Sunday, April 29, 2007

Another Republican Sex Scandal

Republican hypocrisy knows no bounds. The Party of "family values" once again gets caught with its pants down. Literally. Last year, it was Congressman Mark Foley from Florida, the Republican chairman of the House Caucus on Missing and Exploited Children, who was forced to resign from Congress when it was revealed that he had been soliciting sex from underage male congressional pages. This had been going on for years with many Republicans being aware of it, but no action was taken for fear of political blowback.

Today's Republican sex scandal sees Deputy Secretary of State Randall L. Tobias resigning following revelations that he had been a customer of a DC prostitution service. The irony here is that, like Foley, Tobias had responsibility for eradicating the behavior that led to his demise. One of Tobias' responsibilities was to combat worldwide prostitution. Unlike the Foley affair, however, it looks like this scandal may involve many more high ranking White House officials. Be sure to pick up some popcorn because it's going to be entertaining watching the mighty Wurlitzer spin this. Clinton will no doubt be ultimately responsible.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday Funnies

Bob Geiger's Saturday morning political cartoon compilation from the past week.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Dig a hole, dig a hole, dig a hole...

(Updated below)

Our Preznit is still throwing a tantrum over any suggestion that we should actually plan on ever leaving Iraq even though the majority of Americans believe otherwise.

President Bush warned Congress Friday that he will continue vetoing war spending bills as long as they contain a timetable...blah, blah, blah.
Yeah, yeah, yeah...we know. Why don't you stop talking about it and do it already. You've only told us 47 times this week. Go ahead George, make our day. Relegating your party to the dustbin of history because you refuse to acknowledge reality is fine by us. We're all sick and tired of you and your corporate-interests-first, use-religion-for-votes, screw-everyone-but-republican-cronies cabal anyway. You seem to be the only person on the planet who believes the thumping your party took in November meant that we wanted you to turn Iraq into Vietnam v2.0.


This NY Times headline makes it sound like Bush is softening his stance:
Bush Eases Tone on Iraq Spending Bill

President Bush adopted a more conciliatory tone toward Congress today, saying he was confident that he and the lawmakers could find “a way forward” on the Iraq war financing bill.

That is, until you read into what he really says:
While vowing again to veto any bill that includes a troop-withdrawal timetable — and use his veto repeatedly, if necessary — Mr. Bush said today, “I think we can come to our senses and make sure that we get the money to the troops in a timely fashion.”
Translation: “I think Congress will eventually cave in and give me a blank check with no oversight on Iraq just like the Republican-controlled Congress did. Until then, I'll keep my arm loose and my veto pen on standby.”

The man really does think he's king. Remember all his bravado before the mid-term elections about how there was no way the Democrats would take over either house of Congress? And it's obvious to everyone that his bullshit claims about conditions in Iraq don't even resemble the reality of the situation. Why does the media still hang on his every word? If they want to point out what a babbling idiot he is, why don't they just go ahead and do so? All of the recent polls show that the majority of American people want Congress to put an end to the conflict in Iraq. These same polls also show that people don't like the job that Congress is doing. When you combine those two pieces of information, it's clear that it means the people will stand behind Congress if they'll just grow some balls and stand up to the President.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Bush's Iron Maiden

(updated below)

The media often talks of how George Bush lives in a bubble. Bob Woodward's "State of Denial" hints that Bush himself created this bubble, not the people around him. It's more like a reverse iron maiden than a bubble, however. Bush only hears what he wants to hear. His staffers won't say anything that contradicts his opinion or hints that his policies aren't working, not because they don't want to, but because they suffer from battered-wife syndrome: he verbally assaults anyone who challenges his worldview.

Two recent events bring his obstinance into high definition technicolor view that should cause even the most hardcore Bush supporters to roll their eyes. The first was Alberto Gonzales' testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 20th. Everyone who witnessed his virtuoso rendition of "Theme and Variations on 'I don't recall'" was stunned by how poorly he addressed the critical issues at hand.

CNN’s Dana Bash:

Loyal Republican after loyal Republican in this hearing room, and more specifically, in private to CNN today have made it clear that they are frankly flabbergasted by how poorly they think the attorney general has done in this hearing. … During the lunch break, in private, several very loyal Republicans made it clear to CNN that they were really dripping with disappointment.
CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux:
[White House officials] believe Gonzales is in trouble. … Two senior White House aides here describing the situation, Gonzales’ testimony, as “going down in flames.” That he was “not doing himself any favors.” One prominent Republican describing watching his testimony as “clubbing a baby seal.”
Everyone, that is, except for the one person who mattered: George Bush.

Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino:
President Bush was pleased with the Attorney General’s testimony today. After hours of testimony in which he answered all of the Senators’ questions and provided thousands of pages of documents, he again showed that nothing improper occurred. He admitted the matter could have been handled much better, and he apologized for the disruption to the lives of the U.S. Attorneys involved, as well as for the lack of clarity in his initial responses. The Attorney General has the full confidence of the President, and he appreciates the work he is doing at the Department of Justice to help keep our citizens safe from terrorists, our children safe from predators, our government safe from corruption, and our streets free from gang violence.
I want some of what he's smoking.

