Thursday, February 22, 2007

America Freedom to Fascism

"The country is headed toward a single and splendid government of an aristocracy founded on banking institutions and monied incorporations and if this tendency continues it will be the end of freedom and democracy, the few will be ruling and riding over the plundered plowman and the beggar . . I hope we shall take warning from the example of England and crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government to trial and bid defiance to the laws of our country. I sincerely believe that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies"

-- Thomas Jefferson
(Hat tip to A.B.)

Watch Aaron Russo's entire film (Authorized Version): It is probably the single most important film you will ever see and is the single best use of your time ever spent.

What you do after you see the film is even more important. Watch. And Act.

To purchase a high def CD, please visit:
"This is the "Director's Final Cut" authorized version of Aaron Russo's documentary, America: Freedom To Fascism (AFTF). It is being uploaded to Google Video for the first time during the evening of October 19-20th, 2006. Aaron has listened to everyone's feedback - volunteers, students, lovers of freedom & liberty, young and old alike - and, true to his word, he is putting this up "for free" on Google Video knowing that the hour has come for Americans to either be awakened to restore the Republic or be swept aside by the dark global forces of fascism that seeks to enslave mankind.

AFTF's main focus comes in a statement with six very simple words: SHUT DOWN THE FEDERAL RESERVE SYSTEM!!

After viewing the movie, please be sure to visit where you will soon be able to view a much higher quality "pay per view" Internet version of AFTF, buy the DVD and sign up as an affiliate to sell/distribute DVDs to others.

We also urge everyone to be sure to sign up as volunteer, register for email alerts and tell your family, friends and neighbors about this groundbreaking movie."

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Message from Al Franken

Trouble viewing this video? Click Here.

Technorati tags: , , , ,

The Great American Scam

I couldn't help thinking, after reading the Krug Man's latest Times op ed, and after watching Aaron Russo's "America: From Freedom to Fascism," that the same principle could be applied to income taxes. Krugman makes the point that much of the high cost of our health care system is due to the huge amounts of money insurers spend looking for ways to reject our insurance claims and health care providers spend fighting insurance claim denials.

It is conceivable that if the government got rid of the IRS and put the American people on the honor system (especially considering that, Constitutionally, individual income taxes are voluntary, not mandatory) -- the government would come out way ahead by pocketing the money they now pay to all those IRS bureaucrats than they would from collecting delinquent taxes.

It's a step in the right direction -- smaller government, more for us.

Then we can start the important work of educating people about the fact that, legally, they don't have to pay the government one penny in income taxes.

I appreciate Krugman's analysis of the health care industry scam, but I sure wish he or someone in the mainstream media would start talking about the biggest scam ever perpetrated upon the American people by our government.

If you're not sure what the heck I'm talking about or this is starting to sound a little nutty to you, I recommend you set aside an interruption free hour and forty-five minutes, get comfortable, and watch this. I guarantee it will be the most eye-opening film you have ever seen.

Then, after your head stops involuntarily banging itself against the nearest wall in shock. frustration, and anger .... go here, and help take back the power that is rightfully yours under the Constitution.

The Health Care Racket
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Is the health insurance business a racket? Yes, literally — or so say two New York hospitals, which have filed a racketeering lawsuit against UnitedHealth Group and several of its affiliates.

I don’t know how the case will turn out. But whatever happens in court, the lawsuit illustrates perfectly the dysfunctional nature of our health insurance system, a system in which resources that could have been used to pay for medical care are instead wasted in a zero-sum struggle over who ends up with the bill.

The two hospitals accuse UnitedHealth of operating a “rogue business plan” designed to avoid paying clients’ medical bills. For example, the suit alleges that patients were falsely told that Flushing Hospital was “not a network provider” so UnitedHealth did not pay the full network rate. UnitedHealth has already settled charges of misleading clients about providers’ status brought by New York’s attorney general: the company paid restitution to plan members, while attributing the problem to computer errors.

The legal outcome will presumably turn on whether there was deception as well as denial — on whether it can be proved that UnitedHealth deliberately misled plan members. But it’s a fact that insurers spend a lot of money looking for ways to reject insurance claims. And health care providers, in turn, spend billions on “denial management,” employing specialist firms — including Ingenix, a subsidiary of, yes, UnitedHealth — to fight the insurers.

So it’s an arms race between insurers, who deploy software and manpower trying to find claims they can reject, and doctors and hospitals, who deploy their own forces in an effort to outsmart or challenge the insurers. And the cost of this arms race ends up being borne by the public, in the form of higher health care prices and higher insurance premiums.

Of course, rejecting claims is a clumsy way to deny coverage. The best way for an insurer to avoid paying medical bills is to avoid selling insurance to people who really need it. An insurance company can accomplish this in two ways, through marketing that targets the healthy, and through underwriting: rejecting the sick or charging them higher premiums.

Like denial management, however, marketing and underwriting cost a lot of money. McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm, recently released an important report dissecting the reasons America spends so much more on health care than other wealthy nations. One major factor is that we spend $98 billion a year in excess administrative costs, with more than half of the total accounted for by marketing and underwriting — costs that don’t exist in single-payer systems.

And this is just part of the story. McKinsey’s estimate of excess administrative costs counts only the costs of insurers. It doesn’t, as the report concedes, include other “important consequences of the multipayor system,” like the extra costs imposed on providers. The sums doctors pay to denial management specialists are just one example.

Incidentally, while insurers are very good at saying no to doctors, hospitals and patients, they’re not very good at saying no to more powerful players. Drug companies, in particular, charge much higher prices in the United States than they do in countries like Canada, where the government health care system does the bargaining. McKinsey estimates that the United States pays $66 billion a year in excess drug costs, and overpays for medical devices like knee and hip implants, too.

To put these numbers in perspective: McKinsey estimates the cost of providing full medical care to all of America’s uninsured at $77 billion a year. Either eliminating the excess administrative costs of private health insurers, or paying what the rest of the world pays for drugs and medical devices, would by itself more or less pay the cost of covering all the uninsured. And that doesn’t count the many other costs imposed by the fragmentation of our health care system.

Which brings us back to the racketeering lawsuit. If UnitedHealth can be shown to have broken the law — and let’s just say that this company, which is America’s second-largest health insurer, has a reputation for playing even rougher than its competitors — by all means, let’s see justice done. But the larger problem isn’t the behavior of any individual company. It’s the ugly incentives provided by a system in which giving care is punished, while denying it is rewarded.

Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)

Will Russia Bet on Its People or Its Oil Wells?

By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
In a high-rise building with a view of Lenin’s Tomb, the U.S. aerospace giant Boeing is designing key parts of its new 787 Dreamliner, using hundreds of Russian aerospace engineers. Yes, President Putin may be talking cold-war tough, but down the street from the Kremlin, America’s crown jewel industrial company is using Russia’s crown jewel brainpower to design its next crown jewel jetliner.

Boeing’s Moscow Design Center, which employs 1,400 Russian engineers (earning less than their U.S. counterparts) on various projects, symbolizes Russia’s unique potential: Russia is that rare country that not only has a treasure trove of natural resources — oil, gas and mines — but also has a treasure trove of human talent: engineers, mathematicians and other valuable minds.

