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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, August 8, 2006


DeLay's Choice

"I will take the actions necessary to remove my name from the Texas ballot. To do anything else would be hypocrisy,"
-About-to-be Former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), regarding the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party loss in a Texas court to remove his name from the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party ballot for his congressional seat

All actions, huh? DeLay is awaiting trial on money laundering charges stemming from his "allegedly" (I love that word) funneling cash from the RNC, a national REPUBLICAN organization, to Texas Republican candidates running for statewide office. This was a clear violation of Texas law which forbids the use of federal monies in a statewide race. The object was to get a Republican majority in the Texas legislature (TRMPAC - Texans for a Republican Majority Political action Committee), then have that Republican majority reshape the Texas US congressional lines to allow more Republicans to gain national seats in THE US Congress. The districts were, of course, reshaped after the census drew the lines legitimately the prior year in what is known as gerrymandering (named for James Madison's Vice President, Congressman and Governor of Massachusetts Elbridge Gerry, who, as governor, drew the congressional districts to make sure incumbents were re-elected).

Had DeLay not contested his criminal charges or agreed to a plea deal, the courts might have had no choice but to allow his name to be substituted on the Texas ballot. After all, felons aren't allowed to serve as congressmen. And, let's face it, he probably wouldn't have had to spend too many days in jail with a "G"lobal "W"arming Bush pardon.

"For the good of the nation, and helping to make it heal, I am pardoning my good friend Tom DeLay. Everyone deserves a second chance."
-Bush's future words, as I might hear them

The second choice would be DeLay falling on his own sword, literally, After Senator Paul Wellstone died in what many term "Wellstone Air" (his plane crashed shortly before the 2002 election), the Democratic Farmer Labor Party petitioned to have former Senator and Presidential Candidate Walter Mondale take Wellstone's place on the ballot. If Delay were to take his own trip on "Delay Air", one would have to think that the courts might reverse themselves and allow a substitute GOP candidate.

DeLay had two choices in his bid to "take the actions necessary" to remove himself from the GOP ballot. The former (admitting guilt) would have made him a hero to Republicans nationwide. The latter ("Delay Air") would have made him a political curiosity for years to come.

Now, I'm not saying that "The Hammer" should "hammer" himself, but he did say "I will take the actions necessary", didn't he?

-Noah Greenberg

I Disagree

Many who read Madman have different views on different issues than I have. That being said, I have different views from many others who I respect, both on my life and those here. I also disagree with Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) on the war in Iraq, as well.

That being said, if I lived in Connecticut, I would have cast my vote for him.

Although Lieberman tends to be way too friendly with President Bush (that kiss made me sick), I haven't seen him betray his party or his constituency.

Now I know that many of you are reading this saying "How can he (me) support Lieberman?" It's simple: I agree with him on just about every other issue and I'm not willing to throw him away just yet.

I honestly believe that his hugging and kissing Bush did Senator Joe more harm than his stance on Iraq.

Conversely, I believe that challenger, Democrat Ned Lamont would be a fine substitute for Lieberman, should he beat him today, and his Republican rival come this November. If he wins, he has my support, whatever that is worth. If he loses, Lamont would be a great gubernatorial challenger for the statehouse in a couple of years. Win or lose, Lamont will be a good progressive force in Connecticut politics for some time.

In closing, let me say that we progressives shouldn't give up on Joe Lieberman, unless, of course, he chooses to run as an Independent. This would probably give the seat to the "G"reed "O"ver "P"eople party this fall and be a betrayal I hope Lieberman isn't capable of. If anyone in his office reads this, I sincerely hope they take this advice to heart.

-Noah Greenberg

Washington Advice

Who, exactly, is offering the White House advice?

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow held a quick gaggle with reporters in Crawford yesterday, when an interesting subject came up.

