Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Cowardly Lions of Congress

It isn't often that I agree with rightwingers but those people who called anti-war Democrats in Congress cowards might have been onto something. There are a few exceptions, Russ Feingold comes to mind, but most Congressional Democrats are proving to be cowards. Given the chance to fight to end the Iraq War most anti-war congressmen are rolling over like whipped puppies and giving Bush every fucking thing he wants on the war.

Some, like Dick Durbin (via Kos), will approve additional funding for the war while attaching "conditions," like that hasn't already been tried and ignored. Like Jerry McNerney, they say they will only vote support for the war in exchange for an empty promise to consider about withdrawal in the Spring.

Brian Baird is an interesting case. I don't believe him when he explains that a couple Powerpoint presentations by gung-ho Marines safely hiding out in the Green Zone caused the scales to fall from his eyes and showed him that the Iraq War is hunky-dory. More likely, Baird intends to do the unjustifiable, vote continued support for a war he has opposed and continues to oppose, and being a gullible dork seems like as good a fig leaf as any.

The truth is that the Congressional Democratic caucus is rife with cynical cowards. They know the war is doomed and believe if it continues unabated into 2008 Republicans will lose in a landslide. They are afraid if they can force withdrawal now Democrats will be blamed for the lose in Iraq. So the war must continue. As for the thousand or so American servicemembers who will die? They will say they voted the money to "support the troops" but they really don't give a rat's ass if the troops continue dying for this mistake.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Rubber Stamp Congress

One of the major reasons that Congress is held in such low regards (about 20% approval in recent polls) is that while we may have changed the fist holding the rubber stamp approving Bush's War, the reflexive swinging motion approving everything he wants for that stupid adventure has continued with monkey-like enthusiasm.

Come September, General Petraeus is going to ask for more time, George Bush is going to ask for more money, and the American people are going to ask for somebody to show the courage and common sense to end the disastrous Iraq War. Congress should be listening to the American people but I am not delusional. Congress will rubber stamp the War yet again and then it will shove that rubber stamp up America's butt because Bush tells them to.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Greece Is Burning

But, it is not just Greece, there have been wildfires raging around the world. A larger version of the global fire map is here. I know fire living in Southern California. In 2003, in two days in October, wildfires burned over 400 square miles of San Diego County (below), consuming 5,000 acres an hour.
It is convenient to blame the fires on arson. The proximate cause often is. But there is another reason these fires become so large and so destructive and man is still the cause. One of the predicted effects of global warming is fire. It is something of a feedback loop. Warmer temperatures causes drier vegetation which catches fire easier, as more vegetation burns there is less to consume carbon dioxide which accelerates the greenhouse effect which, in turn, causes warmer temperatures, drier vegetation, and still more fires.

Think Hell on Earth.

Other links: satellite images of fires from around the world;
Science Magazine on climate change and fire;

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gonzo Out; Now What?

With Gonzo out as AG this fall will be having confirmation rather than impeachment hearings for Attorney General. Michael Chertoff (aka Skeletor) is being chatted up as the replacement. Regardless of whom is nominated, here is a guide of what should and should not be said in those hearings.

Disqualifying Phrases
If any of the following is said, even once, even jokingly, by the nominee he should be immediately thrown out of the hearing room with "Rejected" stamped on his forehead.
  • "I don't recall," "I don't remember," "I don't know," "I don't know what you are referring to," or any other sign of acute political Alzheimer's.
  • "I can't discuss that for National Security reasons" or any other phrase that readily translates into "You Senators are a bunch of weaselly traitors who don't deserve to be in the same room with my glorious self."
  • "I can't discuss that because it is part of an ongoing (or pending or possible) investigation" or "I may have to take a position at a later date and I don't want to prejudice myself." Both evasions mean the same thing, if he tells the truth his nomination won't be approved and if he lies he faces prison.
Questions the Senators Must Ask
The following are questions that any Bush nominee for AG must be asked and for which evasive responses cannot be tolerated.
  • What branch of government does the Vice-President belong to? Is the Office of the Vice-President exempt from the regulations that govern the Executive Branch?
  • What is the Unitary Executive Theory? Does he endorse that theory? What is the role of Congress under that theory? Explain in detail.
  • Under the Unitary Executive Theory does the Justice Department have the ability to investigate and prosecute crimes committed by the Executive Branch?
  • What is the legal authority of Presidential Signing Statements? Does the president have the authority to waive or refuse to enforce acts passed by Congress and either signed by the president or passed over a veto?
  • Reconcile "coercive interrogation techniques" currently being used with the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.
  • Does he agree with the statement by former Justice Department official John Yoo that "the president has the sole authority to interpret the Geneva Conventions on behalf of the United States, rather than the courts or Congress?" Does the president have the sole authority to interpret treaties? If so, reconcile this with Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 of the Constitution.
The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee should use his discretion and not cut off meaty questioning because of artificial time limits. Gonzales in his hearing in 2005 (transcript) perfected the technique of running out the clock with obfuscation and circuitous evasion. His successor must not be allowed to do the same thing.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The True Cost of the Iraq War

Corruption: (n) putrefactive decay; rottenness.

This is written backwards, the most important part is at the bottom. I was going to write something fun, a change of pace, but this story from MSNBC drove all of the mirth out of me.

It is not that the American occupation of Iraq is riddled with corruption. I've know about that for some time. With the characters involved in this adventure from Dick Cheney to L. Paul Bremer to Eric Prince (Blackwater CEO) how could it be anything else?

It is not the fact that mercenaries in Iraq, paid with American tax dollars, are a bloodthirsty crew with a penchant for shooting innocent civilians just because it is fun. There are mercs, it is what they do. With well over 100,000 private soldiers in the country armed to the teeth and ready for fun, rape, torture, and murder will be common. I am not even surprised that these "contractors" are free to do anything they want without fear of either Iraqi or American law. What fun is it being an outlaw if you have to obey the law. I am not surprised that mercs are selling weapons to the Iraqi insurgents - profit is profit.

I am not even astonished that an American judge (T. S. Ellis III, a Reagan appointee) ruled that it was perfectly legal for American mercenaries to defraud the Coalition Provisional Authority because the CPA was not a part of the United States Government. Sure, the CPA was created and funded by the Department of Defense and it head, L. Paul Bremer, was an American government employee appointed to the job by George Bush. Republican judges have a Republican view of the law.

The Story of Donald Vance
No, what hit me is the story of Donald Vance. Vance worked for a private security contractor in Iraq, he was a merc. But, somehow, the hiring practices at the company missed the vital fact that Donald Vance is an honest man. Vance discovered that his company was selling weapons into the Iraq black market. He and a friend barricaded themselves in a Baghdad office fearing such knowledge would kill them. They were rescued by the US. military and taken into the secure Green Zone where they reported their discovery to U. S. government officials. Three hours later the U. S. military returned and arrested Vance. He was taken to the Camp Cropper prison where he was imprisoned and tortured for three months.

That is what fries me. An American citizen is tormented by American soldiers because he was an honest man who had reported conduct that probably led to the deaths of American soldiers. The corruption of the United States in Iraq is so complete that the few honorable men who remain are punished severely for their honesty. The only benefit of this war is that it has provided employment outside of the United States for an entire class of American criminals.

See also I am Sullied.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Debunking Conventional Wisdom in Iraq

It has become Conventional Wisdom that the Surge itself in Iraq is seeing success if only we would be patient and give it a few more Friedman Units. Sure, the CW notes, the Iraqi government is insufficiently subservient but that is nothing a coup or two can't correct. Fortunately, Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly didn't just accept the CW as given but tested it by actually examining the facts. Drum's source is the Brookings Institute Iraq Index. (pdf)

Drum compares the Iraq War in June/July of 2006 with June/July of this year. The only positive he found is that Multiple Fatality Bombings have declined year over year. That joy is undone because these bombing have become significantly more efficient, killing more people in fewer bombings. Rather than having the insurgents "on the run" it indicated that they have become much more skilled in choosing and executing their attacks for maximum carnage.

A few other statistics that Drum did not mention. The number of insurgent attacks (page 30 of the pdf) for the February through May period in 2007 (159.8 attacks per day) has nearly doubled from the same period in 2006 (89.9 attacks per day). The number of Iraq refugees and asylum seekers (page 33) has also nearly doubled, 911,000 people in 2006 and 1.8 million people this year.

The Conventional Wisdom is bullshit; the Iraq War is not going well. The Surge has changed things in Iraq in the same way that stirring a clogged toilet changes the toilet. It is stilled clogged. It is still a smelly, shitty mess. But, it is murkier now and sloshing over the rim.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Is there a Coup afoot in Iraq?

If the rumors are true then things in Iraq are going to get exponentially worse. One rumor is that Republican operatives with intimate ties to the White House are plotting to overthrow Iraqi Prime Minister al-Makili and replace him with a reliable puppet, Ayad Allawi. Juan Cole hears rumors of a military coup plot that will place a US-backed dictator in control of the country.

The current theme among war supporters is that the war itself is going peachy, it is only the Iraqi government that is failing. Republicans are unanimous in this opinion and are joined by Democrats like Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton which makes the belief Conventional Wisdomtm. Ignoring for the moment that the basic premise (peachy war) defies reality, having an American organized coup to instill an American puppet government will only insure a permanent Iraqi rebellion.

Since George Bush has brought up the Vietnam War as a comparison, a history lesson is in order. The Vietnam War was lost on November 1, 1963 when a CIA-backed coup overthrew South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. While the fighting continued for a decade the South Vietnamese government ceased to be a significant structure. Within a year the American military occupation was the only effective government in South Vietnam. There were additional coups as petty thugs fought over who would be head puppet. The South Vietnamese army (ARVN) quadrupled in size to over 1 million soldiers during that decade, but that was useless as they no longer has a government to lead them. The coup marked the last chance for South Vietnam to be an independent country.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bush With Boobs - Redux

Sixteen months ago I opined that of all the potential candidates for president the one most likely to carry on George Bush's policies unchanged is Hillary Rodham Clinton. Given recent statements from Clinton on matters of war and death, I stand by that observation.
We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working. ~ Hillary Clinton
While Clinton has promised to "end the war" in Iraq she has also promised to maintain an American military presence there. Clinton was the last of the Democratic candidates to state an opposition to the war and her opposition has always sounded half-hearted. As late as the summer of 2006, Clinton was booed because she stated her position against a firm date for troop withdrawal. As in this most recent statement, she continues to keep a foot in the pro-war camp.

Regarding expansion of the Iraq War into Iran, Clinton has been obliquely supportive of Bush.
I will never take any option off the table. ~ George Bush, January 17, 2005 in an interview with David Gregory of NBC News.
In February, 2007, Clinton used the Bush euphemism, "no option can be taken off the table," to imply support for bombing Iran. In 2006, Clinton actually accused the Bush Administration of not being belligerent enough towards Iran. Even conservatives have noticed that Clinton's positions on Middle Eastern wars are more closely attuned to neocon William Kristol than Noam Chomsky.

Make no mistake, I am a Yellow Dog Democrat this year. There is no Republican in the field that I would trust to mow my lawn let alone run my country. If it is Hillary, so be it. But, I am not naive. There will be no noticeable shift in war policy if Clinton is elected. The Iraq War will only evolve, not end, with a Clinton presidency. The chances of the war expanding into Iran are no different with Bush or Clinton. Clinton will be better than George Bush, but in the same way that small pox is better than bubonic plague.

Other links: Clinton, AIPAC and Iran by Joshua Frank; Taylor Marsh on Clinton Candor; The Guardian imagining the world after President Hillary Clinton bombs Iran.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fred Thompson: Criminal Intent

How has Fred Thompson, with deliberate intent, broken the law regarding campaign financing? Let me count the ways.
  1. He has raised over $5,000 (claims $3.4 million in contributions).
  2. He has authorized campaign activities in excess of $5,000 ($625,000 in expenditures which include $168,940 for internet services, $21,142 for media, and $88,789 to rent facilities).
  3. He has made or authorized statements that refer to him as a candidate (hell, he made a campaign trip to Iowa last week).
  4. He has conducted activities over a protracted period of time (this dance has been going on since June 1)
Any one of these acts signals the end of a "testing the waters" phase and the beginning of an official campaign with all of the attendant reporting requirements. The law. The complaint filed with the FEC. Fred Thompson has demonstrated that he is the natural successor to George Bush. There is no law Thompson doesn't hold in contempt and no law he isn't willing to ignore. He is fully prepared to become the nation's Criminal-in-Chief.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Problem With Professional Journalists

Blogs: All the noise that fits ~ Michael Skube, LA Times
I like the noise of democracy. ~ President James Buchanan
There is a growing belief among journalists that the noble profession of journalism is above the common rabble of citizenry. Citizens hold opinions and they express them; journalists are above such petty things. Their problem, of course, is with blogs. There was no problem as long as citizens expressed their opinions around the water cooler or at the corner bar where few could notice. Now, with the Internet, every citizen can own his own printing press; with vblogging every citizen can be his own broadcaster. There's the problem. The elitism that came with being a professional journalist has been lost, hopefully forever. All they have left to claim professionalism is doing their job well. But, professional journalism is becoming a lost art.
The freedom to share one’s insights and judgments verbally or in writing is, just like the freedom to think, a holy and inalienable right of humanity that, as a universal human right, is above all the rights of princes. ~ Carl Fredrick Bahrdt
In part, I don't disagree with Skube. Properly done, journalism is a vital force for democracy. The Society of Professional Journalists has a Code of Ethics. Ethics that are breeched so frequently I suspect most journalists have never read them. A few examples.

"Deliberate distortion is never permissible"
On August 15, 2002, Rena Gold, the executive vice-president and general manager of CNN admitted they censored news from the Afghan War. It was "a reluctance to criticize anything in a war that was obviously supported by the vast majority of the people." They distorted the facts so as to not disillusion the public. The effect has been a war that is not going well in part because the media deliberately lied.

Anonymous Sources
There is an epidemic of anonymous sources in American reportage. The Code of Ethics states, "Identify sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability. Always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity."

Let us take the Valerie Plame case, for example. What was the motive for Scooter Libby and Karl Rove to out a CIA agent? They wanted to injure the wife of an Administration critic. Was the public entitled to know the source so as to judge its reliability? You betcha. Politicians chat up reporters on background all the time. The politicians like it because they get to rumormonger with impunity. The reporters like it because it makes them feel important. The vast majority of anonymous sourcing is unnecessary and a violation of journalistic ethics.

Conflicts of Interest
Before Campbell Brown, former NBC and now CNN reporter, became engaged to Bush adviser Dan Senor how many people knew they were dating? Would Brown's objectivity have been questioned were it known that the content of her reporting might hurt or help the career of the love of her life? In Washington and elsewhere, reporters and the people they report on go to the same parties, date, marry, and shag all in delicate secrecy. The ethical code is: "Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility." This is the scandal of professional journalism. Accurate reporting is sacrificed for all these friendships and love affairs.

"Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error." We've all seen it. Reporting so slipshod it wouldn't meet the ethical standards of a fifth-grade diarist. The run up to the Iraq War was filled with such laziness. In 2006, Juan Cole noted this example where journalists couldn't be bothered to get accurate translations. One of the reasons I like Jon Stewart's Daily Show is their habit of juxtapositioning statements from politicians that show them clearly lying. It is real reporting that simply requires a little research. It is a disgrace that a faux news comedy show does a better job reporting this truth than NBC, CBS, and ABC.

Fox News
"Make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos, video, audio, graphics, sound bites and quotations do not misrepresent." 'Nuff said.

The Good and Bad
There is good reporting happening, although seldom from Washington. Christine Amanpour is of a class with Edward R. Morrow. Chris Matthews is closer to Soupy Sales. We have lost some of the best reporters on the planet, like Daniel Pearl. Pearl died while seeking the truth about al-Qaeda. Tim Russert sipping cocktails with Josh Bolton in the evening and then refusing to ask him tough questions the next day doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same paragraph.

As for bloggers, there is some good reporting coming from them as well. And as for the opinions we express, often aggressively...
The right to discuss freely and openly, by speech, by the pen, by the press, all political questions, and to examine the animadvert upon all political institutions is a right so clear and certain, so interwoven with our other liberties, so necessary, in fact, to their existence, that without it we must fall into despotism and anarchy. ~ William Cullen Bryant

Sunday, August 19, 2007

There But for the Grace Of...

Dumb luck, really, goes I.The Peru earthquake. Hundreds dead, tens of thousands homeless, such aid as is being sent is disappearing long before it get to the victims. Living in Southern California I have experienced more than my share of quakes - little bumps, prolonged rattles, heavy shudders that feel like a speeding truck hitting the building. And yet, by San Andres Fault standards, all of them have been nothing more than gentle nudges; friendly reminders that I am living in an extremely dangerous the world. And I am nothing more than a fragile sack of flesh and bone.

The government of Peru is failing her people today just as the government of the United States has failed the people of New Orleans. Governments may be efficient at waging war, spying on private conversations, and restricting the liberty of individuals. Actually, recent history is proving that governments are not even very good at these tasks. But, when the people living peaceably on the land are desperately in need of help, modern governments are proving a useless societal appendix. Should the Big One hit here I know my government will consider my life of no importance. I know I must survive alone.

I could move. There is Iowa (tornadoes), Florida (hurricanes), New York (flooding), or Texas (Texans). Everywhere is dangerous. Such is life. C'est la vie.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It's a Threat to Western Civilization;
Yeah, Yeah, I've Heard It All Before

International Islamofascism is a grave threat to Western Civilization. Islamofascists want to take over the world, subjugate our women, tear down our churches, and force everyone to worship Allah instead of God. We are in a World War against great evil. Yeah, yeah, whatever. I'm old, I've heard it all before.

Back in the 1950's into the 1980's it was the International Communist Conspiracy that was the grave threat to Western Civilization. They wanted to subjugate our millionaires, tear down our churches, and force everyone to worship Marx and Lenin. The Cold War is World War III and our very existence is at risk as we fight this great evil. The merry-go-round just keeps circling.

The Cold War
There was a prolonged Cold War between the two dominate powers to emerge from World War II. It was just coincidence that one was a dictatorship where the state owned the means of production while the other was a democracy that promoted private ownership. Their economic philosophies were meaningless. The Cold War would have happened if one country's economy was based on lollipops and the other on kumquat skins. It was a struggle for dominance between the only two great military powers on the planet. It was never a war of philosophies. The Cold War was used as an excuse by the United States government to attack the very freedoms we were supposed to be protecting. (See McCarthyism, the American-backed dictatorships in Iran and Chile.) Communism was never a threat. The Soviet Union, as a major military force, was a threat. The shame is how few people were able to see the difference.

Godless Commies or Allah Worshiping Ragheads
Islamic Fundamentalism is a far more accurate description than the made-up word Islamofascism. I don't deny that there are Islamic Fundamentalists who believe that all of the advancements of the past millennium are a sin and must be purged from society. That includes all of the scientific discoveries and creative liberties of the Islamic Golden Age. In that they are little different than Christian Fundamentalists who believe that the Bible is the only scientific text that should be taught in public schools. Even the bloody, kill all the infidels, mantra is echoed in the Christian Fundamentalist belief that the Book of Revelations requires the world to be baptized in blood to pave the way for the return of Jesus. Don't even get me started on the eerie similarities of Christian faith in the Second Coming of Christ and the Muslim Shi-a faith in the second coming of the Mahdi, a little tenth century plagiarism. All religious fundamentalists, Islamic and Christian, are a threat to civilization because civilization threatens their faiths.

But, They're a Threat, Yeah?
It depends upon how easily you are terrified. On a level of physical power, Islamic Fundamentalists are about on par with the Anarchist Movement of the late 19th early 20th centuries. The Anarchists exploded bombs and assassinated several Western leaders include a United States president. Both were able to disrupt society slightly, briefly. Both caused ruling governments to overreact. Both had about the same ability to reshape society to their wishes as a swarm of particularly angry mosquitoes.

You're Forgetting the Atomic Bomb
Don't try scaring me with fear of an Islamic Bomb. I lived through the Cold War. I did the "duck and cover" drills in school. I had the fatalistic fifth-grade discussions that pulling drapes and hiding under desks was a silly way to stop a ten megaton bomb. We ten year-olds knew that if there was a nuclear war we would all die or wish we had. That was facing the Soviet Union, a real threat. There has been an Islamic Bomb for decades, remember Pakistan, it is a fact we have to live, or die, with. We have to adapt to it. Lashing out in fear will only lead to our own destruction.

So, You're Saying Do Nothing?
No, I'm saying don't overreact. Overreacting, like with the Iraq War, doesn't diminish fundamentalists, it empowers them. Don't react to mosquitoes by cutting off your legs, just put on a pair of long pants. Don't destroy Western Civilization, like by trashing the Constitution, while claiming to save it. Don't abandon calm, rational thought.

Remember one of the key lessons of chess, "the threat is mightier than the execution." In chess that means that often threatening to take a pawn has a more powerful effect than actually capturing it. It means the terrorist attack that doesn't happen is more frightening than the one that does. In diplomacy it means that knowing the American military might attack is a greater deterrent that actually attacking. As the Iraq War demonstrates, what the military might accomplish is far greater than what the American military actually can accomplish.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Make a Penny by Making Pennies

The poor, lowly penny. The one-cent piece. In its day you could send some really pretty postcards to your loved ones for just one penny. They now cost 24 cents. For just five little pennies, were you subject to such an addiction, you could buy a fine cigar. Now they are more than $2 each.

The poor penny isn't even worth one cent any more. It takes 1.7 cents to manufacture every penny and a dime to make every nickel. The government makes 8 billion pennies every year. The copper penny is not made from copper (and the 5 cent nickel isn't made from nickel), the metal is just too expensive. Both coins are made from zinc which is getting damn expensive too.

Jarden Zinc is the sole supplier to the government for "penny blanks." And it is here where the opportunity for fortune lay. Rather than buying the raw zinc and forging new coins Jarden could simply buy up circulating pennies, at one cent each, strip off the engraving of Abe Lincoln, and recycle the blanks back to the government. They would save a fortune on manufacturing costs. And by consuming billions of pennies they will increase the government's need to buy still more pennies. With luck, they could sell the same penny blanks over and over a couple dozen times before they wear out.

NOTE to the law firm of Baker & Daniels: I know Jarden paid you $180,000 last year to block a law that would have given retailers the freedom to round prices to the nearest nickel. You were successful, congratulations. You must be good. In absolutely no way am I implying that Jarden Zinc would ever, ever, in a million years, do such a thing as I have suggested. I know they are far, far too ethical. It is called satire. Really. Satire. Look it up. If you still want to sue me, please contact my lawyer directly. I hate being served.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Government Spying On Us Again - Satellite Division

Gee, what a surprise. The Bush Administration has begun pointing military spy satellites at American citizens. What sorts of things are they looking at? Can't tell, top secret. What kind of supervision does this have? Bush Administration lawyers are supervising the Bush Administration spying (You know, the same lawyers who said it was perfectly legal to torture people) so it's all good. Ah...are there any warrants? Ha-ha! That's funny.

The funniest bit is John Pike of He went on NPR Wednesday and basically said that military spy satellites are really not much good for anything. The pictures are in black and white so they are no fun to look at. They are really only good, he said, for finding escape routes from New Orleans the next time it floods.
This picture is of the Mars Rover. It was taken from Mars Orbiter and found here. The Rover is about half the size of a Mini Cooper. While the Orbiter can get a lot closer to the surface of that planet, NASA cameras are a whole lot less sophisticated than military spy cameras.

Space Today Online has as much detailed information about spy satellites as is publicly available. They have two general types.
  • Image sats - optical, infrared, and radar - take pictures with a resolution as clear as 2 inches.
  • Signal intercept sats that can tune in on any type of data communication.
Why Use Satellites? It's the Signals not the Images.
After listening to John Pike on NPR my question, the one not asked by the reporter, is what can satellites do that cannot be done better, cheaper, and easier using helicopters? The answer that came shouting back at me is signal interception. It is legal for the police to fly a helicopter over my house and take pictures with far more clarity than any satellite can provide. The same goes with aerial surveys. The only reason the military uses image sats is because it is too difficult and dangerous to fly planes over Iran. Satellite spying to take pictures inside the United States is stupid.

But, using military sats to listen in on phone conversations and business data transfers eliminates any need for warrants. Even under the new, loose, FISA law, warrants are required to listen in on wholly domestic communications. By using top secret military assets they can circumvent the FISA law entirely. It has the added advantage of continuing the trend of having the military consider the American public to be the enemy.

It is sinister, brilliant, conniving, and duplicitous. It has all of the markings of a Dick Cheney plot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Biggest Rat in the Fleet Is Leaving

I have been cogitating on the Why. Why is Karl Rove leaving the White House now? Why so abruptly? The "spend more time with the family" line is so old it is an insult that he even used it. There is the line that he was following Josh Bolton's rules that "if you are on the staff in September you have to stay the rest of the term." As if. Since when is Bolton the boss of Karl Rove? Unless Rove retires to Upper Volta he is not going to escape Congressional subpoenas.

Perhaps money. It is possible Rove wants to earn legal defense cash on the rubber chicken speakers circuit before he is indicted for his various crimes. Rupert Murdoch will certainly offer $50 million for Rove to write a book that won't even make good toilet paper.

He is not going to run some other Republican's presidential campaign. Even among Republicans Rove's name is poison. He is not going to be granted a professorship at some college. He doesn't even hold a bachelor's degree; even Bob Jones University has some standards. Harper's Magazine, via DailyKos, speculates that Rove is caught up in a legal case in Alabama that is about to blow back on Rove with hurricane force. One can only hope that is true.

It is out of character for Rove to abandon Bush mid-term. It is as likely as Bush's right leg detaching itself and walking off by itself. There is something more afoot, here. Perhaps he is leaving so he can become the Bush scapegoat. That would be in character. Deliberately leaving so that he can take on all of the sins of the Bush Administration would seem heroic in is little mind. Perhaps.

I shall continue to ruminate on this but not to the point that I neglect attacking Bush. In the end only Bush is responsible for Bush. Rove is a meaningless little rodent.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Hate America First Crowd

They try to hide behind jingoism, they claim to be just doing the work of Jesus (a claim, I'm sure, that makes Jesus vomit), but no group of people in the world hate America and what it used to stand for more than Conservative Republicans.

Make it Midnight in America Again
Far more than Osama, who seems to have moved on, it is Conservative Republicans who continue to wax nostalgically about 9-11. To Republicans, 9-11 was a time of dreams when smoking corpses lay on the streets of America. If only we were to go back to that time, all would be well again.
I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001] ~Arkansas GOP head Dennis Mulligan
If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail. ~ Stu Bykosfky
They Want us to Die
Some Republicans wish for terrorist attacks because they believe such attacks will have a noble(?) effect, rekindling jihad in America. Other Republicans want terror attacks for purely recreational purposes. They think it will be fun watching Americans die.
And if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you [San Francisco] up, we're not going to do anything about it. ~ Bill O'Reilly
God Wants Us Dead
There is crazy Fred Phelps who believes that God hates gays, Jews, Blacks, Swedes, Irish, Christians who are not him, soldiers, and Minnesotans. Christian Republicans believe that God sent Hurricane Katrina to punish a sinful nation and, therefore, George Bush and "Brownie" were simply doing God's will by not helping New Orleans. Christian Republicans share the belief with Muslim Jihadists that the Jihadists are doing God's will.
Katrina was an act of God upon a sin-loving and rebellious nation ~ David Crow
God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve. ~ Jerry Falwell with agreement from Pat Robertson
We Don't Need No Stinkin' Constitution
"The Constitution is not a suicide pact." ~ Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson (1949). This phrase is quoted by Republicans more frequently than anything in the Constitution itself (except, possibly, for the Second Amendment). It is used to justify warrentless wiretaps, secret prisons, torture, and unlimited presidential power. Basically, they believe that the Constitution is a feeble list of suggestions that can be ignored whenever they become inconvenient.
On this reasoning, the president would be entitled by the Constitution to resort to genocide if he wished. ~ John Cole analyzing the writings of former Bush adviser John Yoo that argue that as Commander-in-Chief the President has the power to ignore the rest of the Constitution.

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made ~ United States Constitution Article III, Section 2, Clause 1
The president has the sole authority to interpret the Geneva Conventions on behalf of the United States, rather than the courts or Congress ~ John Yoo
The war on terrorism is a new kind of war, a new paradigm [that] renders obsolete Geneva 's strict limitation on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders some of its provisions quaint. ~ Alberto Gonzales

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Iraq War by the Numbers

Add In the Mercs
When calculating the size of the Iraq War it is important not to forget the mercenaries (aka contractors) the United States has hired. The total troop commitment, regular army plus mercs, in Iraq now stands at 300,000. Officially, the mercenary death toll has now breached 1,000; total war deaths, including mercs, now exceeds 5,000. This number is low because several contractor deaths (including all of Halliburton's) are not included in the count. The contractors have a financial interest in hiding their death toll because their profits continue only so long as the war continues.

How Can It Cost So Much?
The Iraq and Afghan wars are costing $12 billion a month. That comes to $400 million each and every day. Why so much? There is fraud and corruption that has been going on for years. But, it has come to light recently that a major reason for the cost of the wars has been the fact that the United States has been providing all sides with weapons.

Thirty percent of the weapons distributed to Iraqi forces have "gone missing." That is an elegant euphemism for "been delivered to the insurgents." As of 2005, over 190,000 AK-47s have gone missing; we can safely double that figure. Add in 80,000 pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor, and 115,000 helmets and the United States has successfully armed a military force the equal of the American forces inside Iraq. That doesn't count the American weapons transfered from Bosnia to the insurgents, or soldiers trading guns for drugs. The market for weapons imported to Iraq by the United States is thriving.

We Have Made Evil Cheap
Prostitutes in Iraq are some of the cheapest in the world. "For one dollar you can get a prostitute for one hour." ~ Army Reservist Patrick Lackatt. The painful story of this young woman is no joke. The army passively encourages the sex trade to boost morale. Of the 2 million Iraqi refugees, 50,000 have had to turn to prostitution. I have discovered no one willing to wage a guess at the number of Iraqi women who have been forced into prostitution inside their homeland but it is certainly hundreds of thousands. The US invasion has made sexual slavery a growth industry in and around Iraq.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Cartoon Congress

The Senate Judiciary Committee has begun to remind me of a LoonyToons cartoon, and not in a good way. The committee first issued subpoenas to the White House on June 27, they drew a line in the sand if you will. La Casa Blanca asked for more time; the committee took a giant step backwards and drew a second line for July 18.

John Bolton and Fred Fielding asked for still more time. Another giant step backwards for the Judiciary Committee and they drew a third line at August 1. No response from the White House as the date came and went. Today Chairman Pat Leahy drew a fourth line in the sand farther still backwards to August 20 and double dog dared the White House to respond.
This strange little dance reminds me of a cartoon I saw as a child. Actually not this one, which is from High Flying Hare (1949), but it is close enough. It is too funny to be sad and too sad to be funny.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Chemical Weapons Defeating US/NATO in Afghanistan

I also saw ample evidence that soldiers were trading sensitive military equipment, like computer drives and bulletproof vests, for drugs. Other soldiers who have served at Bagram (Air Force Base near Kabul) agree: Heroin, they say "is everywhere." ~ Shaun McCanna, Solan
The chemical weapon the Taliban is using is heroin. It is a potent weapon that helped defeat the the American Army in Vietnam...
The use of drugs was so widespread that, according to an official estimate made in 1971, nearly one third of the troops were addicted to opium or heroin, and marijuana smoking had become routine. ~ Stanley Karnov's out of print book on the Vietnam War
Ironically, it was the CIA that developed the strategy of using narcotics as a weapon of war in Afghanistan. Prior to the Soviet Union invasion in 1980, opium production in Afghanistan was limited to small, local farmers; none was exported to the rest of the world. There were no local heroin labs. The CIA working with Pakistani Intelligence Service convinced Afghan warlords to compel the peasants to grown opium and transport the raw opium to Pakistan where heroin labs processed it. The heroin was moved back into Afghanistan where it was sold cheaply to Russian soldiers.
the Afghans had so successfully exploited their opium and marijuana crops that the drug habit took hold of many officers and men of the Soviet occupying forces. ~ John Cooley, Unholy Wars

There was fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan. ~ Charles Cogan former CIA director of Afghan operations
So, history is repeated itself and a strategy of American invention is being used against us. As always, it is the soldiers on the ground who suffer the most.

Irony upon irony, George Bush has protected the Afghan opium crops that are now crippling American servicemembers, probably because the CIA (allegedly) continues to have a close, friendly connection to the international drug trade. Certainly, Papa Bush, dating from his time as CIA chief through his presidency, had a warm place in his heart for Asian drug dealers, as witnessed by this pardon.

There is an intriguing story suggesting that the Lockerbie PanAm airplane bombing in 1988 was not the work of Libyan agents but the result a CIA assassination of an Army major who had discovered an illegal CIA drug operation. A 45-minute documentary from British television about this can be found here: Sky Television – Conspiracies: Lockerbie & the CIA.

Other Sources: The Politics of Heroin, Informed Comment from 2003

Monday, August 06, 2007

Congress, FISA, and my Dictionary

There are so many words to choose from to describe the votes of 57 congressional democrats who voted to authorize warrentless spying on Americans.
The Senate rules required 60 votes for the bill to pass; it got exactly 60. Whenever a vote comes squarely on the number I suspect vote swapping. Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton voted no; but did either trade votes with one of the seven Senators from the class of 2006 who have the least to fear from a voter backlash? It is one thing to shit on the Constitution because you honestly believe it is the right thing to do. It is far worse to do it in exchange for future pork.
Many Democrats were chicken. They were afraid. The Republicans were waving the Bloody Shirt of 9-11 and these guys were terrified of being labeled as soft on terrorism. Voting "Aye" was the easy way, the cowards way. The all took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution" but when they had the chance they just pissed themselves.
The art at left of Timorous from Pilgrim's Progress. The look is copied on the faces of most of the 57 Democrats who voted for the spying bill. They didn't want any trouble. They didn't want to confront Bush over the Constitution. They didn't care about doing what was right. They didn't want trouble, they just wanted to go home.
Like a prison bitch, these 57 Democrats bent over and took it up the ass from Bush. There were a few squeals of protest but their surrender was as meek and submissive as a whipped puppy.
But, in the end, this is all it was, a Disgrace. This abominable law expires in six months. Each and every one of the 57 Democrats will have the opportunity to redeem themselves, to do what is right for the country they pretend to love. We shall see which of them has even a scrap of self-pride remaining.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Compare and Contrast - Iraq vs. Alabama

Look at the above sign from an American military base in Iraq which restricts use of the toilet to United States military and contractors only. Iraqis are required to use separate latrines for "hygiene" reasons. Source is Kansas City Star via Think Progress.

Compare the above sign with the one to the left from the segregated Jim Crow South of American history.
What is the difference between them?

If you answered, They are both exactly the same, you are right.

Just as Southern Whites refused to take a crap on the same toilet a black man had used, Americans soldiers will not tolerate dirty, dark-skinned Arabs pissing in American urinals. The Apartheid of the American occupation of Iraq extends to eating. Americans get three hours in the dining hall and can eat at their leisure. Iraqis are crowded into an hour and spend most of it standing in long lines.

If an Iraqi working on an American military base were magically transported to Selma, Alabama in 1926 he would see little difference between his life in occupied Iraq and blacks living in racist Alabama. I am curious how many of these "rules of Jim Crow etiquette" have been transmuted to Iraq with the simple exchange of "Iraqi" where "Black" appears and "American" for "White." I suspect that most, perhaps all, are the unwritten rules that govern the relationship between Iraqis and their American masters. Whatever prison has replace Abu Ghraib awaits any uppity Arab who violates the code of conduct.
  1. A Black male could not offer his hand (to shake hands) with a White male because it implied being socially equal. Obviously, a Black male could not offer his hand or any other part of his body to a White woman, because he risked being accused of rape.

  2. Blacks and Whites were not supposed to eat together. If they did eat together, Whites were to be served first, and some sort of partition was to be placed between them.

  3. Under no circumstance was a Black male to offer to light the cigarette of a White female -- that gesture implied intimacy.

  4. Blacks were not allowed to show public affection toward one another in public, especially kissing, because it offended Whites.

  5. Jim Crow etiquette prescribed that Blacks were introduced to Whites, never Whites to Blacks. For example: "Mr. Peters (the White person), this is Charlie (the Black person), that I spoke to you about."

  6. Whites did not use courtesy titles of respect when referring to Blacks, for example, Mr., Mrs., Miss., Sir, or Ma'am. Instead, Blacks were called by their first names. Blacks had to use courtesy titles when referring to Whites, and were not allowed to call them by their first names.

  7. If a Black person rode in a car driven by a White person, the Black person sat in the back seat, or the back of a truck.

  8. White motorists had the right-of-way at all intersections.

Stetson Kennedy, the author of Jim Crow Guide, offered these simple rules that Blacks were supposed to observe in conversing with Whites:

  • Never assert or even intimate that a White person is lying.
  • Never impute dishonorable intentions to a White person.
  • Never suggest that a White person is from an inferior class.
  • Never lay claim to, or overly demonstrate, superior knowledge or intelligence.
  • Never curse a White person.
  • Never laugh derisively at a White person.
  • Never comment upon the appearance of a White female.
  • Source: What Was Jim Crow?

    No Permanent, Just 'Enduring' Bases in Iraq

    A base by any other name is just as permanent.
    It is all a matter of semantics. Congress has voted, repeatedly, to ban permanent US military bases in Iraq. Bush has said that there will be no permanent US bases. But, no one has said anything about enduring bases. By simply using a different word the US military is building 14 permanent bases in Iraq. The consistency of this plan for long term military occupation of Iraq is stunning.
    ~ 2004 - Christian Science Monitor
    ~ 2006 - CommonDreams
    ~ 2007 - Newsweek

    Some of these bases are huge. Camp Liberty houses 16,000 soldiers and is one of the largest military bases the United States has built since the Vietnam War. Apparently, it even has a golf course.

    Don't buy the lie about "no permanent bases."

    Other sources: Balad Air Base, 17,000 population; Syracuse Peace Council; Permanent Iraq Colony

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Cutting Off the Water in Iraq

    Attacking the water supply is a common tactic throughout history. It is the current tactic the United States military is using to subdue the rebellion in Baghdad.

    Baghdad, a city of 4.5 million people, has no running water. Some parts of the city have been without water for six days. The temperature today was 117 degrees F. The official excuse is power shortages but I have no doubt it fits nicely into the Surge. It is difficult to wage war when your children are dying of dehydration.

    The reason I believe this is a deliberate American tactic is that we have done it before. In 2004, the Marines cut off water and electrical supplies to Tal Afar, Sammara, and Fallujah as part of their offensive against Sunnis in that region. The resulting deprivation killed thousands.

    While imposing such suffering on the people of Baghdad may lead to short-term success it cannot bring about victory unless we are willing to bring it all the way to genocide. Oh, by the way, depriving the civilian population of water is considered a war crime by the Geneva Convention.

    Look to Gov. Pawlenty

    It is one of those coincidences that can destroy political careers. Exactly three months before the I-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty vetoed transportation spending bills that would have repaired infrastructure such as the I-35W bridge. The very same day that the bridge collapsed, Republicans in the state legislature sustained those vetoes.

    It is just a coincidence, the bridge would have collapsed regardless of whether the bills passed or failed, were signed or vetoed. But, it will not go without notice that the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in Minnesota wanted to fix the bridge while the Republicans went that extra mile to ensure the bridge would not be repaired or replaced.

    There are six reasons a man-made structure like that bridge falls down:
    1) Deliberate human attack (terrorists, Canadian air force bombing mission)
    2) Act of God (earthquake, tornado, flood)
    3) Unavoidable accident (such as a barge breaking loose its moorings and hitting the bridge)
    4) Shoddy construction (at 40 years old, we can conclude the initial construction was sound)
    5) Slipshod inspection
    6) Knowingly avoiding needed repairs (The principle reason for not making repairs is a lack of money)

    Initial reports point to number 6. There have been inspections that reported the bridge had stress fractures and it had been rated as "structurally deficient." What will be interesting is what the state, what the Governor's office, did with those inspection reports.

    My best guess is the government made the conscious decision to retain a structurally deficient bridge rather than raise taxes. In the cold cost-benefit rational of government, the bridge would have to be replace when it collapsed anyway so replacing it earlier would be a waste of money. As for the risk to human life, that is a minor economic factor not worth considering.

    TOTH to PissedonPolitics for leading me here.

    Additional Nasty Bit of Kismet: The 2008 Republican National Convention will be held in the Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota. A short six miles away from the fallen I-35W bridge. Think anyone will notice?

    Wednesday, August 01, 2007

    Republicans and Disenfranchisement

    Most Republicans are not as openly longing for a return of Jim Crow as Jonah Goldberg and Ann Coulter. Goldberg has called for a return of literacy tests to weed out voters he considers undesirable. Coulter went him one better in 2006 when she called for a return of both literacy tests and poll taxes. More and more conservatives have come to believe that democracy is a failed experiment and want to return to a time when only Right Thinking People are granted the ability to vote. A few of the techniques being used follow:
    For historical comparison here are Jim Crow disenfranchisement techniques. The New Face of Jim Crow.