the actions of the Bush administration? Author and activist Naomi Wolf is on it. I wonder how many people who will be marching in the upcoming "Constitution Days" rallies will be added to the list? Maybe those events will drive it past the 1 million mark.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Democrat quickly loses newfound spine

(Updated below)

Democratic Congressman Pete Stark from California surprised and excited Democrats everywhere last week when he provided indications of being a vertebrate during the S-CHIP debate in Congress when he said,

"You don't have money to fund the war or children, but you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."
Smelling salts were subsequently disbursed to revive fallen Republican Congressmen from their fainting couches after bearing witness to Stark's harsh, untoward, and ungentlemanly language. When pressed by dismayed Republicans for an apology, Stark went on to say,
"I have nothing but respect for our brave men and women in uniform and wish them the very best, but I respect neither the commander in chief who keeps them in harm's way nor the chickenhawks in Congress who vote to deny children healthcare."
Coming as it did on the heels of last month's irresponsible and ghastly criticism by MoveOn.org of General David Petraeus, otherwise known as The Man Whose Opinion Cannot Be Questioned, Republicans saw this as an opportunity to divert public attention away from both their opposition to the popular S-CHIP program and the president's failed occupation of Iraq by introducing a resolution to censure Rep. Stark. Though the censure resolution ultimately failed, Rep. Stark's newfound spine melted into a puddle of gelatinous goo at the threat, and he groveled before Congress and President Bush, begging to be allowed to return to the dark pit of irrelevance from whence he came. Another "Mission Accomplished" for our brave Republican Congressmen.

So to summarize, a Democrat spoke the truth, but was later "forced" to apologize for offending the delicate sensibilities of Congressional Republicans.

How rich. We're talking about the Republican Party here. These are the same people whose champions are Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, and Ann Coulter. This is the party of "Mean" Jean Schmidt, who had the nerve to call true life war hero John Murtha a coward. This is the party of George W. Bush, who won reelection by employing phony "values" and fear mongering, and by trashing the military service of another actual war hero, John Kerry. And they have the unmitigated gall to complain when someone points out their hypocrisy? Boo frickin' hoo, cry me a river. For some reason, though, Democrats tremble in fear at this phony sanctimony and keep allowing themselves to get punked.

The LA Times article linked above goes on to state:
The move to censure Stark marked the second time Republicans have taken to the House floor to chastise Democrats for statements the GOP deemed offensive to the U.S. military.
Someone please explain to me how Stark's words were offensive to the military? What should be offensive to the military is that their commander in chief used his daddy's political connections so he could avoid combat during the Vietnam war by getting a cushy assignment to the Texas Air National Guard from which he went AWOL to advance his political career so he can now pretend to be Winston Churchill.

Here's another question: Why do Democrats always feel the need to preface anything having to do with the occupation of Iraq with some statement espousing their everlasting love for the military? Disparaging the president in no way insults the military especially since the president had every opportunity to serve his country in a time of war, yet chose to weasel out of it. Republicans are the ones who have been screwing our soldiers every chance they get, from extending their tours of duty, to not providing them adequate equipment and training, to providing substandard care when they are wounded in action. Republicans and their minions are the ones who attack soldiers whenever they criticize the president's Glorious War on Islam. Yet Democrats are the ones who sound apologetic every single time they talk about any subject that involves the military! What gives?

What will it take for the Democrats to understand that their low approval ratings are entirely due to not living up to their promises to stand up to the president? We're sick and tired of being represented by wimps, Republican lites, and proxies for corporate interests. The hole they have helped President Bush dig this country into can only get so deep before we will be unable to get ourselves out.

Update: Digby wrote about this same issue in a post titled, The Art of the Hissy Fit. Give it a read.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Haven't we heard this song before?

From CNN:

The Bush administration on Monday asked for an additional $42.3 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the 2008 request for total war funding to $189.3 billion.

The request comes on top of $147 billion already sought for in the wars. Most of the money goes to Iraq, which is costing the Pentagon an estimated $2 billion a week.

"Parts of this war are complicated, but one part is not -- and that is that America should do what it takes to support our troops and protect our people," President Bush said in an appearance with members of veterans groups at the White House.

[...]

Minutes after Bush spoke, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, warned the president not to expect Congress to "rubber-stamp" the latest request.

"In the coming weeks, we will hold it up to the light of day and fight for the change of strategy and redeployment of troops that is long overdue," Reid said.

He said the new request means the overall cost of the widely unpopular war now approaches $650 billion since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"The entire war in Iraq is being paid for with borrowed money," Reid said.
Blah, blah, blah...no blank check...blah, blah, blah...change course in Iraq...blah, blah, blah. Where have we heard this before? Oh, yeah. Nancy Pelosi said it when she took over as Speaker of the House back in January, and Harry Reid repeated it this past April. And what did they do? They wrote Bush another blank check to stay the course in Iraq. So what's changed between then and now besides a lot more death and destruction, and the federal deficit growing by a few hundred billion dollars? Why should we think the outcome will be any different this time around? I mean, it's not like Congress is trying to pass bills to provide retroactive immunity to Big Telecoms for illegally assisting the Bush administration in its warrantless spying program or anything. And they spent all that time and effort to restore Habeas Corpus. No, wait...that's not right.

I'm sorry, but I've totally lost faith in the current Democratic party and will not believe anything they say until they show some actual results. Why the hell are they wasting time on a non-binding resolution to condemn something that happened in a foreign country almost 100 years ago while ignoring the huge problems we're facing today? The fact that Democrats can't pass popular legislation like S-CHIP despite overwhelming support from the people indicates a serious leadership problem. I will continue to vote for Democratic candidates until the Republican party is a footnote in the history books (or the United States is, whichever comes first), but the Democrats I will vote for will be the ones who stand up for the people.

The effectiveness of coercion and torture

Yesterday I wrote what many of us have known for a long time: that torturing people to extract information does not make us more safe. This post by Steve Bergstein provides actual proof. Here is an extended excerpt from his post:

In addition to this blog, I also maintain a legal blog covering the civil rights decisions of the United States Court of Appeals in Manhattan. Last week, my eyes lit up when I checked the daily decisions and saw that one case involved a guy who claimed he was forced to confess to a crime that he did not commit. This scenario surfaces from time to time for murders and other crimes, but this case was different because it involved the crime of the century: the 9/11 hijackings which launched this country into a new era.

