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All content © 2002-2005 Anne Zook

February 18, 2006
My world o'blogs

Via Prometheus 6, a review of The God Genome.

Maybe it's just the reviewer's way of writing that makes me dislike author Daniel C. Dennett even without reading his book? Or maybe the reviewer dislikes him?

"In his own opinion, Dennett is a hero. He is in the business of emancipation, and he reveres himself for it."

"Dennett flatters himself that he is Hume's heir."

Hint to all you wannabe immortals out there? Don't flatter yourself. If you deserve the accolade, the world will bestow it upon you. Awarding yourself a title actually makes you look less worthy.

Anyhow, the only reason I mention it is because of the Christoph Niemann cartoon reprinted on Prometheus 6's site. It was breathtaking.

________________________

You don't need me to tell you to read Josh Marshall daily, but this was worth requoting:

"Having admitted unparalleled corruption, defendant Randall H. Cunningham now comes before the Court to be sentenced for his stunning betrayal of the public trust."

Randy Cunningham gets sentenced (TPM has the whole document in their collection) and the memorandum starts with a nice, hard smack in the head.

It's a beautiful sentence, isn't it?

________________________

A less-beautiful entry from Sisyphus Shrugged, a good entry about four stories on the military.

Posted by AnneZook at 03:52 PM | Comments (3)
Budget Magic

Today's (well, tomorrow's) David Broder column is worth reading.

Trillion-Dollar Gimmick

Extending Bush's Tax Cuts Through Sleight of Hand

Remember when the Bush Administration shoved through tax cuts and they were going to be paid for over the long term or whatever?

Well, turns out they're expensive, those tax cuts, but the Bush Administration wants to make them permanent anyhow. But they have enough problems with out a lot of bad press about how they're bankrupting the country and behaving in a fiscally highly irresponsible fashion.

This year, however, the budget the president submitted on Feb. 6 simply assumes that the tax cuts have been made permanent -- and thus includes them in the "baseline" for all future years.

The effect, according to the center's analysis, is that "legislation to make these tax cuts permanent will be scored as having no cost whatsoever."

In fact, this analysis says, "The administration's proposal, by changing the rules after the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts were enacted but before they are extended, would ensure that the cost of continuing the tax cuts in the years after the current sunset dates would never be counted. The costs in those years were not counted when the tax cuts were first enacted. . . . Now, the administration is proposing that the tax cuts for those years also be ignored when the tax cuts are extended. To fail ever to count the cost of the tax cuts in the years after the sunset dates . . . would represent one of the largest and most flagrant budget gimmicks in recent memory."

Broder has a lot more to say.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:10 PM | Comments (0)
Politics in Church

In N.C., GOP Requests Church Directories

The North Carolina Republican Party asked its members this week to send their church directories to the party, drawing furious protests from local and national religious leaders.

"Such a request is completely beyond the pale of what is acceptable," said the Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Which is all well and good, but look at the next paragraph:

During the 2004 presidential race, the Bush-Cheney campaign sent a similar request to Republican activists across the country. It asked churchgoers not only to furnish church directories to the campaign, but also to use their churches as a base for political organizing.

That's a gray area. Rather dark gray, in fact.

Many community and whaddyacallum, congregation groups use their church property to hold various kinds of meetings, from "socials" to knitting to day care to elder care. How different is it for people to use their church for political organizing?

Is it okay, as long as the preaching doesn't come from the pulpit during services? Or should politics and religion be confined to different buildings? What about voting. (Do any districts have churches designated as official balloting places? Or is that illegal?)

Also?

Mears said the "Republican National Committee has completed a study on grass-roots activity that reveals that people who regularly attend church usually vote Republican when they vote."

The last study I read said that people who say they regularly attend church are usually lying about the frequency. So maybe that "vote Republican" thing is the result of similar cherry-picking of reality?

Me, if I was a member of one of those churches? One of the things I'd really be up in arms about was some other church member supplying my contact information to yet another group of money-grubbing telemarketers. Because one thing you can count on is that these folks are going to be deluged with demands for money.

Posted by AnneZook at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)
You're BAD

If you're one of the "worst judges in Texas" that's saying something.

It’s not a good time to be a Texas judge. President Bush’s nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals remained caught in the craw of the U.S. Senate for four long years, as her various shortcomings and the sorry state of the civil justice system in Texas were bandied about from The New York Times editorial page to the radio rants of Howard Stern. She wasn’t so much confirmed last spring as she was coughed out, like a bundle of mouse bones from the beak of a barn owl.

The Texas Observer has more.

And this isn't some partisan attack folks. This isn't about political affiliations, it's about crazy people sitting on the Bench.

A judge who uses sock puppets to talk to attorneys while in court?

