Wednesday, April 30, 2008

They Said It. I Repeat It.

"I want to talk tonight about the respect I have for the American media. It is your task to watch the government, to make sure they do not exceed their power. Well done on that, by the way, the last eight years."

Craig Ferguson

Host of George W. Bush's last White House Correspondents' Dinner & All-Around Fine Scotsman

+Sorry about the light posting as of late. The trouble with having a chronic illness is the "chronic" part.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

This Does Not Surprise Me

What happens when we pay an airplane maker to build a boat...for the first time? Massive cost overruns, unbelievable delays and a fabulous fightin' ferry boat. Yesterday's NY Times offers a Lesson On How Not To Build A Navy Ship:

A project heralded as the dawning of an innovative, low-cost era in Navy shipbuilding has turned into a case study of how not to build a combat ship. The bill for the ship, being built by Lockheed Martin, has soared to $531 million, more than double the original, and by some calculations could be $100 million more. With an alternate General Dynamics prototype similarly struggling at an Alabama shipyard, the Navy last year temporarily suspended the entire program.

The program’s tribulations speak to what military experts say are profound shortcomings in the Pentagon’s acquisitions system. Even as spending on new projects has risen to its highest point since the Reagan years, being over budget and behind schedule have become the norm: a recent Government Accountability Office audit found that 95 projects — warships, helicopters and satellites — were delayed 21 months on average and cost 26 percent more than initially projected, a bill of $295 billion.

In a narrow sense, the troubled birth of the coastal ships was rooted in the Navy’s misbegotten faith in a feat of maritime alchemy: building a hardened warship by adapting the design of a high-speed commercial ferry. As Representative Gene Taylor, the Mississippi Democrat who leads the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, put it, “Thinking these ships could be built to commercial specs was a dumb move.”

Behind the numbers in the Accountability Office study, experts say, is a dynamic of mutually re-enforcing deficiencies: ever-changing Pentagon design requirements; unrealistic cost estimates and production schedules abetted by companies eager to win contracts, and a fondness for commercial technologies that often, as with the ferry concept, prove unsuitable for specialized military projects.
A totally predictable outcome. Fer crissakes the Navy asked a new boat builder to build a new boat in a new way. Fast:
In their haste to get the ships into the water, the Navy and contractors redesigned and built them at the same time — akin to building an office tower while reworking the blueprints. To meet its deadline, Lockheed abandoned the normal sequence of shipbuilding steps: instead of largely finishing sections and then assembling the ship, much of the work was left to be done after the ship was welded together. That slowed construction and vastly drove up costs.

“It’s not good to be building as you’re designing,” said Vice Adm. Paul E. Sullivan, commander of the Navy branch that supervises shipbuilding.
No shit Admiral.
Despite the problems, the Navy secretary, Donald C. Winter, and other top Navy officials say they remain committed to building 55 of the ships, once a steady, fixed-price production run can be assured. Even at about $500 million apiece, Navy officials add, the coastal ships would be a bargain compared with most Navy combat vessels.
“Bargain” is such a relative concept. In this case it's like calling a $200 Neiman-Marcus hairbrush a bargain 'cuz everything else in the store is so damn expensive. Lockheed is a major military contractor so it should be a cinch for them to build a boat. Except:
Lockheed had virtually no shipbuilding experience. But in keeping with a Pentagon policy that called for letting big military contractors run complex projects with minimal government supervision, the Navy made the companies primarily responsible for all phases of development — from concept studies to detailed design and construction.

In theory, the contractors’ business and technological acumen would save taxpayer dollars. But the Navy agreed to reimburse the companies for cost overruns rather than setting a fixed price, leaving little incentive to hold down costs.
Fixed prices? Who needs fixed prices? It's no surprise how much military contractors love this type of deal. Since fixed prices emerged in the ‘70s, they’ve been whining how it doesn’t “work” for them. Here’s what we’re supposedly getting for our money:
The Lockheed proposal called for a steel single-hull ship 378 feet long and 57 feet wide. It would have a spacious flight deck and space for two helicopters, a stern ramp and side door near the waterline for launching and recovering small boats, and large interior compartments that could be quickly reconfigured for different weapons systems. But as Lockheed and the Navy were completing contract negotiations in 2004, the rules changed drastically. Commercial ferry standards, the Navy determined, would not do.

The underlying principle behind the decision, Admiral Sullivan said, was that the new ships had to be able to “hang tough in a storm and take some battle damage and still survive long enough” for the crew to be rescued.
Dunno. Regardless of context the phrase “’still survive long enough’ for the crew to be rescued” doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. This should be of paramount importance to the Navy's central concept in building any ship let alone turning a high-speed civilian ferry into a warship. (Kinda reminds me of the ole SNL sketch: "New Shimmer is both a floor wax and a dessert topping!")

In a show of supreme stupidity, the Navy thought they'd somehow save money this way. It's equivalent to trying to turn a DC-10 into a warplane:
“They were eager to take advantage of commercial practices and the lower cost of buying off the shelf, but they did a lousy job of understanding the war-fighting requirements,” said the military expert, who asked not be named because he was involved with the program. “It was like, ‘You mean you want to put wheels on that car?’ ”
Ugh. More like do you wants wheels, seats, an engine and a roof with that car? How the hell could the Navy start building anything without "understanding the war-fighting requirements?" That is insane. They are the fucking Navy! It gets worse:
Ultimately, there were nearly 600 significant engineering changes affecting nearly all parts of the ship, according to the Navy.
600 goddamn major engineering changes = completely fucking different boat. While the Navy may have felt rushed, Lockheed was in an even bigger hurry to get this boat built:
At Lockheed, executives say they feared that slowing down construction would put them at a disadvantage in their battle to win the contract over General Dynamics.
Now we get to the crux of the problem. But surely the Navy’s own oversight could save the day, right? Wrong. So very, very wrong:
Yet if the project was troubled, the Navy’s oversight at Marinette was less than robust. Because of staffing reductions, the Navy office responsible for supervising shipbuilding initially dispatched no one full time to Wisconsin. Even after a team arrived, it failed to appreciate the severity of problems.

