Saturday, September 30, 2006


As the president continues to flog the debris and shattered remnants of what used to be a war, attempting to massage it back to life, Bob Woodward may have delivered the funeral oration for this dear, departed misadventure.

Woodward's first two books in his "Bush at War" series were flattering to the boy king. The most recent one, "State of Denial," emphatically is not.

Speaking last May Bush giddily predicted the war would be remembered as the time when "the forces of terror began their long retreat." Two days later a secret memo from the Joint Chiefs' intelligence division reported to the White House that "Insurgents and terrorists retain the resources and capabilities to sustain and even increase current level of violence through the next year (2007)."

Woodward identifies and documents the four salient facts about the late, great Iraq War. First, there was never a war strategy or objective beyond terminating the Saddam Hussein regime; once that was done, the entire strategy has consisted of the happy chatter of public relations.

Item: In 2004, "Robert D. Blackwill, the NSC's top official for Iraq, was deeply disturbed by what he considered the inadequate number of troops on the ground there. He told (Natonal Security Advisor Condoleeza) Rice and Stephen J. Hadley, her deputy, that the NSC needed to do a military review.

"If we have a military strategy, I can't identify it," Hadley said. "I don't know what's worse -- that they have one and won't tell us or that they don't have one."

Keep in mind, Hadley, who later replaced Rice as national security advisor, was giving vent to the same criticism as the war's detractors, who are constantly characterized as "objectively pro-terrorist" by people like Cheney.

Secondly, secret government interoffice memos have consistently referred to Iraq as a failed state for the past year and half.

Upon becoming secretary of state, Rice hired Philip D. Zelikow, an old friend, and sent him to Iraq to report back to her on conditions there. The resulting memo said in part, "At this point Iraq remains a failed state shadowed by constant violence and undergoing revolutionary political change." This was in February, 2005.

Third, Bush has been relying more and more as time goes by on Henry Kissinger for advice concerning the war, apparently on the assumption that what didn't work in Vietnam will work in Iraq. Kissinger has inexplicably been trotting out memos he wrote in 1969 as support for Bush's failed Iraq non-policy.

Fourth, Bush has lied habitually and repeatedly by saying commanders on the ground determine troop levels. Woodward's evidence on this topic is worth quoting at length:

"Vietnam was also on the minds of some old Army buddies of Gen. Abizaid, the Centcom commander. They were worried that Iraq was slowly turning into Vietnam -- either it would wind down prematurely or become a war that was not winnable

"Some of them, including retired Gen. Wayne A. Downing and James V. Kimsey, a founder of America Online, visited Abizaid in 2005 at his headquarters in Doha, Qatar, and then in Iraq.

"Abizaid held to the position that the war was now about the Iraqis. They had to win it now. The U.S. military had done all it could. It was critical, he argued, that they lower the American troop presence. It was still the face of an occupation, with American forces patrolling, kicking down doors and looking at the Iraqi women, which infuriated the Iraqi men.

"'We've got to get the fuck out,' he said."

Read all of Woodward's extensive book excerpt here. Thanks to Georgia10 at DailyKos.

Everybody knows the Iraq War is dead. Bush knows it, Rice knows it, Rumsfeld knows it, possibly even our delusional and schizoid vice president knows it. Their private despair contrasts gruesomely with their public happy chatter.

Therefore, it's past time to bury this moldering corpse of a lost war, which, despite having been dead over a year, continues to render Iraq a smoking, stinking ruin, and the U.S. the most hated country on earth since Nazi Germany.

To that end, it's important to skip work or school on Thursday, October 5, and take to the streets in one of the 114 demonstrations and marches happening nationwide, because George Bush has made clear he will never quit Iraq. That's why The World Can't Wait (to drive out the Bush regime).

Friday, September 29, 2006

What Are They Saying?

Here are a few samples collected at random from around the blogosphere of people's reaction to Congress passing a bill yesterday that legalizes torture and abolishes the right of habeus corpus.

"Surprised? You shouldn't be. This is who we are. Oh yes, there are angwy wibwals out there, mourning the "real" America that appears lost. I don't know what movie they've been watching for the past 40 or so years (not to mention the classics from long before), but judging from their astonished reactions, it looks like it was directed by Frank Capra or perhaps the early Spielberg, with the young Mickey Rooney, Kristy McNichol and Haley Joel Osment waving American flags, washing down caramel corn with sidewalk-bought lemonade as Ray Charles, in a glittering Old Glory tux, sings 'America The Beautiful' while the spirits of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy hold hands, gaze from the clouds and smile over the proceedings.

"Well, that film is pulled and back in the can. Get ready for coke-fueled Scorsese, baked Tarantino, or Rob Zombie with a blockbuster budget."

"Yeah, the shit is covering the fan, or to paraphrase Burroughs, we now see what's at the end of every fork."

--Dennis Perrin at Red State Son.

"The first thing to do is apparently quite controversial, why, I have no idea. But it is imperative that we fully recognize how seriously godawful the situation is.

"I'll say it again: Americans are living in a fascist state. Don't like the word 'fascism?' Neither do I. So what? It's ludicrous to call the gutting of habeas corpus, etc, etc, by near unanimous consent merely 'authoritarian.' We are living in a fascist state.

"Some commenters...said I am being too discouraging. Hardly. This country's government has been transformed and is no longer recognizable as a working democracy. That's simply a fact and we better accept it.

"Because when you're dealing with fascism, 'We can beat this, people if we just fight harder!' is naive win-one-for-the-Gipper fantasy-land. It's gonna get a lot worse than it is now before it gets better. We're gonna be lucky if more of us don't end up 'persons of interest' to the Bush administration. Remember, if you're not with Bush, you're objectively pro-terrorist and I can't tell you how many times when commenting on rightwing blogs I've been accused of 'aiding and abetting' the terrorists."

tristero at Hullabaloo

"It's good to see that many Senate Democrats (32 out of 44) voted against this bill, but it's too little, too late. Many of them announced only for the first time today (September 28) that they are opposing the bill (though, to be fair, many Democrats attributed their opposition to the recent changes made to the bill over the last few days, ones which were made even after the oh-so-noble McCain-Graham-Warner-White House 'compromise' was announced).

