Wednesday, November 30, 2005

This is getting serious

Juan Cole reports today:
BBC: If what you say is correct, in your view, is Dick Cheney then guilty of a war crime?

Wilkerson: Well, that's an interesting question - it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is - for whatever it's worth - an international crime as well.

(Lawerence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Colin Powell, former Secretary of State of the United States of America.)
This is not a talking air-head, this is not a lowly internet blogger, this is not Al-Qaida or Saddam Hussein. This is the former chief of staff for the Secretary of State of the United States.
This is serious.

Victory


Apologies to Goodwin from the Britannica:
and so Hitler, in accordance with his dictum that “Germany shall either be a world power or not be at all,” consciously resolved to preside over the downfall of the German nation. He gave inflexible orders whereby whole armies were made to stand their ground in tactically hopeless positions and were forbidden to surrender under any circumstances.

Donald Rumsfeld

I'm going to remind you every day that Donald Rumsfeld is making money (at least $1,000,000 so far) off the sale of Tamiflu. I will also remind you that the Pentagon, of which he is the chief, is stockpiling this drug.

Corruption:
In broad terms, political corruption is the misuse of public (governmental) power for illegitimate, usually secret, private advantage.

Behind the 8 ball


An alert reader directed us to this dissection of an 8 ball.

http://8ball.ofb.net/procedure.html

You know, the one that answers all your questions.

It occurs to me that this is a little like our President. A new answer for the same question every day.

Final Fantasy (cont)

Bush today:
The plan says increasing numbers of Iraqi troops have been equipped and trained, a democratic government is being forged, Iraq's economy is being rebuilt and U.S. military and civilian presence will change as conditions improve.
Delusion:
A delusion is commonly defined as a fixed false belief and is used in everyday language to describe a belief that is either false, fanciful or derived from deception. In psychiatry, the definition is necessarily more precise and implies that the belief is pathological (the result of an illness or illness process).

Delusions typically occur in the context of neurological or mental illness, although they are not tied to any particular disease and have been found to occur in the context of many pathological states (both physical and mental). However, they are of particular diagnostic importance in psychotic disorders and particularly in schizophrenia. (emphasis added)
Vietnam:
After fifteen years of protracted fighting and massive civilian and military casualties, major, direct U.S. involvement ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973. Fighting between Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) forces against the dominant combined People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN) and Viet Cong forces would soon bring an end to the RVN and the war. With the Northern victory, the country was unified as the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) with a communist-controlled government based in Hanoi. (emphasis added)
We only have 12 more years.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Final Fantasy X (at least)


The fantasy continues:
The signs are clear, in any case, that a substantial withdrawal—or redeployment—is at hand. Top U.S. military officers have been privately warning for some time that current troop levels in Iraq cannot be sustained for another year or two without straining the Army to the breaking point. Rep. John Murtha's agenda-altering Nov. 17 call for an immediate redeployment was not only a genuine cri de coeur but also, quite explicitly, a public assertion of the military's institutional interests—and an acknowledgment of Congress' electoral interests.
You know, a bad novelist couldn't have come up with this scenario.

Tamiflu and Rumsfeld, too

This is just too much to be believed. I thought that our public servants were supposed to divest themselves of assets when they joined the Administration. (Of course Bill "Lookin more like Martha everyday" Frist is an exception):
NEW YORK (Fortune) - The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy that's now the most-sought after drug in the world. Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.

The forms don't reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer. (emphasis added)
The ensuing scramble for Tamiflu was in large part fueled by dear King George's announcement that we would stockpile it. So there, America. Take that.

They may not be able to govern Iraq, but they sure do know how to make money. (Usually dishonestly). And, least you think its confined to George the present, George the first's administration is not exempt:
Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.
A fish rots from its head.
What's more, the federal government is emerging as one of the world's biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004.

Drowned

As most of us know, that estimable patriot, Grover Norquist, has only one great desire in life, to reduce the size of the Federal Government so small so that it can be drowned in a bathtub. Well, I'm not sure that New Orleans would make the cutoff for a bathtub, but the death by drowning of our Federal Government seems to have taken place there back in September. You remember, don't you? The hurricane? No? Oh, well.

There is a truly excellent article on the op-ed page of the Washington Post this morning by one Jennifer Moses entitled: Starving The Beast. Ms. Moses is too kind (or astute) to allude to Norquist's jibe. I'm not. Here is some of what she says:
BATON ROUGE, La. -- A primary goal of many Republicans is to "starve the beast" of federal government, the theory being that states and private enterprise, better equipped to respond to local needs than Washington ever could be, will at the very least take up the slack. So let's give credit where credit is due. I don't know how things are going in Fairfax County, Va., or Prince George's County, Md., but here in East Baton Rouge Parish, La., the beast is dead.
Well, Ms. Moses, the beast may not be actually dead where I live, but it is on life support with no advance directives. The safety net for the poor is just that, a net full of holes. (if you doubt this, note that the Republicans, including our congressman Gilchrist, just voted to screw the middle class and poor over food stamps, student aid, lunch programs and Medicaid. Oh, and they are going to take up the "tax break for the MacRichies" on their return from their break (symmetry there).)

Ms. Moses goes on to detail the horror that is Louisiana in the age of our dear King George (George III in England was mad, so they say. He lost a war against insurgents in a far land. Seems the insurgents used guerrilla warfare (Spanish for little war). Oh my, those guerrillas were US.)
Even before hurricanes Katrina and Rita exposed the Bush administration's cynical callousness toward our most vulnerable citizens, Louisiana in general and East Baton Rouge Parish in particular were home to some of the most profound poverty in the nation, along with all the social ills that poverty breeds. Where does one begin? With the staggeringly high rate of HIV transmission? The fact that Louisiana public school teachers are ranked 46th in the nation for average teacher pay? Our dismal high school graduation rates? Our soaring teenage pregnancy rates? Or the public schools, which on the whole are such a disaster that they can only be compared to a war zone?
She goes on:
The fact of the matter is that here in East Baton Rouge Parish, we've never managed to take care of our own, and now, in the wake of the storms, we're barely keeping our collective heads above water.
I could quote the whole article, its that good, but read it yourself. Near the end, she says this:
In the meantime, there are bills to pay. Just for starters, Louisiana owes FEMA $3.7 billion. Local governments with no tax base (their tax bases having been wiped out) are being forced to repay disaster-relief loans. The U.S. House of Representatives recently removed a provision from a bill that would have given Louisiana the opportunity to obtain federal bridge loans. New bankruptcy law makes no provision for victims of the storms. Not to mention the staggeringly high cost of electricity. (emphasis added)
This really cuts to the marrow of our so called Society. Why should the victims have to pay back that dysfunctional albatross FEMA? (Grover says: "Brownie, you did a really good job.") And what about that bridge in Alaska? Can't we build bridges in Louisiana for millions of people to cross and let the Eskimos still use their ferry? All 50 of them?

