Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Surfin' through the golden years

I don't want to think about the horrors in Iraq. I don't want to think about the horrors of the Bush administration. I'll grieve, and probably blog, later.

Today, I'm performing a joyful task. A sweet little old lady (older than me, even) has asked me to teach her to use the new computer she was given by a grandchild.

She wants to exchange e-mail, she wants to surf the internet, she wants to see pictures of her soon-to-come great-grandchild on the other coast.

With her joy for life and boundless curiosity for the world around her, the computer will help make this lady's golden years platinum. And it's a joy to set her on the way.

Someone at CNN is cleaning out their desk

How did this get on CNN's website?

A look at Bush's reversals

Still looking for WMD

And they should be; don't get me wrong about that. There should be an international search & destroy effort.

As a side note, it should probably start with Pakistan -
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was aware of Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear black market activities for at least a few years, but political pressures kept him from moving aggressively against Khan until recently, US Under Secretary of State John Bolton says.
Dr. Khan being something of a Arab world hero, it has been difficult for Musharraf to crack down on his little nuclear yard sale without alienating the entire Arab world against his government.

In the meantime, the barn door has been shut (or so we're told) after who-knows-who picked up who-knows-what from Dr. Khan.

Back in Iraq, we're still poking around for WMD -
In prepared testimony, the CIA's new chief Iraq weapons inspector said he does not rule out finding weapons of mass destruction, adding "we regularly receive reports, some quite intriguing and credible, about concealed caches" of weapons.
One gets the impression those reports might read - "not here"....."nope, none under there"....."maybe they're over here".

Former Baathist senior officials - now in American custody - aren't talking. Maybe they don't know anything; maybe there's nothing to know, or maybe they're just not telling.

Hopefully these interrogations go on - but not at the expense of looking elsewhere, too. Iraq is hardly the only playground on the planet, and possibly the most insignificant one.


Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Well, crap

Via Folkbum-

Maureen Dowd
You are Maureen Dowd! You like to give people silly
nicknames and write in really short, non
sequitur paragraphs. You're the most playful of
the columnists and a rock-ribbed liberal, but
are often accused of being too flamboyant and
frivolous. You tend to focus on style over
substance, personality over politics. But your
heart is in the right place. Plus, you are a
total fox.
Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, it could be worse. It could be Babbling Brooks or Hillary Stalker Safire.

But I'll gladly accept the part about being a total fox.

You just can't take him anywhere nice

From the letter White House counsel Alberto Gonzales sent to the Sept. 11 commission -
I would also like to take this occasion to offer an accommodation on another issue on which we have not yet reached an agreement - commission access to the president and vice president. I am authorized to advise you that the president and vice president have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 commissioners, with one commission staff member present to take notes of the session.
Given Our Leader's eloquence, memory, weird sense of humor and syntax, I can't blame Cheney for keeping Dubya on a short leash.

The management of Collective Sigh will be happy to consider any other possible explanations.

FEC seeks to reclassify many non-profits as "political committees"


(All emphases mine)
On March 4, 2004, the FEC voted 5-1 to consider new rules that would have the effect of redefining many nonprofit groups as political committees, thereby forcing these groups to meet vastly more stringent financial and reporting requirements or to forego many of the advocacy and civic engagement activities at the core of their missions. (People For the American Way)
(From MoveOn.org)
Under federal campaign finance laws, federal "political committees" must register and file reports with the FEC and can accept contributions only from individual persons (and other federal committees), and only up to $5,000 per year from any one donor ("hard money"). The FEC is now proposing to redefine "political committee" to include any group that:

1. Spends more than $1,000 this year on nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote activity or on any ad, mailing or phone bank that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate; and

2. Supposedly has a "major purpose" of election of a federal candidate as shown by:

(a) Saying anything in its press releases, materials, website, etc. that might lead regulators to conclude that the group’s "major purpose" is to influence the election of any federal candidate; or

(b) Spending more than $50,000 this year or in any of the last 4 years for any nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote program, or on any public communication that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate.

What’s more, any group that gets turned into a federal "political committee" under these new rules has to shut down all its communications critical of President Bush (or any other federal candidate) until it sets up "federal" and "non-federal" accounts; and raises enough hard money contributions to "repay" the federal account for the amounts spent on all those communications since the beginning of 2003.

These proposed rules would apply to all types of groups: 501(c)(3) charitable organizations, 501(c)(4) advocacy organizations, labor unions, trade associations and non-federal political committees and organizations (so-called "527" groups, as well as state PACs, local political clubs, etc.).

The new rules, including those that apply to voter engagement, cover all types of communications -- not just broadcast TV or radio ads -- but messages in any form, such as print ads, mailings, phone banks, email alerts like this one, websites, leaflets, speeches, posters, tabling, even knocking on doors.

The FEC will hold a public hearing on April 14 & 15. Written comments are due by April 5 if the group wants to testify at that hearing; otherwise, by April 9. The FEC plans to make its final decision on these proposed rules by mid-May and they could go into effect as early as July, right in the middle of the election year, potentially retroactive to January 2003.
It’s clear that these rules would immediately silence thousands of groups, of all types, who have raised questions and criticisms of any kind about the Bush Administration, its record and its policies.

God speaks in mysterious ways

Pissed-off Patricia at Public Domain Progress asks the question -
A mother kills all her kids, claims that God told her to do it, and the American public says, "She's INSANE!" An American President says that God told him to invade a country and to slay its leader. As a result of this invasion, thousands of innocent people are killed along with hundreds of soldiers and the American public says, "This President is such a grand man of God." Did God tell Bush to lie about his reasons for declaring war on Iraq? God seems to be getting a bad rap from his fans. Go figure!"
Me? I think example number one has a serious hormone imbalance. Number two? Just generally unbalanced.

Coming soon to a yard sale near you

Via Pandagon and The Talent Show, fine art from Talking Presidents.com.


I won't put it here. Carefully swallow whatever you're eating, and put down liquids away from the computer.

Just click one of the links. You, too, can purchase it for only $11.99 (plus shipping and handling). Buy three, and the fourth is free!

No word if it comes on black velvet, but I'm betting we'll see it reproduced in that fine medium very soon. Perhaps with a halo or two.

Now I get it....

Wondering why Condi will suddenly testify under oath, in public (with conditions, of course)?

Melanie says -
Translation: Karen Hughes is back.
That makes sense. The dominatrix-discipline lady returns.
Double the fun

The DNC is rolling out their new blog for college students - Smart Ass. Lookin' good!

And speaking of lookin' good, here's today's item -
As part of "Choose or Lose," MTV will broadcast a half-an-hour special tonight on the next President of the United States, John Kerry. In the special, Senator Kerry will take questions and address issues that concern young people. So tonight, at 10:30 EST, turn on the TV to MTV, bring in undecided friends, and have them see why they should join other young Americans in supporting Senator Kerry.

Also, at 11, switch over to Comedy Central for the Daily Show with special guest former Bush counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke. It's going to be a great night of educational TV!

Yep; Texas Two-Step

Conditions for Rice testifying under oath
the Commission must agree in writing that Dr. Rice's testimony before the Commission does not set any precedent for future Commission requests, or requests in any other context, for testimony by a National Security Advisor or any other White House official.

the Commission must agree in writing that it will not request additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice.
And for being nice boys and girls and caving to our demands,
the President and Vice President have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 Commissioners, with one Commission staff member present to take notes of the session.
Holy cow.

White House Said to Agree to Let Rice Testify Publicly

....and under oath.

Sound good?
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice will be allowed to testify in public under oath before the commission investigating the failure to prevent the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an administration official said Tuesday.

The official said the decision is conditioned on the Bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent, said the official speaking on condition of anonymity. It appeared the administration already had such assurances verbally in private and is confident it get them in writing. ((emphasis mine)
Whoa, Nelly - aren't there some other White House critters the 9/11 Commission might want to hear from - under oath?

Sounds like more Texas Two Step to me.

Tuesday doggie blog

Cujo the Killer Chihuahua peeks out from his sentry post.

Iraq war justification #52....or is it 53?

Iraq was invaded 'to protect Israel' - US official
Iraq under Saddam Hussein did not pose a threat to the United States, but it did to Israel, which is one reason why Washington invaded the Arab country, according to a speech made by a member of a top-level White House intelligence group.

Inter Press Service uncovered the remarks by Philip Zelikow, who is now the executive director of the body set up to investigate the terrorist attacks on the US in September 2001 - the 9/11 commission - in which he suggests a prime motive for the invasion just over one year ago was to eliminate a threat to Israel, a staunch US ally in the Middle East.


