Tuesday, July 31, 2007

BIG BUSINESS - How They "Really Care" About Employees

Here's another example of why we have government regulations of business in America, as a reminder to GOP Anti-Regulators.

"Teens at Work" by Joseph Contreras, Newsweek

Thousands of adolescents work as unpaid baggers in Wal-Mart’s Mexican stores. The retail giant isn’t breaking any laws—but that doesn’t mean the government is happy with the practice.

Now, is there any doubt that Wal-Mart would do the same thing here in USofA if they could get away with it? You can bet they would!

MIDDLE EAST - Inside Gaza Commentary

Here's are some EXCERPTS from an interesting commentary from the inside. Inside Gaza:

"A Hawk's Tale" by Kevin Peraino, Newsweek

As U.S. plans to sell arms to Saudi Arabia make waves in the Middle East, NEWSWEEK’s Kevin Peraino visits a Gaza arms dealer.

July 30, 2007 - It is not a fact that he particularly likes to advertise, but, if pressed, Abdel Hamid Bahar will acknowledge that his business is at its best when people are dying. Last Sunday I went to see the black-market arms dealer at his home, a squat, dilapidated structure made of cinderblocks and tin sheeting, in the central Gaza village of Moghraga. We sat on pink plastic chairs in the shade, next to a slightly sickly garden with a couple of banana plants and a slender olive tree. The weapons merchant's business varies widely, of course, depending on how much fighting is going on. Last summer, when Gaza was at war with Israel after the kidnapping of Gilad Schalit, Bahar was pulling in almost $3,000 per month, more than most Gazans earn in a year. How is business now, I asked, with Hamas in power and the streets relatively calm? "Zero," the gun dealer complained, without bothering to hide his frustration.


Bahar grew up in Gaza's Bourej refugee camp, and eventually moved to Moghraga, a poor farming village of about 5,000. He married when he was 16 and got a job as a construction worker with his father in Israel for a while. Later he earned a living as a taxi driver and auto mechanic. During the first intifada he fought against Israel as a militant in the Tanzim, the Fatah-affiliated militia. Still, despite his youthful loyalties, it is bad business for an arms dealer to be taking sides; he says he now sells to both Hamas and Fatah. One of his kids had scrawled the word HAMAS in black spray paint on the side of the house. "I started my business in order to feed my children," he told me. As the rivalry between Hamas and Fatah intensified last spring, "all the factions began to buy weapons."

I (Kevin Peraino) had come to see Bahar because arms sales were the talk of the Middle East over the weekend. On Friday the Bush administration said it would like to sell Saudi Arabia and its regional allies billions of dollars worth of sophisticated weaponry. Washington has also promised Israel –which, in a sign of its concern about Iran possibly obtaining nuclear weapons, has dropped its traditional objections to U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia—another $30.4 billion in weaponry. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates were set to tour the region this week to help work out the details of the proposal. Israel also promised to allow 1,000 M-16s to pass from Jordan to Palestinian Authority security forces in the West Bank—an effort to prop up the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.

Against that backdrop, it seemed like a good idea to visit one of the trade's real-world practitioners. In the news stories about American support for proxies in the region, the recipients of such weaponry are usually described as "moderate," while their antagonists are inevitably "radical." Those are cartoon descriptions, of course, and are often carelessly applied. In the four years since I've been working in the Middle East, I've met plenty of radical American proxies, and just as many moderate "radicals." The labels "Islamist" and "secular" don't reveal all that much about character either, although they're slightly better than "terrorist" and "stooge." If I were forced to divide and classify the Gazans I meet, I'd say they tend to be better described as hawks and doves, and there are both of those in all camps. Bahar, the arms dealer, is one of the former by trade.

Bold emphasis, mine


The frustrating, inconvenient thing about all this is that, when you meet the people up close, it is often the hawks who seem the most shrewd and competent, at least tactically. They sometimes appear a little paranoid, but in the unforgiving Middle East they are also often the most determined survivors, the ones you would want on your side in a street fight.

REAL DANGER - One Step Away From American Dictatorship

Until recently I thought that the danger of America becoming a dictatorship was a small, almost to the vanishing point, danger. A danger to Constitutional protection of our Individual Rights.

As of now, I wonder if we are one step away from dictatorship by any President. Here's why:

On September 30, 2006, the Congress modified the Insurrection Act as part of the 2007 Defense Authorization Bill. Section 1076 of the new law changes Sec. 333 of the "Insurrection Act," and widens the President's ability to deploy troops within the United States to enforce the laws. Under this act, the President may also deploy troops as a police force during a natural disaster, epidemic, serious public health emergency, terrorist attack, or other condition, when the President determines that the authorities of the state are incapable of maintaining public order. The bill also modified Sec. 334 of the Insurrection Act, giving the President authority to order the dispersal of either insurgents or "those obstructing the enforcement of the laws." The new law changed the name of the chapter from "Insurrection" to "Enforcement of the Laws to Restore Public Order."

The 2007 Defense Authorization Bill, with over $500 billion allocated to the military, and which also contained the changes to the Insurrection Act of 1807, was passed by a bipartisan majority of both houses of Congress: 398-23 in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate.[1] In order for military forces to be used under the provisions of the revised Insurrection Act, the following conditions must be met:

(1) The President may employ the armed forces, including the National Guard in Federal service, to--

(A) restore public order and enforce the laws of the United States when, as a result of a natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition in any State or possession of the United States, the President determines that--

(i) domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order; and

(ii) such violence results in a condition described in paragraph (2); or

(B) suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy if such insurrection, violation, combination, or conspiracy results in a condition described in paragraph (2).

(2) A condition described in this paragraph is a condition that--

(A) so hinders the execution of the laws of a State or possession, as applicable, and of the United States within that State or possession, that any part or class of its people is deprived of a right, privilege, immunity, or protection named in the Constitution and secured by law, and the constituted authorities of that State or possession are unable, fail, or refuse to protect that right, privilege, or immunity, or to give that protection; or

(B) opposes or obstructs the execution of the laws of the United States or impedes the course of justice under those laws.

Note, this article includes charts comparing the old/new law.

The problem with these amended laws it that any President makes the determination if they apply without consulting or approval of Congress or the courts.

There is no provision to ensure that a future President does not abuse these statutes. There are no checks-and-balances.

I do pay attention to world history, and this type of power is what every crack-pot dictator has used to suspend the people's rights. In many cases, once they have the power, they disband the legislature and courts. Look at the history of some of the South American dictators of the past.

We will loose our Constitutional Rights if any President, on his/her own interpretation, enacts the provision of these statutes as they stand today. All such a President need do is to say we are under attack, or people protesting the Administration are in insurrection.

Monday, July 30, 2007

POLITICS - Gonzoland Sinking In the Waves of Deceit

"Conservatives Refuse To Appear On Fox News To Publicly Defend Gonzales" by Matt, Think Progress

On Fox News Sunday this morning, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) refused to defend Attorney General Alberto Gonzales against accusations that he may have perjured himself before Congress. “It’s very damaging…we badly need an attorney general who is above any question,” said Gingrich. He continued:
  • Both the president and country are better served if the attorney general is a figure of competence. Sadly, the current attorney general is not seen as any of those things. I think it’s a liability for the president. More importantly, it’s a liability for the United States of America.

