Saturday, July 28, 2007

What the hell gives? Saudis getting US weapons, Iraqis getting shaft?

O.K., it's a given that the United States of America has it's nose in the Saudi tent. Or is the Saudi nose in the American tent? Either way some one's camel is in some one's tent. Let's look as some recent developments, shall we?
U.S. Set to Offer Huge Arms Deal to Saudi Arabia

By DAVID S. CLOUD
Published: July 28, 2007
WASHINGTON, July 27 — The Bush administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve an arms sale package for Saudi Arabia and its neighbors that is expected to eventually total $20 billion at a time when some United States officials contend that the Saudis are playing a counterproductive role in Iraq.

The proposed package of advanced weaponry for Saudi Arabia, which includes advanced satellite-guided bombs, upgrades to its fighters and new naval vessels, has made Israel and some of its supporters in Congress nervous. Senior officials who described the package on Friday said they believed that the administration had resolved those concerns, in part by promising Israel $30.4 billion in military aid over the next decade, a significant increase over what Israel has received in the past 10 years.

And this is as far as I got because I'm experiencing conductivity problems with Mediacom. Don't know for how long the Internet connection will last.

Anyway, I was writing about how the US and Saudi Arabia seem to be favoring the Sunni's in Iraq. Now remember Bush said one of the reasons we went after Saddam Hussein is because he gassed his own people. Among those he gassed were the majority Shiites of southern Iraq.

Mediacom tech will be out Wednesday. I hope he gets this thing fixed.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

We respond to reader comments

In response to Monday's posting from CBN blogger David Brody, a reader wrote:
That David Brody ought to remember to wipe his wife’s lipstick off himself before he gets his picture taken. Or has he been PHOTOSHOPPED???
You wouldn’t go so far as to photoshop Brownback in a brown shirt, now would you?
Never one to let the fans down, I took up the challenge. I hope you like the results.

Repug presidential campaign has gotten uglier

Wouldn't you know it, after slappin around Willard M. Romney a little yesterday, Sam Brownback, an appropriate name for a mudslinger, challenges Tom "If'n thar's anythin Ah hates more'n a Mexican, it's TWO Mexicans" Tancredo bono fides on abortion in this morning's Des Moines Register:

Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo on Monday said that an automated phone call to Iowa anti-abortion voters, paid for by Sen. Sam Brownback's campaign, that questions Tancredo's commitment to anti-abortion politics is "despicable."

Brownback's campaign, in the phone call, questions Tancredo's financial ties to John Tanton, a physician who helped found the Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood Association, which provides women's health services that include abortion.

Brownback's campaign last week issued a news release citing a memo published in a 2003 Washington Post article in which Tanton reportedly wrote that whites stood to surrender their majority status if the United States' borders aren't controlled.

John Rankin, Brownback's Iowa communications director, questioned Tancredo's commitment to the anti-abortion movement, given his acceptance of donations from Tanton.
It seems this Tanton fellow is something of a racist, that at least Brownback gets right. Here's what Tanton's Right Web Profile says:

Today, Tanton stands in the center of a web of anti-immigrant and official English groups. As the founder and publisher of Social Contract Press, Tanton has published books that have helped shaped a nationalist ideology focused on the threat of immigrants to the white, English-speaking population. Social Contract books also stoke fears about immigrants taking over the United States, with research that highlights the rapid rise of Spanish-speaking residents and related socioeconomic problems, while ignoring research that points to the positive contributions of immigrants. In addition to FAIR, where he still is a board member, Tanton has been a central player in an array of anti-immigrant, nationalist groups and institutes, including Pro English, U.S. Inc., Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), U.S. English, and Numbers USA. Funding for these and other organizations in which Tanton is a key figure, often flows through the organization, U.S. Inc. (7) (8)
So what raised the ire of the Brownback camp is that Tanton, back in his salad smoking days in the Seventies, was the organizer and president of the Northern Michigan Planned Parenthood Association and active in the Zero Population Growth movement before becoming a fulltime English-only-anti-immigrant lunatic. But, then again, there is more than a modicum of truth to Brownback's charges.

It's nice to see the Republican Party forming the circular firing-squad for a change.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Repug presidential campaign could get ugly

Whoa! I love it when they fight among themselves.

Infighting between a second-tier Republican presidential candidate and a rising star has broken out.

Former Kansas U.S. Senator, and fulltime wing nutcase, Sam Brownback unleased a scathing attack on one-term Massachusetts Governor Mitt "My Wife's Both a Starter and Trophy Wife!" Romney, just in time for the Iowa Straw Poll.

