Wednesday, January 31, 2007

An Idea Whose Time Has Come

On January 23, 2007, the following resolution was introduced into the New Mexico State Legislature:



WHEREAS, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney conspired with others to defraud the United States of America by intentionally misleading congress and the public regarding the threat from Iraq in order to justify a war in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Section 371; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush has admitted to ordering the national security agency to conduct electronic surveillance of American civilians without seeking warrants from the foreign intelligence surveillance court of review, duly constituted by congress in 1978, in violation of Title 50 United States Code, Section 1805; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney conspired to commit the torture of prisoners in violation of Title 18 United States Code, Chapter 113C, the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the Geneva Conventions, which under Article VI of the United States constitution are part of the "supreme Law of the Land"; and

WHEREAS, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney acted to strip American citizens of their constitutional rights by ordering indefinite detention without access to legal counsel, without charge and without the opportunity to appear before a civil judicial officer to challenge the detention, based solely on the discretionary designation by the president of a United States citizen as an "enemy combatant", all in subversion of law; and

WHEREAS, in all of this, George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have acted in a manner contrary to their trust as president and vice president, subverting constitutional government to the great prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of New Mexico and of the United States of America; and

WHEREAS, petitions from the country at large may be presented by the speaker of the United States house of representatives, according to Clause 3 of House Rule XII; and

WHEREAS, Section 603 of Thomas Jefferson's Manual on Parliamentary Practice and of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives states that impeachment may be set in motion by charges transmitted from the legislature of a state;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, by such conduct, warrant impeachment and trial and removal from office and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the New Mexico congressional delegation be requested to cause to be instituted in the congress of the United States proper proceedings for the investigation of the activities of George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney, to the end that they may be impeached and removed from their offices; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the secretary of state be instructed to certify and transmit to the speaker of the United States house of representatives and the clerk of the United States house of representatives, under the great seal of the state of New Mexico, a copy of this resolution and its adoption by the legislature of the state of New Mexico. The copies shall be marked with the word "Petition" at the top of the document and contain the original authorizing signature of the secretary of state.

I believe that gets the job started quite nicely.

[Note: Thanks to Woody Guthrie's Guitar for the link and the tip!]


Where's The Love? For Human Rights

While this country's foreign relationships are in shambles, the vacancy in the position of Deputy Secretary of State has gone unfilled for the longest time since the position's creation, all around the world other nations are forming alliances and developing their own positions without respect to or for this country.

China's President Hu is famously touring Africa, with the country of Sudan - from which the major portion of its oil supplies come - an object of greatest concern. While the rest of the world urges Sudan's President Bashir to become a positive influence over the janjaweed massacre of Darfur's population, China's president holds back on criticism in the interest of good relationships for commerce.

Rossin, a former U.S. diplomat , said in an interview in London that Chinese officials have assured him they were using their status as a major trading partner with Sudan and working behind the scenes to try to persuade the country to bow to international will. But he said he has seen little evidence those efforts were having an effect on al-Bashir.

The Chinese are "going to have to make a decision about this," Rossin said. "Either their quiet diplomacy is working ... or they're going to have to realize that (al-Bashir is) stiffing them, too. And I don't think a country like China should take 'no' for an answer."

As I noted in last week's post "See No Evil", Secretary of State Rice points to an ephemeral success in negotiating an agreement in Sudan that is now fast unravelling, as if she is unaware of reality. Meanwhile, the ongoing genocide in Darfur and violations of North Sudan's agreement with the South are indicative of the disrespect Bashir holds for the opinion of the West. In his dealings with China it appears that this Sudanese leader will act positively toward his country's other factions only if there is no choice. While China has influence, there is no sign that that influence will be used for human rights.

Here it appears that our administration is either unable to use the influence it might have with China through its own usual incompetence, or is not interested enough to do so.

In the meantime, world trade talks have been resumed and our ongoing dispute with China over copyright violations resumes, a sure sign that our economic interests will eclipse any slight movement toward a role for this government in the interest of human rights or real resistance to the violence committed in Darfur.

[T]he statistics of pirated and counterfeit goods coming into the United States show that well over 70 per cent such goods come from China and that number has been growing, not going down, Schwab said. "So this is an issue we need to address."

Coming out of Davos "a number of us emerged with a new sense of optimism and a sense of momentum that had been sorely lacking since July," said Schwab, reiterating that Washington is fully committed to a successful Doha Round outcome.

"There was clear agreement on the need to move forward with the Doha Round and a sense of urgency that if at all possible we need to identify a means of achieving a breakthrough and ultimately a successful trade agreement," she said.

The lipservice this administration gives to promoting human rights in the world is not backed by action, any more than it is at home. An administration that is setting up offices to inhibit policy decisions based on knowledge in its own government agencies is hardly likely to promote civilized behavior abroad.

This administration is known for its constant attention to business and corporate interests. Its word is often proved no good when it pretends that it will set those interests aside to serve the public interest or human rights.

The prospect of suffering people in the world, of Darfur and of the South Sudan region at this juncture, are not well served by the actions or lack of action of the U.S. Our relations abroad are not good or positive in their effect.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Better Late (Canada) Than Never (U.S.)

And editorial in today's NY Times points out one crucial difference between a civilized government (in this case, Canada) and an uncivil one (the U.S.): the first acknowledges a mistake and apologizes for it; the latter denies any mistake and stonewalls any attempt to point one out.

Canada set an important example of decency when it offered a formal apology and compensation worth millions of dollars to a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was a victim of President Bush’s use of open-ended detention, summary deportation and even torture in the name of fighting terrorism.

Last week’s announcement by Prime Minister Stephen Harper came more than four years after the nightmare began for the Canadian, Maher Arar, a 36-year-old software engineer. On his way back from a family vacation, he was detained by U.S. officials at Kennedy Airport on the basis of unsubstantiated information from the Canadian police. After being held in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn detention center and interrogated without proper access to legal counsel, he was sent to Syria, where he was imprisoned for nearly a year and tortured.

It was all part of a legally and morally unsupportable practice known as extraordinary rendition, the deportation of terrorism suspects to countries where the regimes are known to use torture and to disdain basic human rights protections.
[Emphasis added]

Both governments made mistakes. The Canadian government's "unsubstantiated information" started the ball rolling (although it can be argued that the first element in this sequence was that Mr. Arar was Syrian by birth, and hence suspicious). It is refreshing to see that nation accept responsibility for its mistake and to offer an apology and restitution. It is further encouraging to see Canada's ongoing efforts to get Mr. Arar's name cleared and off all of the US "lists."

And the US response to all of this?

Not only has the Bush administration refused to apologize to Mr. Arar, but Justice Department lawyers are also brandishing a dubious claim of state secrets and fighting a lawsuit brought by Mr. Arar in this country. Bush administration officials insist that they have “new intelligence” that justifies keeping Mr. Arar on the watch list. That intelligence has not been disclosed, but Canadian officials who have reviewed the information are unpersuaded. [Emphasis added]

No acknowledgment of a mistake, no apology, just the deliberate manufacturing of a new mistake and more posturing.



Cover Softly, Gentle Earth

The whole country has watched hopefully as Barbaro was treated for a usually life-ending injury, hoping that wonderful horse could pull through. Yesterday, euthanization was the kindest end his very caring doctors could give him, as his pain had become too much to ask him to bear.

We are sickened by the loss.

Breeding of racehorses of course tends to concentrate on speedy conformation. The speed elements in horses call for lightweight, leggy, muscular horses but does not concentrate on endurance. Sprints are the most part of racing, and quick speed is usually looked for rather than general strength. As a result, our racehorses have somewhat spindly legs, and they break too easily. Any breeder can tell you of heartbreak in losing promising racers to broken legs. Anyone who hasn't turned off the news when Barbaro's race at the Preakness began knows that his own efforts to get up speed resulted in the break that ended Barbaro's life. That muscular body relying on those long legs broke his bones.

"They're designed for speed, not necessarily to be ill and recover well," said Kimberly May, a veterinary surgeon and spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Laminitis, a painful inflammation that causes separation of the hoof, has long affected racing horses. References to it can be found in books on lameness from the 1800s, May said. Barbaro's laminitis developed from uneven weight distribution, but other horses might contract the disease from infections, exposure to chemicals or an unbalanced diet.