"But it is still difficult to understand the Democrats' strategy here. They failed to try to mount a filibuster because they feared being attacked as coddlers of the terrorists. But now they voted against the bill in large numbers, thereby ensuring those exact accusations will be made anyway -- and made loudly (the White House already started today). Yet they absented themselves the whole time from the debate (until they magically appeared today), spent the last several weeks only tepidly (at most) opposing the President's position, and thus lost the opportunity to defend and advocate the position they took today in any meaningful way. As a result, the Democrats took a position today (opposition to this bill) which they have not really defended until today.

"They make this same mistake over and over. Isn't this exactly what happened when they sort-of-supported-but-sort-of-opposed the Iraq war resolution in 2002 because they were afraid of being depicted as soft on terrorism, only to then be successfully depicted as soft on terrorism because they were too afraid to forcefully defend their position? It's true that fewer Democrats voted for the President's policy this time around, but it's equally true that they found their voice only on the last day of the debate -- on the day of the vote -- after disappearing for weeks while they let John McCain 'debate' for them.

"Nonetheless, it is fair to say, given how lopsided this vote was (both in the House and the Senate), that the Republicans are the party of torture, indefinite and unreviewable detention powers, and limitless presidential power, even over U.S. citizens on U.S. soil. By contrast, Democrats have opposed these tyrannical, un-American and truly dangerous measures. Even if Democrats didn't oppose them as vociferously as they could have and should have, this is still a meaningful and, at this point, critically important contrast."

Glenn Greenwald

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Patriarch

Among the list of sponsors of the World Can't Wait (to Drive Out the Bush Regime) rallies, marches, and meetings occurring in 80 U.S. cities on October 5, there is one name particularly noteworthy for its novelty, as well as its owner's remarkable longevity and moral authority.

Studs Terkel, now 94, will be agitating for regime change in D.C., in Chicago on October 5. No stranger to protest, Terkel has participated in every significant American movement for social change and liberation since the early days of the Great Depression, when he decided to abandon his youthful plan to become a lawyer and instead went to work for Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA).

He was blacklisted during the McCarthy era and in the front line of protest against the Vietnam War.

His first book, "Giants of Jazz," came out in 1956 (I read it in about 1960). But his most famous work is 1970's "Hard Times: an Oral History of the Great Depression."

Born in New York, but raised in Chicago from a very early age, Terkel grew up in a hard-working Jewish family on the South Side. His father, a tailor, and mother, a seamstress, ran a boarding house as a sideline for a time, and Studs credits his juvenile fascination with the odd collection of guests at the evening dinner table for his lifelong curiosity about what makes people tick.

Somewhere in his youth friends tagged him with the nickname because they thought he resembled Chicago novelist James T. Farrell's fictional protagonist, Studs Lonigan, a brawling, working-class Irish wastrel and quick-buck artist. Presumably Studs's friends slapped this inappropriate moniker on him because they thought he was tough. In fact, he turned out to be a great deal tougher than Lonigan, who died young, ground down by an abrasive world. By contrast, Terkel has shown amazing elasticity throughout his long life, and astonished his doctors by surviving, then thriving after open heart surgery last year, at age 93.

He'll need a ride to the Chicago protests next Thursday because he's never learned to drive.

Earlier this year he joined other Chicago-area plaintiffs in filing a suit in federal district court against AT&T to stop them from giving customer phone records to the National Security Agency without a court order. He's obviously not done yet.

On the subject of the upcoming protests, Studs Terkel offers us a sort of prose poem, also posted at the World Can't Wait site:

It’s time we assert ourselves,
And said to these outrageous liars
Who offended our sense of decency
And native intelligence

It’s time to BUGGER OFF!
Get lost!
And let’s unite on behalf of peace and sanity
and all that makes life rich and worthwhile.

Tom Paine was perhaps the most eloquent visionary
of the American Revolution.

His book, "Common Sense," sold a couple of hundred thousand copies.
The population was hardly four or five million,
which means, of course, people read it.
It was a best seller for years.

He says, in that,
"Let us not let them confuse reason with treason.
Enough of that nonsense."

Bush administration!

What I’m saying, really, is:
The World Can’t Wait!
Drive Out the Bush Regime!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

And Tonight We're Gonna Party Like It's 1969

Daniel Ellsburg, the patriot who stole the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, then photocopied them and passed them to the New York Times for publication, is back and stirring up an October surprise for the regime.

Actually, he never went away. But whenever the times call for heavy doses of truth and decisive action, he steps into his natural leadership role and provides both.

Ellsburg is one of the organizers of the demonstrations sponsored by "The World Can't Wait (to drive out the Bush Regime)" scheduled nationwide for October 5.

Speaking at the umbrella group's organizational meeting in San Francisco on September 7, Ellsburg recalled the critical days of 1969 and his role in them, and linked that historic crisis to the Iraq War, the potential for war with Iran, and the need to get people activated to demand change, truth, and accountability once more.

"I keep looking at that date on the calendar – October 5. I think of 1969-- I was copying the Pentagon Papers with Tony Russo in that month," Ellsburg recalls, "starting October 1. My intention, however, at that time was to bring them out in connection with something called the Moratorium on October 15, 1969...because on that day, across the country 2 million people marched. Not in any one place, they were counted up and added up because they all walked out -- it was a weekday -- out of school, out of businesses...They met in rallies, heard many speakers... But it was a weekday and they called it the Moratorium because people thought the word general strike was too provocative, but that’s what they had in mind.

