Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Benign Idiopathic Seizure

Regarding Chief Justice John Robert's illness, translating doctorese into English.
  • Seizure ~ A sudden attack or convulsion due to involuntary electrical activity in the brain.
  • Idiopathic ~ Of or relating to a disease having no known cause.
  • Benign ~ Not life-threatening or severe.
Layman's Translation: We don't know what happened to the Chief Justice's brain but it's not important.

It's Not the Surge, It's the Heat

There is right-wing chest thumping over the drop in American deaths in July (74) compared to June (101). See, they are saying, the surge is working. Sorry, combat activity always declines in July; it's the heat. Today, the high temperature in Baghdad was 120 degrees F.

The five year average for July Iraq War deaths is 49; the average June deaths is 62. Don't mistake summertime lulls for victory.

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Necessary Step

The impeachment of Alberto Gonzales is a necessary step for Congress to take. First, they cannot stand idly by and allow a Constitutional officer to perjure himself repeated before Congressional committees. Second, this step throws Executive Privilege out the window. For Bush to prevent that his aides from testifying during an impeachment investigation is Obstruction of Justice. I doubt even the Roberts Supreme Court would back Bush on that. Gonzales will resign before it comes to that.

It is vital that the Senate not recess during the remainder of Bush's term lest Bush uses that opportunity to make a Recess Appointment, replacing Gonzales with and even bigger sycophant. My guess is, if given the chance, Bush will replace Gonzales with Harriet Miers.

Coup prediction: I put the odds at 20 to 1 against that Bush will try to use Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution. It would require a twisted interpretation of the text (but he has done that before) and would be nothing short of declaring a dictatorship. Still, for the first time in my life I can't completely rule it out.
he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses (of Congress), or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper


Every year around this time I am faced with a dilemma. I can be wide awake to experience all of the suffering that my various allergies can inflict on me - sinus pain so acute you would think Dick Cheney himself had ordered it and itchy skin that makes every stitch of clothing feels like course grade sandpaper. Or, I can take the only antihistamine I have every discovered that works to relieve my symptoms. The dilemma is I can't enjoy a symptomless life while sound asleep, which is that drug's principal side effect on me. So, I can choose to be alert, wide awake, and miserable or comfortably dopey.

Yes, I've tried Benadryl, bloody joke of a medicine if you ask me.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Peeking Down the Memory Hole

Keeping track of the truth is difficult when facts are have been reduced to chimeric blips of electronic data. Let's look back at what was said a few years back.

Bush on the Middle East

Feb. 26, 2003 speech to the American Enterprise Institute: "Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern peace, and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian state. The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training, and offers rewards to families of suicide bombers."
Reality: Palestine, in democratic elections, elected Hamas which is currently engaged in a civil war with Fatah. Terror networks and suicide bombers in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Iraq are thriving as never before because of the Iraq War.

Time Jan. 14, 2002: "With the Taliban vanquished, Bush has to start worrying about political enemies at home."
Reality: The Taliban is resurgent and now threatens not only Afghanistan but Pakistan as well.

Alberto on SCOTUS
Slate July 12, 2005: "When you stop to think about it, the general consensus that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is the Supreme Court candidate whom liberals should root for is pretty head-spinning."
Reality: Stop and think about it. Just two short years ago there was talk that Gonzales was heading for the Supreme Court and that liberals should be grateful for it. Stop and think about a Supreme Court with Gonzo on it.

Bin Laden - Dead or Alive

CNN Sept. 17, 2001: "I want justice," Bush said. "And there's an old poster out West… I recall, that said, 'Wanted, Dead or Alive.'"
Fox News Dec. 26, 2001: "Bin Laden Already Dead"
Reality: Al Jazeera April 25, 2007: "Mullah Dadullah, a senior Taliban commander, has told Al Jazeera in an exclusive interview that Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda's leader, is alive."

Iraq War
Ken Adelman Feb. 13, 2002: "
liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." and "This President Bush does not need to amass rinky-dink nations as "coalition partners" to convince the Washington establishment that we're right." and "Measured by any cost-benefit analysis, such an operation would constitute the greatest victory in America's war on terrorism."
Reality: Iraq has been a cakewalk only if the frosting was made with nitro. This Bush did, in fact, need to amass rinky-dink nations as coalition partners. They were way, way more rinky-dink than Iraq War I in 1991. Anymore great victories like this and we are doomed.

William Kristol & Robert Kagan March 22, 2004: "This is a far cry from the predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath."
Reality: Feuding clans, check. Things would have to improve to become a bloodbath. Looks like our pre-war predictions were spot on.