Christian Broadcasting Network blogger David Brody, he's the pretty boy in the illustration to our right, posted a scathing attack from the Brownback camp on Romney's alleged support of homosexual Boy Scout leaders.



Romney Hostile to Boy Scout Leadership and Principles: Supports Gay Scout Leaders, was Cold to Scout Participation in Olympics.
In his 1994 Senate race in Massachusetts and later as CEO of the Salt Lake City Olympic Committee, Mitt Romney opposed Boy Scout officials who wished to prevent gay men from becoming troop leaders and was hostile to Scout participation in the 2002 Olympics.

In a 1994 debate with Ted Kennedy, Mitt Romney offered his support for gay scout leaders:

"I feel that all people should be allowed to participate in the Boy Scouts regardless of their sexual orientation."

The comments from Romney, who holds a law degree, came six years before the June 2000 Supreme Court ruling that allowed the Boy Scouts to bar troop leaders based on sexual orientation. The ruling cited the constitutional rights of freedom of association and speech.

Later in 2000, facing pressure from gay rights activists, Romney was cold toward overtures from Scout leaders who wished to participate in Olympic activities.

"At a recent training event for Scout leaders, Marty Latimer, chief Scout executive for the council, revealed that the Scouts are no longer welcome. 'We don't understand what's wrong. They just don't want us and won't talk to us,' said Latimer. He told NewsMax.com that Mitt Romney, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, has not returned phone calls from a number of Scout officials who have tried to obtain clarification."

Romney's openness to gay scout leaders conflicts with the Scout Oath, which requires Scouts to be "morally straight."

"What part of morally straight doesn't Mitt Romney understand?" said Larry Cirigiano, a Catholic activist in Massahusetts. "Boy Scout 'leaders' are supposed to be role models. Open homosexuals should not be leading young Boy Scouts anywhere."

Senator Brownback has always supported the right of the Boy Scouts of America to determine the best leaders for young scouts.
Somehow, neither Brownback, nor for that matter blogger Brody, sees the irony in the statement from Catholic "activist" Cirigiano. Perhaps both Brownback and Brody, and "activist" Cirigiano, have forgotten a little unpleasantness in Massachusetts involving Catholic priests? But, then again, perhaps this illustrates why being a bound by tradition"conservative" is easier than being a liberal; one only needs the memory of a gnat.

Oh, our anti-war Democrats

Boston Globe columnist Darrick Jackson shows that some of our most ardent "anti-Iraq war" and "liberal" Democrats are cozy with the Defense Department.
the Globe recently reported that [Massachusetts U.S. Senator Ted] Kennedy slid $100 million into the 2008 defense authorization bill for a General Electric fighter engine that the Air Force said it did not need.

It gets worse in a defense budget that is zooming to $648.8 billion. The nonpartisan budget watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense last month analyzed 309 Senate defense earmarks. Four of the top five "earmarkers" were not Republican hawks but centrist and liberal Democrats.

[Michigan's Carl] Levin led the way with 44 earmarks. [Senator Hillary] Clinton was second with 26. [Rhode Island's U.S. Senator Jack] Reed was fourth with 23, one behind Republican John Warner of Virginia. In fifth place was Charles Schumer of New York with 21. When asked if she saw any change in defense earmark behavior since the Democrats took back the House and the Senate, senior analyst Laura Peterson of the Taxpayers for Common Sense said over the telephone, "No."

More proof the swamp is still full is the fact that only four of the top 10 senators in defense campaign contributions in the 2006 election cycle were Republicans. According to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, Democrats Kennedy, Clinton, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California, Bill Nelson of Florida, and Democrat-turned-independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut collected 60 percent of the $1.4 million the industry lavished among the top 10.

Odd, isn't it, that our nominally most "liberal" senators also come from states with the highest concentration of military-security-industry contractors?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Paul Craig Roberts: "Impeach Now"

Heed Paul Craig Roberts' warning:
Unless Congress immediately impeaches Bush and Cheney, a year from now the US could be a dictatorial police state at war with Iran.


Read the rest of his column at CounterPunch.com

LTE: July 16, 2007

It is interesting that the Republican Party and its presidential candidates are just now discovering illegal immigration as a campaign issue, as reported by Jane Norman in her piece,Immigration key for GOP candidates, July 16, 2007. Modern illegal border crossing began in 1904 when 75 men and horses were authorized by the U.S. Immigration Service to patrol the United States-Mexico border to stem the tide of illegal Chinese immigration.