"It was a walkout, in other words it was no business as usual. The president was watching it in the White House, hour by hour, while pretending that he wasn’t. In fact he was in the situation room getting half-hour reports on how many people. They were being counted, in Washington and New York, from a U2 [plane] above."

So, we might ask if we were talking to Ellsburg, "What good did it do? It didn't stop the war, which went on until 1975." Likewise, skeptics might be excused for adopting a "so what" attitude toward the demonstrations coming up on October 5, and for believing that Bush pays no attention to them (or so he says).

But Ellsburg has an answer for that.

"What (the 1969 demonstrators) didn’t know was that in fact they were stopping nuclear war. The president had made threats of nuclear war secretly several times starting in May and in August and September, saying that he was prepared to use nuclear weapons on Vietnam. They said that to the Russians and the North Vietnamese directly in Paris."

But, Ellsburg claims, with two million people in the streets, Nixon decided he couldn't nuke Vietnam, that the public backlash would simply be too great.

Consider the situation we're in now, with a madman in the White House and another in charge at the Pentagon, threatening to bomb Iran, and when asked if those bombs would be nuclear, responding that "all options are on the table; nothing is ruled out."

I would urge people in the strongest possible terms to turn out on October 5 and register your disapproval of the direction this country has taken, is taking, will take if it's not stopped. So far we haven't seen significant mass disruption of the administration's war and propaganda effort, but they're only one day away from being run off the rails if a couple million people suddenly decide that all is not hopeless, that protest is not futile, and that there's no machine, however huge, multi-tentacled, and ominous, that can't be monkeywrenched and disabled.

Read the entire text of Ellsburg's speech to the World Can't Wait organizational meeting here. You'll find links to the organization's home page there also.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dumb Stupid Big Mean Nasty Poophead Chavez

I noticed a couple of the wingnut tirades against Hugo Chavez this week included the shoking charge that he reads Noam Chomsky.

True...but not in the original.

He also looks at Playboy. No need to translate the pictures.

He's a bad ass.

He also says big, mean things about the U.S., and George W. Bush. He's a big meany.

He's also says that unlike the cooperative and courteous princes of Saudi Arabia, he will never re-invest his petrodollars that he gets from the oil he sells us in the U.S. Instead, he will do what he's been doing and invest them in socialist schemes in Latin America, thereby undermining U.S. hemispheric hegemony.

He learnt that word "hegemony" from Noam Chomsky. What a big poopy pants. If he doesn't want to play ball with us, we'll take our ball and go home.

Either that or take our bat and knock his big, Chomsky-reading, Playboy-ogling, Petrodollar-withholding dumb stupid fat round shiny big mean head off.

Red and Redder

In late 2004, after the election, a film maker named Michael Shea decided he had to find out what makes heartlanders tick.

Shea didn't understand how Bush could have gotten re-elected. He didn't know anybody who'd voted for him, and lived in one of the bluest states (California). So he and some friend/assistants set out for the intercoastal heart of the country, with the idea of interviewing red-state Republican/Christians. They planned to approach their subjects politely, avoid confrontation, and just ask them what they believe and to describe themselves.

I haven't seen the movie Red State, but I've read some partial transcripts. I'm finally beginning to understand why it's impossible to talk, or relate to many of our fellow citizens, probably even a majority, who appear to live in a parallel universe.

For example one interviewee, Dennis Mansfield of Boise, Idaho, who describes himself as a "Republican activist," says:

Those of us who are conservatives and call Christ the king of our lives realize that we really serve a kingdom and not a democracy. In a sense we're citizens in two cultures at the same time. We are Americans, but we really realize that the longer, bigger picture, sort of the eternal picture, is that we're also citizens of a king, and his name is Christ; his name is Jesus...Christ is love, but he's also the god, Jehovah, that had tons of people taken out because of their complete idolatry.

This is the first I've ever heard of God's bipolar disorder.

Equally perplexing was the testimony of Gladys Gill, Director of the Mississippi chapter of Concerned Women for America:

Mrs. Gill: I think we lost more than we gained with civil rights. I hope to see them repealed...I don't know where you folks were when we were trying to hang on to state's rights.

Shea: I was two I think.

Mrs. Gill: Yeah, right

Shea: In fact I was born in the year the Civil Rights Act was passed.

Mrs. Gill: Yeah. Right. So you don't remember what life was like when we had liberty to do what we needed to do in our own lives.

The blogger Digby, who saw the movie day before yesterday, says, "My favorite moment was when Mrs Gill, the Mississippi director of Concerend Women For America, gets upset that she's been 'worked over' by this interviewer who had just asked her what she believed in. It's clear that when the totality of Mrs Gill's racism and intolerance became manifest in the few minutes that she spoke, she suddenly realized that she had given herself away as a white supremecist (sic) and Christian nationalist. Naturally she claimed victimhood and ended the interview."

The people in the Red State movie aren't just from another country; they're from another planet. Welcome to Uranus.

You can see clips of this parallel reality on the movie's site.

Digby's got one more interesting thing to say: "One of the things that's obvious in this film is that these people are practiced phonies too. They say things like 'we took us a trip to California and couldn't believe what we saw out there!' like it's 1952 and they're Andy and Barney. You can't tell me these people don't watch TV. There's a good part of their schtick that's pure poseur --- the 'heartland hick fer Jesus' is very often a thoroughly modern American who's playing just as many games as anybody else. Taking their 'moral concerns' at face value and thinking they can be persuaded by tweaking issues and changing rhetoric is to be a chump. This is a tribal game."

Digby's word "tribal" hit me like a silver bullet between the eyebrows. Suddenly I understood why debate, appeals to reason, the marshalling of factual information, and the revelation of lies and criminal behavior is futile in today's political climate. Progressives, who tend to be educated, secular, and committed to rationalism, are wasting their time documenting their carefully constructed arguments, hoping to find the combination of facts and persuasion that will burn off the fog of ignorance, superstition, and bloodthirsty, enraged fanaticism.

