Friday, November 30, 2007

Emergency responders face deep aid cuts

By EILEEN SULLIVAN and DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writers
1 Dec 2007
"WASHINGTON - The Bush administration intends to slash counterterrorism funding for police, firefighters and rescue departments across the country by more than half next year, according to budget documents obtained by The Associated Press."

Mind you, I'm not sure this is BAD... BUT - it sure seems counter to W's claim to be fighting TERRORISM and Protecting the Homeland!

Am I missing something?

Stop the madness!

Taser probe: Trooper acted reasonably

By BROCK VERGAKIS, Associated Press Writer
1 Dec 2007
"SALT LAKE CITY - A Utah trooper who used a Taser to subdue a stubborn motorist who was walking away from him during a traffic stop felt threatened and acted reasonably, state officials said Friday."

"Felt threatened"??
... By an unarmed motorist???
... walking away from him????
... during a traffic stop?????

The country I know no longer exists.
"O'er the land of the free..."

Time to move to ... Canada? (if only for the winters!)

Amendment VI

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense." [U.S. Constitution, Amendment VI.]

Witness Names to Be Withheld From Detainee
Published: December 1, 2007
"Defense lawyers preparing for the war crimes trial of a 21-year-old Guantánamo detainee have been ordered by a military judge not to tell their client — or anyone else — the identity of witnesses against him, newly released documents show."

... "and so it goes." [Kurt Vonnegut]

A blast from the past

"A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
attributed to Sen. Everett Dirksen

[BUT: from The Dirksen Congressional Center
Did Dirksen ever say, " A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money"? (or anything very close to that?)

Perhaps not. Based on an exhaustive search of the paper and audio records of The Dirksen Congressional Center, staffers there have found no evidence that Dirksen ever uttered the phrase popularly attributed to him.

... Sigh. Another Urban Legend bites the dust!

Uh-oh! NOW what'll W do?

Top Businesses Demand Climate Action
Associated Press
"WASHINGTON - Some of the world's top business leaders are demanding that international diplomats meeting next week come up with drastic and urgent measures to cut greenhouse gas pollution at least in half by 2050.

"... Contrary to the argument that mandatory pollution cuts would harm the economy, the business leaders' petition says ambitious emissions reductions would 'create significant business opportunities.'

"... Other companies signing the British-based petition include Nike Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Virgin Group, Barclays PLC, Gap, Nokia, Pacific Gas and Electric, and the Rupert Murdoch-owned News Corp., which runs the conservative Fox News Channel."

And W? Always the quick learner:
Bush clings to anti-Kyoto stance ahead of climate talks
Published: Friday November 30, 2007
"US President George W. Bush, who rejected the Kyoto protocol, remains opposed to international constraints on curbing carbon emissions despite growing isolation ahead of a world climate summit.

"... The United States takes these challenges seriously and we are effectively confronting climate change through regulations, public-private partnerships, incentives and strong investment in new technologies," said the US president, reiterating his refusal to accept binding limits on greenhouse gases."
[emphasis added]

$196Bn... $196,000,000,000... for ONE year!

Bush seeks to pressure Democrats over war funds
By Caren Bohan and Susan Cornwell
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - ... During a visit to the Pentagon, Bush said delays in approving his $196 billion request for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars during the fiscal year that began October 1 would force cuts in military base operations across the United States."

Has W asked IRAQ for funding?
Iraq's pre-war oil production was 2.5Mn bbl/day. I'm guessing it's not quite back to pre-war levels. Let's say it's 2Mn bbl/day. Current price of oil is about $90/bbl. That comes to... let's see...
(2,000,000 bbl/day) x (365 day/year) x ($90/bbl) =
[drum roll, please...]
= $65,700,000,000/year.

Okay, it's not $196Bn... but it IS $65Bn. Could we have some of that to fund the war?

As I recall, we're there to help the Iraqis, right? Are they paying their fair share?

Note: The U.S. population is currently about 300,000,000... so that $196Bn is about $653.33/person. Could the Iraqis contribute the same per capita? Assuming pre-war population of 25,000,000 (and remember - the war refugees are all returning!), that'd be $16.33Bn - leaving $48.67Bn for the Iraqis!

Recall, "Iraq is a country that can really afford to finance its own reconstruction." [Paul Wolfowitz, 2003]

[What IS Iraq's current oil production? This seems like a metric that we ought to be reporting!]

A two-fer times two!

Panel says FDA losses jeopardize public
The Associated Press
30 Nov 2007
"WASHINGTON --A loss of scientific expertise at the Food and Drug Administration is threatening American lives, advisers to the embattled consumer protection agency conclude in a report released Friday."

Reversal of Endangered Species Rulings
Associated Press Writer
27 Nov 2007
"WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday reversed seven rulings that denied endangered species increased protection, after an investigation found the actions were tainted by political pressure from a former senior Interior Department official."

Both of these articles feature two prominent themes of W's Administration:
1) disdain for science
2) extreme pro-business bias

Note: I work for a large publicly held corporation. I am not anti-business. But it does strike me as odd when every decision of W's Administration favors business over all competing constituencies - consumers, the environment, public safety... it doesn't seem to matter: W be good for Biz!

the stories below are...

... unsourced. In fact, I made them up... so they're probably false... but - you know - they might be true.

1) Martha M, high school classmate of Mitt Romney, recalls that Mitt married his first cousin while a sophomore in high school. She has a copy of the marriage license. A search of court records reveals no divorce decree. The implication is that Romney is an incestuous bigamist.

2) Jonathan K, fellow Law Review staffer with Rudy Giuliani, reports that Rudy was a member of a secret Satanic sect that practiced animal sacrifice and bestiality.

3) Marvin C, former Congressional Page, has a tape-recording of John McCain stating that he would take the Oath of Office as President with his hand on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Now, if these stories are picked up on the Internets, will the Washington Post run a front-page article referring to them only as rumors which the candidates deny?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Do you want to win the war?"

“Do you want to win the war?”

Bill O’Reilly has used this apparently simple question as his opening gambit in interviews with folks he would characterize as “extremist kooks.”

I’d like to suggest two answers to this question:
1) We’ve already won!
2) We’ve already lost!

“We’ve already won!” is easy. All stated war aims have been achieved.
1) Iraq has no WMD
2) Saddam has been deposed
3) Democracy has been established in Iraq
a. Constitution written and approved by electorate
b. Parliamentary elections held
c. Government formed
Some might suggest that the continuing daily violence throughout Iraq somewhat diminishes the claim that “democracy has been established in Iraq.” Or perhaps they would argue that, yes, democracy has been established, but a stable government has yet to achieve control of the country – but this was never stated as an aim of the war.

With respect to the violence, in particular, I believe a counter-argument is ready to hand, courtesy of the former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld:
“Freedom's untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes and do bad things…"
From this perspective, Iraqis are exercising their freedom with a vengeance.

“We’ve already lost.”

Before getting too far into the details of this response, I’d like to quote extensively from a movie, Other People’s Money. The movie tells the tale of a Wall Street hustler, Lawrence Garfield (played entertainingly by Danny DeVito), and his effort to gain a controlling interest in a company whose physical assets are worth more than its market capitalization. The climactic scene is the annual shareholders’ meeting, at which will be decided whether or not Mr. Garfield can acquire, and then liquidate, the company.

The opposing side is represented by the company’s president, Andrew Jorgenson (played by Gregory Peck). Mr. Jorgenson is allowed to speak first, and delivers an impassioned plea to keep the company running, citing a number of economic factors that might result in its rejuvenation.

When “Jorgy” is finished, Mr. Garfield takes the stage, and proceeds to offer, “Amen, amen, and amen!” explaining that where he came from, you always said ‘amen’ at the end of a prayer, and that what “Jorgy” had offered the stockholders was just that: a prayer. He goes on to identify this particular prayer as a prayer for the dead.

“This company is dead. I didn't kill it. Don't blame me. It was dead when I got here. It's too late for prayers… Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the DECENCY to sign the death certificate, collect the insurance, and invest in something with a future.”

