Thursday, April 27, 2006

Suicide Bombers and the Achillies Heel - Part II

As I talked about yesterday in my last post, there is not a whole lot to understanding the mind of the suicide bomber. We grow up with it in our literature and entertainment.

The only difference is the means to the end and a different view of how a battle is fought.

The notion of a warrior martyr has been parallel in both of our cultures for the majority of history. Today, in the west, we less emphasis on the glory of dying for your country/religion/cause than we have done over most of our history. Muslims today still value that trait as much as our forefathers did.

The differences between a Muslim suicide bomber and our western culture history appear to be wide and glaring. While there are differences, they are found in the minutia, and not in the grand scope of things.

First, who is the enemy? For us, the enemy is an opposing army. Non-combatants are only the enemy in relevance to the effect of damage they can also inflict upon our soldiers. This includes harboring or giving aid to our enemy.

The Muslim suicide bomber sees us all as the enemy, men women and children. In essence, we are all a giant army that they are fighting against.

While the two sides may view the players differently, this is not to say that one side, through the course of history, has given the "innocent" non-combatants more value as human beings. Throughout western history, the glory of battle only came with the killing of other soldiers. Killing non-combatants did not bring you glory. But, non-combatants were also not considered to be of value other than as booty for the victor. The notion of "innocent" non-combatants has had little role in our history. There was no such thing as an "innocent" non-combatant. Most often, the defeated population of non-combatants were either slaughtered wholesale, or sold into slavery to boost the booty the victors collected. While the military objective was to destroy the army, the peripheral objective was also to destroy the non-combatants society. This tool, as used in military means of achieving a goal has even been employed by us throughout our US history. We burned Atlanta and much of the south during the civil war. We fire bombed Dresden and other civilian populations of Germany during WWII. Similarly, we firebombed Japan and dropped two atomic bombs on mainly civilian populations. Since there is no non-combatants to the suicide bomber, we are all the enemy army, glory comes in killing all, not just those in uniform.

The only difference between us and the suicide bomber was that our killing of civilians was not out of malice, but out of military necessity. Killing of civilians was a way of bring about the ends we desired. But, as distasteful as we may have found it, we did it none the less because we found the benefit of such measures outweighed the costs. In the end, we could have brought an end to WWII without attacking civilian populations. This would been at the cost of more American lives, but at the cost of far, far few deaths in total. We traded the lives of 10, 20, 100 civilians for the life of each one of our soldiers. I will not sit here and say it was a wrong or immoral decision. If I were in charge, I would have done the same thing. But it is just further proof that we value the lives of their non-combatants far less than we value the life of our own citizens. The suicide bomber asts out of both malice and necessity.

And while we no longer "enslave" populations, this practice was constructively done through colonialization. "Lesser" concurred people became commodities for the victor. Similarly, after WWI, we did much the same with the Germans. We (the allies) occupied the region close to France on the German side of the border and the people were stripped of all autonomy while Germany paid reparations to the allies.

An additional difference between us and them, is the notion of the army. We see the army as being a cohesive unit in uniform. Our guys were uniforms and there guys wear uniforms. We see the suicide bomber as being an individual actor, and not part of an army structure. The Muslim extremist, on the other hand do see themselves as being part of a larger military structure. They see themselves as being either part of a nationalistic or religious army where no uniform is needed because blending in is part of the means. Just because they do not have a regularized uniform, it is only minutia to them.

lastly, the difference between western culture and the suicide bomber is the notion of a battlefield. We view it as two opposing armies meeting to do battle. The suicide bomber, on the other hand, sees the battle field as shops, restaurants and buses. Since the enemy is everyone, the battle field is everywhere.

Simply put, we have developed a law of war that differs from the Muslim extremist. While the means are different, the goal is the same - to defeat the enemy by force. Needless to say, if the Muslim extremist had a traditional army with armaments, air forces and navies, they would use this over the use of suicide missions. Thoughout Islamic history, the traditional army model has been employed. This was even the case for the Afghanistan's fighting the Russians in the 80's. It is only when the option for such battle is impossible that we have seen the emergence of the suicide attack. The Japanese employed this tactic when they could not confront our forces head on in WWII. The Tamil Tigers of Shri Lanka employed this when they attempts at conventional war failed. And, we see it with the Islamic extremist who cannot compete with our far greater advanced military. Ironically, it is the inability of the Muslim extremist to match our military might that brings out the suicide attacks.

The suicide bomber is something that we will not see an end of any time in the near or distant future. Unfortunately, the tactic works. Terror is a tactic that has been employed by armies, east and west for millennia. It has been part of the arsenal because it works and there is little or no way to change that. While we can disagree with the tactic and find it (rightfully) morally repugnant, separating ourselves wholly from their mentality is an exercise in moral relativism.

Suicide Bombers and the Achillies Heel

This is Part I of a two part piece on the issue of suicide bombing.

There has been a lot of discussion about suicide bombers and not being able to understand the mentality of someone who would kill themselves in a battle or how they could possibly see themselves as just in their actions. You don't have to study the Muslim culture to understand these notions. One only needs to look at the foundations of our own history to understand. While we now go by the motto attributed to Gen. Patton

Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.

It has not always been the case. For millennia, the western soldier has gone into battle knowing that eventual death was a near certainty. The life of a warrior was one of eventual early death but also of glory.

There is a long history of death by war and the glory that death on the battle field brings with it in western society. This goes back to the foundations of western culture, the Greeks. In Homer's Iliad, there is the tail of two warrior heroes among many. The great Achilles, and the Noble Hector. Both knew they would die in battle, yet they still held strong to the "warrior code" that death was better than life in shame.

Achilles was the worlds greatest hero of his time. He was invincible except of one minor flaw. He was vulnerable at one specific point. That point has been of debate. It was not until later writings that the notion of the Achilles heel became his vulnerability. Previous writings point to his pride as his eventual down fall. But what Achilles knew was that if he lived the life of a warrior, he would die on the battlefield. That was foretold in prophecy and was no secret to him.