Ruud Lubbers Dec. 27, 2002: "Believe me, it (Iraq War) will be a disaster from a humanitarian perspective," Ruud Lubbers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said in a BBC interview.
Reality: He was right. There are about 4 million Iraqi refugees from the war.

Hillary Clinton Nov. 29, 2003
: the United States "must stay the course" in both Afghanistan and Iraq and called for more military personnel to finish the job.
Dec. 15, 2003 speaking to the Council of Foreign Relations: "I worry a lot about how difficult it will be in the political arena to stay the course."
Reality: It was not until June, 2006 than Clinton called for a withdrawal (phased) from Iraq. Before then, she was pro-"stay the course".

Thursday, July 26, 2007

In Defense of Alberto Gonzales

Yesterday I went on an extensive safari of the right-wing blogosphere seeking out defenders of Alberto Gonzales. It was a difficult journey made more so by my need for frequent breaks to wash my hands, shower, and gargle with antiseptic mouthwash. I also took one bath in antiseptic mouthwash (for a while I smelled minty fresh) because I felt so yucky wading through their crap. Still, there are a few defenders out there.
  • He makes a great punching bag. By far this is the most frequent defense. Gonzales may be a liar, incompetent, and a craven idiot, but as long as Democrats are attacking him they can't attack Bush. (This is based on the false assumption that Democrats are not capable of multi-tasking.)
  • He is no worse than Janet Reno. Given that Reno is the Republican's most hated AG that is hardly praise. Usually this defense is tied to the type of fond remembrance of the Waco Wackos (the Branch Davidians who murdered government agents in 1993) that inspired Tim McVeigh to blow up a government building in Oklahoma City.
  • He didn't "lie" so much as he was just deliberately "misleading." Based on the belief that there a difference between the two. Legally, there isn't.
  • At least he didn't lie about sex. For a Constitutional Officer to lie under oath to Congress about his acts in office is a forgivable sin compared to blow jobs.
  • Clinton did it; whatever 'it' is at the moment. Apparently, Republicans now believe that Bill Clinton had the model presidency against which all others ought to be judged.
  • Gonzales is the victim of a "perjury trap." This defense contents that wily Senators trapped Gonzales into committing perjury by the unfair tactic of asking him questions when they knew he was going to lie.
Conclusion - This was a hard slog because most Republicans are trying desperately to believe that Alberto Gonzales does not exist. I had to wade through a disgusting swamp of over 50 websites to find a handful of defenders. Even his most rabid (defined as "affected with or pertaining to rabies; mad") defenders believe he is a liar (although in a good way), incompetent, and/or an ignorant twit (again, they mean that in a good way). One defender even wrote that "there is nothing criminal about being a buffoon."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What's a Fellow Gotta Do to Get Impeached?

Alberto Gonzales Department
  • Perjury - check
  • Obstruction of Justice - check
  • Criminal Conspiracy - check
  • Violate innumerable laws - check
  • Violate the Constitution - check
  • Violate his oath to defend the Constitution - check
  • All of the above repeated on a daily basis - check
You've got to admit, the guy's been trying. The only thing he hasn't done is rape a puppy on Senator Leahy's desk. And Congress has shown an excess tolerance in allowing this gangster to remain in office without check.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bush Hasn't Hit Bottom Yet

Via Pollster.com, the latest ABC/Washington Post poll (pdf file) puts Bush's disapproval mark at 65%. Since the end of World War II the lowest disapproval polling was 66% for Richard Nixon just before he resigned. Bush is within the margin of error of the worst disapproval polling in recorded history. Half the nation, 52%, strongly disapprove of Bush.

Bush's Bitsy Base
Bush's base is a tiny 16%. That is how many Americans want to increase the American military force in Iraq. Fify-six percent want a deadline for Iraq withdrawal and two-thirds of them want to withdraw even if the result will be al Qaeda terrorist bases in Iraq or an Iraqi civil war.

Take Away Bush's Toy
As I have surmised, the public dissatisfaction with Congress is entirely due to its inability/unwillingness to take Bush's war toys away from him. Sixty percent want Congress to have the final say on the Iraq War; only 30% want Bush to have that power. About half, 49%, believe Democrats in Congress are not doing enough to end the Iraq War. The other half is split between Democrats who oppose the war but support the Democrats in Congress and pro-war Republicans who oppose the very idea of Congress.

The Rise of Cheney
Well, not really rise, but for the first time I can remember Cheney's polling numbers are better than Bush's. Cheney's approval is 34% (Bush is 33%); his disapproval number is 59% (Bush is 65%). Even the Dark Lord is more popular than George Bush.

