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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 07/23/2006 - 07/30/2006
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, July 29, 2006

This is REALLY bad news

what the bloody hell does bush think he's trying to do...? never mind... we ALL know what he's trying to do... it used to be called totalitarianism... bush would like you to think it's democracy... without mincing words, it's bullshit and has no place in the united states of america...
U.S. citizens suspected of terror ties might be detained indefinitely and barred from access to civilian courts under legislation proposed by the Bush administration, say legal experts reviewing an early version of the bill.

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Saturday photoblogging... When in Belgrade, look UP...!

because you just might miss some very cool sights if you don't...

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Hello, WaPo...! You suck and, besides, it ain't over until the fat lady sings...

the wapo editorial, in typical parroting of the standard u.s. line, insists on declaring amlo the loser BEFORE the elections institute renders its decision, and then adds insult to injury by accusing amlo of being "anti-democracy," in the wapo's mind, clearly an accusation right up there with exposing yourself to little children on the playground...
An Anti-Democracy Campaign

Andres Manuel López Obrador's attempt to win Mexico's presidential election with populist promises and posturing was a failure: He repelled Mexicans who don't want their country to drop out of the 21st century, blew a large lead in the polls and ended up losing by a narrow margin to Felipe Calderón.

reading shit like this pisses me off so bad... at least i have some perspective with which to decide for myself rather than having my head filled with propagandistic drivel calculated to make me see amlo as a horned demon... too bad that a lot of readers will take it at face value...

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"Either the poor win this time or we all lose."

the right words... let's see it happen... (alan garcia takes office in peru...)

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A first time for everything (oh, and btw, to HELL with Amex Travel!)...

i'm blogging on a lufthansa flight from munich to jfk, currently over ireland... the service isn't cheap but it's not outrageous either and the connection is decent...

unfortunately, leaving belgrade earlier this afternoon, i had the same problem i had when leaving the states two weeks ago - a reservation but no retrievable e-ticket info... when leaving the states, i was able to get it fixed... leaving belgrade, i couldn't and ended up buying another ticket to the tune of over 1700 euros... this is the first time i've used american express travel for nearly 20 years and i didn't do it by choice... it will be the LAST time and they WILL be getting an earful from me on monday...

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A new offensive against the courts - especially frightening

there is nothing this administration does that gives me the least bit of comfort or cause for optimism... each day is darker than the one before...
One big thing we’ve learned from watching President Bush’s assault on the balance of powers is that the federal courts are the only line of defense.


[I]t is especially frightening to see the administration use the debates over the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and domestic spying to mount a new offensive against the courts.

  • Wiretapping ... the interception of Americans’ international phone calls and e-mail. ... the administration knows the Supreme Court is unlikely to endorse this nonsense. So it has agreed with the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter, on a bill that is a mockery of judicial process.
  • Prisoners ... [The Supreme Court] rejected Mr. Bush’s notion that he could decide which people deserved civilized treatment and which did not. (Keep in mind that the majority of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay are either low-level Taliban soldiers captured in Afghanistan or innocents turned over to American troops in return for money.)
The court said Congress had to draft a law covering the prisoners that conformed to American standards of justice and to international law. But Congress had barely started hearings before the White House began circulating its own bill, which would simply endorse what Mr. Bush did rather than trying to overcome the court’s objections.

the last bastion of defense against unobstructed executive power, and bushco is pulling out all the stops to render it impotent...

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The Syrian ambassador to the U.S. moonlights as the Maytag repairman

bushco's ship of fools sails right along, deliberately ignoring the iceberg dead ahead...
Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, has not had a single meeting with any senior Bush administration official in a year and half. Even in the current crisis, his phone does not ring."


[T]he White House has made no calls to reopen a dialogue with Syria on resolving the crisis, Moustapha said, nor has the State Department. With no movement toward a significant dialogue with the government, Moustapha engages in public diplomacy to take his nation's case to America.

He addresses university audiences about once a month. He counts off the members of Congress he has met. Business leaders are on his weekly schedule. His is a common face on television, especially the Sunday morning talk shows.

talk with Syria...? what on earth for...?

(thanks to raw story...)

however, even the loathsome robert novak thinks talking to syria might not be a bad idea...

We have to set down at the table with Syria. Syria has influence over Hezbollah. Syrians are not very nice people. We don't like them but they want to be involved in this and it seems that you can't have a negotiated settlement, you can't have a ceasefire by saying, "We want a ceasefire." There has to be negotiations and, that, I think is going to be the test for Secretary Rice in the next weeks to come.

condi may be able to pass the ferragamo shoes style test but she screwed up big-time on the diplomacy exam and i doubt seriously that she's going to be able to cram enough in the next few weeks to pass the make-up...

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Hating America - pump up the jam

where's karen hughes when you really need her...?
The latest poll by the Beirut Center found that 8 percent of Lebanese feel the US supports Lebanon, down from 38 percent in January. […]

“Look what America gives us, bombs and missiles,” says [Ghassan Farran, a doctor and head of a local cultural organization]. “I was never a political person and never with Hizbullah but now after this I am with Hizbullah.”

Analysts have noted that as the crisis grows, it “strengthens anti-Americanism worldwide and fuels radicalism in the Arab and Muslim world.” Assessing Arab media coverage, one found that in “the last few days, the main trend has been unmistakable: an increasing focus on the United States as the villain” of the conflict.

she oughta be making speeches all over beirut about how the season of hell unleashed on lebanon by israel with the tacit support of the united states is really for their own good and they'll thank us for it later...

(thanks to think progress...)

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Friday, July 28, 2006

Ahora marchamos, mañana votamos

go read jeralyn's thoughts on why no immigration bill might be the best course of action...

