Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Ballad of Dumb George

This is too good to only excerpt. By William Rivers Pitt, from TruthOut.

George W. Bush is a good man, word has it. He's plain-spoken, they say. A regular fella. A good guy to have a beer with, except he supposedly doesn't drink anymore.

I wish, more than anything, that he were drinking. I wish he were drinking all the time. I wish, oh how I wish, that he were stand-up-fall-down-ralphing-down-his-shirt loaded every minute of every day. It would be a comfort, simply because it would explain a great many things. Having a drunk for a president is, after all, a fixable situation. Put him to bed at Camp David for a few weeks and surround him with Secret Service agents. Let his body clean itself out. Problem solved, and really, would anyone actually notice his absence?

I don't believe Bush has gotten off the sauce, if truth be told. I know more than a few boozers who, like George, periodically show up with odd wounds on their faces they got from falling over or running into walls. The injuries that appear on George's mien from time to time can perhaps be explained away - maybe Dick Cheney is stalking the halls with a shotgun loaded with rock salt and blasting anyone, even the boss, who gets in his way - but if "George still drinks" were up on the big board at the MGM Grand sports book, I'd take the bet no matter what the oddsmakers had to say.

Having a drunk for a president is manageable. Having a stone bozo for a president, on the other hand, is a calamity of global proportions.

Let's take a walk through the last few days. George winged off to Russia for trade talks at the G-8 summit, and managed in the course of 100 hours to embarrass himself and our entire country. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is smarter than Bush by several orders of magnitude, insulted George in front of the international press corps with a tight quip about "democracy" in Iraq. No trade deal got done. The whole thing was a humiliating waste of time, captured best by all the photos of Bush and Putin together. In each and every one of them, Putin is looking at George with an expression that somehow conveyed disgust, disdain and awe simultaneously.

Putin's disgust and disdain are easily understood - the poor guy was trapped in a room with our knucklehead president for hours, after all - but the awe requires notice. What, Putin must have thought, is this fool doing running a country?

After that came the much-noted open-mike gaffe, during which George dropped an s-bomb while discussing the Middle East crisis with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The cussing doesn't trouble me - those who know say that John F. Kennedy swore like a sailor whenever he talked shop - but the rest of the scene was like something out of a high school cafeteria. Bush sat there, talking with what looked like seventeen doughnuts stuffed into his gob, while poor Tony tried to discuss matters of life and death.

You have to listen to the audio to get a full grasp of what transpired. It wasn't just the dialogue. It was the tone in Blair's voice. He sounded for all the world like a teacher attempting to explain something to an exceptionally dull student. His tone suggested infinite patience and a touch of true sadness, as if he could not quite believe he was speaking this way to an American president.

"It takes him eight hours to fly home," said George at one point during the open-mike massacre. "Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China." He was, presumably, speaking to someone about Chinese President Hu Jintao's travel requirements, but really now. Huffington Post writer Cenk Uygur captured the unbelievable vapidity of the discourse.

"Russia's big and so is China?" exclaimed Uygur. "This guys sounds like a third grader. Do you know anyone who would have a conversation like this with their neighbor, let alone a business associate, let alone a world leader? Who's proud to know that Russia is big and so is China? If someone is this ignorant, they're usually embarrassed and try not to talk much. But this guy is so dumb he has no idea how dumb he is. This sounds like a conversation you might have with a child, a mentally challenged child. Johnny, do you know how big Russia is? How about China? This would all be unfortunate if George were your dentist, or worse yet, your accountant. But he is the leader of the free world. This man makes life or death decisions every day. If you say you're not scared about that, you're lying."

Then came the pig-roast thing. Newsday described it best: "As Israeli warplanes were preparing an attack on Lebanon Thursday afternoon, and a Lebanese militia was aiming a rocket at the ancient Israeli city of Safed, President George W. Bush was bantering with reporters in Germany about a pig. Bush kept bringing up the roast wild boar he was about to dine on at a banquet that night, even when asked about the swelling crisis in the Middle East, where pig meat is forbidden to religious Jews and Muslims. 'Does it concern you that the Beirut airport has been bombed?' a reporter asked. 'And do you see a risk of triggering a wider war?' 'I thought you were going to ask me about the pig,' Bush replied blithely. Then he brought the pig up again - for the fifth time - before giving a long answer that ended with his saying Israel needed to protect itself."

