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Weekend Edition: Sunday, Dec. 31, 2006

Read This: Rigged Elections By GOP? Is There Any Doubt? , Jerry Politex

Until every electronic voting machine in the United States provides each voter with a hard copy of his vote, just like state lotteries do, and until those machines provide a verifiable paper trail of votes to check against the electronic results, we should assume that the machines are rigged. The Democrats are as culpable in this scandal as the Republicans obviously are, since they are doing and saying so little to correct this blatant attack on the very roots of the democratic process. (History suggests they have their reasons.) This should be a number one priority; instread, it's an afterthought. As for the Republican-controlled voting machine companies that claim they are not rigging their machines, why do they fight every attempt to ensure just that? They answer, "trust us." No way. For those readers who are not sure that Republican-controlled voting machines that do not provide a specific and detailed paper trail could very well be used to steal elections, read this from the New York Times, buried deeply in Saturday's print and online editions:

"Democrats said Friday that they would open the new Congress by formally objecting to the election result in Florida’s 13th District, in the hope that the Democrat who is contesting the narrow outcome there will ultimately take the place of the Republican whom the state has certified as the winner....The race between Mr. Buchanan [R] and Ms. Jennings [D], for a Sarasota-area seat held until now by Representative Katherine Harris, a Republican, was one of the closest in a Congressional election that featured several recounts and challenged outcomes. On Nov. 20, the Florida Elections Canvassing Commission, made up of Gov. Jeb Bush and two other Republicans, declared Mr. Buchanan the winner by 369 votes.

"But Ms. Jennings, and some voters, have complained of irregularities. Paperless electronic voting machines used in the district recorded a significant percentage of what are known as “undervotes”: some 18,000 ballots, or about 15 percent of the total cast in the district, registered votes in races for other offices but not in the House contest. In some counties in the district, there was an undervote of 25 percent or more, Mr. Holt [D-NJ] said, and in one area an undervote of 38 percent. In contrast, he said, the undervote among absentee ballots was only 2.5 percent. “Something was wrong there,” the congressman said.

"Ms. Jennings has said she intends to take a seat that is rightfully hers, and she even attended freshman orientation for new House members in November. Legal filings on her behalf say she would have won by 3,000 votes if the tallies had been done properly. Her campaign suffered a setback Friday, however, when a Florida circuit judge ruled that she could not examine the programming code of the electronic voting machines used in the election. The judge, William Gary, said her arguments about the possibility of undervotes were "conjecture" and did not warrant disclosing the trade secrets of Election Systems & Software, a voting machine company...."

Election Systems & Software (ES&S) is an American company that provides voting services. It was founded in 1996 as American Information Systems Inc. (AIS), it merged with Business Records Corp. the following year and changed its name to ES&S. ES&S is a subsidiary of McCarthy Group Inc., which is jointly held by the holding firm and the Omaha World-Herald Co., the publisher of Nebraska's largest newspaper. ES&S is one of the four largest voting companies used in the 2004 election. (Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems, Hart Intercivic)

[Republican] Chuck Hagel was CEO of the company until shortly before his election to the United States Senate from Nebraska. The election was conducted almost exclusively on equipment provided by his former company. For ES&S related information in the 2004 elections see: 2004 United States presidential election: Specific issues relating to ES&S machines and practices.

The U.S. primary elections of March 2006 revealed an overextension of ES&S's resources when multiple counties across the nation found poor quality control (faulty memory cards), reported poor service, and problems with election preparation. Following harsh criticism of Diebold, ES&S has become the second major electronic voting vendor (after Diebold) to see lawsuits and criminal charges rising out of their failure to provide adequate service under their contracts. --Wikipedia.

Kyle Michaelis, The Omaha World-Herald Should Divest from Election Systems and Software New Nebraska Network November 17, 2006. Last week, the Omaha World-Herald published what read like a post-election press release for Election Systems & Software on the general success of its vote counting software and hardware across the country. "'It's been, all things considered, a smooth day,' said Jill Friedman-Wilson, a spokeswoman for Omaha-based Election Systems & Software. 'When you look at the scale and the scope of this election, what you're seeing are problems you would expect,' she said....On Tuesday, nearly 67 million people were expected to vote using ES&S equipment. The company's machinery counts well over half the votes in a national election through 1,800 voting jurisdictions in 43 states....Some voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas complained that touchscreens showed a vote for Republican candidates when they wanted to vote Democratic. Election officials said that wasn't the case, and ES&S' Friedman-Wilson said touchscreen machines were designed to highlight candidate selections so a voter could change them if an error were made."

Meanwhile, this weekend, the World-Herald suggested that slow election night returns in Omaha/Douglas County resulted because the county "printed its own ballots instead of purchasing them from Election Systems & Software." Synergy, baby! It seems fair to say that the above article, for whatever reason, underplays some of the substantial voting irregularities that were reported both pre- and post-election day on ES&S vote counting machines. Election count watchdog Brad Friedman has made note of several published reports of serious failures of ES&S machines that have been routinely dismissed by the company and largely neglected by the press.

Most notorious, however, is the on-going recount and legal battle in Florida's 13th Congressional District, where an inexplicably high number of unrecorded votes in a Democratic-leaning county (18,000 "undervotes") are still being investigated as the current count shows a slim lead for the Republican candidate of less than 400 votes. There, the ES&S vote machines have been "immediately sequestered and preserved" by the courts for further examination. Now, across the Internet and amongst many liberal activists, there has long been a building sense of fear and distrust about the expansion of new vote counting technologies and the threats they pose to the integrity of our democracy - be they from hacking, software glitches, or even conspiratorial possibilities of outright vote manipulation.

...The Omaha World-Herald has no place maintaining its investments in Election Systems & Software. Continuing their corporate relationship does great disservice not only to both companies but also to our democratic institutions....A newspaper having a financial stake in so political and such highly controversial an on-going national debate undermines the World-Herald's credibility and feeds into a perception that democracy itself is being vertically integrated to the benefit of corporations and at the expense of the American people. In Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald already plays an unparalleled role in shaping public perceptions and the political climate. As a decision-maker, the newspaper's influence can easily be over-stated, but the simple fact remains that it is the most powerful voice in the Nebraska media and one of the most powerful forces in Nebraska politics. Because of a lack of established alternatives, it can be said in many quarters of this state that if something isn't reported in the World-Herald it may as well not even have happened because it is the primary source of news for so many, with no other entity having anything close to its reach across the state. That is a lot of power. That is a lot of responsibility - a responsibility the World-Herald does not live up to by maintaining part ownership in ES&S....


Weekend Edition: Saturday, Dec. 30, 2006

Top Ten: U.S. Political Events of 2006 , Jerry Politex

1. Bush creates, signs bills that provide him with dictatorial powers, weakening Constitution, Bill of Rights, as approval rating plummets to 30%, but Dems promise not to impeach him.

2. Dollar continues to fall, tax cuts and benefits for top 10% and corporations continue, national deficit grows, but corruption so widespread that Krugman throws in the towel on fixing it.

3. Bush loses Iraq War, aids global nuclear proliferation with India treaty, fails to halt N.Korean, Iranian nuke activities.

4. Democrats take over Congress, with House and Senate wins, weak agenda.

5. Conservative Supreme Court Confirmed, with Roberts and Alito

6. Bush supports, uses Israel in proxy ME wars.

7. Bush's domestic agenda collapses, Republican Congress fails to resolve major problems such as immigration, health, fair wages, and the environment, but continues to support projects that reward corporations, the rich, their backers, and themselves.

9. Republican House leader DeLay quits under fire, but GOP-created House redistricting remains.

8. Foley, Abramoff, other Republican scandals stain Congress, as GOP blocks ethics oversight.

10. In 2001 Bush Watch was one of the first to call attention to Bush's persistent lying, and published a book about it in 2004. By 2006, polls suggested the majority of our citizens grew to suspect that anytime Bush's lips were moving, he was probably telling a lie.

Any suggestions for another ten?


Weekend Edition: Friday, Dec. 29, 2006

Typical American President: Gerald Ford's Pluses and Minuses , Jerry Politex

The official word on Gerald Ford is that he was a nice guy who took us out of the horror of the Nixon years into a great new day of the Republic. What made him a nice guy was that he was unsuited for the job of President of the United States as it has been generally practiced, particularly since the mid-Twentieth Century. He was down-to-earth, fairly bipartisan, not much of a liar, and did not have dreams of dictatorship. Yet, his pluses as a typical American President was that he was comfortable being run by the corporations, didn't have a problem with the growing gap between the rich and the poor, was willing to cover up the crimes of past Presidents, and believed in our country's imperialist ambitions to conquer the world "for democracy," even when it resulted in the deaths of thousands, rationalized as being "in the national interest."

Now we get word that Ford told Woodward that he was against Bush's Iraq war from the start, but embargoed Woodword for reporting it because of an "agreement" by past Presidents that they would never criticize the President in office. That never stopped Jimmy Carter from doing just that, considering the "agreement" to be absurd, since it put loyality to the system over the needs and rights of the average citizen. Naturally, the result has been that Jimmy Carter is considered to be a "bad" President, while Ford is the "good" President who saved us from the reality of Presidential corruption by sweeping it under the rug.

Impeachment? Gerald Ford's Memoirs Reveal Nixon Deal , Victor Navasky Interview

VICTOR NAVASKY: Publisher Emeritus of the Nation Magazine and chairman of the Columbia University Journalism review.

In August of 1974, which was about a week before Nixon resigned, General Hague took Gerry Ford for a walk in the rose garden, and told him that Nixon was going bonkers and they had to get him out of there, and there were four possible ways to do that. The first three turned out to not realistic. But the fourth, he said, was if you would promise to pardon him after you become president, I think he would agree to resign. Now, some years later Ford wrote about this in his memoir....It turned out that there was this one chapter that dealt with this conversation. And, the way Ford told the story, he put a gloss of innocence on it...

After Hague took Ford for a walk in the rose garden, Ford writes in his memoir that he came back to his office, and he mentioned this to an aide of his named, Bob Hartman, and the aide said, and then what did you say after you heard that? And, Ford said well, I didn't say anything. And, the aide said, gee, that's not good, silence implies assent. Because Ford had asked Hague well, is it possible to pardon someone before he is indicted? And Hague said yes, we checked it out with our lawyers and it is. So Ford says, he then went to sleep and he didn't say anything to Betty about it and the next morning he got up and he mentioned it to another aide, a fellow named Jack Marsh. And Marsh said, and then what did you say? And, Ford said, I didn’t say anything, and this aide said, gee, that could be a time bomb.

So, Ford then writes, that he then went and called General Hague and read him a statement, which he reprints in his book, and the statement said, nothing I did or didn't say yesterday should be taken to mean that I did or didn't agree to pardon or not to pardon Richard Nixon. And, he writes it as a kind of proforma thing, and the way I read it was it was a an attempt to put a gloss of innocence on a deal they had made. And this is a possible obstruction of justice, and that it’s something that he shouldn’t have done and against the law, and possibly, after he got nominated and confirmed, an impeachable offense, even.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Victor Navasky, your thoughts today on President Ford's legacy.

VICTOR NAVASKY: Well, I think he--the most important thing he did was he pardoned Richard Nixon. And he--if that was, indeed, the result of a deal, rather than this he's being credited, and maybe properly so, with trying to heal the nation. But, if he--his attempt to heal the nation was a result of a deal he made while he was Vice President of the United States, that's an important missing piece of history. So he'll be celebrated because he's a nice guy and he was a football player and all of that stuff for the next week or two. But if it turns out that this deal was made then history is going to have a harsher judgment about him.

"Smoking Gun Memo": Ford Supported Indonesian Invasion of East Timor that Killed 1/3 of Population , Brad Simpson Interview

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the documentary Massacre: The Story of East Timor which I produced with journalist Alan Nairn who’ll be joining us in a minute. But first to talk more about President Ford's legacy and his role in East Timor, we are joined by Brad Simpson. Brad Simpson works for the National Security Archives and is a Professor at the University of Maryland. Brad, welcome to Democracy Now!...You recently got documents declassified about President Ford and his role in 1975, in meeting with the long reigning dictator of Indonesia, Suharto. Can you explain what you learned?

BRAD SIMPSON: Yes. Gerald Ford actually met twice with Suharto, first in July of 1975 when Suharto came to the United States. And later in December of 1975, of course, on the eve of his invasion of East Timor. And we now know that for more than a year Indonesia had been planning its armed takeover of East Timor, and the United States had of course been aware of Indonesian military plans. In July of 1975, the National Security Council first informed Henry Kissinger and Gerald Ford of Indonesia’s plans to take over East Timor by force. And Suharto of course raised this with Gerald Ford in July when he met with Gerald Ford at Camp David on a trip to the United States. And then in December of 1975 on a trip through Southeast Asia, Gerald Ford met again with Suharto on the eve of the invasion, more than two weeks after the National Security Council, CIA, other intelligence agencies had concluded that an Indonesian invasion was eminent. And that the only thing delaying the invasion was the fear that US disapproval might lead to a cut-off of weapons and military supplies to the regime.

AMY GOODMAN: How knowledgeable was President Ford at the time of the situation?

BRAD SIMPSON: Well, Ford was very much aware. He was receiving hourly briefings, as was Henry Kissinger, as his plane lifted off from Indonesia, as the invasion indeed commenced. And immediately afterwards Gerald Ford flew to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, or to Guam—excuse me, where he gave a speech saying that never again should the United States allow another nation to strike in the middle of the night, to attack another defenseless nation. This was on Pearl Harbor Day, of course. Realizing full well that another day of infamy was unfolding in Dili, East Timor. As thousands of Indonesian paratroopers, trained by the United States, using US supplied weapons, indeed jumping from United States supplied airplanes, were descending upon the capital city of Dili and massacring literally thousands of people in the hours and days after December 7, 1975.

AMY GOODMAN: Brad, how difficult was it to get this declassified? The memos that you got? And how long were these memos about Ford and Kissinger's meeting with the long reigning Suharto? How long were they kept classified?

BRAD SIMPSON: Well, they are kept classified until the fall of 2002. We now know, actually, that a Congressman from Minnesota, Donald Fraser, had actually attempted to declassify the memo, the so-called Smoking Gun Memo, the transcript of General Suharto’s conversation with Gerald Ford, in December of 1975. Congressman Fraser actually tried to declassify this in document in 1978 during the Suharto adm--or during the Carter years and Carter's National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, realizing full well the explosive nature of this cable would show that the United States had been an accomplice in an international act of aggression, recommended that the State Department refuse to declassify the memo, a mere three years after the invasion.

And it took another 25 years after this episode before the cables were finally declassified and of course much more has come out. And I think it's incontrovertible that the United States played the crucial role in enabling the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. And I think it's wrong to say that Gerald Ford was completely unconcerned with the aftermath of the invasion. We now know that just a few days after the invasion Gerald Ford sent a telegram to the State Department asking that an emergency diplomatic cable be sent to General Suharto, in response to his recent visit. And inside the cable, which was sent by diplomatic pouch from the US Embassy, was a set of golf balls from Gerald Ford....