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An "obscure" law...? Maybe it shouldn't be...

where, oh where, oh where-o, is the goddam accountability...? looks like it might have been found, but now bushco wants to gut it... and we are not surprised at all, are we...?
An obscure law approved by a Republican-controlled Congress a decade ago has made the Bush administration nervous that officials and troops involved in handling detainee matters might be accused of committing war crimes, and prosecuted at some point in U.S. courts.

Senior officials have responded by drafting legislation that would grant U.S. personnel involved in the terrorism fight new protections against prosecution for past violations of the War Crimes Act of 1996. That law criminalizes violations of the Geneva Conventions governing conduct in war and threatens the death penalty if U.S.-held detainees die in custody from abusive treatment.

In light of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the international Conventions apply to the treatment of detainees in the terrorism fight, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales has spoken privately with Republican lawmakers about the need for such "protections," according to someone who heard his remarks last week.

"protections..." i am so unbelievably sick and tired of these spin-crafted euphemisms that make getting away scot-free with torture and murder sound almost legit...

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The rise of Hezbollah

Hezbollah supporters in Cairo

so much for the "birth-pangs" of a new, democratic middle east...

[W]ith hundreds of Lebanese dead and Hezbollah holding out against the vaunted Israeli military for more than two weeks, the tide of public opinion across the Arab world is surging behind the organization, transforming the Shiite group’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, into a folk hero and forcing a change in official statements.

The Saudi royal family and King Abdullah II of Jordan, who were initially more worried about the rising power of Shiite Iran, Hezbollah’s main sponsor, are scrambling to distance themselves from Washington.

and, as i've pointed out before, when richard armitage speaks, it behooves us to listen...

(thanks to think progress...)
Richard Armitage dramatically broke ranks with his neoconservative allies yesterday, saying in a radio interview that he feared it was impossible to eliminate Hezbollah through airstrikes, and that by attempting to do so, “you’re going to end up empowering Hezbollah, and perhaps introducing an element into the body politic in Lebanon that will take some great period of time to recover from.” Armitage also criticized the Bush administration for refusing to talk directly to Syria.

george doesn't want to talk to ANYBODY except those who agree with him and/or kiss his ass...

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A cardinal error

krugman's nyt op-ed, A Reign of Error, contains a seriously flawed assumption...

(courtesy of atrios...)
Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?

tsk, tsk, tsk... a democratic nation with a free press...? no, no, no... that may be what we'd LIKE to think, but it's just not the case...

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Justifying barbarism academically

the tortured logic and extreme rationalization for causing yet more human beings to die...
Hominus sacres, those without rights who can be killed without it being called the murder of a human, homicide.

- Philosopher Giorgio Agamben

Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon proclaimed: “Everyone who is still in south Lebanon is linked to Hizbullah, we have called on all who are there to leave.” He then suggested that “maximum firepower has to be used.” As justification, he cited the meeting in Rome, from which “we have in effect obtained the authorization to continue our operations until Hisbullah is no longer present in southern Lebanon.”

Look at this logic: since Israel has asked civilians to leave, any that disobeyed have forfeited their status as civilians. Because the United States and its British followers have blocked the resolution to stop the killing, Israel will continue until Hezbollah “is no longer present.” But remember Hezbollah has been redefined to include all those “still in south Lebanon.” This crude logic renders all the people of southern Lebanon hominus sacres.

A serious war crime may be imminent. The responsibility to protect civilians does not end when an invading army asks them to clear out.

this is what happens when barbarity seeks to justify itself via academic discussion...

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Above all, do no harm - the Hippocratic oath and the mental health profession

of all professions that ought to be solidly on record as opposing torture, the mental health profession should be at the top of the list...
The American Psychological Association is under fire from some of its members and other professionals for declaring that it is permissible for psychologists to assist in military interrogations.

An online petition against the group's policy has garnered more than 1,300 signatures from members and other psychologists. Protest forums are being planned for the APA's convention next month in New Orleans. And some members have threatened to withhold dues or quit.

The unrest stems from an APA policy, issued last year, that says that while psychologists should not get involved in torture or other degrading treatment, it is ethical for them to act as consultants to interrogation and information-gathering for national security purposes.

That stand troubles some members of the organization in light of the reported abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

"The issue is being couched as psychologists helping out with national security at the same time that psychologists are opposed to the issue of torture," said Chicago psychologist William Gorman, an APA member who signed the petition and works with refugee survivors of torture. "That stance in the present context appears to me incongruous."

"for national security purposes" is just as big a load of bollocks as an excuse for criminal behavior for psychologists as it is for the gang in the white house... they should be ashamed...

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A callous, insensitive bitch and her loser boss

this entire presidency has been marked by some of the most alarming things i could ever imagine and, astoundingly, they keep getting worse even when i think it's simply not possible...
The Bush foreign policy, from coddling Pakistan's nuclear bomb-making to cheerleading Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip and Lebanon, is in a free fall of such alarming consequence that it may be difficult to grasp.

Certainly that is the case for President Bush, who has been reduced to helplessly hoping the United Nations can get Syria "to stop doing this s---," and for U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who blithely announced Monday that we are just watching the "birth pangs of a new Middle East."

By Rice's logic, Hurricane Katrina was just the labor contractions of the new New Orleans. All the Mideast needs now, apparently, is a nice epidural and some ice chips to suck on.


Any hope that Rice's ascendancy in the Bush administration signaled a more sensible direction for U.S. foreign policy has been exposed as wishful thinking.

let's hope it's the kiss of death for any condi-for-president crapola...

