Friday, February 02, 2007

This Whole 'Eurasia, East Asia' Thing Can Make Your Head Hurt...
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So much for Team Bush's varacity when it comes to distinguishing friend from foe in Operation Burn Money in Mesopotamia:

Private Saudi citizens are giving millions of dollars to Sunni insurgents in Iraq and much of the money is used to buy weapons, including shoulder fired anti-aircraft missiles, according to key Iraqi officials and others familiar with the flow of cash.


It may not have been the Iranians who conspired to kill our soldiers in Karbala, but rather Iraqi Army generals. You know, the same Iraqi generals for whom we are sending more troops (by the way, twice as many personnel at a higher cost than Bush is admitting to.)

Commander-in-Chief''s hard work.
Mister Go Away
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And don't let the door hit you on the way out.

A small victory...let's see where it might lead:

Residents whose homes were flooded during Hurricane Katrina can sue the Army Corps of Engineers over claims the agency ignored warnings about defects in a nearby navigation channel, a federal judge ruled Friday.

The ruling, one of the first significant decisions in a set of cases over what caused the flooding, may force the Corps to hand over documents about the management of the channel.

''Now we will have an opportunity to see what goes on behind closed doors,'' said Joe Bruno, a trial lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Eugene Pawlik, a Corps spokesman in Washington, said the agency's lawyers are reviewing the ruling but did not have any immediate comment.

The Corps and federal government had argued they were immune to legal challenges because decisions about the waterway were based in policy.

But U.S. District Judge Stanwood Duval said there is no way to know that at this point, and said plaintiffs should get a hearing for their allegations.

At issue is a 76-mile shipping channel built in the early 1960s as a shortcut to New Orleans. For years, environmentalists and others have criticized the Mississippi River-Gulf Outlet because it has eroded enormous tracts of wetlands and increased the threat of flooding.

During Katrina, storm surge traveled up the channel and overwhelmed levees protecting St. Bernard Parish and eastern New Orleans, according to scientists. The Corps of Engineers has acknowledged that the channel contributed to the region's flooding and the agency wants to guard against future flooding by building flood gates.
Might As Well Do This...
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For all the good it'll accomplish:

The Bush administration will ask for another $100 billion for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year and seek $145 billion for 2008, a senior administration official said Friday.

And, the flip side of the coin (h/t YRHT and First Draft):

President Bush is expected to shift $1.3 billion away from raising and armoring levees, installing flood gates and building permanent pumping in Southeast Louisiana to plug long-anticipated funding shortfalls in other hurricane-protection projects, a move Sen. David Vitter describes as a retreat from the president’s commitment to protect the whole New Orleans area.
Hey, Rocky! Watch Him Pull Moqtada Out of His Hat!
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I think I'd rather have Bullwinkle leading the free world. It'd be a step up, intelligence-wise:

The U.S. military drive to train and equip Iraq's security forces has unwittingly strengthened anti-American Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, which has been battling to take over much of the capital city as American forces are trying to secure it.

U.S. Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad, which is home to more than half the city's population and the front line of al-Sadr's campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods, said al-Sadr's militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that they've trained and armed.

"Half of them are JAM. They'll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night," said 1st Lt. Dan Quinn, a platoon leader in the Army's 1st Infantry Division, using the initials of the militia's Arabic name, Jaish al Mahdi. "People (in America) think it's bad, but that we control the city. That's not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It's hostile territory."

Team Bush and their wingnut peanut gallery are just so goddamned dumb. To paraphrase Molly Ivins, if their collective IQ was any lower, we'd have to water them twice a day.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Promising Dollars, Delivering Pennies
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If they'll shortchange their most sanctimonious of causes, it's gotta make you wonder about the Gulf Coast and New Orleans:

Amount sick Ground Zero workers and Lower Manhattan residents have sought from the federal government for medical care related to 9/11 toxin exposure: $1.9 billion.

Amount President Bush has now, with great fanfare, promised to provide: $25 million.

For the math-impaired, that's 1.3% of what was sought.

And it's just a promise. I wonder if there'll be backtracking from even this, as there was not long after 9/11.

Earlier, while Blogger was up to its usual, crappy performance, I tried to connect to a Po' Blog post referenced by First Draft. You can view it now, and you might want to take another look at this (thanks again to YRHT).

