Saturday, September 29, 2007

Republicans are on the wrong side on S-CHIP

S-CHIP is already a successful program, one that provides health benefits at low administrative costs to a large number of children who would otherwise not be able to get needed health care because their parents can't afford it. But the program has not been renewed by Congress and is set to expire September 30.

The renewed program is one that extends the successful program to the children of parents who earn up to four times the estimated poverty line. The Republicans hate welfare programs, so even this successful program cannot be allowed to help low middle-class families pay for health care. The Republicans keep quoting that "Up to four times the poverty rate" and then oppose the program even though almost no one who would be eligible has family income about twice the poverty rate. To the Republicans, the extremely unusual (and only when needed) case has become the reason to stop the bill from being renewed for all cases.

From CBS News:
there are all sorts of reasons why a middle-class family looking for health insurance might have a genuine need for government assistance. If you can't get health benefits through your employer — and, in case you hadn't heard, employer-sponsored insurance has been in a pretty steady decline for two decades now — you have to buy it on your own. Yet if you look for non-group coverage, as it's known, you'll quickly find it's a lot more expensive than the group kind, because of higher administrative costs. And if you do buy coverage, you'll likely find it less reliable and convenient. The non-group market is notoriously unstable, with small-time carriers constantly jumping in and out, plus it's famously prone to fraud. And, of course, it's in the non-group market where insurers try hardest — and have the most ability — to avoid enrolling people that pose serious medical risks. Simply put, if you have even a moderate pre-existing condition, chances are good you won't find affordable coverage — if, indeed, you can find coverage at all.

Another reason why some middle class Americans might need assistance getting health insurance becomes apparent when you consider exactly which states are most interested in enrolling these people. Right now, the state with the highest income eligibility for S-CHIP is New Jersey. There, children in families making up to 350 percent of the poverty line can enroll. New York has recently said it would like to make insurance available to even wealthier families — those at up to four times the poverty level. Other states interested in raising levels include California and Connecticut.

Notice a pattern here? These are the states with very high costs of living and very expensive health insurance. It might seem crazy that somebody making $80,000 a year would need help getting health insurance — until you consider that the cost of living in New York is crazy, too.
So the market does not provide adequate medical insurance in states with a high standard of living, which the Republicans use as their excuse to kill an extremely valuable health insurance program that provides health care to people who cannot otherwise pay for it.

This in spite of the fact that these same Republicans have no hesitation pass military spending bills to cover the war in Iraq where the burn rate is over $3 billion per week. They pass these spending bills and then fight to prevent fraud, waste and abuse investigations of the military contractors who are getting the windfalls the federal government is throwing their way. The two versions of S-CHIP are expected to cost between $35 billion (Senate version)and $47 billion House version) over 5 years. The Senate version is thus $7 billion per year or slightly over two weeks the Iraqi burn rate. The House version is $9.4 billion per year, which is three weeks worth of the Iraq war burn rate.

The Republicans are proving that they value war very highly, and don't value American children at all. This is probably because too many of the children who get this insurance are African-American - the same reason why the top four Republican candidates for the Presidential nomination were too busy fund-raising to appear at the minority-oriented debate held at Morgan State University in Baltimore on September 27th. The only positive thing about the failures of the Republican Party is its open admission that it is an all-White Racist boys club.

This is what Bush meant when he announced "Compassionate Conservatism" back in 2000. How could they possibly be so much on the wrong side with their opposition to S-CHIP?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Recount" will be a movie on the 2000 florida Republican coup

Digby provides a good description of what the movie "Recount" about the Florida recount is going to be. Go read her report.

This part should be especially fun:
Recount, which will begin shooting shortly next month in Florida, will air during the heat of the presidential campaign in 2008.
Any movie with
in it and which has
will be well worth seeing, even if it didn't touch on what may well be the most pivitol event for America in the twenty-first century. But it does cover that event.

I'm waiting for this, as I am sure the Republicans are not.

Bush on the record. He lied about efforts to avoid Iraq invasion. War was the only goal.

Josh Marshall at his Talking Points Memo provides links to the report published in the Spanish newspaper "El Pais" of leaked transcripts between Bush and then Spanish Prime Minister Aznar just before the outbreak of the Iraq War.

Josh reports:
The gist seems to be that Bush was rather candid about the fact that the efforts to find a peaceful solution to the crisis were a sham and that the war was a done deal.
Remember, this is from a transcript of what Bush himself told Spanish PM Aznar four weeks before the invasion started.

The fact of this isn't a surprise to many of us, though the frank admission by Bush that his peace efforts were a sham have not been previously precisely documented as sourced to Bush himself.

This transcript adds greatly to and is stronger than what Richard Dearlove (then head of British foreign intelligence service MI6) said in the Downing Street Memo. This Spanish transcript is from four weeks before the Invasion of Iraq, while the downing Street Memo was reported in July 2003, well after the invasion of Iraq was over, and comes from the head of a foreign Intelligence organization rather than directly from the lips of Bush himself.

When Bush bloviates on how he will look better in 50 years when the historians have the chance to dig into what he did during his Presidency, he once again proves that he is a fool.

Yes, the report is in Spanish, and no, I don't read Spanish all that well yet. Here is the link Josh presents: Babelfish only translates parts, so I need to dig out my dictionary and list of Spanish verbs.

Blackwater in Baghdad - "may be worse that Abu Ghraib"

Now even the military is privately piling on the Blackwater cowboyswho shot up civilians in Baghdad, and the Department of State has gone into "hunker-down" mode. Here are a few choice quotes from the Washington Post:
In high-level meetings over the past several days, U.S. military officials have pressed State Department officials to assert more control over Blackwater, which operates under the department's authority, said a U.S. government official with knowledge of the discussions. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," the official said.

"This is a nightmare," said a senior U.S. military official. "We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term."
In last week's incident, Blackwater guards shot into a crush of cars, killing at least 11 Iraqis and wounding 12. Blackwater officials insist their guards were ambushed, but witnesses have described the shooting as unprovoked. Iraq's Interior Ministry has concluded that Blackwater was at fault.

"This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

the military has long been wary of private security guards, especially those who, in the military's view, don't follow the rules of engagement that govern soldiers. Often, private guards quickly drive away from the scene of an incident, leaving soldiers to deal with the aftermath, officials said.

"I personally was concerned about any of the civilians running around on the battlefield during my time there," said retired Army Col. Teddy Spain, who commanded a military police brigade in Baghdad. "My main concern was their lack of accountability when things went wrong."

"They are immature shooters and have very quick trigger fingers. Their tendency is shoot first and ask questions later," said an Army lieutenant colonel serving in Iraq. Referring to the Sept. 16 shootings, the officer added, "None of us believe they were engaged, but we are all carrying their black eyes."

"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control," said a senior U.S. commander serving in Iraq. "They often act like cowboys over here . . . not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."

"The deaths of contractors from Blackwater helped precipitate the debacle in Fallujah in 2004 and now the loss of Blackwater is causing disruptions in the war effort in 2007," a military intelligence officer said. "Why are we creating new vulnerabilities by relying on what are essentially mercenary forces?"
It should not be forgotten that this Blackwater incident occurred as they were providing security to officials from the Department of State and Blackwater was working under a contract with the Department of State, not the Department of Defense. While the Iraqi people are going to blame "The American Troops" for what Blackwater did, The Blackwater cowboys were not operating under the control of the U.S. military. They are the responsibility of Condi Rice and the Department of State.

So what reaction have we gotten from Condi and the DoS? Josh Marshall writes:
the Department of State is telling Blackwater the company may not answer Congress's question without the specific approval of the State Department. What's more, Condi Rice has told Chairman Waxman (who plans an investigation of the incident) that she will not testify about Blackwater or contracting corruption cases in general.
Congress and Henry Waxman have the Constitutional power to perform oversight hearings as needed at their discretion.

There is no legal justification for Condi or Blackwater to defy a subpoena from Henry Waxman's committee. Does Condi expect the Department of Justice to simply not act on Congressional legal action to enforce a subpoena?

If so, then the cowboy antics of Blackwater become very clearly reflective of the Unconstitutional cowboy antics of the Bush White House in general. This administration was also responsible for Abu Ghraib. The timing of these incidents may be accidentle, but they are the natural outcome of the mismanagement, incompetence and crony-capitalist corruption of the Bush administration.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Our mismanaged economy is in a bind

The LA Times reports today that
The supply of unsold U.S. homes ballooned to an 18-year high in August as demand for existing homes fell to a five-year low, according to a report by the National Assn. of Realtors. The Washington-based trade group blamed the onset of the global credit crisis last month for the drop in sales. [Snip]

Also today, a separate report indicated that home prices were falling at an increasing rate. The closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller home prices index, which tracks results in metropolitan areas and is considered a leading measure of U.S. single-family home prices, showed an annual decline of 4.5% for the 12 months ended in July, representing the biggest drop since 1991.
Remember that

GDP = Consumer spending + Investment spending + Government Expenditure

and the only one of those three which has been growing since 2000 has been consumer spending. Se we need to look at the sources of money that has allowed that consumer spending.