Thursday, Dec. 28, 2006

Bush's Ford Administration: Memories of the Ford Administration , Jerry Politex, Maureen Dowd (excerpts)

The Ford administration was a combination of cold war warriors (including Powell, Cheney, and Rumsfeld), big business bureaucrats (including O'Neill), and ideologues. Welcome to the Bush administration, a combination of cold war warriors, big business bureaucrats, and ideologues. If they're not from Ford's they're from Nixon's, Reagan's, and Poppy's administrations. In fact, at an average age of 59, the Bush administration is one of the oldest ever. More important than actual age, their thinking reflects a bygone era, particularly with respect to social policy. No matter what their positions are, what seems to hold most of the nominees together is their anti-abortion, anti-environment, pro-gun positions. Also, there are too many nominees who have been accused of being either racists or homophobes, which is surprising in both instances, given the members of the Bush team. And of course one bigot in a cabinet is one too many, particularly in such a key position. --Politex, 1/5/00

On Monday Mr. Bush again heeded Mr. Cheney and chose a Ford official to be Treasury secretary (replacing the Ford official who was just fired from the job) to work with the Ford official who is Fed chairman. Yesterday he chose an old Ford hand as head of the S.E.C. And we have the recrudescence of the secretary of state under Ford and Nixon, Henry Kissinger. Ford was the Fillmore of our time. His administration was famous for its hapless economic policy, fighting inflation with marketing, passing out those silly little buttons that read WIN (Whip Inflation Now). What do we remember of that era except the pardoning of Nixon, the fall of Saigon and the falls of Chevy Chase?

The lasting mark of that White House was tamping down the post-Watergate zeal for truth, containing Congressional and media investigations into C.I.A. abuses such as assassinations of foreign leaders and F.B.I. overreaching on infiltrating civil rights groups. It was in that battle that the Ford alumni -- Rummy, Cheney & Kissy -- forged their worldview that the greatest threat to the country was the prying eyes of the public, the press and Congress. Trent Lott may want to turn the clock back to Jim Crow. Mr. Cheney just wants to go back to a time before Vietnam and Watergate, when there was more government secrecy and less moral relativism.

The administration is chockablock with people who kept the public and Congress in the dark on foreign intrigue. Adm. John Poindexter, who took the fall for Iran-contra, is now in charge of expanding the universe of secrets to include dossiers at the Pentagon on every living American, under the Orwellian heading of Office of Information Awareness. Elliott Abrams, who misled Congress on Iran-contra and was pardoned by the first President Bush, is in charge of the Middle East for the second President Bush. Otto Reich, who worked with Ollie North and ran the covert program to get public support for the contras, now runs Latin American policy. Maybe instead of worrying about American children who don't do history lessons, we should worry about American presidents who don't care about the lessons of history. --Maurene Dowd, 12.11.02

E. Timor Dead: The Enduring Legacy of Gerald R. Ford, Chris Floyd

It was Gerald R. Ford who took those famously amoral and criminally incompetent backroom operators, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, out of the lower quadrants of the twisted bowels of the Nixon White House and raised them to the highest levels of American government, where, in one form or another, overtly and covertly, they have inflicted their primitive ideology and violent psychodramas on the nation, and the world, for more than three decades.

But Ford's enduring legacy is in no way exhausted by the glories of his bloodthirsty political progeny. For the sad occasion of the statesman's death is certainly a most appropriate time to recall what is probably his greatest geopolitical masterstroke: the green-lighting of Indonesia's 1975 invasion of East Timor -- an act of state-sponsored terrorism that killed more than 200,000 people....


Wednesday, Dec. 27, 2006

Bush Theft: Dems Need To Save, Then Spend, Since GOP Will Just Squander Savings (excerpts), Paul Krugman

Now that the Democrats have regained some power, they have to decide what to do. One of the biggest questions is whether the party should return to Rubinomics — the doctrine, associated with former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, that placed a very high priority on reducing the budget deficit. The answer, I believe, is no. Mr. Rubin was one of the ablest Treasury secretaries in American history. But it’s now clear that while Rubinomics made sense in terms of pure economics, it failed to take account of the ugly realities of contemporary American politics.

And the lesson of the last six years is that the Democrats shouldn’t spend political capital trying to bring the deficit down. They should refrain from actions that make the deficit worse. But given a choice between cutting the deficit and spending more on good things like health care reform, they should choose the spending. In a saner political environment, the economic logic behind Rubinomics would have been compelling. Basic fiscal principles tell us that the government should run budget deficits only when it faces unusually high expenses, mainly during wartime. In other periods it should try to run a surplus, paying down its debt.

Since the 1990s were an era of peace, prosperity and favorable demographics (the baby boomers were still in the work force, not collecting Social Security and Medicare), it should have been a good time to put the federal budget in the black. And under Mr. Rubin, the huge deficits of the Reagan-Bush years were transformed into an impressive surplus. But the realities of American politics ensured that it was all for naught. The second President Bush quickly squandered the surplus on tax cuts that heavily favored the wealthy, then plunged the budget deep into deficit by cutting taxes on dividends and capital gains even as he took the country into a disastrous war. And you can even argue that Mr. Rubin’s surplus was a bad thing, because it greased the rails for Mr. Bush’s irresponsibility.

As Brad DeLong, a Berkeley economist who served in the Clinton administration, recently wrote on his influential blog: “Rubin and us spearcarriers moved heaven and earth to restore fiscal balance to the American government in order to raise the rate of economic growth. But what we turned out to have done, in the end, was to enable George W. Bush’s right-wing class war: his push for greater after-tax income inequality.” My only quibble with Mr. DeLong’s characterization is that this wasn’t just one man’s class war: the whole conservative movement shared Mr. Bush’s squanderlust, his urge to run off with the money so carefully saved under Mr. Rubin’s leadership.

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s clear that conservatives who claimed to care about deficits when Democrats were in power never meant it. Let’s not forget how Alan Greenspan, who posed as the high priest of fiscal rectitude as long as Bill Clinton was in the White House, became an apologist for tax cuts — even in the face of budget deficits — once a Republican took up residence....In the long run, something will have to be done about the deficit. But given the state of our politics, now is not the time.

Money Talks: Readers' Comments On "Outsourcer in Chief", Paul Krugman


Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2006

Intolerance: Why Theocons Use Christmas For Political Purposes (excerpts), Adam Cohen

Religious conservatives are using Christmas for a political purpose: as a cudgel to push the prayers and displays of their own form of Christianity into public spaces, including public schools, and to make America more like a theocracy. The Christmas defenders' real enemy is not secularism, but inclusiveness. Department stores have been using phrases like "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" because they want to make themselves appealing to as many customers as possible — including the nearly one-quarter of Americans who do not call themselves Christians — not because they hate Christmas. Governments walk a careful line regarding holidays because they don't want to fall afoul of the First Amendment, and because they want to make all of their constituents feel included in holiday celebrations.

Despite all of the attention the conservative media have given the "War on Christmas," it does not appear to be catching on with the general public. The reason Christmas defenders are unlikely to win in the long run is not because they are up against a liberal plot, but because they are on the side of intolerance....

There is a simple explanation for the increasing use of phrases like "Happy Holidays" — but it is not one that the Christmas "defenders" want to talk about. The nation is rapidly becoming more religiously diverse. The percentage of the population that describes itself as Christian has declined to 77 percent in 2000, from 86 percent in 1990. The biggest increase has been in people who do not identify themselves with any religion, a group that has more than doubled since 1990. America is still very much a country of Christians, these numbers show. But nearly a quarter of the country, representing as many as 70 million people, is not Christian. It stands to reason that stores and politicians would try to take into account the inclinations of such a large part of the population....

Intolerance: Christian Conservatives Using Jews As Christmas Scapegoats (excerpts), Adam Cohen

Fox News anchor Bill O'Reilly warns night after night that Christmas is "under siege." His Fox News colleague, John Gibson, declares in his new book "The War on Christmas" that there is a "liberal plot" to destroy Christmas, led by "professional atheists" and "Christian haters." Jerry Falwell, the evangelical minister and conservative activist, warns that Americans who celebrate Christmas are "facing persecution." According to Media Matters for America, a frequent O'Reilly critic, Fox has promoted the campaign even more aggressively this year, carrying 58 separate segments on the "War on Christmas" between Nov. 28 and Dec. 2. On his Web site, Mr. O'Reilly has a list of department stores' policies about saying "Merry Christmas." The Web site also contained, until recently, a poll asking, "Will you shop at stores that do not say 'Merry Christmas?'"...

Stores...have a clear reason for using the phrase "Happy Holidays" — they want a term that is welcoming to all of their customers. As Home Depot told the American Family Association, "In order to avoid endorsing a particular set of beliefs and to encourage the diversity we desire, The Home Depot has chosen to refer to this time of year as the 'Holiday Season'." This is partly a matter of respect, and simple good manners. "The New Emily Post's Etiquette," published 30 years ago, made this point on the subject of exchanging holiday cards. Christians should not send holiday cards "featuring 'Christmas,' which is not a significant day for the Jews, to a Jew," the book advised. By the same logic, a store should not wish a Merry Christmas to Jewish customers. The driving force for stores, of course, is not etiquette rules, but the bottom line. People like to shop where they feel included and respected....

The rhetoric of the defend-Christmas movement is getting increasingly divisive — and ugly. The subtitle of Mr. Gibson's book declares that the fault lies with a "liberal plot to ban the sacred holiday."...[In reality,] the rules for when Christmas will be allowed in the public sphere are overwhelmingly being made by people who are not liberals, and who are Christians....On his radio show, Mr. O'Reilly has promised to "use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people" who denigrate Christmas. The Christmas"defense" movement is starting to be openly anti-Semitic. The two people Mr. O'Reilly has demonized the most frequently on the issue are Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," and George Soros, the billionaire financier whom O'Reilly has called the "moneyman" behind the anti-Christmas movement. The New York Post, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation — the same company that owns Fox News — recently put a story on its front page under the headline "Treeson" about a Jewish town supervisor from Long Island who tried to keep Christian prayers out of a government-sponsored tree-lighting ceremony.

Charges that Jews are behind the "War on Christmas" are beginning to be made directly. The president of Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious group, stated on Fox last year that a Florida mayor was conducting a vendetta against a nativity scene at least partly because he "apparently is Jewish." When a Jewish caller to Mr. O'Reilly's radio show objected to Christmas in the schools, and said that he "grew up with a resentment because I felt that people were trying to convert me to Christianity," Mr. O'Reilly responded. "If you are really offended, you gotta go to Israel."...

Intolerance: Buxh Xmas Cards Straddle Divide, With Generic Greeting, Bible Verse,
Alan Cooperman

Diversity has been a hallmark of White House greeting cards for some time, according to Mary Evans Seeley of Tampa, Fla., author of "Season's Greetings From the White House." The last presidential Christmas card that mentioned Christmas was in 1992. It was sent by George H.W. and Barbara Bush, parents of the current president. Seeley dates the politicization of the White House Christmas card to Richard M. Nixon, who increased the number of recipients tenfold, to 40,000, in his first year. The numbers since have snowballed, hitting 125,000 under Jimmy Carter, topping 400,000 under Bill Clinton and rising to more than a million under the current Bushes, with each president's political party paying the bill.

The wording, meanwhile, has often flip-flopped. Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter put "Merry Christmas" in their 1977 card and then switched to "Holiday Season" for the next three years. Ronald and Nancy Reagan, similarly, began with a "Joyous Christmas" in 1981 and 1982 but doled out generic holiday wishes from 1983 to 1988. The elder President Bush stayed in the "Merry Christmas" spirit all four years, and the Clintons opted for inclusive greetings for all of their eight years. The current Bush has straddled the divide, offering generic greetings along with an Old Testament verse. To some religious conservatives, that makes all the difference. "There's a verse from Scripture in it. I don't mind that at all, as long as we don't try to pretend we're not a nation under God," said the Rev. Jerry Falwell....

At the Catholic League [,president William] Donohue had just announced a boycott of the Lands' End catalogue when he received his White House holiday card. True, he said, the Bushes included a verse from Psalm 28, but Psalms are in the Old Testament and do not mention Jesus' birth. "They'd better address this, because they're no better than the retailers who have lost the will to say 'Merry Christmas,' " he said.... [In contrast, The National Council of Churches'] general secretary, the Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman, said, "I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards."...


Merry Christmas! Monday, Dec. 25th


Mary Cheney, Heather Pope, and Dick Cheney. Austin, Tx. yard decoration. story.

OUR CHRISTMAS GIFT TO YOU


Click on the banner for London's Trafalgar Square, the default cam. Our Charing Cross hotel was a half a block away, but it was a chilly 20 degrees this time last year. Near the Thames and in the theater district, we were within walking distance of midtown attractions, including museums, fine restaurants, and holiday crowds.

Song: Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland,
Dick Smith and Felix Bernard, with Jerry Politex

Sleigh knives ping, are you listening,
In Iraq, blood is glistening
A horrible sight,
We're repulsed tonight,
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland

Gone away is the rumbird,
Here to stay is the gatesbird
He sings the same song,
As Dems go along,
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland

In the cap'tal he had built a strawman,
Bush pretended was a ter'rist clown
We asked: where's the ter'rist?
Bush said: Iraq,
But I know he'll do us harm
If he's in town.

Later on, Bush conspired,
As we fell in his mire
To lie unafraid,
The plans that he made,
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland

In our country he had built a strawman,
Bush pretended was a ter'rist clown
He had lots of fun with mister strawman,
'til Shites 'n Sunnis knocked him down.

When Bush snows us, ain't it thrilling,
To see all of the killing
He's froliced and played, the Neocon way,
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland

Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland
Talking 'Bout George Bush's Blunderland

Song: Bush and Cheney’s Blunderland (Song Parody), Mad Kane

Nov. 2, 2006: I just wrote a Bush-Cheney song parody to Winter Wonderland, without realizing that I used the same tune back in 2004 for a pre-election song parody.  Fortunately, a bad memory does have some benefits, so the lyrics are quite different. Here’s my new one:

Rummy’s great, and he’s staying.
No debate. Stop your braying.
“Fantastic” at war!
Bush Rummy adores.
Welcome to Bush/Cheney’s Blunderland.

War is hard, but we’re winning.
GOP, lies and spinning.
Our war in Iraq
Is really on track.
Welcome to Bush/Cheney’s Blunderland.

Bush and Rove are great at building straw men.
Then they proudly knock their straw men down.
Dub implies we’re traitors.
We’ll say, “No Man!”
It’s time to stop pretending you’ve been crowned.

Ev’ry day, they conspire.
Reckless knaves, thieves, and liars.
The Bush/Cheney reign,
Democracy’s bane.
Welcome to Bush/Cheney’s Blunderland.

           =========

Song: Shopping For A New President Would Be Nice, Mad Kane

‘Tis the season to buy stuff, for sure.
Have you shopped? Yes? Then go shop some more.
That’s what George Dubya said,
While ignoring the dead,
Needless victims of Dub’s wanton war.


Weekend Edition: Friday, December 22, 2006

Op-Eds: Floyd (3), Velvel, Uhler, Weiner, Wokusch, Ross, Fisher, Pringle

Let It Come Down: Forcing the Constitutional Crisis of Liberty, Chris Floyd

Nat Hentoff, one of our great champions of civil liberties, uncovers the ugly truths behind the Bush Regime's plans for a Nuremberg-in-reverse at the American concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay: war crimes show trials being conducted by war criminals. Hentoff also cites the the remarkable reports by the Seton Hall University School of Law which -- drawing solely on official Pentagon documents -- detail the shameful and criminal system that Bush and his lawless gang of legal perverts have established....

This issue must now be brought to the crisis. When the new Congress convenes, it should pass a law repealing the Military Commissions Act and firmly re-establishing Constitutional principles of jurisprudence and civil liberties. Then let Bush veto it if he will, so that it will be plain at last where we stand: Constitutionalists on one side, Authoritarians on the other. These poles are fast becoming the true political divide in this country, a split that runs through all parties. To echo George Washington, "Let us have [a government] by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once."...

