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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 01/22/2006 - 01/29/2006
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"Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it."
- Noam Chomsky
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Gore Vidal and Morris Berman look at the sorry state of today's United States

gore vidal has an excellent, albeit lengthy, post in the weekend edition of alternet... here's a snippet but i do strongly recommend you read the whole thing...
I have read many . . . descriptions of our fallen estate, looking for one that best describes in plain English how we got to this now and where we appear to be headed once our good Earth has been consumed and only Rapture is left to whisk aloft the Faithful. Meanwhile, the rest of us can learn quite a lot from "Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire," by Morris Berman, a professor of sociology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

I must confess that I have a proprietary interest in anyone who refers to the United States as an empire since I am credited with first putting forward this heretical view in the early '70s. In fact, so disgusted with me was a book reviewer at Time magazine that as proof of my madness he wrote: "He actually refers to the United States as an empire!" It should be noted that at about the same time Henry Luce, proprietor of Time, was booming on and on about "The American Century." What a difference a word makes!

i have always admired and appreciated gore vidal's wisdom and insight and the fact that he, in turn, admires and appreciates that of morris berman, one of my intellectual heroes, is gratifying... two of mr. berman's previous works, "the reenchantment of the world" and "coming to our senses," have been enormously influential on the formation of my world view and i am glad to hear he is still out there, enriching those of us who care to pay attention...

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Is there any doubt whatsoever that George Bush simply doesn't give a shit for the people of New Orleans or, for that matter, the U.S.?

i followed the coverage of hurricane katrina more closely than i followed anything in years... as were many of us, i was, by turns, appalled, outraged, enraged and, many times, openly sobbing... particularly given the fact that i was watching from buenos aires, the spectacle of my country totally failing its people was an emotional experience i never thought i'd have and hoped to never have again... but, guess what...? bush has obviously decided to hell with making amends and is reneging on every promise he's made... you people are on your friggin' own, the very same thing he's saying to every one of us... you think your elected government cares about you...? think again...
President Bush announced he would not support a popular plan for a government buyout of damaged houses. Word leaked that the White House had ignored e-mail warnings of Hurricane Katrina's potential danger in the 48 hours before the storm, including predictions of breached levees and massive flooding. Administration officials said they would not provide information to a Senate inquiry into the government's response to the hurricane.

Even Laura Bush raised ire during a visit to the area when she had this to say to local reporters about governmental relief: "I know it's very, very slow. That's how government works."

The combined effect, after five months of trying to clean up homes, reopen businesses and resurrect life here had people muttering, local commentators fuming and Louisiana officials furious.

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Note to Dems: this blogger thinks it's tie-yourself-to-the-railroad-tracks time

"gutless sellouts" is a little harsh and i don't think the majority of what i would call the liberal/progressive wing are necessarily using that kind of terminology... i do feel, however, that the united states is experiencing a constitutional crisis of unprecedented magnitude and that, if there ever was a time to stand up and be counted, it's now... in all candor, i don't see all that many in the democratic leadership speaking to the american people about just how serious things have gotten... oh, yeah, kerry and kennedy and murtha and louise slaughter have raised their voices and there have been others as well... i'm glad for any and all who have the courage to stand up to the bushco mafia but, to me, this is tie-yourself-to-the-railroad-tracks time and the dems - ALL of them - should be doing just that...
Democrats are getting an early glimpse of an intraparty rift that could complicate efforts to win back the White House: fiery liberals raising their voices on Web sites and in interest groups vs. elected officials trying to appeal to a much broader audience.

These activists -- spearheaded by battle-ready bloggers and making their influence felt through relentless e-mail campaigns -- have denounced what they regard as a flaccid Democratic response to the Supreme Court fight, President Bush's upcoming State of the Union address and the Iraq war. In every case, they have portrayed party leaders as gutless sellouts.

could it be that the bloggers are the only ones REALLY PAYING ATTENTION...??

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Accountability in Slovakia, why not the U.S.?

fer god's sake, THIS is how it SHOULD be done... i humbly suggest that everyone who reads this forwards it to 10 others and that we all forward it on to donald rumsfeld...
Slovak Defence Minister Juraj Liska resigned on Friday after last week's army plane crash which killed 42 people, mostly soldiers returning from a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

"This was not a political decision, it was a decision of the heart," Liska, 41, told reporters.

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda accepted the resignation and hailed Liska's work on turning the Slovak army into a fully professional force. He did not elaborate on possible candidates for the vacated post.

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His satanic majesty, Karl Rove, is gearing up for Hillary...

guess who the r's would like to see as the 2008 presidential candidate...?
President Bush said Friday that Sen. Hillary Clinton, a potential candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, is "formidable," but he declined to speculate on which Republicans might run for the White House in 2008.

we know karl has already moved into full campaign mode as i posted a week ago, and what you see here is 100% pure, pristine, vintage rove... slide through a comment, bury it in an interview on cbs evening news and name the very democratic presidential hopeful you MOST want to see get the nomination - but heaven forbid you should SAY that... O-O-O-O-O-OH, NO-O-O-O-O-O-O... you call her FORMIDABLE, slyly insinuating that you're AFRAID of her...! if hillary gets the democratic nomination, the r's are fully prepared to make the 2008 presidential campaign a bloodfest the likes of which the u.s. has never seen... they're positively drooling over the prospect of ripping her limb from limb, eviscerating her and parading her head on a pole at every republican campaign rally from alaska to florida... no sireee, karl, you evil son-of-a-bitch... we've got your number and it's the number of the beast...

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Taking a little respite

i've been working here in sofia, bulgaria, and trying to keep up with both this weblog and my radio weblog review show at the same time... fortunately, with the availability of high-speed internet access, i was able to do three radio shows this week and, more or less, keep up with my blog posting... but, somewhere roughly around wednesday evening, i ran out of gas and decided to pull back both from the blog and the radio show and make my "day job," the one that's paying me to be here, my priority focus... i've noticed that skadi has been picking up some of the slack and i'm happy that she is... she's got a keen eye and a strong knack for putting good stuff out there... toby will be making his contributions in a more regular fashion as he gets the hang of being a blogger and i'm looking forward to seeing what he'll be sharing with us... i'll be posting more here over the weekend and hope to be back with "cruisin' the blogs" radio show at least a few times next week... in the meantime, i hope everyone has a good weekend... rest up so we can continue fighting the good fight... we're all we've got...

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The NYT is a treasure trove this morning...

Dueling health care articles.

On first, the robber barons are salivating.

Savings Accounts for Health Costs Attract Wall St.

