Monday, July 30, 2007

Plans for Iraq withdrawal being made at War College

Story Details from the Australian

AT the army college in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Major Daniel Morgan is studying the lessons for Iraq of the Soviets’ chaotic exit from Afghanistan in the late 1980s.

The roads were choked with tanks and heavy weaponry, making the demoralised soldiers easy prey for guerillas. “The Soviet Army actually had to fight out of certain areas,” says Morgan, who has served twice in Iraq.

There is no easy exit from Iraq, but Defence Secretary Robert Gates has admitted for the first time that the Pentagon is poring over the options.

The only lesson learned from Viet Nam? No photo op of the last chopper leaving the Embassy.

Hard to understand

This is a very long story and I find it very difficult to understand.

At first, the U.S. government blamed this attack on Iran. Iran, the story went, was responsible somehow for the kidnapping and murder of these four soldiers.

Now, some months later, responsibility seems less clear.

Somehow, some 'insurgents' got past security. Once past security, the insurgents went to a barracks and kidnapped four soldiers. Later, those four were murdered.

In the long story, there are details of brave men dying, soldiers confused about their jobs, and the sacrifices in war that blur the lines between family and friends.

The Full Story online

A full reprint of "Enemies Unseen," by Mark Kukis, TIME magazine.

Enemies Unseen

By MARK KUKISMon Jul 30, 2:00 PM ET

The five sport-utility vehicles sat abandoned in the darkness. A faint beeping sound signaled that their doors were open. Some of the Iraqi police who arrived at the scene initially feared going near the cars, thinking the sound meant they were rigged to explode. Finally a few ventured closer. In the back of two of the vehicles were the four Americans. One of them was alive, though barely. Handcuffed, he had been shot in the back of the head, but he was breathing. The other soldiers were already dead. One had taken bullets in both legs and his right hand, and at some point the kidnappers had torn open his body armor and fired bullets into his chest and torso. Two others were handcuffed together, with one's right hand joined to the other's left. Two shots in the face and neck had killed one. Four bullets in the chest had killed the other.

None of the soldiers had identification. The killers had taken everything from the men's pockets before fleeing the scene. In his last moments, one of the soldiers, a young lieutenant, realized his body might be unidentifiable when he was discovered. In the dust caked on one of the vehicles he managed to write his last name, Fritz, a final act before dying.

To many Americans, the Jan. 20 murder of four U.S. soldiers on a deserted road in southern Iraq might sound similar to countless other tragedies in a bloody, brutal war. There was a firefight, which killed another American; a brazen abduction; then a frantic chase leading to a heartless end. And yet from the start, the deaths of the five Americans were also shrouded in mystery. The attack took place in Karbala, a Shi'ite holy city of roughly 1 million people that had been one of the safest in Iraq for U.S. troops. It happened in plain sight of Iraqi police the Americans had been assigned to train. The killers wore U.S.-style uniforms, suggesting a catastrophic lapse of security --or the possibility that the enemy operation had actually been an inside job.

The military has struggled to affix responsibility for the Karbala murders. U.S. commanders have accused the Quds Force, a paramilitary organization run by members of Iran's security establishment, of being behind the operation. On July 2 in Baghdad, the military revealed it was holding Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese national who was captured in Basra in March. He is a senior operative of Hizballah (the Lebanese Shi'ite militia supported by the Quds Force), and officials say he has admitted to involvement in the attack.

U.S. officials, who met their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad on July 24, have used the Karbala killings as evidence that Iran is sponsoring attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq. But the full story of what happened that night may be even more tangled and disturbing, raising questions about the loyalties of some of the Iraqis whom U.S. troops are risking their lives to protect and support. An internal Army investigation into the attack reviewed by TIME, in addition to interviews with U.S. and Iraqi witnesses, suggest that the abduction and murders were carried out with the knowledge and complicity of Iraqi Shi'ite police who only hours earlier had been working alongside U.S. soldiers--and may have involved local officials loyal to the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The Karbala incident highlights the dilemmas facing the U.S. as it weighs whether and how to redeploy its troops from the front lines of the war. In some cases, the Iraqi security forces being trained and equipped by the U.S. retain ties to anti-American militia who could turn on U.S. troops as they depart. (On July 13, U.S. troops killed six Iraqi police in a raid targeting a rogue police commander.)

That's particularly unnerving given the military's push to embed more U.S. troops with Iraqi units. In Baghdad today, U.S. and Iraqi forces serve together in 65 combat outposts, up from 10 in February. But U.S. troops never went back to work with the Iraqis in Karbala, where the trust and friendships forged over many months ended in one night of betrayal and murder.

Most of the soldiers from Forward Operating Base Iskan, just south of Baghdad, liked the missions to Karbala. It was a chance "to get away from the flagpole" and all the bureaucracy of life back at the main base. In Karbala, roughly 30 men were on their own for a week or so at a time, staying at the city's governance center, where the police headquarters sat next to the governor's office. The two-hour drive from Iskandariyah could be nerve-racking as they eyed the edges of the route for roadside bombs. But once at the Karbala Provincial Joint Coordination Center, life was simple and good in the way soldiers like.

Much of the unit had come together in the early months of 2006 at Fort Richardson, an Army base just outside Anchorage, Alaska. Jacob Fritz had graduated from West Point in 2005. Built like a football lineman, Fritz had grown up a Nebraskan farm boy in the town of Verdon, where his graduating class in high school had only 11 students. At West Point, Fritz earned the nickname "Jolly Jake" for his perpetual smile. The soldiers from Fort Richardson grew to like Fritz too. He had the kind of résumé you see among the young élite of the Army's officer corps. But early on, the enlisted men considered Fritz one of their own.

Johnathan Chism was a young Army specialist with a thick accent from his native Baton Rouge, La. The other guys called him "Gator," and Chism listed his ethnicity on MySpace as Redneck/ Southern. Johnathon Millican, 20, a private from Alabama, also spoke in a thick Southern accent and was the unit's resident comedian. Private Shawn Falter was from upstate New York and enlisted in the military in 2005, following three older brothers who served in the Army and the Marines. He liked country music. On the weekend before he deployed to Iraq in 2006, Falter was out with Staff Sergeant Billy Wallace and some others, singing karaoke. For his turn at the microphone, Falter sang the words to the Tracy Lawrence ballad If I Don't Make It Back.

In Karbala, Fritz led some of the missions on his own. At other times, Captain Brian Freeman took the lead. Freeman was, in essence, the chief U.S. liaison to Iraqi officials in Karbala, including Governor Akil Mahmood Khareem and police chief Mohammed Muhsin Zeidan al-Quraishy. At 31, Freeman was older than most of the other troops. He had graduated from West Point in 1999, served his obligatory five years of active duty and then settled into civilian life in Temecula, Calif., where he had a wife, a year-old son and another child on the way. Freeman had left active duty but remained a member of the Individual Ready Reserve Unit, which keeps a number of trained soldiers ready to call for deployment if needed.

By late 2006, Freeman's work in Karbala seemed to be going well. The U.S. planned to leave the center entirely in the hands of the Iraqis by the spring of 2007. But Freeman was uneasy about the job . He was an armor officer, more used to dealing with tanks and cannons than Iraqi politicians. Yet in Karbala he was a civil-affairs official, doing work he felt was more for a diplomat than a soldier. Shortly before Christmas 2006, Freeman took a short leave to visit his family in California, making his way to Baghdad for a helicopter flight on the first leg of the journey. At Landing Zone Washington, the main helipad inside the Green Zone, Freeman spotted Senators John Kerry and Christopher Dodd, who were on a visit to Iraq. He introduced himself and began voicing some of his concerns. Freeman kept in touch with Dodd after they parted in Baghdad, reiterating his thoughts in an e-mail. "Senator, it's nuts over here," Freeman wrote. "Soldiers are being asked to do work we're not trained to do. I'm doing work that the State Department people are far more trained to do in fostering diplomacy. But they're not allowed to come off the bases because it's too dangerous here. It doesn't make any sense."

