Picks Commentary

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Parable for Christmas

A parable for our times

Bill Moyers is president of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. The center's senior fellow, Lew Daly, was his accomplice in this essay, written exclusively for TomPaine.com.

The Christian story begins simply: A child is given, a son. He grows up to be a teacher, sage, healer and prophet. He gains a large following. To many he is a divine savior; to the rich and powerful he is an enemy. They put him to death in brutal fashion, befitting his humble beginnings in peasant Galilee and his birth in a stall thick with the raw odor of animals.

Toward the end of his life, Jesus preached in the Temple to large crowds, reaching the height of his power. There he told the parable that likely sealed his fate. He said there was a man who created a prosperous vineyard and then rented it to some tenants while he went away on a journey. At harvest time, the owner of vineyard sent a servant to collect a portion from the tenants, but they beat the servant and sent him away empty-handed. Another servant came, and they struck him on the head. Another they killed. Finally, the owner sent his own son to collect the back payments. “They will respect my son,” he thought. But when the tenants saw the son, and knew him to be the heir, they saw their chance to take full possession of the harvest. And so they killed the son, thinking now they would owe nothing from the vineyard to anyone.

The listeners understood the symbolism: God, of course, is the owner of the vineyard, and the vineyard is Israel or the covenant, or, more broadly, the whole creation. It is all that God entrusts to the leaders of his people. And what is in question is their stewardship of this bounty.
In the parable, the “tenants” are the leaders of Israel. They hoard the fruits of the vineyard for themselves, instead of sharing the fruits as the covenant teaches, according to God’s holy purposes. And the holiest of God’s purposes, ancient tradition taught, is helping the poor, and the fatherless, and the widow, and the stranger—all who do not have the resources to live in a manner befitting their dignity as creatures made in God’s image, as children of God.

When he finished the story, Jesus asked the people what the owner of the vineyard will do when he comes back. “He will kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others,” Jesus tells them. In the Gospel of Matthew, the people themselves answered: “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.”

Political dynasties fall from negligent stewardship. One thinks of the upward redistribution called “tax relief”; of the Iraq invasion sold as critical to the “War on Terror"; of rising poverty, inequality, crime, debt, and foreclosure as America spews its bounty on war and a military so muscle-bound it is like Gulliver. It would be hard to imagine a more catastrophic failure of stewardship, certainly in the biblical sense of helping the poor and allocating resources for the health of society. Once upon a time these errant stewards boasted of restoring a culture of integrity to politics. They became instead an axis of corruption, joining corporate power to political ideology to religious self-righteousness.

• • •

The story is told of the devil and a companion walking along the streets. The companion saw a man reach down and pick up the truth from the sidewalk. "You're finished," the companion said to the devil. "I just saw that man pick up the truth from the street, and that means you are finished." The devil smiled and answered, "Don't worry. He's a human, and in 15 minutes he will have turned the truth into a concept and no one will know what it is."

From theories stubbornly followed in defiance of truth on the street comes ruin. Laissez-faire was never a good idea; in practice it is ruinous.

This is the season to recall Walt Whitman. He wrote in Democratic Vistas, around 1870:

The true gravitation-hold of liberalism in the United States will be a more universal ownership of property, general homesteads, general comfort—a vast, intertwining reticulation of wealth. As the human frame, or, indeed, any object in this manifold universe, is best kept together by the simple miracle of its own cohesion, and the necessity, exercise and profit thereof, so a great and varied nationality, occupying millions of square miles, were firmest held and knit by the principle of the safety and endurance of the aggregate of its middling property owners.

How prophetic to see anything like that in the aftermath of the Civil War, in which Whitman had volunteered as a nurse. But in a time of great upheaval, countered by popular mobilization after mobilization, the great poet’s took hold in the people's imagination. Whitman’s liberalism had neither the cultural elitism of those identified with the term on the left, nor the laissez-faire extremism of the free-market “liberals” on the right. Liberalism meant “the safety and endurance of the aggregate of middling property owners.” Its consummation was the New Deal social compact we inherited from five presidents and from substantial voting majorities for a generation after the Great Depression, and the result was the prospect of a fair and just society—a cohesion—that truly made us a democratic people.

Equality is not an objective that can be achieved but it is a goal worth fighting for. A more equal society would bring us closer to the “self-evident truth” of our common humanity. I remember the early 1960s, when for a season one could imagine progress among the races, a nation finally accepting immigrants for their value not only to the economy but to our collective identity, a people sniffing the prospect of progress. One could look at the person who is different in some particular way—skin color, language, religion—without feeling fear. America, so long the exploiter of the black, red, brown, and yellow, was feeling its oats; we were on our way to becoming the land of opportunity, at last. Now inequality—especially between wealth and worker—has opened like an unbridgeable chasm.

Ronald Reagan once described a particular man he knew who was good steward of resources in the biblical sense. “This is a man,” Reagan said, “who in his own business, before he entered politics, instituted a profit-sharing plan, before unions had ever thought of it. He put in health and medical insurance for all his employees. He took 50 percent of the profits before taxes and set up a retirement program, a pension plan for all his employees. He sent checks for life to an employee who was ill and couldn’t work. He provided nursing care for the children of mothers who worked in the stores.”

That man was Barry Goldwater, a businessman before he entered politics. It’s incredible how far we have deviated from even the most conservative understanding of social responsibility. For a generation now Goldwater’s children have done everything they could to destroy the social compact between workers and employers, and to discredit, defame, and even destroy anyone who said their course was wrong. Principled conservatism was turned into an ideological caricature whose cardinal tenet was of taxation as a form of theft, or, as the libertarian icon Robert Nozick called it, “force labor.” What has happened to us that such anti-democratic ideas could become a governing theory?

• • •

Of course it’s hard to grasp what really motivated this movement. Many of the new conservative elites profess devotion to the needs of ordinary people, in contrast with some of their counterparts a hundred years ago who were often Social Darwinists, and couldn’t have been more convinced that a vast chasm between the rich and poor is the natural state of things. But after 30 years of conservative revival and a dramatic return of the discredited “voodoo economics” of the 1980s under George W. Bush, it’s reasonable to follow the old biblical proverb that says by their fruits you shall know them. By that realistic standard, I think the Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow’s analysis sums it up well: What it’s all about, he simply said, is “the redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and of power in favor of the powerful."
I grew up in East Texas, in a county that once had more slaves than any other in Texas. It is impossible to forget that as the slave power grew in the South and King Cotton catapulted the new nation into the global marketplace, the whole politics of the country was infected with a rule of property that did not—indeed could not—distinguish the ownership of things from the ownership of human beings. Drawing from the Hebrew prophets and the Book of Revelation, the abolitionists simply said this: the rule of law has become moral anarchy. God’s light clarified that the rule of law had become moral anarchy.

Something was wrong in the very foundation of things, and so the foundation had to be rebuilt on sounder principles. But no mere parchment of words divulged the principles that ultimately preserved the union. They were written in blood—thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dead Americans. And so by untold sacrifice the rule of law was righted to exclude human property. Then, of course, the slave power simply rejected the rule of law and established rule by terror. The feudal south became the fascist south. It did happen here, to answer Sinclair Lewis’s famous riddle of the 1930s.

What is finally at the root of these reactionary forces that have so disturbed the social fabric and threatened to undo the republic? If a $4 billion dollar investment in chattel labor was worth the price of civil war and 600,000 dead in 1860, is it really any wonder that the richest Americans would not suffer for too long a political consensus that pushed their share of national income down by a third, and held it there—about at the level of their counterparts in “socialist” Europe—for a generation? Make no mistake about it, from the days of the American Liberty League in 1936 (the group Franklin Roosevelt had in mind with his crowd-pleasing battle cry, “I welcome their hatred!”) they never gave up on returning to their former glory. They just failed to do it. Ordinary people had powerful institutions and laws on their side that thwarted them—unions, churches, and, yes, government programs that were ratified by large majorities decade after decade.

The scale of the disorder in our national priorities right now is truly staggering; it approaches moral anarchy. Alexander Hamilton, the conservative genius of the financial class, warned this could happen. Speaking to the New York State legislature in 1788, he said:

As riches increase and accumulate in few hands; as luxury prevails in society; virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature: It is what, neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution, as well as others.

Conservatives who revere the founding fathers tend to stress the last point—that there is nothing to be done about this "common misfortune." It is up to the rest of us, who see the founding fathers not as gods but as inspired although flawed human beings—the hand that scribbled "All men are created equal" also stroked the breasts and thighs of a slave woman, whom he considered his property—to take on "the tendency of things " to "depart from the republican standard," and hold our country to its highest, and most humane, ideals.

As stewards of democracy, we, too, have a covenant—with one another.

[In the spirit of Christmas, I thought the above article from http://www.tompaine.com/ was fitting. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.]