Most nations with highly developed human talent — like Singapore or Taiwan — have few natural resources, and those that are rich in natural resources — Venezuela or Sudan — tend not to develop their people’s talents. The exceptions, like Norway, which is rich in both human and natural resources, usually built their democratic institutions before they got rich on oil, so the money was well spent.

The meta-question with Russia today is this: Will it become more like Norway, a democracy enriched by oil, or more like Venezuela, a democracy subverted by oil? Is the Boeing center Russia’s future or its exception?

You see signs of both trends. On the positive side, Russia has been smarter than most petro-states. It has set up a rainy day fund and tucked away $100 billion from its oil and gas windfall. Direct foreign investment in Russia hit $30 billion last year, according to The Economist, and not all of it goes to the oil and gas sector anymore.

And then there’s Boeing. Its impressive Moscow center operates two shifts of engineers: 7 a.m. until 3 p.m., and 3 p.m. until 11 p.m. — which is shortly before the workday begins in the United States. A Russian Boeing engineer might be designing part of the 787’s nose during his day, and then initials and stores his work in the computer. A U.S. Boeing engineer, working on an identical computer, then picks it up during her day and engineers it some more. With regular teleconferences, it’s as if they are in one virtual 24-hour office.

“There is no paper at all,” said Sergei Korolev, the deputy head of Boeing Moscow. “We do the presentations electronically and have online sessions with Wichita and Seattle, and everyone looks at the same part and talks about it. Our center is the reason people are not emigrating.”

But Russia has a unique legacy in aerospace from Soviet days, so the educational centers and talent were in place for Boeing to tap. What Russia still glaringly lacks is an ecosystem of secure property rights, venture capitalists and homegrown innovators, and universities and business schools churning out idea-entrepreneurs. “Made in Russia” will never be a global brand as long as research spending by Russian companies remains among the lowest in the world.

The Moscow Times recently reported that only two Russian colleges — Moscow State and St. Petersburg State — are listed among the world’s top 500 universities. When you walk down the streets in Bangalore, India’s high-tech capital, it feels as if there’s a computer school or English-language school on every street. You walk in Moscow, and it feels as if there is a new shoe store or beauty salon on every street.

A former top aide to President Putin remarked to me that Russia had a huge interest in building a postindustrial knowledge economy, not an energy-intensive industrial one, so it can export most of its oil and gas, not consume them at home. But that would take a big investment in education, which is not being done.

Noting that Russia today spends far less of its G.D.P. on higher education than Europe or America, Sergei Guriyev, rector of Russia’s New Economic School, wrote in The Moscow Times, “Russians simply are not prepared to pay the taxes that would be necessary to finance science and education at Soviet-era levels, and no incentives have been created to attract more private funding.”

So here’s my prediction: You tell me the price of oil, and I’ll tell you what kind of Russia you’ll have. If the price stays at $60 a barrel, it’s going to be more like Venezuela, because its leaders will have plenty of money to indulge their worst instincts, with too few checks and balances. If the price falls to $30, it will be more like Norway. If the price falls to $15 a barrel, it could become more like America — with just enough money to provide a social safety net for its older generation, but with too little money to avoid developing the leaders and institutions to nurture the brainpower of its younger generation.

Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

This Guy is An Imposter

My supporters and I are hoppin' mad!

Came across this copy-cat blog today and I am not amused. Imitation may be the greatest form of flattery, but in this case, it is close to, if not, plagiarism.

If this guy is actually running for something, I suggest he get a new M.O. He certainly starts off with a failing grade in originality. His "Mission Statement" (must be a corporate-type) starts with this:
"America needs fresh ideas...."
So how about starting with a fresh name and concept for your blog, bud? This one is taken.

At any rate, I just wanted you all to know that whoever this guy is, he isn't me, lest you be confused.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

For Tavis Smiley, Promises to Keep

For Tavis Smiley, Promises to Keep
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times
One of the better-kept secrets in the U.S. is the wide reach and extraordinary commitment of Tavis Smiley.

Mr. Smiley is reasonably well known as a media personality. He’s the host of a television talk show broadcast on PBS five nights a week and a weekly radio show. He’s also a regular commentator on the widely syndicated black-oriented radio program “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.”

But that doesn’t begin to capture the ever-widening swirl of activities, projects, programs and initiatives set in motion by this energetic, fast-talking, charismatic advocate and mentor, described by The Times’s Felicia R. Lee as “a cultural phenomenon.”

Largely out of the sight of the broader public, Mr. Smiley has quietly become one of the most effective black leaders in the nation. He’s always in motion, giving speeches, meeting with national leaders, conducting annual seminars on the “State of the Black Union” and offering how-to tips on important aspects of daily life for African-Americans.

Mr. Smiley constantly exhorts his followers and admirers to make better use of the traditional tools of advancement — education, hard work, citizen activism — to transcend the barriers of continued neglect and discrimination.

Next June, thanks to Mr. Smiley, the major presidential candidates will meet in a pair of prime-time debates on PBS — one for each party — to focus on issues of concern to African-American voters. That has never happened before.

About a year ago Mr. Smiley, who has written several books, edited a paperback titled “The Covenant With Black America.” It’s a guidebook, on matters large and small, for African-Americans, offering information and advice on issues that range from the importance of a healthy diet to closing the digital divide.

No one, except perhaps Mr. Smiley, expected much from the book. There’s nothing in the way of pizzazz in it. There are no celebrity scandals, no sex, no drugs, no rock ’n’ roll.

“I said let’s put a book together that’s easy to read,” said Mr. Smiley, “and that lays out what each individual can do, what the community together can do and what the body politic should do about these problems.”

Published by a little-known black-owned company in Chicago, Third World Press, the book became an astonishing success, rising to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.

“That book went to No. 1 without any mainstream exposure,” said Mr. Smiley. “I didn’t mention it on my NPR and PBS shows because I don’t do that — I don’t use the shows to promote things that I’m connected to. Other than that, though, I drove the book as hard as I could.

“But Oprah wouldn’t touch it. ‘The Today Show’ wouldn’t touch it. ‘Good Morning America,’ NPR, Larry King — not a single mainstream media outlet said or did anything with that book. And it still went to No. 1. That tells me that there is a hunger and a thirst in black America for trying to turn this mess that we are in around.”

For all of his 21st-century media savvy, Mr. Smiley is in many ways an old-fashioned, idealistic leader who has managed in an era saturated with cynicism to cling to the eternal verities. His hero is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He believes it is still possible for ordinary citizens to hold public officials accountable. (“I’m still baffled, befuddled,” he says, “by how the president did not even mention New Orleans or Katrina in his State of the Union speech.”) He speaks openly about the importance of bringing love — yes, love — into the public discourse.

“When I was 13,” he said, “I vowed to God that that if I ever got the chance to make something of myself, I’d spend the rest of my life trying to love and serve other people. I still believe that love is the most powerful and transformative force in the world today. I love people and I get joy out of serving people.”

The cynics, of course, will have a field day with this. But Mr. Smiley, on his way to catch a flight, or hop a train, or racing down the highway to his next event, will no doubt be too busy to notice. He’s eager to do what he can about the sorry state of the public schools in the big cities, and the fact that there are too few jobs that pay a living wage, and all manner of other issues: child care, health care, the environment.

He is trying to do nothing less than generate a movement among black Americans that will “help make all of America better.”