Freeman felt certain that the Iraqis he and his soldiers were supposed to be helping did not want them there. He and other troops suspected some of the police were members of the Mahdi Army, the militia of radical anti-American Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. That's not unusual, given that the largely Shi'ite personnel of Iraq's Ministry of Interior have long been seen as a de facto wing of the Mahdi Army. National police are suspected of taking part in the militia's sectarian killings in Baghdad. And in southern Iraq, where al-Sadr is powerful, infiltration of U.S.-trained Iraqi units is common. But even the wariest Americans have trouble believing that Iraqis who look them in the face each day could muster the audacity to try to kill them.

By early this year, Freeman was beginning to question the assignment. He was having trouble sleeping during his stays in Karbala. When he returned from leave in January, he asked his commanding officers if he could skip the Karbala mission heading out Jan. 14. He suggested doing some other long-term projects at the main base. Not doable, Freeman was told. The mission was heading out as scheduled, with him in command.

Many soldiers sensed a changed mood when they arrived at the Iraqi police headquarters in Karbala on Jan. 14. Some of the Iraqis the soldiers had been working with since the fall seemed unusually tense. One Iraqi police officer heckled some soldiers at the back gate in broken English, saying "U.S.A. bad, Iraq good" before throwing bread at them. Another aired an ominous warning. "Tomorrow," he said to soldiers standing guard outside, pounding a fist into his palm. "Tomorrow."

On Jan. 20, all except the guards posted at the back and front gates were at rest in the barracks area of the concrete headquarters building, where troops were scattered across two floors. At about 6 p.m., just as the sun was setting, a series of shots rang out, sounding much closer than the occasional gunfire heard in the area. Then two huge booms shook the ground from the inside. The soldiers scrambled into their armor and reached for their weapons. On the first floor of the main building, Wallace saw the door to the room he shared with Millican and three other soldiers open from the outside. Sergeant First Class Sean Bennett instinctively slammed it shut with his right shoulder. But the attacker in the hall still managed to cram the muzzle of an AK-47 into the doorjamb and let fly a stream of bullets. "The guy just opened up," says Wallace, who threw his left side against the door as the firing continued. "He started blasting all over the room the best he could."

Somewhere in the struggle, a grenade bounced into the room. Millican dived, catching bullets in his body as he went down and absorbed the explosion. He had been chatting online with his wife Shannon when the fighting broke out. A minute later, he was dead.

The explosions blew open an adjacent room where Freeman and Fritz worked. Then the door to Wallace's room flung open once more. Wallace looked up to see a man in the same desert-camouflage fatigues normally worn by Iraqi army soldiers; he was standing 2 ft. from him and taking aim with an AK-47. Wallace and Bennett threw their shoulders back into the door. The barrel caught in the crack a second time, and more bullets crashed around the side of the room. Seconds later, a massive explosion in the hall disintegrated the door around Wallace and Bennett, who was left badly wounded along with another soldier in the room, Jesse Hernandez. More blasts outside sent flames and smoke coursing through the darkening courtyard, where Falter and Chism had been standing guard. One of the humvees parked there was ablaze, and rounds from the turret gun began cooking off as the attackers rushed away.

As the troops tended to their wounded and waited for rescue helicopters to arrive, they realized Freeman, Fritz, Chism and Falter were missing. The attack had lasted just five minutes.

How did the attackers breach the base's security? A report from the military's investigation of the incident, a copy of which was obtained by TIME, says a convoy of eight sport-utility vehicles arrived at the outer gates of the complex shortly before the shooting started. The vehicles included a tan Suburban, a white Land Cruiser and a black Yukon. Inside the vehicles were at least eight men who wore American-style helmets and safety glasses, as well as some men wearing hoods in the way Iraqi interpreters working with U.S. forces sometimes do. According to the report, the Iraqi guards at the outer checkpoints put up no fight when the visitors ordered them, in English, to lay down their weapons and step aside.

Lieut. Nathan Diaz was in an upstairs room of the police headquarters with 18 other soldiers as the clash began. Like most of the other troops, Diaz initially thought the explosions were incoming mortars or rockets fired from insurgents outside the base. Diaz moved to the roof along with other soldiers and began shooting out lights around the courtyard so the troops would be harder to see if snipers were about. Diaz peered over the ledge into the courtyard just in time to see a humvee explode, sending up a shock wave that knocked him onto his back. Diaz and the other soldiers then decided to clear the roof, still thinking mortars were falling. Going downstairs, Diaz moved along the hall on the second floor where the police chief, al-Quraishy, and his two deputies, Ra'aid Shaker and Majed Hanoon, kept their offices. Soldiers called the chief's squad of personal bodyguards the "commandos." If there were any sign of trouble, the commandos would typically respond before the Iraqi police. But this time they barely moved as Diaz and other Americans rushed by. "I didn't really think much of it at the time, but very soon after, that became very strange," says Diaz, who came to believe that whoever was attacking the center had help from the inside.

After rescue helicopters had carried away Millican and three other wounded, Diaz confronted al-Quraishy, Shaker and Hanoon. How could this have happened? Al-Quraishy was supposed to be one of the best commanders the Iraqi security forces had. Nicknamed "the Wolf," he made a name for himself in Mosul in 2004 and '05, often appearing on an Iraqi true-crime television show called In the Hands of Justice, chasing down and personally interrogating militants. The Americans hoped al-Quraishy, who took over leadership of the Karbala police in the fall of 2006, could stand up to the Mahdi Army in southern Iraq. But Diaz and others believed that, at the least, some of al-Quraishy's police had let the Jan. 20 attackers into the main building without offering any resistance. During the fighting inside, none of the Iraqi police or the commandos did anything to help the Americans. "No one was shot," says Sergeant First Class Michael King, describing the Iraqi police immediately after the attack. "No one twisted an ankle. No one jammed a thumb. Nothing." Al-Quraishy was apologetic but offered no explanation. "You really can't tell with that guy," Diaz says. "Either he was sincere, or he's a great actor. It's really almost impossible to interpret."

The Karbala attack came days after the U.S.'s Jan. 11 arrest of five alleged Iranian operatives in Irbil, in northern Iraq. Military officials have theorized that the Karbala attack was orchestrated by Tehran in retaliation. But the U.S.'s initial probe of the incident found no evidence of direct Iranian involvement. Instead, the picture that emerged cast suspicion chiefly on senior Iraqi officials known to the Americans, as well as local thugs and associates of al-Sadr. The report on the investigation, which has been released only to the families of the soldiers who were killed, found that "it is too coincidental that the attackers, already argued as outside professionals, knew and raided only the two rooms where the Americans resided and were able to isolate the barracks-area soldiers and rooftop defenders." The report adds that many Iraqi police seemed to disappear moments before the assault and that the attackers seemed to know that the Americans would initially go to the rooftops during an attack, a drill U.S. troops had practiced in front of the senior Iraqi officers.

One source of dispute is whether the attackers were wearing U.S. uniforms, which Iraqi police claimed is the reason they didn't shoot. The man Wallace saw, however, was dressed in Iraqi army fatigues, which are sometimes worn by Iraqi police as well. "This all suggests that someone provided more than just a layout of the compound and knowledge of the Coalition Forces' battle drill," the report says. "It appears an inside assault force was pre-staged."