And who consoles us, over a woman denied a restraining order against an abusive husband that, "if he kills her, you can put him away for murder"?

A judge who refuses defendants public defenders? Just...outright tells them, "no"?

Posted by AnneZook at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)
Moment of Rudeness

I'm just saying.

No matter who you are, I'm not likely to take your opinions seriously if you start citing Fox News as an authoritative source in your column. Especially when you're discussing politics.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)
IraQ - Up In Flames

Iraq oil sector lost over USD 6 bln. in 2005

PWR-IRAQ-OIL-LOSS
Iraq oil sector lost over USD 6 bln. in 2005 -- official

BAGHDAD, Feb 18 (KUNA) -- Iraq has lost over USD 6 billion throughout 2005 due to sabotage operations against its oil sector facilities, a senior official told KUNA on Saturday.

Issam Jihad, Spokesman for the Iraqi Oil Ministry said the ministry experts have estimated the loss at USD 6.25 billion, while 138 security and technical personnel lost their lives in a series of 186 sabotage operations carried in 2005.

Operations to set oil fields ablaze cost the ministry about USD 400 million, while above USD 2.7 billion were lost in operations against crude oil pipelines. Destroying petrochemicals pipelines also cost over USD 3 billion, he concluded. (end) mhg.

There have been a lot of reports of sabotage that haven't really hit the MSM headlines.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)
My Country

This isn't the first place I read about this story, but it's a good way to pass it along.

Conservatives Endorse the Fuhrer Principle
Our leader über alles

by Paul Craig Roberts

Last week's annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.

Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, who led the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton, reminded the CPAC audience that our first loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to a leader. The question, Barr said, is not one of disloyalty to Bush, but whether America "will remain a nation subject to, and governed by, the rule of law or the whim of men."

The CPAC audience answered that they preferred to be governed by Bush. According to Dana Milbank, a member of the CPAC audience named Richard Sorcinelli loudly booed Barr, declaring: "I can't believe I'm in a conservative hall listening to him say Bush is off course trying to defend the United States." A woman in the audience told Barr that the Constitution placed Bush above the law and above non-elected federal judges.

I'm just saying. Don't ever let anyone convince you that the Bush Administration's supporters aren't rabid lunatics infected with a deadly strain of anti-Americanism.

And don't ever buy into the "well, the Left has lunatics just as wingnutty" theory, either. The Left has its share of wingnuts, yeah, but none of them want to turn the USofA over to a bunch of authoritarian thugs.

For pity's sake, people! 1984 was supposed to be a warning, not a guide book!


Posted by AnneZook at 11:03 AM | Comments (1)
Hurricane Katrina

Chertoff says that Hurricane Katrina was just amazingly traumatic for him.

Well, then that's okay.

The House report _ titled "A Failure of Initiative" _ found ample fault with state and local officials, including delays in ordering early evacuations in New Orleans. But it also criticized President Bush for failing to get more deeply involved as the crisis unfolded.

In a sampling of 63 communications to the White House that the report documents, at least eight were dated before Katrina's Aug. 29 landfall. The documents show that presidential advisers were warned about potential disaster as early as Aug. 27.

"Earlier presidential involvement might have resulted in a more effective response," the inquiry concluded. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the report Tuesday.

They still don't get it, do they? Bush didn't care then and he doesn't care now. He just wishes everyone would shut up about it already.

Posted by AnneZook at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)
Torturing vile jihadists

Sometimes I wonder about things.

Like, I wondered why the USofA refused to give U.N. inspectors access to the prisoners at Guantanamo. If we were, as we claimed, treating them with all due respect and whatnot, and they were all dangerous criminals, what was our objection to letting the U.N. take a gander at them?

Well, of course, first off, we know that prisoners are being mistreated and even tortured, so that's good enough reason for the Bush Administration to want to hide them.

But that's not all. An article on the new construction offers another angle:

"I would have concerns about anybody visiting with the detainees who could then serve as a platform for them to espouse a vile jihadist rhetoric," said Mr. Hood. "In other words, I don't think it's appropriate that we would offer them a platform by which to communicate with other terrorists around the world, provide encouragement to this sort of activity, or for that matter encourage any sort of action against U.S. forces around the world. And there's no question in my mind that some of the men we're holding here would certainly do that if they could."

You know, if I was a U.N. inspector, I think I'd get just a little crabby about being called a terrorist sympathizer and someone too dimwitted to know when I was being used as a terrorist mouthpiece.

Plus which.

Vile jihadist rhetoric?

Stop for a moment and ponder the implications of dismissing the words of illegally held prisoners, many of whom were turned in merely to collect a generic bounty, and many of whom are known to be innocent of the vague "charges" against them as "vile jihadists."

If you dismiss your prisoners that callously and sweepingly, I guess it makes it a lot easier to ignore that they're human beings.