Achilles, who was sitting out the fight before the death of his (rumored gay lover) Patroclus, is also sitting out the glory that awaits him in battle, but yet certain death. Homer explains through the warrior king that "death waits in many forms" and emphasizes the glory one will achieve by dying in battle.

"Ah my friend, if we could escape this war,
and live forever, without growing old,
if we were ageless, then I'd not fight on
in the foremost ranks, nor would I send you
to those wars where men win glory. But now,
a thousand shapes of fatal death confront us,
which no mortal man can flee from or avoid.
So let's go forward, to give the glory
to another man or win it for ourselves." (12.347)

Homer also contrasts the heroes who die on the battle field to those who die an insignificant death of old age. Since death was certain, securing glory in ones death was most important.

"When a young man dies in war,
lying there murdered by sharp bronze, that's all right.
Though dead, he shows us his nobility.
But when the dogs disfigure shamefully
an old man, chewing his gray head, his beard,
his sexual organs, that's the saddest thing
we wretched mortals see." (22.90)

The warrior fights so that his life might have meaning and the warrior will earn the respect in death that he cannot be granted by growing old.

Patroclus' ghost reiterates Achilles fate if Achilles is to stay and fight, but that does not deter the noble Achilles.

nay, you too Achilles, peer of gods, are doomed to die beneath the wall of the noble Trojans.

Again, Homer delves into the issue of death on the battle field when Nestor comments that Agamemnon and Achilles are lesser warriors than those who have given their life in battle. Those that have died were nobler than those who survived. Martyrdom was the pinnacle of glory.

The other "Warrior Hero" in the Iliad is Hector. Hector fights with all the validity of a true leader and hero until he is confronted by Achilles outside the gates of Troy. After Hector kills Patroclus, Achilles urges Hector to come out and fight like a man. In such a battle, it is undoubtedly that one of the two will die. At that moment, he flees the death that is before him and Achilles chases Hector three times around Troy. Finally, Hector is able to recover his senses and returns to the warrior code and stands, fights, and dies a heroes death at the hands of Achilles. It is better to die as a warrior than to live as a coward. Why does Hector accept almost certain death? Because the thought of his wife and children being enslaved are too much for him to bear. He would rather die fighting, knowing that he has at least attempted to save his family, thus, in Homeric form, dies a heroes death. It is better to fight and die than not fight at all.

For me it would be a great deal better
to meet Achilles man to man, kill him,
and go home, or get killed before the city,
dying in glory. (22.122)

Hector and Achilles are not the only ones who know of their certain death in battle. The Achaean Euchenor is told that he has the choice to either go to Troy and die in battle or stay home and die in old age of sickness. He chooses battle.

Homer not only depicts the value of the warrior martyr, but also describes how King Agamemnon scarifices his own daughter, Iphigenia, to the gods in order for them to bring the winds needed to sail his fleet to Troy. Giving ones own children for a "greater good" (whether we see it that way or not) played a pivitol role in the sacking of Troy. The sacrifice of ones own blood in order to pursue greater goals was necessary and in Agamemnon's mind, acceptable.

Of course glory can only be achieved in the presence of others. Glory cannot be achieved without the acknowledgement of other and being part of a larger group of individuals. Without being part of something bigger, glory is not possible. One must be part of an army or community of soldiers. Otherwise glory cannot be achieved.

Now, contrast this to the suicide bomber. The suicide bomber seeks individual recognition of his sacrifice for the group. Whether he does it solely for the glory of dying a martyr or because he or she believes that it is in the protection of his or her community, the suicide bomber sees themselves as heroic warriors not all that much different than the heroic martyrs of Homer's Iliad. And, the suicide bomber has something that no Greek believed that they ever had to look forward to, a glorious afterlife.

In essence, the same warrior code has played an equal role in both of our societies. If we did not share the same view of warrior martyrdom that the suicide bomber has, we would not be proud of the U.S. soldiers who die in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for us. If we did not give value to the warrior martyr, we would not have war memorials. If we did not share the same views of heroics, we would grant fallen soldiers honors and medals for their ultimate sacrifice. We do not have to accept, nor condone the actions of suicide "martyrs" merely because the mentality has been part of our own history. But the understanding of it can be found in your library in one of our cultures most cherished pieces of literature.

In part two, I will contrast and compare the similarities and differences of the two cultures idea of battle and enemy.

The Iliad

Rove Before the Grand Jury Again

Rove Testified in front of the Federal Grand Jury for the 5th time yesterday, defending his role in outing Valerie Plame. It has been reported that Rove claims it would be silly for him to intentionally mislead the FBI and federal investigators. Misleading people has ever stopped Rove in the past. Why would that claim carry any weight now?

Rove Testifies 5th Time On Leak
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2006; Page A01

White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove sought to convince a federal grand jury yesterday that he did not provide false statements in the CIA leak case, testifying for more than three hours before leaving a federal courthouse unsure whether he would be indicted, according to a source close to the presidential aide.

In his fifth appearance before the grand jury, Rove spent considerable time arguing that it would have been foolish for him to knowingly mislead investigators about his role in the disclosure of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame to the media, the source said. His grand jury appearance, which was kept secret even from Rove's closest White House colleagues until shortly before he went to court yesterday, suggests that prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald remains keenly interested in Rove's role in the case.

(Full Story)

Kennedy Blocking Wind Farm on Cape Cod

Senator Kennedy is being hypocritical in his long time block of a wind mill farm that has been proposed on Cape Cod. Kennedy has been blocking this deal for a long time. I have always suspected that he wants to block it since it would be only 8 miles from the Kennedy compound. He claims that it is not, but there is little doubt that the will of his large Massachusetts contributors who own homes out on the cape, have had a large impact on his dealings.