Picks of the Week:

Putin reported 'furious' over US payment for Lebanon war, CIA Egypt terror ring

"In an even greater affront to Russia, and its supposed Middle Eastern ally Egypt, these reports also accuse the United States of operating a CIA/French Intelligence backed terror ring on Egyptian territory for the recruitment of foreign fighters to be deployed in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars, but which Egyptian authorities had infiltrated and arrested the American and French Ringleaders, and as we can read as reported by the Forbes News Service in their article titled 'Egypt Releases Details on American Man', and which says:

"'Security officials in Egypt released new details Monday about an American man in their custody on suspicion of links to a terror network which allegedly recruits Muslims to fight the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq. In Washington, the administration said Monday it expected an American detained in Egypt as a suspected terrorist to be freed.'"

The article continues,

"Aside from the tragedy of the American and French Governments having to recruit combatants to fight against their own soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is with noted irony that the CIA finds one of its own operatives in the custody of the Egyptian secret police forces at the same time that Italian authorities are preparing to indict 26 CIA agents for the kidnapping and turning over to those same Egyptian secret police an Egyptian Cleric, and as we can read as reported by the AP News Service in their article titled "Italian Court Moves Closer To Indicting CIA Agents", and which says:

"'Italy has set a date to bring possible indictments against its own intelligence service in the case of an Egyptian cleric. Over 30 U.S. and Italian intelligence agents may face charges after the extraordinary rendition of Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Milan.'"

If this Pravda article is accurate, it corroborates an earlier story when Iraqis accused the US of fomenting insurrection. I recall Lieberman denouncing the accusation as ridiculous.

Egypt releases details on American man

"An Egyptian security official identified the American as Grey Warren, from Ohio, and said he came to Egypt earlier this year to study at Al-Azhar Islamic University, Sunni Islam's most important seat of learning.

"The official read the name from a security prosecutors' document in Arabic and because of difficulties in transliteration, it was not known exactly how the man spelled his name in English.

"A State Department official would not confirm whether the name given by the Egyptian security official was correct, citing privacy laws. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has not identified the man in custody and said it has not had access to him in jail."

This is the last we'll hear of it.

Naughty and nice

"NAUGHTY: President Bush, for refusing to see Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth."NICE: Participate.net, for giving teachers 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth that 'were rejected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) after apparent pressure from Exxon and oil industry advocates.'"

A very dangerous new year

"The first two or three months of 2007 represent a dangerous opening for an escalation of war in the Middle East, as George W. Bush will be tempted to 'double-down' his gamble in Iraq by joining with Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair to strike at Syria and Iran, intelligence sources say.

"President Bush’s goal would be to transcend the bloody quagmire bogging down U.S. forces in Iraq by achieving 'regime change' in Syria and by destroying nuclear facilities in Iran, two blows intended to weaken Islamic militants in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories."

The Moron, The Dick, The Poodle and the Butcher of Lebanon are egalitarian; they're want to destabilize dictatorships and democracies.

Lies and obfuscations: A look back at biggest falsehoods of 2006

"In the spirit of holding our political leaders accountable, this year-end review will tabulate the worst lies told by Bush and company, along with several stories that were underreported in the media. Much of what was generated got lost in the fog of war, but the long arm of history will retrieve these moments. As the president said in his news conference this week, if they’re still writing about No. 1—George Washington—there’s plenty of time before the historians can properly evaluate No. 43. Judging by the mess in Iraq, it could be 200 or 300 years—if ever—before Bush is vindicated."

All I want for Christmas is the truth

"I'm tired of being lied to by President Bush and his minions. I'm tired of hearing his glib assurances about the occupation of Iraq, homeland security, human rights abuses, and everything else of consequence. I'm tired of seeing his disingenuous smile. I'm tired of seeing Dubya shrug, of watching his body language that tells me what he's really thinking is: 'I'm lying; it's politics; get over it.' I want the truth. Gimme some truth."

The year the world woke up

"Not before time, the west awoke in 2006 to the vast economic, political and social implications of climate change - and twigged that it presented as many opportunities as threats to humanity. As temperature and rainfall records tumbled, and unseasonal, intense heatwaves, droughts and floods struck many countries, local and national politicians scrambled to beef up their green policies and credentials, some businesses found they could make a packet from trading carbon, and a broad-based global social and ecological movement emerged, linking climate change to social justice, as well as to poverty and lifestyles."

Environmental group offers roadmap to curb global warming

"A regional environmental group Monday released a comprehensive 'climate change roadmap' to reduce pollution linked to global warming by 75 percent in the northeastern United States and eastern Canada."

Carmakers fight global warming lawsuit

"The six largest automakers asked a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit by California that accuses them of harming human health and the environment by producing vehicles that contribute to global warming."

Lawsuits call air pollution standards deadly, arbitrary

"On Friday, thirteen states, including New York, California, New Mexico, along with Washington, DC, filed a lawsuit in the US appeals court in DC, challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) new airborne pollution standards. The plaintiffs seek to have the new standards overturned for violating the EPA’s mandate to safeguard public health under the Clean Air Act."

Stop the presses: Press ignores the generals

"The Joint Chiefs of Staff and practically every actively serving General strongly opposes George W. Bush's proposed Iraq 'Surge' Plan, but you've probably not heard too much about the Generals' general discontent. The average American probably hasn't heard about it, because the media only barely reported on the Generals' mutiny. True to form, the press dutifully ignored the Generals' concerns, but widely reported on the White House's insistence that the Generals' generally didn't disagree with the President.... However, in the event that the Generals, who don't disagree with the President, do decide to disagree with the President's Iraq 'Surge' Plan - the President doesn't care, because he's 'The Decider.'"

US commanders wary of Gates proposal

"Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq and one of several generals who met with Gates, said he supports boosting troop levels only when there is a specific purpose for their deployment. Other military leaders have expressed uncertainty over the purpose and results of injecting more troops."

No specific purpose? The Moron wants victery, heh, heh.

Probes of Bush policies in works

"In what could be closely watched proceedings, two members of the Massachusetts delegation -- representatives William D. Delahunt of Quincy and Martin T. Meehan of Lowell -- are planning joint committee hearings to examine the administration's Iraq war policies, particularly the reasons for the military's lagging efforts to train Iraqi troops. Delahunt is in line to become chairman of the House International Relations Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations, and Meehan will take over the same subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee."

Lawmakers press Bush to put war costs in budget

"Three lawmakers -- one Republican and two Democrats -- wrote to Bush on Thursday telling him that the emergency bills had created an 'ever-expanding shadow budget' that was obscuring Congress's oversight process and skewing budget deficit projections."

I believe the assets of BushCo's Carlyle Group should be seized and returned to the public treasury. Then attention should be turned to the oil companies.

Rudderless in Iraq

"Anyone looking for new thinking on Iraq, or even candor, had to be disappointed by President Bush’s news conference yesterday. Mr. Bush may want to defer unveiling his new strategy, but there will be no obliging pause in Iraq’s unraveling."

Bush sets stage for major escalation in Iraq

"Bush was asked specifically, given such polls numbers, 'Are you still willing to follow a path that seems to be in opposition to the will of the American people?'

"The president responded in the affirmative. 'I am willing to follow a path that leads to victory,' he said. 'And that’s exactly why we’re conducting the review we are.' He rejected a policy of “retreat.”'declaring that it would 'embolden radicals' and 'hurt the credibility of the United States.'”

Saudi royals snub Bush, fund opposition to US troops

"The Saudis are clear about their bottom line: If the United States isn't careful about withdrawing from Iraq, the Sunni kingdom will have no other choice but to arm Iraqi's Sunnis, especially if the Saudi's arch-rival, Iran, which has already destabilized the regional power equilibrium by launching a nuclear program, rushes into a military vacuum left by the Americans."

Power struggle in Saudi Arabia: a sign of regional instability

"The abrupt resignation of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US, Prince Turki al-Faisal, last week is one more sign of a power struggle underway in Riyadh. While factional intrigues in the Saudi royal family are undoubtedly involved, the overriding factor is the deepening instability throughout the Middle East being fuelled by the aggressive intervention of the US, above all in Iraq. One consequence has been an intensification of the traditional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran for regional dominance."

War profits trump the rule of law

"Slush funds, oil sheiks, prostitutes, Swiss banks, kickbacks, blackmail, bagmen, arms deals, war plans, climbdowns, big lies and Dick Cheney - it's a scandal that has it all, corruption and cowardice at the highest levels, a festering canker at the very heart of world politics, where the War on Terror meets the slaughter in Iraq. Yet chances are you've never heard about it - even though it happened just a few days ago. The fog of war profiteering, it seems, is just as thick as the fog of war.

