Friday, December 21, 2007

Romney Sorta Makes Stuff Up

Apparently Mitt Romney "saw" his dad march with Martin Luther King in much the same way I "saw" my dad abducted by aliens.

Really, it's pretty sad when Dennic Kucinich's claim to have seen a UFO is more credible than your claim to have seen your dad march with MLK.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Face of our Fears

The term pre-9/11 mentality has been used by Republicans as a pejorative term to describe Democratic opponents who (these Republicans would have us believe) do not exhibit the requisite sense of urgency and understanding of the nature of the terrible "terrorist threat" that lingers over our nation. But reading the story of Eva Ósk Arnardóttir you get a sense that perhaps the only sane people left in this paranoid asylum we call America are the blessed few who still cling to the vestiges of that same "pre-9/11" mentality.

Eva is a blonde, Icelandic woman who recently travelled to New York to do a little Christmas shopping. But upon discovering that on one of her several vacations to the U.S. (and not the most recent one either) Eva had overstayed her Visa by three weeks, DHS officials had her detained, chained, imprisoned and deported, without so much as a call to the Icelandic embassy or the benefit of a consular visit.

This, folks, is one of the many faces of New Paranoia, propagated by alarmist demagogues such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Rudy Giuliani, Fox News, Pat Roberston and the entire Neocon commentariat. It is sad to say that her case will prove compelling to many, simply because she is a pretty, young blond woman who was forced to endure 24 hours of humiliation over a rather trifling lapse that she had good reason to assume had been long ago forgiven or forgotten. Sadly, that assumption proved naïve to say the least. America is slowly transforming itself into a Security State where privacy, civil rights and even common sense give way to the vigilance of our paranoid overseers. Of course, other less lucky and less fair skinned travelers have endured far more savage treatment at the hands of our lawless proto-fascist security agencies (and those same agencies have shielded themselves from responsibility, recompense or oversight by invoking various secrecy acts.) But in a nation that sits zombielike, glued to the 24 hour machine-gun coverage of cable news outlets every time a young blond woman is abducted or murdered by a depraved husband or lover, perhaps Eva's story will make some inroads and help rouse a dozing populace from this pernicious nightmare we are dreaming.

Rudy Delivers

Q: What does Rudy want this Christmas?
A: "Peace through strength."

Tasteful, and not tacky at all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Something Odd About That Picture

Fox News is not shy about supporting candidates it likes and trashing those it doesn't (though the network will never admit to its obvious bias). It's also relatively well known that higher-ups at Fox have got a thing for NY Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and are pretty much actively supporting his presidential run. So I found it rather curious to surf on over to Fox this afternoon and see the following image of Mitt Romney on the website. What stuck out, mostly, was Romney's prominent and oddly proportioned chin. Now, Romney certainly has a prominent chin, but I'd never seen him looking like this. Was Fox News digitally manipulating Romney's picture to make him look strange? I can't say for sure. I'll leave it up to you to make up your minds for yourself (click the image to make it larger):

Monday, December 17, 2007

Friday, December 14, 2007

What Happens in Iraq Stays in Iraq

More reports are surfacing describing the sort of lawlessness that U.S. contractors enjoy in Iraq. This time it is a female employee of KBR who suffered numerous cases of sexual hazing, including a sexual assault at the hands of a State Department official. Despite the State Department's recommendation that the official be charged, the U.S. government has declined to pursue the matter further.

From Hell back to Purgatory

A mother living in Federally subsidized housing in the U.S. sends her son back to war ravaged Liberia for fear of what is happening to him in the U.S.

Augustus had been well schooled in the lessons of Park Hill, which has taken in so many waves of refugees over the last 30 years that it is known in some quarters as Little Liberia. By his teenage years, he had adopted a street name (Ghostface) and a gang affiliation (Bloodline) and learned how drugs coursed through the neighborhood into the hands of customers.

Ms. Sirleaf made her choice and did not look back, even when her son found himself in the midst of war, even when he begged to come home.

“If God give him to me, he will survive,” she told her friends when they asked how she could be so cold. “If he is not mine, he will die.”

Her decision made a strange kind of sense in Park Hill, a row of federally subsidized apartment buildings northwest of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that is home to 3,000 to 4,000 Liberians.