Zelikow made his statements about "the unstated threat" during his tenure on a highly knowledgeable and well-connected body known as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which reports directly to the president. He served on the board between 2001 and 2003.

"Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat [is] and actually has been since 1990 - it's the threat against Israel," Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on September 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of September 11 and the future of the war on al-Qaeda.

"And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell," said Zelikow.

The statements are the first to surface from a source closely linked to the Bush administration acknowledging that the war, which has so far cost the lives of nearly 600 US troops and thousands of Iraqis, was motivated by Washington's desire to defend the Jewish state.
Winning the hearts and minds of the Arab world again, I see.

The Bush administration wants to have it both ways - woo Muslims, but remain committed to Israel's existence and interests.

Actually, playing it down the middle isn't a bad idea - IF the idea includes working aggressively to bring peace to the region.

Unfortunately, the only Bush "peace" plan for the Middle East appears to be an apocalyptic conflagration, engulfing both sides in death and misery, and pinning hopes on something good coming out of it all.


Monday, March 29, 2004

W.House Looks for Rice Compromise with 9/11 Panel
Under one proposal, Rice's testimony would be released to the public shortly after her appearance, but it was not immediately clear whether this would satisfy members of the bipartisan commission or quell Democrats' demands to hear openly from the key aide to President Bush
"Isn't that nice?", you say. "The White House is learning how to share and play nicely with others."

Well, no.

How long is "shortly"?

Long enough for it to be reviewed by Team Bush, with all appropriate attack and ass-covering points noted? And a few of the stickier points removed for "national security reasons"?

Long enough to give Fox News and their team of ditto-heads a chance to go over it?

The only acceptable "compromise" is for Condi to raise her right hand, in live public testimony, and lie like a dog.

America will expect nothing less. Expecting the truth is a little optimistic at this point.

Attention, John Kerry

Please say this.

The Rove Solution

A comment on the previous post regarding the demonstration at Rove's house (thanks, Brenda!) set the wheels clashing and grinding in my head.

We need to be very concerned about the health and safety of Karl Rove. After all, he's doing such a brilliant job lately of directing Our Leader's campaign; showing the world Richard Clarke is full of bull, and sending out the political troops in such a well-coordinated attack.

But, hold.......according to the Secret Service's Protective Mission Statement, Turd Blossom doesn't qualify for Secret Service protection.

What to do?

The possibilities -

1. Do a little tricksy work on the Constitution (child's play for BushCo), and get Rove highly placed in the order of succession.

2. Gay marriage! Spouses of current or former presidents qualify for S.S. protection. This would involve divorces, but from what I read in the tabloids, Hillary is always on the verge of divorcing The Big Dog. Karl and Bill - now, there's a match made in heaven.

3. Visiting heads of state and their spouses traveling with them are entitled to protection. At the moment, I can't think of any head of state in need of a wife, but an even better alternative might be to get Karl crowned King of Iraq.

4. Major presidential and vice-presidential candidates and their spouses (within 120 days of the election) are qualified for protection. Is Dennis Kucinich considered a major candidate? I hear he's looking for a wife.

I like Number Four; Dennis could make a great statement in support of gay marriage, get himself a wife, and tons of coverage.

Be assured, America! Karl is in good hands.

Demonstrators Swarm Around Rove's Home
Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants.
The Florida Recount: Republican Protesters Surround Gore's Residence

November 25, 2000, Chris Black, CNN Correspondent -
"we have a very noisy crowd of Republican protesters outside the naval observatory, the official residence of Vice President Al Gore. It's a young, very Republican, very conservative, very noisy crowd. They're taking advantage of a day off, this Saturday, to make their voices heard, chanting things like, "Get out of Cheney's house," and "No more Gore".
Payback's a bitch, ain't it?

Stinky proof reading

Part of my job involves proof reading; in fact, I usually have to proof-read my own work, which is the pits. If you've done it, you know where I'm coming from.

So I have to thank Josh Marshall for bringing up something I've been wondering about - who in the White House had the job of reading Richard Clarke's book before releasing it for publication?

That poor soul must have given Bush the line, "Is our children learning?"

As loaded as the book is, you'd think someone in the White House would have flashed a big, neon warning sign......BEWARE!

Either "beware, lots of ass-covering needed". Or "beware - we need to stall publication until after the election". Or maybe someone just didn't read it.

I tend to agree with Marshall; the book was read, but the Bush White House dismissed the idea of anyone challenging Our War Hero President.

There must have been a plan - witness all the political shock troops trotted out to the press. The problem? It was a crappy plan.

Somewhere in the White House, someone is cleaning out his/her desk, and hoping they won't have to move overseas to find a new job.


Sunday, March 28, 2004

Resting in peace

John O'Neill
In August 2001, FBI Deputy Director John O'Neill resigned from his post over George W. Bush's policy on terrorism and Osama bin Laden. Specifically, O'Neill's department was told to "back off" their bin Laden and Al Queda investigations while the Bush administration negotiated with the Taliban. O'Neill became the security chief of the World Trade Center - where he died during the events of 9/11.
From The Counter-Terrorist (The New Yorker, Lawrence Wright, January 14, 2002)
The legend of John P. O'Neill, who lost his life at the World Trade Center on September 11th, begins with a story by Richard A. Clarke, the national coördinator for counter-terrorism in the White House from the first Bush Administration until last year. On a Sunday morning in February, 1995, Clarke went to his office to review intelligence cables that had come in over the weekend. One of the cables reported that Ramzi Yousef, the suspected mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing, two years earlier, had been spotted in Pakistan. Clarke immediately called the F.B.I. A man whose voice was unfamiliar to him answered the phone. "O'Neill," he growled.

"Who are you?" Clarke said.

"I'm John O'Neill," the man replied. "Who the hell are you?"
From this inauspicious beginning sprang the friendship of two comrades-in-arms against al Queda. From that day until his death at the World Trade Center, John O'Neill pursued al Queda relentlessly, working in close accord with Richard Clarke.
In Washington, O'Neill became part of a close-knit group of counter-terrorism experts which formed around Richard Clarke. In the web of federal agencies concerned with terrorism, Clarke was the spider. Everything that touched the web eventually came to his attention. The members of this inner circle, which was known as the Counter-terrorism Security Group (C.S.G.), were drawn mainly from the C.I.A., the National Security Council, and the upper tiers of the Defense Department, the Justice Department, and the State Department. They met every week in the White House Situation Room.


Clarke immediately spotted in O'Neill an obsessiveness about the dangers of terrorism which mirrored his own. "John had the same problems with the bureaucracy that I had," Clarke told me. "Prior to September 11th, a lot of people who were working full time on terrorism thought it was no more than a nuisance. They didn't understand that Al Qaeda was enormously powerful and insidious and that it was not going to stop until it really hurt us. John and some other senior officials knew that. The impatience really grew in us as we dealt with the dolts who didn't understand."


O'Neill never presumed that killing bin Laden alone would be sufficient. In speeches, he identified five tools to combat terrorism: diplomacy, military action, covert operations, economic sanctions, and law enforcement. So far, the tool that had worked most effectively against Al Qaeda was the last one—the slow, difficult work of gathering evidence, getting indictments, hunting down the perpetrators, and gaining convictions.


After the millennium roundup, O'Neill suspected that Al Qaeda had sleeper cells buried in America. "He started pulling the strings in Jordan and in Canada, and in the end they all led back to the United States," Clarke said. "There was a general disbelief in the F.B.I. that Al Qaeda had much of a presence here. It just hadn't sunk through to the organization, beyond O'Neill and Dale Watson"—the assistant director of the counter-terrorism division. Clarke's discussions with O'Neill and Watson over the next few months led to a strategic plan called the Millennium After-Action Review, which specified a number of policy changes designed to root out Al Qaeda cells in the United States. They included increasing the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country; assigning more agents from the Internal Revenue Service and the Immigration and Naturalization Service to monitor the flow of money and personnel; and creating a streamlined process for analyzing information obtained from wiretaps.


In March, 2001, Richard Clarke asked the national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, for a job change; he wanted to concentrate on computer security. "I was told, 'You've got to recommend somebody similar to be your replacement,' " Clarke recalled. "I said, 'Well, there's only one person who would fit that bill.' " For months, Clarke tried to persuade O'Neill to become a candidate as his successor.


Meanwhile, intelligence had been streaming in concerning a likely Al Qaeda attack. "It all came together in the third week in June," Clarke said. "The C.I.A.'s view was that a major terrorist attack was coming in the next several weeks." On July 5th, Clarke summoned all the domestic security agencies—the Federal Aviation Administration, the Coast Guard, Customs, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and the F.B.I.—and told them to increase their security in light of an impending attack.
Clarke's enemies are now hard at work, suggesting his recent revelations are the result of partisan politics, personal profit, or sour grapes.