Serial Monarchy

Earlier I compared presidential Executive Orders to Royal Decrees in that such orders are laws enacted by presidential fiat. These orders can, and do, violate laws passed by Congress and even the Constitution with impunity. The United States of America is no longer a democracy or a republic, it is a Serial Monarchy. It is evolving into a Serial Hereditary Monarchy.

When we elect a president we elect a king, a king with more unilateral powers than George III had in England during the American Revolution. A 16th century British King needed the Parliament to enact the laws he wanted. King George Bush II has proven this year that he can do anything he wishes and Congress is powerless to stop him. The American King may have limited reigns. They may be chosen by election every four years, although the past two elections bring up the question whether they are free elections or just empty charades designed to hide the oligarchical nature of the selection process.
The current frontrunner for America's next monarch is Hillary Clinton. Waiting in the wings is the Jeb Bush for President movement - King Bush III. If both of these scenarios play out, from 1988 through 2024 the presidency would have passed back and forth between two families for 38 years. The United States will have become a Serial Hereditary Monarchy as the presidency is passed from father to son, from husband to wife, from brother to brother.

I want to say that there is something Un-American about this except it is an uniquely American invention. It is a governmental structure that would disgust Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. It is as similar to the democracy they helped create as an ant is similar to a horse.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

American Religious Cults

From 19th through 20th centuries the United States was fertile ground for cultivating every imaginable religious sects and here are my five favorite All-American religious cults.

1. Oneida Community
Weirdness Factor: Free Sex
The Oneida Community was founded in New York in 1848. Stripping away all the idealistic rhetoric about perfectionism, it was a sex cult. Their philosophy of Complex Marriage meant that every man is married to every woman and, hence, anyone can have sex with anyone else. Love and pair bonding was discouraged. John and Jane could not just have sex exclusively with each other; the Community would compel them to share the bounty. The Community had special rules (Ascending Fellowship) so the old geezers had exclusive rights to deflower the hot young girls while the geezerettes got the randy teenage boys to themselves.

2. Church of Scientology
Weirdness Factor: It's science fiction
The only religion with a scripture that was first published in a science fiction magazine. The first appearance of L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics belief was printed in 1950 in Astonishing Science Fiction magazine. Three years later, in 1953, Hubbard founded a religion around it. I'm reluctant to write more because Scientologists have been known to harass people they consider "Suppressive Persons."

3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)
Weirdness Factor: Polygamy
Founded in New York in 1830, everybody knows that polygamy (plural marriage) was a founding article of faith. Mitt Romney's great-grandfather had five wives while founder Joseph Smith had 27 wives and Brigham Young had 51. Unlike the Oneidans, this was a one way deal. Women couldn't have multiple husbands. In 1890 as the price for Utah statehood, the Mormons banned plural marriage, although church members were able to keep any multiple wives they already had. The practice of polygamy continues today within offshoot Mormon sects.
Less well known is Mormonism's inherent racism. Until 1978, the church taught that black skin was the Mark of Cain. Until that date, blacks were considered cursed by God, they were allowed to join the church but were banned from entering the tabernacle. Church teachings still discourage interracial marriages. The Mormon religion is an American-centric religion. It teaches that Jesus came to America after the crucifixion and that the United States is the new Promised Land.

4. Unarius
Weirdness Factor: Space Cult
California in general, and San Diego specifically, has been a magnet to space cults. I've known about Unarius since I was young; their headquarters is in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon. Founded in 1954, they believe that extraterrestrials are out there and are friendly, God-like creatures. They come to visit us and, when we die, we go to see them. This is a stable, benign organization.
Certainly the most bizarre space cult was another San Diego product, Heaven's Gate. In 1997, 39 of the tiny cult's members, including its founder, committed suicide so they could join the spaceship that was hiding in the tail of the Hale-Bopp comet.

5. Southern Baptists
Weirdness Factor: Pro-slavery Religion
Before the American Civil War, many religious Northerners had become active abolitionists and were working to end slavery. In the South, the institution of slavery had become a religion. So in 1845, Baptists in the Southern United States split with their Northern brethren solely over the issue of slavery and formed their own church. After the Civil War, the Southern Baptist church became a central base for Ku Klux Klan activities. As the facts around Bob Jones University proves, the 21st century church has not strayed far from its roots.

The University of Virginia has what may be the best compendium of the many different religions and cults in the country.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bush: Obstruction of Justice

Prosecutors and attorneys general however commit obstruction of justice when they fail to prosecute judges and other government officials for malfeasance misfeasance or nonfeasance in office. ~ Wikipedia
The moment George Bush instructed the Justice Department to not "pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials" he has committed a felony, Obstruction of Justice.

