28 June 2007

Shtus

Is Google News running parodies now? If so, I've fallen for this one:

"President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq."

Does this mean we're going to kick out half of the Iraqi population, empower a minority (perhaps the Kurds) and then spend billions of dollars annually shipping cheap military parts to the new regime? Come to think of it, it does sound like a model of success for . . . arms manufacturers.

23 June 2007

The Vaxjo model

The skeptics on the right assure us that cutting our emissions in some wimpy way (they'd still be behind those of China and other countries) would spell economic distaster. Meanwhile, Sweden's well on its way to be COMPLETELY independent of foreign oil imports by 2020. As for the economic impact, Sweden's economy is booming. As they say, green is the new black.


[Excerpt] In the cool forest region of southern Sweden, the city of Vaxjo has turned off the heating oil, even on the darkest, snowbound days of winter. Coal, too, is gone and next on the fossil fuel hit list is petrol. In the underground car park of the local government offices there are no private vehicles, just a communal car fleet.

Staff, who cycle or take the local biogas buses to work, book ahead to use vehicles in the fleet, and fill up on biogas or E85, a blend of 85 per cent renewable ethanol. Petrol is still readily available to the public, but carbon emissions in Sweden are heavily taxed. Drivers pay about 80 cents a litre extra at the bowser for the privilege of spewing out carbon dioxide.

Vaxjo is chasing a fossil fuel-free future, and it's almost halfway there without having sacrificed lifestyle, comfort or economic growth. When local politicians announced the phase-out in 1996, it was little more than a quaint curiosity. Oil prices were hovering around $US20 a barrel and global warming was still a hotly contested debate.

Today, at least one international delegation a week - mainly from China and Japan - beats a path to Vaxjo to see how it's done.

The Vaxjo model has been repeated all over Sweden, creating a network of "climate" municipalities. Sweden's emissions have long been falling, and last year the Government announced its own ambitious national goal: to end oil dependency by 2020.

22 June 2007

While the rest of us were grounded...

Quakers, protesting grandmothers, and other rabble-rousing fanatics are getting pulled off planes, tailed, and arrested. Meanwhile back at the ranch, we find that leaving the country on a ticket thought to have been provided by Osama bin Laden himself isn't enough to around suspicion. Hmmmm. At the risk of sounding like a conspiratorial nonloyal treasonous lefty, this couldn't have anything to do with Bush family connections wtih the bin Laden family, could it?


FBI were aware that Osama bin Laden may have chartered one of the flights that took members of the bin Laden family out of the United States immediate after the 9/11 attacks, yet allowed the planes to depart, new Agency documents reveal. The formerly confidential documents obtained by Judicial Watch through Freedom of Information Act and ongoing litigation states:

ON 9/19/01, A 727 PLANE LEFT LAX, RYAN FLT #441 TO ORLANDO, FL W/ETA (estimated time of arrival) OF 4-5PM. THE PLANE WAS CHARTERED EITHER BY THE SAUDI ARABIAN ROYAL FAMILY OR OSAMA BIN LADEN…THE LA FBI SEARCHED THE PLANE [REDACTED] LUGGAGE, OF WHICH NOTHING UNUSUAL WAS FOUND.

Traffic control reports show that the plane was allowed to depart the United States after making four stops to pick up passengers, ultimately landing in Paris where all passengers disembarked on 9/20/01, according to the document. FBI’s most recent document production includes details of the six flights between 9/14 and 9/24 that evacuated Saudi royals and bin Laden family members.The documents also contain brief interview summaries and occasional notes from intelligence analysts concerning the cursory screening performed prior to the departures. FBI did not consider a single Saudi national nor any of the bin Laden family members as possessing any information of investigative value. According to Judicial Watch the documents contain numerous errors and inconsistencies which call to question the thoroughness of the FBI’s investigation of the Saudi flights.


Thanks go to Catherine over at Cut to the Chase for finding this story. Hopefully, the Dept. of Homeland Security will put us in adjacent jail cells when we get sent to the seek Czech prison for our disloyal remarks.

