January 30, 2008

"Connecting The Big Brother Machine"


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For those of you who have been watching online porn, calling you congressman to complain about Dick Cheney, or getting email from the ACLU or MoveOn.org, we hope you realize that someone has been watching you, and their intention may not be benevolent. Surprised? Then you haven't shown sufficient interest in the upcoming fight in Congress for the preservation of your constitutional rights. Let's get you up to speed, so at least you'll know what you're missing if the Democrats who haven't been purchased by the telecoms lose.

The ever impassioned Keith Olbermann has made a little video to fill you in on FISA and telecom immunity.

There's a bright side to all this. Evidently Bush has cut the FBI budget so much that various offices don't have enough money to pay their wiretapping bills, and the telecoms are cutting off their services. They aren't that patriotic -- thank goodness.

But whatever you do, don't try wiretapping yourself.

Photo note: Once you start to notice, you can see that our electric connections are really quite vulnerable.

Posted by Dakota at 07:22 AM

January 29, 2008

What's New on Tobacco Road?


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These photos were all taken surreptitiously in the duty free shops of European airports, thus accounting for the poor quality of light and composition. In Europe, not only can one select one's favorite brand, one can choose from various snappy warnings emblazoned in bold type on every carton and pack. Those European copywriters go directly to the point.

But have heart civil libertarians and smokers, just when you thought the social disapproval that has been unleashed against smoking world wide might have discouraged the tobacco industry, you will be delighted to know that it has inspired innovation instead. According to the Wall Street Journal:

.....Called Marlboro Intense, the product has been shrunk down by about a half inch, and offers smokers seven potent puffs apiece, versus the average of eight or so milder draws.

The idea behind Intense is to appeal to customers who, due to indoor smoking bans, want to dash outside for a quick nicotine hit but don't always finish a full-size cigarette. Pointing to his lit Intense, the CEO says there are "possibly 50 markets that are interested in deploying it."
WSJ's Vanessa O'Connell and David Pybas do a show and tell with new products for smokers that Philip Morris has created ahead of an aggressive international push for new business

Marlboro Intense is likely to be part of an aggressive blitz of new smoking products PMI will roll out around the globe once the company -- now a unit of New York-based Altria Group Inc. -- becomes a standalone entity. That change will be set into motion tomorrow, when the Altria board is expected to approve a long-awaited decision to split PMI from Philip Morris USA. The move would free the tobacco giant's international operations of legal and public-relations headaches in the U.S. that have hindered its growth.

(don't miss the video)

Not only are new tobacco products emerging, but new tobacco accoutremonts abound, some of which seem to have been lifted directly from the shelves of the local head shop. Heatbar , a device that sounds like a (link removed) vaporizor ( popularlized in Armistead Maupin's latest ), used by the health conscious cannabis consumer, as well a cigarette rolling machine which produces professionally packed coffin nails from untaxed loose tobacco.

Of course, one does not hear the tobacco companies urging us to legalize marijuana or planning a large expansion in that area should the laws change However one has to ask oneself why said corporations are getting their new ideas by hanging around head shops.

As we all know, decriminalizing marijuana would put a large damper on America's fast growing industry, private prisons, that it's simply out of the question.

America's "War on Drugs" has become primarily a war on marijuana smokers. Federal data released this year reveals almost half of all drug arrests are for marijuana, and that approximately one in seven drug prisoners is now behind bars for marijuana offenses. Research reported by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) in June found that 59,300 Americans are sitting behind bars on marijuana charges.

This conclusion soundly contradicts allegations by drug war hawks that few, if any, marijuana consumers serve hard time for marijuana-related offenses. In truth, the data show that law enforcement routinely target, arrest, and incarcerate marijuana consumers in alarming numbers.


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Here's blowing vaporized smoke rings at ya.

Photo note: As above

Posted by Dakota at 03:50 PM

January 28, 2008

Please, Pretty Please!


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Yesterday: Ah, yet another morning when toothpaste stuck in my craw, due to NPR, a radio station that used to broadcast the news. Oh well. They did a piece this morning on Bush's anticipated State of the Union address tonight, taking us on a trip down memory lane, pointing out some of the 935 lies that have been embedded in previous SOUs -- you know the lies that Dennis Kuchinich cannot mention on the floor of the House.

