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A Faerie's Farthing

Flitting through the internets looking for sparkly bits. All content mine and not to be reproduced without permission.

Location: All Material Copyrighted, United States

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Murtha: "Generals Say Iraq Will Take 25 Years"

Murtha: "Generals Say Iraq Will Take 25 Years"

In his appearance on Hardball today, Col. Murtha of "Mean Jean Schmidt" fame shared some insight from his conversations with top military commanders: that preparing the Iraqi troops for a stable Iraq may take twenty-five years. That's a generation of commitment, with an army we simply don't have. Which probably explains Blackwater's curious hiring spree:

Blackwater USA is seeking a highly qualified manager to oversee training being conducted in Iraq. This manager will be responsible for a wide spectrum of financial and logistic reporting as well ensure that the training is being conducted as required by the contract. This position will support a multi-phase, multi-year contract in Iraq.

...Program Manager - An experienced Program Manager to oversee a complex and intensive training contract in Iraq. The Program Manager will be responsible for a large cadre of instructors, Iraqi students, and base support operations.

This, in turn, might explain the (mal)administration's sudden turnabout on "redeploying" troops and eventually snorkenpuffling out of Iraq. It's quite the sleight of state, offering all the PR gloss of bringing our boys home without jeopardizing U.S. interests in the region. A tricky bit of the doublespeak that is so second nature to this crew. Always watch what this administration is doing with its left hand as it extends its right hand out to shake yours.

Or in Cheney's case, always watch what the right side of his mouth is saying as the left side curls into that snarl of aggressive delusion. When he occupied Rummy's position under Bush I, he held a very different opinion of taking Baghdad:

If you're going to go in and try to topple Saddam Hussein, you have to go to Baghdad. Once you've got Baghdad, it's not clear what you do with it. It's not clear what kind of government you would put in place of the one that's currently there now. Is it going to be a Shia regime, a Sunni regime or a Kurdish regime? Or one that tilts toward the Baathists, or one that tilts toward the Islamic fundamentalists? How much credibility is that government going to have if it's set up by the United States military when it's there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for that government, and what happens to it once we leave?

...If Saddam wasn't there, his successor probably wouldn't be notably friendlier to the United States than he is. I also look at that part of the world as of vital interest to the United States; for the next hundred years it's going to be the world's supply of oil. We've got a lot of friends in the region. We're always going to have to be involved there. Maybe it's part of our national character, you know, we like to have these problems nice and neatly wrapped up, put a ribbon around it. You deploy a force, you win the war, and the problem goes away, and it doesn't work that way in the Middle East; it never has and isn't likely to in my lifetime.

Those quotes are from 1991 and 1996, i.e. his opinion regarding Iraq didn't change in the five years since the gulf war. So what happened between 1996 and 2002 to turn his thinking 180 degrees? Cheney, of course, will remind us that "9/11 changed everything," but the truth is probably closer to his statement above: I also look at that part of the world as of vital interest to the United States; for the next hundred years it's going to be the world's supply of oil. This just happened to be a main tenet of PNAC's philosophy when they formed in 1997. Basically, Cheney's turnabout regarding Iraq had as little to do with 9/11 as Iraq itself did.

In a similar manner, the administration's shifting stance on Iraq has almost nothing to do with what they are saying. Which, in its turn, explains the willful incompetence of vague pollyannaisms such as "stay the course" and "until we are victorious." When what you say means nothing, you get to define the terms; "victory" is whatever they decide it is when they decide we've attained it. See...they did learn something from Vietnam!

wing tip to dailykos!

Nighthawks on the Internet

Nighthawks on the Internet

You've all been there: you're bored, a tad unfocused because you're not exactly awake, but not yet ready for bed. Now is not the time to go back and finish reading Naomi Klein's "Baghdad Year Zero," nor should you be trying your hand at Plameology. It's a night for brief and witty, not for deep and pithy.

You daydream of what might be on the cover should someone figure out how to package the internet's allmighty powers in magazine format. Sure, cursory reading is cursory reading, but magazines are easier to explore. Plus, they end eventually. But since you can't exactly thumb through the internet, you do the next best thing:

Blogroll Roulette

Send your browser to a blog - your favorite, the first one that comes to mind, whatever - just to get a blogroll in front of you. Pick a blog name that strikes your fancy, click away and hope to land on that perfect post for late-night reading. If you at least liked what you found, pick a random blog from their blogroll. And so on and so forth. Hyperlinks count and the posts don't have to be humorous to count as a "win;" the important thing is that they're not overly intricate.

Serious and succinct works quite well, which is why this post was definitely a winner:

To The Warmongers

I'm back again from Hell
With loathsome thoughts to sell;
Secrets of death to tell;
And horrors from the abyss.

Young faces bleared with blood,
Sucked down into the mud,
You shall hear things like this,
Till the tormented slain
Crawl round and once again,
With limbs that twist awry
Moan out their brutish pain,
As the fighters pass them by.

For you our battles shine
With triumph half-divine;
And the glory of the dead
Kindles in each proud eye.

But a curse is on my head,
That shall not be unsaid,
And the wounds in my heart are red,
For I have watched them die.

- Siegfried Sassoon, 1917

Do read the whole thing; there's a lot of background info on Sassoon, and Once Upon a Time is just a great blog anyway. And no; I don't say that just because of the name. This is the second time blogroll roulette has landed me there and I must say I feel lucky for it.

For more writings from that war, this website is a great reference. It includes the works of Wilfred Owen, author of "Dulce et Decorum Est" and "Anthem for Doomed Youth."

I am reminded of the Christmas Truce of 1914, which is at once one of mankind's greatest moments and worst tragedies. If the enmity can be put aside for one day, why not forever?

Peace on earth, goodwill towards man and love to Tom Waits

Monday, November 28, 2005

Lipstick on a Pig?

Lipstick on a Pig?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

"Scenes From a Bush Thanksgiving"

"Scenes From a Bush Thanksgiving"

If you don't make a point of reading Mark Morford, you ought. His writing is incisive, insightful, and wonderfully irreverant. His characterization of Thanksgiving with shrubya is deliciously outrageous; as tacitly bawdy as the Rude Pundit is explicit, only publishable.

Ah yes, it is that time again...Copious forced laughter that sounds like geese mating in a broom closet. It is Thanksgiving dinner at the Bush White House, where the guests mingle as though their genitals were being squeezed by manic elves, as if they were all coated in vanilla pudding being licked off by Pat Robertson. Which, truth be told, some of them seem to enjoy. A lot.

And you ain't seen nothin' yet! After characterizing Laura's decor as "bought at a Jersey consignment store run by Ethan Allen's stoned brother," he touches upon the bizare Oedipul vibe that whole group seems to be riding.

Barbara rules. Owns the house, despite how she hasn't lived here in over 13 years. Laura can only look at her in numb awe, her own stiff skirt pleats appearing humble and small in comparison to Barb's massive teal dress ensemble, so epic and balloon-like it would seem to envelope all it comes near, like a giant ocean algae bloom, a massive amoeba, a cloud of righteous know-it-allness that makes easy mockery of Laura's little beige blouse of meek sexless humility. Barb is a force of nature, commanding the staff and chatting up the various heads of state and smiling at everyone with that glassy omnivorous stare. They all hate her.

Lest you thought something might be sacred, he also pushes the alcohol button:

George Sr. ...sips his gin fizz and chuckles softly at the scene, thinkin' about golf, thinkin' about how long ago it all seems since his reign of tepid ineptitude, but thinkin', also, about how history will be much kinder to him now that his son has run the country into a blood-drenched wall. He-he-he. He'll drink to that.

...Junior's current miserable poll numbers now mean that he and his father share the honor of being two of the four most unpopular presidents in modern history, right alongside Carter and Nixon. But Bush 41 does not care...his stature has improved considerably, in relation to his son. Damn this gin is good. Too bad Junior can't have some. Looks like he could use it.

Trust me; just go read the whole thing.

wing tip to dailydissent

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Thanksgiving Leftovers Blog Round Up

Thanksgiving Leftovers Blog Round Up

Now that the turkey tetrazzini is all tucked away in the fridge, it's time to officially kick off the Christmakwansticekah Season. I could think of no one better to usher in the festivities than Jesus' very own General, Mr. J. C. Christian. His manly sermon offers good, christian advice for making sure the godless heathens don't co-opt the celebration the same way it was co-opted it from pagan cultures originally. He also provides us with a "holy card" to carry and share with likely sinners. Onward, Christian Soldiers!

In the beloved Science Friday tradition, our round up moves onward with talk of extraterrestrials. No; I haven't been scouring tabloids.net. Or at least, I imagine Jeff at Flypaper Theory wouldn't much appreciate the sentiment. Besides, he's just sharing news, even if he did file it under "Things That Make You Go Hmmmmm?" How are conspiracy theories about Roswell aliens passing as news, you ask?

