Saturday, June 30, 2007

Sobering Statistics

I am mainly surrounded by Democrats who share my negative views of the Bush administration and the GOP. Everyday, when we read about the reprehensible and criminal performances of President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Pentagon, it is easy for me to assume that the entire nation has faced up to the fact that a bunch of thugs are in power in the Republican Party. It’s easy for me to assume that not only are Democrats and Independents ashamed of the Bush administration, but that the Republican Party is ashamed as well. And yet, this morning the New York Times reports that although support for Bush has dropped, it has far from tanked. Andrew Kohut, executive director of the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, a nonpartisan research group says Bush support may be shaky but it definitely has not completely eroded. Kohut said, “Among moderate and liberal Republicans, 52 percent currently approve of Mr. Bush’s job performance, down from 63 percent in April” and, ”among conservatives, his job approval stood at 74 percent this month, down from 86 percent in April.” Isn’t that amazing! How could anyone in his right mind approve of Bush’s job performance? Nevertheless, the statistics are staring us in the face. Seventy-four percent of conservative Republicans approve of George W. Bush’s job performance. Seventy-four percent of conservative Republicans and 52% of liberal Republicans approve of the lies told by the Bush administration. They approve of torture, invading weak nations, empowering illegal immigrants, giving tax breaks to the rich, cutting aid across the board to the poor and elderly, selling America to foreign investors who are enemies of the US, surveilling all US citizens, curtailing freedom of speech, allowing Christian zealots to influence Republican policies, empowering far-right religious militias (read, mercenaries), allowing the President and Vice President to commit crimes without prosecution and finally, 74% of conservative Republicans and 52% of liberal Republicans approve of continuing to kill American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan so that rich Republican businessmen and politicians can profit from these wars and continue to control Middle East oil. Am I shocked? Well, yeah, I am. I had thought the Republican Party had turned a corner to become a little more ethical, and a little less greedy, avaricious and corrupt. I was wrong.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Amnesty Bill Was Wrong On All Counts

When President Bush climbed aboard the amnesty bill express he didn’t give a damn about immigrants, Hispanics or minorities. The Prez had three things in mind regarding the so-called cornerstone of his domestic agenda: 1) Getting Hispanic and minority voters into the Republican camp; 2) Providing cheap labor for US corporations; 3) Amping up his compassion creds in the history books; And yesterday the Senate told George W. Bush he is irrelevant and powerless. When the Senate voted against the immigration bill, it was because the voters had informed their representatives they were against amnesty for ILLEGAL immigrants. Very few people in the United States are anti-immigrant. The US is populated by ancestors of immigrants. The point that stuck in our craw was that the proposed bill gave amnesty to people who had broken the law. It seemed patently insane to pardon criminals and also to give them the same rights and benefits of people who had worked their asses off to legally enter the US and/or to become citizens, That was the chief thing that made no sense in this immigration bill. Other items were the idea that the US would take major steps to secure our borders after it gave amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, and that allowing lawbreakers to become citizens and to enjoy the same advantages of law-abiding citizens would make the US more secure. If lawmakers now follow the desires of voters, they will secure our borders, enforce existing laws regarding illegal immigrants, prosecute those who hire illegal immigrants and require employers of migrant workers to pay at least the minimum wage.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

How Loyal Will Loyal Bushies Be? Not Very!

Yesterday the Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas to the White House, to Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and to the Justice Department in a last-ditch effort to investigate the National Security Agency’s policy of wiretapping without warrants. As the New York Times observed this morning, “The Democrats have largely focused on objections to the Iraq war in their first months in power.” However, the NYT said, former deputy attorney general James Comey opened the door for Democrats to argue on the legal issues of wiretapping rather than on the merits of monitoring phone calls. (Comey told about a hospital bedside confrontation between Justice Department officials and White House aides over the legality of the wiretapping program. ) As Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said, “it was Comey’s testimony that moved this (the legality of wiretapping) front and center.” Schumer said alarm bells went off because it became clear the Justice Department had tried to circumvent the law. So add the wiretapping debacle to the Bush administration’s mounting legal problems. The Senate Judiciary Committee issued subpoenas two weeks ago to Harriet Miers and Sara Taylor regarding the dismissals of federal prosecutors dismissals. The NYT said, “If the White House fails to produce the material, the House and Senate could begin a process leading to contempt resolutions to force compliance.” And what does that mean? CSpan’s website “Capital Questions” says, “Contempt of Congress is initiated by a resolution reported from the affected congressional committee which can cite any individual for contempt. The resolution must then be adopted by the House or Senate. If the relevant chamber adopts the contempt resolution recommended by one of its committees, the matter is referred to a U.S. Attorney for prosecution. The U.S. Attorney may call in a grand jury to decide whether or not to indict and prosecute. If prosecuted by the courts and found guilty of contempt, the punishment is presently set at up to one year in prison and/or up to $1,000 in fines.” CSpan goes on to say, “Contempt resolutions have most often been issued in two categories: (1) for reasons of refusing to testify or failing to provide Congress with requested documents or answers, and (2) bribing or libeling a Member of Congress. Contempt citations are limited to matters which relate to legislative purposes and which fall within the affected committee's established jurisdiction.” The last contempt resolution was in 1982 against Anne Gorsuch, an administrator of the EPA. She was held in contempt for refusing to provide documents about the Superfund to the Energy and Commerce Committee chaired by Representative John Dingell (D-MI). The Reagan White House negotiated an agreement that allowed access to the documents. The idea of throwing Miers and Taylor in the pokey is brilliant. Going after Bush administration underlings will be more effective than going after Dick Cheney. Cheney may be able to stonewall Congress and the National Archives on the executive order regarding handling of classified documents. But underlings don’t have Cheney’s clout. Threatening people under Bush and Cheney with jail will make those canaries sing loudly and under oath on the malfeasance of higherups in the White House. James Comey was just the first in a very long line of people who enthusiastically will unburden themselves of every unsavory scrap of information they possess.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Resident Idiot “Misspoke”, White House Says

The Presiding Idiot of The White House Insane Asylum showed he does not even know what amnesty means when he admitted yesterday that his Immigration Bill will provide amnesty for illegal immigrants. Putting his foot in his mouth once again, George W. Bush said, “You know, I’ve heard all the rhetoric — you’ve heard it, too — about how this is amnesty. Amnesty means that you’ve got to pay a price for having been here illegally, and this bill does that.” Press Secretary Tony Snow hastily issued a statement that “the president misspoke”. The Bush administration has vehemently denied that their plan to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants is, in fact, a plan to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants. Snow translated Bush’s gaffe into acceptable White House jargon by saying, “This has been construed as an assertion that comprehensive immigration reform legislation before the Senate offers amnesty to immigrants who came here illegally. That is the exact opposite of the president’s long-held and often-stated position. President Bush has noted repeatedly that the comprehensive reform he supports is not an amnesty bill. Amnesty means forgiving wrongdoing without imposing punishment.” The true meaning of amnesty no doubt came as a surprise to the most ignorant president the United States has ever had. Rather, it would have come as a surprise if George W. Bush reflected for a moment on any of his off-the-cuff stupid and erroneous remarks, which he doesn’t. In any event, the Senate decided yesterday, by a vote of 64 to 35, to take a look at a revised version of the amnesty bill that was defeated nearly three weeks ago. As the New York Times reported this morning, “The vote did not guarantee passage of the bill, which calls for the biggest changes in immigration law in more than 20 years.” In fact, the bill is doomed and yesterday’s seeming reversal was a charade. First, the Senate wanted to show that they are doing something...anything. Second, the Republicans in the Senate wanted to appear to support the president in order to forestall any nasty acts of retribution that might come down from the Bush administration on defectors. The final Senate vote on the president’s amnesty bill could come later this week. At which time the Repubs can say they’ve read the bill and can’t go along with some of the amendments. Look for Repubs, once again to vote against amnesty. But whatever the Senate does, this amnesty bill has to get through the House. And this bill will not pass in the House of Representatives.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Been Reading the WaPo Series on Cheney?

