Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Disappeared

Human Rights Watch says 38 Rendition Victims are 'Missing'

From BBC News,
"Thirty eight people believed to have been held in secret CIA prisons - or black sites - are missing, according to a report by a US human rights group.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) report also details allegations of torture by a terror suspect who was held in secret custody for more than two years."
I speculated in an earlier post on rendition victims that someone who had been tortured and then proven innocent was more likely to be killed than someone who could be shown to be guilty of involvement in terrorism. Why? Because an innocent victim is more of an embarrassment to the government, more of a legal threat to the torturers (with the potential for both criminal charges and lawsuits), and could 'reveal our methods to the terrorists.' - Bush and his administration don't want their methods revealed, after all. Does anyone really believe that Bush's motive is to protect America, and not to shield himself or others from justice? Because I sure as hell don't. And I'll tell you why.
"In a televised address in September, Mr Bush admitted that 14 detainees had been held at secret CIA prisons that used interrogation methods that were 'tough' but 'lawful and necessary.'

'The United States does not torture,' Mr Bush said at the time. 'It's against our laws, and it's against our values. I have not authorised it - and I will not authorise it.' "
Rii-iight. Anybody remember this gem? These remarks were made by Bush in April, 2004;
"Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires-a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
Bush's statements as pResident show the same credibility as that Jon Lovitz character from Saturday Night Live - "Yeah, that's the ticket." - He is, in short, a pathological liar.

This article from The Washington Post gives you some idea of the treatment rendition victims undergo. Marwan Jabour's ordeal,
"...began in May 2004. In interviews, he said he was muscled out of a car as it pulled inside the gates of a secluded villa in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

In the week before his arrival, Jabour said, Pakistani intelligence officers had beaten, abused and burned him at a jailhouse in Lahore, where he was arrested. There two female American interrogators also questioned him and told him he.. ..would vanish for life if he refused. He said he was later blindfolded and driven four hours north to the villa in a wealthy residential neighborhood.. ..Jabour spent five weeks there, chained to a wall and prevented from sleeping more than a few hours at a time. He said he was beaten nightly by Pakistani guards after hours of questions from U.S. interrogators. Then he and others were whisked off to CIA-run sites. Some sites were in Eastern Europe; Jabour went to one in Afghanistan. Interrogators -- whom he described as Americans in their late 20s and early 30s -- told Jabour he would never see his three children again."
In Jabour's case, there was a relatively happy ending - which can't be said for the 38 still missing and unaccounted for.
"On his last day in CIA custody, Marwan Jabour, an accused al-Qaeda paymaster, was stripped naked, seated in a chair and videotaped by agency officers. Afterward, he was shackled and blindfolded, headphones were put over his ears, and he was given an injection that made him groggy. Jabour, 30, was laid down in the back of a van, driven to an airstrip and put on a plane with at least one other prisoner.

His release from a secret facility in Afghanistan on June 30, 2006, was a surprise to Jabour -- and came just after the Supreme Court rejected the Bush administration's assertion that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to prisoners like him."

I've already linked to Maher Arar's first-person account of his rendition to Syria, which follows the same pattern, as does the treatment of Jose Padilla. H. Candace Gorman at Huffington Post has a similarly sickening story of a man named Al-Ghizzawi, who was kept in Guantamo Bay's Camp Six (built by Halliburton at probably obscene profit margins with your tax dollars.) That article has this scathing passage, reminiscent of a recent Jurassic Pork piece. "Mr. Al-Ghizzawi asked me what the American people are doing about Guantánamo. I explained to him that Americans were really busy these days because some two-bit model died and everyone is trying to figure out who the father of her baby is."

Maybe America should spend a little more time on trying to figure out what happened to their democracy, and the rule of law.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

A Ray of Light

News From the Front in the Real War of Terror

On the thread about Chris Dodd's efforts to restore habeas corpus to the American judicial system, GL responded with, "A ray of light breaking through the clouds?" Perhaps, but it may have been little more than the bright line that one detects along the edge of a closed door in a very dark room. A decision rendered by a federal judge in the Jose Padilla case may signal the opening of that door, if only by the slightest crack. With the light may come some much needed air into the room.

As reported by BBC News,
"A US citizen suspected of being an al-Qaeda conspirator is mentally unfit to stand trial, a psychiatrist for his defence has said.

Speaking at a hearing to determine Jose Padilla's competence, Angela Hegarty said he lacked the capacity to assist his counsel in the case."
Padilla was most recently in the news when he was photographed blindfolded and wearing sound-blocking earmuffs on a trip to the dentist. The inhuman sensory deprivation that he has been subjected to for 3½ years is the direct cause of his current mental incompetence. Naomi Klein of Alternet has more details. This is a link I put up in the hope you will actually click on it and read Naomi's entire shocking post.
"Arrested in May 2002 at Chicago's O'Hare airport, Padilla, a Brooklyn-born former gang member, was classified as an 'enemy combatant' and taken to a navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a cell 9ft by 7ft, with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a 'truth serum,' a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.. ..These same practices have been documented in dozens of cases of 'extraordinary rendition' carried out by the CIA, as well as in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan"
She observes, "America has deliberately driven hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners insane. Now it is being held to account in a Miami court." Let's hope so. The Bush administration has made a habit of ignoring court decisions, including Supreme Court decisions, that didn't go their way. Bu$hCo™ ARE the terrorists, as this case clearly shows, and they are waging a war against the American people and the rule of law. Did I mention, Padilla is an American citizen, arrested on American soil, who has never been anywhere near any armed conflict? His arrest was way before the MCA was passed, and has been a textbook case of abuse of power. For a point of comparison, read Maher Arar's personal account of the way he was treated, in CounterPunch. Clearly this is all part of a wide-ranging program approved at the highest levels of government - they can't blame everything on Lynndie England.

In other related news, the Toronto Star reported Friday on a UNANIMOUS Canadian Supreme Court decision striking down the government's use of so-called 'security certificates' to detain and deport non-citizens suspected of terrorism ties. Turns out the certificate system is in conflict with Canada' Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Kudos to the Supreme Court of Canada - must be all that clean air up here.

