Monday, April 30, 2007



Bush said he's ready to sit down and "work with" Democrats to come up with a bill to fund the continued occupation of Iraq. The Democrats would like to fund a safe, orderly end to that occupation and Bush, if we can judge from his history, is thinking in terms of them joining him, Cheney, Lieberman and other Regime dead-enders in pushing for a blank check to wage endless war. Those two twains ain't meetin' and tomorrow's Washington Post makes it clear that a good many Republican members of Congress are unwilling to commit political hara-kiri to bolster Bush's fragile ego in defense of his failed strategies and indefensible policies.

Yesterday George Will told George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week, when asked if Petraeus' September deadline for reasonable political goals in Iraq remain unmet-- as it nearly certain-- that congressional Republicans "do not want to have, as they had in 2006,another election on Iraq. ...It took 30, 40 years for the Republican Party to get out from under Herbert Hoover. People would say, 'Are you going to vote for Nixon in '60?' 'No, I don't like Hoover.' The Depression haunted the Republican Party. This could be a foreign policy equivalent of the Depression, forfeiting the Republican advantage they've had since the '68 convention of the Democratic Party and the nomination of [George] McGovern. The advantage Republicans have had on national security matters may be forfeited."

The rubber stamp Republican leadership, according to the Post "is brushing aside White House opposition" to agree with Democrats that "a second war spending bill should begin with benchmarks of success for the Iraqi government, and possible consequences if those benchmarks are not met." Bush has vowed to promptly veto the bill he gets tomorrow, on the anniversary of his idiotic "Mission Accomplished" photo op.
But GOP leaders did not take the benchmark issue off the table. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) suggested last week that although Republicans could not accept linking benchmarks to troop withdrawals, they could tie them to $5.7 billion in nonmilitary assistance for the Iraqi government.

Blunt spokeswoman Burson Snyder said yesterday that it would be "premature" to rule out such a proposal, in spite of Rice's comments. "We haven't even begun substantive conversations with the Democratic leadership, so how can we start ruling in or out certain provisions?" she said.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) took a similar tack. Boehner "believes members and the administration can and will discuss benchmarks as a way of measuring progress and holding the Iraqi government accountable, and that's where members need to start," said his spokesman Kevin Smith. He added that "tying benchmarks to withdrawal dates or deadlines are a non-starter," but he did not rule out consequences for Iraqi government inaction.

Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) has suggested that benchmarks be tied to U.S. troop positions within Iraq. If the benchmarks are not met, troops would remain in the country but would be removed from combat zones.

Appearing on several Sunday talk shows, Rice said any compromise on benchmarks would not give the Iraqi government and U.S. troops the flexibility they need. Her comments left Democratic leaders convinced that the White House is not ready to negotiate on a war funding bill that includes policy changes for Iraq. Instead, Democrats will have to negotiate with congressional Republicans, hoping a measure with broad, bipartisan support would force Bush to the table.

How much longer will it be before no one is left defending Bush's catastrophic Middle east agenda but Holy Joe Lieberman?




John Mellencamp didn't play "Texas Bandido" or "Rodeo Clown," two songs he wrote about George Bush, a few nights ago at a concert he did for 200 wounded veterans and their families at Walter Reed Hospital. He did a sweaty 14 song set featuring bipartisan crowd pleasers like "Jack & Diane," "Hurts So Good," "Small Town," and "Little Pink Houses." According to the Washington Post "one can apparently appreciate Mellencamp's music even while disagreeing with his personal politics-- just as it's possible for the singer to support the soldiers while opposing the war they're fighting." The Post writer doesn't mention how he ascertained that the wounded men disagree with Mellencamp's "personal politics." But it's the Post, where an Establishment hack like David Broder is honored and esteemed as though he were a real journalist.

Mellencamp has been an outspoken populist-oriented opponent of Bush's worst excesses. He talks about and he writes songs about it. I doubt any of the tunes from Freedom's Road are on Bush's iPod with "My Sharona." It would have been great, however, if whoever loads the iPod would have stuck the whole album on it since the hidden last track, "Rodeo Clown," pans Bush mercilessly. "I didn't want to write about blame," Mellencamp explained to a journalist asking him about it. "With freedom comes certain responsibilities. You can't put Lady Liberty in a position by herself. To be above reproach she has to live up to certain ideals or the rest of us are screwed. I said it in 'Rodeo Clown.' It's always the same. It's rich guys making young kids fight their battles."

His concert at Walter Reed shows how very straight-forward it can be to support the young men and women fighting on behalf of the U.S.-- our troops-- while not supporting the war or the warmongers like Cheney and Bush. In fact, Mellencamp said it himself: "You can support the troops and not support the wa. If I can entertain these kids and get the people watching to think about who's making sacrifices for their country, well, mission accomplished."

If you missed Mellencamp on MSNBC's countdown, here's a 5 minute piece during which he explains what he did and why.

If you haven't heard John lately, here's a video always worth watching:

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For a special look at the right wing mentality today-- especially the penchant for self-entitelment and psychotic paranoia regarding victimization-- I want to take you back a few decades to the ideological and spiritual antecedents of George Bush's Republican base. The time: just after World War I. The place: Germany. The literal translation of "Dolchstoßlegende" is "Dagger stab legend," what we might call the "stab-in-the-back myth." After Germany's defeat, right wing propaganda carefully-- and hysterically-- encouraged and nurtured an ethos of persecution among the German people and successfully brainwashed a substantial part of the population so thoroughly that they blamed the war not on failed militarism and their tragically flawed political leadership but on the enemies of militarism and those very leaders. Germans bought it and instead of turning decisively against the right, many Germans turned towards it.

Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith have written an important essay on how the American right is already planning the same type of propaganda campaign to turn the question, Who lost Iraq? into a club with which to attack Democrats.
Republicans are preparing to dominate future decades of American politics by blaming the failure of the Iraq war on those who "sent a signal" that the US would not "stay the course" whatever the cost. President Bush and Vice President Cheney have already begun to project such a "stab in the back" myth. At a recent Republican luncheon, Cheney told senators that "What's most troubling" about Sen. Harry Reid's recent comment that the war is lost "is his defeatism."

Their propagandists-- as well as media hacks embedded in the mainstream press, like David Broder-- can always be counted on to lend a hand when it comes to smearing the respresentatives of working and middle class Americans they so detest.

Once the Bush Regime has decisively lost the ill-conceived war and given up the occupation of Iraq, Rovian swiftboating "will go into high gear to blame each new outrage on those in the US who didn't give 100 percent support to the war." That's a key reason why so many Democrats who know better are so tepid about supporting a frontal attack on Bush, Cheney and the neocons and on ending the war at once and denouncing it for what it is: a contemptible failure from Day One on the part of an illegitimate political clique outside of the mainstream of American politics. "The crucial problem is that most Democrats seem to be calling for withdrawal or 'redeployment' not because the war is wrong, but merely because it is failing. By framing the war as lost because of mismanagement, poor planning or being bogged down in a civil war, Democrats cede the argument that the war itself was a 'noble cause.' But if the war is right-- if, as Bush maintains, it is necessary to prevent horrendous consequences-- then the public will predictably blame those consequences on the 'defeatists' who made America 'cut and run.'"
What's necessary to evade this trap is to define the war itself-- rather than just the fact that America is losing it-- as wrong. It is wrong because we were lied into it by a rogue executive intent on launching an illegal war and occupation, in violation of national and international law, the US Constitution and the UN Charter. And it is wrong because it has imposed an illegal occupation that has systematically violated the Geneva Conventions and the US War Crimes Act.

