Monday, February 20, 2006

What I learned from Mary’s visit with Tim

From Mary Matalin’s appearance on Meet the Press, I learned the “Tale of Two Americas”:

In one America, with enough money and clout, you can shoot somebody, avoid the media and the police until everybody gets their stories straight and your blood alcohol has gone down low enough to be legal, you can dictate the official account as “an unfortunate accident” to the authorities, have the case closed with no penalties, and get on with your life without ever having to leave the comfort of Air Force Two.

In the other America, you can have your home, your records, your life invaded by police agencies (both government and privatized), be secretly investigated without any crime having been committed (by anyone, much less you) and without your knowledge. You can be under investigation for no reason other than somebody is curious about you, has a hunch that you might have done something, or be up to something. Something that isn’t even illegal. Yet. You can be picked up anywhere (in your home, on the street), taken into custody (kidnapped), denied a phone call, and denied access to legal counsel. You can be held indefinitely, secretly, without your family or a court, or anybody being informed about what is happening to you. You can be shipped to a prison in another country, blindfolded and in chains, to be tortured and killed. Never to be seen again.

For having done absolutely nothing.

In the first America, nothing illegal happened because “I, Cheney, said so.”

In the second America, nothing legal happens “until I, Cheney, say so.”

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheney Says Shooting of Fellow Hunter was Based on "Faulty Intelligence"

Over on the "Borowitz Report":
Believed Shooting Victim Was Zawahiri, Veep Says
Vice President Dick Cheney revealed today that he shot a fellow hunter while on a quail hunting trip over the weekend because he believed the man was the fugitive terror mastermind Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Mr. Cheney acknowledged that the man he sprayed with pellets on Saturday was not al-Zawahiri but rather Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old millionaire lawyer from Austin, blaming the mix-up on “faulty intelligence.”

“I believed I had credible intelligence that al-Zawahiri had infiltrated my hunting party in disguise with the intent of spraying me with pellets,” Mr. Cheney told reporters. “Only after I shot Harry in the face and he shouted ‘Cheney, you bastard’ did I realize that this intelligence was faulty.”

Next up:


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Bigger Story Missed in Cheney Hunting Accident

That is a mean, sadistic, gun-loving control-freak, who operates secretly (and rejects anybody else's right to do so), and sends people to the hospital is not news. The missed story of Cheney’s hunting party is Pamela Willeford, the U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland, and what she was doing at the private hunting party in Texas.

Why was Ambassador Willeford away from her post in Switzerland and meeting in the U.S. with the V.P.?

On January 13, 2006, the Dallas Morning News reported that the Swiss government is seeking “a warmer relationship with the U.S.”:
Like many Europeans, the Swiss vehemently object to the U.S.-initiated war in Iraq and aspects of the way it's been conducted. President Bush has taken a beating in the Swiss press.

Yet in May, the Swiss government approached the Bush administration seeking to strengthen strategic relations with the United States.

Switzerland has joined two of President Bush's pro-democracy initiatives in the Middle East. The Swiss government wants a formal dialogue on such issues.

The Swiss surprised Washington even more by saying they want a free-trade agreement with the United States – this from a country with tariffs and quotas for cheeses, dairy products and meat that can seem as high as the Alps.

These surprising Swiss overtures have made work a lot more pleasant for Pamela Willeford, the Breckenridge, Texas, native and former vice chair of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board who has been the U.S. ambassador here for the last two years.

"We share the same basic values," she said, but "we've been through some rocky times."

Last month in Washington, colleagues from other European embassies told her they saw a more general thaw developing.

"There's a feeling of, everybody take a deep breath," she said. "OK. We're not going to agree on everything, but we have real issues to work out, and we better find common ground."

The Swiss are moving faster than most, largely for economic reasons.

Switzerland is a tiny country with just 7.5 million inhabitants. (Ms. Willeford laughs as she recalls one wag telling her, "Switzerland would be as big as Texas if it was flattened out.")

Switzerland has a standard of living comparable with that of the United States. Half the economy depends on trade and investment ties with the rest of the world.

Swiss companies have more than $124 billion invested in the United States, and they account for half a million U.S. jobs, with an average annual salary of $64,000, according to data gathered by the Swiss government.

U.S. firms have invested more than $100 billion in Switzerland.

Trade between the two countries is worth more than $21 billion, with U.S. imports running close to $12 billion and U.S. exports worth $9.3 billion. The figures are comparable to U.S. trade with Italy or Spain, which are much larger.

Like many European countries, the Swiss live in an aging society of slowing economic growth. The economy grew by an estimated 1.7 percent last year but might hit 2 percent in 2006.