The long and the short of it was that an Egpytian national, Abdallah Higazy, was staying in a hotel in New York City on September 11 and the hotel emptied out when the planes hit the towers. The hotel later found in the closet of his room a device that allows you to communicate with airline pilots. Investigators thought this guy had something to do with 9/11 so they questioned him. According to Higazi, the investigators coerced him into confessing to a role in 9/11. Higazi first adamantly denied any involvement with 9/11 and could not believe what was happening to him. Then, he says, the investigator said his family would go through hell in Egypt, where they torture people like Saddam Hussein. Higazy then realized he had a choice: he could continue denying the radio was his and his family suffers ungodly torture in Egypt or he confesses and his family is spared. Of course, by confessing, Higazy's life is worth garbage at that point, but ... well, that's why coerced confessions are outlawed in the United States.

So Higazy "confesses" and he's processed by the criminal justice system. His future is quite bleak. Meanwhile, an airline pilot later shows up at the hotel and asks for his radio back. This is like something out of the movies. The radio belonged to the pilot, not Higazy, and Higazy was free to go, the victim of horrible timing. Higazi was innocent! He next sued the hotel and the FBI agent for coercing his confession. The bottom line in the Court of Appeals: Higazy has a case and may recover damages for this injustice.

As I read the opinion I realized it was a 44 page epic, too long for me to print out. I blogged about the opinion while I read it online and then posted the blog as I ate lunch. Then something strange happened: a few minutes after I posted the blog, the opinion vanished from the Court of Appeals website! I had never seen this before, and what made all the more strange was that it involved a coerced confession over 9/11. What the hell was going on?

I let some other legal bloggers know about this, particulary the How Appealing blog and Appellate Law and Practice. They both ran a commentary on the missing opinion. Then someone sent How Appealing a PDF of the decision (probably very few of them were floating around since the opinion was posted for a brief period of time) and How Appealing posted the decison.

Then things got even stranger. The Court of Appeals actually phoned How Appealing to request that he remove the opinion from his website since it contained classified information. The Court said that a revised opinion would come out the next day without the classified information. How Appealing actually refused to remove the opinion. Through it all, hundreds of people came to my legal blog to see my summary of the opinion. It was either my blog or printing out and reading a 44 page epic.

The next day, the Court of Appeals reissued the Higazy opinion. With a redaction. The court simply omitted from the revised decision facts about how the FBI agent extracted the false confession from Higazy. For some reason, this information is classified. Just as the opinion gets interesting, when we are about to learn how an FBI agent named Templeton squeezed the "truth" out of Higazy, the opinion reads at page 7: "This opinion has been redacted because portions of the record are under seal. For the purposes of the summary judgment motion, Templeton did not contest that Higazy's statements were coerced."

So the opinion, while interesting, is much less interesting because now we don't know how the FBI extracts false confessions from people. Looking at things from another angle, we don't know how the FBI gets suspected terrorists to tell the truth. Except that we do know this, because the opinion is still available from the How Appealing website. The horse is out of the barn, and the classified portion of the opinion is embedded in the Internet for all eternity. Not only is this decision not to remove the premature opinion now a subject of debate (people tend to think that How Appealing did the right thing in keeping the opinion available), but now we can see the part of the ruling that the Court redacted:

Higazy alleges that during the polygraph, Templeton told him that he should cooperate, and explained that if Higazy did not cooperate, the FBI would make his brother “live in scrutiny” and would “make sure that Egyptian security gives [his] family hell.” Templeton later admitted that he knew how the Egyptian security forces operated: “that they had a security service, that their laws are different than ours, that they are probably allowed to do things in that country where they don’t advise people of their rights, they don’t – yeah, probably about torture, sure.”

Higazy later said, "I knew that I couldn't prove my innocence, and I knew that my family was in danger." He explained that "[t]he only thing that went through my head was oh, my God, I am screwed and my family's in danger. If I say this device is mine, I'm screwed and my family is going to be safe. If I say this device is not mine, I’m screwed and my family’s in danger. And Agent Templeton made it quite clear that cooperate had to mean saying something else other than this device is not mine.”

Higazy explained why he feared for his family:

The Egyptian government has very little tolerance for anybody who is —they’re suspicious of being a terrorist. To give you an idea, Saddam’s security force—as they later on were called his henchmen—a lot of them learned their methods and techniques in Egypt; torture, rape, some stuff would be even too sick to . . . . My father is 67. My mother is 61. I have a brother who developed arthritis at 19. He still has it today. When the word ‘torture’ comes at least for my brother, I mean, all they have to do is really just press on one of these knuckles. I couldn’t imagine them doing anything to my sister.

And Higazy added:

[L]et’s just say a lot of people in Egypt would stay away from a family that they know or they believe or even rumored to have anything to do with terrorists and by the same token, some people who actually could be —might try to get to them and somebody might actually make a connection. I wasn’t going to risk that. I wasn’t going to risk that, so I thought to myself what could I say that he would believe. What could I say that’s convincing? And I said okay.

That's how they do it, folks. If a foreign national is suspected of terrorist activity, the FBI will threaten to have a brutal foreign government punish his family. And punishment in a place like Egypt is not like punishment here. Punishment here consists of solitary confinement and a very long prison term. Punishment over there is torture.

Now granted, physical torture was not applied in this case. The FBI did not go to work on Higazy with pliers and a blowtorch, but the results would have been the same if they had instead of just threatening to torture his family. What would you have done if you had been in this situation? Imagine if you were separated from your family and repeatedly told that your son was going to have his toenails ripped off, holes drilled through his hands with an electric drill, or his genitals crushed in a vice if you didn't say what your captors wanted to hear. What would you have confessed to? I know what I would've done.

Coercion and torture will make almost anyone confess to being the Easter Bunny. People will say and do anything to make the pain stop or to eliminate the threat. They will say whatever the "interrogator" wants to hear, whether it is the truth or not. Obviously, this does not help further our national interests on many levels. This is the lesson that our intelligence community should have learned from the Soviets and East Germans. Instead, they learned new and exciting techniques for applying pain.

So after the FBI went through all the effort to coerce Higazy into making a false confession, we find that they wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent tracking down real leads. I'll say it again for the hard of comprehending: torture does not make us safer. In the entire history of the world, the "ticking bomb" scenario that the wingnuts love to postulate has probably never happened. The assumption is that the person being tortured actually knows something pertinent, which we can see by the example above is patently false. Jack Bauer is a fictitious character in a television show and should not be used as a role model.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tristero nail it

Valerie Plame Wilson will be down at the Lake tomorrow to discuss her new book, "Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House". This undoubtedly has something to do with the timing of Tristero's newest post at Hullabaloo today.

There is a widely-held myth that liberals have no place in their worldview for serious consideration of national security issues. Two seconds of thought should be enough for anyone to realize that is an insane myth. Of course we care deeply about keeping our families and communities secure. Who wouldn't?

[...]

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.

