Friday, September 29, 2006

No news for the faithful

The incompetence we've all witnessed over the last 5+ years has (again) be confirmed by another Washington insider. Bob Woodward's new book, State of Denial, is due out Monday.

Of course, if you've read any of his previous efforts, you know that he's identified the incompetence we've seen from our leaders -- but strangely, he's never really pointed it out. He's first effort, Plan of Attack, coolly delineated the administration's bungling but couched them in the language of "business as usual".

Mr. Woodward apparently doesn't have the guts he once had -- the guts to point out incompetence.

That <b>may</b> be changing with his latest effort.

Having not read it, I can only go on the review/editorial in the Times. Here are some excerpts from that review that -- while indicative of blatant incompetence -- while never-the-less be meaningless to the faithful:

    Mr. Woodward writes that in the weeks before the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet believed that Mr. Rumsfeld was impeding the effort to develop a coherent strategy to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Mr. Rumsfeld questioned the electronic signals from terrorism suspects that the National Security Agency had been intercepting, wondering whether they might be part of an elaborate deception plan by Al Qaeda.

    On July 10, 2001, the book says, Mr. Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, J. Cofer Black, met with Ms. Rice at the White House to impress upon her the seriousness of the intelligence the agency was collecting about an impending attack. But both men came away from the meeting feeling that Ms. Rice had not taken the warnings seriously.

    The book describes an exchange in early 2003 between Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the retired officer Mr. Bush appointed to administer postwar Iraq, and President Bush and others in the White House situation room. It describes senior war planners as having been thoroughly uninterested in the details of the postwar mission.

    After General Garner finished his PowerPoint presentation which included his plan to use up to 300,000 troops of the Iraqi Army to help secure postwar Iraq, the book says there were no questions from anyone in the situation room, and the president gave him a rousing sendoff.

    But it was General Garner who was soon removed, in favor of Mr. Bremer, whose actions in dismantling the Iraqi army and removing Baathists from office were eventually disparaged within the government.

    ...

    Vice President Cheney is described as a man so determined to find proof that his claim about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was accurate that, in the summer of 2003, his aides were calling the chief weapons inspector, David Kay, with specific satellite coordinates as the sites of possible caches. None resulted in any finds.

The picture Woodward paints would seem to agree with the incompetence we've witnessed. But somehow red-state America will continue to be more concerned about propping up the rhetoric, than effectively dealing with our problems.


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blinded by the Right

I'm in the middle of a religious "discussion" with the nice folks over at jarheadjohn2.blogspot.com. JarHead John posted a short piece <http://jarheadjohn2.blogspot.com/2006/09/religion-of-peace-continues-to-show.html> on the failing of Islam and how it promotes violence.

My point, which elicited a rather self-righteous (an error-filled) response is that until recently, christianity couldn't claim a much better record - in fact, its may be worse. Just a cursory review of the big hitters (the Crusades and the Inquisitions) would give any reader the heebie-jeebies about the christian religion backed by force of law.

However, it appears that self-righteousness and ignorance knows no bounds. I am simply amazed at how people convince themselves that their belief systems are different. More subtlety, some people don't even realize that it's only because they have adopted some enlightened (i.e. - non-faith based positions) that they themselves are not frothing fundamentalists. Even with their reliance on convenient aspects of modernality, they still claim that we need more "faith" to bring the country back on track.

For how else does the modern day Christian get around the edicts of his doctrines than by recognizing that modern ethics, morality and science are more "true" than the word of god?

Case in point, although most Christians haven't even read the text they consider the word of god, some know the Ten Commandments. How do Christians get around the punishments for breaking them? They are fairly clear: most involve stoning the transgressor to death.

Additionally, how does a Christian even explain the 10th commandment - the one that admonishes us to repsect the ownership of our neighbor's slaves?

Even an adolescent-level application of logic tells you that most of the old testament was written by a tribe that used the "god told me to do it" refrain to justify horrible acts of genocide, rape, incest and war... However, these moderates have selectively turned off the reason switch when it comes to matters of faith - they say something like "yeah, there's some bad stuff in the bible and I don't believe it, but the rest is the inspired word of god!"