Bank of America, J. P. Morgan Chase, Fidelity Investments and hundreds of others are hoping to capitalize on the latest wrinkle in medical care paid by consumers: health savings accounts, which have been around since 2003 but are moving to the fore of the national agenda in anticipation of the State of the Union address on Tuesday.

These supercharged checking accounts, which must be linked to a high-deductible health insurance plan, allow consumers to invest their own money for current and future medical expenses and have it grow tax-free.

They are the centerpiece of President Bush's plans on health care, just as private accounts were offered as a Social Security fix.

Yeah, and we know how well that went over. Again, the little guy who has nothing to contribute loses, and the wealthy are secure.
[...]

Banks and others are drawn by the promise of lucrative fees they can generate by offering consumers mutual funds and other investment vehicles as their account balances grow. Most also charge $50 to $75 to set up a health savings account, and they collect perhaps $40 or more each year in maintenance charges and service fees.

Not since the creation of the individual retirement account in the mid-1970's has such a potentially huge mountain of money landed in the lap of the financial services industry.

It isn't about health care. It's about profit. And it's about them getting more of our money to gamble with. You know, I live in Nevada. Opportunities to gamble are everywhere. And you know what? If I could use someone else's money to gamble with, I'd never leave the casino.

And then there is Krugman. God bless him.

Health Care Confidential
By PAUL KRUGMAN
American health care is desperately in need of reform. But what form should change take? Are there any useful examples we can turn to for guidance?

Well, I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system's success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn't just pay the bills in this system — it runs the hospitals and clinics.

No, I'm not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.

In the 1980's and early 1990's, says an article in The American Journal of Managed Care, the V.H.A. "had a tarnished reputation of bureaucracy, inefficiency and mediocre care." But reforms beginning in the mid-1990's transformed the system, and "the V.A.'s success in improving quality, safety and value," the article says, "have allowed it to emerge as an increasingly recognized leader in health care."

Last year customer satisfaction with the veterans' health system, as measured by an annual survey conducted by the National Quality Research Center, exceeded that for private health care for the sixth year in a row. This high level of quality (which is also verified by objective measures of performance) was achieved without big budget increases. In fact, the veterans' system has managed to avoid much of the huge cost surge that has plagued the rest of U.S. medicine.

How does the V.H.A. do it?

The secret of its success is the fact that it's a universal, integrated system. Because it covers all veterans, the system doesn't need to employ legions of administrative staff to check patients' coverage and demand payment from their insurance companies. Because it's integrated, providing all forms of medical care, it has been able to take the lead in electronic record-keeping and other innovations that reduce costs, ensure effective treatment and help prevent medical errors.

Moreover, the V.H.A., as Phillip Longman put it in The Washington Monthly, "has nearly a lifetime relationship with its patients." As a result, it "actually has an incentive to invest in prevention and more effective disease management. When it does so, it isn't just saving money for somebody else. It's maximizing its own resources. ... In short, it can do what the rest of the health care sector can't seem to, which is to pursue quality systematically without threatening its own financial viability."

Oh, and one more thing: the veterans health system bargains hard with medical suppliers, and pays far less for drugs than most private insurers.

I don't want to idealize the veterans' system. In fact, there's reason to be concerned about its future: will it be given the resources it needs to cope with the flood of wounded and traumatized veterans from Iraq? But the transformation of the V.H.A. is clearly the most encouraging health policy story of the past decade. So why haven't you heard about it?

The answer, I believe, is that pundits and policy makers don't talk about the veterans' system because they can't handle the cognitive dissonance. (One prominent commentator started yelling at me when I tried to describe the system's successes in a private conversation.) For the lesson of the V.H.A.'s success story — that a government agency can deliver better care at lower cost than the private sector — runs completely counter to the pro-privatization, anti-government conventional wisdom that dominates today's Washington.

The dissonance between the dominant ideology and the realities of health care is one reason the Medicare drug legislation looks as if someone went down a checklist of things the veterans' system does right, and in each case did the opposite. For example, the V.H.A. avoids dealing with insurance companies; the drug bill shoehorns insurance companies into the program, even though they serve no real function. The V.H.A. bargains effectively on drug prices; the drug bill forbids Medicare from doing the same.

Still, ideology can't hold out against reality forever. Cries of "socialized medicine" didn't, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush's unrealistic vision of a system in which people go "comparative shopping" for medical care the way they do when buying tile, represents the true future of American health care.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit for research and educational purposes

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Here's something for the Friday news dump

What does a President do when the dogs are nipping at his feet? Kill them? Oh no...he just moves them to a new kennel.
The investigation of Jack Abramoff, the disgraced Republican lobbyist, took a surprising new turn on Thursday when the Justice Department said the chief prosecutor in the inquiry would step down next week because he had been nominated to a federal judgeship by President Bush.

Un-fucking-believable.

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Ignore the pundits

Interesting bit buried in the NYT times article about domestic wiretapping. Maybe some activist Democrats need to get a grip and take a chill pill with all their handwringing
The poll also signaled concern for Republicans as they prepare to defend their control of the House and the Senate in midterm elections this November. Investigations into Congressional corruption are taking a toll as the elections approach: 61 percent of Americans now hold an unfavorable view of Congress, the highest in 10 years.

This finding holds particular peril for Republicans as the party that has been in charge. More than half of the respondents said they believed that most members of Congress would exchange votes for money or favors.

Republicans were seen as more likely to be unduly influenced by lobbyists. And the Republican Party is now viewed unfavorably by 51 percent of the nation, its worst rating since Mr. Bush took office. By contrast, 53 percent said they held a favorable view of Democrats.

So it seems to me that the American people are not viewing Democrats and Republicans the same. It sounds like they are hearing what Democrats have to say. And, contrary to what the pundits (and some Dems) would have us believe, the Democratic meme of the culture of corruption, in some small way, and against all odds, is breaching the levee that is the corporate media.

On the other hand...can we send some of these Americans back to school for a refresher in US Constitution 101? This part of the poll disturbed me. Of course, even this proves that poll results are shaped in how you ask the question.
The poll found that 53 percent of Americans approved of Mr. Bush's authorizing eavesdropping without prior court approval "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism"; 46 percent disapproved. When the question was asked stripped of any mention of terrorism, 46 percent of those respondents approved, and 50 percent said they disapproved.

Do not these people GET that if the government is "suspicious" of someone, all they have to do is go to the FISA court and make their case, get a warrant and happily spy away? It's not like the bar is all that high. The FISA court has approved nearly all requests for wiretaps. (Sigh).