The means to define Bush's war for the American people are at hand in the power of Congress to investigate executive branch actions. We are seeing that power being flexed in the use of subpoenas for documents and testimony by committees investigating the firings of US attorneys. But, so far, investigation of illegal war, occupation, torture and rendition has been pusillanimous at best...

In the aftermath of the Vietnam war, Democrats and the peace movement were smeared for "losing Vietnam." This campaign was largely successful because the public was never given a full picture of the real purposes of the war and the full machinations of those who fomented it. As a result, their anger could be turned against those blamed for losing it, rather than those responsible for starting and perpetuating it. That's why the lessons of Vietnam were never learned - and why simply blaming Bush for defeat in Iraq, rather than educating the public about the real meaning of the war, will lay the groundwork for more Iraq-type wars in the future.

There's plenty of evidence for the criminal violation of national and international law and the US Constitution by the architects of the Iraq war. But so far this evidence is not being presented to the American people by their representatives. As long as the American people hear that the only thing wrong with the war is that we're losing it, Democrats and the peace movement will be vulnerable to the Rovian trap.

Yesterday I took a look at an alternative scenario: the demise of the Republican Party. Today William F. Buckley writes a similar piece in the National Review, The Waning of The GOP. He sites opposition by the vast majority of the American people, by the Democrats and by Congress. He refers to accounts coming out from Bush Regime insiders that "demonstrate that there was one part ignorance, one part bullheadedness, in the high-level discussions before war became policy. Mr. Tenet at least appears to demonstrate that there was nothing in the nature of a genuine debate on the question." And he admits what Regime dead enders like Cheney, Bush and Lieberman refuse to do: "It is simply untrue that we are making decisive progress in Iraq."

This is at the root of my disagreement with Speaker Pelosi's assertion that impeachment is off the table. Bush and his illegitimate rogue regime must be exposed and everyone, even toothless rednecks in rural Texas and delusional religionist zombies in Utah and South Carolina must be made to look-- the way Germans were forced to walk through concentration camps after World War II-- at exactly what the war in Iraq was.

The best poster at the California Democratic convention was of Nancy Pelosi as Rosie the Riveter and she was received as a hero. Her opposition to impeachment was, however, washed away in the tide of history. Yesterday the convention delegates demanded that Congress use its subpoena power to investigate the misdeeds of Bush and Cheney-- and to hold the Regime accountable "with appropriate remedies and punishment, including impeachment." It wasn't close. For millions of Americans impeachment is very much on the table.

Bush and Cheney, according to the resolution subverted the Constitution by
* using false information to justify the invasion of Iraq
* authorizing "the torture of prisoners of war"
* "authorizing wiretaps on U.S. citizens without obtaining a warrant"
* "disclosing the name of an undercover CIA operative"
* suspending "the historic Writ of Habeas Corpus by ordering the indefinite detention of so-called enemy combatants"
* "signing statements used to ignore or circumvent portions of over 750 Congressional statutes"

Sounds a lot more convincing than consensual sex with an adult stalker.


A few weeks ago I spoke with a young Army vet from upstate New York, Jon Powers, and was impressed by the work he is doing with Iraqi orphans. Yesterday he penned an article at the Huffington Post to commemorate the anniversary of "Mission Accomplished." He explains, from the point of view of an American soldier, how the Bush Regime betrayed our soldiers and the Iraqi people. Jon makes a heartfelt plea to Bush, on behalf of Americans and Iraqis, to sign the bill the U.S. Congress is delivering to him today.
When my soldiers and I took over our section of Baghdad from the battled hardened 3rd Infantry Division we were preparing to execute the plan for "securing and reconstructing" that our leader talked about. Driving around the streets of Baghdad it became quickly evident that the Iraqi people were desperate for some basic social and economic needs. Sewage, waste, jobs and other basic needs were not being met.

As a commander on the ground, I expected those leading me to provide me the guidance and systems for my soldiers to implement. I expected there to be a Phase IV for us to execute so we could become "engaged in securing and reconstructing" that our leader talked about in front of the Mission Accomplished banner.

I was a believer, but I was betrayed.

Thomas Ricks, in his book Fiasco, and many others have now proved that there was NO plan for reconstruction. Lieutenant Colonel Alan King recalls, in What Was Asked of Us, as he rolled into Baghdad Airport "they told me I had twenty-four hours to come up with a reconstruction plan for Baghdad."

My platoon and I were not the only ones to feel this betrayal. The Iraqi people began to notice that their simple needs were not being met. Ahmed, an Iraqi friend, asked me, "America has been to the moon, why can't you pick up our trash?" I wondered the same thing as Paul Bremer's Coalition Provisional Authority quickly rejected any efforts the ground troops made in preference to the American contractors who did not show up for months. These stories have all been told.

It was because of this betrayal that Baghdad began to slowly deteriorate into the situation we now see today.

Mr. Bush, my soldiers and I secured Baghdad in the summer of 2003. We drove the streets without doors on our Humvees and ate dinner in the homes of the Iraqis people. We needed a plan to address our basic responsibility of social and economic solutions for the nation's needs.

Four years later you now send more troops into Baghdad who are beginning to build walls around neighborhoods such as Adhamiya, where I was stationed, against the wishes of the Iraq people. Your goal is to secure Baghdad, but you again fail to address the social, economic and now more importantly the political issues.

Even General Petraeus, the current commander in Iraq, admits that the solution to this fiasco is not a military one.

Jon Powers thinks Bush has an opportunity to redeem himself as a leader by taking up Congress' well thought out plan to disengage from occupation and war of the anniversary of his infamous speech and bumbling miscalculation. "The American people have spoken, Congress has spoken, and now Mr. Bush it is your turn."

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I hope you've been following the adventures of DWT Baghdad correspondent, Fred, doing his best to avoid mercenaries and Bush Regime screw-ups in the Greed Zone. (Earlier reports are here, and here, and here) I just got another e-mail from Fred this weekend that I'd like to share:
Benjamin Franklin noted [as did, more recently, Craig David] that we know the worth of water when the well runs dry. He might also have pointed out the value of anticipating such an event. I did not, and now I must pay. I am busier here than ever expected and thus let laundry needs go unanswered.
Too bad, I must now go to the PX to purchase socks and such with the hope that they have same in stock in my size. The PX is pathetic-- it has lots of stock available in CDs, televisions and the like, but essentials seem to be spasmodically stocked.
Water here at the Palace and the Hootches (the home away from home for expat Green Zone types) is delivered to holding tanks by truck, around 5,000 gallons at a time it appears. Given the hundreds (or is it thousands?) of people here, transporting water must be a big operation.
I wonder if the bowing up of a bridge across the Tigris has anything to do with the shortage. Baghdad was without electricity for some days because they couldn’t get fuel to the generators. Apparently after the bombing, a second bridge was made off limits to tanker trucks, and the tanker truck drivers refused to cross the alternative bridge because it was serving as a live target gallery for certain malcontents.

