Monday, August 28, 2006

POLITICS - Country Formerly Known as America

"The Country Formerly Known as America" by Nance Greggs, Democratic Underground

It’s hard to even imagine it now, but legend has it that it was once the most powerful nation on the face of the earth. It stretched from sea to shining sea, and offered vistas of purple mountains’ majesty above fruited plains and amber waves of grain. It was once thought of as so undeniably good, its undisputed crown was the pride of brotherhood.

In the early days of its demise, which few saw as inevitable at the time, the will of its people was thwarted by the very technology that had once harkened the advent of increased communication amongst its own citizens and, in turn, between the people of the world.

The die was cast. The rich were immediately rewarded for their foresight in contributing to the right people at the right time, as well as their innate ability to build their personal fortunes on the backs of their fellow citizens without pang of conscience. The corporations stood in line, palms upturned and fingers outstretched, ready to grab their piece of the pie, even if watching others go hungry was part of the deal.

The hard-working middle-class busied themselves with looking the other way, naively secure in the knowledge that their climb to the top of the income-bracket ladder was well within their reach, and to hell with those who would be left behind.

And then one day the unthinkable happened. The threat, the people were told, was now a reality. A never-ending war was launched based on a myriad of premises too flimsy to be remembered, and those in positions of political power were quick to join the sky-is-falling chorus without ever bothering to look up to see if that were so.

Imagined boogey-men became the excuse to rescind the very foundation of law the nation was founded upon, as well as the tool to silence those who asked the obvious questions that had no reasonable answers. In the aftermath, while the country’s treasury was looted and the youngest and brightest of its citizens were sent to die, unprotected in battle, the very fabric of this once-proud nation began to unravel like the cheaply constructed flags it mindlessly waved.

The insanity set in early, as happens in such circumstances. Formerly respected elected leaders engaged in the kinds of debates once relegated to schoolyards, their childish prattle drowning out the seriousness of the situation: an economy that was ripe for collapse, a form of government that was about to fail, and a president who had usurped the powers they were meant to keep in check.

The broadcast airwaves were filled with lunatics. Some concocted implausible stories and, passionate and wild-eyed, screamed them as fact. Others droned on like lobotomy survivors, mouthing words in measured tones that lacked any semblance of thought; no questions asked, no explanations required.

In one of its final years of existence, the great nation lost one of its key cities, a place of historic and cultural value that had once been a source of pride. It was swept away by a combination of natural disaster and national indifference, and slipped beneath the waters without a whimper from those who could have saved it with little effort.

Few in power noticed, but it was truly the beginning of the end. While unwinnable wars on the other side of the world were reported, with equal importance, alongside wars on Christmas at the mall, while the discussion of questionable election results was overtaken by 24-hour coverage of runaway brides and missing co-eds, the once-powerful nation slipped into madness.

...there's more.

Only one opinion, but with the ring of truth. And it is our (the American voter) fault, we believed the lies or were too busy with our lives to pay attention while America was sold out by those in power.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

POLITICS - Warrantless Surveillance Program Unconstitutional

"Bush speaks out against wiretapping ruling" Associated Press

President George W. Bush said those who agree with a federal judge in Detroit that his warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional "simply do not understand the nature of the world in which we live."

"This country of ours is at war," the president said Friday.

"And we must give those whose responsibility it is to protect the United States the tools necessary to protect this country in a time of war."

Even if that means tearing up the Constitution.

By EarlG
From Democratic Underground

Of course Bush disagrees, using the same reasoning that every dictator in history uses. Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil! Sieg Heil!

Friday, August 18, 2006

POLITICS - Spying Lawsuit, SLAP!

"Judge rules against Bush in spying lawsuit" AP

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge Thursday refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s domestic spying program, rejecting government claims that allowing the case to go forward could expose state secrets and jeopardize the war on terror.

Now lets see where it goes from here.

Of course, Bush says he can ignore law in his duty to "protect" America.
Hail Caesar!

POLITICS - Aha Yes, Another GOP Failure

"Half mid-income adults can’t pay medical costs" AP

NEW YORK - About half of adults in middle-income families reported serious problems in paying for their health care while even those in more affluent circumstances said they had troubles with medical bills, a new survey found.

...there's more

The real-world hits Bush and the GOP over the head again. I wonder if they will ever take the hint. Then again, they could be too brain damaged to comprehend.

TRUTH - As True Today as it Was Back Then

Ive been waiting for something to happen
For a week or a month or a year
With the blood in the ink of the headlines
And the sound of the crowd in my ear
You might ask what it takes to remember
When you know that you've seen it before
Where a government lies to a people
And a country is drifting to war

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interest runs

On the radio talk shows and the TV
You hear one thing again and again
How the USA stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend
But who are the ones that we call our friends --
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally cant take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
There are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

There's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who fan the flames
Of the wars that are fought in places
Where we cant even say the names

They sell us the president the same way
They sell us our clothes and our cars
They sell us every thing from youth to religion
The same time they sell us our wars
I want to know who the men in the shadows are
I want to hear somebody asking them why
They can be counted on to tell us who our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

"Lives In The Balance" by Jackson Browne, 1986

Thursday, August 17, 2006

VIEWS - Lebanon as Seen Abroad

These are a set of articles on the BBC News WEB site that provide a non-American view of the Lebanon crises.

"France uneasy about mandate" by Alasdair Sandford, Paris

"New phase in Mid-East power struggle" by Paul Reynolds

"Challenges facing Lebanon peace force" by Paul Reynolds

"'Blame war' looms for Israel leaders" by Jonathan Marcus

"Huge challenge faces Lebanese army" by Nick Childs, Beirut

"Ceasefire, but conflict not resolved" by Paul Reynolds

MIDDLE EAST - Views On American Policy From the UK

"Bush is crap, says Prescott (Deputy PM)" by Colin Brown, The Independent UK

John Prescott has given vent to his private feelings about the Bush presidency, summing up George Bush's administration in a single word: crap.

The Deputy Prime Minister's condemnation of President Bush and his approach to the Middle East could cause a diplomatic row but it will please Labour MPs who are furious about Tony Blair's backing of the United States over the bombing of Lebanon.

The remark is said to have been made at a private meeting in Mr Prescott's Whitehall office on Tuesday with Muslim MPs and other Labour MPs with constituencies representing large Muslim communities.

And that's just the opening of the article. Of course, the self-righteous Bush Administration doesn't even hear any discord with their policy.

POLITICS - Report On American Consumer Rip-Off

"Drug Companies Making Billions in Excess Profits Under Medicare Plan" by Lynn Erskine, Center for Economic and Policy Research

This article includes a REPORT by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, and goes on....

Thousands of drugs cost more than necessary under the Medicare drug plan because Congress prohibited Medicare from negotiating drug prices directly with the pharmaceutical industry, as is done by the Veterans Administration. In the case of many drugs, the prices paid by insurers participating in the plan are more than twice as high as the prices paid by the Veterans Administration.

Millions of seniors and disabled Americans enrolled in Medicare Part D drug plans are discovering the "doughnut hole" - the $2,850 gap placed into the plan in order to save the government money. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has pointed out that this gap was only necessary because the plan's overall design added significant costs and complexity.

