Sunday, June 29, 2008

Moyers On Iraq, War And Big Oil: A “Must” Watch Or Read.

PBS has posted streaming video as well as a transcript of this week’s Bill Moyer’s Journal where he indicts the Bush administration and its BFF’s, big oil, for being the root cause of the Iraq war.

You can watch or read it here

Moyers says, in part:

James Hansen, who 20 years ago alerted us to the dangers of global warming, compared the chief executives of big oil to the tobacco moguls who denied that nicotine is addictive or that there's a link between smoking and cancer. Hansen said these barons of black gold should be tried for committing crimes against humanity and nature in opposing efforts to deal with global warming.

Perhaps those sweetheart deals in Iraq should be added to his proposed indictments. They have been purchased at a very high price. Four-thousand American soldiers dead, tens of thousands permanently wounded for life, hundreds of thousands of dead and crippled Iraqis plus five million displaced, and a cost that will mount into trillions of dollars. The political analyst Kevin Phillips says America has become little more than an "energy protection force" doing anything to gain access to expensive fuel without regard to the lives of others, or the earth itself.

Bill Moyers remains one of a tiny handful of mainstream journalists who actually does what a reporter is supposed to do: Uncover facts and tell the unvarnished truth.

Another Flip-Flop From Grandpa Munster aka John McCain

There’s been barely a whisper in the mainstream media today about its former BFF Ahmad Chalabi, who met yesterday in Tehran with Speaker of the Iranian Parliament Ali Larijani. According to an English language Iranian news report, Chalabi commented on the Status of Forces Agreement being negotiated by the Bush administration with the Iraq government:

The INC's Chalabi retorted that granting immunity to US military personnel from prosecution under Iraqi law is baldly unacceptable. “The vast majority of Iraqi people and authorities oppose the security treaty and regard it as contradictory to Iraq's sovereignty and security.” Chalabi stated the treaty is counterproductive for Iraq in the long term and what the US is seeking is a binding bilateral agreement for the ongoing presence of its forces in Iraq whose UN mandate expires on Dec. 31.

Then Chalabi sat there while Larijani warned the US against "adventurism."

What is Chalbi doing discussing a bilateral US-Iraqi agreement with Larijani in Tehran? Let's see, I'm trying to remember whose idea it was for the US public to give Chalabi tens of millions of dollars and to try to put him in power in Baghdad

Oh, I remember: It was our very own Mr. Foreign Policy Experience, Grandpa Munster:

McCain welcomed Ahmed Chalabi, leader of the Iraqi National Congress (INC), to Washington and pressured the administration to give him money. When General Anthony Zinni cast doubt upon the effectiveness of the Iraqi opposition, McCain rebuked him at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

In 2003, McCain joined four other Republican senators in asking Bush to “personally clear the bureaucratic roadblocks within the State Department” that stood in the way of increased funding for the Chalabi’s group. McCain also said of Chalabi, “He’s a patriot who has the best interests of his country at heart.”

The Confession Of A Former Hillary-ista

A close friend and colleague who first supported John Edwards and then gave her heart to Hillary is still upset about how the Democratic primary race ended up. She continues to refer to Barack Obama as “Obambi” because she remains convinced that he lacks the experience to be president. But in an e-mail to me this morning, she admitted that “whenever McCain opens his mouth, I start chanting ‘Yes, we can!’”

Given the poll numbers released last week – 60% of women who backed Clinton in the primaries are now supporting Obama – I suspect a lot of not just women but voters generally are doing the same thing.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

David Addington: Lord Voldermont's Darth Vadar

If the roll is ever called up yonder to bring members of the Bush administration to account for their eight year reign of terror and lawlessness, David Addington ought to be in line right behind his boss Dick Cheney and ahead of even Donald Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith and John Yoo.

Yesterday, Addington told a Senate committee he would not answer questions because "terrorists might be watching C-SPAN." So, in addition to being a dangerous man, he appears to be a paranoid schizophrenic. Well, most paranoid schizophrenis are dangerous.

