Friday, August 31, 2007

To be filed under "B"

...for "better late than never." The celebrated folk singer Pete Seeger has finally broke with Stalin--in song, of course. He's got the "Joe Stalin blues." Seeger says he left the Communist Party in the l950s, but is only now making known his feelings about the world's most prolific serial killer. As I said, "better late than never." As contentious as history can be, I think that it would be impossible at this point in world history to find much of anything admirable in the Generalissimo.

Freiheit agenda

President Bush loves to talk about freedom, but he's nowhere on the map of the world's most persistent and successful human-rights campaigners. Who among his contemporaries is the best known advocate for freedom worldwide? The answer might surprise you.

Coming "attractions"

President Bush has been focusing lately on the necessity of staying in Iraq because Al-Quaeda is there now(they weren't before we got there, but nevermind), and on the potentially destructive consequences of a US withdrawal. But there is increasing evidence of the impossibility of the "mission" in Iraq, which is supposed to be the establishment of a functioning and united democratic Iraq. As we try to keep Sunni and Shia from murdering one another AND simultaneously fight Al-Quaeda types, we're seeing a looming series of conflicts among Shia factions--between competing religious groups, criminal gangs contesting port revenue in Basra and now rival Shia politicians-with-militias. Read the dispiriting details here.

It's always been hard to see this as anything more than a terrible, catastrophic disaster. It's getting tougher and tougher, in spite of all "happy talk" coming from the authorities.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bush 1 & Bush 2 - Closer Than You Might Think

Back in the fall of 1992 Peter Sagal wrote a column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune titled "Justice for the GOP: Put Bush to work bagging burritos. It was an amusing cry for justice once the Democrats took over the White House from Bush #1. There are bits & pieces I'd like to share here with folks - if you find eerie parallels to the present Bush & Co., you're not alone.

"I say that it's not too early to close the Gloating Gap, to start evening the score with the smirking supply-siders and conservative demagogues who have spent the last 12 years whipping up crowds with ringing denunciations of everything we hold dear, fair play, the milk of human kindness, progressive pop music, etc.

Older readers will remember the simple pleasures that war crime trials offer to the spectator. The pageantry, the sage judges in their robes high above, the serious demeanor of the correspondents ("This is Brit Hume, reporting to you live from the Republican Holding Cell"), the translators (for Bush), the glass booths. It'll be Alan Dershowitz for the defense, with Peggy Noonan writing the testimony ("But your honor, I had the best interests of the working people at heart"), and the nation for the prosecution, and let the healing process begin!

For ex-President George Bush, after trying for years to mask your New England Ivy-league patrician, elitist soul with the mask of the good ol' boy, permanent banishment to Odessa, Texas, where you claim to be from when it can score you points. Your prison food would be broccoli, Frito-pies, and of course, pork rinds, your entertainment, country music. And your occupation; filling one of those 'new jobs' you so often brag about creating during the 80s; a counterman at the Taco Bell out on Highway 302. Read our lips, George. We want a bean burrito and a Mexi-Melt and we want it now!

For former Attorney General Edwin Meese and current AG William Barr, appointment as assistant public defenders in inner-city Detroit, with pay pegged to performance. Let's see how you like those evidence rules now.

For Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, and trade representative Carla Hill, both GOP political hacks who have been pushing administrative policy at the expense of your own supposed constituencies, we're holding 2 places for you on the assembly line in a maguiladora making remote control garage door openers in northern Mexico. And well throw in the corrugated steel shack for nothing, although it's right next to the factory's waste dump. Sorry.

For Education Secretary Lamar Alexander, progenitor of the president's plan to further gut the public schools by transferring funds to private schools, there's 50 kids in a classroom down in the south side of Chicago who are waiting for someone to come by and teach them how to read with no textbooks. Good luck, Mr. Bell, and watch out for Show and Tell.

We'll confiscate Pat Buchanan's mercedes and put him to work at a community center in Compton. Orrin Hatch, Arlen Specter and Alan Simpson will be assigned to the secretarial pool at ACT-UP. Pat Robertson and Jerry Fallwell will be assigned ministries to the poor in South and Central America where the fun never stops.

For a long time I used to have an idle fantasy of kidnapping Reagan and dumping him alone, with no Secret Service protection or advisers or Nancy to tell him where to stand, in say, Flint, Michigan, or Allentown, Pa., and say to him, 'It's morning in America, Ron, now find your way home before it gets dark.'"

What DO You Think of That?

A question Senator Larry Craig asked the police officer who arrested him in the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport restroom - showing his US Senator card. The officer was not impressed. Read the full arrest report here.

And now, watch the scramble to get as far away from Craig as possible. Some, like Sen. McCain say it's because he plead guilty to a crime (it doesn't matter what the crime was, any guilty plea should take you out of the Senate). Others are less charitable. I love watching the far right scramble to disavow one of their own.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

No Comment Needed

I want to know why I'm planning a funeral while George Bush is planning a wedding.

Anika Lawal, of Maryland.
Lawal's Army sergeant daughter was killed in Iraq.

Deja Vu All Over Again

Except instead of a Florida Representative, or a "devout" Christian leader, or one of any of the other right-wing, conservative men whose anti-gay stance hides some self-loathing issues, we've got Senator Larry Craig of Idaho stepping up to the podium.

Craig plead guilty to disorderly conduct (so that's what the kids are calling it today) in a Minneapolis airport men's room. Now he says that was a mistake, as was the arrest, that he was not doing anything immoral or wrong, but was misunderstood by the police because he was shook up from repeated attacks from the local Idaho newspaper.

I think that's what he said, it was difficult to follow at times.

So what's next? More information coming out about Craig's dual life? Followed by a heartfelt apology to wife, family & constituents, followed by reaffirming himself to the Lord, followed by a long career on FOX newsless as a commentator?

