Saturday, September 08, 2007

Body Counts - Resurected

Excerpted from an essay by Tom Engelhardt

In his VFW speech, the president finally got to salve his own frustration. "In Iraq," he told his audience, "our troops are taking the fight to the extremists and radicals and murderers all throughout the country. Our troops have killed or captured an average of more than 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other extremists every month since January of this year."

Forgetting the absurdity of the figure (which, if accurate, would essentially mean al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia has been wiped out), let's just note that, as with the Vietnam analogy itself, the body count in administration hands arrives not as a substitute for victory, but as a way of staving off thoughts of defeat. The president, that is, picked up not where the body count started in Vietnam, but where those Five o'clock Follies left off.

In its own strange way, Bush's speech was an admission of defeat. Somehow, Vietnam, the American nightmare, had finally bested the man who spent his youth avoiding it and his presidency evading it. The president had finally mounted the tiger you are always advised not to ride and had officially entered the dead zone, where the bodies pile high and victory never appears, taking the rest of the country with him. It's clear that, barring some stunning development in Iraq (or perhaps an assault on Iran), whatever the "progress reports," whatever the debates, that's where we'll be until January 2009 when it will automatically become Hillary's or Barack's or Mitt's or Giuliani's war. (From the Vietnam years, we also know what happens when a president, who inherits a war, fears being labeled the person who "lost" it; we know just how hard it is to get out then.)

Find all of the piece here ...

You can track the Iraqi body count here. There are other sources that offer higher estimates. Iraq Body Count is an ongoing human security project which maintains and updates the world’s largest public database of violent civilian deaths during and since the 2003 invasion. The count encompasses non-combatants killed by military or paramilitary action and the breakdown in civil security following the invasion.

Data is drawn from cross-checked media reports, hospital, morgue, NGO and official figures to produce a credible record of known deaths and incidents.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Scott Ritter speaks

Scott Ritter was born into a military family in 1961. He graduated from Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with a Bachelor of Arts in the history of the Soviet Union and with departmental honors.

He was first in the U.S. Army serving as a Private in 1980. He was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the United States Marine Corps in May 1984. He served in this capacity for twelve years. He initially served as the lead analyst for the Marine Corps Rapid Deployment Force concerning the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iran-Iraq War.

During Desert Storm, he served as a ballistic missile adviser to General Norman Schwartzkopf. Ritter later worked as a security and military consultant.

William Scott Ritter, Jr. is noted for his role as a chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 to 1998, and later for his criticism of United States foreign policy in the Middle East.

Prior to the US invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, Ritter publicly argued that Iraq possessed no significant weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). He became a popular anti-war figure and talk show commentator as a result of his stance.

It seems he has some pretty good credentials. Here's what he has to say.

Of course, given his opinions (and ignoring his military record) he's probably just another loud-mouthed, hippy, pinko, commie-bastard, libertard who wants to see America loose.

The Death of Conservatism

Richard Belzer on Huffington Post

Thomas Hobbes

The heartless, spiritually bankrupt intellectual frauds who openly court -- and are disturbingly non-judgmental of -- the most intolerant loathsome elements of the political landscape (who, for some unconscionable reason, have been consulted about virtually everything our government has been doing or undoing for the past six plus agonizing years) -- these are the fruits of a particular strain of conservative ideologues with a shared affinity for the Hobbesian view of humanity, which postulates that people are essentially evil and the role of the ruling class, the government, was to have a standing army and police presence and little else. Essentially that the "people" were totally on their own, frontier-style with no public services, health care, college grants, head start, maintenance of roads and bridges, public defenders, job training programs, Medicare, Medicaid; you get the picture.

Also violently opposed to the Jeffersonian assertion that people were basically good and part of a government's function is to engender the conditions where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are possible through education, hard work and a sense of community, whereas conservatives have only contempt for the notion of a fair playing field.

Conservatism is in its last throes if you will, twisting in the wind, dying like communism did because neither philosophy works by definition -- they both operate from the fraudulent premise built around contempt for and control of the people.

The rest of the piece is here ...

All I can say is that it sounds like there's an echo in here.

The Republicans created a wedge issue ...

... now its got them all jammed up.

