Friday, August 10, 2007

A Comment on Manners v. Self-Awareness

I am, as usual, a little late on this, but I had to write something about a recent opinion piece by Peggy Noonan that has deservedly received quite a thorough mocking from many.

In this piece Noonan provides us with yet another example of how conservatives really feel about the average American. You see, not only do conservatives experience fear and loathing at the idea of having to interact with the common folk somewhere in cyberspace, but they also feel the need to fret about interactions with the struggling masses while shopping for clothes and handbags.

Peggy Noonan has recently taken to the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal of all places to inform the world that she is aware of and agrees that "We are living in the second great Gilded Age, a time of startling personal wealth." She then goes on to describe the signs of this Gilded Age, which has risen once more to envelope America from sea to shining sea:

In the West, the mansion after mansion with broad and rolling grounds; in the East, the apartments with foyers in which bowling teams could play....The Dow Jones Industrial Average has hit 14000. The wealthy live better than kings. There isn't a billionaire in East Hampton who wouldn't look down on tatty old Windsor Castle. We have a potential presidential candidate who noted to a friend that if he won the presidency the quality of his life would go down, not up.

And like so many others who have noted the rebirth of the Gilded Age in America, she realizes that there is something else to the story of so many billionaires scoffing at the Old World, aristocratic wealth and luxury of yore while they shit in solid gold toilets. Noonan notes that the "gap between rich and poor is great, and there is plenty of want, and also confusion."

And yet, as she contemplates these confusing, Dickensian times of growing disparity between those living better than kings and those who find themselves, day by day, sinking ever deeper into that abyss of want and epidemic financial insecurity, she can only turn back to the images of those spreading mansions and sky-rocketing stock markets:

What the superrich do for a living now often seems utterly incomprehensible, and has for at least a generation. There is no word for it, only an image. There's a big pile of coins on a table. The rich shove their hands in, raise them, and as the coins sift through their fingers it makes . . . a bigger pile of coins. Then they sift through it again and the pile gets bigger again.

You see, Ms. Noonan can't quite find the appropriate word to articulate exactly what it is that, if one could strip away the complex explanations of the world of global finance, the Market, ever increasing corporate profits, free trade, etc., could begin to explain how these billionaires were able to acquire these bigger and bigger piles of coins. Thus, she must rely on the imagery of the Gilded Age to convey her understanding and impression of how these billionaires have acquired so much.

I can understand her confusion. It certainly is hard to nail down exactly what these masters of the universe do because they wear so many hats and have their fingers in so many pies. Noonan correctly points out:

A general rule: If you are told what someone does for a living and it makes sense to you--orthodontist, store owner, professor--that means he's not rich. But if it's a man in a suit who does something that takes him five sentences to explain and still you walk away confused, and castigating yourself as to why you couldn't understand the central facts of the acquisition of wealth in the age you live in--well, chances are you just talked to a billionaire.

I can certainly sympathize with Noonan on this point. It's hard to give a specific job description to one of these billionaires who probably owns stock in a few multinational corporations that make their huge profits off of the cheap, third-world, slave-wage labor of 12 year olds in an impoverished Indian village, while at the same time owning stock in one or more of its subsidiaries in the United States that has grown its profit margins by outsourcing decent waged jobs with benefits and pensions to countries where the work can be done without basic minimum wage guarantees or labor and environmental laws and regulations. Such a billionaire is also likely to sit on one or more boards of any number of big corporations in which he is partly responsible for the financial and political maneuverings that are essential to things like vast mergers and acquisitions and the flow of finance through the world's markets as it enriches one billionaire after another, all the while sanctioning the dole out of vast sums of money in the form of campaign contributions to politicians and parties (on both sides of the aisle, to be sure) that will write and support legislation that greases the wheels for such financial gamesmanship (like taking a $20.00 bill out of the petty cash to buy some Xerox paper) and contributing even more sums to conservative and corporate friendly think tanks to support people (like Ms. Noonan herself) who write articles and papers on economic policy and in defense of the system that secures his wealth and who thus assist in providing a pseudo-intellectual and ideological cover for out of control free market, free trade, and globalization policies.

Up until this point, what Ms. Noonan is saying is making sense to me, but I lose her right after the first sentence of the previous paragraph. After Noonan remarks on the mysterious and inexplicable ways that billionaires amass such wealth she writes:

There are good things and bad in the Gilded Age, pluses and minuses. I write here of a minus. It has to do with our manners, the ones we show each other on the street. I think riches, or the pursuit of riches, has made us ruder. You'd think broad comfort would assuage certain hungers. It has not. It has sharpened them.

Yes, what outrages Noonan about this new Gilded Age with its rampant inequality and endemic financial insecurity and rising poverty juxtaposed, in her imagery, beside metaphorical billionaires rolling in their gold coins is...manners. Specifically what Noonan views as symbols of "the pushiness of the Gilded Age":

I walk into a shop on Madison Avenue daydreaming, trying to remember what it was I thought last week I should pick up, what was it . . .

"Hi! Let me help you find what you're looking for!" She is a saleswoman, cracking gum with intensity, about 25 years old, and she has made a beeline to her mark. That would be me....

In another shop, as soon as I walk in the door, "How are you today? How can I help you?" Those dread words.
"Oh, I'm sort of just looking."

"I like your bag!"

"Um, thanks." What they are forcing you to do is engage. If you engage--"Um, thanks"--you have a relationship. If you have a relationship, it's easier for them to turn you upside down and shake the coins from your pockets.

Of course she does concede that there are remnants of snobbishness in "the big stores (Macy's, Duane Reade drugstore), where [the sales people] ignore you" but obviously the biggest symbol of decaying manners and the boorish "pursuit of riches" are aggressive sales clerks who must do their part in sustaining the absolute wealth of the superrich by keeping the store's sales revenues at ever higher and higher levels because that is what their paycheck essentially depends on, if they are not working on commission, in which case a comparably insignificant amount of the profit from their sales is pretty much their paycheck.

After enduring such a traumatic experience, then walking out into the street only to be confronted by "the woman with the clipboard" who is concerned with the environment and is making Noonan feel a little uneasy, she ends her screed with an observation of another conspicuous image that has become all too common to our consumerist and money hungry society--the unrelenting use of the cellphone and blackberry:

It is possible that we are on the cellphone because we are lonely and hunger for connection, even of the shallowest kind; that we BlackBerry because we hope for a sense of control in a chaotic world; that we are frightened of stillness and must interrupt conversations; that we are desperate to make the sale in the highly competitive environment of the Banana Republic on 86th Street and must aggressively pursue customers.

Could it really be that a Gilded Age dominated by billionaires and the superrich whose vast wealth depends on a system that, by its very nature and design, creates and feeds off endemic financial insecurity, rising gaps between the rich and the rest of society, undermining of the middle classes, "plenty of want, and also confusion," and consumerist, workaholic, and get ahead at whatever cost cultural imperatives gone mad might make people "hunger for connection" or "a sense of control in a chaotic world"?

Of course not, Noonan only brings this up so she can be dismissive of this possibility and instead ends with this stunning insight:

It's also possible we have grown more boorish. I think it's that one. Many things thrive in the age of everything, including bad manners.

