Bob's Links and Rants

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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Being vegan saves more energy than driving a hybrid

According to this. I needed a little reinforcement wandering around Guanajuato looking for veggie food.

If it runs away like a donkey and poops like a donkey...

Some bloggers are criticizing Democrats for not having a strategy on the Alito nomination. Are you sure the strategy isn’t to lose? I’m not sure they haven’t consciously or unconsciously or, if I know Democrats, semi-consciously, decided to be a failure as an opposition party in the hopes that things will get so bad that they might, somewhere, some day, win a freaking election again.
It seems pretty obvious to me that the most incompetent ruling party in US history gets to do everything it wants only because it exists contemporaneously with the most incompetent opposition party in world history. If you can´t oppose the war in Iraq or Scalito, you are incapable of opposing, period.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Go read!

Here in sunny Guanajuato, I have neither the time nor the inclination to read much on the Internet. But if I did, or were stuck in a snowstorm in Michigan, I would read the interviews with Daniel Ellsberg linked to here.

Oh, I would also read what Cindy Sheehan said:
And about Bill Clinton... You know, I really think he should have been impeached, but not for a blow job. His policies are responsible for killing more Iraqis that George Bush. I don't understand why to rise to the level of being president of my country one has to be a monster. I used to say that George Bush was defiling the Oval Office, but it's been held by a long line of monsters.

Oh, and I'd read Whatever It Is, I'm Against It, since whatever he says there, I'm for it.

Oh, and Paul Craig Roberts too, of course.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Still here!

I'm still in Guanajuato, barely keeping up with the news as I see the sights and learn the language. I doubt if I'll be posting much until next week. See if y'all can block Scalito for me, por favor?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

From Tom Toles.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I'm now in Guanajuato, sitting in the cafe at the Escuela Mexicana. My classes start at 11, about half an hour from now. The city is just as amazing as it looks in the pictures. My host family is actually the owner of the school, with her husband and two daughters. They have an incredible house way up on the hill, with a spectacular view of the city.

I took a first-class bus from Mexico City, which took five hours. Greyhound should be ashamed. Seating on the bus is three to a row--singles on one side of the aisle, paired seating on the other. Quiet, clean, climate-controlled, clean bathroom. The scenery along the way wasn't especially beautiful--much like what you'd see in the semi-desert regions in the USA--California, Colorado, New Mexico. But Guanajuato is beautiful, climbing the hills, surrounding a very compact, pedestrian-friendly centro historico. When I arrived at the house last evening, a celebration was going on in the city below, as seems to be the Sunday-evening custom in Latin America. Music and simple fireworks were the most noticable activities from my perch way above.

More later!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

What he said

Bob Harris points out that the latest Osama tape threatens more attacks, but Homeland Security is still sitting on its big yellow butt. Suggesting that either the Osama tape or Homeland Security are total crap. Harris suggests that the most likely answer is--BOTH.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Would you like to buy some obsidian?

One thing about visiting Mexican tourist spots--you have mucho opportunities to buy souvenirs. It´s not just the shops crowded around the entrance like you´d see at a US tourist attraction. They´ve got those, to be sure. But once you´re inside the attraction, you get offered souvenirs about every 10 meters as you walk. In addition, the people who run the tours seem to be in on it. The first stop on the tour today wasn´t the Pyramid of the Sun, or the Pyramid of the Moon. It was a giftshop outside the Teotihuacan site. Our tourguides introduced us to other ^guides^ who spent 20 minutes trying to sell us anything and everything in the store. Then when we were in the Teotihuacan site (which is incredible, BTW), our guide introduced us to a guy demonstrating how the builders of Teotihuacan used a type of cactus plant to produce paints for coloring the low-relief sculptures and decorations at the site. He demonstrated this on what looked like thick pieces of paper, which he then passed around to us. Surprise! Inside the envelope were pictures of the pyramids and other structures, which he was, of course, selling.

The last stop on our tour was the Basilica de Guadalupe, built on the legend of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The old basilica was sinking into the lake, so a spectacularly atrocious replacement was built in 1976 and was visited by Pope John Paul II a few times. So, of course, we spent most of our visit there in the gift shop. You´ve probably never seen so much Pope and Virgin crap in your life!

Oh well, it was still a fun trip, and I only succumbed to the souvenir vendors once. I also climbed all the way to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun! Photos someday.

Hasta mañana or whenever! (I was about to go searching for that alt-key code for printing the 'n', and then I remembered that I'm typing on a Mexican keyboard. Sure enough, the 'ñ' key is right there where the semicolon should be!)

I don't have time to bash Hillary here in Mexico

Fortunately, a at Mousemusings quotes Molly Ivins doing a fine job of it, and Cyndy adds some fine thoughts of her own.

Mexico City!

I'm here in one of the largest cities in the world, typing on a sticky keyboard in an internet cafe about 8 blocks from the Zocolo (main square) and hopefully about six blocks from my hotel. I'm going on a tour to the Teotihuacan pyramids this afternoon. Y'all hold down the fort while I'm gone!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Off to Mexico!

Probably light posting for the next two weeks. Hasta luego!


Oil is on the march again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Go back to the plantation, Hillary

Gag me with a spoon. The stupid senator from New York seems to think that the Bushies haven't been belligerent ENOUGH towards Iran.

Just the type of "opposition" that an emperor loves.

PCR on Gore's speech

Paul Craig Roberts calls Al Gore's address Monday "the most important political speech in my lifetime."
Bush is angry at the New York Times and at the government officials who leaked the story that Bush illegally spied on American citizens. Both may be prosecuted for making Bush's illegal behavior public. By ignoring Gore's speech, is the New York Times signaling to Bush that the newspaper is willing to be a lap dog in exchange for not being prosecuted?
Gore challenged the American people to step up to the task of defending the Constitution, a task abandoned by the media, the law schools, and the Democratic and Republican parties. If we fail, darkness will close around us.
[Update] A reader points me to this article from the NY Times, showing that the Times did indeed cover Gore's speech. Perhaps it never made it to the print edition? If anyone has copies of Tuesday's NY Times and could check to see if the Gore speech was covered, I'd appreciate it.

From Bill Schorr.

From Brian Adcock.

From Rob Rogers.

Safe and sorry?

From Patrick Chappatte.

Tom Tomorrow quoted this from Al Gore's speech Monday:
Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: “Men feared witches and burnt women.”

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment’s notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same.
Gore is one of very few prominent politicians actually to say what has needed to be said to the "never forget" crowd, you can't forget 9/11, but if you let it rule your lives, guess what: THE TERRORISTS HAVE WON. The main goal of terrorism, obviously, is to instill terror throughout a population. And while Osama bin Laden (supposedly) gave them a head start, the people most responsible for terrifying the populace in the last four years have been Bush, Cheney, and Ashcroft, and their supporters in the wingnut media and the wingnut Congress.

Tom Tomorrow, I think, says it best in a term he uses for the "never forget" crowd: "bedwetters." Next time you meet a bedwetter, remind him or her of the following:
  • More Americans died because of governmental incompetence in the wake of Katrina than died from terrorism during the entire eight years of the Clinton administration (or the Reagan administration, if you/they prefer).
  • More Americans died in car accidents than in terrorist attacks in September 2001.

From Mike Keefe.

From Boondocks.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Predators: Screwups by remote control

Ted Rall documents the nearly perfect record of failure of America's favorite weapon of terror.

Boldly going...

From AP:
An online casino has a piece of Capt. Kirk.

Actor William Shatner has sold his kidney stone for $25,000, with the money going to a housing charity, it was announced Tuesday.

Shatner reached agreement Monday to sell the stone to

"This takes organ donors to a new height, to a new low, maybe. How much is a piece of me worth?" he said in a telephone interview. is noted for its collection of oddities, which includes a partially eaten cheese sandwich thought to contain the image of the Virgin Mary.
This, then, is the 2006 solution to homelessness. People who probably can't afford to gamble do so online. The money goes to, which uses it to buy disgusting memorabilia from a celebrity, who passes it on to Jimmy Carter to build houses for the poor.

Meanwhile, the online gamblers probably can't pay the rent and become homeless. Celebrities sell tumors, appendices, moles, polyps and bunions to build houses for them. The cycle is complete.

Also, I have to wonder: What was on the part of the cheese sandwich which WAS eaten? Something about the Virgin Mary that some hungry Catholic wanted to make sure never saw the light of day? And how long will it take before someone notices how much Shatner's kidney stone looks like Jesus?