We had very junior people on site,” Admiral Sullivan said.
This project was a major priority for the Navy. When they eventually sent supervisory staff to the boatyard, for some reason the Navy chose “very junior people.” Heckuva job, Sully.

What could be worse than one plane builder working on their first boat? Two plane builders working on the same boat. Lockheed brought G .E. Aviation along for the ride with absolute disastrous results:
The most wrenching setback came in autumn 2005, when a key gear for the propulsion system was cut incorrectly, forcing a 27-week delay in ship construction. Rick Kennedy, a spokesman for G.E. Aviation, the General Electric division that produced the gear, said a machinist had misread a drawing; G.E. absorbed the additional cost.

Shipbuilders usually start with the engine space, which contains the most machinery, then build around it. Because of the gear problem, Mr. McCreary said, “We did just the opposite.”
A 27-week delay over one gear? You have to be fucking kidding me. Even I know that you measure twice and cut once. If my master shipbuilder great-uncle Warren was still alive, this would make his head explode. And still the program soldiers on.
Once the Navy evaluates the two prototypes, it can select one or order a mixed fleet. While it could opt for a different approach, military experts say that seems unlikely, given the need for the new ships and the money and effort already expended.
Yes, like a fool losing big on one slot machine, the Navy won’t change it’s game because it has already lost too much money on its current course. They're betting sooner or later it's gonna payoff. Sooner or later either Lockheed or General Dynamics will work it out:
The Navy recently restarted the program, inviting the two companies to submit fixed-price proposals for three additional ships. Lockheed, still hoping to win the entire prize, said the problems encountered with the Freedom would not be repeated, now that the company has a finished design.

“It will be great, the next time around,” said Mr. North, the program manager. “Lead ships are truly hard.”
I bet they are. Especially when you’re building a ship for the first fucking time. The problem with these DOD development projects is with the decade or so it takes to get it right, if they get it right, we may no longer need it. That's if we really needed it to begin with. Either way the end product is inevitably incredibly more expensive than ever anticipated.

If you can stomach it, read the full Times story here.

+Note: All emphasis in the Times article is mine.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Both I and my computer have been sick much of the week. An interesting post soon come re: a local Iraq vet and his struggle to get proper healtcare.

Stay tuned.


Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm Back

More or less. Still having a few problems. While I get caught up, you MUST read Ken Silverstein's Ten Issues That Will Decide The McCain-Obama Election.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Blogger's Been Acting Screwy All Day

News at 11.
+Update 4/19: Blogger still fucked up.
++Update 4/20: Still being held hostage by Blogger technical issues.
+++Update 4/21: Release the Blogger hostages!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stephanopoulos Gets Questions From Hillary Before Debate

I couldn't resist. I totally swiped the basic concept from some months-old winger blog post.


Top Ten John McCain Myths

MediaMatters has just three more left and they are biggies... At #8. John McCain is the lobbyist's biggest enemy. If by enemy, you mean employer...

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.


You Fucked Up File: ABC

Welcome to the inaugural entry to ASIAF's YFUF. What's a "YFUF"? A dear friend and former colleague in the music biz has to deal with any number of challenging, demanding artists from baby bands to international superstars based all over the globe. Years ago he instituted what he calls the "You Fucked Up File." When the band inevitably fucks something up, it's added to their YFUF. This way if there are any disputes about why a third single isn't released from a disappointing album, tour support is reduced, etc., he whips out their YFUF and sets them straight.

Last night saw the worst ever piece of election coverage by any network not named Fox. After 3,492 Democratic debates you'd think ABC could get it right. Not that I watched it. I have read and viewed much of the press coverage. Sometimes that's more important than what actually happened. Because by all accounts your average American couldn't have tolerated more than 5 minutes of it, this was one of those times.

Yes, the candidates' performance was lackluster. But ABC's Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos acted like they had participated in some perverse pre-debate Right Wing Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. WTF was up with that?

You know ABC fucked up when the crowd actually and loudly booed Gibson. You know they blew it when Obama is asked about some badass he knew when he was 8 years-old. You know it was awful when Editor & Publisher's Editor Greg Mitchell calls it "perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years." You know it was bad when one of the many gotcha questions is supplied by Sean Hannity and NY right wing radio looney Steve Malzberg. You know it was terrible when Philly's Daily News' Will Bunch rips it not once but twice. You know it went well past weak when the "flag pin" kerfuffle and every other kerfuffle is resurrected. You know it was ugly when it took an absolutely unforgivable 51 fucking minutes for the motherf***ers moderators to bring up one policy issue(!?!). You know it was shameful when Keith Olbermann sez "The campaign may have seemed dirty. It had nothing on one of the moderators of the debate tonight."

Look, I know Stephanopoulos is ABC's DC bureau chief but he was Bill Clinton's senior political advisor and communications director fer chrissakes.
I don't want to say that George had a hard-on for Obama but he should have put a coat on to cover his naked bias. Fox's Hugh Hewitt would have been a more appropriate choice. Is Charles Gibson really so light that he couldn't have moderated solo?

The only good to come out of this unmitigated disaster is that every single debate henceforth will seem amaaazing.

++Update: Harper's Ken Silverstein provides one-stop shopping with Deep Throats: A Compilation of Debate Porn.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Scott Stops

Scott Horton's No Comment blog will greatly missed. It was the single most valuable resource in untangling the myriad of ways the Bush Administration has abused our laws.

More still, at least to me, No Comment was unique in that it proved that a blog could be intelligent, literate, artistic, visually attractive and challenging whilst still being readable. Mr. Horton set standard by which all future blogs should be judged. Two outstanding examples Scott's of rare ability show in its end: Marvell meets Lely and Brueghel in Marvell's "The Garden" and George Forster's Recollection of Benjamin Franklin.

