oppression on every hand; injustice everywhere; hypocrisy at the altar; venality on the bench, tyranny on the throne

Part of the probably universal appeal of the pulp-fiction of writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and others, is the almost instant gratification of justice. Often times it is an uneven justice, but in the end the worst of the scoundrels, deadbeats and murderers get their get their dose of righteousness. Unlike in real life where a guy in a ski mask that steals a couple thousand dollars gets a ten year sentence while a guy that wears a crisp white shirt to church every Sunday and sells values like a cheap suit rips off taxpayers for millions and either gets a slap on the waist or gets appointed to to a new high paying job with benefits the average worker could only dream of. Competence works much like justice in crime fiction. Sure the bad guys might be clever, but the detective as a metaphor for the everyman uses hard work and patience. Eventually no matter how clever or how well connected, the miscreant slips up and the gum shoe is there is make sure he takes a fall. It doesn’t work that way in the Rovian world of conservative politics. The reverse is true, the average man pays the price for the greed and machivelian conniving of the the little princes, U.S. Blunders in Reconstructing Iraq Are Staggering

I often recall a meeting in October 2003 in Baghdad with an Iraqi engineer who had a master’s from Ball State University and loved America. He wanted to talk to me about corruption in reconstruction projects in Iraq.

Hamid spoke with anger at seeing U.S. officials on the bases pay cash to fly-by-night Iraqi agents to cart away new vehicles and spare parts – along with generators – that had been left behind by Saddam’s army. The Iraqis then sold the valuable equipment in Syria and Jordan and paid kickbacks to the U.S. officials. “You are helping criminals,” he complained, “and wasting your money and ours.”

I never had the opportunity to investigate Hamid’s accusations. He was murdered by Sunni insurgents for working with Americans. Now the sad tale of corruption and wasted billions in America’s Iraq reconstruction program has been laid bare in a spate of new books, and by the U.S. inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

Bob Woodward’s State of Denial details the incredible lack of planning for the postwar, in which the Pentagon team tasked with running Iraqi reconstruction met together for the first time only a few weeks before the invasion.

To understand what these Pentagon civilians wrought, read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City about the Bush team’s decision to send “the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest” to rebuild Iraq.

Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post, describes how Republican connections were the ticket to a job in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2003-2004, in the occupation era of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). There were some competent folks inside the Green Zone, but they played second fiddle to political appointees.

More typical was James K. Haveman Jr., a 60-year-old Republican social worker and Christian antiabortion activist, who was picked to head the Health Ministry over a physician with degrees in public health and experience in third-world disaster relief.

Haveman treated Baghdad as if it were an extension of his home state of Michigan: He pushed for more maternity hospitals instead of refurbishing Baghdad’s ill-equipped emergency rooms. He pressed for an anti-smoking campaign – and tried to limit the number of drugs distributed to hospitals, ensuring that essential medicines stayed out of stock. He was in over his head.

To get the full flavor of the mismanagement of the postwar, however, you need to go to http://www.sigir.mil, and read the reports of the special inspector general in Iraq (SIGIR), Stuart W. Bowen Jr.

Hats off to Congress for creating this office to check, ex post facto, on the more than $18 billion spent for reconstruction. Too bad no one kept tabs sooner. Bowen’s reports tell of huge cost overruns by American contractors – notably the Halliburton subsidiary known as KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root). Despite repeated criticism, KBR has been paid most of its money by the Army.

Bowen also reports that a huge number of projects awarded to large U.S. firms remain unfinished. A children’s hospital project in Basra, backed by Laura Bush, was supposed to be completed by Bechtel in 2005, but will cost up to $169 million and may never be finished. Thirteen of 14 projects undertaken by the Parsons Corp. engineering firm were found shoddy. A $75 million Parsons project for the largest police academy in Iraq was so bungled it may have to be demolished.

SIGIR’s deputy inspector general, Ginger Cruz, told me that the police academy’s plumbing was so grim that urine and feces dripped onto students, and on the SIGIR inspector who visited the building.

“We’re leaving behind a trail of failure,” Cruz says. “The power and oil situation isn’t better than when we came.” The problem, she says, goes beyond the security issues that have dogged the reconstruction effort.

There is a line in the movie Runaway Jury in which Rankin Fitch(Gene Hackman) says, and I paraphrase, that verdicts are too important to be left up to juries, uttered in contempt of the ability of the common citizen to listen to the evidence and deliver a just verdict. Fitch was giving voice to what the conservatives that rule America today believe. The law cannot to trusted the best jurists it can only be trusted to Republicans that believe much like they believe about Iraq reconstruction and pretty much everything else, that the law is for sale, Money trails lead to Bush judges

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

“He (Thomas Paine) saw oppression on every hand; injustice everywhere; hypocrisy at the altar; venality on the bench, tyranny on the throne; and with a splendid courage he espoused the cause of the weak against the strong” – Robert Green Ingersoll

“It’s a sad day when you have members of Congress who are literally criminals go undisciplined by their colleagues. No wonder people look at Washington and know this city is broken.” – Senator John Kerry

I don’t like the crowd you’re mixed up with

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Special issue: The world’s top 10 dictators

The Western Favourite
Dictators: Islam’s man of action
Ziauddin Sardar on Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan

The Dictator on Europe’s Doorstep
Dictators: Dreaming of the USSR
Andrey Kurkov on Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus

The Religious Authority
Dictators: Reform and the mullahs
Ali M Ansari on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of Iran

The Nuclear Threat
Dictators: The depths of evil
Jasper Becker on Kim Jong-il of North Korea

The Personality Cult Leader
Dictators: Central Asia’s new idol
Lucy Ash on Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan

The Mandarin
Dictators: Between the Party and the markets
Xiao Jia Gu on Hu Jintao of China

The Absolute Monarch
Dictators: Oil, torture and the west
Damian Quinn on Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia

The rest are at the top link. One that struck me was Saudi Arabia,

In 2002, Jeremy Paxman asked Tony Blair how he could endorse a country that “bans political parties, bans trade unions and uses institutional torture?”. Blair looked perplexed. “The country being . . . ?”. “Saudi Arabia,” replied Paxman – Blair had recently described it as “a friend of the civilised world”.

Blair’s squirming typifies western governments’ double standards – they are happy to support a monarchical regime which stifles internal dissent and discriminates against citizens who refuse its extreme puritanical form of Wahhabi Sunni Islam. The country’s vast oil reserves and large defence contracts are enough to keep western criticisms of its human-rights abuses to a minimum

The Saudis are a conundrum at the very least. Their way of governance and the kind of relations we have with pushes the progressive America’s nose up against the world of realpolitik. Without their oil or at least sudden withdrawal of the Saudi oil habit would produce tremendous hardship for America’s middle-class. They do serve to remind us the sooner the nation can shift to more sustainable sources of energy the better. As much as the Saudis are a thorn in the side of those that genuinely care about human rights they are an ever constant reminder of the neocon hypocrisy whenever they talk about spreading democracy.

