Last Post of 2006!

I have much to post, but wanted to sneak one last in before the stroke of midnight!


Saddam And Why "This Was A Guilty Verdict on America As Well"

[Ed. note: Cross-posted on Vermont: Now and Zen.]

Although this was written by Robert Fisk, one of the truly best journalists covering the Iraq war, and posted on Extra! Extra! early in November, it seems at least as appropriate now, in the wake of Saddam Hussein's hurried execution by hanging early today (6 AM, Iraq time). Here:

"So America's one-time ally has been sentenced to death for war crimes he committed when he was Washington's best friend in the Arab world. America knew all about his atrocities and even supplied the gas -- along with the British, of course -- yet there we were yesterday declaring it to be, in the White House's words, another 'great day for Iraq'. That's what Tony Blair announced when Saddam Hussein was pulled from his hole in the ground on 13 December 2003. And now we're going to string him up, and it's another great day.

"Of course, it couldn't happen to a better man. Nor a worse. It couldn't be a more just verdict -- nor a more hypocritical one. It's difficult to think of a more suitable monster for the gallows, preferably dispatched by his executioner, the equally monstrous hangman of Abu Ghraib prison, Abu Widad, who would strike his victims on the head with an axe if they dared to condemn the leader of the Iraqi Socialist Baath Party before he hanged them. But Abu Widad was himself hanged at Abu Ghraib in 1985 after accepting a bribe to put a reprieved prisoner to death instead of the condemned man. But we can't mention Abu Ghraib these days because we have followed Saddam's trail of shame into the very same institution. And so by hanging this awful man, we hope -- don't we? -- to look better than him, to remind Iraqis that life is better now than it was under Saddam.

"Only so ghastly is the hell-disaster that we have inflicted upon Iraq that we cannot even say that. Life is now worse. Or rather, death is now visited upon even more Iraqis than Saddam was able to inflict on his Shias and Kurds and -- yes, in Fallujah of all places -- his Sunnis, too. So we cannot even claim moral superiority. For if Saddam's immorality and wickedness are to be the yardstick against which all our iniquities are judged, what does that say about us? We only sexually abused prisoners and killed a few of them and murdered some suspects and carried out a few rapes and illegally invaded a country which cost Iraq a mere 600,000 lives ('more or less', as George Bush Jnr said when he claimed the figure to be only 30,000). Saddam was much worse. We can't be put on trial. We can't be hanged.

"'Allahu Akbar', the awful man shouted -- God is greater. No surprise there. He it was who insisted these words should be inscribed upon the Iraqi flag, the same flag which now hangs over the palace of the government that has condemned him after a trial at which the former Iraqi mass murderer was formally forbidden from describing his relationship with Donald Rumsfeld, now George Bush's Secretary of Defence. Remember that handshake? Nor, of course, was he permitted to talk about the support he received from George Bush Snr, the current US President's father. Little wonder, then, that Iraqi officials claimed last week the Americans had been urging them to sentence Saddam before the mid-term US elections.

War crimes.
Crimes against humanity.
Wholesale destruction of the Iraqi people and their civilization.

These were all terms used to describe the acts for which Saddam was found guilty, sentenced to death, and then executed by hanging.

True of Saddam. But aren't they equally true of the Bush Administration in what they have perpetrated on the people of Iraq since troops first rolled into the country in early 2003?

If true - and I believe very much that it is - why have Bush and his cronies not had just charges leveled against them? This is a most serious question.

It is a question we should all consider at this time, both for the "integrity" of our own process as well as to analyze what messages this very one-sided "justice" transmits both to the people of Iraq as well as the rest of the world.

What say you?

Ambigrams By Nagfa

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Vermont: Now and Zen.]

After I posted the information about ambigrams last night, a talented artist and blogger from Singapore, Nagfa, posted a comment inviting me (and by extension, you) to go look at some of the examples posted on the Ambigrams by Nagfa site. Go here.

And thank you, Nagfa. Salam to you as well!

More On Chuck Hagel and Nebraska Politics

In case you didn't happen to notice the link in the piece I posted last night about what appears to be moderate GOP senator Chuck Hagel's plans not to seek re-election or the presidency (we can hope that this changes; Hagel himself has confirmed nothing), let me point you to Leavenworth Street, a blog covering Nebraska politics.

Prognosis for South Dakota's Senator Tim Johnson

I've been watching the situation with South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson (D) closely for personal as well as political reasons. Clearly, losing him would be bad for the Senate if he cannot fulfill his term - and no, I'm not just talking about the slim Democratic majority by any means.

My family suffers from a congenital brain defect much like what Johnson has that caused the brain hemorrhage earlier this month; my father, several uncles, and one of my brothers died of this on or before their 40th birthdays and I have the defect as well (although I don't believe a single Chase female has died of this).

What worries me here is that Johnson has been under sedation since December 13th, when he underwent surgery. It is quite unusual for anyone to be kept sedated that long; for this kind of condition, it's usually no more than a few days. At some point, I expect one of the GOP reprehensibles to suggest Hillary Clinton is having him force-fed drugs just so no doctor can tell for certain that he is too compromised to continue (which would be ironic considering that Strom Thurmond's brain hadn't registered a function for about the last 15 years of his time in the Senate).

I notice this AP piece say Johnson is being slowly weaned from sedation; hope this is true.

I continue to hope for the best. I can only imagine what his family and friends are going through.


Another Of The Handful Of Sane Moderate GOP Lawmakers Calls It Quits

Word is out that Senator Chuck Hagel, one of the very, very few sane and moderate Republicans left on Capitol Hill, will neither seek re-election to the Senate nor run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008.

Yes, there were many issues in which I was not always happy with Hagel. But compare him to the Frist-George Allen-Sam Brownback-Rick Santorum-Trent Lott-Ted Stevens (and so on, ad infinitum) crew - nuts so rancid that no self-respecting or even rabid squirrel would touch them on its hungriest day - and Hagel was a saint.

While Hagel certainly isn't gone yet, he will be missed. Too many of the moderates - Jim Jeffords and Lincoln Chafee - have departed and what passes for a GOP politician these days is downright scary.

Lieberman Shows He Has More Joementum When It Comes to Iraq: Send In More U.S. Troops

Reported at AmericaBlog (and please, remember this too when Lieberman decides to run another failed bid for presidency in 2008):

Lieberman comes through again for Bush. Joe writes in a Washington Post op-ed that, like Bush and McCain, he wants more troops in Iraq. You can read it if you can stand it. Lieberman has learned from his friend in the White House -- in the first paragraph he invokes September 11th.

The whole piece could have been written by the White House. It's the same old rhetoric that means almost nothing. The one thing it does mean is that sanctimonious Joe is more than willing to send more young Americans to die in Bush's quagmire.
I have a post about McCain's bloodlust coming up.

And Yet More Remains Found At Site Of Former World Trade Center

Remember how fast Rudy Giuliani and George Bush were to consider the site of the worst of the September 11th, 2001 attacks completely empty of remains? Well, after they found a bunch a few months ago, more human remains have been found in and around the late, great twin towers, and the search is once again on.

Remember this when Rudy wants your vote for president in 2008.

They Don't Like Us Either

Apparently, anti-American sentiment is racing across the entire continent of Africa.

I can't imagine why. ::wiping up flood of sarcasm with triple-absorbent paper towel::

Note to Bushies & Energy Company Who Espouse "Myth" of Global Warming: Ancient Massive Ice Sheet Cracks

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Vermont: Now and Zen.]

I'm sooooo glad global warming is just a myth because otherwise, I'd be forced to worry that this ancient, massive Canadian arctic ice sheet has just gone plunk.

A giant ice shelf has snapped free from an island south of the North Pole, scientists said Thursday, citing climate change as a "major" reason for the event.

The Ayles Ice Shelf — 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) of it — broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (500 miles) south of the North Pole in the Canadian Arctic.

Scientists discovered the event by using satellite imagery. Within one hour of breaking free, the shelf had formed as a new ice island, leaving a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and was amazed at the sight.

"This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years," Vincent said. "We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead."

The ice shelf was one of six major shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic. They are packed with ancient ice that is more than 3,000 years old. They float on the sea but are connected to land.

