Saturday, March 10, 2007

Poodle Screwing British Veterans, Too

Independent (uk): Blair is called to account over abandoned troops

British soldiers returning from war are suffering unprecedented levels of mental health problems amid claims that the long-standing "military covenant" guaranteeing them proper care is in tatters.

More than 21,000 full-time servicemen and women who have served in Iraq, as well as army reservists, have developed anxiety and depression, an Independent on Sunday investigation can reveal today.

Official figures suggest two dozen military personnel have killed themselves since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 ­ a figure which includes 17 confirmed suicides and six where inquests are pending. Combat Stress, the charity for war veterans suffering from mental problems, has warned that it is seeing an annual rise of 26 per cent in its caseload; more than 1,000 former soldiers are homeless.

Independent (uk): The betrayal of British fighting men & women
The son of a military family Pte Johnathon Dany Wysoczan

Sunday Observer (uk): Scandal of treatment for wounded Iraq veterans
· Soldiers 'denied proper hospital care'
· Letters reveal anguish of families

Friday, March 09, 2007

Question: What Government Agency Had An Office In That New Bedford Sweatshop?

Sweatshop? Did you say sweatshop? I don't see a sweatshop!

ding ding ding ding

Alex, is it "The Department of Defense"?

Yes, that's right! reads the Providence Journal, so I don't have to. The Pentagon's sweatshop (the following quoted material is contained within the post, but it's all from the ProJo.)

The company manufactures military backpacks and protective gear for U.S. forces. A spokesman for the U.S. Army Soldiers System [sic] Center in Natick, Mass., which oversees the work, said that a Department of Defense inspector maintains an office at the plant, but was unaware that any of the workers were undocumented.


The affidavits allege that Insolia, 50, of Pembroke, Mass., "intentionally seeks out illegal aliens because they are more desperate to find employment and are thus more likely to endure severe workplace conditions he has imposed."

Those conditions allegedly include "docking of pay by 15 minutes for every minute an employee is late; fining employees $20 for spending more than 2 minutes in the restroom and firing for a subsequent infraction; providing one roll of toilet paper per restroom stall per day, typically resulting in the absence of toilet paper after only 40 minutes per day; fining employees $20 for leaving (the) work area before break bell sounds; and fining employees $20 for talking while working and firing for a subsequent infraction."

Earlier post: Homeland Security: Tearing Nursing Babies From Their Mothers' Arms (March 9, 2007)

For All My Fans From IAP Worldwide

For the dozen or so visitors today to this humble blog from IAP Worldwide in Merritt Island, Florida; this post's for you: It's Not Just Walter Reed
Still more ways Bush is screwing returning vets.

The Pentagon's Defense Health Program—which includes the Tricare health-insurance plan, used by 9.1 million veterans and involving 65 inpatient clinics, 414 medical and dental clinics, and 257 veterans centers—has actually had its budget cut the past two years. In fiscal year 2006, the program's budget for medical care went up from $15.9 billion to $21.2 billion. But since then, it's gone down slightly—to $20.8 billion in FY 2007 and a proposed $20.7 billion in FY 2008.

These numbers understate the magnitude of the cuts. To keep up with inflation in the cost of goods and payroll, the Defense Department actually had to cut medical-care programs by $1.6 and $1.4 billion in FY07 and FY08, respectively.

Money is similarly tight at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The VA's budget for medical care has risen in the past few years—from $28.8 billion in FY 2006 to $29.3 billion in FY 2007 to a request for $34.2 billion in FY 2008—but this hasn't been enough. In each of the past four years, according to a March 1 report by the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs, the VA has systematically underestimated the number of veterans applying for benefits in the coming fiscal year. The result is a shortfall of $2.8 billion in the FY08 budget, just to cover the current level of medical services.

The administration is trying to make up for some of this by raising deductibles on prescription drugs (from $8 to $15) and by imposing an annual enrollment fee (ranging from $250 to $750)—in short, by shifting costs to the veterans themselves. (Even so, these charges would make up only $450 million, or about one-sixth of the shortfall.)