This is the basis of the response, “We’ve already lost in Iraq.” We lost it the day that Secretary Rumsfeld chose to make light of the riots and looting in Baghdad, rather than take the steps necessary to restore civil order quickly and effectively. What did Secretary Rumsfeld say about the rioting and looting? “Stuff happens.”

We had a brief window of opportunity to restore civil order, to show that we were serious about governing, about rebuilding, about restoring Iraqi society. Our response? “Stuff happens.” The bad guys – all those dead-enders Cheney & Rummy kept referencing – saw this and seized the opportunity which we squandered.

Don’t blame me, Vice President Cheney, President Bush, Bill O’Reilly, or William Kristol – I didn’t lose the war. It was lost when I got here. It’s too late for prayers.

Let’s have the intelligence, let’s have the decency to sign the death certificate.

Do I want to win the war? We’ve already won! We’ve already lost!

High-tech fantasies... bad psychology at DHS

Because we obsess about High-Tech Weapons systems, we imagine our enemies do the same. The effect? We focus on non-existent threats.

How has al Qaeda attacked us and others? With simple, low-tech weapons - bombs made of what amounts to fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) & diesel + a blasting cap. The original 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was such a device. The London 2005 bombings were such devices. The Madrid devices were such. The attack on our embassy in Kenya? The same. On the U.S.S. Cole? The same. The Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia? The same.

The WTC & Pentagon attacks on 9/11? Not even anything as sophisticated as fertilizer & diesel: box-cutters - used to take control of airliners. Yes, the attacks were spectacular, but they were LOW-TECH! [The OKC bombing - a domestic terror event - was also based on fertilizer +diesel fuel + blasting cap!]

On what does DHS focus? Nuclear attacks! Fancy 2-component liquid explosives. Dirty bombs.

Has our adversary ever used such devices? No!

The regulations in place prior to 9/11 prohibited box-cutters on airlines. The regulations simply weren't enforced. The 9/11 attacks were preventable within existing laws and regulations.

Now we're devoting who knows how many $ to preventing fancy radiological attacks!

"Know your enemy" is a fairly basic tenet of defense... we're ignoring it... and we're wasting who knows how many taxpayer $ in the process!

Just because we have a high-tech mentality does NOT mean that our enemy does, too. They've been very successful with fertilizer & diesel fuel!

[an aside: why am I NOT allowed to take a cigarette lighter on a plane, but I AM allowed to take a book of matches? I can light a fire just as easily with matches as with a lighter... I can even light a fire one-handed with the book of matches - it's not that hard!]

[another aside: has ANYONE ever successfully assembled a two-component liquid explosive with chemicals fabricated in a garage lab?... Returning to original point: we focus on the high-tech because that's how we view the world; BUT it has NOTHING to do with how our enemy is likely to behave!]


Gasoline prices:
W’s 1st inauguration:
23 Jan 2001: $1.471/gal
Just before Iraq invasion:
17 Mar 2003: $1.728/gal
Just before Katrina:
22 Aug 2005: $2.612/gal
Close to now
5 Nov 2007: $2.87/gal
W’s 1st inauguration –> just prior to Iraq invasion:
Annualized increase: 7.8%
Iraq invasion –> just before Katrina:
Annualized increase: 18.5%
Close to now:
Annualized increase since W's first inaugural: 11.8%

... Maybe that's why i don't feel so good about the economy!

would it be too much to ask...??

There seems to be agreement that
1) violence in Baghdad is down
2) this has not led to political reconciliation

How 'bout other signs of progress due to reduced violence?

I've seen nothing recently about infrastructure repair & restoration - Does Baghdad have more electricity now than a year ago?

How 'bout the road to the airport - once upon a time that was all the news: very dangerous! Has that improved? Can the casual tourist (?) catch a taxi from airport to central Bagdhad without worrying about being shot or kidnapped?

How 'bout oil production? Up? Down? Unchanged?... from a year ago.

These and similar markers of progress seem like they'd be easy enough to measure - why is no one reporting anything along these lines?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

"NATO Airstrike Kills 14 Afghan Road Workers"

NATO Airstrike
The "Rumsfeld Doctrine" continues to fail.
Reliance on hi-tech weapons systems, at the expense of boots on the ground, now can be assailed by three case-study counterexamples:
U.S. effort in Afghanistan
U.S. effort in Iraq
Israeli effort against Hezbollah/Lebanon (2006)

The purpose of war is to achieve a lasting peace, in most cases by imposing your will upon the enemy. If the enemy be a conventional army, weapons can enforce your will, compelling the enemy army's surrender.

If your enemy be a popular political movement using 'asymmetric warfare' tactics (i.e., guerilla warriors), weapons systems can only blow things up, not achieve a political success.

Air power is a blunt instrument. It cannot hold ground or control territory. It cannot impose our will on our adversaries. It can only blow things up, and that fairly indiscriminately. Every civilian we blow up with air power provides propaganda to recruit yet more guerilla fighters to oppose us.

The Pentagon is addicted to high-tech weapons systems, which, while perhaps appropriate to fight the Soviet Army, are completely inappropriate for the wars we are currently waging.

If Los Angeles or Detroit or St. Louis experienced the civil disorder seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, we'd mobilize the Nat'l Guard to restore order, imposing martial law if needed, with boots on every street corner.

We've not the man-power resources to marshall this response in our current imperial enterprises.

W's wars are failures. Say it loudly and often.

Tonight's Republican Debate!

<<< this page intentionally left blank >>>
I haven't watched any of the debates, Republican or Democratic.
I have no interest in the Republicans, and don't want to detest the Democrats come election day - best not to pay too much attention to 'em this early!

in OUR name!

“… any admission or denial of these allegations by defendants in this case would reveal the means and methods employed pursuant to this clandestine program and such a revelation would present a grave risk of injury to national security."
[U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, dismissing Khaled al-Masri's suit against the C.I.A. Mr. al-Masri was wrongfully kidnapped, sent to secret facility in Afghanistan, held for six months... a result of mistaken identity.]

A government that hides its acts behind the cloak of “national security” can only with difficulty claim to derive its power from the informed “consent of the governed.” An Executive that continually hides behind this cloak is not in any meaningful way subject to Legislative or Judicial restraint.

I am far from a Constitutional scholar, being only a private citizen who takes seriously the lessons he learned in eighth-grade Civics. I note that the Constitution was ordained and established by, “We, the people of the United States,” and that the term “national security” does not appear anywhere in the text. The “the security of a free State” is cited as the justification for the right to bear arms in the 2nd Amendment, in this context presumably granting citizens power against the government (though I suspect the devilish ambiguity is deliberate, allowing both Madison & Hamilton to claim victory). Amendments V, VI, & VIII seem to preclude “extraordinary rendition” and torture.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our Creature lives!

The Mahdi Militia: Quiet But Not Gone

The Mahdi Army and its leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, are OUR creations.

Moqtada al-Sadr was a 3rd-rate mullah until our Iraq envoy, Paul Bremer, shut down his newspaper... for publishing anti-coalition articles (so much for "freedom of the press"!).

At that point, he became empowered - by us. He was the face of anti-coalition sentiment. Emboldened by our stupidity, his Mahdi Army engaged the U.S. Army in Najaf... and fought it to a stand-still. This "victory" gave them street cred. They stood up to the mighty U.S. Army and walked away to fight another day!

When will this end?

Stop the madness!

"We hold these truths to be self-evident...

"... that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed..."

In common law "consent" is taken to be "informed consent."

How can we grant "informed" consent if we be kept ignorant?

A modest proposal: Declassify EVERYTHING, now, today.

Establish a special Court to rule on Classification.
[Article I, Section 8. "The Congress shall have power... To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court"]

"Innocent until proven guilty": all currently "classified" documents to be regarded as Public Domain unless proven to be deserving of classification in the interest of National Security. The burden of proof is on the Government to establish the National Security need.

