Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What a day in the republic!





First of all - it was Jack Abramoff's birthday! Happy Birthday, Jack-o. Thanks for helping to bring the Bush putsch down.








And in today's Supreme Court docket: A ruling on disgraced bugman Tom Delay's re-districting of Texas, designed to give the GOP a clear majority, and .... (are you ready?)



Anne Nicole Smith's inheritance.






Just another surreal 24 hours in the empire's lurch towards dissolution.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Myopia

On the surface, the United Arab Emirates, and Dubai in particular, are enlightened, modern, cosmopolitan, high tech wonderlands who promote tourism, free markets, and build expensive housing developments to woo European and American residents.

But there's a dark side.

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery - United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Child Labor and other abuses in the UAE

UAE Talliban, al Qaeda and 9/11 ties (the UAE broke off relations with the Taliban on 9/22/2001)

From the CIA: "the UAE is a drug transshipment point for traffickers given its proximity to Southwest Asian drug producing countries; the UAE's position as a major financial center makes it vulnerable to money laundering; anti-money-laundering controls improving."

Wordplay

Dubya ... Dubai ...

Dubai ... Dubya ...

... hmmmmm

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The farce that is Homeland Security (I thought Republicans want less government?)


Personally, I think this mega bureaucracy is one of the biggest shams perpetrated on the American people since ... well, the 2000 elections. Now, the facts...

A short history of the Department of Homeland Security. From Wikipedia, parts thereof from the DHS website:

On
September 20, 2001, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush announced the establishment of an executive-level Office of Homeland Security (OHS) to coordinate "homeland security" efforts, to be headed by Governor Tom Ridge with the title of Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.This was the 15th Executive Department.

The official announcement stated:
The mission of the Office will be to develop and coordinate the implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to secure the United States from
terrorist threats or attacks. The Office will coordinate the executive branch's efforts to detect, prepare for, prevent, protect against, respond to, and recover from terrorist attacks within the United States.
Ridge took up his duties as OHS director on
October 8, 2001.

In January 2003, the office was superseded, but not replaced by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the White House Homeland Security Council - both of which were created by the Homeland Security Act of 2002. The Homeland Security Council, similar in nature to the National Security Council, retains a policy coordination and advisory role and is led by the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security.

On
November 30, 2004, Ridge announced his resignation. President Bush chose former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik as his successor, but a week later, Kerik withdrew his acceptance, explaining that he had employed an illegal immigrant as a nanny; subsequently, numerous allegations of extramarital affairs and past conflicts of interest surfaced, which would have led to a difficult confirmation battle. On January 11, 2005, President Bush nominated federal judge Michael Chertoff to succeed Ridge. Chertoff was confirmed on February 15, 2005, by a vote of 98–0 in the U.S. Senate. He was sworn in the same day.

Employees:
183,000 (2004)

Annual budgets of the DHS since inception:















How they spend it:


Failures of DHS:

Successes of DHS:

1. Great color scheme!

2. The dude on the left DIDN'T get confirmed.

3. Familiar looking insignia.

The Two USAs

  • There are 37 million Americans living below the poverty line. That figure has increased by five million since President George W. Bush came to power.
  • The United States has 269 billionaires, the highest number in the world.· Almost a quarter of all black Americans live below the poverty line; 22 per cent of Hispanics fall below it. But for whites the figure is just 8.6 per cent.
  • There are 46 million Americans without health insurance.
  • There are 82,000 homeless people in Los Angeles alone.
  • In 2004 the poorest community in America was Pine Ridge Indian reservation. Unemployment is over 80 per cent, 69 per cent of people live in poverty and male life expectancy is 57 years. In the Western hemisphere only Haiti has a lower number.
  • The richest town in America is Rancho Santa Fe in California. Average incomes are more than $100,000 a year; the average house price is $1.7m.

Why We Fight

I watched this excellent film last week in a movie theater, but if you can stand a 2" x 3" view, you can catch it here. My favorite minute? Watch John McCain's expression when he gets a call from the "Vice-president" during his interview.

Is American foreign policy dominated by the idea of military supremacy? Has the military become too important in American life? What are the forces that shape and propel American militarism? This award-winning film provides an inside look at the anatomy of the American war machine.

