Paul Krugman: "The Great Wealth Transfer"

This is a very long Krugman column but I advise you to read it all because it applies to all of us (well, except for the .2% of megabillionaires getting richer and richer during the George Bush reign of terror); the stuff on Wal-Mart is very right (did you catch the Wal-Mart piece on PBS' Frontline this week?):

Why doesn't Bush get credit for the strong economy?" That question has been asked over and over again in recent months by political pundits. After all, they point out, the gross domestic product is up; unemployment, at least according to official figures, is low by historical standards; and stocks have recovered much of the ground they lost in the early years of the decade, with the Dow surpassing 12,000 for the first time. Yet the public remains deeply unhappy with the state of the economy. In a recent poll, only a minority of Americans rated the economy as "excellent" or "good," while most consider it no better than "fair" or "poor."

Are people just ungrateful? Is the administration failing to get its message out? Are the news media, as conservatives darkly suggest, deliberately failing to report the good news?None of the above. The reason most Americans think the economy is fair to poor is simple: For most Americans, it really is fair to poor. Wages have failed to keep up with rising prices. Even in 2005, a year in which the economy grew quite fast, the income of most non-elderly families lagged behind inflation. The number of Americans in poverty has risen even in the face of an official economic recovery, as has the number of Americans without health insurance. Most Americans are little, if any, better off than they were last year and definitely worse off than they were in 2000.

But how is this possible? The economic pie is getting bigger -- how can it be true that most Americans are getting smaller slices? The answer, of course, is that a few people are getting much, much bigger slices. Although wages have stagnated since Bush took office, corporate profits have doubled. The gap between the nation's CEOs and average workers is now ten times greater than it was a generation ago. And while Bush's tax cuts shaved only a few hundred dollars off the tax bills of most Americans, they saved the richest one percent more than $44,000 on average. In fact, once all of Bush's tax cuts take effect, it is estimated that those with incomes of more than $200,000 a year -- the richest five percent of the population -- will pocket almost half of the money. Those who make less than $75,000 a year -- eighty percent of America -- will receive barely a quarter of the cuts. In the Bush era, economic inequality is on the rise.

Rising inequality isn't new. The gap between rich and poor started growing before Ronald Reagan took office, and it continued to widen through the Clinton years. But what is happening under Bush is something entirely unprecedented: For the first time in our history, so much growth is being siphoned off to a small, wealthy minority that most Americans are failing to gain ground even during a time of economic growth -- and they know it.

America has never been an egalitarian society, but during the New Deal and the Second World War, government policies and organized labor combined to create a broad and solid middle class. The economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo call what happened between 1933 and 1945 the Great Compression: The rich got dramatically poorer while workers got considerably richer. Americans found themselves sharing broadly similar lifestyles in a way not seen since before the Civil War.

But in the 1970s, inequality began increasing again -- slowly at first, then more and more rapidly. You can see how much things have changed by comparing the state of affairs at America's largest employer, then and now. In 1969, General Motors was the country's largest corporation aside from AT&T, which enjoyed a government-guaranteed monopoly on phone service. GM paid its chief executive, James M. Roche, a salary of $795,000 -- the equivalent of $4.2 million today, adjusting for inflation. At the time, that was considered very high. But nobody denied that ordinary GM workers were paid pretty well. The average paycheck for production workers in the auto industry was almost $8,000 -- more than $45,000 today. GM workers, who also received excellent health and retirement benefits, were considered solidly in the middle class.

Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest corporation, with 1.3 million employees. H. Lee Scott, its chairman, is paid almost $23 million -- more than five times Roche's inflation-adjusted salary. Yet Scott's compensation excites relatively little comment, since it's not exceptional for the CEO of a large corporation these days. The wages paid to Wal-Mart's workers, on the other hand, do attract attention, because they are low even by current standards. On average, Wal-Mart's non-supervisory employees are paid $18,000 a year, far less than half what GM workers were paid thirty-five years ago, adjusted for inflation. And Wal-Mart is notorious both for how few of its workers receive health benefits and for the stinginess of those scarce benefits.

As If Iraq Doesn't Have Enough Evil Influences, Michelle Malkin Claims To Be Headed To Iraq

From the Liberal Avenger and I agree, I don't see Michelle risking her ugly, hateful ass (if she does, perhaps she would take Ann Coulter and Jonah Goldberg along - Jonah's large enough to absorb most of the impact from a car bomb):

Oh, this is rich!

Malkin is so concerned about the Associated Press’ efforts to make things look “really bad” in Iraq when things are really actually going really well, that she has accepted Eason Jordan’s invitation to send her to Iraq.

Now I know and you know that Michelle has no intention of going to Iraq. She’s stuck her neck out a bit on this one, however. What excuse will she use to keep herself from going?

Will she claim that Eason Jordan refused to pay? Will she describe a murky Islamofascist/moonbat plot that will force her to stay at home? Will she claim that the Iraqi government won’t give her a visa? Will she, like Bill O’Reilly, claim to discover that she’s on an al-Qaeda hitlist?

At least we know that Baghdad isn’t as dangerous as Paris. She’s got that going for her.

Post your predictions here.

Who Better To Hire Than Illegal Aliens To Build a Taxpayer-Paid Border Fence To Keep Illegals Out

As mentioned early in a post quoted from The Carpetbagger Report and with a link provided by Shakespeare's Sister comes this just-so-perfect example of the ethics of companies the Bush Administration just loves to hand bullshit contracts to:

A fence-building company in Southern California agrees to pay nearly $5 million in fines for hiring illegal immigrants. Two executives from the company may also serve jail time. The Golden State Fence Company's work includes some of the border fence between San Diego and Mexico.

After an immigration check in 1999 found undocumented workers on its payroll, Golden State promised to clean house. But when followup checks were made in 2004 and 2005, some of those same illegal workers were still on the job. In fact, U-S Attorney Carol Lam says as many as a third of the company's 750 workers may have been in the country illegally.

Golden State Fence built millions of dollars' worth of fencing around homes, offices, and military bases. Its president and one of its Southern California managers will pay fines totaling $300,000. The government is also recommending jail time for Melvin Kay and Michael McLaughlin, probably about six months.

Bush Just Can't Bring Himself To Call a Lesbian, Even A Cheney Lesbian, A Good Mother

From Shakespeare's Sister and it's just plain sad (although frankly, if I were a Cheney, I would not want to continue the gene pool regardless):

"I think Mary is going to be a loving soul to her child" — Bush, in an interview with People magazine.

She'll also be a splendid personality, a warm heart, a clever brain, a big grin, able hands, swift feet, sparkling teeth, and well-functioning kidneys. And probably other positive adjectives followed by other abstract or concrete parts of oneself.

Eventually he had to come closer to the obvious phrase he was avoiding: "Mary Cheney is going to make a fine mom and she’s going to love this child a lot."

Close, but no cigar. He couldn't quite bring himself to just spit out what any normal person would say in this situation: "They are going to be great parents." Even though he knows the child will be loved, and even though he knows the child will clearly be well provided for, and even though he knows the child will have two parents who really wanted her/him and a supportive extended family, he can't say it. No matter whether he believes it or not. His base doesn't—and so all he can utter is stilted, awkward phrases, meant to simultaneously approximate warmth for the people he knows and contempt for their choices and lives, which he is meant to despise.
God knows George and Laura Bushes' daughters (the Terrible Twins, chubby Jenna and the even stranger Barbara, spending the family fortune on booze and drugs illegal and likely to land anyone else behind bars) are really something to be proud of. Burp.

Vote For Your Weblog Favorites

Today's the last day to register your vote for your favorite Web logs/blogs in various categories for Best in 2006.

Go here.

[Ed. note: No, Diebold is NOT responsible for the voting results. Thank you, God.]

CNN Paints Outgoing Rumsfeld As "Victim"

Kevin Drum notes something I happened to catch today which has had me livid ever since: namely, CNN's military analyst Don Shepherd actually stated that outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is a victim.

No, you aren't reading this wrong. No, I did not mistype.

Shepherd said various things in waxing nostalgic on Rumsfeld's six years as Warmongerer in chief, but the most ridiculous of them was that Rumsfeld - the man who took us into Afghanistan to catch Osama bin Laden and did not, the man who took us into Iraq for a war that would pay for itself, would have us in and out in a matter of weeks - "is a victim of the way the war is going."

Can you imagine?

How mean it was for Saddam Hussein and the Iraqis to attack us and force us into war so that poor Mr. Rumsfeld could take the blame! Oh wait. They didn't attack us. We have long ago learned they were in no position to do so.

So how the fuck does CNN figure Rumsfeld is a victim of this war?

CNN has been doing much of this lately, from its "majestic" coverage of the ceremony for Rumsfeld's exit today that some have dubbed "like a coronation" while Dana Milbank called it "more like a state funeral" to Wolf Blitzer waxing on and on about whether history will be kind to "poor misunderstood" President Bush, as if history had no right but to be anything but kind to him.

