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Saturday, 18 February 2006
The disgrace that is Gitmo:
Topic: U.S. Military issues.

As expected, the Bush administration has rejected the UN human rights commission report on Gitmo that calls for the government to close down the camp "without further delay." [NYT]Truthiness secretary Scott McClellan said, "I think what we are seeing is a rehash of allegations that have been made by lawyers representing some of the detainees." (Isn't this the same guy who said no one in the administration was involved in the Plame leak?) And McClellan went on to repeat this tired old sawhorse, "We know that al-Qaeda detainees are trained in trying to disseminate false allegations....These are dangerous terrorists that we are talking about who are there." Right, except that the pentagon has admitted that only 45% of the Gitmo detainees have committed hostile acts against the US and only 8% have been classified as al-Qaeda fighters. [AP] And, oh yeah, by the way, none of them have been formally accused of doing anything.

Even the ones who have been found to be "no longer enemy combatants" are apparently too dangerous to release. Adel Abu Hakim and Abu Bakker Qassim, two ethnic Uighurs, have been at Gitmo for four years and even though they were cleared nine months ago, they're still stuck. The WaPo reports that U.S. District Judge James Robertson, who heard their case, says the court has "no relief to offer" because the government can't find a place for these poor suckers to go and, though, he suggested they be given restricted asylum in the US, only the executive could do that and they're not going to. Seemingly, no country in the world will give them political asylum because they're afraid to offend China. Robertson wrote "The detention of the petitioners has now become indefinite. This indefinite imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay is unlawful."

Luckily, that type of judicial activism is now a thing of the past since W. signed the Defense Authorization Bill back in December. Lindsay Graham and Carl Levin added legislation to the bill denying Gitmo detainees the right to petition the courts for Habeas Corpus. "We're not going to turn the war over to the judges," Graham says. "If you're an enemy combatant, they will look at your case every year. If there's someone who is there untold years, Congress will get involved."

Boy, I bet everyone suffering under what Judge Robertson calls the "Kafka-esque term 'no longer enemy combatants'" will feel a lot better about their indefinite imprisonment knowing that Congress is looking out for them. Baher Azmy, a lawyer for one of the detainees says this new law, "Frees the government to bring anyone it wants to Guantanamo, which is why they chose it in the first place. It could end up as a place beyond the law where the executive branch can do whatever it wants to. " "Could end up?" I think it already has, with the help of Senators Graham and Levin.

Not that being held at Gitmo is so terrible, right? Rummy said it was like a trip to the tropics and they're getting three-squares a day---what else do they want? Even if they don't want to eat they still have to eat. Camp spokesman Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin says they force feed people in "a humane and compassionate way," so back off all you bleeding hearts out there. And they've got this great new comfy chair (like the Spanish Inquisition skit in Monty Python) that they strap detainees into and then put a tube up their nose. Like the manufacturer's ad says, "It's like a padded cell on wheels!" What could be finer you ask, maybe a little diarrhea? The NYT says lawyers for some of the hunger strikers claim "the liquid formula they were given was mixed with other ingredients to cause diarrhea" and another lawyer said his client told him this formula sometimes "caused detainees to defecate on themselves."

How pleasant! The U.S. has no intention of closing down Gitmo anytime soon and in fact they're adding to it. A new barracks is being build for more staff and there's a new psychiatric facility going up as well. Now, why would they need a psychiatric hospital, I wonder? [APA statement] Could it be that people who know they're going to be locked up in that hell hole for the rest of their lives are going a little crazy, so crazy, in fact, that they're trying to kill themselves by starving to death?

What a disgrace! Gitmo is a total betrayal of all we supposedly stand for and our soldiers are fighting and dying for. In what koo koo world does holding people indefinably without charge and without legal recourse become lawful? This is example A of what an unchecked executive's power can do. Instead of enabling this sort of outrageous violation of everything we hold dear, Congress should be closing the purse strings on this monstrosity. But they're too cowardly and one day they're going to wake up and find out their nothing more than rubber stamp puppets doing the bidding of an out of control dictator.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:07 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 18 February 2006 2:08 PM EST
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Friday, 17 February 2006
We're not leaving...
Topic: Iraq

FOX News reports:

KEWAUNEE, Wis. — Peace activist Jill Bussiere wants the United States to bring its troops home from Iraq immediately, so she went door-to-door in this community in the hopes of getting others to join her cause.

Bussiere helped organize a petition drive that resulted in a referendum on Iraq being put on the ballot during Kewaunee's upcoming spring election. It asks whether the city's leaders should urge the U.S. to begin an immediate withdrawal of its troops, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves.

The effort in Wisconsin — in tiny villages like Frederic and Ephraim and the larger cities of Madison and La Crosse — is designed to influence later races for Congress, said coordinator Steve Burns at the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice in Madison

Oh, would it were only possible, but no matter how many cities vote for withdrawal we've got lot's of bases in Iraq and we're not giving them back any time soon.

Asia Times reports:

In a prestigious engineering magazine in late 2003, Lieutenant-Colonel David Holt, the army engineer "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq, was already speaking proudly of several billion dollars being sunk into base construction ("the numbers are staggering"). Since then, the base-building has been massive and ongoing.

In a country in such startling disarray, these bases, with some of the most expensive and advanced communications systems on the planet, are like vast spaceships that have landed from another solar system. Representing a staggering investment of resources, effort and geostrategic dreaming, they are the unlikeliest places for the Bush administration to hand over willingly to even the friendliest of Iraqi governments."

See, we're not going anywhere. We'll hide out in those bases and let the Iraqis catch the bullets for us and if they get into real trouble we'll send in the Air Force to "shake and bake" the insurgents.