Uncovered: The Whole Truth About The Iraq War

A film by Robert Greenwald.

An impressive roster of experts is assembled to provide a generally withering commentary on the quality of evidence and possible motivations of the Neo-conservatives who provided the momentum and muscle behind America's venture into preemptive war. Among them are veteran CIA analysts and operatives, military officers, diplomats, politicians, arms inspectors, and U.S. and British government officials. The fig leaf of the possibility of an honest mistake on the matter of WMDs is stripped away; what is left is the stark and disturbing anatomy of deliberate deceit. -Information Clearing House

Watch it now.

U.S. Reclassifies Many Documents in Secret Review

Just in case you missed this on page 26 of your local rag (if it appeared at all):

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 — In a seven-year-old secret program at the National Archives, intelligence agencies have been removing from public access thousands of historical documents that were available for years, including some already published by the State Department and others photocopied years ago by private historians.

"The restoration of classified status to more than 55,000 previously declassified pages began in 1999, when the Central Intelligence Agency and five other agencies objected to what they saw as a hasty release of sensitive information after a 1995 declassification order signed by President Bill Clinton. It accelerated after the Bush administration took office and especially after the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to archives records.

"But because the reclassification program is itself shrouded in secrecy — governed by a still-classified memorandum that prohibits the National Archives even from saying which agencies are involved — it continued virtually without outside notice until December. That was when an intelligence historian, Matthew M. Aid, noticed that dozens of documents he had copied years ago had been withdrawn from the archives' open shelves."

- Scott Shane, NY Times

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Just one (cheap) shot


O.K., I held off as long I could. But this Photoshopped pic of Cheney getting an NRA award was just too precious. That's it. No more.

But I still say he was drunk.

Behind the White House's Billion-Dollar Propaganda Push

"In two years, the Bush administration spent $1.6 billion to paint a prettier picture of its failing policies, even as it cut away the social safety net. "

-- Michelle Chen, The NewStandard

Get the details here.

Now, let's review. Bush, yesterday in Florida:

"And that's what this Republican Party stands for. This Republican Party stands for leadership based upon sound principles."

Such as taxpayer supported progaganda.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The (not so) slow slippery slope towards facism

"Last week’s annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn’t get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.

"Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, who led the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton, reminded the CPAC audience that our first loyalty is to the US Constitution, not to a leader. The question, Barr said, is not one of disloyalty to Bush, but whether America "will remain a nation subject to, and governed by, the rule of law or the whim of men."

"The CPAC audience answered that they preferred to be governed by Bush. According to Dana Milbank, a member of the CPAC audience named Richard Sorcinelli loudly booed Barr, declaring: "I can’t believe I’m in a conservative hall listening to him say Bush is off course trying to defend the United States."

"A woman in the audience told Barr that the Constitution placed Bush above the law and above non-elected federal judges. [Bob Barr, Bane of the Right? by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, February 11, 2006].

"These statements gallop beyond the merely partisan. They express the sentiments of brownshirtism. Our leader uber alles."

-- Paul Craig Roberts 16 Feb 2006

But we're addicted to oil

From Reuters:

ST. LOUIS (Feb. 17) - Greenland's glaciers are dumping twice as much ice into the Atlantic Ocean now as five years ago because glaciers are moving and melting more quickly, researchers said on Thursday.

This could mean oceans will rise even faster than forecast, and rising surface air temperatures appear to be to blame, the researchers report in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

"This change, combined with increased melting, suggests that existing estimates of future sea level rise are too low," Julian Dowdeswell of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Britain's Cambridge University wrote in a commentary.

"At 1.7 million square km [656,000 square miles], up to 3 km [nearly two miles] thick and a little smaller than Mexico, the Greenland Ice Sheet would raise global sea level by about 7 meters [22 feet] if it melted completely."

The study did not explore what is causing the rising air temperatures in Greenland, but most scientists agree that human activity, notably the burning of fossil fuels, is playing an important role in global warming.

Eric Rignot of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology and Pannir Kanagaratnam of the University of Kansas used satellite data to track the movement of Greenland's glaciers, which slide slowly down to the sea and deposit ice.

