Wednesday, May 31, 2006

New video game: kill or convert Jews, Muslims to "born again"

Let's see what the hypocritical wingnuts say about this video game, slated to be released in time for Christmas.

If video games are the root of all evil, and violence in video games is helping cause the "downfall of our society", then lookie at what "mega-church" pastor Rick Warren's newest game is:

Imagine: you are a foot soldier in a paramilitary group whose purpose is to remake America as a Christian theocracy, and establish its worldly vision of the dominion of Christ over all aspects of life. You are issued high-tech military weaponry, and instructed to engage the infidel on the streets of New York City. You are on a mission - both a religious mission and a military mission -- to convert or kill Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, gays, and anyone who advocates the separation of church and state - especially moderate, mainstream Christians. Your mission is "to conduct physical and spiritual warfare"; all who resist must be taken out with extreme prejudice.

I kid you not.

While I am generally a fan of video games, having grown up with Atari as well as the arcade game boom of the early to mid 80's, I also think that the whole "video games are causing people to kill others and should be banned" is just ludicrous. Of course, you know that if there was any small hint of prejudice against religious extremists (see: War on Christmas, etc.) then the talking meatsticks, James Dobson, Pat Robertson and every other lunatic would be jumping up and down, calling for the heads of those who created the "hint of prejudice".

So what have we here? Well, we certainly have a situation that is dripping with hypocrisy, as well as links to some very high level and influential (not to mention controversial) people in the "mega-Catholic world".

First, a bit about Rick Warren. TIME magazine recently listed him as one of the top influential Evangelicals and his "Purpose Driven Church" and his books have reached out to people worldwide. So far, innocent enough. However, as noted in the article linked at the top of the diary:

The international director of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church, Mark Carver, is a former investment banker who serves on the Advisory Board of the corporation created in October 2001 to develop and market this game. The creators plan to market their game using the same network marketing techniques that Mr. Warren used to turn The Purpose Driven Life into a commercial success. For example, they plan to distribute their merchandise through pastoral networks, especially mega-churches.

So at a minimum, the killing of those who want the separation of church and state as well as Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and anyone that believes in that pesky Amendment is at least tacitly approved of by Warren. As for the game itself, it was developed by a company called Left Behind Games, which purchased the license from another company called Tyndale House.

This same Tyndale House publishes the "Left Behind" series by Warren, and also publishes a few books by none other than James Dobson.

Yes, THAT James Dobson, who also once said that parents should not only monitor what video games their children are playing (not necessarily a bad thing), but to avoid the violent ones altogether.

I guess the violent ones are ok if it is done in the name of the Lord.

Some more details of this most fucked up and hypocritical xenophobic homophobic game:

This game immerses children in present-day New York City -- 500 square blocks, stretching from Wall Street to Chinatown, Greenwich Village, the United Nations headquarters, and Harlem. The game rewards children for how effectively they role play the killing of those who resist becoming a born again Christian. The game also offers players the opportunity to switch sides and fight for the army of the AntiChrist, releasing cloven-hoofed demons who feast on conservative Christians and their panicked proselytes (who taste a lot like Christian).

Is this paramilitary mission simulator for children anything other than prejudice and bigotry using religion as an organizing tool to get people in a violent frame of mind? The dialogue includes people saying, "Praise the Lord," as they blow infidels away.

Since we all know enough about Dobson, here is al link to a long story about Warren. It is a long read, but there is enough information about how aggressively they recruit, how their activities can be described as "coercive" (to say the least) as well as other disturbing items about his followers and following.

Actually, you don't need to look further than the Atlanta Courthouse shooting back in 2005 when, in reaction to the fact that Ashley Smith (the hostage) was able to get her captor to release her by reading a passage from Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Life. Warren then told Larry King that:

There is the story of things are getting more worse [sic] in some ways. We're seeing the increase in violence. We're seeing terrorism. We've seen these recent shootings. We're seeing the coarsening of our society, that has disgusted a lot of people. And there is people [sic] -- some people are more materialistic than ever.

So I guess it is a good thing that he is dealing with that increase in violence and shootings by having his organization (as well as people affiliated with Dobson) actively market a video game that encourages violence against those who aren't the "true believers" according to his view.

Wanna bet that this goes unnoticed and undiscussed by those who were so quick to denounce violence in music, violence in video games or the "war against Christianity"?

What hypocritical jackasses.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Shut up. Just SHUT UP already!!

Recommended at Daily Kos and My Left Wing

Is anyone else's bullshit meter working on overdrive lately? I mean, give me a friggin break already. The level of absolute mind numbing nonsense being spewed by prominent Republicans and talking meatsticks in the media has been turned up to eleven lately.

Everywhere interview I see or read, everything I watch is just one more batch of verbal diarrhea being spewed from some jackass who either just loves the sound of their voice too much so that they don't even hear the crap coming out, they just don't care how asinine it sounds or (even worse) they actually believe what they are saying.

It just makes me want to scream, "just shut the fuck up already!!!"

Let's start with Dr. Cat Killer himself, who is theoretically smart enough to know better when it comes to the absolutely fucktarted things that come out of his mouth. This man controls what legislation is brought to a vote, yet, he says that the most pressing priorities are gay marriage and flag burning. Forgetting the fact that American's trust in Congress is at an embarrassingly low point but aren't there people dying in Iraq? Isn't the deficit at record highs? Isn't the debt this country is in at dangerous levels? Aren't we falling behind in education? Aren't more people living from paycheck to paycheck? Sounds like there are a few more pressing issues than this horseshit.

And on this Memorial Day weekend, when all of the chickenshits in their cozy TV studios can sit and pretend that they are such good authorities - instead of giving well deserved attention to those who have lost their lives, what do we see?

We have fucking Tweety spewing crap to Howard Dean about why the Democrats aren't singing kumbaya about an "Iraq message" instead of talking about the chaotic mess that those in charge have created. If that wasn't enough, he had to drudge up years' old stories about Bill and Hillary's marriage. And then the topper - asking why the Democrats aren't taking advantage of the CIA leak investigation. This coming from the same guy who hid his involvement in this for years when, if he did his fucking job the American public would have known about this before the 2004 elections.

Damn, I just want to smack the taste out of his mouth. What a smug, sanctimonious assclown.

But wait, there's more. On the heels of Gore's successful and highly acclaimed movie, An Inconvenient Truth, we have the tried and true "Hitler comparisons" coming out as well. And as a bonus, we have not one but 2 fuckwads who are spewing their bile. First we have someone from an oil-company backed thinktank comparing Gore to Joseph Goebells and then this past weekend we had a "climate skeptic" actually have this printed in the WaPo magazine:

Gore believed in global warming almost as much as Hitler believed there was something wrong with the Jews.

Are you fucking serious? And for the WaPo to give this blowhard any credence whatsoever is inexcusable.

How about Russert himself? It is amazing how far he has fallen. Consider once again his apologies for the illegal wiretapping and spying this past weekend:

Here we go - civil liberties versus national security one more time.

Republicans I talked to Thursday thought the leak may have been provided by someone who was opposed to General Hayden.

Of course, it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss this in terms of Hayden quashing a legal NSA program and his support of the illegal programs that were implemented. Wouldn't that mean that Russert is actually asking the questions that he should be asking (like why are they so hell bent on breaking every law and Constitutional amendment that they can) instead of turning this very important issue to one of partisanship against illegal activities? What a tool.

But wait - what about the "God squad"? We have this holy roller who said that the lord himself told him in a dream two years ago who would be the next Governor of Florida.

Of course, we can't forget Dear Leader himself, who has the unmitigated gall to show his weasel face on Memorial Day weekend and talk about how great things are going in Iraq despite the massacre news coming out that was hidden for 6 months, more killings, riots exploding all over Afghanistan and more horrific news. To fucking stand up and desecrate the memories of the fallen heroes by giving a lying smug piece of shit throwaway speech.

The problem here is that these people need to just shut the fuck up already. Their words are empty. They have no meaning. They have no thought. Yet, these people seem to carry so much weight despite their total lack of substance.

True, we are stuck with them, but the fact that these petty stupid lies and nonsense gets SO much attention bugs me to no end. Especially with all of the really important things going on in this country, and world. ESPECIALLY on a weekend where the focus should be on those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country - only to see what these criminals have done to undo their sacrifices.

Just unbelievable. How it seems like so much more bullshit was shoveled over the past week than the usual helping served up. I just wish they would all shut the fuck up once and for all and crawl back into the holes that they came from.

Or for someone to call them on it. Call them on it loudly. Forcefully. The fucking weasels they are.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Pentagon wants half a billion for new Cold War era missile system

For any of you that don't want to read another "why this site sucks" or "how do you fight the trolls" diary, here is yet another installment of "why the Pentagon is off their fucking rocker".  

According to today's NY Times, in the name of "pre-emptive striking", the Pentagon is seeking half a billion dollars over the next five years to develop a new weapon that looks exactly like a current nuclear warhead (but isn't) that can be used to strike a target within an hour of being launched.

