Friday, October 26, 2007
By Al Kamen
Friday, October 26, 2007; A19
FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.
Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.
Johnson stood behind a lectern and began with an overview before saying he would take a few questions. The first questions were about the "commodities" being shipped to Southern California and how officials are dealing with people who refuse to evacuate. He responded eloquently.
He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.
FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."
"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."
"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."
"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.
Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.
Asked about this, Widomski said: "We had been getting mobbed with phone calls from reporters, and this was thrown together at the last minute."
But the staff did not make up the questions, he said, and Johnson did not know what was going to be asked. "We pulled questions from those we had been getting from reporters earlier in the day." Despite the very short notice, "we were expecting the press to come," he said, but they didn't. So the staff played reporters for what on TV looked just like the real thing.
"If the worst thing that happens to me in this disaster is that we had staff in the chairs to ask questions that reporters had been asking all day, Widomski said, "trust me, I'll be happy."
Heck of a job, Harvey.
PARIS (Reuters) - Human rights groups have filed a lawsuit in France alleging that former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld allowed torture at U.S.-run detention centers in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The plaintiffs, which include the French-based International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), say Rumsfeld authorized interrogation techniques that led to rights abuses.
The United States says it does not torture, though it has authorized several methods widely condemned by rights groups such as exposure to extreme temperatures and 'waterboarding', or simulated drowning.
"We will only stop once the American authorities involved in the torture program are brought to justice," CCR chief Michael Ratner said in a statement posted on the FIDH Web site.
"Donald Rumsfeld must understand that he has nowhere to hide. A torturer is an enemy of humanity," he added.
The plaintiffs argue in their filing, which was also posted on the FIDH Web site, that French courts have universal jurisdiction -- allowing them to try foreigners in cases that occurred abroad -- under the 1984 Convention Against Torture.
They said Rumsfeld was visiting France on Friday and called for him to be detained.
"Rumsfeld's presence on French territory gives the French courts the authority to try him, in that he ordered and authorized torture and other inhuman and degrading treatment on detainees at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere," the FIDH said in its statement.
The Abu Ghraib jail in Iraq hit the headlines in April 2004 when details of the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers were made public, badly damaging the reputation of the U.S. military.
Former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are suing Rumsfeld and 10 military commanders for alleged torture and violations of their religious rights during their detention there.
The CCR and FIDH have already filed suits in Germany in 2004 and 2006 in a bid to have Rumsfeld tried for rights abuses.
Both were rejected by the courts, though an appeal is due to be heard in the second case next week, the groups said.
The German-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights was also a party to the French case.
Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo, Lisa Sylvester Continue to Lie to Americans about Dream Act.
This story shows clearly how those opposed to the Dream Act cannot argue the merits of their case, so they choose to lie to Americans to gain support. The big lie this time was that the three students appearing with Dick Durbin at a news conference outside the capitol in support of the Dream Act were "illegal aliens." They even went so far as to claim that those three students should have been detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.
The truth is that those students all have legal status, yet two of the three have no way to every become permanent residents because of our ridiculous immigration laws.
On the October 23 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, while reporting on the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would have provided Legal Permanent Resident status to immigrants who arrived in the United States before age 16, graduate from a U.S. high school, and either serve in the military or attend college for at least two years, correspondent Lisa Sylvester claimed that, earlier that day, the bill's sponsors had "held a news conference in the Capitol with illegal alien college students who'd benefit from the program." Sylvester continued, "But that may have backfired. Opponents demanded federal immigration officials detain the illegal aliens." Sylvester then highlighted comments by Republican presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO), who issued a press release "call[ing] on the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to detain any illegal aliens at this press conference," and anti-illegal immigration activist Rosemary Jenks, who stated: "You know, if the U.S. Capitol is a sanctuary, why shouldn't everyone come in illegally?" In concluding her report, Sylvester noted that "[n]one of the students was detained."
In contrast with the assertion on Dobbs that the students are "illegal alien[s]," ABC News investigated the status of the students attending the event and, on October 24, reported on its website:
[One of the students, Manuel] Bartsch was born in Germany but was raised by his step-grandparents in the United States. He said he'd tried to take a college entrance exam but didn't have a Social Security number. Bartsch's step-grandfather hadn't completed the proper paperwork, and Bartsch didn't become a U.S. citizen. This began a years-long bureaucratic odyssey for Bartsch, who is now a junior in college. Along the way, he'd been placed in detention by immigration authorities for 16 days. Ultimately, due to the intervention of Ohio Republican Rep. Paul Gillmor, Bartsch was awarded permanent resident status by the Department of Homeland Security.
Bartsch was joined at the event today by two other students, who could benefit from the DREAM Act. Tam Tran, whose Vietnamese parents came to the United States illegally from Germany, has lived in the here since she was 10. Tran is a UCLA graduate who wants to pursue a doctorate at the University of Southern California but can't because she needs federal student loans. The government can't deport her family to Vietnam because her father was persecuted by the communist government there, and ... Germany won't take them back either. Tran said today she is in "permanent legal limbo."
All this means little to Marie Gonzalez, the third student to appear with Durbin today. She has lived in Missouri since she was 5 -- her parents were deported to Costa Rica in 2005 -- and she will be deported too in June 2008, when a temporary Homeland Security waiver of action against her expires. Gonzalez said today she'll be 18 hours away from graduation at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., when she officially becomes illegal again.
The bottom line is this, none of those students are "illegal aliens" yet Lou Dobbs, Tom Tancredo, and the Right wingers continue to LIE because it serves their xenophobic agenda.
Bush Admnistration Continues to Prevent Scientists from Presenting Truth About Climate Change.That's what you get for electing Flat Earth Republicans.
By H. Josef Hebert
Wednesday, October 24, 2007; A10
Testimony that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned to give yesterday to a Senate committee about the impact of climate change on health was significantly edited by the White House, according to two sources familiar with the documents.
Specific scientific references to potential health risks were removed after Julie L. Gerberding submitted a draft of her prepared remarks to the White House Office of Management and Budget for review.
Instead, Gerberding's prepared testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee included few details on what effects climate change could have on the spread of disease. Only during questioning did the director of the government's premier disease-monitoring agency describe any specific diseases likely to be affected, again without elaboration.
A CDC official familiar with both versions said Gerberding's draft "was eviscerated," cut from 14 pages to four. The version presented to the Senate committee consisted of six pages.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the review process, said that while it is customary for testimony to be changed in a White House review, these changes were particularly "heavy-handed."
CDC spokesman Tom Skinner sought to play down the White House changes. He called Gerberding's appearance before the Senate panel "very productive" and said she addressed the issues she wanted to during her remarks and when questioned by the senators.
"What needed to be said, as far we're concerned, was said," Skinner said from Atlanta, where the CDC is based. "She certainly communicated with the committee everything she felt was critical to help them appreciate and understand all the issues surrounding climate change and its potential impact on public health."
The OMB had no comment on Gerberding's testimony. Gerberding could not be reached for comment late yesterday.