The Swiss have looked to free trade agreements to give the economy a lift. Although not a member of the European Union, Switzerland has free trade with the rest of Europe. It also has free trade pacts with Mexico, Chile, Singapore and South Korea.

Ms. Willeford knows what the Swiss want from a deal with the United States.

"They're seeking what they can do to stimulate the economy," she said.

The Washington-based Institute for International Economics estimates a free-trade agreement would boost foreign investment in Switzerland by a whopping 40 percent.

The Swiss government acknowledges it would help the watch, textile, chemical and food processing industries, which pay U.S. tariffs averaging 4.5 percent.

What's in it for U.S.?

Gains for the U.S. from a deal are more elusive. The Institute for International Economics estimates U.S. exports would get a boost of $1 billion. U.S. firms could also find Switzerland an even more attractive base within the heart of Europe for onward sales.

The big benefits for U.S. exporters would come from opening Swiss agriculture.

"Not surprisingly, the discussions on agriculture will be the toughest," Ms. Willeford said. "It will boil down to whether we can bridge that gap, and then, can we sell it?"

Congress would have to approve the deal, as would the Swiss parliament. And under the Swiss system, a free-trade agreement would almost certainly go to the voters in a referendum.

U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman is expected to decide in the next couple of months whether there's enough merit to a deal to commence formal negotiations.

"Even if there is no free trade agreement, the dialogue is still very beneficial," Ms. Willeford said.

And surprising.

What could the Swiss possibly offer the Bush-Cheney administration?

Information, perhaps?

Friday, February 10, 2006

RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman admits that Bush & the GOP Can't Protect America Without Destroying the Constitution

First Bush, now Mehlman:

The Republican party can't protect Americans and fight terrorism without eliminating our rights as guaranteed in the Constitution. They are admitting that they can't do it; NOT that it can't be done!

During the 2004 election campaign, Bush made endless promises that only he could be trusted with our security. Bush assured Americans that he would fully fund whatever was necessary to prevent another September 11th. But when it came to actually doing it, Bush gave Americans' tax dollars to his corporate cronies for everything BUT homeland security.

The Department of Homeland Security was shortchanged, government agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other first responder programs around the country were gutted. The holes in the nation's security that were identified (open borders, INS failures, harbor and port security, cargo inspections, nuclear plants, hydro-electric dams, energy plants, food distribution centers, water supply reservoirs, bridges, mass public transit, etc.) all remain in their same vulnerable pre-9/11 condition. Instead, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress created a massive intelligence bureaucracy which, had it been in place prior to September 11th, wouldn't have prevented any attacks on our nation.

September 11th could have been prevented any number of ways, each requiring only that those responsible for doing their job do their job.

Bush and the Republican party have spent the American people's money on everything BUT securing America from terrorist attacks.

And now that we are deeply in debt for generations to come, Bush and Republicans say that the only way that they can protect Americans from terrorist attacks is to disregard the Constitution, remove any or all of our rights, and live under the presumption that we are guilty until or unless we can prove ourselves innocent.

Once our Constitutionally-guaranteed rights are gone, so is the democracy.

This is a knock-it-out-of-the-park issue for Democrats to run on in 2006, yet they are running from it.

The '06 election is one of many "lasts" that humankind is facing, including the last of the Democratic party if we don't get it together, and fast.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Libby says "The Devil made me do it.....again, and again, and again!"

Lewis “Scooter” Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had been "authorized" by his boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other White House "superiors" in the summer of 2003 to disclose classified information to journalists to defend the Bush administration's use of prewar intelligence, according to an article posted today by the National Journal.

Bombs were dropped everywhere in this story:

Libby implicated Bush, plus at least one other "superior" (in addition to Cheney) as having authorized the illegal disclosure of classified intelligence to unauthorized persons (journalists).

This, in itself, is huge. HUGE.

But there's more:

Leaking Plame's identity and a CIA cover agency (Brewster Jennings) wasn't the only time that the Bush administration officials broke the law by leaking highly classified intelligence in their efforts to wage war on Iraq. Before a federal grand jury:
“Libby specifically claimed that in one instance he had been authorized to divulge portions of a then-still highly classified National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons,” Waas writes, according to correspondence recently filed in federal court by special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

“Beyond what was stated in the court paper, say people with firsthand knowledge of the matter, Libby also indicated what he will offer as a broad defense during his upcoming criminal trial: that Vice President Cheney and other senior Bush administration officials had earlier encouraged and authorized him to share classified information with journalists to build public support for going to war. Later, after the war began in 2003, Cheney authorized Libby to release additional classified information, including details of the NIE, to defend the administration's use of prewar intelligence in making the case for war.

