Bending the Third Rail
Because We Should, We Can, We Do
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Empty Room
I've totally got to agree with Kevin Drum on his assessment of the opposition response to the State of the Union Speech:
Anyway, I'll repeat my suggestion to the Democrats from a couple of years ago: either insist that the rebuttal speaker be allowed to speak in front of an audience or else just pack it in. The current format is so bad that I'm convinced it does the opposition party more harm than good.
Angry Bear has a post up about health care administrative costs that is a very good read:
We have a couple of estimates of how high administrative costs are - i.e., expenses incurred by the health care system to do things other than to provide health care services. One prominent study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003 estimated that the cost of administering the US’s health care system was about $300bn in 1999. A more recent study in the International Journal of Health Services found that in 2003, administration costs in the US health care system ate up about $400bn, or about 25% of total health care spending.
As an aside. When I used to apply for grant funding of counseling programs, any administration costs over 10% were considered excessive.

I watched as a young therapist intern as the health insurance business added this layer of "managed care" bureaucracy. Anyone accessing health care these days has experienced the intrusiveness of insurance on their own care. It has grown into an enormous constituency of it's own and offers relative good jobs to white collar workers; a sort of welfare for the lower middle class if you will. But as predicted, any cost containment offered by managed care has been more than offset by the costs to insurance companies in terms increased labor costs, administrative costs and of delayed care which ends up being more expensive. I can vouch for this fact based on my own experiences as a care provider.

Bush is going to bloviate a lot tonight about health care. Fact is, the U.S. has the least efficient, most costly health care system, with the poorest outcome in terms of health measures, in the world. Despite claims otherwise, we do have full national health care coverage. The rich pay for it. The middle class gets increasingly stuck with higher premium and co-pay costs for less coverage, and the poor use the emergency room, usually when it's too late and the costs of treatment become exorbinant.

With that as a back drop, the Republicans are going to try and ram through further health care reforms that screw everyone but the rich. It's gonna be like a replay of the social security reform debacle, except this time it will be played out during an election year after the deployment of the spectacular perscription drug program.

Same shit, different day.
Thanks from Paul
A thank you from Paul Hackett in Ohio.
We must let these people know we support them when they show some spine.
Still A Man's World
In a startling revelation, the former commander of Abu Ghraib prison testified that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former senior US military commander in Iraq, gave orders to cover up the cause of death for some female American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Last week, Col. Janis Karpinski told a panel of judges at the Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York that several women had died of dehydration because they refused to drink liquids late in the day. They were afraid of being assaulted or even raped by male soldiers if they had to use the women's latrine after dark.
Sanchez's attitude was: "The women asked to be here, so now let them take what comes with the territory," Karpinski quoted him as saying. Karpinski told me that Sanchez, who was her boss, was very sensitive to the political ramifications of everything he did. She thinks it likely that when the information about the cause of these women's deaths was passed to the Pentagon, Donald Rumsfeld ordered that the details not be released. "That's how Rumsfeld works," she said.

Full article here. Everything about this administration stinks. By the way, this is Number Five.
Impeach Bush
The calls for impeachment continue to grow.
As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government.
Therapist Stripped of Practice
Salon had an interesting side story the other day about a psychotherapist who was found to be a former stripper, and who was practicing without a license:
Lucy Wightman, 46, was known as a smart, warm psychologist whom patients adored for her laid-back style and her deep reserves of empathy. She had offices in two affluent Boston suburbs and her practice was thriving until last fall, when an anonymous tipster informed the local Fox affiliate that Wightman was not a licensed psychologist -- her doctorate came from a mail-order university in the Caribbean -- and in the '70s and '80s she was known as "Princess Cheyenne," one of Boston’s most renowned nude dancers.
In the course of the story, this question was posed:
If you were seeing an extremely talented and helpful therapist, and then found out that he or she had lied about credentials, would you continue to see the therapist? And what if you found out that your shrink was once a stripper -- would you care?
To me, the stripper part is a no brainer. It's nobody's business and irrelevant to the treatment at hand. If asked, a therapist should not lie, but may opt to not answer the question. I suspect that there are many professionals of all types who are well qualified and who have "checkered" pasts. It doesn't matter so long as they maintain the standards of their profession now.

The lying about credentials is a whole other thing. The process of psychotherapy is fully and completely based on trust. The therapist engages in the intimacy of trust by believing what the client says, despite knowing that most people lie like Karl Rove in therapy. Clients expect (and pay for) a professionally trained therapist that is being thoroughly truthful. This expectation is the crux of that therapuetic relationship ... psychotherapy may be the first time that an individual seeking help may have experienced someone who is being throughly honest. It's that very honesty that models what all of us should expect in our everyday lives from our relationships. The very process of psychotherapy is a learning process to experience such honesty, to practice the skills of honesty, and to overcome the feelings of discomfort that come with that intimacy which can be quite frightening.

The fact that many of this psychotherapist clients think it's no big deal that she lied about her credentials speaks to either their dysfunction or to the therapists lack of skill. The fact that the writer in Salon asks the question displays the common naivete' in our society about the nature of quality intimate relationships.

This woman should never be able to practice again, even if she attempts to obtain proper licensure, as she has proven incapable of the professionalism that is at the heart of the process of psychotherapy.
The Hammer And The Ant
I regularly William Arkin who chronicles the goings-on in the Pentagon. The amount of money wasted by the entire defense industry is truly astounding. This is a classic example:
The USS Virginia is the best any defense industry anywhere can build. The 377-foot long boat is so advanced it can be driven by only two sailors. The control room is modern and networked. Perhaps most radical is the elimination of the conventional periscope. The boat instead has a series of cameras and antennas embedded within its tower, housing intelligence collection equipment that can eavesdrop on enemy signals while the sub sits covertly under the sea.
Ok. So we have a new submarine that very well equipped. That's good. Right?
I know that The Day is hometown booster for the submarine team, but clearly the newspaper failed to see the irony that we built a $2.4 billion submarine bristling with Cold War capabilities, and where do we send it on its first deployment: to South America to spy on cell-phone conversations.
Sounds like a good use of high tech equipment .... more eavesdropping and in South America, that hotbed of terrorist activities. Can't get enough intelligence when there's none at the top though. And I'm sure the mission in spying on South America was a critical one:
"There's relatively little al-Qaida activity in this hemisphere, in Latin America. There is some, and there is some fundraising that takes place for other terrorist organizations, Hezbollah and the like." That's Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, appearing on the Hugh Hewitt radio show just last week.
As Rummy might say, one might expect this high tech device, if it's really needed, to be used in some other area of the globe? Like perhaps the Middle East? Later, Arkin indicates that in all fairness, this may have been a "shake-down" cruise to test the capabilities of the sub in safe waters. Perhaps. But I thought shake-down meant work out the bugs, the final run before reporting to duty. Right? Not in the highly efficient U.S. Navy:
When the USS Virginia returned to the United States, it entered the Groton shipyard for a year of post-construction work, additional billions.
What? It needs a full year to fix the bugs? Wonder how much it would cost to pay an Iraqi to infilitrate the Sunni insurgents. Or how about the cost of having a Pakistani join al Qaeda undercover?

Ah. But there's more:
Just this week, General Dynamics Electric Boat received lead funding for construction of the eighth, ninth and tenth Virginia class boats. That's a minimum of a cool $24 billion, a truly incredible story.
So there are going to be ten of these things?

For some perspective, just take a moment and visit the National Priorities website and just get a feel for what $24 Billion could do.
Go Read
Digby says it. I've been saying it. Some other's have recognized it. Yesterday. The Alito cloture vote was a victory.

