Sunday, February 29, 2004

Not Only is President Caligula an Idiot, He's a Lazy Idiot

In a nation where people get very little vacation time - and are often "advised" by their employers not to take all they get - our President-Appointee for Life, as he believes himself to be, takes plenty of time off from his apparently not very absorbing duties. Uggabugga has the scoop here.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Insane Things That Happened This Week:

Just a few, because we live in fundamentally insane times.

Mel nails Jesus to the cross in a way that would make Jesus rip off and fall to the ground. You think the Romans made mistakes like that?!

Denny Hastert announces he's not going to extend the 9/11 commission, then, after screeching from all quarters, does so grumpily. The cover-up isn't going to be that easy, Denny.

Alan "Ayn Rand" Greenspan announced that cuts need to be made in Social Security and Medicare to save tax cuts for wealthy parasites.

Andy Sullivan wailed and wept and gnashed his teeth when Bush announced that people like Andy and I are Amerika's version of the German Jews with his support of the Nuremburg Law, er, Constitutional Amendment to "save" marriage.

Kevin Drum has announced an end to Friday catblogging. How could he?!

All in a week's craziness in an age like this.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Mel's Gorefest

David Neiwert has a good analysis of Mel Gibson's new film The Passion of the Christ. Mel seems to have gone rather off the deep end...the flogging he depicts in particular would have killed Jesus long before he could have been crucified, and the crucifixion itself is inaccurate (no, you can not nail someone through the hands. How embarrassing when they fall off the cross). Check it out.

Spacewalking in the Rain

The spacewalk yesterday by astronaut Mike Foale and cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri had to be cut short when Kaleri had a suit malfunction. As he informed Mission Control, "It's amazing. I have rain inside the helmet." The condensation inside Kaleri's helmet and a rise in suit temperature were found to be caused by a bent water tube inside his Russian Orlan space suit. According to space expert James Oberg, the problems may have been caused simply because the suit Kaleri was wearing is old.

While the problem may have been a random failure that could have occurred with any spacesuit and any cosmonaut, the relative old age of Kaleri’s spacesuit will also likely be examined.

Although two new Russian-made "Orlan" spacesuits arrived at the station just last month, aboard a robotic supply freighter, Kaleri and Foale used the two older suits already on board. According to Viktor Blagov, deputy director of the Russian Mission Control Center, these two suits "were nearing the end of their certified lifetime", and would soon be retired.

According to information obtained by McDowell, the suit Kaleri used –- serial number "M-23" – was originally sent up in July 2000, together with another suit that has since been retired and discarded. "M-23" was used eight times between mid-2001 and mid-2002; this was its ninth use.

"There was at least one Orlan on Mir used 10 times, so M-23 is not a record," McDowell said. Nevertheless, it is significantly "used", as spacesuits go. During intense periods of spacewalks on Mir, some suits were used more than a dozen times each, but only within the first three years after launch.

"M-23 is now at 3 years 7 months," McDowell added, "a record." As such, it is the chronologically oldest Orlan spacesuit ever used on a spacewalk.


Foale's suit, serial number "M-14", was sent up in September 2001 and had been used only four times prior to this spacewalk.

Many of the space walk objectives were accomplished before Kaleri's suit malfunction, and it is not known yet when the other items may be rescheduled.

Archaeology Update

The remains of HMS Beagle may have been found in a marsh in Essex. After several years of research, a British team led by Dr. Robert Prescott of the University of St. Andrews may have discovered the bottom of the ship and further work to identify the remains are in train.

Sophisticated radar technology was used to detect signs of wood and metal that may belong to the bottom of HMS Beagle, on which Darwin gathered the natural specimens he used to develop his theory of evolution.

The ship's remains are embedded in five metres of mud at a site near Potton Island.

After circumnavigating the globe, the ship was used as a watch vessel to combat smuggling in the Southend Coastguard District.

More on this historic find later, no doubt.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Your IT Competition

When I worked at a computer store several years ago, one of the primary customer types visiting our bookstore were folks seeking to get IT jobs. They assiduously bought books on networking, study guides for the MCSE or to become Novell certified, books on C++ and Visual Basic, etc., all in an effort to improve themselves and get good jobs. I often think about them now. This is what they're competing against:

Resume: Deepa Paranjpe

AGE
24

BIRTHPLACE
Nagpur, Maharashtra, India (pop. 2.8 million)

MARRIED
Not yet. Will probably have an arranged marriage -- but the man must support her career goals

ACADEMICS
Finishing a master's at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay.

LANGUAGES
English, Hindi, and Marathi

COMPUTER LANGUAGES
Nine, including C++ and Java

JOB
Starts in June as a data-mining engineer at Veritas Software's facility in Pune. Pay: $10,620 per year

GOAL
To "make it big" as an entrepreneur

And economists of both the left and right tell us this is OK. Have we really become this morally blind? More here.

Parting Out the Bible

Although Fundies claim to believe in the whole Bible, in fact they do just what more liberal Christians do - they part it out like an old car. A black person I work with told me yesterday that she couldn't support gay marriage because of "Scripture." Evidently she forgot the part where Paul tells slaves to be obedient to their masters. I also don't see many Fundies wearing clothes of one fabric or stoning adulterers to death. Lots of them seem to eat shellfish and pork....

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Speaking of Princess Andrew

...go on over to his site. The weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth from Andy and his readers are priceless. "The Republican party has abandoned us!" Funny it would be if it were not so pathetic.

Mars Rovers

I haven't been talking about the Mars rovers much lately because they've been operating perfectly and are doing a lot of very important science. Proof that NASA can on occasion get its act together. Keep checking NASA Watch (link to the right) for updates.

October Surprise?

Rumors abound that Osama is pretty much surrounded and ready for capture. October Surprise 2?

Dubya Panders to the Know Nothings

I suspect no one, no matter their political persuasion, is surprised by Dubya's pandering to his base base, if you know what I mean. Is it time for people like Andy Sullivan and the Log Cabin "Jews for Hitler" Republicans to wake up and realize what they are dealing with? Good question. We'll see over the coming weeks.

Monday, February 23, 2004

They Lie, They Lie, They Lie

Dubya campaign chairman Marc Racicot was interviewed by Juan Williams on NPR this morning. Two zingers: according to the not over-bright Racicot, the recession "pre-dated" the Bush administration, and Bush - get this - "volunteered for Vietnam." And of course Williams sat there and took it. Good job, NPR.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Ralph Nader is a Moron

'nuff said.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Conservative vs. Neoconservative

Obviously I do not overlap a great deal with Pat Buchanan's views, but his cover feature in the American Conservative for March is very interesting and is well worth reading whatever your political attitudes; like me, you won't agree with a lot of what he says, but he makes a number of very good points. Here's a little sample:

To suggest Frum and Perle are over the top is not to imply we not take seriously the threat of terror attacks on airliners, in malls, from dirty bombs, or, God forbid, a crude atomic device smuggled in by Ryder truck or container ship. Yet even this will never “overthrow our civilization.”

In the worst of terror attacks, we lost 3,000 people. Horrific. But at Antietam Creek, we lost 7,000 in a day’s battle in a nation that was one-ninth as populous. Three thousand men and boys perished every week for 200 weeks of that Civil War. We Americans did not curl up and die. We did not come all this way because we are made of sugar candy.

Germany and Japan suffered 3,000 dead every day in the last two years of World War II, with every city flattened and two blackened by atom bombs. Both came back in a decade. Is al-Qaeda capable of this sort of devastation when they are recruiting such scrub stock as Jose Padilla and the shoe bomber?

In the war we are in, our enemies are weak. That is why they resort to the weapon of the weak—terror. And, as in the Cold War, time is on America’s side. Perseverance and patience are called for, not this panic.

The Republican party must be cleansed from within. Buchanan is taking a first step.

It's Necessary, but will Never Happen

The NYT comes out this morning against partisan gerrymandering, which has existed almost as long as the Republic but has been taken to new heights of evil by the Repugs. Unfortunately, like another necessary reform - public financing of elections - it will never happen. As far as I'm concerned, districts should be as square as possible and drawn along pure population lines. But the current system benefits whoever is in power, so don't expect it to go away.

Friday, February 20, 2004

John Glenn

Jo Fish reminds us that today is the anniversary of John Glenn's pioneer earth-orbiting Mercury flight. He also reminds us that Glenn is both a hero and a Democrat.

Let me add that John Glenn is not the only Democrat who is a hero. There are two Medal of Honor recipients in Congress. Both of them are Democrats.

NASA to CAIB: Go Blow

One of the many recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board was to have the crew pod of the shuttles insulated to survive longer in a Columbia-type reentry accident. The fact is, if the astronauts had had perhaps another five minutes, they would have been able to bail out. Remarkably, many plastic and even paper items in the crew pod did survive intact, proving that it is possible to get fragile items - like people - through reentry. NASA's response? "Go blow, CAIB," the excuse being that the orbiters will be retired by 2010 according to President Stupid's new - and nonexistent - space plan to go back to the moon, go to Mars, etc, all for an extra billion dollars over the next five years. If you believe this, you're as stupid as Sean O'Keefe and some of the people at NASA are.

