Sleepless In Hamburg
Upps - did wake up at 2:40am. Very unusual for me. But then, it was in time to watch the SOTU speech.
Some lose points from my notes:
The event is much too much of show for my taste. Bush did look grey put energized and/or aggressive.
As Froomkin had predicted, a lot of "lead", leading", "leadership" talk.
Warnings on isolationism and protectionism were a major theme throughout the speech. Both are now part of the axis of evil.
"We excel ourselves in trade .." was a nice joke. But then - importing is trade and there the U.S. does excel.
Why do the Generals always clap with the repubs?
Iran is not a democracy, but Egypt is an example for democratic elections? Take that for reality. This was inconsistent with a point of culture-different forms of democracy made in the same part of that speech.
The NSA spying on Americans is now officially a terrorist surveillance program and all repub politicians gave standing applause to that line. That tells you what to expect from any hearing on the issue - exactly zero.
Cut 140 programs and lower taxes - nothing new here. But who is that guy who clapped hands when Bush asked for a line item veto?
Half through the speech, there was a serious screw up. So far Bush had done well. Then he mentioned that last years Social Security scam had NOT passed into law. The dems had much fun with that line - standing ovations!!! Thereafter Bush was nervous, spoke too fast and had lost some drive.
New initiatives on health care and energy, but no Mars flight. Who invented "zero emission coal plants"? C + O2 = CO2 - when did that change? A "research tax credit" is announced. Since when is research taxed?
Better fear cloning those "human-animal hybrids"!
The Gulf coast did get $85 billion says Bush. I wonder where that money went. New Orleans seams not to have seen much of it.
More money for aids programs is fine. But why is there a "waiting list for medicine" in the first place. I didn´t know that. If it is true it is a major scandal.
So far my spin of the speech. The overall impression was an aggressive but lame Bush. Some swagger in the beginning, but that was gone after the social security gaffe.
Maybe the speech will get him a temporary point or too in the polls. But I would not bet a dime on that.
Bush's SOTU projected by Froomkin:
"A leader with an obligation to lead at a time that requires leadership ..."
Living in a different timezone and with a historically reduced urge for a Führer, I´ll be sound asleep when Bush tries to sell his reality of a state of the union.
I guess I will miss just as much as last year, when the whitehouse marketed these talking points:
President Bush laid out ambitious goals for the future, behind which all Americans can unite, and urged the Nation to move forward with the work that needs to be done this year:
Well, they didn´t had those links when they put it up, but then, it always was only their reality.
It seems to me that true homeland security ought to be more about providing health care for every citizen and less about reshuffling bureaucratic agencies and undermining our civil liberties.
True homeland security should be about protection of liberties. True homeland security should be about protection of pension assets for retired people.
Genuine homeland security should also be about gun control, protecting Americans against domestic hate crimes, and getting serious about reducing the pollution of our air and water.
And homeland security should mean feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and making sure there is quality education for every child and jobs at a decent wage for everyone who wants and needs one. That's how we make our country safe and secure for all citizens.
The chief economist of Morgan Stanley, Stephen Roach, is criticizing globalization. From the World Economic Forum in Davos:
The win-win endorsement of globalization -- that the development of poor countries is a huge plus for rich, developed countries -- was first coined in Davos. There have been anti-globalization protests associated with this event for years. But this year is different. The debate has moved from the outside to the inside. Serious challenges to globalization are now being openly aired in the rooms and corridors of Davos’s fabled Congress Centre.
The reasons behind this shift are not hard to fathom. One of the “wins” in the win-win of globalization has failed to materialize. Job creation and real wages in the mature, industrialized economies have seriously lagged historical norms. It is now commonplace for recoveries in the developed world to be either jobless, or wageless -- or both. That this shortfall has occurred in the midst of accelerating globalization and surging global trade is all the more disconcerting.
As its critics have feared, globalization has advantages for the capital side of the economy, but the labor side is losing. The race to the bottom is clearly visible in the job markets.
The economic model for globalization has serious flaws. Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage does promise advantages for all the trading partners. But it is a theory with idealized assumptions and based on a static model.
The dynamics and time lags which occur in real economic exchanges have serious side-effects and the process to reach the promised advantages can be decades long.
The boondoggle of "more jobs through open trade" looks real - in theory. But when people lose their job and have to wait 20 years for a better job to be created, that advantage are hard to explain to them.
Good to hear that this surprise has finally reached the theorists and policy makers who are in charge here.
Now, the people have to keep up the pressure for a better regulated and controlled trade process.
Trade is good and has benefits. But to let it run wild without at least retaining the social wins of the last centuries is pure corporatism. This has to stop.
Just do it. Please.
News & views by and for anyone ...
Hostage Taking Non-Story
As commentator b real points out, reports of hostage taking by U.S. military in Iraq are incomplete. They fail to point out that these acts are illegal under U.S. and international laws.
Imprisoning relatives of assumed insurgents for the sole purpose of catching those assumed insurgents started in July 2003 and is continuing into 2006.
In January 2004 Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to Rumsfeld:
We are writing you with regard to several incidents in Iraq involving actions by United States forces that appear to violate the 1949 Geneva Conventions. [...] In two of these incidents, U.S. forces also reportedly detained close relatives of a person that the U.S. was attempting to apprehend. In these cases the individuals detained were themselves not suspected of responsibility for any wrongdoing.
Yesterday Reuters and Associated Press reported on the ACLU documents. The AP report does not even mention any question of legality. With regards to law, the Reuters piece only includes a cite of one of the documents,
A June 10, 2004, memo written by the DIA employee, labeled as "secret," referred to "violations of the Geneva Convention.",
but does not elaborate.
Knight Ridder, which seams to have done the only original reporting so far, writes:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The U.S. Army has been detaining Iraqi women to help track down husbands or fathers who are suspected terrorists, according to documents released Friday and a Knight Ridder interview with a female detainee who was released Thursday after four months in prison.
The Iraqi woman told Knight Ridder on Friday that she and eight other female detainees in her cell had often talked among themselves. She discovered that all of them were being held because U.S. officials had suspected their male relatives of having ties to terrorism.