The Revenge of Gaia

British environmental scientist and author James Lovelock writes about global warming:
The climate centres around the world, which are the equivalent of the pathology lab of a hospital, have reported the Earth's physical condition, and the climate specialists see it as seriously ill, and soon to pass into a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years. I have to tell you, as members of the Earth's family and an intimate part of it, that you and especially civilisation are in grave danger.

Our planet has kept itself healthy and fit for life, just like an animal does, for most of the more than three billion years of its existence. It was ill luck that we started polluting at a time when the sun is too hot for comfort. We have given Gaia a fever and soon her condition will worsen to a state like a coma. She has been there before and recovered, but it took more than 100,000 years. We are responsible and will suffer the consequences: as the century progresses, the temperature will rise 8 degrees centigrade in temperate regions and 5 degrees in the tropics.

Much of the tropical land mass will become scrub and desert, and will no longer serve for regulation; this adds to the 40 per cent of the Earth's surface we have depleted to feed ourselves.
We [in Britain] could grow enough to feed ourselves on the diet of the Second World War, but the notion that there is land to spare to grow biofuels, or be the site of wind farms, is ludicrous. We will do our best to survive, but sadly I cannot see the United States or the emerging economies of China and India cutting back in time, and they are the main source of emissions. The worst will happen and survivors will have to adapt to a hell of a climate.
Lovelock's book The Revenge of Gaia will be published next month.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

3.5 million Kenyans face starvation

From CNN:
Malnourished children cried feebly in hospital in this drought-stricken corner of Kenya, too weak to even make themselves heard as aid agencies warned Tuesday that they do not have money to feed millions of Kenyans hit by food shortages.
The crisis hit as Kenya forecast a surplus harvest of 62,500 metric tons (68,900 tons) of maize. Farmers in other parts of the country were waiting in lines for up to two weeks to sell surplus maize, the nation's staple food, to the national cereal and produce board.

Surplus food in the west of Kenya is being exported abroad rather than diverted to those at risk from the food crisis.
"Free" markets: magic, or genocide?

Okay, that's way too trite. I know basically nothing about the crisis in Kenya except what I read in the article. But the neoliberal dream of the supremacy of markets, exemplified by the WTO and regional agreements like NAFTA, inevitably means that many will starve because the food they need goes to a higher bidder.

Re-elect Gore in 2008

Al Gore made a great speech yesterday about the Bushies unconstitutional power grab. You should read it! Excerpt:
At present, we still have much to learn about the NSA's domestic surveillance. What we do know about this pervasive wiretapping virtually compels the conclusion that the President of the United States has been breaking the law repeatedly and insistently.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. They recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
Buzzflash comments on how Gore's speech was largely ignored by the mainstream media.


All the insane war talk about Iran is sending oil prices up again.

From Andy Singer.

From Jeff Stahler.

From Steve Benson.

Attention 24 fans!

I've been e-mailing comments on the TV show "24" to a few friends for a couple of years. I've now turned that into a blog for the start of season five.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Canadian comments

There's one of those quibbling little posts which seem to dominate the Democratic blogs (Atrios, Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, etc.--as opposed to liberal/progressive blogs) over at TPM Cafe, debating the best position for Dumbocrats to take with regard to war with Iran. What's the best strategy for winning Congressional seats in November? Calls for restraint and limited war, or grabbing the hawk side of the argument before W has completely grabbed it? Missing from the discussion, of course, is the fact that war with Iran would be, if possible, even more criminal, deadly, and dangerous to the US and the world than the incredibly criminal, deadly and dangerous war in Iraq.

Missing from the argument, that is, until Canadian Den Valdron chimes in. His comment begins:
Speaking as a Canadian who is fond of judicious language, I feel that this situation deserves careful and measured thought. So let me just open with:

Is your entire f*cking country on crack??? Are all you Americans out of your cotton picking minds??? Are you completely freaking delusional? Homicidal? Psychotic? Have you lost any shred of a moral compass? WHAT IN THE NAME OF JESUS H. CHRIST ON A CRUTCH IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!!!
Questions I wish I could answer for Den. Den goes on to explain all of the reasons why even starting a discussion about war with Iran is completely insane. All I can tell Den is that yes, America is out of its mind, it is freaking delusional, it is homicidal and it is psychotic.

The road map is depressingly clear--2002 becomes 2006. As the last war becomes hopelessly bogged down and futile looking (it was Afghanistan in 2002, Iraq this year) Ahminajad continues to get demonized, to the point where even Americans who can't pronounce "nuclear" correctly can say his name with accuracy and disgust. Dick and Condi make speeches about the threat, and the new product, war with Iran, is unveiled just as W comes back from vacation in September. The Abramoff, Plame, Medicare and all other scandals are put on the way-back burner. Dumbocrats crawl all over each other trying to appear tough, until they are boxed into a corner on a war resolution. Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden make speeches on the Senate floor describing the terrible consequences of a nuclear Iran, and the resolution passes. The Dems lose even more seats in Congress in November, and the war begins in March, with 85% of Americans "supporting the troops."

W doesn't know much, but he knows from experience: "Fool you once, shame on you. Fool you twice--you'll get fooled again and again and again."

Quote du jour

"The new federal program is too complicated for many people to understand, and the implementation of the new program by the federal government has been awful," said Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, a Republican.

Pawlenty is talking about the multitude of screwups in the new Medicare bill, the one jammed down the throat of Congress in 2003 with lies, threats and bribes. Lots of poor old people are having a real hard time getting their meds these days, thanks to the criminal subversion of the democratic process on behalf of Big Pharma by the likes of Bush, Tommy Thompson, and Tom DeLay.

Normally I would applaud a Republican criticizing the Bush administration, but Pawlenty is undeserving of praise--he was a Bush "Pioneer" in the 2004 election cycle, raising over $100,000 for aWol's re-selection. He also withdrew from the 2002 senate race at the request of the Veep from the Deep, figuring I guess that the rights of a war-criminal oilman from Wyoming take precedence over the preferences of the people of Minnesota in picking a senator. (Pawlenty's withdrawal cleared the way for the atrocious Norm Coleman to be the Republican candidate for Senate, and Coleman won because his opponent Paul Wellstone was murdered in a plane crash.)

So go Cheney yourself, guv'nor, although in this case it seems like you may already have done so.

Like the war in Iraq and Katrina, the Medicare fiasco demonstrates that selecting really bad presidents has really bad consequences.


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Using Predators is terrorism

For the second time in two weeks, apparently, the super-creepy pilotless aircraft known quite appropriately as Predators have caused massive death to rain down on civilians. On January 2, cameras on a Predator in Iraq supposedly saw three guys planting a roadside bomb in Bayji, Iraq. Shortly thereafter, Navy F-14's dropped bombs on a nearby house where the supposed insurgents had gone. Ten or so civilians, including children, were killed.

On Friday, according to media reports, a CIA Predator fired missiles which destroyed three houses in Pakistan, killing 18 or more people. The alleged target, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who allegedly was one of the dozen or so alleged "masterminds" behind the alleged al Qaeda attacks on 9/11/01, was allegedly supposed to have been in one of the three houses, which apparently he wasn't.

If we temporarily grant that the CIA had somewhat honorable motives in this attack (which I don't)--that they believe that Zawahiri actually was behind 9/11 and is actually still alive today and that there might have been some reason to believe that he was in one of the houses destroyed--the attack was still outrageously reckless and illegal. Chances are very high that once again the awesome power of the US military has been used to settle tribal scores. Some Pakistani, Afghan or Iraqi tells US intelligence that there are terrorists in that building--and fifteen minutes later he has revenge on the family of the man who dishonored his daughter or stole his goat or took him snipe hunting or whatever. (Well, maybe the revenge will fall on the family next door--Bush happens, you know.) The most dramatic example of this, of course, is the Iraq war itself. The Chalabi clan informed gullible American "intelligence" agents like George Tenet and Judy Miller that the Saddam Hussein clan was stockpiling all sorts of nasty weapons. Since this was just what our corrupt leaders--Bush, Cheney, Clinton, Kerry, etc.--wanted to hear, Chalabi had little trouble getting his message heard.

The awesome might of the US military has been used three times in the past five years to change the governments of three countries--in itself one of the textbook definitions of terrorism ("use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments"). On top of this, that military might has been put at the disposal of some very bad people looking to settle scores (and I don't mean just Bush and Cheney). Harry Belafonte was exactly right when he called George Bush "the greatest terrorist in the world." (And I nearly puked when Jon Stewart mocked the idea as ridiculous on the Daily Show. Go Cheney yourself, Jon.)

