Friday, June 30, 2006

The Declaration of Independence: how far we have fallen

Front paged at ePluribus Media. Recommended at My Left Wing

With much of "flag wavin', beer guzzlin', jee-zus fearin' Murka" getting ready to shoot off some fireworks, eat some grilled meat and get all dressed up in red, white and blue to show how much they support the troops and love this country, I was thinking about the document that we really should be celebrating, or at least remembering this weekend.

And in reading the text of the Declaration of Independence it is both sad to see how far this country has gone astray from the principles contained in the Declaration of Independence and how the authors of that document would cringe to see what has happened to the country and freedoms (not "freedomTM") they fought so hard for. At the same time, it is amusing (in a sick twisted way) to see how ignorant that `Murka is when they blindly salute the flag and spew their vile hate.

So, with all that in mind, I thought that a few choice selections of the Declaration of Independence, intertwined with commentary and some "post-9/11 world" contrast would be worth putting together on a weekend where I will be doing more reflection than in most other years.

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

That second paragraph really says it all. All men are created equal. Except, of course for these people. And these people. As for a form of Government becoming destructive, we need to look no further than the destruction in Iraq, Afghanistan, New Orleans, Mississippi as well as most inner cities.

As for safety and happiness, well, our ports aren't too safe. Our airports aren't much safer. Our borders certainly aren't safe. And with all of the jobs outsourced, jobs lost, lower real wages, loss of health benefits, more people struggling to make ends meet and families being torn apart due to an unreasonable, unnecessary, costly and illegal war, I certainly don't think there is much happiness.

I'll skip down a bit:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. -- Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

A long train of abuses and usurpations. Where to begin with about the whole "unitary president" thing? The fact that Congress is disregarded when they don't agree with Bush. Or the 750 laws disregarded by Bush's signing statements. Or the lies to Congress and the American people about yellowcake, about aluminum tubes, about Valerie Plame, about illegal wiretapping, torture or rendition. Or invading a sovereign country. The "wartime president" even though Congress never declared war. The enormous wealth transfer from the formerly middle class to the most wealthy. The altering of expert opinions, the denial of science. The leak of classified information for political gain.

So what were these abuses and usurpations that King George (and present day wannabe-king George) have done? Well back in the 1770's, King George

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.


He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.


He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.


He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

Looks like wannabe-king George used the Declaration of Independence as a guide for his administration. Rendering the military superior to civil power. Kind of like the no-bid contracts to Halliburton and the massive military spending on bigger more destructive weapons. More bombs. More powerful bombs. Missile defense that barely functions.

Obstructing the administration of justice. We can talk to Fitz about that one. Appointing judges that are extreme in their views as it relates to personal freedoms. You know, ones like Samuel Alito. Refusing to assent to laws - well that one was sort of covered above but can't be stressed enough. But we can add Congress enabling this refusal by their own refusal to hold the Executive Branch accountable for, well, just about everything. Making judges abide by his will - well we will see just how much credence he gives to yesterday's ruling on Gitmo.

Let's read on:

For protecting them [armed troops], by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:


For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:


For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:


He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.


A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

A few bad apples punished for Abu Ghraib when the ones who crafted the torture plans like Rumsfeld and Abu Gonzalez are unscathed. Rendition of suspects to be tortured overseas. Abolishing our most valuable laws - you know, like those pesky first 10 amendments. Transporting large armies (granted not necessarily foreign mercenaries) to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny. Like in Iraq. Like in Afghanistan. By torture. By using illegal banned chemical weapons. "Spreading freedom". Permanent bases in Iraq. Military bases all throughout the Middle East.

Depriving people of the benefit of trial by jury. Well, that one goes without saying. The Republican Convention in NYC where hundreds of people were illegally detained for no reason for 48 hours in a dirty holding pen. Many of whom were guilty only of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Free-speech zones. I'll mention rendition once again.

And certainly, wannabe-king George's character is marked by every act which may define a tyrant and is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Which is a perfect way to end this contrast. We have come full circle. We have a tyrant of a ruler. We have a sham of a government which certainly is no longer Of the People, By the People or For the People. Power has been abused, usurped, consolidated.

This should be remembered this weekend. How far astray we have been taken. What our country's founders did when they were in a very similar position as we now are today. How ashamed they would be to see what has become of the republic they fought so hard for.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

SCOTUS rules AGAINST Bush's actions regarding Gitmo

Recommended at Daily Kos. Front Paged at ePluribus Media

Score one for We the People as the Supreme Court came down with a 5-3 ruling regarding Gitmo detainees and their right to a "regular" trial, or even be released if no charges are filed vs. Bush's desire to hold them without charges, detain them indefinitely and deny them rights under the Geneva Conventions. The SCOTUS ruled that Bush can NOT continue to have his unlimited power to unilaterally rule the world.

So this was, to me, one of the most telling cases that the Dubya-infested SCOTUS had on its' docket. Of course, those "non-activist" judges who installed Dear Leader in the first place have gotten a major injection of "compassionate conservatives" over the past year, and there have been a number of instances where we have been given some level of insight into just how screwed We the People will be for the next, oh, say 25 years or so.

But this is the first case (as far as I know) since both Alito and Roberts have been on the Court where the crux of the "war preznit" theory will be tested. By way of background, the case dealt with one of bin Laden's former chauffeurs, but of course, regardless of what the decision was, Gitmo will not close, and I am sure that Bush will continue to violate whatever laws he desires to violate.

As far as a somewhat detailed background, here is some information:

The nation's highest court is examining a myriad of challenges in the case of Osama bin Laden's former chauffeur, one of 10 detainees the Bush administration wants to put before a war crimes tribunal at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay.

Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was captured in Afghanistan in 2001, is charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, murder, and terror acts against the U.S.

Human rights groups contend the tribunals, formally called military commissions, are flawed because they violate basic protections and would offer little legal protection.

Of course, Dear Leader and his band of war criminals are shouting "9/11!!!" at every turn, and this is all the more reason for the Supreme Court to have made a ruling that considered the major overstepping of the Geneva Conventions and other basic laws regarding the treatment of prisoners and detainees by this administration. We know that it would be the greatest thing for Bush, Abu Gonzalez and the rest to detain and torture as many "evildoersTM" that they can get their bloody hands on.

Considering that there are still around 450 people detained at Gitmo, and Bush wants to have military trials, if any trial at all, this was a big deal. Sadly, according to reports, there are only around 60-70 other detainees who would be charged with crimes, leaving nearly 400 with no charges.

Air Force Col. Morris Davis, the chief Guantánamo prosecutor, said about 65 more detainees being held at the U.S. base are likely to be charged with crimes if the Supreme Court upholds the process.

Prosecutors are preparing additional charges, including some that could incur the death penalty, Davis told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Washington.

"We're pressing on, anticipating a favorable decision," he said.

Here is the text of the SCOTUS decision.

From SCOTUSBlog:

More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).

If I'm right about this, it's enormously significant.

here is the link to, which has this blurb:

Justice John Paul Stevens wrote the opinion, which said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and the Geneva Convention.


The ruling involved eight of the nine court members. Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by Bush, had removed himself because he previously was on a U.S. appeals court panel that ruled for the Bush administration in the Hamdan case.

here is the link and some text:
The 5-3 ruling means officials will either have to come up with new procedures to prosecute at least 10 so-called enemy combatants awaiting trial, or release them from U.S. military custody.


Three issues were before the high court: whether the planned tribunals are a proper exercise of presidential authority; whether detainees facing prosecution have the right to challenge the procedures of those tribunals and their detentions; and whether the Supreme Court even has the jurisdiction to hear such appeals.


Chief Justice John Roberts did not participate in the Hamdan case. He had ruled against the government last year when the case was argued in a lower federal appeals court.

From WaPo:
The vote was split 5-3, with moderate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court's liberal members in ruling against the Bush administration. Chief Justice John Roberts, named to the lead the court last September by Bush, was sidelined in the case because as an appeals court judge he had backed the government over Hamdan.

Thursday's ruling overturned that decision.

Bush spokesman Tony Snow said the White House would have no comment until lawyers had had a chance to review the decision. Officials at the Pentagon and Justice Department were planning to issue statements later in the day.


Three detainees committed suicide there this month, using sheets and clothing to hang themselves. The deaths brought new scrutiny and criticism of the prison, along with fresh calls for its closing.