China makes the list. Check on the votes of your favorite Congress critter and Bush’s trade bills that have given trade with China the bright green light. Go into your favorite Wal-Mart or Home Depot and check the made in label. We’re not supporting freedom in China we ‘re supporting a perverse wedding of communists political dogma with western capitalism. Whenever Bush or Cheney or someone else in the administration opens their mouths and out pours some boiler plate platitudes about spreading democracy informed Americans don’t dismiss what they say because we hate them, but because they are such absurd fabricators. They care about power, they care about money, but the neocons and their cult do not care about democracy or spreading same. That they have convinced some conservative bloggers and the corporate media that they do is testament to how lap doggish some folks can be in their political loyalties. We all have a double standard or two, some seemed more inclined to push the hypocrisy to new extremes. It just seems that Bush and company are hoping that the Big Lie will act like some cosmic shield, that no one will notice that they are all too happy to do business with the worse of the worse as long as everyone’s wallet is kept in plain sight. Contrary to the conspiracy minded this is not some secret hush hush affair, the wheeling and dealing is documented daily on the financial pages of America’s biggest newspapers. The only mystery here is why more people don’t put the pieces together and demand some coherent foreign policy instead of digging their heels in and defending it.

Something new, I mean really new in the way of noirish or pulpish doesn’t come along everyday. My discovery of someone else’s discovery of a “cosmic noir” comic novel, Johnny Repeat (TPB)

The label “cosmic noir” has been applied by others to Johnny Repeat, and while the label is accurate, it falls short of really encompassing the feel of the book, but I can’t think of a better term to use.

Full review with some illustrations at the link.

BILL
Tom, I never had trouble getting
credit from you before. When I was
flat broke you gave me all the
money I wanted. Now I come to you
with a swell deal, and the greatest—

DICKSON
(interrupting)
I’ll tell you why. I don’t like
the crowd you’re mixed up with.
(softening)
Personally, you can have all the
credit you want. But for that deal –
not a cent.

from AMERICAN MADNESS 1932 Screenplay by Robert Riskin

There could be no life in that livid face, in those glassy eyes

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Western Montana Growers Go Beyond Organics & Get Local

Since those early days, Brieger and Elliott have seen organics go from obscurity to a mainstream marketing boon. And now, many organic farmers, including Brieger and Elliott, feel that organic programs have lost touch with their roots in small farms and close communities by embracing corporations that ship their produce all over the world.

In that spirit, 12 Missoula-area organic farms have formed a group that will offer an alternative to the USDA organic certification — a "Homegrown" label focusing more on growing and selling food locally.

My first thought was that a trend like this, let's say to eventually include cloth grown from local organic cotton and then made into clothing locally would seem to contradict the flattening of the global economy view, at least as universal; work as collaboration made possible by the internet. Ideas about the global economy become a little more complex when people look around at their local resources and ask themselves why they should shop at a corporate monolith that imports its goods from ten thousand miles away. Some will continue to fall prey to advertising and the herd mentality, but many may see very local micro economies in terms of regional pride of place and a chance to express a degree of individualism. There's little reason that I can see that we don't have a healthier mix of local enterprise with transpotation reliant products like computers. As I wrote that last sentence I realized that admittedly from a non-tech position there seems to be a trend for computers to become more like electronic Legos. Most of the parts are very similar, the replacement parts are snap out and snap in. That being the case it is easy to see a near future where people order mix and match modules that are cranked out in a regional facility and can be put together by a nine year old in half an hour. Should things reach that point maybe electronics would become closer to a cottage industry.

Informed Consent Waived in Public Crisis

"To be candid, I hope it is a hypothetical problem. I hope we spent a lot of time creating a rule we never have to invoke," said Dr. Steve Gutman, director of the FDA's in-vitro diagnostics office.

Determining what constitutes a life-threatening public health emergency would be left up to the laboratories doing the testing. That creates the potential for conflicts of interest and other abuses, critics said.

"I don't like a rule like this because its most likely use is likely to be a form of abuse. The emergency exception it creates will be stretched to encompass non-emergency situations," said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute.

The FDA said it published the rule to ensure the ability to identify quickly whatever chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear agent is involved in a terrorist attack or natural outbreak of disease. Doing so could save the lives of those being tested as well as of others exposed, the FDA said.

"Baloney," said Dr. Deborah Peel, chairwoman of the Patient Privacy Rights Foundation, a watchdog group. "This sounds like they're taking for themselves the right to test individuals every time they declare a public health emergency. There is no way getting consent would delay testing."

There is room here for debate, but much like becoming an entire nation under warrant-less surveillance, the powers that be will simply decide that they have the right to test anyone they choose; it says so in their personally written version of the constitution. Since yelling that the sky will fall if we don't let the government do what ever they want has been so effective it will probably work in this situation too.
Many of us were getting all misty eyed over the good old days of Representative Randy Cunningham(R) and the conservative culture of corruption, never fear there is always another conservative ready to throw his body and soul into the gutter for cash and power, Lewis, stepdaughter face scrutiny

Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, under federal investigation for his connection to a lobbyist, is facing new questions about payments his stepdaughter got from a political fundraising committee.

The committee is headed by the president of a tech company that has received millions in government project spending approved by the House committee Lewis chairs.

Lewis' stepdaughter, Julia Willis-Leon, got more than $40,000 in payments from the Small Biz Tech Political Action Committee between February 2005 and March 2006, records show – far more than the sums the PAC contributed to candidates and other committees. She was paid for fundraising work and is listed on the PAC Web site as its director.

How great is that, Lewis's corrupt family values include his stepdaughter.

It needed but a glance to tell me that the man was dead. There could
be no life in that livid face, in those glassy eyes.

"Don't touch him," I said, for Vantine had started forward. "It's too
late."

I drew him back, and we stood for a moment shaken as one always is by
sudden and unexpected contact with death.

"Who is he?" I asked, at last.

"I don't know," answered Vantine hoarsely. "I never saw him before."
Then he strode to the bell and rang it violently. "Parks," he went on
sternly, as that worthy appeared at the door, "what has been going on
in here?"

"Going on, sir?" repeated Parks, with a look of amazement, not only
at the words, but at the tone in which they were uttered. "I'm sure I
don't know what–"

Then his glance fell upon the huddled body, and he stopped short, his
eyes staring, his mouth open.

