Friday, June 30, 2006

It Speaks

Osama bin-Laden released his 41st public announcement during George Bush's tenure this week. On the audio tape, he expresses surprise that Musab al-Zarqawi was found and killed earlier in the month and that:

"Abu Musab had clear instructions to focus his fight on the occupiers, particularly the Americans and to leave aside anyone who remains neutral. But for those who refused [neutrality] and stood to fight on the side of the crusaders against the Muslims, then he should kill them whoever they are, regardless of their sect or tribe."

Clearly the relationship between bin-Laden and Zarqawi had been a strained one and this newest tape seems to be an effort to make it appear that the relationship was cozier than it perhaps appeared. His surprise may be to try to put to rest rumors that he or al-Qaeda may have been a source of the intel that pointed us to him, since al-Qaeda saw Zarqawi as a rogue. It may be an oblique comparison, but in his first term, George Bush held only 16 press conferences. During that same time, Osama bin-Laden issued a total of 26 audio and video taped statements. In others words, bin-Laden was more likely to issue a statement than Bush was to actually stand in front of a group of reporters and answer their questions (or not).

Another fact that's kind of fascinating is that since 9/11 and Bush's famous statement that he wanted bin-Laden 'dead or alive' ("I don't care, dead or alive — either way. It doesn't matter to me."), bin-Laden has released a total of 39 audio and video statements. Despite all of these tapes that somehow had to be delivered to the Arab press, we are seemeingly no closer to capturing or killing bin-Laden. It's becoming more and more obvious to anyone who receives at least some of their news from alternate sources (foreign press, independent press, etc.) that this administration will only find or kill bin-Laden when he: a) ceases to be useful to them and b) doesn't offend their business sensibilities.

This focus away from bin-Laden came though loud and clear from Bush himself, during one of his afore mentioned rare press conferences on March 13, 2002 - only 3 months after his 'dead or alive' quote:
"Well, as I say, we haven't heard much from him. And I wouldn't necessarily say he's at the center of any command structure. And, again, I don't know where he is. I -- I'll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him. I know he is on the run. I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country. I was concerned about the fact that he was basically running Afghanistan and calling the shots for the Taliban."
I can almost picture Dick and Don sitting in a room somewhere cringing at that one. He is simply a hand puppet, and often, not even a good one. Also, "I was concerned about him, when he had taken over a country". Yes, that must be why he paid so much attention to the famous August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Brief entitled "bin Laden determined to strike in U.S."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Flag or Flog

Congress was at it again this week. More time wasted on yet another Constitutional amendment. This one would make it unconstitutional to burn the U.S. flag. On Tuesday the proposal fell one vote short in the Senate after a couple of days of debate. What wonderful use of our legislators' time, right up there with the anti-gay marriage amendment and proposals to make English the 'official' language of the United States. Talk about re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.... The last I checked the flag wasn't capable of feeding the hungry, providing healthcare to all children, finding an international diplomatic solution for Iraq/North Korea/Iran/Darfur/Gaza/etc., confronting global warming, balancing the budget or curing disease. Not to mention that there has hardly been any flag burnings within our borders in the last 25 years.

Party lines were definitely more blurred for this proposal than they were for the anti gay marriage amendment that was defeated recently. Many Democrats, even genuine liberal ones, were in favor and some moderate Republicans were opposed.

One thing sure, when politicians decide that it's a better use of time to protect a piece of fabric that in essence celebrates our expansionist history, than try to safeguard the lives and welfare of our nation's citizens, there's a problem.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Double your Trouble.

Letter Posted to this article in by Sidney Blumenthal about Ron Suskind's new Book, "The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11"

Does everyone over 30 remember how scary the Soviet Union was for 50 years? A technologically advanced, centrally planned juggernaut with many friends in the world (including one 100 miles from Miami). But then they invaded Afghanistan, and for 9 bloody years watched the mood of their citizenry and their international prestige go very sour. There were many reasons for the downfall of the Soviet empire, but none larger than Afghanistan. 15 years ago these same neo-cons were even gleefully saying that Afghanistan was their 'Vietnam'. Except for the little detail that Vietnam didn't lead to our downfall, they would be right.

Well it seems that Vietnam was only a warm-up. Afghanistan wasn't enough of a historically proven quagmire for us. No, we had to 'double-down' and jump with two feet into another quagmire at the same time.
We can only hope that future historians won't be calling Iraq our 'Afghanistan'.