Later in the show, host Chris Wallace revealed that no conservative would willingly defend Gonzales on Fox. “By the way, we invited White House officials and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to defend Attorney General Gonzales,” said Wallace. “We had no takers.”

The efforts of right-wingers to distance themselves from Gonzales have reached a fever pitch in the wake of his disastrous Senate testimony last week.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), appearing on ABC’s This Week, said “of course” Gonzales has a credibility problem. On MSNBC’s Hardball on Friday, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT), the ranking member of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law, squirmed when asked by host Chris Matthews if he thought Gonzales “is a good attorney general?” Cannon refused to answer the question, offering instead, “He’s a good guy.”

National Review Online’s Jonah Goldberg, a reliable partisan defender of the Bush administration, admitted on Thursday that the evidence against Gonzales is compelling. “I think Gonzales has long, long, long outserved whatever usefulness he might once have had,” wrote Goldberg. “And — hey — maybe he actually did perjure himself.”

If Solicitor General Paul Clement fails to appoint a special counsel to look into Gonzales’ “words and deeds,” the New York Times writes today, “Congress should impeach Mr. Gonzales.”

The full article contains a video of the Gingrich interview.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

POLITICS - Lurking Danger to Our Constitution

There is a classic modus operandi used by dictators around the world, the suspension of constitutional rights/law by a declaration of Martial Law, putting the dictator in full charge with the protection of military might. Well, in America, we have......

"Bush's Martial Law Plan Is So Shocking, Even Congress Can't See it" by Paul Joseph Watson, Prison Planet

President Bush's post-terror attack martial law plan is so shocking that even sitting members of Congress and Homeland Security officials are barred from viewing it, another example of executive ├╝ber allies and a chilling portent of what is to come as constant reminders of the inevitability of terror attacks reverberate.

Congressman Peter DeFazio (D - OR) was asked by his constituents to see what was contained within the classified portion of the White House's plan for operating the government after a terrorist attack.

Since DeFazio also sits on the Homeland Security Committee and has clearance to view classified material, the request would have appeared to be routine, but the Congressman was unceremoniously denied all access to view the documents, and the White House wouldn't even give an excuse as to why he was barred.

"I just can't believe they're going to deny a member of Congress the right of reviewing how they plan to conduct the government of the United States after a significant terrorist attack," DeFazio told the Oregonian on Friday.

"We're talking about the continuity of the government of the United States of America," DeFazio says. "I would think that would be relevant to any member of Congress, let alone a member of the Homeland Security Committee."

"Maybe the people who think there's a conspiracy out there are right," DeFazio concluded.

The article also quotes Norm Ornstein, a legal scholar who studies government continuity at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, who told the paper he "cannot think of one good reason" to deny access to a member of Congress who serves on the Homeland Security Committee.

The only plausible reason DeFazio was barred access to the documents is that the plans for a post-terror attack continuity of government scenario are so abhorrent that to reveal their true nature would cause a public outcry and lead to a major repeal of what is contained in the documents.

What we already about Bush's recent spate of executive orders, and in particular PDD 51, is bad enough - the provisions outline preparations for the implementation of open martial law in the event of a declared national emergency.

New legislation signed on May 9, 2007, declares that in the event of a "catastrophic event", the President can take total control over the government and the country, bypassing all other levels of government at the state, federal, local, territorial and tribal levels, and thus ensuring total unprecedented dictatorial power.

It is important to understand that, although these powers have been on the books for previous presidents, Bush is the first to openly brag of the fact that he will utilize them and officially become the supreme emperor of the United States in the aftermath of a catastrophe that the government itself has said will happen on innumerable occasions.

According to columnist and author Jerome Corsi, the power grab assures that "The president can declare to the office of the presidency powers usually assumed by dictators to direct any and all government and business activities until the emergency is declared over."

Also in May, it was reported that a high-level group of government and military officials has been quietly preparing an emergency survival program named "The Day After," which would effectively end civil liberties and implement a system of martial law in the event of a catastrophic attack on a U.S. city.

Last year we also exposed the existence of a nationwide FEMA program which is training Pastors and other religious representatives to become secret police enforcers who teach their congregations to "obey the government" in preparation for a declaration of martial law, property and firearm seizures, and forced relocation.

The documents that Congressman DeFazio was blocked from seeing likely interlock with both these programs and detail the overarching agenda to effectively nullify what's left of the U.S. Constitution and firmly ensconce George W. Bush as a supreme dictator.

Only by putting enough pressure on the media and in turn the White House to be transparent about what the secret martial law provisions are can we lead an effort to repeal them before the next terror attack, whether real or manufactured, takes place.

Bold emphasis mine

POLITICS - So Called "Patriot" Act

"Patriot Abuse" by Janet Nocek, Countant

Was Gagged By The Patriot Act While The Attorney General Was Free To Tell Falsehoods About It.

When the USA Patriot Act was being reauthorized in 2005, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales claimed that not one single abuse of the "national security letters" provision had been reported.

It must be his poor memory that caused Mr. Gonzales to tell Congress that no abuse had been reported. What else would explain why he did not mention the reports that described abuses and mismanagement of NSLs - which we now discover were in his possession before his testimony?

I was one of four library colleagues who challenged an NSL in the courts around the time of its reauthorization. We were under a gag order because of the nondisclosure provision of the NSL section of the Patriot Act. This happened even though a judge with high-level security clearance had declared that there was no risk in identifying us as recipients of an NSL.

We were therefore not allowed to testify to Congress about our experience with the letters - which seek information, without court review, on people like library users.

It is more than irksome to now discover that the attorney general was giving Congress false information - at the same time that we recipients of NSLs were not allowed to express our concerns. My colleagues and I were lucky to have our gag order lifted eventually, with the help of lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, after the federal District Court found constitutional problems with that section of the Patriot Act. Unfortunately, we were prohibited from speaking to the public - or even to our U.S. senators and representatives - until after the Patriot Act was reauthorized.

A gag order is very difficult to deal with. A person cannot tell her family or friends she has received a demand from the government to turn in information on another person. Whether you agree with the security-letter provision or not, receiving such a letter is an emotionally wrenching experience.

And if the government requires you to compromise your professional and personal ethics, it can be an intensely disturbing experience. You feel like a character in an Orwellian book. You feel trapped in a world that others like you may inhabit, but you cannot reach outside of that world to find out.

Reportedly hundreds of thousands of security letters have been sent out. The recipients remain gagged and can never speak about their experience, under threat of a five-year prison sentence. They can never describe the scope and nature of the information they give to the FBI.

Therefore, it is laughable to assume that no abuse has been made of the security-letter provision. The secrecy under which the provision is administered guarantees a lack of oversight.

I don't believe the FBI is to blame for its reported mismanagement of NSLs. The Patriot Act does not effectively address court and congressional oversight. It follows that abuse and mismanagement are practically a given.

Janet Nocek is director of the Portland library and a member of the Executive Board of Library Connection, a Greater Hartford library consortium that received a national security letter in June 2005.

Fellow Americans, Orwell's book "1984" is not fiction. It is here, now, in America and other nations.