Monday, August 27, 2007

How Do You Thank One of the Administration's Katrina Fools?

Apparently they've run out of medals. So how do you reward Michael Chertoff for his absolutely miserable response to Katrina? You name him as Attorney General after Gonzales finally decides to cut & run (sorry, couldn't resist). After Gonzales finally decided to resign.

Gonzales replaced with Chertoff. ... Is there ANYTHING this administration can't screw up?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Who's the White House's Enemy?

If you said, bin Laden, of course, then you haven't been paying much attention to the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfled/Rove & Co. operations over the past six years. In today's NY Times, Thomas Friedman's editorial, "Swift-Boated by bin Laden," argues that if Bush really saw bin Laden as the primary enemy, the administration would give him the swift-boating treatment they reserve for democratic candidates.

"How could the Bush team Swift-boat John Kerry & Max Cleland -- authentic Vietnam war heroes, whom the White House turned into surrendering pacificsts in the war on terror -- but never manage to Swift-boat Osama bin Laden, a genocidal monster, who today is still regarded in many quarters as the vanguard of anti-American 'resistance.'

Dive into a conversation about America in the Arab world today,k or even in Europe and Africa, and it won't take 30 seconds before the words 'Abu Ghraib' and 'Guantanamo Bay' are thrown at you. Yes, both are shameful, but Abu Ghraib was a day at the beach compared to what Al Qaeda and its Sunni jihadist supporters have been doing in Iraq, yet none of their acts have become one-punch global insults like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.

Consider what happened on Aug. 14. Four jihadist suicide-bombers blew themselves up in two Iraqi villages, killing more than 500 Kurdish civilians - men, women, and babies - who belonged to a tiny pre-Islamic sect known as the Yazidis.

And what was the Bush team's response to this outrage? Virtual silence. After much Googling, the best I could find was, 'We're looking at Al Qaeda as the prime suspect,' said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a U.S. military spokesman.' Wow.

Excuse me, but what exactly are we fighting for in Iraq, or in this wider war against Islamist extremism, if the murder of 500 civilians can be shrugged off? Even if we don't know the exact perpetrators, we know who is inspiring this sort of genocide - Al Qaeda and bin Laden - and we need to say that every day.

Ask yourself this: If Osama bin Laden were running against George Bush for president, how would Karl Rove and Karen Hughes have handled the Yazidi murders? Within an hour, they'd have had a press release out saying: 'This genocide of Iraqi civilians was inspired by bin Laden. We accuse bin Laden of the mass murder of 500 women and children. Bin Laden has killed more Iraqis and Muslims than any person alive. Support bin Laden and you support genocide against Muslims." And they would have repeated that point on every network, every day.

. . . So why don't we say that? If you can't win a P.R. war against bin Laden, you have no business fighting a real war anymore in Iraq."

The Other Quagmire

Two years and counting now in the post-Katrina world of New Orleans & surrounding areas. There are some wonderful stories of areas that have rebuilt and are starting over again - in Mississippi and other areas. Those stories are few and far between in the New Orleans area. One of the reasons - fear. As Darren Dupont of St. Bernard parish said, ""Never in my wildest imagination did I think something like Katrina would happen. I always knew I lived in a bowl. I just never knew I lived at the bottom of the bowl." Dupont now lives in Hammond, Louisiana and has no plans to return to the bottom of the bowl. The WaPo is among the papers doing in depth stories on Katrina today. To read the story about St. Bernard parish, click here. For a look at a map showing the potential for future flooding in the area, click here. This page also includes a number of Katrina-related stories from the paper in the last few months.

The Outlook section of the paper includes Douglas Brinkley's assessment of the Katrina recovery. He begins by looking at the good flood - that of volunteers who have spent time over the past 730 days coming in and offering their time, sweat and expertise to rebuild.

After weeks of grueling labor, they realize that they are running in place, toiling in a surreal vacuum.

Two full years after the hurricane, the Big Easy is barely limping along, unable to make truly meaningful reconstruction progress. The most important issues concerning the city's long-term survival are still up in the air. Why is no Herculean clean-up effort underway? Why hasn't President Bush named a high-profile czar such as Colin Powell or James Baker to oversee the ongoing disaster? Where is the U.S. government's participation in the rebuilding?

And why are volunteers practically the only ones working to reconstruct homes in communities that may never again have sewage service, garbage collection or electricity?

Eventually, the volunteers' altruism turns to bewilderment and finally to outrage. They've been hoodwinked. The stalled recovery can't be blamed on bureaucratic inertia or red tape alone. Many volunteers come to understand what I've concluded is the heartless reality: The Bush administration actually wants these neighborhoods below sea level to die on the vine.

And as befits an historian (a real one, not the wannabes that infect the White House), Brinkley looks at Bush's inability to perform his duties in comparison to some of those who came before.

The White House keeps spinning Bush's abysmal poll numbers by claiming that his legacy will rise decades from now the way Harry S. Truman's did. But Truman had a reputation for straight talk and bold vision. If Bush wants history to perceive him as Trumanesque, then he must act Trumanesque.

Bush's predecessors moved mountains. Theodore Roosevelt set aside 230 million acres for wildlife conservation (plus built the Panama Canal). Franklin D. Roosevelt began a kaleidoscope of New Deal programs to calm the Great Depression and Truman oversaw the Marshall Plan rebuilding of Western Europe after World War II. Bush could seize the initiative and announce a real plan to rebuild, a partnership between the government, Fortune 500 companies and faith-based groups.

Brinkley finds plenty of blame to share, not all of it in the White House. But I do like to look back at Truman, TR & FDR and ask myself, if faced with these same problems and blame in other areas, which one of them would have thrown up his hands and given up?

True courage, vision and determination - that makes a great president. And Geo W. has never had any of it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Anyone Really Surprised?

