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Lets's talk about democracy
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Saturday, 14 January 2006
W. is talking to his father again. No, not the one on earth, the other one.
Mood:  rushed
Topic: Bush Administraiton

I have just a very short amount of time today, but I did want to comment on all this saber rattling going on over Iran and its opening of UN seals on its Nantaz nuclear facility. They do have that right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, right?

W. says it's, "unacceptable" for Iran to have the bomb and, "The reason it's unacceptable is because Iran, armed with a nuclear weapon, poses a grave threat to the security of the world (Or to Israel at least)."

Hmm..."A grave threat..." that sounds strangly familiar.

The WaPo writes that, "The "grave threat" language was not in any talking points prepared and distributed yesterday across the U.S. government, and it surprised diplomats and even some of Bush's own aides." Great, that's reassuring, has he been talking to his heavenly father again?

"A White House aide said it was not meant as a signal. 'There was no intent to mimic language,' the aide said, speaking on the condition of anonymity." Whew!

Not that I think Iran should have the bomb, by any means, but the the administration cites Iran's concealment of its nuclear program for over twenty years as a reason they can't be trusted now. I don't understand, didn't Israel lie to the US about its A-bomb project? And aren't we going to do a multi billion dollar civilian nuclear power plant deal with India,who ,by the way, didn't bother to tell anyone they were building a nuke? (Something tells me they had wiping Pakistan off the map on their minds at one point, too.)

And what about our good friends the Pakistanis---Or Pakis, as W. likes to call them---and their national hero A. Q. Khan? Seems to me we wouldn't be worried about Iran right now if he hadn't sold them all their equipment and know how.

In any case, I don't want mullahs with a bomb, but its kind of hard for me to see what's really going on here.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:05 PM EST
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Wednesday, 11 January 2006
Arik Sharon and dirty traitors.
Topic: Iraq

I don't know about you, but I'm really getting sick of the hourly updates on the health of Arik Sharon on NPR. He had a massive stroke and assuming he lives through this, he's not going to be Prime Minister anymore, so let's move on. My God, you'd think he was the Pope or something the way NPR is carrying on about every small tidbit of news on his condition. I defiantly got the feeling that if had died last week, we were going to be in store for a round-the-clock Saturnalia of fawning adulation for the "Butcher of Beirut" the likes of which we hadn't heard since the Reagan funeral.

Fortunately, the "Killer of Qibya" is still alive, so we're spared having to hear about what a statesman and man of peace he was (With Lianne Hansen sobbing in the background) for a little while longer at least.

I don't understand why Sharon is getting all this coverage in the first place. Not only is he considered by a large portion of the Middle East, including many Jews, to be a blood-thirsty murdering war criminal, but he's the leader of a country the size of Rhode Island. I don't see what effect his incapacitation or death has on the average American in the long run. Whatever the long term consequences of his unexpected removal from the scene has on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, it certainly doesn't warrant the kind of wall to wall media attention it’s getting.

It would seem to me the death of Fidel would have much larger ramifications for both U.S. foreign and domestic policy, but I wouldn't expect any long expos?s on what he did for the literacy and health care of the average Cuban from NPR. Rather, when he does go, you can be sure we'll be treated to long interviews with Otto Reich on the horrors perpetrated on the Cuban people by "the Monster" and endless coverage of cheering Cubanos celebrating on Revolution Square as they prepare to welcome the returning Yankis with open arms and bouquets of flowers.

Shiites and Sunnis are in agreement: we shouldn't let the door hit us in the ass on the way out!

Speaking of being greeted with happy children with their hands out for American chocolate bars and grateful young women sporting their new pantyhose, the situation in Iraq is pretty much getting back to normal after the relative lull in the immediate aftermath of the Dec. 15th elections. Since that glorious day when 70% (70%!!!!) of Iraqi voters turned out to elect their new theocratic government, we've lost about 55 troops and over 500 civilians have died in a spate of bloody suicide attacks, which have been especially horrific even by Iraqi standards.

Last Thursday, after attacks in Karbala and Ramadi that killed 130 Iraqis, Aziz al-Hakim, the head of Sciri---the political wing of the Badr brigade---blamed the bloodshed on the U.S.! [NYT]It appears, American military "pressure" on the Interior and Defense ministries to stop torturing and killing innocent Sunnis is preventing those ministries from, "Doing their job chasing terrorists and maintaining the souls of innocent Iraqi people," according to al-Hakim. "We're laying the responsibility for the blood of innocents shed in the past few days on the multinational forces." Then he added ominously, "Our people will not be patient for much longer with these dirty sectarian crimes." Of course, Sciri and its band of killers known as the Badr brigade are suspected of some pretty dirty sectarian crimes themselves, but al-Hakim and his buddy Bayan Jabr, the Interior minister and former Badr commander, are only asking for the powers W. has given himself in the war on terror.

I think it’s ironic that W. finds the evidence of secret Interior ministry torture chambers "unacceptable" when he continues to condone just that sort of thing even after signing the McCain anti-torture law. Writing in the margins that he basically doesn't have to obey the law if he doesn't want to, these new "signing agreements" are a sort of modern version of the pocket veto except that in this case the president actually signs it and then, in a new twist, tosses it in the trash.