On behalf of those of us who are obviously living in a pre-9/11 mindset, I can't see how this would be effective in tracking down terrorist activity or their networks, or shutting down their funding, or protecting our brave soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, or even do what our current arsenal of overpriced and outdated "toys" can already do.  But what do I know......

The best part of this whole thing?  Because it will be designed the same as, and would be launched from the same submarines as their already-produced and known about nuclear missile counterpart, it would be extremely difficult to know if a nuclear weapon has been fired or if this non-nuclear weapon was being used.  And with the incredible amount of goodwill and trust that `Mukra and our military leaders have built up around the world, I don't think that we would be getting the benefit of the doubt anytime soon.

Thankfully, there is some level of reasonableness by some Democratic opposition to this, but the flag-waving, patriotic, true `Murkin Republicans and shills are trotting out the same old fear mongering cards.  Witness the contrast:

But the plan has run into resistance from lawmakers who are concerned that it may increase the risk of an accidental nuclear confrontation. The Trident II missile that would be used for the attacks is a system that has long been equipped with a nuclear payload. Indeed, both nonnuclear and nuclear-tipped variants of the Trident II missile would be loaded on the same submarines under the Pentagon plan.

"There is great concern this could be destabilizing in terms of deterrence and nuclear policy," said Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee. "It would be hard to determine if a missile coming out a Trident submarine is conventional or nuclear."

Reflecting the worry that Russia and other nations might misinterpret the launch of a nonnuclear Trident as the opening salvo in a nuclear barrage, lawmakers have insisted that the Bush administration present a plan to minimize that risk before the new weapon is manufactured and deployed.

Mind you, Senator Jack Reed is a graduate of West Point and served in the Army, unlike many of his oh-so-patriotic warmongering colleagues on the other side of the aisle.  I would think that he, like Murtha, Kerry, even Hagel and any other that served would know what they are talking about when they caution others about things of this nature.  

So what do we have from the other side?

In justifying the program to lawmakers, General Cartwright outlined a number of potential situations. "The argument for doing it is that there are instances, fairly rare, when time is so critical that if you can't strike in an hour or so you are going to miss that opportunity," said Representative Roscoe G. Bartlett, the Maryland Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Projection Forces and who is still weighing whether to support the plan.

One possible situation, Mr. Bartlett said, would be "people putting together some terrorist weapon, and while they are putting it together we can take it out, and if we miss that opportunity it may show up on the streets of New York City or Washington, D.C."

Still another might involve the need to destroy an enemy missile equipped with a chemical, biological or nuclear warhead before an adversary can launch it at the United States or its allies. Another would be fresh intelligence about a meeting of terrorists.

As for Bartlett's distinguished military service, despite being chair of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Projection Forces, well, lets just say that his fellow Republicans would be proud that he didn't sell out by enlisting or serving either.  

But we know who the true patriots are and who doesn't really know anything about the military, war or diplomacy, right?

I couldn't help but notice this stark contrast - especially on Memorial Day too, while most Americans are remembering and praying for those who have lost their lives or their loved ones in past or current wars we have chickenhawk warmongers thinking of new ways to kill others and put our country and military in harm's way.

At least the article points out a few, um, stumbling blocks.  Sadly, none of these address the absolute stupidity of ANOTHER $500,000,000 for a Cold War-era weapons system that could confuse China, Russia or other countries into thinking that a nuclear weapon has been launched while that money could go to education, health care, the environment, rebuilding New Orleans, restoring some of the many many programs cut by this Congress in order to cut more corporate and high wealth individual taxes.

But, it does raise some obvious concerns.  Let's start with the fact that long range missiles haven't been used since the 1960's:

Arms control experts are divided over the wisdom of the plan. Steve Andreasen, a former defense specialist for the National Security Council, said the program would undermine American security by eliminating the taboo about the use of long-range missiles and diverting funds from other pressing defense needs.

"Long-range ballistic missiles have never been used in combat in 50 years," Mr. Andreasen said. "Once the U.S. starts signaling that it views these missiles as no different than any other weapon, other nations will adopt the same logic."

Nothing like a little more provokation and pissing off of, well, just about everyone else in the world.

Not to mention the fact that we already have a significant military presence in Iraq (or much of the Middle East for that matter) as well as by North Korea so how much more quickly do we need to act (especially with the kind of weapon this will be)?

Given the considerable American military presence in Iraq, Afghanistan and South Korea, some critics say the circumstances in which a target may be beyond the reach of American warplanes or armed Predator drones are few indeed. Acquiring the sort of precise intelligence that would give the president enough confidence to order the launch of a ballistic missile within an hour might also be a daunting proposition.

Especially this president.  It's already enough that he has the power to destroy everything that he has already destroyed, not to mention how often the "intelligence" he received was either flat out wrong or a lie.  Especially when there are more instances that one can count where innocent families, civilians, women, children were killed and the response was "whoops, we screwed up.  Just more collateral damage".

Despite the shiny happy assurances that are being given (which have proven so effective and accurate in the past), Russia doesn't seem to be keen on this either.  So why provoke them further?  

The Russians, for their part, seem to have little interest in facilitating Congressional approval of a new American weapons system. During his recent trip to Russia, General Cartwright sought to explain the rationale for program to Gen. Yuri Baluyevski, the chief of the Russian General Staff.

"The things that I tried to talk to him about were the common issues that we face -- the fact that terrorists and organizations are getting capabilities that are significant and are likely to stay on a trend that could be associated with weapons of mass destruction," General Cartwright said.

After that discussion, General Baluyevski continued to stir up opposition to the plan. "As our American colleagues often tell us, these missiles could be used to kill bin Laden," he told reporters earlier this month. "This could be a costly move which not only won't guarantee his destruction but could provoke an irreversible response from a nuclear-armed state which can't determine what warhead is fitted on the missile."

Oh, how correct our Russian counterpart is.  How can this be any better than the other weapons that we have used to blow up towns, weddings and other civilian locations in an attempt to target Bin Laden or other terrorists?  And those weapons, as outdated as they may be, aren't likely to be mistaken for nuclear warheads.

This is just insane.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A different kind of hell: Iraq military families

Front Paged at Booman Tribune

Even though Memorial Day is to remember our fallen heroes from wars past (or for much of `Murka, BBQs, beer and the Indy 500), there is another block of people who we should stop, think of, and pray for who don't "technically" fall under the category of military dead.

Those people are the ones who are currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom are aware that they were sent overseas based on a pile of lies to conduct a mission that is so vague and have felt a strain on their families, as well as the breakup of their relationships and marriages. Over a war that was started by an insecure dumbass who desperately wanted to show daddy how big his penis was.

Today's WaPo has a very powerful article entitled A Union Tested By War that is just a heartbreaking look at some of the many military families that have been strained or broken up as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Whether it be due to injuries, psychological damage, PTSD or anything else, these brave soldiers and their families deserve our thoughts as well - since a part of them died when one was shipped overseas to fight for a lie.

The stories, only a few of which are in the WaPo article, deal with husbands and wives, children, fiancées and girlfriends. They deal with the thoughts and guilt on both the returning soldier's part and his/her significant other's part. The questions, the doubts, the fears and the anger of what life will now bring to them. These people should not be forgotten as their stories are emotional and powerful. They teach us a lesson on how tough life can get. How every day is a blessing. How every day should be cherished. How one should be towards their families.

What I think may be better than my blathering on about my thoughts on why we should pray for these families and wish them nothing but luck and strength is to provide a few snippets from the article to show what kind of sacrifice these families have made.

First, the story of an injured Army Sgt. who didn't want to burden his girlfriend.

A few weeks after an explosion tore off his legs and part of his right arm, Army Sgt. Joseph Bozik felt the time had come to tell his girlfriend she no longer was bound by their plans for marriage.

He asked his mother to leave his hospital room at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and addressed his girlfriend, Jayme Peters. "Be completely honest with me," he said. "If you want to go home, that's fine."

As she broke into tears, Bozik said he'd be okay, and he would understand completely. He knew she had not bargained for a husband like this.

Luckily for them, Jayme wasn't going to leave him over this.

"Why do you want to stay with me?" she said he asked. "Why would you want to stay with me?"

She began to cry.

"I pretty much told him that I loved him," she said. "I was willing to be with him the rest of my life if he would let me."

They were married Dec. 31, 2004, in a hospital chapel.

And while they are still married and finally got their own place together, every day is a struggle as Joseph has 3 artificial limbs and every task for each of them is draining. But they are making it work.

There is also the story of a young couple's struggle when he is injured by an explosive that killed the officer that was with him and how he felt helpless and angry when he returned to his wife, who he had married before leaving for Iraq:

So they married last June. In August, the Marine lance corporal and an officer were searching an empty school near Fallujah when they triggered an explosive device. The officer died, and Adam lost his left arm at the shoulder and right leg below the knee.