Rep. Mike Simpson (R) condemned Senate GOP leaders on Thursday for their treatment of fellow Idahoan Sen. Larry Craig (R), accusing them of hypocrisy.

“I hope I never stub my toe and they throw me under the bus,” Simpson said of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other Republican leaders. “It kind of makes you wonder what party you want to be a member of.”

They spend a lifetime in politics trying to vilify and marginalize one group or another (gays, hispanics, blacks, non-evangelicals just to name a few) and then they look in the mirror.

The more I watch politics the more I'm convinced that the Republican Party couldn't win an election on policy. If it weren't for their constant attacks on the character of others (using Willie Horton, The Swiftboaters, and hounding the life out of Clinton just to name a few) they couldn't get any votes worth counting.

By distracting from the real issues, they distract from the consequences and implications of their policy proposals. The dirty tricks that Rove learned from his time on the Nixon campaign and the Republicans have been pursuing ever since is that the ad hominem argument works. People fall for it. You can fool some of the people all of the time! You can make yourself look better by sliming the other guy, even if it isn't ethical and you're a hypocrite. Unfortunately, though it may win elections, it does nothing for the nation except provide us with a never ending parade of incompetents (like the one we have currently occupying the White House). I'm not saying that the Democrats are immune from hypocracy or from engaging in dirty tricks. They're certainly not. It's just become terribly obvious over the years that they're no where near as good at it as the Republican side of the aisle ... and you have to have morals and ethics like rubber bands to be as good at it as the Republicans have become ... from Nixon on.

The picture of hypocracy.

I honestly believe that, through Republican "ethics", hypocracy and the constant misdirection to these made-up character issues and away from the real issues that effect us all, the Republican Party has done irreparable harm to itself from which it will take a generation to recover. Drunk on the sense of power that came from their almost impeachment of a sitting president on the basis of bogus charges they've overstepped them selves and betrayed the trust that the American people had put in them.

Now, the real problems with the economy are starting to surface and their support of the never-ending war are catching the attention of the electorate. Their hypocracy of labeling themselves the "Family Values Party" while acting out like debauched Romans at an orgy has caught the attention of the religious Right, whom hey saw as their base and their base is not pleased.

I'm sure their strategists had hoped none of this would surface, at least until after the next election when it could all be blamed on someone else ... but they've opened Pandoras Box and it cannot be close again. They've been caught in the process and there's no one else to blame.

They dreamed of a permanent Republican majority. Irony of ironies, it was theirs to loose and they've been working overtime to loose their chance.

"Never interrupt your enemy when he's making a mistake." - Napoleon

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just Another Blast from the Past

Arthur Lee and Love
(We were all so much thinner then.)

My Little Red Book (Bacharach-David)

Verse 1:

I just got out my little red book
The minute that you said goodbye
I thumbed right through my little red book
I wasn't gonna sit and cry
And I went from A to Z
I took out every pretty girl in town
They danced with me and as I held them


All I did was talk about you
Hear your name and I'd start to cry
There's just no getting over you... oh, no...

Verse 2:

There ain't no girl in my little red book
Who could ever replace your charms
And each girl in my little red book
Knows you're the one I'm thinkin' of
Oh won't you please come back
Without your precious love I can't go on
Where can love be I need you so much

[repeat chorus]

Verse 3:

[lead guitar (as per intro, doubled w/scat vocal, 2X) replaces first
four lines]

Oh won't you please come back
Without your precious love I can't go on
It's haunting me I need you so much

Chorus 3:

All I did was talk and talk about you
Hear your name and I'd start to cry
There's just no getting over you
All I did was talk and talk about you
Hear your name and I'd start to cry
There's just no getting over you... oh no


Tambourine, 8 beats

Bass (4X, as per intro; drums enter on 8th beat, 1st time;
rhythm guitar enters on 8th beat, 2nd time; lead guitar
doubles rhythm guitar, 4th time; end cold on Am)

-- another ace 60's tab from Andrew Rogers

Bush Throws Bremer Under the Bus - Bremer Protests

How I Didn’t Dismantle Iraq’s Army


In happier times ... when the mission was still accomplished
... before the mission came apart
like a cheap suit ... before
they started pointing fingers at each other.

