March 27, 2008

Join the party, get while the gettin's good.

This is Efraim E. Diveroli.

His company was awarded a contract with the Pentagon worth $300 million dollars. In exchange he was to supply ammunition to Afghans fighting the Taliban and al Queda in Afghanistan. He claims to have been making $200 million a year on such government contracts.

He's 22 years old. His vice-president is a 25 year old masseuse. He's appears to party a lot and tends to get in trouble harassing girlfriends in Miami.

And just as in countless other such cases, Efraim (and the shysters behind his company) were not only given hundreds of millions of your tax dollars with next to no questions asked, but of course they were also providing near useless junk to the soldiers in the field.

Once in Afghanistan, when the ammo spilled out of their crumbling cardboard boxes, it was revealed that much of it was 42 years old, having been made in China in 1966!

And the contract was accepted and approved at the Rock Island Arsenal, and was allowed to continue despite ... well, here's a tidbit from the very interesting story in the New York Times.
But to arm the Afghan forces that it hopes will lead this fight, the American military has relied since early last year on a fledgling company led by a 22-year-old man whose vice president was a licensed masseur.

With the award last January of a federal contract worth as much as nearly $300 million, the company, AEY Inc., which operates out of an unmarked office in Miami Beach, became the main supplier of munitions to Afghanistan’s army and police forces.

Since then, the company has provided ammunition that is more than 40 years old and in decomposing packaging, according to an examination of the munitions by The New York Times and interviews with American and Afghan officials. Much of the ammunition comes from the aging stockpiles of the old Communist bloc, including stockpiles that the State Department and NATO have determined to be unreliable and obsolete, and have spent millions of dollars to have destroyed.

In purchasing munitions, the contractor has also worked with middlemen and a shell company on a federal list of entities suspected of illegal arms trafficking.

Moreover, tens of millions of the rifle and machine-gun cartridges were manufactured in China, making their procurement a possible violation of American law. The company’s president, Efraim E. Diveroli, was also secretly recorded in a conversation that suggested corruption in his company’s purchase of more than 100 million aging rounds in Albania, according to audio files of the conversation.

This week, after repeated inquiries about AEY’s performance by The Times, the Army suspended the company from any future federal contracting, citing shipments of Chinese ammunition and claiming that Mr. Diveroli misled the Army by saying the munitions were Hungarian.


In January, American officers in Kabul, concerned about munitions from AEY, had contacted the Army’s Rock Island Arsenal, in Illinois, and raised the possibility of terminating the contract. And officials at the Army Sustainment Command, the contracting authority at the arsenal, after meeting with AEY in late February, said they were tightening the packaging standards for munitions shipped to the war.

And yet after that meeting, AEY sent another shipment of nearly one million cartridges to Afghanistan that the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan regarded as substandard. Lt. Col. David G. Johnson, the command spokesman, said that while there were no reports of ammunition misfiring, some of it was in such poor condition that the military had decided not to issue it. “Our honest answer is that the ammunition is of a quality that is less than desirable; the munitions do not appear to meet the standards that many of us are used to,” Colonel Johnson said. “We are not pleased with the way it was delivered.”

Several officials said the problems would have been avoided if the Army had written contracts and examined bidders more carefully.

Public records show that AEY’s contracts since 2004 have potentially been worth more than a third of a billion dollars. Mr. Diveroli set the value higher: he claimed to do $200 million in business each year.

Several military officers and government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the investigations, questioned how Mr. Diveroli, and a small group of men principally in their 20s and without extensive military or procurement experiences, landed so much vital government work.

Read the article. This is what happens when a Republican government starts handing out literally billions of dollars with little or no oversight. They threw open the doors to the treasury and said come and get it.

And the details of how the company was established as well as more background on this enterprising 22 year old makes the tale even more bizarre.

Their only idea of economic stimulus is to start a war and make the rich far more rich.

In addition to a previous case in which a few people were convicted of fraud due to their dealings and fraudulent contracts with the Arsenal, this case is likely only the very tip of an enormous iceberg of billions upon billions of those same precious tax dollars Republicans don't want to pay which has been utterly squandered and stolen by anyone plugged in and bold enough to grab it.

Yet another great reason to keep this all up for as long as we possibly can. Vote McCain!

The neocons lament

This Tom Tomorrow, like most, is a thing of beauty.

Catch up with previous masterworks here.

A nation of Squeebs

That's especially true now, during a "controversy" like this latest flap over Barack Obama pastor Jeremiah Wright. This Wright business is a perfect example of the American electorate at its squeeby worst — panicky, gutless, acting more on reflex than thought, incapable of retaining information for more than a few minutes at a time. It's also a great example of how the presidential election process has become more about enforcing the attitudes of a cultural orthodoxy than a system for choosing leaders. Through scandal after idiotic scandal, the election process has become a painfully prolonged, deeply irritating exercise in policing conventional wisdom, through a variety of means keeping the public in a state of heightened, dumb animal panic, and ultimately turning the election itself into a Darwinian contest — survival of the Squeebiest.

Read more.

Let's give 'em something to talk about

Hmmmm. How to fill the endless weeks waiting for something to actually happen in the last remaining primary campaign? I once wondered how the cable news channels would possibly be able to fill all those endless, endless hours of air time when faced with such a gaping gulf in time waiting until the distant Pennsylvania primary. Surely we'd get a respite of sorts.

I needn't have worried. They're busy scouring the crevices and inter-tubes for anything, and I mean anything, that they can then conflate into weighty matters by having a panel of one sort or another battle to express their considered analysis of whatever the blip of the day may be, despite the fact that that analysis may have taken all of 10 seconds to arrive at.

There are some high points though, as when some pundits actually have the honesty to admit that whatever supposed controversy is tossed out isn't worth discussing and they don't have the ability to even pretend it's legitimate, or they say they simply have no idea what the answer to some un-answerable question might be.

These daily media machinations can be hard to keep up with, as as soon as some supposedly big deal comes along, it fades away to be replaced by some new "something".

They pretty much throw it all out there, then ask, "Is this something? Or not?"

If you have to ask, it probably isn't. But beyond that, I'll try to recall some of the more recent.

-Teflon McCain: The media under-reporting or lack of attention to John McCain's truly strange utterances and evidence of a rather shocking lack of knowledge, duplicity, or confusion on exactly who and what we're fighting in Iraq, and the economy and economics in general. Also the pass he's gotten relative to Obama by his actively seeking the endorsement of a religious leader who spouts views offensive to 99% of the population.