Having raised ponies myself, I learned that horses under two have bones that are not yet hardened, yet racing starts when a foal is under two years old. While a horse should be growing and developing, the racehorse is already training, and taking a rider's weight.

Reputedly the greatest female racehorse of all times, Ruffian broke down while a world watched, and I also watched in horror. It was a long time before I watched horseracing again.

" Her eleventh and final race, run at Belmont Park on July 6, 1975, was a match race between Ruffian and that year's Kentucky Derby winner, Foolish Pleasure. The "equine battle of the sexes" was heavily anticipated and attended by more than 50,000 spectators, with an estimated 18 million watching on television.

The first quarter-mile (402 m) was run in a blazingly fast 22 1/5 seconds, Ruffian ahead by a nose. Little more than a furlong (201 m) later, Ruffian was in front by half a length when both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg snapped.

That was probably the worst sight a racing crowd ever saw, yet the rules of racing, and breeding, were never reviewed.

I saw a few comments on how pampered the racehorses are yesterday, but that outlook neglects the fact that being taken out and run on a racecourse daily is work, not play. The training that a racehorse receives is constant, and while everyday horses get less intensively nutritional meals, they usually get something like a good timothy/alfalfa mix as my feed suppliers kept in stock.

Many racehorse owners are good and caring people, but they are accustomed to traditions of breeding that ignore the horse's greater needs to produce champions. I would like very much to see an increased awareness on the part of the racing community that the sport would be bettered by breeding for greater stability and strength, rather than just speed. Fewer tragic breakdowns would win support, not blame, from racing fans.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Good Choices

Very good news, indeed from the meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, where Sudan's Prime Minister al-Bashir has been passed over for the post of president. Although the post is reputedly lacking in any real powers, Bashir's holding the position was much opposed because of his failure to stop atrocities in Darfur, and as mentioned in yesterday's post, "See No Evil", his failure to enact the benefits to South Sudan that were called for in the agreement between the two areas of Sudan.

Recently our Secretary of State pointed to the 'success' of the administration in crafting an agreement between the North Sudan stronghold and South Sudan. It is an agreement which has been all but broken entirely, but Secretary Rice ignored or was ignorant of the actual state that exists between the two parts of Sudan

Mr Bashir was originally due to become AU leader in 2006 but this was postponed by a year.

"Sudan has voluntarily accepted to decline in favour of Ghana," said Sudan's Foreign Minister Lam Akol.
One of the Darfur rebel groups had said AU peacekeepers would be treated as enemies if Sudan led the continental body.

The UN is agitating to send in peacekeeping troops to Darfur, but the Bashir government refuses to accept them. It has maintained throughout the genocidal attacks by janjaweed in Darfur that it does not support those scorched earth tactics, but it has not been active in preventing the attacks.

Originally, the AU meeting was supposed to concentrate on the issues of global warming and scientific developments, but the ugliness of the Darfur and Somalia conflicts has mandated an agenda that concentrates on the desperation in those areas.

UN Secretary Ban has taken an active role in trying to bring international opinion to bear on the intransigent al-Bashir. If he succeeds, it will be very much to his credit.

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Dead Ends

What do we want to accomplish in Iraq? The cretin in chief keeps referring to Victory as our goal now, it used to be democracy, way back in the stone ages it was routing out WMD's.

Victory for the U.S. of course would have to involve a functioning Iraqi government that would give the U.S. what it wants, an alliance with a friendly nation. The existing government headed by al-Maliki appears increasingly unlikely to provide that goal.

Recent studies show that in post World War conflicts, the greater power most often is defeated.

Although the United States , the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China were militarily superior to their opponents in every one of the 122 conflicts that Sullivan studied, these powerful countries failed to win an astonishing 39 percent of their wars against weaker opponents.

Other research backs up Sullivan: New York University professor of politics Bruce Bueno De Mesquita has shown that, in conflicts between unequal powers over the past 200 years, the weaker country has outdone its stronger foe 41 percent of the time.

This makes perfect sense, of course. A military end is simple domination. To achieve a real government in another country, a 'victory' requires that that country's leaders accept domination in good spirits. What are the chances that a defeated country would have leaders of the Vichy sort, that serve another country rather than their own countrymen? The Iraqi people are particularly resistant to this sort of humiliation, we have learned from experience. When their people regularly exhibit rejection of our presence and our official stupidity, it would be unwise indeed for their leaders to accept U.S. authority over their own people. And they have shown quite the opposite.

The prolongation which seems to be the White House's current aim in this war will not achieve any more 'victory' than would dealing with the immediate need to withdraw our troops. When al-Maliki has already expressed the wish that our troops would stay out of Baghdad, sending them in anyway is inexpressibly dumb.

An intelligent hand at the helm is the greatest victory the U.S. can wish for. Two years to wait for that is our tragedy, and a personal tragedy occuring in homes across the nation many times daily.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

bonus critter blogging

These are out on Tom's cove, they were my daughter's love and life for several years. Chincoteague ponies ... well, the Chincoteague Fire Department kept this tradition alive for profit. Their breeding is mostly confused now. We had lovely conversations with Marguerite Henry. Go to mistyoc to get the Misty family tree.


See No Evil

The Secretary of State was asked recently about what the cretin in chief would be remembered for, and confidently pointed to the two-year-old agreement between Sudan North and Sudan South. Huh? The world out there that the administration was never expecting to deal with has this irritating habit of going its own way. At the moment, the South has rejected the proposed agreement, which in 2011 is supposed to be culminated by a vote either to split up or to become two autonomous members of one nation. The expectation was that the cooperation in the meantime would lead to good relationships and eventual unity. Leader al-Bashir has never shown the impartiality that he had promised in dealings with the south.

Under the peace agreement , Abyei, which has a huge oil field, can vote in 2011 on whether to be part of the north or the south. But Bashir has rejected the findings of a boundary commission and has refused to allow the creation of a local government, convincing the local population that war will break out again in the territory. Winter faulted the administration for failing to publicly pressure Khartoum on this critical issue.

In a way, it's not surprising that the administration would be ignorant of the fact that the agreement it's vaunting is unravelling rapidly. The claims of the White House that it's war on Iraq is going to have to keep on going until they find the pony probably takes up all the attention span they possess. And when they do look at Sudan, they're probably awfully distracted by the genocide in Darfur. And Darfur is a lot easier to say than Abyei anyway. But letting their attention be distracted makes that not so estimable Sudanese leader President Omar Hassan al-Bashir pretty confident that he's going to have his own way. It has so far kept any restraints from being exercised by the U.S. on his very one-sided rule.

A major factor in the dispute is that Bashir has always been openly desirous of a totally Muslim state, that observes the Sharia law. Much of the south is not Muslim, but Christian and animist. No more than we trust the word of our administration after so many instances of its' being false, do the southern Sudanese trust the northern regime to show respect for their rights, their wellbeing, or their agreement.

In February 2005 an attack without provocation was experienced in the Akobo area, and a condemnation of it issued by south Sudan's government. Reparations and apologies have still not been received for that attack.

The Sudanese North has long defended its unleashing of violent gangs on the Darfur region with citing the 'rebellion' of the Darfur's people. That the people had much to rebel against does not enter into those arguments. The south does not gain confidence in Sudanese leadership by what it observes in that region, or by what has been done in its own.

A lack of diplomacy and good intentions seem to characterize much of what the South Sudan leaders see when they look to the west as well.


Sunday Poetry Blogging

Diane is down with a bad case of flu today. Send good vibes, pls. I am going to post a poem I think reflects some of the failure that the war on Iraq has exhibited.

The Charge Of The Light Brigade

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Memorializing Events in the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter'd & sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

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Upholding and defending

This from some one who marched with the Armies of the Night on the Pentagon, and several times holding candles around the White House against the war on Vietnam.

Thanks, you who demonstrated in D.C. It is a very encouraging support for the humanity of the country, that enough people did turn out that care what we are doing. What we're doing to the world is important, it's not just a political gesture. The accumulation of wealth is not the ideal in a world of human beings like ourselves, people we are enslaving economically and killing in wars of cynical profits and dominance.

