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Lets's talk about democracy
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Thursday, 8 September 2005
They should have prayed.

There’s news that the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is in the Gulf of Mexico and is expected to arrive in New Orleans sometime later today. After getting its orders to sail from FEMA last Friday the ship left at 11:17 PM the same day from Baltimore. Unfortunately, Hurricane Katrina struck last week and many hundreds, if not thousands, of people who could have benefited from a modern, fully equipped hospital instead suffered and died in vain waiting days to be cared for.

Imagine if the doctors and patients at Charity, University and other hospitals could have been spared the horrific consequences of FEMA’s inattention to details.

We’ve heard a lot about all the stuff that had been “propositioned” by FEMA before the Hurricane struck ----that still didn’t manage to get into the city for almost a week----but Navy ships apparently weren’t one of them.

I guess, Michael Brown and Co. were waiting for an explicit request from state and local governments before acting. (The words “lead time” aren’t in the FEMA lexicon.) According to memos written by Brown, five hours after Katrina struck, he was seeking approval from Michael Chertoff to send 1000 DHS employees to the disaster area within 48 hours. Naturally, after making sure they had the proper training “to help the life savers,” according to Homeland Security spokesperson Russ Knocke.

Brown wrote these employees would be there to “convey a positive image of disaster operations to government officials, community organizations, and the general public.” (Boy, looks like that part of the plan kind of crashed and burned.) Brown’s sense of urgency, during this “near catastrophic event,” is neatly conveyed by him closing with, “Thank you for your consideration in helping us to meet our responsibilities.” [AP]

It sounds almost like he wasn’t sure Chertoff was going to sign off on the plan! This is language you use in a business situation when you’re asking for some petty cash to buy pizza for a staff party. This is so emblematic of the low priority this administration gives to the role of the federal government in matters not related to making war or handing out welfare checks to the rich. ‘Let the states and faith based charities deal with this sort of thing, we’re busy doing the business of America, which is business.’

Speaking of doing business, Haliburton’s subsidiary KBR is tapping into a $500 million Navy contract to do emergency repairs at Navy and Marine bases damaged by Katrina. The fact that the pentagon is still investigating hundreds of millions of dollars in overcharges by KBR in Iraq doesn’t mean they can’t continue to rip off the American tazpayer here at home.

[By the way, I'm sure this has nothing to do with anything, but former FEMA director Joe Allbaugh, who gave Michael Brown his job, just happens to be a lobbyist for KBR. But, as I say, I'm sure its all on the up and up.]

The “underprivileged” at the Astro Dome:

Barbara Bush, the queen mum, is worried the “evacuees” living in the palatial surroundings of the Astro Dome might be enjoying their stay a little too much. “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas.” God forbid! That’s all Texas needs, more minorities! “And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so to this is working well for them.” Yes, too well. W. says everybody will get back to the way they were and made whole again. [Audio]

Well, maybe not whole, if that means not going back to living below the poverty line again. What does “underprivileged” mean anyway? This is a word people who are very privileged use to describe their inferiors. What this disaster needs is a lot more Eleanor and way less Barbara.

Talking points: it wasn’t all bad.

The administration’s emergency spin effort is claiming that blame for the pathetic and criminal federal non-response to Katrina should be withheld until there’s time to “assess what worked and what didn’t work.” Interesting choice of wording: it implies there actually was something that worked. If there was, this is what ought to be thoroughly investigated.

National Day of Prayer: Sept. 16

I just saw W. on the TV and besides giving $2000 debt cards out to people who don't have an internet conection or a phone to register for them, he's calling for a national day of prayer next Friday.

That's great. Maybe, he should have called for prayer while Katrina was on the way to New Orleans. If people knew then he wasn't going to do anything they might have been better off.

What about those of us that don't believe in that mumbo jumbo, by the way? Are the satan worshipers allowed to pray? Just wondering.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:54 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005 3:07 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 6 September 2005
A tsunami of compassion:
The Bush White House is busy rebuilding: its poll numbers that is. Seems, people down in that part of the world are still a little pissed off at him, so he went back to the scene of the crime again yesterday. Apparently, his first trip, where he explained he was working hard, progress was being made, Trent Lott was going to get a great new house and he had little too much fun in New Orleans in the past, didn’t really go over well. This time, he showed up at a shelter run by a religious group in Baton Rouge with T.D. Jakes, (Look everybody, I’m with a brown one!) and praised all the private (i.e. religious) organizations helping out. (Isn’t there some way to get taxpayer money to all these groups? Ask FEMA)

He’d better work harder because I briefly saw Lou Dobbs on CNN last night and he cited a new ABC News/Washington Post poll that said 47% of Americans disapproved of his handling of the situation in New Orleans and 46% didn’t. Out of that Dobbs somehow came to the conclusion that the American people didn’t blame Bush for the Katrina disaster at all. As long as those that support Bush are still on board, that’s all that matters, I guess. Might as well just say 100% don’t blame Bush. The other half of America, the “Bush haters,” are liberals with an agenda, they don’t count.

Yes, the administration is in full ‘image resuscitation mode;’ this weekend Rummy was down in the disaster zone to observe the people of New Orleans discovering the untidiness of their own freedom, from all of their possessions. Also, Condi Rice, of all people, got dragged away from her vacation and was put on to a flight down to Alabama to be with “her people,” you know, black people.