Being the world's greatest terrorist is actually the stated goal of the Pentagon, although they call it Full-spectrum dominance:
Full-spectrum dominance means the ability of U.S. forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations.
NSA spying, Predator aircraft, satellite surveillance, and stealth bombers are already part of the arsenal, with space-based weapons to follow (under the guise of a "missile defense shield"). The goal seems to be to be able to destroy any location anywhere in the world on a moment's notice at any time. It destroys any notion of investigative police work, or justice for that matter. "Full-spectrum dominance" is terrorism on a scale far beyond anything the world has ever seen.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Well, that was easy

On Monday, I pondered the significance of the murder of recently retired NY Times reporter David Rosenbaum on a quiet Washington street, just as we were learning that the NSA wiretapping story was just one of many that the NY Times had been sitting on while the destruction of our constitutional government continued.

Well, case closed.
A 23-year-old maintenance man from Southeast Washington was arrested last night and charged in the robbery and slaying of New York Times journalist David E. Rosenbaum, police said. They also were seeking one other person.

Michael C. Hamlin was arrested shortly after 6 p.m. when he walked into the 7th District police station in the 2400 block of Alabama Avenue SE, which is in the block where he lives, and asked why "my face is on TV," police said.

Only an hour earlier, police had released to the media images from surveillance videotapes taken at a CVS store in Southeast Washington and an auto parts business in Prince George's County. Police said the tapes showed Hamlin using or attempting to use Rosenbaum's credit cards shortly after Rosenbaum was robbed near his home in Northwest Washington on Jan. 6.

Hamlin walked into the police station last night wearing the same dark jacket, with his first name sewed onto a chest patch, that he had been wearing in a surveillance tape, police said.

Police drove Hamlin to the department's violent crimes branch, where he provided detectives with a statement on the slaying, police said. He was charged with felony murder.

"It did wrap up rather quickly," Detective Anthony Paci said during a news conference last night outside the violent crimes branch.
Like I said on Monday: "Nothing suspicious here." This couldn't possibly be a mentally-impaired individual framed to take the fall, now could it? He walks into the police station and asks why he is on TV. A black guy trying to use credit cards with the name Rosenbaum. (Okay, possible, but not bloody likely.) Heck, the mentally-impaired angle could be part of the setup. Whoever might really have been behind the hit may have had something on this guy, and got him to play-act this scenario. The mental-impairment angle buys him a favorable plea bargain (rather than facing an insanity plea); he spends a year or two in an obscure mental facility and then disappears, far better off than if he'd been prosecuted for whatever they really had on him. And whatever story David Rosenbaum may have been about to break goes to the grave with him.

Jeez! Four years of blogging has made me suspicious!

One week to Mexico!

A week from today I'm heading for Mexico. I'll spend two days in Mexico City, and then about twelve days in beautiful Guanajuato. I'll be attending La Escuela Mexicana for two weeks of Spanish instruction.

What to write to your senators about Scalito

WIIIAI posted his letter to Barbara Boxer.

Let the eagle soar

While the destruction of the constitution considers apace under the auspices of his replacement, John Ashcroft is raking in the lobbyist money. One of his clients is ChoicePoint.

You may remember ChoicePoint and the voter-roll purges in the 2000 Florida election (without which, of course, Ashcroft would have simply remained the incumbent senator who lost to a dead man). Or ChoicePoint and Mexico. Or ChoicePoint and Venezuela.

Now ChoicePoint is paying for the services of a man who knows many secrets about public officials, who hired many of the lawyers who are now in a position to prosecute or not prosecute those officials for those secrets. Depending on whether said officials hire ChoicePoint to do their data-mangling, I'm sure.

What Joe Bageant said

A Tiny Revolution introduces me (and you) to Joe Bageant. If you are looking to be enlightened and depressed, read Joe's essay on our insane society, The Simulacran Republic. Excerpts:
We no longer have a country -- just the hollow shell of one, a global corporation masquerading electronically and digitally as a nation called the United States.
Our civilization, our culture, in as much as it can be said to exist in any cohesive way, is based upon two things, television and petroleum. Whether you are a custodian or the President, your world depends upon an unbroken supply of both. So it is small wonder that we all watch a televised global war for oil.
America suffers from a psychosis, a psychosis being nothing more than an insistence upon staying in an untenable state of consciousness, despite the normal modeling of those around you. This is not out of meanness, but rather an indifference so profound as to be a sickness. The hologram IS the psychosis made manifest. Psychotics love to play ominous games with those around them, just as America does with the world today.
Thanks to the hologram, American culture, as such, is nearly over. It is not sustainable. It is not reformable. Not only are TV and all digital media unreformable, but they are sure to accelerate our demise more rapidly because of the technological capitalist paradigm of growth at all cost. We cannot eliminate the generators of the hologram, television and electronic media. They are the glue of the hologram, the mediators of our human experience. We will all die without them, now that they have replaced all other previous forms of knowledge...
Unlike the humans who constitute their living innards, the corporations animating the hologram are themselves deathless. The citizens cannot harm them. Under U.S. law corporations have all the rights and protections of individuals, and they cannot be regulated because corporations are "fictional persons" and have the same right to free speech as persons. Of course, given that the media are corporations, their speech is a helluva lot more impactful and significant than any one person’s. "But," as the brilliant author of In the Absence of the Sacred, Gerry Mander puts it: "They have none of the commensurate responsibilities. Communities cannot control them because they can always move to other communities. They do not have corporeality; they can't be executed. You can imprison certain people within a corporation if they engage in criminal acts. The corporation itself, however, lives beyond the people in it."

And Burger is mad

From Tom Toles.

From Doonesbury.

They're doing it again

One country over, one letter different. The NY Times editorial page has joined the Bushie chorus about what a terrible threat Iran might be if it had the bomb:
Turning its back on generous European and Russian offers that would have guaranteed its supplies of civilian reactor fuel, helped its economy, added jobs and lessened its diplomatic isolation, this week Tehran unsealed the centrifuges it can now use to enrich uranium to bomb-grade levels.

By doing so, it thumbed its nose at all those governments, including the United States, that had been working patiently and creatively to find a diplomatic formula that met everyone's needs without adding to nuclear dangers. Now those countries - along with China, whose veto power on the United Nations Security Council makes it an essential participant - need to look for new ways to stop, or at least slow down, Iran's nuclear weapons drive.
Ah yes. Working patiently and creatively--by invading Iran's neighbors on either side, awarding it charter membership in the "axis of evil" (with the implicit and ongoing threat of bombing and invasion), ongoing flyovers and other spying (including that still largely unexplained U2 crash last June). Working patiently and creatively--by threatening Iran constantly for possibly doing the only thing that it could to protect itself from US invasion (the US has invaded dozens of countries, but never one with nukes).

Until recently, one thing had been missing in the normal American plan of attack--a recognizable villain. Since Ayatollah Khomeini died in 1989, none of Iran's leaders have apparently been colorful enough to demonize. Railing about obscure "mullahs" just wasn't the same for the Limbaughs, O'Reillys and Hannitys of this world--they need a pock-marked drug-running Noriega, a tall, ominous Osama, or a gun-toting mustachioed Saddam to really get the war juices flowing.

Fortunately for the wingnuts and the Bushies (but I repeat myself), and suspiciously for me, a possibly questionable election in Iran last June ended up with Mahmud Ahmadinejad in charge--a firebrand who has been quoted or misquoted as saying things which match Pat Robertson (though not George W. Bush) in insane bellicosity. I for one wonder how much support Ahmadinejad may have had from the CIA. I remember reading a column (I wish I could remember/find the column--any help appreciated) written around the time of the Iranian election which suggested that the bellicose statements coming out of Washington may have stirred the patriotic ferver of Iranians, leading them to vote for the hardliner (just as 9/11 did here). The article further suggested that that may have been the intention, and that Ahmadinejad election was further supported by the usual covert CIA tricks--assassinations, intimidation, disinformation, propaganda. Voila! Instant villain. They probably would have preferred a villain with an easier name to pronounce and remember, but I'm guessing that soon, if it hasn't happened already, Ahmadinejad will become widely known here as "I'm a nut job." At that point, his villainization will be nearly complete, and the war will be close. The war will be brutal, completely unaffordable, and risk much wider conflict as the world fights for remaining oil and gas resources. But that won't stop the Bushies--it didn't in 2003.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Falling George secret tip

You've probably seen the Falling W animation. But did you know that you can take your mouse and pummel him against the balloons repeatedly? Try it--you'll feel better.

When life deals other people lemons...

steal them and force those other people to make lemonade for you! It's the Repuglican way!

