Saturday, December 30, 2006

Crimes, Death and the News

I found an interesting juxaposition on the home pages of the major dailies this evening.
  • Washington Post leads with a huge headline and feature on Pres. Ford as the national period of mourning begins. They have eight links to stories and images abotu Hussein, all below the fold.
  • LA Times leads with a small photo of Ford's casket lying in state next to an article about mixed reactions in Iraq to Hussein's execution.
  • New York Times has nothing about Ford, 11 links into stories about Hussein, and a single link to a story about Betty Ford, below the fold.
Two very different deaths. Three very different treatments. One great, unspoken thread of continuity.

Ford became president because of the persistence of the news media in uncovering a story about corruption and criminality in the White House. Without the work of Woodward and Bernstein, without publication of the Pentagon Papers, Nixon would probably have ridden out his second term.

Hussein became the scapegoat of a corrupt and criminal White House, a far more filthy operation than Nixon's, with the full collusion and support of the same media outlets that brought down Nixon.

Bringing Nixon's criminal operation to an abrupt halt was one of the great moments of our nation, an example of our democracy working in the right way to make the law of the land, not the whim of a dictator, the final arbiter of our fate. Allowing the Bush crime family to bully their way into the White House and then crudely exploit the murder of thousands upon our soil, a murder committed on their watch and enabled by their negligence, to prosecute a wholly unjust war against another sovereign nation has gutted whatever claim American media could once have made to being an organ of democracy.

Ford's death and Hussein's are bookends to the greatest political story of my generation - how a free and open press willingly castrated itself and made itself into the eager whore of the biggest bully in town.

Your true and absolutely representative agent is Jeff Gannon, the male prostitute turned "reporter" who sat with you in the White House press corps.


Friday, December 29, 2006

It's Not Even Past

To quote William Faulkner - The past is not dead. It is not even past.

Bush has killed Saddam Hussein. It was pointless, pitiful and petty. Had they done this two years ago, perhaps it would have meant something. Now, it is just a mark of shame on our country and another splash of fuel on the fire of the Iraqi civil war. Riverbend cuts to the chase:
...This last year especially has been a turning point. Nearly every Iraqi has lost so much. So much. There's no way to describe the loss we've experienced with this war and occupation. There are no words to relay the feelings that come with the knowledge that daily almost 40 corpses are found in different states of decay and mutilation. There is no compensation for the dense, black cloud of fear that hangs over the head of every Iraqi. Fear of things so out of ones hands, it borders on the ridiculous- like whether your name is 'too Sunni' or 'too Shia'. Fear of the larger things- like the Americans in the tank, the police patrolling your area in black bandanas and green banners, and the Iraqi soldiers wearing black masks at the checkpoint.

Again, I can't help but ask myself why this was all done? What was the point of breaking Iraq so that it was beyond repair? Iran seems to be the only gainer. Their presence in Iraq is so well-established, publicly criticizing a cleric or ayatollah verges on suicide. Has the situation gone so beyond America that it is now irretrievable? Or was this a part of the plan all along? My head aches just posing the questions...

Here we come to the end of 2006 and I am sad. Not simply sad for the state of the country, but for the state of our humanity, as Iraqis. We've all lost some of the compassion and civility that I felt made us special four years ago. I take myself as an example. Nearly four years ago, I cringed every time I heard about the death of an American soldier. They were occupiers, but they were humans also and the knowledge that they were being killed in my country gave me sleepless nights. Never mind they crossed oceans to attack the country, I actually felt for them.

Had I not chronicled those feelings of agitation in this very blog, I wouldn't believe them now. Today, they simply represent numbers. 3000 Americans dead over nearly four years? Really? That's the number of dead Iraqis in less than a month. The Americans had families? Too bad. So do we. So do the corpses in the streets and the ones waiting for identification in the morgue.

Is the American soldier that died today in Anbar more important than a cousin I have who was shot last month on the night of his engagement to a woman he's wanted to marry for the last six years? I don't think so.

Saddam Hussein may be a corpse, but he is most certainly not dead. The same collection of neocons, led by Cheny and Rumsfeld, who built him up to begin with have continued to harvest the foul fruit of their brutal crop. The dictatorship they cultivated as an opposition to the ayatollahs who overthrew their dear buddy, the Shah, became their nemesis. They protected Saddam, thinking to have their own Middle East Pinochet to call upon. Then, he disappointed them, having learned their lessons and believing utterly in their creed of take, take, take. He invaded Kuwait. Ah, lemons meet lemonade as we squelched his imperialist ambitions.

Then Bush the Lesser, C+ Augustus, decided that he needed to use the neocon sandbox again, this time to show he was a bigger, tougher man than his Daddy. He was the perfect avatar of the neocon lust to annihilate, and he set out to kill Saddam. But a funny thing happened. The dictator would not die. He metastasized into Iraq as such.

Iraq is now what Bush claimed Saddam to be, and so does the dictator have his final revenge on his old friends who betrayed him. Iraq, the mess we have created there and the even greater crises to follow, will reach out and harm America as Saddam himself could never do. In the desire to kill the dictator, Bush has guaranteed the butcher will live on long after Bush himself has left office in disgrace.



It appears that Saddam Hussein will be executed in the next few days. Josh Marshal has it spot on when he says
This whole endeavor, from the very start, has been about taking tawdry, cheap acts and dressing them up in a papier-mache grandeur -- phony victory celebrations, ersatz democratization, reconstruction headed up by toadies, con artists and grifters. And this is no different. Hanging Saddam is easy. It's a job, for once, that these folks can actually see through to completion. So this execution, ironically and pathetically, becomes a stand-in for the failures, incompetence and general betrayal of country on every other front that President Bush has brought us.

This execution marks the nadir of American foreign policy. It is George W. Bush exacting personal revenge on someone who dissed his family. It is a mob hit, no more, no less.

Hussein dangling on the end of a rope, like a puppet or marionette. A toy to be yanked and jerked about as C+ Augustus demands, a macabre and revolting stand in for the way Bush and his criminal enablers have treated the entire world for the last six years.

It is almost impossible to articulate the horrific damage these people have inflicted on the rest of humanity. I think Americans in general are finally cluing in to the fact that this nation has suffered a massive, possibly mortal, wound from the Chimperor's Excellent Adenture.

Wealth redistribution upwards. Massive debt, public and private. Loss of access to Middle-east oil. Loss of international standing. Destruction of the armed forces. Undermining rule of law to enable torture, spying and police state activities. Nuclear proliferation.

This is the nation under the Bush administration - weakend, reviled, and insecure. The damage done is so widespread and deep, there is serious question as to whether the Republic can survive it. Oh, the US isn't going away. It will simply shrink in relation to the rising power of China.

So read about the "execution" (gangland slaying) of Hussein and understand that it demonstrates nothing save that the United States has lost everything that once made it a leader and exemplar among nations.

It is a pitiful, impotent, petulant beast. Just like its current president.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Momentous Achievement

Today, I had the joy and honor of launching the Research Library at the HASA web site.

What is it? A fully researched compilation of Tolkieniana, broken out into four major content types - People, Places, Things and Timeline Events. It is chock full of quotes and citations, ready to help the writer who needs to confirm something or entertain the casual reader who just wants to follows links wherever they go. It is cross-linked and cross-referenced. There is a full-text search with full boolean operations. An A-Z index. And the best part is it is thousands of entries and it's still growing.

Dozens of people have worked for more than four years to put this into shape for public release. It took that long for volunteers to gather the data, painstakingly entering it one record at a time. A lot of time was spent experimenting with formats and organization. Everything is researched, with information about where in the Tolkien compendium this or that detail came from.

This is the best, most valuable, most interesting part of HASA. It is the reason that the site is still operating. I would have shut the site down two years ago had it not been for this brilliant gem at its heart.

Elena Tiriel and Lyllyn spearheaded the effort and kept it on track for all this time, guiding it surely and steadily through all the various fandom dust-ups and nonsense. They patiently put up with my lick-and-a-promise coding work, willing to take backseat to the flashier features. They believed in something that gets almost no attention or respect from the typical self-absorbed and incurious fangirls infesting the fandom, and have created a work of craft and imagination that puts to shame the writings of any author.

My hat is off to them and their team of research elves.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

HotK 55 - Compromised

For the fanfiction readers, I have just posted a new chapter for Hands of the King, Ch. 55 - Compromised Click on the story title to go to the overview, click on the chapter name to go to the chapter.

Single Finduilas POV chapter. Warnings - Sadness, reversals, threats of violence, violence. A chapter with some shocks. MAy or may not be work safe, depending on how high your company's filters are.

Finduilas recovers from childbirth and plunges back into politics. It is not a happy transition. Many scenes of her with groups of people. A guest appearance by a certain Ranger. Several cameos by Boromir.

