Saturday, December 2

System of a Down- Boom

T2P Music Club Presents - BOOM, a video by System of a Down which highlights the hundreds of thousands of people who have been protesting the Iraq War.

Religious Intolerance in Congress

"The First Time I Knew You Lied, I ended up Crucified..." Sevendust.



What a horrible thing it would be for a U.S. Congressman to be persecuted and verbally Crucified for his religious beliefs... yet that exact situation has begun to rear it's ugly head on Talk Radio.

This week Right-Wing Radio Host Dennis Prager has claimed that Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first elected Muslim to Congress, has...

announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran.


Prager said this “act undermines American civilization,” and compared it to being sworn in with a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”

Too bad hardly a lick of this vicious lie is actually true.

It's bad enough that Rep Ellison has already had to suffer being accused of being a traitor by CNN's Glenn Beck.

"Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies."


But now he's being accused of claiming that he will be sworn in as a Congressman with his hand on the Koran - yet he has (most likely) said nothing of the kind.

How do I know this? Because the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book.

From Thinkprogress

The Office of the House Clerk confirmed to ThinkProgress that the swearing-in ceremony consists only of the Members raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Clerk spokesperson said neither the Christian Bible, nor any other religious text, had ever been used in an official capacity during the ceremony. (Occassionally, Members pose for symbolic photo-ops with their hand on a Bible.)

Below, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) is sworn in last year by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) with his hand on the rostrum:





Moreso, it's actually Unconstitutional for a religious book or religious litmus test of any kind to be included and Prager has admitted this.

In an interview with USA Today, Prager acknowledged that “trying to ban Ellison from choosing to use a Quran ‘may well be’ unconstitutional.” As various commentators have pointed out Prager’s demand violates the Constitution’s provision (Under Article VI) that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.


This of course, hasn't slowed down Prager, even though he himself - is Jewish.

Stone, who wrote about the controversy in USA TODAY this morning, reports that today Prager said it would be just as wrong for Jews to use the Torah, or what Christians call the Old Testament, as it would be for Ellison to use the Quran.

"I'm not arguing legality. I'm arguing what you should do," he said, saying that even though he is a religious Jew, he would take an oath of public office using the Christian Bible, which includes the Old and New Testaments.

"The New Testament is not my Bible but it is America's Bible," he said, noting that Jewish officeholders who had insisted on the Hebrew Bible were "secularists" who didn't believe what was in it anyway.


It's America's Bible?

What is wrong with these people? Hello, Seperation of Church and State much? The entire point of much of the Constitution and much of this nation is to avoid the creation of a State Religion.

From Federalist #10 - We must protect ourselves from the Zeal of Faction.

The latent causes of faction are thus sown in the nature of man; and we see them everywhere brought into different degrees of activity, according to the different circumstances of civil society. A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.


From Federalist #51 - We must dedicate ourselves to Freedom and Justice.

In a free government the security for civil rights must be the same as that for religious rights. It consists in the one case in the multiplicity of interests, and in the other in the multiplicity of sects. The degree of security in both cases will depend on the number of interests and sects; and this may be presumed to depend on the extent of country and number of people comprehended under the same government. This view of the subject must particularly recommend a proper federal system to all the sincere and considerate friends of republican government, since it shows that in exact proportion as the territory of the Union may be formed into more circumscribed Confederacies, or States oppressive combinations of a majority will be facilitated: the best security, under the republican forms, for the rights of every class of citizens, will be diminished: and consequently the stability and independence of some member of the government, the only other security, must be proportionately increased. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit.


From Federalist #57. - We must not limit our Representitives based solely on their adherence to faction, but to their adherence to Country and Constitution.

Who are to be the electors of the federal representatives? Not the rich, more than the poor; not the learned, more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscurity and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the corresponding branch of the legislature of the State. Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession is permitted to fetter the judgement or disappoint the inclination of the people. If we consider the situation of the men on whom the free suffrages of their fellow-citizens may confer the representative trust, we shall find it involving every security which can be devised or desired for their fidelity to their constituents.


There are the foundations of our Nation. Nowhere is it claimed among these papers that "America is Christian."

Or to put it another way - Prager is a Fuckwad. But unfortunately he's not a solitary fuckwad...

In a show of support, the American Family Association has launched a campaign urging Congress “to pass a law making the Bible the book used in the swearing-in ceremony of representatives and senators.”


Oy!

Vyan

Friday, December 1

What's so "Civil" about War Anyway?

Guns N Rose Live - "Civil War"


"What's so "Civil" about War Anyways? - Axl Rose.

In recent days we've seen a slow cracking in the walls between fact and unmitigated bullshit on the subject of Iraq.

Cracks that ignited a veritable Civil War in the media concerning whether or not "Iraq is a Civil War" with the latest salvo being fired by Faux News.