For a second there it looked as if Ms. Noonan was going to fall into the abyss of a little self awareness and delve into the possibility that the biggest "minus" of this second great Gilded Age might be the apt observation that, no matter what the specific explanation, at the bottom of "the utterly incomprehensible" nature of "what the superrich do for a living" lay pure, unadulterated greed and that a society whose economic, cultural and social institutions have come to be dominated by greed is just not good for anyone. But, being the true conservative that she is, Noonan took one look at that abyss and turned right back around to gaze in enchanted bewilderment at the billionaires and scoff at the sales clerks and their boorish manners.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

All Paris, All the Time But Don't Blame the Media

Via The Sideshow, an interesting new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press indicates that "87 percent of those surveyed said celebrity scandals receive too much coverage" and that the "public put most of the blame for the coverage squarely on the new media, with 54 percent responding that news organizations are at fault." But I'm sure the media will still continue to believe that they are just giving the people what they want.

Giving to Corporations but Not to the Troops

I really think that King George should rethink those tax cuts (see previous post) and should change his mind and start supporting the Democrats' bill to give our veterans full educational benefits.

Quote of the Day~The Broken Record of Conservatism

Today's quote comes from Kevid Drum commenting on Bush's latest call for yet more tax cuts:

He really is like a windup doll, isn't he? No matter what's going on in the outside world, no matter what problems we're facing, no matter what the political situation is, you pull the cord and he says "Tax cuts!" It's like he's the Manchurian President.

Pretty much sums it up to me. One of the most frightening things about King George is that no matter the reality of what we face as a nation he always sounds like a broken record--stay the course, fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here, we are making progress in Iraq, tax cuts, more tax cuts, privatize (insert pretty much anything here).

As King George's approval ratings plunge ever lower (as they will no doubt continue to do) and as Republicans increasingly try to make the case that King George is not really a conservative or has betrayed conservatism (as they no doubt will continue to do), we just need to remind them and everyone else that King George is still faithfully reciting solutions from the ideologically conservative answers to anything and everything guide book. Only a true conservative would propose yet more tax cuts when we already have a spiralling deficit, grossly defunded government services, major problems with out country's infrastructure, a war that is projected to cost us over a $1 trillion, especially if Bush continues with his surges, a potential economic catastrophe about to let loose because of the housing market, rising income inequality, more and more people without adequate health coverage or no coverage at all, soaring gas prices, inflation...well, you get it. No honest conservative Republican should have anything to fear from King George because he is nothing if not truly conservative:

President Bush said yesterday that he is considering a fresh plan to cut tax rates for U.S. corporations to make them more competitive around the world, an initiative that could further inflame a battle with the Democratic Congress over spending and taxes and help define the remainder of his tenure.

....The focus on economic issues on Bush's last day in Washington before leaving town today for most of the rest of the month reflected a White House strategy to confront Democrats on tax and spending issues. With most of his second-term domestic legislative agenda in tatters and his strategy in Iraq under bipartisan fire, Bush appears eager to return to familiar issues that animated the beginning of his presidency and might rally disaffected Republicans behind him again.

The Cost of War~Toy Soldiers and Debt Slaves

The cost of the Iraq war in dollars is now literally being dumped onto the shoulders of soldiers who are fortunate enough to have come back from Iraq without paying the ultimate cost of losing their lives. Veterans returning home from Iraq are now being billed by the Pentagon for a "debt of service." Via Crooks & Liars, this article from a couple of weeks ago reports that veterans are getting billed for government property that was lost or damaged while they were serving in Iraq.

One such case involves former Army Specialist Brian Rodrigues who served in Iraq as a combat engineer. Rodriguez "started getting bills for $700 for lost or damaged government property this summer. Although he was discharged some four years ago, bills recently arrived demanding payment, but giving no details on what or why -- nor do they offer a way to dispute the charges." This is happening to other veterans as well. According to a goverment report in 2006 "more than 1,000 soldiers [are] being billed a total of $1.5 million. "

These "debt of service" bills could put the furtures and financial stability of theses veterans and their families at risk. Rodriguez is trying to challenge the bills that he has received from the Army, but in the meantime he "will be reported to credit agencies next month." The article also quotes veterans' advocate Tod Ensign who describes what Rodriguez and others like him are facing: "They'll just pound him and call him, call his employers, and make his life as miserable as they can until he pays up." Ensign believes that this is "part of the military's push to be run more like a business."

This has been going on for some time. According to this Washington Post article from April 2006, soldiers are being billed for payroll "errors," as well as lost or damaged equipment. The post article states that the "underlying problem is an antiquated computer system for paying and tracking members of the military. Pay records are not integrated with personnel records, creating numerous errors. When soldiers leave the battlefield, for example, they lose a pay differential, but the system can take time to lower their pay." The system is so bad that it listed 400 soldiers killed in action as owing money to the government.

The post article quotes former Army finance officer Michael Hurst who studied the issue as saying that this problem resulted from a "complete leadership failure." Hurst says the military should have began to address this problem years ago.

I suspect that this is more than just a leadership failure, that it is, in fact, yet another symptom of a broken a system. How else can one explain why, in a country with the most powerful military in the world and in a country that spends as much on the military and defense as we do, troops are returning from war to face a financial crisis caused by a defunct military computer system that cannot accurately handle basic payroll functions and coordinate that with effective tracking of troops that have died or have been injured. With the billions we spend on defense there is no excuse why our military's computer systems should be so outdated and riddled with systemic problems such as these.

I'm still not exactly sure how the bills for equipment shortage fit into all of this except that the military is unable to keep an accurate track of battlefield injuries and integrate that with an accurate adjustment of inventory of lost or damaged equipment. Whatever the exact relationship between the inventory and payroll computer problems, it is evident that the basic IT infrastructure of the military has been in need of a significant overhaul for a long time. Either way, the fact these underlying deficiencies in the computer system were not addressed at an earlier point and the fact that basic computing and payroll systems are so outrageously deficient this far into the war points to more than just a leadership failure. In my opinion an ongoing failure of this sort has as much, if not more, to do with a system in which billions of dollars are wasted in a contracting system that is nothing but an egregious war-profiteering scheme and in which the Defense Department has prioritized privatization and the interests of private corporations over the well being of the nation's military.

In short, this phenomenon, which has been labeled by critics as "financial friendly fire," is just one more example of the troops becoming the victims of small government and free market ideology, an ideology whose core tenets include the belief that privatization, in the form of turning as many sections and functions of the federal government as possible over to private companies, is cheaper and more efficient in any context, including once effective and efficient functions of the US military. This process has proven to be, not only a massive transfer of tax payer money over to private corporations, but a practice that has caused incalculable damage in the Iraq war and one that has overwhelmingly contributed to the ever spiraling cost of the war from the very beginning. Thus, billions have been wasted that should have been put to better use in keeping basic military infrastructure up to par. But perhaps more to the point, this system creates a disincentive to insure that our military is efficiently funded and that funds are allocated in the most effective way.