But will the shuttles really be retired in 2010? What about this little report from the GAO:

A year after the shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas, killing all seven astronauts, NASA has not figured out how to upgrade the three remaining shuttles to make them safe and usable for the next 15 years and possibly longer, the General Accounting Office said.

Clearly there are some intelligent folk at the GAO who realize that the orbiters will be needed well beyond 2010 and that modernization will be necessary.

The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, was asked to take a look at NASA's plans after the Columbia accident highlighted the need to fix up the 20-year-old space shuttle.

Originally designed to be used for 10 years, the aging shuttles are not as safe as they could be and there is no replacement in sight.

"The shuttle will now be needed for another two decades," the GAO report reads.

"Efforts to upgrade the shuttle have been stymied by the agency's inability to develop a long-term strategic investment plan to fly the shuttle safely and a systematic approach for defining the spacecraft's requirements because its life expectancy and mission have continued to change from an original design of a 10-year life to the year 2020 and possibly beyond."

NASA needs to wake up and realize that Dubya's ridiculous plan will not survive his Presidency - and in fact seems to have already been forgotten by the White House. Better get set up for the long haul and forget the bells and whistles, folks. Fix the shuttle, get it flying again, make it safer, and go on from there.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

If Only a Republican Would do This

We all know that the Republican party is increasingly being run by fanatics and lunatics of the like of Grover Norquist. No Republican yet has had the courage to stand up and insist that these people, who are dangerous, be run out of the party on a rail. Fortunately for the UK, Tory leader Michael Howard has no such qualms.

Michael Howard said today that Britain would be "shamed" if it sent a British National party member to Brussels this June, as he attacked the openly racist party in their electoral heartland of Burnley.

In a stinging attack on the group, he revealed that his own grandmother was one of the Jewish victims of the Nazi deathcamps - which the BNP leader, Nick Griffin, has denied existed.

But although the Tory leader poured scorn on the "bunch of thugs dressed up as a political party", his was a high-risk speech - in a town which has seven BNP councillors, but only 47 asylum seekers.
...
Speaking to local Tory members, and a large contingent of press, in the Lancashire mill town, Mr Howard said: "Let's not mince our words. The policies of the British National party are based on bigotry and hatred. Its approach is entirely alien to our political traditions.

"The BNP preaches a message of racism, intolerance and brutality that flies in the face of this country's history and heritage."

He cited Mr Griffin's conviction for distributing racist material, and another BNP member's jail sentence for wounding a Jewish teacher.

On Mr Griffin's holocaust denial, he said: "I happen to know he is wrong about that. My grandmother is one of the millions of people who died in those camps."

My analogy is not perfect; the BNP is not part of the Conservative Party, but it is attractive to the far right, just as the lunatics currently infesting the Republican party appeal to the fascist element among us. It's time for someone like John McCain to stand up and say, "Enough."

Texans are Stupid!

No surprise, right? After all, the residents of the State Stolen From Mexico elected Dubya governor (the only election he's actually won!). Professor Larry Sechrest, exiled to Alpine, Texas, recently wrote an article on the subject, which evidently rang too true with furious Texans:

In January, Sechrest published a 7,000-word article in Liberty, a tiny libertarian journal, titled "A Strange Little Town in Texas." After dispensing with the things he likes about Alpine -- great climate, clean air, awesome scenery, low crime rate, friendly locals, frontier spirit, robust theater scene -- Sechrest came to his main point.

"The secret problem is that the students at Sul Ross, and more generally the long-term residents of the entire area, are appallingly ignorant, irrational, anti-intellectual, and, well . . . just plain stupid," he wrote.

Harsh, yes, but Sechrest, a libertarian himself who grew up near Dallas, was just warming up. He dissed his students and neighbors as "some of the dumbest clods on the planet," and his fellow faculty members as "mostly a waste of space." As for the local schoolkids, many "are only a notch above retardation," he said.

What happened next was an object lesson in the perils of roiling the waters in a placid small town -- or, as City Council member Katie Elms-Lawrence put it, "Sweetheart, you don't defecate in your own back yard."

Whew! "A notch above retardation." Gotta love it. Well, the nitwits and cretins he has the misfortune to live amongst took exception to his comments:

As Sechrest's article made the rounds, he received a torrent of e-mail, some of it merely irate, some aggressively obscene. The local newspaper and radio station denounced him. Vitriolic callers phoned late into the evening. One night, someone smashed the windows of a car parked outside his home. Another night, eggs were hurled at his house.

There were two death threats, Sechrest said, both phoned in to his campus office. The callers said they would "get" him and kill him.

"Not polysyllabic," Sechrest said. "But, you know, effective."

Truly, everything is stupider in Texas.

Know Nothings in the White House

A group of eminent scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, issued a report and open letter yesterday decrying the Administration's Know Nothing approach to science (after all, if you're Dubya, you must believe that the earth is flat and only 6000 years old).

The two documents accuse the administration of repeatedly censoring and suppressing reports by its own scientists, stacking advisory committees with unqualified political appointees, disbanding government panels that provide unwanted advice and refusing to seek any independent scientific expertise in some cases.

One of the incidents of Bad Science quoted in the report is the Administration's insistence, in the face of evidence to the contrary, that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were for nuclear weapons development when they were actually intended as rocket bodies. Why listen to scientists when you can make up something far more compelling, after all?

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Putin Does a Dubya!

In the midst of his own reelection campaign, Russian President Vladimir Putin donned Navy uniform and went aboard a Russian submarine to watch naval maneuvers. Unfortunately, much as with "Operation Mission Accomplished," things did not go as planned...

One of the highlights of the manoeuvres was supposed to be the launch of two ballistic missiles from a submarine in the Barents Sea, to strike a target on the Kamchatka Peninsula, over 5,000 km away.

Each launch failed, apparently because of a satellite error, according to information issued by the Northern Fleet.

Heh heh heh.

Chandler Wins!

Strongly supported by the blogsphere, former Kentucky attorney general Ben Chandler won a special election yesterday to fill the House seat previously occupied by now-Governor Ernie Fletcher. A signal Democratic victory in a conservative state!

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Troublesome

Here's something that bothers me. Why doesn't someone in the mainstream press comment on the fascistic ravings of people like Norquist and Coulter? Why are bloggers the ones who track this? Most Americans, especially left-leaning ones, have no idea that these little Goebbels are out there ranting and may not find out until it's too late. Come on, SCLM.

Monday, February 16, 2004

"Cornered Rats"

David Neiwert at Orcinus has been in the forefront of keeping a close eye on eliminationist and fascist rhetoric from the Repugs, and in his latest update has some wonderful screeds from Grover Norquist and other Repug lunatics.

Of even greater concern, though, is the kind of emerging conservative rhetoric that paints liberals not only as "desperate" but evil vermin who deserve to be exterminated. The most vicious recent example of this came from none other than Grover Norquist, in a piece he wrote for the American Enterprise Institute:

"Cornered Rats Fight Hard"

The piece is mostly a diatribe about the superiority of the Bush presidency and the mendacity of Democrats, but it concludes with this strange epigraph:

If the Democrats win the Presidency, they can veto Republican advances. If they lose, they don't eat. The very sinews of their political power will decay with increasing speed. The Democratic coalition will be weaker, shorter, and poorer in 2008 than 2004. This sense of desperation explains the "hatred" and vicious attacks on Bush.

This should not surprise us. Expect the crescendo to grow through 2004. The other team isn't being unreasonable. It is reacting rationally to a real threat to its ability to function. Anything short of placing snipers on the rooftops of D.C. would be an underreaction by the Left.

Cornered rats fight. Hard.


Incidentally, vermin references like Norquist's are a classic hallmark of fascist and white-supremacist propaganda, referring to the enemy in subhuman terms by way of suggesting the need for their extermination. In fact, the eliminationism is fairly explicit in this kind of rhetoric, even if it is not clearly stated.

Norquist is obviously a certifiable lunatic who should be locked up in a hospital psych ward. The fact that people like Norquist and the maniacal Ann Coulter are the spokespeople for the Republicans should tell us a lot.

And one thing it should tell us is that obviously these people not only aren't planning to lose in November, they're planning to never lose again.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Who Needs Saddam When You Have the Chinese?

Just as our glorious allies the Pakistanis have been selling nuclear secrets to everyone in sight, so have our glorious allies the Chinese. What a surprise.

The bomb designs and other papers turned over by Libya have yielded dramatic evidence of China's long-suspected role in transferring nuclear know-how to Pakistan in the early 1980s, they said. The Chinese designs were later resold to Libya by a Pakistani-led trading network that is now the focus of an expanding international probe, added the officials and experts, who are based in the United States and Europe.

The packet of documents, some of which included text in Chinese, contained detailed, step-by-step instructions for assembling an implosion-type nuclear bomb that could fit atop a large ballistic missile. They also included technical instructions for manufacturing components for the device, the officials and experts said.

"It was just what you'd have on the factory floor. It tells you what torque to use on the bolts and what glue to use on the parts," one weapons expert who had reviewed the blueprints said in an interview. He described the designs as "very, very old" but "very well engineered."

