Saturday, July 28, 2007

Paying for the Privilege

All those careless soldiers being sent over to Iraq are losing and damaging government equipment, and they must be made to pay or they'll have their credit ruined.

That's the present policy, anyway:
Servicemen and women who made huge sacrifices fighting in the war and now paying yet another price, even after coming home.

One soldier in particular is currently battling against a new "debt of service."

Brian Rodriguez is a fighter, an honorably discharged soldier who'd been deployed in Iraq.

"I was a combat engineer," Rodriguez said. "We deal with land mines, explosives."

He fought for his nation, only to return to his homeland and wage a fresh battle.

Former Army Specialist Rodriguez started getting bills for $700 for lost or damaged government property this summer. Although he was discharged some four years ago, bills recently arrived demanding payment, but giving no details on what or why -- nor do they offer a way to dispute the charges.

"For doing my job you're going to bill me?" Rodriguez said.

And he's not alone. A 2006 government report found more than 1,000 soldiers being billed a total of $1.5 million. And while fighting overseas put their lives on the line, this battle on paper could cost them their future by ruining their credit. Rodriguez will be reported to credit agencies next month.


Worse Than Watergate

Heckuva job, Gonzie:
Daniel J. Metcalfe, a lawyer who began his government career in the Nixon administration and retired from the Justice Department last winter, said morale at the department was worse under Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales than during Watergate.

John S. Koppel, who continues to work at the department as a civil appellate lawyer in Washington, wrote this month that he was “ashamed” of the department and that if Mr. Gonzales told the truth in recent Congressional testimony, “he has been derelict in the performance of his duties and is not up to the job.”

Even though they worry that it may hinder their career prospects, a few current and former Justice Department lawyers have begun to add to the chorus of Mr. Gonzales’s critics who say that the furor over his performance as attorney general, and questions about his truthfulness under oath, could do lasting damage to the department’s work.


Inaction in Action

The Iraqi government is pretty much doing the opposite of "standing up" before they head off to vacation for a month:
Iraq’s national government is refusing to take possession of thousands of American-financed reconstruction projects, forcing the United States either to hand them over to local Iraqis, who often lack the proper training and resources to keep the projects running, or commit new money to an effort that has already consumed billions of taxpayer dollars.


The Man Who Never Stops Hating

He's at it again:
The City of Casper, Wyoming has rejected an offer from anti-gay preacher Fred Phelps to erect a statue dedicated to Matthew Shepard.

Phelps, who runs the GodHatesFags website, first gained national attention when he and his followers demonstrated at the funeral of Matthew Shepard in Casper in 1998.

Shepard was murdered in a homophobic attack by two men.

Phelps offered to build the statue in Casper's Monument Plaza which was dedicated earlier this month. The park features monuments to Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Ten Commandments and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.

Phelps' proposed a monument that would have been 5 to 6 feet tall and made of marble or granite. It would have had a bronze plaque bearing the image of Shepard and have an inscription reading "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."

"Casper's historic monument plaza is a collection of documents that are the underpinning and foundation of our law," Mayor Kate Sarosy wrote in a reply to Phelps.

"Your monument is simply religious in character, based on your personal religious beliefs regarding Matthew Shepard, and bears no historical significance to the foundation of the law for our country. As such, the city cannot place your monument on city property without violating the establishment clause of the United States Constitution."

I would have been, to put it mildly, rather more impolitic in my reply than was Mayor Sarosy.


In the Back of My Mind

Just having watched the South Park movie last night, I can't help but hope that a doctor misses lunch and bakes a potato in the operating room...
Vice President Dick Cheney will have his heart defibrillator's battery replaced Saturday, CNN reports.


Friday, July 27, 2007

Foreigners Taking Advantage of Superior Health Care

Damn Americans!

When Carrollton resident Brian Woods needed laser eye surgery last year, he scrutinized options in North Texas for the best deal.

McAllen resident Cesar Vega was concerned about the long wait he faced to treat his broken leg after a motorcycle accident during the weekend leading into the July 4 holiday.

Both ended up in Monterrey, Mexico. Traditionally, the city affluent residents have traveled to Dallas, Houston or San Antonio for their medical needs.

"All around I was very impressed, and the experience surpassed any expectation I had," Mr. Woods said. "I could have been in Zurich, Switzerland, but it was Mexico. I found the care to be top quality, what you would expect at a U.S. hospital and more."