The part that caused such distress was the wrap up "You can hear the speech at 9 PM tonight or go to NPR.org where we will be blogging and FACT CHECKING [capitals mine for outrage] the President's remarks. Where have your frigging fact checkers been since the year 2000, pray tell?

Today: True to their word at NPR, here's the fact check, which was predictably, full of the usual fudged facts. This feature is seven years too late.

Why isn't NPR (and every damn network news organization in the USofA) reporting on the FISA filibuster that's happening on the floor of the Senate right now? The Bush administration is doing it's damndest to strip away every American's constitutional right to privacy and legalize wholesale government surveillance.

I know, you don't care because you aren't doing anything wrong, right? Neither were most of those six million Jews when a fascist dictatorship was being put into place.

Guess we'll hear about this in the news a few years from now - or maybe not, since, by then, all the media will have been coopted by vested interests.

Photo note: Vases in the window of a Budapest antique shop. We would like to think the girls are pleading for you to pay attention.

Posted by Dakota at 07:35 AM

January 27, 2008

Creative Projects


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If one does not glue oneself to the Wedding Section of the New York Times of a Sunday morn, one can sometimes find the leisure to view creative projects of another sort. All of us here at Dakota hope you're still in your PJs ready for an eyeful.

First, from the Hirshorn Museum, photographs of Art with a Single Sheet of Paper. Scroll down and click on the photos to see a larger image

And next a series of multidimensional instructional films which are educational and, when viewed in order, provide a poignant narrative.
You Suck at Photoshop #1
You Suck at Photoshop #2
You Suck at Photoshop #3
You Suck at Photoshop #4

Photo note: For Christmas we were the lucky recipients of an Umbra Fotofall upon which to display our photos. Sadly, we haven't printed a shot for years. However, lacking a proper Christmas tree, we had another idea, and used a few items from around the house to make a festive statement. Fortunately the proverbial black driveway wasn't covered with snow, and provided a fine background for the creation that needed only a little photoshopping.

Posted by Dakota at 07:37 AM

January 23, 2008

The Consequences of Overlooking Evil


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I awoke listening to the administration's plans for perking up the economy they've shattered so effectively with their policies, their war and their criminal behavior. Leave it to the Bushies to make financial hay out of any disaster. From the New York Times

House conservatives raised alarms about the emerging economic legislation, saying they feared it would focus too much on tax rebates [Dak: for the middle class, forget about the poor] and not enough on tax incentives to encourage businesses to create jobs.
They said any package should include provisions that would reduce the corporate tax rate, adjust capital gains for inflation and lower the capital gains rate for corporations.

I think they have given up on making tax cuts for the rich permanent. That will have to wait for the next national catastrophe.

And from the World Economic Forum in Davos where GillianTett reports that the mood is "extremely nervous" and "there is a view that something has gone fundamentally wrong in the way world finances are conducted in recent years .... 60% of the economists, policy makers and bankers think the central banks have lost control of the situation. There is the problem that there is no consensus about how to right the financial problems."

George Soros said: "Markets have been left to their own devices, and the authorities came to rely on the markets to right themselves. They ought to have known better."

Gillian Tett politely called Condi's lies "a major sales pitch" "The US economy is resilient. Its structure is sound and its long term economic fundamentals are healthy. The United States continues to welcome foreign investment and free trade . And the economy, our economy, will remain a leading engine of global economic growth"

Yesterday the Center for Public Integrity posted the results of their study showing that members of the Bush administration "unequivocally lied" 935 carefully orchestrated times in order to lead the USofA into the war in Iraq. No kidding!. This is old news to everyone who pays attention, although the fastidious documentation of the statements and timing are compelling. Of course, Dennis Kuchinich was not allowed to utter the work liar on the house floor yesterday.

What, pray tell is going on here? Henry See has a three part series on what he calls the hysteroidal cycle, which could explain a few things:

Some observers have suggested that societies and countries, like the individuals that make them up, pass in cycles from good times to bad times and back again. They have called this pattern of change the hysteroidal cycle, from the psychological definition of hysteria: a psychological state of uncontrollable fear or exaggerated excitability. Here it is being used to describe "fear of truth" or fear of thinking about unpleasant things so as to not "rock the boat" of current contentment.

