Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"The Duke" Cunningham leads other scandals, for now

So another Republican bites the dust. Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham who represented San Diego in The House of Representatives has tearfully resigned after admitting to taking massive bribes. The loot he was found to have amassed from these bribes included a mansion, silver candelabras, a Rolls Royce, $1.8 million in cash and a yacht he named "Duke-Stir."

He took his rewards from the defense industry businesses in return for steering defense contracts toward them. The Duke has agreed to cooperate as the investigation continues into the web of bribery. He faces 10 years in jail.

By the way, what the heck is going on in San Diego politics? It wasn't that long ago that an underfunded city pension scandal resulted in two consecutive mayors losing their jobs as well as accusations against six former board members. Must be that warm Pacific water that causes Republicans out there to become scam artists.

Back to the Duke. It's funny how back in July, Cunningham claimed he was innocent and earlier in June, Representative Tom Delay (of all people) called him an honorable man. It's becoming a given in Washington politics that when someone claims innocence, you might as well think the opposite, particularily Republicans.

Tom Delay is fighting an illegal campaign money indictment in Texas and had to resign his leadership role. Senate majority leader Bill Frist is now being investigated by the SEC for insider stock sales. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is of course fighting several indictments for being a liar. And if you aren't up on the confusing Jack Abramoff scandal, you will be sooner or later as it is growing to include several Washington lawmakers.

But if you like your money scandals at the state level, try Ohio and their "coingate." The Republican Governor Bob Taft has single digit approval ratings after being involved in coin dealer Tom Noe's bribery.

Now I may smile a bit at the fact that it's Republicans front and center in these scandals, but truthfully I understand that this is our corrupt political system. The money flows to those in power. The evidence has always been there and is gaining national attention once again that an election system that relies on so much money being given to politicians who then vote for things that will benefit others is so obviously open to corruption. Quid pro quo with dollar signs is our election system.

Only drastic campaign finance reform will ever cure our election ills. The answer is a system called "clean campaigns" in which campaign dollars are funneled into a blind fund where candidates don't know who made the contributions. Our current system is frought with bribery and only a portion ever rises to the surface to be known by the public. So much of the "bribery" is actually legal.

Obvious as well is that those of us that make small campaign contributions never get our voices heard, it's those that gather the big money that get the ear of the politician. You know in your heart that it is the "pioneers" that helped raise large sums for George Bush that get to chat with the president and upper reaches of the Republican Party, not those of us with a few bucks to donate. The same goes for big donors in the Democratic Party.
And you know full well that somehow your tax dollars are going to pay for something the rich donors want. The moneyed political system we've evolved is corrupt and heavily weighed to those with money. Elites electing elites, what a country!

Oh, sure, you might say that the rest of us actually do the voting, but with the knowledge of so many cases of election fraud in the last decade or so, do you really believe your vote counts? Do you really believe that the CEO of a voting machine company (Diebold) that states that he will deliver the state of Ohio to George Bush is really playing honest?

Those of you that are Republican may think, "so what, my party won." But is that really the way you want to win, by cheating? And did you ever wonder how you will feel when some day the shoe is on the other foot? Pendulums swing back and forth and if we continue with a corrupt election campaign and voting system, that shoe will eventually be on the other foot.

I have to laugh when we are in two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq) trying to build democracies, and here at home our democracy is absolutely corrupt. I have to wonder if our nation builders are over there explaining democracy as we play it. "See, first you collect as much money from the voting dupes as you can, it won't be much from each individual of the masses. Then you promise them things you won't deliver on. If you win election you only listen to those that payed in plenty to your campaign and do their bidding. You follow that up in about four years and do it all over again. Oh, and be sure to use lots of words like "freedom" or "man of the people" and the word "we" is important because you want to make the masses think you are just like them."

A warning to the Iraqis: Watch out for your politicians since they are being taught democracy by Americans. Don't trust them, they are being told how to pick your pocket.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Global Warmed

Recently scientist drilled the oldest ice core in Antartica which has produced samples 600,000 years old. Analysis has found that since that time our atmosphere has never had a higher content of methane and carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gases.

This is more evidence that we are in a time of global warming. Hardly a scientist exists now that doesn't accept global warming as real. There are exceptions though, those that work for the energy companies and those that work for the Bush Administration. These people don't refer to global warming, they call it climate change. Why? Because they don't want to admit that humans are the cause of global warming.

It's hard for me to imagine what kind of denial in thinking can cause a person not to see the logic of the human industrial age contributing to the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What person can't fathom that the burning of fossil fuels, from oil to gas to wood to coal, releases CO2 into the air.

I also can't understand how any American faced with the fact that our country produces 25% of all greenhouse gases can then decide we have no responsibility for global warming. Or rather, that we don't have to make amends in some way. Yet our president doesn't feel we should be participating in the Kyoto Agreement, the world wide effort to try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Worse, many Americans agree with him.

As we enter the holiday shopping extravaganza, I'd be interested in whether people will make note of this recent core sample evidence (it has been in the news) and make some type of adjustment in their habits to at least attempt not to be contributing to greenhouse gases quite as much. Simple things like leaving the SUV at home while motoring to the various malls or even making less trips. Just purchasing American-made products rather than products from far-flung countries such as China can reduce the transportation contributions to greenhouse gases.