“The Iraqi Army of the future cannot be an extension of the present army, which has been made into a tool of dictatorship.” — Report by the Department of State’s Future of Iraq Project, May 2002

It has become conventional wisdom that the decision to disband Saddam Hussein’s army was a mistake, was contrary to American prewar planning and was a decision I made on my own. In fact the policy was carefully considered by top civilian and military members of the American government. And it was the right decision.

By the time Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003, the Iraqi Army had simply dissolved. On April 17 Gen. John Abizaid, the deputy commander of the Army’s Central Command, reported in a video briefing to officials in Washington that “there are no organized Iraqi military units left.” The disappearance of Saddam Hussein’s old army rendered irrelevant any prewar plans to use that army. So the question was whether the Coalition Provisional Authority should try to recall it or to build a new one open to both vetted members of the old army and new recruits. General Abizaid favored the second approach.

In the weeks after General Abizaid’s recommendation, the coalition’s national security adviser, Walter Slocombe, discussed options with top officials in the Pentagon, including Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. They recognized that to recall the former army was a practical impossibility because postwar looting had destroyed all the bases.

Read the rest ...

A Little about the Real Rudy

Video is here, too.

Dawkins on Hitchens

There is much fluttering in the dovecots of the deluded, and Christopher Hitchens is one of those responsible. Another is the philosopher A. C. Grayling. I recently shared a platform with both. We were to debate against a trio of, as it turned out, rather half-hearted religious apologists ("Of course I don't believe in a God with a long white beard, but . . ."). I hadn't met Hitchens before, but I got an idea of what to expect when Grayling emailed me to discuss tactics. After proposing a couple of lines for himself and me, he concluded, ". . . and Hitch will spray AK47 ammo at the enemy in characteristic style".

Grayling's engaging caricature misses Hitchens's ability to temper his pugnacity with old-fashioned courtesy. And "spray" suggests a scattershot fusillade, which underestimates the deadly accuracy of his marksmanship. If you are a religious apologist invited to debate with Christopher Hitchens, decline. His witty repartee, his ready-access store of historical quotations, his bookish eloquence, his effortless flow of well-formed words, beautifully spoken in that formidable Richard Burton voice (the whole performance not dulled by other equally formidable Richard Burton habits), would threaten your arguments even if you had good ones to deploy. A string of reverends and "theologians" ruefully discovered this during Hitchens's barnstorming book tour around the United States.

With characteristic effrontery, he took his tour through the Bible Belt states – the reptilian brain of southern and middle America, rather than the easier pickings of the country's cerebral cortex to the north and down the coasts. The plaudits he received were all the more gratifying. Something is stirring in that great country. America is far from the know-nothing theocracy that two terms of Bush, and various misleading polls, had led us to fear. Does the buckle of the Bible Belt conceal some real guts? Are the ranks of the thoughtful coming out of the closet and standing up to be counted? Yes, and Hitchens's atheist colleagues on the American bestseller list have equally encouraging tales to tell.

Read the rest here ...

Also here if you have trouble with the link above (I did).

Another Strike for the Patriot Act

AP via Yahoo

NEW YORK - A federal judge struck down a key part of the USA Patriot Act on Thursday in a ruling that defended the need for judicial oversight of laws and bashed Congress for passing a law that makes possible "far-reaching invasions of liberty."

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero immediately stayed the effect of his ruling, allowing the government time to appeal. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said: "We are reviewing the decision and considering our options at this time."

The ruling handed the American Civil Liberties Union a major victory in its challenge of the post-Sept. 11 law that gave broader investigative powers to law enforcement.

One can only hope this is among the first in a series of defeats for some of the patently unconstitutional provisions of the so-called Patriot Act. Like the Clean Air Act and No Child Left Behind, the branding is deceptive.

The Patriot Act has nothing to do with patriotism, particularly if one has respect for the Constitution of the United States of America just as the Clean Air Act has nothing to do with cleaning any part of the environment unless you mean several corporations get to clean up windfall profits at the expense of the general public. As for no Child Left Behind, great numbers of them are being left behind, excluded, and uncounted.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Let's Deregulate and the Disasters will Go Away

Frustrated lawmakers lashed out at the nation's mine safety chief Wednesday over his handling of last month's deadly collapse at a Utah coal mine, saying the agency had yet to learn from four major disasters in the nation's coal mines over the past two years.