When a country is in a period of "good times", the search for truth, especially the unpleasant ones, makes people uncomfortable because it asks them to give up their comforts, hard-won after a period of crisis. Rather than peer under the surface of the illusion, people want to relax and think only about pleasant things. They begin to eliminate unpleasant data from their thinking, and, before long, it has become a habit. The trouble is, thought process based upon such limited information cannot be correct. They can only produce correct conclusions by accident. Unfortunately, because the pathologized thinking process has become internalized, ever more convenient premises must be substituted to patch over the errors in thinking.

After the Second World War, Americans benefited from a long period of economic growth. The fruits were more evenly distributed than they are today. Real incomes rose. Jobs were much more secure, on the whole, than today. The fact is, however, that this growth was based upon the exploitation of the US's new economic colonies. American's benefited at the expense of people elsewhere. However, to point out this fact at the time was to invite accusations of being a communist. During good times, people don't want bad news, even if it is true.

Isn't that why "hope" and "change" are the nouveau political cries, rather than crimes, prosecution, jail and punishment -- even in the face of a precipitous global stock market crash and cascading mortgage foreclosures, we still don't want to hear the bad news.

Related thought from Andrew Łobaczewski, Polish psychiatrist and author of "Political Ponerology: A Science on The Nature of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes."

When a few generations worth of "good-time" insouciance results in societal deficit as regards psychological skill and moral criticism, it paves the way for pathological plotters, snake-charmers, and even more primitive impostors to act and merge into the process of the origination of evil as essential factors in its synthesis... Those times which many people later recall as the "good old days" thus provide fertile soil for future tragedy because of the progressive devolution of moral, intellectual, and personality values which give rise to Rasputin-like eras.

There's a name for what's happening. Pathocracy, when sociopaths, those without conscience, move to the highest positions in government and industry and shape the world.

Photo note: Budapest graffiti - Drunken Sailor, what DO you do with him? He ostensibly gave up booze, but what about his addiction to power. Quite a monstrous clown

Addendum: View from another Pathocracy, Dorothy Thompson's1941 article in Harpers (written after spending time in Germany as Hitler rose to power) Who Goes Nazi?

Posted by Dakota at 12:21 PM

January 22, 2008

A Reminder


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Although it's two days late, perhaps it's time to listen to Martin Luther King again in light of the fact that so many of our Supreme Court judges and government officials are active members of "The Federalist Society, some of whose primary missions are to roll back civil rights and affirmative action. And, in spite of having a black and a woman running for President, they've done a mighty good job, and, mark my words, they are not finished by any means.

So here it is Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

Photo note: Sun coming out from, or is it going under a black cloud in the Costco parking lot, which in and of itself is symbolic

Posted by Dakota at 07:37 PM

January 21, 2008

The Miracle of Snow


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they'll be
when they
click on
the guide
at snow
dot com
the enthusiast

Post it
at once

start a flake
photo search
go for it men

ah but a
photo of
wasn't found
even by
the archives

so she had
to make do
with a
or two

oh well
oh pooh


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Photo note: The mystery snow woman and snow woman with haughty gaze

Posted by Dakota at 08:24 AM

January 20, 2008

Wide Awake


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Are you getting enough sleep? Take the Tiredness Test

from NPR

Dr. Eve Van Cauter, a sleep researcher and professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, says that many people today, especially in the United States, take pride in not getting much sleep. "Sleeping as little as possible is viewed as a badge of honor here," Cauter says....

Van Cauter notes that the National Cancer Society surveyed more than a million Americans in 1960 and found that people said they got an average of eight-and-a-half hours of sleep.
This was, of course, in a time period when television stations went off the air by midnight, and there were few late-night diversions, like online shopping....

Van Cauter says most surveys today put the average sleep time of Americans at six or seven hours...
"The data is limited, but they strongly suggest that over the past four or five decades, sleep duration has decreased by one and a half to two hours," she says. .....

Van Cauter believes we are in a period now very similar to where we were with smoking 20 years ago. She envisions a time 20 years from now, when knowledge, research and even litigation (perhaps lawsuits against sleep-deprived drivers who cause accidents) will combine to change public perception so that lack of sleep is finally seen as dangerous, not something to be proud of.....