These same people trust in modern science, engineering and "progress" in general to improve their lives. But when issues of morality and ethics are raised we apparently haven't learned anything since the bronze age.

And here's the problem: we give space to these people and their opinions in the name of "tolerance" when their position is about as rational as the man who stands on the corner telling anyone who'll listen how he was abducted by aliens and that they are coming back next week to give us all a ride around the solar system. Both are nuts... and neither realizes it.

Worse than NO energy policy...

The American public and the administration continue to astound me.

I know we don't tax oil imports: American's would have a fit if we attempted to use oil tax-revenues to address the fact that we buy our energy from some of the most "evil" regimes in the world… Better that all the cash goes to places like Saudi Arabia (where public hangings provide Friday night television entertainment) than into American research institutions...

But guess what we do tax? Renewable and more environmentally friendly ethanol:

    Thanks to pressure from Midwest farmers and agribusinesses, who want to protect the U.S. corn ethanol industry from competition from Brazilian sugar ethanol, we have imposed a stiff tariff to keep it out. We do this even though Brazilian sugar ethanol provides eight times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it, while American corn ethanol provides only 1.3 times the energy of the fossil fuel used to make it. We do this even though sugar ethanol reduces greenhouses gases more than corn ethanol. And we do this even though sugar cane ethanol can easily be grown in poor tropical countries in Africa or the Caribbean, and could actually help alleviate their poverty.

    Yes, you read all this right. We tax imported sugar ethanol, which could finance our poor friends, but we don’t tax imported crude oil, which definitely finances our rich enemies. We’d rather power anti-Americans with our energy purchases than promote antipoverty.

And people wonder why the rest of the world doubts our moral authority. We have neither authority nor morals.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case - New York Times

Canadians Fault U.S. for Its Role in Torture Case - New York Times

Here's what happens when you forget about the rule of law:
A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.

Innocent people, captured and sent off to prisons for months where they are held and beaten.

This is why we supposedly have laws: to give people a chance to prove their innocence.

The commission found that Mr. Arar first came to police attention on Oct. 12, 2001, when he met with Abdullah Almalki, a man already under surveillance by a newly established Mounted Police intelligence unit known as Project A-O Canada. Mr. Arar has said in interviews that the meeting at MangoÂ’s Cafe in Ottawa, and a subsequent 20-minute conversation outside the restaurant, was mostly about finding inexpensive ink jet printer cartridges.

The meeting set off a chain of actions by the police.

Investigators obtained a copy of Mr. ArarÂ’s rental lease. After finding Mr. Almalki listed as an emergency contact, they stepped up their investigation of Mr. Arar.

At the end of that month, the police asked customs officials to include Mr. Arar and his wife on a “terrorist lookout” list, which would subject them to more intensive question when re-entering Canada.

In a free society, governments role in MUST be limited to investigation and prosecution of VIOLATIONS of the law. What right does ANY group of people have (let alone the government that exists to PROTECT our righinvestigatingting someone who has committed no crime.

The government -- this administration -- is more interested in demonstrating that they are tough on "terrorists" than in upholding the law -- so innocent people pay the price.

These criminals must go... not the terrorists, but the criminals in Washington.

Where is the leadership?

Some words from Krugman's editorial that are right on the mark:

The fact is that for all his talk of being a "war president," Mr. Bush has been conspicuously unwilling to ask Americans to make sacrifices on behalf of the cause — even when, in the days after 9/11, the nation longed to be called to a higher purpose. His admirers looked at him and thought they saw Winston Churchill. But instead of offering us blood, toil, tears and sweat, he told us to go shopping and promised tax cuts.

Only now, five years after 9/11, has Mr. Bush finally found some things he wants us to sacrifice. And those things turn out to be our principles and our self-respect.




Thursday, September 14, 2006

Oil Prices poised to drop...

Are oil prices poised to drop?

Future traders, speculators and the like... parasites that add NOTHING to society -- or the market -- yet skim profits off of the people actually producing something (in this case, oil) or consuming it.

Why does this nation so reward Enron-type companies? They add NOTHING.

What does it mean to be an American?