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.
This is something that the traditional media just can't seem to grasp. Suspending habeas corpus; kidnapping people and sending them to foreign countries to be tortured in secret prisons; illegally spying on citizens; starting preemptive wars based on lies against countries that pose no threat; and exposing critical top secret espionage operations for political payback do not make us more safe. How can 30 percent of the population not understand this?

We on the Angry Left are angry because we expect our elected officials to live up to their oath to defend and protect the Constitution. This is not tantamount to supporting terrorism by any definition. Each and every one of us Dirty F'in Libruls cares deeply about our country. This is why we are all so outraged to see the Bush administration doing everything in its power to turn it into the new Soviet Union.

Gonzales may be prosecuted?!?

It looks like former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' little problem with the truth may be coming back to haunt him. According to the Spokesman Review,

The U.S. Inspector General may recommend criminal prosecution of departed Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the conclusion of an investigation, possibly as early as next month, the fired former U.S. attorney for Western Washington, [John McKay], told a Spokane audience Friday.

[...]

Gonzales “lied about” reasons for the firings when questioned under oath in July by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now has hired a lawyer and is refusing to answer questions from the Inspector General, McKay said.

The White House said McKay was fired for poor performance ratings of his office, but the ex-U.S. attorney said he and his office got exemplary reviews just three months before he was fired.

“The chief law enforcement officer for the United States should not lie under oath,’’ McKay told the bar association.

It was reported last week that Gonzales has now retained a high-profile defense lawyer, and apparently is refusing to answer questions from the Inspector General, which could signify the investigation is nearly complete, McKay said.

“When it lands … it is going to be an extremely negative report on President Bush’s Justice Department,’’ McKay told the packed conference room, which included federal prosecutors and judges.

I was wondering if anything would ever come of the investigations into Gonzales. Most third graders are better liars than he is. Better stock up on popcorn, things could get interesting soon. Assuming that the fired US Attorneys are speaking the truth about the reasons they were fired, one has to wonder what the remaining 80+ did in order to keep their jobs.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Money well spent?

I was introduced to a cool site today. OpenSecrets.org tracks political contributions. A little browsing yields some interesting results. Take a look at where some of your favorite politicians get their money.

The site provides different ways to slice and dice the data. One view allows you to see what some individual corporations have spent. For instance, AT&T "contributed" more than $38 million to political campaigns between 1990 and 2006. In the same period, Verizon "contributed" more than $15 million, and BellSouth more than $14 million. In total, Telephone utilities have contributed over $106 million to political campaigns between 1990 and 2006.

Look through some of the aggregations and notice how some industries, like tobacco and pharmaceutical manufacturing, contribute to mostly Republican candidates while others, like labor unions, contribute almost exclusively to Democrats. The amount of money given to political campaigns by special interests is simply staggering. Just what do you suppose all that money buys? (Yes, I know that's a rhetorical question.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Peeling back the layers

A couple of days ago, a colleague reminded me that I haven't posted anything in a long time. I do this more for my own personal satisfaction than to actually attract a following, and there are many excellent writers and thinkers out there who really deserve an audience, so I don't really feel all that compelled to write something every day since I usually just come across as a whining librul. I just write when I find something I feel passionate about or when I find something that isn't widely discussed. Ever since the Democrats wrote Dubya another huge check to allow him to continue to play army with real people and real weapons, I've been angry, frustrated, and feeling more than a bit betrayed. So I decided to lay off writing for a while and just listen to what some of the smarter and wiser voices have to say.

Along that vein, I was just reading Arthur Silber's latest post, "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare" and realized that the more I read and learn about politics, the more I realize I know nothing about it. Arthur's post is long, but well worth the time and effort to read in its entirety. His central premise is that all of us who think that the Bushies are a bunch of idiots who can't tie their own shoes have been tooled. He is probably right:

The Bush administration has "turned the Defense Department over to private contractors" -- thus enriching certain huge and hugely influential nominally private companies in amounts of many billions of dollars. Not so coincidentally, the same private companies have numerous and intricate connections to many of those in government. The privatization of national defense also means that certain individuals in government have the ability to deploy not just one private army, but an entire series of private armies, to do their bidding, as may be required and for purposes those individuals will determine.

Turning our national debt over to foreign creditors may indeed be a cause for grave concern and an indicator of possible future economic collapse. But such eventualities hopefully lie some years in the future. Carpe diem, and all that. In the meantime, the top one or two percent of Americans -- including many of these same governmental players and their fellow gang members -- are amassing wealth in colossal amounts. All the rest of America, together with large parts of the world, may be going to hell. What's that to them?

In brief: the major actors in the Bush administration are achieving exactly what they want. They may well be about to launch the start of World War III, which will further enrich their corporate friends by many additional billions of dollars. As the favored few continue to amass vast wealth, the government continues to consolidate political power to an extent that makes a future dictatorship fully realizable. They are well on the road to the achievement of wealth and power on a scale rarely if ever equalled in the history of civilization.

To describe such an achievement as the result of "Monumental Stupidity" is, well, stupid. The problem is one of analysis and method, and it is very widespread. Most major commentators (and almost all bloggers) fall into the same error. The aims I have noted -- the amassing of wealth and power, and the drive to regional (and worldwide) hegemony -- are nothing remotely akin to a conspiracy, unless you view aims stated openly and repeatedly, and pursued over a period of decades in front of the entire world, as a "conspiracy."

The key to the nature of the error lies in this phrase: "while leading a party whose single most basic belief is supposed to be that individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions." Both commentators appear to have taken Republican marketing slogans seriously in the precise manner the Republicans hoped they would. And even though these commentators now view the slogans with suspicion and cynicism, it seems the dynamics involved -- and the vast gulf between marketing techniques and the reality of what is transpiring -- still escape them.

I return once again to these critically important observations from Robert Higgs:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.

I would really like to believe that we're all not just pawns in some sick game of global domination, but after reading this, I think that's like believing in the Tooth Fairy. All of the issues that we care so deeply about just don't matter to the ruling class. They just use them as smoke screens so they can maintain their grip on the power levers. We're all just puppets on strings to them responding exactly as they want us to respond. I suddenly feel like Neo freshly awakened from the Matrix.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

War czar considers draft

Please, oh PLEASE reinstate the draft. The military can't get enough IED fodder for their war to liberate Middle Eastern oil fields from brown people Glorious War on Islam, so they must do something to boost their ranks. Please let it be reinstating the draft. Let's see how that plays with the 18-30 somethings who have been supporting the Iraqi occupation to this point. How will their parents feel when they realize that their kids could die for George Bush's ego? Republicans can have all the rope they want on this one. Let their be no doubt about their destiny in 2008.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Republican intolerance is alive and well

Freshman congressman and Christianist nutjob Bill Sali from Idaho is incensed that a Hindu was invited to deliver the daily invocation in the Senate. His views are a little...no, make that completely, delusional. Here's what he said:

"We have not only a Hindu prayer being offered in the Senate, we have a Muslim member of the House of Representatives now, Keith Ellison from Minnesota. Those are changes -- and they are not what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers," asserts Sali.

