Political Wushu II: Double Double Crossers

Friday, May 25, 2007

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.




I was reminded today of a term I haven't thought about in a while, which is funny, because I coined the phrase: "political wushu." I introduced this concept on my blog here, and on My Left Wing here. Wushu means "Arts of War" and once described a body of serious martial arts disciplines in China. But under Mao it was stripped of any real fighting utility and became a dizzying acrobatic sport, which is, to this day, enjoyed as entertainment. Sadly, this is exactly what has happened to our representative democracy. What was once a brave experiment -- a practical application of principles rendered in the age of enlightenment -- is now an empty spectacle. The Democratic Party has put on something of a show of being an opposition party, but it is all part of a choreographed routine, in which the outcome is never in doubt. Their spears are flimsy tin. Their swords, dull.

Did we really expect Congressional Democrats to fight to the finish for timetables in Iraq? Did we honestly think they would put a stop to the madness of this Administration? No, friends. That's not how it was scripted. This week, the mighty Democrats took a dive.

Sure, opposition to this war is at an all-time high. Sure, three quarters of the country thinks the surge is a failure. The American people don't so much as pick out the music for these performances. We just stare slack-jawed from the audience and wait for the curtain to come down on yet another predictable denouement.

As David Sirota points out, Democrats are proud of their performances, and of their ability to dazzle and deceive.

And here's the worst part of it all - Democrats are now bragging about it. Not only have they sent out a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee fundraising email attempting to confuse voters by claiming with a straight face that they really stood up to President Bush. But most insulting of all, they are actually running to reporters to pat themselves on the back for engineering a procedural pirouette designed to confuse the public. Here's the [Washington] Post again:

"But while protesters outside the Capitol condemned what they saw as a capitulation, Democrats inside were remarkably understanding of their speaker's contortions. Party leaders jury-rigged the votes yesterday to give all Democrats something to brag about...Democrats saw brilliance in the legerdemain. And with such contortions came more appreciation for the efforts Pelosi was making to fund the war in a fashion most palatable to angry Democrats. 'It was the responsible thing to do, and she's a responsible speaker,' said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.)."

This is what we're dealing with folks. A party that runs to the press to brag about the brilliance of using their majority not to end the war, but to create a situation that makes it seem as if they oppose the war, while actually helping Republicans continue it.

Sleight of hand, indeed. Here, Sirota breaks down, step-by-step, the complex choreography of the Democrat's illusion.

...Every bill comes to the House floor with what is known as a "rule" that sets the terms of the debate over the legislation in question. House members first vote to approve this parliamentary rule, and then vote on the legislation. Today, however, Democrats are planning to essentially include the Iraq blank check bill IN the rule itself, by making sure the underlying bill the rule brings to the floor includes no timelines for withdrawal, and that the rule only allows amendments that fund the war with no restrictions - blank check amendments that House Democratic leaders know Republicans will have the votes to pass.

This means that when the public goes to look for the real vote on the Iraq supplemental bill, the public won't find that. All we will find is a complex parliamentary procedure vote, which was the real vote. Democratic lawmakers, of course, will use the Memorial Day recess to tell their angry constituents they really are using all of their power to end the war, that they voted against the Republican blank check amendment which the rule deliberately propels, and that the vote on the rule - which was the real vote for war - wasn't really the important vote, when, in fact, they know very well it is the biggest vote on the war since original 2002 authorization for the invasion. It is a devious, deliberately confusing cherry on top of the manure sundae being served up to the American public, which voted Democrats into office on the premise that they would use their congressional majority to end the war...

As I said here:

Establishment Democrats have long since ceased to be an opposition party. They are tools of a statist regime giving us all a good show, but stripped of any real power to stop a political juggernaut years in the making; one that would make kings of presidents and reduce Congress to a sad spectacle.

And so we are saddled with this war for the indefinite future; one that has claimed 3437 of our troops, as of this writing, and at a rate that spirals ever upward.

Today I learned that still greater horrors may await us, as the Bush Administration prepares to make its consolidation of power complete.

President Bush, without so much as issuing a press statement, on May 9 signed a directive that granted near dictatorial powers to the office of the president in the event of a national emergency declared by the president.

The "National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive," with the dual designation of NSPD-51, as a National Security Presidential Directive, and HSPD-20, as a Homeland Security Presidential Directive, establishes under the office of president a new National Continuity Coordinator.

What will the Democrats do? Will they stand and fight to the last for what is left of our tattered Democracy? Will they guard the gates to their dying breaths like the Spartans at Thermopylae? Or will they simply dance, dance, dance!


Marine Corps Dropped the Ball

Thursday, May 24, 2007

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Join U.S. Marines

Who needs up-armored vehicles?! Apparently our Marines deployed into a war zone where IEDs are one of the most prevalent threats don't need them badly enough for the Marine Corps to act on the urgent request.

The Marine Corps waited over a year before acting on an "priority 1 urgent" request to send blast-resistant vehicles to Iraq, DANGER ROOM has learned.

According to a Marine Corps document provided to DANGER ROOM, the request for over 1,000 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles came in February, 2005. A formal call to fulfill that order did not emerge until November, 2006. "There is an immediate need for an MRAP vehicle capability to increase survivability and mobility of Marines operating in a hazardous fire area against known threats," the 2005 "universal need statement" notes.

Back then -- as now -- improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- represented the deadliest threat to American troops in the region. "The expanded use" of these bombs "requires a more robust family of vehicle capable of surviving the IED... threat," the document adds. "MRAP-designed vehicles represent a significant increase in their survivability baseline over existing motor vehicle equipment and will mitigate... casualties resulting from IED[s]."