"But here's how the deal went down. On December 14, the UK attorney general, Lord Goldsmith (Pete Goldsmith as was, before his longtime crony Tony Blair raised him to the peerage), peremptorily shut down a two-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) into a massive corruption case involving Britain's biggest military contractor and members of the Saudi royal family. SFO bulldogs had just forced their way into the holy of holies of the great global back room - Swiss bank accounts - when Pete pulled the plug. Continuing with the investigation, said His Lordship, 'would not be in the national interest.'"

What happens when several nations adopt the values of Sodom and Gomorrah as their guiding principles? Worth reading through.

The race for Iraq's resources: Will Iraq's oil blessing become a curse?

"The Iraqi government is working on a new hydrocarbons law that will set the course for the country's oil sector and determine where its vast revenues will flow. The consequences for such a law in such a state are huge. Not only could it determine the future shape of the Iraqi federation -- as regional governments battle with Baghdad's central authority over rights to the riches -- but it could put much of Iraqi oil into the hands of foreign oil companies."

Perhaps this is the victery The Moron seeks.

US general issues warning: politics must not interfere with 100-year " war on terror"

"Among masses of American working people, there never was a will to wage wars of aggression. That outlook reflected the aims and schemes developed within the corporate and financial elite that rules America. This ruling layer has utilized the 'global war on terror,' in which Gen. Schissler is a senior strategist, as the pretext for carrying out a military campaign aimed at imposing US domination over the oil-rich regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia as part of American capitalism’s pursuit of global hegemony."

The urge to surge

"Indeed, the provenance of the plan – aside from Keane and two other senior retired military officers, a majority its 17 contributors are AEI fellows – has fed suspicions that it represents one final effort by neoconservatives to persuade the president that, by 'doubling down' on his gamble on Iraq, he can still leave the table a winner and 'transform' the entire Middle East."

This reminds me of the joke about hoping that spoiled milk will become sweet again by putting it back in the fridge.

Surging to defeat in Iraq

"As Robert Gates takes the helm at the Pentagon today, he is probably already aware that Vice President Dick Cheney and President George W. Bush are resolute in their decision to stay the course in Iraq (without using those words) for the next two years. What he probably does not realize is that the U.S. military is about to commit hara-kiri."

Generals: More troops needed in Iraq

"The approval of a troop increase plan by top Iraq commanders, including Gen. George W. Casey Jr. and Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, comes days before Bush unveils a new course for the troubled U.S. involvement in Iraq. Bush still must address concerns among some Pentagon officials and overcome opposition from Congress, where many Democrats favor a blue-ribbon commission's recommendation for the gradual withdrawal of combat troops."

Gophers get in line for "Stay the Course", Part II.

US military officials: Bush trying to bribe us to support Iraq escalation

"Last night on NBC Nightly News, Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski said that many military officials are 'suspicious' of President Bush’s announcement that he plans to increase the size of the armed forces. They believe that 'he’s dangling that offer out there in an effort to buy the military support for the option to surge additional American troops into Iraq as if it’s some kind of tradeoff.'

"Miklaszewski added that military leaders are also still opposed to an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq, believing it would 'be like throwing kerosene on a fire.'"

There seems to be a disconnect here.

This is where George Bush gets dangerous

"We now have six years of evidence that George Bush is not all there. The occupant of the White House has consistently demonstrated an extraordinary ability to evade reality and a reckless proclivity to steer the nation by a distorted compass made up of cocaine-induced delusions and two decades of insobriety. Add to this mix a little religious fanaticism and a gigantic ego that serves to accentuate an acute case of intellectual dwarfism.

"In Bush, we have a man who accepts only the counsel of those that agree with his rudimentary understanding of history. The man is a gambling fool – the kind of loser who doubles up as his political fortunes evaporate."

Pentagon report paints grim picture for US in Iraq

"More than two thirds of the attacks are directed against American soldiers and Iraqi soldiers and police. The remaining one third of the attacks target Iraqi civilians. Thus, despite the efforts by the Bush administration and the media to portray the violence as largely internecine sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia, the bulk of the armed actions have been directed against the occupation forces and their Iraqi underlings."

Eye on Iraq: The other Iraq report

"Cordesman has now confirmed things have gotten worse than that. The U.N. figures he cites mean that even if the current levels of violence in Iraq do not deteriorate further (in fact they show every sign of doing so) 43,800 people will die next year there at the current rates of carnage.

"Cordesman also confirmed our repeated warnings in these columns that the violence in Iraq was not divided along simple, clear-cut Sunni versus Shiite or 'Sunni insurgent versus U.S. and Iraqi armed forces' lines, but that it reflected a splintered country where every neighborhood or district had its own different groups at odds with their geographical neighbors as well as their immediate ethnic rivals."

Addendum to Clausewitz

"It's all but official: The war in Iraq is lost. Report after leaked report says so. Everybody in Washington knows it except that draft-dodging ferret in the White House. Politicians scurry to avoid the blame. One day soon people will ask aloud: How did we let 3000 GIs die for the weak ego of a pampered liar and his desperate need to prove he's half the man his father was?"
Let me see, that would make him a quarter of a man.

Harry Reid: More troops to Iraq - Democrats prepared to fund much longer war

"So somewhat to their surprise the Democrats recaptured both the Senate and the House. Then they went to work--to obliterate the mandate. The first thing they did was reject Jack Murtha, the man who said 'Quit Now' in 2005. They voted down Murtha as House majority leader and picked the pro-war Steny Hoyer.

"Then Nancy Pelosi, chose Silvestre Reyes as House Intelligence Committee chairman. Reyes promptly told Newsweek, 'We're not going to have stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private armies. We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize IraqI would say 20,000 to 30,000-for the specific purpose of making sure those militias are dismantled, working in concert with the Iraqi military.'"

There's a lot of money to be made in Washington. The primary constituents of both parties are corporations.

Sen. Clinton opposes troop surge in Iraq

"Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday she would not support a short-term increase in U.S. troop presence in Iraq unless it was part of a more comprehensive plan to stabilize the country."

Read the fine print. The key words are "unless" and "stabilize." She's on board with the BushCo plan.

Americans would begin Iraq withdrawal in 2007

"Many adults in the United States believe the soldiers currently fighting in Iraq should start to return home in 2007, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and Public Opinion Strategies for National Public Radio. 68 per cent of respondents favour beginning to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq during the first half of next year."

Many corporations would stay the course.

It's either occupation or education

"Statistics released by the ministry in October showed that a mere 30 percent of Iraq's 3.5 million students are currently attending classes. This compares to roughly 75 percent of students who were attending classes the previous year, according to the Britain-based NGO Save the Children.

"Just before the U.S.-led invasion in spring 2003, school attendance was nearly 100 percent."

Leaving children behind . . . at home and abroad.

The $2 trillion dollar war

"When America invaded Iraq in 2003, the Bush administration predicted that the war would turn a profit, paying for itself with increased oil revenues. So far, though, Congress has spent more than $350 billion on the conflict, including the $50 billion appropriated for 2007.

"But according to one of the world's leading economists, that is just a fraction of what Iraq will actually wind up costing American taxpayers. Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for economics, estimates the true cost of the war at$2.267 trillion. That includes the government's past and future spending for the war itself ($725 billion), health care and disability benefits for veterans ($127 billion), and hidden increases in defense spending ($160 billion). It also includes losses the economy will suffer from injured vets ($355 billion) and higher oil prices ($450 billion)."

Target Iran: Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter and investigative journalist Seymour Hersh on White House plans for regime change

"Well today on Democracy Now we present an in-depth discussion between two figures who have critical of the Bush administration’s policy on Iran. Scott Ritter is a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. He recently wrote the book "Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change." Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist for The New Yorker magazine. In October, Scott Ritter and Seymour Hersh held a public conversation in New York about Scott Ritter’s new book."

Interesting interview follows.

White House grows skittish over Iranian demarche of 2003

"The White House does not want the public to know that in May 2003, the Iranian Foreign Ministry floated the prospect of a wide-ranging dialogue with America on everything from uranium enrichment to anti-Israel terrorism."

What we wanted to tell you about Iran

"HERE is the redacted version of a draft Op-Ed article we wrote for The Times, as blacked out by the Central Intelligence Agency’s Publication Review Board after the White House intervened in the normal prepublication review process and demanded substantial deletions. Agency officials told us that they had concluded on their own that the original draft included no classified material, but that they had to bow to the White House."

I saw Flynt Leverett on C-Span this week. He was a panel member on a Center for American Progress forum. When he explained that the White House had censored his article, the panel chairman was shocked.

Ahmadinejad opponents win local elections

"Opponents of Iran’s ultra-conservative president won nationwide elections for local councils, final results confirmed Thursday, an embarrassing outcome for the hard-line leader that could force him to change his anti-Western tone and focus more on problems at home."