Remember, Condi is black, so that means the slow response to hundreds of thousands of poor black victims waiting for days in squalid circumstances while Bush fiddled had nothing to do with race. If people in Palm Beach or Gross Point, Mich. had been in a similar position, they’d have to wait almost a week too. Stop playing the “race card.” (The fact that gun sales are up a zillion percent in Baton Rouge has nothing to do with race either.)

Bush to investigate.

Today, Dubya says he’s personally going to lead the investigation into the federal response to the Katrina disaster. (Or lack of it. Isn’t that sort of like having Lynndie England lead the investigation of Abu Ghraib?) He’s sending Cheney, fresh off his duck hunting vacation in Wyoming, down to the Gulf Coast to bang heads together. (No doubt, with some very lucrative no bid contracts for Haliburton in hand as well.) Treasury secretary John Snow says rebuilding is good for the economy, by the way. We might want to think about leveling Detroit to really get the economy going.

Unfortunately for Bush and Co., the horrific scenes at the convention center, now seared into the public’s psyche, aren’t going away anytime soon. While Michael Brown was busy defending his agency for not knowing about 25,000 people being stranded at the center without food or water three days after the hurricane struck, David Brooks, one of Bush’s most rabid spin-doctors, was reacting to the news by calling the slow reaction of the administration unconscionable.

Last Friday on “Washington Week,” he said leaving the poor to suffer like that was the moral equivalent of leaving wounded on the battlefield. Eventually, I’m sure, Brooks will regain his equilibrium and get back to his shameless flaking for the administration, but his reaction , might be emblematic of a larger unease that even Dubya’s supporters are starting to feel about his administration’s ineptitude in matters of national security. (Even William Kristol said, "Almost every Republican I have spoken with is disappointed" in Bush's performance. [WaPo])

FEMA: another government agency wasting our hard earned money.

Obviously, it’s great to see the Super Dome and the convention center finally being evacuated and it’s about time the military has restored order, more or less, to the city, but it’s the military doing it, not FEMA. Remember FEMA? The administration’s view of the little agency that couldn’t has been from the beginning that of an “oversized entitlement program,” this according to former director Joe Allbaugh, W.’s old time friend and former campaign manager. (‘Why are all these people asking the federal government for hand outs? It’s your fault you stayed in the danger zone, pull yourself up by your bootstraps!’ ) Mississippi congressman Bennie Thompson on the Homeland Security Committee says FEMA is basically a “political resting place for favors” owed. [NYT]

After all, what does someone whose previous job was running the National Arabian Horse Association know about disaster relief? Nothing: he’s a political crony of Joe Allbaugh’s, which is all the qualification he needs. L. Paul Bremer was a favorite of Henry Kissinger, so he got to run Iraq. (And what a job he did!) There’s a reason New Orleans and Baghdad look like carbon copies of each other.

Get the government off our backs!

Why should the federal government have to deal with disasters at all, right? (Ask John Roberts where it says that in the constitution.) Once the estate tax is killed (Let Paris Hilton have her daddy’s money when he dies, she deserves it!) and the tax cuts are made permanent, this whole argument will be merely academic; unlike the now mainstream libertarian theories that are being daily applied to the real world. Let the states worry about it. Private donations will solve the problem. If Exxon/Mobil wants flood control for New Orleans, they’ll pay for it. If a plane crashes because there’s no government regulation of airline safety, people will see it’s an unsafe airline and it’ll eventually go out of business. The markets will decide who lives and who dies.

The buck stops somewhere else.

Ok, so Bush isn’t entirely to blame for this awful mess on the Gulf Coast, many administrations before this one dropped the ball on flood control, but he is the guy in charge now, and back in the old days at least, the buck stopped at the president’s desk. Of course, one of the hallmarks of this presidency is the total lack of any accountability for anything; it’s always some one else’s fault.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the 100,000 or so “refugees” of Katrina in a year or two. (There are still almost 8000 victims of the four hurricanes that went over Florida last year still living in government trailers.) How W. and Co. eventually winds up dealing with rebuilding the lives of these people and their city will be all on him, there won’t be anyone else to blame.


Oh yeah, and then there’s Iraq. He is totally to blame for that. 1,893 US troops have now died in Iraq.

Kofi Annan has said, "One used to be worried about Afghanistan being the center of terrorist activities. My sense is that Iraq has become a major problem and in fact is worse than Afghanistan." [NYT]

And the WaPo reports that while the US is bombing the crap out of Tal Afar "Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's al-Qaeda in Iraq group took open control yesterday of a key western town at the Syrian border, deploying its guerrilla fighters in the streets and flying Zarqawi's black banner from rooftops, according to witnesses, residents and others in the city and surrounding villages...A U.S. Marine spokesman, Capt. Jeffrey Pool, said that Marines had no word of any unusual activity in Qaim but that it was possible insurgents were acting in areas out of Americans' sight." Maybe he ought to work for Michael Brown.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:07 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005 3:08 PM EDT
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Friday, 2 September 2005
Where's George Bush?
Topic: Bush Administraiton

Oh right, now that he’s well rested and tanned from his five-week vacation, he’s taking a helicopter tour of the Gulf region. Progress is being made, people are working hard etc. I just saw him on TV strutting around in full gunslinger mode congratulating “Brownie” on the great job he’s doing. “Brownie” would be FEMA chief Michael Brown, who as of yesterday afternoon had just found out about the deplorable conditions at the Convention Center in downtown New Orleans.

