Bob's Links and Rants

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Saturday, March 31, 2007

If anyone knows about taking Brits hostage, it's Bush and Blair

President Bush on Saturday called Iran's detention of 15 British sailors and marines "inexcusable behavior" and called for their release, referring to them as "hostages."

"The Iranians took these people out of Iraqi water," said Bush, speaking at Camp David with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. "And it's inexcusable behavior."

The 15 have been detained in an undisclosed location in Iran since March 23. Iran claims they "trespassed" into Iranian territorial waters. Britain denies the claim.

The U.S. government had been notably quiet on the subject from the beginning, but Bush voiced strong opinions Saturday.

"The Iranians must give back the hostages," he said. "They were innocent. They were doing nothing wrong. And they were summarily plucked out of water."

Andrew Lawless, May 2005:
"He used to run an Islamic bookshop in Birmingham--recounts Rose, who has interviewed the now released Moazzem Begg--They used to get visits from a guy who called himself Steve, who turned out to be with MI5. He was looking for information on possible extremist networks in England. Moazzem and his partner Tahir were very happy to cooperate with him, saying 'look, we have no links with terrorism--drop in any time, we've nothing to hide'. Moazzem later moved to Afghanistan with his family , up until September 11th, at which point he fled as he didn't want any part in what was clearly going to be a war. So there they were in Islamabad, renting a house. MI5 didn't have a clue where they were. Steve went up to Tahir, asking where Moazzem was. Tahir responded 'he's in Pakistan actually', at which point Steve asked him to put him in touch, for a chat. Tahir called him, and told him that Steve was looking for him, for a chat. Moazzem indicated that this was fine, to give him his number, and that if he was in Islamabad he could call over for dinner. Well, in fact, two days later, Moazzem was arrested, or rather kidnapped, bundled into a car and taken to a secret detention centre in Pakistan where he was held for six weeks [In july of 2002 CNN was reporting that Begg had been captured in Afghanistan]. Almost the first person he saw when he got there was Steve." Begg was subsequently transferred to Guantánamo, from where he was released in March 2004, without charge.
Begg, of course, was over 3500 miles from England, and 7000 miles from the U.S., in a country where he had every right to be and neither British nor US agents did, at least for the purpose of arresting someone. The British sailors were at most just over one mile from Iranian territorial waters, and if they weren't in them, they were in Iraqi waters. They had no legitimate business either place. And, BTW, the maritime boundary between Iran and Iraq has never been legally defined:
The Former head of the Foreign Office's maritime section, Craig Murray, said on his website, "The Iran/Iraq maritime boundary shown on the British government map does not exist. It has been drawn up by the British Government."
Finally, there is no one on earth less justified in lecturing anyone on respect for international boundaries or holding hostages than George W. Bush.

From Simanca Osmani (Brazil).

From Andy Singer.


Thursday, March 29, 2007

Amazing--a Congressman doing his job!

Watch! Now if they'd only go after the really important stuff, like what happened on 9/11.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Show of force

ABC is reporting that US planes from the aircraft carrier Eisenhower engaged in a huge "show of force" towards Iran, coming within 50 miles of the coast with more than 100 planes. (At this time, I can't find a single article about this--only the ABC video.)

You know Bush is lying there in the oval office (double entendre intended), just drooling over the possibility that one of those planes gets shot down. There is no legal reason for either the British or US navies to be within a thousand miles of Iran. Whether the British sailors were in Iraq or Iran, they didn't belong there. And neither does the Eisenhower. But Bush and Blair will do whatever they feel is necessary to get their war with Iran--UN resolutions, arresting Iranian diplomats in Iraq, blaming Iran for their Iraq troubles, dancing on the border, threatening Iran with a massive show of force. Whatever it takes for these lunatics.

Quote du jour

"In the beloved Iraq, the bloodshed is continuing under an illegal foreign occupation and detestable sectarianism." -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, today (emphasis added).


More evil than stupid

That's Chris Floyd's take on our Disaster-in-Chief:
Victory or defeat, it didn't matter: the "mission" of aggrandizing the wealth and privilege of the elite interests represented and embodied by Bush was always going to be "accomplished." Bush knew this. To him, the game was always worth the candle. The possibility that thousands of American soldiers would have to die--that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis would be murdered--that violent sectarians would subjugate the Iraqis--that multitudes would have to flee their homes and millions more be left destitute, terrorized traumatized, besieged--that future generations of Americans would be saddled with back-breaking debts--that the world would sicken with more hate, more violence, more grief and revenge--none of this was of any great concern to Bush.
George W. Bush is not the stupidest man ever to sit in the White House. He is probably more intelligent than, say, Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan or Andrew Johnson, perhaps even Lyndon Johnson. Bush knows, to a far greater degree than most of us give him credit for, what he is doing, and why, and the very real effects of his actions. But he is almost certainly the most withered soul ever to hold the presidency, a gutted husk whose only flashes of real feeling seem to come in his rages, his insults, his scorn, his self-righteousness--his baser instincts, centered only and forever on himself. A man who could do what he has done--and know what he is doing as he does it--is a loathsome creature indeed, one who has somewhere, somehow, lost his humanity.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

From Nik Scott.

Make that the final zero

From Eric Devericks.

If you're in the Bush administration, you're linked to scandal.


From Chris Britt.


