Wednesday, November 30, 2005

November 29, 2005

GOP Culture of Corruption?
You Don't Know The Half of It!

The old saying goes that even a broken clock is right twice a day. So when Democrats accuse Republicans of fostering a culture of corruption it proves the old saying true. (That's once, the other time they've been right lately is in calling for an early withdrawal from Iraq.)

We saw further evidence of the GOP's culture of corruption yesterday when California Republican, Rep. Randy Cunningham, resigned from Congress after admitting to taking $2 million in bribes from a defense contractor.

But Randy is small fry, his take, chump change. Further up the GOP food chain the crimes and corruption are so enormous they would have left even Carl Sagan at loss for superlatives. (Billions upon billions upon billions...)

Only now is the general public starting to learn just how corruption swept through the GOP ranks after the party's rise to majority status in the 1990's. But it didn't happen all at once. And it didn't begin yesterday. It began over eleven years ago.

I stumbled across evidence of the GOP's spreading cancer of corruption back in early 2002 while picking through the still smoldering ashes of Enron. In fact, it maybe proven some day that Tom DeLay was a creation of Enron. But more on that later.

While prosecutors are only now beginning to peel back the layers of corruption involving the GOP's top gun, Tom DeLay and his gang, it was clear long ago, to any reporter willing to take the time to look, that these guys were up to no good.
(Read the full text of my March 2002 expose' here. It's very long but, as they say, the devil really is in the details. If you read it you will some names you learned only recently, like Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon. But the evidence these guys, and other Tom DeLay operatives, were scratching each other's backs was all there for the having.)

So, you may aks, why did it take so long to stop them? Why didn't someone blow the whistle sooner? As you learn just how much evidence was laying around out there for the media to pick up, you'll shake your head in disbelief. And I'm talking steaming hot hints too, like the mob hit involving Delay's former top aide, Scanlon and DeLay's chief money raiser, Abramoff. The media covered that story as though it was just another Miami vice crime story. Now we know differently. It was part of much bigger things.

It would be one thing if the media could argue that there was no way for them to know, because we now know that's not true. As with the lead up to the Iraq war, there was no shortage of weapons experts willing to explain to reporters why it was highly unlikely Iraq had anything even close to a functioning nuclear weapons program. Or that they could deliver chemical or biological weapons, assuming they even had them, beyond their own borders. But instead they parroted administration claims to the contrary.

The same goes for the DeLay gang. All it took was a few days and virtually no budget for me to plenty of clues that something big was afoot involving the GOP's rising star. No one could have read my list of particulars without concluding something very ugly was afoot within the DeLay operation.

Still nothing was done. Nothing was written. No one was investigated. Nothing, until American Indian tribes discovered the DeLay gang had stolen $80 million from them, and a Texas District Attorney indicted DeLay this year for campaign money laundering.

But the recent indictments of DeLay and Abramoff, and the charges Mike Scanlon pleaded guilty to last week, represent the mere tip of an iceberg of fraud, corruption and official malfeasance. If the mainstream media wants to redeem itself here are more rocks in DeLay's garden that require a thorough look under. (Each is detailed in that old 2002 report as quoted below.)

* Exactly what was DeLay's full relationship with Enron -- and visa versa? (Yes it's "old news," but it remains unreported old news. They question worth exploring is this: Was Tom DeLay Ernon's bastard child?)

"Enron hosted Tom Delay's PAC, ARMPAC's, first fundraiser. It was held in Enron's hometown of Houston, Texas and raised $280,000 for DeLay's new leadership PAC. Subsequent disclosures show that Enron and its executives gave early and often. Ken Lay contributed $50,000 to ARMPAC, Enron Vice Chairman, Joseph Sutton, contributed another $25,000. The full extent of Enron's financial support for DeLay's PAC may never be known since reporting such contributions became mandatory only in 2000."

* Just how many under-the-table cash streams did DeLay have flowing into his various stashes? For example:

"When Enron lobbyists asked how best to proceed, DeLay noted that Enron could begin by giving his Chief of Staff, Ed Buckham (who at that very moment was forming his own consulting company, the Alexander Strategy Group) and Karl Gallant, a consultant to DeLay's ARMPAC, the contract to manage the campaign....Gallant had recently worked on a propaganda campaign for the tobacco industry...Alexander Strategy Group put DeLay's wife, Christine on its payroll. She reportedly pocketed a net "salary" of $40,000. Christine DeLay is a retired schoolteacher. What she did for her salary is unclear. According to Alexander Strategy Group, she neither lobbied for the company nor did she show up for work there. Why then were they paying her? The company says Alexander Strategies wrote the checks to Christine DeLay as a "bookkeeping convenience" for ARMPAC.

* How much of Jack Abramoff's Indian gaming loot found it's way into DeLay-related campaigns, PACs or were used to fund overseas junkets for DeLay and other Republicans?

* Isn't it time for a complete audit of DeLay and Abramoff's relationships with sweatshop operators in the US protectorate in the Mariana Islands? You might begin by asking former Mariana lobbyist for Jack Abramoff, Patrick Pizzella. You'll find him over at the Dept of Labor where he now serves as assistant secretary of Labor. It was Pizzella's job to organize Abramoff's political junkets to the islands.

* Might it not be useful for us to know the full extent of Tom DeLay's dealings with the largest operator of Mariana sweatshops, Chinese national Willie Tan?

"The Marianas account has paid off handsomely for both DeLay and Abramoff, whose lobbying efforts resulted in more than $8 million in fees over the past five years, some of which inevitably ended up in DeLay's leadership PAC and as personal contributions from Abramoff over the years to DeLay's campaign war chests. DeLay was also able to distribute some of that money to those in Congress friendly to his cause - a fact Abramoff was quick to point out to his client: "Thanks to past trips the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas has many friends on the Appropriations Committees in Congress," Abramoff wrote to Hong Kong sweatshop mogul Willie Tan. The Tan-controlled newspaper, Saipan Tribune, responded with an article lauding Abramoff.

* What was Delay's relationship with Mariana conservative political strongman Bin Fidel?

When the Marianas put out a call for bids for a new $120 million power plant, a Japanese company was awarded the contract. Enron, attracted by the island's lack of environmental rules, wanted in and complained to DeLay that they had not been given a fair shot at the contract for the power plant.

DeLay responded by calling in some chits from his friends in the Mariana administration - in particular Ben Fital, a conservative politician whom DeLay's former aides, Ed Buckham and Mike Scanlon, helped get elected as the island's representative in Congress. Buckham's lobbying firm, Alexander Strategies Group's representation of Enron's interests in the Marianas also bagged him $50,000 in fees.

There were all kinds of political pushes from the top and the side and every way," Vincent Mesa, the island's former manger of the its power utilities, recalled later. "There were all kinds of political interference. They said, 'Just do it! Give Enron the contract."

Surprise, surprise, Enron won the re-bidding.... and the citizens of the Marianas are still paying the bill for their unfinished power plant.

Then there was this editorial in 2001 in the Willie Tan-owned Saipan Tribune:

"If [Abramoff's] past success in defending our interests is not enough reason to lock him into a long-term deal, the fact that George W. Bush is now the new President is yet another reason. [Abramoff] was able to defend us by educating powerful Members of Congress and arranging a trip to these islands by the most powerful member, Congressman Tom DeLay. Mr. Abramoff and his team have racked up win after win for these islands."

Considering all we know now about just how sleazy these two guys – DeLay and Abramoff – are, wouldn't it nice to also know the full extent of their with Ernon and their activities in the U.S. Controlled Mariana Islands?

Inquiring minds would like to know.

Better late than never, huh?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

November 29, 2005

It's All in the Execution

Ideas are a dime a dozen. Success is the rare commodity. What separates successful ideas from unsuccessful ideas is execution. Bad ideas fail on their own. Good ideas, to fail, must be executed poorly.

Democratizing the Arab world is a good idea. Hundreds of millions of men and women – particularly women – are living in conditions not much different from their ancestors a thousand years ago. In most of the Middle East Arab women can be beaten, raped even murdered, not just with impunity, but under protection of Islamic law. Children go to schools that teach racial and religious hatred instead of the Three R's. And their self-appointed leaders keep it that way so they can treat their national treasuries like personal checking accounts.

So it's would be a good idea that Arab nations should be forced to get with the program and join the here and now. But what's the best way to take that idea from concept to success? How best to execute this idea?

One way would have been for the US and EU to use their considerable economic power to force change by refusing to trade with undemocratic nations in the region. Oil rich kingdoms, like Saudi Arabia, pose a special problem since we are dependent on their oil. But they in turn need the West. They need places outside their own corrupt and underdeveloped countries to hide and invest the enormous wealth they loot every year from their own people. They need western banks, investment houses, real estate, etc. Without access to these repositories their money is just so much paper.

It could work -- depending of course that the plan is well executed.

George W. Bush liked the democracy idea too. He would be Moses to the Arabs, leading them from slavery to freedom. He would give them Democracy.

Then he took this good idea and executed it about as badly as a good idea has ever been executed. Instead of democracy what George has brought the Middle East is more of the same... violence, torture, poverty, corruption. Oh, and intifada. He brought them intifada too – and not just to Iraq, but Afghanistan as well. But wait, there's more. This new intifada is now spreading to Jordan and Lebanon as well. Poorly executed, indeed.

Fools rush in where angles fear to tread and George rushed in, guns blaring. Damn fine idea, he figured. Folks there are gonna roll out the red carpet for the Bush cavalry. He was sure they wanted democracy. Who wouldn't? And that they'd know what to do with once he gave it to them.