When my husband was in Iraq, which was during the initial invasion, he was issued a flak jacket, with no plate armor. Flak jackets repel shrapnel and 9mm rounds, but that's the extent of the protection. Plate armor was selectively distributed and, to his knowledge, the most anyone in his unit got, was one plate, which they could choose to wear over the chest or the back. None of the HMMWVs in his unit were up-armored. Instead, they were issued an older flak jacket to jury-rig a little more protection. They could choose between draping them over the canvas doors or sit on them to protect... well... you get it. They were, however, issued two, count-em two, MOPP Suits, to protect against chemical weapons. My husband got trench foot -- in the desert -- because the of the protective boots. How many chem weapon attacks did they face? That would be none.

This initial miscalculation was somewhat understandable. We invaded Iraq, ostensibly, over banned weapons, and everyone, except those of us smart enough to listen to Scott Ritter, believed they'd face chem weapon attacks.

You would think that by 2005, after all the lives and limbs lost to IEDs, the Marine Corps would have considered the urgent request for sufficiently armored vehicles, well, urgent. Bureaucratic ineptitude was only part of the problem, in this case. According to Marine Corps spokesman Bill Johnson-Miles, the problem was one of manufacturing and supply.

To Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, the stunted response is another example of how "the suits and the bureaucrats in Washington don't seem to have the same sense of urgency as the guys in the field."

"This is what happens when industry isn't put on a war footing," he adds. "It's like the military families are at war, and everyone else is out shopping."

Remember national war efforts? Remember when we were a nation at war, not just a military at war?


We Can Do It! (Rosie the Riveter)

Why Won't Bush Support The Troops?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

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Betty B Support Troops


This is what President Bush had to say about the now vetoed funding bill passed by a Democratic Congress:

I recognize that many Democrats saw this bill as an opportunity to make a political statement about their opposition to the war. They sent their message, and now it is time to put politics behind us and support our troops with the funds they need.

It appears that giving the troops what they need does not include little things like wages. As that same Democratically led Congress tries to get our troops a slightly higher wage increase, the response from the White House is a flat, "No."

The House was set to vote for a 3.5 percent basic pay increase for January 2008. That’s 0.5 percent higher than proposed by the Bush administration. The House would continue a string of annual raises set 0.5 percent higher than private sector wage growth through at least 2012.

A 3 percent raise next January would be enough to keep military pay competitive, said the White House’s Office of Management and Budget in a “Statement of Administration Policy” on the bill, HR 1585, released May 16.

...

“When combined with the overall military benefit package, the President’s proposal provides a good quality of life for servicemembers and their families,” said the OMB letter to committee leaders.

Oh, really! A "good quality of life." As of now, the base pay for an E1, the lowest pay grade, is $15, 616.80 a year. I'm not going to factor in the BAH (Basic Housing Allowance) because that figure varies tremendously. Many salary estimates include them, resulting in inflated estimates. BAH varies based on number of dependents, if any, and location. And BAH is only paid to those troops who maintain off-base housing. In other words, if you're deployed into a war zone, and have no dependents requiring housing, you receive no BAH.

Basic Allowances for Housing (BAH) can vary from as much as $3,464 monthly for married officers in an expensive location (such as San Francisco) to a low of $428 monthly for a single enlisted E-1 living in a less expensive location. Basic Allowance for Housing rates, or BAH rates, are determined by surveys of the civilian housing market in over 350 U.S. locations. In 2006, BAH rates increased by 4.4 percent, ranging from $1,429.20 monthly for a general to $285.30 for an E-1 without dependents.

Having lived with my Marine Corps Officer husband in one of those more expensive areas, I can tell you that the BAH is frequently inadequate to cover true housing costs.

There are other factors that add to the base pay, such as combat and hazardous duty pay, for those troops who are deployed into a war zone, but no matter how you slice it, our troops are paid less than the average teacher. And while I think teachers are hideously underpaid for their labors, they are not uprooted every couple of years -- which severely limits the earning potential of non-military spouses -- nor does their job involve taking enemy fire... generally speaking.

Congressional Democrats want to see our currently very strained troops receive fairer compensation.

Top Democratic leaders vowed to continue their efforts to enact a larger raise, arguing that members of the armed forces and their families deserve annual pay raises higher than the private sector due to the dangers of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But, in a move unsurprising to those of us who have been actively observing Bush Administration policy, the White House is endeavoring to put the kibosh on any thought of even this nominally higher pay increase.

As I have said many times, the lavish funding the Pentagon receives does not trickle down to the men and women who are actually putting their lives on the line. It goes to the care and feeding of the the military-industrial complex.

Congress often adds money to the annual White House spending request for military programs. Yet the newly elected Congress, which is controlled by Democrats, has placed more emphasis on increasing funding for military personnel than for weapons programs such as missile defense systems, according to MacKenzie Eaglen , a national security specialist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative-leaning public policy think tank.

"This bill [passed by the House] promotes the softer spending -- such as healthcare, compensation, and readiness -- rather than equipment and weapons," she said.

She said she worries, like the White House, that too much spending on compensation and other personnel costs could unduly drain funding from vital weapons systems.

Worse. The companies making billions in Pentagon contracts are not necessarily those who build the better mouse trap. They're the ones with the best political connections. Which is why, for instance, the Osprey is still flying clumsily along and why Dragon Skin body armor loses out to Interceptor from Armor Holdings. (Hat-tip: occams hatchet) So while people like, say George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, line their pockets, our troops are making crap wages to take enemy fire in insufficient body armor.

In addition to its desire to keep military pay raises to a minimum, the Bush White House has expressed an interest in raising the Tri-Care (health insurance) fees and eliminating drug price controls for retired military. Because, you know, our veterans don't get fucked badly enough now.