From Ed Stein.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Just say no--after war, the biggest scam there is

Insurance, that is. The NY Times has an article today about long-term care insurance bought by the elderly to prepare for the day when they can no longer care for themselves. Unfortunately, when they can no longer care for themselves, they generally can no longer pursue, or even remember, the insurance coverage they have paid for for years.
... thousands of policyholders say they have received only excuses about why insurers will not pay. Interviews by The New York Times and confidential depositions indicate that some long-term-care insurers have developed procedures that make it difficult--if not impossible--for policyholders to get paid. A review of more than 400 of the thousands of grievances and lawsuits filed in recent years shows elderly policyholders confronting unnecessary delays and overwhelming bureaucracies.
When my mother was suffering from dementia, she often couldn't remember her own name--much less any long-term-care policies she may have purchased. The bureaucratic nonsense is simply intimidation of a population very easily intimidated. Which of course helps the stock price.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Quote du jour

Now that night has descended and illusions about the great crusade shattered for ever, let us tip our hats to those who opposed this war from the start ­ the real left, the libertarians and those without illusions about the "civilizing mission" of the great powers.
-- Alexander Cockburn.

Quote du jour

Now that night has descended and illusions about the great crusade shattered for ever, let us tip our hats to those who opposed this war from the start ­ the real left: the libertarians and those without illusions about the "civilizing mission" of the great powers.
-- Alexander Cockburn.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

This play's not the thing to catch the concience (?) of this king

The principal of a Connecticut high school has prohibited the students from performing an original play based on the words of soldiers in Iraq. Because freedom is apparently only for the few Iraqis who may survive the war.

From Lloyd Dangle.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Quote du jour

“It’s just not fair to say that people who voted for the resolution wanted war.” -- Former pResident Bill Clinton, petulantly whining about how Hillary's long-standing pro-war stance has been characterized by some as a long-standing pro-war stance. According to The Hill, Clintons
aid he had re-read the Iraq resolution last week, and that his wife had voted only for "coercive inspections." Clinton justified his wife's refusal to apologize for her vote by explaining that she was acting out of concern that future presidents might need similar language authorizing "coercive inspections to avoid conflict."
That "future president" line was BS when Nixon used it, and continues to be now that a former pResident uses it to defend the untenable position of a possible future pResident. And Hillary never mentioned "coercive inspections" in her absurd speech supporting her war vote in 2002. She did, however, mention her insider's view of the Iraq situation during her eight years in the White House, conveniently failing to mention that she should then have known better than anyone that Saddam wasn't a threat in the least to the US.

Despite Bubba's petulant twittery in a fundraising conference call on behalf of Shillary, the prize for best petulant twittery of the day goes, once again, to the current pResident.
Here in Washington, members of both parties recognize that our most solemn responsibility is to support our troops in the war on terror. Yet, today, a narrow majority in the House of Representatives abdicated its responsibility by passing a war spending bill that has no chance of becoming law, and brings us no closer to getting our troops the resources they need to do their job.
How dare a "narrow majority" of elected representatives dare tell the king what to do! AWol continues:
The purpose of the emergency war spending bill I requested was to provide our troops with vital funding. Instead, Democrats in the House, in an act of political theater, voted to substitute their judgment for that of our military commanders on the ground in Iraq. They set rigid restrictions that will require an army of lawyers to interpret.
Gee, George, you just fired an army of lawyers--let's get 'em back to work!

Now, I think the Dems bill is absurd and outrageous--another #121 billion tossed into the latrine, while a couple thousand more Americans and a couple hundred thousand Iraqis die? The only thing more absurd is Bush's position.

As always, when Bush says something stupid (as always), WIIIAI provides the commentary.

Do what you want--you will anyway!

And what you want at the moment is to go visit the newly revived prodigal daughter of blogs, You Will Anyway. After two years of furious blogging, inspired, apparently, by an obscure Michigan bloggerist, Michelle took a year and a half off to go teach in Mexico and do other cool stuff. Let us welcome Michelle and You Will Anyway back to the blogsphere!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Call Congress!

Dennis Kucinich, the ONLY reasonable announced candidate for president, asks that we call our congresscritters and tell them to stop the war by not approving more funding, and by supporting Kucinich's troop-withdrawal proposal, HR 1234.

Congress: 202-224-3121

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The non-scandal

After reading Glenn Greenwald's explanation as to why the U.S. attorney firings' scandal IS a scandal, I have to conclude that it isn't. Of course there is abundant hypocrisy from both Republicans and Democrats, but the fact is that almost every recent pResident (both Bushes and Clinton included) has replaced all 93 US attorneys when he took power. That a pResident can do that at the start of an administration should be a scandal (especially when they arrive with only 43% of the popular vote, as Clinton did in 1992, or having finished second, as W did in 2000). But to suggest that the start of the administration is the only time a pResident can exercise this ill-deserved but apparently legal power is picking far too fine a nit for my taste. How can this "scandal" get more attention and calls for Gonzo's resignation than real scandals like the abuse of national security letters, or the NSA spying, or the Padilla case, or Gitmo, or torture? Bush and Gonzo did something which every pResident has done, only at an unconventional time, and this is considered worse than defiantly saying they have the right to break laws, and then actually breaking them?

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

KSM Confession Cartoonaganza!!

From Mark Cohen.

Monday, March 19, 2007

This bubble has been popped, shredded, and atomized

At least 16 Detroit houses up for sale on Sunday sold for $30,000 or less.

A boarded-up bungalow on the city's west side brought $1,300. A four-bedroom house near the original Motown recording studio sold for $7,000.

"You can't buy a used car for that," said Izairi. "It's a gamble, and you have to wonder how low it's going to get."

Detroit, where unemployment runs near 14 percent and a third of the population lives in poverty, leads the nation in new foreclosure filings, according to tracking service RealtyTrac.

With large swaths of the city now abandoned, banks are reclaiming and reselling Detroit homes from buyers who can no longer afford payments at seven times the national rate.

Bizarre bazaar

My post on Friday about Andrea Mitchell and the Pakistani nukes caused some confusion. I have updated that post with an explanation.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

How to resolve the US attorney firings

Appoint eight special prosecutors. You know who they are.

Protest in Ann Arbor

We had a protest and march here in Ann Arbor today. I'd guess about 1000 people.

