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Lets's talk about democracy
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Saturday, 25 March 2006
The Russians are no friends of ours! Well, duh!
Topic: General News.
As I mentioned a while back, the Russians are on W.'s shit list these days. It's come to the attention of the president that Vlad "the impaler" Putin, the man who he thought was his soul-mate, is really just another tin-horn dictator. (I don't know, maybe they really are soul-mates.) This apparently hadn't occurred to W. & Co. before, when Putin was closing down all the independent news outlets, rejiggering the constitution to allow him to appoint previously elected Governors and sending his political opponents to Siberia. The veil began to lift when Putin tried to strong-arm the Ukrainians into voting for his guy and then cut off the gas pipelines to Ukraine and Europe during the worst of the winter months. The kicker must have been when Condi came out and declared that Belarus was last true dictatorship and in reply Vald invited Lukashenko to Moscow.

Speaking of Belarus, it's purely a coincidence that just as the Europeans and the Americans are talking about imposing sanctions on president Alexander Lukashenka, who just won re-election with 82% of the vote --- low and behold ---a story comes out in the media that says Russia was spying on us before and during the invasion of Iraq. Strange bit of timing there.

This spying story is really much to do about nothing, because ultimately the intelligence they passed on to Saddam just reinforced his already muddled appraisal of the American strategy in the first place. And something tells me that the U.S. had some inkling of what the Russians were up to because, it's a little difficult for me to believe that they could have gotten their information so wrong on so many things if they actually had someone right in the heart of the command center at Doha. Obviously, they were being fed misinformation on purpose. For the U.S. to be crying foul at this point is a bit like Claude Rains being shocked, shocked that gambling was going on at Rick's.

[An interesting side note in all of this is that the Russian ambassador to Iraq was passing this intel to Saddam, and oddly enough, as he was making his getaway out of Baghdad his his convoy was fired on by U.S. troops and they damn near killed him. Was this a case of trigger-happy troops in the fog of combat, or an intentional attempt to kill or capture the Russian ambassador who no doubt knew who the mole was at Doha?]

I think, the point of this charade is to get tough with Putin. This is SOP for W. & Co.: carry a big stick and...carry another big stick in case the first one doesn't do the job. In this case, though, I don't know how far we're going to get with threats. Russia is the second biggest supplier of oil to the world and Europe would come to a grinding halt if he cut off their natural gas. Plus, China just made a big pipeline deal with the Russians, so even if we're now over the idea of the Russians helping us out with Iran's nuke's the Chinese are hardly gong to be on our side on the Belarus issue.

Besides, they can turn right around and point out that we said not one word when Ilham Aliyev in Azerbaijan won his election with 82% of the vote back in 2003. At the time, undersecretary of State Richard Armitage even congratulated him on his "strong showing."

Posted by bushmeister0 at 3:57 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 27 March 2006 2:00 PM EST
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Wednesday, 15 March 2006
What are the Iranians thinking about?
Topic: General News.

You know, when I was just a little nipper, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held Americans hostage for 444 days. At the time, I remember being outraged at pictures of them using an American flag to take out the trash. My dad was shocked at how pissed off I was, because even at 14, I was one of those picko liberals, who I guess, he assumed wouldn't mind people abusing the flag. At the time, I didn't understand why the Iranians hated us so much and just assumed they were all crazy.

What I found out later was that we had overthrown the democratically elected government of Muhammad Musaddiq and set up the Shah to make sure they didn't do anything crazy like nationalize the oil wells. From 1953 on, the Shah ruled with an iron fist and eventually his misrule led to the Islamic revolution. After digesting that little tidbit of information, it's a little easier for me to understand why the Iranians distrust us so much. Now as we discuss the crisis of Iran's nuclear ambitions, which is a direct result of our bone headed policies in that region for the past 60 years, it might be instructive to think about what is it that makes the Iranians think they need the bomb.

I found this appraisal of the thinking behind Iran's foreign policy in a book called Diplomacy in the Middle East, which was edited by Carl Brown. This excerpt is from an essay called "Iran's Foreign Policy under the Islamic Republic, 1979-2000," by Shaul Bakash.

"Iran's foreign policy is shaped by overriding security concerns. Iraq's invasion of Iran in 1980, the eight eight-year war with the country, and the sense that Iran received virtually no support from the international community in the face of naked aggression has left deep scars on the national psyche. Moreover, Iran with good reason feels it lives in a dangerous neighborhood. Instability is endemic along its border with Afghanistan...(And) given its hostility to Iran, American's huge military presence in the Persian Gulf and uncertainty about its intentions is another source of concern."