More than likely though, very few Americans will alter their habits one iota. Americans are mostly a selfish lot based on capitalistic thinking. It's all about getting the best price, whether it's better for our society and environment or worse, makes no difference to most Americans. We've been trained to think that the bottom line is what matters, cheap is good.

What bothers me most is our current Bush government wants to play head-in-the-sand on global warming, once again as with many of the Bush policies (such as the ballooning federal debt) ignoring reality of today to be deferred to Americans in the future, our children and grandchildren.

With a little government incentives we could begin enacting some simple changes. In the last energy bill we saw subsidies handed out like candy to the oil companies (like they needed more money) and small scraps to alternative energy companies. We're seeing American auto companies beginning to have financial trouble, yet we can't subsidize alternative fuel sourced cars to give them a push in the competition to produce these vehicles?

I shake my head in wonderment at the Bush team. They have such narrow-minded, think for today, type of policies. They have little vision for the future. Sort of reminds me of the Iraq War, which they predicted would be over quickly and paid for by Iraqi oil (it's not). I can only assume that oil is so important to these guys, that changing our path now doesn't pay for them.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Withdraw From Iraq

If you've been paying attention this past weekend to Washington, then you aren't surprised that the lid is blowing off of Iraq.

All last week there was "debate" (and I use quotes becuase the words were less than civil) between the Democrats and Republicans over the Iraq War, torture, and the justification of the Iraq War. Then came Thursday when Pennsylvania Democratic Representative John Murtha made a bold statement that we should withdraw from Iraq. To understand this as bold you must know that Murtha is a pro-defense Democrat and a former three tour Viet Nam Marine vet. He is not some "peace loving liberal."

Murtha has developed a withdrawal plan that would take six months and wanted the House of Representatives to debate his plan. But the Republicans in the House wanted nothing to do with it. Instead they offered their own proposal of "immediate withdrawal" and forced a vote on this also immediately. In other words they wanted to vote on something they didn't even want. It would be similar to Republicans proposing a flag burning amendment, to make flag burning a common event. They were trying to force the Democrats to vote "yes" on immediate withdrawal (even though Dems don't all agree with it) but as a losing vote as the Republicans hold the majority votes.

This was essentially a political trick and the Democrats cried 'foul" loudly. What little debate that was allowed by the Republicans (half hour each party) was rancorous to say the least. At one point a rookie Rupublican Jean Schmidt said this, "A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the house of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."

Wow, calling a three tour of duty Viet Nam vet a coward! Well, the Democrats began booing loudly and the Republicans held up debate to discuss her remarks. She then came back and apologized and ask that her words be stricken from the record. Of course her words are all on tape and the news channels were playing them back repeatedly, too late Jean, you've been heard loud and clear.

In the end of this fiasco, only a few Representatives voted yes for immediate withdrawal. But you can bet the real debate is far from over. Staying the course is becoming less popular by the day. Even generals on the ground in Iraq are suggesting withdrawal.

I have been saying this for well over a year. The problem has always been that there was never really a plan to win the war AFTER the fall of Baghdad. The Bush planners have been making things up as they go, and also two steps behind what was actually happening in Iraq. Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said in those early weeks that they didn't expect the looting and anarchy. That was my first clue that these guys were not thinking ahead and they've only proved they have been clueless since that day. I mean geez, they sent in General Garner to form the new Iraqi government without any Arabic interpreters, tell me that isn't more than stupid.

We haven't heard the last of withdrawing from Iraq, far from it. You can bet after the December elections in Iraq that we will begin hearing that they should be able to handle they're own country now. Words of withdrawal without actually using that word will soon be coming from the White House. In some fashion they will eventually declare "victory" and pull the troops back.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Islamic Fascists or Communists?

In a press conference on 11/15/05 Defense Scretary Donald Rumsfeld decided to name Islamic Jihadists as "Islamo-fascists" yet President George Bush in his recent Veterans Day speech called them "Islamo-communists."

Words mean something. Except to these guys. They will say anything to try to get Americans to believe them, even when their words are contrary to each other. To people that understand words, fascist and communist are the exact opposite on the political line, communist to the extreme left, fascist to the extreme right. The use of these terms is purposeful because the average person immediately thinks of communism as to Stalin and Fascism as to Hitler.

Communism and fascism had things in common though. They both were essentially dictatorships of large government bodies. And they used fear to rule over the people of their nations. They both were essentially Godless as well.

How different to Jihadists they are. Jihadists don't run nations or governments, thus can't rule with fear over peoples of nations. Also it's not a dictatorship, although they do have leaders at the top like any organization does. And certainly belief in God has much to do with their thinking.

The fact is that the Bush crowd doesn't want to use the word Jihadist as a stand alone word. Why? Because they think of their words as being heard all over the world, including the Muslim world. Jihadist to the Islam world is not usually thought of as "evil." That word means taking a stand against invasion, in one sense. So the Bushies tack on words they perceive as sounding "evil" such as communist or fascist.

But one wonders if the Muslim world might take some offense at this evil-ization of the word Islam even for moderate Muslims. Consider if some Islamic moderate leader decided to characterize American far-right Christian fundementalist as "Christo-fascists" or "Christo-communists." I would imagine that even Americans that are not fundementalists might take some offense at this evil characterization.