Again, this is part and parcel to the whole of the Bush administration. For example: they demand $450 billion dollars for "defense," then additional, supplemental, off-book appropriations for actually fighting the wars...and then they claim poverty when it comes to supplying and equipping the soldiers tasked with engaging in the conflict. All while piously claiming the mantle of "patriot," (the flip side of the coin being that anyone questioning the spending priorities of this administration somehow isn't).

Thank You For Your Sacrifice
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"But stay the hell off my lawn!"

Considering how little Team Bush values the lives of our soldiers, it's not that surprising to hear they value the lives of their Iraqi friends and allies even less:

Millions of Iraqi refugees fleeing violence and sectarian cleansing after the U.S.-led invasion four years ago are finding it nearly impossible to get safe harbor in America, including those who risked their lives helping President George W. Bush's war effort...

About 3.7 million of Iraq's 24 million people have either fled the country for Syria, Jordan and other nations or left their homes for safer havens within Iraq, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Around 50,000 Iraqis flee their homes every month.

"This is the fastest growing refugee crisis in the world," Refugees International President Kenneth Bacon told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 16.

In 2006, the United States accepted 202 Iraqis out of its 70,000 refugee slots worldwide. In contrast, Australia said it granted about 2,000 such visas to Iraqis last year...

...domestic security steps taken in response to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States made it difficult to accept Iraqi refugees. Tough screening procedures in turn discouraged the UNHCR from making referrals.

Bill Frelick, refugee policy director for Human Rights Watch, said Iraqis working for American forces go through extensive security checks before being hired: "If you were a smart terrorist, you could find easier ways to get to the United States."

Frelick said two factors contributed to the Bush administration's near moratorium on accepting Iraqi refugees.

Bureaucrats, Frelick said, don't want to take chances on Iraqis. "It generally is easier to say no than to say yes."

Politics also plays a role, he said.

"The very people the U.S. is relying on for the enterprise of building a stable democracy in Iraq are the very people who are fleeing the country. To admit those people are fleeing would be to recognize the enterprise is not succeeding," Frelick said.

In 1939, the S.S. St. Louis with about 1,000 German Jewish refugees was refused entry to the United States and sailed back to Europe, where many ultimately were killed in the Holocaust.

Two who made it to the United States recounted nightmarish escapes from Iraq in testimony to Congress.

Testifying behind a screen and using the pseudonym "Sami Al-Obiedy" to conceal his identity and that of his family still in Iraq, the 27-year-old Sunni Arab from Mosul said he worked as a translator for the U.S. military, sometimes accompanying American convoys through hostile territories.

"Iraqi citizens, including translators, have been shot in the head or beheaded, but only after terrorists forced these people to 'confess' that they were spies and agents of the United States," Al-Obiedy said.

His name, along with others, was posted at several mosques with notes urging they be murdered. In late 2005, Al-Obiedy was injured in a car bombing. Soon after, he fled to the United States and was the first to get U.S. asylum under a new law for translators...

Another witness, a 48-year-old calling himself John, was severely beaten twice for delivering water to American soldiers and was told to either leave Iraq or be killed. He took his tormentors' advice, saying he reached the United States after traveling through five countries and four continents.

And you know, I'll bet Shrub would throw the biggest hissy fit ever seen if someone so much as told him he couldn't take his dogs on Air Force One.
The Meaning of Quagmire
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Schoolmaster Humphrey Williams: All right, settle down. Settle down. Now, before I begin the lesson, will those of you who are playing in the match this afternoon move your clothes down onto the lower peg immediately after lunch, before you write your letter home, if you're not getting your hair cut, unless you've got a younger brother who is going out this weekend as the guest of another boy, in which case, collect his note before lunch, put it in your letter after you've had your hair cut, and make sure he moves your clothes down onto the lower peg for you. Now,--*

See, it's really that simple:

"There are four wars going on in Iraq right now," Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said. Turns out he underestimated it by about twenty.

From The Boston Globe:
The messianic Soldiers of Heaven militia that fought US and Iraqi troops in one of the fiercest battles of the war Sunday is among the more than two dozen extremist militias operating across Iraq that are fast becoming a powerful, and hidden, new enemy.
US officials this week expressed concern about the explosion of splinter groups in Iraq, noting that their sheer number makes a political resolution to the ongoing violence in Iraq increasingly difficult. One Defense Department official said in an interview yesterday that the military is tracking at least 28 militias, many of them Shi'ite splinter groups, but knows little about their leadership or command structure.
From Shi'ite factions in southern Iraq to Sunni groups in Anbar Province to extremist Islamic militias operating in Kurdistan, it's a dizzying array.