The second event was the major controversy surrounding former Deputy Secretary of Defense and Bush-appointed World Bank current President Paul Wolfowitz, neocon extraordinaire. For anyone not familiar with this one, Wolfie arranged to provide his non-citizen girlfriend with a security clearance and secondment to the U.S. State Department, where she was given a tax-free salary of $193,000 and change so she could go work for a Republican think tank. She is now the highest paid employee at the State Department exceeding even Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. It is virtually unheard of for a foreigner to receive a security clearance, but Wolfie decided to really go for the gusto by using his DoD connections to obtain the clearance without going through the required FBI background checks.

Now Wolfowitz wasn't exactly loved by career World Bank directors and employees when he was thrust upon them. So when his little scheme became public knowledge, a near mutiny occurred. In the weeks since this was first reported, nearly everyone associated with the World Bank has called for his resignation. Even the European Union is out for his head.
MPs asked European Union leaders to press the White House over the subject at a EU-US summit in Washington on Monday.

They voted 333-251 with 31 abstentions to include a paragraph in a resolution on trans-Atlantic relations calling on Germany, holder of the 27-nation bloc's rotating presidency, and the US to ask Mr Wolfowitz to stand down.

They should "signal to the president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz, that his withdrawal from the post would be a welcome step towards preventing the bank's anti-corruption policy from being undermined," the paragraph reads.
Ouch. That's gotta hurt.

A reasonable person would expect that revelations of Wolfie's unethical if not downright illegal activities would be of concern to George Bush, the man who appointed him, since it does say something of Bush's credibility and judgment. Who am I kidding? This is George Bush we're talking about here:
I appreciate very much the fact that the World Bank is taking the lead in eradicating poverty in places like Africa, and Paul Wolfowitz, thank you for your leadership of the World Bank.
He either truly does believe what he says, or he believes that he still has credibility when he says something. It really doesn't matter what the true answer is because the conclusion is the same: George Bush is delusional and is a danger to the world as long as he remains in office.

Update: More pressure on Wolfowitz from within the World Bank.

The Failure of the Fourth Estate

If you didn't see Bill Moyers' documentary on PBS last night, "Buying the War," it's available in its entirety here and is well worth viewing. As usual, Christy says it better than I can.

I can remember being very confused as the Iraq War drums began to beat ever more loudly — because the evidence that we knew about publicly was altogether thin to nonexistent in substance. And yet the softball questions continued — from both the press and members of Congress who ought to have known better than to hype their political hide over their duty to the public — and no one embodied this public scam more than Judy Miller. Her over-the-top hyping of the WMD threats (which were, even at the time, unsubstantiated and knowingly so) were so creepy, because her on-air persona and her writing for the NYTimes was so absolute in its certainty.

Having done graduate work in security studies and had classes through the years with people who have actually looked at these issues for a living, I can honestly tell you that certainty of the evidence on something like this is a dead giveaway that someone is selling you a load of crap.

The White House Iraq Group did an excellent sales job. And the people that should have been the most skeptical fell for it hook, line, and sinker…because it was easier that way on their immediate personal connections, on their reputations, on their corporate bottom line. And on their immediate political aspirations, in the case of far too many elected representatives.

After watching the Moyers special last night, I was infuriated. This morning, sipping my first cup of coffee and trying to make some sense of it all, I'm still angry. So I'm going to watch it again later, with a pot of tea, and see if I can glean something beyond "the truth really, really hurts…all of us."

Tell it, sister.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Goodling to Get Immunity

I've been wondering when this was going to happen. It will be interesting to see what's going to happen now. Will she blow smoke up the committee's ass like Gonzo, or will she say something substantive? She'll no longer be able to plead the 5th, but she'll still have to pony up some answers or her immunity deal will go out the window.

More Responsibility from the "Party of Responsibility"

Read here, here, here, and here for further evidence that the Bush administration has zero interest in the safety and welfare of the American people. Christy over at Fire Dog Lake also has something to say about this.


That response reflects OSHA’s practices under the Bush administration, which vowed to limit new rules and roll back what it considered cumbersome regulations that imposed unnecessary costs on businesses and consumers. Across Washington, political appointees — often former officials of the industries they now oversee — have eased regulations or weakened enforcement of rules on issues like driving hours for truckers, logging in forests and corporate mergers.
The Food and Drug Administration has known for years about contamination problems at a Georgia peanut butter plant and on California spinach farms that led to disease outbreaks that killed three people, sickened hundreds, and forced one of the biggest product recalls in U.S. history, documents and interviews show.
Profits for corporate shareholders and CEOs rules supreme. Using Bushian logic, the U.S. economy is driven by giving rich people all the money because they then turn around and throw the working class an occasional bone. If a few of us must die so the Ken Lays of the world can buy another Lear jet, then so be it. We all have to die some day anyway.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

US Housing Market in Trouble

It didn't take a financial genius to see that this

Sales of existing homes plunged in March by the largest amount in 18 years, reflecting in part rising troubles in the subprime mortgage market.