Cape Cod is a beautiful place, and yes, the wind mills would be an eyesore that would have an effect on the tourism industry, but if we are going to be serious about finding alternative energy sources, it will require sacrifices from all of us (even the rich). Kennedy should stop blocking the deal and start being constructive in helping cure our energy issues.

Kennedy faces fight on Cape Wind
Key lawmakers oppose his bid to block project
By Rick Klein, Globe Staff | April 27, 2006

WASHINGTON -- As record oil prices turn attention to the need for renewable fuels, momentum is building in Congress to buck Senator Edward M. Kennedy's bid to block the proposed Cape Cod wind energy project, potentially reviving efforts to construct the sprawling windmill farm in Nantucket Sound.

The chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee said yesterday that when the bill Kennedy backs that would effectively halt the wind farm comes up for a vote in the Senate, they will object on procedural grounds. They say they'll argue that a renewable energy project shouldn't be lumped in with a bill governing the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, a group of rank-and-file House members, worried about the political ramifications of rejecting alternative energy sources while motorists pay $3 a gallon at the gas station, have persuaded House leaders to sidetrack the entire bill for at least several weeks, even though it was slated for action this week. The delay could give supporters of the wind farm time to make their case to members of Congress.

''Are we going to be for developing alternative energy or not?" said Representative Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican who helped persuade House leaders to table the bill until at least mid-May. ''The longer you delay it, the longer there is for people to examine the issue, and to determine what's going on here."

The efforts to move the wind farm forward occur amid growing attention to Kennedy's role in the secret, behind-the-scenes maneuvering to stop it. Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska, the senator who inserted the wind-farm provision into the Coast Guard bill, has acknowledged discussing the matter privately with the Massachusetts Democrat.

(Full Story)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

50% Right, But Yet 100% Wrong - Continued

In continuing my post from yesterday (50% Right, But Yet 100% Wrong), and how off track Bush is on suspending the Clean Air Act to save a few cents a gallon on gas prices, I wanted to point out the other effects this will have besides the increase in deaths, respiratory problems, and the strain it will put on our health care system.

Bush is also working against the market forces that would increase production of ethanol and other cleaner fuels. One of the issues, among many, that have helped rise the price of gas is the shortage of ethanol to mix with petroleum gas for the summer months. By suspending the Clean Air Act, Bush is undercutting the market forces that would increase production of ethanol and the production of it in a more efficient manner.

By waving the requirements that ethanol be mixed in our gas, you decrease the incentive for new producers to enter the market because the market will not sustain the production of it. Not only does this undercut the market this year, but it will put us in an even worse position next year.

While Bush talks about the need to increase our alternative fuel production, he is actively undercutting our ability to do it. He will be turning a "temporary" fix into a "permanent" problem.

He is not only selling out your short term health, he is also selling out your long term health and long term national security. This makes us more, not less dependant, on oil.

Bush Calls For Probe Of Rising Gas Prices

At the same time, Republicans in Congress have knocked out a provision what would raise the taxes on the record profits by oil companies. Despite GOP rhetoric, nothing is being done.

GOP Blocks Measures Boosting Taxes on Oil Companies' Profits

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

50% Right, But Yet 100% Wrong

Bush took a stab at the rising gas price issue today.

he got part of it right... and part of it wrong...

For the right part, he called on oil companies to use their record profits to research alternative energy source. He also called on congress to rescind the $2 billion in tax breaks that they just gave the oil industry. Here, the president does have it right.

But where he went wrong, he really went wrong. Bush has decided to suspend the national Clean Air Act which requires some areas of the united states to use a cleaner burning ethanol/gas mix in the summer months. The areas that are required by law to use this cleaner burning mix are areas that do not meet the national standard for clean air.

And this is why Bush went so wrong - he is playing politics with you and your family's health. Yes, gas prices are high. And suspending the law is estimated to drop the price of gas no more than 10-20 cents per gallon (depending on the mix levels), and only in the areas where the law requires the mix. He is willing to expose you and your children to un-safe levels of ground level ozone for 10-20 cents a gallon. Around 100 cities nationally are currently not in compliance with the Clean Air Act.

In the summer months, the sun bakes ground level volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and turns them into ground level ozone (also known as smog). The un-safe levels of smog affect your respiratory and circulatory system. It causes heart attacks and emphysema in older people, and causes asthma in younger people. Ground level ozone kills more Americans every year than all terrorist attacks in the history of the United States, Israel, Iraq and Pakistan combined. Just a simple rise of 10 parts per billion is estimated to kill an additional 3800 Americans yearly. If you take ino account the cost of the 160,000 emergancy room visits each summer caused by smog, and the over 6,000,000 asthma attacks it triggers each year, 10 cents a gallon is a bargain.

Areas who did not meet the Clean Air Act standards were required to use the ethanol/gas mix to reduce the amount of harmful smog in cities and urban areas.

So, yes, you may get a little lower gas price, but at the expense of your family's health. You will have to keep your kids in the house on high ozone days, and the only way you will be able to enjoy the gas price savings is by how much less you will have to drive your family to a rural area so they can get outside to play.

Additionally, does anyone think that gas prices are going to be coming down anytime soon... and by soon, I mean ever? Temporary will easily turn into permanent. Geo-political factors affecting the price of gas will not be gone by next summer. China will still need oil. India will still need oil. Iran will still be a pain in our ass. Iraq will still be at sub-par production. And Chavez will still be a socialist.

Suspending the Clean Air Act is only a band-aid that will only infect the wound, and not help it heal. The only real alternative is conservation. So, peal the yellow ribbon off your SUV, slap it on to a fuel efficient car, put in some energy efficient light bulbs in your house, set the air conditioner to 78 instead of 68, and buy a bike.

Personally, I would pay the extra 10 cents a gallon for the pleasure of actually being able to go outside.

Bush takes aim at gasoline prices

Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline

Bush Eases Environmental Rules on Gasoline

What is ground-level ozone?

Asthma, Smog and Your Health

Snow Job - A Bad Idea

Tony Snow, the conservative FOX news commentator and radio host, is currently the front runner for the job of White House press secretary.