Whatever his motive, Clarke's testimony before the 9/11 Commission was a fitting memorial to his friend and fellow warrior, John O'Neill.
The best medical care in the world - if you can afford it

I recently had an outpatient bone marrow biopsy at the local hospital. Results negative; no big deal.

It involved one of the medical "procedures" I hate the most - fasting after midnight. Fortunately, I was scheduled very early; but setting me loose on the world without coffee is never a good idea.

The secret reason behind "fasting after midnight" is that the patient will be too groggy to object when the admissions office demands a huge chunk of money before proceeding.

At least the lady who did the interview and took the blood-money was quite nice. She related how another person - 60 years old, at high risk of colorectal cancer - sat in the admissions office the previous day, but left when told the hospital would need one thousand four hundred dollars up-front.

A little googling around suggests the average cost of a colonoscopy is $500-$1000. However, that's JUST the colonoscopy.

There's the doctor bill, the anesthesiologists bill, the pathologists bill, and I wouldn't be too surprised if there was some sort of long-distance telephone surtax involved.

Similar googling of "bone marrow biopsy cost" turned up $260 to $350. We paid the hospital $380 up front, and after all the various bills have come through, have spent just about $1000. That's after our health care insurance covered various bits and pieces.

Republicans are fond of bragging that the United States has the finest medical care in the world. I'm quite proud of that myself. But what good is it if only the wealthy can afford to take advantage of it? And the middle-class has to struggle to pay for it? And the working poor can't afford it all?


Saturday, March 27, 2004

Bush wants cheap high-speed Internet access for all by 2007

Not to mention a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage, a man on Mars, and no athletes on steroids.
President Bush on Friday urged that affordable high-speed Internet access known as broadband be available to all Americans by 2007.

"We ought to have universal, affordable access to broadband technology by the year 2007," Bush said in a speech focusing mostly on homeownership. "And then we ought to make sure that as soon as possible thereafter consumers have plenty of choices..."
We ought to have univeral, affordable healthcare by the year 2007, too; but - you know - that's so not Republican.

In the meantime, I'm not counting on this election year goodie. And I'm sure most of the Bush-backers in these parts are scratching their heads, as most of them don't know "broadband" from "waistband".

I feel so much safer

Homeland Security suspends some hiring
The Department of Homeland Security has temporarily stopped hiring employees for two of its main divisions as it seeks to find out if it is facing a large budget shortfall or simply having problems reconciling the books after the largest government merger in history.


The hold applies to Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has about 40,000 employees, and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has about 20,000.

Both of the organizations have a major presence along the borders and at airports and other ports of entry.
This probably calls for another round of tax cuts.

Psychic tip prompts bomb search on plane

Today the Bush administration announced it's newest weapon in the War on Terror - the Central Registry of Advisor Psychics (CRAP).

Inside sources report Miss Cleo has been offered the new cabinet level position, pending resolution of various legal issues.

Let the subpoenas fly!

His Almighty Arrogance Bill Frist -
"In his appearance before the 9-11 Commission, Mr. Clarke's theatrical apology on behalf of the nation was not his right, his privilege or his responsibility."
You're so right, Bill. Let's round up the bastards that ARE responsible and force them to testify under oath.

Not that testifying under oath would get the truth from this crowd.

Scary positive thinking

Over at Bad Attitudes, Moe Blues asks an intriguing and scary question - "If Bush loses the election, how will his team handle the transition?"

If you need anything else to disturb your sleep, think about that one.

Given the ideologically-selective "intelligence" and skewed world view, perhaps the best service the Bush team could do to the country would be to give no transition briefings at all.


Friday, March 26, 2004

More recent history lessons

Washington Post, March 13, 2003 -

Clarke's resignation
Clarke, 52, reached the peak of his influence under President Bill Clinton, after serving presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush as deputy assistant and assistant secretary of state. The present commander-in-chief is said to like Clarke -- he sent him a warm, handwritten note and invited him to the Oval Office on Feb. 19 for a goodbye chat -- but Clarke's bulldozing style did not fit as well with the quiet consensus that the White House looks for now.


Among friends, Clarke is skeptical that the coming war with Iraq is integral to the war on terrorism, as the White House maintains. He describes it as a diversion of scarce resources and a wedge between Washington and critical allies in destroying al Qaeda. Until late last year, he has said, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would not have been among the top suspects should al Qaeda manage to acquire a weapon of mass destruction. Now, with Hussein's regime on the brink of falling, he will.
Fascinating article - a "must" read.

The Big Dog
"They (the Bush crowd) remind me of teenagers that got their inheritance too soon and couldn’t wait to blow it.”
Nailing it, as usual.
GOP Moves to Declassify Clarke Testimony
Leading congressional Republicans announced plans Friday to seek declassification of 2-year-old testimony from Richard Clarke, hoping to show discrepancies between his recent criticisms of the Bush administration's terrorism policies with flattering statements he made as a White House aide.
If it's that easy to declassify testimony, I see no reason Condi can't step up, raise her right hand, and let it rip.

But back to Clarke. Let's review modern history -

October 7, 2001 - US begins war in Afghanistan

December 6, 2001- Kandahar falls to opposition forces. The interim government was sworn in on December 21, 2001.

July 2002 - Clarke gives first testimony to the 9/11 Commission.

Sept. 12, 2002 - President Bush addressed the UN; challenges UN to strictly enforce resolutions, or USA will act on it's own.

January 2003 - Bush orders largest single ground deployment to the Gulf since the war in 1991.

January 2003 - Richard Clarke resigns.

March 19, 2003 - war begins in Iraq.

Given the time frame, it's easy to see the drumbeat for war in Iraq growing louder and louder after Clarke's 2002 testimony.

I may be forgetting something, but I don't remember Clarke having major problems with the war in Afghanistan or the immediate counter-terrorism steps taken after 9/11.

As the Bush administration relentlessly pursued war with Iraq, Clarke no doubt remembered all the bizarre attempts to connect Saddam with 9/11, and started connecting the dots.

Clarke splits the pre-9/11 blame between administrations. It's only after his 2002 testimony that the situation changes; the neo-con obsession with Iraq becomes reality, and the diversion of assets from Afghanistan to Iraq gets this man seriously, seriously pissed.

It's not in the least bit surprising that his first testimony might contradict the second.

Common sense and saving money

At the moment, Mr. Andante is attempting to start the riding lawn mower; which, for the 25th year in a row, he has left out in the elements over the winter with only a tarp thrown over it and no preventative maintenance done before the non-mowing season.

And for the 25th year in a row, he has had to run to the local hardware store to buy new spark plugs, oil, a couple of new tools he just has to have, and shoot the bull for an hour with the store owner. Thus proving Tim Allen's "Home Improvement" legacy lives on.

Under this care & maintenance program, you might wonder why the mower is still chugging along after 25 years. It's not....this is the third one.

But for the 25th year in a row, I reminded him last November to clean the spark plugs, etc. etc. etc., clean out our little storage building, and shove the mower in it for the winter. Once again, I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness.

For the 25th year in a row, I've concluded men are not from Mars - they are from an alternate dimension altogether. But since I'm arguably the World's Greatest Procrastinator, I don't suppose I can complain. Much.

But when you see a problem....year after year....that can be avoided by a little bit of tweaking, advance planning, and general doing - it makes sense to head off trouble before it lands in your lap.

Don't you wish you had a dime for every time the "experts" (real and imagined) warn us that Medicare is in deep doo-doo and will run out of gas in the immediate future? Don't you wish you had a dime for every solution that is offered - and rejected on ideological grounds?

Krugman nails it -
Sometimes there's no magic in the free market — in fact, it can be a hindrance. Health insurance is one place where government agencies consistently do a better job than private companies. I'll have more to say about this when I write about the general issue of health care reform (soon, I promise!).
And I'll be looking forward to it.

HELLO, unbridled free-marketeers.....doesn't this make sense? Medicare doesn't give it's top executives huge salaries or bonuses and doesn't spend a fortune advertising how wonderful it is to do business with them. Lower overhead, passed on to consumers in lower costs.

Medicare is far from perfect, but try applying for a comparable policy from a private insurer.

(Breaking news.....he just got the mower started)

In the meantime, Bush is probably wondering what went wrong with his big plan to be the Medicare Reform Superhero.

(Mercury News)
The political mess that surrounds the Medicare reform bill is probably not what the president had in mind last summer when he made the bill the domestic centerpiece for his re-election campaign.