Here is the NY Times article:

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a strongly worded dissent, saying the court's decision would "sorely hamper the president's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy."

The court's willingness, Thomas said, "to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous."

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito also filed dissents.

In his own opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer said, "Congress has not issued the executive a 'blank check."'

"Indeed, Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind at issue here. Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary," Breyer wrote.

Here is the google news link

A good day for We the People.

Condemn the NY Times NOW? Gimme an effing break.

This latest charade of feigned outrage by Bush, Frist and the rest of the jackass Republicans in Congress who are seeking to formally condemn the NY Times for its reporting of a secret program which monitored bank records is just beyond petty and stupid.  Now, I don't know too much detail about this program, but even Jon Stewart didn't seem to think it was all that bad last night.

But that isn't really my point.  There is still (in theory) such a thing as freedom of the press in this country.  Yes, it is still there, and hasn't been repealed yet, even though it (1) isn't exercised responsibly and (2) has basically been turned into a mouthpiece for the Republican agenda of crimes, cronyism and corruption.  

And if you want to get all sanctimonious and start with your "condemnations", well glass house dwellers, maybe you should put your damn stones away.

And this is now, what, the third time that we have to hear the blowhards in this administration as well as Congress talk about how the NY Times (and other reporters) violated laws and ruined national security by DARING to expose the illegal wiretapping of US citizens' conversations, or by printing an Op-Ed by Joseph Wilson calling bullshit on Cheney, or by doing something as horrific as not toeing the Republican Party line.

There are threats of arresting reporters for printing stories that We the People have every right to know about.  Arresting reporters for daring to expose lies and crimes.  For exposing secret programs and torture, regardless of how long they were good little reporters and sat on the story for the benefit of the Republicans.  

But what about the bang-up job that the NY Times, and Judy Miller more specifically, did in the run up to the Iraq invasion?  Shouldn't they be condemned for actually covering up lies and holding back on truthful stories and facts which quite possibly would have kept our brave soldiers out of Iraq in the first place?

Oh, I know they won't be.  That they were shills for the neocons.  That Judy may have been more than "just a reporter".  But frankly, I don't give a rat's ass about any of that.  Let's call it how it is.  This fascist "government" of ours is so quick to kiss the feet of the same publication that kept stories about national security leaks and damage by top administration officials - hell, they hid their fucking complicity in this leak.  That they held off on reporting the lies about aluminum tubes "only being able to be used for nuclear purposes" when that was debunked by just about everyone.

The same war criminals had the warm and fuzzies for the NY Times when it printed all of the Judy Miller lies, I mean "stories" about Saddam and how Iraq was "gonna git us if we don't kill `em first".  And the neocon crooks were just peachy with the NY Times protecting Judy Miller in jail to save their asses (at least most of their asses).

Yeah, all that was just fine and dandy.  Protecting crimes, covering up evidence that would save this country and Iraq from destruction, death, disease, financial ruin, burying stories at the request of the administration or just ignoring many many many of the crimes and illegal acts by members of the administration gets you applause.  Not reporting on the damage that this administration's policies are causing to the working class, to the lower class, to the environment - that is a good thing.

And while we are at it, how about the excellent coverage of the 2004 election "discrepancies"?  Or the going along with the swiftboating of John Kerry?  Or the questioning of the WMDs that nobody could find but Bush and Cheney "were sure are there"?  Or ignoring the fact that the only "proof" of WMDs in Iraq was from a irresponsible and unreliable drunk known as "Curveball", where there was much evidence to the contrary?  Or singing the praises of the PATRIOT act instead of doing their job and questioning the motives?  What about not reporting about the illegal firebombing of Fallujah with white phosphorus?  

Oh, we can't forget how some of the stories that the NY Times actually DID print were stories that they knew about before the 2004 election and sat on them for nearly a year before finally reporting them.  Hmmmm, sitting on stories that would most likely have ensured a new President and a Democratic Congress in 2004.  

No, no, no - all of that is worthy of a Pulitzer.  But lordie, lordie, if they actually do their damn job and call bullshit on things that shouldn't be done, or that are flat out illegal then we need to stop everything in Congress and issue a formal condemnation of those who are actually doing their jobs for once.

Gimme a fucking break already.  Just shut the hell up.  Although by doing this, I guess that Congress isn't focusing on more tax cuts to the ultra-wealthy and tax credits to corporate donors.....

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

OK wingnut “troop supporters” - try to defend THIS...

Recommended at Daily Kos, Booman Tribune and My Left Wing. Front paged at ePluribus Media

Well, here is another shining example of how much the Pentagon cares about taking care of military widows:

For military widows, many of them young, stay-at-home mothers, the shock of losing a husband is often followed by the confounding task of untangling a collection of benefits from assorted bureaucracies.


Sometimes it is simply the Pentagon's massive bureaucracy that poses the problem. In other cases, laws exclude widows whose husbands died too early in the war or were killed in training rather than in combat. The result is that scores of families -- it is impossible to know how many -- lose out on money and benefits that they expected to receive or believed they were owed, say widows, advocates and legislators.

The rest of the story makes me want to scream.

While there have been laws passed over the past few years to make things somewhat easier for many Iraq and Afghanistan war widows, there are still many inconsistencies and loopholes in the laws which ultimately screw the families of our brave soldiers who have paid the ultimate price for Dear Leader and the neocon war criminal's web of lies.

Today's NY Times has an absolutely heartbreaking article that describes the red tape, the arbitrary laws that were passed, the loopholes to these laws, and other nonsense that is just another example of how little care there is for the people who serve in the military, those who are left behind when a soldier is killed in action, and the struggles the widows have in obtaining any money or benefits as they are trying to put their shattered lives back together.

And even though there have been some changes to the laws in this area, you would bet that the level of consideration given to the impact of these laws, or what the families of fallen soldiers must be going through when they find out that they have lost a loved one, or how many babies will grow up without a father, or how many mothers, fathers, wives, sisters and brothers' lives were turned upside down pales in comparison to the amount of time wasted on flag burning, gay marriage, a woman's nipple on TV, covering up the illegal spying on Americans or cutting more taxes on corporations and the ultra wealthy.

Which makes the following stories even more heartbreaking and can only make me more outraged at the vile disgusting priorities of Congress, the Pentagon, most Republicans (and even a good number of Democrats), and most of all, the American people who support this illegal war, shout at those who oppose the war - calling us "traitors" or "supporting terrorists over our troops".

To all of you, not do I only give you the one finger salute, but I dare you to read on and then tell me how the following describes a policy of "supporting the troops".

Where to start? How about with the story of Holly Wren, who is now a widow with a 6 month old:

As Holly Wren coped with her 6-month-old son and the sorrow of losing her husband in Iraq last November, she assumed that the military's sense of structure and order would apply in death as it had in life.

Instead she encountered numerous hurdles in trying to collect survivor benefits. She received only half the amount owed her for housing because her husband, one of the highest ranking soldiers to die in Iraq, was listed as single, childless and living in Florida -- wrong on every count. Lt. Col. Thomas Wren was married, with five children, and living in Northern Virginia.

She waited months for her husband's retirement money and more than two weeks for his death benefit, meant to arrive within days. And then Mrs. Wren went to court to become her son's legal guardian because no one had told her husband that a minor cannot be a beneficiary. "You are a number, and your husband is a number" said Mrs. Wren, who ultimately asked her congressman for help. "They need to understand that we are more than that."

"You are just a number and your husband is a number." Gee, I wonder where I have heard that before.... These "numbers" are those who were shipped off to the other side of the world to fight for a cause they thought was noble. A cause that turned out to be all lies. Lies by people who have reckless disregard for human life. And no sense of compassion. By people who are pretty much vile criminals.

While we are on Ms. Wren's story - you know the widow with 5 children whose husband was the highest ranking officer to be killed in Iraq - how much more wrong could the paperwork be (damn, I sound like Chandler Bing there - "could the paperwork BE more wrong")? All this and she STILL can't get all of the benefits that she is due. Benefits that she is due because her husband died as a result of lies.

How about the plight of Laura Youngblood?

Just days after her husband was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb, Laura Youngblood, who was pregnant with their second child, got another piece of sobering news from the Navy: Her mother-in-law, who had been estranged from the family for several years, would be receiving half of her husband's $400,000 life insurance payment.