That photo comes from Constructive Anarchy: The Blog, whose motto is "Freedom of Speech: Use it or lose it. Bear witness. Tell somebody. And have some *!#? fun." Thanks to blogkeepers Greg and Magic Sam who sent me a nice e-mail. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going back to read their blog some more! org

The supposedly anti-war MoveOn organization proves once again that it's just a front for the Democratic Party, right or (almost always) wrong. Joshua Frank describes MoveOn's obeisance to the War Queen, Hillary Clinton.
Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York has continued to support Bush's war in Iraq as well as his greater war on terror, yet MoveOn refuses to voice frustration. Instead, they support the war-hungry senator and admit they won't stand up to her during an election year.
"The case I would make is that 2006 needs to be a year of reckoning for Republicans on Iraq," Tom Matzzie, the Washington director for MoveOn recently told the New York Times. "If the antiwar candidate is creamed by Hillary Clinton, it's a distraction."

A distraction from what? If I remember correctly, it wasn't just the Republican Party that got us into this dreadful mess. The Democrats voted for it, helped sell the damn thing, and even bombed the hell out of Iraq during the 1990s, all the while supporting deadly UN sanctions. And as Americans begin to turn on this war, including prominent elected officials from both parties, Hillary still won't retract her defense of the war, let alone meet with genuine antiwar activists here in New York. All of this, and the feckless still won't call Hillary out for her warmongering.

Friends with low wages

American Rights at Work takes on Wal-Mart and Garth Brooks. It'll have you singing right along!

From Troubletown.

From Bruce Plante.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Etta Hulme.

¡Sr. Bush, demuele esta pared!

From Lalo Alcaraz.

From Boondocks.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Whatever it is, he's against it

With excellent reason. WIIIAI reviews the moron-in-chief's latest babblings. Any country that would allow this complete ignoramus to remain in charge for five years is in deep doodoo.

Stay the course

From Non Sequitur. Oh, and another one:

"For-profit healthcare" is an oxymoron

The NY Times reports on diabetes clinics set up in New York a few years ago, only to fall victim to their own success:
At four hospitals across the city, they set up centers that featured a new model of treatment. They would be boot camps for diabetics, who struggle daily to reduce the sugar levels in their blood. The centers would teach them to check those levels, count calories and exercise with discipline, while undergoing prolonged monitoring by teams of specialists.

But seven years later, even as the number of New Yorkers with Type 2 diabetes has nearly doubled, three of the four centers, including Beth Israel's, have closed.

They did not shut down because they had failed their patients. They closed because they had failed to make money. They were victims of the byzantine world of American health care, in which the real profit is made not by controlling chronic diseases like diabetes but by treating their many complications.

Insurers, for example, will often refuse to pay $150 for a diabetic to see a podiatrist, who can help prevent foot ailments associated with the disease. Nearly all of them, though, cover amputations, which typically cost more than $30,000.

Patients have trouble securing a reimbursement for a $75 visit to the nutritionist who counsels them on controlling their diabetes. Insurers do not balk, however, at paying $315 for a single session of dialysis, which treats one of the disease's serious complications.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Compromise, consensus and power-sharing

"Compromise and consensus and power-sharing are the only path to national unity and lasting democracy." So sayeth our uncompromising, consensus-destroying, power-grabbing pResident. Of course, he was talking about Iraq. His agenda for the US is somewhat different (emphasis added).
It's one of the great strengths of our democracy that we can discuss our differences openly and honestly -- even in times of war. Yet we must remember there is a difference between responsible and irresponsible debate -- and it's even more important to conduct this debate responsibly when American troops are risking their lives overseas.

The American people know the difference between responsible and irresponsible debate when they see it. They know the difference between honest critics who question the way the war is being prosecuted and partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil, or because of Israel, or because we misled the American people. And they know the difference between a loyal opposition that points out what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right.

When our soldiers hear politicians in Washington question the mission they are risking their lives to accomplish, it hurts their morale. In a time of war, we have a responsibility to show that whatever our political differences at home, our nation is united and determined to prevail. And we have a responsibility to our men and women in uniform -- who deserve to know that once our politicians vote to send them into harm's way, our support will be with them in good days and in bad days -- and we will settle for nothing less than complete victory. (Applause.)

We also have an opportunity this year to show the Iraqi people what responsible debate in a democracy looks like. In a free society, there is only one check on political speech -- and that's the judgment of the people. So I ask all Americans to hold their elected leaders to account, and demand a debate that brings credit to our democracy -- not comfort to our adversaries.
The evidence that the Bushies misled the American people is so overwhelming that any debate about Iraq which does not mention it is dishonest and partisan. AWol managed to include most of the sleazy warmongering techniques that Norman Solomon included in his new book, all in one speech. I'm not sure there's any insult nasty enough to do proper justice to this nastiest of men.


Last week, I wrote a sentence that was clearly false: "Some ideas are just too stupid to live."

I am bombarded by the minute with counterexamples:
  • Bush is a good president.
  • We're winning in Iraq.
  • Saddam Hussein was a threat to the US.
and so on, all obviously nonsensical ideas which nontheless continue to thrive. Bob's Links and Rants regrets the error.

Sharon moves left hand

No kidding--that's "Breaking News" on the CNN web site right now. A quick review of a few web sites suggests to me that the topic of euthenasia is just as controversial in Israel as it is here. How controversial would it be, both in Israel and here, if Sharon is in or falls into a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo style?

Social promotion

AWol went to Maryland yesterday to brag about one of his many disasters--the No Child Left Behind Act:
I mean, some schools may not think they're quitting on kids, but when you shuffle kids through the schools without determining whether or not they can read and write and add and subtract, I view that as quitting on kids. I called it the soft bigotry of low expectations. In other words, you believe certain children can't learn, so, therefore, just move them through. It's kind of a process world, isn't it? It's more important that somebody be shuffled through than it is to determine whether or not they're capable of meeting certain standards in certain grades.
First off, why is he promoting "No Child Left Behind" by saying it's better than a system where no child was left behind? More importantly--George W. Bush complaining about social promotion? Without wealth, family and connections, this moron would still be in the fourth grade--and we'd all be much better off.

It would go without saying, if I wasn't about to say it, that aWol's talk was filled with grammatical errors.

Also yesterday, aWol babbled about Scalito:
And my hope, of course, is that the American people will be impressed by the process. It's very important that members of the Senate conduct a dignified hearing. The Supreme Court is a dignified body; Sam is a dignified person. And my hope, of course, is that the Senate bring dignity to the process and give this man a fair hearing and an up or down vote on the Senate floor.
Look, moron. If you care so much about "dignity," you refer to him as "Judge Alito," not "Sam."

Tell Scalito to scrambito

Online petitions and letters to senators:

From Jen Sorensen.

Just wondering...

What part of
don't you understand?

Testing Scalito's judicial skills, the Senate had him serve as scorekeeper at the Celtics-Wizards game last night. Look for him to be the replay official at the Patriots-Broncos game this weekend. He'll also be judging ice dancing at the Olympics in a couple of weeks.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Quote du jour

[Natural gas is] "the single best energy source we've ever had. It's too bad we didn't understand it. We've used up probably two thirds of the finest natural gas in the world through one of two reasons- we either flared it because we didn't have any idea what to do with it, or we sold it for 1/10th the amount we sold oil for and we gave oil away. It's not the emissions aspect of natural gas that makes it so unbelievably precious. It's the only source we have of instant heat."
-- Matthew Simmons


From Don Wright.

From Bill Schorr.

From Bob Englehart. If I were Englehart, I don't think I'd be answering my phone about now.

From R.J. Matson.

Okay, it's in bad taste to post a Cheney cartoon right after he went to the hospital for shortness of breath.

So be it.

From Tom Toles.

Nothing suspicious here

From Todd Purdum in the NY Times:
David E. Rosenbaum, a retired reporter and editor for The New York Times who for more than 35 years wrote about the intersection of politics, economics and government policy with uncommon depth, clarity and a keen eye for the story behind the story, died Sunday. He was 63.

His death was caused by a brain injury suffered when he was struck in the head and robbed Friday night while walking near his home in Northwest Washington, police officials and his family members said.
He retired from the Times last month. So, just as the New Pravda's repeated coverups of important stories is exposed (see previous post), one of their longtime Washington reporters resigns--and shortly thereafter is beaten to death on the streets of Washington.

Note the Times' headline: David Rosenbaum, Reporter for Times Who Covered Politics, Dies at 63. Headline readers wouldn't have a clue that he'd been bludgeoned to death. And Todd Purdum, while remarking on Rosenbaum's keen eye for the story behind the story, shows no interest for the story behind this story. Just a simple brutal mugging--could happen to anyone. I guess the two-bullet suicides were getting too suspicious.