More evidence the the GOP congress who passed this law are in the back pockets of pharmaceutical companies. After all, it would unethical to "steal" their profits in the name of consumer savings. NOT

ENERGY - Good News on Solar Energy

"Solar cells change electricity distribution" by DAVE FREEMAN and JIM HARDING, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

In separate announcements over the past few months, researchers at the University of Johannesburg and at Nanosolar, a private company in Palo Alto, have announced major breakthroughs in reducing the cost of solar electric cells. While trade journals are abuzz with the news, analysis of the potential implications has been sparse.

We approach this news as current and former public electric utility executives, sympathetic with consumer and environmental concerns. South Africa and California technologies rely on the same alloy -- called CIGS (for copper-indium-gallium-selenide) -- deposited in an extremely thin layer on a flexible surface. Both companies claim that the technology reduces solar cell production costs by a factor of 4-5. That would bring the cost to or below that of delivered electricity in a large fraction of the world.

The California team is backed by a powerful team of private investors, including Google's two founders and the insurance giant Swiss Re, among others. It has announced plans to build a $100 million production facility in the San Francisco Bay area that is slated to be operational at 215 megawatts next year, and soon thereafter capable of producing 430 megawatts of cells annually.

What makes this particular news stand out? Cost, scale and financial strength. The cost of the facility is about one-tenth that of recently completed silicon cell facilities.

Second, Nanosolar is scaling up rapidly from pilot production to 430 megawatts, using a technology it equates to printing newspapers. That implies both technical success and development of a highly automated production process that captures important economies of scale. No one builds that sort of industrial production facility in the Bay Area -- with expensive labor, real estate and electricity costs -- without confidence.

Similar facilities can be built elsewhere. Half a dozen competitors also are working along the same lines, led by private firms Miasole and Daystar, in Sunnyvale, Calif., and New York.

But this is really not about who wins in the end. We all do. Thin solar films can be used in building materials, including roofing materials and glass, and built into mortgages, reducing their cost even further. Inexpensive solar electric cells are, fundamentally, a "disruptive technology," even in Seattle, with below-average electric rates and many cloudy days. Much like cellular phones have changed the way people communicate, cheap solar cells change the way we produce and distribute electric energy. The race is on.

Bold emphasis mine

Great for consumers and the environment. I wonder what Big Oil is thinking about this, in private (big loss in revenue when we don't need oil-powered electric plants any more).

THE HOLYLAND - A Bit of Truth

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

LEBANON - Video Revelations From UK

There is a very interesting video from a TV station in the UK.

It includes actual footage from the Israeli Command Center for the Lebanon "battle." While it does present the Israeli view (of course) it does give the viewer an inside look on the Israeli military in this situation. It is informative and worth a look. Use link.

"Israeli troops' misgivings over war revealed" by Channel 4 News, UK

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

VIEW FROM THE U.S. - Foiled Plots

"If you can't see that they are traitors in the White House, then you are risking your own lives and the lives of your families" Editorial, BuzzFlash

As BuzzFlash has repeatedly editorialized, the Bush Administration is a detriment to America's national security. Our lives are increasingly at risk every day that they are in office.

They will never seriously battle the sources of terrorism in an effective, strategic fashion. That is because politically they need the terrorists as much as the terrorists need them. And the goals of the Bush Administration are the consolidation of power and the acquisition of natural resources and economic dominance, not the eradication of terror.

Only the naive and the Rush Limbaugh Stepford-Red Staters can possibly draw any other conclusion.

NBC just confirmed -- as BuzzFlash editorialized earlier this week about the politics of terrorism -- that the White House forced the UK to move up the timing of the alleged terror cell arrests, against the recommendations of the British intelligence agencies. By so doing, the Bush Administration compromised the investigation and kept it from obtaining further evidence and contact names. In short, for purposes of political timing -- in order to make partisan points from the election of Ned Lamont -- the Bush Administration compromised our national security.

Furthermore, NBC confirms that UK sources indicate that the alleged terrorist plan was not near operational. Indeed, some of the would-be hijackers did not even have passports!

These use of Rovian-timed terrorist announcements -- often extremely, extremely exaggerated (as in the case of the Liberty City Insane Clown Posse and the alleged Manhattan Tunnel explosions that would have defied the laws of gravity if they were planned to "flood" lower Manhattan) -- are basically treason.

They are meant to frighten Americans into voting Republican.

POLITICS - Conservative Denial

"Denial is a River in the Heart of the Republicans" by Devilstower, Political Cortex

We've all seen it. That smug little smirk on the face of Donald Rumsfeld as he addresses lesser mortals. That irritating two beat giggle that terminates a Bush sentence. That endless grin of Alberto Gonzales as he lies over and over. That look of air-headed superiority is the natural face of Conservatism -- the face that says they're right, you're wrong, and facts aren't even an issue.

If there's anything that conservatives are sure about it's, well, everything. They've been convinced for decades that they were the bearers of the secret flame, the guardians of truth, the holders of all the cards.

So what do you think will happen now that every single thing they've done has ended in utter disaster? Do you think they'll start to doubt themselves?

Buddy, you never met a conservative.

...there's more

Add, that in today's GOP, GOP = God's Own Party.

VIEW FROM THE UK - Foiled Plot

"No dead Lebanese children on TV today" by Craig Murray, August 10, 2006

It is a fact that only the closest Blair circle bothers to deny, that if young British Muslims are turning to terrorism, it is the Blair-Bush foreign policy of war on Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine that has driven them to it. The majority of British people share their outrage at our foreign policy. That is not to condone the response of irrational violence. Terrorism is plain wrong. But it is Blair who has, through his evangelical embrace of the neo-con foreign agenda, massively increased any current threat of terrorism to the UK.

Add another who sees what our American government is doing is not making us safe. On the contrary, it is making more and more enemies each hour and day we continue killing Muslim civilians and occupying an Arab/Muslim countries.

No matter what the Bush Administration says or believes, Muslims world-wide do not believe the same. They see us as imperialist invaders that are killing innocent Muslims. We are, in fact, playing into terrorist's hands.

Friday, August 11, 2006

VIEWS - From the Muslim World

When are we, the West, going to seriously take into account how the Muslim World see us. Their perception of the West, not ours.

It is not possible to make useful plans and policies without a clear (as can be) understanding of "the other side's" view. Presently we are relying on our anger, prejudiced views of others, and politically motivated (lets get reelected) rhetoric.

The article "The aftermath" by Dan Kennedy, Media Nation; and his referenced link to "Muslims stung by terror claims" The Guardian, have good points.

When you boil these articles down, what remains is the Muslim World keeps a very long memory (centuries) and they do not trust anything that comes from the West. They will not accept that the West is not in a long campaign against Muslims, and in conjunction with the fanatic's belief in World domination of Islam, is their distrust of the West surprising? No, especially with what is happening in the Middle East as I type.

Our, the West's, job is to decide how we can moderate the Muslim's world-view. If at all possible. Right now, today, I am very pessimistic.