Halberstam

Make it stop! Make it stop! has a good piece on David Halberstam:

We've been here before

In this space, we have tossed around the idea of whether Iraq is Vietnam. It's not a simple answer...they are similar in that American troops are in a conflict that can only be solved politically, unless you are a Curtis LeMay clone and are willing to destroy the village to save it, bomb'em back to the stone age or make it a wilderness and call it peace. They are dissimilar in that Vietnam was a basic disagreement about the future, with the weaker side opting for a continuation of colonial rule, and the other for a different future, a national Communist future without foreign domination. Iraq, of course, is many different conflicts--Sunni v. Shiia, Shiia militias vs. the US, Shiia militias vs. Al-Quaeda, Sunni militias vs. the US, Kurds vs. everyone trying to drag them into the muck, Al-Quaeda vs. the US, Shiia criminal gangs vs. Shiia criminal gangs for control of the Basra port traffic.

Another point of convergence between the two was front and center at the New York memorial service for David Halberstam. Halberstam, along with his colleague Neil Sheehan--who later went on to write a brilliant book about the origins of the US involvement in Vietnam, "A Bright Shining Lie"--were the first to sound the alarm, or try to, about the inability or unwillingness of south Vietnamese forces to engage their enemy. We were trying to train these people to resist their Communist countrymen, using our advisers and resources in order to avoid sending in ground troops. Halberstam, Sheehan and others repeatedly exposed the veniality, corruption and lack of fighting spirit among the south Vietnamese, coming right out and saying that they were incapable of bringing off a victory against the highly motivated Communists. Implicit in all their reporting was that the US would not have much luck, either, if it intervened militarily. In contrast, all official sources--a lot of grey-haired, crew-cut generals--painted a rosy picture for the American public. The light was always just at the end of the tunnel, we only needed a few additional months and millions to bring the ARVN around, patience, not "defeatism" was called for.

Halberstam in particular challenged these optimistic scenarios with his own eyes, ears and prose. Official Washington tried mightily to silence him, but he went on writing and accusing the American government of covering up and sugar coating the truth. Thus was born the adversarial relationship between the press and the government, which deepened during Watergate and survives today in the death-defying reporters who bring you all that "bad news" about Iraq--the bombings, the cruelty, the torture and abuse, the internecine warfare, the corruption, the essential hopelessness of trying to solve militarily something that can only be solved politically.

Dexter Filkins, who did some of the finest writing for the Times during his four-year stint in Baghdad and environs, paid eloquent tribute to his Vietnam-era predecessor at the memorial in these words: ""When the official version didn't match what we were seeing on the streets of Baghdad, all we had to do - and we did it a lot - was ask ourselves, What would Halberstam have done? And then the way was clear."

Popessa was fighting getting down the other day. This should get her back out there, cheering. We've been here before, and we still have some intrepid truth-tellers in the field.

17 June 2007

Taguba: The uncut version

Taguba, now retired, is now able to discuss Rumsfeld's testimony honestlyl without fear of being tossed in jail or given a dishonorable discharge for being "disloyal". The following's a short excerpt from a recent Hersh story:

Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.

Parry article

America's Fragile Democracy by Robert Parry June 13, 2007

By a two-to-one margin, a federal appeals court has repudiated George W. Bush’s right to snatch a civilian off the streets of America and hold the person indefinitely without trial. But the makeup of the three-judge panel was a fluke, with two Clinton appointees comprising the majority.

The proportion of Republican appointees to Democrats on the full U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, is the opposite, eight-to-four Republican. So, the Bush administration retains high hopes that the full court will agree to review the case of Ali al-Marri and grant the President the authority he wants.

The case, which tests the limits of Bush’s claims to “plenary” – or unlimited – powers as Commander in Chief, eventually is expected to reach the U.S. Supreme Court where Bush has four of nine justices solidly in his corner – Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito.

Assuming the roster of the Supreme Court remains the same, the swing vote is expected to be Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is considered a loyal Republican – the author of the December 2000 ruling awarding Bush the White House – but who has objected to some elements of Bush’s expansive presidential authority.

The two-to-one decision in Richmond on June 11 also highlights the schism that is opening in the federal courts. On one side are a relatively small number of Democratic judges, often allied with aging moderate Republicans, and on the other are more extreme conservatives, many with ties to the right-wing Federalist Society agreeing that Bush’s “war on terror” must trump civil liberties.

For at least a while longer, Bush’s faction would appear to have time on its side with the old guard fading away and Bush still in position to pick the successors, although the slim Democratic Senate majority has complicated the process.