(You see what I mean? this kind of thing is what you should have been writing about for the last week. Not a hunting accident. Just admit it. The spin was all that any of you really cared about.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)
IraN

Voted for by people who thought his policies were the kind that would make life better for ordinary people and return their society to its roots, he's done nothing so advance that agenda so far.

And yet, he is managing to consolidate his hold on power, rebuilding the government and placing his supporters in positions of power and influence everywhere possible. He's replacing experienced diplomats and economic figures with his personal cronies, regardless of suitability for the job.

And he's increasingly disliked by both the Religious Right and the Liberals on the Left.

George Bush? Good guess.

But, no.

Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

For those playing along at home, you will need to learn to spell the name. Ahmadinejad is Iran's president and probably the one we'll be making war against, if things continue to play out as they have so far.

Just to add to the excitement, Iran's current leader has even more in common with our nutty leadership.

At the center of this unfolding drama is the perplexing figure of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, who has managed to isolate, enrage and frighten important domestic and external constituencies in the space of only six months.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Although it took most of the complacent USofA population, Left and Right, longer than 6 months to figure out that the Bush Administration was peopled by extremist nutcases.

But never mind us. This is about Iran and about how we're Funding regime change.

I've been wondering, in a vague sort of way, just what Rice wanted to do with that $75 million she's requesting to "promote democracy" in Iran.

Of the new outlay, $50 million will go toward Farsi radio broadcasts; another $15 million is earmarked for increasing participation in the political process, including measures such as expanded Internet access. The Bush administration hopes to spend $5 million to fund scholarships and fellowships for young Iranians, and the State Department said $5 million "would go to public diplomacy efforts aimed at Iran, including its Persian-language website".

"The United States will actively confront the aggressive policies of the Iranian regime," Rice said. "At the same time, we will work to support the aspirations of the Iranian people for freedom and democracy in their country."

Okay, so we're spending $75 million in an attempt to erase history, convince the Iranian people that we're the good guys, and try to bring about "regime change" in the country? But, as the article goes on to say, Iran already enjoys relatively free access to satellite radio and the internet. Pressure from outside, especially the USofA, and especially now, will only increase the forces currently working to shut down public dissent.

For example, from the first article mentioned above:

Reformists and conservatives alike are desperate to avoid war, for diametrically opposed reasons. For the former, aggression by the US would spell the end (at least for another generation) of the country's emerging grassroots democracy movement.

If we intervene in Iran, they're going to panic and shut down on the only forces for democracy that currently have any influence in the country.

I'm not claiming that a free society is just around the corner, if we stay home. The situation is much more complex than that. What I am saying is that you can't bomb people into democracy.

Such pronouncements are greeted with open skepticism by ordinary Iranians who have seen the infrastructure of neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan sustain significant blows by US invasions, after which they have lagged far behind the touted recovery schedules.

They've seen our way of exporting democracy and decided not to sign up.

Iranians also have not forgotten the support offered by Washington to their arch-enemy Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s.

This is what I mean by "erase history." You never read about this in USofA mainstream publications, this bit about where we put Saddam Hussein in power and supported him for years. Just like when we went after bin Laden, the MSM developed amnesia around how we created the Taliban in the first place.

And those who wanted to know the history of Chalabi, the Bush Administration's golden boy hand-picked to take over Iraq, had to Google around and find out on their own he was a criminal and his only claim to the throne in Iraq was that he'd spent a lot of time in Washington, demanding that we put him in power.

Fortunately, we've learned better these days. Or, have we?

One of the militantly anti-clerical-regime groups that could stand to benefit from the new windfall is the Mujahideen-e-Khalq (MEK), a Marxist-Islamist organization that is hated within Iran because it sided with the Iraqi dictator against Iran during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War.

The MEK has been registered by the State Department as a terrorist organization for the past 10 years, but now neo-conservative factions of the Bush administration are lobbying hard to remove it from the list. Should the MEK end up benefiting from US pro-democracy largesse, it would send a clear message to people inside Iran that Washington funds groups that engage in terrorist activity. Some reports quote unidentified US officials as saying that the MEK would not receive any of the new funds.

Well, well, well. Our neocon buddies in Washington don't seem to be quite as terrorist-phobic as they looked five minutes ago.

You got that? We're all so dangerous that the Bush Administration should be allowed to secretly spy on us without warrants or even probable cause, but a long-time "terrorist organization" might be delisted and funded by these folks...not because it's changed its aims or goals, but because we might decide that it's not really "terrorism" if it's not directed at us.

I'm sure even the children among us remember the Iranian hostage crisis (or learned about it in school) but this was new to me:

More recently, in 1996, an $18 million covert action aimed at unseating the government of then-president Hashemi Rafsanjani had its secret cover blown even before it started. Washington insiders, concerned at the potentially disastrous effects it would have, leaked the story to the mainstream press, prompting a furious backlash from the authorities in Tehran, which authorized a $20 million counteroffensive.