Nearly a year later, Mrs. Youngblood, 27, is still trying to persuade the Navy that the military's accounting department lost her husband's 2004 insurance form naming her and her son as co-beneficiaries, along with the rest of his pre-deployment paperwork. The only forms the Navy can find are from 2003, listing an old address for her husband, Travis, an incorrect rank and no dependents.

The military paperwork was in such disarray, Mrs. Youngblood said, that her husband went months without combat pay and family separation pay because the defense accounting service did not realize he was in Iraq, where he was detached to a Marine Corps unit.

When the Navy said there was nothing it could do, the Marine Inspector General's office stepped in to investigate, forwarding findings to the Navy Inspector General's office. "These were my husband's dying wishes: to take care of his children," said Mrs. Youngblood, who has hired a lawyer to help her. "You honor his wishes. That's his blood money."

This just makes me want to puke. The bureaucracy being so poor and tangled that only some pre-deployment paperwork is available. Don't you think that some sort of electronic recordkeeping would help alleviate this mess? Isn't this a BIT more important than undertaking a massive and illegal data mining project to spy on all Americans' calls, emails, financial transactions or other activity?

The laws, as indicated above, are even still arbitrary and contain enough loopholes to make even the biggest lobbyist proud. For example, depending on when a soldier died in action, there is either more or less in money and benefits available to the widow and family. A perfect example of this is Shauna Moore:

Shauna Moore was tending to her newborn, Hannah, on Feb. 21, 2003, when she learned that her husband, Sgt. Benjamin Moore, 25, had been shot during a rifle training exercise at Fort Hood, Tex. Months later, after her grief began to subside, she noticed that she was not entitled to the same retirement benefits as more recent widows with children.

Congress allowed certain widows to sign over to their children their husband's retirement benefit, sidestepping a steep so-called military widow's tax. But the law applies only to the widows of service members who died after Nov. 23, 2003. Mrs. Moore is one of an estimated 430 spouses with children who are ineligible.

If that option were available to Mrs. Moore, she would collect an extra $10,000 a year until Hannah became an adult.

"It makes a difference, if you are a single mom," she said.

Um, don't you think that passing a law that would remove the military widow's tax is a bit more important than another few billion in cuts in corporate taxes or removing the estate tax? How about having Congress pass something that would actually ease the pain for ALL military widows?

There are more stories in the article, which I strongly urge that you all read. It is too sad to reproduce all of them here (and probably runs afoul of the "fair use" provisions). However, they range from lost insurance, lower death benefit payments, poor health care for families of the fallen soldiers to lack of transition payments for many widows who have children.

This is best summed up with a quote from Dawanna Kimble, whose husband died in Iraq on his 3rd deployment and there were paperwork issues that led to her to pull one of her four children out of private school, take a "dead-end" job and live with her children in a friend's empty house:

"It has left me frustrated and very bitter," Mrs. Kimble said. "We have already sacrificed our husbands. Our children are fatherless. For them to struggle financially is another blow."

So please, tell me again how this is supporting the troops?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

With all due respect, Dick...

Mr. Cheney - Please, do me a favor and just shut the fuck up already.  So, you emerge from your dungeon to tell the world how you are: offended by the reporting of another huge spy job against the American people.  How you say that you find it so
"disturbing that some in the media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programmes, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people."

You know what, Dick - may I call you that?  That shit just don't fly anymore.  Actually, it stopped flying around 2002 or so when you were offended that we didn't want to invade Iraq NOW, before there would be "mushroom clouds", presumably from weapons that your buddy Reagan's administration sold them.

So, Mr. 18% approval, it really doesn't matter anymore what the hell you find "offensive", especially with your stellar track record when it comes to your high-horse lecturing of what offends your sorry ass vs. your oh-so-pure actions.

You claim to be offended by criticism of the torture of prisoners in Gitmo.  But torturing them to the point that they commit suicide is ok.  Holding boys who are under the age of 15 as prisoners for years without charges in Gitmo is ok.  Rendition of "suspects" to other countries to be tortured isn't offensive either, is it?  Bombing entire cities with white phosphorus? Let me guess, just peachy too.  Lobbying Congress not to pass anti-torture laws?  Ain't nothing offensive about that.  Or to lean on Congress to not investigate the pressure you put on the CIA to lie about Saddam and yellowcake uranium.  Or aluminum tubes.  Or, according to Powell's Chief of Staff, all of the other lies and strongarming to march our brave soldiers off to kill and die for your sick personal game of Risk.

While we are on the topic of lying....I guess lying isn't offensive, or something to be "offended by" either.  Even something as stupid as having never met John Edwards, despite there being pictures of the two of you together.  Or how Saddam and Al Qaeda were working together.  And how Iraq was involved in 9/11.  How about those "last throes", what was that - over a goddamn year ago?  "We will be greeted with flowers and as liberators."  A secret energy commission that was made up of a map of Iraqi oil fields.  Was it not offensive to have, along with Rumsfeld, convinced Bush to blow off and not deal with Iran when they reached out during late 2001, as well as 2002 and 2003 to stamp out Al Qaeda?

And I guess that war profiteering doesn't offend your black-hearted sensitive self either.  The cool $2 million tax refund you got from donating your stock option income from Halliburton.  You know Halliburton, the company that you had "no financial ties to" but still manage to make a tidy sum every year from them.  And no-bid contracts where you can use offshore companies to rip off We the Taxpayers and inflate the stock price even more for when you cash out of more stock that you "don't have".  How about the off shore companies that Halliburton used throughout the 1990s in order to get around the sanctions against doing business with Iran?  

No - none of that is offensive.  Nor is the fact that you had 5 deferments because you "had other priorities".  But John Kerry's wounds from actually serving make him the chump.  Nice try, douchebag.

What about your Congressional voting record?  Voting against releasing Nelson Mandela?  Against making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday?  Against Project Head Start?  Yeah, that is something to not be offended by.  Proud of, even.

And as for your latest tantrum about exposing national security secrets, need I remind you how fucking ironic it is for you to say a word on this?  How much you look the damn fool by chiming in about leaking classified information?  Oh of course, it is ok to have Bush pass an Executive Order that allows you to declassify information on his behalf.  And then use that as a reason to leak, I mean "declassify" sensitive information, let alone incorrect information to your criminally indicted Chief of Staff so he could pass that on for political gain.  

Before I forget your line of "making it more difficult to prevent future attacks" by terrorists, didn't you do just that by exposing Valerie Plame's identity, along with all of the other Brewster Jennings agents who were tracking nuclear weapons in the Middle East, including your latest sick fantasy country to attack?  Nope, that's not offensive either.  

Clearly you have no shame.  Clearly, you have no soul.  I guess that last 18% will stick around until they see you actually kicking puppies while eating a live baby on national television, but who knows.....

For the rest of us, Dick - do us all a favor and keep your damn yap shut.  It's as annoying as it is disgusting and irrelevant already.

Or even better, in your own words, "go fuck yourself".

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Lest we forget just who gave Saddam those WMDs

Recommended at Daily Kos and My Left Wing

The most ironic thing in this whole shitbag story about the new "stockpiles" of WMDs that were "found" in Iraq is just how the fuck Saddam got his stockpile of weapons in the first place.

All this sanctimonious crowing by wingnuts about this new discovery that was not announced on national TV by Bush himself. Or Cheney or Rumsfeld, or in a press conference with press sec'y Snow, or even Chertoff. Where there has there been no release from the White House or Pentagon that gives their approval or agreement with this (other than that half ass statement by Rumsfeld). And, by the way, how do unusable chemical weapons result in the "mushroom cloud" that we were warned about by Rice and Cheney over and over and over again.

And why was this "very important find" announced by a junior Senator from Pennsylvania - the same junior senator that is over 20 points down in his reelection campaign? The same junior senator who believes in creationism over evolution, who kept a dead fetus in a jar for days and had his other children "cuddle with it" after his wife miscarried? The same junior senator who believes that gay marriage will lead to man marrying his pet, or that gay marriage is a bigger threat to this country than Al Qaeda (yes, he said all that)? The same senator who is 2nd to last in the entire senate in approval ratings by his own state?

But why, WHY has nobody pointed out the fact that during the 1980s, Reagan, Rumsfeld and Saddam had many a deal involving nuclear weapons (or should I say "weapons of mass destruction program related activities) as well as information or materials that could be (and most likely were) used for biological weapons purposes? That it could be argued that some of these very "stockpiles" from before 1991 were actually provided to Iraq by the Reagan/Rumsfeld era of the mid-80s.