On the U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, moderate Republican John Paul Stevens is 87 years old and Democrat Ruth Bader Ginsburg is known have battled health problems. If one of those seats should open and if Bush could push through even a moderately conservative justice or a right-wing senator like, say, Orrin Hatch, the President might have the solid majority that he has long coveted.

That means that if Bush can either persuade Justice Kennedy on the al-Marri case or replace one of the more liberal justices before the case reaches the high court, Bush could achieve a lasting legacy. He would have transformed the old U.S. Republic with its ideals about “unalienable” rights into an autocratic national security state with the President imbued with the power to, in effect, “disappear” people.

Full Court Press

Bush’s chances of prevailing could get a boost, too, if the Richmond appeals court overturns the ruling of the three-judge panel. The two Clinton-appointed judges, Diana Gribbon Motz and Roger L. Gregory, won’t have the numerical edge if the full appeals court agrees to hear the case as is expected.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, considered one of the most conservative in the country, has eight active judges who were selected by Republican presidents – one Nixon-appointed judge; two Reagan-appointed judges, three judges picked by President George H..W. Bush, and two judges named by George W. Bush. All four Democrats were selected by President Clinton.
Some of the Republican judges, such as J. Harvie Wilkinson, previously have supported presidential authority to hold “war on terror” suspects indefinitely without due process, as in the case of U.S. citizen Yader Esam Hamdi, who was captured in Afghanistan. That pro-Bush ruling, written by Wilkinson, was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it’s less clear if the more traditional conservatives on the Richmond appeals court will back the right of the President to detain civilians arrested in the United States as in the al-Marri case.

Ali al-Marri, a Qatar citizen, was arrested on Dec. 12, 2001, in Peoria, Illinois, while living with his family and studying computer science at Bradley University. Though initially charged with credit-card fraud and lying to federal agents, al-Marri was transferred into military custody in 2003 as an alleged “enemy combatant” and placed in the Navy brig in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Bush administration claimed al-Marri was a “sleeper agent” who trained at Osama bin Laden’s camp in Afghanistan and entered the United States in the summer of 2001 with the intent of disrupting the U.S. financial system.

In her ruling, Judge Motz wrote that the U.S. military could not detain al-Marri because there was no evidence that he had ever fought against the United States.

“To sanction such presidential authority to order the military to seize and indefinitely detain civilians,” Judge Motz wrote, “even if the President calls them ‘enemy combatants’ would have disastrous consequences for the Constitution – and the country.”

Such a presidential power “would so alter the constitutional foundations of our Republic” that there was no choice but to conclude that the “military detention of al-Marri must cease,” Judge Motz wrote. Judge Gregory concurred in the opinion.

In the dissent, visiting federal judge Henry Hudson, a George W. Bush appointee, argued that Bush could detain al-Marri as an enemy combatant because “he is the type of stealth warrior used by al-Qaeda to perpetrate terrorist acts against the United States.”

Rather than remand al-Marri to civilian custody after Motz’s ruling, the Justice Department said it would continue al-Marri’s military detention while seeking a rehearing by the full appeals court, a move that is likely to be followed by the case going to the Supreme Court.
During his first 16 months in the Charleston brig, al-Marri was denied any contact with his lawyers or family. According to a 2005 lawsuit filed on his behalf, al-Marri also was subjected to harsh treatment, including threats that he could be sent to Egypt or Saudi Arabia where he would likely be tortured, sodomized and forced to watch his wife raped.

Civil libertarians hailed the al-Marri ruling as a significant defeat for Bush’s vision of an imperial presidency. But the fragility of the judicial consensus holding the line against the President's "plenary" powers signals that the battle to sustain the Founders’ vision of a Republic based on the rule of law and recognizing “certain unalienable rights” is far from over.

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

16 June 2007

Today's Joke

Ole was bragging to his boss one day, "You know, I know everyone there is to know. Just name someone, anyone, and I know them."

Tired of his boasting, his boss called his bluff, "OK, Ole, how about Tom Cruise?"
"Sure, yeah, sure, Tom and I are old friends, and I can prove it."

So Ole and his boss fly out to Hollywood and knock on Tom Cruise's door. Sure enough, Cruise shouts, "Ole! Great to see you! You and your friend come right in and join me for lunch!"
Although impressed, Ole's boss is still skeptical. After they leave Cruise's house, he tells Ole that he thinks Ole's knowing Cruise was just lucky.

"No, no, just name anyone else," Ole says.