Since wages have not gone up in that time, Consumption (and thus the total Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) has depended on the increase in home prices (provides cash) and new home production (provides wages) to keep the economy at its already rather anemic growth level.

The drop in sales of homes and in home prices strikes at the heart of both available cash (second mortgage or sale of the house) and at employment. That's why the Federal Reserve dropped the federal funds rate by half a percentage point, to 4.75 percent last week.

The stock market, in a mass stampede based on a fantasy made from hope over reality, immediately increased sharply. Unfortunately, the dollar dropped sharply against the Euro and has dropped to match the Canadian dollar for the first time in thirty years. The price of oil by the barrel is the highest it has ever been in dollar terms, and this is not supply and demand for oil. It is a precursor of inflation since all the goods we import will get more expensive.

The Fed's reaction to inflation is to increase interest rates and slow down the economy, but that does not work when the inflation results from a drop in the dollar. So we are going to see either inflation or a slowed-down economy and there is nothing the Federal Reserve can do about it using monetary methods.

Inflation might be preferred to keep unemployment low, but it will also kick up the interest rates as lenders in anticipation of increased inflation start to increase the interest rate they charge for loaning money.

If the government can take actions that puts the credit markets back onto an even keel (and no other agency is large enough to do anything at all) and the whole problem can be limited in time, maybe it won't be severe. Whether that is even possible is beyond my limited knowledge.

However it turns out, I think 2008 is going to be an economically rocky year.

White Supremacists coming out ot woodwork in Jena, LA

White Supremacists appear in Jena, LA. and demonstrate those endearing tactics of threats and intimidation so well developed by the KKK in the South. From the Chicago Tribune:
No sooner did tens of thousands of African-American demonstrators depart the racially tense town of Jena, La., last week after protesting perceived injustices than white supremacists flooded in behind them.

First a neo-Nazi Web site posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of some of the six black teenagers and their families at the center of the Jena 6 case and urged followers to find them and "drag them out of the house," prompting an investigation by the FBI.

Then the leader of a white supremacist group in Mississippi published interviews that he conducted with the mayor of Jena and the white teenager who was attacked and beaten, allegedly by the six black youths. In those interviews, the mayor, Murphy McMillin, praised efforts by pro-white groups to organize counterdemonstrations; the teenager, Justin Barker, urged white readers to "realize what is going on, speak up and speak their mind."

Over the weekend, white extremist Web sites and blogs across the Internet filled with invective about the Jena 6 case, which has drawn scrutiny from civil rights leaders, three leading Democratic presidential candidates and hundreds of African-American Internet bloggers. They are concerned about allegations that blacks have been treated more harshly than whites in the criminal justice system of the town of 3,000, which is 85 percent white.

David Duke,
[former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, felon, and ex-con.]the former Ku Klux Klan leader, last week announced his support for Jena's white residents, who voted overwhelmingly for him when he ran unsuccessfully for Louisiana governor in 1991.
Racism is far from dead in America. It is merely hidden in the swamps, waiting for a chance to pop out and pollute the American discourse again.

Monday, September 24, 2007

What has caused the casualties in Iraq?

Atrios presents an extremely informative graphic of the daily casualties of coalition forces, civilians and Iraqi security forces between June 2004 and August 2007.

Go look at it and ask yourself - if you were an Iraqi civilian would you want the U.S. to continue the occupation of Iraq, let alone the surge? Note the trends as the surge effectively began in February and continued to build up.

Remember, these are Department of Defense statistics.

Think we are likely to win the hearts and minds of the civilians? They are the ones in Green.

The systemic problem in using Blackwater in a combat zone

As described in my previous post the Blackwater mercenary bodyguards working for the Department of State were caught on tape killing at least eight Iraqis caught in Baghdad traffic. I described there how detrimental the killings were to any effective counterinsurgency effort in Iraq. Here I want to explain why I think they did what they did. It was a natural and normal mistake which is seen in infantry training exercises regularly, and is corrected only by good leadership and a lot of unit-level training.

Operating in a combat zone is a scary situation. You don't have to be paranoid to think everyone you see is out to kill you, because a lot of them really are. You understand that every time a you hear a shot fired anywhere.

So any time a person hears the shooting start they immediately find targets. Frequently they consider any movement or unexpected sound to be a target. In Baghdad, where the major weapon of choice is a car bomb, and moving car is a target. If not restrained the soldier will fire on the selected targets.

This is the natural, normal reaction of any group of armed soldiers who think they have come under fire. But few individuals can tell the difference between those shots fired at them and those fired by their fellow soldiers. A well-trained unit will not return fire until directed and released to do so by a commander they know and trust.

That trust takes a lot of time, experience and training as a unit to develop. A unit cannot go out and hire an experienced individual and make him into a leader his subordinates trust simply by assigning the rank and position. The trust and respect come only from training and experience as a unit. But mercenary units - like Blackwater, USA - have strong incentives NOT to spend time conducting unit level-training.

A mercenary unit is not paid to train. They are paid to perform the final function they were hired for. Training beyond simple entry-level indoctrination is not a cost their masters will want to pay for, and someone will offer their services without those costs built in, so the contracting process guarantees minimally trained units will be hired. Besides, effective extensive training cuts very heavily into the bottom-line of the owner of the mercenary organization. The result is that experienced well-trained units of government troops will almost always perform better than mercenaries will.

Roman troops were highly trained using effective organizational tactics, so that unless they were ambushed or very much outnumbered, then usually defeated their opponents. During the Thirty years war, government troops usually defeated mercenaries. War, or a counterinsurgency like Malaya, Vietnam and Iraq, is not fought by individuals as much as by organizations.

It is my opinion that the Blackwater troops in Baghdad suffered from a failure of leadership. Even in a convoy of only four SUV's, someone should have been in charge. The troops should not have fired until released, and if they did start shooting on their one, the leaders should have stopped the shooting before eight civilians were killed. The very system of using overpaid private contractors instead of trained government troops means that such control will be unlikely.

Blackwater will rightfully be blamed, but this is also another cost of trying to deal with the counterinsurgency that resulted from the ill-advised occupation of Iraq with too few forces. That blame goes directly back through Rumsfeld and Cheney to George W. Bush.

Blackwater mercenaries unjustified shootings were caught on tape.

Blackwater USA has proven what Europe knew at the end of the Thirty-Years War. Mercenary armies are over-priced and lack the professionalism, training and control necessary to achieve effective results in a combat situation, even assuming they can be convinced to fight.

While Blackwater may be keeping American diplomats alive, their murderous cowboy antics lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the local population in the Iraqi counterinsurgency. They proved it again when they shot up a bunch of civilians because a car did not get out of their way fast enough in Baghdad traffic. The New York Times provides the report based on the investigation conducted by the Iraqi government.
BAGHDAD, Sept. 21 — Iraq’s Ministry of Interior has concluded that employees of a private American security firm fired an unprovoked barrage in the shooting last Sunday in which at least eight Iraqis were killed [Snip]

In the first comprehensive account of the day’s events, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior said that security guards for Blackwater fired on Iraqis in their cars in midday traffic.

The document concludes that the dozens of foreign security companies here should be replaced by Iraqi companies, and that a law that has given the companies immunity for years be scrapped. [Snip]

In the Interior Ministry account — made available to The New York Times on Thursday — Iraqi investigators interviewed many witnesses but relied on the testimony of the people they considered to be the four most credible.

The account says that as soon as the guards took positions in four locations in the square, they began shooting south, killing a driver who had failed to heed a traffic policeman’s call to stop.

“The Blackwater company is considered 100 percent guilty through this investigation,” the report concludes.

The shooting enraged Iraqis, in part because they feel powerless to bring the security companies to account.

[Highlighting mine - Editor, WTF-o.]
Here is the description of the event as described in the report of the Iraqi government investigation:
The report said that Mr. Maliki had “demanded” that the State Department drop Blackwater as a protector, “for the sake of the two nations’ reputation.”