And, in the height of irony (considering Mr. Bush's and the entire Bush Administration's extreme anti-environmental/anti-science efforts), Bush and his favorite vanilla apologist (First Lady Laura, as opposed to his favorite chocolate apologist, First Concubine Condi Rice) were forced to take shelter from a tornado alert (musta been a really scary siren if it was more dangerous than the twister itself) in Texas.

Too bad there is no fallout shelter from Bush for the rest of us.

Postscript: Remember this I posted yesterday from Think Progress about how all those Bush-fan-and-friendly energy companies made sure science teachers would NOT get a free copy of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth":

International Herald Tribune: "The Rush To Hang Saddam"

Ironically, I was just about to post this op/ed from the International Herald Tribune as the NBC Special Report interrupted my "Law & Order" addiction fix to report Saddam's death by hanging in one of the swiftest executions in political history.

The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity. The public record is bulging with the lengthy litany of his vile and unforgivable atrocities: genocidal assaults against the Kurds; aggressive wars against Iran and Kuwait; use of internationally banned weapons like nerve gas; systematic torture of countless thousands of political prisoners.

What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness. It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions.

It could have, but it didn't. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Saddam was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste. Most Iraqis are now so preoccupied with shielding their families from looming civil war that they seem to have little emotion left to spend on Saddam or, more important, on their own fading dreams of a new and better Iraq.

What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.

This week began with a story of British and Iraqi soldiers storming a police station that hid a secret dungeon in Basra. More than 100 men, many of them viciously tortured, were rescued from almost certain execution. It might have been a story from the final days of Baathist rule in March 2003, when British and U.S. troops entered Basra believing they were liberating the subjugated Shiite south. But it was December 2006, and the wretched men being liberated were prisoners of the new Iraqi Shiite authorities.
And Saddam's death is how this week ends.

Saddam Hussein Has Been Hanged

NBC News just reported this.

That his execution was so rushed, with the court decision on this handed down by Bush Administration schedule immediately before the U.S. mid-term elections, just makes this all the more curious.


Opinions On The Bitter End of Saddam Hussein

While there is a lot both in the mainstream media as well as on blogs that span the entire political spectrum regarding the imminent execution of Saddam Hussein, Travis Sharp of The Iraq Insider offers some unique information, including viewpoints from Iraqis themselves. Here:

Commentators are divided on whether the execution will increase or decrease violence. Sgt. Stuart Fowler told the AP: "As long as he's alive, there's still some power and people still rise up…Once the execution goes through, I think it will be a relief for a lot of Iraqis." But, as Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies pointed out, "I don't think that this is likely to have much of an effect on the overall question of the U.S. occupation and the resistance to it and the civil war that has been growing in Iraq anyway."

Iraqis have their own opinions on the end of Saddam:
    “This is a just sentence because Saddam oppressed the Iraqi people but I think it came at the wrong time because we’re living through a cycle of violence,” said Baghdad resident Mohammed Nasir.

    “I just hope they let him die naturally because if we execute him, his followers will unleash mayhem,” said Edward Iskander, a 37-year-old shopkeeper.

    “I think his death will end violence from Sunnis and they’ll be forced to negotiate for reconciliation. We desperately need to turn this page in history,” said Akram Salman, a 21-year-old mathematics university student.

    “I’m very happy that justice was finally done,” Ali said.

    “All I ask the government is for a broadcast of his execution,” declared laundry owner Yusif Ali.
My view is that the violence in Iraq right now is not a matter of former Baathist functionaries battling against the oppressed but now vindictive Shiite majority.

Sunnis are not continuing the insurgency in al Anbar province because they seek revenge for Saddam being deposed. The Sunnis are continuing the insurgency because they have had loved ones killed either by the U.S. or Shiite gangs. And Shiite militias continue to attack defenseless Sunni civilians because they have had loved ones killed by the U.S. or Sunni insurgents.
Iraq will NOT televise Saddam's execution. In fact, the media is not invited, according to the Bushies. However, his hanging will be videotaped and I'm sure the tape will not be leaked and appear on the Internet (yes, I'm being sarcastic on the latter, but the videotape detail is true as reported).

Also from Travis:
I think it is a mistake for U.S. policymakers to continue to believe that a single momentous event—like the execution of Saddam—will cause a mass epiphany in Iraq and lead the warring parties to realize the error of their ways. With the war so far advanced and so many civilians negatively affected, justifications for continuing violence needn’t extend beyond personal grievances.

Saddam’s execution will not change the nature of the mess the U.S. created in Iraq. The conflict has gotten away from us and can no longer be managed through heavily spun media events (remember the toppling of Saddam’s statue in Fardus Square way back when?). Since we can’t possibly make up for the personal losses suffered by the vast majority of Iraq’s population, our options for reclaiming popular support are nil.

Our Brains And Both Ambigrams and Background Noise

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Vermont: Now and Zen.]

Julie in VT posting at Reason and Brimstone provides a couple of fascinating items I encourage you to explore.

First, she introduces us to ambigrams, or an image that can be "viewed in more than one way based upon how you perceive it." I've copied her example image here.

Then Julie tells us about new information re: how our brains process or tune out background noise:

Last year, Live Science published a nice little summary article (How the Brain Tunes Out Background Noise) about our mental process and how our perceptual process will tend to phase out the aspects of our surroundings which are routine or predictable:
    The "novelty detector neurons," as researchers call them, quickly stop firing if a sound or sound pattern is repeated. They will briefly resume firing if some aspect of the sound changes. The neurons can detect changes in pitch, loudness or duration of a single sound and can also note shifts in the pattern of a complex series of sounds.

    "It is probably a good thing to have this ability because it allows us to tune out background noises like the humming of a car's motor while we are driving or the regular tick-tock of a clock," said study team member Ellen Covey, a psychology professor at the University of Washington. "But at the same time, these neurons would instantly draw a person's attention if their car's motor suddenly made a strange noise or if their cell phone rang."
I'm interested in how this applies to driving-- there's a lot we need to attend to, as drivers, and a lot we don't even notice on a conscious level. How much of what we do when driving is necessary and how much of it is background? Do some people tend to have more trouble with the distractions than others? Do some of us have the ability to better distinguish background noise from necessary information?

Want To Have 5 Seconds Of Fun (Promptly Followed By At Least 5 Hours of Depression)?

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at Vermont Now and Zen.]

Check out how you rank - and believe me, mine was most rank - on the Global Rich List.

Thanks to Jack McCullough of Rational Resistance for the link.

[Hint: If depression isn't your thing, try imagining how someone in the U.S. who earns only the current federal minimum wage per hour rates. Then compare that against the few cents a day paid many in both under- and over-developed countries for truly back-breaking and gruesome and downright dangerous 12-16 hour shifts. Well, wait, that trick didn't make me feel any better.... never mind.]

Analysis: "Beyond The Executive Summary" Of The Iraq Study Group Report

Travis Sharp at The Iraq Insider brings us, post-Christmas, his analysis of The Iraq Study Group report (a/k/a Baker-Hamilton report, a/k/a "Bush I trying once again to bail out his belligerant, battle-jazzed son, Bush II when it's the American people who need the saving" report).

Go read. I'll be here eating Christmas cookies when you return. (If you read slowly, however, I'll eat ALL the cookies, so speed it up, please! The waistline you save will be my own.)

Cut To The Chase, Vermont Edition

As the previous post hinted, I've created a sister blog to Cut to the Chase, specifically oriented toward Vermont. The reasoning here is simply that, in addressing both national and international news here, I often feel like I can't give Vermont enough attention, while I also recognize that not everyone who reads here may be quite as enraptured with the Green Mountain State as I am.

Thus, Vermont, Now & Zen is already open for business - but still under construction.

Bookmark/Favorite it and please feel free to stop by, regardless of where you call home.

A Brit Blogger's View of Blair's Failures and Self-Deception On Iraq

[Ed. note: This was cross-posted to our new sister, Vermont-specific blog, Vermont Now and Zen.]

Despite the way most American blogs focus solely on the corruption and deceptions of the Bush Administration re: Iraq and other issues, bloggers located across the pond in our "partner" country in the coalition of the killingwilling (ah, what a phrase) have a few powerful, angry thoughts to share as well.

For example, here's this from Ian Westbrook of Great Britain's Apocalypse Times blog:

Another day, another UK serviceman killed: and only days after the commanding officer of the UK forces in southern Iraq spoke of the lack of support for the army and the 'covenant' which exists - or should exist - between the army and the people of the UK.

