Tuesday, April 25, 2006

What Dubya Learned About Energy

Don't you just love the George W. Bush manner? When he speaks to America about something really, really important, he puts on his intimate voice and teaches us what he is the last to know.

Today, for example, he passed along what he learned from his scriptwriters about energy.

In his speech to the Renewable Fuels Association, Bush let us in on a truth, "To reduce gas prices, our oil companies have got a role to play."

Gee, no kidding. Maybe you can tell us the role that the oil companies played in helping formulate our energy policy, or do those records remain secret George?

But wait, there's more:

"Congress has got to understand that these energy companies don't need unnecessary tax breaks like the write-offs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures or the use of taxpayers' monies to subsidize energy companies' research into deep water drilling."

Congress needs to understand? What, Dubya already knows this? Than why has this Texan been so kind to his oil brethen lo these many years. When has he ever held them accountable for anything? Why does he still refuse to enact a windfall profits tax to make a dent in the money these conglomerates have been pumping out of our wallets?

Better still, who knew he could pronounce geophysical?

I could go on and on about his blather about promoting fuel efficiency or how it's really important to disrupt the air quality to lower prices. Or how ethanol is God's little side effect of growing corn.

But what speaks volumes is what this man does not do. He refuses to enact meaningful policies that will force these companies that are financially raping us to return any of that money back into the system. Bush has neglected to seek out any realistic alternative energy policy but informs us we are "addicted to oil." So what does that make Bush, the world's most arrogant pusher?

To entirely obfuscate matters, Bush has agreed to stop depositing into the strategic petroleum reserve. Wow, that will free up about a third of 1% of a days supply. Imagine the savings. Then, of course, to get around the alleged disruption caused by those annoying "boutique fuels," you know, the ones that force our air to be cleaner, he'll just deregulate some more.

What I am wondering though is what happened to those promises that accompanied the invasion into Iraq? The promises that referred to how Iraq's much-coveted oil supplies would foot the bill for the excursion. Hell, it's not even putting a down payment on the mother of all embassies we are building there.

All we have to show for the power grab at oil is a deficit in the trillions, a war which has eaten up all our financial and military resources with no end in sight, less oil and much higher prices.

But Bush, Cheney and their friends are far richer than they were 6 years ago and I suppose, that's all that really matters anyway.

I guess we have all learned a valuable lesson about Globalization and Energy, Bush-style.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Billion Dollar Embassy

Any illusion about our true intentions in Iraq are being erased by the mother of all embassies being erected.

According to a report in the administration-friendly Washington Times, the new embassy compound dwarfs other such embassies around the world and will be quite pricey. The Times reports, "Original cost estimates were more than $1 billion, but Congress appropriated only $592 million in the emergency Iraq budget adopted last year. Most has gone to a Kuwaiti builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project's "classified" portion -- the embassy offices.

One would assume that future money will be funneled into this center, which is described as follows, "The embassy complex -- 21 buildings on 104 acres, according to a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee report -- is taking shape on riverside parkland in the fortified Green Zone just east of al-Samoud, a former palace of Saddam Hussein's, and across the road from the building where the ex-dictator is now on trial."

Additionally, it's got, "its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewaster-treatment facility, 'systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities,' said the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.

"Besides two major diplomatic office buildings, homes for the ambassador and his deputy, and the apartment buildings for staff, the compound will offer a swimming pool, gym, commissary, food court and American Club, all housed in a recreation building."

As for safety, consider this, the complex is,"within easy mortar range of anti-U.S. forces in the capital, though fewer explode there these days."

So, still think we're not gearing up to establish a permanent presence and base in that country?

Let's put it in perspective. This is how the article begins, "The fortresslike compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the world's largest of its kind, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq's turbulent future."

Just the sort of message we want to send to the Iraqis....we're not going away. And, if your infrastructure seems to be chaotic, ours will be independent and function without a hitch.

Yeah, that should encourage Iraqis to get their act together.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Don't Run John, Don't Run

Senator John Kerry is considering a repeat of his campaign for president. For the good of the party and this nation John, please don't run.

George Dubya Bush was ripe for defeat in the '04 election. His defeat by you in the debates should have meant a slam dunk at the polls.

My belief in GOP dirty tricks at the polls notwithstanding, Sen. Kerry, you were an abyssmal campaigner.

When you were sucker-punched by the swift boaters, your appalling initial reaction was to merely ignore it. Then when you fought back, it was to defensively parry.

How can a decorated war hero lose the issue of managing national security to a man who never really served? Additionally, because of the cleverly Rovian baiting of Dan Rather, the press never again attempted to bring up the fact that nobody seems to be able to remember serving alongside Bush Jr. One would think that you, Sen. Kerry, would respond by going on the offensive. What, did you think Dubya wasn't behind the 'anti-patriot' attacks?

I am so tired of the apologist and elitist politics of the Democratic party. We campaign as if we feel inferior for being left-of-center. Liberalism is honorable. There is no shame in true moral values; compassion for the poor, inclusion of minorities, taking care of those who cannot care fend for themselves, seeking peaceful, diplomatic resolutions of global conflicts.