George decided that the Iraqis and Afghans needed a example of democracy close to home. So he told Egypt they had to get with the program too. And, since we give Egypt about as much money every year as we give Israel, it was an offer Egypt could not refuse. President Mubarak tried to warn Bush that it was a bit soon to being giving Egyptians the right to vote for anyone they wanted. But Bush would not hear any of it. So, Egypt just had it's first democratic elections. How did they go?

CAIRO, Nov. 27 - The Muslim Brotherhood may be banned, but it has demonstrated in the latest parliamentary elections that it is by far the strongest Egyptian opposition group, trouncing the secular political opposition and weakening the governing party's power monopoly....The Brotherhood has been outlawed since the early 1950's, when some of its members tried to assassinate Prime Minister Gamal Abdel Nasser, who went on to become president." (Full Story)

Oops. The Muslim Brotherhood is listed as a terrorist organization by American intelligence. Nicely done, Mr. Bush. You just got the first terrorist group democratically elected to public office. Do you have a Plan B? I didn't think so.

Bush has also been executing his democracy idea in Afghanistan. So, how it going there?

KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 27 -- An onslaught of grisly and sophisticated attacks since parliamentary elections in September has left Afghan and international officials concerned that Taliban guerrillas are obtaining support from abroad to carry out strikes that increasingly mimic insurgent tactics in Iraq...The recent attacks -- including at least nine suicide bombings -- have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials...The attacks have been particularly noteworthy for their use of suicide bombers. Some have struck in waves, with one explosive-laden car following the next in an effort to maximize casualties. That sort of attack has been a hallmark of al Qaeda and a regular occurrence in Iraq. But in Afghanistan, suicide attacks of any kind have been relatively rare, despite a quarter-century of warfare. Attackers have also shown a growing appetite for strikes in cities, particularly Kabul. (Full Story)

D'oh! Not so good. That's too bad because Bush executed the first part of the Democracy to Afghanistan idea pretty well. The cruel and backward Taliban were removed from power and on the run. And he had virtually the entire band of al Queda members, including their leader, trapped and on the verge of extermination.

Then Bush's attention deficit disorder kicked in. He was distracted by a nearby shinny object -- Iraq -- and the whole Afghanistan idea went straight to hell. The Taliban survived and the viral al Queda movement escaped containment and spread. Today al Queda has opened franchises throughout the Middle East. Al Queda has now super-sized it's products.

Instead of a democratized Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush created a full-blown and expanding intifada. Democracy can compete with a lot of problems, but it cannot compete with chaos. Chaos will trump democracy every time. Democracies require certain conditions to function; adherence to the rule of law, orderly procedures and public confidence those procedures can and will run their course. Chaos assures they won't. (Look no further than the on-again, off-again trial of Saddam.)

Now what? Ask the Israelis. Ask them how it could be that, with all their military superiority, western know-how and their own democracy as a side-by-side comparison, they could not defeat the Palestinian intifadas? Lord knows they tried. They tried bombing, tear gassing, shooting, assassinating and imprisoning the intifadas to death. But none of it worked. Which is why they left Gaza and now know they will eventually have to leave most of the West Bank.. Because until they do, things just keep blowing up. Not only could the Israelis not defeat intifada but the chaos it fostered had begun to unravel Israel's own democracy.

Maybe George really wanted to democratize the Middle East. Or mabye all he wanted was the oil. Likely he wanted both. He got neither. Instead he created a burgeoning intifada. Instead of democracy he brought the long-suffering Arabs more suffering. Instead of candidates for public office, he brought them suicide bombers and assassins. Instead of the rule of law he invigorated the already well entrenched rule of brute force, tribal hatred and the endless cycle of an eye-for-an-eye violence.

Instead of bringing democracy to the long-suffering Arab street, he brought them intifada.

Monday, November 28, 2005

November 28, 2005

Black Box Voting
Shame or Disgrace?

Am I missing something here? A growing number of readers tell me I am. They say I need to get on this right now because "they" are about to steal America's democracy.

"They" are a shadowy cabal of right-wing evil-doers and Diebold. They are conspiring to steal elections. They already have, these folks tell me. It is a devilishly simple scheme. Switch voters to electronic voting machines so there are no more re-countable paper ballots. Then program the machines so only their Manchurian candidates win.

This email is typical of the emails I am getting from readers (edited for length):

I'm so glad that I'm not the only person nudging you. But, what you say about the brazenness of Diebold & Co. You soooo underestimate them. Go to Black Box Voting and read about what they are trying to set up as a 'test' for re-certifying with Black Box Voting. No way is it a fair fight. It is my measured opinion that this is indicative of a general fear that if anyone were to overlook the hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) of lobbying dollars spent to ram these machines through, it would be like the unmasking of the Wizard of Oz.

Don't take things for granted. Trust me. I'm not a paranoid person. Just look. Investigate. Decide for yourself. Elected officials of all stripes have fallen under the spell of the big electronic voting machines and it's not because they are so highly rated or have a good track record. Why would that be?

Were you aware that this summer at California tax payers' expense there was a several days long seminar on voting and electronic voting machines for election officials and it was partially paid for by the electronic voting machine companies who were there to demonstrate (read "push") their product. Most people were unaware of this gross conflict of interest and misuse of public funds. All I'm trying to say is it's part of a total picture in which many individuals from both sides are at the lucrative trough. Did you know that Diebold hired a former DNC Chairman to head their fifty state campaign to get Diebold in every state. What the heck does that mean? Is it suicide or murder or both? I can't overstate this. The fact that the Dems have not seen the handwriting on the wall does not change the facts. It just reflects poorly on the Dems.

I wouldn't care if it weren't so important. I believe that this is the foundation of everything.

Best wishes,

Yes, it seems all so simple. Too simple. I don't believe it. Which of course does not matter. All that counts is that a growing number of entirely sane and reasonable voters believe it's true.

Having said I don't believe it, I don't mean to imply that they are above pulling something like that. We know these folks too well now to put anything past them. I just mean that the risk/benefit ratio is too heavily weighted to the risk side of the equation. The party caught fixing a major race would be out of power for a generation. Also, if I learned anything from a quarter century of unraveling real and alleged conspiracies it's that getting caught is always in the cards.

Then there are the conspiracy claims that actually panned out. Once inside these plots they were almost always more Keystone Cops than James Bond, chuck full of more hapless comedy than drama.

(I submit for you, Exhibit A, Iran/Contra. Remember that one. Reagan sending Robert McFarland off to Iran to present the Ayatollah a cake with a frosting key emblazoned on top as a symbol of, who hell knows what, and an autographed Christian bible.... oh and few dozen ground to air missiles. Ollie North furiously shredding evidence, his secretary getting caught trying to smuggle documents out in her knickers. Oh yes, what a well-oiled conspiracy that one was!)

Getting caught, as I say, is in the DNA of conspiracies. It takes too many humans to cook up and carry out any conspiracy worth the doing, and humans are born blabber mouths. (You know them by the name "unnamed sources.")

I remember when former Secretary of State, George Schultz, was leaving Washington at the end of the second Reagan term and a reporter asked him what the most important thing he had learned. "Yeah. I learned that anyone who thinks he can keep a secret in this town needs to have his head examined," he responded.

But again I say, what I believe, or don't believe, doesn't matter. What matters is how many people believe that electronic voting machines are modern day Trojan horses rigged by neo-cons to fix elections. The growing number of emails I get each day from people who believe just that indicates to me that we have more to worry about than the spread of bird flu. The virus of doubt may, in the end, be the greatest danger to America since the Civil War.

I'm a real computer nut. I have been since I bought my first on back in the stone age of personal computing 1979. If it has a silicon chip in it, I either own it or want to. Over the decades it's became one of those love/hate, can't-live-with-them, can't-live-without-them relationships. Anyone who has ever tried to figure out how an annoying application keeps loading, even after you've deleted it a dozen times, understands why electronic voting machines have sparked suspicion and controversy.

(Never mind that Diebold also makes and programs most bank ATM machines in the world as well. Bank ATM's contain a mother lode of super-sensitive private information. But that does not seem to bother those now accusing Diebold of rigging its voting machines. I suspect these same folks routinely shove their bank cards into Diebold ATMs every day without a worry that Diebold is sending the info off to Neocon Central.)

Anyway, I do take this concern seriously even though I doubt it's real. Because democracy is all about trust. If the trust disappears, democracy goes with it.

So, here's my bottom line on this subject.

No paper receipt.
No secure and credible post-election audit trail,
No electronic voting machines.

I don't care how they do it, just do it. Diebold only made matters worst when they claimed that producing paper receipts was not necessary and/or too hard to do.

Nonsense. Most of us own personal computers and most of those computers are connected to a cheap printer. So don't tell us that an electronic voting machines -- produced by the same company whose ATMs spit out paper receipts -- can't produce a hard copy receipt to voters. I don't want to hear it. It's not true.

Actually I'd want two printed receipts; one for the voter to keep and one the voter deposits in a locked and sealed box that before leaving the polling place. After the polls close those boxes would be locked in a vault maintained by bipartisan Federal or state election commissions and kept for a year in the event election results are challenged.

It can be done and it must be done. Because doubt and suspicion are on the rise. And without credible assurances votes caste are the same votes counted, no future elected officials, Republican or Democrat, will possess any mandate to govern.

Friday, November 25, 2005

November 23, 2005

News That Floats

It's Dime Dropping Season in DC
Something very important happened yesterday to a guy few have ever heard of, Michael Scanlon. Yesterday Mikey pleaded guilty to a series of corruption charges. He was smiling when he went into court and he was smiling when he left free on bail. (More)

Why was this man smiling? And why were prosecutors smiling right along with him? Because Scanlon is likely to send some very big fish to the slammer.