This is an army which has inadequate body armour, not enough helicopters, guns prone to jamming from desert sands, battlefield radios prone to breaking down...

Whatever one thinks of the Iraq war, one must support the brave men and women who have been sent there by Blair to fight it. Any illegality surrounding the war - and resultant criminal liability - rests with Blair, not with soldiers, who simply followed their orders as soldiers will.

And why are they so badly equipped? Because Blair would rather spend £15bn (or is it £20bn? Or £25bn? Or - as John Pilger thought in a recent Staggers piece - £76bn?) on upgrading Trident. Blair won't address the needs of the army in Iraq because he would like nothing better than to pretend that the war isn't happening. Because, of course, every mention of Iraq inevitably leads to why the war was waged in the first place, and that inevitably leads to the non-existent WMDs, and that inevitably leads to the fact that the Prime Minister is a lying, war criminal piece of shit who should at the very least have resigned in 2003 when it became abundantly obvious that the WMDs weren't there (although now of course nothing less than a lengthy prison term and complete humiliation and disgrace will satisfy people like me).

So Blair would rather waste vast amounts of money on a grand gesture (one not related at all to You-Know-Where) which he hopes will form a part of his legacy, while UK troops have taken and will continue to take casualties as a result. Yet more blood on the hands of the most incompetent, delusional and criminal PM ever to occupy 10 Downing Street...
Thanks to Minor Ripper for the pointer to Apocalypse Times which will now appear on our blogroll at Cut to the Chase.

Ouch, 9500 Posts To Date

Well, this blog has now officially started Year 4 and, according to Blogger Dashboard, there are 9,500 posts in place.

No wonder my fingers feel tired and I go through three keyboards a year!

You people should tell me to shut up occasionally. ::wink::

More On John Edwards and 2008 Presidential Candidate Race

Minor Ripper, in response to my post on John Edwards' 2008 presidential candidacy announcement and the point to Bob Geiger's post on the topic ("Why John Edwards Changes Everything"), submitted a thoughtful comment here. In answering, I figured I should share with the "rest of the class". Let me also point you to Minor Ripper's blog post on Edwards ("John Edwards: Leader or Lightweight") as well.

Here's my reply:

I do think Edwards has matured. He's been a consistent voice on poverty and other issues that have grown phenomenally during the Bush years. But I like Gore, too, and I think he stands a better chance now than he did in 2000 when I feel the vote was indeed robbed from him and handed to Boy George.

I'm infinitely more comfortable with Edwards and Gore than with Hillary or with John Kerry. I like what I see of Barack Obama, but I don't feel I know enough yet to say I would definitely like to see him run except that it's way past time we have a credible black candidate (of which I do not feel either Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton qualifies). It's also time for a very credible woman candidate, but Hillary is not the woman or the Democrat or the president we need in 2008.

Kucinich is principled, but I doubt he can win the Dem nod, much less the election. Vilsack? Well... jury isn't in session quite yet on him.

Who would I throw my support behind? Waaaay too early to tell. But of those announced or rumored to run among the Dems, my principle excitement leans on Edwards, Gore, and possibly Obama right now. On my definitely NOT list, Kerry and Hillary.

Conflicting Messages: Saddam's Execution "Not So Certain" OR "He'll Hang Within 48 Hours"?

OK, I'm confused.

On Wednesday, an Iraq appeals court upheld former Iraqi "president" Saddam Hussein's conviction and death sentence with a statement that, according to Iraqi law, he would be hung until death within 30 days.

For most of Thursday, however, the message seemed to shift into ambiguity, putting into question whether his execution may be delayed indefinitely. Yet, just now, Raw Story has a post up stating that Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush's bestest friend and Donald Rumsfeld's former handshaking comrade in arms (literally!), Saddam Hussein (whom we ridiculed as "Sodamned Insane" during Gulf War I), will be put to death not next month or next year, but in the next 48 hours. This report is from a senior (yet anonymous) military officer (from the Bushies, of course).


Thursday's John Edwards in 2008 Announcement

I purposely didn't post about John Edwards' announcement on Thursday that he would indeed run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008 because I had not yet caught the video. Now that I have, I think the very best thing I can do is point you to Bob Geiger's moving and powerful post, "Why John Edwards Changes Everything."

Here's a wee bit:

"...after six years of Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, death in Iraq and the growing sense among Americans that life was much better -- and safer -- when we were liked and respected in the world, Edwards has a central theme that may resonate with millions of voters.

"The biggest responsibility of the next President of the United States is to reestablish America's leadership role in the world," said Edwards in his announcement this morning.

America is starving for genuine leadership and Edwards delivered an honest, inspiring message this morning -- let's see how his future opponents for the Democratic nomination respond.

While The Right Wing Produces Phony Troop Emails, Real Troops Sour On Bush "Surge"

The news at AmericaBlog comes as no surprise, despite all the phony troop email perpetrated by Cliff May and Company at right wing sites:

Gee, no one could have ever predicted that Bush would cherry pick the troops attending new Secretary of Defense Gates' "meetings" in Iraq, only choosing the "pro-surge" troops to attend. Well, it seems real US troops in Iraq are now speaking out, and they don't think Bush's surge idea is such a bright idea.

But then again, since when do Republicans give a damn about what our troops think. The Republicans sent our troops into a war based on a lie, with unsufficient supplies and troops, with no plan for victory, and now we're surprised they don't care if they kill even more American soldiers in a plan that's only mean to save Bush's ego? Please.
For more about the right wing fakes, see the piece about the National Review's "unnamed Marine" email here (but it's noted at many sites today).

Federal Katrina Cleanup Fraud Could Top $2 Billion

Considering the terrible mess that is still New Orleans, this is the kind of horrific hubris usually only associated with Bush & Cheney coupled with Halliburton. Two billion. Wow.

Is New Defense Secretary Gates Opposed to Bush's "Surge" Plan To Increase U.S. Troop Levels in Iraq?

The following is from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, and something I have seen nowhere else (which is part of the point Josh makes here).

Gates lacking the urge to surge? This is interesting. In yesterday's New York Sun, Eli Lake reports that Sec Def Robert Gates is actually quietly opposing President Bush's plan to escalate the conflict by adding 30,000 to 50,000 more troops to crush the Mahdi Army and other Shi'a militias in and around Baghdad.

This would hardly be surprising, if true, since Gates, as recently as November, was a member of the Iraq Study Group and clearly on board with its policy of -- albeit slow -- disengagement.

One question is why we're not seeing more made of this in the big dailies. One clue is certainly the reporter himself. Lake (who, full disclosure, is a good friend of mine, though we haven't spoken in some time) is quite tied in with and has excellent sources among DC neocons. If those folks are trying to push back against Gates' resistance, Eli would know about it and as a reporter he'd be interested in these policy cleavages.

But again, why no more of this in the other dailies? As I alluded to above, we could infer what Eli is telling us even in the absence of his reporting. Gates is either not in favor of the troop build-up or he is guilty of one of the great flip-flops in recent DC history. Where is he on this? Is he going along with a policy that the last year of study of the situation has actually convinced him is bound to fail. Is he silently trying to upend the policy from the inside? Certainly the Post and Times reporters can tell us more on this, right?
Interesting. Very interesting. I'll be following this more closely.

Paul Krugman: "Democrats And The Deficit"

Another Times' OpEd piece I missed but it's worth the time, if for nothing but an understanding of Rubinomics.

Maureen Dowd: "Trump Fired Up"

I missed this MoDo piece and found Trump's increasingly vitriolic comments in retort to Rosie O'Donnell's mocking of his "standing behind" Miss Bimbo USA (a great coke-sniffing Kentucky Christian) distasteful. But I like the paragraph posted in this snippet; go here for the entire column.

Donald Trump gives me an interview, though he has his doubts.

“I would like the interview to be in the Sunday paper,” he says.

He can’t be worried about his exposure, so it must be his boundless appetite for bigger/taller/glitzier that makes him yearn for the larger readership of Sunday.

“Me, too,” I reply. “But the only way that’s going to happen is if I give Frank Rich my notes and let him write the column.”

“I like Frank Rich,” he says, his voice brimming with appreciation for a man whose circulation is bigger than mine.