Some are using the term civil war to indicate failure, not inside Iraq, but on U.S. policy in Iraq. We’re unwilling to fall into that tender trap. We’re not using the term because there are non-Iraqis in the fray and that makes it something different


Those words by Fox News Magic Memo Man - Vice President John Moody - come just days after a blisting attack by the "Yes, it's is a Civil War" crowd including the New York Times who recently stated thatthe current conflict in Iraq ranks among the top ranks of civil wars over the last half century.

Though the Bush administration continues to insist that it is not, a growing number of American and Iraqi scholars, leaders and policy analysts say the fighting in Iraq meets the standard definition of civil war.

The common scholarly definition has two main criteria. The first says that the warring groups must be from the same country and fighting for control of the political center, control over a separatist state or to force a major change in policy. The second says that at least 1,000 people must have been killed in total, with at least 100 from each side.

Call me biased by reality if you like, but I think it's pretty clear that Iraq meets both Civil War definition requirements one and two. Yet on the other side of the arguement we have Condoleeza Rice claiming that since the Iraqis don't call it Civil War, neither should we.

Last night on CBS, Katie Couric asked Condoleezza Rice if she believes "the civil war in Iraq is likely to deteriorate significantly over the next few months." Rice responded that Iraq is not a civil war because "the Iraqis don’t see it that way." Rice added, "it really doesn’t help to speak about their circumstance as a civil war, in terms that they don’t speak about their circumstances.

A sentiment that has also been expressed by Dana Priest of the Washington Post.

Priest said she "absolutely" believes the "level of violence [in Iraq] equals a civil war." But she acknowledged that the Post has "not labeled it a civil war," explaining, "We try to avoid the labels, particularly when the elected government itself does not call its situation a civil war.

It's just too bad that their both flat wrong, according to top Iraqi Military Officials.

"This is a civil war," said a senior adviser to the commander of the Iraqi Army’s 6th Division, which oversees much of Baghdad.

"The problem between Sunnis and Shiites is a religious one, and it gets worse every time they attack each other’s mosques," said the adviser, who gave only his rank and first name, Col. Ahmed, because of security concerns. "Iraq is now caught in hell."

And Former Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi in March of 06.

It is unfortunate that we are in civil war. We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more.

If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is.

And Former Secretary of State Colin Powel who said "Iraq is a Civil War and Bush should Stop Denying it".

Speaking with CNN reporter Hala Gorani in Dubai today, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq’s violence meets the standard of a civil war and thinks President Bush needs to acknowledge that. According to Gorani’s report, Powell said if he were heading the State Department right now, he would recommend that the Bush administration adopt that language "in order to come to terms with the reality on the ground.

And President Bill Clinton.

Iraq fits the "normal" definition of a Civil War.

And NBC News...

MSNBC’s Contessa Brewer explained that "the White House continues to resist" the phrase, but that "after careful thought, MSNBC and NBC News decided over the weekend, the terminology is appropriate, as armed militarized factions fight for their own political agendas.

And 68 Percent of the American Public.

A majority of Americans think Iraq is in the midst of a civil war, a new Harris Interactive poll finds, and few are confident that Robert Gates's nomination as Secretary of Defense will improve the situation there.

Sixty-eight percent of U.S. adults said they believe there is a civil war in Iraq, the online poll from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20 found, compared with 14% who disagree and 18% who aren't sure.

So this epic struggle on whether to call Iraq a "Civil War", or a Bad IED Half-Decade, or possibly a Total Fuck-Up of Epic Proprotions continues to rage, while we all wait breathlessly for the next blow to land.

Reports indicate that the Iraq Study Group may recommend that U.S. Combat Troops be withdrawn by early 2008

"The bipartisan Iraq Study Group plans to recommend withdrawing nearly all U.S. combat units from Iraq by early 2008 while leaving behind troops to train, advise and support the Iraqis, setting the first goal for a major drawdown of U.S. forces, sources familiar with the proposal said yesterday." The pull-out would be "more a conditional goal than a firm timetable."

Yet the President still claims -

Today, in a joint press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Bush sought to dismiss the commission’s recommendations before they have been officially released. Bush said, "I know there’s a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there’s going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We’re going to stay in Iraq to get the job done."

But what job is that exactly, propping up the al-Maliki government while it crumbles to dust around both him us?

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki faced a widening revolt within his divided government as two senior Sunni politicians joined prominent Shiite lawmakers and Cabinet members in criticizing his policies.

Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi said he wanted to see al-Maliki's government gone and another "understanding" for a new coalition put in place with guarantees that ensure collective decision making.

"There is a clear deterioration in security and everything is moving in the wrong direction," the Sunni leader told The Associated Press. "This situation must be redressed as soon as possible. If they continue, the country will plunge into civil war."