The companion volume to “The Covenant” was published two weeks ago. It’s called “The Covenant in Action.”

Photo Credit: Bob Herbert. (The New York Times)

Defending Hillary

Mr. Chivalry, David Brooks, stands up to the rabid, misguided liberal wing of the Democratic party in support of poor, defenseless Senator and Democratic Presidential hopeful, Hillary Clinton. Please.

Davey, as usual, is living in some, slightly warped parallel universe. Big surprise.

One thing is for sure, if Davey is defending Hillary, a big red flag ought to be flapping wildly in front of your eyes -- and you might want to take a good look at the other less "Centrist" candidates out there ....

No Apology Needed
By David Brooks
The New York Times
Far be it from me to get in the middle of a liberal purge, but would anybody mind if I pointed out that the calls for Hillary Clinton to apologize for her support of the Iraq war are almost entirely bogus?

I mean, have the people calling for her apology actually read the speeches she delivered before the war? Have they read her remarks during the war resolution debate, when she specifically rejected a pre-emptive, unilateral attack on Saddam? Did they read the passages in which she called for a longer U.N. inspections regime and declared, “I believe international support and legitimacy are crucial”?

If they went back and read what Senator Clinton was saying before the war, they’d be surprised, as I was, by her approach. And they’d learn something, as I did, about what kind of president she would make.

The Iraq war debate began in earnest in September 2002. At that point Clinton was saying in public what Colin Powell was saying in private: emphasizing the need to work through the U.N. and build a broad coalition to enforce inspections.

She delivered her Senate resolution speech on Oct. 10. It was Clintonian in character. On the one hand, she rejected the Bush policy of pre-emptive war. On the other hand, she also rejected the view that the international community “should only resort to force if and when the United Nations Security Council approves it.” Drawing on the lessons of Bosnia, she said sometimes the world had to act, even if the big powers couldn’t agree.

She sought a third way: more U.N. resolutions, more inspections, more diplomacy, with the threat of force reserved as a last resort. She was triangulating, but the Senate resolution offered her a binary choice. She voted yes in order to give Powell bipartisan leverage at the U.N.

This is how she’s always explained that vote, and I confess that until now, I’ve regarded her explanation as a transparent political dodge. Didn’t everyone know this was a war resolution? But now, having investigated her public comments, I think diplomatic leverage really was on her mind. I also know, from a third person, that she was spending a lot of time with Powell and wanted to help.

On Nov. 8, 2002, the Security Council passed a unanimous resolution threatening Saddam with “serious consequences” if he didn’t disarm.

The next crucial period came in March 2003, as the U.S. battled France over the second Security Council resolution. Clinton’s argument at this point was that inspections were working and should be given more time. “It is preferable that we do this in a peaceful manner through coercive inspection,” she said on March 3, but went on, “At some point we have to be willing to uphold the United Nations resolutions.” Then she added, “This is a very delicate balancing act.”

On March 17, Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to disarm or face attack. Clinton tried to be critical of the Bush policy while being deferential to the office of the presidency. She clearly had doubts about Bush’s timing, but she kept emphasizing that from her time in the White House, she knew how unhelpful it was for senators to be popping off in public on foreign policy.

At one press event in New York, she nodded when Charles Rangel said Bush had failed at the U.N. But when reporters asked Clinton to repeat what Rangel had just said, she bit her tongue. On March 17, as U.S. troops mobilized, she issued her strongest statement in support of the effort.

Clinton’s biggest breach with the liberal wing actually opened up later, in the fall of 2003. Most liberals went into full opposition, wanting to see Bush disgraced. Clinton — while an early critic of the troop levels, the postwar plans and all the rest — tried to stay constructive. She wanted to see America and Iraq succeed, even if Bush was not disgraced.

When you look back at Clinton’s thinking, you don’t see a classic war supporter. You see a person who was trying to seek balance between opposing arguments. You also see a person who deferred to the office of the presidency. You see a person who, as president, would be fox to Bush’s hedgehog: who would see problems in their complexities rather than in their essentials; who would elevate procedural concerns over philosophical ones; who would postpone decision points for as long as possible; and who would make distinctions few heed.

Today, the liberal wing of the Democratic Party believes that the world, and Hillary Clinton in particular, owes it an apology. If she apologizes, she’ll forfeit her integrity. She will be apologizing for being herself.

Photo Credit: David Brooks. (The New York Times)

Wolfowitz chilling speech

This speech was delivered to the graduating class at West Point pre-9/11, 2001....

Also See:

  • Wolfowitz Emerges as Key Figure in Intel Manipulation:
    "Paul Wolfowitz, former under secretary of defense, has been identified in recently released grand jury transcripts as being involved in a White House smear campaign against Joseph Wilson, the former US ambassador who accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq War...."
Technorati tags: , ,

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Putin Pushes Back

By Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
Foreign policy experts are still trying to parse Vladimir Putin’s weekend blast against America, which he described as a brutish country that “has overstepped its national borders, in every area.” But rather than asking what exactly motivated Mr. Putin to lash out at the U.S. in this way, the question we should be asking is: why do remarks like these play so well in Russia today?

I’ve just returned from Moscow and I can tell you what analysts there told me, what even Russian liberals reminded me of: NATO expansion. We need to stop kidding ourselves. After the end of the cold war and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, the Bush I and Clinton administrations decided to build a new security alliance — an expanded NATO — and told Russia it could not be a member.

And let’s not forget that the Russia we told to stay out in the cold was the Russia of Boris Yeltsin and his liberal reformist colleagues. They warned us at the time that this would undercut them. But the Clinton folks told us: “Don’t worry, Russia is weak; Yeltsin will swallow hard and accept NATO expansion. There will be no cost.”

So, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic were invited to join NATO in 1997, and Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia followed in 2002. Lately, there has been talk of Ukraine and Georgia also joining.

I believe that one reason Mr. Putin, a former K.G.B. officer and cold warrior, was able to come to power after Mr. Yeltsin was partly due to the negative vibes of NATO expansion. We told Russia: Swallow your pride, it’s a new world. We get to have spheres of influence and you don’t — and ours will go right up to your front door.

But now that high oil and gas prices have made Russia powerful again — the gasman of Europe — Mr. Putin is shoving Russia’s resurgent pride right back in our face. In effect, he is saying to America: “Oh, you talkin’ to me? You thought you could tell me that the cold war was over and that NATO expansion was not directed at Russia — but we couldn’t be members anyway. Did you really think we were going to believe that? Well, now I’m talkin’ to you. Get out of my face.”

Mr. Putin was only slightly more diplomatic in his Munich remarks, where he said: “The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernization of the alliance. We have the right to ask, ‘Against whom is this expansion directed?’ ” We all know the answer: it’s directed against Russia. O.K., fine, we were ready to enrage Russia to expand NATO, but what have we gotten out of it? The Czech Navy?

For those of us who opposed NATO expansion, the point was simple: there is no major geopolitical issue, especially one like Iran, that we can resolve without Russia’s help. So why not behave in a way that maximizes Russia’s willingness to work with us and strengthens its democrats, rather than expanding NATO to countries that can’t help us and are not threatened anymore by Russia, and whose democracies are better secured by joining the European Union?