Sincerely, I hope that another group of creeps like the Nixon criminals aren't going to make the political hay of negotiating on the sly to keep a war alive in order to bring in a group of criminals to the executive branch - a group that continues to this day to try using the high powers of our country to support themselves in power.

I am too nice, and I don't think I ever said "traitor" about Nixon-Chenault's behind the scenes negotiations with the South Vietnamese government not to settle the war until Nixon got in, on the basis that he would give them better terms. I heard it from a Lyndon Johnson biographer, Randall Woods, giving a view of the destruction of that sad presidency, this evening. It's very true. The use of war to gain political ends is traitorous.

Working against the best interests of the public has become endemic with this administration. That our brightest people are resisting on blogs has become more than a symbolic resistance with these public demonstrations. It is sad that it has become necessary, but taking to the streets has become the best expression of resistance to treachery.

Taking an oath of office to uphold and defend the Constitution has been an empty gesture for the cretin in chief.

Upholding and defending the Constitution has devolved on us, the public it is supposed to protect.

Good on you all.


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Bonus Critter Blogging

There is a Carolina Wren that lives in my carport. I should say, a pair of wrens, since they do nest and one of them sings - and only the male of the species sings. They live here year round, so it's a good thing to have a relatively warm climate. It's really a lovely bird, always flitting its tail when it's sitting in the crepe myrtle. I keep dirt or sand in a pot for it, it takes a vigorous scrubbing dirt bath and the dirt flies everywhere. Adorable little birds.


The Price of Tortillas

Tortillas, a Mexican staple, are costing more these days, and those who can least afford such an increase are hitting the streets to protest the price hikes. The reason for the price hikes? Let's just say NAFTA turned out to be a mistake for the poor and the laborers of both countries. From Mexico's La Jornada:

The crisis we are experiencing in regard to the rise of tortilla prices that so gravely affects the Mexican population, but more seriously affects the 20 million people who are already food-poor, is yet another manifestation of the asymmetrical and wrong-headed trade relationship between Mexico and the United States. Since the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, a great many voices have called attention to the problems that could arise. These include that the Treaty would neither achieve a reduction in migration (the central argument of Salinas de Gotari ) nor would it permit us to overcome our subordinate position in relation to the United States, since in economic terms, Mexico was not on an equal footing with its neighbor. Lamentably, time has proven these voices to be right. For their part, the U.S. visualized quite clearly that a form of domination could be achieved over other countries by achieving crop-growing supremacy. And Mexico entered that game losing food self-sufficiency, with all the grave effects that this has brought.

The irony of the NAFTA results is that Mexico finds itself in a much worse situation than it held prior to signing the free trade agreement.

For the United States to achieve this practically hegemonic position has required foreign workers, and to transform them into a reserve industrial army in their home countries by making it possible for them to migrate [north], which has devastating effects on Mexican farming. The great irony of all this is that we now import food products and export our work force, which favors U.S. competitiveness and leaves us at the mercy of the ups and downs of their economy. [Emphasis added]

It isn't, however, just Mexican laborers who have lost ground. The American labor force has also suffered under the various free trade agreements as their jobs have either been turned over to laborers residing in Asia or to laborers who are brought in from Mexico and Central America. The only ones making out under NAFTA are the mega corporations whose tentacles reach to all parts of the world.

And the result is that the poor in Mexico are hard pressed to buy their tortillas.

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Your Wallet

Got debt?

Have been interested in the hearings now being held on credit card debt now that Democrats have supervisory powers. In 2004, the credit card issuing element got about $1.x billion, in 2006 it was $17.x billion. How about that! We are really a burgeoning economy.

Six years of GOPerversion and we have credit card issuers getting huge interest payments making huge profits. Average per household debt is just short of $10,000 per household. Since a lot of people can manage their debt, it seems that those that owe at all owe around $18,000 each.

One item cited was that a late payment resulted in increasing debt interest on the entire amount owed, [which includes amounts owed before the interest was increased], was assessed as the existing debt limit. So when fees were charged, the debt limit was exceeded, and the penalties were for exceeding debt limit in addition to late fees.

The profits of this kind of theft are legitimitized by allowing theft against the public.

As one of those who pays cash, and has never not paid on time for anything, I am sitting here in debt free ownership protection. If I suddenly were to have huge health expenses, which are the greatest part of debt incursion, what would I do?

I am looking to public interested Democrats to make this work for the voters, instead of for the paying lobbies.

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Trial Procedures Via Kafka

In the typical trial in the US, the parties go through a phase known as "discovery." Depositions are taken, evidence is shared, interrogatories are answered. Each side knows what the other side has: there's no chance to hide the salami, nor any way to alter it. That's not how the federal government is operating in the various suits involving the warrantless NSA wire tapping, however. From today's NY Times:

The Bush administration has employed extraordinary secrecy in defending the National Security Agency’s highly classified domestic surveillance program from civil lawsuits. Plaintiffs and judges’ clerks cannot see its secret filings. Judges have to make appointments to review them and are not allowed to keep copies.

Judges have even been instructed to use computers provided by the Justice Department to compose their decisions.

But now the procedures have started to meet resistance. At a private meeting with the lawyers in one of the cases this month, the judges who will hear the first appeal next week expressed uneasiness about the procedures, said a lawyer who attended, Ann Beeson of the American Civil Liberties Union.

Lawyers suing the government and some legal scholars say the procedures threaten the separation of powers, the adversary system and the lawyer-client privilege.

Nancy S. Marder, a law professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and an authority on secrecy in litigation, said the tactics were really extreme and deeply, deeply troubling.

“These are the basics that we take for granted in our court system,” Professor Marder said. “You have two parties. You exchange documents. The documents you’ve seen don’t disappear.”

The extraordinary measures insisted upon by the government are clearly designed to hide and even manipulate evidence, and the government has not provided any rational basis for those measures because there is none. A document which establishes that the NSA engaged in a warrantless wire tap (and that effectively proves the plaintiff's case) is not crucial to the nation's defense and should not be "classified" by the government. The fact that it is simply makes it clear how far this administration is willing to go to hide its own malfeasance.

Hopefully the nation's jurists will come down hard on the Justice Department and its warping of the trial procedures put into effect to guarantee fair play and due process. If they don't, we are doomed.

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Immigration Isn't Easy

Not far away from me the Dallas suburb of Farmers Branch has stirred up a hornets' nest by passing a local law to make English the official language. The town also has been enforcing a federal law to keep property owners from leasing their property to illegal immigrants. Although the law exists, it is rarely taken up by local communities to make the enforcement their responsibility.

The town council member who has been making this his issue, Tim O'Hare, answered questions at a forum Tuesday - and made the argument that property values were suffering because of illegal immigrant laborers who were letting their residential areas run down. He talked particularly about the visual effect of having about 40% of the Farmers Branch community in delapidated condition. At no point did he have any actual studies done to assess the relationship between the illegal immigrant residence and the perceived delapidation.

It was brought out in the forum by another man who has led a petition drive actually to put the immigration issue on the ballot in a May special election, that in studies that have been done elsewhere on the illegal immigrant relationship to property values, the numbers favor the illegals. Then a Nigerian immigrant who came to this country almost twenty years ago, legally, and now runs a business, brought up the issue of race. It seems that when the immigration issue becomes a hot one, it usually centers around a community of non-whites in a white dominated town. As we all know, the whole war on Iraq has been conducted while only 500 Iraqis have been allowed to emigrate to the U.S. legally.

It's no wonder that the GOP has a hot potato here, then, as their president has thrown support behind a program to give guest worker status to illegal immigrants, giving them the opportunity to gain permission to work legally in this country if they pay back taxes and go to the end of the line for legal status. Republican party members have many objections, one being that it rewards lawbreaking. There are others.

Since most illegals have been working for salaries from which the usual federal deductions have been taken - and which as illegal workers they were unable to reclaim because they couldn't file for income tax returns - this promises to eliminate a source of federal income that isn't much spoken about. There is as well the argument that workers who can't complain about low salaries, sometimes below even minimum wage, keep the salaries of native workers low.

From last night's forum, I learned that there are no actual studies that show this to be the case. The salary they pay is the businessmen's option, and usually what the 'traffic will bear'. To date, low salaries have been associated with low skill jobs such as meatpacking and cleaning industries, jobs that go to the desperate.