Financial friendly fire is part of an ongoing list of atrocities that have resulted from this uber-privatization of the system. Troops returning from war are also dealing with inadequate healthcare and underfunded veterans' services, and troops in combat have been dealing with deficiencies in adequate and proper equipment. As early as 2003, for example, when problems with equipment shortages facing the troops were becoming apparent, Paul Krugman noted:

Military corner-cutting is part of a broader picture of penny-wise-pound-foolish government. When it comes to tax cuts or subsidies to powerful interest groups, money is no object. But elsewhere, including homeland security, small-government ideology reigns. The Bush administration has been unwilling to spend enough on any aspect of homeland security, whether it's providing firefighters and police officers with radios or protecting the nation's ports....There's also another element in the Iraq logistical snafu: privatization. The U.S. military has shifted many tasks traditionally performed by soldiers into the hands of such private contractors as Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary. The Iraq war and its aftermath gave this privatized system its first major test in combat - and the system failed.

(Emphasis mine). The war in Iraq has already costed us about $500 billion and is estimated, under the best of circumstances, to cost over a trillion dollars. A significant amount of that cost can be traced to the privitization of services once performed by the government and the military that have been handed over to private companies. In his article "The Bushites have Outsourced our Government to their Pals," Jim Hightower writes:

Since the BushCheney regime took office, Halliburton's government contracts have increased by a stunning 600%, including more than $10 billion in Pentagon contracts - many of them awarded without the fuss and muss of competitive bidding.

In return, Halliburton has delivered gas-price gouging, contaminated food and water, and a consis-These are our "savings" from privatization A 2006 federal audit of $1.7 billion in Pentagon purchases found that taxpayers were soaked for excessive fees from contractors and for tens of millions of dollars in waste. One reason was "poor contracting practices." Such as? The audit reports that 92% of the contracts were awarded without verifying that the contractors provided accurate cost estimates, and 96% of the work was inadequately monitored. 2 Hightower Lowdown June 2007 tent pattern of overcharges. It has been caught hiring Third World laborers to do its grunt work in Iraq, paying them as little as $5 a day, and then billing Uncle Sam more than $50 a day for each worker. In a February analysis of $10 billion in waste and overcharges by various contractors in Iraq, federal investigators found Halliburton responsible for $2.7 billion....

Hightower notes that "people see Halliburton as the face of privitized war in Iraq," but Halliburton is only one of many such contractors whose billions of dollars in profits amount to a rape of the US treasury and an outright theft of money from taxpayers through privatization, which has been the foundation of the Bush administration's handling of the war (as well as many domestic and intelligence activities):

Given the rampant corruption and waste that marks such policies, I cannot view these "debt of service" bills as anything but actions that are forcing the troops to directly pay for part of the financial cost of the war through the type of negligence that is produced by and that sustains a system that has created and maintained the enormous profits of these private contractors. This financial friendly fire may not be the result of a deliberate scheme to transfer part of the financial cost directly to the troops, but this did not occur in a vacuum. The underlying problems that have caused these computing and billing failures, combined with patterns of deficiencies in equipment, the veterans' healthcare system, and other veterans' services, along with unchecked waste and an alarming lack of accountability, amount to nothing less than gross negligence and are the inevitable result of a deliberate policy of favoring privatization over what is best for the military and the troops at any cost.

In fact, the Bush Administration has pushed its love for privatization so far that it now relies heavily ona private mercenary army to carry out its mission in Iraq. In January 2007 Jeremy Scahill noted that in his State of the Union speech Bush addressed "the very issue that has made the war's privatization a linchpin of his Iraq policy - the need for more troops." Scahill writes:

The president called on Congress to authorize an increase of about 92,000 active-duty troops over the next five years. He then slipped in a mention of a major initiative that would represent a significant development in the U.S. disaster response/reconstruction/war machine: a Civilian Reserve Corps." Such a corps would function much like our military Reserve. It would ease the burden on the armed forces by allowing us to hire civilians with critical skills to serve on missions abroad when America needs them," Bush declared.

This is precisely what the administration has already done, largely behind the backs of the American people and with little congressional input, with its revolution in military affairs. Bush and his political allies are using taxpayer dollars to run an outsourcing laboratory. Iraq is its Frankenstein monster.

The Los Angeles Times reported in July 2007 that "the number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government's capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns." According to the State and Defense department figures obtained by the Times, "[m]ore than 180,000 civilians - including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis - are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts" a fact that "shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq - a mission criticized as being undermanned."

The Bush Administration has deliberately relied on private contractors and increasing privatization in general, not only as a means to supplement needed forces, but as a means to avoid accountability and oversight of the ways in which it allocates competing resources, addresses competing priorities, and carries out its policies. This privatized corporate shield from accountability prevents the Bush Administration from having to insure that the military's infrastructure and equipment needs are up to par and from having to deal with fallout from its failures. Having a private military force that is equal to or outnumbers US military personnel means that you don't have to care as much about what is happening to the people you send to fight your wars and that operations can be carried out without the bothersome interference of government and public accountability. After all, where does the overhaul of a computer system with systemic problems that handles basic personnel functions that are essential for the effective operation of the military fall on the list of priorities when so much of the occupation and other military functions can be outsourced to private companies who will be paid with tax payer dollars?

The Bush administration's belief that it should not be held accountable for anything is no doubt a significant part of the reason that the Bush Administration will not hold defense contractors and companies like Halliburton accountable for their war-profiteering even while the troops are going into debt because of a defunct computer system. If the military needs the estimated 1.5 million dollars that it has billed veterans for, then the Bush administration should go after the war profiteers and recover the billions in tax payer money that they have stolen and wasted.

But Bush's politicized Justice Department has never had any intention of doing this and "has opted out of at least 10 whistle-blower lawsuits alleging fraud and corruption in government reconstruction and security contracts in Iraq, and has spent years investigating additional fraud cases but has yet to try to recover any money."

This Boston Globe article from June of this year further points out:

The government's reluctance to join in any of the civil suits has sparked allegations of political interference.

One witness, Alan Grayson , a lawyer who represents several whistle-blowers, told the House subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security that the Justice Department has been stonewalling and dragging its feet in investigating the whistle-blowers' claims of fraud.

"In our fifth year in the war in Iraq, the Bush administration has not litigated a single case against any war profiteer under the False Claims Act," Grayson said....

Historically, the False Claims Act has served as an important tool in recovering money defrauded from the federal government. Last year, it was used to return more than $3 billion in domestic cases, but has recovered only about $6.1 million from Iraq since the war began. Those recoveries, however, were the result of settlements between the Justice Department and two contractors -- not civil lawsuits or prosecutions.

(Emphasis mine). Thus, do we really have to wonder why it is that only $6.1 million dollars in settlements has been recovered out of the possible billions in waste and over-priced services that the Bush Administration could recover from these greedy, war-profiteering bastards but the Pentagon is billing veterans for an estimated $1.5 million. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that these war profiteers have a lot of friends and influence:

Outfits like Halliburton, DynCorp, Blackwater, L-3, Titan, Custer Battles, Triple Canopy, and Wackenhut are reaping billions of our tax dollars doing military work that the Bush-Cheney Pentagon has outsourced. Not coincidentally, nearly all of these corporations are big-dollar donors to Republicans and/or are run by executives with tight GOP ties.

(Emphasis mine). Kurt Vonnegut once wondered about the inhumanity of those who would make the preposterous claim that criticizing the way this war has been handled and the basis upon which it was launched endangered the morale of the troops when soldiers were already "being treated, as I never was, like toys a rich kid got for Christmas." Maybe that was only the beginning. Now thousands of rich kids' toy soldiers are coming home to be the rich kids' debt slaves.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Quote of the Day~Dirty Fucking Masses!

