Saturday, February 24, 2007

Why Do Federal Judges Hate the Law?

Jane Smiley did an interesting editorial at HuffPo yesterday entitled, 'What Would You Do If Bush Declared Martial Law?' To tell the truth, she was a lot more optimistic about the outcome than I would have been. I've always had a talent for painting worst-case scenarios, and I have no problem seeing BushCo™ using the most brutal possible methods of repression. I won't go into the depressing details.
"An editorial in the New York Times yesterday pointed out, for those of us who didn't realize it, that the Bush administration had inserted two provisions into last October's defense budget bill that would make it easier to declare martial law in the US. Senators Leahy and Bond have introduced a bill to repeal these changes, and it is important that voters keep track of this bill and hold their Congresspeople to account on it. Along with several other measures the Bush adminstration has proposed, the introduction of these changes amounts, not to an attack on the Congress and the balance of power, but to a particular and concerted attack on the citizens of the nation. Bush is laying the legal groundwork to repeal even the appearance of democracy. Any senator who does not vote in favor of the Leahy/Bond repeal of these provisions should promptly be recalled by his or her constituents."
(I gotta say here, I really love Senator Leahy. He's doing a great job of defending the constitution and making the fascistic bastards like Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales squirm. We need more like him.)

While Jane Smiley's editorial and the underlying New York Times editorial are disturbing and alarming, they don't come close to this piece in yesterday's NYTimes, that has got me tearing the hems of my garments and reaching for the ashes. Because quite frankly, it's stories like this that make Jane Smiley's hypothetical look much more like a real possibility.
"A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a new law stripping federal judges of authority to review foreign prisoners’ challenges to their detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision set the stage for a third trip to the Supreme Court for the detainees, who will once again ask the justices to consider a complex issue that tests the balance of power among the White House, Congress and the courts in the murky context of the fight against international terrorism.

The Supreme Court previously ruled twice that federal statutes empowered the courts to consider Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions challenging the grounds for their detention. In response to those rulings, Congress twice rewrote law to limit the detainees’ avenues of appeal. The most recent rewriting was at issue in Tuesday’s 2-to-1 decision.. ..That law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, was signed by President Bush last October. Its enactment followed the Supreme Court’s rejection of his administration’s earlier arguments that the right of habeas corpus — the fundamental right, centuries old, to ask a judge for release from unjust imprisonment — did not apply to foreigners being held outside the United States as enemy combatants."
Article II, section 9 of the Constitution clearly states, "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." So how did these bozos get to be judges without even a rudimentary understanding of the relationship between the legislature and the U.S. Constitution? Yeah, yeah, I know - the simple answer is that they are Republican-appointed partisan political hacks, just like their boss, Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales. They treat Lady Justice like she was just another whore hired to entertain the likes of Dusty Foggo, Brent Wilkes and Randy 'Duke' Cunningham. Pull up her skirt, strip off her panties, and wipe her ass with the constitution, she's bought and paid for. I swear, they're running the government like it was some Skull and Bones kegger.

It makes me want to weep.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Supporting the Troops

...Some Historical Perspective

Way back in the 16th century a coalition of Catholic nations led by Spain decided that they would invade England and punish them for their heretical Protestant ways. After years of diplomatic efforts, political bickering, bribery and cajoling they finally assembled a fleet we now know as the Spanish Armada. In 1588, after a logistic nightmare getting the ships, men and equipment together they set out for the glory of God. Of course, by this time Queen Elizabeth I was well aware of their intent, and had cobbled together an army from the peasant farmers of the realm to defend against the anticipated onslaught. Her country appeared about to pay in blood for her father Henry VIII's snubbing of the Papacy, and establishment of the Anglican church.

The attempts to land the invasion force were a disaster for the Spanish coalition. Initial attempts were made near Southampton, and were thwarted by local conditions that could best be described as treacherous. Truth be told, in the days of square-rigged ships, any approach to land was fraught with hazards, and could only be taken on by an experienced ship's master equipped with hard won local knowledge of wind, current and tide. Even with the services of such a local pilot, one may have to wait days or weeks for the optimum combination of conditions to occur. To be caught on a lee shore could well lead to the loss of the fleet.

The Armada was forced to make its way further and further north along England's channel coast, but nowhere were conditions to be found that were favorable to longboats laden with soldiers, horses and cannons. Eventually the invasion fleet was forced all the way around the northern end of Scotland. I think a 'plan B' emerged, to stop in the still-Catholic parishes of Ireland to replenish supplies and take on replacements for the crewmen and soldiers who had already been lost. Water and food were running low, as such a lengthy voyage had not been contemplated.