Last year , the Republican-controlled House thwarted Bush's drive to revamp immigration as members of his own party decried what they said was an amnesty program for illegal aliens. Instead, they approved a 700-mile fence last year to tighten the U.S.-Mexico border.

The president and the new Democratic-controlled Congress now find themselves uneasy allies on the issue.

``Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America with laws that are fair and borders that are secure,'' Bush said in the State of the Union speech. ``We cannot fully secure the border'' without a temporary worker program, he said.

As usual, the GOP position favors business owners and resulted in the infamous Wall proposed for our southern border, and for which funds were dedicated but not mandated. The cynicism of the legislation that popped out of the 109th congress was well recognized, and the Wall is now opposed by some of its proponents, such as Sen. Cornyn. Much of the business community on the border is adamant that its negative effects far outweigh the sheerly symbolic presence an actual Wall would have, and furious with congress for alienating a large proportion of their customers in the border area.

The Democratic controlled congress will need to show the enlightenment that the 109th so resoundingly lacked. This country is historically an immigrant nation. It behooves us to extend courtesy to immigrants and protect, not inflict harm on, the newcomers. When our soldiers come home, there will be more forces to locate on the border to regulate traffic of the refugees that stream in from south and north.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

Bonus Critter Blogging

Sitting in the living room and watching a lot of shadows indicated a lot of birds flying around the very winter bare crepe myrtles. Finally I went to look out and found a whole flock of cedar waxwings nibbling off the hackberries on the remains of a tree that I had let grow up a little in the stand of crepe myrtles, because I know the birds will find the hackberries in winter. Rewards of not being a meticulous landscaper. Enjoy my little friends.


Another Saturday Night Massacre

Some tricks of the trade never go out of fashion. Firing investigators who are getting too close to the truth is one of those tricks, one that the current administration has borrowed from an earlier one. It didn't work out so well the last time. One can only hope that history repeats itself. From an editorial in today's NY Times:

Feb. 15 is the last day on the job for United States Attorney Carol Lam of San Diego, the inquiry’s dedicated prosecutor, who is being purged by the Bush administration.

Her investigation led to the imprisonment of former Representative Randy Cunningham, the California Republican who took millions of dollars in bribes in exchange for delivering lucrative government contracts. But just as Ms. Lam was digging into other possible wrongdoing, the White House decided to force her from office without explanation.

The other "possible wrongdoing" involved the number one co-conspirator in the Duke Cunningham case and his cozy connection with another GOP congressman, Rep. Jerry Lewis. Rather than have another 'bad apple' ousted, the administration sought to put an end to all of the investigations by purging the US Attorney's Office of all these crusaders.

The outlook isn’t promising. The administration is defenestrating at least six other U.S. attorneys. Yet Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is refusing to provide Congress with details on these unmerited dismissals. He insists that there’s no attempt to quash fresh Republican scandals and says only the “very best” will be named as replacements.

Betito insists that this is nothing more than a personnel move and therefore outside the purview of the congressional committee looking into the matter. Democratic committee members aren't buying this weak explanation, especially since the "very best" who will be replacing those purged include one attorney whose only claim to fame is that he is nothing more than a Karl Rove operative.

This is getting interesting, real interesting. Pass the popcorn.

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A momentous moment in American history. We hope. The Biden hearings on a resolution to oppose the insanity in Iraq took place yesterday, and if you were privileged to listen in on some of it, you know that the Democrats were joined by a courageous Senator Hagel in opposing the war.

So many lives have been lost, and futures washed down the drain of serious disabilities, that I am being silly in saying that only the idjuts who voted this administration into power should be required to pay for its continuing destruction of our country. I'm saying it anyway.

Today's CNN poll is almost sad;

CNN poll;
Do you believe that perceived blunders have hurt the Bush administration's credibility on Iraq?

Yes 91% 42618 votes

No 9% 4366 votes

Total: 46984 votes

We are past the point that we can take the president's word that this will work. This just said by Sen. Obama who a lot of folks don't want to give much credit. I give credit to everyone seeking to turn this tragedy around.

Everyone who's going to the rally in D.C., I salute you.

Tens of thousands of peace advocates from across the country are expected in Washington on Saturday for an anti-war rally that could be among the biggest since the war in Iraq began, organizers said yesterday.

If you can't get to D.C., and I can't, I encourage you to send your words of encouragement and anything else you can get out there to your friends who can.

On January 27, please demonstrate for peace. Go to for information, please.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Something's Missing

Pundits, bloggers, and editorialist will spend today parsing last night's State of the Union speech. Every detail, every nuance, every eyeblink will be reviewed. Every policy initiative will be examined from every possible angle.

I wonder how many electrons or ink pots will be expended on what the President didn't mention, didn't even allude to: New Orleans, Katrina and Rita, the Gulf Coast. It's as if that horrible August never happened, or if it did, didn't have long lasting consequences.

As far as I know, the levees haven't been fully repaired, nor has the lower Ninth Ward been rebuilt. The people in Mississippi scored a victory of sorts with one of the major insurers in a settlement which will pour millions into that state to rebuild after Katrina, but the agreement appears to be limited to Mississippi.

The agreement does not apply to New Orleans, where the failure of the levees left much of the city underwater for days. Lawyers and insurers say no similar settlement talks are in progress there.

The second biggest clusterfuck of the Bush regime and not even a head nod in that direction.



Flimflam at the Podium

Let's say you set yourself up as the antithesis of everything that your opposite is dedicated to. Let's say you make the basis of your policies the principle that your side is right, you get all the benefits of every bit of power you can wield. Let's say that you make power your goal, and much of your power is ripped from a system that doesn't provide it, by force. Let's say that you make access to your consideration available only to your own supporters. Your methods make you anathema to decent people, and you lose much of your support.

What is your answer? Demand that your opposition work with you if they are to achieve the beneficent results you've worked hard against for the past six years.

The cretin in chief has an office, the presidency, going for him. That he gained it by dishonesty, and outright lies, doesn't demean the office itself. I hope. It's his last, best hope, and his present policy is to use his office to keep decent people from gaining decent objectives.

On health insurance , well, there isn't anything more that I can say that hasn't been said. Instead of promoting public well-being, his plan is a benefit for the corporations that this president gives our country's wealth to serve. On energy 'independence', with the precedent that's been set already on the awards of contracts to friends seeking public funds, we know the results will not be good for us. Global warming has advanced without check over the past six years, and the president has been forced to make a few passes at it. And the escalation of a shameful war can't be glossed over as a sincere effort to achieve 'success', a 'success' that increasingly is just another extension of ill-gotten gains at the sacrifice of our country's moral standing.

Last night's State of the Union Address was not left for the audience to judge, it had all been given out in advance and the apologists had been hard at work long before it occurred. Listening to the comments on C-Span when I got back from another engagement last night, it was the usual divide. And this morning, getting onto CNN to see their polling, it's the usual divide.

CNN poll;

Created: Wednesday, January 24, 2007, at 00:32:43 EDT

What was your overall impression of the president's State of the Union address?

Positive 32% 3792 votes

Negative 68% 8088 votes

Total: 11880 votes

We are increasingly familiar with the + or - 30%. They call in to talk shows and demand that the cretin in the presidency has been maligned, is unfortunate in the events he's had to put up with, and that the dirty commie hippies that oppose him are to blame for whatever present evils he's unable to cope with.

We are familiar by association with the + or - 70%, they are the ones like us who want the country saved from the rape that has gone on for the past six years.

There is a really good element in this country that has always made it a great nation. They are the many decent people who resolutely vote for the candidates they conceive of as honest people with the intention of making their country safe from misuse, its force safe from being thrown at foreign countries unwisely for ends that are not in anyone's best interest, its people free to support themselves and their families by honest industry, and its high places populated by honest dedicated public servants. Those good folks are ready to take the country back.

Should the Democrats work with this president? I think not. Working against misuse of power would be a better course to follow. Working toward the end of this atrocity of a war is much better for the country. Working for equitable access to honest reward of labor, to education, to health and safety, these are the ends this congress needs to achieve. These are the ends this administration has determinedly opposed. Working with the White House would only vitiate their honest efforts.