What "Washington insiders" would these have been? I'll go search, but in the meantime....

Some American analysts have also reacted with skepticism at the initiative, pointing out that it may be a case of too little too late. "One suspects there are no shortage of potential Iranian Chalabis [2] ready to set themselves up in a nice apartment in London's West End with some copiers and fax machines and the requisite bank accounts to reap the windfall," said James Russell, a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School's department of national security affairs.

No shortage at all, I'm sure.

You should read both articles. It's clear that confrontations with Iran are going to be frequent in the near future.

(And, as always, the BBC has a good overview of the country.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)
Yeah

Why didn't I write this?

What Happened To My Country? by Steve Osborn

I grew up an American, and proud of it. I was taught in school about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and Bill of Rights. My brother was a Merchant Marine Officer during the war and had three ships sunk beneath him. We beat the Nazis, the Fascists and the Japanese and made the world safe for democracy. After the war came Nuremberg and the assurance that things like the holocaust could never happen again. The Marshal Plan helped to rebuild the shattered portions of the world. America, Democracy, compassion and help. It was good to be an American. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sad, but necessary to end the war and save lives, we were told.

Why didn't I write this?

America Abandoned By Alex Sabbeth

Take a look at New Orleans today. It resembles the burned out blocks of Detroit, not rebuilt since riots decades ago, testifying to a basic truth. America's wealth and power are not directed towards our well-being and security.

Maybe it's easier to grasp this when pondering Sept 11. Our vaunted military did not protect us from low-tech attacks. America has over 800 military bases strung across the globe, but the fact is New York and Washington were not protected.

Doubtful? We were warned about Katrina for years. Newt Gingrich is right when he asks how we can think we're safe when New Orleans was destroyed under our noses. [Fox News, Sept. 6, 2005]

Before continuing, I want to point out an obvious fact. The Bush administration purveys falsehoods as a matter of policy. Those who prove this are disparaged as the "reality community." [Boston Globe, quoting writer Ron Suskind, Nov. 5, 2004]

Before you go and read the rest of this, ponder that last sentence. Those of us who object to the Bush Administration's tactics are met with the "insult" that we're too reality-based?

Posted by AnneZook at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)
February 17, 2006
Stop talking!

I'm working. I don't have time to blog right now.

But, when irritating things are said, it's hard to ignore them.

Rumsfeld: Al Qaeda has better PR

How can you spend $1.6 billion and then claim you don't have decent PR? (Maybe you should be buying some different columnists and pundits. Doesn't sound to me like the current crop is giving value for the money.)

Says U.S. government still functions as 'five and dime' store

Five billion here, ten billion there....

He lamented that vast media attention about U.S. abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq outweighed that given to the discovery of "Saddam Hussein's mass graves."

They think it's a PR problem that USofA citizens find crimes committed by our government of more concern than crimes committed by someone else? And they think that the solution isn't, you know, not committing crimes, but 24/7 ad buys to reassure the public that it's the most democratic brand of torture?

Instead of living up to the highest possible standards, this group is content with not quite reaching the bottom of the barrel. This, in a nutshell, is what I find most objectionable about their tactics.

Aside from that, I have to insist that if we hadn't invaded Iraq and created what's largely viewed as the world's largest terrorist training camp over there, we wouldn't be facing any kind of "PR battle."

Before the Bush Administration, we didn't have to convince ourselves and most of the rest of the world that we weren't the bad guys.

Posted by AnneZook at 02:35 PM | Comments (6)
February 16, 2006
Politics, Parties, and Partisanship

Via the invaluable Ahistoricality, I arrived at Glenn Greenwald's entry, "Do Bush followers have a political ideology?"

First, naturally I agree with Mr. Greenwald that the loudest of the Bush Administration supporters aren't conservatives. (In fact, as Ahistoricality mentions, I've said this before. More than once.) Recently I pondered precisely what terminology to use to describe them and I find "authoritarian cultists" to be an appropriate label.

The combination here of rage and fear is potent and toxic.

What disturbs me about the Bush Administration is their willingness to find and tap into any pool of hatred (race, gender, ethnicity, religion) they can find in the voting public. If they hadn't courted these kinds of people, one hopes they'd be disturbed that they're the ones the Administration's "message" is reaching...and seemingly the only group, but they did court them and they continue to do so.

(What disturbs me more is just how many people they seem to be finding. This is toxic. Not only to the individual but to our society and to our political system. Maybe it was necessary for us to find this reeking swamp of bigotry in order to drain it, but I'm still deeply disturbed by it. I have been appalled to discover, in various forums that I've frequented for quite a number of years, that there are quite a few people who now feel emboldened to make blatant statements of racial, ethnic, or religious intolerance. Different rant, though.)