The final blow to the Armada came when a gale force storm came upon the fleet and dashed the ships against the rocks of the Outer Hebrides. They were caught on a lee shore. A true believer could be excused for thinking that maybe God didn't want this particular plan to succeed.

But I digress. I'll admit, I told that story for no better reason than that I think it is one of the greatest examples of hubris in all the great span of human folly - and for background. This next bit I tell to make a point.

Queen Elizabeth I now had a standing army raised ad hoc for the purpose of repelling an invasion that had never come. Even before word made it to her of the Armada's fate, it was clear that the invasion had failed. Winter was coming on, and the soldiers were clamoring to be paid, and released from service to return to their homes and families. Times would be hard enough, for they had been away from their fields all summer, and larders would be thin.

The story goes that the chancellor of the exchequer came to 'Good Queen Bess' that winter to plead for the soldiers' cause. She was advised that many of the troops could and likely would starve to death without immediate relief. Her response was as cold-blooded and cruel as one could imagine. "Good. Let them starve. Then the problem will have solved itself at no cost to my treasury."

History has a terrible way of repeating itself. (Visit Ice Station Tango - more at The Washington Post)

Kansas City Star: "The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now — even as wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system." (h/t Americablog)

UPDATE: Read Jurassic Pork's reaction to this scandal here.
"You want to know why we bloggers get outrage fatigue from time to time? It’s because of stories like this, stories such as this that drain the soul, that beggar the imagination at how criminally we’re treating and even exploiting these wounded troops after all the overtures Uncle Sam made them about taking care of them and their families, all the pie in the sky promises under the fucking sun just to get that John Hancock on the dotted line to get them one blip closer to making quota."
IMAGE: Calshot Castle, one of many forts built during Henry VIII's reign to defend England's channel coast.


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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ten Billion Dollars Wasted..

...Depending on Who's Doing the Math

This AP story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites federal investigators in claiming $10 BILLION of waste in the Iraq reconstruction effort.
"About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

'There is no accountability,' said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. 'Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable.' "
For more details, consult the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Coverage from MSNBC adds another intriguing detail, "Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2.7 billion were charged by Halliburton Co., the oil-field services firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

To my mind it's much worse than 'just' $10 BILLION wasted. Since nothing has been accomplished in Iraq, if fact the entire foreign policy situation in the Middle East has been made WORSE, far worse by this ill-conceived misadventure, ALL of the money spent has been wasted. How much? This much.

Of course with BushCo™ in charge of things, you could expect that Enron-like accounting is taking place. Losses and liabilities will be passed off to other entities in order to make things look lots better than they are. When nearly all the details are classified, it's even easier to do that. An analysis done over a year ago, and reported in the Boston Globe, tells a more sobering tale;
"The cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion after factoring in long-term healthcare for wounded US veterans, rebuilding a worn-down military, and accounting for other unforeseen bills and economic losses, according to a new analysis to be presented today in Boston.

The estimate by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes far exceeds projections made by the Bush administration.

The figure is more than four times what the war was expected to cost through 2006 -- around $500 billion, according to congressional budget data."
YOU do the math. Or would you rather leave it to this fool?

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Hand In Hand

The Toxic Mixture of Corruption and Secrecy

This Story in the Washington Post had me rushing to update The Growing GOP List of Shame this morning - the putrid fallout of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal now landing on former CIA official Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo and Brent Wilkes, a California defense contractor bloody-handed war profiteer. It is an old familiar story with the GOP, the best government money can buy being bought and paid for at the taxpayers' expense - dirty business as usual, with the sordid 'hookergate' aspect of it thrown in for good measure.
"The CIA's former executive director and a defense contractor were indicted yesterday by a San Diego grand jury for allegedly corrupting the intelligence agency's contracts, marking one of the first criminal cases to reach into the CIA's clandestine operations in Europe and the Middle East.. ..The 11-count indictment states that Wilkes subsidized meals and lavish vacations for Foggo and his family in Washington, Hawaii and Scotland and promised to employ Foggo after his retirement from the CIA. It also accuses Foggo -- a former ethics official in two divisions at the CIA -- of improperly providing classified information to Wilkes about the CIA, his contracting competitors and 'other matters.'.. ..Last year the probe led to a prison sentence for one lawmaker, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- who, the government said yesterday, used two prostitutes financed by Wilkes."
There is one aspect of this case that I would like to highlight, reported on but not given enough weight by the Washington Post, in my opinion.
"The case involving Foggo is unusual because all of the contracts at issue are classified. But the indictment makes it clear that the agency was allegedly bilked when it wound up paying 60 percent more than it should have for water supplied by a company affiliated with Wilkes to CIA outposts in Afghanistan and northern Iraq."
This is very disturbing when you consider the pervasive and shadowy, unaccountable power of the Military Industrial Complex in the USA. Apparently, the perpetraitors (spelling deliberate) thought the classification would act as a shield to hide their crimes. The Bush administration is of course the most secretive in US history, and we must attribute much of that to cover-up for crime rather than legitimate national security. As testimony in the Libby trial revealed, Dick Cheney even had his own illegal system of classifying documents!! I mentioned this in a different context a few posts back, but it bears repeating here.