The National Association of Realtors reported Tuesday that sales of existing homes fell by 8.4 percent in March, the sharpest drop since a 12.6 percent plunge in January 1989.

The decline, which was three-times what had been expected, pushed sales down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.12 million units, the slowest pace in nearly three years.


"The number of homeowners trying to unload their properties is still so ridiculously high that pressures on prices will likely continue," said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. "How much lower the housing market can go is unclear, but it is not likely that we have seen the bottom."

and this

Massachusetts foreclosure filings spiked by 47 percent in March as many local home owners struggled to make monthly mortgage payments, a new report said.

were inevitable. With all the people taking interest-only and adjustable rate mortgages counting on the real estate market to keep going up, it was a no-brainer. This is reminiscent of the stock market dot-com bubble.

If you don't pass the bill I want, I'll harm the troops

Anonymous Liberal nails it on the Iraqi supplemental spending bill:

As I pointed out a few weeks ago, there is no logical reason why the cutting off of war funding has to result in increased danger to our troops. Bush wants us to believe that a reduction in funding will somehow inevitably result in troops running out of ammo in the middle of a firefight or running out of fuel in the middle of a patrol. But that's nonsense. The only way that would happen is if President Bush were to react to the funding shortfall (which he would be responsible for creating) by insisting that the war continue on unchanged, without any of the necessary supplies.

Bush is acting like a petulant child holding his breath until his face turns blue because his Mommy won't give him what he wants. In this case, however, other people's lives are on the line. What really scares me about this situation is that I have no doubt that Bush will really leave the troops there to fight and die when the money runs out even though it would be his own actions causing it. It's time the MSM and the Democrats change the framing on this. If Bush vetoes the supplemental and allows the money to run out, then the blood will be on his hands if he chooses to leave the troops in place.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Another Republican Goal Accomplished

Government officials now have the right to lie to us with impunity. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that our government must be allowed to lie to us during a crisis, even though we might die as a result, because they might otherwise choose to stay silent on matters of national importance if they could be held accountable for their statements.

(NEW YORK)—An appeals court ruling could spell trouble for New Yorkers suing the Environmental Protection Agency and its former chief for saying that sooty Lower Manhattan air was safe to breathe after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

A three judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared this week that EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and other agency officials can't be held constitutionally liable for making rosy declarations about air quality after the World Trade Center's destruction.

The opinion, written by the court's chief judge, Dennis Jacobs, said opening EPA workers up to lawsuits for giving out bad information during a crisis could have a catastrophic side effect.

"Officials might default to silence in the face of the public's urgent need for information," Jacobs wrote.

You read that correctly. Judicial appointees of George Bush's "Party of Responsibility" just ruled that EPA officials (also appointed by George Bush) cannot be held responsible for their bullshit declaration following the collapse of the World Trade Center that the air in the vicinity of ground zero was safe to breathe. Would it surprise you to learn that the source of this analysis was none other than the White House? Here's the report from the EPA's own Office of Inspector General:

EPA’s early public statements following the collapse of the WTC towers reassured the public regarding the safety of the air outside the Ground Zero area. However, when EPA made a September 18 announcement that the air was “safe” to breathe, it did not have sufficient data and analyses to make such a blanket statement. At that time, air monitoring data was lacking for several pollutants of concern, including particulate matter and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Furthermore, The White House Council on Environmental Quality influenced, through the collaboration process, the information that EPA communicated to the public through its early press releases when it convinced EPA to add reassuring statements and delete cautionary ones.

Why are we even pretending that government agencies serve the public any more?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

White House Correspondents Dinner

The 2007 White House Correspondents Dinner was held last night. For those who might not have heard about the scandal at last year's event, which may be many of you because few of the hundreds of journalists who were there actually reported on it, Stephen Colbert seized his opportunity to rip a captive George Bush mercilessly. He also launched numerous barbs at the press. Thanks to "the Internets" and "the Google", however, Colbert's performance is now legendary. The full video can be seen here.

Since Colbert was such an embarrassment to the Bushes (with dissenting opinions being so frowned upon and all), the White House Stenographers Club Press Corps Association decided to take a different approach this year by inviting nightclub entertainer Rich Little, who promised not to offend the royal court's delicate sensitivities. By some accounts, Little's routine succeeded in not upsetting the President, but he didn't get very many laughs, either.