Americans Agree: Bush Is The Worst President Ever

Some legacy Junior has managed - and this after the country, as divided as they had felt, basically gave him a blank check and all their good will after 9/11. As reported at Pensito Review:

Most Americans agree that George Bush is the Worst President Ever, in the past 30 years, according to a new Gallup poll:
    Americans think President George W. Bush will go down in history as the country’s worst leader of his era, according to a Gallup Poll released Wednesday.

    But Bush rates the worst, with 54 percent saying history will paint him as a poor or below-average president, according to the survey.
The poll rated Pres. Reagan as the best president among presidents Carter, himself, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II.
To claim Reagan as the best is... well... about as bone-headed as possible. Americans truly love putting dolts on pedestals.

Reagan never has and never will deserve the level of hero worship bestowed on him. From his deliberate efforts to ignore AIDS until the contagion had killed and infected so many, to killing educational help for poorer Americans, to the ridiculous amounts of money he burned on Star Wars, to the wild financial excesses and running up the national debt to a level that was unheard of (at least until President Numbnuts Bush got in office) - Reagan deserves derision, not reverance.

"Winning Hearts And Minds"? Not Really

This really comes as no surprise that every action the Bush Administration has taken, and not just in its tragically comical nothing-but-bad-moves in Iraq, have put this country in a much worse light in Arab and Muslim minds (and we're not doing so hot in the rest of the world either). Posted by Glenn Greenwald:

As you may recall, one of the primary "justifications" for invading Iraq was that we were going to reduce anti-American resentment in the Middle East -- which fuels terrorist recruitment -- and therefore make the world safer for our country. They were going to so appreciate everything we did for Iraq and Afghanistan that they would realize how great we were, like us much more, and therefore not want to attack us anymore. How is that going?
    Attitudes toward the U.S. from those in the Arab world have suffered greatly as a result of American foreign policy in the region, according to an Arab American Institute/Zogby International poll released today . . .
In 2002, the favorability rating of the U.S. among Moroccans was 38%. Now it's 7%.

In 2002, the favorability rating of the U.S. among Jordanians was 34%. Now it's 5%.

...In particular, support for our "Iraq policy" commands 2% of the Saudi population (96% disapprove), 6% of Moroccans (93% disapprove), and 7% of Jordanians (86% disapprove). Those approval numbers are slightly higher -- slightly -- in Lebanon (16-73%) and Egypt (25-50%).

It is worth recalling here that the idea of winning Muslim "hearts and minds" in the Middle East was not the solution invented at an International Solidarity Conference sponsored by Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Kofi Annan, and Fidel Castro. This was the paramount goal which warmonger neoconservative insisted justified our invasion of Iraq and which President Bush himself has repeatedly identified as the central objective in our Epic Worldwide War of Civilizations.

New Report Shows Tony Blair Lied About WMD To Support Bush

This isn't exactly news, but what we see now is how widespread and coordinated was the system of lies to get us into a war with Iraq. Again from The Carpetbagger Report:

It’s been several years, and by now we all know the weapons-of-mass-destruction story pretty well. Except, once in a while, a new tidbit will come to light, such as this one. (via Ron Chusid)
    The Government’s case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

    A devastating attack on Mr Blair’s justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain’s key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

    In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, “at no time did HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] assess that Iraq’s WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests.”

    Mr Ross revealed it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been “effectively contained”.
Ross suggests that British officials pushed back against Bush administration officials, arguing that Saddam’s ouster would lead to chaos, but eventually, “inertia” led the U.K. to endorse the U.S. policy.

Ross added that he asked how the government that believed Iraq had no WMD came to believe otherwise, but there was no evidence. “What had changed was the Government’s determination to present available evidence in a different light,” he said

Is The Kool-Aid Sugar BushRush Dissipating? Hopefully

Nestled into Steve Benen's Friday Mini-notes at The Carpetbagger Report were some I found both wonderful and ridiculous:

* The definition of irony: “Border Fence Firm Snared for Hiring Illegal Workers.” Classic.
* At Donald Rumsfeld’s going-away ceremony today, Dick Cheney described Rumsfeld as the “toughest boss I ever had, the most demanding, the most commanding.” Given that the VP works for the president, isn’t Cheney supposed to describe Bush this way?
* Two in three Americans want diplomatic ties with Cuba. Is it me or is that surprisingly high? Especially after 40 years of the opposite policy? On a related note, two in three Americans may just get their wish. (thanks to E.T. for the tip) [Wonderful. Truly.]
* Tom DeLay believes conservatives don’t go to Congress to “pass laws.” No wonder he was so impressed with the 109th Congress.
* Stat of the day: More Americans express doubts about a candidate who served in Bush’s cabinet (59%) than one who is gay or lesbian (53%). [As well they should!]

As Kofi Annan Steps Down, South Korea's Ban Ki-moon Becomes U.N. Secretary General

I know virtually nothing about Ban Ki-Moon but I'm hopeful

Kofi Annan was certainly was not perfect but was quite good. As for the corruption charges that surfaced around him, I was never quite sure how much of this was cooked, at least in part by the Bushies and Bolton, because Annan stood up to them.

If U.S. Pulls Out Of Iraq, Saudi Arabia Will Back Iraqi Sunnis

See (a few hundred thousand) problem(s) here? I do.

Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said.

The Saudi warning reflects fears among America’s Sunni Arab allies about Iran’s rising influence in Iraq, coupled with Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. King Abdullah II of Jordan has also expressed concern about rising Shiite influence, and about the prospect that the Shiite-dominated government would use Iraqi troops against the Sunni population.

A senior Bush administration official said Tuesday that part of the administration’s review of Iraq policy involved the question of how to harness a coalition of moderate Iraqi Sunnis with centrist Shiites to back the Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

The Saudis have argued strenuously against an American pullout from Iraq, citing fears that Iraq’s minority Sunni Arab population would be massacred. Those fears, United States officials said, have become more pronounced as a growing chorus in Washington has advocated a draw-down of American troops in Iraq, coupled with diplomatic outreach to Iran, which is largely Shiite.

“It’s a hypothetical situation, and we’d work hard to avoid such a structure,” one Arab diplomat in Washington said. But, he added, “If things become so bad in Iraq, like an ethnic cleansing, we will feel we are pulled into the war.”
Nice to know Saudi Arabia tells our (Vice) president what to do. Eh?

National Guard and Reservists: Just Thank Mr. Bush And Senator McCain For Your Impending Deployment

Also posted at Blah3:

People have been asking of McCain's and now apparently Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, well, where you gonna get 'em? There's an easy way to solve that:
    Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker plans to tell the independent Commission on the National Guard and Reserves on Thursday that the Army needs to be able to mobilize the 345,000-member Army National Guard and 196,000-member Army Reserves more frequently and for longer periods than current restrictions allow, two senior Army officials said Wednesday. [....]

    The practice under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has been to mobilize part-time troops for no more than 24 cumulative months. National Guard and Reserve troops called for service in Iraq usually spend about six months training, then a year in Iraq, leaving them only six months of eligibility to serve in other active-duty roles.

    Officials also have promised to call up part-time units no more than once every five years, which they said cuts the Army short of much-needed manpower. It also would make it much more difficult for the Bush administration to send as many as 40,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq, as officials are contemplating.

    More than 1 million American servicemen and women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of them National Guard and Reserve troops.
One million. One million.

All of this so Bush can continue to play King and McCain can swell his already bloated ego on his way to become King.

Judith Regan Fired

Hurray! And only more than a decade too late.

Terminated tonight by HarperCollins (owned by Rupert Murdoch) in the wake of the O.J. Simpson/"If I Did It" book debacle.

Trust me, she'll land her bony liposuctioned ass - or her heavily plastic surgery-and-Botox-augmented face - on a very fat golden parachute cushion. Scum always do.

"...A Failure of Such Heroic Proportions"

What can I say but, "Absolutely right!" From the colorful folks at WTF Is It Now?

The UK Guardian: "In every vital area, from Afghanistan to Egypt, [the sniveling moron's] policies have made the situation worse than it was before."
    What an amazing bloody catastrophe. The Bush administration's policy towards the Middle East over the five years since 9/11 is culminating in a multiple train crash. Never in the field of human conflict was so little achieved by so great a country at such vast expense. In every vital area of the wider Middle East, American policy over the last five years has taken a bad situation and made it worse.

    If the consequences were not so serious, one would have to laugh at a failure of such heroic proportions...

Speaking of Much-Maligned Black Women, Paternity Test Ordered In Case of Duke LaCrosse Team Rape Accuser

OK, this is vaguely interesting but only in a soap opera kind of way:

A judge Friday ordered a paternity test on a baby expected by the woman who has accused three Duke lacrosse players of rape. But both the district attorney and the defense rejected any possibility that one of the men is the father.

News of the accuser's pregnancy comes roughly nine months after the team party where she says she was raped.

District Attorney Mike Nifong said he believes the accuser became pregnant at least two weeks after the party.