Thinking he was dying, Adam asked his buddies to tell his wife he was sorry he wouldn't be able to buy her a house. "They pretty much told me to go to hell, that I'd have to tell her myself," he recalled in an interview. "They gave me a reason to stay alive."

Once Adam, 22, reached the intensive care unit at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Carrie, 27, moved to a hospital guest house to be near him.


Mostly, she was overwhelmed by how helpless he looked, sedated in the hospital bed.

He was just starting to emerge from the haze of drugs when one day she walked in and he began to cry. His heart rate jumped, she said, and a doctor asked her to leave.

She didn't know what to think.

"I was just afraid that he wasn't going to want to see me and didn't want me in his life," she said.


To this day, Carrie said, neither she nor Adam is sure why he was upset. "I don't know if it was because he didn't want me to see him that way or he was upset that he wouldn't be able to take care of me. I don't know."

Others aren't so lucky. Like this marriage broken up because of the husband's two tours of duty in Iraq:

One young soldier at Walter Reed recuperating from a double amputation said recently that his war injuries were the last blow to his four-year marriage. He said his wife already was unhappy with his two tours in Iraq.

Speaking anonymously because he is in the midst of a divorce, he said she left the hospital partway through his recovery, telling his mother she was not coming back.

"That was rough," he said. "I got on the phone to her and talked to her and cried. . . . I was like, 'I got nobody.' That was the hardest thing. If she had just stuck it out a little longer."

For every story that is reported, there are thousands of others that nobody hears about. Thousands of families that are going through their own private hell. Thousands of families whose lives are affected forever and shattered. Thousands of people who will never show up on any "casualty list" or get the credit, prayer and sympathy that they deserve.

Let's not forget about them tomorrow, as part of them has died as a result of this illegal and immoral war.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Congress to troops: screw you, make do. We're on vacation

Recommended at Daily Kos and My Left Wing

So I guess this is what Congress' idea of "supporting the troops" is all about. It seems like our congresscritters were too busy trying to get their own pork projects stuffed into the supplemental appropriations bill for continuing the slaughter of innocents the mission of spreading freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan while suppressing it here in the US that the brave soldiers sent to fight a war based on a lie won't get the additional funding they need for these operations until sometime next month.

I mean, come on....this is the kick off of summer. Memorial Day weekend - you know, when our elected officials get to kick back, have some beer and BBQ, enjoy the sun and relax over a long holiday weekend that is supposed to be in honor of our fallen troops. How can Congress be expected to work through this much-looked-forward-to long weekend? What kind of message will that send to the terrorists? That we are willing to sacrifice our well deserved holiday to approve the funds to "fight the great war on terror"?

And oh how they deserve a break. After all, this Congress has worked the fewest days since the late 1940's. Which I guess is a good thing, considering the amount of damage they did in the short time they were in session.

Regardless of whether it is asinine for Dear Leader to request another $72 billion back in February on top of the already insane amount of money wasted spent on this great quagmire, the sad fact is that the soldiers and troops overseas in harm's way do need equipment, armor, supplies and whatever else is necessary to do whatever it is that the mission-of-the-week dictates they do (unless it involves killing innocent people...).

So, while very important issues such as gay marriage, providing tax breaks to big oil and the insanely wealthy, steroids, deporting 12 million immigrants, violence in video games, flag burning and whatever else is destroying the moral fiber and fabric of this country take front and center, our troops get the shaft. It is apparently more important to fight over $10 billion (yes that is a "B") in pork spending than it is to properly armor and supply the troops with what they need. I guess you stay at war with the supplies you had at the start of the war, not the supplies you need as the war continues. There won't even be a vote in Congress at all until late on June 6 - that is if this even gets up for a vote by then.

Not to worry, however, says Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) who heads the House Appropriations Committee. According to Lewis:

"we have made a lot of progress with the Senate in producing a bill the House can support and the President can sign" but there is not enough time to finish.

"We have communicated with the individual military services and while it is not preferable, they have informed us that they can tolerate a delay into June," Lewis said. "I am confident that Congress will clear the measure quickly after the Memorial Day district work period."

Well, isn't that just special. Maybe Lewis and some of his colleagues will be able to spend some of their time this Memorial Day weekend over their beer and hot dogs thinking of those soldiers who will be killed over the weekend, or those that have already died as a result of not having enough supplies and armor.

Of course, that isn't the view of the military. Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker had this to say (courtesy of thinkprogress):

Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, said the Army will be forced to slow down some of its operations' backbone because Congress decided to postpone the completion of the 2006 emergency supplemental until after the Memorial Day break.

"We have to pull all these levers to slow down," Schoomaker said at a breakfast sponsored by The Hill. In order to stretch its funds until a new infusion of cash is available, the Army will have to slow down its logistics and supply operations among other things, he pointed out. [...]

He added that it is "ironic" the Army has to resort to such measures on the eve of Memorial Day.

Hell, in a move that shocked the world, even Rumsfeld is standing up for his troops. According to Rumsfeld:

the Army and Marine Corps, carrying the bulk of costs for operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, already were postponing the purchase of some supplies and signing contracts while trying to preserve money for ongoing operations. In testimony before the Senate appropriations defense subcommittee, Rumsfeld said May 31 was the deadline for the services to get emergency funding before more drastic measures were needed.

He did not say what might happen, but historically the services have frozen civilian hiring, delayed or reduced exercises and training and slowed spare parts and supply purchases when money is tight.

Why does Congress hate our troops and hate America? Why are they aiding and abetting terrorism? What kind of message does this send to the terrorists? "Sorry, military but we are too busy planning our long weekend getaways after spending the least amount of time doing our jobs in nearly 60 years to properly supply you. But have a great Memorial Day weekend - if you make it through alive".


Friday, May 26, 2006

New White House policy advisor caught changing his own quotes

Chalk one more up to the lying revisionists.  This gives new meaning to "taking back what you said" - Karl Zinsmeister, the new appointee by Bush to be the next domestic policy chief was caught recently changing quotes that he made in a 2004 article.  And of course, while the party line is that they were "correcting inaccuracies", that doesn't explain the fact that when the article was first published, Zinsmeister wrote a glowing email to the author for the good work on the article, or that the interview for the article was taped.

According to the enigmatic NY Sun (I say this because they vacillate between solid articles and reporting and sensational NY Post-style articles),

A magazine editor named to a top White House policy post, Karl Zinsmeister, altered his own quotes and other text in a published newspaper profile of him posted on the Web site of the magazine he has edited for more than a decade, the American Enterprise.

How ridiculous is this?  Even minor things have to be lied about, altered, changed after the fact and obfuscated.  Of course, his qualifications for this position include a great article from June 2005 entitled The War Is Over, and We Won.  Good thing he isn't in charge of foreign policy.

Before we get into Zinsmeister's latest little mess, let's take a stroll down memory lane and see what other gems he has said:

From 1996:

"But the point of the conservative concern over black underclass life is that the pathologies run so much deeper there...we desperately need to find out what it is in contemporary black culture that makes for these exceptional breakdowns -- and then work like crazy to counteract those factors."

"The brutal reality is that whether in the selection of juries or the choice of neighborhoods to live (or get lost) in, colorblindness has become a real risk today...The penalty for the person who, ignoring race, turns down the wrong street today can literally be death.

Lovely xenophobia we have going here.  He should do perfectly fine the next time a hurricane hits the Gulf Coast and impacts one of "those neighborhoods"....

And this one from 2004 (the same article that he changed his own quotes from 2 years later):

"I learned in Washington that there is an 'overclass' in this country stocked with cheating, shifty human beings that's just as morally repugnant as our 'underclass.' The mom who charters a bus for her kids to go to a rave is as bad as the lady with the crackpipe. We have sickness at the top and bottom of our society but we have a big middle that is full of common sense and decency."

This quote was changed from the original quote, which was:

"People in Washington are morally repugnant, cheating, shifty human beings,"

Not even close, in terms of what was said.  Besides the fact that I don't know how a quote could be so misinterpreted but not even addressed until nearly 2 years later, I am just waiting (and hoping) for something to come up about his personal life that will expose this sanctimonious twit for what he really is.

Other changes include the following:

Original wording

"[Bush] said, 'I'm gonna do something for history.' To say nothing of whether it was executed well or not, but it's brave and admirable. It got depressing to have to be [in the Middle East] every couple years like cicadas."

Changed wording

The version posted by the American Enterprise omits the suggestion that the war was poorly run, drops the insect metaphor, and substitutes nobler language. "[Bush] said, 'I'm gonna do something for history.' It's a brave and admirable attempt to improve the world," the second version said.

Apparently, he either didn't like what he said originally, or he felt that it wouldn't be helpful for his new position, but in either event, he was caught changing his own quotes without even contacting the author of the article.

Needless to say, Justin Park (the author) and his editor weren't too pleased with this:

"These were corrections that were made due to misattributions or misunderstandings by the reporter that were cleaned up when they were reposted," a White House spokeswoman, Jeanie Mamo, said.

