Saturday, October 29, 2005

A BIg Tent Divided Cannot Stand

The Republican Party likes to say it's a big tent. But the problem with a big tent is that it gets mighty crowded. With the setbacks in the past week (Miers, Libby), I'd say that the Republican big tent stands only with weakened poles.

In the Miers Supreme Court nomination debacle we've seen the big tent divided. The "true" conservatives were against her because of her lack of qualifications, the religious conservatives were against her because she couldn't provide an anti-abortion stance, but the average Republican voters or moderates were not against her. Now that she has withdrawn her nomination the true conservatives and religious right are beginning to demand Bush nominate their type of person. Those in the party that still want Bush to be a uniter want a moderate to "heal" the country.

In reaction to the Libby indictments, many Republicans must be soul searching about the original Bush campaign promise to bring back honesty and integrity to the White House. Those who hunger for these type of attributes must wonder if their party is the place to find it. Libby is accused of two counts each of making false statements and perjury, plus obstruction of justice. His crimes are about being a liar.

Certainly polls are now showing that a portion of Republican voters now believe that we went to war in Iraq based on lies and deception. Can a political party hold together voters who believe they were lied to and voters who either are faithful to the party no matter what or are in denial.

Post-Katrina, many African-Americans that were beginning to give the Republicans a chance have now abandoned them. What of those Republicans that desire diversity, do they believe that they can ever bring them back to the party?

I've always wondered how the big tent Republicans could have both those who oppose gays and gay marraige from the religious right and as well the Log Cabin Republicans (gay Republicans).

What of Republicans that believe that science is good? Can they still remain in their party as a different faction insists on creationism? Or think that stem cells might be a cure for diseases as others in their party prevent any possibilty use of them?

I've never understood how fiscal conservatives could sit silently by as the both the federal debt and the federal budget get ballooned with debt from the policies of the Republican controlled Congress and the White House.

I've not figured out how those Republicans that want less government can stomach the greatest expansion of government since the New Deal.

There are so many contradictions within the Republicans I can only wonder when the big tent will collapse. As Abraham Lincoln once famously quoted the Bible as the nation was on the cusp of civil war, "A house divided cannot stand." We are in somewhat of a similar situation on two or three fronts. The nation is highly divided politically, partisanship is the name of the game. The Democrats are in a divide between moderates and progressives. But the party in power seems rife with divisions.

I have to paraphrase Lincoln, "A big tent divided cannot stand." The only question is when that will happen.

Libby The Liar

The big news from yesterday of course, was the indictment of Scooter Libby who is/was Vice President Dick Cheney's right hand man. The lesser news was that Karl Rove is still President Bush's brain, at least for now.

The traditional disclaimer; An indictment is not a conviction and Libby is innocent until proven guilty. But let's face it, Libby is a liar. The charges against him, one obstruction of justice and two counts each of perjury and making false statements. He is now facing four charges of lieing and it will be surprising if he can beat the rap and ever be thought of as honest again.

I won't go into all the details of yesterdays events, they can be found all over the news and web. But I do have some thoughts about the effects as well as some wayward thoughts.

Libby was not only Cheney's top aide but had the title of Advisor to the President. He was in very close contact with both Bush and Cheney all through the last four years. He sat in on major meetings and was an intregal part of the White House Iraq Group (WHIG) that created both the reason for the Iraq War and the sales pitch for the war to Americans.

I have to think that this puts into major question President Bush's "gut feeling" about people. He has made the claim that he can look someone in the eye and understand that person (Russian Premier Putin in 2001). So in all these meetings and contacts with Libby, Bush apparently can't look someone in the eye and see a liar. And that goes for Cheney as well, he didn't know of Libby's nature?

But let's get real, these guys are all buddies. They know each other well. Birds of a feather flock together. Rove is included in this gaggle. We all know what he orchestrated against John McCain in the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina. He was the mastermind behind the whisper attack that was filled with lies about McCain and his family.

And let's not forget White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan who was adamant that Libby and Rove had nothing to do with the Plame leak case. Another liar. But hey, being a Republican liar is A-OK to their base. They believe the ends justify the means. So, don't expect that the Republican base is going to abandon their liar heros and idols.

I also think of how cowardly their tactics truly are. We well know that the reason that Plame was outed as a CIA operative was to get back at her husband Joe Wilson for standing up to the Niger/uranium lie that Bush used in his State of the Union speech. Those "16 words" inserted thanks to Cheney and the WHIGs. If they were true men they would have debated Wilson straight up on the Sunday political talk show of choice, Meet the Press for instance. Cheney had no problem going on Meet the Press and scaring us all about Iraq's nuclear weapons program (a lie), but when he got mad at Wilson his underling Libby starts a whispering campaign. Face to face debate would have been the honorable and brave thing to do.

Finally, I suspect that Libby will probably not plea bargain, he will fall on his sword and protect any other White House liar instead. Some would say that is honorable, but I say it's like a mafia hit man refusing to plea out the don.

Libby, will end up in jail most likely, serve his time (unless Bush pardons him, another low dirty deal) and reenter society with a talk radio show like other White House criminals such as Ollie North.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Miers, Liars?

As most people know by now, Harriet Miers withdrew her name for consideration as a Supreme Court Judge. This should be the last time I comment about Ms. Meirs. Earlier I wrote that I considered her nomination by President Bush as nothing more than cronyism and expanded on that thought as well.

From Harriet Miers withdrawal letter she wrote;

As you know, members of the Senate have indicated their intention to seek documents about my service in the White House in order to judge whether to support me. I have been informed repeatedly that in lieu of records, I would be expected to testify about my service in the White House to demonstrate my experience and judicial philosophy. While I believe that my lengthy career provides sufficient evidence for consideration of my nomination, I am convinced the efforts to obtain Executive Branch materials and information will continue.