Surveillance cameras on city streets, gag orders without oversight to prevent abuse, electronic surveillance on your phone calls (no matter what the NSA claims), and more. And we seem to accept this as "protecting" us from dangers. This is the classic excuse of every totalitarian government in history, North Korea being a prime example.

All potential, if not real, abuses of government power aggressively protected by a Administration who does not believe in oversight; an Imperial Administration that believes it answers to no one.

Monday, July 23, 2007

IRAQ - Really is the GPO War

"The Republican War" by Charley Reese, LewRockwell

It is now clear that the proper name for the war going on in Mesopotamia is the "Republican War." Never before has a political party so decisively asserted ownership of a foreign war.

The Republicans refuse to share it with the Democrats, who, despite their many resolutions, have yet to call for a complete withdrawal of American forces. Democrats have not come close to proposing to cut off the war funding, which is the only way the war can be ended.

Yet Republicans act like jealous suitors and seem to want to keep the war as their very own. They have killed every single proposal to alter the strategy or the tactics. They even killed a bill that would have done nothing more than guarantee that American soldiers would get a rest period at home equal to the time spent in the war.

Killing that bill, which had nothing to do with withdrawal or timetables for withdrawal, clearly proves that Republicans do not support the troops. They support the war. There is a huge difference. Little Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina, has become so possessive of the war that he seems on the edge of hysteria.

He seems frightened to death of what will happen when Americans leave. In fact, nothing much will happen except that Iraqis will concentrate on killing each other rather than killing Americans and each other. Most normal people would consider that a positive development for us.

The Republicans and their shrinking number of warmonger supporters have long since forgotten that the Republican War is an illegal war, a war of aggression launched against a country that had not attacked us or ever threatened to attack us. They have conveniently forgotten how the Republican War was sold to the American people with outright lies. They ignore the fact that the war was bungled from Day One and that ordinary Americans have paid a terrible price for those blunders.

If ever there were a valid reason to shed the label "Republican," the nutty administration and its war-loving allies in the House and Senate have provided it. They seem to have lost their collective minds. They know darn well what their general du jour, David Petraeus, is going to say in September: "Gosh, fellows, things are looking up, but give us another five years. Or maybe 10."

That would be insanity to the third power. The Iraqis are killing us on the cheap with secondhand AK-47s, rifle grenades and homemade bombs created out of old artillery shells. We are using the most expensive weapons in the world, wielded by the most expensive army in the world, to kill them by the small handful. I don't know what the insurgency has cost, but the Republican War has cost us half a trillion dollars, and all we have to show for it are 3,600 graves, several thousand wounded, a civil war and a corrupt, ineffective civilian government. The Iraqi supply line stretches around the corner; ours stretches 7,000 miles. The Iraqis know what their mission is; our soldiers don't have the foggiest notion of why they are still there.

Even to put the best face on it, we replaced a dictatorship and allowed the Iraqis free elections and time to adopt a constitution. At that point, the president should have said: "We've done our part. Now you're on your own. Goodbye." But no, he didn't do that, because his intention is for the Republican War to never end and for our troops to become a permanent part of the Iraqi landscape.

George W. Bush is by no means the first Westerner to make a fool of himself by overestimating his powers and underestimating the determination of the people of the Middle East to rid themselves of foreign conquerors.

POLITICS - More Rants About Bush & the GOP

"Just One Question for the GOP ..." by Nance Gregg, Democratic Underground

As we head into the 2008 elections, I have but one question for the powers-that-be in the Republican party: What the f*ck were you thinking?

When you praised Bush’s tax cuts way back when, and talked endlessly about how they would strengthen the economy, did you not think that John. Q. Middleclass would eventually realize that his share of the pie didn’t even come close to covering what he would be paying at the pump, no less the constant rise in the cost of living under Bush’s regime? Did you not think he would come to realize that what trickled-down his way smelled more like piss than money? Did you not think he’d figure out that you had lied to him?

When you supported programs like No Child Left Behind, did you not think that tens of millions of American parents would notice that their kids aren’t getting an education, but are merely being taught to rattle off test answers by rote – without any understanding of what the questions mean? Did you not think those parents were going to catch on sooner or later, and know that you had lied to them?

When you touted the incredible success of the war in Iraq, did you not think that the pure puff stories about how well things were going would be completely undone by the stories told by returning soldiers? Did you not think that a zillion upbeat, totally-fabricated MSM ‘good news’ items wouldn’t hold water when Minnie-down-the-street’s-son returned from his third tour of combat and started telling the neighborhood what was really going on? Did you not think that people in neighborhoods all over America would hear the truth, and know that you lied to them?

When you held yourselves out as the party that Supports the Troops, did you not think that gutting their pensions, extending their tours, refusing them appropriate rest periods away from the war zone, and denying disability claims for combat-related injuries was going to be perceived as a little less than actual support – and be something that would come back to bite you in the ass? Did you not think that those who really support the troops would come to the conclusion that you were lying yet again?

When you accused those who wanted our troops out of Iraq of being unpatriotic, did you not think that when the majority of the country eventually agreed with that sentiment, your constituents who now hold that opinion might take offense at having been labeled cut-and-run traitors, and probably won’t vote for your party again until hell freezes over?

When you thumped your chests as the great defenders of the country when you invaded Iraq, did you not think that when the inevitable outcome became apparent, i.e. that terrorism is on the rise as a result of your president’s policies, you’d be collectively up shit’s creek?

When you bragged endlessly about the wisdom of fighting ‘em over there so we wouldn’t have to fight ‘em over here, did you not think that every time this administration raised the specter of yet another possible attack in the US – which they have done every time their poll numbers drop – that might lead the country to believe you’re talking out of both sides of your lying mouths?

When you repeatedly placed the GOP on the moral values pedestal, did you not think that once the Foleys, the Allens, the Vitters (and the rest to be named at a later date) were eventually exposed, the Fundie crowd would abandon you faster than you can say “Jesus Wept”? Did you not think that this group would be especially turned-off by being lied to?

When the madman you’d placed in the White House issued signing statements, refused to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, pushed torture as an American policy, and engaged in illegal activities like warrantless wiretapping, did you not think that failing to speak up and exercise your obligations of oversight might lead the voters to believe you’re a bunch of spineless yes-men – you know, the kind of people nobody wants running their country?

When your idiot of a president acted like a clown in public, especially at international meetings of import, did you not think that the phrase ”the Republican party will bring dignity back to politics” would sound like the punchline to a really bad joke – the kind of joke that people with common sense don’t find the least bit funny?

When you went on and on and on about being the party of fiscal responsibility, did you not think a national debt of unprecedented proportions might get noticed? Did you not think that the constant cutting of every program from highway maintenance to food inspection would catch the attention of the average working stiff?

When your president and his administration started denying access to the minutes of every meeting, the testimony of every government employee, and every scrap of paper ever produced during their entire time in office, did you not think the citizenry might come to the conclusion that these people are a bunch of corrupt crooks out to cover their own tracks?

When you insisted on clinging to the president’s disastrous stay the course until we win in Iraq strategy while you give it some more thought between now and September, did you not think the voters would be keeping count of how many are being wounded or killed while you’re mulling things over?