1898 Redux: We're on the verge of more Bush-McCain imperialistic actions, Lawrence Velvel

During, after and because of the Spanish American War, many leading citizens began to warn us of the kind of people we would become if we went down the imperialist road. These leaders included Bryan, Carl Schurz, Mark Twain, Grover Cleveland, Charles Francis Adams, William James, Benjamin Harrison and others. We went down the imperialist road and we became the kind of people these opponents said we would become. We are militarized, uncaring of life elsewhere, bigoted against opponents, always looking for a fight while pretending to peace, and persuaded that we have the greater word of God. Conditioned to think war is the answer, we accordingly inflate small threats into supposedly gigantic ones justifying significant wars-- as if terrorism, which has existed since at least the 1800s, is a threat the size of WWII or the size of Stalin's challenge afterwards. As a people we listen to the siren song of geopolitical numbskulls like Bush, Cheney, Johnson and their ilk, until, as it did to the Japanese and the Germans, stupidity overtakes us in the form of disaster. Another way to say the same thing might be to say that we follow the militarized lead of politicians who are tools of wealthy corporations that make gigantic sums from war and that contribute mightily to there being two Americas economically....

Bad News Buriers: Sweeping Bodies Under the White House Carpet, Chris Floyd

The White House's "Friday Night dumps" have become so habitual and obvious that even the lazy-eyed Washington press corps has noticed it. Indeed, as the Apollonian-monikered "Smintheus" at Daily Kos notes, the Bushists have taken to moving their bad news dumps around to different evenings, hoping to catch the well-wadded Beltway press corps in an after-dinner doze, or out schmoozing with Administration bigwigs on the cocktail weenie-circuit, or yapping stentoriously (for a suitable fat fee) on a political gossip show, or doing anything other than holding those in power to account for their actions.

Smintheus knew that the swearing-in of Robert Gates as the new Pentagon overlord would naturally attract the rapt -- and entirely uncritical -- attention of the well-wadded ones, who have collectively decided that deeply compromised covert operator is a clean broom who will purge the mephtic air of Hell's Bottom. The White House knew this too, and so they smuggled out the Congressionally-required "quarterly report" on the never-ending victory in Iraq, where, as President Bush so wisely noted..., the only real problem is that "we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed." As Smintheus notes, the release came only 19 days after its legal deadline, and seems purposely designed to prevent the public from extracting any actual information from it. Not only are its facts obscured by rhetorical tricks and outright omissions, the report has been produced as a huge PDF file that is difficult to download. But Richard Kastelein, our good webmaster here at Empire Burlesque, has solved that problem for you by recasting the report in easily-available HTML form, which you can see here....

Put on the Spot: Our Punk President Lies Yet Again, Walter C.Uhler

Whenever I hear President Bush tell another lie (or read that he has told another lie) I'm reminded of the Liar-in-Chief's former professor at the Harvard Business School, Yoshi Tsurumi, and his spot-on recollection of this president's punk past. According to Professor Tsurumi, Bush "showed pathological lying habits and was in denial when challenged on his prejudices and biases. He would even deny saying something he just said 30 seconds ago. He was famous for that. Students jumped on him; I challenged him." [Mary Jacoby, "The Dunce," Salon.com, 16 September 2004] Tsurumi concluded: "Behind his smile and his smirk…he was a very insecure, cunning and vengeful guy." "He was just badly brought up, with no discipline, and no compassion." [Ibid] In conservative Lebanon, Pennsylvania, where I grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, such people were called "punks." Perhaps, it's fair to say that the world would be a much better and safer place if America's mainstream news media had challenged Bush as much as Professor Tsurumi and his classmates did....

Letters: Santa: Please Grant Us These Wishes, Bernard Weiner

What a wonderful world it would be if these 12 wishes were granted on Christmas Day. Come on, Santa, get your political elves a-workin'....

Oversight Lack: How Breaches in the US Nuclear-Weapons Program Endanger You, Heather Wokusch

Last week, the watchdog Project on Government Oversight reported that workers at Pantex, a Texan nuclear-weapons plant, had almost accidentally detonated a W56 warhead in the spring of 2005. A W56 has 100 times the Hiroshima bomb's yield. A similar incident occurred there in 2004 when workers discovered a crack in a W56 warhead; they ended up patching it together using "the equivalent of duct tape." BWXT, the Texan plant operator, paid safety-violation fines totaling less than $125,000 in each case....

Germ Warfare: Bush Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons For Offensive Use, Sherwood Ross

In violation of the U.S. Code and international law, the Bush administration is spending more money (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to develop illegal, offensive germ warfare than the $2-billion spent in World War II on the Manhattan Project to make the atomic bomb. So says Francis Boyle, the professor of international law who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 enacted by Congress. He states the Pentagon “is now gearing up to fight and ‘win’ biological warfare” pursuant to two Bush national strategy directives adopted “without public knowledge and review” in 2002....

Winning By Losing: The Cost of Islamophobia, William Fisher

Five years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “Islamophobia” -- intensified by the war in Iraq and U.S. government actions at home – has left millions of American Muslims fearful of harassment, discrimination, and questionable prosecutions, and confused about their place in American society. Recent polls indicate that almost half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam and that one in four of those surveyed have "extreme" anti-Muslim views. A survey by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) found that a quarter of Americans consistently believe stereotypes such as: "Muslims value life less than other people" and "The Muslim religion teaches violence and hatred."...

Chronicle of Escalation Foretold: The Red Crescent Assault, Chris Floyd

Less than a mile from where British Prime Minister Tony Blair was gripping and grinning during a surprise visit to Baghdad on Sunday, agents of the extremist factions that he and George W. Bush have empowered, paid and heavily armed were raiding the offices of the Iraqi Red Crescent Agency and rounding up some of the few remaining relief workers in the country who attend to the suffering of all sides. This bold, broad-daylight assault came less than 48 hours after top Red Crescent officials publicly accused U.S. military forces of conducting a series of attacks on the agency's offices around the country during the course of the war....

Big Pharma: Drug Makers Trolling for Infants and Toddlers, Evelyn Pringle

The motive behind Big Pharma's promotion of the off-label prescribing of psychotropic drugs is market expansion and unfortunately, it just so happens that children provide the richest harvest because most kids are covered by health insurance plans or Medicaid. The various recruitment schemes include trolling for customers among infants and toddlers between the ages of 0-to-5 and there are absolutely no studies on the safety and efficacy of any psychiatric drug with this patient population. Every single prescription for a psychiatric drug written for infants and toddlers is "off label," meaning it comes with no FDA safe dosage recommendation and is prescribed for a patient and condition other than those approved by the FDA as being safe and effective.

A group of self-proclaimed "experts" even published their own little diagnostic manual called, "Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood, Revised (DC:0-3R)." On the Zero to Three Web site, where it can be purchased, it says, the "DC: 0-3R enhances your ability to prevent, diagnose, and treat mental health problems in the earliest years by identifying and describing disorders not addressed in other classification systems and by pointing the way to effective intervention approaches." This Zero to Three group recently told ABC News that 1 in every 40 babies is depressed, in what can only be viewed as an obvious attempt to snag new SSRI customers....


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Op-Eds: Hirschhorn, Miller, Rockstroh, Clothier, Olson, Cook, Morford

For the Holidays and All Days: Classic War Weapon of Choice, Joel Hirschhorn

The motto of the United States of Consumption is "In More We Trust." The contribution of American culture to humanity is consumption obsession. Our epidemic of obesity, our land gluttonous suburban sprawl, our monster-size environmental footprint, our ravenous automobile addiction, and our heartless greed are symptoms of a deep-seated, sick mental state that keeps the economy humming. And it keeps increasing economic inequality and apartheid....

Call me Ebenezer: Christmas as we know it needs to go, Jason Miller

Bursting forth with renewed intensity, the “War on Christmas” is back in 2006. So just what does this alleged war against an impalpable enemy entail? Have “Islamofascists” captured and decapitated Santa Claus? Did a US-made IDF “smart bomb” strike Bethlehem and obliterate baby Jesus as he lay in the manger? Did the Grinch go global with his nefarious thievery? Actually, the answer can be found amongst the corporate media’s nearly countless obfuscations and deceits....Christmas may not truly be under siege, but our corporate overlords have certainly discovered myriad ways to wield it as a psychological weapon and to administer it as an “opiate of the masses”....

Expanding Markets and Dying Oceans: Eating the Planet Like a Bag of Doritos for Jesus, Phil Rockstroh

It has been reported that George W. Bush is counting on the judgment of history to redeem the perception that he has been at the helm of a failed presidency. This notion is as muttering-at-the-wallpaper crazy as had Jeffery Dahmer, before his murder, been expecting gourmet chefs to someday champion his culinary choices. In the present day United States, our insulated leaders (who merely reflect the insularity of the daily lives of the nation's people) have shunned reality to such a degree, one would think that they spend their time writing wishful letters to Santa Claus instead of creating policy and law....

Ch...ch...ch... Changes: Selling More Death By Improving The Packaging, Peter Clothier

The Bush lexicon is known to include quite a number of terms whose meaning is the opposite of what we ordinary, error-prone, English-speaking mortals have come to expect. The context in which I hear you utter the word "change" these days does not bode well for its welfare either. I very much fear that "change" has become another euphemism for "stay the course." "Success" is the word with which I hear it frequently associated on your lips, [Bush,] and I suspect that "success" is the new word for "victory"--now banned, presumably since your Gates admitted right out loud for everyone to hear that we are not winning the war against the insurgents in Iraq: "No"--his plain, one-word answer to the question posed by a senator at his approval hearing--"no" leaves little room for ambiguity or doubt. "Success" may be a fraction easier to achieve than "victory", and a whole lot easier to sell to the American public....

Is There Justice? Hold Those Responsible for Iraq Accountable, Gary Olson

I've been struggling to write something new about the war in Iraq but failed to find any appropriate words. Despite everything we now know about the war, the U.S. occupation continues. While policymakers procrastinate and parse the finer points of withdrawing all U.S. troops, more flag-covered coffins relentlessly emerge from the bowels of giant wing-tipped hearses in Dover, Del....One could argue that these recent deaths are more tragic because the war has already been lost. However, because this immoral and illegitmate war should never have been fought, ''victory'' was never an option and every lost life is senseless....

Do States Have Rights? The Trap of Recognising Israel, Jonathan Cook

The problem facing the Palestinian leadership, as they strive to bring the millions living in the occupied territories some small relief from their collective suffering, reduces to a matter of a few words. Like a naughty child who has only to say "sorry" to be released from his room, the Hamas government need only say "We recognise Israel" and supposedly aid and international goodwill will wash over the West Bank and Gaza.... The magic words "We recognise you" could end all this suffering. So why did their prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, vow last week never to utter them. Is Hamas so filled with hatred and loathing for Israel as a Jewish state that it cannot make such a simple statement of good intent?...

Forgive me? I Apologize For My Nasty Slur, Mark Morford

I would like to apologize, right here and now, to the entire black community. And also, of course, the white community. And the Asian American community and the Jewish community and also the Poles and the Latinos and the Italians and what the hell the Scots and the Welsh and the Germans and the nomadic herdsmen of Mongolia, too. After all, this is no time for bias. See, I did indeed utter that terrible slur. At least, I think I did. I completely admit it. I'm sure I probably said it aloud, in a room full of people, loud enough for everyone to hear and for everyone to recoil in abject horror, or at least in mild yawning shrug -- which, if you think about it, is probably worse....


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Impeach Bush: Bush's "Surge" of Criminality, Jerry Politex

There are those who want to impeach George W. Bush as a war criminal because he lied us into an unnecessary war and then he censored the bad news about how we were losing the war while more and more Americans died each day as a result of his lies and distortions. Those who thought such charges of impeachment have gone too far have recently observed more and more pundits reporting that the war has been lost, and more and more military observers reporting that our army has been broken. As a result, a majority of Americans polled are against the war and think we should get out of Iraq.

Responding to these events, Bush recently said he would propose a new Iraq plan before Christmas. Then he said he would propose a new Iraq plan early in 2007. Now we're learning that the White House will propose that even more American troops should be sent to Iraq, knowing full well that the war is lost, the army is broken, and our very presence in Iraq is leading to more, not less, violence. At what point does such behavior by Bush and his minions like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld reach the level of impeachable offense for criminal behavior, if they haven't reached it already?. We say when Bush actually announces that he will send even more American troops to Iraq to die, attempting to prolong the war. As the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson wrote, "The modest increase now on the table would be purposeless and wrong. What could be more immoral than sacrificing American blood and treasure to save face in a lost war?"

Bush to Expand Size of Military, Peter Baker

"President Bush said today that he plans to expand the size of the U.S. military to meet the challenges of a long-term global war against terrorists, a response to warnings that sustained deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have stretched the armed forces to near the breaking point."

Post Interview with President Bush, Transcript Excerpt
"Bush said he has instructed newly sworn-in Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces. The president gave no estimates about how many troops may be added but indicated that he agreed with suggestions in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the current military is stretched too thin to cope with the demands placed on it."

White House, Joint Chiefs At Odds on Adding Troops, Robin Wright and Peter Baker
"The Bush administration is split over the idea of a surge in troops to Iraq, with White House officials aggressively promoting the concept over the unanimous disagreement of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intense debate."

A Surge In Wasted Sacrifice, Eugene Robinson
"Here's an idea: Let's send more U.S. troops to Iraq. The generals say it's way too late to even think about resurrecting Colin Powell's "overwhelming force" doctrine, so let's send over a modest "surge" in troop strength that has almost no chance of making any difference -- except in the casualty count. Oh, and let's not give these soldiers and Marines any sort of well-defined mission. Let's just send them out into the bloody chaos of Baghdad and the deadly badlands of Anbar province with orders not to come back until they "get the job done."

Street Interviews: Garlic Asks About The Bolton Resignation

John Bolton, who Bush temporarily appointed ambassador to the U.N. when he couldn't get voted out of a GOP-majority committee, was accused of not being diplomatic, trying to fire those who disagree with him, and distorting intelligence. Now he's been been forced to resign when his current term runs out because a Dem majority will never vote him out of committee and would use Bolton's hearings to dis Bush. What do you think?...

Satire: Top 10 Ways To Change The World In 2007, Mickey Z.

1. Wear a "Free Tibet" t-shirt
2. Switch to recycled toilet paper
3. Watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert
4. Adopt a Third World orphan
5. Start a discussion about Africa
6. Eat free range chicken
7. Drive a hybrid SUV
8. Subscribe to The Nation
9. Chant for peace in your yoga class
10. Vote Democrat


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's Not Just Bush: We're Accountable, Too, Heather Wokusch

Blaming everything on a handful of people at the top, no matter how destructive and abusive they've been, misses a critical point. Systems tend to self-perpetuate. Remove one player and the next comes in to ensure business as usual. Remove Rumsfeld, a man who helped prop up Hussein in the 80's and skewed intelligence towards war, and who do you get? Robert Gates, a man who helped prop up Hussein in the 80's and skewed intelligence towards war. Replacing those in power won't help if the power structure itself doesn't change. And that means addressing how our own actions maintain this dysfunctional system....

Spewing Hate: Voters Are Sick Of Religious Hypocrites Like John McCain (excerpts), Frank Rich

IT’S not the least of John McCain’s political talents that he comes across as a paragon of straight talk even when he isn’t talking straight. So it was a surprise to see him reduced to near-stammering on ABC’s “This Week” two Sundays after the election. The subject that brought him low was the elephant in the elephants’ room, or perhaps we should say in their closet: homosexuality.

Senator McCain is no bigot, and his only goal was to change the subject as quickly as possible. He kept repeating two safe talking points for dear life: he opposes same-sex marriage (as does every major presidential aspirant in both parties) and he is opposed to discrimination. But because he had endorsed a broadly written Arizona ballot initiative that could have been used to discriminate against unmarried domestic partners, George Stephanopoulos wouldn’t let him off the hook.

