Monday, February 19, 2007

The Trillion Dollar War: the costs won't stop when the fighting does

National has a fantastic running counter showing the cost of the war to Date, and what else that money could have bought. Its an incredibly sobering website if you've never been; especially since, as I'm writing this diary, that number is up to: $363,274,750,000.00 and climbing every second

And staggering as the number is, there is only one slight problem with it.

It's Low. By between 100 and 200%.

At least that's what A New Harvard University Study on the future costs of veterans health care has concluded:
Medical costs for U.S. veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could range from $350 billion to $662 billion over the next 40 years,

If you add this future liability to the "hard costs" of this war, we are already over the $1 Trillion dollar mark. Apparently, the problem is the soldiers just aren't dying enough:
soldiers survive injuries that would have killed them in past conflicts, according to a Harvard University study,... Due to improvements in battlefield medicine and equipment, there are now about 16 "nonmortally wounded" soldiers for every death, far more than the 2.6 soldiers wounded per death in Vietnam, the study said, citing Department of Veterans' Affairs data.

In other words, even the horrific death toll of 3,411 US soldiers, is misleading when considering the true human costs of the war. A favorite tactic of the few remaining war supporters has been to mock the "low" death toll of this war compared to conflicts past. They point out that as many Americans have died in Iraq as Died in One day of the D-day invasion. But, as this study shows us, a pure comparison of numbers creates a false statistic.

Consider the example given in the article. In Vietnam if the death toll was at 3,400 soldiers that would have meant that you could expect that another 8,000-odd were wounded. But In this conflict, thanks to all the improvements in medicine and life saving techniques we have roughly 55,000 wounded. Or looked at another way, we didn't have as many wounded soldiers in Vietnam as we do today until the death toll there had reached nearly 20,000 or nearly half of the 10-year total.

Worse yet, the numbers in the Study may be MUCH lower than the real costs because of the assumptions they used:

The potential costs include medical care, disability payments and other benefits paid to injured veterans and assume that 44 percent of veterans eventually claim disability. That was the percentage of claims from the first Gulf War. Bilmes' calculations assume that by 2016, 2 million soldiers will have participated in these wars.

The problem is, this war is VERY different from the First Gulf War, or ANY previous war. As previous statistics have shown the Kinds of Injuries we are seeing from this war are MUCH more severe than in conflicts past. For example, The military's own data shows that the amputation rate for this war has been twice that of any war since the Civil War(when amputation was basically the ONLY surgical technique available to battlefield doctors) and 1 in 5 or 20% of all wounded soldiers have had severe head trauma.

This is particularly bad because:

The angle of the force of these IEDs is right for the neck and face. That's been devastating to folks over there," said Holt, explaining that Kevlar helmets do not protect the underside of heads and necks, where crucial nerves and blood vessels lie. ...These injuries, surgeons said, have long-term implications, with many involving irreversible brain damage, breathing and eating impairments, blindness, or severe disfiguration. The study prompted the military to add a full-time head and neck surgeon to a Baghdad field hospital.

"These folks are just starting to come back, and they may require care for a long, long time," said Holt.

(If you want to know precisely how bad these injuries are, and you have a strong stomach, I suggest you check out this New England Journal of Medicine Photo essay about caring for the wounded in Iraq.

So not only are more of our soldiers coming back alive, but they more broken than in any previous war. This means that fixing them up is likely to be a VERY long and expensive prospect for us that will Dwarf even the ruinous costs of fighting this war.

When I was younger and still thought wars and militarism was somehow cool, I read extensively on the subject, and from that reading I recall a paragraph about guerilla tactics that for obvious reasons has come very much to mind of late:

:For the Guerilla, success will come not in killing your enemy but in wounding them severely. Killing a soldier will only gain you victory if you can kill enough of them so that the enemy has no more to send. A dead soldier costs his country very little: the cost of funeral, perhaps some provision for his widow and children and that's it. Now a WOUNDED soldier on the other hand, requires rescue, transport, medical care, and years, if not a lifetime of expensive rehabilitation. Thus wounding soldiers is far better than killing them as it will allow you to paralyze the enemy, destroy the morale of his soldiers and bankrupt his country."

When I look at the staggering, ever-increasing number that is the true cost of this war; I can't help but wonder if that long forgotten author might not be right.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The new Congress is ALREADY changing things for the better

Talk about service. Even though they won't be sworn in for another month, our Dems are already causing a rollback some of the most egregious abuses of power from the last six years. The looming specter of Democratically controlled committees armed with subpoena power is starting to "Scare Straight" a lot of Agency folks all over Washington who've decided that they really aren't willing to go to jail for W.

For example, miraculously this week, The DOJ, decided they really ought take another look at warrantless wiretapping just to, ya know, make sure it's legal and all:

The[DOJ] is launching an internal review of its participation in the [NSA's] domestic eavesdropping program, ...The review, which congressional Democrats have sought for nearly a year, will examine the Justice Department's role in the warrantless domestic spying program

What an amazing coincidence that this should come up on their to-do list now eh?

Of course, according to the DOJ, the timing is purest coincidence. Perish the thought that it's Brown Trousers Time at the DOJ! No, it's just that their ever vigilant internal watchdogs had some, shall we call them concerns:

Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine said.

"After conducting initial inquiries into the program, we have decided to open a program review that will examine the department's controls and use of information related to the program and the department's compliance with legal requirements governing the program,"

look carefully upon that sentence fragment children, you will never see a finer example of Washington CYA-speak in the wild than this one. Note the careful beige neutrality of the language: "we have decided to open a program review to examine". Not that anything is necessarily WRONG mind you, they are just "reviewing" it. Whether they actually find something will depend on which way the political winds blow next.

Also, as an indication of how bad they think this might get; note the pre-emptive "Hey, I was doing MY job" opening : "after conducting initial inquiries into the program". That's the classic cry of a Washington Bureaucrat who sees an impending fecal matter/air circulator collision
This might as well be screaming "See? we looked into this. Really we Did! Sure we might have taken a while, but hey, slow and steady and all that...". You see they know that people rarely go to jail for being too slow and deliberate; but jail cells are FILLED with people that turned a blind eye towards shennanigans.

Of Course the IG can fairly claim that it IS awful hard to conduct an inquiry into anything when his staff isn't even cleared to know the program exists (despite what they read in say every major newspaper in the world,):

Fine said he was notified last week that the White House had granted security clearances to his staff in response to a request he made on October 20. Previously, only Fine and two members of his staff were given clearance, a prerequisite for conducting such a review, he said.

well nice to know the White House has decided after ONLY a month that it actually trusts its own DOJ IG's office eh? I mean it's not like there is ANY mechanism for say, pre-clearing them when they are hired or anything. But then I'm sure the "nobody could have anticipated" that the Inspector General's Office at the DOJ would EVER have need access to classified material right?

Still lets give credit where credit it due. The DOJ's actions brought a rare moment of praise for that agency from the ACLU:

"We applaud Inspector General Fine for his perseverance in pushing for this investigation and hope it will be comprehensive and free from political pressure," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office.

she, gasped out, before losing her battle to keep a straight face, and rolling on the floor in laughter.

Well its only a baby step, to be sure, in the right direction; but it IS a step. And that is one HELL of a lot better than what we've had for the LAST 6 years where the laws were apparently treated as optional. At least now they are aware there IS a law they might be breaking and NO they AREN'T allowed to do that, even when the president says "pretty please with sugar on top". Had the elections gone the other way, I sincerely doubt the executive would be experiencing anything like this "great awakening"; but they didn't and we are.

So lets take a moment to admire the system working as it should, even BEFORE we officially take power. Let's also admire the steadfast determination of our heroes Conyers, Dingell, Feingold, Waxman etc who have thus far been lonely voices in the wilderness, but whose impending rise to power has a lot to do with this sudden outbreak of Scrupulosity in the executive branch.

This should be a very INTERESTING next two years no?

Fear and Loathing on K street- And a lobbying reform proposal that will make us stronger.

In the wake of the Democratic electoral landslide; it straight up sucks to be a K Street Lobbying Firm

The Democrats' takeover of Congress this month has turned official Washington upside down.

Corporations that once boasted about their Republican ties are busily hiring Democratic lobbyists. And industries worried about reprisals from the new Democrats-in-charge, especially the pharmaceutical industry, are sending out woe-is-me memos and hoping their GOP connections will protect them in the crunch.

Ahh my friends will you never learn? Sooner or later the worm always turns. And this November it took a very Hard Left, leaving some of the largest corporations looking upon the wreckage of the fabled K Street Project and Despairing:

As a recently leaked e-mail shows:

"We woke up the day after the election to a new world," said Ken Johnson, spokesman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "We're going to have tough days ahead of us."

A post-election e-mail to executives at the drug company GlaxoSmithKline details just how tough. "We now have fewer allies in the Senate," says the internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post. "Thus, there is greater risk over the next two years that bad amendments will be offered to pending legislation." The company's primary concerns are bills that would allow more imported drugs and would force price competition for drugs bought under Medicare.

The defeat of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) "creates a big hole we will need to fill," the e-mail says. Sen.-elect Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "is expected to be a problem," { knock em out the box John Knock em out!>-ed} it says, and the elevation to the Senate of Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) "will strengthen his ability to challenge us."