Some anonymous White House officials are letting us know that it doesn't matter what Petraeus & Crocker's September report says. Just as it hasn't mattered what the American public and the rest of the world has said. After all those admonitions by Bush & Co. to "wait until the September report" before making any judgments on what comes next in Iraq, what do we hear from the White House?

Well, of course, that it doesn't matter WHAT the report says. The White House plans to keep its current strategy & troop levels going. They're saying that Democrats have been telling them that they can see an upturn in the war and so think they've got support to keep going. One of the officials noting that instead of pulling out our troops, "We all know that there will be a long-term robust troop presence that will outlast this president." It almost makes me wish there could be a third Bush term so he would have to clean up the mess he made. (ok, ok, I hear you, he couldn't clean it up in 2 terms, given one more term, it would just be the same and whoever got the White House after that would have to deal with it. You're right.)

And those benchmarks the Iraqi government needs to have made? Well they're not making them, duh. So what is the White House going to say about that? The spin is going to be that although the goals haven't been met in full, they've been met "in spirit." No doubt that will quickly be followed by an argument that we're winning the war in Iraq "in spirit." Sorry, I have to take a short toss my cookies break at the thought of all this.

Questions we wish we'd asked

A propos of President Bush's fresh round of analogizing about Vietnam this week, a reader of the New York Times asks in a recent letter to the editor,

"President Bush regularly revises history, using any analogy, no matter how contorted and inaccurate, to try to maintain support for his hopeless venture in Iraq. The critical question is how long we Americans will accept this level of dishonesty from our president."

Why DO Americans accept this level of dishonesty from their President? Is it that they don't know any different, don't care, or have become so used to this that they collectively shrug their shoulders in resignation? It beats me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Hot Enough For You?

DC in August. Unless you've experienced it, well you just don't know real fun. But the summers haven't been as bad as often as they were when I first moved here. Climate change? Maybe. After all, global warming doesn't mean we all get hotter summers, it means the climate changes in some new & scary, probably unchangeable ways. Maybe that's why the White House & Congress have been slower than turtles on Quaalude's to act on climate change issues. They're betting on cooler DC summers.

I think we all know that it's not that, it's the debt (financial and otherwise) just about everyone in both camps owes to companies & organizations that make their money from products that help destroy our climate. For this crew, apparently money is more important than ensuring a functioning planet for their grandchildren.

This week, a federal judge told the Bush crew to cough up climate change reports that were due in 2004 & 2006. The administration is legally bound to provide us with updated US climate change research plans & impact assessments every 3 years. Apparently they're implementing the "hide under the covers & no one can see you" strategy for the plans. Guess what. We see you. And we know you have NO functioning plan for dealing with the climate. So don't bother trying to hide the fact. And stop trying to change entries in Wikipedia on the topic!

Experts who have actually been permitted to share their findings have many scary and fascinating things to say, as we all know. One that I found frightening is the impact of climate change on world hunger. The UN's Food & Agriculture Organization director, Jacques Diouf, noted today that while crop yields would increase at higher latitudes as the global average temperature went up 1 to 3 degrees centigrade (but dive bomb as temperatures rose higher than that), areas in low altitudes (which aren't doing so well at the moment anyway in much of the world) would suffer more fires, forest pest & disease outbreaks, damaging ecosystems and agriculture, with subsequent severe downturns in crop production.

And while scientist and expert after expert lays out the future we're creating for ourselves, we manage to still sit back and ask "now, is it REALLY happening?" "are we causing it?" "should we do anything" "isn't it safer to just sit and wait?" Or, if you're in the Georgia state legislature, you run a panel asking if climate change is fact of fiction. Let's hear it from Georgia house reps Jeff Lewis & Clay Cox (republicans, of course). Lewis argues that there is "alternate information out there" (yes, by all means, let's listen to experts funded by the oil & coal industries & the CATO institute), while Cox concludes that the argument has "affirmed my assumption coming in here that there are too many opinions on this subject" and so can't make a conclusion. Wow! That's a mighty brain trust in the Georgia legislature.

My favorite part of the Georgia legislature story is this line, "the hearing was followed by a lunch for lawmakers, sponsored by Georgia Natural Gas and AT&T."

And so it goes.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Do We Get a Receipt?

As of today, the Bush administration's venture into Iraq has a financial cost of over $454.6 billion. The National Priorities Project offers a counter for the financial cost of the war by state & county. Wondering just how much your county has paid so far for the war? According to the country, my current residence, the District of Columbia, has almost $2 billion invested in this madness. My home state of Oregon, $3.6 billion, and my home county of Umatilla, a mere $66 million. Most of you probably don't know Umatilla county, it's a small, sparsely populated farming & ranching area in Eastern Oregon. And how on earth they've found $66 million to pay for this Iraq war, on top of the other demands, I have NO idea. But according to the NPP, that $66 million from Umatilla County could have provided health insurance for 40,046 children, or hired 1,158 additional public school teachers for the year, or awarded 3,242 students full 4 year scholarships at a public university. Where, one would hope, they would be able to LEARN FROM history, instead of repeating it, ignoring its lessons, or mis-interpreting it for their own bizarre needs, as Buckarooskidoo notes in the post below.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Just when I thought the administration had stopped abusing history, here they go again, on several fronts. I'm still stunned, dazed and somewhat confused by the disinformation they put out there today, but let's review the proceedings:

First, President Bush revved up the VFW audience in Kansas City by comparing Iraq with Vietnam. No, he didn't admit that both landed the United States in a quagmire, trying to impose a military solution on a politically untenable situation. He told the vets that in fact, Iraq must not end like Vietnam, in an American cut-and-run. The President claimed that our early exit, our runner on the Vietnamese people, cost millions of lives, emboldened our enemies, even encouraged Osama Bin Laden to plot the September 11 attacks(!). Never mind that after 57,000 American casualties, 20 years of revolving strategies, more bombs dropped than during all of World War II, billions of dollars wasted and over a million Vietnamese dead, we had not turned the country against the evil Communist Ho Chi Minh. We should NEVER have left "before the job was done." The nonsense and distortion in those remarks is so fantastic, so galactic in scale, I'm not capable of responding to it coherently. And this is not Tom Tancredo or Duncan Hunter, wingnut Congresspeople--this is the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, dispensing this b.s.