“Are you against civil unions for gay couples?” he asked the senator, who replied, “No, I’m not.” When Mr. Stephanopoulos reiterated the question seconds later — “So you’re for civil unions?” — Mr. McCain answered, “No.” In other words, he was not against civil unions before he was against them....This time around, ballot initiatives banning same-sex marriage drew markedly less support than in 2004; the draconian one endorsed by Mr. McCain in Arizona was voted down altogether....

There’s no evidence...that Mr. McCain has benefited from a...sea change that has taken him from accurately labeling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson “agents of intolerance” in 2000 to appearing at Mr. Falwell’s Liberty University this year. A Washington Post-ABC News poll last week found that among Republican voters, Rudy Giuliani, an unabashed liberal on gay civil rights and abortion, leads Mr. McCain 34 percent to 26 percent. Mr. Romney brought up the rear, at 5 percent. That does, however, put him nominally ahead of another presidential wannabe, the religious-right favorite Sam Brownback, who has held up a federal judicial nomination in the Senate because the nominee had attended a lesbian neighbor’s commitment ceremony....

A liberal like Howard Dean is no more credible talking about the Bible (during the 2004 campaign he said his favorite book in the New Testament was Job) than twice-married candidates like Mr. McCain are persuasive at pledging allegiance to “the sanctity of marriage.”...After a quarter-century of watching politicians from both parties exploit religion for partisan and often mean-spirited political gain, voters on all sides of this country’s culture wars are finally in the market for something new.


Monday, December 18, 2006

A Modest Proposal: How You Can Stop Bush's War In Iraq, Now, Jerry Politex

"For the last decade, residents of northern Montana have been praying for asphalt to stave off the disappearance of their dwindling ranching and farming towns. Highway 2 is two lanes for all but 40 of its 666 miles across Montana. Now, with the election of a senator from rural Montana, they are lobbying with renewed vigor to get the state and federal government to widen all 666 miles of Highway 2 in Montana, a move they hope will keep them on the map. About 40 miles of the highway, known as the Hi-Line, is four lanes.

“We’re fighting for our life,” said Bob Sivertsen, an auctioneer in Havre who is president of the group pushing for the highway-widening project, which is known as Four for Two and is estimated to cost more than $1.5 billion. “We don’t want to die.” Most businesses, Mr. Sivertsen said, simply will not locate along a two-lane road. After a series of setbacks, including a state study in 2004 that found the best option was an improved two-lane highway, advocates of the project see new hope with the election of Jon Tester to the Senate. Mr. Tester, a Democrat from Big Sandy, a fading agricultural town not far from the Hi-Line, has expressed support for the project."--New York Times.

Note that we're informed that the cost of building this highway will be $1.5 Billion. That happens to be a half-billion less than we're spending each week on the war in Iraq. These good Montana folks need to tell new-Senator Tester and other elected members of Congress from Montana to vote against funding Bush's Iraq war the next time the budget bill comes up and to explicitly point out that building the Montana road is more inportant to their supporters than funding another week of Bush's war in Iraq. And if they don't, the Montana highway backers would promise to vote those Montana members of Congress out of office.

What good would one state do, if the other members of Congress for the remaining 49 states are willing to fund the war to the tune of $2 billion each week? Well, it turns out that worthwhile $2 billion or less projects in all 50 states are being cancelled to pay for Bush's war. The voters in all our states need to put all member of Congress on notice. Here are some examples of worthwhile projects, taken from a recent Washington Post article, that could begin if we stopped funding the Bush war in Iraq:

"$3 million for AIDS and homelessness programs in San Francisco...$3 million to establish the Charles B. Rangel Center for Public Service at City College of New York... operating at current funding levels would leave the judiciary with a $270 million shortfall for salaries and expenses; Justice Department officials said a resolution financing the government largely at 2006 levels would only worsen a severe staffing shortage at offices of U.S. attorneys around the country... Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.) was hoping to get $3 million for a new autism research center at the Florida Institute of Technology... the Department of Energy is looking at a 20 percent cut in its administrative budget and could be forced to lay off many of the 960 people who help manage the department...

"Initiatives for 2007, such as the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, FutureGen, a clean coal initiative, and a health-care information technology program, are not likely to be funded...the Department of Veterans Affairs health-care system needs $3 billion more just to keep covering all the veterans it covers now...the Federal Bureau of Investigation could lose 500 agents under current funding levels [the Dems promise to freeze funding levels for 2007]...$400,000 in hospital equipment for Perris, Calif., $1.5 million in biotechnology grants for the Illinois Institute of Technology, and another $1.5 million for bridge and street repairs in Columbus, Ohio...Christopher Shays (R-Conn.) lost a transit center for Bridgeport, a waste-to-energy program for Stamford and a train station for South Norwalk..."

It doesn't take much for the voters in all 50 states to pull the plug on Bush's war in Iraq, just the will to demand that their elected representatives to federal office refuse to keep spending $2 billion each week on a lost war, and have that money shifted to needed funding on old and new programs that are worthwhile. After all, a recent poll indicates that only 9% of all Americans back the war. If the members of Congress are not willing to back the will of the people on this, they should be voted out of office. But it's up to the voters in all 50 states to tell them so.

Barbershop: Need a Job? Move to Iraq (excerpt), Colbert King

...Mr. Carl clued them in. "Around midnight, nine busloads of young men left our community for Iraq. Lord knows how they're gonna get there, once they reach New York. But those young brothers are Baghdad-bound," he said.

"Why?" the barbers asked in unison.

Piped up Jerome: "Because word is, the spirit of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society has returned and descended upon Iraq."

"The brothers," Jerome explained, "are going over there to get in on that War on Poverty action."

"Now that's the dumbest thing I've heard yet," exclaimed Bobbie T.

"You're so right," echoed Boogie.

"Whoa, fellows. You're the ones who've got it wrong," injected Mr. Carl.

"Johnson's Great Society," he said, "called for the government to liberate people from the misery of joblessness by providing occupations for them -- in the name of social investment. Conservatives hated it. But now a jobs program is an official administration policy."

"Unfortunately for us," he added, "the Bush policy applies only to Iraq."

"Where'd you get that stuff, Mr. Carl?" challenged Fatmouth.

"Young man," Mr. Carl said, "if you'd read more and fatmouth less, you might learn something. Where's Tuesday's Washington Post?"

Darrell was embarrassed. On a chair in the corner, under a pile of well-thumbed Jet and Ebony magazines, was a stack of Posts, still in their plastic wrappers. (Mr. Carl thought to himself: To keep a secret from some folks, just put it in a newspaper.) Mr. Carl read aloud Tuesday's front-page headline: "To Stem Iraqi Violence, U.S. Aims to Create Jobs."

"Now listen to this," he continued: " 'As Iraq descends further into violence and disarray, the Pentagon is turning to a weapon some believe should have been used years ago: jobs.' "

Mr. Carl reminded the barbers that the Bush administration prefers to let unemployed Americans fend for themselves, relying on the free market. Not so in Iraq, he said. Mr. Carl stated that Pentagon planners intend to -- reading again -- "bring life to nearly 200 state-owned factories." Continuing, he read: "Their goal is to employ tens of thousands of Iraqis in coming months, part of a plan to reduce soaring unemployment and lessen the violence that has crippled progress."

Citing another paragraph, Mr. Carl said the Pentagon also plans to divert 25 percent of the Defense Department's $4 billion of spending orders from firms in neighboring countries such as Jordan and Kuwait to Iraqi companies. That's a $1 billion noncompetitive set-aside program for Iraq, he observed.

With a wistful smile, Mr. Carl read aloud a quote from Army Lt. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, the top U.S. field commander in Iraq: "We need to put the angry young men to work."

That, Anderson Carl told the assembled in Darrell's barbershop, is why our own jobless and angry young brothers are trying their best to get to Iraq.

Grabbing his hat and rushing out the door, Jerome exclaimed: "Baghdad, here I come!"


Weekend Edition: Friday, December 15, 2006

Op-Eds: Sullivan, Hirschhorn, Crafts, Mickey Z., Ross, Fisher

Maggots: The Cash Cows of Personal Debt, Charles Sullivan

The booming credit card business is one of the most profitable and destructive industries to ever emerge from the inventive capitalist mind. Citibank is raking in more money than Microsoft and Wal-Mart. Obscene profits are realized without lifting a finger to perform any physical work. In 2004 a single credit card company-the MBNA-realized 1.5 times the profits of fast food industry giant McDonald's. Collecting on credit card debt is a very lucrative business....

When card users are late making payments, as the complex algorithms used by card issuers predict they will, interest rates rise dramatically and multiple user fees are added to the monthly bill. Millions of card users spend most of their income paying exorbitant user fees, without reducing the balance or reducing it only minimally. The bankers are raking in billions, while working class families are becoming debt slaves to the predatory capitalists of the credit card industry. This was made possible with the blessings of Congress operating under the influence of the corporate lobbyists that swarm on Capitol Hill like maggots on a corpse....

Global Wealth Inequality: How Bush Economic Apartheid Kills, Joel Hirschhorn

Global wealth inequality: A study estimates that the global wealth Gini for adults is .89. The same degree of inequality would be obtained if one person in a group of ten takes 99 percent of the total pie and the other nine share the remaining 1 percent. To a limited degree, elitist powers can engineer modest improvements in income among the global poor, but stark wealth inequality will probably worsen, considering the political power of the rich. As worldwide communications increasingly make the obnoxious wealth of the upper class more visible, even modest increases in income are unlikely to satisfy the vast majority of the global population without wealth. U.S. economic apartheid shows that a self-proclaimed great democracy with considerable personal freedoms can risk deep social instability from class warfare as it approaches a two-class system. We need to see economic apartheid as lethal and repulsive as racial apartheid. How much proof do you need? Here are some recent examples of economic obscenities:...

Neoliberalismo: Bush Fog Over Latin America, Jeffrey Crafts

Bush postures that he, by contrast to Chavez, favors helping the poor. Bush’s form of alms comes via globalization, also known as “the Washington consensus.” This means that Bush pushes for policies that emphasize lowering or eliminating tariffs, reducing restrictions designed to protect worker rights, labor safety, mandating environmental protection, cutting public spending for schools and health care, and the privatization of state-owned companies....

Cheney's Prediction: Once, Long Ago, Cheney Was Right, Mickey Z.

1991: Appearing on ABC's This Week, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney was asked why Operation Desert Storm had not gone "all the way" to remove Saddam Hussein from power. "I think for us to get American military personnel involved in a civil war inside Iraq would literally be a quagmire," Cheney replied. "Once we got to Baghdad, what would we do? Who would we put in power? What kind of government? Would it be a Sunni government, a Shia government, a Kurdish government? Would it be secular, along the lines of the Baath party, would it be fundamentalist Islamic? I do not think the United States wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties and accept responsibility of trying to govern Iraq. I think it makes no sense at all."

Info War: U.S. Losing Vs. Muslim Jihadists, Sherwood Ross

The Army and Marine Corps tomorrow (Dec. 15th) will release a new counterinsurgency field manual that notes how insurgents use the media "to magnify the effects of their actions" and which suggests ways to defeat those efforts. The manual is already in use in Afghanistan where U.S. units are employing the new tactics against Taliban forces that have started to mount large operations in the Pashto-speaking south, according to a reliable article in an American magazine. Australian-born Lt.-Col. David Kilcullen, currently working at a high-level counterterrorism post in the U.S. State Department, is quoted as describing the Taliban as essentially an "armed propaganda organization."...

Chriscons: Death to Infidls Via Video Game, William Fisher

A coalition of U.S. religious and progressive groups has stepped up a formal campaign to protest a controversial new Christian fundamentalist video game in which players battle the "forces of the Anti-Christ" and kill or convert non-believers. "This is the first time any Christian religious instructional video has recommended killing all non-Christians who refuse to convert to Christianity. It is unprecedented and dangerous," Rev. Timothy Simpson, president of the Jacksonville, Florida-based progressive advocacy group the Christian Alliance for Progress, told IPS. The game, titled "Left Behind: Eternal Forces", is packaged with a book...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Israel Lobby Mobilizes: Israeli Tail Wags U.S. Dog Against Baker Report, Uri Avnery

...Since 1967 and the beginning of the occupation, several American Secretaries of State have submitted plans to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. All these plans met the same fate: they were torn up and thrown in the trash. The same sequence of events has been repeated time after time: In Jerusalem, hysteria sets in. The Foreign Office stands up on its hind legs and swears to defeat the evil design. The media unanimously condemns the wicked plot. The Secretary of State of the day is pilloried as an anti-Semite. The Israeli lobby in Washington mobilizes for total war. For example: the Rogers Plan of Richard Nixon's first Secretary of State, William Rogers. In the early 70s he submitted a detailed peace plan, the principal point of which was the withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders, with, at most, "insubstantial alterations". What happened to the plan?

In face of the onslaught of "the Friends of Israel" in Washington, Nixon buckled under, as have all presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower, a man of principle who did not need the Jewish votes. No president will quarrel with the government of Israel if he wants to be re-elected, or - like Bush now - to end his term in office with dignity and pass the presidency to another member of his party. Any senator or congressman who takes a stand that the Israeli embassy does not like, is committing Harakiri, Washington-style. The fate of the peace plans of successive Secretaries of State confirms, on the face of it, the thesis of the two professors, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, that caused a great stir earlier this year. According to them, whenever there is a clash in Washington between the national interests of the United States and the national interests of Israel, it is the Israeli interests which win. WILL THIS happen this time, too?

Baker has presented his plan at a time when the US is facing disaster in Iraq. President Bush is bankrupt, his party has lost control of Congress and may soon lose the White House. The neo-conservatives, most of them Jews and all of them supporters of the Israeli extreme Right, who were in control of American foreign policy, are being removed one by one, and this week yet another, the American ambassador to the United Nations, was kicked out. Therefore, it is possible that this time the President may listen to expert advice. But that is in serious doubt. The Democratic Party is subject to the "pro-Israeli" lobby no less than the Republican Party, and perhaps even more. The new congress was indeed elected under the banner of opposition to the continuation of the war in Iraq, but its members are not jihadi suicide bombers. They depend on the "pro-Israeli" lobby. To paraphrase Shamir: "The plan is the same plan, and the trash bin is the same trash bin."

In Jerusalem, the first reaction to the report was total rejection, expressing a complete confidence in the ability of the lobby to choke it at birth. "Nothing has changed," Olmert declared. "There is no one to talk with," - immediately echoed by the mouth and pen brigade in the media. "We cannot talk with them as long as the terrorism goes on," a famous expert declared on TV. That's like saying: "One cannot talk about ending the war as long as the enemy is shooting at our troops." On the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis I wrote that "the dog is wagging the tail and the tail is wagging the dog." It will be interesting to see which will wag which this time: the dog its tail or the tail its dog.

Today's Grapes of Wrath: FEMA "Internment Camps" Show What Bush Thinks Of Poor Americans (excerpts), Bob Herbert

...More than a year after the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina, thousands of the poorest victims from New Orleans are still living in these trailer parks run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. They have ironic names, like Mount Olive Gardens and Renaissance Village. A more accurate name would be Camp Depression, after the state of mind of most of the residents. The “parks” are nothing more than vast, dusty, gravel-strewn lots filled with trailers that were designed to be hitched to cars for brief vacations or weekend getaways. The trailers, about 200 square feet each, were never meant to serve as homes for entire families. But in these FEMA parks, it’s common for families of five or six, or even more, to be jammed into one trailer....