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Complicit in prejudice and bigotry and denying the worth of families

damn straight... oops, i mean... oh, never mind...
The president of the United Church of Christ, an organization made up of Evangelical Christian denominations, has denounced yesterday's Washington State court ruling reaffirming a ban on gay marriage.

"Rather than defending constitutional rights," said Rev. John H. Thomas, general minister and leader of the 1.2-million-member organization, "the court has allowed itself to become complicit in prejudice and bigotry."

"In the name of 'family values,'" he continued, "we have denied the worth of families across our land and in our churches, families marked by love and covenant commitment."

it is totally irrational to attempt to prevent those who have a deep emotional and often spiritual commitment to one another from publicly declaring and formalizing that commitment... this world needs all the love it can get...

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Wow...! The WaPo dumps Bolton...!

didn't see this one coming...
We see little evidence here that Mr. Bolton is good at "working multilaterally." Rather than building support at the United Nations, Mr. Bolton has more often solidified the anti-American coalition. We continue to believe that the president is entitled to the ambassador of his choosing, provided that the nominee is competent and honest. But we can't explain Mr. Voinovich's change of mind, nor why Mr. Bush supposes that this polarizing envoy advances U.S. interests.

good move, wapo... bolton is absolutely the wrong person to represent the united states at the united nations... he was wrong a year ago and he is wrong now... he should not be confirmed...

(thanks to steve clemons at the washington note...)

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Bolton scuttles U.N. resolution on Israel

and then slithers on down to d.c. for his confirmation hearing...
The United States blocked the UN Security Council on Wednesday from issuing a statement that would have condemned Israel's bombing of a UN post on the Lebanon border that killed four military observers overnight Tuesday.

US diplomats refused to comment, and US Ambassador John Bolton was in Washington preparing for a new confirmation hearing before the Senate; however, several diplomats said the United States objected to one paragraph, which said the council "condemns any deliberate attack against UN personnel and emphasizes that such attacks are unacceptable."

Earlier Wednesday, UN officials said that the UN observers in Lebanon had telephoned the IDF 10 times in six hours to ask it to stop shelling near their position.

Jane Lute, assistant secretary-general for peacekeeping, told the UN Security Council in New York that the UN observation post near Khiam came under close IDF fire 21 times Tuesday - including 12 hits within 100 yards and five direct hits - until the peacekeepers' post was destroyed.

WTF...?!?! for god's sake... is u.s. support for israel so single-minded and blind that it can obstruct something so clearly warranted...? un-friggingly-believable...

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Morale among U.S. troops in Baghdad

apparently is scraping bottom...
Army Staff Sgt. Jose Sixtos considered the simple question about morale for more than an hour. But not until his convoy of armored Humvees had finally rumbled back into the Baghdad military base, and the soldiers emptied the ammunition from their machine guns, and passed off the bomb-detecting robot to another patrol, did he turn around in his seat and give his answer.

"Think of what you hate most about your job. Then think of doing what you hate most for five straight hours, every single day, sometimes twice a day, in 120-degree heat," he said. "Then ask how morale is."

Frustrated? "You have no idea," he said.

it's gotta be grim, particularly when, despite your best efforts, baghdad citizens are still dying like flies - and you may be next...

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Hail as big as plums...!

yet more evidence of the increasing severity of storms likely related to the increasing speed of global climate change...

Hail in Buenos Aires

i was chatting online with a friend in buenos aires last night and he was telling me about the size of some of those hailstones... it must have been some storm...!
An unusually long hailstorm hit Buenos Aires City with full force yesterday, battering the city with hailstones as big as plums that injured 14 people and caused traffic havoc. Numerous vehicles pulled over to the sides of roads and freeways as the strong storm and heavy fog fell over the city, overflowing mains, breaking windows and denting cars.

Subway and train services were cancelled for well past the end of the 20-minute mid-afternoon storm. Travellers were left to catch slow-moving buses and taxis or to walk through the puddles and stream-like roads once the rain and hail subsided. The Health Ministry reported that most of the hail victims had been hit on the head.

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A polar researcher sets the record straight - it's about the SCIENCE, stupid...!

peter doran offers a fascinating glimpse into how real, hard, rigorous science can be twisted to suit ideological purposes and political agendas... basically what he has written is a case study of the extent to which bushco and its book-burning supporters have gone in pursuit of an ideology not based in reality...
Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the rest of the continent was warming. And climate models created since our paper was published have suggested a link between the lack of significant warming in Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent. These models, conspicuously missing from the warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on ozone-destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An inconvenient truth?

Also missing from the skeptics’ arguments is the debate over our conclusions. Another group of researchers who took a different approach found no clear cooling trend in Antarctica. We still stand by our results for the period we analyzed, but unbiased reporting would acknowledge differences of scientific opinion.

The disappointing thing is that we are even debating the direction of climate change on this globally important continent. And it may not end until we have more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term data that demonstrate a clear trend.

In the meantime, I would like to remove my name from the list of scientists who dispute global warming. I know my coauthors would as well.

Peter Doran is an associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

in the article, he takes jabs at ann coulter and michael crichton, who, as seems to be a habit with the wingers, misquoted and misrepresented doran's work... it's worth reading...

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Is Israel strengthening Hezbollah...?

a legitimate and interesting question...
The continuing Israeli bombing of south Lebanon and south Beirut might just have strengthened the Hezbollah.

The bombings appear particularly to have strengthened the hand of Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic Hezbollah leader.

Hezbollah has over the years gained a strong following in Lebanon primarily on the back of its engagement in social services, taking on infrastructure projects, and looking after its followers. The Israeli assault is giving Hezbollah scope to gain more such power.

Hezbollah now controls, for example, more than half of about 100 schools in Beirut that have been converted into refugee shelters.

