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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 12/23/2007 - 12/30/2007
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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, December 29, 2007

"We were part of the shining light on the hill who didn’t do those things. Sadly, no more."

a navy attorney resigns over torture... may we continue to see individuals such as andrew williams doing the right thing, choosing to speak out, and taking action that aligns with our founding principles and the rule of law...
It was with sadness that I signed my name this grey morning to a letter resigning my commission in the U.S. Navy.

There was a time when I served with pride, knowing that by serving with the finest men and women in the country, we were part of an organization whose core values required us to “do the right thing,” and that we were far different from the Soviet Union and its gulags, the Vietcong with their torture camps and a society of surveillance and informers like Nazi Germany.

We were part of the shining light on the hill who didn’t do those things. Sadly, no more.

The final straw for me was listening to General Hartmann, the highest-ranking military lawyer in charge of the military commissions, testify that he refused to say that waterboarding captured U.S. soldiers by Iranian operatives would be torture.

His testimony had just sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river. Indeed, he would not rule out waterboarding as torture when done by the United States and indeed felt evidence obtained by such methods could be used in future trials.

Thank you, General Hartmann, for finally admitting the United States is now part of a long tradition of torturers going back to the Inquisition.

very sad, indeed...

(thanks to think progress...)

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The Mohamed Atta, 9/11, Pakistani intelligence connection

in early october 2001, this was front-page news all over india...

from brasscheck tv...

CIA = ISI (Pakistani intelligence) = al Queda

On October 1, 2001, did the FBI uncover evidence that Lt. General Mahmood Ahmed, the Director of the Pakistani Intelligence Service (the ISI) authorize the wiring of $100,000 to Florida to Mohammed Atta (supposed hijack ringleader of the 911 attack) through Omar Saeed Sheikh (an alleged ISI agent)?

Why did only a single US press outlet, the Wall Street Journal website, mention this connection in the editorial section (James Taranto writing) on October 10, 2001, saying it was an "internet only" story - when in fact it was a major story reported at great length in the main line Indian press?

Does this mean that Al-Queda was used as a tool by members of the American government in the same way that they used the Mujahdeen against the Soviets in Afghanistan?

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Never Forget What We Have Forgotten.

There are many individuals, groups and even nations that have pledged never to forget the Holocaust. Anyone who lives just about anywhere automatically identifies the phrase "Never Forget" with this cause. Even folks who say the Holocaust never happened know the phrase.
And yet, we have totally forgotten how the Holocaust actually happened. Oddly enough, I have often been reminded of how the Holocaust began in Nazi Germany by older Germans who lived during that time. They are terrified by what they see in America today.
I asked Mr McGovern if I might reprint his article her in total because it outlines the parallels between '30's Germany and our current time so well. He was kind enough to grant my request.
I'm heading out to battle the Christmas returns crowd to buy the book,"The Story of a German", before I forget.
What will you do today?

Lessons from the Past
Creeping Fascism

Former CIA analyst

"There are few things as odd as the calm, superior indifference with which I and those like me watched the beginnings of the Nazi revolution in Germany, as if from a box at the theater ... Perhaps the only comparably odd thing is the way that now, years later...."

These are the words of Sebastian Haffner (pen name for Raimund Pretzel), who as a young lawyer in Berlin during the 1930s experienced the Nazi takeover and wrote a first-hand account. His children found the manuscript when he died in 1999 and published it the following year as "Geschichte eines Deutschen" (The Story of a German). The book became an immediate bestseller and has been translated into 20 languages-in English as "Defying Hitler."

I recently learned from his daughter Sarah, an artist in Berlin, that today is the 100th anniversary of Haffner's birth. She had seen an earlier article in which I quoted her father and emailed to ask me to "write some more about the book and the comparison to Bush's America...this is almost unbelievable."

More about Haffner below. Let's set the stage first by recapping some of what has been going on that may have resonance for readers familiar with the Nazi ascendancy, noting how "odd" it is that the frontal attack on our Constitutional rights is met with such "calm, superior indifference."

Goebbels Would be Proud

It has been two years since top New York Times officials decided to let the rest of us in on the fact that the George W. Bush administration had been eavesdropping on American citizens without the court warrants required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. The Times had learned of this well before the election in 2004 and acquiesced to White House entreaties to suppress the damaging information.

In late fall 2005 when Times correspondent James Risen's book, "State of War: the Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," revealing the warrantless eavesdropping was being printed, Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., recognized that he could procrastinate no longer. It would simply be too embarrassing to have Risen's book on the street, with Sulzberger and his associates pretending that this explosive eavesdropping story did not fit Adolph Ochs' trademark criterion: All The News That's Fit To Print. (The Times' own ombudsman, Public Editor Byron Calame, branded the newspaper's explanation for the long delay in publishing this story "woefully inadequate.")

When Sulzberger told his friends in the White House that he could no longer hold off on publishing in the newspaper, he was summoned to the Oval Office for a counseling session with the president on Dec. 5, 2005. Bush tried in vain to talk him out of putting the story in the Times. The truth would out; part of it, at least.


There were some embarrassing glitches. For example, unfortunately for National Security Agency Director Lt. Gen. Keith Alexander, the White House neglected to tell him that the cat would soon be out of the bag. So on Dec. 6, Alexander spoke from the old talking points in assuring visiting House intelligence committee member Rush Holt (D-N.J.) that the NSA did not eavesdrop on Americans without a court order.

Still possessed of the quaint notion that generals and other senior officials are not supposed to lie to congressional oversight committees, Holt wrote a blistering letter to Gen. Alexander after the Times, on Dec. 16, front-paged a feature by Risen and Eric Lichtblau, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts." But House Intelligence Committee chair Pete Hoekstra (R-Michigan) apparently found Holt's scruples benighted; Hoekstra did nothing to hold Alexander accountable for misleading Holt, his most experienced committee member, who had served as an intelligence analyst at the State Department.