Makes no never mind to BushCo. Iran could have Gandhi or Idi Amin at the helm. Iran has oil and BushCo has bombs, ergo, Iran will be bombed.

Israeli think tank says only military strike will stop Iran
"Nothing short of a military strike will stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, an Israeli newspaper quoted a respected Israeli think tank as concluding on Friday."

Israel's message to US, get busy.

Are Bush and Cheney planning an early attack on Iran? Crime of the century

"The idea of hitting Iran may make sense from the Bush-Cheney bunker, where the only consideration is not what's good for the country, but what's good for Bush and Cheney. After all, if you're losing your war in Iraq, and if you have hit bottom politically at home (Bush's public support ratings are now down in the 20s, where Nixon's were just before his resignation, and Cheney's numbers have been in the teens for months), and if the public is clamoring for an end to it all--and maybe for your heads, too--expanding the conflict and putting the nation on a full war footing can look like an attractive even if desperate gambit."

Gates denies naval buildup in Gulf is meant as threat to Iran

"US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday that an increased US naval presence in the Gulf is not a response to any action by Iran but a message that the United States will keep maintain its regional footprint 'for a long time.' Gates was scheduled to meet President George W. Bush at Camp David first thing Saturday morning to brief him on his three-day trip to Iraq, said Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Deputy National Security Adviser J.D. Crouch, who has been coordinating Bush's review of Iraq policy, were also to attend the discussions."

Source says' outsider' Gates prepped for confirmation by Cheney's office

"Newly confirmed Secretary of Defense Robert Gates may not be as independent from the Bush administration when it comes to matters of defense as some have suggested, considering that one well-placed source tells RAW STORY Gates was briefed for his Senate confirmation hearings by the Office of the Vice President (OVP)."

Gates: another one of the Bush mafia's made men.

Syria in Bush's cross hairs

"The Bush Administration has been quietly nurturing individuals and parties opposed to the Syrian government in an effort to undermine the regime of President Bashar Assad. Parts of the scheme are outlined in a classified, two-page document that says that the U.S. already is 'supporting regular meetings of internal and diaspora Syrian activists' in Europe. The document bluntly expresses the hope that 'these meetings will facilitate a more coherent strategy and plan of actions for all anti-Assad activists.'"

It would seem the world, on many levels, is in The Moron's cross hairs.

Let it come down: Forcing the constitutional crisis of liberty

"This issue must now be brought to the crisis. When the new Congress convenes, it should pass a law repealing the Military Commissions Act and firmly re-establishing Constitutional principles of jurisprudence and civil liberties. Then let Bush veto it if he will, so that it will be plain at last where we stand: Constitutionalists on one side, Authoritarians on the other. These poles are fast becoming the true political divide in this country, a split that runs through all parties. To echo George Washington, 'Let us have [a government] by which our lives, liberties and properties will be secured; or let us know the worst at once.'"

Bush can't kick habit of military might

"HERE WE GO again: A new secretary of defense and yet another call for ending the war in Iraq by escalating it. What are they smoking in the Bush White House?

"Even as government statistics now show marijuana is America's No. 1 cash crop, it is important to remember that militarism is the most dangerous drug threatening our sanity. Yet even formerly sober folks -- first Colin Powell and now new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates -- get a contact high from cozying up to the walking hallucinogen that is our president."

Bush is an authoritarian. He loved executing the condemned in Texas. He loves killing evil doers in the rest of the world. He's pro life for the fetus and death for everything else.

Records detail missing TSA badges, uniforms

"More than 3,700 identification badges and uniform items have been reported lost or stolen from Transportation Security Administration employees since 2003, according to documents obtained by a San Antonio television station."

If the hyped up war on terror were genuine, this wouldn't happen. The sheeple continue to be conned.

Lawsuit a bid to slash drug prices

"The suit filed in 2005 accuses First DataBank and McKesson of conspiring to inflate benchmark prices published by First DataBank that are widely used to set retail drug prices. As a result, the suit claims, consumers and insurers were stuck with $7 billion in unnecessary costs for drugs from 2001 to 2005."

Whole soy story: The dark side of America's favorite health food

"The possibility that an inexpensive plant food could prevent heart disease, fight cancer, fan away hot flashes, and build strong bodies in far more than 12 ways is seductive. The truth, unfortunately, is far more complex. Soy foods come in a variety of forms, including many heavily processed modern products. Even good forms of soy foods must be eaten sparingly-the way they have been eaten traditionally in Asia. Most important, many respected scientists have issued warnings stating that the possible benefits of eating soy should be weighed against the proven risks. Indeed, thousands of studies link soy to malnutrition, digestive distress, immune-system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility-even cancer and heart disease.

"Americans rarely hear anything negative about soy. Thanks to the shrewd public relations campaigns waged by Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Protein Technologies International (PTI), the American Soybean Association, and other soy interests, as well as the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) 1999 approval of the health claim that soy protein lowers cholesterol, soy maintains a 'healthy' image."

Global economy faces a dangerous year

"Rising inflation and falling home prices are likely to push the US economy into recession by the second half of 2007. Gathering economic weakness, combined with negative real yields on US Treasury securities and growing political pressure to weaken the dollar will lead to significant dollar depreciation against most currencies."

The great game on a razor's edge

"The year 2006 has thus made it clear that the US is unlikely to become a single dominant power in Central Asia. Simply put, Russia and China have together put up the SCO dikes delimiting the US influence in the region, which will be difficult for Washington to breach for the foreseeable future. During the year, by and large Washington has vainly exhausted its energies in attempts to create misunderstandings between Russia and China and in pitting one SCO member state against another."
The US is insolvent

"The US is insolvent. There is simply no way for our national bills to be paid under current levels of taxation and promised benefits. Our federal deficits alone now total more than 400% of GDP.

"That is the conclusion of a recent Treasury/OMB report entitled Financial Report of the United States Government that was quietly slipped out on a Friday (12/15/06), deep in the holiday season, with little fanfare. Sometimes I wonder why the Treasury Department doesn’t just pay somebody to come in at 4:30 am Christmas morning to release the report. Additionally, I’ve yet to read a single account of this report in any of the major news media outlets but that is another matter."

Federal deficit would be higher

"The federal deficit for 2006 would have been 81 percent higher than the $247.7 billion that was reported two months ago if the government had to use the same accounting methods as private companies."

Quotes from www.bartcop.com:

"Harry Reid, when asked if he would support more troops in Iraq, he said he would as long as Bush promised him it would be temporary in nature. I am sure Bush will promise him that. Then he'll share a laugh with Cheney over how easy the Democrats are to push around. Democrats need to shake the cobwebs out and realize they have been given power. They weren't given power so that they can continue to bow down to Bush's absurd ideas." --Cenk Uygur, Link

"They had a dictator who was brutal but they had their streets, they could go out, their kids could go to school and come back home without a mother or father worrying. [Under Bush], the Iraqi government has not been able to bring the violence under control." -- Kofi Annan, csmonitor.com

"The $40 million that was set aside to treat rescue workers, volunteers and firefighters who became ill after the 9/11 cleanup will run out in months, federal officials say. They said at the current spending rate, the treatment money would run out by summer. They may be forced to notify thousands of patients that their treatment could soon end." --Sewell Chan, nywhoretimes.com

"This is America. We use our money for wars against countries that present no threats against us, not to help the heroes who risked their lives on 9-11 as their own government lied to them about the health effects of breathing the air there. So quit whining .." --Eric Alterman, nywhoretimes.com We spend $2,000,000,000 per week on Bush's bloody quagmire. Each week, we throw away a year's health care for Bush's 9-11 victims.

"Bush has made it painfully obvious that he has no intention of listening to anyone who doesn't believe that he's going to win in Iraq." -- Joseph Galloway, Link

"If it's grave and deteriorating and we're not winning, we are losing." -- Colin Powell, (Liar, manslaughterer) Link

"That's his characterization of the situation. I don't see any big disagreement" --Tony Snow, on Colin Powell's Oraq assessment, Link

"I think it's been a very difficult year in Iraq. It's my job to listen to a lot of opinions and come up with a strategy that says we have a plan." -- President Poison, Link

"It appears we've all agreed to forget that Bush has insisted that he would let the troop levels be determined by the commanders on the ground. Now Bush wants to increase troop levels against the commander's wishes. Why have we agreed to forget this? Why isn't it in every news story about this stuff? Why aren't there any stories about it?" -- Greg Sargent, Link

"Bush might send more troops to Iraq. So apparently, his goal is to achieve a negative popularity rating." -- Jay Leno

"First night of Hanukkah, Bush went hunting for colored eggs." --David Letterman,

"Because of Don Rumsfeld's determination and leadership, America has the best equipped, best trained, and most experienced armed forces in the world." -- President Poison, Link Hey Monkey, if that's true, why are your generals saying the Army is "broke?"