“Me, too,” I say.Kurt Andersen, who jousted with the Donald as an editor at Spy, celebrates the “Daffy Duck” of deal-making in New York magazine this week as one of the “Reasons to Love New York,” calling him “our 21st century reincarnation of P. T. Barnum and Diamond Jim Brady, John Gotti minus the criminal organization, the only white New Yorker who lives as large as the blingiest, dissiest rapper — de trop personified.”

When I call De Trop Trump at Mar-a-Lago, he’s still ranting about “that big, fat slob Rosie O’Donnell.” When he granted Tara Conner, the naughty beauty queen, a second chance this week, Rosie made a crack on “The View” about an oft-married snake-oil salesman not being the best person to pass moral judgments. He slimed back, and the Great American Food Fight was on.

This past year was rife with mistakes — global mistakes, bigoted tirades, underwear mishaps. Winding up 2006, I asked the celebrity arbiter of who-can-stay and who-must-go about redemption.

In the case of Hollywood’s overexposed and underdressed young ladies of the night, Mr. Trump judiciously notes that in some cases, carousing is good for your career. His rule is, the more talented you are, the less you should mindlessly party. But if mindlessly partying is your talent, go for it.“Britney,” he says, “doesn’t carry it off as well as Paris.”

How about those other international party girls, the Bush twins?

“When you’re a president who has destroyed the lives of probably a million people, our soldiers and Iraqis who are maimed and killed — you see children going into school in Baghdad with no arms and legs — I don’t think Bush’s kids should be having lots of fun in Argentina,” he says.

And BTW - Trump lied when he said (refuting Rosie) he did not file bankruptcy; it was corporate, not personal, but he still walked away from a bundle of debts while still having appointing his cat box with gold-dipped poop.

Five More U.S. Troops Dead In Iraq In 2nd Deadliest Month of 2006

While Bush "pretends" to take more time to consider what to do in Iraq before the news media finally reports that he never disengaged from his existing plans to ship thousands of additional troops into Iraq to further worsen the situation there, five more U.S. soldiers have been killed there today, along with dozens of Iraqi civilians. This makes December the second deadliest month in 2006 for U.S. forces (for Iraq's civilians, every month is the deadliest).

Well, at least Bush had time to hit those after-Christmas sales.

"Naughty & Nice 2006"

Think Progress has just posted its "Naughty & Nice List" for 2006, which includes some real chokers. I'm posting a few here, but go there for the entire Santa spreadsheet.

NAUGHTY: Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), for attacking incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress.NICE: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), for still wanting to be friends with Rep. Virgil Goode.
NAUGHTY: The 109th Congress, for doing nothing.
NICE: The 110th Congress, for promising to work five days a week.
NICE: Nancy Pelosi, for becoming the first female Speaker of the House.
NAUGHTY: The Capitol, for having no women’s restroom in the Speaker’s office.
NAUGHTY: President Bush, for refusing to see Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth.
NICE: Participate.net, for giving teachers 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth that “were rejected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) after apparent pressure from Exxon and oil industry advocates.”
NAUGHTY: The 109th Congress, for failing to raise the minimum wage and allowing it to fall to its lowest level since 1955.
NICE: Voters in Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, for raising the minimum wage.

Lynne Cheney Blames The Judicial System, Not Her Skanky Dick, For Scooter Libby Trial

This is too much - and with it, I notice Lesbo-Lust "author" Lynne has apparently invested some of those big Halliburton bucks on plentiful Botox injections; from Think Progress:

Scooter Libby, the former Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney, has been charged with “obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI and committing perjury before a grand jury.” His trial is scheduled to start in January. Libby’s lawyers plan “to call Cheney as a witness.”

Today on Fox News, Lynne Cheney, the wife of the Vice President, described Libby as “a man who spent a great deal of his life as a dedicated public servant who’s done an awful lot of good.” Ms. Cheney said putting Libby on trial “does not reflect well on our judicial system.”
What does not reflect well on our judicial system is that Bush & Cheney are still walking around free, given the acts of treason they have perpetrated on our country (not to mention what they've done to the rest of the world).

How The Right Whines

I've been amazed and appalled at how loudly the far right is whining - not about how Christmas and the Bible are being taken from them this time - about the attention by media and bloggers over the fact that the number of U.S. soldiers dead in Iraq has now surpassed the most widely published number of those who died on September 11th, 2001. Specifically, they state that anyone who notes this figure hates America and may be a terrorist.

Strange. The far right uses September 11th as an excuse for absolutely everything from domestic spying to a "peachy keen" reason for torture to turning the U.S. Constitution into confetti to having people fired for being critical of a war or a president to building an abysmally stupid border wall to keep out illegals.

But let it be pointed out that more deaths occur for other reasons that "extremist Muslim murderers hating our freedom" and the right can't stop bitching and moaning.

Guess we shouldn't point out that American actions in East Timor in the 70s, our "bringing of democracy and freedom" to Iraq and Afghanistan, our "retaliation" on the about-to-surrender Japan in the form of bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, killed mountains more people than died on 9-11.

As Bush Pats Himself On The Back About Iraq, Consider This

Posted at The Blue State and what I consider required reading before we accept what Bush's usual suspects will announce about Iraq:

Here is just a taste of what this war is doing to military families:
    Army Reservist James E. Dean had already served 18 months in Afghanistan when he was notified three weeks ago that he would be deployed to Iraq later this month. The prospect of returning to war sent the St. Mary's County resident into a spiral of depression, a neighbor said.

    Despondent about his orders, Dean barricaded himself inside his father's home with several weapons on Christmas, threatening to kill himself. After a 14-hour standoff with authorities, Dean was killed yesterday by a police officer after he aimed a gun at another officer, police said.

    Wanda Matthews, who lives next door to Dean's father and said she thought of the younger man as a son, described him as a "very good boy."

    "His dad told me that he didn't want to go to war," Matthews said. "He had already been out there and didn't want to go again."
I believe this phenomenon is referred to as "suicide by cop."

[Choke] Bush Picked As Both Villain And Hero Of Year By U.S. Polltakers

Villain of the year certainly fits President (and I use the term very loosely) Bush very aptly, but hero? The latter begs the question, "What kind of drugs are these people taking and how can we be sure they are never prescribed again?"

From AP:

Bad guy of 2006: President Bush. Good guy of 2006: President Bush. When people were asked in an AP-AOL News poll to name the villains and heroes of the year, Bush topped both lists, in a sign of these polarized times.

Among entertainment celebrities, Oprah Winfrey edged out Michael J. Fox as the best celebrity role model while Britney Spears outdistanced Paris Hilton as the worst.

Bush won the villain sweepstakes by a landslide, with one in four respondents putting him at the top of that bad-guy list. When people were asked to name the candidate for villain that first came to mind, Bush far outdistanced even Osama bin Laden, the terrorist leader in hiding; and former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who is scheduled for execution.

The president was picked as hero of the year by a much smaller margin. In the poll, 13 percent named him as their favorite while 6 percent cited the troops in Iraq.

On the question of celebrity role models, a pop singer's bad behavior claimed worst honors.

When asked to choose from a list of names, nearly three in 10 adults, or 29 percent, bestowed the honor of worst celebrity of the year on Spears.

The 25-year-old pop singer and mother of two young sons recently filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, her husband of two years. She then followed with highly publicized nights out with party girls Hilton and Lindsay Lohan, including photographic evidence of Spears wearing no underpants, which raised questions about her fitness as a parent.

Spears apologized on her Web site, saying she probably went "a little too far" with her newfound freedom.

Second-worst celebrity billing went to Hilton, 18 percent. The 25-year-old celebutante was arrested for drunken driving in Los Angeles in September while, she has said, she was on a late-night hamburger run.

Mel Gibson, 50, was third-worst celebrity with 12 percent, surely the result of his anti-Semitic tirade at police in Malibu, Calif., during his arrest on suspicion of drunken driving. He later apologized and said he harbored no animosity toward Jews.

In the best celebrity role model category, 29 percent chose... Winfrey."
Stop reading about her and listening to (both of) her, and both Spears and Hilton will go POOF!

But Winfrey as the best role model? Oh come on! I understand why Oprah is convinced of her own massive overrated self-importance, but why the hell is anyone else? I can think of at least 25 African-American women who are by far more qualified. Cynthia Tucker, Alice Walker, Condi Rice's cousin Connie (I think) who is into civil rights, to name just a very few.