-Richardson endorses Obama: The endorsement itself? Not that big a deal. Good for Obama, bad for Clinton. Minor gossip value due to Richardson's status as former Clinton cabinet member. A one day story at best.

Actual result: Gossip value immediately exploited and elevated by comments of James Carville comparing Richardson to Judas Iscariot on Easter day. Carville, author of an entire book on "stickin'", the value of loyalty, makes a perfect play, at once ensuring that the story gets plenty of action for a few days, and establishing the spin that Richardson's endorsement not only isn't a plus for Obama, but that Richardson himself is a rank traitor and person of terrible character, and thus his endorsement is a mark of shame, and thus both he and Obama are bad, bad, bad. As if it was shameful of Obama to have even accepted the endorsement.

In their rush to act as national scolds and ettiquette police (see post below) the press rushed to get Carville's sure-to-come attempt to backtrack or appologize for what the press pretended was a really shocking statement.

The Ragin' Cajun, bless his shiny little head, don't play that game. He meant to paste the traitor label on Richardson, and every time they put him on camera to back down, he used the opportunity to make sure it stuck, and in such clever ways that it ensured it would get played over and over. His last statement was to the effect that, like ranchers in east New Mexico and Madison Ave. ad agencies, he appreciated the value of good branding, and he intended to makes sure the correct brand was put on Richardson and stayed there.

Result: Big nothing. Everyone's already forgotten about it days later. But it filled in a few hours of air time.

-The Clinton alternative universe:

This is particularly hard to chronicle, as it morphs and weaves and bobs on a daily basis.

-I think it started out with Clinton flack Evan Bayh suggesting that the primary process should be linked to the electoral college. (The dems have REALLY had good luck with that lately, after all.) The basis for that was that Clinton had won states which represented more electoral votes than Obama.

Result: Adds to the weird desperate cloud eminating from the Clinton campaiagn and looks bad to most voters, particularly Obama supporters. But the target of the argument were the Super Delagates, and it injected into the debate another argument, good or not, that they should support Clinton by furthering the suggestion that she is the stronger candidate against McCain.

-Stroking McCain:

Very strange and disturbing effort by the Clintons to praise and stroke John McCain, suggesting that he and Clinton are the only "real" candidates and suggesting that a Clinton/McCain campaign would be civil and less divisive somehow, while conspicuously suggesting Obama is some odd-ball outsider who really doesn't deserve the nomination.

-Bill Clinton says it would be great to have a race between two people who love their country, namely Hillary and McCain, consipicuously leaving Obama out, thus leaving the suggestion that Obama doesn't "love his country". What the hell??!!

-Bill Clinton then suggests that Obama is a light-weight and can't stand the heat of a campaign. This of course is ridiculous in light of the constant whining and demands from the Clinton camp that Obama fire anyone and everyone associated with his campaign that says anything tough about Hillary.

-Hillary gets caught making it up:

Hillary Clinton apparently visited Kosovo with Chelsea and there were the usual security concerns associated with such areas in times of conflict. She was accompanied by Sinbad the comedian and Sheryl Crow as well.

It's since been shown that she's told the story many times, begining with an account in her book in which she told it relatively straight. But since that time, she's told it at least 4 or 5 times and each time it gets more dramatic, with the addition of having to do a corkscrew approach to the airport (where the pilot drops down from altitude in a corkscrew pattern to thwart ground attacks), having to ride in the more armored cockpit, sprinting from the plane heads down with sniper rounds wizzing around, a cancelled welcome ceremony, and being wisked away to safety.

None of that was true. But true to form, Hillary wouldn't just come out and say it was all made up. She tried to slow roll it and blame it on exhaustion, saying she "mis-spoke". But this ignores the fact that the story was part of her prepared remarks, and that it emerged that she'd told the tale several times in the past.

-Some kid asks Chelsea Clinton whether the Lewinsky scandal affected Hillary's credibility, to which Chelsea bristled and said it was none of his business.

This is met with approval by the convential behavior police in the media. But a closer look reveals that the question was entirely legitimate, and not some attempt to embarrass Chelsea. As a matter of fact, the student who asked it is a Hillary supporter who simply wondered if the matter had .... affected Clinton's credibility.

It wasn't a question asking Chelsea what she thought of the matter, just whether it helped or hurt her mom's credibility.

Apparently, that's not considered acceptible to discuss.

-John McCain offers a whole lot of nothing on the economy. (or anything else)

John McCain gave a big speech addressing the crucial and most important issue to most voters, the crumbling economy.

His solutions were to gather a bunch of people he figured know what they're talking about and have them talk some more about it. Make down payments on housing more expensive for buyers, and then make two statements that contradict each other. First he called for government intervention to help with the mortgage crisis, and then said he'd .... and this is unbelievable in light of the recent past, actually loosen government regulation and oversight over the financial services industry.

After Enron, Bear Strearns, and what promises to be a parade of huge corporate meltdowns due to finanical corruption and rule breaking, McCain thinks the solution is to have LESS regulation and enforcement of the very rules designed to avoid such disasters.

This guy is amazing. This is like coming out and saying that your proposal to prevent another Katrina disaster is to tear down levees that are damaged and to refuse to enforce any engineering standards for any new levees, allowing corporations to build them out of sand if they want.


Obama emerged in a dead tie with Clinton in a nationwide poll. He'd climbed up a few points, but is still well within the margin of error. I suppose this is good news for Obama, but seeing that the Dems are split RIGHT down the middle makes me want to scream. It's like Gore/Bush and Kerry/Bush all over again.

Polls indicated that reports that the big Wright hoopla was HUUGE and would drive a stake into Obama's heart were greatly exagerated. It apparently didn't hurt Obama at all, in that his negatives went down only a couple points, while interesting enough, all of Clinton's machinations and squirming have apparently backfired. The polls were taken BEFORE her big expose for lying repeatedly in exagerating the danger of a visit to Bosnia.

The polls showed that Clinton's negatives have climbed about 7 points.

-The pundits were in full frenzy yesterday chewing over the results of a poll showing that a full 20 something percent of Hillary supporters would actually vote for McCain should Obama be the nominee, while a lesser percent of Obama supporters indicated they'd vote for McCain should Clinton emerge the nominee.

First of all, I simply can't believe those numbers at all. I suspect that many of the respondents were actually Republicans, or simply partisan Dems who SAID they'd vote for McCain but never would in reality.

I also think that the media punditry is giving this far too much weight, as it's simply a new story line that they're naturally drawn too. They even have a name for it, "revenge voting", and are acting like this is a real phenomena that is at play.