What followed struck me as bizarre. The day after the Dec. 16 Times feature article, the president of the United States publicly admitted to a demonstrably impeachable offense. Authorizing illegal electronic surveillance was a key provision of the second article of impeachment against President Richard Nixon. On July 27, 1974, this and two other articles of impeachment were approved by bipartisan votes in the House Committee on the Judiciary.

Bush Takes Frontal Approach

Far from expressing regret, the president bragged about having authorized the surveillance "more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks," and said he would continue to do so. The president also said:

"Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it."

On Dec. 19, 2005 then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-NSA Director Michael Hayden held a press conference to answer questions about the as yet unnamed surveillance program. Gonzales was asked why the White House decided to flout FISA rather than attempt to amend it, choosing instead a "backdoor approach." He answered:

"We have had discussions with to whether or not FISA could be amended to allow us to adequately deal with this kind of threat, and we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible."

Hmm. Impossible? It strains credulity that a program of the limited scope described would be unable to win ready approval from a Congress that had just passed the "Patriot Act" in record time. James Risen has made the following quip about the prevailing mood: "In October 2001 you could have set up guillotines on the public streets of America." It was not difficult to infer that the surveillance program must have been of such scope and intrusiveness that, even amid highly stoked fear, it didn't have a prayer for passage.

It turns out we didn't know the half of it.

What To Call These Activities

"Illegal Surveillance Program" didn't seem quite right for White House purposes, and the PR machine was unusually slow off the blocks. It took six weeks to settle on "Terrorist Surveillance Program," with FOX News leading the way followed by the president himself. This labeling would dovetail nicely with the president's rhetoric on Dec. 17:

"In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.... The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September 11 helped address that problem..."

And Gen. Michael Hayden, who headed NSA from 1999 to 2005, was of course on the same page, dissembling as convincingly as the president. At his May 2006 confirmation hearings to become CIA director, he told of his soul-searching when, as director of NSA, he was asked to eavesdrop on Americans without a court warrant. "I had to make this personal decision in early Oct. 2001," said Hayden, "it was a personal decision...I could not not do this."

Like so much else, it was all because of 9/11. But we now know...

It Started Seven Months Before 9/11

How many times have you heard it? The mantra "after 9/11 everything changed" has given absolution to all manner of sin.

We are understandably reluctant to believe the worst of our leaders, and this tends to make us negligent. After all, we learned from former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill that drastic changes were made in U.S. foreign policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue and toward Iraq at the first National Security Council meeting on Jan. 30, 2001. Should we not have anticipated far-reaching changes at home, as well?

Reporting by the Rocky Mountain News and court documents and testimony in a case involving Qwest Communications strongly suggest that in February 2001 Hayden saluted smartly when the Bush administration instructed NSA to suborn AT&T, Verizon, and Qwest to spy illegally on you, me, and other Americans. Bear in mind that this would have had nothing to do with terrorism, which did not really appear on the new administration's radar screen until a week before 9/11, despite the pleading of Clinton aides that the issue deserved extremely high priority.

So this until-recently-unknown pre-9/11 facet of the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" was not related to Osama bin Laden or to whomever he and his associates might be speaking. It had to do with us. We know that the Democrats who were briefed on the "Terrorist Surveillance Program" include House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (the one with the longest tenure on the House Intelligence Committee), Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA) and former and current chairmen of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WVA). May one interpret their lack of public comment on the news that the snooping began well before 9/11 as a sign they were co-opted and then sworn to secrecy?

It is an important question. Were the appropriate leaders in Congress informed that within days of George W. Bush's first inauguration the NSA electronic vacuum cleaner began to suck up information on you and me, despite the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment?

Are They All Complicit?

And are Democratic leaders about to cave in and grant retroactive immunity to those telecommunications corporations-AT&T and Verizon-who made millions by winking at the law and the Constitution? (Qwest, to it's credit, heeded the advice of its general counsel who said that what NSA wanted done was clearly illegal.)

What's going on here? Have congressional leaders no sense for what is at stake? Lately the adjective "spineless" has come into vogue in describing congressional Democrats-no offense to invertebrates.

Nazis and Those Who Enable Them

You don't have to be a Nazi. You can just be, well, a sheep.

In his journal Sebastian Haffner decries what he calls the "sheepish submissiveness" with which the German people reacted to a 9/11-like event, the burning of the German Parliament (Reichstag) on Feb. 27, 1933. Haffner finds it quite telling that none of his acquaintances "saw anything out of the ordinary in the fact that, from then on, one's telephone would be tapped, one's letters opened, and one's desk might be broken into."

But it is for the cowardly politicians that Haffner reserves his most vehement condemnation. Do you see any contemporary parallels here?

In the elections of March 4, 1933, shortly after the Reichstag fire, the Nazi party garnered only 44 percent of the vote. Only the "cowardly treachery" of the Social Democrats and other parties to whom 56 percent of the German people had entrusted their votes made it possible for the Nazis to seize full power. Haffner adds:

"It is in the final analysis only that betrayal that explains the almost inexplicable fact that a great nation, which cannot have consisted entirely of cowards, fell into ignominy without a fight."

The Social Democratic leaders betrayed their followers-"for the most part decent, unimportant individuals." In May they sang the Nazi anthem; in June the Social Democratic party was dissolved.

The middle-class Catholic party Zentrum folded in less than a month, and in the end supplied the votes necessary for the two-thirds majority that "legalized" Hitler's dictatorship.