Jeez. (I am not outraged. Only sort of. That doesn't count.)

And what does the royal consort, Queen Laura say:
"Let them eat Brownies!"

Monday, November 28, 2005

Report Cards


The newest rage with insurance companies and other busy bodies into doctoring is to issue "report cards" on doctors (box scores?) Those with A's will be rewarded (read $$$$), those with F's will be punished (read $). This is just a really bad idea. Why? Because the overwhelming majority of doctors are competent. You can't practice medicine unless you pass very strict qualifying exams. While there are really some outstanding docs out there (a New York Review of Books article on Harvey Cushing tells us that giants did walk the halls), most of us, though we would like to believe otherwise, are so-so. No, we will never live in Garrison Keeler's Lake Woebegone where everyone is above average. Unfortunately, in the real world, some of us are below average.

So what's going to happen? Well, its already out there. If you do a procedure that is risky, then you are not going to do it on high risk patients. Can't screw up your ERA's. There is going to be a gigantic Will Rogers effect.


Will Rogers, you say. How did he get in this discussion? Well, Will Rogers once said (and I paraphrase): "If you move all the Oakies from Oklahoma to California it would improve the average intelligence in each State." This is a well known effect in medical research where people are always moving low risk patients to high risk groups in order to improve their results (i.e., more patients in the high risk group survive.) Not intentionally, mind you. No, someone would never do that intentionally!

So, how does this work out with docs? Well, if I did high risk procedures I would only do them on low risk patients. You know, docs still do have a choice of who they take for patients. If you make every doc take every patient that comes to them (not a bad idea) then you can't penalize them for bad outcomes. Its as simple as that. Not that it won't stop this activity.

Why can't we have a report card on politicians? Particularly those in the White House. I'll give you one guess on their grade.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Not Outrage, Bemusement

I actually feel for this guy:
Warren County Community College adjunct English professor, John Daly resigned last night before the school's board of trustees began an emergency meeting to discuss the professor's fate. On November 13, Daly sent an email to student Rebecca Beach vowing "to expose [her] right-wing, anti-people politics until groups like [Rebecca's] won't dare show their face on a college campus." In addition, Daly said that "Real freedom will come when soldiers in Iraq turn their guns on their superiors."
It does sounds like he said something stupid. After all, though he was exercising freedom of speech, the Young America Fascists don't see it that way:
"More colleges and universities need to follow the lead of WCCC and integrate tolerance training for insensitive leftists," says Young America's Foundation Spokesman Jason Mattera. "John Daly is yet another Ward Churchill. Academia is filled with intolerant leftists who openly show hostility toward conservatism." (emphasis added)
Insensitive leftists? I thought it was Kerry who wanted to be sensitive. You just can't win with these guys. (Oh, and Michelle was all over this like Chicken Pox. Gave her an oragami.)

Outrage

Its a funny thing about outrage, you can only keep it so long. After that, it goes floating off into space, not to return for a long time. Its like Kubler Ross's stages of grief, after outrage comes exhaustion. The problem is, of course, is that people like Ann "Lassie" Coulter
In the Iraq war so far, the U.S. military has deposed a dictator who had already used weapons of mass destruction and would have used them again. As we now know, Saddam Hussein was working with al-Qaida and was trying to acquire long-range missiles from North Korea and enriched uranium from Niger.
or Michelle "Screw um" Malkin:
Reason number 95,385 to keep your kids out of government schools
don't get exhausted. They live on their brand of invective. They can go on forever. Makes you wonder about the invasion of the body-snatchers (see below).

I need a dose of what P.G. Wodehouse called a "pick me up."

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Peat - The New Wonder Fuel


Somewhere in the West of Ireland.

Warm glow of Irish peat takes edge off oil woes.

When I lived in Ireland a while back (a real while), there was a joke going around that the Irish were going to have have an SST (the Concorde had just come into service) that was fueled by peat. All those Brits out there smirked. Now that there is an oil crisis, many an Irish family will be warm and toasty (at least on their front side) this Winter when the temp drops while all us oil dependent Yanks are going to freeze our buns off.

Congress Helps Self to $3,100 Pay Raise


This is just unconscionable. First our local representative (Gilchrist) is one of the swing votes for the legislation:
House-passed measure attacks deficits by limiting spending for the first time in a decade on Medicaid, food stamps, student loans and other benefit programs that normally rise with inflation and eligibility.
THEN he allows a pay raise to go through without a glance.

These guys now make: $165,200 a year!
I want to know how he can come back in his district and face all the poor kiddies out here that rely on Medicaid for their health care?

Oh, I forgot, Scarlett,
"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a vote for kids."
In actuality, it will be the pediatricians and family practice docs who will have to absorb some of this Medicaid cut. Who is going to deny care to children? (other than most of the specialists around here) Of course, poor people can afford copays for their kids antibiotics. Wouldn't want those pharmaceutical companies to have to decrease their profits, would we?

For those of you who are interested, Marcia Angell, one time editor of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, has done an excellent review of this situation in the New York Review of Books. Here is a tidbit:
The most startling fact about 2002 is that the combined profits for the ten drug companies in the Fortune 500 ($35.9 billion) were more than the profits for all the other 490 businesses put together ($33.7 billion). In 2003 profits of the Fortune 500 drug companies dropped to 14.3 percent of sales, still well above the median for all industries of 4.6 percent for that year. When I say this is a profitable industry, I mean really profitable. It is difficult to conceive of how awash in money big pharma is.

...snip...

According to a report by the non-profit group Families USA, the for-mer chairman and CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Charles A. Heimbold Jr., made $74,890,918 in 2001, not counting his $76,095,611 worth of unexercised stock options. The chairman of Wyeth made $40,521,011, exclusive of his $40,629,459 in stock options.
Tell that to the kiddies, Mr. Gilchrist

Pictures and Memory


Railroad Station - Milan, Italy

I'm sure that you are familiar with Bag News Notes, that truly excellent site that analyzes pictures in the news. It always has something pithy to say about the visual inundation that is now our daily bread. (Fifty years ago there was only grainy black and white photos in the newspapers. Of course there was Life magazine with its glossy excess. Television was still black and white, but it was there. This sea change in visual onslaught is rarely taken into account.)

I am reading Mindsight by Colin McGinn. The reason for this is that I am very interested in the question of "free will," and I clearly need to do some background reading. I have a very mechanistic view of "free will" that I want to go into here that would make Pharyngula proud. (You will have noticed that I put "free will" in quotation marks. This may give you a hint as to what I think of it.)