In other other news, Les Enragé drew the attention of, and a link from Chris Dodd's blog for a piece we ran about Senator Dodd
sponsoring the Effective Terrorist Prosecution Act, which aims to reverse the worst aspects of the Military Commissions Act (aka The War Criminals' Protection Act.) Kudos again, senator.

Scroll down the sidebar for a link to - it's our biggest graphic link, the Statue of Liberty in chains courtesy of Project for the OLD American Century. And it should be our biggest graphic, because it's our biggest concern. If further erosion of the Bill of Rights is allowed, the United States of America will exist in name only - a large expanse of North American real estate keeping Canada and Mexico from bumping into one another.

To reiterate: Restore Habeas, Repeal the MCA, and defend the Constitution. Dammit!

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CBS Profiles Olbermann

CBS Sunday Morning did a profile on Keith Olbermann. Pretty glowing. Look out CBS, you're going to validate Hannity's claims about you.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Thank God: A New Michael Jackson!

Let’s take stock of the major events that have pushed Britney Spears to the forefront of our razor-deep national consciousness:

She was photographed driving with her infant son in her lap.

She was also photographed wearing a miniskirt without panties.

She’d separated from KFed and filed for divorce, arguably the smartest thing she’s ever done and would be worthy of admiration if one didn’t remember that she had to marry that two-legged tick in order to put herself in that position of necessity.

And now, the best for last, she’d checked into another rehab clinic and was videotaped turning herself into an extra out of THX 1138 at the same time that Kevin Federline is suing for custody of their two children (and maybe Anna Nicole Smith’s, for good measure).

Before I move on, I have to admit that it’s a helluva trick to make Madonna look less like an aging twenty dollar tranny hooker, Courtney Love sober and dignified and Kevin Federline pragmatic and responsible by conspicuous relief.

So why is Britney doing an impression of a neo-Nazi front page and leading news that’s rivaled only by the putrifying corpse of Anna Nicole Smith? Don’t blame the networks and the print media. They didn’t pull the zombie demographic out of their asses. They’re merely feeding a demand, our demand for the next Michael Jackson. And even though Britney never had a hit CD of the magnitude of Thriller or get caught patting a 13 year-old Macaulay Culkin on the ass, we’ll take what we can get.

We need a break from 9/11, Iraq and the war on terror, you say? Nice try but we were just as shallow and easily-distracted before 9/11 (See Jackson, Michael and Man, The Elephant).

So don’t completely blame the media because they’re only half to blame for perpetuating a downward spiral that more or less started, I think, when Walter Cronkite retired as CBS’s anchor in 1981.

Even though we were always a nationality lured away from what was important by shiny objects and successfully lied to by every administration, my childhood recollections are that of a nation that was more engaged and aware of what was going on in Vietnam than we are of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Back then, also, there were four anchors on three networks. There was no CSPAN 1, 2 and 3, no MSNBC, no CNN, no Fox. There was no internet, no blogs and not much of a punditocracy. In a way, the lack of choices in the 60’s helped focus the nation on the blood-letting and atrocities that were streaming into our living rooms with a consistency that’s impossible to imagine today.

In my childhood, the American people hung on every word that came out of Walter Cronkite’s mouth, the most trusted man in America, starting with President Lyndon Baines Johnson. When Cronkite said on February 27th, 1968, "It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate," President Johnson was said to have responded, “That’s it. If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost middle America.” Less than a month later, Johnson put the kibosh on any reelection bid. The jury’s still out on whether Cronkite’s words of no confidence contributed to Johnson’s abrupt retirement.

Try to think of someone, anyone, even on Fox, if they turned on George Bush and his failed war and imagine Bush saying, “If I’ve lost him/her, I’ve lost middle America.” Of course, George W. Bush isn’t Lyndon B. Johnson even though both men are infamous for stubborness no matter how many people died or were maimed for their personal and political hubris. Yet, Johnson agonized over the war and feared that it would wreck his presidential legacy. Bush has gone down on record recently as saying that he’d keep our troops in Iraq even if his support dwindled down to Laura and his dog, frighteningly resolute and unwavering in his belief that his own Vietnam will somehow, against history and all earthly reason, be vindicated.

Yet there’s no anti-war movement forcing Bush to change tactics or to put at least political pressure to bear on him and the Republican leadership. It would be naïve to expect that there would be one spearheaded by Katie Couric or any other network news program but Cronkite’s prophetic words on Vietnam found a highly receptive audience with the anti-war movement of the 60’s.

Juvenal, the satirist of the ancient Roman empire, put it best when he famously referred to the Roman peoples’ ability to be distracted by “bread and circuses.” The bread is the kind served up hot and bitter by the bobbleheads on Fox and by media-baiting hate mongers like Ann Coulter who rail against the media that nonetheless provide them with endless forums and opportunities to spew their hateful and deliberately misleading thoughts. The circus? That’s provided by Britney Spears, the parade of fathers of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby and human stunt dummies like Johnny Knoxville that have been elevated to virtually the same status as James Dean and Elvis.

And if we could rouse ourselves from the endless circus lovingly narrated by what ludicrously passes for a mainstream media, we would perhaps rail at the lack of respect that George W. Bush has for the middle America that was largely responsible for putting him in the White House not once but twice. But we don’t and he doesn’t care about middle America as Johnson did and he cares even less about the coastal states.

And President and proletariat alike remain hunched over their iPods, knowing by rote what songs are on them while hardly knowing the names of world leaders who are slowly retreating from Bush’s world stage. George Bush doesn’t respect the opinion of the American people. And the sad part is, we have forfeited the right to ask for it through our willful ignorance and inability to distinguish what’s true from what’s merely presented to us as real.

