Friday, March 31, 2006

2006 will not be easy for Democrats

Anyone who thinks that all the national indicators that are going against the Republicans mean likely takeovers of the House and Senate for the Democrats need to go read the micro analysis by Ruy Teixeira.

He explains the national trends (the macro analysis) and then moves into an aggregated version of each Congressional Districe and Senate race (the micro analysis.) The micro analysis considers the political structure that the macro analysis ignores, and the Republicans have the structural advantage.

Read the analysis. It will explain clearly what I mean.

Card replaced; When does Rummy go?

Is Rumsfeld the next major member of the Bush administration to go? Chris Nelson (in the Agonist) points out that Rumsfeld is no longer the principle defender of the Iraq War; instead Bush has taken on that role. Chris also reports that the military has given up on Rumsfeld completely. That means that Rumsfeld no longer has any credibility with anyone.

Cheney has always been Rumsfeld's main defender, but Cheney himself has been weakened by the indictment of his Chief of Staff, Libby; by his repetition of talking points long after they have been publicly disproved; and by the discrediting of the NeoCon-instigated foreign policy in general. With open discussion of the possible resignation of Cheney so that Condileeza Rice could replace him and be positioned to replace Bush in 2008, Cheney appears to be a thin reed for Rumsfeld to lean on.

So when does Rumsfeld announce that he wants to spend more time with his family?

[Thanks to Booman Tribune]

Bush shifted speech to preempt Democratic news conference

The Democrats presented their news conference offering the Democratic Security Plan Wednesday. Only almost no one reported it.

Why? Simple. According to Peter Daou Bush had scheduled a speech on Iraq Policy to be given beginning at 1:30 PM. At the last moment, the White House changed the time of that speech so that it started a few minutes before the Democratic press conference.

Peter Daou earlier published an excellent article on how the Republicans and the media are working together to present the current occupiers of the White House as just a bunch of good old boys doing their best to do what America needs done. Examples are:
narratives: Bush is likable, Bush is a regular guy, Bush is firm, Bush is a religious man, Bush relishes a fight, Democrats are muddled, Democrats have no message, national security is Bush’s strength, terror attacks and terror threats help Bush (even though he presided over the worst attack ever on American soil), Democrats are weak on security, Democrats need to learn how to talk about values, Republicans favor a “strict interpretation” of the Constitution, and on and on.

A single storyline is more effective than a thousand stories. And a single storyline delivered by a “neutral” reporter is a hundred times more dangerous than a storyline delivered by an avowed partisan. Rightwingers can attack the media for criticizing Bush, can slam the New York Times for being liberal, but when the Times and the Post and CNN and MSNBC echo the ‘Bush stands firm’ mantra, it adds one more brick to a powerful pro-Bush edifice.
The Daou Report explains why the media is letting Bush and the Republicans get away with its massive lies and frauds while at the same time not letting the Democratic adn progressive messages see the light of day.

This article is a "must read."

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Bush knew Niger uranium story was bunk

The most important story today has been Murray Waas' report that Bush knew perfectly well that the tale he told during the 2003 State of the Union speech about Iraq attempting to get yellow-cake uranium from Niger and that the aluminuim tubes purchased by Iraq were for acquiring weapons grade fissionable material were bunk, but he told it to the American people and the world anyway. Fortunately for Rove and Bush, the information that had been given Bush was concealed in highly classified documents.

But the fact is, Bush Lied. To everyone.

Karl Rove then spent the next year or so using every power the government has to shut down all accurate reporting that Bush had been informed the story was not true before he used the lie. Rove feared that such reports would make it much more difficult for Bush to be reelected in 2004.
Hadley was particularly concerned that the public might learn of a classified one-page summary of a National Intelligence Estimate, specifically written for Bush in October 2002. The summary said that although "most agencies judge" that the aluminum tubes were "related to a uranium enrichment effort," the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's intelligence branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Three months after receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."
When Joe Wilson published his signed editorial July 6, 2003 stating that his investigations in Africa had shown that the Niger story was a hoax, Rove and the White House were in full defensive mode. July 18th, 2003 Robert Novak published his article which exposed Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson's wife, as a covert CIA agent. This had the effect of destroying her networks which were designed to prevent nuclear proliferation and it destroyed her CIA career.

As we now know, the entire White House effort to prevent the American public from knowing that Bush had knowingly lied about Iraqi nuclear weapons programs was successful, and Bush was able to muddle his way to reelection in 2004 with the assistance of major efforts by the Ohio Secretary of State to repress Democratic voter turnout.

Murray Waas has done a superb reporting job on the outing of Valerie Plame. The earlier articles he has published in the National Journal can be found at this list of links.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Abramoff, Kidan each get 70 months

From Reuters. Jack Abramoff and his parther Adam Kidan were each given five years 10 month in federal prison together with requirement to provide restitution of $21.7 million in the Miami federal court. This is for their actions providing fake documents to defraud lenders when borrowing money to buy the SunCruz Casino Line in 2000.

Jack Abramoff is still facing criminal charges in Washington, D.C. stemming from his actions defrauding his Indian clients and bribing politicians and members of government. The many names connected to Abramoff include Tom DeLay and Bob Ney from Congress.

BBC News also has covered the story.

Democratic Security Plan due today

georgia10 reports at dKos on the anticipated Democratic Party Security Plan which Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are expected to announce today. Here are some points from her diary:
  • Eliminating Osama bin Laden.
  • A "responsible redeployment of U.S. forces" from Iraq in 2006.
  • Doubling the number of special forces and adding more spies to reinvigorate the hunt for Osama bin Laden,
  • Finishing the War in Afghanistan where security is deteriorating and the Taliban may be resurging,
  • Declaring energy independence by 2020,
  • Implementing all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations,
  • Modernizing the military,
  • Increasing funding for port security and homeland security in general, and
  • Much more.
[Note: I have edited and reformatted Georgia10's words here for brevity. RB]

This is a direct attack on the major strength that Bush has provided to Congressional Republicans since 2002. The Republicans are responding as expected:
  • Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) claims the plan offers "nothing but platitudes."
  • Senator Christopher Bond (R-MS) tried to dismiss the plan, claiming "It's taken them all this time to figure out what we've been doing for a long time."
  • And designated spinmeister for the day, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), writing for National Review Online, says "These are all efforts that the administration and Republican Congress have implemented, or that Democrats have delayed or otherwise blocked."
[Again, reformatted from Georgia10.]

It looks to me like some Democrats have learned from Karl Rove. This action goes at the Republicans where they are strongest, and even if it can't totally counter the Republican advantages in the appearance of "Providers of Security" it will weaken the public response. This will open them to their real vulnerabilities as incompetent providers of "Governance" and as Corrupt Politicians too busy feathering their own nests to do the real work of governing.

It is also being presented early enough for a large number of Democratic candidates to use these issues as part of their campaigns.

We can expect push-backs from Republicans at all levels, from David Brooks at the NY Times to the FOX News and conservative subsidized journals such as the American Standard, Washington Times, National Review and NRO.

It is going to be an interesting year.

[Update 1:00 PM CST] The plan has been announced.
The Associated Press has the story.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Republicans are running Kooks & Theocrats for Senate

This is beyond normal Republican wierd - I hope.
ALBANY - A Republican challenger to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is bizarrely claiming that the former first lady has been spying in her bedroom window and flying helicopters over her house in the Hamptons, witnesses told The Post yesterday.

Former Reagan-era Pentagon official Kathleen "KT" McFarland stunned a crowd of Suffolk County Republicans on Thursday by saying:
"Hillary Clinton is really worried about me, and is so worried, in fact, that she had helicopters flying over my house in Southampton today taking pictures," according to a prominent GOP activist who was at the event.

"She wasn't joking, she was very, very serious, and she also claimed that Clinton's people were taking pictures across the street from her house in Manhattan, taking pictures from an apartment across the street from her bedroom," added the eyewitness, who is not involved in the Senate race.
Suffolk County Republican Chairman Harry Withers, who hosted the reception in East Islip, confirmed McFarland's paranoid statements.

"Yes, she said that," Withers told The Post.
There is the Kook-of-the-day. Next, from the Orlando Sentinal we get the Kooky Theocrat, Katherine Harris. This is the not-very-attractive two-term Republican Congressperson running to defeat Democratic Florida Senator Ben Nelson. You will remember that Ms. Harris was the Florida Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the Florida Bush for President organization who worked so hard in 2000 to reduce the number of Democratic voters so that Bush could get the Supreme Court to steal the election for him. This part of the story is a bit longer, so let me summarize.