Ashraf Fahim for the ATimes writes:

Joost Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group (ICG), told Asia Times Online it would be strange if America didn't intend to stay in Iraq. "One of the reasons they invaded, as far as I can tell, is because they needed to shift their military operation from Saudi Arabia," he said, "and Iraq was probably the easiest one in terms of a big country to support their presence in the Gulf." The idea that the US wanted to swap Iraq for Saudi Arabia was acknowledged by then-deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2003.

Persistent reports that the US is constructing permanent bases in Iraq lend credence to the view that the Bush administration plans to stay. The Chicago Tribune reported in March 2004 that the US was building 14 "enduring" bases in Iraq, and the Washington Post reported in May that US forces would eventually be consolidated into four large, permanent air bases.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:10 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006 4:11 PM EST
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Pakistan on the brink?
Topic: War on Terror

Pakistan is really beginning to worry me. Yesterday the cartoon protests moved back to Karachi when 40,000 demonstrators turned out to burn Danish flags. There have been at least five deaths associated with the seemingly unending protests and they're spreading all over the country. They've gone beyond the initial spontaneous expression of outrage over the Muhammad cartoons to full blown orchestrated attempts to destabilize the Musharraf regime. The NYT reports that "The protests have...become enmeshed with Pakistani politics as opposition parties and Islamic groups opposed to the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, have led the protests and directed the anger over cartoons into denunciation of General Musharraf's alliance with the West. "(And keep in mind his military and intelligence services are full of like-minded wackos.)

As I wrote earlier on this week, the problems in Baluchistan are even more troublesome than what's going on with these protests. The ongoing resistance to the Pakistani government in that state has ramped up again and in the latest violence three Chinese engineers and their driver were killed. Selig S. Harrison wrote a column on Musharraf's "other war" on the 15th in the WaPo: He warns that Musharraf is diverting military resources away from the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban to regain control of the region that supplies most of the country's energy needs. Harrison writes: "According to U.S. intelligence sources, six Pakistani army brigades, plus paramilitary forces totaling some 25,000 men, are battling Baluch Liberation Army guerillas in the Kohlu Mountains and surrounding areas. The independent Pakistani Human Rights Commission has reported 'indiscriminate bombing and strafing' by 20 U.S.-supplied Cobra helicopter attack gunships and four squadrons of fighter planes, including U.S.-supplied F-16 fighter planes, resulting in 215 civilians dead and hundreds more wounded, many of them women and children."

The U.S government feels that this perfect little war is an "internal matter" for Pakistan to handle and hasn't brought it up with Musharraf and I agree with Harrison that this policy "should be reversed." (That's all we need is more enemies!) Harrison also points out that this area of the world is of major strategic importance. The Chinese, along with helping to maintain the energy infrastructure in Baluchistan, are also helping the Pakistanis build a port at port at Gwadar, "close to the Strait of Hormuz, with a projected 27 berths, enough for a major Pakistani military base that could be used by Beijing." (hmm...the Chinese navy stationed on the Strait of Hormuz, no problem there.)

Then add the war in Afghanistan into the mix and you've got one hell of a bad situation going to hell in a hand basket. A front page story in the NYT on Wednesday says most of the suicide bombers in Afghanistan are being recruited and financed in Pakistan. When and if W. goes to Pakistan next month he's going to have a full plate of very nasty issues to deal with. Of course, he'll probably gloss over all the big issues and just stick to signing Musharraf for some more F-16s. The business of the U.S. is business, after all, and he's the CEO-in-Chief.

Helene Cooper, the NYT's Editorial Observer, wrote yesterday that if the U.S. really wants to stabilize the situation in Pakistan a way to go about it would be to help Pakistani manufacturing, which accounts for 45% of its jobs. Cooper believes the US should lift its tariffs on Pakistani textiles in order to put more Pakistanis to work. I don't really go for the whole free trade argument myself; more textile jobs in Pakistan could mean lost jobs in North Carolina, but I do agree that unless we start putting more money into jobs, education and health care---and less into F-16s to prop up dictators---in those blighted areas of the world like Pakistan. we're in for a whole heap of trouble down the road. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have put us into the position where we we're not able to handle one more crisis and if Pakistan goes up in flames we're going to have a lot more to worry about than whether Mahmoud Amandinejad is calling us names again.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 11:28 AM EST
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Wednesday, 15 February 2006
Cheney and Abu Ghraib.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Dick Cheney emerged from his lair today and admitted to Brit Hume of FOXNEWS in a hard hitting interview that the shooting of his friend a Texas lawyer was his fault. "You can't blame anybody else. Ultimately, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend...The image of him falling is something that I'll never be able to get out of my mind. I fired and there's Harry falling. And it was ... one of the worst days of my life at that moment," Cheney said.

Interesting how he qualifies that by saying, "at that moment." He's over it, I guess, now it's back to screwing up the country. Asked if it was the right thing to do to leave it up to Katarine Armstrong (who's mother got him hhired at Halliburton) to inform the American public that the vice president shot someone, he gave no ground (even if it means setting Scott McClellan up for more abuse).

"I thought that was the right call. I still do," Cheney said. "I had no press person with me .... I was there on a private weekend with friends." [Reuters] He has no press person with him? What the hell kind of lame excuse it that?

Also, talking to FOX, Cheney said he had authority to declassify information. In response to a question about "Scooter" Libby saying his "superiors" had OK'd him leaking info from an NIE about Iraqi weapons capability, Shooter said, "There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority and obviously focuses first and foremost on the president but also includes the vice president...I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions."

The WaPo: Cheney was referring to an executive order on classification of information first signed by President Bill Clinton in 1995. In March 2003, just days after ordering U.S. troops into Iraq, President Bush amended order to, among other things, give the vice president the same classification power as the president."

[see moreon Cheney at Non Sum Dignus]

Limited and targeted spying?

The WaPo reports:

"The National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of international terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them, a number that has more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003, according to counterterrorism officials.

