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Vermont Secession.

If you don't know what this refers to, you haven't paid much attention to the talk of where many Vermonters want to go: a return to an independent republic status rather than as one of the most maligned of the 50 (Bush police) states.


Lt. Ehren Watada: Why The Mistrial At His Court Martial?

What was behind the declaration of mistrial by the judge overseeing the court martial of Watada, who refused a combat role in the Iraq war? Different sources have different takes on the situation, but the one I read at Truthout comes as close to my understanding of events as any. Read the Watada trial analysis here, which I'd summarize as: Watada was presenting a much stronger case than anyone expected nor would Watada back down when efforts were made to try to elicit specific types of answers from him. Rather than risk that the military would lose the case (and the military RARELY loses), the judge declared a mistrial.

Even realizing that any military probably must present themselves as an entity that will not allow any disobedience, much less anyone trying to apply independent reason and individuality, I have come to have enormous respect for Lt. Watada and his decision NOT to go to Iraq to fight because he feels that war is unjust.

In fact, what too often goes undiscussed is the fact that - if I recall correctly - certain rules that came about after World War II and the Geneva Conventions - soldiers bear some responsibility in the decision to participate in war. The rules, no doubt, were originally designed to keep another Nazi regime from happening and to prevent any soldier from knowingly "just following orders", regardless of how inhumane or unjust.

We need ethical soldiers. We just do.

We only need to remember Abu Ghraib, what's happening at countless secret prisons as well as at Guantanamo Bay/Gitmo to detainees (only 10 of whom have ever been charged with any type of crime), to know what happens when soldiers "just follow orders." I do not believe that the abuses, torture, and deaths that come out of such places is just "a few bad apples" among the soldiers; I think the treatment is prescribed right from the top: Rumsfeld-then-Gates, and Bush-Cheney.

Watada did not, after all, refuse to serve the military at all. He was willing to go to Afghanistan (mind you, I don't believe our war there is very just either) as well as take other assignments. His specific issue was with Iraq.

Must Read: 12 Consequences of U.S. Declaring War On Iran

In light of Defense Secretary Robert Gates' announcement today that the Pentagon now has absolute proof Iran is behind the violence in Iraq - funny, I thought it was the Bushies running the show - I highly recommend Jon Basil Utley's 12 Consequences of Attacking Iran available at AntiWar.


Formatting Goes Foo-Foo

Uh... my formatting has gone so nuts you would almost think the Bush Administration had a hand in it (yet, unlike the Bush Administration, it hasn't occurred to me to blame it on Bill Clinton).

If I don't get it fixed tonight, I will tomorrow.

In the meantime, you just think you're seeing LARGE and red. ::choke::

Apparently Gravely Different Standards Apply To Bloggers On The Left

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at All Things Democrat.]

This story about the two bloggers from the progressive community - two women I respect enormously, Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister - hired by John Edwards and now drawing heat because of their past personal blog posts (I think this is quite relevant) makes me patently ILL.

The Catholic League, through spokesmen like Bill Donahue, have made some of the most hateful public comments imaginable. And yet they demand Edwards fire Amanda and Melissa because they posted how they felt.

Edwards certainly should have been familiar with the work of these two bloggers before he hired them for his campaign. I do not for a moment believe he made a mistake in bringing these women in. However, after his public comments about the two women, who he has not fired (good, if true), I am sorely disappointed in Edwards. VERY, VERY disappointed. I'm personally offended that he's personally offended at them. Boo frickin' hoo.

What this incident tells me is that the right can make the meanest, most hate-filled, extreme attacks on anyone and everyone and that's fine. When anyone from the left even speaks his or her personal heart on a matter, well... their breathing privileges should be rescinded.

This is not fair, it's not right, and we should stop allowing it to occur.

It Takes Republicans For The Hardest, Strangest Flip Flops

As readers here know, I applauded Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for his strong words in January about Iraq and the need to get opposition to Bush's planned surge/escalation on the record.

So I was gravely disappointed last week when Hagel, joined by a number of other either more moderate GOP senators or those who "saw the light" on the insanity of Bush's occupation in Iraq, refused to block fellow GOP Senator (and Scum Extraordinaire) Mitch McConnell's filibuster to stop any debate on a resolution disapproving of the surge.