"President Bush," his boss quickly retorts.

"Yeah. Sure, ya bet," Ole says. "I know him."

His boss states, "If you can prove that you know him, I'll fly out to Washington to see him." And off they go.

At the White House, Bush spots Ole on the tour and motions him and his boss over, saying, "Ole, what a surprise. I was just on my way to a meeting, but you and your friend come on in and let's have a cup of coffee first and catch up."

Well, the boss is very shaken by now, but still not totally convinced. After they leave the White House, he expresses his doubts to Ole, who again implores him to name anyone else.
"The pope," his boss replies.

"Oh, ya!" says Ole. "I've known the pope a long time."

Again the unconvinced boss flies them off to Rome. Ole and his boss are assembled with the masses in Vatican Square when Ole says, "This will never work. I can't catch the Pope's eye among all these people. Tell you what, I know all the guards so let me just go upstairs, and I'll come out on the balcony with the pope." He disappears into the crowd headed toward the Vatican. Sure enough, half an hour later, Ole emerges with the pope on the balcony.

By the time Ole returns, he finds that his boss has had a heart attack and is surrounded by paramedics. Working his way to his boss' side, Ole asks him, "What happened?"

His boss looks up and says, "I was doing fine until you and the pope came out on the balcony and a tourist from Japan next to me asked, 'Who's that on the balcony with Ole?'"

15 June 2007

Flagging enthusiasm

Another "Flag Day" has come and gone. Ho Hum. It seems to me that every day has been Flag Day in the US and many other parts of the world. What we really need is a Humanity Day when we can reflect on our common bonds with the rest of the human beings on the planet, on the fact that other people who live across the arbitrary political borders on the map share the same biosphere and have to deal with the same emotions and concerns that we do.

13 June 2007

Blague à part

Did you hear about the guy in Paris who almost got away with stealing several paintings from the Louvre?

After planning the crime, getting in and out past security, he was captured only two blocks away when his van ran out of gas. When asked how he could mastermind such a crime and then make such an obvious error, he replied:

"Monsieur, I had no Monet to buy Degas to make the Van Gogh."

12 June 2007

Setback to the slow creep of fascism

I can never figure out why people aren't more concerned about this. Any sensible person should realize that you NEVER give the government a carte blanche to imprison people secretly. Fortunately, a few judges have the gumption to act as a separate branch of government:

WASHINGTON: A US federal appeals court has ruled that the Government cannot indefinitely imprison a US resident on suspicion alone, ordering it either to charge a Qatari national, Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, with terrorist crimes in a civilian court or release him. Monday's ruling is a blow to the Bush Administration's assertion that the president has exceptionally broad powers to combat terrorism, including the authority to detain, without charge, foreign citizens living legally in the country.

It is the first time a court has said that Mr Marri cannot be held forever without facing formal charges, but it is a symbolic victory; Mr Marri will continue his detention in a military prison in South Carolina. The Government said that it was disappointed by the 2-1 decision and that it would appeal to the full court. The appeals panel ruled that the President, George Bush, had overreached his authority and that the constitution protected US citizens and legal residents such as Mr Marri from unchecked military power.

It also rejected the Administration's contention that it was not relevant that Mr Marri was arrested in the US and was living there legally on a student visa. "The President cannot eliminate constitutional protections with the stroke of a pen by proclaiming a civilian, even a criminal civilian, an enemy combatant subject to indefinite military detention," the panel found.

District Judge Henry Hudson, a Bush appointee, dissented from the opinion, claiming that Mr Bush had the power to detain enemy combatants under Congress's authorisation to use military force.

"Although al-Marri was not personally engaged in armed conflict with US forces, he is the type of stealth warrior used by al-Qaeda to perpetrate terrorist acts against the United States," Judge Hudson wrote. "There is little doubt", he maintained, that Mr Marri intended to aid in hostile attacks on the US.

The Government said that Mr Marri - who was identified as part of an al-Qaeda sleeper cell by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks - came to the US to prepare for a second wave of attacks. In June 2003 Mr Bush declared him an "enemy combatant" and ordered his transfer to a military prison in South Carolina.

The panel found that the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which prohibits enemy combatants from challenging the basis for their imprisonment in US courts, does not apply to a person living legally in the US.

