Frank Rich: "Bring Back The Politics of Personal Destruction"

Eh? Can't say I miss that - and with the Bushies and the severe right wingnuts practicing destructive hate speech on a second-by-second basis, I doubt we have to worry about not getting our fill of it (like a GOP Congressman from Texas saying Dems' failure to support Bush's endless failures caused the stock market to tank earlier this week).

But here, without further delay, is the March 4th Frank Rich column in The New York Times, of which I give you a heaping sniplet or you can read in full at Rozius Unbound:

If you had to put a date on when the Iraq war did in the Bush administration, it would be late summer 2005. That's when the bungled federal response to Hurricane Katrina re-enacted the White House bungling of the war, this time with Americans as the principal victims. The stuff happening on Brownie's watch in New Orleans was recognizably the same stuff that had happened on Donald Rumsfeld's watch in Baghdad. Television viewers connected the dots and the president's poll numbers fell into the 30s. There they have largely remained - at least until Friday, when the latest New York Times-CBS News Poll put him at 29.

Now this pattern is repeating itself: a searing re-enactment of the Iraq war's lethal mismanagement is playing out on the home front, again with potentially grave political consequences. The Washington Post's exposé of the squalor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center - where some of our most grievously wounded troops were treated less like patients than detainees - has kicked off the same spiral of high-level lying and blame-shifting that followed FEMA's Katrina disasters.

Just as the debacle on the gulf was a call to arms for NBC's Brian Williams and CNN's Anderson Cooper, so the former ABC anchor Bob Woodruff has returned from his own near-death experience in Iraq to champion wounded troops let down by their government. And not just at Walter Reed. His powerful ABC News special last week unearthed both a systemic national breakdown in veterans' medical care and a cover-up. The Veterans Affairs Department keeps "two sets of books" - one telling the public that the official count of nonfatal battlefield casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan stands at 23,000, the other showing an actual patient count of 205,000. Why the discrepancy? A new Brownie - Jim Nicholson, the former Republican National Committee hack whom President Bush installed as veterans affairs secretary - tells Mr. Woodruff "a lot of them come in for dental problems."

Yet 2007 is not 2005, and little more damage can be inflicted on the lame-duck Bush White House. The long-running Iraq catastrophe is now poised to mow down a second generation of political prey: presidential hopefuls who might have strongly challenged Bush war policy when it counted and didn't. That list starts with the candidates long regarded as their parties' 2008 favorites, John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

Senator McCain, who, unlike Senator Clinton, fervently supports the war and the surge, is morbidly aware of his predicament. This once-ebullient politician has been off his game since a conspicuously listless January "Meet the Press" appearance; on Thursday, he had to publicly apologize after telling David Letterman, in an unguarded moment of genuine straight talk, that American lives were being "wasted" in Iraq. (Barack Obama had already spoken the same truth and given the same pro forma apology.) Last week a Washington Post-ABC News Poll confirmed Mr. McCain's worst political fears. Rudy Giuliani now leads him two to one among Republicans, a tripling of Mr. Giuliani's lead in a single month.

Mr. Giuliani is also a war supporter and even contributed a Brownie of his own to the fiasco, the now disgraced Bernard Kerik, who helped botch the training of the Iraqi police. But, unlike Mr. McCain, Mr. Giuliani isn't dogged by questions about Iraq. To voters, his war history begins and ends with the war against the enemy that actually attacked America on 9/11. He wasn't a cheerleader for the subsequent detour into Iraq, wasn't in office once the war started, and actively avoids speaking about it in any detail.

What makes Mr. Giuliani's rise particularly startling is that his liberal views and messy personal history are thought to make him a nonstarter with his own party faithful. These handicaps haven't kicked in, the Beltway explanation has it, because benighted Republican voters don't yet really know that "America's mayor" once married a cousin or that he describes himself as "pro-choice." But perhaps these voters aren't as ignorant as Washington thinks. After the flameouts of Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Rick Santorum, Ralph Reed and other Bible-thumping politicos who threw themselves on the altars of Terri Schiavo or Jack Abramoff, maybe most Republicans could use a rest from the moral brigade. Maybe these voters, too, care more about the right to life of troops thrust into an Iraqi civil war than that of discarded embryos used in stem-cell research.
Get the rest here.

Paul Krugman: "The Big Meltdown"

While a House reprehensible from Texas (naturally), on the chamber floor, blamed this week's nasty stock market crash as the fault of the Democrats, Dr. Krugman sees a bigger picture at work here. Read it all at Rozius, or content yourself with this whopping sniplet:

The great market meltdown of 2007 began exactly a year ago, with a 9 percent fall in the Shanghai market, followed by a 416-point slide in the Dow. But as in the previous global financial crisis, which began with the devaluation of Thailand’s currency in the summer of 1997, it took many months before people realized how far the damage would spread.

At the start, all sorts of implausible explanations were offered for the drop in U.S. stock prices. It was, some said, the fault of Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, as if his statement of the obvious — that the housing slump could possibly cause a recession — had been news to anyone. One Republican congressman blamed Representative John Murtha, claiming that his efforts to stop the “surge” in Iraq had somehow unnerved the markets.

Even blaming events in Shanghai for what happened in New York was foolish on its face, except to the extent that the slump in China — whose stock markets had a combined valuation of only about 5 percent of the U.S. markets’ valuation — served as a wake-up call for investors.

The truth is that efforts to pin the stock decline on any particular piece of news are a waste of time.