They calculated that Greenland contributes about 0.02 inch to the annual 0.1 inch rise in global sea levels.

Since 1996, southeast Greenland's outlet glaciers have been flowing more quickly and since 2000 glaciers farther north have also sped up. Rignot and Kanagaratnam found that ice loss due to glacier flow has increased from 12 cubic miles of ice loss per year in 1996 to 36 cubic miles of ice loss per year in 2005.

"It takes a long time to build and melt an ice sheet, but glaciers can react quickly to temperature changes," Rignot said in a statement. He said the models now used to predict how much ice Greenland will lose, and what effect that will have on sea levels, may underestimate the outcome.

Rising air temperatures are clearly a factor, the researchers told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which publishes Science.

Over the last 20 years, the air temperature in southeast Greenland has risen by 5.4 degrees F. Warmer air lubricates the bottoms of glaciers, helping them slide faster. "Climate warming can work in different ways, but generally speaking, if you warm up the ice sheet, the glacier will flow faster," said Rignot.

And it may melt even more quickly in years to come, he added. "The southern half of Greenland is reacting to what we think is climate warming. The northern half is waiting, but I don't think it's going to take long," Rignot said.

The Tax Dodgers

The Bush administration and the goose-stepping Congress are corporate America's wet dream. While the Fortune 500 wrap themselves in the flag and use those tax breaks to fund a few more lobbyists on the Hill, read about their true sense of civic responsibility:

"The Decline in U.S. Corporate Taxes and the Rise in Offshore Tax Haven Abuses
Although the corporate income tax rate is still 35 percent, in reality most corporations pay much less. Through the 1990s and even up until the third quarter of 2001, according to the Commerce Department, the effective tax burden for all U.S. companies, public and private, was around 30%. But from the fourth-quarter of 2001 onward, companies have paid out just 20% of their profits in taxes. For publicly traded companies only, the tax burden appears even lower.
The
sharp decline in corporate taxes in recent years can be measured in a variety of ways. According to the Congressional Budget Office, between 2000 and 2003 overall corporate income taxes colected by the federal government dropped from $207 billion to $132 billion. Although the federal government reports that the number rose to $ 183.8 billion in 2004, that figure still represents just 9.6 percent of total federal revenues, down almost half-way from the 17 percent rate it stood at in 1970.

"The corporate tax rate is also declining by comparison to the size of the economy (i.e. as a percentage of GDP). According to the Congressional Budget Office’s Historical Budget Data, corporate income taxes declined from 4.2 percent of the GDP in 1967 to 1.2 percent in 2003, rising only slightly to 1.6 percent in 2004.

"Many large multinational corporations pay no taxes at all. According to the GAO more than 60% of U.S. controlled corporations with at least $250 million in assets (representing 93 percent of all corporate assets reported to the IRS) reported no federal tax liability each year between 1996 and 2000, while the economy boomed and corporate profits soared. 71% of foreign-based firms operating in the U.S. during that same period paid no U.S. income taxes. According to Citizens for Tax Justice, 82 of 275 top U.S. corporations paid zero taxes between 2001 and 2003, although they earned $102 billion in pre-tax profits. 46 companies with a combined profit of $42.6 billion paid no federal income taxes in 2003 alone. Instead they received rebates totaling $5.4 billion.

"Offshore Shelter Abuses
The rise of corporate tax haven abuses has contributed significantly to the precipitous decline of corporate taxes raised by the U.S. government in recent years particularly when it comes to U.S. multinationals who are able to shift their pretax income offshore. Martin Sullivan, editor of
Tax Notes, reports that U.S. Corporations shifted $75 billion of their taxable profits into tax havens in 2003, depriving the IRS of between $10 billion and $20 billion in expected tax revenues. Sullivan says “the figures provide just one more indication that the U.S. system of taxing international income is nearing a breakdown.” Sullivan, a former Treasury Department economist, based his study on Commerce Department data. (See “Economic Analysis: Profit Shift Out of U.S. Grows, Costing Treasury $10 Billion or More,” Tax Analysts, September 28, 2004)."

There's lot's more where that came from at the Center for Corporate Policy.