Let me repeat this - the Iraqi Vice President now wants to see the Maliki goverment GONE!

Simultaneously the al-Sadr bloc of the Iraqi Government, whom this week walked out in protest over President Bush's meeting in Jordan with Prime Minister al-Maliki continues to grow stronger like the Dark Powers of a Sith Lord.

A senior U.S. intelligence official estimates that "the militia of radical Shiite leader Moqtada al-Sadr has grown eightfold over the past year and now fields 40,000 to 60,000 men. That makes it more effective than the Iraqi government’s army, the official indicated."

Clearly. This is a Civil War.

Meanwhile a parallel Civil War over whether to CALL Iraq a "Civil War" rages on.

Does it matter what we call it? Does these semantic games count?

Yes - because ultimately, whether Iraq is or isn't perceived as a Civil War by our government drives the question of whether we still have a dog in this fight?. If and when this view shifts, it'll be well past time that we let the Iraqis settle their own differences - either militarily or politically - and instead concentrate not on aiding either side of the conflict, but rather attempting to keep essential resources and civilians "safe" by evacuating them from combat areas until hostilities finally cease.

It remains unclear whether the Bush Administration will ever see reality on the ground, a fact which will clearly continue to needlessly pile higher and higher the bodies of Americans, Iraqis, Sunni, Shia, Kurds and others while Washington dodges and dithers over semantics.

Prolonging our involvement in a War we shouldn't be fighting and can't win for ourselves or anyone else is a clear act of (War) Criminal Negligence.

I think the truest statement was made over a decade ago by a bunch of self-absorbed drug-addled rock stars. Sometimes truisms fall easily from mouths of the heavily medicated (and Rocking! \m// )

I don't need your Civil War, it feeds the Rich while it buries the Poor.

Amen.

Sevendust - Enemy

T2P Music Club with Sevendust


Thursday, November 30

Webb & Pelosi: The New Sheriffs in DC

Right-wing pundits are having a conniption fit over the base impropriety of Jim Webb not knocking the President on his ass the other day.

George Will calls him "A boor".

Ouch. How do you keep from cutting yourself with a tongue that sharp, George?

I myself would rather like to call him "A Father" - who also happens to be a Decorated Marine, Vietnam Vet, former Secretary of the Navy and now U.S Senator.

Right now Webb just vaulted to the top my "08 Presidential Draft" if only because the very idea will give the neo-cons night sweats.

But Webb isn't the only one whose finally learned not to back down and skulk away at the first hint of right-wing ass-hattery.

There's a report on yet another right-wing attack on Nancy Pelosi and her "San Francisco Values" currently up on Thinkprogress that I found literally stunning.

It wasn't stunning because of what this particular wing-bat claimed, it was stunning because the news station in question - actually reported the facts.

The essential accusation, made by Hoover Institution fellow Peter Schweizer, is that Pelosi is a hypocrit for not employing union workers in her Napa Valley vineyard.

In fact he actually goes much further and claims the Liberalism itself is hyprocracy.


If you go to a college campus, watch television or go into a bookstore, you’re like to see these suspects: people like Al Franken, Michael Moore, Noam Chomsky, and Ralph Nader. They talk about a whole host of issues. They talk about affirmative action. They talk about economic justice. They talk about the importance of regulating corporations and avoiding entanglements with corporations.

We also have people like Hillary Clinton, Barbara Streisand or Nancy Pelosi. Some of these people on the liberal left actually are in positions of power and authority.


Really? As opposed to all of them living in co-op commune, wearing birkenstocks, cargo pants and dirty Grateful Dead t-shirts, eating macro-biotic tofurkey just before having the pre-marital and gay sex - only so they can practice their condom use and play morning-after roulette, abort any babies that still might happen to show up accidently, and just for the fun of it perform scientific experimentation on the left over and soon-to-be disgarded blastocysts all so they can cure - fucking right-wing stupidity!!

Wow. Whodathunkit?

When it comes to debating them and arguing with them, you probably have had the same experience I have, and that is that often times people on the liberal left pose as our moral superiors.


Yes, of course - and it's not like anyone one the right ever takes such a position. Not Jerry Falwell or Laura Ingraham or Glenn Beck. Oh no. Never happen.

In his speech Schweitzer attacked Al Franken's support for Affirmative Action for pointing out that Bob Jones University only has 1% African-American participation while his own staff at Air American only has 1 Black person out of a group of 112. In the process he completely misses the point that both of these are private institutions are not required by any law to implement Affirmative Action unless they contract with the Federal Government, which is highly unlikey in either case.


An even if they do - the Government has been prohibited since the 1978 Bakke decision from implementing quotas. Since then legal and legitimate Affirmative Action has been about reaching out, not about numerical outcomes. This makes achieving diversity goals more difficult, but far more fair than an artificial quota - like Schweitzer suggests - would.