Damned those malcontents! There followed an e-mail from Halliburton's KBR division, an "All Hands Notice," declaring that as of April 28 the water status is amber. Amber is the third of 4 stages, just before red. Here's the KB definitions:
a.      Green: Water supply is adequate, no additional conservation efforts are necessary

b.     Yellow: Will usually be initiated when water services have been disrupted for 2 hours or more and the ETR is more than 12 hours

                                               i.      KBR will monitor and report water level every four hours.
                                                             ii.      KBR Fire Department:
                                                           1.      Maintain full water tank levels in emergency                     response vehicles
                                                           2.      Coordinate with city services for emergency water support if needed
                                                            iii.      DCMA will inform KBR to execute a Letter of Technical Direction allowing Task Order 130 to draw water from Task Order 139 supplies at FOB Prosperity ROWPU intermediate storage bladder
                                                           iv.      Stop watering grass and all landscaping
                                                             v.      Cease operation of the KBR car wash station
                                                           vi.      Discontinue Full Service Laundry washing, remain open for drop off and pick up only
                                                          vii.      Shut down self-service laundries
                                                        viii.      Cease water replenishment for palace swimming pool
c.     Amber: Will usually be initiated when water services have been disrupted for 6 hours or more and the ETR is more than 24 hours; execute the steps for phase Yellow, additionally;

                                               i.      Limit cleaning to sanitary purposes only; as long as we are using latrines they need to be cleaned.
                                                             ii.      KBR will draw water from the fire station storage tanks if necessary; discontinue water draw when storage tanks level falls to 50% (DO NOT DRAW DOWN BELOW 50%)
d.     Red: Will usually be initiated when water services have been disrupted for 6 hours or more and there is no reliable ETR

                                               i.      Implement LSA water hours from 0500-0900 and 1700-2100 daily

The implementation of the Amber alert includes shutting down the KBR car wash station, self-service laundries, full service laundry service and water replenishment for swimming pools. I just noticed that there's something worse than red: black. I guess that's when even Cheney realizes the jig is up-- though when Lieberman will pull his head out of his ass and smell the roses is anyone's guess.


"State Department employees in Iraq seldom leave the capital's heavily fortified Green Zone. Even there, rocket and mortar attacks are frequent, and the sound of gunfire is constant. Suicide bombers have penetrated the zone on rare occasions, most recently on April 12." And today's USAToday is reporting that American diplomats are returning from Iraq with post-traumatic stress disorder, "the same debilitating, stress-related symptoms that have afflicted many U.S. troops, prompting the State Department to order a mental health survey of 1,400 employees who have completed assignments there."

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Sunday, April 29, 2007



I ran into an old friend at the California state Democratic convention yesterday. He had just been talking with Charlie Brown. "Don't give me any 'I told you so's' but I'm coming around on Charlie Brown, he said sheepishly." He and I had been arguing for months about Charlie's electibility. When he looked at Charlie it was all numbers and theory. CA-04 has an R +11 Cook Partisan Voting Index rank. Bush beat Kerry 61% to 37%. The district is almost 84% white. Since 1994 the incumbent Republican, John Doolittle, had always won by better than 60%, culminating at 65% in 2004. I looked at it differently.

Charlie Brown and his family are the very best of CA-04, people every descent man and woman could easily relate to and identify with. The incumbent and his wife are mired in outrageous and horrifying scandals, from bribes, influence peddling and money laundering to direct complicity in a Marianas Islands scheme cooked up by Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff and involving sexual slavery, forced abortions, and inhumanity incomparable to anywhere else in territory ruled by the United States-- and all in the name of the Republican Party's vision for a future union-free America. I look at that race and I see one that in 2006 was incredibly close, with even Republicans sickened by Doolittle's excesses, a race where the incumbent tumbled from 65% to 49% and where an incumbent who had just spent barely $900,000 on re-election in 2004 had been forced to spend nearly two-and-a-half million dollars in 2006.

And, if you've been reading DWT in the last few weeks, you've seen the steady drip, drip, drip of scandal drowning Doolittle and his corrupt wife, Julie, and their circle of crooked business associates.

My friend, after meeting Charlie and Jan Brown, has come around. Irwing had never met him before either. Down in San Diego he got to meet plenty of elected officials and candidates. Afterwards, I asked him who impressed him most. He didn't hesitate for a moment: "Charlie Brown and Michael Wray." That's the other guy I wanted to mention today. Michael wants to run for congress in another "hopelessly"-- albeit far less hopelessly-- red district: CA-50. This was the northern San Diego district that was formerly home to Randy "Duke" Cunningham, currently a resident of the federal penal system. The voters replaced Cunningham with his crony, Brian Bilbray, another corrupt, right-wing extremist, an ex-lobbyist, no less!

CA-50 is only half as red as CA-04. Bush beat Kerry 55% to 44% and Cunningham hadn't been able to muster 60% in 2004. His opponent, moderate ex-Republican Francine Busby, took 36% of the vote that year. Two years later-- after Cunningham's guilty plea and incarceration-- she won 43% of the vote against the Cunningham clone, Bilbray. She wasn't able to close the deal with the voters. Michael Wray, a former Busby campaign worker, feels he can do better. For one thing, he isn't an ex-Republican; and his perspective is never apologetic or tentative. He's a thoughtful and proud progressive Democrat with a vision for how to win in CA-50 and how to keep winning.

Michael is a rocket scientist-- a real one. When we were chatting before the formal interview I did with him on film, he mentioned a different perspective on the Iraq war I hadn't thought about. He had been working with other scientists on a fusion project funded by the U.S. Navy. Like hundreds of other important scientific projects, it was scrapped by the Bush Regime so more resources could be poured into the futile occupation of Iraq. In the world of science, you're either moving forward or you're falling behind. This is another legacy of George Bush, his venal Regime and Rove's desperate tactic of making this dunce a "war president."

So anyway, the same new believer in Charlie Brown was also skeptical about a Democrat running in CA-50. "Only someone who's already been elected to a local office would have a chance," he said. Do I ever disagree with that! What about someone who's never even run for anything but who conducts a grassroots, common sense campaign? My friend snorted in disdain-- like he used to do when we'd talk about Charlie. DWT is going to follow Michael Wray as he makes his choices and as his campaign unfolds. I hope you'll stick around and watch it with us. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with one thought: this is his uncle:

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I feel like I know ex-CIA agent Michael Scheuer because of his extraordinary book, Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror. That isn't to say I swallow every single opinion he spouts. But what he's spouting about the so-called "War" on Terror, is a lot better than what Bush and Cheney-- or anyone else for that matter-- have been farting out. His OpEd in today's Washington Post is a crucial companion piece for anyone who hasn't read his books but who plans to read George Tenet's (or even just watch Tenet tonight on 60 Minutes.

He says he likes Tenet but that he let the CIA and the country down, primarily by buying into the ideological spin coming out of the White House. "At a time when clear direction and moral courage were needed, Tenet shifted course to follow the prevailing winds, under President Bill Clinton and then President Bush-- and he provided distraught officers at Langley a shoulder to cry on when his politically expedient tacking sailed the United States into disaster."

Scheuer claims that At the Center of the Storm, many of whose premises were debuted earlier by Ron Suskind and Bob Woodward (courtesy, obviously-- if not directly, of Tenet), is "disingenuous about Tenet's record on al-Qaeda." He points out how Woodward showed Tenet in a very heroic light, "warning national security adviser Condoleezza Rice of pending al-Qaeda strikes during the summer of 2001, only to have his warnings ignored. Tenet was indeed worried during the so-called summer of threat, but one wonders why he did not summon the political courage earlier to accuse Rice of negligence, most notably during his testimony under oath before the 9/11 commission."
Then there's the Iraq war. Tenet is now protesting the use that Rice, Vice President Cheney and other administration officials have made of his notorious pre-war comment that the evidence of Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction programs amounted to a "slam dunk" case. But the only real, knowable pre-war slam dunk was that Iraq was going to turn out to be a nightmare.