"Well," said his master, sharply. "Who is he? What is he doing here?"

"Why–why," stammered Parks, thickly, "that's the man who was waiting
to see you, sir."

"You mean he has been killed in this house?" demanded Vantine.

"He was certainly alive when he came in, sir," said Parks, recovering
something of his self-possession. "Maybe he was just looking for a
quiet place where he could kill himself. He seemed kind of excited."

"Of course," agreed Vantine, with a sigh of relief, "that's the
explanation. Only I wish he had chosen some place else. I suppose we
shall have to call the police, Lester?"

from THE MYSTERY OF THE BOULE CABINET by Burton E. Stevenson

I’m in the smooth-angles of the detecting business and I make money without getting my can knocked off

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I mentioned Arthur Fellig, aka Weegee before as something akin to still photography's version of a film noir photo journalist. It looks as though someone has found or collected some previously unknown Weegee photos to be put on exhibit at the International Center of Photography, 'Unknown Weegee,' on Photographer Who Made the Night Noir

Like a boy scout, he was always prepared. He prowled the streets in a car equipped with a police radio, a typewriter, developing equipment, a supply of cigars and a change of underwear. He was a one-man photo factory: he drove to a crime site; took pictures; developed the film, using the trunk as a darkroom; and delivered the prints.

He often finished a job before the cops had cleared the scene, in some cases before they even arrived. About certain things he was clairvoyant. (Weegee = Ouija, as in board. Get it?) He caught catastrophes in the making and filmed them unfolding. An opportunist? A sensationalist? A voyeur? You could call him all that. He wouldn't mind. "Just get the name right. Weegee the Famous."

He was in the right place at the right time. New York from the Depression through World War II was a rude, crude town. No heat in winter, way too much in the summer. Immigrants poured in; there was barely enough room to hold them. Native-born workers felt the competition for jobs and space, resented it. The melting pot was on a constant boil.

In some ways Weegee was the paparazzi of his time in the sense that he was certainly an opportunists, but he turned that opportunism on subjects that were socially relevent. He didn't change the world, he did shine a light on some of the things that needed changing.

That Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is now worm food is a positive thing. Anytime a psychotic murderer with no respect for life leaves this world means there is one less on them that humanity has to deal with and a also provides a little justice for those that he hurt. Nevertheless al-Zarqawi was able to instigate violence against American forces and Iraqis for several years because George W. Bush played politics with him as part of the puppet show used lie America into the invasion of Iraq. Bush turned down chances to kill Zarqawi: ex-CIA spy

A former top CIA spy says the United States deliberately turned down several opportunities to kill terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the lead-up to the Iraq war.

Mike Scheuer headed the CIA's bin Laden unit for six years before resigning in 2004.

He has told the ABC's Four Corners program the Bush administration had Zarqawi in its sights almost every day for a year.

He says a plan to destroy Zarqawi's training camp in Kurdistan was abandoned for diplomatic reasons.

As usual in the Rovian state of current politics, Bush's hands are relatively clean as he pushes the wrong pieces around at the wrong time. Bush didn't actually kill the American troops, who the Rovians consider expendable pawns, or innocent Iraqis, he just made one of many criminally negligent decisions that allowed them to be killed. The Cult of Bush is getting flop sweat all over their keyboards as they race to direct undeserved credit to their favorite Guard deserter. All part of the formula that has worked so well for conservatism since Raygun Ronnie, never take responsibility for your screw-ups, but always take credit for the work of others ( we've all had a boss like that one time or another haven't we). America and Iraq continues to suffer from the dilettante conservatism of Bush and his morally culpable followers and the soulless celebration that follows every accomplishment that they didn't actually achieve. With a press that in general is still too timid to call things the way they are. Not once today have I heard one major network question the chain of events that are not a matter of biased opinion, but historical fact. If the Bushites had a clear vision, a clear plan in regards to terrorism, al-Zarqawi would have been killed or captured years ago. The Short, Violent Life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, barely forty and barely literate, a Bedouin from the Bani Hassan tribe, was until recently almost unknown outside his native Jordan. Then, on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell catapulted him onto the world stage. In his address to the United Nations making the case for war in Iraq, Powell identified al-Zarqawi—mistakenly, as it turned out—as the crucial link between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime. Subsequently, al-Zarqawi became a leading figure in the insurgency in Iraq—and in November of last year, he also brought his jihadist revolution back home, as the architect of three lethal hotel bombings in Amman. His notoriety grew with every atrocity he perpetrated, yet Western and Middle Eastern intelligence officials remained bedeviled by a simple question: Who was he? Was he al-Qaeda’s point man in Iraq, as the Bush administration argued repeatedly? Or was he, as a retired Israeli intelligence official told me not long ago, a staunch rival of bin Laden’s, whose importance the United States exaggerated in order to validate a link between al-Qaeda and pre-war Iraq, and to put a non-Iraqi face on a complex insurgency?

Powerful Lawmaker's Relative Linked Financially to Contractor

A political fundraising committee headed by a defense contractor has paid thousands of dollars in fees to the stepdaughter of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands) at a time when the contractor has been lobbying Congress for funding.

Lewis' stepdaughter, Julia Willis-Leon, has been paid more than $42,000 by the Small Biz Tech Political Action Committee, according to campaign finance records. The PAC is led by Nicholas Karangelen, founder and president of Trident Systems Inc.

Talking Points Memo has more.

Anna Halsey was about two hundred and forty pounds of middle-aged putty-faced woman in a black tailor-made suit. Her eyes were shiny black shoe buttons, her cheeks were as soft as suet and about the same color. She was sitting behind a black glass desk that looked like Napoleon's tomb and she was smoking a cigarette in a black holder that was not quite as long as a rolled umbrella. She said: "I need a man."

I watched her shake ash from the cigarette to the shiny top of the desk where flakes of it curled and crawled in the draft from an open window.

"I need a man good-looking enough to pick up a dame who has a sense of class, but he's got to be tough enough to swap punches with a power shovel. I need a guy who can act like a bar lizard and backchat like Fred Allen, only better, and get hit on the head with a beer truck and think some cutie in the leg-line topped him with a breadstick."

"It's a cinch," I said. "You need the New York Yankees, Robert Donat, and the Yacht Club Boys."