Addington is Cheney’s hit man, his “go to” guy when the Vice President wants to punch another hole in the Constitution or ignore inconvenient laws. Promoted to chief of staff from his position as Cheney’s Alfredo – in other words, his Alberto Gonzales – after Scooter Libby was indicted and resigned, Addington is both more extreme and more politically tone-deaf than Libby. He and Cheney are the harbingers of bad times for Bush: When their names are in the news, political peril seems to follow.

Whenever the hyper-secretive Addington name has surfaced, it’s usually been with embarrassing results. In 2002, for example, Chickenhead Productions unveiled, a parody website replete with photos and a fake bio of Lynne Cheney. Soon after the bio appeared, claiming that the second lady "likes movies, Infusium 23 Shampoo and postmodernist interpretative dance," Addington fired off a letter to the company demanding that it "delete the photographs of [Lynne Cheney] and the fictitious biographical statement about her from the website."

Rather than getting the site to remove the supposedly offending material, Addington's letter pushed droves of curious web surfers to to see Mrs. Cheney lampooned. It also led reporters to query Cheney's office about the VP's role in the affair, which denied he had any knowledge about the letter.

Some three years later, on October 31, 2005, when the real White House announced that Addington was going to replace Libby as Cheney's chief of staff, was quick to react, posting on his company's website a message to ASddington: Addington: "Chickenhead would like to formally congratulate its best-ever pal, David Addington, on his recent promotion."

According to the New Republic, the Chickenhead incident is emblematic of the larger role Cheney's staff – specifically Addington – plays in the Bush White House. On issue after issue, the Office of the Vice President overreacts and overreaches, pushing policies that end up embarrassing the administration and from which, more often than not, President Bush must retreat. But Cheney never seems to learn any lessons from these capers. If he had, he never would have promoted David Addington.

Addington was one of several Cheney aides cited in connection with the ongoing investigation by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into PlameGate. Although not charged, Addington was mentioned in the indictment as part of a group of officials in Cheney's office who tried in early 2003 to identify Valerie Plame, gather information about her husband Joseph Wilson's trip to Niger and then spread this information.

The special prosecutor's investigation is only one of a series of controversies that have plagued Addington during his time in the VP's office. He has been accused of playing a central role in the decision to block the release of key documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding its investigation into pre-war intelligence. In 2002, he helped draft the White House "torture memos," which claimed that the president could sidestep the Geneva Conventions in the "war on terror". In 2001, when the General Accounting Office was trying to investigate the role of executives and lobbyists in helping Cheney put together his energy plan, Addington consistently attacked in letters to the GAO the agency's authority to investigate the matter. And Addington led efforts to block Congress's attempt to draft stringent rules governing the treatment of detainees in places like Abu Ghraib.

More recently, Addington was blamed for pushing Cheney to resist efforts by Bush administration lawyers to reverse the White House position on whether to allow court oversight of the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance programmeme. When the administration announced in early January 2007 that it would allow oversight of the programmeme, Addington was viewed as having "clearly lost this round," as one unnamed official told the Washington Post.

The surveillance programme sidestepped a law passed by Congress in 1978 in response to Watergate. The law requires that efforts by the government to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens be vetted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. It is meant to protect civil liberties and prevent abuses of executive power. When former Secretary of State Colin Powell first heard about the administration's surveillance programme, revealed by the New York Times in late 2005, he said: "It's Addington. He doesn't care about the Constitution."

The net effect of Addington's and other administration lawyers influence on the president's own views, says Bruce Fein, a generally pro-Bush Republican activist, is "quite alarming." Fein says “Addington and his cohorts have "staked out powers that are a universe beyond any other administration. This president has made claims that are really quite alarming. He's said that there are no restraints on his ability, as he sees it, to collect intelligence, to open mail, to commit torture, and to use electronic surveillance. If you used the president's reasoning, you could shut down Congress for leaking too much. His war powers allow him to declare anyone an illegal combatant.”

In other words, in Addington’s mind the entire world is a battlefield. According to this perverse view of the Constitution and American law, Bush could kill someone in Lafayette Park if he wants. It's got the stench of Louis XIV: “I am the State.”

Friday, June 27, 2008

Vegas By The Tigress?