Now, you might think these are the words of the local loony sitting at the end of the counter down at the pancake house, eh. Only you'd be wrong.

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: "UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."

..."The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning. He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

...Paul Hellyer, who now seeks Canadian Parliament hearings on relations with ETs, on May 15, 2003, stated in Toronto’s Globe & Mail newspaper, “Canada should accept the long-standing invitation of U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio to launch a conference to seek approval of an international treaty to ban weapons in space. That would be a positive Canadian contribution toward a more peaceful world.”

Those crazy Canucks! Wanting "peace on earth" to be more than just a holiday greeting! Where's their sense of adventure!? Even if they were eligible, they probably wouldn't want one of these exciting careers in Iraq.

With talk of possibly cutting our forces by 50,000 to 60,000 by the end of next year, it's interesting to note that Blackwater Security is in the mist of a massive recruiting campaign for what they call "a multi-phase, multi-year contract in Iraq."

In its October 2005 e-mail newsletter "Blackwater Tactical Weekly", Blackwater listed job opportunities in Iraq for a number of positions ranging from trainers and Coordination Officers who would "serve as the primary liaison between Iraqi officials, Coalition Forces, and US Government officials." to Project Managers with "15-20 years supervisory operational experience."

It's hard to tell exactly what they're on about, but the position listings make it sound an awful lot like Blackwater plans on training the Iraqi military at our behest.

Blackwater USA is seeking a highly qualified manager to oversee training being conducted in Iraq. This manager will be responsible for a wide spectrum of financial and logistic reporting as well ensure that the training is being conducted as required by the contract. This position will support a multi-phase, multi-year contract in Iraq.

...Program Manager - An experienced Program Manager to oversee a complex and intensive training contract in Iraq. The Program Manager will be responsible for a large cadre of instructors, Iraqi students, and base support operations.

Forget the UFOs; base operations support makes you go "hmmmm..." And I always thought jokes that "victory" and a "completed mission" meant "our permanent bases are done" were just snide commentary. Also residing in the "hmmm..." file would be anything involving School of the Americas darling, John Negroponte. It seems he brought his Honduras touch with him to Baghdad.

They really ought to send John Negroponte back to Iraq. It would be just like old home week.

...It's apparent -- both from this story and from reports by human rights groups (note the date on that one) -- that the U.S. and U.K. embassies have been aware for some time that Iraq's Ministry of the Interior has been turned into what the old National Guard used to be in El Salvador, or the Presidential Intelligence Unit in Guatemala, or the National Directorate of Investigation in Honduras, which is to say: death squad central.

And it's more than a bit noteworthy that something like this was predicted -- boasted about, really -- by anonymous Pentagon sources earlier this year.

"We're making great progress in Iraq," dear leader tells us. All I can say is he has a warped notion of "progress." But that's hardly news; the man's got a warped notion of everything, especially details of the factual record. Although it's probably more accurate to say that he simply doesn't care what the facts are; he much prefers his bubblevision and the way it contorts information, giving it that nice, soft edge and intriguing blur. Remember folks: It's not a lie if you really believe it! Or something.

Why can't Bush and Cheney engage in this debate honestly? I'm not referring to their continuing attacks on critics who have argued that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into war.

...Bush and Cheney keep insisting that this sort of criticism is out of bounds, without bothering to answer the well-founded charges. It's not surprising that they would fiercely attack such damaging criticism (which happens to reflect public opinion) with hot-blooded rhetoric not facts-based explanations. But they also seek to rig the debate over policy.

...Bush and Cheney are attempting characterize the debate over Iraq as one centered on a false choice: Turn the country over to Zarqawi--if he remains alive--or fight to keep Iraq from becoming the United States of Al Qaeda. If only it were that simple.

Take away the stop-Zarqawi-from-taking-over-Iraq rhetoric from Bush and Cheney, and what are they left with? Remaining in Iraq for years to promote democracy there and within the region? It's a noble-sounding cause, but one that becomes more difficult in an environment of intensifying sectarian tension. (Security in Baghdad's Green Zone these days, American reporters say, is worse than it was a year ago or two years ago.) Is it worth sending Americans to their death to protect and assist a government that is allied with Iran, that supports measures that undermine women's rights, that has been accused of corruption, that includes torturers?

...Jack Murtha has taken a hard look at the dilemma at hand. He has concluded the potential benefits of further U.S. military intervention in Iraq do not justify the costs (American lives, hundreds of billions of dollars and stretching thin his much-loved U.S. military). Right or wrong, Murtha is not making stuff up. The same cannot be said for the folks running the war.

Yes, well, not much can be said for them. But plenty is said of them, most of it being both unflattering and true. This crew has sought unprecedented powers for the executive branch, all in the name of strong national defense and fighting the eeeevil turrists. Sadly, they've been fairly successful in concentrating considerable power in the White House, especially in regards to War on Terror™ "detainees." This week it was announced that Jose Padilla, after being held for three years, will finally be getting the trial that used to be a hallmark of the American justice system.

Today the U.S. government formally indicted Jose Padilla, an American citizen arrested in the United States who had been held as an enemy combatant for three years outside the reach of the criminal justice system.

...Since 9/11 the Bush Administration has sharply criticized others for daring to suggest that citizens accused of terrorism should be dealt with through the criminal justice system. It has insisted that 9/11 changed everything and that terrorism must be dealt with through novel methods that dispense with the ordinary protections that the Constitution affords the accused.

...By indicting Padilla now, The Bush Administration moots Padilla's appeal to the Supreme Court. It also leaves standing the Fourth Circuit's decision in the Padilla case, which broadly upheld the President's power to detain U.S. citizens like Padilla as unlawful combatants.

...The Padilla case is a sobering lesson in how much leeway the President has to imprison and detain people for long periods of time in violation of the Constitution. The fact that the government's story about why Padilla was a threat has changed so frequently should give us pause the next time the government asserts that we should trust it when it rounds up U.S. citizens and claims the right to hold them indefinitely for our protection. Padilla may well be a very bad fellow, but we have a method of dealing with such bad fellows. It is called the rule of law, and we should not surrender it so readily merely because the President desires it.

This legal mumbo-mumbo could not be more important, especially in light of Congress' recent approval to suspend habeus corpus. If the court system is to be the last avenue of hope for such civil rights, Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court should give everyone cause to concern. He's hostile to the right to privacy, doesn't respect Congress as a co-equal branch of government, seems to think nothing of lying to the Senate and doesn't believe in the primacy of one person, one vote. Now we find out that he was a member of a less-than-tolerant organization at Princeton. Aravosis was in a mood:

Oh yes, and he was proud of it. You see, according to the club:

"People nowadays just don't seem to know their place," fretted a 1983 Prospect essay titled "In Defense of Elitism." "Everywhere one turns blacks and hispanics are demanding jobs simply because they're black and hispanic, the physically handicapped are trying to gain equal representation in professional sports, and homosexuals are demanding that government vouchsafe them the right to bear children."

Ah yes, all those uppity brown and yellow people, the gimps, the fags. And this man was proud of his association with a group that thought their ought to be strict limits on the number of women permitted to attend Princeton, since they were changing the student body "drastically" for the worse.

At least the Senate has until January to do their Alito homework. Reminders would be good, though.

Friday, November 25, 2005

A Perfect Pair of Pundits Pummels Pretzledent

A Perfect Pair of Pundits Pummels Pretzledent

Real conservatives kick GOoPer ass. Reading their columns isn't painful, they actually make sense and they're willing to call a spade a spade. But I guess sanity does that for a person. A tacit distinction between "conservative" and "republican" has already worked its way into the zeitgeist, probably because true conservatives recognize the damage being wrought under their mantle and are rightfully horrified.

We are truly living in strange times: liberals and conservatives are in agreement as never before, at least when it comes to this (mal)administration. If you didn't know that Paul Craig Roberts was a card-carrying conservative, you might mistake his latest column for something straight out of liberal academia. Truly; it warms the heart.

The Bush administration wants the power to detain indefinitely anyone it declares to be an enemy combatant or a terrorist without presenting the detainee in court with charges. In England the power to arrest people and to hold them indefinitely without charges was taken away from kings centuries ago. Bush apparently thinks he is the reincarnation of an absolute monarch.

...On Thursday November 10, the Republican controlled US Senate voted 49 to 42 to overturn the US Supreme Court's 2004 ruling that permits Guantánamo detainees to challenge their detentions. How dare the US Supreme Court defend the US Constitution and the civil liberties of Americans when we have terrorists to fight, argued the Republican senators. What are civil liberties, the Republicans asked rhetorically, but legal tricks that allow criminals and terrorists to escape.

The really fun thing about this curious right-left syzygy is that not only are they arriving at the same conclusions, but both camps seem to share a common perspective on the way there.