I see from a Google News search that many other news outlets are reporting Rosenbaum's death more accurately--he was "killed," he didn't just "die." The WaPo article notes that the neighborhood where he was attacked is generally quiet and safe.

All the news the government deems fit to print

Last month, the NY Times ran an article exposing the illegal NSA wiretapping program. Good for them--except that they'd known about it for A YEAR. (Whether they knew about it before the 2004 election still seems to be unclear.) This is bad; really bad. But it gets worse. Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution points out that, based on passages in Times' reporter James Risen's new book, State of War, the Times has been sitting on a lot of stories in the past few years. They sat on crucial information about the Downing Street Memo. They sat and continue to sit on reports that the CIA sent thirty relatives of Iraqi scientists to Iraq (before the war) to ask them whether they were working on WMD programs, and every single relative reported back that the scientists said they weren't, and that Iraq had nothing.

Billmon refers to the NY Times as the "New Pravda." That seems harsh to me--to the old Pravda, that is. The Times published Judy Miller's hallucinations based on the BS fed her by Ahmed Chalabi, but didn't publish the evidence which suggested that Judy was all wrong. Over 2200 US service members have died, and countless others, because the state-run press in the US refuses to print the truth.

Jonathan has much more on this--I just summarized his post.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Just playing politics

From the NY Times:
"They certainly had a case to investigate - two guys died," Captain Beiring said yesterday in an interview. "And, obviously, some soldiers did some stuff wrong and needed to be punished. But I think it got blown out of proportion. At some point, they were just playing politics."
So what was the case they, Army prosecutors, had to investigate?
The Army has dropped its case against the only officer to face criminal charges in connection with the beating deaths of two prisoners held by the United States in Afghanistan, military officials said yesterday.

The officer, Capt. Christopher M. Beiring, led a reservist military police company that was guarding the main American detention center in Afghanistan when the two men were killed within days of each other in December 2002. The prisoners died after guards kneed them repeatedly in the legs while each was shackled to the ceiling of his cell.

Captain Beiring, 39, had been charged with lying to investigators and being derelict in his duties, in part by neglecting after the first death to order his soldiers to stop chaining up prisoners by the arms at the behest of military interrogators who wanted to deprive them of sleep before questioning.
He was in charge of a unit which beat two prisoners to death. But prosecuting him was just "playing politics."

Reason number 3,456,832 why they hate us.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Freedom's just another word

Via WIIIAI (say that fast five times), I learn of a WaPo article from a couple of week which demonstrates just how liberated Afghanistan is after four years of US occupation:
An Afghan journalist who was recently sentenced to two years in prison for publishing controversial magazine articles about Islam, women's rights and the Afghan justice system will be released from jail later this week, officials said.

Before gaining his freedom, however, Ali Mohaqeq Nasab had to confront an agonizing choice: formally apologize for what he had published or risk being sent to the gallows.

After refusing for three months to retract his comments, Nasab told an appeals court this week that he was sorry for printing stories that asserted women should be given status equal to men in court, questioned the use of physical punishments for crimes and suggested converts from Islam should not face execution.
Nasab reportedly now loves Big Brother, the Afghan version of which still looks a lot like the Taliban.

Here's the background:
Nasab returned to Afghanistan last year following a long exile in Iran and began publishing a magazine called Women's Rights. Articles in the May issue attracted the attention of a Muslim cleric, who denounced Nasab as an infidel during Friday sermons.

When Nasab complained to officials in the justice system in September, he was detained on charges of blasphemy. Prosecutors said Nasab's articles -- including one that claimed God, not the courts, should punish those who leave Islam -- proved he had abandoned his religion. They pushed for the death penalty, but a lower court gave him a two-year sentence.

That decision provoked an outcry among religious conservatives. A council of 200 religious leaders in the southern city of Kandahar issued a fatwa , or religious edict, calling for Nasab to be hanged unless he repented. A division of the Supreme Court took a similar step.
One of the appeals judges, Abdul Muqeem Atarud, said Thursday that he had heard from many people on both sides of the issue.

"We told them that if he did not repent, he would be executed. It's the only way," Atarud said. "It says in sharia that if someone repents" for leaving Islam, "he should be forgiven. So that is what happened." Sharia is the Islamic system of justice.

Any Hugh Thompsons in Iraq?

Pardon my ignorance, but I never heard of Hugh Thompson Jr. until five minutes ago. I only heard about him now for two reasons: he just died, and the NY Times headline My Lai Hero Hugh Thompson Jr. Dies at 62. The clash between "My Lai" and "Hero" jumped off of the page (well, monitor) because they just don't go together--like "Bush" and "Brilliance" or "Cheney" and "Decency." Figuring this had to be just another atrocious headline, I had to check it out. And I found out that the words "My Lai" and "Hero" can go together. Here's the start of the AP story:
Hugh Thompson Jr., a former Army helicopter pilot honored for rescuing Vietnamese civilians from his fellow GIs during the My Lai massacre, died early Friday. He was 62.

Thompson, whose role in the 1968 massacre did not become widely known until decades later, died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, hospital spokesman Jay DeWorth said.

Trent Angers, Thompson's biographer and family friend, said Thompson died of cancer.

"These people were looking at me for help and there was no way I could turn my back on them," Thompson recalled in a 1998 Associated Press interview.

Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the U.S. soldiers to prevent more killings.

Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the U.S. forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital. Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai.
Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta were snubbed and treated as traitors for years, according to the article, until finally in 1998 they were awarded the Soldier's Medal. They certainly couldn't have expected medals for their bravery back in 1968, when their higher-ups in the chain of command, including Major Colin Powell, were covering up the massacre at My Lai. (Then again, the three heroes may have escaped court martials or worse BECAUSE of the coverup--prosecuting them then might have exposed the crime at My Lai, which remained a dirty secret until one of the soldiers who had been at My Lai presented the evidence to journalist Seymour Hersh.)

Still--It's a shame not to hear of a real hero until he's dead.
Two great cartoons from Jeff Danziger:

Headline "News"

NY Times Headline: While Lone Survivor Lies in Coma, Many Speak of 'Miracle'

The article includes the word "miracle" precisely zero times, not counting the headline. If many are speaking of a miracle, the Times didn't bother to interview any of them. I was wondering from the headline how the Times could spin the death of 12 out of 13 people as a "miracle." They did it through the "miracle" of headlines.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

THIS will finally get Pat Robertson off the air

Saying ridiculous things about Hugo Chavez or Democrats hasn't gotten fundamidiot preacher Pat Robertson off of TV. But suggesting that Ariel Sharon's stroke was cause by God smiting him? Every member of Congress who defends Israel, which is most of them, will be calling for the silencing of Robertson--led by Holy Joe and Hillary.

It will probably also quash Robertson's project for a Christian theme park on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Some ideas are just too stupid to live.

From Chan Lowe.

Hammer in the slammer?

One can dream, can't one? Mark Cohen dreams of the day when Tom's life gets DeLayed indefinitely:

When it finally happens, I will personally hire Nelson Muntz of the Simpsons to go visit the bug man.

HA HA!!!!

Dick Cheney is so dumb

If we have learned anything in the last 25 years -- from Beirut, to Somalia, to the USS Cole -- it is that terrorist attacks are not caused by the projection of force; they are invited by the perception of weakness.
That's from the Veep from the Deep's harangue at the Heritage Foundation yesterday. Let's look at his three examples:
  • Beirut: In 1983, 241 American servicemen, mostly Marines, were killed by a truck bomb at Beirut International Airport. What were they doing at Beirut International Airport? Projecting force.
  • Somalia: In 1993, 18 American soldiers were killed in the streets of Mogadishu. They were there projecting force.
  • USS Cole: In October 2000, the destroyer USS Cole was attacked in the harbor of Aden, Yemen by suicide bombers in a small boat. Seventeen sailors died and 39 were injured. They were in Aden projecting force.

And, in a followup to yesterday's post about Useless Dick's talk, here's what UD said about the NSA spying:
There are no communications more important to the safety of the United States than those related to al Qaeda that have one end in the United States. If we'd been able to do this before 9/11, we might have been able to pick up on two hijackers who subsequently flew a jet into the Pentagon. They were in the United States, communicating with al Qaeda associates overseas. But we did not know they were here plotting until it was too late.
Boy, I sure wish we had real journalists who would cross examine him on that last sentence, which was obviously carefully worded. Just hearing it, one might think that the US government didn't know they were here, which isn't true. Well maybe we knew they were here, but didn't know they were plotting. Well, their ties to al Qaeda were known, and we knew what they were saying in phone calls in e-mails (see yesterday's post). In fact, the only hope that sentence has of having any truth to it by including "until it was too late," which again a casual listener might interpret as "until after 9/11." But that too would be wrong, which is why Cheney said "too late." Because they knew this stuff by January 2001. The dots were there; they weren't connected. If the relief effort in New Orleans had been planned with one-tenth the care of that one deceptive sentence, a lot of lives might have been saved.