But then, hope without action is useless.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

"Looters" vs. "Finders" redux...

The Government Accounting Office (GAO) released a report June 13th that criticized FEMA for doling out up to $1.4 billion dollars for fraudulent claims, representing up to 16% of the total funds distributed. Most media outlets instantly jumped on the story downplaying the criticism of FEMA and running their stories, with pictures of - guess who? If you said black people, you are correct.

This is reminiscent of the type of coverage the Katrina disaster aftermath received right from the beginning. Example below (from the Media Awareness Network):

Now, I'm sure that a lot of the people who defrauded FEMA actually are black. But when the only photograph or video associated with a media outlet's coverage of the story shows black people, consciously or unconsciously people will assume that all of the defrauders are black. An example below is the photo that AP ran with their story.

Hmmm, that guy must have ten more of those cards in his back pocket, right? Here's an idea: how about if they ran the story with a picture of new FEMA head David Paulison, since the GAO report criticizes FEMA. Or even mention his name in the story. Or run a picture of an actual person who's been charged with fraud (many have been). Or even provide some background, like how most of the no-bid contracts handed out went to out of state firms, some of whom brought in immigrant workers and then didn't pay them, instead of hiring locals. So what, FEMA hired firms that were basically practicing slavery. Big deal! What? Regular crooks, who aren't incorporated and publicly traded, actually profited from this? Lock 'em up!

The "liberal" media? No, the media of the lowest common denominator.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Baghdad Bush

On the heels of Tony Blair's visit last week and over three years after his 'victory' lap on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, George Bush made a second surprise visit to Iraq today. The 'scene of the crime' so to speak. His first visit was during Thanksgiving in 2003. The unannounced five hour visit entailed a meeting with new Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, in the fortified 'Green Zone' and a meeting with some U.S. troops.

"Good to see you," exclaimed al-Maliki as they met. "Thanks for having me," Bush responded (AP). An interesting response by Bush, since Maliki only knew about the visit five minutes before Bush's arrival, so there couldn't have possibly been a formal invite, not to mention permission for him to visit given by Maliki. The fact that Bush's visit needed to be a surprise, only five hours long and that he was helicoptered into the 'Green Zone' from the airport wearing a 25 pound flak jacket all for security reasons, says pretty much all you need to know about the situation there. Additionally, the fact that Maliki wasn't told about the visit days or even hours in advance says a lot about the level trust that there really is between the White House and Iraq's leaders.

Obviously, 'Bush's brain' is hoping to get some bounce in the poll numbers from the visit which comes 6 days after the death of Musab al-Zarqawi. Another reason, that will go under the radar, is that they need to make it clear to Iran that Maliki is still our guy, despite his recent half-hearted remarks that Iraq would not support any kind of military action against Iran from their soil.

The Greased Pig

"The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them." - N. Machiavelli

It's being reported Tuesday that Karl Rove, George Bush's longtime political advisor, will most likely not be facing criminal charges related to the outing of a CIA agent's identity. The case is being investigated by Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. The identity of Valerie Plame was leaked in 2003 to selected reporters by White House sources in an effort to discredit her husband, Joe Wilson, who was disputing administration claims about Iraq's pre-war WMD program. In the Washington Post, Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin is quoted as saying that, "[Fitzgerald] has formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges".

This will come as quite a blow to many Democrats, liberals, lefty bloggers, CIA agents working covertly and a majority of Americans, who have all been reasonably expecting that treasonous actions should be punished. This White House has made it quite apparent that anyone or relatives of anyone who dares to contradict administration propaganda will pay a price. Besides undercover CIA agents, past victims have been a few Generals (Shinsecki, Franks, etc.), an ex-General Secretary of State (Powell), and a too talkative Treasury Secretary actually possessing some common sense (O'Neill).

So, the "Turd Blossom" will live to fight - and lie, cheat and steal - another day. Tim Grieve says in that there's the possibility of a civil suit, since Joe Wilson has raised that as a possibility in the past. Whether a civil suit is successful or not, it just doesn't feel like justice. What Rove and others in the White House did is, if not out and out treason, at least is treasonous behavior. By blowing Plame's cover, they also blew the cover of an entire ongoing CIA operation, involving other agents and intelligence sources, who were trying to produce 'human intelligence' about certain nations WMD programs. This is exactly the kind of thing that this White House professes the urgent need for. Once again though, their actions demonstrated that even national security can't get in the way of politics and their obscene lust for power.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Benefits of Diplomacy?