Since Jan. 20, the military has begun to identify militants thought to have taken part in the attack. On March 22, the U.S. military announced the arrest of Qais Khazali and his brother Laith, saying the two were apprehended in Basra and Hillah for allegedly playing a role in the Karbala attack. Khazali was a protégé of al-Sadr's in 2004 and '05, but his relationship to al-Sadr and the Mahdi Army is unclear these days. Investigators who questioned Khazali say he was working closely with the Iran-backed Quds Force before his capture and was leading a group of Shi'ite militants who trained in Iran. Khazali had traveled frequently to Iran for what appears to be weapons smuggling, U.S. military officials in Baghdad said. In May, U.S. forces killed Sheik Azhar al-Dulaimi after cornering him on a rooftop in Baghdad's Sadr City; investigators say they uncovered forensic evidence that shows al-Dulaimi was among the men who abandoned the vehicles used in the operation. On July 2 in Baghdad, the military revealed the capture of Ali Musa Daqduq, the purported Hizballah operative. "Both Ali Musa Daqduq and Qais Khazali state that senior leadership within the Quds Force knew of and supported planning for the eventual Karbala attack that killed five coalition soldiers," says Brigadier General Kevin Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

But is that the full story? The gunmen who arrived at the Karbala center were obviously skilled guerrillas, and it is certainly possible that some among them had come from as far away as Lebanon or Iran. But that does not explain whether any of the Iraqi officers at the center knew the killers were coming or whether any joined the attack or helped the kidnappers get away. The Americans interviewed by TIME say at least some Iraqi police at the center were involved, and the conclusions of the military investigation support that view. But neither U.S. nor Iraqi authorities have brought charges against any Iraqi police present at the time of the ambush.

Questions also remain about whether Iraqi politicians had prior knowledge of the attack. Lieut. Colonel Robert Balcavage, ground commander of U.S. forces operating in Karbala and surrounding areas, says Khareem, the governor of Karbala, knew many details very soon after the attack that night, which made Balcavage wonder if he knew of the operation beforehand. The Army investigation cites unconfirmed reports of calls from the governor's office to the outer checkpoints as the attackers were approaching, with orders to let them pass. In an interview, Khareem denied any wrongdoing. "To accuse me of involvement in this attack is to slight me," Khareem says. "Before anybody accuses me, they should have solid evidence. No charges have been brought against me, by any Iraqi or by the American side, so there's nothing to discuss."

Two investigators who worked on the case say there is enough evidence against the governor and others at the Karbala center to fill an indictment that would pass muster in a U.S. court. A female member of the Iraqi parliament from Babil province, Majada Discher, is suspected of involvement too. One of the vehicles used by the attackers was registered to her, and investigators say forensic evidence shows that one of her bodyguards was among the killers. In Karbala, Army investigators drew up two lists of suspects. The first list, comprising about 40 names, read like a Who's Who of local Shi'ite militants, mostly from the Mahdi Army. The second list has roughly 10 names of people the investigators dubbed "untouchables." These were people thought to be involved in the plot one way or another but considered too prominent to arrest or target, investigators said. Discher made the untouchables list, as did the governor, al-Quraishy, Shaker and Hanoon.

Though Balcavage feels that arrests are in order, the case has stalled. Brigadier General Vincent Brooks, who was a senior commander for southern Iraq at the time of the attack, says several Iraqi government officials remain under suspicion. "We haven't given up on this at all," he says. But Balcavage says political calculations can sometimes override the quest for justice. Removing a suspect police chief, for instance, could undo progress made in building up security forces and destabilize the local political leadership. "There's always second- and third-order effects for every action," Balcavage says. "The challenge is that you're working with a government you want to see succeed. But our values and the values of certain members of the government are not necessarily consistent. Our idea of good and their idea of good are not always the same."

As a result, working with Iraqi security forces and their leaders is becoming increasingly hazardous for many Americans in Iraq. Diaz, for example, sometimes still works with Hanoon, who was heard laughing into his cell phone the night of the Karbala attack. Hanoon is now the police chief of Iskandariyah. Diaz says his soldiers assume that Mahdi Army operatives are in their midst whenever they visit Hanoon, who works not far from the U.S. base at which pictures of the five Americans hang on a wall dedicated to the fallen.

When Iraqi authorities discovered the abandoned vehicles on the night of Jan. 20, Freeman was the soldier clinging to life. For a moment before the Americans finally arrived, the Iraqis thought Freeman might still have a chance. They could have waited for U.S. soldiers to come, but Freeman needed care immediately. So the Iraqis acted on their own. They pulled Freeman from the back of the vehicle and loaded him into an ambulance. An Iraqi army soldier administered CPR until a medic could give him oxygen as they rushed to the nearest hospital in Hillah. But Freeman's wound was too severe, and he died along the way.

"I would like to tell the family that we tried to help him so that he would live," the Iraqi soldier later told U.S. investigators who took a statement from him. "We are very sorry that he died. We treated him as if he was our own."


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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Opinion on US from Down Under

An opinion column from Australia compares Obama with Bush and finds very little difference.

Details from the Australian.

"Those many Australians on the Left who see Bush as a horrible aberration and believe everything will return to a world of happy Clinton gooiness under a Democratic administration are in for a rude shock if Obama wins."

"What is most striking about Obama's cogent and persuasively written essay is just how hawkish it is. Indeed, with the exception of Iraq, large sections of it could have been written by Paul Wolfowitz, high priest of the Bush neo-conservatives."

"His words are almost indistinguishable from Bush's in saying that Americans must realise that their security is linked ever more to the security of people across the world."

I wonder if the Aussies have gone bonkers ... or if I know nothing about Obama.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Pat Tillman, RIP

Pat Tillman, the former NFL football player, who died in Afghanistan was awarded valor medals after his death. At the time of his death, rumors swirled that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire while under enemy attack.

Various versions of his death have been offered to the public by the military, the President, and the media.

Yesterday, public records revealed that Pvt. Pat Tillman was shot three times in the forehead at a distance of 10 yards, or less, by a US military weapon, most likely an M16.

Tillman was promoted after his death, awarded medals for bravery under enemy fire. President Bush honored Tillman in speeches after his death.

All of these things happened despite the military knowing Tillman was killed by friendly fire. No evidence has ever been found of enemy attack. No soldier was hit by anything other than US weapons and friendly fire. No US vehicles or equipment was damaged or hit by enemy fire.

Details from the AP via the Gainesville Times

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bush's Legacy

PERJURY!

Libby lied.

WMD in Iraq.

Bin Laden connected to Saddam.

Rumsfeld on knowing what we don't know that we know.

Now Gonzales again caught in the 'I didn't know then what you knew when I told you that you knew' trap. But, it's not a Democrat saying, "I don't believe you, Mr. Attorney General." It's the FBI!

Don't lie to the FBI. Those guys really are law enforcement, Mr. Attorney General!

Read story details here.

Perdue auditions for President

Related story in the AJC

My favorite lame duck Governor, Sonny Perdue, basking in the bucks, has been rumored as a Vice Presidential candidate on the GOP ticket.

I can only say I hope so! But, I'm willing to take the bad with the good.

The bad? It will hurt Georgia's reputation and continue the stereotype of all Southerners are inbreed Hillbillies.

The good? Perdue spells defeat for any Presidential dream, unless it's Perdue dreaming of being the next Imperial President.

Here's an example of Perdue's imperialist personality.

He had his day, during the Legislative session, to influence the budget. He was ignored. His agenda caused a huge conflict with the Georgia House. The GOP butchered the budget process but did get it passed.

Enter the Governor, Goobernor, or the Goobernator, your choice, who has little if any respect for the process of law. His personal tax break legislation being one example of that.

Our Goobernor has ordered department heads and others to ignore the legal budget.

That's right. The Goobernator didn't just call the Georgia House a bunch of 'girlie men,' he KICKED red clay in the their faces.

For instance, the budget approved by lawmakers called for the state to spend about $1.6 million on an elementary school foreign language program that operated in 29 schools. Perdue opposed funding the program, so he told the Department of Education to use the money instead to send each elementary school in the state $1,200 for foreign language materials. That led a few schools to kill programs because they couldn't count on state support.