CLIMATE - Ice Sheets Melting Much Faster

"No Dice for Greenland Ice" by Phil Berardelli, ScienceNOW Daily News

Something ominous may be happening beneath Greenland's vast ice sheet. For nearly 50 years, the world's second largest ice cap has inched inexorably downhill toward the ocean, but at a stable rate. Now, the sheet seems to be melting and sliding seaward much faster, and the rate seems to be accelerating--a condition that could eventually endanger coastal populations and affect Earth's climate.

When glaciers begin to melt, water works its way down to the bottom of the ice. There it lubricates the glacier, which will pick up its downhill pace. Why worry? Greenland holds about 10% of the world's ice, so if it melts completely--though an unlikely prospect--it would raise global sea level about 6.5 meters. That's enough to flood all of the planet's coastal cities and displace billions of people.

POLITICS - Quack, Quack - GOP Lame-Duck Tries to Walk Again

It is well known that the GOP has never liked Social Security. That is why they've tried to scuttle this successful program ever since its inception. Well, they're at it again.

"Back From The Dead: Privatization" by Roger Hickey and Jeff Cruz, TomPaine

It is hard to believe, but the idea of privatizing Social Security, which most observers thought had been killed and buried, could return, Dracula-like, from the dead after the 2006 elections.

You won’t hear many candidates for Congress talking about their support for diverting Social Security taxes to fund private accounts—certainly not before the election if they can help it. But most Republicans quietly remain true believers. President Bush, his leading cabinet figures and key Republican leaders in both the House and Senate have been very clear about their plans to again push privatization—despite what the public backlash against Bush’s “big idea” did to them in 2005.

George W. Bush went from triumphantly re-elected president to lame duck status in perhaps the shortest time of any modern American president. It was not because of Iraq, which is currently dragging him down, but Social Security. Bush boldly declared in December 2004, even before his inauguration, that he would make the privatization of Social Security the “number one domestic priority” of his second term. He vowed to use all his “political capital” to pass this long-time plan of the right-wing movement to cut retirement benefits and channel a portion of Social Security taxes to individual retirement accounts invested in Wall Street.

Now, perhaps because of his lame-duck status, which gives him the freedom to do unpopular things, the president is vowing to try again. In a June 27 speech at the Manhattan Institute think tank, Bush promised to reintroduce privatization, saying, “If we can't get it done this year, I'm going to try next year. And if we can't get it done next year, I'm going to try the year after that because it is the right thing to do.”

He has backed up his words with actions, such as sending to Congress a budget request for $721 billion over the next 10 years to begin private accounts (unintentionally demonstrating the tremendous costs, estimated at $2 trillion in total, to our government to privatize the system).

The House leadership has similarly promised to bring Social Security privatization up in 2007. In July House Republican Majority leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, pledged to resume the push, saying “If I'm around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about this.” In June, the current chairman of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee and likely future chair of the full House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La, told reporters that he intended to put Social Security back on the legislative agenda in 2007.

All this is because the GOP sees Social Security as a socialized giveaway program. They believe that Americans should be self-reliant (aka "You're on your own") when it comes to retirement.

They forget, or do not believe, why the Social Security program came into being. So here's my history lesson:

  • Before Social Security, Americans were "self-reliant" for their retirement mostly through savings in banks. Then came the crash and their savings were gone, no money for retirement. Even the rich lost big-time. It was realized the government policy had a very big effect on the welfare of our citizens, and that government had a responsibility to ensure that citizens were not left destitute when policy failed to protect them.

Social Security is a safety-net. Privatizing Social Security puts American's retirement savings at risk again. Wall Street is not to be relied on, just look at the market at any given moment. For those who have relatively new 401k or IRA retirement plans, is your total investment in-the-black? My experience, and those of acquaintances, these plans are in-the-red for years. The GOP is just plain wrong on this issue, but the blind will not see.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

POLITICS - Middle East, Yet Another Call For Change

"The Guns Of August" by Richard Holbrooke, Washington Post

Two full-blown crises, in Lebanon and Iraq, are merging into a single emergency. A chain reaction could spread quickly almost anywhere between Cairo and Bombay. Turkey is talking openly of invading northern Iraq to deal with Kurdish terrorists based there. Syria could easily get pulled into the war in southern Lebanon. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are under pressure from jihadists to support Hezbollah, even though the governments in Cairo and Riyadh hate that organization. Afghanistan accuses Pakistan of giving shelter to al-Qaeda and the Taliban; there is constant fighting on both sides of that border. NATO's own war in Afghanistan is not going well. India talks of taking punitive action against Pakistan for allegedly being behind the Bombay bombings. Uzbekistan is a repressive dictatorship with a growing Islamic resistance.

The only beneficiaries of this chaos are Iran, Hezbollah, al-Qaeda and the Iraqi Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr, who last week held the largest anti-American, anti-Israel demonstration in the world in the very heart of Baghdad, even as 6,000 additional U.S. troops were rushing into the city to "prevent" a civil war that has already begun.

Under the universally accepted doctrine of self-defense, which is embodied in Article 51 of the U.N. Charter, there is no question that Israel has a legitimate right to take action against a group that has sworn to destroy it and had hidden some 13,000 missiles in southern Lebanon. In these circumstances, American support for Israel is essential, as it has been since the time of Truman; if Washington abandoned Jerusalem, the very existence of the Jewish state could be jeopardized, and the world crisis whose early phase we are now in would quickly get far worse. The United States must continue to make clear that it is ready to come to Israel's defense, both with American diplomacy and, as necessary, with military equipment.

But the United States must also understand, and deal with, the wider consequences of its own actions and public statements, which have caused an unprecedented decline in America's position in much of the world and are provoking dangerous new anti-American coalitions and encouraging a new generation of terrorists. American disengagement from active Middle East diplomacy since 2001 has led to greater violence and a decline in U.S. influence. Others have been eager to fill the vacuum. (Note the sudden emergence of France as a key player in the current burst of diplomacy.)

(bold emphasis is mine)

Yet another call for recognition that our current Middle East Policy (if you want to call it that) is exposing America to increased danger, not protecting us.

There is one paragraph I do have a problem with, the "accepted doctrine of self-defense." I believe that the unconditional support of everything Israel does in the name of self-defense is at the core of our wrong-headed policy to date. If we are true friends of Israel, we have to loudly decry Israeli policy when it is over reactive and does nothing but make the situation worse.

POLITICS - "Culture of Life" According to Bush & The GOP

"There's Gold in Them Thar Invalids" by Tom Harper

Medicare patients make good hostages. You’ve probably heard about this already, but maybe you weren’t aware of the extent of just how ruthless the Bush Administration will get when it comes to propping up the pharmaceutical industry.

U.S. Customs has been seizing packages of prescription drugs mailed from Canadian pharmacies to American patients. So far, about 40,000 of these packages have been confiscated. Do you understand what this means?? Forty thousand patients were waiting for their prescribed medication to arrive in the mail—and it never arrived.

And in all its decency, the government doesn’t even inform these patients when their prescribed medication has been confiscated. That means 40,000 people were thinking, “Thank God my blood- pressure medicine will be arriving tomorrow or the next day.” NOT!! Gotcha!!

How many lives have been endangered because somebody’s heart medicine never arrived? How many people have died from this? No deaths have been reported, but that might be because our lapdog “media” has been instructed to keep quiet about it.