...Nothing more effectively undercuts the image that Bush paints of America as the land of freedom, liberty and democracy than the Republican Party's destruction of habeas corpus.

Habeas corpus is essential to political opposition and the rise and maintenance of democracy. Without habeas corpus, a government can simply detain its opponents. Nothing is more conducive to one party rule than the suspension of habeas corpus.

It is heartbreaking to watch the Republican Party overthrow the very foundation of democracy in the name of democracy.
The name of Lindsey O. Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, the sponsor of this evil legislation, will go down in infamy in the book of tyrants.

Yes; a prominent conservative used the 't' word to characterize American policy. Speaking of policy, Roberts also brings up the other 't' word - torture. They do go hand in hand, afterall.

What a hypocritical spectacle the Bush administration and the Republican Party have made of America. They boast of "freedom and democracy" while they destroy habeas corpus and practice torture.

Americans must recognize the Bush administration and the Republican Party for what they are. They are tyrants. They are bringing evil to the world and tyranny to America.

We need this man in the Senate yesterday. If people like him comprised the (R) caucus, I wouldn't mind them in the majority so much. The question remains, though: would people have the good sense to elect them?

What has become of the American people that they permit the despicable practices of tyrants to be practiced in their name? The Bush administration is in violation of the US Constitution, the rule of law, the Geneva Convention, the Nuremberg Standard, and basic humanity. It is a gang of criminals. The Republican Party is so terrified of losing power that it supports a tyrannical administration that has brought shame not just to the Republican name but to all Americans.

If this article by Joan Ryan is any indication, I do believe there's hope! She and her father live in opposite corners of the political divide, but they too agree on shrubya. She has been chronicling his progressive disenchantment and her latest installment is simply a must-read. As gratifying as it is to read former government officials castigating shrubCo, it's more encouraging to see it from everyday Americans.

In the summer of 2004, to my great surprise, he was so disillusioned with how Bush had run up the federal debt and mismanaged the Iraq war that he said he would not be voting Republican for the first time in his life.

Three months later, I wrote a follow-up. He had decided to vote for Bush after all.

...I caught up with him by phone the other day as he was heading out to Mass. I asked what he was thinking about Bush now, a year after his re-election.

He regrets changing his mind about voting for him, he said.

"The guy's stupid," he said. "Such a disappointment. The worst administration I've ever seen. He just sounds confused. He doesn't sound like he knows what the hell he's doing."

No; in fact, he sounds drunk. The chimperor has no clothes and it's becoming more and more apparent everyday. He also wouldn't know "compassionate" or "conservative" from a hole in the ground, as demonstrated by his increasingly unpopular agenda. NB: Record deficits don't play well in Peoria.

"I don't think people, myself included, were clear on how good (Bill) Clinton was with the money,'' he said. "Why wouldn't the Republicans keep going with that? Instead we got tax cuts and the war in Iraq. Who's going to pay for all that? It's just irresponsible. I never thought (Bush) was the brightest guy in the world, but to go from a $300 billion surplus to a $500 billion deficit, or whatever it is, that's just stupid.''

Neither, apparently, does criminal incompetence:

Hurricane Katrina sealed the deal for my father. As someone who has weathered many hurricanes in Florida, he watched the president's response to the devastation with increasing horror and bafflement.

"This guy's slow, and he's dimwitted,'' he said. "He said, 'I'm going to let Louisiana take care of itself.'

...It seems like with Bush lately, whatever he touches turns to crap. And now we're saddled with this guy for three more years. The only thing you can do is to get the Republicans out of Congress next year.''

..."He said that in retrospect he should have thought about last year's election in a different way. He said he should have considered that a vote for John Kerry, whom he strongly disliked, was a vote not for an individual but for a Democratic administration. We needed a Democratic administration, he said, to keep in check a Republican Congress.

...I never thought I'd say this, but I wouldn't vote for any Republican, even from Florida," he said. "We got to get the Republicans out and the Democrats in. We got to make sure they control Congress so Bush can't do whatever the hell he wants.

From your lips to God's ears! rAmen

wing tip to wolcott & dailykos

For the "God - Mysterious Ways" File

For the "God - Mysterious Ways" File

(more moving stuff from the way back machine, which was already set at Katrina, so why not...)

I'll take "notable quotables" for $200, please, Alex.

Okay, the answer is "A prominent K Street lobbyist recently described this as 'diseased' and 'out of control.'"

"What is our political campaign and fundraising process"?

In what he is calling an "epiphany" inspired by Hurricane Katrina, one of Washington's most senior and respected lobbyists is now calling for serious reform in our political system, saying that campaign financing has "gotten away from us."

Frederick L. Webber, a longtime denizen of Washington's lobbying corridor, showed up at work one day last week and found on his desk a dozen fundraising requests from members of Congress.

He threw them all in the trash.

...How could lawmakers be asking for money for their reelections, he asked himself, when thousands of Americans were desperate for aid along the Gulf Coast?

Webber has not only written a generous check to Katrina relief efforts, he has also been actively discussing campaign finance reform with colleagues across Washington. Among the changes he cites as necessary are increased limits on donations and a shorter campaign cycle. He is, to put it bluntly, advocating that our lawmakers be allowed to do their jobs instead of focusing on reelection.

"No sooner is someone elected or reelected than they start their fundraising right out of the box," Webber complained.

"Members of Congress are trapped. They have to continue to raise money if they're going to survive, and I sympathize with them," Webber added. "But I've seen a lot of people -- very good people -- leave Congress because they're tired of fundraising."

Beyond the complexities of the proposed reforms, Webber's message is quite simple:

He also made clear that the hurricane's devastation was what prompted his proselytizing. "All of a sudden I asked, 'What are the priorities here?'" Webber said in an interview. "It was an easy decision to make. I couldn't justify making those $500 to $2,500 [campaign] contributions. It just didn't fit."

Katrina taketh away and Katrina giveth.

She has destroyed much, but she has restored many ineffable treasures: our JINOs actually provided responsible coverage, many Americans have been shocked out of their dogmatic apathy and we have a reinvigorated debate about the role and scope of the federal government.

As only something of her magnitude can, Katrina has almost single-handedly diverted our country's focus. Thanks to her, poverty is, for the first time in possibly decades, at the forefront of the nation's consciousness. Katrina has shown the whole world the reality of Edwards' "two Americas" and has demonstrated, unequivocally, that Norquist's bathtub doesn't hold water.

Though she is long since dissipated, Katrina will forever be a part of this nation's psyche. She is already affecting politics in real-time and will potentially influence policy for a generation.  She has brought us many important lessons and it is imperative that we heed them.

We owe it to New Orleans.

"Impeach Bush Before More Die"

"Impeach Bush Before More Die"

(Moving some more things over. I &hearts Paul Craig Roberts' columns and you will too. I just found a new one of his, so it seemed meet to move this one now.)

You might remember Paul Craig Roberts, but, being at this blog as you are, it's probably not for serving as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during Reagan's administration. And you probably don't recall his name from roll calls at the Hoover Institution. You probably don't even know that he's a John M. Olin fellow; it was news to me.

I'd wager that if you're familiar with Paul Craig Roberts, it's likely because of his column, "A Reputation in Tatters", in which he called for impeachment based on the Downing Street Memos. You may even have the lede committed to memory: George W. Bush and his gang of neocon warmongers have destroyed America's reputation.

Now that you've been reacquainted, it might interest you to know that he is still plenty peeved with shrubya, especially regarding Katrina. So peeved, in fact, his new article is titled "Failure on Every Front," and its lede is just as good as the previous one:

The raison d'etre of the Bush administration is war in the Middle East in order to protect America from terrorism and to insure America's oil supply. On both counts the Bush administration has failed catastrophically.

Bush's single-minded focus on the "war against terrorism" has compounded a natural disaster and turned it into the greatest calamity in American history. The US has lost its largest and most strategic port, thousands of lives, and 80% of one of America's most historic cities is under water.

If terrorists had achieved this result, it would rank as the greatest terrorist success in history.

If you ask me, this is a point that isn't being mentioned enough: what if this had been a terrorist attack?  Is this what we can expect in way of a response? This is what the upheaval of FEMA and the creation of DHS - which belies "small government" in and of itself - has done for us? Color me terrified, indeed.

The Bush cabal, stunningly, didn't seem to think that safeguarding the nation's largest port was of any particular importance. You'd think it would have been more dear to his heart, given the concentration of oil production in the area. But no, as during Vietnam, shrubya had other priorities, namely Iraq.

Roberts hits on this point, too, mentioning SELA and the diversion of its funding to shrubya's diversion in the middle east.

Every expert and newspapers as distant as Texas saw the New Orleans catastrophe coming. But President Bush and his insane government preferred war in Iraq to protecting Americans at home.