While he has charisma, he would be a bad pick for the job. He would be walking into the job with less credibility that Scott McClellan is leaving with. Snow has already proven himself to be a shill that is willing to say whatever is necessary to push the conservative agenda.

On the warrantless wire taps alone, he provided lie after falsehood in defending the Bush administration. He claimed that FISA directly lead to 9/11. He also claimed that FISA courts have already authorized domestic spying.

He claimed that Joe Wilson said that Cheney personally asked Wilson to go to Niger and knowingly lied when he said that Valerie Plame was not covert. He called the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the most humane prison camp ever. Called immigration rights advocates "idiots." He claimed that Kerry blamed the US army for not securing explosives in Iraq when it was actually President Bush who blamed the military. He claims that there is no scientific evidence to support evolution and that ID is as provable as evolution.

Snow would enter the job as a polarizing figure, one that half the country would believe even less that his predecessor.

If Bush were to tap him for the position, it would be another step backwards for the Bush administration and not one forward. And, frankly, for the sake of the country as a whole, we can not afford for this president to sink any further than he already has.

Fox Host Said to Lean to White House Job

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New York Moment

I am in court today and tomorrow, but I just wanted to leave you with a "New York Moment" now that spring is arriving.... Finally...

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

McClellan Out

Scott McClellan is stepping down as white House Press Secretary. This comes as little surprise due to the mounting criticism of everything Bush. McClellan's credibility has been taking a huge beating in the press over the past year. One of the things most important for a press secretary is to have the trust of the journalists. But, that credibility has taken a tumble recently.

There were always the obvious factors. Rosy statements on Iraq and the war on terror, but what really did McClellan in was the whole Valerie Plame scandal. First, he swore up and down that Rove and Libby had absolutely nothing to do with the leaks. He swore up and down that he had talked to both of them and that there was no high ranking official in the Bush Administration connected with the affair.

That, of course, turned out to be false. Whether McClellan knew the truth or not is irrelevant for a White House Press Sec. What matters is that what is coming out of his mouth is true because he is the mouth piece of the president.

Then, came along the news that Bush himself had authorized the cherry picked information from the NIE to be "leaked" to certain journalists before it had become officially declassified. McClellan took another beating for reiterating how "forward" the president had been with the investigation and how "cooperative" the administration was being. Additionally, he was Bush's mouth piece for condemning the exact type of behavior that Bush was engaging in.

There is a certain amount of spin that all Press Secs. are known to engage in. That was not at the heart of the issue. The information was seen to be blatantly misleading, and the trust was lost. Only time will tell if the press corp gives the benefit of the doubt to the next Press Sec. but since the misinformation seems to be coming from the highest levels of the White House, the press corp is unlikely to jump right in bed.

In other news, Rove will be taking less White House responsibilities over the next 6 months so he can spend more time beating his neighbors dog.

McClellan Out as White House Press Secretary

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Nothing Good About Marriage

Coloradans for bigotry... er, I mean Coloradans for marriage, listed all the great things about marriage. If these are all the great things, I am wondering why they are fighting for one man, one woman amendments.

H/T Kos

A Look Inside Corruption

This is a good piece on the inside workings of Jack Abramoff and how he manipulated Congress and the Executive branch with money and perks. Over 200 e-mails have been released documenting how "democracy" works.

What About a Stretch Limo?

Friday, April 14, 2006

More on the GOP Phone Jamming Scandal

This is another Republican scandal that will be playing out over the next 6 months or so. It will be interesting to see where it lands. I don't contend that Bush himself had knowledge of the scheme, but it would not surprise me if there was knowledge by some in the White House, including Ken Mehlman himself.

2002 N.H. Scandal Shadows GOP Anew
By Thomas B. Edsall and David A Fahrenthold
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 14, 2006; A06

A three-year-old political scandal in New Hampshire -- where Republican operatives conspired to jam Democratic get-out-the-vote phone lines on Election Day 2002 -- has suddenly become a national headache for GOP leaders, who are being pressed to explain why one author of the scheme was repeatedly calling the White House.

A Democratic activist group, combing through evidence from a trial last year in which the former New England regional director of the Republican National Committee was convicted, uncovered 22 calls from New Hampshire officials to the White House political office on Nov. 5-6, 2002. During the same time, according to prosecutors, state GOP officials started -- and then frantically sought to stop -- a plan to have a telemarketer bombard the phone banks of Democrats and a local firefighters association that was offering voters rides to the polls.

The nuisance calls were blamed for paralyzing part of the Democratic operation during the first hours of a close-fought Senate race that Republican John E. Sununu eventually won against then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen (D). With the revelation of the calls, a state-level scandal has become a national issue, and a top political hand to President Bush has been pressed for answers.

Ken Mehlman, former director of the White House political office and current chairman of the Republican National Committee is fighting Democratic efforts to force him to testify under oath in a civil suit about the New Hampshire scandal. Mehlman said the calls from James Tobin -- a consultant who in 2002 led the RNC's New England effort -- were for the White House to get the latest information about a close race, which would be unexceptional on election night. He said none of the calls to him or his staff involved the phone-jamming operation.

(Full Story)

More than Just Peaceniks

Six retired generals have joined the ranks of the realists in calling for the ousting of Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

Noting blunder after blunder, the retired generals point to poor leadership and mismanagement from the civilian head of the military (List of Defense secretary's critics gets longer). The latest to speak out, Retired Maj. Gen. John Batiste, spoke on the News Hour last night, listing the ways in which the war has been mishandled. He claims that the word from the field has been ignored time and time again. He also denies that there was been any coordinated plan to oust Rummy. All the generals have come forth on their own volition (Ex-General: Rumsfeld Deserves Criticism).

The generals don't contend that we should have not invaded Iraq. They still believe it was the right call. But they all claim that the prosecution of the war has been hampered since day one by interference and lack of back up from the Pentagon.