Q: Tony, earlier this year the President brought in some advisors to talk about the war in Iraq, some outsiders — outside experts. Is he doing anything similar, or are any senior officials doing anything similar with respect to the Middle East? Are you bringing in any outside experts or –
Snow: Yes.
Q: — perhaps Jewish or Christian or Muslim –
Snow: There have been meetings of that sort in recent days.
Q: What can you tell us about them?
Snow: You know what, I'll see what I'm cleared to tell you about.

Asked what "types of people" have offered the White House advice on the Middle East, Snow said, "Again, at this point, I really don't want to do it." Asked if "religious leaders" have been part of these meetings, Snow said, "Again, I'm just not going to go any further."

Why all the secrecy? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that White House recently invited a Christian apocalyptic fiction writer to chat about biblical prophecy.

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin spoke with Joel C. Rosenberg — who recently told CNN that the rapture may be near and it'd be a good idea for people to start taking care of unfinished business — who explained that he was invited last year to "speak to a 'couple dozen' White House aides in the Old Executive Office Building — and has stayed in touch with several of them since."

Rosenberg wouldn't say exactly what was discussed. "The meeting itself was off the record, as you could imagine," he said. He declined to name the staffer he said invited him or describe the attendees in any way other than to say that the president was not among them. "I can't imagine they'd want to talk about it," he said.

"I can't tell you that the people that I spoke with agree with me, or believe that prophecy can really help you understand what will happen next in the Middle East, but I'm not surprised that they're intrigued."

The White House press office wasn't able to confirm the visit for me, but there have been previous reports about White House Bible study groups inviting Christian authors to come speak.

Rosenberg — like Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, the authors of the phenomenally popular "Left Behind" series — writes fiction inspired by biblical prophecy about the apocalypse. The consistent theme is that certain current events presage the end times, the Rapture, and the return of Jesus Christ. Rosenberg's particular pitch to journalists is that his books come true.

Rosenberg told Froomkin that a White House staffer contacted him and said, "A lot of people over here [in the White House] are reading your novels, and they're intrigued that these things keep on happening…. Your novels keep foreshadowing actual coming events…. And so we're curious, how are you doing it? What's the secret? Why don't you come over and walk us through the story behind these novels?"

Rosenberg, of course, is welcome to believe whatever he wishes. It's when the White House asks him to come in for a discussion that I start getting nervous.

I can only hope Rosenberg was exaggerating and that Snow's reluctance to talk about "advisors" brought in to the White House to chat about the Middle East had nothing to do with writers of apocalyptic fiction.

-From The Carpetbagger Report

I am a Christian--a leftist Catholic in the Dorothy Day tradition--so I hope Christ forgives me when I say that I think inviting rapturists to the White House to debate foreign policy is not unlike when Nancy Reagan had the astrologists in to decide foreign policy.

-Forwarded and commented by Victoria Brownworth

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2006, Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Are we on the verge of World War III and are George Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert leading us there?

The turmoil in the Middle East, egregious since the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and escalated in recent weeks by Israel's invasion of first Gaza, then Lebanon, seems to herald an all-out regional conflict that, if not drawn down with some immediacy by cooler international heads than those in the U.S. and Israel, could lead not only to World War III, but to the deadly use of nuclear weapons.

The military forces of the U.S. and Israel are perhaps the most sophisticated in the world in terms of weaponry and military intelligence, yet it is difficult to imagine how even the most dull-witted military experts could have more badly miscalculated their strategies than the U.S. has in Iraq and Israel has in Lebanon.

Under the continued guise of attempting to "end terrorism"–as impossible and improbable a task in the 21st century as ending crime in urban areas–both nations, separately and in concert, have in actuality ratcheted up the nightmarish inevitability of terrorism, not only in the Middle East, but globally.

Despite all the *sturm und drang* about the volatile President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran or even the obviously lunatic Kim Jong Il in North Korea, there is no more dangerous world leader than our own, George W. Bush, and the current humanitarian and military disaster in Lebanon–which mirrors that in Iraq–is a clear example of why.