Bush's war left the Corps of Engineers only 20% of the funding to protect New Orleans from flooding from Lake Pontchartrain.

"Insane," "staggeringly inept," "criminally incompetent" - choose your favorite; they all work. There is simply no explanation within the bounds of reason to not fund these protections, given that the budget required would be 1/10th the cost of clean-up and recovery. But we all know that long-term thinking isn't exactly shrubya's strong suit.

Long-term vacations, on the other hand, seem to be his forte. For the first three days of the worst natural disaster in this nation's history, shrubya stayed on vacation - yukking it up with senior citizens, having cake with McCain. Presidentin's Hard Work, you know. But it seems Roberts needs a reminder:

Not content with leaving New Orleans unprotected, it took the Bush administration five days to get the remnants of the National Guard not serving in Iraq, along with desperately needed food and water, to devastated New Orleans. This is the slowest emergency response by the US government in modern times. By the time the Bush administration could organize any resources for New Orleans, many more people had died and the city was in total chaos.

Despite the most dismal performance on record, Bush's Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, said on Thursday that the Bush administration has done a "magnificent job."

He then discusses the tremendous impact this will have on our economy - again, wtf was bush thinking?!? Oh yeah...never mind. Indeed, the word on everybody's tongues is "incompetent," but Roberts really gets behind the sentiment.

The destruction of New Orleans is the responsibility of the most incompetent government in American history and perhaps in all history.

Americans are rapidly learning that they were deceived by the superpower hubris. The powerful US military cannot successfully occupy Baghdad or control the road to the airport--and this against an insurgency based in only 20% of the Iraqi population. Bush's pointless war has left Washington so pressed for money that the federal government abandoned New Orleans to catastrophe.

The Bush administration is damned by its gross incompetence.

Sadly, so are the rest of us.

The neoconservatives have brought these disasters to all Americans, Democrat and Republican alike. Now they must he held accountable. Bush and his neoconservatives are guilty of criminal negligence and must be prosecuted.

...What disaster will next spring from Bush's incompetence?

Oooh! There's that word again!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Skybox of Iniquity

Skybox of Iniquity

Once again, give it up for Knight-Ridder! It would seem they're one of the only newspaper groups still practicing something akin to reporting - unlike the JINOS at Fox, et al. They've done a write-up of Abramoffia and it is quite thorough indeed. It also offers up some superlative quotes and even approaches snarky:

It was J. Steven Griles' turn to testify Nov. 2, but it could have been any number of people.

Griles, who denies wrongdoing, is just the latest in a line of Republican officials and conservative leaders to be linked to Abramoff, who has been accused of mocking the laws that govern money and influence in American politics.

The hearing was a sharp reminder that while White House aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby dominate the headlines, Abramoff remains — according to some observers — the Republican Party's most dangerous problem.

...Because Abramoff was so close to the power structure and fundraising mechanisms of the Republican Party, "he knows where a lot more of the bodies are buried," said Bill Allison, spokesman for the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan ethics watchdog group.

As they point out, this is the scandal that's going to just explode onto the scene after quietly snowballing in the background. It isn't getting much press and your average citizen probably wouldn't know Scanlon from Scooter anyway. But it is definitely in some people's thoughts, albeit in an infamous sort of way.

"I don't think we have had something of this scope, arrogance and sheer venality in our lifetimes," Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, wrote recently.

...What sets this tale apart, what makes it truly extraordinary, is the extent and degree of the apparent exploitation and deceit," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Chairman Kevin Sickey of the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, one of Abramoff's aggrieved clients, testified last week that the e-mails also offered a rare glimpse into the legal "underworld of government affairs." "He is the golden-boy-gone-bad of the American political system," said Sickey.

...Thousands of e-mails subpoenaed by Senate investigators indicate a man who was publicly dedicated to conservative ideals while privately committed to enriching himself. His public descent began before the Indian Affairs Committee in September 2004, where he and partner Scanlon, DeLay's former press secretary, were found to have charged Indian tribes more than $66 million while privately referring to their clients as "monkeys" and "troglodytes."

..."The Congress and the United States government became Jack Abramoff's personal playground," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., who has long complained of Abramoff's influence in the Northern Marianas Islands, a U.S. territory that Abramoff helped keep free from U.S. minimum-wage and immigration laws. "But Abramoff was only able to succeed because he had willing partners within the Congress and this administration."

Predictably, Abramoff's resonse has largely been whinging about being put in the "impoosible position of not being able to defend himself." Yes, well; it is kind of hard to defend yourself when you plead the fifth, you know.

Abramoff invoked Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination when called before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last year. Through a spokesman, he denies wrongdoing.

This man and his lawyers clearly lack any sense of irony.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff is under investigation by at least three federal agencies and two Senate committees for his dealings with members of Congress, their staffs and his clients.

...According to documents released by Senate investigators, he directed his clients — often unregulated entities that included U.S. territories, Indian tribes and Internet gaming clients — as to how much and where to direct their political contributions.

The article manages to hit just about all of the known strands of Abramoff's web, including the Florida murder story. It also provides a lovely list of the people involved and the relationships, etc. The starring roles:

Rep. Tom DeLay: DeLay, former House majority leader, called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends" and was allied with Abramoff in populating the lobbying industry with former Republican staff members, including his own. The House ethics committee is looking into three trips made by DeLay that were paid for by Abramoff or his clients.

David Safavian: A former lobbying partner of Abramoff's, Safavian was chief of staff of the General Services Administration before he was arrested Sept. 19 and charged with lying to federal investigators about his dealings with Abramoff. He has pleaded not guilty.

Michael Scanlon: A former press secretary for DeLay, he partnered with Abramoff in a lobbying/public-relations business that took in more than $82 million from 12 American Indian tribes between 2001 and 2003. He entered a guilty plea Monday to a charge that he and the lobbyist conspired to bribe public officials, including a senior Republican member of Congress, and defrauded Indian tribes of millions of dollars.

Watching this "astonishing, even by jaded Washington standards of palm greasing" web unravel will simply be too much fun.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

One Is a Genius, the Other Insane

One Is a Genius, the Other Insane

Gee, Brain, what are we going to do tonight?

The same thing we do every night, Pinky; try to take over the world! My secret energy task force has obtained the strategic maps of Iraq's oil fields. Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?

I think so, Brain *narf*, but don't camels spit a lot?

Pinky, you fool! Don't you see; with those oil reserves under our control, nobody will be able to stop us!

Iraqis face the dire prospect of losing up to $200bn (£116bn) of the wealth of their country if an American-inspired plan to hand over development of its oil reserves to US and British multinationals comes into force next year. A report produced by American and British pressure groups warns Iraq will be caught in an "old colonial trap" if it allows foreign companies to take a share of its vast energy reserves.

...According to the report, from groups including War on Want and the New Economics Foundation (NEF), the new Iraqi constitution opened the way for greater foreign investment. Negotiations with oil companies are already under way ahead of next month's election and before legislation is passed.

...Yesterday's report said the use of production sharing agreements (PSAs) was proposed by the US State Department before the invasion and adopted by the Coalition Provisional Authority. "The current government is fast-tracking the process. It is already negotiating contracts with oil companies in parallel with the constitutional process, elections and passage of a Petroleum Law," the report, Crude Designs, said.

Earlier this year a BBC Newsnight report claimed to have uncovered documents showing the Bush administration made plans to secure Iraqi oil even before the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US.

Narf! Sounds good, Brain! But it doesn't sound very bomby; where're the bombs, Brain? Maybe we could drop a few on those Al-Jazeera blokes? They've never liked us.

Don't be silly, Pinky; our plan will never succeed without Qatar's support. Besides, I don't think Pharfignewton will like that very much.

PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

A source said: "There's no doubt what Bush wanted, and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it." Al-Jazeera is accused by the US of fuelling the Iraqi insurgency.

Troz! You're right, Brain!

Of course. Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?

Yes Brain, but if our knees bent the other way, how would we ride a bicycle?

wing tip to dailykos and this lovely website, which has catalogued all of Pinky and the Brain's "are you pondering what I'm pondering?" exchanges

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mean Jean Just Can't Win

Mean Jean Just Can't Win

Well, it didn't take long for newly (and barely) elected Jean Schmidt to go from this:

"I pledge to walk in the shoes of my colleagues and refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character," Schmidt said then. "It is easy to quickly sink to the lowest form of political debate. Harsh words often lead to headlines, but walking this path is not a victimless crime. This great House pays the price."

To this:

Yesterday I stood at Arlington National Cemetery attending the funeral of a young marine in my district. He believed in what we were doing is the right thing and had the courage to lay his life on the line to do it.

A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bop, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course.

He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.