So according to this witness, the hostage taking is ongoing. There are either no orders to follow the law, or such orders are ignored. But even Knight Ridder fails to mention these illegalities.
Hostage taking is a clear violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War especially of:
Article 3 (1): Persons taking no active part in the hostilities [...], shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, [...].
To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: [...] (b) taking of hostages
Article 31: No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.
Article 33: No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. ..
Article 34: The taking of hostages is prohibited.
Under US Code Title 18 § 2441 specifically any breach of GC Article 3 is defined as a War Crime.
So where is the outrage? Why do the media fail to point out the obvious? Why is this a non-story?
Democratic Party Senator
revised versions additionally miss a brain)
©DLC Inc. in cooperation with Rove Labs
Hamas Win Makes Peace Possible
Hamas, the islamist Palestinian group, has won a majority of seats in yesterday's election. The ruling Fatah has declared defeat and Prime Minister Ahmed Curia and his cabinet resigned.
Only 6% of a quarter million Palestinians in east Jerusalem could get to vote. But despite (or because of?) these illegal Israeli restrictions and an undercover U.S. funded Fatah campaign, the voters preferred a disciplined, social responsible, religious movement over a corrupt and chaotic secular party.
Like Uri Avnery I believe this to be a positive development for the Palestinians, the Israeli and the wider Middle East.
Let me explain:
Gaza is a big, isolated concentration camp and the West Bank is divided into Bantustans by zionist colonial settlements. Access to water is under Israeli control. Factually Palestine and Israel are one apartheid regime. Given this, there is no and never can be an economical and/or political viable Palestinian state.
But there is no sign that the Palestinians will ever give up their struggle or lose international support unless there is a sufficient and just solution. On the other side, it is baloney to expect that the mass-reestablishment of a Jewish population in Palestine after WWII can be rescinded.
Short of an reenactment of a shoa with opposite signs, the only viable longterm solution is a common state which includes Israel, Gaza and the West Bank into one nation and allows equal rights for everybody living there.
The Israeli election system gives undue power to small, radical religious parties, making Israel in effect a jewish religious state and comparable to islamic rule in Iran. Hamas on the other side is calling for a radical islamic state. The natural compromise is secularization of the government, policy and public life.
With Fatah such a solution would have been impossible. What could have been a compromise between a secular Palestinian and a religious state Israel but something ignoring the islamist side? Fatah, and Abbas as a U.S. selected President, would never be able to get their population's support for such a step. Hamas' win makes the solution possible.
On the other side a fractured Israeli government may not be able to compromise and keep its standing. In the coming Israeli election, Ohlmert's Kadima may now have the chance for a decisive victory, eliminating the need for a coalition with religious splinter parties.
What may look as a recipe for an even stronger stand off, a strong Hamas and a unrestrained, unilateral acting Kadima, is a precondition for negotiations that lead to sustainable solutions.
Bury the roadmap, which was ignored by all side anyway. The EU and the Arab league should up the financing of the Palestinian side for the promise of a sustained hudnah (truce). The roadmap partners should threaten serious sanctions for any unilateral steps by the Israeli government that would cement the conflict.
There is no escape from the logic of a one state solution.
South Africa has shown that peaceful solutions to apartheid are possible. To develop, they need pressure from outside and strong leaders with both parties on the inside.
Hamas victory has established one strong party. The other parts of the puzzle may now fall into their place.
Yeah, it seems they are gearing up for impeachment again. But I'm extremely worried about a sinister turn of events. Let me explain.
When Clinton was impeached, it was a huge media circus. The impeachment would not and could not have happened without the complicity of the media to create an issue out of a non-issue ("from whole cloth") and reinflate the deceitful shroud every day. The right wingnuts were also behind it. Some might say to stymie any progressive agenda Clinton might care to enact; others may argue to cover up the right wing agenda he was actually enacting.
In the end, impeachment was shown to be a fatuous exercise, and it failed. The demdems, and the indies, and even the non-caring cynics, all breathed a vast collective sigh of relief that the country had not gone crazy. As an aside, that was the first time I realized the true NPR agenda, with their breathless he said, she said coverage.
O.K. Now we have the Bush impeachment. All the demdems will wet their pants with excitement. We will be treated to the very same circus: Hillary blowdry Clinton, John live shot Kerry, Joe sanctimony is me Lieberman, Joe hairpiece Biden, Nancy eyejob Pelosi, and worse, if there is worse, speechifying endlessly and vacuously. The repugs will stand John keating 5 McCain and Linsay born again Graham against the wall to bleat like sacrificial lambs. If Sen. Byrd actually says anything of substance, everyone will assiduously ignore it or pronounce him too senile to hold office. We will have NPR creating one of their trademark pseudo-intellectual events, replete with resident scholars, house whores, Larry Tribe and Doug Kmiec pointing out trivialities (whoopie v. bungie 1887). And the networks will have a field day. People will be jumping out of windows after OD'ing on Cokie.
But lets look beyond the circus and see how this may play out. At best, the country will be convinced that it was wrong to spy on Americans and we go back to the status quo: Americans spy on Brits, and Brits spy on Amurkans, then they get together and cut bait. Have no fear that that could ever be discussed and debated. At worst, the elite are actually able, through the machinations of the circus and maybe a helpful terrah attack or two, to convince the sheeeeeple that they need to be spied on for their own good. Spying becomes institutionalized law. That would be a fine turn of events. Indeed, it is probably the plan. Dems may get lucky and win some seats, but who cares. They are running to the right of Bush anyway. When they get into power we can look forward to expanding our military and fighting the "War on Terror™" the right way, that is with democratic sub-contractors.
While all this is going on the administration (who can fall off a Segway and chew gum at the same time) will be interpreting and enacting some of the most heinous legislation imaginable, while the whoreporate press (who cannot think and sharpen a pencil at the same time) will be assiduously ignoring it all.
And, of course, in the end Bush, having been impeached, will not be indicted. He will get off, and in doing so will claim another fictitious mandate, and the press will depict this as a triumph of a man who cared about America's security when 'others' didn't.