We had the right idea in the sixties. We're not going to win any elections. What we need to do is put some distance between ourselves and that other tribe.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

D.C. Ethics = Oxymoron

The dictionary defines ethics as "The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy."

But if you were to judge by the behavior of the House Ethics Committee, "ethics" is a redundant term. The Committee seems to believe that "ethical" is a synonym for "legal," and that if it ain't illegal, it's not unethical.

Consider the case of Jeffrey Shockey. He makes $160K a year working as a top aide to California Congressman Jerry Lewis, currently under investigation by the feds for his close relationship with Cunningham-connected lobbyist Bill Lowery.

Before he worked for Lewis, Shockey worked for Lowery's lobbying firm. And before he worked for Lowery's lobbying firm, he worked for Lewis.

Ask not for whom the revolving door revolves...

Besides making $2 million with Copeland, Lowery, Jacques, Denton, and White in 2004, he was awarded a $1.9 buyout package by the firm when he was re-hired by Lewis in January, 2005.

It might be the first time anybody ever got a "buyout" for quitting a job.

But since he did nothing illegal, the House Ethics Committee decided in mid-September that Shockey's ethical integrity was spotless, and in a September 15 letter told him he had not broken "any applicable laws or House rules."

But, "We strongly urge you against taking any officianl action in any matter that may affect the interests of Copeland, Lowery, its successors or any of its clients through the end of the the 109th Congress," the letter added sternly and irrelevantly.

Certainly the clients for whom Shockey lobbied, all governmental entities including the towns of Redlands, Yucca Valley, and Twenty-Nine Palms, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, and the governing board of Cal State San Bernardino, will miss his efforts on their behalf, but can take consolation from the presence of his wife now filling his old job at Copeland, Lowery.

And all of them, incidentally, have been subpoenaed in connection with the Lewis investigation. TPM Muckraker has all the sordid details of the Lewis-Shockey-Lowery affair, or, more accurately, affairs.

The House Ethics Committee may have overlooked some of the more interesting details of Shockey's finances. His Wikipedia profile claims the 40-year-old aide-lobbyist "according to tax records of the District of a senior citizen who earns less than $100,000 a year. That qualifies him for a major reduction of the taxes he pays on his District home, worth over a million dollars. The tax break essentially reduces the assessed value of an elderly person's home in half."

The Ethics Committee is a standing joke on Capitol Hill. Its members have to be forced to serve, and are extremely reluctant to "delve into the conduct of friends and possibly fellow party members – and perhaps endanger their own political futures," according to a recent Copley News Service Article by Joe Cantlupe.

One Congressman who heard he was in line to serve on the ethics crew started ducking calls from the speaker of the House.

The Committee in recent years has not taken action against any member or employee that wasn't already under indictment by the Justice Department, as happened in the cases of Tom DeLay of Texas, Randy Cunningham of California, and Bob Ney of Ohio.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Vali Otsyuda

"The people who cast the votes decide nothing," Josef Stalin famously said. "The people who count the votes decide everything." Or so claimed Stalin's private secretary, Boris Bazhanov, although a second source has never confirmed the quote.

Sounds like Stalin, though. Or maybe Dick Cheney.

It's way past time to call local and state elections commissions, not to mention the Diebold corporation, to account for the shaky and suspect elections of recent years, at every level. If we needed another heads-up after 2000 and 2004, it was provided by the recent Maryland Democratic primary in that state's Congressional District four (see below).

Here's John Nichols, writing on this topic in the most recent issue of The Nation:

"The Sunday Washington Post headline said it all. Echoing a theme that is finally being picked up by print and broadcast media that for too long has neglected the dramatic problems with this country's systems for casting and counting votes, the newspaper's front page announced: 'Major Problems At Polls Feared: Some Officials Say Voting Law Changes And New Technology Will Cause Trouble.'

"Following a disastrous election day in Maryland that was defined by human blunders, technical glitches, long lines and long delays in vote counting so severe that some contests remain unresolved almost a week after the balloting, the Post declared that, 'An overhaul in how states and localities record votes and administer elections since the Florida recount battle six years ago has created conditions that could trigger a repeat -- this time on a national scale -- of last week's Election Day debacle in the Maryland suburbs, election experts said.'

"No fooling!"

Do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.

If we, the people, don't rise up and demand an unconditional, comprehensive universal return to paper punch-card ballots, along with state and local apparatuses honest and capable enough to audit them, we've got to be either crazy or hopelessly apathetic.

Update on the Maryland Democratic Primary

Matt Stoller, the proprietor of My DD, just got this e-mail from Donna Edwards this afternoon:


"By now you are aware of the multiple layers of problems that occurred in the Tuesday, September 12, election in Maryland's 4th Congressional District. Whether these flaws are attributable to incompetence, inefficiency, or fraud -- we may never know. Votes are still being tabulated in Maryland's 4th District -- provisional ballots arriving as late as Tuesday, September 19, a truckload of machines and memory cards arriving 21 hours after the polls closed on September 12, changing estimates of absentee ballots to be counted, etc.

"Needless to say, the system is deeply flawed -- leaving voters with little reason to be confident. In the midst of all of this system failure and uncertainty, I wanted to share with you the transcript of an exchange that took place on Tuesday, September 19, between my opponent, Albert Wynn, and his colleague on the powerful House Energy & Commerce Committee:

BARTON: Down in Texas, we had a Democratic primary about 50 years ago that Lyndon Johnson won by 54 votes. And he got the nickname "Landslide Lyndon." We have Mr. Wynn next. He had a little bit of a tussle last week, but he did win. And so, I want to recognize "Landslide Wynn" for any opening statement that he wishes...
WYNN: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. In fact, they're still counting, but we're quite optimistic. And I did take a couple pages out of Lyndon's book, so if I win, it can be attributed to Texas know-how.
(UNKNOWN): Did you (inaudible)?
BARTON: I hope not. I hope you win fair and square.
WYNN: A win is a win.