BTW, Czech out what they did in Prague last night:

Been there, done that:
The World's Largest Human Peace Sign, Ann Arbor, February 8, 2003.

Click on picture for larger version.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Afraid of freedom?

I just saw a Bank of America add for a ridiculous new "service" they offer. Every time you use your check card, they'll round the purchase amount up to the next dollar, and put that change into your savings account. While unlikely to make much of any difference, it seems that you would run the risk of overdrawing your checking account, or dropping below minimum balances to avoid fees or get interest. Which explains why BOA offers it. But why would any customer feel that the ideal savings deposit was fifty-seven cents or so whenever he made a check-card purchase? The key appeal to this "offer" seems to be that it removes conscious thought from the act of saving.

Similarly, American Express advertised their charge cards for years as offering the "benefit" of requiring payment-in-full each month, avoiding interest charges, something you had the option of doing with any other credit card. But somehow Amex proudly proclaimed restrictions on your options as a "benefit" to you.

And how many people have you heard praise the new extended daylight savings time because there's more daylight after work? I've heard it at my job, where the hours are very flexible. Any of these people could have just come in and left an hour earlier all winter and enjoyed the same "benefit." But they'll wait month after month until the government tells them to spring forward. Sir yes sir!

And then there are those who have extra taxes taken out of their paycheck so they'll get a refund in April, apparently because they think the government deserves the interest on the money more than they do. (And if you don't have savings, it's even worse, because the interest you pay on credit cards or other debt you could have paid down with the money is higher than you'd get on savings.)

I know there are times when I'd prefer almost anything to making a real choice, especially when it comes to there being two things I want to do at the same time. I desperately try to find some compelling reason why I can't possibly do one of them so that I won't have to decide.

So who is it that hates freedom again?

Consider the source

We don't know what Khalid Sheikh Mohammed did. We don't know what he said. We don't know if what he is alleged to have said is true. All we have is the word of a five-sided serial liar that KSM confessed to having planned pretty much every terrorist attack in the last 20 years. Even if he said what the Pentagon claims he said, we don't know if he said it to brag, or to deceive, or in the vain hope of getting the torture to stop. In short, this may be the most meaningless "confession" in history.

Thus it distresses me to see worthy individuals treat it like fact, as Juan Cole did yesterday:
A lot of commentators will note that Khalid Sheikh Muhammad has admitted that he planned out the 9/11 attacks. What they will miss is that he claimed the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as his idea, as well, and as an al-Qaeda operation. Remember that Paul Wolfowitz, following the frankly kookie Laurie Mylroie, blamed Saddam Hussein for the 1993 bombing. Wolfowitz was then the number 2 man in the Pentagon and enormously influential. His conviction that Bin Laden was "one little man" and that 9/11 had to have had a state sponsor (i.e. Iraq) helped drive us into the current quagmire. Wolfowitz was wrong, dead wrong. Has he ever admitted it? Should someone so wrong on so much really be heading the World Bank?
Of course Wolfowitz was dead wrong, and of course he shouldn't be running the World Bank. But the supposed KSM "confession" adds precisely NOTHING to that argument. The ONLY fact of any note here is that the Pentagon decided that this week was a propitious time to release some propaganda.

Bizarre quote du jour

[Update added 3/19 for clarity--see below]

"Why does the US support Musharraf? Because he has nuclear weapons and could hold the key to finding Osama bin Laden." -- Andrea Mitchell on tonight's NBC Nightly News.

Frau Greenspan didn't bother to elaborate on her claim about nuclear weapons. She didn't quote anybody, administration liar or otherwise, to support it. I think there's some truth to it, but to just hear her brazenly make such a claim on national TV after the US has rattled and even inserted the sword at many countries because of alleged weapons programs? Bizarre.

The whole Nightly News experience reminded me why so many Americans are so ignorant. If all you know about the world is what you get from network news, you know less than nothing.

[Update] James e-mailed me wondering why I thought the quote bizarre, since I should know that Pakistan has nukes. Rereading the post, I can see that that is the simplest way to interpret the post--that I was shocked that anyone could suggest that Pakistan has nukes. That isn't what I intended--I've know that Pakistan has nukes for almost as long as they've had them (I've even ranted about it). I thought that what Mitchell said was bizarre was because she gave Pakistan's nukes as a reason for US support. While I believe there is some truth in that, I don't think any administration official has come out and said "We support Musharraf because he has nuclear weapons." It's always "Musharraf has been a good partner in the war on terror," or some similar BS. It seemed bizarre to me that Mitchell, in the middle of a supposedly straight news story about riots in Pakistan, would brazenly editorialize like that--and without any corroborating evidence or quote. [End Update]


Thursday, March 15, 2007

NY Times gets one right

Yahoo News headline: 9/11 mastermind admits killing reporter

New York Times headline: Mohammed Said to Confess to Other Acts

The two articles, which are identical AP reports, say this in the 24th paragraph:
The military barred reporters or other independent observers from the sessions for the 14 operatives and is limiting the information it provides about them, arguing that it wants to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information.
So all we really know is what the military said that Mohammed said. And since the military has lied about everything from Jessica Lynch to Pat Tillman to Haditha, attributing the "confessions" in the Pentagon-released "transcript" to Khalid Sheik Mohammed is an act of journalistic malfeasance. And I'm sure there are many wingnuts out there who not only believe everything the Pentagon says, but are even crazy enough to believe that KSM actually did all this stuff.

Fortunately, Dennis Perrin isn't one of those. While his account of some of the things KSM confessed to seems a bit far-fetched, doesn't the Pentagon's as well, when (or if, in Yahoo's case) you think about it?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

He just doesn't care

It has been clear for a long time that George W. Bush doesn't care what people think, especially intelligent, reasonable, knowledgeable people. But, just in case, his neocon overlords get together with him occasionally to remind him that he's on a mission from God. If you're not in total despair yet, just read Glenn Greenwald's account of a recent "literary luncheon" with George.


