Sunday, September 30, 2007

Questionable Democratic Fundraising E-mails?

So, I recently moved to Olympia, WA and I would just like to say that it took Comcast FOREVER to successfully hookup my internet access. I say successfully, because the first TWO times they came, it quit working. So, after about a month long hiatus from blogging, I'm happy to be back (not to mention how thrilled I am to have regular access to e-mail. I'd like to give props to The Evergreen State College for tacitly allowing me to use their library computers for personal internet use. Good people there.).
A good friend of mine who blogs under the moniker Tzepish drew my attention to a couple of questionable fund raising e-mails he's received from the Dodd campaign, and it looks like he isn't the only one.

From Tzepish:

The extremely informal "Hey," opener makes this email seem almost as though it
were written only to the recipient from Chris Dodd himself. The request for
"$23" (as opposed to $20 or $25) is meant to give the impression that he really
is only $23 short of the goal, whereas a request for $25 would have been more
readily recognized as a regular donations solicitation email.

and regarding a second e-mail from Dodd (image not available) which read:

"I noticed that you recently made an attempt to make a contribution to our
campaign on-line, and for some reason the attempt was not successful."No. I did
not recently make an attempt to contribute to the Dodd campaign, and this email
won't get me to do it. I did contribute to the campaign a couple months ago, and
guess what? The charge on that one went through. But imagine if I had recently
made a donation on the website (let's say $25), and then received this email?
Chances are a good portion of the people receiving this would go ahead and
attempt the donation again, and whoops, there goes another $25! Right into the
pockets of the Dodd Squad.

A Dodd staffer actually responded to Tzepish's concerns in the comments of the blog, writing that the second e-mail was a response to an earlier donation from a previous accounting period (although, I'm not sure I buy it, but whatever, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt).

These e-mails rubbed me the wrong way. It's not that they were necessarily out right dishonest (well, the second message would be if my suspicions are accurate), but they do seem kind of sleazy. It's like the candidate (in this case Dodd, but Atrios has also received a similar one from Obama) is trying to trick us into donating. I know marketing is essentially professional trickery, but for whatever reason (perhaps my naivete), I would expect more from politicians. This all smacks more of e-mail spam than it does legitimate electioneering. How strong are a candidate's convictions about his or her campaign if they have to resort to tricking the party loyal into contributing to their primary coffers? I'm probably just being to sensitive, but I still don't like it. Not at all.

There's more: "Questionable Democratic Fundraising E-mails?" >>

Has Limbaugh Apologized Yet?

It is September 30, 2007. Has Rush Limbaugh apologized for his "phony soldier" comment? Have you taken any steps to encourage him?

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The Dollar And It's Diving

Ok, I am a Chiefs fan. This has been a fun day. We started off behind, but the boys came to play in the second half. Nothing is better than watching the Chiefs come from behind to beat a divisional rival. Their win has put me in a festive mood. You might say a holiday mood. Tonight's funny is a parody of a famous old Christmas Carol. It's called The Dollar and Its Diving. It is from Versusplus. Merry Christmas in September.

If you didn't like the video, you should post something of your own. You know who you are.

There's more: "The Dollar And It's Diving" >>

Is Cheney Really Shifting Targets?

For those just getting up, Bill Clinton appeared on some of the Sunday shows this morning. You might want to find his appearances on the web. This morning's must read, however, is Seymour Hersh's article in the New Yorker entitled Shifting Targets.

If you think Hillary Clinton and the Beltway Democrats didn't make a mistake by signing on to the Lieberman/Kyl Let's Bomb Iran Resolution, reading Hersh's article will change your mind. It is obvious that the Resolution was just part of the Bush/Cheney roll out of their shiny new war in Iran.

I can hear Hillary's excuse after the bombing starts. "We were merely authorizing the President to declare the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization. Nobody ever told us that the Revolutionary Guard is part of the Iranian government. Nobody imagined that Bush/Cheney would consider the resolution an authorization to go after Iran." If she really believes that America has become a great colonial empire and stealing oil from the Middle East is what colonial empires are all about, she really ought to come right out and tell us. If that isn't what she believes she ought to bring her actions in line with her beliefs.

More after the break.

Hillary is nothing more than an enabler. Hersh confirms that the real driving force behind an Iranian attack is Dick Cheney. Oddly, if you believe Hersh, while the Israel, Britain, France and the US have focused on the Iranian nuclear program, Cheney is said to be pitching an attack to counter Iranian involvement in Iraq.

If he thinks the Iranians are going to be shocked and awed into submission it is probable that, as usual, he is badly mistaken. Hersh interviewed a former "State Department Advisor on Iran."

The adviser said that he had heard from a source in Iran that the Revolutionary Guards have been telling religious leaders that they can stand up to an American attack. “The Guards are claiming that they can infiltrate American security,” the adviser said. “They are bragging that they have spray-painted an American warship—to signal the Americans that they can get close to them.” (I was told by the former senior intelligence official that there was an unexplained incident, this spring, in which an American warship was spray-painted with a bull’s-eye while docked in Qatar, which may have been the source of the boasts.)

“Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, ‘Uncle Sam is here! We’d better stand down’? ” the former senior intelligence official said. “The reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer.”
What does all this mean? That is hard to say. I guess, at the very least, "Bomb, bomb,bomb, bomb Iran" is a catchy jingle for the new product from Bushco that has apparently been endorsed by Hillary Clinton.

There's more: "Is Cheney Really Shifting Targets?" >>

Gold Star Mother's Day 2007

This post guest blogged by Karen from Gold Star Mom Speaks Out

The Congress, by Senate Joint Resolution 115 of June 23, 1936, has designated the last Sunday in September as "Gold Star Mother's Day" and has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation in its observance.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton proclaimed that we should "honor women whose sons and daughters have pledged their lives to securing for all Americans the blessings of liberty. These mothers have made tremendous sacrifices, the most painful being the loss of their children, and deserve the respect and recognition of the nation."

In 2007, George Bush proclaimed

The gift of liberty is secured by heroes who have answered the call to serve when America needed them most. On Gold Star Mother's Day, we honor the mothers of the service men and women who have given their lives in the defense of our great Nation.

America's Gold Star Mothers are remarkable patriots who serve their communities by demonstrating good citizenship, providing support and services to our troops and veterans, and helping comfort the families whose loved ones have made the ultimate sacrifice. Their sense of duty and deep devotion to our country inspire our Nation, and we thank them for their compassion, determination, and strength. Though they carry a great burden of grief, these courageous mothers help ensure that the legacy of our fallen heroes will be forever remembered. On this day, we offer our deep gratitude and respect to our Nation's Gold Star Mothers; we honor the sons and daughters who died while wearing the uniform of the United States; and we pray for God's blessings on them, their mothers, and their families.
As a Gold Star Mother, I do not find comfort in this cold President's words; they do not ring true. His meetings with Gold Star Mother's are arranged to include only women who support his ruthless, endless war and more death. Where is his compassion and sense of patriotism to those mothers who disagree with him and work diligently to end the war and to bring our troops home?

Gold Star Mothers Day is not a Hallmark holiday to send flowers or cards; there is no happy in this day. Gold Star Mothers Day 2007 should be a day for sober reflection about how President Bush set in place a new generation of Gold Star Mothers when he sent our children to fight his illegal war in Iraq. These new Gold Star Mothers will be his legacy as the war president, he proudly claims himself to be.

The current president says we must honor the sacrifices of fallen soldiers by completing the mission and achieving victory. How will more bloodshed and more dying honor my son, who was killed in Iraq more than 3 years ago? This president can prevent the creation of new Gold Star Mothers. It is time for president Bush to remove the burden from the military and work to find some kind of political solution that would allow us to bring our troops home.