"These attacks show the true force of Israel," a young man told IPS at a refugee camp in a city park. "I was with Hezbollah before, but now I want to join them so I can fight the Israelis, who only want our land, and want to attack Islam."

maybe israel is creating another wave of jihadists in lebanon - and very likely throughout the middle east - in much the same way we have sparked a similar response through our actions in iraq...

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One of the best ideas I've heard in a LONG time...!


To let Moyers know what you think of this idea, write him at P.O. Box 309, Bernardsville, NJ 07924...

(from molly ivins via alternet...)

i don't know why i didn't think of it...
Dear desperate Democrats, here's what we do. We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It's simple, cheap and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.

this is so brilliant, it positively shines with its own light... without exaggerating a whit, i would drop everything to go to work to get this man elected...

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Israel not only bombed the U.N. in Lebanon, they bombed it CONTINUOUSLY FOR HOURS...!

and so, the israeli excuse for this would be...?
The UN general secretary, Kofi Annan, today accused the Israeli military of carrying out a sustained bombing of the UN base on the Lebanon-Israel border that culminated in the killing of four unarmed monitors.

Mr Annan said he had suggested to the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, that they carry out a joint investigation into the events that led to the shelling of the "well-established and well marked" Unifil (UN interim force in Lebanon) post in the town of Khiyam.

"I spoke to Mr Olmert and he definitely believes it was a mistake and has expressed his deep sorrow, " Mr Annan told a press conference in Rome.

"But the shelling started in the morning and went on until after 7pm. You cannot imagine the anguish of the unarmed men and women peacekeepers who were there."

so, tell me again how israel is now willing to accept u.n.-sponsored peacekeeping forces in the region...? this is UGLY and isn't going to go away quietly...

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Eric Boehlert on Fox News crossing the line into unadulterated propaganda

it looks like they've given up all pretense of objectivity...
But what's been startling about Fox's overall coverage, and especially the roster of guests it has hosted, is that it obliterates the traditionally tilted American media stance and crosses over into something else entirely. Following Bush's lead of openly picking sides in the Middle East conflict and chucking the notion of acting as an honest broker, FNC has decided there is no 'other side' of the story to report on.

and guess who's coming to the defense of the al jazeera network...? no less than foreign policy magazine...
It is vilified as a propaganda machine and Osama bin Laden’s mouthpiece. In truth, though, Al Jazeera is as hated in the palaces of Riyadh as it is in the White House. But, as millions of loyal viewers already know, Al Jazeera promotes a level of free speech and dissent rarely seen in the Arab world. With plans to go global, it might just become your network of choice.

well, well, well, whaddaya know...

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George Bush and Hugo Chavez: separated at birth

in foreign policy magazine via alternet, javier corrales describes hugo chavez' techniques for holding on to power... what a hoot...
  • Attack Political Parties
  • Polarize Society
  • Spread the Wealth Selectively
  • Allow the Bureaucracy to Decay, Almost
  • Antagonize the Superpower (terrorists, in the case of George Bush)
Ultimately, all authoritarian regimes seek power by following the same principle. They raise society's tolerance for state intervention. Thomas Hobbes, the 17th-century British philosopher, offered some tips for accomplishing this goal. The more insecurity that citizens face -- the closer they come to living in the brutish state of nature -- the more they will welcome state power. Chávez may not have read Hobbes, but he understands Hobbesian thinking to perfection. He knows that citizens who see a world collapsing will appreciate state interventions. Chávez therefore has no incentive to address Venezuela's assorted crises.

george really ought to stop dissing this guy and plan a get-together to compare notes...

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Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and Arlen Specter (cont'd)

this guy has a serious personality disorder... either that, or he is terminally confused on what is actually written in the u.s. constitution... you can't defend it one day and try to gut it the next...
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the 1978 law that regulates domestic wiretapping and searches. The hearing is an effort on the part of committee Chairman Arlen Specter to move along his very dangerous bill... Mr. Specter described his proposal as a compromise with President Bush to ensure judicial review of the NSA program, which he called "a festering sore on our body politic." Yet his legislation would essentially respond to this festering sore by shooting the patient.

"modernizing," used in this context, has to be the most disingenuous and euphemistic word imaginable... "radicalizing," perhaps... "lobotomizing," more likely...

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The world's biggest jinx

Joe Btfsplk *

everything george touches turns to shit...

Six weeks ago, President Bush paid a surprise visit to Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, in Baghdad. American forces had just killed the terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Iraq’s Parliament had just confirmed new ministers to run the army and the police, completing what was billed as a national unity cabinet. Mr. Maliki seized the occasion to announce a major military operation meant to bring security to the people of Baghdad. Mr. Bush took one of his patented looks into the prime minister’s eyes and found a worthy partner.

This week, as Mr. Maliki returns the visit, things feel very different. It seems possible, in fact, that the two men’s brief encounter in Baghdad might turn out to have been the last good moment of the American experience in Iraq.

i'm dating myself by admitting that i not only remember but used to read the li'l abner comic strip regularly...
* Joe Btfsplk is very simply the world's biggest jinx. He walks around with a perpetually dark rain cloud a foot over his head. Once he appears on any scene, dreadfully bad luck befalls anyone in his vicinity.

Though well-meaning and gentle, his reputation inevitably precedes him, so Joe is a very lonely and feared little man.

He is also a character with an apparently unpronounceable name, but creator Al Capp pronounced Btfsplk with a "raspberries" sound, also known as a "Bronx cheer."

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Captain Obvious

Nuri Kamal al-Maliki's visit to the WH yesterday seems to have caused george to have a bgo (blinding glimpse of the obvious)...