In the Interior Ministry’s version of that day, the events began unfolding when a bomb exploded shortly before noon near the unfinished Rahman Mosque, about a mile north of Nisour Square. Embassy officials have said the convoy was responding to the bomb, but it is still unclear whether it was carrying officials away from the bomb scene, driving toward it to pick someone up or simply providing support.

Whatever their mission, and whoever was inside, the convoy of at least four sport utility vehicles steered onto the square just after noon and took positions that blocked the flow of midday traffic in three directions. But one family’s car, approaching from the south along Yarmouk Street, apparently did not stop quickly enough, and the Blackwater guards opened fire, killing the man who was driving, the ministry account says.

“The woman next to the driver had a baby in her arms,” said an official who shared the report, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share it. “She started to scream. They shot her,” the official said, adding that the guards then fired what appeared to be grenades or pump guns into the car as it continued to move. The car caught fire.

“The car kept rolling, so they burned it,” the official said.

The account said that the guards entered the square shooting, although Ali Khalaf, a traffic policeman who watched events from a flimsy white traffic booth on the edge of the square and spoke in an interview on Thursday, said a guard got out of the sport utility vehicle and fired.

Mr. Khalaf, who has also been interviewed by American investigators, spoke standing near his traffic booth on Thursday afternoon. He said that he had tried to reach the woman in the seconds after the man she was riding with was shot. But a Blackwater guard killed the woman before he could reach her, Mr. Khalaf said.

What is still unknown is when, or if, Iraqi security forces stationed in at least two compounds adjacent to the square began firing their own weapons.

If the Iraqis began firing early in the episode, investigators could conclude that the Blackwater guards believed they were under attack and were justified in conducting what they might have considered to be a counterattack. Some of the casualties could also have been caused by bullets fired by Iraqis.

Mr. Khalaf, though, said that he never fired a shot. When one of the American investigators asked why he did not fire at the Blackwater convoy, Mr. Khalaf said, his answer was simple.

“I told him I am not authorized to shoot, and my job is to look after the traffic,” Mr. Khalaf said.
CNN reports that the Iraqis have videotapes of the incident raqi official says video shows Blackwater guards firing on civilians.

For what it's worth, I do not blame the individual Blackwater troops for this incident. Any combat zone is an extremely frightening place to be, and professional soldiers have an ethic that instead of running from where the shooting is, like civilians, instead they run to the sound of gunfire. I have no doubt that the Blackwater employees are that kind of professional.

Beyond the eight civilians killed, this incident is as much a loss in the counterinsurgency in Iraq as Abu Ghraib was. It was a failure of leadership of a type much more common to mercenary troops than to trained government troops, and it doesn't help that the contract that Blackwater has is with the Department of State, not with the Department of Defense. The Department of Defense simply does not have the necessary professional expertise required to properly control Blackwater or any other mercenary force operating in a combat zone.

See my next post for the mechanics of the problem.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Jena 6 - does the town of Jena have a race problem?

Jeralyn Merritt has looked into the case and describes what she found. So far this is the best description of the set of problems in Jena, LA over time that I have seen.

Jeralyn - an attorney - first describes the six separate significant incidents over time that she has seen reported. Very importantly, she does this with a strong emphasis on what is publicly known and what it not. Then she applies her legal training and comes to the following conclusion.
Does Jena have a race problem? I'd say it does now. Did the DA unfairly overcharge the Jena Six? Yes. Was it due to race? I don't know. Knowing whether the D.A. directed his assembly remarks to all students or just the black ones, as they maintain, would go a long way in resolving this. But, there's no video and there's disagreement about it.

Should Matt Windham have been charged with pulling a gun on Bailey and friends? I think so. I see no justification for that act. Who are the supposed eyewitnesses to this incident who back up his version of events? If Windham should have been charged and wasn't, the only factor at play I can see is race. (And minor question: Is he related to then-school principal Scott Windham?)

Should those who attacked Justin Barker be tried for battery? Yes. Should they be charged with more serious offenses or as adults? No.

Right now, the two biggest flaws I see from a legal (not social) perspective are prosecutorial abuse in charging juveniles as adults and that a white kid who pulled a gun on black kids didn't get charged with any crime. That incident is particularly suspect to me.
So one question is whether the problems in Jena, LA are based on Racism or just plain stupidity?

Based just on Jeralyn's analysis, I would have to consider it a mix. The original "nooses in the tree" were both racist and teenage stupid, with an emphasis on the latter. Teenagers are stupid by their very nature. The school tried to handle the problem, but failed to consider that because Race was involved, a lot of people, both Black and White, were watching to see how it was handled. The three-day suspension under those circumstances were not enough to satisfy the African American community, and they looked to the White community as though the kids had skated without any real punishment.

Incident No 1 was when the DA came in and tried to threaten (everyone? Just the Blacks?) with dire legal consequences if the problems resulting from the nooses in the tree did not go away. That was really stupid, and the DA should have understood that he was speaking to two audiences, one White and the other Black. Each audience was going to hear his "tough law" message in the context of their very different histories. My bet is that the DA did not intend to deliver a Racist message, but he thought White and failed to understand how the African-American community - with its history of having the "justice" department used to control them while Whites get away with anything up to and including murder - would hear his message as more of the same.

This is the form modern White Racism most commonly takes. To exaggerate a little, it is the attitude that "I'm not Racist! I have not beaten a Black, kept them in chains, or called them N****r, so so why aren't you Blacks satisfied? I treat you just like you were White even if you persist in acting different!" It's an improvement over legally enforced segregation, but by ignoring the remaining social and historical differences there is still a major of Racism built in.

There is still steering in renting and real estate that maintains ghettos. There are still cases in which a Black man will be stopped for "Driving While Black" in non-Black neighborhoods, and schools and services in those Black living areas are not funded or staffed as well as in the White areas. Hiring and promoting in the business world is still more limited for Blacks than for Whites. Racist violence is more unusual than before, but not unknown. The result of all this and the history of violence against Blacks means that any Black person who steps outside their door and does not think automatically that they are a minority in a majority White world is taking their life in their own hands.

After that first announcement from the DA he was stuck in a situation where he felt committed to escalate his threat, and it sounds like he simply doesn't like Mychal Bell. Racism or Bell's history? Again, the DA is playing to two audiences but listening to only one of them. Bell's bail was set unreasonably high in comparison to that of others while he was arbitrarily chosen as a juvenile to be tried as an adult, again suggesting that as a Black teenager he was getting much harsher treatment than the White kids would have. Look at what Jerilyn said:
Is Ball a repeat violent criminal? Not in my view. His four prior convictions are two simple batteries, months apart and two misdemeanors for damage to property. Regardless of how the law in Louisiana technically categorizes him, I don't think he fits the bill of a violent offender.
So does the town of Jena have a Race problem?

It sure does now. And the escalation of the problem got out of hand from the kind of modern American Racism in which the Whites deny that they are Racist, but don't know any Blacks, don't trust them, don't listen to them and try their best to simply ignore them.

This is a case that could have been headed off at a number of points had the DA not tried to threaten everyone with his power. This just started as a stupid teenage stunt that the White power structure that runs Jena tried to bull their way though and bury it, instead of reaching out to the Black community and working with them to somehow resolve it.

Maybe America will get lucky and recognize the source of the problem and start working to resolve it instead of acting like Supreme Court Chief Justice said and simply consider any consideration of Racism to be itself Racist.

Oops. Got to go. Another pig just flew into my yard.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Here's why Dan Rather finally decide to sue CBS.

The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz has done some reporting on Dan Rather's lawsuit against CBS. Here are some key passages:
CBS aired the story on Sept. 8, 2004, at the height of the presidential campaign, hours after White House official Dan Bartlett did not challenge the authenticity of the memos when asked about them by CBS. Bartlett said later that he had no way of knowing on such short notice whether the memos were real.

Gold, Rather's lawyer, maintained that "nobody's proved the documents were forgeries. The way we look at it, it's more than likely the documents are authentic." [Snip]

Asked why Rather would sue more than a year after leaving CBS, Gold said the former anchor was "a bit appalled" at new information he said had emerged involving a private investigator, Erik Rigler, who was hired by the network during the 2004 controversy. Rigler, a former FBI agent, "was trying to dig up dirt on Dan and Mary Mapes," Gold said, declining to elaborate.
CBS News President Andrew Heyward and Senior Vice President Betsy West not only were not defending their central News anchor, they were actively trying to get information on Dan Rather and Mary Mapes to smear them. Also, add Sumner Redstone, chief executive of the network's then-parent company, Viacom and CBS Chairman Les Moonves to the list of specifically named gutter slime.

So much for an independent press that operates as a fourth branch of government and works to protect American democracy. The conservative and Republican gutter slime will do whatever they can to destroy all opposition to their authoritarian rule.