As for the right-wing conservatives and German nationalists: "Oh God," writes Haffner, "what an infinitely dishonorable and cowardly spectacle their leaders made in 1933 and continued to make afterward.... They went along with everything: the terror, the persecution of Jews.... They were not even bothered when their own party was banned and their own members arrested." In sum:

"There was not a single example of energetic defense, of courage or principle. There was only panic, flight, and desertion. In March 1933 millions were ready to fight the Nazis. Overnight they found themselves without leaders...At the moment of truth, when other nations rise spontaneously to the occasion, the Germans collectively and limply collapsed. They yielded and capitulated, and suffered a nervous breakdown.... The result is today the nightmare of the rest of the world."

This is what can happen when virtually all are intimidated.

Our Founding Fathers were not oblivious to this; thus, James Madison:

"I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.... The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home."
(emphasis added)

We cannot say we weren't warned.

The whole point of "Never Forget', the Holocaust Museum, and uncounted books, movies, documentaries and investigations is to prevent the wholesale slaughter of people again.

Why are we letting it start again?
How sad it will be if America, for all of it's good works and promise, becomes a Nation remembered for evolving into a Fascist state because we were too shallow to stop it.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Palast on Ecuador's Correa: "No one - NO ONE - has made such a threat to Bush and Big Oil and lived to carry it out"

greg palast interviews ecuador's president rafael correa, the new latin american president (january 2007) who's turning the tables on the omnipotent united states...
Professor Doctor Correa is one tough character. He told George Bush to take the US military base and stick it where the equatorial sun don't shine. He told the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, which held Ecuador's finances by the throat, to go to hell. He ripped up the "agreements" which his predecessors had signed at financial gun point. He told the Miami bond vultures that were charging Ecuador usurious interest, to eat their bonds. He said 'We are not going to pay off this debt with the hunger of our people. " Food first, interest later. Much later. And he meant it.

It was a stunning performance. I'd met two years ago with his predecessor, President Alfredo Palacio, a man of good heart, who told me, looking at the secret IMF agreements I showed him, "We cannot pay this level of debt. If we do, we are DEAD. And if we are dead, how can we pay?" Palacio told me that he would explain this to George Bush and Condoleezza Rice and the World Bank, then headed by Paul Wolfowitz. He was sure they would understand. They didn't. They cut off Ecuador at the knees.

But Ecuador didn't fall to the floor. Correa, then Economics Minister, secretly went to Hugo Chavez Venezuela's president and obtained emergency financing. Ecuador survived.

And thrived. But Correa was not done.

Elected President, one of his first acts was to establish a fund for the Ecuadoran refugees in America - to give them loans to return to Ecuador with a little cash and lot of dignity. And there were other dragons to slay. He and Palacio kicked US oil giant Occidental Petroleum out of the country.

Correa STILL wasn't done.

I'd returned from a very wet visit to the rainforest - by canoe to a Cofan Indian village in the Amazon where there was an epidemic of childhood cancers. The indigenous folk related this to the hundreds of open pits of oil sludge left to them by Texaco Oil, now part of Chevron, and its partners. I met the Cofan's chief. His three year old son swam in what appeared to be contaminated water then came out Cofan Leader Criollo vomiting blood and died.

Correa had gone there too, to the rainforest, though probably in something sturdier than a canoe. And President Correa announced that the company that left these filthy pits would pay to clean them up.

But it's not just any company he was challenging. Chevron's largest oil tanker was named after a long-serving member of its Board of Directors, the Condoleezza. Our Secretary of State.

The Cofan have sued Condi's corporation, demanding the oil company clean up the crap it left in the jungle. The cost would be roughly $12 billion. Correa won't comment on the suit itself, a private legal action. But if there's a verdict in favor of Ecuador's citizens, Correa told me, he will make sure Chevron pays up.

Is he kidding? No one has ever made an oil company pay for their slop. Even in the USA, the Exxon Valdez case drags on to its 18th year. Correa is not deterred.

He told me he would create an international tribunal to collect, if necessary. In retaliation, he could hold up payments to US companies who sue Ecuador in US courts.

This is hard core. No one - NO ONE - has made such a threat to Bush and Big Oil and lived to carry it out.


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Arrest George Bush and Dick Cheney?

bring it on...
President Bush may soon have a new reason to avoid left-leaning Vermont: In one town, activists want him subject to arrest for war crimes.

A group in Brattleboro is petitioning to put an item on a town meeting agenda in March that would make Bush and Vice President Cheney subject to arrest and indictment if they visit the southeastern Vermont community.

"This petition is as radical as the Declaration of Independence, and it draws on that tradition in claiming a universal jurisdiction when governments fail to do what they're supposed to do," said Kurt Daims, 54, a retired machinist leading the drive.

As president, Bush has visited every state except Vermont.

The town meeting, an annual exercise in which residents gather to vote on everything from fire department budgets to municipal policy, requires about 1,000 signatures to place a binding item on the agenda.

The measure asks: "Shall the Selectboard instruct the Town Attorney to draft indictments against President Bush and Vice President Cheney for crimes against our Constitution, and publish said indictment for consideration by other municipalities?"

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday. The press office did not immediately respond to an e-mail.


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Rep. Wexler's op-ed on impeachment gets major media exposure - FINALLY

the philadelphia inquirer...
The charges against Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the actions of this administration, and deserve consideration in a way the Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a majority supports hearings, according to a Nov. 13 poll by the American Research Group. In fact, 70 percent of voters say the vice president has abused his powers, and 43 percent say he should be removed from office right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to catch up.