I simply can't believe that there's that many Dems who are SO committed to either candidate that they'd go as far as voting for McCain if their candidate was not the nominee.

So I'm curious....

To those who support Obama:
Is there any situation in which you could see yourself voting for John McCain if Hillary is the nominee? Why?

To those who support Clinton:
Is there any situation in which you could see yourself voting for John McCain if Obama is the nominee? Why?

March 24, 2008

Excuse me while I bang my head on the wall

Due to the fact that my computer has once again decided to become a very expensive paperweight, I've not been able to get online and tend to the blog for the last few days. Activity here may be a bit sparse in the near future as well.

I've finally gotten so frustrated, and in light of the fact that it may be some time before I get it into the hands of some geeks, they figure out what died, order parts, etc. that I hauled out my old system and plugged it in and to my relief, it's working like a charm and enabling me to get online again.

That's the story. If you are interested in hearing my tale of woe, read on. Otherwise it's just boring crap.

The computer was running like a top Friday evening when in an instant, it just froze solid and NOTHING would work. One second I was watching a video on a website and then when I went to close the browser, my cursor had disappeared.

When I couldn't get it to appear, I tried the old Ctrl+Alt+Del to bring up the window that allows you to shut down apps and reboot if you have to.

I knew something was serious when even THAT did nothing.

So I was forced to resort to turning it off and rebooting manually a few times, unplugging various peripherals each time to see if that would have any effect. After I'd finally unplugged everything and rebooted yet again only to find that it would still only crank up the cooling fans full blast and do nothing else, not even so much as a flicker on the monitor, I finally gave up and pushed the power button to shut it down for the last time.

But having the entire computer crash and die just wasn't enough frustration, apparently. When I pushed the power button for the last time, it broke off and fell into the computer case. Gone. No button, no nothing. Just a hole where it used to be.

Now I had a computer whirring out of control and the power button had disappeared.

Nice touch. I had to unplug the damn thing to shut it down.

This (Dell) computer had melted down on me once before, requiring the motherboard be replaced, but thankfully it was still under warranty at that time, and they sent out a geek who replaced it at no cost. I'm next to certain that this is what's happened again, but now I get to pay for it myself. Woohoo!

I've had at least four Dell systems and never had any serious problems. But with this last one (an XPS 700) I've had the motherboard melt down what looks like twice now and the chincey plastic power button break off from simply pushing it.

Not good.

**UPDATE** Now that I'm back online I did a bit of looking around online about this problem. Found on the Dell site that they had a motherboard upgrade/exchange program for my model of computer manufactured between certain dates, which mine fit comfortably within.

But further investigation revealed that this program expired in October of last year. Called Dell to try to argue that if they were handing out replacements (and paying to have them installed at your home) because these motherboards were faulty and incompatible, then why shouldn't they give me mine?

Of course, talking to Sanjib or whatever broken English tech guy I had was no use. If I'd have called before October, he said, they would have replaced the motherboard "at once". But once the warranty is expired, they want you to pony up more dough before they'll help you.

I find it rather curious that Dell in effect had a recall yet didn't inform those who had bought the affected product. The only way you could have known about it is if you frequented the Dell tech blog, for which you have to be registered.

I'm not happy.

Looks like I'm off to Geek Squad and bringing my banker along.

March 21, 2008

Passportgate redux

It's now being reported that the files of Hillary Clinton and John McCain were violated as well, and all of this was done apparently by government contractors hired by the State Dept.

How many instances of horrible incompetence made possible by the Republican drive to "privatize" our government do we have to see before someone realizes it's a horrible idea? (Halliburton subsidiary KBR with billions of no-bid contracts is now revealed to have done such shoddy work on electrical systems on U.S. bases that dozens of people have been killed by electrocution, including a Ranger who survived all the perils in Iraq only to die because he stepped into the shower. (electrocuted by faulty wiring).

At least if it was bureacratic incompetence, the tax-payers wouldn't be being charged 15 times more for the same or worse bungling and corruption.

But what's clear in all of this is that the Republicans, and Bush, directed by the corporate interests that control them, is simply finding new and better ways to redirect money into their pockets by the millions and billions.

The economy is in the tank, so government work is where the money is. With an endless supply of our tax dollars sitting there, and more to be borrowed from China, Japan, and the Arabs, they know that's the best place to score a cool $500 million or so.

So they engage in wholesale "privatization" under the phony reasoning that it saves us money. What a joke! All it does is give them carte blanch to loot the treasury with both hands. Shoddy work? Who cares? No one will be punished, and the money's already in the bank off-shore. No work done for the money? Again, no big deal, no one's ever punished. Several BILLION dollars simply vanished in Iraq. Hear much about that anymore? Not a peep.

This seems a bit fishy to me that it's now conveniently revealed that Clinton and particularly McCain had their files breached. It only came out at least a day after they'd discovered and revealed that Obama's personal files had been breached. I hope that someone manages to find the truth here.

Why did they so belatedly reveal that Clinton and McCain had had their files opened as well? Especially in light of the fact that they apparently knew this had happened for over a year?

Condi Rice also took over a day to respond, suggesting that they were busy trying to find a way to make this look relatively innocent and non-political. Given the incompetence and the way they've used government agencies and employees in blatantly political ways for nearly 7 years, I'm afraid it's all a bit too suspect, and I'm not buying it.

Hillary's files were breached briefly during a training exercise... no big deal, other than it never should have happened.

But Obama's were breached at least three times, occuring prior to the primary campaigns, first before Iowa, then in the run-up to the Potomac Primaries, and as recently as last week while the whole Wright kerfluffle was erupting.

In light of the blatantly political spying on Bill Clinton's passport files by George Bush Sr. administration, is it not prudent to wonder?

What do you think? Smell a rat? Has this administration given anyone ANY reason to trust it when it comes to illegally using government agencies for purely political purposes?

Does context matter? Not to the "minds wide shut" demographic

In light of the firestorm over selected excerpts from a very few of Obama's pastor's sermons, I've realized that something very disingenuous and false was going on.. .a swiftboating to say the least.

First of all, there were only tiny clips, taken out of context, which contained only the phrases someone felt would be the most inflammatory. American media and the public they so badly serve would soon boil even those short sound bites down into only three words, "God damn America.", as if that's all they needed to hear.

And for many, those who have gotten into the habit of mindless and ignorant nationalism, dismissing and attacking out of hand anyone who even appears to question the actions of our government, past or present, that's all they care to hear.