Tenet now paints himself as a scapegoat for an administration in which there never was "a serious consideration of the implications of a U.S. invasion," insisting that he warned Bush, Cheney and their Cabinet about the risks of occupying Iraq. Well, fine; the CIA repeatedly warned Tenet of the inevitable disaster an Iraq war would cause-- spreading bin Ladenism, spurring a bloody Sunni-Shiite war and lethally destabilizing the region.

But as with Rice and the warnings in the summer of 2001: Now he tells us. At this late date, the Bush-bashing that Tenet's book will inevitably stir up seems designed to rehabilitate Tenet in his first home, the Democratic Party. He seems to blame the war on everyone but Bush (who gave Tenet the Medal of Freedom) and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell (who remains the Democrats' ideal Republican). Tenet's attacks focus instead on the walking dead, politically speaking: the glowering and unpopular Cheney; the hapless Rice; the band of irretrievably discredited bumblers who used to run the Pentagon, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Paul D. Wolfowitz and Douglas J. Feith; their neoconservative acolytes such as Richard Perle; and the die-hard geopolitical fantasists at the Weekly Standard and National Review.

They're all culpable, of course. But Tenet's attempts to shift the blame won't wash. At day's end, his exercise in finger-pointing is designed to disguise the central, tragic fact of his book. Tenet in effect is saying that he knew all too well why the United States should not invade Iraq, that he told his political masters and that he was ignored. But above all, he's saying that he lacked the moral courage to resign and speak out publicly to try to stop our country from striding into what he knew would be an abyss.

This morning I drove back from the California Democratic state convention and I was listening to the radio when General William Odom's voice came over the airwaves. Recall that Odom was Director of the National Security Agency and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, the Army's senior intelligence officer. He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican, just a dyed-in-the-wool patriot who no one-- except of course Cheney and Rove-- could ever accuse of being soft on terror or on any enemy of this country. "To put this in a simple army metaphor," he explained, "the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is 'absent without leave.' He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games… I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans." General Odom makes it clear to anyone who hasn't been paying attention-- or who lacks the analytic facilities to understand-- that the Bush Regime has been "squandering U.S. lives and helping Iran and al-Qaeda" in his badly bungled war in Iraq.
"The challenge we face today is not how to win in Iraq; it is how to recover from a strategic mistake: invading Iraq in the first place," he said. "The president has let (the Iraq war) proceed on automatic pilot, making no corrections in the face of accumulating evidence that his strategy is failing and cannot be rescued. He lets the United States fly further and further into trouble, squandering its influence, money and blood, facilitating the gains of our enemies."

And Odom isn't alone among highly decorated and well-respected former military officers urging Bush to sign Congress' plan for winding down the war. Almost unheard of, even an active-duty Army officer, Lt. Colonel Paul Yingling, published a scathing attack on how the war has been run and botched. Like Scheuer, he feels that military officers should be held accountable and that those who see the mendacity in U.S. policies should resign and speak out. Ironically, even Bush's own handpicked pet general, David Petraeus admitted to Congress last week that the occupation in Iraq "would get harder before it gets easier" and warned of the enormous commitment and sacrifice facing the U.S. in Iraq.


Six former CIA officers wrote Tenet a letter describing him as "the Alberto Gonzales of the intelligence community," and called his book "an admission of failed leadership." They also said he has "a moral obligation" to return the Medal of Freedom he received from President Bush and to donate most of his book royalties to U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq and families of the dead. One of the agents behind this, Larry Johnson, is a right wing hack but others are normal Americans.
The writers said they agree that Bush administration officials took the nation to war "for flimsy reasons," and that it has proved "ill-advised and wrong-headed."

But, they added, "your lament that you are a victim in a process you helped direct is self-serving, misleading and, as head of the intelligence community, an admission of failed leadership.

"You were not a victim. You were a willing participant in a poorly considered policy to start an unnecessary war and you share culpability with Dick Cheney and George Bush for the debacle in Iraq."

And Christopher Hitchens apparently crawled out of his bottle to call Tenet's new book a sniveling, self-justifying disgrace.

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Unfortunately, not the end forever-- greed, selfishness, bigotry, self-righteous feelings of entitlement and victimization, as well as religionist psychosis, will always strive for political representation on the far right of the political spectrum-- but perhaps a much-needed reprieve from the cataclysmic damages the Republican Party has wrought over the past several decades.

It isn't just the cascading Republican scandals-- the endless bribery cases, the sexual perversion, the lying, the shredding of the Constitution-- it's the gestalt of what Republican rule under the Bush Regime has come to represent in the American psyche.

This morning the L.A. Times published a story by Michael Finnegan, GOP Has Uphill Climb For Cash and Candidates, that deals with the internal ramifications of 7 years of George Bush on the GOP itself. The breathtaking drop in Bush's job performance approval rating-- currently 28%, about double that of his thoroughly detested vice president-- only tells part of the story in what Finnegan refers to as "a toxic climate for the Republican Party" and what Republican Congressman Tom Davis (VA) called "a poisonous environment."

The immediate impact is disarray in the party-- most Democrats will tell you that they like all their party's potential nominees for president while most Republicans will tell you they hate all their nominees and that they would rather sit out the race or even vote for Hillary than for Rudy McRomney. And just as ominous for the GOP is a precipitous decline in fundraising success and an increase among first tier candidates to decline requests to run for office next year. The Republican brand itself is severely damaged-- and the damage is getting worse by the day.
The problems can be seen in such places as Florida's 22nd Congressional District, which hugs the coast north of Fort Lauderdale. Republicans held that House seat for a quarter-century. But since losing it last year, the party has had trouble finding a top-tier candidate for it.

Two of the GOP's choices, both state legislators, declined to run. A third, Boca Raton's mayor, said he was weighing whether a Republican had any hope of retaking the district.

... Damaged by ethics scandals in 2006, the GOP in recent weeks has seen FBI raids at businesses or homes connected to two of its congressmen. A federal agency last week began an investigation into Bush advisor Karl Rove's political operation, and congressional panels authorized a flurry of subpoenas related to White House political activities and the run-up to the Iraq war.

Three-term Rep. Rob Simmons of Connecticut, who lost his seat last year by 83 votes, said he turned down an appeal from the GOP to run again in 2008, partly because of the dismal political climate. In a district dominated by Democrats, he said, it has become impossible for even a moderate Republican like himself to win — especially since he voted to authorize the war in Iraq. Republicans in recent days said they had found a solid candidate to run in Simmons' place: the former commander of the area's naval base.

In Colorado, Republican Sen. Wayne Allard's decision not to seek reelection set the stage for one of the nation's most competitive 2008 races. But the top choice of party leaders, former Rep. Scott McInnis, has taken a pass, citing family reasons. McInnis had nearly $1 million stockpiled for the race.

Between the scandals, the lying, the Iraq occupation, and gas prices which mysteriously sunk just before the election and have now soared to the highest levels in history, people are abandoning the GOP in droves. Fully half of all Americans identify themselves as Democrats while only slightly over a third will admit to being Republicans. The GOP had an advantage not that long ago but 5 years of Bush and his rubber stamp Congress with their wrongheaded and unpopular policies have obliterated that entirely.