Petreaus is a Republican General supporting the Bush administration - not America

After Gen. Petreaus made his misleading report to Congress a couple of weeks ago, he went on FOX News for an exclusive interview, and no other news outlet was given that kind of access. Now FOX is returning the favor.

The occupation in Iraq is a war only because the Republican Party wanted a war there, and the occupation has continued because the Republican Party does not want it to end. There is no purpose to the occupation other than to simply avoid admitting that the invasion of Iraq was the worst, most stupid foreign policy blunder ever made by an American President. Even many of the top military leaders see this. Gen. David Petreaus was chosen as Bush's political instrument to expand the war when Bush was being told to wind it down, and Gen. Petreaus has become the mouthpiece of the failed Bush administration because they no longer have any credibility themselves. An attack on Gen. Petreaus' opinions or methods can be spun as an attack on the troops in combat. The result is that Gen. David Petreaus has become Bush's replacement face as the proponent of the war in Iraq.

This is clearly demonstrated by the fact that the only news outlets Petreaus is making his case in other than quick soundbites are right-wing extremist news outlets like FOX News. [When does Rush Limbaugh interview him? It is sure to be coming.]

The occupation of Iraq is a Republican war, not an American war. The longer it continues the more America loses. Who wins? The Republican Party has only national security to use as a basis to run for election. The Republicans have to keep the Republican War in Iraq going to avoid losing whatever political significance than have had in America since the end of the Cold War.

And Petreaus is ready to accommodate the Republicans. Why not? I hear that he is highly ambitious and wants to run for President some day. That's why he is kissing so much Republican ass.

And in the meantime, the latest American casualty count in the Republican War in Iraq so far is at least 3,792 Americans dead and at least 27,936 U.S. troops wounded in action as of September 20, 2007 according to CNN. I wonder how many more Americans will have to die or be wounded so that Bush can continue to refuse to admit what a terrific blunder he make invading Iraq and so that Gen. David Petreaus can position himself to run for President?

The Dan Rather is out for blood in lawsuit against CBS

I like Dan Rather, and it is clear that CBS gave him a raw deal. I can remember him covering Hurricane Carla for Houston Channel 11 in the early 1960's, and he has covered important stories ever since. I also think CBS gave him the raw deal because they were giving the American public a raw deal and Dan refused to go along with them. So I am delighted that he is now suing CBS. A lot of people don't understand that this is going to be so much more than just a lawsuit.

Kevin Drum said something really stupid about the Rather-CBS lawsuit the other day.
Rather is getting some very, very bad advice here. What he should be hoping for is that this entire incident sinks slowly and quietly out of sight. Instead, he's decided to reignite public interest in it by filing a lawsuit arguing that he was just reading from a script and never did anything wrong. This is not going to do wonders for his reputation.
Or in other words, Dan isn't going to win this lawsuit so it is just going to look bad for him to try. Drum's advice to Dan? Shut up and move on.

I'll agree that Dan isn't likely to actually win the lawsuit, although this is a suit over CBS' failure to live up to their contract - it will be easier to win that Westmoreland's libel suit a few decades ago. But I don't think winning the law suit is really what Dan sees as "winning." I think he is out to expose CBS and Bush for the liars and scam artists they are.

What happened is that Bush scammed the American public in 2000 and since, and that CBS was complicit in the scam. Dan tried to expose a major element of the scam (Bush's failed Air National Guard stint and its cover up) and when he did, the Bush administration put pressure on CBS to cover it up - and they did. They smeared Dan and fired him for attempting to present what should have been the most important news story in 2004.

When the Bush administration and CBS did that they created a dangerous enemy. Dan has had a long, proud career as a CBS newsman. That's over. Now he is an independent journalist who is going to take down George Bush and the CBS News managers who made him their enemy. Since Dan no longer has the CBS News anchor desk as a platform, he has chosen to use his reputation and the law courts to present the story to the American public. Those slimeballs are going to be exposed.

I'm sure that Dan will be pleased if he also wins the lawsuit, but I strongly doubt that is how he will measure winning. If he were just going to go after CBS for breach of contract, he could have started the lawsuit a couple of years ago. I suspect that he knew who he was after and that he has been researching them since he left CBS, and only just now filed the lawsuit because he has his ducks in a row and because the Bush administration is at it's nadir and is especially vulnerable, while CBS has committed suicide as a news organization as demonstrated by the utter idiocy of hiring Katy Couric as a news anchor.

Bush and CBS created their own worst enemy. They are both drowning, and Dan Rather is handing them an anchor.

It has already started. Greg Sargent at TPM Muckraker has been going through the filings of the lawsuit and has already begun reporting on how the CBS executives held up and tried to kill the reporting of Abu Ghraib. Go read it.

Here is what Greg Sargent gleaned from page 11 of the complaint in the lawsuit:
38. In late April 2004, Mr. Rather, as Correspondent, and Mary Mapes, a veteran producer, broke a news story of national urgency on 60 Minutes II — the abuse by American military personnel of Iraqi prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison. The story, which included photographs of the abusive treatment of prisoners, consumed American news media for many months.

Despite the story's importance, and because of the obvious negative impact the story would have on the Bush administration with which Viacom and CBS wished to curry favor, CBS management attempted to bury it. As a general rule, senior executives of CBS News do not take a hands-on role in the editing and vetting of a story. However, CBS News President Andrew Heyward and Senior Vice President Betsy West were involved intimately in the editing and vetting process of the Abu Ghraib story. However, for weeks, they refused to grant permission to air the story, continuously insisting that it lacked sufficient substantiation. As Mr. Rather and Ms. Mapes provided each requested verification, Mr. Heyward and Ms. West continued to "raise the goalposts," insisting on additional substantiation.

40. Even after obtaining nearly a dozen, now notorious, photographs, which made it impossible to deny the accuracy of the story, Mr. Heyward and Ms. West continued to delay the story for an additional three weeks. This delay was, in part, occasioned by acceding to pressures brought to bear by government officials urging CBS to drop the story or at least delay it. As a part of that pressure, Mr. Rather received a personal telephone call from General Richard B. Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, urging him to delay the story.

41. Only after it became apparent that, due to the delay, sources were talking to other news organizations and that CBS would be "scooped," Mr. Heyward and Ms. West approved the airing of the story for April 28, 2004. Even then, CBS imposed the unusual restrictions that the story would be aired only once, that it would not be preceded by on-air promotion, and that it would not be referenced on the CBS Evening News.

[highlighting mine - Edotor WTF-o.]
Remember those names.
  • CBS News President Andrew Heyward and
  • Senior Vice President Betsy West
Those people are dangerous right-wing fanatics who are working to turn America into an authoritarian state, one in which they can personally exert more power and make more money.

The lawsuit has started. The people it is aimed at are some of the most disgusting and dangerous people in America, and they are about to be named and exposed and they own the Republican Party. So get ready for the fireworks. Real Americans are really going to enjoy the show as the conservatives and their fellow-travelers get their heads handed to them.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's time to condemn all of Congress for unamerican activity

As you might notice in my previous post I find the utterly despicable behavior of Congress in condemning MoveOn.Org for its advertisement against the White House ventriloquists Dummy David Petreaus to have been a total failure of our government.

I'm not the only one. Rick Perlstein does a better job than I have of condemning Congress. So does Digby as she also quotes the recently freed (no more Times Select) New York Times editorialist Paul Krugman.

Is there really no solution left except to bring an army of bulldozers to the west side of Washington, D.C. and push the entire city into Chesapeake Bay? When we do, we need to finish by salting the ground it the city sat on.

Congress condemns Move-On, ignores Iraq War and Jena, La racism

Chris Dodd provided a an outstanding quote today in response to the Congressional condemnation of's anti-Petreaus advertisement:
"It is a sad day in the Senate when we spend hours debating an ad while our young people are dying in Iraq. Now that the Senate has twice voted on this ad, it is time to move on and vote to end the war."
But what has Congress done about the obviously racist use of the justice system in Jena, La. to oppress Black teenagers while letting White teenagers guilty of similar or worse things avoid any condemnation?

Throughout the South and in Texas there are two justice systems. There is one for White kids that recognizes that teenagers occasionally step out of line and corrects but does not destroy those kids. Then there is the justice system in Paris, TX. that sent a teenager (who shoved a substitute teacher) to state juvenile school (jail for teenagers) for an indeterminate period of up to 7 years. When her case was finally reviewed after the new media got hold of it, she was released along with 150 other Black teenagers whose offenses were similarly minor. She had spent a year in jail and had no prospects of being released.
Cotton, who is 15, had no prior criminal record when she was incarcerated a year ago under an indeterminate sentence that could have lasted until her 21st birthday. Her case rose to national prominence and became the focus of ongoing civil rights protests after a March 12 Tribune story detailed how a 14-year-old white girl convicted of the more serious crime of arson was sentenced to probation by the same judge.