"P.S. Just within the last couple of hours, the Board of Elections in Prince George's County opened up a machine with no tamper tape (so much for security), and at least one other machine that recorded votes for other offices but none for U.S. Congress."

Al Wynn is the type of politician that needs to be eliminated from the Democratic Party.

But even more important, the Maryland Democratic primary is a replay of dysfunctional, flawed, and corrupted elections of the recent past as well as a preview of coming attractions, unless we take action now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


The non-profit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its second annual listing of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress today.

It featured three Republican senators -- Burns of Montana, Frist of Tennessee, and Santorum of Pennsylvania -- and 17 House members. Three of the 17 are Democrats: Alan Mollohan of West Virginia, William Jefferson of Louisiana, and Maxine Waters of California. The remaining 14 are Republicans.

Californians are disproportionately represented in this rogues' gallery. Others on this elite list besides Waters include Ken Calvert, Richard Pombo, John Doolittle, Gary Miller, and my own Congressional rep, Jerry Lewis, current Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, a position he moved up to from his chairmanship of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

He's currently under investigation by the feds for his close association with lobbyist Bill Lowery, an earmark specialist, and a questionable land deal.

Besides the 20 most corrupt, the report also lists "five to watch;" Congresspersons who are on the verge of breaking into the top 20. This year's roster includes four obligatory Republicans as well as the current favorite of liberals and anti-war types, the Democrat John Murtha of Pennsylvania. Murtha is also a favorite of the Pentagon, and has been intimately involved with the brass hats' weapons procurement procedures for many years.

This edition of the Most Corrupt report, entitled "Beyond DeLay" and thick as a big-city phone book, "documents the egregious, unethical and possibly illegal activities of the most tainted members of Congress," according to its editors.

Besides noting Tom DeLay's recent departure, the report informs readers that "Two members have been removed from last year’s list of 13. Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham (R-CA) is now serving an eight-year jail term for bribery and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) has agreed to plead guilty to crimes that will likely result in a minimum two-year prison term."

"CREW created this exhaustive go-to guide on corruption in Congress to expose and hold accountable those members of Congress who believe they are above the law," says Melanie Sloan, executive director of the citizens' group. "The officials named in this report have chosen to enrich themselves and their families and friends by abusing the power of their office, rather than work for the public good.

"Congress persists in abdicating its constitutional responsibility to police itself, opting to ignore the ethical and legal transgressions of its members. Luckily for the public, at least the Department of Justice still believes that political corruption is worth pursuing," she added.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Already There

Yesterday on CNN, retired U.S. Air Force General Sam Gardiner announced that "We are conducting military operations inside Iran right now. The evidence is overwhelming."

Gardiner's evidence is gathered from public sources available to anyone -- no secrets here. He cites the House Committee on Emerging Threats recent request for State and Defense Department officials to show up and testify about whether U.S. forces were in Iran. The officials didn’t show up for the hearing.

Gardiner also refers to the latest issue of Time Magazine, which reveals that "some U.S. naval forces have been alerted for deployment. That is a major step," he said.

So, does all this have anything to do with the upcoming midterm Congressional elections? D'ya think?

Tristero, the other main-page writer at Digby's Hullaballoo, has put together a list of probable and possible Rovian strategems for keeping the House (and Senate) in order. At the top of the list, of course, is gas prices.

"Now," says Tristero, "Digby observed that Bush must have told Them - the Oil "Them" - to open the spigot. And indeed, gas prices have fallen. But in truth, it's a leap of faith to suggest that the lower oil prices this election seas...sorry, I meant, this fall, had anything to do with the fact that there are 2 oilmen running the United States and their political ass is on the line. I wouldn't presume to suggest, say, that Bush, Cheney, and Rice begged the cartels and companies to temporarily ease off on the pricegoug... sorry, the utterly fair profit margin they're taking."

He goes on to compile a comprehensive list of October surprise rabbits the administration might pull out of numerous hats, from killing or capturing Osama bin Laden to the revelation of some kind of major sexual or financial misbehavior by some major Democrats.

But number three on Tristero's list is the scariest of all: "A nuclear strike, either on Iran or somewhere else like NoKo, unilateral, pre-emptive, and announced as a fait accompli. Bush has, after all, started military ops against Iran, according to Sam Gardiner..."

The general added that prior to the Iraq invasion, there "was a campaign to begin the war before the war began." Drawing a parallel with the White House's anti-Iranian rhetoric he remarked, "You know, I would suggest the evidence (of an impending war against Iran) is there."

Even now I try to convince myself that they'd never do that, that it's just too far beyond the pale. But I know better, and so do you.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Darwin Lives -- and That Spinach-Eating Fish Has Feet

The agribusiness farming company that supplied tainted spinach to over 30 brand-name distributors and caused an e-coli outbreak is named Natural Selection Foods.

Thanks to Bob Harris at for the heads-up.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Freedom and Democracy in Iraq, Pt. 1,984

Getting as close to the action in Iraq as this photographer did isn't for everybody. Americans would not be able accomplish it, for obvious reasons.

The Associated Press photographer who took this picture of street-fighting insurgents in Ramadi in February of last year has been in jail for five months. U.S. Military officials say Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi citizen and native of Fallujah, is a security threat, but he hasn't yet been charged with anything.

Hussein began working for AP in September of 2004. He was jailed in April of this year for "imperative reasons of security." What those reasons are has not been specified in formal charges, although several hints were darkly broached in an e-mail from a U.S. Army general to an A.P. executive.