Another instance of ignoring the wars: Despite a vast increase in the number of returning soldiers coming to the VA's veterans centers, the budget for these centers has remained flat. Similarly, despite a vast increase in the number of soldiers filing disability claims, the VA budget includes no money for additional claims processors. To justify the lack of money for trained processors, the VA's budgeteers assume that the number of new claims—and the backload of past claims—will drop in 2008. This is patently ridiculous: Elsewhere in the budget (see page 1-2), they state, "[W]e project that VA's patient caseload will peak in 2010" (emphasis added). In other words, they predict a rising caseload for another three years—but cut the money for the caseload this coming year.

An even grander sleight of hand comes in the section of the budget dealing with the "out-years"—FY 2009-12. The VA's budgeteers are projecting no increases in spending for medical care during that entire four-year period. They can't possibly believe this. (Again, they note elsewhere that the caseload won't peak until the middle of this period.) They are engaging in the political game of making the future appear less grim—and the president's budget more balanced, the need for tax hikes or cuts elsewhere less compelling—than is really the case. What doesn't IAP do?

It is amazing that a company that did not exist until recently has won so many contracts and in such diverse areas. A constant seems to be getting ice to hurricane Katrina damaged areas. One wonders what IAP will do for income when the damage is fixed. I did not include all of those contracts. You can find them on its newsroom archive page.

Here are a few more of its diverse contracts from recent years, all from IAP's press release page.

First, up the U.S. Geological Survey! From ice to WRAMC to the IRS to national wetlands research!

Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), The Hill Blog: Walter Reed Hearing Raises Serious Questions

The questions I have about the Walter Reed issue is they contracted out a lot of the work that was being done by employees of Walter Reed even though the employees had a lower bid, knew what they were doing and the Army wanted them to continue what they were doing.

It appears as if someone in the defense department wanted to make sure that this outside contractor had the job which ended up reducing the workforce from around 350 to less than 100 earlier this year.

We’re trying to get more information, but certainly the witnesses we’ve had at our hearing acted like they knew nothing about anything. They didn’t know about the contract particularly, they didn’t know what the impact was and they didn’t know there were problems in Building 18. They assumed there weren’t any problems because nobody brought it to their attention. I just find that quite an unacceptable response.

I Wish It Was This Easy for US

Could we hire these guys to come here in January 2009?

Boston Globe: Priests to purify site after Bush visit

GUATEMALA CITY --Mayan priests will purify a sacred archaeological site to eliminate "bad spirits" after President Bush visits next week, an official with close ties to the group said Thursday.

"That a person like (Bush), with the persecution of our migrant brothers in the United States, with the wars he has provoked, is going to walk in our sacred lands, is an offense for the Mayan people and their culture," Juan Tiney, the director of a Mayan nongovernmental organization with close ties to Mayan religious and political leaders, said Thursday.

Bush's seven-day tour of Latin America includes a stopover beginning late Sunday in Guatemala. On Monday morning he is scheduled to visit the archaeological site Iximche on the high western plateau in a region of the Central American country populated mostly by Mayans.

Tiney said the "spirit guides of the Mayan community" decided it would be necessary to cleanse the sacred site of "bad spirits" after Bush's visit so that their ancestors could rest in peace. He also said the rites -- which entail chanting and burning incense, herbs and candles -- would prepare the site for the third summit of Latin American Indians March 26-30.

This Makes Me Sad

Bill Feig/Associated Press

Pokey Chatman resigned over suspected inappropriate conduct with a former player.

Pokey Chatman has resigned as coach of the LSU women's basketball team, reportedly because she had what has been termed an "inappropriate relationship" with a former player.

What all does that mean? Obviously, it means she's gay. In Louisiana, just having a gay relationship is enough to get fired and land in jail. But if the relationship began while the player was still in college, it's just wrong. There are power dynamics involved when a coach begins a relationship with a player. The coach has power, and the player doesn't; therefore, the coach must say no.

Interestingly, most often these player/coach relationships involve women players. Male players are almost never found to have been involved in a relationship with a coach. Why is this? Because jobs coaching men aren't available to women. Once Title IX forced colleges and universities to pay men's and women's coaches on a more equivalent basis, those women's jobs became desirable. But women have never been hired to coach men on more than a token basis. So at this point 75% of all coaching jobs are available to men (100% of jobs coaching men's teams, 50% of jobs coaching women) and 25% are available to women. So it's rare to find a female coach charged with an inappropriate relationship; when the coach is female, it usually involves a lesbian relationship.

