Saturday, February 11, 2006

The War On Truth:

The other day W. tried to terrify all of us into submission by recounting the daring-do of our anti-terrorism forces in thwarting an al-Qaeda plot in 2002 to fly a plane into the tallest building in L.A. Of course, the administration doesn't talk about their sources and methods, unless that is, there's some political hay to be made by doing so. In this case, it appears it wasn't much of a plot to begin with. AP reports that, "The plan never appeared close to the stage where it could be put into execution." The would-be pilot of this suicide attack, a Malaysian named Zaini Zakaria, decided to quit al-Qaeda after he saw the carnage of the 9/11 attacks. "Zaini told Malaysian interrogators that he 'didn't want that kind of Jihad.' Another interrogator said that Zaini told him, "He was not prepared to die as a martyr, so he backed out."

See, this is the kind of story that gets buried on page A-11 and the only thing anyone remembers is that W. saved us from a big attack. We keep hearing about all these attacks that have been prevented from happening, but because of security concerns they can't tell us anything about them, so we just have to take W.'s word for it, and I certainly believe W., don't you? When he says "I don't know" Jack Abramoff, I believe that, too. I mean, the guy only gave him $100,000 for his election campaign, that's chump change compared to what Kenny Boy gave him, right?

Oh...he really does remember meeting Abramoff after all? Yes, apparently so; Abramoff himself wrote in an e-mail to the editor of the Washingtonian, that Bush "joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids." Well, maybe W. just has a bad memory? Nope, Abramoff says Bush "has one of the best memories of any politician I have ever met." [AP]There appears to be a contradiction here somewhere. Someone is lying, it must be Abramoff, right?

Well, even if W. is lying sack-of-you-know-what, at least there's Dick Cheney, he would never lie. He says he 'knows-nothink' about how Valerie Plame's name got out there to the press. AP reports, Cheney's former Chief of Staff and current indictee "Scooter" Libby, "told a federal grand jury that his superiors authorized him to give secret information to reporters as a part of the Bush administration's defense of intelligence used to justify invading Iraq....In a Jan. 23 letter to Libby's attorney, [Special Prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald said Libby also testified before the grand jury that he caused at least one other government official to discuss an intelligence estimate with reporters in July 2003."

Hmmm...his superiors, now who would that be? Oh, right, Dick Cheney. So, let me get this straight, Darth claims Libby acted on his own, yet Libby says he was authorized to leak secret intelligence to the press. Isn't there a DOJ investigation going on right now looking into which top government official leaked the spying program to the press? Many GOP congressmen and W. himself where just "outraged" about this breech in national security, but I guess not so much when it comes to sticking it to a political opponent.

Man, when the rats start leaving the ship things can get hairy. Not that Libby would ever try to save his own hide by turning on W. & Co. or anything, right? Luckily for the Republicans, Libby's trial doesn't start until next year, long after the midterms. But the Abramoff thing could still be a problem, but that shouldn't be much of one as the special prosecutor in the Justice Department investigation of Jackie Boy has been bumped upstairs to a federal judgeship and Tom DeLay is now on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department which just happens to be investigating Abramoff and himself. [FOX] Pretty slick, way slicker than even "slick Willy."

For its part the White House is keeping mum on the whole thing. Scott "my-dad-thinks-LBJ-killed-JFK" McClellan says, "Our policy is that we are not going to discuss this when it's an ongoing legal proceeding" unless W. exercises his presidential prerogative and says Tom DeLay is innocent in his money laundering trial down in the great state of Texas.

War on science, continued:

A few days ago I commented on W.'s war against government scientists that talk about Global Warming and here's an update. On the 8th the NYT reported (I'm always a day late and a dollar short):

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to top climate scientists and told a web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said." It appears, young Mr. Deutsch said on his resume that he had graduated from Texas A&M, but it turns out he really didn't. D'oh! Not that he wasn't extremely qualified for his position, though as all Bush appointees are---like Michael Brown was at FEMA---he worked on Bush's re-election committee and his inaugural committee. That's good enough for me!

On Friday, in response to complaints by scientists about this muzzling policy, first reported in the Times, Michael Griffin, the head of NASA, launched a full review of the agency's PR policies. The Times quotes Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs and Deutsche's boss as saying, "NASA is in the process of revising our public affairs policies across the agency to ensure our commitment to open and full communications." And he might have added---as per administration policy to promote the president's back-to-the-moon-policy, 'these revisions should have great applications in man's return to the moon and future colonies on Mars.'

