Thursday, November 30, 2006

C is for Civil War

Now that the die hards in Washington and their Corporate Media cheerleaders are on the same page as 60% of Americans perhaps the Charlatan will submit to their better judgment and begin withdrawing from Iraq. But because his psyche makes it extremely difficult for him to admit errors, I doubt it.

One agenda item that is absolutely necessary is a close examination of the national decision making resulting in such a colossal blunder as invading and occupying Iraq. The Constitution gives the President primary responsibility for foreign policy, but it does not relieve Congress from its oversight and advisory responsibilities. If investigations show that the Charlatan exceeded his executive authority by lying to Congress about the urgent need for a preemptive war and he violated his oath of office to faithfully execute the nation's laws in his zeal to root out terror then Congress must do its duty and impeach him.

Don't be bought off cheap. We can all wait a little longer for an increase in the minimum wage. Think of it as a down payment on restoring democracy. Demand a real accounting from your government and do not be satisfied with politics of collaboration.

WEEKEND UPDATE: The Baker-Hamilton Committee, in order to reach a biparty consensus, refused to put a timeline on the gradual "redeployment" of American troops from Iraq but will recommend such a change in troop structure occur beginning in 2007. The Charlatan opposes a timeline because it looks like admitting defeat. Rest assured that troops will still be in Iraq in 2008 and their continued presence in the midst of the Iraqi civil war will be an issue in the presidential campaign. At the current rate of death, another 1000 American soldiers will die for another foreign policy mistake before our it ends. There will be a relatively small increase (a brigade or two, not 20,000) in the number of troops in Baghdad to bolster security for the impotent puppet regime of Al-Maliki. With the sure sense of a survivor, he is already looking to Iran for sponsorship after the American muscle leaves the scene of the crime. No wonder Amidinejad is always smiling.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

W is for Charlatan

You learn the meaning and use of a great many words in a lifetime. You especially learn a lot of words if you have been back to school as W's daddy suggested. But regardless of educational achievement, you sometimes struggle to find the precise one to describe a person. You may have read my struggle to find the most descriptive gloss for George W. Bush. With the aid of Robert Greene's best seller, The 48 Laws of Power, I have discovered that term. It is CHARLATAN.

Or, if you prefer the even more French sounding, montebank. The seller of potions and elixers would mount a tall bench (le banc) and mesmerize the peasants crowded round with tales of miraculous cures, fantastic wealth, or passions fulfilled. If you ever watched W deliver a speech to a red state crowd early in his reign--before the facts began to catch up with him--you can see the rules of the charlatan's disreputable trade at work. Greene lists these rules in his description of the 27th "law" of power. W cleverly uses every one.
  • Keep it Vague; Keep it Simple. Nobody has accused W of using obtuse or convoluted language. Comedians repeatedly make jokes about his apparent inability to form a complete English sentence in speech. But he does use short, evocative phrases that resonate with his listeners and can be contained in a sound bite. Some of my favorites: "freedom is on the march"; "mission accomplished"; "cut and run". These phrases are repeated at every opportunity.
  • Emphasize the Visual over the Intellectual. The entire media event on the aircraft carrier from landing to rally in front of the now infamous banner was a visual appeal to macho jingoism worthy of Dr. Goebbles. Listeners' boredom is the charlatan's worst enemy. It gives them time to think and for skepticism to rise.
  • Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion. W repeatedly alludes to religious values and traditions in his public appearances and policy pronouncements. The war in Iraq has produced some of the most moralistic rhetoric of good and evil. Thus, a former client dictator becomes a "Hitler" and unfriendly regimes, the "axis of evil". We have invaded a country not to control oil, but crusading to bring "democracy" to a backward people.
  • Disguise your Source of Income. W was a failed businessman before he became a politician supported by oil companies and Christian fundamentalists. His administration has become synonymous with corrupt influence peddling. But his current affluence and trappings of power are testament to the righteousness of his cause. To know the source of his wealth you must ask yourself who has profited from the war.
  • Set Up an Us versus Them Dynamic. Before 9/11 W had no grand plan, no fixed goals for his administration. The terrorist attack was the opening he needed to solidify his image as a great leader and stampede Congress into a war against infidels ("they hate us for our freedom"). His critics are now labeled traitors. Their desire to extract us from the quagmire he created is defeatist. He told the world before Congress, "you are either with us or with the terrorists."

W is not for stupid. W is for charlatan.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dead Kennedys

Recent television programs in the US have prompted my opinion on perhaps the most compelling murder mystery in American history: the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It has been the subject of two Congressional inquiries since the Warren Commission rendered its dubious verdict of a lone assassin, besides numerous books and several films concerning the events. Cultural regurgitation of the spectacular motorcade ambush and ruthless elimination of the alleged shooter appear as each anniversary of November 22, 1963 passes. Yes, I too recall where I was that day. The announcement of the president's death came over the school loudspeaker as I sat in my 9th grade class at Fort Crook Elementary school.