I got an earful on this from Russians. “NATO expansion was not necessary,” Vladimir Ryzhkov, one of the last liberal Duma members who is ready to openly criticize the Putin government, said to me: “In the current world, Russia is not a military danger for any neighbor. It was the wrong concept. You need another architecture.”

Aleksei Pushkov, who has a foreign policy news show on Russian TV, said: “NATO expansion was a message to Russia that you are on your own. Russians were unhappy. We said: ‘The cold war is over, so what is this? They are moving a military alliance toward Russia’s border.’

“At the time of NATO expansion, I was running around the world saying one thing: ‘Don’t do it, or, if you do, stop with the Baltic states because you are losing Russia,’ ” Mr. Pushkov added. “And the answer I got was fantastic: ‘What can Russia do? What measures can you take?’ I said, ‘We can’t take any measures. You are losing an ally. Because there is a deep tectonic shift in the Russian psyche that says, ‘These guys are about exploiting Russia’s weakness. They don’t want it as an ally, but as a junior partner that will be like a little dog doing whatever they say.’ ”

I’m not here to defend an iron-fisted autocrat like Mr. Putin. But history is prologue. The fact is, we helped to create a mood in Russia hospitable to a conservative cold warrior like Mr. Putin by forcing NATO on a liberal democrat like Mr. Yeltsin. It was a bad decision and one that keeps on giving. Just when we need to be getting Russia’s help, we’re getting its revenge.

Photo Credit: Thomas Friedman. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)


  • Putin takes Mideast peace offensive to Jordan:
    "Russian President Vladmir Putin, on the offensive against Washington's policies, was holding talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II seen as aimed at increasing Moscow's clout in the region.

    Putin arrived late on Monday in Amman, the third US ally on his trip which had already taken him to Saudi Arabia and Qatar immediately after he had made a blistering attack on the "ruinous" dominance of the United States.

    The two leaders will focus on efforts to revive Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, on the situation in Iraq -- Jordan's neighbour -- and on ways of reinforcing Moscow-Amman ties.

    Before leaving Jordan he is due to hold separate talks at the airport with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas who last week struck an agreement with rival Hamas to form a national unity government.

    Putin's visit is seen by Arab commentators as a push by Moscow to redress its international clout and the balance of power with Washington in the region.

    "Arab populations are angry with American policies. They look forward to better ties with Moscow, a more effective Russian role in securing a peaceful solution to regional crises and offsetting US strategy in the region," Jordan's independent Al-Arab Al-Yawm daily said in an editorial.


    'Russia is determined to enhance cooperation with the Islamic world,' Putin told Saudi and Russian business leaders as Saudi King Abdullah hailed the Russian president as a 'statesman, a man of peace, a man of justice'".

Obama, Legally Blonde?

By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times

Barack Obama looked as if he needed a smoke and he needed it bad.

Everyone knows you’re not supposed to make two big changes at once. But Michelle Obama’s price for letting her husband run was that he quit.

So there he was, trying to meet the deep, inexhaustible needs of both Iowa activists and the global press behemoth on his first swing across the state, while giving up cigarettes.

He was a tad testy. Traipsing around desolate stretches of snowy — and extremely white — Iowa to go into living rooms and high school gyms and take questions like “Are you willing to stand up for independent family farmers?” makes me want to sneak out for a drag, too, and I don’t even smoke.

“I’ve been chewing Nicorette all day long,” he told reporters at a press conference in Ames on Sunday, where he was getting irritated at suggestions that he lacked substance and at the specter of his vanishing privacy. And, oh yes, at the accusation by the Australian prime minister (sounding two sheep short of a paddock) that Mr. Obama’s deadline to get out of Iraq made him Al Qaeda’s dream candidate.

The Illinois senator didn’t have on an implacable mask of amiability, as Hillary did in Iowa. He didn’t look happily in his element, like Bill Clinton. But he certainly didn’t look as if he was straining to survive the Q .& A.’s, as W. did in the beginning.

Beyond his smooth-jazz façade, the reassuring baritone and that ensorcelling smile, the 45-year-old had moments of looking conflicted.

In the lobby of the AmericInn in Iowa Falls on Saturday night, he seemed a bit dazed by his baptism into the big-time. He was left munching trail mix all day while, he said, “the press got fed before me.”

Everything was a revelation for him: The advance team acronym RON, for Rest Overnight. Women squealing. “I saw a hat,” he noted with a grin, “that said, ‘Obama, clean and articulate.’ ”

Senator Obama’s body language was loose — and he’s so slender his wedding band looked as if it was slipping off — but there was a wariness in his dark eyes.

He is backed up by a strong, smart wife and a professional campaign team, but he doesn’t have a do-whatever-it-takes family firm with contract killers and debt collectors, like Bush Inc. and Clinton Inc.

He was eloquent, if not as inspiring as his advance billing had prepared audiences to expect. He made his first Swift-boat-able slip when he had to apologize for talking about soldiers’ lives “wasted” in Iraq. He sounded self-consciously pristine at times, as if he was too refined for the muck of politics. That’s not how you beat anybody but Alan Keyes.

After talking to high school journalists, he took a sniffy shot at the loutish reporters who were merely whispering where’s the beef: “Take some notes, guys, that’s how it’s done.”

No fewer than three times last week, Mr. Obama got indignant about the beach-babe attention given to a shot of him in the Hawaiian surf.

Using the dreaded third person that some candidates slip into, he told the press that one of their favorite narratives boiled down to “Obama has pretty good style, he can deliver a pretty good speech, but he seems to prioritize rhetoric over substance.” After an ode to his own specificity, he tut-tutted, “You’ve been reporting on how I look in a swimsuit.”

He poses for the cover of Men’s Vogue and then gets huffy when people don’t treat him as Hannah Arendt.

For some of us, it’s hard to fathom being upset at getting accused of looking great in a bathing suit. But his friends say it played into this Harvard grad’s fear of being seen as “a dumb blond.” He has been known to privately mock “pretty boys” (read John Edwards, the Breck Girl of 2004).

He doesn’t lack confidence, but he’s so hung up on being seen as thoughtful that he sometimes comes across as too emotionally detached and cerebral with crowds yearning for an electric, visceral connection. J.F.K. mixed cool with fire.

For a man who couldn’t wait to inject himself into the national arena, and who has spent so much time writing books about himself, the senator is oddly put off by press inquisitiveness.

When The Times’s Jeff Zeleny asked him on his plane whether he’d had a heater in his podium during his announcement speech in subzero Springfield, Mr. Obama hesitated. He shot Jeff a look that said, “Are you from People magazine?” before conceding that, unlike Abe Lincoln, he’d had a heater.

Take some notes, senator, that’s how it’s done.

Photo Credit: Maureen Dowd. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)


Cosmic Iguana posts: appears to have blown a hole in the evidence linking Iranian munitions with Iraqi insurgents, and if so, it is a big one:

Also, Iran gets its weapons, including mortars, from Russia. Russian mortars do NOT use 81MM rounds! They use 82mm.