"The first time I came to Iraq with Sen. McCain we went rug shopping. Yesterday, we moved around in a tank. Baghdad has become one of the most dangerous places on the planet." -- Lindsey Graham, in a rare instance of telling the truth, Link

"Before Bush invaded, work was always available and we could travel to any place without any fear." -- Hassan Jabbar, on how Bush is worse than Saddam, Link

"I believe the record speaks for itself: Don Rumsfeld is the finest Secretary of Defense this nation has ever had." -- Dick the Impaler honoring Rumsfeld, Link

"If you're gonna send people to war, that needs to be shared by everybody. If the president has daughters who are of age then maybe they should go too." -- Matt Damon, Link

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Picks of the Week

Climate scientist says "Kyoto' barred

"A federal climate scientist in Boulder says his boss told him never to utter the word Kyoto and tried to bar him from using the phrase climate change at a conference.

"The allegations come as federal investigators probe whether Bush administration officials tried to block government scientists from speaking freely about global warming and attempted to censor their research."

What the government won't say about global warming will hurt us all

"But to manufacture this doubt in the face of a remarkable consensus in the scientific community about the probable causes and effects of global warming, the government has had to take a further dangerous step: It has muzzled its own scientists and censored their reports."

By 2040, greenhouse gases could lead to an open Arctic Sea in summers

"The projections come from computer simulations of climate and ice and from direct measurements showing that the amount of ice coverage has been declining for 30 years.

"The latest modeling study, being published on Tuesday in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, was led by Marika Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo."

Baker-Hamilton's fine print: stay in Iraq

"Most commentators have interpreted the report of the Iraq Study Group as a well-crafted admission of defeat. Predictably, that was exactly how President Bush himself reacted to it. 'I … believe we're going to succeed,' he told reporters Thursday. 'One way to assure failure is just to quit.' Addressing one of the report's key recommendations, he bluntly declared that Iran and Syria 'shouldn't bother to show up' for negotiations about Iraq if they don't understand their 'responsibilities to not fund terrorists' and if the Iranians don't 'verifiably suspend their [uranium] enrichment program.'

"Yet anyone who bothers to read the report carefully — as opposed to skimming the executive summary — can see that it neither proposes 'quitting' Iraq nor pins serious hope on Iranian or Syrian assistance. Quite the reverse."

A procrastination policy

"'[President Bush] decided, frankly, that it's not ready yet,' White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said yesterday of the White House's promised Iraq plan. '[It] is not going to happen until the new year. We do not know when, so I can't give you a date, I can't give you a time, I can't give you a place, I can't give you a way in which it will happen.' As the administration dawdles, the 'grave and deteriorating" situation in Iraq continues to worsen. Yesterday, 70 Iraqis were killed in a truck-bomb attack, five U.S. soldiers died, and a grim milestone was reached: 25,000 U.S. soldiers have now died or been wounded in the war. Seventy-one percent of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the conflict, an all-time high. (Only 16 percent agree with Bush and Cheney that we're winning.) A change in strategy is desperately needed, yet the 'search for a new plan for Iraq seems to be taking place with as much urgency as the deliberations over a new color for the dollar bill.' The White House initially promised a new plan 'before Christmas,' but that has been pushed until January at the earliest. The decision to delay may be an attempt to'blunt the effect of the publicity' of the Iraq Study Group's report, or a way to keep a possible increase in troop levels under wraps until after the holidays. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) called the delay 'unpardonable.' "Every day that goes by,' Hagel said, 'we are losing ground.' 'The nation is in a crisis, and Americans need to hear how he plans to unwind the chaos he has unleashed in Iraq,' the New York Times writes. 'Americans need to see that he is prepared to choose among the undesirable alternatives, and clear the way for a withdrawal of American troops that does not leave even more killing and mayhem behind.' (The Center for American Progress has a way: Strategic Redeployment.)"

Some Gitmo detainees freed elsewhere

"Decisions by more than a dozen countries in the Middle East, Europe and South Asia to release the former Guantanamo detainees raise questions about whether they were really as dangerous as the United States claimed, or whether some of America's staunchest allies have set terrorists and militants free."

The quality of mercy is not strained . . . in other countries.

Army, Marine Corps to ask for more troops

"The Army and Marine Corps are planning to ask incoming Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Congress to approve permanent increases in personnel, as senior officials in both services assert that the nation's global military strategy has outstripped their resources.

"In addition, the Army will press hard for 'full access' to the 346,000-strong Army National Guard and the 196,000-strong Army Reserves by asking Gates to take the politically sensitive step of easing the Pentagon restrictions on the frequency and duration of involuntary call-ups for reservists, according to two senior Army officials."

US staying the course for Big Oil in Iraq

"Instead, the ISG is explicitly in favor of privatizing Iraq's oil industry - to the benefit of Anglo-American Big Oil - after the impending passage of a new oil law that was initially scheduled to be passed this month by the Iraqi Parliament.

"For Big Oil, the new oil law is the holiest of holies: once the exploitation of Iraq's fabulous resources is in the bag, 'security' is just a minor detail. Enter the ISG's much-hyped provision of US troops remaining in Iraq until an unclear date to protect not the Iraqi population, but Big Oil's supreme interests. This is really what ISG co-head James Baker means by 'responsible transition'."

Perhaps Big Oil should pay for the war. I don't mean help pay for the war -- pay for the war.

Iraq unions against oil privatisation

"Five Iraqi trade union federations have condemned federal oil law negotiations for being too corporation-friendly.

"The leaders of the five federations meeting in Amman released a statement Thursday urging a pause in negotiations over a law to govern Iraq's 115 billion barrels of oil reserves, the third largest in the world."

European disillusionment over the Baker-Hamilton report

"The initial enthusiasm evoked by the US Iraq Study Group report in official European political circles has rapidly subsided. The first feelings of relief have been replaced by scepticism and reserve, with tensions simmering beneath the surface. What the European elites regarded as a possible light on the horizon has dissipated and now the prevailing view is that the report and its reception in America could prove to be the starting point for fresh inter-European and transatlantic tensions."

John McCain's shameless call for escalation in Iraq

"These opinioneers are either lying or stupid. Mainstream journalists are loath to engage in 'straight talk' about McCain in deference to his heroic legend. In the simplistic, shorthand narrative of American political coverage, McCain's flashcard has the word 'integrity' on it in big red letters. It's as if a few years of torture and imprisonment renders one immune to ambition, vanity or dishonesty for a lifetime. That may sound callous, but the truth is that McCain has time and again proven willing to change his tune on issues of conscience for maximum convenience, and has even admitted as much. In May, McCain told Fox News' Chris Wallace all about it: 'I've found in my life that when I do what I think is right... it always turns out in the end OK. When I do things for political expediency, which I have from time to time, it's always turned out poorly.'"

Being a prisoner of war doesn't make one a hero. In Japan, it makes one a coward. It's certainly not evidence of ability. It's like being in a car wreck and surviving . . . stuff happens.

Washington looks to 'blame Iraqis and run'

"'You could call it ‘blame and run’, said Zbigniew Bzrezinski, a former national security adviser now at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. 'It is based on a pervasive illusion that there is such a thing as an Iraqi government. The more we blame it for doing things it cannot do, the more impotent it will become. ‘Blame and run’ is self-fulfilling.'"

Iraq PM reaches out to Saddam supporters

"Opening a national reconciliation conference, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki urged former soldiers from the ousted dictator's defeated army to join Iraq's new security forces to fight the armed factions tearing the country apart."Gulf states announce nuclear plan

"Officials from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE also urged a peaceful settlement to the crisis over Iran's nuclear programme.

"The six Arab states said they were exploring the possibility of creating a shared nuclear programme.

"They stressed their right to nuclear energy and emphasised that any programme would be peaceful."

One would think this destroys the flimsy BushCo rationale to bomb Iran. Cancel that, it would give him a rationale to attack other oil bearing nations, including Iran.

Arabs want action on Israel nukes

"IRAN and Arab states today seized on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's statement implying that Israel has nuclear weapons, calling it proof of a regional threat and demanding UN action.

"Yesterday Mr Olmert appeared to admit - in breach of the Jewish state's decades-long policy of ambiguity - that Israel possessed such weapons."

Saudi ambassador abruptly resigns, leaves Washington

"Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, flew out of Washington yesterday after informing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and his staff that he would be leaving the post after only 15 months on the job, according to U.S. officials and foreign envoys. There has been no formal announcement from the kingdom.

"The abrupt departure is particularly striking because his predecessor, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, spent 22 years on the job. The Saudi ambassador is one of the most influential diplomatic positions in Washington and is arguably the most important overseas post for the oil-rich desert kingdom."

Is something going on? Recently, The Dick was summoned to Saudi Arabia, probably to explain the collapse of the GOP in the elections.