Sali says America was built on Christian principles that were derived from scripture. He also says the only way the United States has been allowed to exist in a world that is so hostile to Christian principles is through "the protective hand of God."

"You know, the Lord can cause the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike," says the Idaho Republican.

According to Congressman Sali, the only way the U.S. can continue to survive is under that protective hand of God. He states when a Hindu prayer is offered, "that's a different god" and that it "creates problems for the longevity of this country."
If one were a thinking person, one might wonder why Christians make up only about 25% of the world's population if Christianity were truly God's chosen religion as Bill Sali believes. What do they teach the kids in Idaho? God takes an active role in protecting the United States? God must be losing both his hearing and his eye sight then, because what the Republicans have done to the United States in the past 13 years would certainly not get two thumbs up from JC.

Get a good look at your Republican party, America. Do you really want these clowns writing and voting on the laws that will dictate how you live your life? Republicans love Hindus as long as they stay in their own countries. They love them so much that they write legislation to help American corporations give their technical jobs to them at the expense of highly skilled and (mostly) Christian American workers. Don't get me wrong, I don't care about the color of a person's skin or the book he reads (or doesn't read). But how can these Christian Republicans (an oxymoron if ever there was one) square their treatment of the less fortunate, their own constituents, and their fellow Christians with what they claim are their religious beliefs?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

What will the future bring?

It seem fairly obvious that the policies of the Bush administration will catch up with all of us at some point in the not-so-distant future, and the results will not be pretty. A nation cannot prosper if its working class lives in poverty, and that is becoming a more common occurrence every day in the United States even though the pundits all paint rosy pictures. These would be the same people who are already rich and make loads of money while the remaining 95% of us are getting screwed.

Just look around. Oil prices are through the roof and will in all likelihood continue to increase. The housing market is a mess thanks to the Fed. More and more of our jobs are being outsourced thereby allowing CEOs to pay themselves even more money. Our national debt is immense and growing, and nobody has any real answers about how it will ever get paid off while we hand out massive tax refunds to the richest Americans. We've created disasters in Afghanistan and Iraq, and have no way to get out. New Orleans is still a national disaster. And the whole world hates us. Is there anything that isn't totally screwed up in this country?

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that our economy has nowhere to go but down. Blogger Mike Whitney interviews Elaine Supkis, who answers some burning questions about where the economy is headed.

Question: Will you explain how the inflationary policies of the Federal Reserve are causing the stock market to soar and what the potential dangers are for the global economic system?

Elaine Meinel Supkis: Oh, that is so simple! In 2003, interest rates were dropped to 1% despite inflation of +5%. Instantly, the value of all assets shot upwards as bankers moved money along as fast as possible since the Fed undercut their own interest rates! So mortgages were below the rate of inflation. But this didn't make enough money so banks and other entities offered loans to bad risks who had to pay a higher rate. As inflation rages, they need to give loans to worse and worse customers who pay over 11% interest!

Alas, the fly in this ointment is exactly that: risky customers can't pay back loans! They go bankrupt and everyone acts like a good little domino and over they fall, one after another. Right now,the crashing sound of dominoes falling is like the hissing of waves on a distant shore but it is rapidly approaching. We can certainly hear it coming.

Question: Last week, reports showed that US manufacturing unexpectedly rose in March. However, the Financial Times said that, “The rise in the ISM index is impossible to square with either the regional surveys released over the past few weeks or our medium-term yield-driven model. We think it is quite likely that in their next iterations the ISM will drop sharply.” Do you think the government is deliberately falsifying data on manufacturing to make the economy look stronger than it really is? Could they be doing this in areas as well, such as money supply, inflation, employment, and GDP?

Elaine Meinel Supkis: Do alligators bite? Of course, they lie all the time. Some things were sacred and they didn't lie about them. The M3 data that shows how much money the Fed prints as well as how much is in circulation, etc, just last year, they announced, 'No one is really interested in these numbers and they are too hard to compile.' Like a drunken, gambling spouse declaring there is no need to balance the check books or look into the bank accounts, so it is here. Many people yelled about the M3 numbers being suppressed but to no avail, of course.

Onwards! Since they are lying about basic bank accounting, they have to lie about everything else or people will figure out, something smells rotten in Denmark, DC.

They redrew the rules for figuring out inflation so it no longer tracks inflation. This is so they can cheat retirees and have fake interest rates and thus, steal from granny and gramps and starve school children while lining their own pockets.
Read the entire interview. It paints the most realistic portrait of the current economy that I have read in a long time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Bridge collapse in Minnesota



There's no excuse for this. Somebody didn't do their job. We need accountability. Someone needs to go to jail for a long time. Last month we had the explosion in Manhattan and now this? Our infrastructure is falling apart while the Republicans cut taxes for the wealthy and wage war against people who didn't even pose a threat to us. Our politicians seriously need to get their heads out of their collective ass. How can we be sure this won't happen to any of us on the way to work tomorrow?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The perfect storm

This story should be getting some serious attention. It is the confluence of many different issues facing this country today: low paying jobs, no health care without insurance, hazardous products from China, and Walmart.

This woman claims that she bought a pair of Chinese-made flip-flops from Walmart, where she worked briefly until she figured out how bad they suck. She wore them a few days and had some kind of reaction to them. Click on the links at the bottom of the page on her site to see what happened to her feet.

Because this woman has no health insurance, she can't get decent medical treatment. When she went to report what happened to her to Walmart (fearing that other people might have the same problem), they treated her like dog shit and did absolutely nothing except blame the Chinese importer.

We all know that Walmart imports the cheapest products they can find. It's obvious from this story that they couldn't care less if they are actually safe for consumers. Product liability attorneys should be banging her door down.

Saturday Funnies

Here is Bob Geiger's round-up of this week's best political comics.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

More oil company profits

Here's an idea: since the oil companies are raking in such wonderful profits for themselves and their investors thanks to the war in Iraq, why don't we ask them to fund it for a while?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Republicans for life

Cliff Schecter exposes the Republican Party loyalty oath being administered to members in Kansas. This would explain why Republicans in Congress will never go against George Bush. According to this oath, they swear they will never leave "The Party". This part of the oath is great:

The Republican Party, both nationally and domestically, was founded on sound and principled ideals, that include but are not limited to, personal liberty, individual freedom, responsive and citizen-based Government, life-affirming values, economic growth, strong and cutting edge military, low taxes and a mutual respect for fellow Republicans.
So Republicans believe in "personal liberty" and "individual freedom" as long as you do what they tell you to do. This sounds more like something the Nazi Party would demand members sign. What's not to love about today's Republican Party?