Republicans have only themselves to blame for the wreckage.

Every day the president and Congress wait to address the problem is another day that threatens to turn the issue into an even more expensive problem.

First, the president encouraged and Congress passed a bill that did not permit government agencies to buy prescription drugs in bulk, significantly increasing prescription drug costs to Americans.

Then they refused to consider reimportation as a partial solution to bringing down costs.

Finally, the Bush administration misled Congress and the American people about the true cost of the legislation and failed to provide a budget solution.
In essence, the Bush administration seems to have ignored every sensible fix, made it more expensive for taxpayers, and tossed the profits to private health care companies and Big Pharma.

This is a reelection plan? Add more denizens to the alternate universe.

(Breaking news - four flat tires on the mower)


Thursday, March 25, 2004

Forget terrorism; forget Iraq, forget Afghanistan

NY Daily News -
"This guy popped up at the wrong time for us," one Bush counselor complained. "We had [John] Kerry on the run, and now we have to deal with this distraction."

"This guy" was former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, whose charges disrupted Bush's momentum and put the President's handling of 9/11 onto the political table for the first time.

Clarke's accusations go to the core of Bush's main reelection message: that he is the wartime commander-in-chief doing everything he can to keep America safe from terrorists.

The Bushies didn't see it coming because the frosty-haired terror czar's testimony to the 9/11 commission was relatively benign. One aide said the White House was further blindsided because they never expected 9/11 to be politicized.
Say, WHAT? "Never expected 9/11 to be politicized"? These characters definitely live in a different universe.

So now, nothing else matters. The Bush White House is finally, at long last, at "Battle Stations".
At the White House, nailing Clarke is now Job 1.

"We're all on Clarke patrol," said a senior Bush political strategist.

Taking to the air

I can't wait for Air America's first broadcast on March 31! I especially like the title chose for Al Franken's segment (Monday - Friday, noon - 3 p.m.) - The O'Franken Factor.

Lineup here; you can sign up for e-mail updates on the same page.

Link to Air America home page under "Listen Up" on the right.

Let the games begin!
Through the looking glass

January, 2004 - Limbaugh - "Cheney in '08!" Nope. Try "Condi '08!"
The best solution for Republicans in '08, is Condi Rice. She's smart as hell, more than capable of doing the job, defuses the gender issue in the run against Hillary, and defuses the race issue in favor of the Right.
Bush/Rice'04.org - Ensuring American's Future
We invite you to read the informational pages on this site to see why, and decide for yourself. If you then, too, feel that Dr. Rice can help bring about Bush win in 2004, please sign our petition. When we feel the time is right, we will submit it to President Bush, but we will make him aware of it earlier.
...and you might consider buying something from their store.

February 2003 - Security adviser Rice weighs run for governor - Former Stanford provost rules out Senate bid against Boxer in '04
I'm sure she aspires to political office because all of her moves have really led her in that direction," said Barbara O'Connor, professor of political communications at California State University at Sacramento. "She's smart and she's got management experience, certainly as much as anybody who runs for governor. Being (Stanford) provost is like running a large corporation -- and she's been tested and vetted in high circles."
From October 2002 - New York Times columnist offers election, other insights
Listening to William Safire’s speech proved to be much like reading his column: humor and intelligence laced together.

“I’m a registered pundit, which means that I have answers and opinions about everything,” Safire, a renowned New York Times columnist told a Syracuse University audience at 7 p.m. Thursday in a full Hendricks Chapel, as the first lecture in the University Lecture Series. “And if I don’t have an answer or opinion, you’ll see one appear right before your very eyes.”

Safire’s role as a pundit was clear as he stated who he believes the candidates will be for the 2004 presidential election, including Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).

“Hillary (Clinton) won’t run,” Safire said decisively. “She will run in 2008, and her opponent will be Condi Rice. How do you like them apples?”

Safire’s pick for the 2004 election is Al Gore, because after “a successful war” from the Bush administration, a “sloppy economy” will ultimately be their demise.

Tell us how "The Passion" changed YOUR life

The ever-amazing TBogg directs us to this site, which asks us to tell them how seeing Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" changed our lives.
We are in the very final stages of preparing a nationwide television special to air this Easter called, "Changed Lives: Miracles of The Passion." As the name suggests, we are telling the stories of people whom Jesus has forever changed as a result of seeing the film. These visual testimonies give witness to the life-altering power of Christ as presented through this incredible motion picture.

If YOU have a powerful testimony about something life changing that happened to you that would encourage others to see the film-- we need your story!
TBogg really has an excellent suggestion - after all, they DO ask for simple or extreme changes. But since I'm disqualified by gender, I'll try to come up with something else.

How about -

"After seeing "The Passion", I realized it would be blasphemy for me to appear before the 9/11 Commission and testify under oath, because nobody would believe me anyway." - Condi Rice

"After seeing "The Passion", I crawled back into my secure, undisclosed location hoping nobody asks a crowd whether I should live or die." - Dick Cheney

"After seeing "The Passion", I realized even more the godly importance of giving tax cuts to the wealthy so they can make more movies like this." - George Bush

"After seeing "The Passion", I realized the last several years of my life had been wasted by my association with lying lunatics, drunks, and thieves. Thanks to Mel Gibson, I found the courage to resign my position, write a tell-all book, and give sworn testimony before the 9/11 Commission." - Yours truly, Richard Clarke

And of course there's this one - "Brazilian pastor dies watching "Passion of Christ" . I believe that qualifies as an "extreme" change.


The team of Kerry & Dean snagged a perfect "10" for their flawless performance at the United States Pairs Figure Skating Championships earlier today.

With tears of joy in his eyes, Kerry said "It all came together for us when I promised to handle more of the lifting."

Dean agreed, and added, "It also helps when your opponents stumble and run into each other."

The U.S. champs will take on the pair of Bush & Cheney in November, even though Kerry will most likely choose a new partner in the coming months.

The Bush/Cheney team has reportedly already offered numerous bribes to the judges, including more tax cuts, school prayer, eliminating abortion and gay marriages, and - to a select few - hunting trips and slumber parties in the White House.

Kerry remains upbeat. "If enough of our fans show up it will be difficult for the judges to pull a fast one like they did four years ago," he said.

Supreme Court to consider Pledge
The Supreme Court said Tuesday it will decide whether the Pledge of Allegiance, which has been recited in public schools for decades, is an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion because it contains the phrase "under God."
I really don't have an opinion on this case. "Under God" doesn't offend me, nor does it thrill my soul.

Instead, I suppose we could ask "What Would God Do?"

I agree wholeheartedly with Tom Burka -
"I'd really rather not be bothered," God said. "I'm very busy, and, while I try, in my infinite omniscience, to listen to every girl and boy in America, the pledge is really just a mindless recitation that muddies up the Holy airwaves with empty, patriotic static."

Caution - Republicans turning the debate

It's pretty clear that both the Bush and Clinton administrations could have done more on the counterterrorism front. Whether or not it could have prevented 9/11 is debatable.

But that's what the White House is doing - turning the debate to strictly the events leading up to 9/11.

Democrats jumping into the debate might be advised to handle this one with kid gloves. They should continue to hold the Bush administration's feet to the fire over their misdirections, stonewalling and ass-covering.

However, it won't bring the 9/11 victims back. Mistakes were made, and we should learn what we can from them. Democrats can, and should, continue to crack the whip on an issue where they can prevent further deaths - Iraq.

The war in Iraq is an ongoing, current problem - how and why we got there is a crushing indictment of the Bush administration.

Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neill, David Kay, and Joe Wilson have provided ample evidence for the Bush administration's bizarre fixation on Saddam Hussein and the non-existent weapons of mass destruction.

Last night, George Bush made "missing WMD" jokes at the annual Radio & TV Correspondents Dinner. Apparently, he thinks the issue has escaped the spotlight.

Hands off overtime pay

Good news for all those who work overtime and deserve to be paid for it.

Senate Democrats Hold Fast, Block Action On Corporate Tax Cuts

Senate Democrats today blocked a Republican effort to get rid of a pending overtime pay amendment to the stalled corporate tax cut bill, leaving the measure's future in doubt. By 51-47, the Senate failed to muster the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on a motion to recommit the bill (S 1637) to the Finance Committee. Republican leaders wanted to send the measure back to committee in order to dump an amendment by Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, that would block the Labor Department from implementing changes in eligibility for overtime pay. Democrats say the change could strip as many as 8 million workers of their right to premium pay. Republican leaders may pull the tax measure from the floor later today. "This amendment will be offered again and again and again and again. . . . Make no mistake about it," said Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass. "This issue is going to come right back at them. They're going to be pulling a lot of bills."