The defense asked for the paternity test. At the same time, defense attorney Joseph Cheshire said it is an ''absolute impossibility'' that she got pregnant during the alleged attack.

Cheshire said the woman was given a pregnancy test immediately after reporting she was raped -- and it was negative -- and she took an emergency contraceptive. In addition, DNA tests found no genetic material from any Duke lacrosse team members on the woman or her clothes.

Laura Bush: Condi Rice Can't Be President Because

[Ed. note: I would say one very compelling reason Condi can't be president is that she has fucked up everything she has ever done excellent her unconditional love and fandom for George W. Bush. And sorry, but just being willing to lie for her man doesn't make her a suitable presidential candidate.]

Oh, there isn't just one reason Laura Bush - who once insisted Condikins would have her complete support should she run for American president - says the former NSA director and current Secretary of State and principle Bush Cheerleader can't/won't run for president. Neither, says Mrs. Bush (whose own daughters should be reason for her to hang her head in shame and shut up), however, are that she's a woman and African-American. (ooooh, what a relief!)

No, she says Condi won't run because she's not married, her parents are dead, and she's an only child (I suspect Condi may have killed off any siblings with the mean faces she makes). Laura spared us widespread belief Condoleeza is gay (but not very merry, except when shopping!) or speculation why, only since some began discussing her as a possible presidential candidate, did Condi suddenly occasionally walk around with a man other than her self-described husband, Mr. Bush, with whom she spends almost every holiday and weekend.

While Tony Snow (Much Belatedly) Apologizes To NBC's David Gregory, Helen Thomas Declares Snow "Lousy"

Amen, Helen. Amen.

Brought to us by Daedalus at Blah3:

Tony Snow attempted yesterday to resemble a human being when he apologized to David Gregory for calling his line of questioning earlier in the week "partisan." Then Snow moved right along to impugn the morality and patriotism of an 86 year old woman:
    Helen Thomas: How many people do we have that we have accused and held in confinement in limbo for four years without any trial without any trial, without any charge?

    Tony Snow: We have provided for the civil rights [....] What we are doing is that we have passed a law with regard to the Hamdan legislation that guarantees the civil rights of people who have been pulled off battlefields. We have a reasonable suspicion they're trying to kill --

    Thomas: Four years without a charge or a trial --

    Snow: Who we have reasonable suspicion to believe have been trying to kill Americans. And I don't know about you, but I think that's a bad thing. And I think you do, too.

    Thomas: That's a lousy way to twist it.
Yeah, Helen, that is lousy, but that's the only game these creeps got. You ain't with them, so Tony's going to talk out of both sides of his mouth and suggest you...jest...mah't...be...a terraist-sympathizer! Aw, but not really!

"Lousy" shows you've got more class than he does.
It amazes how challenged this "bull and bravado" White House feels by Helen Thomas. They have been fighting with her, trying to negate her, impugning her whenever they aren't pretending she doesn't exist since Day #1.

As for giving Snow credit for "apologizing" to Gregory, quite a bit too little quite a bit too late. After Snow went after Gregory for simply doing his job (something too few of the press corp does these days, especially around the White House beat), he waited a full week and after the far right Bush goon squad did everything from recommend NBC fire Gregory with shameful words to take away NBC's "charter" as a news organization, to suggest Gregory is a terrorist.

Finally, A Legitimate Reason For Circumcision? May Halve Risk Of HIV Infection

Frankly, since I was old enough to understand the practice of circumcision, I have been appalled by it. But this information, if it bears out (and not later found to be another example of finding justification for a "societal norm"), may finally offer a decent reason for this practice:

Circumcision appears to reduce a man’s risk of contracting AIDS from heterosexual sex by half, United States government health officials said yesterday, and the directors of the two largest funds for fighting the disease said they would consider paying for circumcisions in high-risk countries.

The announcement was made by officials of the National Institutes of Health as they halted two clinical trials, in Kenya and Uganda, on the ground that not offering circumcision to all the men taking part would be unethical. The success of the trials confirmed a study done last year in South Africa.

AIDS experts immediately hailed the finding. “This is very exciting news,” said Daniel Halperin, an H.I.V. specialist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development, who has argued that circumcision slows the spread of AIDS in the parts of Africa where it is common.
So why do I oppose circumcision or, at least, have until reading this?

Quite frankly, I oppose it because there is no medical reason for this procedure. Except for Jews who observe the ceremony of bris for religious reasons, circumcisions have been performed almost exclusively for cosmetic reasons.

When I worked in hospital administration in my early 20s, I asked a number of doctors about this and all defended the practice only in as much as they thought an uncircumcised penis would make males feel "marked" or "less attractive" and that performing the removal of the foreskin while the male child was just a few days old was far less painful and traumatic than waiting until the child grew up, already experienced "rejection" because of the hooded member, and underwent the procedure in his late teens or older.

Relatively few doctors I spoke with perpetuated that time-honored bug-a-boo claim that an uncircumcised penis made it far more difficult to keep the organ clean, although non-physicians cite this frequently.

But to me, removing a part of the body just to make it "look" better or to prevent infection seems poor justification. With that rational, a uterus should be removed while a girl is quite young to save her from years of cramps, the "mess" of menses, etc. But we don't.

Jesus Was Not Crucified On a 7-Foot Balsam Fir Nor Is Santa's Sleigh Running The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse Outta Town

I've largely stayed out of the far right's and Bill O'Reilly's latest attempt to use the holidays as a cause flambe to make it seem like everyone is against any expression of Christmas whatsoever.

What thoroughly baffles me, however, is the way some issues get tangled up in wholly different ones. For example, righteous outrage manipulator Bill O'Reilly got a big hand up on the "why do they hate Christmas" hate wagon when a rabbi complained about a Christmas tree at Seattle's Sea-Tac airport that got the airport to take it down only to turn around and put it back up again.

First and foremost, even Christians seem happy to twist religion around popular observance.

The Christmas tree as we know it today is NOT a Christian symbol. It just isn't. In fact, as some third graders can - and perhaps should - tell their parents, our celebration of the holiday tree has its roots in pagan tree worship. Even as it became blended into relatively recent history (and a tree as a regular part of Christmas is very recent), the Christmas tree still does not represent the birth of Christ; it's just a nice decoration many people put up this time of year.

Also, while there are occurrences of "Santa" like people throughout history in many countries, today's American Santa Claus is more of an invention of U.S. retailers than anything else.

Fools like O'Reilly - who love to manipulate fear and hate this time of year instead of more appropriate ones such as love and peace - make it sound like Jesus was sacrificed on the Christmas tree while Santa only brings presents to good little kids who accept Christ and do not break any of the 10 commandments. And those who yell and scream about saying "Happy Holidays" over Merry Christmas or the appearance of Christmas trees and Santa and his reindeer in public settings just help asswipes like O'Reilly perpetuate the hate.

Yet, to be fair, I can understand the rabbi's complaint. For all the talk "Christians" give to the importance of their own symbols (nativity scenes, for example) at this time of year, they are also the first to scream when another religion's symbols such as a menorrah or a dreidl get equal billing. If you don't happen to know what each night's candle signifies on a menorrah, you're missing something powerful and wonderful.

Another Bush Administration Gag On Free Speech

I wholeheartedly agree with this Times' editorial which, will comparing this administration to Nixon's, concludes that Tricky Dick couldn't begin to get away with the skank Bush & Company try and do. This is yet another time when the Bushies cry national security wolf to try to keep any truth from seeing the light of day:

The Bush administration is trampling on the First Amendment and well-established criminal law by trying to use a subpoena to force the American Civil Liberties Union to hand over a classified document in its possession. The dispute is shrouded in secrecy, and very little has been made public about the document, but we do not need to know what’s in it to know what’s at stake: if the government prevails, it will have engaged in prior restraint — almost always a serious infringement on free speech — and it could start using subpoenas to block reporting on matters of vital public concern.

Justice Department lawyers have issued a grand jury subpoena to the A.C.L.U. demanding that it hand over “any and all copies” of the three-and-a-half-page government document, which was recently leaked to the group. The A.C.L.U. is asking a Federal District Court judge in Manhattan to quash the subpoena.

There are at least two serious problems with the government’s action. It goes far beyond what the law recognizes as the legitimate purpose of a subpoena. Subpoenas are supposed to assist an investigation, but the government does not need access to the A.C.L.U.’s document for an investigation since it already has its own copy. It is instead trying to confiscate every available copy of the document to keep its contents secret. The A.C.L.U. says it knows of no other case in which a grand jury subpoena has been used this way.

The subpoena is also a prior restraint because the government is trying to stop the A.C.L.U. in advance from speaking about the document’s contents. The Supreme Court has held that prior restraints are almost always unconstitutional. The danger is too great that the government will overreach and use them to ban protected speech or interfere with free expression by forcing the media, and other speakers, to wait for their words to be cleared in advance. The correct way to deal with speech is to evaluate its legality after it has occurred.