Saturday Funnies

Bob Geiger has 'em.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What will it take?

The Bush administration openly claims that Bush has the powers of a king. When will this Congress finally understand that impeachment is their only option?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Responding to Senator Feingold

Senator Russ Feingold wrote about the question of impeachment today on his Daily Kos blog and he invited comments from the public. Please hop over to Daily Kos and give the good Senator your opinion on the matter. Here is his statement:

Last week I came here to discuss how I plan to tighten my legislation to end the open-ended military mission in Iraq so the Administration would not be able to exploit it and keep tens of thousands of troops, if not more, stuck in the middle of an Iraqi civil war. I appreciated all of the responses and of course I noticed that many of you advocated for the impeachment of the President as well as the Vice President and the Attorney General. I’ve been hearing some of those same comments in Wisconsin.

It is clear that there are many people in this country, including myself, who demand accountability from this Administration for the terrible mess it made in Iraq and its egregious and even illegal power grabs throughout its six-plus years in power. I believe that the President and Vice President may well have committed impeachable offenses. But with so many important issues facing this country and so much work to be done, I am concerned about the great deal of time multiple impeachment trials would take away from the Congress working on the problems of the country. The time it would take for the House to consider articles of impeachment, and for the Senate to conduct multiple trials, would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for Congress to do what it was elected to do – end the war and address some of the other terrible mistakes this Administration has made over the past six and a half years.

While some have pointed to Republicans’ decision to impeach President Clinton, I am also concerned about the over-use of impeachment. And I am conscious of the fact that I would have a specific role to play as a sworn, impartial juror should an impeachment be tried in the Senate. If charges come to the Senate, I will approach them and the trial with the same seriousness that I had when I participated in the Clinton impeachment trial. I would not prejudge the case one way or the other should it come to this.

I fully respect the anger and frustration many Americans feel with this Administration. I share much of it. But on balance, I think Congress’s time is much better spent ending the war in Iraq, conducting the oversight that was absent for the last six years, and advancing progressive legislation.

UPDATE: I know that many of you disagree with my approach to this issue, but I thought it was important to make it clear where I’m coming from and explain why I am not calling for impeachment.

I certainly do believe in holding this Administration accountable and upholding the Constitution and the rule of law. That’s why last year I called for the President to be censured for his authorization of the illegal wiretapping program. I thought that was the appropriate course because it would have put the Senate on record in condemning the President’s wrongdoing. I still think that the censure resolution played an important role in focusing the public and the media’s attention on the issue. And I am working to make sure that Congress finally exercises its oversight responsibility by holding hearings and demanding information about the wiretapping program, the U.S. attorney firings and other abuses of power.

Many of you also wrote that if I recognize that the President and Vice President may have committed impeachable offenses, than it is our responsibility to impeach. As I pointed out, it is the role of the House to impeach, and it is the role of the Senate to try impeachments. But the Constitution left it up to the judgment of members of Congress whether or not moving forward with impeachment is best for the country.

Please keep the comments coming. I’ll do my best to read them all. I very much appreciate your honesty and directness. This exchange is very important to me.

I would love to respond to you, Senator Feingold. Thank you for providing the opportunity. I have tremendous respect for you, but I think you are wrong about impeachment. Before going any further, I want to make clear that I do not believe George Bush should be impeached because of his policies, destructive as they are. That is simply a matter of differences in political philosophy. He needs to be impeached because of his rampant disregard for the law. George Bush is not our king, he is our president and he must obey the laws just like the rest of us. As many people have been reminding us, we are a nation of laws, not of men.

There are, as you stated, many important issues facing this country that need to be resolved. It must be perfectly clear to you, however, that the Bush administration is responsible for either creating or exacerbating most of these issues in the first place. He has repeatedly demonstrated that he will fight any and all attempts to limit his power or to countermand his decisions (he is "the Decider," after all). To the detriment of everyone, Congress has been unable to accomplish much of anything this term to date because of Bush and his loyalists in Congress who consistently place loyalty to their party and president over loyalty to their country. While this in and of itself is not a reason for impeachment, it does illustrate quite clearly that very little can be accomplished as long as Bush and Cheney remain in office. Your argument that Congress needs to work on advancing progressive legislation is weak given what has transpired.

I also disagree with your assertion that the time it would take to conduct impeachment proceedings would prevent Congress from doing what it was elected to do (i.e. - end the Iraq War). The fact that one of Nancy Pelosi's first statements after becoming Speaker of the House was that impeachment is "off the table" indicates that she recognized that one of the reasons Democrats were thrust into power by the electorate was to investigate and prosecute Bush administration criminal activities up to and including impeachment.

Charlie Savage penned a timely article for today's Boston Globe that examines how effective Congress has been throughout history at stopping wars without cooperation from the President. His conclusion is not encouraging. When a president is determined to wage war, history reveals that Congress can do little to stop him. Firedoglake.com takes a look at this article as well. I put it to you that the only way to stop the war in Iraq is to remove from power the men responsible for starting it. Once the main impediments to ending the war are removed, then Congress can worry about fixing the countless other problems facing our nation.

While I understand your concern about the "over-use of impeachment" from a purely academic perspective, I don't think it makes much sense given the reality of the situation we now face. Impeachment is the only tool our founding fathers provided for dealing with an out of control executive like we have had for the past six years. Trying to work with Bush and Cheney like they are respectable, responsible statesmen simply will not work as the record clearly documents. What you are advocating is akin to saying that we are prosecuting too many people for murder, therefore we must be careful about how frequently we prosecute for murder in the future. If the next president is a Democrat who acts in a similar manner to Bush, I would expect Congress to impeach that President as well. This is not a partisan issue. Despite the unprecedented use of secrecy by this administration, there is a mountain of evidence to suggest massive criminal activity. Every time light is shown in previously dark places, suspicious if not downright illegal conduct is exposed. Bush has even demonstrated that he is willing to abuse his pardon authority to prevent investigation into his administration's activities. James Madison recognized the potential for abuse of the pardon power for this specific reason more than 200 years ago.

Your call to censure the President for his authorization of illegal wiretapping was a good idea at the time when Republicans still controlled both houses of Congress and many Americans were on the fence on the issue. Since that time, there has been a major change in public opinion. Polls now show that a plurality want Bush impeached and a majority want Cheney impeached. This is true despite the fact that commercial news organizations (i.e. - the liberal press) such as Fox News, the Washington Times, and the Wall Street Journal editorial pages attempt to poison the minds of millions of Americans with their blatant lies, half-truths, and propaganda. Since that time we have also seen that censure would do nothing to stop Bush from continuing to pursue his disastrous policies.