So now I will contradict my earlier statement. Words do mean something to the Bushies. They use them in anyway they want even to the point of redefining them. President Bush's speech was a written speech, so his use of the term Islamo-communists was calculated by someone in the White House. To the Bush Administration this is "tough talk" or "fightin' words."

In conclusion, I'd be interested in why the Bush Administration can't even decide whether Jihadists are communists or fascists. And further I'd be interested in hearing them explain in detail why they've added those two words and then explain what the comparison are to actual communism or fascism regimes of the past and Jihadists of today.

Iraqi Torture Compound, Not Saddam's

Now we have the reports of a compound in Iraq where torture was occurring. Apparently it was mainly Sunni's getting the brunt of the abuse performed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. This from the news report;

The Iraqi government has ordered an investigation into the alledged abuse and torture of 173 prisoners, most of them Sunni Arabs, in an Interior Ministry cell in Baghdad. The men were discovered during a raid by a US patrol as it was looking for a missing teenage boy. The US troops were stunned by what they found - many of the prisoners appeared to have been brutally beaten and most had been malnourished for wekks. There are also rumors of several dead bodies in the cell that showed signs of severe torture.

The AP reports, however, that the US raid may not have been accidental, and may have been aimed at "scoring points" with Sunni Arabs, whose participation in next month's general election is necessary if the US wants to be able to exit Iraq sometime in the next two years.

The Daily Telegraph also points out that "if true, the allegations could raise questions about the Shiite-led government's commitment to human rights and may prove embarrassing to the US military, which trained many of the Iraqi security forces."

It seems like torture is the news every day. One wonders whether torture begets torture. Saddam Hussein used torture. The US invades Iraq and uses torture (Abu Ghraib). The new Iraqi government uses torture. Torture seems so common now, it seems like all the powers that be in Iraq teach each other how to do it. Or maybe it's just one-upmanship. You torture, I torture, we all torture for torture's sake.

But this new story is actually nothing new for the Iraqi government. I wrote about a report back in August 2004 about an Oregon National Guard unit that spotted torture going on in a compound run by the Interior Ministry. The unit interceded but then was told to back off by higher command.

I've always wondered if that higher command was investigated into why they ordered the unit to back off. Why was the Iraqi Interior Ministry essentially given the green light to torture apparently under our watchful eyes? Was this in essense a rendition torture area?

So after this new report, I have to wonder if that incident from 2004 is in anyway related. The Iraqi Interior Ministry is the government organization that runs the national police. Unofficially, it sounds like they run their version of the FBI or CIA. And very unofficially it appears they run the gulags of torture.

And don't forget, it was the United States that created the different Iraqi Ministries. We advised them. It was the Bush Administration that became the new Iraq's God, we've created them in our likeness.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chickenhawk O'Reilly?

In my last post I wondered whether O'Reilly had ever served in the military. Well, I went to his website to see if I could find his "hit list" but it wasn't anywhere obvious (at least so far) so I decided to check out his biography.

Interestingly I found nothing pertaining to military service. The bio drones on about his writing career, but nothing as to defending his country. I would think that some yakking so-called patriot would shout out loud any military service, so I can only assume he chose not to serve. Who knows what his excuse might be, but I'm tempted to shout out "Chickenshit, chickenhawk."

Smear Bill O'Reilly

Apparently Bill O'Reilly of the "All Spin Zone" on FOX News recently decided that San Francisco should be a terrorist attack site. His quote that is shameless goes like this, "if Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you (San Francisco) up, we're not going to do anything about it. We're going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco."

He said this because the citizens of San Francisco VOTED to ban military recruiters from high school and college campuses. I guess O'Reilly doesn't like democracy unless he agrees with the vote. In other words he believes in dictatorship, as long as he is the dictator. Now I could think of plenty of democratic elections where I disagree with either the candidate or issue that garnered the popular vote. But I would never wish a terrorist attack on those citizens that cast their votes.

I wonder what kind of destruction he would wish on me, because I agree with San Francisco, that military recruiters should be banned from campuses. Where I live, the recruiters roam the hallways of the local high school trying to make friends with future "improvised explosive device" fodder in Iraq, the war of lies. They don't need this kind of access to kids many of whom are as young as 13 years old, particularily since they have recruiting offices not more than a quarter mile from the school.

But the O'Reilly crap gets deeper, as only his crap should be. Since his inexcusable comments were made, he has been creamed in the realm of blogs. O'Reilly has decided that he has been smeared once too often and is fighting back with a blog "hit list" of those who didn't like his violent remarks toward San Francisco. He plans to post all the names of "the smear merchants" (as he calls them) on his website He claims they are the anti-military internet crowd, forgeting the fact that he made the vile comments that he thinks San Francisco should be terrorized by Al Qaeda and that if they are, our country should not help them.

As a former member of the Army, but as one who opposes military recruiters on campus I must be somewhat of an enigma to talking buttheads like O'Reilly. Most of the talking head crowd never served in the military, much like the Bush Administration. Chickenhawks always squawking about patriotism and how to run bad wars like Iraq. I don't know if O'Reilly ever put on a uniform, but I did.

