Saturday, December 30, 2006

How Old is the Grand Canyon? Park Service Won't Say

Grand Canyon National Park is not permitted to give an official estimate of the geologic age of its principal feature, due to pressure from Bush administration appointees. Despite promising a prompt review of its approval for a book claiming the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood rather than by geologic forces, more than three years later no review has ever been done and the book remains on sale at the park, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

"In order to avoid offending religious fundamentalists, our National Park Service is under orders to suspend its belief in geology," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "It is disconcerting that the official position of a national park as to the geologic age of the Grand Canyon is ‘no comment.'"

In a letter released today, PEER urged the new Director of the National Park Service (NPS), Mary Bomar, to end the stalling tactics, remove the book from sale at the park and allow park interpretive rangers to honestly answer questions from the public about the geologic age of the Grand Canyon. PEER is also asking Director Bomar to approve a pamphlet, suppressed since 2002 by Bush appointees, providing guidance for rangers and other interpretive staff in making distinctions between science and religion when speaking to park visitors about geologic issues.

Robert Scheer: Silencing Saddam

It is a very frightening precedent that the United States can invade a country on false pretenses, depose its leader and summarily execute him without an international trial or appeals process. This is about vengeance, not justice, for if it were the latter the existing international norms would have been observed.

The trial should have been overseen by the World Court, in a country that could have guaranteed the safety of defense lawyers, who, in this case, were killed or otherwise intimidated.

The irony here is that the crimes for which Saddam Hussein was convicted occurred before the United States, in the form of Donald Rumsfeld, embraced him. Those crimes were well known to have occurred 15 months before Rumsfeld visited Iraq to usher in an alliance between the United States and Saddam to defeat Iran.

The fact is that Saddam Hussein knew a great deal about the United States' role in Iraq, including deals made with Bush's father. This rush to execute him had the feel of a gangster silencing the key witness to a crime.

At Nuremberg in the wake of World War II the U.S. set the bar very high by declaring that even the Nazis, who had committed the most heinous of crimes, should have a fair trial. The U.S. and allies insisted on this not to serve those charged, but to educate the public through a believable accounting. In the case of Saddam, the bar was lowered to the mud, with the proceedings turned into a political circus reminiscent of Stalin's show trials.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Saddam and Osama

Bush to Avoid Ford’s State Funeral

President Bush will skip out on President Ford’s state funeral on Saturday, instead remaining in Texas until services are held on Tuesday. Ford gave two embargoed interviews critical of the current president that were released shortly after his death.

LSB: What a chicken-shit! Yes, Ford dissed you a little in a interview he probably didn't expect to see the light of day while you were still in office, but he was responsible for giving your father (and by extension, you) a political career. Besides, you both are part of a pretty exclusive club in which there have only ever been 43 members. So get off you high horse, you petulant little asshole, and show the man some respect!

I have been a rapid, yellow-dog Democrat all of my life (much to the chagrin of my parents and other family members). Yet as a 21-year old college junior voting in my very first Presidential election I pulled the lever (yes, boys and girls, they used a mechanical voting machine back in those days) for Gerald R. Ford. Why? Because he had the “stones” to pardon Richard Nixon.

Back in the day, Nixon was likened to Hitler and the Anti-Christ. (In today’s political climate, he would have been likened to Saddam or Osama.) I hated Nixon and so did much of the country for the Watergate cover-up and the political upheaval it had created. So it was amazing to me that President Ford would set aside any political ambition he may have had for the future to pardon this man FOR THE GOOD OF THE COUNTRY.

As it has been borne out (i.e., the Lewinsky scandal), Ford could not have governed while the rest of the country was tied up in knots over the inevitable trials, delays, retrials, etc. of Richard Nixon. In the end, not only would the Presidency have been dragged through the mud, but so would the country. We have a saying in the South, “If you MUST kill grandma, slit her throat and be done with it quickly.” (I’m not sure how that saying ever came about, but you get the intention.) Pardoning was politically painful for Ford, but it was the right thing to do for the country, and he moved quickly to get us past the painful past to start on a better future.

After six years of a “regal” presidency (not unlike the past six years where deference is paid to the White House or else), the Fords were a breath of fresh air. Here was a guy that made his own breakfast, a first lady who shared her personal battles so that others might learn from them, one son who was “perfect,” one son who smoked dope, one son who had a child out of wedlock, and a moody teenage daughter. They were us!

A single act, by a single individual, to do what was right. Today we need bi-partison study groups to give political cover in order to do what is right. That was the reason I voted for him, that was the kind of honest leadership our country needed then (and needs now).