In other words they are scared, but unfortunately not scared enough. They believe that they just have to re-learn whose rings and posteriors need kissing and it'll be business as usual for them:

The e-mail also mentions that Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) "has worked closely" with the company and that the firm's PAC had supported six Democratic senators who faced reelection. "These relationships should help us moderate proposals offered by Senate Democrats," the e-mail says.

interest groups, in general, are not concerned about the changes the election has brought. "We lost many friends in this election," said Steven C. Anderson, president of the Republican-leaning National Restaurant Association. "But that doesn't mean we can't make new friends, and that's what we'll do."

I'd like to believe that these corporate Welfare Queens are in for a bit of Shock when Sheriff Pelosi rides into town. Certainly the Top Dems are saying the right things:

Democratic congressional leaders have expressed disdain for their predecessors' fealty to "special interests." That is why they are planning an elaborate assault on lobbyists during their first week in session. Through changes in laws and in House rules, Democrats hope to ban lobbyist-provided gifts and travel to lawmakers and to create an Office of Public Integrity to oversee the disclosures that lobbyists must make about clients and fees.

But as My old Latin teacher would say Acta non Verba and the acta is less encouraging:

Democratic lobbyists prospected for new clients on the very night last week that House Democrats elected their leaders on an anti-lobbyist platform. Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (Md.) and Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (S.C.) were feted on the 10th and ninth floors, respectively, at 101 Constitution Ave. NW, a premier lobbying venue at the foot of Capitol Hill. Some of the city's top firms are in that building, including the lobbying arm of Goldman Sachs, the American Council of Life Insurers, Clark Consulting Federal Policy Group and Van Scoyoc Associates.

Hoyer's political action committee financed his reception in a room routinely used for lobbying and other events, but Clyburn's was paid for by Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, a South Carolina-based law firm that lobbies extensively in Washington on health care and other issues and has offices in that building.

Dozens of lobbyists attended both functions and shuttled from one party to the other. "The elevators were jammed," said Gwen Mellor, a Democrat at the lobbying firm PodestaMattoon, who collected business cards that evening.

and some "Democratic" Lobbying firms seem awful eager to Meringue with firms that most Democrats, at least rhetorically, regard as the spawn of Satan:

Podesta said he had already signed up Wal-Mart and British Petroleum in anticipation of a Democratic victory. Now he is even busier fielding offers from other potential clients. "I've got a fairly full schedule of marketing meetings that are real," he said. "I did some right after the election, and I have four or five set up for next week."

So here's the part where my Modest proposal comes in, to:
A) stop the madness,
B)look like the good guys and indeed BE the good guys all the while
C) Maintaining our majorities and crippling the Republicans in the next

election cycle:

Basically, we need to Shutter the K. Street Porject forever; something tht's not currently on the agenda of our leaders. In fact, Steny already has something he calls "the Monday group" which he's Publicly stated he wants to turn into "the Democratic K Street Project."

That a VERY BAD idea. Yes K street can raise a TON of Cash, no question. However the strings attached to the money means letting large corporations have their way with our energy supplies, drug prices, environmental quality, etc. For Republicans this is all but their party platform in a nutshell anyway, so it's no big deal. We’d like to think we’re different however. So playing that game would be much more painful for our side, in fact, I dare say it's impossible without betraying core principles of our party and making much of our most cherished rhetoric into a lie. Not only would it be wrong, but betraying those principles would have a grave effect on our electoral fortunes as well.

The counter argument to the "Republican Culture of Corruption" I heard most often from "centrists" this year was "Yeah, but both parties are the same, they are both corrupt and both enslaved to the corporations; it amkes no difference which one I vote for." This means that there is a huge pool of disenchanted swing voter we can tap if we can consistently prove this isn't true. But that means NO playing footsie with the K-Street Crowd. The problem I've heard from Democrats is, this makes about as much sense as unilateral disarmament. They say that like it or not, this is how the game is played. Thus we'd simply be helping the Republicans by refusing to take advantage of our positions they way they did.

However there IS a way to do this, (refuse to take K. street Cash), that WON'T be helping our opponents either. It IS possible to be ethical and play hardball all at once, you see. Money is felt in its presence, but also its absence. Thus denying cash to your enemies has the same leveling effect as raising your own funds, but with far less ethical messiness and owing of favors afterwards. And that is in essence my Modest proposal:

Tell the K Street firms and their corporate patrons unequivocally that we want none of their filthy lucre. However, make it equally clear that we want the Republicans cut off completely as well. Tell them that if they give ONE DIME to our opponents, they are dead to us. No meetings, no favors, no face time with so much as the office summer intern. It needs to be made clear that the days of supporting both sides and hoping for the best after the elections are OVER. IF they want any access, any consideration at all on Capitol Hill, their bank accounts, and those of thier lobbying firms and chief executives had better be innocent of any Republican contributions.

The Dems have proven this election cycle that we can and did raise A LOT of money from channels that have nothing to do with lobbyists and corporations, since we were cut off by the K Street Project, we got creative and tapped other sources. The Republicans on the other hand are Vein-jabbing addicts of what K. Street has to offer, they are almost exclusive dependant on them for funding. Forcing them to go "cold turkey" is going to be extremely painful to them, whereas we'll barely notice it. Which means that not we be able to we outspend them; we can do it with squeaky clean funds. And THAT has the added bonus of cutting off the rallying crime of "throw the bums out" that's usually the minority party's strongest card to play.

Stephen Hawking has a better chance of "Standing up" than the Iraqi Army according to US Generals

Supposedly, the training of an effective, independent Iraqi army has been the lynch-pin of the US's exit strategy in Iraq (excuse me, "Victory Plan"), indeed it could be argued it IS the strategy..

As the President himself has said nearly, ad nauseum:

Our approach can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down. And when that mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete, our troops will come home to a proud and grateful nation

So how that's whole "getting them ready so we can get the hell out of Dodge" thing going anyway?

Well, to paraphrase A series of unusually blunt, interviews with US officers overseeing the program; Steven Hawking has a better chance standing up than the Iraqi army does.
So how bad is it really? Even worse than you are imagining:

The U.S. military's effort to train Iraqi forces has been rife with problems, from officers being sent in with poor preparation to a lack of basic necessities such as interpreters and office materials, according to internal Army documents...In dozens of official interviews.., officers who had been involved in training and advising Iraqis bluntly criticized almost every aspect of the effort.

And when they say EVERY aspect they mean EVERY Aspect:

Sullivan, who advised three infantry companies in the Iraqi army, called the U.S. Army's instruction for the mission "very disappointing."

Some officers thought that team members were often selected poorly. Others fretted that the soldiers who prepared them had never served in Iraq and lacked understanding of the tasks of training and advising. Many said they felt insufficiently supported by the Army while in Iraq, with intermittent shipments of supplies and interpreters who often did not seem to understand English.

Yes you read that right, the first major hurdle these advisors attempting to re-mak the Iraqi Army faced was one of communication. Most of their "interpreters" couldn't actually ,you know, technically , speak and understand English:

After arriving in Iraq, advisers said, they often were shocked to find that the interpreters assigned to them were of little use. Ciesinski reported that at his base in western Nineveh province, "They couldn't speak English and we would have to fire them."...

"It was a real juggling act" with interpreters, he said, noting that he would run from the headquarters to a company "to borrow an interpreter, run him over to say something, and then send him back."

The Center for Army Lessons Learned study, found one unit that learned after 10 frustrating months that its interpreters were "substandard" and had been translating the advisers' instructions so poorly that their Iraqi pupils had difficulty understanding the concepts being taught.

However even if there Hadn't been a language barrier, there was the slight problem that few if any of the US officers training the soldiers trainers really knew what the hell they were doing in the first place:

[the] Center for Army Lessons Learned, (CALL) , found that there was "no standardized guideline" for preparing advisers and that such instruction was needed because "a majority of advisors have little to no previous experience or training."

reported Maj. Mike Sullivan, who advised an Iraqi army battalion in 2004. "I went there with the wrong attitude and I thought I understood Iraq and the history because I had seen PowerPoint slides, but I really didn't."

said Lt. Col. Paul Ciesinski, ..." when we got to Iraq we could hardly shoot, we could hardly move and we could hardly communicate, because we hadn't been trained on how to do these things." ..., adding sarcastically: "They packed 30 days' training into 84 days."

and those were the Senior commanders talking. On the brigade and company levels the US personnel's lack of experience became even MORE glaring leading to a "don't teach your Grandma to suck eggs" problem with the Iraq officer corps:

Iraqis also had some complaints about their U.S. advisers, most notably that junior U.S. officers who had never seen combat were counseling senior Iraqi officers who had fought in several wars."

And that's only when and IF the Unit could actually find/trust qualified officers:

Many worried that the Iraqi units being advised contained insurgents. An Iraqi National Guard battalion "was infiltrated by the enemy," said Maj. Michael Monti, a Marine who was an adviser in the Upper Euphrates Valley in 2004 and 2005.

Some advisers reported being personally targeted by infiltrators. "We had insurgents that we detected and arrested in the battalion that were planning an operation against me and my team," Allen said.

But Iraqi officers may have had even more to fear, because their families were also vulnerable. "I went through seven battalion commanders in eight weeks," Allen noted. Dixon reported that in Samarra both his battalion commander and intelligence officer deserted just before a major operation.

"Numerous teams have lieutenants . . . to fill the role of advisor to an Iraqi colonel counterpart," the Lessons Learned report stated.

It got so bad for some that:

Farrell, the officer in east Baghdad, said some advisers were literally "phoning in" their work. Some would not leave the forward operating base "more than one or two days out of the week -- instead they would just call the Iraqis on cell phones," he said.