So there! I've done it. I've "smeared" Bill O'Reilly and now I wonder if little old me will get the honor of appearing on his website.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Was Osama bin Laden Quaked?

Ever since the earthquake in Pakistan five weeks ago I've wondered if Osama bin Laden was part of the death toll. In the last two years his location is described by our government as in the mountainous border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The unofficial death toll in Pakistan currently is at 90,000.

Then today I came across this CBS News report that describes the area they visited, Jeelum Valley, as "bin Laden country." The full pertaining reference is as follows;"This is Osama bin Laden country, dotted with training camps for jihadists, where Islam is at its most radical and America is seen as the enemy."

So naturally I began to Google "Pakistan earthquake bin laden" and found other references. This from India Daily Oct. 21, "
Indian remote viewers have reported that they sense massive devastation for Al-Qaeda in Pakistan earthquake."

An earlier article also from India Daily, Oct. 11, "
Rumors in Pakistan held Kashmir points towards some massive losses for Al-Qaeda in Pakistan held Kashmir. Some international think tanks believe Osama Bin Laden hiding in the safe sanctuary of Pakistan held Kashmir may be killed by the massive quake. However, no evidence suggests that the deadly earthquake that rocked Pakistan injured or killed the world's top terror leader, Osama bin Laden. The quake shook the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding. However, authorities at this point have no information indicating he's been injured or killed, said a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity."

The problem is that speculation as to bin Laden's life or death has been going on for quite some time. A Pakistani newspaper claimed he was dead back in June in a town in Afghanistan near Kandahar. The article explains that this claim is supported by the fact that bin Laden has not had a communication in over a year. No communication though is not really support of anything except non-communication. Sifting through other websites yields the belief that the earthquake has only inhibited bin Laden's ability to send messages.

Osama bin Laden dead or alive, is how President Bush described bringing him to justice. But, Osama bin Laden dead or alive, seems to be more like a combination mythology guessing game.

It probably doesn't even matter whether he is dead. To the Jihadists his death would only be seen as martyrdom. There are plenty of others ready to take his place and in some respects already have. For instance Abu Musab al-Zarqawi leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq who has claimed responsibility for the bombings in Amman, Jordan.

It does seem essentially important though to have some kind of proof when bin Laden does die. He isn't immortal, he will die some day. As the most famous killer in the world in the last decade knowing his fate is something for the history books, but at this point probably will have little effect as to the War on Terror. What bin Laden has started has transcended him and probably has been taken out of his control. The hunt will go on though and some day an answer will be found, maybe. It might turn out that bin Laden has prepared for his death to be dealt in secrecy in order to extend a mythology. Maybe bin Laden is under the rubble of an earthquake, but if true we probably would never know and that would be a bit disappointing.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Conspiracy Theory Reversed

I've been thinking lately about how the pendulum has swung as to opinions about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Back before the war if I spoke to someone and claimed that the Bush Administration was lying about WMDs in Iraq, I was promptly told I was an idiot or something along those lines. I was essentially accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

Now more than two years later with no weapons to be found and opinion polls showing that almost 60% of Americans believe that Bush purposely misled the nation, the roles have reversed. You can still find people that maintain that Saddam had WMDs and then proceed to try to explain what happened to them.

The two predominant theories are 1) that the WMDs were moved across the border into Syria and 2) the WMDs are still in Iraq probably buried in the sand. Despite the fact that the Bush Administration has never made these claims, people have come up with these ideas. So, who's the conspiracy theorists now?

Well, as a former conspiracy theorist (back in the days before the war) I would like to offer some other ideas for the new conspiracy theorists.

1) Aliens took them. Extremely intelligent beings from another galaxy decided that if Saddam Hussein used WMDs and then the US retaliated in kind then World War III would become fact. These aliens felt that humanity needed to be saved, so they moved their flying saucers into the airspace of Iraq and beamed up all the WMDs. They then more than likely deposited them on an outer planet such as Neptune where they are making the weapons ineffective.

2) George Bush has them. Yes, the troops did find them just where Donald Rumsfeld said they'd be
"We know where they are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat." The troops involved were sworn to secrecy and the WMDs were brought back to the US and then delivered to George Bush's ranch in Texas. He now has many of the WMDs on his mantle to admire on his long vacations.

3) They are still in Iraq, except you can't see them. Saddam developed the ultimate WMD using invisibility technology or in Star Trek-speak, the WMDs have cloaking. The WMDs are all over the place, soldiers bump into them all the time and go "ouch" but just don't understand what caused their pain.

4) The Gods intervened. Long before the concept of a single God, ancient Mesopotamia had many pagan Gods. Well guess what, those Gods still exist. In all the chaos during the early phase of the Iraq War the Gods moved in and swiped the WMDs from Saddam. Then they climbed the great ladder into the heavens with their loot. See WMDs can't destroy the Gods, but those WMDs sure make great toys for them. They set the WMDs off like mere humans play with fire crackers. You should hear the ooohs and aaahs of the Gods.

5) The WMDs vanished. Little known to either Saddam Hussein or George Bush the French had an ultimate super secret plan. The day weapons inspector Hans Blix left Iraq the French sent in their unit, the Special Magician Forces (SMF). These highly secret troops spread out across Iraq and made all the WMDs disappear. Using advanced methods of "the vanishing box" and the "magicians hat" within a week all the WMDs were not to be found.

