Monthly Archives: July 2007

Cheney ordered blitz on bedridden Ashcroft, say NYT editorial

Darth Cheney strikes again.

From a New York Times editorial on July 29th, Mr. Gonzales’s Never-Ending Story (read here):

Both men say that in March 2004 — when Mr. Gonzales was still the White House counsel — the Justice Department refused to endorse a continuation of the wiretapping program because it was illegal. (Mr. Comey was running the department temporarily because Attorney General John Ashcroft had emergency surgery.) Unwilling to accept that conclusion, Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.

The New York Times knows Cheney ordered this, how? Regardless, if confirmed as true, and VP Cheney sent Gonzo and Card to get the approval for the illegal program from ill, recovering, doped-up, bedridden, and no-longer Attorney General, John Ashcroft, does that mean Impeachment–of Cheney–is back on the table?

Short term goals:

  1. Subpoena Card
  2. Subpoena Ashcroft
  3. Subpoena Ashcroft’s wife (she was in the Hospital room–and she answered call from White House)
  4. Subpoena Cheney
  5. Convict Gonzo of perjury, etc.

Long term goals:

  1. Impeach Cheney
  2. Impeach Bush
  3. Convict Cheney
  4. Convict Bush
  5. Start healing process and restore U.S. Constitution
  6. Capture Osama bin Laden
  7. Live happily ever after

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Filed under alberto gonzales, George Bush, Impeachment, john ashcroft, justice department, prosecuter purge, richard b. cheney

Saudi Bank Aids Terrorists, Bush punishes them by selling Saudi Arabia arms

A July 26, 2007 Wall Street Journal story by Glenn Simpson: U.S. Tracks Saudi Bank Favored by Extremists, has details of CIA intelligence contending Saudi Arabia’s largest bank, the Al Rajhi Bank, accepts money from Saudi charities and allows the money to be funneled to Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremists.

How did President Bush respond to this news? Here are his own words from an address to the nation on Sept 20, 2001, nine days after the terrorist attacks of Sept 11/2001:

We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. (Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.

Though the CIA and some Bush Administration officials pushed Bush to take aggressive action against the Al Rajhi Bank and/or the Saudi Arabian government, Bush instead quietly tried to lobby the Saudi monarchy to deal with the problem.

Saudi Arabia most definitely provides aid and is a safe haven for terrorists and they are most definitely a hostile regime. What happened to “either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. . .”? What happened to “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. . .”?

For me, this is another example of Bush saying he will use any tool to fight terrorism, but shying away from offending his dear friends in Riyadh, even though there is clear evidence, from our spy masters at the Central Intelligence Agency, that the Al Rahji Bank is a financial supporter of Islamic extremists and terrorists. Bush would much rather invent a War in Iraq to benefit Big Oil, Defense Contractors and Halliburton; or spy on American citizens; or exploit 9/11 for political gain; than take on the regime that attacked us on 9/11.

So, real quick: 15 of the 19 terrorists in the 9/11/2001 attacks were from Saudi Arabia (0 were from Iraq, 0 from Iran, 0 from Afghanistan). Saudi Arabian banks and charities support Al Qaeda financially. Nearly 50% of the foreign fighters in Iraq are from Saudi Arabia (according to La Times-Washington Post story). Saudi Arabian mosques and madrases preach the most virulent anti-American hate and command jihad (from Mideast monitor report).

If the people who I’ve described in the above paragraph–who comprise a more than inconsequential slice of the Saudi Arabian people–aren’t our enemies in the so-called Global War on Terror; who is?

And, if you knew such deep anti-American sentiment existed in Saudi Arabia, in you were George Bush, what would you do about it?

Here’s what George Bush DID about it:

U.S. readying Saudi arms deal, official confirms

By Andrew Gray

Saturday, July 28, 2007; 4:33 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Bush administration is preparing a package of arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that could be worth some $20 billion over the next 10 years, a senior U.S. defense official said on Saturday.

and this:

Where Saudi Arabia is concerned, Bush pretty much does everything but get down on his hands and knees and smooch their rear-ends.

We need sensible foreign policy. We need a new administration. It’s time to put Impeachment back on the table.

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Filed under 9/11, hate, islamic extremists, madrasa, Saudi Arabia, terrorists, wahhabism

Why the "Free Market" is toxic to the Post Office and the middle class

I never took economics in college, so forgive me if I get some stuff wrong in this post.

Often when I speak with conservatives at work, I am bombarded with illogic. One illogical statement I hear at the Post Office is praise for the “free market” and “free trade”. I guess this a staple talking point on conservative talk radio, and I hear it parroted by my co-workers, who are middle-class, union laborers. “We need to free the markets,” they’ll tell me. “We need market-based solutions, not more government. Privatize. Privatize! PRIVATIZE!!!”

Often these people are great regurgitaters of their talking points, but can’t really listen, or explain their arguments beyond the gibberish quoted above. If they will listen, I try to explain how LITTLE sense their talking points make, at least when applied to lower and middle-class wage-earners (like Postal Workers).

Fiscally, the Post Office does alright as it is. It finishes the year in the black, year after year. Take away military retirement payments the US Government has been forcing the USPS to pay, and the Post Office is very profitable. But that is besides the point, since the USPS is not a traditional business, but a constitutionally-mandated service to the American people. The USPS has a duty to provide low-cost service and home delivery to EVERY American in the USA. This duty is stated in the US Constitution and lawfully upheld by Private Express Statutes. UPS won’t, and can’t, deliver to everyone in the US, ditto Fed-Ex and DHL. It simply isn’t cost-effective to send a driver into the middle of nowhere to deliver a birthday card to your Aunt Doris. But the Post Office does, because we are mandated by our Government to do so. Our motto is “WE DELIVER.”

So, first-off, if you privatize the Post Office and “free the market”, suddenly citizens “off the beaten track” are going to find themselves S.O.L when it comes to getting delivery–possibly even having to pay fees to get mail delivery, and everyone will be paying higher postal rates. Overall quality will diminish also, with low-cost mailing options suffering the most in an attempt to force customers to choose higher-cost, higher-quality options.

Secondly, to increase corporate profits, the newly-privatized Post Office is going to slash good-paying union jobs and decrease benefits across the board. Their ultimate goal will be to eliminate the union altogether and replace union laborers with minimum or below-minimum wage-paid guest workers from Central and Latin America. The Post Office already has lower-pay, no benefit temporary workers, but a private Post Office will try to break the union and increase this workforce exponentially. This is how corporations do business, and this will be their goal.

So, from a purely selfish desire to keep your job and benefits as they are, I don’t see how a union Postal Employee can support privatization or the “freeing of the market” as it applies to the Postal Service, or even as a national policy.

I have been reading Dean Baker’s blog Beat the Press at The American Prospect since hearing about him on The Thom Hartmann program recently. Baker is an economist and co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. He’s also a super-smart guy. Some of the things Baker says, and backs up w/ data, are:

  1. Real wages haven’t grown in almost 5 years–and average wages today are below the December 2002 level, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, since Bush took office and continued to “free the markets”, real average wages have been flat while corporate profits and executive paychecks have soared. Contrast that with a 1.6% annual growth in real average wages in the late 90’s.
  2. If “free market” types are so keen on removing all protections for American labor and manufacturing, why not free the market altogether by removing protections for patents on prescription drugs, copyright protections, and restrictions for hiring foreign lawyers, doctors and economists? From Beat the Press blog by Dean Baker:

The NYT feels very strongly that Congress must approve further trade measures that put downward pressure on the wages of workers without college degrees. It made this case in an editorial promoting new “free trade” agreements today. At one point it presents the finding of a study from the Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics that eliminating all remaining barriers to trade will add $500 billion a year (@ 3.8 percent) to GDP.

Serious people might ask how the Peter G. Peterson Institute determined the remaining barriers to trade. Did it consider the patent monopolies on prescription drugs, which cost consumers hundreds of billions a year, a barrier to trade? Did it consider the copyright protection that obstructs the free transfer of music, movies, software and other material over the web a barrier to trade? How about all the restrictions that make it so much more difficult to hire a foreign doctor, lawyer or economist than to buy a foreign made car or shirt? Did the Peter G. Peterson Institute view such restrictions as barriers to trade?

The answer to all these question is “no.” The Peter G. Peterson Institute has no interest in reducing or eliminating trade barriers that have the effect of shifting income upwards. The Peter G. Peterson Institute, and apparently also the NYT, only wants to eliminate the trade barriers that might benefit less educated workers. And, because they have so much influence in the media, they get to call this “free trade.”

Much economic knowledge is as limited as my political knowledge, but I’m trying to fix that. I read Thom Hartmann’s Screwed recently, and plan on picking up Mr. Dean Baker’s The Conservative Nanny State: How the Wealthy Use the Government to Stay Rich and Get Richer. You can order Dean Baker’s book here. You can get Thom Hartmann’s book just about anywhere, but you can buy the book, and support a good progressive website, by ordering the book at Buzzflash.

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Filed under dean baker, economics, free market, free trade, post office, privatization, protectionism, talk radio, thom hartmann, union, usps

Biden, responding to Gun Owner and his "baby"

This clip is from the CNN/Youtube Democratic Debate. A question was asked about gun control and the now-expired Assault Weapons Ban. Towards the end of the clip, the questioner lifts up his modified AR-15 style “black rifle” and refers to it as his “baby”.

Sen Joe Biden (D-RI) tees off on the guy, saying “If that’s his baby he needs help.” Joe is a little out of line with the personal attack on the guy’s sanity, but, I’ll admit, the guy did have it coming when he calls his gun his baby.

Let me say, I believe the second amendment is a fundamental right. I believe hunters, gun enthusiasts, sportsmen, and those interested in home/work defense should be allowed to own and use guns if they are law-abiding citizens and register their weapons. But there should be waiting periods and backround checks. People should not be able to walk into a gun show and walk out with a military-style rifle.

The guy in the video, and his ilk, scare the shit out of me. Why does a person think they SHOULD be allowed to possess military-style assault weapons–who’s only value seems to be to kill PEOPLE in war/combat situations? If the dude in the video wants an assault weapon, he should join the military, a S.W.A.T. team, or, if he’s unfit for either and has few morals or scruples, a mercenary outfit like Blackwater USA*.

*I know there are many highly-decorated former military members employed at Blackwater USA. Their bravery and patriotism while serving their country is highly commendable. However, as operators for Blackwater USA, they are now mercenaries engaged in war-for-profit, not soldiers serving their country.


Filed under assault weapons ban, black rifle, cnn, debate, gun control, joe biden, youtube

Bush to Congress: "I’m the Judiciarizer."

A thought: how many times can you say, “well, he’s really done it this time–that was the last straw,” before you actually have to stop talking about doing something and just do it?

Congress subpoenas Harriet Miers, and Bush invokes executive privilege to block an EX-employee from testifying about a matter he supposedly knows nothing about. How can he invoke privilege (she doesn’t work for him anymore) and why does he need to (he supposedly knows nothing)? But it gets better. Miers is a no show at congress. She has to at least show up in order to claim privilege if she doesn’t want to appear in contempt of congress. She doesn’t show. Doesn’t send her lawyer. Nothing. She is clearly in contempt of congress. But before Congress can charge Miers with contempt, Bush drops a preemptive bombshell, claiming the Justice Department cannot and will not be allowed to pursue contempt charges if so brought by Congress.

In effect, Bush is saying “I own the judiciary. I AM the law and I MAKE the law.”

And just like that, the United States of America goes from having three separate but equal branches of government, to having two separate and massively unequal branches of government.

Somewhere in hell, submerged neck-deep in a lake of fire, a chill must’ve gone down Richard Nixon’s back. Thirty-some years after he uttered the words “Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal,” he is vindicated–finally and totally. Whereas once his pronouncement was looked at as the awful lie of a criminal, it is now gospel.

From the Washington Post story Broader Privilege Claimed in Firings, by Dan Eggens and Amy Goldstein:

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

. . .

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration’s stance “astonishing.”

“That’s a breathtakingly broad view of the president’s role in this system of separation of powers,” Rozell said. “What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.”

. . .

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.) said the position “makes a mockery of the ideal that no one is above the law.” Waxman added: “I suppose the next step would be just disbanding the Justice Department.”

. . .

Both chambers also have an “inherent contempt” power, allowing either body to hold its own trials and even jail those found in defiance of Congress. Although widely used during the 19th century, the power has not been invoked since 1934 and Democratic lawmakers have not displayed an appetite for reviving the practice.

. . .

David B. Rifkin, who worked in the Justice Department and White House counsel’s office under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, praised the position and said it is consistent with the idea of a “unitary executive.” In practical terms, he said, “U.S. attorneys are emanations of a president’s will.” And in constitutional terms, he said, “the president has decided, by virtue of invoking executive privilege, that is the correct policy for the entire executive branch.”

But Stanley Brand, who was the Democratic House counsel during the Burford case, said the administration’s legal view “turns the constitutional enforcement process on its head. They are saying they will always place a claim of presidential privilege without any judicial determination above a congressional demand for evidence — without any basis in law.” Brand said the position is essentially telling Congress: “Because we control the enforcement process, we are going to thumb our nose at you.”

Rozell, the George Mason professor and authority on executive privilege, said the administration’s stance “is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president’s view. . . . It’s allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers.”

Someone needs to tell Mr. Rifkin that “unitary executive” is just a fancy word for a King. This is America, and since 1776, we don’t do kings.

Bruce Fein, the Constitutional Scholar who wrote the first article of impeachment against Bill Clinton in 1998, has a wonderful article at slate called Executive Nonsense, which pokes holes in Bush’s assertions of newfound power. Fein was also on Bill Moyer’s Journal with John Nichols talking impeachment on July 13th. Fein is a conservative, but no partisan. He is even more heated–and eloquent–than Nichols (that’s saying A LOT) in laying out the case for impeachment and stressing the need to IMPEACH NOW!

So, Congress’s checklist for July 23, 2007 has two items on it:

  1. Use Inherent Contempt to try Josh Bolten and Harriet Miers in the House or Senate.
  2. Impeach George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney

They need to stop saying they’re going to do something and do it. And we need to support them any way we can.

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Filed under executive privilege, judicial branch, president bush, unitary executive, us attorney scandal, us constitution

Right-Wing T-shirts p.2

A click on the “Right-wing stuff” at Cafepress and *VOILA*, you’ve got a cornacopia of racism, hate, ignorance, and plain-old crazy. Below are some of my favorites:

Is there really a person in this country who wants to cut the fraction of a percentage point of the budget allotted for public education to “free up” more money for bombers? And I’d love to meet the guy/gal who thinks “McCarthy was right!” Shit, it’s past time we NUKED Iran, don’tyathink? Hell, let’s NUKE everybody! I remember another t-shirt I saw when I was 10 and hung out at the Army/Navy Surplus store a lot: it said “Kill ’em all–and let god sort ’em out!” That would really be the ideal solution, wouldn’t it? Then all that would be left would be, errrrr, nobody, we’d all be ash. But all the terrorists and the traitors would be dead too! And the good Christians would be on the express elevator to heaven. wouldn’t they? Hurray for Armageddon!

I included all the Fred Thompson 2008 t-shirts on the site. I’d like to point out that Fred had the most designs of any GOP candidate. It’s time to take Fred seriously–even though he’s a third-rate actor, fourth-rate politician, and fifth-rate human being. He’s going to be the nominee of the GOP, and his Southern-fried Reagan, Better Fred than Red, FREDneck, I love Jesus, love oil, love money, love Wall Street, love the flag, love Naascar, hate gays, hate Mexicans, hate abortion, hate terrorists, hate democrats, hate science persona is going to appeal to a lot of voters–the same lunatics who voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004. Be forewarned.

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Filed under fred thompson, right wing, snark, t-shirts

War as a video game

The USA continues down the path of turning war into a video game. The US Air Force is readying to deploy MQ-9 “Reavers”, second-gen predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), to Iraq and Afghanistan. In the tradition of America’s Army, a free online first-person shooter-style video game and combat simulator bankrolled and distributed by the US Army, the operators of the MQ-9 Reaver aircraft control the vehicle at a video display screen thousands of miles away from the front lines–in this case at Creech AFB, Nevada.

From Robot Air Attack Squadron Bound for Iraq by Charles J. Hanley (Huffington Post):

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq — The airplane is the size of a jet fighter, powered by a turboprop engine, able to fly at 300 mph and reach 50,000 feet. It’s outfitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, and with a ton and a half of guided bombs and missiles.

The Reaper is loaded, but there’s no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada.

The arrival of these outsized U.S. “hunter-killer” drones, in aviation history’s first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.

. . .

The MQ-9 Reaper, when compared with the 1995-vintage Predator, represents a major evolution of the unmanned aerial vehicle, or UAV.

At five tons gross weight, the Reaper is four times heavier than the Predator. Its size _ 36 feet long, with a 66-foot wingspan _ is comparable to the profile of the Air Force’s workhorse A-10 attack plane. It can fly twice as fast and twice as high as the Predator. Most significantly, it carries many more weapons.

While the Predator is armed with two Hellfire missiles, the Reaper can carry 14 of the air-to-ground weapons _ or four Hellfires and two 500-pound bombs.

“It’s not a recon squadron,” Col. Joe Guasella, operations chief for the Central Command’s air component, said of the Reapers. “It’s an attack squadron, with a lot more kinetic ability.”

“Kinetic” _ Pentagon argot for destructive power _ is what the Air Force had in mind when it christened its newest robot plane with a name associated with death.

“The name Reaper captures the lethal nature of this new weapon system,” Gen. T. Michael Moseley, Air Force chief of staff, said in announcing the name last September.

General Atomics of San Diego has built at least nine of the MQ-9s thus far, at a cost of $69 million per set of four aircraft, with ground equipment.

This stuff scares the shit out of me. War is Hell–and that fact somewhat limits all-out wars–at least it did in the pre-Bush era. But bombing your enemy with robot planes controlled from 7000 miles away makes war relatively “bloodless”–so long as you are the operator of the robot plane. If your robot plane gets shot down–no worries, General Atomics will build another–just fork over $18 million. And for the Reaver pilot in his climate-controlled control room, war becomes not unlike playing Call of Duty or Halo on your video game console in your living room. Dropping bombs and firing missiles–regardless of who’s the target–becomes surreal and that much easier and impersonal. And before you know it 17 year-old kids will be lined up at the Arcade/AFB to drop 500 pound bombs on the nameless, faceless enemies on their vid-screens.

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Filed under Iraq, reaver, robot, uav, us air force, war