Kudos Chris Dodd

Fighting to Restore Habeas Corpus Rights

Chris Dodd (D - no really, a Democrat, honest) is the senior senator from Connecticut. In that capacity he has the unenviable task of trying to provide some balance to the other senator from Connecticut, Joe LIEberman (I - diot.) LIEberman, as you all know, took over the post of senior DINO in Washington with the retirement of Zell Millar (D - ecrepit.) Balancing LIEberman's reprehensible career of deception is a task in itself, but Senator Dodd earns his kudos for sponsoring the Effective Terrorist Prosecution Act, which aims to reverse the worst abuses of the Military Commissions Act (Which we deplore here at Les Enragés as the War Criminals' Protection Act.) Here's Dodd's video to explain.
Restoring the Constitution
Note in particular that Dodd urges everyone to 'become in effect a citizen co-sponsor' of the bill. You can do that by visiting and signing on.
"The bill will restore Habeas Corpus protections to detainees, bar information acquired through torture from being introduced as evidence in trials, and limit presidential authority to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions."
I think this is really important. If the thugs currently in control of the country are allowed to have their way, you are under the thumb of one of the most brutal gang of criminals since Al Capone Atilla the Hun. Do you really think it's safe to let them make up whatever rules they like, then to interpret those rules however they see fit?

BTW, Chris is a 'dark horse' candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination. From what I've seen he is showing more substance and integrity than the front runners. It's typical of the MSM to virtually ignore anyone who could actually bring real change to the political morass.

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I call it Divine Intervention

Apparently there's a long history of naming bombs after divinity. Just a casual reading for this article found that "kamikaze" means "divine wind" and India's first nuclear test in the 70's was named "smiling buddha."

But Bushco must have wet their pants bigtime with this inspired (not) name. As OneCanadian notes:

DIVINE STRAKE is one of several ”DIVINE“ efforts under the Hard and Deeply Buried Target Defeat (HDBTD) program. DIVINE WARHAWK consists of deep underground operational tunnel facility defeat demonstrations using advanced weapons at the White Sands Missile Range. DIVINE HELCAT was a 2004 reconstitution exercise to determine reconstitution time for the C3I tunnel facility at Nevada Test Site (NTS). Also in 2004 planning began for DIVINE HATES, which is a WMD production and storage tunnel complex functional defeat effort...

The DIVINE STRAKE full scale test is planned to be a large-yield, buried burst detonated at the Nevada Test Site. Divine Strake would appear to be associated with the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator RNEP, or possibly the B61-11 Earth-Penetrating Weapon...

Okay, we name our weapons of mass destruction after God. How do we name our instruments of peace?

* Divine Strake test cancelled.
* RustyParts has a good theological discussion of naming bombs divine.
* Defense Threat Reduction Agency Director Dr. James A. Tegnelia noted in the cancellation announcement that "I have become convinced that it's time to look at alternative methods that obviate the need for this type of large-scale test." Yeah, lets pray its not a live test in Iran.


Jurassic Pork Interview

Unruly Mobster Featured at

Way to go, JP, and thanks for mentioning Les Enragé in your interview. The Piece can be found here.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Want some fries with that fish?

My first Lent in Cincinnati, I pulled up to the Burger King drive-thru and taped to the speaker was a piece of paper proclaiming "Try our Lenten specials!" I wasn't in Indy anymore. And now KFC is asking Pope Benedict XVI to give his personal seal of approval for their new "fish snacker" sandwich.

I'm all and for fasting and practicing simpler eating, but I don't think anyone envisioned fried fish with french fries and full-fat mayo soaked coleslaw that seems to be the staple of Friday dinners 'round here.
Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Isaiah 58:5b-7
I encourage you to eat simpler one day a week. Make a pot of bean soup or perhaps a platter of rice and beans. It's good for our planet and our waistlines. But practice a true fast by making a donation to your local food bank, soup kitchen or shelter. By now all the Christmas goodwill has run dry and they will really appreciate your support.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Why Do Federal Judges Hate the Law?

Jane Smiley did an interesting editorial at HuffPo yesterday entitled, 'What Would You Do If Bush Declared Martial Law?' To tell the truth, she was a lot more optimistic about the outcome than I would have been. I've always had a talent for painting worst-case scenarios, and I have no problem seeing BushCo™ using the most brutal possible methods of repression. I won't go into the depressing details.
"An editorial in the New York Times yesterday pointed out, for those of us who didn't realize it, that the Bush administration had inserted two provisions into last October's defense budget bill that would make it easier to declare martial law in the US. Senators Leahy and Bond have introduced a bill to repeal these changes, and it is important that voters keep track of this bill and hold their Congresspeople to account on it. Along with several other measures the Bush adminstration has proposed, the introduction of these changes amounts, not to an attack on the Congress and the balance of power, but to a particular and concerted attack on the citizens of the nation. Bush is laying the legal groundwork to repeal even the appearance of democracy. Any senator who does not vote in favor of the Leahy/Bond repeal of these provisions should promptly be recalled by his or her constituents."
(I gotta say here, I really love Senator Leahy. He's doing a great job of defending the constitution and making the fascistic bastards like Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales squirm. We need more like him.)

While Jane Smiley's editorial and the underlying New York Times editorial are disturbing and alarming, they don't come close to this piece in yesterday's NYTimes, that has got me tearing the hems of my garments and reaching for the ashes. Because quite frankly, it's stories like this that make Jane Smiley's hypothetical look much more like a real possibility.
"A divided federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a new law stripping federal judges of authority to review foreign prisoners’ challenges to their detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The decision set the stage for a third trip to the Supreme Court for the detainees, who will once again ask the justices to consider a complex issue that tests the balance of power among the White House, Congress and the courts in the murky context of the fight against international terrorism.

The Supreme Court previously ruled twice that federal statutes empowered the courts to consider Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions challenging the grounds for their detention. In response to those rulings, Congress twice rewrote law to limit the detainees’ avenues of appeal. The most recent rewriting was at issue in Tuesday’s 2-to-1 decision.. ..That law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, was signed by President Bush last October. Its enactment followed the Supreme Court’s rejection of his administration’s earlier arguments that the right of habeas corpus — the fundamental right, centuries old, to ask a judge for release from unjust imprisonment — did not apply to foreigners being held outside the United States as enemy combatants."
Article II, section 9 of the Constitution clearly states, "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." So how did these bozos get to be judges without even a rudimentary understanding of the relationship between the legislature and the U.S. Constitution? Yeah, yeah, I know - the simple answer is that they are Republican-appointed partisan political hacks, just like their boss, Alberto 'Abu' Gonzales. They treat Lady Justice like she was just another whore hired to entertain the likes of Dusty Foggo, Brent Wilkes and Randy 'Duke' Cunningham. Pull up her skirt, strip off her panties, and wipe her ass with the constitution, she's bought and paid for. I swear, they're running the government like it was some Skull and Bones kegger.