In any case, yesterday, in a new sign of Iraqi unity, in a call for peace and bridging sectarian differences during the Eid al-Adha season, Harith al-Ubaidi, from the Sunni Arab Iraqi Accordance Front, said Sunnis were "hand in hand" with Shiites against the bombing in Karbala. Well, that's promising, no doubt, but unfortunately after that he said, "We also demand that the occupier get out, because he is the reason behind every crime." At least, all the parties can agree on one thing, we have to go. See, I'm not one of those "defeatists" who, W. said in his speech at the VFW in DC, "Refuse to see anything that's right," in Iraq. Iraqi unity is a good thing, right?

In his speech on Tuesday, W. 'Oh-pined' on the limits of political speech: He said, "In a free society, there's only one check on political speech, and that's the judgment of the American people." I'm not quite sure where he's going with this, but I think he was urging the voters to toss out the bums who dare question his rule, and who are, it naturally follows, giving aid and "comfort to our adversaries." So, in other words, punish anyone who doesn't agree with me that everything is A-OK in Iraq. Anyone who dares question anything I do is a traitor. "Partisan critics who claim that we acted in Iraq because of oil or because of Israel or because we misled the American people," are irresponsible, which is code for 'traitor.'

It's funny he brought up Israel as a reason for going into Iraq; I haven't heard that one lately. In fact it was in September of 2002, before the war, when Phillip Zelikow, one of his top advisors and also former executive director of the 9/11 commission---said in a speech at , "Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I’ll tell you what I think the real threat [is] and actually has been since 1990 - it’s the threat against Israel.” [This blog.]Was W. really talking about Iraq or was just thinking ahead to Iran?

Anyway...you know, I hear a lot about Hugo Chavez over-reaching with his presidential powers and calling his political opponents traitors and according to the mainstream media this is a sign of a "quasi" dictatorship, even though he's been elected twice and has a large majority of popular support, but when W. calls democratic congressmen traitors, which is basically what he'd implied in this speech and says his presidential prerogatives allow him to by pass congress, the rule of law and anything thing else he says it does, that's ok. I don't know, I think there might be some sort of double standard going on here.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:53 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006 5:25 PM EST
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Wednesday, 4 January 2006
Nobody home.

I'm posting today on Non Sum Dignus as the tripod blog seems to be all fouled up with pop ups and all kinds of other weirdness that causes people's browsers to crash. I don't know what's going on with tripod lately, but I think I might start doing the majority of my blogging over here at Blogspot. I don't know, maybe the NSA is taking a page from the Chinese security services and is messing with my blog by infecting it with viruses and such?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:20 PM EST
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Monday, 2 January 2006
Ave Potus Caligula Caesar. Morituri Te Salutant!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

W. continues to defend his one man rule saying yesterday that this whole breaking-the-laws-against-domestic spying thing was no big deal. "This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America, and I repeat limited."

To him it might be limited, but tapping into switchers that contain millions of messages from American's e-mails and phones and then mining the data for God knows what and passing that info around to the FBI, DIA, CIA and Department of Homeland Security for their own designs---including the pentagon compiling files on anti-war protesters---seems a little more than simply finding out, "If somebody from al Qaeda is calling you, we'd like to know why."

Maybe, W. doesn't even understand what they're up to because he also assured everyone that, "The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers called from the outside of the United States of known al Qaeda or affiliated people." The Post says, "The White House later clarified that the program monitors both incoming and outgoing calls." And they might have added thousands of calls, not just a few.

Worse than Nixon?

This is reminiscent of the NSA spying on Americans in the 70's under program Shamrock and operation Minaret. According to the Church commission report of the Senate SELECT COMMITTEE TO STUDY GOVERNMENTAL OPERATIONS
in 1976:

"NSA has intercepted and disseminated international communications of American citizens whose privacy ought to be protected under our Constitution. For example, from August 1945 to May 1975, NSA obtained copies of many international telegrams sent to, from, or through the United States from three telegraph companies. In addition, from the early 1960s until 1973, NSA targeted the international communications of certain American citizens by placing their names on a "watch list." Intercepted messages were disseminated to the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense. In neither program were warrants obtained."

[Sound familiar? These revelations led to the 1978 law that W. is now breaking.]

Apparently, as legal and above-board as this new updated program of domestic spying is, the NYT reported Sunday, "That James B. Comey, then deputy attorney general, refused to sign on to the recertification of the program in March 2004.

That prompted two of Mr. Bush's most senior aides - Andrew H. Card Jr., his chief of staff, and Alberto R. Gonzales, then the White House counsel and now the attorney general - to make an emergency hospital visit to John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, to try to persuade him to give his authorization, as required by White House procedures for the program." They probably had him doped up pretty good before he went ahead and signed it, too.

President to appoint horse to Senate?

Beyond the question of what the government is doing with all this information and which agencies are making lists to see who's being naughty and nice, what happens to all these watch lists if a less than benevolent regime ever takes power? I mean, what if Hillary gets into the White House and starts using all this information to go after all the right wingers? Food for thought all you Free Republic types out there!

You know, the Romans thought they were sitting pretty when the young son of Germanicus took over from the tyrannical Tiberius and made a big show of burning all the secret files Sajanus had kept on the personal lives of everybody, but what they didn't know was that he had copies and they soon learned that "little boot" was a little crazy. And that young man grew up to be Caligula...And that's the rest of the story. Good night folks!

Cheney: no fear of flying!

W. & Co. are really into knowing everything about what and who you're talking to, but Dick Cheney is busy making sure no one knows anything about what he's doing. I hear he's had google earth blur the image over his residence and he isn't telling anyone where he travels, who pays for it, or what it's costing us.