Fast-forward to 2007 and suddenly illegal immigration is the fashionable topic of the season. Even Democrats are incensed at the hoard of undocumented laborers taking jobs-- dish washer, busboy, packing plant worker, landscape gardener, construction laborer and so on---from American workers. Television host Lou Dobbs revives his flagging show by railing against illegal immigration. Republican Congressional back-benchers Tom Tancredo of Colorado, a free market fundamentalist who has never worked a day in the private sector, and Iowa's own Steve King, an earth moving contractor, rise to national prominence on the wet backs of illegal immigrants.

If the U.S.-Mexican border is a sieve, for the last 103 years and counting, why are no media pundits questioning illegal immigration's sudden rise as a political issue?

Let us face the fact that once again the Republican Party, with the complicacy of Democrats, has fashioned illegal immigration as this political season's abortion and "gay" marriage; an issue designed to radiate much heat, little light and about which little will ever be done. Look at the GOP's track record. With majorities in both houses of the federal Congress from 1994 until 2006, the Republican Party did nothing to outlaw abortion or "gay" marriage, nor did they legislate an end to affirmative action or school busing for racial parity in public schools, colleges and employment. Moreover, the GOP conveniently forgot its 1994 pledge to make term limits for political officeholders the law of the land. Perhaps it is time we Americans hold the GOP to its promise to build a Great Wall of China-like barrier from San Diego, CA to Brownsville, TX.

The Democrats, however, are little better for they know, the only way to truly stem the tide of illegal immigration from Mexico and Central America is by improving the economy of that region, though a Marshall Plan-type program, and repudiating the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA.)

The ugly truth of illegal immigration is, free market fundamentalists in both parties are content to keep things just as they are.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

More dots

Look, I don't know if this means anything, but I had the Saturday
Morning Today Show on and the gentleman pictured on the right,
one Ron Noble, Secretary General of the international police agency Interpol, said something to the effect that Michael Chertoff's "gut" is a fairly accurate meter of "terrorist" activity. He also disclosed that al Qaeda plans on killing "four million of us." Where he came by this information Noble would not say.

I think I heard him tell Lester Holt something to the effect that if the United States withdraws from Iraq now the terrorist will follow us home. It was a strikingly similar comment to the oft repeated administration bromide "We're fighting terrorist in Iraq so we don't have to fight'em here." He continued with some alarmist shit about securing our borders and passport date. In fact, just a couple of days ago Noble told government propaganda network Voice Of America (VOA),
Interpol Secretary-General Ron Noble told VOA the organization set up a database of lost or stolen passports in 2002 as an anti-terrorist measure. But, he says, even though it was fully automated in 2005, only a handful of the organization's 186 member governments are hooked up to the database and taking advantage of it.

"In my view, every country in the world should make it their highest priority to scan passports of visitors against Interpol's global database. But my point is, right now, as I speak to you, only 17 countries in the entire world are doing this.

"And in my view, in the 21st century, in the century in which we find ourselves following the September 11th attacks, the world needs to change the way in which it fights terrorism globally by sharing information instantly and immediately with countries around the world. That's not happening, and it needs to happen."
Look, I'm not one of these anti-One World Government nuts, I actually think a stronger United Nations would be a good thing, but...well, let's just read a little of Mr. Noble's official Interpol bio:
Mr Noble previously served as the United States Department of Treasury’s first Undersecretary for Enforcement (1993-1996), where he was in charge of some of the US’s then-largest law enforcement agencies, including the Secret Service, Customs Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and Office of Foreign Assets Control. Prior to that, he served as an Assistant US Attorney and Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the US Department of Justice (1984-1989).
Noble worked for both in the Clinton and George H.W. "Poppy" Bush administrations, hence the "Bipartisan Bullshit" label, so this signifies nothing other than the fact the guy's a career bureaucrat.

However the internesting thing is, Michael Chertoff, professional Skeletor look-alike and Director of Homeland Security, says on July 10, he has a "gut feeling" that al Qaeda terrorists may attack the United States this summer. Then President Bush and Chertoff downplay and backpeddle Chertoff's "gut feeling" a couple of days later. Yet on the same day, July 12, a National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) report is released titled "Al-Qaida Better Positioned to Strike the West."

So, O.K., boys, which is it? Are we under a real threat of a major terrorist attack or are Washington/corporationist bureaucrats just trying to scare the pee-jeezus out of us?

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Connecting the dots....

What do these guys know that we don't?

In a Tuesday interview with The Chicago Tribune editorial board Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said:
"I believe we are entering a period this summer of increased risk[.]"

