Tuesday, April 29, 2008

IRAQ WAR - Again, the Lies

What follows is just the first few paragraphs of an investigation into the lies told to justify the Bush War in Iraq, as has been reported in other articles. I highly suggest reading the full 2 page article.

"The Lie Factory" by Robert Dreyfuss and Jason Vest , Mother Jones

It's a crisp fall day in western Virginia, a hundred miles from Washington, D.C., and a breeze is rustling the red and gold leaves of the Shenandoah hills. On the weather-beaten wood porch of a ramshackle 90-year-old farmhouse, at the end of a winding dirt-and-gravel road, Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski is perched on a plastic chair, wearing shorts, a purple sweatshirt, and muddy sneakers. Two scrawny dogs and a lone cat are on the prowl, and the air is filled with swarms of ladybugs.

So far, she says, no investigators have come knocking. Not from the Central Intelligence Agency, which conducted an internal inquiry into intelligence on Iraq, not from the congressional intelligence committees, not from the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. All of those bodies are ostensibly looking into the Bush administration's prewar Iraq intelligence, amid charges that the White House and the Pentagon exaggerated, distorted, or just plain lied about Iraq's links to Al Qaeda terrorists and its possession of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. In her hands, Kwiatkowski holds several pieces of the puzzle. Yet she, along with a score of other career officers recently retired or shuffled off to other jobs, has not been approached by anyone.

Kwiatkowski, 43, a now-retired Air Force officer who served in the Pentagon's Near East and South Asia (NESA) unit in the year before the invasion of Iraq, observed how the Pentagon's Iraq war-planning unit manufactured scare stories about Iraq's weapons and ties to terrorists. "It wasn't intelligence‚ -- it was propaganda," she says. "They'd take a little bit of intelligence, cherry-pick it, make it sound much more exciting, usually by taking it out of context, often by juxtaposition of two pieces of information that don't belong together." It was by turning such bogus intelligence into talking points for U.S. officials‚ -- including ominous lines in speeches by President Bush and Vice President Cheney, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell's testimony at the U.N. Security Council last February‚ -- that the administration pushed American public opinion into supporting an unnecessary war.

Until now, the story of how the Bush administration produced its wildly exaggerated estimates of the threat posed by Iraq has never been revealed in full. But, for the first time, a detailed investigation by Mother Jones, based on dozens of interviews‚ -- some on the record, some with officials who insisted on anonymity‚ -- exposes the workings of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and of the Defense Department's war-planning task force, the Office of Special Plans. It's the story of a close-knit team of ideologues who spent a decade or more hammering out plans for an attack on Iraq and who used the events of September 11, 2001, to set it into motion.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

POLITICS - The Wool Falls From American Eyes

"Disapproval of Bush breaks record" by Susan Page, USA Today

President Bush has set a record he'd presumably prefer to avoid: the highest disapproval rating of any president in the 70-year history of the Gallup Poll.

In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday (4/18 thru 4/20/2008), 28% of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing; 69% disapprove. The approval rating matches the low point of his presidency, and the disapproval sets a new high for any president since Franklin Roosevelt.

The previous record of 67% was reached by Harry Truman in January 1952, when the United States was enmeshed in the Korean War.

Bush's rating has worsened amid "collapsing optimism about the economy," says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who studies presidential approval. Record gas prices and a wave of home foreclosures have fueled voter angst.

Bush also holds the record for the other extreme: the highest approval rating of any president in Gallup's history. In September 2001, in the days after the 9/11 attacks, Bush's approval spiked to 90%. In another record, the percentage of Americans who say the invasion of Iraq was a mistake reached a new high, 63%, in the latest poll.

Assessments of Bush's presidency are harsh. By 69%-27%, those polled say Bush's tenure in general has been a failure, not a success.

Low approval ratings make it more difficult for presidents to maneuver, limiting their ability to get legislation passed or boost candidates in congressional elections.

"The president understands war and the slowdown in the economy weigh down public opinion, but the situation in Iraq is improving and the economy is about to get a big boost from the stimulus package," said White House spokesman Scott Stanzel.

Bush has had dismal ratings through most of his second term. His approval rating hasn't reached as high as 50% since May 2005. He's been steadily below 40% since September 2006.

Views of Bush divide sharply along party lines. Among Republicans, 66% approve and 32% disapprove. Disapproval is nearly universal — 91% — among Democrats. Of independents, 23% approve, 72% disapprove of the job he's doing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

WAR ON TERROR - We Should NOT Be Surprised

"Top US general 'hoodwinked' over aggressive interrogation" by Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian, UK

The US's most senior general was "hoodwinked" by top Bush administration officials determined to push through aggressive interrogation techniques for terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay, the Guardian can reveal.

The development led to the US military abandoning its age-old ban on the cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners.

General Richard Myers, the chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff from 2001 to 2005, wrongly believed that inmates at Guantánamo and other prisons were protected by the Geneva conventions and from abuse tantamount to torture.

The way he was duped by senior officials in Washington - who believed the Geneva conventions and other traditional safeguards were out of date - is disclosed in a devastating account of their role, extracts from which will be published in tomorrow's Guardian.

In his new book, Torture Team, Philippe Sands QC, a professor of law at University College London, reveals:

  • Senior figures in the Bush administration pushed through previously outlawed measures with the help of unqualified and inexperienced military officials at Guantánamo.

  • Myers believes he was a victim of "intrigue" by top lawyers at the department of justice, the office of the vice president, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld's defense department.