Call it whatever you like, but as Diane pointed out previously in 'No Bipartisanship', this so-called 'bipartisanship' is overly honored even by lip-service. The honest public servants we have elected will do well to stay out of the public trough that administration policies promote, and clean up the mess.

No sale.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A New Requirement for Presidential Candidates

It isn't enough to have name recognition, or experience, or even a record of governmental service. Now those who would be president must also have a demonstrable ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to run. An article in today's NY Times makes that clear.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York became the first candidate since the program began in 1976 to forgo public financing for both the primary and the general election because of the spending limits that come with the federal money. By declaring her confidence that she could raise far more than the roughly $150 million the system would provide for the 2008 presidential primaries and general election, Mrs. Clinton makes it difficult for other serious candidates to participate in the system without putting themselves at a significant disadvantage.

Senator Clinton has certainly not been the first to forgo the public financing provided by the federal government from funds designated by taxpayers on their returns, only the first to do so right from the start and to include both primary and general elections.

By 2000, two Republican candidates, the billionaire Steve Forbes and Mr. Bush, had turned down public money for the primary campaign. Mr. Bush became the first major-party nominee to do so. And in 2004, for the first time, both the Democratic and the Republican nominees turned down public financing for the primaries.

Why the shift away from accepting free money? The first reason is that there isn't as much of that money as one would think. American taxpayers have stopped checking off that little box on their returns:

The system is financed by taxpayers who check a box on their returns to allocate $3 to an election fund, with about 33 million people a year in recent years directing a total of about $400 million to each quadrennial presidential election.

But the fund has faced chronic shortfalls as the percentage of taxpayers contributing has declined to less than 10 percent last year from over 30 percent in the 1970s.

Another reason is that the costs of campaigning has risen dramatically. Television commercials have become a major source of revenue for stations running them and the easiest way for candidates to reach millions of voters without having to leave their homes or governmental offices.

A third reason involves the strings on the federal money which limit the candidate accepting any other private funds (which was the whole point of the system to begin with).

The result? Millionaires or people with access to millionaires and corporations willing to do business with the candidates now for the right to do business with them later will be the only people who can afford to become president (or senator, or representative or governor).

More than the federal funding system is broken. The entire electoral system is skewed and needs reform, but I doubt that the current crop of politicians are interested in such reform. Until the public starts screaming about the very nature of our electoral system, we are going to be stuck with politicians who consider "dialing for dollars" to be their main job.


Silence Isn't Golden in Foreign Relations

Remember Lebanon, where in the past summer there was a war in which our country refused to work for a ceasefire? Recall that Israeli bombardment killed innocents, while Secretary of State Rice blantantly favored the hostilities over working with Hezbollah and making any concessions to their local forces. Well, surprise, surprise, the anti-Western element there has closed down Beirut with rioting today in an attempt to throw out the Western-backed government.

Our peculiar diplomacy, that will not acknowledge and work with the valid representatives, often elected by popular vote,is not doing much of a job. I recall the "heckuva job, brownie" statement - the minions of this administration are not chosen for any ability to do the job. It looks like the Middle East is swinging toward its extremes in a large part due to that bumbling.

The hideous violence in the Lebanese war caused the UN finally to seek to work out a peace. In this summer's war, a proposal advanced by France and the U.S. was introduced at the U.N. and rejected, because Israel's troops would be allowed to stay in Lebanon.

Fouad Siniora , the Lebanese Prime Minister, telephoned Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, and President Chirac of France to plead for changes, but was rebuffed.

The negotiations by invitation only are now resulting in a standstill while Hezbollah seems to represent the popular will, aroused by the irrationally biased actions of our government. Our image is of bullheaded ignorance, and it arouses disdain. It inspires nationalist elements that can show how little their country's interest is regarded by this country.

The strike came two days before Saniora and his economic team seek financial aid for Lebanon at an international donors' conference in Paris. The opposition has also said the grants and loans -- which local analysts set at around US$5 billion (euro3.1 billion) -- would only increase the national debt and further weaken the economy, hard hit by the summer war between Hezbollah guerrillas and Israel.

The cynical use of a country's needs to involve it in financial obligations is an old familiar theme, and Third World Debt is infamous for a stranglehold by the prosperous on a developing country such as Lebanon. Violence is one result. Terrorist tactics is another.

We need diplomats in offices that deal with the world at large. The staffing of our international functions under the concept of cronyisms is doing lasting harm.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Anonymous Sources

Jury selection in the Lewis "Scooter" Libby perjury trial should be completed shortly and the case should commence early this week. The only prosecution so far in the Plame affair, this case is significant for several reasons, among them the tangential issue of whether reporters can be compelled to reveal the names of sources used in writing a news article. From today's NY Times:

As the perjury and obstruction of justice trial of I. Lewis Libby Jr. unfolds over the next few weeks, the ways in which the case has vastly reshaped relations between reporters and high government officials will be on vivid display. ...

There is no formal code that describes the rules of engagement for officials and reporters in Washington, but a less-than-neat system evolved over decades that allowed government sources to impart information to journalists without having their identities revealed publicly. Editors, hoping to be more accountable to the public, have tried in recent years to change those practices.

It is ironic that this is the case in which the concept of anonymous sourcing is tested. For years, reporters and their sources have been shielded by the First Amendment under the theory that the public has a right to know what their government is up to. The usual scenario is that of a government employee who leaks information concerning government malfeasance and the classic example in our time has been "Deep Throat" in the Watergate Scandal of the Nixon years.

In the Plame matter, however, the scenario is the exact opposite. In this case, the Bush White House intentionally leaked the status of Valerie Plame as a CIA employee as an act of retribution against her husband for daring to expose the lies the administration used to push us to war against Iraq. Libby was no 'whistleblower' trying to alert the public to the dangers of a corrupt government, he was an agent charged to further that corruption. At least one journalist bought into the scam, but several others were recipients of the leak.

The press, whose members have served as stenographers for the White House these past six years, still doesn't get the distinction, as this article surely makes clear. The sudden concern with the First Amendment rings hollow under these facts.

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No More Mr./Ms. Nice Guy

The topic of the war on Iraq supposedly will be much ignored in the Tuesday night State of the Union Address. It's hardly surprising that the cretin in chief wants to avoid dealing with the mounting carnage. He's about to raise the level and create some more, despite the fact that the American public has rejected the war and its increasing toll on this country's well-being.

Overturning a brutal despot and giving greater liberty to the people of Iraq is probably the only positive achievement that anyone in our country would agree would, if it succeeds, be a good thing. But it is the very emphasis on personal liberties in the Middle East that the administration is retreating from. Sadly, it seems that our embrace of existing despotic regimes is the reversal of this country's only perception of positive gains, gains now being denied.

Well, we hoped for better, but it seems that by this trip to the Middle East the Secretary of State is exhibiting a new tactic. We give up on democracy and personal freedoms, we are trying to salvage the military operation which is all this White House is capable of.

Mubarak canceled scheduled parliamentary elections. His security forces violently broke up protest demonstrations. Opposition leaders, from members of the Muslim Brotherhood to pro-democracy bloggers, were arrested and tortured. Nour's appeals were denied.
Before Rice arrived in Cairo this time, the city was buzzing about Internet videos -- not of Saddam Hussein but of Egyptian police who had been captured torturing innocent citizens. Mubarak had just announced a series of constitutional amendments that would exclude serious opposition candidates from future elections and curtail independent judicial monitoring of balloting. Nour is still in jail.

About all this, Rice said nothing. Instead, she praised the "important strategic relationship" with the 78-year-old Mubarak. In Rice's new parlance, Egypt has suddenly become part of a "moderate mainstream" in the Middle East, which, the secretary hopes, will stand with the United States and Israel against the "extremists" -- Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Cynically, this administration is retreating from its own, albeit after the fact, rhetoric about bringing a nation of laws abroad, that nation of laws the citizenry here have finally forced it to return to here at home. Its return to operating within the constitution must be a real pain, and the administation won't be requiring that its allies in war do the same.

Our supporters abroad are coming out publicly with their rejection of the U.S., in return for the C-i-C's abandonment of the freedoms that they supported us in order to secure.