Still, there IS one bright spot in this report. Unlike their poetical leaders in Washington, the generals and officers involved in this effort are and capable of learning from their mistakes

Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, a staff officer with the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq in 2005 and 2006 who worked with Iraqi units, came away thinking that the Army fundamentally is not geared to the task of helping the advisory effort.

"The thing the Army institutionally is still struggling to learn is that the most important thing we do in counterinsurgency is building host-nation institutions," he told the interviewers, "yet all our organizations are designed around the least important line of operations: combat operations."

Yingling came to a broader conclusion. He recommended an entirely different orientation in Iraq, both for trainers and for regular U.S. units. "Don't train on finding the enemy," he said. "Train on finding your friends, and they will help you find your enemy. . . . Once you find your friends, finding the enemy is easy

One part of me, of course, wants to chalk this story up to "another day, another display of Katrina-Like competence from this Administration". Unfortunately, aside from a full-on "screw you guys I'm going home" pull-out; whipping the Iraqi Army into shape is basically the only hope we have for leaving Iraq anytime soon. In fact according to the Pentagon's new document on how to pull our heads out of the quagmire:

Pentagon officials are considering whether the number of Iraqi security forces needs to be far larger than the current target of about 325,000, which would require thousands more U.S. trainers.

Unfortunately, according to what we know now, adding those trainers under current conditions would be almost counterproductive. Now if I wasn't suffering from nearly chronic outrage fatigue, this is the point where I'd start getting PO'ed and demanding to know how the hell this could have been allowed to happen. Alas, I've come to almost accept lethal incompetence as par for the course from this Administration. So instead of figuring out how we arrived here I'm really left with only one question:

now what do we do?

USDA eliminates Hunger in America!

Well I am sure You'll all be pleased to note that as of today , Tuesday November 16 2006 The USDA has officially , announced that there are no longer any Hungry people in America.

Every year, the Agriculture Department issues a report that measures Americans' access to food, and it has consistently used the word "hunger" to describe those who can least afford to put food on the table. No longer....Beginning this year, the USDA has determined "very low food security" to be a more scientifically palatable description for that group.

How very Nice for them. Hate to think they'd have to use terms they find "unpalatable" to describe people who have no idea when or where their next meal is coming from; cause we have a LOT of these "people with Very Low Food Security":

The USDA said that 12 percent of Americans -- 35 million people -- could not put food on the table at least part of last year. Eleven million of them reported going hungry at times.
Sickening/Astounding/Sad isn't it? But wait there's more:

This is a problem that, I'm sure you will not be shocked to find out, Has been getting Worse not better in the last five years, so much so that the Government is falling FAR short of even the modest anti-hunger goals it set for itself:

The United States has set a goal of reducing the proportion of food-insecure households to 6 percent or less by 2010, or half the 1995 level, but it is proving difficult. The number of hungriest Americans has risen over the past five years. Last year, the total share of food-insecure households stood at 11 percent.

But You'll be reassured to know that the USDA swears they are changing this terminology NOT to hide their abject failure, but simply to Better and more accurately study the problem. Whew. That's a relief isn't it?

Three years ago, the USDA asked the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies "to ensure that the measurement methods USDA uses to assess households' access -- or lack of access -- to adequate food and the language used to describe those conditions are conceptually and operationally sound."

Among several recommendations, the panel suggested that the USDA scrap the word hunger, which "should refer to a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation."

Damn! why does that verbiage seem so familiar? Where else have I heard such elaborate and weasel-worded verbiage used to try to re-define a term which used to be perfectly well understood as a matter of common sense? hmmm... oh yes:
The Bush Administration's infamous Torture Memo. Compare and contrast:

Defined Torture as "severe physical or mental pain or suffering." which was defined as "involving damage that rises to the level of death, organ failure, or the permanent impairment of a significant body function."

Chilling innit?, Also Like the DOJ's Auto-da-Fe Legal Trust, the USDA scientists working on the hunger problem seem to exhibit that same Vulcan-like quality of detachment that allows them to say things like :

Mark Nord, the lead author of the report, said "hungry" is "not a scientifically accurate term ..."We don't have a measure of that condition. Hunger is clearly an important issue," Nord said. "But lacking a widespread consensus on what the word 'hunger' should refer to, it's difficult for research to shed meaningful light on it."

Tell ya what, Mr. Nord, how's about you go all Morgan Spurlock on us and move into household dependant on food stamps for 30 days? I betcha by the 26th or 27th you'd have a pretty damn concrete idea of exactly what "hungry" means.

Now I'm sure you'll be shocked to find out that some people have had the absolute cheek to suggest that the USDA has less than pure motives for its nomenclatural re-alignment:

Anti-hunger advocates say the new words sugarcoat a national shame. "The proposal to remove the word 'hunger' from our official reports is a huge disservice to the millions of Americans who struggle daily to feed themselves and their families," said David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, an anti-hunger advocacy group. "We . . . cannot hide the reality of hunger among our citizens."

and perhaps they can be forgiven for their skepticism inasmuch as:

A) the USDA apparently played politics with the timing of the report:

The agency usually releases the report in the fall, for reasons that "have nothing to do with politics," Nord said.

This year, when the report failed to appear in October as it usually does, Democrats accused the Bush administration of delaying its release until after the midterm elections. Nord denied the contention, saying, "This is a schedule that was set several months ago."{ and of course several months ago nobody could have imagined that there'd be a midterm election in early November--ED}

B) Our Compassionate- Conservative-in-Chief. George W. "The Decider" Bush simply doesn't believe the hunger statistics, perfering to see them as an evil liberal plot:

That 35 million people in this wealthy nation feel insecure about their next meal can be hard to believe, even in the highest circles. In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, then running for president, said he thought the annual USDA report -- which consistently finds his home state one of the hungriest in the nation -- was fabricated.

"I'm sure there are some people in my state who are hungry," Bush said. "I don't believe 5 percent are hungry." { Over 10% now doing a heckuva job Georgie-Ed }

Bush said he believed that the statistics were aimed at his candidacy. "Yeah, I'm surprised a report floats out of Washington when I'm running a presidential campaign," he said.

Now This is the part of the Diary when I really want to do some cathartic ranting about what an intolerable national shame it is that ANYONE goes hungry in the richest and most powerful nation on earth. I want to tell you about a man you've probably never heard of named Mike Kirwin who was until his recent death, the Mother Teresa of Washington DC, and how much hunger and poverty he ministered to in our Nation's Capital, for pity's sake.

But I'm preaching to the choir, aren't I? There isn't anybody reading this who finds these numbers even vaguely acceptable right, who doesn't get angry at the thought of bureaucrats shuffling terminology instead of addressing a real and terrible problem like this right? So now the question becomes, with a brand new shiny majority in moth houses of Congress (and one that owe us radicals a favor or two) What are we going to do about this?

Schadenfreudeapalooza!: Freepers and the five stages of grief

AS we have just concluded Our nation's biennial autumnal observance of the solemn rites of Democracy, perhaps it is time for some sober dignified reflection on-


Oops. Sorry about that. I had the stereo up a little loud. Now, as I was saying, as we observe the solemnities that is our system's glorious orderly transition of power perhaps a thought can be spared for-


Again, my apologies, my OTHER stereo was also blasting. Just as a precaution, perhaps I'd better go turn off the one playing Ode to Joy as well. Now where was I? Ahh yes, sparing a concern for the vanquished, especially those deluded but vocal souls who regard Nancy Pelosi as Satan made flesh, those who expect Democrats to be having conference calls with Osama bin Laden by the end of the week. In short: The Freepers, how are they coping?

Strictly out of care and concern for my fellow man, and not out of any base impulse to revel in their misery, I visited the Free republic today and here is what I found:

Let me reassure you that while not all are progressing at the same pace, as a whole they are progressing through Kubler Ross' famed 5 Steps of Grief quite well.

First of COurse came Denial

There could still be a recount.
4 posted on 11/08/2006 5:35:35 PM PST by Jedi Master Pikachu

Since there is going to be a recount..WTF.
17 posted on 11/08/2006 5:37:45 PM PST by svcw
guess AP gets to call elections not the states secretary of state. Another office to abolish I guess??
18 posted on 11/08/2006 5:37:48 PM PST by samadams2000

Virginia will say who wins this election, NOT the FREAKING AP!
25 posted on 11/08/2006 5:38:49 PM PST by GottaLuvAkitas1

Last I heard, Allen has NOT conceded and neither has Conrad Burns in MT. Wonder if the Press has jumped the gun a little. I hope both of those Senators hold out until every vote has been counted!
208 posted on 11/08/2006 6:35:01 PM PST by katieanna

To: West Coast Conservative
Ok, this is not a rhetorical question and I it may sound stupid, but just exactly how can a biased news organization (AP) call an election and declare a winner?

389 posted on 11/09/2006 4:42:31 AM PST by SMM48

The war continues.
The war for our, and our children's, and our grandchildren's freedom
I will never surrender.
I will do my part to oppose the Democrats (when necessary, which is most of the time) and defeat them in 2008.
Who is with me ?
304 posted on 11/08/2006 7:42:40 PM PST by af_vet_1981

and then of Course we had ANGER and if there is one thing Freepers to exceptionally well, it's anger: at each other, at us, at the President, at the world, you name it:

Well....I am not surprised.
We have lost 2 of our best Senators..
Thank you to all of the Republicans that "punished" Bush over anything...