"We want the rule of law to prevail. He either needs to be charged or released. Indefinite detention is not acceptable," said Tom Curley, AP's president and chief executive officer. "We've come to the conclusion that this is unacceptable under Iraqi law, or Geneva Conventions, or any military procedure."

Today's AP article also reveals that "Hussein is one of an estimated 14,000 people detained by the U.S. military worldwide — 13,000 of them in Iraq. They are held in limbo where few are ever charged with a specific crime or given a chance before any court or tribunal to argue for their freedom.

"In Hussein's case, the military has not provided any concrete evidence to back up the vague allegations they have raised about him, Curley and other AP executives said."

However, according to U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Jack Gardner, in charge of all the U.S. detainees in Iraq, Hussein was apprehended in the company of insurgents, inluding one of al-Qaida in Iraq's made men. In a May 7 e-mail to AP International Editor John Daniszewski, Gardner claimed that "The information available establishes that (Bilal Hussein) has relationships with insurgents and is afforded access to insurgent activities outside the normal scope afforded to journalists conducting legitimate activities."

The AP was working quietly in its attempts to free Hussein up until now, but has decided to publicize the situation in hopes that international scrutiny will call attention to his case as well as those of the thousands of others now held in Iraq without being charged.

One of Hussein's photos was included in a package of 20 breaking news images that won a Pulitzer Prize for the Associated Press last year. See number 15 in the string of 20.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

It Ain't Over Till It's Over

Donna Edwards, the progressive Maryland congressional candidate who came out of nowhere to strongly challenge the entrenched Democratic incumbent Al Wynn and barely lost in Tuesday's primary, is challenging the results of the election.

The Washington Post reports: "Congressional candidate Donna Edwards announced plans yesterday to file a lawsuit over apparent voting irregularities in Tuesday's primary election in Prince George's County...Tuesday's voting, a flawed process by many accounts, may not conclude the close primary contests for a seat in Congress...

"The election itself was "horrendous," the Prince George's elections administrator said yesterday. And the victorious Democratic county executive candidate, incumbent Jack B. Johnson, said it warranted investigation."

In what's becoming a seemingly mandatory post-election refrain, officials cited problems with Diebold voting machines. Apparently Diebold fielded new and "improved" hardware which, coupled with inadequate training and testing before the primary, produced what can only be described as a mess.

Wynn carried the election by about 3,500 votes, with over 70,000 votes cast. He polled 50 percent to Edwards's 45, with a third candidate receiving the remainder.

Americablog has two important stories on this topic, here and here.

Now There's an Argument Against Both Evolution AND Intelligent Design

The People for the American Way website has published a comprehensive, step-by-step manual detailing the most effective methods for students and parents to deal with attacks on public school science curricula by creationists, intelligent designers, and other offshoots of the Flat Earth Society.

Don't get caught with your guard down. These trolls are everywhere, and sometimes they're sneaky.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Banksy Strikes Again

The world-famous prankster and stencil graffiti artist extraordinaire Banksy paid a long-overdue visit to Disneyland this past weekend, leaving a life-size replica of a hooded and shackled Guantanamo Bay "detainee" in his wake.

Complete with orange jumpsuit, the mock terror suspect stood in the enclosure containing the Thunder Mountain roller coaster for 90 minutes before being removed by mice.

Banksy's home is Bristol, England, but he travels the world leaving his pungently political graffiti, paintings, and sculpture in heavily frequented public places. Those not familiar with his work should check this profile which appeared in the May 5-19 issue of the L.A. Free Press on page 15 (PDF). To make the page easily readable, manipulate the print size percentage window in the toolbar at the top.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Guy

I've always admired and somewhat envied the oft-quoted Digby, who holds down his own well-regarded blog at "Hullaballoo." Now there's a new guy posting there who's just as good as the proprietor. OK, maybe he's been there for a while and I just didn't notice.

This unfamiliar name, Tristero, responding to some piece of cast-off flotsam from National Review Online editor Ramesh Ponnuru uncorks the best defininition of "neocon" I've seen yet:

Colin Powell is a conservative, Mr. Ponnuru. Christie Whitman is a conservative. Joe Lieberman is a conservative. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Tom Delay, Bill Frist, Tom Coburn, and their ilk are NOT conservatives. They are rightwing extremists. In the sixties, I would have called them Birchers, not having the knowledge of the far right back then to distinguish amongst different flavors of rightwing lunacy.*

Conservatives don't look at videos of a brain-dead woman twitching and drooling, declare her conscious and then pass a law that eviscerates a 200 plus year old history of jurisprudence in order to deny her a dignified death.

Tristero goes on to tell Ponnuru that he's not particularly enamored of conservatives, then adds: "conservatives aren't terribly competent or effective politicians. But they aren't raving mad like you and your pals."

Indeed. The lunatics are running the asylum. For how long, d'ya think?

Hacks 1, People 1

Lieberman may have lost his primary in New Hampshire, but in Maryland yesterday the story was, sadly, a little different.

Al Wynn, long-time Congressman from Maryland and the absolute worst kind of Democratic Party hack lost an unexpectedly close race to the antiwar attorney and outstanding newcomer, Donna Edwards.

Edwards got into the game very late, and we need to remind her that 2008 is not that far away.

Watch the Video, then Read the Book

The video tells you everything you ever needed to know about the war in two minutes.

See it here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

All-American Voice

Here's another take on the anniversary, from another country within the U.S. The commentator is black, female, socialist, and politically active.

I call this one the short Howard Zinn.


The price of crude oil has fallen ten bucks or so in the last week, so naturally gas prices will fall along with it.

Don't take it to heart too much.

Ken Deffeyes, former Shell Oil engineer, currently a Princeton geology professor and author of "Beyond Oil" explains: "The expectation of most economists is that oil will rise to a new equilibrium price. In their models, oil from more expensive sources and reduced consumption will combine to match supply and demand...(but) it is more likely that oil and natural gas prices will exhibit chaotic price swings."