The General Assembly also earmarked $150,000 to help with the incorporation efforts of Chattahoochee Hills and the city of South Fulton. The governor told the agency handling the money, the University System, to use it elsewhere. The Department of Technical and Adult Education was given an extra $7.1 million by lawmakers to run its programs. Perdue ordered the agency to use the money for minor repairs and renovations.


Sometimes, life is stranger than fiction.

WARNING! Lame satire approaching.

"Pay no attention to the Men under the Gold Dome. I am the Great! The Powerful! Wizard of Odd."

A little more whine with your funny business

From the Rome News Tribune editorial column

Speaker's Funny Business

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DURING this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly, state lawmakers were treated to almost $1 million in freebies — from expensive meals to sports, concert and theater tickets to boxes of chocolate to alcohol in hospitality suites — by lobbyists for a host of interests, including utility companies, a hospital, an insurance companies and trade associations.

Not only does Speaker Richardson look like an alcoholic, he talks like one, too.

Not that he slurs his words, just that he defends drinking as being a part of doing business.

"Having wine and dinner is what business is made of,” said the unfaithful husband and Speaker of the Georgia House.

In 2010, I expect Richardson’s favorite whine will be, “I used to be Speaker of the House.

For now, let him eat cake, wash it down with a good French wine, and do his business on the taxpayers back. We can’t stop him, can we?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rice skips out on Asia

I doubt it will be front page news anywhere in Georgia, but Secretary Rice just spit on Asia.

Again.

Already infamous in Asia as the first Secretary of State to skip the annual security summit of the Asian countries in ASEAN, she's now infamous for skipping the security summit twice in two years.

Story in the Australian.

Australia is one of the members of ASEAN and has suffered the wraith of Bush for several years. Years ago, just before the invasion of Iraq, the Australian intelligence agency made a horrible but accurate accusation towards Bush and Blair.

The Aussies said Bush and Blair were making up accusations against Saddam on the issue of 9/11, ties to al-Qaida, and those weapons of mass destruction.

Few Americans even noticed. Few cared that Australia had no American Ambassdor either. A huge diplomatic slam.

How did the Aussies come to believe the US and the UK were making up stories?

Given confidential access to the information from both the UK and the US, the Aussies said the two dossiers were too parallel, too much the same.

Sort of like saying two college students turned in the same answers on a take home test.

For the Children

North Georgia Democrats, that's not a group associated with this blog, have been doing something called For the People Rallies. One of these rallies has been in Gainesville the last two years.

It might be time to rename those rallies, For the Children.

Georgia Kids Don't Fare Well in Report

From the AJC

Child poverty is on the rise in Georgia.

Georgia has the second-highest percentage of high school dropouts in the nation.

And the state's rate of low birth-weight babies is among the worst in the country.

The state's problems with poverty and education continue to hurt children, the study says. Georgia children continue to be born at unhealthy weights, live in poverty, struggle in school and live in families that do not have secure employment, the study says.

The number of children who live in poverty increased 11 percent from 2000 to 2005, the report says.

The report notes that one in four of Georgia's children lives in poverty and that 285,000 don't have health insurance.

I can't offer any political spin on this. Perdue, Cagle, Richardson, et al can brag about Georgia to the Red in the Head GOP supporters with a straight face. Richardson wants to double or triple the income tax on the poor. Cagle likes the idea of regressive taxes that make the poor pay their own way. Perdue just wants HIS tax break before the money runs out.

Gentlemen, if you are gentlemen, the phrase "For the People" includes 'for the children.'

Political success isn't measured just on Election Day.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Perdue's Blarney Stone

He was looking for a shamrock. And, now we are about to get stuck with the blarney. Perdue got his blarney by taking a trip at taxpayer expense to Ireland. It seems Ireland is the new Brazil. I hope you remember when Georgia, in the words of Perdue, needed to be more like Brazil. Now, the fashion is for all green shamrocks and blarney stones for Georgia.


IRELAND!

I’ve been looking for an excuse to move to a frickin island slightly bigger than West Virginia with an average age of 33, a huge Roman Catholic population, and very little farm land.

Maybe a place with no HIV deaths and socialized medicine.

Someplace entirely dependent upon trade with other nations to even exist. I could sell some wampum, beads, and dirty pictures of the Queen.

I so want to live in a tiny little place with an annual GDP less than the US government spends on a three day weekend.

A little island that imports electricity! And uses less than 180,000 barrels of oil per day.

A place with a negative current account balance and a debt to GDP ratio higher than the US.

A place with only a dozen or so paved runways for airplanes. Nothing to attract al-Qaida and bin Laden.

I think two radio stations would be plenty. One AM and one FM of course.

Someplace that doesn’t spend money on national defense to keep the flappen taxes down, too. An army with about 8,500 would work just fine with a strict policy of neutrality.

All of which makes it a good place to get my illicit drugs from international sources. None of the domestic wine and none of the domestic grown in the basement weed, either.

When my domestic does the laundry, maybe she can launder some drug money for me, too.

Ah, the heck with moving!

Let’s just declare the USA as an Irish county. We would be number 27.

Or maybe I should just remain Irish one day a year?

All data from www.cia.gov

Secret Plan for Iraq Exposed!

George Bush has a secret plan for Iraq? If he has one at all, it's secret.

But, those wonderful Australians with only 53 analysts in the Australian "CIA" have uncovered the Bush Secret Plan.

More or less, we're going to redo the invasion starting from Baghdad and working our way out to the border. Seems Bush understands the 2003 invasion was an error. He's now going to correct that error by starting from inside the border and working out.

That whole business of starting at the border and working in to Baghdad was the mistake part of the invasion.

Over all, I don't see in surprises in the "Secret Plan."

Bush will send thousands more troops but only into Baghdad. Next, they fire the Iraqi Army and Police. Then, they send the existing government to prison. Only, the troops will work from within the country out to the border.

Somehow, I understand how this would make sense to a former Jet Fighter pilot like Bushie.

The REAL story in the Australian.

Secret US plan to stay in Iraq

The detailed plan represents the co-ordinated strategy of the top American commander and the US ambassador to Iraq and calls for restoring security in local areas, including Baghdad, by the northern summer of next year, reports said yesterday.

"Sustainable security" is to be established on a nationwide basis by the northern summer of 2009, American officials familiar with the document were quoted as saying by The New York Times.

The Party of Lincoln

Ever hear the modern GOP claim Lincoln as their 'main man?'

Counter that with a couple of questions. "Who imposed the first income tax?" "Who created the first military draft?" Who fought a war to destroy 'state rights?'

That would be Lincoln.

Just don't mention suspending civil rights during war. The GOP is very proud of their record on suspending civil rights during wars of agression.

Macon Mayoral Race

I'm going way out on a limb and handing the saw to the GOP in Macon.

I bet your primary victor in the Mayor's race drops out before Election Day.

If he doesn't, it will be a result of strong arm tactics by the GOP State Party.

318 votes won the GOP primary. Over 15,000 votes were cast in the Democratic Primary for Mayor.

If I were a prudent man, how much time and money would I dedicate to the GOP candidate in this race?

It's been estimated that the voters would save over $40,000 if the Elephant pulled a Dumbo and flew.

To be honest, it hurts to lose. But, dropping out is an option at this point. A good option.

From the grave, Charlie Norwood in the 10th

A very interesting story appears in the Gainesville Times today.

It seems Charlie Norwood spent some campaign money two months after he died. When his 'office' was asked about the money, they refused to document the expenses.

That would be bad enough. Spending $63,000 on a golf resort getaway and then telling the public go away! But, somehow 'Charlie' managed to invite candidate Jim Whitehead to play the round of golf with him.

And, amazingly, Jim Whitehead brought a few friends on Charlie's dime.

Now there's a story. GOP candidate abuses the dead.