Now Hagel and friends, called "rogue Republicans" now, have flipped back. But I doubt I'll be lauding Hagel and Rogues again any time soon. From Raw Story:

A group of seven Republican senators has sent a letter to the Senate's Republican and Democratic leadership insisting that they remove political gamesmanship from the chamber's debate about Iraq. While some have lauded the move, others see it as insufficient to make up for the fact that most of the senators in question refused to vote to end the filibuster on the Warner-Levin Iraq resolution on Monday.

Blogger Steve Clemons posted the full letter directed to Senators Mitch McConnel. (R-KY), Trent Lott (R-MS), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Dick Durbin (D-IL) on his blog, The Washington Note, last night. In the letter, Senators Olympia Snowe (R-ME), John Warner (R-VA), Chuck Hagel (R-NE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Norm Coleman (R-MN), Gordon Smith (R-OR), and George Voinovich (R-OH) implored the leadership of both parties to make it possible for the the debate over Iraq to go forward.

"We strongly believe the Senate should be allowed to work its will on our resolution as well as the concepts brought forward by other Senators. Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts of S. Con. Res. 7," they wrote. "The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country."

Clemons believes that the letter is a "brave move" and interpreted the following meaning from its contents: "Essentially, these seven Senators have said to their own Republican leadership and the Democrats to "shape up" or a "pox on both your houses."
Yeah, well, a pox on men and women like Hagel, Warner, Collins, and Smith, too. Hopefully, that fence they're riding features hellacious splinters!

Paul Krugman: "The Green-Zoning of America"

Read all of Dr. Krugman's latest here:

One of the best of the many recent books about the Iraq debacle is Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” The book tells a tale of hopes squandered in the name of politicization and privatization: key jobs in Baghdad’s Green Zone were assigned on the basis of loyalty rather than know-how, while key functions were outsourced to private contractors.

Two recent reports in The New York Times serve as a reminder that the Bush administration has brought the same corruption of governance to the home front. Call it the Green-Zoning of America.In the first article, The Times reported that a new executive order requires that each agency contain a “regulatory policy office run by a political appointee,” a change that “strengthens the hand of the White House in shaping rules that have, in the past, often been generated by civil servants and scientific experts.”

Yesterday, The Times turned to the rapid growth of federal contracting, fed “by a philosophy that encourages outsourcing almost everything government does.”

These are two different pieces of the same story: under the guise of promoting a conservative agenda, the Bush administration has created a supersized version of the 19th-century spoils system.

The blueprint for Bush-era governance was laid out in a January 2001 manifesto from the Heritage Foundation, titled “Taking Charge of Federal Personnel.” The manifesto’s message, in brief, was that the professional civil service should be regarded as the enemy of the new administration’s conservative agenda. And there’s no question that Heritage’s thinking reflected that of many people on the Bush team.

How should the civil service be defeated? First and foremost, Heritage demanded that politics take precedence over know-how: the new administration “must make appointment decisions based on loyalty first and expertise second.”Second, Heritage called for a big increase in outsourcing — “contracting out as a management strategy.” This would supposedly reduce costs, but it would also have the desirable effect of reducing the total number of civil servants.

The Bush administration energetically put these recommendations into effect. Political loyalists were installed throughout the government, regardless of qualifications. And the administration outsourced many government functions previously considered too sensitive to privatize: yesterday’s Times article begins with the case of CACI International, a private contractor hired, in spite of the obvious conflict of interest, to process cases of incompetence and fraud by private contractors. A few years earlier, CACI provided interrogators at Abu Ghraib.
The rest is with Rozius.

Pentagon Leaks Plane Story And GOP Gets Up In Arms Over Whether Pelosi's Plane Is Bigger Than Hastert's

Even as Nancy Pelosi says she will quite happily fly regular commercial flights back and forth between her job in Washington, DC, and her home in California, this is what the Republicans consider critically more important than Iraq: whether Pelosi gets a bigger plane than Hastert. And that this story was leaked out of the Pentagon where "resigned" Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld still runs the show (except we pay him MORE now as a consultant) is sickening!

From my post at All Things Democrat:

While most of us are very much concerned with whether President Bush is, once again, going to get his way in terms of an escalation of the war in Iraq and make good on all his threats toward Iran, and worried greatly too of the increased deaths among American and other troops as well as Iraqi civilians, the GOP’s upset, too. But the reason is slightly different.

No, as Keith Olbermann on Countdown on MSNBC tonight and other sources tell us, many Republican royal loyalists are up in arms, not with Iraq or government fraud or avoidable deaths or America going bankrupt while Bush privitizes everything.