While I complain frequently about the weakness of the Democratic Party, most notably in standing up to the Bush Administration, they are at least still a recognizable UsofA political party. None of the Party's platforms are in any way "extreme." In fact, most of them are downright tepid compared to the Democratic agenda of even ten years ago. Not so the forces currently putting a face on the Republican Party.

You can tell this by listening to their most rabid and most enthusiastic endorsers. There's an open endorsement of hatred and violence that encourages the worst of our population to excesses that further polarize, and weaken our society.

That's not entirely why we are gathered here today, though. I mean, yes, I really think people should read the entry because I think a call to calmness and reflection should always be encouraged. However, there was a link in the comments that I followed and read that I also found of interest.

How Divided We Are, by James. Q. Wilson was recommended, so I popped over and read it.

Wilson says that political polarization of the kind we're seeing today isn't new to our country, and then cites two examples. It's interesting that his examples coincide (not at all coincidentally, I'm sure) with two critical points in USofA history. Times when major issues about the future direction of the country were under heated debate.

Wilson doesn't make this point (well, he wouldn't), but it seems to me that if today is another such time of polarization, maybe the issues we're facing are every bit as important as some of us have been insisting they are?

He discusses a theory that higher education produces markedly liberal people and that when highly educated "elites" get into political debate, they're responsible for polarization.

He goes on to argue that the real polarization isn't around the occupant of the White House but exists in Congress where low voter interest in primary elections allows highly partisan (wingnut) voters an influence in choosing candidates that far outweighs their numbers in the population. (He starts to discuss "safe" voting districts, but doesn't really cover the subject.)

He blames the commercialization of the media while simultaneously arguing that no one watches or reads the news because they no longer trust the media And, yes, special interest groups. He even winds up with a smack at the highly educated elites. Too much education gives people too much impact on the formation of public opinion. So, it's the rabidly partisan primary voter and the over-educated elite that cause our problems. All the usual suspects, in fact.

Wilson winds with no conclusion and offering no solutions. It seems the entire essay was directed toward scolding opponents of the invasion of Iraq (and the subsequent disasters) and claiming that polarization is all very well for domestic disputes (because who cares what kind of turmoil our society is in?) but just beyond the pale when it comes to foreign policy. In short, he advocates a position of, "my country, right or wrong."

I'm sure he's a Big Name and naturally I'm a Big Nobody, but I don't care. I still believe that when it comes to invading a country and killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians, foreign policy is exactly the place for dissenting voices to be heard.

Aside from his absurd conclusion, I do think there's food for thought in considering why and how we're becoming so polarized (so much so that just today, via e-mail, I told someone there was no use in talking with the Other Side because no one was going to have their opinion changed) and whether this is a temporary reaction to current events or a worrying permanent trend.


_____________

(removed)

Posted by AnneZook at 08:55 PM | Comments (4)
Rarely Memeing

If there is someone on your blogroll who makes your world a better place just because that person exists and who you would not have met (in real life or not) without the internet, then post this same sentence on your blog.

(Via.)

Posted by AnneZook at 07:50 PM | Comments (0)
And a good time was had by....

Contractors? In Iraq, that is. Baghdad Embassy Bonanza

A controversial Kuwait-based construction firm accused of exploiting employees and coercing low-paid laborers to work in war-torn Iraq is now building the new $592-million U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Once completed, the compound will likely be the biggest, most fortified diplomatic compound in the world.

Some 900 workers live and work for First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC) on the construction site of the massive project. Undoubtedly, they have been largely pulled from ranks of low-paid laborers flooding into Iraq from Asia's poorest countries to work under U.S. military and reconstruction projects.

I never know what to say about these things. On the one hand, it's good that non-USA countries are getting some of the work in Iraq, especially other Middle Eastern countries. On the other hand....

So, I read further.

American contractors witnessing the plight of some of these migrants at military camps around Iraq have openly complained that the Asians endure abysmal working conditions, live in cramped housing, eat poor food, and lack satisfactory medical care and safety gear.

FKTC, I should mention, has the contract to construct the new USofA embassy in Iraq, courtesy of subcontracting to...wait for it...Halliburton!

Indeed, the massive $592-million project may be the most lasting monument to the U.S. occupation in the war-torn nation. Located on a on a 104-acre site on the Tigris river where U.S. and coalition authorities are headquartered, the high-tech palatial compound is envisioned as a totally self-sustaining cluster of 21 buildings reinforced to 2.5 times usual standards. Some walls as said to be 15 feet thick or more. Scheduled for completion by June 2007, the installation is touted as not only the largest, but the most secure diplomatic embassy in the world.