Fearmaster Cheney goes on, lying through his smirk:
If you recall, the report of the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on our inability to cover links between terrorists at home and terrorists abroad. The authorization the President made after September 11th helped address that problem in a manner that is fully consistent with the constitutional responsibilities and legal authority of the President and with the civil liberties of the American people. The activities conducted under this authorization have helped to detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks against the American people. As such, this program is critical to the national security of the United States.

It's important to note that leaders of Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on the President's authorization, and on activities conducted under it. I have personally presided over most of those briefings. In addition, the entire program undergoes a thorough review within the executive branch approximately every 45 days. After each review, the President determines whether to reauthorize the program. He has done so more than 30 times since September 11th -- and he has indicated his intent to do so as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and similar organizations.
Pretty much every point in these two paragraphs has been thoroughly refuted in the past couple of weeks. Then again, I think "the insurgency is in its last throes" has been pretty soundly refuted in the past couple of days.

Cheney: Liar or halucinatory psychopath? No need to decide; he's both.

Rose Bowl

Sandra Day O'Connor tossed the coin at the start of the National Championship football game. No word yet as to whether it was the same coin she used to decide her vote in Bush v. Gore back in 2000. Not surprisingly, Texas won the toss. The first touchdown by Texas came on a play where the quarterback made an illegal forward lateral after his knee was down. Unlike seemingly every other play in the game, this one was not reviewed (recounted?).

Actually, I was pulling for Texas. UT is a bastion of liberalism in the heart of that blood-red state, while USC is a bunch of rich frat boys slumming in Watts. And a few shaky calls went USC's way too. So congratulations to Texas, national champions!

Schwarz verifies Letterman; O'Reilly is 60% crap

A couple of nights ago, David Letterman had Bill O'Reilly on his show. Letterman told O'Reilly "I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap. Sixty percent, that's just a -- I'm just spitballing here now."

Jonathan Schwartz at A Tiny Revolution decided to check Letterman's spitball estimate, and finds out he was spot on.

From Tom Toles.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Dewey Wins!

Lots of "news"papers jumped the gun on the coalmine story.

Fearmaster Cheney is lurking again

I may be jumping the gun on this one, but I'm a firm believer that you can tell that the Veep from the Deep is lying whenever his snarl is moving.

From the Washington Post:
Vice President Cheney today offered a staunch defense of a secret government eavesdropping program, saying it might have been able to thwart the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks if it had been in place at the time.
Cheney referred to a report by the U.S. commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks. In criticizing federal agencies' inability to detect the plot, the commission cited the phone calls of two hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, to other al Qaeda members overseas.
The Post attributes Cheney's statements to "excerpts released by the White House ahead of a speech at the Heritage Foundation," which haven't appeared on the White House web site as of 2 pm EST today. So I'm not sure exactly what phone calls Cheney is referring to. But read these passages from the 9/11 Commission Report and tell me if it sounds like our government was having trouble eavesdropping on Alhazmi and Midhar (emphasis added):
Hazmi and Mihdhar came to the United States to learn English, take flying lessons, and become pilots as quickly as possible. They turned out, however, to have no aptitude for English. Even with help and tutoring from Mohdar Abdullah and other bilingual friends, Hazmi and Mihdhar's efforts to learn proved futile. This lack of language skills in turn became an insurmountable barrier to learning how to fly.

A pilot they consulted at one school, the Sorbi Flying Club in San Diego, spoke Arabic. He explained to them that their flight instruction would begin with small planes. Hazmi and Mihdhar emphasized their interest in learning to fly jets, Boeing aircraft in particular, and asked where they might enroll to train on jets right away. Convinced that the two were either joking or dreaming, the pilot responded that no such school existed. Other instructors who worked with Hazmi and Mihdhar remember them as poor students who focused on learning to control the aircraft in flight but took no interest in takeoffs or landings. By the end of May 2000, Hazmi and Mihdhar had given up on learning how to fly.

Mihdhar's mind seems to have been with his family back in Yemen, as evidenced by calls he made from the apartment telephone. When news of the birth of his first child arrived, he could stand life in California no longer.
Hazmi did not sever all contact with his friends in San Diego. According to Abdullah, after Hazmi left San Diego in December 2000, he telephoned Abdullah twice: in December 2000 or January 2001, Hazmi said he was in San Francisco and would be attending flight school there; about two weeks later, he said he was attending flight school in Arizona. Some evidence, which we will discuss later, indicates that Hazmi contacted Abdullah again, in August 2001. In addition, during the month following Hazmi's departure from San Diego, he emailed his housemate three times, including a January 2001 email that Hazmi signed "Smer," an apparent attempt to conceal his identity that struck the housemate as strange at the time. Hazmi also telephoned his housemate that he and his friend had decided to take flight lessons in Arizona, and that Mihdhar was now back in Yemen. That was their last contact. When the housemate emailed Hazmi in February and March of 2001 to find out how he was faring, Hazmi did not reply.
Where I may be jumping the gun is that I'm not sure how the 9/11 Commission got this information (the footnotes lead to an FBI report that doesn't seem to be available on the web). It may have all come after the fact, digging through computers and phone company records and interviews with contacts. (Or they could have just pulled it out of their Ashcroft.) But I've read several places that these two guys, while hanging out in San Diego, were being tracked by one of our government agencies. The dots were there; they just weren't connected (whether intentionally or on purpose). If they weren't tapping these guys phones, it wasn't because they couldn't have under FISA. Of course, knowing Useless Dick, he probably means that if they had listened in on every phone call made ever, some of them would have been about the 9/11 plot. But, as Greg Saunders pointed out a couple of weeks ago, the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission wasn't that they the government didn't have enough dots--it's that they failed to connect them. Of course, I would suggest that that was totally on purpose, and that Fearmaster Cheney was the reason for that.

Taking the high road

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush's re-election campaign is giving up $6,000 in campaign contributions connected to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who faced more guilty pleas as part of a broad-ranging political corruption investigation.
Abramoff raised at least $100,000 for the Bush-Cheney '04 re-election campaign, earning the honorary title "pioneer" from the campaign. But the campaign is giving up only $6,000 directly from Abramoff, his wife and one of the Indian tribes that he worked to win influence for in Washington.
Actually, coming from an influence peddler like Jack 'off, the $6000 is probably the least tainted of the over $100,000 he raised for aWol. He and his wife are allowed by law to donate $2000 each to the campaign. But who knows who he might have bribed, threatened, blackmailed or extorted to get the remaining $94,000 plus? He should give that up, too, along with the two elections he stole with Jack 'off's help.

Meanwhile, Jack 'off gets Layed:
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Wednesday that Bush does not know Abramoff personally, although it's possible that the two met at holiday receptions. Abramoff attended three Hanukkah receptions at the Bush White House, the spokesman said.
BTW, Jack 'off is on top of the list of Bush Pioneers, alphabetically, anyway. The list also includes Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, several congresscritters, several governors and other state officials, most of the cabinet, several ambassadors, and of course a huge list of corporate scumbag types. All of these people bundling hundreds of thousands of dollars, fully expecting and receiving payoffs in the billions from taxpayer money. Just study that list and you'll understand pretty much everything about our "government" and who it works for.

Warning: This post is in bad taste

On August 5, 2002, pResident George aWol Bush said the following to families, friends, rescuers and others gathered to celebrate the rescue of nine coal miners in Pennsylvania:
The spirit of America can best be seen with the families who are here. A strong America is America based upon strong families. A strong future for our country depends upon the strength of our family -- husband loving wife and wife loving husband, husband and wife dedicating themselves to their children. The spirit of America was represented as family members, wives and sons and daughters and moms and dads prayed for the safety of their loved one. They spent hours worrying about the lives of somebody they called, loved one. And out of this near tragedy comes the living example of the importance of family.

It was my honor to meet the family members here today. I appreciate and I know your dads and your husbands appreciate much more than me the fact that you -- the energy you spent on seeing that they came out of that hole alive was an important part of rallying the -- rallying the country.