Some people argue that the Judiciary Committee cannot proceed with impeachment hearings because it would distract Congress from passing important legislative initiatives. We disagree. First, hearings need not tie up Congress for a year and shut down the nation. Second, hearings will not prevent Congress from completing its other business. These hearings involve the possible impeachment of the vice president - not of our commander in chief - and the resulting impact on the nation's business and attention would be significantly less than the Clinton presidential impeachment hearings. Also, even though President Bush has thwarted moderate Democratic policies that are supported by a vast majority of Americans - including children's health care, stem-cell research, and bringing our troops home from Iraq - the Democratic Congress has already managed to deliver a minimum-wage increase, an energy bill to address the climate crisis and bring us closer to energy independence, assistance for college tuition, and other legislative successes. We can continue to deliver on more of our agenda in the coming year while simultaneously fulfilling our constitutional duty by investigating and publicly revealing whether Cheney has committed high crimes and misdemeanors.

Holding hearings would put the evidence on the table, and the evidence - not politics - should determine the outcome. Even if the hearings do not lead to removal from office, putting these grievous abuses on the record is important for the sake of history. For an administration that has consistently skirted the Constitution and asserted that it is above the law, it is imperative for Congress to make clear that we do not accept this dangerous precedent. Our Founding Fathers provided Congress the power of impeachment for just this reason, and we must now at least consider using it.

yes, it's ANOTHER letter...
Dear Representative Wexler,

I have followed your efforts since you set up your website a few weeks ago and I could not be more supportive. My hat is off to you for your courage and dedication in forcefully stepping up to address the critical constitutional crisis faced by our nation. It is clear that you take your oath of office seriously. Would that more of your colleagues choose to follow your example.

I have grave concerns about the state of affairs in the U.S. For more than seven years, we have witnessed breathtaking lawlessness, unprecedented corruption, a complete disregard for international norms and obligations, illegal and unconstitutional domestic surveillance, bald-faced lies, verifiable war crimes, and a trampling of our precious founding principles carried out with impunity by our elected, appointed, and civil servant leaders. Those in positions of authority who attempt to derail this unheralded coup d'etat are ridiculed, attacked, marginalized, and threatened, while ever more sweeping government powers are enacted and crimes committed, often through stealth and under claims of executive privilege and national security.

This most serious national crisis, rather than being brought before the public by the fourth estate, and driving our citizens, our Congress, and our courts to swift action, has been greeted with deafening silence. Were it not for the alternative media, weblogs, and the internet, I would be in the same position as most of my fellow countrymen, perhaps experiencing a sense of things not being quite right, but nevertheless preoccupied with the rhythm of my daily life and more mundane concerns.

Let me be clear, Representative Wexler. Yes, I support starting impeachment hearings for Vice President Cheney. They are years overdue, and I totally fail to comprehend the stonewalling by Representative Conyers and Speaker Pelosi. But, even more than that, I support the removal of the current administration by the most expedient and legal means possible. As I write this, the mechanisms of unfettered executive power continue to be put in place, Congress continues to abdicate its oversight role - and, in effect, to nullify its constitutionally-mandated separate-but-equal, balance of powers authority - and the Bush administration still has another thirteen months in office, an unacceptably long time. Moreover, if those mechanisms are not rolled back and forcefully repudiated, they will remain in place when our next president in inaugurated on 20 January 2009, and that is even more unacceptable.

Please, Sir, I call on you to do whatever is in your power to remove this terrible curse from our country. There is no time to lose.

Best regards,

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

"The greatest assault on free speech and association in the United States since the 1938 creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee"

bruce fein writing in the washington times...
Congress is perched to enact the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 20007 (Act)," probably the greatest assault on free speech and association in the United States since the 1938 creation of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).


Denuded of euphemisms and code words, the Act aims to identify and stigmatize persons and groups who hold thoughts the government decrees correlate with homegrown terrorism, for example, opposition to the Patriot Act or the suspension of the Great Writ of habeas corpus.

The Act will inexorably culminate in a government listing of homegrown terrorists or terrorist organizations without due process; a complementary listing of books, videos, or ideas that ostensibly further "violent radicalization;" and a blacklisting of persons who have intersected with either list.

Political discourse will be chilled and needed challenges to conventional wisdom will flag. There are no better examples of sinister congressional folly.


Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in Gitlow v. New York (1925): "Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between expression of an opinion and an incitement in the narrower sense is the speaker's enthusiasm for the result."

Lengthy lists of persons, organizations and thoughts to be shunned will be compiled. Portions of the Holy Koran are likely to be taboo. The lives of countless innocent citizens will be shattered. That is the lesson of HUAC and every prior government enterprise to identify "dangerous" people or ideas — for example, the 120,000 innocent Japanese-Americans herded into concentration camps during World War II.

i have made my views on this abundantly clear (here, here, and here)...

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A chronology of the slow march to fascism

ray mcgovern, posting at consortium news, offers his observations on how we, as a nation, have arrived at this point, and draws some chilling comparisons with germany in the 30s...

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The Bill of Rights, lobotomized

the aclu reminds us of the dangerous, seven-plus year assault on our liberties...

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This will not be good for PK, but, of course, the U.S. simply MUST blame it on al Qaeda

as i've posted previously, benazir bhutto was far from the ideal person to save pakistan from the power lust of musharraf, but having her killed off could very well plunge the country - a country with a nuclear weapons stockpile - into violent chaos... this does not bode well...

from the wapo...

Bhutto Assassinated at Rally
Thursday, December 27, 2007; 9:19 AM

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Dec. 27 -- Former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday at a political rally, two months after she returned from eight years of exile to attempt a political comeback, officials said.

Bhutto, 54, was shot at close range as she was leaving the rally in this garrison city south of Islamabad, aides said. Immediately after the shooting, a suicide bomber detonated explosives near Bhutto's car, killing at least 15 other people.