And the whole circus, the whole simulacram world, only serves to legitimate itself. The media will be a non-stop orgy chorus of "THE SYSTEM WORKS." If there was a more corrupt, more ecologically unsustainable system anywhere in the world, I know not of it. But that will be the meme: the reification and deification of the fucking system. Bush is not the Emperor without clothes, the whole system of capitalist endless industrialized growth is. And god forbid the sheeeeeeple should ever grok that. Humanity is the ram that Abraham, now capitalism or the system or whatever you want to call it, is about to slay because god commands it so. Issac is our conscience. Will we awake from the spell before it is too late?
So, I can only see this as a lose-lose proposition for progressives, but probably one that must be fought anyway. Perhaps there is a better strategy that I don't see. Anyway, sorry to be my usual sunshiney self. Maybe I could find a position as a Hebrew prophet and short order cook?
News & views ...
He speaks of "Warriors and wusses" and why he does not support the troops:
But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.
Bring on the parades. If our military rank and file have been betrayed by their civilian leadership they deserve our respect doubly.
Both are wrong and Stein is right.
The U.S. military is hardly a defense force. Neither is it a peacekeeping or rebuilding institution. As is obvious from history, Army, Marines, Navy and Air Force are instruments to force U.S. special interests on others.
This is also a voluntary military. People who join it sign a contract they don´t have to sign. There is nobody threatening to kill them if they refrain. There is no reason to applaud anyone who joins a company that is known for crimes in the first place.
Even less so, when they go into an illegal war. If soldiers get betrayed by being ordered to do so, it is their human duty to decline to fulfill that order. They do not only have a right to do this, but an obligation. Illegal orders are not to follow.
The Charter specifically provides in Article 8:
"The fact that the Defendant acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior shall not free him from responsibility, but may be considered in mitigation of punishment."
The provisions of this article are in conformity with the law of all nations. That a soldier was ordered to kill or torture in violation of the international law of war has never been recognized as a defense to such acts of brutality, though, as the Charter here provides, the order may be urged in mitigation of the punishment. The true test, which is found in varying degrees in the criminal law of most nations, is not the existence of the order, but whether moral choice was in fact possible.
This does not mean that I condemn each soldier for not resisting and not going to jail. There is a lot of pressure and manipulation once you are in and it is at least difficult to fight this.
But to support the troops in this war and to ask for parades is simply enabling the next imperial adventure and the brutal death of more men, women and children.
The only support one should give them is to get them out.
The Iran Bourse Meme
"The U.S. will bomb Iran because Iran attempts to start an oil bourse."
That is meme flying around the blogsphere and in some comments here. It is wrong.
The meme is constructed around this thesis:
"The value of the U.S. Dollar would go down, if oil would be traded in exchange for other currencies."
Thereby, this construct says, it would seriously harm the U.S. and the U.S. preempts this with war.
Two distinct different transactions and economic calculation are mashed in this argument.
First: I want to sell this stuff. How do I get compensated?
Sometimes a compensation might be a product or commodity. During the cold war the USSR delivered gas to Germany and got compensated with thousands of miles of special seamless pipes and other industrial goods. I did learn to weld at a shipyard that sold ferries to Indonesia for thousands of tons of agriculture goods.
Usually the compensation medium is some form of money and the preference is on the side to have it in a currency that is universally accepted. The U.S. Dollar is a usual candidate, as is the Euro. Gold in the form of gold related currencies could be a good candidate too. But you would also take rice, sheep or tons of ore, if that is the better deal at hand.
Everybody thrives to optimizes the deal. The currency is not relevant in this, the value is.
You make a deal where you exchange one value for another value but when the deal is done, and you are not in immediate need of seamless pipes or rice or dollars, there is the real question.
Second: How do I store this value.
If you did get a somehow interchangeable value for your goods, dollar or euro or gold or rice or ore or sheep, you are not a bit restricted in your decision here. The penalty for changing a billion $ to € or vice versa is quite small. For ore it may be bigger, but you would have reflected that in the deal above.
All this dwarfs if you look at yield differences and risks of various investments. Do I buy a 4% bond in currency X or a 2% bond in currency Y. Will X fall and Y rise? Do I buy shares in A or in B? How are the dividends?
This decisions is not based on the currency you did the deal with. It is based on expectations of inflation rates or company prospects.
A Iran oil exchange or trading place is not a danger for the U.S. $. Someone who trades oil does not care about the currency related to the exchange as long as that value is, somehow, interchangeable with others. The currency question only comes up in investments where the yield of a euro bond may be less of a the yield of dollar bond while the dollar bond may have a higher risk of inflationary devaluation.
So the Iran oil-exchange meme is wrong when it is founded on the trading currency - dollar dump argument.
The meme could be right if it were is based on the notation that both of todays major oil trading places, the IPE in London and the NYMEX, are owned by powerful U.S. banks.
Owning an exchange includes making the rules and judging on them. That allows for some creative schemes to boost ones profits. But there is not yet much prove that the lobbying of these folks would induce a military conflict of the foreseen grade.
But the power to control the flow of oil, to be able to deny oil to some at will and to give it at favorable (with a profit) rates to other is a much bigger financial and national interest incentive than some trading scheme profits.
Iran is THE middle east producer that is currently NOT under U.S. control.
With Iran under U.S. control, any U.S. President would have great leverage to deny oil at a reasonable market price to any other state. Be that Japan, some E.U. country that doesn´t follow the rules or China, the ultimate enemy the military-industrial complex needs to have.
So what is the best way to make Japan, the E.U. and China your enemy?
Iran: Why And Why Now?
Steve Clemons has some frightening notes on the Iran developments:
Monday morning, 9:30 a.m., in SC-6 of the U.S. Capitol, war-profiteer and former CIA Director R. James Woolsey will be joined by former RNC Spokesman and President for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies President Clifford May and Arizona Senator (and staunch supporter of the recess appointed John Bolton) Jon Kyl to help roll out public opinion research that allegedly states that Americans support military action against Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program.
What is fundamentally disturbing about Woolsey's move is that they coincide with other movement.