We see many women involved with or married to former male coaches. Prominent examples: Jackie Joyner Kersee, married her coach Al Joyner, who she met while he was her track coach at UCLA; Julie Foudy is married to Ian Sawyers, who was a coach in her development league when she was 18; Brandi Chastain is married to her former coach at Santa Clara. Foudy and Chastain's marriages were discussed in the excellent Sports Illustrated article on this issue, "Passion Plays", by Grant Wahl. There's no official copy of the article on the web, but if you go to this link and scroll down to Feb 11th, 2003, 06:49 PM, it's reproduced there.

As an attorney, I look at this from an employment discrimination perspective. A coach should never be in a relationship with a player while they are coaching them, because that is an abuse of the coach's power over the player, and makes all the decisions the coach makes about that player suspect. Why did she get so much playing time, etc.? On the other hand, coaches and players do fall in love, and if they happen to pursue that relationship after graduation, there's no problem. The problem is those years while attraction exists in the midst of the coach/player relationship. The coach, the older, more experienced person, is expected by society to be the bigger person and hold off until the coach/player relationship is no more. If Pokey Chatman was involved with a player while she was on the team, Chatman had to go. But we don't know that yet. If she began a relationship with a player after that player left the team, then she's being discriminated against for being gay.

As a sideline, the LSU AD, Skip Bertman, is a real moron. Here's his quote in the initial round of stories about Chatman's resignation:

"The girl did what she did and LSU had no control over that," Bertman said, referring to Chatman.

The girl? Chatman is 37 years old and has coached for LSU for 15 years. Give me a break.

ESPN: Sources: Chatman quit amid sexual misconduct claims

New Orleans Times-Picayune: Chatman to leave LSU immediately

NYTIMES: L.S.U.’s Chatman Won’t Coach in N.C.A.A.

Homeland Security: Tearing Nursing Babies From Their Mothers' Arms

An employee cries outside the Michael Bianco Inc. textiles plant in New Bedford, Mass., Tuesday, March 6, 2007. About two thirds of the company's 500 employees were detained by immigration officials on suspicion of being in the U.S. illegally. The sweep caused chaos which saw some workers try to flee, only to be turned back by the bitter cold, said Bruce Foucart, Customs Enforcement Special Agent in Charge. (AP Photo/Peter Pereira-The New Bedford Standard Times)

Yesterday Homeland Security arrested allegedly illegal immigrant workers (mostly women) in New Bedford, Mass. and, presuming them guilty, shipped dozens of them to Texas, without any apparent thought to what would happen to their children. Two nursing babies were hospitalized for dehydration. Babies! What is wrong with these zealots?

[Massachusetts Governor] Patrick, at a press conference, and later in a private conference call with Homeland Security officials, protested the decision to fly 90 of the detained workers from Massachusetts to Harlingen, Texas, before state social workers had a chance to inquire about their child-care needs, potentially leaving many children with inadequate care. Two young children were hospitalized yesterday for dehydration after their nursing mothers were taken away, state officials said. Another 7-year-old girl called a state hot line seeking her detained mother. It was unclear last night where their mothers were.

Of course, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division of DHS, which carried out the raids, is led by the unqualified, crony appointee, Julie Myers, who is both daughter of former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, and wife of the chief of staff for Homeland Security's criminally incompetent Michael Chertoff. Nice work, Heckuva-Jobbers.

What do you think happened to the owners, who were breaking the law by employing illegal immigrants, creating fraudulent documents for those workers, making profits, and defrauding the federal government which had contracted with them to make vests for soldiers? You got it if you guessed they were charged, made bail, and released to spend the night at home in the comfy houses with their families.

"HAS ANYONE seen my wife? She left for work yesterday and never came home. Our newborn baby is hungry and crying. Can someone please help?" asks a young father in the basement of a crowded church, one clear voice above the din of the hundreds gathered. The fear is palpable in the young man's eyes. He implores the listener to offer solace, hope, and encouragement.


On Tuesday, more than 500 armed homeland security officers descended upon Michael Blanco Inc. The owner of the factory, and a few of his senior staff, were arrested for hiring undocumented workers and creating false documents. They were out on bail and home with their families that night.