In light of this research, all of us here at Dakota are hitting the sack.

Photo note: Budapest -back window

Posted by Dakota at 08:04 PM

January 19, 2008

Tweaking Your Vote


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Once again we have to hear it from the European press

The mainstream Italian media are reporting both the rigging of the New Hampshire primary for Senator Hillary Clinton and the official demands for a swift, accurate and impartial recount. In an article written by Marcello Foa, one of Europe's most respected journalists, it appears that vote tallies for all Democratic candidates as well as Republicans were reduced by Diebold vote-counting machines.....

According to the report, Ron Paul should have finished third in the Republican primary rather than fifth. Thus, it would appear that both Barack Obama and Ron Paul were the primary targets of vote-rigging operations in New Hampshire.

Diebold?!? Diebold?!? Why is there a single Diebold machine in any precinct in America, after what happened in 2006?

Brad Friedman has more chilling details about Diebold in New Hampshire.

And while we're on the subject of controlling our votes, all of us here at Dakota are getting a little sick of the media prescreening worthy candidates for us to view. For example, "Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson vowed to issue an injunction halting the nationally televised debate if MSNBC failed to " include Dennis Kucinich. Astonishingly, Judge Thompson was overruled by the Nevada Supreme Court, and Kuchinich did not appear. [Addendum: Dennis himself on "on the Media"]

Why are the media so adamantly keeping Kuchinich, Paul and yes, even or especially, Edwards out of the public eye? According to some, John Edwards is the only democratic candidate that will be able beat a republican in a national election. Edwards is the candidate who stubbornly refuses to be purchased by corporate interests. Since corporations now own the media, they can nip his campaign in the bud, and thus prevent odious government regulations from resurfacing. It can be argued that deregulation has brought us global warming, the subprime mortgage crisis, coal mine disasters and Fox News to name but a few horrible consequences.

Perhaps you think us paranoid? Well, here it is directly from the Elephant's Lips. Alternet interviewed Allen Raymond, a former Republican National Committee operative, about his new book "How to Rig An Election, Confessions of a Republican Operative" and excerpt:

ALTERNET: The title of your book is How to Rig an Election. Can elections be rigged?

RAYMOND:: Sure. We're not talking about what people often think about, like ballot box stuffing. Certainly, that stuff goes on here and there. What we are really talking about in the book is how messages are created and delivered to the voting public, in a way that orchestrates and manipulates response. It's all about feeling an emotion; it's not about raw issues and logic.

In the book I give a lot of examples of rigging elections by, put it this way, guys like me -- I used to be a campaign manager. Once you are all said and done and deliver a message, two plus two equals whatever I want it to equal. The facts and sometimes even contorting the facts to lead voters to conclusions that may not necessarily, if you step back, make any sense -- but, in context, make all the sense in the world.

There's that aspect of it. Then there's just the more raw aspect of it, which leads up to the culmination of the book, which is the 2002 New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal.

Photo note: A sidewalk shot of the House of Terror in Budapest, a monument to the horrors of repressive sregimes, lest we forget, or think we are immune. From Wikipedia:

The museum has had its share of criticism, mostly from activists associated with the Alliance of Free Democrats, the Hungarian liberal party, but also from of activists from Hungarian Socialist Party.[citation needed] Some have argued that the museum portrays Hungary too much as the victim of foreign occupiers and does not recognise enough the contribution that Hungarians themselves made to the regimes in question as well.[1]

Posted by Dakota at 08:29 AM

January 15, 2008

Nice Fellow, But........


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Just in case you missed Mike fair tax)

I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution," Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. "But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that's what we need to do -- to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view."

From Robert Farley at Lawyers Guns and Money had this comment:

This appears to have freaked out even Joe Scarborough [see video at the end of the last clickie] who noted that "evangelicals should be able to talk politics ... some might find that statement very troubling, that we're going to change the Constitution to be in line with the Bible. And that's all I'm going to say." Of course, it's a bit unclear to me what amending the Constitution to "God's standards" would require, although I presume that it wouldn't involve the banning of pork products.

Photo note: A little scenario atop one of the towers of Matthias Church in Budapest. We re making do, since there are not that many crosses in the photo archives.