It makes me want to weep.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Afghanistan News

Bush Asks NATO for More Troops, Taliban Captures District, Pakistan's Position, John Howard Waffles, Tony Blair Swears, More

Yesterday the story broke that Osama Bin Laden was putting together a command center in Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan...

Afghanistan! Yeah... What ever happened there?

Let's do The Afghanistan News and find out:
  • A helicopter crash killed 8 soldiers early Sunday morning.
  • The Taliban recaptured a district in Zabul province.
  • The UN is pressuring Pakistan to clarify its position on the Taliban after one of their governors likened the Taliban to a liberation force.
  • Afghanistan is considering amnesty for war criminals. Hamid Karzai will veto a measure approving amnesty, but Afghan lawmakers may override the veto.
  • A suicide bomber disguised as a doctor struck a hospital opening, wounding NATO soldiers.
  • A bit of relatively good news--Afghanistan's army is outperforming the Iraqi army.
  • Australia's John Howard continues to waffle on whether to send more troops to fight in Afghanistan. Seems like Howard likes to talk big about fighting terror when he's attacking Barack Obama, but when it comes time to actually fight, well, that's for Americans.
VIDEO: Bush calls on NATO countries to send more troops to Afghanistan. More NATO troops, as opposed to, you know, ending the illegal war in Iraq and sending those troops to the war they should have been allowed to finish off five years ago.
VIDEO: Tony Blair promises to see the fight in Afghanistan through. Of course, he's resigning later this year.
VIDEO: Mosaic--Has the hunt for bin Laden finally begun? They say perhaps. I say no.

Crossposted at Ice Station Tango

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Supporting the Troops

...Some Historical Perspective

Way back in the 16th century a coalition of Catholic nations led by Spain decided that they would invade England and punish them for their heretical Protestant ways. After years of diplomatic efforts, political bickering, bribery and cajoling they finally assembled a fleet we now know as the Spanish Armada. In 1588, after a logistic nightmare getting the ships, men and equipment together they set out for the glory of God. Of course, by this time Queen Elizabeth I was well aware of their intent, and had cobbled together an army from the peasant farmers of the realm to defend against the anticipated onslaught. Her country appeared about to pay in blood for her father Henry VIII's snubbing of the Papacy, and establishment of the Anglican church.

The attempts to land the invasion force were a disaster for the Spanish coalition. Initial attempts were made near Southampton, and were thwarted by local conditions that could best be described as treacherous. Truth be told, in the days of square-rigged ships, any approach to land was fraught with hazards, and could only be taken on by an experienced ship's master equipped with hard won local knowledge of wind, current and tide. Even with the services of such a local pilot, one may have to wait days or weeks for the optimum combination of conditions to occur. To be caught on a lee shore could well lead to the loss of the fleet.

The Armada was forced to make its way further and further north along England's channel coast, but nowhere were conditions to be found that were favorable to longboats laden with soldiers, horses and cannons. Eventually the invasion fleet was forced all the way around the northern end of Scotland. I think a 'plan B' emerged, to stop in the still-Catholic parishes of Ireland to replenish supplies and take on replacements for the crewmen and soldiers who had already been lost. Water and food were running low, as such a lengthy voyage had not been contemplated.

The final blow to the Armada came when a gale force storm came upon the fleet and dashed the ships against the rocks of the Outer Hebrides. They were caught on a lee shore. A true believer could be excused for thinking that maybe God didn't want this particular plan to succeed.

But I digress. I'll admit, I told that story for no better reason than that I think it is one of the greatest examples of hubris in all the great span of human folly - and for background. This next bit I tell to make a point.

Queen Elizabeth I now had a standing army raised ad hoc for the purpose of repelling an invasion that had never come. Even before word made it to her of the Armada's fate, it was clear that the invasion had failed. Winter was coming on, and the soldiers were clamoring to be paid, and released from service to return to their homes and families. Times would be hard enough, for they had been away from their fields all summer, and larders would be thin.

The story goes that the chancellor of the exchequer came to 'Good Queen Bess' that winter to plead for the soldiers' cause. She was advised that many of the troops could and likely would starve to death without immediate relief. Her response was as cold-blooded and cruel as one could imagine. "Good. Let them starve. Then the problem will have solved itself at no cost to my treasury."

History has a terrible way of repeating itself. (Visit Ice Station Tango - more at The Washington Post)

Kansas City Star: "The Bush administration plans to cut funding for veterans’ health care two years from now — even as wounded troops returning from Iraq could overwhelm the system." (h/t Americablog)

UPDATE: Read Jurassic Pork's reaction to this scandal here.
"You want to know why we bloggers get outrage fatigue from time to time? It’s because of stories like this, stories such as this that drain the soul, that beggar the imagination at how criminally we’re treating and even exploiting these wounded troops after all the overtures Uncle Sam made them about taking care of them and their families, all the pie in the sky promises under the fucking sun just to get that John Hancock on the dotted line to get them one blip closer to making quota."
IMAGE: Calshot Castle, one of many forts built during Henry VIII's reign to defend England's channel coast.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Liberal Truth: It’s All the Rage.

or, "I'm not Spartacus!"

Maybe it’s just me but it seems that even before last November’s midterm elections, when it looked as if the American public was going to drag the Republican party into the Gitmo/Bagram/Abu Ghraib interrogation rooms, aka the polls, there’s been a spike in Republican rage, outrage and hysteria.

Some of it’s as manufactured as the late Jack Parr’s crocodile tears. It’s the quick, slick rage whipped up on a moment’s notice from behind keyboards at Michelle Malkin’s comfortable den in Georgetown and basements in the middle states. It’s the reactionary kind of rage that pops up as effortlessly as a float in a filling toilet tank when conservative and neoconservative ideologies are merely called into question. That’s not the kind of rage that worries me, even though that, too, has been on the rise since last fall.