Dr. Redlener, a professor at Columbia University and the author of “Americans at Risk: Why We Are Not Prepared for Megadisasters and What We Can Do,” said he was outraged that so many thousands of the poorest victims of Hurricane Katrina are still stuck in limbo — unable to find jobs or permanent housing, denied adequate medical and educational services and with no idea when, or if, they will be able to return to New Orleans. “The recovery of this catastrophe in the gulf has been as badly mangled by the government as the initial response,” he said. “Fifteen months have gone by and you still have these thousands of people who in essence are either American refugees living in other states who have no idea what’s going to happen to them, or they are living in these trailer camps, or in isolated trailers on their old property, which has been destroyed. They’re just waiting for something to happen. And the wait is interminable.”...

The residents of Mount Olive Gardens and the even larger trailer camp at Renaissance Village in nearby Baker, La., face challenges that seem almost insurmountable. Even minimum-wage jobs are very difficult to find and difficult to get to because there is little public transportation. Many of the residents are elderly, or disabled, or illiterate. Some are mentally handicapped. These are encampments of profound stress and sadness....[Meanwhile, Bush continues to spend $2 billion each week in Iraq, with no end in sight. --Politex]


Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Op-Eds: Miller, Weiner, Floyd (2), Velvel, Fisher, Uhler, Partridge, Mickey Z.

Looking Away: Preventing Starvation, Jason Miller

"On Tuesday September 11, 2001, at least 35,615 of our brother and sisters died from the worst possible death, starvation. Somewhere around 85% of these starvation deaths occur in children 5 years of age or younger. Why are we letting at least 30,273 of the most beautiful children die the worst possible death everyday? Every 2.43 seconds another one of our fellow brothers and sisters dies of starvation. Starvation doesn't just happen on Tuesday September 11, 2001, it happens everyday, 365 days per year, 24 hours per day, it never stops." On 12/5/06, the world human population was 6.4 billion. By that same day, 10.1 million people had starved to death in 2006. A human being dies from hunger-related causes every 2.43 seconds. Yet it doesn’t have to be that way....

Iraq & CheneyBush: Exiting the Rat-Hole, Bernard Weiner

"This isn't even a lame-duck presidency. It's on artificial life-support and there is no guarantee it can last through the next two years without infecting the entire body politic with its dangerous dementia. It may be time for the powers-that-be in the Republican party elite to contact political hospice."

Empire Burlesque: Presidential tyranny untamed by election defeat, Chris Floyd

For those who hoped that November's elections might bring some essential alteration in our degraded estate, some repair of the broken strands, recent events have been dispiriting indeed. Two in particular stand out as exemplary of the ugly reality behind the bright rhetoric of "change" and "moderation" now twinkling in the Beltway air. Although apparently unrelated, they are in fact part of the same malignant process that has been devouring the structure - and substance - of the Republic for years....

Incompetent Bush: The Latest Washington Crock About Iraq, Lawrence Velvel

So what to do? In regard to Iraq itself, I’ll not tarry long over the best answer to this question because it has been presented here before on several occasions. Divide the country - - which never really was a country anyway, but in reality was only what I think Churchill called a geographical expression - - into three parts, Sunni, Shiite and Kurd. Give people a few months to move to “their” area if they want. (Two million have already left the country entirely and who knows how many others have already moved to “their” area.) Then get the hell out, post haste. If we can arrange some sort of sharing of oil revenues among regions in advance, that would be nice. If we can’t, to hell with it. This obvious political solution has been advanced here many times. Joe Biden has advanced it. Peter Galbraith has advanced it. But the fools in our government and media refuse to consider or talk about it. So what, then, is the next best thing?<...

Catch-22 in Arabic: Three Years Too Late, William Fisher

One of the more alarming [findings of the Iraq Study Group] was that of the 1,000 employees of the massive new U.S. Embassy inside the Green Zone bubble in Baghdad, there are -- wait for it -- SIX who are fluent in Arabic. In a very real sense, that pitiful number could be a metaphor for one of the most serious flaws in the entire Iraq adventure. We invaded a country about which the invaders knew virtually nothing. Not only didn't we know the Arabic language; we knew nothing about Iraq's religious sects, tribes, culture, sensitivities, customs, traditions, mores, or the Byzantine inter-relationships among all these attributes....

Catch-22 in Arabic, II: The arrogant stupidity of occupying a country without speaking the language , Chris Floyd

...This tells you pretty much all you need to know about the American debacle in Iraq. Imagine the arrogance and stupidity of conquering, occupying and trying to run a country without being able to speak its language. A nation of 26 million people – and your embassy has only six people who can actually understand what is being said, written, and broadcast there. This is a folly that amounts to a monstrous crime in itself, aside from the inherent evil of launching an unprovoked war of aggression.

Evil is the only word to describe the wilful ignorance at work throughout the entire process of the Iraq War, from its inception to its execution to the catastrophic endgame now unfolding before our eyes. The reality of the situation is almost unimaginable, almost unendurable: that the most powerful nation in the history of the world has thrown itself, deliberately, for no compelling reason whatsoever beyond the selfish interests of a few elitist cliques, into a cauldron of mass murder and moral ruin, whose financial, political and spiritual costs will be felt, with deep suffering, for generations....

South "Makes" Race: Will the Supreme Court Follow?, Walter C. Uhler

Recently, a Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, Alfred Lubrano, wrote an article suggesting that a full 80 percent of Americans are biased against blacks. He quoted University of Connecticut psychologist, John Dovidio, who asserted: "A person can be nice 90 percent of the time, but capable of racism the other 10." Which prompted Lubrano to ask: "If you're white and get cut off by a black driver, for example, do awful words barge into your head?" [Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 02, 2006]

Yes, perhaps, for too many white Americans. But those awful words come from the gut, not from the application of rigorous thought. After all, as Lubrano notes: "Most white people grew up in a society in which more black faces than white faces were associated with poverty and crime on the TV news," especially local TV news. "They grew up hearing negative comments about blacks from their parents; didn't see black people in their homes; never knew a black person with power." Yet, it's worth mentioning that shouting of an epithet in a heated moment is far different from the racism designed to keep a system of white privilege in place. Nevertheless Mr. Lubrano is quite correct when he asserts:....

The Public Interest: The Limits of Volunteerism, Ernest Partridge

Libertarians often tell us that personal voluntary restraint and charitable contributions are morally preferable solutions to social problems than government coercion and taxation. To be sure, personal self-control and charity are virtues, while political coercion and taxation are not. The trouble is, in numerous and significant instances, volunteerism doesn’t work.

Lessons from Italy: The U.S. government hates democracy, Mickey Z.

As far as I concerned, we can't put forward enough reminders of how the U.S. government-and the corporations that own it-do business. Platitudes about peace, freedom, justice, etc. aside, the land of the free is not even remotely interested in spreading democracy. There is an abundance of evidence to back up this assertion. For now, I offer the example of post-World War II Italy. Mussolini was gone but the U.S. elites had no intention of letting Italy slip through the cracks....


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"Agonizingly Tragic": Soldiers Dying in a War Already Lost (excerpts), Bob Herbert

The primary value of the Baker-Hamilton report is that it embodies, in clear and explicit language, the consensus that has emerged in the U.S. about the current state of the war. It’s not so much a blueprint for action as a recognition of reality. “The level of violence is high and growing,” the report says. “There is great suffering, and the daily lives of many Iraqis show little or no improvement. Pessimism is pervasive.”

With the situation in Iraq deteriorating, and support for the war in the U.S. having all but collapsed, the only real question on the table is how long the U.S. is going to drag out its inevitable pullout of combat forces. And the inevitable moral question that is inextricably linked to that slowly evolving set of circumstances is how to justify the lives that will be lost between now and the final day of our departure.

There is something agonizingly tragic about soldiers dying in a war that has already been lost.

The scale of the debacle is breathtaking. According to the study group: “In some parts of Iraq — notably in Baghdad — sectarian cleansing is taking place. The United Nations estimates that 1.6 million are displaced within Iraq, and up to 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country.” Americans, including the members of the study group, continue to insist that the key to an American withdrawal over the next couple of years is the improvement of Iraqi security forces to the point where they can successfully step into the breach. That is a complete fantasy, as a reading of the study group’s own assessment of the Iraqi forces will attest....

So what’s next? The Bush administration has lost all of its credibility on the war. What is needed now are leaders with the courage to insist, perhaps at the risk of their reputations and careers, that it is wrong to continue sending fresh bodies after those already lost, to continue asking young, healthy American troops to head into the combat zone, perhaps for their third or fourth tour, to fight in a war the public no longer supports.

In a foreword to “The Best and the Brightest,” David Halberstam’s chronicle of the Vietnam fiasco, Senator John McCain wrote: “It was a shameful thing to ask men to suffer and die, to persevere through god-awful afflictions and heartache, to endure the dehumanizing experiences that are unavoidable in combat, for a cause that the country wouldn’t support over time and that our leaders so wrongly believed could be achieved at a smaller cost than our enemy was prepared to make us pay. No other national endeavor requires as much unshakable resolve as war. If the nation and the government lack that resolve, it is criminal to expect men in the field to carry it alone.”

The United States lacks that resolve when it comes to Iraq. It is time to pull the troops out of harm’s way.

Setting Up The Dems: James Baker Vs. The Israeli Hardliners, various

...On Israel-Palestine, the ISG again rejects Bush's position by linking the Iraq crisis with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is a general call for a renewed U.S. commitment to Bush's 2002 claimed support for a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. But the report's recognition that "in diplomacy, a nation can and should engage its adversaries and enemies to try to resolve conflicts and differences consistent with its own interests," including Syria and Iran, still leaves out Palestine. The ISG supports the U.S. refusal to talk to the democratically-elected Palestinian Authority government led by Hamas, using the language of a call for "direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel's right to exist), and particularly Syria...."

But the real problem is the ISG's refusal to acknowledge or call for an end to the Israeli occupation, instead only urging new negotiations aimed at an unspecified resolution. Unlike the report's explicit call to "return the Golan Heights" to Syria, there is no call for Israel to end its occupation and "return the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem" to the Palestinians. Reassertion of UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which U.S. and Israeli routinely do is insufficient. Further, the proposed negotiations would once again be under the control of the U.S., thus insuring that U.S. policies would dominate any outcome.

The only reference to Israel's escalating violence in the occupied territories, especially in besieged Gaza, comes in the form of an even-handed call for "consolidating the cease-fire reached between the Palestinians and the Israelis in November 2006." The report's call for "support for a Palestinian national unity government" does not indicate what happens if Hamas continues leadership of such a government.

Interestingly, the report's listing of issues to be included in any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations does include a specific reference to the "right of return." The use of that term, as opposed to the usual generic reference to "the problem of Palestinian refugees," may well be its first use in a quasi-official U.S. diplomatic statement. Of course there is no recommendation that discussing the right of return (guaranteed in UN resolution 194) should lead to implementation of the right, but even acknowledgement is a step Bush has always rejected.

Ironically, the report does seem to acknowledge the Israeli threat in the region. In the section dealing with regional diplomacy, the ISG recognizes that "none of Iraq's neighbors--especially major countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Israel--see it in their interest for the situation in Iraq to lead to aggrandized regional influence by Iran. Indeed, they may take active steps to limit Iran's influence, steps that could lead to an intra-regional conflict." While the Arab countries certainly remain wary of Iran's rising influence, only Israel has both the political approach and the military capacity to take "steps that could lead to an intra-regional conflict," referring clearly to a possible Israeli strike on Iran. --by Phyllis Bennis and Erik Leaver

***
...However the White House may now spin things, the ISG report in fact constitutes a massive repudiation of the policy of the Bush Administration. Most importantly, it draws red lines on acceptable policy, greatly diminishing the likelihood of any new, spectacular American military adventures in the Middle East. For example, a U.S. bombing campaign against Iran’s nuclear development program, with all the predictably disastrous, region-wide consequences that any such attack would provoke, is now probably off the table. American-initiated regime change in either Iran or Syria is now also likely a dead letter.

But some have clearly not gotten the message. In fact, Israel may now be even more tempted than before to attempt to abort the new direction of U.S. policy. In this regard, the chances for a unilateral, preemptive Israeli attack on Iran may have skyrocketed. Were any such attack to occur, the United States would be accused by Muslims everywhere of being behind it. And Americans would be able to kiss goodbye to Iraq, probably lose access to Middle Eastern oil, experience an explosion of gasoline prices, and certainly forfeit any hope of re-stabilizing the Middle East for decades. --by Antony T. Sullivan

***
The tension between the Bush administration and the members of the Iraq Study Group, illustrates the widening chasm between old-guard U.S. imperialists and "Israel-first" neoconservatives. The divisions are setting the stage for a major battle between the two camps. The winner will probably decide US policy in the Middle East for the next decade....

Whatever one thinks about James Baker, he is a seasoned diplomat and a serious man. His record shows that he has broad support among the leaders in the American oligarchy, so he can't simply be ignored. He represents a powerful constituency of corporate chieftains and oil magnates who are conspicuously worried about the deteriorating situation in Iraq and want to see a change of course. Baker's their man. He's the logical emissary for the growing number of jittery plutocrats who see that the Bush policy-train has jumped the tracks. But if Big Oil wants a change of direction than where is Bush getting his support for "staying the course"?

An AP poll conducted this week shows that only 9% of Americans believe that "victory" in Iraq is possible. Even the hard-core Bush loyalists have abandoned the sinking ship. The only group left touting Bush's failed policy is the "Israel first" camp which continues to wave the bloody shirt of incitement from their perch at the Weekly Standard and the American Enterprise Institute. These same diehards are leading the charge for a preemptive attack on Iran; a criminal act which will have catastrophic effects on America's long-term energy needs.

An article which appeared in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz shows how confident Prime Minister Olmert is in the ability of the Jewish Lobby to torpedo the Baker-Hamilton report and steer the US away from changes in Iraq: "On his way home from Los Angeles, the Prime Minister calmed' the reporters and perhaps even himself"by saying there is no danger of the US President George Bush accepting the expected recommendations of the Baker-Hamilton panel, and attempting to move Syria out of the axis of evil and into a coalition to extricate America from Iraq. The Prime Minister hopes the Jewish Lobby can rally a Democratic majority in the new Congress to counter any diversion from the status quo on the Palestinians. (Akiva Eldar, The Gewalt Agenda)

Olmert has good reason to be "calm". While the new Congress is being apprised of its duties to Israel, the Brookings Institute is convening a forum at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy entitled: "America and Israel: Confronting a Middle east in Turmoil". The meeting will be attended by Israeli right-wing extremist, Avigdor Lieberman, as well as political big-wigs, Bill and Hillary Clinton. The context of the meeting suggests that right-leaning Israelis will be informing their friends in the Democratic Party about the anticipated attack on Iran, as well as discussing strategies for sabotaging Baker's report. If we see the Democrats lambasting the ISGs recommendations next week; we'll know why.

So, the battle lines have been drawn. On one side we have James Baker and his corporate classmates who want to restore order while preserving America's imperial role in the region. And, on the other side, we have the neo-Trotskyites and Israeli-Jacobins who seek a fragmented and chaotic Middle East where Israel is the dominant power. (see A Clean Break) The one group that has no voice in this "Battle of the Titans" is the American people. They lost whatever was left of their shrinking political-clout sometime around the 2000 Coronation of George Bush.

In any event, Baker and his ilk are not going to sit back and watch the empire (and the military) they put together with their own two hands be systematically pulverized by a cabal of zealots pursuing an agenda that only serves Israeli hardliners. That ain't gonna happen. --by Mike Whitney

“A Way Forward?” To Where, Exactly, Mad Kane

Iraq’s current state is abysmal,
With its prospects of peace rather dismal.
Dubya started this war,
Yielding blood, sweat and gore,
And success odds quite infinitesimal..