First who is Michael Scanlon – or maybe more accurately, who was he? First he served as former House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay's right hand man. When he left that job he went to work for Washington's most corrupt lobbyist, "Casino Jack" Abramoff, himself a DeLay confidant and co-conspirator.

Those two slimballs took young Mike on the ride of a lifetime. From making clerk money with DeLay, Scanlon was soon rolling in millions as he helped Abramoff rob American Indian tribes blind. Something like $80 million passed through Scanlon and Abramoff's hands before they got caught. In the process the two men even got themselves way too close to a Miami mob hit. (Read the whole story Here)

Now Scanlon has turned state witness against Abramoff and, sources say, at least six House members who took bribes from to vote the right way on Indian gaming issues.

But there's more, lots more.

The relationship DeLay and Abramoff yielded enormous benefits for both men over the years, but in ways that almost always smelled fishy. DeLay is already facing charges of campaign money laundering in Texas. Abramoff helped DeLay set up the leadership PAC involved in that scheme. Both men were also intimately involved with Enron which put up the seed money for another DeLay PAC. Abramoff and DeLay were both deeply involved in a series of smarmy deals and at least one rigged election in the American protectorate Mariana Islands – where Enron also bribed its way into a fat power plant contract with DeLay and Abramoff's help.

Mike Scanlon was there for all these capers. He knows a lot. And he's talking, and smiling. All of which makes me smile as well. I am declaring 2006 The Year of Smiles.

Catholic Church Downsizing
Rome, Italy – Yesterday the Catholic Church announced a major restructuring. The Vatican is ordering seminaries to bar candidates for the priesthood who "practice homosexuality," have "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" or support "gay culture," according to a document published Tuesday by Adista, a Catholic news agency in Rome. (More)

Yesterday's announcement that the Church would lay off gay priests and stop hiring them could cripple the organization, particularly in the US where the priesthood is still reeling from a decade of end to end sex scandals.

Just who is going to run US Catholic churches under the new rules is the big question. We know now who can't:

Those who Need Not Apply for the Priesthood:

* Married men
* Women -- (married or otherwise.)
* Pedophiles – (Once a rich source of manpower, they cost the Church more in legal fees than they were worth.
* Gay men – (Have not cost the Church a dime in legal fees but are considered icky.)
* Men who aren't gay, but may have "tendencies" (i.e. Sing show tunes in the shower and own large collection of Streisand albums.)
* Men who are comfortable with gays, believe they are among God's children and should not be hassled about it.

Well, that certainly narrows the potential priesthood pool down. But down to what?
Who Can be Priests

* Be male (Exam required)
* Be single
* Practice celibacy
* Possess deeply rooted asexual tendencies
* Live only with other men
* Be willing to wear dresses and flowing robes on the job.

I don't know but it looks like the Catholic Church has painted itself into a very small human resource corner.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Failed Presidency?

Is This a Failed Presidency Yet?

The first year nine months of the George W. Bush presidency foretold what was to come. If you recall, pre-911 George was the quintessential deer in the headlights. He had landed the biggest job in the world and had no idea what he was supposed to do next.

I was reminded of that look yesterday when I saw the photo of W. trying to escape reporter's questions in China. It was a telling moment. He ended a news conference with a perfunctory, presidential "Thank you." He strode from the podium, employing his most serious presidential stride. So far, so good. Then his act abruptly collapsed. He pulled the door handle, but the door was locked.

And there he was again, for the whole world to see, pre-911 George, lost, adrift and looking for help. Help had always arrived for George before. It arrived and saved him in the nick of time on Sept. 11, 2001. But that kind of help doesn't grow on trees, and now he's on his own again.

September 11 did for George W. Bush what cocaine does for losers; it makes them feel and act like winners. If you've known a cocaine user you know what I mean. They brim with energy and self-confidence. They listen to no one but their inner buzz. They are cocky, smug, obnoxious. Still, if they are able to focus that buzz, they can create an illusion they actually know of which they speak, that they are driven -- even a leader.

As long as the cocaine lasts the illusion can as well. But when it runs out, or stops working, the loser is all that's left. 9/11 has stopped working for George so Bush The Loser, is back.

Not that he was ever gone, which explains why virtually everything he has done since 911 has come to naught, or worse. Had 9/11 never happened W. would be long gone already, a one-term President, like his father before him.

Therefore the media needs to begin a conversation we would have had around the third year of Bush's first term: Is this a failed presidency? And if so, how failed?

Let's begin by taking the pulse of America's majority population: Working families. (More)

* Pre-tax incomes fell for middle-income families of every type,
* After taking into account changes in both pre-tax income and taxes, the finding remains that most middle-income families lost ground
* Family spending on higher insurance co-pays, deductibles, and premiums has escalated in recent years,
* Inflation-adjusted income of the median household was unchanged and remains $1,700, or 3.8%, below its most recent peak in 1999, according to yesterday's release by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
* Finally, if this chart doesn't scare you, it should:

How about those Bush tax cuts and all the jobs they were going to create?

Yesterday General Motors announced it was cutting 30,000 jobs. This continues a trend we've seen throughout this presidency. One picture is worth a 1000 jobs:

How about Bush's free trade deals? How's that working out for us?

The trade deficit so far this year is running at a record annual rate of $706 billion, putting it on track to far surpass the old record of $617.6 billion set last year. We are selling less and buying more from aboard. Why? For one reason outsourcing has resulted in everything being manufactured abroad now. Way to go. How bad does the trade deficit have to get before the dollar collapses? Stay tuned, we are well on our way to an answer.

Those tax cuts that were going to stimulate the economy so much, Bush said, he would cut the budget deficit in half. How's that going? (More)

The National Debt continues to grow by $3.14 billion per day since September 30, 2005. The total national debt now stands at just a tad over $8 trillion, or $27,200 of debt for all US citizens – yes, including the kids. Much of that debt is held by the Chinese. And how does one talk to their banker? Very carefully. And be sure to begin every sentence with "please."

Bush inherited a government operating, not just in the black, but in surplus. How'd he build on that? (More)

First Bush went on a gifting spree, giving nearly $2 trillion of it away in tax give-aways to companies and the already wealthy. Then he went shopping with nation's platinum card. Surpluses quickly disappeared and were replaced by end to end budget deficits. We'll be adding another $320 billion to that this year. Hell, Bush ran up another $50 billion in debt in October alone. What's in your wallet?

(Note: Bush blames the deficits on the war. But during war countries raise taxes, not cut them. So either we are not in a real war – in which case Bush is not only a spend-thrift, but a liar, or we are in a real war and he's stupid. Take your pick)

Every year more and more Americans find they can no longer afford basic health insurance. Bush said he would fix that. How's that fix going? (More)

The only thing Bush has done to address this growing crisis is to cook a plan that lets large pharmaceutical firms and private insurers call the shots. He called it the Medicare Drug Benefit Program. But to get the drug companies onboard he had to agree to a provision that prohibits Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. Not only that, but now that the plan has been implemented – as designed by this administration – no one can understand how it works. A retired accountant with an MBA called NPR and said even though he was member of Mensa he couldn't make heads or tails out of the Medicare Drug plans. Nevertheless, the program will add billions to the budget deficit. Clearly it's working for somebody, just not those it was supposed to help.

Bush sells himself as "strong on defense." So, how strong are our defenders? (More)

The war in Iraq, added to ongoing commitments to Afghanistan, is exhausting both our military machinery and manpower. (More) Military experts warn that the US could not now respond to another major military challenge. And, enlistment in our all-volunterr force, is declining just as demand for fresh troops increases.

That's quite a list of failures. Instead of just focusing on this administration's screw-up de jour, isn't it time to the mainstream media take an accounting of the messes this guy has created already? Do they add up yet to a failed presidency? Or do we have to wait until he does something really stupid... again?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Novermber 21, 2005

Don't Stop
Thinking About Tomorrow

Yes, I know, it's all getting very entertaining. These days I feel like a dog that finally caught the neighbor's elusive Tom cat. I want the moment to last forever. It took so long, he outwitted pursuit so many times, mocked my every attempt to corner him. Suddenly here he is, lame and vulnerable. I could spend the next three years just swatting the little bastard around.

But I, (and you,) must resist that temptation. As much as Bush deserves three years of swatting around, we have more important things to do. If we play our cards right, twelve months from now we will be able to trade our swatters in for baseball bats.

I am speaking of the 2006, mid-term elections next November. If Democrats can gain a majority in either the House or Senate, the two years that follow will be something to behold. As Democrats are elevated to chair key committees long overdue and long suppressed oversight hearings and investigations will begin. Subpoenas will fly. And investigations may at last reveal:

* Precisely who met with and advised VP Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force back in 2001?
* Who knew what when about Iraq's WMD -- and who lied about it.
* Who really cooked up and coordinated the CIA/Plame-leak?
* Just how many unethical/criminal activities were Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff involved in?
* Just what did Sen. Bill Frist know and when did he know it before he dumped his HCA stock -- and before that, when he voted on heath care bills that benefited HCA?
* Drag Ahmed Chalabi in, put this serial liar under oath and grill him on his pre-war relationship with this administration.
* Drag those energy company CEO's back before the Senate Energy committee and, this time put them under oath and ask them the same questions again.

The list of deeds begging for Congressional investigations goes on and on. Inquiring minds want to know and we've waited too long already for answers. Informed voters are the key ingredient of a true democracy. Misled voters and citizens purposely kept in the dark are the key ingredient of non-democracies. Do Republicans deserve to retain power in 08? Only full and open House and/or Senate investigations now can answer that question. And such investigations will only happen if Democrats win control in 06.