Details from the Gainesville Times

Monday, July 23, 2007

GOP credibility and keeping promises

On another blog, a GOP faithful made this comment:

We have a population across all private and public sectors that is aging faster than the number of workers needed to finance the systems. Priority 8 vets were purged from the system because they do not have service related injuries and are not low income and can afford private insurance coverage. Sounds fair and reasonable to me. Do you honestly believe that VA benefits are to never be re-evaluated?

I think that really deserves a front page reply.

If the GOP has no problem breaking a promise used to recruit volunteers into the military, then Hell has become real on Earth.

Who thinks it is “fair and reasonable” to make a promise without keeping the promise? Only the GOP faithful.

Pages of debate followed that comment. Pretty much the GOP believes promises are not meant to be kept. If the choice is between paying to keep a promise, or cutting taxes (and borrowing trillions in debt), CUT THE TAXES is the only answer at the GOP.

Say good bye to public schools, social security, and public health.

Say good bye to public roads.

Say hello to toll roads run by private companies, a huge step back in time.

Say hello to private cities for the wealthy, a place while the average person won't be welcome even if they can afford it.

The Reagan Myth

Sorry to move topics so quickly.

The Heritage Foundation came up in some debate, so of course I looked up reams of worthless data.

I did however like this chart.

I tried to upload the image with no success. But, it shows how badly Republican Presidents raise revenue while spending money.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Temple Of Greed

You should read this post after reading the previous post. Sorry.

The idol worshippers at the Pagan Temple of Greed. Another way to say GOP.

The term, "Invisible Hand," comes from dear old Adam Smith, the great, great, grandfather of market economics. A believer in many ways of fundamentalism. Seldom is fundamentalism good.

In my opinion, the very devout Adam Smith expected his God to distribute food, water, and vital material wealth. If man would just let his God do his work.

Few of us could agree with God creating millionaires after hearing the Beatitudes read for Paul Edd McClendon yesterday.

Jesus was no blood stained and battle weary warrior. And, certainly not a millionaire.

But, what do 'our millionaires' want today?

Since I have refused the 'job' of millionaire, pun intended, I don't really know.

But, here is a story about one of the largest companies in the world and what the millionaires want from them.

A big hint? The millionaires don't want more employees or bigger profits. They want bigger stock prices at any cost.

Story

EVEN by the standards of a company that builds everything from light bulbs to power plants and straddles markets as varied as prime-time TV and commercial finance, General Electric’s mammoth project along the Hudson River north of Albany is staggering. The company plans to lay down more than 28,000 feet of rail and 267,000 square yards of plastic beside the river’s edge — all to haul nearly 400,000 tons of sediment from the bottom of the Hudson beginning in 2009, seven years and $500 million after G.E. agreed to undertake the job.

Except this isn’t one of the huge infrastructure projects that’s driving G.E.’s bottom line these days; it’s a government-mandated cleanup of pollutants the company dumped in the river long ago. It’s also a task that G.E. routinely resisted for decades until Jeffrey R. Immelt, then the rookie chief executive, succumbed to federal pressure and abandoned the combative stance of his predecessor, John F. Welch Jr., and pledged to dredge the Hudson.

The clock is ticking. There is growing pressure on Mr. Immelt to do something — anything — to get G.E.’s stock moving after six years of stagnation. Despite a 15 percent rally over the last two months, G.E. shares are still down 30 percent from their Welch-era peak. And in April, the analyst Jeffrey T. Sprague of Citigroup Investment Research stunned Wall Street by calling for a breakup of the company, urging Mr. Immelt to sell off NBC Universal, as well as the consumer finance and real estate units.


Do ... anything ... to raise the value of the stock. Stock prices have nothing to do with the present value of the company. It's more like a bunch of kids, in $1,000 suits, deciding which baseball card is worth the most. Only these kids aren't trading candy, marbles, and toys.

The only measure of a company for the 'market' is the price of the stock.

Ouch.

P.S. My apology to Paul's family for using their loss to make a point about devout pagans.

Gas Prices

There are several simple reasons why gas prices are rising.

No, China is not one of them. I ran those numbers. China runs on coal, not Arab oil.

The U.S. runs on Texas oil, more than Arab oil.

But, oil ins't the problem.

Oil refineries are closing.

The remaining oil refineries are poorly run. To take my usual cheap shot at the GOP, the private industry of oil refining is run worse than any GOP nightmare. That nightmare in the GOP is always a government run program.

Here's a story that covers some of that. From that very liberal conspiracy member, the New York Times. You may need to register to read the full story.

Oil refineries across the country have been plagued by a record number of fires, power failures, leaks, spills and breakdowns this year, causing dozens of them to shut down temporarily or trim production. The disruptions are helping to drive gasoline prices to highs not seen since last summer’s records.

These mechanical breakdowns, which one analyst likened to an “invisible hurricane,” have created a bottleneck in domestic energy supplies, helping to push up gasoline prices 50 cents this year to well above $3 a gallon. A third of the country’s 150 refineries have reported disruptions to their operations since the beginning of the year, a record according to analysts.

“There is a lack of investments in modern equipment,” Ms. Merritt said. “The overwhelming preponderance is that if you have inadequate engineering and equipment, poor process safety management, and poor staffing, you’re set up for a catastrophe.”

Ms. Merritt, who was appointed by President Bush and will retire after her five-year term ends in August, also said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not conduct enough inspections. “There is no enforcement,” she said.

Meanwhile, demand has been rising relentlessly, providing little respite to the nation’s aging energy infrastructure. Even as consumers complain loudly about high prices, they show no signs of scaling back. Gasoline consumption reached 9.66 million barrels a day in the first week of July, the second-highest level on record.

No refineries have been built in the United States in over three decades, because refiners say they are too costly. Instead, they have been expanding their existing refineries. (to avoid compliance with EPA regulations. My note.) (roughly 300 refineries were in operation in 1980, today only 149. My note)

All this is happening as the industry goes through another golden age. After 20 years in the doldrums, the refining business has never been so good for oil companies. Refining margins — the difference between the price of crude oil and the value of refined gasoline made from it — have shot up as much as $25 a barrel for some types of crude oil, compared with about $5 a barrel just a few years ago.

So why hasn't the GOP's magic "Invisible Hand" of the greed industry fixed this problem and kept oil prices low? Because there is no "Invisible Hand" of a Market God.

And, that is how we should look at the GOP. Idol worshipers at the pagan temple of Greed.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

In Memory of Paul

The Dahlonega Nugget

Friday, July 20, 2007

Paul Edd McClendon

Mr. Paul Edd McClendon of Dahlonega died Tuesday July 17, 2007, at Chestatee Regional Hospital in Dahlonega. He was 77.

Mr. McClendon was born Nov. 3, 1929, in Rockwood, Tenn.

He taught school in Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida and retired as associate dean, USF-Sarasota. He served as chairman of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Elementary Commission.

He was a longtime member of Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church in Dahlonega.

Mr. McClendon is survived by his wife, Mary McClendon; mother, Roxie McClendon, age 104; daughter, Tricia McClendon; sons, Bruce McClendon, Jeff Bowlin; one stepdaughter; one stepson; and seven grandchildren.

A memorial service for Mr. Mcclendon is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday July 21, 2007 at the Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church in Dahlonega. Rev. Marti Kellar.

The family will receive friends at Banister Funeral Home in Dahlonega on Friday, July 20, 6-8 p.m.

In lieu of flowers please make donations to Georgia Mountains Unitarian Universalist Church, P.O. Box 630, Dahlonega, Ga. 30533.

Banister Funeral Home of Dahlonega is in charge of the arrangements.



Copyright © 2007 The Dahlonega Nugget

Bush violates Law of Gravity


"It's not the falling that hurts. It's the landing."

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jim Whitehead wins the Blockhead Award

In the federal run off election for 10th District, Republicans are guaranteed a winner or a whiner. And a recount.

Sonny Perdue hand picked Jim Whitehead for this Congressional seat. Perdue should have also sent Whitehead on a slow boat to China during the campaign season. Maybe, Perdue should have sunk the boat near Gillian's Island.