Groups That Work Against Corporate Tax Abuses:
U.S. Groups
Citizens for Tax Justice
Citizen Works's Tax Dodgers Page
Taxpayers for Common Sense
Fair Taxes For All
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities
United for a Fair Economy
Outside the U.S./International Groups
Tax Justice Network
New Economics Foundation (UK)
Oxfam Tax Havens page

Lies

Some not-so-random quotes from the President's appearance in Florida to raise money for his party (no doubt paid for by you and me).

"You'll hear them say in Washington, well, we need to balance the budget. And they're right. But then they say, we're going to raise the taxes to balance the budget. I just want to warn you that that's not the way Washington works. It may sound good in the newspapers, but Washington works this way -- if you give them more money they will spend it."

"A tax increase, raising your taxes will mean there is more money to spend in Washington, and this economy isn't going to grow as strong. No, the way to balance the budget is keep pro-growth economic policies in place and be wise about how we spend your money."

"We're getting some things done. One of the commitments this federal government has made is to take care of the elderly. And when we go to Washington, D.C. and the commitment is to take care of the elderly, it seems like to me, we want to make sure we do it in a way that is modern. So we reformed Medicare. And today, seniors are getting modern medicine, thanks to the Republican Party."

"And that's what this Republican Party stands for. This Republican Party stands for leadership based upon sound principles."

I think these fictive sound bites speak for themselves. Delivered, as usual, with only the faithful allowed in to bask in the vacant presence of this charlatan. I can't even tell anymore if the fool believes this tripe or not. The sheep that glowed with adulation in Orlando sure did. This is not my president. At what point will this no longer be my country?

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

An American story

Here is a fascinating hour BBC documentary by Greg Palast that collates the measurable degree of name privledge and chicanery that accompanied the rise of the Bush family in American politics. It is simultaneously the documentation of the (barely) hidden class system that permeates American life. I challenge every right wing sympathizer to watch this film, and then review the values for which you believe the 21st century Republican party stands. This is not America. This is Skull and Bones. This is country club malfeasance. I challenge everyone of you Bush supporters to ask yourself if these are national values for which YOU stand.

"And it's still rolling along..."

A reminder from Howard Zinn:
"The American system is the most ingenious system of control in world history. With a country so rich in natural resources, talent and labor power the system can afford to distribute just enough wealth to just enough people to limit discontent to a troublesome minority. It is a country so powerful, so big, so pleasing to so many of its' citizens that it can afford to give freedom of dissent to the small number who are not pleased. There is no system of control with more openings, apertures, flexibilities, rewards for the chosen. There is none that disperses its control more complexly through the voting system, the work situation, the church, the family, the school, the mass media - none more successful in mollifying opposition with reforms, isolating people from one another, creating patriotic loyalty."-- from 'A People's History of the United States, first published 1981.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pretty much your standard ranch stash

Where are they now?

Mike Nesmith

Then:



















Now:














Mike Nesmith's Video Ranch

(By the way, in case you didn't know, the guy put out some mighty fine records after the Monkees broke up).

Enemies of freedom and democracy

WANTED








For crimes against democracy and high treason.
These are the real architects of the destruction of the American republic.
The one in the Oval Office is just their foil.










Rumsfeld and Cheney Revive Their 70's Terror Playbook
by Thom Hartmann

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Direct and to the point

The song is by Jim's Big Ego (who are way cool); the graphics by filmstripinternational.com. When their lies, their contempt for the American people, and the American people's willingness to be led blythely down the road to facism fills you with an inchoate rage or a paralyzing sorrow - click here for a cathartic moment.

Oh .. if you find the word "asshole" offensive ... watch it anyway.

Friday, February 10, 2006

What they won't do to try and make you scared

Courtesy of the Brad Blog, watch Keith Olbermann and Gerald Posner unravel Bush's ridiculous L.A. "Liberty" Tower terrorist plot. People, this is how stupid the Neocons think you are! Prove them wrong. Drive this Orwellian nightmare out of Foggy Bottom in 2006 and start impeachment proceedings.

Watch the video here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Coming soon to a town near you: it's Gulag, Neocon style

"A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide 'temporary detention and processing capabilities.' The contract -- announced Jan. 24 by the engineering and construction firm KBR -- calls for preparing for 'an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs' in the event of other emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." The release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when."
-- Peter Dale Scott, New America Media via Pacific News service

Read the whole scary thing here.