None of these cynical maneuvers should come as a shock. This is the same Administration that cut its funding request in half for research on and treatment of the signature injury of our current conflict; brain damage. It's the same Administration that slashed impact aid funding, which pays for the education of children of military families, at the outset of the war in Iraq. It's the same Administration that turns a blind eye to Iraq Vets who return to the US to live on the streets. Here is but a partial list of funding cuts for both active duty and veterans advocated by the Bush Administration. Remember that next time Bush scolds his detractors for failing to support the troops.

How Does A Blonde Rob A Bank?

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Barbie - Stripes


I'm pretty sure there's at least one dumb blonde joke in this, but I'll leave it alone.

Johnston said the idea of robbing a bank began as a joke.

"I mean, it's crossed a lot of people's minds, from what I've heard," she said.

But things did not go as expected. The two never got wigs as they had earlier planned. And after getting lost on the way to the bank, they initially went to the wrong bank branch.

"We took a wrong turn somewhere, ended up going to a completely different Bank of America," Johnston said.

She said they called their teller contact and went to his branch without worrying about how the robbery would unfold. "We had an inside man," she said.

As the teller gave them the money, the cash nearly got away from them, too.

"He started throwing it and it was like going everywhere," Johnston said.

...

"Some of the stuff we did was pretty ignorant," she said.

Sometimes they just write themselves.

Hillary: Thinking Laterally!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

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Hat tip to Skippy who alerts us to Hillary's newest attempt to reach out to voters on matters of great import. The war? The economy? No, no, silly voter. Hillary wants you to help her pick her theme song.



As E.A. Hanks explains in The Huffington Post, Hillary recently shelled out $70,000 for the wit and wisdom of one John Kao, in the form of the "Innovation Manifesto."

Senator Hillary Clinton is about to unleash a whole new version of herself. Again. This one is going to be a Hillary thinking outside of the box (!), thinking laterally (!!), and using innovation to find the way forward to the path of tomorrow where success isn't a secret, but a global promise (!!!).

Nothing grates on nerves quite like corporate-speak. It's the lingo of Type A suits everywhere, proselytizing to the inspirationally challenged while exploiting their own clip-art fetishes. Senator Clinton was thinking synergistically when she hired "serial innovator" John Kao (pronounced "Kao") as part of her senatorial campaign, and paid him $70,000 to show her that with can-do attitude she will flow with jazz magic.

...

Over all, this "manifesto" uses the word innovation upwards of sixty times, defined by Kao as "creativity applied with intention to create value." I think that means attempting to co-opt everything that's great, wring whatever money is possible out of it, and then move on to the next fad like a swarm of well-tailored locusts. By the time I got to the 25th use of the word "innovation," and was only on page three -- I was ready to proclaim that I did not think that word means what Kao thinks it means.

The entire manifesto can be downloaded as a pdf here. You can open to any page. It all sounds like this:

Innovation lives in places. It needs a home. Physical environment is a powerful enabler of innovation. Places serve as memory theaters within which knowledge is created, and persists as the object of ongoing collaborative process.

Pages and pages of this shit, folks; $70,000 dollars. I'm in the wrong line of work. Actually, this is the kind of self-important drivel that sent me running and screaming from the corporate board-room. I'm glad not to be a fly on the wall of Hillary's campaign meetings. I have a sneaking suspicion they sound an awful lot like this:

EXECUTIVE: We at the network want a dog with attitude. He's edgy, he's "in your face." You've heard the expression "let's get busy"? Well, this is a dog who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

KRUSTY: So he's proactive, huh?

EXECUTIVE: Oh, God, yes. We're talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.

WRITER: Excuse me, but "proactive" and "paradigm"? Aren't these just buzzwords that dumb people use to sound important? Not that I'm accusing you of anything like that. I'm fired, aren't I?

MEYERS: Oh, yes.

Earth to Tom Tancredo

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

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24



I don't know quite how to break this to the Presidential hopeful, but Jack Bauer is a fictional character. The Congressman from Colorado seems a trifle confused; convinced that he is not only real, but that he could be all that stands between America and a terrorist free-for-all.

I know this not because I watched the Republican debate last night, but because Salon has provided a handy synopsis for those of us who had better things to do... like picking lint out of our navels. In what must have been a particularly disturbing segment, the very, very serious newsman Brit Hume tossed some red meat into the lion's cage.

74 minutes. We're back. "The questions in this round will be premised on a fiction," says Hume. No news there. Hume wants to do a role-playing game. Three shopping centers near American cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attacker is apprehended and may have information about more attacks to come. The question goes to McCain. "How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantánamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?"

75 minutes. McCain answers emotionally, convincingly. "We do not torture people. When I was in Vietnam, one of the things that sustained us as we underwent torture ourselves is the knowledge that if we had our positions reversed and we were the captors, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them."

76 minutes. Giuliani tries to appear tougher than McCain. "I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. Shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of." It's unclear what he means, but it sounds a lot like torture. The crowd likes it. Applause.

77 minutes. Now Romney tries to appear tougher than McCain. "I don't want them on our soil. I want them in Guantánamo where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there," he says. "Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo." More applause. Habeas corpus sucks!

79 minutes. Now Brownback sounds as if he is endorsing torture. "I'm going to do everything within my power to protect U.S. lives, period," he says. No applause for Brownback. The crowd is tired of cheering harsh interrogation.

80 minutes. It's Hunter's turn to sound like he's endorsing torture. "I would say to SecDef, in terms of getting information that would save American lives even if it involves very high-pressure techniques, one sentence: Get the information," he says. "SecDef" is tough talk for the secretary of defense.

81 minutes. The microphone returns to McCain, the only man on the stage who actually knows anything firsthand about torture. "Virtually every senior officer, retired or active duty, starting with Colin Powell, General [John] Vessey and everyone else, agreed with my position that we should not torture people," he says. Now he gets applause.