The blurry frames of the Zapruder home movie seem burned into the collective consciousness of Americans. Despite the limitations of its technology, that film remains the best physical evidence of what actually happened in Dealey Plaza. Abraham Zapruder filmed the assassination taking place in front of him with his Bell & Howell 8mm camera set to record at 18.3 frames per second from atop a masonry wall on the grassy knoll. His film shows the President being hit three times in the space of about 6 seconds. Why there should remain so much interest sixty three years later in how the President was murdered reduces to this fact: a majority of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was not the only shooter in Dallas and that JFK was the target of a conspiracy which the Warren Commission tried to cover up.

I do not consider myself an assassination buff or a sucker for conspiracy theories, but I agree with those Americans who are convinced that Oswald did not act alone. My opinion is admittedly based on published studies of the assassination which vary greatly in degree of objectivity and rigor. But I have read several authoritative studies and forced myself to look at the grisly autopsy photos. Josiah Thompson's Six Seconds in Dallas first published in 1967 stands out in my mind for its forensic approach to evaluating the available evidence. His work as a consultant for Life Magazine, which purchased the Zapruder film, has stood the test of time. Several salient facts stand out from the many that make up the historical collage of the autumn day in Dallas that changed America forever:

  1. There where some 190 eyewitnesses to the murder. 172 gave an opinion on the number of shots. 90% of these reported hearing at least three shots that afternoon. Of the Secret Service agents reporting an opinion, 87% said there were three shots. This is a probative amount of unanimity.
  2. The Warren Commission concluded that two bullets caused all the wounds to JFK and Governor Connelly and that one shot missed. The Commission could not say which shots hit. The 'magic bullet', so called because it was found at Parkland Hospital in near pristine condition (slight longitudinal flattening) and followed a bizarre theoretical trajectory, hit the President in the upper back, passed through his body and hit Connally in his shoulder, breaking his 5th rib, and shattering his wrist. The third bullet caused the massive, fatal wound to the President's head that the Zapruder film captured in horrifying detail. But both Connolly and his wife testified and stated subsequently that it was there firm conviction the Governor was not hit with the same bullet that hit Kennedy.
  3. Forensic evidence such as JFK's clothes, the Bethesda autopsy witnesses, reports and photos show a bullet entered the Presidents upper back(O'Connor: "about three inches down and and an inch or two to the right of the seventh cervical vertebra") and did not exit the body. (Jenkins: "The probing I saw indicated that there was a dead end behind the plural cavity" O'Connor: "Dr. Humes took his finger and poked it into the hole and said it did not go anywhere.") Since this bullet (Commission Exhibit 399) did not hit bone, its possible that the relatively undeformed bullet found on a stretcher at Parkland fell out of the back wound during rigorous cardiac massage.
  4. Test bullets of the same type--6.5mm metal jacket-- showed significant deformation when fired into bone. (CE 856, 853) Two Army ballistic experts as well as physicians testified to the Commission that CE399 could not have caused Governor Connolly's wounds. Metal fragments recovered from Connolly were not matched on an atomic level with CE399.
  5. If two different bullets hit JFK and Connally, then Oswald was not alone since it is physically impossible to operate his bolt action, war surplus Mannlicher-Carcano fast enough for the time frame (1.6 seconds) established by the film.
  6. Close study of the Zapruder film shows that a head shot drove the President's body to the rear and left indicating the kill shot came from the right front of the President's limousine consistent with the physical law of conservation of momentum and inconsistent with the Commission's conclusion that the shot came from the Texas School Book Depository to the rear of the motorcade. Head wound location and extent first seen by the Parkland attending physicians and lay eyewitnesses are consistent with this trajectory. Several credible eyewitnesses (one with a panoramic view of Dealey Plaza in front of the motorcade, two sitting in the car directly behind the President, and two standing on the curb fifteen feet from the President--Bowers, Powers, O'Donnell, Newmans) reported a shot from a stockade fence behind the grassy knoll about 40 yards from the motorcade. An easily concealable weapon loaded with high speed, hollow point ammunition could have caused the massive head trauma at short range. Brain matter exploded from the impact spraying the First Lady and motorcycle outriders (Hargis, Martin) following the limousine. A piece of the President's occipital bone was found in the median grass to the left of his motorcade's path, a debris field consitent with a bullet path from front right to left rear.
  7. Medical and photographic evidence shows another head shot from the rear (perhaps from the Dal-Tex Building or Records Building) entering the right occiput of the President's skull, moving toward the midtemple, crushing the volmer bone and fracturing the floor of the skull at the right eye. (CE 386) (Lipsey: "...absolutely and unequivocally yes, they [the Bethesda autopsy doctors] were convinced he had been shot three times." quotes from Law, In the Eye of History) Perhaps this shot drove a bone fragment from the bottom of JFK's brain case through the neck causing an exit wound in the throat that was later obscured by a trachecotomy. This possibility is suggested by two deep mid-brain lacerations that connect and the absence of copper traces from a bullet on the shirt front hole.