AND, Modern Iran uses a solar Hijri calendar that is 621 years less than the Western solar calendar, so if this munition were really made in Iran. the date should read 1384 or 1385 (Wikipedia errs in showing it as 1427), rather than 2006! The reason for the uncertainty about those two dates is that the Iranian new year happens in our March. In any event, the numerals should be in Farsi. The letters in the center appear to be "HE". "High Explosive" is a common catagory of mortar shell. But "High Explosive" is English, not Farsi....
Just so you know here is what Iranian writing and dates should really look like:
Iran Newspaper - صفحه اول - 1385/11/21
روزنامه صبح. وابسته به خبر گزاری جمهوری اسلامی.
I guess BushCo thinks we ARE really stupid.

UPDATE: Sean Paul at Agonist suggests the rounds are from Pakistan, and I think he is probably right.

Hat Tip to Al Buono.

Also See:

Technorati tags: , , , ,

Believe it When You See It ...

Dems Seek to Limit U.S. Iraq Involvement:

"WASHINGTON (AP) - Even before they cast symbolic votes against the Iraq war, newly empowered congressional Democrats are clamoring for a chance to limit and eventually end U.S. involvement in a conflict that has killed more than 3,000 troops.

'Will I vote for a nonbinding resolution? Yes, but it's insufficient,' says first-term Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, author of one of more than a dozen competing proposals that would impose a deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

'I think eventually without a question that we will have the House move to that position,' the former three-star admiral added. "The country is already there.'..."
TUC Comment:
Right, the country is already there. And we're tired of the political shenanigans in Congress which only serve to keep us embroiled in a civil war, as the casualties mount each day.

Shame on every politician who puts his or her own political career above the lives of our soldiers in Iraq.

The war cannot be won militarily. The presence of American troops increase the violence. The Iraqis want us to leave. Case closed.

A vote of no confidence for Bush and Cheney is what is needed. Impeachment proceedings are what is needed. A diplomatic plan for peace is what is needed.

So do it. And shut up already.


  • LA Times: Iraq war debate shifts to the House:
    "As the House this week launches its first major debate over the Iraq war since the November elections, Democrats are counting on many Republicans to join them in passing a resolution opposing President Bush's troop buildup...."
  • WaPo: GOP Expects Defections as House Debates Iraq Resolution:
    "Three days of intense debate over the Iraq war begins in the House today, with Democrats planning to propose a narrowly worded rebuke of President Bush's troop buildup and Republicans girding for broad defections on their side...."

Mahathir condemns Bush, Blair as war criminals

Channel News Asia, KUALA LUMPUR:
"Former Malaysian premier Mahathir Mohamad condemned British premier Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush as 'child killers' and 'war criminals' as he launched an anti-war conference.

Mahathir, who has been nominated by Bosnian civil society groups for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for helping the country after its bloody civil war, said the pair should be put on trial for their military action in Iraq.

'History should remember Blair and Bush as the killer of children or the lying prime minister and president. What Bush and Blair had done is worse than what Saddam had done,' he said, referring to hanged Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Mahathir also turned his scorn on Australian Prime Minister John Howard, deriding him as the 'pocket Bush of the bushlands of Australia'...."
Technorati tags: , , ,

Libby Trial: Place Your Bets

Who Will Take The Stand? Shooter or Scooter?


Jeralyn Merritt: Libby To Rest Without Calling Cheney or Libby:
"Ted Wells announced they will rest their case tomorrow. Neither Libby nor Vice President will testify. Wells said he and Jeffress advised Libby and he accepted their advice...."

Jane Hamsher, Marcy Wheeler and Jeralyn Merritt talk about Scooter Libby trial on Feb. 12, 2007.

Also See:

Overstaying Our "Welcome" ...

In his latest Times op ed, Nicholas Kristof reiterates arguments made by myself and others for months -- but they bear repeating, as often as necessary, until we extricate ourselves from Iraq.

Iraqis Show Us the Door
By Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
For those like myself who oppose the “surge” in Iraq and seek a timetable for withdrawal, the hard question is: what happens if all hell breaks loose?

What happens if the removal of U.S. troops leads to large-scale massacres, to a regional war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, to Kurdish-Arab-Turkmen fighting in Kirkuk, to a Turkish invasion of Kurdistan? Conservatives have a right to ask: why advocate a withdrawal that could lead to genocide in Iraq?

The first part of a response is to doubt President Bush’s premise that a buildup is necessarily the best way to avoid a cataclysm. Iraqis themselves don’t think so. On the contrary, one poll last fall found that 78 percent of Iraqis believe that American troops provoke more violence than they prevent.

Another poll, conducted by the State Department and reported by The Washington Post, found that nearly three-quarters of Baghdad residents would feel safer if American forces left Iraq. So if our aim is to avoid catastrophic bloodshed in Iraq, it may well be that we’re more likely to accomplish that by leaving rather than staying.

A second point is that the bloodshed can end only after Shiite leaders make political concessions to Sunnis, and our presence may be impeding that kind of political settlement. Once we set a deadline for departure, the Shiite leaders will look into the abyss — the prospect of Iraq, on their watch, splintering forever — and that may encourage moves toward a political settlement.

In any case, it doesn’t work when we want to stay in Iraq more than the Iraqis want us there.

Not only do polls show that Iraqis overwhelmingly want U.S. troops gone within a year, but Iraqi leaders themselves are cool to Mr. Bush’s surge. “The problem is not more troops or less troops,” the Iraqi vice president, Adil Abdul Mahdi, told me over lunch last month in Davos.

We shouldn’t send our troops into harm’s way unless Iraqis are pleading for them. If we’re the ones begging for the opportunity to shed blood in Baghdad, it’s time to come home.

There are a few other steps we can take to reduce the chance of large-scale massacres. David Scheffer, a former U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues, suggests putting the Iraqi government on an “atrocity watch”: warning Iraqi leaders that they can be prosecuted if Shiite militias and the Iraqi police slaughter Sunnis with impunity. All this might lead Iraq’s leaders to restrain their militias.

Then there’s diplomacy: we have to get the help of Iraq’s neighbors, especially Iran, to pursue our common interest in a stable Iraq (just as we had Iran’s cooperation five years ago in overthrowing the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan).

Instead we are going down a path of escalation. Two of the Iranian officials arrested by the U.S. recently were actually in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to try to bring stability, Mr. Mahdi told me.

I’ve been asking experts what they think the odds are that the U.S. will strike Iranian nuclear sites in Mr. Bush’s remaining two years in office. A common answer is about a 30 percent chance (plus maybe a 20 percent chance that Israel will strike). If that happened, Iran would make our troops pay a horrendous price in Iraq and Afghanistan alike.

Speaking of Afghanistan, a thoughtful new report from the Council on Foreign Relations notes that Iraq is siphoning off so many resources that we could end up failing in Afghanistan as well. The report warns that Iraq is all-consuming and makes it difficult for the U.S. to address other priorities.

“U.S. interests in the Middle East and Persian Gulf region can be more effectively advanced if the United States disengages from Iraq,” the report declares. “Indeed, the sooner Washington grasps this nettle, the sooner it can begin to repair the damage that has been done to America’s international position. Staying longer means more damage and a later start on repair.”

So at the end of the day, genocide is possible in Iraq, but there’s no crystal ball to tell anyone what will happen if we stay or go. Keeping troops in Iraq has steadily increased the risk of a bloodbath. The best way to reduce that risk is, I think, to announce a timetable for withdrawal and to begin a different kind of surge: of diplomacy.