U.S. intelligence officials concluded years ago that China provided early assistance to Pakistan in building its first nuclear weapon -- assistance that appeared to have ended in the 1980s. Still, weapons experts familiar with the blueprints expressed surprise at what they described as a wholesale transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to another country.

I have long believed that the war on terror is a sideshow. China is the next, and perhaps last, enemy of the free world. Before we remake our military in a form to concentrate solely on terrorists, we need to take that into account.

Friday, February 13, 2004

Did Clark Drop Out a Few Days Too Soon?!

Maybe Wes Clark should consider ramping his campaign back up, if rumors about John Kerry turn out to be true. UPDATE: The rumors were not true, thank God, but expect the Repugs to try more of the same.

Of course there are also rumors that Bush is off the wagon. Who knows? UPDATE: I've also heard that Bush is on the wagon, but is taking a prescription med that may affect his judgment. Is he talking to the White House portraits yet?! Much as I dislike Dubya, hopefully this isn't true.

Who Stole the Washington Post?

Again, the WP prints an op-ed that might well have appeared in the Moonie-owned Washington Times. Shipping jobs overseas is GOOD! Hey, WP, your paper could be written in India just as easily...and lot cheaper.

Doubleteaming Dubya

Bob Herbert joins his NYT collegue Paul Krugman today in lambasting our President-Appointee. While Krugman whacks the budget and Bush's cult of personality, Herbert takes another look at Dubya's "distinguished" military career.

Mr. Moore explores the murky circumstances surrounding President Bush's service in the National Guard in the late 60's and early 70's in a book that is soon to be published called "Bush's War for Re-election." This issue remains pertinent because it foreshadowed Mr. Bush's behavior as a politician and officeholder: the lack of engagement, the irresponsibility, and the casual and blatantly unfair exploitation of rank and privilege.

Mr. Bush favored the war in Vietnam, but he had the necessary clout to ensure that he wouldn't have to serve there. He entered the Texas Air National Guard at the height of the war in 1968 by leaping ahead of 500 other applicants who were on a waiting list.

Mr. Bush was eventually assigned to the 147th Fighter Group (later to become part of the 111th Fighter Interceptor Group), which Mr. Moore described in his book as a "champagne" outfit. "The ranks," he said, "were filled with the progeny of the wealthy and politically influential."

So here's the thing: After strolling to the head of the line, and putting the Guard to the considerable expense of training him as a pilot, Lieutenant Bush didn't even bother to take his duties seriously. He breezed off to Alabama to work on a political campaign. He never showed up as required to take his annual flight physical in 1972, and because of that was suspended from flying.

This cavalier treatment of his duties as a Guardsman occurred as thousands of others were being killed and wounded in Vietnam — youngsters of great promise like Roy Dukes, who was 20 when he died. Having escaped the horror of the war himself, one might have expected Lieutenant Bush to at least take his duties in the National Guard seriously.

Now, more than three decades later, there are questions about the seriousness of Mr. Bush's stewardship as president. He has certainly been profligate with the people's money, pushing through his reckless tax cuts and running up a mountain range of deficits that extends as far as the eye can see.

Citing phantom weapons of mass destruction, he led the nation into a war of choice that has resulted so far in the tragic deaths of more than 500 American troops and thousands of innocent Iraqis, and the wounding of thousands upon thousands of others. Like Mr. Bush during Vietnam, privileged Americans have had the luxury of favoring the madness in Iraq without having to worry about fighting and dying there. If the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful were in danger of being sent to Iraq, the U.S. wouldn't be there.

Exactly. Time to draft the useless drunken Bush twins.

Cult of Personality

Paul Krugman takes a sour look at Bush's budget today - not just the figures, but the glossy document paid for with your tax dollars:

By my count, this year's budget contains 27 glossy photos of Mr. Bush. We see the president in front of a giant American flag, in front of the Washington Monument, comforting an elderly woman in a wheelchair, helping a small child with his reading assignment, building a trail through the wilderness and, of course, eating turkey with the troops in Iraq. Somehow the art director neglected to include a photo of the president swimming across the Yangtze River.

It was not ever thus. Bill Clinton's budgets were illustrated with tables and charts, not with worshipful photos of the president being presidential.

The issue here goes beyond using the Government Printing Office to publish campaign brochures. In this budget, as in almost everything it does, the Bush administration tries to blur the line between reverence for the office of president and reverence for the person who currently holds that office.

Operation Flight Suit was only slightly more over the top than other Bush photo-ops, like the carefully staged picture that placed Mr. Bush's head in line with the stone faces on Mount Rushmore. The goal is to suggest that it's unpatriotic to criticize the president, and to use his heroic image to block any substantive discussion of his policies.

In fact, those 27 photos grace one of the four most dishonest budgets in the nation's history — the other three are the budgets released in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Just to give you a taste: remember how last year's budget contained no money for postwar Iraq — and how administration officials waited until after the tax cut had been passed to mention the small matter of $87 billion in extra costs? Well, they've done it again: earlier this week the Army's chief of staff testified that the Iraq funds in the budget would cover expenses only through September.

And of course the Administration plans to ask for money for Iraq only after the election, forcing the Pentagon to strip other programs for months to cover the shortfall. Amazing.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Blow Up a Restaurant, Get the DFC

The US military used to be kind of cautious about handing out medals. Today, our generals look like Soviet Marshals, with dozens of rows of junk medals. Trouble is, the military, especially the Air Farce, is busy turning formerly "good" medals - the kind you really had to DO something to get - into party favors.

For 1st Lt. John O. Merrill, the fateful moment came in the skies over Mayen, Germany in February 1945, when he continued to fly his burning, flak-riddled B-26 bomber until all of his crew could bail out.

Capt. Ernie Arzabal’s setting was different -- Vietnam, 1970 -- but the story familiar. Flying a light observation helicopter, Arzabal “repeatedly exposed himself” to enemy fire in order to rescue wounded American troops.

These actions earned both men the Distinguished Flying Cross, a decoration given to a relative handful of soldiers since Charles Lindbergh won the first for his trans-Atlantic solo flight in 1927. Since then, through World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf and all the engagements in between, right through the Afghan campaign, only 3,300 DFC’s were awarded, according to the Distinguished Flying Cross Society, an organization of DFC recipients.

Yet since March 2002, the Air Force has awarded 463 of these coveted decorations, angering some veterans and rekindling a debate over how and why these honors are bestowed.

Retired Colonel David Hackworth - a guy who earned his medals the hard way - is, not unexpectedly, pretty hacked off about this:

"In World War II, when I saw a Distinguished Flying Cross, that meant the guy had made 25 or 30 missions over dangerous places like Hamburg or Berlin," he says. "Those places sometimes had 50 percent casualty rates.

"Now, they give medals out to guys who fly bombers invisible to radar whose bombs miss Saddam and kill civilians in a restaurant. It’s an outrage." The Air Force awarded Distinguished Flying Crosses to the crew of a B-2B bomber that destroyed a Baghdad restaurant last April thought to contain Saddam Hussein. Saddam was not there, but 16 civilians, including an infant, died in the attack.

Imagine that. The DFC for flying an essentially unhittable bomber and killing civilians. Hey, why didn't they give those guys the Medal of Honor?!


More on Bill Burkett

Burkett is a former Texas Army National Guard Lt. Colonel who claims that he saw Bush's personnel file being purged in Texas in 1997. Kevin Drum, who initially had doubts about the published story, actually called Burkett and interviewed him last night. This is perhaps the most important piece Kevin has ever published.

What Really Happened on 9/11?

All of us will remember that terrifying day as long as we live, no matter where we were at the time, in New York, in a rural town, out of the country, even aboard the space station. But the myths about 9/11 and the continuing disinclination by the Bush Administration to probe for the possibly dangerous truths, continues to obscure the event. Gail Sheehy has a wonderful piece in the New York Observer that is a must read. It may be hard to have to think about the events of 9/11 again, but Sheehy proves we have to, and have to continue asking very hard questions.

The politically divided 9/11 commission was able to agree on a public airing of four and a half minutes from the Betty Ong tape, which the American public and most of the victims’ families heard for the first time on the evening news of Jan. 27. But commissioners were unaware of the crucial information given in an even more revealing phone call, made by another heroic flight attendant on the same plane, Madeline (Amy) Sweeney. They were unaware because their chief of staff, Philip Zelikow, chooses which evidence and witnesses to bring to their attention. Mr. Zelikow, as a former adviser to the pre-9/11 Bush administration, has a blatant conflict.

"My wife’s call was the first specific information the airline and the government got that day," said Mike Sweeney, the widowed husband of Amy Sweeney, who went face to face with the hijackers on Flight 11. She gave seat locations and physical descriptions of the hijackers, which allowed officials to identify them as Middle Eastern men—by name—even before the first crash. She gave officials key clues to the fact that this was not a traditional hijacking. And she gave the first and only eyewitness account of a bomb on board.

"How do you know it’s a bomb?" asked her phone contact.

"Because the hijackers showed me a bomb," Sweeney said, describing its yellow and red wires.

Amy Sweeney's information was so specific and detailed that before Flight 11 hit WTC 1, American Airline officials knew the names of three of the terrorists, including ringleader Mohammed Atta.

"I see water. I see buildings. We’re flying low, we’re flying way too low," Sweeney replied, according to the notes taken by Mr. Woodward. Sweeney then took a deep breath and gasped, "Oh, my God."

At 8:46 a.m., Mr. Woodward lost contact with Amy Sweeney—the moment of metamorphosis, when her plane became a missile guided into the tower holding thousands of unsuspecting civilians. "So sometime between 8:30 and 8:46, American must have known that the hijacking was connected to Al Qaeda," said Mike Sweeney. That would be 16 to 32 minutes before the second plane perforated the south tower.

Would American Airlines officials monitoring the Sweeney and Woodward dialogue have known right away that Mohamed Atta was connected to Al Qaeda?

"The answer is probably yes," said 9/11 commission member Bob Kerrey....

It gets worse.

What her husband wants to know is this: "When and how was this information about the hijackers used? Were Amy’s last moments put to the best use to protect and save others?"

"We know what she said from notes, and the government has them," said Mary Schiavo, the formidable former Inspector General of the Department of Transportation, whose nickname among aviation officials was "Scary Mary." Ms. Schiavo sat in on the commission’s hearing on aviation security on 9/11 and was disgusted by what it left out. "In any other situation, it would be unthinkable to withhold investigative material from an independent commission," she told this writer. "There are usually grave consequences. But the commission is clearly not talking to everybody or not telling us everything."

This is hardly the only evidence hiding in plain sight.

The captain of American’s Flight 11 stayed at the controls much of the diverted way from Boston to New York, sending surreptitious radio transmissions to authorities on the ground.

Again, before Flight 11 was crashed into the North Tower. But the airlines appear more interested in covering their asses than getting at the truth, just like our President-Appointee:

To this writer’s knowledge, there has been no public mention of the pilot’s narrative since the news report on Sept. 12, 2001. Families of the flight crew have only heard about it, but when Peg Ogonowski asked American Airlines to let her hear it, she never heard back. Their F.A.A. superiors forbade the controllers to talk to anyone else.

Has the F.B.I. turned this critical tape over to the commission?

At the commission’s January panel on aviation security, two rows of gray suits filled the back of the hearing room. They were not inspectors general of any of the government agencies called to testify. In fact, said Mary Schiavo, there is no entity within the administration pushing any consequences. The gray suits were all attorneys for the airlines, hovering around while the big bosses from American and United gave their utterly unrevealing testimonies.

There's a lot more there; this is just a taste. The information about Flight 93 is particularly interesting. Did the passengers really charge the cockpit? The widows of the flight crew don't believe it.

Here are a coule of my questions: why has the FAA never released the reports on the four 9/11 crashes? And what about the persistent story that wreckage from flight 93 was found miles from where it augered into the ground? Was the airplane shot down? We need the truth. And we're just not getting it, because "Let's roll!" mythology (and this is no reflection on the courage of the passengers of Flight 93, mind you, who evidently did try to do something to take the plane back that day although we'll never know exactly what) is more comforting, and more politically expedient, than the truth may be.

Read and pass along to your friends. Gail Sheehy deserves a Pulitzer for this.

Spinning Towards the Moon

Anyone with half a brain realizes that Bush's elaborate visions of the Moon and Mars are, without a lot of money, the kind of brainless pipe dreams he apparently has rather frequently. It's amusing how the the press is spinning this story. The NYT takes the optimistic tack this morning. Headline: "Space Panel is Optimistic on Planning for Bush Goal."

A commission studying President Bush's goal of sending astronauts to the Moon and Mars expressed confidence on Wednesday that it could develop a workable plan to do it, despite some doubts about financing.

"We are not here to challenge or modify the plan, but to find ways for it to work," Edward C. Aldridge, chairman of the nine-member group, said at the commission's first public hearing. "It is highly unlikely that we would conclude at the end of this that it can't be done."

Sure, we can go to the Moon on pennies a day, you bet! Meanwhile, the Miami Herald knows the truth when they see it. Headline: "Expert: NASA Can't Afford Moon, Mars Trips."

An aerospace executive warned a presidential commission Wednesday that NASA does not have enough money -- or bright young stars -- to achieve President Bush's goal of returning astronauts to the moon and flying from there to Mars.

''It would be a grave mistake to undertake a major new space objective on the cheap. To do so, in my opinion, would be an invitation to disaster,'' said Norman Augustine, retired chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp.

Augustine was among five aerospace experts who addressed the first public hearing of the president's space exploration commission, held in Washington.

Commission member Neil deGrasse Tyson asked Augustine whether $15 billion a year for 10 years would be enough to set NASA on course to fulfill the moon and Mars vision put forth by Bush one month ago. The agency's annual budget has been around $15 billion in recent years.

Augustine replied that he had not done enough analysis to give an answer, "but I guess if I had to bet, I'd bet that it wouldn't be enough.''

No shit, Dick Tracy. NASA is insane if they cooperate with this nitwitted plan. No one - no one - supports the space program more strongly than I do. I want to go back to the Moon and on into the solar system. If we want to survive as a species it's a necessity. But I know it's going to be expensive and hard and dangerous. Bush, on the other hand, has been watching Buck Rogers and Sean O'Keefe is roaring ahead to the destruction of NASA based on his benefactor's brainlessness.

Bush Couldn't Show Up for Drill, but Could Show Up to BE Drilled!

Turns out our President-Appointee did actually show up at least one time at his Alabama Guard unit - to get a taxpayer-paid dental exam. Check out Dubya's exam here.

And, no big surprise, the White House is rapidly backing off Dubya's promise to release all of his records (wouldn't it be a hoot to see his personnel reports? Can you imagine?!).

Administration officials declined yesterday to commit to releasing further records, despite a statement Sunday by Bush on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he would open his entire military file.

With the administration growing increasingly defensive, White House press secretary Scott McClellan criticized Democrats and others who were asking new questions.

"I think what you are seeing is gutter politics," he said. "The American people deserve better. There are some who are not interested in their facts. They are simply trolling for trash."

Considering that the entire Bush clan IS elitist trash, trolling seems appropriate.

Meantime, the British press continues doing the American press' job for it, as this detailed background report about Dubya's checkered military career in The Guardian shows:

But Col Lively, the retired Texas operations officer, queries key parts of the White House presentation, suggesting that it may be largely meaningless. Some sections of the documents, for example, show Bush earning 15 points towards retirement payments. Lively, however, says 15 points were often awarded as "gratuitous points" - essentially, credits simply for having a pulse. The other point often repeated by the Bush administration - that the president had been given an honourable discharge, and therefore could not have stinted on his attendance - has been questioned by several experts in military law.

The Guard was unimpressed with the draft dodgers it collected during Vietnam. Units were usually more than willing to look the other way to get the jerks the hell out of there. Dubya's latest records prove nothing, until he can find someone in Alabama who remembers him - and evidently no one does.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Real Dog Wins Best of Show!

What a pleasure to see a real dog, not someone's little Foo-Foo, win Best of Show at Westminster. Yay, Josh! Our Rita says "woof!"

I Hope We're Not Sorry in November

I can't help but feel that the true Democratic chance in the 2004 race dropped out this morning. Unfortunately General Wesley Clark was defeated largely by inexperience, a late start, and Republican-fueled media bias. I will support Kerry, but I fear what's going to happen this fall.

Bush's Real Records Spotted in Trash in 1997

You wouldn't know it from this morning's spoutings of the So-Called Liberal Media, but according to the Dallas Morning News, retired National Guard Lt. Col Bill Burkett recalls seeing the naked emperor's records in the trash. I can't find a direct, non-subscription link, so here's what the Columbus Dispatch printed this morning:

Retired National Guard Lt. Col. Bill Burkett said yesterday that, in 1997, then-Gov. Bush's chief of staff, Joe Allbaugh, told the National Guard's chief in Texas to get Bush's file and make certain "there's not anything there that will embarrass the governor."

A few days later, at Camp Mabry in Austin, Burkett said he saw Bush's file and documents from it in a trash can. He said he recognized the documents as retirement point summaries and pay forms.

Naturally, Allbaugh and Bush minions at the White House deny everything.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Anyone Want to Bet It "Disappeared"?

The DOD is looking for Bush's pay records from his ANG service. My guess is they'll find they're either missing or they've been "improved." What I find very interesting, considering the size of the average ANG squadron, is that no one in Alabama or in Texas after he returned from Alabama - out of squadrons of, say, 800 or 900 people - can remember seeing Lieutenant Stupid stagger in drunkenly to report for duty. Now if you'd served with a future president, don't you think you'd remember that? Hmmm? Plenty of people remember running into John Kerry or Wesley Clark in 'Nam, after all....

In his annual evaluation, covering the period of May 1972 to April 1973, Lt. Col. William D. Harris wrote that he could not evaluate Bush because "he has not been observed" in Houston.

Deserter George. Richard Cohen, a draft-dodging Vietnam era Guardsman himself, comments dryly:

Nothing about Bush during that period -- not his drinking, not his partying -- suggests that he was a consistently conscientious member of the Texas or Alabama Air National Guard. As it happens, there are no records to show that Bush reported for duty during the summer and fall of 1972. Nonetheless, Bush insists he was where he was supposed to be -- "Otherwise I wouldn't have been honorably discharged," Bush told Tim Russert. Please, sir, don't make me laugh.

And, Cohen points out, even if Bush's pay record shows that he was paid for drills, that doesn't prove a damned thing:

I was, though, lucky enough to get into a National Guard unit in the nick of time, about a day before I was drafted. I did my basic and advanced training (combat engineer) and returned to my unit. I was supposed to attend weekly drills and summer camp, but I found them inconvenient. I "moved" to California and then "moved" back to New York, establishing a confusing paper trail that led, really, nowhere. For two years or so, I played a perfectly legal form of hooky. To show you what a mess the Guard was at the time, I even got paid for all the meetings I missed.

As for Dubya's honorable discharge, they would have given him that just to get his tiresome ass out of there. That doesn't prove anything either.

What is Bush Smoking?

President Caligula has announced that the economy will create over 2 million jobs this year. And, I have some lovely swampfront property in Florida you might want to have a gander at too. Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the job situation is incredibly dismal and continues to be so. Paul Krugman:

Since there's a lot of confusion on this subject, let's talk about the numbers. The bureau actually produces two estimates of employment, one based on a survey that asks each employer in a random sample how many workers are on its payroll, the other on a survey that asks each household in a random sample how many of its members are employed. Most experts regard the employer survey as more reliable; even in the midst of the recovery, that survey has contained nothing but bad news. The household numbers look better, but not particularly good.

For technical reasons involving seasonal adjustment, many economists expected the January report to show a one-time bounce in both measures. Yet employment as measured by the payroll survey rose by only 112,000 — well short of the increase needed just to keep up with a growing population. If employment were rising as rapidly as it did when the economy was emerging from the 1990-1991 recession, we'd be seeing monthly numbers more like 275,000.

Taking a longer view, the payroll numbers tell a dismal story. Since the recovery officially began in November 2001, employment has actually fallen by half a percent, while the working-age population has increased about 2.4 percent. By this measure, jobs are becoming ever scarcer.

That last figure is extremely important. By that measure, there has been no job growth at all and will not be for some time. Meanwhile, according to the minions of President Stupid:

Wading into an election-year debate, President Bush's top economist yesterday said the outsourcing of U.S. service jobs to workers overseas is good for the nation's economy.

And if you believe that, I have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn you should check out.

Shipping jobs to low-cost countries is the "latest manifestation of the gains from trade that economists have talked about" for centuries, said N. Gregory Mankiw, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers. Just as U.S. consumers have enjoyed lower prices from foreign manufacturers, so too should they benefit from services being offered by overseas companies that have lower labor costs, he said.

Mankiw's comments come as the president struggles to shore up support in manufacturing states that have lost millions of jobs and Democratic rivals make economic nationalism a centerpiece of their attacks on the administration.

U.S. job growth is sluggish, though many sectors of the economy appear to be recovering smartly. Mankiw released the White House's annual Economic Report of the President yesterday, predicting 2.6 million new payroll jobs by the end of the year. But such projections have proved problematic. Last year's report projected 1.7 million new jobs would be added in 2003. The 2002 report was even more optimistic, predicting 3 million new jobs in 2003.

Instead, the nation lost 53,000 payroll jobs last year, the Labor Department says.

"I know there will be jobs in the future," Mankiw told reporters at a news conference, "because I know this is a vibrant economy, a dynamic economy."

Who is this guy, Cheech and/or Chong? Maybe we can ship his job to India and then see how he feels.

2.6 million new jobs by the end of the year. Rrrriiiight.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Check THIS Out

Kevin Drum has some new evidence on the Bush "I showed up for drill. Really!" claims.

As it turns out, though, we have traded one mystery for another. It's now clear that the document is genuine, but what exactly does it tell us? In particular:

The first listed date is October 29, not November 29 as we had theorized before. But George Bush was still in Alabama in October. What exactly was he getting attendance credit for?

This is neither a Texas Air National Guard document nor an Alabama document. What is it?

The answer, as you can see from the top line, is that it is an ARF document, as is this record from 1973-74. So what is ARF? I asked Bob Rogers, a retired Air National Guard pilot who's been following this for some time, and what follows is his interpretation of what happened.

ARF stands for Army Reserve Force, and among other things it's where members of the guard are sent for disciplinary reasons. As we all know, Bush failed to show up for his annual physical in July 1972, he was suspended in August, and the suspension was recorded on September 29. He was apparently transferred to ARF at that time and began accumulating ARF points in October.

ARF is a "paper unit" based in Denver that requires no drills and no attendance. For active guard members it is disciplinary because ARF members can theoretically be called up for active duty in the regular military, although this obviously never happened to George Bush.

To make a long story short, Bush apparently blew off drills beginning in May 1972, failed to show up for his physical, and was then grounded and transferred to ARF as a disciplinary measure.

Amazing, is it not, that folks like Kevin and Mark Kleiman have to do the press' job for them.

They Lie, They Lie, They Lie

Gary Younge compares Michael Powell's hysterical reaction to the Boob Bowl to his father's support for warmongering in Iraq today in the Guardian:

So it was left to Michael Powell, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, to declare his "outrage" and order a "swift and thorough" investigation, which could result in fines worth millions of dollars if CBS and its affiliates are shown to have breached indecency guidelines.

Let's leave aside for a moment the value system of a government that can order an immediate inquiry into a bare breast and take a year to launch one into a bare-faced lie presented as a pretext for war. For there is a far more important principle at hand than the US government's calibration of indecency.

At best somewhere along the way on Super Bowl night there was an unfortunate mistake, either individual or systemic. At worst, and more likely, this was a cynical, tasteless publicity stunt. Either way it was wrong, and Michael Powell is going to make sure that whoever is responsible will pay the price.

Hold that thought. Now cast your mind back to the United Nation's security council chamber a year ago last Friday. With the help of tapes, aerial photographs and a PowerPoint presentation, Michael Powell's father, Colin, illustrates the US government's case that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Jabbing the air and slapping the table, he offers "not assertions, but facts" and "evidence, not conjecture".

Colin Powell's "evidence" and "facts" have been proven to be not only "assertions" and "conjecture", but erroneous ones at that. But one year, one war, no UN resolution and thousands of deaths later, we are still waiting for someone to pay the price for a conflict that never needed to start and sparked a resistance that shows no sign of ending.

Fatal blunders like these, it seems, are priceless. The politicians who authorised the war, at a time when to stand against it posed a political risk, say they were tricked. The intelligence agencies who provided the material to justify it say they were pressured or misinterpreted. The leaders who used that material to make their case for it say they were misinformed or misunderstood. And the military, of course, just follows orders. No one takes responsibility, no one has yet been held accountable.

Sooner or later a hopeless minister or hapless civil servant, possibly even the head of the CIA, might be sacked. This would be the equivalent of Jackson firing her dressmaker. It will satisfy not those who want to solve the problem, but those who want it to go away.

Sadly the inquiries to be launched in Britain and the US have been limited to intelligence. The premise for this war was not security but politics - it's the politicians who should be in the dock.

The fact that they will not be reflects badly not just on the governments concerned but on all of us. If a country can be led to war on false pretexts and there are no substantive consequences as a result, there is something seriously wrong with both politicians and the political culture that produces them. In a democracy worthy of the name, if the machinery of government cannot call those responsible to account, civil society and the ballot box must.

This war is not just killing Iraqi civilians, resistance fighters and coalition soldiers. It's murdering any pretence that we live in countries that value, let alone practice, the principle of democratic accountability. It calls into question our ability to rein in political excess and to root out state-sponsored incompetence.

"We had no choice," Bush said yesterday. But the case for war was always weak and unpopular on its own terms. Iraq posed no immediate threat and had no connection with September 11, and the action did not have the support of the UN. Even if the invasion had uncovered WMD, it would have been wrong. That it didn't makes its failure, by the miserably low standards the US and Britain set themselves, abject and absolute.

Adjoining cells for Powell, Bush, and Blair? May we live to see it.

Where to Send Dubya

Can we establish an island somewhere off the coast of Alaska to exile the Bush family to? Just asking.

The NYT was, like most intelligent people, unimpressed by President Puffy's claims on Meet the Press yesterday:

The president was doing far more yesterday than rolling out the administration's spin for the next campaign. He was demonstrating how he is likely to think if confronted with a similar crisis in the future. The fuzziness and inconsistency of his comments suggest he is still relying on his own moral absolutism, that in a dangerous world the critical thing is to act decisively, and worry about connecting the dots later. Mr. Bush said repeatedly that he went to the United Nations seeking a diplomatic alternative to war. In fact, the United States rejected all diplomatic alternatives at the time, severely damaging relations with some of its most important and loyal allies. "I believe it is essential that when we see a threat, we deal with those threats before they become imminent," he said. "It's too late if they become imminent."

Uh huh! as the Sims say when they're impressed.

So Exactly WHO is Dangerous?

Yesterday on Meet the Press our President Appointee claimed that the "madman" Saddam had to go because he had the ability to threaten Amerika. But which country is more dangerous, Iraq, which used its weapons of mass destruction only in its own country (reprehensible but not a threat to the US), or Pakistan, our glorious ally in the War Against Terrorism, whose chief nuclear scientist has been sharing blueprints for the Bomb with every lunatic in sight?

European and American investigators said they feared that Dr. Khan and his network of shadowy middlemen might have peddled the weapon blueprints to other nations in deals that have not yet come to light. They also said the Libyan findings gave new credence to what was apparently an attempt by Dr. Khan more than a decade ago to sell a nuclear weapon design to Iraq.

Pakistani officials have focused their recent disclosures on Dr. Khan's illicit spread of equipment to enrich uranium to produce nuclear fuel, and have said little or nothing of the blueprints for a nuclear warhead that went to Libya, which are considered more sensitive. To the amazement of inspectors, the blueprints discovered in Libya were wrapped in plastic bags from an Islamabad dry cleaner.

"The Libyans said they got it as a bonus," an official said of the plans.

Wow, some bonus! And now who is dangerous?

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Prinz Charls Giv Me Turkee!

No, wait, that's the chimp who gave the troops turkee. Prince Charles popped by in Basra to see what was going on today. Unlike Preznit Giv Me Turkee, the Prince of Wales actually spoke to, gasp, real live Iraqis.

Charles, dressed in a grey suit, met Shi'ite clerics, Christian clergymen, the governor of Basra and a prominent tribal leader in the palace overlooking the Shatt al-Arab waterway.

"I basically talked with him about people's complaints about salaries and how they are demonstrating," said tribal leader Morahim al-Kannan.

"We told him that Iraq must have elections because otherwise there will be no stability. I told him we have no government and we have to have elections," al-Kannan said.

Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslim community is demanding elections before a planned handover of power by June 30. The United States says elections cannot be held before then.

"We felt that he should know that our worries about the transfer of power in Iraq. There are still lots of problems in the country and that's what we told him," Sheikh Haitham al- Sihlaani, a prominent local cleric, said.

Charles, an advocate of dialogue between religions, chatted with three Iraqi Muslim women in traditional veils in a room at the palace.

"I told the prince that we want to make sure that women have rights in Iraq and I asked him for his support," one of the women, Gheida Adbul-Razzaq, said.

The Prince also visited British troops in an effort to boost morale.

"We don't normally take the prince to places as dangerous as this," said a spokesman for Queen Elizabeth II’s eldest son. "The troops need cheering up. Hopefully, this will make a difference."

Prime Minister Tony Blair has twice visited Iraq to meet British troops. His last trip was in early January.

Charles arrived from Kuwait at Basra's airport in a C-130 Hercules aircraft. Wearing desert camouflage, boots and a flak jacket, he rode a Chinook helicopter across the city to the Al-Sarraji Palace. The palace, built in the 1980s for Saddam, now serves as the headquarters of the British 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

Shortly before Charles touched down, the sound of gunfire was heard over the city. There was no explanation, but Iraqis often celebrate weddings, parties, births and other events by shooting weapons.

Inside the palace, Charles met servicemen and women on a terrace.

"He asked about the situation here. It's improved a hell of a lot since we arrived, and it’s improving all the time," said Color Sergeant James Wilson, 35, after meeting the prince. "It's an honor to have him come and find time to speak to the boys."

No turkee from the PoW, for cert.





And Here's the Transcript

The Washington Post has posted the transcript here. The sheer wandering stupidity of Dubya's responses comes across fairly well - Bush has to be the dumbest president in American history. There's fodder here for a bazillion bloggers - and a zillion Democratic campaign ads.

RUSSERT: The Boston Globe and the Associated Press have gone through some of their records and said there's no evidence that you reported to duty in Alabama during the summer and fall of 1972.

BUSH: Yes, they're -- they're just wrong. There may be no evidence, but I did report. Otherwise, I wouldn't have been honorably discharged.

In other words, you don't just say I did something without there being verification. Military doesn't work that way.

I got an honorable discharge, and I did show up in Alabama.

RUSSERT: You were allowed to leave eight months before your term expired. Was there a reason?

BUSH: Right. Well, I was going to Harvard Business School and worked it out with the military.

RUSSERT: When allegations were made about John McCain or Wesley Clark on their military records, they opened up their entire files. Would you agree to do that?

BUSH: Yes. Listen, these files have been -- I mean, people have been looking for these files for a long period of time, trust me, and starting in the 1994 campaign for governor. And I can assure you in the year 2000 people were looking for those files, as well. Probably you were.

And absolutely, I mean, I...

RUSSERT: But you will allow pay stubs, tax records, anything to show that you were serving during that period?

BUSH: Yes. If we still have them, but I -- you know, the records are kept in Colorado, as I understand, and they scoured the records.

And I'm just telling you, I did my duty. And it's politics to, you know, to kind of ascribe all kinds of motives to me. But I have been through it before. I'm used to it.

What I don't like is when people say serving in the Guard is -- may not be a true service.

RUSSERT: Would you authorize the release of everything to settle this?

BUSH: Yes, absolutely. We did so in 2000, by the way.

That, of course, is a lie. Bush has never authorized release of his military records. He may now, because I'm sure they've been thoroughly purged. But that, my friends, is a bold-faced lie.

Read the whole thing. Be afraid. Be very afraid that this man is President.

Also Laughable

One of the more laugh worthy moments on Meet the Press this morning was Dubya's faith that Iraq will not devolve into an Islamic dictatorship because Chalabi told him so. Jesus, what is this man smoking?

Huh? Huh? Uhhhh....

...were Bush's number one responses to Tim Russert this morning, along with the ever-popular smirk and his normal look of vague stupidity. Dubya was also remarkably puffy looking.

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The White Trashing of America

Givers and Takers. The North and Midwest give, and the South and West is the giant sucking sound of our tax dollars going to support the former Confederacy and their sympathizers. Meanwhile, the same useless parasites dictate who's going to run things and inflict their version of "morality" on everyone. Crap, right? Nope. It's true.

Using the Tax Foundation's analysis, it's possible to group the 50 states into two categories: Givers and Takers. Giver states get back less than a dollar in spending for every dollar they contribute to federal coffers. Taker states pocket more than a dollar for every tax dollar they send to Washington. Thirty-three states are Takers; 16 are Givers. (One state, Indiana, has a perfect one-to-one ratio of taxes paid and spending received. As seat of the federal government, the District of Columbia has no choice but to be a Taker, and is therefore not comparable to the 50 states in this regard.)

The Democrats' electability predicament comes into focus when you compare the map of Giver and Taker states with the well-worn electoral map of red (Republican) and blue (Democrat) states. You might expect that in the 2000 presidential election, Republicans, the party of low taxes and limited government, would have carried the Giver states — while Democrats, the party of wild spending and wooly bureaucracy, would have appealed to the Taker states. But it was the reverse. George W. Bush was the candidate of the Taker states. Al Gore was the candidate of the Giver states.

Consider:

78 percent of Mr. Bush's electoral votes came from Taker states.

76 percent of Mr. Gore's electoral votes came from Giver states.

Of the 33 Taker states, Mr. Bush carried 25.

Of the 16 Giver states, Mr. Gore carried 12.

Juxtaposing these maps provides a new perspective on the political landscape. (Interactive moment: Color in the blue and red states — then you'll get the full picture.) Republicans seem to have become the new welfare party — their constituents live off tax dollars paid by people who vote Democratic. Of course, not all federal spending is wasteful. But Republicans are having their pork and eating it too. Voters in red states like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are some of the country's fiercest critics of government, yet they're also among the biggest recipients of federal largess. Meanwhile, Democratic voters in the coastal blue states — the ones who are often portrayed as shiftless moochers — are left to carry the load.

For President Bush, this invisible income redistribution system is a boon. He can encourage his supporters to see themselves as Givers, yet reward them with federal spending in excess of their contribution — and send the bill to those who voted for his opponent. It's shrewd politics.

And it puts the eventual Democratic presidential nominee in a bind, should he try to rally those who believe they aren't getting a fair shake from Washington. If the Democratic candidate won all 16 Giver states plus the District of Columbia in November, he'd collect only 254 electoral votes, short of the majority needed to capture the White House. The electoral votes of all the Taker states, by contrast, add up to 273 — two more than Mr. Bush won in 2000.

Is there a way out for Democrats? Maybe not. With Republicans holding the purse strings, it's the Democrats who are being taken.

Not just the Democrats. The American Republic in general.

Fiddling While Rome Burns

While the Know Nothings in charge of the smoking remains of the US government wait for Jesus to return, the Pentagon is beginning to realize that climate change might make the current war against terrorism look like a game in a sandbox. David Stipp looks at the situation in Fortune:

Global warming may be bad news for future generations, but let's face it, most of us spend as little time worrying about it as we did about al Qaeda before 9/11. Like the terrorists, though, the seemingly remote climate risk may hit home sooner and harder than we ever imagined. In fact, the prospect has become so real that the Pentagon's strategic planners are grappling with it.

The threat that has riveted their attention is this: Global warming, rather than causing gradual, centuries-spanning change, may be pushing the climate to a tipping point. Growing evidence suggests the ocean-atmosphere system that controls the world's climate can lurch from one state to another in less than a decade—like a canoe that's gradually tilted until suddenly it flips over. Scientists don't know how close the system is to a critical threshold. But abrupt climate change may well occur in the not-too-distant future. If it does, the need to rapidly adapt may overwhelm many societies—thereby upsetting the geopolitical balance of power.

Scientists have been talking about this for a couple of decades - that when the climate changes, it isn't gradual, it's very sudden. Not that the Know Nothings care. After all, Jesus is coming soon, right?

But recently, renowned Department of Defense planner Andrew Marshall sponsored a groundbreaking effort to come to grips with the question. A Pentagon legend, Marshall, 82, is known as the Defense Department's "Yoda" - a balding, bespectacled sage whose pronouncements on looming risks have long had an outsized influence on defense policy. Since 1973 he has headed a secretive think tank whose role is to envision future threats to national security. The Department of Defense's push on ballistic-missile defense is known as his brainchild. Three years ago Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld picked him to lead a sweeping review on military "transformation," the shift toward nimble forces and smart weapons.

When scientists' work on abrupt climate change popped onto his radar screen, Marshall tapped another eminent visionary, Peter Schwartz, to write a report on the national-security implications of the threat. Schwartz formerly headed planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group and has since consulted with organizations ranging from the CIA to DreamWorks - he helped create futuristic scenarios for Steven Spielberg's film Minority Report. Schwartz and co-author Doug Randall at the Monitor Group's Global Business Network, a scenario-planning think tank in Emeryville, Calif., contacted top climate experts and pushed them to talk about what-ifs that they usually shy away from - at least in public.

The result is an unclassified report, completed late last year, that the Pentagon has agreed to share with FORTUNE. It doesn't pretend to be a forecast. Rather, it sketches a dramatic but plausible scenario to help planners think about coping strategies.

Again, the scenario that follows is one scientists have been talking about amongst themselves for several years. It's bloody scary, but after all, Jesus is coming soon - right?

Growing tensions engender novel alliances. Canada joins fortress America in a North American bloc. (Alternatively, Canada may seek to keep its abundant hydropower for itself, straining its ties with the energy-hungry U.S.) North and South Korea align to create a technically savvy, nuclear-armed entity. Europe forms a truly unified bloc to curb its immigration problems and protect against aggressors. Russia, threatened by impoverished neighbors in dire straits, may join the European bloc.

Nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable. Oil supplies are stretched thin as climate cooling drives up demand. Many countries seek to shore up their energy supplies with nuclear energy, accelerating nuclear proliferation. Japan, South Korea, and Germany develop nuclear-weapons capabilities, as do Iran, Egypt, and North Korea. Israel, China, India, and Pakistan also are poised to use the bomb.

The changes relentlessly hammer the world's "carrying capacity" - the natural resources, social organizations, and economic networks that support the population. Technological progress and market forces, which have long helped boost Earth's carrying capacity, can do little to offset the crisis - it is too widespread and unfolds too fast.

As the planet's carrying capacity shrinks, an ancient pattern reemerges: the eruption of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies. As Harvard archeologist Steven LeBlanc has noted, wars over resources were the norm until about three centuries ago. When such conflicts broke out, 25% of a population's adult males usually died. As abrupt climate change hits home, warfare may again come to define human life.

Over the past decade, data have accumulated suggesting that the plausibility of abrupt climate change is higher than most of the scientific community, and perhaps all of the political community, are prepared to accept. In light of such findings, we should be asking when abrupt change will happen, what the impacts will be, and how we can prepare - not whether it will really happen. In fact, the climate record suggests that abrupt change is inevitable at some point, regardless of human activity.
...
In sum, the risk of abrupt climate change remains uncertain, and it is quite possibly small. But given its dire consequences, it should be elevated beyond a scientific debate. Action now matters, because we may be able to reduce its likelihood of happening, and we can certainly be better prepared if it does. It is time to recognize it as a national security concern.

The Pentagon's reaction to this sobering report isn't known - in keeping with his reputation for reticence, Andy Marshall declined to be interviewed. But the fact that he's concerned may signal a sea change in the debate about global warming. At least some federal thought leaders may be starting to perceive climate change less as a political annoyance and more as an issue demanding action.

The fact that the Pentagon chose to share this report with Stipp is suggestive that not everyone in the government is a Know Nothing and that a small consensus is growing that we need to wake up now to what's going on and at least do some thinking and planning.

Not that the Know Nothings care. They're sitting around the White House singing hymns (one of the scariest scenes in Ron Suskind's book has John Ashcroft playing hymns on the piano and Condi Rice singing along) and waiting for the Rapture.

Max Hastings on Intelligence

Military historian and former newspaperman Max Hastings takes the British case for war in Iraq to shreds in a way that American reporters ought to note and emulate.

Properly used, the secret services are critical providers of knowledge for governments, their labours to be weighed against other material, notably diplomatic traffic and the media. The only credible explanation for the degree of dependence that Blair seems to have placed upon the pre-2003 Iraq intelligence is that he needed it desperately, to convince the British people of reasons why their country should join a crusade against Saddam - upon which he was already privately determined.

In the winter of 2002, I asked a Whitehall friend whether the government's WMD intelligence was excessively dependent upon the Americans. He shook his head vigorously. "Not at all," he said, "indeed, if anything, it's the other way around." This seemed rum at the time, and looks even rummer today.

Even though I was deeply sceptical about invading Iraq, like many others I swallowed Blair's line on WMD because I simply could not believe that the government would be so explicit about the immediate threat without reliable information. Now that we know how little Downing Street or SIS had to go on, the prime minister's recklessness - and surely it was recklessness - is hard to accept.

Bush and Blair need to go. In fact, they should be in prison.

Clark is the One

It seems increasingly that the So-Called Liberal Media is playing the part of the Repugs in choosing the most easily defeatable Democratic candidate for the 2004 race. First was their inane focus on Howard Dean. Now it's Kerry Kerry Kerry, all the time. After two sets of primaries, Kerry is, according to the SCLM, practically the nominee. John Edwards gets some lip service and the candidate the Repugs are really afraid of, General Wesley Clark, gets blown off if he even gets mentioned at all. Sinister or stupid? I don't know, but it really, truly pisses me off - and it should you too.

Here is a letter a Vietnam vet sent to a Clark newsgroup I subscribe to, comparing Clark and Kerry. It's long, but well worth reading and passing along to your friends.

John Kerry went to Yale on daddy's money and took a commission in the Navy.

Wes Clark's dad died when he was 4. His mom raised him on a bank teller's salary, he earned his ticket to West Point in competitive testing with no Congressional appointment, he graduated first in the class of '66 ("The Long Gray Line") and was selected as a Rhodes Scholar where he earned his Masters of Politics, Philosophy and Economics. He came back from Oxford for Armor Officer Basic and winter Ranger school, was assigned as Commander, A Co, 4-68th Armor, but then volunteered for Vietnam, where he commanded A Co, 1-16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (Big Red One).

John Kerry received three Purple Hearts. Two for wounds not serious enough to cost him any lost duty time at all. The third for a wound that cost him 2 days on sick-call. He applied for an early return stateside because Navy policy allowed it.

Wes Clark received one Purple Heart, for bullet wounds in the arm, shoulder, hip and leg. Yet despite grievous injury, he remained standing, directing supporting fires and moving up the reserve platoon, until the ambush was overrun (all witnessed by his Bn CO). He took the last flight out, after every other wounded soldier in his company. When finally medivac'd, Wes Clark spent 2 months in an Army hospital, and another 4 months in rehab teaching himself to walk again.

John Kerry returned from the war to protest, throw his medals away (altho he now keeps a set on the wall in his Senate office), consort with Jane Fonda, and before Congress accuse US GIs of the most despicable war crimes.

Wes Clark returned from the war to command a third company (C/6-32nd Armor/194th Bde) at Ft Knox, one comprised of wounded GIs returning from Vietnam, helping them to regain their physical and emotional health while he himself healed. He went on to command a battalion, brigade, the NTC, 1st Cav Division, SOUTHCOM and EUCOM. He led a 19-nation coalition in a war that saw not a single US combat casualty. A war not supported by the Republican Congress and a syncophant Republican Secretary of Defense, who made him fight and finagle for every dollar and asset to support his troops in the fight.

General George S Patton III said that Kerry's actions as an anti-war activist had "given aid and comfort to the enemy."

General Alexander M. Haig said, "[Wes Clark is] an officer of impeccable character with a rare blend of personal qualities and professional attributes which uniquely qualify him as a soldier-scholar. While he has the intellectual grasp of world affairs attained only by the top scholars in the field, he projects soldierly qualities of strength, character, leadership, and above all an unyielding sense of personal responsibility... Clark's earnestness, sincerity of purpose and absolute dedication convey a moral force in his work."