As early as 1966 the Warren report was criticised in public. Sylvia Meagher extensively cateloged the Commission errors, omissions and inconsistencies in her 1967 book, Accessories after the Fact. At a 1967 pretrial hearing for Clay L. Shaw, alleged to be an Oswald co-conspirator by then New Orleans District Attorney, Jim Garrison, the judge refused to admit the Warren Report into evidence, saying it was "fraught with hearsay and contradiction". Research since then into the US archives now shows that the Warren Commission had good reason to stick with then Commission Counsel Arlen Specter's lone gunman theory regardless of its lack of credibility. Those reasons had to do with this country's clandestine war against Fidel Castro and are the subject of another post. Links to websites do not indicate an indorsement of their content, but are for illustrative purposes only.

Dead Kennedys II

After the1961 Bay of Pigs disaster, President Kennedy handed Attorney General Robert Kennedy the covert ops portfolio. RFK, a committed cold warrior like his brother, bluntly told the CIA he wanted Fidel Castro to "disappear". Nothing was put in writing, but the Agency had its marching orders. RFK denied ever directly ordering assassination. Between 1960 and 1965 there were eight attempts on the revolutionary leader's life according to former Secretary of State, Al Haig. What is not widely known is that besides Operation Mongoose and Operation 40, the government was involved in planning a Cuban coup d'etat and US military invasion of Cuba that included the participation of a famous and respected Cuban comrade from the Sierra Maestra days. A feature of the plan was the formation and equipping of assassination teams that were to infiltrate the island during the invasion chaos and kill Castro. Castro would be replaced by the collaborator who would use his considerable influence to end resistance and reestablish civil order. The plan was known by its CIA code name AMWORLD.

A 1963 CIA memo previously classified top secret was not discovered in the National Archives by researcher Stuart Wexler until 2004. The document and related material had been declassified in 1999 by the JFK Assassination Records Review Board. The five page memo from the Chief, Western Hemisphere Division outlined the CIA role in the planning and preparation of the Cuban coup for station chiefs who might come across "manifestations" of the operation. Its title is "AMWORLD--Background of Program, Operation Support requirements and Procedural Rules." The memorandum was published by authors Waldron and Hartmann as part of their authoritative study of the Kennedy Assassination, Ultimate Sacrifice and a copy of it can be seen at their
website. There is no doubt that Robert Kennedy controlled the large scale, very secret effort to violently depose Castro. Secret planning took place at the top level of the administration and RFK ran the three groups involved, the "Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee on Cuban Affairs", the "Special Group" for covert matters and the "Standing Group" for contingency plans and policy assessment. This dispersal of functions into small groups was intended to make them easier to control, preserve tight secrecy, as well as provide the President with plausible deniability.
Cyrus Vance, Secretary of the Army and trusted Kennedy advisor, headed the Pentagon's participation. He wrote a memo dated September 26, 1963 titled "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" to the Joint Chiefs of Staff in which the coup plan was presented to them as an option, but in reality it was the only plan being considered. Operation Mongoose was not having the intended effect of destabilising Cuba and promoting the overthrow of Castro. Vance told Chief of Staff Maxwell Taylor that the CIA and the State Department concurred with the coup plan. The invading exile groups would need to establish a provisional government (under the leadership of the still secret paid collaborator) and "hold a significant piece of territory long enough for the US to extend support." The document says that US support can only begin after "Fidel Castro...has been neutralized." Thus, killing Fidel was the key component of the entire operation eventhough the Kennedys may have viewed it as providing direct military assistance to invading Cuban exile groups. Both of Vance's aides, Joseph Califano and Al Haig, confirm Bobby Kennedy was the boss of the operation. Haig told an interviewer, "Bobby was the President," as far Cuban operations were concerned. Former CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Richard Helms (later CIA Director under Nixon) told interviewers on different occasions the same thing, "There are two things you have to understand: Kennedy wanted to get rid of Castro, and the Agency was not about to undertake anything like that on its own." He was equally adamant that Bobby Kennedy was in charge, telling a biographer that, "Robert Kennedy ran with it, ran those operations, and I dealt with him almost every day."

An AMWORLD memo sent by CIA director McCone on the morning of JFK's murder, confirms that the coup was scheduled for December 1, 1963. There were circumstances in Cuba that put pressure on plan participants to stick to the December 1 deadline. Another AMWORLD communication on November 22nd from a Cuban inflitrator said that Castro was concerned about possible insurrection by some of his men and was undertaking a massive propaganda campaign to bolster loyalty. He had reason to worry. Some old comrades still in Cuba felt Fidel had betrayed the revolution by embracing the Soviets. The Commandante had also laid plans to begin a military draft in early December which exiled coup leaders believed would "tremendously" impact clandestine activities in Cuba. Domestic political considerations too played a role in setting an early December deadline. Polls showed the public giving the President low ratings on his handling of Cuba. But US troops fighting in Cuba with US air support during the Christmas holidays was not desirable. If the plan failed, time was needed before the 1964 campaign got underway to deal with the repercussions. AMWORLD was more than just convoluted contingency planning by November 22, 1963. It was a high risk military operation with vital clandestine components set to go off in ten days. Bobby was set to fall on his own sword if it did not succeed.