We are now on Day 2 of a four-article series on Vice President Dick Cheney, which is running in the Washington Post. “Angler” is the Secret Service’s code name for Cheney. Cute. He’s all of that and a bag of worms. The WaPo series, “Angler: The Cheney Vice Presidency” started yesterday with “A Different Understanding With the President”. Day 2 is today: “Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power”. And it’s not like any of the information about the power-obsessed, war mongering, neo-conservative, draft-dodging, lying, VP is a surprise. But reading details about his methods and vindictive techniques for getting his way is very informative and interesting. There are points where these articles elicit an almost involuntary, Oh please! response. Like this gem: “He wed his high school sweetheart, Lynne Vincent, beginning what friends describe as a lifelong love affair.” A man like Dick Cheney cannot have a love affair with anything but himself and his ambitions. And the idea that Cheney is not a shadow president is ridiculous since it’s based on “inside accounts”, such as: “Cheney is not, by nearly every inside account, the shadow president of popular lore. Bush has set his own course, not always in directions Cheney preferred. The president seized the helm when his No. 2 steered toward trouble, as Bush did, in time, on military commissions. Their one-on-one relationship is opaque, a vital unknown in assessing Cheney's impact on events. The two men speak of it seldom, if ever, with others. But officials who see them together often, not all of them admirers of the vice president, detect a strong sense of mutual confidence that Cheney is serving Bush's aims.” Uh-huh! The insiders know what they have to say or get canned. But a clear message comes through in these articles anyway. If George W. Bush were not a weak, ignorant, uninformed, frightened, narcissistic, insecure little putz, no Vice President, not even Dick Cheney could have seized control the way Dick Cheney has seized control. So is Dick Cheney actually Dr. Strangelove? In a word, Yes. At least that’s how one reporter answered the question on the Chris Matthews Show yesterday.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Let Me Get This Straight

The Postal Workers practiced an emergency drill today. The postal workers were rehearsing the delivery of pharmaceuticals to people who would need them in case of a biological or chemical attack. Now let me get this straight. Those people who started the phrase “going postal” when they committed mayhem over their work conditions, the people they had to work with, and the people they had to serve, are going to go out into the hazardous air during a biological or chemical attack and hand-deliver medications? Of all the crazy ideas to come out of Homeland Security, this is the wackiest. In Philadelphia, the postal workers did their drill in three neighborhoods and we were treated to TV coverage on how they were doing. Well, first, those little fake boxes didn’t fit in some mail boxes (in which case they will be left on the does the person who isn’t supposed to open his door going to get it? But nevermind). And second, the postal workers were not wearing hazmat suits. So it was hardly a reasonable drill. How would they fare in heat or cold or rain or snow or dead of night in hazmat gear? After all, if the attack is bio or chemical the whole body has to be covered or they're screwed. But I must say, I doubt these couriers would complete their appointed rounds during an attack of pigeon droppings. And I absolutely doubt that anyone in the postal service would risk his/her life to get me my drugs during a bio or chemical attack. I wonder if they'll be issued hazmat gear or if they’ve been instructed to wrap themselves in plastic sheeting and duct tape?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

You Want Logic? Here’s Logic!

Representative Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) has come up with the logical response to Dick Cheney’s assertion that his office is not part of the executive branch of government. Yesterday, Vice President Cheney's office refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years. In order to justify the Vice President's practice of keeping all matters concerning his office, all actions concerning his office and all acts concerning his office secret, Cheney said his office is not part of the executive branch of government. Next week, Emanuel plans to introduce an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to cut funding for Cheney's office. This morning Emanuel released a statement to Raw Story: "The Vice President has a choice to make. If he believes his legal case, his office has no business being funded as part of the executive branch. However, if he demands executive branch funding he cannot ignore executive branch rules. At the very least, the Vice President should be consistent. This amendment will ensure that the Vice President's funding is consistent with his legal arguments." Emanuel says if Cheney feels his office is not part of the executive branch "he should return the salary the American taxpayers have been paying him since January 2001, and move out of the home for which they are footing the bill." There you go! Sounds just and right to me.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cheney’s Rules

This morning, the Washington Post’s lede paragraph in “Cheney Defiant on Classified Material“ tells the whole story: “Vice President Cheney's office has refused to comply with an executive order governing the handling of classified information for the past four years and recently tried to abolish the office that sought to enforce those rules, according to documents released by a congressional committee yesterday.” Not only did Cheney try to eliminate the office in National Archives that offended him (and failed in that attempt) but also he claims that he is both in the executive branch and legislative branch of government. Ergo, if he opts to wear his legislative hat he is exempt from having to comply with orders governing the handling of classified information in the executive branch. The fly in that sticky argument is that only Cheney’s actions in the executive branch are involved with classified info. WaPo says, “The standoff disclosed yesterday stems from an executive order establishing a uniform, government-wide system for safeguarding classified information. The order was first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and was updated and reissued by President Bush in 2003. Under the order, an "entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information" must report annually how much it is keeping secret.” As the New York Times observed, “In the tradition of Washington’s semantic dust-ups, this one might be described as a fight over what an ‘entity’ is. The executive order, last updated in 2003 and currently under revision, states that it applies to any “entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.” The Federation of American Scientists filed a complaint against Cheney after the Chicago Tribune published an article last year about Cheney failing to report classification data. Steven Aftergood directs the federation’s Project on Government Secrecy. WaPo quoted Aftergood who said, "By refusing to comply with these trivial instructions, the vice president undermines the integrity of the executive order," he said. "If it can be violated with impunity on a trivial point, then it can also be violated on more important matters." Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus. But where Cheney is concerned, that old law saw would have to be changed to: Sempre falsus in omnibus.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The President Preaches On Ethics