So, let's not become overly mesmerized watching the slow-motion train wreck of Bush Express. Because, unless we seize the moment and regain control of the House or Senate, we will deserve two more years of Republican control, insuring that the Bush administration gets to leave town in 2008 with it's misdeeds largely unexposed.

Here's the 2006 Mid-term Math

Current US Senate Lineup
55 Republicans
44 Democrats
1 Independent

< style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">If the Dems have 44 Senate seats and hold them all they need to pick up 7 repub seats to attain a 51-49 majority On a straight party line vote that would give them a majority (important in the Senate because the VP can break ties in his capacity as President of the Senate).

Seven seats may not seem like a lot, but remember, not all 100 Senators are not up for re-election. Only 33 Senators are up in 2006. Of those seats 17 are already held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. Republican targets in 06 include Florida, Minnesota, and Nebraska; Democrats are focusing their attention on Missouri and Pennsylvania and Virginia. So, Republicans will be defending 15 Senate seats, 14 with incumbents; Democrats will be defending 18 seats, including four open seats.

If you go simply by the math, the GOP seems to hold an overwhelming advantage. Dems not only must retain their 17 incumbent seats, but knock off 11 of the Republican incumbents as well. In normal times such a feat would be considered next to impossible. But then, these are not normal times. More on that later.

Current House Lineup
232 Republicans
202 Democrats
1 Independent

Similarly, with a 232/202/1 split in the House the Dems need to hold their seats and pick up 15 or 16 repub seats to attain a majority.

The whole House is up for reelection, like a deck of cards about to be shuffled. And, not since 1994 have Democrats been in such a strong position to upset the balance of power in Congress.

And it's not just Democrats who thinks so, either. The GOP is having trouble finding strong candidates willing to run in 06. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven both opted out of races to challenge incumbent Democratic senators in 06. GOP up and comers smell trouble and don't want to end their political careers running for Congress in a year sure to be defined by an anti-corruption, anti-war backlash against Republicans.

Every poll taken over the last month or so points to an upset in the making in 06. If the 2006 Congressional election were held today, 53% of Americans say they would vote for the Democratic candidate and only 36% would vote Republican. (Newsweek/Princeton Survey Research Associates poll.)
(See all recent polls HERE)

Democrats are right where minority Republicans were back in 1994 when, just weeks before the November vote, they unveiled their so-called "Contract With America." That year Republicans saw a net gain of 52 seats in the House, and gained control. So, it can be done. It has been done.

The only question is will it be done? Will Democrats snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Or, as they have done so many times before, snatch defeat from the jaws of pending victory?

We'll see. To find out we will have to wait to see how the internal battle within the Democrat party comes out. There are two schools of thought within the Party now battling it out over which strategy is best:

The Do Nothing Strategy
This is what the Hillary wing of the party is counseling. Their theory is that things are going their way without them having to do a thing. They believe the best strategy for Democrats is to just sit tight and let the Republicans self-destruct. Besides, putting forth specific proposals on hot-button issues only gives Republicans something to attack. Taking positions can both gain and lose votes. So why lose any votes when Democrats are getting them by default just sitting on their hands? Also, Hillary wants to be President in 08. That means crafting obscure, inoffensive positions that won't peel off moderate Republican voters. And, the last thing Hillary wants are reporters asking her whether she supports or opposes the activist positions of her party's progressives.

The Do Something Strategy
This is the Feingold Wing strategy. (It used to be the Dean Wing's strategy before he had to dumb down his positions to become DNC Chairman.) This progressive wing of the party believes, as Republicans did back in 1994, that Americans are hungry for change, but defined change. Working Americans – particularly those in Red States, were misled, lied to, snookered, suckered and robbed by Bush supply side neocons. Their sons and daughters are dying in a nation building exercise Bush promised he'd never try. And, while corporate America has thrived, working Americans have seen their middle class dreams whither. They were lied too. We were all lied to. So, in 06 and 08 voters will be in no mood to buy another pig in a poke. (Or as voters down in Louisiana like to say, "turn the fat hogs out and let the lean hogs in.) Voters want answers and they want solutions, They want to realistic proposals set forth. They want to know, if they put Democrats back in power precisely how they plan to:

1. End the war in Iraq
2. Fix the mess created by free-for-all trade policies,
3. Stem the outsourcing of high paying jobs,
4. Enact real pension reforms,
5. Fix America's broken health care systems,
6. Provide genuine homeland security
7. Secure our borders.
8. Balance the budget
9. Deal with climate change
10. Fix America's failing schools
11. Revitalize America's crumbling infrastructure
12. Make sure corporations and wealthy individuals pay their fair share of taxes.

So, if Democrats are smart they will come up with their own Contract With America – only this time let's call it a "Contract For America," instead.

While Democrats debate whether to do something or do nothing, we need to be talking to them. We need to tell Democrats that, if they tackle the hard issues that we'll stick with them. We won't leave them out there swinging in the wind when the GOP turns the dogs (and Swift boaters) loose on them. We need to assure them that not everything that needs doing is going to be easy or popular. Taxes will have to be raised. However we leave Iraq, we will not leave as victors. Pro-immigrant groups that support an open border with Mexico will oppose any kind of meaningful immigration enforcement. Teacher's unions will oppose merit pay and any attempts to measure their effectiveness. Corporations will threaten to leave the U.S. if one more cent is added to their tax burden.

That's why we need to engage with Democrats now. To let them know that, if they lack the backbone they can lean on ours. Begin by telling your Democrat representative or candidates to tell the Hillary Wing to either get with the program or get lost. Voters send representatives to Washington to do things, not just to sit there hoping the other team to forfeits the game. We want to know precisely why we should return them to power.

And this time we we want it in writing.

Monday, November 21, 2005

November 20, 2005

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish
and Other Reasons
Murtha is Right

Yesterday someone who actually matters said it: "get out of Iraq, now." That would be Rep. John Murtha, D-PA.

Over the next few days you will be bombarded with analysis on whether Murtha's proposal is a wise strategic move or a "cut and run" strategy. What you won't read in the paper or hear on the talking head shows is why Murtha's plan is not about Iraq's future at all, but yours, mine, our kids their kids, America's.

There's so much at stake here. Murtha touched on some of what's up for grabs because of Iraq. In his statement he pointed out how this poorly planned and executed war has nearly decimated America's once robust military. But, as serious as that is, it barely scratches the surface. The damage this war has done, is doing and continue doing, cuts to America's very bone.

The damage this war is causing is so immense, so virulent it's like a fast-growing cancer, spreading, chewing away at us, even as we try to ignore that we are getting weaker and weaker. It's as if America is bleeding internally. We don't see it, though if we could it would scare the hell out of us. But we are feeling it. We know. We know something is terribly, terribly wrong.

So what to do? What's the cure? Dr. Murtha has diagnosed the cause, and suggested a cure, but the patient remains largely in denial.

Let's see if we can put this in perspective for those in DC who "want to stay the course," rather than accept Dr. Murtha's cure.

Remember when Republicans used to scream about how federal money was being squandered by Democrats on welfare? They used to drag out those images of so-called "welfare queens" loading groceries bought with food stamps into their shiny new Cadillacs. Remember them?

Well, fellas, say hello to America's new welfare Queen, Iraq. And forget food stamps. This queen gets no bid contracts for smarmy characters (like this scumball,) millions upon millions in bribes to warlords, half-educated (but well-armed) mullahs. Billions of US taxpayer dollars are flooding going to upgrade Iraqi infrastructure while our own infrastructure here at home crumbles. Corruption in Iraq is a way of life.

Once Iraqi oil fueled the process. That's now been replaced (even eclipsed) by US aid. No food stamps or Cadillacs for these welfare queens, (well, actually welfare kings because women don't count) but for them it's Hummers, villas in Europe and fat Swiss bank accounts.

Back home our own federal budget is stretched so thin by the cost of propping up the Iraqis that yesterday members of Congress were reduced to fighting over a measly $5 billion ($50 billion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.) The cuts were made, of course, largely by trimming social programs, like the $900 million they cut from rural health care, and reductions in Medicare and Pell Grants. (Compassionate conservatism = tax cuts for the rich, programs cuts for the poor. Go ahead, Enterprise Institute, try to tell me that ain't so. Who do I believe? You or my lying eyes?)

Republicans stood firm against repealing a red cent of the Bush tax cuts, or taxing big oil. What they did do though is fiddle with the way energy companies compute their income, resulting in what might trim $4 billion from the $12 billion in tax cuts they awarded them earlier this year. The President immediately threatened a veto over that. (Tax cuts and record earnings for big energy, record home heating costs for the working poor. Go ahead. Try to convince me it ain't so, George, Dick. )

Let's bring this rambling rant back to Rep. Murtha now. He would bring US troops out of Iraq over the next 6 months. Let's do the math.

* Congress just cut $50 billion over ten years.
* That comes to $5 billion in cuts a year.
* Iraq is costing us $5 billion A MONTH.

(So far we have pissed away nearly $221 billion over there – up-to-the-second amount HERE)

With that money, instead of cutting funds we could have:

* Provided health insurance to 131,947,415 kids,
* Could have sent 29 million kids to preschool,
* Could have hired nearly 4 million new teachers,
* Could have funded over 10 million 4-year college scholarships
* Could have built over 2 million new low-income housing units

I won't belabor the point. You get it. We're wasting $5 billion a month in Iraq and cutting $5 billion a year from important social needs here at home. If Murtha's plan were implemented the costs being incurred in Iraq would begin to drop immediately as our troops, and the enormous logistical infrastructure needed to support them, was deployed out of the war zone.