Senators grew increasingly exasperated with Mine Safety and Health Administration chief Richard Stickler as he struggled to provide answers as to why possible warning signs at the Utah mine were ignored - including a previous seismic bump 900 feet from the collapse site. Lawmakers also wanted to know why the rescue operation suffered so many setbacks, despite a recent major overhaul of the nation's mine safety laws.

"What the hell does it take to shake up this agency?" asked Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., to the applause of union members in the audience. "What is the problem at MSHA? What the hell is the problem at MSHA?"

The rest is here ...

Just a guess, but I think I know the answer to that.

This fiasco is what happens when you put people in charge of government functions who believe in their heart of hearts that "GOVERNMENT is the PROBLEM".

If you believe that government is the problem, then you have no vested interest in fixing it. You want to do away with it as much as possible. You want to do away with regulations because they impede corporations. But the mine disaster in Utah is what happens when mine safety is left to the corporations.

I've said it before and I am compelled to say it again: there's a big difference between "there are problems with government" and "government is the problem". The difference is that the former is the approach of the left side of the aisle, progressives, liberals and Democrats (in general) while the latter is the attitude of the right, conservatives, and libertarians who feel that the elimination of government all functions is a positive.

When you put people in charge of government who truly believe "government is the problem" then you get Katrina, the Sago Mine Disaster and Giuliani judgments that place New York City's disaster command center in the most likely "ground zero". You get "My Pet Goat" responses to crisis situations.

ABA - How are we doing on the prosecution of terrorism cases?

If you want to know how well the justice system is combating terrorism, you’ve got to talk to the lawyers involved.

So we asked 50 defense attorneys who’ve worked on federal terrorism cases since 9/11 their opinions of the legal war on terror. (We also asked 50 prosecutors, but U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Dean Boyd told assistant U.S. attorneys across the country not to participate. He declined to tell us his reason.) prosecution

Check out the charts and graphs that outline the responses ... and take the interactive poll yourself.

Interesting that the DoJ declined to participate in an American Bar Association poll. After all, it's not some lefty, libertard group of wankers or some neo-Nazi blog asking. It's the American Bar Association that gave Samuel Alito a "well qualified" rating.

Headlines we imagine we'll be seeing soon

  • God - The Dyslexic Canine
  • Book Early for Paradise - al Qaeda
  • Atheism - No added ingredients
  • Stones to be washed and recycled says Islamic Eco group
  • Suffer the little children - Pope bans condoms in Africa
  • Official - Turin Shroud 11,000 years old - ooops
  • Jesus Saves - Terms and Conditions Apply
  • Bush in Brain Tumor Scare - Brain infecting his tumor says doctor
  • Miracle! Man Saved in Tsunami! - 10,000 die
  • Selfish Gene to Blame for Angry Atheists

Talking Points

As I blister through my news reader I often come across editorial and opinion pieces that hold my attention. The test is 30 seconds, because I don't think most things are worth reading in their entirety. If it holds my attention for more than 30 seconds I add it to my news reader "shared" list (that appears in the upper left corner of my blog - but doesn't show in the daily e-mail).

In any case, I've accumulated a number of pieces that I haven't commented on elsewhere ... pieces that I think make important points ... so I'll share them here as well. Here's a chance to catch up on what I've been reading.

Zero in on the things I think are significant.

You ARE what you read. Pity those who read nothing at all.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

TED Talks

One of the most wonderful aspects of the new technologies in general and the Internet in particular is the sudden emerging possibility for one to continue one's education at the highest level with input from some of the greatest thinkers on the planet as one's instructors. not only is it possible to read their works, one can now attend their lectures at will!

If you're of a mind to stretch that gray matter between your ears just a little bit and haven't tripped over TED Talks yet, you're in for a great treat.

From their site:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 100 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

Our mission: Spreading ideas.

I highly recommend you pour yourself a drink, kick back in front of the monitor and listen to one or two of these riveting talks and great performances by great contemporary thinkers and discussing ideas worth considering and providing quality entertainment you won't find on TV.