Being true to his tenure, Bush is backing the besieged SoD (White House Defends Rumsfeld's Tenure). Firing Rummy would mean that Bush concedes that mistakes have been made, and we all know that he hates to do that. To Bush, Rummy leaving would be the strongest indictment against his failed war planning (Replace Rumsfeld).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

No One Likes A Dick

I wish three strikes and you are out was applied to politicians.

I guess this is what happens when you have a -12% approval rating.

Cheney Tosses First Pitch, Gets Booed

Bush Caught Lying... Again

It is par for the course these days. It would be easier to list the times that Bush told the truth than the times he has lied.

Two days before the President made a public statement claiming that two captured Iraqi trailers were mobile trailers were proof of a bio-weapon program, he was informed that they, in fact, had nothing to do with bio-weapons.

Information released today show that a team of experts from the pentagon examined the "labs" and determined that they had no relation to bio-weapons. They relayed this information to the pentagon on May, 27th, 2003.

On May 29th, 2003, Bush stood in front of the American people and claimed that:

Two small trailers captured by U.S. and Kurdish troops had turned out to be long-sought mobile "biological laboratories." He declared, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."

The claim, repeated by top administration officials for months afterward, was hailed at the time as a vindication of the decision to go to war. But even as Bush spoke, U.S. intelligence officials possessed powerful evidence that it was not true.

While the team was inspecting and dissecting the facilities and determining that while they were not 100% certain of the purpose, only that it had nothing to do with bio-weapons, the CIA at home was already preparing white papers claiming it was the smoking gun.

After the teams return to the US, pentagon officials asked team members if they could "soften" there report, leaving open the possibility that it was a mobile weapons lab. When the team refused, the report was shelved, and the administration continued putting forth false information.

The report itself is still classified. Something tells me that there will be no "leaking" of it to the press even though it would be in the "public interest to know the truth."

Lacking Biolabs, Trailers Carried Case for War

White House Shelved Iraqi Trailers Report

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Even more bad news is coming out on the White House about its dirty tricks department. Even as the White House tries to parse words over its selective leaking of "double-secret, non-secret, kind-of declassified, classified material," news is coming out that the White House may have had a hand or at least knowledge of the phone jamming scheme during the 2002 New Hampshire elections. Three top Republican officials have already been convicted of the scheme and another one is under indictment.

Records show that the top republican operative convicted so far had made 2 dozen calls to the white house in the three days prior to the election, when the plans for the phone jamming were being finalized.

The RNC has been paying for all the legal bills for the indicted and convicted Republicans.

Records in N.H. Case Show White House Ties
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Republican officials describe the two-dozen calls to the White House around Election Day 2002 as normal conversations about a close Senate race in New Hampshire.

Democrats have suggested in a court filing that another subject was discussed: a GOP scheme that jammed phone lines to keep state Democrats from being encouraged to vote.

The phone-jamming operation has led to three federal convictions and a pending indictment. Prosecutors have not raised questions in court about the White House conversations — but records of the calls were available to them as criminal court exhibits.

The records show that Republican campaign operative James Tobin, who recently was convicted in the case, made two dozen calls to the White House within a three-day period around Election Day 2002 — as the jamming operation was finalized, carried out and then abruptly shut down.

The national Republican Party, which paid millions in legal bills to defend Tobin, says it was "preposterous" to suggest the calls involved phone jamming.

Democrats have filed a motion asking a federal judge to order GOP and White House officials to answer questions about the phone jamming. The filing is part of the Democrats' civil lawsuit that alleges Republican voter fraud and seeks monetary damages.

(Full Story)

Death tax vultures

In Bob Novak's Op-Ed today, he describes a new television ad put on by the conservative Free Enterprise Fund which is targeting the estate tax.

Death tax vultures

A graphic new television ad by the conservative Free Enterprise Fund is targeting the two Democratic senators from Arkansas, Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, to support repeal of the estate tax when it comes up for a vote next month.

The ad features live footage of vultures eating away at a dead carcass -- symbolically the government seizing the assets of the dead. It superimposes the heads of pro-estate tax Democratic senators -- Edward M. Kennedy, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Harry Reid -- on the bodies of vultures. It then urges Lincoln and Pryor not to join the vultures.

The American Family Business Institute also will be targeting the Arkansas senators with new ads. Lincoln and Pryor are listed as probable but not certain for repeal in what is expected to be a close vote.

While I applaud the FEF for its creative use of visuals to crate their advertisement, in reality, it is the exact opposite. The vultures are the children of the uberwealthy and the carcass is that of American society.

As I have noted many times in the past, the estate tax only affects the uberwealthy and repeal of it would only benefit the unberwealthy. Only estates of $2,000,000 or more are effected by the estate tax, and only after both spouses are deceased. With a repeal of the estate tax, the children of multimillionaires and multibillionaires would receive the estate tax free. This is money that has never been taxed.

Repeal of the estate tax will only ensure a permanent elitist aristocracy in this country, defeating the notion that this is an egalitarian society where you are as worthy as your own ability, not the abilities of your great-great grandfather. I suppose if you think that Paris Hilton deserves Billions of dollars that have never been taxed, then you should support the repeal. Those of us who don't think that she should be given a free ride on taxes at our expense just because her grandfather was a shrewd businessman, support the estate tax.

The repeal of the estate tax is a slap in the face to every American who actually works for a living.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Stages of Tragedy

It has been interesting to see the process over the past 2 years of Conservatives and their slow progression through the stages of processing a tragedy. The tragedy I am talking about, obviously, is the President of the United States, George Bush.

This whole new episode of "leaker-in-chief" is furthering the process for many. The stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial is where you deny that the president has made any mistakes or lied to you over the course of the presidency. "he never misled us," and "he had a plan."

Anger is when you blame someone else for the tragedy that is GW. "It is all the democrats fault. If they would have just supported the president, there would be no insurgency. If it weren't for, the Iraqis would have greeted us with flowers."