According to Lobby Watch (Via This Fucking War, thanks madtom):

"Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff have been unilaterally exempting themselves from long-standing travel disclosure rules followed by the rest of the executive branch, including the Office of the President, the Center for Public Integrity has discovered.

Cheney's office also appears to have stuck taxpayers with untold millions in travel costs rather than accepting trip sponsors' funds that the rules would require to be disclosed. Some would credit the vice president's office for not accepting outside cash to cover his travel costs. That may be true, but critics point out that the Office of the Vice President's lack of disclosure also creates an opaque situation, with little or no transparency or accountability and at a substantial cost to taxpayers."

Boy, even W. has to follow these rules, but not Darth. Makes you wonder who is really in control over there at 1600.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:20 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006 3:29 PM EST
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Sunday, 1 January 2006
W. versus ET.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Now, this is a bizarre story that I just had to comment on. I found experts from a yahoo.news story that has "expired" at the QandO blog blog:

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defense Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated: 'UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head.'

Mr. Hellyer went on to say, 'I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something.'"

Hellyer thinks W. is planning on build a forward operating moon base and is developing "laser and particle guns to the point that they can be used against the visitors from space."

According to a site called Exopolitics, "Hellyer decided to read a book that had been idly sitting on his book shelf for two years. Philip Corso's, The Day After Roswell, sparked intense interest for Hellyer in terms of its policy implications. Corso named real people, institutions and events in his book that could be checked. Intrigued by the policy implications, Hellyer decided to confirm whether Corso's book was real or a "work of fiction". He contacted a retired United States Air Force General and spoke to him directly to verify Corso's claims.

The unnamed General simply said: "every word is true and more". Hellyer then proceeded to discuss the "and more …" with the general and claimed he was told remarkable things concerning UFOs and the extraterrestrial hypothesis that interplanetary visitors have been here since at least 1947."

We are going to build a moon base, this is true, I don't know about intercepting aliens, though. Robert Roy Britt writes in an article in Space.com that, "The first mission to the Moon will likely be an orbiter that generates NASA's first digital map of the pockmarked world, officials said Wednesday.

It will be a reconnaissance craft designed to help prepare for a return of astronauts as early as 2015, as envisioned last month by President George W. Bush. The second new lunar foray, in 2009, will be with a robotic lander whose goals are not yet clear.

'These missions will not be driven by science,' said Ed Weiler, associate administrator for the NASAs Office of Space Science. 'They will be driven by preparations for human landings.'"

No doubt, the missions will not be driven by science. Maybe, W. remembers Ronald Reagan's interest in aliens and recalls him saying, "The earth would have to make a common front against attack by people from" other planets? Starting a war with another planet sure would get Iraq and the domestic spying scandal off the front pages!

In any case, one thing we can be sure of, we have to beat the Chinese there!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 7:34 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 January 2006 1:59 PM EST
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Saturday, 31 December 2005
Happy new year! Its got to be better than this year, right?

So, 2005 is almost over and next month I'll be on to my third year of giving my cranky opinions. When I began this thing, I didn't even know what blogs were but I was sick of getting my letters to the editor rejected so this seemed like a good option. By the time I got the hang of this thing newpapers sarted publishing every thing I wrote, which was sort of annoying. It didn't matter at that point because no one cared about letters to the editor anymore, everyone was on to caring about what bloggers had to say. Not that anyone cares about what I say, still, but it amuses me at least.

This year we lost 842 soldiers in Iraq, five less than 2004. That's progress? Hopefully, things will look better by the end of next year and here's hoping Bush, Cheney, DeLay and Abramoff will all be behind bars!!!!

We can only hope. So, happy new year to everyone out there who comes by to have their browser crash under the weight of a zillion tripod pop ups.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:58 PM EST
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Friday, 30 December 2005
Mind boggling inefficiency of the intelligence agencies.
Topic: Bush Administraiton

So far, today's top story is that the Justice Department is launching an investigation into who leaked the information about the NSA domestic spying program. Once again, the NYT is right in the middle of another leak case and it will be interesting to see how far the government is willing to go in obtaining James Risen and Eric Lichtblau's notes and whether either of them will do jail time for protecting their sources.

This time around the DOJ made record time in getting the investigation under way, in contrast to the Plame case in which they just couldn't bring themselves to be too interested in until the political pressure became too great. Maybe, they should also look into who leaked the story about OBL's satellite phone. W. seems to think the press reveals "sources, methods and what we use information for" that helps the "enemy" adjust their operations. Of course, I guess this just might be paranoia on W.'s part because it turns about the OBL "leak" was no leak at all. He was referring to a 1998 Washington Times story that has gone into the realm of urban legend as being the trigger that got OBL off his phone and according to the warped thinking from the White House led to 9/11.

But in actuality the 1998 missile strikes on his camps in Afghanistan probably had more to do with it. The WaPo wrote on Dec. 22 that they searched media databases and found that Times magazine "had first reported on Dec. 16 1996, that Bin Laden 'uses satellite phone to contact fellow Islamic militants in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.' Taliban officials provided the information, with one official---security Chief Mullah Abdul Mannan Niazi---telling Time, "He's in high spirits.'" The Washington Times article that Scott "My dad thinks LBJ killed JFK" McClellan says, W. was referring to, at his press conference two Monday's ago, buries the information about OBL's phone in the 21st paragraph and never mentions that the government was listening in on him, despite what W. thinks.