But I'm trying to be more Obama-like by trying to have faith that people are smarter than they are often given credit for. (and trust me, I started out feeling that way and people overwhelmingly convinced me otherwise, it's hard to get it back.)

So in the knowledge that there's some people out there who are honest enough to care what the facts actually are and take the effort to find them out and then make up their own mind, I'd like to post an example of what Rev. Wright was preaching about in one particular instance, complete with the context that the American people have not been provided.

This is from an article on a CNN blog by CNN Contributor Roland Martin.

The article contains more background, but below are the actual words of Rev. Wright during his sermon containing the "chickens coming home to roost" phrase which when played endlessly convinced many he was some sort of evil person who hated America itself.

Martin notes,
One of the most controversial statements in this sermon was when he mentioned “chickens coming home to roost.” He was actually quoting Edward Peck, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and deputy director of President Reagan’s terrorism task force, who was speaking on FOX News. That’s what he told the congregation.

He was quoting Peck as saying that America’s foreign policy has put the nation in peril.
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”

“We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

“We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

“We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

“We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

“We bombed Qaddafi’s home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children’s head against the rock.

“We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they’d never get back home.

“We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

“Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

“We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America’s chickens are coming home to roost.

“Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y’all, not a black militant. Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised. The ambassador said the people we have wounded don’t have the military capability we have. But they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them. And we need to come to grips with that.”

He went on to describe seeing the photos of the aftermath of 9/11 because he was in Newark, N.J., when the planes struck. After turning on the TV and seeing the second plane slam into one of the twin towers, he spoke passionately about what if you never got a chance to say hello to your family again.

“What is the state of your family?” he asked.

And then he told his congregation that he loved them and asked the church to tell each other they loved themselves.

His sermon thesis:

1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.

2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)

“We have got to change the way we have been doing things as a society,” he said.

Wright then said we can’t stop messing over people and thinking they can’t touch us. He said we may need to declare war on racism, injustice, and greed, instead of war on other countries.

“Maybe we need to declare war on AIDS. In five minutes the Congress found $40 billion to rebuild New York and the families that died in sudden death, do you think we can find the money to make medicine available for people who are dying a slow death? Maybe we need to declare war on the nation’s healthcare system that leaves the nation’s poor with no health coverage? Maybe we need to declare war on the mishandled educational system and provide quality education for everybody, every citizen, based on their ability to learn, not their ability to pay. This is a time for social transformation.”

3. This is time to tell God thank you for all that he has provided and that he gave him and others another chance to do His will.

By the way, nowhere in this sermon did he said “God damn America.” I’m not sure which sermon that came from.

This doesn’t explain anything away, nor does it absolve Wright of using the N-word, but what it does do is add an accurate perspective to this conversation.

The point that I have always made as a journalist is that our job is to seek the truth, and not the partial truth.

I am also listening to the other sermons delivered by Rev. Wright that have been the subject of controversy.

And let me be clear: Where I believe he was wrong and not justified in what he said based upon the facts, I will say so. But where the facts support his argument, that will also be said.

Is that something so heinous, so dangerous and radical, so offensive, that a presidential candidate should be damned by association?

Thanks for the pointer to a loyal reader.

March 20, 2008

Let's all vote for the party of fiscal responsibility!

Hang on to your hats boys and girls, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. Don't look now, but the "grownups" in the Republican administration have looted your country wnile they had you screaming about whether gays should get married and obsessing on Brittany Spears, and you didn't bat an eye.
WELLINGTON: The current financial crisis is the worst the world has seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s and the US Federal Reserve move to cut interest rates will not make much difference, the Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said on Wednesday.

"It will have some impact - it will do a little bit to stem the blood - but it's not addressing the fundamental problems underlying the collapse of the financial sector," Joseph said.

Dick "Dick" Cheney to 2/3rd of Americans: Go f*** yourself

In an interview from Oman with ABC's morning show, Dick "Dick" Cheney was rumbling about how great things have gone with the war. With over 3 BILLION in contracts for his former employers and their subsidiaries, oil at $110 a barrel, I guess it depends on where you sit, which in Dick Cheney's case, was the deck of the Sultan of Oman's yacht, which is where he chose to observe the 5th anniversary of the start of his war..

When the interviewer reminded him that 2/3rds of the country feel that the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, Cheney smirked and replied, "So?"

When the interviewer then expressed shock that he didn't care what Americans thought, Cheney then attempted to backpedal by saying that you can't run foreign policy by following the "fluctuations" in public polling.

Only one problem there.

The polling HASN'T fluctuated. There's no fluctuation from the fact that they demonstrate a clear and steady increase in the number of Americans who feel that the entire effort was a cataclysmic mistake.

So on behalf of the 202,449,997 American citizens who represent those opposed to your war, citizens you're supposed to represent, let me extend a hearty, "No, Dick.... Go f*** yourself." to "the man of the people" , vice president Dick Cheney.

When will it end? More political spying and lying in the Bush administration

Back in January, Bush State Department employees breached and accessed Barack Obama's personal passport files. Two employees were fired and one suspended.

Flash forward almost 4 months. Someone finally, only hours ago, casually informed not Obama himself, not his campaign, but his senate office, that this potentially criminal breach had occured.

Now take a jaunt back in time and recall that Bush's daddy's state department riffled through Bill Clinton's passport file as well. A special prosecutor was appointed at the time to investigate the serious matter.

How many times does it have to be revealed how this administration uses the government... OUR government as if it belonged to them and the Republican party?

From Tom Delay ordering Homeland Security aircraft to follow and track the planes of Texas Democratic legislators who were fleeing the state to thwart DeLay's effort to jerrymander the state to rig it in favor of Republican candidates, to Karl Rove dictating that any U.S. attorney who investigated Republican corruption or who wasn't willing to pursue phoney investigations against Dems prior to elections lost their jobs, this gang shows a criminal willingness to believe that they OWN the government and forgetting that they work for ALL Americans, not just the Republican party and their big money donors with billion dollar government contracts.

It's inconceivable that this matter didn't flow up the chain of command at the State Department all the way to the stunningly incompetent Condi Rice, and probably beyond.

Why has this egregious breach of security, compromising the privacy of a person who's under Secret Service protection and a potential presidential candidate, been sat on and kept quiet for all these months?

John McCain: Clueless coot, or peddler of fairy tales

John McCain repeated, not once, but four times over two days, the stunning false idea that Iran is somehow aiding al Queda, training them and returning them to Iraq.