When are they going to learn? If you want to make this President bust a gut, you gotta tell fart jokes.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lee Iacocca Lighting a Fire

Holy Shit! If this excerpt from Lee Iacocca's new book, "Where Have All the Leaders Gone?" is indicative of the rest of it, then he's my new hero. This is some powerful stuff:

Had Enough?

Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage? We should be screaming bloody murder. We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car. But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course."

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic. I'll give you a sound bite: Throw the bums out!

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore. The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

My friends tell me to calm down. They say, "Lee, you're eighty-two years old. Leave the rage to the young people." I'd love to—as soon as I can pry them away from their iPods for five seconds and get them to pay attention. I'm going to speak up because it's my patriotic duty. I think people will listen to me. They say I have a reputation as a straight shooter. So I'll tell you how I see it, and it's not pretty, but at least it's real. I'm hoping to strike a nerve in those young folks who say they don't vote because they don't trust politicians to represent their interests. Hey, America, wake up. These guys work for us.

Who Are These Guys, Anyway?

Why are we in this mess? How did we end up with this crowd in Washington? Well, we voted for them—or at least some of us did. But I'll tell you what we didn't do. We didn't agree to suspend the Constitution. We didn't agree to stop asking questions or demanding answers. Some of us are sick and tired of people who call free speech treason. Where I come from that's a dictatorship, not a democracy.

And don't tell me it's all the fault of right-wing Republicans or liberal Democrats. That's an intellectually lazy argument, and it's part of the reason we're in this stew. We're not just a nation of factions. We're a people. We share common principles and ideals. And we rise and fall together.

Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller? What happened to the strong and resolute party of Lincoln? What happened to the courageous, populist party of FDR and Truman? There was a time in this country when the voices of great leaders lifted us up and made us want to do better. Where have all the leaders gone?

The Test of a Leader

I've never been Commander in Chief, but I've been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top. I've figured out nine points—not ten (I don't want people accusing me of thinking I'm Moses). I call them the "Nine Cs of Leadership." They're not fancy or complicated. Just clear, obvious qualities that every true leader should have. We should look at how the current administration stacks up. Like it or not, this crew is going to be around until January 2009. Maybe we can learn something before we go to the polls in 2008. Then let's be sure we use the leadership test to screen the candidates who say they want to run the country. It's up to us to choose wisely.

So, here's my C list:

A leader has to show CURIOSITY. He has to listen to people outside of the "Yes, sir" crowd in his inner circle. He has to read voraciously, because the world is a big, complicated place. George W. Bush brags about never reading a newspaper. "I just scan the headlines," he says. Am I hearing this right? He's the President of the United States and he never reads a newspaper? Thomas Jefferson once said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate for a moment to prefer the latter." Bush disagrees. As long as he gets his daily hour in the gym, with Fox News piped through the sound system, he's ready to go.

If a leader never steps outside his comfort zone to hear different ideas, he grows stale. If he doesn't put his beliefs to the test, how does he know he's right? The inability to listen is a form of arrogance. It means either you think you already know it all, or you just don't care. Before the 2006 election, George Bush made a big point of saying he didn't listen to the polls. Yeah, that's what they all say when the polls stink. But maybe he should have listened, because 70 percent of the people were saying he was on the wrong track. It took a "thumping" on election day to wake him up, but even then you got the feeling he wasn't listening so much as he was calculating how to do a better job of convincing everyone he was right.

A leader has to be CREATIVE, go out on a limb, be willing to try something different. You know, think outside the box. George Bush prides himself on never changing, even as the world around him is spinning out of control. God forbid someone should accuse him of flip-flopping. There's a disturbingly messianic fervor to his certainty. Senator Joe Biden recalled a conversation he had with Bush a few months after our troops marched into Baghdad. Joe was in the Oval Office outlining his concerns to the President—the explosive mix of Shiite and Sunni, the disbanded Iraqi army, the problems securing the oil fields. "The President was serene," Joe recalled. "He told me he was sure that we were on the right course and that all would be well. 'Mr. President,' I finally said, 'how can you be so sure when you don't yet know all the facts?'" Bush then reached over and put a steadying hand on Joe's shoulder. "My instincts," he said. "My instincts." Joe was flabbergasted. He told Bush, "Mr. President, your instincts aren't good enough." Joe Biden sure didn't think the matter was settled. And, as we all know now, it wasn't.

Leadership is all about managing change—whether you're leading a company or leading a country. Things change, and you get creative. You adapt. Maybe Bush was absent the day they covered that at Harvard Business School.

A leader has to COMMUNICATE. I'm not talking about running off at the mouth or spouting sound bites. I'm talking about facing reality and telling the truth. Nobody in the current administration seems to know how to talk straight anymore. Instead, they spend most of their time trying to convince us that things are not really as bad as they seem. I don't know if it's denial or dishonesty, but it can start to drive you crazy after a while. Communication has to start with telling the truth, even when it's painful. The war in Iraq has been, among other things, a grand failure of communication. Bush is like the boy who didn't cry wolf when the wolf was at the door. After years of being told that all is well, even as the casualties and chaos mount, we've stopped listening to him.