First, she said that her long-time media consultant Adam Goodman leaked a report that he and long time Strategist Ed Rollins were leaving her campaign. She said this was incorrect. Only Adam Goodman was leaving. When asked if Goodman were still with the campaign, she responded with confusion followed by a "No comment."

Then later she called the Orlando Sentinal and told them she should not have said that Goodman had leaked the reports as she had first said. The Sentinal states that this has been typical of the confusion in her campaign.

But I said "Theocrat", didn't I? Here is more to the story. She is trying to recover from the confusion of her campaign by taking her campaign advice mostly from her "...spiritual adviser Dale Burroughs, founder of the Biblical Heritage Institute in Bradenton." This and the following come from the St. Petersburg Times.
Burroughs has been advising Harris for years, but lately has had a more prominent role as Harris stopped listening to other campaign advisers. Burroughs said she has little role in the campaign beyond helping reach out to religious voters and is merely a Bible study partner and close friend.

Friends and advisers say Harris has been deeply religious all her life, but religion recently has become a central part of her campaign. Campaign staffers warily describe Harris as leading a "Christian crusade."

"It was always part of the background, but it was never an integral part of the campaign. It never engulfed her," said former campaign manager Jim Dornan, who quit the campaign in November but keeps in touch with staffers. "She's grasping for a pillar she thinks this campaign can be raised on."

Her top campaign advisers, having failed to persuade Harris to drop her struggling campaign against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, are preparing to leave. Those include Ed Rollins, a highly regarded GOP strategist and her top campaign adviser; Adam Goodman, her longtime Tampa-based media consultant; and campaign manager Jamie Miller. Harris has been aggressively campaigning for support among religious conservatives, hitting large churches and headlining a "Reclaiming America for Christ" conference in Broward County last weekend. She told hundreds of attendees she was "doing God's work" with her campaign.[Snip]

Though little known in Florida political circles, Burroughs is well respected among some of the country's most prominent Christian conservative political activists. She is a spiritual adviser, for instance, to members of the Arlington Group, a coalition of religious conservatives that includes James Dobson of Focus on the Family, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, Gary Bauer of American Values, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell.
I guess when the rational doesn't work, then the only choice is to resort to the non-rational and hope for a miracle, right?

Many of the pictures of Katherine Harris seem to me to show a woman who has personal problems and tries to keep them under tight control. Frankly, I think she is simply wound too tight, and is trying to build her self-esteem by getting elected Senator. Unfortunately, it isn't working, either to resolve her personal issues or to provide a Senator who can adequately work for the needs of the people of Florida and for America.

Where do the Republicans GET these people?

[Thanks to The Swing State Project for the first item above about the kook in NY, and to TPM from Josh Marshal for the second two items above.]

Bet FEMA is not ready for the earthquake, either

After the botched response to Katrina became news it was reported that in 2001 FEMA anticipated that there were three likely major disasters facing America. They were:
  • A hurricane hitting New Orleans.
  • A massive earthquake hitting San Francisco
  • A terrorist attack on New York.
By August of 2005 two of those had happened. So what has happened to the earthquake in San Francisco?

Here through Yahoo News
is that latest on the earthquake probablities.

I wonder what FEMA is doing to get ready. The news report strongly suggests it isn't "IF" the earthquake hits. It's "WHEN". But that was the case with Katrina, also.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bernanke - recession, inflation not problems

Bernake insists that the flat yield curve does not warn of economic slowdown in the near future. The Financial Times provides this report of his testimony to Congress:
“Although macroeconomic forecasting is fraught with hazards, I would not interpret the currently very flat yield curve as indicating a significant slowdown to come,” Mr Bernanke said, in a speech delivered in New York on Monday night.

The Fed chairman said that – unlike in past episodes where a flat yield curve had preceded a recession – both short and long-term interest rates remained low. Also, other financial indicators, including narrow corporate bond spreads, suggested that market participants did not harbour “significant reservations” about the economic outlook.

But he said the low level of long-term rates had “ambiguous” implications for the central bank’s policy decisions, as low rates reflected forces boosting US economic performance as well as the drag from the trade deficit.

Mr Bernanke said low long-term rates were in part the result of a decline in the “term premium” investors demand for holding longer-dated securities. This was stimulating economic activity and requiring tighter monetary policy to offset the effect of overall looser financial conditions in the economy.

The lower term premium in part reflects well-anchored inflation expectations, and expectations that the steadier macroeconomic performance of recent years would continue, he said.
OK. He's the expert. So I am not going to worry (too much) that the recent reduction in home prices on the East and West Coasts mean that a sharp drop in American economic activity is likely in the near future. At least, there may be some countervailing economic activities outside real estate and real estate-related economic activity.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Kevin Phillips on threats to America

Kevin Phillips writes over at TPM Cafe about his new book, American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.

Kevin describes his book:

My underlying thesis in American Theocracy is that these are the three major perils of the United States in the early 21st century.

  • First, radical religion– this encompasses everything from the Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell types to the attacks on medicine and science and the Left Behind books with their End Times and Armageddon scenarios.
  • Second, oil dependence – oil was essential to 20th century U.S. hegemony, and its growing scarcity and cost could play havoc. And
  • third, debt is becoming a national weakness – indeed, the “borrowing” industry in the U.S. has grown so rapidly that finance has displaced manufacturing as the leading U.S. sector.
[Bullet points and bolding above are mine. Words are quoted.]

This immediately caught my eye, as these themes sum up much of what I have read and written over the last two years. I would be tempted to add Global Warming and Environmentalism to the list to make it complete, but Kevin is a historian rather than a scientist, and he is focusing on politics and history.

Barnes & Noble will release his book March 21st, so when my next check arrives I will be buying a copy. In the meantime I strongly recommend that you go read his discussion of the book at TPM Cafe and see what you think.

Also, you might be interested in this article in Foreign Policy Magazine from 2002. The U.S. is well into the process of being reduced to just one more nation in the world, much as Great Britain was after WW I. The real question is not whether they U.S. is the single dominating nation in the world, it is how the U.S. will accept its' decline.

The preemptive attack on Iraq was an example of the way the NeoConservatives are handling the decline. It is now clear that the attack on Iraq didn't work.

It just exposed how relatively weak America has really become. Mind you, that is ~relatively~ weak, not absolutely weak. The world seems to me to be moving to a situation in which the U.S., United Europe, China, Japan and India will all be the major powers, with the Middle East, Indonesia and Africa being left out. Mexico, the U.S. and Canada will be a single block, and I'm not sure about Russia and South America.

The next 50 years is going to be extremely interesting.

Strongest evidence yet that universe exploded into existence 13.7 billion years ago

The scientists started with the Big Bang theory developed by Alan H. Guth of MIT that suggests that the Universe started from a very small point 13.7 years ago and exploded in a fraction of a second to become the Universe we currently know. The explosion was accompanied by heat and light that then faded as the Universe continued expanding to this very day.

The heat and light can be viewed at the edge of the Universe, but comes through with a great deal of dissipation. It has also been reduced to ‘a faint microwave "signature."’

A satellite sent up in 2001 has repeatedly measured this faint microwave signature so that a description of both its temperature and its polarization could be discerned through the fog of time and distance.
The result is a pattern of fluctuations that Hinshaw [a member of a NASA team monitoring data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe] compared to a ship bobbing in a short, choppy sea even as it rolls periodically with longer swells. The theory of inflation predicts what the ratio of chop to swell should be, he said, "and the astonishing thing is that it's doing exactly what was predicted."
This story was published in The Washington Post, March 16, 2006.

I’m waiting for the “scientists” at the Discovery Institute to provide a measurable theory that suggests that the Earth is only 10,000 years old and then is able to support it with experiments of this type.

Until they can do so, Biblical-based theories of creation do not belong in science classes.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Noonan asks - is Bush a Liberal?

Peggy Noonan asks a question that is intended to distance the Republican Party from Bush's profligate spending.
This week's column is a question, a brief one addressed with honest curiosity to Republicans. It is: When George W. Bush first came on the scene in 2000, did you understand him to be a liberal in terms of spending?
This is Peggy Noonan, Reagan's speechwriter and conservative propagandist extraordinaire.

Can you imagine her sitting around her office staring at prominent notes on how Bush has run government spending into the stratosphere, joining it with a deficit that even Reagan would have blanched at? This is what she has always accused Democrats of doing! Now she has to decide "How do we conservatives defend this after we elected Bush - twice?"

Then it hits her. Accuse him of being a secret "Liberal," blame him for Liberal spending, then next election blame the Democrats for being just like Bush and loving to spend profligately!

But how does she pull this switch? She can't just accuse him of being a closet liberal. No one would buy that.