Timothy Sparapani, legislative counsel for privacy rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, says 'We have lists that are having baby lists at this point; they're spawning faster than rabbits. If we have over 300,000 known terrorists who want to do this country harm, we've got a much bigger problem than deciding which names go on which list. But I highly doubt that is the case.'"

The WaPo article goes on to say:

"Its [NCTC]central database is the hub of an elaborate network of terrorism-related databases throughout the federal bureaucracy. Terrorism-related names and other data are sent to the NCTC under standards set by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6, signed by President Bush in September 2003, according to a senior NCTC official. The directive calls upon agencies to supply data only about people who are "known or appropriately suspected to be . . . engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism. 'We work on the basis that information reported to us has been collected in accordance with those guidelines,' Vice Adm. John Scott Redd, the center's director, said in a statement."

Well, that's reassuring. I'm sure those several hundred thousand names are all legitimately dangerous terrorists and not anti-war protesters that demonstrate outside military facilities and Halliburton HQ, or anything like that.

On the torture front:

While the government is busy reading our email and listening in on our conversations and making little lists of who's naughty and nice, Abu Ghraib has reared its ugly head again.

The NYT reports: "An Australian television network broadcast [The SBS] today previously unseen pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused by American soldiers." Of course, the pentagon says there nothing new here, everything has already been investigated and 'we nailed those two dozen Pfcs to the wall.'

"The State Department legal adviser, John B. Bellinger 3d, noted that, following the instances of abuse in late 2003 and their disclosure early in 2004, there had been numerous public investigations, prosecutions and internal reviews. 'And it's unfortunate, in fact, that these photographs are coming out further and fanning the flames,' Mr. Bellinger said, referring to the Australian broadcast."

Yes, blame the messenger, that's it! I think it's pretty likely most Iraqis haven't forgotten about Abu Ghraib, but the reminder that there really hasn't been an independent investigation into who really ordered the stuff that went on there is timely. (That's what's really eating the pentagon.)

Oddly, the photos that the SBS showed were the same ones the ACLU has been trying to get the government to give up for quite a while.

The SBS reports says, "The latest photographs reveal further abuse including new incidents of killing, torture and sexual humiliation, the program’s producers said. Dateline said the photos are the subject of a legal battle in the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been granted access to the photographs under Freedom of Information provisions, but the US government is currently appealing the decision."

Abu Ghraib: Jihad University:

Meanwhile, the boneheaded decision to use Abu Ghraib, Saddam's notorious torture prison, in the first place is being compounded by squeezing Iraqis in there like sardines.

NYT: American commanders in Iraq are expressing grave concerns that the overcrowded Abu Ghraib prison has become a breeding ground for extremist leaders and a school for terrorist foot soldiers. 'Abu Ghraib is a graduate-level training ground for the insurgency,' said an American commander in Iraq."

It seems that since we've stopped turning over Iraqis we capture to the Iraqi interior ministry because of their little torture and killing problem, the American military prisons have become even more over crowed than they were before. [Iraqi death squad caught in the act.BBC]

"The overall detainee population stood at 14,767 this week, an increase from 10,135 in June 2005 and a significant jump even from the end of December, when the number stood at 14,055, according to American military statistics. Abu Ghraib held 4,850 detainees as of Jan. 31, a steep increase from 3,563 last June but a slight dip from 4,924 in late December."

Amazingly, some officers are actually saying we might want to differentiate between those who just get caught up in sweeps and those that are really dangerous. Imagine that!

"These decisions have to be intelligence driven, on holding those who are extreme threats or who can lead us to those who are," another American officer in Iraq said. 'We don't want to be putting everybody caught up in a sweep into Jihad University.'"

Too late.

More torutre news:

You know, Guantanmao is really a big time black eye for the US. But, what to do? If you let those 500 or so guys out, they're going to start spouting all this stuff about being tortured, which naturally are all lies. All a-Qaeda types are instructed to say they were tortured so you can't believe any of it.

Today, the long awaited UN Human Rights report came out and says "The United States government should close the Guantanamo Bay detention facilities without further delay."

The NYT: "In a response included in an appendix to the 54-page report, the United States noted that the investigators had turned down an invitation to visit Guantanamo Bay, and it rejected the findings and faulted the investigators for using selective information to support their conclusions. The investigators declined to go to the camp after being told that they would be denied the opportunity to interview detainees."

There isn't much point in going if you can't talk to the detainees, but never mind about all that, everybody knows the UN Human Rights commission is full of anti-American types.

So, if the FBI sees torture taking place at Gitmo, they must be involved in some turf war with the pentagon or something.

CNN: A memo from a senior FBI counterterrorism official has outlined three alleged cases of abuse in 2002 that FBI agents had become aware of while serving at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison. The complaints included allegations of a female interrogator grabbing a detainee's genitals and bending back his thumbs and a prisoner being gagged with duct tape. Another complaint talked of a dog being used to intimidate a prisoner and jailers subjecting the same prisoner to what the FBI official called "intense isolation" in a "cell that was always flooded with light."

All made up, it didn't happen!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:37 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 16 February 2006 12:04 PM EST
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Tuesday, 14 February 2006
Pakistan next to be liberated by democracy?
Topic: General News.

What was I saying about Pakistan just a few days ago? [Below] If any regime is in the most danger of being overthrown by this massive overreaction to the Muhammad cartoons, it's Pervez Musharraf's. There has been days and days of violence all over the country and today Lahore saw the worst of it.

W. is supossed to be visiting Pakistan next month to put in a good word for good old Pervez, but he might not be there by the time Potus hits the runway. I'm not saying the Pakistani authorities aren't used to protests like this, but the rampant poverty, the poor response to the earthquake and the ongoing war in Afghanistan---just ramping up for the summer---along with the "outrage" over the Danish carttons, all makes the situation very dicey. If Musharraf dose go let's hope its not OBL taking over, because, remember, they have the Islamic bomb.