I strongly suspect this is a hoax posted on YouTube but a self-described “foreign policy advisor” to the McCain campaign was purportedly interviewed last February on television in Baghdad about plans for a Las Vegas-style five star hotel and casino smack dab in the middle of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

He promises a “trickle down” effect of wealthy gamblers' losses helping Iraq's poor. He promises Iraqi women jobs as maids. He promises Thai and Russian masseuses. He reduces Iraqis to being like Native Americans on reservations. The Green Zone is a stone's throw away from Sadrist-dominated Sadr City. Why does he think religious Shiites would put up with all this? The Iraqi housekeepers will be viewed as violating norms of gender segregation. The other activities would attract sanctions under the Sharia. In fact, that wonderful Iraqi constitution that the US Republican Party was so enthusiastic about forbids Parliament to pass any law contrary to Islamic canon law.

Since gambling is forbidden in the Qur'an, it is unlikely that the Iraqi parliament can legalize it.The 'foreign policy adviser's' comments are particularly tasteless in light of the actual conditions under which most Iraqi’s live: No electricity, unreliable water, extreme poverty, most households having lost at least one family member to either American violence or religious death squads.

But if McCain does plan to turn Iraq into sort of a giant Las Vegas By The Tigress, that would at least explain his odd desire to be there for a hundred years.

And although the YouTube video may be a hoax, Mother Jones reports that Llewellyn Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms, is pouring millions of dollars into developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum. It is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland.

Just what Baghdad needs: A casino next door to a theme park “experience."

Move Along Santa: North Pole Likely To Melt Next Month

In another frightening sign of how fast the earth’s climate is changing, the British newspaper The Independent reports this morning that, for the first time in human history, the odds are better than 50:50 the ice cap at the North Pole will melt this summer.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90’ north may well have melted away by mid-summer.

"From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water," The Independent quotes Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado as saying.

The only good news coming from this revelation is that perhaps, finally, the climate change deniers like Oklahoma Sen. Inhofe will shut up, and Congress will tackle the issue in a meaningful way.

Seasoned polar scientists believe the chances of a totally ice-free North Pole this summer are great because the normally thick ice formed over many eons at the Pole has been blown away, replaced by huge swathes of thinner ice formed over a single year. This one-year ice is highly vulnerable to melting during the summer months. Satellite data coming in over recent weeks shows that the rate of melting is faster than last year, when there was an all-time record loss of summer sea ice at the Arctic.

Inuit tribes who have lived in Canada’s Arctic north since before the Alaska-Siberia land bridge disappeared, and who have a strong oral history tradition, say that their fishing and hunting takes – on which their survival depends – have been diminishing for the past decade and now are at the lowest levels ever known. Natives living near Baffin Bay between Canada and Greenland are reporting that the sea ice there is starting to break up much earlier than normal and that they are seeing wide cracks appearing in the ice where it normally remains stable.

Meanwhile, John McCain is continuing his call for a summer gas tax holiday to encourage people to drive more, and off-shore drilling to produce more oil and gas, both of which only exacerbate the climate change crisis. So much for his pretending to be an environmentalist of convenience. It reminds me of when Ronald Reagan said trees are the biggest polluters.

By no means am I a “tree hugger.” But the evidence of global warming is so overwhelming, and reports such as The Independent’s means it is happening at a faster clip than even the most pessimistic predicted, that anyone who cares about the future of their children and grandchildren and their grandchildren’s grandchildren – to say nothing of the planet we all inhabit – better stop talking green and start acting green.

No one person, business, organization or government can do it alone. The phoney campaign hype of a $300-million prize for a new battery – McCain’s solution – only distracts the country and the world from the ravages mankind has brought on a planet that’s provided so much for so long to so many. It is long part time for genuine change.


UPDATE 28.06.08 - My good friend Susan, an activist who lives in Washington, sent me an email about this item and she makes a strong point:

"The enviros have painted themselves in a corner (using lead-free paint of course). You cannot expect individuals to take action on global warming when the message from the enviro leadership is “we’re all going to die.” Changing lightbulbs or recycling is greenwashing at best, insignificant at worst. Our planet did not degrade in a day, and it will not improve in a day—metaphorically speaking—either. It will take serious long-term policy, economic and lifestyle changes if we are going to reverse our disastrous course. It requires coordinated, international action that involves every segment of our society thinking and working creatively and morally. The Supreme Court’s recent gift to ExxonMobil is an example of what we do NOT need. But scare tactics don’t work either (see life post 9/11). Shared sacrifice toward a common goal (our survival) is the only way. "