By now the entire world knows of the killing of 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq' head sociopath, Musab al-Zarqawi. He was killed in a tactical airstrike sometime on Wednesday, after weeks of intelligence gathering and "helped by tip-offs from Iraqis and Jordanian intelligence", according to Reuters. Apparently, the crucial tip came from Iraqis living near the 'safe house' he was occupying in the small town of Hibhib near Baquba. This town lies about 25 miles from the Iranian border.

Now, there seems to be an interesting coincidence here. Zarqawi, being a Sunni, was waging sectarian violence against Shiites. Iran is a Shiite nation. When we toppled Saddam, a secular Sunni leader, and announced that Iraq should have a unity representative government, Iran had to have been quietly excited. Shiites are the largest of the three factions in Iraq, so giving Iraqi Shiites, many of whom have very close ties to Iran, more power can only play into Iran's hands down the road.

Now I wonder if anyone else finds it curious that we find and kill Zarqawi only a couple of weeks after the Bush administration finally pulled it's head out of it's derriere and actually decided to talk to the Iranians about their nuclear program? Hmmm, very coincidental.... We've been using all manner of high-tech electronic and desperate on the ground intelligence to try to find this guy for at least two years, and all the sudden, literally a couple of weeks after the slight diplomatic warm-up between ourselves and Iran, he pops up on the radar. Maybe things are a little warmer than they appear publicly. Additionally, eventhough we knew where he was, an airstrike is called in, instead of trying to capture him alive. Though if he was surrounded by large numbers of militia, in a firefight situation, he could've wound up dead anyway.

Gee, when is Musharraf in Pakistan going to ever cough up bin-Laden for us? The answer - never. He's a little to close to the whole Bush family/ bin-Laden family/ House of Saud/ Carlyle group "Axis of oil money". Not to mention, he knows about everyone's skeletons in their closets. Zarqawi? Just some un-wealthy punk out of Jordan.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Un-War

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate."
"Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the [U.S.] media."
- Noam Chomsky

In high school, I loved the history classes. One of the half-year classes I took was called simply "Contemporary History". This class was focused on 20th century U.S. History. The teacher was a veteran from the Vietnam era, though he only served state-side. One of the points made about the Vietnam War, is that is was nicknamed the "TV War". Almost every night on the evening news, Americans could watch video, sometimes close-up and graphic, portraying the indiscriminately violent meat-grinder that that war was. This was a historic first for any war, primarily due to technological advances, the willingness of the media to report the whole story and the government letting the 'free press' actually report what it wanted. The lesson learned by the powers that be was that the constant flow of these video and still images were seen to be a significant factor that contributed to public opinion finally souring toward the war.

As we see today, this lesson was not lost on the Pentagon. 'Embedded' journalists, the cushy 'green zone' and press restrictions are all designed to let the government control the message, not the press. Another lesson of history is that when the government controls the message it isn't called news, it's called propaganda. Furthermore, propaganda is most effective, when it doesn't appear to be propaganda. If anyone still thinks that the main stream media is actaully giving us independant news and information, they should take a much closer look. Coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan in almost any country in the world is less sanitized and controlled than it is here. In the Washington Post, Howard Kurtz cites Marty Kaplan from the Huffington Post on this subject:

"So let's see. If you take the amount of time that Greta and Rita and Anderson et al currently spend on a typical day on sensational crimes here at home... and divide that by the number of victims, and then multiply that per capita coverage times the number of Americans daily wounded or killed in the war... let's see... carry the seven... it looks like there would no time left for any of the cable channels to cover anything but casualties. No Michael Jackson, no runaway bride, no Natalee; just American troops, doing their patriotic job, and paying a terrible price."

"That the Bush administration has thoughtfully banned coverage of returning coffins; that the president has refrained from attending military funerals (can't show favoritism by being selective, can he?); that it's too dangerous for tv crews to venture out of the green zone to report on our troops; that Bush and Rumsfeld relentlessly mau-mau the press about excessive coverage of "bad news" and scant attention to all the swell progress being made: these make it especially easy for cable news, so dependent on pictures, to excuse its disproportionate blindness to war casualties."