She was forced to remove her statements from the Senate record, lest she be subject to censure. The video is a must-see. She's a freshman member of Congress, but already immortalized, and not in the good way. In fact, it's so bad that some among her own party are saying this will likely be her only term.

In the interest of fairness, though, I will say that she does appear to know cowardice. She has cancelled several public appearances and, until today, refused to to talk to the press. Which is not the same thing as not getting press coverage, much to her chagrin, I'm sure. She's been rightly castigated across the board and even pilloried on Saturday Night Live.

When she finally did give an interview, she didn't do herself any favors. Despite the almost continuous coverage of Murtha's original statement on Iraq, she apparently had no idea he was even a Marine! And the sordid fun doesn't stop there; the man she claimed to be quoting, Col. Danny Bubp, says that he never explicitly mentioned Murtha during their conversation. So not only is she insipid and daft, but she's apparently a terrible liar to boot.

Schmidt said Tuesday that when she delivered the “cowards cut and run’’ message from Ohio Rep. Danny Bubp, an Adams County Republican who is a Marine Corps Reserve colonel, she did not know that Rep. John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat, was a retired Marine colonel who earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in Vietnam.

...Schmidt said Tuesday she had not seen any of the news coverage.

“I don’t listen to the news in D.C. because it’s not my news environment,’’ said Schmidt, who conducted the interview with The Enquirer with her chief of staff, Barry Bennett, sitting nearby. “I watch something light-hearted and then I go to bed.’’

Schmidt said she delivered her one-minute floor speech minutes after speaking on the phone to Bubp, who told The Enquirer Monday he did not mention Murtha by name in his talk with Schmidt and would not call a fellow Marine a coward.

Oh, those wacky GOoPers! Not even Delay's TRMPAC money can save her now. Oh Noe! She's melting!

[UPDATE]Those wacky GOoPers, indeed!
Bubp put out his own statement yesterday: "The comments and concerns I shared with Congresswoman Schmidt were never meant as a personal reference to Mr. Murtha. . . . We never discussed anyone by name and there was no intent to ever disparage the congressman or his distinguished record of service for our nation."

...Schmidt recalls their Friday phone conversation somewhat differently. "I wrote down what he was saying," she said in the interview. "He did ask me to send a message to Congress, and he also said send a message to 'that congressman.'

...Asked if she would change anything if she could do it over again, she replied: "I wouldn't have used Congressman Murtha's name."

[UPDATE]Did she know or didn't she?

Emboldening the Terrorists

Emboldening the Terrorists

Or surrendering to the terrorists? I can hardly keep up with the rhetoric. In any event, "staying the course" just took on a whole new dimension.

Reaching out to the Sunni Arab community, Iraqi leaders called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S.-led forces and said Iraq's opposition had a "legitimate right" of resistance.

Col. Murtha - 1
Yeehaw Kid - 0

Sunday, November 20, 2005



Politics makes strange bedfellows, I guess and it seems as though the vaunted McCain is not immune. I certainly can't think of any other explanation for his shrubya election shilling. If it wasn't some sort of quid-pro-quo for campaign support, then McCain is truly lost.

When he ran against Bush four years ago, McCain was smeared mercilessly. When McCain protested to Bush about the attacks at one of their debates during the 2000 primaries, Bush brushed him off. "John," Bush said, "it's politics."

McCain snapped back, "George, everything isn't politics."

It's not in the article, but I'm sure shrubya's response must have been laughter, with a "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?" look on his face. From Ann Richards, to McCain, to Kerry: the fact that vicious smear campaigns fall in the realm of "politics" is all that need be said about this administration.

[Bush supporters]claimed in parking-lot handouts and telephone "push polls" and whisper campaigns that McCain’s wife, Cindy, was a drug addict, that McCain might be mentally unstable from his captivity in Vietnam, and that the senator had fathered a black child with a prostitute. Callers push-polled members of a South Carolina right-to-life organization and other groups, asking if the black baby might influence their vote.

Politics™ being what they are, McCain lost the South Carolina primary. And realpolitik being what it is, he started lending his support to shrubya's campaign shortly thereafter.

Past tensions aside, McCain disagrees with Bush on issues ranging from tax cuts to global warming. But he campaigned for Bush in 2000 and started campaigning for him this year in January. He is scheduled to appear with Bush in Tennessee and Iowa on Tuesday.

Is he laying groundwork for a 2008 presidential campaign? “Idle conjecture,” McCain responded.

Yaright. McCain is in permacampaign mode. After toeing the GOP line during the "coattails" afterglow and voting in support of torture enabler Alberto Gonzales, McCain is now Mr. Anti-torture. An admirable effort, but why now when he had no qualms confirming a man who described the Geneva Conventions as "quaint" and "obsolete" as chief law enforcement officer of this land? Politics™

To be fair, McCain almost has no choice. After allying himself so strongly with shrubya, he's got to do something to rock the boat, or else scenes like this will haunt him for campaign eternity:

That picture was taken the day Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans. It's staggering to think that nobody among their combined staffs paused to consider that a photo-op might be in poor judgement under the circumstances. Consider it a visual "campanis moment."

In the 2002 and 2004 elections, there was much talk of shrubya's "coattails"; candidates across the land rode into office under the auspices of shrubya's GOP. At that time, I suppose it made all the sense in the world to associate oneself with his camp. But the times, they are a changin' - the coattails are now in tatters. If the Forrester and Kilgore campaigns are any indication, it would appear that shrubya is now "nukular."

Both candidates are of the belief that shrubya's abysmal approval ratings cost them their recent bids for governorships. In Kilgore's case, it is even speculated that shrubya campaigning with him cost him votes among undecideds. Somehow, I don't think McCain will be holding shrubya to his end of their gentlemen's agreement.

Fewer than one in 10 adults say they would prefer a congressional candidate who is a Republican and who agrees with Bush on most major issues, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday. Even among Republicans, seven of 10 are most likely to back a candidate who has at least some disagreements with the president.

Even if McCain doesn't seek campaign help from shrubya, he's still got an uphill climb to put some distance between himself and one of the most unpopular presidents in a century. He is still apologizing for him, most recently on David Letterman.

Letterman told McCain that he thinks the President "has surrounded himself by yes-men and oil men who don't care about ordinary Americans." McCain claims that "George Bush is an honest man who cares about America." (Oddly, the audience applauds.) "He's a fine and decent man who loves his country." (More rousing applause.) "Mistakes have been made, things have gone wrong -- but it's not because of dishonesty."

No...no dishonesty here. No reason to question the integrity of a man who allowed you to be slandered in the primaries...nope. Nothing to see here. If that isn't enough to make one question McCain's judgement, I'm not sure what would be. But I am sure that this picture will haunt him even more than the "let us eat cake" photo-op:

Behold the smirky embrace of (political) death. McCain a presidential hopeful? I think not.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blog Round Up

Blog Round Up

It has been one crazy week; I hardly know where to start. But since it is technically still Friday on my coast, we might as well start with a Science Friday slant. Or Pseudo-Science Friday, as the case may be. It seems the FDA was for over-the-counter sales of Plan B birth control before they were against them...

A congressional audit released Monday cited "unusual" steps in the FDA's initial rejection of over-the-counter emergency contraception, including conflicting accounts of whether top officials made the decision even before scientists finished reviewing the evidence.

...In December 2003, FDA's scientific advisers overwhelmingly backed over-the-counter sales of the Plan B brand for all ages. They cited assessments that easier access could halve the nation's 3 million annual unintended pregnancies.

Conservatives who consider the pill tantamount to abortion intensely lobbied the Bush administration to reject nonprescription sales, saying it would increase teen sex.

In May 2004, FDA leaders rejected the nonprescription switch, saying there was no data proving anyone under 16 could safely use the pills without a doctor's guidance.

...The result was unprecedented public discord from the normally secretive agency: Top-ranking FDA officials have acknowledged they overruled their own scientists' decision that nonprescription sales would be safe, and the women's health chief resigned in protest.

Preemptive Karma, like everyone else, was nonplussed:

Rightwing ideologues in the Food and Drug Administration were rejecting Plan B pills before the scientific data was reviewed???

How terribly shocking.

Maybe this disdain for science explains the NYT/GOP affinity; the "paper of record" just hasn't been very empirical since the advent of Miss Run Amok. Via Atrios, we find a rather disturbing item from Arms Control Wonk; I really hope we're not being millered into Iran:

David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and Interational Security (ISIS), recently criticized a New York Times story by Bill Broad and David Sanger, on the grounds that it contains a “a deep and misleading flaw.” Broad and Sanger, Albright explained, “repeatedly characterize the contents of computer files as containing information about a nuclear warhead design when the information actually describes a reentry vehicle for a missile.”

This made it sound like the US had proof Iran was designing a nuclear weapon, which it does not. Look at it this way: Just because Ford puts seat-belts in its automobiles, doesn’t mean they know how to build people.