Conservatives rarely show what truly motivates them and their political philosophy as well as they do when you catch them saying what they really think about the dirty, worthless, stupid masses. Sometimes it slips out and it's painfully obvious. Other times it's ever so slightly subtle, but in plain view all the same.

Today's quote of the day comes from Whiskey Fire 's post on the GOP freakout over doing a YouTube Debate, which highlights one rather funny argument in "the intra-wingnut debate over the proposed GOP YouTube debate" from one particular wingnut whose reason for opposing it is that " 'dignity must be maintained.'" To which Whiskey Fire responds:

as regards a diehard GOP apologist these days, is like listening to a guy in a Tijuana circus with 49 daisies up his ass complaining about the deplorable goings-on in the donkey stall next door....One of the enduring problems the GOP has is that their entire "movement" is based upon transparent bullshit. Which is a problem for a bunch of loons obsessed with "dignity." "Respect my dignity," they declaim, while proudly waving their daisies rearward aloft to flutter in the stiffening breeze. It would be funnier were it not so corrosive to Our Republic, etc.

Yes, any time a conservtive starts talking about dignity, you can bet that conservative thinks he/she is smelling the stench from the unwashed masses or the filthy, cheap labor when, in fact, he/she is really smelling his/her own bullshit.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Do Republicans understand anything about the purpose of things like search warrants or the basic way that our legal system works? Via Talking Points Memo Republican Sen. Larry Craig (ID) is all upset about some recent actions by the FBI, saying that the FBI "is a bit Gestapo-like in its style and tactics." He is of course referring to the situation involving Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens:

Agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service raided the Alaska home of Sen. Ted Stevens (R) yesterday as part of a broad federal investigation of political corruption in the state that has also swept up his son and one of his closest financial backers, officials said....

The afternoon raid was conducted by FBI and IRS agents as part of a "court-authorized search warrant," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said in Washington. He declined to provide further details.

Craig is freaking out because "when you have the allegatiatons, you have the judicial segment of our government, the executive branch, out raiding the homes of senators, that is a very frightening propostion" and because "the FBI was offered a key and invited into the home, they chose publicize it to make sure the media was there first, and they broke in."

You see Stevens is part of an ongoing corruption probe so the Justice Department and the FBI could not possibly have any interest whatsoever in executing a legal search warrant in order to obtain documents that could be in Stevens' home rather than rely on an invite from Stevens to come to his house for a friendly chat so that he can hand them all the documents or other evidence pertinent to the case, even information that might implicate him in the crimes for which he is being investigated. And of course Craig rightly points out that it "makes senators very, very angry when they attempt to cooperate when for reason they are caught in these webs and yet they are denied that for the sake of the jduciary’s publicity" because when prominent U.S. Senators have their homes raided as part of an ongoing corruption probe it is highly unusual that there would be any media attention.

I'd like to point out something else that might justifiably be a little bit closer to "Gestapo-like in its style and tactics" and that might make U.S. Senators very, very angry:

An unusual FBI raid of a Democratic congressman's office over the weekend prompted complaints yesterday from leaders in both parties, who said the tactic was unduly aggressive and may have breached the constitutional separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Rep. William J. Jefferson (La.), who is at the center of a 14-month investigation for allegedly accepting bribes for promoting business ventures in Africa, also held a news conference in which he denied any wrongdoing and denounced the raid on his office as an "outrageous intrusion." Jefferson, who has not been charged, vowed to seek reelection in November....

The Saturday raid of Jefferson's quarters in the Rayburn House Office Building posed a new political dilemma for the leaders of both parties, who felt compelled to protest his treatment while condemning any wrongdoing by the lawmaker. The dilemma was complicated by new details contained in an 83-page affidavit unsealed on Sunday, including allegations that the FBI had videotaped Jefferson taking $100,000 in bribe money and then found $90,000 of that cash stuffed inside his apartment freezer....

House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) expressed alarm at the raid. "The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important Constitutional issues that go well beyond the specifics of this case," he said in a lengthy statement released last night.

"Insofar as I am aware, since the founding of our Republic 219 years ago, the Justice Department has never found it necessary to do what it did Saturday night, crossing this Separation of Powers line, in order to successfully prosecute corruption by Members of Congress," he said. "Nothing I have learned in the last 48 hours leads me to believe that there was any necessity to change the precedent established over those 219 years."


Legal experts were divided on the legality and propriety of the FBI's raid, but many said that it could raise serious evidentiary problems for prosecutors at trial. In scores of cases of alleged congressional wrongdoing, federal prosecutors and FBI agents have most commonly sought to issue subpoenas for documents rather than conducting an impromptu raid on congressional property, experts said.

At issue is the "speech or debate" clause of the Constitution -- language intended to shield lawmakers from intimidation by the executive branch. Historically, courts have interpreted the clause broadly, legal experts said.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), in an e-mail to colleagues with the subject line "on the edge of a constitutional confrontation," called the Saturday night raid "the most blatant violation of the Constitutional Separation of Powers in my lifetime." He urged President Bush to discipline or fire "whoever exhibited this extraordinary violation."


Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, asked about the raid during an unrelated news conference in Washington, declined to discuss the case in detail but said "the executive branch intends to work with the Congress to allay" any concerns.

"I will admit that these were unusual steps that were taken in response to an unusual set of circumstances," he said. "I'll just say that."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

GOP Presidential Candidate Advocates All Out Holy War Against Terrorists

Via Talking Points Memo here is another extraordinary story to add to our little collection of anecdotes about the GOP presidential candidates:

Followers of radical Islam must be deterred from committing a nuclear attack on U.S. soil, Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo said Tuesday morning, saying that as president he would take drastic measures to prevent such attacks.

"If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina," the GOP presidential candidate said. "That is the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they would otherwise do. If I am wrong fine, tell me, and I would be happy to do something else. But you had better find a deterrent or you will find an attack. There is no other way around it. There have to be negative consequences for the actions they take. That's the most negative I can think of."

As if King George hasn't fucked things up enough already, the proposed policies and solutions to the threat of terrorism from this GOP presidential candidiate is to make things so much more fucking worse.

Bush's Department of Justice Still Working Hard to Protect Repbulicans?

Wow, you'd think the Republicans' political hacks in the DOJ would be very careful these days considering that the Attorney General is facing possible impeachment after he perjured himself in testimony to congress during the ongoing investigations into the NSA wiretapping program. I mean considering that the AJ's recent actions and testimony were so bad that Fox news couldn't even find a conservative to defend Gonzo on the air.

Well, maybe not.

This diarist at Daily Kos came across something interesting in a Washington Post article about the search of Republican Senator Ted Stevens' Alaska home:

The blog Is That Legal? notices something funny buried in today's Washington Post story about the FBI and IRS search of Sen. Ted Stevens' Alaska home:

Stevens said in a statement that his attorneys were advised of the impending search yesterday morning. (emphasis mine)

Apparently the blogger from Is That Legal? was a federal prosecuter and finds the possibility that someone from the DOJ would have notified Stevens' attorneys of the search warrant a little suspicious.