The Bush-sponsored invasion of Iraq over three years ago, which has thus far taken thousands of lives–American and Iraqi–and utterly destroyed the infrastructure of that nation, has escalated terrorism to a monumental degree in the region. There are still a handful of delusional far-right politicians in both the U.S. and Israel who insist that the war on Iraq is not only going well (an outright lie) but can be "won" (an impossibility due to the incomparable and incompetent mismanagement of the war by Bush, Vice President Cheney and most egregiously, Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld). But the Pentagon–which bears significant responsibility for how badly the war in Iraq has gone–is no longer in agreement with either the President or Rumsfeld and in fact, last week acknowledged that not only is Iraq devolving into civil war, but in the face of civil war, U.S. troops are in greater danger than ever before while also being virtually powerless to temper the conflict.

It's difficult to imagine how, with the hideous example of Iraq played out before it, Israel could have made the same blundering misstep *back* into Lebanon. After all, Israel had already been involved in that quagmire 20 years ago–equally unsuccessfully. But leadership–or lack of same–is the major problem with both the U.S. and Israel at present. The destinies of both nations and the Middle East as a whole now rest with two utterly monomaniacal and militarily incompetent leaders–Bush and Olmert–and if the madness isn't taken in hand by calmer leaders in the EU and elsewhere, there is probably no question that WWIII will indeed be in the near, rather than far, future. That looming eventuality, being promoted by American neo-conservatives like Bill Kristol and Newt Gingrich, spells destruction for the entire region. That destruction could very well include the decimation of Israel. And there is no way that war will not come here, and with a vengeance.

The nightmares in Iraq and Lebanon (and to a lesser, but no less painful, degree in Afghanistan and Gaza) cannot be understated as both humanitarian crises of incomparable proportions, but also as precursors to and instigators of a larger regional war.

For decades the U.S. and Israel have worked in concert in the Middle East, sometimes as a stabilizing force, but often as a source of conflict. Let us not forget that prior to the war on Iraq, the major casualties the U.S. sustained in the Middle East were in Lebanon in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan's equally wrong-headed and militarily incompetent administration. But Reagan, after the loss of nearly 300 Marines in a suicide bombing in Beirut, withdrew from Lebanon. Bush is both more arrogant and less prescient than Reagan. And the casualties have, as a result, been far greater and will be greater still if some measure of stabilization is not achieved in the coming weeks.

Israel invaded Lebanon a month ago, ostensibly because two Israeli soldiers had been captured at the border by Hezbollah, a group some consider terrorist and others consider a militant resistance movement established in response to the former Israeli occupation of Lebanon in the 1980s. Hezbollah, like Hamas in the Palestinian territories, is a complicated entity, because the West views it as terrorist and Arab nations view it as a tactical military arm of established governments. Just as Hamas is currently the democratically elected leadership of the Palestinian territories, Hezbollah is part of the democratically elected leadership of Lebanon–a political party.

Where Israel made its fatal error in entering Lebanon after its former military leaders had the sense to withdraw, is in the destruction it has wreaked on the country, predominately against the innocent, while causing almost no damage to Hezbollah strongholds. At press time, Hezbollah had lost fewer than 40 soldiers in the conflict with another 76 wounded; Israel has lost 75 soldiers with 197 wounded. Mean while 714 Lebanese civilians, more than a third of them children, have been killed, 3,500 civilians have been injured and more than 1.2 million other civilians have been displaced. In Israel, 47 civilians have been killed, 1,400 injured and 300,000 displaced.

This carnage has, as a mirror to the U.S. miscalculations in Iraq, rather than causing the Lebanese (previously unsupportive of Hezbollah) to rally against the group, instead has united previously disparate groups of Christian, Druse and Muslim Lebanese in *support* of Hezbollah against the collective punishment of Israeli military assault. As a result, Hezbollah's leader, Hassan Nasrallah, one of the least volatile and frightening Islamists in a region known for startlingly destructive Muslim leadership, has emerged as a veritable savior in the Middle East of the dispossessed. Thus, just as the U.S. created Muqtada al-Sadr, Israel has ended up deifying the very character they had hoped to defeat.