Anyone making such a statement, let alone four times, would have to have no idea of the most basic facts in the conflict. Iran does NOT support al Queda, as they are on opposite sides of the Sunni/Sh'ia conflict.

McCain looked like a dottering old fool as Joe Lieberman had to whisper to him that he had it all wrong, and McCain feebly corrected himself.

But then he repeated the same stunning mistake the next day, and again in a written statement from his campaign.

There's only two possible explanations for this.

A. McCain truly has no firm grasp of the forces involved in the tangled conflict and so isn't qualified to determine our country's fate in the area, much less argue that he's the most qualified and knowledgeable leader on the issue.

B. McCain has been peddling falsehoods for so long, attempting to conflate al Queda and Iran in attempts to pull the wool over American's eyes to gin up support for war with Iran and an endless continuation of the war in Iraq. More of the same deceptive propaganda campaign of the past 7 years.

By trying to peddle a completely false picture of alliances and who we're fighting to scare the rubes, McCain just got mixed up. Just like your mom told you, when you tell lies, eventually it's hard to keep track of them and you'll stumble and be exposed.

McCain has repeatedly tried to say we're fighting al Queda in Iraq. This is blatantly deceptive.

A group of militia sprang up after we left the borders wide open for years after the invasion who gave themselves the name, "al Queda in Iraq". This band has been fighting in the country. This group has NOTHING to do with the al Queda headed by bin Laden and who were responsible for the attacks on our country. There is NO connection whatsoever other than the fact that they used the Arabic phrase al Queda in their name.

Yet McCain and others have tried to conflate the two in order to again, deceive the rubes into thinking we're actually fighting the people who attacked us on 9-11.

Nope. That's utter fiction.

As a matter of fact, McCain as a continuation of Bush's policies, would continue a war of RETREAT against bin Laden and al Queda by making only a tiny fraction of the effort and devoting only a fraction of resources to the battle in Afghanistan where the people responsible for 9-11 actually ARE.

Bush was far too close to the Saudis to ever make any real effort to kill bin Laden. He's clearly let him go and has no desire to kill or capture him. He and Cheney are far too tight socially and economically with the Saudis to risk upsetting them by killing bin Laden.

So instead we get a phony war in Iraq which has killed more Americans than the terrorists did on 9-11 while bin Laden sits in Pakistan and issues videos while directing the activities of al Queda world-wide.

Finally all that lying caught up to McCain, he forgot his lines, and he confused himself with who he was supposed to link together in all of this.

McCain is pathetic and represents a continuation of the dishonest attempt to manipulate the American public into supporting endless war with phoney excuses, lies, false facts, and other B.S.

How anyone could look at his performance over the last several day and still try to argue that he knows what he's talking about is beyond me.

THIS is the guy who's supposed to be magically in command of foreign policy and especially the complex sitation in the mid-east?

As the magic 8-ball would say, signs point to no.

March 19, 2008

A conservative's take on the Obama speech

Longtime prominent right wing pundit and writer Andrew Sullivan on the Obama speech:
Alas, I cannot give a more considered response right now as I have to get on the road. But I do want to say that this searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime. It is a speech we have all been waiting for for a generation. Its ability to embrace both the legitimate fears and resentments of whites and the understandable anger and dashed hopes of many blacks was, in my view, unique in recent American history.

And it was a reflection of faith - deep, hopeful, transcending faith in the promises of the Gospels. And it was about America - its unique promise, its historic purpose, and our duty to take up the burden to perfect this union - today, in our time, in our way.

I have never felt more convinced that this man's candidacy - not this man, his candidacy - and what he can bring us to achieve - is an historic opportunity. This was a testing; and he did not merely pass it by uttering safe bromides. He addressed the intimate, painful love he has for an imperfect and sometimes embittered man. And how that love enables him to see that man's faults and pain as well as his promise. This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian.

Bill Clinton once said that everything bad in America can be rectified by what is good in America. He was right - and Obama takes that to a new level. And does it with the deepest darkest wound in this country's history.

I love this country. I don't remember loving it or hoping more from it than today.

March 18, 2008

More than just words

Online transcript and video.

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters….And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Campaign to smear Obama with words of preacher reeks of hypocrisy

This entire flap about Obama's minister and his comments should be dismissed with one simple question: Does Obama share those particular views which many find offensive?

If the answer is no, and you'd have to be grossly ignorant and gullible to suppose it's not, then there is no issue. Finito, end of story.

But of course, it's not over, and the usual gang of press and Republican flacks will chew it and mull it and pretend it's a big deal and keep it going as long as they can (or until some other titillating story comes along).

There have been a couple posts here regarding John Hagee, the nut-job fundamentalist who preaches Armageddon, demands an immediate nuclear attack on Iran in order to fulfill biblical prophesy and get this Armageddon/rapture thing on schedule, and refers to the Catholic Church as "the Great Whore", among other bizarre and radical things.

John McCain appeared side by side with him and praised this guy and welcomed and said he was very grateful for his support.

How many video clips of Hagee spouting things that any prudent person would regard as outrageous and dangerous did you see at that time?

Zero?? What a surprise. Unless you saw it here or on Bill Moyer's Journal (which even PBS now runs in the middle of the night) you didn't see any of it.

Then there's another preacher who's said things that make Obama's pastor seem tame, and McCain is accepting his fervent endorsement as well.

But when Obama's former (he's resigned from the church much before all this came out) pastor says things that will get people inflamed, we suddenly get to see the clips literally every minute and a half for 48 hours straight.

It's not like there's no video of Hagee, so that can't be why. So what is the reason for this bizarre double standard?

Obama condemns the statements, if not the man, states that he'd never been in church when Wright made the comments in question, and disavows them and removes the guy from association with his campaign.

But this isn't enough to end the discussion for those who are desperate for something to pin on Obama.

John McCain actively SOUGHT and ACCEPTED the support of whack-job Hagee, travelling to appear at his side, warmly accepting his support, etc.

Anyone see anything kind of ... dishonest or a double-standard perhaps?

Are only black religious figures subject to being considered dangerous or outside the mainstream? Do only black preachers scare people enough to be used as a campaign attack?

Consider this piece by Frank Schaffer, who's father Francis was one of the key figures in the rise of the evangelical "Religious Right"s rise to influence in the Republican party.
When Senator Obama's preacher thundered about racism and injustice Obama suffered smear-by-association. But when my late father -- Religious Right leader Francis Schaeffer -- denounced America and even called for the violent overthrow of the US government, he was invited to lunch with presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush, Sr.