I cannot validate the accuracy of a report I have -- but with the caveat that this may be erroneous information -- TWN has been told that senior Congressional leaders, including senior Democratic officials, were given a top secret briefing on Tuesday, 17 January, on potential military options against Iran. No Congressional leaders have publicly stated that they received such a briefing, but others close to the intelligence community have conveyed that information to TWN.
This briefing date coincides with Secretary of State Rice's meetings with European officials over next steps to take with Iran.
Another disturbing part of the brewing Iran problem is a classified Air Force bombing study that allegedly reports that it is possible for an American bombing campaign to destroy and/or incapacitate 85% of Iran's nuclear program.
From a long term strategic point of view, one could make a case that Iran should acquire nuclear weapons. But one could also make that case for Germany or Japan.
Like Germany and Japan, Iran has made explicite statements that it does not want nuclear weapons. Why should we believe Germany and Japan, but not Iran?
"A nation which has culture, logic and civilization does not need nuclear weapons. The countries which seek nuclear weapons are those which want to solve all problems by the use of force. Our nation does not need such weapons."
Excerpts: Ahmadinejad conference - Jan 14 2006
The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the Fatwa that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.
Iran statement at the IAEA emergency meeting - Aug 9, 2005
The IAEA has more access to Iranian nuclear sides than in any other country of the world. While Iran had not revealed all its nuclear sites (there is some ambiguity in the NPT whether a site has to be revealed before it starts producing), it has done so after some pressure and the IAEA has not found a hint of a program to weaponize.
The U.S. administration knows all this.
So why do they pound the war drums and why are they doing so now?
News and views ...
Sometimes It Just Takes A While
In late 2004 Jérôme and I made some gloomy predictions about the U.S. economy, stocks and the dollar. The markets did not follow through. I lost a bunch of money betting on a lower dollar, though not as much as Buffett did (a cool billion).
Buffett still sticks to his dollar bet. So do I.
We were just too early. The general analysis still seems correct. Too much money is created. Doug Noland reports:
Over the past 34 weeks, M3 has inflated $619 billion, or 9.8% annualized.
M3 is measurement for the total money supply in the U.S. That money needed to go somewhere.
Steve Roach of Morgan Stanley thinks the same but he says maybe this liquidity party is over.
In my view, the froth in asset markets -- first equities in the late 1990s and, more recently, property -- is a direct by-product of a powerful surge in global liquidity.
Courtesy of central bank policy normalization ... in conjunction with an important shift in the mix of global saving, there is good reason to look for a much slower flow from the global liquidity spigot in 2006.
There are great financial global imbalances. The U.S. is over consuming on lent money and one day will have to stop to do so. On the first whiff of this, the equity markets will tumble.
Has it started?
Yesterday the NYT titled Higher Oil Prices Send Shares Tumbling.
Joking aside, I agree with Barry's Big Picture that oil was not the decisive factor. More important: some major companies did not make the expected or predicted numbers.
He names Alcoa, Yahoo, Intel, Apple, eBay, GE and Citibank. If those biggies miss, others will too. But stock prices still include expectation of rising profits.
In general stocks may not be a good investment this year or even a few years ahead. Since early last week I am short on the Dow as an index again and plan to stick to that a bet for a while.
So I will repeat the mistakes I made last year. Short the U.S. dollar and equities and probably, maybe, again lose money.
But sometimes sticking to ones analysis pays.
I was often tempted to sell as the stock did not really start to move until last fall. Yesterday it was a bit down. It closed at $6,80.
So that was a good deal and it paid to be patient. Sometimes it just takes a while.
When a white whale visited Bonn in 1966 (scroll down to synopsis) a huge public discussion broke out about capturing or killing it.
The animal, defying all attempts to catch it, made it back some 250 miles through the river to the open sea on its own mind.
Blair Corp. did catch the whale in London today but it died on the makeshift transport.
The whale struggled with the effects of being out of the water as it was ferried toward the Thames Estuary, officials said.
People like Binny have an existence which is 90% media. The poster boy terrorist. You lend your name and your image for a cause, and work for the best or highest bidder - CIA, Saudi, your own business, etc. You move forward, hope you are doing the best.
But that is not quite right; it makes him seem too keen, too principled, too calculating, too ready, like in spy novels, to switch sides according to the latest strategy, fighting for an ultimate aim.
One has to understand, Saudi dissidents, Egyptian nay sayers, and many others (all from the upper classes), find their funding and encouragement mainly in one place. Be it to fight the Russkies, create disturbances, scare Americans, fight on the Muslim side in Yugo, Cechnia (sp?), Africa too now under the radar (?), there is only one source of important funds, arms, expertise, encouragement. The Saudis fund Islamists big time - but they are supposedly ‘pure’ and don’t overtly truck with terrorists.
All ‘islamist’ radicals (the label is a joke) are dependent on the US and Gvmts that are US allies. Without that support, they would never bother. Never. But there is a LOT of money swashing around. Glory, too.
All of them are motivated by greed and the appeal of a more exciting life. The ‘terrarists’ are a great example of the success of ‘trickle down’.
In a way, it is a grand success. There is no all-out war, just skirmishes under the surface, and all of us sleep at night. More like violent corporate infighting, Mafia, than ww2.
Pity the poor Iraqis. And the people in the ex USSR.
The very fact that Binny is either alive or dead but remains a vital figure tells it all.
Saturday & Sunday ...
Defined From Without
defined from without (detail)
by anna missed
paint on wood, 12"x12"
full size (100kb)
The NSA activities are supported by the President’s well-recognized inherent constitutional authority as Commander in Chief and sole organ for the Nation in foreign affairs
Legal Authorities Supporting the Activities of the National Security Agency Described by the President; (PDF); Jan. 19, 2006
Tax Funded Campaigns
A while ago Billmon speculated that taxpayer money is converted into funds for the Republicans through Pentagon propaganda contracts and the Lincoln group.
This would be a variation of the tax funded campaigns other countries have established.
So far nothing turned up with Lincoln. But all of the Republican K-street project is a tax money converter. Companies get pressed to fill Republican campaign funds and are rewarded with benefits which, in one way or another, hurt the taxpayers.
But it a very ineffective converting method and a waste of taxes.