We need to be pro-active and tough. Senator Kerry pro-active? I don't think so.

Worst of all was Kerry's refusal to pursue the many serious complaints of GOP Election Day shenanigans. These are no hollow complaints. There are scores of documentation to be found. "Fooled Again" by Mark Crispin Miller is essential reading. He lists numerous illustrations of misconduct and reveals some dangerous practices that threaten our entire system of free elections. As Mr. Miller writes, if we don't speak out they will steal the next election as well.

What have you done, Senator Kerry, in the wake of these charges? Anything?

Sorry sir, you have forfeited your right to represent me.

Kerry is the epitome of the re-active candidate, who only operates from the defensive. Karl Rove and crew would once again eat him alive. We need a candidate who is willing to take the challenge to the president and the GOP.

Somebody with real courage like, say, Senator Russell Feingold.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

So Much For Washington Post Credibility

I suppose I should have seen this coming, but today's editorial confirmed to me that the Washington Post no longer has credibility as an impartial newspaper.

Today's mind-boggling peek through the looking glass of the Washington Post editorial board reveals that it is, indeed, a mouthpiece for Bush administration talking points.

Here is what today's editorial had to say about a "good leak" by President Bush:

"President Bush was right to approve the declassification of parts of a National Intelligence Estimate about Iraq three years ago in order to make clear why he had believed that Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. Presidents are authorized to declassify sensitive material, and the public benefits when they do. But the administration handled the release clumsily, exposing Mr. Bush to the hyperbolic charges of misconduct and hypocrisy that Democrats are leveling."

So, the fact that only selective elements from that intelligence document were leaked to a reporter, thus misrepresenting the entire report to make political points, is allegedly correct foreign policy. Not only that, but those who do not see it that way are engaging in "hyperbolic charges."

But WaPo doesn't stop there. Ambassador Joseph Wilson is now Darth Vader:

"The affair concerns, once again, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV and his absurdly over-examined visit to the African country of Niger in 2002. Each time the case surfaces, opponents of the war in Iraq use it to raise a different set of charges, so it's worth recalling the previous iterations. Mr. Wilson originally claimed in a 2003 New York Times op-ed and in conversations with numerous reporters that he had debunked a report that Iraq was seeking to purchase uranium from Niger and that Mr. Bush's subsequent inclusion of that allegation in his State of the Union address showed that he had deliberately 'twisted' intelligence 'to exaggerate the Iraq threat.' The material that Mr. Bush ordered declassified established, as have several subsequent investigations, that Mr. Wilson was the one guilty of twisting the truth. In fact, his report supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium.

"Mr. Wilson subsequently claimed that the White House set out to punish him for his supposed whistle-blowing by deliberately blowing the cover of his wife, Valerie Plame, who he said was an undercover CIA operative. This prompted the investigation by Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald. After more than 2 1/2 years of investigation, Mr. Fitzgerald has reported no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's charge. In last week's court filings, he stated that Mr. Bush did not authorize the leak of Ms. Plame's identity. Mr. Libby's motive in allegedly disclosing her name to reporters, Mr. Fitzgerald said, was to disprove yet another false assertion, that Mr. Wilson had been dispatched to Niger by Mr. Cheney. In fact Mr. Wilson was recommended for the trip by his wife. Mr. Libby is charged with perjury, for having lied about his discussions with two reporters. Yet neither the columnist who published Ms. Plame's name, Robert D. Novak, nor Mr. Novak's two sources have been charged with any wrongdoing."

Ambassador Wilson was "the one guilty of twisting the truth?" Oh, I guess that Iraq really was purchasing uranium? How could I have missed that one?

Considering the reports we have out of Great Britain that the administration seemed bent on fixing intelligence to support their march to war, it is not hard to connect the dots and see Judith Miller being played in the same manner here. After all, weren't her initial WMD reports based upon selective intelligence being fed to her as well?

The Washington Post seems to have no problem with the contradictions between a president who says that leaks for political reasons are bad, with his own decision to selectively release portions of classified intelligence that, standing alone, would tend to support his own political stance. If that wasn't the case, why not release the entire report at that time, so Ms. Miller could have seen ALL the doubts that were being raised over the uranium claim.

We have a president that says "we don't leak," "we don't wiretap without a warrant," and, the biggest whopper of them all, "no president wants war."

It's nice to know that the Bush team has such good friends at the Washington Post.

It explains a lot....like the Ben Domenech fiasco, for instance. Interestingly, even in that case, the Post couldn't admit that they were wrong in bringing in an extremist right-wing blogger for alleged 'balance.' No, it was the fact that he was a plagiarizing extremist.

This is the looking glass, after all.

UPDATE: In Monday's Huffington Post (4/10/06), Jane Hamsher does a meticulous dissection of the WaPo editorial. It is a terrific read and can be found here.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Howard Kurtz Owes Jill Carroll An Apology

Eric J. Weiner made 2 entries in the Huffington Post today, here and here.