So I’ll pose the question again: What the f*ck were you thinking? – even though the answer is all too obvious. You weren’t f*cking thinking at all. And now the whole country knows it – other than that 26% who, at the present rate, will be down to 2% by the time we go to the polls next November.

To blatantly lie to the American people about anything is bad enough. But when you lie to them about things they are undoubtedly going to find out you’ve been lying about, they get really pissed-off. They tend to think you’ve been treating them like dumbasses who are too stupid to catch on. That leads to people getting riled, getting mouthy, getting fired-up enough to go to the polls and teach the liars a lesson they won’t soon forget.

Well, all is not lost. You can still campaign on the Bush made the country safer thing – because he did. Thanks to his disastrous tenure in office, and his party members’ unwavering support of his every idiotic policy, the country is safe from having a Republican president elected to office for many, many, many years to come.

As they say, behind every dark cloud created by lyin’, theivin’, too-smart-for-their-own-good Republicans, there’s a silver lining.

As always, good luck in ’08!

May I add, "good luck America in ’08"

"Expanding claim of executive authority, White House official tells paper staff can't be charged" by John Byrne, Raw Story

A senior Bush Administration official unveiled a new strategy in Friday's Washington Post -- anonymously -- to combat Democrats in Congress who are clamoring to file contempt charges against officials who refuse to talk about the firings of nine US prosecutors.

A senior Bush Administration official unveiled a new strategy in Friday's Washington Post -- anonymously -- to combat Democrats in Congress who are clamoring to file contempt charges against officials who refuse to talk about the firings of nine US prosecutors.

In sum, this strategy amounts to, "once we say no, we can't be charged."

Ironically, President Bush's new legal argument hinges on whether one of his own US prosecutors can file charges against his staff.

According to the Post, "Administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts."

"A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case," a senior official told the Post, which granted the official anonymity because 'he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.' "And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen."

Under law, a contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to Washington, D.C. US attorney, who then brings the charge to a grand jury.

"It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys," the anonymous Bush official added.

George Mason University professor of public policy Mark J. Rozell called the administration's stance "astonishing" in the article.

"That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers," Rozell told the reporter. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."

The White House did not inform Democrats of the plan, which the Post called a "bold new assertion of executive authority."

Reached for comment, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told the paper it was "an outrageous abuse of executive privilege" and said: "The White House must stop stonewalling and start being accountable to Congress and the American people. No one, including the president, is above the law."

Another example of the Bush Administration's pledge in 2000 to run the honest and open Administration actually means. His Administration is "honest and open" except where they need to protect their collective ass.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

AMERICA - Other Views on Issues

"Review: Deer Hunting With Jesus" by Bob Morris, Politics in the Zeros

Joe Bageant grew up redneck in Winchester Virginia, escaped to the city, became a “godless commie,” moved back thirty years later, and wrote this book about it.

It’s subtitled “Dispatches from America’s Class War.” He looks at the people that he grew up with, and most are in debt way beyond their means, have serious health problems, and have been grinding away for 30-40 years at a no-future job that pays next to nothing. The redneck class helped put George Bush in the White House, but have gotten screwed to the walls by the Republicans and elites all their lives. So how, Bageant asks, did this happen?

Because the Democratic Party stopped caring about them, that’s why. That left a void the Republican Party promptly filled. Yes Virginia, there was a time the Democratic Party stood for the working class, for minorities and the poor, for unions, but those days are long gone. Bageant thinks the Democrats cluelessly and stupidly stopped trying to appeal to poor whites. Me, I think it was quite deliberate. But the result was the same.

If progressives want to organize among rednecks and hillbillies, first off and most important Bageant says, get a clue about guns. Try to understand that guns have been part of that culture for, oh, 250 years, that accidents are rare because they respect and are careful with guns, and that gun ownership is Constitutionally guaranteed.

Besides -

  • With Micheal Savage and Ann Coulter openly calling for liberals to be put in concentration camps, with the CIA now licensed to secretly detain American citizens indefinitely, and with the current administration effectively legalizing torture, the proper question to ask an NRA member may be, “What kind of assault rifle do you think I can get for three hundred bucks, and how many rounds of ammo does it take to stop a two-hundred-pound born-again Homeland Security zombie from putting me in a camp?” Which would you prefer, 40 million gun-owning Americans on your side or theirs?

Think about it, progressives.

Much of the book is character sketches of real people. He describes their often grueling lives, endless low-paid work, simmering anger, and uses that to show how badly they are exploited. Mortgage rackets leave them indebted beyond their means with a doublewide that loses half its value the day after the papers are signed. Lack of adequate health insurance means medical bills are often ruinous. Substandard education insures that most are illiterate or close to it. They are the serfs who do crap jobs for the rest of us.

They are also Joe Bageant’s people. His politics are way different, but he understands them, and they are his friends, his cousins, his brother, the people he grew up with. He can explain them to those of us on the outside.

  • Whatever you think of the leash girl of Abu Ghraib, Lynndie England never had a chance. Abu Ghraib, or maybe something even worse (an RPG up the shorts for instance) was always her destiny.
  • Money is always the best whip to use on the laboring classes. Thirteen hundred a month, a signing bonus, and free room and board sure beats the hell out of yanking guts through a chicken’s ass.

To get real change in this country will require a mass movement. It’s happened in other countries, it can happen here. The Left would gain many supporters and some serious clues by doing outreach to poor whites, and by listening to what they have to say.

Hello? Democrats, are you listening?

"Homebuilder CEO says subprime regulation needed" by Bob Morris, Politics in the Zeros

  • “I think there ought to be regulation of subprime. I think there ought to be regulation of prime. I don’t think that the economy is best left to its own devices almost ever. The excesses that are permitted in the mortgage industry can and perhaps have led us into a dark hole.”

    - Robert Toll, Chief Executive of Toll Brothers

He sounds downright socialist, doesn’t he, saying capitalism shouldn’t be left to its own devices, eh?

Those two Bear Stearns hedge funds that invested in subprime are now virtually worthless. Golly, wasn’t it just a few weeks ago the talking heads of the financial world were assuring us everything was fine? Maybe they were trying to buy time to find a way to sell the toxic mortgage bundles they own.

Financial cancer spreading through the credit markets: subprime not contained, says SeekingAlpha, one of the best financial sites around. All mortgages, and their associated bonds, are feeling the pain now, not just subprime. This also negatively impacts credit markets too.

One big problem the hedge funds face is redemptions. When nervous investors decide to pull out their funds, the funds have to sell their quality stuff to raise the money. They literally can’t sell the mortgage bonds because a) many are worthless and b) there’s no way to determine what to price them at. Thus they are forced to sell the good stuff and end up with a portfolio of garbage. We are talking hundreds of billions of dollars here, maybe trillions.

Well, finally, someone in big-business that realizes government regulation is not really anti-business. It's just protection from greedy practices that hurt EVERYON. Subprime was just a gimmick of the get-rich-quick, greed driven, people.