No, the kind of rising gorge that sends my own temper to towering, spiraling heights is right proper, legitimate Republican rage, the kind where lives are passively threatened and patriotic dissent gets metamorphosed into treason and sedition.

Such people, the Coulters, the Malkins, the Gaffneys, the Hal Turners, the Pat Robertsons, the Glenn Becks of America, need more than just a hug. They need a canvas I Love Me Navy pea coat stat, complete with a ball gag coated with Krazy Glu and boxing gloves in case they ever escape their rubber rooms and get near a keyboard.

However, these people who would’ve been prime candidates for such sympathy and therapy up until 50-70 years ago have been given the keys to the national discourse because they can be trusted upon to drive the fucking thing over a cliff Thelma and Louise-style. They’ve been given the honor and privilege of being listened to because they can be counted upon to never, ever tell the nasty liberal truth to the American people.

So, when we raise questions, doubts, criticisms and condemnations of Bush’s Iraq policy and begin voting out some of the most insane neocons in Congress, they can only resort to making drive by character shootings, rehashing stale talking points and long, long discredited lies (especially the rehashed meme that Saddam had WMD’s).

Motivating this murderous hatred is a sincere belief that this what George Bush is.

It’s one thing to remain doggedly faithful to an ideology that unquestioningly assumes that George W. Bush is actually competent. It’s commendable, in a way. Pathetic and risible but commendable.

But people like Don Young, Frank Gaffney, Hal Turner and the like actually believe in an ideology that has made Dear Leader, literally, a laughingstock the world over. They believe it with such snake-handling devotion that they actually threaten lives and get away with it, are put on television and on radio and have their columns syndicated again and again and again.

And how these homicidal thugs are able to retain such power over the national discourse is not only disheartening but also inexplicable since over two thirds of the country have turned against Bush and many of his policies.

In the space of a month, we’ve heard Hal Turner say on the radio that he’d have to assassinate any members of Congress who vote for amnesty on an upcoming immigration bill, we’ve read Frank Gaffney make overt threats that if Senators vote to oppose Bush’s surge, which is in itself proof positive of all the misunderestimations made by the Decider in Iraq, then they ought to be executed, even dragging a fictional version of Abraham Lincoln into the debate. Then, when confronted with his lies and impotent threats by Glenn Greenwald on Alan Colmes’s radio show, he had to be cut off by his host when he could only resort, as do so many other neocons, with curse words aimed at Greenwald.

Two bloggers attached to a major presidential campaign were hounded out when both women had suffered the nightmare of death and rape threats from mostly anonymous red state cowards who ordinarily wouldn’t give a flying fuck what anyone said about the Catholics.

Dick Cheney snarled at Wolf Blitzer on national TV and kept telling him he was “out of line” by asking pointed, long-overdue questions that Cheney must’ve known he was going to ask.

We’re seeing a level of nastiness from the far right that makes the 1992 Republican National Convention look like Lilith Fair. No wonder they’re getting nasty; They’re losing traction, the mainstream media is slowly stirring itself from its Koolaid coma and asking questions that should’ve been asked over four years ago, neocons are finally being dragged into the light of day kicking and screaming and farting fire and brimstone and asked for an accounting of their death threats and outrageous fabrications.

And the lies from these self-appointed and corporate-anointed pundits aren’t even novel and clever because the administration hasn’t given them any new talking points that are novel and clever. At best, the administration is playing Mad Libs at press conferences, with “Iraq” deleted and replaced with “Iran“, “WMD’s” replaced with “tin cans“, “al Qaeda” substituted for “Shi’ite insurgency.” The Pentagon is saying one thing, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Peter Pace is saying something else (because he was pointedly not invited to the “anonymous conference” in which the airtight, slam-dunk case against Iran, using unnamed sources, was being made), Bush is revealed to be a liar during all this and even Tony Snow couldn’t reconcile the differing stories.

No wonder the far right is getting increasingly hysterical and has to resort to death threats. The Titanic’s hit the iceberg, too many deck chairs have already been reshuffled and they realize that their brave voyage toward 1000 years of red white and blue cock-wanding imperialism has been all for naught. Money, access and reputations are at stake here, not American credibility or security.

It’s kind of like the military’s enduring belief that we’re achieving something noble in Iraq and the Middle East in general because the idea that over 3100 of their own having been killed and almost 24,000 injured and/or maimed, also all for nothing is likewise too unendurable to contemplate.

Just try to remember, people, that these punks are cowardly toadies, stereotypes of schoolyard bullies, really. They know they’re outnumbered by a growing majority and can resort with nothing but bluster. Their Dear Leader’s gotten punched in the nose and is practically down for the count and they don’t know what to do when he’s too busy trying to stanch the flow of blood to give them their new marching orders. Put these wet-legged fucks on national radio, on national TV and they fold faster than a dropped accordion.

Glenn Greenwald proved that on Alan Colmes’s show on the 15th when he’d confronted Frank Gaffney. While remaining civil and factual, Greenwald was able to get Gaffney to lose his cool when he kept hammering home the cold, hard facts that most of us already take for granted. All Gaffney could respond with, besides curse words, was the mantra, “Debate has consequences”, while mealy-mouthing qualifications such as, “Everyone has the right to their opinion, but… ” and “Of course we should be free to dissent, but…”

Of course, what Gaffney was saying in his Moonie Times article was, Of course, we can debate and dissent in a time of war but we ought to shadow box and never take the gloves off. If not, you run the risk of winding up like Saddam because Abe Lincoln said we can hang you. But Gaffney was such a fucking coward about it on national radio that he rather would’ve gotten a blowjob by a piranha than defend his insane propositions.

We stand by our convictions, we stand by our own. We believe in collective and personal responsibility and not disavowing our own when they say incendiary things. Of course, we usually don’t arouse passions by threatening the lives of others, so it’s easier for us to circle the wagons.

Neoconservatives? After inviting and inciting violence and threats, they back away from their own readers and viewers and never once does any one of them ever say, “I’m Spartacus!”

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Straight Talk Express Doesn’t Stop at DC

Leave it to a Republican like John McCain to blow off a Senate vote opposing an escalation of which he’s in favor so he can gallivant in Iowa to convince people to vote for him. The irony is so thick you could cut it with Ann Coulter’s sharp, lying tongue.