Addendum: Fro an somewhat chilling article in Salon entitled "Huckabee's Radical Religious Friends":

Ideas like the ones some of Huckabee's supporters hold stem from two radical doctrines, reconstructionism and dominionism. As Conason writes, these ideas come down to "the notion that America, indeed every nation on earth, is meant to be governed by biblical law." Additionally, they stem from a belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation, then betrayed by secular humanist liberals who created a myth of separation of church and state in the 20th century, leading the country to immorality and godlessness, and that the United States must be taken back by Christians. Some of the proponents of this idea are unashamed about using the word "theocracy" to describe their goal. The most radical among them -- including two of the movement's leading lights and progenitors, R.J. Rushdoony and his son-in-law Gary North -- advocate a return to the practice of stoning as a method of execution, and expanding this death sentence to the crimes of homosexuality, blasphemy and cursing one's parents. [clickies courtesy of Dakota]
Posted by Dakota at 07:13 PM

January 11, 2008



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All of us here at Dakota have only been paying marginal attention to the subprime mortgage crisis. However there's nothing like a jaunt to foreign shores to help one notice just how much cache the American dollar has lost.

Robert Kuttner explains the situation, and its impending catastrophe very clearly, just in case you're not up to speed.

Even if one were Republican and could easily overlook the tragedy of tens of thousands of poor people losing their homes, one might be very concerned about the general economic crisis that's resulted. You know, having to make do with smaller scoops of Beluga on one's toast points, or metaphorically speaking, the prospect of having to switch from the black to the red. But we digress.

In August, American Home Mortgage, the tenth largest retail lender in the nation went bust, and Countrywide Financial another subprime giant, is close behind. Of course,the former CEO of Countrywide, used his intuititive prescience to dump all his stock over the last two years at a fine profit, and was rewarded with a generous settlement for his stellar leadership in sinking the shop. What else is new?

Not to worry, there is wonderful news! Bank of America is going to buy out Countrywide, thus saving the American economy from collapse. Isn't that nice?

Now, ask yourself, why would a big bank like BOA want to buy a mess like Countrywide? Herb Greenberg picks through the obfuscation, and discovers that the Federal Reserve is going to guarantee that Bank of America is takes no risk whatsoever.

When the Federal Reserve steps in to rescue a crappy mess made by unmitigated greed, who do you think pays through the nose, besides those poor folks who lost their houses in the bargain. Me and you, the American taxpayer, who already unwillingly support war profiteers in Iraq.

The supprime crisis is yet another case of government deregulation, as advocated by the Bush administration, allowing greed to prevail over sound policy, and in the end, devastate the economy - with of course juicy profits for those in the upper echelons.

Oh, but we learn from our mistakes. Last time we weren't watching the greedy bastards precipitated the savings and loan crisis

The ultimate cost of the crisis is estimated to have totaled around USD $160.1 billion, about $124.6 billion of which was directly paid for by the U.S. government [2], which contributed to the large budget deficits of the early 1990s. The resulting taxpayer bailout ended up being even larger than it would have been because moral hazard and adverse-selection incentives compounded the system’s losses.

Oh, and who do you think was in the thick of that massive public robbery?The Bush Family. Perhaps if someone had to serve time in one of our many crowded private prisons, it might have served to curtail this kind of behavior.

Photo note: Steam and clouded visiblity, a methaphorophoto of sorts. Shot through the window while waiting in line for admission into the elaborate Neobaroque Szechenyi Baths in Budapest. There is a "no camera" rule inside. The timid photographer was hesitant to disobey this rule because it was printed so clearly in English. The outside temperature was 25 degrees, and the pools heated to 100, thus the roiling steam, which renders most bathers invisible. A divine experience. A slideshow, and shots by a braver parties

Posted by Dakota at 07:53 PM

January 10, 2008

Budapest Christmas Lights

One will not be able to find it in one's heart to complain about winter in Budapest, even though it seemed to the rocket propelled tourist with camera in hand that the sun set at 3:30 PM, thus greatly inhibiting photo ops.

The folks at Budapest Town Hall have taken all that into consideration. Every municipal architectural jewel is ablaze with light, and tasteful Hungarian folkloric Christmas confections adorn the avenues, making a stroll after dark quite the visual spectacle .