In they days following his critique, which was e-mailed to colleagues around the arms control community, David Albright has encouraged the New York Times to run a correction. The Times refuses.

...In another instance, Broad dismisses Albright’s argument that Iran’s nuclear weapons would be too large for the triconic warhead they described. Broad replies the point “is technical and in my judgment is not worth discussing in any detail.”

Yes, technical information is just not worth discussing in a newspaper.

Bill Broad, mind you, is the Times science writer.

Correction: Broad is the Times' Pseudo-science writer, or "newest admin shill," whichever. ArmsControlWonk.com has the full exchange between Albright and the Times available for download; I imagine it makes for a good read. As with the (mal)administration the NYT so breathlessly cheerleads, one is left to wonder if the Times is deceitful or simply daft.

Speaking of Cheney's (mal)administration, he and his buddies in big oil have some 'splainin to do. In their recent testimony before the Senate regarding price gouging, a handful of oil executives lied about attending the infamous no-you-cab't-see-the-records energy task force meetings. And why not; it's not like they were under oath as the baseball players were during the steroid hysteria. We can thank Sen. Stevens for that. And Aravosis helpfully points out that Cheney knew this, but failed to come forward with the pertinent information.

At least he only held out for a week; Bob Woodward, of Watergate fame, kept mum for over two years about the fact that he, too, had learned of Valerie Plame from "administration sources." By some unknown contortion of logic, Woodward thought it was significant that his knowledge of Plame predated the earliest known leak identified in Fitzgerald's investigation. To be fair, it is significant, just not in the way he thinks it is.

The bombshell in this revelation lies in the fact that, Woodward expounded at length about the leak and downplayed the importance of the whole affair. He wrote about the case for two years, often dismissively, without disclosing his involvement. Similarly, his source ignored Bush's directive to "fully cooperate" with Patrick Fitzgerald. If that doesn't amount to obstruction of justice, I'm not sure what would. The rest of the story, of course, is what this all implies about the leak and its seeming orchestration. Jane Hamsher tackles this magnificently over at the Huffington Post. Curioser and curioser.

In other judicial news, Nathan Newman has a wonderful post about the impact Alito might have on the Supreme Court, should he get confirmed.

But what is most striking about Alito's statement is this line:

In college, I developed a deep interest in constitutional law, motivated in large part by disagreement with Warren Court decisions, particularly in the areas of criminal procedure, the Establishment Clause, and reapportionment.


For the non-lawyers out there, Alito meant he was against the Supreme Court decisions requiring that all state legislative districts be designed to guarantee "one person, one vote", instead of giving some districts with very few voters the same representation as urban districts with far more voters.

While I strongly believe that most judicial activism by the Warren Court was unneeded or even counterproductive for progressive goals since ongoing democratic mobilization was moving civil rights and feminist goals forward, the reapportionment cases-- Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Syms-- dealt with a problem that democratic voting inherently could not correct, namely the lack of real democracy in most state legislatures.

...Substract Brown and Roe and little in modern American history would be different. But subtract Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Syms, and our state governments around the country would have remained bastions of racist and anti-democratic prejudice and power.

But wait; there's more SCOTUS news. Matthew Gross points us to an essay at the Election Law blog addressing the potential effect of the Roberts Supreme Court on election law. It isn't pretty.

Even before the death of Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the announced retirement of Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, election law scholars had declared that the Supreme Court had reached "doctrinal interregnum." In the campaign finance arena, the Court's jurisprudence was becoming increasingly incoherent; voting rights law was said to be "at law with itself;" partisan gerrymandering claims in flux; and the question of Supreme Court oversight of the "nuts-and-bolts" of elections after Bush v. Gore a big mystery.

...The result is that 5-10 years from now, the ground rules for American political competition could undergo a major change. Within the next decade, we could well see deregulation of campaign financing, a limiting of Congressional power to impose national solutions to problems of minority voting rights, and an upholding of state power to redistrict for partisan gain and impose increasingly draconian election administration tools enacted in the name of fraud prevention. The ability of states to manipulate election rules for partisan gain may present the greatest danger, as the Court exits from that corner of the political thicket. For those who look to courts for the promotion of political equality, the signs are not encouraging.

I couldn't find anybody weighing in on the Supreme Court vis-a-vis torture, but I did stumble upon this lovely ditty from Mark Crispin Miller, author of The Bush Dyslexicon.

It's so morbidly surreal that we are even having a debate on torture. As much as I have never cared for shrubya, I certainly could not have imagined torture as American policy. I guess we can say that shrubya's presidency has been exceptional, after all...

On to some happier news: a diary at dailykos brings us word of developing strands in the Delay/Abramoff/god only knows who else web of corruption: It seems that Michael Scanlon has agreed to cooperate in the Abramoff investigation. Grab your popcorn, kids!

The charge was detailed in a court document known as a "criminal information" -- a process that often precedes a plea-bargain arrangement with a cooperating witness. Officials familiar with the investigation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Scanlon has agreed to plead guilty and cooperate in the ongoing bribery and public corruption investigation of Abramoff, members of Congress and executive branch officials.

An article in Roll Call states that Scanlon would then testify against Abramoff and anyone else indicted in the case, according to Justice Department sources.

Just read that last sentence: anyone else indicted in the case.

...Ney (the subject of the immediate indictment) is only the beginning. Delay, Bush, Cheney, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed ... the potential targets of this probe read like a Who's Who of GOP power brokers. And now a man at the very center of this network has flipped and agreed to testify against any of them who get caught up in this investigation.

The GOP implosion marches inexorably forward. The effects of Delay's resignation as House Majority Leader are already being felt; legislation central to the GOP platform has been faltering and today the house nearly exploded over Rep. John Murtha's recent proposal to withdraw from Iraq. Naturally, the response from prominent republicans was to brand Murtha as a traitor, etc., with even Cheney coming down on the honorable Congressman. Murtha was unphased:

"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done," Murtha said.

Today, the majority took things a few steps further, in every way imaginable. Instead of addressing Murtha's proposal, the GOP decided to bring their highly abbreviated version to the floor. I suppose this was an attempt at forcing the Dem caucus to go on record as against withdrawal from Iraq, but it backfired in the most delicious way. The highlight was Jeanne Schmidt reading from an email, saying "cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

It took the chair a good five minutes to restore order, at which point Schmidt requested her comments be struck from the record, lest she be censured. The video is definitely a must-see. Her battiness truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

Everyone from House Dems, to C-SPAN callers was denouncing this cynical stunt from the GOP - even some of the (R) members of the House. Given that conventional wisdom holds that Murtha has the ear of top Military Officers, methinks they messed with the wrong Marine.

Do poke through all the relevant links; the whole sordid episode was truly something to behold. I don't think Howard Dean could have asked for a better birthday present. He turned 57 this week and the blogosphere was tripping over itself with birthday threads for the good doctor. And DNC donations, of course. Yessir; with the GOP in self-destruct mode and Howard and Harry to help them along, things are definitely looking up.

Defies Comment

Defies Comment

Oldies but Goodies

Oldies but Goodies

This piece is, without question, the most entertaining people lists extant. I can't wait to see their next one. Some highlights:

The Beast 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2004

45. John McCain:

Crimes: Survived years of torture in Vietnam only to become a bend over buddy for a sheltered rich dunce. McCain could have bolstered his largely unearned air of credibility this year had he stood against Bush, but instead chose to show us all that no principle is too fundamental to humanity to be overlooked in the name of party loyalty. We can only hope that they’ve got something on him, something big.

Smoking Gun: Returned to criticizing Bush as soon as it didn’t matter anymore.

Punishment: Vice President under Rumsfeld.

40. Laura Bush

Crimes: Oh the first lady, what an inspiration she must be to android researchers everywhere. Smile, nod, smile, (look interested) nod, put on $50,000 dress, suck off the president and there you have a typical day for the first lady. Corporate yes-wives like her will hasten the coming of mandated burkas for American women. Actually looks related to George, which might explain their mongoloid children.

Smoking Gun: She married George Bush.

Punishment: Chugging a gallon of stem cells on Fear Factor.

38. Toby Keith

Crimes: The worst kind of proud-to-be-brainwashed dolt, one who feels he should express himself. The fact that this ambulatory hamburger’s opinions were ever given public forum is an indictment of our entire civilization and all human history leading up to this point.

Smoking Gun: Plays country music.

Punishment: Impaled on improperly installed American flag attached to tractor-trailer, dragged for 12 hours, eaten by wolves.

34. Clarence Thomas

Crimes: On the wrong side of every Supreme Court decision since he got the job carrying Scalia’s golf clubs.

Smoking Gun: Angry black man routine during Anita Hill hearings was the most forced overacting this side of Keanu Reeves’ tantrum in Johnny Mnemonic.