The Supreme Court affirmed these vital principles in the Pentagon Papers case, when it rejected the Nixon administration’s attempts to stop The Times and The Washington Post from publishing government documents that reflected badly on its prosecution of the Vietnam War. If the Nixon administration had been able to use the technique that the Bush administration is trying now, it could have blocked publication simply by ordering the newspapers to hand over every copy they had of the papers.


With John McCain Cheering On The Deployment Of More Troops To Iraq...

I think he should put his commitment where his rather large and overworked mouth is.

Please, Mr. McCain, volunteer to serve there. We've seen that the Pentagon has no problem with deploying those aged 50 and over. Enlist!

Prove that you aren't simply willing to put the sons and daughters of other Americans in harm's way just to "improve" your chances with the Bush base (and my, aren't they base?) come November 2008's presidential election.

Yes, John: put up or shut up.

What Does Outgoing Secretary of Defense Think About The Iraq Study Group Report?

Actually, Mr. Rumsfeld said he really couldn't comment on it because he hasn't read it.

Then, to "interviewer" (or you might call him White House "fluffer" - should you be familiar with the phrase from adult film "technology") Fox News' Sean Hannity, he added, "Well, I just skimmed it."

So most of us ran out to read most of it in PDF form immediately while Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld, arguably the two people who really should have given this serious consideration, could not be bothered.


The Maureen Dowd Mouthful: "Will Hillzilla Crush Obambi?"

To say Barack Obama is warmer and softer than Hillary Clinton isn't necessarily saying much. My old socks fit that description better than Hillary as well, while they are far less apt to hang to the far right and question a woman's right to choose for her own body than Mrs. Clinton. And when we have a strong Democratic woman who is willing to sell out other women for the presidency... well... damn. It brings us back to that old stereotype that says the greatest oppresser of women is virtually always other women.

So the question of the moment is: Which would be a greater handicap in a presidential bid, gender or race?

The answer will depend, of course, on how manly the woman, and how white the black.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama both straddle two worlds, trying to profit from both.

Despite her desire to seem far more experienced than her rival, Hillary’s role in high-level politics has been mostly that of a spouse — a first lady who felt that she got elected too. The Yale-trained lawyer had one pump in the “The West Wing” and one in “Desperate Housewives,” one foot in the world of hotshot alphas ruling the globe and one in the world of middle-age women humiliated by their husbands’ dallying with office cupcakes.

She won her Senate seat only after becoming sympathetic as a victim. And she still struggles with the balance between her Mars and Venus sides, sometimes showing her political steel and other times fetching coffee for male colleagues.

Senator Obama glides between the black and white political worlds. In New Hampshire on Sunday, speaking to nearly all-white audiences, the Harvard-educated lawyer looked utterly at home, dressing like a Wall Street banker on casual Friday and sounding as white as Lou Dobbs.

He quoted Martin Luther King Jr. and Louis Brandeis with equal aplomb and wryly noted that when he worked rebuilding a black community on Chicago’s South Side, people there couldn’t pronounce his name and called him “Yo Momma.”

He admits that he talks to black groups with a different cadence, but says that’s because he’s picking up a different rhythm from the audience. He rejects what he calls the expected script for black politicians, “that for them to be authentically black they have to somehow offend white people,” as he told Jeff Zeleny in The Chicago Tribune. Mr. Obama rejects complaints from blacks that he’s not black enough; but as Mr. Zeleny noted, Hawaii, where the senator’s white mother from Kansas and black father from Kenya met, and where he grew up and went to prep school, is not exactly the ’hood.

While Bill Clinton’s campaign pollsters used to worry that Hillary was not coming across as maternal enough, Senator Obama peppers his talks with remarks about being a father and husband. “I don’t miss diapers,” he confided to some parents at a book signing in New Hampshire, and later told reporters that he would decide whether to run with his wife, Michelle — “the smartest, toughest, funniest best friend that I could ever hope for.”

He was equally graceful reaching out to the female audience on “Oprah” and the male audience on “Monday Night Football,” when he did the opening skit this week on the audacity of hype, ending by putting on a Bears cap and flashing that killer smile. (The Windy City doubleheader must have made Hillary, a Chicago native, pea green.)

Senator Obama is Senator Clinton’s worst nightmare, as comfortable in his skin as she is uncomfortable in hers.

Senator Tim Johnson's Stroke: Have We Lost The (Slight) Democratic Majority In The Senate?

Well, time will tell whether Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota will be able to recover enough from his stroke yesterday to continue on. If he must be replaced, however, this is at the will of South Dakota's governor, a Republican.

While reports yesterday said ranking Republicans were quick to say they did not want to take back the Democrats slim Senate majority in this way, I'd sure as hell hate to have to depend on the honest good will of ethical GOPers like Karl Rove, Ken Mehlman, George Bush, and Dick Cheney.

And with Lieberman one of the Dems... well... he's about as ethical as Rove and Cheney.


Theocracy Rising: Pentagon's "Christianists" Have Priorities Other Than Service To Country Or Soldiers

From Lambert at CorrenteWire. Great. Truly (not) great:

Alert reader general panzer directs us to third generation military, JAG, and Republican Mikey Wienstein in Salon (go on, get the day pass, help their numbers). Christianist General Catton’s comment that his third priority is his country (after his family and is his God) had obvious bad consequences for unit cohesion, even leaving aside the ethical, legal, and Constitutional questions:
    [T]hese people can pray all they want to themselves, like kids in school can pray to themselves, but when you’re in the military, and you’re coming in like that one person, Catton, whom I knew when I was a kid at the [Air Force] Academy, and he goes, “I share my faith, that’s who I am, and let me tell you right now, the hierarchy as an old-fashioned American is that your first duty is to the Lord, second to your family and your third is to your country.” That is the exact opposite of what is taught, and for anyone who understands anything about the military, it is always the country first. When you’re told, “Troopers, we’re going to go take that hill,” you can’t stop, [#1 priority?] fall to your knees and see what your particular version of Moses, Vishnu, Satan, Jesus, Mohammed, Allah, whatever they’re going to say, and[#2 priority?] then quickly make a cellphone call to your family. So it is beyond-the-pale egregious, it is a national security threat every bit as bad as al-Qaida, and these people should be court-martialed.
So why is this dangerous nonsense being propagated? Read on, because it gets so much better:

Violent Radiation Flare Sends Shuttle and Space Station Crew Seeking Shelter

OK, but exactly where the fuck did they go to "take shelter"? It's not like they went down to the root cellar.

From Florida Today's space blog:

A violent solar explosion sent a dangerous wave of radiation through space late Tuesday, prompting NASA to order the crews of Discovery and the International Space Station to take shelter overnight.

The solar flare erupted around 9:40 p.m., unleashing enough radiation to disrupt radio communications on Earth and in orbit while endangering astronauts circling 220 miles above the planet.NASA flight surgeons and agency radiation experts determined that the burst of highly energetic particles approached a limit that made preventative action prudent.
Can we safely assume President Bush put aluminum foil in NASA's microwave again?

Bush: what a brain trust!

The Times: Beating Around The Bush On Iraq

I see The Times is no more impressed by Mr. Bush's "don't rush me" routine than I am:

The claims of calm deliberation emerging from the White House this week are maddening. The search for a new plan for Iraq seems to be taking place with as much urgency as the deliberations over a new color for the dollar bill.

In Baghdad yesterday, a suicide bomber killed at least 70 people, most of them Shiite laborers whose only sin was looking for work. In Washington, meanwhile, President Bush held a series of carefully stage-managed meetings with officials and outside experts whose common credential appeared to be their opposition to the recommendations of James Baker’s Iraq Study Group.

To top it off, White House aides told reporters that — despite earlier promises of a pre-Christmas speech by Mr. Bush — the country now should not expect any announcement of a new strategy until early next year. The president’s spokesman, Tony Snow, said that “it’s a complex business, and there are a lot of things to take into account,” adding that Mr. Bush “wants to make sure it’s done right.”

We are more than eager for this White House to finally get something right on Iraq. But we find it chilling to imagine that Mr. Bush and his advisers have only now begun a full policy review, months after Iraq plunged into civil war and years after experts began warning that the administration’s strategy was not working.

We would like to believe that the reason for delay is that some of Mr. Bush’s advisers have come up with a sensible change in course and they are now trying to persuade the president to take it. Or that behind the scenes Mr. Bush is already strong-arming Iraq’s leaders to rein in the sectarian militias and begin long-delayed national reconciliation talks.

We fear that a more likely explanation is that the president’s ever-divided policy advisers are still wrangling over the most basic decisions, while his political handlers are waiting for public enthusiasm for the Baker report to flag before Mr. Bush tries to explain why he won’t follow through on some of the report’s most important and reasonable suggestions...

WaPo's Dana Milbank: "Just Call Him Tony 'I Don't Know' Snow"

I say parachute Tony Snow into a spot just outside Baghdad's Green Zone, without body armor but with a big sign painted on his back ("White House Spokes Weasel") and see how long he lasts. Of course, Fox would have the video. Heh.