This is an extreme example, no doubt, but it does bring home the horrid circumstances under which poor minorities must live in this country, and just how little the government does to help improve their lives. When people complain about the money that we waste on foreign wars, that would be put to better use at home, this is the sort of thing they're thinking of.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Please, Waterboard my Pilots! (Ha, ha!)

With apologies to Henny Youngman, I note that the Bush Administration's use of and non-denial defense of waterboarding as an interrogation technique has brought this nation to the point that the U.S. Military finds itself in the unenviable position of tacitly green-lighting the waterboarding of downed U.S. airmen by the secret security services of foreign powers.

Witness the stunning exchange between Senator Lindsey Graham and Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, when Graham asked Hartman if the U.S. military would protest the waterboarding of a U.S. Airman downed over Iranian airspace. Hartman refused to answer the question.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Last to Know

Just so you know (click the image for a larger view):

Faux News vainly hopes you never hear Jones' story.

Swiftboat Veterans For Destroying the GOP

How appropriate that the party that invented "swiftboating" is starting to turn its weapons inward and ripping itself to shreds in a virulent, internecine bout. I've said in the past that Mike Huckabee is the only GOP candidate who truly worries me (what with ol' Fred Thompson languishing in dumpsville and John McCain universally despised by party faithful for fathering a black baby... or something like that). But today the conservative Club For Growth has produced an attack ad that's bound to put one Hell of a chink in Huckabee's armor. The spot is delectable in its underhanded savagery:

I especially love that last line "Nursing Home Bed Taxes." They might as well have followed GOP precedent and called it the pre-death tax.

Jesus Deserved to Die

"Jesus deserved to die." That's the only way one can interpret Mike Huckabee's answer, in 1997, to a question about how he, as a Christian, could justify being a supporter of the death penalty.

"...if there was ever an occasion for someone to have argued against the death penalty, I think Jesus could have done so on the cross and said, 'This is an unjust punishment and I deserve clemency."
But Jesus did not argue that he deserved clemency, so clearly, his punishment was just.

Monday, December 10, 2007

And Now, An American Victim

In the heady heyday of the great tech-fueled stock market bubble of the 1990's, over-exhuberant con-men and charlatans led the credulous in a chant of "the old rules do not apply." Then, when gagillion dollar market caps for companies with no profits, sales, or even tangible products couldn't be sustained, the "old rules" kicked in, the market collapsed and the rest is history. Iraq today is something like the stock market was back in the 90's... at least the anarchic "old rules don't apply" part of it. For if you're a mercenary sub-contractor you could very well say that in Iraq the "old laws don't apply." And by "old laws" I'm talking stuff like "thou shalt do no murder" and rape being a bad thing and all.

We've heard the stories of Blackwater and other mercenary firms dealing death to the Iraqi civilian population in a rather arbitrary and haphazard manner while suffering no consequence for it. This is in part because the Bush administration, in all it's Orwellian wisdom decided that the best way to bring Democracy to Iraq would be by turning it into a place where Mercenaries could visit and just, let themselves go, secure in the knowledge that they enjoyed immunity from the laws that govern civilized nations.

Now ABC news brings us the story of an American victim of foreign contractors. And by foreign I mean foreign to Iraq, since Halliburton, the contractor in question, is decidedly not foreign to our shores. Jamie Leigh Jones, who was just 21 years old when she worked for Halliburton in Iraq, was gang raped by employees of that company, and then locked in a storage container by company officials who feared the negative consequences for the company if she told her story. It was only after a congressman's intervention (prompted by a phone call from her father) that she was rescued by "agents of the U.S. embassy" and returned to safety. Furthermore, evidence of her rape was destroyed after the Army rape kit was handed over to Halliburton security officials.

To make matters worse, Jones has no recourse under U.S. law. At best she can sue the company in civil court, however, Halliburton is claiming that the employment contract she signed requires her to settle all claims through secret, binding arbitration proceedings. Yes, you read that right, Halliburton is claiming the right to impose a contract that forces a rape victim to sign away her right to settle claims in a public courtroom. Under U.S. law it is illegal to insist that employees sign contracts stipulating that they will never vote to join a trade union, it is legal to have employees sign away their right to sue a company in a public court when they are raped by their employers.

There is so much that is sickeningly wrong about this case it's hard to know weven where to start.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Reagan on Rushmore?