IRAQ - NIE Threat Estimate 7/2007

"Bush's Osama Problem" by Dan Froomkin, Washington Post 7/18/2007

Nearly six years after President Bush pledged to capture him "dead or alive," Osama bin Laden is not only still at large, but he and his al-Qaeda organization have apparently benefited greatly from Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

That's not just me saying so. It's the inevitable conclusion from the declassified summary of a White House intelligence report released to great fanfare yesterday.

It turns out that bin Laden and his al-Qaeda leadership are safely ensconced in Pakistan. They're still trying to attack us. And the U.S. occupation of Iraq has provided them with a potent rallying cry, recruiting tool and training ground they would not have had otherwise.

The White House has time and again used the specter of al-Qaeda to cow Capitol Hill into doing its bidding. Similarly, Bush and his aides have lately gone to great lengths to conflate the multifaceted insurgency in Iraq with al-Qaeda. After all, when it's Bush vs. al-Qaeda, how many Americans will side with al-Qaeda?

The report's release shot al-Qaeda back into the headlines. But this time, the al-Qaeda stories have a potentially devastating twist for the administration: As it turns out, Bush's policies may have helped bin Laden more than they've hurt him.

The Analysis

Michael Abramowitz writes in The Washington Post: "The White House faced fresh political peril yesterday in the form of a new intelligence assessment that raised sharp questions about the success of its counterterrorism strategy and judgment in making Iraq the focus of that effort.

"Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush has been able to deflect criticism of his counterterrorism policy by repeatedly noting the absence of any new domestic attacks and by citing the continuing threat that terrorists in Iraq pose to U.S. interests.

"But this line of defense seemed to unravel a bit yesterday with the release of a new National Intelligence Estimate that concludes that al-Qaeda 'has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability' by reestablishing a haven in Pakistan and reconstituting its top leadership. The report also notes that al-Qaeda has been able 'to recruit and indoctrinate operatives, including for Homeland attacks,' by associating itself with an Iraqi subsidiary.

"These disclosures triggered a new round of criticism from Democrats and others who say that the administration took its eye off the ball by invading Iraq without first destroying Osama bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan."

Abramowitz also notes that "Al-Qaeda's participation in the Iraqi violence has figured particularly heavily in recent administration arguments for a continued U.S. troop presence there, because White House strategists regard it as a politically salable reason for staying and continuing to fight."

But, he writes: "Some terrorism analysts say Bush has used inflated rhetoric to depict al-Qaeda in Iraq as part of the same group of extremists that attacked the United States on Sept. 11 -- noting that the group did not exist until after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. These analysts say Bush also has overlooked the contribution that U.S. actions have made to the growth of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has been described as kind of a franchise of the main al-Qaeda network headed by bin Laden."

Abramowitz quotes former CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar as saying: "Iraq matters because it has become a cause celebre and because groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq and al-Qaeda central exploit the image of the United States being out to occupy Muslim lands."

This is from just page 1 of 5

The bottom line is Bush's invasion of Iraq MADE it a haven for terrorists and fulfilled Osama bin Laden's prophecy, made long before 9/11, that "a Christian nation will invade a Muslim country for oil."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

POLITICS - Senator to Rove, Hello? Is Anybody Out There?

Is anybody out there?
Is anybody listening to my prayer?
Is anybody out there?
If you can hear me please take me out of here
Is anybody out there?

"Is Anybody Out There," by Billy Gilman

"GOP senator to Rove: Bush legacy on the line in Iraq" Ed Henry & Dana Bash, CNN

A Republican senator says he warned top White House aide Karl Rove that President Bush quickly needs to craft a workable plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq in order to salvage his legacy.

White House spokesman Tony Snow insisted last week that Bush’s GOP allies in Congress are not breaking with Bush over the war. But Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, told CNN that he warned Rove last week that “The president is a young man and should think about his legacy.”

He should know history will not be kind unless he can come up with a plan that protects the troops and stabilizes the region,” Voinovich said he told Karl Rove, whom Bush dubbed “the architect” of his 2004 re-election.

Voinovich added that other Republicans are close to speaking out against the President’s current strategy

“I won’t mention anyone’s name. But I have every reason to believe that the fur is going to start to fly, perhaps sooner than what they may have wanted.”

In private, Voinovich is more blunt, using a profanity to describe the White House’s handling of Iraq by charging the administration “f—ed up” the war.

Voinovich stressed he expressed his views to Rove as a positive “opportunity” for the president to come together with Democrats and Republicans on an exit strategy that will be good for the country.

A White House spokeswoman confirmed to CNN that Rove, who speaks with Voinovich frequently, had the phone conversation with the senator last week and they did discuss the President’s legacy. But the spokeswoman declined to provide further details, citing Rove’s desire to keep phone conversations with senators private.

“I got into this to get them to move, and they’re moving,” said Voinovich, who is pushing for the president to put together a workable plan for withdrawing U.S. troops that will be ready in time for a September progress report on the military surge from Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

“I really think that they understand,” said Voinovich. “We’ll see by September what they put together. But the main thing is were running out of time — we should take advantage of this time.”

And while Voinovich is giving the White House some breathing space until September to receive the progress report from Gen. Petraeus, the senator is privately warning if there’s not a dramatic new strategy ready to be unveiled in the fall, he will endorse a Democratic plan mandating a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq within 120 days.

In June, Voinovich urged Bush to take a new tack in Iraq — one he dubbed “Plan E,” for exit. Voinovich called for a decrease in U.S. military engagement, coupled with a “surge” in diplomatic engagement.

His break with the White House came one day after another senior Republican, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, delivered a dramatic Senate floor speech declaring the president’s current strategy was not working.

Since then, Voinovich said he has spoken to both Rove and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and is expressing some satisfaction that in the short term, the White House has heard his concerns.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

POLITICS - Dumber Voodoo Economics

After the Dumb Voodoo Economics of the Reagan era, we have (TA-DA) Dumber Voodoo Economics of the G.W. Bush era.

"Voodoo Economics Jr." editorial, Daytona Beach News-Journal

There was a lot of gloating out of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on Wednesday. President Bush was talking up the state of the economy and the budget at midyear, and predicting a budget deficit of about $200 billion by year's end, down from $248 billion last year, and a surplus of $33 billion in 2012. "The policies of low taxes and spending restraint have produced a clear and measurable record of success," he said. "You can't argue with what I'm telling you. These are the facts."

Well, they're his facts, anyway. You can argue with what he's telling you, because some of his facts are wrong, and some are smokescreens. Bush is among the wildest-spending presidents in the history of the nation. Discretionary spending -- that is, spending unrelated to mandatory spending out of his control, like Social Security and Medicare -- increased 57 percent in just five years on his watch, and counting. It took Ronald Reagan, the previous big spender who always preached fiscal discipline, eight years to increase discretionary spending by 59 percent. (Spending increased 14 percent in Bill Clinton's eight years.)

Bush is taking credit for reducing the deficit. But that's like a thief stealing the Mona Lisa, then trudging back to the Louvre in triumph five years later and saying, "Here's half the painting, anyway. Now call me a hero." Bush came to office after Bill Clinton spent the previous eight years cleaning up the budget mess and deficits left by Reagan and Bush's father. Clinton inherited a $290 billion deficit. He handed Bush a $236 billion surplus, which Bush promptly turned into record-breaking deficits again thanks to reckless and unneeded tax cuts that overwhelmingly favored the rich. "During the time when we cut taxes to today," he said, "our economy has grown by more than $1.9 trillion. This amount is larger than the entire economy of Canada."