While I admire President Carter and all of the work he has done since leaving the White House, I have never regretted my decision to vote for President Ford. Can anyone tell me of a more politically courageous act in the past 32 years since that pardon?

Lawyer Ends Up Dead After Taking On Rove

Paul Sanford, a prominent Aptos, California, attorney, who accused Karl Rove of treason in the Plame outing case, took a leap from the Embassy Suites Hotel in Monterey Bay on Christmas Eve. Police describe it as “probable” suicide, even though it appears Sanford was not depressed.

“Friends and associates expressed disbelief at the news of Sanford’s death and that it was ruled a suicide, saying Sanford seemed happy and had made many plans for this week and in coming months. [Business associate and friend Shawn Mills] said he and Sanford recently decided to open a shared law office to serve Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, something Sanford was looking forward to doing,” reports the Monterey Herald. “Mills said he had spoken to Sanford’s wife, Paula, and that she also was in shock. He said Sanford, a father of two, was a devoted family man.” Sanford “would never have intentionally put his family through that trauma. Something’s not right, it doesn’t make sense.”

Of course, there is no evidence Paul Sanford was pushed from “at least nine floors” above the large ventilation grate where he met his fate. As well, there is no evidence he committed suicide, or did he fit the profile of a suicide. However, there is plenty of evidence Sanford was a thorn in the side of the neocons, committing the ultimate sin of accusing one particularly nasty top drawer neocon, Karl Rove, of treason.

LSB: Will there be an investigation like that of Vince Foster, deputy White House counsel during the first term of President Bill Clinton? Doubt it. Nor will the mainstream media investigate this story. Another "scandal" swept under the Bush rug? Possibly.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan

President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he'll announce in the new year.

LSB: He must have been – wait for it! – ‘bushed!’

Three hours? That’s all the time he could give for the troops over there and their families waiting over here? We’re coming up on the fourth anniversary of Mr. Bush’s war, so how much more time will he need to craft a plan? Quite a while, I imagine, if he's working at three-hour intervals.

“W” might be out of touch, but Rove et al are bright enough to know that the perception by the public to a pitiful three hour meeting is shameful. Iraq is in chaos and he took just three hours to strategize a war he started. Pathetic.

White House Pushes for Troop Surge, Best Advice of Generals Be Damned

Here comes the surge. Reports this week indicate the Pentagon is preparing to send 3,500 troops to Kuwait to await deployment to Iraq, the next step down a disastrous path of escalation.

Before the escalation becomes inevitable, it must be made clear that this reckless strategy is being dictated by the White House and not by the military commanders who are being poked, prodded, pushed – and bribed – into backing it.

Again and again and again, President Bush has insisted that he's running the war by listening to his generals, and that he doesn't "make decisions based upon politics about how to win a war," choosing to "trust our commanders on the ground to give the best advice about how to achieve victory." As he put it in the run-up to the midterm elections: "I believe that you empower your generals to make the decisions – the recommendations on what we do to win."

But that's clearly not what's happening.

For months, those commanders, Gen. Abizaid and Gen. Casey, have been unwavering in their opposition to sending more troops to Iraq, arguing that it would increase Iraqi dependency on Washington, lead to more attacks by al-Qaeda, provide more targets for Sunni insurgents, attract more foreign jihadists to Iraq, increase the impression of an American occupation, and, in the evocative words of a senior military official, "be like throwing kerosene on a fire."

Testifying at a Senate Armed Services hearing last month, Gen. Abizaid said unequivocally that he did not "believe that more American troops right now is the solution."

But the surge is moving forward anyway. So much for "trusting and empowering" your commanders. Making matters worse, Abizaid and Casey are providing cover for Bush by caving to White House pressure and acting like they support the move – albeit in the most unenthusiastic terms possible.

"I'm not necessarily opposed to the idea," said Casey last week, speaking like a man who feared that if he actually said that he thought it was a good plan, God would strike him down.

And check out the verbal contortions of the senior Defense Department official who told the New York Times that Casey and Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, who oversees day-to-day operations in Iraq, were open to "the possible modest augmentation in U.S. combat forces." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of a surge – but nowhere near the honest expression of the military's reported "firm stand" against it.

In October, President Bush said, "You can't fight a war from Washington...You can't make the tactical decisions necessary to win. It just won't work."

He was absolutely right. But that is precisely what's happening with the troop surge plan -- and what has been the modus operandi since the beginning of the war. Don't forget what happened to Gen. Shinseki when he had the temerity to suggest that Don Rumsfeld's pre-war troop levels were inadequate. Shinseki's fate has obviously been a factor in his successors' subsequent acquiescence, and helps explain why the catastrophe in Iraq has been masterminded from Washington every step of the way – the honest advice of our military commanders be damned.