  • Myers wrongly believed interrogation techniques had been taken from the army's field manual.
The lawyers who pushed through the interrogation techniques - all of them political appointees - were Alberto Gonzales, David Addingon and William Haynes.

Others involved were Doug Feith, Rumsfeld's undersecretary for policy, and Jay Bybee and John Yoo, two assistant attorney generals.

The revelations have already sparked a fierce response in the US from those familiar with the contents of the book.

They are determined to establish accountability for the way the Bush administration violated international and domestic law by sanctioning prisoner abuse and torture.

The Bush administration has tried to explain away the ill-treatment of detainees at Guantánamo and the Abu Ghraib prison, in Baghdad, by blaming junior officials.

Sands establishes that pressure for the aggressive and cruel treatment of detainees came from the very top and was sanctioned by the most senior lawyers.

Myers, the most senior military officer of the most powerful country in the world, was one top official who did not understand the implications of what was being done.

Sands, who spent three hours with the former general, describes him as being "confused" about the decisions that were taken.

Myers did not realize that fundamental safeguards provided by the Geneva conventions and elsewhere were being abandoned by his own junior officers as well as political appointees in the administration, the author says.

He believed new techniques recommended by Haynes and authorised for use by the military at Guantánamo by Rumsfeld in December 2002 had been taken from the US army field manual.

However, none of the severe interrogation techniques came from the manual, and all breached established US military guidelines and rules.

The techniques included hooding, sensory deprivation and physical and mental abuse.

"As we worked through the list of techniques, Myers became increasingly hesitant and troubled," Sands writes. "Haynes and Rumsfeld had been able to run rings around him."

Myers and his closest advisers were cut out of the decision-making process, so he was not given sufficient opportunity to object to measures he now says he strongly disapproved of.

He did not know that Bush administration officials were changing the rules allowing interrogation techniques, including the use of dogs, amounting to torture.

"We never authorised torture, we just didn't, not what we would do," Myers said.

Sands comments: "[Myers] really had taken his eye off the ball ... he didn't ask too many questions, or inquire too deeply, and kept his distance from the decision-making process."

Truth is NOT a Bush Administration long suit.

POLITICS - Propaganda Live and Well in the Bush Administration

"Behind Analysts, the Pentagon’s Hidden Hand" by David Barstow, New York Times

Excerpts from 11 page article.

In the summer of 2005, the Bush administration confronted a fresh wave of criticism over Guantánamo Bay. The detention center had just been branded “the gulag of our times” by Amnesty International, there were new allegations of abuse from United Nations human rights experts and calls were mounting for its closure.

The administration’s communications experts responded swiftly. Early one Friday morning, they put a group of retired military officers on one of the jets normally used by Vice President Dick Cheney and flew them to Cuba for a carefully orchestrated tour of Guantánamo.

To the public, these men are members of a familiar fraternity, presented tens of thousands of times on television and radio as “military analysts” whose long service has equipped them to give authoritative and unfettered judgments about the most pressing issues of the post-Sept. 11 world.

Hidden behind that appearance of objectivity, though, is a Pentagon information apparatus that has used those analysts in a campaign to generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance, an examination by The New York Times has found.

The effort, which began with the buildup to the Iraq war and continues to this day, has sought to exploit ideological and military allegiances, and also a powerful financial dynamic: Most of the analysts have ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.

Those business relationships are hardly ever disclosed to the viewers, and sometimes not even to the networks themselves. But collectively, the men on the plane and several dozen other military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror. It is a furious competition, one in which inside information and easy access to senior officials are highly prized.

Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse — an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks.

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

In turn, members of this group have echoed administration talking points, sometimes even when they suspected the information was false or inflated. Some analysts acknowledge they suppressed doubts because they feared jeopardizing their access.

A few expressed regret for participating in what they regarded as an effort to dupe the American public with propaganda dressed as independent military analysis.


Many analysts strongly denied that they had either been co-opted or had allowed outside business interests to affect their on-air comments, and some have used their platforms to criticize the conduct of the war. Several, like Jeffrey D. McCausland, a CBS military analyst and defense industry lobbyist, said they kept their networks informed of their outside work and recused themselves from coverage that touched on business interests.

Some network officials, meanwhile, acknowledged only a limited understanding of their analysts’ interactions with the administration. They said that while they were sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, they did not hold their analysts to the same ethical standards as their news employees regarding outside financial interests. The onus is on their analysts to disclose conflicts, they said. And whatever the contributions of military analysts, they also noted the many network journalists who have covered the war for years in all its complexity.

Five years into the Iraq war, most details of the architecture and execution of the Pentagon’s campaign have never been disclosed. But The Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation.

These records reveal a symbiotic relationship where the usual dividing lines between government and journalism have been obliterated.

Internal Pentagon documents repeatedly refer to the military analysts as “message force multipliers” or “surrogates” who could be counted on to deliver administration “themes and messages” to millions of Americans “in the form of their own opinions.”


Again and again, records show, the administration has enlisted analysts as a rapid reaction force to rebut what it viewed as critical news coverage, some of it by the networks’ own Pentagon correspondents. For example, when news articles revealed that troops in Iraq were dying because of inadequate body armor, a senior Pentagon official wrote to his colleagues: “I think our analysts — properly armed — can push back in that arena.”

Nazi era propagandist Joseph Goebbels would have been proud.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

POLITICS - Here Comes the Pork, Here Comes the Pork

Ah, yes! Lets all sing the refrain, "Here comes the pork, here comes the pork, bless Congress, here comes the pork."