"Aha! Don't accuse him. Just ask the question as if we all knew it all along!"

Sure. Why not? and the Wall Street Journal will publish any piece of crap No. any piece of propaganda Not that either any piece of swill anything Peggy Noonan wants the hard core conservatives to believe.

Josh Marshall has the appropriate response.
...what President Bush has done over the last five years -- with the unfailing support of pretty much every Republican elected official and pundit -- isn't 'big spending.' It's intentionally reckless fiscal policy which is going to create havoc for the country's finances for years to come.
This is what the conservatives have to defend, and what Peggy Noonan must spin. This effort won't do it because:
President Bush has trashed the country's finances with three things -- big tax cuts, big defense hikes and whatever pork is necessary to win the next election.

Mr. Bush's mammoth deficit spending isn't some weird sort of ideological inversion. It's a character problem -- like spending money you don't have always is. And it's one Noonan and her ideological fellow-travellers are utterly on the line for.
We Democrats will have to remember this, and repeat it over and over. Don't let the Conservatives off the hook for their failures for the next generation.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What? We are working with Iran?

If you don't read "EmptyWheel" at the Next Hurrah regularly, you should. Her current comments, referenced above, on the behind the scenes negotiations between the U.S. and Iran on how to avoid total disaster in Iraq is a very interesting read. If true, our UN Ambassador-by-interim-appointment John Bolton will be having a fit. Anything that irritates him has to be good for America.

Consider this article by her to be describing a reasonable reaction of some people in the U.S. government. Bush and the NeoCons probably don’t really approve, but they have finally been forced to admit that nothing else has worked. This is certainly something we should be doing both for ourselves and for the Iraqis.

Pro-Business vs. Corporatists

What is the difference between being Pro-Business and being Corporatist? Go read the Intreped Liberal Jorunal for the answer. It is important to progressives.

Keep always in mind that very large corporations are as bureaucratic and organizationally inefficient as governments are, for much the same reason. Internally they cannot measure their efficience by the revenue created. Somone else provides the funds needed to continue operation for government and for the higher levels of large corporations.

Now go read Rob.

Molly Ivins is disgusted with DC Dems

Molly Ivins has the right idea.
I have had it with the D.C. Democrats, had it with the DLC Democrats, had it with every calculating, equivocating, triangulating, straddling, hair-splitting son of a bitch up there, and that includes Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I will not be supporting Senator Clinton because: a) she has no clear stand on the war and b) Terri Schiavo and flag-burning are not issues where you reach out to the other side and try to split the difference. You want to talk about lowering abortion rates through cooperation on sex education and contraception, fine, but don't jack with stuff that is pure rightwing firewater.

I canÂ’t see a damn soul in D.C. except Russ Feingold who is even worth considering for President. The rest of them seem to me so poisonously in hock to this system of legalized bribery they canÂ’t even see straight.[Snip]

As usual, the Democrats have forty good issues on their side and want to run on thirty-nine of them. Here are three they should stick to:

1) Iraq is making terrorism worse; itÂ’s a breeding ground. We need to extricate ourselves as soon as possible. We are not helping the Iraqis by staying.

2) Full public financing of campaigns so as to drive the moneylenders from the halls of Washington.

3) Single-payer health insurance.

Every Democrat I talk to is appalled at the sheer gutlessness and spinelessness of the Democratic performance. The party is still cringing at the thought of being called, ooh-ooh, "“unpatriotic"” by a bunch of rightwingers.

Take "“unpatriotic" and shove it. How dare they do this to our country? “"Unpatriotic"? These people have ruined the American military! Not to mention the economy, the middle class, and our reputation in the world. Everything they touch turns to dirt, including Medicare prescription drugs and hurricane relief.

This is not a time for a candidate who will offend no one; it is time for a candidate who takes clear stands and kicks ass.
Molly has this absolutely right. The existing Democratic "leaders" are so damned afraid they will lose their current paychecks they do absolutely nothing for the nation or the Democratic Party.

There is no solution for America in Iraq except to get out while we still have enough of an Army still in existence to rebuild it in a reasonable time. We do nothing to strengthen or make America more secure by staying in Iraq.

Want to solve the problem of Republican political corruption? (shhh! And Democratic political corruption.) We need to get corporations and their slush funds the Hell out of American politics by implementing PUBLIC FINANCING OF ELECTIONS. We need to make taking money from corporations - and unions - then passing legislation for them a crime. We do that simply by making it a crime to take any money from them. They can then make their case just like voters who cannot "Pay For Access."

Democrats need to get solidly behind single payer health insurance. For that case go see Social Security & Medicare Notes.

America also needs to get control of gerrymandering Congressional Districts on a national level so that neither party can build an election advantage into the system that overrides the will of all the voters.

See any of that happening in D.C.? Except for Feingold and his censure motion and Murtha suggesting that we get out of Iraq, I sure don't. But that is what America needs. Now.

As an example, this is the Republocrat of the Month from the Intreped Liberal Journal.

Once again I am compelled to name a Senator from my home state of New York as the Republocrat of the Month. Senator Charles Schumer is an intelligent man with a pugnacious style I used to admire. I especially appreciated the way he took down Senator Al D’Amato in 1998. D’Amato was notorious for his rough and tumble campaigns and Schumer demonstrated skill and toughness in defeating him. Schumer was also a steadfast defender of the Constitution during the impeachment proceedings against President Clinton while serving on the House Judiciary Committee and again in the Senate. However, he went along with President Bush too easily after 9/11 and his recent publicity stunts regarding the Dubai Port fiasco can’t conceal that Schumer is part of the problem.

Schumer used his influence as the head of the Democrat’s Senate Campaign Committee to deny Paul Hackett access to financial donors. Undermining a candidate’s ability to raise money in a large state such as Ohio is analogous to wiping him off the ballot. Hence, Schumer withheld the power of choice from Ohio Democrats and that is utterly despicable.

Washington Democrats such as Schumer who survived the party’s debacle in 1994 have a perverse pathology. They played triangulation games with President Clinton to preserve their position in the '90s and then took the path of least resistance under President Bush. As a result, these Washington Democrats that Schumer epitomizes have become a self-gelding machine of ineptitude with no core. Survival has not resulted in wisdom for this group of Democrats. Instead, navigating through turbulent political waters has imbued Democrats such as Schumer with an off-putting combination of timidity and hubris. Both qualities were on display in his behind the scenes party machine intervention in Ohio. Timidity because these Democrats fear an independent outsider like Hackett they can’t control. Hubris because of a chronic belief their judgment is superior to that of voters. Remember, the party leadership wasn’t enamored of candidate Barack Obama two years ago either.
[Bolding is mine - RB]

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

K Harris says she is in the Senate race to the end

According to the Plam Beach Post Katherine Harris has stated that she is in the Florida Senate race to the very end despite rapid staff turnover, weak fundraising, an unclear message and opposition from the Republican Party. She says she will spend her entire fortune if that is what it takes to win the election.

Katherine Harris should receive the thanks of all the Democrats of Florida and the entire nation for her sacrifice. She probably shouyld also be committed for being both delusional and ugly, but that won't happen however well deserved. May she be heavily overcharged by her advertisers and advisors.

ID theft is soooo easy!

Credit card issuers tell us to tear up the application before we throw it away, to prevent someone else from applying for credit in our names.

Think that is sufficient? Seems like it should be, doesn't it?

Go see the story here.

The credit card companies are ripping us off. They were behind the Bankruptcy Bill, so they can make obscene profits and have the government making collections for them.

American healthcare is mediocre for all

Anyone who has a passing awareness of the cost of American healthcare is aware that we pay over twice as much per person (including the uninsured in those figures) as the next most expensive healthcare system in the world. So we should have great healthcare, right?

We aren't getting what we are paying for, and a new study reported by the Boston Globe shows how badly our so-called free market health "system" is shafting us.
BOSTON --Startling research from the biggest study ever of U.S. health care quality suggests that Americans -- rich, poor, black, white -- get roughly equal treatment, but it's woefully mediocre for all.

"This study shows that health care has equal-opportunity defects," said Dr. Donald Berwick, who runs the nonprofit Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, Mass.

The survey of nearly 7,000 patients, reported Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, considered only urban-area dwellers who sought treatment, but it still challenged some stereotypes: These blacks and Hispanics actually got slightly better medical treatment than whites.

While the researchers acknowledged separate evidence that minorities fare worse in some areas of expensive care and suffer more from some conditions than whites, their study found that once in treatment, minorities' overall care appears similar to that of whites.