Schweitzer goes on to attack Micheal Moore for his pro-worker/anti-corporate stance and claims that the corporation he setup to make his first documentary Roger and Me (which has no employees) happens to have invested in other corporations like Pfiser and that he actually used to own shares of Halliburton.

Schweitzer is too busy tarring Moore with a being in bed with big business brush to ever ponders why Moore just might have wanted to divest himself from Halliburton. I think he might have had a few billion no bid reasons.

He also attacks Ralph Nader for his stock ownership - although some of those stocks were owned by members of Nader's family, not himself - before finally settling in on Pelosi.

I have another section I like to call, “Workers of the World Unite Somewhere Else.” This is where we find Nancy Pelosi—Democrat leader in the House, the best friend of labor unions you can imagine. She says that labor unions are vital to negotiating good wages and working conditions. She won the Cesar Chavez award from the United Farmworkers Union in 2003. Remember that, the United Farmworkers Union. She is the top recipient of PAC contributions from the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union.


Ok, so she's a big union supporter and has received lots of their support in return.

What’s interesting about that is, there were several strikes a few years ago in San Francisco, where she came down strongly on the side of the hotel employees and restaurant employees union and campaigned aggressively for them against other hotels. Of course she is the most reliable vote in Congress for organized labor.

What’s interesting about Nancy Pelosi is that she and her husband not only are very influential in the Democrat [sic] Party, they’re very wealthy.


Not only?

Yeah, that's real REAL interesting because y'know - Theresa Heinz Kerry sure is in the poor house. And gee those Hollywood Liberals like Arriana Huffington must really have to skrimp and save their food stamps to pay for all those latte's. Liberals in Power? Run for the Hills - Any second now it's going to start raining Healthcare.

With Nancy Pelosi, her commitment to organized labor essentially ends when it comes to her own businesses. Nancy Pelosi and her husband own a Napa Valley vineyard that’s worth about $25 million. They grow very expensive grapes for very expensive wines, and they don’t use members of the United Farm Workers to pick their grapes. This winner of the Cesar Chavez award hires only hire non-union contractors.


Ok, so what I found amazing about this local ABC News - note again ABC NEWS - report on Schweitzer's comments is the fact that they actually bothered to fact check his statments.

Pelosi is prohibited by law from helping her workers unionize. If Pelosi wanted to have union workers, “she could not ask the union for a contract. It’s illegal and has been since 1975.” Marc Grossman of the United Farm Workers Union explains: “It is patently illegal for any grower to even discuss a union contract, which is the only way you can supply union workers, without the workers first having voted in a state conducted secret ballot election.”


It's not up to Pelosi or her husband to decide whether to unionize her vineyard, that's a decision for her workers to make.

As it turns out though, it's something they aren't likely to even consider because they're treated and paid better by Pelosi than other union workers in Napa Valley.

Pelosi treats her workers better than unionized vineyard workers. “The Pelosis pay more than union workers are paid in the same valley — that from the pastor at St. Helena’s Catholic Church, a well known advocate for farm workers who’s involved in labor negotiations with the same labor manager the Pelosis use. ... Monsignor Brenkle says the Pelosis pay a $1.25 an hour more than workers at Napa’s biggest union winery. ... Of the more than 300 vineyards, fewer than four are union, and most of the farm workers in the Napa Valley get paid better.”


But the real kicker is this - when asked by Reporter Mark Matthews about why he didn't know that it's illegal for Pelosi to just go hire union workers, and that her vineyard already pays her workers more than other union workers are paid Schweitzer said...

It’s for her to explain the inconsistency. It's not my responsibility to go and find out how every single particular circumstance is handled on the Pelosi vineyard.


To this Matthews responded by holding up a copy of the 1975 argricultural labor relations act.

I got a copy. It's pretty clear that what Peter Schweitzer is suggesting for Nancy Pelosi would be illegal. Growers like Pelosi can not higher workers from a Union, but workers can on their own, union, and then negotiate with the growers after they have organized.


Schweitzer told me this morning he would call back and clear all this up. He hasn't called. We've left him several messages.


Today Nancy Pelosi press secretary said...

This account is riddled with errors and clearly wasn't Fact Checked.


Well, it's been Fact Checked Now.


That it has.

Wouldn't it be nice the next time some right-wing gasbag decided to make some blatantly false shit up about a Liberal, if someone in the media wouldn't just sit there like a lump and nod their head?

Or worse play along like Nora O'Donnel did when claiming Cindy Sheehan's Hunger Strike was just a publicity stunt or Soledad O'Brien who questioned the Patriotism of Veterans who oppose Bush's War Policy?

Isn't it nice to have someone like Webb in the Congress and someone in the media, not just the blogosphere, finally call Bullshit on Bullshit!?