This alone is sufficient grounds for impeachment.

Additional thought: Congress should call the Federal district attorney to testify under oath to discover one thing - who (if anyone) has ordered him to not impanel as required by law a grand jury to investigate the "contempt of Congress" charges he has received? His testimony and any written orders to this effect is proof of felony actions by the source.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Executive Order = Royal Decree

The entire practice of Presidential Executive Orders used to govern and punish American citizens is a violation, indeed, a perversion of the Constitution.

The latest is this little nosh as reported by PissedOnPolitics allows the government to confiscate the property of any American deemed to be "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq." Section 5 neatly addresses any Constitutional problems by ruling that the Constitution does not apply.

It is outrageous, of course. With the stroke of a pen Bush has made it illegal to attack his Iraq War. No need to debate the matter in Congress first. None of that bothersome "trial by jury" business. Just a neat, clean Royal Decree that has the force of law with none of those pesky checks and balances.

Many Executive Orders are about internal operations of the Executive Branch such as EO13261 which establishes the order of succession in the event an epidemic starts wiping out the leadership of the EPA. Others are more malignant, like EO13199 that created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives. An entire new federal agency that grants taxpayers money to selected favored groups was created by Royal fiat without so much as a by your leave from Congress. The worst are the Executive Orders that actually write new criminal laws. The notorious EO13425 created an entirely new criminal justice system for trying "enemy combatants."

Then there are the Secret Executive Orders. The evil they do cannot be known. There is the Bush Torture Executive Order and the possible Executive Order declaring war with Iran. The huge NSA spying program was created and operated by secret Executive Order with no congressional involvement whatsoever. There is the secret order to collect "young, fresh virgins" so Bush can feed on their still beating hearts. That's probably a joke; but, I can't know for sure because it is secret.
During time of war or during any other period of national emergency declared by the President, the President may, through any agency that he may designate, or otherwise, investigate, regulate, or prohibit, under such rules and regulations as he may prescribe... ~ Section 5(b) War and Emergency Power Act of 1933
The power of the Executive Order comes from that clause. By simply declaring a "national emergency" the President, any president, grants himself dictatorial powers. For the eight years of the Clinton Presidency conservatives wailed over the death of democracy caused by a constant state of national emergency. With Bush's election they fell silent and even became champions of the Unitary Executive theory. We liberals were the reverse - cheering Clinton's orders while bemoaning Bush's.

The truth is all national emergency Executive Orders are abominations to the Constitution, regardless of the party holding the presidency. Congress must repeal the War and Emergency Power Act and all the many other laws that allow the president to grant himself dictatorial powers. Until that is done this president, and the next one and the one after that, will continue to grant himself the power to rule as a monarch. Although no president, Democrat or Republican, would let such legislation pass without a veto. They all like being king.

Other readings: a conservative viewpoint (pre-Bush); even conservatives are getting scared of Bush; Congressional Research Services report regarding national emergencies (2006); Constant State of Emergency; Bush Power Grab; Civil Liberties (2007)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Notes from the Failed States Index

Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace (full listing) have the 2007 Failed States Index. No surprise that Sudan and Iraq are one and two. It is a measure of how bad things are in Sudan that it manages to edge out Iraq as Worst Hell on Earth. Third place is that experiment is total anarchy, Somalia. Fourth place is the mess that Robert Mugabe has made out of Zimbabwe.

This first interesting placement is Pakistan in 12th place, judged worse than North Korea. A military dictatorship that is both at war with and terrified of their growing ranks of Muslim fundamentalists. Safe haven to Bin Laden and Al Qaeda and close ally of the United States, Pakistan is balanced on a knife's edge. A puff of wind from the wrong direction could tumble Pakistan into the full blown revolt that Al Qaeda's al-Zawahiri has called for. Far more than Iraq, the fate of Pakistan endangers the world.

Iran (57th place, ahead of the Philippines) is looking pretty good even with their oppressive mullahs and Bush's war wish. Israel is 75th place almost entirely because of its ranking in "Group Grievance," the Palestine problem.

Coming in at 160th place is the United States; but, there are 177 nations in the ranking so the United States is only the 17th best country in the world. The US scores poorly in Uneven Development because while we have our super-rich we are also uncaring for our multiple millions of desperately poor. Human Rights in the United States is a sore point with the judges and place the US on a par with Rwanda on that account. The US also scores poorly on the issue of Displaced Persons (worse than China), 3.5 million Americans are homeless for some part of the year.