Wise analysts remember the classic study that Robert Shiller of Yale carried out during the market crash of Oct. 19, 1987. His conclusion? “No news story or rumor appearing on the 19th or over the preceding weekend was responsible.” In 2007, as in 1987, investors rushed for the exits not because of external events, but because they saw other investors doing the same.

What made the market so vulnerable to panic? It wasn’t so much a matter of irrational exuberance — although there was plenty of that, too — as it was a matter of irrational complacency.

After the bursting of the technology bubble of the 1990s failed to produce a global disaster, investors began to act as if nothing bad would ever happen again. Risk premiums — the extra return people demand when lending money to less than totally reliable borrowers — dwindled away.

For example, in the early years of the decade, high-yield corporate bonds (formerly known as junk bonds) were able to attract buyers only by offering interest rates eight to 10 percentage points higher than U.S. government bonds. By early 2007, that margin was down to little more than two percentage points.

For a while, growing complacency became a self-fulfilling prophecy. As the what-me-worry attitude spread, it became easier for questionable borrowers to roll over their debts, so default rates went down. Also, falling interest rates on risky bonds meant higher prices for those bonds, so those who owned such bonds experienced big capital gains, leading even more investors to conclude that risk was a thing of the past.

Sooner or later, however, reality was bound to intrude. By early 2007, the collapse of the U.S. housing boom had brought with it widespread defaults on subprime mortgages — loans to home buyers who fail to meet the strictest lending standards. Lenders insisted that this was an isolated problem, which wouldn’t spread to the rest of the market or to the real economy. But it did.

For a couple of months after the shock of Feb. 27, markets oscillated wildly, soaring on bits of apparent good news, then plunging again. But by late spring, it was clear that the self-reinforcing cycle of complacency had given way to a self-reinforcing cycle of anxiety.

There was still one big unknown: had large market players, hedge funds in particular, taken on so much leverage — borrowing to buy risky assets — that the falling prices of those assets would set off a chain reaction of defaults and bankruptcies? Now, as we survey the financial wreckage of a global recession, we know the answer.

In retrospect, the complacency of investors on the eve of the crisis seems puzzling. Why didn’t they see the risks?
Read the rest here.


Is Tennessee Looking To Reprise the Scopes "Monkey" Trial on Evolution?

Looks like in this piece from the Nashville Post. I do worry, however, that such a "stunt" could turn around and bite not just Tennessee but the U.S. which, under Bush, seems to have rolled the War on Science into the War on Terror:

Somewhere in heaven, John T. Scopes is watching the Tennessee Senate. Either that or he was reincarnated as a monkey and is too busy peeling bananas.

A Tennessee State Senate member has filed a resolution asking the Tennessee Department of Education to address a few basic questions about life, the universe and all that:

* "Is the universe and all that is within it, including human beings, created through purposeful, intelligent design by a Supreme Being, that is a Creator?"
* "Since the universe, including human beings, is created by a supreme being (a creator), why is creationism not taught in Tennessee public schools?
* "Since it cannot be determined whether the universe, including human beings, is created by a supreme being (a creator), why is creationism not taught as an alternative concept, explanation, or theory, along with the theory of evolution in Tennessee public schools?"
State Sen. Raymond Finney (R-Maryville), a retired physician, is asking the Senate to endorse his questions to the Department of Education, and for the department to come back with a response by January 15, 2008.

The evolution of this argument has deep Tennessee roots, going back to the famous "Monkey Trial" in 1925.

In 1925, business leaders in the Rhea County town of Dayton decided to test the Butler Act which stated, "... that it shall be unlawful for any teacher in any of the universities, normals and all other public schools of the state which are supported in whole or in part by the public school funds of the state, to teach any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals."

Dayton's city leaders felt that by challenging the act they would put the town on the map and it would be good for commerce, no matter what the verdict was. They convinced Rhea County football coach and substitute teacher John T. Scopes to teach a class on evolution in order to bring about a jury trial.

In short order, legendary barristers William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow descended on the town to argue the law and the case.

Is anyone besides me getting VERY tired of having to explain why that which has some real physical proof should get higher billing than that which cannot be seen?

Seymour Hersh on The Bush Administration

Interviewed right now on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher", New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh just said (and quite accurately, I believe):

"This is the most dangerous administration we have ever had."

Pentagon Tried to Thwart LA Times' Investigation Into U.S. Soldiers' Alleged Murder & Torture of Afghans

They say that truth is always the first casualty of war, but with the Pentagon - and the Bush Administration in general - truth is regarded as a MUCH larger enemy than al Qaeda OR Cindy Sheehan. ::smirk::

From Editor & Publisher:

The military, including Pentagon officials, sought to thwart a Los Angeles Times investigation into deaths and possible torture by soldiers in Afghanistan last year, according to a report by Craig Pyes on Harvard University's Nieman Watchdog Web site.

The article details how officials sent hundreds of emails to try to control information about Special Forces activities, and offered "media engagement training" and "family readiness groups" to soldiers and their families in case Times reporters called about the issue.

To read the full article, click here.

The Bush Doctrine for Dummies

As with all things Bush, you pretty much have to deliver up details in a very simple visual format since our president appears to be illiterate (among with his many, many other... uh... er... strengths).

Thus, Jesus' General - who remains an 11 on the 1-10 manliness scale - has summed up Dubya's own Middle East doctrine in perfect pictorial format (although I think both "Iraq" and "Iran" may be rather big words for the president to grasp).

The General labels this:

Did I Happen to Mention...?