Approximately 350 employees, mostly mothers with young children, were swept up in the raid, shackled together in groups of three by their wrists and ankles and marched to buses bound for Fort Devens, 100 miles away. Without any legal representation or due process, these workers were asked for their immigration documentation and encouraged by immigration officers to choose voluntary deportation regardless of whether an immigration application was in process.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Real Rudy?

YouTube, Rudy Giuliani ad, 1989, using his wife and family as props.

I still can't get over the fact that he didn't go to his son's high school graduation. What could have been more important? Answer: nothing.

I saw this at Ben Smith's Blog at Politico.

Verdict: Guilty

The ultimate verdict on Walter Reed Army Medical Center and this country's shameful treatment of wounded and maimed veterans:
There is something profoundly evil about a country encouraging young men and women to go off and fight its wars and then shortchanging them on medical care and other forms of assistance when they come back with wounds that will haunt them forever.

Bob Hebert, NYTimes: Lift the Curtain (TimesSelect wall; also here and here)

Tell Your Momma The Corporate Media Is Sliming Obama

The Times printed this picture of Obama squinting into the sun, as though he were being grilled about his blind trust. He wasn't.

Robert Sullivan/AFP-Getty Images
Times caption: Barack Obama answering questions last weekend outside a church in Selma, Ala.

Page One news in the New York Times yesterday: In ’05 Investing, Obama Took Same Path as Donors

In which we learn that a blind trust to which Obama had entrusted his money invested $50,000 of it in companies owned by friends of his. It was a blind trust, so Obama didn't know about it; when he found out, he sold the shares and terminated the blind trust. (P.S., he lost money.)

Oooh, what double dealing. Oooh, I smell a hint of scandal. Oooh, you know that this really means. The Clinton Rules (as Digby named them) are back. Democrats are scrutinized within an inch of their lives by the rich corporate media; Republicans are given a pass. I mean, really, Rudy Giuliani was giving speeches at $100,000 a pop (and skipping his son's high school graduation, family values party, my ass) and this is a story about $50,000 in a blind trust? Where is the story about how Rudy Giuliani has invested his money? Who was Rudy giving all those speeches too? You don't think those folks are expecting a little homina homina for their Benjamins? You won't find the Giuliani story out there, or the McCain story, or the Romney Bain Capital story either. The corporate media exists to perpetuate the government that gives it the best tax breaks, and that means all Democrats under the microscope, all the time.

And today the Boston Globe (owned by the Times ownership cabal) weighs in with a story about how Obama paid $375 in ancient parking tickets. I kid you not.

Trey Ellis, HuffPo: Obama, the Times and Central Casting

What a curious and misleading headline on the front page of The New York Times:
"Obama, in Brief Investing Foray In '05, Took Same Path as Donors."

The only reason to put on the front page of the paper of record a story about a politician's stock holdings is if there were even a hint of impropriety.
The coy headline slings mud in bold letters and then, only in the fine print of the article, explains that not only was nothing improper done, in fact as soon as there was even the hint of a possible conflict the junior Senator from Illinois divested himself of the holdings.

This is a far different story than that of Senator Bill Frist whose blind trust ended up not being blind at all.

Did the Times editors really feel that this story belonged on page one while, say, "At Least 109 Shiite Pilgrims Killed Across Iraq as Holiday Nears," was banished to page A10?

Boston Globe: Obama paid late parking tickets
Racked up penalties while at Harvard

Total $375; $140 in fines, $235 in late fees. George Bush spends that much on Members Only jackets with the Presidential seal every day.

IAP Worldwide Services: Privatization Gone Mad

IAP Worldwide Services, the private contractor which was awarded the support services contract at Walter Reed Army Medical Center after competitive bidding was overturned by the Army (PDF link), has issued its first press release on the issue. Smintheus at breaks it down; basically it's a PR spin of lies and halftruths. Surprise, surprise. I particularly like the opening graf:

IAP Worldwide Services, Inc., today issued the following progress report following the company’s first month of providing base operations and facility maintenance work at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC).

Progress! I love the smell of progress in the morning. At Walter Reed, it smells like black mold. Or mouse droppings. Or today, like whitewash. [Note, I've had several visits to this site from folks at Merritt Island, Florida from the IAP Worldwide Services server. Hi folks! You scum-sucking thieves!]