Actually, if the deficit ends at "only" $200 billion this year, that'll bring the combined deficits of the Bush years to a staggering $1.6 trillion, also an amount larger than the entire economy of Canada. The more telling number is the growth in the federal debt: $3.1 trillion during the Bush years alone. That's more than the entire economy of China -- an appropriate comparison, considering how much Bush has compromised the American economy's fundamental soundness now that foreign governments like China own so much of Americans' public debt.

Yes, the economy grew in the last five years, adding more than 8 million jobs. But consumers and government powered the economy on an unprecedented borrowing-and-spending binge, helped in good part by a real estate bubble manufactured by Federal Reserve policy. The bubble has burst. Debts define the colossus that is the American economy. There's little to no wiggle room should the economy take a downturn. "That's how the economy works," Bush said. "When you've got more money in your pockets to save, spend or invest, this causes the economy to grow."

That's assuming that the money in your pocket is yours to spend. A national debt approaching $9 trillion, or 70 percent of the size of the economy, says the money isn't quite yours, while the economy is growing literally on borrowed time.

Monday, July 16, 2007

COURT SYSTEM - Catch-22 Decision

"Court overturns challenge to warrantless wiretapping" by Jaimeson Champion, Workers World

In a 2-1 vote, a three-judge panel on the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati ruled that the plaintiffs—a coalition of groups and organizations including the ACLU, The Council on American Muslim Relations, and a host of scholars and activists—did not have sufficient evidence proving they had been targets of the government’s wiretapping program, and therefore, had no legal standing to sue in court.

Typical, a Catch-22 decision.

"Plaintiffs did not have sufficient evidence proving they had been targets of the governments wiretapping program, and therefore, had no legal standing to sue in court."

You don't have "standing" because you cannot provide evidence, which you cannot get because of secrecy that prevents you from getting the evidence.

Our so-called justice system at work... NOT!

OUR RIGHTS - More Proof of Religious Nazism

"University investigates threatening e-mails condemning evolution" by Jerrrey Wolf, 9 News Colorado

University of Colorado police are investigating threatening e-mails with anti-evolution messages sent to biology professors at the Boulder campus.

Police Commander Brad Wiesley says the e-mails claim be from a religious group but investigators don't know whether more than one person was behind them.

He said the e-mails were considered threatening and made reference to killing people who back evolutionary theory. He said they didn't contain any specific threat against any individuals.

"The people that are worried in biology are certainly concerned. I mean it's not every day they're threatened by somebody who doesn't agree with the work that they're doing and so there's heightened concern," said Wiesley.

Some professors had been receiving critical e-mails for more than a year, but the tone became more threatening last week and they reported them to police.

Then, last weekend, someone slid anti-evolution materials under the doors of offices and laboratories of the building housing the ecology and evolutionary biology department.

"We just try and keep a cool nerve and basically not try and take any action ourselves, just report it to the department heads or security," said Michael Robeson, a CU graduate student.

"Christian Right Activists Disrupt Hindu Chaplain In The Senate" by Eric Kleefeld, TPM Cafe

Today was a historic first for religion in America's civic life: For the very first time, a Hindu delivered the morning invocation in the Senate chamber — only to find the ceremony disrupted by three Christian right activists.

The three protesters, who all belong to the Christian Right anti-abortion group Operation Save America, and who apparently traveled to Washington all the way from North Carolina, interrupted by loudly asking for God's forgiveness for allowing the false prayer of a Hindu in the Senate chamber.

"Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer of the wicked, which is an abomination in your sight," the first protester began.

"This is an abomination," he continued. "We shall have no other gods before You."

Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), serving as the presiding officer for the morning, immediately ordered them taken away — though they continued to yell at the Hindu cleric as they were headed out the door, shouting out phrases such as, "No Lord but Jesus Christ!" and "There's only one true God!"

The cleric, Rajan Zed of Reno, Nevada, was visibly nervous and uncomfortable as he then delivered the morning prayer. But to his credit, he soon regained his footing and was able to make it through in a dignified fashion.

For their part, Operation Save America put out an interesting press release, claiming responsibility for the protests and castigating Senators for not joining in:

  • Theology Moved to the Senate and was Arrested

  • Theology has moved from the church house onto the floor of the United States Senate, and has been arrested.

  • Ante Pavkovic, Kathy Pavkovic, and Kristen Sugar were all arrested in the chambers of the United States Senate as that chamber was violated by a false Hindu god. The Senate was opened with a Hindu prayer placing the false god of Hinduism on a level playing field with the One True God, Jesus Christ. This would never have been allowed by our Founding Fathers.

  • "Not one Senator had the backbone to stand as our Founding Fathers stood. They stood on the Gospel of Jesus Christ! There were three in the audience with the courage to stand and proclaim, 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' They were immediately removed from the chambers, arrested, and are in jail now. God bless those who stand for Jesus as we know that He stands for them." Rev. Flip Benham, Director, Operation Save America/Operation Rescue.

Typical rantings of those who cannot clime to believe in our Constitutional protected right to freedom of religion. That religious practice is an individual's right, not a right of any group to use the government to impose their beliefs on others.

They are, NO MATTER WHAT THEY CLAIM, supporting a Taliban-style government, but based on their fundamentalist Christian beliefs.

IRAQ - Definitions of our "Mission"

"The Ever Changing Definition of ‘Mission’ In Iraq" by Jordan Grossman, Think Progress

In June 2005, ThinkProgress noted the Bush was constantly revising the definition of our “mission” in Iraq.

Reporting on his escalation strategy this week, President Bush claimed “satisfactory” progress in many areas of the “new mission” in Iraq. Bush has changed the definition of our “mission” in Iraq so many times, he has made it impossible for the American public, U.S. forces, and the Iraqi population to have any confidence that the mission will be ever completed.

  • Bush: “Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.” [3/6/03]

  • Bush: “Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” [3/22/03]

  • Bush: “Our forces have been given a clear mission: to end a regime that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction and to free a people that had suffered far too long.” [4/14/03]

  • Bush: “On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: Their mission is complete, and major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” [5/3/03]

  • Bush: “The United States and our allies will complete our mission in Iraq.” [7/30/03]

  • Bush: “That has been our mission all along, to develop the conditions such that a free Iraq will emerge, run by the Iraqi citizens.” [11/4/03]

  • Bush: “We will see that Iraq is free and self-governing and democratic. We will accomplish our mission.” [5/4/04]

  • Bush: “And our mission is clear there, as well, and that is to train the Iraqis so they can do the fighting; make sure they can stand up to defend their freedoms, which they want to do.” [6/2/05]

  • Bush: “We’re making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves. And we will — we will complete this mission for the sake of world peace.” [6/20/05]

  • Bush: “We will stay as long as necessary to complete the mission. … Advancing the ideal of democracy and self-government is the mission that created our nation — and now it is the calling of a new generation of Americans.” [11/30/05]

  • Bush: “In the coming days, there will be considerable reflection on the removal of Saddam Hussein from power and our remaining mission in Iraq…By helping the Iraqi people build a free and representative government, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven to plan attacks against America.” [3/11/06]

My insert: Let us not forget the fact that our invasion of Iraq acted as a magnet for terrorists around the world.