Cotton's case occurred against a backdrop of persistent allegations of racial discrimination inside the Paris public schools -- allegations that are the subject of a continuing probe by the U.S. Department of Education to determine whether black students in the district are disciplined more harshly than whites.
Paris, TX is only 327 miles from Jena, LA according to Mapquest. Such racism permeates the entire route between those two towns, as well as much of the rest of the South and Texas.

Congress seemed trapped between the old do-nothing status quo and the extremist wing of the authoritarian and theocratic Republican Party. It looks like just taking the federal government back from the Republicans, giving it to the Democrats, and stopping the militarist fantasies of the Republicans and Dick Cheney is not going to be enough. It is time to considered rebuilding an activist Democratic Party while destroying the remainder of the conservative and theocratic Republican Party.

Nothing less than that is going to take American back to the dream built into the U.S. Constitution by the founding fathers.

Republican State Legislator Kirk England switches to Democrats

According to this morning's Fort Worth Star-Telegram Texas State Representative Kirk England of Grand Prairie has announced his switch from Republican to the Democratic Party. The district leans Democratic, as was shown when Kirk England, as the incumbent, only defeated the Democratic challenger in 2006 by 250 votes.

The 150 member Texas House of Representatives will thus be 79 Republicans and 70 Democrats, with one normally Republican district not represented at the moment. This is Kirk England's reaction to the dictatorial behavior of the Republican Speaker of the House Tom Craddick in the most recent house session. Craddick has been Speaker of the House since the Tom DeLay-financed Republican take-over of the Texas House in 2002, which led to the well-known runaway Democratic legislators as the Republicans used three month-long special sessions to redistrict the Texas Congress persons.

There may be hope for Texas yet, particularly with the national Republican Party dissing the Hispanics and all immigrants, Republicans everywhere dissing the African-American vote, and with Congressman Peter King (R-NY) who is an advisor to the Rudy Giuliani campaign announcing "Unfortunately we have too many mosques in this country." The Republicans seem to be getting frustrated or something and are letting their authoritarian, anti-Liberty and anti-minority opinions surface in the media.

V-22 Osprey squadron has just left for Iraq

A Marine squadron of 10 V-22 Osprey tilt-roter aircraft left for Iraq yesterday. They are traveling on the U.S.S. Wasp, a small Navy aircraft carrier known as an amphibious assault ship.

The Osprey is the controversial experimental aircraft that lands and takes off with the twin engines facing upward like a helicopter, but once in the air the engines tilt forward and act as normal turboprop engines on a fixed-wing aircraft. For all the fact that the aircraft has been over-budget and has suffered a series of accidents, it is unique technology in aircraft. It is now going to be tried out with the Marine Corps in combat.

Love it or hate it, the Osprey is a fascinating aircraft. I wish the crews and the Marine Corps well with it.

(Article found in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The article includes a picture of the Osprey.)

Blackwater in Iraq under no effective control

The private mercenary firm, Blackwater, has been in a lot of trouble with the Iraqi government over the killing of a number of Baghdad civilians last Sunday. Blackwater spokesmen say that their employees were providing protection to a Department of State convoy when the convoy was hit by an explosive device and came under fire from insurgents. The company spokesman says they returned fire. The Department of State Incident Report gives the company's version of events.

Prime Minister Maliki of the Iraq government disputes the story told by Blackwater, saying that, while an explosive device did go off, it was nowhere near the convoy and that the contract security people responded with excessive force, firing on civilian vehicles which were not threatening in any way and even using helicopters to fire on the civilians. Maliki has ordered Blackwater to leave Iraq. The Baltimore Sun provides a good article on the differing reports from Blackwater spokesman and from Prime Minister Maliki of the Iraqi government.

This gets especially interesting, more that just the cowboy antics that Blackwater is once again accused of. It is interesting in two ways. First, because Blackwater is not under the same regulations as most of the security contractors working in Iraq. Most security contractors in Iraq work under contracts from the Department of Defense. Because of similar incidents in which such security contractors (the euphemism for Mercenaries)Congress passed a law requiring that such mercenaries be brought under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ.) While apparently no DoD contractor has ever been charged under UCMJ, there is at least some effort by DoD to get incident reports and gather some information on alleged incidents they are involved in. Blackwater is not under the UCMJ because it has a contract with Department of State rather than with Department of Defense, and DoS has not made significant efforts to control them.

The second question is whether PM Maliki, as the leader of the government of Iraq established by the United States after the earlier government of Saddam was totally dismantled, will have any control over the criminal actions of the mercenaries that the U.S. government has contracted to operate in that country. PM Maliki has lifted the license Blackwater has to operate in Iraq. As the New York Times pointed out "Early in the period when Iraq was still under American administration, the United States government unilaterally exempted its employees and contractors from Iraqi law."

The efforts of Congress to bring the security firms under control have all given the DoD the power to control those firms it contracts with, but those the State Department contracts with are outside those controls. Much more important, the U.S. has no Status of Forces Agreement with the supposedly independent government of Iraq. Blackwater, USA is a private contractor owned and operated by the ultra conservative Erik Prince who has close ties to the Republican Party. Will the Bush administration and Condoleeza Rice permit PM Maliki to kick Blackwater out of Iraq?

There is little reason to doubt that the security contractors operating in Iraq have suffered from a lack of effective control of their operations. The conflict between what the government of Iraq accuses Blackwater of and what the Blackwater spokesman says they did is at present a "He said - He said" argument. It is hard to decide which side is telling the greater truth since there are few independently obtained reliable facts currently available to the rest of us.

Still, the best bet is that Blackwater did use excessive or even unnecessary force since it has operated without controls and has been encouraged to be highly aggressive in the performance of its defensive duties. Blackwater operatives have a reputation for such aggressive, even cowboy tactics. Using helicopters to fire on civilians inside the city of Baghdad demonstrates that they weren't very careful who they were shooting at.

Then, too, a reputation for such aggressiveness could be considered good for sales of their services. When someone is buying protection service and it comes down to a choice between two firms with equal apparent capabilities, the one that has a reputation for being more aggressive is likely to get the contract. This is, of course, speculation, but it is quite reasonable speculation when looking at someone selling the services of armed soldiers.

The trouble is, America is trying to fight a counterinsurgency as well as attempting to tamp down a civil war in Iraq, and success in a counterinsurgency goes to the side that gains the hearts and minds of the people of the country. The Blackwater incident is another indicator that the U.S. is not serious about trying to fight a counterinsurgency in Iraq. Blackwater's reputation for aggressive cowboy tactics will add to the reasons for the Iraqi people to demand that the American troops leave their country. Why shouldn't they? This incident with Blackwater demonstrates that the U.S. occupation of Iraq is part of the problem, not part of the solution to violence in Iraq.

The use of mercenary troops by the U.S. means using armed forces which are under no effective political control in a combat zone. At best they are handed a set of Rule of Engagement which are not enforced. That never works in a counterinsurgency because it makes enemies of those we need to befriend. But we can't replace the mercenaries in Iraq with government soldiers unless we start a draft. A draft is a political impossibility today in America.

That means we do not have enough trained and controlled troops to win in Iraq and no way to raise them other than hiring mercenaries. The mercenaries are beyond effective control. The best answer would be to get out of Iraq. Yet we also are convinced that we can't leave as quickly as logistically possible since that would leave Iraq as a failed state. America's invasion and incompetent occupation has left no remnant of effective central government in Iraq.

So we can't leave, but can't stay in Iraq and win without using the mercenaries. Talk about poor planning! Still, it is the lack of control over the mercenaries that is their worst fault. So the mercenaries must remain for a while longer, but be brought under tight and effective control. Not only must they be brought under control, they must be shown to be brought under control by very publicly charging, convicting and punishing some of the worst offenders and by placing ALL security contractors in Iraq under close and public inspection. If the Iraqi people are not convinced that all the American troops - including the mercenaries - are working for their betterment, then America has lost the counterinsurgency in Iraq and staying longer will just make the damage worse.

Unfortunately, this solution runs counter to the radical free-market ideology of the Bush administration and the Republican Party. Efforts to attempt such controls will quickly be derailed by politically connected Republican donors, particularly those in the security industry. Then, even if a solution is was attempted, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it is incompetent at conducting such control over any organization, even those like FEMA that are integral to the government itself. The complexities of actually doing something effective are beyond the abilities of the Bush administration.