Then, on Chris Matthews, former Bushie Ari Fleischer informed guest host Mike Barnicle that "no one questioned whether the troops were tired or stressed in World War II. They just fought on, strong and tough." Mike had wondered how the American military could sustain indefinitely even the modest troop levels now in Iraq. How stupid can you get, Mike? Don't you know the American situation in Iraq is exactly analogous to the dark days when Hitler had conquered nearly the ENTIRE EUROPEAN CONTINENT and America was looking down the barrel of a gun?

AND THEN...we saw in action Ari's advocacy group, which is rallying people to support this war with apparently unlimited funds. They are running ads in all states where Congresspeople might be wavering in their support for the war, ads in which maimed American vets plead with Americans not to abandon the Iraq war, lest their lost limbs and the lives of their fallen countrymen be in vain, a useless sacrifice. So they ask the rest of us to allow MORE people to die tragically and senselessly, so that those already dead will be somehow "honored." I've never heard anything so outrageous, or self-defeating. If we're waiting for the shining new united Iraq of Bush's dreams to materialize, we will be there with our people bleeding and dying FOREVER, because that's the time frame we're talking about.

I ask you again, who is going to stop these people and their mendacity, their conviction that the ends justify the means, their apparently inexhaustible chutzpah and shamelessness?

It's hard to believe, except that it's not.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Does it matter... much the candidates in the '08 race know about foreign affairs and personalities? You look toward the current occupant of the White House and exclaim, "YES!," although I don't think knowledge figured in any of his decisions-- it was the conviction that either a)God was speaking through the President or b)everyone would embrace the President's idea that "freedom" is God's gift to the peoples of the earth. Recent history, though, fails to turn up a correlation between foreign affairs knowledge and experience and success in international dealings, as Anne Applebaum argues in today's Washington Post.

It makes you wonder whether electing a President is much more than a high-stakes crapshoot...

Plus ca change...

The more things change, the more they stay the same, especially in Putinland...the Russian capital has multiple hundreds of gazillionaires, the highest per capita percentage of unaffordable automobiles, the greatest number of VIP rooms(admittedly in incomprehensible venues, like internet cafes), approximately one hundred thousand five-star hotels. All this is true, but some things never change, namely the cold showers everyone still has to take throughout the month of August.

Should people be complaining about the bbc dispensing "foreign propaganda," bemoaning the expansion of NATO and wargaming with China when they still can't quite manage hot water in a world capital l2 months out of l2?

No more G-8 summits, no more photo ops with world leaders, no more appearances before the cameras before this antediluvian outrage is remedied. How about some hot water sanctions?!

Monday, August 20, 2007

While Congress is Out on Vacation

The staffers of congressional committees are still working. As is the Bush/Cheney/Rove staff devoted to hiding the crew's misdeeds from the light of day. But even the most devoted staff can only hide things so fast. So they're asking for more time to comply with Congressional subpoenas for documents related to the NSA warrantless surveillance program.

One of the things you gotta love about this administration is their ability to give the American public a baldfaced lie and then huff & puff with indignation when questioned about it. They're not breaking any laws, but of course they can't swear to that on oath because of national security, and can't talk about what they're doing because of national security. But it's ok, 'cause we can trust them because... wait, when do we get off this merry-go-round?

So here we are, with a weak-willed Congress having just served up our 4th Amendment rights to the White House with a spoon. But it's ok, they tell us, because they can "withdraw or modify" this law in 6 months. Having seen that there are still some people who believe Bush/Cheney/Rove & Co., Congress seems to think that we'll buy the idea that the same people who rolled over & played dead this month because they didn't want to hand the Republicans an election issue will somehow grow a spine in 6 months when we're even closer to the election?

How quickly can we go from "protect America" to "screw over America" in the Bush World Order? Under the "Protect America Act of 2007, electronic surveillance has moved from the hands of judges into the hands of Mr. "I don't recall" himself, Gonzales. Isn't it fun to see how Gonzales can be rewarded for his ability to lie repeatedly in front of Congress?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Other Fun Site of the Day

If you've missed the fun of the Wikipedia editing story, sit back and enjoy. There's a new site that "lists anonymous wikipedia edits from interesting organizations" In other words, wonder why when you look up the "right to bear arms" on Wikipedia you see that the site boasts that the 2nd amendment defends both the collective AND individual right to bear arms, noting that "The Supreme Court has heard only a small number of Second Amendment cases, and in each has recognized the right to arms as an individual right. In U.S. v. Cruikshank (1876) the Court recognized that the right to arms pre-existed the Constitution." -- Interesting you say, perhaps not the general non biased definition you were expecting.

Thanks to this fun site, it all begins to make sense because you can see that the computer ip address of the person making that statement belongs to ... yup, the National Rifle Association. The site is just full of fun things you can learn that "L. Ron Hubbard is also a total nut case with no proof that his beliefs are true." - oops, wait, that didn't appear on the site when it was edited by a computer with a Scientology ip address.

It's set up so you can wonder through some of the ip addresses that have been pulled out to browse through, or you can add your own ip address or organization/company name and see what someone's been up to in the name of public relations. One of my favorites is the edit in 2005 by an anonymous user - dumping sections critical of the Diebold company or their crappy (edit THAT Diebold Co.) e-voting machines. You guessed it, the ip address traces back to the Diebold company.