From President Bush's letter;

I understand and share her concern, however, about the current state of the Supreme Court confirmation process. It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House -- disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel.

Both here state their concerns about turning over White House documents that involved the two of them. As Miers was Bush's personal lawyer within the White House, this excuse is essentially to the point I have made, cronyism. They were so close in their working relationship (and friends as well) that her White House documents included Bush as well. As far as I'm concerned, they both have written statements that support my complaints. Maybe this time Bush will nominate someone without close ties to himself.


On a side note to this, in steps Senator Trent Lott who must have been a little sleepy or something as he reacted to her withdrawal on national TV. He said he hoped that the next nomination was the best "man, woman, or minority" they could find. He also said that in a few weeks "no one will remember Harriet Miers." I guess sort of like we don't remember Robert Bork.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The 2,000 Milestone

A few days ago, the milestone of 2,000 American soldiers that have died in Iraq was passed. Before I ever decided to post my opinion on this, that milestone was passed by and now it stands at 2,005.

Many of those who have oppossed the War in Iraq have made this number have some significance. 2,000 is a round number and stands out. But that number to me is not a milestone, just a point on a timeline of an ever increasing total.

Every death is a milestone to those friends and family of whatever particular number represents their loved one. And it's probably highly doubtful that they even consider their loved one as just a number on that timeline. More than likely they don't even relate a death total to the person that they buried. That individual soldier isn't Iraq War death number 775 or 1,675 or 2,001, that individual is simple, one.

Every state in the union has had a soldier die in Iraq. The newspapers in my state will give a total of those in the state who have died whenever a new soldier is killed. They will give a profile of the soldier sometimes including the circumstance of the death and add that soldier to the state total. The death becomes a statistic.

We know the old saying, "statistics can lie," but it can also be said that statistics can hide the facts. When 2,ooo deaths became the milestone statistic, it hides the facts behind all those deaths. Who was number 449 for instance? Was he/she married? Did the soldier have kids? Was the person planning on marraige after the tour of duty was over? What future was ended by a roadside bomb or sniper fire?

There's the crux of the matter. A future has ceased to be. Those of us against this war, just don't understand why those 2,000 plus futures needed to cease. President Bush can say that those soldiers won't have died in vain, but he can't continue those futures. He can claim that the future of Iraq is why those individual futures will never be, but that's a huge gamble that he can't guarantee.

The Bush gang claimed early on that this war would be quick, in other words, few futures ended. They were wrong, they gambled and lost many futures. Day by day, week by week, this gamble goes on. What is the future of so many to Bush and his cohorts? Do they continue to wage this war and fail to think deeply of the lives they gamble, of those ended futures?

All humans live for the future whether that future is minutes, hours, days, months, years later. We instintively plan our future with hopes and dreams of a better life. That's what we will never know about those 2,000 plus soldiers, what were their hopes and dreams? President Bush can't tell us those things, he can only claim that he ended those futures for a better Iraq.

With no weapons of mass destruction found, with no connection to 9/11 in Iraq, with a claim of creating democracy in a place that doesn't seem to really want or understand democracy and further a democracy in Bush's view not others, all I can think is that he's gambled away individual's futures on a country's future he still hasn't produced. Will Bush's predictions ever come true?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Colbert Report

I'm becoming a big fan of the new Comedy Central show that immediately follows The Daily Show with John Stewart. I'm talking about The Colbert Report, or as it sounds "co bear ree poor."

Stephen Colbert was one of Stewart's fake reporters before getting his own show. And so far he has shown he deserves it. The ree poor is a satire on the various cable news opinion shows such as Bill O'Reilly's No Spin Zone.

If I could offer one "improvement" to The Colbert Report, it would to be to add a news crawl at the bottom of the screen like the cable news stations have. Of course it wouldn't be real news, but humorous lines. Run the crawl occassionally just to give the show more of the satirical feel it already has.

Give the show a try, view it over several days to get the full effect. And the Colbert Report works great in its time slot immediately following The Daily Show as a sort of tandem.

U2 has Vertigo, Me Too

Last Night we attended the U2 concert (Vertigo Tour) here in the Detroit area. The performance was held at the Palace of Auburn Hills, a northern suburb of Detroit and also the home of the Detroit Pistons. The following is my scattered observations of the event.

First off, U2 was a favorite of mine way back in their early days. I thought their "War" album was great. Indeed I was elated they played "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and an even earlier song "Gloria." They naturally played many of their hits over the years, most that you would think of.

Second, I'm a fan of Bono and his efforts to halt poverty and AIDs particularily in the third world and the African continent. Part of the price of the ticket goes to these efforts. Interestingly, Bono had met with President Bush in the oval office just days before last nights concert. It was a bit surreal to see the photo released from that meeting, Bono wearing his tattered jeans and leather coat and Bush all suit and tied. But note to Bono, "Bush causes poverty, he don't care about poor people." I'm sure Bono knew he was talking to a wall, but thought it worth an effort to at least publicize his cause.

There were many references to his cause during the concert and as well in the outer concourse where they were taking email addresses. You can get information for this at

Third, I was highly impressed with the light show. The stage had an oval rampway for Bono and Edge to walk around and get closer to fans. Added to that, at one end of that oval was an additional oval stage for drums and traditional band set. Throughout the concert, these oval were illuminated with lights that would "run" around the oval. At times these ovals would almost appear to be planet trajectories like our solar system. Added to this was huge light strings hanging above and to the side of the stage that could display action sequences as well as abstact color combinations. These light strings would be raised and lowered at various times.

Fourth, at one point Bono dedicated a song to Rosa Parks. Here in Detroit, Parks is our adopted civil rights legend. She moved here after her famous bus sitting incident in Alabama and worked in Detroit city government. It was no coincidence that U2 did the Parks dedication as she passed on just the day before at the age of 92. To give an idea of her adopted city's love for her, both major newspapers (The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News) did full sections on her life today.