And that's another part of the spirit of America I want to herald, and that is the prayers that were said by thousands of your citizens -- I mean, people from all walks of life. They didn't say, I'm a Republican, therefore, I get to pray; or I'm a Democrat, I pray. I don't care about either of them, I pray. Everybody prayed. A lot of people -- if I say everybody, I don't know if everybody prayed. I can tell you, a lot prayed. A lot prayed for your safety, a lot prayed for your families. A lot pled to an almighty God that you were rescued. And thank God the prayers were answered.
So what might the BS-er-in-chief say after the tragedy in West Virginia?
I've noted that there has been strong family support for the miners, and still they died. Most of you have been praying for their safety; still they died. Some of you are Democrats, others Republicans, a few are probably even bright enough to know that neither party represents po' folk like you in any way. But still, you prayed to God that your loved ones be saved, and you now know what the answer was.

Actually, I just talk about God to distract you from the fact that the miners in Pennsylvania lived, and the ones here died, not because of family or prayers or the American spirit (well, maybe a bit of the American spirit). They died or nearly died because criminal capitalists cut costs and ignored safety. They died because a rapacious American economy demands cheap fuel, regardless of how many people it kills or how much damage it does to the environment through pollution and global warming.
Of course, that is what an honest president would say, and we haven't had one of those for a very long time, if ever. If aWol were consistent with his 2002 remarks, I guess he'd say something more like this:
What sort of adulterous godless childbeaters are you West Virginians anyway? Your men obviously died because you don't believe in God or family or the American spirit. 9/11. And may God bless America.

The WSWS has some choice remarks about this tragedy, and the role the Bush administration actually played in it. The WSWS similary reviewed the causes of the near tragedy in Pennsylvania back in 2002.

War Made Easy

I'm currently reading Norman Solomon's latest book, War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. I'm only in chapter four, but I can already recommend the book. The table of contents tells most of the story:
  1. America Is a Fair and Noble Superpower
  2. Our Leaders Will Do Everything They Can to Avoid War
  3. Our Leaders Would Never Tell Us Outright Lies
  4. This Guy Is a Modern-Day Hitler
  5. This Is about Human Rights
  6. This Is Not at All about Oil or Corporate Profits
  7. They Are the Aggressors, Not Us
  8. If This War Is Wrong, Congress Will Stop It
  9. If This War Is Wrong, the Media Will Tell Us
  10. Media Coverage Brings War into Our Living Rooms
  11. Opposing the War Means Siding with the Enemy
  12. This Is a Necessary Battle in the War on Terrorism
  13. What the U.S. Government Needs Most Is Better PR
  14. The Penagon Fights Wars as Humanely as Possible
  15. Our Soldiers Are Heroes, Theirs Are Inhuman
  16. America Needs the Resolve to Kick the "Vietnam Syndrome"
  17. Withdrawal Would Cripple U.S. Credibility
While of course all of these lies were used to sell the current war in Iraq, Solomon provides the historical perspective. He doesn't focus solely on aWol's lies; in the chapters I've read so far he has spent as much or more time on the lies of Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr., and Clinton. The key point is that the same lies get used over and over again by our pResidents and their minions in Congress and the media. Of course, new ones get added from time to time--the Spanish-American War couldn't be sold using Hitler comparisons, obviously, and the Korean War wasn't fought to overcome the Vietnam syndrome. But the same sorts of lies are told, time after time, and the stupid American public falls for them, time after time.

Benny for Pope! Benny for Pope!

Oh yeah, he already is Pope. Still, he said some cool stuff on New Year's Day:
Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: "outside are... all who love falsehood" (22:15). Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations. We need but think of the events of the past century, when aberrant ideological and political systems wilfully twisted the truth and brought about the exploitation and murder of an appalling number of men and women, wiping out entire families and communities. After experiences like these, how can we fail to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world. Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.
As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples.
Those authorities who, rather than making every effort to promote peace, incite their citizens to hostility towards other nations, bear a heavy burden of responsibility: in regions particularly at risk, they jeopardize the delicate balance achieved at the cost of patient negotiations and thus help make the future of humanity more uncertain and ominous.
The truth of peace requires that all —whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them— agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament.
Of course, aWol I'm sure assumed that Benny was talking only about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, while Ahmadinejad was thrilled that Benny had gone after aWol.

The new Iraq

Juan Cole notes that, in addition to the summary justice I mentioned earlier, the new Iraq includes imprisonment for criticising the government, torture, and book banning.

Headline "News"

USA Today's headline for the AP report on the US bombing of a house in Beiji which killed seven (or nine or twelve): U.S. bombs suspected insurgent hideout; 7 killed. The shorter headline yesterday was even more deceptive: U.S. bombs Iraq hideout; Attack kills 7 insurgents, police say. Actually, according to the AP article, Iraqi police said the attack killed seven people and wounded four. Insurgents? Don't think so:
A preliminary investigation indicated the blast had killed the wife of the home's owner, his daughter-in-law and seven children and grandchildren, including one son who worked for the police, said Maj. Muthanna al-Qaisi, a spokesman for the governor of Salahaddin Province. Three more relatives were wounded, he said.
Roadside bombs, car bombs and suicide bombs are obviously horrible and despicable. But even this brutality pales beside this criminal and cowardly aerial bombardment. Unmanned surveillance aircraft followed up by supersonic F-14's indiscriminately destroying lives--that's terrorism if there ever was terrorism.

WIIIAI points out:
Here it is well over a day later, and no one seems to have gone to see if they were actually planting an IED and maybe even defuse it before it, you know, kills somebody.
I think maybe it's time for the purple-finger gang supposedly putting together a government in Iraq to declare the country to once again be a "no-fly zone." There is no freedom, democracy or sovereignty if foreign invaders can demolish any building in the country any time they feel like it.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The senator from Israel

Joshua Frank describes how Hillary Clinton is the biggest hawk for war with Iran:
As the top Democratic recipient of pro-Israel funds for the 2006 election cycle thus far, pocketing over $58,000 as of October 31 last year, Senator Clinton now has Iran in her cross-hairs.

During a Hanukkah dinner speech delivered on December 11, hosted by Yeshiva University, Clinton prattled, "I held a series of meetings with Israeli officials [last summer], including the prime minister and the foreign minister and the head of the [Israeli Defense Force] to discuss such challenges we confront. In each of these meetings, we talked at length about the dire threat posed by the potential of a nuclear-armed Iran, not only to Israel, but also to Europe and Russia. Just this week, the new president of Iran made further outrageous comments that attacked Israel's right to exist that are simply beyond the pale of international discourse and acceptability. During my meeting with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, I was reminded vividly of the threats that Israel faces every hour of every day ... It became even more clear how important it is for the United States to stand with Israel ..."

As Sen. Clinton embraces Israel's violence, as well as AIPAC's duplicitous Iran position, she simultaneously ignores the hostilities inflicted upon Palestine, as numerous Palestinians have been killed during the recent shelling of the Gaza Strip. Over the past weeks Israel continues to mark the occupied territories (they call 'buffer zones') like a frothing-mouth K9 on the loose.

Hillary Clinton's silence toward Israel's brutality implies the senator will continue to support AIPAC's mission to occupy the whole of the occupied territories, as well as a war on Iran in the future. AIPAC's right -- even President Bush appears to be a little sheepish when up against Hillary "warmonger" Clinton.
I'm all for a woman president. But if it comes down to Hillary vs. Condiliar in 2008, I know how I'm voting--with my feet.

American justice

From the NY Times:
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 3 - United States warplanes dropped bombs on a home near Bayji Monday night that Iraqi officials said killed nine members of a family and wounded three more.

American military officials confirmed the attack today and said the bombs were dropped after an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft recorded three men planting a bomb next to a road about 9 p.m. After the men were tracked to a nearby building, United States warplanes bombed the structure with "precision guided munitions," the military said.

But enraged Iraqi officials in Bayji, about 150 miles north of Baghdad, said today the attack was unjustified and killed an innocent family. A preliminary investigation of the blast site indicated that the airstrike killed the wife of the home's owner, his daughter-in-law and seven other family members, including one son who worked for the police, said Maj. Muthanna al-Qaisi, a spokesman for the governor of the Saluhaddin province.

"The owner of the house is a very simple man," said Maj. Al-Qaisi. "The American forces did not provide us with any justification for the attack and the governor requires an investigation concerning this attack."
This isn't liberation. This isn't democracy. It's atrocities, war crimes. No matter how many phony elections they have, the criminal invasion of Iraq has been a massive failure by any reasonable standards. I hope the victims in that house are buried in a mass grave, just to make a point.