Bhutto was rushed to a hospital with extensive wounds to her torso, her supporters said. Shortly after she arrived at the hospital, an official came out of the building and told a crowd of supporters Bhutto was dead.

Also Thursday, a rooftop sniper opened fire on supporters of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif at a different pre-election rally in Rawalpindi, leaving four dead and at least five injured.

Bhutto's death is a devastating development, coming 12 days before Pakistanis are set to vote in national parliamentary elections already marked by enormous political turmoil. President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in November -- a move which he said was to combat terrorism, but which was widely perceived as an effort to stave off legal challenges to his authority. U.S. military officials said last week that the terrorist group al-Qaeda increasingly is focusing its efforts in Pakistan.

Bhutto, who returned to Pakistan in October, had been running for parliament. Her People's Party was expected to win enough seats for her to become prime minister. A daughter of a Pakistani political royalty, she was the most popular candidate running, and had fared very well in recent polls.


At the Sharif rally, party spokesman Ahsan Iqbal said supporters were fired upon while waiting to welcome the former prime minister. He called the attack unprovoked, and said it was carried out by Musharraf supporters. Musharraf's party is "panicked by the astounding reception Mr. Sharif is getting," Iqbal said. "They're trying to use violence as an excuse to postpone the elections."

this item from the associated press wasn't mentioned in the wapo story...
[Bhutto's] supporters at the hospital began chanting "Dog, Musharraf, dog," referring to Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf.

the fact that a sharif rally was also targeted is a very strong indication to me that the violence is government-backed... that the u.s. is seizing the opportunity to blame the whole thing on al qaeda, to me, points to that even more strongly...

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Just When I Think We Can't Go Lower

Courtesy of the AP.
NY Town Lets Seniors Work to Pay Taxes
GREENBURGH, N.Y. (AP) — Audrey Davison lives alone, gets a $620 Social Security check each month and worries about the sharply rising taxes on her four-bedroom house. Davison, 76, raised her family there and after 43 years, she really doesn't want to leave Greenburgh.

Greenburgh doesn't want her to leave, either.

The town is pushing a program that would let seniors work part-time, for $7 an hour, to help pay off some of their property taxes.

"People shouldn't have to sell their house, move away to a place with less taxes, leave behind their family and friends," said Town Supervisor Paul Feiner.

He envisions retired doctors mentoring schoolchildren, retired accountants helping with the town's finances, retired lawyers offering their services for a discount. But there are plenty of less-skilled jobs that need doing, he said.

"It's not like we're going to see grandma running the snowplow," he said. "There are lots of things people can do for the town and it wouldn't cost us that much to pay them."

The proposal has caused a stir in Greenburgh, a town of 90,000 in Westchester County(emphasis added), which has the nation's third-highest homeowner property taxes. The plan would be unusual if not unique in New York, but similar programs are considered successes in Colorado, Massachusetts, South Carolina and elsewhere.

Westchester County, by the way, is also home to the North East Elite, like our next President, Hitlery.
Davison, who suffers from arthritis and sciatica and needs a walker to get around on her bad days, said she pays about $12,000 a year in property taxes — perhaps $2,000 to the town — and has already taken out a reverse mortgage to pay her bills
What NeoCon, Fascist, power drunk asshole came up with this idea? I don't get along with my Mother, but she won't be working to pay her property taxes. What have we become when old folks are forced to work to pay their taxes? I guess it's not enough they have to work just to pay the electric bill. And while were at it, how about all their no account pre-teen grandchildren. I bet there are a lot of 8 inch sewer pipes they could inspect for 7 bucks an hour.

Talking to Feiner last week at the town senior center, she said, "I would work as long as it was a job where I could sit."

"You could be a receptionist!" Feiner said. "You could greet people right here, when they come in."

This guy Feiner is a true butthead. I bet he has a better paying receptionist job available for her, at the US embassy in Iraq. What an opportunity!
I can't believe in one of the richest counties on Earth the residents will actually allow this kind of thing to continue.
And by the way, I don't think much of the Associated Press for slanting the story as being such a triumph for Senior Citizens.

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Consumed by push capitalism

privatizing profit, socializing risk...

bill moyers interviews benjamin barber, part 1...

bill moyers interviews benjamin barber, part 2...

bill moyers interviews benjamin barber, part 3...

democracy as pluralism... what a concept...!

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Pirates = Emperors, à la kids' educational tv

(thanks to daily kos...)

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Lockheed Martin, CNN, and the promotion of war

from brasscheck tv...

Every now and then we win.

CNN - and in this pointed case Glenn Beck - likes to paint itself as a reliable, unbiased source of news.

For an "unbiased source" then do seem to have tremendous enthusiasm for promoting wars.

Could that have anything to do with the fact that Lockheed Martin pays its bills?

Media analyst Norman Solomon sucker punches professional jackass Glenn Beck with the facts. Watch Beck squirm.

What I wouldn't pay to hear the transmission from the control room to Beck's head phones as the news director - those nameless invisible creeps who control what we see on TV news - tries impotently to blunt Solomon's point.

This is probably the last time Norman Solomon will appear live on CNN, but I say it was worth it.

Watch it, enjoy it and pass it on.

The truth made it to TV...for a few minutes as least.

if indeed full disclosure was the order of the day, one of two things would happen... either we would find out the massive extent to which corporations influence what is passed to us as "news," OR it would be so totally embarrassing to the news outlets that we might actually start getting REAL news...

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What are the odds that President Bush is innocent of war crimes?

hmmmmmm... < ponders, scratches chin, gazes off into space, ponders some more >

london sunday times...

What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?

What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.

Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have - without any bias - would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.