Bargaining is where you accept that there were mistakes, but try to qualify and mollify the mistakes with the actions of others. "Yes, ok, he knew that he was 'parsing words' and misleading us, but Clinton did it too!!!"

Depression is where you just can't take anymore and remove yourself from the news cycle. You avoid the on-line news sources and TV just because you don't want to see any more.

And then acceptance is when you finally accept that Bush is Bush and there is nothing you can do about his reverse Midas touch.

Liberals have to go through the same process. Denial that he is the legitimate president, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I alternate between depression and acceptance. I have accepted that he will be here for the next two years regardless of how I feel about him, and that he will continue to screw things up for the next two years regardless of how much I blog or complain to friends.

My prediction is that Bush will bottom out at 30% approval rating, confirming that three out of every ten Americans will never get past denial and could watch Bush eat a baby on live TV and still think he is the greatest president ever. I, on the other hand, have accepted that we are stuck with the worst president since Taft and there is nothing that I can do about it.

At least Specter seems to be somewhere in the bargaining to depression stage. Where are you in the process?

Friday, April 07, 2006

More Truth About Lies

This article below pretty much says what I see this issue as. No, the president did not break the law by "leaking" the NIE report. But you have to ask several questions.

1) Why was it "declassified" before it was declassified? Why was there a 10 day lag in between the leak, and when it was officially made declassified?

2) Why was it selectively declassified and why only release to "friendly" reporters if it was no big deal if this was not purely a political move?

3) Is the president really that dumb as to have not put 2 and 2 together and known it was Libby who outed Valerie Plame along with the NIE report? And if he is not that dumb, did he actively lie to Fitzgerald when interviewed? Regardless of his authority to declassify intelligence, he does not have the authority to subvert the law and obstruct justice. Nixon didn't, Clinton didn't, and neither does Bush.

4) If he was so disgusted by the leaking of classified intelligence, why did he lie to the American people and claim he knew nothing? He did. That part is obvious. If he had any intent of getting to the bottom of this and disclosing the truth, he could have put this all to bed a long time ago. He could have easily said that he authorized the declassification of intel and that Libby (if true) on his own and without any direction of the president, outed Plame. Instead, he continued to pretend he cared about leaks and continued to pretend he wanted to get to the bottom of this.

This is a fire storm of his own making. He cannot blame the MSM, democrats or liberals. He lied... again! He got caught... again!

We've Found the Leaker in the White House!
It's the president.
By John Dickerson
Posted Thursday, April 6, 2006, at 6:31 PM ET

President Bush has always made his view of leakers perfectly clear. Before, during, and after the Valerie Plame and NSA wiretapping leaks that have bedeviled his presidency, Bush has insisted that leakers thwart the proper functioning of government. In certain cases, they commit "treason." He has described leakers as low-level, frustrated bureaucrats who feed their own egos by passing along juicy tidbits to mangy reporters. As Bush told reporters in December 2001, "somebody in our government wanted to show off to his family or her family in between Christmas and New Year's by leaking information in the press … I don't know why people do that. I guess either to make you [the press] feel good and/or to make themselves feel good." Uriah Heep would have been a leaker.

Now we learn that the president himself is a leaker. We've always known that the commander-in-chief's distaste for leaking didn't stop it from happening (as it has in every administration), but this is the first time we appear to have direct evidence that Bush had his hand on the siphon. Documents filed yesterday by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald report that Scooter Libby told a federal grand jury that President Bush authorized him to leak information from a classified National Intelligence Estimate. Libby testified that Vice President Cheney told him that Bush "specifically had authorized" him to "disclose certain information in the NIE." The leak strategy was part of a larger administration effort to counter claims they had distorted evidence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction during the march to war.

Bush didn't authorize Libby to say anything about Valerie Plame, but when the leader of the free world says go ahead take a joy ride with classified information, can we be surprised that Libby or Karl Rove then went further? In the cut and thrust that surrounded those hectic days in July 2003, when CIA officials were leaking about faulty prewar intelligence, how could White House officials resist going too far once the president himself had diddled with the classification during a fracas?

(Full Story)

As If Things Could Not Get Worse

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez would neither confirm, nor deny the existence of an NSA program that spies purely on domestic-to-domestic communications without a warrant. Further, he defended the possibility that the administration found this practice to be possibly legal. To me, this pretty much confirms that they are doing it now.

You can pretty much forget about the constitution while Bush is in office. To him, it is just a scrap of paper with no meaning. But, then again, can you expect anything different from a man who thinks he was ordained by God to be the president?

Warrantless Wiretaps Possible in U.S.
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 7, 2006; Page A03

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales left open the possibility yesterday that President Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the United States -- a move that would dramatically expand the reach of a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

In response to a question from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales suggested that the administration could decide it was legal to listen in on a domestic call without supervision if it were related to al-Qaeda.

"I'm not going to rule it out," Gonzales said.

In the past, Gonzales and other officials refused to say whether they had the legal authority to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on domestic calls, and have stressed that the NSA eavesdropping program is focused only on international communications.
"The Attorney General's comments today should not be interpreted to suggest the existence or non-existence of a domestic program or whether any such program would be lawful under the existing legal analysis," Scolinos said in a statement.

(Full Story)

The Truth About Lies

It comes as no great surprise to me that Bush had a role in the leaking of information in the National Intelligence Estimate in 2003 to discredit Joe Wilson's allegations that the Bush Administration had misled or flat out lied to the American people.

Nor does it surprise me that Bush covered up his misdeeds with more lies and misinformation over the past 3 years.

Yesterday, it became public information that Scooter Libby directly implicated the President and Vice President as not only knowing about the leak of the NIE estimate, but ordering it done. What Bush did is not per se illegal. But it was unethical without question. The President has the authority to authorize the declassification of classified material. No one disputes that. And, putting aside the fact that he did not follow the established procedures for declassifying information (Bush has never been big on following rules... or the constitution for that matter), the use of classified information for political purposes is just plain wrong.