So, it's all much to do about nothing, but it's interesting that W. is using this bogus story to justify his unchecked spying on the American people, yet another sign of bad intelligence getting into the president's ear. This is what happens when you don't fire the people who misled you into a disastrous war with bogus Intel on WMD and anthrax spreading robot planes, they keep giving you bad advice.

Oh,oopse,did I say 'unchecked spying?'

The president said back in 2004 that, "When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so...constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the constitution." Riiiiiight! As long as the president, and only the president, gets to interpret what the constitution says about executive power, he's fine with it. When an "activist" Federal Court like the 4th circuit gets all uppity and willfully disregards "a presidential directive” in the Pedilla case it's, according to Solicitor General Paul D. Clement, "An unwarranted attack on the exercise of executive discretion, and, if given effect, would raise profound separation-of-powers concerns." The only separation of powers this president is concerned about is separating the Congress and the courts from their power to interfere in anything he feels like doing.

What's puzzling about the Pedilla case is, if Judge Michael Luttig thought Pedilla's detention was probably "a mistake" then why didn't he just release him? Keeping him locked up in a navy brig isn't exactly punishing the government for their manipulation of the court system, which is what Luttig seems to be all worked up about. When a nut job like Luttig says that the government’s credibility could be harmed by its dishonest maneuvering, you know this administration is really going off the rails. But, no matter, this all just fires up W. and Cheney to fight harder and take even more liberties with our system.

No such agency has no clue:

As we've lately found out, the NSA wasn't just tapping a few phones, but was running a massive data mining program, spying on maybe millions of e-mail messages and phone calls and all without any check from the courts or congress. Earlier stories of "mistakes" that might have been made by the NSA in accidentally listening in on a few domestic calls are out the window now that we know they were tapping into entire switching nodes. At the same time news has come out that the FBI was lurking around mosques with radiation detectors trying to see if any American Muslims were trying to build "dirty-bombs." And then there is the story of the "perpetual cookies" that were on the NSA's web site illegally; of course, they say this whole cookie thing is just a big mistake, but one wonders if these people actually have any clue of what their doing, because they seem to make a lot of them.

Nuclear power plants and chemical plants are basically open targets and first responders still can't talk to each other in a crisis four years after 9/11---and, oh, by the way, there's an American city missing---but these idiots charged with protecting us, with their multi-billion dollar budgets, are frantically poindextering the fourth amendment while leaving the door wide open for terrorists to blow up half of New Jersey. And don't forget the antiwar activists; they're a big danger too. While Osama is comfortably ploinking dolly the sheep in his cave, all the immense resources of the US government's intelligence agencies are either trying to relocate their ghost prisoners to more torture-friendly countries or, on the domestic front, they're burning the midnight oil keeping tabs on long haired freaks with bad BO. I feel safer, don't you?

The mind boggles at the audacity of this president's assault on the constitution and our system of government. W. likes to say he's the commander in chief so he can do what ever he feels like doing to protect the country, but by the time he gets done it won't be the same country. Too bad there isn't a brain dead woman having her feeding tube pulled out involved in this spying case, or congress would be parachuting into DC to investigate this monumental attack on our very democracy.

See Non Sum Dignus for slicing and dicing of David Brooks on the perogitives of the president.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:14 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005 3:33 PM EST
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Wednesday, 28 December 2005
The elections in Iraq:
Topic: Iraq

Well, the Iraqis had their big election and the Sunnis came out to vote this time in big numbers, so we can pretty much pack up and leave, right? All the Purple Hearts our troops have received fighting in Iraq are turning into purple fingers! The fact that the main Shiite religious bloc gained the most votes at the expense of the secular Shiite lists and the Sunnis, is no impediment to the formation of a truly inclusive parliament that will represent all the factions of Iraq, right? The initial signs aren't encouraging, when one considers Sabrina Tavernise's report in the NYT on Monday that, "A committee headed by two independent Sunnis---Noori al-Rawi, Iraq's departing culture minister, and Zuhair Chalabi, the minister of human rights--met with members of the Shiite group, the United Iraqi Alliance, and relayed a request on behalf of the Sunni parties" that the Shiites donate 10 of their seats to the Sunnis in order to "defuse tensions over the results of the Dec. 15 elections." Surprisingly, Tavernise writes, "The Shiites refused." [NYT]

So, it appears that the US hope of the Shiites being reasonable and not alienating the Sunnis might be slightly misplaced. It's the same old zero sum game going on and the forecast calls for more Kurdish demands for Kirkuk in return for their votes in forming a governing coalition. (Along with some self interested back room deals for Ahmad Chalabi and his meager votes?)

Remember, the US plan is that the Shiites see reason and allow the Sunnis to get into the government and that this some how marginalizes the insurgents and this happy development along with General Peter Pace's plan to hand over more and more responsibility to Iraqi forces leads to us drawing down troop levels to 100,000 by the end of next year. (I still don't see how still having 100,000 troops over there this time next year is a sign of progress, but we just have to trust W. that this is a good thing.)

Despite the happy talk by the pundits, the whole thing might yet blow up in our faces as the Sunnis are complaining of massive voting irregularities around the country, including ballot box stuffing and intimidation of Sunni voters by Kurdish and Shiite militias. The tanker truck caught coming across the Iranian border with thousands of phony ballots hasn't helped the perception by the Sunnis that they got robbed, either. No one is taking these claims very seriously, though, and even the UN head of the electoral assistance team, Craig Jenness, says, "It wasn't perfect, but it was pretty credible given the circumstances."