At first he said he said he thought the estimates being made by city officials of 10,000 at the Covention Center without food or water was a little high but then had to admit to Ted Koppel that it was more like 25,000. Kopel really let him have it on Nightline last night, by the way. The best part was when Koppel asked him if any of them had been watching TV the past week.

Robert Segal on All Things Considered had a rougher time with Michael Chertoff, who wasn’t about to speculate on “rumors” about what was going on at the Convention Center, even though Segal presented him with reporter John Barnett’s eyewitness account of thousands of people begging for help.

I listened to the BBC most of last night and what struck me most was their outrage over the lack of any help at all getting to New Orleans almost a week after the event. Here were reporters who have been to tsunamis, earthquakes, war zones and famines all over the world and they were in a major city in the most powerful nation on earth and what they were witnessing was disaster scenes reminiscent of sub Saharan Africa.

Various reporters kept making that analogy and they were just incredulous. How could this be happening in the United States of America? How could the American government just leave its most vulnerable citizens to rot in conditions that they described as “atrocious” and “appalling”?

I am frankly embarrassed to be an American at this point. In the entire history of this country, I don’t think there has ever been such a monumental breakdown of the most basic functions of the government. From A to Z this administration has failed in its constitutional duty to provide for the common defense. While we’re spending a billion dollars a month in Iraq, we couldn’t even spend $14 billion to make sure New Orleans' levees could withstand a category 4 Hurricane?

After NBC got done with their coverage of the Bush Hurricane Tour 2005, Andrea Mitchell read an email she had just received from Charity Hospital, only blocks away from the Super Dome, begging the media to let the government know that there were over 200 people in the facility who had been without power, water or food since the beginning of the week. All last night there were stories about Charity Hospital where looters had been trying to break in, where all there was to drink was fruit juice and where they were putting corpses in the stair wells for lack of a better place to put them because they had no power for refrigeration. Can someone out there let Brownie know about Charity Hospital?

For all of you out there who think less government is better government, I would suggest you go to New Orleans and revel in it. George Bush’s philosophy is government is the problem not the solution and he’s spent his entire time in office trying to destroy it from within and it looks like he’s pretty much succeeded. If launching a premeditated act of aggression against a weaker sovereign country, which was never any threat to us, isn’t sufficient grounds for impeachment certainly the loss of an entire American city on his watch has to be.

Random thoughts:

A lot of the estimated 120,000 refugees from New Orleans where ever they might wind up in the coming weeks will be without money. A common complaint is that their local banks have their money and they can’t get access to it. Where is all that money? Is it in vaults in the banks, which are presumably still under water or what? In the days before Katrina arrived, what precautions did the banks in New Orleans take? While the poor and infirm were left to fend for them selves as Katrina bared down, were there armored trucks headed out of the Big Easy? Just wondering.

Congress has rushed back to DC to write out a check for 10 and a half billion dollars for disaster relief. Since the government really doesn’t have that money, it will have to be barrowed from the Chinese and the Japanese, maybe we can all just write out IOUs on slips of paper too. Our credit is good, right?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:53 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005 3:17 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 31 August 2005
Emperor returns to Rome!
Topic: Bush Administraiton

President Bush has finally found a crisis sufficiently grave to cut short his vacation, but only by just a few days. (Don’t worry W., Cindy Sheehan will be in DC on the 24th.) He’s rushing back to Washington to chair a crisis commission to deal with the disaster in New Orleans and Mississippi. It’s not that he couldn’t deal with this issue in Crawford, his handlers insist, but he just felt like it. (Tiberius ran the Roman Empire from Capri for years!) Bush asks Americans to pray for those effected in the aftermath of Katrina. That’ll help! Can’t you already see the new ribbons on the SUV in front of you in traffic?

Bush is very intent on not repeating the mistakes of his father in1992 after Andrew. Of course, last year he rushed to help Florida after it was hit by four hurricanes, but later it was reveled that FEMA had written millions of dollars of checks for bogus claims in Miami-Dade County, which wasn’t even hit. [My mom, by the way, who had two of the four go right over her trailer, was turned down for a FEMA loan and her roof still leaks.]

It looks like Bush will release some oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve but it won’t lower prices at the pump. "I wish I could just snap my fingers and lower the price of gasoline for you. The markets don't work that way. I'd be snapping if I could do it.” Oh, that W.! He cracks himself up! It is now estimated that this emerging oil crisis will cost $30 billion in lost economic growth.

The perfect apocalypse:

And there’s no telling how much having a major US city completely out of business for an indefinite period will cost. It’s pretty incredible to consider that an entire city has been basically wiped off the map. There are tens of thousands of people stuck in the Super Dome with no running water or bathrooms, thousands of people are looting trying to find the basic necessities, and now people are arming themselves to protect their property and the police and national guard are no where to be found. It’s the perfect apocalypse.