Saudis say they might back Sunnis if US leaves Iraq

"Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.

"King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia conveyed that message to Vice President Dick Cheney two weeks ago during Mr. Cheney’s whirlwind visit to Riyadh, the officials said. During the visit, King Abdullah also expressed strong opposition to diplomatic talks between the United States and Iran, and pushed for Washington to encourage the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, senior Bush administration officials said."

Interesting how Israel and the Saudis tell the US what to do.

Bush administration conspires to replace Iraqi government

"Having rejected the findings of the Iraq Study Group, the Bush administration is publicly engaged in a series of high-level consultations in preparation for a policy shift. Evidence is emerging, however, that, behind the scenes, the White House is already implementing an alternative strategy, which includes the removal of the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The political realignment would exclude the Shiite movement led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and be accompanied by a build-up of US troops and a crackdown on the Sadrist Mahdi Army militia."

Hmmm! The Dick goes to Saudi Arabia to get his orders from the Sunnis. Next thing you know, Shia oriented al-Maliki will be history.

In the preceding article, there is this item: "Mr. Obaid also suggested that Saudi Arabia could cut world oil prices in half by raising its production, a move that he said 'would be devastating to Iran, which is facing economic difficulties even with today’s high oil prices.' The Saudi government disavowed Mr. Obaid’s column, and Prince Turki canceled his contract."

Randi Rhodes spent a lot of time discussing this on Wednesday; her gist was this: Saudi Arabia will take up fight in Iraq if US leaves and will cut oil prices by half? "Go for it!" said Randi. Perhaps the Saudis could form a coalition with Israel.

Saudi Arabia tests potential for unlocking heavy-oil reserves

"If it succeeds in overcoming the technical hurdles, the effort could significantly increase Saudi Arabia's oil reserves over the next several years, potentially adding some slack to tight energy markets. It would also be a blow to so-called peak-oil theorists who have forecast that world oil production is on the brink of peaking."

A way forward, a look back

"In other words, Bush is now confronting a region-wide crisis that largely resulted from the neocon strategy that he embraced in 2001. Instead of dealing narrowly with bin Laden and his al-Qaeda terrorists after the 9/11 attacks, Bush chose to invade Iraq and shake up the entire region."

About face: Soldiers call for Iraq withdrawal

"For the first time since Vietnam, an organized, robust movement of active-duty US military personnel has publicly surfaced to oppose a war in which they are serving. Those involved plan to petition Congress to withdraw American troops from Iraq. (Note: A complete version of this report will appear next week in the print and online editions of The Nation.)"

The bubble boy in the oval office: Try to mend Iraq all you want; just don't tell Bush the war was a mistake.

"THERE IS a famous 'Twilight Zone' episode about a little boy in a small town who has fantastical powers. Through the misuse of his powers, the little boy has ruined the lives of everybody in the town — for instance, teleporting them into a cornfield, or summoning a snowstorm that destroys their crops. Because anyone who thinks an unhappy thought will be banished, the adults around him can do nothing but cheerfully praise his decisions while they try to nudge him in a less destructive direction.

"This episode kept popping into my head when I was reading about President Bush and the Baker-Hamilton commission. Bush is the president of the United States, which therefore gives him enormous power, but he is treated by everybody around him as if he were a child."

"Today is better than tomorrow": Iraq is a living hell (Scroll down)

"The next day he wrote:

"Today, while I was arranging for the car to be sold at the highest price I could find, explosions burst almost 50 meters from the place where I was standing. I was forced to hide under the car I was selling for over 2 hours. There were ongoing clashes between the Iraqi Army and resistance fighters in broad daylight in the middle of the capital!"

Democrats vow to continue funding Iraq war

"Having acknowledged their surrender to Bush over the funding, the various Democratic leaders in Congress claimed that their capitulation came with a price. Pelosi asserted that 'the days of the rubber stamp are over.' And Hoyer argued that 'There may well be attached to this $160 billion various parameters that the Congress expects to be met.'"

Just as I feared, they'll continue to dance to the same tune.

Despite a $168B budget, Army faces cash crunch

"At Fort Knox, Ky., the cash crunch got so bad this summer that the Army ran out of money to pay janitors who clean the classrooms where captains are taught to be commanders. So the officers, who will soon be leading 100-soldier units, clean the office toilets themselves."

Pentagon eyes $468.9 bln budget for fiscal 2008

"The White House has approved a $468.9 billion budget for the Pentagon in fiscal year 2008, a six-percent increase over last year's request, according to a Defense Department document obtained by Reuters."

Incoming chairmen ready to investigate

"Incoming Democratic committee chairmen say they will hold a series of hearings and investigations early next year to build the case for their call for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for possible action against defense contractors found to have wasted billions in federal funds.

"The emerging plans to grill administration officials on the conduct of the war are part of a pledge for more aggressive congressional oversight on issues such as prewar intelligence, prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and the government's use of warrantless wiretaps."

Presidential tyranny untamed by election defeat

"Like the two entwining strands of the double helix, law and power form the genetic structure of government. Law is nothing but empty verbiage without power to back it up, enforce it, embody it. And power without law is nothing but a mad ape, baring its teeth, thumping its chest, raping and beating where it pleases, taking what it wants: a bestial thing, born in the muddy swamp of our lowest, blindest, rawest biochemical impulses. Disconnect these strands and things fall apart, as Yeats says; the center literally cannot hold, and the blood-dimmed tide is loosed upon the world."

Bush administration preparing to boost US troop strength in Iraq

"Political initiative in Washington, however, has clearly shifted to those who are advocating a significant increase of US troops, accompanied by a violent assault on the Iraqi population."

Looks like the new way forward is staying the course. While doing a line of coke, The Moron says, "F**k the will of the people.!"

Government seeks new ruling in Cheney case

"The Bush administration asked an appeals court Wednesday to overrule a federal judge and allow the White House to keep secret any records of visitors to Vice President Cheney's residence and office."

US subpoena is seen as bid to stop leaks

"The novelty in the government’s approach is in its broad use of a grand jury subpoena, which is typically a way to gather evidence, rather than to confiscate all traces of it. But the subpoena issued to the A.C.L.U. seeks 'any and all copies' of a document e-mailed to it unsolicited in October, indicating that the government also wants to prevent further dissemination of the information in the document."

A gag on free speech

"The Bush administration is trampling on the First Amendment and well-established criminal law by trying to use a subpoena to force the American Civil Liberties Union to hand over a classified document in its possession. The dispute is shrouded in secrecy, and very little has been made public about the document, but we do not need to know what’s in it to know what’s at stake: if the government prevails, it will have engaged in prior restraint — almost always a serious infringement on free speech — and it could start using subpoenas to block reporting on matters of vital public concern."

America's shame: Brought low by a gang of cretins

"This tells you pretty much all you need to know about the American debacle in Iraq. Imagine the arrogance and stupidity of conquering, occupying and trying to run a country without being able to speak its language. A nation of 26 million people – and your embassy has only six people who can actually understand what is being said, written, and broadcast there. This is a folly that amounts to a monstrous crime in itself, aside from the inherent evil of launching an unprovoked war of aggression."

Bush's sinking ship of fools

"Iraqi soldiers fighting in the service of a puppet government will seem like puppets even to themselves, and their very association with the US occupation limits their effectiveness. They will be branded as collaborators in the pay of infidels. I am haunted by the remark Iraqi soldiers made to the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid. We know we are bad Muslims, they said, but we need the money.

"The president says he is disappointed at the slow progress of success. But there isn't going to be a success in Iraq, and the job now is to manage and mitigate failure. The Iraq Study Group understands that, but there is little evidence that Bush does. He has commissioned other internal reviews to lessen the impact of the study group's conclusions. He apparently finds it difficult to comply with so many distinguished, bipartisan Americans and senior statesmen, several of whom served his father, who understood what would happen if we occupied Iraq."

Full speed ahead, with menace

"Bush has stepped up the bellicose talk directed at Iran and is massively reinforcing US military power in and near the Persian Gulf and also doing likewise within operational range of North Korea. Furthermore, he has reassured top Israeli leaders that they need not fear that his resolve to deal forcibly with Iran has been weakened one iota. Israeli leaders exited jubilant from their recent meeting with Bush.

"As Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney asserted before the election, they were not up for re-election and no matter what the voters said, the two would continue to do what they believed were the right things for the national security of the United States."

Rice rejects engaging Iran, Syria on Iraq

"The 'compensation' required for any such deal might be too high, Rice told the paper in an interview.

"Rice said she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq, the Post reported."

In my experience, the side that's in the wrong is less likely to want to talk directly with their adversary than the side in the right.

Diplomat's suppressed documents lays bare the lies behind Iraq war

"A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wraps until now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

"In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He said that during his posting to the UN, 'at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests.'"