6) The WMDs are all over the world. Little did the Bush Administration know but Saddam Hussein had the lotto of all lottos. Interested countries paid their two bucks and selected six numbers for the weekly drawings. North Korea won on the third week with 5, 23, 29, 39, 44, 45 and collected all the vials of anthrax, while Libya won on week seven with 3, 14, 20, 25, 37, 41 and amassed nuclear capabilities. It should be noted that Libya was unhappy with the incompleteness of the prize and later decided to give the crappy winnings to the UN.

7) I have them. You see, a favored cousin of Saddam and I were email buddies and suddenly one day he asked if I could hold onto some packages for him. I said, "Sure, go ahead and send them on." About a week later about three hundred and fifty boxes came UPS and I stuck them in my basement. I'm still opening them and am surprised all the time. "Wow, aluminum tubes, cool! And what's in this box? Yellowcake, yum, tastes good!"

8) The WMDs are now in Israel. You can't have a good conspiracy theory unless you somehow involve the Jews. Specifically the WMDs are in bank vaults. You know, Jewish bankers and all that.

9) The people saying that the WMDs still exist now have them. These conspiracy theorists so love conspiracy theories that they stole them and are hiding them, that way they can claim the WMDs are in all sorts of places except where they have them. The ultimate conspiracy theory is to have the conspiracy theorists explaining conspiracy theories to people susceptible to conspiracy theories when the theorists are actually the conspiracy. Are you following that? Really? Well, I've got a conspiracy theory in Florida I could sell you as well.

10) There was never any claims that Saddam had WMDs. On the count of three you will awake refreshed with no knowledge of the past five years. One, twooo, threeee! It is now Feb. 24th, 2001 and Colin Powell is speaking, "
He (Saddam Hussein) has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors."

Crazy Pat Robertson Again!

This past Tuesday voters in Dover, Pennsylvania removed every school board member that wanted to have "intelligent design" taught in the school system. I congratulate the intelligence of the voters who realize that the real design of those school board members was to teach Christianity in science class. But this story gets even better.

In response to this election that crazy Pat Robertson had some words on his 700 Club TV show for the voters of Dover.

“I’d like to say to the good citizens of Dover. If there is a disaster in your area, don’t turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city. And don’t wonder why He hasn’t helped you when problems begin, if they begin. I’m not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that’s the case, don’t ask for His help because he might not be there.”

What a nut job. First off, they didn't vote God out of their city. They voted "intelligent design" out of their science classes. If they had "voted God out of their city" I would imagine that should have been a referendum to exclude all churches, religious books, religious practices, etc. from the city limits.

Second, doesn't Robertson sound like some sort of God hitman? "Now you've done it Dover, God is not on your side. Just wait for your problem!"

Third, all cities and towns have problems. Big problems, little ones and many in between. Whether a city has a flood, homeless people, sewer backups, crumbling roads, political fighting, business or government corruption, the list is endless. I imagine Dover can already lay claim to some type of problem as any other city can. So, if any new problem evolves I guess Pat Robertson will be watching ready to say "I told you so!"

What makes this vote even more interesting is that a group of parents challenged the school board on teaching "intelligent design" and the case is now in court hearing testimony from experts from both sides of the issue. This is the case that is being called the "New Scopes Monkey Trial." I imagine that the parents will probably just drop the case now that the voters have sided with them. Monkey wins!

Judith Miller, Telling Stories

New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been "fired" or rather negotiated out of a job. What took so long?

Miller was the dupe who reported all the lies about Iraq's WMDs in the run-up to the war and even after the shock and awe. We all know by now that she was getting her information from the crook Ahmad Chalabi of the so-called anti-Saddam insurgency group Iraqi National Congress. Then she would verify his lies with Scooter Libby and others in the Bush Administration who would confirm that same information that Chalabi also told them. Miller was the dupe in the middle.

In Iraq after the ground war began she was embedded with the units looking for WMDs and was reporting things like the discovery of mobile biological weapons labs which were almost immediately denied as true by Colin Powell. As a side note George Bush also made that same claim AFTER Powell had made his statement.

Miller has now been traveling the talk circuit and I caught a bit of her act on Larry King last night. I flipped stations after she made the same false claim that EVERYONE thought Hussein had WMDs. This is the lie of those who now claim they were fooled. Virtually every so-called piece of evidence that was presented prior to the shock and awe had been either flatly disproved or was considered highly doubtful before the bombs began to fall.

Miller tried to claim there were no reporting on this, when in fact her own newspaper had printed stories questioning the various parts of the WMD case. For instance the aluminum tubes that were supposedly being imported to Iraq for the use in nuclear centrifuges, the NYT reported that they were considered not for that purpose. The problem is that these stories that were contrary to the standard WMD case were either reported in the back pages in newspapers or in very small time segments on TV in contrast to huge time allotments to the false stories.