Go read Digby for proof.
SOTU Preview
I don't plan on writing much about the run-up to the State of the Union Address. The Preznit's at 39% approval, and you know it's going to be terra terra terra all the time. In fact, Heather Havrilesky at the LA Times has a game to play during the SOTU that's pretty much guaranteed to kill you:
Because Bush refuses to take any tips from the Great and Powerful Oz's playbook, the only way to pump up the shock and awe is by playing a drinking game that's custom-made for the State of the Union address. (Kids, don't try this at home. Adults, don't try this anywhere else but home.)

The game is simple enough for even your average registered voter to understand. Basically, every time Bush says "terror," "terrorism," "terrorist," "war on terror" or "Terror Dome," you drink.

Also drink when the president winks, nods and points at someone in the audience in rapid succession; drink each time he refers to 9/11 or uses the word "nuke-u-lar," and drink something bitter when he says that "the state of our union is strong."
Play at your own risk. If you honestly play, I guarantee you won't survive the speech.

Personally, I'll probably watch something stimulating like Jeopardy. I'll read about any highlights later from those who have endured the unendurable. Just a reminder. Nothing proposed in last year's SOTU even came to a vote in Congress .... a Congress dominated by the Preznit's own party.
Feingold News

Feingold is becoming more and more visible.
Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

In fact, the president did secretly authorize the National Security Agency to begin warrantless monitoring of calls and e-mails between the United States and other nations soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The program, publicly revealed in media reports last month, was unknown to Feingold and his staff at the time Feingold questioned Gonzales, according to a staff member. Feingold's aides developed the 2005 questions based on privacy advocates' concerns about broad interpretations of executive power.

That sounds like a flat-out lie to me. Get'em, Russ! I love that guy.

Monday, January 30, 2006
Justice Alito UPDATED
I wish the image was correct ... but it's not.

It looks like the move to filibuster has failed. The usual conservative Democrats are the ones who let the party down. Many on the left are pissed and threatening all kinds of retribution. I don't plan anything other than to remember. Those who voted against the party and who face re-election will see my money go to opponents (are you listening Joementum?). Just so you know, here's Joementum's primary opponent website. Send him some love.

BTW. Princess Di Feinstein voted against cloture (in support of the filibuster). Good job Di!

Added: For the record, here are the DINO targets:
Daniel Akaka, Max Baucus, Jeff Bingaman, Robert Byrd, Maria Cantwell, Tom Carper, Kent Conrad, Byron Dorgan, Daniel Inouye, Tim Johnson, Herb Kohl, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Pryor, Jay Rockefeller and Ken Salazar.
And here are the hero's that took a stand against the odds (and should be properly rewarded). We've been asking for them to fight regardless of the calculations. And they did what we asked:

Bayh, Evan (D-IN)
Biden, Joseph R., Jr. (D-DE)
Boxer, Barbara (D-CA)
Clinton, Hillary Rodham (D-NY)
Dayton, Mark (D-MN)
Dodd, Christopher J. (D-CT)
Durbin, Richard (D-IL)
Feingold, Russell D. (D-WI)
Feinstein, Dianne (D-CA)
Jeffords, James M. (I-VT)
Kennedy, Edward M. (D-MA)
Kerry, John F. (D-MA)
Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ)
Leahy, Patrick J. (D-VT)
Levin, Carl (D-MI)
Menendez, Robert (D-NJ)
Mikulski, Barbara A. (D-MD)
Murray, Patty (D-WA)
Obama, Barack (D-IL)
Reed, Jack (D-RI)
Reid, Harry (D-NV)
Sarbanes, Paul S. (D-MD)
Schumer, Charles E. (D-NY)
Stabenow, Debbie (D-MI)
Wyden, Ron (D-OR)
The Wages of Morality
The Christian Science Monitor has a refreshing story about the fight for living wages.

It's unusual for a controversial economic issue to be fought on moral grounds. But ACORN, a public advocacy group, has been winning a higher "living wage" for workers in state after state, city after city, by appealing to voters' sense of justice.

"It's probably the best [argument] we have," says Jen Kern, director of ACORN's Living Wage Resource Center. A decent income is a moral matter of "fairness," she says. Those who "play by the rules of the game should be able to support themselves by their work."

The Media Is Shocked, SHOCKED
...To learn that Iraq is dangerous and people are being killed!
Bob Woodruff and Doug Vogt’s injuries from an improvised explosive device (IED) in Iraq have shocked us all – from his fellow journalists in Iraq to his American audience back home.
I have been seething all weekend about the media coverage of Woodruff/Vogt being attacked and injured. This story has been the lead on all the national news broadcasts every day since it happened. And the guy didn't even die! At least yet.

Sound crass?

Hell no.

Not in the face of nearly 3000 dead America soldiers, countless injured, and who knows exactly how many civilians, enduring tragedy daily while the big media folks get their panty hose all twisted because one of their own, a guy who had the best armor btw, chose to go cover a story in Iraq and was injured.

I know it's human nature. I understand it gets personal when you know someone who is injured or killed. But aren't journalist professionals and don't they realize that their megaphone is just a wee bit larger than the mother of Private 1st Class Brian J. Schoff who was killed in Bagdad on Jan 28th?
Pfc. Brian J. Schoff, 22, of Manchester, Tenn., died in Baghdad, Iraq on Jan. 28, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV. Schoff was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Fort Campbell, Ky.
Is the attack on Bob Woodruff and his cameraman any more newsworthy than the numerous soldiers killed daily? We've sometimes gone days with barely a mention of the deaths occurring in Iraq.

To the journalist: Either knock it off with the special coverage of Bob Woodruff or (and more ideally), spend the first five minutes of precious air time on a daily basis covering the details and biography of any number of other people killed in Iraq that day.

Added: This note from Preston Mendenhall anticipating my post:
One last note. Journalists also grieve for the thousands of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. Before someone blogs back that we’re a bunch of self-centered, blow-hards, give us a moment to think of our own.
As usual, the self-centered blow-hards in the media don't get it. It's not that anyone begrudges them to grieve for one of their own. It's subjecting everyone else to their grief disproportionately to that profound grief he proclaims they feel for U.S. troops killed in Iraq. This does make them self-centered blow-hards.

Update: Gilliard has some interesting thoughts on the Woodruff coverage with which I agree. Politically expedient? Yes. Right? No.
"I Will Cut The Deficit In Half In 5 Years"
Chart Via Angry Bear

Remember those famous words from fearless leader? Ah ... Mr. Preznit ... wha happened?!

Also, I know most of you know this already but I think it bears repetition. The deficit numbers you hear from the administration, and swallowed whole by the media, are the "unified deficit" referenced above. That means that the Social Security trust fund ... money guaranteed to future recipients ... is included in the budget to counterbalance some of the deficit. The real budget deficit is "on-budget" deficit, currently running at around $600 Billion per year.
Steam Outta My Ears

You knew this was coming. It's only one in a number of announcements over the past week or so. It's so obscene and a shameful indictment on the American economy, and American values:
Jan. 30 (Bloomberg) -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's biggest oil company, said fourth-quarter profit rose 27 percent on surging energy prices to a record $10.7 billion, capping the most profitable year for any company in U.S. history.
The "Gang"
They ARE thugs:
CNN's Ed Henry reports, and it appears to be correct, that the Gang of 14 will announce, AS A GROUP, that there are not extraordinary circumstances justifying filibuster of Sam Alito.
Right on cue. Joltin' Joementum Lieberman is in that groups along with three other Democrats who have announced they are voting "No" on Alito. Wouldn't want to muss up anyone hair pieces in the Senate with like a principled stand on an issue.