No Comment in a large part inspired me to resume writing and to do it on a daily basis. It has even informed the look of this humble space.

Thank you and Godspeed, good sir.

+van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet" seemed to appropriately expresses my mood upon learning this news.

He Flat-Out Sucked Less Than The Alternative

This week Italians recycled billionaire Silvio Berlusconi as Prime Minister. We'll see how long that lasts especially if Italy's ex-SISDE chief's defense lawyers are granted their request to call Silvio as a witness in the upcoming CIA extraordinary renditions trial. 25 Americans we're pretty sure are CIA agents are also being tried in absentia. Apparently some Italians have a problem with the Bush Administration completely circumventing Italy's legal system in the 2003 CIA Milan street grab of terror suspect Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr.


HT: Laura Rozen

++Laura has more on the resumption of the CIA rendition trial at MoJo's blog here.

Mine's Bigger

Perhaps I've become far more seriously cynically twisted than I realized but that was my first thought after catching a snippet of Bush and Popey reviewing the troops this AM. Unfortunately, as all of our troops are occupied in occupying Iraq or Afghanistan, our Preznit could only scare up an extra large fife and drum corps. And why in Heaven's name are they wearing red coats?


Looks Like We're Going To Find Out...

...which is more inept at one very specific task State or Defense.

HT: Raw Story

The Loophole And The Damage Done

Yesterday TPM's intrepid reporter Paul Kiel reported that the Bush Administration closed a loophole they secretly created in a rule requiring our overseas contractors (read: Iraq & Afghanistan) to self-report fraud and waste. The loophole excluded all contractors billing $5 million+ (read: all of them). Never mind that due to it's self-reporting nature this rule had no teeth. It was drafted by Bush's own Justice Department!

As long as your company defrauded the American people out of a very large amount of money, the Bush Administration not only didn't care, their policies both encouraged it and then went out of their way to protect you. Very nice. Can we trust them at their word this loophole has been closed? No fucking way.

It occurs to me that this is yet another staggering example of a fundamental truth about warfare (or anything else for that matter) that Bush and his pals got backwards. As per usual it comes at great expense to our country. The difference here is that here it resulted in great profit to them and their friends. It's truly amazing what a President can get away with when he flouts The Constitution. If just for his interpretation of the unitary executive theory alone, John Woo has reserved himself a prime spot in Hell's VIP lounge.

Where was I? Oh yeah, "fundamental truths about war." Since time immemorial invading armies have pillaged those countries they invade. In Iraq, the Iraqis continue to loot their country and ours while our "reconstruction"/military contractors also plunder the US treasury.* And we don't even know the half of it yet.

The ugly truth is even if the fraud loophole is now closed the damage has been done and done and done. The US Treasury has been looted by Republicans and their favorite campaign contributors. This includes those neophytes i.e. Blackwater who established new companies specifically to cash in on "GWOT." The lion's share will be applied to Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, Lockheed Martin, Dyncorp, et al's bottom line and to provide post-Bush positions for their soon to be unemployed benefactors. Be forewarned that a significant tithe of these ill-gotten gains will be plowed back into future Republican campaigns and/or decidedly un-American causes (i.e. Focus On The Family, Freedom's Watch, blah blah blah).

Yes, these looters and fraudsters will hedge their bets and contribute serious money to Democrats this election cycle. They are not fucking stupid. They may even give a little more this time around to Dems than Repubs. But I will guarantee this cash won't come close to matching their total Republican campaign contributions during any election period in the last ten years.

For example, in the '06 election cycle alone Halliburton's PAC alone gave 97% or about $160,000 to Republicans. I imagine the other 3% went to John Murtha and DIPO (Democrat In Perception Only) Joe Liebermann. This doesn't include money contributed by Halliburton execs and their families


They Said It. I Repeat It.

We had two very good men, and men of faith, run for President in 2000 and 2004. But large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to or frankly respect their ways of life.
Hillary Clinton
By the way I have to say I think Al Gore won.
Barack Obama

Call me Captain Obvious but it's not a very smart move by Sen. Clinton to take any shots at Al Gore right now. Come on November!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Let's Put This Over 100,000, Got It?

The most important thing you can do t0day is join me, C&L, the ACLU and 80,000 other patriotic Americans in demanding that Congress appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate both the Bush Administration's admitted and other probable violations of The War Crimes Act and The Federal Torture Act.

If you've already done so, please ask someone else to tell our government that we will not stand for these profoundly un-American deeds to go unpunished. It will only take a minute of your time to do this one thing to help us get our country back.

Here's the link.


Talking To The Taxman About Poetry

I was one of the first people in the US to play Billy Bragg on the radio. I later met him on his first American tour. I found Billy to an extremely personable guy with a somewhat incongruous passion for pro wrestling. "Greetings To The New Brunette" is from his major label debut the name of which is one of the best album titles ever and provides the title to this post. When I charted this record at #1 at my first commercial radio gig, Billy was on tour in Europe. He sent me a thank you note. I still have it.

Get yer tax stuff done folks.

+FYI: the fine folks at Red Eye released the Billy Bragg Volume I & Volume II box sets about a year and a half ago. The remastering job is amazing

Monday, April 14, 2008

This May Be The Most Important Thing You Can Do Today

My mother's family literally started coming over a few boats after The Mayflower. More of my ancestors were expelled after fighting on the losing side of the English Civil War. I have almost two dozen ancestors who fought in the American Revolution including one who fought on both sides. Does this make me any better than you? Fuck no! But coupled with my keen love of history, it seems to have cursed me with an over-developed sense of what America stands for.

Torture is one of the most un-American things America could ever do. Thanks to George, Dick, Condi, George, Three Johns, David, Bill and the rest of their torture club, we've tortured plenty. Despite their protestations to the contrary we cannot believe that they are not doing it still.