Take the case of the Cerberus hedge fund where a Pentagon contract for $160 million was shuffled through committees by Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis for a lousy $110,000 of campaign donations. From the viewpoint of a Republican taxpayer and the Representative this is not much bang for the buck, but it is a legal way and anyway, it is not his money that is spend but yours.
A bit more effective might be the Wilkes/Cunnigham method, were defense contracts were given to paper companies for work that nobody in the Pentagon requested and that was probably never done. Some millions went to the party and the representative. So this was a bit more effective than the Lewis bribes. Unfortunately the details turned out to be illegal.
The president is from Texas as are DeLay and other top folks in Congress. The Texan governor is a Republican. These people are the best lobby Texas could ever have.
But still the State of Texas, through its governor, saw a need to hire a former DeLay aide to lobby in D.C. for state interests. That aide gave $75,000 out of the $180,000 contract to Republican campaign funds.
Another case turns up in Illinois were the biggest County in Speaker Denny Hastert's districts hired a former Hastert aid to lobby by filling campaign funds.
This is a much more effective way to push tax money to one party than the Lewis bribe. This method is legal and it is better for the nation. The effect is the same as with the Lewis and Wilkes tricks, but less money is wasted on useless products.
Is this a better future of tax funded campaigns?
News & views ...
I have just started on the inpatient cardiology service at xxxxxx and have admitted two patients to the hospital in the past 24 hours who were unable to get important medicines as a result of the new plan (or lack there of). It is truly amazing! I don't think either is life threatening, but they both could have and will cost the tax payers and Medicare tens of thousands of dollars in needless hospital days.
But do not worry, the cavalry is on its way:
President Bush's top health advisers will fan out across the country this week to quell rising discontent with a new Medicare prescription drug benefit that has tens of thousands of elderly and disabled Americans, their pharmacists, and governors struggling to resolve myriad start-up problems.
But for a short moment, let's assume I am half smart elderly in need of the new medicare program and I indeed have a working PC and a modem in my home.
The pharmacist who just made me pay $54 for a weeks ration of betablockers, it was free of charge, i.e. paid by the state last year, said www.medicare.gov could solve my problem. So let's try:
The first point on top of that page leads me to some basic information:
Who can get Medicare prescription drug coverage?
Everyone with Medicare is eligible for this coverage, regardless of income and resources, health status, or current prescription expenses.
That is quite laudeable, isn't it? "everyone". But a bit below:
What if I have a limited income and resources?
There is extra help for people with limited income and resources. Almost 1 in 3 people with Medicare will qualify for extra help and Medicare will pay for almost all of their prescription drug costs.
Only 1 in 3 qualify, but everyone reagardless of income and resources is eligible - hmm.
I have not yet a grip on these two choices either:
There are two ways to get Medicare prescription drug coverage. You can join a Medicare prescription drug plan or you can join a Medicare Advantage Plan or other Medicare Health Plans that offer drug coverage.
You can join A or B or C's - two ways?
A map (requires Macromedia Flash) and, if you scroll down, a lot of plans for each state (requires Acrobat PDF Reader).
No, no, no - they told me not to install anything on this machine. Viruses you know? The don´t even have medicine for those and who knows if those would be covered anyway.
But I'll go back and try the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Finder Demonstration
Requires Macromedia Flash Player (version 7 recommended)
Screen resolution set to 1024x768. To make these changes, please follow the next simple steps (Windows XP):
1. Clicking the image to the right or the link below will open up a new browser window.
2. Depending on your connection speed, the demonstration will start playing momentarily.
3. Use your computer's "F11" key to toggle between Full screen and normal screen. You'll want to view the demo in full screen mode.
4. In "Full Screen Mode", right-click on the Menu Bar, and select "Auto-Hide" 5. Scroll down to access the built-in Macromedia Flash Player control bar for Pause, Play, and Stop options.
6. The demonstration is approximately 10 minutes.
Ahemm - just a bit too weird for me right now.
Upps - "Important Announcements", got to read those first. Access, that is what I want.
A Pop-up blocking software package, such as the Google and Yahoo toolbars, may prevent a user from successfully accessing My.Medicare.gov.
I knew those crazy Californian companies were evil. Evil, evil, evil!
But do you get that other stuff they say?
Maybe Mac Users are better off.
Please view the chart below to determine the browser you need to have (based on your operation system) for utilizing My.Medicare.gov as a Mac user.
Hmm, there is just this one chart with Mac OS 9 and MAC OS x. And a bunch of browser version. But every one of these are "Not Supported"!!!
No, no, no, no. This is not my government. There must be something useful here.
Back to the Homepage.
Finally something human!!!
Tabbed Menu Bar:
In the upper portion of the web page you will see different "tabs" with linking words on each tab, going horizontally across the page. These tabs take you to information about the particular area you are at in the website. The tab that is highlighted indicates the page you are on while the other are "faded" in the background. An example of a tabbed menu navigation bar appears below. This example tells you that you are at the "Related Websites" tab of the Helpful Contacts tool.
Under pressure over lobbying abuses, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert presented ideas for lobbying reform.
"We need to reform the rules so that it is clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what is ethically acceptable,"
First, we must ban privately sponsored travel in the House of Representatives. I know fact-finding trips are important. This body considers legislation that affects people that cannot always travel to Washington to petition their government. Private travel has been abused by some, and I believe we need to put an end to it.
Second, I think we need to tighten even further the gift rules. A Member of Congress should be able to accept a ball cap or a t-shirt from the proud students at a local middle school, but he or she doesn’t need to be taken to lunch or dinner by a lobbyist.
But what is still "ethical acceptable" to Hastert are campaign contributions. Such like meals, travel or various gifts. His new rules are just a new lipstick color for the lobbying pig:
According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group's expense and eat steak on a lobbyist's account at the priciest restaurants in Washington.
The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.
Under Hastert's new rules, the lobbyist has to give a bit more. A $1 campaign check handed over in that fancy restaurant or on the famous Scottish golf range would be sufficient.
"Beyond a shadow of a doubt", that is all there is to Hastert's ethics.