New York Times quote of the day: “'Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical,' Mr. Bush said in a brief ceremony in the East Room of the White House." The Prez called the United States “a nation founded on the principle that all human life is sacred.” The logical conclusion is that lives lost in Iraq while the Bush administration is saving humans from being killed by terrorists is either unethical or those lives lost are not human. Yes, I know. Trying to make logical sense from anything the Prez says is absurd. And since the Prez was talking about stem cell research, we know his real meaning is: it’s unethical to destroy an embryo the size of a grain of rice even though it might save lives because that nonsense is a vote-getter. But while we are talking about President George W. Bush and his total ignorance of the meaning of the word ethics, a must-read this week is Seymour Hersh’s article in the June 25 issue of The New Yorker, “The General’s Report”, subheaded “How Antonio Taguba, who investigated the Abu Ghraib scandal, became one of its casualties.” It’s not shocking to know that the highest official in all countries, including the United States, have people whacked. As Hersh says, “A recently retired C.I.A. officer, who served more than fifteen years in the clandestine service, told me that the task-force teams” (called JSOCS—Joint Special Operations Command working under SAP—Special Access Programs) “had full authority to whack—to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’ ” the phrase for political assassination. “It was surrealistic what these guys were doing,” the retired operative added. “They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the chief of station.” The shocking and maddening point that Hersh makes is that the highest priority of the Bush administration, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and the entire Pentagon, was to sacrifice the lives and careers of lower-echelon people rather than to take responsibility for the torture (and death-by-torture) policy developed by the Bush administration and the Pentagon. Hersh writes: “A recently retired high-level C.I.A. official, who served during this period and was involved in the drafting of findings, described to me the bitter disagreements between the White House and the agency (CIA) over the issue (explicit legal authority). “The problem is what constituted approval,” the retired C.I.A. official said. “My people fought about this all the time. Why should we put our people on the firing line somewhere down the road? If you want me to kill Joe Smith, just tell me to kill Joe Smith. If I was the Vice-President or the President, I’d say, ‘This guy Smith is a bad guy and it’s in the interest of the United States for this guy to be killed.’ They don’t say that. Instead, George”—George Tenet, the director of the C.I.A. until mid-2004—“goes to the White House and is told, ‘You guys are professionals. You know how important it is. We know you’ll get the intelligence.’ George would come back and say to us, ‘Do what you gotta do.’” This morning, George W. Bush said using embryos for stem cell research is unethical. And yet, George W. Bush approved all the torture methods used at Abu Ghraib and in all other prisons around the world where detainees are being held. If there is a difference between Dennis Rader, the Bible-spouting Bind-Torture-Kill serial killer and George W. Bush, I fail to see it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Who is Fighting What and Where in Iraq?

It’s possible that reporters haven't bothered to find out how many troops are fighting in various sections of Iraq and whether they are American soldiers, Iraqi soldiers or mercenaries and what-not. But it’s far more likely that the Pentagon is not releasing that information, if it knows the answers which it probably doesn't. The New York Times reported this morning that “The American military began a major attack against Sunni insurgent positions here in the capital of Diyala Province overnight, part of a larger operation aimed at blunting the persistent car and suicide bombings that have terrorized Iraqis and thwarted political reconciliation.” The NYT article (“Military Strikes Insurgents’ Positions East of Baghdad”) by Michael R. Gordon and Damien Cave, goes on to say: “The assault — by more than 2,000 American troops in Baquba and more than 10,000 in the overall operation — is unusual in its scope and ambition, representing a more aggressive strategy of attacking several insurgent strongholds simultaneously to tamp down violence throughout the country.” Further on, the article says, “The Baquba operation is being led by the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division, with support from units from two other brigades. The American troops are either directly involved in the assault or in supporting efforts on the flanks, along with combat aircraft and artillery.” The article says, “In the next phase, American forces will begin the dangerous and painstaking process of clearing the city, which is still occupied by thousands of civilians. Iraqi security forces will have a role in securing the western section of the city after it has been captured by American troops, but are not involved in the initial assault.” A manual of military-speak would be useful. Stryker is a type of vehicle that is neither heavy nor light. A Stryker battalion, presumably, can move quickly. The name Stryker honors two American soldiers who were killed in action. Pfc Stuart Stryker was killed during World War II and Spc Robert Stryker was killed in the Vietnam War. A battalion has 800-900 soldiers. A brigade has 5000 soldiers and is typically made up of two to five battalions. How many of the “more than 10,000 in the overall operation” are American soldiers? How many are Iraqis? How many are rag-tag-God-knows-what-and-who? How many are mercenaries? We don’t know. The article is very careful to state that in the next phase American forces will clear the city and “Iraqi security forces will have a role but are not involved in the initial assault”. That little throwaway sentence about “Iraqi security forces” (as in, mercenaries and rag-tag-God-knows-what-and-who) not being involved means that they absolutely and for sure were involved in the initial assault. How many soldiers got killed? We don’t know. How many civilians got killed? We don’t know. How many American soldiers were involved? We don’t know. How many Iraqi soldiers were involved? We don’t know. How many mercenaries and rag-tags were involved? We don’t know and will never know. How many mercenaries were killed? We don’t know and will never know. How many sons or daughters of George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Robert Gates, Karl Rove, General Petraeus, William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Lindsay Graham, John McCain, and James Dobson have been injured or killed in Iraq? Ah...that we know. NONE.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Petraeus Sees US in Iraq For Nine-Ten Years

This morning the Washington Post reported that president Bush’s top commander in Iraq, General David H. Petraeus sees “many, many, challenges” in Iraq. Of course, any thinking person knew that it was a bald-faced lie when Petraeus suggested he would reassess the Iraq situation in September. Even Petraeus knew it was lie. He told ABC News two weeks ago that he had already decided to call the surge in Iraq a success no matter what was really going on in Iraq. But Petraeus translates “success” as meaning “since we are being successful in Iraq, we have to stay there until the Sunnis and Shiites kiss and make up”. Today, the Washington Post said, “Asserting steady, albeit slow, military and political progress, Petraeus said that the 'many, many challenges' would not be resolved 'in a year or even two years.' Similar counterinsurgency operations, he said, citing Britain's experience in Northern Ireland, 'have gone at least nine or 10 years.' He said he and (Ambassador) Crocker would make 'some recommendations on the way ahead' to Congress, and that it was realistic to assume 'some form of long-term security arrangement' with Iraq." Back when the Prez was touting his surge and some kind of pullout of our troops, the Bush administration tied the surge success to Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s success in making Iraq ready to handle its own affairs. Now Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte and head of the U.S. military's Central Command Adm. William Fallon all say they are disappointed in Maliki’s progress. But the US has made it impossible for Maliki to have any success. Please note that the Blackwater, USA mercenaries (and all the other private "security" contractors) who are supposed to be putting Iraq back together are actually fighting in the civil war that is keeping Iraq in chaos. And, also please note that Blackwater, USA is being used as the security guards protecting Ryan Crocker. WaPo reported, “Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, his diplomatic counterpart in Baghdad, said a key report they will deliver to Washington in September will include what Crocker called ‘an assessment of what the consequences might be if we pursue other directions.’ Noting the ‘unhelpful roles’ being played by Iran and Syria in Iraq, Crocker said: ‘We've got to consider what could happen.’” The Bush administration, General Petraeus, and Ambassador Crocker are on a crusade to scare the shit out of American voters: If we leave Iraq, Iran will nuke everything in sight, including American cities is the current message. And that, of course, is why turncoat weasel Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Ind-R-whatever-CT) is talking about the threat Iran poses and that we should bomb Iran forthwith. This much we know: Whatever those madmen are saying, whatever ostensible reasons they are giving for the US having to stay in Iraq, they are not the real reasons. The Brits have been making arms deals with Saudi Arabia. What’s that all about? Are Saudi Prince Bandar (and his family) and President Bush (and his family) now out of love? Or is Middle East oil keeping their romance hot? What kind(s) of sweetheart deal(s) has the US been making subrosa with Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran? Have those important measuring devices that Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance Paul Bremer conveniently forgot to install on Iraq oil wellheads before fleeing Iraq now been installed? Or is the smuggling of Iraq oil still going on? Will keeping US military bases in Iraq forever and ever sufficiently line the pockets of Republicans with oil revenues? Who knows? But one question I can answer. Was Saddam Hussein as corrupt as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Karl Rove, Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, General Petraeus, Ryan Crocker, Robert Gates, James Dobson, Erik Prince, et al? The answer is NO, not even by half.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mercenaries Are “Heroes” in Iraq? Please!