What RFK apparently did not know about until May 7, 1962, when the CIA general counsel briefed him on the subject, was the involvement of the Mafia in previous CIA efforts to assassinate Castro going back to 1959. These operations had been approved by Director Allen Dulles and had used Jimmy Hoffa as a 'cut-out'. The teamster boss had access to Castro since he had participated in gun running to the Cuban leader with the CIA's blessing. Of course the Mafia had extensive contacts in Cuba as a result of their lucrative casino businesses sponsored by Batista. After the revolution came to power and dispossessed the gangsters, bosses like Santo Trafficante and Johnny Rosselli, who represented the Chicago don Sam Giancana, were willing to use their considerable resources to aid the CIA in its efforts to "neutralize" Fidel. There was even historical precedent for such cooperation since the mob had aided the WWII effort by enforcing labor peace and detecting sabotage on the docks. Nevertheless, the CIA revelation must have concerned Bobby Kennedy greatly. CIA told him the operations had ceased, but this was false. (Operation AMLASH and the CIA executive action program code named ZRRIFLE exposed by the Church Committee for example).

Bobby and his brother had made powerful mob enemies during the 1957-61 McClellan corrupt unions hearings. Sam Giancana and New Orleans boss Carlos Marcello were forced to appear and were subjected to embarrassing public examination by the younger brother as the Committee's chief counsel. Trafficante was beyond subpoena power in Cuba, but other witnesses implicated him as the mob boss of Tampa. After the hearings, then Attorney General Kennedy deported Carlos Marcello, a Tunisian national, to Guatemala. Traffacante's Orlando gambling business was shut down by the IRS. Rosselli was audited and his financial transactions examined by the FBI. The dons had suffered insult and prosecution at the hands of Jack and Bobby. They were men unlikely to forgive. How the Mafia used the AMWORLD operation to its own ends is the subject of another post.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Cat

Wow! Best wishes for a plentiful holiday.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Waiter, there is an Elector in my Democracy

The disputed presidential election of 2000 demonstrated several truths. One is that our system of voting is decrepit, parochial and vulnerable to fraud on a scale only possible with the advent of black box voting. The current disputed 13th Congressional District race in Sarasota, Florida confirms that the process has gotten only marginally better since the millennium. Touch screen machines for which there is no paper trial, apparently failed to register thousands of votes in a race decided by 368. There were 18,368 undervotes (no vote recorded) for the congressional seat, 15,000 more than in the 2002 midterm election. Computer experts say a recount would be a waste of time since there is no way of knowing if the votes in the machines' memory correspond to what voters were actually indicating on the screen. It may well be that the US House decides the race for the voters of Sarasota.

A second truth, and one conveniently ignored or not well understood by Americans is that George W. Bush won because he won the EElectoral College vote. Al Gore won the popular vote by a half million regardless of how the Supreme Court ordered the 'hanging chads' counted in Florida. But Article II our Constitution provides that the president is elected by electors which "each state shall appoint...equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the state may be entitled in Congress." The November popular vote is the method used for allocating the electors to each candidate for the official Electoral College vote that takes place at the 50 state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. Although the states currently award electors on a popular vote winner take all basis (Maine and Nebraska excepted), there is no federal constitutional right to vote for the appointment of electors and thus, indirectly, the president. The Supreme Court in McPherson v. Blacker (1892) said "the appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the States under the Constitution." This organic provision was reaffirmed in Bush v. Gore (2000). A wag in the US House of 1826 observed during debate that a state legislature could vest power to choose presidential electors "in a board of bank directors, a turnpike commission or a synagogue." Electors, often party stalwarts, pledge to adhere to the results of the popular vote in their state. There is no constitutional requirement that they remain faithful. In recent history eight electors have cast their vote in violation of public expectation. The preponderance of legal opinion is that such pledges are unenforceable. Former president Benjamin Harrison warned in 1898 that "an elector who failed to vote for the nominee of his party...in times of high excitement might be the subject of a lynching."