Fifth, ticket prices. I guess I'm just an old fogey, but I still have plenty of sticker shock from prices of concerts of major acts. We paid $100 a seat to sit against the wall in the last row. We weren't the worst last row seats as I met a man that was standing in an aisle near our section who couldn't see the stage because of the hanging equipment. He paid more than we did. I had this same sticker shock when I saw the last Fleetwood Mac tour this past year.

I don't know, but things sure have changed for arena rock from my early concert going days. I can remember seeing mulitiple big name bands playing on the same bill for prices that are similar to the parking fee we paid last night. Milk and bread are hardly a couple of coins higher than in those days, but concerts are inflation at its worst. Concession stand prices are obscene as well. $7.50 beers and $3.00 crappy hot dogs. Between the two of us, tickets, parking, concessions, and a T-shirt totalled nearly $300. That kind of price for an evening of entertainment certainly strains the budgets of many that attend the concert and prices out many from even thinking of going. Cynically, I must wonder if Bono is trying to cause poverty for his fans. But I understand that these prices are just business as usual in the concert world these days. Someone has to pay for the light show I praised above.

Sixth, I was interested in the contrast to concerts of old by the technology in the hands of ticket holders. Cameras and such were not allowed into the arena, but cell phones were. You could see camera phones held up toward the band all over the place. As well text messaging of fans was being displayed on huge TV screens above the stage. And of course many people were giving their friends not in attendence a taste of the concert simply by phoning them and holding out their cells. Just a decade or two ago this paragraph could be described as science fiction. Conspicuously missing was the call for an encore by holding up lighters, but that could have been because U2 took very brief breaks and when the concert ended the arena lights went on quickly.

Finally, we had to stand the entire concert. Everyone was ignoring the seat they were assigned as a place to put their ass. I wasn't upset with this, but it would have been nice to be able to sit occassionally and still see the band. All in all, it was a good experience although we may be pinching pennies for a few weeks.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Wilma Coverage, What a Joke

So, I'm watching CNN yesterday morning as they covered Hurricane Wilma and I happened to come across a bit of humor that they probably didn't plan.

As the weatherman was explaining the graphics of the hurricane I happened to notice his title that was displayed below his image. He was named "Severe Weather Expert." Not a weatherman or even a meterologist, but a severe weather expert. I have to now wonder about all the local weather reporters in my state for instance. Here in Michigan we experience tornados, ice storms, and blizzards among the various severe weather conditions. Will the local weather reporters upon seeing this new title for their job clamor for equal billing?

As I watched this severe weather expert chat with the reporter stationed on the west side of Florida as Wilma was clearing up, he asked that reporter (Miles O'Brien) if the flooded road behind him was rain water or ocean water that might be causing that flood. Miles, without batting an eye proceded to go back to the road and bend down to scoop some water in his hand and taste it! As he was doing this, the severe weather expert back in the studio was trying to stop him from drinking the water. As a viewer I was also telling my TV, "No, stop, don't drink the water, idiot." Miles stood back up and declared that the water "tasted brackish." Geez, I just had to laugh.

I then began to wonder if any reporter had done this water taste test after Katrina in New Orleans. I could just imagine the reporter telling the viewers, "It tastes a bit like sewer. No, stronger than that. Hmmm, that taste is so recognizable but... Wait, let me taste again. Hmmm, yes, now I know. It taste a bit like a combination of human corpse and rotted animal carcass. If any residents of New Orleans are watching, I highly suggest you avoid drinking the flood water."

Friday, October 21, 2005

Do Not Spit

Just for fun I like to go to an on-line photo site and type in a off-the-cuff word and see what pictures I might find. Todays word was "spit" and this is one I found.

I don't know what country this sign was in, but I was interested that wherever this was they made sure that probably Americans understood the sign. Many countries have laws against spitting. Americans on the other hand tend to spit with impunity. One of those cultural things, taboo in one place, normal in another.

Now, I can't ever know what any reader of this blog is doing in their own home, but this is my request. When reading my blog, Do Not Spit.

Burn The Dead to Piss Them Off

So now it turns out that American soldiers were caught on video burning the bodies of dead Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan. You remember that war, don't you? Afghanistan is the war we only hear about when something really strange happens, like this video incident. And of course we still haven't heard the one thing from Afghanistan that we were supposed to have heard a few years back, the capture of Osama bin Laden.

Apparently the burning of the bodies was done by an American Psych-Ops unit. They later broadcast a message to the nearby town about what they did. To understand why they did this, it must be understood that cremation is not a usual practice for Islam. Burial is the proper disposal of the dead in the Muslim world (not that different from Christian practices for the most part). They did this to inflame any other Taliban within speaker distance.

I guess you have to be a little psychotic to work in the Psych-Ops units. It would probably be quite revealing to know what goes on in these units on a daily basis. What other odd behaviors are being done in the name of winning a war. We do know that some of the Abu Ghraib torture methods were also performed in Afghan prisons by American captors. We do know that we killed a couple of those prisoners by "accident" from these tortures. The Afghanistan War is the largely unreported war.

If you've read many of my past posts, you know that I felt the Iraq War was wrong and then mismanaged throughout. What you might not know is my feelings about Afghanistan.

Like most Americans I was in a sense of shock following 9/11. My thinking wasn't clear on issues and I was tunnel-visioned on New York City. I was accepting of the rational to attack Afghanistan to get Bin Laden.

But here we are four years later and we still haven't captured Bin Laden. The longer he has eluded capture the more I've second guessed the Afghanistan War. Maybe about two years ago, I realized that we are probably going to "lose" this war. Now I'm not talking losing in a military sense, but losing in the long term political sense much like the former Soviet Union lost in the long term.

We are essentially in the same position they were. The USSR controlled the capitial city Kabul and had installed a communist government that was to follow the mother country, in other words a puppet government. Much of the rest of the country was war against the opposition, an insurgency.