"We generally don't speculate and comment on anything until it is the final product," said OMB spokesman Sean Kevelighan. He added that OMB reviews take into consideration "whether they . . . line up well with the national priorities of the administration."
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, said in a statement last night that the Bush administration "should immediately release Dr. Gerberding's full, uncut statement, because the public has a right to know all the facts about the serious threats posed by global warming."
The Bush administration has been accused by government scientists of pressuring them to emphasize the uncertainties of global warming. Earlier this year, climate scientists complained to a House committee that the administration had sought frequently to manage or influence their statements and public appearances.
The White House in the past has said it has sought only to provide a balanced view of the climate issue.
The CDC is part of the Department of Health and Human Services, and its congressional testimony, as is normal with all agencies, is routinely reviewed by OMB.
But Gerberding was said by the CDC officials to have been surprised by the extensive changes.
The deletions directed by the White House included details on how many people might be adversely affected because of increased warming and the scientific basis for some of the CDC's analysis on what kinds of diseases might be spread in a warmer climate and rising sea levels, according to one official who had seen the original version.
Labels: American Taliban
The Bush Administration has become a Joke. Anyone associated with these asshats should never be allowed to work for government again.
October 25, 2007 11:50 AM
While White House Press Secretary Dana Perino may lack the showstopping musical theatre skills of her doppelganger, Kristin Chenoweth, she nevertheless provides us with almost daily entertainment. She's also recently remarked that parody and criticism of her efforts don't bother her in the least. When asked if ribbing of the sort she's been receiving from Doonesbury this week "gets under her skin," she brushed it off: "I hardly have time to check it out." Bully for her! She won't mind, then, if we put her under the microscope. Please join us on these pages for "The Gift That Keeps on Giving," and if something at the gaggle makes you gag, feel free to share your thoughts.
While the California wildfires and the upcoming Iraq supplemental bill dominated the early part of yesterday's presser, the conversation eventually turned to the testimony of CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, whose testimony on the public health impact of climate change was alleged to have been "heavily edited" by the Washington Post (well, the Post says "heavily edited," anyway--their source says "eviscerated").
When directly questioned on the deletions (which included Gerberding's blanket conclusion, "CDC considers climate change a serious public health concern"), Perino launched into a four paragraph dodge in which she claimed to not have seen the edits, touted the administrations "open book" policy on climate change, and orated a lengthy filibuster in praise of the CDC. Near the end of these remarks, however, Perino took a flying leap into the eternal sunshine, saying: "And so the decision on behalf of CDC was to focus that testimony on public health benefits -- there are public health benefits to climate change, as well, but both benefits and concerns that somebody like a Dr. Gerberding, who is the expert in the field, could address."
Public health benefits? Yea, verily, this was a theme Perino tried to advance, in spite of the fact that she was simultaneously attempting to tout the President's concern over the issue:
Anybody who wants to look at what the President thinks about climate change looks -- needs to only look back three weeks ago to when he gave a major address on climate change when he invited all 15 of the major economies of this world to come together to work on a solution -- work on a path to get to a solution to help the growth of greenhouse gas emissions.
Still, you have to be intrigued at the prospect of possible health benefits from global warming. As Steve Benen of the Carpetbagger Report blueskies, "Less hypothermia? Fewer instances of frostbite? A steep decline in the number of snowball-fight-related injuries?"
Lest you think that Perino had blinded the White House Press Corps with pseudo-science, someone did eventually question her assertion. Perino's response:
...this is an issue where I'm sure lots of people would love to ridicule me when I say this, but it is true that many people die from cold-related deaths every winter. And there are studies that say that climate change in certain areas of the world would help those individuals. There are also concerns that it would increase tropical diseases and that's -- again, I'm not an expert in that, I'm going to let Julie Gerberding testify in regards to that...
Uhm...but they didn't let Gerberding testify to that, did they?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
By Roda Brooks
25 October 2007
Liberals, put it behind you. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney shouldn't be treated like criminals who deserve punishment. They should be treated like psychotics who need treatment.
Because they've clearly gone mad. Exhibit A: We're in the middle of a disastrous war in Iraq, the military and political situation in Afghanistan is steadily worsening, and the administration's interrogation and detention tactics have inflamed anti-Americanism and fueled extremist movements around the globe. Sane people, confronting such a situation, do their best to tamp down tensions, rebuild shattered alliances, find common ground with hostile parties and give our military a little breathing space. But crazy people? They look around and decide it's a great time to start another war.
That would be with Iran, and you'd have to be deaf not to hear the war drums. Last week, Bush remarked that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III . . . you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." On Sunday, Cheney warned of "the Iranian regime's efforts to destabilize the Middle East and to gain hegemonic power . . . [we] cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its most aggressive ambitions." On Tuesday, Bush insisted on the need "to defend Europe against the emerging Iranian threat."
Huh? Iran is now a major threat to Europe? The Iranians are going to launch a nuclear missile (that they don't yet possess) against Europe (for reasons unknown because, as far as we know, they're not mad at anyone in Europe)? This is lunacy in action.
Writing in Newsweek on Oct. 20, Fareed Zakaria, a solid centrist and former editor of Foreign Affairs, put it best. Citing Bush's invocation of "the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon," ZZakaria concluded that "the American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. . . . Iran has an economy the size of Finland's. . . . It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are . . . allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?"
Zakaria may be misinterpreting the president's remark about World War III though. He saw it as a dangerously loopy Bush prediction about the future behavior of a nuclear Iran -- the idea being, presumably, that possessing "the knowledge" to make a nuclear weapon would so empower Iran's repressive leaders that they'll giddily rush out and start World War III.
But you could read Bush's remark as a madman's threat rather than a madman's prediction -- as a warning to recalcitrant states, from Germany to Russia, that don't seem to share his crazed obsession with Iran. The message: Fall into line with administration policy toward Iran or you can count on the U.S.A. to try to start World War III on its own. And when it comes to sparking global conflagration, a U.S. attack on Iran might be just the thing. Yee haw!
You'd better believe these guys would do it too. Why not? They have nothing to lose -- they're out of office in 15 months anyway. Après Bush-Cheney, le déluge! (Have fun, Hillary.)
But all this creates a conundrum. What's a constitutional democracy to do when the president and vice president lose their marbles?
The U.S. is full of ordinary people with serious forms of mental illness -- delusional people with violent fantasies who think they're the president, or who think they get instructions from the CIA through their dental fillings.
The problem with Bush is that he is the president -- and he gives instructions to the CIA and military, without having to go through his dental fillings.
Impeachment's not the solution to psychosis, no matter how flagrant. But despite their impressive foresight in other areas, the framers unaccountably neglected to include an involuntary civil commitment procedure in the Constitution.
Still, don't lose hope. By enlisting the aid of mental health professionals and the court system, Congress can act to remedy that constitutional oversight. The goal: Get Bush and Cheney committed to an appropriate inpatient facility, where they can get the treatment they so desperately need. In Washington, the appropriate statutory law is already in place: If a "court or jury finds that [a] person is mentally ill and is likely to injure himself or other persons if allowed to remain at liberty, the court may order his hospitalization."