Every Sunday thousands of right wing white preachers (following in my father's footsteps) rail against America's sins from tens of thousands of pulpits. They tell us that America is complicit in the "murder of the unborn," has become "Sodom" by coddling gays, and that our public schools are sinful places full of evolutionists and sex educators hell-bent on corrupting children. They say, as my dad often did, that we are, "under the judgment of God." They call America evil and warn of immanent destruction. By comparison Obama's minister's shouted "controversial" comments were mild. All he said was that God should damn America for our racism and violence and that no one had ever used the N-word about Hillary Clinton.

This silliness and craven attempts to portray Obama as some secret Muslim or black mysterious boogie-man who's radically different from you white Christians and is hell-bend on the destruction of America... well... as you can plainly see, it's just silly. Not to mention incredibly hypocritical and shamefully dishonest.

So why are people trying to pretend it's not?

PS. Quad Cities Examiner writes a post sniffing that expecting us to believe Obama when he states that he'd not heard Wright make the comments is ridiculous. She thinks that it's clear that he's lying through his teeth about this.

Of course, there's no evidence he lied, but then again, since when do these types need fact.

It so happens that Prince of the Neo-cons, Bill Kristol wrote in his New York Times column that Obama actually had been in the pew when Wright made the inflammatory statements. This is big stuff. Obama lied. His source? World Net Daily, a right wing rag that makes the gossip sheets at the check-out counter look like the Times of London.

As any normal human should have known, this was patently false. The Obama campaign quickly pointed out that Obama wasn't even in the state when Wright delivered the statements in question.

Kristol was forced to add a "note" explaining that he regretted this blatant error. (lie.)

This is all it takes to have a gig writing for the New York Times? Publishing any right wing tripe that floats up on the internet as fact? Yikes.

As any fairly rational 7 year old could have known, Obama wouldn't be saying he wasn't there if he was. The stakes are far too high.

Think QCE will be posting a correction or apology for her being utterly wrong in flatly stating that Obama was lying? Don't hold your breath.

March 17, 2008

Romance is in the air... or is that shrapnel

Bush doesn't always lie.

Often he provides an insight into his thinking.

Recently, he demonstrated his view that war is cool. I've long suspected that to Bush launching a war was to him nothing more than playing army. It's clear that he simply doesn't "get it" and never will.

Doubt it?

Read on.
I must say, I'm a little envious," Bush said. "If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed."

"It must be exciting for you ... in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You're really making history, and thanks," Bush said.

Words escape me. Got any?

Think Mom Bush saying the negras were better off after being losing everything they owned and living in a stadium in Houston. ""And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway," she said, "so this is working very well for them."

Think AWOL from Air National Guard, thousands of maimed and crippled vets and their families. "Fantastic to be on the front lines."

If your son, father, husband, wife, or daughter was missing a limb or blinded in Afghanistan, or perhaps so traumatized by the experience that they can't function, just what would you say about George's comic book notions?

And some people are arguing that Obama isn't qualified to be president? Just how much worse could it get?

There's a special place in hell for this stunningly shameless fool.

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Remember, the liver you save may be your own.

I was just borrowing it, honest.

Them Repubs loves them that money.

The former treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and possibly as much as $1 million -- of the organization's funds into his personal accounts, GOP officials said yesterday, describing an alleged scheme that could become one of the largest political frauds in recent history.

For at least four years, Christopher J. Ward, who is under investigation by the FBI, allegedly used wire transfers to funnel money out of NRCC coffers and into other political committee accounts he controlled as treasurer, NRCC leaders and lawyers said in their first public statement since they turned the matter over to the FBI six weeks ago.

A doff of the Dope bowler to a loyal reader for bringing this to my attention.

March 16, 2008

Bush: Terrorists will slaughter us all if we don't pass this bill which I will veto if it doesn't protect telecom giants.

The idiotic and lying argument laid out by the buffoon in chief didn't work.

The House Dems have had some sort of miraculous spine injection and apparently have at long last realized that they don't need to stick to the script they've followed for years that dicates they first make a few squeaks of protest and opposition before quickly reverting to a bunch of spineless pussies and caving in to Bush's every desire.

They actually voted for a bill that expands wiretapping capability, but without giving telecom giants protection from lawsuits for violating American's rights.

Hat's off for at long last acting like they have a pair.

And what's Bush and Republican shills doing in all this?

Why for months they've been loudly telling us that if congress doesn't pass this warrentless wiretapping bill, then we're all in peril and American streets will run red with the blood of the innocent.

The Dems made the FISA provisions even broader and less restrictive on intelligence agencies than it already was, and that's a lot. The FISA court already authorized about 99.99999% of warrent requests as it was.

So is Bush going to sign the bill and thuse prevent the hollocaust that he's promised would result if he wasn't able to spy on all Americans without any permission from anyone, ever?


He's promised to veto the bill because it doesn't protect the gigantic telecom corporations from lawsuits over their patently illegal spying on American citizens, people like you or I who in no way fit into the FISA provisions for spying on international communications. (Remember when Bush keeps saying this is only to spy on terrorists overseas? He's lying. They've been sweeping up ALL of our phone and online communications and then worrying about sorting it out later. And what Bush is demanding is that they be able to do this in complete and utter secrecy and without even the oversight of a SECRET FISA court.

Bush asked these telecom giants, all of which have benefitted to the tune of billions from Bush granting them the ability to pretty much write the laws the way they want them. He assured them that it was all entirely legal.

Not wanting to jeapardize their gravy train and offend the callow dunce, they went along and allowed the government to install gigantic diverters right inside their facilities which in effect duplicated all internet and phone traffic and sent a copy right into government computers. All without the customer's knowledge, naturally.

This blatantly illegal breach of the constitution went on in secret for years, except for when the government didn't pay it's bills on time.

THEN the telecoms simply shut down FBI spying. Yep, that's right. When the governmetn was slow to pay, the telecoms stopped allowing them to spy on you.

THAT'S how critical for our defense this secret spying is. So crucial that if the government is late with it's bill, the whole thing stops and no one in the Bush administration makes a peep.

So now that there's dozens of legitimate lawsuits pending for the telecoms blatant vilolation of our rights, Bush is cynically out there trying to scare the rubes into thinking that Dems are letting terrorists sneak into their cellar by not doing as Bush petulantly demands, namely altering U.S. law to provide special protection from punishment to a handful of corporations. I'm not sure if that's ever been done before in U.S. history.