If there were ever a time for America's military leaders to tell us the truth as opposed to keeping their mouths shut (or speaking out of both sides) while waiting for this administration's version of the gold watch – the Medal of Freedom bestowed on those that play the good soldier and go along with the program – this is surely that time.

But the conditions on the ground indicate that Abizaid, Casey, and the rest of the military high command are not going to take a stand against yet another disastrous decision by the White House – which means that it will be up to the Democrats, soon to take control of Congress, to stop this tragic escalation.

Many soldiers say troop surge a bad idea

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Many of the American soldiers trying to quell sectarian killings in Baghdad don't appear to be looking for reinforcements. They say the temporary surge in troop levels some people are calling for is a bad idea.

President Bush is considering increasing the number of troops in Iraq and embedding more U.S. advisers in Iraqi units. White House advisers have indicated Bush will announce his new plan for the war before his State of the Union address Jan. 23.

In dozens of interviews with soldiers of the Army's 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment as they patrolled the streets of eastern Baghdad, many said the Iraqi capital is embroiled in civil warfare between majority Shiite Muslims and Sunni Arabs that no number of American troops can stop.

Others insisted current troop levels are sufficient and said any increase in U.S. presence should focus on training Iraqi forces, not combat.

LSB: You have to give Bush/Rove credit for changing the debate from war strategy to troop strength. Can anyone tell me what these additional 20,000-30,000 troops will be doing? Is there a plan for them, some sort of mission? Do we have the infra-structure in place to quickly add this many more troops? Let's hope those planning for this war escaltion didn't come from FEMA. Who am I kidding? Of course there is no plan, and the generals and troops on the ground think this is a bad idea, too. So let’s refocus the question for the President: What is the mission for these troops?

Rice still struggling for success after two years as top US diplomat

Condoleezza Rice wraps up her first two years as secretary of state with few diplomatic successes to show for her efforts and fewer signs she plans to change course to improve the record.

And yet, as Rice heads into 2007, the 52-year-old former academic should be at the top of her game for the last two years of President George W. Bush's administration.

But since she took over as America's top diplomat on January 26, 2005 with an agenda to promote freedom and democracy around the globe, Rice has been shadowed by the failure of that plan on its biggest stage: Iraq.

Contractor's Handguns Missing From Homeland Security Vault

The Department of Homeland Security said yesterday that it is investigating how four handguns recently went missing from its headquarters in Northwest Washington.

LSB: Ironic, ain’t it?

There's something much worse than flip-flopping

John Kerry commentary, The Washington Post:

There's something much worse than being accused of "flip-flopping": refusing to flip when it's obvious that your course of action is a flop.

I say this to President Bush as someone who learned the hard way how embracing the world's complexity can be twisted into a crude political shorthand. Barbed words can make for great politics. But with U.S. troops in Iraq in the middle of an escalating civil war, this is no time for politics. Refusing to change course for fear of the political fallout is not only dangerous – it is immoral.

Saddam to be hanged by Sunday

Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins at sundown Saturday.

LSB: Any room on those gallows for that war criminal, George W. Bush?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

US Death Toll in Iraq Surpasses 9/11 Death Toll

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - At least 36 Iraqis died Tuesday in bombings, officials said, including a coordinated strike that killed 25 in western Baghdad. Separately, the deaths of six U.S. soldiers pushed the American toll beyond the number of victims in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. (Read the full story here.)

LSB: Reminds me of Ronald Reagan's question during the 1980 election season: 'Are [we] better off today than [we] were four years ago?' True, in the past four years a tyrant has been toppled and sentenced to die, and a freely elected government (albeit unstabled and propped-up by a continuing U.S. presence) exists in Iraq. However, four years ago there were nearly 3,000 more young American service personnel walking the face of the earth; more than 25,000 young American service personnel without life-altering wounds; the U.S. deficit hadn't been increased nearly $350 BILLION due to this war; and America was held in high esteem by most around the world. So, the question remains - are we better off than we were four years ago? Are we safer? No. Are the Iraqi people safer? No. Was this ill-conceived war borne of deceit worth the lives lost or destroyed? No. Sadly, the legacy of 9/11 will be continuing tragedy for no good purpose.

A U.S. military 'at its breaking point' considers foreign recruits

By Bryan Bender, The Boston Globe

WASHINGTON: The armed forces, already struggling to meet recruiting goals, are considering expanding the number of noncitizens in the ranks — including disputed proposals to open recruiting stations overseas and put more immigrants on a faster track to U.S. citizenship if they volunteer — according to Pentagon officials.