"Big Tax Breaks for Businesses in Housing Bill" by Stephen Labaton & David M. Herszenhorn, New York Times

The Senate proclaimed a fierce bipartisan resolve two weeks ago to help American homeowners in danger of foreclosure. But while a bill that senators approved last week would take modest steps toward that goal, it would also provide billions of dollars in tax breaks — for automakers, airlines, alternative energy producers and other struggling industries, as well as home builders.

The tax provisions of the Foreclosure Prevention Act, which consumer groups and labor leaders say amount to government handouts to big business, show how the credit crisis, while rattling the housing and financial markets, has created beneficiaries in the power corridors of Washington.

It also shows how legislation with a populist imperative offers a chance for lobbyists to press their clients’ interests.

This has proved especially true on the housing legislation, which many lawmakers and lobbyists view as one of the last opportunities before Congress grinds to a halt amid election-year politics.

In the Senate bill, the nation’s biggest home builders, some now on the verge of bankruptcy, won a provision that would let them claim millions in tax refunds by charging their current losses against the huge profits they made three or four years ago. Other struggling industries would benefit from this provision.

“This is our biggest legislative effort since the Tax Reform Act of 1986,” said Jerry M. Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders. Hundreds of the association’s members flooded the district offices of representatives and senators while they were home for the spring recess last month.

Supporters of the bill, including Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, say it represents sound tax policy carefully focused to help stimulate the lagging economy. But the White House opposes the Senate bill, and Democratic leaders in the House not only have promised to provide more relief for individual homeowners, but have also dropped the corporate tax provisions from their version.

Downtrodden automakers — Ford and General Motors — were especially dogged in securing a tax break that would let them collect alternative minimum tax credits, also known as the A.M.T., that would otherwise be out of reach because they did not pay enough taxes in recent years to claim a rebate.

If the provision becomes law, it could mean checks up to $40 million for the car manufacturers, as long as the companies had made investments in plant or equipment in that amount.

A Ford spokesman, Mike Moran, said he was aware that Ford would benefit from the tax credit in the bill passed by the Senate. But Mr. Moran said that the credit applied to a range of industries, not just automakers. A General Motors spokesman could not be reached.

Domestic airlines and manufacturers other than automakers would be eligible to claim the A.M.T. break as well. One lobbyist said that the companies that had sought the tax breaks in meetings with lawmakers included Ford, General Motors, American Airlines, Northwest Airlines and Goodyear Tire and Rubber.

Companies could claim only one of the new tax breaks, which in all, are expected to cost $6 billion through 2018. The jockeying among industry groups, including Realtors, home builders and bankers, is certain to intensify in coming weeks as lawmakers move to reconcile the Senate bill with a more ambitious package of housing legislation now under way in the House.

Lawmakers on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee have omitted the corporate tax cuts from their version of the bill in favor of tax breaks for first-time home buyers and developers of low-income rental housing, and more aid for owners facing foreclosure.

Congressional Democrats are also hearing from consumer advocates and other groups who say that the Senate bill does little to help Americans in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

“The Senate legislation gave corporations and Wall Street billions in tax breaks,” Terence M. O’Sullivan, the president of the Laborers International Union of North America, said at a news conference on Tuesday to denounce the bill.

“Tax breaks for corporate home builders won’t help stabilize the housing market, won’t create jobs and won’t prevent a single foreclosure,” he continued. “If anything, this multibillion-dollar windfall will make things worse.”

Even Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and the main author of the Senate bill, said the measure did not live up to its name and that he wanted changes. But other lawmakers, and the lobbyists who seek to influence them, also recognize a golden opportunity when they sense that the political winds virtually guarantee a bill’s passage, and the housing crisis is just such a time.

This is just page 1 of 2.

Again, Washington lobby controlled Congress. Lets add pork that has nothing to do with "Housing." If the "pork" in the Housing Bill is really justified, then wright separate bills to address them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


The following is an interesting excerpt on this subject.

"J STREET" by Ezra Klein

Late last week, Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli-based writer, reported that Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas, had stated his willingness to accept "a Palestinian state based on the pre-1967 boundaries -- that is, alongside Israel, not in place of it." This statement, a bombshell if there ever was one, received coverage in the Israeli press, some mentions in the Italian press, and virtually no visibility in the English-language press.

It was interesting timing. Hamas was, to be sure, in the news last week, but not for a willingness to negotiate. Rather, they were being mentioned because Barack Obama had stated his unwillingness to negotiate with them. And, in general, most of his supporters greeted the news with a sigh of relief. Some lamented its necessity but welcomed his position as politically wise; there are some fights he simply shouldn't pick. Others approved because it accorded with their preexisting beliefs. Both variants were, in part, products of the same domestic political environment, where the accepted position on Israel is unquestioning support for its most hardline political elements and the proposed policy -- more arm sales, continued refusal to recognize the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people, an unwillingness to exert pressure that leads to peace -- equals out to an unyielding commitment to perpetual conflict. And so we have the odd spectacle in which Hamas's apparent willingness to resign itself to a Jewish state is ignored, but Obama's promise to ignore cracks in their militancy is greeted.

OLYMPIC GAMES - China Goes Ballistic

"Transcripts: THE SITUATION ROOM, 4/9/2008" host Wolf Blitzer, CNN

Hee, hee, the comment that drove China ballistic. Excerpt

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think the hosting of the Olympic Games is a political act. And whether it was the Nazis in 1936 or the Chinese communists in 2008, they are all using it to promote their country. And if we want to take a stand against that kind of repression, not going to the opening ceremony is a very appropriate way of doing it because it doesn't penalize the athletes at all.