Since patients aren’t informed when Big Brother confiscates steals their drugs, they presumably aren’t reimbursed for the cost either. Oh well, they didn’t need the money. Plus, they’re just old and in the way.

Whatever happened to that Culture of Life we keep hearing about?

No, no! You heard that wrong. It's "Culture of Greed" as in big-pharmaceuticals greed. It would be just awful to let ordinary citizens, including those on Medicare, steal from corporate pockets.

POLITICS - Is G.W. In Rehab Yet?

"A Higher Power: James Baker Puts Bush's Iraq Policy Into Rehab" by Robert Dreyfuss, The Washington Monthly

Amid the highly charged political infighting in Washington over what to do in Iraq, you might be excused for not noticing that a bipartisan commission quietly started work last spring with a mandate to help the Bush administration rethink its policy toward the war. Of course, anything labeled "bipartisan commission" seems almost guaranteed to be ignored by a highly partisan White House that is notoriously hostile to outside advice and famously devoted to "staying the course." But what makes this particular commission hard to dismiss is that it is led by perhaps the one man who might be able to break through the tight phalanx of senior officials who advise the president and filter his information. That person is the former secretary of state, Republican insider, and consigliere of the Bush family, James A. Baker III.

Since March, Baker, backed by a team of experienced national-security hands, has been busily at work trying to devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in - or, perhaps, to get the hell out of - Iraq. But as with all things involving James Baker, there's a deeper political agenda at work as well. "Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid a war at home - that things will fall apart not on the battlefield but at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a member of one of the commission's working groups told me. Specifically, he said, if the Democrats win back one or both houses of Congress in November, they would unleash a series of investigative hearings on Iraq, the war on terrorism, and civil liberties that could fatally weaken the administration and remove the last props of political support for the war, setting the stage for a potential Republican electoral disaster in 2008. "I guess there are people in the [Republican] party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."

The fact that Baker is involved has sent the Washington rumor mill buzzing with the theory that the commission is really a Trojan Horse for the views of Baker's friend and former boss, George H.W. Bush. It has been widely speculated that the former president never agreed with his son's decision to invade Iraq, and the son appears to have repaid that perceived dissent by largely refusing to reach out to his father for advice on national security, despite the elder Bush's knowledge and experience. In any case, for reasons that may be Oedipal or that may have to do with neoconservatives' disdain for realists associated with Bush 41, or both, Bush 43 has so far kept the 41 circle at arm's length - including Baker; his confrere Brent Scowcroft; and even, during his ill-fated tenure as secretary of state, Colin Powell. But with the situation in Iraq sliding towards irretrievable chaos, a moment of receptivity may have arrived.

...there's more

So, is the GOP going to push Bush to go into rehab, on his policies that is?

Then again, it could be that this Administration is "too far gone" for for rehabilitation. The American voter will decide soon, of course.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

POLITICS - GOP, The Same Old Sales Pitch

Yap. The GOP is at it again, beating the same ol' drum. WAR - WAR - WAR

"GOP Leaders Are Hoping to Turn the War Into a Winner" by Peter Wallsten, Los Angles Times

Some Republican candidates are distancing themselves from President Bush in fear of voter discontent with the war in Iraq. But a new GOP strategy memo argues that the war could prove to be an advantage for many Republican candidates, citing it as one of the most effective issues that will excite the party base in November.

The memo, based on a Republican National Committee poll of GOP voters and obtained by the Los Angeles Times, lists Bush's handling of "foreign threats" as the No. 1 motivator of the Republican base, specifically citing his leadership on Iraq.

"Large majorities report satisfaction with the president's commitment to defeat the terrorists in Iraq and his leadership in the war on terror, in general," according to the memo sent Wednesday to Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman from GOP pollster Fred Steeper.

The memo suggested that Republicans could motivate their base in the upcoming elections by talking about foreign threats and national security issues, including Iraq and the potential nuclear threat from Iran, and by drawing contrasts with Democrats in those areas. It said "a huge 87% of the base expresses extremely strong feelings" about national security issues.

The memo underscores the belief among top White House and GOP strategists that the war, despite the rising death toll and mounting public anxiety, could be the party's biggest advantage in the fight to retain control of Congress in the November elections.

Aha yes, the world according to Karl Rove. More death and destruction, even American deaths, is just the ticket to get reelected. Three cheers for the party of moral certitude! NOT

LEBANON - "Duh" Moment For Israeli Policy

"Support for Hezbollah strengthens with every bombed Beirut building" by Daniel McGrory, Times UK

AYYAD AMMAR moved among the rescuers clawing through the ruins of a Beirut apartment block yesterday morning, holding up a photograph of his 14-year-old grandson and asking if anyone had seen the boy.

Ahmed Kanj had gone to play computer war games in the internet café at the foot of the seven-story building minutes before an Israeli missile struck.

A fireman told the old man finally that he had found the teenager’s broken body at daybreak. Mr Ammar bowed his head and began to weep as the crowd around him swore vengeance against Israel for the massacre on Hajjaj Street. The walking wounded and families searching for missing relatives began chanting the name of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah leader, even though most who live here support Amal, a rival Shia group.

Diaa el-Husseini, 34, a market trader, who lived in the adjoining tower block, said: “We thought we were safe here so we stayed. We are not fighters. We are families who only want a peaceful life, but Israel wants to terrorize us all into leaving the southern suburbs of Beirut. Today we all feel part of the Hezbollah resistance.”

If Israel thought that by slowly strangling the life out of the Lebanese capital, by blockading it from land, sea and air, it would turn Christians against their Muslim neighbors it appears to have miscalculated. The tragedy on Hajjaj Street, which killed at least 31 and wounded 60, was Beirut’s single biggest loss of life since the war began, bringing the total to more than 1,000. It hardened the public mood. Even those in the Christian half of the capital, who were beginning to call for a ceasefire at any price, spoke yesterday of their disgust at what Israeli warplanes were doing to their city.

George Serrin, 42, a businessman, has no love for Sheikh Nasrallah and his militia, but said: “Of course I care for my family’s safety and want this war over now. But I am sickened at the needless ruination done to my city, our city.”

The blockades, fuel rationing, rising prices, power cuts and shortages in the shops affect all Beirut’s citizens.

There is a conviction shared by every community that Israel’s agenda is not solely to crush Hezbollah but to dismantle Lebanon, and particularly Beirut, just as the capital was starting to enjoy an economic and political renaissance.

...there's more

Duh! You bomb innocent citizens and ruin their country, what does Israel expect? A thank you?

Israel has always had a problem with the Arab/Muslim world since it's inception as a nation, but what they are doing today is only forcing more and more Muslims into the arms of "the enemy."

Israeli policy today is making the world see them, more and more, as the enemy of peace and as the Nazis of the Middle East.

Monday, August 07, 2006

POLITICS - A Dream Slowly Dies

"Death of the American Dream" by JERRY LANDAY , Capitol Hill Blue

It slowly dawns on Americans that their lives are changing. For more and more of us, "the American Dream," which we assumed as our birthright -- founded on infinite plenty, a bottomless cup of creature comforts, and fair rewards for hard work -- is fading.