"Obviously, the violence in Baghdad is still terrible, and therefore there needs to be more troops."

yes, obviously... and i'll lay good money that he can add two plus two and come up with four better than 50% of the time...

another interesting note is the choice of one particular word - chaos - in the nyt headline for the above article...

Baghdad Chaos Pushes Bush to Shift U.S. Troops

(italics added)

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde, and Arlen Specter

so, which arlen specter are we dealing with today...?
“We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president’s acts declared unconstitutional,” Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor.

Specter’s announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action.

this is hard on the heels of the aba announcement i posted the other day...
To mount a legal case, a person or group must have been granted "standing," or the right to file a lawsuit. Current law does not grant members of Congress such a right, and recent Supreme Court decisions have denied it in all but very exceptional cases. But Congress could consider bypassing that hurdle by writing a law to give its members the right to sue, a resolution in the task force's report declares, a source familiar with the task force report told U.S. News.

ok, senator, make up my mind... one day you're kissing george's ass and the next day you're kicking it... i know it's not a full moon so all i'm left with is that you're schizoid... help me out here...

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Juan Cole cites Thoreau on the role of intellectuals

but, more than that, on the very essence of being an informed, responsible citizen...
Henry David Thoreau refused to pay the poll tax put in to support the immoral American-Mexican War, and was sentenced to a night in jail. His friend Ralph Waldo Emerson came to visit him and asked him "David, what are you doing in there?" Thoreau replied, "What are you doing out there?" If intellectuals aren't misbehaving in the sense of dissenting and critiquing the collective grounds of our political being, then they aren't doing their jobs.

"dissenting and critiquing the collective grounds of our political being" should not and cannot be solely the province of intellectuals... the essence of government by the people and for the people requires an informed and active citizenry... without that, self-government is meaningless...

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No duh

today's nyt...
Drain America First

A country that consumes one-quarter of the world’s oil
supply while holding only 3 percent of the reserves will
never be able to drill its way to lower oil prices, much
less oil independence.

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Accountability... Aye, and therein lies the rub...

a visual representation of a george w. bush signing statement...

Most presidents used signing statements to get legal objections on the record for judges to consider in any court challenge. For Mr. Bush, they are far more: part of a strategy to expand presidential powers at the expense of Congress and the courts. His signing statements have become notices to Congress that he simply does not intend to follow the law, especially any attempt to hold him accountable for his actions.

rude, crude, and socially unacceptable... that's our prez...!

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A litany of horrors in Lebanon

juan cole reports...
An Israeli air strike killed 3 and wounded 13 when it hit a minibus "carrying 16 people fleeing the village of Tairi as it worked its way through the mountains from the Southern port city of Tyre . . . The Israeli military had told residents of Tairi and 12 other nearby villages Saturday to evacuate by 7 p.m. The villages form a corridor about 6 kilometers wide and 18 kilometers deep, believed to be the "buffer zone" desired by Israel."

and offers this grimly understated comment...
[I]t isn't very nice to make people leave their homes and then bomb them as they leave.

he continues with the tragic litany...
(from the Daily Star)

Israel also targeted Hizbullah's power base in the Bekaa Valley, hitting three factories, a house and bridges and roads. The air strikes ignited large fires, killed at least one civilian and wounded two others.

Three rescuers from the Civil Defense personnel of the Islamic Scout Mission, an association affiliated with the Amal Movement, were wounded after Israeli air raids struck their ambulance as it transported wounded civilians to nearby hospitals, according to Hassan Hamdan, the association's official in the South."

If the latter report is correct, and if the ambulance was marked as such, this strike was an Israeli war crime. If the Biqa' factories were not producing war materiel, hitting them was a war crime, too.

dear lord, please let it stop...

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Monday, July 24, 2006

It sucks to be poor... It's also damned expensive...

thank god for barbara ehrenreich... at least SOMEBODY'S out there chronicling the outrageous exploitation of society's most vulnerable...
A new study from the Brookings Institute documents the "ghetto tax," or higher cost of living in low-income urban neighborhoods. It comes at you from every direction, from food prices to auto insurance. A few examples from this study, by Matt Fellowes, that covered 12 American cities:

  • Poor people are less likely to have bank accounts, which can be expensive for those with low balances, and so they tend to cash their pay checks at check-cashing businesses, which in the cities surveyed, charged $5 to $50 for a $500 check.
  • Nationwide, low-income car buyers, defined as people earning less than $30,000 a year, pay two percentage points more for a car loan than more affluent buyers.
  • Low-income drivers pay more for car insurance. In New York, Baltimore and Hartford, they pay an average $400 more a year to insure the exact same car and driver risk than wealthier drivers.
  • Poorer people pay an average of one percentage point more in mortgage interest.
  • They are more likely to buy their furniture and appliances through pricey rent-to-own businesses. In Wisconsin, the study reports, a $200 rent-to-own TV set can cost $700 with the interest included.
  • They are less likely to have access to large supermarkets and hence to rely on the far more expensive, and lower quality offerings, of small grocery and convenience stores.
basically, if you're poor, the system is going to make goddam sure you stay that way and then turn around and condemn you for it...
So let's have a little less talk about how the poor should learn to manage their money, and a little more attention to all the ways that money is being systematically siphoned off. Yes, certain kinds of advice would be helpful: skip the pay-day loans and rent-to-pay furniture, for example. But we need laws in more states to stop predatory practices like $50 charges for check cashing. Also, think what some microcredit could do to move families from motels and shelters to apartments. And did I mention a living wage?

If you're rich, you might want to stay that way. It's a whole lot cheaper than being poor.

microcredit... it's not just for third-world nations anymore...

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Condi feeling the heat in Beirut

she had to be taking an enormous amount of shit for waffling on calling for a ceasefire - and rightly so...
En route from Washington, Ms Rice said there was an "urgent" need for a ceasefire in Lebanon - but that conditions had to be right.