So, what are the best countries in the world? Norway, Finland, and Sweden are, in that order. Canada (10th best) scores better than the United States in ten of the twelve categories.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Texas Christian Hate Murder

The most interesting thing about this story is the last sentence. A Texas man claims that God instructed him to hunt down and kill a gay man. The victim, by all accounts, was a kind man well loved by the people he worked with. The killer has confessed, proudly and without remorse. This killer is a repeat felon; he says he first spoke with God while in prison in 2001. Texas, as we all know, is the world headquarters for harsh justice. The last sentence of the story reads:
He is being held on $500,000 bail.
That means $50,000 bond will free him. Some judge set bail for a confessed murderer. It makes sense if you remember this is Texas. The victim was gay; the murderer, one Terry Mark Mangum, is a white Christian. I guess we can be grateful the murderer was arrested at all. Another source. And, yet another.

More on Texas bail laws. Texas law states that "courts can deny bail when the person is charged with a capital offense and the evidence is clear." I feel certain that a confession to murder amounts to clear evidence. A meaningless tidbit about bail from the Texas Constitution, at 339 words it is one of the worst run-on sentences I have ever encountered, proves what I had previously only guessed. Harriet Miers and Alberto Gonzalez are simply prominent examples of the fact that Texas lawyers are barely literate bumpkins.

Handicapping the Presidential Race - Democrats

Winning the "money primary" doesn't necessarily mean winning a presidential nomination. In 1996, Phil Gramm had more money than the rest of the Republican field before the Iowa caucuses. He ran such a sucky campaign he dropped out of the race before New Hampshire. Still, money is a good way of keeping score before the votes are cast, especially small donations.

Same rules as last before, I'll be offering my odds and, for comparison, in red the odds calculated by the Intrade Trading Exchange.

Hillary Clinton (Sen-NY) - 1.5 to 1 (1.2 to 1)
Seems to be running a solid campaign, although if you go to events you sometimes wonder whether Bill Clinton is running instead. Her fund raising is sufficient to lubricate her expensive campaign staff, she is in no danger of pulling a McCain.

Barack Obama (Sen-IL) - 1.6 to 1 (1.6 to 1)
Winning the money primary and the runaway winner of the small donor race. Obama has spent more money this past quarter than Clinton but much of that was his extensive small donor fundraising efforts which has the added benefit of being an aggressive voter outreach program. It is money well spent. It is telling that both Obama and Clinton have each raised more money in the past quarter than all of the Republican candidates combined.

John Edwards (former Sen-NC) - 20 to 1 (17 to 1)
Still the show horse. I really don't have any comments because he is barely visible.

Al Gore (TN) - 50 to 1 (16 to 1)
He is not running. I grieve.

Chris Dodd (Sen-Conn) - 100 to 1 (300 to 1)
I heard one of Dodd's stump speeches last month and was impressed, more impressed than I am with either Clinton or Obama. He has enough money ($6.4 million) to stay in the race and if enough people hear him speak he has a chance. They won't.

Bill Richardson (Gov-NM) - 150 to 1 (50 to 1)
Going nowhere, slowly.

The Field - 1000 to 1
There is no one else out there with a chance and no one will crawl in under the baseboard to compete. The Democratic presidential nominee will be one of these six people. Five excluding Gore (I grieve again).

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Handicapping the Presidential Race - Republicans

The implosion of the McCain campaign is a perfect time to revisit the Presidential races, now only 16 months away. As before, I'll be offering my odds and, for comparison, in red the odds calculated by the Intrade Trading Exchange.

Fred Thompson (actor-TN) 3 to 1 (2 to 1)
Running a stealth campaign is an interesting tactic for an actor. Fred apparently believes his best chance is to be a figment of rabid Republican imaginations. Conversely, that means he thinks his chances worsen as people get to know him. So, we have the spectacle of a candidate trying to not appear in public and trying not to express any policy positions. There hasn't been a successful "front porch" presidential campaign in well over a century but Fred is giving it a go. Of course, he may just be auditioning for the title role in a remake of "The Invisible Man."

To Be Announced - 6 to 1
With the Republican field wide and shallow, I continue to believe that some heretofore unknown candidate will emerge and field a strong campaign. What with the Republican delegation to Congress being what it is, he will probably be another actor. Tom Selleck, anyone?

Mitt Romney (former gov-MA) - 8 to 1 (5 to 1)
Beginning to give off Stepford Candidate vibes. When I first started looking at the campaigns back in December I thought he had the legs for the race. Now, it mostly looks like squeaky wheels. A telling sign that his campaign is ebbing is that no one cares he is a Mormon any longer.

Rudy Giulianitm (former mayor of New York) - 10 to 1 (2 to 1)
Still polling well, although now in a tie with Fredo. Still don't know why. Rudy lives and dies on the fear of terrorism. His success will depend upon whether those Republican voters hiding under their bedsheets from the boogeyman will have the courage to crawl out long enough to vote.