Yesterday DWT live vlog viewers were treated to the first interview with Michael Wray, a thoughtful, progressive, young Democrat who will be taking on corrupt and reactionary ex-lobbyist Brian Bilbray in CA-50. Wray is bursting with energy, enthusiasm, innovative ideas and solid optimism. A downcast Bilbray described Bush to the Times as "a millstone" around his neck. Yet Bilbray has been a complete and utter rubber stamp for every single horrendous policy Bush and Cheney have put forward-- except on immigration, where Bilbray feels Bush is too moderate. Bilbray seems to favor rounding up every undocumented immigrant and expelling all 12 million of them, an unrealistic non-solution meant to appeal to the lowest instincts of xenophobes and racists.

Normally Republicans make up for their unpopular policies by spending two or three times in advertising what Democrats can afford to spend. They manage to brainwash low information voters into supporting Republican candidates whose agendas are harmful to the very voters who put them in office. This year, however, a great deal of GOP money has dried up-- or even gone to Democrats!
The GOP's relatively weak fundraising totals for the first quarter could also complicate the party's reelection effort, wrote Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report in a recent assessment. Though it can be dangerous to read too much into these early signals, she wrote, "a weak bank account doesn't just make a bad headline, it also makes an incumbent more attractive to a potential challenger."

At the same time, she wrote, the recent totals "tell us that Republicans aren't going to be able to count on their traditional money advantage over Democrats," which will limit the number of Democratic-held House seats they can target.

Even the Republican charged with re-electing GOP House members, right-wing extremist Tom Cole (R-OK) likened his party to "a beaten-down stock." With at least two Republican congressmen-- John Doolittle (CA) and Rick Renzi (AZ)-- probably headed for messy trials and prison between now and the elections that beaten-down stock is more likely to get delisted than turn around.


Republican journalist Andrew Sullivan points out that "the 20 percent or so of Americans who still think we're winning in Iraq happen to be the Republican base. And so the GOP in Congress has to pick between surviving their own primaries, maintaining civility with their own faithful, and potentially getting wiped out in the next election. The game of chicken is getting very intense. I guess we'll know how strong the kool-aid is by September." I think we have a pretty good idea already.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007



Chances are you've read how GOP leaders like, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Larry Craig (R-ID), Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Republican religionist shill Ted Haggard, Congressman David Dreier (R-CA), ex-Congressman Mark Foley-- currently using hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to keep his sorry ass out of prison-- have consistently voted against the interests of gay men and women and supported a viciously homophobic Republican agenda while living wild gay lifestyles in their closets. But right wing sexual hypocrisy hardly begins or ends with the Republican gay mafia.

Big news in DC this weekend is about a prostitution ring-- oddly, for Republicans, involving women-- and heads in the Bush Regime inner circle are beginning to roll.

The demise of a call-girl ring and pending trial of an alleged madam claiming thousands of clients has the US capital riveted by the chance powerful men may now be caught with their trousers down, with a senior state department official apparently first to fall.

Deborah Jeane Palfrey, 50, dubbed the DC Madam in local media, has been arraigned in federal court on charges of operating a Washington prostitution service for 13 years until her retirement in 2006.

Palfrey has denied she ran a prostitution ring. Her company, Pamela Martin and Associates, was simply a "high-end adult fantasy firm which offered legal sexual and erotic services across the spectrum of adult sexual behavior and did so without incident during its 13 year tenure," she said.

Palfrey contends her escort service provided university educated women to engage in legal game-playing of a sexual nature at 275 dollars an hour for a 90 minute session, the Washington Post reported.

...Friday, the US State Department announced that Randall Tobias, the embattled head of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), was resigning for unspecified personal reasons.

...Tobias since 2003 also was President George W. Bush's first global AIDS coordinator, a job which drew criticism for his emphasis on faithfulness to partners and abstinence over condom use in trying to prevent the spread of the AIDS virus.

ABC News is reporting tonight that her clients go beyond Tobias and that plenty of Bush White House officials, Pentagon officials and well-connected Republicrook lobbyists and lawyers have been breaking the laws they demand the rest of us follow. Keep in mind that Tobias also insisted that his employees sign anti-prostitution loyalty oaths advocated by right wing religionist loons. Think Progress has a funny video of Brian Ross explaining how these Republicans are claiming they may have hired the hookers but that they didn't... inhale.

So at the same time you have the Republican transvestite running for president (of the United States... of America) flip flopping on his career-long support for gay civil unions turning around for the sake of redneck votes in a South Carolina GOP straw poll, you also get yet another right wing leader being arrested for child porn.
In the latest disaster to hit the American radical right, Kevin Alfred Strom, the founder of National Vanguard and a major neo-Nazi leader for nearly 20 years, has been arrested and charged with child pornography and witness tampering.

Federal agents arrested Strom near his home in Stanardsville, Va., on Jan. 4, after he was indicted for allegedly having pornographic images of children on his computer between Oct. 17, 2005, and last Aug. 4.

Unlike most of the people involved in the latest round of sex scandals, Strom wasn't working directly for the Bush Regime but he was a deputy to right-wing hero William Pierce, author of The Turner Diaries, the blueprint for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. "Strom's arrest set off a firestorm on the radical right, which has seen a number of its key activists arrested recently for embarrassing crimes, some of them sexual in nature. "If Kevin's genuinely guilty," one extremist wrote on the racist Stormfront web forum shortly after the arrest, "then the credibility of his work-- indeed the credibility of all intelligent White nationalist work-- will be severely crippled, and we shall be reduced to apologetics for years to come."

Another wingnut, Bill White, a rival rightist, cut to the chase: "The fact is that the white nationalist movement has been littered with sexual deviants. The entire reactionary wing of the white nationalist movement is corrupt and must be destroyed." This probably has closeted Republican perverts cringing and hoping that don't get burned in these new scandals. Another Republican exposed-- this one far closer to the Bush Regime than either White or Strom was US naval commander Harlan Ullman, the man credited with developing Bush's "shock and awe" strategy.

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Last night Irwing and I did live vlog sessions with Congressman Jerry McNerney, Charlie Brown, Assemblyman Mark Leno from the fundraiser at the state Democratic Convention in San Diego. I also got to meet Senator Gravel. I was eager to ask him about what he thought the prospects are for a Democrat taking Alaska's sole house seat now that Don Young has been exposed as a bribe-taking bucket of slime. Gravel told me he lives in Virginia and pays closer attention to California politics than to his old state's.

This morning's speakers are Hillary Clinton, Debra Bowen, Jerry Brown, a slew of California congressmembers and local legislators. And then this afternoon we get Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, Barack Obama, Kucinich Barbara Lee and others. We might go hear Obama. But our big event today is a meeting Agnes Pennington set up for us with Michael Wray, a rocket scientist. Mike showed up at the fundraiser last night and we got to meet him briefly. He's going to run for Congress down here in CA-50, the district where Francine Busby made tremendous strides but was unable to close the deal with voters. (This is Duke Cunningham's old district-- which replaced him with a corrupt Republican lobbyist, sort of cutting out the middleman!) Today Irwing and I are having lunch-- at a great raw restaurant, Cilantro Live, in Chula Vista-- with Agnes and Mike and we'll be live vlogging it at around 1:30 or 1:40 at the DWT Headquarters icon on the right of your screen. Just go down to the second image (Blue House in the Brew House and click there for today's chat with Mike.)

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Last September, on the day after he beat Rahm Emanuel's shill candidate in the Democratic primary, John Hall joined Blue America for a free ranging discussion at Firedoglake. He went on to beat a far worse shill in November, a George Bush/Tom DeLay rubber stamp named Sue Kelly. He now represents the 19th congressional district north of New York City. John campaigned on a solidly progressive platform that was strong on confronting and solving environmental issues and strong on bringing a speedy end to Bush's occupation of Iraq. He's been in office for 4 months and he's been living up to his campaign promises-- scrupulously. In fact, in a Republican-leaning district, he thinks the way to be re-elected isn't to compromise on basic principles but to work closely with his constituents the way real leaders do.