As I've said (too) often, note that Oprah's audience is filled with overweight, rather dull looking white women (women of color are far more rare in her audience) who just love, love, love to shop and then ask yourself why. The only thing Oprah does well is shop extravagantly and tell us how important and evolved she is. This hardly makes her a villain, of course, but it sure makes her insignificant in the grand scheme of things.

More on Gerald Ford And Another President's Total Disregard For Constitution And Will of The American People

The "Guest Post by Herb Block" (who reports he is still indeed dead) at Digby is well worth reading if, for no other reason, to put into some proper perspective the collective amnesia (a more polite term for the patent lies being told by the media) being displayed as news outlets remember the late president, Gerald R. Ford.

For example, for all the talk about how bravely Ford decided to put an end to America's nightmare which was Watergate, Nixon's complete pardon was NOT viewed favorably by the majority of Americans, much as the talking heads now tell you it was. Nor was the large amounts of money Ford ordered given to Nixon when Nixon already got the required payout and was not due additional funds.

I'm not saying we need to rehash Watergate and Ford's presidency again; after all, I think just about any ONE thing the Bush Administration has done makes Watergate seem like a silly high school prank. But I do think we need some perspective here.

We've had enough happy horseshit. We don't need more.

Lies Our President - Aided By The Mainstream Media - Tells Us

As Digby points out so I don't have to, information that the late President Gerald R. Ford disagreed both with President Bush's attack on Iraq as well as how the Iraq war has been "managed" since it began was largely kept quiet. Yes, Bob Woodward and a few others may have written about it, but it certainly wasn't stressed anywhere near to the degree such "treasonous" remarks by Clinton and Carter have been.

What I find most notable, however, is the careful massaging both Bush (from whom such is expected) and the mainstream media (who I suppose we should expect this from yet I still do not) have given this issue since the announcement of Ford's death this week.

For example, I've seen numerous news clips in which Ford waxes proudly about Bush's selection of Nixon-Ford appointees like Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Kissinger in his administration and in Iraq war planning. Yet only on Keith Olbermann last night did I hear about Ford's grave reservations about Iraq.

Also, GOP pundits (and these days, networks like CNN and most of MSNBC don't even bother with any pretense of giving equal time to non-GOP pundits) keep driving home the message that Ford was a major supporter of both the current president and the people managing Iraq with no discussion of how Ford's opinion changed remarkably as early as late 2003-early 2004. Network interviewers, when they talk to such pundits, do not challenge statements that Ford was a big fan of Bush and his Iraq implementation.

Christmas Humor

Christmas always seems like a perfect time for jokes. Oh, in no way does this take away from its "religious significance", but once you overfill your audience with eggnog and pecan pie, they can do little more than suffer in silence while you assault engage them with holiday jokes.

Here, for instance, are some tendered by olvlzl at Echidne of the Snakes:

What did Adam say the day before Christmas?
- It’s Christmas, Eve.
Why does Dracula hate snowmen?
- They give him frostbite.
Why are there snowmen but no snow-women?
- Women know better than to stand outside without a coat.
What do you call someone who is afraid of Christmas?
- A Claustrophobic.

And We Start Our Fourth Year

It was December 28th of 2003 when this humble blog debuted, so today we mark the start of our fourth year in the blogosphere (or blogtopia, according to Skippy) with more than 9,000 posts in the archives.

Say Hello to...

An Angry Dakota Democrat (the blog).


Pat Lang: Bush Would Rather See Iraq Go Up In Flames Than Admit He Was Wrong

[Ed. note: As pointed out by Lurch at Main and Central, Pat Lang was part of the DIA, or Defense Intelligence Agency, not the CIA as I errantly typed here. This is a mistake I've made before (I can blame it on PBS where Jim Lehrer's show used to ID him as CIA but someday, I'll remember as I type quickly).]

Powerful words from Pat Lang's (former DIA) Sic Semper Tyrannis blog:

    "He is now caught between admitting the war was a mistake and his policy has failed, or trying to tough it out," said Joseph Cirincione, a foreign policy analyst at the Center for American Progress, a liberal Washington think tank.

    "It looks like the president would rather let the whole operation go down in flames than admit he was wrong." Reuters
    Bullheaded. That is the characteristic described above. Persistence and tenacity can be virtues but an unwillingness to adjust to a realization of failed planning and execution is mere stubbornness.

    Iraq is not the place Mr. Bush was told that it was. The various Iraqi peoples are not the peoples he was told that they were. The Middle Eastern region is not, etc...

    Things are NOT going well. The president is going to approve a reinforcement of 4 Army brigades and two or three marine regiments for the express purpose of fighting a decisive battle of attrition first against the Sunni insurgents in the Baghdad area and then to "disarm" Sadr's Mahdi Army. This is a hell of a gamble.

    The reinforcing units will be gotten by pulling units out of the rotation queue and sending them back to Iraq early. To make up the shortfall in the queue thus created the president and his advisers expect to create new, additional units over the next year and a half through an expansion in Army and Marine Corps end strength.

    They think that the battle will have been won (or lost) by then, but, in any event larger ground forces are needed for the "long war."
Meanwhile, 7 more soldiers and up to 94 Iraqis are reported dead in the last 24 hours.

Thankfully, Mr. Bush is too busy shopping after Christmas sales to notice.

Gerald Ford, The United States, And Foreign Policy

If you caught "Democracy Now!" today, you no doubt got an earful about the many lesser qualities of the first man in the United States to become president without being elected to office (that is, before George Bush managed to do it with the U.S. Supreme Court's selection of him re: the Florida vote in presidential race 2000).

But if you want to understand more about Ford, his legacy, and some of the historic factors from the 1970s that very much affect us today, check out Juan Cole's excellent summary here at Informed Comment.

Read It, You Must: "It's a Blunderful Life"

The excellent JP at Welcome to Pottersville has posted what should become a new classic, a Bush-era re-take on Frank Capra's poignant (there's a word I don't get to use much in tech writing!), "It's a Wonderful Life".

You must, must, must, MUST go read, "It's a Blunderful Life." And then you should voice your appreciation there in comments. [Not that I would ever tell you how to live your life - btw, stop slouching, floss, get rid of that damned t-shirt, and call your mother (what you call her is entirely up to you)!]

Three-and-a-half cheers, JP!

Finally! Top Dog Blogs And News Sites Updated

I've been woefully lax in updating my "blogs of the week" as well as in adding additional sites I enjoy, such as Monkeyfister, Guernica, Beggars Can Be Choosers, and Echidne of the Snakes, just to name a few.

Consider yourself "updated".

Frank Rich: "Yes! You Are The Person of the Year"

A snippet from (Isn't He Just Too) Rich's latest column here, but go there for the whole rich fare, then join me below for my two cents:

TIME’S choice for 2006 Person of the Year — “You” — was a bountiful gift of mirth to America, second only to the championship Donald Trump-Rosie O’Donnell bout as a comic kickoff to the holiday season.

The magazine’s cover stunt, a computer screen of Mylar reflecting the reader’s own image, was so hokey that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert merely had to display it on camera to score laughs. The magazine’s disingenuous rationale for bestowing its yearly honor on its readers was like a big wet kiss from a distant relative who creeps you out.

According to Time, “You” deserve to be Person of the Year because you — “yes, you,” as the cover puts it — “control the Information Age” and spend a lot of time watching YouTube and blogging instead of, well, reading dead-tree media like Time. The pronouncements ginned up to inflate this theme include the observation that “Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger” (which presumably makes the Old Testament in effect the first Facebook). The desperation of Time to appear relevant and hip — “fantastically cutting-edge and New Media,” as Nora Ephron put it in a hilarious essay for The Huffington Post — was embarrassing in its nakedness.

And sad. This editorial pratfall struck me, once a proud Time staff member, as a sign that my journalistic alma mater might go the way of the old Life. Like Time today, Life in the late 1960s was a middle-of-the-road publishing fixture sent into an identity crisis by the cultural revolution that coincided with a calamitous war. The fabled weekly finally shut down in 1972, the year Rolling Stone celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Let’s hope publishing history doesn’t repeat itself. So in Time’s defense, let me say that the more I reflected on its 2006 Person of the Year — or perhaps the more that Mylar cover reflected back at me — the more I realized that the magazine wasn’t as out of touch as it first seemed. Time made the right choice, albeit for the wrong reasons.