Katrina and Cheney:

The administration has launched a shock and awe campaign to convince everyone that critics of their handling of hurricane Katrina are all full of it. Heimat Security director Frances Townsend said, "I reject outright the suggestion that president Bush was anything less than fully involved, "with the governemnt response to Katrina. That might not be the tact they want to take in defending the administration, because that means to me that he knew exactly what was going on and blew it. It would be a better strategy to blame Michael Brown who Townsend said "had become bitter...trying to find someone else, anyone else to blame."

Does she mean just like the Cheney cabal is doing right now by blaming Harry Whittington? (Man, he's going to be able to call in some big time favors when this is all over!) It wasn't Dick's fault he swung around and pulled the trigger before looking, it was Whittington's fault for not knowing to keep his head down around Cheney. The Inquirer this morning says the "NRA drills member on three fundamental safety rules:Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. Hunters add a fourth commandment: Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it. "This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot," the NRA says on its Web site and in its promotional pamphlets. "Never fire in a direction in which there are people or any other potential for mishap. Think first. Shoot second." Wish he had followed those rules before going into Iraq.

Eventhough the White House rejects any "suggestion that president Bush was anything less than fully involved," in knowing about the Cheney shooting, the WaPo says the White House "deferred to Cheney on providing information to the public" and then he very properly deferred to a private citizen and who took "14 hours after the shooting to disclose it publicly."

As to why it took so long for the public to become informed about this, the story is that Cheney was more concerned about making sure his victim was OK...and then later that day..."The rest of the party had dinner." Katharine Armstrong said: "The last thing that was on our mind was the media. We were thinking about Harry." (riiiiight!)

The WaPo: "In a telephone interview, Armstrong said that she, her mother and her sister, Sara Storey Armstrong Hixon, decided on Sunday morning after breakfast to report the shooting accident to the media. 'It was my family's own volition, and the vice president agreed. We felt -- my family felt and we conferred as a family -- that the information needed to go public. It was our idea,' Armstrong said."

Well, that was nice of them to let everyone know the vice-president shot someone, I certainly wouldn't expect the government to ruffle these fine people's feathers by jumping the gun, so to speak, that would be uncouth.

New plan for Hamas:

TheNYT reports today that, "The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats."

That's a great plan! Defund the PA and make things so painful for the Palestinian people that they will overthrow their own leaders. That strategy worked real well in Haiti, I don't see any danger of things going badly in the Middle East. And it's not like Hamas isn't going to turn us and Israel into the bad guys and prop themselves up by blaming us for everything that goes wrong, just like Castro does. So all in all, a really good way for us to distance ourselves from criticsm that we're nothing more than Israeli puppets.

Khalil Shikaki, a pollster and the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, in an interview for the Times story says that because "Fatah ran a lousy campaign...Israel and Washington want to do it over...The Palestinian Authority could collapse in six months." Not that's the way to show the world you're serious about spreading democracy.

Iraq do-over:

I heard Brig. Gen. William McCoy, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraqa say today on NPR's Morning Edition that the U.S. never intended to rebuild Iraq, the plan was really just to give them a leg up. So, that explains why we've squandered how many billions of dollars over there?

James Glanz has written a number of articles for the NYT pointing out all the flaws in the US plan for rebuilding Iraq and to say we really meant just to help them out a little bit is quite an admission of lowered expectations.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:18 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006 11:29 AM EST
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Monday, 13 February 2006
No quail is safe around Dick Cheney.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

On Saturday, Dick Cheney, "a practiced hunter," managed to shoot a prominent Austin lawyer at a ranch in Texas. Katharine Armstrong the owner of the ranch where the vice-president was hunting said the lawyer, Harry Whittington, was "sprayed---peppered...on his right side, on part of his face, neck, shoulder and rib cage." According to the NYT, Cheney was "shooting a 28-gauge shotgun" at a covey of quail when Whittington appeared about 30 feet in front of him, right in the line of fire. Armstrong explained that "A shotgun sprays a bunch of little bitty pellets; it’s not a bullet involved." Of course, that's what hunting is all about, splattering as many quail as possible with "little bitty pellets." If Cheney had been using bullets he might have missed.

Immediately after gunning down Whittington, Cheney's ran right up to him and, Armstrong says, "made sure his detail was totally focused on him." It's lucky for Whittington that the U.S. secret service was there to make sure he got immediate medical aid and got a helicopter ride, courtesy of the US taxpayer, to the hospital. When all the excitement was over with, "The rest of the party had dinner, and Mr. Cheney, who had flown to Texas on Friday, departed on Sunday." Boy that was a close one; imagine if Darth had actually been a good shot and had killed the guy!

"Today, White House press secretary Scott McClellan declined to comment on the vice-president's killing of a prominent lawyer in a hunting accident in Texas. McClellan said his office 'Didn't comment while investigations were on-going.' NRA president Charlton Heston decried those who are calling for Cheney to resign and defended the vice-president's right to bare arms. Heston said, 'These communists and fellow travelers will not take away our rights to self defense nor will they succeed in taking that gun out of Harry Whittington’s cold dead hands!' GOP lawmakers quickly came to Cheney's defense accusing Democrats of being soft on crime laws and called for investigation into who first reported the story in the press. Kansas Senator Pat Roberts complained that the leaking of information about the whereabouts of the vice-president could have, 'tipped al-Qaeda off to the location of the man who is heartbeat away from the presidency.'"

For some reason no one found out about this for about 24-hours afterwards because Cheney's office didn't bother to tell the press. Cheney's press spokesperson Lea Ann McBride explained, "We deferred to the Armstrongs regarding what had taken place on their ranch." That makes sense, it's only the vice-president of the United States that shot someone, just another hunting accident among many. The liberal media is blowing this all out of proportion and OBL is having a big laugh at our expense.

Bruce Bartlett: Turncoat.