Full text: Tony Blair's speech

"This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold firm to the course we have set.

"I believe we must hold firm."

The Moron and The Dick have told The Poodle to stay the course.

No. 10 secret memo: We are seen as a shambles

"Labour has no chance of winning the next Election because voters think the Government is a shambles - and there is little Gordon Brown can do to stop David Cameron becoming Prime Minister.

"That is the devastating verdict of a secret Downing Street memo drawn up for Tony Blair by his senior advisers and obtained by The Mail on Sunday. "

Rice hints Baker report to be snubbed

"Rice stressed that the administration will continue to push for a democratic Mideast, insisting it is a 'matter of strategic interest,' this as opposed to the Baker-Hamilton report which made a point of underplaying that goal."

The vultures are circling (Afghanistan)

"In the plains of southwestern Afghanistan, confident Taliban move around openly with their weaponry, to the frustration of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and Afghan National Army (ANA) troops who can see them, but seem helpless in containing them.

"Indeed, foreign troops are mostly held hostage in their bases, and their alternatives are stark: conduct aerial bombings in which civilians would surely be heavy casualties, or pull out.

"The mood on the ground in Afghanistan is that the latter option will prevail.

"'It was really fun to fight with the Soviets [in the 1980s], but not so with the Americans. I remember once, three Soviet soldiers were besieged by mujahideen. They were injured and they had the chance to retreat and be airlifted. But they refused and fought till their last. They had a certain level of conviction. The Americans do not have this,' Khuda-i-Rahim told Asia Times Online."

Lebanon's army captures Israeli Mossad 'terrorist ring'

"Last Saturday, the army said it had arrested Mahmoud Rafeh, a 59-year-old Lebanese citizen and retired police officer, for a May 26 car bombing that killed Mahmoud Majzoub, a senior Islamic Jihad official, and his brother in front of their home in the southern city of Sidon. Rafeh 'had links to Israeli intelligence,' a statement said."

US to double emergency equipment stored in Israel

"Within the next two years the Americans will fill the military emergency stockpiles in Israel with double the equipment they now hold.

"In addition, the US will allow Israel to use the remainder of the US's monetary guarantees given to them that have not been used yet, and add up to USD 4.5 billion, by 2011.

"The emergency stockpiles are meant to store American military equipment in the Middle East in case of an emergency. However, in case of an emergency, Israel is allowed to use the stockpiles."

In case Israel wants to rebomb Lebanon and/or bomb Iran?

Israeli spy ring probe widens: Investigation focuses on ranking congresswoman

"While two executives of the powerful Israeli lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) await trial on charges of spying against the United States, the FBI has now broadened its investigation to look at whether the group tried to strike a deal with a leading member of Congress. In particular, federal investigators wish to know if AIPAC tried to reach a shady arrangement with Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee."

A rogue 51st state: Israel already looks to be intent on scuppering the Iraq Study Group plan for Middle East peace

"Accept that American attachment to the Israeli cause is total - as Baker himself makes clear. Bring on more peacekeeping American troops. The hinge and the question, though, is how far that attachment should wreck everything else? Israel could be propelled into regional talks. It floats on a sea of US subsidy. It is, in many ways , the real 51st state. But it does not agree with Baker that there are 'no military solutions' here. Nor will it commit to the necessary level of 'political engagement'. Does more 'violence on the ground' follow automatically, then? It's a sad, sad way to 'abandon' hope."

Routine and systematic torture is at the heart of America's war on terror: In the fight against cruelty, barbarism and extremism, America has embraced the very evils it claims to confront

"After thousands of years of practice, you might have imagined that every possible means of inflicting pain had already been devised. But you should never underestimate the human capacity for invention. United States interrogators, we now discover, have found a new way of destroying a human being."

Torture, impeachment and a Vietnam vet's tears

"I can't count how many times I have read comments, or even heard them in person, from jingoistic Americans who have said they aren't bothered at all by the idea of American troops or CIA agents torturing 'terrorists' or other captives. They typically will say that the victims of the torture are evil people intent on killing Americans, and so who cares?

"In fact, however, aside from the fact that torture is illegal under international law, and that it is illegal in the U.S. as a signatory of the Geneva Conventions, since the torture is being conducted upon captives who have never had their cases examined to determine if they are indeed terrorists or legitimate combatants or just innocents picked up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it is inevitable that many of those who are being tortured with the president's approval and in our names are simply innocents. Some of those innocents have died at the hands of their tormentors. Others have been driven insane."

Judge upholds detainee rights terror law

"A federal judge upheld the Bush administration's new terrorism law Wednesday, agreeing that Guantanamo Bay detainees do not have the right to challenge their imprisonment in U.S. courts."


Federal judge issues split decision on new Military Commissions Act

"In the first legal decision on a federal law that denies access to U.S. courts to detainees in the war on terrorism, a federal judge ruled Wednesday that foreign prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, could not sue for freedom.

"But, in a split decision, U.S. District Judge James Robertson also ruled that the law's denial of that right to the more than 12 million legal immigrants living in the United States was unconstitutional."

Bush 'privacy board' just a gag

"The first public meeting of a Bush administration 'civil liberties protection panel' had a surreal quality to it, as the five-member board refused to answer any questions from the press, and stonewalled privacy advocates and academics on key questions about domestic spying." . . . .

"The three-hour meeting, held at Georgetown University, quickly established that the panel would be something less than a fierce watchdog of civil liberties. Instead, members all but said they view their job as helping Americans learn to relax and love warrantless surveillance."

Living in the land of BushCo would've given Kafka and Orwell so much more to write about.

Showdown looms over domestic spying

"Federal agents continue to eavesdrop on Americans' electronic communications without warrants a year after President Bush confirmed the practice, and experts say a new Congress' efforts to limit the program could trigger a constitutional showdown."

Even if they're off, cellphones allow FBI to listen in

"Authorities won't reveal how they did this. But a countersurveillance expert said Nextel, Motorola Razr and Samsung 900 series cellphones can be reprogrammed over the air, using methods meant for delivering upgrades and maintenance. It's called 'flashing the firmware,' said James Atkinson, a consultant for the Granite Island Group in Massachusetts."

Mourning for Pinochet - US establishment shows its affinity for fascism

"If the political events of the past six years have demonstrated anything, it is that there exists within America’s ruling establishment no genuine commitment to democratic rights or democratic forms of rule. In the relatively short period since 2000, the US ruling elite has overseen the theft of a national election, the launching of an illegal war, the abrogation of the most basic constitutional rights and the legalization of torture.

"This week’s death of the aged former US-backed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet has provided one more verification of this general political trend."

Pinochet's death spares Bush family

"Although Chilean investigations against other defendants may continue, the cases against Pinochet end with his death of a heart attack at the age of 91. Pinochet’s death from natural causes also marks a victory for world leaders, including George H.W. and George W. Bush, who shielded Pinochet from justice over the past three decades."

History will not treat us kindly

"History will not treat us kindly. We will be remembered as the Americans who insulated themselves from reality and remained self-absorbed, concerned with their own personal comfort and privilege while our government wrecked havoc on the world and destroyed our own culture. It will not be difficult for future generations to understand what happened and the sequence of events. The evidence is abundantly clear. The only question will be why Americans didn’t rise up and save themselves."

Neil Cavuto giddy that Tim Johnson had a stroke

"Um, again, keep in mind as well that the Governor of South Dakota is a Republican, Michael Round. Should the senator's condition worsen, ah it will be up to the Governor to find a replacement. We're not nearly at that stage. I only raise the issue because this senate is that close and these things are that important. Reaction now from former congressman Tom DeLay. Congressman, what do you make of this?"

From comments by experts, it appears Mr. Johnson will recover. My biggest concern is for his safety. Hopefully, he has bodyguards at the hospital 24/7. He'd be particularly vulnerable to a Wellstoning.

Southern California fence company, executives plead guilty in immigration probe

"The two men admitted hiring at least 10 illegal immigrants.

"Among the company's projects was also the construction of part of a 14-mile (22.5-kilometer) border fence in San Diego in the late 1990s."

If you made this stuff up, no one would believe you.

North American Union leader says merger just crisis away

"Robert Pastor, a leading intellectual force in the move to create an EU-style North American Community, told WND he believes a new 9/11 crisis could be the catalyst to merge the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

"Pastor, a professor at American University, says that in such a case the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, or SPP – launched in 2005 by the heads of the three countries at a summit in Waco, Texas – could be developed into a continental union, complete with a new currency, the amero, that would replace the U.S. dollar just as the euro has replaced the national currencies of Europe."

$20bn gas project seized by Russia

"Shell is being forced by the Russian government to hand over its controlling stake in the world's biggest liquefied gas project, provoking fresh fears about the Kremlin's willingness to use the country's growing strength in natural resources as a political weapon.