The man in the middle of this controversy, Dr. James Hansen, called Deutsch a "bit player" and reiterated his concerns that "On climate (policy), the public has been misinformed and not informed. The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here." Oh Dr. Hansen, what planet are you on? "An honestly informed public?" What kind of liberal crap is that? If the public were honestly informed on a whole bunch of issues, Tom DeLay would be behind bars and W. & Co. would be making way for Dennis Hastert to move into the White House for the next three years. Get real!

If I were Dr. Hansen I would be getting someone else to start my car, because not only is Tom DeLay on the subcommittee that's investigating his "close personal friend" Jack Abramoff, but he's also on the appropriations committee that oversees funding for NASA. (Oddly enough, the Johnson Space Center just happens to be in DeLay's district in Houston.) By the time the "Hammer" gets through with those climate change eggheads at NASA, they'll probably be experiencing global warming up close and in personal on some ice berg up in the artic.

Friday, February 10, 2006

On resisting King George:

W. is at it again, trying to scare everyone into going along with his monarchical power grab. Yesterday he trotted out an old 2002 al-Qaeda plot to fly a plane into the 73-story Library Tower in L.A. as a justification for his domestic spying program and making the Patriot Act permanent. Nicely dove-tailing with Karl Rove's midterm electoral strategy of keeping all Americans in a state of terror and docility in order to sucker them into voting against their own bests interests, this cynical tactic has been a winner for the president and his party ever since 9/11. Fear is basically the only thing W. & Co. has to offer this country and unfortunately for all those killed and still fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq and their families, it's the one emotional appeal that will cause just enough people to check their common sense at the door to keep King George comfortably seated on his throne.

Not that everyone is fooled, as Lincoln said, "You can't fool all of the people all of the time," but with a compliant media and a gerrymandered Congress it doesn't matter if a majority of Americans now believes we were mislead into this pointless fiasco, our soldiers will keep coming home in a steady flow of broken bodies, broken minds and flag draped coffins for as far as the eye can see. Unless we all start being honest about the horrible cost of this war in Iraq in terms of the billions of dollars being squandered and the human wreckage we'll be living with and paying for as long as today's twenty year-olds will live, we'll surely lose everything we hold dear that we thought our brave soldiers were fighting and dying for in the first place.

The rationale for the war has changed so many times it difficult now to see why so many lives have been lost anymore. Saying we have to stay and compound this tragedy to validate the deaths of those already dead is not a plan for victory; it's an admission of defeat. W. is still looking under tables and chairs for those WMD, but the new party line nowadays is that our troops have to remain until Iraq's democratically elected theocracy---that which gets its marching orders from Iran---can stand on its own two feet. Is this reason enough for you soldiers and Marines over there to put your lives on the line? Are you willing to leave a gigantic hole in their hearts of your wives and mothers for the rest of their lives for this? Watching Lilah Lipscome in Fahrenheit 9/11 break down in front of the White House begging for her son's life is seared in my memory. The pain and anguish of the families who have sacrificed their loved ones is totally unnecessary and unconscionable.

And what happens the next time we actually have to fight a war that is actually in defense of our country? Will young people from all over the country run to the recruiting offices knowing that so many that came before lost their lives for a bogus cause? As Michael Moore said, our soldiers "serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so we can be free. It is remarkable, their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary. Will they ever trust us again?" Good question.

We can't see what the long-term effects of this war will be for the future of our country, but judging by history they could be severe. The Mexican-American war, begun in 1846, was another example of a president,James K. Polk, claiming his constitutional right as Commander-in-Chief to launch a preemptive war to grab land in Mexico. (Our present day immigration problems can be directly linked to this fateful war.) At the time of the war it was bitterly opposed by many Americans including Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant who, despite his opposition to it, honored his duty to his country and fought with distinction. A great American patriot, future victorious Civil War general and two term president, Grant wrote in his memoirs that the Mexican war "Was one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation...The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times."

There is much at stake in the Iraq war, but it has nothing to do with democracy in the Middle East, it has to do with democracy right here at home. The soldiers fighting for us over there deserve better from us living comfortably at home. They can't just pack up and leave if they think the war is unjust, so it is up to us on the home front to do all we can to force our leaders to bring the rest of them home alive and in one piece--- right now. The most basic obligation of those in command is to ensure that those who carry out their orders are protected, prepared and equipped. George W. Bush has failed miserably to honor that sacred trust and now it should be up to Congress to, in Al Gore's words, "start acting like the co-equal branch of government it's supposed to be." That is what democracy is all about. The people rule, not the king. Those in Congress must honor their duty to this country and rein in the executive who has run amok; otherwise they should be replaced at the ballot box by Americans who will do their duty: The Band of Brothers, perhaps?