****"They would get into some kind of shifting sand, and it would be difficult for them to win the war," he remembered thinking. "I knew at that moment they have the force, but they don't have the brains to manage the Iraqi situation."
At a fashionable cafe in Beirut, Young talked about a region where "the sectarian genie has been let out of the bottle." American policy, he said, reminded him of past decades: engaging despots for the sake of stability. Words such as "disaster" and "civil war" peppered his conversation. And he hinted at a sense of bitter frustration, even betrayal, in his views.

"The American agenda has completely changed," Young said. "What Iraq was set out to be has been supplanted by a completely different agenda -- containing Iran and containing Iran's allies."
[emphasis added]

There may indeed still be support here at home for the war on Iraq, although yesterday's announcement of the latest Newsweek Poll announced on NBC news yesterday shows only 24% support the C-i-C's handling of the war. In the Middle East, where we have wreaked havoc and done nothing to show we are worth their support, the few who saw promise from our invasion recognize our dismal failure.

I encourage anyone who cares about this country to demonstrate on the 27th in one way or another that we reject the monstrous violence this White House has irresponsibly inflicted on our world. The best we can hope for is to get out of the chaos and let it begin to heal.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sunday Poetry: Robinson Jeffers

Shine, Perishing Republic

While this America settles in the mould of its vulgarity, heavily thickening
to empire
And protest, only a bubble in the molten mass, pops and sighs out, and the
mass hardens,
I sadly smiling remember that the flower fades to make fruit, the fruit rots
to make earth.
Out of the mother; and through the spring exultances, ripeness and deca-
dence; and home to the mother.

You making haste haste on decay: not blameworthy; life is good, be it stub-
bornly long or suddenly
A mortal splendor: meteors are not needed less than mountains:
shine, perishing republic.
But for my children, I would have them keep their distance from the thick-
ening center; corruption
Never has been compulsory, when the cities lie at the monster's feet there
are left the mountains.
And boys, be in nothing so moderate as in love of man, a clever servant,
insufferable master.
There is the trap that catches noblest spirits, that caught--they say--
God, when he walked on earth.

Robinson Jeffers

What's the Meta?

It always amuses me when the main stream media tries to get a handle on the internet and blogs because they almost invariably get it wrong. Either the press denigrates netizens as wild-eyed, rabid lambs (or hawks) or it whines about the power now being wielded by those rank amateurs who get to publish the wildest stories with foul language and without editors or fact checkers. An article in today's on-line edition of the Los Angeles Times tends to fall into the latter category.

Ostensibly about Hillary Clinton's and Barack Obama's use of the web to announce their presidential candidacies, the article then seems to veer towards the notion that the internet is now a prime focus in electioneering.

Clinton's online declaration that she is forming a presidential exploratory committee came less than a week after similar news delivered online by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill).

It also follows even more elaborate use of the Internet by the third major presidential contender in the Democratic ranks, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina. ...

The Internet's power both to make and break politicians has been vividly demonstrated in recent years.

...Barely a factor in campaigning 11 years ago when Clinton's husband won reelection as president, the Internet has become an integral part of the political landscape, with every major candidate fielding a website and seeking to create a virtual community around his — or her — campaign.

But with the recent advent of YouTube and other video-sharing sites, analysts said the most intriguing aspect of the evolving use of the Web may be as part of an immense game of political "gotcha," in which campaigns seek to catch opposing candidates off-guard and off-message, as happened to Allen.

Yes, Howard Dean showed how using the internet to raise funds quickly added a new dimension to campaigning, and, yes, video of Senator Allen's "Macaca" incident played a huge role in his defeat. However, the internet is nothing more than a tool, albeit potentially a very powerful one.

Millions of people have access to the internet and candidate's web sites, but many millions of people don't have that access, or, if they do, don't use the internet to inform themselves about the election. A blog reader in Iowa might decide to send a campaign contribution to a candidate in Pennsylvania, but that Iowan can't actually vote for the Pennsylvania candidate. Candidates still have to show up in the flesh and talk to voters and still have to field an effective team of campaign workers to get people to actually vote.

Having a web site with all sorts of bells and whistles may help a candidate, but if that candidate's record is filled with all sorts of inconsistencies or sell-out votes, that web site won't help. Perhaps the main stream press might consider that part of the equation and do their jobs.

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Oil: Oy!

A nifty graphic published in the United Arab Emirates' Gulf News.

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Try Reason

" There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries "

While that is a favorite Shakespeare maxim, I deeply fear that the cretin in chief's tendency to view his own particular fortune as the overriding concern of his administration's policies portends incredible danger for this country. The history he will generate seems to be driving him into ever more hazardous uses of the country's powers.

The surge that the C-i-C has substituted for the sensible, negotiated resolution of his wars abroad threatens 21,500 lives immediately, and the security, well-being and economic health of this country for the long term. His wars and his use of torture and detention without appeal, [habeas corpus] create families of new terrorists throughout the world. Will we be drawn into the unspeakable, nuclear confrontation, by his rejection of diplomacy in the interest of displaying his own idea of toughness?

Most recently, the C-i-C spoke to the country and included the country of Iran in his threats to use violence for his personal need to control.

President Bush: "Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. *****************************
And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

Continually risking this country's security and its foreign relations has brought out a protest which we can only wish had preceded his adventuring into Iraq, and parsing out our resources in the now foundering war with Afghanistan. In WaPo, Jim Hoagland joins the chorus by pointing out how the rush to deal belligerently with Iran is creating another crisis that otherwise could be used in the interests of the U.S. and of the world.

[A] broad, sustained campaign of economic sanctions is perhaps the most effective way to bring pressure to bear on an Iranian regime that has failed to deliver on its grandiose promises of prosperity to a restive population.

But it is the Europeans and the Saudis, not the Bush administration, who control the tools of economic pressure that Washington wants wielded. Managing a campaign in which the immediate price will be paid by others will require skill, extensive consultations and enormous patience.

Such a campaign would be undermined by hurry-up tactics built around the American political calendar, or the use of U.S. military force in Iraq intended to serve as a show of force against Iran.

The mopping-up operation that this administration desperately needs is not one of throwing its remaining resources into a melee. The mopping-up called for is cleaning up the huge mess created by irrational use of those resources, throughout the world. Two more years of throwing away this country's relationships and resources could be more than the rational parties now reining in the waste can cure.

If an unrestrained amateur continues unchecked, there is a threat to the world that grows larger as he becomes more desperate every day.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bonus Critter Blogging: My Brown Thrasher

A favorite resident of my windbreak, the brown thrasher is a bird that has been declining throughout the country and I am happy to have created a fan out of a neighbor. The neighbor, with a manicured and landscaped yard, chided me a few times for letting the underbrush grow in the creek area and windbreak in my yard. Now she's become a birder, and is proud to have the brown thrasher among her trophy sightings.

from the Cornell bird site:

" Conservation Status

Populations declining slowly throughout range, perhaps because of the maturation of shrublands in the East and the elimination of fencerows and shelter belts in the Great Plains.

Since we got into an extensive discussion of birds the other a.m. at Eschaton, I thought you all might like to see what this particularly cherished backyard resident looks like. I usually see them in the crepe myrtle, but couldn't find a picture of that flora to exhibit him in.


The New Star Wars

China's destruction of one of its own orbiting satellites has potentially opened up a new arms race, this one involving space. The current US administration has already expressed its outrage over the Chinese test, and we can expect the conservative fog machine to begin cranking out high powered propaganda urging an increase in the Strategic Defense Initiative budget. This is an arms race the country can ill-afford, and it is one that could easily have been avoided.

One take on the news of the Chinese test and the US response was published in the UK's Guardian in a column written by Ian Williams. His snarky approach highlights the self-made quandary in which the Bush administration finds itself.

The US reprimand to China over its successful anti-satellite test has all the sincerity of King Herod leading a Unicef fund-raiser. As inventors of the rocket, the Chinese have every bit as much tenure in orbit as the country that belatedly followed Sputnik into space.

Of course no sensible person can be happy at Beijing's action, not least if you look at the 900-plus missiles aimed at Taiwan. But test was entirely legal - and it is so because the United States has consistently blocked any international convention to "limit its freedom of manoeuvre" in space.