"Summertime seems to be appealing to them," he said of al-Qaeda. "We do worry that they are rebuilding their activities."

[H]e indicated that his remarks were based on "a gut feeling" formed by past seasonal patterns of terrorist attacks, recent al-Qaeda statements, and intelligence he did not disclose.

There is an assessment "not of a specific threat, but of increased vulnerability," he added.

And remember Arkansas Republican State Party Chairman Dennis Milligan saying, "...I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001], in June of this year.

And now after an investagation by the Government Accountability Office disclosed how easy it is for a bogus company to obtain a permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Agency to purchase nuclear material for the construction of a "dirty" bomb, Republican Senator from Minnesota Norm Coleman says:“The economic and psychological effects of a dirty bomb detonating on American soil would be devastating The N.R.C. has a pre 9-11 mindset in a post 9-11 world focusing just on preventing another Chernobyl.”

Coleman, by the way who is up for re-election next year, faces a stiff challenge from Al Franken.

But I've gotten sidetracked. Let me add this little fact:
Vacancies in senior leadership positions at the Homeland Security Department are a vulnerability demanding immediate attention, the House Homeland Security Committee stated in a report released Monday.

According to the report, the department has 575 positions in the highest federal salary bands, referred to as executive resources. These include positions filled by presidential appointment, Senior Executive Service members and other appointments for nonexecutive positions above the GS-15 level. Of the 575, 138 were vacant as of May 1, the committee said.

The report said the vacancies are "a critical homeland security issue that demands immediate attention," but did not make specific recommendations for action.
Government Executive.com
O.K., this doesn't look good. The Republican Party's adrift, their presidential candidates are all pretty weak, Olympia Snow, R-Maine, has defected to the Democrats over Iraq, Bush's poll ratings are squat. So what's a party full of Mayberry Machiavellians to do?

Look, I'm neither paranoid or a conspiracy nut but at this time about the only way for the Republicans can retain power, expecially in the executive branch, is if the nation is hit by another "terrorist' attack on the magnatude of the original September 11, 2001 attack. And I don't put it past these bastards one bit. Let me add, I don't think any major terrorist attacks will happen in the United States this summer; but I got banned for life from Democratic Underground*, a DLC front organization, because I posted something to the effect that I didn't think it was out of the realms of possibility that Bush and Co. might stage a terrorist attack, expecially in the Red State heartland, to institute martial law.
*As I recall: I was banned for agruing, via e-mail, with one of DU's self-righteous, thin-skinned topic moderators, the Gestapo-hall monitors of the Internet.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Annie's got a crush on Johnny

Haw, haw, haw........CounterPunch.com has a funny piece by Eva Liddell concerning the right wing slattern all good liberals love to hate:
Ann Coulter's incessant attacks on John Edwards which only serves to his political advantage is getting me to wonder. Her insults against Hillary's fat legs or Barack Obama's weird name strike me as merely false flag operations on the part of Ms. Coulter who although her voice may be deep and her adam's apple prominent is evidencing a schoolgirl crush for John Edwards. Or perhaps something far more sinister. Ms. Coulter is in love with John Edwards. Possessed by a "fatal attraction" for the handsome Democratic candidate. The parallel between her and the movie of the same name could be a horrible portent.

We must come to grips with the possibility that Anne Coulter is the reincarnation of Glen Close. Ms. Coulter wants John Edwards to love her but John loves only his wife Elizabeth. Although John and Anne never had torrid sex (I don't think) on a counter-top in Anne's kitchen amidst copious numbers of razor-sharp culinary knifes, it doesn't matter. At some point she fell in love with him unrequitedly. It might have been the night she went to one of John's rallies and he smiled to the crowd. Smitten like a kitten she imagined his smile was for her alone. "I love you Johnny Reid Edwards," Ms. Coulter crooned to herself as she pressed his campaign button close to her heart . "And you're going to love me back." But his smile was never for her. Spurned, she has turned her love to hate and through the media eunuchs who invite her on their television shows she is exhibiting an obsession for John Edwards. And just as Glen Close finally stalked Michael Douglas this could get out of hand too.

Let us be on the look-out for signs and symptoms of deepening deterioration in Ms. Coulter. When she shows up on Hardball wearing a black fake leather full-length trench coat with the collar turned up and her hair sticking out all messed up she will be beyond the reach of reason. When Chris Matthews wrinkles his nose at the strange odor permeating from Anne's body, the smell of boiled rabbit, we will know that John and Elizabeth are in serious jeopardy.