Like vacations in sparkling Cancún or Cabo San Lucas, health care in Mexico is becoming high-quality, cheap and convenient, advocates say. As more Americans go without heath insurance or feel the pinch of managed care, some are making a run for the border for treatment ranging from routine care to live-saving procedures.


An Argument in Favor of Netiquette

The man has some anger issues:

A US Navy technician who got mad when someone mocked him as a "nerd" over the internet climbed into his car and drove 2100 km from Virginia to Texas to teach the other guy a lesson.

As he made his way toward Texas, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Petty Officer Russell Tavares posted photos online showing the welcome signs at several states' borders, as if to prove to his internet friends that he meant business.

When he finally arrived, Tavares burned the man's trailer down.

This week, Tavares, 27, was sentenced to seven years in prison after pleading no contest to arson and admitting he set the blaze.

"I didn't think anybody was stupid enough to try to kill anybody over an internet fight," said John G. Anderson, 59, who suffered smoke inhalation while trying to put out the 2005 blaze that caused $US50,000 in damage to his trailer and computer equipment.

"All I did was call him a nerd and he came to kill me."


Reports Look Bad? Cancel the Reports!

Standard Bush M.O.:
As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week that Baghdad residents could count on only "an hour or two a day" of electricity. That's down from an average of five to six hours a day earlier this year.

But that piece of data has not been sent to lawmakers for months because the State Department, which prepares a weekly "status report" for Congress on conditions in Iraq, stopped estimating in May how many hours of electricity Baghdad residents typically receive each day.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Today in Baghdad

More death:
A highly sophisticated simultaneous truck bombing and rocket attack devastated a Shiite market district in one of Baghdad's safest central neighborhoods Thursday, killing at least 28 people and wounding 95. Separately, the American military announced the deaths of seven U.S. troops.


Using Slave Labor to Build Freedom

The hypocrisy never ends, does it?
Two former employees of First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting, the company that's building the new $592 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, testified to a House of Representatives panel Thursday that they'd observed abuses of construction workers.

John Owens, who worked on the site as a security liaison from November 2005 to June 2006, said he'd seen foreign workers packed in trailers and working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with time off Fridays for Muslim prayers. Several told him they earned about $300 a month, after fees were taken out, and that they were docked three days' pay for such offenses as clocking in five minutes late.

Rory Mayberry, who said he'd been a medic on the site for five days, said First Kuwaiti had asked him to escort 51 Filipino men from Kuwait to Baghdad but not to tell them where they were going. Their tickets showed that they were flying to Dubai, Mayberry said. They screamed protests when they discovered on the flight that they were headed to Baghdad, he said.

Mayberry also said he'd seen workers high on scaffolding without safety harnesses.

In a hearing before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Rep. John Tierney, D-Mass., said Americans were responsible because U.S. taxpayers' money paid the workers.


Piling On

And here's yet another person asserting that Gonzales is guilty of perjury.

I'm sure Robert Mueller is just part of a well-orchestrated conspiracy:
The head of the FBI contradicted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' sworn testimony and Senate Democrats requested a perjury investigation Thursday in a fresh barrage against President Bush's embattled longtime friend and aide.


Does This Sort of Thing Still Surprise Some People?

The US willing to ignore another nation's sovereignty? Shocking!

PENTAGON and State Department officials have said US special forces will enter Pakistan if they have specific intelligence about an impending terrorist strike against the US, despite warnings from Pakistan that it will not accept US troops operating independently inside its borders.

The statements on Wednesday were the clearest assertion yet of the Bush Administration's willingness to act unilaterally inside tribal areas in north-western Pakistan where al-Qaeda's commanders are believed to have taken refuge.


Who's the Real Wanker Here?

I mean, really. Leave a man something:
It is a verdict likely to cause great consternation to lonely prisoners throughout the US penal system. A prisoner in Florida has been found guilty of indecent exposure for masturbating alone in his cell.

Terry Lee Alexander, 20, of Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, was sentenced to a further 60 days in jail on top of the 10-year term he is currently serving for armed robbery, the Miami Herald reported yesterday.


Five Minutes

That's all any perjury investigation of Gonzales should require. I mean, how many times has he been caught contradicting himself and/or uttering blatant falsehoods to Congress? It's all right there on video:
Senate Democrats called for a perjury investigation against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Thursday and subpoenaed top presidential aide Karl Rove in a deepening political and legal clash with the Bush administration.