The material components of the Dream were steady jobs, inexpensive mortgages and other credit, cheap gasoline, secure pensions, and flag-waving confidence in imperial America -- an invulnerable power, which could do no wrong.

But the deadly albatross of Iraq, gasoline at over $3 a gallon, weak growth in jobs and pay, by companies that won't share productivity gains with workers and do export their work to Asia, have produced the sharpest drop in consumer confidence since the recession of the early 1980s.

The Dream -- powerful, pervasive, energizing, defining -- has been the holy writ of the middle class. But today, ask the 20,000 union workers about the American Dream at bankrupt Delphi who face permanent layoffs, while thousands of others confront the prospect of pay cut in half. Or ask the thousands more union and salaried workers with jobs at risk at General Motors and Ford -- once the world's auto-and-truck leaders, now with 40 percent of their home market taken by Toyota and Honda. Or ask the retired guys who've been told by the company they served for decades that they're being stripped of their "assured" pensions and health benefits.

Those young home owners lured by cash-free adjustable-rate mortgages to buy homes beyond their means confront rising interest rates, corrosive debt, and possible foreclosure. With the real-estate market sagging, their home equity shrinks.

Adding insult to injury, the redistribution of our dwindling wealth under Bush widens the gap between the "wealth aristocracy" and the rest of us.

The American consumer economy is operating on two tiers. On top are the relative handful of CEOs and investment people, immune from assault. The Republicans' gratuitous tax cuts on investment income have significantly lowered the tax burden on the richest Americans _ earning more than $10 million _ by an average of about $500,000. Mr. Bush continues to press Congress to make permanent cuts for the privileged while the national deficit goes through the roof.

The rest of us are in a squeeze as inflation is driven by energy costs, medical care, and prescription drugs. Home-foreclosure rates are growing; they jumped an average 13 percent a month nationally at the end of 2005, with highs of 30 percent in Massachusetts, 61 percent in Texas, 70 percent in Arkansas, 145 percent in New Mexico, and 210 percent in West Virginia.

This fine article ends with the question....

"Will the great ideas that have animated America vanish with the retreat of the good life that came to define the American Dream? With what shall we replace them?"

Well, what do you think?

POLITICS - America's "Duh" Moment

"America's Duh Moment, Oil-a-garchy and what do you get?" by Alan Bisbort, Hartford Advocate

Here's the quiz: Look at the gas pump. Look at the nightly news. Look at the do-nothing administration. Do you see any connection between these things? This is one of those "duh" moments for Americans, when even the densest among us gets it, when the arms have grown weary from waving the flag and spirits sag at the sound of more substance-less political rhetoric. The heat is on, the money's gone and the rockets and bombs keep falling.

Last week marked the one-year anniversary of arguably the worst bill ever passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by a cheerleading president: The Energy Policy Act of 2005, giving oil, gas, coal and utility companies $14.5 billion in tax breaks at a time of record profits. Since that time, the average cost of a gallon of gas in the U.S. has risen from $2.14 to over $3.00, and the price of a barrel of crude oil has risen from $52 to over $70 in that same time. Some analysts see the price going to $85 by hurricane season.

Simultaneous to this anniversary -- celebrated, unironically, with an event at the White House -- were the announcements of second-quarter profits by several oil companies. Houston-based Conoco Phillips had a 65 percent rise in income, reaching $41.8 billion. So ridiculously usurious were their profits news reports dryly noted, "results far surpassed Wall Street expectations." Royal Dutch Shell's "earnings" jumped 40 percent with income of $83.1 billion. BP saw net profit rise 30 percent in the quarter (pure profit of $7.3 billion in three months). Chevron Corp. enjoyed the largest quarterly profit in its 127-year history, raking in $53.5 billion in revenues. Even so -- get out your hankies -- this gouging, according to the AP report, "let down Wall Street" as investors' "expectations have been raised by the oil industry´s recent run of eye-popping profit." Finally, Exxon-Mobil made more than $10 billion in profits for the quarter. Or, as my friend Nick Hancock said, "Putting it into perspective, Exxon earned $114 million per day in the second quarter. That's $79,000 per minute or $1,300 per second."

I´m not implying anything with these juxtapositions of facts. I´m stating it straight up: We are at war in the Middle East to increase oil company profits. Period. We are there to make Wall Street´s Gordon Gekkos, Texas´ oilmen and the sheiks of Araby happy.

Doesn't pull punches, does he.

POLITICS - View Form a Vet

"Dry-rot-phase U.S. soldiers won’t fight for Iraq" by Gil Mulley, The Coloradoan

(in full)

With more than 2,500 dead in Iraq, thousands wounded and no end to the conflict in sight, I suspect American troops are entering the dry-rot phase. This demoralized state of mind subverts individual initiative and unit cohesion. It’s a result of reality versus preconception: What soldiers or Marines expected to find in their combat experience is not consistent with reality.

Dry rot is insidious. You don’t even realize it’s happening to you. It’s the exhaustion, the heat, the bugs, the noise, the stink, the violence. It’s the stress of being a walking target. It’s being away from your wife, kids, family and friends. It’s also the futility of going through the motions, the lack of a believable cause to keep your belly fire burning.

Boredom’s a big part of dry rot. In Vietnam — my war — there was no movement. Everyone worked out of a base camp or fire base and skirmished with the enemy intermittently. There weren’t any crucial battles that led to victory; the enemy never gave up; there was no glorious flag raising like that on Iwo Jima in WWII. All the promises of glory and patriotic service proved hollow. Each day in Vietnam was just like the day before; combat action was intense, but brief and rare. It’s basically the same situation in Iraq.

The lofty talk by politicians and diplomats doesn’t translate well to GIs. As a dry-rot soldier, you do what you’re told to do but inside all you want is to go home; you have no real interest in fighting for Vietnam or Iraq. This is an ultimate truth that our political leaders don’t seem to understand: American soldiers don’t want to be mercenaries for anyone, but especially not for countries that don’t know about or support our way of life.

Believing that GIs will continue to give their all in these kinds of wars is the mistake previous commanders in chief have made and now President Bush is making. I and every one of my troopers will fight to the death anyone who attacks the United States, but don’t ask us to pretend that we care about Vietnam, Iraq or any other place that is just a piece of a muddled political puzzle.

Ultimately, dry-rot soldiers make decisions that dilute the military effort — usually nothing brazen, just little things, subtle things that a driven and determined enemy won’t do. Our troopers’ willingness to take risks and be the brave soldiers they could be is replaced by dry rot anxieties. The goal for dry-rot soldiers is to live and go home, not to be a martyr or to be the hero they once dreamed they could be.

The war in Iraq has gone beyond any rational justification for its existence. Our only reason for staying there now is to help make up for the mess our leaders created. American troopers know this. Continuing a war because politicians feel guilty about creating the war in the first place is not much of a motivator for a 21-year-old, dry-rot grunt on his third tour in hell. If our leaders had spent some time in hell themselves, they’d already know all of this.

What’s the solution? Be as decisive about getting out of Iraq as we were getting in. Set reasonable timetables (keep them secret, go public … whatever), get the troops out and put the onus on the Iraqis to solve their own problems. Anything else is just more muddling.