From Dana Milbank in The Washington Post:

To paraphrase Howard Baker's immortal question: What didn't Tony Snow know, and when didn't he know it?

The answer: A lot, and frequently.

When will President Bush roll out his new Iraq policy? "We do not know," Snow said at yesterday's White House briefing.

When did Bush decide to postpone the speech? "I don't know exactly when," the president's press secretary said again.

Has everyone working on the policy read the Iraq Study Group report? "I don't know," came the refrain. "I'm assuming -- but I don't know."

After Snow spoke multiple times of the "urgency" surrounding Iraq, CNN's Elaine Quijano asked him, innocently, "Tony, what does 'urgency' mean?"

"Well, I don't know," he said. "You guys keep using the term."

Quijano pointed out that Snow himself had used it, forcing Snow finally to spill the beans. " 'Urgency' means that you want it done as quickly as possible, and you want it done right," he proffered.

When Snow took over as White House press secretary earlier this year, reporters found it refreshing that he was willing to admit when he didn't know something. This has become rather less refreshing as Snow, while claiming access to Bush's sanctum sanctorum, continues to use the phrase -- more than 400 times so far in televised briefings and interviews. Sometimes, it seems more of a tic than a response; usually, it's a brushoff.

Why so many 'dunnos'? "Because I don't know all," Snow explained, knowingly.

On Monday, reporters wanted to know whether newly confirmed Defense Secretary Robert Gates would attend White House meetings on Iraq policy. "I don't know," said Snow. Would the Iraq experts visiting the White House talk about the Iraq Study Group's particulars with Bush? "I don't know." Was there anything in the report that the administration hadn't already considered? "I don't know. Again, good question. I don't know. I mean, there are some -- again, I don't know."

Bush: Nobody's Gonna Rush Me On Iraq

[Update: See The New York Times' OpEd take on beating around the Bush on Iraq.]

Today, the MSM has been filled with Bush's statements that he refused to be rushed on making decisions about what to do in Iraq.

However, only in the president's mind (and I use the term loosely) is there now some "sudden rush". For three and a half years, he has refused to abandon a plan that failed. To insist only now there is a "rush" for him to "decider" a new plan is as absurd as having this miserable little privileged frat boy called a world leader.

Iraq has been going very badly for a very long time. Before we sent the first troops in back in March 2003, Rumsfeld rarely spoke without making statements like "We'll be in and out" and "I would be very surprised if we were still there six weeks from now."

By July 2003, we were already overstaying that six week prediction. We were also getting our first signals that what Bush promised and Rumsfeld predicted was hardly correct.

For more than two years, the situation in Iraq has been grave and getting worse by the day, much of which could have been avoided except that the Bushies would not listen to anyone who didn't say, "You're absolutely right, Mr. Bush!"

For the past year, Iraq has been in a state of constant implosion. Everything that could go wrong has not only done so, it's done so in a way that was drastically worse than it needed to be.

Yet, right through the day before the mid-term elections in the U.S., Mr. Bush insisted Donald Rumsfeld has his "complete trust" and that Rumsfeld would stay on as Secretary of Defense - and Dick Cheney as Vice President - right through the end of Bush's term in January 2009. Then, of course, less than 12 full hours after the polls closed on November 7th, Rumsfeld was dismissed (the press only used the word "resigned" later in the day, hoping the public would forget dismissed was the phrase used again and again for hours, one that hardly suggests Mr. Rumsfeld decided he needed more time with his family to prepare his Christmas cards.

So, Mr. Bush, what is the rush? The between 100,000 and over one million Iraqi civilians who have died since you sent in troops certainly won't be any less dead, nor will the more than 1 million Iraqis who have fled the country as being too violent return any sooner. Also, the nearly 3,000 American troops killed there so far also will not be any less dead.

And what's the rush when we've already spent at least $350 Billion (this is just the reported figure; the real cost is probably well over a trillion) on a "war that will pay for itself"?

What's the rush when companies like Bechtel, already having made many fortunes many times over for contracts there they have not fulfilled, just billed for, have fled Iraq as too dangerous?

What's the rush? I mean, the Bush twins are still celebrating their "graduation" from college more than 2 1/2 years after the event, getting drunk and drugged and partying naked around the world while you can't wait to send poorer American kids off to this war you're in no rush to declare a miserable failure.

Good Night, Peter Boyle

I thoroughly enjoyed this fine character actor in almost everything in which he ever performed.

If I have one regret, it's that probably the thing he will be remembered most widely for is that miserable piece of hopeless dreck called, "Everyone Loves Raymond" (not a sentiment I shared, although it was hard to tell whether I hated him or his wife on the show worse although that woman in real life is far more loathsome).

Ho... Ho... (Who You Callin' a Ho?)

Nothing says Christmas like an animated short feature by the folks of JibJab.

Or go here for an index of all their stuff.

New Bush Administration-Pentagon Iraq Plan: Blame The Iraqis and Run

We've been getting a taste of this strategy for sometime as leaks report that Bush & Company just can't understand why the Iraqis don't love him and don't make the violence go poof.

From Financial Times:

As George W. Bush agonises over which bits of last week’s Baker-Hamilton re­port to adopt for his forthcoming “new way forward in Iraq” announcement, an­other consensus is emerging in Washington on how to handle the situation: blame the Iraqis.

Although informed observers say that the writ of the Iraqi government stops at the perimeter of the Green Zone – the heavily fortified enclave in the centre of Baghdad – leading Republican and Democratic politicians are increasingly blaming Nouri al-Maliki’s friable coalition government for a lack of progress.

It is a consensus that was crystallised last week by the Iraq Study Group, which called on Mr Bush to withhold US assistance from Baghdad unless it made progress on fulfilling a long list of US-imposed “milestones”. It is also shared by many senior officials in the Bush administration, which had already drawn up an earlier list of milestones for Mr Maliki.

“You could call it ‘blame and run’, ” said Zbigniew Bzrezinski, a former national security adviser now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. “It is based on a pervasive illusion that there is such a thing as an Iraqi government. The more we blame it for doing things it cannot do, the more impotent it will become. ‘Blame and run’ is self-fulfilling.”

Strobe Talbott, head of the bipartisan Brookings Institution, agrees. In a speech last week he criticised the view that Baghdad could be pressed to make changes such as disarming the sectarian militias by threatening to withhold military, political or economic aid. The ISG report states that Baghdad must prove that it “deserves” future aid.

Ever Wondered What Happened To The 2001 Anthrax Probe?

You aren't (totally) alone:

A bipartisan, bicameral group of 33 Members sent a letter Tuesday to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding that the FBI brief Congress on the status of the five-year-plus investigation into the anthrax attacks that killed five people and shuttered parts of the Congressional campus in October 2001.

Putin Should Beware: Russian Seizure May Make Bush Cancel Putey-Put's Christmas Cookies


Shell is being forced by the Russian government to hand over its controlling stake in the world's biggest liquefied gas project, provoking fresh fears about the Kremlin's willingness to use the country's growing strength in natural resources as a political weapon.

After months of relentless pressure from Moscow, the Anglo-Dutch company has to cut its stake in the $20bn Sakhalin-2 scheme in the far east of Russia in favour of the state-owned energy group Gazprom.
Try to imagine Bush and Cheney ever going against an oil/energy company.

Speaking Of Our Troops, A Few Issues Worthy of Note

[Ed. note: See the previous post about Bush's plan to possibly send up to 57,000 more American troops to Iraq right after January 1st.]

First, the "official" death toll for U.S. soldiers in combat in Iraq has reached 2,939.

Second, read this troubling Hartford Courant story about a 24-year-old soldier who returned from Iraq with serious mental problems including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), judged to be at 70% disability, and yet is now being ordered to return to active duty for deployment to Iraq. [What's with Bush and the Pentagon? What's next? Will they have corpses dug up and ordered back to the front lines?]

Third, there is this report on NPR with soldiers claiming the U.S. Army not only ignores but actively punishes soldiers who suffer from mental health issues, including PTSD (the Army keeps claiming almost NO soldiers have it while soldiers and veterans' groups insist the Army is doing its damnest not to document any cases so they can make such a ridiculous claim).

With George Bush, The Wars - Like His Vacation and Nap Time - Never End

According to Think Progress, CNN's John King said that President Bush is seriously considering sending more American troops into Iraq, and soon. While King, I believe, noted that this seems to follow Senator John McCain's idea, it's a) unbelievable that Bush would do anything McCain suggests and b) Bush and Rumsfeld supposedly ordered a few months ago up to 57,000 additional troops to prepare to deploy soon after the new year.

Now, considering there are between 124K-155K U.S. soldiers there now (and the Pentagon is still holding people there who were supposed to go home long ago), another 57K would be a serious jump. However, the augmented number would still fall spectacularly short of the 400K war planners estimated would be needed going into Iraq just to try to gain control of the country. That ship has long since sailed.