A majority of Iraqis may well be right in thinking that we are part of the problem rather than the solution — and maybe a phased withdrawal will nudge Iraqis back from the brink and make a cataclysm less likely.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Kristof. (Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)


Monday, February 12, 2007

Escape from America

As always, Joe Bageant provides a provocative, insightful, MUST READ:

Joe Bageant writes:
"Hopkins Village, Belize

It is near midnight and the dogs sleeping in the sand under my cabana, Rex and Pluto, emit happy, gurgling growls, as if chasing imaginary rabbits in their dreams. I lie in bed just breathing in and breathing out and feeling so free that I've laughed out loud a couple of times tonight, something I have never done in my life. At least not while simply looking at the ceiling. Tomorrow I will not worry about losing my ass in the declining real estate market. I will not commute three nerve grinding hours a day, or nervously engorge myself in front of my laptop for hours on end. Nor will I or wake up with the crimes of the empire running like adding machine tape in my head, annotated with all the ways I contributed to those crimes by participating in the American lifestyle. After more than two years of effort, I'm outta the gilded gulag, by damned, and tell myself that I have at last quit being part of the problem -- or at least as much as much as anyone can without living stark naked in a Himalayan cave and toasting insects over a dung fire.

When I arrived in Belize a few weeks ago I vowed never to write about this country, mainly because the Americans I write to are more interested in American politics, religion, class issues and the Iraq war. How the hell could anybody with more than an inch of forehead not be anxious over those things? But the contrast here is so stark it seems unavoidable to write about the view of America from Belize and Hopkins Village this one time. I must say that from down here the Empire does not look much different. No worse, no better. But the stress and stench of the empire is less in this Caribbean breeze and the mark of the beast is sharper from a distance...." Read more.
Hat tip to Al Buono.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Take That, Bush!

Don'cha just love it?

The Dixie Chicks trump Bush with a Grammy for "I'm Not Ready to Make Nice!"

Yee hah! Good going, gals!

... Now can we just impeach the buggers already?

Complete Lyrics Here. Excerpt below:
"...I’m not ready to make nice
I’m not ready to back down
I’m still mad as hell and
I don’t have time to go round and round and round
It’s too late to make it right
I probably wouldn’t if I could
‘Cause I’m mad as hell
Can’t bring myself to do what it is you think I should

Forgive, sounds good
Forget, I’m not sure I could
They say time heals everything

But I’m still waiting"

Also See:

  • WaPo: At the Grammys, Making Very Nice:
    "The Dixie Chicks got the last laugh Sunday night. 'Not Ready to Make Nice,' the group's defiant answer to the angry country fans who'd criticized the group for criticizing Bush, won song of the year, the industry's top songwriting award. 'I am, for the first time in my life, speechless,' Natalie Maines said. Earlier, the protest singer Joan Baez had introduced the Dixie Chicks as 'three brave women who are still not ready to make nice.'"
  • UPDATE: Country Radio Disses Dixie Chicks
    "NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Country radio still isn't ready to make nice with the Dixie Chicks.

    With a haul of Grammys Sunday, the Texas trio topped their comeback from their 2003 Bush-bashing comment that turned them from superstars to pariahs — but Music Row isn't welcoming them back into the country-music fold.

    'Most country stations aren't playing the Chicks, and they aren't going to start now,' said Jim Jacobs, owner of WTDR-FM, a country radio station in Talladega, Ala.

    The awards might have the opposite effect, sparking another radio backlash against the group. Country broadcasters said Monday that the group's five Grammys show how out of touch the Recording Academy is from the average country fan.

    'I think (the listeners) are outraged," said Tony Lama, program director for KXNP in North Platte, Neb. "This is rural, conservative America. They are just disgusted.'"
Technorati tags: , ,

No Healthcare, Nada, Zilch, Nothing ...

Until the War Ends ...
By Bob Herbert
The New York Times
Almost all the talk about the 2008 presidential election is about the horse race: Who’s up? Who’s down? Can Hillary hold her lead? Can a pro-choice, pro-gay-rights candidate like Rudy Giuliani outrun a hawkish maverick like John McCain?

It’s a sport. It’s fun. Why spoil it by being too serious?

Senator Barack Obama, in his speech in Illinois Saturday formally launching his presidential bid, gave us an excellent reason for being serious:

Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a war on.

After going through a litany of lofty goals for a new generation to strive for, including health care for all Americans, a rejuvenated public education system, an end to poverty and real progress in dealing with global warming, the senator offered a hard and simple truth:

“All of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq.”

The war — which, in addition to its human toll, will ultimately cost $2 trillion or more — has put America in a straitjacket, precluding progress on a range of important issues that will only worsen with continued neglect.

The public seems to understand this. It was voters fed up with the war who snatched control of both houses of Congress from the Republicans in last November’s elections. And they were the ones giving Senator Hillary Clinton a hard time in New Hampshire over the weekend.

While Senator Obama is pushing a plan to bring American combat troops home by March 2008 (and former Senator John Edwards is calling for an immediate withdrawal), Senator Clinton continues to dance on the war issue. “I know that there is a great deal of frustration and anger and outrage,” she said on Saturday, “but we can’t just wave a magic wand and make things change.”

We’ve moved beyond the absurd when it comes to the war. President Bush responded to the antiwar sentiment in last November’s election by escalating U.S. involvement in Iraq. Vice President Dick Cheney, lost in a zone of unreality, is blithely spreading the fantasy of “enormous progress.” He may not have noticed that the last three months have been among the worst of the war.

The Democrats who benefited from the antiwar vote reacted to the president’s thumb in the eye of the voters with their usual timidity. They’ve put their hearts and souls into a marathon effort to pass a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop surge. Be still my heart.

The bottom line is that nothing has changed. The horror stories continue to spew out of Iraq: the helicopters being shot down, the mass killings in marketplaces, the steady stream of U.S. soldiers returning in body bags.

We need to stop pretending that there is something sane about continued U.S. involvement in this ruinous war. We keep sending troops into the combat zone and they keep sinking ever deeper into the ancient Middle East sand. To keep sending young people off to die in a war that everybody knows is pointless is criminal.

On NBC’s “Nightly News” last Friday the correspondent Richard Engel, traveling with a convoy of soldiers from the First Infantry Division, had a close call when a roadside bomb detonated several feet away. No one was hurt, and Staff Sgt. Chris Copley said into the camera, with a laugh and a hint of bravado, “It gets the adrenaline going a little bit, doesn’t it?”

But Mr. Engel noted that when the convoy returned to its patrol base, Sergeant Copley and other soldiers were openly wondering, “What are they doing out here?”

It’s a question that deserves a clear, straight answer, especially from their commander in chief and the politicians running for president. As the casualties mount and success seems more and more unlikely, a sense of resignation is spreading among U.S. troops.

Sergeant Copley told Mr. Engel: “It’s pretty much almost a lost cause. Nothing it seems that we do is doing any good.”

Mr. Engel said all of the soldiers he talked with believed it was “time to end this war.” He closed his piece by telling Brian Williams, “Earlier in the week some of the soldiers I was embedded with were hit by a larger I.E.D. That I.E.D. tore the door off the Humvee and the soldier inside had to have both of his legs amputated.”

Senator Obama’s capacity for leadership will be tested in large part by whether he can get the country to rally around his crucial point — that all further progress on important issues here at home depends on whether we can find the will to extricate ourselves from Iraq.