While the Bush administration has repeatedly proven that it cannot "make the trains run on time," they are brilliant at public relations. Instead of fixing the problem they will instead do their usual action of trying to treat the problem as a public relations problem. In place of actually solving he problem, they will work to convince the American public that there is no problem. Oddly, since the real problem is public perception of American troops by the Iraqi public, they will not work as hard there to fix the PR problem. That's because they have fewer effective PR tools in Iraq and don't understand the public perceptions there. The PR effort there will be less intense.

What will not happen is any effective, centrally controlled effort by the Bush administration to actually fix the problems in Iraq caused by the out-of-control mercenaries there. That's just another can they will kick down the road to the next President, providing further fodder for conservatives to use to attack the incoming Democratic President in 2009 for losing Iraq.

The problems caused by the use of uncontrolled mercenaries in Iraq is a real one. They stem from poor planning and inadequate organization by the Bush administration both in the invasion of Iraq and the resulting occupation. Solving those problems will not provide a benefit to the Republican Party, so Congressional Republicans will block any effort to solve those problems, just as the Republicans are currently doing their best to prevent the Democrats from passing any legislation that solves American problems. Meanwhile the Bush White House will sit on its hands rather than recognize the difficulties it has created.

It's not a pretty picture.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

NPR's Morning Edition blew it this morning.

I woke up this morning listening to Morning Edition on National Public Radio. Usually its informative and current. But this morning the best that can be said it that it was current.

There was a segment on the non-news called O.J. Simpson. That's celebrity gossip, no better than the latest on Brittany Spears, Nicole Richey or Donald Trump. If I want that garbage I'll choose to waste my time and read the National Tattler in the supermarket checkout line. I do not expect that from NPR's Morning Edition.

An O.J. segment is a wast of my time, a horrible waste of NPR's scarce (but linear) air time, and it was rotten news judgment to present it.

That's just one more case of the general dumbing down of the news media. It's a damned shame that the disease of the American media has spread to National Public Radio.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Segregation is ended, Right? Not in Alabama.

Think that if we just ignore race that desegregation will happen? Not according to the New York Times.
September 17, 2007
Alabama Plan Brings Out Cry of Resegregation

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — After white parents in this racially mixed city complained about school overcrowding, school authorities set out to draw up a sweeping rezoning plan. The results: all but a handful of the hundreds of students required to move this fall were black — and many were sent to virtually all-black, low-performing schools.

Black parents have been battling the rezoning for weeks, calling it resegregation. And in a new twist for an integration fight, they are wielding an unusual weapon: the federal No Child Left Behind law, which gives students in schools deemed failing the right to move to better ones.

“We’re talking about moving children from good schools into low-performing ones, and that’s illegal,” said Kendra Williams, a hospital receptionist, whose two children were rezoned. “And it’s all about race. It’s as clear as daylight.”

Tuscaloosa, where George Wallace once stood defiantly in the schoolhouse door to keep blacks out of the University of Alabama, also has had a volatile history in its public schools. Three decades of federal desegregation marked by busing and white flight ended in 2000. Though the city is 54 percent white, its school system is 75 percent black.

The schools superintendent and board president, both white, said in an interview that the rezoning, which redrew boundaries of school attendance zones, was a color-blind effort to reorganize the 10,000-student district around community schools and relieve overcrowding. By optimizing use of the city’s 19 school buildings, the district saved taxpayers millions, officials said. They also acknowledged another goal: to draw more whites back into Tuscaloosa’s schools by making them attractive to parents of 1,500 children attending private academies founded after court-ordered desegregation began.

“I’m sorry not everybody is on board with this,” said Joyce Levey, the superintendent. “But the issue in drawing up our plan was not race. It was how to use our buildings in the best possible way.” Dr. Levey said that all students forced by the rezoning to move from a high- to a lower-performing school were told of their right under the No Child law to request a transfer.

When the racially polarized, eight-member Board of Education approved the rezoning plan in May, however, its two black members voted against it. “All the issues we dealt with in the ’60s, we’re having to deal with again in 2007,” said Earnestine Tucker, one of the black members. “We’re back to separate but equal — but separate isn’t equal.”
The South - and Texas - will have to be forced to desegregate schools for as long as any of us currently alive remain alive.

Let's not forget the Racism that is actively trying to send several Black teenagers to prison for ridiculous periods of time because they dared sit under the "White" tree at school where only "White" students were allowed, and then fought back with White teenagers, who knew that their parents would protect them, harassed and started fight with those "Uppity Blacks." Remember Jena, LA?

And Jena, LA isn't over yet. After first the Emancipation Proclamation ended legal slavery during the Civil War and the after the period of Reconstruction, the South reacted in four ways. The first was economic isolation of Negroes. The second was repression of any Negro who wanted to vote and stopping them. The third was legal segregation. Then, the fourth prong of the repression techniques used to control Negroes was violence on Negroes who tried to push the limits of the other limitations.

The violence was part of the Southern culture, since middle and upper class White males had received military training to prepare for the anticipated slave revolt which had been the horror of Whites for as long as the Plantation-Slave system of agriculture had dominated the economy of the South. That training was a principle reason why the South was able to militarily defeat the North so frequently during the Civil War and was the basis of the extremely strong military traditions of the American South. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a founding member of the Ku Klux Klan was a slave trader before the Civil War and one of the finest Cavalry and Partisan leaders of the Civil War.

After Emancipation the four-pronged control procedure evolved. The most obvious two parts were segregation and lynchings. Lynchings were only the most extreme form of violence used to repress "The Negro" and it is the part that stopped Negroes from attempting to vote, enter White commerce, move out of segregated ghettos and trying to get better education for their children. Vote? The Whites just wouldn't let them. The courts weren't going to do anything. Move into a White area? Cross-burning, beatings, murder and arson. Again, the courts would do nothing, nor would the police. Education? The profession of Preacher was available, but the churches were as segregated as everywhere else. And if you are Negro, don't be caught in a White area. If the cops don't arrest you, beat you, and throw you in jail, then the White male teenagers will beat you or kill you. They could brag to their parents, uncles and friends about what they did and get adulation. What more does a teenage male want?

Civil Rights had a lot of barriers to break through. Americans need to look back at both the Tuskegee Airmen and at the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to see American revolts against segregation. The fascinating thing is that both were revolts to force Americans to live up to what our Constitution says we believe in as Americans. They weren't revolts against us. They were revolts to force us to let them join us.

The behavior of Negroes during WW II demonstrated the failure and idiocy of legal segregation. After the War, Truman integrated the military. He had the power to make that work. Then Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren pushed school integration through in 1954. That was followed by the 1964 Civil Rights Law and by the Supreme Court decision striking down the Miscegenation laws in 1967. Those effectively eliminated legal segregation and put major pressure on the various forms of social segregation that Whites tried to enforce. With school integration and military integration White kids found that there really was no difference between Blacks and Whites.

The only real way to separate the so-called Races was violence, and in most places in America outside the deepest of the Deep South the courts would no longer let the perpetrators of Race-based violence off the hook.

Only - the Southern fear of the slaves and resulting hatred and fear of the African Americans is not yet dead. It is the oldest and least American - least Integrationist - most Fundamentalist and Southern Baptist - individuals in the South who populate the School Boards and elect the District Attorneys. They are the ones who are giving us the Alabama Plan in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and the panicky persecution of African-American teenage males in Jena, Louisiana.

The fight to implement the U.S. Constitution has made a lot of progress, but it is not yet over. We need to make sure it keeps rolling along in the same direction as it has for the last two centuries.

Briber of Congressman fires shot across the bow

Brent Wilkes, currently being tried for bribing former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), has subpoenaed thirteen senior Congressmen to testify at his bribery trial. The members will decline to comply with the subpoenas.

The list of Congressmen as provided by The Politico is:
  • Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Il) former Speaker of the House;
  • Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO) current House Minority Whip;
  • Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), former chairman of the Appropriations Committee;
  • Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), former chairman of the Armed Services Committee;
  • Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI), former Intelligence Committee chairman;
  • Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) current Armed Services Committee Chairman;
  • Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) current Intelligence Committee Chairman;
  • Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA), current chairman of the Defense subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee;
  • Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA);
  • Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA);
  • Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA);
  • Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI); and
  • Rep. Jerry Weller (R-Il).
Wilkes is known to have provided a lot of money in bribes to Rep. Cunningham. This list amounts to an accusation that all of these Representatives have also taken bribes from Wilkes.