And what did someone from Exxon Mobile's computer ip address have to say about that company's infamous Exxon Valdez, Alaska oil spill? "Peer-reveiwed [sic] studies conducted by hundreds of scientists have confirmed that there has been no long-term severe impact to the [[Prince William Sound]] ecosystem."

In a Rove/Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush world - is there even any surprise out there at any of this? Have some fun - check out how the administration has tried to change several unpleasant realities. It's almost as easy for them as manipulating FOX newsless.

Is It Our Breath?

If you're hoping to check in on ol' "make it stop! make it stop" while attending the olympics in China, don't bother. Apparently this site is, yes, banned in China. (A thanks to Tomcat over at Politics Plus for info on this). There's a wonderful site, the Great Firewall of China, that lets you test url addresses to see if they're banned or not in our great trading partner of the east.

And this site .... doesn't make the cut. Try out a site of your own and watch the fun.

I think the problem MUST be our breath. It can't be anything that Bucky or I have written on this blog! I mean, really, I'm sure that our government's good friends the Chinese government (Geo. W., you DO know they're still communists, right? - isn't it fun to sell out decades worth of life values like you have?) understand the benefit of open debate and dialog. Right? ...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Rummy who?

Ok, I'll admit. I snickered when I heard that publishers weren't jumping up and down to publish Rumsfeld's book. The NY Post (ok, ok, I know, but that's where the story comes from) notes that Rumsfeld had only "tepid interest from a handful of publishers" for his book. Apparently he was going to write about his years as Secy. of Defense (can't you just see some publisher thinking, "man how on earth does he expect us to sell THAT CRAP?). So now Rummy has gone back to the drawing board and is going to write about is life.

I'd like to go on record saying that I wouldn't put a dime in that man's pocket for a book about anything, but I am eager to see what he has to say about his political love affair with Saddam.

Questions from the road

I was cycling through town this morning, after taking advantage of ten-cent morning coffee at the new Hamley's coffeehouse, when i began spotting heavily bumper-stickered cars. There were a variety of them, as you might imagine, but I did notice certain constants. The cars that had "support our troops," "pray for our troops," and "freedom isn't free" also typically had one or more of the following: "One man, one woman, no on 36(recent anti-gay measure)," "abortion stops a beating heart" and "I support President George W. Bush. These colors don't run."

I can follow some of this, I guess. if you are pro-life, you will probably be pro-sex-for-procreation only, which gay couples aren't going to be able to manage. I can even see being pro-Bush, since Bush is pro-life, and a lot of pro-lifers are single issue voters. But how in the world could you back the Iraq war, as these people obviously do, if you are pro-life? The civilian casualties the Iraqi population has sustained almost certainly include Iraqi unborn children, as well as already-born children, men, women, adolescents, old people. I can't understand the logic in supporting the terrible destruction this country has wrought on a nation that did nothing to us, while proclaiming your respect for life. Is it just American lives that count? Is that it?

Is there something here that I am not understanding, or are these just dumb questions? Please, all you smart people, help me understand this apparent contradiction.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

You've Probably Seen This by Now

But if you haven't - listen to the 1994 Darth Cheney explain why going into Iraq and overthrowing Saddam is a BAD idea. Oh sorry, make that "a quagmire" as Cheney calls it. So if you know in 1994 how hard it's going to be to invade & occupy Iraq, why are you & the rest of the Bush neo-con cheer leaders so surprised at the outcome? Can the man really be this stupid?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Credibility "gap?"

It's August, which means all the congresspeople are communing with constituents around the nation. I think it's safe to say they're getting an earful. The other day here in God's country, Senator Ron Wyden held a town meeting on Iraq with the good people of Portland. The senator probably expected a rational discussion, but what he got was a lot of anger, even rage, at the course of events in Iraq. The crowd accused him of complicity in allowing the debacle to continue, of showing insufficient interest in impeachment of the individuals responsible, of letting more young Americans die for no clear outcome. All that was familiar. But I was taken aback by the reaction to Wyden's remarks about the dangers posed to the US by Iran and Iran's alleged role in making IEDs that are now killing US soldiers in roadside bomb incidents. Immediately, much of the crowd began either booing lustily or laughing at the Senator. They didn't believe him because they felt he was aping the Vice President. "You've been listening to Cheney too much!" exclaimed one woman above the din.

I think there's quite a bit of evidence that Iran is meddling in Iraq--after all, Iraq is a Shiite nation, just like the Shia now governing Iraq--and I think we have every interest in trying to prevent (another) Holocaust-denying, repressive, lawless regime from getting a nuke bomb. But you wouldn't know it from listening to that derisive laughter--whatever this administration says is automatically discredited in many quarters because of its years of exaggerations and lies: WMD in Iraq, Iraq-as-cakewalk, the insurgency-is-in-its-last-throes, mission accomplished, terror threat maximum(only in times of embarrassing news for the admin and/or elections), the surge is working, we just need six more months, etc. etc., ad nauseum. I only dimly remember those times, but I do recall people in my household waving their hands in disgust when Lyndon Johnson assured us for the tenth time that month that "the light is at the end of the tunnel," that "the enemy is on the run and has no hopes" in Vietnam. No one would listen to him, either, after awhile. Then came Nixon, who promised peace, then escalated the war, then did a lot of "other stuff"...bad news.

I'm just wondering what will happen to us if this President learns of a REAL threat, like an Al-Quaeda nuke device set to detonate near the Capitol in DC, and tries to sound the alarm? I know I won't be inclined to snap to, and neither will an awful lot of people. In fact, we're likely to do the exact opposite. Maybe that's the most serious damage done by the Bushies, the complete depletion of Oval Office credibility, the Boy Who Called Wolf Writ Large.