What happens next will be pivotal. It will be John Edwards who calls Anne to set up a time for the "debate." On the Chris Matthew's program of course. And Anne hearing John's voice speaking softly in her ear will think this means he is going to dump Elizabeth. But John Edwards is a clever politician. He dumps Anne instead. He just doesn't show up at all. His excuse to the public as eager as Anne for the televised meeting will be that he had to take Elizabeth to the hospital but she's okay, nothing serious. But for Ms. Coulter rejected and humiliated it will be the final straw. She will have a nervous breakdown on "Hardball" and slit her wrists. The autopsy photos will reveal that the wounds inflicted upon herself were done with the pin on the back of the John Edwards' campaign button. The one she had held so close to her heart.
'Nuff, said.

Fred Thompson, English Leather and Old Spice


Tom Paine.com has a cute piece by Paul Waldman on Republican presidental great, portly hope, Fred Thompson. Let me slice off a few chunks for ya:
"Can you smell the English Leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man’s shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of—a little bit of cigar smoke? You know, whatever."

It will not surprise you to learn that the one who spoke those words was Chris Matthews, nor that the “mature man” about whom he was speaking was the Republican flavor of the month, former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson. Matthews’ references to English Leather and Aqua Velva, male grooming products whose status (along with Old Spice) as totemic signifiers of American manhood faded some 30 years ago, could hardly be more apt.

If there is one thing Thompson shares with the man currently holding the office he seeks, it is an understanding of the role of masculinity in presidential image-making. In 2004, the Republican convention featured a video entitled “The Pitch,” seven of the most lushly produced minutes in American political history. The voice-over was provided by none other than Fred Thompson, possessor of the GOP’s most mellifluous set of pipes. “How do you tell the story of a presidency?” Thompson intoned. “How do you tell the story so far? The story is in part, but inescapably, the story of a man.” Listen to it and you can hear Thompson pour every ounce of feeling his modest acting talents would summon into that one word.

Thompson may not have much to say about issues, but he knows image. You can already see the careful attention to detail in his just-constructed website: “I read Sen. Barry Goldwater’s book, The Conscience of a Conservative,” Thompson tells us, “and the ideas were as clear as a church bell on a cold winter night.” Conservative bona fides, check; nod to Christian religiosity, check; small-town folksiness, check. And all in one sentence.
Sheese, what is it with the right and latent homoerotica? And with the propensity to put style over substance? One would think that even the most hardcore, reactionary Republican would pull his head out his ass and say: "Jesus, Mitt's a good lookin' rich guy, for a Mormon; Rudy's got a certain charm for a bald dude, y'know that prison-street tough skinhead look; McCain was a Navy pilot; Ron Paul's a no-tax, racist sort of guy; and this Fred Thompson smells good, gots a real purdy young wife and he's an actor on TV just like Ronald Reagan, but, y'know, everything they say is bullshit."

But, like I said yesterday: [The] majority of the American people are dupes, chumps, tools, fools, true belivers, useful idiots, fellow travels and willfully ignorant.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A new steaming pile of Richard Viguerie's bullshit

Richard Viguerie: Conservatives, Beware of Fred Thompson

(Manassas, Virginia) The following are the main points made by Richard A. Viguerie, author of Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause (Bonus Books, 2006), in his white paper, “Conservatives, Beware of Fred Thompson.”

The full article is on-line at
http://www.conservativesbetrayed.com/gw3/articles-latestnews/articles.php?CMSArticleID=1827&CMSCategoryID=19

Fred Thompson disappointed conservatives during his eight years in the Senate (1994-2002). Is there any reason to think this Washington insider and veteran trial lawyer would be any better as President?

Charged with investigating the Clinton White House’s Asia fundraising scandal (“Asiagate”), he proved to be a Marshmallow Republican. And the only time he played a major role on a major piece of legislation, he was on the wrong side of the fence: pushing for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance bill.

Why McCain-Feingold is so important—and so bad

The real purpose of McCain-Feingold type laws is to silence grassroots activists and protect incumbents. “You were essential to our success,” Senator Feingold told Fred Thompson.

He runs around with the wrong crowd.

He fails the Goldwater Test: Goldwater became the founder of the conservative movement because he alone spoke out publicly against the Big Government policies of Eisenhower. Fred Thompson has been silent—and complicit—about the Big Government policies of George W. Bush.

He fails the Reagan Test: Reagan was a conservative activist for years before he ran for president, and surrounded himself with top conservative aides. Fred Thompson is a stranger to the conservative movement and his longtime associates are not conservative. “Personnel is policy.”