C&L's John Amato and the ACLU have teamed up to help those of us appalled and disgusted by George Bush's torture policy. Tell Congress loud and clear that we demand an independent prosecutor to investigate these admitted and probable other violations of The War Crimes Act and The Federal Torture Act.


Uncle Anacher's Punk Rock Tales: The Clash, Vol. 1

"White Man In Hammersmith Palais" March 8, 1980.*

Those who know me from my parents to my past and present neighbors' dogs are well aware of my decades long Clash obsession. I was always the music guy. The Clash tossed my musical world on its ass.

Back in 1979 I was 15 years old and in a band that was more what I now know as pub rock than punk rock. My band played all originals at real gigs in the city in real clubs. We usually $6-$10 apiece -- enough to cover gas money and a slice of pizza or two on the way home. Already an outsider in high school, this made me a somewhat of any alien. It was just the way I liked it.

That Halloween we played an elaborate costume party in my home town. (I'm saving that story for the movie). I met an outgoing, friendly lass in my grade there who was exactly one month younger than I. Our common bond was music. I was immediately smitten.

She soon lent me the Americanized version of The Clash sans lyric sheet. Dropping the needle on the record I was immediately hooked by the raw, powerful guitars but bewildered by Joe Strummer's heavily accented barking then incoherent to my ears. Fer chrissakes I was already well familiar with, and at least could understand, The Ramones! We frequently covered Road To Ruin's "I Just Wanna Have Something To Do" at band practice.

I listened to The Clash again and again. I started to pick out two or three words in every sentence. What I little I comprehended was radical and compelling -- plus I needed to be able to discuss The Clash with my new friend. (Ha!) By the 10th time through I was completely hooked. My life was forever changed.

It never did nor ever would have worked out between my friend and I. I'm totally cool with that. I'm not the type that pines for any "love lost" that never was. Until we both moved once too many times, we kept in touch for 15 years or so. Still, I'd like to speak with her again if only to remind her I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for an album lent almost 30 years ago.

*Exactly one night before I saw 'em at Boston's Orpheum Theater.

They Said It. I Repeat It.

Clearing out some memory for my DVR, I just stumbled across an interesting exchange from the February 29, 2008 edition of Real Time With Bill Maher. This wasn't a bit...

Bill Maher:

How many rednecks are there in Pennsylvania? If you had to guess a percentage, a rough ball park figure.
Hillary Clinton superdelegate/PA Governor Ed Rendell:
Less and less every year. And again, give Senator Obama, in my next sentence in the interview, I said he’s done a great job bringing new people into the fold and a great job overcoming those barriers in states which I’d have said have the same problems. But look, there are people in Pennsylvania who don’t wanna see a woman President because they don’t think a woman could be a good commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. That’s a fact. That’s a fact.

When I ran for Governor the first time, I ran for Governor as a young man in the early ‘80s, a newspaper reporter told me he was in central Pennsylvania at the time people called in and said we can’t vote for that guy he’s Jewish and from Philadelphia. So prejudice exists, again give Senator Obama tremendous credit for to a great deal overcoming that. There’s no question about it. Does it exist? Sure, but there’s prejudice against a lot of people in the political spectrum.
Is Gov. Rendell a condescending elitist or a realist? The sole difference between Gov. Rendell's comments vs. Sen. Obama's comments is that Obama actually provided a context and rationale for his perception whereas Gov. Rendell simply implies there is rampant bigotry and sexism among his constituents.

The only mistake Sen. Obama made in his "bitter people" comments is one of politesse. He should never have singled out PA before the primary lest undecided voters be offended. Those already committed to Obama are all too painfully aware that he speaks the truth.

Enough with this kerfuffle already.

+Edited ever so slightly for clarity.

Top Ten John McCain Myths

Media Matters debunks away.

#7. John McCain has too much integrity to use his war record to his political advantage.

If you believe that, I have a leprechaun and a unicorn looking to unload a bridge in Brooklyn cheap.

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.

+I just picked up a copy of Free Ride. I'll be posting a review of sorts sometime this week.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Locking The Barn Door After The Goat Is Gone

al-Maliki's government kicks out 1300 Iraqi soldiers & cops for desertion. Like we needed another indication that all of that money going to arming, equipping and training Iraq's security forces is poorly spent.

Though its never come done hard on deserters before, Iraq's largely Shiite government claims many of these mostly Shiite cops & troops will be tried by primarily Shiite military courts. That's if more mostly Shiite cops & troops can or will catch 'em.

Let me know how that works out, OK?


Saturday, April 12, 2008

They Loves Them Their Spying

Our "new" new domestic spying program is ready to rock. Just loverly.

HT: Laura Rozen

They Said It. I Repeat It.

It’s affecting everyone. Last night Lindsay Lohan got drunk and walked into a tree.
Bill Maher on record high gas prices.


It Always Comes Back To The Oil

Deadeye Dick Cheney sez if we don't get all that Tikrit tea, al Qaeda will. If we hadn't barged in and blown up the goddamn country, they'd never had the chance. Think Progress has the score.


Lust And Amnesia = Disaster

The Boston Globe asks:

Did McMansion fever cause the US housing bust?

Now that the home crisis finger-pointing season is in full swing, it's a good time to take a look at how "house lust," as author Daniel McGinn calls it, affected the market.

McGinn, who recently published a book on the topic, points to a convergence of personal economics and good old-fashioned status-seeking as one of the root causes of the crisis. More likely, it went much deeper, as a combination of the American Dream and a mass amnesia about economic reality took hold.

Identifying "primary drivers" for what caused house lust, McGinn cites the revolution in home finance. Many buyers, whose only qualification for a mortgage was a human pulse, obtained large loans. As rates dropped, homeowners also operated like "mini-CFOs, deciding just how much of their wealth to keep in their houses," he writes.