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Two huge milestones in Argentina



the mothers of plaza de mayo making their LAST march today closes one of the final chapters of a terrible history and the fact that they are now in a place where they feel they can stop is huge testament to the progress argentina has made in working through the legacy of its "dirty war..."

on top of that, given the intense feeling that is still generated over the falklands/malvinas islands war with the uk, the friendly visit of a uk royal navy vessel to an argentine port is huge...

both events are progress in the best sense of the word...

Many eyes today will be rightly on the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo making their 1,500th (and last) weekly march in that main square, a ritual encapsulating almost three decades of traumatic history but now ending because the Mothers do not perceive the current government as hostile or indifferent to the fate of the “dirty war” missing. Yet it is also worth bringing attention to another event this week a few thousand kilometres to the south — the visit of the British icebreaker HMS Endurance to Ushuaia on Tuesday. HMS Endurance would seem to be an icebreaker in every sense of the word because this visit represented the first time a Royal Navy vessel has entered an Argentine port since the 1982 South Atlantic War.

applause is in order...

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In many ways, an Alito confirmation is both "check" AND "mate"

i was glad to read the previous post by skadi... she's a real scrapper and after the post i made just prior to hers, "I'm discouraged," reading it was a pick-me-up... part of what i find so terribly discouraging is that my fellow citizens generally don't seem to be aware of just how high the stakes are in the deadly game of politics and power that's going on right now in the united states and i don't think i'm overstating when i say i think the game is a deadly one... i am convinced that nothing less than our values, our foundation, our declaration of independence, our bill of rights and our constitution themselves are in jeopardy... i simply don't understand why the media and the citizens of the united states can't see that... once again, robert parry spells it out...
A friend, who’s an astute observer of American journalism, told me recently that there are two real priorities for reporters holding down mainstream media jobs: get the basic facts right (names, ages and such) and never let anyone pin the “liberal” label on you.

That gritty perception was on display in the lead story of the New York Times on Jan. 25 as reporter David D. Kirkpatrick crafted an article about Samuel Alito’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court that bought wholeheartedly into the Republican spin that Democratic opposition to Alito is just politics.

The story is devoid of the constitutional concerns about Alito, such as his role as a chief architect of the radical theory that the President possesses nearly unrestrained power as the “unitary executive” and – in time of war – as Commander in Chief.

Instead of those weighty constitutional issues, New York Times readers got a heavy dose of the Republican view that the Democrats were just trying to score political points with liberal interest groups, even if the Democrats' opportunism threatened congressional comity and non-partisan evaluation of judges.

“Senators turned the occasion (of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote on Alito) into a broader and sometimes heated debate over the rancorous and partisan nature of the confirmation process,” Kirkpatrick wrote. Republicans “said the Democratic opposition to Judge Alito could alter the judicial confirmation process for years to come.”

Power Grab

Jumping from Page One to the story’s continuation on A16, a reader still found nothing about Alito’s controversial views on the “unitary executive,” which would grant George W. Bush extraordinary discretion over enforcing laws and regulations, or on Bush’s “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief.

This Executive power grab has raised alarm among rank-and-file Democrats as well as among some conservatives who fear that Alito could tip the balance of the U.S. Supreme Court in favor of an all-powerful Executive and thus shatter the Founding Fathers’ unique system of checks and balances.

Indeed, if Alito’s theories are followed to their logical conclusion, the American people no longer possess the “unalienable rights” guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but rather their liberties exist only at the forbearance of Bush or a successor, at least as long as the ill-defined War on Terror continues.

this is HUGE, my friends... HUGE... we have the family jewels on the table...

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Not going without a fight

Letter I am sending to my Republican senator, and all the moderate ones as well. Fax!!
I am writing to express to you my deep dismay that you may be about to vote to give away your power as a United States Senator.

Samuel Alito’s views on the theory of the unitary executive should be reason enough for you to vote against his confirmation. With everything that is coming to light with regards to warrantless wire-tapping of American citizens, it is terrifying to me as an American to think that we may be going down a road with no ability to turn back. Not to mention these new “signing statements” that appear to allow the President to determine that laws passed by the House and Senate, laws that apply to every other American, do not apply to him.

Senator, I don’t want this kind of power in any President’s hands, regardless of party. Yet, Samuel Alito supports this unconstitutional assertion that, not only can the president “interpret” the law - a function that is constitutionally mandated to the courts - but also that the Congress is no longer the sole creator of legislation. Rather than veto, this President has chosen instead to put himself above the law, and above the Congress – again, in direct conflict with the idea of co-equal branches of government – legislative (you), judicial (courts), and administrative (President). Judge Alito supports this idea of virtually unlimited, unchecked executive power.

When Judge Alito asserted in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings that “no man is above the law” I was concerned when he was not pressed further on this. Because his interpretation on what the “law” is for the President is vastly different than yours and mine.

The theory of the unitary executive also asserts that all independent agencies, such as the FEC, the EPA, the SEC, etc, would come under control of the Executive Branch and that Congress has no power to create such agencies.

As your constituent, and as a fellow American, I implore you. Vote NO on Samuel Alito’s nomination to the Supreme Court. This is not a matter of party ideology. This is a matter of what it means to be an American and preserving the delicate balance and separation of powers, so skillfully set in place by our founders, which is truly under siege.

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I'm discouraged

i keep looking for news that will cheer me up and i'm not seeing any... alito appears to be on the fast track to confirmation and we may very likely have a new supreme court justice by tomorrow morning... the bush administration continues to defend illegal spying activity and there is no end to it in sight... stories of torture, secret prisons and extraordinary rendition keep cropping up... the unitary executive theory, interpretive signing statements, the unfettered power of the president as commander in chief during time of endless war are all greeted with outrage by many but continue on, unabated... the environment deteriorates as health care costs and the number of people unable to afford health care coverage rise exponentially... i could go on and on but i would only succeed in heaping despair on top of discouragement... the only thing i see that can stem this terrible tide sweeping away most of everything we hold dear is cleaning house... the present administration and all of its supporters have to go... that is the - probably absurd - hope i hold in my heart...

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More from Juan Cole: Bush and Cheney's top ten errors in Iraq

somewhat lengthy but well worth reading...

Because they exaggerate the scale of the conflict, and because they use it cynically, Bush and Cheney have grossly mismanaged the struggle against al-Qaeda and Muslim radicalism after September 11. Here are their chief errors:

1. Bush vastly exaggerates al-Qaeda's size, sweep and importance, while failing to invest in genuine counterterrorist measures such as port security or security for US nuclear plants.

2. Bush could have eradicated the core al-Qaeda group by putting resources into the effort in 2002. He did not, leaving al-Zawahiri and Bin Laden to taunt us, inspire our enemies and organize for years after the Taliban were defeated. It would be as though Truman had allowed Hitler to broadcast calls for terrorism against the US from some hiding place as late as 1949.