What will the next President do to convince people to believe him or her? What we've got here is not a credibility gap, but a yawning abyss!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Brooke Astor

There's news of another departure, more final and certainly more consequential than Karl Rove's: Brooke Astor has died in New York at the age of 105. Few people ever had a greater impact on American culture than Mrs. Astor. The AP provides this summary of her deeds and unusual approach to philanthropy:

"Money is like manure, it should be spread around," was her oft-quoted motto. There was a lot to spread: Vincent Astor's great-great-grandfather John Jacob Astor made a fortune in fur trading and New York real estate.
Brooke Astor gave millions of dollars to what she called the city's "crown jewels" _ among them the New York Public Library, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, the Bronx Zoo and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the flags were lowered to half-staff after her death.
But she also funded scores of smaller projects: Harlem's Apollo Theater; a new boiler for a youth center; beachside bungalow preservation; a church pipe organ; furniture for homeless families moving in to apartments.
It was a very personal sort of philanthropy.
"People just can't come up here and say, `We're doing something marvelous, send a check,'" she said. "We say, 'Oh, yes, we'll come and see it.'"

As students of history and culture, we should all say a prayer of thanks for the life of Brooke Astor. I only hope there are some nascent Brooke Astors amongst the hedge-fund gazillionaires...

Bye Bye Karl (take 2)

Thanks to TomCat of Politics Plus for this lovely image of Karl Rove -- as he SHOULD HAVE BEEN removed from the White House.

Bye Bye Karl

So Karl Rove is fleeing the sinking ship. The ship that he helped set up to sink. Now he's slinking back to Texas. I don't know what to say. Part of me is glad that piece of &#$% won't be sharing the same air in this city with me anymore. But most of me is pissed off that we didn't get a chance to drag him out of the white house in handcuffs. The idea of him being able to just walk away from the chaos and misery that he engineered just doesn't sit well with me.

So Karl - so glad to get you the hell out of DC, don't slam the door on your way out, and don't bother ever coming back. And Texas, do yourselves and all of us a favor. Toss him out on a deserted offshore oil rig and keep him there for the rest of his life. He doesn't deserve the opportunity to live among the rest of us.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More anniversary reflections--l969-2007

This month marks the 37th and final year of the British Army's "Operation Banner" in northern Ireland. The British army was dispatched to northern Ireland in August l969, after the "battle of the Bogside," to calm down fraught communities in Derry and Belfast locked in deadly sectarian warfare. There were voices advocating caution, e.g. it is easy to send an army into a situation...another matter to get it out, but Protestant politicians were at the end of their collective rope Because the army was unable to restore calm and order in the absence of any political agreement, it took 37 years and an average of 30,000 troops per year to...referee a sectarian spat/take the side of the Protestant community/babysit a civil war. 736 British soldiers were killed, adding to about 2500 Protestant and Catholic citizens. Recently, Catholic and Protestant leaders came to a power-sharing agreement, achieving the political accord that would guarantee the peace in northern Ireland. Thus the British army's mission there came to an end.

I wish President Bush and the architects of the Iraq war had taken some counsel from the northern Ireland experience. It's easy to send an army into a conflict area, absolute hell to get it out, especially when there is no prospect of a political agreement that makes real peace possible. Political agreements are hell to achieve, and when they do come, they tend to come over years, even decades, not weeks. Just ask Bill Clinton, Tony Blair or George Mitchell. Occupying armies, even when you call them liberating armies, incur the undying enmity of at least half of a population and end up losing a lot of their own people and killing local citizens. And maybe most important, the capabilities of armed force are extremely limited in troubled areas.

If GWB remains impervious to these truths, we can't do much about it, except to make sure we elect a successor who understands them and will conduct foreign policy accordingly.

Happy Birthday, Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart!

Tomorrow is the 46th anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, er, sorry, the Anti-Fascist Protective Rampart. This was the last-ditch defensive effort undertaken by the good German democratic republic to keep west German Nazi fascists and their American salivating-skeleton sponsors from invading and destroying all the hard-won gains of the "good" Germans, the GDR citizens.

We have quite a bit of perspective and inside info now on this outrage, which turned out to be the worst public relations disaster in all of human history: the workers' paradise forced to physically confine said workers within its borders. It wasn't Nikita Khrushchev and the evil Russians' idea at all--the man who insisted on the wall was Walter Ulbricht, the GDR leader who was suffering terrible humiliation at the escalating number of east Germans walking across the Brandenburg gate into west Berlin. Salaries were much higher there and people got paid in real $$$. They were supposed to be working on and IN the socialist paradise, but they were lacking the requisite enthusiasm. At any rate, Ulbricht went to Khrushchev and demanded that Mr. K DO something--like send Soviet citizens to do those jobs the GDR citizens were leaving, like cleaning toilets. Khrushchev, we know, was indignant. "I'm not sending any of our citizens to clean your toilets," Mr. K replied. "After all, THEY won the war!" Failing that, Ulbricht said, build me some kind of barrier. "How about a wall?" Khrushchev asked. So, Ulbricht got a wall. A very bad decision over time, in essence a surrender, but the wall was going up.

Now we know something else. For years, east German authorities said that there was NO shoot to kill order on the wall, that any decisions taken to shoot at those scaling the wall were a reaction to a threat. Scared, trigger-happy kids, in other words. Just in time for the anniversary, though,recently, an Interior Ministry document has surfaced in which east German border guards were ORDERED in no uncertain terms to SHOOT the TRAITORS doing a runner on the e. German motherland. So we can chalk up another lie to the worst regime in the east bloc. Read the whole story here.

I think it's a timely reminder that however dispiriting things are here at present, there once was a dreadful scourge in half of Europe for half a century, keeping millions cowering behind this wall, with AK-47s aimed at them. It finally expired, collapsed under its own corruption and inertia, in l989. There MUST be hope for us, mired as we are in our many current and apparently intractable difficulties.