The Washington Post this morning says the shadow army in Iraq, which is composed of mercenaries from over a hundred private security companies are taking hits that the American troops don’t have to take. These guys were hired at $1000-a-day to rebuild the Iraq infrastructure, which the US illegal war obliterated, and to guard American officials. But they are actually fighting alongside American troops and they are getting killed. The actions of these guys are overseen by no one. They can do anything they please. And, no surprise, they are doing anything they please. WaPo says, “The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials. Blackwater USA, a prominent North Carolina firm that protects U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, and several other companies have not applied, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Blackwater said that it obtained a one-year license in 2005 but that shifting Iraqi government policy has impeded its attempts to renew.” Bullshit! Blackwater, USA has chosen not to renew licensing in order that the mercenaries will continue to be able to commit murder, mayhem and be accountable to NO ONE. When guys sign on with private so-called security companies, they sign away all rights. They have been quoted as saying they think a thousand bucks a day is worth it. And maybe it is. But don’t tell me they are heroes because they are getting killed and these casualties are not being reported. That’s the deal they made...eyes wide open and fists grasping for mega-bucks. WaPo says Victoria Wayne was deputy director for logistics for the Army Corps of Engineers and that she spent 2-1/2 years in Iraq. According to WaPo, “Wayne described security contractors as ‘the unsung heroes of the war.’ She said she believed the military wanted to hide information showing that private guards were fighting and dying in large numbers because it would be perceived as bad news. Bullshit! The reason the military gives no info about mercenaries fighting and dying is that the military doesn’t want to admit how many of the “private security” forces are fighting the war in Iraq. The United States does not have a military to call its own. The US has bought and paid for a military force of mercenaries to fight its illegal and unnecessary war in Iraq. I can’t even figure out the math used in the WaPo article. WaPo said, “U.S. Labor Department reported that ArmorGroup (a British private security company) has lost 26 employees in Iraq, based on insurance claims. Sources close to the company said the figure is nearly 30. Only three countries in the 25-nation coalition -- the United States, Britain and Italy -- have sustained more combat-related deaths.” What? Twenty-six deaths that actually should have been reported as 30? That’s a shame. As in, any death is a shame. But the US has lost 3520 actual US soldiers in Iraq. I have no idea what ArmorGroup is complaining about. The guys signed on for mega-bucks and gave up all rights. “ArmorGroup,” WaPo says,” started in Iraq with 20 employees and a handful of SUVs, and now it has grown to a force of 1,200 -- the equivalent of nearly two battalions.” Maybe it’s a cavil, but two US battalions would be 1600-1800 men. And why has Armor Group grown to a force of 1,200? Because the guys are getting paid a princely sum by the US State Department and they are supposed to be constructing stuff for the Iraqis or doing “security” chores. But they are fighting. And why are they fighting? Because they are fucking MERCENARIES and mercenaries fight. And everyone knows that’s why they are in Iraq. Mercenaries are in Iraq to fight the war that our military is underequipped and understaffed to fight. Oh...they are getting killed? Oh...their deaths are not being reported? Well that’s the contract they signed, may they rest in peace. Heroes? I don’t think so! They are men who have signed on to do whatever for a lot of dough. And whatever just happens to be FIGHTING in Iraq. I do not want to hear whines from mercenaries. I do not want to hear that men who are getting a thousand dollars a day to maraud and commit murder are heroes. They are mercenaries. And they are doing what mercenaries do. They fight and they get paid to fight any war anywhere. Patriotism, honor, integrity, national pride, bravery and couraqe have nothing to do with it. They are not heroes, they are mercenaries: motivated solely by a desire for monetary or material gain. The argument appears to be that mercenaries are fighting our war because the US doesn’t have enough soldiers to fight our war and we should be ever so grateful. The war in Iraq is not my war. It’s not your war. It’s the Bush administration’s war. And the Bush administration has decided to pay US tax-payer money to mercenaries to fight the Bush administration’s war because the Bush administration can't figure out a way to fight it's illegal and unnecessary war. Why should I be grateful? So, bullshit me not about heroes. I know a hero when I see one. Or, I should say, I know a hero when I don’t see one. A lot of guys I knew fought in World War II and they are lying in unmarked graves in Europe. They were heroes. A bunch of guys getting paid huge amounts to fight a war that the American people never authorized and were lied into, are not heroes. They are just mercenaries fulfilling a contract.

Friday, June 15, 2007

What About the Mormon Religion?

By me, the beliefs espoused by Mormons are ridiculous. But, let me hasten to say, they are no more ridiculous than the beliefs espoused by Christians. Or in fact, the beliefs of any other religion. The thing that sets the Mormon myths apart is that the Mormon Church was founded only 177 years ago. Back in 1830 when Joseph Smith started his Church of Christ, later called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jedediah Smith and William Sublette lead the first wagon train on a 500 mile trek through Indian country that proved overland travel to the Pacific was possible. The year 1830 is a year Americans can get in touch with through our own history. As opposed to the event that happened 2000 years ago and jump-started Christianity or the event 4000 years ago that gave rise to Islam. The touchstone of both the Mormon belief and the Christian belief is Jesus Christ. But the Mormon belief adds a few new wonders to the old wonders of virgin birth and man-God. And the Mormon wonders are only 177 years old. Those Mormon marvels include golden plates given to Joseph Smith (who was a renowned charlatan in Manchester, New York) by an angel named Moroni. And the plates had strange writing on them that looked like hieroglyphics but not really. The writing only could be translated by Joseph Smith with the help of special spectacles and two divining stones called Thummim and Urim (not the same as the divining stones used by ancient Hebrews, but in the same category). And after Smith translated the writing on the gold plates, the Angel Moroni took them back and disappeared to the realm from which he came. Well okay, all religions have their myths. But Mormon and presidential candidate Mitt Romney is being roundly criticized by other Mormons for saying that Jesus will return to Jerusalem. All Mormons know that Jesus will come back to Missouri and that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri. Yes, I have a hard time with the Virgin birth and Jesus being a man-God. But hey, that was a long time ago and religions tend to embroider on original events over a long period of time. But I have a harder time with the Mormon myths that were being thought up about the time my great-great-grandmother was born. A lot of the original Mormon tenets have been shit-canned. All that polygamy stuff and black bigotry ugliness and who knows about the magic underwear? But, Mormons still believe that Jesus is supposed to come back to Missouri where he was born and that the Garden of Eden is in Missouri. Another thing I find hard to swallow is that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) converted to Mormonism. He wasn’t born into it like Mitt Romney. A lot of us accepted a lot of nonsense when we were born into religions. A lot of us took a look and said, I don’t think so. But converting is something else altogether. When I was married to a Roman Catholic I went to classes to see about converting. Okay, I admit, the priest running the classes looked like Montgomery Clift. But I took the whole idea of converting seriously and I studied and I thought about it and read about it and prayed about it and finally I said, Look, Monty...I mean, Look Father, I can’t do this. I just can’t swallow this stuff. Not now. Not at my age. And Father Monty said, in effect, I understand. But Harry Reid and his wife converted to Mormonism. They were grown-up people and they took a look at John Smith and his con games in New York and the Angel Moroni, and the Golden Plates and the strange writing (which turned out to be gobbledegook), and Jesus being born in Missouri and the Garden of Eden and Genesis all happening in Missouri and they said, Right! That’s for me! I just don’t understand that. Religions are all fantastical, but the Mormon Church is breathtaking in its bizarre beliefs. Which makes Thomas Jefferson’s idea of keeping church and state separate very wise indeed. Jefferson wrote his letter to the Danbury Baptists about a "wall of separation between church and state," in 1802. And that was 18 years before Joseph Smith had his first “vision” and thought up his Mormon scam. At least science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard came out and admitted his dianetics (Scientology) nonsense was a con job. But when money started rolling in from the sale of his book, he said "the creation of dianetics is a milestone for man comparable to his discovery of fire and superior to his inventions of the wheel and arch." What’s better than turning lead into gold? Inventing a religion.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