Gil Mulley lives in Livermore. He was a 1st lt., U.S. Army, fighting in Cu Chi, South Vietnam in 1969

I'm also a Vietnam Vet and totally agree.

OPINION : UK - "Green" Energy

"World must race to develop green energy, urges Rees" by Ian Sample, The Guardian UK

An urgent project on the scale of the Apollo moon landings is needed to boost research into green energy sources and save the planet from environmental disaster, according to Britain's top scientist.

Writing in the US journal Science today, Sir Martin Rees, president of Britain's most prestigious scientific institute, the Royal Society, expresses dismay at G8 leaders' "worrisome lack of determination" to accelerate development of new energy sources, given the expected 50% rise in the world's energy needs - and carbon dioxide emissions - in the next 25 years.

He warns that without an international, focused programme to develop alternatives to fossil fuels it will be impossible to keep greenhouse gas emissions low enough to prevent catastrophic climate change.

Calling for a programme with the single-minded commitment of the US Apollo programme, Professor Rees suggests an exploration of alternative energy sources with at least 10 times the $1.5bn a year funding that goes into researching nuclear fusion, a cleaner and safer alternative to conventional nuclear power.

"The Apollo project, like the Manhattan project, is an example where a goal was given a high priority and showed things can be done much more rapidly than would have happened in the normal course of events. The scale of funds needed is small in proportion to the scale of the problem and the trillions of dollars now being spent on energy," he said.

There's more.

Words of wisdom from abroad. Now, can we get Americans to listen and demand action? Also, pay for it.

I have been witness to may local issues that, according to polls and interviews, the "public" agrees something needs to be done and even what needs to be done. But when the "bill comes due" these very same people squawk "not with my increased tax dollar!"

POLITICS - GOP (Greedy Old Party) Minimum Wage Poison-Pill Trick

"House GOP teases the poorest workers" editorial, The Roanoke Times

It being an election year, politicians are playing politics. Yet the minimum wage bill passed by House Republicans last week is craven even by those standards.

The minimum wage has stagnated at a pitiful $5.15 per hour for a decade. At that rate, a full-time worker earns $10,700 in a year, barely a third of the $30,000 that the Economic Policy Institute figures a single parent needs to get by in Roanoke, for example.

The conventional wisdom is that minimum wage workers are mostly teens, but according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, only a quarter of minimum-wage workers are under 20.

An overwhelming majority of Americans agree with Democrats that an increase is past due. House Republicans, not wanting to face that furor with so many other issues energizing the electorate, therefore passed a ludicrous wage bill hoping for political cover in November.

The bill would increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour over three years, but at a ridiculously high price.

If Americans want better pay for the poorest workers, they must reward the nation’s wealthiest heirs by trimming inheritance taxes. The children of Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, would get millions. A single-mother tending tables at a chain eatery would get $2.10 an hour.

At least she would in Virginia. In some states, minimum wage workers who earn tips will actually receive a pay cut.

Under existing federal policy, restaurateurs may pay their servers less than the minimum because tips make up the difference.

Seven states, however, have outlawed that practice because customers leave tips not as part of the base salary but to augment it as reward for good service.

Note that the "the conventional wisdom" mentioned above is a GOP idea. I don't think those of us who live in the real world ever believed this lie. We have minimum wage neighbors, whole families, who live off minimum wage jobs and are not teenagers; not to mention college students trying to meet college costs.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

9/11 - The NORAD Tapes

"9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes" by MICHAEL BRONNER, Vanity Fair

The article above is very interesting, has transcripts and includes WAV files from the NORAD tapes.

Highly suggest reading.

THEY LIED - American Big Auto No-Can-Do

"Lick My Silent Sports Car, How much has Big Auto lied?" by Mark Morford, SF Gate

Oh my God do they ever lie.

All of them: Big Auto, Big Oil, BushCo, Pennzoil and Havoline and Saudi Arabia and crusty Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and the oil lobbyists and lackey scientists working for the Department of Energy and all the rest, on down the line and right up to your garage door.

Lie lie lie lie lie like evil little ratdogs because they are, after all, corporate greedmonkeys and war profiteers and duplicitous oil-sucking cretins (is that too polite?) who would eat their own mother's heart for a notable uptick in share/barrel price. Nevertheless, it's always a bit of a jolt when you see it all up close and personal and they basically rub it in your face.

Just look. Look over here. It's a new sports car. It's a new sports car that looks deliciously like a Lotus Elise and reportedly drives like Michael Schumacher's wet dream and goes from zero to 60 in about four seconds with so much torque and freakishly instantaneous power it makes the gods swoon.

This car, it has a top speed of 130 mph. It has a range of 250 miles. It also has GPS navigation and air-conditioning and air bags and it surely will come with a very badass sound system. It has heated seats and (I presume) iPod integration and Bluetooth. You know, just like a real car.

Oh, and by the way, this car? It's completely silent. It is 100-percent emissions-free. Doesn't even have a tailpipe. Because it has no internal combustion engine of any kind.

It's not a hybrid. It's pure electric, powered by a "3-phase, 4-pole AC induction motor," which I'm sure is rather impressive if you know what the hell it means. But it means one thing for certain: The only oil in this car is in the buffing fluid for the leather seats.

That's right, it's not a prototype. Not some eccentric inventor's crazy basement fantasy. It's a real car. Street legal, drivable, gorgeous, available soon. The Tesla guys have already earned their share of press, given how they managed to wrangle millions in backing from the Google boys (among others). Rumor has it that the Guvernator himself, after going for a test drive during last week's press day, has already placed his order for one of the little luxo speedsters, presumably to feed to his fleet of rabid Hummers.

Of course, it's not cheap, $80k.

It is the collusion between Big Auto and Big Oil that has been keeping this off our auto markets. They want their profits no matter how it hurts the rest of us.

Click the "a new sports car" above to link to Tesla Motors. Pay special attention to the specs page.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

POLITICS - Truth Strikes Home

"End of Days?" by Michael Hirsh, Newsweek

The Army’s budgetary squeeze raises questions about whether the United States can ‘stay the course’ in Iraq—even if Washington wants to.

Perhaps the most truthful moment about Iraq came recently when a U.S. official said nothing at all. This occurred when Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker was asked at a Capitol Hill luncheon in mid-July whether the United States was “winning” in Iraq. Several agonizing seconds passed before a grimacing Schoomaker finally replied: “I don’t think we’re losing.” One of the most eloquent pauses in recent memory, it gave voice to the U.S. military's most deep-seated fears not only about Iraq, but about America’s entire strategic position in the Mideast.

The general’s honesty has not made Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld happy, military officials tell NEWSWEEK. The temperamental Rumsfeld erupted at Schoomaker after the general revealed the Army’s lack of readiness in painful detail to the House Armed Services Committee. "I remain concerned about the serious demands we face," Schoomaker said in asking Congress for $17 billion in an emergency appropriation. The ranking Democrat member of that committee, Rep. Ike Skelton, cited Schoomaker’s blunt honesty in a letter he wrote to President Bush last week. “When I asked General Schoomaker in recent testimony if he was comfortable with the readiness level for the non-deployed units located within the continental United States, he simply answered no,” said Skelton. Equipment like tanks and Humvees are badly worn down after three years in the sand and heat, and the Army is cannibalizing units still based in the United States. It is also asking soldiers to prepare for third overseas deployments in a row, which many fear could trigger an exodus of professionals.