On a serious note, Lieberman is giving his primary challenger Ned Lamont a big wet kiss of help in his bid to unseat DINOLieberman. Rumor has it that Connecticut Dems are pissed at Joe. His support is a mile wide but an inch deep.

Go get em' Ned! I know I've got a few bucks coming your way.
OH The Horror Of It All!!!
One of the conundrums for me of the last five years has been how incredibly successful Osama bin Laden's terrorists tactics have been at shocking the American culture. The common term I've used has been that Americans are "fearful".

But that never really cut it for me.

When I interact with fellow citizens I don't sense any palpable fear or sense of being "at war". I hear people interviewed on the Tee Vee talking about fear of another attack, but they seem awfully calm and detached, almost as if talking about tonights beef stroganoff.

Digby addresses this phenomena in this post.
It [the fear] features the psychological traits of a country watching a horror movie, which is not the same thing at all. You certainly see this in the fevered one-handed war blogging and the endless evocations of pre-9/11 and post 9/11 thinking reminds me of nothing so much as people who are hooked on a stimulating drug.
That really captures a bit of what I think is happening. But even more so, it's become cool to be afraid. There's certainly plenty of media reinforcement of the need to watch out for the boogyman, but there was a time in the distant past where it wasn't cool to be afraid. Bravery in the face of threat was considered a virtue ... stiff upper lip and all that jazz.

Now it seems that it's cool to be chickenlittle, locking your car while it's in your garage, bars on the windows at home with the obligatory ADT alarm system armed and ready, have your handy 357 at the bedside, and vote for legislators who give a death sentence to anyone jaywalking.

There are times when it's prudent to take care. Of course. And there are real international terrorists threats. But an American citizen is much much more likely to get run over by the spouse backing out of the garage in the spanking new CIA colored black Cadillac Escalade SUV than being the victim of an Islamic terrorist. Hell, you're more in danger of dying from high cholesterol clogging your arteries from eating too many Big Mac's than a suicide bomber. Yet, the horror movie images of terrorist attacks are burned into our consciousness on a daily basis like the zombies walking towards the viewer in "Night of the Living Dead".

Bushco has done a fine job of producing this little horror flick over the past five years and we're all to willing to sit back with our popcorn and spectate. And like the cattle call, we move herd-like into the latest conventional wisdom fad of "being rightly fearful" while never really having to experience the consequences of true fear. Isn't that the essence of our culture, i.e. having our cake and eating it too? We get to be pitiful yet disengaged victims remaining all clean and tidy.

Isn't it time for a little "stiff upper lip"? Perhaps a reality show based on a contestant that can show the greatest amount of emotional dissociation while facing a real threat.

Naw. Too boring. Give me the shirtless scruffy hunk or bikini clad young rail screaming her head off any ole' time. Good ratings.

Added: More proof. Geesh.....
Thinking Big.
Really, really big.

The most potent threats to life on earth - global warming, health pandemics, poverty and armed conflict - could be ended by moves that would unlock $7 trillion - $7,000,000,000,000 (£3.9trn) - of previously untapped wealth, the United Nations claims today.

The price? An admission that the nation-state is an old-fashioned concept that has no role to play in a modern globalised world where financial markets have to be harnessed rather than simply condemned.

I still need time to digest all this. Is this a forward-thinking push toward world cooperation or is it a ploy by corporations to create a Randian utopia? I really don't know. The world desperately need to act as one for the good of all mankind but I don't know that this is the answer. As an American, I have learned to distrust almost everyone.
At the top of their wish list is curbing emissions that lead to global warming. As long as Bush is president, that won't happen. Fortunately, some are doing an end run around the fool on the hill.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Lancet has a very interesting article (free registration required) about some innovations that are being tried in the Health Care industry. When I first saw the articles subject I was not impressed, thinking that "production line health care" doesn't sound very attractive.

I'm not a doctor. But I was the administrator of a non-profit counseling clinic and I can tell you that the vast majority of medical care facilities are very poorly managed. I also worked for years in manufacturing, learning "just in time" production methods and statistical quality control. These production innovations, pioneered originally by the Japanese, have brought about tremendous improvements in U.S. manufacturing efficiency (those that are left that is). It appears that medicine might benefit from these production methods:
The Toyota Production System was developed by the company's founder Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda, but primarily by Taiichi Ohno, a company engineer. The goal of the approach is to refine production so that work flows smoothly from one step to the next with no wasted time, effort, or resources. The essential elements of each step are identified. Any step that does not add value to the product is considered waste or “muda”. The process is then reorganised to eliminate any muda. The new process is then standardised, mistake-proofed, and implemented [by the workers themselves, not some suit]. Then the analysis is done again, and again, and again, a process of continual, incremental improvement called “kaizen” in Japanese.

“Every value stream we've ever mapped—and we've mapped all our major processes—in every process there's been over 50% non-value-added time”, Kaplan says.
That's a brief history of what JIT (just in time) manufacturing is. Sounds pretty dry, right?
Using Toyota techniques, Park Nicollet cut patient waiting times to the point that the centre's new ambulatory clinic has no waiting rooms. This is possible because the clinic adopted the “one-piece flow” production system used by Toyota. Before, patients were processed in batches. If there were five examination rooms, for example, patients were scheduled in batches of five. The nurses and doctors would then hustle from room to room hoping to clear the rooms for the next scheduled batch checked in. Delays inevitably occurred, and patients backed up in the waiting rooms.

Now, the patients are “feathered in”, Kaupa says. The first patient of the day is signed in at 0800 h and immediately sent to the exam room, the next patient comes in at 0810, the next at 0820, and so on in 10-minute intervals. The nurse, followed by the doctor, and then perhaps by the lab technician, sees each patient in order so that the services they provide come to the patient in a steady, even “flow”. At the end of the day, no additional patients are signed in after 1600 h, so the clinic gradually empties room by room until it's empty. At closing time the rooms are empty.
Sounds good to me. I've never found doctors to be particularly social anyway and I usually have found myself spending a lot of time cooling my heels. If done well, this is a real win-win. Consumers get health care delivered in a timely and efficient manner, medical facilities maximize the use of their resources and cut costs.
GDP Tanks
Fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product came in at a paltry 1.1%, seriously below expectations:
This is a terrible report. Consumer spending slowed dramatically, to its lowest rate of growth in recent history. Business spending slowed even more dramatically, from a growth rate in the neighborhood of 8-10% over the past 10 quarters to just 3% this quarter - the lowest rate of business spending growth since 2003:Q1.
Home equity as an ATM has stopped. No one but the rich have any disposable income, and unfortunately there aren't enough of "them" to sustain anything but the Republican party. Business owners see the writing on the wall and are pulling back. Further weakening of jobs is next.

Heckuva job Bushie!

Experts expect a rebound in this quarter. I hope they're right!
Is This Stupid or What?
This item apparently didn't get much coverage in the U.S. or Bill O'Reilly would have really been in a conundrum. Via David Corn:
I missed this, maybe you did, too. Last week, President Jacques Chirac said that France would launch a nuclear strike against any country that sponsors a terrorist attack against French interests and that he had reconfigured his country's nuclear arsenal to make this easier to do.
Only a fool would take such an action. His statement falls into the heading of absurd and irresponsible. Why not just issue and invitation for a terrorist attack instead of being coy.