Libby testified under oath:

"Defendant further testified that he at first advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE. Defendant testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE," the filing further states. "Defendant testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then Counsel to the Vice President, whom defendant considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document. Defendant testified that he thought he brought a brief abstract of the NIE's key judgments to the meeting with Miller on July 8. Defendant understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium. Defendant testified that this July 8th meeting was the only time he recalled in his government experience when he disclosed a document to a reporter that was effectively declassified by virtue of the President's authorization that it be disclosed. Defendant testified that one of the reasons why he met with Miller at a hotel was the fact that he was sharing this information with Miller exclusively."

"Defendant further testified that on July 12, 2003, he was specifically directed by the Vice President to speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson," the court filing states. "Defendant was instructed to provide what was for him an extremely rare "on the record" statement, and to provide "background" and "deep background" statements, and to provide information contained in a document defendant understood to be the cable authored by Mr. Wilson."

Going beyond the obvious implications of Bush directing an administration official to leak the information, there is the cover up. Bush, since the beginning, has held firm that he had no knowledge of this and that he was cooperating fully with the investigation.

"I want to know the truth. I want to see to it that the truth prevails." -- Bush to reporters, Oct. 7, 2003, on determining the identity of the leaker. He also said his staff was cooperating in the investigation.

Not only did he claim that he wanted "truth" to prevail, he railed against those in Washington who leaked information for political gain. But, hypocricy has alwasy been the hallmark of this administration.

Sept. 30, 2003: "Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. … And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of. And so I welcome the investigation. … I have told our administration - people in my administration to be fully cooperative. I want to know the truth. …"

"I mean this is a town full of people who like to leak information," Bush said during a press conference on Oct. 7, 2003. "And I don't know if we're going to find out the senior administration official. Now, this is a large administration, and there's lots of senior officials. I don't have any idea."

All along, the president claimed that he would see that anyone in the administration involved in the leaking of classified information that lead to the outing of a CIA agent, would no longer be working in the White House.

"I would like this to end as quickly as possible. If someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration." -- Bush, July 18, 2005.

Two years ago when Bush was interviewed in the leak investigation, he retained a private attorney. Bush was questioned about any knowledge he had in regards to the leak and who may have authorized such a leak. at that point, Bush claimed he had no knowledge of anyone in his administration involved in any effort to discredit Joe Wilson's allegations, or anyone involved in the leaking of Valerie Plame's name to journalists. After the interview (not under oath) Scott McClellan informed the press:

"He was pleased to do his part to help the investigation move forward. No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States and he has said on more than one occasion that if anyone inside or outside the government has information to help get to the bottom of this, they should help."

"The president was glad to do his part to cooperate with the investigation. The president was pleased to share whatever information he had with the officials in charge and answer their questions." -- White House press secretary Scott McClellan, June 25, 2004

During his 70 minute interview, wouldn't the first thing you would do to "cooperate" with the investigation so the person or persons responsible for the leak, be telling the lead prosecutor that Scooter Libby was directed to leak the information? Wouldn't that be an obvious starting point in an investigation?

"Hey, Fitzy, check out this guy first. We told him to leak some info and that is where Plame's outing may have come from since it all came from the same source"

No, the president did not do this. He not only lied to the investigators, he lied to the American people. It was not hard to put 2 and 2 together. The guy who was directed to leak the NIE was all most certainly the same guy who leaked Plame's name. It does not matter if Bush and Cheney directed Libby to release Valerie Plame's name. They had direct knowledge of who the source most likely was. He lied when he said he had no knowledge. Most likely, Bush broke no laws in releasing the NIE info, even though he did not follow accepted procedures. But that does not mean that he did not break the law by obstructing an investigation. He had both the moral and legal obligation to inform the prosecutor and the public of his administrations role.

Bush has played the "national security" and "I am honest and full of integrity" to get let off on this one. I am tired of being lied too by the leaders of our country. It is time that he and his administration is held accountable for his actions and overt lies. In 2003, Bush set the bench mark for how to deal with this situation. If Bush did have any integrity, he would follow his words and leave the White House, but we all know that will not happen.


White House Reaction to CIA Leak Probe

Bush at Center of Intelligence Leak

Court filing: Bush authorized leak of Iraq intelligence

Experts: Tactic Would Be Legal but Unusual

Bush interviewed in CIA leak probe

Bush on the CIA leak case

Bush's Role in Iraq Arms Intelligence Leak Sparks New Criticism

Wave of Criticism Engulfs Bush Over Leak Case

Bush Authorized Secrets' Release, Libby Testified


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Dubya Fingered in Leak Investigation

It turns out that President Bush and Vice President Cheney really are strong on defense... Defense of their own jobs that is. Screw the troops... Screw National Security... Four more years is all that mattered to Bush and Cheney.

It turns out that Bush himself authorized the leaking of classified information to the media. Didn't he once say that if anyone in the White House was complicit in the leaking of classified information contained in the National Intelligence Estimate that also lead to the leaking of Valerie Plame's name, they would no longer be working in the White House?

Well, Mr. Bush... Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. And remember, canserve energy. Please turn out the lights before leaving.

Papers: Cheney Aide Says Bush OK'd Leak
The Associated Press
Thursday, April 6, 2006; 12:57 PM

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney's former top aide told prosecutors President Bush authorized the leak of sensitive intelligence information about Iraq, according to court papers filed by prosecutors in the CIA leak case.

Before his indictment, I. Lewis Libby testified to the grand jury investigating the CIA leak that Cheney told him to pass on information and that it was Bush who authorized the disclosure, the court papers say. According to the documents, the authorization led to the July 8, 2003, conversation between Libby and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.

(Full Story)

The Pary of Reform... Er... Maybe Not

The Republicans in the House passed campaign finance reform today. The sweeping measures are... well, not so sweeping. Basically, it would be putting us back in the exact same position we were in before McCain-Feingold.