The athletes can still compete. But it does say the United States government doesn't approve of the Chinese government. And that seems like a very appropriate message to send right now.

BLITZER: One of the arguments that some of the pro-China elements is making, Jack, is that this is a very different China today than existed 10 years ago, certainly 20 or 30 years ago. This communist regime today is almost like a capitalist regime. They're a huge economic superpower and that we have a lot at stake in maintaining this economic relationship with China.

CAFFERTY: Well, I don't know if China is any different, but our relationship with China is certainly different. We're in hawk to the Chinese up to our eyeballs because of the war in Iraq, for one thing. They're holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of our paper. We also are running hundred of billions of dollars worth of trade deficits with them, as we continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we're buying from Wal-Mart.

So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed. I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years.

Truth hurts don't it.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

ENVIRONMENT - Our CO2 Footprint

"Mapping the U.S. carbon footprint" by Elsa Wenzel

The map, by the Vulcan Project, took more than two years to complete and cost nearly a quarter of a million dollars, with backing from NASA and the Department of Energy. The result, named after the Roman god of fire, is 100 times more detailed than earlier imagery, according to its researchers.

POLITICS - Above the Law

The following article is a prime evidence of the "we are above the law" attitude of this Bush Administration and our 2005 Congress. Constitution be damn, check-and-balances be damn, the people's rights be damn.

"Power to Build Border Fence Is Above U.S. Law" by Adam Liptak, New York Times

Securing the nation’s borders is so important, Congress says, that Michael Chertoff, the homeland security secretary, must have the power to ignore any laws that stand in the way of building a border fence. Any laws at all.

Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.

The secretary of homeland security was granted the power in 2005 to void any federal law that might interfere with fence building on the border. For good measure, Congress forbade the courts to second-guess the secretary’s determinations. So long as Mr. Chertoff is willing to say it is necessary to void a given law, his word is final.

The delegation of power to Mr. Chertoff is unprecedented, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. It is also, if papers filed in the Supreme Court last month are correct, unconstitutional.

People can disagree about the urgency of border security and about whether it is more or less important than, say, the environment. Congress is entrusted with making those judgments, and here it has spoken clearly. In the process, it has also granted the executive branch more of the sort of unilateral power the Bush administration has so often claimed for itself.

No one doubts that Congress may repeal old laws through new legislation. But there is a difference between passing a law that overrides a previous one and tinkering with the structure of the Constitution itself. The extraordinary powers granted to Mr. Chertoff may test the limits of how much of its own authority Congress can cede to another branch of the government.

Mr. Chertoff explained the reasoning behind the law in a news release last week. “Criminal activity at the border,” he said, “does not stop for endless debate or protracted litigation.”

Mr. Chertoff has issued three similar waivers, and a challenge to the constitutionality of one of them has just reached the United States Supreme Court. If the court decides to hear the case, its decision will almost certainly apply to last week’s waivers as well.

The case was brought by two environmental groups, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club. They sued Mr. Chertoff last year over his decision to suspend 19 laws that might have interfered with the construction of a border fence in the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in Arizona.

Congress, the groups said, had given Mr. Chertoff too much power.

"It is only happenchance that the secretary’s waiver in this case involved laws protecting the environment and historic resources," the groups told Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of Federal District Court in Washington. “He could equally have waived the requirements of the Fair Labor Relations Act to halt a strike, or the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in order to force workers to endure unsafe working conditions.”

(Happenchance? You don’t see that word every day, and certainly not in a court filing.)

The groups said Congress cannot hand over unbridled power to the executive branch even as it cuts the courts out of the picture. They relied mostly on a 1998 Supreme Court decision striking down the Line Item Veto Act, which had allowed the president to cancel parts of laws.

In December, Judge Huvelle rejected the challenge and allowed construction to proceed. She said she had no jurisdiction to decide whether Mr. Chertoff was correct in saying the waivers were necessary, and she ruled that the delegation of power to him was constitutional.

"The court concludes that it lacks the power to invalidate the waiver provision merely because of the unlimited number of statutes that could potentially be encompassed," Judge Huvelle wrote.

A petition asking the Supreme Court to hear the case was filed three months later.

Did you notice the missing step? In addition to forbidding judges from second-guessing Mr. Chertoff’s decisions, Congress forbade federal appeals courts from becoming involved at all. After losing before Judge Huvelle, the groups’ only recourse is to hope the Supreme Court decides to hear their appeal.

In their petition, the environmental groups said the Supreme Court had never upheld a broad delegation of power like that given to Mr. Chertoff without the possibility of judicial review of executive branch determinations. Nor, they said, has any appeals court.

It is the combination of those two factors — the broad granting of power to the executive branch and cutting the judicial branch out of the process — that makes the 2005 law so pernicious, the groups say.


The line-item veto decision does not apply, the government lawyers said, because Mr. Chertoff is not repealing laws for all purposes, just suspending them for his fences.

It is true, of course, that Congress gave up its powers here voluntarily. But Justice Anthony M. Kennedy had a response to that point in his concurrence in the line-item-veto case.