It's easier to understand the mess Bush inveigled the U.S. into than it is to understand how Israel could so badly miscalculate the Lebanon invasion. Israel has, in the past, been known for swift and superior military actions. But in previous administrations, both left and right wing, the leadership has had military background. Prime Minister Olmert, always a dangerously right-wing ideologue with little political expertise save what he accrued from hanging off the prodigious shirt-tail of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has no military background and has chosen to align himself with the most dangerous element of the Israeli politicians, most notably the rabid ideologue, former disgraced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a pet of the neo-cons in the U.S. who is a better-looking and younger but possibly even more dangerous version of America's Dick Cheney. Netanyahu cannot hold any conversation without mentioning the necessary use by Israel and the U.S. of nuclear weapons against Islamist extremists.

Ariel Sharon–always hawkish, but increasingly realistic about what the government had to do to preserve Israel as a nation–had deliberately broken with the right-wing (and out of touch with Israeli popular sentiment) Likud Party in the months before he suffered a devastating stroke. Sharon had started his own political party, Kadima. Sharon was particularly vocal in his castigation of Netanyahu, who continued to lead the opposition (but who, in the presidential election in March, came in a distant fifth out of five candidates with less than five percent of the vote). When Sharon slipped into a coma from which he has never awakened, Olmert became his successor. But unsurprisingly, without Sharon's needed direction–which was, it must be noted, far from leftist–Olmert slipped back into his previous ideologies. And now Israel, under his Bush-like misdirection, finds itself in the midst of an international public relations nightmare, as well as responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths, the capture of not a single actual Hezbollah operative and, after nearly a month of bombings to rival that of Dresden during WWII, has not only not succeeded militarily, but has only managed to pump up support for the very entity it hoped to vanquish while destabilizing the fragile Sinoira democracy that was in place in Lebanon.

Just as the U.S. media has proffered an image of the Iraq war that is hardly consonant with reality, so too have they tried to represent Israelis as solidly pro-war on Lebanon. While it might be true that a majority of Israelis favor an end to Hezbollah, it is equally true that a majority of Israelis, like the majority of Americans on Iraq, feel that Olmert has taken them in the wrong direction.

On August 5th, thousands gathered in peace protests throughout Israel, the largest in Tel Aviv. Israeli newspapers like Ha'aretz and the Jerusalem Post noted that the protests were far different from previous protests in both the number of protestors and the surprising mix which, while comprised largely of Jewish Israelis, also included Arab groups. Traditionally, according to both papers, these groups do not march in concert with each other.

One disturbing element to the protests, however, was also new: As Ha'aretz reported, besides calls for the Prime Minister and Defense Minister to resign, the protest also had an anti-American edge. There were chants of "We will not die and kill in the service of the United States," and slogans condemning President Bush.

In Iraq last week there were different protests–anti-American and anti-Israeli, with calls for the U.S. to leave Iraq and Israel to leave Lebanon.

In previous Administrations, both in the U.S. and Israel, leaders have made significant efforts to maintain some level of peace. Certainly during the Clinton Administration, various negotiations resulted in extended periods of peace, if not withdrawal by Israel from the occupied territories. However, the agreements made by Clinton between Itzak Rabin and Yassar Arafat and then between Ehud Barak and Arafat were historic. Conversely, George Bush has made no overtures to either Sharon or Olmert during his six years in office. And many–rightly–place the blame for the continued fighting in Lebanon on Bush for making no effort at negotiating a cease fire in the early days of that conflict, before it began to look like an actual war.