A leader has to be a person of CHARACTER. That means knowing the difference between right and wrong and having the guts to do the right thing. Abraham Lincoln once said, "If you want to test a man's character, give him power." George Bush has a lot of power. What does it say about his character? Bush has shown a willingness to take bold action on the world stage because he has the power, but he shows little regard for the grievous consequences. He has sent our troops (not to mention hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens) to their deaths—for what? To build our oil reserves? To avenge his daddy because Saddam Hussein once tried to have him killed? To show his daddy he's tougher? The motivations behind the war in Iraq are questionable, and the execution of the war has been a disaster. A man of character does not ask a single soldier to die for a failed policy.

A leader must have COURAGE. I'm talking about balls. (That even goes for female leaders.) Swagger isn't courage. Tough talk isn't courage. George Bush comes from a blue-blooded Connecticut family, but he likes to talk like a cowboy. You know, My gun is bigger than your gun. Courage in the twenty-first century doesn't mean posturing and bravado. Courage is a commitment to sit down at the negotiating table and talk.

If you're a politician, courage means taking a position even when you know it will cost you votes. Bush can't even make a public appearance unless the audience has been handpicked and sanitized. He did a series of so-called town hall meetings last year, in auditoriums packed with his most devoted fans. The questions were all softballs.

To be a leader you've got to have CONVICTION—a fire in your belly. You've got to have passion. You've got to really want to get something done. How do you measure fire in the belly? Bush has set the all-time record for number of vacation days taken by a U.S. President—four hundred and counting. He'd rather clear brush on his ranch than immerse himself in the business of governing. He even told an interviewer that the high point of his presidency so far was catching a seven-and-a-half-pound perch in his hand-stocked lake.

It's no better on Capitol Hill. Congress was in session only ninety-seven days in 2006. That's eleven days less than the record set in 1948, when President Harry Truman coined the term do-nothing Congress. Most people would expect to be fired if they worked so little and had nothing to show for it. But Congress managed to find the time to vote itself a raise. Now, that's not leadership.

A leader should have CHARISMA. I'm not talking about being flashy. Charisma is the quality that makes people want to follow you. It's the ability to inspire. People follow a leader because they trust him. That's my definition of charisma. Maybe George Bush is a great guy to hang out with at a barbecue or a ball game. But put him at a global summit where the future of our planet is at stake, and he doesn't look very presidential. Those frat-boy pranks and the kidding around he enjoys so much don't go over that well with world leaders. Just ask German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who received an unwelcome shoulder massage from our President at a G-8 Summit. When he came up behind her and started squeezing, I thought she was going to go right through the roof.

A leader has to be COMPETENT. That seems obvious, doesn't it? You've got to know what you're doing. More important than that, you've got to surround yourself with people who know what they're doing. Bush brags about being our first MBA President. Does that make him competent? Well, let's see. Thanks to our first MBA President, we've got the largest deficit in history, Social Security is on life support, and we've run up a half-a-trillion-dollar price tag (so far) in Iraq. And that's just for starters. A leader has to be a problem solver, and the biggest problems we face as a nation seem to be on the back burner.

You can't be a leader if you don't have COMMON SENSE. I call this Charlie Beacham's rule. When I was a young guy just starting out in the car business, one of my first jobs was as Ford's zone manager in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. My boss was a guy named Charlie Beacham, who was the East Coast regional manager. Charlie was a big Southerner, with a warm drawl, a huge smile, and a core of steel. Charlie used to tell me, "Remember, Lee, the only thing you've got going for you as a human being is your ability to reason and your common sense. If you don't know a dip of horseshit from a dip of vanilla ice cream, you'll never make it." George Bush doesn't have common sense. He just has a lot of sound bites. You know—Mr.they'll-welcome-us-as-liberators-no-child-left-behind-heck-of-a-job-Brownie-mission-accomplished Bush.

Former President Bill Clinton once said, "I grew up in an alcoholic home. I spent half my childhood trying to get into the reality-based world—and I like it here."

I think our current President should visit the real world once in a while.

The Biggest C is Crisis

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes. Where was George Bush? He was reading a story about a pet goat to kids in Florida when he heard about the attacks. He kept sitting there for twenty minutes with a baffled look on his face. It's all on tape. You can see it for yourself. Then, instead of taking the quickest route back to Washington and immediately going on the air to reassure the panicked people of this country, he decided it wasn't safe to return to the White House. He basically went into hiding for the day—and he told Vice President Dick Cheney to stay put in his bunker. We were all frozen in front of our TVs, scared out of our wits, waiting for our leaders to tell us that we were going to be okay, and there was nobody home. It took Bush a couple of days to get his bearings and devise the right photo op at Ground Zero.