That's not an embassy. It's a fortress.

Unlike most of Iraq's reconstruction, the embassy is "on time and on budget," according to a December report to U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee which calls the progress an "impressive" feat given that construction is taking place in a country besieged by war.

I'm sure the Iraqis would agree that building us a new fortified castle embassy is more important than rebuilding their country.

Although White House had signaled Congress in early 2004 that it was planning a permanent embassy in Baghdad, it wasn't until spring 2005 that the Bush Administration formally pushed the funding request veiled as an emergency measure. The original proposal for $1.3 billion was almost three times the price of the new embassy in China.

Reeling from overcharges and costs around other Iraq contracts, Congress immediately cut the price tag for the new Baghdad project in half to $592 million and called for strict oversight. Wired with the most up-to-date technology and surveillance equipment, it will still be a super-bunker and the biggest US embassy every built.

Once funding was secured last spring, the U.S. State Department quietly put the project up for competition among seven competitors – including some of the most accomplished US engineering companies. Among the bidders, Framaco, Parsons, Fluor, and the Sandi Group have established track records for building secure embassies or large-scale construction projects.

But the award went to First Kuwaiti, a company with little experience in projects on the scale envisioned for the embassy.

"First Kuwaiti got the embassy job. [It] kinda surprised everyone that a foreign company would win," said an executive of one prominent firm in an email to another, both of whom bid against First Kuwaiti.

But publicly, the losing companies simply shrugged their shoulders and buttoned their lips.

"First Kuwaiti was the lowest bidder," said Gilles Kacha, senior vice president of Framaco. The New York-based firm won a "contractor of the year award" from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for its work on the interim Baghdad embassy, but lost in the competition for the new compound."

Snif. Snif. Something smell funny to you?

And, hey! Aren't we about to declare war or something on Iran? I mean, the Feds are asking for money to "export Democracy." Isn't that how we announce an incipient war?

Posted by AnneZook at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)
February 15, 2006
Down South

Yep. It's looking more and more like blatant election fraud in Haiti. But who's surprised? In a country where class divisions are that extreme, those with wealth are going to do everything they can not to lose their power.

Posted by AnneZook at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)
The Gaying of the American West

Willie Nelson's new topic: Gay cowboys 25-year-old song says cowpokes 'Fond of Each Other'

Ever since the whole "Brokeback Mountain" thing, I've been thinking about a post around the long-standing homoeroticism of the 'iconic' American vision of The Old West, but then I thought about my readership and realized that all I have to do is mention it and you'll all know exactly what I mean.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:08 AM | Comments (2)
February 14, 2006
P.S.

Maintenance note: A long-planned update to the blogroll.

Meaning no offense to those few blogs who were dropped, as my reading changes, I think it's right to change the blogroll to reflect where I spend my time. (I keep my bookmarks on three computers, so it depends on where I am which blogs I'm reading. If you know I read you and you're not showing up, please give me a nudge.)

Possibly this wasn't the best day to do this. I gave serious thought to de-listing any blog that had more than one blog entry on the topic of Cheney and the hunting accident.

If you guys have energy to spare, you might want to blog Haiti's contested election (remember our 'intervention'?), Darfur (still fighting, still starving, still dying, still facing Bush's indifference), Afghanistan (body counts rivaling Iraq's), Medicare (a dishonest and disastrous piece of Big Pharma-loving legislation), Bush Administration bullying of in-house critics, the Federal government slammed for lousy handling of the Katrina disaster, a proposed $7 billion dollar giveaway to oil companies, or the strong rumors that the USofA and Israel would like to 'starve' the new Palestinian government, while avoiding blame for destroying it, among the dozens of other stories that we should be discussing?

In the end, I remembered that I occasionally fall into Silly Season Blogging myself and I decided to exercise some restraint. I sure wish the rest of you would do the same.

This was never funny. A man was shot. Most of the jokes were in the worst possible taste.

Also? Baying like a pack of cartoon hounds at the heels of someone involved in a near-tragic accident? Is just so Republican. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

Posted by AnneZook at 08:09 PM | Comments (0)
There's No Place Like...your neighborhood?

Via The American Street, an exceptionally good entry to read and consider. Welcome to Middle-Class Lockdown

Same theme, different continent.

In a survey that turns the accepted wisdom on its head, one of the most disadvantaged electorates in Australia, the Queensland seat of Wide Bay, has emerged as the one where people are at their most content.

Wide Bay, which takes in the coast of Hervey Bay and the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, has topped Australia's 150 electorates on the basis of wellbeing and sense of community, according to the first electorate-based national index of wellbeing, compiled by Deakin University.

In standard of living, health, achievement in life, personal relationships, sense of safety, connection to the community and future security, the index found Wide Bay came out on top -- despite limping along at the bottom of other surveys that measure employment, income, education and economic strength.