I guess we'll just have to see if there is anything more to this, but I have to say that anytime I think it's not possible that these people can be even more outrageous and stupid, I'm always wrong.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Quote of the Day~Whores and Pianos

Via Talking Points Memo, the Seattle Times describes the perjury prone Attorney General:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales portrays himself as the piano player in the bordello, unaware of what is going on around him.

Is it possible that the party of moral values is turning into the party of good times with whores? (For additional examples see here, here, and here).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Quote of the Day~Recruit College Republicans for a Shopping Spree in Iraq

More good news from Iraq, via Americablog, Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann has this to say about her trip to one of Saddam Hussein's palaces:

"It's absolutely huge," she said. "I turned to my colleagues and said there's a commonality with the Mall of America, in that it's on that proportion. There's marble everywhere. The other thing I remarked about was there is water everywhere. He had man-made lakes all around his personal palace -- one for fishing, one for boating."

Of course, the stores are a little different over there, so check out the neat little comparison chart at Americablog as you start preparing your next vacation.

I think this bit of remarkable insight into the situation in Iraq could be useful in couple of ways.

First, military recruiters are having an increasingly difficult time reaching their recruitment goals and are having to lower the standards required for military service. And yet, all the while, some of the most staunch supporters of the war in Iraq are to be found among College Republicans. See this post and video, Generation Chickenhawk: The Unauthorized College Republican National Convention Tour. Although College Republicans have a sincere belief that we have to fight the terrorists over there so we don't have to fight them over here and that the war on terrorism is, uh like, our generation's World War II, they have a profound antipathy to actually serving in Iraq and potentially putting themselves in the way of a roadside bomb. I would have thought that lower recruitment requirements would have had a positive impact on the ability/willingness of College Republicans to enlist. For example, while I'm sure that most College Republicans haven't had enough experience this early in their political careers and activism to have acquired a criminal record (just give them time and a little more experience), but even among the prodigies of the movement that may already have been indicted and/or convicted of a crime, the fact that the military can now recruit criminals to serve in Iraq has had little impact on recruitment levels among these military age Republicans. So, perhaps this "Mall of Iraq" angle would provide a little more of incentive if used by military recruiters to get College Republicans to actually follow in the footsteps of The Greatest Generation .

Second, I'm sure that the firm that is handling the "Madison Avenue" marketing techniques recommended in this report ordered by the Pentagon to brush up the Iraq War Brand in an attempt to renew Americans' excitement for the war could use this angle as well.

Outrage Epidemic

I have not been able to post anything for almost a whole week. I've been keeping up with things, but there have been a couple of days in the past week when I have forbidden myself to even read a blog or sit through a whole night of Countdown with Keith Olbermann. I have also sat down a couple of times to post something but have just been completely overwhelmed with the urge to shut myself in the basement and scream until my vocal chords suffer permanent damage. Yes, I know there is no excuse for this, but I have had a bad flare up of outrage fatigue. This is a chronic condition and has become somewhat of an epidemic, so I wanted to share some of the ways that I have dealt with this problem over the past week.

The important thing is not to completely shut down, hence no total outrage blackout. However, a day or two of obliviousness has been necessary for me and I think has allowed me to get it under control more quickly than I otherwise would have. However, the most effective way that I have dealt with my flare up of outrage fatigue is by taking some time to drink...a lot...spend more time with my friends and focus on some personal stuff. Oh, and of course, I should be a little more specific about the drinking therapy--the vodka shots chased with beer and the giant bottle of cheap wine early on a Sunday afternoon were especially good.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Quote of the Day~It's Not Obstruction When We Do It

Digby on Republican obstruction and Republicans' history of blaming Democrats of obstruction when they held up confirmation of King George's judicial nominees:

It is so rich listening to these Republicans decry the tyranny of the majority and stand up for the inalienable right to filibuster after their tiresome "up-or-down vote!" mantra of the last six years. Nobody ever accused them of being intellectually consistent....The Republicans are betting that the public will blame the indulgent parents when the children run wild and it's a pretty creative plan for a party that has a deeply loathed president and monumentally unpopular agenda.

Republicans are only obstructing a vote on withdrawing the troops from Iraq and, well...everything else.

The Latest from the Party of Obstruction

One thing you can always count on Republicans for is more of the same. This is just great. We have our intelligence agencies warning us of resurgent operations by al-Qaeda in Pakistan with intelligence officials "cit[ing] heightened concerns that al-Qaeda is regrouping, reorganizing and -- based on recent threats delivered by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- increasingly confident of its ability to conduct similar relatively low-scale attacks against U.S. or other Western targets." The situation in Iraq continues to worsen, and a vast majority of Americans want a withdrawal of troops from Iraq but we just get more Republican obstruction.

Americablog describes Republicans' tactics in response to the latest attempts by Democrats to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq as "a permanent filibuster on any Iraq related issue." The Washington Post reports:

Majority Leader Harry M. Ried (D-Nev.) had hoped to convince Republicans to allow a simple-majority vote on a Democratic proposal to withdraw most U.S. troops from Iraq by next spring, But GOP leaders held firm to a 60-vote threshold for passage -- a routine maneuver in today's closely divided Senate but a number Democrats have been unable to meet all year. And Republicans decried Reid's decision for a marathon session as a stunt....

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) responded to Reid with a counteroffer: an automatic 60-vote threshold for all key Iraq amendments, eliminating the time-consuming process of clearing procedural hurdles. Democrats agreed to similar terms on several Iraq votes earlier this year, and all the controversial war-related votes held since Democrats took control of the Senate in January have required 60 "yeas" to pass.

"It's a shame that we find ourselves in the position that we're in," McConnell said. "It produces a level of animosity and unity on the minority side that makes it more difficult for the majority to pass important legislation."

Assuming neither side blinks, the Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on the Democratic amendment, offered by Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.). It would require Bush to begin reducing the number of U.S. troops in Iraq within four months, while reassigning remaining forces to specific missions, including the training of Iraqi security forces and counterterrorism operations. Under the proposal, most U.S. troops would leave Iraq by April 30, 2008....

(Emphasis mine). Seems like I've read about this kind of thing recently:

Americans elected a new Congress to get things done. But the conservative minority has chosen a strategy of obstruction in the Senate. They have used the threat of a filibuster to delay or block virtually every major initiative. Bills with majority support....Conservatives boast about the “success” of their strategy in discrediting the new majority. As Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., put it, “the strategy of being obstructionist can work or fail. So far it’s working for us.”

His Highness the Royal Fuckup Believes Americans are Stupid

The Washington Post reported last Thursday on an intelligence report by the National Counterterrorism Center entitiled "Al-Quaida Better Positioned to Strike the West":

Six years after the Bush administration declared war on al-Qaeda, the terrorist network is gaining strength and has established a safe haven in remote tribal areas of western Pakistan for training and planning attacks, according to a new Bush administration intelligence report to be discussed today at a White House meeting....

[The report] concludes that the group has significantly rebuilt itself despite concerted U.S. attempts to smash the network.

The article quotes the CIA's deputy director for intelligence, John A. Kringen telling a House comittee on Wednesday "that al-Qaeda appears 'to be fairly well settled into the safe haven in the ungoverned spaces of Pakistan. We see more training. We see more money. We see more communications.'"