Are You Making Money Off the Iraq War?

You should be - I mean really, who ISN'T making money off of this war. Ike's military industrial complex has gotten even more inclusive. Contractors in the state of Illinois are doing well. According to the Register-Mail, "Illinois firms selling goods and services won defense contracts totaling nearly $14 billion since September 2001, according to a GateHouse News Service analysis. Contract awards dropped slightly from $1.97 billion in 2000 to $1.95 billion in 2001, then climbed steadily as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan progressed to $3.6 billion in 2005." Of course, Illinois doesn't have the corner on Iraq/Afghanistan contracts.

The Wash. Post and a few other papers have noticed that two British security firms, Aegis Defence Services & Enrinys Iraq have received about $548 million since 2004 to protect US Army Corps of Engineers troops while their busy on those reconstruction projects (you remember, the projects that we turn over to Iraq and watch deteriorate into nothingness - talk about money for nothing!). Apparently the army is trying to cancel one of the contracts for massive cost overruns, but the firm is fighting it, so in the meantime, the army has had to - yes, this is true - extend the contract with the firm they're trying to dump!

Make it Stop! Make it Stop! readers know how fed up I am with the mess of private contract mercenaries in Iraq/Afghanistan. USA Today has an AP piece on the mess here. Noting the "gray legal area" the mercenaries operate in, and asking which laws apply to these non-troops and their actions.

US Army major John Cockerham was arrested along with his wife for accepting $9.5 million in bribes and kickbacks from contractors doing business with the Pentagon. According to the San Antonio Express, when arrested, Cockerham was expecting $5.4 million more. The charges are bribery, money laundering and conspiracy. Cockerham apparently received bribes in exchange for awarding contracts in Iraq and Kuwait. Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha said this case was the "tip of the iceberg" - no kidding.

Pennsylvania's Pocono Record notes that the rush by American & foreign business folk to line their pockets with American tax dollars hasn't done much to put services on the ground in Iraq - such as electricity.

USA Today
noted that the Pentagon has a record during this conflict of approving DISPUTED costs on Iraq contracts at an unusually high rate. They note that "through last October, almost two-thirds of costs challenged by Pentagon auditors as inflated, erroneous or otherwise improper — more than $1 billion — were eventually approved by project managers. That compares with 44% for all defense contracts in 2005. The low rate of withholding payments to Iraq contractors is evidence the Pentagon is turning a blind eye to waste and fraud, says Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who has chaired several hearings into Iraq reconstruction problems for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee."

No doubt Cheney pushes as much as he can to Halliburton, but there's so much money to be made in the war on terror that billions and billions can be spread around to many other firms. KBR Inc. (Kellogg, Brown & Root - a former Halliburton subsidiary), for instance. USA Today reported last month that government auditors reviewing KBR's annual cost estimate for support services to US troops in Iraq included $110 million for housing, food, water, laundry and services on "bases that had been shut down." Yup, they wanted $110 million for non existent services. Do I hear any jaws dropping in shock out there? Of COURSE NOT! We've come to expect this kind of math from friends of Darth Cheney's. Oh yeah, there were also $50 million of "duplicate charges and math errors" in the KBR contract as well. That's a total of $160 million that the largest Iraq contractor was stealing from the American public.

Think that's outrageous? Wait, as they say on the infomercials, there's more. According to the Kansas City Star, KBR's $2.5 billion no-bid contract to rebuild Iraq's oil infrastructure (and you know how well THAT has gone), included a bonus structure that has given them $57 million in bonus payments for their work.

Are you still there? Or have you sputtered out your oatmeal or scrambled eggs and are hitting your head against the table?

I don't blame you.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why Raise a Child to Think

When it's so much easier to raise them to hate. I realize that since all the little children in my life are either going into high school or college I don't have much day-to-day interaction with contemporary children's literature. So maybe it was that, or possibly just good luck, that I did not come across these books until just recently.

A woman named DeBrecht has a book out there called Help Mom! There are Liberals Under My Bed. What is it about, you ask, well, here's a synopsis: This full-color illustrated book is a fun way for parents to teach young children the valuable lessons of conservatism. Written in simple text, readers can follow along with Tommy and Lou as they open a lemonade stand to earn money for a swing set. But when liberals start demanding that Tommy and Lou pay half their money in taxes, take down their picture of Jesus, and serve broccoli with every glass of lemonade, the young brothers experience the downside to living in Liberaland.

The book is for kids aged 4-8. The writer's oeuvre apparently also include Help! Mom! Hollywood's in My Hamper! (Janie and Sam were happy just being kids -- that is, until celebrities started popping out of their hamper to tell them how to behave and to sell them expensive clothes. With Hollywood and its friends in the liberal media declaring war on traditional values, what's a concerned parent to do?) and Help! Mom! The 9th Circuit Nabbed the Nativity! - which is pretty self explanatory. No doubt Help! Mom! The Two Men Who Live Together Downtown Want to Adopt Me! and Help! Mom! the Liberals are Hiding Osama Bin Laden in My Closet! are on their way soon. Personally, I look forward to Help! Mom! Bush is Wiretapping My Teddy Bear, but I don't suppose it's on the list.

What this reminds me of more than anything is the old Hamas Mickey Mouse that urged kids to fight the oppressive Zionist state until I think he was killed by Zionists and was replaced by another character equally eager to teach kids to hate. So I want to share a few sites & groups that strive to combat those kinds of programs.

MATCKH (Mothers Against Teaching Children to Kill and Hate) is primarily focused on projects like Hamas' Mickey Mouse. The Southern Law Poverty Center has a project called The group defines itself as "a principal online destination for people interested in dismantling bigotry and creating, in hate's stead, communities that value diversity."