"You might do," Anna said, "cleaned up a little. Twenty bucks a day and ex's. I haven't brokered a job in years, but this one is out of my line. I'm in the smooth-angles of the detecting business and I make money without getting my can knocked off. Let's see how Gladys likes you."

from the novel TROUBLE IS MY BUSINESS by Raymond Chandler

We all want the hand. Hand is tough to get. You gotta get the hand right from the opening

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I found this essay at The New Partisan, The Sound of Legs Crossing. In the comments Susan calls it "unfiltered, joyous mysogony". I read this essay when it first appeared in 2004 and have had almost two years to carefully weigh Susan's opinion. The short answer is that I just don't see misogyny in the strict sense of hating women in general, though it might well qualify in that the writer has certain suspicions about women. That said he seems to be both fascinated by and genuinely fond of women.

It was such a womanly, inviting yet non-committal look, meeting my eyes with perfect equanimity. I would have followed her to the ends of the earth if need be. And as she left, her waves reverberated off every man in the joint, and a silence descended, a silence which dissipated when a nervous waitress dropped a glass.

That the opposite sexes have a certain allure for each other carries and some ebb and flow of power. That we all observe each other does not necessarily add up to misogyny or misandry. Isn't that what good writers and social observers are supposed to do articulate those small moments. Maybe give us some small insight into what it means. We don't have to agree or award blue ribbons, but simply take note of what has been observed. When well thought out and well written they might give us a new angle at which to look at the world arond us. Remember the the Seinfeld episode "The Pez Dispenser" where George spends the entire show trying to have " hand", as in upper hand, the power in the relationship. He becomes so obsessed with having that power that he ends up sabotaging himself. Maybe George lacked insight. Of course Raymond Chandler understood "hand" or legs in this case,

Thankfully, women don’t give off such conflicting signals, especially with their legs. And there are men who realize that and who listen to the sound of legs crossing to announce their presence. Raymond Chandler, that poet/philosopher king of the hard-boiled, was always intrigued by how stockings sound when legs are crossed, that hiss a woman’s legs make when walking. “I was thinking about that ever since you crossed your legs,” said Robert Mitchum to Charlotte Rampling, after she crossed hers provocatively in the movie of Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely. Yes, that “that.”

My point is that sometimes things as it were are not political or socio-political, they're just part of that mystery of the ages, women and men sizing each other up, its personal. Maybe its just wishful thinking on my part that there is still room in the world for personal observation and artistic expression free of some kind of politics.

Jill Carroll Statement

During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me they would let me go if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. I agreed.

Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not. The people who kidnapped me and murdered Alan Enwiya are criminals, at best. They robbed Alan of his life and devastated his family. They put me, my family and my friends–and all those around the world, who have prayed so fervently for my release–through a horrific experience. I was, and remain, deeply angry with the people who did this.

I also gave a TV interview to the Iraqi Islamic Party shortly after my release. The party had promised me the interview would never be aired on television, and broke their word. At any rate, fearing retribution from my captors, I did not speak freely. Out of fear I said I wasn't threatened. In fact, I was threatened many times.

As of this writing there haven't been as many apologies as there should be coming from the right-wingers who think that the only fitting end to the story would have been a dead Jill Carrol. For a roundup of reactions see Mahablog and The Moderate Voice, some highlights from left and right blogistan. Digby, eloquent as usual,

Jill Carroll has more testosterone in her little finger than all these bedwetters put together. I'm sorry that she has not given the 101st one-handed keyboarders the picture of blood and horror they need to get satisfaction from their safe little offices, but I think it's highly unlikely these bedwetters would have handled themselves with such fortitude in those circumstances. They are after all, the same brave soldiers who believe the shoe bomber is a greater threat to the nation than having thousands of ICBM's pointed at every major American city.

Maha gets the quote of the day regarding moonbat hate monger Alexandra of All Things Hateful;

Somehow, I suspect if Alexandra ever had a gun pointed to her head and was told to be convincing or die, she’d put out an Oscar-worthy performance, too. Right after she wet her pants.

Finally as Maha notes, not every winger piled on. Why they had a pause to wait for judgment I don't know, but good for them. Now try and make it a regular habit.

Civil War Festers in Remote Pakistan Province

Explosions at gas pipelines and railroad tracks are common in this remote desert region. Now, roadside bombs and artillery shells are, too. More than 100 civilians have been killed in recent months, along with dozens of government security forces, local residents and Pakistan's Human Rights Commission say.

…..In particular, tensions have been aggravated by President Pervez Musharraf's determination to develop the area's oil and gas fields, the largest in the country, as well as his aim to build a pipeline across the region to carry oil from Iran and a strategic deep sea port to expand trade with China, local residents say.

Key words: oil, Iran, pipeline, China, trade.

Audit Finds Mismanagement Drained $1 Billion Project

Mismanagement of a $1 billion technology contract by the Transportation Security Administration resulted in the expenditure of the entire budget long before all of the needed computer and telephone equipment was installed, according to an audit released Thursday by the inspector general of the Homeland Security Department.

Great idea for the next GOP commercial blitz, vote for us in 2006 so we can have more of the same screw-ups and corruption we've had the last six years and if you don't you're a terrorist loving lefty.

Jerry: All right, I'm sorry. What about her?

George: What, you think I'm going to repeat the whole thing now?

Jerry: I know, you told me you like her, everything is going good.

George: No everything is *not* going good. I'm very uncomfortable. I have

no power. I mean, why should she have the upper hand. *Once* in

my life I would like the upper hand. I have no hand– no hand at

all. She has the hand; I have *no* hand…

George: How do I get the hand?

Jerry: We all want the hand. Hand is tough to get. You gotta get the

hand right from the opening.

George: She's playing a recital this week at the McBierney School. You wanna hear her play? I got two extra tickets, you and Elaine could go…

Jerry: Yeah, that sounds like somethin'…

George: Then afterwards maybe we could all go out together. Y'know she'll

see me with my friends, she'll observe me as I really am, as myself.

Maybe I can get some hand that way.

from the Seinfeld episode The Pez Dispenser written by Larry David

I know he can hear me, but my voice is just background noise

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The Democratic Record on Real Security Vs.The Bush Republican Record of Dangerous Incompetence

– The Bush Record of Dangerous Incompetence: Army Stretched Too Thin. Another cost of the Bush Administration's failure to plan properly for the war in Iraq is that the Army has been stretched by frequent troop rotations. Many units are on their second or even third tour in Iraq or Afghanistan without adequate time in rotation at home to rest and recuperate. At least 40 percent of deployed personnel are from the Guard and Reserve. Nearly all of the available combat units in the U.S. Army, Army National Guard, and Marine Corps have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. Before the war started, Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff for the Army, stated "Something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably, you know, a figure that would be required." [Testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, 2/25/2003] A recent report prepared for the Pentagon concluded that the Army has become a "thin green line" that could snap unless relief comes soon. [Report by Andrew Krepinevich, Thin Green Line, 1/06]
– The Bush Record of Dangerous Incompetence: Cuts National Guard by 17,000. Despite recent reports of the tremendous strain that the Iraq and Afghanistan War have placed on our troops, the President's budget fails to fund the force size authorized by law. The budget would fund 17,100 fewer Army National Guard and 5,000 fewer Army Reserves than are authorized by law. The National Guard is a cost-effective, capable combat force in the war on terror and an essential state partner in responding to domestic disasters and emergencies. As the National Guard Association stated, "the very idea that a reduction in strength of reserve components so fully involved in current operations and projected as the linchpin for future operations, both overseas and in the defense and security of the homeland, is ludicrous." [Letter to Senator John Warner, 12/12/05]

Like many modern myths I'm not sure where the one started that conservatives have a better record on national security or supporting the military.