Photo Credit: Bob Herbert. (The New York Times)

Scary Movie 2

It's another Bush-Cheney production most critics have panned. But there is evidence that it may be coming soon to a theatre near you ....

Scary Movie 2
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times
Attacking Iran would be a catastrophic mistake, even if all the allegations now being made about Iranian actions in Iraq are true.

But it wouldn’t be the first catastrophic mistake this administration has made, and there are indications that, at the very least, a powerful faction in the administration is spoiling for a fight.

Before we get to the apparent war-mongering, let’s talk about the basics. Are there people in Iran providing aid to factions in Iraq, factions that sometimes kill Americans as well as other Iraqis? Yes, probably. But you can say the same about Saudi Arabia, which is believed to be a major source of financial support for Sunni insurgents — and Sunnis, not Iranian-backed Shiites, are still responsible for most American combat deaths.

The Bush administration, however, with its close personal and financial ties to the Saudis, has always downplayed Saudi connections to America’s enemies. Iran, on the other hand, which had no connection to 9/11, and was actually quite helpful to the United States in the months after the terrorist attack, somehow found itself linked with its bitter enemy Saddam Hussein as part of the “axis of evil.”

So the administration has always had it in for the Iranian regime. Now, let’s do an O. J. Simpson: if you were determined to start a war with Iran, how would you do it?

First, you’d set up a special intelligence unit to cook up rationales for war. A good model would be the Pentagon’s now-infamous Office of Special Plans, led by Abram Shulsky, that helped sell the Iraq war with false claims about links to Al Qaeda.

Sure enough, last year Donald Rumsfeld set up a new “Iranian directorate” inside the Pentagon’s policy shop. And last September Warren Strobel and John Walcott of McClatchy Newspapers — who were among the few journalists to warn that the administration was hyping evidence on Iraqi W.M.D. — reported that “current and former officials said the Pentagon’s Iranian directorate has been headed by Abram Shulsky.”

Next, you’d go for a repeat of the highly successful strategy by which scare stories about the Iraqi threat were disseminated to the public.

This time, however, the assertions wouldn’t be about W.M.D.; they’d be that Iranian actions are endangering U.S. forces in Iraq. Why? Because there’s no way Congress will approve another war resolution. But if you can claim that Iran is doing evil in Iraq, you can assert that you don’t need authorization to attack — that Congress has already empowered the administration to do whatever is necessary to stabilize Iraq. And by the time the lawyers are finished arguing — well, the war would be in full swing.

Finally, you’d build up forces in the area, both to prepare for the strike and, if necessary, to provoke a casus belli. There’s precedent for the idea of provocation: in a January 2003 meeting with Prime Minster Tony Blair, The New York Times reported last year, President Bush “talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire.”

In the end, Mr. Bush decided that he didn’t need a confrontation to start that particular war. But war with Iran is a harder sell, so sending several aircraft carrier groups into the narrow waters of the Persian Gulf, where a Gulf of Tonkin-type incident could all too easily happen, might be just the thing.

O.K., I hope I’m worrying too much. Those carrier groups could be going to the Persian Gulf just as a warning.

But you have to wonder about the other stuff. Why would the Pentagon put someone who got everything wrong on Iraq in charge of intelligence on Iran? Why wasn’t any official willing to take personal responsibility for the reliability of alleged evidence of Iranian mischief, as opposed to being an anonymous source? If the evidence is solid enough to bear close scrutiny, why were all cameras and recording devices, including cellphones, banned from yesterday’s Baghdad briefing?

It’s still hard to believe that they’re really planning to attack Iran, when it’s so obvious that another war would be a recipe for even bigger disaster. But remember who’s calling the shots: Dick Cheney thinks we’ve had “enormous successes” in Iraq.

Photo Credit: Paul Krugman. (The New York Times)


The Budget for 2008 and Beyond

(Click Cartoon for Larger View)

By Alfred Buono
Guest Op Ed Writer
I watched a bit of Senator Conrad’s interview on C-Span this morning and was not at all impressed with his statements regarding the approach to the Bush Budget and budgets into the future. I believe his views and the views of many in the Congress need immediate re-prioritizing.

Why is it that in addressing the issue of budgets and curbing expenses, the first and ostensibly the only issues on the table are those of Entitlements: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

It is obvious that the US has been running a major deficit since 2001 and our national debt is fast approaching $7-trillion. But it is not Entitlements which should be singled out as responsible for this.

Without political polemic about the ongoing Iraq Occupation, this major misadventure will probably total out at some $2-trillion according to Joseph Stiglitz and other economists; this does not include additional cost of Iraq rebuilding and reparations which would probably add another trillion or more.

And no one seems to be seriously addressing the burgeoning chasm of inequality within the country which has only been exacerbated by egregious and arrogant tax cuts which most benefit the wealthiest 1% of American families. Even Bush paid lip-service to the incidence of CEO bonuses and pay scales when compared to wages of blue-collar and white collar middle and lower management employees.

Yet tax cuts seem destined for eternal projection.

The past November elections were remarkable in that the American people spoke out loudly and clearly about issues which were and are most important to the ordinary and not privileged of this country: the end of the war, universal health care, improved education, etc, et al.

Ask yourself, why can we not afford an universal health plan that might cost $250-billion when we can afford to spend several times that on a bedraggle war of energy empire in the Middle East. Why can we afford to maintain more than 800 military installations from air bases to major army and marine corps bases in nearly every country of the world and cannot
afford to feed our hungry and house our homeless.

The priorities of this nation are sadly skewed. They need redressing. And they need it now.


BushWorld: Sunday Reader Part I

A smorgasbord of food for your Sunday 'Time-To-Impeach' thought ....

  • Is the Big Ship America Sinking? By Sam Gindin
    "Are we in the midst of a momentous turn in world politics? Donald Rumsfeld has been shuffled out of the Pentagon. Daniel Ortega, Washington's nemesis from the Sandinista Revolution of the late 1970s, is back as President of Nicaragua. Hugo Chavez has been triumphantly re-elected, and Bolivia and Ecuador also have new left-populist presidents. U.S.-led neoliberalism is scrambling in Latin America; the U.S. state seems to be in the throes of a full retreat in Iraq; and, in its look ahead to the year 2007, The Economist is warning of the dangers of an 'authority deficit' at the level of nation states, international institutions, and the role of 'the superpower'...."
  • NY Times: Follow That Lobbyist:
    "THE Democratic majority in Congress has made ethics reform a centerpiece of its agenda — and not a moment too soon. The list of members of Congress from both parties who have either pleaded guilty to or are under F.B.I. investigation for crimes involving their offices is embarrassing.