Punishment: Led out of the Court in chains after inadvertently casting the deciding vote to reinstitute slavery.

31. Al From

Crimes: Founder and CEO of the detestable Democratic Leadership Council, the lead organization for the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” wing of the Democratic Party. From’s appeasement strategies have lead directly to tragic losses in the last three elections. Responsible for the inability of serious people to fully respect the Democratic Party.

Smoking Gun: Said Dean couldn’t win; backed Joe Lieberman.

Punishment: President Nader.

29. Michael Savage

Crimes: Will say anything to get attention, and then say the opposite for the same reason. Thinks revealing his inner xenophobe makes him some kind of rock star. Learned everything he knows about world politics from Archie Bunker. Said this: “When you hear ‘human rights,’ think gays. When you hear ‘human rights,’ think only one thing: someone who wants to rape your son. And you'll get it just right. OK, you got it, right? When you hear ‘human rights,’ think only someone who wants to molest your son, and send you to jail if you defend him.”

Smoking Gun: Real name is Michael Weiner.

Punishment: Ass-raped to death.

27. Bob Novak

Crimes: Beats even Scott McClellan as Bush’s most unholy mouthpiece. Virulently protecting the Bush administration in order to further his own career. Novak didn’t think twice when instructed to reveal the identity of CIA agent Valerie Plame in order to get back at her critical husband, Joe Wilson, yet he now claims it would be morally wrong to reveal the treasonous White House leaker. Indirectly caused the incarceration of Judith Miller of the New York Times, who should be in jail on totally separate charges involving her poorly researched WMD hysterics leading up to the war in Iraq.

Smoking Gun: Still insists the Swift Boat Veterans ads and their libelicious spin-off book, Unfit for Command, was “well-documented” and didn’t contain any lies.

Punishment: Heart harvested in preparation for Dick Cheney’s presidential bid.

26. Terry McAuliffe

Crimes: Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Said, "This is the best election night in history" on November 2, 2004, just before 8pm EST. Not only presided over the pathetic Kerry defeat, but held the same position in the 2000 fiasco. A driving force in the Republicanization of Democrats, he personally saw to it that the charismatic Dean campaign was crushed to make way for Kerrybot. Doesn’t understand that winning is not necessarily about copying what winners do, but more often not doing what losers do.

Punishment: Hillary Clinton as a cellmate for life.

Smoking Gun: Said the party will spend "whatever it takes" to study complaints from Ohio voters that included uncounted votes, long lines, shortages of ballots, understaffed polling stations and voting machine errors. Still studying, apparently.

24. Ronald Reagan

Crimes: The greatest monster in recent American history. Reagan’s excruciating sanctification during his agonizingly protracted funeral was enough to make anyone with knowledge of his true legacy blow up a radio tower. Newspaper columnists performed astonishing feats of selective memory in canonizing Reagan, disregarding any inconvenient evidence of supporting terrorism, ripping off taxpayers for outrageous defense programs, or introducing crack cocaine to America, because we need our heroes.

Smoking Gun: Responsible for telemarketing and infomercials.

Punishment: Reanimated and killed again.

19. Zell Miller

Crimes: Part Yosemite Sam and Part Foghorn Leghorn. Miller doesn’t make the list for his salivating, traitorous keynote speech at the Republican National Convention, or even the duel thing with Chris Matthews. He makes the list because he really does represent Southern Democrats. Miller was chief of staff for diehard racist Georgia Governor Lester Maddox, who used to own a restaurant where he’d hand out pick handles to his customers to beat any black people that might try to come in. The Democratic party really isn’t the party he once knew—thank God.

Smoking Gun: Won’t switch parties, just to be a pain in the ass.

Punishment: Death by torrential barrage of spitballs while watching his granddaughter make out with Big Pun.

18. Mel Gibson

Crimes: As with any religious nut, expects people to take his delusional bullshit seriously. Is obsessed with pain and suffering, as can be observed in the numerous Hulk Hogan style “now I’m really mad” scenes in nearly all of his movies, in which he endures medically impossible levels of bodily punishment before rising to vanquish his cartoonish foes. This is such a routine motif in Gibson’s work that we half expected Jesus to jump off the cross and start kicking Jewish ass in The Passion of the Christ. More historically revisionist than Oliver Stone.

Smoking Gun: Shot about 11 times in the climax of Lethal Weapon II, yet still saunters off with his partner as the credits roll, apparently not in need of medical attention.

Punishment: Neurodegenerative illness that could have been cured through stem cell research.

17. Armstrong Williams

Crimes: Williams was going to make the list anyway, but shoots up several positions since he admitted to accepting $240,000 from the Department of Education to promote the No Child Left Behind Act. His sole defense so far is that he used “bad judgment,” as if that was some kind of excuse, rather than the heart and soul of every crime. Says he is just the tip of the iceberg.

Smoking Gun: Claimed to a prospective job applicant that 70% of gay couples molest their children.

Punishment: Full Birth Abortion.

15. Condoleezza Rice

Crimes: The phrase “politics is show business for ugly people” has never had so fine a foil. Smirks condescendingly at senior Senators when they ask her silly questions about gross negligence in the area of national security. Winner of the Beast award for most likely to make Grover Norquist’s dick hard. Promoted for feverishly licking Cheney’s boot for four years.

Smoking Gun: Gets to sleep in the big house now.

Punishment: thrown into the arctic from the Exxon oil tanker that used to bear her name.

14. Tom Delay

Crimes: The worst Congressman alive. Being the most corrupt member of the House is a hell of an achievement. Delay is so brazen even lobbyists have expressed reservations. Compares the pathetic, castrated EPA to the Gestapo. A self-obsessed misanthrope in the guise of a Christian.

Smoking Gun: According to Danny Yatom, former head of Israel’s feared Mossad: "The Likud is nothing compared to this guy."

Punishment: Outed by Barney Frank.

12. Paul Wolfowitz

Crimes: The mastermind behind our war plan in Iraq, also known as “Operation Fucking Disaster.” Wanted to skip Afghanistan altogether and get right on with the intractable quagmire phase of his anti-terror plan. So far up Israel’s ass he can taste the kugel.

Smoking Gun: That disgusting thing he did with his comb in Fahrenheit 9/11.

Punishment: A successful populist democracy in Iraq.

10. John Negroponte

Crimes: US Pro Consul (a title that was given to de facto rulers of dependencies or occupied countries in colonial times) of Iraq. Garnered his reputation as professional thug with his assignment as ambassador to Honduras by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Collaborated with the Honduran military while lying to Congress as they kidnapped, tortured and killed hundreds of people, including US missionaries. Was responsible for implementing the Reagan administration covert strategy to crush the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, resulting in it becoming 2nd to Haiti as poorest country in the western hemisphere but with the special distinction of having the largest disparity between rich and poor. Appears to be carrying out the same plan in Iraq, as recent disclosures about the Pentagon's plans to utilize death squads to achieve our kind of democracy indicate.

Smoking Gun: As Iraqi occupation grew bleaker from the start of 2004 a new tactic was employed, assassinating intellectuals opposed to the occupation. A senior commander working for the American-installed Iraqi police said "They are politicians that are backed by the Americans and who arrived to Iraq from exile with a list of their enemies. I've seen these lists. They are killing people one by one." Sounds like a job for Negroponte; he went from appointment to confirmation in a blistering eight days.

Punishment: Being skinned alive would be a nice start.

9. Jessica Simpson

Crimes: The gleaming flagship of the triumphant return of bimboism. The aesthetic equivalent of vitamin D milk. Makes Britney Spears look like a Rhodes scholar. Managed to crap out a hit single by removing every remotely innovative element from Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away.”

Smoking Gun: Probably likes her own music.

Punishment: Strapped to bunker-buster.

8. John Ashcroft

Crimes: Promoting sexual shame, writing and singing alarmingly jingoistic and terrible songs, flattening constitutional protections, detaining brown people at will without charges or counsel, pretending to be a patriot, and intentionally ignoring terrorism in his pre-9/11 tenure.

Smoking Gun: Put a fucking curtain up to cover a naked breast on a statue. A statue.

Punishment: Only heterosexual judge on the supreme court in 2035.

7. Donald Trump

Crimes: Hopelessly addicted to narcissism. Shares Saddam Hussein’s compulsion to have gaudy structures named after himself. Is to dignified wealth what Michael Jackson is to competent childcare.

Smoking Gun: The hair alone justifies violence.

Punishment: Forced to expose his tiny penis before crowds of laughing celebrities on “Who Wants to See Donald Trump’s Penis?”

6. George W. Bush

Crimes: Too numerous to mention. The worst piece of shit ever to run this country, including King George III; when’s the last time a president made half his country want to move to Canada? Lays claim to the legacy of Jesus Christ as he hungrily sucks what little life-essence is left from the world. Appears to be only dimly aware that he is destroying the future, but seems to think it’s kind of funny.