Yes, given the circumstances that most of the country is a war zone, I'd say things went pretty well. Of course, it wasn't just the huge amount of security and the curfews that made the election successful, it was the indigenous Iraqi insurgent groups basically calling an election-day truce in the hopes that the Sunni political parties allied with them might pick up enough seats to serve as their version of Sinn Fein.

Now, it looks like that even though they gave the political process a chance, they still struck out. The result appears to be that the Shiites closest to the Iranians are back in the saddle and the Kurds are going to go ahead with their program of the de-Arabization of Kirkuk and both groups will go ahead with slicing up the oil money between them leaving the Sunnis with vast swathes of desert. Unless, Zalmay Khalilzad is a miracle worker I don't see this whole thing coming to a good end.

No monolith:

Not to say that the Shiite bloc is a monolith itself, they could wind up imploding over disputes about who runs what between Mukada al-Sadr and the Badr brigade in the south. The FT wrote on Dec. 17 that the commander for British forces in southern Iraq, Brigadier Patrick Marriot, said he would recommend no "significant reductions" of UK troops until provincial elections in March or April are over. Marriot predicts that Shia factions in the south are, "Going to be fighting for local power, they're going to be fighting within their lists." The main culprits as usual are the Badr Brigade and the Sadr's Medhi Army who have already had several violent clashes last August in Maysan province. The FT writes, "The Brigadier General said the provincial elections could see fragmentation within Badr and Medhi, as elements within the militias seeking local power independent of the national coalition broke from the alliance. 'There are certain minorities within those lists, if it fragments, will end up fighting.'"

Which is probably all well and fine with the Iranians, who will feel safer with a perpetually dysfunctional Iraqi neighbor and us tied down in a grueling guerilla war for years to come. Naturally, the Arab Iraqi Shiites, how ever much they may have in common religiously with the Shiite Iranians, still have a tribal and ethnic distrust of the Persians, but Persian money is still money. As long as the Iranians keep doing their part to keep the Iraqi United Alliance in power with bogus ballots and military assistance via Badr, we're SOL. If we push the Shiites too hard on the Sunni issue we'll just push them further into Iran's hands, but if we're seen to be helping the Badr brigade in our common fight against the Sunni insurgents, we convince the Sunnis we want them annihilated as well which will further inflames the situation. There are a whole bunch of militias in Iraq, we just happen to be the biggest and we're right in the middle of a very ugly civil war.

PTSD costs too much!

The WaPo reported yesterday that the VA is exploring ways to nickel and dime our returning troops that suffer from PTSD. It seems in the past five years claims for disability from PTSD has risen by 150% and the resulting costs are breaking the bank. Interestingly, the majority of claims are coming from Vietnam vets who have been dealing with their traumas by themselves up until now. (Just wait until the tens of thousands of troops who will be coming back from their 2nd or 3rd 18-month tours in Iraq, who have endured the viciousness and brutality of urban guerrilla war, start seeking the help only the VA can provide.)

Shankar Vedantam writes the VA, “has…been in negotiations with the Institute of Medicine over a review of the "utility and objectiveness" of PTSD diagnostic criteria and the validity of screening techniques, a process that could have profound implications for returning soldiers. ‘On the one hand, it is good that people are reaching out for help,’ said Jeff Schrade, communications director for the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. ‘At the same time, as more people reach out for help, it squeezes the budget further.’

Its amazing to me that there would be a move on to change the way PTSD is defined in order to save money. Perhaps, before sending our service people into a meat grinder to protect democracy in the Middle East or South East Asia the president and Congress ought to make sure they're really willing to pay the bill for the consequences of their decisions four or five decades down the road as today’s twenty year-olds become tomorrow’s senior citizens.

“Facing a budget crunch, experts within and outside the Veterans Affairs Department are raising concerns about fraudulent claims.” Oh, what a cop out! The assertion that many of these claims might be efforts by vets to defraud the government is just absurd. There are, no doubt, ten of thousands of people who have been in combat and are mentally and emotionally scared by their service who never seek help because of the stigma involved. The idea that there are people out there willing to live with being called cowards or crazy just to pick up a government check is ridiculous. If the VA and the pentagon are so concerned about fraud they might begin by investigating Halliburton and all the other rapacious corporate looters of our tax payer monies before they build even higher bureaucratic walls around the treatment and help those who have done their duty for the country deserve and are owed.

This president is radioactive:

Geez, just when you're getting over the news that the NSA has been bugging American's phones without any warrents, you find out that it's not just a few phones but a whole bunch of phones.

The NYT reported on Friday that, "The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said."

As if that wasn't bad enough, now we find out that, "Since 2002 the U.S. government has been monitoring for suspicious radiation levels outside more than 100 predominantly Muslim-related sites in the greater Washington, D.C., area, as well as various sites in other cities, several government officials with knowledge of the program confirmed to CNN Friday.

One government official said the authorities don't obtain warrants because the testing is conducted from outside the buildings on what they consider public property." [CNNCNN]

So, that's OK, because they were outside the building. If they were in a car outside your house and were using one of those audio-cones that they use on Monday Night Football to listen in on your conversations that would be OK too.