A couple more points - in Crooks and Liars' piece on this matter yesterday, Nicole Belle makes note of the fact that the federal prosecutors outrage (Assault on Justice-Les Enragés, Jan. 20) connects to this case. "Alberto Gonzalez went out of his way to try to derail this." And Down With Tyranny describes Foggo as "Bush's eyes and ears (and grabby hands) inside the CIA– he was a political operative and hack." So, seeing as how Foggo is well connected to the BushCo™ power grid, and possibly being protected by personages as high up as the Attorney General, this can't be seen as a small-time one-off incident. It is more likely the tip of a very large iceberg of corruption. But, shhhhh... ... it's a secret.

Secrecy and corruption go hand in hand. It certainly has helped the Military Industrial Complex's bottom line, at the expense of the rest of the country.

Crossposted from Les Enragé

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Friday, February 16, 2007

EU Condemns Rendition Flights.

President Gee Dumbya Bullsh** moved one more step towards official Worst Leader in History status with the European Union endorsing a report condemning so-called 'extraordinary rendition' flights transporting illegally detained kidnapping victims (euphemistically called 'terrorism suspects.) [see BBC story]
"The EU report said the CIA had operated 1,245 flights, some taking suspects to states where they could face torture.. ..'This is a report that doesn't allow anyone to look the other way. We must be vigilant that what has been happening in the past five years may never happen again,' said Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava, who drafted the document.. ..The parliament also called for an 'independent inquiry' to be considered and for closure of the US' Guantanamo Bay detention camp."
One of the disturbing things to me in this report is the following,
"Many of those taken from EU states were subjected to torture to extract information from them, the report said.

It said there was a 'strong possibility' that this intelligence had been passed on to EU governments who were aware of how it was obtained."
C'mon, it has been known for centuries that the 'intellegence' extracted under torture is completely unreliable. People just say what the torturer wants to hear. This information, the corrupt 'coin' paid to European governments for their co-operation, is counterfeit.

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Hu Will Feed China

Remember in Robert Newman's The History of Oil, when Newman talks about how,
"The President of China is called Hu Jintao and China's Prime Minister is called Wen Jiabao? - So the President is Hu, and the Prime Minister is Wen. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in a marvelous early twentieth century vaudeville routine."
Well, ladies and gentlemen, here is that vaudeville routine, as performed by 'President Bush' and 'Condi Rice.' Apologies to Abbot and Costello, from whose classic 'who's on first' baseball routine it is taken.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Dick Traitor

"One Nation Under Cheney"

Anyone who has been watching American politics for the last six long insufferable years should have become aware of one thing. The real power in the White House is not in George W. (must stand for witless) Bush's Oval Office, but down the hall in Dick Cheney's 'undisclosed location', known officially as the OVP (Office of the Vice President.) Bush is nothing more than Cheney's sock puppet - giving speeches, taking the heat, acting as a potential bullet sponge for any possible assassination attempts, and always decidering on things exactly the way Cheney wants them to be decidered. To even imagine the situation otherwise is to be suffering from some Bizarro-world delusions. The chimperor is obviously the monkey to Cheney's organ grinder.