At the end of Election Day in 2000 Al Gore won 267 electoral votes and George Bush 245. Two hundred seventy was needed to win. Nobody was sure how Florida's 25 electoral votes would be awarded. The conservative majority of the Supreme Court awarded them to Bush in its controversial decision. A key issue in the legal battle over the margin of victory was the application of the safe harbor provision of the Electoral Count Act. In 1887 Congress passed the Electoral Count Act to avoid dealing with disputed vote counts from the states such as those received in the election meltdown of 1876. It shifts the onus of deciding a state's electoral slate by setting a deadline for final determination of an election result by the state's own legal provisions. Such a state determination is made binding on Congress. The Court in Bush v. Gore found Florida's proceeding recount violated federal equal protection provisions. In essence, the Court halted the recount because the state could not meet the deadline imposed for a final state determination under the Election Count Act. Odds are that if a statewide recount had been completed, Gore would have won the electoral College race too.
Feeling disenfranchised at this point? You should. The public has continuously supported abolishing the College. The Gallup organization reported in 2001 that in polls stretching back 50 years, a majority of Americans have supported amending the Constitution to allow for direct popular election of the president. This complex system was intended by the founders to elect the president by vote of sober, well informed statesmen not subject to popular enthusiasms or misconceptions, and at best was a jerry-rigged improvisation in order to reach compromise and bring the Constitution to a ratification vote. In our time of mass media, nearly instantaneous communication, widespread literacy and public education there is no justification to continue with a system that violates our deeply held notions of political equality nor provides us protection from fraud. As the election of 2000 showed the world, the Electoral College magnifies such imperfections in our democratic process.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Excuse me, while I loose my mind

Do we need another example of the TBE's inability to focus on reality: When asked while visiting Vietnam if there were lessons about Iraq to be learned from America's war experience in Vietnam, he replied that Americans tend to want instant success in the world. Ok, that's fairly cogent although the ten years we spent in Vietnam propping up corrupt colonial and puppet regimes with money and blood was hardly an overnight stay, but wait for it-- He added, "We will succeed, unless we quit". Olbermann scolded on air. And Jeff Danziger drew this humorous pictorial.

Lemme 'splain your Decisiveness: A man walked into a doctor's office. When asked the reason for his visit, he told the doctor, "It hurts when I do this," and promptly hit himself in the head with a rubber mallet. The doctor replied, "Fascinating. Stop doing that, take two aspirins and call me in the morning." Get it?

When is a Rabbit a Chicken?

When you work for the USDA. The Humane Slaughter Act passed nearly fifty years ago to require that animals be made unconscious before they are butchered. An inexpensive act of consideration for animals that give up their lives for our existence, you would think. But the USDA are a hard hearted bunch of folks since they lobbied against the bill and continue to seek ways to circumvent the law. Their latest circumvention is to define rabbits as poultry. The 9 billion chickens and turkeys killed each year are excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act.

According to the Department's own inspectors, rabbits are hung alive from metal hooks through their legs. The rabbits are then decapitated with knives dulled from repeated use. The rabbits scream and struggle in pain. Enough of the gory details--you get the idea. Some USDA inspectors were outraged by the cruelty and reported it to their supervisors. Predictably, they were told rabbits are poultry and therefore condemned to an inhumane death.
The Humane Farming Association, an animal welfare group from San Rafael, California is suing Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns for failing to apply the humane slaughter law to the commercial killing of rabbits, reindeer, bison, ducks, antelope, elk, and ostrich. Salute to these kind people for saving our livestock from needlessly cruel death.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Banana Republic Model

Bewildered neocon strategists are looking at a page in their playbook titled 'Banana Republic' for a way out of the Iraq quagmire. So the election win by Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua must qualify as an intercepted pass. A reinvented Christian Ortega, with the support of his new anti-abortion ally, the Catholic Church, succeeded in his third attempt to gain the presidency since being voted out in 1990. The prospect of a former Marxist enemy coming back to power after their hero, Ronnie Raygun, defeated the Sandinistas in a conterinsurgency war set off tocsins in the neo-con world. Their reliable war horse, Oliver North, arrived in Managua to convince Nicaraguans to reject "outside interference"--an ironic reference to the support of Ortega by Venezuela's mecurial Hugo Chavez. Ambassador Paul Trivelli threatened US aid would be cut off if Ortega won. Some Republican congressmen promised to pass legislation to prohibit sending remittances home for voting the wrong way. Nicaraguans elected Ortega anyway.

Reagan's hardline policy towards Central America is still considered a success by neoconservatives. The National Review called it "a spectacularly successful fight to introduce...Western political norms in the region." The Reagan administration's covert support of death squads in El Salvador and Guatemala and the illegal funding of counterrevolutionary in Nicaragua by "the Enterprise" held back the red tide of the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands died or were 'disappeared' never to be seen again. Thousands were tortured and thousands fled the conflicts into exile. This bloody legacy did not stop Darth Cheney from claiming during his 2004 campaign that impoverished, crime ridden El Salvador was an example of what he hoped America would accomplish in Iraq. If nothing else, the members of Bush & Co have a talent for unintended irony.

The proposal to 're-Baathify' Iraq is another stark admission that introducing American democracy at the point of a gun does not work. Neocon wonks, desperate to cobble a semi functioning state from civil chaos, seem satisfied with an Iraqi version of a banana republic. Clearly, freedom in Iraq has marched irretrievably over the horizon. But Ortega's election triumph despite the determination and overwhelming resources of a militaristic superpower does not foretell a tolerable outcome in Iraq for the Bush regime.

Friday, November 17, 2006

US PERSON Exposed by Cat!