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"I Am A Doughnut"

On this date in 1963, President Kennedy visited West Berlin, where he made his famous declaration: "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner). The crowd roared its approval but was smiling at the same time: A “Berliner” is what locals call a jelly doughnut.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Justice Scalia - Another Oxymoron

Not only is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – and if that’s not an oxymoron I don’t know what is – intellectually dishonest and a complete lightweight when it comes to understanding jurisprudence, it turns out he cites thoroughly discredited “facts” in opinions he writes and hands down from the bench. In other words, he supports his opinions by lying and just making stuff up.

The most recent example?

In his dissenting opinion in Boumediene v. Bush, where by a one vote difference habeus corpus was preserved in the land, Scalia wrote "At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo have returned to the battlefield." It turns out that statement is false.

According to a new report just issued by the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research – aptly titled Justice Scalia, The Dept. of Defence and The Perpetuation of an Urban Legend: The Truth about Recidivism of Released Guantánamo Detainees – only one former Guantanamo detainee, "ISN 220," has been involved in a terrorist act since being set free. Written by Mark Denbeaux, a law professor at Seton Hall Law School, Joshua Denbeaux and R.David Gratz of the law firm Denbeaux & Denbeaux, counsel to two Guantánamo detainees, the article tears Scalia a new one:

The defining characteristic of an “urban legend” is its ability to perpetuate itself not only without factual support but in the face of overwhelming factual evidence that it is false. While it is not surprising to find urban legends in the unmoderated precincts of the internet, it is shocking to discover one in an opinion written by a Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Last week, however, Justice Antonin Scalia, in his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush, repeated the false accusation that “[a]t least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantánamo Bay have returned to the battlefield.” His source was a year-old Senate Minority Report, which in turn was based on misinformation provided by the Department of Defense.

Justice Scalia’s reliance on the these sources would have been more justifiable had the urban legend he perpetuated not been permanently interred by later developments, including a 2007 Dept. of Defense press release and hearings before the House Foreign Relations Committee less than two weeks before Justice Scalia’s dissent was released.

Scalia bolstered his hysterical claim that the Boumediene decision "will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed" with stale information that was proven to be false one year ago. More pointedly, in a stinging criticism of Scalia’s dissent, Professor Denbeaux said Scalia “was relying uncritically on information that originated with a party in the case before him."

The Supreme Court decided in a 5-4 decision that the Guantanamo detainees were entitled to file petitions for writ of habeas corpus to challenge their detention. More than 200 men who have been held for up to six years and have never been charged with a crime will now have their day in court. Many were snatched from their homes, picked up off the street or in airports, or sold to the US military by warlords for bounty.

In other words, Justice Scalia relies on urban legends, disproven facts and outright falsehoods instead of thoughtful and reasoned legal arguments in reaching decisions and writing opinions. And here I always thought Clarence Thomas was the biggest idiot on the court.

A Passing Thought About George Carlin ...

Normally I won’t be writing about entertainers or Hollywood-types, mostly because they are incapable of transforming our lives in any positive way. They basically screw around the periphery with “culture,” as if that is enough, and give us nothing in return except to make us all poorer in the long run. Sounds a bit harsh, I know, but bear with me.

When I heard that George Carlin died, all I could think of doing was screaming out the seven words you can never say on television. I feel as if lost a real “bro.” He was much more than a comedian or social commentator or anything else the pundits can think up. In a way, he was more like Will Rogers direct heir. He made all of us look at the “moral” restrictions placed on us by others, religious, political, cultural, etc., for what they truly are: Controlling, restrictive and ridiculous.

He believed whole-heartedly that satire was the best form of dealing with life because it expanded our awareness of both intelligent thought and inter-personal relationship practice. And it created a baseline for the rational examination of our existence as members of the society of man. It was true creative genius coupled with a basic instinct that most people had absolutely no clue as to what they were doing.

And now he is gone.

I’m really going to miss that guy.

Wait. Maybe he's up on the roof. An avid Frisbee player, Carlin said that when you die your soul gets tossed on the roof, never to be retrieved again.