13 posted on 11/08/2006 5:36:54 PM PST by Txsleuth

Your thanks should go to Bush and Rove, who could not find a way to secure the borders, to cut out of control spending, to punish the law breaking Clintonista's, who introduced Dubia Ports and who "managed" the occupation in Iraq and tieing the hands of our brave solders instead of turning them loose to do their job. i.e. Al Mookie Sadr should alreday be with his virgins.

Thank those who created this disaster. The POLICY MAKERS.

64 posted on 11/08/2006 5:45:27 PM PST by tennmountainman

The air smells fresher. The grass seem greener. All nature sings as more babies will die, freedoms lost, taxes raised. It is a great day to be an American.

22 posted on 11/08/2006 5:38:11 PM PST by Lexinom

All the terrorists are celebrating tonight.

58 posted on 11/08/2006 5:43:43 PM PST by LibWhacker
Sickening, isn't it?

70 posted on 11/08/2006 5:46:55 PM PST by Enosh
The Jackass Party, the enemy within, is now a bigger threat to the United States than the terrorists.
78 posted on 11/08/2006 5:47:41 PM PST by pleikumud

How about it is the dumbass democrat voters fault
Ya know the same ones that gave Gore the popular vote in 2000
114 posted on 11/08/2006 5:58:41 PM PST by uncbob

I live in the middle of a medium city here in MN. Some drugees arround my building were laughing and singing and yelling in a very happy way... like ive never seen before...
They must have got the news...They are still at it.

136 posted on 11/08/2006 6:05:00 PM PST by Therapsid

-Ugh..the election was November 7, the anniversary of the communist revolution, and the Democrats won. What a fitting coincindence...--

188 posted on 11/08/2006 6:25:18 PM PST by rfp1234

"I was angry enough to stay home."

Great! Your family must be proud to have a cut and runner in their midst. As far as I am concerned, people like you put power into very very evil peoples' hands, and emboldened all of our enemies.
241 posted on 11/08/2006 6:50:57 PM PST by diamond6

President Bush's announcement has NOTHING to do with this. Don't be dumb.
It was the Libertarian vote that handed the country over to the far left. Place the blame where it lies.
306 posted on 11/08/2006 7:45:02 PM PST by ohioWfan

Then I detected hints of the classic Bargaining Stage which mostly consisted of Embracing a Man they once derided as "Joe Loserman"

Joe Lieberman IS the WILDCARD! He KNOWS who helped him win,and who turned their backs on him.So don't say Senate Majority Leader Reid yet.Joe Lieberman knows real power comes from the heart,not mere feelings.I think ther's going to be a lot of bargaining done between now and Jan. 3rd.

370 posted on 11/08/2006 10:51:50 PM PST by screaming eagle2

He said on the Hannity show he felt liberated. He also said he won't forget who was with him and who was against him. He's going to vote his conscience. He's in debt to no one.

357 posted on 11/08/2006 9:05:57 PM PST by concerned about politics

ANd then Of course Depression was running rampant for a while:

I have developed Post Traumatic Demoratic Party Stress Disorder (PTDPSD).

Anybody else suffering from PTDPSD? Do you have a Lawyer, er I mean a Doctor? Is there any kind of therapy for it?

I was watching videos of B52s dropping their payloads. Then I imagined the B52s loaded with pigs.{??????-ed}

That worked for a while, but I still can not get over the fact that our speaker marched with the leader of the man boy love association (MANBLA) { NAMBLA you idiot, dont you ever watch John Stewart-okay never mind}in a gay parade.

Maybe I should join a support group? I am going to go do a search on the Minute Men now.

371 posted on 11/08/2006 10:53:39 PM PST by do the dhue


Well, there goes the Supreme Court. Based on today's oral argument, it looks like Kennedy has totally gone over to the dark side (he appears ready to strike down the Partial Birth Abortion ban), so we've now got five total libs on the Court and four moderate conservatives. When Stevens croaks we're not going to be able to replace him with anyone good, so be prepared for years of liberal activism on the bench. { How far right EXACTLY do you have to be to consider Justice kennedy a "liberal activist" and Nino Scalia a "moderate conservative"?}
19 posted on 11/08/2006 5:37:51 PM PST by NinoFan

This electronic voting with no audit trail is wrong.
24 posted on 11/08/2006 5:38:40 PM PST by MineralMan (Non-evangelical atheist)

Well, I guess we could only stall Armageddon for so long.
101 posted on 11/08/2006 5:54:45 PM PST by william clark
A country falls from within and the commies have the shools and the MSM and have had them for quite a while now
129 posted on 11/08/2006 6:02:07 PM PST by uncbob

Is it ever. The libs already have a majority on the Court. All we need now is for another Justice Kennedy to be nominated after a series of other failed nominations thanks to the Dems. That "justice" makes me sick.
"Bad news for the unborn."
Bad news for the Supreme Court.
Bad news for the troops.
269 posted on 11/08/2006 7:05:49 PM PST by gardencatz
And the hits just keep coming. :(

Maybe we should just sneak into Mexico, where they still know how to elect conservatives. /sarc

338 posted on 11/08/2006 8:32:02 PM PST by anymouse
Cut and run in Iraq, impeachment proceedings, military budget cuts, abdication and appeasement in the war on terror, tax cut rollbacks, open borders with Mexico, assault weapons ban, the end of the Patriot Act, we are well and truly screwed.

If this country survives two more years, we can compare Liberal promises with actual results, and I seriously doubt they will have done anything they promised to do. That means Hillary will face an uphill battle, but we have to get there first.

Canned food, bottled water and duct tape, things are headed down the sewer fast.

393 posted on 11/09/2006 4:49:34 AM PST by jeffers
To: frankiep
The hits just keep on coming....
Just wait till the BIG hit comes in 08 with the beast at the helm.

And then of Course we have Acceptance and while this IS Freep and accepting reality isn't exactly their strong suit; I did manage to find three examples of people that had Made it all the way through, So let's take our hats off to these very nearly reality-based souls:

Election Speculation - A friend suggested that the election results were driven by the Iraqi War. I disagreed so I ran these primitive datamining graphs out of curiosity.

To my suprise, all three graphs imply that "Iraqi War" was the primary topic on voters' minds.

164 posted on 11/08/2006 6:17:14 PM PST by shimbo

To: Jedi Master Pikachu
You said, "There could still be a recount." I said, "Go home." in, the partie's over, go on home. That's all.

385 posted on 11/09/2006 4:24:57 AM PST by PA-RIVER

and this post that is so stunningly lucid and rational I thought it deserved its own grey box (on Freep no less...hmmm... maybe there IS something to all the "it's the APOCALYPSE! chatter coming from the right these days)

I didn't offer my vote because the GOP didn't ask for it. My not voting was my say. Would you rather I went to the polls and voted for a Democrat?
It used to be with us conservatives, that we were patriots first, and so we voted for Republicans. Now we think voting for Republicans automatically MAKES us patriots. This is the road to tyranny, when we make ourselves the property of a political party, rather than the political party the property of us.

381 posted on 11/09/2006 3:43:04 AM PST by Thane_Banquo

Update [2006-11-9 13:37:37 by Magorn]: Sorry I couldn't resist going back for one more look and I HAD to bring this comment back to balance out the incredibly lucid one I closed with. For This lady, Denial doesn't begin to accurately describe her mental state, and even delusional seems a little mild. Enjoy

I would just like to give one word of advice here.... There have been vile and evil things said on this forum about President Bush in the past two days. DU trolls and ignorant FR bottom dwellers have used this 'opportunity' to gleefuly say foul and false things about one of the FINEST men to ever occupy the Oval Office. DON'T LET THEM DISCOURAGE YOU! These bashers will never be half the man that President Bush is, and they know it. They don't have the courage, the honor, the decency, the moral certitude, or the strength of character that he has.

They have no responsibility to lead, and they flippantly attack him with vile words from their safety and ease at home.

Do NOT pay attention to the bashing going on right now. The bashers will go back to DU or crawl back into their FR hidey holes in a few days, and sanity will return to this forum.

God is in control of all things. We must have the calm to know that we are in the right, and that our President is leading us with certitude and strength. Don't let the cowardly bashers get you down!!

405 posted on 11/09/2006 6:10:24 AM PST by ohioWfan

why do I think this lady also seriously questions our commitment to Sparkle Motion?

More Good News! Robber Baron FAILS to steal WV legislature

A few Weeks ago I told you about Massey Energy's CEO Don Blankenship's outrageous attempts to essentially Buy a Republican majority in the WV legislature the same way he'd previously purchased a Friendly Supreme Court Justice. That is, by by flooding the small state (average campaign cost: $~$25,000) with millions of dollars of his own money funneled through loopholes in the campaign finance law passed specifically to stop him.

I'm pleased to report to you today He Failed. Utterly. In fact, it was a rout:

Voters on Tuesday kept Democrats in charge of West Virginia's Legislature, largely ignoring a coal executive's multimillion-dollar campaign to sweep Republicans into office.

At least 31 House Democrats targeted by Massey Energy Co. Chief Executive Don Blankenship survived their races, while 27 of the GOP challengers he aided fell short.

An ailing Delegate Margarette Leach, D-Cabell, appeared to be the only incumbent Democrat to fall as her party kept its majority in the House of Delegates

and even if you don't live in WV this is incredible news:

You See, while the name Massey Energy may not be familiar to you; anybody who lives in Appalachia knows it, and likely loathes it.

To say Blankenship and Massey Energy are Corporate Bad actors is to radically understate the case. Blankenship comes closer to a classic Bond Villain or even Saturday morning Cartoon super-villain.