Foreign citizens' serving in the U.S. military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.

The idea of signing up residents who are seeking U.S. citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter the United States legally each year. (Read the full story here.)

More News of Note from

  • Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC), who recently stated that stability in Iraq “depends on spreading the message of Jesus Christ,” is now blaming bloggers for his remarks. “It’s interesting how these bloggers can distort the news,” said his spokeswoman.
  • The right wing’s War on Christmas “has never been so profitable.” The conservative American Family Association has “has rung up more than $550,000 in sales of buttons and magnets stamped with the slogan ‘Merry Christmas: It’s Worth Saying’” and the Liberty Counsel “has taken in more than $300,000 with its Help Save Christmas Action Packs.”
  • 76: Number of American troops who have died in Iraq this month, “making December the second deadliest month for U.S. servicemen in 2006.” With “nine days remaining in December, the monthly total of U.S. deaths could meet or exceed the death toll of 105 in October.”
  • After an “overwhelming negative reaction” from residents, the mayor, and a federal lawmaker, Clear Channel Radio has agreed to keep Air America on air in Madison, WI.
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson said yesterday that “our society would benefit” from reinstating the draft to make the military more equal. “He later issued a statement saying his comments had been misconstrued and that he does not support bringing back the draft.”
  • The IRS has “cut deeply the time that it spends auditing the nation’s largest corporations.” New data shows the IRS “had reduced the time spent on each audit by 21 percent in the last five years, to 958 hours from 1,210 hours. At the same time, the number of actual audits, which had increased in the last two years, has fallen back to the level of 2002.”
  • “Four days before Christmas, President Bush granted pardons to 16 people, including a man convicted of dealing methamphetamine and another who, along with his family, donated to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign.”
  • “The United States offers some of the most lucrative incentives in the world to companies that drill for oil in publicly owned coastal waters,” but a newly released study — which the Interior Department held back for more than a year — shows the billions in incentives “cause only a tiny increase in production.”

And finally...

The most outrageous comments of 2006. Media Matters has the gory details.

The All-too-familiar Accountability Gap

Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog: Poor records plague Bush AIDS effort. As in, a complete mess and no organization. For a group that really liked telling everyone how superior they were and that promoted their wealth of professional experience, their incompetence scans the globe. Whether the issue is Iraq, Katrina, foreign aid, you name it, the stories are always the same and always include failure, lack of a plan, disorganized and often money being skimmed.

Investigators found the three-year-old, $15-billion program has overcounted and undercounted thousands patients it helped or was unable to verify claims of success by local groups that took U.S. money to prevent the spread of disease or care for AIDS victims and their children.

The Bush administration says it has worked to fix the problems that were found in multiple countries and outlined in several audits reviewed by The Associated Press.

"It's not good enough for the auditors to hear from the mission that we did A, B and C but we can't prove it to you, or there's no documentation to prove that we did it," said Joe Farinella, a top watchdog inside the U.S. Agency for International Development.

So tell me again how the Democrats just throw money at a problem but the GOP somehow does it right. Another myth goes down the drain as the GOP shows us again why they can't be trusted with anything. Bring on the hearings and investigations, please.

Barbara O'Brien, Crooks & Liars: Investigations have [also] revealed the Bush Administration wasted more than $2 billion of the money allocated for Katrina, the Associated Press reports today. Much of this waste is the result of lucrative contracts awarded with little or no competition. Hope Yen of the AP writes:

Federal investigators have already determined the Bush administration squandered $1 billion on fraudulent disaster aid to individuals after the 2005 storm. Now they are shifting their attention to the multimillion dollar contracts to politically connected firms that critics have long said are a prime area for abuse.

In January, investigators will release the first of several audits examining more than $12 billion in Katrina contracts. The charges range from political favoritism to limited opportunities for small and minority-owned firms, which initially got only 1.5 percent of the total work.

Democrats in Congress are vowing closer oversight of the Katrina reconstruction debacle. Let's hope.

However, today's news isn't exactly news. Last August the House Committee on Government Reform Minority Office (that means Democrats) released a report titled “Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Hurricane Katrina Contracts.” Here are key findings from a press release. (Read the rest of this story…)

And not to be outdone (anyone seeing a pattern here?), The Washington Post reports – Interior, Pentagon Faulted In Audits:

The Defense Department paid two procurement operations at the Department of the Interior to arrange for Pentagon purchases totaling $1.7 billion that resulted in excessive fees and tens of millions of dollars in waste, documents show.