McCain blew off the rare Saturday vote called by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the grounds that it was a “partisan stunt” and that his vote one way or the other wouldn’t affect the outcome (a view shared by eight other MIA Republicans). So off he went to ignore his real job in search of one that he won’t be able to occupy for two years so he could convince people of the importance of, uh, voting. And if anybody understands the value of voting, it’s one of the biggest obstacles to the non-binding resolution, Silent Sam Brownback, the senator with the second-worst roll call attendance record in the Senate (Brownback had shown up for only 48% of the roll call votes last month; The guy with the worst attendance record is Tim Johnson, who at least has a pretty good note from his doctor).

McCain also said that the resolution vote was "insulting to the public and the soldiers," the majority of whom are against the surge (a Military Times poll recently revealed that only 38% of our troops are for Bush putting even more of their brothers in arms in the middle of a Sunni-Shia war).

But while McCain is traipsing through the corn fields like the other cadaverous figures in Ray Kinsella’s field of dreams, conservatives in his native Arizona are massing against him (The Nation’s Max Blumenthal calls it The McCain Mutiny). Only here’s the kicker: Arizona republicans are turning on McCain not because he’s too conservative and that his constant cheerleading for more bloodshed in Iraq from the 50 yard line could very easily help drag down their party in the next two years but because, get this, he’s too liberal!

Last November, the Boston Phoenix laid into McCain’s guts like a Great White with a dozen tapeworms and for good reasons. The man has flip-flopped on more relatively minor issues (like immigration) than a schizophrenic but has only gotten more militantly conservative when it comes to the biggest issues facing us. Issues like Iraq, about which he’s as dangerously out of touch as Dick Cheney. This is a guy who, right after New Year’s, told the American Enterprise Institute, the money-engorged neocon think tank midwifed 60 years ago by Big Business, “the worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of U.S. forces.” How soon the maverick Arizona republicans even now massing up against McCain, a man who wanted 25,000-30,000 more troops, forget.

How soon they also forget that last summer McCain agreed to speak at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and even seriously considered doing the same thing at the racist Bob Jones University, a hotbed of bigotry that had only lifted its ban on interracial dating in 2000. As proof of how forgiving McCain is of his fellow conservatives, Jerry Falwell not too long ago had been branded by McCain as one of the “agents of intolerance” and a Bob Jones University professor, the unfortunately-named Dick Hand, had leaked out an email falsely smearing McCain of having fathered an illegitimate baby.

So much for the straight talk express.

And this is the man that Arizona republicans are accusing of being too liberal because he doesn’t want to incinerate illegal immigrants on the spot and was briefly squeamish about torture.

Yes, there are people out there who are even scarier than John McCain and some of them live in Arizona. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Ten Billion Dollars Wasted..

...Depending on Who's Doing the Math

This AP story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer cites federal investigators in claiming $10 BILLION of waste in the Iraq reconstruction effort.
"About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.

The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

'There is no accountability,' said David M. Walker, who heads the auditing arm of Congress. 'Organizations charged with overseeing contracts are not held accountable. Contractors are not held accountable. The individuals responsible are not held accountable.' "
For more details, consult the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Coverage from MSNBC adds another intriguing detail, "Of the $10 billion in overpriced contracts or undocumented costs, more than $2.7 billion were charged by Halliburton Co., the oil-field services firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

To my mind it's much worse than 'just' $10 BILLION wasted. Since nothing has been accomplished in Iraq, if fact the entire foreign policy situation in the Middle East has been made WORSE, far worse by this ill-conceived misadventure, ALL of the money spent has been wasted. How much? This much.

Of course with BushCo™ in charge of things, you could expect that Enron-like accounting is taking place. Losses and liabilities will be passed off to other entities in order to make things look lots better than they are. When nearly all the details are classified, it's even easier to do that. An analysis done over a year ago, and reported in the Boston Globe, tells a more sobering tale;
"The cost of the Iraq war could top $2 trillion after factoring in long-term healthcare for wounded US veterans, rebuilding a worn-down military, and accounting for other unforeseen bills and economic losses, according to a new analysis to be presented today in Boston.

The estimate by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes far exceeds projections made by the Bush administration.

The figure is more than four times what the war was expected to cost through 2006 -- around $500 billion, according to congressional budget data."
YOU do the math. Or would you rather leave it to this fool?

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Iraq News

$10 Billion Wasted, Kerry After Profiteers, Feith is Pimp for Chimp, Obama v. Howard, More

As the debate in the House of Representatives on the stupid ass troop surge continues on and on and on and on...

Here's the Iraq News:
AUDIO: NPR--The Iraq War has deepened the Sunni-Shia divide in the Islamic world.
VIDEO: BBC covers the segue from the Iraq War to the Iran War, which will be followed shortly by World War III and Armageddon.
VIDEO: BBC covers Barack Obama's response to silly-assed John Howard's war mongering.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Hand In Hand

The Toxic Mixture of Corruption and Secrecy

This Story in the Washington Post had me rushing to update The Growing GOP List of Shame this morning - the putrid fallout of the Duke Cunningham bribery scandal now landing on former CIA official Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo and Brent Wilkes, a California defense contractor bloody-handed war profiteer. It is an old familiar story with the GOP, the best government money can buy being bought and paid for at the taxpayers' expense - dirty business as usual, with the sordid 'hookergate' aspect of it thrown in for good measure.
"The CIA's former executive director and a defense contractor were indicted yesterday by a San Diego grand jury for allegedly corrupting the intelligence agency's contracts, marking one of the first criminal cases to reach into the CIA's clandestine operations in Europe and the Middle East.. ..The 11-count indictment states that Wilkes subsidized meals and lavish vacations for Foggo and his family in Washington, Hawaii and Scotland and promised to employ Foggo after his retirement from the CIA. It also accuses Foggo -- a former ethics official in two divisions at the CIA -- of improperly providing classified information to Wilkes about the CIA, his contracting competitors and 'other matters.'.. ..Last year the probe led to a prison sentence for one lawmaker, Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- who, the government said yesterday, used two prostitutes financed by Wilkes."
There is one aspect of this case that I would like to highlight, reported on but not given enough weight by the Washington Post, in my opinion.
"The case involving Foggo is unusual because all of the contracts at issue are classified. But the indictment makes it clear that the agency was allegedly bilked when it wound up paying 60 percent more than it should have for water supplied by a company affiliated with Wilkes to CIA outposts in Afghanistan and northern Iraq."
This is very disturbing when you consider the pervasive and shadowy, unaccountable power of the Military Industrial Complex in the USA. Apparently, the perpetraitors (spelling deliberate) thought the classification would act as a shield to hide their crimes. The Bush administration is of course the most secretive in US history, and we must attribute much of that to cover-up for crime rather than legitimate national security. As testimony in the Libby trial revealed, Dick Cheney even had his own illegal system of classifying documents!! I mentioned this in a different context a few posts back, but it bears repeating here.