Ms Rice's admission that an end to the fighting is "urgently" wanted marks a shift from previous statements in which she said an immediate ceasefire would only offer "false promise", say correspondents.

In a policy shift, Mr Olmert has said Israel will be prepared to accept a European peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon providing it is robust and has a strong mandate.

In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said several European countries were willing to contribute to such a force, which he said could be deployed under the umbrella of the UN Security Council.

likewise, israel must have been taking a tremendous beating to at least APPEAR cooperative - again, rightly so... the killing must stop - on both sides...

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Bolton practices listening skills prior to the Thursday hearing

it's a little late to demonstrate you're capable of listening, john...

"It’s a new idea, we’ll certainly take it seriously."

- JOHN R. BOLTON, the American ambassador to the United Nations, on a proposal for European peacekeepers to be deployed in southern Lebanon.

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The WaPo on Serbia and Kosovo

i'm sitting here in belgrade, reading this wapo op-ed on serbia, and feeling woefully unqualified to comment on it, despite having spent a significant amount of time in the region since mid-2003... from what i understand, in his visit to washington, kostunica took his hard line stance against kosovo independence not because the serbian government is fundamentally opposed but as a way to save political face at home... now, what i understand and what is really the case may be two quite different things... nonetheless, it's always interesting to be smack dab in the middle of a news item and then to be reading someone else's far distant interpretation...
Deaf to the increasingly blunt messages of Western governments and to his own public opinion, Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica continues to stubbornly campaign for continued Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo. "Kosovo is part of Serbia," he declared during a visit to Washington this month, sounding disturbingly like Slobodan Milosevic, who used that slogan to found his nationalist regime in the late 1980s. Mr. Kostunica has been telling Western leaders that he wants his country to join the European Union and NATO, but he has repeatedly failed to meet a critical condition for moving forward, which is the arrest of Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic, a former general who is a hero to extreme nationalists.


All of this means that the West's attempt to resolve the legacy of the Balkan wars of the 1990s and position the region inside the liberal Europe of the 21st century is in jeopardy of being defeated by Serbia's 20th-century-style nationalism and Russia's 19th-century game of power politics. If so, the main victims will be not the Albanians of Kosovo -- who in any case will never again be subject to Serbia -- but the Serbs, who could find themselves isolated in Europe and dependent on the patronage of an autocratic and imperialistic Russia.

quite predictably, the wapo fails to provide the full context of the situation, so all we are left to go on is the spin... unfortunately, in this case, i can't distinguish what's spin and what's not even though i'm right here on the ground...

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Extremist Islam, extremist Christianity

and this would differ from the indoctrination of extremist, fundamentalist christians how, precisely...?
Abdullah Thabit ... is the author of "The 20th Terrorist," which recounts his years as a religious extremist.


Thabit recounts in detail the cultlike atmosphere of the extremist group he belonged to, and how it instilled loyalty to the group, and hatred and mistrust of the enemy.

"We were taught that our Islam was correct and everyone else, including our families, was going to hell, a hell that resembled a slaughterhouse. And I wanted to be one of the select few who made it into heaven," he says.


"They use two primal instincts to keep you in their grip, fear and desire." Desire for heaven, fair maidens and the dream of setting up an Islamic caliphate. And fear of God's displeasure, hellfire and torture.

the parallels are clear and equally horrifying...

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Condi's getting a little touchy over Syria, methinks

(from the la times...)
Rice is not planning to meet leaders of Syria or Hezbollah on this trip. The Syrians, who have strong influence over Hezbollah, have been contacted by many European and Arab countries and do not need a direct dialogue with the Americans, she said.

Others disagree strongly. Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor to President Carter, said last week at a dinner sponsored by the New America Foundation that if Rice doesn't meet with leaders the administration does not approve of, her trip would amount to "sitting in front of a mirror, talking to herself."

"That's not diplomacy," Brzezinski said.

clearly in a how-dare-you-challenge-my-approach-to-my-job fit of pique, as she was getting ready to head to the region, she had this to say...
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday the United States' poor relationship with Syria is overstated, pointing out that there are existing channels for talking with Syrian leaders about resolving the Mideast crisis when they're ready to talk.

En route to the region, Rice noted that the United States still has a diplomatic mission and State Department officials working in the Syrian capital. That presence, she said, is a "channel for dealing with Syria."

"The problem isn't that people haven't talked to the Syrians. It's that the Syrians haven't acted," she said. "I think this is simply just a kind of false hobby horse that somehow it's because we don't talk to the Syrians.

"It's not as if we don't have diplomatic relations," she said. "We do."

oh, condi... chill... the comment was about YOU talking to the syrians...

so now we know that SOMEBODY on SOME OTHER UNSPECIFIED OCCASION(S) did indeed talk to the syrians about SOME OTHER UNSPECIFIED TOPIC(S)... we can only hope it was recently and about the events currently transpiring...

perhaps you should consider a little PERSONAL DIPLOMACY, preferably not of the john bolton variety...

(thanks to steve clemons at the washington note...)

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

The super-rich are different from you and me, and that's precisely the plan

a LOT different...
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington think tank, compared the latest data ... to comprehensive reports on income trends from the Congressional Budget Office. Every way it sliced the data, it found a striking share of total income concentrated at the top of the income ladder as of 2004.