"It is no answer, of course, to say that Congress surrendered its authority by its own hand,” he wrote. "Abdication of responsibility is not part of the constitutional design."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Monday, April 07, 2008

OPINION - Martin Luther King's Legacy

The following is an excerpt from the PBS News Hour Political Warp of 4/4/2008 on Martin Luther King. There is a link in the article to a Streaming Video of the complete Political Warp.

"Bleak U.S. Economic Outlook Stirs Recession Fears, Candidate Proposals"

Excerpt from transcript.

JIM LEHRER: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, "New York Times" columnist David Brooks.

David, picking up on professor Charles' point, what are your own thoughts about the American legacies of Martin Luther King?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, this might be a little broader.

I was at the Lorraine hotel this week. I went up to the room with Reverend Billy Kyles, who we saw at the very of beginning of the program, who was there at the assassination, was describing it day by day. And there happened to be -- we were all standing around, just listening to him talk.

And there was a German high school teacher with his class sitting there listening to them all. After they were rapt. And after Kyles left, he shook all our hands and went off to something else.

And the teacher was saying: "I'm shaking. I'm shaking. I can't believe what I have just seen."

And to see this whole German high school class, including the teenagers, who are teenagers, after all, so incredibly moved, it was a pretty dramatic moment for a lot of us. But one thing Corey Booker said which I think is dead right which is that the Santa Clausification of the guy, I think we do get carried away.

When you read the biographies of the man, the complexity of the man rivals Churchill or Lincoln. Very few people have the great soul, great flaws, great gifts. And you have to remember, in the final days, he was in despair. He was being attacked from all sides. He was depressed. He couldn't sleep.

The great feeling that he had, which then came out in the mountaintop speech, it's the richness of the speech which transcends the one issue. It's the great soulfulness of the man which I think is why he has risen to this level.

JIM LEHRER: You could see it in the speech. There was a sadness there, I mean, almost anger, not...

DAVID BROOKS: When you read about Memphis in those days, everyone knew something was going to happen. There was a -- the day he was killed, there was a quote from one the city managers saying, we're really afraid he is going to be killed today. And that was in the paper that day.

The feeling of menace -- and then that underlines his courage. But it was also his relentless assertiveness, always asserting, always going forward, always doing the next march, never backing forward, which was part of him.

Mark Shields (Syndicated columnist: Martin Luther King is remembered as a great orator and an inspiring speaker, which he was. But both by his life and his actions, he was a master strategist, which is forgotten.

  • King's legacy: 'moral courage'


MARK SHIELDS: I guess moral courage is the legacy of Martin Luther King.

Martin Luther King is remembered as a great orator and an inspiring speaker, which he was. But both by his life and his actions, he was a master strategist, which is forgotten. I mean, he was the one who chose Selma. Selma, Alabama, was the heart and soul of evil racism in America.

And he confronted it with his own moral courage and physical courage. I mean, he put himself on the line in the face of those police dogs and Sheriff Jim Clark and the worst of America at that point. And he -- by doing that, and by his own actions and his words, he touched the conscience of white America. He moved the conscience of white America.

I just think of four white American politicians. I was at Martin Luther King's funeral in 1968 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church. As we marched the 4.3 miles from that church to where he was laid, a crowd of hundreds of thousands of people, we went by city hall, the Atlanta City Hall, the city too busy to hate.

Ivan Allen, a great mayor, a white Democrat, the city hall is draped in black bunting, in black crepe. And across the street, there's less dramatics. The white segregationist governor, he's got 160 state troopers there. He himself threatened to personally pull the flags up to full-mast.

Martin Luther King touched both of those men and made them react to him, and exposed them, their strengths, and their weaknesses. I mean, Ivan Allen was a great man and an even greater man because of the way he handled that.

But Lyndon Johnson, in his -- as a consequence of King's leadership at Selma, gave the greatest speech of his life, the speech for the -- in favor of Voting Rights Act, and the guarantee that every American would have that access to the ballot box.

JIM LEHRER: And, of course, Martin Luther King negotiated a lot of this with Lyndon Johnson.

MARK SHIELDS: He sure did.

And when he gave that speech, he ended it with the lyric of the civil rights anthem. "We shall overcome."

And, finally, I would say, Robert Kennedy, who, four days after Lyndon Johnson withdrew from the presidency, Martin Luther King was assassinated, in Indianapolis, gave one of the great speeches any American leader has ever given, announcing his assassination. And...

JIM LEHRER: And there was a great book written about that last -- came out last year, Nick Kotz, Nick Kotz's book.

MARK SHIELDS: Nick Kotz did a marvelous book on it.

But -- so, I just think -- I mean, his -- obviously, his influence on black America is profound, but his influence on white America is just -- is more -- even more significant.


Friday, April 04, 2008

POLITICS - Do Our Politicians Really Support Our Troops?

"Modernizing the GI Bill — where’s McCain?" by Steve Benen, Carpetbagger Report


Sens. Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) unveiled a GI Bill modernization bill over a year ago, which would increase troop benefits to pay for their education. From a patriotic perspective, this is showing real support for the troops. From a military perspective, it might make recruiting easier if young people know they can go to college after their service for free. From an economic perspective, the country benefits when thousands of educated young people enter the workforce with degrees, as opposed to the alternative.

"A Post-Iraq G.I. Bill" by Jim Webb (D - Virginia) & Chuck Hagel (R - Nebraska), New York Times OP-ED 11/9/2007

MEMBERS of Congress and other political leaders often say that the men and women who have served in our military since 9/11 are the “new greatest generation.” Well, here’s a thought from two infantry combat veterans of the Vietnam era’s “wounded generation”: if you truly believe that our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are like those who fought in World War II, let us provide them with the same G.I. Bill that was given to the veterans of that war.