3. Bush opened a second front against Iraq before he had put Afghanistan on a sound footing.

4. Bush gutted the US constitution, tossing out the Fourth Amendment, by assiduously spying on Americans without warrants. None of those spying efforts has been shown to have resulted in any security benefits for the United States. Bush says that he wants to watch anyone who calls the phone numbers associated with al-Qaeda. But some of those phone numbers were for food delivery or laundry. We want a judge to sign off on a wire tap so that innocent Americans are not spied on by the government.

5. Bush attempted to associate the threat from al-Qaeda with Iran and Syria. Iran is a fundamentalist Shiite country that hates al-Qaeda. Syria is a secular Arab nationalist country that hates al-Qaeda. Indeed, Syria tortured al-Qaeda operatives for Bush, until Bush decided to get Syria itself. Bush and Cheney have cynically used a national tragedy to further their aggressive policies of Great Power domination.

6. Bush by invading Iraq pushed the Iraqi Sunni Arabs to desert secular Arab nationalism. Four fifths of the Sunni Arab vote in the recent election went to hard line Sunni fundamentalist parties. This development is unprecedented in Iraqi history. Iraqi Sunni Arabs are nationalists, whether secular or religious, and there is no real danger of most of them joining al-Qaeda. But Bush has spread political Islam and has strengthened its influence.

7. Bush diverted at least $1,000,000,000 in US security spending from the counter-terrorism struggle against al-Qaeda to the Iraq debacle, at the same time that he has run up half a trillion dollar annual deficits, contributing to a spike in inflation, harming the US economy, and making the US less effective in counterterrorism.

8. Counterterrorism requires friendly allies and close cooperation. The Bush administration alienated France, Germany and Spain, along with many Middle Eastern nations that had long waged struggles of their own against terrorist groups. Bush is widely despised and has left America isolated in the world. Virtually all the publics of all major nations hate US policy. One poll showed that in secular Turkey where Muslim extremism is widely reviled and Bin Laden is generally disliked, the public preferred Bin Laden to Bush. Bush is widely seen as more dangerous than al-Qaeda. This image is bad for US counterterrorism efforts.

9. Bush transported detainees to torture sites in Eastern Europe. Under European Union laws, both torture and involvement in torture are illegal,and European officials can be tried for these crimes. HOw many European counterterrorism officials will want to work closely with the Americans if, for all they know, this association could end in jail time? Indeed, in Washington it is said that a lot of our best CIA officers are leaving, afraid that they are being ordered to do things that are illegal, and for which they could be tried once another administration comes to power in Washington.

10. Bush's failure to capture Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri allows them to continue to grandstand, to continue to frighten the public, to continue to affect financial markets, and to continue to plot. Al-Zawahiri almost certainly plotted the 7/7 London subway bombings himself, and gloated about it when he issued Muhammad Siddique Khan's suicide statement. Misplaced Bush priorities are getting our allies hit. The CIA is reduced to firing predators at villages because our counterterrorism efforts have been starved for funds by the Iraq quagmire. If al-Qaeda does pull off another American operation, it may well give Bush and Cheney an opportunity to destroy the US constitution altogether, finally giving Bin Laden his long-sought revenge on Americans for the way he believes they have forced Palestinians and other Muslims to live under lawless foreign domination or local tyranny.

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What hath we wrought (in Iraq)...?

whatever it is, it's not going well and we're not going to be happy with the outcome...
Iran’s former President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani told radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr on Monday that the goals of United States-led forces in Iraq were against the demands of the Iraqi people.

Rafsanjani, who currently chairs the State Expediency Council, told firebrand Sadr that the “occupiers” where trying to create division among Iraqi groups because of their fear of a society ruled by the people, the state-run ISNA news agency reported.

“The goals of the occupiers are in contradiction to the wishes of the Iraqi people. By influencing the political events in that country they will try to force their imperialist goals on the future government”, Rafsanjani said, adding that Iraqi groups had a responsibility to work together to thwart the U.S.’s aims.

Rafsanjani said that Tehran was after a free and liberated Iraq under the influence of Islam.

Sadr, who travelled to Tehran over the weekend to meet senior Iranian officials, said during the meeting that the presence of foreign troops in Iraq was contributing to insecurity in the country.

He went on to say that the U.S.-led forces in Iraq were attempting to decrease the influence of religion in Iraqi society. “The Iraqi people want a country run under Islamic rule”, Sadr said.

(thanks to juan cole...)

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The White House caught out with yet MORE LIES

friggin' goddam LIARS... LIARS, LIARS, LIARS... one of the worst natural disasters ever to hit the united states and WE FIND THIS OUT FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE FACT...??? (breathes into paper bag to control hyperventilation)
In the 48 hours before Hurricane Katrina hit, the White House received detailed warnings about the storm's likely impact, including eerily prescient predictions of breached levees, massive flooding, and major losses of life and property, documents show.

A 41-page assessment by the Department of Homeland Security's National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center (NISAC), was delivered by e-mail to the White House's "situation room," the nerve center where crises are handled, at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, the day the storm hit, according to an e-mail cover sheet accompanying the document.

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An Argentinian perspective on Evo Morales

as we americans wallow in the skewed perspective of the u.s. media on bolivia's new president, we also need to be aware of how bolivia's south american neighbors - in this case, argentina - are viewing the "new kid on the block..."
President Néstor Kirchner’s fleeting presence in La Paz last Sunday for the presidential inauguration of his new Bolivian colleague Evo Morales was supremely ambiguous, leaving the future relationship with Bolivia open-ended. On the one hand, Kirchner did make the effort to go (already better than Uruguay’s Tabaré Vázquez) but he minimized his presence to four hours, thus making any direct talks with Morales impossible. This brevity can easily be explained by the anxiety to avoid soroche (altitude sickness) with La Paz 4,000 metres above sea level but with equal ease it could be seen as at best circumspection and at worst a cool and even disrespectful attitude towards the new Bolivian president.

If Kirchner was indifferent, the feeling was mutual. Morales seemed far keener to meet Ricardo Lagos, the outgoing president of historic foe Chile, and United States representative Tom Shannon than Kirchner — while interested in a frontier meeting next month, Morales has not joined Chilean president-elect Michelle Bachelet in pledging to make Argentina his first trip abroad. On the positive side, Morales has abandoned his all-out resistance to natural gas exports from a couple of years ago but this only leads to the billion-dollar question: At what price?