We will never forget our loved ones; they will live forever in our hearts. And we must not forget the Iraqi Gold Star mothers who suffer so much from this war that came to their front door step unwelcome and unnecessary.

Today, the citizens of this country must remember our sacrifice and consider the human cost of this war. That and our broken hearts are something that Gold Star Mothers live with forever.

I am the proud Gold Star Mother of 1Lt Ken Ballard.

There's more: "Gold Star Mother's Day 2007" >>

The Air Car -- Can Technology Save The World?

America is never going to extricate itself from the Middle East until we dramatically reduce our need for "Texas Tea" and that won't happen until we get away from the gasoline powered internal combustion engine. Sadly, the technologies being developed by American companies, biofuel based, hydrogen and electric, are either environmentally unacceptable, expensive, or have limited range. The video below features two foreign inventors who, with their innovative companies, are working on compressed air technology. The French entry into the air car market is on the verge of widespread introduction in Europe. More on the technology after the break.

What is the point of this post? Where is my morning serving of horse race politics and Republicans making asses out of themselves? Well, thousands of young Americans are and will continue to die in the Middle East. Even Alan Greenspan admits the fighting in Iraq is over oil. What if an American president could look at a Saudi king or an Iranian president threatening to raise oil prices to $160 per barrel and say "so what?"

The following is from the MDI corporation's website.

MDI has developed a high performance compressed air technology. When it is compared to traditional gasoline powered engines, MDI´s engine is far superior in terms of energy used and thermodynamics.

An overview of the air car

MDI's MiniCat

The technology that MDI vehicles use is not new, in fact it had been around for years. Compressed air technology allows for engines that are both non polluting and economical. After ten years of research and development, MDI is prepared to introduce its clean vehicles onto the market. Unlike electric or hydrogen powered vehicles, MDI vehicles are not expensive and do not have a limited driving range. MDI cars are affordable and have a performance rate that stands up to current standards. To sum it up, they are non-expensive cars that do not pollute and are easy to get around cities in.

Two technologies have been developed to meet different needs:

* Single energy compressed air engines
* Dual energy compressed air plus fuel engines

The single energy engines will be available in both Minicats and Citycats. These engines have been conceived for city use, where the maximum speed is 50 km/h and where MDI believes polluting will soon be prohibited. It is already possible to see examples of this in some places, such as London, where if you want to enter the city center with gasoline powered vehicles, you must pay a fee.

The duel energy engine, on the other hand, has been conceived as much for the city as the open road and will be available in all MDI vehicles. The engines will work exclusively with compressed air while it is running under 50 km/h in urban areas. But when the car is used outside urban areas at speeds over 50 km/h, the engines will switch to fuel mode. The engine will be able to use gasoline, gas oil, bio diesel, gas, liquidized gas, ecological fuel, alcohol, etc.

Both engines will be available with 2, 4 and 6 cylinders, When the air tanks are empty the driver will be able to switch to fuel mode, thanks to the car's on board computer.
Former Mercedes Benz experimental engineer Angelo di Pietro is developing his rotary compressed air engine in Melborne, Australia. Theoretically the rotary design is more efficient than the more conventional MDI design.

Pietro's cart

Of course air technology would require us to invest a lot of money improving electric power generation. We need to do that anyway.

There's more: "The Air Car -- Can Technology Save The World?" >>

Campaign Video of the Day -- September 30, 2007

Today's Campaign Video is from michaelnegron. I found it reviewing another video he has posted called Barack Obama on Experience. This video is called Hoops. Action. Change. It is an interview with Barack Obama's brother-in-law. I bet you didn't know he has a brother-in-law. The video gives us a glimpse of the kind of man Barack is and the kind of family he enjoys.

If you stay up all night producing or even if you stumble across a campaign video in need of broader coverage, please send us an email at subject Campaign Video of the Day.

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On Natural Monopolies: Electric Deregulation Was A Trojan Horse

The late Molly Ivins once wrote something to the effect that after a service is deregulated, the result is that people often discover why it was regulated in the first place.

For 30 years, the "Priesthood of the Free Market" has been hellbent to sell Americans on the deregulation and privatization of damn near everything. Their progress has been astonishing. Even the Iraq war seems to have been about half outsourced.

After considering the deregulation of the electricity market, I am inclined to look beyond the "true believers" of the free market, and toward those whose only true belief is in maximization of profits, no matter the cost to anyone else. Remember the story of the Trojan Horse?

But the tide may finally be turning. It appears that many officials in states where electricity has been deregulated (about a third have done so) have come to similar conclusions as the late Molly.

The Sept. 21 online edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported:

Support for electric deregulation has dramatically fallen among the nation's utility regulators, with one-third in deregulated states expressing the likelihood of some sort of re-regulation, according to a new survey.

Conducted in conjunction with Standard & Poor's, the telephone survey of 96 state utility regulators also showed a plurality answering "none" when asked which states operate the most successful deregulated market. ...

Tim Morstad, an analyst with AARP-Texas ... said the poll should some as no surprise to anyone who pays a light bill in Texas. ...

"The rest of the country is figuring out what Texas consumers already know, that deregulation fails to deliver lower rates and better service," he said. ...

The survey also found that 43 percent of regulators in states with deregulation say it does not work well, and 37 percent said it does. Moreover, 54 percent of regulators in states with deregulation report that re-regulation is likely.

There's more.
Texas is far from the only state where ratepayers have seen this kind of deception. This is from an article carried by The Associated Press in April:

BENTON, Ill. --This wasn't supposed to happen with deregulation. Electric bills were supposed to go down. Instead, Ellie Dorchincez can almost see the dollars evaporating every time she turns on the lights or opens the freezer at her small Farm Fresh grocery store.

Her electric bill, which used to be about $800 a month, has jumped to $1,800. ...

The cause of her distress is a common problem: the failure of deregulation to deliver its promise of lower electricity prices. In many states, it's had the opposite effect with sharply higher rates -- 72 percent in Maryland, up to 50 percent in Illinois.

Not one of the 16 states -- plus the District of Columbia -- that have pushed forward with deregulation since the late 1990s can call it a success. In fact, consumers in those states fared worse than residents in states that stuck with a policy of regulating their power industries.

An Associated Press analysis of federal data shows consumers in the 17 deregulated areas paid an average of 30 percent more for power in 2006 than their counterparts in regulated states. That's up from a 24 percent gap in 1990.

The idea was to move from a monopoly situation to robust competition for electric customers, with backers promising potentially lower rates in state after state. ...

But competition, especially for residential and small business customers, rarely emerged. ...

Consumer groups ... say deregulation has had a chance to prove itself. In Texas, for example, competition did develop after rate caps ended -- but the energy prices remained higher.

In Robert Kuttner's now-classic 1998 book Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limitations of Markets, the economist wrote (p. 228):

We regulate some industries because they work more efficiently as monopolies. It would be wasteful and duplicative to have two parallel gas pipelines, two sets of telephone poles, two parallel rail lines, or two electric grids. Neither supplier could cover his costs by running at half-capacity, and both would soon have to raise prices or go out of business. Left alone, one would likely absorb the other. ...

Once we tolerate a monopoly, the producer is no longer subject to the discipline of competition. ... in principle the consumer is free not to buy the product. But in many natural monopolies, such as electricity, water, and transit, the product is a virtual necessity, and consumer demand is fairly inelastic; hence the consumer cannot discipline the monopolist.

Enter those godless socialists, the regulators. But I suspect that by now there are many God-fearing ratepayers in Texas and many other states who wish to God they had those crypto-Marxists back.

I reluctantly stuck with Reliant Energy here in the Lone Star State, in part just to see what they would do after the latest phase of deregulation. You know, like, to test the classical economic theory. Silly me. I went from paying 13.3 cents per kilowatt hour to 14.5 cents -- and the latter during the worst heat of the Texas summer. I'm certain, of course, that this was just a coincidence. I'm nevertheless switching to a "competitor" -- but not holding my breath for much improvement.