That was George Bush's moment of truth, and he was paralyzed. And what did he do when he'd regained his composure? He led us down the road to Iraq—a road his own father had considered disastrous when he was President. But Bush didn't listen to Daddy. He listened to a higher father. He prides himself on being faith based, not reality based. If that doesn't scare the crap out of you, I don't know what will.

A Hell of a Mess

So here's where we stand. We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country. We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia, while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs. Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?" Where are the curious, creative communicators? Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, competence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo? We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina. Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm. Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy. Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "the Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen—and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem. The silence is deafening. But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress. We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity. What is everybody so afraid of? That some bobblehead on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America's greatest moments. I've also experienced some of our worst crises—the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean War, the Kennedy assassination, the Vietnam War, the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play. That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in America. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the horseshit and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough.

Saturday Funnies

Bob Geiger's Saturday morning funny pages.

Jon Stewart's Take on Gonzales' Testimony

Crooks and Liars has Jon Stewart's segment on Fredo's amnesia session before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Patrick Leahy's expression near the four minute mark is absolutely priceless. You just know he's thinking, "are you really that stupid, or do you think we are?" but discretion gets the better of him.

Incompetent, Illiterate, and Intolerable

Check out this post by Anonymous Liberal. The video of our leader is painful to watch it's so embarrassing. I couldn't get through the whole thing. Here's a taste:

"...I happened to pass a television that was tuned to CNN. To my surprise, instead of seeing ol' Alberto sweating it out before the judiciary committee, I saw George W. Bush speaking at what appeared to be some sort of hastily-arranged townhall venue in Ohio.

My first thought was that CNN had fallen for an obvious attempt by the White House to divert coverage away from Gonzales' embarrassing testimony. And that may well have been the White House's intention. But if so, I don't think it worked out quite the way they had planned.

After six years of the Bush presidency, we've all become somewhat accustomed to Bush's clear deficits as a leader. None of us turn on the television and expect to be moved by Bush's eloquence or reassured by his commanding grasp of the facts. Our collective expectations have been significantly lowered over the years. That said, there are still times when even these low expectations aren't enough to keep you from wondering how it is that this utterly unqualified man ever came to be the leader of the free world. As I stood there in the lobby today, I had one of those moments."


Friday, April 20, 2007

Jupiter from The Planets by Gustav Holst

Gustav Holst's "The Planets" has long been one of my favorite large orchestral works. The movements are named for the astrological symbols rather than the astronomical entities. The seven movements are:

  • Mars, the Bringer of War
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace
  • Mercury, the Winged Messenger
  • Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
  • Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
  • Uranus, the Magician
  • Neptune, the Mystic

Jupiter, the piece played here, lives up to its name as the bringer of jollity. Enjoy!

George Bush Gives a History Lesson

While on his "Gonzo Distraction Tour" yesterday, Bush had the following to say when asked a question by an administration plant audience member about comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq:

'"I want to remind you that after Vietnam, after we left, millions of people lost their life," Bush said here when an audience member asked about comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq. "The Khmer Rouge, for example, in Cambodia. And my concern is there would be a parallel...The same thing would happen. There would be the slaughter of a lot of innocent life. The difference, of course, is that this time around, the enemy wouldn't just be content to stay in the Middle East; they'd follow us here."'

I have to comment on that statement because there are so many things wrong with it:
  1. Since when does George Bush give a shit about anyone besides himself?
  2. He said that lots of Cambodians died when we left Vietnam. Does that mean that lots of Syrians or Iranians will die if we leave Iraq? If so, then back to question #1.
  3. The vast majority of the people in Iraq who have died since we invaded died because we invaded. And they are still dying literally by the bus load today. The Iraqis will be killing each other whether the U.S. military is there or not for a long, long time. If it weren't for George Bush needing to show the world how manly he is, most of the Iraqi dead would still be alive today. Back to question #1 again.
  4. Last, but far from least, the old "we have to fight them there or they'll follow us back here" meme. Sigh. That is just so dumb it's hard to know where to start. The vast majority of "insurgents" are Iraqi citizens fighting each other. This is otherwise known as a civil war. The Iraqis who are killing American soldiers are doing so because they don't want us there. It's their country, after all, not ours and certainly not George Bush's. As far as Al Qaeda is concerned, everyone who knows anything about Iraq knows that they weren't even a factor there until after we invaded. What we have done is provide them with fertile recruiting grounds, and the longer we stay there, the larger and more powerful they'll become. Al Qaeda actually wants us to be in Iraq for this specific reason. It costs them nothing to fight in their own backyard, but it is bankrupting the United States keeping 150,000+ troops there indefinitely. Remember that Bin Laden got his start fighting Soviets in Afghanistan. The cost of that war was a contributing factor to the downfall of the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda knows all this. From their perspective, what's not to like? Finally, the whole reason Al Qaeda hates the United States so much is because we occupy what they consider to be their holy land and we interfere in their business. It has nothing to do with them "hating our freedom".
My greatest hope is that Congress will realize that the only way to restore sanity and the rule of law is to impeach Bush and Cheney.