Stop all the complaining, you babies! As DAVID B. RIVKIN and LEE A. CASEY write in the Times today, "The contretemps its revelation has caused reveals much more about the chattering classes' fundamental antipathy to strong government in general, and strong executive power in particular, than it does about presidential overreaching." Stupid chattering classes!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:54 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 31 December 2005 3:34 PM EST
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Wednesday, 21 December 2005
Go Dolphins!
Topic: General News.
First of all today, I'd like to thank the San Diego Chargers for their part in helping this year's Miami Dolphins to get to a .500 record at 7-7 and more especially for ensuring that the 1972 Dolphins perfect record of 17-0 remains unequaled. Last Sunday they beat the seemingly unstoppable Indianapolis Colts in their own home stadium by a score of 26 to 17. The Chargers embarrassed the Colts in front of their home crowd and the looks on the Colts fan's faces was just priceless! The Dolts has been regularly and effortlessly running over the opposition for the past 13 weeks but they came crashing back to earth on Sunday.

You would have thought Manning & Co. had just lost the Super Bowl by the way their faNS were pouting as the realization of the impending loss sunk in. This just goes to show how unused to experiencing meaningful games these fans really are. Dolphin’s fans, on the other hand, having had to only endure three losing seasons in over 35 years and five Super Bowl appearances are more able to put these types of losses into perspective. I would say to all you sour winner Colts fans out there: just grow up; you're 13-1, get over it!

The senate endangers America!!!!

As I write, the Senate is wrangling over some very important legislation. The reauthorization of the Patriot Act, due to expire on the 31st, is being help up because of Republican and White House arrogance. This time around, a simple appearance by Darth Cheney with his obligatory warning of impending doom isn't moving even some GOP senators to pass this bill without some serious consideration for civil liberties. The fact that we've now found out that the NSA is spying on citizens without a warrant from a court and the FBI is spying on anti-war groups and organizations like Green Peace and PETA isn't making for a charitable feeling on Capital Hill this Christmas season. Not that they care about Green Peace or PETA, it's just that they've finally woken up to the reality that the executive branch has slipped away with the bat, the ball, and home plate right under their noses and they're not happy about it.

The GOP rebels (John Sununu, Larry Craig, Lisa Murkowski and Chuck Hagel.) and the Democrats led by Russ Feingold are willing to extend the bill for three months while they make sure what's been plopped down in front of them at the last minute is gone over. John Sununu says, "There are specific aspects of the law we didn't have time to consider in depth between September 11th and the passage of the Patriot Act. We've taken a look at these areas in a more deliberative way."

That seems pretty reasonable, considering no one actually read the whole thing before they voted it for it four years ago, but that's not good enough for Caesar; "The senators who are filibustering the Patriot Act must stop their delaying tactics, and the Senate must reauthorize the Patriot Act." 'Yours is not to questions why but to do or die!' This edict from on high, however, isn't getting the reception it normally gets; legislators scurrying to obey the most exalted leader and vote the right way. Hopefully, they will stick to their guns and give W. another stinging defeat in the name of democracy and freedom.

Ted Stevens is an SOB:

The $453 billion defense spending bill (Includes McCain’s anti-torture provision.), which provides funding for our fighting men and women in Iraq, is has been stalled because of one jackass Alaskan Senator. Ted Stevens tacked on to the defense bill a provision for drilling in ANWR, the Artic Nation Wildlife Refuge, because he says, "Our national defense cannot operate without the basic potential of our own production of oil." [WaPo] To me, that would signal our desperate need to develop other forms of energy, because it's not like a few supposed billion barrels of oil from Alaska is going to make that much a difference, but what do I know? Obviously, the financial needs of the state of Alaska trump the rest of the country.

Stevens says also, that if the Senate doesn't pass this bill other non-defense related programs in it would suffer, too. Just to make sure he got this bill passed for his masters at Exxon/Mobil he added in a provision, to make it more palatable for those who were against it, that says, "royalty revenue from drilling would go to fund low-income heating assistance and relief to the hurricane ravaged Gulf Coast." [WaPo] Stevens warns that, "The real possibility is that unless we pass this bill, a lot of people are not going to receive they assistance they should receive."

That's rich, he and his jackal colleagues slash education, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, student loans and heating oil assistance in another "cost saving" budget bill* (Passed only by Cheney's tie breaking vote.) and then say 'if you don't pass this the poor will suffer.' Or, we could just not give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich, which will nullify all the $40 billion in "savings" taken away from the poor anyway, and we won't need to ruin a pristine wildlife refuge for a miniscule amount of oil.

[*Note: There is a possibility, as I write, that Congress might have to vote on the budget bill again, probably in late January or early February, because Democrats have successfully changed some of the language in the bill. This might cause problems for a bill that passed by only six votes in the House and one vote cast by Cheney in the Senate, when, as expected, the Republicans plan on pushing through a bill to give $50 billion in tax cuts to the rich. Both bills back to back look real bad together which is why they tried to ram the 'stealing form the poor' bill in the dead of night almost two months before the vote on 'relief for the rich' bill comes up.]

What shameless kowtowing to the oil industry! The WaPo writes that the American Petroleum Institute's president, Red Cavaney, actually had to gall to urge lawmakers to pass the bill. (Isn't that a bit of overkill on their parts, I mean really, how unseemly?) He said the 5 to 16 billion barrels of oil in ANWR could ease the current oil crunch, but even he had to admit, "ANWR will not provide the United States with all its domestic needs." By the way, didn't they say back in the 70's that the pipeline in Alaska would help out of our oil problems, too? Maybe, if they didn't send all that oil to Japan we could get by on that without having to drill in a national park! Besides, who is to say they won't decide they could make more money sending that very valuable ANWR oil to China instead?