I have also posted two new appendices. One is a chronology of events, both of the story and of background to the story. The second is a chart of the changing commanders at the major garrisons in Gondor.

Wishing everyone an enjoyable holiday season,

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Catastophic Success

Bush's Iraq War will go down as the single worst foreign policy disaster in American history. And we haven't even seen the end of it. It is going to be one of the worst policy disasters of the last 200 years, mostly because there was no reason for it to have happened at all.

What is possibly unique about it is the way in which the ordinary media was so thoroughly complicit in bringing it about. Hearst's drum-beating for the Spanish-American War has nothing on the ongoing barrage from Fox, Wall Street Journal, etc. They have succeeded in throwing the nation into a catastrophe whose outlines they are now only dimly perceiving.

The media, more than any other interest group in America, slavered over the prospect of war. Years too late, they are finally realizing that actions have consequences. Does a single rah-rah pro-war reporter understand the socio-economic and political ramifications of this opinion piece by Nawaf Obaid? Saudi Arabia is now commanding our elected officials to fly to the Kingdom for orders on what they shall and shall not do.

When the history of Bush's Folly is set down in full, a special corner of hell will be reserved for the media enablers.


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

L is for Loser

In an election year when Democrats were handily defeating well-liked Republicans throughout the Northeast, and with the formal endorsement of the party, plus having a top-flight political advisor on loan from Hillary, Ned Lamont still couldn't pull out a win. What gives?

I suspect that a large portion of the CT electorate A) really didn't think there was that much wrong with Liberman (No accounting for taste...) B) didn't find anything particularly compelling about Lamont, and C) really disliked assholes like Atrios and Jane Hamsher behaving like petulant three year olds and trying to manipulate politics in states other than their own. Lamont, to his discredit, ran a campaign better known for the racist shenanigans of its "netroots" demagogues than for anything of value he had to say.

Mostly what Lamont's campaign did was solidify the neo-Naderite lunatic wing of the left and make otherwise sympathetic people like myself reject them, and their candidates, entirely. I don't like the Rethugs calling me a traitor, and I don't much care for the Naderites doing so, either. I look back at the election and wonder what all that money and media time could have been better spent on. And, of course, there is now a vengeful Joe Lieberman on the loose in the Senate. Nice going, Jane & Duncan!


Saturday, November 25, 2006


I cannot believe this.

Regular readers of my blog know about my cat. I think you can tell that I love my cat and go to great lengths to keep her happy and healthy. In return, she refrains from pissing on the furniture and shredding the drapes. I think it's a good exchange.

Here's a picture of her in one of her favorite poses, being cuddled like a baby by my husband while he cruises the internet on his laptop. You can see the shaved spot on her leg where her IV was attached. This was while she was recovering from her surgery in June.

Some busybody crawled though the shrubbery at the front of my apartment, peered in my window, and saw that Miss Piss had some kind of runny gunk under one eye. She get's this from time to time when she's been trawling for cobwebs under the furniture. I wipe it off with tissue and she's set for a few weeks until she decides it's time to get junk in her eyes again.

This busybody submits an anonymous "tip" to the SPCA that we are absuing our pet because she has some gunk about 3 millimeters across stuck under one eye. No, really. So we are visited by the animal control cop to "evaluate" the situation. On a Saturday night. With threats of arrest if we don't let the bastard confirm there is nothing of substance to the complaint. He demands our vet's name and phone number. Oh, and they will pay follow up visits for as long and as many times as someone anonymously complains.

No fucking joke. A cat with a runny eye is grounds for invading my home at night on a weekend to make sure she isn't suffering abuse. There are children with bruises on their faces and their bones sticking through their shirts who can't get Child Protective Services to give them the time of day, but God help anyone whose pet gets some dust in its eye.


Friday, November 24, 2006

A Year Ago

A year ago, give or take a few days, I was let go from my much loved job at the hospital due to financial mismanagement by the department head. Refusing to allow his positions to get away from him, he fired people rather than let another department with funding take on the Web support group.

As I was already anticipating my husband's company to fold up its tent at the start of 2006, this was pretty devastating news.

The Republicans were engaging in shameless crime and calling those who objected to them traitors to the nation.

Worse, just after beginning a temp job in January, I got news that my father-in-law was ill. Eight weeks later, he had died of a brain tumor.

Fast-forward a year.

I'm working for another company in a better paid position with a wider range of interesting projects, a much more comfortable work-place environment and a benfits package I didn't think existed anymore. I have a great group of sometimes endearing, sometimes aggravating, always supportive people to work with. I am happier here than at the hospital, which is saying something.

The husband's company staggered on for another year, though it really does look like it won't last past January. On the up-side, the parent company has said Joe has a job with them for as long as he wants one, doing support for the old company's products.

My mother-in-law, a dear and wonderful woman, gave us the house she had shared with her husband for fifteen years, saying she wished to move closer to her family. We sold the house, and are doing what my father-in-law would have wanted us to do - buy a nice house and stop living in an apartment.

The Democrats control Congress and are poised to bring the neocon wet-dream of unfettered markets and projection of military might to a screaming halt.

So, I am thankful that the employment insecurity of last year has resolved itself so well. I would still prefer to hear my father-in-law's voice on his weekly call, "I just wanted to see how you kids were doing," than to own any house. My faith in my country is somewhat restored with the first round of regime change.

And I have great hopes for the coming year.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Hotk - Ch. 54: Union

For the fanfiction readers, I have just posted a new chapter for Hands of the King, Ch. 54 - Union Click on the story title to go to the overview, click on the chapter name to go to the chapter.

Third of three Denethor POVs. Mild warning for description of a room after childbirth. Probably a little "Eeeew!" factor, but work safe.

The chapter covers from late July to late December, 2978. The theme for the chapter is union, and has three main events - the impending nuptial union of Wren and Marlong, a consideration of political unity as Denethor and Thorongil talk strategy, and the birth of Boromir, fruit of the union between Denethor and Finduilas.

A major exchange between Thorongil and Denethor, substantial conversations with Finduilas and Wren, plus minor exchanges with many other characters. Can't say exactly who, as that would be a spoiler.

This chapter is offered today as thanks for the wonderful work of my great betas and in appreciation of HotK's many readers.


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving at Chez Anglachel

Celery bisque
Roasted, salt-rubbed turkey
Catalonian sausage and dried fruit stuffing
Port-glazed pearl onions and shallots
Penne gratin (instead of potatoes)

Fresh bread
Reisling before the meal and with the soup
Chianti with the meat

Not sure about dessert, yet

What a Week

Lots of interesting political stuff since the election, is all I can say. Bush's trip to Vietnam was both satisfying and mortifying. The difference between the rock star reception Clinton got and the anemic "So nice of you to visit, you can go home now" reaction to the Chimperor was sweet. However, as an American, it horrifies me to see this moron stand up in front of his hosts and blather crap about how good it was the US invaded and brutalized their country, and how Vietnam proves we should stay the course in Iraq blah, blah, blah. What a putz.

In the last week, I helped stamp out false plagiarism accusations at HASA, got tail-ended pretty badly on the freeway and put up an offer on a house. Not in that precise order, of course.

I'm still shaking my head at the utter idiocy of pv (short for "Poor Victim" in her own deluded brain, no doubt) and why in the name of all that is holy she decided to claim that I had stolen some penny ante scene from her. I have a half-million word novel on line (with another 250K written and in beta review right now), two other short novel length works completed, am a widley read (and intensely scrutinized) author, and it doesn't occur to her that just maybe it's a Bad Idea to say I stole something from her, without bothering to establish little things like how I plausibly came across her work, why I might want to plagiarize, and such? I had never heard of this person before (HASA has hundreds of active members and thousands of inactive ones, and I don't really bother to keep track) but rest assured I know about her now. Indeed, I will never forget her and her Gollum-ish cry of "Thief, thief, thief!"

The car will be out of repair sometime tomorrow, I've been told, just in time for Thanksgiving. I'm a little bruised, but none the worse for wear. As for the house, we'll see. It's a nice place, if a little over priced.

In the next few days, I will have a new chapter of HotK ready to post.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Getting Rid of Murtha?

Hmm. Nancy Pelosi sends Murtha a big valentine - Will you be my Majority Leader? Murtha is shooting his mouth off about ethics, his ABSCAM involvement is coming to light, and the bloom is coming off the rose.

Did Pelosi do this to get rid of Murtha? Shining a sharp light on a netroots darling to expose what this guy is really about? Doesn't make my heart go pitter-pat for Steny Hoyer, mind you, but this is just too odd.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Just who was Carville after?