IAP not only replaced 300 federal workers with 50 contract workers, it did it by letting 240 federal workers depart through attrition while it waited for the Army to overturn the initial determination in which the federal workers underbid IAP by $7 million for the contract. Then, in its piggish make-money-for-the-rich way, it fired the remaining 60 federal workers and replaced them with 50 contract (that means no medical insurance or other benefits) workers.

From (which has done and continues to do invaluable work on this story) I also learn that IAP Worldwide service has been awarded another government contract, one that should frighten all of us.

IAP Worldwide Services has a $103 million contract with the IRS.
That's right, the Internal Revenue Service. The contract is to run the places where we send our paper tax returns. Right now there are seven of these around the country; as part of the contract, IAP Worldwide (We Bring You The Best in Mouse Droppings and Black Mold) is supposed to replace those seven sites with two. And what will occur at those two sites? The "filing, storage and retrieval" of paper tax returns.

Just imagine what this could mean. I send my 40 page tax return to IAP Worldwide Services. It contains my name, address, social security number, the details about my entire financial life, and a check with my account number and telephone number. Let's just assume, as at Walter Reed, that IAP replaces every 6 federal employees who formerly processed tax returns with one harried worker with a high school education, desperate enough to take a job that pays the federal minimum wage, but no health insurance, vacation days, sick days, pension plan, continuing education benefits, child care assistance, nothing.

You have to wonder, will my tax returns be handled with great care by this contract worker? Or will my tax returns end up the paper equivalent of Building 18 at Walter Reed? In a public dumpster in Merritt Island, Florida? Will a laptop containing my information and the information of 40,000,000 others be stolen or lost?

This is privatization gone mad. I don't even like to give the government my private information, as they've lost so much already. Why are we giving a private company access to private, personal information? This is madness.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Privatizing Walter Reed: Rich Get Richer, Veterans Get Screwed

I've never understood the premise of privatization. Why does adding a profit motive to a third party improve government services? Answer: It doesn't. It just allows private companies to pay workers less and give them poorer benefits to do the same job, then transfers the cost savings into the pockets of the owners of the private company. And some of those companies also cut the numbers of workers doing the work. Like IAP Worldwide, which has replaced 300 federal support services workers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center with 50 private employees. The result? Dan Quayle, John Snow and Al Neffgen get richer. Who got poorer? The workers who now work for IAP don't make the wages of federal workers, and don't have equivalent benefits. But most horrifying, the maimed and brain-damaged soldiers at Walter Reed are suffering because our government chose to put money into the pockets of their rich friends rather than put money into caring for the veterans injured in their immoral, illegal war. Sickening.

Metrowest Daily News (Framingham, MA): Editorial: Privatizing Walter Reed

As a letter from the House committee investigating Walter Reed stated, "it would be reprehensible if the deplorable conditions were caused or aggravated by an ideological commitment to privatize government services regardless of the costs to taxpayers and the consequences for wounded soldiers.

The thread of privatization and cronyism runs through this administration's disasters: from Abu Ghraib, where private contractors had a role in intelligence-gathering, to New Orleans, where a major city paid the price after political appointees replaced experienced emergency service professionals at FEMA.

Palm Beach (FL) Post editorial: Failures at Walter Reed expose VA system failure

Incredibly, despite the rising numbers of those who will need care, the White House is proposing a VA budget that is essentially flat from last year. The administration wants to cut money for prosthetic research and provide inadequate financing for the backlog of cases that only will grow. Yet on Tuesday, Mr. Bush called on Congress to "fund our war fighters." Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson, whose "qualification" was running the Republican National Committee, has compounded the administration's indifference with insulting rhetoric. Asked about the 200,000-plus who have tried to get care, Mr. Nicholson says, "A lot of them come in for dental problems."

YahooNews: Deborah Burger, HuffPo: We're All at Walter Reed

It starts with brutally substandard care and abandonment of tens of thousands of veterans, not just at Walter Reed, but at VA hospitals and clinics around the country, as the Washington Post has revealed in ghastly detail.

Second, starving the VA. Since 2001, as Paul Krugman reported in the New York Times, federal allocations for veterans medical care lag behind overall healthcare spending, rather stunning when you consider we have sent 1.5 million of our young men and women to Iraq and Afghanistan and over 184,000 have sought VA care after serving.