With the advent of 'entertainment news' that more often every years seems to merit coverage as 'front page' news, news media no longer competes with itself, it now competes with 'American Idol', 'Brangelina', Britney and car chases that CNN inexplicably covers as 'breaking news' on a national level seemingly once a week. This is all by design. Entertainment news diverts the attention, primarily of women, away from real issues that will actually have an impact on their day to day lives. Just as Sports, diverts the attention of, primarily, the male populace.

What we have is one of the best propaganda mechanisms the world has ever seen, combined with high tech, muliti-media 'Bread and Circuses' that has sucked most of the oxygen out the sphere of public discussion about issues that most directly effect the public.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"Cue the Fiddles...

...Rome is burning"

There are over 50 million Americans with absolutely no healthcare insurance, out of these, 9 million are children. We are in the fourth year of a war in Iraq that has so far cost over 2,500 soldiers lives, in the area of 100,000 Iraqi lives and 1 trillion dollars of taxpayer money. This war was started with faulty if not outright fabricated assumptions, with a severely flawed strategy of Panglossian assumptions that everything would go just fine, with absolutely no 'plan B' and with absolutely no end or exit strategy in sight. We are in the fifth year of an occupation in Afghanistan, that is beginning to look like Iraq looked 2 years ago when the insurgency was taking it's first baby steps. Additionally, there are many important diplomatic challenges facing us: Iran, North Korea, Israel/Palestine and now East Timor. Added to this, the still brewing genocide in Darfur.

The Federal government has been running large annual budget deficits for 6 years and the total treasury debt is now $8.37 trillion, That's about $28,000 for every man, woman and child. If you're the type of person like me who prefers to live as debt free as possible, then you might be a little pissed that if you're the average taxpayer, out of the total that you paid in Federal tax last year, you paid $1,394.00 in interest on the Federal debt. The United States economy has been growing at a good rate for the last 2 years, but the wealthy have been the primary, if not only beneficiaries of this growth. There has been job creation, but the majority of these jobs have been created by the government - this government being run by supposedly 'small government' Republicans. The remainder of these jobs are low paying service sector jobs. Compared to the millions of jobs created in the high-tech, well paying employment boom of the 1990's, these jobs are pathetic.

There is an AIDs epidemic in Africa. Avian flu has the potential to become a global pandemic that could cost tens of millions of lives and millions in this country and there is almost no preparations being made. Despite the deliberate attempts of the energy industry and their Republican lapdogs to cloud the argument, Global Warming is a potentially catastrophic problem for future generations. It is becoming harder and harder to deny that we need to take serious measures to reduce and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas emissions NOW.

This is a laundry list of serious issues involving the health and livelihood of ALL citizens today and even the survival of future generations, that need to be dealt with as soon as possible. With this backdrop, the Republican controlled Senate and the Republican president will be debating and discussing two issues over the next couple of weeks that they think are important: anti-gay marriage and anti-flag burning Constitutional amendments. Yes, it's election time again in the Fall so it's time to trot out all the well-worn wedge issues to fire up their Christian right base (which is neither Christian nor right, by the way).

After all, these people have no reason to be concerned about the real problems in the first three paragraphs, because god will eventually come down from his cloud and fix all that other stuff for us. As long as we don't piss him off by letting gay people get married, that is. So the rest of us intelligent, reasoning and logical people who use our brains (that they believe god gave us in the first place) to actually THINK, will have to sit and wait, while the political equivalent of trying to fly to Hawaii by flapping your arms goes on. By the way, since marriage is a religious institution, an anti-gay marriage amendment would directly contradict the anti-establishment of religion clause in the first amendment. Not that this is a surprise. These are the same people who have been ignoring the entire Bill of Rights for the last 5 years anyway.

It's so bad that even Joe Biden on Meet the Press this past Sunday, actually dropped his finely groomed political facade for a lot of the interview and seemed as pissed off as I am and everyone else should be. It was quite refreshing. For a second, I thought he was going to break down and cry.

What can we do? Call Bill Frist, Senate majority leader at (202-224-3344) or send him a message by clicking this link. Also, Arlen Spector, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee at (202) 224-4254 or send him a message here. If you live in Tennessee (Frist) or Pennsylvania (Spector), even better because you can threaten to vote them out.

Tell them to pack away their fiddles and get to work.