It’s a potential Watergate. But this time the crime is not a two-bit domestic burglary. It’s a war crime that reaches into the very heart of the Oval Office.

lemme see... how about zip...? zero...? nada...? zilch...? no way, josé...?

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Exploding pies - holiday flight security insanity


The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t like pie in the sky. We kinda suspected that after the low-rated government agency issued new guidelines on food items that could be brought onboard. Now comes a firsthand report of TSA sillyness that, if nothing else, will make you laugh out loud.

It comes by way of Jessica Bruder, a writer for the Portland Oregonian who flew to Illinois over the Thanksgiving holiday and almost had her apple pie confiscated by a federal screener.

After putting her dish through the conveyor belt, the interrogation began:

“Are you the pie lady?” the agent demanded.

Standing there in orange polka-dot socks, jeans inching down my hips, I nodded soberly. He indicated we’d have more to talk about on the far side of the metal detector.

When my pie emerged, the questions began.

“What kind of pie is that?” He squinted at the pan.

“Apple. With some raspberries.”

“Does it have lumps?”

I glanced at the crust, which was black in places and looked like a topographical rendering of the Himalayas. (To think I was trying to impress my boyfriend’s parents in Illinois with this thing.)

Why is the TSA down on holiday pies? Turns out it some pies are, indeed, “dangerous,” according to her agent.

He told me he was keeping watch for pies with cream and custard fillings. Anything that could be construed as a “gel.” He’d already turned away a pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin pie filling, he confided, “has the same consistency as certain plastic explosives.”

Have the terrorists begun baking combustible pies? I doubt it.

Rather, I think the agency is putting on a show for travelers who fly only once or twice a year. The message: the $4.7 billion of taxpayer money is being well spent to protect you.

From exploding pies.

total and complete foolishness...

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the crazy-making monstrosity below was the number one item on my 5 year-old grandson's christmas wish list...
Twice the power! Ten times the fun! Darth Vader is more powerful than ever when he doubles as the Death Star. Standing over 12-inches tall in robot mode, the mighty Dark Lord of the Sith is a technological terror with gobs of action features. Featuring spring-loaded parts, electronic lights and sounds, and the ability to transform into the Death Star, there's never been a more exciting and entertaining disguise for the former Anakin Skywalker!

the age range states 5+... it was passed to grandpa to transform into the death star... the results so far...

grandpa - 1 hour - no success

son - 1 1/2 hours - no success, says "to hell with it," and changes it back to darth vader in less than 10 minutes...

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Monday, December 24, 2007

At 14:14 PST, Santa was in Prague, Czech Republic [UPDATE] [UPDATE II] [UPDATE III]

our czech neighbor from across the street is in the czech republic right now, enjoying the holidays with family and friends...

and if THIS guy suddenly pops out of your chimney, you're in for a REAL TREAT...!


at 14:22, santa was in bratislava, slovakia...


at 16:33, santa was in goose green, falkland islands, heading for south america...

(seriously, folks, i wouldn't be doing this if i wasn't being pestered by grandsons...)


at 18:44, santa was in coco solo, panama, heading up through central america...

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Christian dominionism, American fascism

chris hedges, in this video from canadian broadcasting, talks about the u.s. christian right, their fascist tendencies, his book, American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America, and the recent article in the toronto star...

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer prize winning writer and author of "American Fascists." In his latest release, the former New York Times correspondent compares the U.S. Christian right to 20th Century fascism.

As a son of a preacher, Hedges has a deep knowledge of the Bible which he uses to openly blast the role of Christianity in politics.

Hedges believes the far right Christian believers have been manipulated by the high power, allowing for bigotry and intolerance.

again, nothing we don't already know...

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Happy Holidays from the Lawrenceburg, Indiana, Police Department

single mom with two kids...

from brasscheck tv...

Here's a suggestion Asst. Chief Dan Combs...

You and the rest of the morons who destroyed this woman's home dig into your own pockets and replace every damaged item and then go in there and personally clean the place up.

Think about it. They shot up an apartment in a high density housing complex full of military grade tear gas. Then went in and vandalized the house from top to bottom.

The wrong house and have left a woman and her two young children homeless.

The gutless wonder who didn't even have the decency to apologize to this woman is Gene Hunefeld, Chief of Police of Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Their phone number is 812-537-2284


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The Adventures of HercuBush

too funny...

thanks to john at americablog...

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Glenn, expanding on Charlie Savage

charlie savage's new book, Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy, is given a thorough review by susang at daily kos, but, even more interesting is glenn greenwald's post on mitt romney that builds on savage's boston globe column from yesterday... ol' mitt has certainly been in the cross-hairs the past couple of days (see my earlier post), and, i must admit, is shaping up to be an even more disturbing individual than his empty-suit persona would suggest...
Romney perfectly expresses the driving view of our GOP-dominated political culture over the last seven years, as profoundly un-American as it is Orwellian: You are in grave danger of being slaughtered by Terrorists. The only thing that matters is that your Leader protect you. In order to be safe, you must place your blind faith and trust in the Leader. There can be no limits on the Leader's power -- not even ones you try to place on him through your representatives in Congress -- otherwise you will be in severe danger and might even lose your freedoms.


Although one would not have thought it possible, a Mitt Romney presidency, by his own description, would remove us still further from those core [Constitutional] principles. Romney isn't running to be President, but to be King. Anyone who wants to dispute that ought to try to distinguish the fantasies of power Romney is envisioning from those the British King possessed in the mid-to-late 18th Century.

i would liken what george bush and his erstwhile successor, mitt romney, espouse as much closer to dictatorship than monarchy... within monarchical systems, there is at least a rudimentary sense of noblesse oblige*... i see nothing in the bush administration or in romney's spoutings that even faintly resembles such a thing...
* "Noblesse oblige" is generally used to imply that with wealth, power and prestige come social responsibilities. The phrase is sometimes used derisively, in the sense of condescending, patronising or hypocritical social responsibility. The term has also been applied more broadly to those who are capable of simple acts to help another, usually one who is less fortunate.