Just to clarify that, Whitehead and Gillian have a lot in common. Comedy. Only Gillian had a staff of writers and good direction.

Whitehead just had a single routine of sticking his foot in this mouth whenever appearing in public.

The 10th District cast about 60,000 votes for these two "top drawer," hand picked mammoths in the Republican Party. (sarcasm for the GOP readership)

That 60,000 votes might be 10 percent of the district. Just like in Macon, the GOP doesn't vote. So much for leadership, stewardship, and patriotism as GOP values. And for Perdue handpicking winners, whiners, and wieners for public office.
Bob Ellis, the last Democrat to run for the 10th in 2004, got more votes, over 68,000. out of 265,000. Ouch for Bob Ellis but the real hurt is for the 200,000 people that just said No to Perdue and the GOP. Given a choice of NOT voting or voting GOP, at least 200,000 found a better use for their time.

But, Whitehead might win the recount, or the remaining uncounted votes as only 98 percent of precincts are totaled.

Maybe I was being sarcastic when I said voters would get either a winner or a whiner.

Bottom line in the 10th? GOP machine losses steam and creates hot air. Voters and citizens take one in the loss column once again.

Democrats in the Other Georgia, Macon

Yes, it was just a primary in Macon so we did expect to announce a Democratic winner.

But, the GOP candidates for Mayor all together got less than a thousand votes in the GOP primary? 521 votes... FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY VOTES FOR ALL THE GOP CANDIDATES FOR MAYOR.

How did the Democrats do in the primary? Close to 16,000 votes. 15,579.

I'm not that good at math but isn't that 30 times more Democratic voters in the primary than Republican voters?

And, what did the leader of the Republican hoards say about his chances in the election.

He expects to WIN!

Now there's another Republican in touch with voters and this thing called Reality.

Well Done! the Macon Democrats!

Story from the Macon Telegraph. Voter turnout was 40%.

Reichert wins big, avoids Democratic runoff for mayor (Macon Telegraph)

By Travis Fain

Robert Reichert blew away the competition Tuesday, winning Macon's Democratic mayoral primary without a runoff. He won every precinct and took 63 percent of the vote.

Reichert still faces a November challenge from Republican upstart David Cousino, but the sheer mountain of victory he put up Tuesday and the city's decidedly Democratic majority give Reichert a huge boost heading into the general election.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with the margin of victory," Reichert said. "To win every precinct the way we did is just exceptional."

"We're going to be putting together a campaign like you've never seen before," he said. "In the process of building the campaign, we'll be building the community."

Reichert's victory celebration was boisterous. Happy supporters filled the downtown Armory Ballroom for a catered affair, and the backslaps and congratulations were nearly nonstop.

Reichert's victory brought an abrupt end to the tenures of two prominent City Council members: City Council President Anita Ponder and Appropriations Committee Chairman Henry Ficklin. Lance Randall lost, too, despite running a close race for Bibb County Commission chairman in 2004 and the pull of his family name, which is well-known in Macon politics.

Longtime civil rights activist and former Councilwoman Thelma Dillard polled last in the field of five Democrats.

But Reichert's victory wasn't the only surprise of the night. Cousino won his half of the race despite conceding the traditional ground of fundraising and advertising to Arlan Gibson and despite the fact that Gibson joined the race a year before Cousino, announcing in April 2006.

"I knew we'd win after all the hard work we did getting out and meeting people," said Cousino, who kept to his decidedly non-political profile Tuesday, hanging out with supporters at his Log Cabin Drive office, wearing a white T-shirt and jeans and eating fried chicken.

Gibson, who raised more than double Cousino's campaign account, was at a bit of a loss to explain his defeat.

"I really don't know," he said. "There's a lot of - I really don't know. ... I thought I ran a pretty good campaign. I think I explained the issues."

Voter turnout was about 40 percent.

A significant Republican crossover vote was expected for Reichert. But it appeared to be extraordinary as Reichert demolished his competition in typically conservative north Macon. In fact, only about 520 people voted in the two-man Republican mayoral primary - not enough to match the lowest polling Democrat.

According to unofficial results, Reichert received 9,847 votes. Ponder, his nearest competitor, captured 2,652. Randall polled 1,776 votes, while Ficklin received 771 and Dillard got 533.

On the Republican side, Cousino received 318 votes to Gibson's 203 votes.

Even so, Cousino said he thinks he can put up a win in November.

"There aren't as many Republicans in Macon, but if all the Republicans vote for me along with everyone who didn't vote for Mr. Reichert in the Democratic primary, we can win," he said. "We'll just do the same thing we did for this race - get out and shake hands and meet people face to face. People are ready for a change."

Reichert's strong showing left his competitors a little dazed. They expected to at least keep Reichert from topping the 50 percent mark and force a runoff. Current Mayor Jack Ellis only put up 57 percent of the vote in winning his own Democratic primary in 2003. In that year's general election, facing only write-in candidates, Ellis got 70 percent of the vote - 7 percentage points higher than Reichert's 63 percent Tuesday.

Even Reichert said he was surprised but happy that his message of unity - and his pledge to unite white and black voters behind a single candidate - rang true.

"Nobody saw that coming," he said. "But I think, essentially what is was, is that I was a candidate that was known and trusted ... and the message that I was carrying was one that was well-received. ... and the message was 'let's work together for a change.' "

Reichert had a vast fundraising lead throughout the campaign, but Ponder said that's not the whole story. In fact, past elections have shown that a money lead doesn't always translate to victory.

"He also made sure that he got himself, personally, before the voters," Ponder said. "He did a good job with the grass-roots piece."

Randall said he and his campaign staff and volunteers "did the best that we could."

"I've done the best that I could do over the years," Randall said. "I don't think there's anything else I could have done more to prove that I was prepared to be the next mayor."

The November general election involving Reichert and Cousino could end up being a three-way race. Veronica Brinson has filed to run as an independent, but her petition has not yet been verified by the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections.

Telegraph staff writers Tim Sturrock and Chuck Thompson contributed to this report.


AJC Cartoon that isn't funny

Not quite Bluer than Blue, but swinging

In a poll put out by a Matt Towery, Democrats have more 'surge' success than the Bush in Iraq. Has reason displaced emotion in politics?

In a July 12-14 poll of more than 1,000 registered voters, respondents were asked whether they were more likely to vote in a Republican or Democratic presidential primary next year.

Thirty-nine percent said they’d be voting in the Democratic primary. Thirty-seven percent said they’d choose a Republican ballot. Count the remainder, 24 percent, as undecided.

“This means that independent voters, who have for the past few election cycles trended towards the GOP, are less decided as to which party they prefer,” Towery said.

His firm put out polling data on Monday showing that Fred Thompson was the leading choice among Georgia Republicans, while Hillary Clinton maintained a slight edge over Barack Obama among Georgia Democrats.

Shamelessly stolen, word for word, from the AJC.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Income, taxes, and the Lottery

First, I notice that Speaker Richardson has abandoned his bad numbers. He has published two new versions of his sales pitch for raising taxes, both versions exclude any numbers about growth in property taxes versus income growth.

I'm glad the GOP reads a reasonable blog like mine to get real numbers.

So how about some more numbers that beat the Speaker like a toy drum?

In the time period when soon to be Former Speaker Richardson said income only rose about 140%, the Georgia Lottery had a 300% increase in ticket sales.

It hardly sounds to me like the citizens of Georgia and the Georgia economy has contracted under local tax control. Such a huge increase in luxury spending, lottery tickets or gambling, is more in line with the roughly 240% increase in personal income reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).

Richardson and Lucy Ricardo might not have been twins separated at birth, but I see a connection with hair-brained ideas.

Speaker, you've got some explaining to do with your numbers and wacko ideas.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Property Tax and FairTax

This starts what I hope is a series on taxation.