Smoking Gun: Too numerous to mention.

Punishment: To have his fortune stolen from him by Cheney, Rumsfeld, Perle and Wolfowitz, and be denied Medicaid.

4. Dick Cheney

Crimes: So loathsome his own party is frightened of him. Manages to deliver stunning lies with an air of sneering authority. Shamelessly employs scare tactics in order to strip the federal government of any resemblance to the one described in the constitution. So visibly evil that all of the documented evidence against him is superfluous. The kind of guy who starts talking cannibalism the minute he steps on the lifeboat.

Smoking Gun: Managed to make his own shame at producing gay offspring into a negative for Kerry.

Punishment: Hacked to death by Mexican migrant workers.

2. Donald Rumsfeld

Crimes: At least Herman Goering knew how to conquer people. Rummy is the richest person in the white house, a former auto and pharmaceutical CEO and the one who nurtured Dick Cheney’s career. So rife with corruption and fascist desire he makes dirt look clean. Carries himself in press conferences like a cranky grandfather who is sick of hearing his daughters whine about how he molested them every now and then.

Smoking Gun: Abu Ghraib.

Punishment: Abu Ghraib.

1. Kenneth Blackwell

Crimes: The greasy, rancid piece of crap who delivered Ohio for Bush by any means necessary, and then bragged about it in a recent fundraising letter. A black man who has no reservations about screwing over his own people in his lust for power and money. Blackwell is the kind of soulless traitor without whose complicity no nefarious evil plot ever goes down. In step with the future of global elections.

Smoking Gun: Phony recounts, media lockouts, intentional misallocation of voting machines, you name it.

Just Punishment: Dissolved in barrel of acid.

If satire gave Pulitzer's these guys would be shoe-ins.

Christmas So Soon?

Christmas So Soon?

[UPDATE] Senator Feingold has informed us that Frist has given up on ramming this thing through before the holiday break. It will now receive a proper debate in December. Go, Russ!

Headlines don't come any better than this:

Extension of Patriot Act Faces Threat of Filibuster

A tentative deal to extend the government's antiterrorism powers under the law known as the USA Patriot Act appeared in some jeopardy Thursday...

"This is worth the fight," Senator Russell D. Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat who serves on the Judiciary Committee, said in an interview.

"I've cleared my schedule right up to Thanksgiving," Mr. Feingold said, adding that he was making plans to read aloud from the Bill of Rights as part of a filibuster if necessary.

It's enough to turn one religious, I tell ya what.

With a tentative deal in place on Wednesday, Congressional negotiators had been expected to reach a final, printed agreement by early Thursday for the full House and Senate to consider. But despite minute-by-minute updates about a possible conclusion, the day passed on with no final agreement, causing no shortage of nervousness among Bush administration officials and Republican supporters of the tentative deal.

By Thursday evening, officials said negotiators had reached what amounted to an impasse for the day, as those from the Senate pushed for further civil rights safeguards that were seen as unacceptable to House leaders.

Well, the house leaders can go Cheney themselves. This is America; we practically invented civil rights. How dare they imply that the ability of the government to monitor its citizens is more important than civil liberties? It's especially galling given the (R) penchant for pinning the whole of the Iraq debacle on the promise of freedom; protecting ours, extending new freedoms to Iraqis, etc. And it is especially galling, given the identities of the House Leadership: Roy Blunt, Delay's replacement and protege, close associate of Jack Abramoff, and Dennis Hastert, also embroiled in Abramoff's web.

Even if this development only postpones the vote, it's a good thing. The Senate breaks for Thanksgiving in roughly a week; there's a good possiblity this might not get addressed before then, especially if they keep trying to find some compromise on the specifics.

I, for one, am doing the snoopy dance right about now. Knowing what's at stake with this proposed renewal, it's simply impossible for me to express how heartening this talk of a potential filibuster is. Anyone willing to sell these rights down the river for some pyrrhic sense of safety is, well, unAmerican.

The tentative deal reached by negotiators would make permanent 14 of the 16 provisions of the law that are set to expire at the end of the year. The remaining two provisions - related to government demands for records from businesses and libraries and its use of roving wiretaps - would have to be reconsidered in seven years, as would a separate provision on taking aim at people suspected of being "lone wolf" terrorists.

And that is but a sample of its myriad atrocities. This legislation is, in a word, abominable. Any attempts to revise it in the name of privacy and protection of ordinary Americans would, in the end, amount to little more than lipstick on a pig. Not that I fault them for trying, but letting its provisions expire, by any means necessary, would be the ideal.

But in the eleventh-hour negotiations to complete the deal, Congressional leaders discussed changing some crucial elements of the agreement in response to concerns from lawmakers, officials said. One proposal would have lowered the "sunset" on the three investigative provisions from seven years to something closer to the four years approved by the Senate in its version of the bill earlier this year.

In a letter Thursday, a bipartisan group of six senators said the tentative deal had caused them "deep concern" because it did not go far enough in "making reasonable changes to the original law to protect innocent people from unnecessary and intrusive government surveillance."

The issues addressed in this letter, which represent only a fraction of the abilities granted to the government under this legislation, are chilling:

They complained that the House-Senate compromise now being considered takes back some civil liberty protections that senators had agreed to, including changing a Senate requirement that the government inform the targets of a "sneak and peek" search warrant within seven to 30 days.

"Sneak and peek" search warrants allow police to conduct secret searches of people's homes or businesses and inform them later.

The compromise also removed a Senate provision that would have mandated judicial reviews when authorities used Patriot Act powers to search financial, medical, library, school and other records, the six senators said.

"We cannot support a conference report that would eliminate the modest protections for civil liberties that were agreed to unanimously in the Senate," they said.

Some of the demands threatened by the working compromise include measures intended to limit the overly broad surveillance powers allowed under the act:

Feingold said many Democrats and some Republicans agree with the demands outlined in the three-page letter, which also include:

• Giving courts strong authority to approve "national security letters," which the FBI issues on its own to get personal and business records in terror probes.

• Imposing a four-year "sunset" on national security letters that would bar their use after 2010 unless Congress acts to permit them beyond that date.

• Imposing a seven-year sunset on other provisions allowing record-gathering.

Sunset? No, thank you. I don't want to have to be fighting this battle in another four, seven or ten years. The P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act needs to go in the shredder. Oooh! Maybe some enterprising overzealous staffer could sneak in a rider declaring that all the provisions expire upon the bill's ratification! Since they're in such a hurry to vote on the thing, they probably wouldn't notice.

The Republican-controlled House hopes to approve the compromise on Friday, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told senators Thursday they will have to address the legislation "before we leave."

...The Bush administration, which saw the negotiators' tentative agreement as a strong endorsement of its demand for tough antiterror tools, has made the reauthorization of the act one of its top legislative priorities, and officials have been pushing for a quick resolution to avoid hitting a deadline at the end of December, when several major surveillance and investigative powers in the law would expire.

Those days of wine and roses are over, Georgie. If you think anybody who has to go up for re-election is going to go out on a limb for the worst president ever, you should just retire already. Just take your bike and go home.

And, please, take the NYT with you. In their article's lede, they shamelessly state that it is Democratic Senators encouraging the filibuster, but in reality, it is a bipartisan group of six senators who wrote that letter demanding modifications to the bill and it is the entire group that is considering the filibuster.

Reflecting the political breadth of concerns about the law, the letter was signed by three Republicans - Senators Larry E. Craig, John E. Sununu and Lisa Murkowksi - and three Democrats - Senators Richard J. Durbin and Ken Salazar and Mr. Feingold.

..."We have worked too long and too hard to allow this conference report to eliminate the modest protections for civil liberties that were agreed to unanimously in the Senate," Ms. Murkowski, of Alaska, said in a separate statement.

"There is still time for the conference committee to step back and agree to the Senate's bipartisan approach. If the conference committee doesn't do that, we will fight to stop this bill from becoming law."

...Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., who signed the letter, said the group might try to block the Senate from even considering renewal of the Patriot Act by using a procedural move that requires only 40 of 100 votes.

"We'll try whatever option there is," Feingold said.

The more I see of Feingold, the more I like, ever since he was the only senator to vote against the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act in the first place. He should be showered with flowers and balloons! But a simple phone call or letter of support would work as well. This group needs to be encouraged in every way possible to either vote against renewing the provisions or using the filibuster if that's what it takes.

It would also be good to call Reid to make sure this will be a unified, party-line vote for the Democratic Caucus. Let's hope that the participation of Durbin, the Minority Whip, is a sign. And why not; we all might as well call any Stepford Senators we may have. At the very least, they could be encouraged to leave things to expire. The more calls they get, the better. But faxes are best.

wing tip to dailykos