Of course, they probably have a somewhat better idea of what American's intentions are in the region since the invasion of Iraq. This is probably why they're so intent on having a nuclear deterrent. I'm not saying its right that they should have a bomb, actually I don't think anyone should, but all you have to do is look at which axis of evil country got invaded and which one didn't. North Korea, with the bomb, is untouched, and Iraq, without the bomb, is a mess. It's easy to understand why Iran thinks its next on the list if they don't get a bomb pretty quick.

Iran's current policy of playing the Russians and the Chinese off the Europeans and the U.S. is nothing new, either. They've been doing it for centuries. Bakash writes, "Muhammad Musaddiq coined the term 'negative equilibrium' to describe the manner in which Iran would avoid falling under the influence of either Britain or Russia...The Islamic Republic's great-power diplomacy in the 1990's was therefore a return to a well-established tradition." Actually, friendly relations Iran enjoys with Russia and China started with the Shah in the 60' and 70's, who eventhough he was an ally of the U.S. during the cold war still wanted to keep his options open.

I'm not going to attempt to go into a whole lecture on Iran here, I just wanted to point out that there are reasons for the way Iran is behaving, other than the ones you hear in the media; that they're all crazy and they just hate us. Not all Iranians hate us, but they do hate our government. They see themselves as a great country with a long history of greatness and they're not likely to just let us or anyone else boss them around. According to Shaul Bakash, "The Shah had cultivated a sense of the greatness of Iran by virtue of its size, population, history and imperial past. The Islamic Republic cultivated a sense of the greatness of Iran on the same basis, but rather than the imperial past it stressed the centrality of the revolution itself and of Iran's Islamic credentials."

It's bad enough they've got an inferiority complex, but adding religion into the mix makes everything that much more dangerous. Bomb + God = kaboom.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:22 PM EST
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Saturday, 11 March 2006
News flash: Slobodan Milosevic is dead!
Mood:  happy
Topic: General News.

And I say good riddance to bad trash. According to news reports he died in his prison cell of natural causes. His trial had been delayed many times because of his ill health, so his death is not that big of surprise, but it is unfortunate that all those who suffered from his cynical and brutal wars won't get the satisfaction of seeing him pay for what he did. Although, having gone from great Serbian hero to pathetic old man dying in a prison cell is a somewhat fitting end. Being a war criminal of the first order no one should morn his death, but of course, many will. Even some very uninformed right wing Americans will feel he was mistreated or argue that the international community had no right to have him arrested and tried.

When you consider how many Bosnian civilians were killed, how many cities and towns were destroyed, how many hundreds of thousands of Kosovars were chased from their homes and sent fleeing into Albania and elsewhere, its difficult to fathom how anyone could defend this piece of trash. And what about the Serbs of Krajina, who were sacrificed so Slobo could keep his hold on power? Radovan Karadzic himself wrote in an open letter to him in 1995, as the Croats with the help of the U.N. were ethnically cleansing the Serbs that, "You have turned your back on the Serbs. You have relented under foreign pressure which could be compared only to treason." Afterwards, even has he was launching his war in Kosovo four years later, in the name of protecting the Serbs of Kosovo, hundreds of refuges from Krajina were still living in tents in a football stadium in Pristina. That's how much he cared about his beloved Serbs. But they still love him; the fact that Karadzic and Ratco Mladic are still at large proves that. What Milosovic did in their name will hang over their heads for as long as they continue to protect the killers and the crooks that are responsible for the dilapidated state of their country and the worst example of European genocide since WW II.

Going through all the various crimes and brutalities of the Milosevic regime would take too long, but I would like to just recount an incident from the start of the Bosnian war that pretty much characterizes the MO of the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) under the command of Milosevic, although he claimed he had no hand in any of it. I quote from Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation, by Laura Silber and Allen Little, recounting the fall of the Bosnian town of Zvornik between April 8 and 10 1992.

On April 8, Serbian paramilitaries and JNA units massing outside Zvornik:

"Began shelling from the other side of the river (The Drina) --- from inside Serbia proper. Thousands began to flee --- two thousand alone heading across the bridge to Mail Zvornik. The next day, Arkan, commander of the feared paramilitary unit, known as the Tigers, issued an ultimatum, to the Muslims of Zvornik, who made up sixty percent of the town's population -- to surrender. When they failed to respond to the surrender call, Arkan moved in. Zvornik fell on April 10. Jose Maria Mendiluce, the UNHCR's most senior official in former Yugoslavia, was visiting Milosevic in Belgrade.