I posted this comment on a great blog, Red Hog Diary, about the health-care issue. But I think it also says a bit about natural monopolies that is salient:

A good incision sometimes works wonders. I'm going to try one.

The crucial thing so many seem to miss, and that populations of every developed country other than the U.S. have eventually understood, is that health care isn't a sector of the economy that is governed by a classical market mechanism. It's mostly what is termed a natural monopoly.

There are circumstances when one can make certain consumer choices. But if you've ever been picked up by an ambulance in what seemed like a life-threatening situation, you're not going to be able to shop around for the best room rates at the hospitals. Not if you want to live. Once you're in a hospital, you have to take it pretty much the way they offer it. It ain't like showing up at a flea market, haggling with the merchants like an Arab trader.

What I see is a fundamental mistake of people trying to apply classical economics to a sector that has never -- ever -- shown the appropriate characteristics for that. The rest of the world understands this. Even if they bitch about the particulars of their government systems, ask yourself why they aren't moving toward any emulation of ours.

Although I digress a bit -- these "thinkers" make the same mistake with utility deregulation. Where I live, under deregulation, I'm paying considerably more for electrical power now. It is another example of a natural monopoly. I can't play off two electrical grids against each other for lower rates, any more than I can do that between hospitals when I'm sick.

And, of course, I'm paying more for health care. Much, much more, outpacing inflation. Every passing year. And more for electricity. And more for medicine ... Get the picture?

I shouldn't leave this subject without noting that there is evidence of considerable chicanery by utility corporations left in charge of the proverbial henhouse. This is from an April 11 article in the online edition of the San Antonio Express-News:

Last week, TXU executives, facing a $210 million state fine for alleged price manipulations in the summer of 2005, threatened to withhold power by shutting down natural-gas-powered electricity plants if the allegations were not dropped.

That's so Enron. That kind of abusive management mentality went out of style with the Enron implosion of 2001. (It did? -- MJ)

The group of investors trying to buy TXU had to scold the TXU executives into withdrawing the threat a few days later. The executives' capitulation indicates that the potential buyers are deciding policy at TXU headquarters these days.

I have no argument whatsoever with market approaches that are genuinely competitive, socially responsible and deliver the goods in the best possible way. Ideally, the relationship between markets and governments is symbiotic: governments providing the infrastructure markets depend on to thrive, and strong markets supplying governments with the tax base they need in order to deliver on their end. Government entities can be maddeningly inefficient, but I've worked for large corporations that seemed to be trying to compete with them on that score.

This is how the prosperous economies of developed countries have really been built -- with a mixed system. (This World Wide Web: courtesy of the government. Look it up.)

As economist Kuttner wrote:

Faith in idealized market structures also has spawned a political jihad intent upon stripping away the community and governmental safeguards against market abuses and imperfections -- safeguards that are essential to the modern American system constructed during the Great Depression and after World War II. In addition, an overtly and proudly selfish ideology finances and propels the drive to cut taxes on the wealthy, punch holes in the social safety net, and "unchain" business from the shackles of regulation and litigation. The conservative catechism castigates those who would "reward need" by supporting public programs for the poor and, at its most radical, even rejects Adam Smith's conviction that the state must provide the bedrock of the educational and physical infrastructure of an industrialized society.

Plainly, utilities are usually natural monopolies, and Americans were ripped off en masse when the "Priesthood" sold so many on electric deregulation.

The corporate Trojan Horse is inside the gates, but it's not too late to drag it back out. It's just a shame that we the people, and more importantly our lawmakers, have to keep "relearning" these hard lessons.

R.I.P., Dear Molly. You saw this coming years ago, and you told us so.

Crossposted at Manifesto Joe.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Bill Maher -- New Rules -- The Government Isn't Your Nanny. It Is Your Dealer

Tonight's funny is the latest from Bill Maher -- He rifts on Billo, health care and Big Pharma. He even has a new rule for George Bush. He should appear at all of his event's as a mime. This is vintage Bill Maher. Enjoy.

Posted on YouTube by rackjile1.

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Time to Step Up

Sergeants Mora and Gray stepped up.

Sergeants Mora and Gray spoke up.

Sergeants Mora and Gray paid the ultimate price.

Now it is our turn to step up. Comments from Left Field is hosting a fundraiser for Fisher House in honor of Sergeants Mora and Gray.

Kyle at CFLF says it quite well. I will let him make the case. Read his words, then go donate.

You don’t have to agree with the Iraq War to support the brave men and women in our armed forces. You don’t have to agree with the politics. The way I see it, it all comes down to that oath, and what it stands for.

These soldiers took a simple oath, they stood up and said that the ideals of America were bigger than they were, and that for those ideals, they would without question sacrifice their lives.

That’s what this is all about. From one day to the next we can bicker and argue over whether a certain war is right or wrong, but at the end of it all, there must be an understanding that men and women like Sgt. Gray and Sgt. Mora, despite the partisan battles that go on back home, continue to day in and day out perform their duties as soldiers.

Remember the closing words of their OpEd, “As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.”

We as Americans have much we can stand to learn from soldiers such as Yance and Omar. Least of which is that this very same spirit of fidelity fuels not only the flame from which this country was born, but exists to this day.

This taken into consideration, I do not wish to honor their service, I am compelled to. I cannot personally look at myself in the mirror unless I have been a part of something to commemorate their passing, and show my gratitude for their service.

As a result, we at Comments From Left Field, in cooperation with Conservative Thinking, are as of this day beginning a fund drive In Honor of Sgt. Omar Mora & Sgt. Yance T. Gray.

After exploring several options, we have decided to donate 100% of the funds to the Fisher House charity, an organization we have worked with in the past. Fisher House has a simple goal; to build houses near military medical facilities. Here loved ones of those who have been injured in the line of duty can stay free of charge while their service member undergoes necessary treatment.

We urge you to give what you can to this noble cause for only in this way can Omar and Tell continue to make the lives of their fellow soldiers better even after their passing. I can think of no honor more fitting of a soldier.

- Kyle E. Moore

There's more: "Time to Step Up" >>

Katrina: two years on, and the tragedy is still unfolding

Two years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita ravaged the gulf coast, nearly 67,000 families displaced by the storms are still stuck in FEMA trailers throughout the region. Alabama and Texas have small FEMA-trailer populations, and Mississippi has about 16,500 of the trailers still in use; but Louisiana, hardest hit by the storm, has the greatest number of displaced people in Katrinaville trailer parks. In Louisiana, nearly 48,000 of the trailers are still in service.

Now, the cities where people landed have come to the end of their patience and hospitality. Residents are being told to "move forward or get out."

Gulf Coast communities are moving to banish the FEMA issued trailers. They are shutting down the impromptu settlements, and telling homeowners who are living in the trailers on their own property while they fight insurance companies and struggle to rebuild and repair storm-damaged homes that they must be making tangible progress toward the restoration of their homes or get rid of the white travel trailers that dot homesteads from Texas to Alabama.

The Mayor of Pascagoula, Miss., Matthew Avara says "It's an act of tough love. We don't want to put any unneeded hardship on any of our people, but at the same time, we've got to move forward, and the way to move forward is to close down these parks."

Attorneys representing the displaced said the local ordinances leave the occupants with few, if any, alternatives. Affordable housing is in short supply in the areas hardest hit by the storms.
"Throwing people out when they have no place else to live is not a long-term solution for a community," says Davida Finger, a lawyer with Loyola University's Law Clinic, which has represented trailer occupants fighting attempts to remove them. "Some of my clients have been made homeless." Ms. Filger could not say how many of the trailers had been removed under the hodgepodge of local restrictions.