Yeah, how quickly "we" forget.

Shall we start with the nuclear program (and even more appropriate as the source is

Dozens of suppliers, most in Europe, the United States and Japan, provided the components and know-how Saddam Hussein needed to build an atomic bomb, according to Iraq's 1996 accounting of its nuclear program....

Iraq's report says the equipment was either sold or made by more than 30 German companies, 10 American companies, 11 British companies and a handful of Swiss, Japanese, Italian, French, Swedish and Brazilian firms. It says more than 30 countries supplied its nuclear program.

It details nuclear efforts from the early 1980s to the Gulf War and contains diagrams, plans and test results in uranium enrichment, detonation, implosion testing and warhead construction....

Most of the sales were legal and often made with the knowledge of governments. In 1985-90, the U.S. Commerce Department, for example, licensed $1.5 billion in sales to Iraq of American technology with potential military uses. Iraq was then getting Western support for its war against Iran, which at the time was regarded as the main threat to stability in the oil-rich Gulf region.

Or shall we start with bioweapons (and even sweeter as this is Novakula)?

An eight-year-old Senate report confirms that disease- producing and poisonous materials were exported, under U.S. government license, to Iraq from 1985 to 1988 during the Iran-Iraq war. Furthermore, the report adds, the American- exported materials were identical to microorganisms destroyed by United Nations inspectors after the Gulf War. The shipments were approved despite allegations that Saddam used biological weapons against Kurdish rebels and (according to the current official U.S. position) initiated war with Iran.

This record is no argument for or against waging war against the Iraqi regime, but current U.S. officials are not eager to reconstruct the mostly secret relationship between the two countries. While biological warfare exports were approved by the U.S. government, the first President George Bush signed a policy directive proposing ''normal'' relations with Saddam in the interest of Middle East stability. Looking at a little U.S.-Iraqi history might be useful on the eve of a fateful military undertaking.

Wow, and to think that he was only a few months away from his part in compromising national security for political gain.

Or, what if we were to put it more bluntly (from March 2003)?

Yet here we are, on the eve of what could turn into a $100-billion war to disarm and dismantle the Iraqi dictatorship. U.N. inspectors are working against the clock to figure out if Iraq retains chemical and biological weapons, the systems to deliver them, and the capacity to manufacture them.

And here's the strange part, easily forgotten in the barrage of recent rhetoric: It was Western governments and businesses that helped build that capacity in the first place. From anthrax to high-speed computers to artillery ammunition cases, the militarily useful products of a long list of Western democracies flowed into Iraq in the decade before its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.


American Type Culture Collection was not the only supplier to send biological materials to Iraq in the decade before the Gulf War, when the Reagan and first Bush administrations tilted toward Iraq in its eight-year war with Iran. Also between 1985 and 1989, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control sent Iraq 14 agents "with biological warfare significance," including West Nile virus, according to Riegle's investigators.

"We did work with Iraq's scientists along with other scientists on microbiological agents and reagents," said CDC spokesman LLelwyn Grant last week. "That did occur in the mid-80s but . . . there were no other shipments that were sent after the incident involving Iraq's invasion of Kuwait."

ok, so now that all you wingnuts and talking meatsticks can get over yourselves and remember how it was the US in the 1980s that helped Saddam build up his nuclear and bioweapons knowledge and capacity, let's dig a little deeper. Who, within the Reagan administration was instrumental in arming Saddam with WMDs like the ones previously discovered to be old, decrepit and unusable (except to Santorum and other kool-aid drinkers)?

None other than Rumsfeld himself. So chew on that, jackasses. Remember this picture?

Or how about this story?

Newly released documents show that U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, played a leading role in building up Iraq's military in the 1980s when Iraq was using chemical weapons, a newspaper reports.

It was Rumsfeld, now defense secretary and then a special presidential envoy, whose December 1983 meeting with Saddam Hussein led to the normalization of ties between Washington and Baghdad, according to the Washington Post.

The cozy relationship was an effort to build a regional bulwark against America's enemies in Iran.

Or what about this story?

But it was Donald Rumsfeld's trip to Baghdad which opened of the floodgates during 1985-90 for lucrative U.S. weapons exports--some $1.5 billion worth-- including chemical/biological and nuclear weapons equipment and technology, along with critical components for missile delivery systems for all of the above. According to a 1994 GAO Letter Report (GAO/NSIAD-94-98) some 771 weapons export licenses for Iraq were approved during this six year period....not by our European allies, but by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

So what do you have to say about that, Hannity? Coulter? Limbaugh? 101st Fighting Keyboardists? Yellow Elephants? Freepers? Other wingnut idiots?

The same man who was instrumentally involved with giving Saddam the very weapons that we invaded his country over was also instrumentally involved in that invasion. First he negotiates deals on behalf of a REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION to arm Saddam with bioweapons and nuclear weapons programs. Then he says those are illegal weapons and must be stopped. Then, he conveniently forgets how it was him who set this whole thing up 20 years ago. And most of `Murka goes along, cluelessly, with this.

Now, when "stockpiles" are touted to have been "found", the focus is on playing games of "gotcha" and "I told you so". But let's not forget that these were from BEFORE THE FIRST GULF WAR. Since the first Gulf War was during the early 1990's, we can only use logic (the nemesis of Right Wingnutistan) to point out, "hey, morons - these wouldn't have been likely to have even been an issue if the same people that are responsible for invading Iraq hadn't been the same fucking people that had a huge hand in giving Saddam his WMD capacity in the first place".

Stupid jackasses.

Friday, June 23, 2006

State of emergency and curfew just declared in Baghdad

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune

Well folks, these are the fruits of freedom on the march in Iraq:

The Iraqi government declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew Friday after insurgents set up roadblocks in central Baghdad and opened fire on U.S. and Iraqi troops outside the heavily fortified Green Zone.

Now, even the "Green Zone" isn't all too safe in Iraq. What ever will our elected leaders do when they make their quick "in and out" trips to the safe hotels in Baghdad to declare that all is just peachy?

The amount of violence over the past day is just staggering, with almost 40 people dead and dozens more injured in multiple attacks. Sounds like the "last throes" to me.

Bombings and shootings occurred in and around Baghdad on all sides, as well as in Sadr City, and even in the Green Zone as shit met the fan once again. According to reports:

A car bomb ripped through a market and nearby gas station in the increasingly violent southern city of Basra, killing at least five people and wounding 18, including two policemen, police said.

A bomb also struck a Sunni mosque in Hibhib, northeast of Baghdad, killing 10 worshippers and wounding 15 in the town where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was slain this month, police said.

At least 19 other deaths were reported in Baghdad.

Throughout the morning, Iraqi and U.S. military forces clashed with attackers armed with rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and rifles in busy Haifa Street, which runs into the Green Zone, site of the U.S. and British embassies and the Iraqi government.

Four Iraqi soldiers and three policemen were wounded in the fighting, police Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq said.

Two more bombs. A few dozen injured. A few dozen dead. Roadblocks set up by "insurgents" right outside the Green Zone who open fired on US and Iraqi troops. Bombs in mosques. Bombs in marketplaces. Nineteen dead in "other incidents". Fighting south of Baghdad. Northeast of Baghdad. In Basra. In Sadr City. Two more marines killed in separate incidents over the past two days.

A curfew imposed by the Iraqi prime minister's office. House to house searches. A ban on carrying weapons. And all this was on the heels of the major "crackdown" of just 10 days ago, where thousands of troops flooded the streets in an attempt to quell the out of control violence.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered everyone off the streets of the capital. U.S. and Iraqi forces also fought gunmen in the volatile Dora neighborhood in south Baghdad.


Al-Maliki has been trying to rein in unrelenting insurgent and sectarian violence. He launched a massive security operation in Baghdad 10 days ago, deploying tens of thousands of troops who flooded the city, snarling traffic with hundreds of checkpoints.

Police said they found the bodies of five men who apparently were victims of a mass kidnapping from a factory on Wednesday. The bodies, which showed signs of torture and had their hands and legs bound, were floating in a canal in northern Baghdad, police Lt. Maitham Abdul-Razzaq said.