Eleven simple rules for hiding a war crime

Karen Greenberg spells out the ways that the government lies to the press, the people, and themselves about the continuing abomination known as Guantanamo. Sample:
3. Guantanamo is not about guilt and innocence -- or, once an enemy combatant, always an enemy combatant. "Today, it is not about guilt or innocence. It's about unlawful enemy combatants," Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr.,the Commanding Officer of Guantanamo tells us. "And they are all unlawful enemy combatants."

Support the hostages

Tom Engelhardt writes at TomDispatch about how the troops in Iraq have effectively been taken hostage by Bush, who demands that the nation pay ransom for them continually, lest anyone be thought not to "support the troops." He ends his article with this quote from Paul Woodward: "There is something utterly self-serving about 'honoring' the 'sacrifice' made by soldiers who lost their lives or were maimed in a war that should never have been fought."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Quote du jour

"The only thing I would trust Cheney for advice on is if I had a dead hooker in my hotel room." -- Jon Stewart


Osama bin Laden, Dick Cheney's speechwriter

Glenn Greenwald examines Dick Cheney's tirade yesterday at AIPAC in some detail. As usual, not only does Cheney sound exactly like Osama bin Laden, he actually quotes him at length:
Yet the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself. The most serious issue today for the whole world, he has said, is this third world war that is raging in Iraq. He calls it a destiny between infidelity and Islam. He said the whole world is watching this war and that it will end in victory and glory or misery and humiliation. And in words directed at the American people, bin Laden declares, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever."

This leader of al Qaeda has referred to Baghdad as the capital of the Caliphate. He has also said, and I quote, "Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States. Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States. Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars."

Obviously, the terrorists have no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq. They have not called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United States. They know it is a central front in that war and it's where they've chosen to make a stand.
Many problems here, of course. Bin Laden's continued existence has hardly been proved for several years, and the provenance of these "quotes" is highly dubious, having gone through various recordings, transmittals, transcriptions, and translations, with multiple opportunities for mischief or mistakes at each step. But, supposing for now that this is in fact the Word of Osama--is Cheney really so dense as to believe that bin Laden had no ulterior motives in saying them? Doesn't he at least suspect that bin Laden writes speeches for him AS PART OF his grand scheme to destroy America? That bin Laden might want the US to stay stuck in the Iraq quagmire for ever, and that feeding BS to rabid US politicians about caliphates stretching from Spain to Indonesia is the ONLY chance bin Laden has of remotely succeeding? Without our help, bin Laden is restricted to killing a month's worth of car crashes of Americans every few years. But now he has the world's largest military working for him, and the most powerful man in the world (c'mon, Bush?) parroting his rhetoric.

Cheney is a sick, delusional old fart, whose insane ideas should be bouncing off statues in a park somewhere. Unfortunately, he is in a position of immense power, and most everyone else with any power in this country refuses to disagree with him in any significant way.

My message to Congress

I just sent the following message to my Congresscritters and even, allegedly, pResident Bush:
I am appalled by the ongoing carnage in Iraq. While we don't know what will happen when US forces leave, we see daily that nothing good is coming of their presence. Every day more troops are wounded and killed, hundreds of Iraqis die, and hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money are wasted in the worst way possible.

Stop the war in Iraq. Prevent the president from starting a war in Iran. Bring the troops home, cut the military budget, introduce some sanity. Too much is too much.
I don't know if it does much good, but you've got to do something. makes it easy to blitz your Congresscritters--do it today. Use my message if you want.

Dems won't stop the war in Iraq; they won't even stop the war with Iran

Worse than useless:
Top House Democrats retreated Monday from an attempt to limit President Bush's authority for taking military action against Iran as the leadership concentrated on a looming confrontation with the White House over the Iraq war.

Officials said Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the leadership had decided to strip from a major military spending bill a requirement for Bush to gain approval from Congress before moving against Iran.

Conservative Democrats as well as lawmakers concerned about the possible impact on Israel had argued for the change in strategy.
Note to Congress: Passing NO war-funding bill is infinitely preferable to passing anything that allows the current mayhem in Iraq to continue or the future mayhem in Iran to proceed. Just $200 million brings everyone home. The Pentagon misplaces more than that every week.

Filibuster for Peace

We the undersigned call on each and every United States Senator to participate in a filibuster to end the war in Iraq. It only takes 41 votes to sustain a filibuster and prevent funding requests from the Bush administration from coming to debate or a vote. The Bush administration would then have to return with a funding request that is satisfactory to the 41. That bill should include funds to bring all U.S. forces home quickly and safely but no money to prosecute the war in Iraq. Pro-war Senators used this tactic twice in February to stop non-binding resolutions condemning the so-called "surge." If pro-war Senators can use this tactic, then anti-war Senators should use it also. Right now the filibuster is the only way to end the war in a veto-proof fashion. We call upon each and every Senator to join a filibuster effort to end the loss of life and save our country.
Sign here.

Just look at 'em go!

From Paul Conrad.


From Bruce Plante.

I don't really know how troops in Iraq must feel. Surely there are still many who believe they're on some patriotic mission, proudly serving their country by destroying another. And the sadists, of whom there are more than a few, are probably enjoying themselves. But I've got to believe that a substantial majority of the troops are just hoping desperately for that day when they can finally come home, and that every macho speech about "victory" from Bush, Cheney, as well as the wimpy do-nothingness of their Democratic co-conspirators, has to lead to the type of despair depicted in the cartoon.


From Mike Keefe.

Monday, March 12, 2007

About $200 million

That's about how much 150,000 one-way airfares from Kuwait to New York would cost on commercial airlines (although the best fare comes in under $100 million). In other words, as aWol loves to say, the cost of ONE DAY of the Iraq war is enough to cover one-way flights home for all US troops in Iraq. Now THAT would be supporting the troops!