– The Bush Record of Dangerous Incompetence: The Bush Administration's Failure to Uphold Global Nonproliferation Treaties Has Increased the Nuclear Ambitions of Some Countries and Raised the Specter of Nuclear Terrorism.
– The threat of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons or nuclear materials is very real, and increases when countries like Iran and North Korea enhance their nuclear programs.
– North Korea is a brazen proliferator: it is known to sell missiles and nuclear technology and participate in illicit activities, including smuggling, counterfeiting and the drug trade.
– Experts fear that North Korea's severe economic crisis could give way to regime collapse and could set loose its nuclear arsenal.
– The Iranian regime shows little respect for international norms: it has concealed its uranium enrichment activities for nearly two decades, while purporting to seek only a civilian nuclear program and claiming its commitment to nonproliferation as a signatory member of the NPT.

Remember that Terrorism Not a Priority for Ashcroft Pre-9/11.

Some far right extremists are reporting that according to the ultra-conservative Washington Times that the FISA Court judges have said that Bush's domestic spying program is legal. According to the New York Times, Judges on Secretive Panel Speak Out on Spy Program, all the judges that appeared before Congress are former judges, not current so their opinions certainly carry some weight, but said opinions should be considered within the entire scope of the investigation of Bush's interation of domestic spying. Whether current or former, as of this writing they have not given Bush's program a legal pass as the wing-nuts like Poweline and other right-wing blogs have asserted,

Judge Harold A. Baker, a sitting federal judge in Illinois who served on the intelligence court until last year, said the president was bound by the law "like everyone else." If a law like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is duly enacted by Congress and considered constitutional, Judge Baker said, "the president ignores it at the president's peril."

What's peculiar about the Washington Times( frequently referred to as the Moonie Times) story is this very conditional sentence,

"If a court refuses a FISA application and there is not sufficient time for the president to go to the court of review, the president can under executive order act unilaterally, which he is doing now," said Judge Allan Kornblum, magistrate judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida and an author of the 1978 FISA Act.

Note the "If a court refuses", a conditional statement that implies that Bush has first gone to the court for approval of a warrant and that approval has not been given. Followed by another conditional statement, " and there is not sufficient time for the president to go to the court of review", then the president may act unilaterally. So Judge Kornblum's conditions under which Bush may spy without a warrant are first, the Executive branch must first go to the FISA court for a warrant, That warrant must be refused ( unlikely considering how accomodating the FISA court has been), then the President establishes that the need to perform this act of domestic spying is of such dire and urgent importance that there is not time to appeal the FISA court's ruling, he may act "unilatterally". So Hinrocket at Powerline, a lawyer I might add, apparently doesn't understand what the WT story says or is being deliberately misleading.

I didn't go to journalism school, but The WT piece isn't clear on this point,

The judges, however, said Mr. Bush's choice to ignore established law regarding foreign intelligence gathering was made "at his own peril," because ultimately he will have to answer to Congress and the Supreme Court if the surveillance was found not to be in the best interests of national security.

Brian DeBose of WT seems to be attributing Judge Baker's quote to the entire group of judges. Not having the whole transcript I can't say, but if every judge said that the executive ignores the laws passed by Congress at "its own peril", that would further erode the wing-nut blogs attempts to spin the WT story as favorable to their assertion that Bush's domestic warrantless spying is legal. One possibility is that all the judges nodded in agreement with Judge Baker.
Judge James Robertson, who had quit the FISA court over the fact that the FISA court was never even briefed about Bush's new program as reported in the NYT story,

In a March 23 letter in response to a query from Mr. Specter, the judge said he supported Mr. Specter's proposal "to give approval authority over the administration's electronic surveillance program" to the court.

Then we have Senator Arlen Specter (R), Arlen Specter Fed Up With White House

But Specter said the White House "has an argument" that the program is legal, based on the president's inherent authority under Article Two of the Constitution — although Specter said he does not know enough about the program to make his own judgment.

"Their position is that the president has the inherent authority, and that's that," Specter said of the White House.

Specter it seems has the perception of how dangerous this circular reasoning is. If any program that this or any administration dreams up is deemed necessary for national security and any actions stemming from those programs are inherently legal because the president says they are, whether Congress has previously addressed the issue or not, then the president is not bound by any law because of his claim of inherent authority. If this is the case, why have a Congress, why have a Supreme Court. Finally, to wrap this up for the day, Jurist legal News and Research, gives their summary of today's (yeserday's at this point) Senate hearing, Federal judges support Specter surveillance supervision bill at hearing

The five, all former members of the FISA court, said they were unfamiliar with the latest NSA program, but insisted that the court has struck the correct balance between civil liberties and national security concerns since its establishment and would continue to do so.

The right-wing blogs have also been quick to jump on the assertion that previous administrations have used executive orders to bypass FISA law, This is simply not true, FISA has been amended by other administrations through Congress. Also note that there has been no constitutional challenges by the Bush administration or previous administrations. If the current administrations thinks that some implied authority exists for them to ignore laws that have been passed by Congress and followed by four other administrations, then out of respect for our constitutional framework and the rule of law, they need to make such a challenge rather then doing an end run around the law of the land. See Top 12 media myths and falsehoods on the Bush administration's spying scandal for more background on previous administrations.

For the last hour I've been asking him questions and telling him stories. I know he can hear me, but my voice is just background noise. He's concentrating on his own internal dialogue, debating whether he should live or die. I want to join that debate, but first I need an invitation.

from the novel SUSPECT Michael Robotham

No, not really. Mostly I hang out at home watching TV, faking my time reports, and padding my expenses.