In ethical discussion, it is sometimes used to summarize a moral economy wherein privilege must be balanced by duty towards those who lack such privilege or who cannot perform such duty. Finally, it has been used recently primarily to refer to public responsibilities of the rich, famous and powerful, notably to provide good examples of behaviour or to exceed minimal standards of decency.

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A real-life Christmas story

if this doesn't touch you, it's probably cuz you aren't touchable...
GI Saves Iraqi Boy in Unlikely Adoption
Dec 23 12:38 PM US/Eastern
Associated Press Writer

MAUSTON, Wis. (AP) - Capt. Scott Southworth knew he'd face violence, political strife and blistering heat when he was deployed to one of Baghdad's most dangerous areas. But he didn't expect Ala'a Eddeen.

Ala'a was 9 years old, strong of will but weak of body—he suffered from cerebral palsy and weighed just 55 pounds. He lived among about 20 kids with physical or mental disabilities at the Mother Teresa orphanage, under the care of nuns who preserved this small oasis in a dangerous place.

On Sept. 6, 2003, halfway through his 13-month deployment, Southworth and his military police unit paid a visit to the orphanage. They played and chatted with the children; Southworth was talking with one little girl when Ala'a dragged his body to the soldier's side.

Black haired and brown eyed, Ala'a spoke to the 31-year-old American in the limited English he had learned from the sisters. He recalled the bombs that struck government buildings across the Tigris River.

"Bomb-Bing! Bomb-Bing!" Ala'a said, raising and lowering his fist.

"I'm here now. You're fine," the captain said.

Over the next 10 months, the unit returned to the orphanage again and again. The soldiers would race kids in their wheelchairs, sit them in Humvees and help the sisters feed them.

To Southworth, Ala'a was like a little brother. But Ala'a—who had longed for a soldier to rescue him—secretly began referring to Southworth as "Baba," Arabic for "Daddy."

Then, around Christmas, a sister told Southworth that Ala'a was getting too big. He would have to move to a government-run facility within a year.

"Best case scenario was that he would stare at a blank wall for the rest of his life," Southworth said.

To this day, he recalls the moment when he resolved that that would not happen.

"I'll adopt him," he said.


Before Southworth left for Iraq, he was chief of staff for a state representative. He was single, worked long days and squeezed in his service as a national guardsman—military service was a family tradition. His great-great-greatgrandfather served in the Civil War, his grandfather in World War II, his father in Vietnam.

The family had lived in the tiny central Wisconsin city of New Lisbon for 150 years. Scott was raised as an evangelical Christian; he attended law school with a goal of public service, running unsuccessfully for state Assembly at the age of 25.

There were so many reasons why he couldn't bring a handicapped Iraqi boy into his world.

He had no wife or home; he knew nothing of raising a disabled child; he had little money and planned to run for district attorney in his home county.

Just as important, Iraqi law prohibits foreigners from adopting Iraqi children.

Southworth prayed and talked with family and friends.

His mother, who had cared for many disabled children, explained the difficulty. She also told him to take one step at a time and let God work.

Southworth's decision was cemented in spring 2004, while he and his comrades watched Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ." Jesus Christ's sacrifice moved him. He imagined meeting Christ and Ala'a in heaven, where Ala'a asked: "Baba, why didn't you ever come back to get me?"

"Everything that I came up with as a response I felt ashamed. I wouldn't want to stand in the presence of Jesus and Ala'a and say those things to him."

And so, in his last weeks in Iraq, Southworth got approval from Iraq's Minister of Labor to take Ala'a to the United States for medical care.


His parents had filed signatures so he wouldn't miss the cutoff to run for district attorney. He knocked on doors, telling people he wanted to be tough on criminals who committed injustices against children.

He never mentioned his intention to adopt Ala'a.

He won office—securing a job and an income.

Everything seemed to be in place. But when Southworth contacted an immigration attorney, he was told it would be nearly impossible to bring Ala'a to the United States.

Undaunted, Southworth and the attorney started the paperwork to bring Ala'a over on humanitarian parole, used for urgent reasons or significant public benefit.

A local doctor, a cerebral palsy expert, a Minneapolis hospital, all said they would provide Ala'a free care. Other letters of support came from a minister, the school district, the lieutenant governor, a congressman, chaplain, a sister at the orphanage and an Iraqi doctor.

"We crossed political boundaries. We crossed religious boundaries. There was just a massive effort—all on behalf of this little boy who desperately needed people to actually take some action and not just feel sorry for him," Southworth says.

He mailed the packet on Dec. 16, 2004, to the Department of Homeland Security.

On New Year's Eve, his cell phone rang. It was Ala'a.

"What are you doing?" Scott asked him.

"I was praying,'" Ala'a responded.

"Well, what were you praying for?"

"I prayed that you would come to take me to America," Ala'a said.

Southworth almost dropped the phone. Ala'a knew nothing of his efforts, and he couldn't tell him yet for fear that the boy might inadvertently tell the wrong person, upending the delicate process.

By mid-January, Homeland Security called Southworth's attorney to say it had approved humanitarian parole. Within three hours, Southworth had plane tickets.

He hardly slept as he worked the phones to make arrangements, calling the American embassy, hotels and the orphanage. His Iraqi translator agreed to risk his life to get Ala'a to the embassy to obtain documentation. Like a dream, all the pieces fell into place.

Southworth returned to Iraq for the first time since a deployment that left him emotionally, physically and spiritually exhausted.