"It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor, white or black, insured or uninsured," said chief author Dr. Steven Asch, at the Rand Health research institute, in Santa Monica, Calif. "We all get equally mediocre care."
America can get better results at less cost for 100% of Americans, but it is going to take a single-payer system like that of Germany or France to do it.

Nor will a single-payer system be perfect. It will have flaws. But the flaws are unlikely to be as expensive as the current so-called system, nor will it keep our industries from being able to compete internationally.

[Cross-posted from Social Security & Medicare Notes]

Conservatives running scared of Air America

Raw Story reports on a woman fired from her job because she had a bumper sticker on her car of a radio station that carries Air America. She has sued the ex-employer, and has been offered a job at KLSD rado.

If the conservatives thought they had ideas they could convince people to adopt, they would not be firing people who disagree with them - or slit the tires of cars with KLSD bumper stickers. Those tactics are symptoms of failure.

Prosecution misconduct may have killed the trial

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert A. Spencer who is one of the Moussaoui prosecutors commented (reported in the Washington Post)to the judge "But we don't know whether it is worth us proceeding at all, candidly, under the ruling you made today, and that's why we need to assess it, because without some relief, frankly, I think that there's no point for us to go forward."

Relatives of those killed on 9/11 will be upset by this turn of events, but it is the fault of the Bush Prosecutors, no one else. Someone should lose their law liscence over this. Nor is this such a truly bad outcome. The termination of this trial does nothing except bar the death penalty for Moussaoui and commit him to life without parole.

Still, it seems inherently wrong that the only members of al Qaeda who have gotten the death penalty seems to be the 19 hijackers who volunteered for it and killed 3,000 innocent civilians when they did it.

Is this just another example of the incompetence for which the Bush administration has become so famous?

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

al-Sadr reacts to Rumsfeld's recent statement

Reacting the Donald Rumsfeld's statement that if civil war breaks out in Iraq, the U.S. troops will not intervene, instead leaving it to the Iraqis to protect themselves, Muktada al-Sadr had this to say:
' "May God damn you," Sadr said of Rumsfeld. "You said in the past that civil war would break out if you were to withdraw, and now you say that in case of civil war you won't interfere." '
So Juan Cole makes the following point:
Cole: I have to admit, it is hard to see what use it is to have US soldiers in Iraq if they won't be deployed in a genuine national emergency.
Good question. Along with that, the British have just announced that they are removing 10% of the forces they have in Iraq.

(Juan Cole provides a great deal of illuminating information in his blog today.)

It looks to me like the "Coalition of the Willing" will be out of Iraq by early 2007. The civil war in Iraq will then either take on the appearance of Lebanon in the 80's before Syria went in to stop it, or the Iranians will conduct a Syrian-style move to quash the civil war.

What happened after the fall of Baghdad?

I have wondered why General Jay Garner was replaced by Paul Bremer after only six weeks. A leaked set of memos written by John Sawers, Mr Blair's envoy in Baghdad in the aftermath of the invasion gives some insight:
With unusual frankness, he described the US postwar administration, led by the retired general Jay Garner, as "an unbelievable mess" and said "Garner and his top team of 60-year-old retired generals" were "well-meaning but out of their depth".
The news report is well worth reading for its litany of what all went bad in the aftermath of the actual invasion. The short version of it is that none of the Americans seemed to have any interest in what happened to Iraq after the initial combat was completed. This certainly explains Bush's "Mission Accomplished" statement on the aircraft carrier.

There is another thing I want to point out from the story. According to Sawers:
[There was] "A lack of interest by the US commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase."
Major General Albert Whitley, the most senior British officer with the US land forces made a similar statement about General Franks attitude of disinterest towards the Phase IV, with some explanation:
"I am quite sure Franks did not want to take ownership of Phase IV,"
It was obvious that the military side of the invasion of Iraq functioned pretty well as long as it was left to the uniformed people, but when the Pentagon "suits" (civilians) and other political leaders had to act, things quickly got screwed up. The failure to get the Turks to let the American Division land and invade from the North, followed by the failure to prevent the looting immediately after the invasion were clearly failures on the civilian and political side of the invasion.

General Franks had little control of those things, so if he saw the phase IV as being a failure from the beginning, it would be good politics for him to avoid taking responsibility for it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

As a society we get the government ~WE~ pay for

We citizens can spend the money up front to pay for candidates to run in the elections, or we can let the people with large sums of money available pay for the candidates. The government our society gets does different things. Do we want better society, or do we want more wealthy and powerful investors?

If we want money to determine how our state works, then we will continue to let people like Leinnenger or Sanchez spend whatever they want to win elections for their candidates. This is called "plutocracy" or rule by the wealthy. Their purpose is control of government for their purposes. If these purposes are what society needs, it is almost entirely an accident. That is the nature of the tool they use to sway elections - money.

When money is the investment in an election, it is expected to provide a return on the investment that exceeds the expense by an amount that gets larger depending on the risk involved for the investor. Large amounts of money into the system requires an assured greater amount of money back out. Because of the risk involved in elections, the investment has to provide a very high return.

What do the voters get? Not good governance. The voters get "bought politicians" and the opportunity to watch the investors in those politicians make a lot of money. That's all. The voters' votes are mostly bought by the large money people through the hgighly sophisticated techniques developed by the Public Relations industry since the 1920's

If we (the voters) are lucky, then the investors will ALSO offer some level of competence in governance, but it really doesn't matter much to the incumbents if they provide good social governance or not. Money is what elected the candidates, money is the required output of election, and money will reelect the incumbents. Good governance is an accidental side effect.

If we want ideas, character and good governance to determine how our state works, then we will institute public financing for elections as Arizona and Maine have done. This will remove money as the key element in electing our representatives, and will permit a larger variety of potential candidates to run for election. Then those candidates will run on their ideas, character, and personal history, and as representatives of organizations we voters can evaluate.

We can demand that they provide competent governance as return for being elected. I don't oppose investors getting a good return for their efforts, but their efforts should be aimed at providing better goods and services to their customers, not getting control of tax revenues for their own purposes.

Candidates elected using public financing will be elected on their ideas and competence. Such people might actually establish a reasonable system of funding the schools. The investors won't. They can't get any cash return on their investment in electing candidates by establishing a decent school finance system. Those investors will do nothing except block any reasonable education finance system - as they have done for at least three decades.

Educating other people's children is a major benefit to society and to the parents who spend the time and money to raise the children. In the long run it builds a better, more wealthy society. What it does not do is provide an immediate high return to the investors in elections. It is only an expense to those investors. A few such investors will spend the money anyway out of altruism, but most will not. It's not a good investment.

Unless we remove the money that controls our elections and government, we will never get decent government. In the long run, even the money men will get a better society. They just won't control it.

But we are not going to get good government until ~WE~, the voters, pay for the selection of our policy-makers.

White House staff is exhausted per WaPo

Peter Baker of the Washington Post offers a description of the White House staff as being worn down and fatigued.

Key staffers have been on the job over five years working 16 to 18 houor days seven days a week without a real break. There has been little turnover. Even when at home they are tied to the office by cell phones and blackberries.
"By the time you get to year six, there's never a break . . . and you get tired," said Ed Rollins, who served five years in President Ronald Reagan's White House. "There's always a crisis. It wears you down. This has been a White House that hasn't really had much change at all. There is a fatigue factor that builds up. You sometimes don't see the crisis approaching. You're not as on guard as you once were."

To Rollins, the uproar over an Arab-owned firm taking over management of some American ports represents a classic example. Bush and his staff did not know about the arrangement approved by his administration, and after congressional Republicans revolted, issued an ineffective veto threat that only exacerbated the dispute, which climaxed with the collapse of the deal last week. "This White House would not have made this mistake two years ago," Rollins said.

Bush's problems go beyond the fatigue factor. An unpopular foreign war, high energy prices and the nation's worst natural disaster in decades have dragged his poll ratings down to the lowest level of any second-term president, other than Richard M. Nixon, in the last half-century. Lately it seems to many in the White House that they cannot catch a break -- insurgents blow up a holy shrine in Iraq, tipping the country toward civil war; Vice President Cheney accidentally shoots a hunting partner; a former top Bush adviser is arrested on theft charges.
As in all organizations, thin one is a reflection of the man at the top. Bush expects loyalty from his subordinates, and does not like turnover. At the same time, a good superior will recognize when the subordinates need rest and relaxation. Bush appears to not recognize the limitations of his subordinates.

If you combine fatigue at the top of the government with inexperience and lack of qualifications for workers at lower levels, then the failures of the Bush administration over the last year and a half become easily understandable.