In terms of providing true opportunity, the World War II G.I. Bill was one of the most important pieces of legislation in our history. It paid college tuition and fees, bought textbooks and provided a monthly stipend for eight million of the 16 million who served. Many of our colleagues in the Senate who before the war could never have dreamed of college found themselves at some of the nation’s finest educational institutions.

Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey went to Columbia on the G.I. bill; John Warner of Virginia to Washington and Lee and the University of Virginia Law School; Daniel Inouye of Hawaii to the University of Hawaii and the George Washington University Law School; and Ted Stevens of Alaska to the University of California, Los Angeles, and Harvard Law School.

Veterans today have only the Montgomery G.I. Bill, which requires a service member to pay $100 a month for the first year of his or her enlistment in order to receive a flat payment for college that averages $800 a month. This was a reasonable enlistment incentive for peacetime service, but it is an insufficient reward for wartime service today. It is hardly enough to allow a veteran to attend many community colleges.

It would cover only about 13 percent of the cost of attending Columbia, 42 percent at the University of Hawaii, 14 percent at Washington and Lee, 26 percent at U.C.L.A. and 11 percent at Harvard Law School.

College costs have skyrocketed, and a full G.I. Bill for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan would be expensive. But Congress has recently appropriated $19 billion next year for federal education grants purely on the basis of financial need. A G.I. Bill for those who have given so much to our country, often including repeated combat tours, should be viewed as an obligation.

We must put together the right formula that will demonstrate our respect for those who have stepped forward to serve in these difficult times. First-class service to country deserves first-class appreciation.

This Bush Administration most certainty does not really support our troops, just wants to keep sacrificing them in the Iraq War, but one has to ask do our other politicians really support our troops?

The OP-ED was on 11/2007 and no real action taken? No big push to get this done?

Republican, Democrat, or Independent, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

IRAQ WAR - Protecting America, NOT!

As I addressed in a previous post "IRAQ - Another Casualty" our military, and our protection, has been put at risk by the Bush Iraq War.

"Heavy Troop Deployments Are Called Major Risk" by Ann Scott Tyson, Washington Post

Readiness Is Dangerously Low, Army Chief Says

Senior Army and Marine Corps leaders said yesterday that the increase of more than 30,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has put unsustainable levels of stress on U.S. ground forces and has put their readiness to fight other conflicts at the lowest level in years.

In a stark assessment a week before Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is to testify on the war's progress, Gen. Richard A. Cody, the Army's vice chief of staff, said that the heavy deployments are inflicting "incredible stress" on soldiers and families and that they pose "a significant risk" to the nation's all-volunteer military.

"When the five-brigade surge went in . . . that took all the stroke out of the shock absorbers for the United States Army," Cody testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee's readiness panel.

He said that even if five brigades are pulled out of Iraq by July, as planned, it would take some time before the Army could return to 12-month tours for soldiers. Petraeus is expected to call for a pause in further troop reductions to assess their impact on security in Iraq.

"I've never seen our lack of strategic depth be where it is today," said Cody, who has been the senior Army official in charge of operations and readiness for the past six years and plans to retire this summer.

Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, one of the chief architects of the Iraq troop increase, has been nominated to replace Cody. Odierno is scheduled for a Senate confirmation hearing tomorrow.

The testimony reflects the tension between the wartime priorities of U.S. commanders in Iraq such as Petraeus and the heads of military services responsible for the health and preparedness of the forces. Cody said that the Army no longer has fully ready combat brigades on standby should a threat or conflict occur.

The nation needs an airborne brigade, a heavy brigade and a Stryker brigade ready for "full-spectrum operations," Cody said, "and we don't have that today."

Soldiers and Marines also lack training for major combat operations using their entire range of weapons, the generals said. For example, artillerymen are not practicing firing heavy guns but are instead doing counterinsurgency work as military police.

The Marine Corps' ability to train for potential conflicts has been "significantly degraded," said Gen. Robert Magnus, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.

He said that although Marine Corps units involved in the troop increase last year have pulled out, new demands in Afghanistan, where 3,200 Marines are headed, have kept the pressure on the force unchanged.

"There has been little, if any, change of the stress or tempo for our forces," he said, calling the current pace of operations "unsustainable."

Magnus suggested that if more Marines are freed from Iraq they could also go to Afghanistan. Marines "will move to the sound of the guns in Afghanistan," he said. But he said it would be difficult to keep the force split between the two countries because the Marine Corps has limited resources to command a divided force and supply it logistically.

The Marine Corps is "basically in two boats at the same time," he said.

Both the Army and Marine Corps are working to increase their ranks by tens of thousands of troops -- to 547,000 active-duty soldiers and 202,000 Marines -- but newly created combat units will not be able to provide relief until about 2011.

U.S. soldiers are currently deploying for 15-month combat tours, with 12 months at home in between. Marines are deploying for seven-month rotations, with seven months at home.

Both services seek to give their members at least twice as much time at home as time overseas.

"Where we need to be with this force is no more than 12 months on the ground and 24 months back," Cody said.

POLITICS - It's All About PORK Not Party

"Republicans lead 'pork' spending lists: report" by Richard Cowan, Reuters

Republicans in the U.S. Congress, trying to appear frugal with taxpayer dollars this election year, found on Wednesday that some in their own ranks topped a list of "pork" spenders in a watchdog group's analysis of government waste.