Restated only last year, US military doctrine is that it should control beyond earth orbit, and make sure nobody else can challenge it, which is why it will not accept any treaty demilitarizing space.
[Emphasis added]

The US refusal even to discuss a plan to demilitarize space led up to this test, as Joseph Kahn pointed out in his piece in today's NY Times.

Some analysts suggested that one possible motivation was to prod the Bush administration to negotiate a treaty to ban space weapons. Russia and China have advocated such a treaty, but President Bush rejected those calls when he authorized a policy that seeks to preserve “freedom of action” in space. [Emphasis added]

This administration has yet to learn that such behavior has consequences, few (if any) of them good. Yet, when events such as China's successful test occurs, we can always count on the usual White House response.

"Who could have imagined ...?"


Coastal Development

The award mandated through jury trial that State Farm insurance has been required to pay out for damage from Katrina is likely to begin an avalanche of homeowners awards. Yesterday, State Farm settled a suit that it had contested, avoiding the costs of pursuing another, similar suit for damages. In that case, like the Tejodor case settled yesterday, a claim on an existing, paid-up, insurance policy was denied after the storm surge of Katrina.

State Farm and other insurers say their homeowner policies cover damage from wind but not from water, and that the policies exclude damage that could have been caused by a combination of both, even if hurricane-force winds preceded a storm's rising water.
U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. took part of that case out of jurors' hands, ruling that State Farm was liable for $223,292 in storm damage to the Broussards' home. Jurors awarded the Broussards an additional $2.5 million in punitive damages.

I am relieved that Gulf homeowners will be getting awards that will enable them to restore their homes, as are most of us homeowners. There is, however, a problem with the prospect of rebuilding in the waterfront in an age of rising waters.

While the Mississippi coast has multitudes of homes that have sat safely for many decades, like all waterfront communities it also has a lurch toward growth. Recently, a whole community in Florida turned itself out, giving over its little mobile home park so that developers could put in a luxury home area, all of it in a land area that is lowlying and likely to be threatened by rising oceans.

The 43-acre property is a down-market relic of old Florida surrounded by multimillion-dollar homes and splashy high-rise condos.

State and local officials still must approve new zoning to accommodate the 900 condo units, a luxury hotel and marina proposed by the developer, Ocean Land Investments of Boca Raton.

Palm Beach County officials have raised concerns about adding a high-density development to South Florida's cluttered coastline. The community is in a hurricane evacuation zone and has few ways in or out.

Somehow I don't think that a great deal of attention will be paid in the zoning decision to the tenuous nature of this development in its waterlogged situation.

Year after year, hurricanes sweep through low-lying areas. The homes built in precarious but desired water view areas are swept away on a regular basis. In some areas, the communities are refusing to subsidize the round-robin building boom, and opting out of flood insurance that they have to tax the residents for. I lived in a little island town that opted out, and left its summer community to rebuild for themselves, with their own private insurance. Typically, the year-round residents were much less affluent than the summer visitors. The voters could not afford to raise their own taxes to pay for the rebuilding of luxury homes that had been situated with the view, not durability, in mind.

In places with great shorelines, like California and Florida, the zoning requirements have been for the most part attacked by developers putting pressure on the community to allow ever chancier building patterns.

Every week more than 3,300 new residents land in southern California, while another 4,800 hit Florida's shores. Every day 1,500 new homes rise along the U.S. coastline. More than half the nation's population now lives in coastal counties, which amount to only 17 percent of the land in the lower 48. In 2003 coastal watersheds generated over six trillion dollars, more than half the national economy, making them among our most valuable assets. Yet two blue-ribbon bipartisan panels—the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, convened by the Pew Trusts and the U.S. Congress, respectively—recently issued disturbing reports that found the coasts are being battered by an array of pollution and population pressures. [emphasis added]

With the push to the edge of the continent which ignores its dangers, it's obvious that insurance is going to become a thing of the past if it has to cover full replacement costs. We need to have more care about the development for homeowners' interests as well as conservation. Zoning has been left up to local decision making, but that may not be good enough for the future. I am definitely expecting that the devastation of rising sea levels is going to require national attention. Otherwise, it's going to swamp more than the real estate, and insurance industry, along our coasts, it's going to be drowning our treasury as well.

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Friday, January 19, 2007

More Ice

This is what it's beginning to feel like chez moi.


More Strong Language

Yesterday I noted the strong language used in a NY Times editorial with respect to the President. After six years of letting the malfeasance of the current administration slide with only the mildest of rebukes, the Times finally came out and called the President a law-breaker. I found another instance of the press calling a spade a spade today, this time in a column written by Mark Seibel of the McClatchy Washington Bureau and published in the Sacramento Bee.

President Bush and his aides, explaining their reasons for sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, are offering an incomplete, oversimplified and possibly untrue version of events there that raises new questions about the accuracy of the administration's statements on Iraq. [Emphasis added]

To support his thesis, Mr. Seibel begins by quoting sections of the President's recent speech explaining the need for the "surge" of American troops in Iraq.

" 2006, the opposite happened. The violence in Iraq -- particularly in Baghdad -- overwhelmed the political gains Iraqis had made. Al-Qaida terrorists and Sunni insurgents recognized the mortal danger that Iraq's election posed for their cause. And they responded with outrageous acts of murder aimed at innocent Iraqis.

"They blew up one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam -- the Golden Mosque of Samarra -- in a calculated effort to provoke Iraq's Shia population to retaliate. Their strategy worked. Radical Shia elements, some supported by Iran, formed death squads. And the result was a vicious cycle of sectarian violence that continues today."

He then proceeds to point out the errors in the President's time line.

But the president's account understates by at least 15 months when Shiite death squads began targeting Sunni politicians and clerics. It also ignores the role that Iranian-backed Shiite groups had in death-squad activities before the Samarra bombing.

...But the country already had been on a trajectory of rising sectarian violence. U.S. diplomats, reporters and military and intelligence officers began reporting that Shiite death squads were targeting Sunni clerics and former officials of Saddam's Sunni regime at least 15 months before the Samarra bombing.
[Emphasis added]

One of the reasons the current administration has succeeded in duping Americans for six years is that the press has failed to note the inconsistencies and lies coming from the White House. The press has neglected its own archives which would have made clear just what was going on. That appears to be changing, finally.

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A Nation of Laws

Our country is holding accused terrorists in Guantanamo Bay in a sort of limbo that thus far has not included bringing them to trial and letting them speak for themselves. We all know that this is not right, and the Supreme Court has declared it illegal. They have to be charged, and they have to be tried. A military tribunal is the best this administration will allow, and the standards for those tribunals are being written.

The statute provides for the admissibility of hearsay evidence, an issue of contention among defense lawyers. Dell'Orto said the admission of such evidence should not necessarily weigh against defendants, since they, too, can enter such evidence, which thereby "levels the playing field, if you will."

And both sides can attack the credibility of witnesses, he said.

Brig. Gen. Thomas Hemingway, a legal adviser to the Office of Military Commissions, told reporters that the manual provides for a "clear prohibition of evidence obtained by torture" if it was obtained after December 30, 2005.

But if it was obtained before that time, and if the judge determines that it is reliable, it may be admitted, he said.

No evidence -- not even classified evidence -- will be admissible that the accused has not seen, but the manual lays out procedures under which the government could ask the judge to rule on whether "certain matters should be redacted," or summarized or replaced with substitute evidence, Hemingway said.

This country has earned the right to be ashamed of itself. If we cannot defend the accused from a standard of behavior that is not allowed in our regular courts, we are not prosecuting a case, we are railroading the accused.

The threat that these prisoners pose to this country is a real one. They are causing us to violate the most precious rights of anyone, citizen or not.

If I accused you of theft because some one else told me you stole, it would be laughable. These accused terrorists are being tried with that measure of justice that would allow that. In some cases, money was paid to those who told the stories about these accused. The information given by a former interrogator at the camp, Erik Saar, is pretty disgusting

We ourselves cannot verify that they were enemy combatants picked up on the battlefield, as General Miller has repeatedly said to the media. A number of them were turned over to us by foreign governments, and the Northern Alliance, who were paid a bounty for them. There wasn't this extensive vetting process, as the Pentagon would lead you to believe. What extensive vetting process allows an 88-year-old to end up at Guantanamo Bay? And we are operating outside of the scope of the Geneva Conventions. Some of the things I saw were not only what I would consider unethical, but ineffective.
To be honest, most of the visitors who were coming to the island knew what techniques were approved. They knew we were interrogating people in the middle of the night. They knew there were people that were subject to sleep deprivation. They knew that certain stress positions were allowed. These were leaders.