Possible exceptions: directly weapons-related material ("how to build a hydrogen bomb") or material directly related to CURRENT espionage activity ("Jane Smith, Hector Ramirez, and Ellen Jacoby are our agents in Romania.").

Far too much that our Government does is invisible to We the People.

Stop the madness!

in praise of 8th-grade Civics!

All I know about the U.S. Constitution I learned in 8th-grade civics. Miss Gifford was my teacher. Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, Tulsa, OK. No one liked Miss Gifford - she was a stereotypical "old maid" social-studies teacher, near retirement.

BUT... the text was excellent. Your Rugged Constitution, now, sadly, out-of-print.

I heartily recommend this book, if not for you, then as a Christmas gift for your Representative or Senator. (No member of Congress seems to have ever READ the Constitution - it might do 'em good!)

give the Devil benefit of law? YES!

From Robert Bolt's, A Man for All Seasons

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!
[emphasis added]

This in a nutshell is the argument against torture, against "extraordinary rendition", against extra-legal anti-terrorist tactics of any kind. Those laws we ignore to get the bad guys are the very laws that protect US! We ignore them at our peril.

Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!

Cuppa Kafka, anyone?

Railroading A Journalist In Iraq
By Tom Curley
Saturday, November 24, 2007
The Washington Post

"... We believe Bilal's crime was taking photographs the U.S. government did not want its citizens to see. That he was part of a team of AP photographers who had just won a Pulitzer Prize for work in Iraq may have made Bilal even more of a marked man.

"... When will the court hold its first hearing? Sorry, can't tell you, except it will be on or after Nov. 29. Since we're trying to be cooperative, we will let you know the exact date at 6:30 a.m. the day of the hearing, if you're in Baghdad by then.

"What will Bilal be charged with? Sorry, can't tell you. The Iraqi judge who hears the evidence is the one who decides what charges will be filed.

"What evidence will the judge be basing that decision on? Sorry, can't tell you. In the Iraqi court system, we don't have to show our specific evidence until after we file the complaint with the court.

"Will Bilal be allowed to present evidence refuting your evidence that we can't see in advance? We don't know. He might be. Ask an Iraqi lawyer if you don't know how this works.

"... Further, if Bilal wins, he could still lose: The military has told us that even if the Iraqi courts acquit Bilal, it has the right to detain him if it still thinks he is an imminent security threat."

Monday, November 26, 2007

a digression: "Caractacus's uniform"

The post below references Claudius's subjugation of Britain.
Among the British heroes of this campaign was Caractacus, who was paraded through the streets of Rome as a captive in a formal Roman triumph.

The Modern Major-General in Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance reveals:
"Then I can write a washing-bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
and tell you every detail of Caractacus's uniform."

This has got to be a Victorian inside joke. John H. Foley's 1859 sculpture of Caractacus in front of London's Mansion House suggests that "Caractacus's uniform" was little more than a loin-cloth; memorizing the details of this uniform is NOT that great an achievement!

... hmmm... a 3rd possibility: the "I, Claudius" solution

... this is a continuation of the "Let's assume they're not idiots" post below.

A third possibility presents itself: the "I, Claudius" solution.

In the Robert Graves book, and PBS series based on the book, Claudius is portrayed as a strict Republican, who desperately wants to return Imperial Rome to the purity of the Roman Republic. To achieve this, when he is proclaimed Emperor by the Praetorian Guard, he resolves to govern as audaciously and as poorly as possible, the idea being to force the Senate to remove him and restore the Republic.

It doesn't work. The Senate is perfectly happy to tolerate his excesses, and he is (both in fiction and in fact) a fairly successful Emperor - extending Rome's domain to Britain, among other achievements.

Somehow I doubt that the W/Cheney cabal has in mind behaving so badly that Congress calls for a new Constitutional Convention to abolish the Presidency... but I guess it is a possibility!

Again: I assume that someone in W's Administration has at some time asked, "Do we really want to bequeath an unlimited Executive to our Democratic successor?"... and that W/Cheney have seen their way out of this dilemma. How?

Let's assume they're not idiots...

Note: I am not usually a conspiracy theorist... BUT...

W's Administration has done everything in its power to expand the Executive. They have asserted "inherent" Presidential powers based on an extremely expansive interpretation of the designation "Commander in chief." They have invoked the "state secrets" doctrine to thwart legitimate judicial challenges to Executive authority. They have asserted expansive "Executive privilege" to thwart Congressional oversight.

At some point, someone surely has asked, "Do we really want to bequeath an unlimited Executive to our Democratic successors?"

Two possibilities present themselves.
1. W and his minions truly believed in Rove's "permanent Republican majority."
2. They've something else in mind.

I find it hard to believe that anyone - even W - could buy into the notion of a PERMANENT Republican majority. I mean, Rove is good, but he's not THAT good! At some point in the future a Democrat would surely assume the Presidential mantle.

That leaves option #2: They've something else in mind.

Okay: just what is "something else"??

[warning: here comes raw "conspiracy theory"]

Let's assume the Democratic candidate leads in the polls come 15 Oct 2008. This is not an unwarranted assumption.

The W cabal cannot afford to hand over his carefully crafted expansive Executive to the Democrats. What other option do they have?


Orchestrate a "clear and present danger": an imminent threat to the the nation! With the help of the CIA and whatever other Executive agencies can help, stage a terrorist attack on the U.S. It probably isn't that hard to manipulate Hezbollah - give 'em some money, suggest a target. Hezbollah as the enemy has two advantages:
1. they are a non-state actor
2. they can easily and plausibly be linked to Iran

So, come 16 Oct, the U.S. experiences a terrorist attack from Hezbollah.

In response, W declares a "state of emergency" (learning lessons from his best bud, Musharraf). Martial law is declared. Elections are cancelled. The Permanent Republican Executive becomes a fact.

Do I believe this? ... well, not quite. BUT: neither will I be surprised if Dems are ahead in the polls in Oct and the U.S. is hit by terrorists a few weeks before the election!

did ANYONE buy this product???

Full disclosure: I NEVER supported the Iraq mis-adventure, believing "pre-emptive war" a very dangerous doctrine capable of "justifying" aggressive war.

BUT: Did any of the war's initial supporters think they were buying a "permanent U.S. presence in Iraq"???

It's sure not what we were sold at the time:
1. It would be cheap...
a. in manpower: "Mr. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the recent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki of the Army that several hundred thousand troops would be needed in postwar Iraq, 'wildly off the mark.' ", Paul Wolfowitz, 28 Feb 2003
[... because, you will recall, "Iraq has no history of ethnic strife"!]

b. in $: "There is a lot of money to pay for this. It does not have to be U.S. taxpayer money. We are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction." Paul Wolfowitz, 27 Mar 2003

2. It would be short:
"It could last, you know, six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."
SecDef Rumsfeld, 7 Feb 2003

Now we're being told we bought a PERMANENT PRESENCE IN IRAQ?????

Call your Better Business Bureau: this is a classic bait-and-switch!

Stop the madness!

In principle we can stop this!

White House Releases "Principles" for Permanent Iraqi Presence
By Spencer Ackerman - November 26, 2007
"After years of obfuscation and denial on the length of the U.S.'s stay in Iraq, the White House and the Maliki government have released a joint declaration of 'principles'for 'friendship and cooperation.' ... Iraq's leaders have asked for an enduring relationship with America, and we seek an enduring relationship with a democratic Iraq. We are ready to build that relationship in a sustainable way that protects our mutual interests, promotes regional stability, and requires fewer Coalition forces."

Yes, Article II states:
"[The President] shall have power... to make treaties"
BUT: there's an out!:
"[The President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur."

The Senate can, in principle, derail an Iraq/U.S. accord... supposing, of course, that W bothers to consult the Senate!


"Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, believes the White House has gone too far in invoking state secrets to halt civil lawsuits... Specter, Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and others are working on legislation that would direct federal judges to review the president's state secrets claims and allow cases with merit to go forward."
Congress, Courts Examine 'State Secrets'
Nov 26, 2007 By PAMELA HESS, AP
[State Secrets]

The "state secrets" doctrine, first asserted during height of Cold War & post-WWII Red Scare hysteria, is in desperate need of review. If judges simply accept Executive's claim without examining specifics case-by-case, the doctrine gives the Executive carte blanche to do anything without accountability.

In such ways are police states created.

Coupled with W Administration's claim of virtually unlimited "inherent" Presidential powers - somehow gleaned from Article II's designation of President as "commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States " - the "state secrets" doctrine establishes an unchecked, unlimited Executive.

Hurray for Arlen Specter!

Stop the madness.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

My favorite TV commercials

Warning: this post really is just what it says - "my favorite TV commercials"

1) Peyton Manning pep-talks. Of these, my favorite runs something like, "Tired of that gut? Want rock-hard abs? Let's face it, unless you're under 23 years of age, or a professional football player, it ain't gonna happen. My advice? Buy bigger shirts."

2) EBay "fox hunt": chasing the elusive vintage lunch-box. Yes, it IS better if you win it!

... BUT: I can't tell you what the Peyton Manning pep-talks are advertising! (The EBay spots are advertising EBay.)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A stroll down memory lane...

"THE PRESIDENT: They will try to hide, they will try to avoid the United States and our allies - but we're not going to let them. They run to the hills; they find holes to get in. And we will do whatever it takes to smoke them out and get them running, and we'll get them."
President Urges Readiness and Patience
Remarks by the President, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Attorney General John Ashcroft
Camp David
Thurmont, Maryland
15 Sep 2001
[We'll Get 'Em!]

... answered by...

"[Mullah] Omar: I am considering two promises. One is the promise of God, the other is that of Bush. The promise of God is that my land is vast. If you start a journey on God's path, you can reside anywhere on this earth and will be protected... The promise of Bush is that there is no place on earth where you can hide that I cannot find you. We will see which one of these two promises is fulfilled."
Mullah Omar - in his own words
Wednesday September 26, 2001
The Guardian
[No You Won't!]

Headline we'll never see:
Allah trumps W

Stop the madness!

I'm beginning to think I'll vote Republican for Prez...

... if only because I think it cruel to saddle a Democrat with W's mess.

The latest:
Bush Ally Defeated in Australia Election

Our position in the international community continues to deteriorate. I note that Poland has also announced that all its troops will be withdrawn from Iraq in 2008.

Yes, I want a Democrat to win the Presidency in 2008... but I'm not sure I have the heart to deliver W's mess to anyone for whom I have even an inkling of compassion!

The Republicans will almost certainly frame the Iraq debacle, the recession, and everything else that W has touched, as the fault of the incoming Democratic administration - and the media will eat it up with a spoon!

Recall: W assumed the mantle in peacetime, with the first budget surplus in more than a decade. I'm betting there's an appropriate Greek analog for the anti-Midas touch, but I don't know what it is... whatever the name is, W has it!

AND - and this is the point that needs to be stressed, repeated, emphasized - his Congressional enablers are just as much to blame.

Stop the madness!

can I have this job?

Lee Corso, on what it'll take for OU to beat Mizzou in Big 12 Championship game:
"Oklahoma's gonna have to outscore 'em!"

a good thing from TPM

Bush Admin: What You Don't Know Can't Hurt Us, 2007 Version

By Paul Kiel - November 23, 2007, 1:16PM
[What you don't know]

Do W/Cheney REALLY want to bequeath an unlimited Executive to the Democrats???? ... or do they truly believe in the Permanent Republican Majority?

The 'golden rule' is not a bad basis for practical morality. Did no one in W's Administration ever ask, "Do we want the next Democratic President to have this power?"

(I don't remember where I first saw this: the Golden Rule in action... two kids dividing an apple: "I'll cut, you pick.")

Stop the madness!

more "fun games" with Iraq stories...

Below I suggested taking any MSM article on Iraq and replacing the terms "insurgents" and "militias" with the alternatives "nationalists" or "patriots" or "freedom-fighters."

Here's something else to try: replace the terms "Iraqi Government" or "Iraqi Unity Government" with the phrase, "U.S. Puppet Government."

It's fun! Anyone can play!

Stop the madness!!

"A long hard slog..."

A popular definition of insanity: Keep doing the same thing over and over, and expect different results.

U.S. blames Shiites in new Iraq violence
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer

Several years ago McCain called the U.S. so-called "strategy" in Iraq 'Whack-a-Mole'. It hasn't changed.

Our military leaders have recently acknowledged that "Al Qaeda in Iraq" is no longer the problem (if it ever was). Various nationalist groups - most opposed to the current puppet regime - are the problem.

Note: calling the various opposition elements "nationalist groups" changes the dialog.

Here's a fun game:
Take any MSM article on Iraq. Replace all references to "insurgents" or "militias" with the terms "nationalists", or "patriots", or "freedom-fighters." The substance of the article will not change, but the tone will, dramatically.

All original war aims have been achieved:
Iraq has no WMD.
Saddam has been deposed.
There is an Iraqi Constitution & Government.

No one has yet articulated any new strategic objective. Lacking a strategic objective, arguments about "strategy" are pointless.

Stop the madness!

Friday, November 23, 2007

FDL: "What will it take...?"

"What will it take for the major US media to acknowledge that the Bush/Cheney regime’s actions and views on the limits of executive power represent an unprecedented threat to America’s Constitutional democracy, its national security, and its moral standing in the world?"

Read the entire post - it's a doozy! (I mean 'doozy' as a compliment!):
W's friend/

Markos said it!

"The point of this (other than that I'm an idiot)? Nothing is yet decided. Even candidates who look like they stand no chance in November, can turn things around very quickly.

"So whoever you're supporting, get out there and work your butts off through the month of December."
[Do Something!]

... and, when October 2008 rolls around, remember: the only poll that counts is conducted on Election Day!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.
It's secular - religious overtones are secondary.
It's American - the rest of world goes on happily without us.

Most of all, for me the basic premise - giving thanks - is a good thing. Yes, I am thankful for my family, for my undeserved good-fortune in life, for friends.

Most of my family is in town. None of us started out here - we all just ended up here. I've 3 sisters. 2 of 'em are in town, with their husbands. My mom is in town. My wife's folks are in town. Her sister & bro-in-law are in town. A sister's sister-in-law is in town. Our kids are in town. My daughter-in-law's folks are in town.

What this means from a Thankgiving perspective is that we enjoy a pretty phenomenal feast each year. Someone volunteers to host - this year it was my son & daughter-in-law. Host is responsible for turkey. Everything else is provided by everyone else. Everyone brings enough to feed everyone.

My bad: I do not feel guilty about this surfeit. I AM thankful!

So: Happy Thanksgiving, with friends & family!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

YouTube: a power for good!

Trooper zaps driver over speeding ticket
"Wed Nov 21, 5:20 PM ET
"SALT LAKE CITY - Authorities are speeding up their investigation of a state trooper who zapped a motorist with a Taser now that video of the traffic stop has been posted on YouTube, the Utah Highway Patrol said Wednesday."
[YouTube Good!]
-(emphasis added)

On the bright side, technology CAN help We the People take back our country!

Is it too much too ask for a "strategic objective"?

To surge or not to surge?
To bring the troops home today, or next month, or next year, or next decade?
It is impossible to answer questions regarding appropriate strategy in the absence of a strategic objective.

To date I've heard NO ONE suggest just what that strategic objective might be.

Not Congressional leaders, not the Presidential Candidates of either party, certainly not W or his Administration.

All prattle on about "strategy" in a vacuum.

What, exactly, is our strategic objective in Iraq?

In a High-Performance Teams training workshop which I attended several years ago, one of the teams came up with a pretty good idea: "begin at the end." What does the end-state look like? Where are we now? How are we going to get from where we are now to the end-state we seek? Knowing where we are now isn't sufficient: if you don't know where you're going, likely you'll not get to someplace you want.