Now, Kabul is controlled by America with a puppet government under the guise of "democracy" and the rest of the country is war with insurgency. Interesting to know is that in general Afghans don't much like their President Karzai, as he fled the country when the Soviet Union came to town. He was considered a coward. Karzai won an election with something like 150 candidates, a plethoria of names where only the few known names had a chance. Democracy by confusion resulted in an American backed president.

What America doesn't get, is that we plain just don't understand other cultures. Like the USSR we think we are the answer to their problems. That our guidance is just what they need. It's not the answer. We have this hipocritical war doctrine going on these days. We violently ursurp the government, give them "democracy" as we militarily occupy them, and say we are giving them self determination.

Afghans are like most people, pragmatic. They know that no occupying force stays forever in their country, you can check the history of Afghanistan and find many invaders eventually leave. They know they might as well go along with the occupying forces decisions until the day they leave. They know that a persistent low grade war wears on those occupiers. The war lords of Afghanistan that have existed for centuries, know to play a sort of game, that change will come.

We show our lack of cultural knowledge by doing the sort of things that turn the people against a puppet government even if you call it democracy. Burning those bodies is just the sort of thing that makes us look like the tyrants that Afghans have endured before. One thing we've proven to Afghans is that our biggest, baddest, military might can't control the entire country. They know that truth, but somehow too many Americans haven't figured that out, yet.

Someday Americans will come to the realization that losing soldiers to death and maiming in a country far away, for a reason that is ever changing, just doesn't make much sense. We will pull out when the day comes that we can't remake a country in our image. We've lost the Afghanistan War, we just haven't decided to declare victory and leave.

Picture an Armpit

Recently I played a practical joke that I thought was fairly minor but turned out to be a big laugh.

The 17 year old's new cell phone is one with picture taking capabilities. He had left it around and his mom decided to take a few pictures to load into it as a surprise to him. She pointed it at me and I did the old hand blocking tactic to avoid my face as a subject. I convinced her to instead photograph my armpit (I was wearing a tank top at the time). She took the armpit portrait and I proceeded to forget all about it.

Days later they went to a Red Wing exhibition game and sitting in the stands that's when the kid finally looked at his loaded pictures (probably was taking a few shots at the game). His mom described to me the look that came over his face as a combination of horror and anger. Apparently he didn't much like the picture and began thinking of who might have gotten ahold of his phone and done this.

It was just a picture of an armpit or was it? At the time of the original photo taking I hadn't looked real close at the results or had easily recognized that it looked like an armpit because that's what my eyes had expected. But to someone interpretting the shot it didn't look so much like an armpit as something else. How do I put this delicately? I can't. The picture appeared to be of an asshole.

So you can imagine now that most people would be in shock and anger finding a picture of a feces disposal opening in their phone. The kid was thinking fast of "friends" of his that might have done this to him. He was also considering what he might do to the person once he figured out who it was that left such a crappy photo joke.

Thinking like a crime scene investigator like most of us do once we find we need to track down who is responsible for something, he realized quickly that it had to be a picture of an asshole of a white "friend" rather than his friends of color. I had to wonder whether he considered that he might have to try to get his suspects to pose for comparisons to the anus shot in his phone. I could just picture him holding his phone and telling his friends to drop their pants.

At the game his mom finally began to understand what was going on in his mind as he began explaining his feelings to his brother and realized she had some 'splainin' to do! She patiently told him of the incident that begat the poophole/armpit picture, careful to not put too much blame on me. She did agree to take the picture, I'd think she's mostly to blame. Finally he understood it was harmless and began to find the humor of the situation.

When they returned from the game, his brother the innocent bystander in all this related the reactions to me. "He thought my armpit was an asshole?" I was incredulous. But boy did I start laughing. I couldn't stop it tickled me so much. Then it dawned on me, my armpits apparently don't look like armpits, at least on a picture phone. I didn't quite believe that and wanted to see the picture, but alas he had deleted it from his phone.

I'm not sure which is more true, that these cell phone pictures aren't of very good quality or that my armpits are more gross looking than I had previously suspected. I've since wondered what it would be like to be able to deficate from my armpits, how much easier it might be to simply raise my arms and drop my load. I suppose that flexing the arm muscle would produce quicker results.

The moral of the story is..., there IS no moral, but it's funny. This practical joke is not something I would recommend, but..., well, sure go ahead and try it. But check your armpit picture and make sure it either looks like an armpit (for the more proper practical joke) or make sure it looks like an hairly anus (for the more bad boy version). I suppose to be completely accurate you could drop your pants and photograph the real thing. But you didn't hear that from me?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I Spoke On C-SPAN, he, he

One of my favorite shows on TV is "Washington Journal" which runs on C-SPAN beginning at 700am est. It has various end times as they switch to coverage of the House of Representitives when in session.

Washington Journal runs questions of political natures to be commented on air by viewers. They usually have three phone numbers, one for Bush supporters, one for Democrat supporters, and one for supporters of "others." As well the show has guests throughout with wide ranging subject matter, but usually something that pertains to important news of the day.

Yesterday, I finaly called in to ask a question of the guest, this time Walter Pincus, longtime reporter on intelligence issues for the Washington Post. The discussion was about the Valerie Plame scandal. I asked about the forged documents that purported that Saddam Hussein was trying to obtain uranium from Niger. Later of course that charge ended up in President Bush's State of the Union speech of 2003 as those "16 words" that was the impetus for Joe Wilson to speak out that those words were untrue.

If you'd like to hear my voice and question, click the link. Chose the Washington Journal show (from recent programs list) for 10/19/2005. My call was at just about 8:21 about midway into the show. They only hold the recent shows for download for 30 days, so hurry.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Plame Game, ready for names.

Plame, Cheney, Libby, Rove, Wilson, Fitzgerald, Hadley...With all these names and more, we have a major Washington scandal ready to mass destruct.