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Foreign aid is one of the dirty words the right invented during the last thirty years. Though it has always been the actual practice of presidents, left and right to continue some policy of foreign aid. Few movement conservatives in government would advise that we stop giving foreign aid to Egypt for instance, while they’re not much of a democratic government, they’d certainly be worse under fundamentalist Muslims. Foreign aid for healthcare and education is a humanitarian effort, the kind of fuzzy warm thing that progressive minded Americans embrace and which makes much of the right gag, but not neccessarily everyone that votes Republican. With so many people supporting the idea of helping other nations, some reasons alturistic and some not, the problem for the conservative political machine can be solved by the corny, but somewhat effective magic trick called compassionate conservatism. Which brings us to Bush’s version of the Clear Skies Initiative for the world’s poorest residents. Just as Clear Skies was a gift to polluters, Bush’s Millenium Challenge Corporation while disguised as aid to the most deserving is anything but, MCA is another bureaucratic boondoogle, according to the Whitehouse web site,

In his March 14 speech President Bush directed that countries be identified based on “a set of clear and concrete and objective criteria” that would be applied “rigorously and fairly.” The President stated that the Millennium Challenge Account will “reward nations that root out corruption, respect human rights, and adhere to the rule of law… invest in better health care, better schools and broader immunization… [and] have more open markets and sustainable budget policies, nations where people can start and operate a small business without running the gauntlets of bureaucracy and bribery.”

If I didn’t know the source or if I was a Main Street Mom and Pop conservative this all sounds pretty good. Clear Skies sounded good too. Only MCA is just another conservative menage a trois where language, meaning, intent, and practice is perverted beyond recognition. It is supposed to promote free trade, yet we all know by now that the conservative idea of free trade is to open up a countries’ market for corporate interests to exploit cheap labor, extract resources without fair compensation, and foul the environment. All things that Mom and Pop would not approve of if they knew the sordid details. Bush’s Fake Aid

Instead of hiring aid experts, the administration at first staffed the MCC with conservative ideologues. Rather than partnering with other countries, the White House operated on its own, disconnected from the rest of the world. And when experts criticized the new agency, the administration responded with a bunker mentality, refusing to talk to detractors and learn from its mistakes.

Today, four years after the president announced his initiative, the MCC has signed compacts with six countries — offering only $1.2 billion in assistance. In February, Bush released a budget for 2007 that falls another $2 billion short of his pledge, bringing the total aid to less than half of what he promised. And the new budget once again pushes back the goal, stating that the administration “expects” to provide $5 billion annually in 2008.

“Not only has President Bush broken his word on funding, he has not put in the effort required to turn this excellent idea into a lifesaving reality,” says Jamie Drummond, executive director of DATA, the international aid organization co-founded by Bono.

Exposed: The Religious Right’s Gambling Problem

Wim Wenders, who made an old favorite of mine called Paris, Texas with character actor hall of famer Harry Dean Stanton, has a new film out called Don’t Come Knocking, this is part of Wender’s synopsis,

Howard Spence has seen better days. When he was younger he was a movie star, mostly in Westerns. At the age of sixty, Howard uses drugs, alcohol and young girls to avoid the painful truth that there are only supporting roles left for him to play. After yet another night of debauchery in his trailer, Howard awakens in disgust to find that he is still alive, but that nobody in the world would have missed him if he had died.

That morning Howard is absent from the film set. Instead, we see him galloping away on his movie horse in his costume full cowboy regalia.
But there is no camera filming him this time. Howard is fleeing, from the film and his life.

OK, road picture, Sam Shephard, Jessica Lange, Sam Shepard, Tim Roth and Sarah Polley. Did I say road picture, old cars, trailers, horses, an aging bad boy finally grows up, salons, blue western skies. Apple trailer here. there’s even an iPod version.

Senator Harkin redemns himself, via Daily Kos

DURBIN: I’ll tell you point blank that to argue that there was some sort of a briefing of members of Congress is to ignore the obvious. Ninety-six senators have not heard any details of what is happening with this warrantless wiretap.

In addition, there are only eight members of the Senate Intelligence Committee who are now being given some sort of a briefing.

Let me tell you what I believe led to Senator Feingold’s censure resolution, the utter frustration that this Republican Senate refuses to ask the hard questions in oversight of this administration about this war, about the use of warrantless wiretaps, about statements made by the president to the American people that there’ll be no wiretapping without court orders.

We know now that in many of these instances, the American people deserve answers. And this Republican Senate has refused to do it. I think that’s why Senator Feingold introduced this resolution….

“Were you good at it?”

I glanced at Mike. No help there. He could have been working out his tax returns or figuring the age of the universe or reminiscing fondly about his last meal at Le Bernardin.

“I was good at it.”

“Why’d you stop doing it?” I saw Mike’s shoulders stiffen. The man stopped playing with his pen. I took a deep breath.

“Personal reasons,” I said. He was quiet for a while.

“It was your choice? They didn’t ask you to leave?”

“It was my choice.”

The man leaned back in his chair. “And the private investigating, are you good at that, too?” I paused. This was getting old.

“No, not really. Mostly I hang out at home watching TV, faking my time reports, and padding my expenses.” The man sat up. He held his pen in his fist, looking at me, the first stirrings of anger on his brow. Mike turned around, his face in neutral. I went on, speaking evenly, matter-of-factly.

“What do you expect me to say? Of course I’m going to say I’m good. And that could be true or it could be a load of crap. And there’s not much we can talk about here that will tell you one way or the other. I can understand your position. You’ve got a problem, and it must be a bad one if you need to hire someone like me. I imagine the last thing you want is to make it worse by involving some clown who’s incompetent, indiscreet, greedy, or worse. I’m not that clown, but you’ve got to take Mike’s word on that. Or not.”

from the novel BLACK MAPS written by Peter Spiegelman

It failed to mention potting the two off the break, or jumping the four and six to pot the three after a double kiss on the one

13ball.jpg

Polls have their place I suppose. Political polls are kind of a relic of populism. What are the citizen on the street perceptions about this or that issue at the moment. Gives people a chance to vent if nothing else. If the Bush Cult, which supports 90 plus percent of anything and everything that Bush does doesn’t like a particular poll’s results they’ll attempt to cast doubts on the poll’s methodology. On the moderate side we’ve seen an awful lot of push polling for Bush. I tend to be of the school of thought that polls can be useful as a political tool, a rough compass of where things are. With the caveat that regardless of wether they support your world view, in a framework of real ethics some issues are not recipes in which the ingredients can be mixed or deleted at the whim of popularity. Senator Feingold is right about Bush’s fragrant disregard of FISA law regardless if in some hypothetical poll 99% of the public supports Bush’s imperial disregard for the law. One of the most dangerous preceptions of democracy in the U.S. is that it is the rule of the majority. We’re a nation of laws, not a nation of mob rule. It just so happens that at least a plurality of American’s are not crazy about the idea that Bush is playing fast and lose with the law and our constitutional rights. Wash. Post falsely reported that Americans approve of Bush’s “wiretapping tactics”

In a front-page March 15 article on Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) call to censure President Bush for “authoriz[ing] an illegal program to spy on American citizens on American soil,” Washington Post staff writer Shailagh Murray reported that Feingold’s fellow Democrats are “wary of polls showing that a majority of Americans side with the president on wiretapping tactics.” In fact, polls consistently show that a majority of Americans disapprove of the wiretapping tactics the administration has used — specifically, conducting surveillance without seeking or obtaining a warrant.