After this came the moment when George tried to give German Chancellor Angela Merkel a back massage while she was speaking to someone at the summit table. He sidled up behind her and just started rubbing. Merkel's reaction was instantaneous and dramatic: she flinched, flailed her arms up and basically waved the president of the United States away from her. Her reaction would have been no different if Bush had dropped a live catfish down the back of her shirt.

What's next? Will George go to the United Nations, sit on Kofi Annan's head, and fart like some bratty brother tormenting a sibling? Will the cameras catch him playing penny hockey during Middle East peace negotiations? You can't say it'll never happen. It reminds me of the scene from "Caddyshack" where the golfers are hiding in the bushes and betting on whether the Smails kid picks his nose. It is not too farfetched a concept to believe that the other G-8 leaders were doing something very similar while watching Bush.

There were, by my count, no less than twenty different moments in the last few days where George brought shame and disgrace upon this country. He did not do this by being too tough, or too soft, or too strident. He did this simply by being himself. His head is an echo chamber where very stupid bats roost. He has the intellect of a bag of rocks. Maybe it's impolite to say this, but it has to be said.

And yeah, Mr. Uygur, it is really, really scary. I wish the man were a drunk. I'd sleep better, and so would the world.

William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

Congress Should Sue Bush, Says The American Bar Association

From US News & World Report, by Elizabeth Weiss Green:

"George W. Bush did not invent the document known as the presidential signing statement; he inherited it. Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, and even James Monroe, in 1830, authored the statements, which spell out the president's sometimes controversial interpretation of the very law he's signing. But no president has used signing statements quite like Bush.

"Although the president has not issued more statements in total than any other president, he has challenged more than 750 laws in more than 100 signing statements. And he has used them to, in effect, challenge parts of laws, and challenge them more aggressively, than any president before him. Bush's liberal use of those statements first attracted attention in December 2005, when he signed a torture ban—but then added a statement reserving the right not to enforce the ban, alongside his signature. Since then, Congress has held a hearing to investigate Bush's use of the statements, a bipartisan advocacy group has condemned their use, and Democratic Rep. Barney Frank has introduced a bill that would allow Congress to override content in them that contradicts signed legislation."

Official website of the American Bar Association Task Force on Presidential Signing Statements.

This has to be one of more egregious abuses of executive power in which the Bushites have indulged themselves (though the list is long). And we're not gonna let them get away with it!

The Authoritarian Streak in the Conservative Movement

The following is excerpted from John Dean's new book, Conservatives Without Conscience

"Frankly, when I started writing this book I had a difficult time accounting for what had become of conservatism or, for that matter, the Republican Party. I went down a number of dead-end streets looking for answers, before finally discovering a true explanation. My finding, simply stated, is the growing presence of conservative authoritarianism. Conservatism has noticeably evolved from its so-called modern phase (1950-94) into what might be called a postmodern period (1994 to the present), and in doing so it has regressed to its earliest authoritarian roots. Authoritarianism is not well understood and seldom discussed in the context of American government and politics, yet it now constitutes the prevailing thinking and behavior among conservatives.

"Regrettably, empirical studies reveal, however, that authoritarians are frequently enemies of freedom, antidemocratic, antiequality, highly prejudiced, mean-spirited, power hungry, Machiavellian, and amoral. They are also often conservatives without conscience who are capable of plunging this nation into disasters the likes of which we have never known.

"Although I have only recently learned the correct term for describing this type of behavior, and come to understand the implications of such authoritarian thinking, I was familiar with the personality type from my years in the Nixon White House. We had plenty of authoritarians in the Nixon administration, from the president on down. In fact, authoritarian thinking was the principal force behind almost everything that went wrong with Nixon's presidency. I had had little contact with my former colleagues, or with their new authoritarian friends and associates, until the early 1990s, when they decided to attack my wife and me in an effort to rewrite history at our expense. By then I had left public life for a very comfortable and private existence in the world of business, but they forced me back into the public square to defend myself and my wife from their false charges. In returning, I discovered how contemptible and dangerous their brand of "conservatism" had become, and how low they were prepared to stoop for their cause."