'He told me, as he did throughout the conflict, that he didn't have any control over the Bosnian Serbs, but he would try his moral authority.' Mendiluce left Belgrade with a promise that Milosevic would do everything in his power to support the UNHCR's mission in Bosnia. To return to Sarajevo, Mediluce had to pass through Zvornik. He chose the wrong day.

'When I arrived at the bridge [over the Drina which separates Serbia from Bosnia] I could hear explosions of artillery and mortar fire. There was great agitation on the Serbian side. Almost a kilometer from the bridge there were militiamen and JNA soldiers, all along the river.'

The Serbs and JNA forces who held that part of town were furious to find an outsider bearing witness to their storming of the town.

'I was detained for two hours. I realized I was at serious risk. I could see trucks full of dead bodies. I could see militiamen taking more corpses of children, women and old people from their homes and putting them on trucks. I saw at least four or five trucks full of corpses. When I arrived the cleansing had been done. There were no people, no one on the streets. It was all finished. There were looting, cleaning up the city after the massacre.' "

When Mediluce was allowed to leave he found five thousand refugees of the slaughter huddling in a narrow valley.

"'When I arrived in the car I was surrounded by 1000 people. They were all begging me, 'Save us, Save us!' with such despair that I stayed there for an hour trying to calm them down. There were lots of dead people, wounded children on the floor looking terrified --- absolutely terrified --- and we could hear the sound of mortar fire approaching.'"

There is no doubt that, contrary to Milosevic's contention that he had no hand in this, Belgrade was fully behind the slaughter. One of his own henchmen admitted it, extreme nationalist paramilitary leader Voljislav Seselj said "The Zvornik operation was planned in Belgrade. The Bosnian Serb forces took part in it. But the special units and the best combat units came from this side [Serbia]. These were police units --- the so-called Red Berets --- special units of the Serbian Interior Ministry of Belgrade. The army engaged itself to a small degree --- it gave artillery support where it was needed. The operation had been prepared for along time. It wasn't carried out in any kind of nervous fashion. Everything was well organized and implemented.'"

Especially the work of Arkan, Zeljko Raznjatovic, the leader of the Tigers, a band of marauders more interested in raping, killing and thieving than fighting for a "Greater Serbia." The litany of crimes committed by Arkan is long and bloody. Fortunately, he was gunned down in Belgrade in a hale of gunfire in what was suspected of being a gangland execution. To many he is still a great Serbian hero, but the fact is he was just a thug and a psychopath.

The death of Milosevic comes as the U.N. and Europeans leaders are getting down to brass tacks with the Serbian government over the final status of Kosovo, which has been a U.N. protectorate since 1999. The Serb negotiators have said they will never allow an independent Kosovo, but Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary Minister, said yesterday that Kosovo's independence was "almost inevitable." Negotiation begins again next week in Vienna, but I wouldn't hold my breath for any quick solution to this impasse.

UNMIK and Europeans say, "Arrivederci Roma:"

One more Kosovo related story here, which I've been meaning to write about but haven't got around to. In Mitrovica, a town in northern Kosovo which is ethnically split right down the middle by the Ibar river between Serbs and Kosovars, there's a Roma refugee that lies right on a mine that is poisoning children with lead. This situation has been allowed to go on since the end of the Kosovo war by the UNMIK and it's simply criminal. Even though, the UNMIK has finally gotten around to moving the Roma into better housing, the problem is that they're not moving then away from the danger. The mercury problem still exists. Where's the outrage?

Maybe, this explains the lack of outrage: The Europeans talk a good game about human rights and being enlightened when it comes to racism, but the treatment of Muslims in French, in particular, puts paid to that myth. And as bad as it is for the Muslims of Europe, they're lucky they're not the Roma. The European Court of Human Rights has just ruled that its A-OK for the Czechs to keep shunting Roma children into remedial schools for the mentally handicapped. The Court, said there was a problem but that it wasn't because of bigotry. Just because 90% of the children in these schools for slow kids are Roma, that doesn't mean they're being discriminated against, right? No, of course not, they're all retarded, that must be it. They're damn good at picking pockets though. So much for Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 2:23 PM EST
Updated: Saturday, 11 March 2006 2:26 PM EST
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Thursday, 9 March 2006
Wal-Mart and some very credible bloggers.
Topic: General News.