Abramoff to prison

The Repug corruption kingpin reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to charges in DC and Florida. In exchange for the reduced charges, Jack 'off will apparently be spilling the beans on the scum he's been financing for years. Tom DeLay will hopefully be squashed like a bug. I have serious doubts as to whether this will ever get close to going far enough. The prosecutors are federal, which means they work for Torture Gonzales and his idiot boss. Even if W and TG don't have the guts to just fire the prosecutors and pardon Abramoff, they might declare him an "enemy combatant" and whisk him off to some country-club prison in the Marianas where he'd never have to speak to anyone except waiters and caddies. National security, y'know. Because if Jack 'off tells everything he knows and the prosecutors act on it, he might bring down W and most of the congresscritters who support him. And our pResident is above the law--just ask him.

Quotes du jour

"The executive branch shall construe these sections in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President."

"...the executive branch shall construe the section in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief."

"The executive branch shall construe these provisions relating to planning and making of budget recommendations in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to require the opinions of the heads of departments, to supervise the unitary executive branch, and to recommend for congressional consideration such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient."

"The executive branch shall construe section 8104, relating to integration of foreign intelligence information, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch. Also, the executive branch shall construe sections 8106 and 8119 of the Act, which purport to prohibit the President from altering command and control relationships within the Armed Forces, as advisory, as any other construction would be inconsistent with the constitutional grant to the President of the authority of Commander in Chief."

"The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power."

"...the executive branch shall construe section 1005 to preclude the Federal courts from exercising subject matter jurisdiction over any existing or future action, including applications for writs of habeas corpus, described in section 1005."

"Because the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and take care that the laws be faithfully executed cannot be made by law subject to a requirement to consult with congressional committees or to involve them in executive decision-making, the executive branch shall construe the provision to require only notification."
Those bits of imperial gobbledygook come from the President's Statement on Signing of H.R. 2863, the "Department of Defense, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations to Address Hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and Pandemic Influenza Act, 2006", released by the White House as W signed the bill last Friday. As WIIIAI explains, W is signing a bill while clearly indicating that he doesn't intend to abide by its provisions. Louis XIV and Hitler became the law in their days, and W is making the exact same power grab here. (Okay, Gonzo is making it for him.)

Both WIIIAI and Marty Lederman note with dismay, and the right-wing National Review's Matthew Franck notes with glee, that the fifth paragraph above (about Title X in Division A) demonstrates W's intention not to abide by the McCain amendment banning torture.

Bush and Cheney believe they can do anything they want, including breaking laws they just signed. They must be impeached, and soon.

From Paul Conrad.

Okay, I don't get it...

From Simaca Osmani (Brazil).

One of those cool cartoons I just don't get.

From Steve Sack.

Monday, January 02, 2006

PCR figures it out

Paul Craig Roberts speculates on the real reason for Spygate:
One reason is that the Bush administration is being used to concentrate power in the executive. The old conservative movement, which honors the separation of powers, has been swept away. Its place has been taken by a neoconservative movement that worships executive power.

The other reason is that the Bush administration could not go to the FISA secret court for warrants because it was not spying for legitimate reasons and, therefore, had to keep the court in the dark about its activities.

What might these illegitimate reasons be? Could it be that the Bush administration used the spy apparatus of the US government in order to influence the outcome of the presidential election?

Could we attribute the feebleness of the Democrats as an opposition party to information obtained through illegal spying that would subject them to blackmail?
Hmmm...Maybe it was Hillary who had the affair with Monica, while Bill was fooling around with John Kerry. That would explain pretty much everything. Seriously, I'm pretty sure we've got NAFTA and welfare "reform" and a whole lot of other crappy stuff only because the Repugs had the dirt on Clinton right from the start.

"I can’t think of a better way to start 2006"

WIIIAI reviews aWol's bumbling photo-op visiting his victims at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Digby gives some insight into our brush-clearing idiot-in-chief.
The president of the United States likes to spend his suburban ranchette vacation killing time cutting stuff down with a chainsaw and then torching it. Holy s**t. Does it get any more symbolic than that?

No oil for lots of blood

Well, hardly any. From the NY Times:
Iraq's oil exports hit their lowest level since the war, according to figures released on Monday, heightening a sense of crisis as fuel supplies grow scarce and political leaders struggle to form a government.

Iraq exported 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in December, a senior official said -- less than any month since exports resumed in mid-2003 after the U.S. invasion and about half the level seen during sanctions under Saddam Hussein.

Sabotage is damaging plants and blocking investment, keeping exports at a fraction of targets officials say should be met if Iraq's vast reserves are to provide its people with the prosperity that might draw the sting of civil conflict.
But don't worry--Iraq's oil ministry is in good hands:
Uloum's resignation as oil minister came after what looked like an old-style ministerial coup last month, when he was placed on leave against his will and replaced by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi.
I don't think that oil can be deposited into Swiss bank accounts, but if it can, the scumbag who told W the lies he wanted to hear will find a way.


Salon article: Sen. John Kerry Keeps 2008 Options Open. With "centrist" losers like Kerry and Clinton being the only Dems given any chance of getting the nomination, hopes for ending the Repug empire or the endless war of terror seem slim.

Pants on fire

Aggressively defending the indefensible, aWol and his congressional minions continue to support unconstitutional spying on Americans. AWol is even willing to stare facts directly in the face and deny their existence. From the NY Times:
As Mr. Bush continued to defend the program in San Antonio, he was asked about a remark he made in Buffalo in 2004 at an appearance in support of the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, where he discussed government wiretaps.

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap," Mr. Bush said in Buffalo, "a wiretap requires a court order."

He added: "Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

Democrats have seized on the remark, made more than two years after Mr. Bush authorized the N.S.A. to conduct wiretaps without warrants, in charging that the president had misled the public.

Asked about that charge on Sunday, Mr. Bush said: "I was talking about roving wiretaps, I believe, involved in the Patriot Act. This is different from the N.S.A. program."
He then added "Black is white. Up is down. And you all are under arrest."

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Neanderthal) sees no problem with the wholesale violations of the fourth amendment--for him, the only problem is that we now know that Big Brother is watching.
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, said on the same television program that Mr. Bush had acted within the Constitution to protect the country from another terrorist attack. Mr. McConnell said the focus now should be on identifying who disclosed the existence of the classified operation.

The Justice Department said Friday that it had opened an investigation into the disclosure of the N.S.A. program, which was first reported by The Times on Dec. 15.

Mr. McConnell said of the disclosure, "This needs to be investigated, because whoever leaked this information has done the U.S. and its national security a great disservice."
Where do we get fascist idiot senators like this, and can we return them?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

CBS locks 'em up; ABC gets 'em out

I just watched the pilot episode for In Justice, ABC's new drama where a bunch of do-gooder lawyers work to help people improperly convicted of crimes get out of jail. As a followup to the recent Paul Craig Roberts' article about the sorry state of American "justice," it seems like a pretty good show to have on about now. The pilot episode covered some of the many flaws--faulty eyewitnesses, bad defense lawyers, improper use of circumstantial evidence. Here's ABC's blurb for the show:
In Justice is a completely new take on the procedural drama. Focusing on cases of justice run amok -- sloppy police work, false testimony and biased juries -- the National Justice Project is a high-profile, non-profit organization made up of hungry young associates who approach their work like a puzzle... a puzzle that's been put together wrong. They fight to overturn wrongful convictions, liberate the falsely accused and discover the identity of those really to blame. They're led in their task by modern-day heroes, David Swain, a blustery but charismatic attorney of questionable ethics but undeniable talent, and his chief investigator, Charles Conti, a former cop.
Interestingly, the show's regular time slot will be Fridays at nine, directly opposite CBS's Close to Home--a show about a bunch of prosecutors.

2005--ugh!--What was it good for?

Dave Barry recaps the year that was.

Cold war

Russia quadrupled the price of natural gas it sells to the Ukraine. Ukraine refused to pay, so Russia has cut the supply of gas to Ukraine. But gas will still be piped through Ukraine to Western European nations, so the question arises whether Ukraine will just let it pass through, or take its cut anyway. Eighty percent of Russian gas sales to Western Europe pass through Ukraine. Ukraine apparently has some gas stockpiled, and also imports from Turkmenistan.

While the quadrupling of the price seems outrageous, the $50 per 1000 cubic meters was a subsidized Soviet-era price, and by my calculations is about 1/8th of the current spot price for gas in the US. The new price demanded by the Russians will still be only about half of what we pay here in the US now.

The war in Iraq may have been the second resource war of the 21st century (Afghanistan being the first), but it surely won't be the last. This could get very ugly very quickly.