And John Hall is already showing signs of being one of the next generation of progressive leaders in Congress. Only 3 freshmen were asked to chair congressional subcommittees. One of them was John-- the Subcommitte on Disability Assistance. The work he's doing there is one of his passions, although, I have to say, that John seems to throw himself into what he believes in-- be it alternative energy, protecting women's health choices, ending the war, or ameliorating the plight of our wounded vets-- with unbounded passion.
"It's a scandal and a travesty to so quickly-- and so frequently-- send our servicemen and women to fight on the far side of the world and yet not support them with medical assistance, housing aid or economic opportunities when they come home."

One of his priorities is to reduce the unbelievable backlog of veteran disability claims. There are over 646,000 initial claims waiting from six months to a year to be acted on and then there's an appeals process that takes 2 more years! "There's an aging Vietnam era population experiencing the aftereffects of Agent Orange and infirmities that come with age plus we're at the front edge of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans coming home now." He gave me a mind-boggling statistic that I'm still trying to comprehend. During the Vietnam War the ratio of wounded to killed was two to one. Now the ratio is sixteen to one. In many ways that is very, very good news. Keep in mind though that many of these vets coming back, who might have died in past decades, are coming back with far more serious injuries, especially when you consider how many have traumatic brain injuries or are missing multiple limbs.

When Congressman Hall and I spoke on the phone a couple weeks ago he had just walked out of the first meeting of the first meeting of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. His enthusiasm was brimming over, palpable. Chairman Markey had decided to focus on the geopolitical implications of rising oil dependence and global warming and John could barely stop talking about it, especially about the national security implications of climate change. Witnesses had included ex-CIA Director James Woolsey, Ambassador Richard Haass (President of the Council on Foreign Relations), Carl Pope of the Sierra Club, and Admiral Dennis McGinn.

Much of John's public career, long before he got involved in politics, has centered on environmental sanity. Sure, he drives a hybrid-- a Mercury Mariner-- but the level of excitement he had when he tried explaining how in the future owners of plug-in hybrids would be able to sell excess electricity back into the power grid the way solar power generators do today was tremendous. He even thinks some of the Republicans on the committee may have been convinced, although, interestingly, Minority Leader Boehner, a dyed-in-the-wool obstructionist, only appointed Republicans to the committee who had voted against its creation.

Last year in just over 2 months 735 Blue America donors contributed over $12,000 to John's campaign and he beat Kelly by just over 4,000 votes, 51% to 49%. She spent over two and a half million dollars and John spent a little less than $1.6 million. Approximately 85% of his money came from grassroots and netroots contributors. Her money came overwhelmingly from Big Business PACs, desperate for a Republican majority to keep up the rubber stamping of Bush's excruciating agenda. If you watched the congressional testimony about Rove's politicization of the GSA, you know that he has targeted John and that Republicans are pouring resources-- perhaps illegally-- into the race already. They have persuaded a fashion industry multimillionaire, Andrew Saul, chairman of Caché Inc, to run against John. (There are also several fringe far right loons who are interested in tossing their hats into the ring.)

I hope you'll join me today in helping John defend a GOP-leaning seat, and one of Blue America's most compelling victories in 2006, a man who beat both Inside the Beltway establishments and is proving himself to be every bit as good as we hoped. Blue America has a box of Neil Young CDs, Live At Massey Hall, 1971 as thank you gifts for contributions of $25 or more ('til they run out).

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Friday, April 27, 2007

What the f**k? After all the f**king hullabaloo, it turns out that that's what Harry Reid actually said?

what Harry Reid actually said?'> what Harry Reid actually said?'> what Harry Reid actually said?'> what Harry Reid actually said?'>> what Harry Reid actually said?'>

I was just reading Howie's post below about poor sad old David Broder's mindless attack on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, with Howie's added note about Senate Democrats' letter expressing unanimous support for Reid (including even one Republican, Holy Joe Lieberman), and then John Kerry's HuffPost post "Standing With Harry Reid."

I confess I haven't been paying close attention to this nonsense. I usually meet my Daily Nonsense Quotient (DNQ) by about 8:45 in the morning; after all, the human body can tolerate only so much. So my eyes popped out when I came to this paragraph from Kerry:

And the worst part is, the whole attack is based on a completely out-of-context quote. This is what Harry Reid really said, "And as long as we follow the President's path in Iraq, the war is lost. But there is still a chance to change course - and we must change course." Any questions? The President's own generals say there is no military solution to the civil war in Iraq, that it requires the political solution the Iraqis have resisted. By the Vice President's standard, are they "uninformed and misleading"?


Let me get this straight. He actually said, "As long as we follow the President's path in Iraq, the war is lost," and he was taken to have said, "The war is lost"?


I assume that every media person who simply passed on the lie (because quoting Reid as having said, "The war is lost," is just that--a lie) has been fired for either gross distortion or gross incompetence. And the partisans who have propagated the lie are being excoriated 24/7 by every patriotic believer in fair and balanced coverage.

We can argue whether it would have been true to say, "The war is lost." (OK, I don't know what the counter-argument is. But there must be one. For the sake of argument, let's just assume.)

We can argue whether it would have been smart to say, "The war is lost."

But since nobody seems to have said, "The war is lost," what the f**k would be the point?

[File under: How the f**k do the Righties and their paper-trained media lapdogs keep getting away with it?]

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I'm late already and I just cut out the first stop on my excursion, a private listening session for the highly embargoed Linkin Park album, Minutes To Midnight. You probably are already in love with "What I've Done," right? But some of my old buds are Warner Bros tell me there are even better songs on the album, including a couple of anti-Bush Regime anthems. It comes out May 15 and one pal told me that "Hands Held High" isn't what Team Bush wants to hear on the radio. So that's why I had scheduled a stop in Burbank on the drive from L.A. to San Diego. But I'm late so later for Linkin Park. (I'll just listen to "What I've Done" a thousand times on the drive and have something to look forward to Monday.)

Like I explained a few days ago, I'm not into conventions, especially not political conventions but I'm schlepping down to this so I can support Jerry McNerney and Charlie Brown. Tonight at 8:30 or 9 we're having a Blue House At the Brew House Benefit for them. Irwing and I will be live vlogging it. Just hit the DWT World Headquarters icon on the right (the lifeguard station) and it will bring you to a live vlog page at 8:30 or so. This is an experiment. If it works, we'll do lots of them. In fact, if it works, tomorrow, we'll do some more, including one with the next Democratic candidate for the 50th CD. And if we run into anyone interesting, we'll live vlog them too-- so click the station every now and then and see if anything's cooking. Oh, and the direct link to the vlog page is VlogNetwork.TV

Tomorrow I'll be over at Firedoglake for a session with Congressman John Hall (D-NY) at 2pm, EST (11am here in California)... oh the wonders of all this modern stuff!

That picture up top is an example of what you can expect, except moving and talking. Irwing took it at a fundraiser at Lucy's El Adobe a few days ago. It's me, Governor Richardson and the legendary Lucy. I wasn't explaining to the Governor what he needed to do with the Koreans; I was explaining the reasons Pete "Sneaky Pete" Domenici (R-NM) should spend the rest of his miserable days in prison. Richardson didn't agree.