I'm not sure I posted this except perhaps parenthetically but it's worthy of note (and a few sad tears, as well):

Bush was in such a big frickin' rush to surge to get more troops into Iraq before anyone on Capitol Hill could even begin shaping their lips around the word, "No!" with regard to Bush's "Iraq escalation" that many of the 21,700 or so men and women of our armed services that he shipped them out BEFORE they could begin special training courses on anti-insurgency techniques.


I'm beginning to think that American citizens like you and me need to become insurgents. No, we won't blow up vehicles or people, but we should oust the Bush crew. I'm sure we can find room for George, Dick, Condi, Bob Gates and Rummy, Tony Snow(job), etc. at Guantanamo Bay/Gitmo. And, of course, they shouldn't have access to lawyers or mental health professionals or proper food, or get to face their accusers. What's good for brown people should be plenty good enough for the brown nosers and the boobs.

Also according to Bush's own words, it's fine and dandy if we make them sit there the rest of their (un)natural lives without ever filing a single charge against them since the Constitution allows it, they insist - the Bushies seem to operate off a diferent version of it compared with the rest of us -and it's just good homeland security to "disappear" them without their families knowing where they have gone.

On Alabama, The Deep South, Killer Tornadoes, and Climate Change

My condolences to all of those severely hurt in Thursday's tornadoes, including the great tragedy at the high school in Enterprise, Alabama.

What I post here is in no way meant to demean what happened, but I feel compelled to say something on this subject.

The number of tornadoes and other manifestations of extreme weather phenomena have increased sharply for decades now, and have been even worse the last seven or so years. That is a given.

Ironically, in recent weeks, I've seen various news outlets talking with people, often in the deep South, including school children and young adults in Alabama and Georgia - two of the states very hard hit by yesterday's killer tornadoes - about climate change/global warming/"An Inconvenient Truth" (Cheney mocked that title earlier today, btw) weather changes. Time and again, I heard these folks - and not all of them were young - pooh pooh the notion of climate change and global warming.

To paraphrase one young man I remember seeing, "I think maybe it's like what the prez and Vice President say, that nobody can tell if the weird weather's got anything to do with a little extra car exhaust and using an air conditioner. Nobody can prove climate change is happening."

Now, I'm not suggesting I hold a 16- or 17-year-old culpable for global warming, I don't. I do hold the Bush Administration at fault, however, for helping to keep people stupid on the subject, with columnists like George S. Will ("Who says we aren't supposed to be this new temperature average? Who says it will harm us?") adding to the dumbing down of America.

But I do think it's the responsibility of every citizen of the globe, including those teenage Kool-aid drinkers in the Deep South, to educate themselves about what is going on with global climate change. And, until they do, perhaps they shouldn't ridicule what they don't understand.

Ann(thrax) Coulter And the Cult of Faggot

So there's a big conservative shindig today and one of the main speakers was the far right nutwing's favorite transgender hate-spewer, the man with a thousand tight skirts, Ann Coulter, who chose to use the word faggot when referring to John Edwards. Then she went on to endorse Mor(m)on Mitt Romney (he must have been reeeaaaaal pleased, too).

Although I'm a pacifist and a generally very charitable person, I really would like to see her contract a virulent, slow, excruciatingly painful wasting disease that produces massive amounts of facial hair while quickly robbing her of her voice.


Talk About Coals to Newcastle

The weather report suggests Vermont is about to get hit with 6-14 inches of snow late tonight. Considering MOST of our 3+ FEET from St. Viagra's Day record blizzard still remains, with many vehicles and homes yet buried by it... OUCH.

Anyone want some free snow? You pay shipping. ;)


In The "Everything The Bushies Set Out To Do Turns To Shit" Department

[Note: Robert Fisk, probably one of the best of the Iraq/Afghanistan journalists, writes about a bombing yesterday that claimed the lives of 18 young Iraqi boys out for a little sports in the war-ravaged country.]

The (UK) Independent serves up some exceptionally disturbing - although not surprising, I suppose, given the Bushies' track record - news:

Since the Bush Administration forced its way into Iraq,
starting a war that gets worse with each passing day,
terror attacks throughout the world have risen dramatically.

Quoth the Independent today:

Innocent people across the world are now paying the price of the "Iraq effect", with the loss of hundreds of lives directly linked to the invasion and occupation by American and British forces.

An authoritative US study of terrorist attacks after the invasion in 2003 contradicts the repeated denials of George Bush and Tony Blair that the war is not to blame for an upsurge in fundamentalist violence worldwide. The research is said to be the first to attempt to measure the "Iraq effect" on global terrorism. It found that the number killed in jihadist attacks around the world has risen dramatically since the Iraq war began in March 2003. The study compared the period between 11 September 2001 and the invasion of Iraq with the period since the invasion. The count - excluding the Arab-Israel conflict - shows the number of deaths due to terrorism rose from 729 to 5,420. As well as strikes in Europe, attacks have also increased in Chechnya and Kashmir since the invasion. The research was carried out by the Centre on Law and Security at the NYU Foundation for Mother Jones magazine.

Iraq was the catalyst for a ferocious fundamentalist backlash, according to the study, which says that the number of those killed by Islamists within Iraq rose from seven to 3,122. Afghanistan, invaded by US and British forces in direct response to the September 11 attacks, saw a rise from very few before 2003 to 802 since then. In the Chechen conflict, the toll rose from 234 to 497. In the Kashmir region, as well as India and Pakistan, the total rose from 182 to 489, and in Europe from none to 297.