Sadly, said rocket propelled tourist left her gorillapod on her kitchen table, and had to rely on lamp posts to steady her hand, which, as you can see, was only moderately successful. The delicate detail of tiny cascading white lights formed into uniquely Hungarian designs has been lost in translation to bloggish, but you can still get the idea.


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Photo note: as above -- other photographers had the same problem
as you can see

Posted by Dakota at 07:52 PM

January 08, 2008

Notice Something Missing?


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Isn't it interesting that in all the New Hampshire primary frenzy, we're not hearing a damn thing about John Edwards even though he came in second in Iowa, and he even looks like a president? Glenn Greenwald tells us why.

Actually, Edwards was invisible from the media narrative for almost the entire year, well before Iowa, but nonetheless, he came in second place, is a legitimate candidate by every metric, and it isn't the media's place to "decide" -- after one state -- that he's no longer worth mentioning because he won't win. Obviously, by freezing him out of coverage, the media dictates the outcome rather than reports on it.

And we know who owns the media.

Ron Paul seems to be in a similar pickle.

And now for the most shocking media blackout of them all -- former FBI employee Sibel Edmond's explosive revelations Sunday about the selling of US nuclear secrets by those who pretend to be patriots to those who could swing either way in their affections for the USofA.. Her story made the front page of the UK Sunday Times, but has been assiduously ignored by the American press. Here's all the information you need to know-- from such sources as the Times of India. Be sure to click the clickies. More movies and even jucier details which involve The Dick and drugs.

Aren't you glad somebody's watching?

Photo note: This is a shot of Buda's Castle Hill and the Chain Bridge over teh Danube at night, taken from Pest the other half of Budapest, which is not shown. Bet you didn't miss it either. In addition, all the adorable little white lights have lost their clarity in the conversion of this photo for the blog. You never really know what you're not seeing unless someone tells you. My point exactly.

Posted by Dakota at 07:26 PM

January 06, 2008

McGovern's Take on Bush and Cheney


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Just in case you missed George McGovern's piece Sunday in the Washington Post, we have, a the risk of copyright violation, duplicated it here in its entirety. McGovern is now 85 years old and has a long view. Would that he had had been elected president in 1972, rather than our first neoconservative criminal president, Richard Nixon.

Why I Believe Bush Must Go
Nixon Was Bad. These Guys Are Worse.

As we enter the eighth year of the Bush-Cheney administration, I have belatedly and painfully concluded that the only honorable course for me is to urge the impeachment of the president and the vice president.

After the 1972 presidential election, I stood clear of calls to impeach President Richard M. Nixon for his misconduct during the campaign. I thought that my joining the impeachment effort would be seen as an expression of personal vengeance toward the president who had defeated me.

Today I have made a different choice.

Of course, there seems to be little bipartisan support for impeachment. The political scene is marked by narrow and sometimes superficial partisanship, especially among Republicans, and a lack of courage and statesmanship on the part of too many Democratic politicians. So the chances of a bipartisan impeachment and conviction are not promising.

But what are the facts?

Bush and Cheney are clearly guilty of numerous impeachable offenses. They have repeatedly violated the Constitution. They have transgressed national and international law. They have lied to the American people time after time. Their conduct and their barbaric policies have reduced our beloved country to a historic low in the eyes of people around the world. These are truly "high crimes and misdemeanors," to use the constitutional standard.

From the beginning, the Bush-Cheney team's assumption of power was the product of questionable elections that probably should have been officially challenged -- perhaps even by a congressional investigation.

In a more fundamental sense, American democracy has been derailed throughout the Bush-Cheney regime. The dominant commitment of the administration has been a murderous, illegal, nonsensical war against Iraq. That irresponsible venture has killed almost 4,000 Americans, left many times that number mentally or physically crippled, claimed the lives of an estimated 600,000 Iraqis (according to a careful October 2006 study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) and laid waste their country. The financial cost to the United States is now $250 million a day and is expected to exceed a total of $1 trillion, most of which we have borrowed from the Chinese and others as our national debt has now climbed above $9 trillion -- by far the highest in our national history.