The prisoners of Guantanamo are a real threat to our standing in the world, and the basis for our self-respect. The treatment we have allowed in Guantanamo will define our real standards if we do not renounce and forbig it.

This country cannot hold its head up while we use the excuse of our security to violate basic human values.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Strong Language

The administration, in a rather nicely timed political move, backed down on the issue of warrantless wiretaps of Americans. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez made the announcement of the new procedures yesterday, just one day before he was to appear before a congressional committee investigating the matter. More surprising than that announcement, however, was an editorial in today's NY Times commenting on the issue.

Of the many ways that President Bush has trampled civil liberties and the balance of powers since the 9/11 attacks, one of the most egregious was his decision to order wiretaps of Americans’ international calls and e-mail without court approval. It was good news, then, when the administration announced yesterday that it would now seek a warrant from the proper court for that sort of eavesdropping.

The president’s decision hardly ends this constitutional crisis. Among other things, the public needs to know why Mr. Bush broke the law for more than five years and what should be done to ensure there will be no more abuses of the wiretap statute.

Mr. Gonzales’s announcement clearly was politically timed: he will appear today before the Judiciary Committee, now controlled by Democrats who have vowed to investigate the eavesdropping.

We hope they will do that. Congress has a legitimate interest in the creation of this program, which has always seemed motivated more by the president’s relentless campaign to expand his powers than by a real need to speed intelligence gathering.
[Emphasis added]

The NY Times has been critical of the administration's gross abuse of constitutionally guaranteed rights for the better part of two years now, but this has been the first time (to my knowledge) that it has been as direct and as forceful in its condemnation of that behavior.

The language of the editorial is telling: "Mr Bush broke the law..." is really quite explicit and suggests that the Times believes as many of us do. Mr. Bush has committed a crime. If that is the case, and it certainly appears to be, than Mr. Bush is subject to impeachment.

If the Democratically led 110th Congress does the job it is supposed to do, the investigations into this and other gross abuses by the administration will continue. And if the job is done correctly, I believe that impeachment will once again be on the table.

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It's a Game

There are many things worth dying for. Now we know what more than 3,000 soldiers and probably more than a few hundreds of thousands Iraqis have died for - a game.

If Petraeus and his staff can provide specific measures of Iraqi military cooperation and progress, good. If the U.S. Embassy sees signs that the Maliki government is getting its act together, better yet. And if members of Congress can confirm these impressions on the ground in Baghdad, then take it to the bank.

If not, then Congress should call on the president to "show some stomach" and tell Maliki that the game is coming to an end.

David Broder is a 'serious' commenter. Atrios is not a 'serious' commenter.

With this kind of analysis, the news is safe from public consideration. I admit to reading the news and editorials every day, looking for the word on what is actually the focus of the government I spend a lot of my salary to support. I also admit that I think my opinion matters, and I can do something about the affairs of state. I've worked on Capitol Hill and I have shaped legislation. Foreign wars as a 'game' hurt me deeply.

Meanwhile, from Novak;
The sense of impending political doom that clutches Republican hearts one week after President Bush presented his new strategy on Iraq to the nation is stoked by the alarming intelligence brought back from Baghdad by Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota and passed around Capitol Hill.

In a pre-Christmas visit to Iraq, Coleman and Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida met with Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi government's national security adviser. Coleman described their astounding encounter in a Dec. 19 blog entry: Dr. Rubaie "maintains that the major challenge facing Iraq is not a sectarian conflict, but rather al-Qaeda and disgruntled Baathists seeking to regain power. Both Senator Nelson and I react with incredulity to that assessment. Rubaie cautions against more troops in Baghdad."

Iraqi's prime minister is saying that if we just throw them the guns, we can go home. This from the BBC news crawl.

It's more than time enough for our listening to this drivel. No one should die for this 'game', no one should have to spend the rest of his/her life without the use of his/her limbs for this sophistry. And the cretin in chief's using this irrational game to keep from admitting to mistakes, to keep from letting reason pervade and get us out of the mess he's gotten us into, that is a war crime.

On January 27, please demonstrate for peace. Go to for information, please.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

All the War That Money Can Buy

Sometimes the business section of any newspaper can be surprising. Today was one of those days in the NY Times. This article by David Leonhardt takes a very cogent look at what we could be getting for the $1.2 trillion we are spending on the Iraq War.

For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign — a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.

Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds.

The final big chunk of the money could go to national security. The recommendations of the 9/11 Commission that have not been put in place — better baggage and cargo screening, stronger measures against nuclear proliferation — could be enacted. Financing for the war in Afghanistan could be increased to beat back the Taliban’s recent gains, and a peacekeeping force could put a stop to the genocide in Darfur.

The thing about that $1.2 trillion figure (and Leonhardt points this out) is that it doesn't fully take into account the attendant costs of this war: a broken military with badly compromised equipment; present and future medical costs for the treatment of those soldiers who do manage to get out of Iraq alive, but with grievous physical and emotional injuries; the loss of economic productivity of those soldiers who were killed or who are too badly wounded to re-enter the work force are just a few that come to mind.

All this for a pack of lies and the madness of a would-be king.

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Out Of The Woodwork

Okay, I go back a ways.

When I got on WaPo this a.m. I saw Melvin Laird was doing an op-ed. In case you don't know it, you can pay to get published on WaPo.

This was the cite: The writer served as a Republican House member from 1953 to 1969 and as secretary of defense from 1969 to 1973.

Wiki: Laird succeeded in improving DoD's standing with Congress. As a highly respected congressional veteran, Laird had a head start in his efforts to gain more legislative support for Defense programs. He maintained close contact with old congressional friends, and he spent many hours testifying before Senate and House committees. Recognizing the congressional determination, with wide public support, to cut defense costs (including winding down the Vietnam War), Laird worked hard to prune budgetary requests before they went to Congress, and acceded to additional cuts when they could be absorbed without serious harm to national security. One approach, which made it possible to proceed with such new strategic weapon systems as the B-1 bomber, the Trident nuclear submarine, and cruise missiles, was agreement to a substantial cut in conventional forces. As a result, total military personnel declined from some 3.5 million in FY 1969 to 2.3 million by the time Laird left office in January 1973

As one who looks with amusement on the 'Clinton did it' meme, it's nice that some one who pared down the military even before the present administration is raising his ugly head, without admitting to his role in the disaster, WELL, hello. You were there in the beginning, and now? you want congress to bug out. Let the idjuts go on with war? Teh temptation is to ask where your think tank is getting its funding.

Now what is he saying;
The all-volunteer military needs better wages and better equipment. The troops today have what we lacked in Vietnam -- the will to win and unit cohesiveness and pride. What they don't need is a Congress that thinks it is doing them a favor by cutting off funding for Iraq. They need a Congress that makes national defense a budget priority. Even including the war in Iraq, defense spending is still a sliver of gross domestic product.'

Oh, we are bitter:
Summary: During Richard Nixon's first term, when I served as secretary of defense, we withdrew most U.S. forces from Vietnam while building up the South's ability to defend itself. The result was a success -- until Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting off funding for our ally in 1975. Washington should follow a similar strategy now, but this time finish the job properly.

But even without having a dog in the fight, I object to 'the will to win and unit cohesiveness and pride' as what Vietnamese veterans lacked. I think there may be a lot of veterans out there with all of that. And from the one person I lost in that war, who was sent out into action his second day in Vietnam and was killed - you take that back, you bastard.

Some one else is responsible for every bad decision I ever made, too. Oh, yes. None of them ever caused the deaths of many sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, children of the voters who have chosen to butt out.

Finishing the job properly is not a matter of killing more people.

We cannot take over a country and destroy its existing order and then announce that we can make it right by spending more money and lives. But most especially, don't insult the men who died in that earlier war.

Give it up, GOP, you've lost the minds and hearts and it's the U.S. you've lost. The giblets are not taking any more.

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