As a group, and let’s put aside the word conservative as a political label for a moment, U.S. Senator’s are conservative, they are cautious, it took a couple days of staff meetings and phone calls, but Senator Feingold now has a co-sponsor of his censure resolution, Harkin Signs on to Censure Measure . This article is nothing for progessive minded Americans to tip-toe around, Even Democrats leery of Feingold resolution

The Bush administration has argued that the president’s inherent constitutional war-making powers, and a 2001 congressional resolution authorizing all necessary force against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, supersede that.

Those arguments have been met with skepticism among Democrats and some Republicans in the Senate.

[ ]…Among the more supportive Democrats, California Sen. Barbara Boxer said that she could vote for the resolution.

Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry said of the resolution: “I’m interested in it . . . The president ought to be held accountable, and I think he broke the law.”

It may amount to the same thing, but Republicans like Hagel, Snowe, Roberts and Brownback lost their spine when it came down to actual accountability. Democrats became skittish because of the same pollsters that can’t seem to pull their head out of their posteriors told Dems making an issue of Bush’s law breaking wasn’t a clear political winner, when the reverse is true. Democrats need to learn the basic rules of advertising, if you don’t repeatedly pound your message home it gets lost in the next wave of static. The Whitehouse knows this, Scott the Whitehouse spin monkey,

The American people have made it very clear they support the president’s efforts to defeat the terrorists and prevent attacks from happening. The president has made it very clear he’s not going to wait to be hit again.

Where is this statement does Scott even address the issue. He doesn’t, Frist will not, not a single irght-wing blogger that I’m aware of will discuss the issue of illegally spying on American without warrants because if Scott, his boss. and the extremists that pass for conservatives these days honestly discussed the issue the polls would show an 80% dissapproval rating of Bush’s program, not the part where we spy on terrorists, but to spy on Americans without a warrant. Warrants which are easier to get then a building permit or a hunting license. Democrats and conservatives alike better get used to that constant buzzing sound in the background of patriotic Americans that will not let this issue die tomorrow or in our lifetimes. Democrats are in the process of pumping up the base for 2006. What happens if just 3% of the base says the hell with you for not standing up for the rule of law, damn the pollsters and political expediency. Glenn Greenwald doesn’t try to put a positive spin on this uphill battle, but lays out the reality of political convictions,

If the public became convinced as part of the debate that is finally happening that the President broke the law and that such law-breaking is intolerable, does Kevin actually think that it’s impossible to find 6 Republican Senators to vote for the Resolution? Congressional Republicans defied Bush on the port deal for only one reason: because public opinion demanded it.

If public opinion begins to move even more than it already has to the view that Bush broke the law, it is far from certain that the Censure Resolution will fail. As I’ve noted many times, polls showed for two consecutive years that the public thought Watergate was a meaningless scandal and Nixon’s popularity remained sky high throughout those years. The arc of that scandal ended up changing only because tenacious politicians and journalists continued to pursue the story and the public finally became educated and angry about it. If Democrats had followed Kevin’s advice in 1972, Richard Nixon would have retired as a popular two-term President.

and digby gets our Quote of the day,

They must take action (and I don’t mean boring press conferences and 10 point plans) or it won’t matter a damn if the Republicans are on the ropes — demoralized Democrats are not going to bother with them. Come on. Speak for us. If not now, when?

I think this applys to Democratic rank and file too. If you’re reading the news and the center-left blogs and get discouraged at everytime that there is not an instant win on every new administration outrage you need to reassess how you look at the political battles are fought. Don’t be a cheerleader that thinks the season begins or ends with one touchdown or one game. Be a warrior, realize that the war for what is good and right never ends. The war to end slavery didn’t begin and end with the civil war, it really lasted from the 1700’s to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. the NSA scandal is about a specific act of lawlessness, but its more then that, its about setting yet another precedent for making our government less acountable to us, the American people and the Constitution. I don’t get near the traffic that Glenn or Digby get, but if you and a few friends and family and their firends sign this petition or just write an e-mail or send a fax to let Congress know that you will not let this issue die it can make a difference, Hold Bush Accountable: Demand a Special Prosecutor to Investigate the White House

US postwar Iraq strategy a mess, Blair was told

The memos were obtained by Michael Gordon, author, along with General Bernard Trainor, of Cobra II: the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, published to coincide with the third anniversary of the invasion.

The British memos identified a series of US failures that contained the seeds of the present insurgency and anarchy.

The mistakes include:

A lack of interest by the US commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase.

The presence in the capital of the US Third Infantry Division, which took a heavyhanded approach to security.

Squandering the initial sympathy of Iraqis.

Bechtel, the main US civilian contractor, moving too slowly to reconnect basic services, such as electricity and water.

Failure to deal with health hazards, such as 40% of Baghdad’s sewage pouring into the Tigris and rubbish piling up in the streets.

Did Genius George sign a bill into law that had not actually been passed by Congress, Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

As if that wasn’t enough, today we read that Bush now feels it is within his power to sign a Budget Reconciliation Act into law regardless of whether or not both houses of Congress have passed it.

and here, Congressman writes White House: Did President knowingly sign law that didn’t pass?

“No pressure.”
“10 G’s for one shot, I’ll take all the pressure you got.”

He had a habit of doing that. Ignoring his accomplishments. “10 G’s for one shot” didn’t paint a true picture. It failed to mention potting the two off the break, or jumping the four and six to pot the three after a double kiss on the one. It also left out the other six pots with perfect positional play. 10 G’s for nine shots? A thousand dollars each with two for the jump. He didn’t look at it that way. He saw one shot standing between him and 10 grand. Him and a new start.

from the short story True American Artform by Simon Kay

the tragedy seemed from that time to the present to have finally taken its place in the dark catalogue of inexplicable and unexpiated crimes

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I meant to post this yesterday, but the vicious editor that lives inside by brain was nagging me about the length of the posts so we’ll do it today. I was a little ambivalent about White House adviser Claude A. Allen’s shoplifting scheme, maybe do to conservative corruption overload. Rather then devoting this blog and way too much of my time solely to the corruption scandals plaqueing the Republican party and this administration I rely on progressive muckrakers like TPM. Then after reading this post at Bad Attitudes I realized how important the story was, Claude Allen’s Free Pass

Let’s put this in perspective. This is not the guy who took out the garbage in the White House. He was the rough equivalent, let’s say, of Robert Reich in Clinton’s administration. In the Carter White House Allen’s job was held by Stu Eisenstat.