By The Baker Boys: Wouldn't It Be Nice, the Beach Boys, with Jerry Politex

Wouldn't it be nice if Iraq tott'ring
Could rub an Aladdin’s lamp
And wouldn't it be nice they stopped the killing
To shore up the puppet from collapse

You know that'd make it so much better
When we can say goodby to stormy weather

Wouldn't it be nice if Iran sat down
To create a strong Iraq for Bush
And wouldn't it be nice we live together
In the kind of world where all belong

You know its gonna make it that much better
When we can say goodnight and stay together

Wouldn't it be nice if Syr'ya joined talks
To prop up the Sunnis in Iraq
And after having spent the day together
Hold each other close the whole night through

Their happy times together spending
I wish that every kiss was never ending
Oh Wouldn't it be nice

Maybe if we think and wish and hope and pray it might come true
Baby then there wouldn't be a single thing we couldn't do
We could pump oil (we could pump oil)
And then we'd be happy (then we'd be happy)

Wouldn't it be nice (bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla)

You know it seems the more we talk about it
It only makes it worse to live without it
But lets talk about it
Oh, wouldn't it be nice

--thanks to Matthew Parris


Monday, December 11, 2006

Iraq Is Lost: It Needs To Be Said, Again And Again, Jerry Politex

When Robert Gates, our next Defense Secretary. lied to a Senate committee last week in order to get the job, and when the Dems on the Senate committee congratulated him on his honesty and unanimously voted him in, I knew the fix was in. True, Gates said we were not winning in Iraq, but he also said we were not losing, either, and that's a lie. Nearly all politicians on the federal level are so deluded by their own rhetorical positions that they may not really don't know when they're lying. In fact, politicians on all levels lie so much, that they've created definitions of "lie" that are so far removed from the reality of the common, dictionary use of the word, that their definitions are lies, as well.

As Frank Rich notes in his latest NYT op-ed (see below), Gates, Rumsfeld, the Iraq Study Group, led by longtime Bush family friend James Baker, and, by extension, Cheney and Bush are all lying, because they surely know that the war in Iraq is lost: "By prescribing such placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat. Its real aim is to enact a charade of progress to pacify the public while Washington waits, no doubt in vain, for Mr. Bush to return to the real world." As we we wrote last week, Bush is unable to admit that he's losing the war; the facts on the ground suggest that he's lost it, which no one, including the Dems, is willing to admit. The real Bush strategy appears to be to prolong the war until he leaves office, while trying to blame the Dems in control of Congress for the lost war. Rich also suggests as much: "[Bush] will stay the course, with various fake-outs along the way to keep us from thinking we’ve “lost,” until the whole mess is deposited in the lap of the next president....The administration must not utter that L word even though lose is exactly what we’ve done. The illusion of not losing must be preserved no matter what the price in blood."

Read this last sentence carefully, Rich is saying that Bush and those around him are willing to sacrifice the blood of American soldiers and other citizens of the world for their own political purposes, while spending $2 billion each week to do so. This will go on for two more years. The Dems have gone on record as unwilling to cut Bush war funding and unwilling to impeach Bush for his war lies. Our leaders have deserted us as worldwide trust in America nears rock bottom and the national debt freefalls into an impending economic disaster from which this country may never recover.

Another Darfur: "We Have Lost In Iraq" (excerpts), Frank Rich

The report of the 10 Washington elders was rolled out like a heartwarming Hollywood holiday release. There was a feel-good title, “The Way Forward,” unfortunately chosen as well by Ford Motor to promote its last-ditch plan to stave off bankruptcy. There was a months-long buildup, with titillating sneak previews to whip up anticipation. There was the gala publicity tour on opening day, starting with a President Bush cameo timed for morning television and building to a “Sunshine Boys” curtain call by James Baker and Lee Hamilton on “Larry King Live.”...

The Iraq Study Group['s]...account of how the country Mr. Bush called a “grave and gathering danger” in September 2002 has devolved into a “grave and deteriorating” catastrophe today is unsparing and accurate. But everyone except the president knew this already, and that patina of realism evaporates once the report moves from diagnosis to prescription. Its recommendations are bogus because the few that have any teeth are completely unattainable. Of course, it would be fantastic if additional Iraqi troops would stand up en masse after an infusion of new American military advisers. And if reconciliation among the country’s warring ethnicities could be mandated on a tight schedule. And if the Bush White House could be persuaded to persuade Iran and Syria to “influence events” for America’s benefit. It would also be nice if we could all break the bank in Vegas.

The group’s coulda-woulda recommendations are either nonstarters, equivocations (it endorses withdrawal of combat troops by 2008 but is averse to timelines) or contradictions of its own findings of fact. To take just one example: Even if we could wave a magic wand and quickly create thousands more military advisers (and Arabic-speaking ones at that), there’s no reason to believe they could build a crack Iraqi army and police force where all those who came before have failed. As the report points out, the loyalties and capabilities of the existing units are suspect as it is.

By prescribing such placebos, the Iraq Study Group isn’t plotting a way forward but delaying the recognition of our defeat. Its real aim is to enact a charade of progress to pacify the public while Washington waits, no doubt in vain, for Mr. Bush to return to the real world. The tip-off to the cynical game can be found in a single sentence: “We agree with the goal of U.S. policy in Iraq, as stated by the president: ‘an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.’ ” This studious group knows that even that modest goal, a radical devaluation of the administration’s ambition to spread democracy throughout the Middle East, has long been proven a mirage. The Iraqi government’s ability to defend anything is so inoperative that the group’s members visited the country but once, with just one (Chuck Robb) daring to leave the Green Zone. The Bush-Maliki rendezvous 10 days ago was at the Four Seasons hotel in Amman.

The only recommendations that might alter that reality, however evanescently, come not from “The Way Forward” but from its critics on the right who want significantly more troops and no withdrawal timetables whatsoever. But a Pentagon review leaked to The Washington Post three weeks ago estimates that a true counterinsurgency campaign would “require several hundred thousand additional U.S. and Iraqi soldiers as well as heavily armed Iraqi police,” not the 20,000 or so envisioned as a short-term booster shot by John McCain. Since these troops don’t exist and there is no public support in either America or Iraq for mobilizing them, the president can’t satisfy the hawks even if he chooses to do so. Since he’s also dead set against a prompt withdrawal, we already know what his policy will be, no matter how many “reviews” he conducts. He will stay the course, with various fake-outs along the way to keep us from thinking we’ve “lost,” until the whole mess is deposited in the lap of the next president.

But as Chuck Hagel said last week, “The impending disaster in Iraq is unwinding at a rate that we can’t quite calibrate.” It is yet another, even more reckless flight from reality to suppose that the world will stand still while we dally. The Iraq Study Group’s insistence on dragging out its deliberations until after Election Day for the sake of domestic politics mocked and undermined the urgency of its own mission. Meanwhile the violence metastasized. Eleven more of our soldiers were killed on the day the group finally put on its show. The antagonists in Iraq are not about to take a recess while we celebrate Christmas. The mass exodus of Iraqis, some 100,000 per month, was labeled “the fastest-growing refugee crisis in the world” by Refugees International last week and might soon rival Darfur’s....

The lesson in that is clear and sobering: As bad as things may seem now, they can yet become worse, and not just in Iraq. The longer we pretend that we have not lost there, the more we risk losing other wars we still may salvage, starting with Afghanistan. The members of the Iraq Study Group are all good Americans of proven service to their country. But to the extent that their report forestalls reality and promotes pipe dreams of one last chance for success in this fiasco, it will be remembered as just one more delusional milestone in the tragedy of our age....

This...begins at the top, with the president, who has cut and run from reality in Iraq for nearly four years. His case is extreme but hardly unique. Take Robert Gates, the next defense secretary, who was hailed as a paragon of realism by Washington last week simply for agreeing with his Senate questioners that we’re “not winning” in Iraq. While that may be a step closer to candor than Mr. Bush’s “absolutely, we’re winning” of late October, it’s hardly the whole truth and nothing but. The actual reality is that we have lost in Iraq...


Weekend Edition: Friday, December 8, 2006

Op-Eds: Floyd, Partridge, Weiner, Mickey Z., Fair.org, Lower, Ross, Kane

Meese of Arabia: The Baker Group's Grab for Iraqi Black Gold, Chris Floyd

The reaction from actual Iraqis on the just-released report by the "Iraq Study Group"? They don't like it; it won't work; it's largely a tissue of fantasies and shows no grasp of the true situation in Iraq; it has nothing to do with solving Iraq's problems but everything to do with the American Establishment's desperate attempt to save face, no matter how many people must be slaughtered in the process.

But why should we listen to these wretched malcontents in Iraq? How the hell could they know more about the reality of their lives than Jim "Bagman" Baker and Lee "Whitewash for Hire" Hamilton and Harriet "Here's the PB&J, George" Miers and Ed "Porn Man" Meese? I mean, come on: who on God's green earth knows more about the political, social, ethnic, historical, religious and military complexities of Iraq than Ed Meese? The Heritage Foundation's Ronald Reagan Distinguished Fellow in Public Policy? Man, he's the go-to guy for all things Iraqi! There's no freaking, frigging way that any Hakim or Abdul or Nouri or Motqada or Mahmoud is gonna have any greater insight on Iraq than Ed Meese. Are you kidding me?...

Congress: A Window of Opportunity: Three Issues, Ernest Partridge

If the Democrats and their liberal and progressive supporters treat the election as a battle won in an ongoing war, they may eventually prevail. If they come to believe that with this election, they have won the war and thus quit the fight, they will lose it.

Five Predictions: Who Brought Us to the Iraq Abyss?, Bernard Weiner

As usual, Bush attempts to shift the topic from how he got the U.S. into this horrific situation, and continues staying the course in hopes of a miracle "victory." Here are some reasons why, unless the Democrats stop him, he may take us all down with him.

Lesons From Greece: We shouldn't expect democracy in Iraq, Mickey Z.

It would be nice to believe that the U.S./British invasion of Iraq may have been horribly mishandled but the motivation behind it was sincere. After all, it's a timeless classic: toss out a depot and introduce democracy. However, even the most perfunctory glance at previous U.S./British ventures would promptly expose the lies. An excellent example is post-WWII Greece.

Habeas Corpus: Unbending Bush, William Fisher

As the new Democratic Party majority in Congress considers whether to re-visit the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (MCA), the administration of President George W. Bush is proposing still more restrictions on detainees in American custody. The government has proposed limiting contact between defense lawyers and detainees at Guantanamo Bay because detainees' communications, such as news of world events, could incite the prisoners to violence....Among the more controversial provisions of the MCA, which President Bush signed into law in October, is one that strips U.S. courts of jurisdiction to consider writs of habeas corpus filed by detainees classified as enemy combatants. The Administration contends that the president may classify any person, even a U.S. citizen, as an enemy combatant.

But Senator Chris Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, has already introduced legislation that would restore habeas corpus rights to military detainees and make other amendments to the MCA. Dodd's bill, the Effective Terrorists Prosecution Act, would restore those protections. The amendments would also narrow the class of detainees identified as unlawful enemy combatants who are affected by the MCA's habeas restriction....

Cannon Fodder: John Kerry's "Botched Joke", Gerry Lower

When I was in my junior year at UW-Madison during the Vietnam War, the students at UW protested the presence of military draft boards on campus, and the University simply dropped their usual provision of student info to recruiters. Not paying adequate attention to such stuff and failing to report my status on my own, I got drafted. My mentor at UW was a Colonel in the USAR and he had me into the Reserves that same afternoon, on top of a list of 1200 applicants who were hoping to avoid Vietnam.

I went to Leesville, LA ("Diseaseville" as locally known) on my own where I ended up in a company of 200 men going through basic training. Within a few minutes the first morning, those of us with college degrees had identified each other. There were, all told, six of us graduates or graduate students and one of us (young Jewish boy from NY) had a black Corvette stored off post in Leesville. Hallelujah!

The average years of education of companies going through Fort Polk, LA was, as I recall, about 8 years. The presence of 6 collegiate reservists brought the average years education up to 10, the highest Company B had ever achieved during the war. Many of the young men I got to know at Fort Polk had only three or four years of education.

John Kerry's "botched joke" - that failure in school could leave one ending up in Iraq - actually doesn't make that much sense in the absence of a draft. No one is going to end up in Iraq as a result of dropping out of or failing in school. The remark dates back to the Vietnam War itself and it was misinterpreted this time around to imply that those serving in the military are stupid, which doesn't really follow either.

The men serving in our military are not stupid. But, in the deep south especially, the military does end up heavily endowed with men who are exceedingly uneducated and frightened to death, blessed only with "street" knowledge. It is in this way that despotic capitalism in the U.S. takes advantage of poverty and unemployment so as to fill its military ranks. That would be a truism that goes all the way back.

CNN's Glenn Beck: Flirting With Fascism, Fair.org

The New York Times (12/4/06), profiling new CNN Headline News host Glenn Beck, called him "brash" and "opinionated," with an "unfiltered approach." The conservative talk-radio host-turned-cable news announcer, the paper reported, "take[s] credit for saying what others are feeling but are afraid to say." The Times mentioned one of the things Beck has said recently, to newly elected U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), a Muslim: "Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." But as press critic Eric Alterman pointed out (Altercation, 12/4/06), as offensive as that question is, it doesn't begin to suggest the poisonousness of Beck's rhetoric about Muslims....

George Will: New Crime Category: Refusing to Shake George Bush's Hand, Sherwood Ross

Columnist George Will has found senator-elect Jim Webb (D-Va.) guilty of "careless and absurd assertions," for writing the wealth gap between rich and poor is "the least debated issue" in American politics. But if you think, (and I don't) what Webb said is absurd, how about the assertion the sky will "rain artichokes" before the Soviets give up communism? And what brilliant clairvoyant do you think opined that statement just before the Rooskies junked communism? Actually, if only out of charity, one shouldn't fault Mr. Will for not being able to predict the future. That's too much to expect of him. Trouble is Will doesn't appear to have a good grasp of the present....

Ode: To Diminished Expectations, Mad Kane

Unanimous yeses for Gates,
Cause it’s clear that he has what it takes
To be better than Rummy.
He isn’t a dummy!!!
That’s life in our Bush-induced straits.


Thursday, December 7, 2006

Politex News Wire: An Administration That Will Live in Infamy
As we look back on December 7, 1941, we're reminded of the words of President Rooselvelt when he responded to the Japanese attack upon Pearl Harbor and declared war on Japan, calling that day "a date which will live in infamy."...As Bush continues an uncalled for war that has lasted longer than WWII, avoiding the participation of the majority of our citizens, except for creating a staggering national debt that will not be paid off in our lifetime, as Bush continues to destroy the basic rules of our land, as he continues to shift the nation's resources into the hands of the wealthiest 1% and foreign countries while killing the middle class, as he continues to do whatever he can to turn this country into an ignorant, mean-spirited place that mirrors his mind, and as the co-dependent Democratic Party refuses to impeach him for taking us into war based on lies and for his unconstitutional behavior, we see all of the December 7th's of the Bush adminstration as dates that will live in infamy...

The Situation: "We're Pouring $2 Billion A Week Down A Rat Hole" (transcript), Jack Cafferty

BLITZER: Let's go to New York and Jack Cafferty for "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it was kind of sad, in a way. This morning when Mr. Bush was handed the Iraq Study Group report, he looked old and tired, the kind of old and tired you look after carrying a heavy load for a long time. The war in Iraq is an unmitigated disaster and everybody knows it. The Republicans know it, the Democrats know it, our country knows it and the rest of the world knows it.