On Tuesday Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said "that reports of heightened al-Qaeda activity and public threats gave him a "gut feeling" that the country faces an increased chance of a terrorist attack this summer." The Post reports that he later informed everyone that this remark was based on '"a more general, strategic sense of the threat environment,' [and] on publicly reported information rather than secret intelligence." According to the article there was no definitive word on whether Chertoff's statement had anything to do with the new intelligence report.

That's nice to know considering that the increasing activity of al-Qaeda is a concern for many others in the intelligence community. According to the Post article:

A U.S. counterterrorism official said the new intelligence report, whose existence was first reported by the Associated Press, did "not really" differ from recent statements by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell; his predecessor, John D. Negroponte; and CIA Director Michael V. Hayden.

Those officials have cited heightened concerns that al-Qaeda is regrouping, reorganizing and -- based on recent threats delivered by Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri -- increasingly confident of its ability to conduct similar relatively low-scale attacks against U.S. or other Western targets.

While asserting that al-Qaeda is still considerably weaker than it was before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the new report concludes that the group is stronger than it has been in years. "There is heightened concern given al-Qaeda's operational activity [and] . . . operational levels" along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the U.S. official said.

Via The Left Coaster, this Newsweek article points out that the renewed threat from al-Qaeda's operating in Pakistan might have something to do with a peace agreement signed by this ally of ours with, as Left Coaster points out, the Bush Administration's encouragement:

The primary development that has allowed all this to happen, U.S. officials say, was the peace agreement signed last year between the Pakistani government of President Pervez Musharraf and pro-Taliban tribal leaders in the remote region of North Waziristan. The withdrawal of Pakistani troops under that agreement gave Al Qaeda leaders new freedom to operate with relative impunity, officials said. "Clearly, they are resurgent,” said one senior U.S. intelligence official about Al Qaeda. (The official, who is familiar with the NIE’s findings, asked not to be identified because the document remains classified.)

On his show Thursday night Keith Olbermann did a great job of covering this latest in terror politics. As one would expect, His Royal Fuckup King George responded to the new report from the National Counterterrorism Center regarding al-Qaeda's strengthening operations by reassuring us that:

There is a perception in the coverage that al Qaeda may be as strong today as they were prior to September 11. That‘s just simply not the case. I think the report was since 2001, not prior to September 11, 2001.

Olberman then pointed out that, in his address at the White House, "Mr. Bush also repeating the lie that the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks were and are in any way connected to Iraq."

Yep, the Royal Fuckup responded to a new report confirming what others in the intelligence community have expressed concerns about, that al-Qaeda is strenthening its operations and ability to attack us in the United States largely as a result of being able to operate in Pakistan because of a peace agreement that the Fuckup and his administration encouraged, by letting us know that:

Al Qaeda in Iraq have sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And the guys who perpetuated the attacks on America, obviously the guys on the airplane are dead and the commanders, many of those are dead or in captivity like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

But the people in Iraq—al Qaeda in Iraq has sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden. And we need to take al Qaeda in Iraq seriously like we need to take al Qaeda anywhere in the world seriously.

Of course, Olbermann had to then remind His Highness Fuckup that:

Of course the allegiance to Osama bin Laden was only sworn in 2004. And of course al Qaeda in Iraq is only in Iraq because of the power vacuum that was created by the U.S. invasion and ongoing military operations there.

After that Olbermann brought on MSNBC's analyst Wesley Clark, retired four-star army general and former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, to discuss King George's all too predictable response:

The truth is al Qaeda has not only reconstituted its base area, this time along the border in Pakistan next to Afghanistan, but its also used our mission in Iraq as a huge recruiting magnet....Well, I do believe that the strategy in Iraq and the way it‘s been executed and the president‘s fear to face the facts and the administration‘s blindness on homeland security—and all of this, and the alienation of our allies, yes, we‘re more at risk as a result of Iraq than we were prior to the invasion of Iraq. There‘s no doubt about it. We‘re not winning the battle against al Qaeda.

Obviously the Royal Fuckup thinks the American people and the troops are completely fucking stupid. He tells us that it is necessary for our security to continue to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq while his own intelligence agencies tell us that al-Qeada is resurging in Pakistan. As if we can't put two and two together; he may not be able to, but we certainly can. And because we can, the fear-mongering has to be turned up a notch. Thus, as if on cue, his Secretary of Homeland Security told us the day before the CIA's deputy director of intelligence reported to a House Committee about the activities of al-Qaeda in Pakistan that we may be facing another terrorist attack. Olbermann did an excellent job, as usual, in commenting on what Chertoff's "gut" feeling really means to those of us who know that two + two does indeed = four:

Michael Chertoff‘s gut feeling, which he took pains to emphasize was based on no specific, nor even vague intelligence—you got that right—that we are entering a period of increased risk of terrorism here. He got as specific as saying that al-Qaeda seems to like the summer, but as to the rest of it, he is perfectly content to let us sit and wait and worry and to contemplate his gut.

His gut. We used to have John Ashcroft‘s major announcements. We used to have David Paulson‘s breathless advisories about how to use duct tape against radiation attacks. We used to have Tom Ridge‘s color coded threat levels. Now we have Michael Chertoff‘s gut....

Now, it turns out, we are risking all of our rights and all of our protections, and risking the anger and hatred of the rest of the world for the sake of Michael Chertoff‘s gut. I have pondered this supreme expression of diminished expectations for parts of three days now. I have concluded that there are only five explanations for Mr. Chertoff‘s remarkable revelations about his transcendently important counter-terrorism stomach.

Firstly, Mr. Chertoff, you are, as Richard Wolfe said here the other night, actually referencing not your gut, but your backside, as in covering it, C.Y.A. Not only has there not been a terrorist attack stopped in this country, but your good old Homeland Security has not even unraveled a plausible terrorist plan.

You and your folks there have a different kind of stomach pain, know that with a track record that consist largely of two accomplishments, inconveniencing people at airports and scaring them everyone else, your department doesn‘t know what the hell it is doing. And even you, Mr. Chertoff, know that.

Secondly, of course, there is the possible explanation of choice for those millions of us who have heard the shrill and curiously timed cries of wolf over the last six years, what we‘ve called here the nexus of politics and terror. But there isn‘t anything cooking, and your gut feeling was actually that you better throw up a diversion soon on Mr. Bush‘s behalf for something real, like Republican revolt over Iraq, and the nauseating gut feeling the rest of us have that we have gotten 3,611 Americans killed there for no reason; that it was actually going to seep into the American headlines and American consciousness.

It is impossible to prove a negative, to guarantee that you and your predecessors deliberately scared the American public just for the political hell of it, even though your predecessor, Mr. Ridge, admitted he had his suspicions about exactly that. Suffice to say, Mr. Chertoff, if it ever can be proved, there will be a lot of people from Homeland Security and other outposts of this remarkably corrupt administration who will be going to prison.

Thirdly, and most charitably, I guess, Mr. Chertoff, there is the possibility that you have made some credible inference, that we are really at greater risk right now, but that any detail might blow some attempt at interruption. There is some silver lining in this, but the silver lining would have been a greater one if this counter terrorism center report had not leaked out the day after you introduced us to your gut. It was a report suggesting that al-Qaeda had rebuilt its operational capacity to re-9/11 levels.