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in the NYT today on an upcoming book written by Bruce Bartlett, a former domestic policy aid in the Reagan administration and assistant treasury secretary under Bush Sr. The book, "Imposter: Why George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy," really rips into Bush accusing him of being a "pretend conservative" and compares him to Nixon "a man who used the right to pursue his agenda." The book due out on Feb. 28, also criticizes Bush & Co. of "an anti-intellectual distrust of facts and analysis" and an obsession with secrecy. Bartlet said in an interview with the Times that, "The Clinton people were vastly more open and easier to deal with and, quite frankly, a lot better on the issues."

Shocking! Up until last October Bartlett was working for a think tank called the NationalCenter for Policy Analysis, but he was let go after one too many anti-administration opinion pieces. You know, think-tanks are those places were real academic integrity emanates, not like today's universities where liberal fascism abounds. Some have said right wing think tanks produce opinions and facts based on how much they get paid, but that could not be further from the truth. Bartlett provided an email sent to him by Jeanette Goodman, the vice president of the think tank that fired him which said, "100K is off the table if you do another 'dump Cheney' column and 65K donor is having a rebuttal done, in a national magazine, to your attack on the fair tax people so that 65K may be gone also. Do you have any idea where I could raise that amount quickly?" See, that's academic integrity if I ever saw it. David Horowitz is right!

In response to Bartlett's criticism that Bush is bankrupting the government, Scott McClellan, the "Oracle," says, "Spending is coming under control. The president put forward the most disciplined non-security discretionary proposal since the Reagan era." Soon, ketchup will become a vegetable once more!

FDA thinks Seniors might be redundant:

One of the 141 non-security related programs on Bush's target list is food for poor seniors. Bush wants to dump the Comodity Supplemental Food Program which costs the government a whopping $111million a year and, if cut, will make a huge dent in that trillion dollar defect. (Hell, $111 million is a weeks worth of body guard money for Ahmad Chalabi.) The program provides boxes of food to churches and senior centers for distribution to "half a million poor people," according to the AP. "Kate Coler, the USDA's deputy undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, said the department believes it can serve people more efficiently through food stamps and the Woman, Infants and Children program. 'It's really a duplicative program,' she said of CSFP" [AP]

Right, just like the cuts W. called for in last year's budget like the program to get kids to be more physically fit. The WaPo reported Feb 12, 2005:

"Despite the national rise in child obesity, the White House wants to eliminate a $59 million media campaign to encourage children ages 9 to 13 to be more physically active, judging it redundant given similar drives by Nickelodeon and the Disney channel." See, the private sector can do all these things much more efficiently. In fact, just think about all the perfectly good food Burger King and McDonald’s throws out in their dumpsters, couldn't seniors just hang around them at trash time? Or maybe, Cheney and friends could donate some of the quails they kill, grandma can just spit out those little bitty pellets. We are talking about the "greatest generation," after all, they got through one depression and they can get through another. Doesn't anybody understand we're in a war here!

Katrina whitewash?

The all Republican 11-member select committee on Katrina is coming out this Wednesday with thier report on the failures of the government to do anything about the disaster until it was too late. The Senate is still working on their investigation, but the House was tough on everybody, from the local authorities to the federal government. Oddly, even though everybody is to blame but no one should be fired.

Michael Chertoff, who should be #1 on the list to be fired, was only partly to blame for not making timely reports to his superiors. DHS, the draft report says, 'Failed to anticipate the likely consequences of the storm and procure the buses, boats and aircraft that were ultimately necessary to evacuate the flooded city prior to Katrina's landfall." No biggie.

The White House gets off pretty easy, too, but that's not a big surprise since they hardly provided any records of what went on at Crawford during W.'s vacation. For their part, they're ready to move on into the future and continue their good work for the American people. Allen Abney, a White House spokesman, says W. has "full confidence" in his staff at DHS. "The president is less interested in yesterday and more interested with today and tomorrow, so that we can be better prepared for next time." Right, because there's no use in looking too closely at this major screw up to see what went wrong. [Except in the case of not telling the press about Whittington getting shot in which case McClellan says, “I think you can always look back at these issues and look at how to do a better job,”.]

The GAO report on Katrina faulted Chertoff and Brownie for failing to provide a crucial "leadership role during hurricane Katrina." This void, "serves to underscore the immaturity of and weaknesses relating to the current national response framework." [Inquirer]David Walker, the GAO Comptroller General wrote, "no one was designated in advance to lead the overall federal response in anticipation of the event despite clear warning from the National Hurricane Center." James Lee Witt, former FEMA director under Clinton blames Chertoff for marginalizing FEMA within DHS and creating a chain of command that was fragmented. "It was not only leadership, but it was minimizing the capability of FEMA." The report goes on to say Chertoff, "designated Hurricane Katrina as an incident of national significance on August 30, the day after landfall. However, he did not designate the storm as a catastrophic event, which would have triggered additional provisions of the National Response Plan, calling for a more proactive response. As a result, the federal posture generally was to wait for the affected states to request assistance."

See, he really didn't understand what the law said and adding insult to injury he let Michael Brown go over his head to the White House and did nothing about it nor did he even appear to care. I don't know, Michael Chertoff is a slam dunk for a medal pinning from W.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:20 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 15 February 2006 2:52 PM EST
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Thursday, 9 February 2006
Marking Ashoura celebration with Pakistani destabilization?
Topic: War on Terror
This news ain't so good...

HANGU, Pakistan (AFP - Sectarian Muslim violence marred the holiest day of the Shiite calendar, with at least 34 people killed and more than 100 injured in attacks and clashes in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Officials suspected militants linked to Sunni Muslims for the initial attack, which came with Muslim sentiment around the world already near boiling point over cartoons of Prophet Mohammed first published in a Danish newspaper. In neighbouring Afghanistan at least three people were killed and 52 wounded later during clashes between the two sects in the western city of Herat, doctors said. Around 500 troops were rushed to Herat but were unable to control the violence, a defence ministry official told AFP. 'The situation is deteriorating,' he said."