Two years after declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq President Bush insisted: "If we were not fighting and destroying the enemy in Iraq, they would not be idle. They would be plotting and killing Americans across the world and within our borders. By fighting these terrorists in Iraq, Americans in uniform are defeating a direct threat to the American people."

Shifting Allegiances?

As reported by Political Wire:

Two interesting trends in the 2008 presidential race were uncovered in the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll:
  • African American voters, "who little more than a month ago heavily supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton... now favor the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama."
  • White evangelical Protestants now clearly favor Rudy Giuliani over Sen. John McCain, "despite his support of abortion rights and gay rights, two issues of great importance to religious conservatives."
In the Democratic race, the poll found Clinton with 43% support, trailed by Obama at 27% and Edwards at 14%. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3%.On the Republican side, Giuliani leads with 44% to Sen. John McCain's 21%. Newt Gingrich had 15% support.

Photos From a Marine Iraqi War Vet's Wedding

Bag News Notes brings us a photo of a couple getting married after the Marine, Ty Ziegel, returned from serving in Iraq. I think you should look at it, and ponder the question posed there.

I wish Ty and his new bride every possible happiness, but I grieve for what Bush's war of empire has done to this brave young man. The photo will tell you exactly what I'm talking about.

The President Is "Into" Sodomy?

I'm late in picking this up - or rather, I read it a few weeks ago elsewhere but yawned because every day's news is chuck full of Bush's infantile bully behavior but.... posted by All Spin Zone:
Well, that’s what Ariel Sharon’s biographer (and close associate) says in a new book. This statement certainly reveals a side of George W. Bush that we all new existed, but could never quite nail down (so to speak):
    Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon’s delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: “I will screw him in the ass!”
So much for catching Osama "dead or alive"; Bush just wants to practice the buggering he probably learned in prep school. [God knows he didn't learn history!]

[The graphic is supplied by the good folks at Wrapped in the Flag.]

It's Official: Israel All But Demands U.S. Pay For Its War on Lebanon

[Ed. update: Senators just went to Israel in an effort pushed by the Bushies, with the express purpose - stated by Jon Kyl for the Bushies - of indoctrinating them into feeling "an obligation" to Israel. I'm for helping... but obligation considering what we already fund? And I almost guarantee you the subject of Iran came up.]

Although I predicted this would happen, it took until this week for Israel to expressly demand that American taxpayers reimburse them in large part for the war they waged in Lebanon last summer. Before I tell you why this is outrageous - and I don't blame Israel entirely for this outrage; the Bushies' filthy fingerprints are all over Lebanon - let's get a little perspective on how generously we already fund one of the world's smallest nations.

You may not realize this, but we give more financial aid to Israel every year (starting at around $4-6 Billion - yes, that's with a B, folks) than we do most other countries put together. A minimum of $2.5 Billion of this directly funds Israel's military, one of the largest and most sophisticated in the world for a nation that is one of the smallest. Some analysts say the amount that goes to fund Israel from the U.S. actually probably is closer to $10-15 billion per year because we do a lot of "under the table" stuff for them. And this is separate from private funding that goes on not just from Jewish communities in America, but from defense contractors and a host of others.

As I've stated a multitude of times, I do believe it is very appropriate for us to help Israel. First, we allowed the Nazi atrocities to go on for years before we acknowledged any of what was going on. Second, the U.S. helped carve what is today Israel from what was, to both Jews and Westerners, a very inhospital region (I'm still not sure we did the right thing there, in terms of location, but.. what's done is done). Third, obviously, Israel is a strategic partner for the U.S. in the Middle East; granted, however, it's an oft-times unholy alliance but that is also a long story. But fourth, and in my thinking, most important: everyone should have a place to call home. Four million Jews are in Israel and we should help them survive there. [The far-right Christians would tender a fifth reason they consider almighty: that the Bible tells them that Israel has to be in place in its current configuration for the "end of times" to happen the way they want. This, to me, is both madness and something far worse than crazy. But that's also a battle for another day.]

Here's where I - and many others - have problems with the level of funding and "strategic partnership" that flows from our country to Israel. At the most basic level, it's way out of proportion to Israel's size. Divide 4-15 Billion dollars into 4 Million people and... let's just say that Americans don't get that much from their own government for their health and welfare.

Well beyond that, the degree of assistance causes us untold "blowback" - to use Chalmers Johnson's apt phrase. Because Israel has a rabid appetite for military stuff, everytime Israel launches an attack on a Palestinian refugee camp, on its neighbors, et al, those being attacked can see the U.S. logo on the big guns like the helicopter gunships swooping in. We give far less in aid to much larger Muslim-majority nations with a much, much, much lower quality of life circumstance.

But let's get to the Lebanon issue. I join a great many Israelis in believing that the war Israel waged on Lebanon last year was WRONG in every way, shape, and form. Many of those who originally supported the war and "bought" the propaganda that it was waged to weaken Hezbollah (Hizbollah with some spellings) have long since turned because they saw - much as we see with the ever-strengthening al Qaeda and Taliban after all the U.S. action - that what was done only empowered Hezbollah and made people who did not see Israel as their enemy into Hezbollah supporters. Why? Because Hezbollah was the closest thing to an army/aid organization the Lebanese saw.

Israeli sources last year were telling us that they were waging a war "in proxy" FOR the United States, attacking Lebanon to send a powerful message to Syria and Iran that Israel AND the U.S. would come after them next. While the Bushies smirked and insisted that wasn't true, the very fact that Bush WANTS to write a check to pay the Israeli government FOR the Lebanon war is just one more piece in an already sizeable pile of evidence that the war by proxy story is 99.9% accurate.