Eight of the top nine happiest electorates are poor and isolated rural communities, while all of the saddest seats are metropolitan or outer metropolitan seats. Only Treasurer Peter Costello's seat of Higgins in affluent east Melbourne bucked the trend, as it featured in the top 10 happiest electorates.

And, possibly, even even another take on a similar topic.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:35 PM | Comments (0)
February 13, 2006
We got big, big trouble

Spying Necessary, Democrats Say

You know? No, it isn't. And I'm sick of "Democrats" who spend this much time drinking the Rightwing Republican kool-aid.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:25 PM | Comments (4)
Watch for the tell-tale signs of corruption

$1,600,000,000. That's $1.6 billion dollars, which just happens to be what the Bush Administration spent on PR and advertising over the last 2.5 years.

.pdf file

While I don't doubt that much of it was necessary and legitimate, it doesn't amuse me to see where some of my tax dollars are going.

Like "marriage initiatives."

The public relations and advertising contracts spanned a wide range of issues. Several relate to Administration priorities, including a contract to “provide expert advice and support in the development of several marriage-related research initiatives,” an

Should the government be in the business of buying advertising for this? Because I don't think so.

Why is the Air Force giving away cruises? Who do they give them to? And why are they buying and handing out brand-specific product advertisements?

$10,152 for “Coca-Cola logoed items, including portable radios, victory t-shirts, hats, coolers”;

No, $10,000 isn't much, but why did they need $10k worth of Coke advertising products?

How, precisely, do you spend $15,000,000 (fifteen million dollars) on "individual members of the media"? Just how many columnists and pundits have they bought and paid for, anyhow?

And:

$50 million worth of media spending, on 76 contracts, was not awarded through the competitive bidding process.

I'm sure there's a good reason for that.

The GAO report does not examine trends in spending on public relations and advertising contracts. However, a prior study by the minority staff of the Government Reform Committee found that spending on public relations contracts has risen rapidly under the Bush Administration. That report found that spending on contracts with public relations firms had increased from $39 million in 2000 to $88 million in 2004, an increase of 128%.5

Just as a hint, guys, this is not how you create a smaller government.

Although, strictly speaking I guess all of this is less indicative of corruption than it is of an Administration willing to spend any amount of money to convince the USofA voting public that they haven't been lied into an invasion, led down the garden path of torture by inhumane leaders, or been taken to the cleaners over tax cuts for rich folks and disastrously expensive and inefficient Medicare programs.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)
Libertine men and scarlet women

Don't ask, don't tell.

Price tag to-date: A reported $363,000,000.

Not to mention the active and willing soldiers lost to a military desperately scrambling for bodies.

Posted by AnneZook at 07:01 PM | Comments (0)
Let me show you what I mean

Not happy yet, the Rightwing is pushing for more Rightwing judicial appointments.

Because taking the Supreme Court isn't enough, they want to stop some of that Democratic rot right where it starts...in the lower courts.

“I think it’s certainly time to pick up the speed on these lower court now that we got the Supreme Court behind us,” Cornyn said.

If I was the suspicious type, I'd be suspecting that they're suspecting that November '06 might be the end of their Congressional majority and they want to pack any Bench they can reach before then.

But some of the delay is understandable. (Not that the delay, let me make clear, is anything like the logjam Clinton faced.)

A thorny issue for Frist and Specter is what to do about William Myers, a nominee to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Henry Saad, a nominee to the 6th. Fourteen centrist Republican and Democratic senators specifically excluded Myers and Saad from a deal not to filibuster judicial nominees except under extraordinary circumstances, the so-called “Gang of 14” deal.

They could, of course, stop nominating out and out nutcases. But that may be too much to expect from the Administration that nominated Harriet Meiers to the Supreme Court.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)
Right here in River City

It's like the entire, nationwide debate over separation of church and state is being played out south of here, in Colorado Springs.

Yeah, the Air Force Academy is allowing superior officers to preach mainstream Christianity at cadets again, whether they like it or not.

Posted by AnneZook at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)
We got trouble

The UN says we've been torturing people in Guantanamo and we should shut the place down.

Do we have to care what the civilized world thinks of us?

(One of these days, we're gonna have other options anyhow. So neener-neener, UN!)

Posted by AnneZook at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)
February 12, 2006
Goo-goo-gah-gah

The Right really is just entirely childish isn't it?

Darth Nancy? The evil Democratic Empire?

This is how the so-called leaders of the Republican Party use their time? This is what they do to gin up heat against the opposition?

If I'd attended that meeting, I'd be hanging my head in shame and embarrassment.

And let's not forget to ponder the source material, that homogenized pap of puree of science fiction that drew (very whitely) from dozens of sources without adding anything new or original to the mix.