Mike Huckabee (gov-AR) - 35 to 1 (80 to 1)
Smarter than his hillbilly image. Keep an eye on this boy.

Ron Paul (congressman-TX) - 40 to 1 (35 to 1)
The libertarian who believes that 9/11 was a government hoax. Ranks surprisingly high on Intrade.

Tom Tancredo (rep-CO) - 100 to 1 (300 to 1)
The only Republican to show up at the NAACP sponsored debate forum. This just shows how out of touch he is with his party.

St. John McCain (Sen-AZ) - 300 to 1 (25 to 1)
The betting money shows his collapse better than the polling numbers. Back in May he was ranked second to Giuliani on Intrade, now he is barely ahead of Ron Paul. Pissing away his money as he did makes one of his few positives, fiscal restraint, into a joke. McCain is talking about a comeback but you need to be young and mostly unknown to earn a second chance. Old warhorses who trip up this badly just get sent to the glue factory. I once thought his best chance at being president was as a third-party candidate but Mike Bloomberg has even stolen that chance away from him.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Missing a Moving Target

Jordan Grossman at Think Progress has saved me work I've been avoiding for months by listing the history of the moving target that is the Iraq War mission. The Bush Administration has reminded me of the drunk with a shotgun who takes potshots at the side of a barn and then draws a target around the biggest cluster of bullet holes. The real reason for the Iraq War (acquiring an oil-rich colony) has never been a particularly salable, let along achievable, goal. So the Bushites have been forced to fictionalize missions to justify the war.

Unfortunately, for them, their lack of imagination has led them to create missions that are either unnecessary (rid Iraq of WMD) or silly (free the Iraqi people by oppressing them with a huge occupation army). Often both. As each mission statement is proven to be a joke the Iraq mission is morphed into something different.
Being there to protect, obviously, our own interests, which are to go after al-Qaida and make sure that al-Qaida can never use Iraq as a safe haven from which to plan attacks against us ~ national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley
The current mission statement fall into the silly category. Al Qaeda is not a significant presence in Iraq with only about 1000 adherents in the country. Their pathetic size does not justify a major occupation army. If they are the target then a 10,000 man mobile attack force would be more than sufficient to defeat them. Al Qaeda is simply the latest excuse, the latest fiction.

The goal now is what is has always been - maintain a colonial force in the heart of the Middle East to swing the regional balance of power towards our allies, the Saudi princes. The mission is to keep a lid on an Iraqi Civil War (lest the Iranian side prevail) while installing a puppet pro-American Shi'ite government.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Purely Partisan, Cynical POV

For the purposes of this posting I shall be totally partisan, considering only what would be the best thing to insure a Democratic sweep in 2008. Also for the purposes of this posting I shall be totally cynical and not give a rat's ass for all the good, decent American servicemembers who will be killed and horribly maimed during the next several months in that wasted effort know as the Iraq War.

The best case scenario, from this point of view, is for the Democrats to continue to try every avenue available to bring the boys home as soon as possible while the Republicans stubbornly block those efforts at every turn. Congress votes to withdraw the troops; Bush vetoes; Republicans stand alone to sustain the veto. A few more months of this and Republican candidates will have a hard time convincing their own mothers to vote for them. For a heartless cynic, things are going just peachy.

The best that can happen from an idealistic POV is for American forces to withdraw while offering the competing interests in Iraq the option of international help negotiating a peaceful compromise between them. Let them look into the abyss and choose between civil war and peace. As long as the American military occupies the country both peace and compromise are impossible because neither side trusts the American presence. While we may be able to keep them from seeing the abyss we are also preventing them from seeing any advantage to peace.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

What Will They Use Our Money For?

Two guards at the British owned Dar Es Salaam bank in Baghdad got away with $282 million in American greenbacks. They made their escape passing through several Iraqi Army and Shi'ite militia checkpoints. What will that kind of money buy the modern militia army?
While $12 billion a month is barely keeping the United States Army in Hummers and MREs, a quarter of a billion dollars is enough to finance an insurgency for decades.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Executive Privilege Should Equal Impeachment

Bush is using the executive privilege dodge to play out the string, dragging every Congressional request for testimony or information into court where it will be delayed until he leaves office. The concept of "executive privilege" is a phantom. It exists nowhere in the Constitution and is never mentioned in the Federalist Papers that explained the Constitution to the public 200+ years ago. It was the twisted construct of the Nixon Supreme Court and, as such, is an ill-defined joke on the Congress.