I encourage you to run, not walk, to your phone, call your elected reps, and tell them NO, you do NOT support paying Israel for the destruction of Lebanon (which, contrary to the pablum espoused by the far right, is a generally peaceful land that is far more Christian than Muslim). I also encourage you to do your own research and, if you agree that FAR too much money is flowing into Israel for its militaristic endeavors, to demand your legislators take a long and hard look at cutting the funding to Israel. I'm not saying cut it all because I don't think that would be right. But I don't want to fund the Israeli war machine anymore than I want to fund outs.

Think about it: between $4-15 billion for 4 million people, each and every year. Something is dangerously out of whack here.

Maureen Dowd: "Ozone Man Sequel"

Here's the latest MoDo; since I offer but a snip, you can find it all at Welcome to Pottersville (leave JP a snack while you're there).

Al Gore now has a movie with an Oscar and a grandson named Oscar.

Who could ask for anything more?

Al Gore could.

The best ex-president who was never president could make one of the most interesting campaigns in American history even more interesting. Will he use his green moment on the red carpet in black tie to snag blue states and win the White House?

Only the Goracle knows the answer.

The man who was prescient on climate change, the Internet, terrorism and Iraq admitted that maybe his problem had been that he was too far ahead of the curve. He realized at a conference that “there’re ideas that are mature, ideas that are maturing, ideas that are past their prime ... and a category called ‘predawn.’

“And all of a sudden it hit me,” he told John Heilemann of New York magazine last year. “Most of my political career was spent investing in predawn ideas! I thought, Oh, that’s where I went wrong.”

As Mr. Gore basked Sunday night in the adoration of Leo, Laurie David and the rest of the Hollywood hybrid-drivers, Democrats wondered: Is this chubby guy filling out the Ralph Lauren three-piece tuxedo a mature idea or an idea that’s past its prime?

With Hillary overproduced and Barack Obama an unfinished script, maybe it’s time to bring the former vice president out of turnaround.

Hillary’s henchmen try to prognosticate the Goracle’s future by looking at his waistline, according to Newsday; they think if he’s going to run, he’ll get back to fighting weight.

With her own talent for checking the weathervane, Hillary co-opted Mr. Gore’s eco-speak right after the Oscars, talking environment throughout upstate New York. Given his past competition with Hillary, Mr. Gore must have delighted in seeing his star rise in Hollywood as hers dimmed.

If he waits long enough to get into the race, all the usual-suspect-consultants will be booked — which would be a boon for Mr. Gore, since his Hessian strategists in 2000 made him soft-pedal the environment, the very issue that makes him seem most passionate and authentic. The same slides about feedback loops and the interconnectedness of weather patterns that made his image-makers yawn just won his movie an Academy Award.

But what’s going on in his head? Like Jeb Bush, Al Gore was the good son groomed by a famous pol to be president, only to have it snatched away by a black sheep who didn’t even know the name of the general running Pakistan (the same one he just sent Vice to try to push into line.) It must be excruciating not only to lose a presidency you’ve won because the Supreme Court turned partisan and stopped the vote, but to then watch the madness of King George and Tricky Dick II as they misled their way into serial catastrophes.

Even though Chickenhawk Cheney finally got close to combat in Afghanistan, his explosive brush with a suicide bomber has not served as a wake-up call about the danger of Osama bin Laden’s staying on the lam, and Afghanistan’s slipping back into the claws of the Taliban and Al Qaeda while we are shackled to Iraq.

A reporter asked Tony Snow yesterday what the attack on the Bagram Air Base that targeted the vice president and killed at least 23 people said about the Taliban’s strength. “I’m not sure it says anything,” he replied.

Mr. Gore must be pleased that he’s been vindicated on so many fronts, yet it still must rankle the Nobel Peace Prize nominee to hear the White House spouting such dangerous nonsense. He must sometimes imagine how much safer the world would be if he were president.

The Bush-Cheney years have been all about dragging the country into the past, getting back the presidential powers yanked away after Watergate, settling scores from Poppy Bush’s old war, and suppressing scientific and environmental advances. Instead of aiming for the stars, the greatest power on earth is bogged down in poorly navigated conflicts with ancient tribes and brutes in caves.
Read the rest here.

The New York Times: "Al Qaeda Resurgent" (More Proof Bushies Should Be Charged with Treason)

I meant to post this Times op/ed (from Sunday 2-25-07) on Sunday:

Almost five and a half years ago, America — united by the shock of 9/11 — understood exactly what it needed to do. It had to find, thwart and take down the command structure of Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the deaths of 3,000 innocent people on American soil. Despite years of costly warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq, America today is not significantly closer to that essential goal.

At a crucial moment, the Bush administration diverted America’s military strength, political attention and foreign aid dollars from a necessary, winnable war in Afghanistan to an unnecessary, and by now unwinnable, war in Iraq. Al Qaeda took full advantage of these blunders to survive and rebuild. Now it seems to be back in business.

As our colleagues Mark Mazzetti and David Rohde reported last week, American intelligence and counterterrorism officials believe that Al Qaeda has rebuilt its notorious training camps, this time in Pakistan’s loosely governed tribal regions near the Afghan border. Camp graduates are fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq — and may well be plotting new terrorist strikes in the West.