The anger over these damn stupid cartoons seems be turning into to something much more serious. Sunnis and Shiites fighting each other in Afghansistan is very unusual, from what I understand, although not so much is Pakistan. I don't know which is worse at this point, Afghanistan falling apart, even more than it already is, or Pakistan falling into a sectarian basket-case a la Iraq. Probably the latter would be the scarier scenario because they've got the bomb. The only reason we're focusing all our attention on Iran right now is because of a fear of turbaned Mullahs getting their hands on a bomb. But just imagine OBL becoming the new leader of Pakistan! 'Have Islamic bomb, will travel!'

President Pervez Mussharraf is all that is preventing this from happening and he's not exactly the most beloved leader Pakistan has ever had. He's had two assassination attempts made against him, he's pissed off certain elements of the military and the ISI, he's got the Kashmiri mess, a war going on in Warziristan---and us not helping by blowing up women and children---and there's Baluchistan.

Globalsecurity.org says:

"The province of Baluchistan, which borders both Iran and Afghanistan, remains notorious for cross-border smuggling and has more recently been infiltrated by former members of the Taliban and Al Qaida operatives."

Apparently, including OBL himself...

newsmax.com: "Former Navy Secretary John Lehman said Thursday that the Pentagon has pinpointed the location of Osama bin Laden in the Baluchistan Region of Western Pakistan, but is holding back on rounding him up because it could destabilize the government of Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf.

There is an American presence in the area, but we can't just send in troops," he told the Sun. "If we did, we could have another Vietnam, and the United States cannot afford that right now."

Isn't that intersting?

And he might still be getting help from Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI. James Risen and Judith Miller(Gag!) reported shortly after 9/11 that the ISI, "has had an indirect but longstanding relationship with Al Qaeda, turning a blind eye for years to the growing ties between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, according to American officials....American officials said the depth of support within elements of the I.S.I. for a war on the Taliban and Al Qaeda remained uncertain, and a former chief of the agency has become one of the most vocal critics of American policy in Pakistan. The former director general, Hameed Gul, complained in an interview with a Pakistani newspaper that the Bush administration was demanding that the agency be placed at the disposal of the Americans, as if it were a mercenary force. 'The I.S.I. is a national intelligence agency, whose potential and ouput should not be shared or rented out to other countries,' Mr. Gul said."

So, some bad blood there?

Afghan summer:

The furor over the cartoons has the potential to plunge Afghanistan into a vortex of violence that could make this summer especially bloody.

The Atimes:

"With the Taliban and al-Qaeda gearing for a summer offensive in Afghanistan, using Pakistan's tribal area of North Waziristan as a base, they want to increase their political mass support once they ramp up their activities on the guerrilla front. At the same time, they are looking for fresh blood from the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and Pakistani jihadi diehards to join their jihad. Incidents such as the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in an unsavory light play right into the hands of al-Qaeda and the Taliban in fanning the already simmering embers of discontent among the masses."

Sibghatullah Zaki, a representitive in the Afghan parliament, or Loya Jirga, from Takhar province and was also a top leader of the Jumbesh Milli Afghanistan led by General Abdul Rasheed Dostum, told the Atimes:

"It is a critical situation and is likely to have a special impact on Afghanistan. There are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world. The majority of them condemn terrorism. There are few who believe in terror tactics. However, publication of such caricatures shows that they consider all Muslims as terrorists. I tell you, this will have a direct impact on Afghanistan's socio-political situation. There are already riots from north to south. In my province, Takhar, people attacked the offices of the governor and the mayor and ransacked everything. There [were] a huge demonstration and riots in Laghman. This indicates the direction in which the common Afghan thinks."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:44 PM EST
Updated: Thursday, 9 February 2006 4:12 PM EST
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Wednesday, 8 February 2006
Venezuela, it's always Venezuela
Topic: General News.

In its new years predictions for 2006 the WSJ listed Venezuela as among this country's top "Global Threats" along with Iran. As many commentators have pointed out---on both the left and right---this administration has almost completely ignored Latin America while obsessively focusing on the Middle East. With the leftward shift of governments in the region: Bolivia, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and maybe even Mexico very soon etc.; the right wing is sounding the alarm and becoming increasingly shrill about the administration’s neglect of our southern backyard and in particular its lack of action against Hugo Chavez.

Why does it always seem to come around to Venezuela? This isn't the first time we've had problems with Venezuela. The Hays and Cleveland administrations had to deal with territorial disputes involving business interests in the area in the 19th century and TR's Corollary' to the Monroe Doctrine---wherein we added the entire Western Hemisphere to our "manifest destiny"---was in reaction to another Venezuelan strongman, General Castro, who hadn't paid his debts to his European lenders. When the Germany, Britain and Italy blockaded Caracas in order to collect that debt, TR stepped in to solve the problem; not only because he found using force distasteful when it came to collecting debts but because the Europeans---our business rivals---were also horning in on our sphere of influence. Now, again we have the Spanish trying to sell boats to Chavez and the Russians selling him arms, but this time it appears W. is busy elsewhere and this is making the multi-nationals and their ideological flacks very worried.

Funny how things never change.

The enemies change, but the rhetoric hardly changes. The bottom line is the same: somebody or some ideology is trying to threaten our dominance in the world. At a yard sale many years ago I found a five volume set of John Birch society books and as an extra bonus I found the twelfth printing of something called "The Blue Book" written in 1958 which was Robert Welsh's attempt to give us the score in the Cold War and to "Draw the present battle lines on the world's ideological and political map."

Welsh's panicked appraisal of the impending communist take over of the world back then seemed like the rambling of a crackpot to most of the mainstream political elite and he railed against what he saw as the inaction of the Truman and Eisenhower administration's inattention to the growing global threat of Communism. (Nixon and Reagan, however, were known to court the John Birchers from time to time.)

Axis of Evo:

Judging from a column by Mary Anastasia O'Grady in the WSJ on Jan. 27, though, it would seem the Birchers have finally taken over the insane asylum. O'Grady writes that Evo Morales, the new Bolivian president, has "built a cabinet of radicals and Marxists militants, purged the Bolivian military and signed a pile of 'agreements' with his Venezuelan mentor Higo Chavez. There are reports that Cuban security agents are already working for the new president much as they did for Chavez."

Robert Welsh warns us from the grave: "The communists are now in complete control of Bolivia and Venezuela....And Romulo Betancourt of Venezuela, who says he is not a communist but has admitted he was a Marxist...seems to be taking the lead in plots and plans to overthrow the very few remaining anti-Communist governments in Latin America. Right now he is giving powerful help ---probably the most powerful, next to our own government---towards the overthrow of Batista in Cuba by the Communist Fidel Castro, and the establishment of a Communist beachhead ninety-miles from our shores."

O'Grady writes," It's hard to find anyone not hoping that an Evo-led Bolivia, built on equality under the law, property rights and healthy competition will emerge. [I.e. let us rape your natural resources.] Sadly, though, white guilt is not likely to get off so easily. [What?] The reality is that the Cuban model of totalitarian 'equality' is the now the dominant force shaping the Morales government."

Robert Welsh: "Now I know plenty of writers, commentators and officials will tell you that NehruNis not a Communist but a 'dynamic neutralist,' and that Nassar is not a Communist but an "Arab nationalist.' But the bellwethers of all such opinion molders are, by and large, the same people who...five years ago [insisted] that Achmed Sukarno was not a Communist but an Indonesian George Washington....The widespread acceptance of these views is, in my opinion, merely more proof of the success of Communist propaganda."

O'Grady, too, points out that the present day "bellwethers" of opinion molders have "greeted the Morales presidency with romantic optimism....His fiery rhetoric laced with old fashioned Latin populism, his violent background and his hardline friends abroad---all have been played down in favor of a 'give-him-a-chance' attitude."

You see, this Evo could be another Mao or Sukarno, don't be fooled. "Communist [or present day Chavez appeasers] sympathies and even actual Communist subversion are daily made more respectable by the actions of our government [Cuban baseball?] , our great universities [Re:David Horowitz], much of our press {the NYT] and by the complacency of our people."

Don't take that cheap heating oil, you're helping sow our own destruction. Wear more sweaters for America! People wake up! Exxon's profit margins are tiny, W. can't afford to heat the homes of the poor or pay for school lunches anymore; there's no use in any of it if you're dead. The pentagon needs that $439 billion budget and only a communist would say the costs of fighting the "emergencies" in Afghanistan and Iraq should be included in the overall budget.

Geez....where's Ann Coulter when you need her?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:49 PM EST
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Tuesday, 7 February 2006
Muhammad madness.
Topic: General News.

In a further move to demonstrate to the world that the US leads the world in human rights, it voted in the U.N. to exclude two gay rights groups from participating in that body's Economic and Social Council. The Council, according to the AP, is "a think thank of nongovernmental agencies from around the world.

Nearly, 3,000 organizationshold 'consultive status' with the body, meaning they can participate from within in discussions among United Nations member states." The US voted with countries noted for their strong support for human rights such as: Cameroon, China, Cuba, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Quite a rogues gallery, but State Department spokesperson Edgar Vasquez explained, "The United States continues to implement a law requiring certification by the United Nations to prohibit funding of [NGOs] that condone pedophilia."

Openly gay (ergo pedophile) congressmen Barney Frank sent a letter to Condi Rice saying, "I had hopes for better from you. To refuse them status, what else is it except an act of bigotry?"

Oh, take a Midol, Barney Fag, we'll side with any mullah or religious wacko out there when it comes to sexual preference or reproductive rights for women. If a woman in a developing country wants condoms or needs an abortion she'd better ask her husband first, not the American tax-payer. We're right there with the Saudis when it comes to that! This is why I don't understand why Muslims around the world would think our war against terrorism is a war against Islam. Our leaders are just as religiously fanatical about repressing sexual freedom as any turbaned and bearded Ayatollah is!

Make cheese not cartoons:

On the subject of the Danish cartoons, Trudy Rubin says that Muslims just need to get over it, because there is no war on Islam. Everybody knows "Western leaders have gone out of their way to debunk that canard." Yes, indeed, when W. said we were on a "crusade" against terror, they should have understood that he was just ignorant of the cultural significance of that word. What he really meant to say was he respects Islam as a religion of peace. How on earth could they get the idea we're out to get them just because our military occupies two Muslim countries?

All this belly aching by Muslims around the world, from London to Jakarta to Beirut, about the Danish cartoons is just another sign they just don't get it when it comes to democracy. Noted interfaith activist and crybaby Imam Faisal Abdul Raouf claims the protests and riots that have exploded all over the world reflect "A collective frustration building up about the way Muslims feel they have been treated. There is perception on the street that the war on terror is a war on Islam."

Au contrar mon frere, haven't many European countries banned the wearing of headscarves and advocated other measures like shutting down mosques in an effort to help Muslims better integrate into Western societies? Certainly, young French citizens of Arab and Muslim decent must agree that Western freedoms "offer Muslims the opportunity to practice their religion freely in Europe," as Trudy Rubin writes---as long as they drop the head-dress and act like Christians. As Fuad Ajami said on the NewsHour this week, the Muslims that come to Western countries for a better life need to live by the standards of the society they've adapted. All this nonsense about depicting the Prophet Mohammed is much to do about nothing. If a conservative Danish paper wants to go out of its way to insult a particular minority's religious beliefs for domestic political advantage, then so be it, that's democracy.