Within six months we would be in a strictly support posture in Iraq, at a fraction of the cost of the current occupation. Instead of the measly $5 billion a year in cuts chest-thumping hypocrites in Congress authorized yesterday, Murtha's withdrawal from Iraq would save us $60 billion a year, or $600 billion over the same 10-years. That money would not only cover the programs they cut yesterday, but would significantly trim the federal budget deficit for the first time since George W. Bush and his Mayberry militia marched into town five years ago.

And that's just the dollar and cents reason for taking Murtha's advice. There's still plenty of other good reasons as well. . Let me list a few and at the same time address the reasons the administration claims we can't withdraw now:

The administration claims our troops "will stand down when the Iraqis stand up:"
I would suggest that Republicans use exactly the same logic they did years ago when they justified cutting welfare programs. They argued then that people on welfare will remain on welfare as long as they can. It's human nature, they said. You have force the issue. There was truth to that then, and it applies in Iraq even more. Iraqis have little incentive to assume all enormous costs and risk of self-defense and self-governance while the richest nation on earth continues pouring money and resources into their country. Iraqis can and will continue living what we consider miserable lives under the occupation. They are used to it. They lived miserable lives under Saddam. They have become maestros of misery and by necessity, masters at making lemonade out of lemons of misery. They are going to make as much lemonade out of our occupation as they can for as long as they can. So, the Bush folks actually have it exactly bass-akwards: The Iraqis will stand up, only when we stand down.

The administration claims foreign terrorists from Syria and Iran are crossing the borders and causing many of the Iraq's problems.
Assuming that's true, and it's not entirely so, I suggested a solution to that problem, real or not. A solution that would not only expose the truth of it, but get our troops out of danger as well. I suggested we give the Iraqis a few months to get their act together once and for all. We should tell them that on a date certain we would redeploy U.S. troops to secure Iraq's borders. After that, with the exception of air support, American troops would no longer engage in ground operations inside Iraq proper. By sealing the border we would find out very quickly just who is causing all the trouble. We would also find out what kind of country Iraqis really want and who they want running it. Sure, it would be bloody as Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds fight it out for turf, oil, religious and political control. So what? It's bloody now. At least it won't be the blood of US kids. And, once the dust settles we will know exactly who we are going to have to deal with in the years ahead.

The administration claims that leaving Iraq now would turn the country into a base for terrorists.
Again – a big so what. That's right, so what? The place is crawling with terrorists right now. Only the Iraqis can decide what kind of folks they want running things after we leave. Democracy sumocracy. You can drag a jackass to water but.. well, you know. Whatever form of government Iraqis settle upon, I seriously doubt they will choose a terrorocracy. But let's assume the worst. Let's assume that we leave and Iraq becomes the new Afghanistan for terrorists. What then? "

"Terrorists will get all that oil revenue," Republicans parrot. Well, that's an easy problem to fix. We just do what they are doing to us right now, blow up the oil infrastructure and then blow it again when they fix it. That strategy sure has worked well for them. Remember, Iraq's oil was supposed to pay for this war. The terrorists made damn sure that wet dream was never realized. And we can return the favor. In fact it's easier for us to keep Iraq's oil in the ground than it was for them. We can do it from the air. Hell, with Cruise missiles we can do it without even leaving home.

So, we leave and the terrorists take over Iraq. Then what? They have a new base of operation, that's true. But they have little money and all the sand they can eat. I'm not saying that terrorists are no threat to America, I am only saying that terrorists in control of Iraq are no more a threat to America than they are right now. (I still believe Iraqis will not let that happen.)

The administration claims leaving Iraq now will make America less secure.
Quite the opposite. Let's say a terrorist wants to launch an attack on American soil. How might he/she go about it? Well, for starters, take a short vacation to sunny Mexico. Then buy a Cornoa tee shirt, slip on a pair of used sneakers and blend in with the morning "commute" over, under, through or around the US/Mexico border fence. After that, it's a piece of cake.

The sorry truth is that America is already insecure – a security fools paradise. The main reason for that is all the treasure and personnel we've squandered in Iraq. Our borders with Mexico and Canada are wide open. Terrorists can, and likely already have, just strolled across unchallenged. Think about that the next time an airport security guard treats you as though you tick.

Let's stop pretending that somehow what we are doing in Iraq is making us safer here at home. It's not. And it won't. Ever.

The administration claims that we either "fight terrorists over there or we will have to fight them here.
I find this argument particularly repugnant, and let me explain why. I've owned a few fail boats over the years. When you own a salt-water boat you need to protect it's various metal parts from being eaten away by natural electrolysis. The way you do that is to secure a hunk of zinc to a piece of metal below the waterline. Zinc is attracts the electrical charge and, as long as it's there, the electrolysis will eat away at the zinc instead of attacking the other metal parts. They aptly call these little attachments "sacrificial zinc." You have to keep replacing them, but they are cheaper and easier to replace than a drive shaft or prop.

And therein lies the theory behind this administration's "fight them over there or here," argument. US troops are being used (misused) as this administration's solution for domestic terrorism. They are being used to attract terrorists to Iraq, where it's more convenient for the terrorists and wannabe terrorists to shoot and blow up Americans. They are, you might say, "sacrificial kids." Is that how we "support the troops?" By dangling them thousands of miles from home like bait to attract terrorists away from our homeland? Is that why we have and raise kids in America now, to chum for terrorist?

American troops may well need to die in the years ahead to protect America from terrorists. I don't argue with that. But if so, those young lives should be lost only in the defense of American soil, beginning with our own Swiss cheese borders and wide open ports.

I could go on. But it's the weekend and you need to get out and do something more enjoyable and useful than listening to Dr. Doom here. Let me just say, Murtha was right. Murtha IS right. And if we had an ounce of sense we would embrace and implement his plan immediately.

An opportunity to do so is less than two months away. Iraqis go to the polls on December 15 to elect a permanent government. That makes January 1, 2006 the perfect moment to launch the Murtha strategy. Tell the Iraqis that, beginning April 15, 2006, the day Americans pay their taxes, U.S. ground combat troops will be moved to newly created border garrisons. At the same moment announce that the 28,000 US troops added earlier this year to "provide security for Iraqi elections," would be returned to the US immediately. Then every month thereafter another 10,000 US troops would be redeployed out of Iraq.

Then we let the chips (finally) fall where they will and adjust to that new reality accordingly. Because, if we keep doing what we've been doing, we are just gonna keep getting what we've got.

Pizzo, over and out. Have a nice weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2005

November 17, 2005

Who's Lying Now ?

When did this happen?

WASHINGTON, - White House advisers convene secret sessions about the political dangers of revelations that American troops committed atrocities in the war zone ..... in the face of an increasingly unpopular war, they wonder at the impact on support at home. The best way out of the war, they agree, is to prop up a new government that they hope can unite the fractured foreign land.....The President, meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told them to pull out all the stops. "don't worry, we're taking the political heat. "Publicly, we say one thing," he told aides. "Actually, we do another."

You are forgiven for assuming that was George Bush and Dick Cheney's talking points yesterday. Actually it straight out of newly released Nixon administration documents from 1969. Back then Nixon was trying to worm out of blow back from the Mai Lai massacre and his illegal bombing of neutral Cambodia. (Full Story)

The reason I bring this up is because yesterday our current President and Vice President were busy furiously denying they lied to get us into another war.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 - Vice President Dick Cheney joined the White House attack on critics of the Iraq war Wednesday night when he told a conservative group that senators who had suggested that the Bush administration manipulated prewar intelligence were making "one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city." (Full Story)

It took 36 years to confirm that Nixon lied. So, do we now have to wait another 36 years to find out whether or not this administration's lied to us too? Should we have to? After all, democracy is just a sham if citizens are forced to vote in dark.

The President and VP say they did not lie ("I'm not a crook?") Instead they accuse those who who say they did of being the liars. Okay, so let's find out who's lying. The Senate should get on with it's Phase 2 investigation.

But considering the Senate is under control of the ruling party, a Senate investigation is not enough now. Things have gone too far now. Instead Congress should impanel an independent commission, ala the 911 Commission. And, considering that the war in Iraq is an ongoing conflict, time is of the essence. This commission's mandate should be narrowed to the the question at hand: Did the administration make an honest mistake, exaggerate, manipulate, misrepresent or flat out lie on their stated reasons for attacking Iraq? And get that answer to us, not 36 years or 36 months from now, but within 4 months.

And it can be done just that quickly too. We learned today with the release of the Nixon documents, that the answers are already right there on paper, over at the White House. They were there 36 years ago and they are there today. Go get them. If they contain real secrets, keep the parts that deserve secrecy, secret. But expose the lies. Lies are not secrets. They are simply lies -- who knows, they might even be evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Has this administration pulled a Nixon on us? ("Publicly, we say one thing. Actually, we do another.")

Don't you think we should find out – and much sooner rather than too late?

McGovern Redux
Today Democrat Congressman John Murtha formally demanded that US troops be "redeployed" (withdrawn) from Iraq over the next six months. Finally, someone bit the bullet and said it. It was this war's McGovern moment.

When George McGovern came out against the Vietnam War the Nixon gang had a problem on their smarmy little hands. They couldn't paint McGovern as unpatriotic because, while Nixon honed his poker-playing skills behind the lines during WWII, McGovern flew 35 combat missions as a B-24 bomber pilot over Germany. He was among the half of such pilots who survived those dangerous missions earning him a Distinguished Flying Cross.