Millions figured if home prices were going to keep climbing at double-digit levels, whatever they pulled out of their homes in refinancing or home-equity loans would be replaced by appreciation.

Read the rest here.


Killing Your Idol: Fate Of Little Prince Author Revealed.

While flying recon over the Mediterranean The Little Prince or, as my 7th grade French teacher Ms. Perotta would prefer me to say, Le Petit Prince author Antoine de Saint Exupéry vanished. More than a half-century later two novice history detectives appear to have solved this enduring enigma. Via The NY Times:

On July 31, 1944, Saint-Exupéry took off from the island of Corsica in a Lockheed Lightning P-38 reconnaissance plane*, one of numerous French pilots who assisted the Allied war effort. Saint-Exupéry never returned, and over the years numerous theories arose: that he had been shot down, lost control of his plane, even that he committed suicide.

The first clue surfaced in September 1998, when fishermen off this Mediterranean port city dragged up a silver bracelet with their nets. It bore the names of Saint-Exupéry and his New York publisher. Further searches by divers turned up the badly damaged remains of his plane, though the body of the pilot was never found.
In a somewhat ironic twist, the engine of a downed German fighter was discovered near the wreckage of Saint Exupéry's plane. This plane had belonged to a real-life young Prince(!):
The researchers deduced it had powered a Messerschmitt fighter plane, part of a training unit stationed in southern France from 1942 to 1944. It had been flown by Prince Alexis von Bentheim und Steinfurt, a 22-year-old who was shot down by American planes in late 1943, on his first and last solo flight. The tale might have ended there, with the death of the prince and of the Little Prince’s author. Yet Mr. von Gartzen was not content. Consulting archives and with the help of the staff of the Jägerblatt, a magazine for Luftwaffe veterans, he tracked down veterans who had flown in Prince von Bentheim’s unit, the Jagdgruppe 200. He contacted hundreds of former pilots, most now in their 80s; hundreds more had already died.

Then in July 2006, he telephoned a former pilot in Wiesbaden, Horst Rippert, explaining that he sought information about Saint-Exupéry. Without hesitating, Mr. Rippert replied, “You can stop searching. I shot down Saint-Exupéry.”

Mr. Rippert, who will be 86 in May, worked as a television sports reporter after the war. It was only days after he had shot down a P-38 with French colors near Marseille that he learned of Saint-Exupéry’s disappearance.

He was convinced he had shot him down, though he confided his conviction only to a diary. In 2003, when he learned that Saint-Exupéry’s plane had been located, his suspicion was confirmed. But still, he said nothing publicly.

Over the years, the thought that he might have killed Saint-Exupéry had troubled Mr. Rippert. As a youth in the 1930s, he had idolized the aviator-turned-author and had devoured his books, beginning with “Southern Mail,” in 1929, an adventure tale written while Saint-Exupéry was flying the Casablanca to Dakar route.
(Emphasis added).
Irony abounds. Saint-Exupéry was killed by one of his biggest fans who quietly bore this knowledge for 50+ years.

If ever there has been an example of the futility and far-reaching sadness of war, this is it.


*This article's author misses an important point in attributing Saint-Exupéry's flying style on his health problems. Recon planes typically had all of their weapons removed and replaced with camera equipment. If he were thus rendered defenseless, it would explain "the odd, evasive loops flown by Saint-Exupéry."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Black Ops Co. On Greens Like White On Rice

James Ridgeway reveals:

A private security company organized and managed by former Secret Service officers spied on Greenpeace and other environmental organizations from the late 1990s through at least 2000, pilfering documents from trash bins, attempting to plant undercover operatives within groups, casing offices, collecting phone records of activists, and penetrating confidential meetings. According to company documents provided to Mother Jones by a former investor in the firm, this security outfit collected confidential internal records—donor lists, detailed financial statements, the Social Security numbers of staff members, strategy memos—from these organizations and produced intelligence reports for public relations firms and major corporations involved in environmental controversies.

In addition to focusing on environmentalists, the firm, Beckett Brown International (later called S2i), provided a range of services to a host of clients. According to its billing records, BBI engaged in "intelligence collection" for Allied Waste; it conducted background checks and performed due diligence for the Carlyle Group, the Washington-based investment firm; it provided "protective services" for the National Rifle Association; it handled "crisis management" for the Gallo wine company and for Pirelli; it made sure that the Louis Dreyfus Group, the commodities firm, was not being bugged; it engaged in "information collection" for Wal-Mart; it conducted background checks for Patricia Duff, a Democratic Party fundraiser then involved in a divorce with billionaire Ronald Perelman; and for Mary Kay, BBI mounted "surveillance," and vetted Gayle Gaston, a top executive at the cosmetics company (and mother of actress Robin Wright Penn), retaining an expert to conduct a psychological assessment of her. Also listed as clients in BBI records: Halliburton and Monsanto.

BBI, which was headquartered in Easton, Maryland, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, worked extensively, according to billing records, for public-relations companies, including Ketchum, Nichols-Dezenhall Communications, and Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin. At the time, these PR outfits were servicing corporate clients fighting environmental organizations opposed to their products or actions. Ketchum, for example, was working for Dow Chemical and Kraft Foods; Nichols-Dezenhall, according to BBI records, was working with Condea Vista, a chemical manufacturing firm that in 1994 leaked up to 47 million pounds of ethylene dichloride, a suspected carcinogen, into the Calcasieu River in Louisiana.
(Mother Jones)

A fascinating read tho' the dirt dug up on these "garbage swipers" is enough to make you nauseous.


NY Times Profiles PREX

The Princeton Record Exchange is one of the East Coast's truly great vinyl Meccas. I've been skint recently but I have fond memories of pawing through their bins looking for 7"s. (There's never enough to stock my '66 Seeburg Discotheque).