The annual survey by Citizens Against Government Waste claims that 11,610 special-interest projects were stuffed into spending bills approved by the Democratic-led Congress last year at a $17.2 billion cost to taxpayers.

But according to the survey, it was individual Republicans who pushed the most "pork" last year. In addition, the three House of Representative Republicans who sponsored legislation calling for a moratorium on such spending all engaged in the practice, the report said. They are Jack Kingston of Georgia, Zach Wamp of Tennessee and Frank Wolf of Virginia.

For months, House Republican Leader John Boehner has been leading a crusade against such projects, known as "earmarks," which routinely benefit lawmakers' hometown districts.

Boehner, of Ohio, has called for suspending "pork" spending this year and has criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, for not yet agreeing to do so.

On Tuesday, House Republicans tried and failed to advance their earmark moratorium. Last month, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a similar proposal.

House Republicans have attacked Democratic Rep. John Murtha for delivering a pile of special-interest funds to his western Pennsylvania district.

But according to the report, two House Republicans bested Murtha: Roger Wicker of Mississippi, who recently became a U.S. senator, and Rep. Bill Young of Florida. The two scored $176.3 million and $169.5 million in earmarks respectively, beating Murtha's $159.1 million.


In the Senate, the top three spenders were Republicans, who together scored about $1.8 billion in home-state projects. Those senators are Thad Cochran of Mississippi, Richard Shelby of Alabama and Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was roundly criticized a few years back for winning approval of a "bridge to nowhere," and has been reported to be the target of a federal corruption probe.

All the top spenders are members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, which dole out federal dollars.

Opponents of the special-interest projects argue that they do not receive adequate oversight by Congress and often are inserted into legislation at the last minute.

Many lawmakers who back earmarks say they help deliver jobs and public works projects to hometowns. They also point out that the funds represent less than 1 percent of federal spending and that reforming other parts of the budget would be more meaningful.

Suspected earmark abuse has led to some reforms, including making the spending more open to public and congressional scrutiny.

Among the "pork" outlined in the watchdog group's latest report:

--$123,050 secured by Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat, for a Mother's Day shrine;

--$3 million by House Majority Whip James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, for The First Tee, which aims to promote the game of golf among young people. The money was inserted into a military spending bill;

--$188,000 by Maine's Republican senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins and Democratic Rep. Thomas Allen to help the Lobster Institute, which the report said is working on a "Lobster Cam" and developing lobster dog biscuits.

As for the three U.S. senators running for president: Republican John McCain had no earmarks last year, while Democrats Hillary Clinton delivered 281 projects to her home state of New York, costing $296.2 million, and Barack Obama had 53 projects totaling $97.4 million.

Lets see....
  • It's OK to spend $123,050 on a Mother's Day shrine, but one has to wonder if Virginia public schools could make better use of that money.

  • Promotion of golf has higher spending priority than South Carolina public schools, etc.

  • "Lobster Cams" and lobster dog biscuits before spending taxpayer dollars on healthcare or education, just to name two.

....so lets cut spending on education, healthcare, and other issues effecting the American citizen in general, and spend $17.2 billion on the "real priorities."

Add not using that money to start paying off our National Debt, even though it would be a drop-in-the-bucket.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

IRAQ WAR - As America Sinks Deeper in Debt...

"G.A.O. Report Points to Rise in Cost Overruns at Pentagon" by Bloomberg News, New York Times

Inefficient Pentagon management led to cost increases for key weapons programs that often fell short of production goals last year, government auditors said Monday.

In its sixth annual report on selected weapons purchases, the auditors, with the Government Accountability Office, found that procurement costs came in 26 percent above original estimates for 72 major weapons programs in 2007. The office also found that many programs had been delayed or produced fewer weapons than initially planned.

The report attributed the problems to inefficient Pentagon practices, including changes in requirements after weapons development had started, turnover in program management and the use of contractors.

“Every dollar spent inefficiently in developing and procuring weapons systems is less money available for many other internal and external budget priorities,” the report said.

Planned Pentagon investment in new weapons systems doubled to $1.6 trillion in 2007 from $790 billion in 2000, hitting its highest level in two decades, the report said. .

The 198-page report highlighted cost increases at several major programs, including the Joint Strike Fighter, a fighter jet being developed by the Lockheed Martin Corporation, the cost of which is now put at $240 billion, up from a targeted $203 billion in 2001, and the Future Combat Systems, a massive Army modernization effort being led by the Boeing Company, now put at $128.5 billion, up from $88.3 billion as of 2003.

The annual study will go to a number of key Congressional committees, including the Armed Services Committees and the Defense Appropriations Subcommittees in the Senate and House.

HEALTHCARE - Universal Healthcare

An article that will send GOP Hardliners screaming, "The sky is FALLING!"

"US doctors support universal health care - survey" by Maggie Fox, Reuters 3/31/2008

The survey suggests that opinions have changed substantially since the last survey in 2002 and as the country debates serious changes to the health care system.

Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, 59 percent said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, researchers reported in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

The 2002 survey found that 49 percent of physicians supported national health insurance and 40 percent opposed it.

"Many claim to speak for physicians and represent their views. We asked doctors directly and found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, most doctors support national health insurance," said Dr. Aaron Carroll of the Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the study.

"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who worked on the study with Carroll. "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem."


The United States has no single organized health care system. Instead it relies on a patchwork of insurance provided by the federal and state governments to the elderly, poor, disabled and to some children, along with private insurance and employer-sponsored plans.