TED Talks

False Ads: There Oughta Be A Law! - Or Maybe Not

By Brooks Jackson

(This article was originally posted June 3, 2004. We are reissuing it now, updated only to fix bad links and such. Politicians still can lie legally, and the high volume of ads expected in 2008 campaigns makes it likely that voters will be exposed to more deception than ever. —B.J.)

Here's a fact that may surprise you: Candidates have a legal right to lie to voters just about as much as they want.

That comes as a shock to many. After all, consumers have been protected for decades from false ads for commercial products. Shouldn't there be "truth-in-advertising" laws to protect voters, too?

Turns out, that's a tougher question than you might imagine.

For one thing, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says, "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech," and that applies to candidates for office especially. And secondly, in the few states that have enacted laws against false political ads, they haven't been very effective.

The rest of the article is here -

Fred Thompson on the Move

Video here, too.

Religion Briefs: Coalition of nuns calls for impeaching Bush and Cheney


A progressive group of U.S. nuns has called on Congress to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney because of their roles in the war in Iraq.

“The National Coalition of American Nuns is impelled by conscience to call you to act promptly to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for ... high crimes and misdemeanors,” the group wrote in a letter written on behalf of its board members.

The letter says that impeachment is warranted for their “deceiving the public under the false pretense that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction” and “destroying” the reputation of the United States and the good will of other nations.

“The time for impeachment is now — before the example of George W. Bush’s regime is set in stone,” they wrote. “Future generations will thank you for preserving the freedom of our nation and its relation to the entire human community.”

The coalition was founded in 1969 for individual nuns dedicated to issues of social justice and human rights.

Here ...

Vote for Rudy's Biggest Mistake

Oh, my! How to decide?

Vote here.

But I bet he treats the staff well.

Blank Check to Coy's Mistress Brings Trouble

Make room Craig, Vitter and Bob. Coy Privette (R-NC) wants to join the summer of scandal!

Privette, a 74-year old retired pastor, has pleaded guilty to six counts of soliciting a prostitute. Privette is a long-time participant in North Carolina politics, spending eight years in the state house and another nine as a commissioner of Cabarrus County. He is a staunch social conservative and, until recently, President of the Christian Action League.

Well, not for the police. They traced the checks back to one Tiffany Summers. But on July 19th, a court indicted both Summers and Privette. Apparently, he had paid her for services at least six times over as many months. Privette immediately stepped down from his Christian advocacy group; he later pleaded guilty on August 22nd. The judge has agreed to expunge his record upon completing 48 hours of community service, saying he's only concerned with "making sure the behavior stopped."

Yeah, well ...

‘The Nine’

Book says Souter mulled resignation after Bush v. Gore

According to Jeffrey Toobin’s new book on the Supreme Court, Justice David Souter nearly resigned in the wake of Bush v. Gore, so distraught was he over the decision that effectively ended the Florida recount and installed George W. Bush as president.

In “The Nine,” which goes on sale Sept. 18, Toobin writes that while the other justices tried to put the case behind them, “David Souter alone was shattered,” at times weeping when he thought of the case. “For many months, it was not at all clear whether he would remain as a justice,” Toobin continues. “That the Court met in a city he loathed made the decision even harder. At the urging of a handful of close friends, he decided to stay on, but his attitude toward the Court was never the same.”

More here.

Bush hasn't been my president from "hello". I guess Bush wasn't Souter's president, either.

Thoughts for the Day

"The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky"

"Based on the evidence, the bible isn't scripture. It's a Rorschach test."

"Independent thinking does not mean questioning other people's convictions. It means questioning your own."

"Cats aren't just snobs, they're Republicans. Dogs of course, are Democrats. They'll lick anyone's butt."

"For some folks, Christian charity is only a stone's throw away."

"The difference between a dog and a human being is that when a dog is unconscious, he lies down."

"The Constitution only guarantees you the right to say what you think. It does not guarantee you an audience."

"Ideology is always neat. People aren't neat. You want neatness, be an ideologue. If you want to get along with people, if you want to make a difference, then you have to work in a different domain, one in which ideology serves people, not the other way around.