Dig The Times on PREX here.


$600 Million For Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Oh, That Reconstruction.

On Tuesday, US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker told Sen. Carl Levin that we're “no longer involved in the physical reconstruction business." What's funny is that as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Levin had just received a tiny little request:

The same day we’re asked to shift $600 million to reconstruction.” He (Levin) added that “today the president says we’re almost down to zero” in terms of reconstruction spending.

Gates told Levin that there must be some confusion and that perhaps the money was intended to pay Iraqi police or other military forces, but that it was most likely not for reconstruction.

About 15 minutes later, Gates was passed a note by an aide. He stopped the proceedings to offer an apology to Levin, concluding that the $600 million was in fact intended for reconstruction. “[T]here are actually things that go on that I don’t know about,” said Gates by way of explanation. “I will take a very close look at it. ... I think this is an area where there is broad agreement the Iraqis should be spending their own money.”
(Politico's "The Crypt")
This is yet another indicator of just how fucked up and unbelievably expensive Bush's Iraq Adventure has become that Gates (and Crocker too) has no idea that his DOD requested $600 million for a reconstruction program he thought no longer existed.

HT: TPM Muckraker

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The VA Won't Register Wounded Vet Voters

More Republican politicization of the Federal Government... The GOP can't take the chance that the majority of the tens of thousands of our wounded would vote against John "100 years" McCain. Their excuse is a whopper.

has the story:

VA remains opposed to becoming a voter registration agency pursuant to the National Voter Registration Act, as this designation would divert substantial resources from our primary mission.
Just what is the VA's primary mission?
Our goal is to provide excellence in patient care, veterans' benefits and customer satisfaction. We have reformed our department internally and are striving for high quality, prompt and seamless service to veterans. Our department's employees continue to offer their dedication and commitment to help veterans get the services they have earned. Our nation's veterans deserve no less.
Apparently ensuring our wounded vets' right to vote is not amongst those "services they've earned." More Bush Administration lies and misdirection via Raw Story:
(Secretary of Veterans Affairs James ) Peake defends the decision by saying that a court recently ruled the VA's limits on "partisan political activities" "does not on its face violate [veterans'] First Amendment' rights," Rosenfeld notes, without articulating how registering veterans is a partisan activity.
"Partisan political activities"? That's rich. The level of contempt these Republican "Support Our Troops"- car-magnet-sporting-lapel-flag-pin-wearing-assholes have for our military continues to astonish.


Top Ten John McCain Myths

Let's get down to it boppers...Media Matters hits the biggies*:
#6. Just about all you need to know about John McCain's character is that he showed courage as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

I don't think so. That's not all we need to know for people tend to change a lot in 40 years.

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.

*For some reason Media Matters is counting up rather than counting down i.e. the #1 John McCain myths is #10 and vice versa. I hate that.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Uncle Anacher's Punk Rock Tales: Beck

OK, so in 1994 a new band I was working with played a radio station festival. At said festival a young Beck Hansen was playing his first big show outside LA. Mellow Gold had just been released. If I remember correctly, I ingested half a hit of high quality acid – Hey, I wasn’t driving. It added a nice lil' sparkle to the festivities.

Beck’s band trotted out to a rousing ovation. Their stage clothes and in some cases their hair were adorned with selections from their backstage deli and crudités platters. An original, inventive and highly charged 45 minute set followed. Sadly, the crowd expected “Loser” parts deux through douze. Beck left the stage to a polite smattering of applause while most of the 1500 present were just plain confused. I was one of the smatterers.

Later I found myself standing next to Beck. I struck up a conversation with him. Now this is not something I normally do. I’m not big on bugging musicians I don’t work with, who don’t know me and to whom I haven’t been introduced. Beck looked bummed. So that night I made an exception.

I told him how and why I was impressed by his set. Beck's crisis of confidence was revealed in his reply, “They didn’t get it.” I countered with “Some people take this shit way too fucking seriously.” I smiled, bid him adieu and walked away.

The rest as they say is history.


They Said It. I Repeat It.

In terms of style, they all did just fine. But this is really not a Commander-in-Chief test. I mean the test is so low here it’s the question is have they flubbed it enough to embarrass themselves and therefore disqualify themselves as Commander-in-Chief. And as we saw in 2000, you can flub any number of times and still be considered to have passed some notional Commander-in-Chief test. And that didn’t work out so well.
Newsweek/MSNBC analyst Richard Wolfe*

*On Countdown with Keith Olbermann describing whether or not any of the Presidential candidates passed any Commander-in-Chief test while grilling Gen. Petraeus.


Tuesday, April 8, 2008

LTE: "We Owe Teens This"

While I was in Pittsburgh this weekend, waiting for Mrs. Forester to awaken, I read my complimentary hotel copy of The Post-Gazette. The VP for Education of Planned Parenthood wrote this Letter To The Editor. It deftly exposes the abstinence-only crowd's argument against sex education as a classic straw man:

As an educator who has been teaching comprehensive sexuality education to teens for more than seven years, I wanted to correct any impression that my job is to lecture about condoms, the pill and oral sex.

Our goal is to provide teens with the proper tools and education to help them make healthy and responsible decisions for themselves. Comprehensive sexuality education is abstinence-based: We emphasize that abstinence is the only way to truly prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. Our classes do cover correct condom use and birth control methods, but teens also learn to identify their own values about sexuality and to practice negotiation and refusal skills to reduce risks involved with sexual activity. All of the curricula that we use are evidence-based, medically accurate and are recommended by the CDC.

Our programs give teens the opportunity to ask questions and get a response that is nonjudgmental and accurate. While abstinence-only-until-marriage curricula take away responsibility by treating teens like they aren't hormonally charged beings bombarded with sexual messages from television and advertising every day, comprehensive sexuality education recognizes that teens are complex people living in a complex society making decisions on their own -- sometimes decisions we don't want them to make.
(Emphasis added).