I think that the blogospheric knee-jerk that James Carville was after Howard Dean at the behest of Rahm Emanuel/the DLC ended up doing exactly what the Ragin' Cajun intended - attack his enemy.

Carville is a clever political strategist, and as ruthless in his own way as his nemesis, Lee Atwater. What he did the other day, suggesting Harold Ford replace Howard Dean, made no sense to me until I read the LA Times this morning.

Ryan Lizza played right along with the "Some big name Democrats want to oust DNC Chairman Howard Dean" schtick on Friday. The DLC haters of the whack-job blogosphere fell all over themselves to provide the missing part of the argument - "some" Democrats *must* mean more than Carville, and that some must mean Rahm Emanuel and all the other "DLC" people we hate!

And so was launched two days of blogospheric invective against the Evil Emanuel and the DLC Thieves™. Jimmy Carville sat back in his chair and grinned.

Then comes the Sunday LA Times article with this opening:
Rahm Emanuel was seething.

The head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee was hurtling down an asphalt road in upstate New York on the 47th trip of his ferocious effort to win control of the House. A lecture, even from political consultant James Carville, was the last thing he needed.

In just 12 days, his campaign would end either in a historic victory — a triumph that almost no one believed possible when he took the job nearly two years ago — or in colossal failure.

And here were Carville and pollster Stan Greenberg telling him he had to make each of his handpicked candidates shift from attack mode and strike a conciliatory note in their final campaign ads.

"James. No, James, YOU LISTEN," Illinois Rep. Emanuel barked into a cellphone before releasing a string of profane invectives more intense than usual. "Can you listen for one … minute? I'm working these campaigns all the time. The campaigns all have different textures."

His wiry body tensed, his voice breaking with stress. Emanuel shouted, "If you don't like what you see, I highly recommend you pick up the … phone and do it yourself."

And all the lights went on in my head. James Carville rat-fucked both Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel with his words to Lizza, tossing a lighted match into the paranoid conspiracy theory obsessives of the blogosphere who were already pissed off at the ostensible snubbing of their hero, Dr. Dean. You guys did Carville's dirty work for him, turning a momentary ego collision (which was on its way to being resolved) into an alleged purge.

You gullible fools. This is how your obsessive hatred of this fantasy beast "the DLC" is being used to jerk you around. You are like the fundamentalist Xtians you like to ridicule, being led around by the nose by the cynical operatives who have their own agenda. It's not even a reflection of reality anymore. Ed Kilgore patiently explains to you over and over that you are ignorant of history and, more dangerously, building up a boogey man that will be pulled out of the closet whenever someone wants you to start slobbering and snarling.

Carville was settling scores against Emanuel, and probably against Dean, too. These guys go way back and have grudges andd scores you can't imagine. You folks got played, big time. Try not to be such easy marks in the future, OK?


Doonesbury - the best political and war commentary around

Garry Trudeau and Ray point out the obvious about war.

This was the strip for Veteran's Day.

In just four panels, Garry Trudeau says more about Iraq, the deep psychosis of the Bush administration, and the cost of war than a year's worth of bloviating across the blogosphere could ever hope to do.

Bring Ray and Torres home. I'm talking to you Madame Speaker Pelosi and you Majority Leader Reid. You may not get a chance until January 2009, but you better have a plan.


Like We Care?

So the darling of the blogosphere, Russ Feingold, has decided he won't run for preznit.


Someone with no standing outside of the politically moronic circles of the outer extremes of left blogistan has manfully declared that he will forego patting himself on the back on the campaign in order to concentrate on patting himself on the back in the Senate.

Color me unimpressed. More to the point, color me unwilling to lend any support or to take seriously someone so popular with the foaming-at-the-mouth hysterics at FDL.

Is that clear? Candidates who aggressively pursue the approval of "netroots" big names whose claim to fame is accusing Democrats of being traitors to liberalism and advocating voting against the party will NOT get money or support from me.

Politics means balancing different constituencies. If you go after the leftwing equivalent of Limbaugh's dittoheads, you're going to lose more moderate (but no less determined) supporters.


Friday, November 10, 2006

On to 2008

After this weekend, it is time to put up the party hats and buckle down to serious politics.

We can take for granted that the Cheney Whitehouse will grab every scrap of power and money it can before it is ignomiously ousted in two years, destroy all evidence of its malfeasance, and try very hard to ruin everything it touches to make it almost impossible for the next administration to get anything done. The only countervailing force we have within the WH itself is the extremely self-interested lackeys of Bush pere, who are trying to keep Junior from ruining up Carlyle Group's long term Middle east prospects.

That means whomever walks in to the Oval Office in January 2009 had better be able to work with a Democratic Congress to do unheard of amounts of work repairing America's reputation abroad and its security within. We cannot take a breather on building the local connections - better staffed and funded party offices, more outreach to community groups and local political elites, and lots of new candidate recruitment. For example, San Diego has exactly shit for a viable local Democratic operation and Califonia as a whole frantically needs good candidates who are not part of the usual Sacramento gang. The gains we made on Tuesday have to be held and expanded in 2008.

Then comes our presidential candidate. My heart belongs to Al Gore because he is simply the most qualified person on the face of the planet to take on the wasteland Cheney & Co. will leave behind. But I have also sadly realized that he will not subject himself to the idiocy of another presidential try. (If you change your mind, Al, you have my vote). So, who's left?

I like Hillary Clinton, not having any axe to grind with one of the finest public servants in the country and more than happy to mark the ballot for her, but I think the extremists within the democratic party are out to get her. Besides, I like the idea of Hillary becoming President of the Senate and getting her health care reform through. Kerry? A good man, better than his detractors would have you think, but he had his chance. John Edwards? I still don't know what he stands for and have yet to see him perform for the party the way others have. Barak Obama? I am not subject to the racist and anti-religious fevor that stalks Eschaton, FDL and DKos, but I don't think he is ready yet. Vilsack? Don't make me laugh. Biden? Eewww, I think I just threw up a little. I honestly can't think of another name to add to that list. I'm just as glad that old Chicklet Teeth (aka, Mark Warner) dropped out before wasting our time with nebbishy "policy" mumbo jumbo. We already have John Edwards for that. Maybe Warner can go retake a Virginia Senate seat and do some good.

We need a candidate who is not mired in DC beltway shenanigans, who can speak authoritatively about national security on a number of levels, and who is absolutely a powerhouse asset to the party as an organization. We need international experience, someone who is already well received in Washington, a dedicated and proven "party animal" who will be unstinting in lending his coattails to local candidates, and who can present a progressive policy mix under a clear and compelling rubric - national security.

Wes Clark

I was impressed by this post election statement:
It is a mistake for Democrats to celebrate rather than understand the meaning of yesterday's election. America is looking for leadership right away, and Democrats should push forward a 3-point plan to address the crisis in Iraq and refocus our national security efforts:
  1. Change the course in Iraq. Democrats must pressure George W. Bush to listen to the generals on the ground and the whole range of experts -- not just the GOP -- on how to change the course in Iraq. We must work with regional powers, promote gradual transformation and stability, and regain the 'strategic consent' for the long-term U.S. influence in the region. We must use the situation in Iraq to propel us toward this larger goal, and in doing so, we will also find the right way to wind down our deployment there.

  2. Rebuilding alliances to address the real national security threats. We must bring our allies into the reconstruction of Iraq to ensure shared responsibility for the ongoing stability of Iraq itself and the region as a whole. We must provide real oversight on government contracts in Iraq; we cannot continue to allow no-bid contracts to Halliburton. And by bringing our allies together, we can finish the job in Afghanistan, and more effectively hunt down Osama Bin Laden and contain Iran and North Korea.

  3. Address energy independence and global warming as national security issues. We must put a policy in place to lead us to energy independence and away from the volatile and conflict-ridden regions where, today, the "geostrategic risk premium" is adding billions of dollars to the costs imposed on the American people. Our reliance on oil also impacts global climate change. As I have stated before, global warming has serious national security risks: stretching our military resources to deal with catastrophes (like Katrina) and increasing the potential for conflicts due to the displacement of people, competition for scarce resources, and adverse effects on agriculture.
A lot of virtual ink is spilled in the blogosphere about trying to convince America that Democrats are to be trusted with natioanl security. Take a page out of Clark's book and simply start stating that this is so. Then put your money where your mouth is and show that you know what you're talking about. Here is the candidate that has already staked out the winning position.

I liked him in 2004 and like him even better now.


End of the Party of Lincoln

Two days after losing a bid for a second term in an election seen as a referendum on President Bush and the Republican Party, Sen. Lincoln Chafee said he was unsure whether he'd remain a Republican.

"I haven't made any decisions. I just haven't even thought about where my place is," Chafee said at a news conference Thursday when asked whether he would stick with the Republican Party or switch to be an independent or Democrat.