There's more. Due to funding cuts, some 263,257 veterans were denied enrollment for Veterans Administration health coverage in 2005. To cut costs, enrollment has been suspended for those deemed not having service-related injuries or illnesses. So much for the guarantee of lifetime healthcare. And, if all the other indignities were not enough, some Walter Reed patients had to buy their own meals.

The final piece of this unholy troika is privatization. As the Army Times notes, Walter Reed handed a five-year $120 million contract to a private company run by an ex-Halliburton executive. The contracting out of support services was followed by a mass exodus of support personnel.

Christian Science Monitor: How decay overtook Walter Reed
The problems at the US Army hospital show how strained military resources have become.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

View From ABroad

Tomorrow's cover of my favorite British newspaper, The Independent

Independent (uk): Liar in the White house: Cheney aide found guilty in CIA leak case
Saga of Washington's discredited WMD claims leads to the conviction for perjury of Dick Cheney's key aide

How Blair has stood by Niger claim

The golden couple targeted by White House machine

Scooter Libby's Very, Very, Very, Very Bad Day

Marcy Wheeler's book Anatomy of Deceit: How the Bush Administration Used the Media to Sell the Iraq War and Out a Spy (available from Amazon)

On the 10th day of deliberations, a verdict in the Scooter Libby case. Guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty.

Count 1 (Obstruction): GUILTY
Count 2 (Perjury): GUILTY
Count 3 (False Statement): NOT GUILTY
Count 4 (Perjury): GUILTY
Count 5 (Perjury): GUILTY

The Washington Post describes the verdict as "a blow to the Bush Administration"; I'm not so sure. I think it's like a heavyweight fight. Bush and Cheney are the champs. You don't beat the champ with punches or even a knockdown. You have to knock the champ out. Until they are impeached or forced to resign, they're still in charge, and we're still fighting their lying, immoral war for oil and hegemony in Iraq.

I hope all these lying, cheating traitorous bastards have a hard time sleeping tonight.

Tell Your Momma Bout Obama* (Updated Below)

Image via wikipedia

When I read about Barack Obama before his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, I called my family and told them to watch his speech because they would be watching the first black president. And his speech certainly lived up to my billing.

Then he went to the Senate and I was disappointed by all his Senate-speak and voting with LIEberman and the like. Maybe my expectations were just too high, because ever since he started his run for president my earlier admiration has returned. Every speech I have seen has been spot on. He speaks English, not Senate. And he is progressive. I put up with all that religion talk because, well, I put up with it from many people. Being overtly religious just isn't my cup of tea, but as long as you're not attacking me for not sharing your religiosity, I'm OK with it.

Good article in today's New York Times on Obama, actually focusing on substance, not on how he looks or sounds or what his supporters said about another candidate. Meat, not air.

Nicholas Kristof, NYTimes: Obama: Man of the World (TimesSelect wall; also here and here).

[] In some respects, Mr. Obama is far more experienced than other presidential candidates.

His experience as an antipoverty organizer in Chicago, for example, gives him a deep grasp of a crucial 21st-century challenge — poverty in America — that almost all politicians lack. He says that grass-roots experience helps explain why he favors not only government spending programs, like early childhood education, but also cultural initiatives, like efforts to promote responsible fatherhood.

In foreign policy as well, Mr. Obama would bring to the White House an important experience that most other candidates lack: he has actually lived abroad. He spent four years as a child in Indonesia and attended schools in the Indonesian language, which he still speaks.

“I was a little Jakarta street kid,” he said in a wide-ranging interview in his office (excerpts are on my blog, He once got in trouble for making faces during Koran study classes in his elementary school, but a president is less likely to stereotype Muslims as fanatics — and more likely to be aware of their nationalism — if he once studied the Koran with them.

*This was a sign at an Obama rally that I watched on Youtube a few weeks and can't locate today. Every time I hear or read something about Barack Obama, it goes through my head.

Update: Found a picture of the sign in the LA Times:

Blogtopia* Roundup, Tuesday, March 6, 2007

2.3 million Iraqis have left Iraq: Wampum: Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Utah

It doesn't matter which one you pick. Every resident has to leave. That is the size of the Iraqi diaspora since the regime graduated from civil disenfranchisement to foreign wars. Its in Le Monde, and it doesn't matter that the press and the political class in the US won't touch the subject.