The Bush neocons, none of whom served in the military, face a similar dilemma in the form of Congressman John Murtha. Bush and Cheney's are now accusing Democrats of aiding and abetting America's enemies by raising questions about their veracity. But Murtha's patriotism is unassailable. In 1966 then Marine Corps Captain John Murtha volunteered for Vietnam, receiving the Bronze Star with Combat "V", two Purple Hearts and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry.

During that same war George W. Bush won several drinking contests in Houston while protecting Texas one weekend each month from the much feared Viet Cong Air Force. Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld successfully avoided the (very) Selective Service dragnet entirely.

Now comes John Murtha, a guy who knows a quagmire when he sees one because he saw one up close. Are George and Dick going to turn their attack dogs loose on Captain Murtha now? I'd like to see them try.

By the way, while Murtha is a Democrat, he is also a favorite of Pentagon brass. Which raises the possibility that Murtha is speaking for frustrated Generals and Admirals sick of watching this administration waste their troops and treasure on a wet dream cooked up by a bunch of chicken hawk neocons who don't know a trigger assembly from a light switch.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

November 16, 2005

From the Feet of Clay Department

It's become fashionable to bash the Mainstream Media, especially here in the blogesphere. Actually it's become more than fashionable, it's achieved cliché status. But as an old reporter I have to ask, what the hell is happening to my profession?

Geez Louise, hardly a day seems to pass that I don't pick up a newspaper to find another veteran journalist trying to wiggle out of how he/she blew a big story, got it wrong and/or became part of the story itself – and not even in a good way.

It's one thing when it's some wannabe, loser like Jason Blair crosses the line, but quite another when it's veteran journalists like Judy Miller at the New York Times, and now Bob Woodward of the Washington Post.

Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago
Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed. (Full Story)

Bob, Bob, Mighty Bob, say it ain't so.

And he did try to say it ain't so. In a Milleresque statement to readers in today's Post Woodward tries to explain what happened. And, like Miller before him, he only digs himself in deeper. (Full Text of Woodward's explanation.)

Maybe Woodward's explanation will wash with non-journalist readers, but it sets off all kinds of alarm bells among those who have walked Washington as a beat for a living.

Let me parse the parts of Woodward's statement that just don't wash.

Woodward: I was first contacted by Fitzgerald's office on Nov. 3 after one of these officials went to Fitzgerald to discuss an interview with me in mid-June 2003 during which the person told me Wilson's wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as a WMD analyst.

So, let me see. Bob of Watergate fame, remained silent about this little bombshell the whole time Judy Miller cooled her heels in prison. She was there for refusing to testify about the same thing. Disclosure that he had been told the same thing by another top administration official even before she had been told, would not have gotten Judy out of the slammer. But that was not Bob's job. What it would have been, though, is a good old fashioned scoop -- the kind of story Woodward would have written in a heartbeat thirty years ago. What happened Bob? Your source was confidential, you say. Fine. So don't identify the source. But write the goddamned story!

Woodward: The interviews were mostly confidential background interviews for my 2004 book "Plan of Attack" about the leadup to the Iraq war, ongoing reporting for The Washington Post and research for a book on Bush's second term to be published in 2006. (Emphasis mine)

There you have it. Another Woodward Best Seller in the works, but not due out until early next year. So, was he sitting on the information in order to keep it fresh for his book release? If so that's grounds for dismissal by the Post. The only reason Woodward routinely gets the kind of privileged access to top administration officials no other reporter can get is because he is "Bob Woodward or the Washington Post." The materials he uses in his books is, in large part, the product of his and other Post reporters on-the-job investigative research and reporting. To withhold a scoop like this from his own paper, then use it in a future book, is a violation of trust and his fiduciary responsibilities to both his paper and it's readers. Fire him.

Woodward: I testified that after the mid-June 2003 interview, I told Walter Pincus, a reporter at The Post, without naming my source, that I understood Wilson's wife worked at the CIA as a WMD analyst. Pincus does not recall that I passed this information on.

Oh come on Bob! Walter is Old School. He has forgotten more about Intelligence and DC palace-politics than Woodward knows. Walter would have written that story had he known about it. If Walter says he does not recall such a conversation with Woodward then no such conversation occurred. Period. I'd put fat money on it.

Woodward: I also testified that I had a conversation with a third person on June 23, 2003. The person was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, and we talked on the phone. I told him I was sending to him an 18-page list of questions I wanted to ask Vice President Cheney. On page 5 of that list there was a question about "yellowcake" and the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's weapons programs. I testified that I believed I had both the 18-page question list and the question list from the June 20 interview with the phrase "Joe Wilson's wife" on my desk during this discussion. I testified that I have no recollection that Wilson or his wife was discussed, and I have no notes of the conversation.

Yeah well someone at the White House had a belated "recollection," of that conversation. Woodward's source(s) memories were jogged by seeing Scooter Libby indicted after his contemporarious notes also didn't jive with his sworn grand jury testimony. So, Bob's source(s) suddenly remembered this pivotal conversation and tripped all over themselves racing to confess about it – I presume to correct earlier testimony to the contrary.

Woodward: Though neither Wilson nor Wilson's wife's name had surfaced publicly at this point, Pincus had published a story the day before, Sunday, June 22, about the Iraq intelligence before the war. I testified that I had read the story, which referred to the CIA mission by "a former senior American diplomat to visit Niger." Although his name was not used in the story, I knew that referred to Wilson.

So let me get this straight, Bob. Your paper's premiere intelligence reporter is struggling to understand the most important emerging scandal since Watergate – the reason America went to war – and you didn't share with him that hot, highly relevant tip you got from a high administration official?

Remember, the Pincus story came just two days after Woodward was told about Wilson's wife. Woodward admits in his statement today that he knew the "former senior American diplomat" Picus referred to in his story was Joe Wilson. Still he did not run to Picus and say, "Whoa.. hold the presses. Something's fishy here. I am getting back-channeled by the White House on this telling me that Wilson's wife is a CIA WMD expert and that she sent him on this trip. What's up with that?"

Nope. Bob didn't do that, not then, not ever. Mum was the word. During the months that followed as the CIA-leak case mushroomed into the biggest Washington scandal since Watergate, Bob kept his secret. No story. Bob Woodward kept this critical piece of the timeline puzzle to himself – though you can bet your sweet bippy it's in his soon-to-be published book. The public's right to know would have to wait.

Woodward: I testified after consulting with the Post's executive and managing editors, the publisher, and our lawyers. We determined that I could testify based on the specific releases obtained from these three people.

Well duh. If that isn't an attempt to turn necessity into a virtue then I've never seen one. The sources "released" Woodward from his confidentiality pledge when they turned themselves into Fitzgerald in the hope they can avoid being Scooterized themselves. In his news conference following that indictment Fitzgerald sent an unambiguous message to the rest of the perps in the administration; "Withhold information and lie to me and I will send you up the river." So, Bob Woodward didn't break this important story, his sources did.

Woodward: I was first contacted by Fitzgerald's office on Nov. 3 after one of these officials went to Fitzgerald to discuss an interview with me in mid-June 2003 during which the person told me Wilson's wife worked for the CIA on weapons of mass destruction as a WMD analyst.

Let me be clear. I am not criticizing Woodward because he did not run to Fitzgerald with this information the moment he knew that chronologically he had likely been the first reporter to get this leak from a White House source. That's not a his or any other reporter's job. But he should have broke that story, or let Walter Pincus break it while that information was most relevant to the emerging scandal -- which would have been in June or early July 2003. And, he could have done so without violating any source confidentiality agreements by simply not naming his sources.

But he didn't. Instead he sat on that story. Meanwhile, over at rival New York Times, Judy Miller was committing an opposite kind of din, she wasn't sitting on anything. She took the complete opposite tact -- "Never investigate a good leak too far." In so doing Miller became the administration's pro-war propaganda handmaiden.

Both Bob and Judy now claim they were just protecting sources. In fact what they were protecting was their privileged access to top administration officials. Those contacts had put both reporters at the top of their profession. It had made them famous too. And in Woodward's case, they allowed him to crank out best sellers chuck full of inside information available to no one else. This was a "hand that feed's ya," situation if ever there was one.

This administration has sullied so many things that make (or at least made) America great. But maybe the most disturbing may be how they have polluted the public's information streams by corrupting and neutering free and independent press – even one-time heavy hitters like Judy and Bob.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and little children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

November 15, 3005

Tale of Two Presidents

Bill Clinton's motto might be described as "Make love, not war." Unfortunately he took the sentiment a bridge too far and got himself impeached. Still Clinton was on to something. Two previous presidents, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, had seen their administrations destroyed by choosing war. Clinton's choice ruined one blue dress and soiled his legacy. Johnson and Nixon's choice got millions of people killed, now we know, unnecessarily.

I was in the Marine Corps so I'm hardly a knee jerk peacenik. Sometimes turning the other cheek amounts to suicide. But those times are rare. Most of the time war is the worst choice among other unattractive choices. For example, had we turned the other cheek (as in minded our damn business) in Vietnam, the only thing what would have changed is a whole lot more folks on both sides would still have a pulse today.

Still it seems clear that, while some men can't seem to control their lust for nookey, others can't seem to control their lust for war. In both cases history teaches, these two very different attractions are both open flames to these men's inner moth. Puff.

History, what a bitch. Had George W. Bush shown more interest in reading something deeper than the morning sports section he might have heeded the many "Danger, open flame" pre-war warnings.

Of course, it's too late now. Instead he released the Dogs of War.

(Preemptive note: No, I am not comparing our soldiers to dogs or chickens This is what we call a "metaphor." Okay? So, spare me the angry emails. You would not believe some of the emails I get!)