Mr. Park and his editor, Molly English, rejected that explanation. "If there's an inaccuracy, he should have called me or he should have called Justin," Ms. English said. She said it was unethical for Mr. Zinsmeister to post an altered version of the story without permission. "It's reprehensible, frankly," Ms. English said. "Once this is published, it's not his property. From that point in time, he can't just pick and choose."

The version of the story posted by the American Enterprise runs under Mr. Park's byline and states that it was published in the Syracuse New Times.

And he is still attributing the changed article to the old byline and the author.  Sounds real ethical to me.  Just the kind of person that I know I wouldn't want in charge of, well, anything....

Of course, Park and the newspaper have no reason to think that, based on Zinsmeister's actions at the time, that there was anything at all of an issue here:

Mr. Park also said he was taken aback by the White House claim of inaccuracies, since Mr. Zinsmeister sent an effusive e-mail soon after the article appeared. "I just read your story on line, and wanted to thank you for an extremely fair and thoughtful treatment," Mr. Zinsmeister wrote in an August 18, 2004, message provided to the Sun by Mr. Park.

Mr. Zinsmeister, an avowed conservative and staunch proponent of the war in Iraq, also expressed surprise at Mr. Park's approach, since the New Times is a left-leaning publication. "I really appreciate your professionalism and kindness. You wrote it straight up, which is the best and hardest kind of journalism.
Let me know when I can next help out your journalism," the editor wrote.

"I'm sure he would have said something if he felt misquoted at the time," Mr. Park said yesterday.

Unbelievable.  These people have to lie about everything, even the small stuff.  Makes the blue dress look even more silly.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Thoughts on the Enron decision from an ex-Andersen guy

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune. Front Paged at My Left Wing

As we all know, the Enron decision was announced. And coming from someone who (as well as my wife) lost my job at Andersen as a result of this debacle, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about it.

Yes, I am very excited that Lay and Skilling were found guilty of all these charges. And yes, it is some vindication. But I will say that this whole mess, which I lay (no pun intended) at the feet of Bush and Cheney for reasons that I will get in to below, has had huge repercussions and a major impact on both my life and my wife's life as well, not to mention MILLIONS of Americans in so many ways. So there is a different perspective and angle here that hopefully adds some value here.

For starters and for those who haven't kept up, the Andersen conviction for shredding documents was overturned nearly exactly a year ago UNANIMOUSLY by the Supreme Court. So not only did 70,000 US employees - hard working US employees who had no knowledge that Enron was even an Andersen client - lose their jobs over this, we lost our jobs for no reason.

Our (my wife and mine) anger was directed in a number of areas. First, while illegal activity is always wrong, Andersen was clearly the scapegoat for this widespread fraud. We asked ourselves (and our colleagues) why none of the brokerage houses that fraudulently pumped up the stock of Enron weren't taken down. I mean, to those who lost their life savings from this - Enron employees, other investors, or anyone else - they relied on the stock information that the analysts fraudulently provided.

We asked ourselves (remember it was back in 2001 at the time) why Cheney and Bush's ties to Enron executives weren't being probed. We asked why nobody was being held accountable for the California energy crisis. We asked how, with all of the blame to go around, how Andersen - a friggin accounting firm that was never even accused of fraud or conspiracy - was the fall guy when it was clear that there were so many crimes and so much guilt on many many other people's (including the highest of high level officials) parts.

Now, that is not to say that Andersen wasn't guilty of something. Or that they would have gone under for something else anyway. Certainly, I have a huge issue with top level management of Andersen at the time, who could have saved the firm if they really wanted to but were more stubborn, selfish and stupid, costing 70,000 people their jobs.

But there was a lot, I mean a lot that the Andersen folks were not privy to. Especially stuff that went on at the top and was hidden from Andersen auditors. Of course, there is enough blame to be spread around. But the job of an auditor is to make sure that things aren't out of whack, and lots of that is based on the client's management, the management representations, information provided by the client and other things that are done by the client. There were fraudulent documents that were provided by Enron management. There were schemes that were hidden from Andersen. But of course, Andersen does deserve a share of the blame.

Both my wife and I swore (even back in late 2001/early 2002) that we were done with Bu$hCo because of Bush and Cheney's relationship with Lay and the Enron crew, and us losing our jobs because of it. It is clear to us that Cheney and the Justice Department were more interested in finding a scapegoat and moving on.

Andersen was that scapegoat. Little did we know at the time how effectively this Administration would rely on the "scapegoat" strategy.

Andersen had nothing to do with the energy price manipulation in California that nearly bankrupted the state. Andersen had nothing to do with Cheney's secret energy commission that included Lay. And Andersen certainly had nothing to do with fraudulently pumping up the stock prices.

The number of people whose lives, personal savings, careers and whatever else was impacted is staggering. The people of California who had to pay for the increased electricity. The elderly who were bilked out of savings as a result of the higher energy costs. The innocent Enron and Andersen employees who have a stain on their resumes for the rest of their careers (hell, both my wife and I would have been partners at Andersen by now). The average American who invested heavily in Enron because of the analyst ratings. Anyone else that lost money, wages or now has to pay the cost of higher gas prices.

And pretty much everyone else since the fraud and loss of money has impacted the prices of pretty much everything, contributed to the downward spiral of the stock market, led to mistrust of the brokerage houses, and jut about anything else that was impacted by this wide ranging fraud.

These people are vile scum. Kenny-boy. Skilling. Fastow. Bush. Cheney. Their other enablers. The impact on this country from their thieving and crimes isn't even measurable. The lives ruined. The money stolen or lost. The impact on the economy. On consumer confidence.

Prison is way better than these crooks deserve. They should rot in hell.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stupidity is not a defense.

Seriously, enough of this fucking bullshit already.

Bush says noone could have anticipated a breach of the levees in New Orleans.  Rice couldn't have imagined that anyone would want to hit buildings with planes.  Libby didn't know that outing Plame was a big deal.  Cheney didn't know that the Niger documents were forgeries.  Rumsfeld didn't know we needed more troops in Iraq.  Noone could have thought that the Iraqis wouldn't greet us with flowers?

Rove didn't know that he told Cooper about Plame's covert status.  Nobody knew that she was investigating Iran and nukes.  Nobody bothered to believe the UN and international experts that were searching for weapons in Iraq.  Nobody can explain the mysterious nature surrounding Jeff/Jim Gannon/Guckert's undocumented and fraudulently documented visits to the White House, especially in a time of war.  Nobody knows anything about Jack Abramoff.

Gonzalez and Rumsfeld didn't know that they were really authorizing the torture of innocent (hell, even if they are guilty you shouldn't torture) and illegally captured prisoners.  Or that there were a helluva lot more than a "few bad apples" killing and torturing people AND POSING FOR PICTURES in our name around the world.  Nobody took the August 11, 2001 PDB seriously.

Hayden didn't know that the NSA wiretapping program violated the law.  The phone companies didn't know that they were participating in the largest illegal data mining project ever.  Congress didn't know that they were voting to confirm people that willfully lied to them under oath.  McLellan didn't know that Rove or Libby weren't involved in the Plame leak.

BULLSHIT!!!  bullshit bullshit bullshit bullshit.

These people are not stupid.  Not even Chimpy.  He may be dumb, but he ain't stupid.  These people are plain evil.

Because, regardless of whether they "legally" or "technically" say that there is plausible deniability, or people in lower ranks of the military were breaking the law and Geneva Conventions, or national security gets compromised or the Constitution is violated, it really doesn't matter why.  Saying that "I didn't know" doesn't absolve you of your responsibility.  And yes, maybe on a technicality under the law, but this responsibility goes WAY beyond the law.  

These people who have hijacked our country and crashed it headfirst into the Middle East swore to take on a huge amount of responsibility to We the People, not to mention the Constitution when they took on their roles.  Brownie and Chertoff should have, nay, were required to have made sure that thousands of people weren't stranded for days in and around New Orleans.  That thousands of people aren't still living in trailers that can blow away next month now that hurricane season is upon us again.

If you leak classified information, I don't give a rat's ass if you didn't know that it wasn't declassified yet.  I don't want to fucking hear how it was going to be declassified soon.  Because it wasn't yet.  I don't want to know what was going on in the heads of Bush, Cheney and Libby when the three of them schemed to allow Cheney to secretly and selectively declassify certain inaccurate information on behalf of Bush to Libby only so he could repeat it to some reporters.  

You should fucking know what is going on, or what you are doing.  It's your fucking job to make sure you know this.  You swore to uphold preserve, protect and defend the goddamned Constitution.  You violated that oath.  Willfully.  And for selfish and personal reasons.  What was done, in the name of stupidity, is a worse violation than any particular crime.  

These are crimes against humanity.  Against nature.  Against the environment.  Against the American public.

And "I didn't know" just ain't gonna fucking cut it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Victory in Iraq? Not according to US military officials.