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Attack pests, part 2 - a whistleblower strikes back

Barbara Comstock is another obnoxious face shilling for The Incompetent Ones recently.

When she's not making excuses for her masters, apparently she's threatening FBI employees -

(from Tom Flocco)
FBI translator, Sibel Edmonds, was offered a substantial raise and a full time job in order to not go public that she had been asked by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to retranslate and adjust the translations of [terrorist] subject intercepts that had been received before September 11, 2001 by the FBI and CIA.

Edmonds, a ten year U.S. citizen who has passed a polygraph examination, speaks fluent Farsi and Turkish and had been working part time with the FBI for six months-- commencing in December, 2001.

In a 50 reporter scrum in front of some 12 news cameras, Edmonds said "Attorney General John Ashcroft told me 'he was invoking State Secret Privilage and National Security' when I told the FBI I wanted to go public with what I had translated from the pre 9-11 intercepts".

"I appeared once on CBS 60 Minutes but I have been silenced by Mr. Ashcroft, the FBI follows me, and I was threatened with jail in 2002 if I went public." Edmonds told tomflocco.com.

When we asked her if it was really true that she had been bribed by the FBI and DOJ, Edmonds said "You can interpret it as that."

This writer personally asked Edmonds where the term "State Secret Privilage" was derived. "The term came from an October 18, 2002 DOJ memo to me from DOJ spokesman Barbara Comstock," said Edmonds.

Edmonds said "My translations of the pre 9-11 intercepts included [terrorist] money laundering, detailed and date specific information enough to alert the American people, and other issues dating back to 1999 which I won't go into right now."

Incredibly, Edmonds said "The senate Judiciary Committee, and the 911 Commission have heard me testify for lengthy periods of time time (3 hours) about very specific plots, dates, airplanes used as weopons, and specific idividuals and activities."

This explosive information has been kept under wraps by the White House, CIA, FBI, and DOJ since Edmond's 60 Minutes interview segment.

The former FBI translator told tomflocco.com that "translators before me had ongoing personal relationships with the subjects or targets of the FBI and DOJ pre 9-11 investigations linked to intercepts and other intelligence in June - July - August, just prior to the attacks."

"I also became aware of a [terrorist] ciminal investigation going on since 1998," said Edmonds.

Patty Casazza, one of the 9-11 "Jersey Girls," said "Sibel Edmonds told me that color coding terrorist threat alerts for the American people is reflective of the intercept translations received." Casazza and Edmonds gave no indication as to whether FBI translators had doctored or adjusted Homeland Security terrorist threat alerts for political reasons.

"This whole situation is outrageous and I am going public," said Edmonds, adding "I am currently being advised by counsel. Thank you."

9-11 family member, Jersey Girl, Kristen Breitweiser, arranged to have Ms. Edmonds address the gathered media right after the Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet testified.
For more, see The Memory Hole.

Clarke: Bush didn't see terrorism as 'urgent'

Yeah, but......

I haven't read Clarke's book, but I get the impression what really deeply, deeply angers him is the misdirection of focus to Iraq and away from terrorism.

But wasn't it nice to listen to testimony from one of the REAL "grown ups" instead of excuses, buck-passing, and whining from the usual bunch?

We're Fair and Balanced, too!
Clear Channel, rejecting Howard Stern's claims that he was canned for slamming President Bush, says its radio network does not have a political agenda.
Clear Channel execs donations to Bush - $42,200
Clear Channel execs donations to Kerry - $1,750

Whatever you say, guys.
Thank you, Richard Clarke

For refusing to back down.

But most of all, for apologizing to the 9/11 families.
Wagging the dog

From the testimony before the 9/11 Commission, one thing is becoming crystal clear; the Clinton administration WAS actively engaged in the "war on terror".

Criticism of the Clinton administration seems to be confined to "why didn't they do more?"

CRAP. That one's easy.

If the Republicans had been more concerned with the welfare and safety of their country and less concerned with witch-hunting the Clinton administration, destroying everything the Clintons ever did or said, and grabbing up the reins of power into Republican hands, perhaps more could have been done.

How soon we forget.
Biblically-based buck-passing

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Dubya and Condi hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

And the LORD God called unto Dubya, and said unto him, Where art thou?

And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was stupid; and I hid myself.

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast stupid? Hast thou drunk of the KoolAde, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not drink?

And Dubya said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, Condi gave me of the KoolAde, and I did drink.

And the LORD God said unto Condi, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The Cheney/Wolfowitz/Perle/Rumsfeld/Woolsey serpent beguiled me, and I did drink.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The "grown-ups" around the preznit

Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson
David Kay, former top weapons inspector
Richard Foster, an actuary for the Department of Health and Human Services
Former counter-terrorism advisor Richard Clarke

Fools, every one! Don't believe a word they say! Political partisans! Only out for a buck!

Too bad our "MBA President" can't hire or keep good people.

Osama bin Remembered

Hmmm...CNN's David Ensor just hinted at Big News in the hunt for Osama.

This would be a good time for Rummy to declare "we got him".

Or maybe "we found him hiding out at Richard Clarke's house".

Stay tuned......

Update - no big deal

New pest rising

Warrior Tang pointed us to Jim Wilkinson, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications who has been popping up here and there on the tube to declare Richard Clarke the Antichrist, and Dubya the redeemer of mankind.

Josh Marshall does a good job of demolishing Wilkinson's nonsense here.

Wilkinson's White House bio -
Prior to joining the National Security Council staff, Mr. Wilkinson served as Director of Strategic Communications for General Tommy Franks at U.S. Central Command. At Central Command, Mr. Wilkinson coordinated the commands strategic communications activities throughout its 25-nation area of responsibility, including those related to Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Mr. Wilkinson served as General Tommy R. Franks principal spokesman and managed the U.S. military's public affairs activities in the region.

From January 2001 through November 2002, Mr. Wilkinson served at the White House as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Communications for Planning. Mr. Wilkinson also managed the White House Coalition Information Center for the war against terrorism. Prior to joining the White House, Mr. Wilkinson served as spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during the 2000 presidential transition. From 1992 through 2000, Mr. Wilkinson worked in Congress for U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey. Mr. Wilkinson received his B.B.A. in finance from the University of Texas at Arlington and his M.A. from The Johns Hopkins University.
Not included in his White House bio --

***Started the meme that Gore "invented the internet".

***Defender of the Republican storm-troopers who besieged the Miami vote counters.
"We find it interesting that when Jesse Jackson has thousands of protesters in the streets, it's O.K., but when a small number of Republicans exercise their First Amendment rights, the Democrats don't seem to like it," he told the Associated Press.
***Part of the PR team that stage-managed Dubya's visit to Ground Zero on September 14, 2001

***On the planning team for "embedding" reporters during the Iraqi offensive.

***Responsible for the glizty, looks-great-on-TV war room operation at Doha, and the total lack of any substantial information given to the assembled reporters.
It drew their ire as soon as the war began on March 19. Early in the morning of March 20, hundreds of reporters, producers and cameramen stood around the warehouse drinking coffee and watching the war on CNN, the BBC, Al-Jazeera and Fox. They then turned to Mr. Wilkinson and his team of public-affairs officers for background.

"They're showing the war starting, and we turned to our minders and we said, 'The war is starting, right?'" said Harvey Rice, a reporter for the Houston Chronicle. "They said, 'Sorry, we can't tell you--we don't want to endanger the lives of our troops.' But we're watching the war!"
***Managed the coverage on the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

***Currently tasked with director of communications for the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York,
"We seek to have reporters pass through a secure perimeter and then be in the complex and have the freedom to move the maximum amount possible," Mr. Wilkinson said. "Once they're in, they're in."

It's not Mr. Wilkinson's fault: Like Doha, both of next year's conventions have been federally designated National Security Events. At earlier conventions, reporters had to pass security checks between the convention and the media center. Not this time. The city's Host Committee lease for the building lays out plans to build a bridge over Eighth Avenue to connect the Garden with the vast Farley Post Office Building, which stretches from 32nd Street to 34th Street, featuring the city's largest loading dock and offering at least 250,000 square feet of media workspace.

It will be convenient and hermetic--and it means that reporters, once inside, would be ill-advised to leave the confines to slip out and meet the protesters.
If you ask me, this is one scary little sh*t; a spiritual descendant of Joseph Goebbels.

Busy, busy, busy

It's gonna be one of those days.

Before I rush off, I have to tip my hat to Moe Blues over at Bad Attitudes for noting that the Vice President of the United States has twisted himself into one big, butt-ugly pretzel over Richard Clarke.
So Dick Cheney is making the rounds claiming that Clarke was “out of the loop” in the administration’s counter-terror efforts. Therefore, Clarke doesn’t know what he's talking about and anything he says should be instantly discounted.
It occurs to me that Richard Clarke WAS the loop.

Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rummy, etc. were just plain loopy.


Monday, March 22, 2004

What does it take to be a BushCo NSA deputy director?

Not much, apparently.

Did you catch NSA deputy director Jim Wilkinson, trotted out by BushCo to defend them from the Big Bad Clarke?

NSA deputy director....hmmmm.

Look what Warrior Tang over at Live From the Nuke-Free Zone dug up on Jim.
9/11 Commission testimony

Tuesday, March 22
CSPAN - Powell & Albright Testify Before 9/11 Commission (9am ET)
CSPAN3 - Rumsfeld & Cohen Testify Before 9/11 Commission (1:30pm ET)
Shadow cabinet

I wish I had a dime for every person who has me they were voting for Bush because even though he seemed "a little inexperienced", he would have "good people" around him.

Fortunately, most of those people have told me they regret it. A few will vote "ABB" this time around; most won't vote at all. Suits me.

Now it's time for the Kerry campaign to come up with their own group of good people; respected, experienced folks who will hit the campaign trail and bring this thing home in November.

Reading through the comments over at Daily Kos, I really like some of the suggestions for a "shadow cabinet". Nothing needs to be official; just a strong hint that these would be the grownups finally in charge in their area of expertise.

Here's the gist, culled from comments. Feel free to add suggestions.

President - Kerry
Vice President - Edwards, Rendell, Warner
Sec. State - Holbrooke
Attorney General - Eliot Spitzer, Richard Blumenthal, Mary Jo White
National Security Advisor - Wesley Clark, Rand Beers
Sec Defense - Cleland, John McCain
UN - Mosely-Braun
Supreme Court - Gore :-)
Special Ambassador to the Middle East -- Bill Clinton, Dennis Ross
Agriculture - Jim Hightower
EPA - RFK, Jr.
CIA - Joe Wilson
Veterans Affairs - John McCain, Max Cleland
Energy - Richard Truly
Treasury - Robert Rubin, Krugman :-)
Homeland Security - Gary Hart, George Mitchell
Labor - Dick Gephardt
Sec. Interior - Steven J. McCormick
HUD - Jesse Jackson, Jr.
Secretary of Labor: Richard Gephardt
Chair of the FED: Robert Rubin
Press Secretary - Molly Ivins :)

Okay, some might be a little goofy. Joe Wilson hardly has the experience for CIA, for example.

It's good to have a nice long list of good people to choose from. The message now is - DO IT.

Get these folks on the road, on the television, in the town hall meetings, in the faces of the Bush attack dogs.

FDA issues suicide caution for antidepressants

Thanks, FDA - I'm so glad you brought this up.

Now maybe you could explain why potentially harmful medications are not only quickly approved for general use, but the pharmaceutical companies are allowed to mount big advertising campaigns to shill their products?

Because here's what happens -
First, you market the disease... then you push the pills to treat it.

The modus operandi of GlaxoSmithKline - marketing a disease rather than selling a drug - is typical of the post-Prozac era.

"The strategy [companies] use - it's almost mechanised by now," says Dr Loren Mosher, a San Diego psychiatrist and former official at the national institute of mental health.

Typically, a corporate-sponsored "disease awareness" campaign focuses on a mild psychiatric condition with a large pool of potential sufferers.

Companies fund studies that prove the drug's efficacy in treating the affliction, a necessary step in obtaining FDA approval for a new use, or "indication".

Prominent doctors are enlisted to publicly affirm the malady's ubiquity, then public-relations firms launch campaigns to promote the new disease, using dramatic statistics from corporate-sponsored studies.

Finally, patient groups are recruited to serve as the "public face" for the condition, supplying quotes and compelling stories for the media; many of the groups are heavily subsidised by drugmakers, and some operate directly out of the offices of drug companies' PR firms.

The strategy has enabled the pharmaceutical industry to squeeze millions in additional revenue from the blockbuster drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a family of pharmaceuticals that includes Paxil, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, and Luvox.

Originally approved solely as antidepressants, the SSRIs are now prescribed for a wide array of previously obscure afflictions - GAD, social anxiety disorder, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, and so on.

The proliferation of diagnoses has contributed to a dramatic rise in anti-depressant sales, which increased eightfold between 1990 and 2000.
Oh, brother - does this ring a bell with me.

In 1998-1999, my husband started experiencing repeated chest pain. I ran him to the emergency room, doctor's offices, and clinics on an average of 3-4 times a week. The usual tests showed nothing, and we were quickly going bankrupt.

His (former) doctor put him in the hospital for a week for a thorough check-up. All the usual cardiac tests were negative.

What to do? Well, the current disease-of-the-week was General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It was decided the chest pains were due to GAD, and he was put on Xanax and Zoloft; both addictive (Xanax highly so).

He turned into a zombie. He couldn't work, and had to go on temporary disability leave. The chest pains didn't stop.

With the situation not getting any better, and his doctor refusing to see him about something that was "all in his head" - I finally threatened to leave him if he didn't change doctors. I wouldn't have, but it took a shock to make him do it.

His new (and current) doctor immediately put his finger on the problem, sent him to a specialist, and the chest pains were correctly diagnosed as a result of acid reflux.

But the addiction to Xanax and Zoloft remained. The new doctor referred him to a psychiatrist to monitor the dosages - which is supposed to be a part of any treatment with sedatives and anti-depressants in the first place. Those nice little commercials on TV don't tell you that.

And incidentally - our health insurance wouldn't pay for the psychiastrist; most plans don't.

Those cutesy little Zoloft commercials kept bouncing across the television screen, and Big Pharma raked in the dough.

Is it too much to ask that the Food and Drug Administration, which wouldn't exist if not for taxpayer dollars, would pay a little more attention to taxpayer's health, insist on independent research, and stop being pushed around by Big Pharma?

The evidence unfolds

Richard Clarke is hardly the only one who thinks the Bush administration was preoccupied with Iraq, and had to be persuaded to focus on al Queda.

A shortlist of those other politically-motivated liars from the White House sh*tlist -

April 4, 2003 - Blair 'dissuaded Bush from attack after 9/11'
Tony Blair has frequently played a pivotal role in the infighting in the US administration over Iraq, according to the recently retired British ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer.

Hawks in the Bush administration, mainly the deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, pushed for an attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11.

Sir Christopher, in an interview with the US public broadcasting system last night, said that the prime minister, arriving in Washington the week after an inconclusive discussion between George Bush and his key advisers at Camp David, swung in behind the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, who saw Afghanistan as the prime target.

In the documentary Blair's War, Sir Christopher, who returned to Britain last month, said that when Mr Blair met Mr Bush in the weeks after September 11, he urged him to deal first with Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network and its protector - Afghanistan's Taliban government - before tackling Iraq.

"Tony Blair's view was, 'Whatever you're going to do about Iraq, you should concentrate on the job at hand'. And the job at hand was get al-Qaida, give the Taliban an ultimatum," the former British ambassador said.

Sir Christopher added that Mr Bush took Mr Blair aside and promised he would keep Iraq "for another day".
November 17, 2003 - General Clark's Battles
Shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Clark said, he visited the Pentagon, where an old colleague, a three-star general, confided to him that the civilian authorities running the Pentagon—Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his team—planned to use the September 11th attacks as a pretext for going to war against Iraq.

“They made the decision to attack Iraq sometime soon after 9/11,” Clark said. “So, rather than searching for a solution to a problem, they had the solution, and their difficulty was to make it appear as though it were in response to a problem.”

Clark visited the Pentagon a couple of months later, and the same general told him that the Bush team, unable or unwilling to fight the actual terrorists responsible for the attacks, had devised a five-year plan to topple the regimes in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Iran, and Sudan.
January 11, 2004 - Paul O'Neill speaks out - Bush Sought ‘Way’ To Invade Iraq?
“From the very beginning, there was a conviction, that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go,” says O’Neill, who adds that going after Saddam was topic "A" 10 days after the inauguration - eight months before Sept. 11.

“From the very first instance, it was about Iraq. It was about what we can do to change this regime,” says Suskind. “Day one, these things were laid and sealed.”

As treasury secretary, O'Neill was a permanent member of the National Security Council. He says in the book he was surprised at the meeting that questions such as "Why Saddam?" and "Why now?" were never asked.

"It was all about finding a way to do it. That was the tone of it. The president saying ‘Go find me a way to do this,’" says O’Neill. “For me, the notion of pre-emption, that the U.S. has the unilateral right to do whatever we decide to do, is a really huge leap.”