This scandal will be very scary to many of the names involved, just in time for Halloween. The Justice Department investigation is nearly complete and soon the front pages will be playing the Plame Game.

Miller, Bush, McClellan, Tenet, Novak, Fleischer, Cooper...The naming of names will start and what we probably are going to find is a conspiracy to defraud the country. For those not paying attention to "Plamegate," or somehow think that this is a nonsense blame game, you might be in for a surprise.

The one name I have yet to use, Hussein, plays only a small role.

The synopsis of the scandal begins with the desire to have a war on Iraq. So it is all connected into the White House. Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be the late focus. He ran a "task force" called the Iraq Group to search for evidence that Saddam Hussein had or was seeking WMDs, particularily nukes. Cheney later was publicly the greatest advocate for a case of Saddam and nuclear ambitions.

It has been known that the White House wanted an Iraq War even prior to winning the 2000 election. There was the group called Project for a New American Century (PNAC) going back to 1998 that urged then President Clinton to attack Iraq. Many from PNAC moved on to the White House, they are known as neoconservatives. According to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill the subject of an Iraq War came up in the very first cabinet meeting. This past year the Downing Street Memos were revealed also confirming the White House desire for an Iraq War prior to 9/11.

When George Bush gave his 2002 State of the Union speech it was heavy with accusations against Saddam Hussein and his threat to the United States. In what is now called the "16 words" Bush proclaimed, "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa."

How did Bush know this? It was written into the speech from intelligence information that came from the Vice-Presidents office. This information collected by the Iraq Group was gleaned from CIA information that the CIA was highly doubtful about. CIA Director George Tenet has taken the blame for those 16 words, but Stephen Hadley assistant to Cheney left it in the speech.

There were two reasons that the CIA didn't think the statement was true. First the "forged documents" that made it appear that Saddam had made a deal with Niger to obtain uranium yellow cake. The document mysteriously turned up at the US embassy in Italy, and were dismissed easily as forgeries on investigation.

The second reason involved the names of the heart of the story. After the 16 words were spoken by Bush, former ambassador Joseph Wilson wrote in the New York Times that those words were wrong. He knew so because he had been to Niger to investigate the yellowcake rumor two years before. He did this on behalf of the CIA and returned to say that there was no evidence that Saddam had sought the uranium.

It turns out he was working for Dick Cheney, but indirectly. The vice-president had been actively interested in the CIAs investigations of any Hussein and WMD connection. Joe Wilson's information filtered up and over to Cheney, but not regarded with interest because it didn't make the case for WMDs, except to at least Cheney.

Wilson's article riled the White House as Wilson pinpointed the false statements and false premise that the White House was using to sell the war to the American public. Soon the White House began a whisper attack on Wilson, using reporters. They tried to make it look like Wilson had gone to Niger because of orders from his wife. They spoke her name to several reporters, but she was CIA and considered undercover by the agency. The CIA then had no choice but to investigate any damage done to their operations by outing an agent and also requested a Justice Department investigation as required.

Wilson's wife, the now famous Valerie Plame it turns out did not send her husband Joe to Niger. She had merely suggested him as a possible person to go. Managers above her made the decision as Wilson was indeed a good likely candidate because he had been there before.

Political columnist Robert Novak was the first to name Plame and begin this whole name game. Others that were told her name but did not go public with the information were Walter Pincus from the Washington Post, Tim Russert host of Meet the Press, Time Magazine's Matt Cooper, and The New York Time's Judith Miller.

Initially the Justice Department headed by John Ashcroft called the White House and told them of the investigation and to assemble all information pertaining to this "outing." White House Council Alberto Gonzalez took this call on a Friday, but told White House staffers beginning with Chief of Staff Andrew Card to start on Monday, leaving a time gap. Later in the investigation Ashcroft recused himself and the investigation was turned over to a Chicago prosecuter Patrick Fitzgerald.

The direction of the investigation has been revealed in part from those who have testified before Fitzgerald's grand jury. All the reporters have had to face the problem of revealing their sources, which reporters just don't do, and the freedom of speech issue. They needed some sort of permission to speak to the grand jury from their source(s). Two reporters at first refused to testify. Matt Cooper, who was ready to go to jail rather than testify, got last minute consent from his source through Matt and his source's attorneys.

Judith Miller was an interesting story in itself. She was outspoken in her refusal to reveal her source(s?) citing the First Amendment and her newspaper The New York Times backed her up. Fitzgerald had her put in jail for refusing to testify, withholding evidence. She eventually spent 85 days in jail. finally her source gave her formal permission that Miller says was neccesary, it was a bit confusing. She did testify, but also her notebook from the time in question was suddenly found. Strangly written was Valerie's name except surnamed Flame and her fake identity mixed up as well. Miller claims she could not remember who told her the information written that day.

Miller was the reporter that wrote extensively about the Iraq War and the search for WMDs in Iraq during and after the fall of Baghdad. She was embedded with a search team. She also wrote many of the pre-war claims the Bush Administration used to sell the war detailing intelligence which later proved false. Her coverage turned out to so inaccurate that The NY Times printed a "mea culpa" apologizing for getting the WMD story wrong.

Who told Miller and the other reporters the name of Wilson's wife? Several White House officials have been named as some reporters have written post-testimony stories about their source. One is Cheney's top aide "Scooter" Libby. The other is George Bush's top brain Karl Rove. As the "man behind the throne" or "Bush's Brain" Rove is an important figure to the president.

At one point in the investigation Bush was asked by a reporter if it was found that anyone in the White House was involved whether that person(s) would be fired. Bush replied in the affirmative. Later he re-parsed his words and said only if they broke the law. Also earlier Scott McLellan at his press briefing said that Rove and Libby had spoken to him and McLellan said they weren't involved. After some of the stories came out with Rove and Libby's names in them, McLellan stonewalled the press in some lively Q&A and refused to comment about his earlier remarks. Suddenly, he wouldn't comment in an ongoing investigation. The White House is now only repeating this mantra.