  • The top 10 percent of households had 46 percent of the nation's income, their biggest share in all but two of the last 70 years.
  • The top 1 percent of households had 19.5 percent (see graph).
  • The top one-tenth of 1 percent of households actually received nearly half of the increased share going to the top 1 percent.
These disparities seem large, and they are. (Though the latest available data is from 2004, there are virtually no signs that the basic trend has changed since then.) The top 1 percent held a bigger share of total income than at any time since 1929, except for 1999 and 2000 during the tech stock bubble. But what makes today's disparities particularly brutal is that unlike the last bull market of the late 1990's - when a proverbial rising tide was lifting all boats - the rich have been the only winners lately. According to an analysis by Goldman Sachs, for most American households - the bottom 60 percent - average income grew by less than 20 percent from 1979 to 2004, with virtually all of those gains occurring from the mid- to late 1990's. Before and since, real incomes for that group have basically flatlined.

The best-off Americans are not only winning by an extraordinary margin right now. They are the only ones who are winning at all.

teresa tritch, in this past wednesday's nyt, penned an op-ed entitled "the rise of the super-rich" (reprinted here in truthout)... in addition to presenting the above stats, she makes an initial observation that i vehemently disagree with...
President Bush has yet to acknowledge the true state of affairs, though it's at the root of his failure to convince Americans that the good times are rolling.

The president's lack of attention may be misplaced optimism, or it could be political strategy. Acknowledging what's happening would mean having to rethink his policies, not exactly his strong suit.

it would be exceedingly foolish and politically suicidal for bush to acknowledge the "true state of affairs..." after all, this is precisely the state of affairs he and his criminal posse have devoted themselves to since scotus affirmed their silent coup d'etat on 12 december 2000... there is neither reason nor incentive to "rethink his policies" because the policies are working just fine... the intended, hoped-for results are amply demonstrated by the statistics...

(thanks to the unknown candidate...)

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Rationalizing civilian deaths by calculating "complicity"

(thanks to raw story...)

when i read stuff like this, it's nothing less than a full frontal assault for me, a gut-punching reminder of the insanity that passes for informed opinion these days... by dershowitz' logic, liberal bloggers are "complicit" by publishing our opposition to the endless war and protesting civilian deaths in lebanon...

(ironically, i'm typing this in a city that experienced nato bombing that was labeled as a legitimate effort to halt ethnic cleansing... buildings were destroyed, serbs died, and, by dershowitz' definition, they were "complicit..." it wasn't until i started traveling to this part of the world that i fully grasped the fact that many people in the region consider the nato bombing their 9/11...)

Harvard University Professor Alan Dershowitz has written a column in which he argues that the value of some civilian wartime casualties is less than others.

"There is a vast difference — both moral and legal — between a 2-year-old who is killed by an enemy rocket and a 30-year-old civilian who has allowed his house to be used to store Katyusha rockets," argues Dershowitz. "Both are technically civilians, but the former is far more innocent than the latter. There is also a difference between a civilian who merely favors or even votes for a terrorist group and one who provides financial or other material support for terrorism," he continues.

"The Israeli army has given well-publicized notice to civilians to leave those areas of southern Lebanon that have been turned into war zones. Those who voluntarily remain behind have become complicit. Some — those who cannot leave on their own — should be counted among the innocent victims," wrote Dershowitz.

In response, Kevin Drum, of Washington Monthly countered Dershowitz's thoughts by writing:
Excepting the lame and the sick, then, anyone who declines to leave their home despite Israeli orders to do so is, ipso facto, complicit with terrorism and presumably fair game once the Israeli invasion gets under way. How they get totted up after the killing is over depends on where they fall on Dershowitz's nebulous "continuum."

This is very clever. Alan Dershowitz, after all, is nothing if not very clever. But I wonder how he'd respond to a similarly clever and nuanced definition of the word "terrorist"?

Dershowitz's article ends, "Every civilian death is a tragedy, but some are more tragic than others."

excuse me, professor dershowitz... despite your book-larnin' and your exalted status as academic guru and high priest in the nation's foremost temple of wisdom, harvard, f*** you AND the horse you rode in on...

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Argentina tops earlier "biggest dinosaur" find

Puertasaurus reuili

can you imagine the amount of vegetation it would take to feed even one of these for a day...?!?! and i thought the brontosaurus was an eating machine...
Argentina, which boasts of having unearthed remains of the largest dinosaur ever found, announced that it has discovered in Patagonia fossils of another "monstrous" one that could potentially beat its kin.

"I want to be very cautious but there is a possibility that this may be the largest dinosaur ever discovered," paleontologist Fernando Novas said on Friday when presenting the findings.

Four vertebrae of the long-necked herbivore Puertasaurus reuili were found in 2001 near Lake Viedma, in the southern province of Santa Cruz, embedded in 70-million-year-old rocks belonging to the Cretaceous period. The animal weighed 80-100 tons and was 35-40 metres long.

The Puertasaurus is "at least as big" as the Argentinosaurus huinculensis, which has so far been considered the largest-ever found dinosaur, Novas said.

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The R's are an unqualified success

(susang at daily kos...)
In electing Republicans, America, you put people in charge of institutions they overtly, caustically loathe and proudly proclaim should not exist. Good thinking, USA, and stellar results: Katrina, Iraq, Medicare D, trade and budget deficits, mine disasters and on and on and on and ...

Conservatives have declared officially for decades that they hate public programs and love private business. Why then, do Americans profess shock when these same people run the public credit card up to bunker-busting levels to line the pockets of friendly corporations, leaving taxpayers - current and the as-yet unborn - the bill? It's the dine and ditch mentality writ large, and American citizens are the unfortunate waiters having their lowly pay docked to cover the deadbeat loss - and their future grandchildren's pay docked as well.