I'm sure everyone in the blogosphere has had a go at the NYT article about Wal-Mart using right wing bloggers to push their propaganda, but I'd like to add my two cents to this issue.

First of all, how lame is that? Taking a little "nugget" or a "heads up" from a Wal-Mart PR flak and pasting it onto your blog verbatim and not bothering to tell your readers where it came from; that's pretty weak. These right wingers are all about integrity, though, aren't they? So, this Brian Pickrell of Iowa Voice says, "I probably cut and paste a little bit (a little bit?) and I probably should not have;" I mean, what's the big deal? He does his own "research on a topic" and after weighing all the arguments equally, he says, "I draw my own conclusions and form my opinions;" right, except for that little part about referring to the Wal-Mark flak where you get your BS from only as a "reader."

If I were to get information from a "reader" that 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs at a Wal-Mart, instead of falling all over myself to praise Wal-Mart, I might first ask myself why so many people would be in such dire straits that they had no choice but to work for $6.00 an hour at a hell hole like Wal-Mart. Could it be that Wal-Mart's business model ---the keystone of which is low, low wages---is forcing every other retailer to join the race to the bottom just to stay in business? Oh yeah, and the reason people are being forced to work retail is because good high paying manufacturing jobs are going overseas because that's the way Wal-Mart wants it.

I love the fact that Pickrell, along with other equally shameless purveyors of Wal-Mart bull, got all hot and bothered about the Times article before it even came out, but this didn't prevent him from trolling for advertisements in anticipation of more hits. That's integrity for you! Mona Williams, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman says, "As more and more Americans go to the internet to get information from varied, credible, trusted sources" like Iowa Voice, for instance, "Wal-Mart is committed to participating in that online conversation." Of course, when most people have conversations they generally know who they're talking to, unlike in this situation.

Not that they're trying to keep this a secret or anything, but the Wal-Mart flak who's sending all these "tips" out to his like-minded fellow travelers, Marshall Manson, did tell his minions to "resist the urge" to just cut and paste his good news because, he'd "be sick if someone ripped you because they noticed a couple of bloggers with nearly identical posts." How about that? Such concern for his good friends, I may cry.

Once you've gone to read such credible and trusted bloogers like Iowa Voice, Crazy Politico's Rantings, Marquette Warrior and punditguy.com, please feel free to do your own research before forming your opinions by going to Wake up Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart Watch and see just how happy former Wal-Mart employees are about the way they were treated. And find out about all the good things they're doing for low wage workers in China, how friendly to the environment they are and how you're most likely to get robbed or killed in a Wal-Mart parking lot than pretty much anywhere else.

And there's more:

It appears Mr. Pickrell is recieving many requests from the media for interviews, but his answer is: "Not just no, but HELL no. I'm not going to grant a single interview to anymore of you left-wing hacks, just so you can print whatever the heck you want in my name. Not gonna happen."

There you go Brian, you stick to your guns. Screw the liberal media, you don't need them and you have your credibility to uphold!

But, wait, there's another update:

Pickrell writes: "After thinking it over a bit, I've decided to do one interview that should put all this to rest. I'll let you know the who, what, when, and where when it's the right time."

Well gosh, make sure to let your advertiers know!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:46 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006 2:32 PM EST
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Wednesday, 8 March 2006
Should we stay or should we go?
Topic: General News.

Dick Polman, the Philadelphia Inquirer's political analyst, has a new blog.

In a recent entry he interviewed Gary Hart who wonders "Are we or are we not building permanent military bases [In Iraq]? I keep trying to get anybody [in the press] to ask about this....I'll tell you what I mean by permanent: pouring concrete and wielding steel. Yes or no?" Polman writes that this is an issue that has "gotten little public attention so far." Well, if either of them had come to this blog they wouldn't have to ask. Yes, we are building permanent bases; you can go to any number of press outlets to find this out, like I did. (Or just go to globalsecurity.org, which has a map of all the bases.) Our plans for the post draw down period seems to be based on the British occupation model. Pull back into bases with a limited number of troops, keep the Iraqis under-armed, but trained just well enough to aim their weapons and not shoot each other and we'll provide air cover in case they get into real trouble. [See this blog]

We've got no intentions whatsoever of leaving those oil wells in the hands of the Iranians. Hell, we'll put the Sunnis back in power if that's what it takes. Why does there always seem to be this major disconnect in the mainstream media about what is actually going on over there? I saw a promo for an ABC nightly news "Exclusive" last night (I never waste my time with the network's nightly news) and Elizabeth Vargos was warning darkly that Iran might be supplying new, more sophisticated and deadly IEDs to the insurgents. That story is about six months old at this point. (I remember writing about this story like, back in August or something.)