What is the prosecutor thinking of using as charges in this investigation? The first and most serious is revealing the name of a covert agent, a law not used since it went into effect in this past decade. Another charge is possibly involving espionage, or revealing government secrets. And all those that testified before the grand jury may have to face perjury if they lied in court to cover up knowledge or obstruction of justice. Karl Rove has appeared on four different occasions, which brings suspicious attention to what his role might be. One must also wonder if the whole thing gets wrapped up into a large conspiracy to fabricate the Iraq War WMD issue.

This is where we stand, now waiting to see who might be indicted. We also wonder how deep this goes. Is President Bush involved? Did he either order some sort of retaliation against Joseph Wilson involving his wife's CIA status, or have knowledge of the "outing?" Bush was interviewed by Fitgerald, but not under oath. The same questions apply to Dick Cheney. He seems likely to have been involved with his close interest in an Iraq War. Do either of them have "plausible deniability?" Karl Rove and Scooter Libby most certainly seem targets as they talked to reporters.

Fitzgerald has a reputation of being a good, hard working, non-partisan prosecutor. Those of us who have known all along that this administration is corrupt are awaiting what names Fitzgerald names in this Plame Game. Halloween 2005 will never be the same to those names.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Miers, Cronyism, Conservatives

In a recent post I made my case as to why I'm opposed to Harriet Miers as a Supreme Court judge based mainly on cronyism, but also seperation of powers. I still stand by that as a conviction.

On the wave of conservatives (Bill Krystol for instance) now using this argument, I see something less than conviction on their part. I see that they want some type of excuse because they would rather stay away from other points they would rather bring up, such as her lack of a record.

I opposed John Roberts as well because of cronyism. Roberts for instance was involved in helping with legal advice down in Florida back in 2000 to help George Bush win that election. He was also a White House lawyer in the Reagan Administration.

I will state again that White House lawyers being elevated to the Supreme Court smells too much of preference for White House power over the other branches of government, whether Congressional, judicial, or state. Also, I feel that ex-White House lawyers may have favoritism toward those they worked for in cases that may come before the Supreme Court with no law requiring them to recuse themselves. I shudder to think if George Bush were to end up facing a Supreme Court with Roberts, Antonio Scalia (friend of Dick Cheney) and now perhaps Meirs (who from her words sounds absolutely in love with Bush) how likely true neutral judgement can be found.

Back to conservative opposition to Miers. Even Laura Bush suggested that opposition to Miers may be a form of sexism. I've also heard the word elitism bandied about, where the fact that Miers didn't attend an exclusive/prestigeous university bothers elite conservatives. The conservatives have been dancing around these types of oppositions, not wanting to appear sexist or elitist, so instead they use cronyism as their excuse.

With all the cronyism surrounding the Bush Administration these days and not a peep from conservatives about any of it, now using cronyism as their reason for opposition certainly seems less than genuine. More to the point it sounds like hypocrisy.

As to Miers I admire her past, working her way up in the American male dominated legal system that had a very protective glass ceiling. I certainly cannot oppose her for that.

My other concern is religious bias. Bush has been treading a fine line about Miers religious conviction, not wanting to actually say that she opposes abortion on religious grounds, but wanting to signal to his religious base by explaining that Miers is an evangelical. Despite this effort many conservatives are still opposing Miers.

I understand that finding people without some sort of personal religious bias is darn near impossible, but I do want judges to uphold the Constitution on this. Freedom of religion is important, which is why no specific religion should be dominant in our laws. I certainly do not want a Supreme Court judge using personal religious teachings as a basis for rulings. If that becomes common we might as well give up our democracy because we won't really have it anymore anyway. That's what Europe of the 18th century was and why so many left there to come to America, freedom of religion. Theocracies are repressive, I don't want that in America.

If I had A Bush Hammer...

If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning. I'd hammer in the evening, all over this land....

I've always liked that song. But I might add a few lyrics after watching George Bush use a hammer in New Orleans yesterday.

If I had a hammer, I'd show Bush how to hold it. I'd hammer repeatedly, until Bush finally got it. You hold it down by the end, not way up by the head....

Seriously, Bush was holding the hammer up by the head, not toward the end. He sort of looked like some child using one of those toy tool kits. The late night talk shows were having a good time mocking Bush's hammer inexperience. But over at FOX where apparently they don't even look at their own video, I caught some yapping head just gushing about the Bush hammer photo-op. That FOX Bush hero worshipper compared his hammering to his ranch brush clearing as if neither are photo-ops. Sometimes I wonder why FOX News doesn't place a statue of Bush in their studio and open each hour with a bowed down prayer to their God-idol Bush. At least then I could know their bias comes from the heart.

The Bush hammer time was at a project of Habitat for Humanity, a Jimmy Carter founded project. This is the second time in the last month that Bush has channeled Carter. Prior to his hammer photo-op, Bush had suggested to Americans that we conserve energy by only driving our cars when necessary. (Compare this to the days after 9/11 when he told us to go shopping). He also said he was directing the White House to find ways to conserve energy in that building. Flashback to Carter wearing sweaters in the White House back in the 1970s because of the energy conservation proposed because of the OPEC oil embargo.

I'm beginning to think Bush is a bit multiple personality as he likes to compare himself to previous presidents. For instance, the day that New Orleans was being flooded, Bush was in San Diego giving a speech about Iraq where he compared the Iraq War to World War II and himself to Franklin Roosevelt. In the past he has compared himself to Ronald Reagan. He likes to call for a strict reading of the Constitution, harking back to our founding fathers. He seems to see himself in many past presidents except oddly his own father (at least publicly). He's also mentioned Harry Truman as well. Funny how he's been picking past Democratic Party presidents to channel.