There's something about monumental architecture that gives authoritarians a tingly sensation all over. Thus it's no surprise that Conservatives have always harbored a desire/fantasy/delusion of putting Reagan's face up on Mount Rushmore alongside the visages of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. Today Reverend Sungh Yung Moon's Washington Times quenched its readers thirst with a fantasy proposal:

The caption to the story ran:

Artist Ted Williams has incorporated former President Ronald Reagan into an image of Mount Rushmore that was called "so realistic that it looks like Reagan is really there."
There are two things that I find rather curious about this article.

First is the caption: "it looks like Reagan is really there."

Uh... yeah. It's called Photoshop. Look, here's Ozzy on Mt. Rushmore. Looks like he's really there, too, doesn't it? Uncanny:

But the other thing I noticed about the Reagan on Mt. Rushmore picture is that it seems to involve adding rock to Mt. Rushmore. Hmmm... not really sure they thought that through very closely.


Sort of an addendum to my previous post:

Giuliani has two cards in his deck: 911 (which he's played so many times he's worn a hole right through it) and the notable drop in crime that accompanied his tenure as Mayor of New York City. But he's weak on social issues (as far as GOP voters are concerned). Huckabee, on the other hand, is strong on social issues and potentially weak on crime, (though, this will depend greatly on how the Dumond scandal plays out). Giuliani's strength, then is Huckabee's potential weakness whereas Huckabee's strength is Giuliani's weakness.

I would fully expect the Giuliani campaign to undertake a concerted effort to undermine Huckabee's candidacy based on the "crime" issue. And I suspect that either the Giuliani campaign (or more likely a surrogate) will be the first to launch an attack in this quarter.

I'll admit it: the Huckabee candidacy worries me greatly. Depending on how the female vote lines up, he could well beat Hillary. If he's the GOP candidate I'd much rather have Obama to face him. I suspect Hillary could take any other GOP candidate, but Huckabee... I'm not so sure. Huckabee is genial, wheras Hillary has a mean streak. Obama is genial, whereas Giuliani has a mean streak. I don't think mean streak beats genial with the American electorate. Hillary could take Giuliani, and Obama could take Huckabee. But that's about all I can say with any confidence. I will say that for all the troubles the GOP field is experiencing, anyone who thinks the Democrat is just going to waltz into the Whitehouse is just naive. It's going to be a bitterly contested election.

Romney's JFK Speech

This was his conundrum, as I wrote elsewhere:

It's gonna be a tough juggling act for Romney. He's gotta convince the Christian Right that your religious beliefs shouldn't matter one single bit in our pluralistic, Democratic America, unless, of course, you're a Muslim or, Moroni forbid, atheist! At the same time he's got to convince GOP voters that he's a deeply religious man who is driven by faith, because it would be unthinkable to elect anyone who wasn't (i.e. a Democrat).

And having just watched the speech, that's exactly what he tried to do. There were four main points:
1) It's unfair not to vote for Romney just because he's a Mormon...

2) ...because then we'd be like Islamists want to kill us all because we're not Islamists.

3) But obviously we need a religious man in the Whitehouse...

4) ...because otherwise we'd be like secular Europe with its empty Cathedrals.
Romney's trying to pilot his ship through a very, very narrow strait. On the one hand are the Christian fundamentalists who won't vote for him because they're a lot like the Islamists in terms of their exclusivity of belief and hegemonic evangelism. On the other hand are those on the left who are uncomfortable with the Religious Right's attempt to so closely tie religion to politics.

I for one felt very uncomfortable with Romney's insistence, at the beginning of his speech, that freedom requires religious conviction. It reminds me of the time that George Bush the elder (who introduced Romney at his speech today) questioned whether atheists should be allowed to be citizens or could possibly be patriots. Clearly Romney is trying to have it both ways. He's demanding that the Religious Right be open minded about his own beliefs while assuring them that he's just as intolerant of unbelievers as they are.

Sadly for Romney, I suspect this speech will probably be remembered as his Swan Song. The Religious Right has found its man in Mike Huckabee, and unless Romney and Giuliani make common cause and break out the Karl Rove handbook and pull out all the stops to successfully Swiftboat him based upon the emerging Wayne Dummond scandal, Huckabee's going to sail to the nomination.

One thing I can guarantee: the GOP nomination is about to get nasty. Hillary and Obama are going to look like bestest pals based on what's about to unfold in their opponents' race.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The enemy is us...