And that came up at this first meeting, says O’Neill, who adds that the discussion of Iraq continued at the next National Security Council meeting two days later.

He got briefing materials under this cover sheet. “There are memos. One of them marked, secret, says, ‘Plan for post-Saddam Iraq,’" adds Suskind, who says that they discussed an occupation of Iraq in January and February of 2001.

Condi's photo album

This photo was on the CNN website.

Isn't it nice?

Isn't it nice imagining she's behind bars?

My 9/11 question

Help me out here. Am I sinking into the conspiracy swamp, or is this a legitmate question?

Ever since I took a look at the very important questions the Family Steering Committee wants answered by the 9/11 Commission, there is one unasked question that has been niggling at the back of my mind.

If it's been satisfactorily answered, I'd love to hear it.

Before the president makes an appearance anywhere in the world, the Secret Service sends an advance team to take a look at evacuation routes, the location of hospitals, a survey of first responder capabilities, etc. Immediately before a presidential appearance, a very sophisticated communications center is set up.

We've all seen film footage of the Secret Service whisking away a president from potential danger. If you blink, you miss it. They don't stop for photo ops, slow down for speed limits, or let anyone get in the way.

At the September 7, 2001 press briefing, Ari Fleischer announced the president would be visiting Jacksonville and Sarasota Florida.

It would hardly take a genius to discover the president would be at Emma T. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 at approximately 9:00 a.m.

At 9:03 a.m., the second WTC tower was struck; at that time it became apparent to anyone over the age of three that the United States was under coordinated attack.

The Memory Hole asks the questions that should be answered by this administration -
What did the Commander in Chief do? Nothing. He sat there. He sat for well over 5 minutes, doing nothing while 3,000 people were dying and the attacks were still in progress.

Not only did the leader of the free world sit as his country was attacked, the Secret Service also did nothing. Bush was appearing in public at a previously announced photo-op. He was a sitting duck. The attacks were ongoing at that point (planes had yet to hit the Pentagon or the field in Pennsylvania), and nobody knew how much more destruction was going to happen. Were there two, three, four, eight more planes hijacked and on their way to crash into prominent buildings? Was one headed for the school, where anyone who checked the President's public itinerary would know he was located? Were other terrorists planning to detonate dirty nukes? Were they going to release anthrax or smallpox or sarin? Was an assassination squad going to burst into the school and get Bush? Was a suicide bomber going to ram a truck full of explosives into that classroom?

During the midst of the attacks, any of these things could've happened. Yet there sits Bush, seemingly unconcerned. His Chief of Staff likewise doesn't think that America in flames warrants the President's immediate attention. And the Secret Service utterly fails to do its job by grabbing the President of the United States and getting him to safety. It's truly inexplicable.
You can download the clip, or view the still images at The Memory Hole

From Fighting Back: The War on Terrorism - From Inside the Bush White House, by Bill Sammon, 10/02, p. 90 - a conservative, highly-complimentary account -
Bush is described as smiling and chatting with the children "as if he didn't have a care in the world" and "in the most relaxed manner imaginable." White House aide Gordon Johndroe, then came in as he usually does at the end of press conferences, and said, "Thank you, press. If you could step out the door we came in, please." A reporter then asked, "Mr. President, are you aware of the reports of the plane crash in New York? Is there anything...", But Bush interrupted, and no doubt recalling his order, "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET," Bush responded, "I'll talk about it later." But still the president did not leave. "He stepped forward and shook hands with [classroom teacher] Daniels, slipping his left hand behind her in another photo-op pose. He was taking his good old time. ... Bush lingered until the press was gone."
Supposedly Andrew Card whispered to Bush "A second plane has hit the World Trade Center. America is under attack." at 9:05 a.m.

According to 911 Timeline.net, it was 9:23 a.m. by the time Bush spoke with Cheney, his National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller and Governor George Pataki of New York.

It's perfectly understandable (and commendable) that Bush didn't immediately jump up and run screaming from the classroom. But there surely isn't a person in the country who would fault him for a little tactful interruption, a simple explanation to the children about something important to do, and leaving the school within several minutes.This was a national emergency.

But when you think about it, the actions of not only George Bush, but his travelling staff and the Secret Service are worth questioning.

Why didn't the Secret Service immediately whisk Bush away? This is perhaps the most puzzling question in my mind.

Why is it that the Secret Service, surely knowing the country was under attack, did not take immediate action to remove the president from possible danger? And why did they leave the "sitting duck" in a school full of children, potentially exposing them to harm?

Was the Secret Service somehow told that this was a "limited" attack - that the president (and the children) were in no danger?

Maybe my tinfoil hat is fixed too securely, but I'm afraid that's the only explanation I can come up with. If someone can offer a better one, I'd be happy to hear it.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

The Clarke interview

I'm typing this as I watch the 60 Minutes interview with Richard Clarke, which I taped earlier. You can see excerpts of it here.

My gut feeling is that Clarke is not lying. This is much more damning than I thought from reading the preview, and infinitely more sickening.

Taken along with statements by Paul O'Neill, Wesley Clark, and others; a pattern of deceit and misdirection is emerging.

"Shoulda" and "coulda" won't bring the 9/11 victims back, but nobody - repeat, nobody - has been held accountable for their neglect of the obvious warning signs.

The only way any heads will roll is by voting the bastards out of office in November.

Preznit gives radio

The view from the Oval Office window -
"The liberation of Iraq was good for the Iraqi people, good for America, and good for the world The fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability from the Middle East. The worst regime in the region was given way to what will soon be among the best. The demands of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity. Years of illicit weapons development by the dictator have come to an end. The Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of suffering under sanctions. And men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq, are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like.
I'm sure men and women across the Middle East, looking at Iraq, would probably embrace the nearest theocratic dictator.

So what does Riverbend see from her window in Baghdad?
A year later and our electricity is intermittent, at best, there constantly seems to be a fuel shortage and the streets aren't safe. When we walk down those streets, on rare occasions, the faces are haggard and creased with concern… concern over family members under detention, homes raided by Americans, hungry mouths to feed, and family members to keep safe from abduction, rape and death.

And where are we now, a year from the war? Sure- we own satellite dishes and the more prosperous own mobile phones… but where are we *really*? Where are the majority?

We're trying to fight against the extremism that seems to be upon us like a black wave; we're wondering, on an hourly basis, how long it will take for some semblance of normality to creep back into our lives; we're hoping and praying against civil war…

We're watching with disbelief as American troops roam the streets of our towns and cities and break violently into our homes... we're watching with anger as the completely useless Puppet Council sits giving out fat contracts to foreigners and getting richer by the day- the same people who cared so little for their country, that they begged Bush and his cronies to wage a war that cost thousands of lives and is certain to cost thousands more.

We're watching sardonically as an Iranian cleric in the south turns a once secular country into America's worst nightmare- a carbon copy of Iran. We're watching as the lies unravel slowly in front of the world- the WMD farce and the Al-Qaeda mockery.

And where are we now? Well, our governmental facilities have been burned to the ground by a combination of 'liberators' and 'Free Iraqi Fighters'; 50% of the working population is jobless and hungry; summer is looming close and our electrical situation is a joke; the streets are dirty and overflowing with sewage; our jails are fuller than ever with thousands of innocent people; we've seen more explosions, tanks, fighter planes and troops in the last year than almost a decade of war with Iran brought; our homes are being raided and our cars are stopped in the streets for inspections… journalists are being killed 'accidentally' and the seeds of a civil war are being sown by those who find it most useful; the hospitals overflow with patients but are short on just about everything else- medical supplies, medicine and doctors; and all the while, the oil is flowing.

But we've learned a lot. We've learned that terrorism isn't actually the act of creating terror. It isn't the act of killing innocent people and frightening others… no, you see, that's called a 'liberation'. It doesn't matter what you burn or who you kill- if you wear khaki, ride a tank or Apache or fighter plane and drop missiles and bombs, then you're not a terrorist- you're a liberator.

The war on terror is a joke… Madrid was proof of that last week… Iraq is proof of that everyday.
Significantly, the man who claims such care for the innocent men, women, and children of Iraq has only seen fit to make a quick, photo-op stop surrounded by supporting American troops.

How can anyone be so disconnected from reality?

Preserved in amber

CBS has posted a preview of the Richard A. Clarke interview here. After reading it, I feel genuinely sick on my stomach.

We've seen this quote from the interview before -
After the president returned to the White House on Sept. 11, he and his top advisers, including Clarke, began holding meetings about how to respond and retaliate. As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. He says he was surprised that the talk quickly turned to Iraq.