Bush told them it was just fine to spy on us. Now, as at least one telecom knew, Quest, which flatly refused to participate in the illegality, it turns out that it was just as illegal as it seemed.

So the telecoms ran to Bush and the Republicans pleading that they protect them from being held accountible for what they'd done. After all, much like Hillary, they were now being burned for having actually been stupid enough to believe Bush.

So Bush and moron Republicans dutifully trotted out to pound the podium and try to conjure up visions of bloodshed and unthinkable carnage that would surely occur if the evil Dems didn't pass this bill and allow them to spy on whoever they want, whenever they want, in complete and utter secrecy even from a secret court.

But of course that was a huge lie, and Bush just proved it.

The Dems were wise to stand up to him on this, as now we'll get to witness Bush VETOING the very bill that he said is absolutely necessary to keep us safe from terrorist attack!

And why? Well, because it doesn't provide what it was all about to begin with, amnesty for telecom corporations.

Your Republican government at work folks. It would be farce if it weren't absolutely true.

How low can she go?

I'm curious.

Just what do Clinton supporters think about their candidate these days? Are they able to twist themselves enough to actually believe and support Clinton's frantic effort at the very negative and phoney attacks and low tactics that Obama condemns and people want to get away from?

As a Clinton supporter, how do you feel when you watch your candidate confirm the notion that she'll do or say ANYTHING to win, including trying to argue with a straight face that the results of the Michigan primary, an election where Barack Obama's name was not even on the ballot, should be counted?

And what does it feel like as you watch your candidate steadily driving the Democratic party nearer and nearer to complete meltdown and a potential loss to McCain, all directly stemming from Clinton's desperate attempt to force her way into the White House?

Isn't all the cheap shots and attempts to actively aid the McCain campaign, up to and including directly suggesting that only she and McCain are suitable to be commander in chief, making you have second thoughts?

Is all this divisive and often slimy tactics justifiable in any way?

March 12, 2008

Hey... uh... we were all dead wrong and knowingly lied which lead to thousands of violent deaths, but, uh, keep it under your hat

You've heard about the official pentagon report which concludes that after 5 years of exhaustive study (you can only imagine how hard the tried) they've concluded that there was absolutely no connnection whatsoever between Sadaam Hussein and al Queda in any way, shape, or form, right? None. Zip. Zilch.

One might expect such a fundamental revealation that conclusively proves that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and all the rest lied and lied repeatedly by asserting just the opposite to be getting more play than say, a governor with a weakness for stunning 22 year old hookers. But you'd be wrong.

And now the administration has taken unusual steps to make sure that you don't get to see the report either. Unless of course you want to write them and ask for it.

Of course this report has incredible historic significance, but to the Bushies, it's worth doing whatever pathetic creepy little thing they can to make sure that at least it's as hard for the public to access as they can make it.

Note the link to the executive summary of a "comprehensive military study of Saddam Hussein’s links to terrorism." issued by the pentagon.

Someone has done the patriotic duty of snagging a copy of the report and it's available here.

And apparently someone has done the patriotic duty of posting the entire report that the pentagon is attempting to minimize online even though the pentagon refuses to do so.

Care to know what you're talking about when discussing the adventure in Iraq? Go fill yourself in. Of course it's worth noting that these reports and others finally emerging from within the pentagon only confirm what those crazy liberals and a handful of patriotic Dems have been asserting all along, to the hoots and loud and hateful condemnation of right wingers. Guess the people that supposedly "hated America" were right all along.

Eruptions of the day

Elliott Mess...

Elliott Spitzer has got to be the dumbest person on eart... no wait. He looks like Einstein compared to Bush.

But it's literally mind-boggling that someone in his position, who had fought his way to the top in the intense knife-fight of New York politics, that was sitting in one of the most presigious political platforms in the country, one which is often a springboard for presidential runs, could be so reckless and stupid.

It defies all logic that he'd do something like he did, and apparently has been doing for some time.

It begs the question of why politicians seem to almost have a death wish when it comes to enjoying sexual pleasures.

In his defense, and in contrast to many fundementalist Republicans, at least he's accused of having consentual sex with an actual woman.

All one can assume in this bizarre episode is that the women he was paying huge amounts of money to be with must have been REALLY exceptional at her job for Spitzer to essentially risk his entire life's work to get another shot at it. (not to mention that he was allegedly paying almost four grand for the pleasure.)

And then there's Geraldine Ferraro.

Her comments were stupid, though nothing approaching the metaphysical stupidity involved in Spitzer's case.

Her initial comments sounded weird, dumb, and potentially offensive.

Her subsequent explanation and clarification of her remarks on the "Today" show made much more sense. She's also said that if she weren't a woman, she never would have been on the Mondale ticket. She also makes a valid point that often-times political types and media tend to see racism in even completely benign and innocent comments.

What do you think? What makes a person in Spitzer's position throw it all away for some mind-scorching sex?

Was Ferraro's comments racist or offensively dismissive of Obama's accomplishments? Was Clinton wrong to initially refuse to boot her off her finance committee?

And for that matter, was it necessary for Obama to give the boot to his foreign policy adviser when she used the word "monster" in describing Clinton's clear willingness to do or say nearly anything to win? Should he have had a stronger attitude and demonstrated that he would stand by those loyal to him by disaproving of her comments but keeping her as an advisor?

Any thoughts on the most recent dust-ups and tempests in teapots?

And what are your views on the state of the Dem election contest?

Has Hillary gone too far in trying to attack Obama?

Was it even sane for her to suggest that maybe she'd make Obama her V.P. when SHE'S the one in second place?

If he's prepared and qualified to be vice president, a heartbeat away from the presidency, then why is she arguing that he's not qualified to be president?

Is she approaching the duplicitous and craven "say anything" status of a Rove or Bush?

Iraq war timeline: Lie by lie.

At this time so dominated by primary coverage that one might wonder if the Iraq conflict was over, it can prove instructive to remind ourselves just how we got into this mess.

Spend some time with this nifty interactive timeline that provides, not opinion or regurgitated quasi-facts that simply aren't true, but things that actually HAPPENED in the runup and prosecution of this insane occupation.

March 11, 2008

Blog readers tend to be older


You thought it was younger people who read blogs? Think again.

Via Roger Ailes (not THAT Roger Ailes).

U of Iowa students show their love for Turdblossom

When Rove tried to start speaking, jeers from the crowd immediately interrupted him.

Police escorted two people out after they attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on Rove for his actions during the Bush administration. Some students didn't appreciate the crowd’s behavior.