On the farm we have a way of punishing a chicken killing dog. (PETA's gonna hate this.) We tie the dead chicken around the offending dog's neck and leave it there a few days. It drives the dog nuts. He tears through the fields, howls, whines, rolls in the dirt, skids along the ground, trying to shed the evidence of his crime. It's quite a show.

Remember that image the next time you hear George W. Bush giving a speech attacking those who criticize his war in Iraq. The dead chickens of Iraq are now securely fastened around Bush's neck. And he knows now that the longer they remain the worse they're gonna stink.

So he rolls in the dirt.

"Reasonable people can disagree about the conduct of the war, but it is irresponsible for Democrats to now claim that we misled them and the American people. Leaders in my administration and members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence on Iraq, and reached the same conclusion: Saddam Hussein was a threat.....Yet some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past. They are playing politics with this issue and they are sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy. And that's irresponsible." (Bush, Nov. 14, Alaska AF Base speech)

Thrash, run, roll, scrape along the ground, anything to get those dead, rotting chickens off his neck. And it's not just one dead chicken, but over 2000 with fresh kills added every day now. He's becoming a walking meat market, a talking graveyard, a blood-soaked rot-reeking apparition.

And so he runs through the mud.

"As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them. Our troops deserve to know that this support will remain firm when the going gets tough. And our troops deserve to know that whatever our differences in Washington, our will is strong, our nation is united, and we will settle for nothing less than victory."

(Translation: Come on fellas, take responsibility for some of these dead chickens, will ya? You wanted to kill them too once. John Kerry, here, put these rotting roosters around your neck, you voted to let me do it. Bill Frist, don't you dare chicken out on me now. And hey, HEY, John Edwards, where the hell do you think you're going? No, no, it's too late to say it was all a big mistake. These chickens are dead already and you're one of the guys who let me do it. Listen, if you fellas leave me to holding the bag on all these deaths I swear I will lift my leg on you every chance I get.. Yes I will. Damn these things are starting to stink.")

Run, roll, whine, beg, but whatever he does those dead stick. They have become Bush's macabre scarlet letters. This, the man who criticized Clinton for making love then chose war himself. Clinton got impeached. But it would seem that the same folks who impeached Clinton because he lied about making love, aren't up to impeaching Bush for lying to justify a war that has killed who knows how many tens of thousands.

So all we can do is keep tying the fresh kills around Bush's neck. And then never allow him shake them off. Never.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

November 14, 2005

Full Stop .. Full Stop!

I spent the long weekend thinking about damage control. No, not the countless damage control operations underway within the Bush administration now. I was thinking about what we, the nearly 60% of Americans who believe President Bush is doing a bad job, are going to do now. Bush has three more years at the wheel. How are we going to keep this guy from creating any more messes we, our children and grand children will have to clean up.

I'm serious. We need a damage control strategy, and we need one fast. I wrote a piece many months ago entitled, "Obstructionists of America, Unite!" I suggested that sometimes obstructionism can be the passive aggressive exercise of true patriotism. I must have floated the idea too soon because the response to that piece was underwhelming.

Not now though. If ever there was a time to employ massive obstruction, it's now. After all the damage the Bushites have already done, are we really going to just let these Typhoid Marys continue infecting everything they touch, everything Americans consider dear?

I proposed back then that House and Senate Democrats stop running from Republican charges they are being obstructionists, and instead turn obstructionism into a virtue. When Republicans accuse them of obstructing administration plans, programs or appointees, instead of launching into some convoluted, triangulated response, just thank them for the compliment.

Then use the opportunity to ask them why, in light of the administrations abysmal track record, they are not helping obstruct this out of control wrecking operation. In case they forgot, or weren't paying attention the last five years, hand them this list:

First-term Damage Report

They blew the Clinton $5.6 trillion surplus
Cut taxes by nearly $2 trillion benefiting mostly wealthy earners.
Ran up national debt to over $8 trillion - and growing $3.5 billion a day.
Created record high energy prices and record high earnings for energy companies
Started a war on false pretenses.
Global warming is on a tear (just ask the folks in Florida and Louisiana.)
Treats real scientists the same way the Catholic Church treated Galileo.

And he's not done. We know now that George W. Bush is not trainable. What we see is what we get – and that's exactly what we're gonna get for three more years unless we stop him. Under our system of government, the only legal way to stop a sitting President is to block his every move and abscess him off from the body politic.

We must especially stop him from creating damage that will persist long after he's finally out of our hair. That means stopping him from stacking the Supreme Court with right-wing Christian Ayatollahs. The confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito is certain only if Democrats allow it to come to a vote.

WASHINGTON, Nov. 13 - A coalition of liberal groups is preparing a national television advertising campaign against the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. that seeks to move the debate over his selection beyond abortion rights and focus instead on subjects like police searches and employment discrimination, several leaders of the coalition said. (Full Story)

If Senate Republicans try blackmailing Democrats out of filibustering Alito by trying to change Senate rules – the "nuclear option" – limiting the filibuster, Democrats should shut the whole damn place down again, just as Harry Reed did two weeks ago. Then, once behind closed doors, tell Republicans that if they persist with the nuclear option Democrats will shut the Senate down everyday from that day forward until they relent. Nothing will get done. (Which is win in itself, considering most of what the administrations wants to get done shouldn't get done anyway.)

But real obstructionism is not for sissies. Democrats are going to have to be ready to confront the GOP counter-attacks. They will accuse Democrats of everything from "hurting our troops overseas," to "giving aid and comfort to terrorists," to "putting all Americans at risk," to flat out accusing them of being "unpatriotic."

To which Democrats must respond, "bring it on." Unpatriotic you say? Well Mr./Ms. Republican explain this to American voters:

* How patriotic is it to get US kids killed to fulfill some neocon wet-dream of democratizing the Middle East?
* How patriotic is it to lie to the US Congress, to the United Nations and the American people to justify that deadly fool's errand?
* How patriotic is it to get over 2000 America kids killed just so we can turn Iraq over to convicted embezzler, serial liar and human scum like Ahmed Chalabi?
* How patriotic was it to appoint a certifiable imbecile to run America's lead emergency response agency?
* How patriotic is it to turn America's once robust middle class into a bunch of underpaid Wal-Mart serfs?
* How patriotic is it to allow nearly 50 million Americans, men, women and children, face life without even the most basic health coverage?
* How patriotic is it to saddle working families with skyrocketing energy prices while energy companies pocket obscenely large profits? (Might this be why they insist on keeping secret the Vice President's energy task force proceedings?)
* How patriotic is it to toss tax-cut crumbs to hard working Americans while giving the already wealthy windfall tax cuts?
* How patriotic is it to stand by while your nation runs secret dungeon-prisons offshore and tortures foreign prisoners in America's name?
* How patriotic is it to let large drug companies monopolize the market on life-saving drugs and then pass a law prohibiting bankrupt Medicare from negotiating lower prices for such drugs?
* How patriotic is it for top administration officials to lie to a federal prosecutor?

Democrats should tell GOP attackers they will be happy to explain to them why obstructionism is patriotic just as soon as they answer those questions. That is, if they still need such an explanation.

This is THE moment.

The time is at hand for Democrats to either prove to us they are up to leading and governing. But it's not that clear to them yet. A debate is raging at the highest levels of the DNC. One side-- let's call it the Hillary faction – argues that taking clear-cut positions on divisive issues is dangerous. They contend that Republicans are screwing things up so much that Dems need do nothing but wait until the next election. By that time, the Hillary faction argues, voters will be so disgusted with the GOP they will turn them out of office in mass. (Voters in Louisiana, where politicians of both parties are famous for their lack of ethics, have a saying when they turn one party out office: "It was just time to let the fat hogs out and the lean hogs in." )

The other faction, call it the Feingold faction, argues that America can't wait that long. That Democrats need to take unambiguous stands against this administration's ruinous policies. And then they must steel themselves to fight the predicable counter-attacks, which by now they know will be both personal and vicious. (Sissies need not apply.)

This is where the rubber of real politics meets the road. It's Profiles in Courage time for Democrats. If they are not willing -- or able -- to lay down on the tracks and stop such a provably disastrous, wrong-headed, ideological juggernaut, then they are not worthy of power themselves. And, if Democrats can't even stop further damage, how can we expect them make the tough decisions it will require to fix what the Bushites have already screwed up?

Memo To Democrats:

Blah, blah, blah. For five years, blah, blah, blah. Talking isn't governing. Talking isn't leadership either. Enough with the talk! Time for action. Just do it. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct. No pain, no gain. So unless you feel the burn you're not trying hard enough. Obstruct, obstruct, obstruct.

Stop them. Stop them now before they infect the Supreme Court. Stop them now from further harming to the environment that sustains us all. Stop them now from channeling yet more national treasure into the bank accounts of modern-day Robber Barons. Stop them now from turning America's once-proud working class into indentured workers and Wal-Mart into America's company store.

Stop them. Stop them. Stop them now! Bring them to a full stop. Then run out the clock.

Enough already! No more. No mas. Basta!

Monday, November 14, 2005

November 12, 2005

Addicts v. Dealers

We really are a hopelessly clueless people. Proof of that observation was televised live yesterday on C-SPAN as a dozen Senators berated oil company CEOs on our behalf for making too much money selling us gasoline.

Why is that proof we are stupid? Let's see. What say instead of of oil company execs the grillees had been big time crack dealers? And the grillers representatives of Crack Addicts of America.

Senator Goodsmile: "Mr. SlingThing, can you explain to this committee how you sleep at night? How do you justify the prices you charge for a substance our constituents need to carry on their daily lives?"