As always, I'm controversial and the topic is controversial.

In my opinion, being the son of a disable combat veteran, no one has a right to complain that taxes cost them an arm and a leg.

Pause.

Pause.

Pause.

Lots of men have paid 100 percent of their future earnings in a military tax. Their wives, mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons also helped pay this military tax. When those who have paid the most get a rebate program, then I'll start talking about fairness in government imposed fees. MAYBE!

I'd rather talk about systemic unfairness created by private wealth. But, that's just talking.

We do make nice replacement arms and legs for our vets. Some eventually get comfortable in new transplant skin after severe burns. But, this side of Heaven, nothing for the dead.

Now, on to a discussion of property taxes.

Various Republicans, like Speaker Glenn Richardson want to do away with property taxes.

What would you lose?

Here's a story on how your community could lose more than an arm and a leg.

Six years ago the residents of Suwanee voted to more than double their property taxes. The payoff: a boost from 28 acres of green space to more than 270, and a feeling of investment in their hometown. "People here participate in the community in a very thorough way," says resident Dave Williams, 40, a partner in a marketing company and father of two. "They don't just live here and work or play somewhere else."

That's abundantly clear at the newly developed town center. Built on a heavily trafficked downtown corner, it meshes park space, retail and office properties and housing into one multiuse plaza -- and residents have embraced it in a big way. On summer afternoons kids of all ages splash in the park's interactive fountains. On weekends Town Center Park's outdoor amphitheater holds concerts and other events. Behind the appealing row of restaurants and shops are townhouses and single-family homes. Housing is reasonable -- you can get into a nice four-bedroom for $250,000 -- and schools are topnotch.

As for jobs, Dish Network and Southeastern Freight are the area's biggest employers, but Google, Hewlett-Packard and other tech concerns also have offices nearby. Surrounding Gwinnett County and Atlanta (30 miles away) provide even more opportunities. Suwanee offers a tax break to companies that bring in more than 25 high-paying jobs.

Though the town has planned recent development deliberately, the area around interstate 85, which runs through Suwanee's southeastern corner, lacks for aesthetics but not for congestion. Still, the rest of the city has a lot to offer.

"We're blanketed with parks to use," says Brenda Everson, a mother of three boys. "We're very nature-y. Instead of going to a movie, we'd rather be out hiking or playing ball. It's nice to have those options."

What does Speaker Richardson want you to do? Become dependent on the GOP to plan your hometown? Let corporations make decisions about your life style?

The town being described is Suwanee, Georgia. Suwanee was voted the 10th best place to live in America (CNN).

What did the voters think about doubling their tax rate? Well, they voted to do it. And they took control of their town and their lives.

As the grandson of a Kentucky coal miner, I urge you to say no to the company town, the company store, and the private city.

Destroying your way of life one new law at a time.

No property taxes = No local control

Keep your right to vote as a meaningful right.

Gainesville Times

This letter appeared in the Gainesville Times today.

Link

The debate on global warming hasn't changed any since 1969. Conservatives just can't remember rivers on fire, factory smoke that choked cities and the smoke belched from auto tailpipes.

Despite the memory failures, the arguments from the bizarre right are the same now as then.

"Pollution isn't harmful and stopping pollution will cost somebody a lot of money." That is the bottom line in the global warming defense.

"Pollution isn't harming me and I don't want to spend my money on other people's problems." How Christian! How "American!" How selfish.

To put sarcasm aside for just a moment, no reasonable person can possibly say that humans don't pollute or defend pollution as economic necessity. No reasonable person is willing to breathe the exhaust gas directly out of the tailpipe of a car. No reasonable person is willing to drink water directly from the Chattahoochee just south of Atlanta. No reasonable person eats a side order of mercury, lead and DDT with their Big Mac.

No reasonable person.

Michael Parker

Flowery Branch

Originally published Monday, July 16, 2007

Sunday, July 15, 2007

If someone is worth shooting once ...

"If someone is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice."

The practice is known as 'dead checking.' Very interesting method for checking the wounded.

I guess it sort of goes like this.

"Hey, check that guy to see if he's dead."

BAMM

"Yeap! That guy is dead."

I'm not sure understand this little bit of news from Iraq.

From sworn testimony as reported by the AP. Details.

"Lopezromo said a procedure called "dead-checking" was routine. If Marines entered a house where a man was wounded, instead of checking to see whether he needed medical aid, they shot him to make sure he was dead, he testified.

"If somebody is worth shooting once, they're worth shooting twice," he said."

He said Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency.

Yes, I'm sure this is the good news Republicans want the main stream media to report from Iraq. The only way to win is to kill every Iraqi male. And, we're doing it.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hard News and also very harsh news

Since George W. Bush and Dick Lester Cheney declared war on terrorism, nothing has changed for al-Qaida leadership.

We were told these leaders were living in caves without electricity, cut off, and unable to command.

Ops! Was that a lie? Doesn't matter.

In the news today, analysts note that al-Qaida leaders can respond to world events with video and taped statements faster than before 9/11.

How about those benchmarks on progress in Iraq being a keystone in the "War on Terror?"

Details from the Associated Press.

Analysts and intelligence experts say the speed and frequency with which Ayman al-Zawahri has been issuing statements recently does not reflect the actions of a man cowering in a remote cave, cut off from the outside world and unable to direct terror operations.

If anything, the video and audio tapes offer chilling evidence that al-Qaida's leaders are in greater command than previously feared.

Glenn Richardson, Liar and Speaker of the Georgia House

Before I move away from yesterdays favorite liar, Speaker Glen Richardson, I thought I'd hit him again with facts.

Richardson says, "Even though people are not earning more income, the government is requiring that they pay more taxes."

That's in Black and White. People under Republican leadership are "not earning more income." Kind of anti-Perdue, isn't it? Or, anti-Bush? Or, just anti-GOP? Hard to figure with Richardson.

Nah, it's just a lie. No big deal. Richardson in the same paragraph said Georgia saw a 146 percent increase in personal income.

So, don't be alarmed when Richardson opens his mouth with news of doom and gloom. He'll change the numbers as soon as he can catch his breath.

Using figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, BEA, net personal income increased 177 percent from 1990 to 2005.

THAT is public information from the Federal Government, not numbers from the mind of Glen Richardson, wingnut and soon to be former GOP speaker.

http://www.bea.gov/

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Glenn Richardson, Speaker

Speaker Glenn Richardson hit my Liar's Radar with his sales pitch for overtaxing Georgians.

In a column printed at the Athens Banner Herald, Mr. Tax-the-Suckers Richardson said:

"The biggest part of the problem is that property taxes are increasing faster than personal income. Since 1990, personal income has increased 146 percent while property taxes have increased 176 percent. Even though people are not earning more income, the government is requiring that they pay more taxes."

Mr. Richardson is about to raise taxes by lying.

Yes, I bet property tax receipts have increased in Georgia since 1990. So have the number of new homes and the number of families living in Georgia. Using data from the Georgia Department of Labor, a department run by Democrat Michael Thurmond, in 1990 Georgia added about 35,000 new single family homes.

Those homes increased the property tax base about $2.5 billion dollars. That's just one years increase in single family homes.

Total new construction increased the tax base about $2.8 billion dollars in 1990. By 2006, Georgia was adding over 81,000 new homes a year with a worth of over $13 billion dollars..

So Mr. Richardson is comparing apples (income) to oranges (property) while selling bananas (income tax increases). I just wish the tax nuts would attract squirrels instead of voters.

1990 building information from http://www.selig.uga.edu/housing/1990.htm or click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The price of our failure in Iraq

After the intelligence failures of 9/11, we rebuilt our intelligence gathering agencies. These new and improved versions of 'Spies-R-Us' have made this conclusion public.

Al-Qaida is as strong today as it was in the days before the attacks of 9/11.