  • Bush: “We will finish the mission. By defeating the terrorists in Iraq, we will bring greater security to our own country. And when victory is achieved, our troops will return home with the honor they have earned.” [3/18/06]

  • Bush: “In fact, we have a new strategy with a new mission: helping secure the population, especially in Baghdad. Our plan puts Iraqis in the lead.” [1/13/07]

  • Bush: “[I]t’s the combination of providing security in neighborhoods through these joint security stations, and training that is the current mission we’re going through, with a heavy emphasis on security in Baghdad.” [4/10/07]

  • Bush: “It’s a new mission. And David Petraeus is in Iraq carrying it out. Its goal is to help the Iraqis make progress toward reconciliation — to build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against the extremists in this war.” [6/28/07]

POLITICS - GOP, Last Throes?

"In the Last Throes, Juiciously" by David Michael Green, CounterPunch 7/13/2007

  • David Labowitz, an insurance salesman here [Narberth, Pennsylvania], said he voted for Mr. Bush in 2004 and was eager for the next election to come along so he could rectify what he called his mistake. "I am a registered Republican," Mr. Labowitz said, "but I am so embarrassed to be a registered Republican." (New York Times, July 9, 2007)

Imagine a burning building, with the people inside scrambling to find the exits.

Now imagine that building located on the deck of a large ship, isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, riddled with gaping holes and sinking fast.

Keep that image in your mind, and add to it the tsunami that is fast approaching the ship's location.

It will get there soon, but not before the Enola Gay, which is buzzing overhead with a special delivery item in its payload.

Got that picture in your mind? Welcome to the Republican Party, July 2007.

Or, the "Grand Old Party", as our regressive friends like to call it. Old? Sure --as old as greed itself. Party? Well, there ain't a lot of celebrating going on in its vicinity, but if you mean a congregation of ever-narrowing numbers of people aggregated around certain political ideas, however ridiculous they may be, well then, sure, this is a party. But grand? Only in the scale of its current mess.

If you've got any political antennae at all, any sensitivity to the moods and trends of American politics, you can't help but conclude that it is all collapsing fast, and with it as well many of the multiple enablers who have assisted in bringing us this ugliest of disasters these last years. It's all coming apart now, bursting its tawdry seams, and doing so not only with a tremendous rapidity, but with even a tremendous increase in the rate of rapidity.

What a week it has been.

The most obvious signs of implosion, of course, are the Republicans in Congress who, one after another, are now ditching the president with sunrise-like regularity. It seemed like there was hardly a day this week when one or two more didn't abandon the sinking ship of Bush's Iraq catastrophe. Or should we say that you are "cutting and running", my dear GOP friends? Should we now question your patriotism? Should we note that many of you are up for reelection next year and, having seen what happened last go-round, are now "playing politics with national security"?

If we were Karl Rove, George Bush or Dick Cheney, we would say those things, of course. If we were garden variety regressive fellow-travelers --much like, well ... you, actually --we would. If we were your attack dogs, like O'Reilly and Limbaugh, we most certainly would. But we needn't do any of those things, because you folks have spoken for yourselves. You backed an insanely incompetent buffoon for president, little distinguishable from Caligula other than by the suit and tie where the toga once resided. You supported his administration's every move even when you saw that it catered to the worst possible instincts of our country, and that it represented the very antithesis of American constitutional government. You stood by or piled on as its agents berated, vilified and destroyed any and every true patriot who showed the greatest courage by expressing the slightest objection to these toxic policies.

Now that you are seeking rescue from the burning building on the aforementioned sinking ship awaiting the fire of the gods to be quenched only by the great exhalation of Poseidon himself, you should count yourself lucky --Mr. Voinovich, Mr. Lugar, Mr. Domenici, Mr. Alexander, Ms. Snowe --if your too-little-too-late-mealy-mouthed-half-baked attempts to undo the tragedy you helped create in Iraq results only in the loss of your seats in Congress. How will you face the mothers of those who have lost so much more --who have lost everything --for your astonishing lapse in judgement, at best, and your raw political opportunism at (probable) worst, my proud Republican friends?

One by one, two by two, they bailed this week, so that sometimes it seemed that the only Republican senator who didn't jump ship was that good old patriot, John McCain. I guess McCain must be a religious true believer, because after Bush and Rove sicced the sickest dogs on him in 2000, he's done nothing since but love his former enemy. Indeed, so great is McCain's Christian embrace of George Bush that he seems to have even adopted the latter's delusional personality out of sympathy. The only week McCain's presidential campaign has ever had that was worse than this week was last week. The guy has a whopping two whole million dollars left in the bank, hasn't bought a single ad with the tens of millions already wasted on a caviar campaign, is slipping in the Republican polls behind a pro-choice guy with a lisp and another guy from Massachusetts, can no longer raise contributions for the campaign, and therefore had to lay off more than half his national staff. Then, on top of all that, this week he loses his two top operatives through what appears to have been a civil war going on inside the campaign. We can't quite tell who quit whom, but either way, McCain's bid for the White House nowadays looks rather more like an episode of ER than a presidential campaign.

There is much more in the full article.

This is a good summary of why I left the GOP back in 2000.

I really did agonize over my affiliation with the GOP in 2000, but I realized two things:

  1. The GOP of 2000, and after, was not the party I joined when I entered the Navy in 1995

  2. The only reason I joined the GOP was by default. It was the party my parents belonged to and was popular within the military.

Non-military people need to realize that #2 is the real reason that many military members are statically GOP. When you're in the military you are more likely to join the GOP as "default" because of the propaganda that the GOP is "pro-military." You tend to not examine the history of the GOP, and their voting record, to assess if they are actually "pro-military." I believe this is also true for many Americans, military or civilian, Republican or Democrat.

In my case, the bottom line is, the GOP is not the party I thought I joined in 1995. Upon reviewing the GOP platforms and voting records, I now realize that the GOP was never the party I thought it was.

This is food-for-thought for anyone, regarding political party affiliation, today and a caution to young people who have not yet joined a political party. All Americans should be looking closely at ANY PARTY'S RECORD before committing.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

AMERICA - Just What Are Our Ideals?

"American Ideals" by Jim Wallis, Huffington Post 7/5/2007

I spent the week of the Fourth of July speaking about religion and public life at the Aspen Ideas Festival. On Independence Day, there was a panel called "What Does America Stand for Today?" Various panelists extolled the American virtues of liberty, equality, justice, and equal opportunity. Another praised the fact that we are a nation of immigrants and have been an "open society" (despite the recent defeat of immigration reform). An evening panel, which included Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, discussed how important it is to be a nation that accepts the rule of law and that has a Constitution designed to always expand democracy and extend inclusion.

But when one panelist in the first discussion said that the question of "what America stands for" looks very different from inside the United States than from outside, you could see and feel people starting to bristle. From outside our borders in the rest of the world, he suggested, they don't speak of U.S. liberty and justice but rather of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. Another pointed out that American inequality is now greater than any time since the Gilded Age, and everybody talked about the horrible mistake of Iraq. When the suggestion was made that perhaps pride in our ideals sometimes leads us to the sin of hubris, to preaching more than listening, and ultimately to multilateral action in the world that proves disastrous, things got tense. And when he suggested more American humility--well, let's just say we had some early Fourth of July fireworks right there on the stage.