In any case, McGinn immediately starts off differentiating between pictures that we create in our mind (images) and pictures of reality (percepts). I suppose pictures like the one above of the Milan train station that appeared on Yahoo this AM would classify as a percept. After all, I didn't conure it up out of nowhere.

But, and it is a very big But (no pun intended), this picture conjures up a very strong memory from twenty-one years ago when I visited Milan with a friend. I mean, a memory so strong that it almost bowled me over when I saw the picture. Its not that anything really interesting happened to us (I seem to remember waiting endlessly for the train to Firenze and then it being crowded beyond belief. San Gimignano and driving wildly to the sea. Motorcycles, Volta, sleeping in an old nunnery, scandalizing the monks, writing a poem about it four years later, and...well, you get the drift). Needless to say, the images that are conured up by a percept are very strong, but still images.

So, I think that the relationship of images and memory is one that is so incredibly complex that I am anxious to get to that part in the book. I hope he looks at it.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Juan Cole and White Phosphorus

According to Neal Stephenson in the Baroque Cycle, White Phosphorus was discovered in the West about the time of Isaac Newton's rise to fame (1670). It was obtained from urine (true, urine has a lot of phosphorus, all that used up ATP). Professor Cole parses George Monbiot's analysis of the situation with respect to the current controversy about its use in the attack on Fallujah last year in the Guardian. I was struck by the following commentary:
[Cole: I agree that the invasion in 2003 was illegal. However, the assault on the guerrillas in Fallujah was not illegal. It had a UN Security Council resolution behind it authorizing Coalition troops to carry out such operations, and recognizing the transitional government of Iyad Allawi, which also backed the operation. What was done to Fallujah was so horrible that it is now often forgotten that there was every reason to think that the city was a base for the worst kinds of terrorism against innocent civilians in Baghdad and Karbala; there were very bad characters there. Black and white depictions of the Marines as villains and the guerrillas as good guys are silly and morally poisonous. If I had known the full extent of the damage that would be done to the city, I would have been against the Fallujah campaign; it is just terrible counter-insurgency tactics for one thing, and was a humanitarian disaster. But to say that the US military wilfully contravened its own regulations and knowingly broke US and international law on chemical weapons by deploying white phosphorus there would have to be proven from better evidence than has been presented.]

Since exactly what I am arguing seems to be hard for some readers to understand, I just have to repeat that I am challenging the narrative that the US government recognizes white phosphorus as a chemical weapon; that it is so categorized in the convention banning chemical weapons; or that US military commanders deployed it in contravention of US law despite knowing or believing that it was illegal. That is, if you actually put the officers in charge of the operation in the docket, I am saying that no conviction could be obtained. It is worth saying, because allegations to the contrary are being seriously made by serious persons.
I find it is always useful in situations like this to insert other names in the appropriate places and see how we would feel about it (most commonly I do this in the Israel Palestine conflic):
[Cole: I agree that the invasion in 2003 was illegal. However, the assault on the guerrillas in Grozny (Chechnya) was not illegal. It had a UN Security Council resolution behind it authorizing Russian troops to carry out such operations, and recognizing the transitional government of Putin, which also backed the operation. What was done to Grozny was so horrible that it is now often forgotten that there was every reason to think that the city was a base for the worst kinds of terrorism against innocent civilians in Moscow and Kiev; there were very bad characters there. Black and white depictions of the Russian soldiers as villains and the guerrillas as good guys are silly and morally poisonous. If I had known the full extent of the damage that would be done to the city, I would have been against the Grozney campaign; it is just terrible counter-insurgency tactics for one thing, and was a humanitarian disaster. But to say that the Russian military wilfully contravened its own regulations and knowingly broke Russian and international law on chemical weapons by deploying white phosphorus there would have to be proven from better evidence than has been presented.]

Since exactly what I am arguing seems to be hard for some readers to understand, I just have to repeat that I am challenging the narrative that the Russian government recognizes white phosphorus as a chemical weapon; that it is so categorized in the convention banning chemical weapons; or that Russian military commanders deployed it in contravention of international law despite knowing or believing that it was illegal. That is, if you actually put the officers in charge of the operation in the docket, I am saying that no conviction could be obtained. It is worth saying, because allegations to the contrary are being seriously made by serious persons.
I did this substitution because I disagree with Cole. His effort (and I respect it in some ways) was still an effort to make the ends justify the means. Why, when we have such other terrible weapons, do we go and do something as stupid as use White Phosphorus? And, I am sorry Professor, I have chemistry training, White Phosphorus is a chemical weapon.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bomb Happy, redux

Recidivist once again points us to the irony:
Thatcher 'threatened to nuke Argentina'
Jon Henley in Paris
Tuesday November 22, 2005
The Guardian

Margaret Thatcher forced Fran├žois Mitterrand to give her the codes to disable Argentina's deadly French-made missiles during the Falklands war by threatening to launch a nuclear warhead against Buenos Aires, according to a book. Rendez-vous - the psychoanalysis of Fran├žois Mitterrand, by Ali Magoudi, who met the late French president up to twice a week in secrecy at his Paris practice from 1982 to 1984, also reveals that Mr Mitterrand believed he would get his "revenge" by building a tunnel under the Channel which would forever destroy Britain's island status.
And how will they get even with W? Build a tunnel to Crawford?

Special pre Thanksgiving Crab Blogging

Goodwin Redux


There is Goodwin's Law which states that:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.
I certainly have been guilty of that. However, more recently, I would modify the law to say:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of it involving the War in Iraq approaches 1.

DeLay and the Rubber Checks

According to the Washington Post this morning (dead tree edition), Tom Delay's lawyers have asked for a dismissal of the charges of money laundering against him because the Texas law states that the money has to be in cash or coins and his transferral of funds to the RNC (which later bounced back to his cronies, two of whom are his lawyers) was a check.

I kid you not.

And this is the guy that Cheney is going to fete. Maximum ticket so far is $4,200.

I forget what the word for over confidence is. Hubris?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Cat and Mouse


Why all this cat and mouse activity on the part of Bob Woodward? Why doesn't he just come out and tell us what happened? I mean, for crying out loud, someone might have broken the law! (Oh, excuse me, that doesn't seem to matter any more.)

In any case, its going to be a GREAT movie. Robert Redford can star as Patrick Fitzgerald (with a little makeup).

Bomb Happy

Recidivist directs us to this article in the British newspaper the Mirror:
PRESIDENT Bush planned to bomb Arab TV station al-Jazeera in friendly Qatar, a "Top Secret" No 10 memo reveals.

But he was talked out of it at a White House summit by Tony Blair, who said it would provoke a worldwide backlash.