The list appears to have become available when the House of Representatives voted to decline to permit the court to enforce its subpoenas on these members. Representatives all reported that House Rules did not permit the members to respond to the subpoenas. (See TPM Muckraker.)

Have any ex-House members also been subpoenaed? For example Tom DeLay? If not, then it would be reasonable to assume that this was a form of political blackmail that Wilkes' attorneys were trying to gain protection for the court.

I guess those Representatives who were subpoenaed see a mass denial to appear at Wilkes' trial as politically preferable to any of them showing up and taking the Fifth Amendment. Still, this vote puts the entire House of Representatives on record as defending those of their members who have taken bribes and sold their vote. [Bad guess. Cynical as I am, there was apparently no vote for me to rail against.]

This is still a very significant accusation from the man currently incarcerated ex-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham named as his briber that the entire House of Representatives was highly corrupt. From TPM Muckraker:
"Wilkes came out last year to offer the defense that he didn't bribe lawmakers -- it was the other way around: they shook him down. "Transactional lobbying" (i.e. no free favors) was his phrase for it. Perhaps the subpoenas were part of that defense strategy?"
Since Wilke's trial has been delayed and will probably not start until early next year I am sure that we will hear more about this.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Global warming appears to be speeding up

Remember all those history classes when the teacher talked about the search for the Northwest Passage from Europe around North America to Asia? It is there, and it has been all along, but it was frozen over so that it couldn't be used.

Not, that is, until this year. This summer for the first time in recorded history Captains Drake and Hawkins could have traveled along the short cut from Europe to Asia through the Canadian Arctic.

The ice cover near the North Pole is steadily shrinking, and the rate of shrinkage appears to be speeding up. This summer's reduction in the ice cover has made the route navigable for the first time.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Bush lies in the little things; why should we trust him on anything?

Bush's speech last Thursday night was replete with shifting goals, bad history and more misdirection than a used car salesman trying to push an overpriced wreck. Just what we learned to expect from the person who delivered the famous sixteen words" in his 2003 State of the Union Speech.

But for this speech they aren't even trying to just misdirect the audience with irrelevant facts. This time Bush just flat lied. He stated that there are 36 nations "with troops on the ground" in Iraq at this time. So Spencer Ackerman at TPM Muckraker was finally able to get the list of countries that the White House counted in that 36. Here is an annotated version of the White House's list:
Countries with troops on ground in Iraq

1. Albania
2. Armenia
3. Austrailia
4. Azerbaijan
5. Bosnia and Herzegovina
6. Bulgaria
7. Czech Republic
8. Denmark
9. El Salvador
10. Estonia
11. Georgia
12. Japan
13. Kazakhstan
14. South Korea
15. Latvia
16. Lithuania
17. Macedonia
18. Moldova
19. Mongolia
20. Poland
21. Romania
22. Singapore
23. Slovakia
24. Ukraine
25. United Kingdom
26. Tonga

United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (Not listed are countries that are providing forces in other categories)

1. Canada
2. Fiji
3. New Zealand

NATO Training NTM-I

1. Hungary
2. Iceland
3. Italy
4. Netherlands
5. Portugal
6. Slovenia
7. Turkey

[Strike-through's, highlighting and footnote markers are mine - Editor WTF-o.]

[A] Tonga has already withdrawn its troops from the MNF-I.
[B] Canada has already withdrawn its single soldier from the UNAM-I.
[C] New Zealand contributes a single individual to UNAM-I.
[D] Hungary's participation cannot at this time be confirmed.
[E] Iceland's single individual is not a soldier. The individual is a Press aide. Besides, that individual is already scheduled to leave Iraq as of October first.

[F] Counting participation in the UNAM-I as "Troops on the ground" is stretching the concept of troops. That organization is a civilian agency.

So the real number is 34 countries with people on the ground in Iraq assuming that Hungary actually does have them there. But the UNAM-I mission cannot by any stretch be considered "troops on the ground." If they were withdrawn, they are not performing a function that would have to be picked up by forces from the MNF-I. That brings the real number as the Bush speech defined it (troops on the ground in Iraq) down to 32 at best.

This was certainly incompetence and probably a lie on the part of Bush's speech writer, and for Bush to present such sloppy material on national TV was a lie on his part. Bush is directly responsible for the accuracy of the material in the speeches he gives, even if he does not write and vet them himself. If it had not been Bush's intent to stretch the apparent international appearance of the military force in Iraq, then he would have used only the twenty-five nations belonging to the Multi-National Force in Iraq in his speech.

Bush is pushing the occupation of Iraq like a sleazy used car salesman in a cheap suit trying to sell a clunker to a rube. Almost as bad is the clear incompetence with which Bush is performing. The easily verified errors and lies in his speech show a level of incompetence that should never occur in the Office of the President and certainly should never appear on National TV.

Is there any wonder that no one except hard core Republicans trusts a single thing that the White House asserts as true?

Explanation of organizational acronyms:

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Bush problem

Bush will ask others to do anything to avoid facing the fact that Bush totally failed America and failed as President when he ordered the invasion of Iraq.

OK. Leaders make decisions based on limited information and under real time constraints. We can't expect perfection, but we can hope they will recognize that the outcome of their decision shows they made the wrong choice and then take actions to correct the earlier error. It's part of being human. Bush, however, does not recognize the error he make in invading Iraq to eliminate terrorism.

Whether he is too stupid to recognize his error, is in an information bubble where no one dares explain the real problem to him, or knows the problems and simply refuses to admit his error is irrelevant. For whatever reason, Bush simply will not change his approach to Iraq. It's "continue to march and fight on for flag and country no matter how stupid the decisions" until the end of his term as President. That's 17 more months at an American death rate of 80 to 100 soldiers per month (minimum 1380 more American deaths between now and the end of January 2009) and no one knows how many Iraqi deaths. Iraqi deaths will be a lot more.

The solution built into the Constitution is impeachment. But the Constitution did not consider the growth of Political parties. Impeachment can be done in the House with a majority of the members approving. Impeachment is equivalent to having a Grand Jury recommend But then the Senate tries person impeached and requires a two-thirds majority to convict.

It is this two-thirds majority that makes the American two-party system most important. Representatives and Senators do not vote their conscience on the facts of the case. They vote the way their party tells them to vote. Two-thirds of the Senate is 67 Senators. Currently there are 49 Republican Senators, 49 Democratic Senators, and 2 Independent Senators. Presently there are 49 Democratic Senators, 48 Republican Senators, and two independent Senators who both vote with the Democratic caucus to choose the Senate Majority leader. Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) died in June 2007 and has not yet been replaced. Under Wyoming law, the Wyoming Republican party will nominate three candidates and the Democratic governor of Wyoming will choose Sen. Craig's replacement from those three Republicans, so party affiliation will not change. The result in any impeachment trial will be 49 Democrats and 49 Republicans voting. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders can be expected to vote with the Democrats. Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman can be expected to vote with the Republicans. So any Party-line vote on an impeachment trial of Bush and Cheney can be expected to be 50 - 50.

Only a shift of 17 Republicans to towards conviction could remove Bush and Cheney. Why would 17 Republicans shift and vote against their party to remove Bush and Cheney? Assuming that they do not have an individual conscience that drives them to remove the current incompetents in office as President and Vice President (a historically-supported good assumption - few Senators will give up office simply for conscience), then it is only the threat that their voters will remove them from office that will induce them to go against the desires of their party. So the next election is really important to any possible impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

There are 34 Senator seats up for election in 2008. 22 of those are currently filled by Republicans and 12 by Democrats. Democrats currently hold 49 seats, so they would need to win 18 of the Republican seats and not lose any Democratic seats in order to be assured that they could remove an impeached President on a party-line vote. That's not going to happen.

Bush is the Re publican's President. As long as 18 of the Republicans refuse to impeach him, he remains as commander in chief.

As Bush made very clear in his speech Thursday night, he is not going to take any actions to end the war of occupation in Iraq. Instead he is setting it up for the American troops to occupy that country and fight there for at least a decade and longer if possible.

Unless 18 Republican Senators will vote with all the Democrats to remove him, the Constitution gives Bush the power to keep troops fighting in Iraq until the end of January 2009. 49 Democratic Senators would vote to remove Bush and Cheney today. That makes the war in Iraq a war fought for - but not by - the Republican party. Iraq is a Republican Party war, not an American war.

That makes the reelection of some 34 Senators critical to the direction of the occupation/war in Iraq. But that is also dependent on the willingness of Nancy Pelosi to begin to act on impeachment of Bush and Cheney.

I'd propose that Washington Democrats put pressure on Nancy Pelosi and on the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Here's how to react to Bush's "speech" last night.