When asked if his comments meant he thought he might not belong in the Republican Party, he replied: "That's fair."

Chafee unsure of staying with GOP after losing election

In an ironic turn, the Republican Party loses its last connection to its foundation and history with the electoral loss of a modern day Lincoln. The Republican Party began when it was no longer possible to find common ground between America and an extremist minority. It has ended with the party becoming that same deluded band of extremists.

This election bears out the predictions of Mark Schmidt, who has spoken of the culmination of a multi-generational realignment of the American body politic, a shift set into irrevocable motion by FDR with his New Deal and sealed with the transposition of the Republicans and the Democrats in their geographical and ideological strongholds of a century before. There remains a party of the old slave-holding south, but now it bears the name "Republican." It is majority white, hypocritical Xtian, male-dominated, fascistic in its style, patriachal in its attitude, and reviled by civilized people around the world.

The traditional party of Dixie, the Democrats, now run the Northeast, command strong support in the midwest and far west, and are fully contenders for the indecisive plains and mountains, those same places where slavery tried to expand into. Democrats are the political and economic liberals - and I mean that in the formal political science sense. They are for representative, rules-based government, substantive equality before the law, protections from arbitrary state power, the independence of the civil society from monarchic, aristocratic or theocratic structures, and a moderately regulated market economy. It is a centrist party with an emphasis on moderating social and economic extremes to reinforce a stable middle ground.

The Republicans have squandered the legacy of 152 years. They are a party of class warfare, racism, sexism, imperial expansion and greed. They blame their electoral losses on not being corrupt enough to simply stuff the ballot boxes and tell the public to go Cheney themselves. Decent people are no longer welcome in it. Minorities are as long as they play faithful servants. (Does anyone besides me see the appointment of Michael Steele as the next RNC head a way to blame a black man for the inevitable bloodbath and Republican losses of the next electoral round?) They are a party re-founded on crime (corruption, payola, kick-backs, pedophilia, war crimes, torture, electoral fraud, corporate crime, etc.) and held together with lies that bind them back to their criminal origins. It is odd to see many of the same passions that undergirded the Civil War still alive and kicking today in the Republican Party, as exemplified in (soon to be ex-) Sen. Allen, that revolting combination of religious and racial bigotry driven on by unscupulous greed.

In a number of places around the web, it is noted that "Southern" states get far more from the federal government than they pay in, even as they are the worst about abusing the government. That is an artifact of the fascist stain in the body politic and its peculiar journey between the parties. Since FDR, it is the element that provided the margin of victory to the majority party. This is the core of Nixon's infamous "Southern Strategy," which was a battle to seize a psychological geography as much as one to seize the physical states. Since the New Deal, the battleground of the American body politic has been that poisoned, perverse, pathetic patch of the American soul.

Thus, this election is a watershed in more ways than one. It is not just that the Democrats regained control, but that they have done so without the Southern Stain. They are a clear and strong majority party, but did not need to incorporate or accommodate the fascist element in order to do so. I know it disappoints ideological leftists to have to cohabitate with socio-economic moderates (and this portion of the party bears watching because of their proximity to the Southern Stain), but we have achieved victory without people like Zell Miller or any other Dixiecrat turn-coat.

The Party of Lincoln gladly absorbed into itself every element of society that Abraham Lincoln rejected as unworthy of the republic. Lincoln himself would vote Democrat if he could see what has become of his party.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You Both Risked the Election, You Jerks

So the navel-gazing stupidity du jour in the blogosphere is whether the recent Democratic victory is due to the "netroots" or the "party insiders". The web side says the netroots did it, the more conventional punditocracy says the insiders desrve the praise, while the dead armadillos in the middle of the road say "No, no, you *both* helped!"

Oh, please, give me a fucking break.

The carping and backstabbing done by both sides probably caused us to lose the Tennessee Senate seat and a big chunk of the really close house seats. The conflict between netroots and establishment allowed Joe Lieberman to return to the Senate by keeping the party from uniting to smite that lying little rat bastard. Yes, Atrios, YOU helped re-elect Joe Lieberman by making his defeat a referendum on your personal enemies in the world of Democratic operators. Of which you are one, no matter how much you pull your Butterfly McQueen "I don't know nuthin' 'bout bein' no popular blogger" crap. You are not grassroots - you are part of a competing power center among the left political elites.

The "netroots" is more to fault for our heart-breaking losses because their attacks were more personal and deliberately aimed to inflame, as well as coming from people who have little more than a blog or column to risk. They attacked candidates directly and told people not to vote for candidates who weren't annointed by their blogs. Politics is not just money - it is relationships and deals. It is projecting an image of power, and being able to deliver a smack-down. The personal rancor of the demagogic left is no less than that of the right and it serves to undermine our leadership. It doesn't change minds in the middle. Most who end up joining the blogosphere are already inflamed. It doesn't encourage the left to vote or turn out. It encourages the fringe to stay home and refuse to vote for "tainted" candidates, too caught up in displaced moral outrage to engage in cold-blooded politics.

The victory on Tuesday was delivered by people who don't even know who Rahm Emmanual is, let alone Markos. It was delivered by the call center worker pictured with Claire McCaskill. It was delivered by people who said "Enough is enough, y'know?" It was delivered by people who don't own computers and who listen to Fox News. It was delivered by people who love Bill Clinton to pieces because he really, honestly gave a damn about them and appeals to their better angels. It was delivered by single working mothers who never went to college and will never read or listen to a word written by Bradford J. DeLong, Ph.D. (or even by Paul Krugman), and are scared for their children.

It was NOT delivered by people who post comments on blogs (or, worse, have their own) because we are already counted and committed. The only thing we can do is act as know-it-all, holier-than-thou spoilers. The Democrats who voted for Lieberman or refused to vote for Duckworth are equally reprehensible. They probably read blogs and know the difference between the DNC, the DLC, the DCCC and the DSCC. They were using candidates as proxies for their own ideological infighting.

Anyone who is actively engaged in political debate at the level delivered on, say, TPM Cafe, is not an average voter. Regular posters and columnists are simply part of the elite punditocracy, no matter how often they say "fuck." What the last year's blogospheric ins and outs have done to me is make me less likely to read blogs, less likely to try to stay up with the breathless "Who is selling out the left *this* week!" screeds, less likely to give a flying fuck who is backing which candidate. What has become very clear to me is that people like Arianna Huffington and Markos and Jane Hamsher are trying to develop cults of personality and derive political power from it. Not by winning office, but by managing candidates and campaigns. These are the back-room power brokers of the next round. Or so they like to think.

What they don't see, because they are too caught up in their own egos, is that, to a schmoe like me, they look, sound and act like Rahm the Prick. My way or the highway. They honestly do not perceive that the choice they offer is not between netroots and insiders, but between the current faction of insiders and those who want to take their place. *That is how you appear.* When Jane Hamsher decides that my senator, Barbara Boxer, is not worthy to represent California because she is *gasp* friends with Joe Lieberman, that's when I tell the bitch to take a hike and go back to stalking Quentin Tarantino.

Howard Dean is a distinct outsider to both groups, in an odd way. He uses both as necessary, with less success dealing with the entrenched power elite who (rightly) see him as a threat to their dominance than with the up-and-comers, who look upon the good Doctor as a stepping stone for their own ambitions. Mind you, Chair Dean is establishing his own considerable power base that is not contiguous with either of the others. I rather like Dr. Dean's way of doing things, as it is inherently more democratic, which is better for the Democrats.

We are up against fascists. Yeah, Rahm's preening pisses me off. He's a prick. So what? That doesn't make him a Republican. It does give us more control of the government. Spend less time trying to "bring down the DLC" and more time leaving your keyboards behind and volunteering at the local party headquarters. You know, supporting Howard Dean? To the degree that the Democratic political elites are more interested in fighting each other than beating the Republicans, I say pox on all your houses.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Turn Out the Protection

It comes down to Webb in Virginia.

Every Democratic lawyer on the eastern seaboard had better be offering their services to contest every dirty trick.

Every Democratic intern and office staffer had better be at the election commission's offices, ready to defend the recount from the Rethuglican brownshirts.

Every Democratic candidate who has a nickle left in their warchest had better be sending it over to pay whatever it takes to protect the vote.

Webb won. Don't let them rob us again, like they did to Gore.


Update - So, Allen conceded. I guess they knew they couldn't pull this one off. Get used to it. You're going to lose even bigger next round.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

HotK - Ch. 53 - Smoke

For the fanfiction readers, I have just posted a new chapter for Hands of the King, Ch. 53 - Smoke Click on the story title to go to the overview, click on the chapter name to go to the chapter.

Second of three Denethor POVs. No warnings, though there is an oblique description of a corpse at the very end.