"What neither political party has ever learned is the most basic of all lessons: When you make someone else's character the issue, your own character becomes the issue too."

~ Solomon Short

Monday, September 03, 2007

Romney Fundraising Scandal Ignored By Liberal Media* - Clinton Gets Hammered Over Hsu

August was a disastrous month for Republicans and the Romney campaign took a huge hit when it’s national finance committee co-chairman, Alan B. Fabian was charged in a 23 count indictment, including charges of money laundering, mail fraud, perjury and obstruction of justice. It’s reported Fabian, a former Bush Pioneer, allegedly ran a scheme that netted him millions of dollars which were used to purchase beach front property and travel. The Romney campaign said they would return Fabian’s $2,300 campaign donation, but not funds donated by others through him. Fabian stepped down from Romney’s campaign shortly after his August 9th indictment — but you may not have heard much about this scandal.

Another thought to ponder ...

We suffer, yet again, another dose of the Republicans bringing more honesty and integrity to American government. I wish they'd stop. I don't know how much more honesty and integrity we can take.

* That would be the media with a Liberal bias. Of course, the idea of Liberal bias ignores the fact that on the order of 90% of all media (Newspapers, TV Networks, Radio stations and other news outlets) are owned by 6 major multinational corporations:
  • Time Werner
  • The Walt Disney Company
  • Bertelsman
  • Viacom
  • News Corporation (Rupert Murdock's media conglomerate which includes FOXNoise)
  • and a newcomer, Vivendi Universal
(Check out just what these five corporations control here.)

These five corporations control just about every opinion you have if you get your news and information from TV, Radio or the newspapers ... including your opinion that the news has a Liberal bias. If you buy into it, they've gotten away with telling you black is white ... and you believe it!

These corporations are major contributors to political campaigns (particularly Republican campaigns) and they employ some pretty heavy hitter lobbyists.

Since being deregulated, competition in the communications industry has all but vanished. If competition is a good thing then the deregulation that allowed these giants to absorb everything in their paths and eliminate virtually all competition is not. You can't have it both ways.

Looking into the Souhwestern Sky

Quiet. The main road is about a half mile away and one has to listen to hear the traffic. Otherwise, restful, peacceful quiet.

Stars twinkle just after sunset. The yard lights come on.

An airplane traveling somewhere blinks on its way east in the southern sky.

A shadow moves on the far wall at the edge of the yard. My goodness!! What could be that big? A small rabbit makes a big shadow when it passes between the ground level light and the wall.

Enemies of the People: Who Are They?

by Dan Agin / Huffington Post contributor

One hundred and twenty five years ago, in 1882, the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen presented the first performance of his play, An Enemy of the People.

Like many of Ibsen's plays, this play is a social commentary, a piece of literature that in addition to providing a window into human character also defines both individuals and society in sociopolitical terms.

Finish the thought here ...

Doing God's Work

India to charge writer Nasreen with 'hurting Muslim feelings'
CBC Arts

Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen will face criminal charges in India after being accused of stirring up religious enmity.

The charges come after Nasreen was attacked at a publication party because of opposition to a translation of her latest book, Shodh, in Hyderabad last week. Several lawmakers and members of a conservative Muslim political party threw flowers and other items at her and called for her death.


In March, an Indian Muslim group from Uttar Pradesh state offered a bounty of 500,000 rupees ($13,000 Cdn) for her beheading.

Read the rest ...

Master of Our Garden

Opus sums up American Policy in Iraq and the Middle East

Find it here ... perfect!

The List - Lawmakers Facing Ethics Questions

from The Associated Press

Members of Congress under an ethics cloud:


  • Larry Craig, R-Idaho, arrested on June 11 in a Minneapolis airport men's room after an undercover officer observed conduct that he said was "often used by persons communicating a desire to engage in sexual conduct." He subsequently pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Craig said he did nothing wrong and shouldn't have pleaded guilty. Under intense pressure from fellow Republicans, he announced Saturday that he will resign from the Senate, effective Sept. 30.
  • Pete Domenici, R-N.M., under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee after a watchdog group accused him of trying to pressure David Iglesias, then the U.S. attorney in Albuquerque, N.M., to rush a corruption probe against Democrats to sway the 2006 elections. Iglesias says he believes he was dismissed from his job for resisting Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., who both say they did not pressure him.
  • Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, under investigation for his connection to oil field services contractor Bill Allen, who helped oversee a renovation project that more than doubled the size of Stevens' Alaska home in 2000. Investigators, including FBI and Internal Revenue Service agents, raided Stevens' home July 30. Allen has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska lawmakers. Stevens has denied any wrongdoing.
  • David Vitter, R-La., apologized July 9 for committing a "very serious sin in my past," acknowledging that his Washington phone number was among those called several years ago by a Washington-area escort service that prosecutors have said was a front for prostitution.


  • John Doolittle, R-Calif., left the Appropriations Committee after FBI agents raided his Washington-area home. His wife, Julie, ran a business from the home in which she received commissions as a paid fund raiser for her husband's campaigns and her clients included now-jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Doolittle denies any wrongdoing.
  • William Jefferson, D-La., indicted June 4 on federal charges of racketeering, money-laundering and soliciting more than $400,000 in bribes in connection with years of trying to broker business deals in Africa. Investigators raided Jefferson's Washington home and found $90,000 in cash stuffed in his freezer. He has denied wrongdoing.
  • Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., is being investigated by federal prosecutors who are examining his dealings with lobbyists and contractors during the time he chaired the House Appropriations Committee. Lewis, who announced Friday he will seek re-election next year, has denied wrongdoing.
  • Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., stepped down from the House ethics committee after federal agents began a probe of federal funds he helped steer to nonprofit groups and his participation in some real estate investments. Mollohan says he has done nothing wrong.
  • Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., faces a federal inquiry into a land swap that netted his former business partner, friend and campaign donor $4.5 million. Renzi also has faced scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission, which investigated allegations that he channeled prohibited corporate funds into his 2002 campaign. The FEC dropped the inquiry, but Renzi paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes while settling the charges. Renzi has denied wrongdoing, but decided against seeking re-election next year.
  • Heather Wilson, R-N.M. The House ethics committee has interviewed former prosecutor Iglesias, a first step toward deciding whether to open an inquiry into allegations that Wilson tried to pressure him to rush indictments in an alleged kickback scheme against Democrats before the November election. Iglesias says he believes he was fired because he resisted Wilson and Domenici. Both say they didn't pressure him.

Where is all that moral indignation?

An Interesting Read from the Village Voice

History Will Not Absolve Us
Leaked Red Cross report sets up Bush team for international war-crimes trial
by Nat Hentoff

While the Democratic Congress has yet to begin a serious investigation into what many European legislators already know about American war crimes, a particularly telling report by the International Committee of the Red Cross has been leaked that would surely figure prominently in such a potential Nuremberg trial. The Red Cross itself is bound to public silence concerning the results of its human-rights probes of prisons around the world—or else governments wouldn't let them in.

But The New Yorker's Jane Mayer has sources who have seen accounts of the Red Cross interviews with inmates formerly held in CIA secret prisons. In "The Black Sites" (August 13, The New Yorker), Mayer also reveals the effect on our torturers of what they do—on the orders of the president—to "protect American values."

She quotes a former CIA officer: "When you cross over that line of darkness, it's hard to come back. You lose your soul. You can do your best to justify it, but . . . you can't go back to that dark a place without it changing you."

Read more about the leaked Red Cross report here ...

Those on the Right expressed great moral indignation when Bubbah took a BJ. They condemned the human rights violations of the Soviet Union and Castro. They were enraged by Cambodian "re-education camps" and Stasi interrogation techniques. Why is it a deep moral offense when the Chinese do it, or when the North Koreans do it or when Castro does it. Why is it a war crime when its done in South Africa or in Rhodesia or when the Nazis did it in Germany and Poland and France but its not a crime now?

Those on the Right proclaim themselves the keepers of American values. Since when has torture been an American value?

Where is their moral outrage now? Why are they so silent now when they had so much to say on the subject at other times?

It would appear their outrage has limits but their hypocracy knows no bounds.