The Republicans put a cap on the amount of money that 527 groups can raise, but took off the cap on the amount of money the national party can spend on elections.

House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) described the bill as "the first piece of the broad GOP lobbying and earmark reform package." Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) declared that the legislation demonstrates that "the Republican Party is the party of reform."

And by party of reform... he means the party of no reform. Not only does this limit 527 groups, whose donations come mainly from individuals, but it puts the major funding of campaigns right back in the hands of special interest groups who are the major contributors to the national parties.

Not only did they not reform campaign finance, they actually regressed us. Instead of making things better for democracy, they just made things worse.

I guess since the polls are not looking too good for them, they have to do anything and everything they can to retain power, even if it is at the detriment of democracy.

Campaign Finance Measure Approved
By Thomas B. Edsall
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 6, 2006; Page A01

The House approved campaign finance legislation last night that would benefit Republicans by placing strict caps on contributions to nonprofit committees that spent heavily in the last election while removing limits on political parties' spending coordinated with candidates.

The bill passed 218 to 209 in a virtual party-line vote.

Lifting party spending limits would aid Republican candidates because the GOP has consistently raised far more money than the Democratic Party. Similarly, barring "527" committees from accepting large unregulated contributions known as "soft money" would disadvantage Democrats, whose candidates received a disproportionate share of the $424 million spent by nonprofit committees in 2003-2004.

The 527 committees, named for a section of the tax law, are tax-exempt organizations that use voter mobilization and issue-based ads to influence federal elections. They grew in importance after the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law barred federal candidates and national parties from accepting unlimited donations from individuals, unions and corporations.

(Full Story)

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

And When The Lamb Broke The Fourth Seal...

My advice - don't eat any of the fish floating in the rivers...

In one of the most shocking moves of the year, Tom DeLay will be resigning from office. After his top former aide plead guilty to influence pedaling out of the former Republican leaders office, the prospects for DeLay's re-election were looking even grimmer.

I can only suspect that there is more to come to incriminate DeLay. While things were looking bad for DeLay, he is not one to give up a fight and he has never been one to give in to political pressure of any sort.

Certainly DeLay stands to gain much in stepping down. He will undoubtedly make 10 times the money he made in office as a lobbyist, doing legally now what he was doing illegally before. He will be able to benefit from the special interest racket that he has helped creat over the last 20 years.

But something tells me there is much more to this story than what we are hearing.

DeLay to Resign From Congress
By Jonathan Weisman and Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, April 4, 2006; 8:06 AM

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), a primary architect of the Republican majority who became one of the most powerful and feared leaders in Washington, said this morning that he will give up his seat rather than face a reelection fight that appears increasingly unwinnable.

In a videotaped message aired this morning on stations in his home district, DeLay said that "the voters in the 22nd District of Texas deserve a campaign about the vital national issues they care most about . . . and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me. So today I am announcing my intention to resign my seat in the House."

The decision came three days after Tony C. Rudy, his former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, telling federal prosecutors of a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay's leadership offices. Rudy's plea agreement did not implicate DeLay in any illegal activities, but by placing the influence-buying efforts of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff directly in DeLay's operation, the former aide may have made an already difficult reelection bid all but out of reach.

DeLay, who will turn 59 on Saturday, did not say precisely when he would step down, but under Texas law he must either die, be convicted of a felony, or move out of his district to be removed from the November ballot. DeLay told Time magazine that he is likely to change his official residence from Sugar Land, Tex., to Alexandria by the end of May. He said he informed President Bush of his decision yesterday afternoon.

(Full Story)

Monday, April 03, 2006

McCain Jumps the Shark

I got to see McCain speak on Meet the Press over the weekend. His appearance there, along with his recent appearance in the straw poll in Tennessee shows me that McCain has jumped the shark and has passed into the oblivion of once respectable politicians.

McCain has become the flip-flopper of the right. Shedding his once maverick and political independent skin, McCain has thrown his lot in with the hard right of his party. Once a person who chastised Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell for their intolerance of all things not evangelical, calling them the extremes of intolerance, McCain has now endorsed their positions of bigotry and intolerance. Falwell, who claims 9/11 was caused by feminists and homosexuals, and Robertson, who thinks Hurricane Katrina was caused by poor lazy black people living off the dole, was once on the opposite side of the Republican fence from McCain. But no longer.

Additionally, McCain has decided to give up the banner of fiscal responsibility that he once carried with pride. In yet another flip-flop, McCain has decided to endorse Bush's tax cuts that are leading to the nations largest deficits ever. McCain once called the tax cuts imprudent. Now he prefers to pander to the party base instead of reality based voters.

McCain, a pro life Republican, but one who respects the notion of freedom of choice is now endorsing the South Dakota ban on all abortion, and is also endorsing a constitutional ban on gay marriage is state courts find that such a legislative ban is unconstitutional because it does not provide for equal protection of every American. He has also decided to endorse the teaching of creationism in the classroom.

Yes, McCain's presidential aspirations have got the better of him. Prior to the past two weeks, he was in a position where he would easily win a general election, but would have a hard time winning the Republican primary. Now, because of his flip-flopping, he has alienated the moderates of his own party, is still held with great reservation by the hard core right, and has now lost the respect and support of many moderate democrats who would have voted for him in a general election.

I think McCain misplayed his hand. There are many non-vocal moderate Republicans who are looking for a candidate who can represent the middle. By running hard to the right, McCain has made himself indistinguishable from the other candidates on the hard right, while giving up his independent, moderate aura that led him to narrowly loose to Bush in 2000. This is a position that he cannot regain easily, if at all.

This is too bad. I would have not minded the old McCain as our president. But the new McCain is a shell of everything that made him worthy of support. He has devolved from being a political independant to a political opportunist. This is why I think McCain has jumped the shark and has written himself out of contention for the 2008 election.

Dems blast McCain for Falwell flip-flop

Prognosis Looks Grim, Doc

McCain Softens Language on Jerry Falwell