Although it might seem counter to all logic, Argentina has little choice but to start multiplying its gas purchases from Bolivia precisely when Bolivia is seeking to multiply the price — buying under four percent of current gas needs from Bolivia, Argentina will have to import at least a quarter of its gas in a very near future if it is not to exhaust its own reserves and Bolivia (with at least 100 years of reserves) is by far the cheapest source. Argentina’s only hope is to pay for the gas in kind rather than cash (offering food and technology in exchange for energy imports, as already agreed with Venezuela) but buying Bolivian gas at far steeper prices seems unavoidable — as does tension with the new Bolivian government.

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Allegations have named Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria as hosts to secret detention centers

hey, guess where i am right now...? and guess where i'm going in a week and a half...?
A European human rights investigator said on Tuesday there was evidence the United States had "outsourced" torture to other countries and it was likely that European governments knew about it.

But Swiss senator Dick Marty, who heads an investigation by the Council of Europe human rights watchdog, said he had not uncovered any irrefutable evidence to confirm allegations that the CIA operated secret detention centers in Europe.

His remarks, in a preliminary report, kept pressure on the CIA and European governments over allegations that the U.S. intelligence agency flew prisoners through airports in Europe to jails in third countries where they may have been tortured.

"There is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing of torture'," Marty said in his initial report into the allegations for the 46-nation Council, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

[...]

The allegations have named Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria as hosts to secret detention centers. No country has acknowledged playing any active role in the network.

i'm in bulgaria until february 3 when i go to macedonia until february 12... anything you want me to look at while i'm in the area...?

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Robert Parry writes on "the end of unalienable rights"

welcome to the "new" america... if alito is confirmed, it will be a done deal...
Every American school child is taught that in the United States, people have “unalienable rights,” heralded by the Declaration of Independence and enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. Supposedly, these liberties can’t be taken away, but they are now gone.

Today, Americans have rights only at George W. Bush’s forbearance. Under new legal theories – propounded by Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito and other right-wing jurists – Bush effectively holds all power over all Americans.

He can spy on anyone he wants without a court order; he can throw anyone into jail without due process; he can order torture or other degrading treatment regardless of a new law enacted a month ago; he can launch wars without congressional approval; he can assassinate people whom he deems to be the enemy even if he knows that innocent people, including children, will die, too.

Under the new theories, Bush can act both domestically and internationally. His powers know no bounds and no boundaries.

Bush has made this radical change in the American political system by combining what his legal advisers call the “plenary” – or unlimited – powers of the Commander in Chief with the concept of a “unitary executive” in control of all laws and regulations.

Yet, maybe because Bush’s assertion of power is so extraordinary, almost no one dares connect the dots. After a 230-year run, the “unalienable rights” – as enunciated by Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and the Founding Fathers – are history.

The Justice Department spelled out Bush’s latest rationale for his new powers on Jan. 19 in a 42-page legal analysis defending Bush’s right to wiretap Americans without a warrant.

Bush’s lawyers said the congressional authorization to use force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks “places the President at the zenith of his powers” and lets him use that authority domestically as well as overseas. [NYT, Jan. 20, 2006]

According to the analysis, the “zenith of his powers” allows Bush to override both the requirements of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against searches and seizures without court orders, and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a special secret court to approve spying warrants inside the United States.

In its legal analysis, the Justice Department added, “The president has made clear that he will exercise all authority available to him, consistent with the Constitution, to protect the people of the United States.”

While the phrase “consistent with the Constitution” sounds reassuring to many Americans, what it means in this case is that Bush believes he has unlimited powers as Commander in Chief to do whatever he deems necessary in the War on Terror.

Since the War on Terror is a vague concept – unlike other wars the United States has fought – there also is no expectation that Bush’s usurpation of traditional American freedoms is just a short-term necessity. Instead it is a framework for future governance.

bend over, folks... this is our new reality...

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Morales is going to bring great changes to Bolivia...

let's hope and pray they are both the good changes and the right changes... i certainly wish him the best...
With his left fist in the air and his right hand on his chest, Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, promised to recuperate the country's natural resources and to undertake drastic measures to uproot corruption in order to "save" Bolivia.

The leader of the leftist Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) predicted in his inaugural address Sunday the start of 500 years of government under indigenous rule, as a change from 500 years of struggle against colonialism and neo-colonialism.

"Under Morales, today marks the start of indigenous leadership on the continent, to tell the world that an end to discrimination has come with the government of native peoples," Vice-President Álvaro García told a rally in the downtown San Francisco plaza in La Paz, where Bolivians were celebrating with traditional Andean and Amazon jungle folk music after the inauguration ceremony in Congress.

Around a dozen heads of state and government attended the inauguration ceremony, including presidents Néstor Kirchner of Argentina, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, Alejandro Toledo of Peru and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, as well as Crown Prince Felipe of Spain.

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos also paid a historic visit to Bolivia, to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Bolivia and Chile broke off diplomatic ties in 1978 after negotiations over Bolivia's demand for an outlet to the Pacific Ocean collapsed.

Bolivia was left landlocked when it was defeated by Chile in the 1879-1884 War of the Pacific.

Morales warmly expressed his gratitude for the visit by Lagos, the first Chilean president to attend an inaugural ceremony in Bolivia in 51 years.

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Reverse Industrial Revolution

Anyone remember the old anecdote about Henry Ford supplying his workers with enough salary so they could afford their own Model T? This was a fudamental element to the success of the industrial revolution, not to mention the Ford Motor Co; the emergence of a new working class, that both supplied and consumed the products it made. In theory, if workers were given a good salary, along with life sustaining benefits, like health care, retirement, etc..they would remain lifelong loyal employees and customers, continuing the positive feedback loop. Flash to today. The worlds largest employer pays its workers the minimum the law will allow in any given location, (no extra frills like overtime, health care, retirement), to drive down costs to consumers who in turn become more and more reliant on the singular low prices of their employer. We have effectively reversed the direction of the feedback loop. At the center of this vast, sucking vortex lies Walmart.

This week, Andrew Leonard of Salon.com describes some of the side effects Walmartification has on the worlds econonmy...including...

1) The low low price of North Atlantic Salmon grown in Pacific Chilean sea cages.

2) Disturbing results, (made more disturbing by the fact that they are unpublished), from a 2003 study conducted by the state of Georgia which shows that 1 in 4 children of Walmart employees are enrolled in that states Peach Care for Kids health care program.

3) A bill wiped out by Republican lawmakers that sought to broaden the scope of these studies to include all major employers in Georgia.

Question. Can Republican lawmakers continue to push privitisation of health care while dodging bullets like these from concerned and organized citizens?