Wow - every day that goes by results in another shiv in the backs of Dear Leader, Herr Rummy and their merry band of criminals.  According to a web-only commentary by Newsweek's Michael Hirsh,, members of the US military have indicated that they are moving away from a goal of "victory" in Iraq or even in the "war on terrah".

So now, get ready for the new buzzword for repairing all of the fuckups that they have created throughout the Middle East - containment.

The Hirsh article really slams Bu$hCo nicely and talks about how these ass backwards people in charge aren't even dealing with reality (nice to see that by a publication like Newsweek).

The article starts off with a bang:

An old word is gaining new currency in Washington: containment. You may be hearing a lot more of it as the Bush administration hunkers down for its final two years. Containment of Iraq's low-level civil war, which shows every sign of persisting for years despite the new government inaugurated this week. Containment of Iran's nuclear power, which may lead to a missile defense system in Europe. Containment of the Islamism revived by Hamas and Hizbullah, by the Sunni suicide bombers in Iraq, as well as by the "Shiite Crescent"--as Jordan's King Abdullah once called it--running from Iran through Southern Iraq and into the Gulf.

A missile defense system in Europe?  Will these jackasses ever learn?  Talk about living with a pre-9/11 mindset....That is how you are going to fight terrorism, with missile defenses that have only proven to fail time and time again?  I can't even believe that I am reading this tripe.

But not only that, even with the Cold War-era talk about "containment", these bumbling idiots aren't even thinking one step ahead:

During the cold war, containment doctrine was based on the premise that the Soviet Union was a powerful force that was going to be around for a long time to come...The policy was carefully laid out in NSC-68, the basic blueprint for containment, in the spring of 1950. Forty years later, the policy succeeded.

No such strategizing surrounds the current version of containment. Indeed, few people in the Bush administration will even concede they are thinking in such terms, because the president has not permitted an honest reckoning of the difficulties he faces. On Monday, Bush again appeared to sidestep the realities, calling the new "free Iraq" "a devastating defeat for the terrorists." Back in Iraq, however, it was just another typical day: some 20 Iraqis died in bombings and drive-by shootings, with few or no arrests.

So today's containment is a furtive policy being developed willy-nilly behind the scenes, as Bush's pragmatic second-term officials seek to clean up the vast Mideast mess left by the ideologues who dominated in the first term. A series of cautious concepts similar to those that came to dominate the cold war are emerging as the least worst way of holding off powerful forces that are also going to be around for along time: disintegration in Iraq, expansion in Iran, Islamism all over.

So how does this relate to Iraq now?  Well, as we have seen from many many Army officials, retired generals, and ex-Administration officials, things ain't as rosy as The Decider and his wrecking crew have proclaimed.  The people on the ground have been speaking up (and on that note, everyone should read Paul Reickoff's book "Chasing Ghosts" about his experience in Iraq).  And these people know the truth about what is going on.

They realize that there is a civil war brewing and has been brewing for quite some time now.  They know what should have been done but wasn't.  And they are talking about what is realistic, even though the brave leaders in Washington in cushy offices won't do so.

Containment, says one Army officer involved in training in Iraq, is at least "doable." He adds: "The only real question is: How do we keep Iraq from becoming a permissive environment for terrorists."

The U.S. military is already gearing up for this outcome, but not for "victory" any longer.
It is consolidating to several "superbases" in hopes that its continued presence will prevent Iraq from succumbing to full-flown civil war and turning into a failed state. Pentagon strategists admit they have not figured out how to move to superbases, as a way of reducing the pressure--and casualties--inflicted on the U.S. Army, while at the same time remaining embedded with Iraqi police and military units. It is a circle no one has squared. But consolidation plans are moving ahead as a default position, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has talked frankly about containing the spillover from Iraq's chaos in the region.

So I guess the question to ask is "why does the military not support our troops?"  If they aren't able to achieve total victory, then is it our fault by calling it out for years now?  Or is it due to the most excellent planning that was done by Rumsfeld and the neocon crew?

Or of course, you can do what Chimpy always does - lower the bar and still declare victory.  After all, he was never even able to fill the lowered expectations put on him......

Monday, May 22, 2006

10 days to hurricane season and we are still screwed.

A few months ago, I posted a couple of diaries about the levees in New Orleans not being up to standard and being built with subpar materials.  Partially because this has pretty much been blown off by the media, I had posted around a dozen diaries about New Orleans since Katrina hit (links are at the bottom of the diary).

And now we are ten days away from the "official start" of hurricane season, and guess what?  Yup, Homeland Security, the levees, and just about everyone else, is woefully unprepared to deal with the hurricanes.  Maybe this is due to there not being a PDB entitled "Hurricanes determined to strike in the US", but a few reports out today don't give me the warm and fuzzies here.

First up is the National Weather Service's Climate Report Center annual report (the 2006 report was released today) that guesses how bad of a hurricane season it will be.  Of course, this should be taken however you want to take it, since last year's report underestimated the severity of the season:

Last year officials predicted 12 to 15 tropical storms, seven to nine of them becoming hurricanes, and three to five of those hurricanes being major, with winds of at least 111 mph.

But the last season was much busier. In fact, it was the busiest Atlantic hurricane season since record keeping began in 1851.

Last season there were 15 hurricanes, seven of which were Category 3 or higher. Eight hurricanes have hit or affected Florida since 2004.

So how does this year shape up?  Well, according to the Report:

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted the 2006 Atlantic Hurricane season will be above-normal and very active.

Speaking at the National Hurricane Center in Miami Monday, Director Max Mayfield, told storm-weary residents what to expect for the 2006 season.

NOAA's 2006 Atlantic hurricane season outlook indicates an 80 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season.

The outlook calls for a very active 2006 season, with 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and 4-6 major hurricanes.

So far, a bit ominous.  But with all of the focus on rebuilding the levees, "revamping" FEMA and all of the other things that were done by Homeland Security to, well, secure our homeland, you would think that at least we wouldn't be put in a position where the system was at least reinforced by the Army Corps of Engineers to the point where another flood would not be so likely.

Enter in a study that was just compiled by engineers and disaster experts at the University of California, which says that fundamental design problems and the technical weaknesses of the US Army Corps of Engineers means that the flood system remains "dangerous".

According to two reports that I have seen so far, we have these nuggets:

At a briefing for American journalists yesterday, Raymond Seed, a civil engineering professor at UC Berkeley who led the study, said that army engineers had made mistakes analysing seven out of eight places where the levees had failed and missed a catalogue of design errors in the flood walls.

Just a month before the start of this year's hurricane season, Mr Seed said that despite promising improvements, such as the construction of two enormous gates that can block New Orleans's canals in case of flooding, another huge storm could flood the city. "It may still be a very dangerous system," he said.

The findings undermine assurances by the Bush administration and the Army Corps of Engineers that the federal levee repair program due to be completed in June will provide a higher level of protection to New Orleans, which sustained 1,293 deaths and property losses of more than $100 billon from Katrina.

The team's 600-page report disputed most of the corps' preliminary findings about what caused levee breaches, saying the corps' investigators had made critical errors in their analysis.

The mistakes raise concerns about whether the corps is competent to oversee public safety projects across the nation, said Raymond Seed, a UC Berkeley civil engineering professor who led the investigation, which the National Science Foundation sponsored shortly after Katrina struck.

"People think this is a New Orleans problem," Seed said. "It is a national issue."

The Berkeley team found that the defects that caused breaches during Katrina -- including thin layers of soil with the consistency of jelly and sections of levees built with crushed sea shells -- had gone undetected and could be widespread.

But the Corps shouldn't shoulder all of the blame here.  We know that they have been grossly underfunded for years.  There is a lot of blame to go around - apparently, there was a "system of compromises that resulted in substandard design and marginal quality, in exchange for lower costs".  However, you wouldn't know it from our fearless leaders who have been putting the typical "shiny happy face" on things, as evidenced by Chertoff's proclamations of how ready we are for hurricane season.  

All we are missing is for Dear Leader to go on national TV and say something like, "there are some storms that want to ruin the Gulf Coast again this year.  But we are ready for the storms.  And to those storms, I say `bring it on'".

The independent study was funded by America's National Science Foundation, and issued 11 different major recommendations, one of which would be to create a National Flood Defense Authority to replace the Army Corps of Engineers authority to deal with floods.  The team of people involved included nearly 40-50 experts from Berkeley and other educational institutions and other recognized experts in this area.  This LA Times article has some real good information about the background.  

I can't believe that with all that we have tried to do in order to shine a light on this, on top of the catastrophic fuck ups last year that we are pretty much back in the same situation where we have to hope that Mother Nature doesn't lash out at the gays who are dancing in the streets of New Orleans again (or whatever that dolt Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell said last year).

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Hey press, spare me your damn "outrage". It's insulting.