Maybe if they spent less time at ABC on hairdos and puppy rescue stories and more time on reading the news wires, they would have picked up on this before. It’s amazing that as little information the average American gets from the media about anything, but they still know that things are not going well in Iraq. If they really knew what was going on over there, though, W. & Co. would be spending less time on helping their foreign friends buy up the country and more time working on their legal defense.

The baby is going out with the bath water in Russia:

C.J. Chivers in the NYT reports that Vlad "the Impaler" Putin has signed a law "allowing security forces to shoot down hijacked aircraft or destroy hijacked ships if they risk endangering important facilities or populated areas." (The German high court just struck down a similar law in Germany.) Why is this story even news? Based on the "rescue" of theater goers in Moscow in 2001 and the Beslan siege in 2004, I don't see why they even bothered to codify what is already SOP for these bubblers. It's pretty clear that the Russians either don't care about saving the lives of hostages, or are just too congenitally incompetent to ever mount a successful rescue operation.

If you're a terrorist in Russia and you want to inflict mass casualties, all you have to do is send a dozen or so people into a building full of civilians with some explosives and the Russian security forces will do the rest. And most likely, you're people will wind up escaping! Win, win.

Speaking of Russia: The WaPo reports that the Council on Foreign Relations says Russian democracy is in retreat. A bi-partisan task force concludes, according to the Post article, that "the Bush administration should stop pretending that Russia is a genuine strategic partner and adopt a policy of ‘selective cooperation' and 'selective opposition' to the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin." John Edwards, who was on the panel, says of W. and Co., "What they've done is focused on the positive things Russia is doing and been soft on the problems. We need the world to see what's happening inside, and at a minimum Putin needs to feel pressure from that."

But W. saw into Putins's soul, what happened? Well, Condi is the big Russia specialist, right? I'm sure she's got a much better idea of how to handle Russian than those panty-waisted, egg heads at some talking academy. And besides, democracy is on the march in other places. You know, you win some and you lose some.

Russia and the Iranians:

Of course, right now, we're selectively cooperating with Russia, because that's basically our only option. Putin could start sending political dissidents to Siberia and starving Ukrainians to death and we wouldn't care, because we need them to help us out with our little problem with Iran and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. (Except when it comes to Israel, they're different.) In particular we need the Russians because they've got a lot of money in Iran and they could be a useful wedge between the pragmatists and the religious nuts in the Iranian government, the latter appearing to want a confrontation.

Cheney our Ahmadinejad?

Pretty the much the mirror image of what's going on in our foreign policy circles within the government. On the one hand, you've got Condi meeting with the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, trying to talk things out over dinner; and on the other, you've got Dick Cheney shooting the whole diplomacy thing to pieces. Yesterday at the Aipac meeting in Washington he pulled out his big gauge shot gun and let loose with the war talk: "The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course, the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences," Cheney said to the delight of the Israeli activists in attendance. What might that mean, they wondered...could they dare to hope...yes!... The U.S., he said, was "keeping all options on the table..." and before he could even get the words out, they were drowned out by thunderous applause. This is just what they wanted to hear. All week long there's been a steady stream of spokesmen for the Cheney/Rummy cabal paying homage to Aipac and Israel and, more importantly, saying the right things about Iran.

Fareed Zakaria on Cheney's speech:

Fareed Zakaria was interviewed on The World yesterday and was very adamant that Cheney's belligerent speech was very "unhelpful." He made a lot of good points that hopefully someone in the administration is conveying to W. on this issue. In the first place, Zarkaria pointed out that Cheney's upping the ante on the threat meter could backfire badly if the Iranians called his bluff.

What are we going to do if the Iranians ultimately ignore everyone and go ahead with their bomb making plans? Attack them? Not likely, based on our very tenuous hold on Iraq right now. And if we did actually make good on Cheney's threat and, for instance, attack their nuclear infrastructure, Zarkaria points out that Iran has a $30 billion budget surplus. How long would it take them to rebuild it and get back to doing what they're doing now? Two years maybe? And the worst part about Cheney's speech is that it will reverberate around the capitals of the world as yet another example of U.S. unilateralism. The talk this week won't be about Iran's intransigence, but about our threat to attack them.