And for the first time this morning, it looked like President Bush knows it, too. There he sat, surrounded by his father's friends, looking absolutely lost. And despite the years of experience and wisdom represented at that table, the report contains no magic potion to get us out of, arguably, the biggest, deadliest, costliest and potentially most dangerous mess that this country has been in since World War II. And President Bush caused it.

How difficult it must be to come to terms with the fact that you were not only wrong, but that you are becoming more and more isolated every single day. For the first time this morning, I got the feeling President Bush knows it's over.

Here's the question -- what can President Bush do to salvage the remainder of his presidency?

[later...] CAFFERTY: In light of the release of the Iraq study commission report today, the question we asked is: What can President Bush do to salvage the remainder of his presidency?

We got a lot of mail.

Toni in South Carolina: "As to salvaging anything, he could get with the new congressional leaders and agree to first get Dick Cheney's resignation, nominating an agreed-upon new vice president. Then, he should resign, with an agreement that he will not have to face the criminal charges he so fully deserves."

Greta in Los Angeles: "President Bush can insist that Israel get out of the Golan Heights, the Shebaa Farms in Lebanon, all of the West Bank, and Gaza. He could lean on Israel to follow the more than 65 U.N. resolutions that have been drafted against it. Only then will the Middle East have a chance at normality, and Bush have a chance at salvaging the rest of his presidency."

Virginia in Denver, Colorado: "He could admit that mistakes were made by his administration regarding the Iraq war, and bring the troops home. His father was sobbing the other day on live television. And I don't think it was because of Jeb."

Ron in Canton, Georgia: "An honorable man would step down and give something else a chance to jump over the chasm that now separates us from the rest of the world. I'm not sure America can survive two more years of George Bush."

Shiela in Northport, Alabama: "Nothing. There's nothing he can do to salvage a failed presidency. He should accept the Iraq Study Group report and accept the fact that he has been in over his head all along."

And James in Houston writes: "Jack, I'm tired of you undermining the war, the president, and the country. We need to be in Iraq. It's not a civil war. But what it is, is the central front of the war on terror. And it was right to go in. Why can't you see that? And please smile a little more" -- Wolf.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: I'm not seeing you smile.

CAFFERTY: I don't think there's a lot to smile about....

[later...] BLITZER: From Baghdad, we'll go to New York. Jack Cafferty is standing by with "The Cafferty File" -- Jack.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Robert Gates, Wolf, is in. The senate voted to confirm the former CIA director as the new secretary of defense. The vote was 95-2 in favor. It came eight hours after -- only eight hours of hearings and a confirmation process that took less than a month. Gates will be sworn in on December 18.

So what does this all mean for the outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, an architect of the war in Iraq? You may remember a couple of years back President Bush awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to three people key to his Iraq policy, former CIA Director George Tenet, retired General Tommy Franks and the former Iraq administrator, Paul Bremer.

When Mr. Bush presented these men with the nation's highest civilian honor, he said they had played quote, "pivotal roles in great events", unquote. So here is the question.

Should President Bush give the outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld the Medal of Freedom? E-mail your thoughts to CaffertyFile@CNN.com or go to CNN.com/CaffertyFile -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You say that trying to keep a straight face, Jack. I could see you're struggling there.

CAFFERTY: I'm making it though. I managed barely....

[later...] CAFFERTY: David in Carey, North Carolina, "giving Rumsfeld the presidential medal of freedom is like giving Michael Jackson the good parenting award."...

BLITZER: It's the nation's highest civilian honor that the president -- he gave three other key officials who were intimately involved in creating this policy the medal of freedom.

CAFFERTY: Yeah, well, good for him. That's just one in a long string of things that he's done that people are writing reports about now.

BLITZER: You know, it's hard to believe, when you think about it, $2 billions a week, a week -- think about what that money could be used for.

CAFFERTY: Well, you know, war is expensive and everybody understands that. But the sin as far as I'm concerned is what are we getting? We're getting no bang for the buck, pardon the play on words. $2 billion a week and we're pouring it down a rat hole. If we were making progress and could see our way clear to a democratic government and peace in that country, maybe it's worth the money. But that's nowhere on the horizon....


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

War Not Lost? Dems Buy Into Bush Doubletalk Spin On Iraq, Jerry Politex

Whatever Bush plans to do about Iraq, it's pretty clear what he's done about presidential PR about Iraq: he's launched a three-pronged spin by long time Bush family friend James Baker, longtime Bush family friend Robert Gates, and longtime Bush yes man, General Peter Pace. The spin is we're not winning in Iraq, but we're going to stay there a long time, and watch more lives and more money go down the drain....That way, Bush, himself, won't have to admit that he's not winning the war, when the facts on the ground suggest that he's lost it, which no one, including the Dems, is willing to admit. To indicate the kind of doubletalk that passes for BushAdmin strategy these days, the NYT reports that Baker's group, of which Gates is a member, "is expected to propose that American combat troops be pulled back from Iraq, but not necessarily withdrawn, by sometime in 2008." The real Bush strategy appears to be to prolong the war until he leaves office, while blaming the Dems in Congress for the lost war...Cheney, of course, in his secret bunker, most likely wants Bush to continue doing what he's been doing. Isn't that the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over, and thinking the outcome will be different.

President Bush’s nominee to be defense secretary won a key Senate committee endorsement yesterday, hours after testifying, according to the New York Times, that the United States was not losing the war in Iraq, but it isn't winning it, either, and that the U.S. will stay in Iraq "for a long time."....Listening selectively, the Dem minority leader on the committee, Carl Levin, called Gates' testimony a “necessary, refreshing breath of reality." According to NYT reporter David Stout, "Senator Levin was one of 31 senators, all Democrats, who opposed Mr. Gates’s nomination to head the C.I.A. 15 years ago."

While nothing Gates has done since appears to have changed his politics and view of the world, all the Dem lemmings on the Committee voted for his passage to the full Senate: Carl Levin, Ranking Minority Member Michigan; Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts; Robert Byrd, West Virginia; Joe Lieberman, Connecticut; Jack Reed, Rhode Island; Daniel Akaka, Hawaii; Bill Nelson, Florida; Ben Nelson, Nebraska; Mark Dayton, Minnesota; Evan Bayh, Indiana; Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York...How many of these Dems plan to run for President in 2008?...

I'm saddened for those Bush Watch readers who assured me prior to the elections that the Dems would turn over a new leaf if they were to take back Congress. Since they did so, Nancy Pelosi has gone on record as opposing any attempt by her party to impeach Bush, they have indicated through aides that they will not oppose Bush's MCA2006 bill that killed habeas corpus, and now this, which pretty much speaks for itself about where they're willing to say Bush's Iraq war stands. What the Dems and Bush are fighting about is not when to leave Iraq, but who's going to be blamed for losing the war. To paraphrase Gates' doubletalk on Iraq, none of these Senators deserve to lose the Dem nomination for president, but none of them deserve to win it, either.

Iraq War: Gen. Pace and Nominee Gates Say What Bush, Rummy Don't (excerpts), Maureen Dowd

First Junior took over the house with grandiose plans to remodel it and make it the envy of the neighborhood. But then he played with matches and set the house on fire. So now he’s frantically trying to stop the flames from torching the whole block. The Bush administration has gone from a breathless plan to change the Middle East to a breathless plan to preserve it, from democracy promotion to conflagration avoidance. That was the cold shower offered yesterday by Robert Gates, the former C.I.A. chief, on his way to being unanimously endorsed as the new defense secretary by a Senate panel craving a cold shower.

He told the Armed Services Committee, peppered with wannabe future presidents, that the American occupation could lead to a Baghdad as hostile as Tehran, and set off “a regional conflagration” if Iraq is not deftly handled in the next couple of years. Mr. Gates asserted that if America left Iraq in chaos, Iran and Syria could encroach more, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia might jump in to stop the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis by Shiites. “We’re already seeing Hezbollah involved in training fighters for Iraq,” he said. “I think all of that could spread fairly dramatically.”

It was the sort of realistic assessment that never came from Rummy, except when he privately admitted in a classified Nov. 6 memo that their Iraq strategy was “not working well enough or fast enough,”...: “Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”... Junior took the advice to manage perceptions by minimizing Rummy two days after he sent the memo. The walls had closed in on W.; he could no longer minimize the war, which was escalating, or the perception that it was not going well, which had spread into Republican ranks. Even Gen. Peter Pace, yes man that he is, acknowledged on Monday that “We’re not winning but we’re not losing.”

The old criticisms of whether Mr. Gates massaged intelligence were forgotten; the senators would have embraced an ax-murderer if he had seemed sensible about Iraq. There was no blathering yesterday about “known unknowns” or “Henny Penny” pessimists. The soft-spoken, vanilla Mr. Gates offered a sharp contrast from the finger-wagging, flavorful Rummy. In a remarkable shift from the mindless bellicosity and jingoism of the last few years, Mr. Gates said he did not favor military action against Iran or Syria.

Even though he was a member of the Iraq Study Group, Mr. Gates conceded that there would be no silver bullet. “It’s my impression that, frankly, there are no new ideas on Iraq,” he said. Asked by Robert Byrd who was responsible for 9/11, Saddam or Osama, Mr. Gates did not try to fudge. “Osama bin Laden, Senator,” he replied. Asked who has represented a greater threat to the U.S., he repeated “Osama bin Laden.” W. insisted to Fox News’s Brit Hume on Monday that his “objective hadn’t changed” and that “we’re going to succeed in Iraq.” Asked by Carl Levin if America was winning in Iraq, Mr. Gates answered, “No, sir.”...


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Op-Eds: Hall, Hirschhorn, Uhler, Floyd, Mickey Z., Redbeard

Letter From Canada: New Liberal Leader Is Intelligent, Focused, And Squeaky Clean, Terri Hall

Maybe the jury's still out for Bush on evolution and for Harper on the environment but the Liberal convention in Montreal this weekend proved, if nothing else, that the juries are in for Canadians; indeed, they have rendered their verdicts and gone home. Whether it seems naive or idealistic, to Canadians it is all about the enviornment and social issues. Period. Now, it's time to get down to business and deal with the problems without double-talk, spinning or whining. In picking Stephane Dion to lead the Liberal Party and ultimately face Stephen Harper across a ballot, the Liberal party showed a definite understanding of the complex issues facing both Canada and the world. Dion is intelligent, focused and squeaky clean. His vision of a united Canada leading the world in sustainable enviornmental policy and progressive social responsibility will find favor with the cynics of the party, the Bloc and even the old party leaders. Though he may seem to be dull, against the boring, preachy and barely lukewarm Harper, Dion will appear quite animated. And if he doesn't, who cares. Animation isn't going to get 1.5 feet of snow and ice off my sidewalk, put out the fires in California, stop the thaw in the Artic or ease the winds and rains in southeast Asia. A passionate environmentalist who can put his country and the good of the future above the ennui and power of politics as usual, deserves both reasoned consideration and support.

Manipulative Centrism: Honest Centrism for Populist Democracy, Joel S. Hirschhorn

The United States has lost its center through destructive centrifugal politics. America seems spinning out of control. It has become a non-populist, dollar-driven, elitist democracy. Centrism can be a powerful metaphor and tool for national renewal, if it is also populist. In the world of politics, language is used to deceive, distract and divide. Some words become so abused that they lose meaning. In recent years, enormous numbers of liberals and Democrats decided to hide under the label of "progressive." Many politicians want to be seen as "moderates." A newer subterfuge is "centrist." Someone wrote this on a blog discussion: "Centrism is an empty, contentless label that by its very nature is without substance or ideology. What is the centrist position on heathcare reform, half way between the left and right? What is its position on defense spending, ditto? Someone, please, tell me what centrism is?" It was a good point and question....

NYT Understates: The Influence of Feith's "Gestapo Office" in the Run-up to War, Walter C. Uhler

In his ground-breaking April 28, 2004, New York Times article about Douglas Feith's Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group (PCEG) - which Secretary of State Colin Powell privately called "Feith's Gestapo office" - James Risen detailed the Group's efforts to find links connecting Saddam Hussein with al Qeada's terrorists, in order to make a clearer case for the invasion of Iraq. As Mr. Risen notes, both the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA discounted (had already examined and dismissed) the so-called evidence that the Gestapo office was "uncovering."

But rather than demonstrating that the Gestapo office actually prevailed over the legitimate and ultimately correct Intelligence Community, and thus provided a central justification for war, Risen then undercut his reporting by erroneously concluding that "the Bush administration ultimately decided that the terrorism link was not strong enough to use as the central rationale for war." Now, Mr. Risen has done it again, in his November 28, 2006 Times puff piece on Chris Carney, the recently elected Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania -- and former member of Feith's Gestapo office. Rather than using the occasion to reexamine the impact of the Gestapo office, by grilling Congressman-elect Carney, Mr. Risen gave him a platform for dismissing the affair....

The House of Death: Across the Borderline, Chris Floyd

This is a dirty story, about as dirty as it gets. It's a story of top government officials knowingly, deliberately, willingly countenancing a string of horrific murders – then punishing decent, law-abiding colleagues who tried to work through the proper channels in order to rectify the government's egregious complicity and ensure such barbarity wouldn't happen again. Those who sought to do right were beaten down. Those who covered up the truth, and the crimes – and even dismissed the multiple murder charges when they finally came to light – were hardwired into the very center of the country's political power grid, with close, long-time ties to the national leader himself. And no, this story did not take place in the vasty deeps of Putin's Kremlin, or in the seething violence of Baghdad's fissuring Green Zone government, or some failing state in the Horn of Africa – it happened, and is still happening, in the United States, in the government of George W. Bush....

What we're up against: Lessons from Guatemala, Mickey Z.

There are many battles being fought in the name of social justice...some more pitched than others. In general, however, these struggles do not result in victory thanks to a petition, a candlelight vigil, or a ballot pull. In other words, those seeking peace, justice, and solidarity should never underestimate the relentless and brutal power of what they are up against. I am reminded of this every time I re-read Bridge of Courage: Life Stories of the Guatemalan Compañeros and Compañeras," (Common Courage Press, 1995) an amazing book by Jennifer Harbury....

Satire: On Greed, Self-Interest, and Enlightened Oppression, Ragnar Redbeard III

Guided by the brilliant foresight of Hamilton, manacled by men like Keynes, Galbraith, and FDR, and ultimately granted a refreshing degree of freedom by the heroic intellectual efforts of Rand and Friedman, Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” has wrought a citadel for those wishing to pursue healthy greed, self-interest, and enlightened oppression. While Capitalism in the United States is still afflicted with the diseases of a mixed economy, government regulation and socialistic tendencies, America’s socioeconomic system is far superior to any rival, past or present. Yet despite having propelled the human family to the zenith of prosperity, technology, and freedom, American Capitalism has been, and remains, under constant siege....


Monday, December 4, 2006

Foreign Policy: Baby Bush and The Baker Man, Jerry Politex

Pattycake, Pattycake, I'm the Baker man,
I can fix Iraq like nobody can;
I'll cut it, mix it, mark it with a W,
Spin it to our media so it won't trouble you;
Served up to Baby Bush at his next sup,
I stand near his highchair as he throws it up.

Progress Report: Dem Party Defense of Habeas Corpus "Unlikely", Jerry Politex

"Since the Middle Ages, habeas corpus—'You should have the body'—has been the principal means in Anglo-American jurisprudence by which prisoners can challenge their incarceration. In habeas-corpus proceedings, the government is required to bring a prisoner—the body—before a judge and provide a legal rationale for his continued imprisonment. The concept was so well established at the time of the founding of the American Republic that the framers of the Constitution allowed suspensions of the right only under narrow circumstances.