The same officials point to more frequent and more current videos as evidence that Al Qaeda’s top leaders, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri — once on the run for their lives and unable to maintain timely communications with their followers — now feel more secure. Al Qaeda is not as strong as it was when its Taliban allies ruled Afghanistan. But, the officials warn, it is getting there.

Al Qaeda’s comeback didn’t have to happen. And it must not be allowed to continue. The new Qaeda sanctuaries in Pakistan do not operate with the blessing of the Pakistani government. But Pakistan’s military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, has not tried very hard to drive them out. In recent months he has virtually conceded the tribal areas to local leaders sympathetic to Al Qaeda. President Bush needs to warn him that continued American backing depends on his doing more to rid his country of people being trained to kill Americans.

Washington also has to enlist more support on the Afghan side of the border. NATO allies need to drop restrictions that hobble their troops’ ability to fight a resurgent Taliban. Afghan leaders need to wage a more aggressive campaign against corruption and drug trafficking. And Washington needs to pour significantly more money into rural development, to give Afghan farmers alternatives to drug cultivation. One reason General Musharraf has been hedging his bets with the Taliban and Al Qaeda is his growing doubt that Washington is determined to succeed in Afghanistan.

Having failed to finish off Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Washington now finds itself fighting Qaeda-affiliated groups on multiple fronts, most recently in Somalia. Al Qaeda’s comeback in Pakistan is a devastating indictment of Mr. Bush’s grievously flawed strategies and misplaced Iraq obsession. Unless the president changes course, the dangers to America and its friends will continue to multiply.

How Opposition to Net Neutrality Has Become Political Third Rail

MissM - one of the brightest and best blooms below the Macon-Dixon line - also points us to this post at Save the Internet discussing how opposition to Net Neutrality is not endearing politicians to their constituents.

Opposing Net Neutrality has become a political third rail for candidates who seek elected office, according to a story today in the Washington Post.

I happen to like a nice can of Whoop Ass on occasion.

More Of The Bushies' Fondness For Others' Right to Speak

On the heels of the story of GIs being told to zip it, the magnificent MissM brings us this:

Facility Holding Terrorism Inmates Limits Communication - washingtonpost.com

The Justice Department has quietly opened a new prison unit in Indiana that houses a hodgepodge of second-tier terrorism inmates, most of them Arab Muslims, whose ability to communicate with the outside world has been tightly restricted.
::sigh:: and grrrrrrrr.....

Military Serving Wounded GIs A Nice Big Cup of "Shut The Fuck Up"

Editor & Publisher reports today that wounded GIs, such as those ensconced at Walter Reed Hospital, are being told to "shut up" to the press, lest they reveal perhaps how well (translation: miserably and shamefully) many of them are being treated once they make it out of Iraq and Afghanistan alive.

Oh yeah, boys and girls, the Bushies just respect the hell out of the men and women they send over to fight Georgie's war of empire while the Bush Twins slut and drug their way through the decade, largely at taxpayers' expense.

And this graphic is one I shamelessly lifted from Ole Blue the Heretic (hi, Blue!) because it was sadly extremely apt given this story.


Supreme Court Strips Al Gore of Oscar; Gives It To George W. Bush

Hey, anything can happen in Bush's Amerika. But this - this time, at least - is a Buzzflash parody (thank God).

Paul Krugman: "Substance Over Image"

I think I actually love The Times' Paul Krugman, something I never thought I would say - or write - about an economist. Of course, I mean this in a completely platonic way but... ::sigh::

Here is Krugman on Bush; find it all here:

Six years ago a man unsuited both by intellect and by temperament for high office somehow ended up running the country.

How did that happen? First, he got the Republican nomination by locking up the big money early.

Then, he got within chad-and-butterfly range of the White House because the public, enthusiastically encouraged by many in the news media, treated the presidential election like a high school popularity contest. The successful candidate received kid-gloves treatment — and a free pass on the fuzzy math of his policy proposals — because he seemed like a fun guy to hang out with, while the unsuccessful candidate was subjected to sniggering mockery over his clothing and his mannerisms.

Today, with thousands of Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis dead thanks to presidential folly, with Al Qaeda resurgent and Afghanistan on the brink, you’d think we would have learned a lesson. But the early signs aren’t encouraging.

“Presidential elections are high school writ large, of course,” declared Newsweek’s Howard Fineman last month. Oh, my goodness. But in fairness to Mr. Fineman, he was talking about the almost content-free rivalry between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama — a rivalry that, at this point, is mainly a struggle over who’s the bigger celebrity and gets to lock up the big donors.

Enough already. Let’s make this election about the issues. Let’s demand that presidential candidates explain what they propose doing about the real problems facing the nation, and judge them by how they respond.

I know the counterargument: you can’t tell in advance what challenges a president may face, so you should vote for the person, not the policy details. But how do you judge the person? Public images can be deeply misleading: remember when Dick Cheney had gravitas? The best way to judge politicians is by how they respond to hard policy questions.
Find the rest at Rozius Unbound.


Seymour Hersh's Latest Absolute Must Read: "The Redirection"

You must read this from Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker (March 5, 2007th edition) and then imagine the Bushies are helping those (the Sunni jihadists, who Hersh says the Bushies are secretly arming) who would help al Qaeda:

In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the region, propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has coöperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

One contradictory aspect of the new strategy is that, in Iraq, most of the insurgent violence directed at the American military has come from Sunni forces, and not from Shiites. But, from the Administration’s perspective, the most profound—and unintended—strategic consequence of the Iraq war is the empowerment of Iran. Its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has made defiant pronouncements about the destruction of Israel and his country’s right to pursue its nuclear program, and last week its supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said on state television that “realities in the region show that the arrogant front, headed by the U.S. and its allies, will be the principal loser in the region.”