...snip...

A Government official suggested that the Bush threat had been "humorous, not serious".

But another source declared: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

...snip...

Bush disclosed his plan to target al-Jazeera, a civilian station with a huge Mid-East following, at a White House face-to-face with Mr Blair on April 16 last year (April, 2004).
Maybe the body snatchers really did knock on the White House door.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Redux


1956 Version
The story is simple enough about a benevolent, intellectual doctor returning from vacation only to find that some weird, unexplainable feelings have been generated in the small town of Santa Mira. Some people say that relatives are not who they seem to be, despite being exact duplicates physically and mentally. This leads to one discovery to another for the good doctor, his girl, and two friends, and what we have through each discovery is one more piece to the puzzle that an alien presence is at work.
So, the other night I was listening to a string quartet from Baltimore. After the concert (excellent) we were chatting with the lead violin. She was describing her experience with the filming of of a remake of this movie. It apparently stars Nicole Kidman and one of the scenes is a banquet (filmed in the Peruvian embassy in D.C.) with the string quartet in the background. The members of the quartet have already been 'snatched.' The hardest thing for this musician to do was to play without emotion.

I am so screwed up these days that I immediately see a political ramification of this story. I think to myself as I am listening to this young lady, in a way, our government has been taken over by sinister forces? George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are the equivalent of bodies occupied by an alien spirit? A spirit alien to our Constitution and underlying beliefs.

This is, of course, far fetched. It is as far fetched as the 1953 movie "Invaders from Mars" on which, I am sure, the "Body Snatchers was based." It wasn't as devious as Body Snatchers.

In Invaders from Mars, the Martians implanted devices in a person's neck that controlled them. They were trying to wreck the rocket base. I guess the idea was that eventually, man would make it to Mars and pose a threat. Little did they know. All I can remember is that I saw it in a drive-in with my father and it scared the living bejesus out of me.

Again, I have to say it. I don't know what to do. I hope I am a reasonable citizen. We decided in 1945-46 at the Nuremberg Trials (60th anniversary of their opening this week) that officials and a people could be held responsible for awful things. Am I to be held responsible for all the children who have died in Iraq, and White Phosphorus, and Abu Gharib, and water boarding, and an unending litany of atrocities?

Its enough to distrub a man's sleep.

DeLay Shenanigans


.............CROOK.........

You have probably been following the indictment and prospective trial of Tom DeLay who, in the not too distant past, was the most powerful man in our House of Representatives (and, if he gets his way, still may be).

First, immediately on being indicted, De Lay deflected scrutiny of his actions by questioning the motives of the sitting Judge. Since this judge had contributed to Democratic causes, he was deemed not worthy to hear DeLay's case. So, there was a new Judge appointed, and now DeLay is submitting motions to have the charges dropped, I guess so he can go back to screwing the American people. While DeLay questioned the impartiality of a judge that had donated money TO democrats, he was not adverse to having a judge who had ACCEPTED money from Republicans. No surprise that it was his own money machine doing the donating.

However, the prosecuter Ronnie Earle, who is right up there with Murtha in my hall of fame, was having none of that:
Seventeen minutes after the Supreme Court announced Priest's appointment, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle filed a motion seeking the removal from the case of Chief Justice Jefferson, a San Antonian with strong GOP ties.

Arguing that Jefferson's impartiality "might reasonably be questioned," Earle pointed in part to $26,000 in contributions Jefferson received in 2002 from the Republican National State Elections Committee as well as the Business and Commerce PAC, both described by Earle as unindicted co-conspirators in the DeLay case. (emphasis added)
As Molly Ivins would say, "only in Texas."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Well Dick, you've done Winston Smith proud

The Vice President for Torture said today concerning WMD:
"We never had the burden of proof," he said, adding that it had been up to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to prove to the world that he didn't have such weapons.
Think about this statement for a minute. Just think about it. Is this any way to carry out international diplomacy? We say you have weapons. You say you don't. We say jump. Higher. Higher. Higher. Never high enough. Too bad, we invade.

(Winston Smith is the protagonist of 1984)

Gona turn my brown eyes blue, redux

A while back we commented on Ms. Harris from Florida who had those big blue searchlights on her Web page. (Its changed on that site.) Well damn if it didn't happen again. Now we have "Mad Dog" Schmidt from Ohio (who almost got beat out by a decent person (Paul Hackett) in the election last August) and who called our favorite Representative, John Murtha, a coward, doing the same thing. From her Web site:

But then we have these pictures:




Looks like somebody got busy with the cerulean blue and their PhotoShop.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Say What?

From Juan Cole:
At the Iraqi national reconciliation summit, the Shiite delegation of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq walked out when a Christian Iraqi implied that they were traitors and puppets of the US and alleged that the new Iraqi consitution was written by the Americans. (emphasis added)
Read that again. A Christian Iraqi! I would say that Representative Murtha is dead on (pun intended). We have lost the war in Iraq. Now it will take at least 2 1/2 years (until you-know-what) for this fact to sink throught the dense, fibrous layer of tissue that surrounds the brain of George W. Bush.

But a Christian Iraqi. Well, that's a strange kettle of fish.

Paging Pat Robertson.
Paging Ralph Reed.
Paging Billy Graham.
Paging James Dobson.


Murtha's REAL resolution, by the way:
Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of American in Congress assembled, That:

Section 1. The deployment of United States Forces in Iraq, by direction of Congress, is hereby terminated and forces involved are to be redeployed at the earliest practicable date.

Section 2. A quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines shall be deployed in the region.

Section 3. The United States of America shall pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.



.............PATRIOT.........

Age of Innocence



You can't go back to when we never tortured.

Jintao Presses U.S. on Trade, Human Rights

BEIJING - China President Hu Jintao pressed the U.S. on Sunday to curtail religious extremism, increase political honesty and eschew torture and won renewed promises — but no concrete actions — from President Bush to work on reducing the U.S.'s enormous debt to the Chinese people.

Hu said the two leaders sought an outcome of "mutual benefit and win-win results."

But their meeting Sunday at the Great Hall of the People on the edge of Tiananmen Square appeared to produce no breakthroughs on Chinese demands for withdrawal from Iraq, reassimilation of Formosa with the Chinese mainland, and no details about how the U.S. could reduce its debt to China now estimated at $650 billion.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Watch out Medicaid Kiddies!