Worst-case scenario:

Its kind of ironic that at the same time that we’re paying more at the pump for gas because of all these hurricanes, the storms causing the price raises, are becoming more frequent and deadly because of global warming, which is caused by us burning fossil fuels in the first place. The Economist would disagree with my assessment: "Some might ascribe all this to global warming. In fact, this is far from being established...' oh yes, the jury is still out, but then they go on to write "the frequency of weather disasters has tripled since the 1960s and insured losses have risen ten-fold, according to Munich Re, the world's largest re insurer." I don't see any connection, do you?

Pentagon defense adviser Andrew Marshall, wrote a report last year that was completely ignored by W. and Co. that basically said Climate Change was a bigger threat to the US than terrorism. If you look at the condition of New Orleans right now, you've got to figure unless Osama had a nuke somewhere he couldn't, in his wildest dreams.
possibly cause anything as catastrophic.

Operation Iraqi Liberation: (O.I.L.)

This is rich! Jennifer Loven writes for the AP that Bush provided another answer to his anti-war critics yesterday, while speaking in front of the USS Ronald Reagan; he said we had to prevail for the “protection of the country’s vast oil fields, which he said would otherwise fall under the control of extremists.” This isn’t really so much an answer to his critics as it is a confirmation of what the anti-war people have been saying all along about what his intentions were in invading Iraq in the first place. Incredible!

Deep down we all knew it was about the oil. Even ‘Joe Hummer’, with the magnetic yellow ribbons on the side of his SUV, knew it was about the oil. Now, that he’s got to mortgage his house to fill up his tank, Rove and Company have reprise the protecting-the-oil excuse.

Before it was about WMD and 9/11, it was about the oil. When WMD didn’t pan out, then it was about Saddam being a bad guy, then it was about staying and dying to honor those who have already died and now its back to the oil again. I mean, we’ve got to stay there now. All those refineries in the Gulf were blown away, the price of a barrel of oil is going to go through the stratosphere!

Of course, what he actually means is, he doesn’t want another country being run by extremists who would use their oil money to fund the war against America: like Saudi Arabia does, for instance. Free and fair elections in Iraq will lead to peace and stability in the Middle East, but on the other hand, nothing short of the Taliban style theocratic dictatorship currently in power in the Saudi kingdom will do. It’s really hard to imagine anything coming along that could be worse; but then again, you’ve got figure they wouldn’t have those deep Bush family connections.


In any case, the beat goes on in Iraq. Funny, just when you thought the constitution had been rubber stamped and the final draft was ready for a “vote, ” ambassador Khalilzad has come along and said, “a final, final draft has not yet been, or the edits have not been, presented yet.” That’s news! Not that the US has any say in what the Iraqis do about their future, “this is something that the Iraqis will have to talk to each other and decide for themselves,” but the US is kind of insisting that the Kurds and Shiites give the Sunnis something they can get behind.

Khalilzad, in an odd move, warmly introduced to the press Adnan Muhammad Salman al-Dulaimi, the spokesman of the General Conference of Ahal al-Sunna, who has been very vocal about Sunnis voting against the draft as it now stands. Al-Dulmaimi proceeded to rant and rave about the Shiite security forces executing Sunnis and called for the resignation of the Interior Minister. The whole time Khalilzad stood behind him smiling.

Looks like the bloom might be fading from the rose when it comes to deferring to the Shiites in all matters transitional. Think the brains trust at State might be seeing an oil rich Iranian satellite in the south of Iraq in their crystal ball? Even though, the Sunnis are probably a little bit too hot under the collar about the Ba’ath party ban, the fact that the Shiites have rejected language that would recognize Iraq as part of the Arab world, though probably not important in the larger scheme of things, is incredibly symbolic when you consider the Iranian influence.

Air Iraq:

As I theorized a little while ago at this blog, the Air Force indeed has plans to stay in Iraq for years to come. Eric Schmitt writes in the NYT that general John P. Jumper, soon to be former Air Force chief of staff, says, “We will continue with a rotational presence of some type in that area more or less indefinitely. We have interests in that part of the world and an interest in staying in touch with the militaries over there.” (Gosh, I wonder which militaries those could be?)

Well, isn’t that convenient? Now, we can keep all those fancy new bases we’ve been building all along anyway and, naturally, we’ll have to keep a certain number of US troops in the region to protect the bases…pretty much forever. If things get out of hand, we’ve got the facilities to move a bunch more troops in when ever we want. And best of all, if Iran gets uppity, we’re right there.

So, it is the British Imperial Model, after all: set up a client government with a big enough security force to keep things relatively orderly and if things get out of hand with the various tribes or factions, bomb the crap out of them. Jumper says, “As I see the transition into the hands of the Iraqi military, I will continue to see the need for them to require support from the air until their own ability to support themselves. And that’s going to take a while, even after some future withdrawal of ground forces.”