I could not have said it better myself.


Top Ten John McCain Myths

Media Matters wraps up the first half:

#5. John McCain doesn't do things just because they're politically expedient.

That's a giant crock.

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.


Monday, April 7, 2008

They Said It. I Repeat It.

“These people are like barnacles on the hull of Democracy.”*
Christian Finnegan


*Referring to unregistered voter Heidi Montag's support of John McCain on Countdown with Keith Olbermann.

Ever Come Home From A Wedding...

...With a two day hangover? Me neither. At least not yet.


Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Gun Didn't Know I Was Loaded...

And even if it did, we can't be sure I was holding it. That's my translation of John Yoo's defense of his torture memos. Esquire's interview here. TPM's Paul Kiel has analysis here and here (on Ashcroft initially being kept out of the loop). WaPo has the Ashcroft skinny.

+Snuck a post in before heading off to the cathedral. And yes, I know snuck is not a word.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

OK So I Lied...Wiretapping And Another Top Ten McCain Myth

TPM has a crucial interview with The NYT's Eric Lichtblau re: wiretapping.

I also nearly forgot Media Matters' John McCain Myth #4:
John McCain Is A Reformer.

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.

See you on Sunday.


Traveling Music

There's no better traveling music than The Singing Ranger, Nova Scotia's own Hank Snow.

No posting till Sunday. I'm headed to a wedding this weekend. It's a good 350+ mile drive.


Goodling's Part In The Great Republican Perpetual Power Ploy

Harper's Scott Horton reveals on how this latest Goodling bombshell may well indicative of a much larger GOP scheme. I call it The Great Republican Perpetual Power Ploy:

As I noted in “Vote Machine,” one simmering scandal inside of the Justice Department relates to the consistent carefully schemed effort to force career DOJ employees out to make way for political hacks recruited and placed in career positions. A number of different techniques were employed to realize this plan. In an interview I conducted recently with a retired first assistant U.S. attorney, I heard how one U.S. attorney with notorious political ambitions had used a buyout scheme to take out a large number of senior career attorneys. No sooner were they gone than their places were filled with a group of new attorneys–each of whom was well known for involvement in Republican Party politics. On January 20, 2009, the political appointees at Justice will be submitting their resignations so the new president can select and install his own team. However, the career track placements from the Bush era are there for keeps. Will they serve as a fifth column to obstruct the agenda of a new Democratic administration? That may well be the idea.
(emphasis added)
Mr. Horton's touched on something I've been thinking of the for at least a year now. This fifth column is an unbelievably important factor in our future. I have stopped and started an epic series of posts any number of times because it became too unwieldy. Looks like it's time to resurrect them.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Incidental Introspection*

If bowling prowess is an indicator of Presidential ability, my bud Davey and I would make better Presidents than Barack Obama. That is so not the case.


*Title changed: 11/14/08

Vanity Fair Torture Blockbuster


Shorter version: even the lies were based on lies on top of lies.

I also would like to point out that, between Abu Ghraib Commander Colonel Janis Karpinski and Gitmo staff judge advocate Lt. Colonel Diane Beaver, the manly men of the Bush Administration fraternity ensured that women would be stuck holding the bag for their depraved indifference to human rights.



Mountain Dew And Clorox Are The New Condoms

Another Abstinence-Only Disaster... Atrios calls attention to Florida where some kids think "drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy."


More Racist Right Wing Drivel

McCain voted against MLK day in 1983. His home state of Arizona has a bad MLK Day history

Bring Back The Draft?

General Cody made some very broad hints to Congress. Will George and Dick listen to the generals now? Fuck no. This won’t make them start.

A broken Armed Forces has become part of their scorched-earth policy. It's feeds what I call The Great Republican Perpetual Power Ploy. The GOP has all but ceded the race to the Democrats. They just want to limit their losses. George, Dick and the Republicans want to leave their entire mess for the next President to try to clean up. That will include a draft.

Obstructed at every turn, our next President (D) will have a difficult time of it. He’ll be forced to make difficult and unpopluar decisions. All of the standard GOP bullshit about how Democrats are weak on security, foreign policy, the economy, etc., will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The MSM will buy into it and spread it. Presto Change-O. We have a one term Democratic Presidency followed by a new "Republican Revolution."


PS How long before General Cody is put out to pasture?

She Fired Her Because Jesus & Pat Robertson Told Her To

Looks like Monica Goodling singled out DOJ lawyer over "lesbian rumors." TPM tells the tale.


The Latest Congressional Oil Hearings

McClatchy sez Exxon-Mobil and friends came ready to rumble:

The oil industry denounced the hearing as "political theater" before it even started.

"Assaulting an American industry with punitive taxes, additional federal renewable fuel mandates that may have a negative impact on supply and actually increase greenhouse gas emissions, and the exploitation of its executives for just another Capitol Hill photo op is hardly a remedy that will produce the desired relief for consumers," said Charles Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association...

Republicans and Democrats alike warned the executives that there would be a backlash against the companies and their record profits.

"The anger level is rising significantly," Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Missouri, told the executives. "Your approval ratings are lower than ours, and that's damn low."

Hello? There would be a backlash? The backlash is in full swing. Big Oil knows we hate them for how increased oil prices have raised the price of everything. I don't think they care what this has done to our economy. They know we'll continue to buy their product at incremental 8% price increases. Oil had nothing to lose by coming out swinging.