WB: Alternate Reality DepartmentBillmon:
Votes Of Women
lifted from a comment by gylangirl
Dems know how to attract votes from gays, blacks, latinos, and the poor: they put items into the Dem agenda that improve the economic status of those groups. But they don't care to improve the economic status of women. Instead, they listen to the "leaders" of the feminist movement, who offer more tidbits only for women among the gays, blacks, latinos and the poor.
They ignore the biggest reason why women end up poor: the legal status of marriage as a method of economic oppression of women, especially mothers. In the U.S., motherhood is the number one risk factor for poverty! Why? The law uses marriage as an excuse to short-change women when it comes to calculating dual earner income taxes ["secondary earners" pay higher marginal taxes and are thus induced to exit the paid workforce], and calculating spousal social security benefits [spouses are counted as only half a worker], and legal acceptance of employers rewarding male-pattern work. [An example is use of the gender-loaded criteria of "seniority" for establishing pay scales.]
The law does not recognize the right of a wife/family to the wage-earner's income. At divorce, she had to fight for it in court, often when she cannot afford the legal costs of doing so. The law does not recognize the subsidization of the economy by mothers as they raise of the future workforce, care for the sick and the elderly. That's a lot of free labor which is not even counted in the GNP.
The politician who can recognize how women are systematically marginalized in these ways, and who can propose legislation to address these inequities, and campaign on those proposals, will attract the votes of women of all classes.
Gore Speaks Out
A good but long one. Some highlights:
This effort to rework America's carefully balanced constitutional design into a lopsided structure dominated by an all powerful Executive Branch with a subservient Congress and judiciary is-ironically-accompanied by an effort by the same administration to rework America's foreign policy from one that is based primarily on U.S. moral authority into one that is based on a misguided and self-defeating effort to establish dominance in the world.
[W]e have for decades been witnessing the slow and steady accumulation of presidential power. In a global environment of nuclear weapons and cold war tensions, Congress and the American people accepted ever enlarging spheres of presidential initiative to conduct intelligence and counter intelligence activities and to allocate our military forces on the global stage. When military force has been used as an instrument of foreign policy or in response to humanitarian demands, it has almost always been as the result of presidential initiative and leadership. As Justice Frankfurter wrote in the Steel Seizure Case, "The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority."
Moreover, if the pattern of practice begun by this Administration is not challenged, it may well become a permanent part of the American system. Many conservatives have pointed out that granting unchecked power to this President means that the next President will have unchecked power as well. And the next President may be someone whose values and belief you do not trust. And this is why Republicans as well as Democrats should be concerned with what this President has done. If this President's attempt to dramatically expand executive power goes unquestioned, our constitutional design of checks and balances will be lost. And the next President or some future President will be able, in the name of national security, to restrict our liberties in a way the framers never would have thought possible.Text of Gore speech, January 16, 2006
News & views ...
The United States is in a constitutional crisis:
The "momentous" issue (Alito's words) is whether this president, or any other, has the right to tell Congress to shove it. And even if one concedes that wartime offers the president extra powers to limit liberty, what happens if the terrorist threat looks permanent?
But the opposition party is completely unorganized. Dem senators are only interested in useless self promotion. Biden, after a shameful self-representation in hearings, now calls for abandoning committee questioning of SOCUS candidates and to leave the task to a suppressed press.
But Biden, who notes that Judiciary Committee hearings haven't always been part of the confirmation process, says ditching hearings would leave nominees to make their cases in the media, where holding back and being boring won't necessarily fly.
After that confirmation the supreme court of the U.S. will have a
9 7 to 2 vote on the more conservative site and a serious majority on anything the Reps will demand.
That with a population that is about evenly split on most issues and much in favor of more central issues like freedom of the womb.
The secret of this devastating Republican area is not how they gathered their strength through a K-Street project, that is public knowledge, but how they eliminated any opposition to it.
How have they done that?
The Cheney administration is pushing leaks to the German media to discredit the former and the current German government.
The new German 'grand coalition' government between the socialdemocratic party and the Merkel's conservative block was expected to lead to better U.S.-German relations.
But in early December, when Condi Rice was traveling to Germany, her meeting with Merkel ended in a clash. Merkel told the press:
"The American administration has admitted that [Khaled al Masri, a German,] was erroneously taken"
Upps ... Condi's staff went ballistic.
A few days before Merkel's recent meeting with Bush, she criticized the existence of Guantanamo.
Payback: leaks appeared in the German press alleging the German foreign secret service (BND) helped the U.S. with targeting information in Baghdad during the Iraq war.
Main witness is a "US defense official" claiming the BND gave "direct support" in "selecting targets".
Of course the German opposition parties have a field day with this and it is used to drive some personal attacks on foreign minister Steinmeier. In the old administration, he was chief of staff for Schröder and responsible for coordinating foreign intelligence and the BND.
There is so far no evidence for this to have happened, except anonymous U.S. sources. Given the very cold relations at that time between the U.S. and Germany I find this highly unlikely and even my rightwing local paper, which loves to beat on Steinmeier, is today expressing doubts and suspects manipulations.
Says a journalist with knowledge of the involved organizations:
We're experiencing a sort of psychological attack on the part of the American intelligence agencies against the old Social Democratic-Green party coalition government, but also against the new government following Merkel's demand that the US close Guantanamo Bay. The Americans want to make clear -- especially in light of their bad image following the CIA torture allegations -- that Germany isn't as pure as assumed, because they were more involved in the Iraq war than they said they were.
Nobody is pure, but when a supposedly friendly U.S. leaks negative disinformation about an allied foreign intelligence service, there is a serious break of trust.
Even though there was a "warm welcome"for Merkel by Bush, the political good will and public support for the U.S. in Germany did just take another drop and Merkel's poll ratings reached new highs.
Is this just stupid behaviour? What are the plans and expectations when doing this? Qui bono?