I pledge allegiance to the flag...

The Veep from the Deep paid obeisance to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, holding apparently its 14th annual meeting of the year. He took the opportunity before a group of people loyal to a foreign nation to insult the US Congress, hoping to goad Congress into throwing yet more billions of dollars into the Iraq latrine that he worked so hard to dig.

In another act of great patriotism, Cheney's old firm, Halliburton, in which he still owns stock options, is outsourcing itself to Dubai.

From Mike Thompson.


They'll probably have the Nine Commandments put up on the White House lawn, too

From Jeff Danziger.

WIIIAI comments:
Giuliani, moral arbiter of all things matrimonial, says that Gingrich should be forgiven for cheating on his wife. So that settles that. "Sometimes when you go through things like that in your life, you can become a better person." Well, if adultery makes you a better person, Giuliani and Gingrich must be veritable gods amongst men.

A Uniter, not a Divider

The people of Guatemala welcome Generalissimo Bush with a hearty "Get out!"

As usual, WIIIAI has been tracking aWol's Braindead Tour through America Latina, including Brazil (and again), Uruguay, and Colombia, where he said this about American hostages held by FARC:
Their kidnappers ought to show some heart, is what they ought to show... It's amazing, isn't it, that we live in a society where you've got part of your country where people just kidnap somebody who is here trying to help, without any regard to whether or not -- how their family feels.
Perhaps he can stop by at Gitmo on his way home and explain to HIS hostages there why he doesn't care how THEIR families feel.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

From Adam Zyglis.

Who kidnapped Torture Gonzales?

Gonzo is actually apologizing for his FBI breaking the law by underreporting the use of "national security" letters:
"People have to believe in what we say," Gonzales said. "And so I think this was very upsetting to me. And it's frustrating."

"We have some work to do to reassure members of Congress and the American people that we are serious about being responsible in the exercise of these authorities," he said.
Especially since everything he has done in his two years as attorney general, especially with regard to the even more illegal NSA wiretapping, suggests exactly the opposite.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Bush keeps his word

When aWol says he intends to break the law he just signed, he means it. Glenn Greenwald:
Multiple media outlets are focusing on the unsurprising story that the FBI seems to have been abusing its powers under the Patriot Act to issue so-called "national security letters" (NSLs), whereby the FBI is empowered to obtain a whole array of privacy-infringing records without any sort of judicial oversight or subpoena process. In particular, the FBI has failed to comply with the legal obligations imposed by Congress, when it re-authorized the Patriot Act in early 2006, which required the FBI to report to Congress on the use of these letters.

That the FBI is abusing its NSL power is entirely unsurprising (more on that below), but the real story here -- and it is quite significant -- has not even been mentioned by any of these news reports. The only person (that I've seen) to have noted the most significant aspect of these revelations is Silent Patriot at Crooks & Liars, who very astutely recalls that the NSL reporting requirements imposed by Congress were precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a "signing statement" as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act's renewal into law. Put another way, the law which the FBI has now been found to be violating is the very law which George Bush publicly declared he has the power to ignore.
The least-dishonorable surviving senator, Russ Feingold, offered this typically wimpy comment (via Greenwald):
This report proves that "trust us" doesn't cut it when it comes to the government's power to obtain Americans' sensitive business records without a court order and without any suspicion that they are tied to terrorism or espionage. I fought hard to prevent abuses of this power when the Senate debated reauthorizing the Patriot Act last year. I will work with Senator Leahy and Senator Rockefeller to make sure the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees conduct full and prompt investigations, and I will press for quick Senate action on sensible reforms to help prevent future abuses of National Security Letters.
Russ, the only sensible reform, when a pResident says he intends to break a law and then goes ahead and does so, is IMPEACHMENT. Motive, opportunity, evidence, written confession beforehand. A HIGH CRIME in violation of the Constitution he swore to uphold. What the Cheney more do you want?

The war on labor continues apace

The world flatteners (aka "cheap labor conservatives", aka "Friedmen") continue to do everything they can to return workers to slavery. Democratic senators are so afraid of a Bush veto on an anti-terrorism bill if any union rights for airport screeners are included that they are basically giving aWol everything he wants without a fight. When labor-supported Democrats are willing to sacrifice worker rights for yet another stupid anti-terror bill, you know that the terrorists have won.

Meanwhile, Jean notes that yesterday (March 8) was International Women's Day, and was the 150th anniversary of a walkout by women workers in New York's garment district intended to draw attention to their abysmal working conditions: "12-hour days, lack of benefits, sexual harassment, sexual assault on the job, and unfair wages." Despite other protests in later years, little was accomplished until the horrific Triangle Sirtwaist Factory fire killed 145 women in New York. "They were locked in the building to ensure that they would not take breaks away from their stations even to use the one washroom, which did not work adequately."

Eventually, after decades of protests and other similar tragedies, working conditions finally improved. Unfortunately, the world flatteners wouldn't let this stand. Conditions in the garment district today are just as bad as they were 100 years ago--the only difference being that the garment district is now in Bangladesh. From Jean:
Outrage following more Bangladesh garment worker deaths

Three tragedies hit Bangladesh factories in one week, leaving scores dead, wounded

Hundreds were reported dead or injured following three separate incidents in the Bangladesh garment and textile sector last week, according to various local and international news and Bangladeshi trade union reports. [...]

[...] The spate of tragedies began on Thursday, February 23 when a fire, possibly caused by an electrical short circuit, destroyed the four-story KTS Textile Industries in Bangladesh's port city of Chittagong. Initial reports stated that 54 were killed and at least 60 were injured, however other sources peg the death toll at several hundred in what local garment workers rights' advocates are calling the worst tragedy in the history of the Bangladesh garment industry. Over 1,000 workers were reportedly in the factory at the time of the 7 p.m. fire. According to the workers, the exits were locked. [...]