Is it too much to ask our leaders - in Congress, in DoD, in Dept of State, on the campaign trail - to clearly define the end state we seek in Iraq?

Maybe if we knew where we wanted to go we could have productive discussions about how to get there. Without that end-state in mind, all the babble about troop deployments, Iraqi intransigence, etc., is meaningless.

AP challenges photographer's detention

By DAVID CRARY, AP National Writer
NEW YORK - A series of accusations raised by the U.S. military against an Associated Press photographer detained for 19 months in Iraq are false or meaningless, according to an intensive AP investigation of the case made public Wednesday.

THIS is what unlimited executive authority looks like!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Our intrepid national press

The news we get:
"Iraq! WMD! Smoking-gun!"
"Saddam hosts birthday party for Osama!"
"Wen Ho Lee: Ace of Spies!"

The news we don't get:
"W lies about Plame leak"
"Gonzalez pronounces Constitution 'quaint'!"
"U.S. Launches Illegal War of Aggression!"

Is this really what they want?

A. 1. The recent State of Emergency in Pakistan has caused W's Administration great consternation, as well it should.
Don't W & Cheney realize: THIS is what unlimited executive authority looks like?

2. W, Cheney,... even Condi - all deplore Venezuela's elected dictator, Hugo Chavez.
Don't they realize: THIS is what unlimited executive authority looks like?

B. Do W/Cheney really want to bequeath a STRENGTHENED Executive to the Democrats? ... Or, did they really believe in the Permanent Republican Majority?

free advice for WH correspondents!

"I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice President, the President's chief of staff, and the president himself."
Scott McClellan, former WH press sec'y.

Advice for WH correspondents (free!): Assume anything you're told in WH briefing room is a lie. Dig. Make your reputation by refuting the lie. (It's called "journalism"!)

the problem with Star Chambers

Amendment IV: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime... nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law..."
Amendment V: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial... to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor..."

Moussaoui judge questions government
By MATTHEW BARAKAT, Associated Press Writer
McLEAN, Va. - A federal judge expressed frustration Tuesday that the government provided wrong information about evidence in the prosecution of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, raising the possibility of ordering a new trial in another high-profile terrorism case.

Monday, November 19, 2007

"We are a disease"

So far I've received exactly one comment on one post. I was delighted to get a comment... but I don't understand it. It did, however, include the observation that "we are a disease." I'm going to riff on that - it happens to coincide with a thought I've long harbored and never expressed publicly... well, my thought and the thought of the person who posted the comment are probably not the same, but at least I can riff on the words: "We are a disease."

Here goes: "Ethical monotheism is a disease from which the human race will be lucky to recover." I use the phrase "ethical monotheism" to identify the three great Religions of the the Book - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam... and to distinguish these from the monotheism of, say, Akhenaten, who promoted sun-worship.

Each of the three great Religions of the Book claims to have THE EXCLUSIVE TRUTH. As a result, each is, well... exclusive. This exclusivity implies intolerance... and, though I don't think it's a necessary concomittant of this exclusivity, each is to some extent anti-rational. You can't argue with someone who has the revealed truth. Maybe you can in theory, but not in practice. They have the TRUTH.

It doesn't seem to bother any of the adherents that the particular brand of Revealed Truth they accept is largely dependent on where they were born. There's a really good chance that if you were born in Saudi Arabia, your Book is the Qur'an and you're of the Sunni persuasion; Tehran? - again, likely Qur'an, but this time Shi'ite. If you're from Winfield, Kansas, USA, it's a good bet you're some flavor of Christian... probably Protestant. Born in Tel Aviv? I bet you're an Orthodox Jew - maybe not practicing. How come G-d reveals Himself so differently based on locality? The accident of birth seems to be the primary determining factor. If you happen to have been born in Shanghai, you probably don't understand ANY of this!

Yeah, there are cases of conversion from one Book to another, but it's not the rule.

Full disclosure: I sing in a Lutheran church choir.

The three Books - and their interpretations by believers - are mutually exclusive. They cannot honestly be reconciled. They can't all be THE TRUTH.

Me? I'm agnostic. There may be a G-d, who knows? He may have revealed himself through history. He may care about us. BUT - He cannot have given us three mutually exclusive TRUTHS.

Believers cannot agree with me. They have THE TRUTH.

As stated above: ethical monotheism is a disease from which the human race will be lucky to recover.

Rhetoric - it's not a dirty word!

"Rhetoric" has somehow become a dirty word. "That's just rhetoric" is meant as a put-down.

Until about a century ago rhetoric maintained a central place in education. It has since been replaced in the English curriculum by the study of literature. Don't get me wrong, I don't have anything against literature!... BUT - in the process we've discarded the study of rhetoric, which, at its heart, is simply the art of arguing.

We all like to argue.

I wouldn't be publishing this blog if I didn't enjoy argument.

I am not well-trained in rhetoric... but I try. At least I try to recognize the rhetorical tricks of my adversaries - and to learn how to get around 'em. The 'false dichotomy' is a very common rhetorical trick (and logical fallacy). "National security or human rights?" "Amnesty or Incarceration?" "With us or against us?"

The point of argument - the point of rhetoric - is not to score points. The point is to win the argument... 'winning' defined as getting others to do what you want 'em to do. In my case, I want others to recognize that our Constitution is under assault, that this is bad, and that unless we act, we - or our children - will find ourselves the happy citizens of a police state.

I recommend to my readers (?) the wonderful little book, "Thank you for arguing", by Jay Heinrichs. This is a book on classical rhetoric, written in a modern idiom. You'll like it!

the false dichotomy trap...

"human rights" or "national security"?
This is a false dichotomy.
The correct answer is, "Yes!"

For more than two centuries this country has defended itself while - at least in principle - respecting CIVIL rights.

There is no inherent conflict.

I would go so far as to say that, if there is an apparent conflict, that conflict itself is evidence that we have failed at "national security": We have failed to preserve the ideals upon which this country is based, as embodied in OUR Constitution; we have failed to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

A quotation, attributed with some semblance of legitimate pedigree to Benjamin Franklin, sums up the matter nicely:
"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

the gifts that keep on giving

I'll admit it: I give money to candidates, PACs, and, until recently, to DCCC & DSCC. (I've since resolved to give $ only to ActBlue and ActBlue sponsored candidates - the current so-called Democrats in Congress make me leary of supporting Dem incumbents.)

As a result of this generosity, I get lots of mail. Today I got a letter from a Democratic candidate in Washington state I'd never heard of. For all I know she's a really good candidate - and she wants me to be her friend!

I'm not complaining. In fact, I find it amusing. My circular file for unwanted mail is about 2 feet from the mail slot, so it's really easy to ignore these invitations.

I was sending $ to Dem candidate for NM-1, which happens to be my district. With each contribution I included the request that he NOT send me an acknowledgment, believing the postage was a waste of campaign $. This request was ignored, over and over. I finally stopped sending him $. In part this was just peevishness, but I justify it on more serious grounds along the lines of, "If he can't even pay attention to this simple request from a constituent, will he be attentive to his constituents if elected?"

Meanwhile, I get lots more mail than I used to.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My, how times change!

A little historical irony.
From the Declaration of Independence:
"He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands."

The "He" is, of course, King George III... and he is here chided for restricting immigration and making it more difficult to Naturalize Foreigners!

The good (i.e., OUR friendly) Taliban

"Report: Court sentences rape victim
Fri Nov 16, 12:27 AM ET
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes — more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported Thursday."

Recall, Saudi Arabia provided the model for ALL government institutions implemented by the Taliban in Afghanistan, including the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

While you're recalling things, also recall that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudis.

Saudi Arabia is a monarchy which has only recently, and in a very limited fashion, experimented with democracy - in the form of local elections. The ruling House of Saud is dependent on Salafist Islamic institutions for popular support and legitimacy as guardians of the Land of the Two Mosques.

... and they're best buds with W and the U.S.!!!

the RIGHT way to frame war-funding stories!