The longer they stall any action against them, the more cash they bring in. Like our government, the rationale for their actions morphs as required. Limited refinery capacity, Katrina, space slugs, leprechauns, blah blah blah, no longer cut it. McClatchy:

The oil companies stayed on the offensive, blaming high consumer gas prices on a myriad of factors, but mostly on speculation and the declining value of the U.S. dollar.
That's rich. A huge factor contributing to speculation and the declining value of the U.S. dollar would be the Iraq war. You know, the war where before we went in, our oil President "allowed" our Vice-President to have his little energy task force with Big Oil execs to carve up Iraq's underexploited oil reserves. Besides, if you don't think the oil companies flipped their dollars to euros some time ago, you are absolutely fucking nuts . That couldn't have helped the dollar any. Since last year Jay-Z has traded in his benjamins for bin Ladens (at least in his videos).More McClatchy:

Exxon, the world's most profitable publicly traded corporation, was most defensive about its profits, but took a hard line with the committee on legislation that would rescind an $18 billion tax break for the five biggest oil companies and use the money to encourage investment in renewable and alternative energy. In addition to Exxon, the committee heard from Shell, BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips.

Overall, though, the oil companies tried to put a friendly face on the amount of money they're spending on developing U.S. oil and gas resources as well as alternative fuels research. But they also warned that for the foreseeable future, the U.S. — and the world — will continue to depend on fossil fuels even as new technologies are developed.

They are counting on it. Led by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Congressman Ed Markey the committee did their best not to let Big Oil off the hook. Bloomberg:

The hearing probed the industry's fight against the House proposal for new taxes to promote alternative energy. Though Markey's committee has no authority to advance bills, it is laying the groundwork for legislation that would cut planet- warming emissions of greenhouse gases from fossil-fuel use.

Taxes should be fair, stable and pro-competitive, principles these proposals violate,'' Exxon's Simon said.

Markey took Simon to task for investing $100 million on renewable energy, while raking in $40 billion in profit last year.

``You can't have it both ways,'' Markey said. ``You can't on the one hand be nickel and diming renewables at Exxon Mobil and at the same time be recording $40 billion in profits.''

``Putting more money into something does not necessarily equal progress,'' Simon said.
We are painfully aware of that Mr. Simon (see Iraq War).

With the greatest profit in the history of this industry, it flips my lid that Big Oil has done so little to develop alternative energy sources. British Petroleum may be leading the way but I hardly call natural gas an "alternative technology." It too is a finite resource.

Like global warming deniers (almost all of which are subsidized by Big Oil or are just bat shit crazy stupid), they are seriously shortsighted. They must know we're past peak oil, right? Take the "Oil" outta "Big Oil" and you have Big Nothing.

Maybe this generation of oil execs still counts on access to Iraq's vast oil reserves to postpone the massive investment of capital needed to change their business model. Or perhaps they sleep sound in the knowledge that whenever that day comes, they will have enough euros to buy a new model.


McCain's Lobbyist Connections

Media Matters Action has a handy-dandy chart showing John McCain and the lobbyists he's surrounded himself with. Click on the individual lobbyist to find what he or she has lobbied for.


+Update: Thinkprogress gets specific.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Where's Sully?

Andrew Sullivan takes "a week or so off". Sane, thoughtful, less self-absorbed people everywhere rejoice.


Bush Prosecuted Mississippi Democratic Judge

It's a Raw Story.

The cast of characters includes some familiar faces. with from former Democratic Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman's case: Karl Rove, Republican "consultant" William Canary, Bill's wife US Attorney Leura Canary, current Republican Alabama Republican Governor Bob Riley, etc., plus Justice Antonin Scalia and the Choctaws (Doesn't Antonin Scalia and the Choctaws sound like a cheesy Jersey bar band from the early '70s?)

This story also details something I've been interested in since last year: How the US Chamber of Commerce became an implement of Republican power. The Chamber is our country's largest trade organization. In the past decade since Republican BBF Tom Donohue took charge, has spent $369,914,680 topping opensecrets' lobbyist spending chart. The organization also spent $60 million during the last presidential election.

Three months ago The LA Times took a closer look after Donohue pledged to "punish" populist "ani-business" candidates:

Under Donohue, the organization has also frequently aligned itself with GOP priorities.

Since he took over the chamber, contributions by businesses have soared, often to pay for political advertising known as "issue ads," which are exempt from many of the Federal Election Commission limits.

Under a system Donohue pioneered, corporations contribute money to the chamber, which then finances attack ads targeting individual candidates without revealing the name of the businesses involved in the ads.

In 2000, drug companies paid the chamber to run advertisements in Michigan to help elect then-Republican Sen. Spencer Abraham. Pharmaceutical companies that year gave the chamber additional millions to run issue ads attacking mostly Democratic House candidates. And large corporations paid $1 million or more to support advertising campaigns against judges deemed too friendly to plaintiffs.

There has been pressure from lawsuits and government activist groups to require the chamber to reveal the source of its political funds and more details on its spending.

Donohue is not inclined to do so.

"I will disclose any funds I am legally required to disclose -- and not disclose any others," Donohue said. "We are exercising our constitutional right to petition the government and we will continue to do so."
If by "petitioning the government" Donohue means accepting big money from big business to run blind "issue" ads attacking primarily Democratic candidates, then he's stretching the definition pretty damn far. More proof that we'll never have "free" elections in this country until we get meaningful election reform.

Workers make less due to inflation, health care and cost of living increases. Big business makes more and more money. Big business spreads some of that profit around under the radar to the Tom Donohues to keep things headed in this "right" direction. As it stands right now, this game is fixed.


KO's 1st Anniversary Show

I watched Keith Olbermann's 5th Anniversary show on MSNBC a few hours ago. One of the centerpieces of the show was a rebroadcast of Olbermann's August 30, 2006 first "Special Comment" ripping Donald L. Rumsfeld. For many of us this was a true "defining moment." I vividly remember watching it at that time.

As a former broadcast professional, I found it really weird that this "Special Comment" video was pristine but the audio sounded super shitty -- like it was recorded down the hall. What was up with that? It sounded like MSNBC had to get the audio from a secondary source. Did they not think Olbermann was going to last and ditch the masters or is there some more mundane reason for the poor sound quality?

Dunno. I found it very strange.