Two of our brave soldiers kidnapped and tortured this past week. Five more people kidnapped, tortured and found floating in a canal. All hell breaking loose in the one area that is supposed to be "safe". Lockdowns in the area that, despite being so heavily fortified, is being attacked with hand and rocket powered grenades and rifles. Cover ups of Iraqi officers killing the US troops who were training them.

But it is just a few "dead-enders". We have nothing to worry about. It will all work itself out. Just move along - nothing to see here. Freedom is on the march. And we are safer.

Plus, there are more important matters to discuss and focus on - like flag burning, gay marriage and repealing the estate tax. Oh, and I hear that Britney Spears is giving her idiot husband one more chance.

Better go check that out instead......

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Iran: it almost (and should have) turned out like this

Front paged at ePluribus Media

It was recently reported that Iran made a substantial offer to the US back in 2003 with respect to its nuclear program which was rebuffed by Bu$hCo. But that incredibly stupid move by Bush was only one of a large number of purposeful and calculated acts of stubbornness and arrogance taken by him (many at the urging of Cheney and Rumsfeld) with respect to Iran.

But, what if you knew that Iran made serious overtures to the US right after 9/11 with respect to its nuclear program, where to bomb in Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda members were likely to be hiding, and offering intelligence.

And what if you also knew that Iran offered, at least once, if not more, to (and had already) crack down on Al Qaeda members it knew were in Iran? Or that the proposals offered changes to Iran's official position with respect to Israel? Or that Iran would agree to far stricter nuclear inspections and monitoring? Or that they would not intervene in Iraq after the US invaded?

Well, it all could have turned out that way.

An article by historian Gareth Porter in the June 2006 American Prospect, (which was so nicely given out at YKos) is chock full of details portraying what could have been with respect to US/Iran relations, as well as their nuclear ambitions, the invasion of Iraq, the hunt for Al Qaeda and who knows what else. It cites sources such as Flynt Leverett, who is a CIA analyst who worked as a counter-terrorism expert at the State Department, Powell's former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson and others who were involved in the negotiation process.

It details how Iran reached out, initially after 9/11, and was blown off, essentially because Douglas Feith, Rumsfeld, Cheney and the rest of the neocons had their sights set on taking over the entire Middle East. It talks about how Iran reached out again in late 2002 as well as in 2003 (which has recently been reported), only to either not even be acknowledged or consciously blown off. Of course, it is of little surprise as to how much this has been ignored here in the US. For example, we have this:

The September 11 attacks created an entirely new strategic context for engagement with Iran. The evening of 9-11, Flynt Leverett, a career CIA analyst who was then at the State Department as a counter-terrorism expert, and a small group of officials met with Powell. It was the beginning of work on a diplomatic strategy in support of the U.S. effort to destroy the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the al-Qaeda network it had harbored. The main aim was to gain the cooperation of states that were considered sponsors of terrorism.

"The United States was about to mount a global war on terrorism with complete legitimacy from the United Nations," recalls Leverett, "and these states didn't want to get on the downside of it." Within weeks, Iran, Syria, Libya, and Sudan all approached the United States through various channels to offer their help in the fight against al-Qaeda. "The Iranians said we don't like al-Qaeda any better than you, and we have assets in Afghanistan that could be useful," Leverett recalls.

Pretty shocking that Iran, Syria, Lybia and Sudan ALL reached out to the US in the real war on terrorism. Even more shocking is how much Iran offered to help in Afghanistan - from the outset.

As America began preparing for the military operation in Afghanistan, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Ryan Crocker held a series of secret meetings with Iranian officials in Geneva. In those meetings, Iran offered search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and even advice on which targets to bomb in Afghanistan, according to one former administration official. The Iranians, who had been working for years with the main anti-Taliban coalition, the Northern Alliance, also advised the Americans about how to negotiate the major ethnic and political fault lines in the country.

The Iranian-U.S. strategic rapprochement continued to gain momentum in November and December 2001.


"The Bonn Conference would not have been successful without [Iran's] cooperation," he (Leverett) says. "They had real contacts with the players on the ground in Afghanistan, and they proposed to use that influence in continuing coordination with the United States."

Read that bold part again. Search-and-rescue help, humanitarian assistance, and advice on what to target. Not to mention intelligence influence and advice on the best way to work with the different ethnic groups.

And all of this was blown off by the neocons, led by Feith, two of his staffers (one of which was called "insane" by Israeli generals), Rumsfeld and Cheney. Thus, negotiations were called off. Can you imagine how Afghanistan would be if we took Iran up on their offer, regardless of what they were asking for in return (remember, this is right after 9/11 and Iran was not yet a member of the "Axis of Evil"). I bet Afghanistan wouldn't be like it is now.

Hell, even after Bush's "genius" speech labeling them as part of the Axis of Evil Iran still reached out to the US, and was still cooperating with the US against Al Qaeda:

Bush's axis-of-evil speech was followed by public charges and press leaks from the administration that Iran was deliberately "harboring" al-Qaeda cadres who had fled from Afghanistan. In fact, the Iranians had made a serious effort to cooperate with Washington on al-Qaeda, according to Leverett. When the administration requested that the Iranian government send more guards to the Afghan border to intercept al-Qaeda cadres, Iran did so. And when Washington asked Iran to look out for specific al-Qaeda leaders who had entered Iran, Iran put a hold on their visas.

Iran wasn't stupid either. They knew that Bu$hCo would likely turn their greedy eyes and wallets towards them once they invaded and "conquered" Iraq. So they did what any smart threatened country would do - they made another offer which helped both the US and Iran:

In early 2003, the Iranians believed they had three new sources of bargaining leverage with Washington: the huge potential influence in a post-Saddam Iraq of the Iranian-trained and anti-American Iraqi Shiite political parties and military organizations in exile in Iran; the Bush administration's growing concern about Iran's nuclear program; and the U.S. desire to interrogate the al-Qaeda leaders Iran had captured in 2002.

As the United States was beginning its military occupation of Iraq in April, the Iranians were at work on a bold and concrete proposal to negotiate with the United States on the full range of issues in the U.S.-Iran conflict. Iran's then-ambassador to France, Sadegh Kharrazi, the nephew of then-Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi, drafted the document, which was approved by the highest authorities in the Iranian system, including the Supreme National Security Council and Supreme Leader Khamenei himself, according to a letter accompanying the document from the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, who served as an intermediary. Parsi says senior Iranian national security officials confirmed in interviews in August 2004 that Khamenei was "directly involved in the document."

In this proposal were concessions with respect to exchanging information, having the US crack down on certain terrorist groups against the Iran regime, tighter controls by the IAEA over their nuclear program and the potential for them to recognize Israel, and to help control Hamas, Jihad and Hizbollah. In exchange for all of these concessions and more, Iran's requests included that the US end its hostile behavior and to recognize Iran's security interests in the region.

So what do the Bushies do to this? Ignore it, trash those who wanted to pursue a diplomatic (and quite possibly realistic) solution, make up lies and inflame the situation:

The outcome of discussion among the principals -- Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Powell -- was that State was instructed to ignore the proposal and to reprimand Guldimann for having passed it on.


But on May 12, 2003, a terrorist bombing in Ryadh killed eight Americans and 26 Saudis. Rumsfeld and Feith seized the occasion to regain the initiative on Iran. Three days later, Rumsfeld declared, "We know there are senior al-Qaeda in Iran ... presumably not an ungoverned area."


But in fact U.S. intelligence had no evidence that the Iranian government was intentionally allowing al-Qaeda to remain on Iranian soil. Contrary to Rumsfeld's disingenuous statement, U.S. intelligence did not conclude that the government knew where the al-Qaeda members from Afghanistan were located in Iran. "The Iran experts agreed that, even if al-Qaeda had come in and out of Iran, it didn't mean the Iranian government was complicit," recalls Wilkerson. "There were parts of Iran where the government would not know what was going on."

And that was that. Enter Baron von Mustache at the United Nations and we are where we are now. Iran still wants to talk. Bush and the neocons still pretend that Iran doesn't want to talk. Then they lie or throw out some nonsense to the press, who eats it up and blindly repeats it.

So here we are. And just think of how things could have been, nay, should have been had this administration actually had the US national security's interests in mind after 9/11.