Piece of advice. Kids, dont get sick. - Toby ManDrake

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Betrayal

That's the theme of two articles I read over at Alternet this morning.

First up, Jim Hightower speaks to the betrayal of the middle class by corporate America, with special emphasis on GM.
Today's corporate leadership is playing with fire. The elites are so focused on enriching themselves -- knocking down the workaday majority's wages and benefits in order to grab more of the nation's wealth, for example, and getting Bush to keep piling on the tax giveaways for the rich at the expense of everyone else -- that they have become blind to the looming threat that their avarice poses to the social order and to their own well-being. Until recently, the Wal-Mart model has been taking advantage of low-skilled, low-income workers, but moving that model upward to autos, steel, high-tech, and other industries ensnares highly skilled middle-income workers. There's a big difference between holding people down and knocking them down. Middle-class working families are people who've had a slice of the American pie -- and for them to be told now that their slice will be taken from them and their children is not merely to shred the social contract and throw it in their faces, but to dissolve the social glue that holds our big, sprawling, brawling country together. It's the betrayal of the middle class. And, as Robert Paulk put it, "This is the thing that revolutions are made of." The elites who are so smugly dismissing middle-class wages and benefits as "excessive" will not be able to build walls and gates high enough to stem the tide of anger coming at them.

Next, John Walker Lindh's dad breaks his four year silence. His story will stun you.
John was discovered among the 86 survivors of this massacre in the basement of the building, and he instantly became an international sensation. He was quickly dubbed the "American Taliban" in Newsweek magazine which initially broke the story. The coverage from the beginning was overwhelmingly negative and prejudicial, and falsely linked John with terrorism. After the prisoners emerged from the basement of the fortress, they were taken to Sheberghen -- a town nearby -- for medical treatment. They were all starving, they had nothing to eat the entire week. They were suffering from exposure, and pretty much all of them were wounded, including John.

John Walker Lindh is delivered to the US military. All manner of hilarity ensue.
Upon his capture, John was quickly transferred from Dostum's custody to the custody of the U.S. military. I would have thought at that point that John was in safe hands, and John himself thought the same thing because he said so in a brief letter that he dictated to the Red Cross who visited him that first day. But an order, emanating directly from Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, instructed the U.S. military to "take the gloves off" in the questioning of John Lindh.

Rumsfeld's order is documented in a letter that was provided to John's lawyers by the prosecutors, and it also has been reported as a front-page story in the L.A. Times. I do not want to dwell here on the military's mistreatment of my son, but I will say categorically that he was treated in a way that is shameful to our nation and its ideals. John's bullet wound was left festering and untreated; he was blindfolded and bound hand and foot with tight plastic strips that caused severe pain. He was stripped naked and duct-taped and, in this condition, blindfolded, bound naked to a stretcher and then left in the cold in an unheated metal shipping container on the desert floor in Afghanistan.

After one initial visit, the Red Cross was denied any further access to John. The letters I wrote to John through the Red Cross were never delivered to him. All of this conduct was in violation of the Geneva Conventions of war. It was beyond what any civilized nation should tolerate. Yet, despite the fact that the torture and abuse of John Lindh was fully disclosed in the press, there was no outcry here in the United States, so strong was the emotion at that time against this young man.

What I find most troubling about this treatment, however, was that it was completely gratuitous and unnecessary. John Lindh did not need to be tortured in order to tell American forces what he knew, where he had been and what he had seen. He was glad to be rescued, he had nothing to hide. I cannot fathom why the military would have felt it necessary to humiliate him in this way.

The American Press and our politicians pile on. Frank Lindh touches on the fact that the government's original 11 charges were reduced to one with this comment:
The one charge that John pleaded guilty to was providing assistance to the Taliban government in violation of the economic sanctions that President Clinton had imposed.

I think it's clear that the government really had to stretch to find any criminal statute that John's conduct had actually violated. But for that one offense, and because he carried a weapon in the commission of the offense, John has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison, and he's serving that sentence now in Southern California.

Finally...
As I tell law students when I speak with them about John's case, the Constitution of the United States does not live in a vault at the National Archives, the Constitution lives in our hearts, and it's up to us as people to maintain the values embedded in the Constitution. We cannot trust the politicians and the media to do the job for us.

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Monday, January 23, 2006

Cruisin' the Blogs, Bulgaria edition

The "great experiment" continues...!

This week, I'm doing the show from Sofia, Bulgaria. I'll be doing the show from Bulgaria Tuesday through Friday for the next two weeks and then Tuesday through Friday, February 7 - 10, from Skopje, Macedonia. Cruisin' the Blogs will be back on its regular schedule beginning Valentine's Day, February 14.

The line-up for Monday/Tuesday, January 23/24, is a good one.

  • James Wolcott writes for Vanity Fair magazine. He uses words the way surgeons use scalpels and everyone who reads him says the same thing - they'd NEVER want to get on his bad side. He also publishes his own weblog titled, oddly enough, James Wolcott. Wolcott shares his thoughts with us today on the recent audio tape from Osama bin Laden.
  • Amanda at the Think Progress weblog catches the Bush White House in a lie about Jack Abramoff - AND PROVES IT!
  • Another post at Think Progress, this time by Judd, speculates on whether the photos of George Bush and Jack Abramoff that have popped up recently at both the Washingtonian and Time Magazine might have come from Abramoff himself.
  • Molly Ivins, one of my favorite columnists who writes on politics, Texas and other bizarre happenings, has a post today on the Alternet website. To say that she is unhappy with Democrats would be an understatement.
  • Fred Phelps, the pastor of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, has become notorious for his hate-based ranting against gays, even going to far as to lead his flock to demonstrate at the funeral of Matthew Shephard, the young gay man who was beaten to death in Laramie, Wyoming. They stood outside the church chanting, "Matthew is going to hell" if you can believe it. Pam at the weblog Pandagon takes a look at Phelps latest crusade.
  • The Washington Note's Steve Clemons, a very solid and informed blogger who we've featured several times here on Cruisin' the Blogs, is back with some disturbing information about what's taking place that may be potentially be laying the groundwork for U.S. military action against Iran.
"Cruisin' the Blogs" is my daily blog review radio show airing on WBAT (Buenos Aires Today), an internet radio station in Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can listen Monday through Friday, 11-12 in the morning, Argentina time (9-10 a.m., U.S. eastern time and 2 p.m. UTC). The program repeats at 10-11 p.m., Argentina time. WBAT is the first english language radio station in Argentina.