Impeachment: it's not just for blowjobs any more.

Gonzo goes to Congress

Fredo's testimony before Congress yesterday (if you can call saying "I can't recall" 74 times after preparing for five-plus hours a day for weeks "testimony") was quite the embarrassment. In any other universe, we would wonder why Alberto Gonzales still has a job (nevermind wondering why he was given the job in the first place). In Bush-world, however, it's just business as usual. Gonzales is the poster-boy for Bush administration incompetence and cronyism. These are the defining characteristics of the people Bush hires. It's a feature, not a bug. Just look at some of these clowns and the pattern is unmistakable:

  • George Bush himself:
    "As explained by Kevin Phillips in his book, American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush, George W. Bush's businesses fail but he makes millions. Among Mr. Bush's business ventures:
    • Arbusto, an oil exploration company, lost money, but it got considerable investments (nearly $5 million) because even losing oil investments were useful as tax shelters.
    • Spectrum 7 Energy Corp. bought out Arbusto in 1984 and hired Mr. Bush to run the company's oil interests in Midland, Texas. The oil business collapsed as oil prices plummeted by 1986, and Spectrum 7 Energy was near failure.
    • Harken Energy acquired Mr. Bush's Spectrum 7 Energy shares, and he got Harken shares, a directorship, and a consulting arrangement in return. Harken, under Bush, brought in Saudi real estate tycoon Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh as a board member and a major investor. Over the next few years, Harken would turn out to have links to: Saudi money, CIA-connected Filipinos, the Harvard Endowment, the emir of Bahrain, and the shadowy Bank of Credit and Commerce International. A 1991 internal SEC document suggested George W. Bush violated federal securities law at least 4 times in the late 1980s and early 1990s in selling Harken stock while serving as a director of Harken. This is essentially the same kind of activity that Martha Stewart is going to prison over. Except at the time of the investigation, Mr. Bush's father was president and the case was quietly dropped."
  • Donald Rumsfeld:
    "In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq."
  • Michael Brown:
    "From failed Republican congressional candidate to ousted "czar" of an Arabian horse association, there was little in Michael D. Brown's background to prepare him for the fury of Hurricane Katrina.

    But as the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Brown now faces furious criticism of the federal response to the disaster that wiped out New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. He provoked some of it himself when he conceded that FEMA didn't know that thousands of refugees were trapped at New Orleans' convention center without food or water until officials heard it on the news.

    "He's done a hell of a job, because I'm not aware of any Arabian horses being killed in this storm," said Kate Hale, former Miami-Dade emergency management chief. "The world that this man operated in and the focus of this work does not in any way translate to this. He does not have the experience.""
  • Harriet Miers:
    "MIERS ON THE CONSTITUTION....On her Senate questionnaire, Harriet Miers only took a stab at answering one question about her experience with constitutional law — and she blew it:
    At one point, Miers described her service on the Dallas City Council in 1989. When the city was sued for violating the Voting Rights Act, she said, the council "had to be sure to comply with the proportional representation requirement of the Equal Protection clause."

    But the Supreme Court repeatedly has said that the Constitution's guarantee of the "equal protection of the laws" does not mean that city councils or state legislatures must have enough minority members to match the proportion of blacks, Hispanics and Asians in the voting population.

    ....Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan...said she was surprised the White House did not check Miers' questionnaire before sending it to the Senate.

    "Are they trying to set her up? Any halfway competent junior lawyer could have checked the questionnaire and said it cannot go out like that. I find it shocking," she said."
  • Monica Goodling:
    "REGENT UNIVERSITY AND THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION. Monica Goodling, a top aide to Alberto Gonzales, graduated from Regent University School of Law in 1999 and started working for the DOJ around 2002, under the godly leadership of John Ashcroft. Her rise to the present position looks meteoric. How exactly Goodling acquired the necessary experience in such a few years remains a mystery to me. Several hours of Googling gave very little but hearsay."
  • Paul Wolfowitz
    "According to the Post today, a World Bank internal message board is full of anonymous, bitchy complaints about Wolfie. China hates him too, and we learned that through unauthorized leaks to Fox News. And since the rest of the Western World hates the corrupt bastard, they’re less likely to donate the money the World Bank needs to loan to developing nations.

    In other words, his brief tenure at the Bank has been a resounding, embarrassing failure."

The list goes on and on. If this weren't so serious, it would be hilarious. The only people who leave the Bush administration without being under a cloud of suspicion are the ones who are asked to resign for having the spine to express an opinion that differs from the official party line, or leave on their own when they decide that their integrity and ethics are more important than blind loyalty to George Bush.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Fredo is getting his obfuscation on before the Senate Judiciary Committee right now. Fire Dog Lake has lie-by-lie coverage.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

WMD Found in Iraq!!!