Marshmallow Republicans: Instead he is an integral part of the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party, people like former Senator Howard Baker (of whom he is a protégé) and Senator Lamar Alexander.

There’s a reason why one of Washington, D.C.’s key media liberals is maneuvering for Fred Thompson.

With Thompson as the GOP candidate, liberals could rest easy, knowing their power is safe whether the Democrat or the Marshmallow Republican wins in 2008.

Putting Fred Thompson’s Senate voting record under a microscope

Viguerie looks at 18 votes on important issues to show that while Thompson talks like a conservative, he has worked to increase the power of the federal government, limit the rights of taxpayers and individual citizens, and shut grassroots activists out of the political process.

Fred Thompson on abortion: pro-life, pro-choice, or both?

There’s a good reason why people are confused about Fred Thompson’s stand on abortion. A President Thompson would give pro-life conservatives a lot of supportive rhetoric but little action. So what else is new?

Fred Thompson is not the conservative leader we need, says Viguerie

“For the past year, I have been preaching to conservatives that we should not align ourselves with those who have fatal flaws from a conservative perspective. The imminent entrance of Fred Thompson in the race doesn’t change a thing, for the reasons I have demonstrated here.

“Conservatives, let’s keep our powder dry. The GOP has taken us for granted. Conservatives should make the GOP and the candidates come to us, and let’s make them prove that they are worthy of our support.”

Many more details are contained in the article, “Conservatives, Beware of Fred Thompson,” on-line at
http://www.conservativesbetrayed.com/gw3/articles-latestnews/articles.php?CMSArticleID=1827&CMSCategoryID=19

Where to begin. Jesus, Dick Viguerie is a consumate bullshitter. He knows what he writes and says is either out right lies or half-truths and he doesn't care. I mean scaring the poor dupes who subscribe to this bullshit about McCain-Feingold protecting incumbents. Viguerie knows that Newt Gingrich's Contract with America called for "...term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators." And that was a promise which was promptly forgotten. In states with clean money clean election laws there is a higher rate of turnover than in states without publically financed campaigns laws. Unrestricted campaign contributions by specaial intrest groups, masquerading as "grassroots" organizations, lead to political stagnancy. Politicians become more beholding to major contributors than the citizens they were elected to represent.

I could go on and on about Dick Viguerie but it would get boring. The important thing to remember is that Viguerie is just one of a myriad of Republican operatives whose business is to fool some of the people all of the time.

Jimmy Carter said America deserves a government as good as its people. And from what I've seen a good majority of the American people are dupes, chumps, tools, fools, true belivers, useful idiots, fellow travels and willfully ignorant. So it is true, we have the government we deserve.

Pat Condell: "Religion and Politics"

Monday, July 09, 2007

Pity the poor mercenary

I recently read Blackwater The Rise Of The World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, by Jeremy Scahill. One of the unifying themes in Scahill's tome is the March 31, 2004 ambush and slaughter of four Blackwater mercenaries in Fallujah, Iraq.

Since that time the families of the victims, Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston and Michael Teague, have been seeking to fix blame upon whom ordered two four-men teams consisting of two mercs per SUV, rather than the usual six-man teams (two SUVs with three mercs per vehicle), to escort an executive of "catering" firm ESS from the Jordanian border to Baghdad. One team, Bravo 2, drove around Fallujah, the other team of Zovko, Batablona, Helvenston and Teague,coded-named November 1, took a route right down main street. And the rest, as they say, is history.

We pick up the action in a news story by Joseph Neff of The Raleigh-Durham News & Observer.com:

The Bravo 2 team memos, in emotional, coarse and damning language, placed the blame squarely on Blackwater's Baghdad site manager, Tom Powell.

"Why did we all want to kill him?" team member Daniel Browne wrote the following day. "He had sent us on this [expletive] mission and over our protest. We weren't sighted in, we had no maps, we had not enough sleep, he was taking 2 of our guys cutting off [our] field of fire. As we went over these things we new the other team had the same complaints. They too had their people cut."

The families of the four men killed in the ambush -- Jerry Zovko, Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston and Michael Teague -- sued Blackwater in Wake County Superior Court in an effort to find out what happened. Blackwater countersued the estates of the four men in federal court, successfully arguing for arbitration, in which the proceedings are closed to the public and the investigation of the incident can be much more limited.