Defense turned to Interior, which manages federal lands and resources, in an effort to speed up its contracting. Interior is one of several government agencies allowed to manage contracts for other agencies in exchange for a fee.

But the arrangement between Interior and Defense "routinely violated rules designed to protect U.S. Government interests," according to draft audit documents obtained by The Washington Post.

More than half of the contracts examined were awarded without competition or without checks to determine that the prices were reasonable, according to the audits by the inspectors general for Defense (DOD) and Interior (DOI). Ninety-two percent of the work reviewed was awarded without verifying that the contractors' cost estimates were accurate; 96 percent was inadequately monitored. (Read the full story here.)

Cheney Gets a Raise

“President Bush signed an executive order Thursday to raise the pay of federal workers, members of Congress and Vice President Dick Cheney in the new year.” (The federal minimum wage — $5.15 an hour — hasn’t been raised since 1996.)

UPDATE: “Congress opted to put off its pay increases until Feb. 16, not Jan. 1, on the urging of the incoming Democratic leaders in the House and Senate. They say no pay raise should kick in until Congress approves an increase in the federal minimum wage.”

LSB: Cheney's 2005 IRS Tax Return shows the VP earned just over $8.8 MILLION on his investments (mostly Halliburton?), so he needed the raise; burger-flippers at McDonald's, meanwhile, can try to raise their families on the current federal minimum wage. Remind anyone of Marie Antoinette (or Leona Helmsley)?

Lynne Cheney: Putting Scooter Libby On Trial ‘Does Not Reflect Well On Our Judicial System’

Scooter Libby, the former Chief of Staff for Vice President Cheney, has been charged with “obstruction of justice, lying to the FBI and committing perjury before a grand jury.” His trial is scheduled to start in January. Libby’s lawyers plan “to call Cheney as a witness.”

Today on Fox News, Lynne Cheney, the wife of the Vice President, described Libby as “a man who spent a great deal of his life as a dedicated public servant who’s done an awful lot of good.” Ms. Cheney said putting Libby on trial “does not reflect well on our judicial system.”

LSB: Huh? Putting public officials that lie to FBI investigators shouldn’t be put on trial? Did she hold those same beliefs about Clinton during the Paula Jones affair, where the lie was about a blow job and not outing a CIA agent? Lynne Cheney is a hypocritical bitch! (And that’s about the nicest thing I can think to say about her.)

Rosie Beats Trump, By Numbers

Now that Rosie O’Donnell and Donald Trump are in a feud and war of words, it’s time to look at what they really do in the public forum.

Trump called Rosie “an animal” has hurled other epithets at her in the last day since O’Donnell baited him on “The View.” Trump’s sympathy level has since fallen.

But between these two prominent New Yorkers, I wondered: now that it’s Christmas time, who’s more charitable? Donald the self-proclaimed billionaire, or Rosie the talk show host and comic?

The answer: Rosie, as it turns out. Her For All the Kids Foundation gave away $1.9 million in 2004-2005 to children’s charities all over the United States. This is pretty remarkable, and something I didn’t know about it until I looked it up. The foundation benefits groups that help at risk kids, and even put a big chunk of change toward rebuilding a Head Start center in New York.

And a related Trump news item: Ex-Miss Nevada USA apologizes for photos
The former Miss Nevada USA, dethroned over raunchy photos posted online, apologized Saturday as her attorney pleaded for the pageant queen to be given a second chance.

Katie Rees, who appeared in photos revealing a breast, exposing her thong underwear and kissing other young women at a party in Tampa, said her behavior was an "isolated incident."

"I am so sorry this happened," she said at a news conference in Clearwater, reading a prepared statement. "So many of us don't realize how our actions, even one night of poor judgment, can affect the rest of our lives."

Her attorney, Mario Torres of Tampa, asked that Miss Universe Organization co-owner Donald Trump grant Rees the same opportunity he gave Miss USA Tara Conner, who was allowed to keep her tiara after she tearfully admitted drinking as a minor at New York nightclubs. The Miss Universe Organization owns the Miss USA pageant and others.

"He always believes in second chances," Torres said of Trump. "We are asking for that and plead that he answer our call, allow us to meet with him and allow us to defend ourselves."

Allstate Insurance: No More Policies for Coastal Areas

Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog: With the seas warming, it's no wonder they want nothing to do with insuring properties in the danger zone. The storms are getting worse and moving up the coast, but the GOP doesn't believe global warming is an issue. When a Fortune 500 company makes a move like this, you would think some might take notice.

I also think back to the brilliant ideas that the Reagan administration started when they thought selling off wetlands made sense. Building on critical wetlands, whether in the Gulf in Mississippi or Louisiana or up along the Chesapeake Bay was a bad idea twenty five years ago and looks only worse today.