In the Bush White House Allen filled the same White House post on the domestic policy side that Condoleezza Rice filled on the foreign policy side. And before that, he was the operating head of the Department of Health and Human Services under Tommy Thompson.

Ex-Enron worker says Lay lies cost him his savings

A former Enron Corp. pipeline worker testified on Tuesday he lost his retirement savings when he held on to his Enron stock because then-chief executive Ken Lay said the company was strong just weeks before it went bankrupt.

Johnnie Nelson, 46, said after 16 years with the company he was a loyal Lay supporter, but that Lay lied at a critical time in October 2001 when many workers wondered whether to sell their fast-falling Enron stock.

“He violated my trust,” the plain-spoken Nelson said in the fraud and conspiracy trial of Lay and fellow former Enron boss Jeffrey Skilling. “All we wanted was the truth, good or bad, so we could make our decisions.”

When Lay lawyer Mac Secrest told him Lay himself had lost hundreds of millions of dollars on the stock, the bearded Nelson replied sarcastically, “I’m heartbroken.”

Quote of the day in bold.

You look at a painting or photo and you see a cow, a grassy meadow, a fence. You’ve looked at it several times, so has your friends and neighbors. Along comes some right-wing bloggers who swear they and they alone can see the truth of things, you my friend have had your perception of reality twisted. That is not a cow, its an alien spacecraft, that is not a meadow, its the ashes from the craft’s energy field, and the fence is a relic of the space god the flying purple cookie monster. Iraq is the right-wing bloggers alien space craft, their country, their Eden, their penthouse at the Plaza. If only liberals, independents and moderate conservatives would drink the kool-aid we too could see their ultimate reality, death is life in kool-aid world, bloodied stumps are healthy legs, children love having their bedrooms invaded by armed soldiers, torture and sexual humiliation are Iraq’s Disney-like adventures. I need not supply links, use your favorite search engine – iraq is going great, bush declares victory, insurgency in last throes, iraq elections+turning the corner. Do conservatives hate the sixties because they never recovered from that electric kool-aid acid trip…Scores of bodies found in Baghdad, Army faces accusation of cover-up over Iraq deaths-ROYAL Military Police investigators are facing severe criticism for the way they handled a fatal shooting in Iraq in which a British tank commander and an Iraqi were killed, Bush’s Fantasy of “Progress” in Iraq

Al-Zaman says that the Shiite religious coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance, has rejected a system of cabinet rule, wherein the prime minister would have to take issues to his cabinet for a vote. From a Shiite point of view, the US and other Iraqi factions are trying to find ways of robbing it of its electoral victory on Dec. 15.

>Iraq’s electricity production has fallen to a 3-year low, in large part because of a successful guerrilla tactic of sabotage. They are besieging Baghdad with regard to fuel and electricity, demoralizing the most politically central portion of the population– the 6 million inhabitants of the capital, a fourth of the country. The Bush administration may need Iran’s help to bail them out this summer .

U.S. military airstrikes significantly increased in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq – American forces have dramatically increased airstrikes in Iraq during the past five months, a change of tactics that may foreshadow how the United States plans to battle a still-strong insurgency while reducing the number of U.S. ground troops serving here.

A review of military data shows that daily bombing runs and jet-missile launches have increased by more than 50 percent in the past five months, compared with the same period last year. Knight Ridder’s statistical findings were reviewed and confirmed by American Air Force officials in the region.

The numbers also show that U.S. forces dropped bombs on more cities during the last five months than they did during the same period a year ago

I prefer iced tea to kool-aid, maybe that’s way I just can’t twist and turn reality into something that it is not.

God knows what she is going through, but Jill Carroll still alive in Iraq

A future vice-president perhaps, 3-Year-Old Boy Shoots Mom in the Knee

Feingold Assails Dems on Bush Censure

“I’m amazed at Democrats … cowering with this president’s numbers so low,” Feingold said.

The latest AP-Ipsos poll on Bush, conducted last week, found just 37 percent of the 1,000 people surveyed approving his overall performance, the lowest of his presidency.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., tried to hold a vote Monday on Feingold’s resolution but was blocked by Democrats. He said Tuesday that Feingold should withdraw the resolution because it has no support.

“If the Democrats continue to say no to voting on their own censure resolution, then they ought to drop it and focus on our foreign policy in a positive way,” Frist said in a statement.

Feingold’s resolution condemns Bush’s “unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans within the United States without obtaining the court orders required” by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

I’m not going to bash Democrats, they’re are plenty of web sites on the right and left that do so daily, but I second Senator Feingold’s thoughts. Democrats have absolutely nothing to lose by trying to hold the president accountable. Conservatives in Washington and on the net will be twisting themselves into knots in the next few years disassociating themselves from the worst presidency in a hundred years.

Democrats Beat Quick Retreat on Call to Censure President

“The president may be wrong,” Mr. Specter said, “but he has acted in good faith.”

I guess there is not a limit on the number of times Bush apologists can reach into the well of tired cliches. Yes Bush burned your house down, but he was just trying to kill a cockroach in the kitchen so that makes it OK. Even with death hanging like a cloud over Specter, the very real chance that these are his last moments on earth, his political pandering takes precedent over patriotic courage. Another modern tragedy that doesn’t have to be could be turned on a few words of genuine conviction from a conservative like Specter or Hagel.

There are many who will still bear in mind the singular circumstances which, under the heading of the Rugby Mystery, filled many columns of the daily Press in the spring of the year 1892. Coming as it did at a period of exceptional dullness, it attracted perhaps rather more attention than it deserved, but it offered to the public that mixture of the whimsical and the tragic which is most stimulating to the popular imagination. Interest drooped, however, when, after weeks of fruitless investigation, it was found that no final explanation of the facts was forthcoming, and the tragedy seemed from that time to the present to have finally taken its place in the dark catalogue of inexplicable and unexpiated crimes. A recent communication (the authenticity of which appears to be above question) has, however, thrown some new and clear light upon the matter. Before laying it before the public it would be as well, perhaps, that I should refresh their memories as to the singular facts upon which this commentary is founded. These facts were briefly as follows:
At five o’clock on the evening of the 18th of March in the year already mentioned a train left Euston Station for Manchester.

from the story The Man with the Watches by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle