Thursday, February 2


Great column about the Kings' (Martin Luther, Jr. and Coretta Scott) leadership in the international peace movement:

ONE OF the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s most famous speeches was his April 4, 1967, condemnation of the Vietnam War. He said America could never end poverty at home as long as ''adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube."
In the months leading up to the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, Coretta Scott King was one of the voices who opposed it, warning, ''A war with Iraq will increase anti-American sentiment, create more terrorists, and drain as much as 200 billion taxpayer dollars, which should be invested in human development here in America."

The Sage and I were watching the Discovery Channel the other night. It was a story about the construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the upper Yangtze River in China. It will be the largest dam in the world. It's an incredible project, requiring resettlement of hundreds of thousands of people. At the end, when the narrator cited the cost of the project at $25 billion, The Sage turned to me and said, "How much have we spent on the Iraq War?" I reminded him that it now stands at $238 billion and counting, and current estimates of direct budgetary impact could top $2 trillion. "Can you believe it?" he cried. "For that kind of money we could have rebuilt every bridge and highway in the U.S., providing good jobs for thousands of people. We could have funded Social Security for the next several generations. We could have fixed our schools and given every child in America a college education. We could have given every American access to healthcare. We could have secured our borders, our transit centers, our ports."

Yeah. To borrow from Martin, this war on terror is one great "demonic destructive suction tube" -- sucking money, lives and American ideals down a deep dark black hole, money and lives that could have been used to fix real problems for real people and set us on a course of peace, progress and hope.

Thanks, Dubya. We all feel much better now that we've given up that dream in favor of fear and perpetual war.

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They knew it was wrong, they knew it wasn't the will of the public, but they did it anyway.

The most revealing part of the story of how the Republicans pushed through $39.5 billion in cuts to student loans, Medicare and Medicaid while advocating permanent tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% is how cynically it was done.

Republican leaders counted their votes, realized they had more than they needed for passage, and allowed 13 of their members who face tough re-election races to vote against it so they'd score points with their constituents.

In other words, they KNEW it wasn't the popular will, but they don't answer to the voters -- they answer to their masters and cronies, special interests and the richest among us. And with their jerrymandering redistricting they figure they have enough safe seats that they don't need to respond to real people.

With the Senate taking up a tax-cutting measure at the same time, Democrats used debate on the measure to sound what will be a major election-year theme: that Republicans are cutting taxes for the rich at the expense of services for the poor.

"A vote for this bill is a vote, literally, to take away from health care from our children so we can give more money to the super-rich," Representative Louise M. Slaughter, Democrat of New York, said.

At a time Congress is consumed by a lobbying scandal, Democrats complained bitterly that the measure had been written without them, with the help of paid representatives from the drug and insurance industries, and then presented for a vote before they had a chance to review it.

"This is a product of special interest lobbying," said Representative John D. Dingell, Democrat of Michigan, "and the stench of special interests hangs over the chamber as we consider it today."

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And the hits just keep coming.

Seriously, was there ANY oversight of the CPA by any responsible parties? A person convicted of felony fraud is hired to award government contracts and given more than $50 billion in cash to distribute? Who can pretend to be surprised that the result is a waste of Iraqi and taxpayer money and assets, theft, kickbacks and the luring of professional military into the ring of corruption.

Is this the kind of thing that Col. Ted Westhusing had to confront? Certainly it sounds similar to reports of his Iraq experience. For a man to whom honor and ethics were his profession as well as his practice, the environment of waste, corruption and deceit must have seemed like hell itself.

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Wednesday, February 1


This is an important wake-up call. Bush and the neocons, with the encouragement of the British, are once again whipping up American fears, this time about a nuclear Iran, in order to continue their ill-conceived attempt to remake the Middle East. Progressives should be working overtime to remind Americans that the Bush administration has no credibility in international affairs, no less the current British leadership.

Conservative Paul Craig Roberts (former contributing editor to National Review and columnist) on the sudden frenzy to attack Iran.

The "evidence" that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons consists of mere assertion by members of the Bush administration and the neoconservative media. Iran says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors have found no evidence of a weapons program.

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Under the treaty, signatories have the right to develop nuclear energy. All they are required to do is to make reports to the IAEA and keep their facilities open to inspection. Iran complies with these requirements.

There is no Iranian "defiance." When news media report "defiance," they purvey disinformation. The "seals" on Iranian nuclear facilities were placed there voluntarily by the Iranians while they attempted to resolve the false charges brought by the Bush administration.

The "Iran crisis" is entirely the product of the Bush administration’s determination to deprive Iran of its rights as a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. It is one more demonstration of President Bush’s belief that his policies are not constrained by fact, law and international treaties.
A majority of Americans have now been deceived twice on the same issue. Just as there was no evidence that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons, there is no evidence that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. There is nothing but unproven assertions, assertions, moreover, that are contradicted by the evidence that does exist. Americans, it would appear, are so eager for wars that they welcome being fooled into them.
One excuse for these demands is the statement by the new Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that Europeans should give Israel a piece of Europe and move the country there. His statement that Israel should be wiped out is a statement intended for Muslim ears, not a declaration of an Iranian program of action. The Iranian president is simply elevating Iran’s standing among Muslims by taking advantage of the anger that President Bush has created against the US and Israel.

The notion that Iran might march into Israel is laughable. Iran has four routes into Israel: through Turkey and Syria, through Iraq and Syria, through Iraq and Jordan (or Lebanon), and through Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Three of these routes are foreclosed by US troops on the ground, and the fourth by the Turkish Army.

Moreover, Israel has never signed the non-proliferation theory, and, unlike Iran, Israel does have nuclear weapons. An Iranian invasion of Israel could be fatal for Iran.

Why, then, is the American population being whipped up by the Bush administration and Fox "News" into war hysteria against Iran?

Fox is aggressively agitating for war with Iran. On shows such as Hannity and Combs, guest after guest – Newt Gingrich, various retired generals, pundits, and even Democratic politicians – agitate for attacking Iran.
One wonders if Americans ever think of the consequences of the rash actions they favor. The Bush administration has placed Iraq in the hands of the majority Shia, who are allied with Iran, which is allied with Hizbollah, the strongest military force in Lebanon, which is friendly to Hamas, the new Palestinian authority. What response might a US attack on Iran bring from the Shia population in Iraq? What terrorism might Iran unleash throughout the Middle East? What US puppets might fall? What consequences might follow if Iran not only shuts off Iranian oil, but knocks out facilities throughout the region and blocks oil flows from the Middle East?
Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda must be marveling at the rank stupidity of the American people. Maybe Fox "News" only pretends to be the Ministry of War Propaganda for the Bush administration and is in the employ of al Qaeda instead.

War is not strengthening America’s position in the Middle East, as gains by extremists in Palestinian, Iraqi, Pakistani and Egyptian elections attest. There is no prospect of the Bush administration imposing its will on the Middle East. To paraphrase Gingrich, if Bush and the neocons don’t know this by now, they are too dangerous to leave in charge of the US government.

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Condi lies again.

Can't veer from that elections timetable! We have to have more democratic elections to point to during the SOTU address. Our faith-based diplomacy is more reliable than real intelligence, inside information from the Palestinian president.

While most Israeli and Arab-language news channels were broadcasting scenes of Hamas supporters in the Gaza Strip waving green flags as they celebrated their stunning victory, Harari had tuned in to a seemingly tedious military ceremony on Egyptian state television. “Look at the wives of the generals,” he said. “Many of them are wearing traditional head scarves. This was not so ten years ago. And this tells you where we are heading. When the women of Egypt’s pro-Western military élite are dressed like that, you know that the Hamas victory is not about Palestine. It’s about the entire Middle East.”

Harari, who served as an intelligence officer in the West Bank and then as the adviser on Palestinian affairs to the Israeli Defense Ministry, is still closely connected to his former colleagues, and he said he had heard that, some weeks ago, the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, who was afraid of a Hamas rout at the polls, begged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to exert United States pressure and postpone the scheduled elections. Rice refused, Harari said, and told Abbas to go forward. (A State Department spokesman declined to confirm the details of their conversation.)
[emphasis mine]

Huh? But I thought Condi said, "I don't know anyone who wasn't caught off guard by Hamas's strong showing." And, "I've asked why nobody saw it coming," Ms. Rice said, speaking of her own staff. "It does say something about us not having a good enough pulse."

Or something about not listening to anything they don't want to hear.

The issue, of course, is whether this revolutionary movement, whose charter is devoted to the elimination of Israel, could develop into a ruling party interested in territorial compromise. On that Harari is doubtful. “It would take years before real negotiations could resume,” he said. “An over-all peace agreement is out of the question for a long time.”

Yet the impact of the Hamas victory, he said, is not local but regional. “As we speak,” he said, “there are growing fears not only in Israel but in Jordan, Egypt, and even Syria. The Hamas victory is a Middle East earthquake. Its shock waves will be felt in every town between Casablanca and Baghdad.”

Even aside from the Condi stuff, it's a very insightful article.

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Here are just a few hints from Katrina Vanden Heuvel.

Never misunderestimate George W. Bush. Here's a President who's gutted the Treasury, eroded the environment, divided our society, ruined our reputation, frayed our military, undermined our security, inspired our enemies and overall weakened America. But there he stood tonight and delivered a State of the Union speech disconnected from the reality we are living in.
So, for all decent and truth-loving Americans, here's a quick guide to decoding last night's SOTU. All of these definitions come from my Dictionary of Republicanisms:

Bipartisanship, n.
1. When conservative Republicans work with moderate Republicans to pass legislation that Democrats hate.
2. Another name for date rape [Grover Norquist, Third Level, Hell].

Democracy, n.
1. A product so extensively exported that the domestic supply is depleted.
2. When they vote for us; see TYRANNY: When they vote for someone else [Rebecca Solnit, San Francisco, CA].

Freedom, n.
1. God-given right of every American to agree with Bush and his policies [Ken Guarino, Miami, FL].
2. What Arabs want but can't achieve on their own without Western military intervention; it bears a striking resemblance to chaos [Matthew Polly, Topeka, KS].

Job Growth, n.
Increased number of jobs an American has to take after losing earlier high-paying job [John E. Tarin, Arlington, VA].

Medicare Prescription Drug Bill, n.
No Drug Company Left Behind [George K. McHugh, Dublin, CA].

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Via Bad Attitudes, this hilarious tribute to Bush-Cheney and the oil companies.



Altered state.

In all, the speech reflected Mr. Bush's changed political circumstances, and it displayed little ambition to tackle some of America's greatest challenges at home or abroad.

That about sums it up.


Well, Dubya didn't stumble over his words and had a smoother delivery than usual.

That's about all I can say. The civility stuff I addressed in the post below.

It was a very aggressive speech but clearly lacking in new substance.

The after-speech coverage was pretty much what I expected (also addressed in an earlier post). Chris Matthews is hot on the big story, for him: Hillary Clinton was chewing gum!

The best part was watching the Dems and cheering their failure to applaud at critical moments. It was fun when they practically guffawed at Bush talking about Social Security.

Bottom line: Ho hum. Nothing here. Move on.

Tuesday, January 31


Bill Frist is telling Paula Zahn that the president will reach out in a bipartisan fashion and say, "Now is the time" for us to work together.

Hilarious. The "Great Divider" -- who has presided over, and indeed fostered, the greatest polarization in U.S. politics in history, is going to have the nerve to ask Democrats to raise the standard of civility, when it is Bush, his party and their right-wing media echo chamber who have created that environment of incivility by locking the opposition party out of the political process, smearing political opponents and casting them in the light of terrorist sympathizers, traitors and obstructionists?

Bush and his Rethugs' concept of unity and civility is "Fall in line or we'll cut you down."


The cynicism just kills me. Headline on CNN: "Bush will urge end to oil addiction."

George W. Bush has fought for his entire presidency to encourage American "addiction" to oil. Rather than proposing higher mileage standards, he has consistently advocated weak standards that "do nothing to help American motorists at the pump, nor... reduce America's dependence on imported oil."

He proposed tripling the tax deductions on SUV's and other gas-guzzlers. Yeah, that would encourage oil conservation.

Bush budgets chronically under fund alternative energy investments and development. See also here.

Bush is inextricably, and familially, connected to the oil industry, and along with his partner Dick Cheney has been their greatest advocate. Who truly believes that Bush, with his track record, will seriously prioritize the development of alternative energy sources? Especially when he's called for decreased dependence on foreign oil in four previous SOTU addresses and delivered nada towards that end?

If you believe that, I have a bridge for sale.

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As I think about tonight's great adventure -- watching Dubya tread water and try not to mention the fact that there have been no accomplishments and many disasters by his administration this past year -- I recall the first Bush-Kerry debate. Bush was at his chimpiest, completely clueless, belligerent and unprepared. Kerry was smooth, articulate and statesmanlike. Wow! we said. He scored a knockout! It's unbelievable! W sounded like the complete moron we know him to be!

We were, as compassionate people, almost sorry, and certainly embarrassed, for him.

Then came the after-debate march of the pundits, giving Kerry a slight edge. It was incredible how many journalists and jingoists declared it a draw -- even conservative Joe Scarborough, who was shamed for the president, was astounded.

I'm just cynical enough to expect more of the same tonight. "It wasn't a great success," they'll say, "but the president didn't do himself any harm." Then they'll replay all the applause lines, show Laura in her box, and attack the Democratic response.

Any bets I'm wrong?


Is anyone providing oversight for defense contractors?

A group of veterans Monday accused a defense contractor of endangering soldiers' lives by providing substandard training in the use of the Army's advanced global positioning system, or GPS, devices.

After their complaints were ignored, the veterans said they resigned their training jobs with ARINC Inc., which is training soldiers at Fort Hood.
The veterans said ARINC is using unqualified employees to train Army instructors in the use of GPS receivers, which, in addition to pinpointing the position of the user, are used to direct laser-guided airstrikes.
Faulty use of GPS devices led to the capture of Pfc. Jessica Lynch in Iraq, after causing her convoy to become lost, said group President David L. Billingsley Jr., a nine-year Army veteran who, with three other veterans, resigned his training job with ARINC to protest what they say are unqualified trainers.

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The passing of another beloved icon:

"It's a bleak morning for me and for many people and yet it's a great morning because we have a chance to look at her and see what she did and who she was," poet Maya Angelou said on ABC's "Good Morning America."

"It's bleak because I can't - many of us can't hear her sweet voice - but it's great because she did live, and she was ours. I mean African-Americans and white Americans and Asians, Spanish-speaking - she belonged to us and that's a great thing."
"She was strong if not stronger than he was," Young said. "She lived a graceful and beautiful life, and in spite of all of the difficulties, she managed a graceful and beautiful passing."

Where will we find others of courage to call for what is right, and just, and compassionate, as one by one our heroes pass from this earth?



Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WIS) catches the Attorney General in a bald-faced lie during his confirmation hearings. The AG's got some explaining to do:

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Of course, we now know that Gonzales knew the president HAD engaged in such action, and the AG himself, who was White Counsel at the time the illegal wiretapping started, helped give Dubya legal cover.

Good catch by Feingold. I don't see how this could possibly be interpreted in any other way than as a deliberate attempt to mislead Congress.

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Rethugs say they want "reform." But when it comes to the federal budget, for Bush and the Republicans it's business as usual. In other words, soak the taxpayers and give away billions to corporate interests and the wealthy. That's the true face of "compassionate conservatism."

It's worth citing in full the first paragraph of an important piece of investigative reporting last week by The Post's Jonathan Weisman: "House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office."

What's wrong with this picture? First, a group of legislators who claim to want to reduce the deficit gutted a provision designed to save taxpayers money, after heavy lobbying by the health insurance industry.

Second, a Congress saying that it really, really wants to change the way it does business ratified a backroom deal in the wee hours of the morning that almost nobody who voted on it knew anything about.
As the Times's Robert Pear reported, the study found that "millions of low-income people would have to pay more for health care under a bill worked out by Congress, and some of them would forgo care or drop out of Medicaid because of the higher co-payments and premiums."

How strange it is that while the president claims he wants to help people get health coverage, he and his party would support a budget that could force some poor Americans to walk away from care.

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This NYTimes editorial should be broadcast to every household listening to Dubya's State of the Union address:

When President Bush gives his State of the Union address tonight, expect to hear a renewed call for setting the administration's first-term tax cuts in concrete, combined with warnings that letting the cuts expire would retard economic growth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

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Monday, January 30


Here are the Democrats who voted against the Alito filibuster. Remember their names. In so many cases I'm totally bewildered, let alone disappointed. As Ted Kennedy said today on the Senate floor, this is the most important vote Senators can make. And these men and women voted against preserving the Constitution, against the uniquely American system of checks and balances, against their party, and ultimately for a rollback of decades of progress in human and civil rights.

Akaka (Hawaii)
Baucus (Montana)
Bingaman (New Mexico)
Byrd (West Virginia)
Cantwell (Washington)
Carper (Delaware)
Conrad (North Dakota)
Dorgan (North Dakota)
Inouye (Hawaii)
Johnson (South Dakota)
Kohl (Wisconsin)
Landrieu (Louisiana)
Lieberman (Connecticut)
Lincoln (Arkansas)
Nelson (Florida)
Nelson (Nebraska)
Pryor (Arkansas)
Rockefeller (West Virginia)
Salazar (Colorado)

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Bad, bad news for Bush on the eve of his State of the Union address.

Bush's approvals haven't moved an inch since the last NBC/WSJ poll and remain at 39%. Only 25 percent say they want to see Bush take the lead role in setting policy for the country, while 49 percent say they prefer Congress.

“He’s off track,” says Hart, who wonders if Bush will use his State of the Union address to strike a more conciliatory tone with his political opponents. “If it is ‘our way or the highway,’ it will be a very long year for the president.”
Yet one of the big things that the American people want accomplished is something that Bush — as of now — isn’t prepared to do: bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. Asked which goal they’d pick if America could achieve just one thing in the coming year, 35 percent said they’d choose bringing most of the American forces home from Iraq; 20 percent cited dealing with the cost of health care and coverage for the uninsured; 17 percent said stimulating the economy and job growth; and 11 percent said simplifying the Medicare prescription-drug benefit for seniors. Only 7 percent chose reducing taxes as their No. 1 goal.

In another sign that Americans want to bring the soldiers home, the poll shows that 66 percent want to reduce the number of U.S. troops. Yet just 28 percent want to maintain the current troop level — down from 35 percent in December. McInturff explains that Republicans and others expected the largely successful Iraqi election in December would help justify the administration’s stay-the-course Iraq strategy with the public. “It may have done just the opposite,” he says.

Here's a sampling of the other results:

"Which party do you think is more influenced by special interests and lobbyists - the Democratic Party or the Republican Party?"
* Asked of one-half the respondents
1/06* 1/01 6/98 9/97
Democratic Party 22 26 28 30
Republican Party 36 27 30 29
Both equally (Vol) 33 35 28 30
Not sure 9 12 14 11

While 51% of respondents approve of Bush's warrantless wiretapping program (46% disapprove and 3% aren't sure), a significant majority is concerned that it could be misused:

"How concerned are you that the Bush administration's use of these kinds of wiretaps could be misused to violate people's privacy--extremely concerned, quite concerned, not really concerned, or not concerned at all?"
Extremely concerned 31
Quite concerned 25
Not really concerned 22
Not concerned at all 21
Not sure 1

I'm taking bets on what kind of bounce in the polls Bush will get from his SOTU address. And I've staked out -1%.

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First Rummy determined to "transform" the military -- and he's SOOOO successful at managing our armed forces, isn't he? They're stronger, bigger and better than ever before. Not. Now Condi wants to "transform" American diplomacy. Between the two of them, and on behalf of their boss, they're going to destroy every institution our nation depends upon to secure our position in the world.

Condi is upholding a grand old Bush Cabinet tradition: put someone in place who will dismantle the very agency he/she is supposed to be running.

Indeed, Rice's "transformed" diplomats are not diplomats at all, but program managers, servants of the military, Internet operators, and "missionaries for the democratic Gospel" (in the words of the British newspaper The Observer ).

Condi the diplomat-terminator may be the ideal secretary of state for a bellicose, "bring' em on" White House that can't understand "what these dips are doing out there" (doubtless because Bush officials seldom listen to them). But, as the disastrous failures of the president's mindless military crusades overseas have demonstrated, we need more diplomacy, not less, if only to properly inform Washington of what's going on in the world before it goes about blowing it up.

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I'm just saying...

But, regarding the Iraq conflict as it involves the United States, something essential is lacking that would make it a war -- and that is an enemy.

The so-called ''insurgents," who wreak such havoc, are not America's enemy. They are not our rivals for territory. They are not our ideological antagonists. Abstracting from the present confrontation, they have no reason to wish us ill.
President Bush would say Iraq is only one front in the so-called war on terrorism. Surely, in that realm, where the antagonist has a name and a face, the US is authentically at war. If Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are not an enemy, what is? True enough. But the war on terrorism is not real war either, since the Pentagon has proven itself incapable of actually engaging Al Qaeda. That, of course, is because Al Qaeda is a free floating nihilism, not a nation, or even a network. Al Qaeda is a rejectionist idea to which deracinated miscreants are drawn, like filings to a magnet, but that drawing power is generated in Washington. Bin Laden was a self-mythologized figure of no historic standing until George W. Bush designated him America's equal by defining 9/11 as an act of war to be met with war, instead of a crime to be met with criminal justice. But this over-reaction, so satisfying at the time to the wounded American psyche, turned into the war for which the other party simply did not show up. Which is, of course, why we are blasting a substitute Iraq to smithereens.

Iraq is not a war, because, though we have savage assault, we have no enemy. The war on terrorism is not a war because, though we have an enemy, the muscle-bound Pentagon offers no authentic means of assault.

In each case, Bush is presiding over a self-serving delusion, in concert with a self-emasculating Congress, his partners as would-be war profiteers. Anticipating tomorrow night, one could say Bush will, on this question, be lying to the American people again. But that would presume he is not first lying to himself. State of war? No. State of the Union? Catastrophe, pure and simple.

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This Rolling Stone profile of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) is a must-read in order to understand what the religious (I refuse to say "Christian") right is not only thinking and doing -- but planning. It's a far greater threat to democracy than you may imagine. It's so long, I can't give a fair synopsis. So go read.

Now, Brownback seeks something far more radical: not faith-based politics but faith in place of politics. In his dream America, the one he believes both the Bible and the Constitution promise, the state will simply wither away. In its place will be a country so suffused with God and the free market that the social fabric of the last hundred years -- schools, Social Security, welfare -- will be privatized or simply done away with. There will be no abortions; sex will be confined to heterosexual marriage. Men will lead families, mothers will tend children, and big business and the church will take care of all.
They were striving, ultimately, for what Coe calls "Jesus plus nothing" -- a government led by Christ's will alone. In the future envisioned by Coe, everything -- sex and taxes, war and the price of oil -- will be decided upon not according to democracy or the church or even Scripture. The Bible itself is for the masses; in the Fellowship, Christ reveals a higher set of commands to the anointed few. It's a good old boy's club blessed by God.
The most bluntly theocratic effort, however, is the Constitution Restoration Act, which Brownback co-sponsored with Jim DeMint, another former C Streeter who was then a congressman from South Carolina. If passed, it will strip the Supreme Court of the ability to even hear cases in which citizens protest faith-based abuses of power. Say the mayor of your town decides to declare Jesus lord and fire anyone who refuses to do so; or the principal of your local high school decides to read a fundamentalist prayer over the PA every morning; or the president declares the United States a Christian nation. Under the Constitution Restoration Act, that'll all be just fine.
Every Tuesday, before his evening meeting with his prayer brothers, Brownback chairs another small cell -- one explicitly dedicated to altering public policy. It is called the Values Action Team, and it is composed of representatives from leading organizations on the religious right. James Dobson's Focus on the Family sends an emissary, as does the Family Research Council, the Eagle Forum, the Christian Coalition, the Traditional Values Coalition, Concerned Women for America and many more. Like the Fellowship prayer cell, everything that is said is strictly off the record, and even the groups themselves are forbidden from discussing the proceedings. It's a little "cloak-and-dagger," says a Brownback press secretary. The VAT is a war council, and the enemy, says one participant, is "secularism."

The VAT coordinates the efforts of fundamentalist pressure groups, unifying their message and arming congressional staffers with the data and language they need to pass legislation. Working almost entirely in secret, the group has directed the fights against gay marriage and for school vouchers, against hate-crime legislation and for "abstinence only" education. The VAT helped win passage of Brownback's broadcast decency bill and made the president's tax cuts a top priority. When it comes to "impacting policy," says Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, "day to day, the VAT is instrumental."

As chairman of the Helsinki Commission, the most important U.S. human rights agency, Brownback has also stamped much of U.S. foreign policy with VAT's agenda. One victory for the group was Brownback's North Korea Human Rights Act, which establishes a confrontational stance toward the dictatorial regime and shifts funds for humanitarian aid from the United Nations to Christian organizations. Sean Woo -- Brownback's former general counsel and now the chief of staff of the Helsinki Commission -- calls this a process of "privatizing democracy."
It doesn't bother Brownback that most Bible scholars challenge the idea that Scripture opposes homosexuality. "It's pretty clear," he says, "what we know in our hearts." This, he says, is "natural law," derived from observation of the world, but the logic is circular: It's wrong because he observes himself believing it's wrong.

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I was hoping the transcript for this 60 Minutes segment would show up quickly, and it has. You MUST READ "The Worst-Case Scenario."

To sum up: We have a drug, tested and approved by the Pentagon, that would save people from radiation exposure (see my post below on the film Dirty War). The HHS has ordered only 100,000 doses instead of the minimum 10 million recommended by the 9/11 Commission, because the guy in charge of Project Bioshield is another Bush political appointee in the mold of Michael Brown. In other words, Bush is at it again, making us "safer" by installing unqualified cretins in the most sensitive of posts. Who in their right minds trusts this guy to protect us?

No one knows where a terrorist strike might take place, but there are dozens of U.S. cities with populations large enough to be plausible targets.

Drugs would need to be stockpiled in every city, according to Lee Hamilton, Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission.

"A hundred thousand doses is not nearly enough," he says. "If you really had a major attack you probably would need much more than that. One estimate we made was that we’d need 10 million doses."

Who made the decision to buy 100,000 doses instead of 10 million? It was Stewart Simonson, the man who oversees Project Bioshield. Simonson is a Republican political appointee who, before running Project Bioshield, was a lawyer for Amtrak. Republicans as well as Democrats have criticized his management of the program.

"Secretary Simonson just appears to be over his head on this particular issue," says Rep. Tom Davis, a Virginia Republican, who chairs the committee that oversees Project Bioshield.

Davis, who usually supports the administration, is taking the unusual step of calling in this story for Simonson’s removal from Bioshield.

He says Simonson lacks the necessary technical and scientific background, and compares him to Michael Brown, the former FEMA director who resigned after Hurricane Katrina.

"Oh, I think that we’re seeing the same kind of issues," says Davis. "Michael Brown had been before our committee prior to Katrina and exhibited the same kind of arrogance, a lack of expertise. This is a serious job at this point, and I think we need to have professionals filling it, not political appointees."
"The thing that must be understood here is the urgency of the problem," says Lee Hamilton. "We don’t have an unlimited amount of time here. We know that it is possible to have a nuclear attack very soon, and we must not go about business as usual."
Furthermore, the Pentagon’s chief radiologist wrote 60 Minutes that: "One of the most desirable features of Neumune" is that it "could be self-administered without physician supervision in a disaster scenario."

The drug could be in a cartridge with a needle. You could inject it in your thigh.

Marsella says having a drug that people can administer themselves was the whole idea.

"We need something that’s safe enough that we can distribute to people even in their homes," he says.

Assistant Secretary Simonson seems to be going in a different direction. He wrote a letter to Congress emphasizing that nuclear victims bleeding to death could be treated in hospitals.

Asked if he thinks hospitals would be able to handle the load of patients in such an event, Simonson’s deputy, Raub, says, "There would be hospital capacity that would be able to treat a substantial portion of that load. By no means would there be the ability to treat all of it, and therefore that’s what makes it a catastrophe."

"I talked to one of the top hematologists in this country this morning, and he said that he thought his facility, his hospital, would be able to handle maybe dozens of people, that’s it," says Bradley. "And I think if you’re looking at radiation exposure, you’re looking at more than dozens of people, you’re talking about hundreds of thousands in a place like New York or Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles."
Relying on hospitals is far from a perfect solution according to the Pentagon. They wrote to 60 Minutes: "In the event of a radiation disaster the overwhelming majority of radiation victims will not have access to medical personnel."
But Raub says people can be evacuated to hospitals in the surrounding area.

"Do you imagine what it would be like evacuate New York City?" Bradley asks.

"Yes, I understand that. But, also, this is a catastrophe and I think people would do their very best on under those circumstances," Raub replies.

"Whose going to drive the buses?" asks Marsella. "If you have 450,000 people that are in a radioactively contaminated area possibly with acute radiation syndrome, how are you possibly going to deal with that many people when you just saw in Katrina that we had a hard time getting people food and water?"
"It’s just so frustrating because you’ve got nothing but duck and cover, and duct tape and plastic in the past 60 years," says Marsella. "And then you try to come out with a countermeasure that the Department of Defense is supporting. And HHS tells you, 'Well, we don’t really need it. We’re just going to put everyone in the hospital.' "
He says that HHS is playing a dangerous game.

"Ultimately, you’re betting that we don’t have a terrorist attack and that we’ll be able to catch up by that time. That’s the gamble," Davis says.

How far behind are we?

"I think years from where we ought to be," he says.

"What I want to see is a president of the United States and a secretary of HHS saying 'This is my No. 1 priority," says Lee Hamilton. "The No. 1 threat to the safety and security of the American people is the possibility of a nuclear attack of some kind, and it should be at the top of my priorities. That’s what I want to hear."

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I watched an HBO film tonight, Dirty War. The story is about a fictional Islamist bombing in London and the spread of the deadly radiation it released. The film begins with the British Minister of Homeland Security conducting an exercise testing the city's preparedness. When she reports glowing results, first responders are stunned and combative, insisting that the exercise was bunk, they weren't consulted, they haven't received half the equipment they are reported to, etc.

When the real crisis happens, the Minister is revealed to be completely out of her depth. The planning has been poor, and the whole thing just reeks of the aftermath of Katrina.

At the end, we are told that the area of London most affected will have to be abandoned for at least 30 years because of the radiation. Though they caught the bad guys, it is clear that more will arise to take their place. But the Minister declares that we won't stop until all the bad guys are wiped out.

All I could think was, it'll never happen. Not the way we're going about it. If the U.S. and the rest of the West don't wake up and realize that we have to address the causes of terrorist activity with the same zeal that we attack the terrorists, we'll end up with more 9/11's and many more, and more sophisticated, terrorists. And Bush has done his dead-level best to do precisely nothing about the proliferation of deadly weapons, in fact his rhetoric has exacerbated the spread of nuclear armament. We left caches of weapons unprotected in Iraq so that they are now missing. Who knows whose hands they are in now?

Yes, our feckless leader sure is making us safer. He's stretched the military to a thin green line, he's installed total incompetents in charge of some of the agencies most essential to our protection, and his demonstrated antipathy for planning has been evidenced throughout his reign, from the Iraq war through Katrina and now with the Medicare drug benefit debacle. I have absolutely no reason to be confident that our government has any comprehensive plan to deal with a serious terrorist attack whatever.

My final thought was, I wouldn't live in a major city for anything.

Then I remembered, I live in Dallas.

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My God, was ANYONE at FEMA doing their job?

"Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Your Bush administration at work. Sure glad he's got his priorities straight.

Hundreds of federal search-and-rescue workers and large numbers of boats, aircraft and bulldozers were offered to FEMA in the hours immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, but the aid proposals were either ignored or not effectively used, newly released documents show.

The Interior Department, which made the offers, also proposed dispatching as many as 400 of its law enforcement officers to provide security in Gulf Coast cities ravaged by flooding and looting. But nearly a month would pass before the Federal Emergency Management Agency put the officers to work, according to an Interior document obtained by The Washington Post.

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Sunday, January 29


So is anyone surprised? Unquestionably, Republicans have been aware of, and have taken political advantage of, such prejudices for years. What else have the Southern Strategy and Willie Horton incidents been all about?

"Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president," said Banaji, "but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."
"If anyone in Washington is skeptical about these findings, they are in denial," he said. "We have 50 years of evidence that racial prejudice predicts voting. Republicans are supported by whites with prejudice against blacks. If people say, 'This takes me aback,' they are ignoring a huge volume of research."

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What she said.

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.

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Behind the scenes of the Justice Department, a few courageous lawyers dedicated to the rule of law pushed back against the "torture memo" and authorization of illegal NSA domestic wiretapping. Newsweek has the remarkable story.

So much for Dubya's insistence that DOJ lawyers vetted and approved his actions.

For nine months, from October 2003 to June 2004, he had been the central figure in a secret but intense rebellion of a small coterie of Bush administration lawyers. Their insurrection, described to NEWSWEEK by current and former administration officials who did not wish to be identified discussing confidential deliberations, is one of the most significant and intriguing untold stories of the war on terror.

These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, Goldsmith and the others fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. They did so at their peril; ostracized, some were denied promotions, while others left for more comfortable climes in private law firms and academia. Some went so far as to line up private lawyers in 2004, anticipating that the president's eavesdropping program would draw scrutiny from Congress, if not prosecutors. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men.
Goldsmith raised with Comey serious questions about the secret eavesdropping program, according to two sources familiar with the episode. He was joined by a former OLC lawyer, Patrick Philbin, who had become national-security aide to the deputy attorney general. Comey backed them up. The White House was told: no reauthorization.
By June 2004, the crisis came to a head when the torture memo leaked to The Washington Post. Goldsmith was worn out but still resolute. He told Ashcroft that he was formally withdrawing the August 2002 torture memo. With some prodding from Comey, Ashcroft again backed his DOJ lawyers—though he was not happy to engage in another battle with the White House. Comey, with Goldsmith and Philbin at his side, held a not-for-attribution background briefing to announce that the Justice Department was disavowing the August 2002 torture memo.

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