"Republicans Block War Funding, But McConnell's Tricky Move Is Rebuffed
By Greg Sargent - November 16, 2007, 11:20AM"

Note: Headline focuses on REPUBLICAN intransigence, AND uses a strong negative verb: "BLOCK"! This is how all headlines on progressive blogs ought be written!

More "road to hell... and forget the good intentions"

Senate Surveillance Bill Still Authorizes Warrantless Surveillance
By Spencer Ackerman - November 16, 2007, 3:31PM

Write, call, email your Senators!
Send 'em a copy of the 4th Amendment while you're at it.

Tell me again: Why are we there?

"Iraqi government is key threat to effort, U.S. says
Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post
Nov. 15, 2007 12:00 AM

"CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - Senior military commanders here now portray the intransigence of Iraq's Shiite-dominated government as the key threat facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaida terrorists, Sunni insurgents or Iranian-backed militias."

... and then there's this:

British General: Our Presence ‘Instigated’ Violence In Iraq, ‘90 Percent’ Reduction After Withdrawal...
According to Maj. Gen. Graham Binns, commander of British forces in Basra, the presence of British troops instigated violence. Now, violence has reportedly dropped to one-tenth that of earlier levels:

The presence of British forces in downtown Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, was the single largest instigator of violence, Maj. Gen. Graham Binns told reporters Thursday on a visit to Baghdad’s Green Zone.

“We thought, ‘If 90 percent of the violence is directed at us, what would happen if we stepped back?,’” Binns said.

[from the always informative Think Progress,]

I'm back. Did anyone miss me?

Out of town on biz for a couple of days. Now back, and ready to pose pressing questions:
Pressing Question #1. How did immigration become the issue it is? Seems that one day no one really cared, and the next it was all the rage. This happened, what?... two years ago? Two large themes prevent me from getting all excited about 'illegal immigration':

theme 1: The U.S. seems to experience anti-immigrant paroxysms with some regularity; these sometimes are framed as 'national security' concerns (e.g., post WWI "Palmer raids"), sometimes in terms of economic threat posed by immigrants (e.g., "The Gangs of New York" portrayal of mid-19th century anti-Irish sentiment), and sometimes as pure racism (the anti-Chinese quotas imposed late 19th & early 20th centuries). Though today's paroxysm features elements of all three frames, I am confident that it, too, will pass.

theme 2: There really are more pressing issues - Iraq, economy (nat'l debt, subprime crisis, incipient inflation, energy $, etc), and - what this blog is notionally devoted to - the erosion of Constitutional govt. Maybe when we resolve these I'll start worrying about illegal immigration...

Pressing Question #2: Why is rescuing Social Security ALWAYS a campaign theme???? Not only ALWAYS a theme, but always a theme FOR BOTH PARTIES??? Maybe my memory is just not that great, but I seem to recall DIRE PREDICTIONS about Social Security in the '70s. I'm one of those soon-to-be-retiring Baby Boomers and this has NEVER struck a chord with me. Sigh.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our mercenaries at work

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 — Federal agents investigating the Sept. 16 episode in which Blackwater security personnel shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians have found that at least 14 of the shootings were unjustified and violated deadly-force rules in effect for security contractors in Iraq, according to civilian and military officials briefed on the case.

Yes, these guys are OUR mercenaries. Unless we manage to shut 'em down, they are representing US, winning hearts and minds in OUR names.

Stop the madness!

Bush promises to rebuild Justice Dept.

WASHINGTON - President Bush welcomed Michael Mukasey back into government Wednesday and promised to help the new attorney general rebuild the top leadership of the beleaguered Justice Department.
By LARA JAKES JORDAN, Associated Press Writer

Why am I not feeling warm and fuzzy about W's commitment to "help"???
... oh, yeah - he's the one that screwed up DoJ to begin with!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I ran, he ran, you ran, they ran...

Scott Horton of Harper's make a nice case that W/Cheney will NOT bomb Iran.
(linked from the always delightful

The arguments presented include conservative think-tank studies regarding impact on oil prices, U.S. military reluctance to embark on such a course, shifts in Israeli analysis/policy, and suggestions of better ways to confront Iran on nukes (the N. Korea model).

The effect is a nice warm-and-fuzzy feeling that Cheney will be disappointed.

I am not convinced. I still look for bogus 'event' in early/mid October '08, used by W/Cheney to justify:
a) bombing Iran
b) 'postponing' Nov elections

Digby nails it (as usual)

"One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian state is surveillance of its own citizens --- if you give them the power they will use it to gain more. It's inevitable. We Americans should be guarding our privacy more zealously than ever and insisting that our representatives find ways to ensure that the government does not repeal the fourth amendment in slow motion."

Monday, November 12, 2007

"NewSpeak" is here again...

"Allies of Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, have told The Sunday Telegraph that the Prime Minister should emulate France's President Nicolas Sarkozy and warn that Iran may face military action, in order to help avert a new war in the Middle East."

"... Iran may face military action, IN ORDER TO HELP AVERT A NEW WAR..."!!!!

This is impossible to satirize.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

the road to hell... forget good intentions!

All we have to distinguish ourselves as a nation is the U.S. Constitution. If we let - allow, permit, tolerate, approve of - public officials who seek to weaken this document, we deserve what we get.

Intel Official: Expect Less Privacy
PAMELA HESS | November 11, 2007
WASHINGTON — As Congress debates new rules for government eavesdropping, a top intelligence official says it is time that people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people's private communications and financial information.


another repost: Fallon to the rescue!

In the best of all possible worlds, CentCom commander Adm Fallon will prevent W/Cheney from launching 'pre-emptive' strike against Iraq. From Think Progress today:

Fallon: U.S. strike on Iran ‘not being prepared.’Admiral William Fallon, the head of U.S. Central Command, said a strike against Iran is “not in the offing.” Fallon added that the rhetoric of right-wing war hawks is unhelpful:

“None of this is helped by the continuing stories that just keep going around and around and around that any day now there will be another war which is just not where we want to go,” he said.

“Getting Iranian behaviour to change and finding ways to get them to come to their senses and do that is the real objective. Attacking them as a means to get to that spot strikes me as being not the first choice in my book.”

November 11, 2007 8:33 pm

$611Bn... a repost - a deal for Saddam

"If the Bush administration succeeds in its latest request for funding for the war in Iraq, the total cost would rise to $611.5 billion, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit research group."

Let’s travel back in time: imagine it is now 3 Jan 2003; the 108th Congress has just convened.

Suppose some eager new member in the House or Senate had proposed the following bill:

To buy Iraq’s entire petroleum output for $80/bbl for the next five (5) years.

In my imagination, that deluded gentleman or lady would have been laughed off the floor.

On 3 Jan 2003, the price of oil was hovering around $30/bbl. In Saddam’s pre-war Iraq, production was running around 2.5Mn bbls/day. Let’s be generous and say Iraq produced 3Mn bbls/day.

That $80/bbl offer might have looked pretty good to Saddam: a 167% mark-up from currently prevailing prices. He just might have considered it. Had he taken the deal, he might have felt a bit more willing to support U.S. interests in Iraq and the region.

What would this five-year contract have cost the U.S. taxpayer?
$80/bbl x 3Mn bbls/day x 365 days/year x 5 years = $438Bn.

What has the war cost to date (less than 5 years since it started)?
The best guess I can find is provided by The National Priorities Project, which estimates cost-to-date of $460Bn. [15 Oct 2007]

That ludicrous, laughable five-year, $80/bbl contract with Saddam doesn’t seem as ludicrous anymore!

… AND: we’d have the oil! We could have simply GIVEN it to Exxon/Mobil and other Big Oil companies – surely this would have had SOME positive effect on price of gasoline at the pump for American consumers! (It probably would have been a good deal for W’s oil-patch buddies to boot!)

Friday, November 9, 2007

TelCo Immunity: what am I missing?

Article I, section 9:
"No bill of attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed."

How is retroactively granting Telecoms immunity for breaking the law at the request of W and his minions NOT an ex post facto law?????