Tying Congressional subpoenas to an impeachment investigation turns the executive privilege dodge into obstruction of justice. Congress has an absolute right to investigate whether the President has committed high crimes or misdemeanors. No court can block such Congressional action. If Bush refuses to comply with such subpoenas that fact alone is a felony and sufficient cause for removing him from office.

It is called playing hardball.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Iraq War: Quarterly Update

Coalition Military plus private army (mercenary) Deaths
2nd quarter 2007 .... 369 (4.1 deaths per day)
1st quarter 2007 ..... 266 (2.9 deaths per day)
War Total .......... 4,206 (2.7 deaths per day)

Mercs deaths totaled 13 in this past quarter, 14 in the first quarter, and 404 for the entire war. Almost certainly, the mercenary (contractor) death toll is higher than this as these private armies are under no obligation to accurately report their casualties and have considerable incentive to under report. The rate at which mercs are dying in this war is declining from the average of 20 deaths per quarter as the regular army is taking the burden away from the contract killers.

The second Fallujah campaign, November 2004 through January 2005, barely stands as the record, but only if we include the soldiers-for-hire. A total of 376 from the occupation forces, including a record 32 mercs, died during that three month period.

There have been 116 American servicemembers who have committed suicide during this war without end, probably more. There is no official count of fragging incidents.

tag: ,

Friday, July 06, 2007

Iraq Costs in Perspective

The Iraq War is costing $12 billion a month. That comes to $444 per Iraqi per month. The per capita income of Iraqis (in 2006) is $125 per month. We could quintuple the income of each and every Iraqi, raise their standards of living to exceed those in Russia or Venezuela, and still save money over what it is costing to kill Iraqis. I'm sure they would be willing to accept a lot less.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The American Police State

Starting with the concept of citizen government, United States has always been an innovator. Today, we are reinventing the concept of the Police State, oddly, mostly, with the consent of the governed.

The US is a Nation of Prisons
I've beat this drum before, more than once. If the American government sent out forces to round up the entire population (every man, woman, and child) of both Vermont and New Hampshire and threw them into massive concentration camps, it would not come close to equaling the total number of Americans currently held in the nation's prisons and jails. America holds 2.2 million of her citizens prisoner. That is 1% of the adult population of the country.

Twenty percent of all of the people held prisoner everywhere in the world are imprisoned by the United States. (Source: King's College London) There are more Americans in prison in the US than Chinese imprisoned in China (1.55 million). The ratio of imprisoned citizens (738 for 100,000 population) in the US is the highest in the world. That is nearly double Cuba's ratio (487) and way more than Iran (194). For comparison, Great Britain has imprisoned 142 citizens per 100,000 population, Canada 116, France 91, and Sweden 75.

The state of Texas (not chosen at random) holds 223,000 of its citizens in prisons and jails. That is more than live in the city of Plano. Adding in probation and parole, over half a million Texans are controlled by the state Department of Criminal Justice. The state prison system alone consumes almost 200 square miles of Texas real estate. The greatest concentration of prisoners is in Anderson County where almost 14,000 humans are imprisoned by the state. The entire population of Anderson County is only 55,000.

The reasons are two-fold, racism and fear. In some states, the number of African-American citizens imprisoned is astonishing. In South Dakota, nearly 5% of the African-American population is held captive. In 12 states, at least 3% are serving time. The nationwide average is 2.3%. An unthinkable 12% of young Black males (ages 25-29) are imprisoned. Laws that disenfranchise felons burden our nation's African-Americans. In Iowa, over one-third of the African-American citizens are ineligible to vote because of felony convictions. In Virginia the number is 20%, 208,000 individuals. Nationally, 2 million African-Americans citizens (8.25%) have been stripped of their right to vote by the government.

What, do you suppose, would happen to any politician who ran on a "reduce the United States prison population by 2/3 in four years" platform? For all of our bluster about being "the Home of the Brave," Americans are a timid, frightened people. When George Bush said that the 30-month sentence Scooter Libby got was "excessive" he was right in that almost every sentence handed out by the American justice system is excessive. We have demanded that our government throw people in prison for decades for petty crimes that might earn a maximum two-weeks confinement in Canada. Some examples:
American citizens have insisted on longer and longer sentences for more and more petty crimes. We have demanded mandatory sentences so "bleeding heart judges" can use neither compassion nor common sense. We have done it out of fear. Fear of crimes we have only seen on television fiction. Fear of dark-skinned people we've never met.

America has developed an unique form of Police State. It is not so much interested in protecting the power of the state as it is in suppressing minorities. And, we have done it to feel saver. It hasn't worked. We feel less safe now than we did in 1973 when the prison population was only 300,000 nationwide. So, we demand even harsher sentences and even more prisons built. All the while we grow even more fearful.

We have done this in a uniquely American way, developing a Prison-Industrial Complex to profit from the oppression (the linked article is a decade old and is out-of-date only in that the prison industry has grown exponentially since then). UpDate: NBC has this story about suicide at a squalid prison-for-profit in Texas.

Other Sources: Jurist (University of Pittsburgh), Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Sentencing Project, Texas ACLU, Human Rights Watch (1997), Prisonsucks.com

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Freedom on July 4

The simplest definition of freedom is the right to live your life without undue restraint. The United States likes to believe it is the "land of the free." Often, that is not the case.

Freedom of Speech/Press
In most regards, there is such freedom. I can say or write that President Bush is an ignorant asshole whose brain has the constancy and intellect of a bowl of tapioca pudding and not fear jackbooted thugs breaking down my door and dragging me off to a prison where the electric outlets are at a convenient genital height. Yet, censorship, the antithesis of free speech, is unofficially common.

Project Censored has published 25 news stories that have been censored by the American news media. They are not secret stories; I know something about many of them. They are facts that reporters know, they might even work in a reference in a clause to a sentence in a paragraph buried deep in their story. But, most will not directly talk about it because they are afraid of being labeled disloyal. It is not legal censorship but societal censorship.

The tracking of the Abu Ghraib story is a good example. Many reporters in Iraq at the time knew that some American soldiers were abusing Iraqi prisoners. Some had heard stories, others had seen it for themselves. Pentagon reporters knew that the top Guantanamo interrogator, Gen. Geoffrey Miller, had been sent to Iraq. They knew he was bringing his "aggressive" tactics to Iraq. They knew, and chose to forget, that prisoner abuse had become official policy in Iraq. The reporters also knew that prisoner abuse is torture and is illegal. For a year, from May 2003, the story of prisoner abuse in Iraq was rumored and known. Only when visible evidence appeared, those pictures, did the story gain coverage. Had a reporter tried to write about it earlier, without the pictures as evidence, he would have had a near impossible time getting it published in the United States.

Book Banning
There is quite the cottage industry banning books in the United States. American classics like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, the great Harry Potter, unassuming children's stories like A Wrinkle in Time, and even adult novels like The Color Purple and A Handmaid's Tale have all been attacked as inappropriate for public consumption. The reasons vary. Huck Finn is attacked because it contains the word "niggar" even though it may be the greatest novel ever written in America. The Color Purple has a few sex scenes (so does the Bible). Harry Potter has witches!

The worst charge I can make on this Independence Day is that the United States has become a Police State. But, that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Surprise! Libby Semi-pardoned

Nope. I'm not surprised. Anyone who claimed to have believed that Dick Cheney's chief-of-staff was going to spend even an hour in a jail cell was either being disingenuous or naive. The fact that it is only a semi-pardon is of no importance. Libby will be going on the lecture circuit; he'll pay the $250,000 fine with five speeches. As for not being able to practice law...he hasn't practiced law for years, he wasn't going to go back to it.

The interesting thing is that Bush had to issue his semi-pardon at all. None of the judges, not the trial judge nor the three on the appeals panel, followed the implied desires of their "commander-in-chief." That is reassuring. Perhaps, we still have an independent judiciary, or at least a few remnant pieces of one.

UPDATE: Upon further reflection, I should add that Bush totally botched the execution of Libby's semi-pardon. It was as if he was trying to make it look a crass politician saving a political ally. He could have gone through the motions of thinking about it, like referring the question to the Justice Department for comment. But, no, that would have been semi-intelligent - a feat well beyond George Bush.

More Thoughts (because I don't want to write a new posting): For the Republican 9-11 changed everything crowd, the timing of the Libby semi-pardon was horrible. The Libby story just stomps the "London wasn't successfully bombed" terrorism story in to a mushy pulp.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Gloomy Sunday

Sunday is gloomy, my hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows I live with are numberless
Little white flowers will never awaken you
Not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you
Angels have no thought of ever returning you
Would they be angry if I thought of joining you?
~ original lyrics by Rezso Seress (1933),
~ English translation by Sam Lewis (1936)
A Sunday invested in embracing the porcelain throne and the other joys of a sudden attack of gastroenteritis can turn a person's thoughts morbid. The legend of the song "Gloomy Sunday" is that it is a suicide song. Whenever it is played, so the legend goes, waves of suicide follow. The composer's girlfriend is reported to have killed herself after hearing the song. The song was banned in Hungary, Great Britain, and the United States. The YouTube embed is the classic Billie Holiday recording.

If I have to feel miserable, I want to share it.