As our country sinks deeper into a quagmire — and even a conclusive Election Day repudiation of the war proves powerless to stop it — we the people, and that includes, yes, you, will seek out any escape hatch we can find. In the Iraq era, the dropout nostrums of choice are not the drugs and drug culture of Vietnam but the equally masturbatory and narcissistic (if less psychedelic) pastimes of the Internet. Why not spend hour upon hour passionately venting in the blogosphere, as Time suggests, about our “state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street”? Or an afternoon surfing from video to video on YouTube, where short-attention-span fluff is infinite? It’s more fun than the nightly news, which, as Laura Bush reminded us this month, has been criminally lax in unearthing all those “good things that are happening” in Baghdad.

As of Friday morning, “Britney Spears Nude on Beach” had been viewed 1,041,776 times by YouTube’s visitors. The count for YouTube video clips tagged with “Iraq” was 22,783. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But compulsive blogging and free soft-core porn are not, as Time would have it, indications of how much you, I and that glassy-eyed teenage boy hiding in his bedroom are in control of the Information Age. They are indicators instead of how eager we are to flee from brutal real-world information that makes us depressed and angry. This was the year Americans escaped as often as they could into their private pleasure pods. So the Person of 2006 was indeed you — yes, you.

Unless it was Borat. The often uproarious farce that took its name from that hopelessly dense and bigoted fictional TV correspondent from Kazakhstan was the year’s most revealing hit movie. It was escapism incarnate, and we couldn’t eat it up fast enough. “Borat” also encapsulated the rising xenophobia that feeds American fantasies of the ultimate national escape: fencing off our borders from the world. If its loutish title character hadn’t been invented by Sacha Baron Cohen for us to ridicule and feel morally superior to, then Lou Dobbs would have done it for him...
[More here.] Time Magazine's ridiculous decision to put a "mirror" on its cover and claim that Americans are Time's "person of the year" has irritated me no end since the moment I heard one of Time's top people claim the decision was made because each individual American citizen showed themselves as vastly more important to mega corporations like (yes, indeedy) AOL-Time Warner, owner of Time Magazine.

The "wealth" of an individual in the U.S. has done nothing but drop exponentially during the Bush Administration, while Time Magazine (not to mention all the other blatantly crappy AOL-Time Warner properties) has done everything possible to misinform and exploits such individuals.

Juan Cole's "Top 10 Myths About Iraq"

Including, of course, that the Bush Administration can win it.

Read the top 10 Iraq war myths here.

Rudy Giuliani Finds One More Way To Exploit September 11th And The 9-11 Families For His Fun & Profit

Posted by Stranger at Blah 3 (and please excuse me while I go worship the porcelain goddess at this new low in exploitation of tragedy):

Looks like he's going to run as the '9/11 Candidate.'
    Supporters of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani have started discussions with relatives of 9/11 victims about backing him if he runs for president in 2008, some family members told The Post.

    The conversations have taken place in recent weeks, according to some victims' families, who described the talks as "casual."

    [...] It is unclear exactly what role the families would play.

    But some relatives who are anti-Giuliani are already planning "Swiftboat"-type attacks against the ex-mayor - modeled on the negative campaign against John Kerry in 2004 by his fellow Vietnam vets.

    It seems likely that 9/11 kin could help Giuliani counter that criticism.

    Some 9/11 family members have been deeply critical of Giuliani, blaming him for communications failures the day of the attacks. Others have faulted his administration for allegedly not doing enough to protect rescue and recovery workers from polluted air at Ground Zero.

    For the most part, those family members who have spoken with Giuliani supporters are family members who have maintained a relationship with Giuliani in the years since the attacks and were already fans of his. A Giuliani spokeswoman declined comment.
Not for nothing, but even by the cynical, exploitative standards of the modern GOP, this is pretty hard-core.

Any bets on whether he'll announce his candidacy at Ground Zero? I wouldn't put it past him.
You don't have to consult any of Rudy's ex-wives (each of whom he fooled around on publicly before asking for a divorce) to know there is nothing you can or should put past "America's mayor."

Like Bush, Israel Feels That A Day Without War Is Like A Day Without Sunshine

[Ed. note: Oh yes, Israel is building yet more illegal settlements on Palestinian land.]

If you haven't been paying attention, you might think that things in the Middle East, save for Iraq, have been fairly quiet and peaceful.

Fpr example, you might not know that, although Israel agreed to get out of Lebanon and stay out once international peacekeeping forces were in place there, Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) violate Lebanese airspace on a daily basis, frequently buzzing French troops stationed there. Israel refuses to stop (most of the time refusing to admit they are doing so, despite rather copious evidence to the contrary).

Likewise, they've continued shooting fish in a barrel in Gaza - which when you compare sophisticated Israeli fire power to that of the Palestinians - and have now announced Israeli forces will begin a fresh round of operations in Gaza despite a partial cease-fire. And of course, Israel continues to make it impossible for international observers to document what they are doing.

But here, I encourage you to read an op/ed in today's Times entitled, "Israel's Mixed Messages" which, in part, reads:

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, took some encouraging steps over the weekend to ease the frustrations Palestinians face at West Bank and Gaza checkpoints. He hoped in that way to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas, the embattled moderate who presides over the Palestinian Authority. Unfortunately, Israel’s defense minister, Amir Peretz, has undercut these moves by approving the first new West Bank settlement in more than a decade.

Israel’s space for peace diplomacy is tightly constrained. It must reckon with a Hamas-led Palestinian cabinet that denies its right to exist and rejects the very notion of a negotiated peace. Yet those facts of Mideast life do not justify authorizing a new settlement. That self-defeating move adds nothing to Israel’s security and needlessly complicates the quest for an eventual negotiated peace.


In addition, Israel will turn over $100 million of the $500 million in Palestinian tax revenue it has withheld since Hamas came to power. This page supports freezing aid to the Hamas government. But tax revenue to which the Palestinians are legally entitled should never have been withheld.

What More Could We Ask Of Our President At This Time of Peace and Good Will Toward Men Than A Lovely New War, This Time Against Iran

While coverage here in the U.S. of our moves to take on Iran has been rather spotty, and often hard to find at all on the networks or CNN and Fox, anyone who reads or listens to international news produced outside of U.S. borders may think (and perhaps not inaccurately) that we'll be at war with Iran very, very soon, almost a certainty with the Bush Administration's provocations toward the land of Ahmadinejad.

Also from Glenn Greenwald, but read it all, as opposed to this semi-nibble:

Over the past several days, there have been reports of increasing U.S. military activity in the Persian Gulf aimed at Iran, and today The New York Times confirms that "the United States and Britain will begin moving additional warships and strike aircraft into the Persian Gulf region in a display of military resolve toward Iran." The buildup includes "a second aircraft carrier and its supporting ships to be stationed within quick sailing distance of Iran by early next year."

There is no doubt that these moves are intended to signal to the Iranians (as well as to what the Times describes as "Washington’s allies in the region who are concerned about Iran’s intentions") that we are capable of an offensive military strike against Iran:
    Senior American officers said the increase in naval power should not be viewed as preparations for any offensive strike against Iran. But they acknowledged that the ability to hit Iran would be increased and that Iranian leaders might well call the growing presence provocative.

    One purpose of the deployment, they said, is to make clear that the focus on ground troops in Iraq has not made it impossible for the United States and its allies to maintain a military watch on Iran. Bush officials cite two "justifications" for these maneuvers: (1) to enforce any sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council as a result of Iran's refusal to comply with its resolutions (sanctions which have not yet been imposed), and (2) to deter Iran from a military blockade of oil shipments in retaliation for not-yet-imposed sanctions.
The President was not even asked about his intentions with regard to Iran at yesterday's Press Conference.

He was asked whether he would follow the ISG's recommendation to negotiate with Iran concerning Iraq, and the President gave his standard bizarre answer that he would negotiate with the Iranians once they agreed to suspend their nuclear research program -- i.e., once they agreed in advance to do everything we would demand that they do in negotiations. The Iranians have responded in-kind by saying that they would negotiate with the U.S. only once we left Iraq.

According to the Times, Bush officials "view recent bold moves by Iran — and by North Korea as well — as at least partly explained by assessments in Tehran and North Korea that the American military is bogged down in Iraq and incapable of fully projecting power elsewhere." There is undoubtedly truth in that. For an administration which has operated on the bellicose premise that "weakness is provocative," it has hard to overstate the extent to which the Iraq disaster has -- quite rationally -- emboldened countries around the world against the U.S. and diluted the deterrent threat of our military force.