[Note: the senate just voted against ending the filibuster against the ANWR portion of the defense bill. Now it's up to Frist to decide whether to keep fighting over it or just pass the bill as it is. If he decides to let it be, the House will have to come back to vote on the new language.]

Bill Frist, friend of PHARMA, does the bidding of his masters:

Another special interest provision inserted into the bill was put there by Bill Frist to help out his buddies in the drug industry. Described by him as a "Targeted liability protection" for vaccines, the law would allow pharmaceutical companies to get off scott-free from law suits if their product kills or maims people. In cases only of "willful misconduct," which doesn't include negligence or recklessness, would they be liable, which means basically not at all.

The NYT says, "The provision would provide immunity from lawsuits to any company that made 'countermeasures' --- broadly defined as drugs, vaccines or medical devices---to protect Americans against pandemics, epidemics or biological attacks. It would give the secretary of health and human services authority to determine what constituted a pandemic of an epidemic." (You think vioxx might be need to prevent an epidemic of heart disease?)

Apparently, the Republicans gave an assurance, in writing, to Democrats who opposed this PHARMA get-of-jail-free card, that they won't put it in the bill, but went ahead and did it any way. GOP promises even in writing are kind of like those assurances we get from Egypt and Jordan that they won't torture prisoners we render to them; not worth the paper their written on!

The Foundation for Tax Payer and Consumer Rights, by the way, says that Frist and 41 other senators own as much as $16 million in pharmaceutical stock, which obviously presents not even a whiff of an ethical dilemma. My God, these pirates in business suits are robbing us blind and meanwhile everybody is merrily going along doing their civic duty to keep the economy humming by shopping. Unbelievable!

To say unchecked power basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject - W. Dec. 19 2005

The WaPo reports today that a FISA court judge, James Robinson, has resigned in protest over the president's stealth spying policy. It seems that there is a concern by him and the other FISA judges that the evidence which the administration provided to the court in cases where they actually bothered to get a warrant might have been illegally obtained. Lead judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly said she had been told of the program but was bared from telling her colleagues on the court.

Something tells me that the more facts of this story come out the uglier its going to get. I mean, they might not have only been lying to congress but to the courts as well! It's really amazing that a judge on the already secret court wasn't allowed to tell the other judges what was going on.

That's just shocking! Senator John Rockefeller was one of the fourteen whole members of Congress that were informed of the spying program by Cheney, Tenet and NSA Director Michael Hayden,” a dozen times," but he was forced to write a letter to Cheney about his concerns about the program in his own hand because he was afraid to give it to someone else to type.

He wrote to Cheney that he would keep a copy of the letter in his safe in case Cheney tried to challenge his version of what was talked about in the future. He wrote," Without more information and the ability to draw any independent legal or technical expertise, I simply cannot satisfy lingering concerns raised by the briefing we received." There's no word if Cheney ever got back to him on his concerns.

As he expected W. & CO are trying to say Congress was in the whole thing. Peter Baker's question about how permanent the president's "expansion of the unchecked power of the executive..." would be, W. said, "There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time. I'm telling you we briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times." (Twelve times=all the time.) In actuality, the only other congress members at the meeting with Rockefeller for the briefing was, Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Porter Goss (Now the CIA chief), and Rep. Jane Harman. The WaPo writes that, "Rockefeller was frustrated by the 'characterization that congress was on board on this,' said one official who is close to him...'Four congressmen, at least one of whom was raising serious concerns, does not constitute being on board.'" [WaPo]

Extralegal equals constitutional according to Bill Kristol:

In an Op-Ed in the WaPo today, William Kristol and Gary Schmitt write that it's "foolish and irresponsible" to "engage in demagogic rhetoric about 'imperial' and 'monarchic' pretensions, with no evidence that the president has abused his discretion."

No, indeed, locking Americans up without recourse to even the most basic civil protections of Habeas Corpus enshrined in the Magna Charta,running secret prisons around the world without any oversight by the International Red Cross, kidnapping people off the streets of Europe, spying on Americans without warrants, all this evidence of the president's prerogatives are a "gray area" in constitutional law and the founders, "intended the executive to have---believed the needed to have---some powers in the national security area that were extralegal but constitutional."

The question is how something is extralegal while at the same time is constitutional. "Extralegal" does mean "outside the law," doesn't it? They might want to run this little theory by a few lawyers or read a little Ben Franklin before they use that defense again.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 6:12 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 23 December 2005 2:05 PM EST
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Monday, 19 December 2005
The speechifying continues:
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Last night W. gave a 17 minute speech on prime time TV in which he called on those who no longer believe that the war is, "Worth another dime or another day" to now trust him that things are going now according to plan in Iraq and that he has "fixed what has not worked." He cited as evidence of this approach the parliamentary elections on the 15th which will now supposedly usher in a new era of "Constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East." Naturally, everybody hopes that things will go right in the upcoming negotiations to form a new government and the various tribal, regional and religious factions can find common ground and hammer out an equitable agreement to live together in a united Iraq, but I'm not holding my breath. If this very iffy assumption is based on our efforts so far to help the "Iraqi government establish the institutions of a unified and lasting democracy," including the last "landmark election" in January and the embarrassing constitutional drafting process that followed, I'd have to say he's reverted back to his old rosy scenarios and wishful thinking.