As has already happened with natural gas. Now we're going to see it with oil and the gas we put in our cars. Get ready for the rolly coaster.

Nine Eleven Without Tears

"I turned on the radio to find out what was going on," said one commentator, "obviously a horrible atrocity...I reacted pretty much the way people did around the world."

That's a common enough response, but then this particular observer went on to say, "Unless you're in Europe or the United States or Japan, I guess, you know it's nothing new. That's the way the imperial powers have treated the rest of the world for years.

"This is a historic event, but unfortunately not because of the scale or nature of the atrocity but because of who the victims were.

"If you look through hundreds of years of history, the imperial countries have been basically immune. There are plenty of atrocities, but they're somewhere else. And this kind of thing has been pretty common knowledge among people who pay any attention for years."

What this commentator points out is especially true of the U.S., which, excepting the offshore Japanese attacks of WWII at Pearl Harbor and Dutch Harbor, had not directly experienced any kind of warfare or attacks agaist civilians on its own real estate between 1865 and 9/11/01.

The commentator, of course, is Noam Chomsky, from his book "Power and Terror."

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Birth of a Notion

The idea and the big push for ABC/Disney's account of the genesis of 9/11 did not originate with the government, but in the brain of the well-known and well connected professional right-winger David Horowitz.

Horowitz is the founder and head honcho of the think tank, Center for the Study of Popular Culture, an anti-Hollywood agitprop organization. The group hosts Wednesday meetings featuring big-time conservative speakers like Gingrich, and is bankrolled by conservative million- and billionaires.

Apparently Horowitz served as the go-between for ABC/Disney hooking up with David Cunningham, the film's director. Cunningham is the founder of a shadowy religious-right group dedicated to transforming Hollywood's entertainment industry so that it pursues "more Godly purposes."

At Horowitz's urging (funding source not known), Cunningham's group, The Film Institute, last June announced that it was commencing work on an "untitled history project." The result is the propaganda piece that ABC/Disney has now agreed to air at its own expense.

Author Max Blumenthal has all the details of this secret and deceptive but perfectly legal right-wing media manipulation plan at


To the regular readers of this space, all four or five of you, I apologize for my extended absence these past few days.

I'm in the last week of a full-time job and finding it very tiring, as I spend all day steming, hanging, and price-tagging clothes and moving furniture. By the time I get home my back hurts and my brain is idling.

I managed to keep it going the first couple of months of working, but this last week is killer.

I'll resume my daily bad habits after my last work day, Monday, 9/11, which is a good day to work. I plan not to watch any t.v., or turn on the radio, or look at a newspaper. I may not even turn on the computadore.

See Y'all on 9/12.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

November Elections: Real Change or Status Quo Ante?

Writing on the blog and for the September edition of the Washington Spectator, David Sirota, author of "Hostile Takeover: How Big Money and Corruption Conquered Our Government...", concludes that the Democratic party's likely renaissance in the coming Congressional elections will result in some change, but not the fundamental change the country and our political system need.

Sirota makes two key points. The first is that "Democrats right now are running a business as usual campaign. That is, the themes they are running on" do not address "challenging the current power structure." By "current power structure" he means control of the political process by big business through the medium of bribery, which we euphemistically call "campaign contributions."

Secondly, Sirota emphasizes that anyone politically leftward of clueless should hope the Democrats win anyway, even though, with few exceptions, they're not challenging the status quo. "(I)t's clear a Democratic win would represent change on a whole host of key issues," Sirota says, most importantly the Iraq War, which even moderate Dems like Senator Carl Levin are now demanding an end to by next year. Also, if the Democrats win the House, certain key committee leaderships will fall to some of the most uncompromisingly progressive figures in Congress. Most notably, John Conyers would be Chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

However, peeing on fires the Bush administration has set and engaging in emergency damage control won't begin to address the fundamental, structural changes that need to occur in our political system if disasters such as we've seen in the last six years are to be avoided in the future.

"There are troubling signs," Sirota says "that the (Democratic) party isn't serious about reforming America's money-dominated politics. Many working-class swing voters are still suspicious of a Democratic Party that promised not to sell them out, and then supported President Clinton's alliance with big business to pass economically destabilizing 'free trade' deals.

"At the same time that leading Democrats have been publicly berating the GOP for corruption, they have been privately ramping up their own corporate fund-raising operations, and large numbers of Democratic lawmakers have provided the critical votes to pass some of big business's most sought-after prizes. The energy bill, the bankruptcy bill, the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the class-action 'reform' bill—all of these were written by the industries they benefit, and all required the support of key Democratic legislators in order to pass."

Sirota's analysis goes straight to the root of the problem. It's compounded by the sad fact that the majority of Americans are unaware that their government and political system have been sold to the highest bidders; they only know something is "broken," but are for the most part not quite sure what it is.

There's no excuse for this. Howard Dean's Y2K presidential campaign showed that adequate money to finance a campaign can easily be raised through small contributions solicited via the internet. All a candidate has to do is hire a webmaster rather than an image consultant. There's absolutely no reason for Democrats to go whoring after big money from corporations any more, and their persistence in doing so is actually self-destructive.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Like a blast from the past, about 30 KKKers demonstrated while hiding behind a National Park Service barricade on the battlefield at Gettysburg today. They made it known that they don't like blacks, gays, Jews, or Latinos.

One guy got cited for trying to wave a rainbow flag in their faces, and the A.P. story of the event says "Confederate re-enactors from Virginia protested the Klan's adoption of the Confederate battle flag as an emblem and its claim to be a continuance of the Confederate cause. Representatives of the national Sons of Confederate Veterans also came to protest the Klan's efforts to identify with the Confederacy."