Allstate also decided recently to let thousands of homeowner policies lapse in the Carolinas, New York and Texas, and to no longer write new policies in parts of Virginia and all of Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey. (Full story is here.)

And in a related story, Inhabited Tropical Island Disappears:

Rising seas, caused by global warming, have for the first time washed an inhabited island off the face of the Earth. The obliteration of Lohachara island, in India's part of the Sundarbans where the Ganges and the Brahmaputra rivers empty into the Bay of Bengal, marks the moment when one of the most apocalyptic predictions of environmentalists and climate scientists has started coming true.

As the seas continue to swell, they will swallow whole island nations, from the Maldives to the Marshall Islands, inundate vast areas of countries from Bangladesh to Egypt, and submerge parts of scores of coastal cities. (Read the rest of the story - the one you won't read in the American mainstream press.)

U.N. places sanctions on Iran over nuke issue while U.S. is increasing forces in the region

Joe in DC, AmericaBlog: See, the U.S. is trying the diplomatic route against Iran. Really:

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously on Saturday to impose sanctions on Iran's trade in sensitive nuclear materials and ballistic missiles, a move aimed at getting Tehran to halt uranium enrichment work.

"Today we are placing Iran in the small category of states under Security Council sanctions," acting U.S. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told the council before the 15-0 vote.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who was successful in watering down parts of the resolution, emphasized that the resolution did not permit any use of force.

Diplomacy. But, then there was that report earlier this week of military build-up in the Gulf . Hmmm:

The United States and Britain will begin moving additional warships and aircraft into the Gulf region in a display of military resolve toward Iran that would come as the United Nations debates possible sanctions against it, according to military officials.

The officials said Wednesday that Defense Secretary Robert Gates was expected to approve a request by commanders for a second aircraft carrier and its supporting ships to be stationed within quick sailing distance of Iran by early next year.

Just because the U.N. said no use of force doesn't mean that Bush sees it that way. We've been down this path before. And, it's not a good path.

Republican gutting of clean air gets knocked down by courts

Chris in Paris, AmericaBlog: Big surprise, the GOP EPA didn't give a damn about Americans breathing bad air. How about thinking of the majority of Americans instead of the select few? Just imagine having some balance in politics next year...what a concept.

EPA's proposal to set an eight-hour standard for ozone emissions violates the Clean Air Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia court said in a 40-page ruling.

The ruling came in response to a suit filed by environmental groups, a local California air regulator and several states who wanted more stringent limits on smog.

At issue was the EPA's April 2004 ruling that 474 of the nation's 2,700 counties in 31 states have unacceptable levels of ground-level ozone, a major ingredient in unhealthy smog.

About 159 million Americans live in counties that violate the new standards, the agency said when it issued the rule.

"We vacate the 2004 Rule and remand the matter to EPA," the court said. "EPA has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth" in the Clean Air Act.

Nicole Belle, Crooks and Liars: We watched "Who Killed The Electric Car" last night, and all my frustration at the insanity of taking the electric car off the market bubbled back up to the top. As someone who grew up in Southern California with severe asthma and surviving smog alerts so bad they wouldn't let kids play outdoors, the electric car was not only a miraculous answer, it was smart. No dependency on foreign oil. No combustion engine to maintain. No CO2. Just a clean, quiet, efficient ride. Luckily, the EPA has recently approved amendments to regulations similar to those enacted by CARB in 1990 that mandated alternative fuel vehicles.

Contra Costa Times: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has cleared the way for automakers to produce hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars to meet zero-emission vehicle requirements in California and 10 other states, officials said Friday. (Read the rest of this story…)

FLASHBACK: One Year Ago, Gen. Casey Told Bush ‘Less Is Better,’ Pushed Reducing Troops In Iraq

Today, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that top American commanders — including Gen. George W. Casey, Jr. — have “decided to recommend a ’surge’ of fresh American combat forces” in Iraq.

But exactly one year ago, Casey rejected a troop increase in Iraq and recommended to President Bush that the number of U.S. forces should actually drop:

As I’ve said before this is not a conventional war, and in this type of war that we’re fighting, more is not necessarily better. In fact, in Iraq, less coalition at this point in time, is better. Less is better because it doesn’t feed the notion of occupation, it doesn’t work the culture of dependency, it doesn’t lengthen the time for Iraqi forces to be self-reliant, and it doesn’t expose coalition forces to risk when there are Iraqi forces who are capable of standing up and doing it.