Wouldn't it have been great if the media had been doing that - which happens to be their freaking job - for the last six years?

Maybe it's a sign of the new Democratically Controlled Times.

I certainly hope so.

Vyan

Wednesday, November 29

The Beginning of the EndGame in Iraq

It won't be long now.

Until recently I admit to holding out a slim hope that we still had a chance to succeesfully accomplish just one thing in Iraq. (Get the Iraqi Army Trained and in position to take over)

But with even Colin Powell finally discovering his long lost cojones and announcing today that Iraq has become a Civil War and Bush should stop denying it and the al-Sadr bloc now officially boycotting the Iraqi government.

I think that hope is rapidly becoming a fools folley. The bell is ringing and it's time for our troops to leave Iraq to the Iraqis.

The facts are becoming just too plain to see.

How do you proclaim "victory" when both Sunni and Shia Militias are shooting at us.

I grew up in South Central LA, so let me put this in my own terms for moment - This has become a nation level equivalent of The Bloods vs the Crips, with retailiation drive-by bombings on Tuesday for last Sunday's death-squad kidnappings.

This is a Civil War.

NBC has admitted it. The New York Times has finally come around - albiet grudgingly. Our troops are now nothing more than target practice.

This was revealed last week.

A classified Marine Corps intelligence report concludes that in Western Iraq, “the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point” that U.S. and Iraqi troops “are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar.”


We also now know that the Insurgency is more financially stable than our own government. Iraq has become the Perpetual Insurgency Engine.

Just what we trying to accomplish? What can we accomplish? Who are were protecting from whom? Whose on our side? The Hatfields or is it the McCoys? Who are the "Good Guys" anymore?

Is it Prime Minister al-Maliki?

A new classified memo authored by National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley expresses “serious doubts” about whether Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has “the capacity to control the sectarian violence in Iraq.” Among the criticisms of al-Maliki is one often leveled at Bush: that he is surrounded by a “narrow circle” of advisers who “may skew the information he receives.”


Apparently Our Boy In Iraq is in a bit of a self-bottled pickle.

The writing is all over the walls - in fact, you can't even see the walls anymore. Formerly disgraced Speaker and Presidential Hopeful Newt (We don't need no stinking Free Speech) Gingrich has even come around. Sort of.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) said yesterday “that unless the Bush administration admits that the war in Iraq is a ‘failure,’ it will never develop a strategy to leave the country successfully.


The sad reality is that Bush actually will never admit that "Iraq is a failure" - Ever! He's never going to develop any strategy at all, he certainly hasn't so far. Iraq became a failure as soon as he decided to "Fix the Facts around the Policy" and send us into a way based on a long serious of lies.

Bush is now the sole obsticle to protecting our troops from further pointless bloodshed and allowing Iraq to resolve it's own internal differences.

It's time for Congress to act is rapidly approaching. After we've already pissed away over $300 Billion on this war, they may need to cut off funding and block the Bush Admin's new push to "Let her Rip" on Military Spending.

We may need to start talking seriously about Joe Biden's partitioning plan to create a "United States of Iraq" where each major faction would have a level of it's own independance, but still be part of the larger nation.

First, the plan calls for maintaining a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis their own regions. The central government would be left in charge of common interests, such as border security and the distribution of oil revenue.

Second, it would bind the Sunnis to the deal by guaranteeing them a proportionate share of oil revenue. Each group would have an incentive to maximize oil production, making oil the glue that binds the country together.

Third, the plan would create a massive jobs program while increasing reconstruction aid -- especially from the oil-rich Gulf states -- but tying it to the protection of minority rights.

Fourth, it would convene an international conference that would produce a regional nonaggression pact and create a Contact Group to enforce regional commitments.


I actually think Biden doesn't go far enough. The al-Maliki Government is crumbling - the Iraqi people have no faith in it - and may need to be reformed into two Houses of Parliament, one proportional and representational, the other giving each of the major provinces equal say and equal power - like our own Senate - which would limit the ability of any one faction, Kurd, Sunni or Shia to ride roughshod over any of the others.

People who feel they have been guaranteed voice in government and in how their country is run don't need to take up arms to solve their differences.

This is a solution that we've actually seen work before - In Bosnia.

The fact is that Bush will clearly never go along with any such plan. Fortunately, he is rapidly becoming more and more irrelavant as events on the ground and reality conspire against him. If Bush ignores the Baker Commission and Tony Blair endorsement to engagement with Iran and Syria, no matter. Either al-Maliki and al-Sadr just might go ahead and do it anyway without his approval. In fact, they've already begun.

Increasingly Iraqis are going to take matters in their own hands and eventually the dust will settle. The only real solutions here are political, not Military. Unfortunately for Bush, Diplomacy is a game he never learned how to play - so others are going to have to take the ball away from him one way or another.