Read more here.

Israeli Combatants for Peace

From Democracy Now: Israeli Refusenik

"While a large part of the international community opposes Israel's offensive on Lebanon, polls conducted over the past week have shown that between 90 and 95 percent of Israeli Jews remain in support of Israel's actions, including members of the major Israeli peace parties. Yet as the assault continues into its tenth day, there are also many Israelis who have begun to speak out against their country's policies."

Nuke Iran, Blame the Jews

Paul Craig Roberts calls the U.S. Israel's puppet. He's got it backwards.

Who Benefits from the Israel-Lebanon Flare-Up?

07/24/06 "Information Clearing House" -- -- Members of the Jewish faith and others correctly point out that Jews are often blamed for the sins of others. They may be about to be proven right again, in a big way. The current conflict may escalate to the point where the US will use nuclear weapons against Iran, in what will be the first use of nuclear weapons in war since Nagasaki. And the world will blame it on the Jews.

Israel's hugely disproportionate response to Hezbollah's actions is causing immense suffering, is in blatant violation of the Geneva conventions, and deserves the strongest of condemnations. It is especially important for Jews today to distance themselves from Israel's immoral government policies and US's support for them. Fortunately some are doing this [1], [2], [3], unfortunately, many are not. "Thousands of American Jews clogged the streets" in New York and elsewhere in the US [1], [2], [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8] in support of Israel's actions, reports the Jerusalem Post. Both Houses of the US Congress have just passed solidly backed bipartisan resolutions supporting Israel's actions in Lebanon [1], [2], to "solidify long-term backing of Jewish voters" according to the Washington Post.

The irony is, Israel's war crimes are going to be dwarfed in comparison to the crime against humanity that will take place if the US uses nuclear weapons against Iran. Israel, by its disproportionate reaction and by accusing Iran (without proof) of being behind Hezbollah's actions [1], [2], [3] , [4], will be seen as having played a key role if the conflict escalates to engulf Iran and the United States. Yet the motivation for those that want this to happen [1], [2] is not to ensure Israel's hegemony in the Middle East, rather it is to ensure US hegemony in the world.

-- Jorge Hirsch. Full article here.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Required Reading

From the book description on Amazon.com:

On the afternoon of Election Day 2004, the world was abuzz with the news: Exit polls indicated that John Kerry would win the election and become the next president of the United States. That proved not to be the case.

According to the official count-that is the number of votes tallied, not necessarily the number of votes cast-George W. Bush beat Kerry by a margin of three million votes. The exit polls however had predicted a margin of victory for Kerry of five million votes. In every "battleground" state across the nation the final tally swung clearly beyond the exit poll's margin of error to favor the president.

How can one explain this eight-million-vote discrepancy between the Election Day exit polls and the official count? Either the exit poll data was wrong or the official count was wrong.

Was the 2004 Presidential Election Stolen? analyzes the exit poll data and looks at documented examples of conventional vote suppression and outright vote fraud. It investigates the possibility that enough election fraud occurred to determine the outcome of the presidential race. And it asks the question why neither the government, nor the Democratic Party, nor any major media organization did their own investigation.

Steve Freeman has a PhD in organization studies from MIT's Sloan School of Management. He is a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Organizational Dynamics, where he teaches research methods and survey design (a domain that includes polling). He has received four national awards for best research paper of the year-on four different topics in three different fields.

Joel Bleifuss, a journalist of 23 years, is the editor of In These Times. In his 18 years there, he has had more articles cited as one of the Top Censored Stories of the Year by Project Censored than any other journalist.

And while your at it, don't neglect:

The death of diplomacy

Diplomacy is obviously a dirty word in the Cheney/Rumsfield ... er ... I mean "Bush" administration. First, Colin Powell was successfully muzzled and then marginalized, and then, in a move so craven and cynical that only doughboy Karl Rove could have come up with it, he was replaced by Condoleezza Rice, thereby making it a statement of BOTH racism and sexism to criticize the Secretary of State. Meanwhile, the visibility of the Secretary of State has become even further diminished. In truth the position has become a mere adjunct to the fiefdom of the Secretary of Defense, an executive position occupied by a man that more than half of the military brass would like to see ass-kicked from one end of the Pentagon to the other. And the sad thing is that the rest of the world knows better than to take the meager appearances of Condoleezza Rice seriously. She is no diplomat. Merely the Angel of Death flying Neocon Airlines.