I use the hunt and peck method, Honey...

The Road Back to Sanity

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) has taken one of the first steps to undo the damage done to our democracy in the past six years of the Bush Regime. As reported in The Hill, the capitol newspaper, he has introduced legislation to amend the notorious 2006 Military Commissions Act. That law abolished habeas corpus for detainees. Although lawyers representing detainees have filed numerous suits challenging the act's constitutionality, its fitting that one of the first bills considered by the Democratic controlled Senate be a repudiation of the "full steam ahead" approach to burying our civil liberties. The bill also allows military judges to exclude evidence obtained by coercion and unreliable hearsay. Another salutary change is the restriction of the label "unlawful enemy combatant" to one actually engaged in armed resistance to the U.S.
The new chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has expressed interest in revisiting the Bush attack on civil rights as part of his 'war on terror'. Salute to those senators from the solid Northeast! In more good news, Senator Levin (D-MI) new chairman of the Armed Services Committee, has expressed his desire to examine and change the infamous rendition program in which the CIA subcontracts its torture of high value prisoners to less fastidious third world countries.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

One More Roll of the Dice

The extent of delusion in the White House knows no bounds. In the face of a decisive political defeat, Der Decider is about to increase by 20,000, not decrease, the number of American soldiers in the meat grinder that is Iraq. The moderates on the committee of grown-ups are providing his Stupidity with enough PR cover for one more roll before he craps out. From his standpoint it makes some sense, I guess. He is going back to the ranch in January 2009, win or lose. If he manages to cobble something together in Iraq, he will have done his party a favor and not gone into the twilight a complete and utter failure. Henry is telling him its the call to make.

All the fuzzy thoughts about regional dialogue, logistic support, and national reconciliation is for public consumption. Its still stay the course until the Boy Emperor can declare 'mission accomplished', sort of. What this exercise in mental masturbation does demonstrate is just how spineless Democratic leaders really are. My advice to the troops: CYA! It isn't over yet.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Smoking Gun

The smoking gun exists because the CIA has told the ACLU it does. Although a presidential directive authorizing torture was thought to have been signed by his Deludedness, its existence was not confirmed until the CIA sent a letter to the ACLU on Friday as part of the spy agency's ongoing disclosures in a FOIA suit filed by the civil liberties group in a New York federal court.

"We don't torture", said his Evasiveness a little while back. Not so much. Rep. Conyers, I hope you are watching because we don't want Exhibit One to be shredded.

WEEKEND UPDATE: Senator Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded in a letter that Attorney General Alberto "Gonzo" Gonzales hand over the presidential directive authorizing CIA torture of detainees and foreign soil detention facilities. I bet Darth really regrets telling Pat to 'f' himself. BAAGES?, WE HAVE ALL THE STIKIN' BAAGES!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Doesn't Take a Karnak

Some of you reading this blog may not be old enough to remember Johnny Carson's Tonight Show (he was before Leno) but he did a routine he called 'Karnak the Magnificent'. He would come on stage wearing an oversized turban that kept falling off and a cape. His shtick was to provide the questions to the answers kept secret in a mayonnaise jar on the porch of Price, Waterhouse or somebody. It was one of his best routines and it would crack Ed McMahon for real.
John Kerry is no Karnak. He seems to have the same ability to put his foot in his mouth. But he also made one of the best summations about the Vietnam debacle. When he appeared before Senate Foreign Relations committee after the Winter Soldier investigation, he boldly asked the Senator's arrayed before him, "How do you ask the last man to die for a mistake?" The same question can be legitimately asked about the invasion and occupation of Iraq. History will record it as the biggest blunder in American foreign policy since Vietnam. Even the Republican "grown ups"--the security advisors to the President's daddy--recognize the reality. Beyond the moral debt we have to the Iraqi people for destroying their country is the one we have to our own people. American soldiers are still dying in a three way civil war we precipitated while American politicians temporize. There is no good solution to the mess beyond reducing our losses. Staying where we are clearly not wanted is only prolonging the Iraqi misery. Spending more money on an unjustified war only compounds the evil we do in the name of freedom.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Republican Kitty

Hmmmph.....

Another Freakin' Poll

So the election was not dispositive enough for you? The 2,000 voter telephone poll by Greenburg, Quinlan, Rosner Research dissect the election results and confirm what we know now. The opinion research group interviewed 1,000 voters nationally and 1,000 voters in 50 GOP districts considered competitive before the election. The election themes that emerged:

Its the war, stupid. 75% said the war was a factor in their vote. Only healthcare came close in the level of concern, 72%. 47% said they were trying to send a message about Iraq. The Texas Frat Boy was a negative factor even in GOP districts, -16. Nationally, he was a disaster with a 56% disapproval rating. The interviewed voters found a real difference in candidates on the issue of Iraq by 58%. A strong majority see multilateralism as correct approach to national security .
Nation on wrong track. 59% said this. The majority also said that business regulation is necessary; religion is mixed up to much in government; and esteem for conservatives has collapsed. Although the nation is split on homosexuality as an acceptable life style 51%-42%, a large majority want alternative energy development, 66%, and they said jobs were preferable to cheap goods.
Congress is a mess too. 67% disapprove of the job Congress is doing.