The FEMA trailer is the most ubiquitous symbol of the bungled post-Katrina recovery effort. Small and cramped, unsound, and contaminated with formaldehyde. Some of the tiny little travel-trailers are home to six, eight, even ten people.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA spent $1.8 Billion on the trailers to provide temporary shelter. In the past, when hurricanes have hit Florida and the Carolinas, the trailers were a good option. They provided shelter while homes and lives were rebuilt. The storms that hit New Orleans hit a different population. Many of the displaced didn't own their homes, so the land their homes sat on was not theirs to park a trailer on, nor was the home theirs to repair. These people were shunted into temporary trailer parks, like the ironically-named Renaisance Village in Baker, LA (pictured above). For the people in the FEMA trailer parks, minutes pass like hours, and hours pass like days.

Local officials wanting to get rid of the Katrinaville trailer parks cite complaints of crime in the trailer parks as a reason, but also point out that the trailers are not structurally sound, that they are unsafe in bad weather. They also maintain that the trailers stand in the way of recovery. "In time, we have to get normalcy back, and what we were concerned with was the amount of trailers and the people who were planning to stay in trailers for the rest of their life," says D.J. Mumphrey, who has handled trailer removal issues for Jefferson Parish, LA - just outside New Orleans. Jefferson Parish (which is not home to a Katrinaville) will be sending inspectors to the trailers still sheltering residents of the parish in November, to verify that trailer occupants are on their own land and making progress toward repairing and restoring their homes. The parish claims it will grant extensions for people still fighting their insurance companies or waiting on rebuilding aid.

And that last bit there sets me off all over again. What the hell? Two years on and people are still at odds with insurance companies??? I see a need for congressional hearings about that.

Katrina is the metaphor for the failures of the Bush administration. A president who partied while an American city drowned. Her people abandoned to their own devices. The state's National Guard deployed; and their deep-water vehicles in Iraq.

Now many of those people who were abandoned to the storm, people who lost everything and have no way of regaining any of it, are facing homelessness as the localities where they were settled legislate the only shelter they have access to out of existence.

There's more: "Katrina: two years on, and the tragedy is still unfolding" >>

Campaign Video of the Day -- September 29, 2007

My wife and I were watching television last evening when a crawl announcing today's Campaign Video of the Day marched across the bottom of the screen. I guess MSNBC considered it news worthy when Elizabeth Edwards does a fund raising video that could easily have been entitled "all the time in the world." It is really entitled "A Question For You." It is a pretty powerful fund raising video, probably too powerful simply to help raise funds. I have a hunch it tells us something about both Elizabeth and John.

If you see a video worthy of additional play, please send a link to subject Campaign Video of the Day.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

Bearish -- Tonight's Funny?

I am in a Bearish mood tonight. Tonight's funny is called Bearish. It is from and it is pretty darn good. Enjoy.

The Association's original is on the other side.

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Rep. Mark Udall To Introduce Resolution Condemning Rush Limbaugh's "Phony Soldier" Comment

The hardworking Greg Sargent of TPM's election central has learned that Representative Mark Udall is shopping a resolution condemning Rush Limbaugh's "phony soldier" comment. His "dear colleague" letter is reprinted after the break. Sargent reports the resolution

will force all the Republicans in the House to either vote for it, against it, or skip the vote -- and to pass judgment on the powerful conservative talk show host's contention that troops who don't support President Bush's war policies are "phony soldiers."
It is being rumored that the Democratic leadership is not amused. I guess they don't want to offend Republican sensibilities. According to Sargent the rank and file is very interested in the resolution.

Bmaz says the courtly Mo Udall must be rolling in his grave. Mo didn't live to see the monstrosity that is the modern Republican media machine.

September 28, 2007





Dear Colleague:

On September 26, 2007 the broadcaster Rush Limbaugh told a nationwide radio audience that members of the Armed Forces who have expressed disagreement with current policies of the United States regarding military activities in Iraq are "phony soldiers."

On Monday I will introduce a resolution honoring all Americans serving in the Armed Forces and condemning this unwarranted attack on the integrity and professionalism of those in the Armed Forces who choose to exercise their constitutional right to express their opinions regarding U.S. military action in Iraq.

For more information or to cosponsor the resolution, please contact XXXXXXX in my office at xxxxx.


Mark Udall

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The Real Deal

This post guest-blogged by Alex from Army of Dude.

Blue Girl directed me to a very interesting story about Rush Limbaugh, who called veterans opposed to the war phony soldiers. Of course, this is the same Rush Limbaugh who threw a fit about the Petraeus ad, calling it "contemptible" and "indecent." Apparently anyone in the military is above criticism as long as they agree with Rush's brave belief that we should be in Iraq "as long as it takes." And I use the term 'we' loosely, as I believe the closest Rush has ever gotten to combat was watching We Were Soldiers with surround sound.

When I was a kid I watched Rush with my dad every morning when he was still on TV and always found him pretty funny and clever. Over the years I didn't have a very concrete opinion about him, I just knew him as the kooky conservative radio host who defended Bush at every turn (and hey, so did I). What did Rush and I have to lose when the war in Iraq started in 2003? I didn't have any family in the military, and all my friends were too young to even enlist. Why not go kick the shit out of a country, as long as someone else was doing it?

This was the last time Rush and I would agree on the war, so here's my opinion of you, Rush: you're as smart, selfless and courageous as I was as a 17 year old high school senior.
You make a good point that people who joined the military during the war knew they were going and shouldn't be against it. As I've seen since I joined in 2004, everyone in the military is gung ho to a certain extent, at least in the beginning of their career. I was part of a large group of new guys who got to a unit that just got back from a year long deployment. After our hazing sessions became less and less frequent in the following months, we listened to the stories all of them were telling, of vicious firefights and rescue missions. We all wanted to do our part, we all wanted to get some too. We were going to see what it was like to take a life. Too bad Rush missed his chance to do so, or maybe he'd be singing a different tune. In 1992, ABC newsman Jeff Greenfield posed a question to Rush, asking if he had ever served in the military during the Vietnam War. Here is what Rush had to say:

I had student deferments in college, and upon taking a physical, was discovered to have a physical- uh, by virtue of what the military says, I didn't even know it existed- a physical deferment and then the lottery system came along, where they chose your lost by birth date, and mine was high. And I did not want to go, just as Governor Clinton didn't.

As a phony civilian hoping to be a phony soldier, I tried to enlist in the military after I graduated high school in 2003. In 2002 I had a Nissen fundoplication operation to repair a hiatal hernia caused by severe acid reflux, preventing esophageal cancer later in life. I was immediately flagged on my attempt to enlist because of this surgery, as there was a chance that a physically stressful job such as Army infantry would complicate it. I had to be cleared by the surgeon general before entering the service. As the war kept on, so did I. I waited for a little over a year to get my results back: I would finally be able to join despite the surgery I had two years prior. As Rush found after dropping out of his first year of college at Southeast Missouri State University in 1969-1970, he found himself on draft status. Nothing that a claim of an old football injury or a boil on the ass can take care of, though! The medical deferment he was referring to was a pilonidal cyst, which apparently is a clump of severely ingrown hairs. That barred him from enlistment, and I'm sure he was ecstatic. After all, there was a war on. Here's a first hand account of the surgery that was done to correct it. She claims that in eight weeks, it was perfectly healed. Rush is willing to sacrifice the lives of Americans in Iraq but not his own ass (literally) in a simple surgery. I waited a year to get in, and he didn't try. Boy, do I really give an effort at being a phony soldier!

Speaking of phony soldiers, I wanted to show Rush a few that I know:


This was taken on a rooftop during a firefight on March 24 in Baqubah. One guy lost a leg up to his knee and another lost a foot in an IED blast that day. Talk about sacrifices! Out of seven Americans on that rooftop, one is going to reenlist! The rest decided to get out to avoid going to Iraq again, despite what Mike from Olympia, Washington said on your show about what real soldiers say, like "they want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country." All I see is a bunch of phonies!