It's relatively easy to construct a case for impeachment. The illegal activities we have heard about are likely dwarfed by the quantity and seriousness of the illegal activities we don't know about. What is not often examined by those of us demanding it is the consequences of impeachment. It's easy to overlook the fact that Nancy Pelosi has a conflict of interest in that she would become President if both George Bush and Dick Cheney were impeached. However, this does not diminish her responsibility to fulfill her oath to uphold the Constitution. The American people are well aware of what has transpired over the past six years. With the exception of the contingency of right-wing authoritarians who want to make George Bush king for life, we recognize the threat and we are demanding action. We are demanding equal justice under the law. We are demanding our country back.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why would any minority ever vote for a Republican?


The NAACP sponsored a GOP presidential debate yesterday. Out of the 9 Republican candidates invited, only one, Tom Tancredo, showed up. What more evidence is needed to show how little today's Republican party cares about anyone who isn't a white male? Twenty years ago, this picture would have made the front page of every major newspaper. The press must have been at whatever cocktail weenie party the other candidates were at.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The "I" word is gaining momentum

Senator Barbara Boxer from California just said what many of us having been yearning to hear:

I’ve always said that you need to keep [impeachment] on the table, and you need to look at these things, because now people are dying because of this administration. That’s the truth. And they won’t change course. They are ignoring the Congress. They keep signing these signing statements which mean that he’s decided not to enforce the law. This is as close as we’ve ever come to a dictatorship. When you have a situation where Congress is stepped on, that means the American people are stepped on. So I don’t think you can take anything off the table. Because, in fact, the Constitution doesn’t permit us to take these things off the table.
A plurality of Americans want George Bush impeached. A majority want Dick Cheney impeached. Is Congress finally waking up and realizing, as many of us do, that they have no other choice?

...And in other news, poetic justice

Sharpe James, the longtime mayor of Newark, NJ, was indicted today on 33 counts of corruption. This should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the Oscar-nominated documentary, Street Fight, about the 2002 Mayoral election in Newark between Sharpe James and Cory Booker. James used thug tactics, lies, distortions, and a huge war chest to beat Booker, who promised sweeping changes in poverty-striken Newark. If you haven't seen the documentary, I highly recommend it as it gives great insight into what goes on behind the scenes of political campaigns.

Miers a no-show

Harriet Miers has defied her Congressional subpoena and the Democratic committee members are rightfully incensed. Look for contempt of Congress proceedings against Miers in the near future.

Bush commits a(nother) felony?

Josh Marshall had an interesting post yesterday. It sure sounds like our fearless leader just committed a felony by instructing Harriet Miers to ignore her congressional subpoena.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The line in the sand - an open letter to Congress

I am outraged beyond words by the lawless behavior of the entire Bush administration and the apparent unwillingness of Congress to put an end to it. With the commutation of Lewis Libby's sentence for felony convictions for perjury and obstruction of justice, the Bush administration is once again demonstrating to the entire world that they believe themselves to be above the law. While it is within his constitutional authority to grant Mr. Libby a pardon or to commute his sentence, George Bush has never taken such drastic action with anyone else during his entire administration. Furthermore, he has gone back on his word to wait until the appeals process was exhausted in an obvious attempt to obstruct justice in an ongoing investigation. The Bush administration is doing everything in its power to destroy the foundations of the American system of government and the American way of life.

Our food isn't safe to eat, our water supply isn't safe to drink, and our air isn't safe to breathe. We are contributing to the destruction of the planet at a far higher rate than any other country. Instead of tackling these issues by standing up for the common good, the Republican party, lead by George Bush and Dick Cheney, has sought to eliminate government oversight of corporate activities in virtually every industry to the detriment of public safety in the name of corporate profits.

We have a Vice president who believes he belongs to some mystical fourth branch of government that is not accountable to anyone at all. Worse, Congress appears to be accepting his claims with nothing more than some vague threats about cutting off his funding while he continues to thumb his nose at all attempts at oversight.

We are much less safe from both internal and external threats than we were when George Bush took office. His administration has done virtually nothing to prevent major terrorist attacks other than tell us what a great job he is doing of funneling taxpayer money to his friends and contributors under the guise of the undefinable and perpetual “Global War on Terror”. He led us into a disastrous war against a country that had neither attacked us nor posed a threat to us based on outright lies. Our moral standing throughout the world has been irreparably damaged due to our government's use of extraordinary rendition, torture, and a general disregard for international law. Our national resources and treasure are being wasted in Iraq further enlarging our already out of control national debt with no thought given to how it will be repaid. (As an aside, imagine if this country had put $500 billion into hydrogen research instead of starting a war for oil in Iraq. We would now be at the beginning of the next great revolution – the hydrogen revolution – that would dramatically reduce our use of petroleum and our dependence on foreign oil, and would greatly reduce the amount of carbon we are dumping into the atmosphere. Whole new industries would have been created overnight creating a new wave of economic prosperity.)

Public education, the foundation for creating a well-informed, productive, and inventive citizenry, has been frighteningly eroded. Science, once the basis for the technological explosion that has occurred in the United States in the past 100 years, is under constant attack from special interests with the approval and assistance of political appointees in key positions throughout executive branch agencies and an unrestrained corporate media machine that is more interested in entertainment than exposing corruption.

Our technical and manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas while our shrinking middle class struggles with decreasing wages, fewer jobs, and ever increasing costs for health care. Our domestic labor jobs are going to illegal immigrants who work for less than minimum wage, pay no taxes, put a strain on publicly funded resources, take jobs from law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, and depress wages for everyone while the Bush administration refuses to enforce laws designed to punish corporations for hiring undocumented workers. Both the meat packing and poultry industries, once providing career employment for tens of thousands of American citizens, have been turned upside down and now are strictly the domain of illegal immigrants who receive substandard pay and are forced to work in deplorable conditions because they have no voice.

The United States imprisons more of its citizens that any other country in the world, mostly for nonviolent drug offenses as part of an ideological war on drugs that has consumed over a trillion dollars over 30 years while doing nothing to stem the flow or consumption of illegal drugs. Twenty-two percent of all people incarcerated in the world are in prisons in the United States, yet we only account for five percent of the world's population. Something is very wrong here, but instead of taking on the issue and doing something about it, politicians of all stripes choose to claim their “tough on crime” bonafides by doing nothing or preaching about the need for tougher sentencing for criminals.