The Democrats pulled off 2/3rds of a hat trick by mobilizing their base. The party did better among their identity groups than 2004 except among well educated women. The Republicans lost some affluent and rural white men. Despite their "thumpin'"the Republican ground game is awesome with a plus +11 advantage in mail contacts +7 in phone contacts--the legacy of Carl Rove. Nationalization of the mid term election worked as a strategy (if it was a conscious strategy). In GOP districts, 67% said that party control of Congress was a factor in their vote. Independents both in and out of the GOP were swayed to vote Democratic, 58% nationally and 61% GOP. And yes, Katrina did make a political difference. The breakaway vote came after the disaster in late September. It must please Howard Dean that the Democratic Party is identified with reform, the middle class and new ideas. Now, if they just do something with this mandate for populist change.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nancy Pelosi and the House of Cards

Allow me to cut through the happy talk out of DC. Rummyman had become ludicrous. His requested resignation aside, Der Decider is not about compromise. His conduct of the War in Iraq in the face of mounting criticism from his own party is exhibit one of his denial of reality. If Speaker Pelosi thinks she can soft talk him into cooperating with a Democratic legislative agenda, she is as deluded as he is. Nor did the American people give her party a 30 seat win because they wanted more of the same bellicosity, corruption and trickle down socioeconomics. More than anything they want an end to the foreign policy disaster that is Iraq. Pelosi has all the cards on that issue. Appropriation bills to pay for the continuing nightmare must originate in the House. If she has to refuse to pay for the war to get a timetable to end the counterproductive occupation, then its time for her to start dealing those cards. But provoking a bunch of lame duck vetos of Democratic sponsored legislation is simply more partisan politics.

As for impeachment, Pelosi should let Representative Conyers do his job as chair of the House Judiciary Committee. She claimed in an interview with Terry Moran (ABC) that she was interested in the truth and that investigations were necessary as part of Congress' oversight responsibilities. This president has done more than any other in history to undermine the fundamental principle of coordinate branches of government. If Congress does not act to restore the balance of powers, then they are complicit with his assault on our liberties under the pretext of war. So let those cards fall were they may. The Speaker may not have the grit to call Der Decider a callous liar, but others do.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Emperor Has No Clothes

Americans have clearly spoken and you, Mr. President, will be held to account for your mendacity, your bungling and your favoritism. Your enablers have been swept from power. You face the awesome judgment of history, alone.

Monday, November 06, 2006

In Iraq, Shit Happens--Literally

As you go to the polls, consider this item. According to Paul Krugman at the NY Times, reconstruction is at an end in Iraq. The $21 billion allocated for reconstruction the past three years has been spent. A lot of that money has been spent on security and a lot has been simply wasted. Bechtel, one of the big inside players, is going home. No new money is in the pipe.
Emblematic of the complete failure of der Decider's Iraq gambit is Iraq's new police academy built at a cost to the American taxpayer of $75 million by Parson's Corp. The academy is so badly constructed that feces and urine leak from the ceilings. Now I ask you in all honesty, would you risk your life for somebody that craps on your head?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Beyond Ethanol

Many environmental advocates have promoted the benefits of using ethanol (ethyl alcohol) as a partial solution to our foreign oil dependence. They point out the energy independence of Brazil which uses domestic ethanol to run the vast majority of its vehicles. But there are problems with ethanol as a solution.
Most of the ethanol produced in the United States is made from the starches in corn kernels. The industry is popular in states producing large corn crops, but corn farming as it currently exists is fossil fuel dependent. Corn farming depends on chemical fertilizers that are made from natural gas and uses fossil fuel for mechanical operations. It also produces large amounts of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas more potent in trapping heat than carbon dioxide. Cellulosic ethanol is produced from grasses and agricultural waste products. It may be a "greener" source since less fertilizer and land is used to produced an equivalent amount of fuel. The non fermentable parts of the plant can also be used as fuel to drive the fermenting process, but the process of fermenting sugars from cellulose to make ethyl alcohol is more complex and expensive. Until advances are made in the cellulose process, we are stuck with corn. Corn's long term energy potential however, is limited. Roughly 15% of the crop is used to make ethanol, but this amount displaces only 2.3% of the gasoline we use every year. If by 2025, we used all of our corn crop for fuel with nothing left for food or animal feed, we would only displace 15% of our gasoline demand.
Considerations of ethanol as a solution must go beyond the environmental impacts of its production to the impacts of its use as vehicle fuel. Ethanol is currently mixed with gasoline in two major types, the commonly available 10% ethanol (E10) and the less available 85-74% ethanol blends (E85). E85 requires engine modifications and is used in flex fuel vehicles. Only half a percent of gas stations carry E85, mostly in the Midwest. E85 is preferable from an air quality standpoint since its combustion produces the fewest volatile organic compounds that are precursors to smog. E10 produces more volatile organics than pure gasoline. Only ethanol produced from cellulose can contribute significantly (63%-90% depending on blend) to reducing greenhouse gases because its production cycle does not require significant amounts of fossil fuel.
In the near term, drasticly increasing the efficiency of our new engines will save more oil than using corn ethanol as a fuel. No radically new technology is needed to obtain dramatic increases in fuel efficiency. But there is a government incentive for auto makers to produce flex fuel vehicles instead. The incentive assumes flex fuel cars and trucks use E85 half the time. In reality they only use E85 about 1% of the time. Automakers are getting more regulatory credits than they deserve. This loophole increased America's oil dependence by 80,000 barrels per day in 2005 and allowed automakers to avoid $1.6 billion in CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) non-compliance fines. Despite the failure of the flex fuel credit to reduce oil consumption Congress has reauthorize the credit until at least 2010. The corporate eye never waivers from the bottom line.