I'll even serve on the jury. When it comes to averting World War III, it's really the least I can do.
In his weekly news conference today, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sharply criticized the administration’s move, warning that it brings the United States one step closer to war:
“Unilateral sanctions rarely, ever work,” Hagel said by phone during his weekly news conference. “I just don’t think the unilateral approach and giving war speeches helps the situation. It will just drive the Iranians closer together.” […]
“It escalates the danger of a military confrontation,” Hagel said.
“I certainly think engagement is critical … direct engagement,” said Hagel. “That’s what great powers do.”
In the press conference today, Rice insisted that the United States continues to pursue the “path of cooperation” with Iran. But the administration’s announcement comes just a day after CQ reported on the administration’s $88-million request to equip B-2 “stealth” bombers with a new 30,000-pound bunker buster — a weapon “meant for the kind of hardened targets found chiefly in Iran.”
On Sunday, Vice President Cheney issued “his sternest warning to date on Iran,” promising that there will be “serious consequences” if Iran continues “on its present course.” President Bush also last week publicly warned for the first time of the risk of “World War III” if Iran gets nuclear weapons.
MSNBC host Keith Olbermann says the realistic threat of terrorism is being so overstated by the Bush administration -- and in turn, by Fox News -- that it's downright funny.
"What happens when the culture of fear begins to inspire not terror or outrage, but laughter?" asked Olbermann. "Am I being too optimistic, or has giggling now passed paranoia in response to the president and these macabre parrots working at Fox?"
Olbermann cited a report yesterday carried by Fox News which suggested that Al Qaeda may be the true culprit behind the rash of recent California wildfires. Basing their coverage on an article it said ran "five days ago" in the Arizona Republic, the Fox and Friends morning program discussed an FBI memo stating that an Al Qaeda detainee had brought up the possibility of such a plan.
Calling the the report "almost all wrong," the host took the network to task for grossly misreporting the age of the memo:
"The memo was reported not...five days ago, but six days ago -- plus 1,560 more days ago," said Olbermann. "The memo is from July 11, 2003. The Arizona Republic is a newspaper. Congratulations, Fox. But it has not been carrying the story...the guy who reported it doesn't even work there anymore."
Later in the program, Olbermann made up his own terror rumor about Al Qaeda's far-reaching powers:
"I heard Al Qaeda causes night to fall," he warned.
Air America radio host Rachel Maddow, a guest during the segment, said reports like Fox's helped to aid a White House that profited from fear.
"They have to come up with superhuman powers for Al Qaeda because they want to use Al Qaeda to justify a super-extreme agenda for the United States of America," said Maddow of the Bush administration.
Citing controversial intelligence techniques and possible military action against Iran she described as a "radical agenda," Maddow said the administration required a "really radical justification for it...they've had to elevate this band of death-cult fundamentalist criminals into a threat that is greater to our country than the Soviet Union ever was."
"And because it's about such serious stuff," she concluded, "I feel a little guilty thinking that it's funny."
America's Next Top Stripper
You take 20 strippers and 20 DJ's and you put them on a deserted island...
I know what you're thinking, you're telling yourself Dear Punisher, we've seen that before.
But I'm serious about this. We could also take one actor and tell him he's auditioning for a movie and we could put him on the island with them. His job is to make himself the most detested reality show "bad guy" in TV history. We could script it so that he doesn't get eliminated and stays right to the very end. If he gets voted America's most hated reality star, he gets $100,000. Of course we'd need a blog, and people could text message their vote, sponsored by Verizon.... you get the drift.
As for the other contestants, the kicker in this reality show is that the strippers would vote off one DJ a week, and the DJ's would vote one stripper off a week. Oh, the hi-jinks that would ensue.
We could even have one stripper named Honey - the nice one, another named Darth Vixen - The bad girl, and one called BJ - do I really need to explain that?
You get my drift. This show would be ratings gold! Ratings gold I tell ya!
We could even call it "Real Temptation Stripper Survivor Island Nation World."
That would be cool.
Tune in next week gentle readers when I pitch my next show... America's Next Top Schizoaffective.
Hugs and Kisses,
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
10:13 AM PDT, October 24, 2007
WASHINGTON — The Senate today rejected a bill that would have allowed young people brought to the United States as children by their illegal immigrant parents to gain legal status provided they attended school or entered the military.
The 52-44 vote, short of the 60 required, was seen as a test of the Senate's appetite for pursuing an immigration overhaul on a piecemeal basis, as opposed to the comprehensive approach that failed this summer. The procedural vote would have allowed debate to begin.
"I believe in this bill passionately," said lead sponsor Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who has lobbied for the so-called Dream Act for five years and says he knows many young people who would be helped by it. "Some of their stories are heartbreaking. Many know no other country, know no other language, and now they are being told to leave by our government."
The Dream Act would give conditional legal status to illegal immigrants who have lived in the U.S. at least five years and entered the country before age 16. They must graduate from high school, have no criminal record and have a "good moral character." Provided the students completed two years of higher education or service in the military, the conditional basis of the legal status would be lifted. After five years, they could apply for citizenship.
Estimates vary as to the number of young illegal immigrants the bill would affect. The Congressional Budget Office has put it at fewer than 100,000, while the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute has estimated it at closer to 500,000.
Democrats argued there was a moral imperative to pass the bill, saying that skilled graduates would benefit American business and that the young people who enlisted would provide a much-needed boost to a military struggling to meet recruitment goals.
"Children should not be penalized for the actions of their parents," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "Many of the children this bill addresses came here when they were very young. Many don't even remember their home countries or speak the language of their home countries. They are just as loyal and devoted to our country as any American."
Republicans objected both to the timing of the bill and to its substance. Some complained that the Senate had several spending bills to process and should not be debating a controversial immigration measure.
"We've yet to send a single appropriations bill," said Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
Noting that the Internet tax moratorium expired in "exactly one week" and that 50 million taxpayers could become ensnared in a confusing tangle if Congress did not address the average minimum tax, McConnell said, "We have an enormous amount of work and we're running out of time."
Others, like Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said the bill was flawed, citing the fact that Dream Act beneficiaries would not be required to graduate college with a degree.
Some who had been supportive of the measure when Durbin brought it up on previous occasions were unenthusiastic. "Even though there's merit in the goal of the Dream Act, I feel this should be part of a comprehensive approach," said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.).
Conservative groups aggressively attacked the bill as an "amnesty" that would provoke a storm of public outrage, as happened the last time the Senate took up the issue of immigration reform.
"This is amnesty," said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.). "It's a slap in the face to all of those who came in here legally."
Noting the public uproar over previous attempts by the Senate to reform immigration, Inhofe added: "When do we learn? All of America's awake on this one. They know exactly what we're doing."