I wonder what Bill O'Reilly would say about such a statement? I suspect he might begin to smoke, overheat, and burst into flames.
Lockheed Listening
I guess the defense business has been pretty good:
Lockheed Martin Corp., the Bethesda defense contractor, said yesterday that fourth-quarter profit increased 53 percent, boosted by one-time gains, as results for its signature aircraft business were flat.

Lockheed has increasingly relied on information technology work for the Pentagon and other federal agencies to offset long-term expectations that defense spending on traditional weapons programs will decline. During the fourth quarter, the systems and IT unit reported a 3 percent increase in revenue, to $5.3 billion, and a 6 percent increase in operating profit, to $519 million. Revenue in the aeronautics unit, maker of the F-16 and F-22 fighter jets, increased 1 percent, to $3.04 billion.
Note, the reason for the expectation that "traditional weapons programs will decline" is the result of spending on these programs having been enormously bloated over the past five years.

So, Lockheed is helping out the Pentagon on information gathering. Looks like the new growth industry in the United States. Perhaps we're in for a "information gathering" boom in the economy?
As I said so eloquently, everything he touches turns to shit:
NEW YORK Because of unforeseen security costs, haphazard planning and shifting priorities, the U.S.-financed reconstruction program in Iraq will not complete scores of projects that were promised to help rebuild the country, according to a U.S. oversight agency.

Only 49 of the 136 projects that were originally pledged to improve Iraqi water and sanitation will be finished, along with about 300 of an initial 425 projects to provide electricity, according to the report released Thursday.
But hey, we got all those schools painted, right? I'm sure it wasn't due to inefficiency. Afterall, we know that all those bright, shiny GOP interns were running the rebuilding show in Iraq based being highly qualified and based on a well thought out neocon plan:
The planners of the rebuilding effort did not take into account hundreds of millions of dollars in administrative [corruption] costs, and mostly did not realize that the United States would have to spend money to keep things like power plants and sewage treatment plants running once they had been built, the report says. That ultimately reduced the money available for rebuilding projects.
Ooops. Ok. So they didn't do such a swift job. But this next graf plain old makes me mad:
Reconstruction officials and some specialists outside the government have said that the full extent of the Iraqi insurgency and lawlessness would have been difficult or impossible to anticipate when much of the planning for the rebuilding effort took place under the Coalition Provisional Authority in 2003.

The report says that the authority planners "envisioned a much more permissive security environment," but does not take a stand on whether the possibility of such problems should have been considered.
Anyone can "envision" anything they want. Neocons are great envisioners. If I ever want "envisioners", I'll call on a neocon.

Professionals inside and outside the government SCREAMED that security would be a problem and that an insurgency was likely. This is just nonsense and I wish the media would stop propogating spin from the adminisistration such as this. At least the statements are qualified and attributed to the "coalition provisional authority".
A Very Good Point
Digby makes a point about losing well that I think bears strong consideration.....
Gasping for Air
The Neocon Death Cult is at it again. From the Daily Kos:
Under the proposed S. 1932 Legislation, Medicare would now only allow patients to rent oxygen concentrators and related oxygen equipment provided with it for up to 36 months.
Under this new pending rule, Medicare will stop paying for the rental, and the provider will no longer be involved the patient's care or management of his/her oxygen concentrator after 36 months. According to Congressional reports, the average patient rents such equipment for 30 months. By capping the units at 36 months, Congress will be cutting off rental benefits to as many as 15 to 20 percent of all Medicare patients on oxygen. Patients will no longer receive free 24-hour service on the equipment, and they will no longer receive any free service. They will have to be financially responsible for each service provided.

I have watched someone I love fighting for breath, turning blue. It is hideous. I cannot believe the people in Washington can even consider such legislation.
Call Congress today and tell your Representatives you do NOT want your home oxygen benefits cut. Tell them to VOTE NO on S. 1932.
Today's America
You are a threat to the government if you express your opinion.

For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County.

An undercover DeKalb County Homeland Security detective was assigned to conduct surveillance of the protest and the protestors, and take the photographs. The detective arrested Childs and another protester after he saw Childs approach him and write down, on a piece of paper, the license plate number of his unmarked government car.

"They told me if I didn't give over the piece of paper I would go to jail and I refused and I went to jail, and the piece of paper was taken away from me at the jail and the officer who transferred me said that was why I was arrested," Childs said on Wednesday.

The government file lists anti-war protesters in Atlanta as threats, the ACLU said. The ACLU of Georgia accuses the Bush administration of labeling those who disagree with its policy as disloyal Americans.

This falls under numbers 3 and 7. Is this the country our ancestors fought and died for? When is this shit going to stop? I hope the ACLU sues the hell out of them.
The Magic Touch
From Slate today regarding Bush and the Hamas victory:
President Bush tried to put a positive spin on the results saying that "there was a peaceful process as people went to the polls" but it does not change the fact that his administration spent almost $500 million to help the Fatah party. Bush called on Hamas to denounce terrorism and urged President Mahmoud Abbas, who is from the Fatah party, to stay in office in order to continue with the peace process.
There really are a couple of lessons to be learned from the Hamas victory.

First is the unintended consequences of Iraq. When you undertake major major operations in foreign affairs you unleash unintended forces throughout the world. Part of being a good President is understanding this and at least attempting some kind of intelligent anticipation of these events.

Next, the United States has never been loved by Arabs. We are now absolutely radioactive. Israel is less secure because of our adventures and more radical forces are empowered to counter the United States and it's radicalism. This will continue until Bush is out and will then take a generation to repair.

Finally. And this almost goes without saying. Everything Bush touches turns to shit. He has that magic touch you know.

I've been thinking a bit lately about the conventional wisdom of western governments to "never negotiate with terrorists". Why not? More on this later hopefully.

Added: Money quote from Digby:
The man who is planning to run the mid-terms on his great success as a wartime president just facilitated the first elected Islamic terrorist government and delegitimized moderates throughout the region. That's quite an achievement.

Democrat with Spine
A Democrat with a Spine. Not an oxymoron. It's Paul Hackett:
"Asked to define being pro-gay rights, Hackett said anybody who tries to deny homosexuals the same rights, including marriage, as every other citizen is un-American. Are you saying, he was asked, that the 62 percent of Ohioans who voted in November 2004 to constitutionally deny same-sex marriages are un-American?
"If what they believe is that we're going to have a scale on judging which Americans have equal rights, yeah, that's un-American. They've got to accept that. It's absolutely un-American."—Columbus Dispatch (01/15/06)

The Republican spin machine lurched into full gear and immediate demands for an apology were issued. Hackett's response:
I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it. Equal justice under the law for all regardless of who they are and how they were born is fundamental to our American spirit and our American freedoms. Any person or group that argues that the law should not apply equally to all Americans is, frankly, un-American.

He is asking people to let him know that they support him. Go do it. Dems like this need to know they have the support of the people. Maybe then the rest of them will find a vertebrae or two.
Thursday, January 26, 2006
Here's an interesting short article on what it's like to land an airplane in the largest airport in Iraq.

Keep It Up Dude
I love it.

The whole flap about the Bush/Abramoff pictures is gaining all kinds of momentum. Josh Marshall has a number of posts up about a scrubba dub dub that been's done on a website that specializes in photos of GOP events.

I want to thank Rove and Bush for taking this stand. They've done it before and I'm glad to see them continue. By opting to try and be secret and suppressive with the photo's, they've created another story to go along with any pictures that actually are leaked. In fact, the story of the suppression and scrubbing has now become a bigger story than the pictures themselves.