The chapter takes place over early and mid July . The immediate euphoria over Finduilas's pregnancy is wearing off, though Denethor is still very happy. Larger and darker concerns have to be addressed, and once again someone says what should not be mentioned. A strange alliance becomes stronger, and an old dog learns a new trick. Extensive conversations with Thorongil, and substantial scenes with Finduilas, Ecthelion, Halmir, Beregar, and Laanga.


Bilbray *is* under grand jury investigation

It turns out that Bilbray is lying his ass off out here in San Diego. He's under Grand Jury investigation for perjury on his candidate registration info for the 50th district. As I said in an earlier post, Bilbray claims as his primary residence his mother's house in Oceanside, which is in hte 50th district. The problem is that he claims his house in Imperial Beach (other end of the county) as his legal residence, too, for California state tax purposes. Oh, and his house in Virginia. He says that's his legal residence in order to claim in-state college tuition for his kids.

When challenged by Francine Busby, the Democrat running against him, to come clean on whether he was Grand Jury investigation, he said no. Another big lie, as one of the grand jury witnesses has stated publicly that it's true.

So, he has lied about being investigated and he is lying about living in Oceanside. Here's the irony of the entire matter. A representative does not have to live in the geographic boundaries of his or her district. The person only has to live in the state. It is tradition that leads us to expect the person lives in the district.

Bilbray lied about living in his mother's house to try to bullshit residents of the 50th district that he lived there when he never had to make the claim at all. Talk about pathetic.

He'll probably squeak through, but I think his days are numbered. Once convicted for perjury, he'll be off to the clink, just like Cunningham, the Rethuglican criminal who previously held the seat.


The Rude One Nails It

Polls look good for the Democrats, but we've got Diebold and dirty Rethuglican vote suppression tricks to deal with, so I expect gains and potentially a sliver of a majority in the House, but not much else. Lieberman will side with whomever gets a majority, of course.

I'm with the Rude Pundit on this election:
Fuck them for trying to make us believe that America's acts of mass destruction, its bumblings into conflagration and apocalypse, in Iraq are actually just speed bumps, commas, if you will, on the road to a peaceful world of democratic nations bowing down to blow the cock of American hegemony.

Fuck them for holding themselves up as arbiters of morality and when they were confronted with a simple moral equation, they cast their lot with savages and genocidal maniacs. No, not the embryonic stem cell research vote, you backwards ass anti-science fundamentalist fucks. On torture and judicial rights, where even those who proclaimed themselves defenders of the detained and imprisoned ended up dancing like slut marionettes on a puppet pole in the Oval Office when it came down to actually, say, defending the detained and imprisoned.

Fuck them for making Americans fucking hated around the world, as if we're all ex-Nazis or, maybe more accurately, members of Pinochet's Chilean army back in the day, squandering the real triumph of America as a beacon of rights and fairness. However unreal that image was, it's better than being "that big ass country that tortures innocent people."

You people who vote for these criminals and amoral bastards, do you really enjoy being a bunch of brainless patsies whose political figures lie, rob and screw their way through their not-short-enough periods in office? Your grandchildren will one day ask about what you did during the fascist period, and you will look at the darlings and LIE, LIE, LIE that you never voted for them.


Friday, October 20, 2006

In Honor of Pat Tillman

His brother, Kevin Tillman, writes:
It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

After Pat’s Birthday

Emphasis added, as if it was necessary. Count me in, Kevin. Count me in.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

War Crimes

Let's pretend the 600,000+ number is all wrong and that the minimum is the correct number: nearly 400,000. Is that better? Prior to the war, the Bush administration kept claiming that Saddam killed 300,000 Iraqis over 24 years. After this latest report published in The Lancet, 300,000 is looking quite modest and tame. Congratulations Bush et al.

Everyone knows the 'official numbers' about Iraqi deaths as a direct result of the war and occupation are far less than reality (yes- even you war hawks know this, in your minuscule heart of hearts). This latest report is probably closer to the truth than anything that's been published yet. And what about American military deaths? When will someone do a study on the actual number of those? If the Bush administration is lying so vehemently about the number of dead Iraqis, one can only imagine the extent of lying about dead Americans…

Americans invaded Iraq on a pretext and has brought about more death in five years than Saddam Hussein did in two and a half decades. This is a war crime. The entire Bush adminsitration (you, too, Colin Powell) should be tied for crimes against humanity.

Billmon rightly points out:
The point deserves frequent repetition: We did this. We caused it. We're not just callous bystanders to genocide, as in Rwanda, but the active ingredient that made it possible. We turned Iraq into a happy hunting ground for Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army. If Iraq is now a failed state, it's because of our failures...

My question to myself, in other words, is like Thoreau's famous question to Ralph Waldo Emerson when Emerson came to visit him in jail after he was arrested for not paying his poll tax as a protest against slavery:

Emerson: What are you doing in there, Henry?

Thoreau: No, Waldo, the question is: What are you doing out there?

It's easy to think up excuses now -- we were in the minority, the media was against us, the country was against us. We didn't know how bad it would be.

But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were:

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.

We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.

But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.

This is, I think, why so many thousands of Americans cannot, will not, never will, accept the basic criminality of the Bush regime. It means judging themselves, too, for having aggressively promoted what they knew from the start was wrong. The same people who will go out in November and vote for the Republicans.

How, though, do you try a nation? How, short of war, can a country be brought to justice?


Monday, October 16, 2006

Why no new posts?

  1. Parent is ill
  2. Job is hectic
  3. Site demands fixes
  4. House needs buying
  5. HotK requires attention
  6. Elections feel wrong

HotK - Ch. 52: Hope

For the fanfiction readers, I have just posted a new chapter for Hands of the King, Ch. 51 - Hope Click on the story title to go to the overview, click on the chapter name to go to the chapter. No warnings for this chapter. Well, except for an overly happy High Warden...

1 of 3 Denethor POVs. A few days in July as Denethor enjoys the fact that Finduilas finally is pregnant. Many small sub-plots are woven in to set up events further down the road. Mr. Grumpy has very little time in which to be anything except happy, quite an unusual experience for him. Brandir gets to say "I told you so" in his own, dear way. Not many conversations, but a lot of observation. Denethor is about to embark on six of the happiest months of his life.

For people who aren't familiar with HotK, it is a fanfiction novel, published a chapter at a time. It chronicles the courtship and marriage of Denethor and Finduilas. A new chapter usually appears every 2 to 3 weeks.


Sunday, October 08, 2006

HotK - Ch. 51 - Conquest

For the fanfiction readers, I have just posted a new chapter for Hands of the King, Ch. 51 - Conquest. Click on the story title to go to the overview, click on the chapter name to go to the chapter. Warnings - grief and illness of secondary characters, brief explicit sex scene.

3 of 3 Finduilas POV chapters. Finduilas remains in Minas Tirith during plague time. She uncovers several secrets, personal and political, and must finally face what she most fears. Denethor gets another lesson on why only the truth will serve him well where Finduilas is concerned. The story within the story takes a new turn. Who shall emerge the conqueror in the battle between Finduilas and Maiaberiel?

For people who aren't familiar with HotK, it is a fanfiction novel, published a chapter at a time. It chronicles the courtship and marriage of Denethor and Finduilas. A new chapter usually appears every 2 to 3 weeks.


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Silence of the Lambs

Foley has been propositioning and attempting to molest teenage boys for years. The Republican Party leadership (of whom he is one) have allowed him to continue (ahem) unmolested in his predatory pastime. Knowing he is stalking minors, they turn a blind eye and willingly go down the path to hell.

However, here's what is getting me. Other Republicans, staffers and congressional workers, also knew this pervert was trying to fuck boys. They warned kids not to go near the pedophile. Foley's congressional colleague, Brian Bilbray, currently up for reelection here in San Diego, knowingly sent a male page to the House to reward Republican donors. At least some parents of these kids KNEW this baby fucker was after their own son.

Did any of these scum sucking Republicans make a single move to protect these youngsters? No, they didn't. They tried to keep it hush-hush, tried to keep the moralizing face on their moral cesspool of a party. They offered up their children, allowing these kids to be preyed upon in the hopes of tax cuts and business deals, to further their own political careers and line their pockets.

Think about that. These people were happy to allow this miserable perv to fuck some intimidated minor so they could keep the money rolling in.

They are silent about the sacrifice of these lambs on the altar of power.


Friday, September 22, 2006

End Time Strategy

I was talking to the spousal unit last weekend about the probable behavior of the Bush/Cheney White House between now and when power is wrested from their savage hands in January 2009. I honestly don' think you can presume that anything is out of bounds for these guys given that the media simply will not hold them accountable for anything and that they have driven out every honorable public servant in positions of authority who might have been willing to oppose them.