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Well, wasn't our Condi supposed to be one of the world's A-1 Sovietologists? OK, probably not, but can you blame her for trying to hold onto the gig?


In case you missed this news, Al Kamen's got it in his Washington Post "In the Loop" column today:

Remember the Soviets?

The Russians are most unhappy with the proposed U.S. missile shield in Europe to protect the United States from Iranian missiles. The Russians somehow think this poses a threat to their nuclear deterrent. Of course, since the Iranians don't have nukes yet, it's probably predictable the Russians would wonder. Remember: We never wait for a mushroom cloud.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Oslo yesterday for a NATO meeting, told reporters that "the idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous."

She said the administration wants to talk to Moscow based on a "realistic" view, rather than "one that is grounded somehow in the 1980s."

The "Soviet strategic deterrent"? Who's grounded in the 1980s?

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Did you watch the Democratic presidential debate last night? I had just gotten in from the airport and someone called me and said it was on. I had missed half of it but I got to see a question-- and Hillary answer-- I liked. The question was about WalMart-- is it good for America or bad for America? Hillary answered well enough ("It's a mixed blessing"), but it was the articulation of her underlying philosophy of government-- and how it contrasts with the Bush Regime's-- that I liked. She explained that when WalMart started-- in Arkansas, where her husband was governor-- it was really good, bringing jobs and otherwise unavailable products, and at good prices, to small towns. And then the important underlying "but." This isn't a Jeffersonian Arcadian society made up of lots of small freeholders-- and this sprawling, urbanized, complex, post-industrial society of 300 million ain't going to be that again. The problems with WalMart is that the society isn't setting rules under which it should be operating, rules that protect the legitimate interests of society. She reminded us that that's what Democrats do. Republicans leave it to the imaginary "free market"-- and we get dead pets or, dead grandparents.

Yesterday Congress attempted to deal with quite a few health care concerns, the kinds of concerns that individual members of a mass society are ill-equipped to cope with on their own. I'll get to those in a moment. First though, I want to recommend a piece my friend Cliff Schecter wrote for the AFL-CIO that shows what ordinary Americans are up against when dealing with the big Health Care Husters.
You may know Big Pharma as the quality folks responsible for driving up the price of prescriptions throughout the 50 states by successfully lobbying Congress for a ban on allowing the government to negotiate lower prices for Medicare recipients. Or perhaps for the longtime U.S. ban on allowing Americans to import their prescription drugs from Canada, where they often are half the price of what they cost here.

Today, one of the representatives of Big Pharma, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, got a visit from some of its Working America friends at the company's annual meeting in Morristown, N.J. The guests included a “Canadian moose,” which the executives may have glimpsed on their way from the seaweed rap to the deep-tissue massage. But, hey, they can run to the Jacuzzi, but they can’t hide.

Wyeth has implemented a policy of reducing supplies of its drugs to Canadian wholesalers and pharmacies that sell life-saving medicines to Americans who make the cross-border trip because “they are left with no other choice.”

Who said Big Business doesn't have a heart?

The Health Care Hustle campaign reminded those at the Wyeth stockholder meeting, as well as others across the nation, that our health care system does not have to be this way. It can serve the interests of the American people instead of the American aristocracy.

Let the Wyeths be warned. American workers demand that we fix this broken system and replace it with one that serves all of us.

On a personal level, I'm more into homeopathic and holistic health care. So why should I care about the screwed up health care system? Well, aside for the natural empathy I feel for my fellow human beings who still eat sugar and flour and cancer causing processed foods, the Corporate America is constantly trying to destroy the holistic approach to healthcare. This is from a letter I got yesterday:
There is a crisis in health freedom. On April 30, 2007 the FDA will close the public comment period on a "Guidance" which will classify every alternative practice as medicine so that only licensed physicians can carry out the procedure AND vitamins, minerals, herbs, etc., will suddenly become "untested drugs" which will be forbidden.

Bad? Real Bad! But public outcry can stop this assault on your health and your freedom.

Spread the word! Tell everyone in your Circle of Influence, professionals, alternative practitioners, nutrient and herb companies, everyone! Let them know how important their participation is to make sure the FDA backs off from this repressive course.

I would think the FDA has some real work to do now that their lapdog posture towards Corporate Health has led to the deaths of hundreds (thousands?) of pets and possibly to the introduction of poison into our food system.

Congress is overwhelmed keeping up with their perfidy. Yesterday global health activists and Big Pharma were duking it out over Thailand's decision to override patents for three drugs, including Abbott Laboratories' HIV/AIDS treatment Kaletra. USA for Innovation, an intellectual property rights group funded by Big Pharma for whom it shills, this week asked the Bush Regime's Trade Representative to label Thailand a violator in its annual report of intellectual property concerns abroad. Activists representing Thai NGOs met with lawmakers in Washington seeking to counter Big Pharma's moves. "We want the U.S. government to show it cares about access to life-saving drugs in the developing world," said Jon Ungphakorn, a former member of Thailand's Senate. Thailand needs to break patents on Kaletra and other drugs to deliver needed treatments under its universal healthcare system, which its health budget cannot afford. Abbott Labs provoked anger and despair in Thailand and from health activists when it announced in March that it would take seven other drugs off the market in Thailand in retaliation for the Thai compulsory license. (Nor do you have to go all the way to Thailand to see how Corporate Health and their Republican allies treat healthcare as a profitable commodity with little regard for people's lives-- other than their own.)

At the same time, the House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it is seeking information from the FDA on antibiotic use in animals and the potential for humans to contract antibiotic-resistant bacteria infections as part of its inquiry into how well the agency addresses drug safety. FDA has allowed antibiotic use in healthy animals, as well as sick, for 40 years. "At a minimum, great caution should be exercised in the approval of new veterinary applications for antibiotics," wrote Energy and Commerce Chairman Dingell, ranking member Joe Barton (R-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-MI), and ranking member Edward Whitfield, (R-KY).

And yesterday, over on the Senate side of Capitol Hill, Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) unveiled legislation to reauthorize and expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program to 6 million kids within 10 years. The controversy comes because both Rockefeller and Snowe indicated a willingness to tap extra payments to Medicare Advantage as one option to pay for their SCHIP proposal. We'll see how Snowe's GOP colleagues, more prone to repay corporate bribes with complete obeisance to the BIg Pharma/Corporate Medicine agenda.

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Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007): He was the greatest cellist ever, one of the leading musical presences of his time, and a crusader for good


Mstislav Rostropovich (1927-2007) was 80 and in poor health, so this morning's news of his death in Moscow isn't a total shock. (The shock was seeing that Wikipedia already had his death incorporated!) Nor is the gap left by his passing news, since he had of course been retreating for some time from his once-central position in international musical life. Still, the size of the gap is enormous--as cellist, conductor, genial spirit, and humanitarian.

I heard him described on the radio this morning as the greatest cellist since Casals. With all respect to Casals--a great musician, conductor, and humanitarian--Rostropovich was in another league as a cellist, able to produce any kind of sound on the instrument from a whisper to a bronze roar, with a vast range of colors and shading. The only cellist I'm aware of who might have been in his class is the tragically short-lived Emanuel Feuermann (1902-1942).

I'm listening now to one of Rostropovich's numerous recordings of the greatest piece written for his instrument, Dvorak's B minor Cello Concerto. It's the only version of his I have on CD--the 1985 Erato one with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, coupled with Tchaikovsky's Rococo Variations--but I like it a lot.