Be sure to listen at:

http://www.batodayradio.com.ar/vivobsas.htm

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New contributor - toby mandrake

i'd like to announce and personally welcome toby mandrake as a contributor to this blog, joining skadi and me in bringing - hopefully - insightful and interesting views to our small but loyal audience... i think you'll find that toby is a fresh, articulate voice and i'm looking forward to his contributions... toby also regularly joins me on my blog review show, "cruisin' the blogs," that airs weekdays on the internet radio station, wbat, in buenos aires, argentina... welcome, toby...!

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The 42 pg justification of warrantless spying is MORE disturbing

yep, the wapo nails it... every time bushco shows more of its hand, there's more reason to feel very, very nervous...
The most detailed legal justification to date for the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic surveillance has emerged from the Bush administration, but the 42-page version isn't any more convincing than its shorter predecessors. In some ways -- particularly in its broad conception of presidential power in wartime -- it is more disturbing.

ya know what will be REALLY, REALLY disturbing...? an alito confirmation...

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Bit by bit, the truth about detainee torture comes out

eventually, bit by bit, we're going to get to the truth and the truth is that the torture and detainee abuse was authorized and communicated from the top down...
Stepping into the Abu Ghraib prison for the first time, Megan Ambuhl was stunned. There were naked men in dusty cells, male prisoners wearing women's underwear, others hooded and shackled in contorted positions to metal railings.

An enlisted officer giving her a tour of the U.S. facility in October 2003 pointed to a group of detainees chained to a cell. He said the bars had often "been decorated like a Christmas tree," with prisoners as ornaments.

[...]

She described a "roster board" that included which military intelligence "treatment" to give to certain detainees and said trainers from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, taught the MPs how to put detainees in "stress positions." She said military intelligence officials told them to keep detainees naked, embarrass them or make them exercise until they reached exhaustion.

"We were told to handcuff people in uncomfortable positions, to put people on [Meals Ready to Eat] boxes, to pour cold water on them, to make them do physical training," said Ambuhl, who worked the night shift on Tier 1B. "We did what we were told to do."

of course... they "did what they were told to do..."

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OUCH! Molly Ivins lays it on the line for the Dems: "Put up or shut up!"

she pulls no punches on this one... every paragraph lands a haymaker... i'll only give you a few short snippets to tease you into reading the whole thing...

  • I will not support Hillary Clinton for president.
  • Enough. Enough triangulation, calculation and equivocation. Enough clever straddling, enough not offending anyone.
  • There are times when regular politics will not do, and this is one of those times. There are times a country is so tired of bull that only the truth can provide relief.
  • Who are you afraid of?
  • Can't you even read the damn polls?
  • Oh come on, people -- get a grip on the concept of leadership.
  • You sit there in Washington so frightened of the big, bad Republican machine that you have no idea what people are thinking.
  • Do it all, go long, go for public campaign financing for Congress. I'm serious as a stroke about this -- that is the only reform that will work, and you know it, as well as everyone else who's ever studied this.
  • Bush, Cheney and Co. will continue to play the patriotic bully card just as long as you let them.
  • The minute someone impugns your patriotism for opposing this war, turn on them like a snarling dog and explain what loving your country really means.
  • If the Washington-based party can't get up and fight, we'll find someone who can.
you go, girl...

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The rich get richer and the U.S. Treasury loses tons of natural resources royalty revenue

but why in the world would bushco want to reduce the deficit by $700M if it would mean reducing the unbelievable windfall profits of big oil...?
At a time when energy prices and industry profits are soaring, the federal government collected little more money last year than it did five years ago from the companies that extracted more than $60 billion in oil and gas from publicly owned lands and coastal waters.

If royalty payments in fiscal 2005 for natural gas had risen in step with market prices, the government would have received about $700 million more than it actually did, a three-month investigation by The New York Times has found.

take comfort in the fact that this administration can be implicitly trusted - to continue to stuff the pockets of the already-staggeringly wealthy with even more money...

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Can you hear the drums of war beating over Iran...? Sure you can...! Just listen...

as he often does, steve clemons has the goods...
Monday morning, 9:30 a.m., in SC-6 of the U.S. Capitol, war-profiteer and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey will be joined by former RNC Spokesman and President for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies President Clifford May and Arizona Senator (and staunch supporter of the recess appointed John Bolton) Jon Kyl to help roll out public opinion research that allegedly states that Americans support military action against Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program.

Some may try and laugh this off -- but it's no funny matter.

James Woolsey successfully master-minded the mass communication fiction that Saddam Hussein was connected to the 9/11/2001 al Qaeda attacks in New York and Washington by alleging that connection on major news stations on the day America was under siege. And while connecting Iraq to America's new terror problem, Woolsey failed to disclose that he was assisting his legal client Ahmed Chalabi who had everything to gain from a war against terror that included Iraq.

Woolsey & Co. are at it again on Iran.

From the press advisory:
As President Bush prepares to deliver his sixth State of the Union address (Jan. 31), the CPD (Committee on the Present Danger) will release a new Iran Policy Paper calling for stronger actions to prevent Iran -- ruled by the most radical regime in the Middle East and a long-time sponsor of international terrorism -- from acquiring nuclear weapons. The paper will argue that it is time to impose tough economic sanctions and to take action to promote regime change in Iran.

FDD (Foundation for Defense of Democracies) will release new polling data from Public Opinion Strategies showing that an overwhelming majority of Americans strongly opposes Iran's development of nuclear weapons. In addition, most Americans would support the U.S. joining with other countries to initiate "a limited military action to destroy Iran's ability to make nuclear weapons."

What is fundamentally disturbing about Woolsey's move is that they coincide with other movement.

I cannot validate the accuracy of a report I have -- but with the caveat that this may be erroneous information -- TWN has been told that senior Congressional leaders, including senior Democratic officials, were given a top secret briefing on Tuesday, 17 January, on potential military options against Iran. No Congressional leaders have publicly stated that they received such a briefing, but others close to the intelligence community have conveyed that information to TWN.

This briefing date coincides with Secretary of State Rice's meetings with European officials over next steps to take with Iran.

Another disturbing part of the brewing Iran problem is a classified Air Force bombing study that allegedly reports that it is possible for an American bombing campaign to destroy and/or incapacitate 85% of Iran's nuclear program.

bush and the gang are already war criminals and they're by god trying to lead us down the road again... a la the bastille, why aren't we charging the white house with rakes and hoes and hounding the bastards out of office...?

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The "real risk" is in voting FOR Alito

the nyt gets it, why don't our senators...?
The White House has tried to create an air of inevitability around this nomination. But there is no reason to believe that Judge Alito is any more popular than the president who nominated him.

[...]