All those WMD sites that Colin Powell had aerial reconnaissance photos of were investigated by Hans Blix and the UN inspection team and found not to be WMD sites. The "missing" vials of biological weapons didn't even matter as even had they existed they had expired and lost their toxicity. Anyone wanting to point this out were virtually ignored in the media. And finally the case of the uranium yellowcake based on forged documents was interesting in the fact that Blix asked the US to let the UN inspectors see copies and were denied access until the eve of war. Once they had the documents they had found they were easily debunked using Google.

Let's face it, the media had an agenda for ignoring the truth about the WMDs and were readily accepting of the lies. The answer was simple, war sells newspapers and increases viewership on TV and radio. The media was simply following a business plan, increase revenues from advertising buys due to increased readership, listeners and viewership. Further the Bush Administration knew this about the media and manipulated the release of information, along with the use of administration officials to voice the pro-war talking points.

The American people were absolutely bamboozled by people like Dick Cheney among the administration and reporters like Judith Miller among the media. Not all of us though.

Some people like myself had a good deal of skepticism of the government and the media. Some people became contrarians and look to the argument not being heard and the evidence barely being presented. And some people simply remembered what Abraham Lincoln said, "
You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time" and refuse to fall into the last category.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Another Washington Leak?

Yesterday the Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R) and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R) formally requested an investigation into how the Washington Post got its information pertaining to CIA secret prisons overseas.

But also yesterday former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R) told CNN that the leak likely came from Republican senators. He explained that much of the Washington Post story was discussed by Republican senators and Vice President Dick Cheney in a meeting the day before the Washington Post story appeared.

Now isn't that interesting. Bill Frist wants an investigation into his fellow party senators apparently. The reporter on the story was Dana Priest and if this investigation takes on the evasiveness that was involved with the Plame leak case as to Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and reporters, then we might see some type of indictment in say, oh, about mid 2008.

You have to wonder how sincere Frist and Hastert really are. When a leak investigation opens up in Washington it can be difficult for Congress to conduct their own investigations into subjects that overlap a Justice Department investigation. In other words, if the Democrats would like to begin investigations into secret prisons, possible use of torture or rendition (sending of detainees to other countries to torture in place of us) then Republicans can cite the Justice Department investigation as a reason not to look into these subjects.

On another front the Council of Europe is going to investigate the secret CIA prisons that may be in their jurisdiction. You have to wonder whether the Bush Administration really wants Europe to be digging into CIA dirty laundry.

Since the Washington Post story the Bush Administration has yet to affirm or deny the story, except vaguely when President Bush claimed "We do not torture." Bush didn't say those prisons don't exist.

Added to this backdrop is the Senate bill that passed 90-9 to make the Geneva Convention the standard for War on Terror detainees. VP Cheney has come out of his undisclosed location to lobby Congress, first the Senate prior to that vote, and now the House, to allow the CIA to not have to abide by the Geneva Convention.

Yesterday I wrote of the Scott McLellan press conferences and how lively they've become since reporters distrust him now. After I wrote that, McLellan had another press conference and contention was the feel once again. Several reporters wanted an answer to Bush's statement as to "We don't torture" juxtaposed with Cheney's apparent attempt to allow the CIA to do just that. Whew! McLellan was quite agressive in avoiding this issue, coming to the point of nearly calling the front row reporters unpatriotic. Odd for McLellan to point at the front row as many reporters in other rows were trying to get an answer as well.

So you've got to wonder how long Bush is going to stand pat with people like McLellan, Rove and even Cheney. It seems almost daily that something else comes out about the practices of this administration. Bush seems so far to be teflonic as to dirt on him, the administration has been quite good at leaving him with "plausible deniability." Yet the polls show that Bush does have some egg on the face.

It's been refreshing to see the media actually delve into the many issues of accountability finally. It must be that we've not had any runaway brides, celebrity murders or disappeared white women lately.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Where's The White House?

This past Sunday while flipping back and forth between the network political shows it occurred to me that the White House noise machine never appears on these shows anymore.

Going back to before the Iraq War, shows like Meet The Press, This Week and Face The Nation were the place to see top dogs of the White House spinning their story about why we should go to war. Appearances were made by Colin Powell, Condelezza Rice and Dick Cheney where they played the White House propaganda game. Cheney of course is now famous for his boisterous claims of Saddam Hussein's active nuclear weapons program.

The White House media players at this point are pretty much retired. Powell actually did retire and in an rare interview since then admitted as a mistake his United Nations speech outlining Iraq's so-called weapons of mass destruction. Rice has been promoted to Powell's old job as Secretary of State. Cheney is mostly just in an undisclosed location.

I don't suspect we'll be seeing in the next three years any more tours of the Sunday morning political talk circuit by White House propagandists. They usually only do these shows to push an agenda and the White House really has no agenda anymore. Besides, they probably don't like the fact that the pre-war lieing is all on tape to be replayed if and when they were ever to get brave and face the press again.

It seems the only White House person left to actually let the press ask a question is President Bush. Not that he gives real answers, but he's the only one stuck with answering for White House policy. Bush, as far as I know, never did appear on the Sunday shows even during the pre-Iraq War propaganda period.

Leaving Bush as essentially the only White House person to deal with the press (I'll get to White House Press Secretary Scott McLellan in a minute) seems like a mistake as Bush is often prone to stick foot in mouth. For instance just yesterday in Panama Bush answered a question in regards to reports of secret CIA prisons in foreign countries with the remark "We don't torture." This is hardly the truth unless you get down to semantics and parse the word "we" as being too vague. Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo (Gitmo) are already known and the press is snooping the CIA prison story so Bush's "We don't torture" statement may come back to haunt him.