Durbin countered that Dream Act beneficiaries would have very limited ability to sponsor family members to come to the U.S. and that his bill would not allow them to get in-state tuition or federal aid. And he implored the Senate not to ignore the talents and patriotism of children whose only crime was to pack their suitcases when their parents told them the family was leaving.
"Don't tell me tomorrow you need HB-1 visas because we need more talented people," he said to his Senate colleagues. "Give these children a chance."
The San Francisco Chronicle reported last May that the California National Guard had been depleted and warned that severe “equipment shortages could hinder the guard’s response to a large-scale disaster,” such as a “major fire”:
In California, half of the equipment the National Guard needs is not in the state, either because it is deployed in Iraq or other parts of the world or because it hasn’t been funded, according to Lt. Col. John Siepmann. While the Guard is in good shape to handle small-scale incidents, “our concern is a catastrophic event,” he said.
“You would see a less effective response (to a major incident),” he said.
At a press conference five months ago, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) echoed these concerns, stating, “A lot of equipment has gone to Iraq, and it doesn’t come back when the troops come back.” The Chronicle reported that the California National Guard was missing about $1 billion worth of equipment.
Now, as 14 major wildfires rage across the state, those earlier warnings are materializing. While California currently has approximately 1,500 Guardsmen serving in Iraq, the strains on the disaster response teams are compounded by the missing personnel and equipment.
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said, “Right now we are down 50 percent in terms of our National Guard equipment because they’re all in Iraq. The equipment — half of the equipment, so we really will need help.” California Lieutenant Gov. John Garamendi (D) said on Harball yesterday, “What we really need are those firefighters, we need the equipment, we need, frankly, we need those troops back from Iraq.”
When asked about California’s concerns of depleted equipment caused by the Iraq war, White House spokesman Dana Perino said yesterday, “I haven’t heard that specifically.”
(HT: Oliver Willis)
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Stalin, Mao And … Ahmadinejad? Conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers
Updated: 1:57 PM ET Oct 20, 2007
At a meeting with reporters last week, President Bush said that "if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing [Iran] from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." These were not the barbs of some neoconservative crank or sidelined politician looking for publicity. This was the president of the United States, invoking the specter of World War III if Iran gained even the knowledge needed to make a nuclear weapon.
The American discussion about Iran has lost all connection to reality. Norman Podhoretz, the neoconservative ideologist whom Bush has consulted on this topic, has written that Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is "like Hitler … a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism." For this staggering proposition Podhoretz provides not a scintilla of evidence.
Here is the reality. Iran has an economy the size of Finland's and an annual defense budget of around $4.8 billion. It has not invaded a country since the late 18th century. The United States has a GDP that is 68 times larger and defense expenditures that are 110 times greater. Israel and every Arab country (except Syria and Iraq) are quietly or actively allied against Iran. And yet we are to believe that Tehran is about to overturn the international system and replace it with an Islamo-fascist order? What planet are we on?
When the relatively moderate Mohammed Khatami was elected president in Iran, American conservatives pointed out that he was just a figurehead. Real power, they said (correctly), especially control of the military and police, was wielded by the unelected "Supreme Leader," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Now that Ahmadinejad is president, they claim his finger is on the button. (Oh wait, Iran doesn't have a nuclear button yet and won't for at least three to eight years, according to the CIA, by which point Ahmadinejad may not be president anymore. But these are just facts.)
In a speech last week, Rudy Giuliani said that while the Soviet Union and China could be deterred during the cold war, Iran can't be. The Soviet and Chinese regimes had a "residual rationality," he explained. Hmm. Stalin and Mao—who casually ordered the deaths of millions of their own people, fomented insurgencies and revolutions, and starved whole regions that opposed them—were rational folk. But not Ahmadinejad, who has done what that compares? One of the bizarre twists of the current Iran hysteria is that conservatives have become surprisingly charitable about two of history's greatest mass murderers.
If I had to choose whom to describe as a madman, North Korea's Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, I do not think there is really any contest. A decade ago Kim Jong Il allowed a famine to kill 2 million of his own people, forcing the others to survive by eating grass, while he imported gallons of expensive French wine. He has sold nuclear technology to other rogue states and threatened his neighbors with test-firings of rockets and missiles. Yet the United States will be participating in international relief efforts to Pyongyang worth billions of dollars.
We're on a path to irreversible confrontation with a country we know almost nothing about. The United States government has had no diplomats in Iran for almost 30 years. American officials have barely met with any senior Iranian politicians or officials. We have no contact with the country's vibrant civil society. Iran is a black hole to us—just as Iraq had become in 2003.
The one time we seriously negotiated with Tehran was in the closing days of the war in Afghanistan, in order to create a new political order in the country. Bush's representative to the Bonn conference, James Dobbins, says that "the Iranians were very professional, straightforward, reliable and helpful. They were also critical to our success. They persuaded the Northern Alliance to make the final concessions that we asked for." Dobbins says the Iranians made overtures to have better relations with the United States through him and others in 2001 and later, but got no reply. Even after the Axis of Evil speech, he recalls, they offered to cooperate in Afghanistan. Dobbins took the proposal to a principals meeting in Washington only to have it met with dead silence. The then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he says, "looked down and rustled his papers." No reply was ever sent back to the Iranians. Why bother? They're mad.
Last year, the Princeton scholar, Bernard Lewis, a close adviser to Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal predicting that on Aug. 22, 2006, President Ahmadinejad was going to end the world. The date, he explained, "is the night when many Muslims commemorate the night flight of the Prophet Muhammad on the winged horse Buraq, first to 'the farthest mosque,' usually identified with Jerusalem, and then to heaven and back.
This might well be deemed an appropriate date for the apocalyptic ending of Israel and if necessary of the world" (my emphasis). This would all be funny if it weren't so dangerous.
Fuck The Bristol
Patron asked to move is suing the Bristol
Civil rights violated, disabled man says
A man with cerebral palsy is suing the Bristol Bar & Grille, alleging that his civil rights were violated when he was asked to change his seat because his voice was bothering other diners.
An attorney for Corey Nett, 28, filed a civil suit in Jefferson Circuit Court Sept. 6, claiming that the actions of the restaurant discriminated against him because of his disability, which causes him to have irregular speech and limited motor skills, according to the complaint.
"Corey wants to make sure this doesn't happen to another disabled person again," said Kevin Jaggers, the attorney.
Claims made in filing a lawsuit represent only one side of the case. Bristol management did not return calls seeking comment.
Nett's lawsuit claims that on Aug. 2, he went to the Bristol restaurant at 1321 Bardstown Road to have dinner with friends.
The lawsuit says that after Nett was seated a manager approached to tell him that his voice was bothering other guests and he needed to relocate to another part of the restaurant.
Nett's dinner companions responded that Nett could not control the way he talks, but the manager said it didn't matter and that the party would have to move or leave the restaurant, the suit said.
Nett and his party left.
The lawsuit asks for unspecified damages for Nett's emotional distress, humiliation and mental anguish, as well as punitive damages against the Bristol.
Reporter Jessie Halladay can be reached at (502) 582-4081.