Condi might be on to something (gag!)

It's better to do what Condi is doing and work on building international pressure with Russia and China applying financial distress. This appears to be the only way to get Iran to come around, but, alas, the Secretary of State isn't in control, our very own homegrown version of Ahmadinjad is: Dick Cheney. Or so it would appear. I can't help but see the whole 'who's going to deal with the shooting thing' happening all over again. Cheney has got his own thing going on and the rest of the administration has theirs. No one seems to be courageous enough to rein in the wild man in the executive office building. The Cheney/Rummy cabal has the pentagon with their $450 billion budget versus Condi's State Department with its $40 billion budget, who would you expect to come out on top?

And when you consider W. has a propensity to go for harebrained schemes that offer simplistic solutions, I don't see this turning out well. Common sense doesn't have a role in this equation, on either side.

Just a little note on W.s big adventure in South Asia.

Besides making a deal with the Indians to forgive their lying to us in the past and violating their agreements not to take plutonium from a civilian reactor and make bombs with it, what did he accomplish?

He did a heck of a job making Pervez Musharraf look even more like an American puppet in the eyes of his own people than he did before (And delivered a stern lecture to boot), that was something I guess. He left four people dead in demonstrations throughout India that drew hundreds of thousands out into the streets. (The media, naturally, pulled out the standard "10,000" number and stuck with it the whole time he was over there.)[real numbers]

In the wake of this major foreign policy success story, Musharraf and Karzai are at each others throats, hurling accusations about who is really harboring OBL and Mullah Omar, and Musharraf's fake attempt to show W. he was serious about routing out terrorists on his own territory has turned into a major battle in Miran Shah a town in North Wazirstan. Pakistani forces just can't seem to extract themselves from these "mopping up operations."

The AP reports Pakistani authorities say "at least 100 al-Qaeda and Taliban supporters may have been killed." Or maybe they just killed a bunch of villagers with their helicopter gun ships and artillery barrages. This is reminiscent of the Pakistani crack down on opium growers in the BBC mini-series Traffik that come to an end as soon as the foreigners leave, but in this case it seems things haven't gone according to plan.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:52 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2006 1:03 PM EST
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Tuesday, 14 February 2006
Pakistan next to be liberated by democracy?
Topic: General News.

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

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

Katrina and Cheney:

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

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

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

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

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

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

New plan for Hamas:

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

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

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

Iraq do-over:

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

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

Posted by bushmeister0 at 12:18 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 17 February 2006 11:29 AM EST
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Wednesday, 8 February 2006
Venezuela, it's always Venezuela
Topic: General News.

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

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

Funny how things never change.

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

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

Axis of Evo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make cheese not cartoons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And if they don't....

Big time blow back?

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

Danger in Afghanistan:

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

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

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

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

Posted by bushmeister0 at 1:14 PM EST
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Wednesday, 18 January 2006
The Iran flap. Much flapping, little lift.
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: General News.

I'm still trying to wrap my head around this big push by the US and the Europeans to take-Iran-out-to-the-woodshed for their nuclear program of late. The administration has been dithering over a policy on Iran for the past four years, leaving the matter entirely to the EU to take care of, but now all of a sudden there's this big crisis we need to get in the middle of. My question is: what good would imposing sanctions on Iran do at this point anyway? It's a little late in the game, it seems, because the Iranians have been had plenty of time to prepare for such an eventuality and according to Abbas Milani, the director of Iranian studies at Stanford University, the Iranians have been stockpiling food and medicine over the past few years to blunt the effects of any sanctions. [NYT]

They've also been very busy signing up countries like China and India to sell their oil and gas to and the Russians are making a mint from Iranian arms purchases, so it would appear all these three countries, at least, would view sanctions as bad for business. The repeated attempts of the Bush administration to isolate the Iranians diplomatically would appear to be going no-where fast; and, besides, why would Russia or China want to pull America's chestnuts out of the fire for them, when they can instead sit back and watch us crash and burn while they make money?

On Monday, the permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Germany made a big show of meeting in London to discuss the referral of Iran to the UN, but even after all the behind-closed-doors arm twisting it looked like international unanimity on this burning issue was still a little shaky. Vlad "the impaler" Putin said, "The Iranian nuclear problem requires a very accurate approach without rash or erroneous moves," and he was continuing to hold out the hope that the Iranians might yet go along with the plan to have the Russians enrich the uranium for them.