"Rumsfeld was saying that we needed to bomb Iraq," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said there aren't any good targets in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.
Think about it....while people were dying in the ruins, thousands were evacuating, and a choking cloud of toxic dust was clogging the air - Donald Rusfeld was salivating over the chance to finally get revenge on Saddam Hussein.

And while desperate people were searching the hospitals and clinics and tacking "have you seen this person?" posters all over New York City -
"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.

"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer."
It's possible the ruins of the World Trade Center were still burning at the time of that meeting.

But one small quote buried near the bottom of the article caught my eye -
"I blame the entire Bush leadership for continuing to work on Cold War issues when they back in power in 2001. It was as though they were preserved in amber from when they left office eight years earlier. They came back. They wanted to work on the same issues right away: Iraq, Star Wars. Not new issues, the new threats that had developed over the preceding eight years."

Ancient organisms, trapped in amber (a form of tree resin), are frozen in time. The crowd whose aims were thwarted by Clinton's victory in 1992 was likewise frozen in time.

They planned so carefully for so many years to regain power, but never bothered to adjust their agenda to reflect current realities - focusing like a laser beam on how to take over the government of the United States and wrench the country to their will and vengeance

They found their puppet-president in the person of the son who made no secret that, "After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad."

Throw in the demand for tax cuts to please conservatives; some evangelical "good vs. evil" rhetoric to appease the religious right - and there you have it; a clear road for neo-con retribution.

They do not trust the democratic process - witness the savage treatment given the recent Spanish election - but are not above manipulating the process to their own ends.

Adding national insult to national injury and secure in the "righteousness" of their cause, they have blocked every attempt to peal back the layers of their deceptions.

John Edwards was right, in more ways than one. There are two Americas; the America that cooperates with it's neighbors and friends and values it's citizens; and the neo-con America that reins in civil liberties, deliberately antagonizes other countries, and craves world domination.

Another four years is unthinkable.


Saturday, March 20, 2004

Heckling from the balcony

Julia Baird, writing for the Sidney Morning Herald, commemorates the first year of the Iraq war -
On january 22, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd poked fun at US President George Bush's State of the Union address, claiming it was a "steroid-infused performance", delivered with an in-your-face smirk.

She wrote: "Can you believe President Bush is still pushing the cockamamie claim that we went to war in Iraq with a real coalition rather than a gaggle of poodles and lackeys? His State of the Union address took his swaggering sheriff routine to new heights."

Poodles and lackeys, eh? Might be news to Britain - and Spain - this week.


We are not just poodles. We are big, fat targets. But, as the outgoing Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar has discovered, a global dissonance between several "lackey" governments and their people has been made starkly evident by the war in Iraq. And it's payback time.

Remember the millions of people who clustered in 600 towns and cities across the world a year ago, waving placards, burning effigies? The cities that drew the fattest crowds were in Britain, Italy and Spain - where the governments were supporting the US attack on Iraq.

It was with a feeling of impotence that despite all the protests, uncertainty and questions, many watched their troops go to war. And with the failure of public protest, many shuttled into cyberspace for some fierce political debate.

This week, as 11 million Spaniards returned to the streets - this time to mourn - and voted in a socialist government, pundits started wrestling over whether, by voting out the politicians who had led them to war, the Spanish were kowtowing to terrorists.

Conservative American blogger Andrew Sullivan interpreted it as a victory for al-Qaeda, writing "the trend in Europe is now either appeasement of terror or active alliance with it". The New York Times' David Brooks also implied it was a gutless act of appeasement.

On National Review Online, former Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote: "Sometimes [people] convince themselves that if only they give the Cyclops what he wants, they will be eaten last. And this is what seems to have happened in Spain."

But wasn't democracy one of the things we were fighting for? And wasn't it what we wanted for Iraq?

As the Guardian's Jonathan Freedland argued, it is wrong to conflate the war on Iraq with al-Qaeda. It is possible to oppose both bombing Iraq, and terrorism.

As the more measured newspaper columnists have volleyed arguments and insults about the war across continents, bloggers have increasingly become the Statlers and Waldorfs of political debate - Jim Henson's Muppets who heckle from the balcony - unedited, uninhibited and often unbalanced. But usually entertaining.

The internet has played a vital role as a site of dissent and anti-spin during a year when it seemed protests counted for little.


Bloggers are anarchic. In their mad jumble of jarring opinions, they symbolise the growing cynicism towards journalists, politicians, one another and any symbols of authority known to warp the truth. In Dowd's case it was a lazy insult. In others, it has been a more corrupt distortion of intelligence.

Going to Iraq was clearly a calculated risk.

Today, a year on, as we face the consequences of war, Australians will be on the streets again (in Sydney, it is in Hyde Park at noon). We have a right to be angry. Iraq is a mess, the use of intelligence was dishonest (at best inept), many of the justifications for war have proved thin, and we need accountability. As Owen Harries has argued, it's time to take a less "compliant and ingratiating posture within the alliance" and focus on how to protect Australians from terrorism.

What changes things now, of course, for Bush, Blair, Howard and leaders of other countries dismissed as poodles is the threat of repercussions at the polls, where protests can't be sniffed at as a terrorist tea party, and the power of democracy comes back to bite those who foolishly dismiss people as gullible and compliant.

Just ask Statler and Waldorf, whose most famous quote was: "Get off the stage, you bum!"

Preparing for the golden years

Cocaine found hidden in 96-year-old's wheelchair

Here in North Carolina, we're on the cutting edge of elder care, particularly those programs that allow the elderly to be cared for in their own homes.

Some, however, take it just a little too far -
Kings Mountain, North Carolina: A 96-year-old woman has said she does not know how crack cocaine got into her wheelchair.

Julia Roberts was charged with possessing crack with intent to sell and deliver, and with possessing a crack pipe. She was freed pending a hearing on March 30.

"I've never seen [the drugs] in my life," she told The Charlotte Observer. "I don't know how they could get there [into her wheelchair]."

A search warrant for the arrest said it was the third time Cleveland County deputies had seized crack at the mobile home Roberts shared with her son at Kings Mountain.

Harold Roberts, 61, was charged with possessing stolen goods. His brother, James Roberts, 58, who lived nearby, was charged with possessing moonshine. A neighbour, Donald Eugene Bridges, 56, was charged with possessing stolen property.

A Cleveland County sheriff's officer, Bobby Steen, said Roberts and the three men traded crack for stolen goods, mostly jewellery and guns.

The affidavit said an informant told deputies that Julia Roberts hid crack in her prosthetic leg during a previous search.
Begging your pardon, ma'am - but maybe the stuff got in your wheelchair when you ran out of room in your prosthetic leg?
Thinking positively

Thinking ahead to November, I foresee either 1) a landslide victory for John Kerry, making it impossible for Republicans to swipe this election, or 2) a close victory for Kerry, which Republicans try to steal but are thwarted by enraged, wiser Democrats and a Supreme Court that wouldn't dare try that sh*t again.

Therefore, it's pleasant to contemplate the creation of the George W. Bush Presidential Library.

Googling "George W. Bush Presidential Library" doesn't come up with any plans to build one; presumably, Those Who Do Such Things are feeling pretty confident they don't need to start construction until about 2007.

The closest a brief google got me was the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library, which held an exhibit from March 11- July 31, 2002 called "Fathers and Sons: Two Families, Four Presidents".

And, of course, the obligatory "Remembering September 11th" exhibit, consisting of artwork given to former President Bush-the-Elder, including this fine specimen -

After observing that 1) the artist forgot the halo, and 2) once again, Dubya is coasting on his father's coattails, we'll move right along to Jesus' General, and his fine proposal for the George W. Bush Presidential Library.
The library will be at least five stories high, one floor for each of Our Leader's terms of office. More stories will be added if Our Leader's steady hand is still needed after the War on Terror enters its third decade.
Because, as we all know, you shouldn't trade horses midstream, and this stream just happens to be a never-ending "Lazy River" ride.

I'm also particularly impressed by the soaring, central Rotunda of Blame.
We all know how tough Our Leader's first term has been. We also know that it wasn't his fault. He's told us so many times. Every problem we've faced can be blamed on someone else.
...which would include a nice "colorfully sectioned circle and spinable arrow on the floor". Sections are labelled "Clinton", "Democrats", "French", etc., allowing the player to point the blame at the usual assortment of scoundrels.

It's much like the old "Twister" game; spin the arrow, then try to figure out how to re-position yourself to prevent a humiliating crash onto the floor, bringing down anyone else in the vicinity.

The General promises to provide more insight into his plans on the American Street, and hopefully will let us know where and how we can donate to this very worthwhile project.


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