Jay Rockefeller. Sellout.
Dear Senator Rockefeller-
It is dismay that I write to you regarding your decision to support granting immunity to Telecomm Companies from lawsuits filed against them by American Citizens who’s fourth amendment rights may have been violated.
I am particularly appalled that you have also accepted significantly larger amounts of contributions this year than pervious years from executives of those same companies you have now decided to assist in granting immunity.
It’s too bad Senators don’t have a Code of Conduct such as the one for U.S. Judges:
Model Code of Judicial Conduct Canon 2
A Judge shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of the Judges Activities.
It is my understanding that you made this decision based upon a review of documents provided by the White House about the telecomm companies cooperation.
Why would a United States Senator make a decision based upon information provided to him by the entities who may have engaged in illegal activities? This is a classic example of the Fox guarding the henhouse. And you’re getting all your information from the Fox. The reason to have these lawsuits go forward is so that no one can selectively pick the least incriminating information and present it as the entire story.
This administration has engaged in illegal activity and you’re helping them to cover it up.
I’m ashamed of you Senator Rockefeller. You were elected to uphold the Constitution.
In case you forgot here’s what it says:
4th Amendment to U.S. Constitution
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
I don’t think that’s very ambiguous.
Hugs and Kisses,
John D. Rockefeller IV (Democrat) is a Crook. Claims Contributions had "no influence" on his decision to support granting immunity to Telecom Company
WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 — Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping.
The surge in contributions came from a Who’s Who of executives at the companies, AT&T and Verizon, starting with the chief executives and including at least 50 executives and lawyers at the two utilities, according to campaign finance reports.
The money came primarily from a fund-raiser that Verizon held for Mr. Rockefeller in March in New York and another that AT&T sponsored for him in May in San Antonio.
Mr. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emerged last week as the most important supporter of immunity in devising a compromise plan with Senate Republicans and the Bush administration.
A measure approved by the intelligence panel on Thursday would add restrictions on the eavesdropping and extend retroactive immunity to carriers that participated in it. President Bush secretly approved the program after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Mr. Rockefeller’s office said Monday that the sharp increases in contributions from the telecommunications executives had no influence on his support for the immunity provision.
“Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false,” Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. “He made his decision to support limited immunity based on the Intelligence Committee’s careful review of the situation and our national security interests.”
AT&T and Verizon have been lobbying hard to insulate themselves from suits over their reported roles in the security agency program by gaining legal immunity from Congress. The effort included meetings with Mr. Rockefeller and other members of the intelligence panels, officials said.
The companies face suits from customers who say their privacy was violated. Administration officials say they worry that the suits, pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, could bankrupt the utilities.
House Democrats have balked at the immunity, refusing to include it in a bill they drew up and saying they would not even consider it unless the administration produced long-sought documents on the origins of the program.
Mr. Rockefeller received little in the way of contributions from AT&T or Verizon executives before this year, reporting $4,050 from 2002 through 2006. From last March to June, he collected a total of $42,850 from executives at the two companies. The increase was first reported by the online journal Wired, using data compiled by the Web site OpenSecrets.org.
Neither Mr. Rockefeller’s predecessor as committee chairman or his House counterpart received increases in contributions from the phone companies, records show. But industry executives have given significant contributions to a number of other Washington politicians, including two presidential contenders, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain.
A spokeswoman for AT&T, Claudia B. Jones, said contributions from its executives related to Mr. Rockefeller’s role on the Senate Commerce Committee, not immunity or other questions before the Intelligence Committee.
“Many AT&T executives work with the leaders of both the House and Senate Commerce Committees on a daily basis and have come to know them over the years,” Ms. Jones said.
She added that although industry executives and politicians might not always agree, it is “commonplace for AT&T employees to regularly and voluntarily participate in the political process with their own funds.”
Ms. Morigi, in Mr. Rockefeller’s office, said the senator had had numerous meetings with his aides about immunity for a year and came to believe that the carriers needed legal protection to ensure cooperation on national security operations.
On other questions, she said, he has disagreed with the industry. Ms. Morigi pointed to his sponsorship of a separate bill to give cellphone subscribers more protections in their contracts. That bill, unlike the immunity provision, has been vigorously opposed by the industry.
She also said that the increased contributions from industry executives reflected a record fund-raising year for Mr. Rockefeller and that his contributions from many sectors had “skyrocketed.”
Mr. Rockefeller is up for re-election next year. No opponents have declared their intention to try and unseat him.
The senator has raised $3.1 million this year, in part through 107 campaign events, according to his office. He has promised not to use any of his personal fortune to finance his campaign.
“The idea that John Rockefeller could be bought is kind of ridiculous,” said Matt Bennett, vice president for Third Way, a moderate Democratic policy group that has supported immunity for the phone carriers.
“That these companies are going to focus their lobbying efforts where their business interests are is no revelation,” Mr. Bennett said. “That’s the standard Washington way of doing business. But you’re not going to buy a Rockefeller.”
Meredith McGehee, policy director for the Campaign Legal Center, a group promoting stricter campaign finance laws, said contributions like those to Mr. Rockefeller created an appearance problem that “corrode public confidence” in the political system.
“We have so many examples like this of people on relevant committees receiving these contributions from people who are under their jurisdictions,” Ms. McGehee said. “It’s sad to say, but it is pretty much business as usual in Washington. And it shows why so many Americans just shake their heads over the way Washington works.”
Labels: Rockefeller is a Crook
Bush Administration Flushes another $1.2 Billion Down the Toilet. Shouldn't this be called Thievery?
Just as the State Department is trying to work its way clear of its Blackwater troubles, a scathing federal audit released Tuesday exposes a glaring lapse in oversight of another federal contractor in Iraq, DynCorp. DynCorp was supposed to train and equip Iraqi police, but the report says the State Department doesn’t know how most of the money in the billion-plus-dollar program was spent.
The State Department "does not know specifically what it received for most of the $1.2 billion in expenditures under its DynCorp contract for the Iraqi Police Training Program," the audit says. The federal watchdogs, with the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, or SIGIR, said that they even had to suspend their audit because there wasn't enough data to check the books, which were in “disarray.”
DynCorp’s contract was part of the U.S. strategy to arm and train a new Iraqi police force in the wake of the 2003 invasion. Training the police was a key part of the Bush administration’s efforts in Iraq. The training was considered crucial because police are often unable to withstand insurgent attacks, and are considered penetrated by various militias.
DynCorp’s contract, issued in February 2004, entailed broad responsibilities, including equipping, housing and security for police training. It was overseen by the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, or INL, which also assigned the company to handle police training in Afghanistan.
The program in Iraq has been riddled with problems. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general, said at first the State Department had only two officials to administer the massive contract. He said the department wasn’t equipped to handle it. “They bit off more than they could chew,” Bowen said in an interview. “This is far and away the largest contract they have ever assigned in the history of the organization.”