The Washington Post Shoots Itself In Its Conservative Media Bias

[Followup: Apparently WaPo is having a banner week. As Glenn Greenwald points out, The Post all but awarded the late dictator and war criminal Augusto Pinochet of Chile in its obit this week. Should we expect a glowing tribute to Iran's "The Holocaust Is A Myth" conference?]

Color me flabberghasted. [Ed. note: We aren't sure exactly what color flabberghasted would be in the official Crayola color chart. Somewhere between apoplexy red-purple and fluorescent vomit green, perhaps?]

Reported at TalkLeft:

John Solomon, the AP reporter whose jihad agaist Harry Reid has proven to be a deep embarrassment for the AP, falls up:
    GOP oppo research push-over John Solomon headed from the AP to Washington Post?!?! Apparently they're going to set him up with his own investigative unit. Presumably in addition to the one he has at the RNC.
What a self indictment by the Washington Post.

In The "Why Does Wal-Mart - And Conservatives - Hate Children So?" Department

Man, here are two pieces of information that 1) defy evolutionary progress and 2) make me wish shopping at Wal-Mart would cause infertility for the sake of humanity. Both provided by links at The Huffington Post.

First up, there's WorldNetDaily's Jim Kurtz who insists that giving children soy products (a/k/a "devil food") will turn them into raging homosexuals. [Really? Is this what happened to Richard Simmons, Ken Mehlman, the Rev. Ted Haggard, Don Imus, Bill Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, and Jerry Falwell?]

Next, there is something even more... uh... delightful [shudder]. Wal-Mart is selling a video game where the way to win is to convert or kill those who are non-Christian. It's reprehensible enough that intelligent Christian groups are joining progressives and liberals in calling for this game to be removed from shelves this holiday season. [me: I'm not a big believer in forcing products off the market by any mechanism other than consumers refusing to buy it because it's a bad idea and a bad message.]

The Campaign to Defend the Constitution and the Christian Alliance for Progress, two online political groups, plan to demand today that Wal-Mart dump Left Behind: Eternal Forces, a PC game inspired by a series of Christian novels that are hugely popular, especially with teens.

[Cue Twilight Zone Music] Rumsfeld Says It Is Not A War On Terror

Excuse me?

I want to drive to Washington, shove Rumsfeld into the back of my Suzuki Sidekick, and let him out in front of a lot of military families and Iraqis who might have some questions to ask him based on this statement (link from Think Progress).

In a new interview posted on Townhall.com, conservative columnist Cal Thomas asks outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, “With what you know now, what might you have done differently in Iraq?” Rumsfeld offers a remarkable response:
    I don’t think I would have called it the war on terror. I don’t mean to be critical of those who have. Certainly, I have used the phrase frequently. Why do I say that? Because the word ‘war’ conjures up World War II more than it does the Cold War. It creates a level of expectation of victory and an ending within 30 or 60 minutes of a soap opera. It isn’t going to happen that way. Furthermore, it is not a ‘war on terror.Terror is a weapon of choice for extremists who are trying to destabilize regimes and (through) a small group of clerics, impose their dark vision on all the people they can control. So ‘war on terror’ is a problem for me.
Rumsfeld not only used the phrase ‘war on the terror’; he repeatedly criticized anyone who questioned the validity of it.
Emphasis (along with the profanity I just shouted that sent the dogs running from the house and the toe I just about broke kicking the cast iron woodstove) mine.

Bob Herbert: "The Time Is Now"

New York Times columnist Bob Herbert focuses on an aspect of the Iraq Study Group/Baker-Hamilton Commission report that has gotten far less attention than other parts: specifically, that our soldiers as well as the Iraqi troops meant to take over the fight don't have the equipment they need OR the leadership that such a complicated and ongoing conflict demands. I suspect there is less interest in discussing this matter because the far right and most loyal Bushies take such analysis and morph it into "criticism of our fine soldiers" when it's hardly a failure of the troops (they can't supply themselves or fire their commanders).

Here's a bit from Herbert's latest column; you can find more here:

On Wednesday, as if the release of the Iraq Study Group report needed some form of dramatic punctuation, 11 more American G.I.’s were killed in this misbegotten war that just about everyone, except perhaps the president, now sees as a complete and utter debacle.

Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon who supported the war, delivered an emotional speech on the Senate floor Thursday evening in which he said:

“I, for one, am at the end of my rope when it comes to supporting a policy that has our soldiers patrolling the same streets in the same way, being blown up by the same bombs day after day. That is absurd. It may even be criminal. I cannot support that anymore.”

If the U.S. is ultimately going to retreat in Iraq, he said, “I would rather do it sooner than later. I am looking for answers, but the current course is unacceptable to this senator.”

The primary value of the Baker-Hamilton report is that it embodies, in clear and explicit language, the consensus that has emerged in the U.S. about the current state of the war. It’s not so much a blueprint for action as a recognition of reality.

“The level of violence is high and growing,” the report says. “There is great suffering, and the daily lives of many Iraqis show little or no improvement. Pessimism is pervasive.”

With the situation in Iraq deteriorating, and support for the war in the U.S. having all but collapsed, the only real question on the table is how long the U.S. is going to drag out its inevitable pullout of combat forces. And the inevitable moral question that is inextricably linked to that slowly evolving set of circumstances is how to justify the lives that will be lost between now and the final day of our departure.

There is something agonizingly tragic about soldiers dying in a war that has already been lost.

The scale of the debacle is breathtaking. According to the study group: “In some parts of Iraq — notably in Baghdad — sectarian cleansing is taking place. The United Nations estimates that 1.6 million are displaced within Iraq, and up to 1.8 million Iraqis have fled the country.”

Americans, including the members of the study group, continue to insist that the key to an American withdrawal over the next couple of years is the improvement of Iraqi security forces to the point where they can successfully step into the breach. That is a complete fantasy, as a reading of the study group’s own assessment of the Iraqi forces will attest.

The study group found that, among other things, the Iraqi Army units “lack leadership ... lack equipment ... lack personnel ... [and] lack logistics and support.”

“Soldiers are given leave liberally and face no penalties for absence without leave,” the report said. “Unit readiness rates are low, often at 50 percent or less.”

The report went on: “They lack the ability to sustain their operations, the capability to transport supplies and troops, and the capacity to provide their own indirect fire support, close-air support, technical intelligence and medical evacuation.”

Other than that, they’re fine.

The Bush Torture Documents

Read them and weep at Tom Dispatch.

Bushies Replace "Stay The Course" Motto With More Happy Pappy Crap: "New Way Forward"

There are days I wish that everyone involved in this administration would be forced, after indictment and being found guilty of crimes against everything, to spend the remainder of their days:

  • in an Abu Ghraib prison run by the Iraqis they have so gravely harmed
  • fed ONLY the same kind of food and "health care" (in other words, garbage) we paid Halliburton so handsomely to provide for our soldiers
  • made to listen 24 hours a day (Rumsfeld kept telling us PsyOps is NOT torture) to recordings of their own happy pappy crappy claptrap)

Here's an example, with Arianna Huffington blogging about the Bushies' change in slogan from "stay the course" to "new way forward":

Not surprisingly, the Bush administration is already backing away from most of the 79 proposals put forth by the Iraq Study Group. But while Bush isn't ready to follow the group's recommendations, he's ready to adopt its slogan, "New Way Forward." The president may not be into things like facts, truth, or reality, but he loves a good slogan. Of course, that's been the problem during this entire fiasco -- the substitution of rhetoric for policy -- the belief, even at this late date, that reality can be changed simply by changing the language used to describe it. Bush makes a big show of his religious faith, but what's truly impressive is his incredible faith in the power of PR, and, accordingly, his lack of faith in the American people.

Are Senior Military Officers Coercing Their Soldiers to Adopt Evangelical Christianity?

That's the charge and I like it no better than forcefeeding this stuff to prisoners.

The last thing America - or the rest of the world - needs is the Pentagon handing out religion to its soldiers (especially given the compelling evidence that the Pentagon fails to provide these soldiers with training, adequate equipment, medical care and mental health followup - I could go on for pages in this vein).

Whenever you have a captive audience - in prison, in a rigid structure like the military, a boarding school, for example - I think it's really terribly unfair to subject them to any indoctrination.

My objection here is not specifically to evangelical Christianity. I would like this no better if it was Judaism or Islam or High Episcopalianism or Reaganomics or black magic or a knitting club.

"Remembering Reagan" And Other "Nostalgic Republican Twaddle"

Good collection of quotes by Larry Beinhart at Huffington Post re: Ronald Reagan.

I am one of those people who firmly believe - with nothing I've read or seen ever even faintly disturbing this notion - that Ronald Reagan's only useful "public service" of his entire life was the time he served as head of the Screen Actors Guild during the Joe McCarthy "Red scare" hearings.

At times, Reagan - then a Democrat - seemed to possess both some spine and some mind.