There is ever so much more here.

Your "Laugh" Of The Day

Before I launch into more depressing fare, it's uh... nice? to see that the Chinese can be kinky, too.... I guess:

A Chinese businessman has advertised on the Internet for a stand-in mistress to be beaten up by his wife to vent her anger and to protect his real mistress, Chinese media reported on Monday.

"When the woman found out her husband had a mistress, she insisted on beating her up," the Beijing Youth Daily said, citing the advertisement posted on a popular online jobs forum on sina.com.

More than 10 people had applied for the job, the newspaper said. The "successful" candidate would be 35 and originally from northeastern China and would be paid 3,000 yuan ($400) per 10 minutes, it said.

Many Chinese businessmen keep mistresses in second homes, a trend banished after the Communists swept to power in 1949 but which has made a comeback with market reforms in recent decades.

Talk About Strrraaannngggge Ancestral Bedfellows

So uber self-promoting Al Sharpton may be related - by blood, mind you - to ol' right-wing White power Strom Thurmond.

And I think my family tree is diverse!

More On Gas Prices

If you note at the topmost right sidebar, one of the items I've added (as of late last night) is a report on state-by-state gasoline prices. And as I posted yesterday, one must look to the Bush-Cheney Administration for why the prices have skyrocketed.

However, let me add a couple of points here.

First, while the fuel reserve is an issue - one Bush and Cheney manipulate wildly - I failed to mention probably the biggest reason for the average 14 cent per gallon gas rise in the last week: Bush's drumbeat toward war in Iran.

Second, here's another issue I noticed. Check out the prices as they go by, alphabetically by state, and you might notice the same pattern I did. Blue states are paying MORE for gas, on average, than red states. Now, sure, blue states are more likely to impose gas taxes for environmental causes, etc. But up until the time of Bush, we rarely saw such a difference in gas prices, dependent on how voters in a state cast ballots.


BTW, If You Think Gas Prices Are High Now

... wait until Bush & Cheney attack Iran!


Say Hello to...

Vermont Confidential

Thank the Bushies For The Average 14 Cent Per Gallon Gas Price Hike In Less Than 2 Weeks

'Tis true. When gas prices began to drop, the Bushies decided to borrow yet MORE money to put even MORE fuel into the reserves - when we are at way past record levels already and with even folks in the energy biz saying Bush only does this to return prices to a high each time they begin to drop. You wouldn't believe how many tax dollars are spent just for the Bushies to "lease" holding tanks for the reserve that cannot be stored indefinately (and Bush has never released a drop).

In The Case of Anna Nicole Smith, Please Cut Out The Chase

As you may have noticed - and hell, hopefully appreciated - I've been trying to practice an Anna Nicole Smith Circus-Free zone. That this woman's death is the same catastrophic, more-foolish-than-humanly-possible train wreck her entire adult life seemed to be makes me sick. My sympathy, however, is reserved only for her five-month-old daughter, but not because she lost her mom; sadly, I suspect by the time the girl was three, had Vicki Arthur (Anna's real name) lived, the little girl would have been raising her.

Three points make me raise the issue. First, I am aghast at how the story of a woman who never did a moment's useful anything in her life is all-consumed by the mainstream media. We appear to be on the brink of war with Iran and all I hear about is Judge Larry Seidlin, the former Bronx cabbie who presided over the Florida court case to determine where Anna's dead body should go.

Second, last night, Saturday Night Live did a parody of Wolf Blitzer and his Situation Room handling the Anna Nicole Smith saga. It was OK, up to a point. But the skit, with Darrell Hammond as Wolfie, gave FAR too much credit to Blitzer for trying to regain control over his own program. Wolfie has been so blindly consumed by this story that even Lou Dobbs gladly bitch-slapped him one day on air by announcing that on Dobbs' show, there would be NO talk of Anna (someone told me that CNN itself cut into Dobb's show that night for an Anna Nicole "still dead" update but I cannot say with certainty this happened).

We got satellite reception back from the Valentine's Day 38-inch blizzard for the first time on Thursday and man, I tell you... I apparently had missed NOTHING because between the three so-called news channels, I saw 8 Anna Nicole "specials" listed in a two-night period. WTF?

Third, I just had the most annoying email exchange with someone who someone made the gargantuan leap that, since Anna Nicole Smith got illegal methadone prescriptions using the fake name of Michelle Chase while pregnant (illegal because law forbids a prescription written to a pseudo ID), that somehow I must know Anna Nicole because the name of my blog - and indeed, my last name - includes the name Chase. Now, with a leap like this, I'm fucking amazed this person could figure out how to contact me via email. But he or she did.

Anyone who is paying much attention at all to this pathetic piece of garbage passed off as fluff... well... whoa...

Frank Rich: "Where Were You That Summer of 2001?"

Frank Rich is excellent:

“United 93,” Hollywood’s highly praised but indifferently attended 9/11 docudrama, will be only a blip on tonight’s Oscar telecast. The ratings rise of “24” has stalled as audiences defect from the downer of terrorists to the supernatural uplift of “Heroes.” Cable surfers have tuned out Iraq for a war with laughs: the battle over Anna Nicole’s decomposing corpse. Set this cultural backdrop against last week’s terrifying but little-heeded front-page Times account of American “intelligence and counterterrorism officials” leaking urgent warnings about Al Qaeda’s comeback, and ask yourself: Haven’t we been here before?