"This fall...Congress passed, and President Bush signed, a new law banning the four hundred and thirty detainees held at the American naval base at Guantánamo Bay, and other enemy combatants, from filing writs of habeas corpus. The law, known as the Military Commissions Act of 2006, was a logical culmination of an era of one-party rule in Washington. During the Presidency of George W. Bush, the executive branch, with the eager acquiescence of its Republican allies in Congress, has essentially dared the courts to defend the rights of the suspected Al Qaeda terrorists, who have been held at Guantánamo, some for as long as four years. The Supreme Court has twice taken up that challenge and forced the Administration to change tactics; the new law represented a final attempt to remove the detainees from the purview of the Court. Now, of course, Republicans no longer control Congress, but the change in the law of habeas corpus may be permanent." (Jeffrey Tobin.

During the legislative process, ranking committee democatic Patrick Leahy said, "Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat, spoke next. “Today we’re addressing the single most consequential provision in this much discussed bill. This provision would perpetuate the indefinite detention of hundreds of individuals, against whom the government has brought no charges and presented no evidence and without any recourse to justice whatsoever. That is un-American. This is un-American.” Tobin reports, however, that the habeas-corpus portion of the Military Commissions Act was made more repressive by the time it was voted on: "The final version stated that any alien (that is, non-American citizen) who had been seized anywhere and charged with being an enemy combatant would be denied the right to petition for habeas corpus. The definition of “enemy combatant” was also expanded, to include not just those who took up arms but financial supporters of the terrorist cause as well."

During this period in a Buhsh Watch essay entitled, "Does the Bush 'Enabling Act' Only Apply to Non-Citizens?" a NYT editorial was quoted: "Enemy Combatants: A dangerously broad definition of ''illegal enemy combatant'' in the bill could subject legal residents of the United States, as well as foreign citizens living in their own countries, to summary arrest and indefinite detention with no hope of appeal. The president could give the power to apply this label to anyone he wanted....All Mr. Bush would have to do to lock anyone up forever is to declare him an illegal combatant and not have a trial," the NYT editors write." After looking at the act, itself (MC2006), we concluded:

Here's the problem: According to MCA2006, you could be a U.S. citizen identified as an "unlawful enemy combatant," and you're arrested. You say you're a U.S. citizen, and the law does not apply to you. The authorities will say that under the new law you will not be told why you have been arrested, you don't have the right to an attorney, you're not allowed to communicate with anyone about your case, you will not have a trial, and you can be kept in prison under those conditions indefinitely. Given your knowledge of the history of the Bush Administration, for instance, its documented abuse of the Patriot Act, do you have faith that the above could not happen to you? Since it's up to Bush, and Bush alone, to decide who is an "unlawful enemy combatant," he has become the dictator that he once said he wanted to be.

As Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman writes, the legislation: "authorizes the president to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once thrown into military prison, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights." Keith Olberman and legal scholar Jonathan Turley also assume (see videos aove) that the newly-signed Bush law MCA2006 applies to all U.S. citizens, anyone, not just a limited class of "other legal United States residents." The NYT editorial quoted above agrees. Other than the Catch-22 of just arresting a U.S. citizen and calling him an "enemy combatant," other words can be used to mean "enemy combatant" when a U.S. citizen's behavior does not reach the legal level of the term, according to a recent Nov. 27 AP story by Calvin Woodward:

"The libertarian Cato Institute recently took on the rising tide of fuzzy words in the fight against terrorism, arguing that whatever people think of what the government is doing, it would help to understand what the government is doing. That is no easy task when the administration offers tortured definitions of torture, describes suicide by captives as "self-injurious behavior incidents" and labeled at least one suspect an "imperative security internee" when it became constitutionally questionable to hold him as an "enemy combatant." Under MCA2006, that "imperative security internee" would not have the right to appear in court to argue the constitutionality of being called an "enemy combatant." Further, it's more likely that, like the BushAdmin abuses of the Patriot Act, the meaning of "enemy combatant" will be expanded to fit the circumstances. One GOP congressman has gone so far as to suggest we define anyone who breaks any federal law an "eenemy combatant."

After Congress voted in MCA2006 in late September, we asked, "Is it time to eradicate the Democratic Party? We wrote:

Our political position has always been that the Democratic Party, being a co-dependent party in our corporate and corrupt two-party system, isn't much, but it's all we have, so it's better to vote Dem and get something than vote third party and get nothing. If, in 2000, the Greens, the Naderites, and Michael Moore had put their troops behind Gore, he would have won the electoral vote as well as the popular vote and we wouldn't be where we are today.

And where are we? Since then, our research shows, nearly 50% of the Senate Dems vote Republican on key legislation nearly 50% of the time. Right now, we're sitting in Amsterdam, far from home, trying to absorb a Dem-aided Senate vote that, along with a previous Dem-aided House vote, has pretty much put a stake through the heart of our Constitutional freedoms. "In the 253 to 168 roll call by which the House voted to pass a bill giving the president authority to detain, interrogate and try terrorism suspects before military commissions, 219 Republicans and 34 Democrats voted for the bill, while 160 Democrats, seven Republicans and one independent voted against it." (WP) In the Senate, what we call the Bush Torture act, "passed by a vote of 65 to 34 after senators rejected four amendments supported mostly by Democrats." (WP) These votes have destroyed many of the basic ideas that we have used for centuries to identify what makes us American.

We concluded: "Here at Bush Watch we believe that if the Democratic Party can't defend our basic Constitutional freedoms, it has no reason to exist. Not only have Senate Democrats refused to filibuster against this law that tears out the very heart of our democracy, 12 Democrats voted for it: Carper, Johnson, Landrieu, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Menendez, Nelson (FL), Nelson (NE), Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, and Stabenow. According to the editors of the Washington Post, "Congress has allowed itself to be stampeded into a vote on hastily written but far-reaching legal provisions, in a preelection climate in which dissenters risk being labeled as soft on terrorism....Democrats...have been largely and cravenly absent from this month's debate..."

"Everyone has a breaking point, a point where one says, enough is enough. Have we reached that point? Clearly, it's not enough to attempt to defeat those 12 Democrats that voted to destroy our democracy, for others with the same un-American beliefs will rise in their places, be they Republicans or Democrats. Is it time to send a clear and unambiguous signal to the Democratic Party that, even though it's presently a minority party, we will not continue to allow it to sell off our country, one dictatorial bill after the other, to allow Democrats to remain in office and serve as a false opposition to the ongoing Republican destruction of our democracy? Is it time to stop voting Democratic, hoping for the best, and being disappointed? Is it time to eradicate the Democratic Party and abandon the illusion of choice? is it time to send the only message that politicians understand? Is it time to say "no" to every single Democratic Party politician in the nation? Is it time for a painful regeneration?

"If our present direction continues, eventually we could very well reach the time when the Democratic Party will have nothing to trade away, when the three branches of government no longer exist as a system of checks and balances, when the power of government is in the hands of a dictatorial president, when all Americans are judged under legislation applied to terrorists. Is now the time to act? Please let us know what you think."

And the e-mails poured in, some accusing us of being in the GOP camp by raising such a question right before the elections. Our response was that we were raising the question right after the vote in which the Democratic Party sold us out. A number of the more outspoken critics against us asking such a question at such a sensitive time assured us that backing the Dems would be a wise move, since if they were to come to power, the would surely rescind those portions of MCA2006 that destroyed Habeas Corpus and provided Bush with dictatorial power. According to (Jeffrey Tobin, that's "unlikely":

"[Dem Senator Patrick] Leahy, the incoming chairman of the Judiciary Committee, voted against the Military Commissions Act and denounced its habeas provisions in especially harsh terms. But there are no signs that the new Democratic majority will take on habeas corpus anytime soon. Few Democratic politicians seem enthusiastic about proposing legislation that will principally benefit accused Al Qaeda terrorists, and, in the unlikely event that Democrats passed such a bill, it would face a certain veto from President Bush. The Supreme Court—not Congress—is likely to be the only hope for a change in the law. “This is definitely not going to be the first thing out of the box for us,” one Democratic Senate staffer said. “We make fun of Specter, but we’re basically leaving it up to the Courts, too.” The Bush-rigged Courts, that is.


Weekend Edition: Friday, December 1, 2006

Op-Eds: Rockstroh, Velvel, Floyd (2), Clothier, Mickey Z., Baroud, Ross, Stanish, Bromage

Prisoners of Envy: Wal*Mart Nihilism Versus the Punk Rock of Blogging, Phil Rockstroh

The Holiday Season has arrived, unfolding before us, like a cheap vinyl wallet, here in The United States of American Express. The days spill forth, their hours comprised of shopping and shooting sprees, of retail and retaliation. Jingle bells and the crackle of gunfire. This is the way an empire falls, with armies of confused killers abroad and legions of killer clowns at home. A decade and half ago, we watched smugly as The Kremlin came undone. Yet, somehow we believe ourselves to be immune from the rot that causes empires to collapse from within....While it was damn silly for Soviet aesthetes to go into a poetic swoon over farm equipment, somehow, the act of going collectively round-heeled over electronic appliances (including jealous rages that lead to homicidal outbursts) doesn't seem like the sort of communal practices that will allow an empire to endure for long....

Pretending That November 7th Never Happened: Is George Bush Sane?, Lawrence R. Velvel

This blogger is not the first to say that, since daybreak of November 8th, much of Washington, D.C. and its satellite media have been engaged in an effort to insure that in reality nothing changes in regard to Iraq, in an effort to pretend, that is, that November 7th never happened. There are legislators and pundits, even some new Democratic legislators apparently, telling us, as with Viet Nam, that more American troops are what is needed. There are people warning us, as with Viet Nam, that disasters are aborning if we pull out. There are people telling us, as with Viet Nam if memory serves, that we should set timetables to get out. There are people like Bush telling us, as with Viet Nam, that we must stay the course. As was asserted here two weeks ago but was confirmed only in recent days, the Iraq Study Group met with the Pretexter-In-Chief so that he could pitch them not to go off the reservation, and his pitch was stay the course. There are people saying, as with the South Viet Namese government, that we can get out only when and after the Iraqi government becomes effective, which, again as with South Viet Nam, will obviously never happen. We have people saying we should enlist Iran and Syria -- now former members of the former axis of evil, apparently -- to help us end the disaster in Iraq, the disaster which they helped create, from which they benefit, and which there is no known reason for them to want to bring to an end. (One might even say that the current American administration of bullies and cowards, who ran and hid from Viet Nam and who keep their families safe from Iraq, first called Iran and Syria names but now have to beg them for help. Nice people, these bullies and cowards. Smart too.) There are leading Democrats saying (pace November 7th) that impeachment of the Pretexter-In-Chief, for his crimes and lies is off the table....

Hideous Kinky: The Genocidal Fury of Thomas Friedman, ChrisFloyd

You would think that by now we would have "supp'd full with horrors" on the New York Times op-ed pages. What could be worse than the atrocities that have filled those gray columns in the past few years, the loud brays for war, the convoluted excuses for presidential tyranny, the steady murmur of chin-stroking bullshit meant to comfort the comfortable elite and confirm them -- at all times, at any cost -- in their well-wadded self-righteousness? Surely, you would think, we have seen the worst. If this was your thought, then alas, alas, alack the day, you were bitterly mistaken, my friend. Comes now before us the portly, fur-lipped figure of Thomas Friedman, Esq., who today has penned what must be the most morally hideous and deeply racist column ever to appear in those rarefied journalistic precincts: "Ten Months or Ten Years."...

Bush and Maliki: The Un-Snub, Peter Clothier

I think I know a snub when I see one, Bush. I'm a Brit. We've been practitioners of this not-so-subtle art for centuries. It's in the blood, along with the stiff upper lip, the nose in the air, and the inbred knowledge of who's who and what's what. And--sorry, Bush--no matter how you slice this one, no matter how your palace people spin it, this was a snub. You hop on your Air Force One amid great advance hoohah, you make a stopover in Latvia to get a kiss of approval from the lady president there and tell your NATO partners--unsuccessfully, it seems--that you're expecting more from them by way of help to fix your other problem in Afghanistan; and then on through the darkening skies to fulfill the purpose of your odyssey--that meeting with al-Maliki--and you find out just before you land that he has decided to postpone it. Now that's a snub. (I suspect he was smarting, Bush, from that report that your people leaked to the New York Times before you left--the one in which your national security advisor questioned his competence and authority. And who could blame him?)...

Vietnam, Iraq: The M Word, Mickey Z.

Jimmy Carter was the latest to use the M Word. The former president said he believes the "occupancy of Iraq and all the consequences of it are a big mistake." This echoes John Kerry's infamous 1971 question: "How do you ask a man to die for a mistake?" Hmm...perhaps recalling a few details about the Vietnam "mistake" might shine some light on the Iraq "blunder."...

Hebron Child Abuse: Ethnic Cleansing and Israel’s Racist Discourse, Ramzy Baroud

“The term ethnic cleansing refers to various policies of forcibly removing people of another ethnic group. At one end of the spectrum, it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population transfer, while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide.” According to this definition, and others including those emerging in the 1990s, following the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, Palestinians have been and remain victims of a determined and unwavering ethnic cleansing policy that began in 1947-48 and continues until today. However, it is important that when we examine the subject of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, we take into account its various dimensions, one of which is the accompanying racist discourse, which has become part and parcel of Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies....

Turkey: Ghosts of Massacred Armenians Could Haunt Chances To Join EU, Sherwood Ross

Turkey’s bid to join the European Union could suffer by its refusal to admit the genocide of its Armenian Christian population nearly a century ago. When European Union leaders meet in Brussels Dec. 14-15, the debate to admit Turkey likely will hinge on, among other issues, its failure to open its ports and airports to Cyprus, which opposes all talk of membership. The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and France are cool to admitting Turkey and are backing Cyprus. Lingering in the background, though, will be the ghosts of the Armenian genocide, a crime Turkey has denied at every turn and is still “investigating” to this day.....

Strange liberators indeed: Imperialism and rogue states you want to hate, Macdonald Stainsb

Strange Liberators: Militarism, Mayhem, and the Pursuit of Profit By Gregory Elich. If the reader comes to this timely book believing much of the stories about Western good intentions or “rogue state” nefariousness, it will be a bitter pill to swallow as these chapters are each backed up with a tremendous wealth of citations from reputable news outlets, including primarily “statements against interest.” Yet even if the reader is one who already is critical or suspicious of imperialism, the wealth of new information will open eyes yet further -- and even challenge many perceptions already held. Simply put, this is a book not to be missed, and to be lent to all who will read it....

Bush Nuts: Are George W. Bush lovers certifiable?, Andy Bromage

A collective “I told you so” will ripple through the world of Bush-bashers once news of Christopher Lohse’s study gets out. Lohse, a social work master’s student at Southern Connecticut State University, says he has proven what many progressives have probably suspected for years: a direct link between mental illness and support for President Bush....

Pale fire, London fog: Putin actually benefits least from Litvinenko murder, ChrisFloyd

Everyone knows that Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko was killed by radiation poisoning in London last month. But beyond that bare fact, almost nothing is clear about the case. The truth has disappeared, probably forever, into the shadowlands - that murky confluence of crime, violence, money and politics where so much of the real business of the world is conducted. However, an examination of some of the curiously overlooked aspects of the affair might send at least a few shafts of light into the cloud of unknowing that has enveloped Litvinenko's death. Of course, one of the chief obstacles in assessing the situation is the fact that almost everything we knew about the case for weeks was spoon-fed to the media by the most elite PR operation in Britain....


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