Earlier, on the subway, I listened to EMI's CD coupling of the famous 1969 recordings of the Beethoven Triple Concerto (with Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic) and the Brahms Double Concerto (with George Szell and the Cleveland Orchestra) with Rostropovich and his great colleagues violinist David Oistrakh and (in the Beethoven) pianist Sviatoslav Richter.

Because we in the West knew Oistrakh, Rostropovich, and Richter as their country's foremost violinist, cellist, and pianist, we tended to assume they must be great pals and play together all the time. They weren't and didn't, of course. Although as far as I knew they all not only respected but liked one another, they were very different sorts of musicians and led very different sorts of musical lives. Still, it's fascinating to hear them scale their playing styles and personalities down to a common idiom for the eerily yet hauntingly self-effacing Beethoven concerto. In this titanic performance of the Brahms, Oistrakh and Rostropovich (who both recorded the piece with various other partners) sound more like their full-blooded selves and still manage to partner each other beautifully.

There's actually a fair amount of Rostropovich on video, but probably tonight I'll pop out the precious video documentation of a collaboration with Richter. At the 1964 Edinburgh Festival, at a single concert that started at midnight (don't ask me!) and was televised live by the BBC, they played all five Beethoven cello sonatas, and the concert is now available as an EMI DVD. It's black and white and mono, but something special, even though again this was in many respects an odd pairing. In fact, the audio recording of the Beethoven sonatas they made for Philips, presumably around this same time, which I happen to love, has always been controversial. Basically Richter seems to have decided to make himself a "Rostropovich-compatible accompanist."

Rostropovich only recorded the Beethoven sonatas once (and did the two sonatas of Brahms in 1984 with another unlikely partner, Rudolf Serkin, in what turned out to be a splendid collaboration), and waited till 1991 to record in full the cello's greatest legacy: Bach's set of six suites for unaccompanied cello. In the invaluable video commentary that accompanies the video edition of the Bach suites, which is part commentary on the music and part musical autobiography (including, for example, a wonderful recounting of his first meeting with his idol, Casals), he acknowledges his extreme uneasiness about finally tackling this project, which he had delayed as long as he could. He'd been playing the Bach suites all his musical life, of course, but committing them to record was something else again.

He secluded himself for several weeks in rural France, at the Basilique Sainte-Madeleine in Vezelay, and went to work. I'm sorry it was a church he picked for the recording site, because the acoustics seem to me less than ideal for the music. Nevertheless, the locale clearly stimulated him, and the absorbing and often riveting performances are what he intended to leave us, and the commentaries--with R often illustrating at the piano (which he plays quite well)--are wide-ranging and consistently absorbing. The performances are also available on CD, but be warned that they contravene his strict stricture about the importance of maintaining Bach's order of the suites (for the obvious reason that in most performances, these included, you just can't get Suites Nos. 4-6 on one CD).

Since the cello repertory is too limited to contain the interests of so vast a spirit, Rostropovich (like Casals) drifted into conducting, and had a long and successful run at it, including his long stint (1977-94) as music director of Washington's National Symphony Orchestra, which made him a larger presence in this country than he might otherwise have been. In that time, and until the fall of the Soviet Union, Rostropovich and his wife, the distinguished soprano Galina Vishnevskaya, were exiles, having been stripped of their citizenship.

Their problems with the Soviet regime came to a head in the '70s. As Wikipedia explains it:

Rostropovich fought for art without borders, freedom of speech and democratic values, resulting in a reprimand from the Soviet regime. His friendship with Alexander Solzhenitsyn and his support for dissidents led to official disgrace in the early 1970s. He was banned from several musical ensembles and his Soviet citizenship was revoked in 1978 because of his public opposition to the Soviet Union 's restriction of cultural freedom. Rostropovich left the Soviet Union in 1974 with his wife and children and settled in the United States.

When Rostropovich and Vishnevskaya became nonpersons in the Soviet Union, Slava was quoted as saying that what perhaps distressed him most was the official purging of the Bolshoi Opera history and roster to exclude his wife, who had been one of the company's leading soloists for two decades.

One of the first things the Rostropoviches did when they were able to return to their homeland was to establish the Vishnevskaya-Rostropovich Foundation (VRF) for the Health and Future of Children [above], whose mission was announced as "to improve the health care of children in the Russian Federation and other Newly Independent States (NIS) of the former Soviet Union."


I couldn't think of a way of working in a reference to a Rostropovich recording for which I have a special fondness: the Schubert Arpeggione Sonata with Benjamin Britten accompanying on the piano. (It was actually written for the arpeggione, an odd and short-lived six-stringed instrument, with frets like a guitar but played with a bow like a cello.) It's not all that consequential a piece, and yet in the hands of two musicians of this caliber it takes wing.

Now, having stumbled across the blog "The Overgrown Path," I feel especially remiss in omitting mention of Rostropovich's relationship with Britten (1913-1976), who was not just among the handful of the greatest composers of the 20th century, and a singularly fine pianist and conductor, but one of the century's most inspired and inspiring humanists. It's one of the signature qualities of Britten and his partner, tenor Peter Pears, that the better musicians and human beings seemed to find their way to their Aldeburgh Festival. It was for Rostropovich that Britten composed his Cello Symphony, Cello Sonata, and three solo cello suites.

"Pliable," the blogger of "The Overgrown Path" (who notes that in the 1970s he was EMI’s international marketing manager, under division director Peter Andry--who, by the way, was responsible for bringing the Soviet superstars together for those recordings of the Beethoven Triple Concerto and Brahms Double Concerto), also shares this anecdote about Rostropovich:

For me, an incident away from the recording studio showed the difference between Rostropovich and other superstar musicians. We decided to celebrate the release of the Haydn record [of the two cello concertos] by inviting Slava to the EMI offices in 1977 to present him with the lavish EMI-Pathé gatefold edition of the concertos. The visit summed up Slava’s approach to life - energy, enthusiasm, passion, but above all a love for music and a love for the human race. He made sure he spent time talking to all the background staff who rarely came into contact with the artists, yet alone superstars. We were working with many other great musicians at the time, but the prospect of Herbert von Karajan visiting our offices, yet alone hugging a secretary was unthinkable.

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I woke up in San Francisco yesterday. I turned on the TV and the first thing I heard was "Barbara Ann" by the Beach Boys. Huh? Was he doing it again? Crazy old John McCain apparently hadn't had enough and he was back for more. Is this guy nuts? I saw him on the Daily Show a couple nights ago and he was really dreadful, joking about giving Stewart an IED-- you know the things that have killed most of our soldiers in Iraq-- that he and Miss Lindsey (R-SC) bought on their shopping trip in Baghdad a few weeks ago. The guy is losing whatever marbles he has left-- fast. No wonder Republicans are so desperate to find an alternative candidate.

Anyway, you probably read how last week crazy old McCain sang "Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran" to an audience of bucktoothed toothless rednecks in South Carolina. Now he's skipping around the country-- announcing for the 4 billionth time he's running for president (while skipping votes, like the one to end the occupation of Iraq, not to mention General Petraeus' congressional briefing in DC). This morning he made a speech in a South Carolina flour factory in South Carolina and after he was finished pandering he played "Barbara Ann," signaling fellow warmongers what kind of a foreign policy he has in mind.

Instead of listening to McCain arthritically croaking out his turgid and sick version of the Beach Boys' classic again, how about if we watch a little video and contemplate crazy old McCain replacing the steaming heap of excrement we have in the White House now:

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