And since the grand neoconservative plan doesn't call for diplomacy or really protecting anything but their own wallets, we have a half-ass job in Afghanistan, with the country in worse shape then it was before we bombed them back to the stone age. And we have this disgusting mess in Iraq that ruined our credibility and good will with the rest of the world. And we have chest thumping and threats against the very country that could have been one of the biggest assets and potential ally in the true war against worldwide terrorism.

But we were THISCLOSE to having things be oh so different. And the reasons behind the decisions to go down the path we are now on were reached and calculated deliberately to inflame conflict and perpetuate war, destruction and countless numbers of needless deaths. All for the personal gain of a select few very powerful and dangerous men.

That is pure evil. And criminal.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Meanwhile, over in the "other disaster" known as Afghanistan

Front paged at ePluribus Media. Recommended at Booman Tribune

Remember way back in 2002 and 2003 when we were told that it was ok to take resources away from Afghanistan in order to go git Saddam NOW? That we could still hunt for Bin Laden, secure Afghanistan and breeze in and out of Iraq carrying flowers while the Iraqis dance around and sing kumbaya?

Remember in 2003 when Rumsfeld declared that the US ended major combat activity in Afghanistan? Or when he said that defending freedom of the press in Afghanistan was part of the American way?
Remember how the State Department declared back in 2002 and 2003 that the Afghan mission of destroying the Taliban was met, and the mission to stop Al Qaeda was succeeding? Or how that same Taliban met with the Bush administration numerous times before 9/11 to discuss matters such as oil pipelines throughout Afghanistan and the Middle East? And remember how that same Taliban actually reduced the opium drug trade out of Afghanistan to the lowest levels ever? Remember back in 2004 when Bush touted the progress of women's rights in Afghanistan?

Yeah, well, things aren't going so swimmingly lately over in the forgotten example of half-assed-invasion-turned disaster. Afghanistan - that country that, despite being ruled by a "regime" that, six months before it was partially invaded, was at the bargaining table for a potentially HUGE oil deal. The country whose leaders wouldn't turn over Bin Laden. Remember Bin Laden? The guy who we really should have been going after for all this time? The guy who is still out there (assuming he is still alive) despite being responsible for, oh, ALL the attacks on the US from 1998 through 9/11/01.

Afghanistan - the ugly stepchild of the "waronterrahTM". It certainly can be argued that the Afghanistan is the forgotten one that is actually in worse shape than before we invaded. While Iraq is the "misbehaving big brother who gets all of the attention", Afghanistan has quietly turned into a friggin disaster.

Take the most recent "initiative": Operation Mountain Thrust (which sounds like a twisted Republican version of "Brokeback Mountain"). Since the Taliban has been removed from power we now have to:

quietly carry out the largest military offensive in Afghanistan since U.S. troops invaded the country in 2001.

"The Taliban has made a comeback, and we have the next 90 days to crush them," said a senior U.S. military official.

The offensive, "Operation Mountain Thrust," involves almost 11,000 U.S. troops and is focused on four southern Afghanistan provinces.

How about the leader of the vanquished Taliban?

The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, remains at large despite a $10 million reward offered by the United States. U.S. military officials believe he has established a safe haven in Pakistan, where U.S. soldiers cannot operate.

And since the country is stable and the Taliban is no longer? We should be ok with our 11,000 troops, right?


The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO, will increase the number of troops in Afghanistan from some nine-thousand-seven-hundred to more than fifteen-thousand.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force is expanding its area of operation to southern Afghanistan, where insurgents are most active.

How about that "free press" that Rumsfeld gloated about back in 2003? Well......not so good:

The war against the Taliban has gone badly these last months, but Afghanistan's national intelligence agency has devised a secret plan to reverse the tide of bad news.

In a coordinated action this week, the intelligence operatives drove up to TV stations and newspapers in muscular SUVs and dropped off an unsigned letter ordering journalists to report more favorable news about the government.

In particular, the letter said, they should avoid "materials which deteriorate people's morale and cause disappointment to them."

No word as to whether this letter was still on Bush Administration letterhead or if they just copied the language used by Dear Leader when Rove handed these letters out to ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and CNN (they didn't have to worry about Faux)....

Of course, it isn't like there is much support for this by Bush puppet Karzai or the warlords:

Karzai's aides there denied that authorities were infringing on press freedom. Rather, "the government ... requested the local media organizations in Afghanistan to refrain from glorifying terrorism or giving terrorists a platform," their statement said.

The security directorate's letter also demands special protection for the feelings of the mujahedeen -- veterans of the 1980s guerrilla groups that fought Soviet occupation. Many mujahedeen leaders are reviled in Afghanistan for destroying the country in civil war after the Soviet withdrawal -- but they regained positions of power by providing the ground forces that helped the U.S.-led military coalition topple the Taliban in 2001.

Moving on to women's rights, an area that Bush touted as a great achievement, well a recent report indicates that violence and discrimination against women continues in Afghanistan. What are these freedoms that women enjoy so much of in Afghanistan? Freedoms such as forced marriage (38% of women), domestic violence (over 50% of women), forced prostitution, twice as many boys attending school than girls due to lack of security and overall gender discrimination.

I guess to Bush and the "pro-family values" crew, this would be considered freedom for women and rights for women.

How about that terrorism that the State Department release noted above talked about? Um, not so good....Yesterday saw six killed in a tanker truck explosion, not to mention the accidental shooting of three Afghani police by coalition troops. Not to say this was done on purpose, because I certainly don't think that it was, but this will quite possibly lead to a backlash given the highly volatile situation lately.

And the drug trade? Well, start with the fact that the opium trade in Afghanistan has increased significantly since 2002, and recently was the source of 80% of the world's opium. Now add to this week's report from Russia that indicates how bad the drug threat from Afghanistan is. That kinda works well with these 2002 Super Bowl ads put out by the Bush Adminstration:

In 2002 Super Bowl ads, the White House sent out the message that "drugs fund terrorists". Doug Wankel, a former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official, says the opium industry is "financing terrorism. It's financing subversive activities. It's financing warlordism... And if it's a threat to the government of Afghanistan, it's a direct threat to the national security interests of the United States."

Drug trade back? Check.
Suppression of women's rights? Check.
Increased terrorism? Check.
Resurgence of the Taliban? Check.
Threats to freedom of the press? Check.
Taliban leader still at large? Check.
Bin Laden still at large? Check.

Very impressive. And still a disaster, no matter how much it is buried in the news.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gore. Letterman. This Friday. I was at the taping. WOW.

Recommended at Daily Kos and Booman Tribune. Front paged at ePluribus Media

I was lucky enough to get a ticket through work to a taping of the Letterman show, which was last night. Funny enough, I thought that we would be seeing the Monday June 19 show being taped, just earlier in the day. And I was pretty psyched to see Adam Sandler as a guest.

On the way over to the studio, someone mentioned that we were seeing the Friday June 23 show being taped, which had Al Gore as the guest. Needless to say, I was happy with the step up from the childish humor that I love oh-so-much and being the dork that I am I got some paper and a pen so I could take down some notes on the discussion that Gore and Letterman had.

And man, am I glad that I did. Being the sole guest, Gore spoke to Letterman for 15-20 minutes on a wide range of topics and issues, and while I was very impressed with Gore, I was even more impressed with Letterman, who barely hid his disdain for the current policies in Iraq, the environment, North Korea and a number of other administration policies.

Sadly, before Gore even came on, Letterman asked the audience "how many of you believe in global warming?" to which there was a good amount of applause. Then he asked "how many of you do not believe in global warming?" and there was way more applause then there should have been. Lastly, he asked "how many of you are like me and just don't care?" to which there was lots of applause. Now, he was of course kidding, but it was a sad state of affairs when more people either didn't believe or didn't care about global warming.....

Anyway, Gore was pretty loose - he cracked a few jokes, including one right at the outset when Letterman asked about whether he still has a Secret Service detail. Gore's reply?

No. I'm not worth killing anymore.

Well, I took a bunch of notes and hopefully will be able to make some sense of them below. Either way, this is a MUST SEE (or a must-record) and it will be on this Friday night.

On Gore's experience making and promoting the movie

Gore described it as a very interesting experience, and it has been "crazy promoting the movie" in recent weeks. Looking back, he indicated that it was a "no-brainer" to make the movie. There was a funny exchange when Letterman talked about the serious nature of the movie:

Gore: Well, after a long, hard week, what other movie do you want to see to wind down? And who do you want to see? This guy (pointing to himself).