Our courts have been packed with far-right ideologues who are now tearing down decades of progress in areas of workers rights and civil rights. The wall between church and state is under constant assault from the religious right who want to force everyone to hold their beliefs and have them enforced by the government.

Through all of this, the Democrats have done nothing more than talk because their useless consultants have them convinced that it is bad to take on the Republicans on virtually every issue. It's no wonder the American people think the Democratic party doesn't stand for anything. It will take decades for this country to recover from six years of Republican debauchery, if we are even able to recover at all, and Democrats are only worried about how they will look.

Last November, we, the American people, gave you, the Democratic Congress, the ability and mandate to do something about the almost innumerable major problems facing this country, yet collectively you have done little more than express outrage at what is happening. This is not why we elected you. The congressional oversight and investigations that are underway are encouraging, but so far very little has come out of them other than words. To quote General Petraeus, “Tell me how this ends.”

Even though George Bush has a Nixonian-level approval rating, Congress' is worse. The reason it is worse is because the people are sick and tired of Congress doing little more than paying lip service to the lawless activities and reckless policies of George Bush, his Republican cronies, and their sycophants.

The Bush administration has repeatedly lied to the American public and to Congress; has stripped us of many of our cherished civil rights; has eliminated the great writ of habeas corpus, without which our remaining rights are meaningless; has illegally spied on us by listening to our phone calls and reading our mail; and has intentionally subverted important intelligence gathering operations in the name of political retribution. In short, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Alberto Gonzales have committed high crimes and treason against the United States of America. What more do they have to do before Congress takes a serious look at impeachment? At what point do you say, enough is enough? Where is the line in the sand? The future of the United States and all of its citizens is literally in your hands.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Saturday Funnies

Bob Geiger's Saturday funnies. As expected, Dick Cheney gets a lot of unwanted, yet completely deserved attention.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Why government regulation is necessary

Greenboy over at Needlenose reminds us why government regulation of industry is needed:

Long-time readers may remember that of the conservative pantheon, I hate Libertarians the most of all. Possibly because one of my uncles is an asshole Libertarian. Possibly because of their unbelievable hypocrisy. Or quite possibly just because their pseudo-intellectual arguments underly the unrestricted free-market bullshit promulgated by inhuman corporate interests that seem determined to destroy the planet.

I cringe when I hear some jackass, high on Ayn Rand, claim that the free market can solve all problems. Or who whines about regulations and how they are the root of all evil, and opines about how wonderful the world would be if only the markets were truly free.

I wonder how said jackass would react if he/she found his toddler gnawing on a Chinese-made toy painted with lead paint. Or found his beloved Labrador was eating pet food tainted by melamine, added no doubt by fellow Ayn Rand afficianados to save a buck at the jackasses expense. Or found out his toothpaste was purposely contaminated with a toxic chemical. Sadly, the list goes on.

The reason our rules exist in the first place is not because of evil Liberals trying to drown the Ayn Randers in red tape out of spite, but because of a history of jackass entrepreneurs adulterating food with often dangerous substances to make a quick buck out of us in the past.

Because we rely increasingly upon China for cheap food and medicine imports, we are at the mercy of their 'least common denominator' regulation. They have moved from an extreme form of state-control to a nation of Ayn Randian jackasses happy to make a quick buck regardless of who they poison.

And American industry, corporate lobbyists, fucktard Libertarian stink-tanks and Repug puppet pols have been happy to lead us to a state of affairs where our own regulatory bodies appear to be unable to provide us with the proactive protection to which we've become accustomed. It seems a bassakward approach to wait until the damage has been done (i.e. pets die, children get brain damage from lead poisoning) before the government can spring into action and pull the items off the shelves.

Anyway, it's time to scrap the WTO and build up an international organization with some teeth in it that can promote and manage 'safe trade.' Fair trade. Sustainable trade.

Friday, June 8, 2007

And speaking of hypocrisy...

From Crooks and Liars:

This story epitomizes the modern conservative movement. They are filled with Frank Luntz talking points, but when it comes down to actual life experiences…well….I give you Judge Robert Bork:

Judge Robert Bork, one of the fathers of the modern judicial conservative movement whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate, is seeking $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages, after he slipped and fell at the Yale Club of New York City. Judge Bork was scheduled to give a speech at the club, but he fell when mounting the dais, and injured his head and left leg. He alleges that the Yale Club is liable for the $1m plus punitive damages because they “wantonly, willfully, and recklessly” failed to provide staging which he could climb safely.

Judge Bork has been a leading advocate of restricting plaintiffs’ ability to recover through tort law. In a 2002 article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy–the official journal of the Federalist Society–Bork argued that frivolous claims and excessive punitive damage awards have caused the Constitution to evolve into a document which would allow Congress to enact tort reforms that would have been unconstitutional at the framing:…read on (h/t Matt)

He can sue, but you can’t. Scooter can lie and obstruct justice, but you can’t.
IOKIYAR.

Bush impedes congressional investigation

Someone please remind me again, why is impeachment off the table?

President Bush derailed a bill by the US Congress aimed at ending the Administration's illegal wiretapping by not providing documents related to the President’s warrantless wiretapping program to the Senate Intelligence Committee that is currently reviewing the proposed legislation.
The evidence that George Bush and Dick Cheney have committed high crimes and misdemeanors is overwhelming. Now they're refusing to cooperate with Congress thereby preventing them from performing their constitutionally mandated oversight duties. Listening to Bush lecture leaders of other countries for their lack of transparency when he is doing his best to turn the United States into the new Soviet Union is the height of hypocrisy. He is going to continue to flip the bird to Congress and the American public until he is dragged kicking and screaming from office. What will it take to get impeachment on the table? What will it take for them to do their duty to protect the constitution? If they don't, it will be hard to prevent the next president from doing more of the same. If not now, then when?

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Administration confusion

This tidbit reported by Dan Froomkin yesterday caught my attention:

"Officials say proponents of reducing the troops and scaling back their mission next year appear to include Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They have been joined by generals at the Pentagon and elsewhere who have long been skeptical that the Iraqi government would use the opportunity created by the troop increase to reach genuine political accommodations."

But Michael Abramowitz and Peter Baker wrote Sunday in The Washington Post that the White House disputed the Times report. They write: "The administration is trying to make judgments about where it will be in the months ahead, and officials are discussing possibilities accordingly. The scenarios for troop withdrawal are based on the premise of a successful 'surge.' There is also discussion about what to do if the buildup plan fails, but officials are unwilling to discuss it with outsiders even privately."