You also have the case that these guys simply don't care if there is a future for anyone. "We'll all be dead," is the Chimperor's mantra, said with that smirk of his. These are people whose bad drug trips don't end because they don't need drugs to go on them anymore.

Domestic agenda - Kill Social Security. If there is even a one vote margin in both house of Congress, they will simply end Social Security. They may not even bother to put something in its place. They will destroy any and all rules and practices of Congress to force through the measure, including destroying the filibuster. It will be done in the worst way possible, emptying the fund in some combination of a massive payout to retirees to try to buy some of them off and transferring obscene amounts to their Wall Street buddies to set up bogus "retirement accounts" where the fees are higher than the returns. The absence of FICA withholdings on paychecks will mollify people who can't think or who are already so stinking rich they don't have to worry about retirement.

They want to do something so devestating and irrevocable that no one will be able to undo their damage for generations. That it consigns millions to poverty and robs millions more of any benefit of their long term payments into Social Security simply doesn't matter to them. We're not their "base".

Foreign agenda - Nuke Iran. I think it is pretty clear that Bush & Co. really wants to nuke someone to send a message about how bad-ass the US is. It's not even regime change at this point. They really don't care that the mullahs are a bunch of power-mad bastards. Indeed, they probably like that aspect of them. What angers them is that Iran won't knuckle under.

It also infuriates the Chimp that people are already saying what an utter loser and fuck-up he is, and that he is held in contempt. Worst. President. Ever. He knows, down in that drug-damaged lump of cells that used to be a brain, that people are waiting for the day he is gone so that they can return to normalcy and try to undo the horrific damage he and his enablers have inflicted on the world.

And he's not going to let that happen. He will do everything in his power to commit the nation to an act of such irrevocable barbarity that his successors cannot even begin to restore the republic.

It's End Time strategy, the arrogant assumption that they have the God given right to determine the fate of the nation and the world forever. The only way they can ensure this is to destroy so that there is nothing that has enough substance remaining to be altered after it has left their hands.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

Torture Nation - Billmon Explains

Billmon cuts to the chase and explains why the White House is so frantic to make it legal for the US to torture people:

I caught Commander Codpiece on the tube today, explaining to the assembled White House press zombies why the Geneva Convention's Common Article 3 is "vague" and "open to interpretation." By which he meant: "It lets us waterboard anybody we like."

The fact that we have over 50 years of law and precedent based on Article 3, that the U.S. military has issued (and now re-issued) an entire field manual interpreting it, that the U.S. Code contains a specific statute to enforce it -- these apparently haven't resolved those pesky ambiguities that have created so many PR problems for the Children of Light in their eternal war against the Children of Darkness.

But, as Marty Lederman asks over at Balkinization, if Article 3 is so "vague," and our organs of state security never use torture (as President Cheney and his underlings tell us repeatedly) then why are the administration's mouthpieces fighting so hard to get Congress to bar the courts from reviewing methods such as hypothermia, near drowning, standing in place with hands shackled over head for 40 hours or more, etc.? And why are the Rovian clone clowns on Capitol Hill trying to amend the War Crimes Act? And why are CIA operatives suddenly taking out "torture insurance" (including the accidental death or dismemberment riders)?

The answers are pretty obvious: They're all exposed. They're great big flabby asses are hanging out in the legal breeze, and they know it. They actually scared it could come to this.

We are, in a sense, at the moment of truth. The sadistic and/or bizarre acts committed in Guatanamo, Abu Ghraib and the CIA's secret prisons can be written off as the crimes of a few bad apples with names like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld -- or, more charitably, as the consequences of a string of bad and brutal decisions made under emergency conditions by men who were terrified by all the things they didn't know about Al Qaeda. Either way, they were not acts of national policy, endorsed and approved by Congress after open, public debate. But, thanks to the Hamdan decision, the question is now formally on the table:

Does Congress really want to make the United States the first nation on earth to specifically provide domestic legal sanction for what would properly and universally be seen as a transparent breach of the minimum, baseline standards for civilized treatment of prisoners established by Common Article 3 -- thereby dealing a grevious blow to the prospect of international adherence to the Geneva Conventions in the future?

The answer, at the moment, appears to be yes, even as Senators Warner, McCain and Graham (i.e. the Senate GOP "conscience caucus") try to paint a figleaf over the nasty truth:

The so-called "final" version of the Warner-Graham bill, now dubbed the Warner-McCain-Graham bill on military commissions . . . is still a very bad bill, eliminating judicial review and habeas corpus, and limiting criminal enforcement of Geneva Common Article 3 under the War Crimes Act (apparently Geneva [common article] 3 is still law, but only "grave violations" of Geneva are criminally enforceable).

And this is the bill the Cheneyites have threatened to veto -- putting torture on the same exalted plain as banning stem cell research.

They know. They know what they have done goes far beyond the usual practice of allowing others to do dirty work on our behalf. They know that they are in jeopardy and they are trying, like Pinochet, to make the entire nation explicitly complicit in their crimes. That the US is implicitly complicit was proved when the nation knew about Abu Ghraib and reelected these bastards in 2004.

THINK, people. When one kind of inhumanity is codified and sanctioned, it lowers the barriers to other, even more horrific practices. Once, the US wrote slavery, consigning a class of human beings to being chattel property, into our foundational law, and we are still suffering from that original sin today. Allowing people to be owned meant allowing people to be raped, tortured, mutilated, beaten, in short, treated like dolls in the possession of petulant children, subject to all the brutality and callousness children are capable of inflicting.

The Bush administration is more like Al-Qaeda than not. A charismatic (well, to his followers) leader claiming divine authority to commit atrocities, deliberately perverting the meaning of words, law and tradition to justify his murderous rage against the world and those who oppose him. Pope Ratzo's stupid comments notwithstanding, Islam is no more (or less) violent a creed than any other organized religion. Those who wish to practice it with peace and diginity will find the resources within it to do so, just as they would regardless of their particular faith. The core of every worthy faith is a recognition of and dedication to the divine within every being, and a commitment to treat every being one encounters as the instantiation of the divine - the cosmos in a finite body.

Back to the matter at hand. As I have noted in earlier posts, what we are looking at is more of the Bush/Cheney drive to break down all boundaries and barriers to the perfect possession of their will, to stand astride the world unimpeded. It is not even so much that they fear punishment (the US doesn't have the fucking balls to actually try a President for real crimes) as much as their outrage that any restraint has been placed on their desires. But this is not, in the end, what is at stake with these debates. Billmon explains far better than I ever could:
What this amounts to (and what Powell was really complaining about) is the final decommissioning of the myth of American exceptionalism -- once one of the most powerful weapons in the U.S. arsenal. Without it, we're just another paranoid empire obsessed with our own security and willing to tell any lie or repudiate any self-proclaimed principle if we think it will make us even slightly safer.
Myths are useful, even necessary, things. They can explain and compel where strict logic won't find a hearing. They can inspire people to look beyond their own interests and can unify despite profound divisions. While many decry myths, particularly that of American exceptionalism, I add that we are poorer, less resilient without them (and it). If it is a spur to hubris, it is also one for compassion.

And that, perhaps more than any virtue, is absent from the policies and predilictions of the Bush regime. The demand that we all join in approval of torture says more clearly than any other act that there is no feeling-with (com-passion), only acting upon those who are Other than US.

In political science circles, the great "problem" of the 20th century to explain was how did German society turn so quickly and without compulsion into one that invaded its neighbors and institutionalized the murder its own citizens? What made an advanced, relatively wealthy, educated, literate and civilized people become a nation of butchers? I think the downfall of the United States will be a comparable problem to explain. How did we move so quickly from Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" to George Bush institutionalizing the infliction of it?


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) Lets the Republicans Have It

In a brief, blunt, speech on the Senate floor, after listening to some Republican jerks insulting the intelligence and patriotism of half the country:
"In light of the rantings that went on for 30 minutes here, in the chamber, by two colleagues from the other side, I'd like to state for the record that America is not tired of fighting terrorism; America is tired of the wrongheaded and boneheaded leadership of the Republican party that has sent six and a half billion a month to Iraq while the front line was Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. That led this country to attack Saddam Hussein, when we were attacked by Osama bin Laden. Who captured a man who did not attack the country and let loose a man that did.

"Americans are tired of boneheaded Republican leadership that alienates our allies when we need them the most. Americans are most certainly tired of leadership that despite documenting mistake after mistake after mistake, even of their own party admitting mistakes, never admit they do anything wrong. That's the kind of leadership Americans are tired of.

"I'm didn't come to the Senate to have partisan rantings on the floor, but I am most certainly not going to sit here as a Democrat and let the Republican leadership come to the floor and talk about Democrats not making us safe. They're the ones in charge and Osama bin Laden is still at loose."