And when those pictures finally do emerge? Oh boy. And if they never do? The left will get a couple of weeks out of all the machinations the White House goes through to suppress.
Hands Off My Internet!
Common Cause has a petition that we all need to act upon.
Media giants want to privatize our Internet.

Telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon are lobbying Congress for the right to control where you go on the Internet, how fast you get there, and how much you pay for the service. If successful in Congress, these companies would open the door to violate what techies call "net neutrality." It is the principle that Internet users should be able to access any web content they want, post their own content, and use any applications they choose, without restrictions or limitations imposed by their Internet service providers (ISPs).

Net neutrality is the reason this democratic medium has grown exponentially, fueled innovation and altered how we communicate. We must make certain that for-profit interests do not destroy the democratic culture of the web.

But some big telecommunications executives just don't get it. For them it is all about their bottom lines. They already charge us higher prices for slower connections than their counterparts in other parts of the world.* Now they say that they should get to double-charge for Internet access - collecting fees not just from us, but also from websites like Google and Yahoo.

And what about websites like or your favorite blog that can't afford to pay up? They might be left in the slow lane of the information superhighway.

Or what about blogs/sites that don't spout the government/corporate line?
I wondered how long it would take for this to happen.
FEMA Comes Through!
FEMA finally came through with aid for my mother in law. Her house, which is in Pass Christian, was completely flooded by Katrina.
She got $5,200.
She is actually one of the luckier people on the coast. Many people are still living in tents. Her son lives in Mobile and she has been living there with him and his wife. He does contracting work and has been in the process of gutting her house. It is slow going since he is working alone.
Great Googley Moogley!
And the Giant 'Nads Award goes to:
Chris Smith, a Republican congressman from New Jersey.
Mr Smith on Wednesday accused Google of “collaborating .. with persecutors” who imprison and torture Chinese citizens “in the service of truth”.

Mr. Smith believes Google is capitulating to the Chinese government.
Congressman Smith of the United States government? Is this the same government that is after Google's search records? Is this the same government that has bestowed upon China Most Favored Nation trading status to the point that our trade deficits with China are a threat to our national security?
Oh, the hubris.
We are witnessing a phenomena that has happened many many times in history. The Palestinian elections are the middle stages of the shift from being a "terrorist" to being a "legitimate political force".
President Bush this morning faced a conundrum: How to reconcile all his soaring rhetoric about democracy with the democratic election victory of a radical Islamic group he has labeled as a terrorist organization?

The answer: Spin that conundrum away.
The words "terrorist organization" never came out of Bush's mouth in his hastily-called news conference, just hours after it became clear that Hamas won a huge upset victory in the Palestinian elections.
A Rose By Any Other ......
Get ready. Here it comes. A brand new spanking name for and old scourage:
One phrase contained in the draft Quadrennial Defense Review document circulating amongst defense experts is sure to be a part of your life for years to come: The long war.

Defense experts want the long war to be the new name for the war on terror, a kind of societal short hand that will stand shoulder to shoulder with the Cold War, promoted to capital letters, an indisputable and universally accepted state of the world.

"This generation of servicemembers will be in what we're calling the Long War," Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier this week.
This had to be Rove's idea, part of his sustaining GOP hegemony.

Let's see. War=threat. Threat=need to control. Need to control=Bush as dictator. Long war=long dictatorship.

I got it.
Creative Discipline
There have been a number of local S.F. Bay Area news stories recently about parents getting all twigged-out about teens "freaking" at dances. For the uninitiated, "freaking" is simply the latest version of "dirty dancing". Some school officials are responding with board meetings, new policies, suspensions and generally Hitlerian tactics consistent with our times.

This morning, I ran across this local Santa Rosa story that not only cracked me up, but made me think about how wonderful some school administrators can be.
SPEAKING OF FREAKING, student leaders and administrators at Sebastopol's Analy High have found a light-handed but effective way to cool X-rated behavior at school dances.

At the start of Analy's last dance, Vice Principal Peyton Fatheree announced that he and activities director Andy Del Monte would "save" kids from such behavior by asking offenders to temporarily wear life vests, the kind boaters wear.

Peyton and Andy actually did present vests to a few kids. The point was made, in a humorous way, and the inappropriate dancing disrupted.

Peyton said all the students "were gracious and seemed to understand the need to make some changes."

At Analy's next dance, any students touching too torridly may be asked to don an additional accessory.

Oven mitts.
These educators deserve an award for creativity. What a wonderfully light and deft way to make the point, enforce discipline and gain the respect of the kids. Who knows? Maybe a new dance craze will start with kids wearing life vests?

My hats off to these ingenious educators.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
Blah3 has a link to a commercial you're not gonna want to miss.
Stay of Execution
I hadn't heard this! I've been somewhat out of the loop today. But I think this is big news:
Clarence Hill was strapped to the gurney in Florida last night, the IV tubes already implanted in him, when Justice Anthony Kennedy issued a temporary stay, made permanent today by the entire court.
Go to the link and read the entire post. Also, click through on the links in the post to get some interesting stuff on the drugs used in executions.

Hint? It's not pretty at all according to studies published in Lancet.
I Write Letters
Please join in and let the media know we've had it.

Here's one of mine:
Dear Mr. Gulbransen,

Please know that I find Chris Matthews of MSNBC's "Hardball" to be offensive in his recent shows. Comparing American citizens who have done nothing wrong to a known terrorist and mass murderer is offensive. Other recent comments defending himself are equally offensive and do not represent decency in television.

It is my intention to avoid the use of your products until such time as you either a) remove advertising from MSNBC, or b) Mr. Matthews offers and appropriate apology.

Santa Rosa CA
Commenter Ethics Panel
The Washington Post held a "Interactivity Ethics Panel" today which was a response to the recent flap over their ombudsman sticking her foot in her mouth. This looks like the papers attempt to appear reasonable while not ever actually admitting any responsibility for what happened. WaPo continues to insist that the commenters got vulgar while avoiding the bigger issue.

Evidence to date is (by their admission) that perhaps fifty commenters out of literally hundreds of comments in a public internet forum actually used profanity. Forgetting that Lil' Debbie is known to have thrown out a vulgarity or two, or even that the right wing has has been pissing and moaning for years all over the blogosphere, print media and air waves with language that would make a sailor blush (right Ms. Coulter?), and even if you pass on the fact that the panel contained a right-winger who is an offender
while running a blog that doesn't even allow public comments, the whole panel appears to have been an exercise in futility. WaPo executive editor Jim Brady continually ignored and side-stepped Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake, who was trying to get him to see the error of the WaPo's ombudsman's ways. It clearly appears that Brady is defending his ego much more than looking at a serious issue of the WaPo relationship with it's readers and the political realities of today.

For the record, Jane has asked for another go a Brady in a neutral forum without the background noise and distractions of the other panelists, who really didn't serve any useful purpose to discussing the issues at hand.

Many on the left are expressing frustration and hopelessness at this exercise. And I must admit a great deal of anger and frustration over the WaPo's tin ear to the complaints of the left. Indeed, it seems that for whatever reasons (see Brady ego above) the WaPo is going to stick by it guns with the red herrings of comment vulgarity on it's blog comments section without really talking about how Howell simply propogated a GOP talking point with her column.

But on further reflection, I'm hopeful. As I said in my post on the flap, Rome wasn't built in a day. The right wing yelled at the media for years before they got the desired result of having many outlets begin to drink the GOP kool aid. This particular issue is just a battle in a long war that is now fully engaged whereby the left demands to be treated fairly in media coverage.