"It has become apparent that the attorney general has provided at a minimum half-truths and misleading statements," four Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee wrote in a letter to Solicitor General Paul Clement.

They dispatched the letter shortly before Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced the subpoena of Rove, the president's top political strategist, in remarks on the Senate floor. The White House has claimed executive privilege to block congressional demands for documents or testimony by some current and former presidential aides. President Bush, meanwhile, has continued to support Gonzales.


Subversion of America Runs in the Family

Grandfather Bush was apparently in on a plot to stage a coup against Roosevelt back in the 30s:
Document uncovers details of a planned coup in the USA in 1933 by a group of right-wing American businessmen.

The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.

Mike Thomson investigates why so little is known about this biggest ever peacetime threat to American democracy.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Yet more evidence that the Iraqi government doesn't stand much of a chance of becoming viable:
Iraq's largest Sunni Arab bloc said Wednesday it had suspended membership in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government, a fresh setback to the Shiite leader's faltering efforts at national reconciliation.


Steady Progress

But still a lot left to do:
The number of Fortune 500 companies that ban workplace discrimination for transgender Americans has risen 60 percent since Jan. 2006 and has quadrupled since 2003, according to a new report.

But there is still a considerable way to go, the report issued by the Human Rights Campaign indicates.


Victory, Defeat

Iraq makes it to the Asian Cup finals for the first time ever:
Iraq reached their first Asian Cup final on Wednesday night, beating South Korea 4-3 on penalties after an action-packed semi-final had ended goalless after extra time.

But the celebrations in Baghdad didn't go so well:
Two suicide car bombings struck soccer fans in Baghdad as they were celebrating Iraq's victory in the Asian Cup semifinal on Wednesday, killing at least 27 people and wounding more than 100, officials said.

The victims were among the thousands of revelers who took to the streets of the capital after the country's national soccer team beat South Korea to reach the tournament's final against Saudi Arabia on Sunday in Jakarta, Indonesia.


Contempt Citations Make It out of Committee

Bolten and Miers move one step closer to being cited:
The House Judiciary Committee voted contempt of Congress citations Wednesday against White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten and President Bush's former legal counselor, Harriet Miers.

The 22-17 vote — which would sanction for pair for failure to comply with subpoenas on the firings of several federal prosecutors — advanced the citation to the full House.

A senior Democratic official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the House itself likely would take up the citations after Congress' August recess. The official declined to speak on the record because no date had been set for the House vote.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Prosecute Him

Will Gonzales manage to anger enough people so they go after him?

Here's hoping:
Angry senators suggested a special prosecutor should investigate misconduct at the Justice Department, accusing Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday of deceit on the prosecutor firings and President Bush's eavesdropping program.

Democrats and Republicans alike hammered Gonzales in four hours of testimony as he denied trying, as White House counsel in 2004, to push a hospitalized attorney general into approving a counterterror program that the Justice Department then viewed as illegal.

Gonzales, alternately appearing wearied and seething, vowed anew to remain in his job even as senators told him outright they believe he is unqualified to stay.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Protecting Peru

Very good.
Here's hoping the lawsuit works to keep the oil companies out:

Peru's Amazon Indian organisation, AIDESEP, has applied to the courts for oil exploration and drilling to be banned in parts of the Peruvian Amazon inhabited by uncontacted tribes.

Two of the companies concerned - Repsol YPF of Spain, and Barrett Resources of the USA - plan to enter the Indians' territory as soon as possible.

Barrett has already discovered an oil field hailed as the largest find in the Peruvian Amazon for 30 years.

The legal bid comes as some companies have steered clear from exploring areas inhabited by uncontacted tribes. In a recent auction held by Peru's state oil company, Perupetro, four of the seven exploration lots superimposed on the tribes' land were not bid for by any company.

The results of the auction were announced after urgent lobbying by Survival and AIDESEP of many of the companies due to participate in the auction, urging them not to enter areas inhabited by the tribes.

Survival International's Director, Stephen Corry, said today, 'Repsol, Barrett and other companies want to enter the uncontacted tribes' territories, despite this being against international law and despite the enormous danger it poses, both for the Indians and for the oil workers. Oil exploration cannot safely be carried out where uncontacted Indians live.'


Nothing Left

It's official.
The last benign bits have been excised from Bush's person:
The White House said today that the five small polyps found in President Bush's colonoscopy on Saturday proved to be benign, but because five were found he will undergo another similar exam in three years -- closer than this past, five-year check-up.