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Everybody can play the Muhammad game, not just Jihadis.

Today Condi offered her two cents on the whole Muhammad cartoons issue. She ashed out at Syria and Iran saying both countries, "Have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes and the world ought to call them on it. There are governments that have used this opportunity to incite violence." [Reuters]

What the hell is she talking about? What evidence is there that the Syrian government was behind the torching of the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus the other day? That just doesn't make any sense. It looks like they aren't the only ones using this cartoon issue "to their own purposes." I'm not saying that Bashar Assad & Co. are innocent victims of US imperial policy, they're complete thugs and crooks, but this type of pointlessly bellicose rhetoric doesn't help dail down the tension over the issue.

Iran, on the other hand, is another matter. Obvioulsy, this whole cartoon controversy plays right into Ahmadinejad's hands. As I said yesterday at LTAD "On the heels of the IAEA voting to refer Iran to the Security Council, this must be a Godsend (No pun intended) for his regime, who without the IAEA and the cartoons would have to actually deal with its real problems of an economy unable to absorb an exploding population of young and unemployed Iranians hungry for freedom and Western electronics."

I say we just ignore Iran for a while and let Ahmadinejad focus on banning Western music and making young Iranian women cover up. I still say its only a matter of time before Ayatollah Khamenei gets tired of Ahmadinejad's big mouth and bungling and lets Rafsanjani start running the show again.

King Abullah II on freedon of the press:

W. met up with our good democratic friend, His Majesty King Abdullah II today and AFT reports:

"Bush discussed the Muslim reaction to cartoons with Jordan's King Abdullah...and said it was 'a topic that requires a lot of discussion and a lot of sensitive thought. We believe in a free press, and also recognize that with freedom comes responsibilities. With freedom comes the responsibility to be thoughtful about others,' Bush said. But, he added: 'We reject violence as a way to express discontent with what may be printed in a free press.'"

For his part, Abdullah said, "With all respect to press freedoms, obviously anything that vilifies the Prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, or attacks Muslim sensibilities I believe needs to be condemned."

What he didn't mention in front of Bush was his government's arrest of Jihad Momani, editor-in-chief of the weekly gossip newspaper Shihane, who had the temirity to publish the offending cartoons.

In addition the AFP reports that Jordanian "authorities also pledged to 'open an investigation' into a smaller tabloid called Al-Mehwar which printed the caricatures in its January 26 edition...'The fact alone that this weekly (Al-Mehwar) reproduced these cartoons renders its editor-in-chief Hashem al-Khalidi responsible before the law,' the source said. 'Khalidi's arrest is only a matter of time,' he added."

It's good to see democracy and freedom of speech is alive and well in the Kingdom of Jordan.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Compassionate conservatives strike again.

The WaPo reports W.'s new budget for 2007 proposes "cutting Medicare by $36 billion over five years, and $105 billion over a decade -- mainly by cutting payments to providers such as hospitals. Federal child support enforcement payments [will] fall slightly, while Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program [will]lose $5 billion over five years and $12 billion over 10 years."

Hmm...$36 billion in Medicare cuts, where have I heard that number before? Oh, right, that was the amount of Exxon/Mobil's profits last year.

All this cutting from the most vulnerable is to save money and reduce the deficit, right? The WaPo says "All totaled, his proposals for entitlement programs -- including cuts, tax hikes and Social Security partial privatization -- would actually increase spending by $551 billion." And don't forget the tax cuts to the rich W. talked about in the State of the Union speech, which will balloon the deficit in 2011.

Luckily for Bush & Co., all this fuzzy math doesn't include the cost of the war in Iraq or Katrina reconstruction. Beyond the $50 billion congress has given the administration for Iraq they're going to have to poney up another $270 billion this spring.

Those good fiscal conservatives in Congress are going to be hard pressed to find the money because we're broke. No wait, there's a way, we can pass a budget cutting bill. It will only harm the poor who are powerless to do anything about it. Last week the House passed a budget cutting bill that will mean: "Women on welfare are likely to face longer hours of work, education or community service to qualify for their checks. Recipients of Medicaid can expect to face higher co-payments and deductibles, especially on expensive prescription drugs and emergency room visits for non-emergency care. More affluent seniors will find it far more difficult to qualify for Medicaid-covered nursing care..." and "College students could face higher interest rates when their banks get squeezed by the federal government." [WaPo]
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