Truthfully, if I had a hammer, I'd be tempted to hammer nails into a box that contained Bush. At least we wouldn't have to view more blantantly obvious photo-ops.

Here's the The Letterman top ten about Bush's hammer exhibition.

Top Ten Thoughts Going Through George W. Bush's Mind At This Moment (clip showing Bush hammering).

10. "This should make up for me waiting a week to respond to the hurricane"
9. "Dang, this is fun--I should bring a hammer to cabinet meetings"
8. "Why won't they let me handle the power tools?"
7. "Great, another thing I'm not good at"
6. "This is the kind of thing we should be paying Halliburton 800 bucks an hour to do"
5. "Do I get to keep the hard hat?"
4. "It's Hammer Time!"
3. "I've got to finish pretending to build a house so I can go pretend to comfort people"
2. "Georgie's gonna need another five weeks off"
1. "Only thing Clinton ever nailed was that hefty intern"

Monday, October 10, 2005

Delphi, a case of the executive union winning again

Here in Michigan the last few days the big news story is the bankruptcy of Delphi. This company is the second largest auto parts supplier in the world. A few years back Delphi was owned by General Motors but was spun off as a seperate company.

The news has been fast and furious in the past week. Last week Delphi told its union workers that they needed to take an approximate pay cut of 65%. Negotiations began, but they were never in ernest as Delphi was essentially saying that the pay cut was a "take it or leave it" proposition. This past Saturday Delphi lowered the boom and declared bankruptcy.

What happened on Friday was telling. Delphi gave 21 top executives severance packages that included 18 months of salary plus part of their bonuses if their jobs are to be eliminated, then Delphi promptly declared bankruptcy the next day. Isn't that special?!

This of course is not unusual for corporate America. When it's time to bail out, the thieves at the top make sure that their personal treasure chests are full of whatever money remains before they turn the company over to the bankruptcy court. Do they consider that the millions of stockholders will be soaked with losses? Do they consider that the funds the company has rightfully belongs to their creditors? Sure they consider it, but greed and self interest win out. Corporate America is absolutely corrupt and the bankruptcy laws allow it.

I've often wondered what is so special about these corporate leaders. They go to the best business colleges in the nation, many in the Ivy League, yet they so often end up running companies into the ground. These business geniuses can't seem to figure out how to avoid red ink. What the hell do they learn in these higher institutions? Apparently one major thing, to get paid handsomely for being failures.

Here's a telling statistic. American CEOs make appoximately 450 times the pay of the average worker in their companies. The next highest nation per this statistic is Britain at about 30 times the average worker. Japan, Germany and the rest of the industrialized countries are even less.

I think it's quite clear that the wrong jobs are being outsourced to other countries. While the jobs of the lowest paid in American companies continue to leave this country for lower wage nations, the workers with the salaries that are extremely higher than any other country in the world continue to be paid those outlandish stacks of dollars.

But I guess that's what our prestigeous business universities are teaching their students these days. Ignore their own high ratio of pay compared to other countries and to fixate on the lowest pay rates within their empires. And the most strangest thing is that these thieves are not even the rightful owners of these corporations, the stockholders are. Yet, when they decide to bankrupt the company the stockholders take huge losses, while the thieves loot the store just prior to their exit.

I'm of the opinion that the wrong union is being lambasted for their pay rates. These theives at the top are a union as well. They may not have a name for their union, but they certainly have a shared interest in their company, and that is to make sure they loot the burning building before they leave. I can't even count the number of times I've heard the phrase "unions are destroying America." The thing is that the statement is true, but the wrong unions are the target. The union destroying America is the Top Executive Club (TEC, I'll abreviate it as).

The TEC Union like to play at the same country clubs, buy mansions in the same exclusive neighborhoods, and shop at the same high end retail stores. They stand together, united. They don't sing "We shall overcome" they sing "We rule!"

They do rule. The TEC Union has friends in high places in America at another country club, the White House. When tax cuts are specifically directed towards the TEC Union (tax cuts for the rich) it's nothing but one rich union supporting another, solidarity, man.

How often I've heard that unions are corrupt. I won't disagree, the TEC Union is absolutely corrupt. Ken Lay (Enron), Bernie Ebbers (Worldcom), Al "Chainsaw" Dunlop (Sunbeam) are only a few of the crooks from the corrupt TEC Union that have been fingered, but so many more go unnoticed. In the White House we have Dick Cheney who continues to profit from his previous role as CEO of Halliburton. Google "George W. Bush" and "Harkin Energy" to find out how our president got away with not declaring his stock sales prior to corporate bankruptcy. Our corporate president was only a lesser player in the TEC Union in those days, but a member certainly to this day as his policies have been geared for the TEC Union.

Returning to Delphi, the hatchet man at the top of the Delphi TEC Union is Robert S. (Steve) Miller (note; Miller attended Stanford and Harvard, what a surprise). He will achieve his goals. He will force draconian pay cuts on the Delphi union, the UAW (United Auto Workers) or even force the union out of Delphi. He already has ensured his TEC Union will reap millions and then be rehired at high rates of pay. He will most likely shift many of the lowest payed jobs to other countries. When the banckruptcy dust clears, Delphi will be debt free and the stockholders will be fleeced (the stock is now below a buck and will be delisted from the NYSE).

I will state right here that I'm in favor of breaking unions, but the union I'm thinking of is the Top Executive Club. I just wish I knew how to do it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What is a Conservative?

The question of the day I have decided to try to answer is, "What is a conservative?"

I don't know anymore. Yesterday a reporter asked President Bush whether he was still a conservative in light of many on the right wondering about his choice for the Supreme Court, Harriet Miers. Bush said he was still a conservative and proud of it. But is Bush a conservative?

Let's start with money. Conservatives are for balanced budgets, it's called fiscal conservatism. Yet, in the last five years the Bush White House has been spending money like the bills have disease on them, in other words, as fast as possible. It's well known that the federal budget had been finally balanced at the end of Clinton, (both parties had helped in this happening, but probably the roaring late '90s economy should get the most credit for balancing the budget).