Now if we could just get Democrats to consistently behave as something other than politicians with the backbone equivalent to a worm, maybe we'll be able to progress again in this country.
Quote of the Day
"What kind of victory is it when someone is left defeated?"
—Mohandas K. Gandhi
Protest Songs

As long as I'm going all '60s on you, here is a good link to some good tunes.
Gimme an F!
Universal Soldier
I'm in agreement with Joel Stein over at the LA Times. I just can't believe a mainstream rag published his opinion. I have felt this way for a long time. Probably too much Donovan in my youth.
The real purpose of those ribbons is to ease some of the guilt we feel for voting to send them to war and then making absolutely no sacrifices other than enduring two Wolf Blitzer shows a day. Though there should be a ribbon for that.
But blaming the president is a little too easy. The truth is that people who pull triggers are ultimately responsible, whether they're following orders or not. An army of people making individual moral choices may be inefficient, but an army of people ignoring their morality is horrifying. An army of people ignoring their morality, by the way, is also Jack Abramoff's pet name for the House of Representatives.
I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

Okay, then. Flame on and tell me in colorful language what a horrible person I am.
Election Reform
Public Campaign Action Fund has a petition of support for H.R. 3099, the Clean Money, Clean Elections Act, which has 31 cosponsors so far. It goes farther than any reform proposal currently on the table in Washington.
Go sign the thing.
I think I may be having a bad Democrat day.
Is This Ridiculous
Mixed in amongst stories of Alito coasting to confirmation, I found this:
The NYT quotes Democrats as saying that "a close vote would warn President Bush not to name such conservative judges."
Oooooo. Those nasty Democrats threatening a close vote. What a threat! I'll bet Bush and Rove are shaking in their boots ...... because they're laughing so hard.
Medical Shell Game
From Slate:

The Washington Post leads with President Bush's three-pronged plan to tackle rising health costs by shifting the burden of those costs from the employer to the individual. The centerpiece of the plan, which will be announced as part of the 2007 budget, is a tax break on personal health spending. USA Today leads with some grim statistics on the lack of participation by low-income elderly in the Medicare drug benefit plan.
Right out of the Republican playbook. We have a perscription drug bill written by the drug companies that is so complicated and difficult to implement that all but the most dauntless seniors throw up their hands and bail. This is a real win-win for conservatives and the drug companies. Conservatives benefit because they never wanted the plan in the first place. It's failure and reputation for failure will hinder future attempts at implementing entitlement programs. And the drug companies win because if you're in the program, the drug pricing is favorable to them, and if you opt out ... well, you're screwed like the rest of us with the world's highest drug prices.

Next up? Let's rescue those corporations from health care costs passing it on to individuals. Oh, they'll offer paltry tax breaks while corporations will reap a cut in 30% of their overall costs.

I want to offer a special "P.T. Barnum" award in this regard to Diane Feinstein, the California Democratic Senator who voted for the perscription drug program despite vigourous opposition by her constituents. Like so many Senators who are schmucks for comity in the Senate, she got suckered.
Darwin At Work
A Colombian man accidentally shot his nephew to death while trying to cure his hiccups by pointing a revolver at him to scare him, police in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla said on Tuesday.

After shooting 21-year-old university student David Galvan in the neck, his uncle, Rafael Vargas, 35, was so distraught he turned the gun on himself and committed suicide, police said.

The incident took place on Sunday night while the two were having drinks with neighbors.
Mercury Rising
According to NASA 2005 was the hottest year on record.
In descending order, the years with the highest global average annual temperatures were 2005, 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2004, NASA said in a statement.

One of the many consequences of this is polar bears are drowning in greater numbers.
A Tale of Two Sentences
Man, this is a great post over at Americablog.
I'm feelin' all '60s again.
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Pissing Off THE Man: UPDATED
Double OH MY!

Ignore this post, at least the second part. Turns out it's another James Baker. Digby, who I quoted, got it wrong. Digby was relying on Wikipedia, which was wrong. Lesson learned about the Wiki, which I confirmed as well from Digby's link.


We're both sorry.

This portion of the post is accurate:

Oh my.

There's a big buzz today about the revelation that Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) proposed legislation in 2002 that would have loosened the FISA standards for foreign searches to the level the administration says it used in the illegal domestic wire tapping scandal. Here's the text of the proposal:
to amend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 to modify the standard of proof for issuance of orders regarding non-United States persons from probable cause to reasonable suspicion. . . .
The administration claims it needed a "reasonable cause" level vs. the current FISA law which is "probable cause", and that's why FISA procedure was ignored. This is, at least today, the spin by the administration about why they didn't go to FISA. Turns out that when DeWine proposed the legislation it was shot down by the Bush Justice Dept., specifically The Office of Intelligence Policy.

Another excuse shot down.

And that's a big story.

The following was later found to be inaccurate:


But I think Digby looks under the rock to find the really big news. It turns out that James Baker (yes the James Baker) has been "quietly" serving as the head of the Office of Intelligence Policy since 2001. As Digby so astutely points out:
You. Do. Not. Fuck. With. Jim. Baker. Not even Rove would dare try it.
Ah oh.

If Baker was informed of the illegal wire taps and agreed to them, that's a big story and he needs to have his assed hauled before a (fill in the blank, special prosecutor, Senate investigative committee, House impeachment committee) to find out about the apparent contradiction in Justice Department policy and current support for Bush's domestic spying program. He didn't support the "reasonable cause" standard for foreign spying, why would he support it for domestic?

If Baker disagree's with what Bush has done, or even worse wasn't consulted, then Jr. may be risking the biggest grounding of his lifetime. Thus far, Baker, despite being more aligned with Pappy Bush, has been relatively silent of Bush's misbehavior. But if you screw him, you gotta wonder what actions he might take behind the scenes.

Hopefully we'll get some clue where James A. Baker III falls as Bush get's long in the tooth and public support fails. A total shot in the dark, but I wonder if he has anything to do with some other buzz about an impeachment inquiry brewing.

2006 may be a good year!
Tomorrow .... You
Without comment:
TAMPA - After spending almost three years in prison because of terrorism charges, Sameeh Hammoudeh was acquitted after a six-month trial.

Eight weeks after that not guilty verdict, it appears he will finally be released from jail this week and reunited with his wife and children, as they begin a 33-hour journey to Amman, Jordan, to join family.

"At last," Hammoudeh said.

The strange odyssey, which brings Hammoudeh to this latest juncture, began Feb. 20, 2003, when he was arrested at dawn at his North Tampa home. He was indicted for being a terrorist, labeled a "high-security threat" and placed in solitary confinement.

After a jury acquitted him in a Tampa federal courtroom in December, Hammoudeh remained in jail awaiting deportation because Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said they did not agree with the jury's decision.

"I don't understand. Even if you are acquitted, the government is like wild wolves picking at you - this in a country with people full of love and mercy," he said.

But it appears his nightmare is about to end, with the immigration announcement that he has been issued "a final order of removal."

The nightmare began on that chilly February morning almost three years ago when eight FBI agents banged on the front door of his home in North Tampa. His six children were asleep. His wife, Nadia, woke them, telling them "the termite men are here," to keep them from being afraid.

But the older girls caught on quickly.

"How can you do this to us?" Doaa, then 15, asked.

It is a question her father is still asking. "If I had done something, I could accept what happened to me. But I have done nothing. Nothing," he said.

The agents moved quickly, filling dozens of boxes with books. They took the Koran, but left the Bible. They took a book on Palestinian history but left others, including those by New York Times reporter Thomas Friedman.