If it ultimately requires the threat and use of the I-Word (Impeachment), so be it.

Just think, not only has this war lasted longer than our involvement in WWII, the U.S. alone has had more casualties in Iraq than we had at 9/11!!

America can either be under the dust pile or standing off the side and out of the way when it's all said an done. However it all falls out - the End is coming, and it's coming soon whether any of us like it or not.

Vyan

Tuesday, November 28

Storm Inc - Beautiful

T2P Music Club with Storm Inc.

Justice launches Probe of NSA Wiretap Program

From Yahoo News.

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department has begun an internal investigation into its handling of information gathered in the government's domestic spying program.

Normally this would be a good thing, but apparantly - it's a Tiger with no Teeth.

However, Democrats criticized the review as not going far enough to determine whether the program violates federal law.

So just what is going on here?

To some extent the question of legality of the program has already been answered by Federal Judge Anna Diggs Taylor.

Judge Taylor found that the program violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which was passed in the 1970s to curb executive abuses that included spying on civil rights leaders and Members of Congress. FISA requires a warrant before the executive can wiretap Americans. Judge Taylor also found that the program violated the separation of powers because it circumvented Congress’s power to regulate presidential authority, and that it violated Americans' rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution. The government appealed the decision to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted a stay of the decision pending appeal.

Therefore it's not a question that the DOJ needs to answer, although Abu Gonzales has already tried when he said the Diggs-Taylors definition of freedom is "one utterly divorced from civic responsibility - is superficial and is itself a grave threat to the liberty and security of the American people."

So if this is what the Top Official at the DOJ says, just where does that leave this little inquiry?

The inquiry by Glenn A. Fine, the department's inspector general, will focus on the role of Justice prosecutors and agents in carrying out the warrantless surveillance program run by the National Security Agency.

Oh.

"After conducting initial inquiries into the program, we have decided to open a program review that will examine the department's controls and use of information related to the program," Fine wrote in a letter dated Monday to House and Senate leaders on judiciary, intelligence and appropriations committees.

The review also will look at "the department's compliance with legal requirements governing the program," according to the four-paragraph letter obtained by The Associated Press.

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the agency welcomes the review: "We expect that this review will assist Justice Department personnel in ensuring that the department's activities comply with the legal requirements that govern the operation of the program."

Excuse me, what legal requirements? This program is in direct violation of FISA and federal law under 18 USC 3121 (Which prohibits use of "pen and trap devices" without a warrant) and 18 USC 2702 (Which prohibits companies such as AT&T from sharing their user data with the government without a warrant).

Congress has not passed any law authorizing this program, in fact the President is still asking them to - so exactly what "legal requirements" is Mr. Roehrkasse talking about?

And just how deep could this inquiry possibly go after the President personally squelched the last one by denying security clearances to the program. But Fine apparenly already has clearance...

Democrats also questioned the timing of the review. Fine's letter noted that his office asked the White House on Oct. 20 for additional security clearances that were approved just last week — following the Nov. 7 elections that gave Democrats control of Congress.

Noting Democrats' renewed power to subpoena Bush administration officials next year, Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., questioned that Fine's investigation "is only coming now after the election as an attempt to appease Democrats" who have been critical of the NSA program.

Ya think?

Just so we don't forget who were really dealing with here - we've got a nice reminder from one of Reagan's cronies.

Former Reagan administration national security official Robert F. Turner, now associate director at the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia, said congressional demands for sensitive information about the program puts them at odds with long-standing presidential powers over the collection of foreign intelligence.

"It's good that the executive branch, on its own, is making sure that someone's not abusing this power," Turner said. "But when Congress usurps power vested in the president by the people through the Constitution, then it becomes the lawbreaker."

Que? How exactly does Congress break the law by requiring that the President not break the law?

Call me silly if you like, but I for one think this entire inquiry is one big CYA. They're trying to see where the bodies are buried before the Sixth Circuit hands them a stack of shovels. If illegally gathered evidence has found it's way into actual court cases - those cases could be severely compromised under the fruits of the poison tree doctine. Therefore it's better to know exactly what cases are in jeopardy and might need to be refiled with new data, rather than have to drop them entirely.

I could be wrong, but that's how I see it. Not much else makes sense.

Vyan

Monday, November 27

One Thing I Hate about Olbermann

w.youtoube.comDon't get me wrong, I love the man and his show. He is the one broadcaster who has been telling truth to power for well over a year now. He first came onto my own radar last october after he literally danced a jig after reporting that Bill O'Reilly had announced he would retire in two years.

Since then he's been a godsend. Reporting the abuses of this Presidency an agressive manner with his infrequent but incredibly powerful Special Comments.

His ratings are up. O'Reilly and Faux News ratings are down.

These are all good thing in my mind. But there are some things about Olbermann and his show that really, truly annoy me.