Halliburtin share price 12/31/2001: $12.13
Halliburtin share price 2/8/2006: $74.55

Grandpa Bush just did business with Nazis.
Grandson Bush seems intent on becoming one.

Albert Gonzales' revisionist view of history

Monday, February 06, 2006

Paper ballots, anyone?

Some interesting poll summaries here about the upcoming 2006 elections. Stay tuned. What may we assume about the electoral process in our nation if these results remain static yet Republicans retain control of the Congress after November?

Ask this man.

"I participated in a hoax on the American people"


"In an interview that aired [on Friday, Feb. 3, 2006] on the PBS weekly newsmagazine NOW, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff Lawrence Wilkerson makes the startling claim that much of Powell's landmark speech to the United Nations laying out the Bush Administration's case for the Iraq war was false.

"'I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council,' says Wilkerson, who helped prepare the address.

"The NOW report, which airs days before the third anniversary of Powell's speech, examines the serious doubts that existed about the key evidence being used by the American government at the very time Powell's speech was being planned and delivered.

"'I recall vividly the Secretary of State walking into my office,' Wilkerson tells NOW. 'He said: "I wonder what will happen if we put half a million troops on the ground in Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and don't find a single weapon of mass destruction?"' In fact, no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq."

-- Press release from PRNewswire

Full text of interview here.

Friday, February 03, 2006

And now, the real state of the union...

"In the wake of George W. Bush’s State of the Union address, the White House and the Republican-led Congress have moved swiftly to implement a series of budget measures that will slash funding for health care and education while allocating vast new sums for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tax cuts for America’s wealthy elite.

"The House of Representatives approved a $39.5 billion five-year budget-cutting package on Wednesday. More than half of the savings has been carved out of funding for Medicare and Medicaid, the principal programs that provide minimal health care coverage to the elderly, poor and disabled.

"On Thursday, Congressional sources reported that the White House was preparing to ask Congress for another $70 billion to pay for the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes on top of $50 billion approved just last December, and brings the total allocated for these military interventions in little over four years to more than $420 billion, the vast majority of it spent on the occupation of Iraq.

"Before the year is out, the administration will seek yet another supplemental appropriation to pay for the military operations in the two countries. It is anticipated that before the end 2006, the cost of these wars will top the $500 billion mark—ten times the amount estimated by the administration prior to the invasion of Iraq."
--
Bill Van Auken

And you know what they call it? "
The Deficit Reduction Act!"

Here's a trenchant analysis from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers.

State of confusion or state of delusion?

Awright, I know I haven't weighed in the Shrub's state of the union address (not that anyone is holding their breath), but, well ... been busy. Mostly I thought it was hilarious, despite the ever-increasing tinge of unreality as the minutes droned on. I mean, we've been hearing much the same horse dooky for the past four years. First, let me direct you to ThinkProgress's great rundown on the unstable fabric of truth that George weaves with the same ease with which Uri Geller used to bend spoons. I couldn't purport to a better job than that. The highpoint for me? Here it is:

courtesy of M.E. Cohen/Humorlink.com

Now, that statement REALLY had the force of conviction! Will Bunch at Attytood even put some new lyrics to the late Robert Palmer's "Addicted To Love." And then check out some of the Bushaholics' comments below the song! As if there was anything substantial in that statement from the man whose VP forged energy policy behind closed doors with the oil industry, whose energy bill gave so many subsidies and tax abatements to Big Oil that their windfall profits will become a new paradigm of corporate welfare.

Now, if 52 minutes of "Stay the course" left you feeling a little depressed, take a look at this "alternative" state of the union address. It's a little dated, but no more than the real thing delivered earlier this week.

Is there a political litmus test at Yahoo?

From "Doonesbury" Sunday Jan. 29, 2006:












I find it interesting that this particular strip is conspicuously absent from "myYahoo's" archive of the past 2 weeks (serviced by www.ucomics.com) but is available if you go directly to ucomics.com. Just an oversight, or another meltdown of high tech corporate integrity?