They took the Disney videos but left the "Judy Moody" series belonging to Noor, then 7. Magazines went, as did photo albums and stacks of papers, including hundreds of charitable receipts from the West Bank.

Federal prosecutors called the receipts "plain phony." The government said Hammoudeh, now 45, was really sending money to the occupied territories of Israel to finance the suicide bombings of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which has claimed responsibility for hundreds of deaths there. Prosecutors also said the PIJ was paying a salary of $1,000 a month to Hammoudeh. The government charged him, along with Sami Al-Arian, Ghassan Ballut and Hatem Fariz, with furthering terrorism.

But the six-month trial told a different story. Under cross-examination, FBI agent Michael Wysocki conceded that there was no evidence the money Hammoudeh sent overseas went to the PIJ.

The agent also said there was information to contradict the government claim that Hammoudeh received a salary from the PIJ. And, finally, Hammoudeh's father, Taha Hammoudeh, produced receipt duplicates from West Bank charities that prosecutors had called "phony."

When the 12-person jury began deliberating, they took several hours to silently examine the evidence. Then, the foreperson asked for a show of hands to determine the verdict on Hammoudeh. Without hesitation, all 12 hands shot up for acquittal on all counts.

"Without talking about it, we had each made up our minds," said juror Deaundre, who asked that his last name be omitted.

Swept aside

Hammoudeh, a child of the stateless, was born to a family swept aside in the aftermath of World War II and the Holocaust, as Jews turned to Palestine as theirs. Decades of attack and counterattack followed. Hammoudeh's father sketched the family's background in court testimony.

In the spring of 1948, the family was forced from its home by Israeli soldiers, when the town was cleared of Palestinians to make room for Jews settling in the new Israel.

At the same time, Leo Bernstein, the father of Hammoudeh's attorney, Stephen Bernstein, emigrated to the United States after surviving four years in the Nazi concentration camp Dachau. Almost 50 years later, when Stephen Bernstein considered representing Sameeh Hammoudeh, the lawyer went to his father for permission. Leo Bernstein, 86, told his son: "I want you to represent him because I know what it is to be arrested and persecuted for nothing."

In 1948, the displaced Hammoudehs went to a small town in the West Bank where Sameeh was born in 1960. Sameeh went to a local university and ran a youth program.

In late 1992, at the recommendation of Khalil Shikaki, who teaches at Brandeis University in Boston, Hammoudeh came to graduate school at the University of South Florida. Shikaki, a respected Middle Eastern scholar, is the brother of a PIJ founder. Because of this, prosecutors said Hammoudeh's friendship with Shikaki was conspiratorial, though no evidence backed the claim.

After Hammoudeh came to Tampa, his wife and three girls joined him a few months later. Three more children were born in Tampa, where Hammoudeh worked at World and Islam Studies Enterprise, a USF organization that held forums on the Middle East. Husband and wife also taught at the Islamic Academy of Florida, where their older children went to school.

Both the organization and the academy were founded by Al-Arian, a USF professor whose phones were tapped by the FBI in early 1994, because of suspicions that he was connected to Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

The FBI recorded Al-Arian talking to PIJ leaders in 1994 and searched his home and offices in November 1995, when Ramadan Shallah, the former director of the World and Islam Studies Enterprise left Tampa to become the head of the PIJ. But it was not until eight years later on that February day in 2003 that FBI agents arrested Al-Arian, along with Hammoudeh, Ballut and Fariz.

"The agents told me I was not the target," Hammoudeh said. But a year later, prosecutors charged him in a separate case with omitting information from visa forms and not paying $8,027 in income taxes over 11 years. Hammoudeh agreed to a guilty plea when the government pulled his wife in.

"When they threatened to leave my children without parents, I gave in," he said.

In June 2005, Hammoudeh and his wife pleaded guilty to tax fraud. They agreed to be deported with no jail time. But now immigration officials say they will be "removed" instead.

Steve Crawford, Hammoudeh's attorney in the tax evasion case, said, "It was all about getting Hammoudeh to talk about Sami Al-Arian."

But Hammoudeh never did.

During his three-year incarceration, he has been allowed one, two-hour contact visit with his wife and six children. In October 2003, Hammoudeh went to the visitors' cafeteria in the prison and hugged them. For all other visits, they have looked at each other through a clear partition and talked on a phone.

"My family is the best. It has been psychological torture to be separated from them," he said.

"My baba lives behind glass," said Muhammad, 4, who can't remember ever touching his father.

For the behind-the-glass visits, Hammoudeh holds up newspaper photos for his small children so they have something to talk about that takes them away from prison. Alaa, 7, recalled a poem her dad started: "A guy in a boat had a goat." Noor, 10, calls the prison "baba's office." Hanan, 15, surfs the Web for news about the case.

On Feb. 20, 2003, when FBI agents entered Hammoudeh's home on an oak-lined street near USF, the tufted titmouse on the kitchen clock chirped five times, signaling 5 a.m.

With the family huddled in the living room, agents walked past the parents' "teacher of the year" plaques in the family room. They snapped pictures as they went through the French doors into the screened pool area, where the family played Marco Polo on Sundays.

Doaa, now 17, remembers an agent's answer when she asked how they could do this to them. His reply, which she characterizes as "calm," was: "We have to do this, so be quiet because your comments won't help."

The older girls went frequently to their father's terrorism trial. When prosecutors called him a "terrorist," they shook their heads "no."

"I have never had anything to do with the PIJ or any violence, anywhere," Hammoudeh said.

The jury agreed.

When the federal judge read the jury's acquittal of Hammoudeh, after reading eight acquittal and nine mistrial verdicts for Al-Arian, Stephen Bernstein, Hammoudeh's attorney, sobbed.

"I was so relieved because I believe so much in Sameeh's innocence and goodness," he said.

If the Hammoudehs go to Jordan this week as planned, they will be at the center of a huge family celebration. There will be roast lamb with yogurt and vintage family tales - an attempt to forget the past three years.

They hope to sell their Tampa house and furnishings so that Hammoudeh can start a bookstore in the West Bank. Weeam, 19, who has already graduated from Florida International University, hopes to go to graduate school near Ramallah. Doaa will work on her Arabic so she can go to college.

"How sad to have to leave our home in the United States in order to be a family with a future," Hammoudeh said.
Ok, I lied. A comment:

This was not a national news article. It's from the St. Petersburg Times. For those of you who don't have hours to read articles on the internet, I can tell you that I read a few of these each month. I have yet to read of a successful prosecution or intervention of an actual terrorist.
Fix Or Repair Daily
I haven't spoken much about the Ford debacle (or GM). It sad to see so many workers affected by the paroxysms of the American automakers. This is the money quote from Bill Ford Jr. yesterday:
"Today, we're moving from a culture that discourages innovation back to a company that celebrates it,"
Aren't they a little late to the game?

It's a dramatic contrast in business culture when you look at foreign automakers vs. American. The foreign makers have looked at the writing on the wall (read peak oil, efficient manufacturing, effective marketing) and innovated since the 1970's. Their planning is ten years into the future. The American automakers gambled on two-ton tessie automobiles (SUV's) and are losing. Their planning is based on next quarter.