This diary from Kagro X at DailyKos puts some new perspective on just how powerful Cheney is, or at least how powerful he believes himself to be. Not that the Master of All Things Evil has not previously tipped his hand. He has already gone on record recently as saying that if he was subpoenaed by Congress, that he would probably refuse. In his own mind, at least, he is above the law. It remains to be seen if he will actually flaunt the law in the Scooter Libby trial, where he is expected to be called as a witness for the defense. But I digress. Here's the DailyKos story, which is about Cheney's refusal to catalogue his activities in the classification and declassification of official documents;
"A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and 'any other entity within the executive branch'" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents.. ..but Cheney insists he is exempt."
Where this story really takes wing is WHY Cheney feels himself to be exempt.
"The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see Article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see Article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code)"
But wait, there's more. Kasgro divulges that Cheney has even invented his very own SYSTEM of classification, with no basis whatever in law.
"The OVP has been out of compliance with executive orders on the classification of sensitive national security information for several years. During that time, they've been inventing their own classification system (and spending taxpayer money for official-looking stamps bearing this fake classification)"
Wow. In two hundred and thirty years, no-one has come close to making any sort of claim like this. Not only has Cheney pronounced himself as uniquely occupying both the legislative and executive branches of government, but in doing so he has also intruded on the powers of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution. This is a power grab parallel to, and quite possibly exceeding, the odious theory of 'unitary executive' powers conferred unilaterally on the pResident by Justice Department functionary John Yoo. And finally, in case it escaped anybody's attention, the authority Dick is flaunting here is BUSH's EXECUTIVE ORDER. Unbelievable.

As with much of what BushCo™ have accomplished over the last six years, they are likely to get away with this too. Why? Because no sane person in the late eighteenth century could have possibly provided for the monumental degree of pure evil exhibited here, the deliberate brutal concentration of ill intent. Even while calling King George III a tyrant, conceiving a tyranny like this would only have driven Jefferson, Madison, Adams, etc. into despairing madness. Just as, even knowing about the careers of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy, each one of us still insists on taking solace in the fact that Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger are only fictional characters. To confront the real horror is to invite insanity.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Charity Rejects Strippers' Donation

Breast Cancer Society of Canada Says Money Not Good Enough

Out of the goodness of their hearts, a group of strippers in Vancouver B.C. called Exotic Dancers for Cancer have put on a special show at the Drake Hotel in Vancouver for the past few years to raise money to fight breast cancer. Only thing is, the recipient Breast Cancer Society of Canada has turned down the money, even though they accepted a $3,000 donation last year. As The Vancouver Sun explains,
" 'Our bottom line was that any woman can get breast cancer. It doesn't matter what they do, what their profession is,' Rany Xanthopoulo, the executive director of the BCSC, said at the time."
So what's different this year? This from (The Vancouver)
"In a letter to [organizer Trina] Ricketts, the society's executive director Rany Xanthopoulo, wrote: 'Unfortunately we will have to decline your kind offer as we have certain major donors that are not in favour of this connection. This decision came as a result of donor disgruntlement and together with the board of directors we have decided not to accept any donations from what donors consider controversial sources.' "
As it happens, I used to work as a musician in the very kind of bars that hire strippers, and often had them living across the hall. They are not, as some people assume, turning tricks on the side, and in my personal experience they are no less 'moral' than any other women. Quite often they are single mothers trying to raise their children, or students raising tuition for their university education. Just ordinary people who happen to look very good naked. And is there anything wrong with that?

Should you doubt their sincerity, they have another organization called Naked Truth, and discussed this issue on their Forum Page. They also do shows to raise funds for Prostitution Alternatives Counseling and Education (PACE) Society, a sex worker advocacy group in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. So they are actively working to get women out of the sex trade and away from the drug addiction and exploitation that often accompanies it. Good for them.

As for the BCSC, I have to agree with the Sun on this one,
"Shame on them and shame on the Breast Cancer Society for caving to this prejudice against these women who are as vulnerable to the disease as anyone else and who are trying to do some good.. ..Last year the Breast Cancer Society got it right. Breast cancer does not discriminate. Neither should it."
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Rogue Nation

U.S. Declines to Join Accord on Secret Detentions

OUTRAGE OVERLOAD - It's hard to know where to begin. At the same time, how can one begin knowing that there is no end to the list of crimes being committed by your government with your tax dollars. Come to think of it, because of the huge deficit, your children's and grandchildren's taxes will still be paying for GOP policies under the Bush/Cheney regime.

Let's start with this Washington Post article. The US, along with Britain, Germany, Spain and Italy, refused to endorse an agreement obviously aimed at the American government's practice known euphemistically as rendition. I insist on calling it kidnapping. Whatever you call it, the Bush administration still wants to preserve their 'right' to do wrong, in the face of international law and common decency.
"PARIS, Feb. 6 -- Representatives from 57 countries on Tuesday signed a long-negotiated treaty prohibiting governments from holding people in secret detention. The United States declined to endorse the document, saying its text did not meet U.S. expectations.

Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said the treaty was 'a message to all modern-day authorities committed to the fight against terrorism' that some practices are 'not acceptable.' ...The Associated Press reported that [ State Department spokesman Sean ] McCormack declined to comment on whether the U.S. stance was influenced by the Bush administration's policy of sending terrorism suspects to CIA-run prisons overseas, which President Bush acknowledged in September."
Meanwhile as the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq passes 3,100, Paul Bremer is coming under intense pressure from Henry Waxman in Congressional hearings for his lack of control over billions of dollars sent to Iraq to 'kick start' the economy. Truckloads of hundred dollar bills have gone missing. Charges have been laid against five individuals for illegally diverting over 8 million dollars in funds allocated to rebuilding Iraq. Among those five, three high-ranking US military officers. Still, this accounts for the merest drop in the 12 BILLION dollars that has gone missing due to the absence of any accounting techniques to keep track of it. It's looking more and more as if the real reason for invading Iraq was to make some GOP supporters filthy rich. It's getting me pissed off. Really steaming.

So, now that it is painfully obvious that the Bush administration is little more than a very sophisticated criminal enterprise, what is being done? Due to Republican resistance, the Democrats can't even debate the war in the Senate. Seems their slim majority has been taken away from them by Tim Johnson's illness and Joe Lieberman's...well, Joe LIEberman. Period. The disdain the GOP show for even the appearance of democratic process is staggering.

It would seem that the rule of law has simply ceased to exist in the United States of America. An Italian judge has ordered a US soldier to face trial over the 2005 death of Nicola Calipari, an Italian intelligence agent in a car at a checkpoint in Baghdad - but it seems unlikely that US authorities will co-operate. "He will probably be tried in absentia as he has been cleared in the US." (BBC news)

The administration supports the troops when they are killing foreigners for no good reason, or participating in an illegal war, but what about those like Lt. Ehren Watada, who refuse to follow orders that they feel are illegal? Watada's Court Martial started Monday with the presiding Judge, John Head (whose first and last names, BTW happen to be synonyms for 'toilet') ruling that Watada could not examine the Iraq war's legality in his defense.
"[Watada's defense attorney Eric] Seitz has unsuccessfully sought an opportunity to argue the legality of the war, saying it violated Army regulations that specify wars are to be waged in accordance with the United Nations charter.

Their final attempt was quashed following a hearing last month in which military judge Lt. Col. John Head ruled Watada cannot base his defense on the war's legality. He also refused claims that Watada's statements were protected by the First Amendment, saying that would be up to a military panel."

So, long story short - secure in their control of the White House, Senate, and Supreme Court, the Republican party continues to move towards a legal system where guilt or innocence is determined by how meticulously one agrees with the Codpiece in Thief. In doing so, they are also making America into an international pariah. It makes me so mad.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Iranian Diplomat Kidnapped

..By Gunmen in Iraqi Uniforms
"Thirty armed men dressed as Iraqi soldiers kidnapped a senior Iranian diplomat on the streets of Baghdad, an Iraqi government official said on Tuesday.. ..The Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini as saying the Defence Ministry was ordered to detain Jalal Sharaki, the second secretary at the Iranian Embassy.

'Iran holds American forces in Iraq responsible for the safety and life of the Iranian diplomat,' Hosseini was quoted as saying, in his condemnation of the 'aggressive act.'

One Iraqi government official backed those statements, telling the Associated Press the diplomat was seized by a special Iraqi army unit that reports directly to the U.S. military.

But a military spokesman denied any U.S. troops or Iraqis could have been involved. 'We've checked with our units and it was not an MNF-I (Multi-National Forces-Iraq) unit that participated in that event,' U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said."
Whether the unidentified gunmen were acting under US authority or not, this is incredibly bad news. On the one hand, assuming they were not acting on American orders, you have a scenario very similar to events of Jan. 22 in Karbala, when a group in Iraqi uniform entered a government compound in GMC SUVs;
"Once inside, [ ] the men unleashed one of the deadliest and most brazen ambushes of U.S. forces in a secure, official area. Five U.S. service members were killed in a hail of grenades and gunfire in a breach of security that Iraqi officials called unprecedented."
One has to ask, how did these uniforms, weapons, and equipment (GMC SUVs for cryin' out loud !?!) get in the hands of the insurgency? And the simplest answer would be that the insurgents simply stood in line and signed up with the Iraqi army. They were then issued all the necessities to wage war against coalition troops, trained in their use, fed and payed for months.. then, when the time was ripe they deserted, taking as much with them as they could lay their hands on. That's what happens when you arm and train people who hate you. I'm waiting now for the inevitable 'Who could have anticipated this?' statement from Condi Rice.