    Unfortunately, the latest reforms (some adopted in the House by rule and others proposed by the Senate in legislation) tighten restrictions without actually addressing the real reasons that Congressional ethics rules have been ineffective in the past. The result is tougher rules that will rarely, if ever, be enforced. Here’s why...."
  • Bush's Iran Stance Echoes Iraq:
    "President Bush's tough new stance on Iran and his military buildup in the Persian Gulf recall some of the drumbeats that preceded the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

    As then, the Bush administration is making allegations about Iran without providing proof...."
  • NY Times: Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says:
    "The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

    The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete...."
  • NY Times: Inquiry on Intelligence Gaps May Reach to White House:
    "The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Friday that he would ask current and former White House aides to testify about a report by the Pentagon's inspector general that criticizes the Pentagon for compiling 'alternative intelligence' that made the case for invading Iraq...."
  • Leopold and Ash | Libby Testimony Points Directly to Bush, Cheney:
    "According to trial transcripts obtained by Truthout, former White House staffer I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified before a grand jury in 2004 that Vice President Dick Cheney instructed him to divulge portions of a then-classified report to New York Times reporter Judith Miller. Libby testified that Cheney said authorization to leak a section of the report had come directly from President George W. Bush, the court transcripts state...."
  • NY Times: Trial Exposes White House Crisis Machine:
    "David Addington, chief legal adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, says he was taken aback when the White House started making public pronouncements about the CIA leak investigation. 'Why are you making these statements?' Addington asked White House communications director Dan Bartlett. 'Your boss is the one who wanted' them, Bartlett replied, referring to Cheney. With that, 'I shut up,' Addington recalled recently for jurors in Libby's CIA leak trial, which begins its fourth week on Monday with Libby's lawyers calling their first witnesses...."
  • Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Exposing ExxonMobil, Part II (The Huffington Post):
    "Last week the release of the IPCC Report by the world's 2500 top climatologists closed the scientific debate on global warming once and for all with a grave warning about its apocalyptical consequences to human civilization.

    ExxonMobil Corporation reacted by publishing a paid advertisement on the New York Times Op-Ed page and a recent comment on Huffington Post announcing "Plan B." After years of denial the oil giant finally acknowledged the role of fossil fuel emissions in global warming, pledged to stop funding the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the country's most visible global warming denier, and boasted of its own efforts to deal with the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

    But behind the scenes, Exxon was engaged in the same old mischief. The American Enterprise Institute, a corporate front group financed by ExxonMobil and staffed by Bush administration dead enders, sent letters to top scientists and economists in the United States, Great Britain and elsewhere, offering them $10,000 each plus expenses for articles explaining shortcomings in the report. Exxon has funded the AEI with over $1.6 million. The Vice Chair of its Board of Trustees is former Exxon CEO Lee Raymond. Over 20 of its staffers have worked for the Bush White House...."
  • Art Levine: Dick Cheney's Dangerous Son-in-Law (The Huffington Post):
    "While Vice-President Cheney has been pursuing a war in Iraq that has led to an increase in terrorism worldwide, his son-in-law, Philip Perry, until very recently the general counsel of DHS, has been working behind the scenes to make it easy for those terrorists to hit chemical facilities at home. The upshot, to put it bluntly: more Americans have died in war and are at risk of terrorism because of this family's efforts...."
  • AlterNet: The Quiet Plan to Kill Medicare
    Elana Levin writes: "The press has failed to notice that the President's proposed 2008 budget includes a plan to do away with Medicare...."
  • AlterNet: Media skeptical of Bush Admin lying about Iran [VIDEO]:
    "Fool the press once, shame on you... fool them twice..."
  • AlterNet: Updated: Dems demand paper trail for all e-voting machines!
    Joshua Holland: "Well, that's good news...."
  • AlterNet: $9 billion lost in Iraq "doesn't matter" [VIDEO]:
    Joshua Holland: "Hey, it was just the Iraqis' money anyway...."

BushWorld: Sunday Reader Part II

  • Le Monde | Human Rights:
    "A new UN Convention for the Protection of All People Against Forced Disappearance opened for signing in Paris on February 6. Le Monde considers this important addition to internationally recognized human rights...."
  • Iraq water deal illuminates murky world of secret contracting:
    "CIA officers operating in northern Iraq bought drinking water from a bottling plant there for years prior to the 2003 invasion. That changed soon afterward, giving a no-bid contract to a US company with personal ties to Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo. The water contract, while small on the scale of the billions that flowed into Iraq, raises questions about why US taxpayer dollars went to well-connected businessmen rather than Iraqis who could have benefited from a share of post-war reconstruction business. And the case provides a window into the murky world of covert government business arrangements...."
  • U.S. Family-Oriented Job Policies Weak:
    "The United States lags far behind virtually all wealthy countries with regard to family-oriented workplace policies such as maternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast-feeding, according to a new study by Harvard and McGill University researchers. The data comes as politicians and lobbyists wrangle over whether to scale back the existing federal law providing unpaid family leaves or to push new legislation allowing paid leaves...."
  • Holding Bush to Account for Climate Lies, Neglect:
    John Nichols writes: "Climate change is real. And the cynical ploy by conservative politicians and commentators of suggesting otherwise has slowed the American response to a crisis scientists say has grown so severe that - no matter what is now done to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases - the gases that have already been produced or are in production will continue to contribute to global warming and the rise of oceans for more than 1,000 years...."
  • Boxer rips EPA chief as bowing to industry:
    "California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer ripped the Environmental Protection Agency's top official Tuesday for rules changes that could limit the input of scientific advisers into agency decisions and reduce public access to information about toxic substances in communities.

    Boxer, using her clout at her second hearing as the new chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, accused EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson of bending to the wishes of industry rather than protecting public health...."
  • FEMA Wants Back Over $300 Million in Katrina Aid:
    "��In the neighborhood President Bush visited right after Hurricane Katrina, the U.S. government gave $84.5 million to more than 10,000 households. But Census figures show fewer than 8,000 homes existed there at the time.
    Now the government wants back a lot of the money it disbursed across the region...."
  • Hire the Dutch to Rebuild New Orleans? Dutch may build offshore breaker islands in response to global warming:
    "Dutch engineers are considering creating "breaker islands" off the country's North Sea coast as a possible defense against rising sea levels caused by global warming. More than two-thirds of the 16 million population of the Netherlands lives below sea level, and Dutch policymakers expect a rise in sea level of around 30 inches in the next 100 years...."
  • 5 Americans indicted in Iraq bid probe:
    "Three Army Reserve officers and a U.S. contractor were indicted Wednesday as part of a bid-rigging scam that steered millions of dollars of Iraq reconstruction projects to a contractor for cash, luxury cars, jewelry and other pricey goods.

    The husband of one of the military officials also was charged with helping to smuggle at least $10,000 into the United States that the couple used to pay for improvements to their New Jersey house...."
  • Bush budget should reflect middle-class needs | The Progressive:
    "In early February, the president has a historic opportunity to submit a federal budget to a Democratic-controlled Congress that will expand the middle class, reduce the enormous gap between the rich and the poor and lower the poverty rate. But don't hold your breath.

    The president's misguided pledge to make all of his tax cuts permanent -- including hundreds of billions to the wealthiest people in our country -- while balancing the budget within five years is not an encouraging sign.

    By ramming through massive tax giveaways to millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations, President Bush and the Republican Congress were responsible for racking-up the three largest deficits in U.S. history and accumulating a record-breaking $8.6 trillion national debt.

    And now, with the Democrats in control of Congress, the president has suddenly gotten deficit-reduction religion while continuing his failed trickle-down economic policies.

    If the President succeeds, his plan will inevitably lead to massive cutbacks in Medicare, Medicaid, education, veterans' benefits and the environment.

    This is not the vision of America that voters had in mind when they put Democrats in charge of Congress last November...."