I don't mind the sillyness of "Oddball." It's dumb bit it's cool. Sometimes I feel his "Worst Person in the World" segment resorts to cheap shots, but that's not the big problem either.

I really hate his "Keeping Tabs" segment.

It used to be that he pretended to dislike it as well. He used to say "And now another story my producers and Making me Cover", but no longer. Now you tell that he simply loves to slow roast celebrities on a spit.

And there's a hypocracy here that can't be ignored. Not long after railing about the Unconstitutional and illegal actions of the President, warrantless wire-taps, torture and coereced false confessions, blocking habeas relief -- he then turns around and jumps on the Bash OJ Wagon.

Shock and Awe "What do you mean Vyan - OJ is a vicious Killer." - I can hear you say.

Yeah yeah yeah I know, but the point is this - the verdict he received a decade ago in the Criminal Case was the correct one and it's high time people got the hell over it.

Let's recall that LAPD entered his home without a warrant and illegally collected evidence (Just like the NSA is doing with our phone calls). The Chain of Custody of the blood evidence was questionable. While on the stand Dr. Henry Lee pointed out that the LA Lab had a massive cross contamination problem. Dr. Cotton, head of one of the DNA Labs, admitted on the stand that no lab had a method of detecting false positive matches caused by exactly the kind of contamination that Dr. Lee described. That's absolutely reasonable doubt about the blood evidence right there. Then you have another LAPD detective - one who had access to all the evidence and had been the one to jump the fence at OJ's house commit perjury on the stand.

I would expect that most of us know that illegally gathered and coerced evidence is never justified. It's why we and Olbermann argue vehemently against Gitmo, the Secret Prisons outside the perview of the Red Cross and warrantless wiretaps outside of FISA. The fact that most of this evidence could never be used in a normal court of law is a major factor why the President has insisted on Military Commisions which allowed for coerced, self-incriminating and classifed evidence. Evidence which may in fact have only been classified to protect the fact that it was gathered illegally.

Yet, when the subject of OJ comes up - all the tenets and platitudes about a "Fair Trial" and the Rule of Law seem to go out the window. It's suddenly becomes "Fry the Bastard" or "He Got Off by Playing the Race Card", which is often followed by "The Jurors were just too dumb to understand DNA." all of which - besides being a potentially racist argument itself - misses the point. LAPD and the District Attorney Gil Garcetti fucked that case up, just as they fucked up the McMartin Molestation case. OJ's contineud freedom is the price we all pay for their mistakes.

Look, I get that most people figure OJ's guilt is a given. But the issue here is actually bigger than OJ himself. Most of the conduct that his defense team alleged where things that had been occuring to many defendants in LA for decades, particularly Geronimo Pratt who spent 27 years imprisoned for a murder that took place while he was 400 miles away in Oakland - according to FBI wiretaps that were suppressed.

Tampering with evidence and framing suspects is exactly the type of conduct that was revealed by former Officer Rafeal Perez in the Rampart Scandal, after he was caught stealing drugs from evidence and giving them to his girlfriend to sell.

Jonny Cochran was not making this shit up, he was Geronimo Pratt's attorney. He'd seen it up close.

LAPD was the police agency that invented S.W.A.T. (Special Weapons and Tactics) which is essentially the use of paramilitary weapons (assault weapons and armored personel carriers) on civilians. It's exactly the same thing as the FBI's HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) use - y'know the people who used tanks at Waco?

Those were LAPD tactics adapted to a Federal Level.

LAPD have been, at their core, a Proto-Fascist Organization. That doesn't mean that there aren't plenty of fine, brave and honest Officers working there - it simply means those officers have an uphill battle in front of them for the forseeable future.

The Rampart allegations are why the FBI and Civil Rights Division of the DOJ have had them under a Consent Decree to curtail these types of activities for the past few years. Yet we still have situations where LAPD officers shot and killed an unarmed 11-year-old boy, just last year.

So please - don't try to pretend that LAPD has credibility. They don't. They aren't Adam-12. They aren't Dragnet. (Both of those shows were originally part of LAPD's own propoganda campaigns run out of their two entertainment divisions by Chief Parker). They have long way to go to dig themselves out of the decades deep hole they've dug themselves into. I'm not even sure they ever will, not with many of us who've witnessed their tactics first hand.

If OJ did indeed get away it, as most people believe, it's because of them. Period. He won his case the same way that Lt. Cmd Swift won the Hamdan case - using the facts and law.

But here we have our Civil Liberties Champion Olbermann getting all haughty about OJ daring to actually use his first amendment rights, just like everyone else in the world gets to do? Et Tu Keith?