His unit had trained Iraqi police from sunup to sundown; he saw the devastation wrought by two car bombings, and counted dead bodies. Mortar and rocket attacks were routine. Some 20 in his unit were wounded, and one died. He knew that nothing could be taken for granted in Baghdad.

So when he saw Ala'a in the airport for the first time since leaving Iraq, he was relieved.

"He was in my custody then. I could hug him. I could hold him. I could protect him.

"And forever started."

They made it to Wisconsin late Jan. 20, 2005. The next morning, Ala'a awoke to his first sight of snow.

He closed his eyes and grimaced.

"Baba! Baba! The water is getting all over me!"

"It's not water, it's snooooow," Southworth told him.


Police found Ala'a abandoned on a Baghdad street at around 3 years old. No one knows where he came from.

In all his life in Iraq, Ala'a saw a doctor 10 times. He surpassed that in his first six months in the United States.

Ala'a's cerebral palsy causes low muscle tone, spastic muscles in the legs, arms and face. It hinders him when he tries to crawl, walk or grasping objects. He needs a wheelchair to get around, often rests his head on his shoulder and can't easily sit up.

Physical therapy has helped him control his head and other muscles. He can now maneuver his way out of his van seat and stabilize his legs on the ground.

"I'm not the same guy I used to be," he says.

He clearly has thrived. At 13, he's doubled his weight to 111 pounds.

Ala'a's condition doesn't affect his mind, although he's still childlike—he wants to be a Spiderman when he grows up.

Ala'a's English has improved and he loves music and school, math and reading especially. He gets mad when snow keeps him home, even though it's his second favorite thing, after his father.

At first, he didn't want to talk about Iraq; he would grow angry when someone tried to talk to him in Arabic. But in the fall of 2006, Scott showed Ala'a's classmates an Arabic version of "Sesame Street" and boasted how Ala'a knew two languages and could teach them.

Soon he was teaching his aide and his grandmother, LaVone.

LaVone is a fixture in Ala'a's life, supporting her son as he juggles his career and fatherhood. One day, she asked Ala'a if he missed his friends in Iraq.

Would he like to visit them?

Big tears filled his eyes.

"Well, honey, what's the matter?" asked LaVone.

"Oh, no, Grandma. No. Baba says that I can come to live with him forever," he pleaded.

"Oh, no, no," he grandmother said, crying as well. "We would never take you back and leave you there forever. We want you to be Baba's boy forever."


Southworth knew once he got Ala'a out of Iraq, the hardest part would be over. Iraq had bigger problems to deal with than the whereabouts of a single orphan.

On June 4, Ala'a officially became Southworth's son. Though he was born in the spring of 1994, they decided to celebrate his birthday as the day they met—Sept. 6.

Life has settled into a routine. Father and son have moved into a new house with an intercom system, a chair lift to the basement and toilet handles. Southworth showers him, brushes his teeth and washes his hands. He has traded in his Chrysler Concorde for a minivan—it was too hard to lift his son out of the car.

In October, the Wisconsin's deputy adjunct general gave Southworth, now a major, permission to change units because of Ala'a. His former unit was going to Guantanamo Bay for a one-year deployment, and he didn't want to leave his son behind, at least for now.

He hopes one day to marry to his longtime girlfriend and have more children. He may run for Congress or governor someday—he's already won re-election once, and plans to run again next fall.

Not everything is perfect. Ala'a never encountered thunderstorms in Baghdad, and the flash-boom reminds him of bombs. He is starting to get over it, although he still weeps during violent storms.

But Ala'a—who picked out his own name, which means to be near God—knows he's where he belongs. Southworth always says Ala'a picked him, not the other way around. They were brought together, Southworth believes, by a "web of miracles."

Ala'a likes to sing Sarah McLachlan's song, "Ordinary Miracle," from "Charlotte's Web," one of his favorite movies. His head and body lean to one side as he sings off-key.

"It's just another ordinary miracle today. Life is like a gift they say. Wrapped up for you everyday."

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The more I read Glenn Greenwald, the more I'm impressed by what he has to say

please understand, i've never NOT been impressed by what greenwald has to say, but in following his recent posts where he articulately and passionately maintains a devotion to reason and truth despite increasing attacks from his own "progressive," "liberal" blog-brethren and media pundits, my respect for him has increased exponentially...

glenn's post from yesterday builds on similar posts over the past couple of weeks in which he masterfully sets forth his case for the value of ron paul as a presidential candidate, a case he makes NEITHER out of his support for paul as a contender for the republican nomination NOR out of his support for paul as a future president, but principally because of the ISSUES THAT RON PAUL IS BRINGING TO THE NATIONAL DISCUSSION SOLELY BY BEING IN THE RACE... astoundingly - or maybe not so astoundingly - glenn writes this particular column and subsequent updates in response to a not-so-thinly-veiled attack by a fellow progressive, ezra klein (here, here, and here)... it's a shame when you have to say something like this to a presumed like-minded professional colleague...

I wish a fraction of the energy that progressives devote to criticizing Ron Paul was devoted instead -- at least during the primary season -- to criticizing their own viable candidates for the gaping deficienices identified here, ones that are likely to have a far greater impact than any of the perceived flaws of Ron Paul.

this is the same dynamic i have repeatedly decried here on this blog, the incomprehensible and unconscionable seeming refusal of my fellow so-called progressives and liberals to face up to our critical national constitutional crisis, an issue that ron paul faces head-on... while i don't support ron paul (or anyone else at the moment), he is the only one besides, to a lesser extent, chris dodd and dennis kucinich, who is putting this issue on the table where it so rightly belongs... glenn is spot on... this is an issue we can't ignore and we can't afford to marginalize and demonize any candidate who sees it for what it is...

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