‘Ripe for waste and fraud’
Bowen’s auditors said the environment was “ripe for waste and fraud.” DynCorp's invoices had numerous problems, such as duplicate payments. Auditors also reported on the "the purchase of a $1.8 million X-ray scanner that was never used, and payments of $387,000 to house DynCorp officials in hotels in Iraq rather than in existing living facilities." (A State Department spokesperson disputes that, in part, and says the unused X-ray scanner and hotels were in Afghanistan rather than Iraq.) Bowen says the State Department says it will try to organize its books so that the auditors can come back at the end of the year and try again.
But with invoices paid without being checked, and with no one tracking what they were for, auditors say it's impossible to determine what money was spent on. The State Department admits that it was unable to reconcile the books for the entire period of February 2004 to October 2006 but says since then it has made tremendous improvements. A spokesperson disputes that “most” of the $1.2 billion was not accounted for and suggests it should be “some" rather than "most." The spokesperson said that "INL is committed to considerable improvement. We've already made considerable staffing and process changes to improve our contract oversight."
Some costs renegotiated
But in an indication of the scale of the problem, the State Department says it has renegotiated some old invoices with DynCorp, and the company has dropped its price by about $116 million.
In a letter responding to the audit, the Acting Assistant Secretary of the State Department’s INL wrote that it “will take three to five years” to “fully review and validate invoices” for pre-October 2006 work. The letter points out that there have been vast improvements. Bowen, the IG, agreed.
Meanwhile the State Department continues to try to sort out another DynCorp debacle identified in a separate audit earlier this year — the purchase of hundreds of residential trailers in Baghdad. Bowen says the trailers, years after their purchase, are all in storage in the Baghdad airport complex, unoccupied. On top of that, the company spent $4.2 million on "unauthorized work" — that is, on projects that were not approved by the State Department. That work included building a U.S. taxpayer-funded Olympic-sized swimming pool near the Adnan Palace in Iraq even though the State Department never approved it.
DynCorp did not respond to two calls for comment.
The new audit is sure to raise new concerns. DynCorp, in addition to the police training, is one of three security companies awarded the Worldwide Personal Protective Security contract, under which it works with Blackwater and a company named Triple Canopy providing bodyguard services for diplomats. Currently DynCorp has received only $38 million under the program, while Blackwater has received $470 million. If Blackwater is indeed banned from Iraq, security experts expect a lot of its business may go to DynCorp.
Midnight in America: the Mainstreaming of the GOP's Lunatic Fringe
Posted October 22, 2007
The most significant takeover of the past decade isn't to be found among the telecoms, the big oil companies, or in Silicon Valley. The reconfigured entity is headquartered in Washington, but we can see and hear the results everyday on your television, radio, and computer screen. And America is much the worse for it. I'm talking about the takeover of the Republican Party by its lunatic fringe.
Reagan's GOP has been replaced by the dark, moldering, putrefied party of Bush, Cheney, Rove, Limbaugh, Coulter, and Malkin. Morning in America has given way to Midnight in America.
Of course, there the Republican Party has always had it Jesse Helmses, Spiro Agnews, and Lee Atwaters. But they were the minority, far removed from the mainstream of the Party -- Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, the first George Bush.
But these days it has become impossible to tell where the mainstream stops and the fanatical fringe begins. Just look at what the so-called "mainstream" of the party is endorsing
We have a mainstream on the right that supports torture, that is backing an Attorney General nominee who is agnostic on torture, and that rallies behind a president who refuses to define what the word "torture" means.
A mainstream that supports -- even applauds -- the behavior of Blackwater thugs.
A mainstream that continues to back the White House's delusions about Iraq at the expense of our military, our treasure, our safety, and our standing in the world.
A mainstream that supports the gutting of our civil liberties.
So, it can no longer be denied: the right wing lunatics are running the Republican asylum.
These days, the only thing that separates the RNC and Rush Limbaugh is a prescription for OxyContin.
The latest evidence: the ugly smear campaign mounted against 12-year-old brain injury survivor Graeme Frost and his family. This new-low-in-messenger-killing wasn't just the doing of the toxic talk radio, rabble-rousing right; it was Senator Mitch McConnell's office pulling together the talking points. And then lying about its involvement when exposed.
And notice the dearth of Republicans willing to distance themselves from the Swiftboating of a 12-year-old boy - a boy who has worked diligently to make a remarkable recovery from his devastating injuries, supported by a loving, hardworking, intact family. Aren't those some of the basic core values the GOP used to stand for?
Despite the fanatical right's takeover of the Republican Party, the traditional media -- with its obsession with "balance" and its pathological devotion to the idea that truth is always found in the middle -- has failed to properly document the metamorphosis. So much easier to see everything that's happening in American politics through the lens of right versus left.
Making matters worse, today's Democrats continue to tread lightly when it comes to holding accountable the fanatics running the GOP. Time and time again, the Democratic leadership allows itself to get played, run over, or distracted. Republicans want to deflect discussion of the war by arguing over newspaper ads and radio comments? Okay, Reid and Pelosi are game. Republicans want to avoid talking about children without healthcare by crying about Pete Stark's tough assessment of the president? Sure, here comes a Pelosi reprimand.
Democrats are in the majority today because their positions are in line with mainstream America. But if the lunatic fringe group now known as the Republican Party is to be stopped in its efforts to radically remake this country, the Democrats are going to have to step up and defend the mainstream that elected them.
Democrats have become Republicans and Republicans have become the Corporations. When's it gonna end?
With Democrats Like These ...
Every now and then, we are tempted to double-check that the Democrats actually won control of Congress last year. It was particularly hard to tell this week. Democratic leaders were cowed, once again, by propaganda from the White House and failed, once again, to modernize the law on electronic spying in a way that permits robust intelligence gathering on terrorists without undermining the Constitution.
The task before Congress was to review and improve an update to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, that was pushed through the Capitol just before the summer break. That bill endorsed warrantless wiretapping and gutted other aspects of the 1978 law.
House Democrats drafted a measure that, while imperfect, was an improvement to the one passed this summer. But before the House could vote, Republicans tied up the measure in bureaucratic knots and Democratic leaders pulled it. Senate Democrats did even worse, accepting a Potemkin compromise that endorsed far too much of the bad summer law.
We were left wondering who is really in charge, when in a bipartisan press release announcing the agreement, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kit Bond, described the bill as “a delicate arrangement of compromises” that could not be changed in any way. The committee’s chairman, Jay Rockefeller, didn’t object.
As the debate proceeds, Americans will be told that the delicate compromises were about how the government may spy on phone calls and electronic messages in the age of instant communications. Republicans have already started blowing hot air about any naysayers trying to stop spies from tracking terrorists.
No one is doing that. The question really is whether Congress should toss out chunks of the Constitution because Mr. Bush finds them inconvenient and some Democrats are afraid to look soft on terrorism.
FISA requires a warrant to spy on communications within the United States or between people in this country and people abroad. After 9/11, Mr. Bush ordered the National Security Agency to spy, without a warrant, on communications between the United States and other countries. The N.S.A. obtained data from American telecommunications companies by telling them it was legal.