The other "diplomat"of the Bushite Reich is of course interim UN Ambassador
John Bolton. His is the true face of what passes for diplomacy in the "New American Century." A divisive, contemptuous, war-pimping blowhard, Bolton's first mission was to terrorize the vote-recounters in Miami, FL after the 2000 dejection, lest they find out that Al Gore really did win Florida. The specter of Bolton as permanent UN ambassador is suddenly rising again (see here and here). God help us. This creep is yet another preternaturally unbalanced chickenhawk whose red-faced (and in your face) concept of international diplomacy is unending war. Here's Jesse Helms on the man: "John Bolton is the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon, if it should be my lot to be on hand for what is forecast to be the final battle between good and evil in this world."

Uh, wrong side, Jesse.

Blowing the Whistle on Diebold

On July 13, the Pensacola, Fla.-based law firm of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed a “qui tam” lawsuit in U.S. District Court, alleging that Diebold and other electronic voting machine (EVM) companies fraudulently represented to state election boards and the federal government that their products were “unhackable.”

Kennedy claims to have witnesses “centrally located, deep within the corporations,” who will confirm that company officials withheld their knowledge of problems with accuracy, reliability and security of EVMs in order to procure government contracts. Since going into service, many of these machines have been linked to allegations of election fraud.

-- JOHN IRELAND, In These Times. Whole article here or here.

The Price of Fantasy

Paul Krugman reflects on the Neoconservative madness:

07/21/06 "New York Times' -- -- Today we call them neoconservatives, but when the first George Bush was president, those who believed that America could remake the world to its liking with a series of splendid little wars - people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld - were known within the administration as "the crazies." Grown-ups in both parties rejected their vision as a dangerous fantasy.

But in 2000 the Supreme Court delivered the White House to a man who, although he may be 60, doesn't act like a grown-up. The second President Bush obviously confuses swagger with strength, and prefers tough talkers like the crazies to people who actually think things through. He got the chance to implement the crazies' vision after 9/11, which created a climate in which few people in Congress or the news media dared to ask hard questions. And the result is the bloody mess we're now in. This isn't a case of 20-20 hindsight. It was clear from the beginning that the United States didn't have remotely enough troops to carry out the crazies' agenda - and Mr. Bush never asked for a bigger army.

As I wrote back in January 2003, this meant that the "Bush doctrine" of preventive war was, in practice, a plan to "talk trash and carry a small stick." It was obvious even then that the administration was preparing to invade Iraq not because it posed a real threat, but because it looked like a soft target.

The message to North Korea, which really did have an active nuclear program, was clear: "The Bush administration," I wrote, putting myself in Kim Jong Il's shoes, "says you're evil. It won't offer you aid, even if you cancel your nuclear program, because that would be rewarding evil. It won't even promise not to attack you, because it believes it has a mission to destroy evil regimes, whether or not they actually pose any threat to the U.S. But for all its belligerence, the Bush administration seems willing to confront only regimes that are militarily weak." So "the best self-preservation strategy ... is to be dangerous."

With a few modifications, the same logic applies to Iran. And it's easier than ever for Iran to be dangerous, now that U.S. forces are bogged down in Iraq.

Would the current crisis on the Israel-Lebanon border have happened even if the Bush administration had actually concentrated on fighting terrorism, rather than using 9/11 as an excuse to pursue the crazies' agenda? Nobody knows. But it's clear that the United States would have more options, more ability to influence the situation, if Mr. Bush hadn't squandered both the nation's credibility and its military might on his war of choice.

So what happens next?

Few if any of the crazies have the moral courage to admit that they were wrong. Vice President Cheney continues to insist that his two most famous pronouncements about Iraq - his declaration before the invasion that we would be "greeted as liberators" and his assertion a year ago that the insurgency was in its "last throes" - were "basically accurate."