"After months of relentless pressure from Moscow, the Anglo-Dutch company has to cut its stake in the $20bn Sakhalin-2 scheme in the far east of Russia in favour of the state-owned energy group Gazprom."

Meanwhile, the US has become a third world country.

Americans back price negotiations on Medicare drugs

"A new poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans favor allowing the government to negotiate prescription drug prices for the Medicare program, suggesting there will be considerable political pressure on the next Congress to do so."

Senator wants universal health care

"Wyden said his new plan would allow workers to carry their health insurance from job to job without penalty. More efficient administration and more promotion of competition for health care plans, he said, would allow greater coverage while costing no more than the government is paying today for health insurance coverage."

Outbreaks reveal food safety net's holes

"Consumer advocates think that tougher mandatory food safety standards and stepped-up enforcement are the answer. The country's largest food distributors and restaurants are pursuing self-regulation, arguing that government rules can take years to put in place. Produce growers and packers have suggested a voluntary system with elements of mandatory oversight. But even the industry proposals are months away from taking effect."

It's time to embrace regulation to protect the public from corporate greed and malfeasance.

Renowned cancer scientist was paid by chemical firm for 20 years

"While he was being paid by Monsanto, Sir Richard wrote to a royal Australian commission investigating the potential cancer-causing properties of Agent Orange, made by Monsanto and used by the US in the Vietnam war. Sir Richard said there was no evidence that the chemical caused cancer."

In the US it's accepted that FDA officials are on the payrolls of corporate interests.

US income figures show staggering rise in social inequality: 60 million Americans living on less than $7 a day

"It is often noted that 3 billion of the world’s poorest people live on less than $2 a day. In the US, where the cost of living is far higher, $7 a day is only enough to guarantee a life of destitution. The fact that 60 million people live in such dire poverty—and tens of millions more could face the same fate if they lost their jobs or confronted some other financial catastrophe—is a damning indictment of American capitalism and the free market model it touts around the world.

"The levels of social stratification and inequality in the US are incompatible with genuine democracy. Political life in America is completely subordinated to the needs of a financial aristocracy whose pursuit of ever greater levels of personal wealth constantly collides with the social needs and democratic rights of the broad masses of people in the US and internationally. The needs of this elite—for further wars of conquest, tax cuts, the elimination of social programs and a drastic reduction of living standards—cannot be imposed, in the final analysis, without recourse to authoritarian means."

Americans see widening rich-poor income gap as cause for alarm

"Almost three-quarters of Americans believe inequality is a major issue, versus 24 percent who don't think so, according to a new Bloomberg/Los Angeles Times poll. Most of the concern is among Democrats and independent voters, though a majority of Republicans -- 55 percent -- also called the situation serious."

US moves to restrain prosecutors

"The new guidelines will help companies defend themselves by 'making it easier for corporations to say no, and not having to worry about that decision being held against them,' said Andrew Weissmann, who headed the Justice Department’s Enron task force and is now in private practice."

GOP = tighter controls on individuals, freedom for corporations.

A free choice

"A critical step to helping poor and middle class Americans get ahead is to remove barriers that prevent employees from joining unions. Workers represented by unions earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers, are 62 percent more likely to have medical insurance through their jobs, and are four-and-a-half times as likely to have guaranteed pensions. The most important legislative step to smashing these barriers is passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which AFL-CIO President John Sweeney last month called the labor movement's 'top priority.' According to work site surveys, 42 million non-union employees in America would like to have representation at work but don't. A 2005 survey found '53 percent of nonunion workers - that's more than 50 million people - want to join a union, if given the choice.' But according to Human Rights Watch, 'Legal obstacles tilt the playing field so steeply against freedom of association that the United States is in violation of international human rights standards for workers.' Clearly, the system is broken. Congress needs to fix it. (Tell your members of Congress to support the Employee Free Choice Act.)"

More Americans hungry, homeless in 2006

"More Americans went homeless and hungry in 2006 than the year before and children made up almost a quarter of those in emergency shelters, said a report released on Thursday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"'The face of hunger and homelessness right now ... is young children, young families,' said the conference's president, Douglas Palmer, the mayor of Trenton, New Jersey."

Greenspan sees more declines in dollar

"Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan said the dollar will continue to drift downwards on growing signs that OPEC nations are shifting their assets out of the US dollar towards the euro and yen."

Rogers: Sell US dollar, buy real and yuan

" It's only a matter of time before the beleaguered U.S. dollar loses its status as the world's reserve currency and medium of exchange, U.S. fund manager and author Jim Rogers told Reuters in an interview.

"'The dollar is a terribly flawed currency,' said Rogers, who co-founded the Quantum hedge fund with billionaire investor George Soros in the 1970s.

"He urged investors to switch to the Brazilian real and Chinese yuan instead."

US, China clash on currency

"'Some American friends are not only having limited knowledge of, but harboring much misunderstanding about, the reality in China,' Wu said, according to a copy of her remarks provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For example, Wu noted that China needed to create enough jobs to absorb an estimated 300 million rural workers -- equal to the entire population of the United States -- into its urban economy in the next two decades."

How dangerous is the dollar drop?

"Experts have been predicting for some time that the dollar would eventually go into a nosedive, and now that time seems to have come. The US currency has lost five percent of its value against the euro since late October, and 13 percent since the beginning of the year. The euro is currently fluctuating around a value of $1.33, which is only 3 cents away from its all-time high in 2004. And yet Trichet's counterpart Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, has done nothing but look on as the dollar plunges."

In St. Paul, Ford workers say their goodbyes

"United Auto Workers officials in St. Paul spent Thursday saying goodbye and setting up new telephone lines and peer support services in their union hall for the 900 workers whose careers at Ford ended Thursday and today with the elimination of the night shift."

I'm not sure, but I think this is the same auto plant I used to live near as a kid. They made passenger cars then. The plant was situated overlooking the Mississippi, and my buddies and I would hike through the woods to the plant to take the visitors' tour. I was in awe of the continuous three foot sheet of white hot glass that was always in production. And I was depressed by the mind numbing jobs the workers labored at.

Quotes from www.bartcop.com and others:

"I'm sleeping a lot better than people would assume." -- America's no-conscience murderer, Link

"We have made a conscious effort not to be a body-count team." -- Dubya, http://thinkprogress.org

"The Iraq Study Group is a nice group of people... that doesn't mean it is now the policy of the U.S. government." --Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Warmonger), Link

"In some ways, he had enormous potential and political gifts. But, they didn't arise because of his lack of discipline." -- former presidential spokesman Mike McCurry, who seems to think eight years of peace and prosperity have little or no value. Link

"I think what happens is, people have come back with answers, and he said, 'I want more. And he's not going to move before its ready." -- Tony Snow, on Bush's plan to stonewall his Iraq changes, and allow more soliders to die and lose their limbs until time goes by and people forget about the Baker Commission, Link

"Sometimes, issues come up that you consider so big and so important that you've got to do the right thing, and that can make you unpopular." -- Tony Blair, ...at 27% approval, Link

"Such unmitigated gall. Your principles Order, Justice, and Freedom' obviously don't include Honesty, Integrity, or Ethics. The House Ethics Committee chairman, Joel Hefley, was removed after rebuking you 3 times. Yes, he was replaced by Delay groupie Doc Hastings, with a couple other groupies connected with your PAC... the stench of the 109th Congress will take a long time to fix." --Wilbur, posting on, surpisingly, DeLay's blog, Link

Tony Blair Resigns

Associated Free Press and Guardian– December 16, 2006(London)

As the scandal deepened about bribes associated with military procurement, in a surprise move Tony Blair tendered his resignation to the Queen today. This sudden move caught Parliament by surprise and leaders expect Parliament to go into special session on Monday to name an interim successor. With deepened popular resentment toward his international policies, Mr. Blair had previously announced that he would call for elections and step down in 2007.

“This could not come at a worse time,” said Angus Brown, a member of Parliament. “However, I can see the futility of Mr. Blair’s quandary. He came into leadership a decade ago and promised a government ‘whiter than white.’ But, he fell into bad international company that seemed to alter his view of morality and good government. He was too eager to support his newfound buddy, Mr. Bush, and overextended England’s ability to meet its international commitment, especially in the Middle East.”

When Mr. Blair was contacted, he was quite forthcoming. “Yes, I made errors. I sought the counsel of my friend, Mr. Bush, on how to cover the costs of the Iraq War, since it was draining our coffers, and he and Mr. Cheney related stories of how they were able to pull in companies, such as Halliburton, who bankrolled their campaigns in exchange for lucrative contracts. They assured me it was legal, but I guess Scotland Yard may have a different opinion, when it comes to proper government in England.”

In a rare public statement the Queen accepted Mr. Blair’s resignation, expressed her disappointment in Mr. Blair and stated that England is “not the Wild West.”