The Cherokee Nation has voted to eject the descendants of slaves: Professor Kim's News Notes: Cherokees eject descendants of their former slaves. More on the subject from Wampum: Nation and Race.

When Maureen Dowd mocks Democrats, is she so different from Ann Coultergeist? Daily Howler doesn't think so: WHEN YOU READ DOWD, YOU’RE RIDING WITH COULTER

Digby piles on (if you're not reading Hullabaloo every day, you're the poorer for it): Digby: Tarzan, Jane and Cheetah
The underlying premise of the modern conservative movement is that the entire Democratic party consists of a bunch of fags and dykes who are both too effeminate and too masculine to properly lead the nation.

Jill points out that Halliburton (can you believe it, upstanding corporate citizen Halliburton?) has been caught drilling for oil in Iran: Brilliant at Breakfast: Halliburton's tentacles are everywhere

And this is not from the blogs, but is truly unbelievable. Dana Milbank notes in today's Washington Post (scroll down to bottom) that a soldier with a prosthetic arm was barred entry from the Congressional hearing on the Walter Reed and our scandalous treatment of wounded veterans yesterday, because the seats were "preselected". The seats were also empty.

*yes, skippy coined that phrase!

CNN Enables Rudy Giuliani's Deceitful Excuse

Rudy & Judi 4-eva

Why do I watch morning TV? To see outrages like this I suppose. Rudy Giuliani has treated his kids like shit. He was happy to trot them out for photo ops when he was mayor of New York. Then he took up with Judith Nathan, even to the point of bringing her into Gracie Mansion where he lived with his wife Donna Hanover and his two kids. Donna Hanover had to ask for a restraining order to keep Rudy from parading his mistress in front of his kids. (The family court judge agreed with her and issued the restraining order against Nathan.) Finally he got his divorce and married his paramour Nathan. Then he pretty much ignored his kids. Didn't go to his son Andrew's high school graduation (the kid is now on the golf team at Duke), didn't go to his daughter's plays, just wasn't around very much. Busy being America's Mayor and pimping out his reputation on the lecture circuit for $100,000 a pop. Just a regular dad, out there ignoring his first family. He doesn't even list his children on his official campaign website.

Not surprisingly, the kids don't really have a very good relationship with 'ol Rudy. Andrew Giuliani was quoted saying as much in the papers this week.

CNN did a piece just now with the brain-dead O'Brien twins, Miles and Soledad, questioning Candy Crowley. Of course, they painted Bill Clinton as a liability -- such a good speaker that it's hard to be on the same stage with him. Candy Crowley said it was like the old saying about children and dogs, you just don't want to share the stage with them. (She had to throw the word dog in there. Four letters short of horndog, what the wingnuts really want to say.)

And for Giuliani? She reported that he described his problems with his son Andrew as "problems blended families have." Then they showed a clip of Rudy saying the problem is just the kind that blended families have. Then Candy Crowley said, well, we all know that college kids are not easy to deal with. So it looks like this is just a blended family problem. End of story.

Blended families? No mention of how shittily Rudy treated his family and his kids. Bill Clinton is a liability because he's so popular, but Rudy's treatment isn't a liability, because it's just a blended family issue.

A Republican lie makes it onto cable TV while the truth is tying its shoes on the blogs. You heard it here first.

Monday, March 05, 2007


I saw this awesome photoshop at Ramblings of a Soccer Junky.

Good Reads

Heading into the studio to make platters today; here are some good reads out there today.

Brilliant at Breakfast: It's time to take health insurance out of the for-profit model

Yesterday's New York Times editorial gives Democrats a blueprint for moving forward to restore our constitutional democracy: The Must-Do List

Alicia Shepard, HuffPo: All Men, All the Time in News Business Are you surprised?

Welcome to Pottersville: Assclowns of the Week #61: “He’s a Wifebeater But I Love Him!” Edition
Yes, they are all Republicans.

For full coverage of the U.S. Attorney purge scandal, make sure to read Talking Points Memo; head to Firedoglake for Scooter Libby trial updates.