This is Matt tugging on a buried wire connected to a massive IED underneath the road. In Baqubah they were so prevalent that the explosive ordnance disposal dudes couldn't take care of them all in the city, so we started finding them and blowing them up ourselves. Matt just finished his second tour, in which he was deployed a total of 27 months. This coward that followed wires to huge bombs in the road is getting out in a few months. And that's a good thing, as this military could use a lot less phony soldiers.


Here's Bill, digging up a grave containing a woman with her two daughters in a field in Baqubah. They were executed by gunshot and buried in the same hole. We took turns digging as the brave men of the Iraqi Army watched and joked. Bill also served 27 months in combat and like Matt, will be getting out of the Army in a couple months. Good riddance, phony!


I'm not above self-criticism. This is me on the last patrol we did in Old Baqubah on August 20. Like a coward I stayed in Iraq only fifteen months. We heard rumors that the 1920s might ambush us on our last patrol. Too bad they didn't, or they would've sent a lot of phonies home in body bags!

Get your ass back to Iraq phonies!

This picture makes me sick to my stomach. I photographed a bunch of cut-and-runners boarding a plane during a pit stop in Ireland on our way back to the states on September 12. Hello, don't they know there's a war going on? These phonies left Iraq before the job was done! Seriously, we need soldiers who want to be in Iraq for as long as it takes.

And finally:

This is Chevy in Baghdad. Brian Chevalier was going to reenlist but decided against it before he was killed on March 14 during our first mission in Baqubah. His phony life was celebrated in a phony memorial where everyone who knew him cried phony tears. A phony American flag draped over his phony coffin when his body came home. It was presented to his phony mother and phony daughter.

I would be in awe if I ever met a real life soldier, and not a phony one like Bill, Matt or Brian Chevalier. Thank you, Rush Limbaugh, for telling me the difference. I hope your ass is ok.


There's more: "The Real Deal" >>

Blogging Burma

CNN reports that Burmese citizens were risking their lives to send photos of the protest crackdown over their cell phones to the world outside.

Foreign journalists, at least one of whom is believed to have been killed by the military in their initial attack on protesters, have been barred from the country. Burma, suffering under a brutal dictatorship, has no free press. The only thing keeping the truth about Burma alive was the Internet, and the courage of ordinary citizens.

Ko Htike, a Burmese refugee living in London, has been blogging the protests and the ensuing crackdown live. Earlier today, the military junta cut the country off from the Internet, but Htike is still blogging, still collecting information, still making sure that this time, the world knows exactly what's happening.

Warning: Photo now at top of Ko Htike's page is graphic and disturbing.

There's more: "Blogging Burma" >>

The Dingell is in the details on carbon taxes

Several weeks after promising it, Michigan’s House Democratic war horse, John Dingell, has delivered an carbon-tax energy bill. And, as I expected at that time, there’s a lot about which to be concerned; there’s some halfway good stuff, too, but even that has the lingering aroma stench of pandering to it.

I have several points of analysis:

• I’m OK with a carbon tax. But, if you’re going to submit something so serious, and you intend for it to succeed (whether Dingell does so or not is an open question, at best), you’d better put plenty of negotiating padding in there. And, I don’t think $50 a ton does. I think you would need to start at $100 a ton (too much more than that would turn people off right away) to bargain down to $50 a ton.

• Exempting biofuels? Crazy, and scientifically illiterate. Carbon dioxide is carbon dioxide, no matter its source. But, Michigan grows some amount of corn, and sugar beets, which some wonder whether they might substitute for cane sugar for ethanol. Michigan/Midwestern political pandering, at least to a fair degree, I think.

• A 50-cent a gallon gas tax is good, but, exempting diesel fuel? The Oil Drum argues that Dingell is pandering to the Teamsters. It’s possible, is what I’ll say, at the least. Dingell ranks 17th among Representatives from 1990-2006 in Teamsters political contributions, according to Open Secrets, receiving $71,000.

• Eliminating the mortgage writeoff above 3K square feet on homes? The size standard panders somewhat to anybody not moving to the upper edge of the middle class and beyond, but, as more and more cookie cutter McMansions beyond this size are built by cheap builders, I welcome this. Dingell does soften the blow by having homes over 3K in size lose the mortgage deduction on a sliding scale and not all at once.

• The “revenue-neutral” part? I’m OK with putting part of the money this raises toward health care issues, but think part of it should be used for budget reduction, too, rather than all of it being spent.

Bottom line? If Dingell’s bill is intended in addition to the 35mpg CAFÉ standard for cars (and trucks being finally included), I’ll give him a B-minus. It doesn’t get higher because we need to nail a first effort on carbon tax. In addition to junking the gas tax free ride for diesel and the carbon tax loophole for biofuels, I’d like to see a carbon cap-and-trade program as part of this legislation.

If this is intended to substitute for a CAFÉ increase, there’s enough here I won’t give Dingell an F. But, that’s about all I’ll say.

There's more: "The Dingell is in the details on carbon taxes" >>

Ron Paul Proves He Is A Real Pander Pol

Ron Paul thinks waiters and waitresses work hard for their money. He wants to give them a raise. Being the kind of guy he is, Ron Paul wants you to pay for his act of generosity. That is why he has introduced The Tax Free Tips Act, HR 3364, which amends the Internal Revenue Code to exclude tips from income and employment taxes.

According to Ron Paul

“Many service-sector employers are young people trying to make money to pay for their education, or single parents struggling to provide for their children. Oftentimes, these workers work two jobs in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their families. The Tax Free Tips Act gives these hard-working Americans an immediate pay raise. People may use this pay raise to devote more resources to their children’s, or their own, education, or to save for a home, retirement, or to start their own businesses.”
That argument could be made about any tax. Why pander exclusively to waiters and waitresses? Your guess is as good as mine.

Of course, if waiters and waitresses get a special tax break we still have to pay for the government services our congress members buy. Ultimately you and I pay more in taxes so Ron Paul can score a few points. That is the way politicians always buy votes. What is different is that Paul is buying the votes of one little group at the low end of the income spectrum. I guess George Bush has bought all the votes at the other end by lowering the taxes on the rich. The least Paul could do is lower taxes on everybody in the working class.

One thing is for sure, despite all those who claim he is the second coming, Ron Paul is just another cheesy politician willing to let you pay so he can snare a few votes.

There's more: "Ron Paul Proves He Is A Real Pander Pol" >>

Senators Letter To Clear Channel CEO Asks For Limbaugh Apology

Think Progress is reporting that four of our intrepid Democratic Senators have done what they always do instead of taking action. They sat right down and wrote themselves a letter. This one is addressed to Rush Limbaugh's boss, Mr. Mark P. Mays
CEO of Clear Channel Communications Inc. I have reprinted the letter on the flip. No matter how sternly written, a letter isn't going to do the job. Progressives need a clear condemnation in the record of the Senate. How about a resolution?

September 28, 2007

Mr. Mark P. Mays
CEO, Clear Channel Communications Inc.
200 East Basse Road
San Antonio, TX 78209

Dear Mr. Mays,

At the time we sign this letter, 3,801 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and another 27,936 have been wounded. 160,000 others awoke this morning on foreign sand, far from home, to face the danger and uncertainty of another day at war.

Although Americans of goodwill debate the merits of this war, we can all agree that those who serve with such great courage deserve our deepest respect and gratitude. That is why Rush Limbaugh’s recent characterization of troops who oppose the war as “phony soldiers” is such an outrage.

Our troops are fighting and dying to bring to others the freedoms that many take for granted. It is unconscionable that Mr. Limbaugh would criticize them for exercising the fundamentally American right to free speech. Mr. Limbaugh has made outrageous remarks before, but this affront to our soldiers is beyond the pale.