1) Flag Day, 2) the Justice Department

This is Flag Day, “a day to honor your flag” we are told. I usually put my little flags on display on Flag Day and July 4th. I am touched by the American flag and its symbolism. I revere the American flag. It means a lot to me. But I cringe when KYW Radio in Philadelphia keeps repeating Bob Nelson’s reading of “I Am Your Flag” on Flag Day. In my apartment, the definition of a split second is the time between hearing the essay coming on and flipping off the radio. KYW Radio always repeats the essay, “Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” at Christmas time. I hate that one too. Both are intended to elicit push-button responses to things and events that call for reflection and introspection. In that same vein, the Bush administration has instructed the Justice Department to pursue religion-oriented cases rather than civil rights cases, in order to elicit push-button responses from voters. Using religion as a political ploy is not new in the GOP, but using the Justice Department to promote that agenda is, as critics say,”outside its mandate from Congress”. This morning, the New York Times ran an article by Neil A. Lewis (“Justice Dept. Reshapes Its Civil Rights Mission”). Lewis said, “While statutes prohibit religious discrimination in areas like employment and housing, no laws address some of the issues in which the department has become involved.” Lewis quotes law professor Brian K. Landsberg, a former Justice Department lawyer under Republican and Democrat administrations: “Not until recently has anyone in the department considered religious discrimination such a high priority...No one had ever considered it to be of the same magnitude as race or national origin.” Lewis said, “In recent years, the Bush administration has recast the federal government’s role in civil rights by aggressively pursuing religion-oriented cases while significantly diminishing its involvement in the traditional area of race.” Not only is the Justice Department Attorney General a lying Bush flack who has engaged in illegal acts at the behest of the White House, but the Justice Department has engaged in hiring and firing US Attorneys for political reasons, defended the Republican Party when it tramples the Constitution, and now, we find out, as counsel for Americans United for Separation of Church and State Ayesha Khan said, “They (the Justice Department) are engaging in freewheeling social engineering...using the power of the federal government to put in place an ideological, not constitutional agenda.” Lewis listed recent changes in the Department of Justice focus: • Intervening in federal court cases on behalf of religion-based groups like the Salvation Army that assert they have the right to discriminate in hiring in favor of people who share their beliefs even though they are running charitable programs with federal money. • Supporting groups that want to send home religious literature with schoolchildren; in one case, the government helped win the right of a group in Massachusetts to distribute candy canes as part of a religious message that the red stripes represented the blood of Christ. • Vigorously enforcing a law enacted by Congress in 2000 that allows churches and other places of worship to be free of some local zoning restrictions. The division has brought more than two-dozen lawsuits on behalf of churches, synagogues and mosques. • Taking on far fewer hate crimes and cases in which local law enforcement officers may have violated someone’s civil rights. The resources for these traditional cases have instead been used to investigate trafficking cases, typically involving foreign women used in the sex trade, a favored issue of the religious right. • Sharply reducing the complex lawsuits that challenge voting plans that might dilute the strength of black voters. The department initiated only one such case through the early part of this year, compared with eight in a comparable period in the Clinton administration. If there is any reason for anyone in any minority to vote for the Republicans, I fail to understand it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Failed Vote Is Still a Vote of No Confidence

For all the bluster and humbug coming out of the Repub camp this morning, the failed vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is no victory for the Bush administration. As one of the measure's sponsors, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), said, “When a majority of the Senate votes no confidence in a cabinet officer, it says a lot...he ought to have the decency himself to resign. Clearly, he is not up to the job.” The Democrats mustered 53 of the 60 votes it needed to symbolically censure Gonazles. Those numbers are a forecast of the Bush administration’s dwindling political clout for the rest of its term in office. It won’t be long before Congress will override presidential vetoes. Yesterday, the Prez also said the immigration bill would be revamped, "I believe we can get it done...I'll see you at the bill signing." In a man of integrity and honor, those words would sound hopeful and encouraging. Coming from George W. Bush they are simply harebrained and delusional. Once again the White House has maneuvered its way into a corner with no way out. Just as there is no way for the Bush administration to back down from its failed policies in Iraq, it cannot back down from its failed position on immigration. And now, the Bush administration must continue to support the inept and corrupt Attorney General through an investigation that is getting closer and closer to the president. As usual, Gonzales made a stunningly cockeyed statement about the vote of no confidence. “I am not focusing on what the Senate is doing...I am going to be focusing on what the American people expect of the attorney general of the United States and this great Department of Justice.” Given the situation in the Department of Justice, the American people expect the attorney general to resign.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bush Dissed the Pope

Is it important that on two separate occasions last Saturday the Prez addressed Pope Benedict XVI as “sir” and not “your Holiness”? Is it important that as the Prez sat across from the Pope he crossed his legs “Texas style”? And were these intentional gaffes? Or were they examples of our president’s ignorance? Yes, these blunders are important. Yes, they were intentional. And yes they were examples of George W. Bush’s ignorance. Any Bush-watcher was waiting to see how the Prez would insult the Pope. We didn’t wonder if he would insult the Pope. With Bush, false steps are a tic. It’s an automatic reaction. George W. Bush will insult his betters. And that’s not a compliment to the Pope. Each person in the world is one of George W. Bush’s betters. The Prez had been briefed on the proper form of address when speaking to the Pope. He had been briefed on etiquette and rules of conduct with the Pope. And he was disrespectful anyway. We are told this is the first time the Prez had met Pope Benedict XVI. And, as I wrote on Saturday, it may be the first time Bush met Benedict, but it is not the first time Bush had met Josef Ratzinger because I heard him say “Good to see you again.” But the importance of his gaucherie is that he was addressing the Pope. Never mind that he’d met the man before. These gaffes are going to become more prevalent and more pointed between now and the day George W. Bush leaves office because Bush has officially entered his Lame Duck phase. The folks in voter-land are telling their elected representatives that George W. Bush and his policies are wrong. Congress is starting to reflect the opinions of voters, not the opinions of George W. Bush. It won’t be long before the president’s veto will be overridden. It takes a two-thirds vote in the chamber originating a bill (a quorum must be present) to override a president’s veto. The bill then does not become law. The first time a George W. Bush veto is overridden, I fully expect him to yell “Fuck you!” and flip the bird to Congress. And that’s surely something to look forward to.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Senator Lindsay Graham Went Undercover

Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC) went on active duty for a week’s visit to Iraq last April. Graham is a Colonel in the Reserve. This trip was roughly a week after McCain made his fabled visit when he was heavily guarded by the US military. It was a “secret mission” Graham says. Graham was in army fatigues and carrying a sidearm. The secret part was that Graham who is a lawyer wanted to investigate the rule of law in Iraq. On May 9th, CBSNews reported: “Graham counseled the Iraqis on how different their courts must be now.” Graham said, "The old legal system was there to serve the dictator...the new legal system has to be there to serve all the people; not just one group of people." And Lindsay Graham was there to serve the White House PR machine. Active duty for a week...wearing fatigues...carrying a sidearm...secret mission...showing up John McCain. Oh golly! How thrilling! Yesterday, AmericaBlog added a footnote. AmericaBlog says that rumors abound that Senator Graham is gay and that his going on active duty in Iraq “raises a very serious question of national security”. Senator Graham and the Republican Party can’t have it both ways, AmericaBlog said. Either gayness is a threat to national security and must be thoroughly investigated and rooted out of the military, or it’s not. According to the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell policy, when questions as to gayness are raised, there is a threat to “unit cohesion” and the questions must be investigated. Did the Pentagon investigate the rumors about Graham before it sent him on his secret mission? As AmericaBlog says, “Doubtful.” I am shocked that the White House didn’t care that it may have put our soldiers in grave danger by sending a possibly gay man into their midst. And on such an important secret mission, no less.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

So George W. Bush Says to the Pope, He Says...

There are two versions of the Prez’s first words to Pope Benedict XVI when they met at the Vatican today. The one floating around in print is that George W. Bush sat before the Pope at the Pontiff’s desk and said, “It's good to be with you sir.” But the Prez’s greeting to the Pope, which I heard with my own ears on the radio this morning, was: “Good to see you again.” When did Bush see Cardinal Josef Ratzinger (Pope John Paul II’s “Enforcer”) before? The last time Bush was at the Vatican was April 2005 when he attended John Paul’s funeral. Just how how kissy-face have George W. and Ratz been? On April 25, 2005 Michael Carmichael posted an interesting article on the Planetary Movement blog, titled “Divine Intervention” ( The article was about Josef Cardinal Ratzinger being named to succeed Pope John Paul ii. Carmichael said, “When George Bush visited John Paul II in June of last year (2004), he asked the Pontiff for a political favor. Shortly thereafter, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a letter to American bishops that essentially threatened to excommunicate all Catholics who voted for John Kerry. Upon receipt of the letter, five prominent Roman Catholic bishops held an unprecedented press conference to proclaim their preference for George Bush over his rival, John Kerry. Bush received 6% more Roman Catholic votes last year than he did in 2000, even though his opponent was a lifelong Catholic who had served as an altar boy. Ratzinger’s political intervention had worked wonders for neoconservativism, and it is now being recognized as one of the most decisive factors in Bush’s electoral strategy.” A little further on, Carmichael said, “Yesterday, at his ritual enthronement, Pope Benedict XVI was seated on his throne where he was approached by supplicants who knelt down and kissed his papal ring. Without any question, the most evocative image from this ritual came when Florida governor, Jeb Bush, swiftly approached Benedict’s throne, knelt down, kissed the papal ring and – with a curiously ecstatic expression on his face – he began to speak fervently, passionately and unashamedly into the face of the new pontiff. Whatever the trivialities of their self-serving confabulation, it is clear that this political pontiff will not hesitate to intervene on behalf of the candidate he prefers in the next US presidential election. It is very likely that candidate will be Jeb Bush. The new pope is a seasoned political interventionist, and he will not hesitate to support the Bush Dynasty and its best interests, politically, ecclesiastically and ‘spiritually’.” Granted, because the Bush Dynasty has proved to be the most stupid and inept collection of criminals outside of Donald E. Westlake’s fictional gang in Brooklyn, Jeb Bush isn’t going to be the GOP candidate in 2008. Still, Carmichael’s sense of the Vatican’s intention to influence American politics is as on-target now as it was in 2005. The New York Times reported this morning, “President Bush met today for the first time with Pope Benedict XVI, a religious conservative like the American president but who raised his worries in their private meeting about the war in Iraq.” Uh-huh! Okay, maybe it’s true that this is the first time George W. Bush has met Pope Benedict XVI, but I doubt it’s the first time he has met Josef Ratzinger. And one cannot help wondering, what in hell are they cooking up this time?

Friday, June 08, 2007


First, I despise eHarmony founder Dr. Neil Clark Warren’s face. He either has the worst facelift in the world, or botox has failed him. Second, I despise the man’s shit-eating smile. Third, Dr. Warren’s smarmy, unctuous voice in the eHarmony ads is an offense against my ears. Fourth, Warren’s manipulative, seductive manner sends out pedophile signals even though I am sure that is not one of his sins. To me, the eHarmony ads are so annoying they make Head On look and sound benign and soothing. When I heard that eHarmony was being sued it made me ecstatic. Warren started his online matchmaking service eHarmony in 2000. He has all the credentials a relationship counselor needs: BA Social Sciences, Pepperdine University (1956) MDiv, Princeton Theological Seminary (1959) PhD Clinical Psychology, University of Chicago (1967) Professor Fuller Theological Seminary (1967) Former Dean Fuller Theological Seminary Grad. School of Psychology (1975-82) Married for 48 years to the same woman. They have three daughters. Warren has written tons of self-help books, a few of which are: “God Said It, Don’t Sweat It”,”Finding the Love of Your Life” and “Catching the Rhythm of Love”. One of Warren’s best friends is evangelical Christian zealot James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. But back in 2005, Warren started to pull away from his public association with Dobson. All that fire and brimstone and Dobson’s high political profile were not compatible with Warren’s avuncular style. So. What could be wrong with Warren and eHarmony, other than his doughy face, his oily manner, his treacly message and his manipulative tone? On May 31, 2007 Linda Carlson brought a lawsuit against eHarmony for being anti-gay and for discriminating against gays and lesbians. Carlson’s lawyers say they expect a significant number of gays and lesbians to join the class action. They want unspecified damages for those “denied eHarmony services based on their sexual orientation”, and they want eHarmony to end its discriminatory practices. EHarmony says the allegations of discrimination against gays are false and reckless. “The research that eHarmony has developed, through years of research, to match couples has been based on traits and personality patterns of successful heterosexual marriages. Nothing precludes us from providing same-sex matching in the future. It's just not a service we offer now based upon the research we have conducted," eHarmony said in a statement. Carlson's lawyer Todd Schneider said the lawsuit was "about changing the landscape and making a statement out there that gay people, just like heterosexuals, have the right and desire to meet other people with whom they can fall in love." I surely hope Schneider, Carlson and all the others joining the class action suit win. I hope they win pots of money in damages. Of course Warren is anti-gay. The Evangelical movement is anti-gay. James Dobson is anti-gay. All those nasty little holier-than-you-and-your-mother religious-right fanatics are anti-gay. But I also hope the Carlson lawsuit wins because a lawsuit against 73-year-old Neil Clark Warren for being a far-right religious fanatic with a bad eye-and-jowl lift, a phony smile and an annoying ad campaign would never get anywhere.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Interesting Civil Union Editorial in the NYT