So according to the White House, the "surge" must be successful before we can even start to talk about withdrawing any troops from Iraq. Ignoring for a moment the fact that Bush has never actually defined "success" as it applies to anything in Iraq, this clearly implies that there will be no withdrawal if the adventure fails. If that's the case, then why is General Petraeus saying that the surge is going so swimmingly that he's already calling for it to continue until at least December so that he can reduce troops levels to...exactly where they were before the surge started by the end of 2008? So which is it...the surge will keep going if it succeeds, or if it fails? Who's the decider here anyway?

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The essence of the Republican party

This isn't a joke.

The Bush administration said Tuesday it will fight to keep meatpackers from testing all their animals for mad cow disease.

The Agriculture Department tests fewer than 1 percent of slaughtered cows for the disease, which can be fatal to humans who eat tainted beef. A beef producer in the western state of Kansas, Creekstone Farms Premium Beef, wants to test all of its cows.

Larger meat companies feared that move because, if Creekstone should test its meat and advertised it as safe, they might have to perform the expensive tests on their larger herds as well.

The Agriculture Department regulates the test and argued that widespread testing could lead to a false positive that would harm the meat industry.

You read that correctly. A business wants to protect its customers from serious illness and the Bush administration is trying to prevent that from happening. Sadly, this isn't an isolated incident. Remember the salmonella outbreak in peanut butter? How about the E. coli in fresh spinach? Or the lettuce at Taco Bell? Tainted pet food? Think it's all a coincidence that these reports of food chain contamination are appearing with increasing regularity? Think it's just the "librul media" taking pot shots at Bush?

Think again. This is the predictable result of Republican policies. It's how Republicans protect American citizens. Despite all their rhetoric to the contrary, Republicans couldn't care less about small government, financial responsibility, "family values," national security, or any of their other "signature" issues. In fact, they couldn't care less about the health, safety, and welfare of American citizens if they tried. Their philosophy of governance is that their primary responsibility is to protect corporate interests. Period. What, you're not rich? Cry me a river about your petty health care problems and your stagnant salary.

The above are just a few examples dealing with food safety. If you really want to see the contempt the Republican party has for all of us, look at these:
  • FEMA/Hurricane Katrina
  • Dept. of Education/Every child left behind
  • Alberto Gonzales/US Attorneys firings
  • Cheney's energy task force
  • Halliburton's No bid contracts
  • Falsification of justification for war with Iraq
  • Outing of Valerie Plame
  • Warrantless wiretapping
  • Walter Reed
  • EPA/WTC Ground zero air quality
  • Abu Ghraib/torture
  • Extraordinary rendition
  • Suspension of Habeas Corpus
  • Jack Abramoff
  • Extended tours of duty for soldiers in Iraq
The list goes on and one. Just think about these scandals the next time you hear a Republican proselytizing. He doesn't give a shit about you. He just wants your vote and he'll say anything he thinks you want to hear to get it. The evidence is right in front of you. All you need to do is open your eyes.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

As the Justice Department Turns (over a spit)

Jesus H. Christ, how freakin' stoopid does the Bush administration, and in particular his Justice Department, think we are? There will always be the 28-percenters who would be okay with George Bush eating a live baby on the fifty yard line during the Super Bowl half-time show, but what about the rest of us? These officials sound like a bunch of children telling lies to their parents. None of them are even remotely believable.

I still remember the look on Patrick Leahy's face in response to Gonzales turning himself into a human pretzel during his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 13th. We've all seen that look from teachers in grade school whenever kids tried to give some bullshit excuse for not having their homework done. While watching him testify, I kept thinking of the scene from Oliver Stone's "JFK" in which David Ferrie (Joe Pesci) was telling his cockamamie story about a trip to Houston with "the boys" during a bad thunderstorm to go goose hunting without any guns, and Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) said something to the effect of, "I'm sorry, Mr. Ferrie, we're going to have to detain you for further questioning. Frankly, we find your story to be not believable", to which Ferrie replies, "Really?...Which part?"

Now today, Monica Goodling admitted she broke the law with her questioning of prospective employees, but she didn't mean to. (/me bangs head on table.) Then she let this gem slip:

[Goodling] said Gonzales told her, "Let me tell you what I can remember," and "laid out his general recollection" of the process leading up to the firings -- that he believed they had all been dismissed for performance-based reasons.
Let me get this straight. The Attorney General of the United States believed that eight, Senate-confirmed United States Attorneys, who reported to him, were fired "for performance-based reasons." Ahem. Excuse me if I'm a little skeptical. We're not talking about McDonald's here (no offense to McDonald's employees). When a United States Attorney is fired, it's memorable. If you're the president of a major corporation and one of your vice presidents is fired (much less eight), you'll remember precisely why. This is no different.

What he was really telling her was, "I don't remember anything. That's my story, so you'll have lots of maneuvering room if the questions get tight. Just don't blame me or the president, and we'll hook you up with a nice cushy job at the Heritage Foundation when this blows over." It's either that, or he really is that clueless about what is happening in the department he is supposed to be running. I guess he's just praying that everyone will think he's a total idiot because that's preferable to being impeached and possibly prosecuted for federal crimes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dems made to look like fools

The Democrats caved in and gave the president everything he asked for with his supplemental Iraq spending bill: no timelines, no benchmarks, no strings attached.

Democrats gave up their demand for troop-withdrawal deadlines in an Iraq war spending package yesterday, abandoning their top goal of bringing U.S. troops home and handing President Bush a victory in a debate that has roiled Congress for months.
They are playing political games with the lives of millions of people. Someone remind me, why exactly did we elect these guys? I know congressional hearings and oversight were desperately needed and I'm thankful that we seem to have some accountability back, but this plus the fact that some Democrats are seriously considering not voting to restore Habeas Corpus is both disheartening and disturbing.

The person I'm most disappointed with is Jon Tester from Montana. I contributed money to his campaign, and he's not even from my state. Not that I'm expecting him to do what I want him to do just because I showed him some love, but his platform included endorsing withdrawal from Iraq:
“It is time for the President to articulate a clear exit strategy for American troops from Iraq. An open-ended occupation is not in the best interests of the United States, the Iraqi people, or the Middle East. The time has come to support our troops by laying out a plan to bring them home.”
So to hear him now reciting the slop from Karl Rove's fax machine is quite unexpected:
"I am doing everything in my power as a U.S. senator to end the war in Iraq, but I will not cast any vote that I believe compromises the safety and security of our troops on the ground," Tester said, also in a prepared statement.
Tester doesn't understand the way the government works, or he's being intentionally obtuse. Neither one makes him look especially good to most of the people who voted for him, and he completely reneged on his campaign promise. He will vote to give the president the open-ended occupation that Tester already said was "not in the best interests of the United States, the Iraqi people, or the Middle East." Mr. Tester: please take Max Baucus with you and spend some quality time with Harry Reid and Russ Feingold. It sounds like the four of you need to have a li'l talk.