W. said of those who have disagreed with his policies that, "There is a difference between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see anything right." That's kind of funny because up until a few weeks ago he was the one who couldn't see anything wrong with what was going on in Iraq. Almost over night, it would seem, he's finally taken to heart the urgings of his critics to change course and now everything is back on track. One wonders how many Americans soldier's lives we might have saved if he'd listened to his detractors much earlier on, instead of smearing them in the media and discounting their views as helpful to the terrorists.

The president wants all Americans to understand that a withdrawal now would "undermine the morale of our troops--by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed." He doesn't say that most of them were under the erroneous impression, propagated by him and his righteous lieutenants, that Saddam had something to do with 9/11---which he didn't---and was threatening to attack us with WMD, which he didn't possess, no matter how W. & Co. had convinced themselves he had them. That sort of cynical manipulation of our military people's patriotism can undermine morale too, not to mention endless rotations back to Iraq which could go on for another decade while we wait for the Shiites, the Kurds and the Sunnis to kill enough of each other off to come to an understanding.

Is this the "cause" for which perhaps a thousand or more troops will have to die for? Or is it more important to make sure "Tyrants in the Middle East" don't "laugh at our failed resolve?" No doubt, he only means the Mullahs in Iran and Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, but the tyrants in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait aren't making any sign of loosening their "repressive grip" and our good friend Islam Karimov is having a pretty good laugh at our lack of resolve in doing anything about his wholesale killing and boiling of his opponents.

Spying for freedom:

And while we're busy losing our precious blood and treasure for the freedom of Shiites and Iraqis to kill each other 6000 miles away in that "Vital region of the world," with its vital resources, here at home the president is taking advantage of his "prerogatives" to spy on American's phone calls and e-mail without bothering to let anybody know about it.

The NYT reports, that the N.S.A "Eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people at any given time. The list changes as some names are added and others dropped, so the number monitored in this country may have reached into the thousands since the program began, several officials said." Yesterday, Condi Rice kept assuring Tim Russert in her tortured rendition of the law that the spying was legal and the constitution gave the president the power to spy on Americans without any checks, although she said she wasn't a lawyer so she couldn't name to the exact statute that gave him that power. W. today in his press conference couldn't exactly say which law allowed him to do it either, but trust him, he can, and besides, members of congress were informed 12 times.

All necessary means:

So there you go, all perfectly legal. It appears, though, that some in the N.S.A were concerned about the legality of such an operation. A senior Bush administration official told the Times that, "Before the 2004 election...some N.S.A. personnel worried that the program might come under scrutiny by Congressional or criminal investigators if Senator John Kerry, the Democratic nominee, was elected president." So, you can see why it was so important to make sure all those Debolt machines were fixed just right in several keys states before the election; there was a lot at stake.

The question of why W. and his minions couldn't just go to the Fisa courts, since they' re are pretty much of a rubber stamp anyway, kept coming up at the press conference today and W. said it was because the courts were too slow, this despite the fact that they can go to the court within 72 hours after the wiretap.

One wonders what they were up that was so egregious that they were too afraid to even bring it to a Fisa court; this is the real question. W. may think Article 2 of the constitution gives him the power of the Commander and Chief to ignore the law but one other president tried this end-around the law once before and the result was Jimmy Carter signing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 which Carter said, "Requires, for the first time, a prior judicial warrant for all electronic surveillance for foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purposes in the United States."

Seems pretty clear to me, but apparently Cheney's Rasputin David Addington and DOJ trickster John Yoo thought otherwise and OK'd it, just like Yoo OK'd the tortured legal opinions on looking into people's business, medical and library records for the Patriot Act. They must have been the one's who gave W. the twisted idea that they could get away with this because they were only monitoring calls from New York to Kabul, for instance, and not from LA to Boston. In that case, of course, they would tell the courts what they were up to. But W. says even talking about this issue helps the terrorists, so I don't get the impression the full impact of this kingly usurping of powers he doesn't possess has really gotten through his think skull.

Hopefully, Congress will finally take back the power from the executive it so irresponsibly gave away after 9/11, if it’s not too late already. AG Alberto Gonzales says Congress's resolution to give the president the power to use all ....triggered the president's right to

In the matters of the secret CIA prisons and the torture that goes on in them, the Patriot Act and now the revelations of overreach in domestic spying, the Congress is finally reasserting its authority. The Patriot Act is being filibustered, the Senate is going to pass a law requiring the administration to give them regular updates on the locations of our secret prisons, "if there are any," the identity of the prisoners in them and their conditions and the McCain bill banning cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners is on its way to becoming law.

Meanwhile, the reports of mistreatment and torture keep coming out:

The NYT reports today that, "Eight men at the American detention camp in Guant?namo Bay have separately given their lawyers "consistent accounts" of being tortured at a secret prison in Afghanistan at various periods from 2002 to 2004, Human Rights Watch, a group based in New York, said Sunday."

Reuters reports, "The men were taken to a prison near Kabul where they were shackled to walls, kept in darkness for weeks, deprived of food and water for days at a time, bombarded with loud rap and heavy metal music, and punched and slapped during questioning by U.S. interrogators.

"The prison may have been operated by personnel from the Central Intelligence Agency," the New York-based group said in a report released on Sunday."

Looks like the McCain is coming not a minute too soon. But, naturally, we don;t torture.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:21 PM EST
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