The Republicans great cause for concern? Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s “official” plane may be ever-so-slightly larger than former GOP Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s.

Uh… isn’t it just possibly that Denny Hastert was so freaking corpulent (fat to the nth power) that his plane just seemed smaller? And why do they care? GOP Congress critters all but live on huge, all-the-frills corporate jets.

Frank Rich: "Why Dick Cheney Cracked Up"

Read the entire Sunday Frank Rich column here, but I'm offering a huge mouthful:

In the days since Dick Cheney lost it on CNN, our nation’s armchair shrinks have had a blast. The vice president who boasted of “enormous successes” in Iraq and barked “hogwash” at the congenitally mild Wolf Blitzer has been roundly judged delusional, pathologically dishonest or just plain nuts. But what else is new? We identified those diagnoses long ago.

The more intriguing question is what ignited this particularly violent public flare-up. The answer can be found in the timing of the CNN interview, which was conducted the day after the start of the perjury trial of Mr. Cheney’s former top aide, Scooter Libby. The vice president’s on-camera crackup reflected his understandable fear that a White House cover-up was crumbling.

He knew that sworn testimony in a Washington courtroom would reveal still more sordid details about how the administration lied to take the country into war in Iraq.He knew that those revelations could cripple the White House’s current campaign to escalate that war and foment apocalyptic scenarios about Iran. Scariest of all, he knew that he might yet have to testify under oath himself.Mr. Cheney, in other words, understands the danger this trial poses to the White House even as some of Washington remains oblivious. From the start, the capital has belittled the Joseph and Valerie Wilson affair as “a tempest in a teapot,” as David Broder of The Washington Post reiterated just five months ago.

When “all of the facts come out in this case, it’s going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great,” Bob Woodward said in 2005. Or, as Robert Novak suggested in 2003 before he revealed Ms. Wilson’s identity as a C.I.A. officer in his column, “weapons of mass destruction or uranium from Niger” are “little elitist issues that don’t bother most of the people.” Those issues may not trouble Mr. Novak, but they do loom large to other people, especially those who sent their kids off to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nonexistent uranium.In terms of the big issues, the question of who first leaked Ms. Wilson’s identity (whether Mr. Libby, Richard Armitage, Ari Fleischer or Karl Rove) to which journalist (whether Mr. Woodward, Mr. Novak, Judith Miller or Matt Cooper) has always been a red herring. It’s entirely possible that the White House has always been telling the truth when it says that no one intended to unmask a secret agent. (No one has been charged with that crime.)

The White House is also telling the truth when it repeatedly says that Mr. Cheney did not send Mr. Wilson on his C.I.A.-sponsored African trip to check out a supposed Iraq-Niger uranium transaction. (Another red herring, since Mr. Wilson didn’t make that accusation in the first place.) But if the administration is telling the truth on these narrow questions and had little to hide about the Wilson trip per se, its wild overreaction to the episode was an incriminating sign it was hiding something else.

According to testimony in the Libby case, the White House went berserk when Mr. Wilson published his Op-Ed article in The Times in July 2003 about what he didn’t find in Africa. Top officials gossiped incessantly about both Wilsons to anyone who would listen, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Libby conferred about them several times a day, and finally Mr. Libby, known as an exceptionally discreet White House courtier, became so sloppy that his alleged lying landed him with five felony counts.

The explanation for the hysteria has long been obvious. The White House was terrified about being found guilty of a far greater crime than outing a C.I.A. officer: lying to the nation to hype its case for war. When Mr. Wilson, an obscure retired diplomat, touched that raw nerve, all the president’s men panicked because they knew Mr. Wilson’s modest finding in Africa was the tip of a far larger iceberg. They knew that there was still far more damning evidence of the administration’s W.M.D. lies lurking in the bowels of the bureaucracy.
Rest here.

The Powell Doctrine: Why This Litmus Test, Applied to Iraq Surge or Possible War With Iran, Tells Us "No Go!"

[Ed. note: I wrote about this at All Things Democrat, but I believe the more people who see this, the better.]

African American Political Pundit reminds us of the Powell Doctrine (as in former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and original Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell), something the Bush Administration has clearly never studied. Go through the AAPP post, answer the questions, and I think you may agree with me that this absolutely negates Bush's planned Iraq War surge/escalation (and should have kept us out of Iraq and possibly Afghanistan, too) and should blow any plan to go after Iran right out of the Bush-muddied water.