Unfortunately, they are in a marathon and still have three years to go.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

America is in the middle of a financial disaster

RenaRF has summarized a recent speech by the Comptroller General. Go read it, look at the graphs, and recognize the level of trouble America is in because of the tax cuts Bush wants to make permanent.

Bush is a luxury that America cannot afford.

Was 9/11 a Bush Admin conspiracy?

Austin Unitarian minister Davidson Loehr thinks so. From his On-line essay:
The story can be put simply, though it must then be fleshed out with its historical developments, and its prehistoric foundations.

The plot we see most easily is the desire of our political leaders – of both parties – to establish a global American empire (sometimes called a Pax Americana, or a peace on American terms), wrapped in a command-and-control form of governance both abroad and at home. As the plot moves through time and thought, it gathers to it several other necessary components. These include a massive military buildup, control of all the world’s economies we can control, spread of our military to protect the economic interests of those who are steering us, disempowerment of citizens at home through disinformation and restrictions on civil rights, and the transformation of our economy into a two-tiered plutocracy in which “those who own the country ought to Bernays, Lippman and the other brilliant and influential men who developed the science of “engineering consent.” The logic is clear: to rule masses, to get masses to serve your ends rather than primarily their own, you must help form their opinions for them by creating the story out of which they will live. Another name for this process is “colonizing,” which involves taking away people’s stories and getting them to accept supporting roles in a story that benefits you: that’s the complaint behind the phrase “taxation without representation.” Yes, it’s treating them like herd animals, but it is so easy to feel that the “masses” are herd animals. Much of the liberal ideology of the 1970s operated out of a similar feeling that the (intellectually) superior citizens should mold the options of the masses into forms the liberals saw as desirable. All power corrupts. The New World Order differs only in that it is unabashedly the desire for absolute power on a scale unprecedented in history.govern it.” That sentiment seems modern, but the words came from John Jay, the first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. It’s part of the larger sentiment that those who own the world ought to govern it, which is at the heart of this ancient story.

In this story, some familiar words receive new definitions. “Democracy” and “freedom,” for example, have little or nothing to do with individual rights or the freedom of the majority of the people to choose the government that serves their interests. “Democracy” and “freedom” refer to the freedom of our large corporations to operate with a minimum of restraint in each target country, and our desire to replace uncooperative rulers – whether or not they were democratically elected – with puppet rulers who will be friendly to the economic and imperialistic objectives of those who control US policies. It would be hard to sell this longer and more honest definition, and much easier to sell it if it’s called the opposite of what it really entails: democracy and freedom. But it’s just a small part of a much bigger and more important story.

The newest incarnation of this ancient story is the “New World Order.”

George HW Bush popularized the phrase “New World Order” in a speech he made on September 11, 1990.

The roots of GHW Bush’s version of this new “order” were in the Trilateral Commission, which David Rockefeller set up in 1973. This was an effort to study restructuring the economic priorities of the world around the desires of the three major markets of the US, Europe and Japan. What this means is that the goal was to write the rules for the world’s emerging global economy in ways that gave preference and profit to the US, Europe and Japan.

A linked, prior and more significant organization was the Council on Foreign Relations, which starred some of the biggest money players in a Council that had immense influence on US foreign policy. This means they exerted influence to make sure US foreign policy kept the financial desires of America’s wealthiest individuals and corporations at the top of its priorities.

George HW Bush served on the boards of both the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations in the 1970s, dropping out of them to present a “cleaner” image for his 1980 run for the presidency.

The biggest obstacle to this grand “New World Order,” however, was that – once the masses understood what it was about – it would be very hard to get popular support for. Why? Because this was an elitist plan, to benefit the wealthiest individuals and corporations, to enlist the military in support of their agenda – which outsiders would quickly call their greed – and it’s a hard sell to get soldiers to die just to make a handful of greedy people very rich. It would take a lot to sell this story – it would certainly take reframing, repackaging, to present it as a patriotic imperative that could get wide public support.

All this was in the background, a plot without effective characters or an adequate vehicle to move forward in restructuring the economic priorities and advantages of … well, by the time of Bush’s speech in 1990, it no longer needed to be a “trilateral” commission, for in 1989 the world had changed in an unforeseen and dramatic way. And this changed everything.

It came in the aftermath of the USSR’s fall in 1989. The fall of Communism ended the Cold War (World War II continued without armed conflict between the USSR and the US). [Snip]

Almost everything was at stake. With no superpower to stop us, we could control the currency in which the majority of world trade was conducted. We could be the only military superpower, and prevent other countries from developing the means to threaten us. Our corporations could demand economic advantages in the world market, as our English language made strides toward becoming the language in which international business was done. We could – perhaps most importantly – control the world’s oil supply, if we could establish a permanent presence in the Middle East, a goal the US has had since the 1920s.

The implications of this global ambition were profound, and reached both abroad and within. Since the goal was power over others who might challenge us, that power would have to be established, both through armies without and laws within. It was feared, realistically, that lily-livered liberals would oppose such a bold – and bloody – plan. Above all, this new order was to serve the economic interests of the most powerful corporations and those who controlled the largest shares of wealth.

The global ambitions of the New World Order are fundamentally opposed to democracy. It was a plutocracy, an oligarchy, the rule by those who owned. This isn’t a new evil. It’s a longstanding historical reality. Those who control the money control the armies and the laws, and the distribution of wealth – which will always be claimed as their right, even their birthright.

There are two ways of putting this. One is to say that those with great wealth can and will write the laws to disempower those from whose labors their great wealth is taken. Another is to say that this system demands a few people who are willing to sell out everyone else in order to be on top. History shows there is no shortage of such people – and that, given the chance, most of us would be among them. [Snip]

...Bernays, Lippman and the other brilliant and influential men
[who] developed the science of “engineering consent.” The logic is clear: to rule masses, to get masses to serve your ends rather than primarily their own, you must help form their opinions for them by creating the story out of which they will live. Another name for this process is “colonizing,” which involves taking away people’s stories and getting them to accept supporting roles in a story that benefits you: that’s the complaint behind the phrase “taxation without representation.” Yes, it’s treating them like herd animals, but it is so easy to feel that the “masses” are herd animals. Much of the liberal ideology of the 1970s operated out of a similar feeling that the (intellectually) superior citizens should mold the options of the masses into forms the liberals saw as desirable. All power corrupts. The New World Order differs only in that it is unabashedly the desire for absolute power on a scale unprecedented in history. [Snip]

The plan for how to start putting this New World Order in place may have been Dick Cheney’s. The desire to attack Iraq can be traced back at least to 1992, when Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis “Scooter” Libby were the primary authors of the Pentagon’s “Defense Planning Guidance” paper, written for then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. The focus was on Saddam, Iraq, oil, and the Middle East. Cheney offered the plan to Bush I in the waning days of his administration, but it was leaked, then withdrawn after a brief public outcry erupted over its boldness.

This wouldn’t have surprised the great historian Arnold Toynbee, who had predicted in the 1950s that the next great conflict would not be between the US and the USSR, but between the white Christian world and the Arab Muslim world.

In 1996, Richard Perle led a study group that produced the document “A Clean Break,” recommending that Israel adopt a policy of “preemption,” including a “focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq.” Wolfowitz and Perle would become founding members of the Project for the New American Century the following year.

Momentum was gaining for transforming the US into a military force with the weapons and the will to take advantage of this historic opportunity to establish the New World Order – which must be, they believed, the American Empire.

But such plans would require a great deal of money transferred for defense spending, the relinquishment of a lot of “peacetime” individual freedoms, and a national willingness to make significant sacrifices which might continue for years. While those who loved the plan thought it was well worth it, no one believed the majority of Americans would.

This problem of how to mobilize the society occupied several thinkers.

In his 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperative (New York: Basic Books, 1997), former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski helped strengthen and focus a key element of the grand plan. He was clear that America must gain control of the Central Asia/Mideast region to ensure its continued primacy as the word superpower. He believed there was a fairly narrow “window of historical opportunity, for America’s constructive exploitation of its global power could be relatively brief.” (p. 210). He saw the problem as being the fact that America was “too democratic at home to be autocratic abroad. This limits the use of America’s power, especially its capacity for military intimidation…. Democracy is inimical to imperial mobilization.” (pp. 35-36).

But “the pursuit of power is not a goal that commands popular passion,” he added “except in conditions of a sudden threat or challenge to the public’s sense of domestic well being.” (p. 36). What could make us embrace the economic and human sacrifices needed for “imperial mobilization” would be “a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.” (p. 212). Earlier, he had noted that the public was willing to support “America’s engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” (pp. 24-25) [Snip]

Why Iraq?