Not only did this latest hair on fire missive remind us that al Qaeda‘s regrowth has been along the Pakistan/Afghan border; not only did it remind us that your boss let this happen by shifting his resources out of Afghanistan to Iraq for his own vain an foolish purposes, to say nothing of ignoring Pakistan; not only did it underscore the ominous truth that if this country is victimized by al-Qaeda, the personal responsibility for the failure of our misplaced defenses would belong to President Bush and President Bush alone.

On top of all of that, Mr. Chertoff, it revealed you for the phony expert you are, the kid who hears in confidence something smart from somebody smart and then makes his prediction that what the smart kid said confidentially is about to happen. It reads, just as you revise the gut remark this morning sir, the informed opinion, the kid telling stories out of school.

The fourth possibility is a simple reversal of third, Mr. Chertoff. You shot off your basso (ph) and then this National Counter Terrorism Center report was rushed out, even created to cover you, to give you credibility, to cloud the reality that you actually intoned to the “Chicago Tribune” the 21st century equivalent of by the pricking of my thumb, something wicked this way comes.

But the fifth possible explanation of your gut, Mr. Chertoff, is the real nightmare scenario, and it is simple, that you, the man who famously told us Louisiana is a city that is largely under water, meant this literally, that we really have been reduced to listening to see if your gut will growl, that your intestines are our best defense, that your bowels are our listening devices. Your digestive track is full augers. Your colon produces the results that the torture at Gitmo does not.

All hail the prophetic gut.

So there are your choices, bureaucratic self-protection, political manipulation of the worst kind, the dropping of opaque hints, a gaffe back filled by an instant report, or the complete disintegration of our counter terrorism effort.

Even if there really is never another terror attempt in this country, we have already lost too much in these last six years to now have to listen to Michael Chertoff‘s gut, no matter what its motivation. We can not and will not turn this country into a police state. But even those of us who say that most loudly and instantly acknowledge that some stricter measures under the still stricter supervision of as many watch dogs as we can summon are appropriate.

(Emphasis mine). A "supreme expression of diminished expectations" indeed. I'm not sure which aspect of this is more infuriating at this point. That His Royal Fuckup King George, upon being informed by his intelligence agencies that al-Qaeda is resurging along the Pakistan/Afghan border, would pull out the same tired spin and repetative bullshit that we have to continue to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq because al-Qaeda is now, thanks to him, also in Iraq--oh, and Afghanistan and Pakistan, and god knows where else.

Or that he chose to bother even addressing us at all on this point rather than just outright ignoring this latest intelligence report. Right now I'm leaning toward the second aspect. Most of us have been aware for quite some time that King George just doesn't give a shit what anyone thinks--not the overwhelming majority of the American people, not the troops actually serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, not congress, not the people jumping ship in his own party, not the generals who have resigned over the mess he's made or have been fired, not his own intelligence agencies, not the rest of the world.

But in response to this latest bit of profoundly disturbing news on his failures in fighting the war on terrorism, to address the American people at all, except with an announcement of his and Cheney's resignations, is to insult the intelligence, common sense and most basic ability to reason of all but the tiny minority of authoritarian minded Americans who would literally run screaming off a giant precipice if His Highness the Royal Fuckup told them to. As to the rest of us non-authoritarian Americans who possess a functioning brain, common sense and a basic ability to reason I think it would have been better if he had just not said anything at all to avoid the appalling spectacle of the Royal Fuckup talking down to us as if we don't know better. Why add insulting our intelligence and ability to reason and conclude that 2 + 2 does, in fact, =4 to the increasingly apparent injury that he has done to us and the state of our national security?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Quote of the Day~Drinking and Driving Edition

"Note to America: Next time you feel like voting for the guy you'd rather drink beer with, do us all a favor and write in the name of the guy you actually drink beer with." ~The Freeway Blogger

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Watching Edwards

The other day I posted a link to a speech that Edwards made in which he criticized trade deals such as NAFTA with some comments on the treatment that Edwards has been receiving for his $400 haircuts. This post led to a good discussion with someone who left a comment on this post about the sincerity of Edwards' populist message. I certainly understand people's skepticism and I believe it's a good thing. We need to pay attention, not only to what candidates say, but to what they do and the specific policies that they propose.

Although I will vote for whatever candidate receives the Democratic nomination for president, even Hillary (god forbid!) because I will not vote for any of the GOP candidates for the simple reason that we need to go in a different direction in this country (and I will not abstain from voting). But Edwards is my first pick for the Dem nomination thus far, and I'm quite impressed with a lot of his platforms. That being said, learning more about the candidates is important so I want to post a link to this diary by David Mizner at DailyKos. Although from an Edwards supporter, this diary provides a good summary of why Edwards is receiving a lot of support from progressives and provides some good links to more info on Edwards, his campaign and his policy proposals.

Mizner also points out that even if Edwards is facing a very uphill battle to receive the Dem nomination, the fact that he is running on such a strong progressive and populist platform and taking unpopular and strong stances on important issues is in itself a good thing:

But we like where Edwards is. Liberated, he'll force Clinton and Obama to take positions they wouldn't have otherwise (He already has.) And he'll take positions the other two won't dare take. He'll lose the right way, or win the right way. He'll do himself proud. He'll scare the hell out of the other candidates.

To me this is one of the most important things about Edwards' campaign and the influence that it has had and will have on the other candidates and whoever wins the nomination. Even if he loses the nomination, if he gives the other candidates a good fight, his strong progressive message and the support that he is receiving can also help to build influence and pressure for any Dem candidate if that candidate is elected in 2008.

It's Easy to Accuse Your Opposition of Not Supporting the Troops, but Actually Supporting the Troops is Much More Difficult

Yesterday, Americablog posted the full statement by Virginia Senator Jim Webb in response to GOP Senators fillibustering of a bill that he introdued to address the extended deployments and rotations of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. As Senator Webb said in his statement:

Americans....are tired of the procedural strategies designed to protect politicians from accountability, and to protect this Administration from judgment. They are looking for concrete actions that will protect the well-being of our men and women in uniform.

The question on this amendment is not whether you support this war or whether you do not. It is not whether you want to wait until July or September to see where one particular set of benchmarks or summaries might be taking us. The question is this: more than four years into ground operations in Iraq, we owe stability, and a reasonable cycle of deployment, to the men and women who are carrying our nation’s burden. That is the question. And that is the purpose of this amendment.

(Emphasis mine). Americablog also posted links to Webb's bill and a fact sheet that explains the legislation. The fact sheet includes statements from many articles on the effects of this extended and repeated deployment, which the bill aims to address including:

  • Troop deployments have been extended from 12 to 15 months, resulting in less time at home with families

  • The increased risk of psychological problems from combat stress

  • The impact on the families of the troops who are not getting adequate and standard time between deployments to spend with them

  • The increasing levels of troops leaving the military

  • The negative impact on military training, manpower and readiness and the ability of the National Guard to respond to disasters at home

Senator Webb comes from a long family tradition of military service, was a marine who served in Vietnam and was also Secretary of the Navy. He knows what he is talking about when it comes to the subject of the military and what is best for the tropps, which is probably why his bill has been endorsed by the Military Officers' Association of America, Veterans for America, and This is an egregious example of continued Republican obstruction and is completely inexcusable. (See posts here and here.)The biggest thing we should be concerned about regarding the war in Iraq is the impact that it is having on the troops and doing whatever we can to actually support them.