Casey has not explained the reason for his sudden turnaround and how an increase in troops in 2007 won’t now “feed the notion of occupation” or increase “the culture of dependency.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff are unanimously opposed to Bush’s plan to send more troops to Iraq and many military officials believe that Bush has tried to bribe them into supporting his escalation plan by offering a tradeoff of increasing the size of the military.

John in DC, AmericaBlog: I remember a day when our generals actually had balls. Now they're simply pathetic. They objected to sending more troops to Iraq, but because Bush wants it, now they're in favor. They're condemning our men and women to death for a policy they know is a failure. Why? Because they're not man enough to stand up for their own. So Bush will continue to say that he will make policy in Iraq based on what the generals want, and the generals will keep on genuflecting to Bush even when they oppose his policies. That spells disaster. It also spells a lot of unnecessary death and injuries for our troops. Too bad our generals don't seem to care about that fact.

Funny, but when Clinton was considering lifting the ban on gays in the military, all the military was up in arms, and all the top generals - starting at the top with Colin Powell - practically mutinied. But when Bush decides to continue a criminally negligent war that is a disaster, all because he's too arrogant and stupid to change course, our generals sit back and shut up. I guess the deaths of 3,000 of our soldiers aren't nearly as big a deal to the generals as a couple of gay guys wanting to enlist.


Monday, December 25, 2006

All I Don't Want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

Here's what I don't want:

No more presidents snickering like gormless fools when cornered or sitting slack-jawed like an inbred carny upon hearing calamitous news.

No more Fristing ("She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli." ). After the first 20 minutes it can hurt.

No more nicknames ("Brownie meet Turd Blossom. Turd Blossom, meet Altoid Boy. Altoid Boy meet Balloon Foot. Balloon Foot meet Pooty-poot. Pooty-poot meet Dubya. Dubya meet...Oh, hell. That's me, right Poppy? Heh heh heh!"). Familiarity breeds contempt.

No more paperless trails. I mean, come on!

No more texting from the House floor. Even if you're really horny.

No more high-ranking, cranky, cagey, old bastards ("Go fuck yourself!").

No more known knowns, known unknowns or unknown unknowns.

No more "missions" accomplished.

No more national debt in trillions. That's paltry. Let's go for zillions!

No more secret prisons. Torture 'em on Pay-Per-View.

No more secret energy task forces. Burn clubbed seals on Pay-Per-View!

No more poppies from Afghanistan. The seed glut is negatively impacting the price of bagels.

No more Intelligent Design. Unless it applies to a cool wall paper pattern.

I could go on but that wouldn't be in the spirit of the season. See what you can do.


- Steven Weber (formerly of family-friendly Wings, late of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip)

Naughty And Nice 2006 has made their list and checked it twice…

NAUGHTY: Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), for attacking incoming Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress... NICE: Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), for still wanting to be friends with Rep. Virgil Goode.

NAUGHTY: The 109th Congress, for doing nothing... NICE: The 110th Congress, for promising to work five days a week.

NICE: Nancy Pelosi, for becoming the first female Speaker of the House... NAUGHTY: The Capitol, for having no women’s restroom in the Speaker’s office.

NAUGHTY: Maf54... NICE: NetNanny.

NAUGHTY: President Bush, for refusing to see Al Gore’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth... NICE:, for giving teachers 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth that “were rejected by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) after apparent pressure from Exxon and oil industry advocates.”

NAUGHTY: The 109th Congress, for failing to raise the minimum wage and allowing it to fall to its lowest level since 1955... NICE: Voters in Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, for raising the minimum wage.

NICE: Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, for not subjecting America to two hours of O.J. Simpson... NAUGHTY: Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, for subjecting America to a three-hour Bill O’Reilly Christmas marathon.

NAUGHTY: Right-wing preacher Ted Haggard, for buying meth... NICE: Right-wing preacher Ted Haggard, for throwing out the meth before he used it.

NAUGHTY: Rush Limbaugh, for falsely accusing Michael J. Fox of exaggerating symptoms of Parkisnon’s disease — and then refusing to apologize... NICE: Michael J. Fox, for speaking out about the need for embryonic stem cell research and not giving “a damn” about Rush Limbaugh.

NICE: Tom DeLay, for engaging Americans by starting a blog... NAUGHTY: Tom DeLay, for having someone else ghostwrite his blog.

NICE: William Cullen, for inventing the refrigerator... NAUGHTY: Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), for using his refrigerator to store $90,000 in cash.

NAUGHTY: The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), for causing cervical cancer... NICE: The Food and Drug Administration, for approving Gardasil, the first HPV vaccine.