Blankenship made his fortunes destroying the UMW and blasting Appalachian Mountains to rubble , while devastating the local towns and their environs. His comapny is also reponsible for The worst Environmental disaster in the history of the continental US but they subsequently arranged a De facto purchase of the MHSA from the Bush administration, to get themselves off the legal hook. Massey's massive campagin contibutions led to payback from the adminsitration in the fornm of installation of a friendly MSHA director ( a former ME lobbyist) who let the company off with $100,000 slap on the wrist over the vehement objections of his lead investigators.

Because of this, his attack on the legislature was particularly scary because, since he'd neutered federal regulators, and Sucessfully manipulated of the State Supreme Court; the legislature was the only body left that could place meaningful restriction on the operation of his company to protect WV's environment from the ravages of Massey's famously eco-callous operations.

Moreover, the States are proving to be increasingly instrumental in protecting the nation's air and Water quality, as the EPA has all but abdicated its responsibilities. However, if Blankenship had been sucessful, he would have undoubtedly spawned imitators. I have no doubt if his Coup d'etat via campaign cash strategy worked, We would have seen it repeated all over the American West by other CEOS who'd immediately want to buy their own legislature in another small Population/resource rich state, and return to the golden days of the "paradise" so vividly described in Upton Sinclair's famous books.

Fortunately though, he failed. Utterly , abjectly, completely. NOW it's up to WV's safely Democratic Legislature to do the country a favor and metaphorically and legally put his head on a pike as a warning to any other corporate CEO with Dreams of creating his own Plutarchy.

Go get 'em boys (and girls-er women)!

Outrageous! A CEO's attempted hostile takeover of WV

NPR this morning had a very important report about truly extraordinary thing is happening in one of the U.S.'s smallest and poorest states:

Don Blankenship, The CEO of Massey Energy, the WV coal giant, and all around corporate bad actor, is essentially attempting a Hostile takeover of the WV Legislature. Apparently the Democratically controlled state legislature hasn't been sufficiently solicitous of his corporation's interests so Blankenship has decided to replace the democratic majority (which has been in power since 1932) with his own hand-picked group of Republicans on whose campaigns he's already spent over $2 million dollars and promises to spend millions more.

In market as small as WV, where an average Statehouse campaign costs barely more than $10,000-$20,000; This money is an incredible advantage for his candidates. Worse yet, there is no limit on what he can spend on the effort, because Blankenship has found a loophole in WV campaign finance laws passed specifically to thwart him:
You see this is not the first time Massey Energy's CEO has bought an election in WV:

Back in '04, when his company had several huge regulatory appeals pending with the State Supreme Court ; Blankenship Bought himself a WV supreme Court justice by pouring contributions into a phony "child advocacy" 527 who's real aim was to replace a too-consumer friendly Democratic Justice with a puppet Republican with no judicial experience:

The sharpest ads, many of which ran in the Washington market, came from [a 527 called] "And For the Sake of the Kids," a group formed to "discuss" the perceived shortcomings of McGraw, according to its Web site. ...
The group raised $2.5 million, including $1.7 million from one donor: Don Blankenship, chief executive of Massey Energy Co. The coal company is one of the largest employers in the state, and it is expected to have several cases on appeal before the state Supreme Court. Blankenship,..., also privately financed mechanized calls to homes across the state in the last week of the campaign.

"It proves that West Virginia Supreme Court seats were for sale," said Beth White, a coordinator with West Virginia Consumers for Justice,

In response to his blatant purchase of a statewide office, after the 04 elections the WV Legislature cracked down hard on 527's, passing a law that limited individual contributions to them to no more than $1,000 per person. Apparently primarily in the hopes of shutting down Blankenship and his false fronts. Thus with both contributions to individual campaigns and shadowy 527's now severely limited. The legislators probably thought Blankenship's government-buying days were over.

Unfortunately for them, Blankenship discovered a novel ,and completely unprecedented, way around the laws.> Rather than contribute to any particular legislator's campaign per se, Blankenship has now effectively created a "shadow campaign" of his own for each candidate. Thus, without any coordination (wink, wink) from the candidate he runs his own "issue oriented" TV and Radio ads, prints his own bumper stickers and yard signs and buys his own billboards. Since he's spending his own money, he has no legal limits. Thus he's been able to spend millions for his chosen candidates and neither he or they have any worries about violating campaign finance rules. Even better his "shadow spending" allows Republicans to self- righteously claim to have taken a mere $1,000 from Blankenship and attack their Democratic opponents over THEIR contributors Neat huh?

Whether he'll succeed in making the WV legislature a wholly owned subsidiary of Massey Energy seems to be anybody's guess right now. It goes without saying that the people and environment of West Virginian have dark days ahead if he succeeds. But to me far more important than the question of whether we can stop him is, how the hell did we reach this point in the first place?

Well, it actually appears that Massey started big and is now working their way down the food chain. They started in 2000 with a De Facto purchase of the Mine Safety and Health Administration from the Bushco

That purchase seems to have be necessitated by the fact that shortly before the 2000 election Massey's gross negligence caused the worst environmental disaster ever in the continental US in 2000

in October of 2000, when 300 million gallons of coal slurry - thick pudding-like waste from mining operations - flooded land, polluted rivers and destroyed property in Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. The slurry contained hazardous chemicals, including arsenic and mercury.

"It polluted 100 miles of stream, killed everything in the streams, all the way to the Ohio River," says Spadaro, who was second in command of the team investigating the accident.

The slurry had been contained in an enormous reservoir, called an impoundment, which is owned by the Massey Energy Company. One night, the heavy liquid broke through the bottom of the reservoir, flooded the abandoned coalmines below it and roared out into the streams.

... investigators discovered the spill was more than an accident -- it was an accident waiting to happen.

During the investigation .. it came out that there had been a previous spill in 1994 engineer working for the company said the problem had not been fixed, and that both he and the company knew another spill was virtually inevitable.

Luckily for Massey though, a new ,easily purchasable, administration had just taken over in Washington, one that already had many Millions of reasons to be grateful to Massey energy and the coal industry in general:

coal executives, threatened by Vice President Al Gore's green background ...raised a record $3.8 million dollars for the 2000 federal election, 88 percent went to the GOP. At the annual meeting of the West Virginia Coal Association a few months after Bush's inauguration, the group's director told 150 industry executives, "You did everything you could to elect a Republican president. [Now] you are already seeing in his actions the payback."

Massey Energy, Martin County Coal's parent company, gained a front-row seat to the new Bush administration when it invited James H. "Buck" Harless to join its board in 2001. Harless, a West Virginia coal and timber baron, had raised $275,000 for Bush's 2000 campaign, given $5,000 for the Florida recount, and contributed $100,000 to the president's inaugural fund. Bush nicknamed Harless "Big Buck" and invited him to join the administration's transition task force on energy. "We were looking for friends, and we found one in George W. Bush," Harless told The Wall Street Journal.

And what are friends for if not to De-rail major criminal and regulatory investigations agains their pals?

two days before President Bush's inauguration, [the investigation team] was abruptly assigned a new boss to lead the investigation. Immediately after taking charge, Thompson told the team that they had one week to conclude the investigation. ....[they]...had counted on having four or five more months to complete their work.

The new head of MSHA, a Bush appointee named Dave Lauriski, was a former mining industry mining executive ,..Spadaro [the lead investigator'] says Lauriski came into his office one day, and insisted he sign a watered down version of the report -- a version that virtually let the coal company and MSHA off the hook.

"He said , `I'm in a hard spot here and I need you to sign this report," recalls Spadaro. "I said...I'm never going to sign that report.'"
... in the end, Massey Energy was only cited for two violations, and had to pay approximately $110,000 in fines

So it appears now that Blankenship has been emboldened by his success at having successfully turned the federal watchdogs into lapdogs. So in order to "complete the set" and give himself an his company nigh- lassie faire levels of governmental oversight, he's taken aim at the only public institutions left that can force this energy giant to play nice: the State legislature and courts. Whether he succeeds or not nobody will know for another few weeks; but to me the outrage comes from the fact that they are even in a position to try. It's easy to dismiss this as an isolated incident in a small isolated state, but there are a LOT of small states, particularly in the West that have few people and a lot of exploitable resources. So, if Massey suceeds here, it is a virtual certainty that they or some other large coporation will employ this model elsewhere..

Update [2006-10-11 14:26:22 by Magorn]: For your further edification, Commentor Fiddling Nero has graciously provided A link to an incredible Vanity Fair Article that explains just who Don Blankenship is and how devastating his company has been for Mine workers nationwide, and the destruction Massey has wrought on WV's people and environment. A very good read.

Friday, September 29, 2006

GOP in Retreat! RNC pulling out of close races , abandoning hope

It looks Like the once invincible Armies of Emperor NaRoveon, just metaphorically woke up outside the Gates of Moscow, looked around and said "holy crap it's cold!"

How else to explain the GOP's recent, and apparently panicked retreat from closely contested House and Senate races nationwide?

As  Chronicled in today's Washington Post, the GOP is now abandoning races it once had high hopes for.  Take Ohio's 6th:

Republicans, who regarded this seat -- carried narrowly by President Bush in 2004 -- as their most promising chance to take a congressional seat from the Democratic column...

Four months ago, state Sen. Charlie Wilson (D) was teetering on the edge of defeat in ..Today he is strolling toward Nov. 7, ...

No television ads for Wilson or his Republican opponent, state Rep. Chuck Blasdel, are airing.., the national party organization [is}nowhere to be found.