But if the premise of the Bush doctrine was right, why are things going so badly?

The crazies respond by retreating even further into their fantasies of omnipotence. The only problem, they assert, is a lack of will.

Thus William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard, has called for a military strike - an airstrike, since we don't have any spare ground troops - against Iran.

"Yes, there would be repercussions," he wrote in his magazine, "and they would be healthy ones." What would these healthy repercussions be? On Fox News he argued that "the right use of targeted military force" could cause the Iranian people "to reconsider whether they really want to have this regime in power." Oh, boy.

Mr. Kristol is, of course, a pundit rather than a policymaker. But there's every reason to suspect that what Mr. Kristol says in public is what Mr. Cheney says in private.

And what about The Decider himself?

For years the self-proclaimed "war president" basked in the adulation of the crazies. Now they're accusing him of being a wimp. "We have been too weak," writes Mr. Kristol, "and have allowed ourselves to be perceived as weak."

Does Mr. Bush have the maturity to stand up to this kind of pressure? I report, you decide.


Friday, July 21, 2006

More G8 Summit funnies

A link to the infamous Merkel grope by our asshole of a president. Leader of the free world, eh?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Eretz Yisrael

As an ethnic -- though not religious -- Jew, I find myself frequently conflicted about Israel. For one, the very existance of a "Jewish state" bespeaks of a perceived "otherness" by which Jews have been alternately isolated and persecuted for centuries. Zionism in and of itself has sometimes seemed to me a handoff to anti-Semites everywhere, not too far afield from suggesting that all African Americans should be sent "back" to Africa. Yet I have watched with pride as generations of Israelis made the Negev bloom, advancing dryland agriculture with an ingenuity and efficiency unmatched elsewhere in the Middle East, and constructed a parlimentary democracy in region beset by despots and self-appointed royal families.

But something began to change over the last decade or two, as the right wing of Israeli politics rose to power and saw a trump card in the concurrent rise of the Neocon ideologues in American politics. “This society no longer recognizes any boundaries, geographical or moral,” wrote Israeli intellectual and anti-Zionist activist Michel Warschawski in his 2004 book
"Toward an Open Tomb: The Crisis of Israeli Society." Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. In a recent issue of "Counterpunch," she writes:

"Critics of Israel note increasingly that Israel is self-destructing, nearing a catastrophe of its own making. Israeli journalist Gideon Levy talks of a society in 'moral collapse.' Michel Warschawski writes of an 'Israeli madness' and 'insane brutality,' a 'putrefaction' of civilized society, that have set Israel on a suicidal course. He foresees the end of the Zionist enterprise; Israel is a 'gang of hoodlums,' he says, a state 'that makes a mockery of legality and of civil morality. A state run in contempt of justice loses the strength to survive.' As Warschawski notes bitterly, Israel no longer knows any moral boundaries -- if it ever did. Those who continue to support Israel, who make excuses for it as it descends into corruption, have lost their moral compass."

These are strong and heated words, that I find almost distasteful in their abject condemnation of Israeli society. But I can't help thinking of my abiding impression of Israeli youth, a number of whom I have met while traveling in Europe, Australia, Asia and South America. Over half had served in the Israeli military for the prescribed 2 years; a few were draft dodging. All expressed a sense of nearly complete alienation from their government, from Zionist principles, and exhaustion with the endless cycles of war between the descendents of Abraham's two sons. Maybe vagabonding only attracts a certain stripe of young Israeli, and these sentiments were unrepresentative of the mainstream - I don't know. But the acerbic cartoons and acid satire sent to me frequently by several Israeli colleagues well beyond their youth, tells me that still waters of this type must run deep in Israeli society.

Do the Israelis get to see the consequences of their nation's military endeavors? Perhaps not. But even this may be changing.

Surely the Likud-dominated government of Israel believed they had the green light from the Bush administration. And all indications from the White House, and statements by our resident pitbull in the UN, John Bolton, suggest the same. Afterall, do you think the largest receipent of U.S. foreign aid dollars would dare act without American approbation?