"I think that no matter what your opinion of him is, it's important to hear him. You can tell people you heard him because he is important in history and will be in the textbooks," UI student Maria Tyson said.

At times, Rove had trouble saying more than a few words before someone shouted at him from the crowd.

"You got a chance to ask your questions later and make your stupid statements, let me make mine," Rove said.

Later, (when asked if he ever shed a tear about all the deaths in Iraq) Rove said he felt bad for all the soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Iraq.

"I shed a lot of tears and I have been inspired by many of the people who feel their son or daughter should not have to die in vain," Rove said.

Rove supporters stood and applauded him at times while the rest of the crowd booed.

"We study elections all of the time here, this is a man who has gone out and one [sic] it and been successful each time he's done it," UI student Greg Baker said.

Despite all the criticism from the crowd, Rove largely remained calm and simply sat silently until he could speak.

Near the end of the talk, someone shouted from the crowd, ‘Can we have our $40,000 back?’

Rove responded, “No, you can't.”

Rove only allowed journalists to videotape the first few minutes of his remarks. After that, the media had to turn off all cameras and tape recorders.

March 10, 2008

Olbermann gives shout-out to Bix

You probably weren't aware that today, March 10th, is the Quad Cities' world reknowned homeboy Bix Beiderbecke's birthday, but now millions of viewers around the world do.

I was pleasantly surprised to hear MSNBC's Keith Olbermann pay honor to Bix on tonight's "Countdown" program.

Olbermann does a nighly "On this date..." bit on his show where he cites people who were born on that date in history.

Tonight Olbermann opened a segment of "Countdown" with,
"On this date in 1903 Leon Bismarck Beiderbecke was born in Davenport, Iowa. Apart from being one of the greatest cornet players, Bix Beiderbecke was probably the first legend of jazz to come not only from the middle class, but from the audience made possible by records."
He then noted Beiderbecke's meteoric rise to fame during the era of bathtub gin and his tragic early death at the age of 28.

So Happy Birthday Bix, and hat's off to Keith Olbermann for paying respect to our area's most widely acclaimed native son.

Countdown is rebroadcast tonight at 11:00 p.m. on MSNBC.

March 8, 2008

What now RI County Dems?

LuAnn Kerr was recently installed as the successor to John Gianulis as Rock Island County County Democratic chairwoman.

Rep. Phil Hare and local Dem political worker Randy Jacobs (no relation) sent letters urging precinct committeepeople to vote for Kerr, while Hellen Heiland, Gianulis' long-time aide, also sent out a letter asking for support for her to assume the un-paid position.

So what's going to change now that the four decade Gianulis era is at an end? Anything at all? Is Kerr the best possible successor to John G.?

March 5, 2008

Swiftkids for Truth

This is too funny.

And so is this.

Labor pains

I think the Dems need an epidural about now, and I need about a half bottle of Tylenol. (and I think I'll get sick to my stomach when I start hearing Clinton surrogates talking about trying to resurrect Florida and Michigan.)

This labor has gone on a long while, and time and time again, when it looked like a bouncing new candidate would emerge, it was a false alarm.

Tonight was no exception.

The Democratic party seems doomed to contention and scrapping, and I suppose that's far better than a Soviet style party where everyone falls into line and blindly follows authority. But really.... with the stars aligned and everything falling into place for a potentially massive victory in November... now we're faced with what seems like a movie that will go on about an hour and a half past the point where anyone enjoyed it.

She's baaaaaaaack.

Hillary Clinton soundly thumped Barack Obama in Ohio and it's all but certain she'll win Texas. Add that to her victory in Rhode Island and she met and exceeded most expectations, going 3 for 4 with only Obama's expected win in Vermont preventing a sweep.

And she promptly put an end to all the rampant speculation and prognostication about what circumstances would or should make her drop out by vowing to "go all the way".

Now what has already been a long and somewhat difficult labor is promising to become extremely painful and may very well lead to most Dems grabbing the doctor by the sleeve and with bulging eyes demanding that they GET THIS OVER WITH!!!!

Now Clinton has raised the truly nightmarish spectre of her trying to change the rules and seat Florida delegates, or even staging a "redo" there.

It's not a good day for the Dems, and like groundhog day, the results tonight guaranteed at least 8 more weeks of sniping, charges and counter-charges, and who knows what as Clinton engages in an escalating ugly battle to secure what she feels is her rightful throne.

And by keeping things tight as a tick tonight, she won the right to legitimately do so.

Are the Dems going to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory once more? Having been handed the most vibrant and inspirational candidate in decades and inspiring a national movement behind him, will they now scratch and kick and play with the rules in order to ensure that a legacy candidate gets what she feels she so richly deserves?

If you're a Clinton supporter, tonight was no doubt a great relief and very heartening. Clinton's a scrapper and she's won all the "big" states that a candidate needs to win if they're to prevail in the general election.

But why do I get the feeling that Clinton's victories only made many Dems very depressed at just what they will now bring?

At least the lovely, bright, and talented Rachel Maddow, part of an election night panel on MSNBC, provided a bit of humor.

She suggested that Obama should have made his congratulatory phone call to Clinton at 3:00 a.m. ... just to see if she answered the call. ha!

Oh yeah, and the ossified John McCain clinched the Republican nomination and gave a semi-stirring speech which suggested that Islamic extremists have attacked us because "they hate modernity itself", neglecting to mention how he's also maintained that the terrorists are so sophisticated that they're practically able to achieve time travel, based on the fear-mongering warnings and arguments for why we need to trash the constitution and give up our rights to defend against them.

Neither did he mention that they communicate through satellite phones, encrypted computer networks, etc. Yep, they aren't fighting us because we've trampled on their countries, interfered with their governments and established bases on their soil... nah... it's because they "hate modernity".

But maybe it's because they don't want "modernity" in the form of tank shells and bombs and missiles flying through the windows of their modest homes or soldiers slaughtering them as they drive down the street on the way to the market. Nah.... again, it's all because they hate our "freedom" and modernity itself.

OK Grandpa, if you say so.

I suppose the "surge" is working too.

Looks like McCain is banking on the same old Bush tactic of peddling fairy tales and misleading the American public, feeding them pleasing and easy to digest story lines that appeal to their armchair patriotism, jingoism, and false bravado.

So much for "straight talk", this guy will try to sell us anything if it helps scare us into voting him into power.

But I digress. What the hell is going to happen now that Hillary has earned a reason to fight to the death?