John Kerry has been endorsed by Ted Kennedy, Barney Franks, and a few dozen other politicians.

Wes Clark has been endorsed by 55 former ambassadors and diplomats (from both Democratic and Republican administrations), over a hundred of his West Point classmates, and dozens of military generals, officers and enlisted men and women.

John Kerry talks about standing up for veterans, but he is a senator in his fourth term who has never once sponsored a single piece of legislation to help or provide for veterans or veterans' concerns. He has consistently and repeatedly voted against pay raises for active duty military, and for funding VA hospitals.

Wes Clark hasn't just talked about standing up for military men and women, much less stood in the way of real measures to support us. For 34 years, he's found solutions to our problems and made them work.

He implemented educational programs to get GEDs and higher education for the many high school drop-outs in the post-Vietnam Army.

He hosted townhalls where he sat face to face with soldiers and their wives for honest dialogue about family problems.

He improved schools for the children of the soldiers under his command, getting new facilities built and better curriculum approved.

He directed and enhanced health care, housing, schools and rec facilities for 160,000 American families stationed in Europe, battling with Congress for the funds to support his troops.

He has testified before Congress in support of Concurrent Receipt, to end the century old "Disabled Veterans Tax."

He supports an amendment to prohibit burning the US flag because of the men and women he's personally seen buried under her.

He will fight to end the underfunding of VA Hospitals and put a stop to the 6 month waiting period for appointments.

Wes Clark will never forget the US veteran, nor the FUTURE veteran--the men and women serving our nation in uniform in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere around the world today.

We do not have to settle for John Kerry, a Massachusetts liberal who knows he cannot win a single Southern state. Nor need we settle for George W Bush, who avoided combat by his father's influence, and then decided not to show up for Guard duty either.

We can have a higher standard of leadership. We can have Wes Clark.

You won't hear most of the facts above in the media, from the right or the left, but I assure you I can back up every one.


Wes Clark threatens the status quo. He says what he believes no matter who it offends. The right hates him because they know he can beat George W Bush. The left because he dares to challenge the liberal mainstream of the Democratic Party--they'd rather see Kerry lose than a man like Clark in charge. So both sides accuse him of what they think their followers fear most: the right paints him as a loony and a liar (so much for respecting a decorated veteran), and the left calls him a "Republican."

In case you're wondering, I'm not employed in any capacity in Wes Clark's campaign. I'm just a retired warrant officer and Vietnam vet (Chu Lai, 70-71) who cares deeply about my country and my Army, and so I'm asking you to vote for Wes Clark for President.

And to pass this along to the others who will understand.

Chuck "Wilse" Pickett
Warlord 38
CW4, US Army (Retired)

Thank you, Chuck Pickett, for saying so eloquently what many of us know in our hearts.

John Kerry is "Dukakis II." Wes Clark is the man who can win in November and save our country from the perils of misrule. Think on it.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Creepy Creeping Conservatism

The Washington Post continues down the path of becoming a clone of the Moony Washington Times this morning with a seemingly innocuous but in reality noxious editorial about gay marriage.

We support gay marriage. It is, in our view, wrong to deny to people in loving, lifelong relationships the benefits and rights that normally attach to being married. At the same time, we are skeptical that American society will come to formally recognize gay relationships as a result of judicial fiats, and we felt that the 4 to 3 majority on the Massachusetts court had stretched to find a right to gay marriage in that commonwealth's 224-year-old constitution.

Now the same majority has stretched still further, finding that the state constitution not only grants to same-sex couples a substantive right to marry but also dictates the nomenclature of the unions. When moral certainty bleeds into judicial arrogance in this fashion, it deprives the legislature of any ability to balance the interests of the different constituencies that care passionately about the question. Given the moral and religious anxiety many people feel on the subject and the absence of clear constitutional mandates for gay marriage, judges ought to be showing more respect for elected officials trying to make this work through a political process.

The judges' action has increased the likelihood of a state constitutional amendment that could ban gay unions under any name. Politicians at the federal level now more than ever will trip over one another to swear allegiance to traditional marriage and push a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay unions in all states. The case for this noxious proposal rests on the claim that judges are forcing gay marriage down people's throats in an anti-democratic fashion. In refusing to allow the people of Massachusetts to choose civil unions as an alternative, the court seems bent on playing to this caricature.

Imagine the Post crying about judicial activism! Earth to Post: if we wait for the Know Nothings to vote for gay marriage on their own it will never happen. I would like to see gay marriage happen in my lifetime. It does my partner and me no good after we're dead.

Krugman on Doublethink

Although he doesn't use the word, Paul Krugman succinctly covers some of the recent doublethink coming out of the Naked Emperor Administration in Washington:

On both the foreign policy and the fiscal fronts, the Bush administration is trying to rewrite history, to explain away its current embarrassments.

Let's start with the case of the missing W.M.D. Do you remember when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade.
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And if top political figures have their way, there will be further rewriting to come. You may remember that Saddam gave in to U.N. demands that he allow inspectors to roam Iraq, looking for banned weapons. But your memories may soon be invalid. Recently Mr. Bush said that war had been justified because Saddam "did not let us in." And this claim was repeated by Senator Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee: "Why on earth didn't [Saddam] let the inspectors in and avoid the war?"

The scary thing is, if the Administration keeps repeating this bull, there are plenty of really stupid Americans - and a lot of Americans are really terrifyingly stupid - who will believe it. In America, unlike Oceania, doublethink doesn't take a mental effort. It's apparently automatic for a large part of the populace.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

aWol

Both David Neiwert and Mark Kleiman have extensive, informative posts up about Dubya's so-called "service" in the National Guard. Check them both out!

Separate But Equal Never Is

In light of the wise decision of the Masschusetts Supreme Court yesterday, the Know Nothings who claim that homosexuality is forbidden by the Bible even while these same folk eat shellfish and wear clothes made of more than one fabric - also forbidden by the Bible although less exciting than worrying about other people's lives - are going ballistic. President Stupid wants to shit on the Constitution (remember, slavery was once legal in the Constitution too! Bring that back, Dubya!), the governor of Ohio is about to prove he the Yahoo Governor, not the Jobs Governor he claims to be, and lunatics and assholes are popping out everywhere. Meanwhile, an average of a soldier a day dies in Iraq, there are no weapons of mass destruction, the Emperor has no clothes, the deficit is going insane, the rich are getting richer, the last presidential election was stolen and I'm betting the next one will be too, Janet Jackson's boob was sighted, and American priorities are insanely misplaced. Yes, I'm babbling.

Boob Bowl

Here's another thing about the Boob Bowl that gets me: isn't it typically American that Janet Jackson's boob gets insane press, while the fact that Kid Rock desecrated the American flag by cutting a hole in it, wearing it as a poncho, and then flinging it off and onto the ground is OK? Flipping amazing. What patriots we are!

Archaeology Update: Science Wins, for Once

An appeals court has once and for all - we hope - slapped down Indian claims to the remains of Kennewick Man, a mysterious skeleton discovered in 1996 in Washington state. Indians have demanded that the remains, estimated to be at least 9000 years old, should be buried without study because they are "related" to local tribes, a thoroughly ridiculous and asinine claim considering the extremely ancient date of the bones. Probably some of my fellow lefties will cry, but it's the right decision.

There's a good website about Kennewick Man here.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

American Priorities

While talking with my bosses yesterday about the Boob Bowl fiasco, I commented that it is truly amazing that people are running around screeching about Janet Jackson's droopy boob instead of the recently revealed fact that not only are there no WMDs, according to Dubya's own weapons inspector guru, there never were. No sign of Americans pulling their collective heads out of their asses...it's what we're good at, unfortunately.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Ricin

David Neiwert, as usual, is way ahead of the power curve re the reported ricin discovery in the Senate mailroom.

...ricin has a long and colorful history among members of the American far right, and suspicions of domestic terrorism certainly should be raised here.

Likely true, but just as the anthrax letters were probably from a right wing domestic terrorist, this will probably be prosecuted with equal "vigor."

Interesting

It's amazing that people are going insanely ballistic over the Super Bowl halftime debacle when the ads were far more disgusting. America: The Country That Can't Get It Up.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Latest Top 10

Latest Top Ten Conservative Idiots (my God, how can they pick only ten?!) over at Democratic Underground:

3. Kathy Cox

If Kathy Cox has her way, science education in Georgia schools could soon be going the way of the dinosaurs - if you're dumb enough to believe in dinosaurs that is. Ms. Cox, the state schools superintendent, wants Georgia schools to remove all references to "evolution" and replace them with the phrase "biological changes over time." The purpose of this is, of course, to undermine the concept of evolution and promote creationism. Tell you what, while we're at it why don't we just reintroduce the concept of bleeding as a legitimate medical procedure? Or perhaps we could wave flowers around to protect ourselves from the 'flu while we're on our way to the local witch-burning. I dunno, if this keeps up pretty soon we'll be back to the educational level of cavemen. Oh, I'm sorry - cavemen didn't exist. My bad.

Check it out!