Remember when the Likudnik right pilloried Jimmy Carter as an anti-Semite for suggesting that maybe the State of Israel would be better off in the long-term if it ended its occupation of the West Bank and allowed the Palestinians to live their lives like human beings? Well, looks like they've found another vile anti-Semite hiding in our midst... Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert, disciple of Carter (and Hitler, obviously)!

(found through Andrew Sullivan)

The President's lies and misrepresentations

The President responds to the latest NIE report, in which 16 separate intelligence agencies concluded that Iran halted work on acquiring nuclear weapons in 2003.

"I view this report as a warning signal that they had the program, they halted the program," Bush said. "The reason why it's a warning signal is they could restart it."
So if it stops raining, put your baseball bat and glove back down, kids. Doesn't mean you can go out an play. It's just a warning that it might start raining again soon. The President has a knack for absurdly inappropriate interpretations of inconvenient facts and data. Remember when he insisted that military operations in Iraq were obviously succeeding because U.S. casualties were rising? Remember what Bush said back when inspection teams concluded that Iraq possessed no Weapons of Mass Destructions, either chemical, nuclear or biological?
We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. You remember when Colin Powell stood up in front of the world, and he said, Iraq has got laboratories, mobile labs to build biological weapons. They're illegal. They're against the United Nations resolutions, and we've so far discovered two. And we'll find more weapons as time goes on. But for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them.
It was a similar attempt by the President to look the world straight in the face and tell us all that the moon was made of cheese. Of course, intelligence agencies had concluded no such thing, and were instead inclined to believe that that the mobile laboratories to which Bush was referring were not chemical weapons labs, but rather mobile facilities for the production of hydrogen gas (probably used to fill balloons which were used as targets in anti-aircraft gun training exercises.) So he was lying then too, just as he's lying today.

Reports are now surfacing that the Bush administration kept this NIE assessment under wraps for over a year, even as the President ceaselessly belched apocalyptic rhetoric about the threat of Iran's Nuclear program.

But at least he wasn't lying about sex, right?

Monday, December 3, 2007


Look what country we don't have an excuse to bomb any more.

Rewriting History

The liberal blogosphere is positively livid these days by the following exchange that Karl Rove had with Charlie Rose a few days ago on Rose's TV show:

Rove's suggestion that the Congress' vote to authorize (pdf) the president "use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary" to counter the perceived threat of Saddam Hussein's Iraq somehow "pushed things along" faster than the administration would have liked is simply ludicrous on the face of it. And he has rightly taken much heat for this claim.

Today Rove had to answer for that claim most explicitly on Fox News of all places, a video of which encounter can be found on the Huffington Post. It's great fun, though rather peculiar watching Rove attempt to rebut a counter claim by Ari Fleischer by insisting that Rove was an administration insider whereas Fleischer, presumably was not. Talk about rewriting history. A nice bonus is watching Fox host Chris Wallace trying desperately to change the topic (well aware, it seems, of how ridiculous Rove was sounding).

What to me is interesting in all this is the way Rove is trying to spin his statements. He's placing most of his emphasis on the claim that Congress (which, on the Senate side was nominally Democratic) hurried through an Iraq resolution before the Bush Administration was ready for it, while expending very little effort justifying the more subtle claim that the authorization in question somehow forced the Administration's hand (probably because it's a pretty ludicrous claim).

Now, in all honestly, I am inclined to believe that some members of the administration (though I doubt all) did, in fact, want for the vote to occur after the elections. But the notion that they wanted this to be the case to avoid a "politicized" vote is simply ludicrous, coming from an administration that has sought to squeeze every possible ounce of political advantage from the events of September 11, 2001. As I've written already below, it is very likely there were some in the political wing (and I suspect Rove was among them) who wanted to head into the 2002 elections without such a vote so that they could run a campaign based on the theme that only Republicans were prepared to do what was necessary to defend the country from the menace represented by Saddam Hussein. Having the war authorization vote take place before the elections would neutralize that message to a certain extent, since the president could no longer hit the campaign trail asking voters to elect Republicans so that his hands might no longer be tied and he be allowed to do what was necessary to secure the nation. In fact, even after the vote took place, that message was still central and critical to be GOP's campaign strategy. One need only witness what the GOP did to GA, senator Max Cleland to see how this played out in the field.

So my message to rove, is this: cute, nice try, but too clever by half.