All of this has been done without the declaration of war from Congress that the Constitution clearly requires, in defiance of the U.N. Charter and in violation of international law. This reckless disregard for life and property, as well as constitutional law, has been accompanied by the abuse of prisoners, including systematic torture, in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

I have not been heavily involved in singing the praises of the Nixon administration. But the case for impeaching Bush and Cheney is far stronger than was the case against Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew after the 1972 election. The nation would be much more secure and productive under a Nixon presidency than with Bush. Indeed, has any administration in our national history been so damaging as the Bush-Cheney era?

How could a once-admired, great nation fall into such a quagmire of killing, immorality and lawlessness?

It happened in part because the Bush-Cheney team repeatedly deceived Congress, the press and the public into believing that Saddam Hussein had nuclear arms and other horrifying banned weapons that were an "imminent threat" to the United States. The administration also led the public to believe that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks -- another blatant falsehood. Many times in recent years, I have recalled Jefferson's observation: "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

The basic strategy of the administration has been to encourage a climate of fear, letting it exploit the 2001 al-Qaeda attacks not only to justify the invasion of Iraq but also to excuse such dangerous misbehavior as the illegal tapping of our telephones by government agents. The same fear-mongering has led government spokesmen and cooperative members of the press to imply that we are at war with the entire Arab and Muslim world -- more than a billion people.

Another shocking perversion has been the shipping of prisoners scooped off the streets of Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and other countries without benefit of our time-tested laws of habeas corpus.

Although the president was advised by the intelligence agencies last August that Iran had no program to develop nuclear weapons, he continued to lie to the country and the world. This is the same strategy of deception that brought us into war in the Arabian Desert and could lead us into an unjustified invasion of Iran. I can say with some professional knowledge and experience that if Bush invades yet another Muslim oil state, it would mark the end of U.S. influence in the crucial Middle East for decades.

Ironically, while Bush and Cheney made counterterrorism the battle cry of their administration, their policies -- especially the war in Iraq -- have increased the terrorist threat and reduced the security of the United States. Consider the difference between the policies of the first President Bush and those of his son. When the Iraqi army marched into Kuwait in August 1990, President George H.W. Bush gathered the support of the entire world, including the United Nations, the European Union and most of the Arab League, to quickly expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The Saudis and Japanese paid most of the cost. Instead of getting bogged down in a costly occupation, the administration established a policy of containing the Baathist regime with international arms inspectors, no-fly zones and economic sanctions. Iraq was left as a stable country with little or no capacity to threaten others.

Today, after five years of clumsy, mistaken policies and U.S. military occupation, Iraq has become a breeding ground of terrorism and bloody civil strife. It is no secret that former president Bush, his secretary of state, James A. Baker III, and his national security adviser, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, all opposed the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In addition to the shocking breakdown of presidential legal and moral responsibility, there is the scandalous neglect and mishandling of the Hurricane Katrina catastrophe. The veteran CNN commentator Jack Cafferty condenses it to a sentence: "I have never ever seen anything as badly bungled and poorly handled as this situation in New Orleans." Any impeachment proceeding must include a careful and critical look at the collapse of presidential leadership in response to perhaps the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

Impeachment is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot.

As former representative Elizabeth Holtzman, who played a key role in the Nixon impeachment proceedings, wrote two years ago, "it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws -- that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate. . . . A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law -- and repeatedly violates the law -- thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors."

I believe we have a chance to heal the wounds the nation has suffered in the opening decade of the 21st century. This recovery may take a generation and will depend on the election of a series of rational presidents and Congresses. At age 85, I won't be around to witness the completion of the difficult rebuilding of our sorely damaged country, but I'd like to hold on long enough to see the healing begin.

There has never been a day in my adult life when I would not have sacrificed that life to save the United States from genuine danger, such as the ones we faced when I served as a bomber pilot in World War II. We must be a great nation because from time to time, we make gigantic blunders, but so far, we have survived and recovered.

Photo note: Pigs hanging, a wishful thinking metaphorophoto -- shot at Nagy Vasarcsarnok, the Central Market Hall, in Budapest, a building designed by Gustave Eiffel

Posted by Dakota at 10:24 PM

January 03, 2008

No Angel


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The temptation to prattle on about Budapest, has been trumped by a some things you should keep in mind if you're considering voting for Hillary.