Read all of Jean's post--she does an excellent job of juxtaposing the situation in New York 100 years ago with that in Bangladesh today, complete with pictures.

And Eli at Left I on the News links to a Boston Globe article about a recent raid on a New Bedford leather manufacturer by some 300 immigration agents (plus helicopters), who arrested some 350 employees thought to be "illegal" immigrants. The employer, a "defense" contractor, was also indicted. You may be wondering, "What are the world flatteners thinking? Don't they need those 'illegals' as a ready supply of cheap labor to keep American workers poor and docile?" Of course they do. But arresting 350 of the over ten million "illegals" in this country hardly puts a dent in the supply, but it certainly adds to the fear they feel--which is likely to make them even more poor and docile. As an immigrant advocate from New Bedford noted in that Globe article: "I question the timing on this. We're on the eve of another introduction of comprehensive immigration reform. My hope is that many people will have the opportunity to normalize their status. This is going to drive people back into the shadows and make them much more vulnerable."

One thing you can be sure that Congress won't discuss in their immigration "reform" discussions--the fact that the world flatteners are largely responsible for the collapse of job markets in Latin America because of "free trade" agreements and huge farm subsidies here in the US. Trashing NAFTA, CAFTA, and the WTO and eliminating all subsidies for Big Agra would reduce the "illegal" population much more effectively, and humanely, than all of the Gestapo-style roundups the world flatteners can muster.

And Eli points out that the world flatteners already have a plan B, just in case their wingnut accomplices succeed in deporting most of the "illegals": convict labor. This is precisely the system used in the South in the late 19th century, what David Oshinsky called "worse than slavery" with much justification in his book. Read my post from last August for more on the evils of convict labor. With the Patriot Act in place and habeus corpus effectively gone, there are now 300 million potential convict laborers in the US.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Surge-on, General

On Tuesday, the same day Bush gave his rosy assessment of the surge, Sunni Arab guerrillas bombed processions of Shiite pilgrims commemorating the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Mohammed, al-Husayn. They killed some 115 pilgrims. News of the pilgrims' deaths undermined the American claims to be able to provide security, and will certainly eventually result in reprisal killings. Many Shiites believe that the Mahdi Army did a much better job of providing security for the religious processions, and that for the U.S to disarm them this year was a deadly mistake. Since these attempts to target the pilgrims were predictable, it is difficult to understand why the al-Maliki government and the U.S. did not forestall them.
-- Juan Cole, from his Salon article "Is the Bush surge already failing?" To which I answer: No, it has already succeeded in flummoxing the worthless Dumbocrat "opposition" and guaranteed that the war will continue for many more months, and probably years. Just as it was designed to do. Reducing violence in Iraq was never the goal of the surge; quite the opposite. As long as Bush can keep Americans getting killed daily, he can cry that we need to "support the troops," and demand that we support the "war effort" when the troops are in "harm's way." He can continue to trash the Constitution, and keep the Dems whimpering in their corner, even if it is currently the biggest one.

Vague, pointless, endless wars against ill-defined enemies, keeping a frightened and ill-informed populace cowering and under control: Orwell knew EXACTLY what he was writing about.

From Ed Stein.

From J.D. Crowe.

When you've got Libby, Libby, Libby
On your tail, tail, tail
It may keep you, keep you, keep you
Out of jail, jail, jail.

BTW, Dennis Perrin has the transcript of a discussion between Dick Cheney and the blood clot in his leg. Needless to say, the clot is the more human of the two.

Just like always

From Bob Englehart.

If Bob Dole really wants to do something about the travesty of Walter Reed, he should tell his senator wife to:
  1. Redirect $60 billion or so from the criminal wars to the VA system.
  2. Call for bringing the troops home BEFORE they're wounded--that is, NOW.
  3. And impeach the stupid bastards in the White House.
Why does this mess need studying? The Washington Post already did that. It needs fixing.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A surge in the surge

The top US commander in Iraq has requested 2,200 more US military police to oversee people detained in the ongoing crackdown in Baghdad, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

Gates said the troops requested by General David Petraeus were in addition to the 21,500 combat troops and 2,400 support troops being sent to Iraq as part of a planned surge in US forces.

"So that's a new requirement by a new commander subsequent to the submission to the supplemental to the Congress," Gates said, referring to a recent request for additional Iraq war funding.

Another quote du jour

One of the infuriating aspects of covering Iraq in the past three years has been to hear the US and British governments claim that there are large parts of Iraq that are at peace and know it is untrue, but to prove that they are lying would mean getting killed oneself.
-- Patrick Cockburn


Quote du jour

A member of the jury, Denis Collins, said although jurors decided Libby was guilty they also had a "tremendous amount of sympathy" for him, and thought he might just be "the fall guy".

"Where's Rove?" he asked, referring to Mr Bush's top aide.
-- from BBC.

Add 30,000 to that total

"We know there are hundreds of foreign fighters [in southern Afghanistan]. They are from Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa." -- Col. Tom Collins, a NATO spokesmodel in Kabul, apparently oblivious to the fact that he's speaking for some 30,000 foreign fighters from Europe and North America currently hanging out and killing people in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, Col. Collins does a fine Rumsfeld imitation. I wonder if Tom Collins and John Walker Lindh will get together some years from now for a drink or two?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Quote du jour

Let there be no doubt about this: Bush's attempt to persuade Latin Americans that he is the champion of the poor -- given his pro-business bent and six years of an almost exclusive focus on free trade and terrorism -- is utterly doomed. Almost laughably so.
-- Dan Froomkin, in a WaPo column on W's lipstick-on-a-pig-in-two-butchered-languages tour. Froomkin and WIIIAI both quoted this bilingual Bush*t:
My message to those trabajadores y campesinos is, you have a friend in the United States of America. We care about your plight.
Actually, trabajadores y campesinos, you have many friends in los Estados Unidos. Many millions. Unfortunately, Bush is not one of them.