There's more in the full article

We, all Americans, need to decide this issue for ourselves. And if you are very concerned about where America is heading, we should be doing something to correct our course.

POLITICS - More Rats Leave Captain Bush's Sinking Ship

"Another GOP Senator breaks with Bush on Iraq" by Joe Sudbay, America Blog 7/5/2007

New Mexico's Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, publicly broke with George Bush over Iraq today. He wants a new strategy immediately. Like Dick Lugar who broke with Bush last week, Domenici is one of the Republican old-timers:

  • U.S. Senator Pete Domenici Thursday joined a growing chorus of Republicans who are calling for a change in course in U.S. military strategy in Iraq sooner rather than later.

  • The New Mexico Republican says he supports a bipartisan Senate bill that would create conditions that could allow for a drawdown of U.S. combat forces in Iraq by next March.

  • Domenici says he does not want to wait until September, when military commanders are to give an assessment. He says things are getting worse, not better, in Iraq.

Bush wants to push back the September time-frame. He'll never make the right decisions about Iraq. Never has, never will. Now, even Republicans are saying enough.

Just yesterday, Bush was playing politics with the Iraq war again according to The Hill:

  • President Bush Wednesday used his Independence Day speech to take a thinly veiled swipe at Democratic leaders, saying withdrawing troops from Iraq based on politics “would not be in our national interest.”

That's an interesting spin because Democrats have been trying to force a new policy, while Bush continues to engage in politics. That's been the whole strategy of the Bush administration for year. Politics over policy. But, the GOPers on the Hill are suffering the political consequences so, increasingly, Bush's Iraq problem is with members of his own party.

My own conclusion is that Bush is brain-dead. He's not getting the message even when being hit over the head by a 2x4 wielded by his own party.

Then again, this is just more of Bush's my-way-or-no-way attitude.

POLITICS - Scooter Libby & Bush

"Editorial: Loyalty, not legality, honored at the White House" Shreveport Times

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..."

Declaration of Independence
signed July 4, 1776

Too often in the course of human events the Bush administration presents Americans and the world a perplexing view of the institutional health of this 231-year-old experiment in self-government.

The president's jail

sentence commutation for White House aide Scooter Libby arrives just in time to inject a dose of cynicism into what Americans prefer to keep as a day of celebration and optimism for a great nation. But we find that White House staffers apparently are more equal than the rest of us who might be convicted of obstructing justice in a leak involving the CIA.

But what else can we expect from an administration where Libby's benefactor, the vice president, asserts he is not part of the executive branch?

Already under a cloud for replacing competent U.S. attorneys in order to influence the political landscape, the president now shows he is ready to short-circuit the justice system on the back end by deciding a federal judge — one of Bush's first judicial appointments as president — didn't get Libby's sentencing right.

There's more in the article

This is just one of many editorials/comments on this issue, but the theme is the same. We have a president that promised to bring to justice anyone who was involved in the Valery Plane case. From his actions, loyalty to his Administration trumps his promise. Lying to a Grand Jury and all other charges Libby was CONVICTED for are not applicable. Fellow Americans, heed this example of Bush "ethics." And this dim-wit seems not to see this is an example of why his stats are in the toilet, then again, he may not care what the American people think.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

HEALTHCARE - Big Pharmas Running Scared

"Is Your Doctor Tied to Drug Makers?" Editorial, New York Times

It’s no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry is appalled at proposals to set up a national registry of its gifts and payments to doctors. Too much information might lead patients to suspect that their doctors are choosing costly medicines out of gratitude to the manufacturers rather than for the best medical or economic interests of their patients.

That's just the first paragraph in the full editorial.

Does the technique sound familiar? "Gifts" being use to influence decisions, in this case doctors?

Try Lobbyist giving politicians "gifts." The technique is the same, a way influence decisions made by politicians in making laws.

Big Business, Pharma or others, does not want the public to know what they are doing in the background. They want a shroud so the man-on-the-street cannot be aware that what their doctor or politician is doing may not be in their individual best interest.

"'SiCKO' Truth Squad Sets CNN Straight"

The above link is to Michael Moore's rebuttal to the misinformation of CNN's The Situation Room broadcast of 7/8/2007 (video link to show included).

It's a perfect example of bending the facts to make the American healthcare consumer accept the big-business (GOP) healthcare run programs.

Monday, July 02, 2007

POLITICS - Elephant Looks in the Mirror

"Poll: ‘The Elephant Looks in the Mirror 10 Years Later’ Updates Republicans’ View of Themselves" by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review

In 1997, GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio released “The Elephant Looks in the Mirror,” a report on an extensive survey of the Republican Party. Now he has released results of a similar poll, “The Elephant Looks in the Mirror 10 Years Later.”

For Democrats, the most interesting trend is the GOP’s age demographics, which have skewed dramatically older over the decade. The percentage of Republicans age 55 and older grew from 28 percent in 1997 to 41 percent now, while the number of 18- to 37-year-olds dropped from 25 percent to 17 percent. A Republican analyst finds this to be alarming:

  • This is not good news [says the GOP analyst]. We already know that we are struggling with younger voters. These results … point out just how old our base is shifting. This probably represents several things including, aging of the people involved in the conservative backlash to the 60s, losing the younger generation due to the war, and the dying, frankly, of the New Dealers.

There's more in the full article

POLITICS - Washington's "Believe It or Not"

"How A $2M Contract Cost Taxpayers $124M" by Joel Roberts, The Skinny on CBS News

How does a $2 million project end up costing the government $124 million? Just ask the Department of Homeland Security.

It all started in May 2003, according to a front-page story in the Washington Post, when the newly created department awarded a no-bid contract to consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton to help it get its intelligence operation up and running.

Payments to the firm, one of the country's biggest government contractors, soared by millions of dollars a month, the Post says, reaching $30 million, or 15 times the contract's original value, by December 2004. At that point, DHS lawyers warned that the deal had gone "grossly beyond" estimates and advised the department to end the contract and allow other companies to bid for the work.

But it was more than a year before any competitive bidding took place. In the meantime, payments to Booz Allen more than doubled again, thanks to another no-bid deal, to $73 million. Finally, in spring 2006, DHS broke the work into five separate contracts, worth an additional $50 million, and solicited bids.

The winner of all five contracts? Booz Allen Hamilton.

How did it happen? The Post says the agency "routinely waived rules designed to protect taxpayer money" in its haste to meet congressional mandates. And as the work continued, DHS "became so dependent on Booz Allen that it lost the flexibility for a time to seek out other contractors or hire federal employees who might do the job for less."

Bold emphasis, mine

The Skinny, has more on other related issues.

This is typical Washington SNAFU, aka business-as-usual, but has reached heights bordering in space where the Sky Lab resides under the Bush Administration.

If you are a tax-payer and are concerned about controlling spending in government (local, state, federal) you have to push to OUTLAW no-bid contracting.