The new Iranian ambassador to Russia, Gholamreza Ansari, playing the reasonable Iranian said, "We believe that Iran and Russia should find a way out of this jointly." Reports have it that Condi was burning up the phone lines over the past weekend trying to get Russia onboard for a referral to the Security Council in the expectation that China would go along, too---or at least abstain---but the Chinese were still playing their cagey games saying in a statement that, "China believes that under the current situation, all relevant sides should remain restrained and stick to solving the Iranian nuclear issue through negotiations."

Even our good friends the Saudis, who are no friends to the Iranians, weren't exactly behind us 100% on taking Iran to the UN. Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal told the BBC that he was skeptical that a nuclear Iran would really be a threat, particularly to Israel, because if they did try to "wipe Israel off the map" they'd be killing Palestinians too. He blamed the Western countries, partly, for the standoff saying, "The West in allowing Israel to establish its nuclear capability has done the damage. As long as you make one exception, you open the way for logical arguments of why him and not me." Of course, Cheney is over there now, so they might start taking a different tone if the price is right.

[The issue of Israel's nukes leading to an arms race in the Middle East isn't new, by the way. Recently released Nixon papers show that Undersecretary of State Joseph J. Sisko wrote in a 1969 memo to Secretary William Rogers that, "Israel's possession of nuclear weapons would do nothing to deter Arab guerrilla warfare or reduce Arab irrationality. On the contrary it would add a dangerous new element to Arab-Israeli hostility with added risk of confrontation between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.][CBS]

There appears, also, to be some dissention inside the administration itself about this course of action against Iran. An administration official, who wished to remain unnamed, was quoted in an article in the NYT by Steven Weisman as saying, "I've been surprised that so many people are acting like referral to the Security Council is some important event that will bring about change in the government of Iran. I don't buy it." He might be one of those hawks, though; who thinks regime-change or military strikes is the better way to go. That's basically all we've got as far as debate in the administration goes on this issue: Either, we go the "diplomatic" route, or we get aggressive. Both "strategies" offer no carrots or sticks and that's why neither will work.

Not that there's any sanity coming from congress on this issue either. John McCain said on Face the Nation that this standoff with Iran was the "most grave situation that we have faced since the end of the cold war, absent the whole war on terror." The military option he said should be "the last option," but "to say under no circumstances would we exercise the military option, that would be crazy." Democratic Senator Evan Bayh offered his informed opinion that there were elements of the Iranian nuclear program that could be taken out, which "would dramatically delay its development." Oh, really? The Iranians have dispersed their nuclear facilities to some 300 sites around the country making the utility of military strikes highly dubious and even if we were successful in such an attack, whose to say they don't turn around and start giving the insurgents in Iraq some real high tech weaponry?

Just last week three US helicopters were brought down killing 16 Americans and my bet is that the Iranians had something to do with it. Remember, the Russians have a lot of those Streala shoulder-fired heat-seeking missile launchers and they're not too particular who they sell them to. (They sold a ton to Saddam and no one knows where they are now.) If the insurgents can start shooting down our aircraft at will, that makes the job in Iraq a whole lot tougher. Iran also has its tentacles in Lebanon through Hezbollah and in the West Bank and Gaza through Hamas and they could make things really difficult for us if they wanted to. Or, they could stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and all of W.'s SUV driving supporters could really be hurting.

Real men talk to Tehran:

The only solution to the this "grave situation" is to start talking to Tehran. There are people inside the administration that have been pushing for talks with Iran for years, but they've been largely marginalized and we see where this refusal to deal with reality has led. In desperation, W. actually did authorize Zalmay Khalilzad to talk to the Iranians about all the weapons coming over the border, but the Iranians rebuffed the overture because they're not interested in talking about that, they interested in getting a deal on the nuclear issue; with us. The Iranians clearly don't take the Europeans seriously because they figure nothing they agree to will stand unless the US signs off on it first, so all of this "effort" on the part of the US to "engage" through their European partners on the nuclear issue has been pretty much a waste of time. A total lack of a policy isn't a policy.