The Army’s budgetary squeeze raises questions about whether the United States can “stay the course” in Iraq even if it wants to. While the world has focused on Lebanon, Iraq has been sliding downhill fast. U.S. officials battling the counterinsurgency who were positive six months ago are now far more skeptical that the center can hold.

What's that cliché phrase about chickens and roosts?

ECONOMICS - Another Fine Example of Why "Trickle-Down" Economics is Good For America

"Panel: Offshore Tax Havens Cost Billions" by MARY DALRYMPLE (AP), Washington Post

Offshore tax havens hold trillions of dollars in assets and allow wealthy Americans to avoid paying $40 billion to $70 billion in taxes each year, a Senate panel said in a report being released Tuesday.

The investigative subcommittee of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee came to that conclusion after delving for more than a year into offshore tax evasion.

In one tax shelter, detailed in the investigators' lengthy report, $2 billion in capital gains were sheltered from taxation in an arrangement known as POINT, or Personally Optimized Investment Transaction, which took advantage of offshore secrecy.

Its promoters created the tax shelter by making billions of dollars in securities transactions to generate billions of dollars in capital losses, but the transactions were all fake, the investigators concluded.

They were nonetheless used by investors to offset their capital gains and erase taxes owed, and the government lost $300 million, the panel said. Promoters of the scheme told the investigators that the transactions were valid under U.S. tax laws.

The committee's report, prepared for a Tuesday hearing, describes offshore tax havens as a "black box" that allows wealthy Americans to hide money from taxation, regulation and law enforcement. They hide the money with the backing of "an armada of professionals," the report found.

Ah, yes. The money of the rich will "trickle down" to the rest of us lowly Americans. Yap, that's the way it works folks. One teensy weensy problem, if you don't know about their money.....

Oh, you can bet the GOP is going to be all over this, fast and furious.....
....protecting their contributor$ that is.

MIDDLE EAST - We Need Policies for a Real, Lasting Middle East Peace

"Stop the Band-Aid Treatment" by Jimmy Carter (in full)

08/01/06 Washington Post -- -- The Middle East is a tinderbox, with some key players on all sides waiting for every opportunity to destroy their enemies with bullets, bombs and missiles. One of the special vulnerabilities of Israel, and a repetitive cause of violence, is the holding of prisoners. Militant Palestinians and Lebanese know that a captured Israeli soldier or civilian is either a cause of conflict or a valuable bargaining chip for prisoner exchange. This assumption is based on a number of such trades, including 1,150 Arabs, mostly Palestinians, for three Israeli soldiers in 1985; 123 Lebanese for the remains of two Israeli soldiers in 1996; and 433 Palestinians and others for an Israeli businessman and the bodies of three soldiers in 2004.

This stratagem precipitated the renewed violence that erupted in June when Palestinians dug a tunnel under the barrier that surrounds Gaza and assaulted some Israeli soldiers, killing two and capturing one. They offered to exchange the soldier for the release of 95 women and 313 children who are among almost 10,000 Arabs in Israeli prisons, but this time Israel rejected a swap and attacked Gaza in an attempt to free the soldier and stop rocket fire into Israel. The resulting destruction brought reconciliation between warring Palestinian factions and support for them throughout the Arab world.

Hezbollah militants then killed three Israeli soldiers and captured two others, and insisted on Israel's withdrawal from disputed territory and an exchange for some of the several thousand incarcerated Lebanese. With American backing, Israeli bombs and missiles rained down on Lebanon. Hezbollah rockets from Syria and Iran struck northern Israel.

It is inarguable that Israel has a right to defend itself against attacks on its citizens, but it is inhumane and counterproductive to punish civilian populations in the illogical hope that somehow they will blame Hamas and Hezbollah for provoking the devastating response. The result instead has been that broad Arab and worldwide support has been rallied for these groups, while condemnation of both Israel and the United States has intensified.

Israel belatedly announced, but did not carry out, a two-day cessation in bombing Lebanon, responding to the global condemnation of an air attack on the Lebanese village of Qana, where 57 civilians were killed this past weekend and where 106 died from the same cause 10 years ago. As before there were expressions of "deep regret," a promise of "immediate investigation" and the explanation that dropped leaflets had warned families in the region to leave their homes. The urgent need in Lebanon is that Israeli attacks stop, the nation's regular military forces control the southern region, Hezbollah cease as a separate fighting force, and future attacks against Israel be prevented. Israel should withdraw from all Lebanese territory, including Shebaa Farms, and release the Lebanese prisoners. Yet yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a cease-fire.

These are ambitious hopes, but even if the U.N. Security Council adopts and implements a resolution that would lead to such an eventual solution, it will provide just another band-aid and temporary relief. Tragically, the current conflict is part of the inevitably repetitive cycle of violence that results from the absence of a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East, exacerbated by the almost unprecedented six-year absence of any real effort to achieve such a goal.

Leaders on both sides ignore strong majorities that crave peace, allowing extremist-led violence to preempt all opportunities for building a political consensus. Traumatized Israelis cling to the false hope that their lives will be made safer by incremental unilateral withdrawals from occupied areas, while Palestinians see their remnant territories reduced to little more than human dumping grounds surrounded by a provocative "security barrier" that embarrasses Israel's friends and that fails to bring safety or stability.

The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy and the international "road map" for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Except for mutually agreeable negotiated modifications, Israel's official pre-1967 borders must be honored. As were all previous administrations since the founding of Israel, U.S. government leaders must be in the forefront of achieving this long-delayed goal.

A major impediment to progress is Washington's strange policy that dialogue on controversial issues will be extended only as a reward for subservient behavior and will be withheld from those who reject U.S. assertions. Direct engagement with the Palestine Liberation Organization or the Palestinian Authority and the government in Damascus will be necessary if secure negotiated settlements are to be achieved. Failure to address the issues and leaders involved risks the creation of an arc of even greater instability running from Jerusalem through Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Tehran.

The people of the Middle East deserve peace and justice, and we in the international community owe them our strong leadership and support.

Former president Carter is the founder of the nonprofit Carter Center in Atlanta.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

"God bless the peace makers." Now all we need is for "someone" to listen.

ANTI-AMERICA - More on Corporate Abandonment of America

"U.S. Employers Look Offshore for Healthcare" by Daniel Yi, Los Angels Times

After going overseas to outsource everything from manufacturing to customer services, American businesses — pressed by rising healthcare costs — are looking offshore for medical benefits as well.

A growing number of employers that fund their own health insurance plans are looking into sending ailing employees abroad for surgeries that in the U.S. cost tens of thousands of dollars more.

Carl Garrett of Leicester, N.C., will fly to a state-of-the-art New Delhi hospital in September for surgeries to remove gallstones and to fix an overworn rotator cuff. His employer, Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc. of Canton, N.C., will pay for it all, including airfare for Garrett and his fiancee. The company also will give Garrett a share of the expected savings, up to $10,000, when he returns.