'08 Candidates Spent Over $16 Million On Consultants In Just Six Months

As they used to say about Busweiser Beer, anything brewed to be inoffensive to so many can't have much taste left at all ...

WASHINGTON - Bill Clinton began his quest for the White House with just five clerical staff to supplement volunteers in the early fall of 1991. His $26,543 in expenditures for the first three months included $342.88 for telephone installation, $1,263.34 for office supplies, and $418.09 for the ingredients to make cookies for his announcement celebration.

Sixteen years later, at a similar stage of the campaign, his wife, Hillary Clinton, has already paid more than $1.3 million to 10 different types of professional political operatives to advise her on everything from media strategy to trip planning and Internet use. Her campaign, which has spent $17.8 million overall, hired more than 350 people during the first half of this year, making it a bigger employer than 96 percent of US businesses, according to the US Census Bureau.

From National News.

It's not just about Hilary. As democracies go, we've built the best government money can buy.

Not the Motto of an Atheist

"God is with us."

Take a closer look.

Doesn't know enough t' come in out of the rain ...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Excuses, excuses, excuses

Botanical Gardens, Tucson

I haven't been shooting much for the last couple of months. My first excuse is that I've been too preoccupied looking for a house, buying a house, then trying to sell a house and now with trying to get organized in the new place.

So, I've dropped back into the archive for the accompanying image above.

I kinda thought this one was interesting, too. It's the volunteer desk at the Amerind Foundation.

Why Me, Lord?

Bush: Restoring Dignity to American Politics

A demoralized President Bush was in a sorrowful and somber mood when he went to bed one evening this past week. Earlier in that day he was given the word on the resignation of Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig. Earlier still, the president was rocked with the twin resignations of Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales. All three individuals were under heavy fire for various forms of chicanery and corruption.

"Why me, Lord?" Bush was heard to wail plaintively, almost crying in fact, as he wandered down the hallway to his bedroom. "Why does everything have to happen to me? Why, why? Why? What did I do to deserve all this? I just wanted to prove to the world I could be a good president in spite of all those nay sayers out there swearing I couldn't. It's not working out the way I'd planned at all."


Sometimes the truth is a parody.

Mass Culture

Son of "The Ownership Society"

from The Framshop:

In a week dominated by more grim news from Iraq and another Republican sex scandal, Americans have not spent enough time talking about the horrific impact of one of George W. Bush's most cynical political PR stunts: his so-called 'ownership society' concept which, supposedly, encouraged Americans to 'buy' and 'own' their own houses.

Talk to people in any Midwestern state of late (e.g., Michigan) and you will hear that Bush's snake-oil lie of a policy has not only backfired in a huge way, but has wreaked unfathomable havoc on the American family. People who thought they 'owned' their homes are suddenly waking up to the reality that they do not own anything short of the worst loan in history--loans with payments that double again and again in a short period of time, forcing families with children to default and foreclose. And of late, rather than taking on the immoral lenders who oversold first time buyers on far more debt than they could possibly handle, Bush is still talking about the ownership society, only now he's pushing programs that suggest the problem is 'market stress' rather than straight up, Presidentially promoted criminal lending practices.

Here's the rest of the rant ...

Do I have anything ot say about it? You bet I do ...

There are those who make the case that the government owes nothing to people who've made poor financial choices. However, that fails to consider (as most of those kinds of arguments do) that the whole nation was led to believe that the upward spiral in home prices was never ending. The Bush administration pointed to it often as evidence that the economy was strong and encouraged people to go out and spend, spend, spend.

So people spent all the cash liberated by mortgaging the equity in their homes in the mistaken belief (a belief they'd been suckered into by administration statements and policy) that if they took out the full equity value of their homes today, the ever increasing market would make their homes more valuable tomorrow.

It ain't so. You cannot create personal wealth by increasing personal debt. You can create the short term illusion of it ...

The so-called "Ownership Society", advanced by conservative think tanks, touts "private ownership" as the highest value. I don't think there's a great deal to dispute there but when it talks about people owning their own homes, it neglects to mention that those homes are mortgaged ... in fact, the banks own the homes and let people live in them, giving them the illusion of home ownership.

As with most conservative strategies designed to "help the average American", it all works smoothly if you ignore a couple facts .