On Iraq

Here, Letterman was barely holding back his contempt for what is going on there, and I totally applaud him for that. The exchange went something like the following:

DL: We have over 2,500 of our soldiers dead. Anywhere between 60,000 - 100,000 Iraqi civilians dead. Are we knee deep in a mess of our own making?

AG: Yes.

DL: What happened?

AG: There was flawed decision making. Now, there are no good options and we have to find the "least bad option" to get the troops home quickly (this got major applause). Even those of us who opposed the war initially share in the obligation to help think through a process to not make it worse ot to increase the odds of anarchy or civil war.

DL: And now we are asked to be patient with the trouble that we caused.

AG: There are now factions fighting each other, and we are both in the middle of it and a magnet for it. However, there are also areas that could descend into a total bloodbath if we pull out without thinking.

DL: What about the WMD that we were told was there?

AG: Well, we know that Saddam was a bad guy - I supported the first Gulf War, but he had nothing to do with terrorism and nothing to do with 9/11.

DL: Well, prolonging this war is not a road to stability.

AG: I agree, but we can't make the moral mistake of pulling out without thinking and making things worse. We need a fresh team in there, not the ones who got us in there. (he mentioned Rumsfeld here, and got lots of applause)

All in all, I was very impressed with the way this discussion went. It was very serious, especially by Letterman standards, and you could tell that Letterman was raring to go off on the administration and its decisions, policies and lack of a plan. Letterman got an A+ for his performance in this discussion.

On North Korea

This was a brief discussion about the recent news of North Korea's upcoming missile test and what has gone on there, why the situation has gotten to the point that it is at, and the future.

AG: Well, the last time they tested a rocket like this, we sent forces to the region to monitor the situation. It could be very serious, but we don't know yet how serious. It is troubling though. This is why it is important to deal with countries like them.

DL: Why would they want to be a nuclear threat?

AG: It is a dictatorship over there - they only know how to make weapons and they have/can sell them to "the bad guys".

DL: Will it resolve itself?

AG: Tough to say. There were 6 nation talks that haven't gone so well. It would be much better if we had one of those "easy buttons" though.

The movie

There, of course, was talk about the movie - which if you haven't seen it yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR???? There was some information which was in the movie that he discussed - the professor he had in college who got him interested in this to begin with, the hearings he had when he first came to Congress and the lack of traction this issue got, the fact that there is a complete consensus on global warming but nobody listened for years.

Here are some of the quotes that I was able to jot down:

AG: It is human nature to be naturally resistant to change. This is because the status quo is so easy. But now that Toyota is making the Prius and they are all sold out, Ford and GM are in trouble.

AG: You can't specifically attribute a "hot day in January" to global warming or any one specific reason. However, due to global warming, the odds of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane or a hot day in January are way up.

AG: I made this movie because the issue was not getting traction and this was the only way for me to convince the American public of its importance.

On 2008

Sorry folks, but once again, he has ruled out running for office again. His two quotes on the matter were as follows:

AG: I don't have plans to do it again.

AG: My campaign now is to move this country past a tipping point on this issue.

All in all, I was very impressed and glad that it was Gore and not Adam Sandler (although I would have been laughing a lot more if it was Sandler). The fact that Letterman devoted so much time to Gore and this issue speaks volumes for Letterman. Hell, even during the commercial breaks, they were very engaged in conversation and Letterman looked very interested.

So, again, it is on THIS FRIDAY NIGHT. Don't miss it. You'll be glad you watched it.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Richard Clarke calls BS on Al Qaeda NYC subway cyanide plot

Recommended at Daily Kos. Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

With all of the hullabaloo that is sure to come of the TIME article out this week that includes an excerpt from Ron Suskind's new book, The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 which discusses how Al Qaeda was within weeks of striking the NYC subway system with cyanide bombs, there will be trumpeting of our terror alert system, the calls for more invasion of our privacy and whatever other justification there is to suppress freedom here in the US in the name of "fighting terror".

However, what I saw on Good Morning America today CANNOT be lost in this story. Charles Gibson had former White House chief of counterterrorism Richard Clarke on to discuss the plot, and to give his thoughts on it. Now, after Clarke said last year that there should be more bag searches on US subway systems I was a bit skeptical of what he would say here.

But what he said both floored me, and frankly didn't surprise me at all.

Clarke doubted the specificity of the report, as well as the players who were cited in the threat. Now, this is the same man who warned Rice and Bush about Al Qaeda back in 2001, and frankly, I don't see much reason for him to be lying about much, when he has been proven to be accurate in his assessments (other than my disagreement on bag searches on the subways) and he certainly has the experience and the country's best interests in mind when he speaks.

So, when he said the following, I knew that it would get buried in the hoopla of "see how the great Dear Leader thwarted another terror threat" and "you can never forget how much certain people want to kill us because of our freedoms":

"There's reason to be skeptical," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, who is the former chief of White House counterterrorism. "Just because something is labeled in an intelligence report does not mean every word it is true."

He says the information describing the plot would have been just one of the hundreds of threats that would have been collected in 2003.

Furthermore, the specificity of the report is suspect, he said.

"Whenever you get reports that are this specific, they are usually made up," he said.

Clarke noted the report detailed a particular time period for the attack, and that Osama bin Laden's top deputy himself weighed in.

Clarke said Zawihiri and bin Laden are too isolated to have that kind of direct control over a plot inside the United States. He also thinks the terrorists would have carried out the attack if the plot was as advanced as Suskind reported.

"Frankly if there was a team in the United States that was ready to do this, they would have done it," Clarke said.

Now, being someone who lives in NYC, I am well aware of the threats and the damage that can be done by an attack. But I am also well aware of the nonsensical lies and hype that can come with the politicizing of terror threats (just ask Tom Ridge himself). After all, there were the barriers around Citicorp and other buildings at politically convenient times after years-old documents were uncovered. There was the matter of prematurely announcing the capture of AQ Khan during the Democratic Convention (which ultimately may have led to the escape of some who may have been involved in subsequent attacks in London).

However, with the new TIME article due out, and most likely many many talk shows trumpeting Suskind's book, we really need to stay focused on what is (or was) a real threat. Yes, there is a threat of the subways getting attacked. However, artificially raising the alert for one day after an attack halfway across the globe probably doesn't do much if you are going to relax surveillance after one or two days. And artificially hyping a threat that one of the country's top counterterrorism officials has doubts of is pretty counterproductive when we could otherwise be focusing our energies on really trying to secure our homeland.

Or, maybe I have it all wrong. The hype of selling a book and scaring `Murka further into submission may be more important than, you know, actually protecting ourselves.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New DHS report: US cities are woefully unprepared

Front-paged at ePluribus Media

Well, this is some good news from the reliable folks at the Department of Homeland Security. First, we find out that they employ pedophiles. Then we find out that they think NY and Washington DC aren't really at risk enough to get what they need in terror funds. Then we find out that they can't even keep their HQ safe from people with fake id's. And if that wasn't enough, we find out yesterday that officials may have lied under oath in the Duke Cunningham corruption case.

And now we find out just how great of a job they are doing when it comes to keeping our homeland secure. On Friday, DHS released the results of a six month study (warning-big document), called Nationwide Plan Review: Phase 2 Report. The details of this report are just staggering in how woefully unprepared many cities and states are with respect to their ability to deal with a "major disaster" or catastrophe.

Oh, and the better news? Only 10 states were deemed to have "sufficient plans" to deal with disasters - none of which are located in the Gulf Coast or where our Federal Government is located.

Well, it is good to see that DHS isn't doing the same lying that they were doing when Chertoff said how ready FEMA is for hurricanes, and we find out that the Northeast is not ready for storms and that the US Army Corps of Engineers indicated that the Gulf Coast is not ready for storms.

But that is really small consolation when we have a huge Department that was set up specifically after a major catastrophe here in the US, with all of the money, time and rhetoric spent "promoting" homeland security over the past few years that we find out that the only truthful thing that is coming out of the DHS is that they can't do their damn job.

So how bad is it? Well, as I noted above, only 10 states (Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont) had "sufficient plans" to respond to disasters. And, Department officials (at least ones not named Chertoff...) were less than impressed:

Department undersecretary George Foresman said that despite grants of $18bn to prepare for disasters since the 11 September 2001 attacks, "very little of it has gone to planning, training and exercise".