The military, like any community within the United States, includes members both for and against the war. Senior generals, such as General John Batiste and Paul Eaton, have come out against the war while others have publicly supported it. A December 2006 poll conducted by the Military Times found just 35 percent of service members approved of President Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq, compared to 42 percent who disapproved. From this figure alone, it is clear that Mr. Limbaugh’s insult is directed at thousands of American service members.

Active and retired members of our armed forces have a unique perspective on the war and offer a valuable contribution to our national debate. In August, seven soldiers wrote an op-ed expressing their concern with the current strategy in Iraq. Tragically, since then, two of those seven soldiers have made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq.

Thousands of active troops and veterans were subjected to Mr. Limbaugh’s unpatriotic and indefensible comments on your broadcast. We trust you will agree that not a single one of our sons, daughters, neighbors and friends serving overseas is a “phony soldier.” We call on you to publicly repudiate these comments that call into question their service and sacrifice and to ask Mr. Limbaugh to apologize for his comments.


Senator Harry Reid
Majority Leader

Senator Richard Durbin
Assistant Majority Leader

Senator Charles Schumer
Vice Chairman
Democratic Conference

Senator Patty Murray
Democratic Conference

There's more: "Senators Letter To Clear Channel CEO Asks For Limbaugh Apology" >>

The President Wouldn't Have Used The Term "Phony Soliders"

TPM has put together a little video of Dana Perino distancing the President from Rush Limbaugh's phony soldier comment. As Greg Sargent says this is "hardly the scathing condemnation that MoveOn earned at the hands of the President." Folks we just have to keep applying the pressure. We need for some Senator and Congressperson to introduce "scathing condemnation" resolutions. Put the Republicans feet to the fire. Maybe next time they will think twice before trashing a political opponent for doing what their noise machine does every day of the week.

There's more: "The President Wouldn't Have Used The Term "Phony Soliders"" >>

Listening to the President: It's Educationalable

This is almost too precious, too perfect and too yummy to believe. Yes, Il Douche'™ has done it again, mangled the English language in ways almost too painful to convey. And this time, he did it at a rally!!!

The Commander-in-Chief was at an event with school kids in New York City Wednesday. It was a photo op designed to show the importance of education.

And that's where his latest tongue twisting emerged. Talking about his education policy, Bush boldly told the crowd - which included some horrified English teachers - that "childrens do learn."

"As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured," he made clear. It's worth noting that when the official transcript of the event was issued by the White House, the mistake had been corrected. It's not the first time the U.S. leader has left the grammar police grimacing. During his first run for the Oval Office, Bush famously asked "Is our children learning?"

If the query he posed on Wednesday is any indication, the answer appears to be definitely not.

So, George, how's that No Child Left Behind [sic] program working out for you?

Check out the video (short ad precedes it), especially at the end where the little girl screen right seems to roll her eyes.

crossposted at Welcome to the Revolution

There's more: "Listening to the President: It's Educationalable" >>

It's Friday September 28, 2007 -- Has Rush Apologized Yet?

Yesterday we saw a firestorm over Rush Limbaugh's defamatory statements about our troops. John Stolz of made some great comments right here. Democratic politicians across the country rose in indignation. Nancy Pelosi's blog The Gavel featured comments by Representatives Frank Pallone , and Jan Schakowsky. Hurray for our side.

The question is what will happen today. Will Democrats, feeling good about themselves for jumping on Rush, simply take the weekend off letting the issue fade away, or will the fight be renewed?

We know what Republicans would do, they would keep on the topic until they achieved the total and public humiliation of Rush and any Republican Presidential Candidate who didn't condemn his comments. What are we going to do? I want to see the Republican candidates questioned on the issue. I want to see an ad in the New York Times and the Washington Post calling shame on Limbaugh. Don't you?

There's more: "It's Friday September 28, 2007 -- Has Rush Apologized Yet?" >>

Campaign Video of the Day -- September 28, 2007

Today's Campaign Video is called Edwards Distinguishes Himself in Democratic Debate. It was posted by The Political Chase just yesterday. Notice that Edwards separates his Iraq position from Hillary Clinton's. Since the debate we have been hearing that the three front runners have nearly identical positions because none of them will commit to leaving Iraq by a date certain. One of the three is probably going to be President of the United States. It would be inappropriate for any of them to give us a date certain when all troops will be out of Iraq. That doesn't mean they have the same plan for ending the war. It is the responsibility of the Candidates to point out the differences. Edwards did that the other day. I have a hunch his star is shining a little brighter after Wednesday's debate.

If you encounter a video in need of a showcase, please send the link to subject Campaign Video of the Day.

There's more: "Campaign Video of the Day -- September 28, 2007" >>

Lots of stuff you wanted to know about Blackwater, but couldn't bring yourself to ask...

The fallout continues from the deadly rampage by Blackwater mercenaries against Iraqi civilians on September 16 that left at least 11 Iraqis dead. Blackwater insists that their employees fired in response to coming under attack. The Iraqis claim the Blackwater personnel were unprovoked when they opened fire on civilians at a busy traffic circle while escorting a State Department convoy through Baghdad.

The September 16 incident set off a firestorm and at one point the government of Iraq said all Blackwater personnel had to leave the country and the company had to cease operating inside Iraq. This edict did not stand and Blackwater is once again roaming the streets, terrifying the populace with their mere presence and undermining whatever the hell it is the mission is supposed to be, and sowing seeds of hostility with the populace that prompt attacks against all Americans, thereby putting American G.I.’s at heightened risk.

The DoD on Wednesday announced that the Pentagon has sent a team of investigators to Iraq to probe security contractors and their operations in Iraq. In addition, a memo was sent to the commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan reminding them that they have the prerogative to court martial mercenaries working under contract with the U.S. military if/when those mercenaries violate the Rules of Engagement that govern the U.S. military. Gates wanted to make sure that the mercenaries and commanders all understood that the military can prosecute their contractors. Gates, testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, on Wednesday said he also wanted to know whether the military has the resources to investigate private security personnel under contract with the DoD for alleged crimes. "My concern is whether there has been sufficient accountability and oversight," Gates said.

In the memo, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England told military commanders that they're responsible for monitoring contractors under their control and charging those who violate rules of engagement.

"Commanders have UCMJ (Uniformed Code of Military Justice) authority to disarm, apprehend, and detain DoD contractors suspected of having committed a felony offense in violation of the RUF (Rules on the Use of Force)," Gordon wrote. The memo was dated Tuesday.

England said commanders should review contractors' standard operating procedures and make any necessary changes to the way they authorize force to "minimize the risk of innocent civilian causalities or unnecessary destruction of civilian property."

The State Department hasn't distributed a similar memo, and it is unclear what, if any, U.S. law applies to the actions of its contractors.

So far, no Defense Department contractor has been charged under U.S. law, and no security contracts have been suspended for violations, Morrell said.

Yeah. It really is as thoroughly and completely fucked up as it sounds.

Four and a half years into Iraq, and six years into Afghanistan, they have decided it’s time to determine what, exactly, to do with mercenaries who attack and murder civilians without provocation, or otherwise commit actions that undermine the efforts of the United States to salvage something – anything – from this clusterfuck so we can claim some sort of semblance of a shadow of a specter of a pale imitation of victory™ and get the hell out of there.

(Keep Reading)

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has sent the investigation of the incident to a magistrate and is looking at possible criminal charges, although they may be hamstrung by the ghost of Paul Bremer and the CPA, in the form of Order 17, which essentially gave mercenaries immunity to run amok, unencumbered by the rule of law. Under Order 17, mercenaries can kill at will, with little or no fear of legal, or even civil, repercussions.