86 minutes. Pasty-faced Tancredo tries to outdo everyone else with his full-throttle endorsement of torture. "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you," he says. "And there is nothing -- if you are talking about -- I mean, we are the last, best hope of Western civilization." This sounds weird. Tancredo is saying torture will preserve the values of Western civilization. He seems to mean it. So be it. No blood has pooled at his feet. It must have been the makeup. [emphasis added]

The Rule of the Lawless

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

Head of God



I have been having tiffs with my daughter all morning. She's five. She doesn't understand why the rules are different for her than they are for me. Like why I'm allowed to have beverages in the living room (the coffee goes everywhere I do) and she isn't. This morning I even resorted to the dreaded, "Because I said so." I swore I'd never do that. Drove me nuts when I was a kid. But what can I say? Her hands are very small and she spills things. But she's at that age; testing limits like mad. And some things just can't be justified to her tiny, five-year-old brain. So I understand exactly how Paul Wolfowitz feels.

Everything about the Bush Administration makes perfect sense if you understand that they are the parents, while we -- and by "we" I mean the entire rest of the world -- are the children. So Paul explained to the World Bank investigating committee that he had to give Shaha everything she asked for because he's pussy-whipped. The committee just simply needs to understand that there are things that happen between a mommy and a daddy that are private and that the children really don't need to know about. That's what locks on bedroom doors are for. His mistake, if anything, was in not making sure the door was securely locked.

There are larger considerations here that have to do with the importance of the Bush Administration's unhampered ability to parent and protect the world.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said some board members hope a strong statement of dissatisfaction would persuade the Bush administration to withdraw support for Wolfowitz. But the White House views the stakes as larger than control of the World Bank, said a senior administration official, with U.S. resolve and power on the line -- in particular the longstanding right of the United States to name the head of the institution. [emphasis added]

In an interview with Fox News, Vice President Cheney called Wolfowitz "a very good president of the World Bank," adding, "I hope he will be able to continue."

See, Vice Daddy Cheney has faith in him. That's all we need to know.

It's like Daddy-hopeful Fred Thompson explained recently:

The principles you have been defending since 1981. For Americans, these are found in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. They include a recognition of God and the fact there are certain rights that come from Him and not the government.

Which is why it's so unfortunate that Scooter Libby was prosecuted for perjury:

The other man is in a less lofty position. After years of sacrifice and service to his country, he sits at home with his wife and two children awaiting a prison sentence. His name is Scooter Libby.

I didn't know Scooter Libby, but I did know something about this intersection of law, politics, special counsels and intelligence. And it was obvious to me that what was happening was not right. So I called him to see what I could do to help, and along the way we became friends. You know the rest of the story: a D.C. jury convicted him. . . . I have called for a pardon for Scooter Libby.

Now, yes, on the surface, this looks like a contradiction. That's why lesser minds like Glenn Greenwald are confused by Thompson's speech. But all we really need to know is that the law issues from God, and God said: "Honor thy father and mother." See? Simple. That's why Uncle Scooter's unfair prosecution has become a rallying cry for all those Daddy-hopefuls, and why he will never see the inside of a jail cell.

It's like with Alberto Gonzales:

At a hearing last week before the House Judiciary Committee, he evaded precise answers and professed a poor memory, while insisting that the decision to sack the prosecutors was utterly sound. The apparent administration hope is that by denying and stonewalling, Gonzales can not only save his job but eventually exhaust all interest in the matter.

I can't even tell you how many times I've tried that. Word to the wise, though, if Congress is anything like my daughter, they can wear you down. Mind like a steel trap, my daughter, and when she sets it on, let's say, ice cream... relentless. Let's hope for poor Alberto's sake that "object permanence" is not as thoroughly developed in John Conyers as it is in my daughter.

Think of Alberto as a teen-aged son; all be it an adopted one. He's a good son. He keeps the younger kiddies in line, and protects the family. That's how it's supposed to be... because... because I said so.

"Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do." -- Daddy-Hopeful Rudolph Giuliani

Thomas Friedman: We're In Iraq For Oil

Sunday, May 13, 2007

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In an unusually lucid column, former Iraq War enthusiast Thomas Friedman makes a plea for a responsible policy for military disengagement from Iraq. I'll go straight to the punch line:

You can’t be serious about getting out of Iraq if you’re not serious about getting off oil.

In other words, it's the oil stupid.

Friedman has a long history of talking out of both sides of his mouth on Iraq. (On many things actually.) And this is not the first time he's let the well-oiled cat slip out of the bag.

In the face of the failure of the government/media campaign to build mass support for a US invasion of Iraq, New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman has felt obliged to come to the aid of the Bush war cabal by proposing a shift in its propaganda. Hence Friedman’s January 5 column headlined “A War for Oil?”

In this thoroughly cynical piece, Friedman concedes what is obvious to anyone who has followed the US military buildup against Iraq with any objectivity: Bush’s plan to invade the country is driven, above all, by a determination to seize control of Iraqi oil....

He continues: “Let’s cut the nonsense. The primary reason the Bush team is more focused on Saddam [than on North Korea] is because if he were to acquire weapons of mass destruction, it might give him the leverage he has long sought—not to attack us, but to extend his influence over the world’s largest source of oil, the Persian Gulf.”

Thus, having acknowledged that the US government is lying to the American people and the world, Friedman seeks to fashion a new justification for war against Iraq. It is not a matter of self-defense, or even countering something Iraq has done. Rather, the country must be attacked and occupied because the regime might—in the future—extend its influence over the world’s largest oil reserves.

Yet, in his relentless cheer-leading for the war he has since soured on, he offered up gems like this one:

The war in Iraq is the most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy- building project since the Marshall Plan. It is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad.

Friedman is one of those mind-meltingly wrong pundits who has managed to fail spectacularly upward. In "The Iraq Gamble," Jebediah Reed gets to the heart of his infuriating duplicity.

Re-reading Friedman's columns from the six months or so prior to the invasion of Iraq can induce vertigo. Unlike many of his hawkish colleagues, he grokked all the vital details of the situation....

So even a Webelo-grade logician knows where to go from here, right? You connect the dots and conclude that while it would be very nice to get rid of Saddam, it would also be stupid and dangerous.

But somehow he still managed to come out in favor of the war. And if the whole thing weren't so tragically misguided, his reasoning would be worth a chuckle. Says Friedman: "something in Mr. Bush's audacious shake of the dice appeals to me." A nice ballsy gamble of a war. Sure, it could throw the region into chaos, bankrupt this country, and dye the fertile crescent red with the blood of civilians; yet an audacious war is like a red lollipop—who isn't powerless to resist it?

Red lollipop's aside, Friedman's pitch was always a sucker's bet. The author of "The Lexus and the Olive Branch," has always known full well what this war was really about and why his imperialistic self supported it. He has known from the beginning that it comes down that unctuous substance which drives the economic engine of the world.

As Alien Abductee reported a few days ago, the Bush Administration's naked oil grab is reaching a crucial moment. As discussed here everything rides on getting the Iraqi Parliament to pass legislation which will open Iraq's oil reserves for exploitation by Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell. But the Iraqi's have been infuriating Bushco by dragging their heels on selling their souls. Their recalcitrance has been serious enough that Cheney was flown to the Mideast -- I'm assuming in some sort of portable hyperbaric chamber -- so that he could scold those shiftless Iraqis for threatening to take a summer break.

For all the wrangling and veto threats, our own congress looks to be safely on board with a bid to railroad the Iraqis into giving over the bulk of their oil wealth to the conglomerates.

The supplemental appropriation package requires the Iraqi government to meet a series of “benchmarks” President Bush established in his speech to the nation on January 10 (in which he made his case for the “surge”). Most of Mr. Bush’s benchmarks are designed to blame the victim, forcing the Iraqis to solve the problems George Bush himself created.

One of the President’s benchmarks, however, stands apart. This is how the President described it: “To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy, Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.” A seemingly decent, even noble concession. That’s all Mr. Bush said about that benchmark, but his brevity was gravely misleading, and it had to be intentional.

The Iraqi Parliament has before it today, in fact, a bill called the hydrocarbon law, and it does call for revenue sharing among Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. For President Bush, this is a must-have law, and it is the only “benchmark” that truly matters to his Administration.

Yes, revenue sharing is there-essentially in fine print, essentially trivial. The bill is long and complex, it has been years in the making, and its primary purpose is transformational in scope: a radical and wholesale reconstruction-virtual privatization-of the currently nationalized Iraqi oil industry.

If passed, the law will make available to Exxon/Mobil, Chevron/Texaco, BP/Amoco, and Royal Dutch/Shell about 4/5’s of the stupendous petroleum reserves in Iraq. That is the wretched goal of the Bush Administration, and in his speech setting the revenue-sharing “benchmark” Mr. Bush consciously avoided any hint of it.

"The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist," (Keyser Soze) and the Bush Administration has as cleverly sustained the illusion that oil is not the underlying reason for pouring the American blood and treasure into the Iraqi sand. With prestidigitators like Thomas Friedman acting as front men, it wasn't too hard to pull off.

Vagina Power

Saturday, May 12, 2007

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One of my MySpace friends has a penchant for sending out YouTube videos, some of which are so outrageous it takes me days to recover. I don't know where he finds this shit. He tells me it finds him. His most recent offering did me in. I can already tell that the musings of Alexyss K. Tylor are going to be my new internet addiction. This stuff is like crack. Enjoy!








Also, be sure to check out Tylor's MySpace page. Wow.

Great Guys And The Women They Batter

Thursday, May 10, 2007

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

Crying Girl, 1963



Well now I've seen everything. Prominently placed on The Huffington Post is one of the most sickening bits of apologia I've ever read. Ari Emanuel pleads the case of the freshly fired CEO of HBO, Chris Albrecht. Sure he beat up his girlfriend, but he's a really good at spotting talent!

Writes Emanuel:

Chris Albrecht, like the rest of us, is not a perfect person. But he is a brilliant executive who helped turn HBO from a place to watch movies, stand-up comedy, and boxing into the home for some of the most creative and challenging original programming in the history of television. He has an amazing eye for talent, the ability to nurture that talent, and the patience to let outside-the-box shows find their audience. Without him, we wouldn't have had The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Entourage, or Everyone Loves Raymond (which HBO produced).

The Sopranos?! I love that show. Well, ok then! What's a little assault and battery?

Officers at the site of the Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing match came running when they spotted a man later identified as Albrecht grabbing a woman by the throat with both hands and dragging her toward the valet parking station at the MGM Grand.

Police said Albrecht was unsteady on his feet, reeked of alcohol and said of the woman, "She pissed me off."

So who is this sad apologist for thoroughly indefensible behavior? Rahm Emanuel's brother. That's who.

Ari Emanuel, founder of the Endeavor Agency and agent for Larry David, Michael Moore, Sacha Baron Cohen, etc., etc. (and brother of Dem big-shot Rahm Emanuel) is ticked off about how the press has treated his friend and now-former head of HBO, Chris Albrecht. He's especially bothered by what turned out to be the smoking gun: HBO's 1991 settlement involving a subordinate and love interest of Albrecht's who alleged that he had shoved and choked her in her office. Emanuel says the press "dug up a 16 year old incident, dusted off the cobwebs covering it, and suddenly created 'a pattern' of behavior that required the delivery of Chris' head on a platter."

Yes. Not surprisingly, Albrecht has a history of grabbing his girlfriends around the neck and throwing them on the ground. It must be because he's "a creative genius given to emotional tirades." As reported in the Los Angeles Times a previous incident had been effectively buried by a hefty settlement.

In 1991, Time Warner Inc.'s HBO paid a settlement of at least $400,000 to a female subordinate with whom Albrecht was romantically involved after she alleged that he shoved and choked her, according to four people with knowledge of the matter who declined to be named because the payment was confidential....

[Sasha] Emerson, who had joined HBO in 1986, was senior vice president at HBO Independent Productions and reported directly to Albrecht.

By 1990, the two had become romantically involved. Both were married at the time. The affair broke up Emerson's first marriage, according to one person close to her.

By the time the incident occurred, Emerson and Albrecht had ended their trysts. Albrecht allegedly assaulted Emerson in her office in Century City when she told him she had been dating someone else, said one person close to Emerson. Albrecht allegedly threw her from her chair to the ground, the person said.

But, says Emanuel, Albrecht has expressed "deep regret" about knocking his new girlfriend around. From the Washington Post:

Albrecht said he was "deeply sorry for what occurred in Las Vegas this weekend and for any embarrassment it caused my family, the company I love, and myself."

Who's missing from this public apology... Oh, I know! The girlfriend he beat the crap out of!

This is just so bloody typical. Domestic violence affects approximately 1.5 million women and 845,000 men per year, with far more abused women than men suffering severe injuries. (This isn't hard to figure out. Men tend to be substantially stronger than women.) And the excuses for this brutality seem endless. One of the biggest comes into play in the case of Mr. Albrecht. 'Twas the drink that made him do it. So saith Ari Emanuel:

He is an alcoholic who fell off the wagon and made a terrible mistake.

Like so many high profile celebrities who fuck up royally, Albrecht is will seek treatment for his alcoholism.

In a statement sent to HBO staff members and released publicly Tuesday, Albrecht said he had been a "sober member" of Alcoholics Anonymous for 13 years.

"Two years ago, I decided that I could handle drinking again. Clearly, I was wrong. Given that truth, I have committed myself to sobriety. I intend to take a temporary leave of absence from HBO effective today, in order to go back to working with AA."

Yes, alcholism is a cunning, baffling, powerful disease. It is not, however, a cause or an excuse for domestic violence.

The belief that alcoholism causes domestic violence evolves both from a lack of information about the nature of this abuse and from adherence to the "disinhibition theory." This theory suggests that the physiological effects of alcohol include a state of lowered inhibitions in which an individual can no longer control his behavior. Research conducted within the alcoholism field, however, suggests that the most significant determinant of behavior after drinking is not the physiological effect of the alcohol itself, but the expectation that individuals place on the drinking experience (Marlatt & Rohsenow, 1980). When cultural norms and expectations about male behavior after drinking include boisterous or aggressive behaviors, for example, research shows that individual men are more likely to engage in such behaviors when under the influence than when sober.

Despite the research findings, the belief that alcohol lowers inhibitions persists and along with it, a historical tradition of holding people who commit crimes while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs less accountable than those who commit crimes in a sober state (MacAndrew & Edgerton, 1969). Batterers, who have not been held accountable for their abusive behavior in general, find themselves even less accountable for battering perpetrated when they are under the influence of alcohol. The alcohol provides a ready and socially acceptable excuse for their violence.

Evolving from the belief that alcohol or substance abuse causes domestic violence is the belief that treatment for the chemical dependency will stop the violence. Battered women with drug-dependent partners, however, consistently report that during recovery the abuse not only continues, but often escalates, creating greater levels of danger than existed prior to their partners’ abstinence. In the cases in which battered women report that the level of physical abuse decreases, they often report a corresponding increase in other forms of coercive control and abuse—the threats, manipulation and isolation intensify (Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women, 1992).

But don't count on little things like facts to stop good old boys like Ari Emanuel from spouting canards in defense of those really great guys who just happen to beat women.

The Capricious Womb

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

Lilith

As for Ephraim, their glory will fly away like a bird--
No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!
Though they bring up their children,
Yet I will bereave them until not a man is left.
Yes, woe to them indeed when I depart from them!
Ephraim, as I have seen,
Is planted in a pleasant meadow like Tyre;
But Ephraim will bring out his children for slaughter.
Give them, O Lord-- what wilt Thou give?
Give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.

All their evil is at Gilgal;
Indeed, I came to hate them there!
Because of the wickedness of their deeds
I will drive them out of My house!
All their princes are rebels.
Ephraim is stricken, their root is dried up,
They will bear no fruit.
Even though they bear children,
I will slay the precious ones of their womb.

-- Hosea 9: 11-16

I've never understood people who say they find comfort in reading the Bible. Every time I open its pages, I stumble on something like the above. I am baffled by those who find this book -- replete as it is with genocide and infanticide -- a source for "pro-life" ideals. But I guess it all depends on what page you flip to and whose wombs we're talking about; God's chosen or everybody else's.

One can hardly blame the Israelites for envisioning a capricious god, for surely there is no better description for the architect of the natural world we live in. Evidence of such a god's unfairness is everywhere abundant and nowhere more so than in pregnancy and childbirth. So the Israelites sought to please a god who would reward them with fertility amongst their wives and other livestock. They prayed that he would punish only the wicked with miscarriages and poverty.

"But if you do not hearken to the voice of the LORD, your God, and are not careful to observe all his commandments which I enjoin on you today, all these curses shall come upon you and overwhelm you:
"May you be cursed in the city, and cursed in the country!
"Cursed be your grain bin and your kneading bowl!
"Cursed be the fruit of your womb, the produce of your soil and the offspring of your livestock, the issue of your herds and the young of your flocks!

-- Deuteronomy 28: 15-18

We all have ways of rationalizing the irrational nature of human existence. It provides an illusion of safety in a chaotic world. And the more out of control life feels, the more we seek the simplicity of a black and white truth; an ordered universe where goodness is rewarded and evil is punished. Our deeply religious President talks about bringing evil-doers to justice. Others wait endlessly for karmic retribution to end his bloody reign. Cosmologies may differ, but the desire for divine justice, it seems, is an inherent human longing.

The world does not cleave neatly, along straight lines. It twists madly. It careens wildly. Life itself seeks towards chaos. Birth. Death. We cannot control them. We can only make choices to make our own fleeting moments on this mortal coil a little more manageable; a little more bearable.

Where many of us see difficult choices and troubling circumstances, the Army of God sees resolute, divine order, administered by an inerrant god. One of the most uncompromising of "pro-life" organizations, it seeks not only an end to abortion, but considers any birth control but abstinence as "evil." Their heroes are pharmacists who withhold Plan B and the murderers of their god's enemies, abortion providers.

They seek to fashion a world where good and evil are clearly defined and upheld by the nation’s judicial system. The battle against abortion is a battle to build a society where pleasure and freedom, where the capacity of the individual and especially women to make choices, and indeed even love itself, are banished. And this is why pro-life groups oppose contraception—even for those who are married. The fight against abortion is the facade for a wider fight against the right of an individual in a democracy.

Army of God, a pro-life organization that holds up as Christian “heroes” those who murder abortion providers, defines birth control as another form of abortion, as do many other pro-life groups. In the “Birth Control Is Evil” section of their website it reads: “Birth control is evil and a sin. Birth control is anti-baby and anti-child. …Why would you stop your own child from being conceived or born? What kind of human being are you?”

Chris Hedges identifies Army of God as "the greatest threat to choice." Their ideological fervor seems largely honed in the forge of their own suffering; the unmanageable nature of their circumstances.

[Jeniece] Learned’s life, before she was saved, was typically chaotic and painful. Her childhood was stolen from her. She was sexually abused by a close family member. Her mother periodically woke Learned and her younger sister and two younger brothers in the middle of the night to flee landlords who wanted back rent. The children were bundled into the car and driven in darkness to a strange apartment in another town. Her mother worked nights and weekends as a bartender. Learned, the oldest, often had to run the home. She got pregnant in high school and had an abortion.

"There was a lot of fighting,” she said. “I remember my dad hitting my mom one time and him going to jail. I don’t have a lot of memories, mind you, before eighth grade because of the sexual abuse. When he divorced my mom, he divorced us, too."

"My grandfather committed suicide, my mom and my dad both tried suicide, my brothers tried suicide,” she said. “In my family, there was no hope. The only way to solve problems when they got bad was to end your life.”

Says Hedges:

For many, their own experiences with sex—coupled with their descent into addictions and often sexual and domestic abuse before they found Christ—have led them to build a movement that creates an external rigidity to cope with the chaos of human existence, a chaos that overwhelmed them. They do not trust their own urges, their capacity for self-restraint or judgment. The Christian right permits its followers to project evil outward, a convenient escape for people unable to face the darkness and the psychological torments within them.

Like the young woman profiled in Hedges's article, I grew up in the Rust Belt. And like so many who sought succor from the decaying breast of a culture in decline, I turned instead for comfort to born-again Christianity. As I said above, I did not ultimately find it very comforting. The implicit contradictions of its holy book created too much cognitive dissonance. The hypocrisy of true believers jangled my nerves. I could not force my brain to see logic where there was none. I could not convince myself, against all evidence, of any divine justice.

No just god does this, or this, or this. Nor does a perfect god fashion new life in a fallopian tube, dooming mother and fetus to almost certain death.

A while ago I scanned pro-life bulletin boards for discussions of ectopic pregnancies. I found, to my relief, that terminating them is acceptable to even rabidly anti-abortion folks. Although there was an odd duck or two who thought it was better to wait and see if the embryo would move into the uterus, most did not consider it a "viable" pregnancy. The mother had no choice, therefore, it was not really an abortion. None, though, seemed able to follow this logic to its inevitable conclusion. None could admit that in a world where such cockeyed pregnancies occur, not every conception is a gift from a loving god, perfect according to some divine plan.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, one of my husband's colleagues -- a young Lt. from my home state in the heart of the Rust Belt -- assured him that our pro-choice conceits would melt away. The wonder of life in creation would overtake our liberal arrogance. So, my husband asked me, is being pregnant turning you against abortion? Tell your friend, I said, that if anything I am more pro-choice than ever. The moral of that story: Don't ask a woman who's been throwing up several times a day for nearly four solid months about the boundless joy of pregnancy.

Any vestigial notions I had about the perfection of nature and the universe were purged by pregnancy and childbirth. I was idealistic enough, back then, that I sought to have my child at home with a midwife. It was to be a magnificent ritual, in a pool in our living room, just like Donna on "Judging Amy." Candles, incense, a little pushing, et voila. One emergency c-section later, I am thoroughly disabused of such romanticism. Not that there is anything wrong with home birth. It's good for who it's good for. But my best laid plans were upended by real world circumstances, as so many plans are. It turns out my child-bearing hips are just for show. I am cursed, it seems, with an inner pelvis too narrow to pass an actual baby through. If there is a god, fashioning each life in the womb, he has a very dark sense of humor. But for the wonders of modern medicine, I would have died as so many women still do in childbirth. Pregnancy is one of those places where idealized notions collide most brutally with pragmatic reality.

Nature will never conform to our wishes. The desire to make it do so is a vain pursuit, fraught with painful disappointment. The wildness pleases but it also vexes. Outside my window spring gives rise to verdant growth. Grass that must be mowed. Weeds that must be pulled. Such is the endless pursuit of an orderly landscape. Underneath our neatly trimmed shrubbery, I recently discovered a holly bush. Holly is a funny plant; requiring a mother and a father to germinate new life. But this nascent plant found purchase in the worst of possible locations, in the shade, destined to collide with another plant. Just big enough that it will be very difficult to uproot and replant, it has already begun to die. Elsewhere in our yard, a couple of pine trees find themselves in a similar predicament. Nature has its own ideas. They are not always good ones.

What the "pro-life" movement does not grasp, in its battle against the "culture of death," is that death is implicit in all acts of creation. The earth creates and destroys with apparent indifference. It kills and it births capriciously, according to whims no mortal mind can comprehend.

Serve Your Country -- Lose Your Kids

Sunday, May 06, 2007

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Appearing at The Blogging Curmudgeon, My Left Wing, and the Independent Bloggers' Alliance.

Wake Up, America


Now there's a trade off, huh? Add this to the list of sacrifices that the small minority of Americans known as "our troops" is making for Bush and his cronies. Men and women in the armed services are losing their kids in custody battles for no reason other than being deployed.

Such was the reality of Lt. Eva Crouch, who returned from her National Guard duty to find that she had stumbled into a legal gray area.

A federal law called the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is meant to protect them by staying civil court actions and administrative proceedings during military activation. They can't be evicted. Creditors can't seize their property. Civilian health benefits, if suspended during deployment, must be reinstated.

And yet service members' children can be _ and are being _ taken from them after they are deployed.

Some family court judges say that determining what's best for a child in a custody case is simply not comparable to deciding civil property disputes and the like; they have ruled that family law trumps the federal law protecting servicemembers. And so, in many cases when a soldier deploys, the ex-spouse seeks custody, and temporary changes become lasting.

Family court judges have a fair bit of latitude because their mandate is best interest of the child; not necessarily what seems fair to parents. And in a sense, judges such as the one who handed Eva's daughter over to her ex-husband have a point. Endless war is terrible for the children and family members of the troops who have to fight it; especially given that many of them are serving in back to back deployments of ever-increasing duration.

Two years and $25, ooo dollars later, Crouch has regained custody of her daughter Sara. But an unknown number of other service people have returned from battle to fight on another front; the courts.

Military and family law experts don't know how big the problem is, but 5.4 percent of active duty members _ more than 74,000 _ are single parents, the Department of Defense reports. More than 68,000 Guard and reserve members are also single parents.

Divorce among military men and women also has risen some in recent years, with more than 23,000 enlisted members and officers divorcing in 2005.

Isn't it wonderful having a President who is so devoted to family values?

They'll Know We Are Christians By Our Hate

Friday, May 04, 2007

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Hate Free Zone



Christian leaders are up in arms and our born again President is threatening a veto. It would be the third for a President in his second term. What congressional extremus has inspired such impassioned disapproval? Why hate crimes legislation of course.

Christian leaders have launched a campaign against a hate crimes bill passed by the House of Representatives yesterday, saying it violates 1st Amendment rights if a religious leader or pastor speaks out against homosexuality.

The bill, passed by a 237-180 margin, extends coverage of hate crimes to include anyone victimized because of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The bill, if approved by the Senate, would tie the hands of church leaders who say the hate bill is really about "thought crimes", which violates church leaders' freedoms of speech and religion.

While the hate crime bill was intended to strike down violations against gay people in civil circumstances, police say it helps clarify who is covered, a coalition of Christian organizations has launched a campaign to fight the hate bill and thanks to Democrats actions, many Christians may now think twice about backing Democratic politicians.

Yes, terrified that they may no longer be able to preach hate from the pulpit, religious conservatives are forming a united front to keep America safe for baseball bat wielding gay-bashers.

Now it may seem a trifle disingenuous to make assertions like this:

But Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, warned that the true intent of the bill was “to muzzle people of faith who dare to express their moral and biblical concerns about homosexuality.” If you read the Bible in a certain way, he told his broadcast listeners, “you may be guilty of committing a ’thought crime.”’

When hate crime legislation does not curb speech, only acts:

“It does not impinge on public speech or writing in any way,” countered Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., pointing out that the bill explicitly reaffirms First Amendment and free speech rights.

Not to be outdone on sheer audacity, the White House has threatened to veto the bill because it does not include such frequently marginalized groups as the police, the elderly, and the military. Come on. We've all heard of the gangs who comb the streets at night looking for GIs to beat the crap out of.

The White House also argues that the bill is unnecessary because of state and local laws already on the books. But local enforcement has failed in the past.

Federal investigators could step in if local authorities are unwilling or unable to act. The Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest gay rights group, said this federal intervention could have made a difference in the case of Brandon Teena, the young Nebraska transsexual depicted in the movie “Boys Don’t Cry” who was raped after two friends discovered that he was biologically female and then murdered when local police did not arrest those responsible.

One in six hate crimes victims are targeted because of their sexual orientation, yet Randy Thomas decries the passage of this legislation as "a sad day for those who esteem equality in America."

In a bizarrely related story, the Jeff Gannon lead "Bible Reading Marathon" drew a sparse crowd to the West Front of the Capitol; filling 37 of 600 seats.

Gannon, actually a pseudonym for James Guckert, had earned fame in 2005 representing a conservative Web site at White House briefings until it was revealed that he posted nude pictures of himself on the Web to offer his services as a $200-an-hour gay escort.

Let us pray for the power to understand how Gannon made his way from HotMilitaryStud.com to the International Bible Reading Association.

Happy Anniversary

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

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Four years later the mission remains unaccomplished...