This is crux of the situation: Muslims around the world just need to develop a thicker skin. The Saudis and other oil rich monarchies regularly allow their political organs to publish anti-Christian and anti-Semitic diatribes in an effort to bolster their dictatorial rule and we support that, because that's freedom of speech! If people want to say the Pope is a unrepentant NAZI and condones pedophilia, they can, because that's freedom of speech, too. You don't hear Jews and Catholics complaining about it, do you?

There's no doubt, our good friend and ally King Abdullah II of Jordan respects the freedom of the press, as well. All you rioters out there could learn a lot about Western democracy by learning from Abdullah's example. When one brave and intrepid journalist named Jihad Momani actually had the bright idea of publishing the cartoons in his paper so people who were protesting could actually see what it was they were so angry about, he was fired and then arrested by the Jordanian authorities. Well...it's not so much that his monarchy is democratic as much as it is that he supports our war in Iraq.

Bottom line is; Muslims need to overcome their poverty and illiteracy, resulting from centuries of neglect by their leaders, who were propped up for decades by succeeding occupiers, and just get on with it.

And if they don't....

Big time blow back?

In all seriousness, though, the intitial outrage over these cartoons is nothing compared to the potential danger of these very violent protests becoming something much, much worse. Latant anger over years of repression and poverty could come rushing to the top and overwhelm various regimes around the world, which is why I'm sure the Mubaraks and Sauds of the world are viewing these protests very warily. Autocratic Arab regimes have exploited religious fervor for years to their own advantage, but times have changed and democracy is on the march. All it could take is a moderately adroit Ayatollah-wannabe to ride this wave to power in any number of Middle Eastern countries, Egypt in particular, which would be a major disaster.

Danger in Afghanistan:

Torching European embassies in Damascus and Beirut and Tehran, are bad enough, but killings in Afghanistan involving NATO troops firing on protesters could really get out of hand. Remember what happened after the shooting of a large number of protesters in Fallujah in April of 2003 and the very negative result of that.

The timing couldn't be worse, just as the snows are starting to melt and the Taliban are getting back into the swing of things, which they about this time every year. If regular Afghanis start to see their government as pawns of the Western powers they see as condoning these anti-Muslim cartoons, the Taliban would have an excellent wedge to exploit. The arrival of large numbers of NATO troops into Afghanistan, many from the very countries now blamed for these cartoons, could create a real mess. Even as I write this NATO reinforcements are being rushed to Meymaneh after protesters attacked a contigent of Norwegians at an airbase there.

Of course, I understand the Taliban are unable to mount large scale operations and are using IEDs and suicide bombers because they're "desperate," but despite their impending demise, they have been somehow able to mount quite a significant operation in Helmand province, involving some 200 fighters, over the last few days that have taken the Afghan military completely by surprise. Reports now say the Taliban have "fled" into areas around Kandahar, where I'm sure they'll disintegrate and leave Hamid Karzai and his democratically elected parliament of warlord’s free reign to finally rule outside the immediate boundaries of Kabul.

And finally, this controversy over cartoons is also playing right into the hands of Mamoud Amandinejad in Tehran, where he's milking it for every last drop. On the heels of the IAEA voting to refer Iran to the Security Council, this must be a Godsend (No pun intended) for his regime, who without the IAEA and the cartoons would have to actually deal with its real problems of an economy unable to absorb an exploding population of young and unemployed Iranians hungry for freedom and Western electronics. This is the perfect example of unintended consequences coming together to blow up in our faces.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:14 PM EST
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Friday, 3 February 2006
W. and making up phoney excuses to go to war.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Man, what's with all this wackiness over some cartoons? Even the Indonesians are losing their stuff over this!

The problem with these cartoons according to Deutsche Welle reports is that, "Among the 12 caricatures, one shows Mohammed with a bomb-shaped turban; another depicts him as a wild-eyed, knife-wielding Bedouin flanked by two women shrouded in black. In Islam, depicting the Prophet Mohammed is tantamount to blasphemy."

Of course, its only blasphemy if the person who believes in the religion actually draws the cartoons, right? It's ironic that after all the worries over Hamas and their religious fervor it turns out it's Fatah's militant wing that has gone the craziest over this:

"Earlier in the day, two armed groups, the Popular Resistance Committee and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, had threatened to harm Danes, French and Norwegians in the Palestinian territories after newspapers in France and Norway opted to reprint the Danish cartoons.

'Every Norwegian, Dane and Frenchman in our country is a target,' said the Popular Resistance Committee and the radical Al-Aqsa brigades. If the three countries in question don't shut down their offices and consulates in the Palestinian territories, "we won't hesitate to destroy them.'"

In contrast Hamas leaders called ro calm!

See Nobody's Business for a much better discussion of this than I can offer, plus some of the cartoons.

Bush and Blair try to provoke war:

While everyone is preoccupied with this very silly religious nonsense, The Independent reports today:

George Bush considered provoking a war with Saddam Hussein's regime by flying a United States spyplane over Iraq bearing UN colours, enticing the Iraqis to take a shot at it, according to a leaked memo of a meeting between the US President and Tony Blair.

Mr Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

He added: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated." The memo damningly suggests the decision to invade Iraq had already been made when Mr Blair and the US President met in Washington on 31 January 2003 when the British Government was still working on obtaining a second UN resolution to legitimize the conflict.

Hmmm. you think? Of course, this 'he's shooting at our planes' excuse is nothing new. In the Downing Street Memo there's reference to "spikes of activity" to put pressure on the regime by bombing runs back when the memo was written on July 23, 2002.

What's new about this is that W. actually thought about surreptitiously sending a plane with UN colors and risk a pilot being shot down to have an excuse to start a war.

That's pretty amazing...and impeachable, I think.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:09 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 6 February 2006 1:17 AM EST
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