Then Joe Wilson surfaced, charging that the Bush administration had misrepresented intelligence in order to make a case for war. All of the leaking to journalists (and members of Congress), of cherry-picked, highly classified intelligence worked only as long as no witnesses (firsthand, eye-) came forward to challenge the Bush administration’s assertions. The Bush administration’s leaking of the same old (now-) discredited intelligence was failing to mesmerize journalists who were finally awakening from their long stupor.

To discredit this current annoyance (Joe Wilson) and regain control over the issue, Libby and other Bush administration officials decided to leak another piece of classified information that would, they hoped, send the journalists into a fevered frenzy, thereby hijacking the news cycle for weeks. The Bush administration believed that if they could get the media to believe that Joe Wilson’s wife played a role in the selection of her husband for the Niger mission, their troubles would be delayed, if not over. Never mind that, 1) it wasn’t true - Valerie Plame didn’t authorize her husband’s trip on behalf of the CIA, and 2) even if it had been true, how would that have changed the facts uncovered during Joe Wilson’s investigation?

Why did the Bush administration officials think that the only way that they could defend themselves against charges of lying to Congress and the American people in order to attack and invade Iraq was to leak the identity of a covert operative in the CIA?

Because they have no defense.

Filed under:

It's Going to Take 21st Century Technology to Convince Them About 21st Century Problems

Hemingway's Kilimanjaro, the snow-capped mountain backdrop for the Serengeti Plain. The highest mountain in Africa at over 19,000 feet tall, and one of the largest free standing mountains in the world. Beautiful, isn't it?

This was Kilimanjaro back in 1975...

And this is Kilimanjaro now. What happened to the snows of Kilimanjaro?

GoogleEarth may just be the ticket for opening the eyes of the most resolute science naysayers. Without leaving the comfort of the seat before their computer screens, they can see for themselves the effects that unregulated capitalism, unrestrained growth, development, and overpopulation is having on the world.

GoogleEarth - it's not just a good thing; it's an amazing thing. (Check out the Forbidden City; the Chinese must be having conniption fits.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Alaska’s “Bridge to Bupkiss” is Back in the News

If you thought that earmark was Q-Tipped™ out of existence, think again.

All of Alaska’s Congressional delegation (Senators Ted Stevens, Lisa Murkowski, her father Frank, who gave up his seat in the U.S. Senate to become Alaska’s governor, so that he could then appoint his daughter to fill his seat in the Senate, Congressman Don Young) along with their family, friends and relatives, all stand to make a bundle from this smokehouse special.

They don’t even bother to try to hide their corruption anymore.

Business As Usual for House Republicans - Delay Taint All Over His Replacement, John Boehner (pronounced BAY-nur)

John Boehner (that's pronounced BAY-nur; Republicans are desperate for you not to forget), newly elected as Tom Delay's replacement as Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, lives in an apartment owned by a lobbyist whose clients have benefitted from legislation overseen or sponsored by Boehner(BAY-nur).

Boehner(BAY-nur) pays $1,600 a month rent for the two-bedroom apartment owned by lobbyist John Milne and his wife, Debra Anderson. While a Boehner(BAY-nur) spokesman said the rental price of the apartment represented a fair market value based on similar rental costs in the area near the U.S. Capitol, others in Congress, like Jean Schmidt, might like to find a similar deal.

Schmidt's one-bedroom unit rents for $1,625 a month, including utilities. Most members of Congress tend to live almost college-style in sparsely furnished apartments or group homes near the Capitol.

Meanwhile, when it comes to differences between Boehner(BAY-nur) and Delay, not so much.

What is it with these people?

Friday, February 03, 2006

New York's Air Quality After 9/11/01: What EPA Administrator Whitman Knew & When She Knew It

"From day one, it was obvious that they were lying to the people of New York when they started saying within two days after the disaster that the air was safe to breathe and the water was safe to drink, before there was any data to indicate it,” Representative Jerrold Nadler said of Thursday‘s decision by a judge to allow a class-action lawsuit against the EPA and (former) EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.

Christine Todd Whitman said it after there was data to indicate it, Congressman Nadler, and in some television news vault is smoking gun videotape proving it. Videotape of a conversation that took place on a New York street between then-EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman and an EPA technician collecting samples around the WTC site. Neither knew that what they were saying was being captured on camera and being broadcast to the world.

It happened on September 14, 2001. The day that President Bush first appeared at ground zero in NYC with a contingent of cabinet secretaries and delivered the "I can hear you, all the world can hear you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear us all soon" speech.