Rabbi Michael Lerner writes: "The champions of American global empire are using the latest upsurge of violence in the Middle East to give new life to their discredited plan to extend the war in Iraq to Syria and Iran. The neo-con Weekly Standard has taken the lead in its July 24th cover issue, proclaiming that the current violence is 'Iran's Proxy War' against the West. Bush and his advisors in the neo-con camp see in the current violence yet another opportunity to reframe the Middle East struggle as one that will provide ex post facto justification for the war in Iraq and enticement for new militarist adventures to destabilize or overthrow oppressive regimes in Iran and Syria."

And so, it is Lebanon that must pay for the trespasses of Hezbollah. Lebanon that has aleady been through one dark night of the soul too many. Lebanon, with a democratically elected government and a large, well-educated and cosmopolitan population, many of whom are Christian. And sadly, you know this is exactly the response that Hezbollah wanted to engender fom Israel. These are the people dying by the hundreds, not terrorists.

Watching Hillary Clinton blandly reciting her pop-eyed testament of support for Israel in this dreadful endeavor, literally turned my stomach. Of course, she was hardly alone among the ranks of Democratic politicians to express similar platitudes. So, can we then conclude that this sort of carnage [WARNING: Graphic images depicting the reality and horror of Israel's aggresson in Lebanon] enjoys the support of the junior senator from New York?

And there are some of us, Jews by birth, humans beings by birthright, who say no to this brutality.

Visit Jewish Voice for Peace.

Babbling Bush

There he was, at the G8 summit, stuffing buttered rolls into his face like some hungover frat boy. The full transcript of the famous "open mike" session, via the Washington Post:

Someone, probably an aide, asks Bush something, evidently whether he wants prepared closing remarks for the end of the summit:
BUSH: No. Just gonna make it up. I'm not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.
The camera is focused elsewhere and it is not clear whom Bush is talking to, but possibly Chinese President Hu Jintao, a guest at the summit.
BUSH: Gotta go home. Got something to do tonight. Go to the airport, get on the airplane and go home. How about you? Where are you going? Home?
BUSH: This is your neighborhood. It doesn't take you long to get home. How long does it take you to get home?
Reply is inaudible.
BUSH : "Eight hours? Me too. Russia's a big country and you're a big country."
At this point, the president seems to bring someone else into the conversation.
BUSH: It takes him eight hours to fly home.
He turns his attention to a server.
BUSH: No, Diet Coke, Diet Coke.
He turns back to whomever he was talking with.
BUSH: It takes him eight hours to fly home. Eight hours. Russia's big and so is China.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair approaches.
BUSH: Blair, what are you doing? You leaving?
BLAIR : No, no, no, not yet.
Blair, standing over Bush as the president eats, tries to engage on the stalled global trade negotiations.
BLAIR: On this trade thing . . .
Some of the ensuing conversation is inaudible. Blair evidently wants Bush to make a statement on the talks.
BUSH: If you want me to. I just want some movement. Yesterday, I didn't see much movement. The desire's to move.
BLAIR: No, no there's not. It may be that it's impossible.
BUSH: I'll be glad to say it. Who's introducing me?
BLAIR: Angela. [German Chancellor Angela Merkel ]
BUSH: Tell her to call on me. Tell her to put me on the spot.
Bush then changes the subject, presumably to a gift Blair must have given him for his recent 60th birthday.
BUSH: Thanks for the sweater. Awfully thoughtful of you. I know you picked it out yourself.
BLAIR: Oh, absolutely.
Both of them laugh. Then Bush turns serious, asking Blair about comments apparently made about the Middle East crisis by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, another guest at the summit.
BUSH: What about Kofi? That seems odd. I don't like the sequence of it. His attitude is basically ceasefire and [then] everything else happens. You know what I'm saying?
BLAIR: Yeah. No, I think -- the thing that's really difficult is we can't stop this unless you get this international presence agreed. Now, I know what you guys have talked about but it's the same thing.
The next remarks are i naudible, but the conversation turns to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
BLAIR: . . . see how reliable that is. But you need that done quickly.
BUSH: Yeah, she's going. I think Condi's going to go pretty soon.
BLAIR: Right. Well, that's, that's, that's all that matters. If you -- see, it'll take some time to get out there. But at least it gives people a --
BUSH: A process, I agree. I told her your offer too.
It's unclear what offer he means, but apparently Blair offered to make some sort of public statement.
BLAIR: Well, it's only if it's -- I mean, you know, if she's gotta -- or if she needs the ground prepared, as it were. Obviously, if she goes out, she's got to succeed, as it were, whereas I can just go out and talk.
BUSH: See, the irony is what they need to do is get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit, and it's over.
BLAIR: Who, Syria?
BUSH: Right.
BLAIR: I think this is all part of the same thing. What does he think? He thinks if Lebanon turns out fine, if we get a solution in Israel and Palestine, Iraq goes in the right way, he's [inaudible ] . That's what this whole thing's about. It's the same with Iran.
BUSH: I felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone with Assad and make something happen. We're not blaming Israel. We're not blaming the Lebanese government."
At this point, Blair notices the microphone and turns it off.