Froomkin titled his column "Bush's Anti-Chavez Tour." Last night I saw a commercial on TV (Jeopardy, or maybe 24?) featuring poor American-Americans thanking Citgo for providing low-cost heating oil to impoverished neighborhoods in the US. Venezuela was only mentioned once, and Chavez not at all. Here are a bunch of ads that have been running--I don't see the one I saw last night, but it was similar.

Not surprisingly, the ads have provoked angry responses from neanderthals in Congress, directed most directly at former Rep. Joe Kennedy, who runs the program in the US. Here's Rep. Connie Mack (Repug-FL):
Venezuela's Communist President Hugo Chavez is a sworn enemy of the United States. That is why there is absolutely no excuse for you to be praising him in television commercials and media interviews for any reason whatsoever.

While you have gone out of your way to publicly praise Hugo Chavez, he's gone out of his way to crush the hopes and dreams of the Venezuelan people and to destabilize freedom, democracy, and the United States interests throughout the Western Hemisphere.
Many things can be said about Chavez, some of them not positive, as WIIIAI frequently points out. But suggesting that he has "crush[ed] the hopes and dreams of the Venezuelan people" is so far off the mark as to demonstrate once again what a total lunatic Mack is. When I was in Venezuela in 2004, many people, both Chavistas and opposition, remarked that Chavez had inspired hope among the poor majority. Critics pointed out that much of the hope wasn't being matched by reality, but that the hope was there was completely undeniable, inspired especially by the literacy programs. Since then, things have headed in a couple of directions. Rising oil prices have enabled Chavez to put his plans more fully into effect, while at the same time he has taken several measures which suggest that he may be heading towards more dictatorial control over the country. Nevertheless, the reality is that before Chavez few among the 80% or so poor in Venezuela had hopes or dreams--now they do.

Joe Kennedy had a nice blistering response to Mack. Excerpt:
Since you express concerns with a non-profit energy company doing business with a Venezuelan-owned oil company to help the poor, I'm sure you have letters in the mail to Exxon/Mobil, BP, Shell, Conoco Phillips, Valero, and even Halliburton objecting to the billions of dollars in oil profits they've made in Venezuela to benefit their executives and shareholders while helping the economy of Venezuela under the leadership of President Chavez. By the way, the same oil that we have, only a bit more expensive, is used in running U.S. planes, trains, and automobiles...

Peaceniks far from the mainstream

From a NY Times article about the Out of Iraq Caucus:
Some of its active members are lawmakers who play easily into Republican characterizations of some Democrats as peaceniks far from the mainstream. Ms. Lee [Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA] was the lone dissenting vote in Congress against the resolution authorizing the president to use force to respond to the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. In 2005, she co-sponsored a bill with Representative Dennis J. Kucinich, Democrat of Ohio (also a caucus member), and others to create a cabinet-level office called the Department of Peace.
The majority of the country wants the war in Iraq to end. Peaceniks ARE the mainstream now. Repugs are the fringe--unless you ask the NY Times. And how nice of them to mention Kucinich--without mentioning that he's running for president. Meanwhile, the main web page and the front page of the print edition both feature photos of Hillary--while the web page includes video of both Hillary and Obama. Granted, the Times comes from the state where Hillary is senator, but in general the press is doing its best to push all candidates except Hillary and Obama to the "fringe" (although Ann Coulter helped John Edwards out a bit), even when their positions are far more mainstream than the press-declared frontrunners. Focusing on two candidates whose backgrounds aren't typical beltway mainstream, but whose positions definitely are, is the media's way of keeping most Americans from even hearing decent alternatives to the status quo.

Before we got there, that is

From Chris Britt.


From Gary Markstein.


From Bill Schorr.

From Clay Bennett.

From Petar Pismestrovic (Austria).

Monday, March 05, 2007

Scott Ritter REALLY wants to be quoted in my blog

Otherwise, why would he say this?
Let there be no doubt that Hillary Clinton is about as slippery a species of politician that exists, one who has demonstrated an ability to morph facts into a nebulous blob which blurs the record and distorts the truth. While she has demonstrated this less than flattering ability on a number of issues, nowhere is it so blatant as when dealing with the issue of the ongoing war in Iraq and Hillary Clinton's vote in favor of this war.

This issue won't be resolved even if Hillary Clinton apologizes for her Iraq vote, as other politicians have done, blaming their decision on faulty intelligence on Iraq's WMD capabilities. This is because, like many other Washington politicians at the time, including those now running for president, she had been witness to lies about Iraq's weapons programs to justify attacks on that country by her husband President Bill Clinton and his administration.
Ritter goes on to explain how Ma and Pa Clinton thwarted his inspection teams and ignored evidence for years in order to keep the Regime Change Express on track so that Engineer Bush could eventually crash it into the station.

Chris Floyd writes of the strange friendship between the Bushes and the Clintons, and points out:
So now we face the distinct possibility of the continued rule of these intertwined Houses for the next four or even eight years, which would give us almost a quarter-century of Clinton-Bush corruption, deception, aggression and incompetence. Ritter is right to speak out, to remind us once again of the role that the Clinton Machine played in dragging us into the hell of our present day.


Quote du jour

With not a shred of victory in sight, "our troops" have become the prime symbol of both American virtue and insecurity, the prime reason to stay in Iraq now that every other publicly ballyhooed reason has disappeared.
-- Ira Chernus, from an essay on the possibility of an "Iraq syndrome" arising, similar to the "Vietnam syndrome," and its being turned rather quickly, as the Vietnam syndrome was, as a basis for even more militarism and imperialism.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Misleading headline du jour

From a Yahoo! News version of an AP story: "Iran war weapons fuel Iraq insurgency"

This is why hyphens were invented. The headline should read "Iran-war weapons fuel Iraq insurgency," or better yet "Weapons left over from 1980's Iran-Iraq war being used by insurgency."