Of course the alternative scenario, where the kidnappers were under US command, although covertly so, is much worse. That would signal the US invasion of Iran, the expansion of the war in the Middle East, and all the bloody horror that would entail. With only two years to achieve Armageddon, the Stuffed Codpiece in Chief may be kicking it up another notch. Anyone who believes that the Iraq war isn't the biggest foreign policy boondoggle in American history should read this editorial from Common Dreams, by Jay Bookman. Pretty gloomy - but true.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Deja Vu All Over Again

There's nothing much I can add to this. Keith Olbermann lays it all out perfectly, and anyone can draw the correct conclusion seeing Bush's arguments for war with Iraq in 2003, and his parallel rhetoric now regarding Iran.
Keith Olbermann Video

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Friday, February 02, 2007

The Uncool Quaff..

..Why You Should NOT Drink Bottled Water

News item from Canada via Environmentalist David Suzuki has come out against the drinking of bottled water. I agree, having never bought into the idea that water from France or anywhere else is superior to what I can get from my kitchen faucet. "Key environmental issues with bottled water, Suzuki said, are waste and uncertainty over the long-term health effects created by plastic."

In Canada at least, the government holds municipal water supplies to a HIGHER standard than commercial bottlers - so from a quality standpoint, you're better off with the tap. If you don't like the taste, buy some form of activated charcoal filter. There are a few varieties - simple Brita™-type jugs that go into the door of the fridge, inline filters that fit over the tap, and filters that are installed permanently under the sink. These systems provide pure, tasty water at a fraction of the cost of bottled water.

If you actually think that bottled water is safer than tap water, you should probably read this report, based on a four year long study from the Natural Resources Defense Counsel. It's rather long, and I barely skimmed it, but I'll take its conclusion from the opening paragraph, "The petition and report find major gaps in bottled water regulation and conclude that bottled water is not necessarily safer than tap water." For a synopsis, consult this Wikipedia article. If you think the water in your particular municipality is unsafe, I echo Suzuki's suggestion, RAISE HELL ABOUT IT! Anyone who would pump unsafe water into your home ought to be in jail.

The US consumed 25.8 billion litres of bottled water in 2004, spending over nine billion dollars for the dubious privilege. As Suzuki points out,
"It's nuts to be shipping water all the way across the planet, and us — because we're so bloody wealthy — we're willing to pay for that water because it comes from France.. ..I don't believe for a minute that French water is better than Canadian water. I think that we've got to drink the water that comes out of our taps, and if we don't trust it, we ought to be raising hell about that.. ..Not only does bottled water lead to unbelievable pollution — with old bottles lying all over the place — but plastic has chemicals in it.. ..Plastics are ubiquitous. I don't believe that plastics are not involved in a great deal of the health problems that we face today."
So, the water you drink from a bottle pollutes in many ways; the initial environmental and energy costs of manufacturing the bottle, only to taint your water with plastics - then the added environmental cost of shipping and trucking it to somewhere near you, and ultimately the bottle ends up in some landfill somewhere. Meanwhile another $10 billion gets transferred into the pockets of faceless multinational corporations. I don't think it's worth it.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Winning Hearts and Minds..

..One Bloody Corpse at a Time

There's not much that needs to be said about this video, other than the fact that this is not something you're likely to see on the corporate-controlled television news channels in the US. If the American people had to watch the unsanitized version of the Iraq war, I'm sure the protest crowds would swell by a factor of ten or more. Kudos and thanks, BTW, to those who endured bad weather to make their outrage visible to the rest of the public.
I got this video through Raw Story, h/t RevPhat for alerting me.

Shia Iraqi soldier beat Sunnis as US trainers watch

Voiceover: "The purpose of these joint patrols is for the Americans to teach their Iraqi protegés how to win hearts and minds and end the bloodletting."

This so emphatically contradicts the official policy of ending ethnic conflict that it boggles the mind. Undeniably, the actions of US forces in Iraq are a concentrated effort to foment violence rather than prevent it. As the audio of US soldiers laughing while witnessing this shows, not only is the training of Iraqi 'friendlies' inadequate, but so too is the training of the US forces themselves.

Words do not exist that could fully express my revulsion at this.

Cross-posted from Les Enragé