As I recently read in John Perkins’ book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,

“Iraq was very important to us, much more than was obvious. Contrary to common public opinion, Iraq is not simply about oil. It is also about water and geopolitics. Both the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flow through Iraq; thus, of all the countries in that part of the world, Iraq controls the most important sources of increasingly critical water resources. During the 1980s, the importance of water – politically and economically – was becoming obvious to us…. (Perkins, p. 183)

Also, Iraq is in a very strategic location. It borders Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, and has a coastline on the Persian Gulf. It is within easy missile-striking distance of both Israel and the former Soviet Union. Military strategists equate modern Iraq to the Hudson River valley during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. In the eighteenth century, the French, British and Americans knew that whoever controlled the Hudson River valley controlled the continent. Today, it is common knowledge that whoever controls Iraq holds the key to controlling the Middle East. (Perkins, p. 184)

The argument for attacking Iraq became more visible in 1997, after PNAC was formed. As David Ray Griffin reports (pp. 130-131 of The 9-11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions), Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad published an article in the Weekly Standard – which is edited by the chairman of PNAC, William Kristol – entitled “Saddam Must Go” in 1997. A month later, these three and fifteen other members of PNAC – including Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton and Richard Perle – sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to use military force to “remov[e] Saddam Hussein and his regime from power” and thereby “to protect our vital interests in the Gulf.” In May 1997 they sent a letter to Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott – the Speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, respectively. Complaining that Clinton had not listened to them, these letter-writers said that the United States “should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force to protect our vital interests in the Gulf – and, if necessary, to help remove Saddam from power.” Finally, Rebuilding America’s Defenses, published by PNAC in September 2000, emphasized that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was a threat to American interests in the region. (Griffin, p31)

The Project for the New American Century is very blunt about this:
“The U.S. has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein…. (PNAC, p. 14)”

At present the U.S. faces no global rival. America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.”

“[This] requires a globally preeminent military capability both today and in the future. (p. i)”

“[The goal of all this is to maintain] a global security order that is uniquely friendly to American principles and prosperity. (v), an international security environment conducive to American interests and ideals…. (2), [that protects] American interests and principles. (3)”

We need to translate the underlined terms, because they’re not straightforward. “American principles” does not mean we want democratically-elected governments in these countries. We have routinely helped dictators who cooperated with our economic ambitions gain power. These men include a long list of tyrants, including the Shah of Iran, Mobutu in the Congo, Pinochet in Chile, all of whom replaced democratically elected heads of government.

“American principles, interests and prosperity” means a regime in which we dictate some or all economic terms, usually under the threat or presence of military power. That is the New World Order in a nutshell.[Snip]

…the attacks of 9-11 were part of much more than just the lust for a lucrative pipeline across Afghanistan. It must finally be seen as that “new Pearl Harbor” which would let the American people and Congress finally seize the resolve to begin taking the steps needed to bring about the New World Order.

We may not duck the fact that our leaders’ decision to bring about the attacks of 9-11 included their belief that the loss of several thousand innocent American lives was a price worth paying. [Snip]

Let’s not kid ourselves. When it comes to wars we believe at the time to be noble – or even ignoble wars that we nevertheless think will bring us the eventual control of noble oil fields – the loss of a few thousand or more innocent lives is always a price our leaders have been willing to pay.

Why would we think 9-11 would be different, especially after it had become part of the rhetoric, that this goal of an American Empire would probably slip through our fingers without something that could qualify as “a new Pearl Harbor”?

And somewhere here we need to remember that when the Bush administration took power, Karl Rove brought his favorite philosopher, whose thought has remained central to the Bush regime: Machiavelli, whose 17th century book The Prince was about getting and keeping power over people by any means necessary. [Snip]

I wrote David Ray Griffin’s publisher, asking them to forward my e-mail: I was hoping for access to his writing and research on 9-11. Griffin answered early the next morning, and attached five chapters from his new (third) book on the subject, still unpublished.

That led to this essay. David believes, as I do, that our government was behind 9-11. He describes it as a “false flag” operation, named for times when ships (including at least one well-documented case of a US ship) attacked one of our own ships, killing our own citizens, while flying the flag of the country against whom we wanted to go to war, needing only to arouse sufficient public and Congressional fury.

I recently read a current example of President Bush’s inclusion of “false flag” operations that’s worth posting as a preface to the large issue of 9-11 as a false flag.

The details are contained in a new version of the book 'Lawless World' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC:

President Bush had said "The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.'' Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam."

President Bush also said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach." (from “The White House Memo,” by Gary Gibbon, 2 February 2006, from a White House meeting between Bush and Blair on 31 January 2003.

This is a textbook illustration of the “false flag” tactic. Were the attacks of 9-11-01 also a false-flag operation? I believe they were. In what follows, I have borrowed from Griffin’s own hard work, for which I thank him. The working title of his third book is Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11: A Call to Reflection and Action.

In his third chapter — “The Destruction of the WTC: Why the Official Account Cannot be True” — he claims to show that the official conspiracy theory of 9-11 “clearly belongs in the category of outrageous theories, because it is contradicted by virtually all the relevant facts.”

Among the data is the little-publicized fact that “Fire has never – prior to or after 9/11 – caused steel-frame high-rise buildings to collapse. Defenders of the official story seldom if ever mention this simple fact. Indeed, the supposedly definitive report put out by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), even implies that fire-induced collapses of large steel-frame buildings are normal events. Far from being normal, however, such collapses have never occurred, except for the alleged cases of 9-11.”

After several pages of technical details about this, other serious fires in high-rises which destroyed several or many floors (after burning for 15+ hours) but never caused the buildings to collapse, he turns this around for a double-edged effect, by saying “Every previous total collapse has been caused by the procedure known as ‘controlled demolition,’ in which explosives capable of cutting steel have been placed in crucial places throughout the building and then set off in a particular order. Just from knowing that the towers collapsed, therefore, the natural assumption would be that they were brought down by explosives.”

Griffin adds that the physical evidence supports this in spades, because “the collapses had at least eleven features that would be expected if, and only if, explosives were used.” Here are some of them:

Sudden Onset. Only in controlled demolitions is the onset of collapse sudden rather than a gradual weakening, leaning, and falling.

Straight Down. Vertical collapse into or nearly into the building’s own footprint is one of the chief reasons for using controlled demolitions, so neighboring buildings won’t be damaged. For fire to produce a sudden, straight fall, all 287 steel columns would have to have weakened to the point of collapse at the same instant. The official conspiracy theory of 9-11 offers no explanation for this.

Almost Free-Fall Speed. A building can only fall at almost free-fall speed if the supports for the lower floors are destroyed, so that when the upper floors come down, they meet no resistance.

Total Collapse. The core of each tower contained 47 massive steel box columns. The official “pancake theory” needs all horizontal steel supports to have broken free from those vertical columns. This would have left 47 columns standing straight up. The 9-11 Commission tried a clever way around this problem, when they said, “The interior core of the buildings was a hollow steel shaft, in which elevators and stairwells were grouped.” They simply neglected to mention the 47 massive columns.

Demolition Rings. Rings of explosions running rapidly around a building, also shown in the collapses.

Molten Steel. This would be expected only if explosives were used, and there was much evidence of molten steel at the WTC collapse from the eye-witness accounts of firefighters.

Sounds produced by explosions. There is abundant eyewitness testimony to the occurrence of explosive sounds, along with other phenomena suggestive of controlled demolition.

(The other four characteristics of the WTC collapse that accompany controlled demotion were Sliced Steel (special explosives cut steel supports into manageable lengths); Pulverization of Concrete and Other Materials (Gravity can break concrete into chunks, but some of the dust at 9-11 was on the order of only 10 microns in size); Dust Clouds (produced by explosions propelling the pulverized dust outward); and Horizontal Ejections (in which the force of the explosives can shoot heavy steel supports out up to 500 feet horizontally, as happened in the WTC).