"An ex post facto law (from the Latin for "from something done afterward") or retrospective law, is a law that retrospectively changes the legal consequences of acts committed or the legal status of facts and relationships that existed prior to the enactment of the law. In reference to criminal law, it may criminalize actions that were legal when committed; or it may aggravate a crime by bringing it into a more severe category than it was in at the time it was committed; or it may change or increase the punishment prescribed for a crime, such as by adding new penalties or extending terms; or it may alter the rules of evidence in order to make conviction for a crime more likely than it would have been at the time of the action for which a defendant is prosecuted. Conversely, a form of ex post facto law commonly known as an amnesty law may decriminalize certain acts or alleviate possible punishments (for example by replacing the death sentence with life-long imprisonment) retrospectively." [Wikipedia,]

"Hagel mocks Bush’s Iran strategy."
(the wonderful Think Progress!)

“Well, our current strategy has been working so well, don’t you think?” [Sen. Chuck Hagel, (R-NE)]

Finally, someone has found just the right tone to address W: mockery!
Mockery, ridicule, satire... these can be potent rhetorical tools.
Let's all try to use 'em a bit more.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Senate moves to confirm Mukasey as AG

"Thank you, sir! May I have another?"

14.5 more months. Will we survive? Support ActBlue!

If life gives you lemons...

... and if life gives you a Bush, make mulch!

(I think 2 posts/day are minimum requirement for a healthy blog... today at work was too hectic for me to keep up with anything, so these 2 poor posts will have to do!)

U.S. Constitution, Preamble

No commentary:
"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

What's REALLY wrong with Mukasey

Most of the bad press Mukasey has been getting focuses on his inability or unwillingness to declare 'waterboarding' torture.

For me, the bigger objection is his view of Presidential authority to circumvent the law.
From 2nd day of hearings:
"LEAHY: Well, Judge, ... where Congress has clearly legislated in an area, as we've done in the area of surveillance with the FISA law, something we've amended repeatedly at the request of various administrations, if somebody -- if it's been legislated and stated very clearly what must be done, if you operate outside of that, whether it's with a presidential authorization or anything else, wouldn't that be illegal?
MUKASEY: That would have to depend on whether what goes outside the statute nonetheless lies within the authority of the president to defend the country. "

That's right. Mukasey supports the idea that the President has the authority to act outside the law, "to defend the country." This is far more worrisome to me than the legal status of waterboarding.

Admiral Fallon: our last best hope?

George Will today suggests that Congress has all the power it needs to end the war in Iraq, and to keep us from attacking Iran... but questions whether or not they'll exercise this power. [Congress's Unused War Powers,]

I'm pinning my hopes on CentCom Commander, Admiral Fallon.

"CENTCOM Commander’s Veto Sank Bush’s Threatening Gulf Buildup"
by Gareth Porter, Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The article notes that,
'Fallon’s refusal to support a further naval buildup in the Gulf reflected his firm opposition to an attack on Iran and an apparent readiness to put his career on the line to prevent it. A source who met privately with Fallon around the time of his confirmation hearing and who insists on anonymity quoted Fallon as saying that an attack on Iran “will not happen on my watch”.'

A fantasy:
W/Cheney order an airstrike on Iran from Persian Gulf-based carrier group. The order is routed through Adm Fallon as CentCom Commander. He gives direct lawful order to his subordinates to NOT attack Iran; flies to D.C.; hastily schedules address to joint session of Congress; and declares that, in his opinion, W has just committed a war crime by ordering an attack on Iran without provocation. He beseeches the Congress to undertake impeachment against both W and Darth immediately.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

"Connecting the dots"

In the immediate post-9/11 discussion, all the focus was on ‘connecting the dots.’ It was acknowledged that sufficient data existed to ferret out the plot – Saudi nationals getting pilot’s licenses, folks on ‘terrorist watch lists’ being admitted into the country, etc. The hue & cry was for additional ability/willingness to ‘connect the dots’. Bureaucratic inertia and ineptness were high-lighted as barriers to ‘connecting the dots.’

In the legislative fury that ensued, this was forgotten. Instead, the focus turned to generating more dots: let’s get more and more raw intelligence! More raw intelligence does NOT produce better intelligence. Better analysis and more institutional flexibility produce better intelligence. This has been forgotten.

It's frequently stated that the so-called Patriot Act closes 'loopholes' in the laws that were exploited by the 9/11 terrorists... but no one to my knowledge has EVER identified a SPECIFIC "loophole in the laws" exploited by the 9/11 hijackers. FISA has been serving us well - if just a bit extra-Contitutionally - since 1978.

We don't need more raw intelligence data, we need better analysis and more institutional responsiveness.

See Richard J. Heuer, Jr, "The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis"; available in full on-line:
MS Word:

just for fun: comment on very old news

What I was hoping a Senate Judiciary Committee member would ask Samuel Alito during his confirmation hearing:
"How does it feel to know that President Bush thinks you're the SECOND most qualified person for this job... AFTER Harriet Meiers?"

$460B military bill omits war funds

"WASHINGTON - House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday on a $460 billion Pentagon bill that bankrolls pricey weapons systems and bomb-resistant vehicles for troops, but does not pay for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "

Ah, yes - more high-priced high-tech weapons systems.
When will they ever learn?

The Pentagon is addicted to high-tech weapons systems. SOME of them MAY have been appropriate when we contemplated fighting the Soviet Army.

Three recent experiences suggest that high-tech doesn't win today's wars:
1. U.S. in Afghanistan: yeah, we chased the Taliban out with cruise missiles and bombs... but they're back. We have yet to win the war. Why? No boots on the ground. Osama got away - cruise missiles & bombs didn't get him. How'd he get away? We relied on small U.S. ground force + smaller contingent of friendly Afghan allies.
2. U.S. in Iraq. Yeah, cruise missiles and bombs drove Saddam from power... leaving a power vacuum now being filled by militias, 'insurgents' of various flavors, and chaos. Why? High-tech weapons don't win wars. Winning this war (and the one in Afghanistan) required establishing order and controlling the population while civil & political order was established - boots on ground needed, but absent.
3. Israel in Lebanon (summer, 2006). Yeah, Israel missiles & bombs destroyed lots of Lebanese infrastructure, but who won the war? Hezbollah. Again - 'winning' in this case means imposing one's will on the population, which high-tech weapons systems cannot do.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine is dead, but we continue to build high-tech weapons systems of limited utility. Why?

Bumper Sticker

"I never thought I'd miss Nixon!"

Bush beats Nixon’s disapproval ratings.

'Sixty-four percent of Americans disapprove of the job President Bush is doing, and for “the first time in the history of the Gallup Poll, 50% say they ’strongly disapprove’ of the president. Richard Nixon had reached the previous high, 48%, just before an impeachment inquiry was launched in 1974.” '

Again I ask: What are Congressional so-called Democrats afraid of????
Why do they continue to cave to this loser?

This repetitious refrain is getting boring, but what else can you do?

Stop the madness!

Senate Judiciary approves Mukasey nomination

This is the last straw for me.
No more $ to DNC, DSCC, DCCC. All $ to ActBlue and ActBlue-supported candidates.

An Attorney General who cannot distinguish torture from humane treatment, and who believes the President's 'inherent powers' trump the law, provides positive evidence for absence of character and courage. To put DoJ back on sane, Constitutional path requires character & courage.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Veiled threat...

I volunteered for Dem candidate in 2006 (a losing candidate I'm afraid).
I'll likely volunteer for Dem candidate in 2008.

Nevertheless, if current crop of Dems continues to cave to W, my extra $ will go exclusively to ActBlue candidates, even against Dem incumbents.

I've voted 3rd-party before, I can easily do so again. If you're a Dem voting to support W's failed policies (too many to list), I'm agin' ya!

We - the voters (I among them) - gave you Congressional majorities in 2006 for a reason: to oppose W. You ain't doin' it! 2008 could be a nasty surprise if others adopt my attitude.

Stop the madness!

Write letters!

Yeah, I know: They Don't Listen.