Recommended at Daily Kos, Booman Tribune and My Left Wing

So now, only 4 years late to the game, the press is crying that they feel violated by Dear Leader and his voyeuristic tendencies. At least that is what Brian Ross, Chief Investigative Correspondent for ABC is now saying, when he went on CNN's "Reliable Sources" and whined about being spied on by the Bushistas:
[I]t makes me feel, in a way -- and this is, I think, the disturbing part -- as if we are drug dealers or terrorists trying to traffic in information, and should we be using bags full of quarters like old Mafia capos to avoid having our phone calls traced? I don't think I'm doing anything wrong; I don't think any other reporter is, either. We're trying to cover these stories, which are difficult, but which are very important.

Yeah, well whaddaya know, Brian - you and your press cohorts have allowed this situation to get to this point, and have been ignoring, nay, pissing on We the People, for four years now. And NOW you want to call bullshit - when you are finally impacted?

Too little, too late, Brian. I don't want to hear it.
Oh, so you feel like you are being treated as terrorists or drug dealers. What happened to "if I have nothing to hide, then why should I care if I am being spied on?" Suddenly that doesn't apply? Where were you when there were rumblings about illegal wiretapping or other spying going on just after 2001? What happened to all of your little "people are ok with being illegally spied on" polls?

What about when your buddies Karl and Scooter wanted to feed you illegal information about covert CIA activities in order to smear a political opponent? Why was it ok for Russert, Tweety and Andrea Mitchell to pretend for nearly three years that everything was just peachy, when you were part of the covering up of this information? Where was your journalistic integrity back then when it was ok to print classified information and not only deny ever being involved but also sit in a comfy TV studio week after week pretending that you knew nothing?

Why was it ok to print lies that were passed on secretly to you like notes in a classroom about an "imminent attack" that you didn't even bother to verify? Where was your outrage when you were strongarmed into becoming a mouthpiece for policies of death, destruction and utter disregard for human lives?

Oh, sure, you can cry foul now when you find out that you were being spied on or monitored. But where the hell were you when this story first broke before the 2004 election? Why did the NY Times hide this news until early 2005, when the story was known about for nearly a year before that?

Why didn't you call bullshit when your journalist colleagues around the world were being kidnapped, targeted and killed in Iraq? Why didn't you speak out then? Isn't it your job to report the truth? To say "enough is enough"? To make sure that your sources and stories are protected while reporting the truth as opposed to the propaganda lines being spoon fed to you by the neocons?

What about when you were being flat out lied to by Ari Fleischer, then Scott McLellan and now Tony Snow? What about printing the stories of lies, half-truths (at best), word parsing and general disregard and disgust for your questions? How about when there was a (gasp...) gay prostitute pretending to be a bona fide journalist who was getting all of the air time at the press gaggles? Where were you then - why didn't you report about that?

How about when others of your own were being paid handsome sums by this administration to push policies of this administration - why did you bury that story? Or not reporting the fact when administration officials changed the written conclusions of scientific experts?

Is it ok to become such a lapdog of this administration that it was ok for you to nearly let two of your colleagues (and actually let one) go to prison in order to protect indicted administration officials over a leak of national security information? Seems to me that this situation that you now find yourself in has more than a little to do with the fact that you sit back and gleefully parrot what you are told to report while chasing down every little detail about the latest "missing white girl" story.

Where is your backbone while more and more of our brave young men and women are sent off to die for a lie? Where our governmental officials don't provide our soldiers with enough ammo, armor or other supplies?

Last (for now) and CERTAINLY not least, where were you when the 2000, 2002 and 2004 election seasons were filled with lies and smears? When there were thousands of published and anecdotal reports of fraud, intimidation, "irregularities" and suppression? Don't you think that your lack of doing your job and trying to stop this huge power grab has contributed to your predicament? Did you think for one second that you would emerged untouched by the overreaching illegal activities by those who you helped put and keep in charge?

If you stood up to the criminals that are running this country at any of these points in time, then maybe, just maybe someone would feel for you. We have been living under suppressed rights, lower real wages, cuts in healthcare and educational services for years now. We have been screaming that these violations have been occurring for years now.

You chose to not report it. You chose to mock the left blogosphere as "hysterical". As "alarmists". As "fringe". Well, now you are impacted by the illegal activities that you have been warned about for years.

It sucks, doesn't it?

Yeah, we know. We have known for a long time now. So, try and do your jobs now. But don't you dare whine about it - when you did absolutely nothing to stop it and everything to help get to this point.

Now do your fucking jobs already.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Air marshals: DHS policies blew our cover, made us sitting ducks

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune

Chalk up another "catastrophic victory" for the WarOnTerrahTM. According to a report by ABC News, US air marshals can't work undercover, and describe themselves as "sitting ducks" for any terrorists.

Not because they are incompetent, or because they aren't proficient at their jobs, but because policies of the Department of Homeland Security have painted a target on their backs. And in a comment that we have heard before, the Federal Air Marshals are "a badly broken service" and they "cannot protect the public [right now]".

So what has been done to address these complaints, which have been made to management of the air marshals over the past three years? Well, retaliation against the whistleblower -always the best recourse chosen to address security issues in this Brave New World....

I saw this on Good Morning America earlier today and just couldn't believe how bad these policies are, as well as how badly the air marshals' jobs are compromised by the required policies issued by DHS. So what happens if you dare speak up about the compromising of your safety?

According to the VP for Health and Safety of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association's Federal Air Marshall, Shawn McCullers:

It has become pattern and practice for the FAM Management to initiate fraudulent charges against FAMs that have spoken up and out against the many security, health, safety, and policy violations committed and perpetrated against the rank and file FAMs.

And, believe it or not, a voice of reason on this is none other than Rep. James Sense(less)Brenner whose House Judiciary Committee is going to be issuing a very critical report about the air marshal security issue. Even Sensebrenner knows this is a bad thing:

Committee Chairman Rep. James Sensenbrenner says the air marshals lack of anonymity violates federal law. He hopes the Federal Air Marshal Service Agency will "at least be a little bit more compliant with the law and whistleblowers, rather than trying to shut them up,"

Some of the more egregious examples of the violations include the following:

  • Requiring them to wear khakis and jackets (no jeans or other clothing);

  • Requiring them to check in and identify themselves as air marshals;

  • Requiring them to board the plan early with the flight attendants;

  • Requiring them to sit in aisle seats near the front of the plane;

  • Requiring them to consistently stay in the same hotels near the airport; and

  • In one instance, a hotel had a big sign that welcomed the federal air marshals.

I kid you not.

One of the federal air marshals, Frank Terreri, filed a formal complaint asking the Office of Special Counsel to investigate the Federal Air Marshal Service due to abuses and other things that blew their cover as well as not letting the air marshals speak about their jobs, the agency or the abuses. For example, the petition asserts that:

In his petition, Terreri alleges "gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, violations of law, and a substantial threat to air safety, created by repeated disclosures of operational tactics and FAMS policies that compromise the identities of individual air marshals."

Terreri also criticizes FAMS' management for endorsing at least six nationally broadcast news segments that disclosed the exact weapons carried by air marshals and the tactics they use in dealing with hijackings and terrorist attacks.
In his petition, Terreri repeatedly warns that FAMS' public disclosure of such details "gives terrorists a greater tactical advantage in a setting already tipped in their favor.

Terreri also said that:

[a]ir marshals are not able to work undercover because check-in and boarding procedures at airports make it impossible for air marshals to maintain their anonymity:

"We're supposed to be undercover. But basically when everybody knows who you are, you're just the guys on the plane with the gun. Either they're gonna avoid you or overcome you, you're at a severe disadvantage."

There will be an interview on ABC News tonight with an air marshal about this, who of course fully expects to be fired within minutes of the show's airing. The video from this morning's GMA can be found here.

So, the air marshals can't keep us safe on board the planes. The cargo holds aren't inspected. Airports fail security tests as weapons are smuggled through screeners. More recently, 21 US airports failed screening tests where bomb materials were smuggled through security.

But I have to take off my shoes every time I fly. And scores of women have to be harassed and molested by TSA thugs. And others are carted off based on misinformation.

Tell me again how we are safer?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

NSA had a LEGAL data program that Hayden and Bu$hCo quashed

Front Paged at Booman Tribune. Recommended at My Left Wing.

Well, isn't this just special, not to mention timely?

According to the Baltimore Sun (hat tip to TPM):

The National Security Agency developed a pilot program in the late 1990s that would have enabled it to gather and analyze massive amounts of communications data without running afoul of privacy laws. But after the Sept. 11 attacks, it shelved the project -- not because it failed to work -- but because of bureaucratic infighting and a sudden White House expansion of the agency's surveillance powers, according to several intelligence officials.

Holy shit. So not only could this massive data collection been avoided and done without breaking the law, it seems like a program that was already in place was stopped because of Chimpy McSnooper's desire to spy on everyone in the name of "freedom".

I would hope that the Senate caught wind of this and can ask Hayden some questions on the origins of this program, why it was stopped, who ordered it stopped and how much more the new illegal program cost We the People.