This week, Iraqi lawmakers began considering a proposal that would withdraw the provisions of Order 17 from Iraqi law and make security contractors/mercenaries accountable under the Iraqi system of justice. Iraqis have complained bitterly for years that the mercenary army is unnecessarily aggressive and damages property with impunity and mistreats and kills Iraqis with reckless abandon.

Point of Clarification: The mercenaries involved in the September 16 violence were under contract to the State Department, and that incident is under joint Iraqi – State Department investigation. DoD has no authority to investigate or try the Blackwater mercenaries involved. Gates, being competent, and not beholden to nor under the sway of Cheney or Bush, is looking for problems before someone else finds them and uses them against him. (I don't like the man, but I can not help but respect the talent). At State, on the other hand, the inept and outpaced Condi is still carrying her bosses water, overtly and contemptuously stonewalling congressional oversight into the incident. While the DoD does have contracts with Blackwater, the State Department outspends the DoD on Blackwater contracts at a rate of approximately 8:1.

The private-army aspect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been controversial since the first days in Afghanistan, and there has been no shortage of animosity between the professional military and the mercenary army. To date, no personnel under DoD contract have been charged under U.S. law, and no contracts have been suspended for violations. The military has been taken to task though. Two Air Force officers were brought up on charges of assault and conduct unbecoming following a run-in between the officers and Blackwater personnel on a road outside Kabul in September 2006. The charges were later dismissed.


The bloodletting two weeks ago has set up a clash between the Pentagon and the State Department. The tensions have been long-simmering, and the events of September 16 turned up the heat. "The military is very sensitive to its relationship that they've built with the Iraqis being altered or even severely degraded by actions such as this event," said one senior military official in Iraq. "This is a nightmare. We had guys who saw the aftermath, and it was very bad. This is going to hurt us badly. It may be worse than Abu Ghraib, and it comes at a time when we're trying to have an impact for the long term."

In interviews involving a dozen U.S. military and government officials, many expressed anger and concern over the shootings in Nisoor Square, in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Some worried it could undermine the military's efforts to stabilize Iraq this year with an offensive involving thousands of reinforcements.

"This is a big mess that I don't think anyone has their hands around yet," said another U.S. military official. "It's not necessarily a bad thing these guys are being held accountable. Iraqis hate them, the troops don't particularly care for them, and they tend to have a know-it-all attitude, which means they rarely listen to anyone -- even the folks that patrol the ground on a daily basis."

Most officials spoke on condition of anonymity because there are at least three ongoing investigations of Blackwater's role in the shootings. There are also sensitive discussions between various U.S. agencies and the Iraqi government over the future of Blackwater and other private security firms in Iraq.

Teddy Spain, a retired Army Colonel was willing to speak on the record. “I personally was concerned about any of the civilians running around on the battlefield during my time there. My main concern was their lack of accountability when things went wrong.”

Several commanding officers spoke frankly on condition of anonymity.

…"Given their record of recklessness," said the senior U.S. commander, "I'm not sure any senior military officer here would want responsibility for them."

…"They are immature shooters and have very quick trigger fingers. Their tendency is shoot first and ask questions later," said an Army lieutenant colonel serving in Iraq. Referring to the Sept. 16 shootings, the officer added, "None of us believe they were engaged, but we are all carrying their black eyes."

…"Many of my peers think Blackwater is oftentimes out of control," said a senior U.S. commander serving in Iraq. "They often act like cowboys over here . . . not seeming to play by the same rules everyone else tries to play by."

…"Many of us feel that when Blackwater and other groups conduct military missions, they should be subject to the same controls under which the Army operates," said Marc Lindemann, who served in Iraq with the 4th Infantry Division and is now an officer in the New York National Guard and a state prosecutor.

…"The deaths of contractors from Blackwater helped precipitate the debacle in Fallujah in 2004 and now the loss of Blackwater is causing disruptions in the war effort in 2007," a military intelligence officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Why are we creating new vulnerabilities by relying on what are essentially mercenary forces?"

The lousy reputation Blackwater has among members of the U.S. military has led to renewed debate over whether the DoD should handle State’s security contracts. The Department of Defense (understanding what security protocols should involve) has a more strident procedure for licensing and oversight of personnel under contract to their agency, the DoD also has more detailed incident reporting procedures when weapons are discharged. In addition, the military investigates promptly when incidents occur or allegations are made against mercenaries in their employ.

A Pentagon source insisted that "We are really making State respond, conduct an investigation and come up with recommendations." The source said that in Washington the atmosphere surrounding the confrontation between State and the pentagon is calm and professional but, referring to Iraq, said, "There is probably a bit more emotion going on in theater."


As if Blackwater needed another revelation (they are also under investigation for smuggling weapons into Iraq that ultimately ended up pointed at American G.I.’s) the New York Times reported Thursday that mercenaries from Blackwater USA have been involved in a far higher rate of shootings while guarding and escorting American diplomats than other companies providing comparable services.

The rate of Blackwater violence is at least twice that of DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, the other security companies operating in Iraq. Blackwater’s hired guns are just that, discharging weapons, on average, twice every convoy. (The other companies frequently escort convoys completely without incident.)

“You can find any number of people, particularly in uniform, who will tell you that they do see Blackwater as a company that promotes a much more aggressive response to things than other main contractors do,” a senior American official said. “Is it the operating environment or something specific about Blackwater?” asked one government official. “My best guess is that it is both.”

While the bloody rampage at the Nisour traffic roundabout was the most shocking in the level of wanton killing, the modern-day Pinkerton's of Blackwater are under investigation in six other episodes that left ten people dead and at least 15 wounded.

Slowly, American officials are accepting the position that Blackwater's behavior in Iraq is counterproductive to the stated 'mission' by fueling resentment among the local population.

“They’re repeat offenders, and yet they continue to prosper in Iraq,” said Representative Jan Schakowsky, an Illinois Democrat who has been broadly critical of the role of contractors in Iraq. “It’s really affecting attitudes toward the United States when you have these cowboy guys out there. These guys represent the U.S. to them and there are no rules of the game for them.”


Secretary of Defense Gates was in front of Congress asking for $190 Billion for the war effort for FY 2008. Congress is hammering out the budget now.

While the American public may not yet be ready to cut off funding to the U.S. military for the occupation of Iraq, I seriously doubt that there would be great wailing and bleating and rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth if, just for starters, the monies in the budget allotted to Blackwater fell victim to Congresses one true power.

There's more: "Lots of stuff you wanted to know about Blackwater, but couldn't bring yourself to ask..." >>

Thursday, September 27, 2007

SCHIP Passed By Senate -- Vote 67- 29

CNN reports that sixty seven Senators voted in favor of the final passage of the SCHIP Reauthorization Bill earlier this evening. Twenty nine voted against. Four were absent including Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The bill seems veto proof in the US Senate.

The President has vowed to veto the Bill. It is time to write the President and ask him if he is willing to give up his and his family's government supplied free health insurance? After all he has enough money to pay for it out of his own pay. And what about all those Republicans who work in the White House? Why are they sucking off the government health care teat while they are willing to watch little kids go without?

Don't just sit there folks. Do something. Write the President and ask him how he can continue to accept free medical care while he refuses to make sure America's kids have health care. You might want to do the same with your friendly neighborhood Republican member of the House of Representatives.

I have posted a list of the Representatives who voted against SCHIP after the break. If you see your Representative on the list, give him or her a call. Ask if they are going to give up their free health care, or the free health care enjoyed by their families. Ask about the people on their staff. If he or she says no, ask what makes their kids so special. Be polite, but be firm. Tell them to vote to override if the President vetoes. Tell them that if they don't vote to override they might start thinking about finding new career. Tell them children's health is too damned important to be sacrificed on the alter of Republican ideology.

Representatives who voted against SCHIP.