After The Times disclosed the program in late 2005, Mr. Bush looked for a way to legalize it retroactively. He found it this summer. FISA also requires a warrant to intercept strictly foreign communications that happen to move through data networks in the United States.
That Internet age flaw has a relatively simple fix. But the White House seized the opportunity to ram through the far broader bill, which could authorize warrantless surveillance of Americans’ homes, offices and phone records; permit surveillance of Americans abroad without probable cause; and sharply limit the power of the court that controls electronic spying.
Democrats justified their votes for this bad bill by noting that the law expires in February and by promising to fix it this fall. The House bill did, in fact, restore most judicial safeguards. But the deal cooked up by Mr. Rockefeller and the White House doesn’t. It would not expire for six years, which is too long. And it would dismiss pending lawsuits against companies that turned data over to the government without a warrant.
This provision is not primarily about protecting patriotic businessmen, as Mr. Bush claims. It’s about ensuring that Mr. Bush and his aides never have to go to court to explain how many laws they’ve broken. It is a collusion between lawmakers and the White House that means that no one is ever held accountable. Democratic lawmakers said they reviewed the telecommunications companies’ cooperation (by reading documents selected by the White House) and concluded that lawsuits were unwarranted. Unlike them, we still have faith in the judicial system, which is where that sort of conclusion is supposed to be reached, not in a Senate back room polluted by the politics of fear.
There were bright spots in the week. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon managed to attach an amendment requiring a warrant to eavesdrop on American citizens abroad. That merely requires the government to show why it believes the American is in league with terrorists, but Mr. Bush threatened to veto the bill over that issue.
Senator Christopher Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, said he would put a personal hold on the compromise cooked up by Senator Rockefeller and the White House.
Otherwise, it was a very frustrating week in Washington. It was bad enough having a one-party government when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues.
Hillary is Pro-War and Obama Tours with a Gay Bashing Gospel Singer. Where oh where has my Democratic Party Gone?
Posted October 20, 2007
Obama Should Repudiate and Cancel His Gay Bash Tour, and Do It Now
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama ripped a page straight from the Bush campaign playbook with his announced upcoming three date barnstorm tour through South Carolina with notorious gay basher, gospel singer Donnie McClurkin. The Grammy winning black gospel singer's last effort on the political scene was his song and shill for Bush's reelection at the Republican National Convention in 2004. Obama has hitched his string to McClurkin's high flying gay bash kite in part out of religious belief (he purports to be somewhat of an evangelical), in bigger part because he's falling further and further behind Hillary Clinton with the black vote in South Carolina and everywhere else, and in the biggest part of all because he hopes that what worked for Bush's reelection will work for him.
Enter McClurkin. He's black, he's popular, and gospel plays big with blacks in South Carolina, especially black evangelicals, and many of them openly and even more of them quietly loathe gays.
Bush masterfully tapped that homophobic sentiment in 2000 in part with McClurkin and even more masterfully in 2004 again with McClurkin and the top gun mega black preachers in Ohio and Florida. He tapped it so masterfully that Bush's naked pander to gay bashing with the GOP spawned anti-gay marriage initiative in Ohio did much to win over a big chunk of black evangelical leaning voter to Bush.
In fact, the great untold story of the 2004 presidential elections was the black evangelical vote.
Although black evangelicals still voted overwhelmingly for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, they gave Bush the cushion he needed to bag Ohio and win the White House. There were early warning signs that might happen. The same polls that showed black's prime concern was with bread and butter issues -- and that Kerry was seen as the candidate who could deliver on those issues -- also revealed that a sizeable number of blacks ranked abortion, gay marriage and school prayer as priority issues. Their concern for these issues didn't come anywhere close to that of white evangelicals, but it was still higher than that of the general voting public.
A Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies poll in 2004 found that blacks by a far larger margin than the overall population opposed gay marriage. That raised a few eyebrows among some political pundits, but there were much earlier signs of blacks' relentless hostility to gays and gay rights. A survey that measured black attitudes toward gays published in Jet magazine in 1994 found that a sizable number of blacks were suspicious and scornful of them. Many blacks also were put off by Kerry's perceived support of abortion. In polls, Kerry got 20 percent less support from black conservative evangelicals than Democratic presidential contender Al Gore received in 2000.
In Florida and Wisconsin, Republicans aggressively courted and wooed key black religious leaders. They dumped big bucks from Bush's Faith-Based Initiative program into church-run education and youth programs. Black church leaders not only endorsed Bush but in some cases they actively worked for his re-election, and encouraged members of their congregations to do the same.
This lesson isn't lost on Obama. Desperate to snatch back some of the political ground with black voters that are slipping away from him and to Hillary; Bush's black evangelical card seems like the perfect play. Obama wouldn't dare go down the knock gay path, and risk drawing the inevitable heat for it, if he didn't think as Bush that anti-gay sentiment is still wide and deep among many blacks.
And that's what makes Obama's ala Bush pander to anti-gay mania even more shameless and reprehensible. From the moment that he tossed his hat in the presidential ring, Obama has done everything he could to sell himself to voters, as the Man on the White Horse, a fresh new face on the scene, with new ideas, and the candidate that's not afraid to boldly challenge Bush and the GOP on everything from the Iraq war to health care.
He's also sold himself as a healer and consensus builder. Legions have bought his pitch, and have shelled out millions to bankroll his campaign. But healing and consensus building does not mean sucking up to someone that publicly boasts that he's in "a war" against gays, and that the aim of his war is to "cure" them. That's what McClurkin has said. Polls show that more Americans than ever say that they support civil rights for gays, and a torrent of gay themed TV shows present non-stereotypical depictions of gays. But this increased tolerance has not dissipated the hostility that far too many blacks, especially hard core Bible thumping blacks, feel toward gays.
Obama has spent months telling everyone that he's everything that Bush isn't. He can proof it by saying a resounding no to McClurkin and to gay bashing. He can cancel and repudiate the South Carolina "gospel" tour, and do it now.
Monday, October 22, 2007
"They Hate Us For Our Freedoms" - George W. Bush
Sun Oct 21, 2007 4:15 AM ET
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. air strikes in a Shi'ite stronghold of Baghdad on Sunday killed at least two toddlers, Reuters television footage showed.
Police said a total of 13 people were killed in the strikes and more than 50 were wounded.
In the morgue of Imam Ali hospital in the district of Sadr city the bodies of two toddlers, one wearing a nappy, lay on blankets while doctors tended to wounded men and boys, the video footage showed.
In the house where one of the toddlers lived, a man who said he was a cousin, pointed to bloodstained mattresses and blood-splattered pillows, choking back tears as he held up a photo showing one of the dead children.
"We were waking in the morning and all of a sudden rockets landed in the house and the children were screaming," said a woman outside the house.
The U.S. military confirmed it had conducted early morning operations in Sadr city "targeting criminals believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of coalition soldiers in November 2006 and May 2007"."By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies." - George W. Bush
Iraqi Government Staffed by Incompetant Hacks who are Political Appointees, not Experts. Heck of a Job there Bushie. Heck of a Job.