Apparently W's promises on resources for the bird flu pandemic:
Researchers here at the NIH have developed a vaccine based on the current strain of the avian flu virus; the vaccine is already in clinical trials. And I am asking that the Congress fund $1.2 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services to purchase enough doses of this vaccine from manufacturers to vaccinate 20 million people.
Has run into a little problem called Congressional Republicans:
Conservative Republicans in the House insisted that an emergency U.S. effort to stockpile vaccines and anti-viral drugs that could be effective against the deadly flu would have to be paid for by cutting other government programs. (emphasis added)

We all know that this doesn't mean the payments to Halliburton and other BOTVP (buddies of the vice president), but kiddies on Medicaid, food stamps and student loans. (School lunches too).

And our local Republican Congressman was in on the act:
Congressional Republicans, with the last minute support of Maryland Republican Congressman Wayne Gilchrest, passed a devastating array of spending cuts early this morning.

“This bill will have disastrous consequences for Maryland’s middle class and working families,” says Lierman. “The House Republican leadership, with Wayne Gilchrest’s decisive support, has forced deep and unnecessary cuts to some of our nation’s most important programs.”

For students, the passage of the bill will mean reversing a previous law capping the interest rates for student loans at 6.8 percent, increasing the cap to 8.25 percent. The bill also includes a massive cut in federal funding for student financial aid.

Intentionally Exposing Children to Pesticides



An alert reader directs us to to an EPA proposed rule that directly involves children. I will review that after I have posted comments (not the reader's) pertaining to this issue:
1. Children who "cannot be reasonably consulted," such as those that are mentally handicapped or orphaned newborns may be tested on. With permission from the institution or guardian in charge of the individual, the child may be exposed to chemicals for the sake of research.

2. Parental consent forms are not necessary for testing on children who have been neglected or abused.

3. Chemical studies on any children outside of the U.S. are acceptable.
I have exactly the same response to this issue as I do to torture. I can't believe we are even discussing it. The mere thought of intentionally exposing children to chemicals (pesticides) that would not benefit them and would actually hurt them is so repugnant that it is like running a nail down the blackboard or rubbing two pieces of styrofoam together to even put it in consciousness.

That said, what does the EPA say?
Protections for Subjects in Human Research [Federal Register: September 12, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 175)]
...snip....
SUMMARY: EPA proposes and invites public comment on a rulemaking to ban intentional dosing human testing for pesticides when the subjects are pregnant women or children, to formalize and further strengthen existing protections for subjects in human research conducted or supported by EPA, and to extend new protections to adult subjects in intentional dosing human studies for pesticides conducted by others who intend to submit the research to EPA. This proposal, the first of several possible Agency actions, focuses on third-party intentional dosing human studies for pesticides, but invites public comment on alternative approaches with broader scope. (emphasis added)
To propose a ban on this activity is to suppose that this activity is currently taking place!! Do we have Abu Gharibs with children in them for pesticides to be tested?

For many years I worked in medical research. Every single effort was made to provide informed consent. I can't remember a time when we treated a child with a new drug (e.g. chemotherapy) or procedure (e.g. bone marrow transplantation) when there wasn't some benefit for the child. Certainly the treatment was stopped immediately if the side effects or the results outweighed the benefit. (I could go into great detail here if necessary).

At one point we were using a medication for children with a rare disease, cystinosis, that had been tested by the US military in the 1960's as a radioprotectant (after nuclear attack to protect against radiation injury). The safety of this drug had been determined by the Army in trials in humans. The humans were adult prisoners who took the medicine in exchange for, I assume, other considerations. The only purpose of the drug was to help these children (it did).

As for the outsourcing of testing pesticides on children, I suppose that it happens. If someone as intelligent as John le Carre in this book "The Constant Gardener"
(now a movie) can talk about unscrupulous testing of drugs in Africa, I suppose some CEO
of Archer Daniels Midland would do the same with his new pesticide. I put nothing past these grey men (and women).

Such outsourcing is as despicable and as worthy of condemnation as torture. I can't be any more explicit.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Vice President for Torture


LONDON, England -- Former CIA director Stansfield Turner has labeled Dick Cheney a "vice president for torture."
This jerk lives in my County. I would like him to leave. I was here first.

Oh, and he seems to be sticking it to the taxpayers too, a rather exquisite form of torture:
WASHINGTON, November 16, 2005 — Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff have been unilaterally exempting themselves from long-standing travel disclosure rules followed by the rest of the executive branch, including the Office of the President, the Center for Public Integrity has discovered.

Finally, some cajones



oops, its Murtha, not Martha:



WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, Ranking Member on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, decorated Vietnam veteran, and expert on military issues, spoke at a news conference this morning calling for immediate redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq.
Of course, little Scottie (his highness' press secretary) was immediately into the breach:
Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party. The eve of an historic democratic election in Iraq is not the time to surrender to the terrorists. After seeing his statement, we remain baffled -- nowhere does he explain how retreating from Iraq makes America safer.


And, no, Murtha did not ride out on Swift Boats, so get over it.

Missy Michelle's Blog

This appeared on Michelle Malkin's Blog. Remember, she is held up as a bright, young, cool, Republican blogger:
Keep a sharp eye on fresh developments in both Canada and Cuba, two countries with rogue, corrupt and repressive regimes that don't know when to cut their losses and leave town.
Excuse me, I didn't know Republicans smoked Panama Gold. Canada is many things, but rogue, corrupt and repressive is not amongst its adjectives. In fact, Canada is one of the few ideal countries left. I suggest Michelle go back to GO and start over again (and not collect $200.)

What Wagon?


At the beginning of every Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, someone reads out loud a plastic-laminated document that says, among other things, that this Twelve-Step program has rarely been known to fail, except for a few unfortunate people who are "constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves". (emphasis added)

Friday Crab Blogging

Thursday, November 17, 2005

A little late, don't you think?

Apparently there is a ground swell in the newly cojonied Democratic Party for getting the heck out of Dodge:
"The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home," said Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees military spending and one of his party's top spokesmen on defense.
At least it is happening. After all the deaths. After the destruction of the infrastructure. (actually, we destroyed it twice. Don't forget the first Gulf War.) After all the rhetoric. (Has a War ever been this screwed up by an Administration?)

We have destroyed a country and a large number of its people and I can't see that there is anything positive coming out of it. The current "elected" government is as corrupt as the previous "elected" government and, blue fingers aside, I don't think the social situation is conducive to true, electoral democracy. Particularly when the majority want a religious autocracy.

About $220 billion late.
May we live in interesting times.

The Plot

We are all part of the plot.
You, there, can be Colonel Mustard.
I will carry the candle stick.
(As I did once in the
dense rubrics of Catholicism.)
We all are related to Torquemada.
By blood.

Thou shalt not kill.
How prosaic.
But, mere life is nothing compared
To centuries of culture.
What They want is a giant
Pablum of a World.