"We don't hear anything...We are very happy they are looking [elsewhere]"

actually it appears they aren't looking anywhere but at the coverage of their own posteriors:

Like any game, politics tends to be more fun on offense than defense. Republicans are not having much fun this election season....

A combination of an adverse national environment and the need to devote their resources to defending at-risk GOP incumbents gives the national party few opportunities to invest heavily in challengers, such as Blasdel, who face an uphill fight.

In other words they are so busy trying to hold on to what they have (and not doing a particularly good job of that either as we "50-state" Kos devotees know) that they are all buy abandoning any hopes of taking seats away from the Democrats.  They are putting a brave face on it still, but privately they realize it's not a matter of if, but how many seats they lose this time:

While Democrats have targets around the country where they could gain a seat, Republicans have the barest handful.

Ask Republicans where they see takeover opportunities this fall and they will rattle off seats such as Georgia's 8th District -- held by Rep. Jim Marshall -- Iowa's 3rd or even the open at-large seat in strongly Democratic Vermont. But none of those races look particularly dire for Democrats at the moment, as many Republican strategists privately acknowledge.

And things apparently DO look dire enough for Republicans that the strain is starting to show on their formerly fierce and  seemingly infallible campaign strategists.   For example, in Oh-6, the Democratic nominee may owe his eventual victory, in a large part,  to over-reaching by panicky Republicans trying for an early knock-out:

Republicans' optimism only increased after Wilson did not collect the necessary signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, necessitating a write-in candidacy.

Sensing opportunity, the Republican Congressional Committee poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the district in hopes of killing Wilson's candidacy. Television ads accused Wilson of supporting the dumping of raw sewage in the Ohio River, among other not-so-nice allegations.

A cunning plan, to be sure with one , ensy-teensy flaw:  That it backfired spectacularly:

The strategy backfired. Wilson, who knocked on 40,000 doors and sent out 4,000 personal letters during the primary race, rolled up 66 percent of the vote, winning 4,500 votes more than the four Republican candidates combined.

"To do that is unheard of," said Noble County Democratic Party Chairman Larry Woodford. Republicans [he said]"saw the writing on the wall."

Now, I'm no highly paid political consultant or anything, but does anyone else see the thunderous stupidity in running attack ads against a write in candidate  thereby boosting his name recognition to stratospheric levels?  Maybe its just me, but that seems like what we laymen  would call "a dumb move".  It seems it also had something to do with the fact that Wilson is outpolling his opponent 49% to 25%.

And while the News everywhere may not be quite so good as Ohio-6  it's clear that the results there are part of a very encouraging nationwide trend. We have never had so many incredible candidates running all at once.  We have never had the opposition so thoroughly tied in the public mind with an incredibly unpopular president and his disastrous war.  And most importantly we have never had so many GOPer's in safe seats shoot themselves and their campaigns so devastatingly in the foot all at once. (Is the Obama Enemy's curse  rubbing off on the Party?)

However as Ohio also showed us in '04 trends, by themselves don't mean a damned thing, without voter action to back them up. If we want to be the flood tide that sweeps away the Republican stranglehold on power, all the raindrops have to show up and do their part, no matter HOW hopeless or Secure the Dem candidates look where you live.  NONE of this will do use any good unless we are all willing to Vote, contribute, and convince our friends and neighbors to do the same.

It's clear to me that we will not, in our lifetimes, have a better chance than right now to wake the country up from the nightmare we've been  living in the last six years.  The GOP  is really on the ropes right now ,  but its not time to stop and congratulate ourselves. No, NOW is when we need to land that final punch  to make sure this time we finish them once and for all.   Money, volunteerism, or even good old fashion GOTV shoe leathering, can all  help ensure that for  once this decade we all may wake up Nov 7th without a hangover, or least one of the good "too much celebrating kind".

Killer Cronyism III: 1000's of American soldiers killed by bungling GOP loyalists in Iraq Hotlist

Georgia10 already had a front pager on the basics of this explosive Book Excerpt from the Washington Post  but with all due respect to her , I want to place this in larger frame as it's part and parcel of a much larger pattern.

For those who may have missed it the basics of this story are simple.  Thousand of  Middle east experts, academics and adventurers applied to the government to be part of the Iraqi reconstruction:

 ...but before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.  Applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration..

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics:.. Two  said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade


In other words, Bushbots got hired, regardless of expertise or experience and everyone else had to stay home.  Not surprisingly these people made a total hash of the job and got a lot of people killed as a result.   Nor is this  the first time this has happened:

When I read this story something about it seemed depressingly familiar, and then I remembered :  Oh yeah this reminds of nearly every other colossal failure the Administration has had since taking office.  At the center of each of them seems to be someone who got a job based on their beliefs not their competence who then fails, spectacularly to DO the job for which they were hired

Let's see if we notice a pattern developing:

A)During Katrina, the complete failure of FEMA's evacuation efforts can be directly tied to a $100 million dollar Emergency Evacuation Services Contract given to Landstar Express, whose Chairman was diehard Bush loyalist and President of the US Chamber of Commerce.  

  Unfortunately, Landstar had neither experience nor equipment to perform such a contract, so when their services were needed they were reduced to googling travel agents to subcontract the job to 24 hours after Katrina hit.  (meanwhile Greyhound, Trailways were standing by, offering their services gratis but couldn't get a call back from anyone at FEMA)  (BTW Landstar got a new $400 Million dollar contract as reward for their Katrina efforts)

B) After the Sago Mine disaster, it was revealed that MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration was being run by a former Coal industry lobbyist, who immediately gutted the safety enforcement division, altered the findings of several current investigations to be more industry friendly, installed his own tame investigators and tried to run off any remaining honest MSHA employees. Is it a  shock therefore that three years later deadly conditions are found to exist at mines all over the country (and the killer mine had 250 citations in 2005 alone, but all resolved with a slap on the wrist)?

But bad as both of those examples are (and the Katrina evacuation fiasco's death toll may have been over 1,000) they pale in comparison to this latest revelation.    It's no exaggeration to lay the deaths of 10's of thousands of Iraqis, and the majority of Coalition casualties at the feet of the CPA's incompetent reconstruction efforts:

Many of the basic tasks Americans struggle to accomplish today in Iraq -- training the army, vetting the police, increasing electricity generation -- could have been performed far more effectively in 2003 by the CPA....

the CPA was the U.S. government's first and best hope to resuscitate Iraq -- to establish order, promote rebuilding and assemble a viable government, all of which, experts believe, would have constricted the insurgency and mitigated the chances of civil war

So why did they fail so badly?

well lets see if the article gives us a few minor clues:

Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation that sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people,

In other words the CPA turned out to b run largely by a Bunch of conservative ideologues trying to implement Grover Norquist's version of Utopia rather than doing their jobs and helping the Iraqis?   Hmm I wonder how THAT could have happened:


To recruit the people he wanted, O'Beirne sought résumés from the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks and GOP activists.

He discarded applications from those his staff deemed ideologically suspect, even if the applicants possessed Arabic language skills or postwar rebuilding experience.

 "I watched résumés of immensely talented individuals who had sought out CPA to help the country thrown in the trash because their adherence to 'the President's vision for  was 'uncertain.' I.. advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC [Republican National Committee] contributors."

Well, that'll do it, especially when those "standards" resulted in hiring decisions like these:

 A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange.

The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children { Patrick Henry College- Ed. }  were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

and of these two who would YOU have put in charge of the Health care system for 50 million people in a war-torn country?

James K. Haveman,Jr. a 60-year-old social worker...had been the community health director for the former Republican governor of Michigan, John Engle, {and} a  director of International Aid, a faith-based relief organization that provided health care while promoting Christianity in the developing world. Before his stint in government, Haveman ran a large Christian adoption agency in Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions.


Frederick M. Burkle Jr., a physician with a master's degree in public health and postgraduate degrees from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and the University of California at Berkeley. Burkle taught at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where he specialized in disaster-response issues, and he was a deputy assistant administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development, He had worked in Kosovo and Somalia and in northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. A USAID colleague called him the "single most talented and experienced post-conflict health specialist working for the United States government."

Any Guesses who replaced Whom after O'Beirne took over?  Any guesses how that worked out for the Iraqis?

  But the Title of this article was "Killer Cronyism", not "incompetent Elephants on parade".  Thus I promised you blood and blood you shall have.

So why is this "killer" cronyism?  Well Let me say it plainly J'acuse The CPA of the Murder of all the Soldiers who have died in roadside bombings and insurgent attacks, all the innocent Iraqi's caught in the Sunni-Shi'a Civil war, and all the victims of Zarqawi's suicide bombers.

Why?  Because if they'd done their job even half competently, most of the troubles we've faced would be non-existent by now.  If  street-level security were better, people like Zarqawi wouldn't  be able to operate at will.   If more progress had been made in restoring the economy prominent Sunni and Shiite leaders might be convinced that there is more profit to be had in helping run the country than to divide it's bones, and most importantly the Insurgency would have by now run out of recruits.

 People who are in a comfortable middle class rarely rise up in the streets to attack their "oppressors".  Mob action occurs far more often among the hopeless, destitute, and dispossessed, in other words those who have nothing to lose.Read this secret cable sent form the US ambassador in Iraq last May.   And ask yourselves whether the average Iraq has much left to lose at this point.  In fact, thing are SO bad, says the Cable  most  Iraqis refuse to believe that the Americans could be so incompetent at reconstruction as they appear to be.  