There can be no question that in the Middle East there is a clash of civilizations. Shia Muslims would like the region to return not only to total Muslim rule–which effectively obliterates Israel–but also to a theocratic repression not unlike that which reigned in Afghanistan under the Taliban. It is this Shia monolith that the West and Israel would like to dismantle, yet it is exactly the incursions into Iraq and Lebanon which have given it the most strength, turning al-Sadr and Nasrallah in particular, into unifying leaders where they were once merely renegades.

The lack of appropriate U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict begs the obvious question: Why *hasn't* Bush tried to broker a cease-fire until having been bullied by the previously ineffectual EU–led by France, Lebanon's former colonizer? The answer is plain: Bush had hoped that Israel would do a better job with Hezbollah than he has done on the Iraqi insurgency, while also providing the necessary political rationale for an invasion of either Iran or Syria or both.

When Israel first invaded Lebanon, the three Arab powers that have previously stood with the U.S. (and reluctantly with Israel by extension)–Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia–had all been supportive of the move to roust Hezbollah. But the horrifying scenes of seemingly wanton destruction and civilian carnage in Lebanon, followed by the Israeli bombings (and killings) of UN peacekeepers, of two clearly marked Red Cross trucks and a bomb shelter housing 57 women and children in Qana, Lebanon ten days ago all turned the tide of these always marginal allies against both the U.S. and Israel in support of Hezbollah resistance.

Although remarkably silent in this conflict, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad (his administration itself implicated with Hezbollah in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri), is a serious player in the region. Just as the U.S. has provided all the bombs for Israel's strafing of Lebanon, Syria and Iran have provided all the Katyusha rockets and other weapons for Hezbollah's retaliatory strikes on Israel. One of those rockets landed on a crowd of Israeli reservists on August 6th, killing 11 and wounding more. Continued shelling of Israel could likely turn the tide of public opinion *toward* support of Olmert, even though he is indirectly responsible for it, just as American public opinion was swayed by Bush's continual false linkage of Iraq to 9/11.

Thus, Iran and Syria have now become the targets in what could easily become that third World War.

The EU and the UN are the only players in this dangerous nihilistic game capable at this point of defusing the lead-in to what would be a catastrophic and unwinnable war. More than 3,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq in a month's time; U.S. troops seem powerless to stop this Shia-led violence just as Israel is facing a constant and numbing military defeat in Lebanon–for a second time–with Lebanese and Israeli civilians as the pawns.

Groups like Hezbollah are not defeatable. They gain their strength from the disenfranchisement of Arab/Muslim citizenry and they feed on that displacement by providing medical and social programs for people who have been failed by their own fragile, if democratic, governments. The West has to understand that there is no cutting off the head of these hydra groups–rather the U.S. and Israel are feeding them daily with their incursions and occupations.

How many times have Americans heard al-Qaeda is "nearly defeated"? Yet that is hardly the case. How many times will the Israeli government proffer that same lie to *its* citizenry about Hezbollah or Hamas?

There is a clash of civilizations in the Middle East between the 21st century democracies of the U.S. and Israel with their imperialistic precepts, and the guerrilla tactics of the Muslim theocrats. There can be no winner in this fight–that has been proven time and again. All there can be is a form of uneasy truce in which Israel has safe borders and neighboring nations keep to themselves and try to help their own citizenry.

A strong and visionary government in either the U.S. or Israel would be striving desperately to achieve just such a truce. Alas, neither the Bush nor Olmert administrations seems capable of vision. And unless some other power steps in to stop the madness, Americans will find themselves losing scores of soldiers a day, not handfuls, and Israel may face the annihilation it has tried to forestall for sixty years. Bush and Olmert *can* change history–the question is, will they do so for the better or for the worse of us all.

"Rummy" Stuff

"I have never painted a rosy picture. I have been very measured in my words, and you'd have a dickens of a time trying to find where I have been excessively optimistic."
-Rummy the liar

"It is unknowable how long this conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months. There is no question but that they would be welcomed." "
-Donald Rosey Rumsfeld

"Isn't there some law against lying under oath?"