"The current status of plans and planning gives grounds for significant national concern," the report says.

Additionally, in the Executive Summary of the DHS Report there are fifteen areas for States and Urban Areas that need improvement, and twenty four areas where the Federal Government needs improvement. Some of these areas include the following:

For States and Urban Areas:

1.) The majority of the Nation's current emergency operations plans and planning processes cannot be characterized as fully adequate, feasible, or acceptable to manage catastrophic events as defined in the National Response Plan (NRP).

2.) States and urban areas are not conducting adequate collaborative planning as a part of "steady state" preparedness.

3.) Assumptions in Basic Plans do not adequately address catastrophic events.

4.) Basic Plans do not adequately address continuity of operations and continuity of government.

5.) The most common deficiency among State and urban area Direction and Control Annexes is the absence of a clearly defined command structure.

6.) Many States and urban areas need to improve systems and procedures for communications among all operational components.

7.) All Functional Annexes did not adequately address special needs populations.

8.) States should designate a specific State agency that is responsible for providing oversight and ensuring accountability for including people with disabilities in the shelter operations process.

9.) Timely warnings requiring emergency actions are not adequately disseminated to custodial institutions, appropriate government officials, and the public.

10.) The ability to give the public accurate, timely, and useful information and instructions through the emergency period should be strengthened.

11.) Significant weaknesses in evacuation planning are an area of profound concern.

12.) Capabilities to manage reception and care for large numbers of evacuees are inadequate.

13.) Capabilities to track patients under emergency or disaster conditions and license of out-of-State medical personnel are limited.

14.) Resource management is the "Achilles heel" of emergency planning. Resource Management Annexes do not adequately describe in detail the means, organization, and process by which States and urban areas will find, obtain, allocate, track, and distribute resources to meet operational needs.

15.) Plans should clearly define resource requirements, conduct resource inventories, match available resources to requirements, and identify and resolve shortfalls.

Not too bad, eh? This is inadequate. That is limited. This needs improvement. That isn't coordinated well. This should be strengthened. That is an area of shortfall. This is an area of unpreparedness. That is an area of "profound concern".

However, the states and urban areas are "overprepared" when compared to the Federal Government. I'm not going to list all 24 items that were noted but many of them deal with:

The conclusions for the Federal government are focused on providing the tools to build a shared national homeland security planning system; strengthening collaboration and coordination; improving emergency communications; creating incentives for planning and planning excellence; strengthening regional planning capabilities; and developing a common reference system.

But it goes deeper than this. There were many areas that were studied, including planning, operational and preparedness solutions, communications, mass care (people and animals), catastrophic events and capability for mass evacuations. You would think that, after the criminally negligent planning for evacuations when Katrina and Rita hit last year, that this would be something that would be focused on. ESPECIALLY because, if you can't get people out of harm's way, then a bad situation will be made infinitely worse.

Sadly, most of the states' and urban areas' scores in these areas were either "partially sufficient" or "not sufficient". One of the worst areas was for Health and Medical, where patient tracking and licensing of out-of-state medical personnel for emergencies had a very low level of "sufficient" preparedness.

On an overall basis, to answer the question of Overall Adequacy, Feasibility and Acceptability of the state or local plans, 73% of states and 90% of local areas indicated that their plans are either partially sufficient or not sufficient to respond to a catastrophe. Even worse, 79% of states and 91% of local areas indicated that their plans to deal with a catastrophe are either partially sufficient or not sufficient when it comes to the feasibility of their plans.

When it comes to specific regions of the country, the conclusions are just as bad. I mentioned above how the Gulf Coast states were among those that were worst-prepared. Well, that area also has one of the highest concentration of people with "special needs" (i.e., elderly, disabled, non-english speaking etc.) This makes the lack of a transportation and evacuation plan even more inexcusable. Wasn't this one of the big lessons learned last year when elderly and disabled couldn't physically leave the Gulf Coast?

Studies and results of this nature are really an embarrassment to this nation. To focus so much time and money on "protecting our homeland", as well as all of the blatant abuses and negligence toward our borders, our ports, our airplane cargo holds, our power plants, the advice that FEMA gave a few years ago about domestic catastrophes is nothing short of disgusting and criminal.

What will it take for this country to wake up? This report is a smack in the face to all those who have suffered, directly or indirectly on 9/11, or from hurricanes, tornadoes, or any other similar disaster.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

DHS official may have lied under oath to Dukestir grand jury

The good folks at TPM Muckraker have found another juicy nugget from the ongoing saga that is the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal.  Apparently, DHS officials have been asserting under oath that there was no correspondence from the Duke to the Department of Homeland Security that recommended they use Shirlington Limousine, the company that was involved with the wild hooker and poker parties at the Watergate.

Interestingly and not so surprisingly, one day after a DHS official swore that there was no record of a letter from Duke Cunningham to DHS pushing for a contract with the agency (a $21 million contract, mind you...), the letter, dated January 16, 2004 magically appeared.

And guess what, it was REPUBLICANS on the House Homeland Security Committee, including Peter King (NY) and Mike Rogers (AL) who were questioning the "truthiness" of the DHS officials.

For starters, we have these gems of quotes by King (who is one of my least favorite people in Congress) and Rogers:

"The Department of Homeland Security has a lot to explain," a press release quoted chairman Peter King (R-NY) as saying. "Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, it now turns out that the Department had the Cunningham letter all along. This is yet another example of DHS incompetence-and I think it may have been more than just bad record-keeping."

"This letter certainly puts the Department's credibility on the line, and raises further questions about political manipulation in the contracting process,"
the release quotes Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL) as saying.

Wow.....stunning to be coming from Republicans, especially thinly veiled accusations of, um, "funny business".  And it gets better - according to articles released today, DHS was not even considering hiring a limousine service at the time Duke sent his letter to them:

Although Baker is a convicted felon, Cunningham gave him a character reference Jan. 16, 2004.


At the time, the department had no plans to hire a limousine service. But within three months, the department gave Baker a $3.8 million contract. A year later, he got a contract worth up to $21.2 million.

Until recently, Homeland Security officials have denied that any legislators were involved in the contract. In May, department officials twice told Congress that they had no record of Cunningham's letter.

On Thursday, however, Baker gave Congress a sworn affidavit that he had sent the letter to the department. Homeland Security officials said they found an e-mail mentioning the letter but had no other evidence of its existence.

The letter itself is only a few short paragraphs but it certainly says a lot:

I am writing this letter as a character reference for Mr. Christopher Baker, CEO of Shirlington Limousine and Transportation, Inc.

I have personally known Mr. Baker since the mid 1990's.  He is completely dedicated to his work, and has been of service to me and other Members of Congress over the years.  Mr. Baker's transportation-oriented business was able to withstand the devastating impact of 9/11, while operating from Hangar 7 at Ronald Reagan International airport.

Please be advised of my full support of his wish to provide transportation services for the Department of Homeland Security.

It is a rare occasion where so much is said by so few words (and with Congress, it is usually the opposite).  A character reference for a convicted felon.  Who has "been of service to me and other Members of Congress over the years".  Yeah, I'll bet how much "service" he has been....especially with his "transportation-oriented" business.  I guess that is what you can call running hookers and politicians to "poker parties".  And at a time when DHS wasn't even considering the use of a limousine service.

Not bad for what became a $21 million contract.

What is truly amazing is not only (as noted above) that Republicans are calling bullshit on this, but how DHS "conveniently" had found the "misfiled letter" right after they found out how Baker was testifying before the Grand Jury.

FBI agents have been investigating whether the company - while working for Brent Wilkes, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham corruption case - helped Wilkes arrange for prostitutes for Cunningham while Wilkes was vying for federal contracts.

Wilkes and Shirlington founder Christopher Baker have denied any involvement with prostitutes. But Baker has said through his lawyer that he provided transportation for "entertainment" at Wilkes' hospitality suites in Washington from 1990 to the early part of the decade.

At a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee on Thursday, it was revealed that Baker has been testifying before a grand jury. The committee is probing whether Cunningham pressured Homeland Security to give Shirlington a contract.

Yup, just another "coincidence".  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.  First, we hear how someone got into DHS headquarters with a fake ID and now we find out that they, um, "misplaced" a damaging letter, only to have it magically appear the day after it was discovered that someone was testifying that such a letter did exist.

Tell me again how we are safer?