Then there's the big woody Keith sports when ever he gets to dump on easy targets like K-Fed. Hello - is there anyone who isn't so insanely jealous or so without compassion that the don't see how sad it is to discover you're getting a voice via a TEXT MESSAGE? Even for Lousiana trailer trash like Britney - that's just low class. Yet even Keith plays the story like she's the hero somehow?

Keith seems to automatically assume Kevin can't have any talent, he gives him plenty of air-time yet they hasn't even bothered to play even a single second of the audio from one of his records or concerts.

Being from LA myself and a musician I've known a lot of other musicians, particularly from the 80's - like members of bands such as Dokken, Warrant, LA Guns, Foreigner, Dio and Alice Cooper who everyone assumed was completely washed-up but in fact did a lot of their best work after the spotlight was no longer shining on them. Poison toured all through the late 90's and outdrew Korn! Even Vanilla Ice has put out some nice records since "Ice Ice Baby" - but if you simply listen to the critics, you'd never know it.

Their ears and closed and so are their minds - so I don't trust their opinion of K-Fed's music for a second. That includes Keith and his giggling pal Micheal Mustow.

And lastly there's his favorite whipping boy - Tom Cruise. Which has become a nightly bashing was I think comes dangerously close to religious intolerance.

Most of this started with Tom's interview with Matt Lauer on the Today show about Brooke Shields use of anti-depressants.

Somewhere in the mix, people forgot that Tom is absolutely right about the over-prescription of drugs like Ritalin to our children, and that it's now being used recreationally by young adults.

Methylphenidate (Ritalin is the brand name of the drug's inventor, Novartis), has been abused by teenagers and college students since the early 1990s, and it is now on the rise among a new group of people. Doctors say it is hard to quantify just how much recreational use is taking place, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it is growing as former college students continue to use the drug after leaving school. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency, the number of emergency room overdose cases involving methylphenidate has increased nationally in each of the last 5 years. While the agency says that Ritalin was usually not the primary substance abused, it nevertheless was taken recreationally.

It may be fair not to agree with Tom's skeptism of psychiatry as a profession, but he's right about the use of electric shock treatment against unwilling patients. But he never said that "All medicines are bad" as Olbermann has claimed when the issue of Katie Holmes receving pain relief medication during child-birth was discussed.

There was point in time that Countdown actually denied that Suri Cruise even existed.

STEWART: As promised, Paul F. Tompkins, comedian and contributor to VH1‘s “Best Week Ever,” joins me to talk about the Hollywood baby shrouded in mystery.

Paul, simple question: Do you know if anyone has seen this child of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes?

PAUL F. TOMPKINS, COMEDIAN: Well, Alison, there‘s no actual confirmation of anyone seeing the baby. I mean, a lot of people talk a big game and those people have been debunked as the spinners of urban legends. A lot of people say they sort of see Suri out of the corner of their eye, but when they turn to look she‘s gone. And of course.

STEWART: The tooth fairy was like that when I was a kid.

TOMPKINS: Absolutely. But you did get that money didn‘t you?

STEWART: Yeah, I did. I got my quarter.

Call me a stick-in-the-mud if you like, and I'm sure some people will, but they're talking about a baby here - and I don't see how any of that is funny. Make fun of Tom or Katie all you like, but exactly when did a toddler become fair game? When did we lose all sense of propriety and proportion?

What all of this displays to me is a blatant bias.

I understand that our society overhypes celebrities and it can be fun to take them down a peg or two, I understand that sometimes their just begging for it - but I also think that Keith's "Keeping Tabs" goes more than a step or two too far. Celebs are people too. They can be hurt, they can be cut and they do bleed.

All it took was one careless critic to comment to Karen Carpenter that she looked "fat" - to help send her into a anorexic spiral that eventually ended her life.

We have no idea how many of these types of commetns are damaging and how much of it simply slides off of them. Some of them have tough-skin and know how to take it - some don't.

Part of the reason many Celebs seem so abnormal, is because of the abnormal treatment they receive from nearly everyone around them, especially the media. It's not normal to have photographers following you to the grocery store. It's not normal to have to 24-hour bodyguards. It's can be a slow torture to live like that and yes, some of them act out occasionally. I think A) They aren't really that interesing as people anyway and B) We should all cut them a little slack from time to time.

All of the Grocery Store Magazines and even Keith are doing is exploiting these people for ratings and sales.

It's cheap, it's unneccesary - but profitable.

What Keith does here isn't journalism and the kind of vicious glee he often displays in attacking these people - especially when Michael (God, what a DICK!) Mustow is on the show - IMO damages the earnest seriousness that his criticism of the President.

I'm grown-up enough to know this isn't going to change, but I'm still going to hate it, even though I love just about everything else about Countdown.

"Keeping Tabs" Sucks.

There, I've said it - it's off my chest. Agree? Disagree? Fine, I said what I needed to.

Vyan

Sunday, November 26

JFK: A Warning