From a letter written by Michael Moore

.....11 years ago I wrote a chapter (in my first book) entitled, "My Forbidden Love for Hillary." I was fed up with the treatment she was getting, most of it boringly sexist, and I thought somebody should stand up for her. I later met her and she thanked me for referring to her as "one hot s***kicking feminist babe." I supported and contributed to her run for the U.S. Senate. I think she is a decent and smart person who loves this country, cares deeply about kids, and has put up with more crap than anyone I know of (other than me) from the Crazy Right. Her inauguration would be a thrilling sight, ending 218 years of white male rule in a country where 51% of its citizens are female and 64% are either female or people of color.

And yet, I am sad to say, nothing has disappointed me more than the disastrous, premeditated vote by Senator Hillary Clinton to send us to war in Iraq. I'm not only talking about her first vote that gave Mr. Bush his "authorization" to invade -- I'm talking about every single OTHER vote she then cast for the next four years, backing and funding Bush's illegal war, and doing so with verve. She never met a request from the White House for war authorization that she didn't like. Unlike the Kerrys and the Bidens who initially voted for authorization but later came to realize the folly of their decision, Mrs. Clinton continued to cast numerous votes for the war until last March -- four long years of pro-war votes, even after 70% of the American public had turned against the war. She has steadfastly refused to say that she was wrong about any of this, and she will not apologize for her culpability in America's worst-ever foreign policy disaster. All she can bring herself to say is that she was "misled" by "faulty intelligence."

I have not even touched on her other numerous -- and horrendous -- votes in the Senate, especially those that have made the middle class suffer even more (she voted for Bush's first bankruptcy bill, and she is now the leading recipient of payoff money -- I mean campaign contributions -- from the health care industry). I know a lot of you want to see her elected, and there is a very good chance that will happen. There will be plenty of time to vote for her in the general election if all the pollsters are correct. But in the primaries and caucuses, isn't this the time to vote for the person who most reflects the values and politics you hold dear? Can you, in good conscience, vote for someone who so energetically voted over and over and over again for the war in Iraq? Please give this serious consideration.

And that's not all, Robert Parry at The Smirking Chimp (it's worth reading his piece in its entirety) writes:

In the mid-1990s, even as the Republican attack machine pounded the Clintons with allegations about alleged ethical lapses and marital infidelities, the Clinton administration acted like it was determined to prove that it could be trusted with the nation’s dark secrets, that it could cover up wrongdoing with the best of them.

The consequence for America, however, was different. With George H.W. Bush’s dubious public record whitewashed, the door was opened to the restoration of the Bush Dynasty. If the full truth had been known about former President Bush, it’s hard to conceive how George W. Bush ever could have become President.

Now, as Hillary Clinton seeks a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses to solidify her image as the inevitable Democratic nominee, she appears ready to pick up the mantle as the Democratic protector of the Bush Family’s legacy. Though she may utter some tough words about George W. Bush on the campaign trail, she’s not likely to follow up if she wins the White House.

If Bill Clinton is telling the truth about Hillary Clinton’s “first thing” to do as President – recruiting George H.W. Bush for a worldwide goodwill tour on behalf of America’s image – that will require closing the door on any serious investigation of George W. Bush.

The two dynastic families then can look to the future, again.

When are no consequences for criminal behavior by government officials in this country as Parry points out, such behavior continues and worsens. The French had the right idea when they recently charged Donald Rumsfeld with war crimes, thusprecipitating his hasty departure from their country. The next administration needs to do the same to those who have perpetrated the crime that is the war in Iraq.

Photo note: A quite typical angelic architectural detail on a building in Budapest

Posted by Dakota at 09:29 PM

January 02, 2008

Bulletin: Blogger Back from Budapest


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Heartfelt apologies from the proprietress of this blog. Just before departing en famille to Budapest, technical difficulties prevented a tata post, so for those dear readers who assumed that I dropped off the face of the earth, I did and I'm back.

I have been quite out-of-self, given airplane air, exotic environs, jet lag, holiday galas, and lack of contemplative time, thus the photo of a poster, which was pasted on a lamp post in Pest, which illustrates my struggle to catch up with myself.

Photo note: as above

Posted by Dakota at 07:24 AM