Any action which brings us even a small step closer to military confrontation with Iran should be, by definition, the most attention-generating news story. Any military conflict with Iran would be so disastrous for the U.S. that it cannot be adequately described. In contrast to the weakened, isolated, universally reviled Saddam regime, the Iranians are smart, strong, shrewd and supported by scores of vitally important allies around the world. And that's to say nothing of the resources that are being drained away, and the ever increasing U.S. isolation, that occurs every day that we continue to occupy Iraq.
Amen to that.

Glenn Greenwald: "A Glorious War Plan for Iraq"

Glenn Greenwald, who's been away from his blog a lot recently while he works on a book, is back with an important piece about the horrific deadly mess great success of Iraq. Here's a schmear, go here for the rest:

It is hardly news to point out that the warmongers and neoconservatives in the Bush movement are radical, and are becoming increasingly more desperate with the rapid worsening of the predicaments for which they are responsible.

But if you really spend intensive time digging deeply into the things they've been saying and thinking for the last five years -- as I've been doing recently in writing my book -- it is nonetheless astounding: (a) just how deranged and detached from basic reality are their statements and (b) that they have not been forcefully cast out of respectable and mainstream political dialogue as a result of what they say and how they think.

Neoconservatives have now become such caricatures of themselves that it almost pity-inducing to read what they are writing (though even the briefest reminder of the tragic damage they have wrought precludes any possibility of real pity). When it comes to operating within the minimum confines imposed by basic rationality and plain reality, neoconservatives really are indistinguishable from, say, Lyndon LaRouche or Fred Phelps or any number of other deranged extremists who are not merely radical in their ideology, but are so far removed from reality that they command no attention beyond the occasional derisive reference.

Yet there is little doubt that these same neoconservatives still exert the greatest influence on the thinking of our current President, and the more decorated among them still command great respect from our nation's media stars. They are as bloodthirsty as they are detached from reality, as amoral as they are radical, and it is long past the time that just a fraction of the scorn that they so plainly merit be heaped upon them.

The immediate proximate cause prompting this observation is this most repellent article in the leading neoconservative magazine, Commentary, by Arthur Herman, a History Professor at George Mason University. The article, entitled Getting Serious About Iran – a Military Option, is an all-out demand that war with Iran commence as soon as possible, and it offers a detailed plan for how the war should be executed.Herman declares at the outset that his purpose in the article is to undermine what he scornfully calls the "consensus [that] has taken root in the minds of America’s foreign-policy elite." What is this heinous "elite consensus" that must be uprooted?

"That military action against Iran is a sure formula for disaster." Yes, perish that thought. Herman's mission is to defeat the "appeasing line" that war with Iran is "unthinkable." Not only is it thinkable, he contends, but it is feasible and urgently necessary for America's survival.

After reviewing all of the available short-of-war options for deterring Iranian nuclear proliferation, Herman declares -- with a claim that defines a new level of irony -- that “all of these recommendations fly in the face of reality." Dismissing away the consensus of the intelligence community, Herman claims that Iran may possess a nuclear weapon “within the next two to three years,” and that the U.S. (of course) possesses more than ample justification for waging war now on Iran...

Guess Who Said This Quote And Win A Truly Excellent Prize!

Yes sirree, boys and girls, guess the person who made this excellent statement and you win a free day pass at this blog! [Wait, you say: this blog doesn't charge? If so, how is this a real prize?Well, I didn't say it would be a prize you'd want. Did I?]<blockquote>

    “The duties of our day are different. But the values of our nation do not change. Let us reject the blinders of isolationism, just as we refuse the crown of empire. Let us not dominate others with our power — or betray them with our indifference. And let us have an American foreign policy that reflects American character. The modesty of true strength. The humility of real greatness. This is the strong heart of America. And this will be the spirit of my administration.”
The lazy and uninspired of you can find the answer one of two places: where Jon Ponder quoted it at Pensito Review OR by reading backwards below.

[hsuB .W egroeG ronrevoG, in 2000 during his presidential campaign.]

A Bit Of News I Just Know You Will Have Difficulty Believing Can Be True

From Justin Rood at TPM:

Politically-connected corporations fleeced taxpayers for hundreds of millions of dollars on fraudulent Katrina cleanup contracts. That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.
I know!

The Bush Administration has been so ethical, so compassionate, so caring that it is quite impossible to believe they would ever allow this to happen.

(And no, I'm not on medication. I wish!)

Bush: Fight Al Qaeda By Getting 50% Off Fur-Lined Dog Poop At Needless-Markup Neiman-Marcus

Our president, George W. Bush, proves that even at this joyous holiday system, he continues to be a self-centered bit of runny dog poop. Posted at My Left Wing (and remember, we pay for the Secret Service to accompany the unelected leader shopping):

"I encourage you all to do your patriotic duty and get out there and mix it up," stated Bush, "there are some real bargains to be had, and you'll be supporting our troops in the war on terror by showing the terrorist killers that they can't stop our way of life."
By that definition, the Bush Twins are major patriots then, never letting the War on Drugs or the War on Terrorism get in the way of smoking, sniffing, and popping every drug and alcoholic beverage to be found on the planet!

Note the look on Bush's miserably smug face. Six U.S. soldiers and more than 100 Iraqis died in his war the same day he - the multimillionaire although he earned none of that money in any way but being born Bush - just had to go get himself some sale shit.

Sorry For The Incontinence And Other Bits of Life In Bush's America

::rolling eyes:: ::gagging:: As noted by Trish at Pensito Review:

Al Kamen, in his “In the Loop” Washington Post blog, shares an announcement that could have been written by the president himself.
    President Bush’s pre-Christmas visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center caused some unexpected problems, judging from an e-mail alert we received. There were the usual traffic rerouting and parking restrictions, from 8 p.m. on Dec. 21 until 2 p.m. the next day.

    The e-mail lists 12 such changes likely to frustrate drivers and includes an apology:

    “Traffic will be blocked temporarily around the campus and re-routed if necessary. Sorry for the incontinence during this mission.”
We’re sorry, too.

Iraq: Every Loathsome Mistake Carefully Choreographed

I couldn't have put it better myself than Clammyc did over at My Left Wing today regarding the failed occupation of Iraq and how there just aren't any "do overs":

Let's face it - the proposed escalation is nothing more than an attempt for Bush to call "do-over" in Iraq. And just as the neocon architects of the failure in Iraq are looking to pass the buck on whose fault this horrific disaster is, we should remember one thing - this invasion and occupation was done EXACTLY the way that they wanted it to be done. Every step of the way. Every decision, every lie, every "operation", from "Mission Accomplished" to authorizing torture at Abu Ghraib to the use of white phosphorus in Fallujah.
We've seen this same careful yet devastating choreography with the Bush Administration's "help" for Hurricane Katrina victims (the darker the skin, the worse the "help"), as just one additional example.

Almost like sending a very strong and unmistakable message that the government is NOT there to help anyone but themselves.

About The Suddenly Departed Saudi Ambassador to The U.S.

Like many bloggers and blog readers, I've been digging around for any additional information on the quite sudden and as yet unexplained departure of the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. a few weeks back. One might be inclined to wonder if it is tied in any way with the Sauds demanding Cheney drop his Thanksgiving weekend of turkey (not Bush) and shooting friends to haul ass down to speak with them, and where they told Cheney what he would do re: Iraq along with the consequences for ignoring their directives.

David Kurtz over at Talking Points Memo points us to a WaPo piece that doesn't exactly answer any of the questions about the ambassador's disappearing act but, as David notes, makes for entertaining reading:

    Eighteen months ago, Prince Bandar bin Sultan ended a legendary 22-year career as the face of Saudi Arabia in the United States. Word at the time was that he was bored, preferring his palatial Aspen, Colo., lodge to Washington. As it turns out, however, Bandar has secretly visited Washington almost monthly over the past year -- and is at least as pivotal today in influencing U.S. policy as he was in his years as ambassador.

    Last week, his successor, Turki, abruptly resigned from the post -- partly, sources close to the royal family said, because of Bandar's back-channel trips to meet with top U.S. officials, including Vice President Cheney and national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley.