It was only a matter of time before those crack sleuths over at Red State would find the long lost Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. They finally hit pay dirt.

"31 barrels of nitric acid were found Saturday in the walled-off front yard of a house that had been raided less than two weeks earlier".

OMG!!! Umm...well, wait a minute, what is nitric acid actually used for anyway?

"Chief uses of nitric acid are in the preparation of fertilizers, e.g., ammonium nitrate, and explosives, e.g., nitroglycerin and trinitrotoluene (TNT). It is also used in the manufacture of chemicals, e.g., in making dyes, and in metallurgy, ore flotation, etching steel, photoengraving, and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel." aside from numerous legitimate commercial applications, it can be used to make explosives. But you can make some pretty nasty shit out of the chemicals under your kitchen sink, and every country on the face of the planet has explosives. What's so special about this?

"So, the bad guys are making chemical weapons in Iraq...chemical weapons are classified by the UN as there are WMDs in Iraq...wait. That can't be right. The reality-based community said they weren't."

Ahh...I see now. Some "bad guys" in Iraq are using "chemicals" to make weapons. Therefore they have "chemical weapons", which are classified by the UN as "Weapons of Mass Destruction". Quod erat demonstrandum.

Except that according to chemist George Smith, PhD.:

"[Nitric acid] wouldn't be practical as a chemical weapon and there's no way to make it so."

Oops. Ok, maybe not so much. Well, let's give the wingnuts the benefit of the doubt here, which is about all they ever get on anything anyway. Even if you accept the bullshit premise that nitric acid is being used to create chemical weapons in Iraq, then you mean to tell me that we invaded Iraq, a country that posed no actual threat to the United States and was not involved in 9/11, killed hundreds of thousands of its citizens, lost over three thousand of our own soldiers, spent over $400 billion dollars that we didn't have in the first place, and lost the respect of the entire world in the process all so we could find...wait for it...31 barrels of nitric acid in some guy's front yard?

At least they are kind enough to acknowledge which side of the ideological spectrum bases their approach to issues on reality. And one more thing: it wasn't that the "reality-based community" doubted the existence of WMD in Iraq just because Republicans and neocons were making the claim (although that fact alone is generally enough to cause suspicion). The reason for doubt by anyone with a functioning brain was that experts actually involved in searching for them, like David Kay, the man the Bush administration picked to actually find the WMD caches in Iraq, were saying they didn't exist. David Kay said the following during testimony before Congress on January 18, 2004:

I believe that the effort that has been directed to this point has been sufficiently intense that it is highly unlikely that there were large stockpiles of deployed, militarized chemical weapons there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Politicization of a tragedy

Call me cynical, but after hearing about the Virginia Tech massacre yesterday, I was wondering how long it would be before the Right tards tried to turn it into an opportunity. I didn't have to wait long. First came the gun nuts telling us how this never would have happened if everyone were packing heat. (Just think, if we all carried guns 24x7, it would be just like living in...oh, I don't know... how about Baghdad, and just look at how safe it is over there!) Then came Commander Codpiece's obligatory photo op at Virginia Tech following his five minute speech (which came right after his previous photo op where he used the families of troops as props to tell us how the Democrats were trying to legislate defeat). And now creationist Ken Ham informs us that if only God were allowed back in science class, senseless violence would never occur (but please ignore the millions killed throughout history in God's name - they were heathens and infidels who deserved death). Conservatives truly have no shame.

Bill Maher on Regent law school grads in the Bush administration

This is a few days old, but it's worth a view if you haven't seen it yet. Bill Maher pulls no punches with this scathing rebuke of the White House predilection for graduates of Pat Robertson's law school.

Regent was understandably proud of the fact that 150 of their graduates were working in the Bush Administration (which is an amazing statistic for a 29-year-old school) because they had it highlighted on their web site. When this fact became widely publicized following the Monica Goodling episode, someone was apparently embarrassed and the mention of the 150 graduates was scrubbed from their site.

The Irrelevancy of Corporate Media

Glenn Greenwald provides further evidence of the irrelevancy of the beltway punditocracy. This would be why corporate media's influence is waning. Nobody buys what they are selling except for the Bush 30-percenters, who don't watch the Sunday talking heads anyway. All the "serious" journalists do is regurgitate Republican talking points an hour at a time. The media set basically listens to Karl Rove and his minions, and talks to itself. The only people who pay attention are others in the beltway media elite, whose heads bobble away in agreement with every utterance, and liberal bloggers who seek to call them on their fact-free reporting.

First Post!

I've been talking myself into starting this for years. "Down The Toobz" is where the United States is going under the leadership of the modern day Republican Party. It's also a reference to Senator Stevens' (AK) description of "the Internets" as a "series of tubes." I know - pretty weak, but I could spend hours thinking of a name for something that in the scheme of things doesn't really matter a whole lot. If you're here, it's not because I came up with some incredibly sexy blog name.