But then conservative Bush came to town. Bush began tax cuts, which lowered the government income. A budget that had been finally balanced after many years didn't need alterations at that moment, it was finally a success. OK, I will concede that cutting taxes is conservative, but guess what? Liberals actually don't mind cutting taxes either. Both parties in 2000 offered tax cuts in the election despite polling that showed more than 60% didn't care about tax cuts. Note; Election promises always are either "buying votes" or lieing, at least to critics of politicians.

Bush paid off his supporters with tax cuts. The problem is that too many of his supporters are rich and powerful. Enron's Ken Lay for instance was a big contributor to Bush's 2000 election. Lay still isn't in jail or even have gone to trial, you've got to wonder whether that political money is now getting a payback with delayed justice for America. Mostly, the Bush tax cuts benefited the rich and ultra-rich. For most of us, it was nothing more than a few dollars in our paychecks, money that was quickly used on minor things.

So the tax cuts began an unwinding of the balanced budget. Bush deserves conservative credit for "buying votes" (rather, fullfilling a campaign promise) and also loses some conservative credit for beginning fiscal irresponsibility (campaign lie).

Bush cut taxes every year, helping plunge the budget deeper in the red. While this was going on we had a couple of big interuptions into America. First, was the corporate scandals of 2001, and the dropping stock market. Despite this problem, the tax cuts continued. Then came 9/11, yet the tax cuts continued. The federal budget now was not close to being balanced. The tax cuts still continue to this day.

To a fiscal conservative, if you cut taxes then to balance the budget you have to cut programs. This was starting to be done when 9/11 hit. In reaction, Bush increased federal spending with Homeland Security and expansion of many other agencies. Military spending as well jumped with two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, in Bush's first term the federal budget was no longer near balanced. Tax cuts reduced revenues, while federal spending increased expenses. This is not a fiscal conservatives' dream acounting sheet. Yet, in Bush's second term he has done basically nothing to change the balance sheet, even after Hurricane Katrina gets flooded with federal spending (awful pun). Just prior to Katrina, Congress had passed two major pork bills. More free flowing government spending.

The Republicans I see today are not fiscal conservatives at all. They spend like drunken sailors. I think Bush is not a fiscal conservative, he's more like a thief with a stolen government credit card.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Can You Spell "Harriet Cronyism?"

When George Bush made his latest pick for Supreme Court justice, he made me completely suspicious of him, as usual. His pick is White House council Harriet Miers.
I can think of plenty of reasons off-hand that this pick is nothing more than cronyism.

First, let's consider the legal ramifications. If she becomes a justice, she might run into several cases that she might have to consider to recuse herself. She represented Bush and others in the White House in the last few years and if any of her clients end up with charges against them in the future, she would be personally obligated to recuse herself, but not neccesarily legally obligated. She in effect could sit in judgement of her friends who served in the White House. Supreme Court judges are not legally bound to recusal, it is their own judgement to decide to recuse.

Justice Scalia has already done this for his friend Vice-President Dick Cheney. He presided over the case of the "Enron energy meetings" about whether to release the information from the meeting, after spending time with Cheney on a duck hunting trip.

This White House may end up before the Supreme Court in a number of cases, particularily since it seems the White House has been treading on the thin line of honesty and lawfulness. Take the case of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. A new policy had been adopted in regard to what constitutes torture, yet no one involved in making the new policy has yet been legally linked to Abu Ghraib. At least two White House employees may someday face that music, Donald Rumsfeld or Alberto Gonzalez.

Harriet Miers has been too closely involved in the workings of the White House. At the minimum, she may be prejudiced to ruling in favor of presidential power. Our federal government is a three part balance of power, presidential, congressional, and judicial. The key is balance, keeping the three independent is important. By having Miers be appointed by a good friend Bush, then the influence of the White House over the Supreme Court becomes suspicious.

As a non-partisan (I don't trust either party) I can only wonder what might happen if Bush himself ends up before the Supreme Court, again. We shouldn't forget that Bush won his 2000 election after a visit to the Supreme Court, winning in a 5-4 vote. And we know that Cheney and Scalia are friends, buddies of Bush.

The new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts also came from his past experience in the White House through a George Bush nomination. Bush keeps saying he wants to nominate people he knows. With my raised eyebrows I ask, "Why in all this wide land called America can't "Team Bush" find an independent judge not friendly to either political party?" Scalia, Roberts, Miers, this Supreme Court is shaping up into a pro-Bush friends and family reunion.

True Kool-Aid drinking Bush supporters (I can say Kool-Aid as I would never place absolute faith in ANY political party or politician) would never agree with me, because they are somehow blinded to this closeknitness of the upper ranks of the Republicans. They are simply a clan of rich, self serving, cronyists, under-the-table dealing, hypocrites. If this was a Democratic Party White House acting like this, I would as well be upset (I hate Kool-Aid).

And this clan is helping to protect itself in the future by stacking the Supreme Court with friends that might come to decide NOT to recuse themselves if any of the Bush Clan comes before the court. Scalia already proved he would refuse to recuse on the Dick Cheney case, so why shouldn't I expect the two new judges to choose not to recuse in any future cases? (Note: If you move the ess, "recuse" becomes "rescue," don't know if that means anything.)

So, I'm saying that the Senate needs to thumbs down Bush's new SC nomination Harriet Miers because of that closeknitness. I want a judge who is independent from the White House and Congress. Someone who has been doing some good judging over the course of a number of years, not a lawyer that defends the White House. I don't want a judge that may refuse to recuse thus rescuing their friend in legal trouble. (I guess recuse/rescue did mean something.) Vote NO to cronyism, Miers needs to be rejected (or rescinded by Bush himself) and an independent judge nominated.