I still think Mahmoud Amadinejad is just a battering ram that the real powers-that-be inside the Iranian government are using to gain leverage in negotiations. Abbas Milani says, "At this stage, they are convinced that the more hardball they play, the more the West will collapse." In a rare moment of lucidity last week Ahmadinejad said, "We follow our national interests within the framework of international regulations, and have the leverage to defend our interests," which seems to me to be a very concise explanation of their position. They're not breaking international law by opening up their enrichment facilities and they're a powerful country in the middle of a very dangerous region of the world that could either, be helpful in solving many issues roiling the Middle East, from Israel to Lebanon to Afghanistan, or they could make our lives very difficult. As powerful as they are, though, they've got a major inferiority complex that could be exploited by a more open minded administration; not this one obviously.

My guess is all this posturing will come to nothing in the end and we'll be back to square one soon enough. My worry is that if Iran doesn't respond in the way the W. wants them to and "diplomacy fails" again, he just might play some hardball of his own and do something stupid like attempt to take out Natanz or other facilities in an attempt to save face. Preempting Israel from taking matters into their own hands might also be an important calculation in the arithmetic of W.'s bully-politics, too, because that sort of thing would open up a very nasty can of worms and it could stir up a whole world of trouble we don't need, especially when one considers how reliant on a Shiite led government in Iraq we are and you know who they take their marching orders from.

In Iraq:

Speaking of our good friends and allies in the Iraqi government: the WaPo reported last week that Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, the leader of Sciri, one of the leading parties in the soon to be government, said the idea of a re-do on the constitution was off the table. He said he would not allow a new government to "change the essence" of the constitution. The Shiites and the Kurds had promised the Sunnis to amend the constitution after the Dec. elections if they'd go along in voting for it, which was seen as a major concession on the part of the majority by our man in Baghdad Zalmay Khalilzad. The issue of most importance for the Sunnis was that the Kurds and the Shiites not break the country up into autonomous zones rich in oil, leaving them with a whole bunch of desert.

A spokesman for al-Hakim said, "The major points in the constitution were agreed to by all the parties that participated in the drafting of the constitution. As for changes in the powers, some points or details, these are open to negotiation. However, the main principles which were agreed to by all sides, and approved by the people in a popular referendum [just barely] they cannot be touched."

So, that's good, when the Shiites were just another party in a make-believe government, they were willing to promise the moon, but now that they're going to be ruling an internationally sanctioned, legitimately sovereign government; they're saying 'not so fast.' They can do the math and they don't feel like sharing anymore. If they do get their own slice of the country in the south, a USAID paper might point to the type of "democracy" they would practice.

Want to make a cool 3 billion? You sure?

The paper which is describing Iraq for potential bidders to a 1.32 billion dollar reconstruction contract says that in the south of the country, "social liberties have been curtailed dramatically by roving bands of self-appointed religious-moral police." The Post adds, "In cities, women's dress codes are enforced and barbers who remove facial hair have been killed, and liquor stores and clubs have been bombed." Sounds more like Afghanistan, or Iran, than it does the newly freed Iraq.

But, everything will be alright after we handover power to the Iraqis, right? What might such a totally independent Iraq look like, you might ask:

Well, let's take the example of the transfer of some of Saddam's palaces to local Iraqi military units in Tikrit on Nov. 22 of last year. Amidst a brass band and much pomp and ceremony---and a stray dud mortar that sent all the dignitaries running for cover---Col Mark McKnight, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, handed over the keys to the governor of Salahuddin Province with these words, "The passing of this facility is a simple ceremony that vividly demonstrates the continuing progress being made by the Iraqi government and their people."

Ellen Knickmeyer writes in the WaPo that soon after the American's left, though, "Looters moved in, ripping out doors, air conditioners, ceiling fans and light switch plates from some of the compound's 136 palaces, leaving little more than plaster and dangling electric wires." The Governor of the province, Hamed Hammod Shekti, said "The palace was turned over to the Iraqi army units in the presence of Deputy Governor Adullah Naji Jabara. Two weeks later I heard the palace was looted. Now who can I accuse of the looting?" Knickmeyer writes that, "Over several days after the transfer of control from US to Iraqi hands, furnishings from the palaces turned up in one local market for sale by truck load."

The US military when asked about the looting said they "would fully expect the Iraqi authorities to address any criminal activities," now that it wasn't their problem anymore. A local police commander, Lt. Col. Mahmud Hiazza, accused the Deputy Governor of being involved in the looting and was transferred shortly after to Baiji. "The reason they transferred me is definatly I will get killed there," he said. He resigned instead, Knickmeyer writes. Smart guy!

Posted by bushmeister0 at 5:12 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006 5:19 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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