Say that again: The REPUBLICANS are in charge and OSAMA is still on the loose

Not Google's Day

So much for "Don't be evil." They are now in bed with the worst of the Republican political operatives. From TPM, Josh Marshall writing, reapeated in full:

Oh that's not good.

This article in Roll Call describes how Google, preeminent search engine and purveyor of fun online gizmos, is courting Republicans in Washington, as part of their efforts to build up a bigger presence in DC.

Fair enough: they can't afford to be completely on the outs with what is at least for now the majority party.

But buried down deep in the article it says they've hired the DCI Group.

If you're a dirty tricks and slimey opps afficionado a chill most certainly just went down your spine.

DCI, if you're not familiar with them, is an interlocking group of companies which is the phony seed bed for most noxious astroturf organizing and general bamboozlement in contemporary politics.

Here's an old post from 2003 on DCI, here's one on astroturf organizing in general and here's a selection of posts on the Johnny Appleseed of GOP astroturf opps, Tom Synhorst, the main man at DCI.

Sorry, there's only one excuse for dealing with groups like this - buying access to power. I suspect the long-term price for Google's sucking up to the authoritarians and the fascists is a sweet little under the table deal to hand over information on the sly - ostensibly for "national security" but in truth to be funneled to corporations who will use your data to deny you goods and services, such as health care, and to target you for marketing.

Remember, all Google has to sell, in the end, is information about YOU.


More Bullshit from Google

Now Google is going to get into philanthropy, except, oh, it's a for-profit operation, and the books are secret, and Google gets to keep all the profits? Does anyone else here smell a rat, or at the very least a rather callous ad campaign to counter the very good press the Gates Foundation has legitimately earned in the last few months? Lookie, lookie, we give away (a small fraction into technologies we are already interested in investing in) too!

And the technology sheep (as long as we can bleat "We hate Micro$oft", we're happy) are going to be touting this as some kind of big mark in Google's favor.

You know, Google as a company scares me much more than Microsoft. It's stock and trade is data aggregation and distribution. We have only their word that they aren't supplying data to various government and business entities, and I suspect the all mighty dollar will win out. Look at it coldly - the value of Google is their pile of data. They don't make money unless they sell access to that data. They are in the business of SELLING YOUR DATA.

And now they want to play at philanthropy as another revenue stream. The guy running it sounds like a doofus. He yammers on about forming a public, rapid response reporting system for disease outbreaks. Uh, dude, one already exists. My brother is a part of it as an epidemiologist. When I worked at the hospital, *I* was a part of it as a public reporter.

I think that's paradigmatic of what Google is up to. Old ideas being tarted up to sound new, all in service of selling people something.

Sounds like a bunch of hucksters to me.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Deep Origins of 9/11

Ok, I know I'm stretching here, but I was struck by an AP report about the recent commuter plane crash at the Lexington, KY airport. It appears that the air traffic controllers had complained about working conditions:

Months before the Comair jet crash that killed 49 people, air traffic controllers at the Lexington airport wrote to federal officials complaining about a hostile working environment in the tower and short-staffing on the overnight shift, according to letters obtained by The Associated Press.

In identical letters sent April 4 to Kentucky's senators, Republicans Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, a control tower worker said the overnight shift, or "mid," is staffed with two people "only when convenient to management."

The Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines called for two people to be there the morning of the Aug. 27 crash, but only one was present.

"We had a controller retire last month and now we are back to single man mids," wrote Faron Collins, a union leader for the Lexington control tower workers. "I ask you one simple question. Are two people needed on the mids for safety or not? If they are, why are they not scheduled?"

Besides the letter to the senators, another Lexington control tower operator wrote to the FAA's Accountability Board on Dec. 1, 2005, complaining about a hostile work environment in the tower. That employee requested anonymity, fearing discipline against him.

"Not only do the vast majority of controllers worry about the security of their jobs, but this anxiety in the work place should be considered a legitimate safety concern for the flying public since controllers are not in a healthy state of mind while working traffic," he wrote.

What was Ronald Reagan's first big act as President? To break the Air Traffic Controller's union. While the tragedy in Lexington looks to have some connection to destroying the bargaining position of the people running the tower, what bearing does it have on the airplane attacks of 9/11?

The common element is the callous disregard for human lives and livelihoods. To this day, the Republicans are fighting having a professsional, unionized security presence in the airports. Might the erratic behavior of the commandeered jets have been picked up sooner if towers across the nation were better staffed? Could a real security screening process - with enough people with real training to operate sophisticated detection systems - have kept the Saudi and Egyptian hijackers out of the planes?

Ever-expanding profit for an ever-shrinking portion of society is the be-all, end-all for Bush, Cheney, Frist, Delay, Norquist and all the rest of the Neocon horde. They don't actually give a damn if you can't support your family or travel in safety. Pull up the ladder, bo'sun, I'm aboard is their standard operating procedure.

The signature of this contempt for ordinary Americans is their union-busting, wage-cutting, profits-above-all obsession. That someone claiming an Earned Income Tax credit is more likely to be audited by the IRS than a millionaire is pretty obscene. What is more obscene is their unwillingness to forego a penny of profits in order to preserve the lives and livelihoods of ordinary Americans.

The worst union boss has nothing on the racket being run by the neocons.


Monday, September 11, 2006

Billmon, Summing Up

Billmon gets in the last word:

Five years after 9/11, this is what Ground Zero looks like (or will, once the NYFD removes the jerry-rigged memorial "pool" it created for Shrub's photo op):

Five years after Sept. 11, 2001, ground zero remains a 16-acre, 70-foot-deep hole in the heart of Lower Manhattan. High above it, a scaffolded bank building, contaminated during the attack, hulks like a metal skeleton, waiting endlessly to be razed . . ."The problem," as John C. Whitehead, 84, the former chairman of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, said baldly in an interview last spring, "is the 16-acre ditch."

If you had told me, five years ago, that on the fifth anniversary of the worst terrorist attack in history Ground Zero would still be nothing but an enormous hole in the ground, I wouldn't have believed you -- just as I wouldn't have believed that a major American city could be thoroughly trashed by a Category 4 hurricane and then left to moulder in the mud for a year while various federal, state and local bureaucrats and hack politicians tried to make up their minds what to do.

I would have said that while those kinds of things can and do happen in Third World kleptocracies or decaying Stalinist police states, they're simply not possible in the richest and most powerful nation in history. Even if the voters could somehow be bamboozled into accepting such incompetence, the wealthy elites and corporate technocrats who own and operate the world's only remaining superpower would never stand for it.

You can learn a lot about a country in five years.

What I've learned (from 9/11, the corporate scandals, the fiasco in Iraq, Katrina, the Cheney Administration's insane economic and environmental policies and the relentless dumbing down of the corporate media -- plus the repeated electoral triumphs of the Rovian brand of "reality management") is that the United States is moving down the curve of imperial decay at an amazingly rapid clip. If anything, the speed of our descent appears to be accelerating.

The physical symptoms -- a lost war, a derelict city, a Potemkin memorial hastily erected in a vacant lot -- aren't nearly as alarming as the moral and intellectual paralysis that seems to have taken hold of the system. The old feedback mechanisms are broken or in deep disrepair, leaving America with an opposition party that doesn't know how (or what) to oppose, a military run by uniformed yes men, intelligence czars who couldn't find their way through a garden gate with a GPS locator, TV networks that don't even pretend to cover the news unless there's a missing white woman or a suspected child rapist involved, and talk radio hosts who think nuking Mecca is the solution to all our problems in the Middle East. We've got think tanks that can't think, security agencies that can't secure and accounting firms that can't count (except when their clients ask them to make 2+2=5). Our churches are either annexes to shopping malls, halfway homes for pederasts, or GOP precinct headquarters in disguise. Our economy is based on asset bubbles, defense contracts and an open-ended line of credit from the People's Bank of China, and we still can't push the poverty rate down or the median wage up.

The Sixteen Acre Ditch

As always, please click through and read the whole thing. This year, the elections will be a referendum on the American people. Are you really, truly stupid enough to affirm the power of a regime that is destroying your lives and your honor at an incredible clip? I want to think no, that while my fellow citizens may not share my specific views on, say, gender equality, they would at least be able to figure out when they are being screwed.

Perhaps not. It may take a shock on the level of the Great Depression to make people understand that the Republicans are not their friends. But we live in a different world, one where we are the aging super power, not the slumbering up-and-comer. The comparison to Rome's unraveling is not unwarranted.

9/11 was a catalyst. It could not help but be. A different outcome in 2000 and it might have been a catalyst for something else, for a radical change in a better direction, but it was going to force the nation one way or another.