As to McLellan, he has lost all credibility to the White House press corp after claiming that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove had nothing to do with the Plame leak case and then when questioned later about his claim, instead of admitting a mistake he hid behind "it's an on-going investigation" mantra. If you get a chance to catch a White House press briefing held by McLellan on C-SPAN (which will cover the entire briefing) these days, you can just feel the distrust of McLellan by reporters. I'm surprised McLellan still is the Press Secretary and hasn't either been replaced or resigned out of, well resignation at being viewed with so much distrust.

Currently the White House has no one but Bush really talking to the media and Bush seems reluctant to clean house and bring in some new faces. The White House seems to be a closed door building these days, and that only makes Americans and reporters wonder what's going on inside even more. Where's the White House? In Washington DC, but who knows what's going on inside.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Consevatives Should Read This, But Will Refuse To Believe It.

The following is a column by Frank Rich which outlines the lies concerning the Pat Tillman death in Afghanistan. Tillman was the NFL football player who gave up his career to be a patriot and try to be part of the effort to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden (remember him?). We can only surmise that the reason that the cable newsies haven't reported this is because it is old news. The motto of CNN/FOX/MSNBC "If it ain't happening now, it never happened."

The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman


11/06/05 "The New York Times" -- -- "Compelling" is higher praise than any Mr. Libby received for his one work of published fiction, a 1996 novel of "murder, passion and heart-stopping chases through the snow" called "The Apprentice." If you read the indictment, you'll see why he merits the critical upgrade. The intricate tale he told the F.B.I. and the grand jury - with its endlessly clever contradictions of his White House colleagues' testimony - is compelling even without the sex and the snow.

The medium is the message. This administration just loves to beguile us with a rollicking good story, truth be damned. The propagandistic fable exposed by the leak case - the apocalyptic imminence of Saddam's mushroom clouds - was only the first of its genre. Given that potboiler's huge success at selling the war, its authors couldn't resist providing sequels once we were in Iraq. As the American casualty toll surges past 2,000 and Veterans Day approaches, we need to remember and unmask those scenarios as well. Our troops and their families have too often made the ultimate sacrifice for the official fictions that have corrupted every stage of this war.

If there's a tragic example that can serve as representative of the rest, it is surely that of Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who famously volunteered for the Army in the spring after 9/11, giving up a $3.6 million N.F.L. contract extension. Tillman wanted to pay something back to his country by pursuing the enemy that actually attacked it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Instead he was sent to fight a war in Iraq that he didn't see coming when he enlisted because the administration was still hatching it in secret. Only on a second tour of duty was he finally sent into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, where, on April 22, 2004, he was killed. On April 30, an official Army press release announcing his Silver Star citation filled in vivid details of his last battle. Tillman, it said, was storming a hill to take out the enemy, even as he "personally provided suppressive fire with an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun."

It would be a compelling story, if only it were true. Five weeks after Tillman's death, the Army acknowledged abruptly, without providing details, that he had "probably" died from friendly fire. Many months after that, investigative journalists at The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times reported that the Army's initial portrayal of his death had been not only bogus but also possibly a cover-up of something darker. "The records show that Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath," Steve Coll wrote in The Post in December 2004. "They also show that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman's commanders."

This fall The San Francisco Chronicle uncovered still more details with the help of Tillman's divorced parents, who have each reluctantly gone public after receiving conflicting and heavily censored official reports on three Army investigations that only added to the mysteries surrounding their son's death. (Yet another inquiry is under way.) "The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons," said Patrick Tillman, Pat Tillman's father, who discovered that crucial evidence in the case, including his son's uniform and gear, had been destroyed almost immediately. "This cover-up started within minutes of Pat's death, and it started at high levels."

His accusations are far from wild. The Chronicle found that Gen. John Abizaid, the top American officer in Iraq, and others in his command had learned by April 29, 2004, that friendly fire had killed their star recruit. That was the day before the Army released its fictitious press release of Tillman's hillside firefight and four days before a nationally televised memorial service back home enshrined the fake account of his death. Yet Tillman's parents, his widow, his brother (who served in the same platoon) and politicians like John McCain (who spoke at Tillman's memorial) were not told the truth for another month.

Why? It's here where we find a repeat of the same pattern that drove the Valerie Wilson leak a year earlier. Faced with unwelcome news - from the front, from whistle-blowers, from scandal - this administration will always push back with change-the-subject stunts (like specious terror alerts), fake news or, as with Joseph Wilson, smear campaigns. Much as the White House was out to bring down Mr. Wilson because he threatened to expose its prewar hype of Saddam's supposed nuclear prowess, so the Pentagon might have been out to delay or rewrite a story that could be trouble when public opinion on the war itself was just starting to plummet.