The pilot program was originally intended to be used in the ramp up to "millennium threats" but had some very good safeguards in place. According to officials that for obvious reasons shall remain nameless:

The program the NSA rejected, called ThinThread, bundled together four cutting-edge surveillance tools, and would have:

  • Used more sophisticated methods of sorting through massive phone and e-mail data to identify suspect communications

  • Identified U.S. phone numbers and other communications data and encrypted them to ensure caller privacy

  • Employed an automated auditing system to monitor how analysts handled the information, in order to prevent misuse and improve efficiency.

  • Analyzed the data to identify relationships between callers and chronicle their contacts. Only when evidence of a potential threat had been developed would analysts be able to request decryption of the records.

OK, but the big question is, did it work?

Of course it did - if it didn't, then it would have been implemented full force by Dear Leader the Voyeur.

In what intelligence experts describe as rigorous testing of ThinThread in 1998, the project succeeded at each task with high marks. For example, its ability to sort through massive amounts of data to find threat-related communications far surpassed the existing system, sources said. It also was able to rapidly separate and encrypt U.S.-related communications to ensure privacy.

I know that I mentioned above that Hayden should be asked who killed this program. Because the program was killed by none other than Hayden himself!

But the NSA, then headed by Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, opted against both of those tools, as well as the feature that monitored potential abuse of the records. Only the data analysis facet of the program survived and became the basis for the warrantless surveillance program.

The decision, which one official attributed to "turf protection and empire building," has undermined the agency's ability to zero in on potential threats, sources say. In the wake of revelations about the agency's wide gathering of U.S. phone records, they add, ThinThread could have provided a simple solution to privacy concerns.

A number of independent studies, including a classified 2004 report from the Pentagon's inspector-general, in addition to the successful pilot tests, found that the program provided "superior processing, filtering and protection of U.S. citizens, and discovery of important and previously unknown targets," said an intelligence official familiar with the program who described the reports to The Sun. The Pentagon report concluded that ThinThread's ability to sort through data in 2001 was far superior to that of another NSA system in place in 2004, and that the program should be launched and enhanced.

The rest of the article is a must read, and it is VERY damning against Hayden, the NSA and Bu$hCo. For example, by not implementing this program, it undermined the ability to track the important stuff without running afoul of laws, or violating privacy. Besides those small bits of information, there are those close with the program that indicated that if ThinThread was in place, it could have potentially identified those associated with the 9/11 attacks.

So what happens after 9/11? The NSA decided to implement certain aspects of the program, but not those that were mentioned above which would protect privacy and use advanced technology to actually track terrorist activity.

It just gets worse and worse. Not only should Hayden NOT be confirmed, he should be held responsible for helping quash a program that would have been legal and extremely helpful as well as for pushing a watered down version of the program that didn't include any safeguards or advanced technology.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Election 2006 theme: Corruption, Cronyism, Crimes

Recommended at My Left Wing

Every single Democrat running for office in November should remember these three words. This is how we will win. This is how we will take back Congress, state legislatures and other offices.

Every Democrat should plaster this question in all their commercials, debates, signs, slogans and other communication:

"Do you want to vote for a candidate that supports cronyism, corruption and crime or one that will stand up for We the People?"

This is how to drive a stake into the heart of what has been ruining the country and stealing American's money, pride, hearts, minds and souls for the past six years.

I have been working on this type of theme for a while now, and think that this is a winner (hopefully you do too). Last week, when the USA Today story about the phone company records broke, I posted a diary that dealt with ways to slow down the horrific legislation that the Republicans are ramming through Congress as well as a diary that gave suggestions for the Democrats to show some leadership.

While these are still two diaries that I firmly believe in, they don't cut to what needs to be done in order to effectively run a campaign "GOP-style" with bulletpoints, catchphrases and other bite size pieces that the general electorate can digest and handle at one time. We saw how well the lengthy and intellectual discussions and comments made by John Kerry worked, and how the quick slogans, etc. have worked so well for the Republicans for so many years.

And we have a real easy one here because it cuts right to the heart of what all decent people are against. Who is for corruption? Who is for cronyism? Who supports crimes? (don't answer that....)

Everyone remembers the "guns, God and gays" meme. Well, here are the "3 C's". It fits nice with the "Culture of Corruption" that is already being used. And there are so many examples for each of these three - I'll note a few below as well.

The overall message that can tie into this is basically a simple statement that should be memorized by any Democrat that wants to win. From my diary last week:

We are here to let you know that we are serious about taking back this nation. We simply will not stand for declining healthcare, for skyrocketing gas and oil prices, for declining educational standards, for lies, cronyism and corruption that are killing our children, our brave soldiers and bankrupting our country. This must stop, and since the Republicans in Congress and this Administration do not care about the American public and are not acting as leaders, it is our duty as Democrats to do so ourselves.

Simple. Clear. Powerful.

Examples work wonders too. Everyone remembers (rightfully or not) Willie Horton. Or for those that have been around longer than I have, the nuclear bomb/girl picking flowers commercial. Or the most disgusting one of Osama morphing into Max Cleland. And there are many others as well.

So give it right back to them.

Where do we even begin (since many of these can be filed under corruption, crimes or cronyism)?

We have the granddaddy of them all in Republican felon Jack Abramoff and his links to scores of Republican Senators, Representatives, staffers and wealthy Republican donors. We have Tom Delay and his "pay to play" schemes that resulted in favorable legislation for those who ponied up. We have Coingate in Ohio. Or Duke Cunningham, Dr. Cat Killer's insider trading, or the paying of "journalists" to push the Bush agenda?

But why stop there? We also have "heckuva job" Brownie which will play well to the "Katrina crowd". And don't forget Harriet "Bush is the greatest ever" Miers' nomination to the Supreme Court. Too bad she never got her "upperdown vote"....Or, as I reported last week, Frist and Hastert crony lobbyists who wrote secret legislation to exempt Big Pharma from gross negligence claims. Hell, the list goes on for cronyism on the Democratic Party's website.

Not enough yet? The vampire is still breathing? What about using these to drive the stake right through the heart?

Let's also not forget the lies about WMD. That Plame was tracking Iran and nukes when her covert identity and all of her contacts were leaked in a concerted effort to score political points. The illegal use of white phosphorus in Iraq. Or illegal and unconstitutional NSA wiretapping of, well, just about everyone on some level.

And then really go for the jugular with some heart-wrenching real life stories

Like the one about people needing to pawn their possessions to buy gas. Or the one about someone dying as a result of the Medicare D(ebacle). For good matter, we can't let this picture fall out of the public conscience:

While Bush let New Orleans drown, he ate cake with Senator McCain. The past and future leaders of the Republican agenda of corruption, cronyism and crime. Just criminal to do to those people in the Gulf Coast.

Corruption. Cronyism. Crimes. Learn it, live it, love it.

It's a winner. Now let's get to work.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

$5 billion more in tax giveaways to big oil. And it gets worse…

Recommended at Daily Kos

Thank goodness for people like Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash). A new bill introduced by McDermott looks to exempt oil and gas companies from a 2004 tax break provided to businesses for "domestic production activities". The original law, as currently written would provide big oil with $700,000,000 in ANNUAL tax breaks through 2016.

And the best part of this original law? Despite the fact that its original intent was to help out US companies that were hurt financially by the required reversal of prior laws relating to export-related tax breaks for companies (due to trade agreements), these original rules had no impact on big oil.

How nice - other companies and industries were hurt by the repealing of a law, so while finding a fix, Congress decided to throw a $5 Billion (yes, that is a `B") bone to the oil industry. But there is no price gouging and the oil industry is really looking out for We the People.

Since this is tax related, I will try and keep it so that you, the reader, won't doze off. But this merits tracking, and certainly I want to keep this as part of my grand plan to overhaul the tax code and make it more fair for We the People.

Background (brief - I promise)

As noted in the text of McDermott's bill, the US has (for years) provided export-related benefits to US companies. However, oil and gas companies were specifically exempt from these benefits (remember this tidbit). Somewhat recently, these benefits were successfully challenged by the European Union on grounds that they were not in line with trade agreements.

In response to this, Congress passed a new law in 2004 that gave a substantial tax deduction (I won't bore you with details here) to companies for "domestic production activities". And as part of this law, guess who got to take part in this very generous tax deduction, even though they didn't lose a dime from the repeal of the old benefits? Yup, the oil and gas companies.

According to the press release by McDermott and Sen. John Kerry:

In 2004, Congress sought to protect U.S. manufacturers who export from possible WTO sanctions over a broad, international trade dispute. To do this, Congress first repealed a complex tax provision called the FSC/ETI regime. Then, to shield U.S. companies who exported under FSC/ETI from a sudden, massive tax increase, Congress passed a corporate tax bill which gradually reduced taxes over several years, and was intended to help domestic manufacturers struggling to sell their products overseas. FSC/ETI regime never applied to Big Oil; in fact, Congress explicitly precluded oil company exports from the FSC/ETI benefit. However, when a new law was passed, Republicans made sure Big Oil got a break they didn't earn, deserve, or need.