The real risk for senators lies not in opposing Judge Alito, but in voting for him. If the far right takes over the Supreme Court, American law and life could change dramatically. If that happens, many senators who voted for Judge Alito will no doubt come to regret that they did not insist that Justice O'Connor's seat be filled with someone who shared her cautious, centrist approach to the law.

like i've been saying repeatedly, alito may not only be the most dangerous supreme court nominee in u.s. history but, given his support of unfettered excutive power, may be the biggest constitutional threat this country has ever faced...

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Media Matters offers an outstanding comparative analysis of Clinton/Lewinsky vs. NSA spying coverage

read it with coffee in hand and a blood-pressure cuff nearby...

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SMEAR ALERT: Harry Belafonte

anybody wanna place bets on how long before the smear attack squad lets fly with their stink bombs...? poor harry's just askin' for it...
Entertainer Harry Belafonte, one of the Bush administration's harshest critics, compared the Homeland Security Department to the Nazi Gestapo on Saturday and attacked the president as a liar.

"We've come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended," Belafonte said in a speech to the annual conference of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters.

"You can be arrested and not charged. You can be arrested and have no right to counsel," said Belafonte.

as we know so well, truth-tellers are not taken to kindly by bushco... witness max cleland, john kerry, richard clarke, michael moore and john murtha [commenter says not to forget john mccain], to name just a few among the legions who have had their reputations and personal accomplishments viciously denigrated in public forum...

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Steve Clemons, Jim VandeHei and why I'm a blogger

steve clemons, the publisher of the washington note weblog has my great respect... i follow twn regularly and rarely fail to come away with value added... i do sometimes feel, however, that steve's shoes may be tied a little too tight... the following comes from his post describing friday's washington post online political discussion with jim vandehei, wapo's white house correspondent, in which blogs and bloggers - with the exception of twn - got roundly dissed...
In the early part of discussion, a reader asked VandeHei what sources he uses to "get his news":
Baton Rouge, La.: Jim - as a reporter, where do you go to get your news? You're obviously well-informed about the topics that you cover and you gather a lot of information yourself, but do you utilize other newspapers and blogs to get information as well?
Jim VandeHei: we get our information from taking to sources, reading other publications and sifting through records or documents. I do not find blogs a useful source of information.

The comment that VandeHei is not into blogs got some riled up. However, I think that he has highly valid concerns about the still un-evolved standards in blog journalism and commentary.

Here is the exchange:
Rochester, N.Y.: "I do not find blogs a useful source of information" Boy are you out of touch.
Jim VandeHei: I hope I am not out of touch. Blogs, or at least those I have read, seem to react more to what we write.

There are a few exceptions where bloggers are acting as serious reporters and digging up information. Steve Clemons, who writes The Washington Note, comes to mind as one source of information on national security matters I might not find elsewhere. Unfortunately, I also find a lot of misinformation on other blogs.

There are other bloggers out there that work hard at adding value to their published product -- and who do some very good investigative journalism -- but they are few.

i can only speak for myself, but i am blogging for two reasons and two reasons only... one, i think the u.s. is in the midst of the most serious threat to its constitution and its integrity as a nation it has ever experienced and rather than sitting on my ass, fuming, i am giving voice to my deep concerns by publishing a weblog... quite frankly, mr. vandehei, i really could care less about reacting to what you write... i care much more about discerning patterns in news and events and i will seek the pieces of those patterns wherever i can find them... are bloggers reactionary...? oh, hell, yes, but i trust my own intelligence and instincts to separate the wheat from the chaff... are traditional journalists providing us with the real news and information we so desperately need...? damn little, i'm sorry to say, which brings me to the second reason why i started and continue to maintain my weblog...

by publishing the patterns that i'm seeing emerge along with my - admittedly - biased personal commentary, if i can help enlighten even one person, i will consider it a job well done... i make no pretense of investigative journalism nor do i make a case for exposing new and earth-shattering information... but, by laying out the bits and pieces of what's going on, a pattern emerges expressed by what i choose to pay attention to... i believe i am offering the pieces of a puzzle that, when assembled, reveals an increasingly horrifying picture of a country descending into fascism...

and as for "the still un-evolved standards in blog journalism and commentary," gimme a break... it's the goddam EVOLVED standards that have led us to the current sorry state of the traditional media, steve... i say, if what we have out there now represents evolution, i don't want it...

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Day laborers getting screwed on money, safety and probably many other ways as well

and we would be surprised because...?
The first nationwide study on day laborers has found that such workers are a nationwide phenomenon, with 117,600 people gathering at more than 500 hiring sites to look for work on a typical day.

The survey found that three-fourths of day laborers were illegal immigrants and that more than half said employers had cheated them on wages in the previous two months.

The study found that 49 percent of day laborers were employed by homeowners and 43 percent by construction contractors. They were found to be employed most frequently as construction laborers, landscapers, painters, roofers and drywall installers.

The study, based on interviews with 2,660 workers at 264 hiring sites in 20 states and the District of Columbia, found that day laborers earned a median of $10 an hour and $700 month. The study said that only a small number earned more than $15,000 a year.

The professors who conducted the study said the most surprising finding was the pervasiveness of wage violations and dangerous conditions that day laborers faced.

if bush and his posse have their way - and it may come sooner than we think - we will ALL be day laborers... to some extent, i already am, although admittedly in a quite different category... i live from contract to contract... i have no health care insurance (other than from the veterans administration - and i'm damn grateful for THAT, i can tell you) and, in fact, have no employee benefits whatsoever because i'm not an employee... while i seek and obtain work via email in the comfort of my home rather than standing on a street corner and earn more than the day laborers described in the article (although not as much more as you would think), i am nonetheless paid on a daily rate and am subject to the vagaries of both employers and economic cycles... and, yes, while i could again seek work and return to the corporate sector, i have chosen not to out of a desire to save my soul from a premature death... but, make no mistake, i'm not that far from their situation and, if george has anything to do with it, neither are you...

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Alito confirmation... Bushco's endgame...?

oh, god, i hope not... my gut tells me that our country is in extremely serious trouble and that, with an alito confirmation, we may just be seeing bushco's endgame...
If confirmed, Samuel Alito and his theory of a near-dictatorial "unitary executive" could doom the American democratic Republic and make George W. Bush a strongman with no meaningful checks and balances. With the fate of the U.S. Constitution in the balance, it's hard to believe that no senator is prepared to filibuster Alito's nomination. But even if there's only one senator brave enough to grab the floor and explain the stakes to the American people, one might be enough to start a national political rebirth.

please, can we have a serious conversation, not only about stopping the alito confirmation, but about throwing those criminal bastards out of office before it's too late...? please...?

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