Powell, the site manager, left Blackwater shortly after the Fallujah incident. He will not discuss the event while litigation is pending, said his attorney, Clifford Higby of Panama City, Fla. Efforts to reach the other Blackwater contractors for comment were unsuccessful.
There is a discrepancy here, however. According to Scahill:

[O]n March 24 the company removed [John] Potter as program manager, replacing him with [Justin] McQuown, who, according to the families' lawyers, was far more willing than Potter to overlook security considerations in the interest of profits. It was this corporate greed, combined with McQuown's animosity toward Scott Helvenston, which began at the training in North Carolina, that the families allege played a significant role in the deaths of Helvenston and the other three contractors.

The night before he left, Helvenston sent an e-mail to the "Owner, President and Upper Management" of Blackwater, subject: "extreme unprofessionalism." In this e-mail, obtained by The Nation, he complained that the behavior of McQuown (referred to as "Justin Shrek" in the e-mail) was "very manipulative, duplicitive [sic], immature and unprofessional." He describes how his original team leader tried to appeal to Shrek not to reassign him, but, Helvenston wrote, "I think [the team leader] felt that there was a hidden agenda. 'Lets see if we can screw with Scott.'" Those were some of the last words Helvenston would ever write.
So the question is: was McQuown merely taking orders from Powell or was he acting on his own?

Really why should any of us care? What is really at issue is "What is the root cause of those four men's deaths?" Let's turn to an October 24, 2004 story by Neff and co-writer Jay Price for that answer:
Jerry Zovko's contract with Blackwater USA looked straightforward: He would earn $600 a day guarding convoys that carried food for U.S. troops in Iraq.

But that cost -- $180,000 a year -- was just the first installment of what taxpayers were asked to pay for Zovko's work. Blackwater, based in Moyock, N.C., and three other companies would add to the bill, and to their profits.
So from my perspective the real villains of this piece are not Tom Powell, Justin "Shrek" McQuown or even Blackwater founder Eric Prince but "free market" fundamentalism and the privatization of essential governmental services, both of which skip hand-in-hand with Christian fundamentalism.

And let us ask, "What if the Blackwater mercenaries in Iraq that day had had a union and a union stewart and had filed a grevience against McQuown or Powell; or had refused the order on contractual grounds?"

Of course "free market" fundamentalism leaves no room for trade or labor unions. Moreover, every newly hired mercenary, as I understand from reading Scahill's book, is led to believe that he or she has signed an exclusive "personal" contract with Blackwater, though it is merely a company-wide standard agreement. In otherwords, Blackwater is playing their libertarian, free market fundamentalist mercenaries for chumps, true believers and Blackwater CEO Eric Prince is laughing all the way to the bank.

Blackwater, Prince and the mercenary industry in general is playing all us Americans for chumps, for according to a July 4, 2007 news story by LA Times reporter T. Christian Miller. Miller writes that as of that time there are 180,000 civilians, both American and foreign, under contract by the United States government in Iraq mostly engaged in traditional building trades, food service and truck driving duties. However, Miller continues

But there are also signs that even those mounting numbers may not capture the full picture. Private security contractors, who are hired to protect government officials and buildings, were not fully counted in the survey, according to industry and government officials.

The number of private security contractors in Iraq remains unclear, despite Central Command's latest census. The Times identified 21 security companies in the Central Command database, deploying 10,800 men.

However, the Defense Department's [Gary] Motsek, who monitors contractors, said the Pentagon estimated the total was 6,000.

Both figures are far below the private security industry's own estimate of about 30,000 private security contractors working for government agencies, nonprofit organizations, media outlets and businesses.
Don't kid yourself. These "private security contractors" are mercenaries, soldiers-for-hire, who receive the biggest chuck of their inflated salaries from the U.S. government either directly, as praetorians for the U.S. ambassador in Iraq and Afghanistan, or indirectly. Hardly anything "free market" about that arrangement.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Another Richard Viguerie update

The bullshit never ends:
Richard Viguerie: Liberals Cry Crocodile Tears on Libby

(Manassas, Virginia) The following is a statement by Richard A. Viguerie, Chairman of Conservative HQ.com and author of Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause, regarding the reaction of the news media to President Bush’s commutation of the prison sentence of Scooter Libby:

“Political liberals and their colleagues in the media have gone into orbit over President Bush’s commutation of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence and are shedding enormous amounts of crocodile tears.

“No one should be shocked by this outrage from the Left. Twenty-four/seven attacks on the commutation are all about the 2008 presidential election.

“This is an exact replay of President Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon in 1974. By a constant drumbeat of attacks on Ford for the Nixon pardon, they knew they would damage him politically in the 1976 presidential race. And of course, their plan worked perfectly.