The hole in the ground in New York and the wasteland near the levies in New Orleans may be the precursors, not the outliers, if we do not face up to the rot at the heart of the republic.


Eric Alterman on 9/11

I want to preserve this as Altercation is being abandoned by MSNBC this Friday and these words need to be remembered:

It would be impossible to do justice here to the legacy of 9/11 at year five and I’m not going to try. This nation was doubly cursed on this day five years ago; first by the attack itself, and second by the reaction of our dishonest, incompetent and corrupt leadership’s exploitation of it for their own naked political and ideological purposes. As every single global poll during the past four years indicates, we are a less admirable nation than we were five years ago. We are more warlike, more arrogant, more ignorant, less compassionate, less generous, less free, and thanks to the Bush administration’s catastrophic invasion of Iraq, far less safe.

Think back five years and it’s all but unimaginable.

I took a look at the column I did for five years ago today. I was writing in a state of shock, literally smelling death from downtown, not knowing if I had lost anyone close to me, trying to make sense of my thoughts and emotions. Here’s some of it:

The first commandment of any crisis is to be cool. Don’t panic. Don’t do anything to make it worse. There is plenty of time to assess blame and figure out how to respond in a manner and moment of our own choosing. Nothing could dishonor the dead quite as profoundly than to kill more innocents in the name of vengeance and let the true perpetrators get away with their crimes.
The politicians and pundits who conducted their dreamworld debate about missile defense and space weaponry against as yet imaginary opponents showed precious little interest in these more arcane threats that any number of nations and terrorist groups already possessed. Now we are paying the price for the unreality of our political debate.
Everything about American politics needs to come down to earth. Face it, it does not really matter much what happened to Chandra Levy. It’s too bad such a nice looking girl was missing, but she is only one person. Tuesday’s attacks demonstrate how much we need to grow up as a nation politics can be even if we prefer not to pay attention. It’s time to have a serious debate about the nation’s priorities and to make tough decisions involving difficult trade-offs. There is no way to wish away our many vulnerabilities as a society. But we can address them sensibly and democratically, if only we face up to the fact that we never had any innocence to lose. We merely acted as if we did.

Eight days later, to my eternal shame, I suspended my previous judgments about George W. Bush, and allowed myself to be sucked into the vortex of national unity that he would soon exploit to the detriment of this nation and the world. While I did criticize Bush’s “foolish” use of “for or against us rhetoric,” as well as the speech’s lack of specifics about what, exactly he had in mind, nevertheless, following Bush’s address to the nation, I wrote:

Whether you voted for him or felt he stole the election, it was hard not to be moved by the president’s ability to represent America in all its diversity, imagination and determination before the world in the face of our greatest collective tragedy in more than a generation. The President appeared to hit virtually every note just right. He was not overly belligerent, and did not play up to jingoist sentiments. He paid tribute to the real heroes of the crisis—the cops and firemen and rescue workers--and made frequent reference to the fact that the struggle we now face will require both cooperation and patience.

I look back on that moment when so many of us wanted to trust our president and I wonder:

Who would have imagined in their worst nightmares that these political usurpers would employ the human catastrophe of 9/11 to continue the terrorists work for them? Who would have imagined that they would embark on a course that would eventually kill more Americans than died on 9/11 in wars that do nothing to ensure the nation’s security but much to inspire more Arabs to hate us and wish to attack us? Who would have imagined they would dissipate the global solidarity and support the world had offered us? Who would have imagined that, having ignored all of the signs of a certain attack, they would continue to ignore the most obvious steps to protect us against future catastrophe, leaving our ports, our nuclear facilities, our chemical facilities invitingly unguarded? Who would have imagined that they would willingly allow bin-Laden to escape? Who would have imagined they would lie to the rescue workers about the health effects of the air they were breathing. Who would have imagined that they would put the fate of the nation in the hands of a group of lying, conniving, rats like “curveball,” Ahmad Chalabi and the INC? Who would have imagined a political campaign in which a man like Max Cleland, a man who lost three limbs in Vietnam, would be branded as insufficiently patriotic by right-wing politicians and pundits who never sacrificed so much as a chicken dinner for their country? Who would have imagined they would use homeland security as pure pork money, doling out millions for Red State fire houses while leaving tens of millions who live near obvious targets—and were attacked last time—unprotected? Who would have imagined they would emulate our enemies, employing methods of torture and massacre? Who would imagine they would force our brave soldiers to die fighting phantoms, without even proper body armor? Who would have imagined they would outlaw photographs of military funerals, or that the president could not find time to attend a single one of them? Who would have imagined they would use the attacks to create a domestic spying regime, a series of secret prisons and tribunals, and the declare the right to abrogate any and all American civil liberties whenever it struck their fancy? Who would have imagined, in other words, that they would exploit these tragic deaths to seek to undermine our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, indeed the very foundations of the same “freedom” that allegedly inspired the terrorists in the first place? And finally, who would have imagined that our vaunted “liberal media” and nonpartisan political establishment would cheer them along the way, failing to ask the difficult questions and attacking the patriotism and even sanity of those with the courage and foresight to do so?

9/11 could have been a rebirth of our nation’s civic and political culture, together with a recommitment to use our power to ensure the security and prosperity of a world community that looked to us with sympathy and admiration. “We are All Americans,” said Le Monde. Today most of the world is anti-American and understandably so. We have failed the Afghans. We have failed the Iraqis. We have failed our long-time allies, indeed, virtually everyone who trusted us. We will survive, of course, and someday, a more enlightened leadership will be able to undo some of the damage these two curses have inflicted upon us and return us to the values that helped build this great nation. But the opportunity offered by a world united in solidarity with America and its values is almost certainly dead for good. Let the coroner’s certificate read: “Cause of Death: Lies, Extremism, Incompetence, Corruption, Murder, Torture, and Hypocrisy, Stupidity, and Even More Lies.”

Eric Alterman - 9/11: America Attacked Twice

Richard Clarke's Statement About the ABC Propoganda Show of 9/11

Courtesy of TPM Cafe:

Comments by Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar under Presidents Clinton and Bush, and current ABC News consultant:

As someone who was directly involved in almost every event depicted in the fictionalized docudrama, "The Path to 9-11," I believe it is an egregious distortion that does a deep disservice both to history and to those in both the Clinton and Bush administrations who are depicted.

Sadly, ABC's Entertainment Division hired a production company and screen writer who were apparently unqualified to deal with this historically important subject matter. That error appears to have been compounded by the failure of some of the docudrama's consultants to insure that the account was accurate. Some of the most outrageous scenes were removed after a recent senior level review. What remains, however, is not the true story as told by the 9-11 Commission.

Although I am not one to easily believe in conspiracy theories and have spent a great deal of time debunking them, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the errors in this screen play are more than the result of dramatization and time compression. There is throughout the screenplay a consistent bias and distortion seeking to portray senior Clinton Administration officials as holding back the hard charging CIA, FBI, and military officers who would otherwise have prevented 9-11.

The exact opposite is true. From the President, to all of his White House team, and NSC Principals (Lake, Berger, Albright, Tenet, Reno) there was a common fixation with terrorism, al qaeda, and bin Ladin. The President approved every counter-terrorism operation presented to him, including many that CIA proved unable or unwilling to implement. He increased counter-terrorism spending by 400% and initiated the first homeland security program in forty years. Even though the US had taken relatively few casualties from al qaeda at the time, the President repeatedly authorized the use of lethal force against bin Ladin and his deputies and personally requested the US military to develop plans for "commando operations" against
them. Even though he knew the timing of an attack aimed at killing bin Ladin would be labeled by critics as a political diversion, Clinton decided to follow the advice of his national security team and pay the price politically.

All of us who worked on these issues, then and now, hold some responsibility for the failures to stop al qaeda. I bear that burden every day.

But if history is to know where to assign some of that culpability, it should not be guided by this fictionalization. It might better focus on leaders of the FBI who held back John O'Neill, leaders of the CIA's Clandestine Service whose risk aversion prevented the Counter Terrorism Center from doing its job, and senior generals who strongly urged the Commander-in-Chief not to use our military to go after the al qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. Somehow, all of that is missing from this not too subtle televised politicization of history.

As is so often the case, the best advice about how to think about these things comes not from people like me or others in Washington, but from the families of the victims of 9-11. Several family members issued this statement, which I strongly commend to all:

"Families of September 11 believes the best way to honor those who were lost is to make sure that what happened to them never happens again. As such, we must understand exactly what took place, and not allow "entertainers" to promote misleading or incorrect information as fact to the public.

If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Any depiction of 9/11 that is not accurate and factual propagates myths, myths that may cause us future harm.

In order to make our country safer and more secure, we owe it to those who were lost to acknowledge that which took place, so that we can ensure it never happens again."