A couple more points - in Crooks and Liars' piece on this matter yesterday, Nicole Belle makes note of the fact that the federal prosecutors outrage (Assault on Justice-Les Enragés, Jan. 20) connects to this case. "Alberto Gonzalez went out of his way to try to derail this." And Down With Tyranny describes Foggo as "Bush's eyes and ears (and grabby hands) inside the CIA– he was a political operative and hack." So, seeing as how Foggo is well connected to the BushCo™ power grid, and possibly being protected by personages as high up as the Attorney General, this can't be seen as a small-time one-off incident. It is more likely the tip of a very large iceberg of corruption. But, shhhhh... ... it's a secret.

Secrecy and corruption go hand in hand. It certainly has helped the Military Industrial Complex's bottom line, at the expense of the rest of the country.

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EU Condemns Rendition Flights.

President Gee Dumbya Bullsh** moved one more step towards official Worst Leader in History status with the European Union endorsing a report condemning so-called 'extraordinary rendition' flights transporting illegally detained kidnapping victims (euphemistically called 'terrorism suspects.) [see BBC story]
"The EU report said the CIA had operated 1,245 flights, some taking suspects to states where they could face torture.. ..'This is a report that doesn't allow anyone to look the other way. We must be vigilant that what has been happening in the past five years may never happen again,' said Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava, who drafted the document.. ..The parliament also called for an 'independent inquiry' to be considered and for closure of the US' Guantanamo Bay detention camp."
One of the disturbing things to me in this report is the following,
"Many of those taken from EU states were subjected to torture to extract information from them, the report said.

It said there was a 'strong possibility' that this intelligence had been passed on to EU governments who were aware of how it was obtained."
C'mon, it has been known for centuries that the 'intellegence' extracted under torture is completely unreliable. People just say what the torturer wants to hear. This information, the corrupt 'coin' paid to European governments for their co-operation, is counterfeit.

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A Quick ShoutOut


In case you're wondering what this is all about, Melissa (Shakespeare's Sister) McEwen has followed in Amanda (Pandagon) Marcotte's footsteps and voluntarily withdrawn from her position as a consultant to the John Edwards campaign. This follows a campaign waged against both of them by mutant lizard people from the fetid swamps of Lower Right Blogsylvania. Seems they didn't fold their napkins correctly or hold their pinky fingers at the correct dainty angle while sipping tea or something. Amanda reveals the offensive posts on her blog.

Needless to say the rank hypocrisy of this attack on Amanda and Melissa after the endless bile spewing from the likes of Anne Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Reight Wing Chorus is unfathomable. As always they set a much higher standard for the behavior they see on the left than they do for themselves. They are typical bullies in every respect.
For more on the story, Glenn Greenwald blogged on it here and here, and on the significance here.

H/T Blue Gal for advising me of the Spartacus Campaign begun at
d r i f t g l a s s.

UPDATE: Here's a list of the blogs that joined the throng in support of the 'I'm Spartacus' campaign:

Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus. Spartacus.

Pretty damned impressive.

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The Media is Sick

And Needs Help Badly

The longer Barack Obama lasts on the national stage, the clearer it becomes that our national media has no Earthly idea how to cover race relations in the United States.

On her radio show yesterday, Rachel Maddow talked about how frustrating it is going on these news shows and discussing ridiculous topics such as:


Uh... What? Also, throw in some atheist bashing and fun with rape.

Part One

Part Two

By the way something, nothing in there about the Iraq War, the resolution in the House, Doug Feith, Scooter Libby, global warming, the carrier group on its way to the Persian Gulf... All of these things.

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Crossposted at Ice Station Tango.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hu Will Feed China

Remember in Robert Newman's The History of Oil, when Newman talks about how,
"The President of China is called Hu Jintao and China's Prime Minister is called Wen Jiabao? - So the President is Hu, and the Prime Minister is Wen. Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in a marvelous early twentieth century vaudeville routine."
Well, ladies and gentlemen, here is that vaudeville routine, as performed by 'President Bush' and 'Condi Rice.' Apologies to Abbot and Costello, from whose classic 'who's on first' baseball routine it is taken.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

On Our Knees: Paying and Waiting for Surgery

So again, what is it with the Canadians and knee surgery?

Their knee surgery rates are up 20 percent in 2005-2006 from the previous year.

Here in the United States, single-payer activists hear about Canadians’ waits for knee surgery on an almost daily basis. “Socialized medicine” critics offer up images of entire provinces of crippled Canadians languishing on decades-long waiting lists.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand that knee and hip surgeries are quality-of-life-savers.

My grandmother, who lived alone in the house she’d lived in since the 1930s, fell off her back porch on New Years Eve in the late 1980s. She came to with her foot next to her head. She dragged herself up the stairs, back into the house, through her kitchen and to the phone in the livingroom. But she was never the same afterwards — something that doctors say is often the case for seniors after breaking a hip.

When the actually-elected President Bush had his hip surgery, CNN quoted a doctor saying, “Some patients can't walk from a chair to a bed, but with surgery we can make them almost normal and take away their pain."

So for the sake of those who need it, I’m glad the Canadian prime minister and provincial premiers targeted hip and knee surgery as being two of the country’s five “priority” surgeries — reducing waiting times by increasing surgeries. But I’m also thankful because those waits gave ammunition to the enemies of equitable healthcare in the States — leaving people like me sputtering that no system can possibly be perfect, considering that humans are in charge, but that Canada is doing a lot better than we are.