A friend told me that Al Gore was interviewed on the Charlie Rose show not too long ago. Gore tried to make the case that to call Bush stupid was to make a grave error in judgement. I think Al was being very charitable.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Aaron Russo redux

Brian Ragle is a progressive blogger who has critically analyzed the main points of Aaron Russo's libertarian scarefilm "America Freedom to Facism," for which I expressed some restrained enthusiasm some weeks ago. Ragle has continued his critique, and I have to admit, I feel somewhat chastened.

"I now hate Aaron Russo for forcing me into the position of defending anything Bush has said or done. However, in the interest of outing one asshole, I am forced to aid another." -- Brian Ragle

Pentagon Reduced to Recruiting Neo-Nazis

"Ten years after a scandal over neo-Nazis in the armed forces, extremists are once again worming their way into a recruit-starved military."
-- by David Holthouse, Intelligence Report, AlterNet July 8, 2006

Here's another article on the same scary situation:

Group says racists joining military

By JOHN KIFNER New York Times
A decade after the Pentagon declared a zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military, according to a watchdog organization.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist Web sites and magazines.

"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator as saying in a report to be posted today on its Web site, www.splcenter.org. "That's a problem."

A Defense Department spokeswoman said officials could not comment because they had not yet seen the report. The center called on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to appoint a task force to study the problem and declare a new zero-tolerance policy.

The report quotes Scott Barfield, a Defense Department investigator, saying, "Recruiters are knowingly allowing neo-Nazis and white supremacists to join the armed forces, and commanders don't remove them from the military even after we positively identify them as extremists or gang members."

Barfield said Army recruiters struggled last year to meet goals.

The Top 10 Power Brokers of the Religious Right

"The United States is home to dozens of Religious Right groups. Many have small budgets and focus on state and local issues; the most powerful organizations conduct nationwide operations, command multi-million-dollar bank accounts and attract millions of followers. They have disproportionate clout in the halls of Congress, the White House and the courts, and they wield enormous influence within the political system."

by Rob Boston, Church and State, AlterNet, July 7, 2006.

All the news that no one prints

"Although President George W. Bush was scheduled to meet with fellows at the Hoover Institution on Friday, the presence of more than 1,000 protestors forced him to change his plans and meet with advisers and faculty members at the residence of former Secretary of State and Hoover Fellow George Shultz on the outskirts of the Stanford campus.

"More than 100 armed law enforcement and Secret Service officers lined the streets outside of Encina Commons, as students, parents, faculty members and local residents protested Bush’s anticipated arrival on east campus. While the protest was peaceful, three Stanford students — seniors Claire Wagenseil, Diogo Pereira and Caroline Martin — were arrested as police pushed the crowd out of Serra Street."
-- Stanford Daily, April 24, 2006, by Amit Arora, full article here.

The first I heard of this was in a recent Paul Craig Roberts column. Now, why is that, you suppose?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Goin' fishin'... ag'in

Yup, heading north. Call it rehearsal for retirement (apologies to P. Ochs). But I got lot's stored up upon which to comment, so maybe, if the motel has a high-speed internet connection ...

If not (since where I'm going the phone doesn't ring), see you in a few.