WB: The Abu Zarqawi HourBillmon:
[T]he most striking thing about the "Abu Zarqawi Hour" is how it demonstrates the deranged, almost hallucinatory, quality of our 21st century global village, in which the remaining boundaries between reality, propaganda and entertainment are all being rapidly erased, ..
full size (150kb)
... in Ra'iatea he at last conceived a strong attachment for a most beautiful woman named Vai-tu-marie (Clear-still-water), who was the wife of a noted warrior named Tutae (Dung), and he determined to possess her himself. So he made advances to the man, sometimes feigning friendship and again aggravating him to hostility, until one day the warrior raised his spear to strike him, when Hiro caught him by the head and broke his neck. Thus freed of the husband, Hiro took possession of the wife, ...
Hiro (text added by b)
News, views & opinions ...
Drums Of War
The WaPo editorial signs on to all out war on Iran:
So while the means of the Security Council must be tried, Western governments should also begin fashioning a policy of sanctions and containment for Iran that can be applied by a coalition of the willing. That should be coupled with a more concerted effort to support the large part of the Iranian population that yearns to free itself from repressive clerical rule.
In the last election in Iran (yes, it is a democracy), the majority did vote for guy who is fine with the clerical rule. And the last "coalition of the willing" was the U.S., U.K. and a few bribed states to go into Iraq to wreak havoc.
The Cheney administration's calculation about the stupidity of their people and of some international leaders are correct. These people do not even remember the, ongoing, propaganda war on Irak. A read through the German press today shows a big tendency to follow through all the way to defeat in Tehran.
I did not expect this to go this fast. But next month, when Bolton and the U.S. will have the lead in the U.N. security council (whose security?), there will be some resolution that then will be interpreted to allow at least bombing runs, massive cruise missile attacks and tactical nukes on "hardened" targets in the midst of Iranian cities.
In some 50 years Iran will have no more oil. How are Persians supposed to switch on lights?
If there are really concerns about a Iran with nukes, why not give some assurance that these are not needed?
How a about a U.S. presidential declaration affirmed in Congress NOT to attack Iran if Iran does not attack anyone else? How about free trade?
The "carrots" offered to Iran to give up the RIGHT of the use of nuclear power was a gift wrapped empty box. How many of your rights would you give up for one of those?
WB: Personal AdBillmon:
Scalito says fuck these books of precedences whatever the are. (Hey - he DID marry a law librarian to be able to do so (and to do the crying)).
If they let this one through the gates, is there anything left those politicians stand for at all?
If you are in the U.S., please call your Senator today.
Turtles In Iraq
Army officials said Wednesday that they had decided to send additional body armor to Iraq to protect soldiers from insurgents' attacks.
The ceramic plates now worn by most members of the military shield just some of the upper body from bullets and shrapnel, and the Army said it would buy plates that would extend this protection to the sides of soldiers.
Army Sending Added Armor to Iraq Units
[T]he empirical evidence supports the following broad conclusions about the U.S. Army in theatre over his period:
... U.S. Army personnel instinctively turned to technology to solve problems. Similarly,their instinct was to seek means, including technology, to minimise frequent close personal contact with the local in order to enhance force protection, but this served further to alienate the troops from the population.
Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster, British Army (PDF)
WB: A Bipartisan ScandalBillmon: A Bipartisan Scandal
News & views ...
Just Filibuster Him
Can´t they shorten the Alito questioning and just filibuster that freeper?
Well, yes they could. But the public needs more understanding of the case. Maybe Alito will come up with an answer to a question that results in more public resistance. Public opinion is what might grow some backbone into democratic senators and a few moderate republicans.
Roe vs. Wade is the case where some 80% of the public stands left of Alito. Maybe someone can squeeze the right answer to that case out of him.
The more important issue is Alito's stand on executive power. But as a public explanation for a filibuster, it is hard to make this the decisive issue. Unless more outraging stuff of the NSA spying comes to light.
For me, the case was made when Alito explained why he mentioned specific very right leaning opinions in former job applications. He said he made those at that time just to get the job.
After such an answer, I would never hire that guy for any job with responsibilities.
Either he lied to get that job, and therefore may do it again this time, or his legal opinions are really some degrees right of Borg's. Both are reasons never to confirm him to the Supreme Court.
No I do not intend to annoy anyone with the title of this post. That would be illegal now.
The Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act says:
"Whoever...utilizes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet... without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person...who receives the communications...shall be fined under title 18 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."
It is a stupid law and the repubs sneaked it into a huge justice department bill. Bush signed it a few days ago (with what "signing statement"?).
But the law might also apply to senior administration officials and other anonymous government sources, who, without disclosing their identities and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten and harass, abuse the webpages of the New York Times, Washington Post and other media.
Is this law retroactive so it can be applied to the Plame outing?
Semenpaddy - I did not find that word in any dictionaries, but it is the rough translation of a German slang expression.
It describes a state of mind and odd behavior young males invariably fall into when they have no release for their natural hormone induced horniness. Usually it unfolds as some crankiness, but it soon evolves into serious aggression.
That was the reasoning behind providing army whorehouses in WW I and II and recreational vacations to Asian hotspots for troops in Vietnam. A military with semenpaddy is aggressive, undisciplined and the soldiers do behave irrational. Any mastersergeant worth his stripes will care for his troops to have some occasions. But now this:
For the first time, the Department of Defense has specifically made it a crime for a servicemember to patronize a prostitute. The punishment: up to a year in prison, forfeiture of pay and dishonorable discharge.
The formal order came in a presidential executive order signed without fanfare Oct. 14, directing changes in the Manual for Courts-Martial.
Stars & Stripes
I grew up in German town with some 4,000 locals plus some 500 GI's whose boring job was to maintain a bunch of nuclear rocket tips stored in the woods nearby.
Even with the needed establishments available, there still was a lot of strain and serious barfights between the locals and those GIs with semenpaddy symptoms. Without some services it would have been unsustainable.
So when the U.S. military does not allow homosexual behavior, does not allow intergender relations between lots of male and few female troopers and now prohibits visiting prostitutes, the aggression will look for other ways out.
The higher command tries to pray away the problem by providing lots of, mostly radical christian, religious services. But when your troops are asked to pacify an area with people of different believes that wad goes off in the wrong direction too.
In one room, cupboards used to store the shoes of those attending prayers had what appeared to be Christian crosses scrawled on them. Other footage showed papers strewn on office floors and windows smashed.