Many other countries have national plans, including Britain, France and Canada, and several studies have shown the United States spends more per capita on health care, without achieving better results for patients.

An estimated 47 million people have no insurance coverage at all, meaning they must pay out of their pockets for health care or skip it.

Contenders in the election for president in November all have proposed various changes, but none of the major party candidates has called for a fully national health plan.

Insurance companies, retailers and other employers have joined forces with unions and other interest groups to propose their own plans.

"Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy," Ackermann said in a statement.

The Indiana survey found that 83 percent of psychiatrists, 69 percent of emergency medicine specialists, 65 percent of pediatricians, 64 percent of internists, 60 percent of family physicians and 55 percent of general surgeons favor a national health insurance plan.

The researchers said they believe the survey was representative of the 800,000 U.S. medical doctors.

I support Single Payer Healthcare.

Private healthcare supplemented by both State and Federal Government. The key word is "supplemented," pay the difference between what a citizen can afford to pay (according to income minus other necessities) and the cost of a private healthcare plan. Regulation of healthcare plan providers mandatory, but NOT including restricting medications nor treatments.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

AMERICA - Race, Poverty, and the Inner City

"Race, Poverty, and the Inner City --- 40 Years Later" Bill Moyers Journal

The article is short, so I cite only the comments from the people interviewed.

Senator Fred Harris (D-OK):
(link to interview with video)

"I think virtually everything [the Kerner Commission recommended] was right... one of the awfullest things that came out of the Reagan presidency and later was the feeling that government can’t do anything right and that everything it does is wrong. The truth is that virtually everything we tried worked. We just quit trying it. Or we didn’t try it hard enough. And that’s what we need to get back to.

We made progress on virtually every aspect of race and poverty for about a decade after the Kerner Commission report and then, particularly with the advent of the Reagan administration and so forth, that progress stopped. And we began to go backwards... When we cut out a lot of these social programs, or the money for them... [and] we don’t emphasize jobs and training and education and so forth as we had been doing, there are bad consequences from that... I think what you need to do is to help people up, give ‘em a hand up. And recognize the kind of terrible conditions that they’re grown up in."

Newark Mayor Cory Booker:

"The knee jerk reaction [is] to spend more money. Well, you know what? I can show you places in the city of Newark where we're doing more with less simply because we have good people stepping forward and saying, "I'm not gonna tolerate this any more in my nation, in my community, on my block." They're doing mentoring programs. You have grassroots leaders... Because it's all about the spirit. It all comes down to a spiritual transformation... At some point in America, we're going to have to get beyond blame and start accepting responsibility."

OK, readers, what to you think?

For me, it's not a surprise that with the advent of the GOP's Moses (President Reagan) trumpeted the beginning of corporations-before-peons era. Corporate Greed before the (so called) Christian Ethic of caring for the less fortunate.

FROM IRAQ - A Lesson on the History of Heroes

"Back in Time...or the making of a Hero" by Layla Anwar

Yesterday, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, as I was applying my kohl...

I looked and saw that I have aged 10 years. No, 100 years. No, 1000 years...

I pushed the years forth....another 7'000 years I said to myself. Now push them back another 7'000 years... And I saw Gilgamesh appear in the mirror's reflection.

Maybe that had to do with a program I was watching on the history of the "Visual"...

The first, the very first city in human civilization that wrote a story on a clay tablet, was Sumer. It was the Epic of Gilgamesh.

Gilgamesh had to fight savage beasts and Gods, before he could return "home" as a Hero...in the land of URUK from which "Iraq" is etymologically derived.

Ashurbanipal had heard of this story, he wanted to be a hero as well. He collected all the cuneiforms and produced the first library known to mankind in Nineveh. But he could not read the cuneiforms. He just relied on the oral tradition, passed from generation to generation-- the story of Gilgamesh.

Ahsurbanipal wanted to be a hero too. So he had the first pictures of a battle made, engraved on the walls of his palace (that numerous modern wars have destroyed).

In it, he fights the lion, and stabs him.... It was actually a series of "pictures", and Ashurbanipal came out as the Hero who vanquished the "lion."

We are talking here about centuries before Christ. This is where the very first ideas of amalgamating a "story and picture" came from...

The idea was further elaborated by the Greeks and later on by the Romans, giving a more "human expression" to the various personages that have characterized Greek and Roman tragedies...

Gilgamesh's cuneiform epic was finally deciphered in the 19th century by an Englishman, called something or the other (I told you I was bad with names...)

Why am saying all of that? Because those of you who love films, may be interested to know where the "concept" of film making came from. A film is made of a "story, pictures and a hero..."

Every film has a hero. Not necessarily in the "warfare" sense of the word, but a hero nonetheless....

And as I looked into the mirror, applying my kohl, putting on my daily mask, hiding behind a face that no longer belongs to me... seeing Gilgamesh appear, I thought of Heroes and Heroines from Uruk and Nineveh, and how our lives have turned into a film...

A film that you watch daily , or that you may have stopped watching for its repetitiveness...

You're probably thinking to yourself, when will the real Hero or Heroine appear and fight the beast and the fake angry Gods, like Gilgamesh did ?

Did it ever occur to you that the Hero may have died at the beginning of the film ?

Ashurbanipal did not foresee that, nor did Gilgamesh... but you --the truthful ones amongst you did-- and so did I.

The rest is just a trailer of more to come.

Or maybe the hero has turned into millions of heroes and heroines quietly leading...

Bold emphases mine.