More Sweet Freedom

America's gifts
continue to rain down upon Iraq:

Squalor, disease and extortion are rife, and it appears many of the prisoners are innocent of any crime, writes Molly Hennessy-Fiske.

A UNIFORMED guard unfastened two padlocks and tugged open a large, wooden door, releasing a rush of hot, sweaty air.

Inside, in a room the size of a high school gymnasium, 505 prisoners stood or sat shoulder to shoulder on cardboard boxes and stained mattress pads. Their few clothes, Korans and other belongings hung from the walls or rafters. Metal ceiling fans barely disturbed the heat.

The stench of human confinement intensified as the guard led the way to the back of the room and down a dark, flooded hallway to the bathroom, where half-naked prisoners stood barefoot amid muddy puddles, broken floor tiles and stopped-up urinals. A shower and sink were filled with human waste.

The guard dropped his cigarette butt in a puddle as prisoners relieved themselves in two holes and rinsed off under a broken water pipe.

Things had improved since the morning, the prisoners said. At least the water was flowing.

A wave of prisoners has crashed into Iraq's crumbling lock-ups since the start of the US-led security crackdown in Baghdad.

This place, the national police detention centre in western Baghdad, was supposed to hold up to 300 inmates when it opened two years ago. Nearly 900 are now crammed inside - a mix of suspected insurgents, alleged criminals and apparent innocents. Other Iraqi jails have seen a similar influx.

Half-treated wounds, skin diseases and unsanitary conditions appear common here. So, too, is extortion by guards, say US officials who serve as advisers to the Iraqi staff of the prisons but disclaim responsibility for the conditions inside.

"They're Iraqi Government facilities. We work with the Iraqi Government to get their facilities established. It's their responsibility to maintain the facilities, it's their responsibility to provide the guards," said a senior US military official in Baghdad.

Colonel Daniel Britt, who leads the US military national police Transition Team, advising detention centre staff, said the conditions there were appalling but met international standards.



Writing a piece that's too sycophantic for our mainstream media? Kudos to Condi:

A few months ago, she decided to write an opinion piece about Lebanon. She enlisted John Chambers, chief executive officer of Cisco Systems as a co-author, and they wrote about public/private partnerships and how they might be of use in rebuilding Lebanon after last summer's war. No one would publish it.

Think about that. Every one of the major newspapers approached refused to publish an essay by the secretary of state. Price Floyd, who was the State Department's director of media affairs until recently, recalls that it was sent to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and perhaps other papers before the department finally tried a foreign publication, the Financial Times of London, which also turned it down.

As a last-ditch strategy, the State Department briefly considered translating the article into Arabic and trying a Lebanese paper. But finally they just gave up. "I kept hearing the same thing: 'There's no news in this.' " Floyd said. The piece, he said, was littered with glowing references to President Bush's wise leadership. "It read like a campaign document."


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Playing "Cop"

Another ridiculous GOP campaign serves up some laughs:

A top aide to Mitt Romney has resigned amid accusations that he impersonated a police officer and distributed fake badges to staff.

Jay Garrity, who had been on leave from his position as the Romney campaign’s director of operations since earlier impersonation allegations surfaced, stepped down Friday following a report in The Boston Herald in which unidentified people accused him of distributing badges to members of the advance team to gain early access to event venues, control crowds and reporters and avoid paying a highway toll.



I know it is shocking news, but this war is being run for the profit of a few:

Federal investigators have uncovered what they describe as a sweeping network of kickbacks, bribes and fraud involving at least eight employees and subcontractors of KBR, the former Halliburton subsidiary, in a scheme to inflate charges for flying freight into Iraq in support of the war, according to court papers unsealed yesterday.

The latest conviction in the cases related to the scheme came yesterday, when a former Houston-based executive for an air-freight carrier hired by KBR pleaded guilty in federal district court to dispensing bribes and then lying to federal investigators. The executive, Kevin Andre Smoot, 43, of The Woodlands, Tex., served as a managing director for Eagle Global Logistics Incorporated, a carrier that received a subcontract from KBR to ship the freight.

The guilty plea by Mr. Smoot is the second by an Eagle executive in the case. But the papers describing his plea indicate that investigators believe at least one more Eagle employee and five KBR employees, all so far unnamed, were also involved.


Clearing the Path

So now the plan is, as Turkey stands up, we'll stand down?

How many Kurds will die as a result of these trends?