An Editorial in the New York Times this morning about the Civil Union fight in Connecticut shows one of two things, depending on your viewpoint: 1) People are never satisfied. 2) There is no such thing as “separate but equal". On the face of it, Connecticut had reached a reasonable alternative to gay marriages when it established civil unions for gays and lesbians two years ago. At least, one thought, Connecticut allowed gays and lesbians the same legal rights as married couples, even though the state did not allow gays and lesbians to marry. According to the Gay and Lesbian Times, Bennett Klein, the attorney (unnamed in the NYT editorial) representing eight same-sex couples in Connecticut said, “What the state calls something does matter...the only possible reason that the legislature denied marriage here and created a separate institution just for one minority group was because they thought marriage meant something.” The NYT said, “The plaintiffs’ argument was laced with references to Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court’s notorious 1896 decision which justified racial segregation under a deplorable standard of ‘separate but equal’. Although startling, the analogy is apt. In establishing civil unions two years ago, Connecticut lawmakers created a separate and inherently inferior institution that continues to deny gay couples the equality they seek and deserve.” The gay and lesbian couples’ position is that Connecticut’s marriage law is unconstitutional because it applies only to heterosexual couples and denies same-sex couples the financial, social and emotional benefits of marriage. The state of Connecticut claims that the civil union law grants all the rights of marriage to same-sex couples, and any difference amounts to “a difference in name alone”. As the NYT points out, “Saying a civil union is the same as marriage does not make it so. Civil unions are a newly invented category, neither universally recognized nor understood. Connecticut’s claim that the two terms are alike merely underscores the bottom-line question: Why relegate a minority group to a separate category?” The NYT went on to say that if the couples involved in this case lose, the Connecticut Legislature has an obligation to revisit the issue. The NYT Editorial closed saying, “A law that allows civil unions but not marriage is preferable to denying benefits and recognition to same-sex couples. But no one should confuse it with equality.” Currently, Massachusetts is the only state that allows same-sex couples to marry. The folks leading the vociferous battles against same-sex marriage would have an argument in their favor if heterosexual marriage were the wonderfully righteous and honorable institution it’s touted as being. But it isn’t. Four to five children die every day in the U.S. because of child abuse. There are 7.5 marriages per 1000 in the total population and 3.6 divorces per 1000 in the total population. Let the gays and lesbians marry. They surely can’t do worse than the heterosexuals as far as child abuse and divorce is concerned. And they might teach us all a thing or two about family stability and love.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Blackwater, USA Case Goes to Arbitration

In January of 2005, a wrongful death and fraud suit was filed against Blackwater Security Consulting. As you know, Blackwater, USA is a training camp for mercenaries based in North Carolina. It is run by religious zealot Erik Prince. The Prince family has funded all of religious-fanatic James Dobson’s enterprises and ministries. Blackwater, USA cleared ground for its training camp in 1997. Blackwater Security Consulting was formed in 2002. BSC is one of the private contracting firms paid by the US State Department to provide security personnel for officials and their installations in Iraq. BSC also has been training Iraq’s army and police force and it provides “other support for occupation forces”. (Read, BSC provides the mercenaries for the United States’ shadow army in Iraq.) The wrongful death lawsuit came about because of the grisly deaths of four Blackwater Security Consulting contractors who were shot in March 2004 by Iraqi insurgents. Their bodies were burned and the charred remains hung from a bridge across the Euphrates River in Falluja. The insurgents televised the scene and gleefully shook their fists. The lawsuit was brought by the families of the four civilian contractors. All Blackwater contracts are explicit. They release the Blackwater companies from "any liability whatsoever" even if it is "the result of negligence, gross negligence, omissions or failure to guard or warn against dangerous conditions." Former Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq, Paul Bremer, issued Order No. 17 as his last act before fleeing Iraq as though his pants were on fire. It grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, full immunity from Iraq’s laws. Blackwater, USA contractors cannot be prosecuted by the Iraqis for their acts of mayhem and malfeasance. And Blackwater, USA contracts release Blackwater, USA from any liability whatsoever regarding their mercenaries. Blackwater has almost perfect protection against liability. Except, the families of the murdered contractors decided to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The lawsuit alleged: “Blackwater broke explicit terms of its contract with the men by sending them to escort a food convoy in unarmored cars, without heavy machine guns, proper briefings, advance notice or pre-mission reconnaissance, in teams that were understaffed and lacked even a map.” The suit went all the way to the Supreme Court and it looked as though Blackwater, USA might, in fact, be handed a well-deserved comeuppance. The lawsuit was so important to Blackwater that it hired Kenneth Starr (the prosecutor who pursued a vendetta against President Clinton) to argue its side before the Supremes. Last February the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. That allowed the lawsuit to proceed to state court. On May 11th, the Senior US District (North Carolina) Judge James Fox issued an order that the parties to the lawsuit had to take the dispute to arbitration. The three-member arbitration panel is anything but objective. One of the members is former FBI and CIA director William Webster, who has personal and business ties to several Blackwater lawyers including Starr. The arbitration hearings began on May 25th. A retired Special Forces lawyer and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio said, "This is a very important decision...It is a recognition that the contract is iron-clad and that its terms absolve the company of liability. In future cases, this will be cited as a precedent." Blackwater, USA has moved a legal showdown out of the courts and into the non-judicial area of arbitration where everything takes place behind closed doors and the outcome is confidential. This is clearly a big win for the rightwing religious zealots in the Republican Party and for the fascists in the White House.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Who Is Visiting the White House?