As the drum beat of fear continues, fearless leader is trying to push a bill through congress that relaxes the restrictions on how terror suspects are treated. Apparently, the laws we signed in the mid-90's -- enacted by a Republican Congress, are suddenly too laxed.

As an American, I simply don't understand how any of my fellow citizens can support such ideas: apparently, one set of laws is good for one group of suspects, but for another class, we need to be able to use "harsher" methods. Don't we stand for the rule of law? ... Don't we stand for the concept that all suspects and prisoners of war are entitled to fair and decent treatment? We've always abided by such rules in the past and officially codified their latest incarnation (the Geneva convention) into law about 10 years ago.

Similar rules were in place during WWII -- where we fought an evil that was trying to exterminate an entire race while using its armies to conquer the world

But we see, again, that Republicans are not above even sacrificing our founding principles when there's a chance to earn some "talk-tough" points. Are we that chicken-shit that we change the rules as soon as a real threat to our safety emerges? It would appear that our principles make great talking points but when the rubber hits the road, we prefer "torture" and "guilty until proven innocent"...

Of course, old W would rather have not even brought these issues to the light of day. He'd rather have just continued to do as he pleased in the dark corners of the world.

At least Colin Powell, John McCain and a few others in government are willing to take a stand for these principles.

All Americans want the terrorists stopped and/or brought to justice. But what makes us Americans is that we live by guiding principles. If anyone deserves to be called a flip-flopper -- it's out current crop of leaders.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later, no attacks but focus blurs, unity fades

A concise outline of the events -- and the Bush administration's handing of them -- from 9/11 until today.

read more | digg story

Chief Marine analyst says Al Qaeda controls Anbar

Here's the legacy of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism program: disaster on a global scale. The administration's policies are worse than ignoring the problem of radical islamic terrorism. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld have made the global terror situation WORSE by their bumbling policies... the damage they have done to American credibility as a nation of laws... and their unwitting star role as a recruiting tool for the next generation of islamic terrorists.

As far as Iraq, Rumsfeld is especially to blame -- with his strategy of "use just enough force to lose the peace" ... Instead of the Powell "overwhelming force" doctrine.

Of course, tactics would only be a central issue if the Iraq was was even necessary (or wise) in the first place.

Here's what the people on the ground are saying:

One Army officer summarized it [the report] as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically – and that's where wars are won and lost." The "very pessimistic" statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. "I don't know if it is a shock wave, but it's made people uncomfortable," said a Defense Department official who has read the report. ...

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Yet the reasoned heads that are calling for a redeployment of our forces are the "cowards" ...

No Mr. President: your policies are intellectually and pragmatically bankrupt. The only logical course is to stop sacrificing American lives in an attempt to appear tough. The conflict is only serving as a training ground for Al Qaeda and a rallying cry for radical Islam: in short, the entire effort is a boon too UBL.

And while it may have have been a boon to your political career -- that too is quickly coming to a close.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Senate: No links between Saddam, Iraq and Al Qaeda

It's only taken 3 and a half years, but they've finally got it right...

From the NYTimes:

The Senate Intelligence Committee said today that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein had prewar ties to Al Qaeda and one of the terror organization's most notorious members, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"Saddam only expressed negative sentiments about bin Laden," the former Iraqi foreign minister, Tariq Aziz, told the Federal Bureau of Investigation when he was asked about Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda's leader.

As for the cliché that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Saddam Hussein has told interrogators since his capture in December 2003 that his government had not cooperated with Mr. bin Laden. "He specified that if he wanted to cooperate with the enemies of the U.S., he would have allied with North Korea or China," says a passage in the nearly 400-page report.

Take it as you like: but reason dictates that only 1 of 2 conclusions regarding our administration can be reached given their public utterances: 1- They have and continue to lie about Iraq's ties to terrorism, 2- they are incompetent.

Take your pick -- either way our current leaders would make better Fox news commentators than political leaders.

The intelligence committee report notes that the Central Intelligence Agency concluded that, despite rumors of contacts between two of the Sept. 11 hijackers and members of the Hussein regime, "We have no credible information that Baghdad was complicit in the attacks on the Pentagon or the World Trade Center on 11 September or any other Al Qaeda strike."