Details from the AP

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded al-Qaida has rebuilt its operating capability to a level not seen since just before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, The Associated Press has learned. The conclusion suggests that the group that launched the most devastating terror attack on the United States has been able to regroup along the Afghan-Pakistani border despite nearly six years of bombings, war and other tactics aimed at crippling it.

Iraq

Just before the invasion, I feared we would not find justification for our actions. I feared Saddam would defeat us the moment we crossed the border. My fears became truth.

I do not now nor have I ever believed we could have had a military victory in Iraq.

Now the objective reports have built a vision darker than my fears.

We have failed to win a political or symbolic victory in Iraq

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Top US intelligence officials gave a bleak appraisal Wednesday of Iraq's chances of stemming political and religious strife and so helping the US administration to declare success in the nation.

Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence, told Congress that US President George W. Bush's "surge" of up to 30,000 more troops into Iraq had done little yet to stem the bloodshed.

He said that "even if violence is diminished, given the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene, Iraqi leaders will be hard pressed to achieve sustained political reconciliation."

We needed a vision before the invasion.

We got a cartoon.

Iraq needed leaders to fill the power vacuum after Saddam's removal.

Iraq got Republican version of the Muppets.

The troops wanted to demonstrate patriotism, courage, and comradeship.

The troops got passed over for private contractors, corporate profits, and political grandstanding aboard an aircraft carrier under the banner, Mission Accomplished.

When I face my darkest fears, I fear we will not face failure, confront the facts, and learn from the mistakes of American Predestination.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gonzales knew who was breaking the law

Criminals in the GOP, Pardons, and Presidents named Bush

On my way to other things, Iran Contra came back to life. Depending on which source I choose to use as many as 250 Reagan era 'employees' were charged with a crime.

Some of them got Presidential Pardons to silence the grinding wheels of Justice.

That brings me back to Bush and Libby.

The GOP Presidential Pardons are for corrupt or criminal convictions of GOP office holders, staffers, and Cabinet members.

Democratic Presidential Pardons are just for common crooks.

Clearly, the GOP 'gets caught,' tried, and convicted more often than the Dems.

Is that why the GOP hates judges?

Meanwhile, Gonzales made the news again as "an unindicted co-conspirator" and "perjury suspect."

Being the highest ranking criminal in the country does have its perks. Ops! I meant the highest ranking criminal law enforcement officer in the country, didn't I?

Story on Gonzales and perjury


It's time to call perjury by its proper name. Lying.

More carnage

When I was in college, I worked part time in the history department. As a part time employee, I did research for the professors. One professor had me reviewing microfilm of old newspapers for tobacco news.

It seemed boring enough but almost every hour one or more of the old frontpage headlines described Death in more immediate terms than tobacco caused cancer.

Before cancer or Iraq became front page news, the Friday night slaughter on our highways captured in black and white photos humbled us.

Eventually, cars became safer. Drunk driving became a crime. Highways and roads were redesigned for safety.

But, several recent wrecks have needlessly claimed young lives in Georgia.

No, these are not young drivers loaded up with alcohol and cocaine. These victims of poor road design and bad budget planning were innocent children.

I could spin the news even more, but sooner or later the news must be read.

Here's the story on how Georgia is killing innocent children.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Listen to the Generals this time

This is a plea to everyone.

We have fought in Iraq for years. Our might and our machines are tarnished with the dried blood of our patriotic dead. Our economy bleeds $12 billion dollars per month to feed, cloth, and educate our enemies as well as to fight them.

We have escalated our troop levels, our body counts, and the debate on what will measure progress in Iraq.

September 2007 will come. But, the analysis has already arrived.

We are not making progress towards our goals.

Give honor to the duty done by our troops by preserving the lives of our best remaining warriors.

End the pointless fratricide started in March 2003. Save our army from our political leaders.

Invade the United States with whatever remains of the United States military.

Related story

By ANNE FLAHERTY and ANNE GEARAN, Associated Press Writers1 hour, 55 minutes ago

A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reform, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.

One likely result of the report will be a vastly accelerated debate among President Bush's top aides on withdrawing troops and scaling back the U.S. presence in Iraq.

The "pivot point" for addressing the matter will no longer be Sept. 15, as initially envisioned, when a full report on Bush's so-called "surge" plan is due, but instead will come this week when the interim mid-July assessment is released, the official said.

"The facts are not in question," the official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the draft is still under discussion. "The real question is how the White House proceeds with a post-surge strategy in light of the report."

The report, required by law, is expected to be delivered to Capitol Hill by Thursday or Friday, as the Senate takes up a $649 billion defense policy bill and votes on a Democratic amendment ordering troop withdrawals to begin in 120 days.

Also being drafted are several Republican-backed proposals that would force a new course in Iraq, including one by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Ben Nelson, D-Neb., that would require U.S. troops to abandon combat missions. Collins and Nelson say their binding amendment would order the U.S. mission to focus on training the Iraqi security forces, targeting al-Qaida members and protecting Iraq's borders.

"My goal is to redefine the mission and set the stage for a significant but gradual drawdown of our troops next year," said Collins.

GOP support for the war has eroded steadily since Bush's decision in January to send some 30,000 additional troops to Iraq. At the time, Bush said the Iraqis agreed to meet certain benchmarks, such as enacting a law to divide the nation's oil reserves.

This spring, Congress agreed to continue funding the war through September but demanded that Bush certify on July 15 and again on Sept. 15 that the Iraqis were living up to their political promises or forgo U.S. aid dollars.

The official said it is highly unlikely that Bush will withhold or suspend aid to the Iraqis based on the report.

A draft version of the administration's progress report circulated among various government agencies in Washington on Monday.

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow on Monday tried to lower expectations on the report, contending that all of the additional troops had just gotten in place and it would be unrealistic to expect major progress by now.

"You are not going to expect all the benchmarks to be met at the beginning of something," Snow said. "I'm not sure everyone's going to get an `A' on the first report."

In recent weeks, the White House has tried to shore up eroding GOP support for the war.

Collins and five other GOP senators — Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Robert Bennett of Utah, John Sununu of New Hampshire and Pete Domenici of New Mexico — support separate legislation calling on Bush to adopt as U.S. policy recommendations by the Iraq Study Group, which identified a potential redeployment date of spring 2008.

Other prominent Republican senators, including Richard Lugar of Indiana, George Voinovich of Ohio, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia Snowe of Maine, also say the U.S. should begin redeployments.

Several GOP stalwarts, including Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska, Christopher Bond of Missouri, Jon Kyl of Arizona and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, said they still support Bush's Iraq strategy.

Kyl said he would try to focus this week's debate on preserving vital anti-terrorism programs, including the detention of terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The defense bill is on track to expand the legal rights of those held at the military prison, and many Democrats want to propose legislation that would shut the facility.

"If Democrats use the defense authorization bill to pander to the far left at the expense of our national security, they should expect serious opposition from Republicans," Kyl said.

As the Senate debate began, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee arranged to run television commercials in four states, beginning Tuesday, to pressure Republicans on the war.

The ads are to run in Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota and New Hampshire, according to knowledgeable officials, but the DSCC so far has committed to spending a relatively small amount of money, less than $100,000 in all. Barring a change in plans that means the ads would not be seen widely in any of the four states.

The targets include Sens. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, Collins of Maine, Sununu of New Hampshire and the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. All face re-election next year.

The boost in troop levels in Iraq has increased the cost of war there and in Afghanistan to $12 billion a month, with the overall tally for Iraq alone nearing a half-trillion dollars, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, which provides research and analysis to lawmakers.

The figures call into question the Pentagon's estimate that the increase in troop strength and intensifying pace of operations in Baghdad and Anbar province would cost $5.6 billion through the end of September.

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Associated Press reporters Pauline Jelinek, Andrew Taylor, Matthew Lee and Jennifer Loven contributed to this report.