If so, that would be the summer of 2001, when America pigged out on a 24/7 buffet of Gary Condit and shark attacks. The intelligence and counterterrorism officials back then were privately sounding urgent warnings like those in last week’s Times, culminating in the President’s Daily Brief titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The system “was blinking red,” as the C.I.A. chief George Tenet would later tell the 9/11 commission. But no one, from the White House on down, wanted to hear it.

The White House doesn’t want to hear it now, either. That’s why terrorism experts are trying to get its attention by going public, and not just through The Times. Michael Scheuer, the former head of the C.I.A. bin Laden unit, told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann last week that the Taliban and Al Qaeda, having regrouped in Afghanistan and Pakistan, “are going to detonate a nuclear device inside the United States” (the real United States, that is, not the fictional stand-in where this same scenario can be found on “24”). Al Qaeda is “on the march” rather than on the run, the Georgetown University and West Point terrorism expert Bruce Hoffman told Congress. Tony Blair is pulling troops out of Iraq not because Basra is calm enough to be entrusted to Iraqi forces — it’s “not ready for transition,” according to the Pentagon’s last report — but to shift some British resources to the losing battle against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.

This is why the entire debate about the Iraq “surge” is as much a sideshow as Britney’s scalp. More troops in Baghdad are irrelevant to what’s going down in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The surge supporters who accuse the Iraq war’s critics of emboldening the enemy are trying to deflect attention from their own complicity in losing a bigger battle: the one against the enemy that actually did attack us on 9/11. Who lost Iraq? is but a distraction from the more damning question, Who is losing the war on terrorism?

The record so far suggests that this White House has done so twice. The first defeat, of course, began in early December 2001, when we lost Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. The public would not learn about that failure until April 2002 (when it was uncovered by The Washington Post), but it’s revealing that the administration started its bait-and-switch trick to relocate the enemy in Iraq just as bin Laden slipped away. It was on Dec. 9, 2001, that Dick Cheney first floated the idea on “Meet the Press” that Saddam had something to do with 9/11. It was “pretty well confirmed,” he said (though it was not), that bin Laden’s operative Mohamed Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague months before Atta flew a hijacked plane into the World Trade Center.
Read the rest here.

Maureen Dowd: "A Cat Without Whiskers"

[Note: Did you catch Dick Cheney pretty much endorsing McCain on one of his whistlestops late this past week? Urgh.]

MoDo takes on John McCain and his almost outlandishly named campaign vehicle, "The Straight Talk Express" (straight, perhaps, as in straight into hell):

SEATTLE -- So some guy stands up after John McCain’s luncheon speech here yesterday to a group of business types and asks him a question.

“I’ve seen in the press where in your run for the presidency, you’ve been sucking up to the religious right,” the man said, adding: “I was just wondering how soon do you predict a Republican candidate for president will start sucking up to the old Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party?”

Mr. McCain listened with his eyes downcast, then looked the man in the eye, smiled and replied: “I’m probably going to get in trouble, but what’s wrong with sucking up to everybody?” It was a flash of the old McCain, and the audience laughed.

Certainly, the senator has tried to worm his way into the affections of W. and the religious right: the Discovery Institute, a group that tries to derail Darwinism and promote the teaching of Intelligent Design, helped present the lunch, dismaying liberal bloggers who have tracked Mr. McCain’s devolution on evolution.

A reporter asked the senator if his pandering on Roe v. Wade had made him “the darling and candidate of the ultra right wing?” ( In South Carolina earlier this week, he tried to get more evangelical street cred by advocating upending Roe v. Wade.) “I dispute that assertion,” he replied. “I believe that it was Dr. Dobson recently who said that he prayed that I would not receive the Republican nomination. I was just over at Starbucks this morning. and I talk everywhere, and I try to reach out to everyone.”

But there’s one huge group that he’s not pandering to: Americans.

Most Americans are sick and tired of watching things go hideously backward in Iraq and Afghanistan, and want someone to show them the way out. Mr. McCain is stuck on the bridge of a sinking policy with W. and Dick Cheney, who showed again this week that there is no bottom to his lunacy. The senator supported a war that didn’t need to be fought and is a cheerleader for a surge that won’t work.

It has left Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican, once the most spontaneous of campaigners, off balance. He’s like a cat without its whiskers. When the moderator broached the subject of Iraq after lunch, Mr. McCain grimaced, stuck out his tongue a little and said sarcastically, “Thanks.”

Defending his stance, he sounds like a Bill Gates robot prototype, repeating in a monotone: “I believe we’ve got a new strategy and it can succeed. I can’t guarantee success. But I do believe firmly that if we get out now we risk chaos and genocide in the region.”

He was asked about Britain’s decision to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq. “Tony Blair, the prime minister, has shown great political courage,” Mr. McCain said. “He has literally sacrificed his political career because of Iraq, my friends,” because he thought “it was the right thing to do.”
Read the rest here and MoDo's right: McCain really is into far right GOP pandering.

Army Times: Military "Fudges" Disability Status to Save Bucks

I've been posting stuff about the truly evil way the Bush Administration and the Pentagon have treated the troops they want to carry out their war of empire for as long as I've blogged so, sadly, I'm none too surprised at this in The Army Times.

Diplomats Back IAEA Conclusion: U.S. Evidence On Iranian Nukes "Thin"

The Bushies are cooking a nasty intelligence snack again. Story here.