    Turki was kept so out of the loop that Bandar often did not inform him he was in town, much less tell him what he was doing, the sources said. Twice, the Saudi Embassy was told by an outsider that Bandar had arrived -- and the embassy sent someone to the airport to look for his private plane to confirm it, according to the source who provided the tip.
Unpaid bills. Bruised egos. Shadow diplomacy. Internal riffs in the royal family. Why, it could be the Bush White House.

For Those Who Like to See A Grown Boy Cry, Watch Bush in January

From Stranger at Blah3 (and Hallelujah!):

I personally think the closer we get to January 4, the sense of dread in the White House is starting to loom large.
    President Bush is bracing for what could be an onslaught of investigations by the new Democratic-led Congress by hiring lawyers to fill key White House posts and preparing to play defense on countless document requests and possible subpoenas.

    Bush is moving quickly to fill vacancies within his stable of lawyers, though White House officials say there are no plans to drastically expand the legal staff to deal with a flood of oversight.


    Bush still must do what he can now -- before Democrats take over the majority in Congress next month -- to prepare, legal specialists say.

    "At a time like this, the experienced people in the White House view themselves as in a race they hope to win, of organizing and coordinating their defenses to have them in place in time to slow down or resist oversight before the oversight can get organized," said Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore Law School, a former House counsel and veteran of congressional investigations.
They know what's coming. Anyone who accused Clinton of obstructing justice ain't seen nothing like they're about to see.

Brrrrrr..... Is That A Draft I Feel?

You, your sons and quite possibly your daughters could be feeling it soon, too, what with President Bush's hopeless addiction to cooked wars and tyrannical world domination. From the Guardian:

The Bush administration is planning a test run of America's emergency military call-up, stoking speculation about a return to a draft at a time when the White House is considering sending more troops to Iraq.

The secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, provided further evidence that the administration was leaning towards sending more troops to Iraq, acknowledging the high financial and human toll of the war so far, and indicating there would be further costs to bear.

"A lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq," she told the Associated Press on Thursday. "But the president wouldn't ask for the continued sacrifice, the continued investment if he did not believe, and in fact I believe as well, that we can in fact succeed and in fact that it's imperative we succeed."

As Ms Rice spoke, the Selective Service System, the government agency charged with providing troops to the military in an emergency, said it was preparing its first readiness exercise since 1998.

Officials were adamant there were no plans to bring back conscription. Planning for the call-up exercise is to begin in mid-2007, and the exercise is tentatively scheduled to take place in 2009.
But fears about a draft have flared periodically during the Iraq war. On Thursday, they were reignited when Jim Nicholson, the secretary for veteran affairs, said he believed "society would benefit" if the US were to bring back the draft.
Isn't it just heartwarming to see Rice's continuing slavish devotion to the man she has repeatedly accidentally referred to as her husband?

Yes, while your sons and daughters fight and die, Condi will never say an unkind word about her man.

Happy Kwaanzaa

Learn more about Kwaanzaa here.

Senator Joe Lieberman Hates Violent, Explicit Video Games Unless...

the producers of such games give him lots and lots of money. Says the Hartford Courant.

In the face of greed, Joementum loses Momentum.

Bush's War Hits Yet Another Tragic and Grim - And Infinitely Unnecessary - Milestone

From Reuters, the long-expected word that the number of deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq (and those are just the ones the Pentagon admits to) has climbed past the most widely accepted number who died in attacks on the U.S. on September 11th, 2001 (9-11):

The U.S. military reported the deaths of six more American soldiers, bringing the U.S. toll to at least 2,978 -- five more than the number killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks.

At least 89 U.S. soldiers have died this month, making it the deadliest this year after October's toll of 106, and increasing pressure on President George W. Bush to find a strategy to extricate 135,000 U.S. troops from the war.

Bush is trying to find a way to send up to 50,000 more in!

Iraqi Appeals Court: Saddam Must Hang Within 30 Days

I keep wondering, were the people of Iraq to vote on whether they would most like to see Saddam Hussein executed for his crimes of tyranny against their country or George Bush for his, who would "win" this "election".

Let's not forget, either, that the Bushies pulled out all the stops to have Saddam found guilty and sentenced to death right in time for November's U.S. mid-term elections.

Former Mass. Governor Mitt Romney Has More Positions Than a Hooker Into Yoga

Mitt's positions on everything change with the slightest wind adjustment. From the Boston Globe:

Governor Mitt Romney's views on homosexuality have come under increased scrutiny and created a buzz on political blogs after a series of articles indicating that the potential conservative GOP presidential candidate had expressed gay-friendly positions while running for the US Senate in 1994.

The latest report came in today's editions of The New York Times, which details a 1994 letter Romney sent to the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts, a GOP-leaning gay rights group, in which he wrote that he would be a stronger advocate for gays than his opponent at the time, US Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a long-time gay rights supporter.

"If we are to achieve the goals we share, we must make equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern," Romney wrote, according to the Times report. "My opponent cannot do this. I can and will."

The Times story follows a Globe story published yesterday that reported that Romney told a Boston-area gay newspaper in 1994 that legalizing gay marriage should be left up to individual states, contrasting with his more recent position that marriage should only occur between men and women and his support of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

"People of integrity don't force their beliefs on others; they make sure that others can live by different beliefs they may have," Romney is quoted as saying in the Bay Windows newspaper in August of 1994. [Ed. note: No one has accused Mitt of having any integrity for a very long time.]

The scrutiny occurs as Romney positions himself for a White House run in 2008, with many political analysts ranking the one-term governor in the upper tier of Republican candidates, alongside US Senator John McCain and former New York mayor Rudoph W. Giuliani.

Charles Krauthammer And "The Tortured Logic of a Neo-Con Apologist"

Nicole Belle at Crooks & Liars takes on Dr. Krauthammer's "unique" view that America is so greatly hated because what it does in Iraq and elsewhere is too good and makes other nations resent us for our outstanding leadership. Uh huh.

Paul Krugman: "Helping The Poor, The British Way"

Me like:

It’s the season for charitable giving. And far too many Americans, particularly children, need that charity.

Scenes of a devastated New Orleans reminded us that many of our fellow citizens remain poor, four decades after L.B.J. declared war on poverty. But I’m not sure whether people understand how little progress we’ve made. In 1969, fewer than one in every seven American children lived below the poverty line. Last year, although the country was far wealthier, more than one in every six American children were poor.

And there’s no excuse for our lack of progress. Just look at what the British government has accomplished over the last decade.Although Tony Blair has been President Bush’s obedient manservant when it comes to Iraq, Mr. Blair’s domestic policies are nothing like Mr. Bush’s. Where Mr. Bush has sought to privatize the social safety net, Mr. Blair’s Labor government has defended and strengthened it. Where Mr. Bush and his allies accuse anyone who mentions income distribution of “class warfare,” the Blair government has made a major effort to reverse the surge in inequality and poverty that took place during the Thatcher years.

And Britain’s poverty rate, if measured American-style — that is, in terms of a fixed poverty line, not a moving target that rises as the nation grows richer — has been cut in half since Labor came to power in 1997.

Britain’s war on poverty has been led by Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer and Mr. Blair’s heir apparent. There’s nothing exotic about his policies, many of which are inspired by American models. But in Britain, these policies are carried out with much more determination.For example, Britain didn’t have a minimum wage until 1999 — but at current exchange rates Britain’s minimum wage rate is now about twice as high as ours. Britain’s child benefit is more generous than America’s child tax credit, and it’s available to everyone, even those too poor to pay income taxes. Britain’s tax credit for low-wage workers is similar to the U.S. earned-income tax credit, but substantially larger.

And don’t forget that Britain’s universal health care system ensures that no one has to fear going without medical care or being bankrupted by doctors’ bills.

The Blair government hasn’t achieved all its domestic goals. Income inequality has been stabilized but not substantially reduced: as in America, the richest 1 percent have pulled away from everyone else, though not to the same extent. The decline in child poverty, though impressive, has fallen short of the government’s ambitious goals. And the government’s policies don’t seem to have helped a persistent underclass of the very poor.

But there’s no denying that the Blair government has done a lot for Britain’s have-nots. Modern Britain isn’t paradise on earth, but the Blair government has ensured that substantially fewer people are living in economic hell. Providing a strong social safety net requires a higher overall rate of taxation than Americans are accustomed to, but Britain’s tax burden hasn’t undermined the economy’s growth.
Rest here, but don't forget: Mr. Bush has frequently been heard to remark, "I don't understand poor people... the way they think."

Too bad Bush never thinks.