Unfortunately, not long after that, he met another not-great actor named Nancy Davis, whose family was both rich and part of the California Republican power elite. After that, Reagan was useless to all but those who made him their puppet.

A Story Here? Saudi Ambassador to The U.S. Resigns Suddenly

My first guess is that Dick Cheney offered to take him (the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.) out shooting. But I suspect there is far more here than the press will ever tell.

Thank You, JP

I happened to catch a thread on Welcome to Pottersville tonight (er, now, last night) that reminds us how frustrating it can be to work so hard at blogging and yet feel it's a thankless task.

Perhaps you might kindly stop over at Pottersville and express your great appreciation with a few words...?

I've got email stuck in my box for a week to JP, but now I need to update it with my own thanks.

Paul Krugman: "Outsourcer In Chief"

A snippy clip, but excellent stuff awaits here:

According to U.S. News & World Report, President Bush has told aides that he won’t respond in detail to the Iraq Study Group’s report because he doesn’t want to “outsource” the role of commander in chief.

That’s pretty ironic. You see, outsourcing of the government’s responsibilities — not to panels of supposed wise men, but to private companies with the right connections — has been one of the hallmarks of his administration. And privatization through outsourcing is one reason the administration has failed on so many fronts.

For example, an article in Saturday’s New York Times describes how the Coast Guard has run a $17 billion modernization program: “Instead of managing the project itself, the Coast Guard hired Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, two of the nation’s largest military contractors, to plan, supervise and deliver the new vessels and helicopters.”The result? Expensive ships that aren’t seaworthy. The Coast Guard ignored “repeated warnings from its own engineers that the boats and ships were poorly designed and perhaps unsafe,” while “the contractors failed to fulfill their obligation to make sure the government got the best price, frequently steering work to their subsidiaries or business partners instead of competitors.”

In Afghanistan, the job of training a new police force was outsourced to DynCorp International, a private contractor, under very loose supervision: when conducting a recent review, auditors couldn’t even find a copy of DynCorp’s contract to see what it called for. And $1.1 billion later, Afghanistan still doesn’t have an effective police training program.

In July 2004, Government Executive magazine published an article titled “Outsourcing Iraq,” documenting how the U.S. occupation authorities had transferred responsibility for reconstruction to private contractors, with hardly any oversight. “The only plan,” it said, “appears to have been to let the private sector manage nation-building, mostly on their own.” We all know how that turned out.

"Impeachment Is Not Optional

From The Nation:

"Impeachment is Not Optional"
John Nichols Cindy Sheehan joins thousands of Americans in saying the tool for holding the administration to account must be "on the table."

Bush: "History Will Prove Me Right But..."

Keith Olbermann tonight repeated a statement by "President" George W. Bush which, if I recall correctly from hearing it somewhere else, is supposedly something NumbNuts Dubya said while talking to close White House confidantes about the Iraq Study Group/Baker-Hamilton Commission.

I have to paraphrase since I wasn't close to pen and paper when I heard it, but here goes:

    [About Iraq,] history is going to prove me right [on why I went there and how I handled it]. But at this rate, I'm gonna be dead before they [the critics] admit they were wrong.

Gee, George, I know exactly how you feel. I'm also quite sure that history will prove that my misgivings before you got into office and my criticisms once you got there are correct. And - just like you - I'm pretty sure I'll be dead before you ever admit you were wrong-wrong-wrong. Actually, the world will end without you ever admitting your culpability in anything.



Hey, anybody willing to spend time even with a ghost blogger purporting to be Tom probably deserves whatever they get.

I liked the comment Keith Olbermann mentioned tonight, however, that went something like this:

    Congratulations. Everybody always thinks that bloggers are unemployed, shiftless types. Now you've proven the stereotype. WTG, asshole.

What Is It With NASA And Shuttle Missions?

After we kept hearing how delightful the Discovery mission is going, now there may be a little tiny huge problem with one of its wings.

The 9/11 Truth Movement

Christopher Hayes at The Nation discusses the 9/11 Truth Movement.

I'm stuck in the middle, myself, never comfortable to sit with the conspiracy theorists or the "let's burn anyone we think might be guilty" types.

I neither believe the "simple-as-terror-pie" Bush Administration/911 Commission account of what happened OR those who insist the whole event was orchestrated exclusively by the Bush Administration/Carlyle Group. The longer the Bush Administration serves, the less and less possible I think it possible that they could pull off ANY plan that works except wholesale destruction of the country.

Say It Ain't So: Could Mel Gibson Exploit Violence and a Late Great Culture As He Also Perpetuates Ugly Stereotypes?

Uh... uh... In a word, yes, to all of the above.

Read the analysis at The Nation on Mel's Apocalypto (which tepidly led a very depressed box office this past weekend). Then read all about Disney's campaign to get Mel Gibson the Oscar (Academy Award) which should be a bad joke but somehow isn't (apparently taste is mutually exclusive from Disney and Mel Gibson):

OK, I wish this were a bad joke, but it's real: Disney's new and quiet Oscar campaigning for Mel Gibson is to convince Academy members that he's "not as bad as Roman or Woody." Specifically, I'm told that, to plead with Oscar voters "to look at Mel the artist and not Mel the man", the studio is saying that Gibson's drunken anti-Semitic ranting was not as bad as Polanski having sex "with an underage girl", or Allen having sex "with his step-daughter". Disney is also pointing to Elia Kazan's role "naming names" before the Hollywood Un-American Activities Committee to try to bring what Mel did into perspective when it comes to judging Apocalypto. I should point out this is part of a modest attempt by Disney to snag some key nominations for the film. It's long been my belief that if a litmus test were given for behavior, nobody would ever work in Hollywood again. Nevertheless, I just don't think Oscar campaigning that underscores the character flaws of other film directors will work.
Twisted. Very, very twisted.

Mel? The Mayans are gonna get you for this IF you don't piss off yet another group first.

Skeleton of Loch Ness Lookalike Creature Recovered

I dunno... calling ol 'Nessie the Loch Ness Plesiosaur just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Did The U.S. Government Really Need to Bug Princess Di's Phones?

What? Did they think Princess Diana was a great threat because she was opposed to the use of land mines throughout the world?

Makes you wonder who else they spy on - you know, besides law-abiding, normal American citizens whose rights would seem to preclude such invasion of privacy.

Steve Benen Carpetblogs His Way To The Big-Time

Regular readers here know I not only read Steve Benen's excellent "The Carpetbagger Report" but often quote from this Vermont-written blog that is far more national in nature. Steve's also been kind enough to give me a shout-out a few times on The Daou Report where he serves as lead editor.

So it was a special delight to load up The Huffington Post early today and see Steve's byline on "Like Rats From a 2008 Ship" regarding GOP senators up for re-election in 2008.

"How Long Will The Right Let Us Love Obama?"

Dave Johnson offers a thoughtful post from an article he co-wrote with James Boyce which first appeared on The Huffington Post in which he poses several questions, among them where are the other Democrats besides Barack Obama we should see as possible 2008 Dem presidential contenders and how (the bleep!) did Rudy Giuliani rise to the top as the most liked politician?

That last part I find pretty frightening. Aside from hyperbole, aside from "sentiment" pounded home as we kept hearing him called America's mayor, Rudy is a most difficult man who has made some highly questionable decisions, and who has sold his soul for the billions he's made with his Giuliani & Associates "homeland security" consultancy which also have not made U.S. citizens any safer whatsoever.

In fact, a LOT of people join me in stating that Rudy's one redeeming quality in the past was that he was happy to go against "authority", especially the rest of the Republican party, if he didn't like what they were saying or doing. Now, however, Rudy can justify anything: torture, lying into war, insisting Iran rates attack when the evidence is no more there for Iran than it was for Iraq, that it was OK to push Bernie Kerik to replace Department of Homeland (In)Security secretary Tom Ridge even though Rudy knew the former NYPD chief had a LOT of dirt under his rug.

With The Call For Silly String Donations For U.S. Troops Comes The Question, "How Long Can The Pentagon Keep Silly Stringing Along Our War Effort?"

For as long as humans have engaged in warfare, those left at home have done their part to try to provide what their warriors need. During the American Revolution, for example, those not on the front lines did all they could to collect the salt peter needed (not to reduce the sexual urge in men, which was often a standard use for the stuff) by colonial soldiers to use in weapons against the Tories.

As such, I certainly won't mock the effort many troop families and others are putting forth to send Silly String to U.S. soldiers in Iraq (the kid stuff is useful in detecting bomb trip wires) and the call by Time Magazine this week to get more people involved in the cause.

What appalls me, however, is that - again and again - soldier families and others are forced into the position of providing the troops with essential equipment the Bush Administration and the Pentagon simply can't be bothered to supply. This has happened with water, with bullets, with body armor, with first aid supplies, and God knows what else.