It was an election year besides. Tillman's death came after a month of solid bad news for America and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign alike: the publication of Richard Clarke's book about pre-9/11 administration counterterrorism fecklessness, the savage stringing up of the remains of American contractors in Falluja, the eruption of Sunni and Shiite insurgencies in six Iraqi cities, the first publication of illicit photos of flag-draped coffins. In the days just after Tillman's death, "60 Minutes II" first broadcast the Abu Ghraib photos, Ted Koppel read the names of the war's fallen on "Nightline," and the Pentagon's No. 2, the Iraqi war architect Paul Wolfowitz, understated by more than 200 the number of American casualties to date (722) in an embarrassing televised appearance before Congress.

Against this backdrop, it would not do to have it known that the most famous volunteer of the war might have been a victim of gross negligence or fratricide. Though Tillman himself was so idealistic that he refused publicity of any kind when in the Army, he was exploited by the war's cheerleaders as a recruitment lure and was needed to continue in that role after his death. (Even though he was adamantly against the Iraq war, according to friends and relatives interviewed by The Chronicle.)

"They blew up their poster boy," Patrick Tillman told The Post; he is convinced that "all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script" the fake narrative (or, as he puts it, "outright lies") that followed. Pat Tillman's mother, Mary Tillman, was offended to discover that even President Bush wanted a cameo role in this screenplay: she told The Post that he had offered to tape a memorial to her son for a Cardinals game that would be televised shortly before Election Day. (She said no.)

In an interview with The Arizona Republic, Mary Tillman added: "They could have told us upfront that they were suspicious that it was a fratricide but they didn't. They wanted to use him for their purposes. It was good for the administration. It was before the elections. It was during the prison scandal. They needed something that looked good, and it was appalling that they would use him like that."

Appalling but consistent. The Pentagon has often failed to give the troops what they need to fight the war in Iraq, from proper support in manpower and planning at the invasion's outset to effective armor for battle to adequately financed health care for those who make it home. But when it comes to using troops in the duplicitous manner that Mary Tillman describes, the sky's the limit.

Pat Tillman's case is itself a replay of the fake "Rambo" escapades ascribed to Pfc. Jessica Lynch a year earlier, just when Operation Iraqi Freedom showed the first tentative signs of trouble and the Pentagon needed a feel-good distraction. As if to echo Mary Tillman, Ms. Lynch told Time magazine this year, "I was used as a symbol." But the troops aren't just used as symbols for the commander in chief's political purposes. They are also drafted to serve as photo-op props and extras, whether in an extravaganza like "Mission Accomplished" or a throwaway dog-and-pony show like the recent teleconference in which the president held a "conversation" with soldiers who sounded as spontaneous as the brainwashed G.I.'s in "The Manchurian Candidate."

As Mr. Bush's approval rating crashes into the 30's, he and the vice president are so desperate to wrap themselves in khaki that on the day of the Libby indictment, they took separate day trips to mouth the usual stay-the-course platitudes before military audiences. If this was a ploy to split the focus of cable news networks and the public, it failed. Perhaps Scooter Libby is hoping that a so-called faulty-memory defense will save him from jail, but too many other Americans are now refreshing their memories of what went down in the plotting and execution of the war in Iraq. What they find are harsh truths and buried secrets that even the most compelling administration scenarios can no longer disguise.

Copyright New York Times.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bush, Cheney Still Going Down

In the latest CBS poll, President Bush and Vice President Cheney are still plunging in the polls. Bush's approval rating is at 35%, his all time low. Cheney's approval rating is a paltry 19%.

You've got to wonder who those 19% are that approve of Cheney. Maybe they are just confused and think the poll was asking about Mr. Haney from the old Green Acres TV show. 19% is anemic, I've got to believe that Satan has a better approval rating than Cheney.

Now here is my opportunity to say "I told you so!" Never have I approved of either the president or vice-president. I'm glad people are finally coming over to my side. It's just too bad that people didn't get the picture prior to the 2004 election. Oh, well, keep jumping on the anti-Bush bandwagon, it's still got plenty of room.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Denver Says Pot OK

Yesterday, the city of Denver, Colorado approved a measure to legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana. This is the first major city in the United States to do so.

I've never discussed marijuana on my blog, but I'm absolutely for the legalization of it. I've felt for decades that this drug is less harmful than alcohol yet users are treated by law enforcement in more harmful ways than alcohol users. Harmful in the fact that marijuana users when caught can be arrested, many times jailed and forever have a blot on their record.

With medical marijuana now legal in a number of states, people have come to realize that the dangers are not so dangerous, and in fact it can help in relief of pain. Now the people of Denver have accepted that even as a recreational drug, marijuana is not in the league of other illegal drugs.

Recently the retired Police Chief of Seattle Norm Stamper has written a book "Breaking Rank" where he argues all drugs should be legalized or decriminalized, that the social problems caused by treating drugs as a criminal problem rather than a medical/social problem has been detrimental to our society.

We also know from recent studies that marijuana is not dangerous to a person's health. It has been found that the THC in marijuana helps counteract any cancer causing chemicals in the smoke. Another recent study suggests that marijuana helps promote the growth of brain cells.

Hopefully what Denver has now done can become the norm throughout the country. Step by step it seems that Americans will eventually approve of the decriminalization and even legalization of marijuana. People who smoke pot certainly do not need to be put in the same league as murderers, sex offenders, bank robbers and corporate crooks. Our jails are filled enough with major criminals, it's time to begin a sensible course as to marijuana users and drug users in general.