Speaking as a gay Jewish man of Ethiopan ancestry whose grandparents immigrated to Mexico and whose parents brought me to the U.S. -- O.k., just kidding, but these guys do make me a little nervous. I'm glad there are so few of them.

But truth be told, the KKK's don't make me as nervous as corporate bean-counting androids in gray suits who go to church and speak proper English and join the Rotary Club and are always saying interesting things like "Pass the potatoes, please," or "We have to do whatever needs to be done to fight terrorism."

The KKK's are more likely to use crude cuss words, dip snuff, fart, scratch their pits, drive rusty pickup trucks, burn rubbish, raise pigs in the city, and shoot trespassers. There's a certain comfort in that.

Still, I'm curious: who do the KKK's vote for?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Local Boy Makes Big Time

The guy who seems to be al-Qaida's chief spokesman now, al-Zawahari, released a new vid today, but his only part in it was to give a brief introduction to the new kid in town.

Most of the 48-minute tape was a speech by Adam Yehiye Gadahn, a young guy from a little town in California, near where I'm living. He left the U.S. shortly after 9/11 and attended some kind of al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan.

The AP story says that this video featuring Gadahn suggests "al-Qaida has found in him someone who can communicate effectively with Americans." I would be more likely to say that's what al-Qaida thinks since the speech was just the usual fundamentalist boilerplate.

Gadahn talked about the "errors" in Christianity and Judaism. He also said the United States is losing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and told U.S. soldiers they are fighting Bush's "crusades."

"You know that if you die as an unbeliever in battle against the Muslims you're going straight to Hell without passing 'Go,'" Gadahn said, making a neat board game reference that any American would understand. "You know you're considered by Bush and his bunch of warmongers as nothing more than expendable cannon fodder ... You know they couldn't care less about your safety and well-being."

"We send a special invitation (to convert to Islam) to all of you fighting Bush's crusader pipe dream in Afghanistan, Iraq and wherever else 'W' has sent you to die. You know the war can't be won."

This is an interesting guy. From the sound of the story, he grew up poor; his old man was raising goats out there in scrub country. He didn't go to college, but went to L.A. and studied in some kind of Madrassa instead. His original name was Pearlman. Was this kid once Jewish?

What's striking, at least to me, is that al-Qaida seems to be more concerned lately with their public image and their propaganda effort than they are with staging attacks. Maybe soon they'll be buying their own t.v. commercial spots on "Survivor" and "Oprah" and "Softballs with Chris Matthews."

The A.P. story is here. There's also a video link available, on the same page, although I doubt too many of you are in the mood for a 45-minute al-Qaida sermon. I know I wasn't.

Peace Bomb

Howard Zinn's latest essay is a peace bomb dropped on the heart of Wingnutistan.

Zinn, the author of "A People's History of the United States," argues convincingly that "massive military attacks, inevitably indiscriminate, are not only morally reprehensible, but useless in achieving the stated aims of those who carry them out." As primary evidence he cites the U.S.'s lost war in Iraq and Israel's failure in its latest invasion of Lebanon. He also mentions the U.S.S.R.'s unsuccessful attempt to conquer Afghanistan.

In a tightly argued piece which shows remarkable emotional restraint, Zinn also demolishes the false distinction between war and terrorism, because "(W)ar in our time inevitably results in the indiscriminate killing of large numbers of people. To put it more bluntly, war is terrorism."

Zinn points out that "If a bomb is deliberately dropped on a house or a vehicle on the grounds that a 'suspected terrorist' is inside (note the frequent use of the word suspected as evidence of the uncertainty surrounding targets), the resulting deaths of women and children may not be intentional. But neither are they accidental. The proper description is 'inevitable.'

"So if an action will inevitably kill innocent people, it is as immoral as a deliberate attack on civilians. And when you consider that the number of innocent people dying inevitably in "accidental" events has been far, far greater than all the deaths deliberately caused by terrorists, one must reject war as a solution for terrorism."

What Zinn doesn't mention is that imperialist countries can still succeed in getting what they want, just not through wars and invasions, which create the resistance necessary to defeat them. But the U.S. successfully undermined leftist movements in Central America in the 80's mainly by using proxy armies, paid for and armed by us, and Henry Kissinger was able to destroy the socialist government of Chile in the 70's, replacing it with the fascist regime of August Pinochet, through C.I.A. subterfuge using dissatisfied and "Judas Iscariot" elements in Chilean society and its military.

So, as Zinn doesn't pont out, imperialism is not dead, but imperialistic warfare might as well be. It just doesn't work like it used to.

However, it is fun to watch people like Bush and Rumsfeld shoot their own feet off.

Friday, September 01, 2006


When people change the subject, it means they're desperate not to address the subject you brought up.

It's a good thing.

The same is true of blaming the press. You've screwed up, you know you've screwed up, so you blame the people who report the screw up. It's desperate, and I love it.

The inflamed rhetoric we've been hearing from Wingnutistan lately -- equating people who oppose the war (60 percent of us or more at last count) with appeasers of Nazism -- is also a good thing. Rumsfeld said it and the Little Dictator echoed him yesterday, and how desperate is that?

Rumsfeld said we're facing "a new type of fascism," to which Keith Olbermann replied "This country faces a new type of fascism - indeed."

What all this desperation means, and the reason I'm so glad to see it, is that this crew of assclowns is finished -- down the drain. They wanted to make history and now they are history. The further into their own mess they sink, the more desperate they get. The temperature of the rhetoric rises a few more degrees and the disconnect from reality drops a few more feet down the rabbit hole.

It doesn't mean the war will soon be over. The Commadder in Chief has assured us it'll be around as long as he is. So Iraq will only end if we get a Democratic Congress, and if the Democratic Party magically grows three things it doesn't have now -- a spine, a heart, and a brain. I'm not holding my breath.

We're in for some more hard times. But at least the "leadership" will be fun to watch. They grow more entertaining by the day.