Walter Reed Is The Direct Result of Republican Policy Choices

It will be important to keep the media on track on this story. I heard Jim Miklaszewski on Imus this morning claiming this is just how things get done by the military bureaucracy. Not so. This is not a story about government incompetence. As Paul Krugman points out today, improvements in the Veterans Administration during the Clinton years made the VA one of the best health care systems in the country. Government did that. Good, responsible government dedicated to using the power of the purse wisely. Democrats in charge. People who believe that government works.

The problem with Walter Reed and military medical care is not government incompetence. It's the Bush Administration's Republican attack upon government, in their effort to fulfill Grover Norquist's desire to shrink the federal government until it can be drowned in a bathtub. These are deliberate policy choices, not just incompetence. They have attacked good government from within. The functioning system at Walter Reed and at Veterans Administration facilities around the country has been attacked with the weapon of privatization. Why? Partly, so rich corporations like Halliburton can continue to rake in billions in profits. But it is also part of their insidious attack upon government, to make government look as bad as they always claim it is. They are trying to destroy our government from within. This isn't just incompetence. It's their policy. Starve the federal government, then claim government itself doesn't work and privatize everything.

They must be stopped.

WaPo: 'It Is Just Not Walter Reed'
Soldiers Share Troubling Stories Of Military Health Care Across U.S.

Paul Krugman, NYTimes: Valor and Squalor (TimesSelect wall; also here and here).

AirForceTimes: Soldiers at Walter Reed Building 18 moved

Steve Young, OpEdNews: Johnny Gets His Gun Again: Walter Reed Reveals Right's Bloody Secret

WaPo: Walter Reed Hearing to Put Spotlight on Kiley's Leadership

Political Affairs Magazine: Privatization Behind Disaster at Walter Reed Hospital

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Frogs and Bees are the Canaries in our Coal Mine


They're dying, and no one knows why. Global warming? Pollution? The cumulative effects of the 500 new chemicals which are introduced into our environment every year? Whatever the answer, it's bad news for the planet.

Marin County Coastal Post Online: The Frogs Are Dying

ATLANTA - Ponds and swamps are becoming eerily silent. The familiar melody of ribbits, croaks and chirps is disappearing as a mysterious killer fungus wipes out frog populations around the globe, a phenomenon likened to the extinction of dinosaurs.

Scientists from around the world are meeting Thursday and Friday in Atlanta to organize a worldwide effort to stem the deaths by asking zoos, aquariums and botanical gardens to take in threatened frogs until the fungus can be stopped.

The aim of the group called Amphibian Ark is to prevent the world's more than 6,000 species of frogs, salamanders and wormlike Sicilians from disappearing. Scientists estimate up to 170 species of frogs have become extinct in the past decade from the fungus and other causes, and an additional 1,900 species are threatened.

NYTimes (Feb. 27): Honeybees Vanish, Leaving Keepers in Peril

[B]ee losses are ranging from 30 to 60 percent on the West Coast, with some beekeepers on the East Coast and in Texas reporting losses of more than 70 percent; beekeepers consider a loss of up to 20 percent in the offseason to be normal.
NYTimes (Feb. 12): Mystery Disease Is Threat to Bee Colonies

A mysterious illness is killing tens of thousands of honeybee colonies across the country, threatening honey production, the livelihood of beekeepers and possibly crops that need bees for pollination.

Researchers are scrambling to find the cause of the ailment, called colony collapse disorder.

Reports of unusual colony deaths have come from at least 22 states. Some commercial beekeepers have reported losing more than 50 percent of their bees.

Bradenton (FL) Herald: Bees dropping from mystery illness

Little is known, he said, but this: Something seems to be breaking down the bees' immune systems.

Operation Photo Oops

Official caption from President George W. Bush visits with residents in Americus, Ga., March 3, 2007. The President toured tornado-damaged areas in Alabama and Georgia. White House photo by Paul Morse

Potential, real captions:

How's this pose, Turdblossom?

I'm already bored

Bush grows bored with photo op, calls Condi, tells her she's been replaced with younger woman.

Bush calls Laura to tell her his latest fantasy

Calling all morons

You make the call

Can you hear me now?

Ya think this'll make 'em forget about Walter Reed?

I saw this picture on Huffpo: Reading The Pictures: The "Fly By" That Won't Die