Read the whole post, but here are the questions posed by the doctrine:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Why We All Must Care About The Tragedy of New Orleans

[Ed. note: Cross-posted at All Things Democrat.]

You probably didn't hear this last week, a story which I believe was profiled on last Wednesday (1-31-07) Democracy Now! about how not just heavily armed police but riot squads and all the big guns descended on people trying to protect low income housing projects in the great city of New Orleans, a city devastated once by Hurricane Katrina, and made a victim every day since by the Bush Administration.

So many times - and sadly, coming from some people I would expect to not only know better but who are normally fairly sensitive - I hear repeatedly that Americans can't be bothered any more with worrying about New Orleans or the people there. So what, they say, if the various colors and races and religious groups are no longer welcome there?

But it DOES matter. It matters to all of us.

Not only did the Bushies fail to respond appropriately to the terrible situation in the hours leading up to and for days after the hurricane struck, and not only did they make more contractors wealthy for work never done and waste billions in tax dollars for silly romps like buying mega tons of ice in one state, driving them to Nola, only to turn around and truck them to the Northeast for long-term storage.

No, the response to Hurricane Katrina was so egregious I am left to conclude that the Bushies' actions were no mistake, no error. No, they - bolstered by fed haters like Grover Norquist - made a calculated decision to:

  • Deliberately fail in an area where Democrats would take the heat
  • Make a concerted effort to manipulate emergency efforts through behind-the-scenes discussions as to how they could hurt political Dems even further (disclosed by former FEMA director Michael "You're doin' a heluva job there, Brownie" Browne)
  • Prove that the federal government cannot be trusted with disaster relief, particularly when the disaster befalls a city with a huge, non-white and non-rich population
  • Decide to take what was left of New Orleans and turn it into a mecca for rich whites and corporations
For non-blacks to say they're "tired" of the subject of New Orleans post-Katrina, to say it's not worth their time and energy to make phone calls and write letters and demand a better shake for their Louisiana neighbors, to pretend that perhaps it's a great idea to remake New Orleans into a place of casinos, homes with an average price of $600K or more, simply invites the government, whenever any place is severely damaged, to force the lesser citizens out to make way for rich carpetbagging newcomers.

The Republicans helped make Katrina a much bigger tragedy than it was in those dark first days of late August-early September 2005. Democrats, whom the GOP politicians deliberately tried to "sink" in the storm waters, have largely steered clear of "making trouble" by joining angry and heartbroken Nola residents in demanding better treatment.

But Dems like Louisiana's female governor and Nawlins black mayor need to stand side by side with those fighting for the survival of what New Orleans was and could be again.


Maureen Dowd: "No Way Out"

Read all of MoDo's latest on Iraq, American culture, Bush and Cheney and so much more here, while I offer this large mouth-sized byte:

“Everything you’ve heard and read is true. And I am deeply sorry about that.” Who said it?

(a) George Bush, about the chilling new intelligence report on Iraq.

(b) Joe Biden, about his self-imploding prolixity.

(c) Condi Rice, on her ability to understand Peyton Manning’s vulnerabilities better than Nuri Kamal al-Malaki’s.

(d) Silvio Berlusconi, on his wife’s Junoesque lightning bolt after his public flirting.

(e) Jacques Chirac, after giving a Gallic shrug at the prospect of Iran getting un or deux nuclear weapons.

(f) Hillary Clinton, on enabling the president to invade Iraq.

(g) Barack Obama, for the ultimate sin of not being black enough or white enough.

(h) Mary Cheney, on her decision to work on her terrifying dad’s homophobic campaign because the thought of John Kerry was “terrifying.”

(i) Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, about his affair with his campaign manager’s wife.

The answer is Gavin Newsom.

It’s rare to get a simple apology when a complex obfuscation will do.Even after releasing parts of an intelligence report so pessimistic that it may as well have been titled “Iraq: We’re Cooked,” Bush officials clung to their alternate reality, using nonsensical logic and cherry-picking whatever phrases they could find in the report that they could use to sell the Surge.

In the 2004 National Intelligence Estimate, civil war was a worst-case scenario.

In the 2007 one, Iraq has zoomed past civil war to hell: “The Intelligence Community judges that the term ‘civil war’ does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, Al Qaeda and Sunni insurgent attacks on coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence.”

As John McLaughlin, the former acting director of central intelligence, told The Times’s Mark Mazzetti: “Civil war is checkers. This is chess.”