Then Griffin adds an interesting note, when he says “The importance of the nature of the collapses, as summerized in these eleven features, is shown by the fact that attempts to defend the official theory typically ignore most of them. [Snip]

“Pops” were also reported by paramedic Daniel Rivera:

Q. How did you know that it [the south tower] was coming down?

A. That noise. It was noise.

Q. What did you hear? What did you see?

A. It was a frigging noise. At first I thought it was – do you ever see professional demolition where they set the charges on certain floors and then you hear “pop, pop, pop, pop, pop’? That’s exactly what – because I thought it was that. When I heard that frigging noise, that’s when I saw the building coming down.” (Oral history of Daniel Rivera, 9)

Another common feature of controlled demolitions is that people who are properly situated may see flashes when the explosives go off. Assistant Commissioner Stephen Gregory said: “I thought … before … No. 2 came down, that I saw low-level flashes…. Lieutenant Evangelista … asked me if I saw low-level flashes in front of the building, and I agreed with because I … saw a flash flash flash … at the lower level of the building. You know like when they demolish a building, how when they blow up a building, when it falls down? That’s what I thought I saw. (Oral history of Stephen Gregory, 14-16)

Battalion Chief Dominick DeRubbio, speaking of the collapse of the south tower, said: “It was weird how it started to come down. It looked like it was a timed explosion.” (Oral history of Dominick DeRuibbio, 5) [Snip]

Was 9/11 a false flag operation by the Bush administration to permit the use of the bloated American military to gain control of the Middle East and its oil wealth? Rev. Davidson Loehr, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Austin, Texas and David Ray Griffin certainly think so. Lengthy as it is, this is only part of Rev. Loehr's essay.

For myself, I certainly think that Cheney, Rumsfeld and the NeoCons, and Rove are morally capable of hatching and justifying (at least to themselves) such a plot. As for successfully carrying it out?

That becomes more problematical as we watch everything this government has touched for the last year plus collapse in clearly recognizes failure and incompetence. But their incompetence at governance could well be explained by goals that did not put much priority on governing. So while I am not at this time convinced that they did intentionally perform this alleged coup de etate (and it is certainly that, planned or otherwise) I am going to look for more definitive evidence before I give them enough credit to say they intentionally pulled this off.

But at the same time, I am sufficiently suspicious of the Bush crew that I am posting this as a source of discussion. Two of the five highest paid advisors in the White House have now resigned to face criminal proceedings (Libby and Allen), the Vice President has shot someone, probably while drinking and hunting and then covered up the crime he commited, and Rove is still being investigated for his part in the crime of exposing a covert CIA agent and destroying her work over the last 20 years.

These are not sane, moral people running the White House.

Go see the original article in the Austin American Statesman which led me to this material.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Does God have a future?

That is the question asked by Deepak Chopra.

Since science has falsified much of what the Bible tells us as stories, Chopra suggests that most people have two different choices they can make.
With no privileged link to God, no Adam and Eve who could be claimed as ancestors, believers had two choices. They could discover a deeper personal spirituality or they could compartmentalize reason and faith.
The first choice, discovering a deeper personal spirituality is the route most people have taken, and the Liberal Religions have moved right along with those people. This is personal religion, however, so it does not lend itself to the growth of large homogeneous and controlling organizations.

The second choice is the route taken by the Evangelists and the Fundamentalists. In an organized and institutional religion one is told by the institution what to believe and how to express it. This choice allows, and in fact requires, the growth of rigidly controlled institutions to provide the doctrine the believers are allowed to use and teach.

It is interesting that this distinction is what split the Southern Baptist Church. The Baptists, who used to pride themselves on not having someone who told them what to believe about the Bible and on the "Priesthood of the Believer" now have a conservative church which requires every theology professor in the Seminaries they control to sign a statement of belief which is dictated from their conservative leaders like Paige Patterson. This is what fundamentalist religion is about.
Fundamentalism took the second road. What's so compelling about joining a fundamentalist sect is that you instantly regain a personal relationship to God, as if science had never broken that link. In a wink Darwin disappears (only 15% of Americans polled say that they accept evolution as the truth without some input from God). Old dogmas going back to the Middle Ages suddenly become true again (the abortion debate is essentially a medieval one, since believers are asserting facts about when the soul enters the body). In a way it would be better to label fundamentalism as "literal metaphysics." Christ is the son of God, period. He sits in heaven on the right side of his Father's throne, period.

But the first road, which seeks to heal religion in light of science and rational thought, was the one taken by the vast majority of thinkers and believers. For God to exist side by side with science has proved enormously difficult, however. Sheer momentum kept people going to church, yet it was obvious that someone can be good, lead a moral life, uphold all the virtues taught by Christ, etc. without the benefit of religion. (I am using the terms Christ and church, but with a change of vocabulary the same schism prevails in Islam and Judaism).
If you don't need to attend church regularly to be a good and moral person, and in fact the church you attend is not answering the questions you ask about religion and calls you a heretic merely for asking those questions, what is the value of an institutional religion?

Most people I know have gone out and found some other people who are asking the same questions they are and created their own personal spiritual networks. These are networks in which no authority penalizes you for your beliefs and questions. Such people will look at a question on a form that asks "What religion are you?" and respond "Spiritual."

It is true that the fundamentalist religious organizations are the most rapidly growing in America. That is because true religion in America is not found in organizations. It is a personal religion.

Those who fear leaving the nonrational pablum handed to them by their organizations band together and try to force everyone else to join them through the actions of government.

This is the source of the battle against science, among other things. But it is a losers' strategy. The fundamentalists and evangelists are people who have been passed by in modern life, and they cannot win. They will in fact find their children reaching out to the more modern liberal ideas and abandoning them.

It is this last which frightens them most. They see it coming. It is this fear that motivates them and mostly prevents them from finding solace in their own personal religion.

It is sad to see people live in such fear. But it is their choice.

Does God have a future? Without any doubt. We just can't determine what that future will be. Whatever it is, it won't be found in the sad misreadings of the various religious books. It will be found in the real world, by real people open to real spiritual experiences. No one will be able to tell them who God is, because they will recognize the falsity of such instruction. They will find him themselves.

Highest paid WH aide arrested for shoplifting

Claude Allen, the former Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, resigned for undisclosed reasons a few weeks ago. Think Progress explains his resignation. He was arrested Thursday.

Even though Claude was receivieng the highest pay a white House employee can get ($161,000 per year) it appears that he has been supplementing his pay by shoplifting. Here is the Montgomery County (MD.) Police Department report:
On January 2, 2006, a Target store Loss Prevention Manger observed an unknown man enter the store located at 25 Grand Corner Avenue in Gaithersburg. He was observed in the store with an empty Target bag in a shopping cart. The man was then seen selecting merchandise throughout the store and placing items in the Target bag. He put additional items in his cart. The man then went to guest services where he produced a receipt and received a refund for the items he had just selected from the store shelves. After receiving the refund he left the store without paying for the additional merchandise in the shopping cart. He was apprehended by the store employee.

The Target Loss Prevention Manger contacted Montgomery County Police and through the police investigation it was learned that Allen had been receiving refunds in an amount exceeding $5,000 during last year. Some of the fraudulent returns were made at Target stores and some at Hecht’s stores. He would buy items, take them out to his car, and return to the store with the receipt. He would select the same items he had just purchased, and then return them for a refund. Allen is known to have conducted approximately 25 of these types of refunds, having the money credited to his credit cards.

Throughout 2005 he obtained refunds for items ranging from clothing, a Bose theater system, stereo equipment, and photo printer to items valued only at $2.50.
So far the current White House has had two top aides resign because of criminal wrong-doing, and Karl Rove is still being investigated. [To throw Dick Cheney into this group for getting drunk and shooting a lawyer is probably shooting fish in a barrel, isn't it?]

These are not minor employees, either. All three receive or received the highest pay that a White House employee can receive. These are the President's closest advisors. Clearly besides being incompetent (Katrina, anyone?) the White House is filled with crooks.

This isn't much of an endorsement for Bush's fabled "ability to judge people," is it?

So who is Claude Allen?
Claude A. Allen -- White House
Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy
Most recently, Claude A. Allen was the Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Services. He also served as the Secretary of Health and Human Resources for the State of Virginia and served in the Virginia Attorney General's Office from 1995 to 1998. He was an Associate at Baker & Botts in Washington, D.C. from 1991 to 1995 and served as a professional staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1985 to 1987. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Duke University Law School.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Salon - Responsibility for abu Ghraib goes high in military

Salon has an article that discusses the reprimand of Army Reserve Captain Christopher R. Brinson for his role as supervisor of Cpl. Charles Graner. Graner was convicted and sentenced to ten years in Leavenworth for his role as ringleader of the torture activities at abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Salon focuses on Capt. Brinson's civilian job as deputy chief of staff for Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, probably because that links the story to the Republican corruption in Congress. I find that to be a weak connection. What is much more important about the story and is obvious to anyone with experience in the military chain of command is that the events at abu Ghraib were either directed from a high level (waaay above some Reserve Captain) or were a failure of the command structure at the very top to maintain control of the command.

Notice that the only officers who have been punished are Reservists. While Reservists do significant jobs for the military, they are not key in determining what the military does. Regulars do that, and carefully preserve their privileges.

This story is a strong indication that the Regulars are covering up for each other up to and including flag rank.