Oh, and the smashing victory over the forces of evil on Sunday? Maybe not so much:

There are growing suspicions in Iraq that the official story of the battle outside Najaf between a messianic Iraqi cult and the Iraqi security forces supported by the US, in which 263 people were killed and 210 wounded, is a fabrication. The heavy casualties may be evidence of an unpremeditated massacre.

No wonder wingnuttia's looking to distract with the "they spit on the soldiers and called them baby killer" nonsense. That's all they've got. Hell, if it were ONLY a case of shit literally hitting a fan at this point, that'd actually count as good news.
The Destrehan Railroad
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A Death in Destrehan
Destrehan, La.
On the afternoon of Oct. 7, 1974, a mob of 200 enraged whites, many of them students, closed in on a bus filled with black students that was trying to pull away from the local high school. The people in the mob were in a high-pitched frenzy. They screamed racial epithets and bombarded the bus with rocks and bottles. The students on the bus were terrified.

When a shot was heard, the kids on the bus dived for cover. But it was a 13-year-old white boy standing near the bus, not far from his mother, who toppled to the ground with a bullet wound in his head. The boy, a freshman named Timothy Weber, died a few hours later.

That single shot in this rural town about 25 miles up the Mississippi River from New Orleans set in motion a tale of appalling injustice that has lasted to the present day.

Destrehan was in turmoil in 1974 over school integration. The Supreme Court’s historic desegregation ruling was already 20 years old — time enough, the courts said, for Destrehan and the surrounding area to comply. But the Ku Klux Klan was still welcome in Destrehan in those days, and David Duke, its one-time imperial wizard, was an admired figure. White families in the region wanted no part of integration.

When black students were admitted to Destrehan High, they were greeted with taunts, various forms of humiliation and violence. Some of the black students fought back, and in the period leading up to the shooting there had been racial fights at a football game and inside the school.

While the Weber boy was being taken to a hospital, authorities ordered the black students off the bus and searched each one. The bus was also thoroughly searched. No weapon was found, and there was no evidence to indicate that the shot had come from the bus. The bus driver insisted it had not come from the bus, but from someone firing at the bus.

One of the black youngsters, a 16-year-old named Gary Tyler, was arrested for disturbing the peace after he talked back to a sheriff’s deputy — one of the few deputies in St. Charles Parish who was black. It may have been young Tyler’s impudence that doomed him. He was branded on the spot as the designated killer.
(Later, at a trial, the deputy, Nelson Coleman, was asked whose peace had been disturbed by Mr. Tyler’s comments. “Mine,” he replied.)

Matters moved amazingly fast after the shooting. Racial tension gave way to racial hysteria. A white boy had been killed and some black had to pay. Mr. Tyler, as good a black as any, was taken to a sheriff’s substation where he was beaten unmercifully amid shouted commands that he confess. He would not.

It didn’t matter. In just a little over a year he would be tried, convicted by an all-white jury and sentenced to death by electrocution.

The efficiency of the process was chilling. Evidence began to miraculously appear. Investigators “found” a .45-caliber pistol. Never mind that there were no fingerprints on it and it turned out to have been stolen from a firing range used by the sheriff’s deputies. (Or that it subsequently disappeared as conveniently as it was found.) The authorities said they found the gun on the bus, despite the fact that the initial search had turned up nothing.

The authorities found witnesses who said that Mr. Tyler had been the gunman. Never mind that the main witness, a former girlfriend of Mr. Tyler’s, was a troubled youngster who had been under the care of a psychiatrist and had a history of reporting phony crimes to the police, including a false report of a kidnapping. She and every other witness who fingered Mr. Tyler would later recant, charging that they had been terrorized into testifying falsely by the police.

A sworn affidavit from Larry Dabney, who was seated by Mr. Tyler on the bus, was typical. He said his treatment by the police was the “scariest thing” he’d ever experienced. “They didn’t even ask me what I saw,” he said. “They told me flat out that I was going to be their key witness. ... They told me I was going to testify that I saw Gary with a gun right after I heard the shot and that a few minutes later I had seen him hide it in a slit in the seat. That was not true. I didn’t see Gary or anybody else in that bus with a gun.”

Mr. Tyler was spared electrocution when the Supreme Court declared Louisiana’s death penalty unconstitutional. But in many ways he has in fact paid with his life. He’ll turn 50 this year in the state penitentiary at Angola, where he is serving out his sentence of life without parole for the murder of Timothy Weber.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

RIP Molly

We miss you already.
Um, This One's a Little TOO Easy
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Bush: Link Executive Salaries to Performance

By the time he finished PAYING the government for the last six years--and the next two--the Treasury would have a surplus...
Terrorist Threat
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Big Time Fudd & Yosemite Shrub

Had enough?
Something is Rotten in the District of Columbia
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And not just the GOP

Wafting around Blogaea over the past few days has been the epic saga of Joshua Sparling, a war hero/veteran who lost a limb in Iraq. Hullabaloo especially has focused on it (and it's well worth clicking through to his references if you haven't done so already), others have posted as well, so I expect you know the particulars...

Hmmm...awfully (with emphasis) convenient, if you ask me. Getting spat on, being called a "baby killer," etc., etc. Color me skeptical, but methinks the fit is just a little...too...perfect. The war's lost--only the genuinely delusional think otherwise. The ONLY possible salvation for wingnuttia at this point is a rather pathetic and desperate attempt to engage in some last second mud slinging and hope that a "5th column" charge might somehow stick.

So, we now have, in the paper of record/Pravda, in fact, a recorded instance of the spitting myth that persists despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Side note: I was flipping through television channels last night and came across the movie about Woodstock. In one scene, an announcer on stage thanks the military for providing assistance--if I remember right, a helicopter and one or more medical tents, and the audience, who for the most part were presumably antiwar, offers a warm round of applause.

Anyway...back to the present day: unfortunately, the alleged incident won't likely be investigated, because the alternative is that it will evolve into wingnut mythology, if it hasn't already. And myths, as I've noted before, are far more difficult to counter than lies.

Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion that if the alleged spitting/being called "baby killer" incident actually DID happen in any way even resembling the allegation...well, it's not like DC isn't crawling with people who have a history of rat fucking (see Rove, Karl, for example). I wouldn't for a second put it above wingnuttia to pull an agent provacateur stunt...which is why it'd be nice if this really was thoroughly investigated. Find out exactly what happened, how it happened, and who did what.

Oh, and if--IF--a genuine protester did this--and again, I'm quite doubtful--but if on the very small chance, they did--well, then Doug Feith would have to relinquish his title.
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At a time when a significant region of the country is STILL reeling from the deadly combination of multiple natural disasters and criminal negligence...and at a time when equally criminal behavior has us stuck in Mesopotamia, where we can't even equip the soldiers already over there, much less supply the upcoming, useless "surge" (where does the $400 billion dollar Pentagon budget go? Nobody knows.)...well, at times like these it's nice to know...

That the president can travel halfway across the country for recess and toy time. And I'll bet they even let him take nap time on the plane.

Thanks to YRHT for the Katrina article, and TPM for the link to Business Week.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Specter Espouses 'Double Decider' Theory
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Of course, given the way Arlen's played lap dog to Shrub for the last six years, we might have to give "decider" positions to Barney and Miss Beazley too.
Spin...From the White House? Imagine That!
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If it was any worse, they'd have to add a new category to the Saffir-Simpson Scale:

Panel hears climate 'spin' allegations
Federal scientists have been pressured to play down global warming, advocacy groups testified Tuesday at the Democrats' first investigative hearing since taking control of Congress.

The hearing focused on allegations that the White House for years has micromanaged the government's climate programs and has closely controlled what scientists have been allowed to tell the public.

"It appears there may have been an orchestrated campaign to mislead the public about climate change," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. Waxman is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee and a critic of the Bush administration's environmental policies, including its views on climate.
Bush Administration: "Fox Makes 'Excellent' Henhouse Guard"
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President Bush has signed a directive that gives the White House much greater control over the rules and policy statements that the government develops to protect public health, safety, the environment, civil rights and privacy...

In an interview on Monday, Jeffrey A. Rosen, general counsel at the White House Office of Management and Budget, said, “This is a classic good-government measure that will make federal agencies more open and accountable.”

Just like having the fox guard the henhouse makes THEM more accountable...or less accountable, depending on your point of view, i.e., if you think less really is more.
I Mean, It Should Be Obvious...
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Tony Snow, economic analyst:

It is worth reminding people of how good this economy is.