The president's continuing power as commander-in-chief, behind a wall of 1/3+ support in the Congress, is key. His arguments aren't. They have simply predeceased his presidency.
From Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo.

Bush has no arguments that support what he is doing. He has only the extremist base of frightened conservatives to support him, and the structure set up by the Constitution means that as long as 34 members of the Senate permit him to remain in office he can continue to act destructively as Commander in Chief.

The reaction to 9/11 was an overreaction to the wrong threat.

So, after the attack on 9/11 what went wrong? Susan Faludi nails the problem.
The enemy that hit us on September 11 was real. But our citizenry wasn’t asked to confront a real enemy. The arrest and prosecution of our antagonists seemed to be of only secondary concern. Instead, we were enlisted in a symbolic war at home, a war to repair and restore our national myth of invincibility.
This quote is at the core of Jane Hamsher's discussion of the problem we are facing with the Bush administration and terrorism. The so-called Global War on Terrorism has been a big bait-and-switch scheme by conservatives who recognize that America no longer has the kind of international power that it had coming out of WW II.

They see much of the rest of the world catching up (and in many ways surpassing) America economically as a real decline in American power, and they have long wanted to do something about it. They saw the stalemate in Korea and then the clear military defeat in Vietnam as being symptoms of America's decline, something they blamed on the push for Civil Rights and on the raucous counterculture which did not respect their successes demonstrated by promotions in the business hierarchy.

Conservative followers are people who innately cannot deal with ambiguity. They expect The Leader to winnow down the various possible alternatives to a single idea, problem or ideology, then direct them in how to act to resolve that one defined problem or limited and related set of problems.

When that process fails, it is because people are acting "immorally" and cannot be trusted to work with them to solve "The Problem." So part of the solution is to corral the immoral people and force then to helm resolve "The Problem" or to exclude them from much of society through imprisonment or ostracism/segregation.

The big problem of America's decline over the last six decades is not one that has a clear solution. Part of the problem is that economically it has been a problem of competing nations being more successful than America so that they have grown more rapidly. But a relative decline still feels like a real decline. Part of the problem is that the social changes over the last six decades are a direct result of improved communications. The social changes are actually solutions to much older severe problems, but they force individuals to adapt to a world very unlike the one they grew up and were successful in.

The only area in which America has not declined significantly has been the ability to project military power anywhere in the world. The loss of the USSR as a competitor made much of the existing American military power redundant, so it has begun to be cut back. The attack on 9/11 offered a way to use the still overwhelming military power that American can wield.

But 9/11 itself was a new problem. It was conducted by a non-state actor. The overwhelming American military power was designed to be used against a clearly identified state enemy. Afghanistan was to some extent an appropriate target for our military forces, if used sparingly. The Taliban did control Afghanistan, and they also were allies and supporters of bin Laden's al Qaeda. The Taliban was locally disliked and fighting a civil war, so all we had to do was help the other side in an on-going war, then watch and assist as they put their own nation back together. Our military could do much of that, and the CIA's special operations people could pick and choose appropriate targets while supporting the preferred winning side in the civil war.

But Iraq was a severe overreach. Conservatives have a large set of institutions and publicity organizations designed to create simple solutions to complex and frightening problems. Their interest in the peoples in other nations are largely defined by how much money they can make trading there. Since a free-market small-government philosophy allows them to make the most money, they assume that everyone really wants their country to be run that way, and that the reason most are not is the entrenched powers of government bureaucrats and immoral people.

9/11 allowed the conservatives in the Bush administration to break the restrictive entrenched powers of government bureaucrats and use fear to get the electorate to overcome their distaste for starting an unnecessary war. Thus the preemptive invasion of Iraq. It was supposed to create a conservative free-market small-government society in the center of the Middle East and convince the rest of the nations in the Middle East how wrong they had been before and how outstanding the future in a free-market small-government mostly Libertarian society would be.

Since education hadn't overcome the entrenched interests to create this, America's very powerful military would do so. As a side effect, the reasons for terrorism would disappear. As another side-effect, the American military would be permanently located close to the Middle East oil fields after world oil passed Peak Oil. The mechanics of these things were not explained. They were just assumed to be inevitable.

As I said, conservatives work hard to apply simple answers to very complex and generally ambiguous problems.

Very few of the conservatives who made the decisions to go to war had any experience in the military or even much military education. They thought of war as being a strategic exercise like playing chess or 'Risk.' They did not accept the idea that if we attacked Iraq, even those people who were very oppressed by Saddam would be angry at the invaders first.

Then they just assumed that governments operated because the leaders wanted to oppress the people. Police existed just to oppress the Iraqis, not to stop criminals. In the Libertarian Paradise, people do not commit crimes because their reputation is too precious to them - or something. Ownership of Property is not something government makes happen. It is a natural characteristic of society given by God.

Then they assumed that a state-run economy would easily become a free-market economy when the 'dead hand of government' was removed. Again, this is a natural characteristic of society, given to men by God. No planned mechanisms would be necessary. In a free market those magicians called 'Entrepreneurs' would make all these things happen.

Hadn't Saint Ayn Rand (and Grover Norquist, her prophet) said these things were all true?

Ask the conservatives. America had gone into decline for the last sixty years after WW II because of the dead hand of government bureaucracy and immoral people. The solution was to bring back John Wayne with his six-guns, clean up the town by killing all the bad guys and everyone would ride off happily into the sunset.

9/11 was the trigger that fired off this fantasy crossbow. The constant, perhaps even growing fear of America's decline among conservatives has been the tension in that crossbow, a tension strengthened as each indicator of America's economic and moral decline was reported. Gays? Parading and demanding marriage rights? That's what happens when Blacks and Whites are allowed to marry (1967 Supreme Court decision.)

And Iraq? An easy target that our military could easily deal with, as they had proven in 1991. Oh, and they conveniently sit on top of the second largest known pool of oil in the world, so there was a reason why conservatives might even know they existed.

Simple solutions to complex problems. Terrorism isn't the threat. Big government and social immorality is. And a free-market small-government demonstration project in the Middle East was to be the solution.

So Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center for the second time in 2001, and the conservatives invaded Iraq. Bin Laden wasn't the problem. America's decline because of bloated government, restrictions on business and immorality was.

Ask your frightened neighborhood conservative.

See also Scarecrow's What Should Have Followed 9/11 at Firedoglake.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bush's bogus history

Bush made his speech tonight, and compared the occupation of Iraq to the occupation of Germany and Japan after WW II. Josh Marshall points out how utterly bogus this comparison is.

The U.S. military entered Japan and Germany as defeated enemies, quickly set up effective Japanese and German governments, and never fought a counter-insurgency in either nation. The American military occupation in each country was short, and we ceased to government those nations.

But in both cases there was an outside threat that needed to be defended from. We weren't ready for either nation to rearm to defend itself, so our troops remained after those nations were otherwise in control of themselves. The Status of Forces Agreements (SoFA) in both cases acknowledged that our troops remained on their soil as allies against Communist governments, not as occupiers. In each cast the SoFA gave judicial control of American soldiers who committed a crime against civilians to the local government.

In Iraq the issue is not protection from an outside aggressor. It is a long-term American military occupation of a Muslim nation which we attacked with no provocation. Iraq is under no external threat that we are there to protect them from. That makes it a lot harder to justify any continued occupation.

Do Americans invade other nations involved in a civil war to protect them from their own violent people? Not unless, like in Haiti, Florida is threatened with an unsupportable wave of refugees. Even then, unless I am wrong we were invited in to Haiti, and got out as soon as we could.

Beyond not admitting that his invasion of Iraq was an utterly stupid move in the first place, and then admitting that it was done with too few troops, no occupation plan, and utterly botched ( apparently in large by Dick Cheney), what does Bush get out of refusing to shut down a failed war?

So far the only explanation that makes any sense is psychological. Bush is refusing to admit that the war in Iraq is, in fact, failed. The position to which he was assignment by the Republican Party - President - is sufficiently powerful to let him play out his personal psychoses using the American military.

For this Bush's speech writers hand him a speech filled with bogus history to read to the nation over TV. Bush is not sufficiently educated to know that it is bogus history and his speech writers are also very probably selected from among those who have also drunk the Republican Koolaide.

For this, some one hundred or so American soldiers and Marines die each month and the 'burn-rate' for American funds continues at about $3 billion per week, all borrowed from China.

Tonight's Bush speech is the most disgusting of a long series. Bush lies. GI's die. Then Bush has to move back to Dallas and try to replenish the old coffers, maybe even move to Paraguay. That's what it comes down to.