Far from Dick Cheney’s claim of “enormous successes” and Gen. William Casey’s claim of “slow progress,” the report shows that any path the U.S. takes in Iraq could lead to a river of blood. It says that in the absence of any strong Sunni and Shiite leaders who can control their groups, prospects are dim for a cohesive government, much less a democracy.

If the violence gets worse, the report concludes, three sulfurous possibilities loom: chaos leading to partition, the emergence of a Shiite strongman or anarchy “mixing extreme ethnosectarian violence with debilitating intragroup clashes.”
Read the rest here.

"Houston, We Have A Problem!

Wow... this seems like a topic tailor made for Jerry Brooks (aka Geraldo Rivera before he changed his name to appeal to a different ethnic minority), as in "Astronauts Who Kill When They Can't Get Their (Moon) Rocks Off" or "Did Little Green Men - Not to Mention Tang! - Make A Lady Space Shuttle Astronaut Wear Diapers To Kill Her Love Rival In Twisted Venus-Mars-Jupiter Love Triangle?" Neexxxxxt on Geraldo!

Now, regular readers know I'm a real proponent of innocent until proven guilty, but I admit I got a little pissy when NASA's shuttle program commander appeared at the arraignment of the space shuttle astronaut charged with attempted kidnapping and murder of another female astronaut to support this "dear and valuable woman" on our tax dollars and suggest she is just too wonderful an asset since she's supposed to be the communications point person on the next shuttle mission scheduled for March 15th (talk about the Ides of March!) to charge her with trying to do in her lover's other love interest.

From AP:

Chief astronaut Steve Lindsey, who flew with Nowak to the international space station last July aboard space shuttle Discovery, and fellow astronaut Chris Ferguson attended the earlier hearing.

"Our primary concern is her health and well-being and that she get through this," Lindsey told reporters later. "Her status (with the astronaut corps) has not changed."

Ferguson said he was "perplexed" by Nowak's alleged actions.
Yeah, let's help her get through this so Ms. Numb Nuts can ignore her three kids and do this again (granted, if she is guilty as charged).

If she's so damned wonderful, perhaps she shouldn't have allegedly plotted to kill another human being. Nor do I particularly want to pay her salary - or the paycheck of the NASA officials who rushed to her defense today - while this gets sorted out.

I also have a problem with a judge who originally wanted to let her go on just $15,500 bail - and then raised it to a paltry $25K. The charges leveled against Lisa Nowak, a married mother of three who perhaps at 43 should know better, include attempted first degree murder, kidnapping, and intent to do serious bodily harm.

If Nowak were a person of color - even one of those "clean" ones Joe Biden so respects - she would be looking at a minimum of a quarter million dollars bond and more likely a half million or more.

I'm no fan of double standards or special treatment for white women gifted at crying either. People on her side today suggested it would really be too traumatic for her to spend even a few hours in jail. Well, boo frickin hoo; I suggest that had her alleged plot worked, being kidnapped and killed might have been traumatic for the object of her plot, Lt. Colleen Shipman.

While NASA and defense people played down the story, noting all Nowak had was a can of pepper spray and a BB gun and only wanted to "talk" with Shipman, police said they found a number of other items in her car, including a four-inch knife and a steel mallet (I doubt she packed it so she could tenderize a steak for Shipman, whom Nowak supposedly believed was romantically involved with Nowak's "love interest", a Navy commander named William Oefelein) along with garbage bags and other assorted goodies.

Nowak also supposedly wore diapers so she could make a 900 mile drive to Shipman without the need to stop for a restroom.

But they let her out on a piddling bond which, I must say, probably doesn't make Shipman feel any too reassured. Special treatment. And wrong.

A Bleeding Heart With Bleeding Hands (Literally!)

Sorry I've been so quiet the last few days.

The Siberian Express rolled back into Vermont on Saturday (and mind you, it wasn't exactly toasty during its break from the region, since 14 is the highest temp we've seen in weeks and then, with a cold that negated any solar heating) and hours spent trying to extricate both our vehicles from ditched left my hands (not to mention other parts of my anatomy) cracked, bleeding, and about as painful as possible. (Yes, I was properly dressed but when it's below zero with a 40 mph wind coming from the frigid north, there IS no proper protection from the cold).

Typing has been agony, so I've done only what was absolutely required elsewhere.

However, the hands are finally starting to heal, so expect a core dump of posts later today/tonight since too much is going on to be silent.