Until now, there was never a quantification of the benefits to the oil companies, and a study was done by the Joint Committee on Taxation to see how much of a benefit they were getting.

So why is this important now?

Well, in addition to the obvious rising gas prices, we can't forget how the oil executives went before Congress to defend the record profits under oath despite the fact that Ted Stevens refused to swear them in first. Remember this line of crap?

The executives blamed the Gulf Coast hurricanes, which shut down refineries, and global forces, including rising crude-oil prices. They argued that their business is cyclical, citing weak profits in the late 1990s.

Or what about the cushy compensation packages that oil execs receive?

And of course we can't forget the 2005 legislation that showered the energy industry with billions of dollars in tax breaks. Not to mention the numerous generous tax breaks that this industry has already seen before Bu$hCo came in and acted like Santa Claus.

Fast forward to now.....

The study by the Joint Committee on Taxation was commissioned by McDermott and Sen. John Kerry (who should get some props for putting forth a similar bill in the Senate) was released yesterday. This study was to supplement the legislation and show how much of a "reverse windfall profits tax" this was for Big Oil. And guess, what? He was right. According to the release on McDermott's web site:

New revenue data from the independent congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, JCT, requested by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), show a gusher of subsidies- as much as $700 million every year- is flowing to oil and natural gas companies at the expense of U.S. taxpayers, because of an unearned and necessary windfall given away by the Republican majority. The price tag exceeds $5 billion over ten years - at least $1.4 billion more than previous estimates.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) said: "Big Oil is winning a multi-million dollar lottery every day of the week, every day of the year, because the game has been rigged by a Republican Congress and President. Big Oil does not deserve the multi-billion dollar tax subsidy, but Republicans gave it to them, anyway."

"It's clear every time people fill up at the pump that the Bush energy policy is not working. The fact that American taxpayers have to give away more money to oil companies as their profits increase is absurd - it's like a kick in the stomach on top of a $60 tank of gas," said John Kerry.

But if the oil companies are getting this money, surely it is keeping gas prices down, right?

So with all this, you would think that more money to the oil companies for "domestic production" would at least make it so that gas prices aren't already at $4 per gallon. Since this does relate to "production", then surely the more that is produced, the more there is available and the lower prices would be. Right?


Adding insult to injury, the lawmakers pointed out that the windfall tax subsidy actually increases as oil and gas prices increase.

This is because the tax break relates to income from domestic production or taxable income in general. So the higher the gas prices, the more income to the oil companies. And the bigger the tax break they get to take.

We can only hope that McDermott's and Kerry's legislation finds some sanity on the Republican side with a few "true" conservatives or deficit hawks signing on. Otherwise, this will be a longer, more costly and difficult summer for We the People.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Why Chimpy's National Guard border plan is dumber than he is.

Recommended at Booman Tribune

Is anyone else shaking their head at the latest craptacular proposal by Dear Leader with respect to putting "limited amounts" of National Guard troops along the US/Mexican border for a "limited time"?

Besides the fact that this has already concerned Mexican President Vicente Fox enough that he has reached out directly on this, or that the same people who are responsible for the whole CIA leak to begin with are telling us that this is not a plan to "militarize the Mexican border", it is just a laughable idea.

Thanks to the good folks at as well as prominent Congresspeople, even including (gasp, a Republican) Chuck Hagel, this isn't even something that the National Guard can handle right now.

How about starting with simple math.....5,000 troops along the 2,000 mile border. A border that is already porous enough, and has many underground tunnels that we have already found, not to mention those that we have no idea about. That works out to 2.5 people per mile. That should really work well.

Now let's also think about the fact that hurricane season is just about upon us and how much our National Guard was needed when 80,000 of them were already serving in Iraq. Or the fact that last year at this time, half of their equipment was in Iraq. Since we know how well Chimpy and the Gang can deal with, well, anything, how are they going to deal with the numbers here? Or resources that are already needed elsewhere in this country? While we are on the topic of hurricane season, it is also reported that the Guard is underequipped to handle any emergencies. And how bad is it, exactly? Well, just see for yourself:

State-based units are short on critical equipment because guardsmen about to return from overseas assignments such as in Iraq and Afghanistan are handing off their rifles, radios and vehicles to incoming units. State officials say shortages at home of Guard equipment, such as Humvees, mean they must rely on backup assistance from neighboring states once hurricane season begins June 1.

In Louisiana, about 100 of the Guard's high-water vehicles remain abroad -- even as the state continues to rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. Coastal North Carolina is missing nearly half its Humvee fleet, and Guard officials there said shortages have forced the state to pool equipment from different units into one pot of hurricane supplies.
Vehicles are particularly crucial to hurricane response because they are often the only way to ferry ice and water through devastated areas.


In May 2005, Guard units here had only about 8 percent of the tractor trailers they were allotted and none of the Humvees with added armor, according to the GAO report.

But let's fast forward to now. Even Chuck Hagel (one of the only, if not THE only Republican in Congress who served in Vietnam), who I have been in agreement with more than all of the other Republicans combined, had this to say:

"We've got National Guard members on their second, third and fourth tours in Iraq," Hagel said. "We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times. And what in the world are we talking about here, sending a National Guard that we may not have any capacity to send up to or down to protect borders? That's not their role."

OK - so they are a bit tired. We know that Rummy can stand for 8-10 hours a day so what is the big deal if our already overextended National Guard does more?

But even if that isn't the biggest issue, what about the following pieces of information that can't (but will) be ignored about the enormous stress and strain that our National Guard is already under:

Recruiting is way down. In 2005, the National Guard missed its recruiting goal, and 20% of the total troops in Iraq are Army reservists and National Guardsmen(around 55,000). Even though this number is down from 40%, since Iraq combat is not what the National Guard is really supposed to be doing, the troops that have returned (and not been redeployed) have got to be fatigued, stressed and likely could be suffering from some form of PTSD, since an estimated 10% of the veterans returning from Iraq may be suffering from some form of PTSD, not to mention those troops that are thrust into a combat situation that they were not trained for to begin with.

Already, over 350 National Guard soldiers have died in Iraq, not to mention the fact that last year, Lt. Gen. James Helmly said that the the US Army reservists are "degenerating into a broken force". Not only that, but Helmley warned that it was becoming increasingly difficult to be able to meet the operational requirements here in the United States.

Even as recent as last July, the National Guard Bureau indicated that there were serious issues with the proper amount of equipment being available for undeployed units:

Nondeployed Guard units now have only about one-third of the equipment they need for their overseas missions, which hampers their ability to prepare for future missions and conduct domestic operations. Without a plan and funding strategy that addresses the Guard's equipment needs for all its missions, DOD and Congress do not have assurance that the Army has an affordable plan to improve the Guard's equipment readiness.

One third of the equipment needed. And only 34% of its "essential warfighting equipment". Maybe the Navy's idea of sharks with electronic sensors can make up for the shortfall. Or maybe they can just call Dr. Evil in to use his sharks with laser beams.

How about the fact that the National Guard is so underequipped that they have less than 5% of over 220 critical items?

Further, as of July 2005, the Army National Guard reported that it had less than 5 percent of the required amount or a quantity of fewer than 5 each of more than 220 critical items. Among these 220 high-demand items were generators, trucks, and radios, which could also be useful for domestic missions.

So what does Chimpy do about this? Well, first the state governors have to ask for help, which they did:

In February, all 50 governors called on President Bush to re-equip the National Guard. Under the U.S. Constitution, each state's National Guard unit is controlled by the governor in time of peace but can be called up for federal duty by the president. There are two branches of the National Guard: Air and Army.

"Attention must be paid to re-equipping National Guard units with the resources they need to carry out their homeland security and domestic disaster duties, while also continuing to fine-tune their wartime mission competencies," said the letter signed by all the nation's governors and the governors of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

And what was done so far? Zip. Zilch. Nada.

So besides the fact that the "let's put a shiny happy story on it and everything will go away" tactic which worked on most of `Murka for 5+ years is not going to work anymore. There is really no way, logistically, that this could work. Hell, half of the Repukes are against this. And in a month or 2 when hurricane season starts up, then what? It just is a completely knee-jerk ass backwards way to handle an issue as sensitive as illegal immigration.

Here's a couple of questions that I will leave you with - what happens if the Minutemen along the border mix it up with the Mexican gangs that are looking to counteract the Minutemen? What role do our National Guard soldiers play then? What happens when Mexicans are shot and killed trying to cross the border? How many from the National Guard will need to be redeployed to deal with the inevitable riots that will erupt, especially if it is one of the National Guard soldiers that kill the Mexicans trying to cross the border, even if they are trying to cross illegally.

Another fine mess to deal with. A heckuva job you are doing, Chimpy.