“Everyone should be clear that the attacks on Bush and Libby are not about whether or not the prison sentence should have been commuted. This assault is an early artillery barrage to damage the Republicans and elect a Democratic president and Congress in 2008.”
This fuck is betting we forget that back in the spring of this year his panties were in a wad because Bush was "abusing" The Constitution.

They could have build their bicycle trails with this much money!

If the world can get any insaner, if that's really a word, the big business mokes pushing the tri-county local option sales tax, Yes to Destiny, are in the running for going from comparative insanity to the superlative.
'Destiny' supporters raise $455,000
By JEFF ECKHOFF
REGISTER STAFF WRITER


Supporters of the proposed "Yes to Destiny" sales tax increase have raised $455,000 over the past six months for a grand total of $770,000 since a political campaign was formed last year to pitch their proposal.

Campaign finance reports filed Thursday show Yes to Destiny has spent more than $402,052 since January to advocate a plan that would raise the Des Moines-area sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents per dollar.
The Des Moines Register.com
One of the big selling points for this regressive tax scheme is the construction of more bicycle trails. There is little analysis on the Internet of the cost of constructing bicycle trails. The only one, and best, I can find on Google is a study posted April 2004 on the American Journal of Public Health's Web site, on bike and pedestrain trails in Linclon, NE. I'll post the abstract of the study:

We estimated the annual cost of bike and pedestrian trails in Lincoln, Neb, using construction and maintenance costs provided by the Department of Parks and Recreation of Nebraska. We obtained the number of users of 5 trails from a 1998 census report. The annual construction cost of each trail was calculated by using 3%, 5%, and 10% discount rates for a period of useful life of 10, 30, and 50 years. The average cost per mile and per user was calculated.

Trail length averaged 3.6 miles (range = 1.6–4.6 miles). Annual cost in 2002 dollars ranged from $25 762 to $248 479 (mean = $124 927; median = $171 064). The cost per mile ranged from $5735 to $54 017 (mean = $35 355; median = $37 994). The annual cost per user was $235 (range = $83–$592), whereas per capita annual medical cost of inactivity was $622.

Construction of trails fits a wide range of budgets and may be a viable health amenity for most communities. To increase trail cost-effectiveness, efforts to decrease cost and increase the number of users should be considered.

That $770,000 would go a long way to building and extending bicycle trails in central Iowa, even in 2007 dollars. But how did "our" civic leaders spend part of the money raised? Again The Des Moines Register:
"Yes to Destiny" supporters have spent more than $357,250 on consultants in the past six months, an amount that includes $194,511 to a California company that worked on a controversial election flier campaign.

Campaign finance documents made public this week show the Strategy Group, a Pasadena, Calif., direct-mail firm that has worked for such prominent Democratic politicians as Sen. Barak Obama, former President Bill Clinton, Sen. Tom Harkin and Rep. Leonard Boswell, will eventually earn $232,530 for its work on the sales tax campaign.
The lion's share of consulting fees goes to Polk County Democratic Party functionaries, though county Republicans get a tidy percentage also.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Supreme Court decision that slipped under the radar

Here's a United States Supreme Court decision of greater import to every one in the United States than striking down an affirmative action law.
Manufacturers will have greater leeway to set minimum prices at the retail level without violating antitrust laws under a Thursday Supreme Court ruling that could hurt consumers and small merchants (emphasis added by me).

By allowing minimum price agreements, the court's 5-4 decision could lead to higher prices, dissenting justices said, as it becomes more difficult for smaller stores and Internet retailers to offer lower-priced goods.

The court said agreements on minimum prices are legal if they promote competition, meaning accusations of antitrust violations will be evaluated case by case.

In a 1991 decision, the Supreme Court had declared that minimum pricing agreements always violate federal antitrust law. But Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion that the principle that past decisions should be left alone "does not compel our continued adherence" in this instance.
Forbes.com
Kennedy added that "consumers," business code for two-legged, dullwitted cattle, will actually benefit because big retailers can now invest in more "customer service" without having to worry about being undercut by discout rivels. And the big retail chains will be adding more new and innovative products becuase they can recoup marketing costs faster by charging higher prices, he concluded.

Oddly enough, or maybe not so, one of the biggest winners in this decision is Wal Mart, founded on the philosopy of undercutting prices of its cheif rivels K-Mart and Permida (a discount retail chain I only saw in small Iowa towns and which now may be defunct.) The ruling protects large retail chains from competition from Internet discounters and small family-owned retailers.

So chalk up another victory for pbig business.