They, I am talking about They.
The grey men behind the fireworks.
The ones whose bank accounts
end with exponents.
They are so confident that They
will triumph in the end.
Until they fall. Ha! Kabuki at its best.
Like a Nixon or a Faust.

How pitiful these stricken mites.
Gangling on for our amusement.
Court applause, an op-ed piece.
While the real Power
Surges away from them
Like a Shuttle in the dawn.

We tail after.
Contrails of detritus.
Cursing our allegiance.
Mere mist.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Apology

Apparently Colin Powell isn't as implicit as I had suggested, though I still think he holds a lot of responsibility for where we are:
The torture ban has the support of General Colin Powell and an array of other retired generals and admirals. But Vice President Dick Cheney is still lobbying so hard against the ban that the Washington Post nicknamed him "Vice President for Torture." It'll all come down to one vote in the House of Representatives this week.

From the Ministry of Truth

As found in the L.A. Times:
U.S. Says It Used Phosphorus as Weapon
From Associated Press


WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials acknowledged Tuesday that U.S. troops had used white phosphorus as a weapon against insurgents during the battle for Fallouja last November.

....snip....

it was used at times in Fallouja as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants.

"It was not used against civilians," he said.

....snip....

...as a potent psychological weapon against the insurgents in trench lines and spider holes.
And might not civilians be in the spider holes? Heh?

I think the previous comment by Hunter suffices
:....there are very good reasons, even in a time of war, not to melt the skin off of children.

First, because the insurgency will inevitably be hardened by tales of American forces melting the skin off of children.

Second, because the civilian population will harbor considerable resentment towards Americans for melting the skin off of their children.

Third, BECAUSE IT FUCKING MELTS THE SKIN OFF OF CHILDREN.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Good Night and Good Luck

I am really anxious to see this movie about Edward R. Murrow.
I seem to vaguely remember him from my childhood. He was extent in the early fifties and didn't leave newscasting until the 1960's (he was a chain smoker and died from lung cancer in 1965 at the age of 57). Mr. Murrow was about a straight a man as you can imagine and pulled no punches. While he was not solely responsible for the eventual demise of Joseph McCarthy, and the hysteria that that man created, he was certainly instrumental in it. As I said, I can't wait to see the movie. We need more men like him today.

One of the things that McCarthy did was compose lists of "commies." This was similar to a list of enemies that Richard Nixon created. Once you were black listed, you were through. If you were an actor, you had trouble getting a job. Ronald Reagan liked those black lists too.
he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee on Communist influence in Hollywood. He also kept tabs on actors he considered disloyal and informed on them to the FBI under the code name "Agent T-10," but he would not denounce them publicly. He supported the practice of blacklisting in Hollywood.
It is hard for us to imagine the atmosphere of that day, but the fact that everyone in my high school was given a copy of J. Edgar Hoover's "Masters of Deceit" gives you some idea of the level of tolerence. Zero. Yes, we were all brainwashed.

Now we have a new list that is being created by Bill O'Reilly of those who are critical of his remarks about San Francisco (thanks to Kos). I referred to this earlier.

Well, I want to be on this list. Where do I sign up? Kos suggests emailing Bill O'Reilly at: oreilly@foxnews.com

The New Torquemada - Doctors and Torture 2



I put Colin Powell up next to Torquemada because I still hold him partially responsible for the breakdown in government that led to our torturing of prisoners. I put Torquemada up there because he was an official in the Roman Catholic Church who eventually became the Grand Inquisitor. He is a prime example of a man who thinks he is doing the right thing when, in actuality, he is doing evil. (they also look alike)

I was able to get a copy of the Washington Post article on Doctors and Torture that I mentioned yesterday. It is reviewed here.
Medical Experts Debate Role In Facilitating Interrogations
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 14, 2005; Page A19

On Oct. 19, leaders of several medical organizations flew to the U.S. Navy detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. After meeting with officials and two psychologists who served as consultants during interrogations with detainees, a vigorous debate sprang up among the experts over the ethics of physicians and caregivers participating in the debriefing of prisoners.

The debate, which participants said was conducted in earnest over a lengthy dinner at Andrews Air Force Base after they returned from Cuba, explored concerns that medical experts in general, and psychiatrists and psychologists in particular, have aided U.S. government interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, often by applying their insights into human behavior to break the will of prisoners. (emphasis added)

Although the Bush administration has asserted that it does not condone or practice torture, articles in prominent medical forums such as the New England Journal of Medicine have said that doctors and behavioral scientists have violated ethical norms while interrogating terrorism suspects at the behest of the U.S. government and become "complicit in torture."
I do not condone torture in any form for any reason. The fact that medical personnel are involved in this activity, again, is beyond comprehension. I think that most physicians feel the way we do:
.....the American Psychiatric Association came to the conclusion that psychiatrists should never participate in coercive interrogations, or even lend advice to government officials carrying out interrogations that involve sleep deprivation, threats, humiliation, sensory deprivation or the use of prolonged stress positions, according to the group's president, Steven S. Sharfstein.

...snip....

The psychiatrists' policy effectively says that numerous techniques practiced by interrogators at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere are unethical for psychiatrists to be involved with
The problem is, we can't erase this blot on our national eschutcheon. We need a moral revival in politics, and not from the Christian Right. A friend of mine referred me to Jimmy Carter's take on this.
In recent years, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of radical government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with truthful information, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements - including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.
And, more to the point:
Of even greater concern is that the US has repudiated the Geneva accords and espoused the use of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, and secretly through proxy regimes elsewhere with the so-called extraordinary rendition program. It is embarrassing to see the president and vice president insisting that the CIA should be free to perpetrate "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment" on people in US custody.
Again, I am not angry. Sarcastic, yes. But I am beyond anger. I am seeking for a way to change things. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Our Dear Gov


Our Dear Gov 32. (CLICK TO ENLARGE COMIC).

It is really hard to follow our Dumbo in the White House AND this guy too. For the low down on his latest fiasco, go to here.

Doctors and torture

There is another article today in the Washington Post about the involvement of doctors with torture. This is in a country where its president has recently said: "We do not torture." The article this AM was about the stance of American Psychiatrists basically condemning the involvement of military psychiatrists and psychologists in the interrogation of prisoners. Stating in no uncertain terms that this was unethical. Why did they have to condemn activity that we aren't doing? Huh?

Why is this news? We have known for a long time that this has been going on. The following is from an article by Robert Jay Lifton, M.D. from our flagship journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, over a year ago:
There is increasing evidence that U.S. doctors, nurses, and medics have been complicit in torture and other illegal procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo Bay. Such medical complicity suggests still another disturbing dimension of this broadening scandal.
I really don't know what to do anymore. When I wake up in the morning and it suddenly rushes on me that I live in a country that is torturing people both physically and mentally, that doctors and nurses and medics are involved in this activity, and I am doing nothing about it. Sometimes it just makes me ill.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

A Billion here, A Billion there

Saudis Pledge $1 Billion to Rebuild Iraq

Of course there is the counter in my blog roll. As of this posting it is at: $219,220,000,000.