Barrett (SC)
Bartlett (MD)
Barton (TX)
Bishop (UT)
Brady (TX)
Broun (GA)
Brown (SC)
Brown-Waite, Ginny
Burton (IN)
Camp (MI)
Campbell (CA)
Cole (OK)
Davis (KY)
Davis, David
Deal (GA)
Diaz-Balart, L.
Diaz-Balart, M.
Franks (AZ)
Garrett (NJ)
Hall (TX)
Hastings (WA)
Inglis (SC)
Johnson (IL)
Johnson, Sam
Jones (NC)
King (IA)
Kline (MN)
Kuhl (NY)
Lewis (CA)
Lewis (KY)
Lungren, Daniel E.
McCarthy (CA)
McCaul (TX)
Miller (FL)
Miller, Gary
Peterson (PA)
Price (GA)
Rogers (AL)
Rogers (KY)
Rogers (MI)
Ryan (WI)
Smith (NE)
Smith (TX)
Walden (OR)
Weldon (FL)
Wilson (SC)

There's more: "SCHIP Passed By Senate -- Vote 67- 29" >>

The Ointment -- September 27, 2007

Tonight's funny is a little early. I am going to an awards banquet tonight to receive an award. Go figure. Tonight we are featuring SteveTatham. He has a really good take on Bush's threatened veto of SCHIP. It really should be a meme Progressives push when talking about Bush and SCHIP. He also has a guest comedian named James Tripp. He is a comedian, isn't he? If he isn't he really does announce he is running for President. Tonight's funny.

See you if I survive the rubber chicken.

There's more: "The Ointment -- September 27, 2007" >>

So I'm a "Phony Soldier," Rush?

This post guest blogged by John Soltz of

As Media Matters reported today, Rush Limbaugh, on his show said that those troops who come home and want to get America out of the middle of the religious civil war in Iraq are "phony soldiers." I'd love for you, Rush, to have me on your show and tell that to me to my face.

Where to begin?

First, in what universe is a guy who never served even close to being qualified to judge those who have worn the uniform? Rush Limbaugh has never worn a uniform in his life -- not even one at Mickey D's -- and somehow he's got the moral standing to pass judgment on the men and women who risked their lives for this nation, and his right to blather smears on the airwaves?

Second, maybe Rush doesn't much care, but the majority of troops on the ground in Iraq, and those who have returned, do not back the President's failed policy. If you go to our "Did You Get the Memo" page at, there's a good collection of stories, polls, and surveys, which all show American's troops believe we are on the wrong track, not the right one, in Iraq.

Does Rush believe, then, that the majority of the US Armed Forces are "phony?"

Third, the polls and stories don't even take into account the former brass who commanded in Iraq, who are incredibly critical of the Bush administration, and it's steadfast refusal to listen to those commanders on the ground who have sent up warning after warning. Major Generals John Batiste and Paul Eaton left the military and joined for that very reason.

Does Rush believe that highly decorated Major Generals are "phony soldiers?"

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Finally, as Media Matters notes, just recently, members of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq wrote a New York Times op-ed, very critical of the course in Iraq, and suggesting it was time to figure out the exit strategy. Two of them just died. Will Rush call up their grieving parents and tell them that they should stop crying, because they were just "phony soldiers?"

Get the point here, Rush?

You weren't just flat out wrong, you offended a majority of those of us who actually had the courage to go to Iraq and serve, while you sat back in your nice studio, coming up with crap like this.

My challenge to you, then, is to have me on the show and say all of this again, right to the face of someone who served in Iraq. I'll come on any day, any time. Not only will I once again explain why your comments were so wrong, but I will completely school you on why your refusal to seek a way out of Iraq is only aiding al Qaeda and crippling American security.

Ball's in your court.

--Jon Soltz

There's more: "So I'm a "Phony Soldier," Rush?" >>

The Fourth Amendment wins another round

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled Wednesday that two provisions of the USA Patriot Act - secret searches and wiretaps to gather criminal evidence instead if intelligence gathering - are unconstitutional. "For over 200 years, this nation has adhered to the rule of law - with unparalleled success," the judge wrote in her ruling. "A shift to a nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised."

It all started with a misidentified fingerprint in the wake of the Madrid train bombings in 2004, which led investigators to Brandon Mayfield, an attorney in Portland, Oregon and a convert to Islam. The FBI secretly searched his home and his office, and both were bugged.

Mayfield was wrongfully detained for two weeks. Eventually, the FBI apologized to the Portland man for their grievous error and settled the lawsuit he brought fir $2 million dollars. But Mayfield wasn't done. He challenged the act that authorized the searches and surveillance on the grounds that it violated civil liberties of Americans. The U.S. Attorney General's office asked that Mayfield's challenge be dismissed.

Judge Aiken declined the request, averring that the use of the Patriot Act to authorize secret searches and wiretaps to gather criminal evidence is in direct violation against the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. She rebuked the U.S. Attorney, stating that the governments request amounted to "asking this court to, in essence, amend the Bill of Rights, by giving it an interpretation that would deprive it of any real meaning. This court declines to do so."

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Mayfield's attorney, Elden Rosenthal, issued a statement on his behalf, praising Judge Aiken. In his statement, Mayfield said Judge Aiken "has upheld both the tradition of judicial independence, and our nation's most cherished principle of the right to be secure in one's own home."

A spokesman for the Justice Department would only say that the agency was reviewing the decision and declined further comment.

Garrett Epps, a Constitutional Law expert at the University of Oregon said that the Mayfield case shows that pushing the Partiot Act to the limit may backfire on the Bush administration.
"They've been so aggressive in their assertions of statutory and constitutional authority that it has alienated courts," Epps said. "Judges just don't trust them. The Bush administration has shot itself in the foot."

The ruling is not expected to have any immediate effect on enforcement, but if the Justice Department appeals, and the ruling is upheld, the impact could be far-reaching. Michael Greenberger, director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland called Aikin's analysis of the law "extraordinarily sound" and said that the governments bungling of the investigation that focused on Mayfield had opened the door for the challenge to the law by illustrating that the government is using the FISA court to bypass the Constitution.

Although the ruling was not expected to have any immediate effect on enforcement under the Patriot Act, it could have a major impact if it is appealed and upheld, said director of the Center for Health and Homeland Security at the University of Maryland."The high irony of this is that, if the government had never heard of Brandon Mayfield, they would not have this ruling today," Greenberger said. "They essentially got caught with their pants down."

Yesterdays ruling was the second major legal setback the administration has been dealt this month. In a New York court, the ACLU won a Patriot Act challenge on behalf of an internet service provider that received a "National Security Letter" demanding customer phone and computer records. The judge in that case ruled that the FBI must justify to a court the need for secrecy for "more than a brief and reasonable period of time."

One would think that the Justice Department wishes they had never heard of Brandon Mayfield. His case has been a humiliating embarrassment for the feds. Last year, the Justice Department's internal monitoring body chided the FBI for sloppy work in the case, citing the FBI's leap to judgment in connecting Mayfield to the Madrid bombings. That report said federal prosecutors and FBI agents "had made inaccurate and ambiguous statements to a federal judge to get arrest and criminal search warrants against Mayfield."

The Patriot Act was passed with little debate in the fervor and fear that gripped many in America and virtually everyone in Washington D.C. after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The law gave the feds the authority to search phone records, read email and expand the Treasury Departments regulation of financial transactions involving foreign nationals. The saw was renewed in 2005, and in August of this year, the Bush administration, by use of lies and manipulation, convinced a feckless congress to expand their specious powers further, allowign the government to listen in on foreign communications even when an American was a party. The expanded powers sunset next year - BUT - and this is the part they don't tell you, any investigations underway at the time of the sunset will continue for a full year after the law expires. As citizens call bullshit, Congress is said to be taking a closer look at the law and many, mostly Democrats, want to rein in the language that many consider casts too wide a net.

There's more: "The Fourth Amendment wins another round" >>