This begs the obvious question: why do we have to keep our Air Force there? Why don’t we sell them planes and train them to fly them instead? The obvious answer to that is, we couldn’t necessarily keep them in check if we did that. Some day, they might even learn how to fly and “accidentally” send an Exocet missile into one our ships in the Persian Gulf or something crazy like that.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:17 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005 3:01 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 30 August 2005
W. sees democracy in Iraq and cheap drugs in Mirage.
Topic: Iraq

Today, George W. Bush is in San Diego celebrating the “greatest generation” and conflating WW2 with the debacle in Iraq. And he talks about the insurgents in Iraq being desperate! Yesterday, he was busy trying to convince the same generation that his new Medicare drug benefit was all about choice. Of course, he didn’t mention the price tag or the corporate hand-outs to Pharma. Bush made his pitch at a trailer park for the 55’s and over in El Mirage, Ariz. Who ever planned the event in a place called “Mirage” should be fired.

Meanwhile, Rummy was busy rallying the 4th Infantry Division for another tour in Iraq. Josh White in the WaPo writes that 55 to 60% of the 4th ID has already been in Iraq, but Rummy is sending them back. Of course, all the bad news coming out of Iraq is just in the imaginations of the media and anti-war naysayers. “People who want to toss in the towel were wrong yesterday, they’re wrong today, and they’ll be wrong tomorrow.” Actually, funny he should bring up being wrong in the past. Wouldn’t that be you Rummy? Remember, that thing you said about knowing exactly where the WMD was? Or that stuff about Iraqis greeting US troops with rose pedals?

Democracy is hard work. It is hard, hard work. (Wanna buy some wood?)

One of the “Founding Fathers” of Iraq’s democracy, vice-president Ghazi al-Yawer, says he’ll vote against the constitution when it goes to a referendum in October. He believes, “the Iraq national identity is diminishing more and more, and this constitution is not helping that.” He thinks his fellow Sunnis are living under a “dictatorship of the majority.” Hannah Allam writes, though, “in a goodwill gesture yesterday, the electoral commission agreed to extend the deadline for voter registration to Sept. 7 for residents of Sunni dominated Anbar province.”

The problem with that is, they might need until Sept. 7 2050, to actually have any chance of voting. Tom Lassiter of the Philadelphia Inquirer was in Anbar province for the first three weeks of August and even though he was enbedded with a Marine unit and with an Army unit he was able to report that the insurgents have pretty much fought the US to a standstill in the province.

Lassiter writes, "Military officials offered three primary reasons that guerrilla fighters have held and gained ground: the enemy's growing sophistication, insufficient numbers of U.S. troops, and the lack of trained and reliable Iraqi security forces."

Interstingly, "Instead of referring to the enemy derisively as "terrorists" - as they used to - Marines and soldiers now give the insurgents a measure of respect by calling them "mujahideen."

The Iraqis that are supposedly fighting on our side, (Who get no respect.)in units called “Public Order Brigades,” are mainly Shiites from Baghdad and Bastra. To the citizens of Fallujah and Ramadi they are Shiite militias and foreign invaders. Marine Maj. Shaun Fitzpatrick says of these POBs, “we’ve had problems. There are inevitable cultural clashes.” That’s putting it mildly. This must be more of that media spin painting a negative picture of what’s really going on over there.

So, just because the police chief of Hit handed over all his police cars to the Marines because he said “we can’t protect these anymore,” and according to Maj. Plauche St. Romain, the head intelligence officer for the marine battalion that oversees Haditha, Haqlaniya, and Hit, handed back their “uniforms and armor, too” we should look on the bright side. This was, of course, before insurgents killed that particular police chief. No wonder we have to import Shiites up to Anbar!

The question is, if this constitution actually comes to a vote, and it’s a sure thing the Sunnis will try to kill it by voting against it overwhelmingly, will the Shiite troops in Anbar allow them to get to the polls? Or are we going to have to provide protection for Sunnis to vote?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:10 PM EDT
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Monday, 29 August 2005
Bush and Jefferson's constitution.
Topic: Iraq

Things don't seem to be going according to plan in Iraq. The draft constitution is what is it is, and the Sunnis aren't playing along. There was no vote in the Assembly, yet the draft is on its way to the "people." President Jalal Talibani said reassuringly that "We are optimistic...For sure there is no book that is perfect and cannot be amended except the holy Koran." That's the Jeffersonian spirit!

In Saturday radio address Bush said,"Like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government." What an apt analogy! Except for the "founding fathers" part.

What seems to be happening rather, is that the Kurds and Shiites are codifying Iraq's secular divide. I mean, Connecticut didn't agree to join the Union only on the stipulation that the Pope would adjudicate all constitutional questions.

But what di I know? W. has Condi telling him what's going on. "What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion — not at the barrel of a gun." Except, that we're enforcing our will with the barrel of a gun. This is why the Sunnis tend to think this "constitution" is really an "American" Constitution.

I was only being facetious when I said the Sunnis were the "sane ones." They're as crazy as all the rest of them. Their insistence on keeping the Ba'ath party in the mix, just makes them look like Saddamists. Come up with a new name!

[Out of time. More later.]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:11 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 September 2005 2:57 PM EDT
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Friday, 26 August 2005
Strike three, you're not out.
Topic: Iraq

For the third time the Iraqis have missed a self imposed deadline to seal the deal on a constitution. (According to some, they really haven’t because they turned in the draft on time on Monday.) Yesterday, the Assembly didn’t even bother to meet. It appears the Shiites have decided they’re done dealing with the Sunnis and with the National Assembly and are now talking about sending the document directly to the “people” for a vote. (Like Ahmad Chalabi said of the Sunnis, “how many votes do they have?”) The question as to whether any of this is legal hasn’t come up.

I still don’t understand why the National Assembly is involved in brokering a deal on the various disagreements that have brought this “process” to a standstill. I thought, they only voted up or down on this thing, now they’re negotiating, too?

No worries, Laith Kuba said yesterday, "By the end of the day, we should have a completed version of the draft, it will not please everybody, but there's an amendment to those three articles. The assembly will then rubber-stamp it." [KR]

Interesting choice of wording there, by the way, I don’t know whether that was a Freudian slip or he just doesn’t care, but basically, this is what has been going on all along. They’ve just shut the Sunnis out. The Shiites are going to get their Iranian backed theocracy in the south and the Kurds will retain their autonomy in the north and the Sunnis can eat dust. It’s agreed! Is this what W. meant by saying the Iraqi people were “working hard to reach a consensus on their constitution?”

It really shows you how seriously out of control W.’s handlers think things in Iraq really are, that he roused himself from his vacation to make a call to Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Sciri, to try to get him to make a deal with the Sunnis. Hakim was the one who started this mess by insisting the Shiites wanted their own autonomous region at the 11th hour, so why are we talking to him? No word on whether Bush will be talking to the Sunnis.

The Sunnis are the only sane ones.

Unbeknownst to W., the Sunnis are the only ones who are actually saying anything about the co-opting of the entire process by the Shiite clerics. The Kurds want a secular government, too, but they feel the US isn’t doing anything to stop the Shiites, so they’re happy to let the US handle things.

Dexter Filkins in the NYT writes that, “Mahmood Othman, a Kurdish legislator, said Kurdish leaders did not vigorously oppose Islamist language [In the constitution] in part because American diplomats often did not object either.

For instance, Mr. Othman said, American diplomats had acquiesced to the language that would clear the way for clerical adjudication of family and personal disputes. ‘The Kurds thought, as long as the Americans don't object, why should we object?’ Mr. Othman said. ‘It's American policy to show that it is not opposed to Islam.’”

Ironically, the Ba’athist political ideology of “unity, freedom, and socialism,” is actually closer to what the Americans say they want for a “democratic” Iraq than what Hakim and ayatollah ali-Sistani are pushing for. Except for the “socialim” part, of course. Women had more rights under Saddam than they’re going to be left with after this is all over.

Filkins writes that, despite what W. was saying about what Condi told him about women’s rights, ‘Language reserving a quarter of the Assembly's seats for women has been relegated to a section of the constitution labeled transitional, which is of uncertain legal force and duration. Another phrase declares that education is mandatory only through elementary school. Women's rights groups, which expressed concern about lower levels of literacy among women here, wanted middle school to be declared mandatory as well, but were defeated.

‘This is the future of the new Iraqi government - it will be in the hands of the clerics,’ said Dr. Raja Kuzai, a secular Shiite member of the Assembly. ‘I wanted Iraqi women to be free, to be able to talk freely and to able to move around…I am not going to stay here,’ said Dr. Kuzai, an obstetrician and women's leader who met President Bush in the White House in November 2003.”

So, there you go. This is what is going to be hailed as a great victory for democracy and a victory for the US?

Cindy Sheehan is a mother:

You think the White House is worried about Cindy Sheehan? Yes. In his speech to the Idaho National Guard W. very cynically pointed out a mother in the crowd, named Tammy Pruett, who has four sons in Iraq and who very much supports the war. “America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts” he declared. Absolutely shameless! I guess, just losing one son isn’t sufficiently patriotic enough for Bush. Of course, it isn’t just Sheehan who is protesting this war.

Everywhere W. has gone, mothers who have either lost sons, or have sons currently serving in Iraq, have dogged him. AP reported on “Laura McCarthy of Eagle, Idaho, whose son, Gavin, 21, is in Iraq with the Idaho Army National Guard's 116th brigade, [Who] said Bush ‘'probably breathed a sigh of relief’' when he got to Idaho, a state he won easily in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. 'Guess what?’ McCarthy said. ‘'He's going to find a Cindy Sheehan in every community across the U.S.’ She might be right. Also in attendance was Brenda Mansell, from Boise, who protested about a zillion miles away from the speech in a “freedom zone.” [AP]

Mansell has just sent her Marine son off to Iraq. “This has to stop. Maybe if it starts with mothers, the rest of world will follow.” That’s what Bush is afraid of.

Of course, it’s not just the White House spin-meisters trying to neutralize the Sheehan effect. There are the rabid right wing bloggers and other assorted Neanderthals and goof balls, who don’t even know the difference between Sheehan’s group “Gold Star Families for Peace” and the older non-profit organization “American Gold Star Mothers.”

The Philadelphia Inquirer writes about the case of Judith Young who runs AGSM. She lost her son Jeff in the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut. She’s been getting death threats from these bozo Bush supporters! She says, “’I had someone call me at our Washington headquarters, call me a bitch, and hang up. We are slimeballs, lowlifes,’ she said. Another caller threatened to kick me in the butt, and someone else was going to slap me in the face. I said, “I’ll take that slap for all the Gold Star mothers.’”

Real nice! Again, I can’t imagine why all these Bush supporters who spend all their time blogging and making crank calls don’t sign up. We’re running out of soldiers. W. needs you! Go, go, go!

Rick Santorum is a mother too.

Here’s how bad things are getting for the Republicans. Chuck Hagal has invoked the “V” word to describe Iraq and now Rick Santorum has his staff looking for evidence that he’s ever actually questioned the war. This in response to his democratic challenger, Robert P. Casey’s, charges that he hasn’t asked the “tough questions” about Iraq. Santorum’s spokesman, Robert Traynham, says he’s checked Nexis and the office’s press clippings but has come up empty.

Santorum explains, “I do a lot of interviews on TV, on radio, with print reporters who don’t happen to write everything I say. The fact that it hasn’t turned up in print doesn’t mean I haven’t said it.” Ok, that makes a lot of sense. He has yet to say what it was he said about the war. Man, if the democrats could ever get their act together, this could be a really interesting mid term election. [PI]

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:47 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 3:20 PM EDT
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Thursday, 25 August 2005
Troops will withdraw.
Topic: Iraq

On the front page of the FT today there’s a story about a planed withdrawal of most US troops from Iraq by the end of next year. This seems to contradict Bush’s repeated vows of staying the course at his hand-picked military rallies over the past three days. Any withdrawal before the mission is accomplished in Iraq would “only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground for more attacks against America and free nations.” Scott McClellan, the oracle of truth, says, “Any suggestion that there is disagreement between our president and the military command is absurd.”

No, what’s absurd is the contention that us declaring victory and departing now would leave the Iraqis to the terrorists. This is very unlikely. Just think about what the Sunnis have to contend with. Between the Badr Brigade, the Peshmergas, and the Madhi Army, I doubt the insurgents would have much of a chance.

The real question is, where would all the foreign insurgents go? Since most of them are coming from Saudi Arabia, the Royal Saud family must be hoping we stay for a long, long time.

General Douglas Lute, the director of operations at Centcom, is quoted in FT as saying, “you have to undercut the perception of occupation in Iraq. It’s very difficult to so that when you have 150,000 plus, largely western, foreign troops occupying the country.” The plan is to withdraw most troops by handing over security to Iraqi forces, who ever they may be, in 14 of the 18 provinces considered to be mainly peaceful. (Of course, this has nothing to do with the mid-terms coming up in '06.)

Lute says, "We believe at some point, in order to break this dependence on the . . . coalition, you simply have to back off and let the Iraqis step forward." Looks like they're stepping forward all right." But what about General Schoomaker's worst case scenario of 100,000 troops remaing for another four years? "I will tell you this, as the operation officer of Centcom, if a year from now I've got to call on all those army troops that Gen Schoomaker is prepared to provide, I won't feel real good about myself."

But W. is felling good about himself. He's been on vacation for almost a month now and he's getting rave reveiws from his hand picked war fests. Do his adivsors actually think these staged events are really going to win over the two-thirds of Americans who think this war is pointless? Or is it just to make him fell better?

Posted by bushmeister0 at 4:36 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005 4:43 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 24 August 2005
The threat of the homeless:
Topic: General News.

The AP reports an e-mail from the US Attorney’s Office warned federal employees in Washington DC that extremists might be posing as “vagrants” in order to conduct surveillance on buildings and mass transit stations to plot attacks. “The e-mail stresses that there is no threat of an attack and that it is intended to be ‘informative, not alarming.’”

Well, if the homeless in DC are possible terrorists, federal employees should be alarmed. If you’ve ever been to Union Station you might have noticed there’s about 2 “vagrants” to every pinstripe suit. Most of them, by the way, are veterans. Up until now there hasn’t been any recognition that they were even there, but there’s a “threat,” all of a sudden, so we’d better keep an eye on them! Don’t help them; just watch them!

Pat Robertson strikes again:

If this guy was a Muslim “holy man” in a Virginia mosque, I think he’d be rotting away at Guantanamo, right now. But since he’s one of W.’s friends, he just gets to keep shooting his mouth off. Last time he was in the news it was the comments about the federal judiciary. We all remember; Ruth Bader Ginsberg is a communist; bearded jihads flying planes into the WTC weren’t as dangerous as the Supreme Court, etc.

Then there was his outrage over the “good Christian” Charles Taylor being chased out of Liberia and before that it was his great idea to put a nuke in the State Dept.

Now, he thinks the US should assassinate Hugo Chavez. He’s “a terrific danger.” He’s making Venezuela a “launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism.” That’s quite a combo! I didn’t know the two ideologies were compatible, but I’m not the foreign policy expert he is.

When is W. going to come out and disavow this guy? Never is the answer. Not that Howard Dean was right or anything, but AP writes, "About nine of 10 white evangelicals voted for Bush in the 2004 election — about as high as his support from any group of voters, according to exit polls." So, it seems the man who stands tall against Muslim extremism, turns into "cringer" when it comes to christian extremists.

The entire government does. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "This is not the policy of the United States government, we do not share his views."

Wow! What a slap down!

Even Rummy is running scared. "He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time." They sure do Rummy, crazy things like you're a war criminal and you ought to be fired. But none of them have a world wide broadcasting empire.

And when are the right wing bloggers, especially the ones who hate Castro and Chavez so much, going to get a clue? You just know there are hundreds of blogs out there called, “I hate the beast” or “Castro’s a pimp” just frothing at the mouth, over this. If Adolph Hitler were here today and said Castro was a bad guy, all these anti-Castro types would be frantically cutting and pasting “Mein Kampf” on to their blogs, bumping Ann Coulter right out of the way. Losers!

“Able Danger” in danger of becoming old news:

Curt Weldon’s Navy officer, Capt. Scott Phillpott, has now come out publicly to say, “My story is consistent…Atta was identified by Able Danger by January-February of 2000.” Pentagon Spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said, however, the military was unable to validate the story of Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer about the identification of Atta. Even though Di Rita said the two men making these claims were respected officers, “thus far we have not be able to uncover what these people said they saw---memory is a complicated thing.”

I kind of thought this might be the pentagon’s response. Able Danger was “mining” information and this is a very sore subject in the pentagon after the public beating they took over the revelation of the existence of John Poindexter’s “Total Information Awareness” office. Weldon and Shaffer are very much into pushing congress to put more money into personal data mining, but the public isn’t quite so sure. Shaffer actually said, before he revealed his identify, that he wanted to remain anonymous so as not to jeopardize the future funding for more data mining.

I think the idea behind this whole thing is to prove that if the pentagon lawyers hadn’t been so damn concerned about American’s privacy rights and the damned law, we could have caught Mohamed Att and the rest before they attacked on 9/11. All we need to do now is get other Able Danger type data mining operations going, to mine all kinds of information to prevent the next attack. Of course, that might involve the military spying on Americans, but we have to be secure from those vagrants!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:02 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005 2:04 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 23 August 2005
Iraqi constitution get's an "incomplete."
Topic: Iraq

So the Shiites and the Kurds have bypassed the Sunnis and at the very last moment delivered to the Iraq National Assembly an incomplete draft. The outstanding issues according to US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, include federalism, the fate of former Baathists in government and whether members of the Assembly should be elected by a majority vote or a two-thirds vote.

One Sunni member says there are more than twenty issues still unresolved. The Assembly will have three days to hammer out these remaining sticking points and then, presumably, Iraq will have a constitution to vote on in October. The three-day deadline is very tenuous, however, something tells me it might take longer.

The Sunni members of the drafting committee have said they will urge their people to vote “no” in the referendum, if it ever gets to that point, unless their concerns are addressed. Tom Lasseter in the Philadelphia Inquirer quotes Sami al-Askeri, a Shiite member of the drafting committee saying, “There is no concern. Some of the Sunnis are, of course, unhappy with the draft.” Ahmad Chalabi is slightly less charitable in his estimation of the Sunni opposition. “How many votes have they got? The majority of Iraqis want federalism.” NYT

W., of course, is firmly in the loop. Condi is keeping him up to date between bike rides with Lance Armstrong. "This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?" [Reuters]

One might ask what difference it will make if they're left with a bunch of desert with no revenue from the oil wells.

So much for democracy! I thought, the idea was to get the Sunnis on board with the whole democracy thing, which would then theoretically neutralize the insurgency. The Shiites and the Kurds have basically jettisoned the Sunnis from the process with the backing of the US. It’s difficult to know what is really going on over there, but it would seem by leaving the Sunnis out in the cold, or out in the desert in this case, this entire constitution thing is pretty much a pointless exercise.

No worries there, W. says he's been told the constitution will protect, "minority rights, women rights, [and] freedom to worship." Yes, the new language says Islam is "a main source" of legislation, not "the" main source. That's reassuring. If I were an Iraqi woman I'd sleep better.

So what is the strategy here anyway?

Bush’s two main justifications for keeping the troops in Iraq, is the political process, the constitution, and the training of the security forces. (And of course, the lessons of 9/11.)

The first one is obviously seriously off track and the second one is equally problematic. A new essay by Maj. Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, commander of the First Cavalry Division called “Winning the Peace: The requirement for full spectrum operations,” says “A gun on every street corner, although visually appealing, provides only a short term solution” but, “does not equate to long term security grounded on a democratic process. If there is nothing else done other than kill bad guys and train others to kill bad guys, the only thing accomplished is moving more people from the fence to the insurgent category.” [NYT] (And leaving 20% of the polity out of the political process might tend to knock of few off the fence too.)

Obviously, as has been reported before, the mess we’re in today is a direct result of "planning gaps" for the post-war Iraq. It is highly unlikely we will be able to provide enough services and jobs in any thing resembling a near term scenario that would point to us withdrawing any time soon.

Meanwhile Bush’s vacation continues:

After ten days at the ranch W. decided he needed to go talk to the 27% of Americans that still think he’s got a clue about Iraq. Yesterday he spoke at a VFW hall in Salt Lake City, and today he spoke to an Idaho National Guard base in Boise. He says Cindy Sheehan doesn’t represent most military families, so he doesn’t need to talk to her. Then it’s on to the Tamarack Resort in Donnelly Idaho for some fishing and bike riding.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:37 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005 3:05 PM EDT
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