NAUGHTY: “Experts” at the Exxon-funded Competitive Enterprise Insitutute, who say that “the best policy regarding global warming is to neglect it.”... NICE: The state of California , for doing something about it.

NAUGHTY: Former Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), for blaming everyone but himself for his legal problems.... NICE: The federal district court, for blaming Bob Ney.

NAUGHTY: Larry King, for never using the Internet.... NICE: You.

[Some] Christian bullies manufactured this 'War on Christmas'

I remember a time when people of faith bemoaned the over-commercialization of Christmas.

Now some are shouting persecution because sales clerks at some stores are wishing customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" or because the tree behind the City Market building was called a holiday tree in press releases instead of a Christmas tree last year.

When it comes to persecution, Christians have come a long way from being fed to the lions, my friends.

All this "War on Christmas" nonsense was manufactured in 2004 by that sanctimonious hypocrite Bill O'Reilly to bump up ratings -- and maybe distract attention from that whole unfortunate sexual harassment/phone sex episode.

He and Sean Hannity teamed up to try to browbeat Macy's, Target, Wal-Mart and other retailers into shouting, "Christmas! Christmas! Christmas!" at their customers until everyone feels the love of Jesus deep in their eardrums.

More recently, they've been singling out retailers who trumpet "Holiday sales" rather than "Christmas sales" in advertisements.

Amusingly enough, last year O'Reilly and friends got busted red-handed selling "holiday" ornaments on the Fox News Web store. The blurb for one ornament even said, "Put your holiday tree in the 'No Spin Zone' with this silver glass 'O'Reilly Factor' ornament."

Whose side are you on, Bill?

I'll admit that I find it silly to refer to "holiday trees." However, those who pride themselves on being good Christians might realize that the Christmas tree is pagan in origin, and that the Bible criticizes the practice:
"For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not" -- Jeremiah 10:3-4.
But what's so wrong with "Happy Holidays" as a season greeting? The word holiday, after all, is derived from holy day.

More to the point, what is un-Christian about taking a little extra care not to make a non-Christian feel excluded this time of year? You don't love your neighbors by rubbing their faces in beliefs they do not share.

But the biggest reason many Christians like me can't get agitated about the so-called "War on Christmas" is that there is so little evidence that such a war is happening.

Christmas decorations started going up in the malls before Halloween, for heaven's sake.
Last I looked, Christmas retained its status as a federal holiday. Christmas specials still fill the airwaves

And in a nation where, as O'Reilly likes to point out, something like 90 percent of the population celebrates Christmas in one fashion or another, I don't believe a war on Christmas is even possible.

Other than a pathetic attempt to boost O'Reilly's ratings, I think the whole brouhaha is little more than an excuse for the Christian majority to excuse holiday excesses that only recently were cause for guilt.

There's an unattractive undercurrent of intimidation in all of this.

As Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote last year during a similar outbreak of Yuletide battle fever, "There is an ugly, bullying aspect to this dispute, in which the pro-Christmas forces are not only asking, reasonably, that their religion be treated with equal status and respect but in which they are attacking legitimate efforts at inclusivity."

O'Reilly is not the first to allege a war on Christmas. An article last year on the anti-Fox News Web site News Hounds recalled that Henry Ford made the same allegation in his anti-Semitic tract, "The International Jew."

It was also a favorite refrain of the John Birch Society in the late 1950s.

What happened to the days when the main concern of Christians at Christmas was that the true meaning of the season would be lost amidst all the hoopla over Santa Claus, Rudolph and the unrelenting pressure to spend, spend, spend?

Here's a hint, Mr. O'Reilly: The true meaning has nothing to do with whether the Wal-Mart greeter says, "Merry Christmas" to you when you walk in the door.

If there is a war on Christmas, I think people like Bill O'Reilly are on the wrong side.

Dan Radmacher, The Roanoke Times

Help the Troops Phone Home for the Holidays

For the past 60+ years, the United Service Organizations (USO) has provided invaluable support for our brave men and women fighting overseas. This holiday season, spare a few bucks if you can so that our troops can call home and talk to their loved ones. Being deployed overseas must be the toughest thing a family has to endure and I'm sure they'll appreciate whatever we can do for them.

Go here to donate $$ for the desperately needed phone cards.

It boggles my mind that despite appropriations exceeding $300,000,000,000 for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003, the troops have to rely on donations just to talk to their families back home. What a disgrace.

- SilentPatriot

My Break is Over

I have missed updating this blog. But my break is over and it's time to get back to highlighting the news and opinions that catch my eye. Have I missed anything in the past month? ;-)

Just a few "in the spirit" posts before heading out to celebrate with the family. More beginning tomorrow!