-Forwarded by David W.

In response to, "The reason for the shutdown, according to BP Exploration Alaska, a division of Britain's BP PLC, is the corrosion of a pipeline in Prudhoe Bay. And we all know how environmentally friendly these oil companies are," Rhian writes:

This pipeline thing as a puzzler. The thing is, that installation had to have been put in to begin with, under 100 years specs, explosion proof, weather and sea salt proof to pass building code inspections.

If it wasn't, someone really hoodwinked/bribed the state of Alaska in construction phase. A bribe of that magnitude could only have come from the feds.

Also, why is British Pet in Alaska pumping for oil in the first place? Why not an American Co.????? And why are no American companies allowed to drill and pump in Alaska, but a foreign company is?????

I know weather conditions are extreme in Alaska. I've lived there. But a total shut-down for a 27 barrel leak? Massive layoffs of employees? I know crews could build a work around in a couple of days, without a shutdown at all, with some extra valve control.

This sounds like a 'Katrina' to destabilize the state of Alaska and get rid of massive numbers of civilian population, in this other major port state. It is also territory coveted by DoD, as weather control experimentation is being conducted there.

Restoring the stability of this nation after the Bush administration is going to take a generational effort, if our next administration is actually elected, and not of the same ilk.

What in the world could Blair have been threatened with, by Cheney in that tunnel right before the US/England invaded Iraq??????????? What does Blair hold so dear that he would trade his career, and reputation off for it, and become Bush's 'bitch/boy?'

Or, has BP been secretly been bought out by Dubai Ports World and given to Bin Laden?

One thing for sure, the sooner we cut the Arab oil out of the loop of viable energy sources, and secure our own oil fields to domestic operations, the better off the world will be. And it might be worth it to do this on the more difficult grassroots level. I don't think the Saudi lovin' Bush/Rice/Rove/Cheney thug conglomerate is going to do it.

In response to Robert Chapman's, "I ask all and sundry does Christianity provide a moral framework that allows its adherents to distinguish EVIL from mere immorality?" Rhian writes:

I believe there is no moral framework for war at all. If all men held my view, there would be no war. Men would be growing food and taking care of their wives and kids and parents if necessary. Period. Okay they could go fishing and hunting sometimes.

My Daddy (WWII Air Force tactical bomber/49 missions in Italy/North Africa/Japan) says this.

-If you conspire to murder, to get gain*, you are a murderer.
-If you defend your person/property with lethal force against a violent intruder, you are within your moral and legal right. (wild wild west state law, except CA and OR)
-If you act under orders to defend your country, to kill, search and destroy, you are acting within your Constitutional right, as well as duty to nation.
-Constitutionally, an enemy can be foreign or domestic.
-If you are a uniformed officer of the United States of America, and act on orders to kill, even if you don't agree with those orders, the sin of the kill is on the head of the person who gave the order.
-If you are not a uniformed officer, but a member of a legitimate state militia, same ROE

*Gain is defined as money, position, land, claims of religious right that denies the existence of other religions, king of the hill status, king of the planet status, or to acquire another person's freedom (as from a husband ie David/Bathsheeba) freedom from rage, or in jealousy.

When one signs on the dotted line of military service, one signs off all rights, as well as all accountability except as handed back by promotion of rank.

Those WWII guys are worth talking to, if you can find one still alive. My Dad is 85. Was able to define this information three months ago at a family reunion.

I would hate to be Bush, Commander In Chief, on judgement day. Poor bastard.

In response to, "...but the idea that Bush can't quite tell the difference between two Cuban-American senators, one of whom used to be in his cabinet," Dorothy Schwartz writes:

The first couple times I called Menendez at the D.C. number, when he first was senator, I was forwarded to Martinez' office. So it's not just Bush. Haven't had that problem the last few months however.

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-Noah Greenberg