Relying on flashing lights and gimmicky special effects to mask the essential banality of the content, the series offered nothing but a re-run of old themes and hackneyed clichés. "Epic" only in cost (Hey, it is like the Republican Party!) and in lowering the bar of expectations (Hey, ditto!) for future SF movies, it succeeded in generating enthusiasm without making a difference (Hey!).

Posted by AnneZook at 11:23 AM | Comments (3)
Yes. But, no.

I agree that the publication of roll-call votes is important, but it's not that simple.

The NYTimes Public Editor, Calame, doesn't address this but let's all pause to remember the recent Alito vote. The bottom-line vote ignores the number of "Democratic" representatives who refused to support a filibuster or voted for cloture but who then voted against the nomination.

They had to know that the vote would go down largely on Party lines and that Alito would be confirmed, so voting, "no" was a purely political stunt. Listing them as voting against Alito gives the false impression that they actually opposed the nomination in a useful manner.

Posted by AnneZook at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)
The Little Woman

Is that how the Bush Administration is trying to position Hillary Clinton?

By having the wife of the current incumbent speak to Hillary Clinton's political remarks as from "one wife to another," they're relegating her to second-class status and implying that her personal career is irrelevant.

She should view the Bush Adminstration from her perspective as Bill Clinton's wife, not as an independent person or an elected official.

On the other hand...asking Laura Bush for her impressions of her husband's political opponents? Why? No one elected Laura Bush to anything. So, it's entirely possible that she was speaking to Clinton's previous stint as First Lady because that's the only angle she has on the situation.

(I've always had a weird and unsupported belief that Laura Bush finds her husband's politics distasteful.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:42 AM | Comments (1)
Um....

10 churches have now burned in Alabama and they're thinking it might be a hate crime?

And why target Baptists? I don't know enough about religious sects to know why they'd be singled out. (Although I have a vague impression that they're sort of fundamentalist types, right?)

No matter how you slice it, though, burning 10 churches is someone getting a major hate on.

Although, I do have to say I wasn't best pleased to read that burning a church is in a special category of hate crime, with a law all its own.

This is largely why I don't support special hate crimes legislation. Not only is it dubious to prosecute someone for what's going on in their head, there's a bigotry around such legislation that offends me. I mean, nationally its a crime to hate churches? A church is a building you know. It makes no more sense than passing legislation against hating a movie theater or a bakery. Legislation against hating a building doesn't impress me. (Well, maybe some buildings, on aesthetic grounds.)

What about making a federal law against hating homosexuals? Against hating immigrants, even if illegal? Against hating abortion providers? Against hating liberals?

Thought legislation is a slippery slope. So is legislation protecting property, but not people.


____________________

(Although that could get us into trouble because our country hates some people enough to kill not only them, but their families but actually its okay because I forgot that the Bush Administration decided we don't have to obey our own laws when we're visiting the rest of the world.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:25 AM | Comments (4)
Not That Simple

While we're publicizing the much-advertised "increasing dissatisfaction" of the soldiers fighting in Iraq, it might be a good idea for us to consider just how many of them were forced to serve.

It's entirely possible that much of the dissatisfaction comes from the serving, not from serving in Iraq.

I'd imagine that our military "leaders" at this moment are also reconsidering the value of their "ready reserve" soldiers.

(Although, it's not possible to evaluate how the "ready reserve" soldiers would have responded had they been asked to serve in a war that was widely perceived as both just and necessary.)

Posted by AnneZook at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)
Question

Do you think Newt Gingrich still believes in "small government" now that he's making speeches about the massive failure of the Federal government to do its job?

Posted by AnneZook at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)
Danger! Blog!

'Cyber Storm' tests US defences

Sounds typical. The Bush Administration, the one that didn't think a massive hurricane heading for USofA shores was worth losing sleep over, has practiced for a week to ward off an internet attack. I love my internet, so I'm grateful they seem to have done something sensible. For a change.

But!

Cyber Storm reportedly not only tested against attacks by hackers, but also by bloggers - who deliberately spread misinformation in the exercise.

They consider bloggers who spread misinformation a danger to the country?

This Administration considers spreading "misinformation" a danger to the country?

Boggles. The mind.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:44 AM | Comments (0)
Another Appointment

Is this another example of the Bush Administration nominating political supporters rather than subject experts for an important Federal post?

Is it a shift Rightward for the Fed? Well, I don't think any of us doubt that any Bush Administration appointment is going to be someone Right, or even Rightwing.

But I do question the idea that just because someone is comparatively young, they're somehow going to bring something valuable to the Board that advanced study and years of experience can't provide. Youthful enthusiasm is all very well, but I don't really want it in the people handling my money.

Posted by AnneZook at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)