Abu Ghraib was the direct result of the expansion of decisions made by now Attorney General Gonzalez that prisoners are not subject to the protections of the Geneva Conventions and the resulting policies and attitudes as they were passed down the military chain of command from Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and the senior military command in Iraq. These people are throwing Reservists to the wolves to avoid personal responsibility for doing what they did. Capt. Brinson is too low in the chain of command to be significantly responsible. He is one of the Reservists the Regulars are throwing to the wolves to avoid their own career-ending reprimands.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

South Dakota is bringing us out of our indolence.

Roe V. Wade put the freedom of choice faction to sleep. The antiabortionists very wisely moved a little piece at a time to restrict abortion to greater and greater degrees, and like the fabled frog in the pot of water being heated to boiling, we did not react much. Just some sqawks and complaints, and an occasional letter to the editor.

South Dakota has now put it on the table. We do something, or the fascists take control of the bedrooms. We frogs have suddenly been thrown into the boiling water. American women will be again relegated to second-class status, just as the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Saudi Arabians have long done to their women. We either jump out of the pot or get boiled quickly.

As a first step we need to become aware of the danger and our sloth, and then we must act.

Meteor Blades over at "The Next Hurrah" offers a great article on the current situation. Go read! It will be a step towards step one.

Thomas Kontogiannis - one more Cunningham briber, or more?

Randy "Duke" Cunningham is the poster child for corruption among the Republicans in Congress. He pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from various individuals in exchange for Cunningham's help getting favors from government as well as failure to report income on his taxes.

One of the bribers was Mitchell Wade, owner of the defense contracting firm MZM, and Brent Wilkes, owner of ADCS Inc., another defense contractor. Both got significant government contracts because Cunningham was on the Defense Appropriations Committee of Congress.

Two other bribers of "Duke" were Thomas Kontogiannis, an real estate magnate in New York who had been convicted of bid-rigging and bribing members of a New York school board in order to obtain a contract. Kontogiannis wanted Randy Cunningham to get President Bush to sign a pardon for him. The fourth person was Kontogiannis's nephew John T. Michael who owned a mortgage company which gave Congressman Cunningham two large mortgages which he used to buy his Rancho Santa Fe mansion. It appears that Thomas Kontogiannis was the key person here, and he roped in his nephew to do the money-handling for him.

At least that is what it looked like up until now. Josh Marshall at TPM appears to have found indicators that Kontogiannis may have had a larger role in the overall operations. Remember, Cunningham retired from that Navy as a Commander and the top Navy flying ace from Viet Nam. Both Wade and Wilkes were in Naval Intelligence before they became Defense Contractors.
Now, from the records, one of things that Kontogiannis wanted from Duke was some help trying to beat the rap (and later get a pardon for) a bid-rigging scandal back in New York. And for a long time I'd always sort of figured that Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade were the real players in this story, with Kontogiannis just added in for comic relief and -- as someone who controlled a mortgage company -- someone who could easily move money around.

But I'm hearing it may not be that simple.

Consider this. Mitch Wade was in naval intelligence before he left to work in the fraud and public corruption sector. Brent Wilkes -- and we're going to be hearing a lot more about this -- was deep into the darker regions of the intel world. Both of their scams were the same, plying the government contracting biz deep in the classified realm where scrutiny and oversight is minimal at best.

From a previous post by Josh Marshall there is more:
Is Kontogiannis also in the Intelligence business such that his connection to Cunningham is also hidden behind a wall of national security secrecy?

Josh Marshall also points out that Kontogiannis was previously (1992) arrested Kontogiannis along with an employee at the US Embassy in Athens for accepting bribes to provide phony US visas. The same post provides additional details regarding what Kontogiiannis was convicted for with the New York School Board.

Josh is looking into what Kontogiannis was involved in, and the answer may be quite interesting.

The latest indicator of Iraq Civil War

If you really doubt that there is a civil war going on in Iraq, what does the fact that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government has forbidden release of accurate counts of execution-style killings tell you? The Washington Post has the story today.

There is only one real reason to suppress these figures. It is because they demonstrate that the civil war is active and on-going.

And in the realm of good news out of Iraq, the U.S. military continues to rebuid schools and hospitals and continues to give out soccer balls to children.

Oh, and the AC-130 SPECTER gunships (call sign "Spooky")have been moved to bases in Iraq where they can operate with more time over target and less turn-around time. Here is a Canadian source for the same news.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Ghandi Shrine purified after Bush visit

It appears that after Bush visited the Hindu shrine to Mahatma Ghandi the Hindu Priests who maintain the shrine felt it necessary to purify the shrine with holy water from the Ganges. Of course, the Associated Press writers claim it was because of the sniffer dogs used by Bush's security to check for bombs, but we know that is just an excuse used by western writers who wouldn't be able to get their story published if it admitted that the Priests were purifying the shrine after Bush visited.

I wonder if those Hindu Priests work on contract? We'll need them to purify the White House when Bush leaves there, also.


Sunday, March 05, 2006

What's wrong with the Bush administration decision making?

The Bush administration came into office with the idea that America was suffering from a lack of leadership. They have attempted to correct this lack. That's what Bush's whole schtick about "Stay the Course!" is all about. It is based on a theory that a true leader is decisive, correct, and does not change direction once he (and it is clearly a masculine trait) has decided.

The result is that they focus on the decision. Decisions are made by the Administration in the White House, and the function of the subordinates is to do as directed without criticizing. The decisions are made based on the intuition and attitudes of the leader. They brought those things to the office and feel they were given the office because of those attitudes and intuition.

What's missing is a major effort to collect the facts necessary to make the correct decisions, and to adapt to those new facts. This is one of the attitudes they brought to office. People who change are not leaders, and people who collect a lot of facts are likely to change previously made decision.

The result has been the continuous problem of this administration. They live in a bubble and are not open to new facts. They were so busy getting tax cuts and the Missile Defense Program enacted that they missed all the facts that suggested al Qaeda was about to attack the U.S. on 9/11. They were so set on attacking Iraq when Bush took office that they missed the real problems with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which is why they attacked Iraq and have not yet gotten control of Afghanistan.

They were not open to the facts presented by the looting in Baghdad, so they missed the hints that the insurgency was building from the first day of the invasion. They knew that they were going to install a government of Iraqi exiles led by Ahmed Chalabi, so they fired Jay Garner after six weeks and replaced him with Jerry Bremer. Bremer then, attempting to implement the previously made Bush administration decisions, Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army, Police and Civil Service and stopped paying government pensions in what had been a state-run economy. Don't bother them with facts, the ideology that took them into Iraq had to be implemented. That's leadership, right?

Bush is a conservative with the attitude that Social Security should not exist, so based on that attitude he announced right after reelection that he was going to restructure Social Security. Again, he listened to no one, just announced it and handed the job off to well-vetted conservatives to act on. What facts and polls could overcome the conservative shiboleth that Social Security is bad. The fact that he still isn't listening is demonstrated by the inclusion of privatizing Social Security in the budget Bush presented to Congress this year, well after it was known to be a dead project.

Katrina and Rita were another example. Bush and the Republicans made the decision to create the Department of Homeland Security and folded FEMA into it. Then left Chertoff to determine functions and training, which wasn't done adequately since they do not accept "criticism" of their decisions. Bush sat through the briefing we recently saw on TV without any noticeable reaction. He has no interest in how government is operated, that belongs to someone else to do. Bush just makes decisions, then speeches to "stay the course."

This explains why the White House has had an on-going battle with the Intelligence Community since Bush was first inaugurated. The CIA, DIA and INR all are institutions responsible for collecting new information and presenting it to policy makers so that they can adjust their decisions and actions to match the new conditions. The Bush people see this as nothing more than obstructionism, which is why Rumsfeld and Feith created the fake Intelligence operation in the Pentagon to "reevaluate" data received so that it didn't conflict with decisions already made. It also became a source of propaganda that could be used to support decisions already made.

The focus on decision-making rather than on evidence gathering is the great failure of this adminintration. Presently as things get worse for the Bush administration they are retreating to doing the things they know best. They are making decisions, staying the course, and fighting any obstructionists who attempt to criticize what they are doing.

Republicans have lost Iraq war

In a move instigated by the British but applauded by the coalition, the plams to move all western troops out of Iraq by Spring of 2007 are well on the way.

Reeuters reports that the British and U.S. governments have accepted that the presence of western troops is now the major source of the violence in Iraq.

I guess that with the decision to pull western troops out, the only questions the Republicans have left to answer is how they will spin this as a win for the Republicans, and how they will blame the Democrats for the failures in Iraq which will inevitably crop up.

DemFmCT at the Next Hurrah provides an analysis of this event.