As Everett Dirkson supposedly said: "A billion here,
a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money"? ..."

For an in depth analysis of the last $87 Billion, see A Little Perspective on $87 billion.

So, what's a billion dollars among friends? Especially when it is slippery as an eel with oil.

Going Back


We cannot go back to a more innocent time, before we started torturing prisoners or before we invaded Iraq. Here are the reasons I believe this:

One thing that the Christian religion instills in the malleable brains of its children is that life is unidirectional. This is interesting since one of the other great religions that predates Christianity, Buddhism, does consider life cyclical. And, up until the 20th century, most humans were exposed to this cyclicity in the yearly seasons much more so than at present. One needs to figure out why Christianity deviated from this obvious view of life. I suspect it is because Christianity developed a sense of the afterlife versus the Buddhist concept of reincarnation (which actually predates Buddhism by centuries) versus the pagan, Jewish and now atheist concept of a very diminished or non-existent life after death.

In any case, one could make the argument that, because Christianity has this "time is an arrow" concept, it puts much more weight and responsibility on an individual for their actions. For political reasons, good actions don't account for much, it is really only sin that is of interest. Again, it is very likely that this stress is mainly for political reasons. And people in power cherry pick the sins of Christianity for obvious reasons.

Take the issues of sex and abortion. A very strong argument can be made that extramarital sex is prohibited because such activity leads to bastards. In the two millennium of Christianity, based mainly in Europe and its colonies, property was of the utmost importance. (It still is. Consider the materialism of America versus the rest of the World.) One of the things about property, and possession of land was what to do with it once you died. The obvious solution was to pass it on to your children. Needless to say, one had to have a real good idea of who your children were to accomplish this. A corollary to this was that your wife couldn't be playing around. Thus the advent of chastity belts during the Crusades (one wonders whether medieval European women didn't suffer more than the Saracens at times. Have you ever seen a chastity belt?)

A similar argument can be made for abortion in that abortion decreases the number of soldiers and workers for those that hold property. Actually, abortion was tolerated far more than we realize even by the Catholic Church up until about 150 years ago. (see the excellent article by Gary Wills that I have linked to before. Unfortunately, it is now buried in the pay for view NYT.)

Both of these activities, extramarital sex and abortion, are considered sins mainly because they have political consequences. That is, they impact on the power structure of society which lives in an unholy alliance with the prevailing religion, Christianity in this case. (If you doubt the close association of Christianity with politics from the word go, please read Elaine Pagels.)

But therein lies a tale. While those in power preach all of the ideas that are needed to support this end-directed (and not cyclical) religion, they do not practice what they preach. In fact, they have never practiced what they have preached. The history of Christianity in Europe has been one long bloodbath. And when you get to the rapacious colonization of the world during the 17th-19th centuries, it sowed the seeds of what we are reaping today. Is it any wonder that Muslims doubt our intentions in the midEast when they have so much history stretching back to 1092 to inform them? (Incidentally, Muslims have adopted the Christian view of life being unidirectional. Unfortunately, their afterlife seems very rewarding and we have a surfeit of suicide bombers.)

So this returns us to our original observation, that we cannot go back to a time when America didn't torture prisioners, didn't engage in "extraordinary rendition", didn't lie to its people about the most important aspects of its operation. But we can change. And we can make amends.

The one thing we can't do is, as Mr. Bush wishes, is ignore it.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Demographics

Condelezza Rice noted that:
"some 50 million to 100 million young people will enter the job market across the Middle East and neighboring countries in North Africa over the next five to 10 years."



Fact: The population of Israel is 6,276,883.

Conclusion: Either the State of Israel comes to some accomodation with its neighbors or it will cease to exist. While some of the 100 million are from Israel, 6,276,883 goes into 100,000,000 15.93 times.

Those are pretty heavy odds.

Yapping!


"Strategy for Victory."

Yap, yap, yap, yap....critics are deeply irresponsible....sending the wrong signal....yap, yap, yap....global war on terror...yap, yap, yap....it is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war (Iraq) began...yap, yap, yap...foreign intelligence services and Democrats and Republicans alike were convinced at the time that Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi leader, had weapons of mass destruction...yap, yap, yap..... fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life...yap, yap, yap...maybe this investigation (of the lead-in to the Iraq War) will reveal that they (Democrats) were brainwashed...yap, yap, yap...

("Hail to the Chief," which is rarely played to mark Bush's arrival, blared from speakers in the warehouse...)


In a quiet village in England, Eric Blair (a.k.a. George Orwell) takes up his pen and begins to write.

A leveling of rhetoric

First we have Bill O'Reilly in a love note to San Francisco:
O'Reilly went on. "And if al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead." (emphasis added)
Now O'Reilly isn't alone in this beating up the cities. Here we have Pat "Kill the Venezuelians, particularly their elected President" Robertson commenting on Dover, PA, that wonderful berg that ousted the 'Intelligent' Designers (gosh, an oxymoron). (this is by way of World of Crap via our friend Redjalapeno):"
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."
And then we have Gerald Walpin introducing the governor of Massachusetts, Milt Romney:
"Today when most of the country thinks of who controls Massachusetts, I think the modern day KKK comes to mind - the Kennedy, Kerry Klan. One person who has been victorious against that tide in Massachusetts is Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney." (emphasis added)
I thought these were the guys who were going to be kinder and gentler.

Ha, ha, ha.

(I promised not to be angry. I didn't say anything about sarcastic.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day

Or, Armistice Day. On the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month the guns were silent. And, someone died during the 10th hour.

War is hell.

Senate Passes Amendment to End Habeas for Detainees

O.K., then, I am not angry but from here:
The Senate today passed Lindsay Graham's amendment, 49 to 42 barring detainees at Guantanamo and others declared by the Executive Branch to be enemy combatants from seeking judicial review of the legality of their detentions.
And from here:
Section 9, Clause 2:
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
Seems pretty straightforward to me. The Senate has decided that we are in a Rebellion.

You bet your booties we're in a Rebellion!

Versions of Reality

George W. Bush:
"Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and mislead the American people about why we went to war,"
The Downing Street Memo:
Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.

Friday Crab Blogging - 3 year old version

Being Loud

O.K., O.K., O.K. I hear everyone. I'm being loud. I'm being brash. I'm yelling on the InterNet and in person. I'm angry. I'm not just angry, I'm ballistic.

I stand accused of all of the above. Clearly, I see things as more serious than almost the entire coterie of my associates.

What to do when faced with this? Well, I promise to tone down my internet entries. No more flaming caps. No more shrillness.

However, I continue to feel that the situation is grave. I continue to think that we, the American people, have abrogated our responsibility to rein in our government and military. I do not think that we will escape from the present situation unscathed. It is hard for me to see how we can continue with "business as usual." And I think that we are leaving a legacy of guilt for our children.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

White Phosphorus

The United States used white phosphorus in Fallujah last year. This is now well documented by Hunter at Kos. He also directs us to this slide show:
http://www.rainews24.rai.it/ran24/inchiesta/slideshow.asp?gallery=1
(click "successiva" on the right; if you view this slide show, please have an emesis basin available)

These are not soldiers. In fact, at least one of them is a child.

White Phosphorus Melts the Skin off of Children

As Hunter points out
:....there are very good reasons, even in a time of war, not to melt the skin off of children.

First, because the insurgency will inevitably be hardened by tales of American forces melting the skin off of children.

Second, because the civilian population will harbor considerable resentment towards Americans for melting the skin off of their children.

Third, BECAUSE IT FUCKING MELTS THE SKIN OFF OF CHILDREN.
There is nothing more to say. There is nothing more to discuss.

Rotten Apples


You know, once an apple rots you can't go back. Eventually, it rots the core:

Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 - The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.

....snip....

The documents also show that Mr. Abramoff and his colleagues drew up a draft contract that called for $9 million in fees to be paid to GrassRoots Interactive, the small Maryland lobbying company that his former colleagues say he controlled.

Documents, including copies of canceled checks, show that millions of dollars flowed through the company's accounts in 2003, the year it was created, including at least $2.3 million to a California consulting firm that used the same address as the law office of Mr. Abramoff's brother, Robert. A separate check for $400,000 was made out to Kay Gold, another Abramoff family company. (emphasis added)
What's this? GrassRoots Interactive???
With the recent withdrawal of Timothy Flanagan's nomination to be deputy attorney general, the ties between Governor Bob Ehrlich, lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and Ehrlich's Deputy Chief of Staff, Edward B. Miller, are back in the news.

Miller owned Grassroots Interactive, a company that federal prosecutors believe may have been used to launder money from Abramoff clients like Tyco, for the benefit of other Abramoff controlled entities.

...snip...

In one scenario, Grassroots Interactive performed little or no work and simply served to launder money for Abramoff, which raises a whole host of questions regarding Miller and Ehrlich, their judgement, and character.

...snip....

According to the Maryland Campaign Finance Database, on November 4, 2003, Jack Abramoff and his wife, Pamela, jointly contributed $8,000 to the re-election effort of Governor Bob Ehrlich. Given the fact that it was a full three years before Ehrlich's next election, that's a pretty strong sign of commitment. Abramoff, along with his spouse, had already contributed $8,000 to Ehrlich during his initial campaign for Governor. (emphasis added)
Gosh, the plot thickens. From the NYT's article:
...prosecutors examining other issues, including Mr. Abramoff's relationship with GrassRoots and other small consulting firms and charities he controlled. Congressional investigators have questioned whether he used them to hide income to avoid paying taxes and to evade disclosure rules for lobbyists.

We noted Ehrlich's sliminess in the past when he was involved in firing a nurse for coming clean (Sat, March 26, 2005 - The Nurse, The Clone and the Prince of Darkness). This should contribute to the trend in his poll numbers.

Did I hear a cry out there?
Paging, Elliot Ness!!

Paging, Sam Ervin!!

Paging,

Patrick Fitzgerald!!


Get to work.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The Bush Christmas Tree


Upside down this year, SO YOU CAN GET MORE PRESENTS UNDER IT.

(Oh, and the keg is for the Twins.)

The Tooth Fairy


Oh, Lordy, Lordy, save me from this:
Lee Raymond, chairman of Exxon Mobil Corp., said he recognizes that high gasoline prices "have put a strain on Americans' household budgets" but he defended his companies huge profits, saying petroleum earnings "go up and down" from year to year.

Together the companies earned more than $25 billion in profits in the July-September quarter as the price of crude oil hit $70 a barrel and gasoline surged to record levels after the disruptions of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Raymond said the profits are in line with other industries when profits are compared to the industry's enormous revenues. (emphasis added)
It wasn't so long ago that we looked at this situation here (October 27th):
IRVING, Texas - Exxon Mobil Corp. had a quarter for the record books. The world's largest publicly traded oil company said Thursday high oil and natural-gas prices helped its third-quarter profit surge almost 75 percent to $9.92 billion, the largest quarterly profit for a U.S. company ever, and it was the first to ring up more than $100 billion in quarterly sales. (emphasis added)
Welcome to the United States of Tooth Faries. We, apparently, will believe anything and our Congress will too.

Sad.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Your Tax Dollars at Work


Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Chalabi
Iraqi National Congress

c/o The Ritz-Carlton

Georgetown


3100 South Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007

$340,000 a month can buy a lot of condo, even in D.C. Of course, you could have a condo here for a lot less:

What will W. Do?


This man holds the fate of the world in his hands. His presidency is crumbling around him and his best advisors are under storm. What is he going to do?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mayberrry Machievelli


Andy Griffith will receive a presidential award, the Medal of Freedom. One is a little unclear about what Mr. Griffith's credentials are for this award which Wikipedia describes as:
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States, considered the equivalent of the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. It is designed to recognize individuals who have made "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors."
I guess Andy's 1953 monologue about which included comments on moon pies and cow pies might rank right up there as a cultural achievement. On the other hand, it is much more likely that his achievement is related to national security. After all, Mr. Bush's Whitehouse has been described as a hotbed of Mayberry Machievelli's and Mr. Griffith, along with this guy,
pretty much put Mayberry on the map. Actually, there is quite a resemblence to the REAL Machievelli.





Machiavelli originally wrote Principe (The Prince) (1513) in hopes of securing the favor of the ruling Medici family, and he deliberately made its claims provocative. The Prince is an intensely practical guide to the exercise of raw political power over a Renaissance principality. Allowing for the unpredictable influence of fortune, Machiavelli argued that it is primarily the character or vitality or skill of the individual leader that determines the success of any state.
And therein lies our tale. For I would like to list some things here related to the character and vitality of our leaders:
1. The President is intellectually challanged and has difficulty speaking in full sentences.
2. The Vice President condones torture.
3. A recent Speaker of the House is under indictment.
4. The leader of the Senate is under investigation for fraud.
5. The chief advisor to the Vice President has been indicted.
6. The chief advisor to the President is in danger of being indicted.

I guess the worm always turns.