August in DC

It's always quiet (and hot) in DC during August. Quiet because Congress leaves town and when they do, so do many of the lobbyists who swarm around them. The roads are less crowded, you can find a seat on the metro, there's just a nice tone to the city - as the ones left are the people who actually work here & the tourists.

And where are all those missing Members of Congress? Well they're back with most of you - having gone back to assure their constituents of the fine work that they're doing. And why not. It's not as though there's much that needs taking care of this month. Especially since our Senate & House Democrats have decided to roll over & play dead to Busy & Co. Ann Telnaes' cartoon on the topic was impossible to resist sharing.

Now, as annoyed as I am with Congress as a whole, at least the Senate Dems have a small excuse for not doing anything useful. Their majority is pretty slim and guess who makes that 51-49 majority in favor of the Republicans most of the time? None other than good ol' Joe Lieberman, the "Independent" ex Dem from Connecticut. How on earth anybody in that state can look the rest of us in the eye having elected this fool is beyond me. Even when a simple majority could take an issue, the Republicans have been digging in with a "super-majority" parliamentary procedure that requires 60 votes instead of 51. No, I can't figure out why the Dems let them get away with that either.

In the House - well ... they did raise the minimum wage. Which was long, LONG overdue. But on the issue of Iraq? Failure after failure. What was so difficult about voters' instructions to END THE WAR NOW for them to understand?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Now THAT'S a Mouthful

The Partisan Reflections on Pissant Provocteurs Award. Thanks to Kiko's House for tagging us with this fascinating little gem. It seems to have originated from the Divided We Stand, United We Fall blog site. The award is inspired by this definition: Pissant - Little person blog with big attitude.

Well Make it Stop! Make it Stop! does seem to fit that definition to a T. If there is one thing Bucky and I have flowing out of our ears, it's attitude.

And in keeping with the spirit of the award, we have tagged five other deserving sites, from steady supporters of Make it Stop! to a couple of hidden gems in the net world.

Politics Plus certainly has the attitude, but I almost hesitated to nominate this site, since it's bigger than we are LOL - but from posts that read as though the author was pulling his hair out in handfulls to the polls, Politics Plus has a lot to offer any reader.

Left Edge North waves its opinions at you from the beginning. The blog is subtitled, "Impeachment is not the constitutional crisis -- it is the cure for the constitutional crisis." From the cartoons and videos, the wild-eyed typography (ok, so its white on black design does remind us of ourselves) gives blogger "Mr. Natural" a chance to let his rage shine through.

If you're hungry, drop by Dandelion Salad for some food for thought. The Salad includes daily news mixed with a variety of media and commentary. Some days when I just can't open a paper and see the latest psychosis, I just wander over to the Salad for a helping of just one story to rant and rave about in my mind.

Hal from Richmond, Texas, runs the Half Empty blog - where if we expect the worse, we can be pleasantly surprised if it doesn't happen. And although I'm a half full kind of gal (yes, even under the tyranny of Darth Cheney & his toy poodle), I am a sucker for Hal's blog. After all, it's gotta be hard to fight for life, liberty and justice for all in the middle of Bush country! Keep up the good fight Hal, I'll be reading.

And anytime I think I've gotten shrill, I wonder over to Shrillblog where Brad and Mark give us a look at some of the full-throated outrage that is passing around on the net.

Thanks to all these bloggers for keeping us informed and sometimes entertained.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cry Me a River

The NYTimes today has a story titled "Millionaires Who Don't Feel Rich" - about people who are worth a few million dollars, yet don't think of themselves as rich. "In part because they are surrounded by people with more wealth--often a lot more."

I don't know where to begin with this. Gee, I'm sorry that your fortune isn't as great as those around you just doesn't do it. You know, there are people in my apartment building who make a whole lot more than I do. I bet everyone who reads this spends time around people who make a whole lot more than they do.

But at some level, and I'm willing to put that level in the hundreds of thousands, let alone millions, you need to realize that you have a hell of a lot more money than most of the people on this planet. That you have a bank account, a house and probably a whole lot of extras. What you are not, is poor. You are not middle class. You are rich.

So buck up and face facts. You don't have to use check cashing services to make it through the month because you can't afford a bank account. You don't have to live on the street or in a car when things get rough. You don't have to rely on public or private charity (although depending on your business, you probably get a hell of a lot of public charity -- although it's called corporate tax breaks in your world).

I'm sorry if your kids don't get the fanciest cars that their friends get. Or that your neighbor has a private jet and you don't. Or that you feel you have to work 60-80 hour weeks to maintain your lifestyle (as opposed to those who work those hours in 2-3 minimum wage jobs just to live day to day).

Cry me a river. And get out of my face.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

60 Senators Still in the Bush/Cheney Pocket

And a mere 28 who listening to the American people and paying attention to that "piece of paper," the US Constitution. The Senate did as Bush/Cheney asked and passed their plan for overhauling their surveillance laws. The legislation is heading to the House today, where MCs are quivering under Bush's threat to keep them in session into their summer recess if they don't approve his changes. Oh NO! If they don't give in, they don't get a vacation! But Bush doesn't want much, just expanded government authority to "intercept without a court order the phone calls and e-mails of people in the US who are communicating with people overseas." Yes indeed, the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act requires a warrant before spying - such a bother, having to include another branch of government such as the judiciary in Bush/Cheney spyfests.

The spineless House Dems gave in on a proposal asking for stricter court oversight of how Bush/Cheney would ensure that under this legislation they'd spy only on foreigners in the US, not Americans. No doubt they agreed with everyone's favorite Senate independent, Joe Leiberman, had this to say about the legislation - "We're at war. The enemy wants to attack us. This is not the time to strive for legislative perfection." Yup, our Constitutional rights are not worth the time or effort to protect according to Joe & company.

Anybody want to place bets on how many House members have the guts to go with the American public instead of Bush/Cheney?

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