So much for "pin the tail on the CIA" -- can you say "cherry picked intelligence?"

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Fascism or Neo-Conservatism

Vice President Wallace on fascism... 1944:

"The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination..."

"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."

Sound familiar?

Fear and Ignorance

Fear.

It’s the currency of the (this) realm. Unfortunately, many Americans mistake fear-mongering as “leadership”. The truth is, trumpeting an enemy couldn’t be further from real leadership.

First of all: yes, there are bad-guys out there. They want to do us harm. But how is our government address this amorphous, globally distributed problem? Are they looking beyond the fact I just stated? Not really.

Maybe we should look at our policies. After all, Osama and the other radical nut-cases out there tell us (as opposed to our leadership) that they don’t hate us for our freedom… they hate us for our policies. While I don’t advocate taking a terrorist at his word, the supposition is worth, at least, some consideration.

So lets look at our foreign policy – in it’s most recent incarnation: the spread of democracy as the panacea for violent extremism.

The president says that democracy is the cure for extremism. He purports that giving people a voice in government will somehow address perceived injustice. Maybe so … but not if the injustice is perceived to come from abroad.

This is the lesson we should have learned in Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt (where “semi-free” elections are likely to bring jihadists to power). Democracy only gives a legitimized voice to issues of (perceived or real) injustice when it comes to the foreign policy of the United States.

Besides, how can anyone – here or abroad – take our stated goals of democratization seriously when our country boasts of strong ties with Saudi Arabia: one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world. Remember: this is a country in which Friday night TV consists of public hangings… where women are forbidden to drive a car… and where limbs are cut off as criminal punishment.

What about Pakistan? Our ally in the war on terror (who just recently agreed to “let bygones be bygones with Osama and his followers). Pakistan is ruled by a military dictator who suppresses the desires of a majority of fundamentalist Islamists who live in that country. He is a dictator who possesses nuclear weapons and who’s chief nuclear scientist SOLD those secrets to N. Korea and Libya.

Our leaders trumpet the threat of Iran. It is a threat. But if a nuclear Iran is a threat, isn’t a country like Pakistan – where the vast majority of its citizens support Usama Bin Laden – an even more likely candidate to pass on nuclear technology to radical Islamists? Especially when you consider they already HAVE nukes?

How do we expect ANY government in the region to take our policies seriously when we obviously have close ties to some of the most repressive regimes in the world? It’s obvious to all – except many Americans – that our policies are completely self-serving. That – in itself – isn’t the problem. It becomes a problem when our leaders stand on a soap box and proclaim that “we’re here to save the world from evil…” that “we’re here to help” while simultaneously dealing with tyrannical leaders from the same neighborhood.

On another note, what about all the disaffected scientists and military folks in the former Soviet Union. Are they likely to sell nuclear material to terrorists to make a quick buck?

On to leadership.

Our own insatiable need to cheap energy created these regimes. As the US moved into the industrial era, our oil-dollars turned places like Saudi Arabia into the states there are today. We’ve had no problem supporting these brutal dictatorships as long as the oil flowed and the dictators stayed in line. We still have no problem with many of them: Even when their societies breed the very types our leaders identify as “the enemies of freedom”.

So what constitutes leadership in such a world? For one, a leader would recognize the situation: he’d recognize that our policies are largely to blame for the situation we find ourselves in. He’d change those policies. A real leader would recognize our dependence on foreign energy sources is perpetuating the problem and would challenge the American people to find a path to energy independence. A leader would implement the policies to put us on that path. A leader would recognize that, with India and China ramping up their economies, that we have to be ready to SELL them the energy technology of the 21st century – not fight it our with them for access to the last remaining oil fields.

But we get none of that… What we get in America is fear… Fear and ignorance.

Even with another election on the horizon, I don’t see much hope for our self-deluded populace.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Back to Religion

What percentage of Christians have actually read the bible?

I'm guessing less than 5%...



Today

"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
--Sinclair Lewis

The most succinct description of today's socio-political climate I have yet run across...