Garrett chose to go abroad rather than have the operations locally, where he would have paid thousands of dollars in deductibles and co-pays.

Blue Ridge, which employs 2,000 and funds its own health plan, began studying the idea out of frustration with rising rates at local hospitals, company officials said. Blue Ridge's healthcare costs have doubled in the last five years, to about $9,500 a year per employee.

"The hospitals have a monopoly. They don't care, because where else are patients going to go?" said benefits director Bonnie Blackley. "Well, we are going to go to India."

So, while the "Corporate Health Syndicate" (health equipment + drug companies + health insurance + healthcare) keep pumping up their prices in the name of profits, other corporate interests abandon America in the name of profits. And we are supposed to believe this is better for America and the American people?

For the "good" of America we need to limit what the Corporate Health Syndicate charges so American people can afford health care and services; and provide jobs for American doctors and nurses, and other Americans employed in health care related industry. In America, not in another country.

POLITICS - A Hometown View, Iraq

George Bush is sleeping just fine. Here is the problem. Bush is a narcissistic megalomaniac. So, in effect, his mouth may be saying "I am sorry people are dying," but his diseased mind is telling him, "No.. people are not dying. People can't be dying! This is my perfect solution. In my solution people don't die!"

Sadly, what brought him to this state is his childhood dream of pleasing his father. George feels if he acts like a war time president as his father was in the Gulf War, that pleases his father. It is a disorder.

Now, as for Bush's handlers that have concocted this horrid mess, they simply saw a shallow minded child that they could manipulate. What is worse, the handlers knew they could step away, no worse for wear, if it all when wrong -- leaving the child, George Bush, to take the blame.

Sadly, the voters allowed themselves to be scared into invading Iraq in the first place. Americans were frightened by rumors of further attacks like 9/eleven. Better than 9 people in 10 supported Bush when he first went into Iraq. Everyone looked at the 2003 invasion of Iraq as another 100-day war like the Gulf war. It would be over quickly. Even Rumsfeld suggested that on Nov. 15, 2002.

Sadly, the voters didn't wise up until much later. But it was too late. Congress, bought and sold by big money defense contractors, just keeps shoveling money at the Iraq conflict. Proof: Halliburton after tax profits in 2004 only $375 million, after tax profits in 2005 $2,225 million, ( $2.2 billion). Halliburton's profits are up 600%. Bush's handlers know this and are happy to see the war in Iraq continue. They are getting rich off the blood of American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi citizens, including little children.

We have a mentally ill child in the Whitehouse.

Brian David Smith, San Diego, California

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MIDDLE EAST - View From Lebanon

"Bitterness grows in Lebanese resort city Hezbollah support, anger at U.S. rises with Israeli attacks" by Christopher Allbritton, Chronicle Foreign Service
(07-28) 04:00 PDT Tyre, Lebanon

Mustafa Shalaan's last trip out to sea occurred two days before Israel launched its war against Hezbollah.

The catch wasn't good, he said, and he hasn't been out since. He says he has no idea how he will earn a living or stay safe while the conflict rages.

"Safe?" asked the 65-year-old fisherman, gesturing helplessly as Israeli helicopter gunships cruised the coast and surveillance drones buzzed overhead. "God is the only safety. There is no safety here."

Shalaan's tale of present losses and future uncertainty is one repeated in Tyre and across Lebanon after two weeks of Israeli attacks. While some residents have settled in for what could be a long siege, many others have fled.

Much of this once-bustling seaside resort town of 120,000 is deserted. Rusting corrugated steel gates shutter storefronts. What traffic there is on the streets consists mostly of ambulances and cars with the letters TV taped on them. Every now and then a pocket of normalcy emerges -- children playing soccer on the beach or a family smoking water pipes in front of their home.

Mayor Abdel-Mohsen el-Husseini, estimates that about 30,000 residents remain in the city. Another 15,000 people, he said, have sought refuge from Israeli attacks in other areas. On Wednesday, the first U.N. convoy rolled in with 90 tons of wheat flour and much needed medicine. Khalid Mansour, the U.N. spokesman in Lebanon who wore a bulletproof vest to ride with the shipment, said the food would be sufficient for 20,000 people and last only a week.

"Those who want to stay, can stay -- and starve," said el-Husseini.

He said the aerial bombings have caused a sharp rise in anger against the United States. "It's very simple, really," he said. "Most of these bombs falling on our heads and the jets dropping them are American made."

So bitter is Tyre's 70-year-old mayor over the war that he even refused aid from the U.S. Embassy this week.

"From the U.S. government, I will not take," he said after a U.S. official called to offer help. "Even if they came all the way down from Beirut, I would not take it."

But there has been a corresponding rise in support for Hezbollah in Tyre and across Lebanon -- even among groups that previously have opposed the Islamic group. According to a survey by the Beirut Center for Research and Information conducted this week, 87 percent said they support Hezbollah in its fight against Israel.

Ghassan Farran, a physician whose home was destroyed by Israeli bombs Wednesday, shook his fist at reporters as he stood among the charred rubble.

"I was not with Hezbollah, but now I am," he said. "I will fight for Hezbollah. I will fight (Bush)! I will fight him every time, every day."

There is more....

POLITICS - Growing Up

"We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy — from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses — that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high."

Frances Moore Lappé, "Time for Progressives to Grow Up"

POLITICS - Another GOP Senator's Opinion on Iraq

"Hagel calls Iraq 'replay of Vietnam'" by JAKE THOMPSON, Omaha World-Herald
(NOTE: Link may require free subscription to read full article)

Calling conditions in Iraq "an absolute replay of Vietnam," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said Friday that the Pentagon is making a mistake by beefing up American forces in Iraq.

U.S. soldiers have become "easy targets" in a country that has descended into "absolute anarchy," the Nebraska Republican and Vietnam combat veteran said in an interview with The World-Herald.

He said that in the previous 48 hours, he had received three telephone calls from four-star generals who were "beside themselves" over the Pentagon's reversal of plans to bring tens of thousands of soldiers home this fall.

Instead, top Pentagon officials are suspending military rotations and adding troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has estimated that the buildup will increase the number of U.S. troops from about 130,000 to 135,000.

"That isn't going to do any good. It's going to have a worse effect," Hagel said. "They're destroying the United States Army."

Hagel previously has likened the war in Iraq to Vietnam, but Friday's comments drew a stronger connection.

They followed a speech on the Middle East that Hagel delivered at the Brookings Institution.

To an audience of several hundred scholars and diplomats, he called the Pentagon's troop decision a "dramatic setback" for the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

"America is bogged down in Iraq, and this is limiting our diplomatic and military options," said Hagel, a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has often criticized the Bush administration on Iraq.

Iraq is an absolute replay of Vietnam, no doubt.

America, our solders, are now in the middle of a civil war in Iraq, no matter what the Administration thinks. This is an exact match to Vietnam even if some details are different. One of those details is in Iraq you have various groups fighting each other, and not North vs. South armies, but this makes no difference to Iraqis nor to America. The results are the same, many deaths on all sides, American prestige and reputation are greatly damaged for decades. As for the Middle East, our reputation is already beyond recovery and has been for years.