I suspect GM and Ford will survive and perhaps even thrive eventually. Using crisis as a strategic planning tool is unfortunate. And the American labor force will continue to pay the price for this style until the culture changes.
William Clark wrote this last year:
It is now obvious the invasion of Iraq had less to do with any threat from Saddam’s long-gone WMD program and certainly less to do to do with fighting International terrorism than it has to do with gaining strategic control over Iraq’s hydrocarbon reserves and in doing so maintain the U.S. dollar as the monopoly currency for the critical international oil market. Throughout 2004 information provided by former administration insiders revealed the Bush/Cheney administration entered into office with the intention of toppling Saddam Hussein.[1][2]

Candidly stated, ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ was a war designed to install a pro-U.S. government in Iraq, establish multiple U.S military bases before the onset of global Peak Oil, and to reconvert Iraq back to petrodollars while hoping to thwart further OPEC momentum towards the euro as an alternative oil transaction currency (i.e. “petroeuro”).[3] However, subsequent geopolitical events have exposed neoconservative strategy as fundamentally flawed, with Iran moving towards a petroeuro system for international oil trades, while Russia evaluates this option with the European Union.

Now we see that Iran is pushing for a petroeuro. I don't think most Americans, myself included, fully understand the impact this is going to have on our lives. It is not going to be pretty. Clark goes on to write:
The proposed Iranian oil bourse signifies that without some sort of US intervention, the euro is going to establish a firm foothold in the international oil trade. Given U.S. debt levels and the stated neoconservative project of U.S. global domination, Tehran’s objective constitutes an obvious encroachment on dollar supremacy in the crucial international oil market.

From the autumn of 2004 through August 2005, numerous leaks by concerned Pentagon employees have revealed that the neoconservatives in Washington are quietly – but actively – planning for a possible attack against Iran.

I do believe that the U.S. will bomb Iran before the year is done. What do we the people do about this? Is this regime actually dragging us into a world war?
War in March?
A commenter over at Americablog has a good explanation about the current Iranian effort to switch from trading dollars to euros. He wonders if the missiles will start flying in March, when the switch is supposed to happen.
I knew about Saddam's efforts in this direction from reading Crude Politics. We could be in for a major depression. Or another war. This is probably why Rumsfeld ordered the ICBM warheads switched from nuclear to conventional.
Monday, January 23, 2006
Iran Plan Duel
Within minutes, I read these two analysis about the future of U.S.-Iran relations. They're both good reads and not necessarily mutually exclusive. But interesting perspective nonetheless.
Oil Prices
I haven't written about oil much lately. After the Katrina spike, oil prices dropped precipitously through the holidays. Now they're on the rise again and are approaching Katrina levels again.

If you've been reading The Oil Drum or my posts you knew this was going to happen, so it's not really a big surprise. But what is interesting is how the media is covering the oil price jump.

Thus far the stated rationale for the increase is jitteriness over Iran and the international situation. To some degree, this is certainly true. But, just to recall earlier posts, the real dynamics underlying the price increases are much more complex. The onset of peak oil, lost production from Katrina, and the end of Europe lending the U.S. reserve gasoline supplies during the Katrina emergency (and the U.S. paying it back) is the larger reason.

But never fear. If the economy slows in 2006, the good news will be the oil prices will fall due to weakening demand. At least for awhile (look at the trend on the chart). The bad news in a slowing economy? You don't need me to tell you that.

ADDED: Ran into this at The Big Picture:
High oil prices are no longer being looked at as a “temporary event of uncertain duration.” [according to long term futures contracts, see the link above for futures charts]. Between China's growing use of petroleum, their global attempts to assure a study supply, the Iran situation, high Oil may be a persistent part of the market’s future (Notice no one is even talking about post hurricane recovery anymore).
ARG Poll:
Bush Job Approval Ratings

1/22/06 Approve Disapprove Undecided

Overall 36% 58% 6%
Economy 34% 60% 6%
Something's Fishy
There's a great article in Salon (requires sitting through a brief commercial). It's an excerpt from the book, "The WalMart Effect" by Charles Fishman (no pun intended). In this piece, Fishman talks about WalMart and salmon. It's a very revealing piece on exactly how WalMart gets those low everyday prices.
On The Run
From Slate:
USAT reports that there were 34,131 insurgent attacks in Iraq last year, an increase of 29 percent from the previous year.
Ole' Dickey "got em' on the run" Cheney sure knows how to call em'. But never fear, the boys at the Pentagon got his back:
U.S. Army spin: "It tells me the coalition and the Iraqi forces have been very aggressive in taking the fight to the enemy." According to U.S. officials, insurgents are increasingly targeting Iraqi troops, first because there are now more trained Iraqi security forces and they are taking an increasingly central role in the fighting; and second because U.S. forces are doing a better job of protecting troops against roadside bombs and other attacks.
Maybe I'm not well trained Army talk and stuff, but isn't the headline about insurgent attacks, not U.S./Iraq defense/response?

Ok ok.

So according to the Pentagon statement, we can end the insurgency by dissolving the Iraqi security forces and withdrawing the U.S. troops. Right?

In the meantime, from the same article:
The WP reports on the exodus of educated professionals from Iraq in the wake of continuing violence and threats. Iraqi elites are being targeted for kidnapping and ransom and even murder, and the resulting brain drain threatens to leave Iraq without the "core of skilled people" it needs to develop into an independent democracy.
Without comment.....
Cross Purposes
Suppose I told you that an individual decided to protest the war in Iraq. And suppose I told you that he did it by taking a plot of land and putting 2000 crosses on it. And finally, suppose I told you that his actions caused a significant community controversy.

Would that surprise you? Most people would assume that the "pro-war" voices and "anti-war" voices would be at odds over such behavior .... right?

Au contrar. Not if you live in the most politically fantastic part of the country there is. This story is from our local newspaper:
The "Albion Nation," a counterculture enclave along the Mendocino Coast, is typically a bastion of solidarity, a community of consensus.

Hundreds of political activists, organic farmers, musicians and artists who inhabit the coastal hamlet and the surrounding wooded ridges share liberal political views, environmental practices and a belief in the right to grow and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

But the usually tight-knit community today is divided over the placement of 2,000 small wooden crosses in a soggy Albion field, an act organizers hoped would draw attention to the mounting loss of American soldiers in Iraq.


It's not that Albion residents object to the anti-war protest, which was organized by a group led by local Vietnam veteran Gary Moraga. In fact, dozens of people turned out three weeks ago to help Moraga erect the crosses.

Instead, the division focuses on the use of the world's most well-known Christian symbol and whether its use by anti-war proponents to mark a "tragedy of lives lost" on both sides can be seen as a religious statement.

Critics like Marinela Miclea said they fear the use of crosses is at best insensitive.
Ahhh the sweetness. To live in an area where the big community political controversy is whether to use Christian symbols to protest the war or not. Actually, Albion is located about 150 miles north of here, but neighboring Sonoma County (where I live) is rated as one of the 100 top Democratic counties in the nation. Mendocino County is probably in the top 10.

Having lived in a county that was the exact opposite, I can tell you life is sweeter when the Democratic primaries are really the general election because declared Republicans just don't win.

This story is also instructive in that it suggests that no matter where you are on the political spectrum, there's always someone with which to argue.
Enron on trial
You don't see much news about the Enron trial which is set to start in Houston on January 30th, but Lay and Skilling are two of the defendents. Four former Enron employees weigh in on the matter.
Driving in
On the drive in to work this morning, I hear this on the radio:
O’ beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They’re beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details

The song is End of Innocence written by Don Henley. I thought about how appropriate that title is since we have attacked a country without provocation for the first time in our nation's history.

Henley wrote it in 1989 and those lyrics are more true today than when he wrote them. Actually, all of the old protest songs need to be dragged out of the closet, dusted off, and used again. The 60s and early 70s saw some great anti-establishment music. This may be a good day to fire up the old tunes.
Just to keep the 'tude going.