It's certainly not that the Pentagon is underfunded. If anything, they have a blank check! Mr. Rumsfeld insisted upon, and was granted (crap!), money that he was never asked to account for how it was spent. This was above and beyond the "normal" Pentagon budget which costs more than all other government spending rolled together (education, Medicare, housing, homeland security, etc.). And Congress has approved every damned additional Iraq war spending request the Bushies put forth - the official Iraq war cost right now stands at about $350 bbbbbbBillion and climbing fast toward half a tttttTrillion. Even Washington acknowledges that is just part of what has been spent; much of the rest has been hidden or lost in bureaucratic spreadsheets.

Nor does this factor in the money Rumsfeld was handed for the global "War on Terror": the General Accounting Office (GAO) reports that there is no central running tab for how much taxpayer money has been spent there, although the guesstimate is that it probably starts at no less than $500 billion and likely has cost exponentially more. Since there will be no end to terrorism, there can be no end to the War on Terror (unless we get some "sense" and end it) or the tax money we spend on it.

But our soldiers don't have bullets, water, medical supplies, body armor OR adequate bomb detection hardware so they must resort to asking family and friends to send them Silly String. Funny. I don't think I have ever heard a single case of Halliburton or Bechtel or Blackwater or any of the other massive contract corporations having to beg the Pentagon to supply neessary materials. I suppose it's a matter of priorities and, with it, the very clear message that our soldiers matter far less than Kellogg, Brown & Root or either Donald Rumsfeld's or George Bush's ego.

More Die As Bush "Invites" Suggestions in Iraq

Although President Bush dismisses every recommendation he has gotten (even, miraculously, before he reads or hears them), he now claims to be involved in three days of "intense" consultation with people from around the world on how to resolve the violence and chaos in Iraq (uh huh). [Ed. note: I guess we can safely assume that Bush has given up the hope that Condi Rice making nasty faces at the Iraqis will somehow bring about "peace."]

Meanwhile, bombs have killed four more U.S. soldiers while 51 Iraqi civilians have been found dead (oh, I'm sure more than 51 have died/been "found" dead today).

The Fighting First Family: How The Bushes Serve

Jesus' General offers us his own (patriotic, but of course) video compendium of the many contributions made by the Bush children, nieces, and nephews to the war effort, also available on YouTube. You really must see this (go, NOW). Then you can correct me when I dare to insinuate the Bush Twins and such aren't doing their fair share while other Americans their age are fighting and dying for George's egowars.

He also points us to other Bush contributions on another (war) front available at Steve Gilliard's News Blog.

And Great Britain Shall Lead: They Ax Slogan "War on Terror"

For whatever reason England did it - with the stated reason to avoid going head to head anymore with Islam - the decision to drop (as in cease using) the Bush-touted slogan of "War on Terror" is a smart one as well as one long overdue.

The problem with the slogan is multi-faceted, with one being that it's just a slogan, a "catchy" title to describe whoever and whatever the Bushies want to label the bad guys (and man have they ever used and abused it). Another is that we in the U.S. seem incapable of distinguishing between a metaphorical war on terrorism and the real deal.

But the biggest issues are:

a) there is no known way to end terrorism and certainly not when what the Bushies have done is create their own global terrorism network to do battle against other terrorists
b) following up on a), we have created new terrorism - both our own version and in making new enemies who then join the "terrorism" against us
c) the only ones seeming to benefit from the "war on terror" are military industrial complex types including those contract corps like Bechtel, Halliburton, Blackwater, et al as well as politicians like Bush and radical fundamentalist cause recruiters
d) our efforts have made the world an increasingly dangerous place rather than a safer one
e) there is no end in sight; never will be because there is no way to succeed

And these points just scratch the surface of what is wrong. However, we as Americans must realize and then seek redress for the fact that we were sold a bill of goods that would make us adopt the neoconservatives' view of the world. Along with that, more Americans might begin to wonder why it was that in the year 2000, the neocons "wished" for a new "Pearl Harbor" so they could fight the global battle they wanted and then, "poof" - 9/11 happened.

Great good fortune for the neocons? Or something they helped engineer, directly or indirectly?

The New It's Not Bush's Fault Excuse: "Karl Rove Has Lost His Touch"

Oh, so the fault lies with college drop-out, world class lying, ethically challenged man Bush I fired for dirty tricks, Karl Rove.

Gee, and we thought Bush was the president and "leader" of the free world.

Silly us.

Ousting Iraqi President al-Maliki?

AP is reporting that talks are well underway to "fire" and replace the new Iraqi President al-Maliki, citing him to blame for rising violence (uh... he's been in power a very short time compared to say... oh, the Bush occupation folks).

I find it interesting that this talk has really picked up after the whole debacle where Bush criticized al-Maliki, then al-Maliki didn't show for their meeting, then the two did get together but...

Anyone else question this or how much the U.S. is involved in removing an "elected" Iraqi leader?


You Can Stop Crying and Begging For Relief Now...

Errr.... not from the Bushies, sorry.

No, I'm done posting for today. I think. [Oops, one more: Check out "Flirting with Fascism" at Crooks and Liars. Also, Glenn Beck sucks: pass it on. tyvm]

I need to go get a few things done before "Dexter" starts (I've returned to watching the Showtime series realizing that as bad as Dexter is, the worst and most perverse serial killer is probably taking another nap at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) and my partner returns from looking at naked women (it's OK, it's a "life drawing" class which legitimizes staring at nudes - and no, he didn't tell me that; I figured it out all by myself).

Anyone want a Canada mint?

(Oh, and say hello to Worldwide Sawdust.)

Maureen Dowd: "The Oval Intervention"

[Ed. note: Yeah, well, when does someone save us from Bush?]

A big snip follows; go here for the rest:

It is not a happy mood in the Oval Office.

Poppy is sobbing, his face in his hands, slumped in one of the yellow-and-blue striped chairs. Laura is screaming the words “Oscar de la Renta” and “rendition” into her cellphone, still seeing red after showing up at a White House gala in the same $8,400 red gown as three other women who did not happen to be first lady.

Bob Gates is grim-faced, but not as grim-faced as Barbara, whose look could freeze not only the Potomac but the Tigris and the Euphrates. Scowcroft is over on the couch, trying to nap while Kissinger drones softly in his ear.

And, of course, there is the Deprogrammer for the Decider, James Baker, perfectly suited in bright green tie and suited perfectly for his spot behind the president’s desk.

The Council of Elders had hoped this Apocalypto moment wouldn’t be necessary. They had assumed that the scorching Iraq Study Group report would have the same effect on Junior as the bucket of cold water that Mr. Baker’s strict father, a lawyer known as “the Warden,” used to throw on his face to wake him up as a boy.

But Junior is trying to wriggle away completely, offering a decidedly cool response to the attempt to yank him into the reality-based community. He rallied his last two allies — his English poodle and his Scottish terrier, Blair and Barney.

He is loath to give up his gunslinger pose to go all diplo. He cleaves to the neocon complaint that it is the realists who are now being unrealistic, thinking the administration can bargain with Syria and Iran, or that the Army can train Iraqi security forces (or, as they are known there, death squads) in a matter of months when they haven’t been able to do it in years.

The Velvet Hammer is undeterred. He’s doing an all-out intervention, locking Junior and Barney in the little study next to the Oval. To stress the seriousness of the situation, they don’t give the president his feather pillow.

The group gathers at the door of the study. “My boy,” his dad tells him between sobs. “We love you. We’re here for you. We’re worried about you. You’re not just hurting yourself, you’re hurting others. This is a safe place. No one’s judging you ...”

“What are you talking about, Dad?” Junior snaps. “I just actually read 96 pages of your friends’ judging me in that cowpie report.” Barney woofs in support.

Barbara can be heard muttering from across the room. “We were right about Jebbie.”

Henry the K lumbers up to the door and in a low Teutonic rumble says: “It’s time we stopped taking care of you and started caring about you. Would you like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

Junior is getting even more furious. “You all think you’re so realist. But you’re unrealist. I’m realist. Are you sitting at my desk, Baker? Get out of there! Everyone says you’re so Mr. Ride to the Rescue, but none of your surrender monkey ideas would work. Talk about Pretend Land — Israel giving up the Golan Heights? Yeah, right. And they call me delusional.”

Donald Rumsfeld, On The Run

From The Heretik on Rumsfeld's rapid resignation:

Rumsfeld, The Don of Deception, must be joking. Or he has the latest case of DC Alzheimers Disease:
    “Clearly the worst day was Abu Ghraib and seeing what went on there and feeling so deeply sorry that that happened,” Rumsfeld said of the abuse of Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops uncovered in early 2004. He said the news “stunned him,” calling the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees “egregious wrongdoing.”
Rumsfeld had something to do with that smudge on the image of America. Nine detainees are suing Rumsfeld for his leading part in their torture. Justice Department lawyers say the courts have no business “interfering with core military functions.” How much immunity does the White House need? Rumsfeld may be leaving office, but the shadow of what he did remains. He stopped in Iraq for the fifteenth time on Saturday on the way out. The victory farewell tour will leave some contemplating Rumsfeld’s end while others will continue to press on about the means by which he did his dirty job.