U.S. troops raid Sunni clerics' Iraq office
From a plain operational perspective the new directive will lead directly to such incidents and does deny the political effectiveness of the troops in a the attempt to pacify.
That only, of course, if you really want to attempt to pacify.
Otherwise, the directive is even be effective to further the political aim.
Open Weekend Thread
More news & views ...
What has triggered Tom DeLay to step away from regaining his position as House majority leader?
Was it just the petition for new leadership elections some Republicans floated? I had expected DeLay to fight that one down.
Yesterday Time reported Duke Cunningham wore a wire while cooperating with the prosecutors in his bribe case. That wire must have caught some interesting talk.
Was Jack Abramoff also wearing one throughout the 18 month he is said to have cooperated with the investigation? Transcripts of such bugged conversations in which he bribes politicians should be even more interesting than Cunnigham's.
Maybe yesterdays Time piece made DeLay understand how huge the upcoming train really is. He sure knows about bugs.
Roy Blunt, who now wants DeLay's post permanently, will have to have the same fear. But he wants the job dearly.
Fine with me, the longer this scandal series takes, the better.
Between Oct. 4 and Dec. 4, 2001, 389 stories appeared in the New York Times with "anthrax" in the headline." During the same period, 238 "anthrax" stories appeared in the Washington Post.
U.S. made anthrax, spread on U.S. soil, right after 9/11. Who???
Whoever solves the above question will have broken the cabal.
Why aren´t there any takers ...
sowing tribulation - detail
by anna missed
paint on wood,38"x27", 2005
full, uncompressed (140kb)
Coalition aircraft flew 52 close air support missions Jan. 3 for Operation Iraqi Freedom. These missions included support to Coalition troops, infrastructure protection, reconstruction activities, and operations to deter and disrupt terrorist activities.
Royal Air Force GR-4s provided close air support to Coalition troops in contact with anti-Iraqi forces in the vicinity of Bayji.
Centcom, Air Componant Data
BAIJI - A U.S. air strike killed up to 14 members of a single family and wounded at least two people in an attack on a house in Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad, on Monday night, an Iraqi security force spokesman said. Police in nearby Tikrit put the death toll at six. The U.S. military, responding to an inquiry, said aircraft had targeted a house after three men suspected of planting a roadside bomb were seen entering the building. They gave no death toll.
Reuters, Security incidents in Iraq, Jan. 3
The U.S. military on Friday announced the deaths of six more American troops killed in the recent barrage of violence that has swept Iraq, bringing to 11 the number of troops killed on the same day.
AP, 11 U.S. Troops Killed in One Day in Iraq, Jan. 6
The British government had made a big fuzz claiming Iran to be behind a new type of IED trigger used in Basra in south Iraq. It had to retract that claim:
Britain has dropped the charge of Iranian involvement after senior officials had repeatedly accused the Tehran regime of supplying sophisticated explosive devices to insurgents. Government officials now acknowledge that there is no evidence, or even reliable intelligence, connecting the Iranian government to the infra-red triggered bombs which have killed 10 British soldiers in the past eight months.
So the story of Iran supporting guerrilla in Iraq is, for now, inoperative. This after the news in all western countries had played it up. Don´t expect any station or major paper to report the retraction.
But wait, there is another war going on. The Sunday Times, just a few days ago:
British troops set to deploy to southern Afghanistan this spring could sustain losses on a scale not seen since the Falklands war, military intelligence officers have warned.
They say insurgent forces in the south are preparing for a large offensive by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, backed by sophisticated weapons and training from Iran.
Ahhh, here we go again. But why should a Shia Iran support a radical Sunni insurgency in Afghanistan? The Taliban, a creation of the CIA and Pakistan's ISI and financed by Saudi interests, is operating in south east Afghanistan, along the Pakistani border.
Both, geography and political/religious alignment, make the claim unbelievable.
What is next? Zarqawi and Ahmadinejad sighted in a North Korean love hotel?
The Lincoln group, Rendon and others get $300 million to come up with propaganda. For such a bag of money, the U.S. taxpayer should demand a better product.
Other news and views ...
With Sharon out of politics, will the road map he had buried be revived, or will the Israeli right be the stronger force?
From a recent LA Times OpEd West Bank buildup
And who will get those $3 million bribes now?
THE WEST BANK settlements of Ariel and Karnei Shomron are about to expand. In mid-December, Israel's Housing Ministry invited bids from contractors on lots for 137 new homes. The decision was made "with the knowledge of the prime minister," according to a source who spoke off the record because that's how sources tell the important parts of stories. No matter that the "road map," the 2003 document that remains the U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace, explicitly states that Israel must freeze all settlement activity. ...
I Want Fireworks
King George III declares laws written and adopted by the elected Parliament are only exercisable in accordance to His interpretation.
Recently the parliament saw a need to spend additional tax money on firefighters and decreeded a law to instruct the executive to act accordingly, i.e. to hire more firefighters.
The King, as head of the executive branch, did not mind firefighters, but he preferred to watch fireworks over any firefighters he had ever seen.
He signed the law the Parliament had adopted, as he has technical had to, but in doing so he also advised the executive he presided to interpret the law to his desire.
He ordered his subordinate to spend the additional money on fireworks to be launched at a time and location of his pleasure.
The executive branch shall construe these provisions relating to planning and making of budget recommendations in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to require the opinions of the heads of departments, to supervise the unitary executive branch, and to recommend for congressional consideration such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient.
But where is the outrage?
This WaPo oped by a father of a GI who died in Iraq is worth a read in full: A Life, Wasted
Anyhow, some excerpts:
The words "hero" and "patriot" focus on the death, not the life. They are a flag-draped mask covering the truth that few want to acknowledge openly: Death in battle is tragic no matter what the reasons for the war. The tragedy is the life that was lost, not the manner of death. Families of dead soldiers on both sides of the battle line know this. Those without family in the war don't appreciate the difference.
The day his unit returned home to waiting families, we received the second urn of ashes. This lad of promise, .. , came home in one coffin and two urns. We buried him in three places that he loved, a fitting irony, I suppose, but just as rough each time.
.. being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.
But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.