Thanks to Don MacKenzie at Union for Concerned Scientists


Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Bush: Soft on Democracy

In another bush league move, Der Decider has signed into law (PL 109-36, 2007 Defense Appropriations Act) a provision which makes it easier for him to invoke the Insurrection Act and federalize the National Guard. The change allows the President to put down public disturbances using the Guard without the consent of state governors. It is in effect, a de facto repeal of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 which prohibits the use of the military for domestic law enforcement. He did this on the same day he signed the odious "Torture Bill", the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that did away with writs of habeas corpus for detainees and allows their torture.
This one, two punch to democracy is without precedent in this country and extremely dangerous. Even the normally reserved Senator Leahy (D-VT) expressed his reservations on the record. It is clear Der Decider must be stopped before we are all required to shout, "SIEG HIEL". The parallels to the German Enabling Act of 1933 and the Reichstag Fire Decree are positively eerie.

Got Pombo?

Its a hard task to pick one politico that is the worst example of greed, corruption and influence peddling from the crew of the USS Ship of Fools, the GOP. But Rep. Richard Pombo of California's 11th District gets my vote. Its not just the idea of the corpulent Pombo tooling around DC in his leased Lincoln auto that he pays $7086 a year with taxpayer money. He could be satisfied with a government ride for $3096 a year. Or that he paid his brother and wife $357,325 from his political campaign funds (25% of his total) for "bookkeeping and consulting" Pombo has been named one of the Congress' 20 most corrupt legislators.

As the House Resources Committee chairman, he has the power to advance legislation in a lower house that has been transformed from a deliberative body into a majority party rubber stamp. To achieve savings of $2.4 billion in the federal budget--the estimated five year revenue from drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)--he circulated a draft bill to sell naming rights in 15 national parks. The bill was intended to influence colleagues to support drilling in ANWR, a proposal defeated by a Herculean effort of the conservation community. Even his fellow Republican, The Governator, had to ask Pombo to back off from his drilling enthusiasm. In a letter from the Ocean Protection Council, Schwarzenegger asked Pombo to drop his support for an end to the moratorium on coastal drilling. Pombo introduced serious legislation to gut the effective and popular Endangered Species Act. That bad idea was also defeated by a massive lobbying effort of which I was a part.

Even more troubling that his anti conservation agenda is his connection to influence peddling. The usual suspect is Jack Ambrahoff and his pay for play machine. The Mashpee Wampanoags are a famous for greeting the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, but they are not yet listed by the Interior Department as an "official" tribe. For thirty years the tribe has sought federal status to be eligible for federal largesse. The application was going nowhere, so four years ago they began greasing the wheels. The tribe paid out tens of thousands, some of which flowed to Abramoff and Pombo. The FBI has visited the tribes offices in Mashpee, Massachusetts to collect financial documents. A half dozen tribal leaders attended Pombo fundraisers and wrote personal checks for $2000 to his Rich PAC. About $20,000 was contributed after Pombo took a meeting with former Interior Secretary Gail Norton and the recognition program director in September 2003. The tribe's website now posts "a positive response from BIA" on their quest for recognition. Its the white man's game so you really cannot blame them for playing well.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Abyss at the End of the Tunnel

Patrick Cockburn reporting for the British Independent newspaper has done some of the best reporting from Iraq. His latest dispatch portrays the throes of Iraq's disintergration. Sunni tribes have cut the roads out of Baghdad and are fighting Shia militia for control of villages around the city. Baghdad, outside of the green zone, is mostly under Shia control. Not wanting to be cut down in the crossfire, American troops have apparently adopted a stand back policy. Maliki's "police force" is useless, being composed mostly of Shia militia. Mixed units are starting to dissolve along sectarian lines. Upwards of a thousand Iraqis are dying in the fighting each week.
This humanitarian disaster, in which an entire society will be destroyed in violent upheaval, is the result of the insane hubris of one man, George W. Bush. No amount of twisting of another politician's words will alter that historical fact.