We are witnessing an orchestrated, unprecedented transfer of public wealth to private pockets, a national one-party feeding frenzy that's making beggars and beseechers of us all, and yet many Americans stand around muttering in a daze of semi-apathetic befuddlement about gosh darn how did all this come to be and how sure as shit, uh-huh, those Republicans shore were right, government doesn't do a the little guy a damn bit of good, no sirree bob. Better drown it some more. Cut them taxes, privatize something, anything, pronto!

Kee-rist on a pogo stick.

If you put people in charge of running a project they are ideologically committed to proving a failure, it will fail.

finally, someone else is seeing the light... i've been fulminating against the seemingly overwhelming common wisdom that this criminal administration is incompetent... they are nothing of the sort... they've accomplished a phenomenal part of what they've set out to do...

  • voiding the u.s. constitution
  • removing any and all remaining obstacles to the rich keeping and adding to their already obscene wealth without shouldering any burden whatsoever for the common good
  • eliminating any implied or explicit social contract
  • creating and maintaining a climate of fear that allows for better manipulation of public opinion and the bending of the public will to their agenda
  • waging an endless war thus assuring an uninterrupted money flow into the oil and defense industries
  • insuring the blockage of anything that might interfere with the money-making capacity of oil and defense (e.g., global warming)
  • rendering government functioning to be so laughably ineffective that citizens throw up their hands in despair and are forced to find alternatives
  • forging an alliance with religious extremists to create a social environment of authoritarianism and control where social behavior is closely monitored and misbehavior isn't tolerated

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Despicable...? Yes... Loathsome...? Yes... 1st Amendment Protections...? Yes...

as utterly vile as i consider the actions of fred phelps and his deranged flock to be, they have the right to speak out just like everyone else... the fact that their minds are grotesquely twisted with hate and bear no resemblance to anything even remotely christ-like, is indeed sad and pathetic, but, hey, it's their world and they're welcome to it...
A Kansas church group that protests at military funerals nationwide filed suit in federal court, saying a Missouri law banning such picketing infringes on religious freedom and free speech.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit Friday in the U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, Mo., on behalf of the fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church, which has outraged mourning communities by picketing service members' funerals with signs condemning homosexuality.

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How pathetically sleazy, never mind the fact that it's dishonest

it's the old shell game, 2006, karl rove, ethics-challenged, political version, genus edition...
In 2001, Jennifer B. Chace heard an insurance broker's pitch for a new insurance company marketing tax-free medical savings accounts. She jumped at the offer, but first, the broker told her, she would have to sign an application -- already filled out -- that would entitle her to a low group rate.

With that signature, Chace, a Florida dentist in the market for health insurance, unwittingly joined one of Washington's most prominent conservative organizations, Citizens for a Sound Economy, she would later testify.

and guess whose name pops up...? that's right... another high-profile texas republican...
Chace's experience has brought to light an obscure arrangement between a prominent Republican businessman, J. Patrick Rooney, and a free-market interest group that has netted the grass-roots organization hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of new members. Citizens for a Sound Economy -- now called FreedomWorks and headed by former House majority leader Richard K. Armey (R-Tex.) -- has netted more than $638,000 and about 16,000 members through the sale of insurance policies.

and they claim it's ok because aarp does it... shit... aarp makes no bones of their lobbying activities and, in fact, makes that part of their membership recruiting pitch... what a load of bollocks...
Officials from FreedomWorks say the insurance sales are just another way for grass-roots groups to garner members and are no different from the activities of such giants as AARP, the senior citizens lobby.

just give me the full disclosure, ok...? then let ME decide whether i want to sign up with your organization or not, ok...? OK...??

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Collaborative leadership and management at American Airlines...? Who woulda thunk it...?

now, if they can just improve their worst-in-class onboard service, terrible food, stop charging for liquor in economy on international flights (only u.s. carriers are that cheap), virtually non-existent amenities, and seedy, worn, and falling-apart aircraft interiors, they might just make a fan outta me...
Gerard J. Arpey, American’s 47-year-old chief executive, has traded away the bankruptcy card used by most of his competitors — which gave them shelter to prune debt while also tossing out labor contracts and pensions — for the hope of trying to motivate workers. “Our fundamental objective is to make organized labor and our front-line employees our business partners,” he said, asserting that the world’s largest airline cannot become more efficient without such collaboration. “If they don’t want to do it, it ain’t going to happen. It doesn’t matter how brilliant you are.”

“Call me old-fashioned,” he added. “But I think companies ought to pay people back. And I think companies ought to make good on commitments to employees and communities.”

ya ain't old-fashioned, mr. arpey... it ain't rocket science, it's just common sense...

lemme tell ya... when i read stuff like the above, i literally get chills down my spine... i've devoted my entire career to get words like arpey's to pour forth spontaneously, without scripting, from the mouths of senior excutives... i've also spent my entire career re-learning the lesson that, even if you hear those words, don't believe a single damn one of them until you've walked at least a mile in the shoes of one of that company's front-line employees...

at least arpey's saying the right words as compared to this quote from a united airlines senior executive who i was trying to persuade to provide a little more constructive support to gate mechanics at o'hare: "those guys are worthless, lazy, out to screw us every chance they get, and basically no damn good... they need to get their cry-baby asses back to work..."

i'm doing a long haul on american next weekend... i'll probably end up quizzing the gate agents and flight attendants on their views of mr. arpey... (just for chuckles and grins, of course...!)

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More on the mustache of serial abuse

when i put up my earlier post, i had not seen the nyt headline or their email lead-in to the bolton article... although the article itself starts off praising bolton for, as senator george voinovich puts it, "following the president's lead," i would consider that as more of a condemnation which the lead-in captures quite well...
Praise at Home for Envoy, but Scorn at U.N.

Many United Nations diplomats see John R. Bolton as a
stand-in for the arrogance of the Bush administration.

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