CNN noted that the cost of a hip replacement was $25,000 in the U.S. in 2000:
A major study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1996 found the operation was cost effective. It found the average lifetime savings of a hip replacement is $117,000. The difference is largely due to savings in nursing care.
“Unless, of course,” muses the health insurance CEO, “you simply eliminate the nursing care...”

That increase in surgeries in Canada was part of a $41 billion agreement between the provinces and the national government that brought wait times down by 20 percent in Ontario, according to a Globe and Mail story.

Some Canadians travel abroad for surgery instead of waiting. Bob McDonnell, a high-school teacher, decided to have his surgery done in “the popular medical tourist destination” of Chennai, India.

He paid $7,000, plus $4,000 travel expenses.

The Ontario government reimbursed McDonnell for his surgery, but not for travel and lodging. Seems like he should have been reimbursed for that as well, since he was looking at a wait of two and a half years in Ontario.
However, waiting times vary widely, with the queue at St. Joseph's Health Care, London, being the shortest in the province, with 90 per cent of patients obtaining their hip-replacement surgery in 41 days. Compare that to Lakeridge Health Corporation in Oshawa, where Mr. McDonnell was queued: 90 per cent of patients had their surgery done in 370 days, during the same period.

SadButTrue, an Unruly Mobster who is also over at Friendly Neighbour, notes that it would be interesting to compare the out of pocket costs for hip-replacement patients on either side of the border.

It would also be interesting to learn how many Americans simply don't get the surgery because of costs. The biggest medical tourism company, MedRetreat, is U.S.-based. Don’t think those Indian surgeons do knee surgery only on Canadians — and other surgeries as well.

MedRetreat sends customers to Brazil, India, South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, and Agentina. They say:
Incredible Savings Why do people travel abroad to undergo medical procedures? The answer is simple...Affordable healthcare. Not to mention a little peaceful relaxation in complete anonymity.
Alain Enthoven, senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy in Stanford, Calif., tells The Christian Science Monitor that "Global healthcare is coming and American healthcare, which is pricing itself out of reach, needs to know there are alternatives…"

The number of Americans heading overseas for care is just part of the country's healthcare crisis. The National Coalition on Health Care (NCHC) says that employers' health insurance premiums have risen 73 percent and average employee contributions have risen 143 percent since 2000. I've seen higher numbers, more than 85 percent for employers. The Monitor reports that rising costs stem from poor management, inefficiences, waste, fraud, and lack of competition — or at least that's true according to "critics."

(And what do "fans" of U.S. healthcare say? And why do mainstream reporters always feel they have to coach truths in terms of what "critics" say?)

Going overseas for expensive medical services, such as heart bypass surgery, cuts into U.S. hospitals profit centers - such as heart units - that underwrite emergency rooms and indigent care. "[Global healthcare] will limit the amount of money that's available for everybody else to have access to the system and starts to jeopardize access to healthcare for everybody in the community," says Don Dalton, a spokesman for the North Carolina Hospital Association.

The Americans oblivious to this are still the politicians, many of whom — ex-presidents and Indiana lawmakers, for instance — enjoy gold-plated coverage for life. Now if it's good enough for public servants, wouldn't it be good enough for average citizens too?

Kristen Hannum blogs regularly on health care issues at Ave Cassandra

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Dick Traitor

"One Nation Under Cheney"

Anyone who has been watching American politics for the last six long insufferable years should have become aware of one thing. The real power in the White House is not in George W. (must stand for witless) Bush's Oval Office, but down the hall in Dick Cheney's 'undisclosed location', known officially as the OVP (Office of the Vice President.) Bush is nothing more than Cheney's sock puppet - giving speeches, taking the heat, acting as a potential bullet sponge for any possible assassination attempts, and always decidering on things exactly the way Cheney wants them to be decidered. To even imagine the situation otherwise is to be suffering from some Bizarro-world delusions. The chimperor is obviously the monkey to Cheney's organ grinder.

This diary from Kagro X at DailyKos puts some new perspective on just how powerful Cheney is, or at least how powerful he believes himself to be. Not that the Master of All Things Evil has not previously tipped his hand. He has already gone on record recently as saying that if he was subpoenaed by Congress, that he would probably refuse. In his own mind, at least, he is above the law. It remains to be seen if he will actually flaunt the law in the Scooter Libby trial, where he is expected to be called as a witness for the defense. But I digress. Here's the DailyKos story, which is about Cheney's refusal to catalogue his activities in the classification and declassification of official documents;
"A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and 'any other entity within the executive branch'" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents.. ..but Cheney insists he is exempt."
Where this story really takes wing is WHY Cheney feels himself to be exempt.
"The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see Article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see Article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code)"
But wait, there's more. Kasgro divulges that Cheney has even invented his very own SYSTEM of classification, with no basis whatever in law.
"The OVP has been out of compliance with executive orders on the classification of sensitive national security information for several years. During that time, they've been inventing their own classification system (and spending taxpayer money for official-looking stamps bearing this fake classification)"
Wow. In two hundred and thirty years, no-one has come close to making any sort of claim like this. Not only has Cheney pronounced himself as uniquely occupying both the legislative and executive branches of government, but in doing so he has also intruded on the powers of the Supreme Court to interpret the Constitution. This is a power grab parallel to, and quite possibly exceeding, the odious theory of 'unitary executive' powers conferred unilaterally on the pResident by Justice Department functionary John Yoo. And finally, in case it escaped anybody's attention, the authority Dick is flaunting here is BUSH's EXECUTIVE ORDER. Unbelievable.

As with much of what BushCo™ have accomplished over the last six years, they are likely to get away with this too. Why? Because no sane person in the late eighteenth century could have possibly provided for the monumental degree of pure evil exhibited here, the deliberate brutal concentration of ill intent. Even while calling King George III a tyrant, conceiving a tyranny like this would only have driven Jefferson, Madison, Adams, etc. into despairing madness. Just as, even knowing about the careers of Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy, each one of us still insists on taking solace in the fact that Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger are only fictional characters. To confront the real horror is to invite insanity.

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