SlingThing: Man, I don't cook it, I just serve it - ya know what I mean? The street sets the price dude, not me. I believe you guys call it "the supply/demand pricing mechanism. I'm a capitalist, dude. I got responsibilities to my people. Got a problem with that?

(While watching that dog-and-pony show yesterday I had an image of the oil execs swearing, "I do not believe oil is addictive." But that didn't happen because Alaska's oil company pimp, Sen. Ted Stevens, who chaired the hearing, refused to allow his friends to be put under oath.)

Anyway, the whole thing was a disgrace. I mean, come on folks, those oil guys are not the core problem. We are. We have gotten ourselves hooked on stuff made from dead dinosaurs, the quintessential finite resource! How smart is that?

Nevertheless, there we were yesterday cheering on those empty-suit Senators we sent out to beat up on the our suppliers because they are making too much money off our energy drug of choice. I almost (I said "almost") felt sorry for the oil execs. As senators scolded them the look on their faces reminded me of the look you get from a puppy when you shout, "NO, no no.. outside. You poop OUTSIDE!"

Look, those guys are just doing what the mercantile universe created them to do – make as much hay as they can while the sun shines. And spare them lectures on "social responsibility." Only one thing controls how much people like that make – demand. Yeah, yeah, I know, supply plays a key role too.

News Flash: They control supply. We control demand. They have no conscience. We have no self-restraint. It's your classic pusher/user dynamic.

The oil companies did not create those enormous profits alone. Our demand for their product was the Yin to their Yang.

"Oh but they are gouging," you whine. To which I reply - DUH! No kidding. My, my but aren't you the deep thinker. And just how might they get away with "gouging" someone who is not consuming bucket loads of their product? Hmmm.. funny how that works.

Look, these guys know the day is rapidly approaching when the only sound coming out of their oil fields is the same sound you get when your straw hits the bottom of a milkshake. While we go our merry way consuming their oil products, they're already trying to figure out how to corner the market on emerging alternative energy sources. They're smart that way. We're dumb that way. In the meantime they're going to maximize the profits they can make on their dwindling supply of dead dinosaur juice.

I really don't give fig how much money those jerks make. In fact I hope they raise gas prices even higher because that's the only way some of us are going to get the message. I am already seeing some of the biggest gas addicts changing their ways, or at least trying. My local want ads are filled with late model SUV's and Hummers for sale by fools hoping there are still just enough fools out there to bail them out of their gas guzzler. I hope they're wrong, that no one buys their SUV and they are forced to donate them to the Polly Klass Foundation to sell for scrap.

We are not only stupid but hypocritical too. For example, I live just outside the Northern California little wine country town of Sebastopol. The place crawls with granola crunching, Birkenstock wearing folk who pride themselves on their social and environmental values. The town leaders officially declared Sebastopol a "Nuclear Free Zone." Not that anyone ever tried to bring nukes to Sebastopol, but a sign at the edge of town now warns them they better not try. While nuclear-free the town isn't bug-free. They also banned the use of garden pesticides within city limits. (I don't know about you, but I've had more problems with bugs than nukes. But I digress.)

Many of the folks who live here now are former city folk who moved to the country to connect with Mother Nature. While it doesn't snow here and paved roads will take you anywhere you need to get, the first thing most of them did was buy a big-ass, four-wheel drive SUV. I couldn't drive through my little town without getting stuck behind enormous SUVs festooned with bicycle racks and kayaks and/or skis strapped to roof-racks sporting bumper stickers declaring, "NO BLOOD FOR OIL." Helloooooo..... Disconnect, disconnect.. cognitive dissonance alert..... anyone in there?

Yet there are glimmers of hope. In recent months something has changed. Crunchy Town is suddenly knee deep in Toyota Prius hybrids. And local motorcycle shops report demand for Hogs is down and sales of thrifty European-type motor scooters way up. Maybe, just maybe, a sign we are prepared to begin taking the cure.

That's good, because the cure for our energy problems will not be found in thumping on oil company executives to make their product more affordable. Until an alternative energy future matures we will have to continue doing business with the oil pushers. What don't have to do is continue consuming their product at the same level we do now. We need to wean ourselves off the stuff, slowly, but steadily. Hybrid cars are a good start. They remind me of devices smokers use that filter more and more nicotine out of cigarette smoke until they no longer crave the stuff.

But we can do a hell of a lot more. City folk should use public transportation or, as they do in Europe, drive a motor scooter to work. (Which reminds me... European women, zipping through city streets to work, brief case balanced on the floor boards of a shinny little Vespas are – to my thinking – so sexy! Okay, sorry... too much information.) I'm decidedly unsexy, even when riding my little Honda scooter, but I sure feel cocky when I pass gas stations and wave at all those folks pumping tens of gallons into the bellies of the their four-wheel beasts.

We can also begin weaning ourselves off the local utility company by using the money we saved not buying a new SUV to go solar. Whenever I fly over a city I look down on all those sunlit rooftops beneath, each of them is a parasite, sucking power off a utility grid. With solar panels on those rooftops those homes becomes energy producers instead. Not only can the right kind of solar system provide its own energy needs, but can pump any surplus produced into the grid. In the Southwest and West, where the sun shines more often than it doesn't, billions of watts of energy rains down on rooftops. Today it all goes to waste. What an unconscionable waste.

And yes, yes, I know the all about those "pay back formulas" that supposedly show it takes many years to recoup the cost of a solar-electric system. First, that's not true. The formulas used to calculate solar pay-back rates don't factor in the full social and environmental costs we all pay in many ways for the fossil fuels utilities burn to produce energy. (Oh, and if you did those calculations last winter, do them again this winter. I suspect even those phony pay-back formulas will cough up some pretty impressive pay-back rates this time around.)

Anyway, lay off the oil pushers. Let them make a bit more money before they join the horse and buggy industries. Just make sure that this time we don't allow them to corner our next sources of energy. The sun is free and hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. if we let Big Energy corner those markets after the screwing they've given us on oil, well, then we deserve to be milked like a herd of cows.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

November 9, 2005

Breaking Business News
Kingdom of Oz Acquires State of Kansas

NFR-November 7, 2005: For almost fifty years residents of the surreal Kingdom of OZ have fumed over how their kingdom was portrayed as a lesser alternative to the State of Kansas. After years of behind the scenes fundraising and organizing the Kingdom of Oz (KOZ) completed a hostile takeover of the state yesterday.

"I may not have gotten a brain from the Grand Wizard of Oz, but he gave me something more important," said Wizard of Oz spokesman Scott Strawman. "He gave me an appreciation for nonsense, things we wish were true, but aren't. He gave me the ability to make them true just by pretending they are. Now I am able to create my own reality right out of my empty head. What a gift! And that's why I am so pleased to announce that as of today The Yellow Brick Road runs right through heart – and heads -- of the wonderful State of Kansas."

A clearly delighted Strawman added in a mocking voice, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore. Ha,ha,ha. That mean little ethnocentric insult sure came back to haunt -em, huh?"

The first official act passed by the state's new owner was to revise school science cirroculum.

"The children of this poor land have had their heads stuffed so full of facts, facts, facts, they are losing their appreciation for nonsense, said Prof. Dobson M. Munchkin. "Nonsense and faith go hand in hand. If you teach children that facts are more 'real' than nonsense, you undermine faith. Faith has to be blind or it becomes an oxymoron. And faith is built on foundations of nonsense. Kansas schools have turned children against nonsense and we intend to change that. We need to reawaken the nonsense center in these student's central cortexes. Once that little bugger wakes back up these kids will once again be able to blend fact and fiction in ways that render them indistinguishable."

Prof. Dobson said the damage fact-based education causes could best be seen by looking at Dorothy's own behavior.

"While Hollywood portrayed Dorothy as a heroine, she was actually a victim," Dobson said. "By the time she ended up in Oz, fact-based science had driven that poor little girl crazy. Day in and day out Dorothy was told she was descended from monkeys. By the time we got her she was hallucinating that Oz was filled with evil flying monkeys."

"Well, first of all, we don't have monkeys in Oz," he pointed out. "Never have had monkeys -- and we sure as hell don't have flying monkeys. They were figments of that poor little girl's fact-fatiqued mind. The poor thing had been exposed for weeks on end to fossil records showing she was, (so they claim,) descended from disgusting, hairy, tree-climbing, ball-scratching, dung throwing apes. No wonder she was such a mess."

As of yesterday Kansas students will be exposed to Ozian science. Ozian science differs from fact-filled science in that Ozian science is devoid of facts. In the place of facts students are asked to stretch their minds. They are asked to imagine the possibility they were created just the way they are a few thousand years ago by an "intelligent being." (Well actually by the Wizard, but, Dobson said, "we have to bring them along slowly as it will take a while to shake all those facts loose. Oh, and BTW.. just between us -- the Wizard also created monkeys, but Ozian science teaches that monkeys were a completely different product line entirely.")

Reached for comment at the White House President George Bush said he was highly supportive of the Oz/Kansas merger.

"Oz is a faith-based kingdom," Bush said. "It's another step in allowing nonsense back into our public square again. People who believe in nonsense have been scorned and excluded from the public square for too long. I speak regularly with the Wizard. The Wizard understands how important it is to fight terrorists wherever they are. He too has felt the ugly hand of terror in the form of terrorists in black robes flying around and scaring His people. The Wizard is on our side."

The President left the podium ignoring questions shouted by Helen Thomas.

"Mr. President. Mr. President. Is it true you have asked the Wizard for a brain?"

Meanwhile back in Kansas legislators adopted a new state slogan for their license plates:

"Brains? We don't need no stinkin brains."