Thousands of New Yorkers fanned out across the city from midnight to 4 a.m. Tuesday. Their mission: to help count the number of homeless in the city's parks, streets and subways.

About 400 volunteers, including 200 ``homeless guides'' such as Kolendra, fanned out over Santa Clara County early Monday to find homeless people in shelters, curled up under tarps, hiding in abandoned buildings or huddled into vans. Their mission was not to roust them or report them to authorities, but merely to mark their existence.

Hundreds of volunteers will spend the day counting across Connecticut trying to come up an accurate number of homeless living in the state.

Maybe the volunteers can tell the homeless people just how good they've got it.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Half Brain Empty
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Today's lesson:
Glass Half Full
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Half Glass Full
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And Just Plain Evil
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Any Questions?
Compassionate Conservativism
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"Give a man a, teach a man to fish, um...won't get fooled again."

Sorry the picture above isn't an original effort, but I think it really underscores Eugene Robinson's latest op-ed about SOTU Shrub, The Penultimate Exercise in Pan troglodyte oration:

More infuriating than anything President Bush said in his State of the Union address was what he didn't say. Congress and the nation heard nothing, zilch, nada, not a single, solitary word about New Orleans, the Gulf Coast and the devastation that remains from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

A disaster that happened on his watch. How nice that the White House has been able to move beyond the trauma of September 2005 -- wind and water, death and destruction, poverty and race, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Too bad the people of New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish, Pass Christian, Biloxi and the rest of the coast will never have the luxury of forgetting.

They can't forget that, days after Hurricane Katrina made its tragic landfall, President Bush stood in New Orleans' historic Jackson Square, while most of the city still lay beneath brackish floodwaters, and said that nature's trials "remind us that we're tied together in this life, in this nation -- and that the despair of any touches us all." Must have been a very light touch...

Bush said there was "no way to imagine America without New Orleans." No imagination is needed -- the New Orleans that we knew before the flood no longer exists. The remnant of a city that survives between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain has less than half the population of the New Orleans we used to know. Hundreds of thousands of residents still have no way to come home -- or no home to return to. Vicious hoodlums have returned, however, and are preying on the diehards who never left and the pioneers who are doing the best to help the city rebuild.

Yes, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have just bought a house in New Orleans and say they will make the city their home. But they're likely to have better security than their neighbors.

New Orleans was doomed not just by Hurricane Katrina, but also by the failure of levees and flood walls that should have provided ample protection. The Army Corps of Engineers has worked day and night to patch the flood control system, and if Katrina hit again tomorrow, most of the city should stay dry. But if a similar hurricane hit from a different angle -- or, heaven forbid, a stronger hurricane hit from any angle -- then what's left of New Orleans would likely be destroyed.

The man who inspired Bush's immortal "Brownie" remark, Michael Brown, will go down in history as the Federal Emergency Management Agency director who botched the federal response to Katrina. But he intends to take others in the White House down with him. Last week, speaking to a group of graduate students, Brown claimed that he advised that the White House assert federal control of the disaster response in the whole affected area.

"Certain people in the White House," Brown said, wanted to "federalize" the response in Louisiana in order to embarrass Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat, but avoid taking any steps in Mississippi that would cast Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, in an unfavorable light. Brown did not name the White House officials who were behind these alleged machinations; a White House spokesman denied Brown's claims.

I'm about as cynical as anyone about Bush and his administration, but what I mostly saw in the days after Katrina was incompetence, not political gamesmanship. The scale of the disaster was almost unimaginable, and even if the federal government had done its job, lives would have been lost and the Gulf Coast left in ruins.

What is unconscionable is that a president who fundamentally does not believe in government has allowed market forces to take the lead in the reconstruction effort, which ensures that the New Orleans he promised to rebuild is gone forever. The logjam of insurance claims, construction permits, flood maps and levee projects keeps things from moving forward; businesses can't function without workers, and workers can't come home if they have no place to live.

What kind of president gives a State of the Union address and doesn't even mention New Orleans?
Hail to the Chief
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From TPM, a Gary Wills op-ed featured in Pravda-Upon-Hudson:

The president is not the commander in chief of civilians. He is not even commander in chief of National Guard troops unless and until they are federalized. The Constitution is clear on this: “The president shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States.”

Here's the link again. It's worth a look.