Because that's what the article is about.

Friday, March 02, 2007

We Love Big Brother

Caption from the White House web site: "Vice President Dick Cheney, seen on a television monitor, receives a welcome Thursday, March 1, 2007, at the 34th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C."

Padilla to stand trial

From the WSWS:
US District Court Judge Marcia Cooke ruled February 28 that Jose Padilla is mentally fit for trial, following a competency hearing during which his lawyers argued that the damage to his mental faculties is so severe that he is legally unable to stand trial or assist in his own defense. The trial is scheduled to begin April 16.
Lucky him. Yet another month and a half in jail to add on to the nearly four years he has already suffered. While I have no doubt that his lawyers were correct in saying that his lengthy, torture-plagued confinement has made him a mental wreck, I have to feel that a trial is the only way to finally end his ordeal. Because any remotely competent jury would likely listen to the lies of the government, and then return this verdict: "That's all you got? NOT GUILTY!"

Of course, the trial will be in Florida, so the likelihood of having a remotely competent jury isn't that high. Chances are they'll reject any potential jurors who know the details of the sordid Padilla case, from his arrest in 2002 for allegedly being a dirty bomber to Ashcroft's hasty announcement from Moscow to the changes in allegations and the eventual cop-out of transferring him to a Florida court and charging him with new stuff entirely. In other words, as in death penalty cases, any jurors who haven't had the left sides of their brains lobotomized will likely be removed with cause. To be fair, they should also remove jurors who support the "war on terror" or otherwise disagree with Ben Franklin and Patrick Henry that freedom is more important than security. Unfortunately, this would result in a jury pool of people who have had BOTH sides of the brain lobotomized--or in a picture, this:

Obviously, that wouldn't work out too well for Padilla either.


Wasted is too nice a word

Like most people, I like to read and hear stuff I agree with. Especially when I'm on record for having said the same thing earlier! A few weeks ago, I complained about Barack Obama's apology for his statement that the 3200 or so US troops killed in Iraq were wasted:
Actually, I think "wasted" was being nice. It implies being put to no use--US forces have been used for criminal purpose in the last five years decades--that's even worse than being wasted. Nevertheless, any time any politician comes remotely close to speaking the truth, he feels compelled to apologize.
Well, John McCain used the same wording on the Letterman show recently:
"Americans are very frustrated, and they have every right to be," about the situation in Iraq, McCain said. "We've wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives."
Before the "maverick" even had a chance to get back in lie (sic intended), the Dumbocrats were all over him:
"Senator McCain should apologize immediately for his comments," Democratic National Committee Communications Director Karen Finney said in an e-mail to reporters.
McCain has a lot to apologize for, but saying that the 3200 lives were wasted isn't one of them. Of course, like Obama, McCain soon repented of his near brush with truth.

Back to my original point: Arthur Silber, a rather prolific and excellent blogger I just discovered recently, says much the same thing now that I said after the Obamarama:
The truth is infinitely worse than that these lives have been "wasted": these deaths have served to strengthen our enemies and weaken our own country in countless ways that our actual enemies could never have achieved on their own. That these lives have been "wasted" is the best one can say, not the worst. They are the greatest boon our enemies could dream of. These lives have not been "wasted": they are the precious tribute laid at the feet of our enemies, by our own leaders in the pursuit of indefensible and criminal aims.

Of course, the recognition of this truth requires that we act like adults, and that we are capable of coherent thought, shorn of lies. We must be willing to give up the myth of the "noble soldier" who "selflessly sacrifices" his life for the glory of the Perfect and Good United States -- and see that these individuals died in a criminal war of aggression launched to consolidate and expand America's hegemonic role, a goal embraced by almost every leading politician, Republican and Democratic, over many decades of entirely avoidable conflict, chaos and death.
Actually, while I agree with Silber about myth of the "noble soldier" who "selflessly sacrifices", I think Silber himself is perpetuating another myth--that of "our enemies." Soldiers aren't laid at the feet of "our enemies," they are sent far and wide to make sure that we always have "enemies." There may be a few people out there who hate America and Americans "just because," but most of our so-called enemies have been manufactured by our imperial adventures, as Silber frequently documents. We aren't doing our enemies any favors--we're just creating more of them.

Thursday, March 01, 2007


Michigan's senior senator, Carl Levin, apparently supports attacking Iran AND Syria! Here's what he said on Tuesday:
These weapons (in Iraq) are coming from a state which doesn't recognize Israel either, just like Iran doesn't, we've got to try to stop weapons coming into Iraq from any source, they're killing our troops. I agree with the comments about trying to stop them coming in from Iran. I think we have to stop them going to the Sunni insurgents, as well as to the Shia, and I was just wondering, does the military have a plan, if necessary, to go into Syria, to go the source of any weapons coming from Syria.
Levin actually voted against the war in Iraq back in 2002, but has apparently since then completely lost his mind. So much for any hope that the Dumbocrats will end the current wars or prevent future ones--as Arthur Silber says, they don't want to.

Michigan readers--heck, all readers--should call Levin's office and let him know that we don't want war with Iraq, much less Iran and Syria. If he's worried about our troops, BRING THEM HOME. Rescind the war authorizations, defund, and impeach. THAT's what Levin should be doing--not insisting that the Bushies start even more criminal wars.

Levin's office number in Washington is (202) 224-6221. He has other offices you could call as well if you're really pissed.

BTW, if supplying weapons which end up killing a country's soldiers were justification for that country attacking the supplier, pretty much every country on earth would be justified in attacking the US.

From John Darkow.

From Steve Sack.