6 June 2007

Iraqi Lawmakers Pass Resolution

This is an interesting and very democratic solution to Shrub's War:

While most observers are focused on the U.S. Congress as it continues to issue new rubber stamps to legitimize Bush's permanent designs on Iraq, nationalists in the Iraqi parliament -- now representing a majority of the body -- continue to make progress toward bringing an end to their country's occupation.

The parliament today passed a binding resolution that will guarantee lawmakers an opportunity to block the extension of the U.N. mandate under which coalition troops now remain in Iraq when it comes up for renewal in December.

1 June 2007

A highly disloyal post


The U.S. military once again is trying to stifle dissent as we can see in this case against Adam Kokesh:


WASHINGTON Going on a mock patrol can get you in real trouble with the US Marine Corps.

In a case that raises questions about free speech, the Marines have launched investigations of three inactive reservists for wearing their uniforms during antiwar protests and allegedly making statements characterized as "disrespectful" or "disloyal."

When someone is "inactive," their "loyalty" should never be a legal issue. "Loyalty" rhymes with "royalty" and as a legal concept, is much more at home in monarchies.

Two of them were part of the guerrilla theater squad of 13 Iraq Veterans Against the War who roamed Capitol Hill and downtown Washington in March, clad in camouflage and carrying imaginary weapons, to mark the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war.

A dozen people doing street theatre in DC--it sounds like a major threat to the nation! Tape down those windows!

Adam Kokesh, 25, a graduate student at George Washington University, faces a hearing Monday in Kansas City, where the Marines will recommend an "other than honorable" discharge from the Individual Ready Reserve. He was previously honorably discharged from active duty after fighting in Fallujah and receiving the Combat Action Ribbon and the Navy Commendation Medal.

Upon learning he was being investigated for wearing his uniform during the mock patrol, Kokesh wrote an e-mail to the investigating officer, Major John Whyte. The veteran discussed his service and his critique of the war and asked the officer, "We're at war. Are you doing all you can?" He concluded with an obscene recommendation about what Whyte should go do. This earned him the count for a "disrespectful statement."

Are we to assume that the Marine Corps is also prosecuting every vet who wears their uniform to a pro-war rally? How about those big lines of vets who march through town on Memorial Day? The Marine Corps lawyers must have a big case overload. If this is not the case, where does one write to learn the list of appropriate political opinions and appropriate causes? Can someone wear their uniform during a pro-war film?

Liam Madden, 22, who spent seven months in Iraq, last fall helped launch the Appeal for Redress, a website where military personnel can directly appeal to Congress to support withdrawal of troops. Madden, of Boston, is accused of wearing his camouflage shirt at an antiwar march in Washington in January.

A camoflage shirt?! How maddening! We won't be able to see the peformers hiding in the DC foliage!

He also is accused of making disloyal statements during a speech in February in New York, when he says he wasn't wearing his uniform. These were the statements, as summarized by the Marines in legal documents: "Sgt. Madden spends several minutes explaining the 'war crimes' of the Bush administration. Sgt. Madden claims that the war in Iraq is a war 'of aggression' and one of 'empire building.' Sgt. Madden explains that the President of the United States has 'betrayed US military personnel' engaged in the Iraq conflict."

This word "disloyal" again . . . We shan't have too many of these "disloyal" folks running amok through the streets of our democracy. If people want a different view of the war, they should go in the corner and think their evil disloyal thoughts to themselves.

The identity of the third Marine under investigation could not be immediately verified; his or her name had been blacked-out.

Maybe this person has been tossed in a secret prison in some secret location by some secret force operating under some secret order. One never knows these days.

Papers drawn up by Marine lawyers indicate the corps sees it as a matter of enforcing clear regulations.

It's perfectly clear to me: Attend all the pro-war rallies you want and you'll get a pat on the shoulder; voice the wrong political opinion and you'll get a dishonerable discharge.

The case also raises a fundamental question of interest to the roughly 158,000 men and women in the Marines' and Army's Individual Ready Reserve: Are they civilians -- free to speak their minds -- or not? "This case is about the Marine Corps seeking to stifle critics of the Iraq policy by officially labeling civilian acts of peaceful protest and political speech as misconduct and serious offenses," said Michael Lebowitz, Kokesh's attorney, who fought in Iraq as an Army paratrooper.

All I can say is thank goodness for the Adam Kokeshes in this country. It's good to see that someone cares enough to stand up and speak their mind.