Once the protocol of the President being the first federal government official to survey the scene had been met, current and former congressional leaders poured into New York where they fanned out over lower Manhattan. News organizations sent camera crews to follow their movement as they made their way through the streets leading down to the smoking mass that had been the WTC. They covered all of the different access routes around the WTC, following the mobs that included the politicians surveying the destruction left by the attacks of 9/11/01. Broadcast news organizations set up cameras at various street locations all around the perimeter streets that led into the WTC’s smoldering ruins. It was one of these cameras (I think it was C-Span’s), placed near one of the stationary air monitoring stations that the EPA had established to collect samples in the area, that caught it. The “smoking gun.”

Throughout the coverage of the day’s events, the cameras on these NY side streets in lower Manhattan were left on to capture and broadcast the scene and people moving throughout the area. After interviews with government officials had been conducted, the cameras were left in Live Cam mode, showing people walking around the neighborhood of the tragedy. People would gather around when some Bush administration official or other politician stopped in front of the camera to be interviewed. But as soon as the interview was over and the politician moved on, so did the people who had been watching. The cameras were primarily recording a very eerie silence and desertedness that had settled over the neighborhood around the site.

When Christine Todd Whitman passed by this one particular camera on her way around ground zero and lower Manhattan, she, too, stopped to be interviewed. And it was after this interview that Whitman, unwittingly, had a candid and revealing conversation with one of her employees. As soon as her interview on the street ended, the people on the street who had stopped to watch the interview moved on leaving Whitman alone on the sidewalk. At least in the immediate camera shot it appeared that the street was deserted, save for someone walking past the camera on the other side of the street now and then.

I don’t think that Whitman realized that the camera was still broadcasting once she finished the interview and everyone had dispersed. I think she presumed that they were off the air. So that when one of her employees, a technician collecting and monitoring samples, appeared nearby looking into a monitoring device, Whitman approached him to discuss his findings. She asked what he was picking up on his equipment. I'm paraphrasing here, but he shook his head somberly and said that everything, all of the readings that they were getting, were "off the charts."

Just moments earlier, Whitman had been talking into a television camera and telling the world in a sincere and reassuring tone that the EPA would be working very closely with NYC officials to keep citizens aware of everything they learn, and of the President’s and the EPA’s deep concern and commitment to protecting the health of New Yorkers.

So you can imagine my surprise when Whitman’s response to the EPA technician collecting and monitoring samples around ground zero was to keep those readings to himself and to not tell anyone.

In some television station’s news vault (probably C-Span’s or CNN’s) is a videotape of an interview on 9/14/01 with Christine Todd Whitman. On a street in lower Manhattan. And what she said after the interview, to an employee, when she thought nobody was listening.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bush says, "I can't fight terrorism without tearing up the Constitution."

Overheard at John Cole's Balloon Juice:

tbrosz says:

Does anyone honestly think that Sheehan was just going to sit there quietly in her chair with her anti-war shirt through the whole speech?

Yeah, they should have left her there. Then when she pulled off whatever crackpot thing she had in mind, stand up screaming, throw herself off the balcony, whatever, everyone would see the new face of the Democratic Party.

That's one heckuva parlour game talent tbroz has - reading people's minds and guessing their intent.

By tbroz' reckoning, every time that one of the "Brooks Brothers Rioters" opens his mouth in a government building, he should be arrested for being "disruptive."

But to let tbroz' libel of Cindy Sheehan, as a "screaming crackpot" who would "throw herself off the balcony" stand unchallenged, marginalizes all Americans who demand that this President and our government obey the law.

What separates separated America from totalitarian fascist regimes was that in America, people were arrested, tried, convicted and sent to prison for acts that they actually committed, not for what acts that others believe they might commit. We have come a long way from the founders' America to BushAmerica.

It's real easy to police the country if you remove all constitutional rights from the people, set up cameras and listening posts everywhere, monitor and control their movement. It's easier still if you put the people in prison before they even think about thinking about commiting a crime. Don't think that probably hasn't occurred to the architects behind "The Lazy Presidency of George W. Bush." The Constitutional restraints led them to invent gated communities with privatized police forces, using public resources.

The challenge of America has always been balancing the individual's rights of freedom (of thought, speech, expression, movement) with the overall collective individuals' rights to practice their freedoms in a safe and stable democracy.

George W. Bush is saying that he can't do it. He is saying that the only way that he can try to keep the people and the country safe from terrorist attacks (no guarantees) is to remove Americans' rights as granted in the Constitution.


So when they say "Everything changed on 9/11," and "pre-9/11 versus post-9/11 world," what they really mean is that on September 11, 2001 the American Constitution was destroyed.
GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the Patriot Act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”
“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”
“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush snapped back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”