Don't let that stop you. If enough folks write, they WILL listen.
Advice: accompany each and every letter with $... and a veiled threat!

If you're writing DNC, include check to DNC.
If to DCCC, include check to DCCC.
If to DSCC, include check to DSCC.

If to a House member, include $ to his/her campaign committee.
If to a Senator, 2 options:
1) if Senator up for re-election in 2008, include $ to his/her campaign committee.
2) if Senator not up for re-election in 2008, include $ to DSCC.

Veiled threat: "p.s. I have no problem supporting ActBlue candidates against incumbent Democrats."

Stop the madness!

Not just bitchin'

It's not enough to post on blogs. Our voices must be HEARD!
Write letters!
(Yes, I know - "they don't listen."... accompany every letter with $. It doesn't have to be a lot: $5, $10. If writing to a member of the House, give $ to his/her campaign committee; if to Senate, 2 options: if Senator is running in 2008, give to campaign committee; if not, give to DSCC - include check with correspondence.)

Sample letter:
6 Nov 2007

To: Senator Harry Reid, U.S. Senate Majority Leader
From: donor of very small $ to DSCC... and an Independent voter

Subj: A message for you & your Democratic colleagues in the Senate

We elected DEMOCRATS to Congressional majorities in 2006 for one reason: to stand up to W and his minions!

Iraq? NO!
Torture? NO!
Warrantless wiretaps? NO!

If current so-called Democrats don’t get this message I think it safe to say many 2006 supporters will desert ‘em in 2008. We likely won’t vote Republican, but we’ll find a convenient third-party candidate or simply stay home on 4 Nov 2008.

If Democrats are simply warmer-and-fuzzier Republicans, what’s the point?

Stop the madness!


Sunday, November 4, 2007

75 percent = ...

'Number of Americans who are “eager for a change in direction from the agenda and priorities of President Bush,” according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. With just 24 percent of the public believing the Bush administration is leading the nation on the right track, it is the “lowest public assessment of the direction of the country in more than a decade.”'

Why do Congressional Democrats continue to cave to W and his minions?

We elected them in 2006 to stand up to W, not to act like warmer-and-fuzzier republicans!

Mukasey? NO!
Toothless FISA? NO!
More tax cuts? NO!
End W's Iraq fiasco? YES!

If current Congressional so-called Democrats don't get this, we'll replace 'em with folks who do!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Idle thought: character matters

Perhaps if the electorate had taken more seriously W's personal history of academic, business, and personal failures, he'd not now be #43. Character matters. Biography matters as it relates to character.

In judging the 2008 field, pay attention to biography as it sheds light on character. "A leopard cannot change its spots."

Candidates with a history of failure (academic, business, personal) are likely to continue to fail. Candidates with a history of "being all things to all people" will continue to dissemble. Liars - even little-white-liars - will continue to lie. Those who have run away from danger are unlikely now to demonstrate courage.

On the positive side, candidates whose biographies demonstrate courage, honesty, charity, and success are unlikely to turn into mendacious cowards.

I mean to point the finger at no one in particular - this is just an observation that may prove useful.

Musharraf declares "State of Emergency"

W must be beside himself with envy! Wonder if he's called his bud Musharraf to get tips on declaring "state of emergency" here at home?

Suspending the Constitution (not just ignoring it!), shutting down non-supportive media, silencing the courts: this sounds like W's dream come true!

[note: I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I do entertain a not quite tongue-in-cheek suspicion that W/Cheney will manufacture a 'terrorist' event in Oct 2008 to justify canceling elections in Nov.]

A deal for Saddam - Jan, 2003

Let’s travel back in time: imagine it is now 3 Jan 2003; the 108th Congress has just convened.

Suppose some eager new member in the House or Senate had proposed the following bill:

To buy Iraq’s entire petroleum output for $80/bbl for the next five (5) years.

In my imagination, that deluded gentleman or lady would have been laughed off the floor.

On 3 Jan 2003, the price of oil was hovering around $30/bbl. In Saddam’s pre-war Iraq, production was running around 2.5Mn bbls/day. Let’s be generous and say Iraq produced 3Mn bbls/day.

That $80/bbl offer might have looked pretty good to Saddam: a 167% mark-up from currently prevailing prices. He just might have considered it. Had he taken the deal, he might have felt a bit more willing to support U.S. interests in Iraq and the region.

What would this five-year contract have cost the U.S. taxpayer?
$80/bbl x 3Mn bbls/day x 365 days/year x 5 years = $438Bn.

What has the war cost to date (less than 5 years since it started)?
The best guess I can find is provided by The National Priorities Project, which estimates cost-to-date of $460Bn. [15 Oct 2007]

That ludicrous, laughable five-year, $80/bbl contract with Saddam doesn’t seem as ludicrous anymore!

… AND: we’d have the oil! We could have simply GIVEN it to Exxon/Mobil and other Big Oil companies – surely this would have had SOME positive effect on price of gasoline at the pump for American consumers! (It probably would have been a good deal for W’s oil-patch buddies to boot!)

Friday, November 2, 2007

"Cabal": an etymology

Former Asst Secretary of State Lawrence Wilkerson complained of "the Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal." I don't know that he chose the word "cabal" deliberately, but it is amazingly fitting.

"Cabal" derives from "Kabbalah", a form of Jewish mysticism... (in its wider sense it refers only to interpretation of Torah & Talmud; I'll assume a narrower sense in what follows).

One aspect of Kabbalah is to divine the secrets of the universe from the Divine Name. In this respect, the practice of Kabbalah is a form of 'magical thinking' - the belief that uttering the correct incantation will define reality. This particular form of magical thinking has been conspicuous in W's administration.

Rumsfeld decided that 'insurgent' was too high-falootin' a term to describe the ... insurgents. '"Insurgents" just seems like too positive a word to describe terrorists in Iraq and implies a level of legitimacy they don't have and don't deserve, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told Pentagon reporters Nov. 29. '... as if simply renaming the enemy would change the reality on the ground.

In his May 2004 War College speech, W referenced three deliverables: "establish the stability and security that democracy requires", "continue rebuilding that nation's infrastructure", and "enlist additional international support for Iraq's transition". ( No action was taken to achieve any of these - simply saying the words was deemed sufficient.

W's every utterance continues to epitomize this form of magical thinking.

al Qaeda in Albuquerque????

The name, 'al Qaeda in Albuquerque', is deliberately chosen to excite the NSA. (It has, in addition, nice alliteration and a fun convergence of A's and Q's) If no one but the NSA finds this blog, that'd be okay... but I DO hope to reach a larger audience. A point: simply naming oneself 'al Qaeda' does NOT imply an allegiance to Osama bin Laden. As stated on this page, my sole purpose is to restore the U.S. Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land. I am a U.S. Army vet, a registered voter, and all in all a proud citizen of the USA who now feels powerless to rescue my Country from W and his minions. This blog is my little contribution to recovering my country.

"Commander in Chief"

The President is NOT the unqualified "Commander in Chief" of us all. He is ONLY the "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States" [U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 2, paragraph 1] This LIMITED designation of the President as "Commander in Chief OF THE ARMY..." does NOT imply any futher 'inherent powers' to torture, or to spy, or to restrict habeas corpus.

Note to Speaker of the House, Ms. Nancy Pelosi: Why do you think you are now the Speaker? In 2006 we did not vote for warmer-and-fuzzier republicans - we voted for DEMOCRATS: act like it! W deserves nothing from you, and opposing W will be viewed by us as A GOOD THING.


This blog, which I hope to update daily, is dedicated to the restoration of the U.S. Constitution as the Supreme Law of the Land. Very few themes will be revisited over and over. The so-called Patriot Act must be repealed. FISA, in its original 1978 state, must be restored. W and his minions embody a non-rational, 'magical thinking' epistemology. The invasion of Iraq constitutes a war-crime ("waging aggressive war"). Bombing Iran is NOT the answer.

I don't yet have the hang of the mechanics of blogging, so this'll be it for now.