This morning, an article in the Washington Post headlined “Cheney's Mystery Visitors” reports that Vice President Dick Cheney “intends to exercise ‘exclusive control’ of the logs showing who is visiting him or his staff at the White House compound or at the vice presidential residence at the Naval Observatory, WaPo said, “The private group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed suit seeking the logs to determine the influence of religious conservatives. "What is the vice president's office trying to avoid making public?" asked Anne Weisman, CREW's chief counsel.” After making Cheney’s position clear that Cheney wants to be the sole keeper of the visitor logs instead of the Secret Service, WaPo reported an interesting behind-the-scenes White House staff change: “Two months ago, Meghan O'Sullivan said she would leave her post as the top White House staff member on Iraq to pursue opportunities outside of government. Seems like those opportunities are being put on hold, at least for the summer. “At the request of Bush and Gen. David H. Petraeus, O'Sullivan is headed back to Iraq, where she will be working with U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker for the next several months on helping the Iraqis meet political benchmarks the United States is insisting on to achieve national reconciliation.” Of course the reason for O’Sullivan’s return, which is being floated by the White House, is bogus. The real point is that O’Sullivan worked with Jay Garner in Iraq and when Garner was canned and White House flunky Paul Bremer was named Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance for post-war Iraq, O’Sullivan worked for Bremer. Paul Bremer is a close friend of rightwing religious fanatic James Dobson. All of James Dobson’s ministries have been funded by the Prince family that owns and operates Blackwater, USA, a training ground in North Carolina for mercenaries being sent to Iraq by our State Department. Bremer used Blackwater guards for his security force in Iraq. Bremer’s last act in Iraq was to issue Order No. 17. Order Number 17 grants foreign contractors, including private security firms, full immunity from Iraq’s laws. Which means that even murder or environmental disasters may not be prosecuted if committed by foreign firms. On May 14th, James Dobson said, “I was invited to go to Washington DC to meet with President Bush in the White House along with 12 or 13 other leaders of the pro-family movement…and the topic of the discussion that day was Iraq, Iran and international terrorism. And we were together for 90 minutes and it was very enlightening and in some ways disturbing too...the world looked at Hitler and just didn't believe him and tried to appease him the way we're hearing in Washington today… you know, the President seems to me does understand this, as I told you from that meeting I had with him the other day, but even there it feels like somebody ought to be standing up and saying, ‘We are being threatened and we are going to meet this with force -- whatever's necessary.’” CREW is absolutely right...we need to know when Bush, Cheney and the entire Bush administration commune with far-right religious fanatic visitors. I would bet the rent that Paul Bremer is a White House habituĂ©. We know James Dobson is a frequent visitor. We know fallen-from-grace evangelical preacher Ted Haggard had weekly sessions with the Prez. Since the Prez has no mind of his own, I want to know who is filling that empty space with religious rants and nonsense. And, I must confess, I want to know who is clocking-in for sleepovers. Yes, I want to know if the same (and/or different) people who are advising the Prez on the war in Iraq and on US policy are also sharing the President’s bed. So sue me...I want to know.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Thank You Frank Rich for Making My Point

This morning, Frank Rich’s New York Times Op/Ed piece is about the difference between a totally Machiavellian Richard Nixon and little dweeby George W. Bush who is merely a pissant wee putz (my words) surrounded by Machiavellis. On the face of it, that’s not my point at all. HOWEVER, Rich says a sizable majority of both Republican and Democrat voters being polled are weary of George W. Bush and they can’t wait until he’s gone. “He will nonetheless leave Americans feeling much the way they did after Nixon fled: in a state of anger about the state of the nation... the rage is already omnipresent, and it’s bipartisan... On the Democratic side, the left is furious at the new Congress’s failure to instantly fulfill its November mandate to end the war in Iraq.” Here comes my point. Rich says, “After it sent Mr. Bush a war-spending bill stripped of troop-withdrawal deadlines 10 days ago, the cries of betrayal were shrill, and not just from bloggers. John Edwards, once one of the more bellicose Democratic cheerleaders for the war (“I believe that the risk of inaction is far greater than the risk of action,” he thundered on the Senate floor in September 2002), is now equally bellicose toward his former colleagues. He chastises them for not sending the president the same withdrawal bill he vetoed “again and again” so that Mr. Bush would be forced to realize “he has no choice” but to end the war. It’s not exactly clear how a legislative Groundhog Day could accomplish this feat when the president’s obstinacy knows no bounds and the Democrats’ lack of a veto-proof Congressional majority poses no threat to his truculence.” There it is. That’s my point. How the hell could sending the same withdrawal bill over and over to a President who is incapable of realizing anything except his veto power, end the war in Iraq? I understand the Democrats’ fury at being impotent in the face of the power that was seized by the Republican Party through lies and fraud. But I do not understand the Democratic Party focusing that fury on itself rather than on the Republican Party. Rich says “persistent cries for impeachment have gone nowhere in the Democratic Party hierarchy." And it's because “President Bush is less an overreaching Machiavelli than an epic blunderer surrounded by Machiavellis.” If, in fact, impeaching President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney would be a meaningless symbolic act, I say, let’s impeach them anyway. Impeachment is a positive, unifying, doable act. It’s a way to express our rage. And it is cathartic and empowering. Let’s do it! Let's impeach the bastards!

Friday, June 01, 2007

How Many Idiots Allowed TB Guy To Fly?

It’s hard to tell if this scandal is about arrogance, ignorance or arrogance and ignorance. Andrew Speaker has drug-resistant tuberculosis. He was allowed to fly all over the world and to potentially infect hundreds of people. 1) Let’s get this straight. Andrew Speaker is an idiot, an asshole and a self-absorbed, selfish jerk. Speaker knew he had drug resistant TB. He is a personal injury lawyer who deals with cases of people who have mesothelioma—asbestos poisoning in the lungs. He is not unaware of diseases of the lungs. He says he was not told not to fly. He didn't have to be told not to fly. He knew not to fly. 3) Andrew Speaker’s father knew his son had drug-resistant TB. He now is saying his son did nothing wrong. Unless Speaker’s father has been living in a cave, he knew his son should not fly and now he knows his son committed an act of horrible wrongdoing. 4) Speaker’s new father-in-law Robert C. Cooksey, is a tuberculosis researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He knew Speaker should not fly but now says he “was not involved in any decisions my son-in-law made regarding his travel.” If that is how Dr. Cooksey is going to defend himself and his new son-in-law, then Dr. Cooksey is also an idiot and a selfish jerk. 4) The guard at the Canada/US border was aware that Speaker had TB and let him cross into US anyway. 5) Supremely arrogant, ignorant, sycophantic weasel and head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff is in charge of United States border security. In July 2005, Senate Bill No. 442 decreed that Michael Chertoff who had been No. 16 in the presidential line of succession be moved up to No. 8. Who knew it was possible for anyone to be dumber than George W. Bush? But there he is, in the flesh: Michael Chertoff, No. 8 in the presidential line of succession, is the guy who allowed Andrew Speaker to fly all around the world even though Speaker has drug-resistant TB. Now we know some of the players in this latest scandal involving our borders. And now we know what the people at the center of this outrageous event are saying in defense of Andrew Speaker’s indefensible and unspeakably self-centered act. And it seems all too clear, at least to me, that these two families—the Cooksey’s and the Speaker’s--had spent a whole wad of dough on the wedding plans of their son and daughter and nothing was going to derail this wedding from going forward as planned. But there’s something smelly going on underneath the drama of these two families and their wedding plans. How did Andrew Speaker contract TB? We’re told he travels all over the world. Does he work for the US government when he travels all over the world? Today, the New York Times reported that Dr. Gwen A. Huitt, an infectious-disease expert at the centers (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) said he (Andrew Speaker) did not develop resistance from anti-tuberculosis treatment that C.D.C. officials said he took earlier.” Anti-TB treatment he took earlier? When earlier? Why eariier? We found out today that Speaker's wife-to-be was tested for TB six months ago. Why was she tested? How long has Speaker known he has TB? The usual way for drug-resistant TB to occur is when people don’t follow through with a drug therapy regime that will cure tuberculosis and then the bacillus becomes virulent. The Cooksey family had all the inside info they needed about TB, why were they so gung-ho for their daughter to marry a man with drug-resistant TB? This soap opera about one more US government/Homeland Security failure is only getting started.