The gripe was with columnist for The Washington Post, Howard Kurtz, seeming to take a position regarding statements that Jill Carroll made after her release, while she was still on Iraqi soil. Without knowing the details, many on the right, and blowhards such as Don Imus, attacked Carroll's patriotism. The problem was, and is, that Kurtz has yet to issue an apology for his comments.

This is what Kurtz wrote in his Friday "Media Notes" column in WaPo, in a piece titled, "Questions About Carroll's Captivity" (emphasis is mine):

"This is a courageous young woman.

"I must say, though, that I found her first interview yesterday rather odd. Carroll seemed bent on giving her captors a positive review, going on about how well they treated her, how they gave her food and let her go to the bathroom. And they never threatened to hit her. Of course, as we all saw in those chilling videos, they did threaten to kill her. And they shot her Iraqi translator to death.

"Why make a terrorist group who put her family and friends through a terrible three-month ordeal sound like they were running a low-budget motel chain?

"Now perhaps this is unfair, for there is much we do not know. We don't know why Carroll was kidnapped and why she was abruptly released. She says she doesn't either, but surely she must have gotten some clues about her abductors' outlook and tactics during her 82-day captivity. Maybe she was just shell-shocked right after being let go. Maybe she won't feel comfortable speaking out until she's back on American soil.

"As my colleagues in Baghdad point out, when that interview was taped, Carroll was still in the custody of a Sunni political party with ties to the insurgency. It may have just made sense for her to be especially cautious. And they tell me that Carroll did cry -- off camera -- when the subject of her murdered translator came up. Still, people are buzzing because her taped remarks have been played over and over again on television. I hope she'll be able to share a fuller account of her ordeal soon."

Forget couching the comments to hedge his bets. Those allegations should not have been made until Carroll was on American soil and given a chance to explain her actions.

Today, Kurtz did not apologize in either his daily column, or 1-hour online chat.

Kurtz knows the power of the written word, he needs to take responsibility.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Separated at Birth: Sessions & Beverly

Not only do these 2 sound alike, they look alike. I am referring to Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and character actor Leslie Jordan, who plays the diminutive, and closeted, Beverly Leslie on "Will & Grace."

I know that I have never seen these 2 in the same room together. Have you?

Jordan photo from http://www.hollywoodfyi.com/lesliejordan.html
Sessions photo from http://www.bamagop.org/images/elected_officials/jeff_sessions.jpg

GOP As 'God's Own Party'

I think the entanglement of religious fundamentalism with the governing of America has ascended to levels where the propogators of such policy can no longer hide it.

Starting with confining their fights to topics such as abortion rights and gay marriage, the religious right has been emboldened enough to expand their agenda.

The current climate allows the questioning of evolution, the dismissal of global warming concerns, a holy war against stem cell research, and so on. These folks even seek to use the government to force brain-dead people to remain on life support.

So, it was interesting to read a column in today's Washington Post by Kevin Phillips. The story, "How the GOP Became God's Own Party," was written by a man who predicted the upcoming attempt at the theocratic hijacking of American politics.

Mr. Phillips, a former member of the Nixon Administration, had once published a seminal work on the changing political landscape that was referred to as the "political bible of the Nixon Era." So I suppose Phillips, as much as anybody, can assess the transformation that so few in the mainstream media are willing to admit is occurring.

Among many interesting assessments, Phillips writes, "No leading world power in modern memory has become a captive of the sort of biblical inerrancy that dismisses modern knowledge and science. The last parallel was in the early 17th century, when the papacy, with the agreement of inquisitional Spain, disciplined the astronomer Galileo for saying that the sun, not the Earth, was the center of our solar system."

But his most most compelling assertion is how the current GOP has merged this fundamentalism into what is essentially, a 3-headed monster:

"In addition to its concerns with oil and terrorism, the White House is courting end-times theologians and electorates for whom the Holy Lands are a battleground of Christian destiny. Both pursuits -- oil and biblical expectations -- require a dissimulation in Washington that undercuts the U.S. tradition of commitment to the role of an informed electorate.

"The political corollary -- fascinating but appalling -- is the recent transformation of the Republican presidential coalition. Since the election of 2000 and especially that of 2004, three pillars have become central: the oil-national security complex, with its pervasive interests; the religious right, with its doctrinal imperatives and massive electorate; and the debt-driven financial sector, which extends far beyond the old symbolism of Wall Street.

"President Bush has promoted these alignments, interest groups and their underpinning values. His family, over multiple generations, has been linked to a politics that conjoined finance, national security and oil. In recent decades, the Bushes have added close ties to evangelical and fundamentalist power brokers of many persuasions.

"Over a quarter-century of Bush presidencies and vice presidencies, the Republican Party has slowly become the vehicle of all three interests -- a fusion of petroleum-defined national security; a crusading, simplistic Christianity; and a reckless credit-feeding financial complex. The three are increasingly allied in commitment to Republican politics. On the most important front, I am beginning to think that the Southern-dominated, biblically driven Washington GOP represents a rogue coalition, like the Southern, proslavery politics that controlled Washington until Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860."

While many progressives are keenly aware of the dangers presented by the religious right, it is comforting to hear it spelled out so keenly by a man who has more credibility on the subject than most.