It's easy to put a yellow sticker on your car, and I don't criticize anyone for doing this. But we need to do more. Americans have shown their support for the troops in many other ways but we need to be more aware of politicians who tell us to support the troops but who in fact don't support the troops.

News Hounds Outrageous Quote of the Week

Avedon pointed out a mistake that I made in my post "More Quotes~"Health Care Terror and the Greatest Threat to Capitalism Since the Cold War." The Ann quote won the contest last week. The quote from NewsHounds that I posted is up for a vote this week. So, I went over and voted for it. If anyone else is interested in voting here is the link again.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

This is a post that I started on last Friday but didn't get around to finishing. So, I'm posting it now, with a couple of updates.

As support among Americans to begin some type of withdraw from Iraq continues to build, it is hard to understand just how Bush, his loyalists and his enablers can so willfully ignore the situation and the mounting anger and frustruation of the American people. Americablog reported Friday that a bipartisan group of senators is attempting to do Bush's bidding, trying to keep us in Iraq for, oh say, the next 100 years or so and introducing their legislation as an attempt to get us out of Iraq:

A bipartisan group of Senators has prepared legislation that they want to offer in the next few weeks that would keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely. What's worse, they're claiming that the legislation implements the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Studgy Group, when in fact, the legislation codifies George Bush's current failed policies in Iraq....

Specifically, the legislation buries a little nugget on page 18 of the bill. In a section entitled "Sense of Congress on Redeployment of United States Forces from Iraq," the legislation spells out the following preconditions to withdrawing US troops:

1. A massive list of suggested policies need to first be accomplished before the US withdraws. These include transferring the Iraqi National Police to the Ministry of Defense, reorganizing the Iraqi security forces, upgrading Iraq's police communications equipment, establishing courts, training judges, prosecutors and investigators, drafting oil legislation, implementing metering at the oil pipelines, reorganizing the entire Iraqi oil industry, and more. But that's not all that has to happen before our troops are permitted to withdraw from Iraq. Oh no. Read on.

2. Additional Iraqi brigades need to deployed. Meaning, the exact same policy we have now under George Bush. No withdraw until the Iraqi security forces are up to par. And our military people on the ground in Iraq say this could take 40 to 50 years, if ever.

3. The eventual withdrawal of US forces is "subject to unexpected development in the security situation on the ground." Meaning, if things don't get better, we don't leave. That's the current policy. And things aren't getting better.

At least they are trying to mislead the American public that this is some kind of plan for withdrawal when it clearly is an attempt to get congress to pass a law requiring troops to stay in Iraq indefinitely. And meanwhile, the situation in Iraq is worsening by the day, as evident in just these few stories reported in the last week, and the American people know it.

First,Wired blog reported on the projected cost of the war and it is astounding:

Additional war costs for the next 10 years could total about $472 billion if troop levels fall to 30,000 by 2010, or $919 billion if troop levels fall to 70,000 by about 2013. If these estimates are added to already appropriated amounts, total funding about $980 billion to $1.4 trillion by 2017.

Costs for the war have been spiralling out of control. The Bush Administration has been handing out no-bid cotracts to private companies and compaines with close ties to the Bush Administration have been raking in billions. This is all old news, of course. But this is the kind of thing we get for that money:

Thursday the Washington Post reported:

U.S. diplomats in Iraq, increasingly fearful over their personal safety after recent mortar attacks inside the Green Zone, are pointing to new delays and mistakes in the U.S. Embassy construction project in Baghdad as signs that their vulnerability could grow in the months ahead.

A toughly worded cable sent from the embassy to State Department headquarters on May 29 highlights a cascade of building and safety blunders in a new facility to house the security guards protecting the embassy. The guards' base, which remains unopened today, is just a small part of a $592 million project to build the largest U.S. embassy in the world....

The first signs of trouble, according to the cable, emerged when the kitchen staff tried to cook the inaugural meal in the new guard base on May 15....

But according to the cable, the electrical meltdown was just the first problem in a series of construction mistakes that soon left the base uninhabitable, including wiring problems, fuel leaks and noxious fumes in the sleeping trailers....

Such challenges with construction contracts inside the fortified enclave known as the Green Zone reflect the broader problems that have thwarted reconstruction efforts throughout war-torn Iraq.

This is FEMA in Iraq. As the Bush Administration's love affair with privitization continues to sour (for all but Bush anyway and his fellow free market idealogues), The Iraqi government, according to recent reports, is in terrible shape and may be falling apart as we speak.

Also reported Thursday in the Washington Post, sectarian strife continues unabated and greater numbers of people are being killed:

During the month of June, 453 unidentified corpses, some bound, blindfolded, and bearing signs of torture, were found in Baghdad, according to morgue data provided by a Health Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information.

In January, 321 corpses were discovered in the capital, a total that fell steadily until April but then rose sharply over the last two months, the statistics show.

Overall, the level of violent civilian deaths in Iraq is declining, according to the U.S. military and Health Ministry statistics, and there has been a steady drop in fatalities from mass-casualty bombings that have torn through outdoor markets, university bus stops and crowds assembled to collect food rations.

But the number of unidentified bodies found on the streets is considered a key indicator of the malignancy of sectarian strife. While the declining number of bombing victims suggests that efforts to control violence are showing some success, the daily slayings of individuals, in aggregate, speak to an enduring level of aggression.
"That's the cancer that keeps eating the neighborhoods,"
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, said at a meeting with reporters Saturday. "It never stops. It's a tit for tat. It's a cycle of violence that has to be broken."

To make matters worse for Bush he continues to lose support from key allies in his own party:

New Mexico's Republican Senator, Pete Domenici, publicly broke with George Bush over Iraq today. He wants a new strategy immediately. Like Dick Lugar who broke with Bush last week, Domenici is one of the Republican old-timers.

Americablog also reported Thursday that General Odom, former Director of the National Security Agency under Ronald Regan, recently wrote an essay in which he argued that we needed to start withdrawing troops from Iraq. Americablog points out that "this guy's credentials are beyond stellar."

Bush reminded us this Independence Day, yet again, that we cannot leave Iraq becuase he just doesn't want us to. I think it was Colin Powell that warned Bush that if we invaded Iraq we would own it. He was right. We are occupying that country unless things change really soon. Bush is going to leave office in 2008 and leave it to the next guy, hopefully a Democrat, to clean up his mess. And when Bush hands over his mess, he and his cronies will walk away being richer than ever and the American people and our troops will be left paying for this war in ways we can scarcely imagine even as we contemplate the horrors already apparent from this occupation and the projected $1.4 trillion price tag. Not to mention the cost in lives lost, lives shattered, and the psychological toll that this war will have on the troops who are lucky enough to come home.

And one more update, this is what we get despite all that money that has been given to contractors:

At least 20 mortar rounds and Katyusha rockets struck the fortified Green Zone on Tuesday afternoon, killing an American service member and two other people in an attack on the heart of U.S. and Iraqi government facilities in the capital.Those killed included an Iraqi and a person whose nationality was unknown, according to a statement released by the U.S. Embassy. About 18 people were injured, including two U.S. military personnel and three American contract employees, the statement said.

The Democrats need to stop caving to Bush and find a way to get us out. And Bush and Cheney need to be impeached.