WASHINGTON - A principal architect of Iraq’s interim constitution, who resigned in August as one of the country’s top diplomats, has laid out a devastating critique of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the U.S. occupation, telling NBC News that, functionally, “there is no Iraqi government.”
The diplomat, Feisal Amin Istrabadi, said in his first interview since stepping down as Iraq’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations that “this government has got to go.”
When he resigned, Istrabadi, a U.S.-born lawyer who lobbied for the U.S. invasion and was the principal legal drafter of Iraq’s interim constitution, said he was leaving because it was time for fresh ideas after having served three years at the United Nations.
But Istrabadi made it clear in an exclusive interview with NBC News that he was dismayed by al-Maliki’s government and the U.S. occupation, saying the government was stocked with incompetent administrators who had helped bring about “chaos and instability.”
The Iraqi government is an illusion, said Istrabadi, who is now a visiting professor at the Indiana University Law School. “You’ve got patently incompetent men appointed to important positions.” (Heck of a Job, Heck of a Job)
Many government departments were apportioned to religious parties for political reasons, Istrabadi said, citing the Health Ministry, which he said was dominated by the Mahdi Army militia loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, a radical anti-U.S. cleric.
“You cannot have this sectarian doling out of the Cabinet ministries,” Istrabadi said. “You’ve got to bring in competent technocrats to try to run those ministries, the service ministries.”
U.S. political imperatives to blame
Istrabadi traced what he called the country’s “chaos and instability” in part to the U.S. insistence on holding elections in 2005, before Iraq had developed robust democratic institutions to buffer the influence of religious leaders.
“Both the Shia and the Sunnis were told if they didn’t vote for their respective parties, that would be a violation of their religious duties,” Istrabadi said.
The result was a government dominated by Shiite Islamist parties and a constitution rejected by Sunni ethnic groups. Shiite Islamist parties have blamed the Sunnis for refusing to engage in the political process.
“I think the question was: ‘Should elections have been held?’ And I think that there is only one answer to that question, and that’s absolutely not,” Istrabadi said.
Istrabadi blamed the Bush administration for pushing for the elections at least two years before Iraq was ready for them.
“What did we accomplish, exactly, [with] this push towards an appearance of institutions ... merely an appearance?” he asked.
“Except that an American politician can stand up and say, ‘Look what we accomplished in Iraq.’ When, in fact, what we accomplished in Iraq over the last three years has been chaos and instability.”
Free to speak out
Istrabadi acknowledged that he harbored those doubts at the time but was powerless to speak out because he represented the government. “I publicly defended them because that was the government’s policy,” he said.
Free of that burden now, Istrabadi was eager to speak out.
Istrabadi said there were probably are few politicians in Iraq who could still build enough support to replace al-Maliki, whose government has been marked by instability and frequent discussions about a possible Cabinet reshuffling. But he lamented that the situation was so chaotic that they probably would not want the job.
“Fundamentally, you have the Iraq state falling apart and an inability on the part of the political class to put it back together,” he said.
He also had harsh words for the United States’ protection of private contracting firms. A U.S.-Iraqi panel is reviewing the use of private security companies after 17 people were killed when guards employed by Blackwater USA opened fire on civilians Sept. 16 in Baghdad.
Contractors are immune from Iraqi prosecution under a decree issued in June 2004 by Paul Bremer, then the U.S. administrator of Iraq.
Istrabadi said the Iraqi government had pushed for three years for a “Status of Forces Agreement,” which would outline U.S. and Iraqi rights with regard to armed combatants, to no avail.
“What right does Paul Bremer have to exempt entities from the application of Iraqi law?” Istrabadi asked. “He created a lawless class in Iraq.”
A man of two countries
Istrabadi, 45, a stocky man with the persuasive style of an accomplished lawyer, was born in the United States to Iraqi parents — his father was a Shiite and his mother a Sunni — in exile. As a young child, initially he returned with his parents to Iraq, and he holds both U.S. and Iraq citizenship.
He witnessed Saddam Hussein’s rise to power, watching on television as 13 people were hanged.
When Saddam’s Baath Party consolidated control in 1970, his family fled to the United States again, and he would spend the next 33 of his life as an exile in America.
Istrabadi became active in Iraqi opposition circles beginning in 1996, and he pushed eagerly for the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Even now, he is unwilling to call the invasion a mistake.
But he is glum over the prospects for his native country, and he is frustrated by what he found there.
“If I could say that the government, U.S. policy, was headed in a positive way in Iraq — so that I could see a light at the end of the tunnel — it would have been harder to walk away,” he said.
Coming Soon.... 1 Year Anniversary of Democrats taking back House and Senate. Here's a List of their Accomplishments:
........... umm. I'm still looking.
Labels: Nothing Accomplished
Voters are Angry. Nancy Pelosi isn't helping. I second Nancy Greggs Statements.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Naturally) was last seen back in Idiots 269 running for House Minority Leader, a race in which he gained an impressive one vote (his own).
But never let a disastrous, embarrassing defeat get a good man down. Last week Barton was back on the radar when DUer eggplant noticed this peculiar press release on the Republicans' House Energy and Commerce Committee website, which I have reproduced here in full:
"If the poor children can get a piece of the action, why can't I?" explained Burns at a MoveOn.org rally in Capital City. "The little darlings are needy? Me, too. I need somebody to pay. Quimby here says he knows a bunch of low-income nobodies who are ripe for the picking. Excellent."
"You need this?" wondered the mayor. "Well, why not. I've got needs, too. Why, I've got 27 paternity suits pending and to quote the Speaker, 'suffer the little children.' The Quimby Compound is overflowing with those little sufferers. Vote Quimby."
Inexplicably, the mayor then leaned toward a comely MoveOn organizer and whispered in her ear, "Ah, if anyone asks, you're my niece from out of town and you don't get SCHIP."
"But Uncle Joe, I am your niece from out of town, and I do get SCHIP."
"Good Lord, I'm a monster!" exclaimed the mayor.
Mr. Burns shrugged and pressed on with a stirring call to arms: "Truth and fairness, these are the demons we must slay if we wish to save the tykes."
His patience was tested when a ruckus arose from a restive crowd of backdrop-toddlers who'd been rented by MoveOn for the photo-op. "Get these props away from me," Burns hissed.
"Kids? Who needs 'em? Rahm, release the hounds!" added Quimby with a spreading grin. "Ha, I've always wanted to say that, Burns."
The 37 rental children fled and were not seen again, but the arf-arf-arfing of their pursuers could be heard well past sunset.
Okay, so it's kinda hard to tell, because the press release was apparently written by a seventh-grader with poor literacy skills, but I believe Barton is using a Simpsons metaphor to accuse Democrats of being fat-cat crooks...
...who commit sexual indiscretions...
...and molest children...
...and then he's wrapped it all up into a package whereby denying healthcare to the children of the working poor is a big joke.
Well played, sir.