Therefore, they've concluded that Americans are deliberately withholding electricity supplies and running water for city neighborhoods as a form of collective punishment(just like Saddam used to do).  Isn't that anger and suspicion precisely the thing that will gaurantee the loss of "heart and minds" to the US  and drive people in to the arms of the insurgents?  Ya, you betcha.  

Now ask yourself what a COMPETENT group of Planners and specialists could have done with that same $19 Billion.  How many less Insurgents would there be in THAT Iraq as opposed to the one we have now,  how many less Iraqis and Soldiers would die every day?

Thus As I said before J'accuse the Bush Adminstration of turning another vital compnenet of governance over to ideologue and Kleptocrats who turned the most important mission of his presidency into yet another Patronage piggy bank, to be split among the loyalists.  And therefore it is not unfair to lay at thier feet the lives of all those Iraqis and Americans who have paid in blood for the consequences of their malevolence and incomptence.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Time to ask: Why Does the GOP hate the democratic process?

The time has come to ask, in all sober seriousness, What do the Republicans have against democracy?   I mean they SAY they love Democracy with all their hearts. Indeed, You can hardly get the president to shut up about it.   He seems to believe that once people go to a ballot box  (and have are assigned a Color-Coded "revolution" brand (Orange, Purple Cedar, etc )all their problems disappear and the sky starts raining puppies and unicorns (neither of which are noted for their aerodynamic properties so even under the best of circumstances this is a messy proposition.).  

In practice however,  the GOP has been showing an increasing contempt for the democratic process both here and abroad, particularly when they don't like the results.  Consider the following  and see if maybe just maybe you don't see a trend there that's worth framing and getting people talking about:

1)Tom Delay's Texas two Step: Now any rational Observer of the saga I like to call "the Hammer gets nailed" knew that Tom Delay's chance of standing in the general election in November (or indeed not being under federal indictment by then) was  about the same as Mel Gibson's chance of joining B'nai Brith.  

Nonetheless Tom Delay ran in the Republican primary for his house seat and nary  a word  of protest was uttered by local party officials.  Why?  because apparently the Democratic process was entirely to messy for DeLay & Co.   Tom didn't approve of the people actually willing to RUN to replace him.  So he decided to win the election THEN resign and hand pick his successor on the ballot rather then letting the actual party faithful  have a say in the matter.

Even though his  plan was monkey-wrenched by a federal Circuit Courtpanel that had the Temerity to actually . Enforce Texas election law despite a furious lobbying campaign by his supporters (which will no doubt get them labeled "activist Judges"  by the GOP)   the Local party STILL can't be bothered to ask  their  member what they want.  Instead they hold a secret closed door meeting  to hand-pick who the write in candidate will be.

2) Bob "all Opposed Say" Ney:  Like his career, his electioneering is almost the mirror image of Tom Delay's only on a smaller,  more venial scale. As nearly any Washington observer with a pulse can tell you, when you are referred to as "Representative #1" both in the press and  in a federal indictment, your political career isn't long for this world.  Yet  Ney ran in the primary, with his local party's blessing, again depriving the GOP rank and file of making any meaningful choice in their primary election.   Worse yet, in Ney's case, There is a law that specifically requires a special primary  in such a case, to preserve the right of voter to chose who they have on their ballot.   However Ney is is carefully timing his withdrawal letter to try to circumvent the law and allow for a selection not another election.  

3) Senator "Santorum" (ewww) : So you are Sitting Senator that's getting beaten Like a rented Mule in every election poll taken what do you do?  Do you:

A) start seriously reconsidering your positions and try to re-connect with your constituents.

B) Start really appreciating all the little joys of being a Senator and the Beauty of Washington in the Summer as you spend your last days packing your office on capitol Hill OR

C) Call up your big-donor buddies and convince them to Create a third party Candidate from scratch to try to steal votes from your opponent?

This is a particularly egregious offense to Democracy for two reasons.  First it is a neat-handed way to let all of Santorum's richest friends ignore campaign contribution limits, and effectively double-dip,  More importantly however, but it also makes a complete mockery of the democratic process itself.   NO ONE giving money to, or organizing for, Carl Romanelli actually wants him to win and be the next Senator from Pennsylvania , or cares about the causes or ideas he espouses..  Instead, they are hoping that his candidacy will  ensure the victory of someone who stands for  the diametric opposite of every Romanelli professes care about.   In essence, they are using election rules to try to confuse and confound voters.

4) "Say it Ain't So" Joe Lieberman:  Again, we see  the Powers That Be,  dissing the local voters, and not making any secret of it.  Sure he has An apparent Gambling problem, and unfortunate penchant for Porn-star sounding  Pseudonyms but the Republican voters of Connecticut went into the booth on election day and said "Alan You're the guy to lead us to victory come November".  Unfortunately back in Washington he's been about as welcome as Jack Abramoff with  a digital camera.

Not only has Bush refused to endorse him he's actually had his chief campaign  strategist call Another party's candidate, and offer to help him (a Party of One , but a party nonetheless).  Once again the actual  voters are treated as sheep who will do and vote for whom they are told to, and  whose input is neither accepted or desired by Party elders.  

And of Course who could forget

5) Katherine "I'm not batshit Crazy, I just had Surgery to look that way" Harris:  Again, the National and state GOP is trying to knock the duly selected party Nominee out of the race.   Now granted Her campaign has become about as well run (and comically embrassing) as a Spinal Tap Tour and she is, personally speaking Joan Crawford level Crazy (yes that IS in the DSM-IV, thank you very much), I'll give them a pass on that one.

Worse yet, this is not Solely a domestic phenomenon  either .  In the last few years Bush and Company have not hesitated  to Criticize and punish countries that have had perfectly free and fair elections that have had results we don't like.   Bad as the Domestic shenannigans are, this is far far worse.  At a minimum it is extremely damaging to our international credibility and leadership on human rights, I think.

 But this diary is already a Monster so stay tuned for that in part II.

Yikes! Iraqi Army troops mutiny, attack, and loot British base.

You know Our President frequently acuses the Media of Under--reporting the "good news" from Iraq, so in a gesture  a bi-partisan goodwillI thought I'd Share   This Story From Today's Washington Post  about The British Army's handover of one of their bases in southern Iraq, to Iraqi Army.

So how'd that go?

Maj. Charlie Burbridge, said the last of 1,200 troops left Camp Abu Naji,...., after several days of heavy mortar and rocket fire by a local militia,... the Sadr-controlled Mahdi Army

"This is the first Iraqi city that has kicked out the occupier!" trumpeted a message ...that played on car-mounted ...."We have to celebrate this occasion!"...

The withdrawal sparked wide-scale looting at the base then intense clashes late Thursday between Iraqi army forces guarding the camp and unknown attackers... the situation worsened when the 2nd Battalion of the Iraqi army's 4th Brigade mutinied and attacked a local military outpost

Yep. We'll be out of there any day now, Cleary.  

Even worse for our prospects of wrapping this up quickly is the reason the British handed over the base in the first place:

 Sadr's Speaker vans weren't far off.  The British commanders are trying to put the best face on it, but it's clear they feel that holding the base was simply too costly in the face of Militia attacks:

Burbridge acknowledged that constant shelling of the base in Amarah by militia forces, including 17 mortar rounds fired in recent days that wounded three people, were part of the reason the camp closed.

"By no longer presenting a static target, we reduce the ability of the militias to strike us," he said. But he rejected Sadr's claim that the British had been defeated and pushed out of Amarah. "It's very difficult to claim a victory without causing significant casualties."

Perhaps but in the "hearts and minds" of the locals, it apparently damn sure felt that way.

The mood was quite different in Amarah, where jubilant residents flocked to Sadr's office to offer their congratulations. Drivers in the street honked their car horns in celebration. Some prepared to take to the streets to rejoice.

"Today is a holiday in our province," said Abu Mustaffa, an unemployed 45-year-old from the city's al-Hussein district. "Thanks be to God!"

Meanwhile what happens to the British forces?  Well this is where the story gets REALLY interesting.   Basically the British have made the tactical decision to abandon the trappings of a First world cavalry unit, and trade them for  for the tactics and equipment of a Somali warlord's militia:

Adopting tactics used by a British special forces unit in North Africa during World War II, 600 of the soldiers plan to slip soon into the marshlands and deserts of eastern Maysan in an attempt to secure the Iranian border.

The British soldiers, members of the Queen's Royal Hussars,{ and really who HASN'T wanted to be a Royal Hussar at some time in their life?-ed}  are preparing to trade their heavy Challenger 2 tanks and Warrior fighting vehicles for lightweight Land Rovers, Burbridge said. They expect to become a flexible, mobile force with no fixed base and receive supplies by airdrops.

This would be an adaptation the tactics of the Famous Long Range Desert Group or "Mosquito Army" of WWII, who disrupted operations of the  Italian Army all over North Africa.

However effective as those tactics were, in that war; the decision to use them now is an acknowledgement of a HUGE shift in the reality on the ground in Iraq.

The repositioning is the first public acknowledgment that forces from the U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq have entered into guerrilla warfare to combat the insurgents and militias they have been fighting for more than three years.

re-Read the Bold text carefully.  This is really important, as it represents a positively seismic shift in tactics from what we've been doing up until now.  

Militarily speaking, Guerilla tactics are extremely effective at dislodging an occupying army,  making ground simply too expensive to hold.  You do  NOT use those tactics when you ARE the occupying army because guerillas, by their very nature, cannot take and hold territory effectively.  

In adopting this strategy we've admitted, militarily at least, that we no longer control the country, the militias do..  The British have lowered their goals " from Pacifying the countryside and restoring civil order" to "trying to loosen the Militia's hold over the region".   By any realistic measure that's a HUGE step backward.  In fact a fair observer might even say it's a sign we are losing this war militarily, a previously unthinkable statement.

And the Official US reaction to this huge tactical shift and embarrassing base handover Debacle?:

Here is the  featured soloist of the US Cemetary Whistling Choir   giving his  bravura rendition of Denial Ain't Just a river:

In Baghdad, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East said a new security plan was helping to curb violence in the capital. "I believe there is a danger of civil war in Iraq, but only a danger. I think Iraq's far from it," Gen. John P. Abizaid told the AP. "I think that there's been great progress in the security front here recently in Baghdad."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Megachurch Pastor Throws the Repub party out of his Temple!: the New Awakening?

Without any context or clarification, the words of this sermon are both wise and heartening:

When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses," Mr. Boyd preached. "When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross."

But when you pull the camera back a bit and find out who, why, and when this story becomes stunning and even possibly seismic.

The speaker is the Rev. Gregory A. Boyd, the Pastor of a 5000-person Evangelical mega-church called Woodland Hills in St Paul Minn.  And the why is even more interesting :

Rev. Boyd was asked frequently to give his blessing -- and the church's -- to conservative political candidates and causes.

After refusing each time, Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called "The Cross and the Sword" in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a "Christian nation" and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

And it gets even better from there:

Now before we go any further, I think it's important to establish bona fides here.  The Rev. Boyd is not a Lefty-progressive Pastor, nor even a recent convert to our side, No he's a real-deal social and political conservative:

Mr. Boyd says he is no liberal. He is opposed to abortion and thinks homosexuality is not God's ideal.

Nor was his sermon an especially popular one with his flock and speaking cost him dearly:  

The response from his congregation at Woodland Hills Church here in suburban St. Paul -- packed mostly with politically and theologically conservative, middle-class evangelicals -- was passionate. Some members walked out of a sermon and never returned...By the time the dust had settled, Woodland Hills, which Mr. Boyd founded in 1992, had lost about 1,000 of its 5,000 members.Mr. Boyd gave his sermons while his church was in the midst of a $7 million fund-raising campaign. But only $4 million came in, and 7 of the more than 50 staff members were laid off, he said.

Mary Van Sickle, the family pastor at Woodland Hills, said she lost 20 volunteers who had been the backbone of the church's Sunday school.

And the reason these last gave for leaving is especially chilling given that they were the ones charged with teaching impressionable children:

"They said, `You're not doing what the church is supposed to be doing, which is supporting the Republican way,' " she said. "It was some of my best volunteers."

But the Right Rev. Boyd let fly anyway, and spoke some powerful truths:

In his six sermons, Mr. Boyd laid out a broad argument that the role of Christians was not to seek "power over" others -- by controlling governments, passing legislation or fighting wars. Christians should instead seek to have "power under" others -- "winning people's hearts" by sacrificing for those in need, as Jesus did, Mr. Boyd said.

Radical notion no?  Christians acting like Jesus did in the Bible?   It's just so crazy it Might work!  But wait, there's more: (you might just want to sit down before reading this next bit)

America wasn't founded as a theocracy," he said. "America was founded by people trying to escape theocracies. Never in history have we had a Christian theocracy where it wasn't bloody and barbaric. That's why our Constitution wisely put in a separation of church and state.

"I am sorry to tell you," he continued, "that America is not the light of the world and the hope of the world. The light of the world and the hope of the world is Jesus Christ."

If you are still with me and Haven't passed out from shock, share my amazement instead.  An Evangelical who has actually read his history  and is willing to be totally honest about the role of religion in government both in this country and historically!  

That's GOT to be some kind of Heresy right?   I mean the arguments of nearly every speaker at " Justice" Sunday were based on that very premise!  It just too truthy  to be wrong!  He's just damn lucky that Protestants can't make use of the Spanish Inquisition or I suspect there'd already be unexpected visitors in red robes knocking on his door.

Now, Now Steady on, mate or you'll never make it through this, especially the next part  Where Boyd unloads Both Barrels on Right-wing Scare- and outrage- mongers:

Mr. Boyd lambasted the "hypocrisy and pettiness" of Christians who focus on "sexual issues" like homosexuality, abortion or Janet Jackson's breast-revealing performance at the Super Bowl halftime show. He said Christians these days were constantly outraged about sex and perceived violations of their rights to display their faith in public.

""Those are the two buttons to push if you want to get Christians to act,"

 he said. And those are the two buttons Jesus never pushed."

OH yes. he Did.  I b'lieve he just called out The entire religious Right. everyone from Tommy "the hammer Slammer" DeLay  to Jimmy "the Creep" Dobson,   and called them sinning punks, who manipulate believers for their own nefarious and un-Christian ends.

Yes, I know,  WE already knew that,  but unlike us the Rev Boyd wasn't just preaching to the Choir and some of what he said came as news to his flock:

Some Woodland Hills members said they applauded the sermons because they had resolved their conflicted feelings. David Churchill, a truck driver for U.P.S. and a Teamster for 26 years, said he had been "raised in a religious-right home" but was torn between the Republican expectations of faith and family and the Democratic expectations of his union.

When Mr. Boyd preached his sermons, "it was liberating to me," Mr. Churchill said.


"Most of my friends are believers," said Shannon Staiger, a psychotherapist and church member, d they think if you're a believer, you'll vote for Bush. it's scary to go against that."

Now , let be clear  the Rev isn't signing himself up for a Move On memebership, or audtioning for a new version of Crossfire,:

Mr. Boyd said he never intended his sermons to be taken as merely a critique of the Republican Party or the religious right. He refuses to share his party affiliation, or whether he has one, for that reason. He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into "idolatry."

But he's also honest enough to admit its more a sin of the right than left,  by a wide margin:

He said he first became alarmed while visiting another mega-church's worship service on a Fourth of July years ago. The service finished with the chorus singing "God Bless America" and a video of fighter jets flying over a hill silhouetted with crosses.

"I thought to myself, `What just happened? Fighter jets mixed up with the cross?' " he said in an interview.

Because nothing says "all praise be to the Prince of Peace" like a Video of the latest and most lethal military technology  (and apparently the display Mr. Boyd witnessed was subtle by Mega-church standards:)

Patriotic displays are still a mainstay in some evangelical churches. Across town from Mr. Boyd's church, the sanctuary of North Heights Lutheran Church was draped in bunting on the Sunday before the Fourth of July this year for a "freedom celebration." Military veterans and flag twirlers paraded into the sanctuary, an enormous American flag rose slowly behind the stage, and a Marine major who had served in Afghanistan preached that the military was spending "your hard-earned money" on good causes.

(wow. if reading that paragraph  didn't cause certain parts of your anatomy to shrivel and retract, you either don't got 'em, or weren't reading carefully. )

But if the Right-on Rev. Boyd were the only one preaching this message this would be nothing more than a case of "4,000 down 150 million to go".  However it appears that this Preacher is merely the tip of the spear, in a growing wave of discontent and revulsion at the extent that Republician Party has sought to entwine itself with Christian Churches.

But the upheaval at Woodland Hills is an example of the internal debates now going on in some evangelical colleges, magazines and churches. At least six books on this theme have been published recently, some by Christian publishing houses.

 Randall Balmer, a religion professor at Barnard College and an evangelical, has written "Thy Kingdom Come: How the Religious Right Distorts the Faith and Threatens America -- an Evangelical's Lament."

 There is a lot of discontent brewing," said Brian D. McLaren, the founding pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Gaithersburg, Md., and a leader in the evangelical movement known as the "emerging church," which is at the forefront of challenging the more politicized evangelical establishment.

In other words the emerging church would kinda rather like to be able to be More of a religious organization rather than a weekly political rally:

"More and more people are saying this has gone too far -- the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right," Mr. McLaren said. "You cannot say the word `Jesus' in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can't say the word `Christian,' and you certainly can't say the word `evangelical' without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.

"Because people think, `Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about `activist judges.' "

And you just want to grab their shoulder and give them a shake or a hug and say "yes! exactly! People like me who also consider themselves Christian aren't pissed at you personally, just about how too many of your brethren have allowed the term to become a registered trademark of the Republican party."

 So are we Seeing the emergence of a "great awakening" by Evangelicals? Have they Hard to tell Yet, but it's very clear something  big is happening.   A storm of discontent seems to be brewing  among the evangelical churches about their relationship with the Republican Party. It's possible that the disconnected between their aggressive lip-service to "Christian Values" while  voting for an agenda that was anything but, has created  too much cognitive dissonance, for even the most "faithful" to handle.  

And the Good news is  the Experience of "coming into the light" hasn't been all bad for pioneers like the Rev Boyd :

Mr. Boyd now says .. "I don't regret any aspect of it at all. It was a defining moment for us. We let go of something we were never called to be. We just didn't know the price we were going to pay for doing it."

In the end, those who left tended to be white, middle-class suburbanites, church staff members said. In their place, the church has added more members who live in the surrounding community -- African-Americans, Hispanics and Hmong immigrants from Laos.

This suits Mr. Boyd. His vision for his church is an ethnically and economically diverse congregation that exemplifies Jesus' teachings by its members' actions.

Okay maybe describing him a conservative might have been the wrong adjective earlier, perhaps we should give him the label "un-self-aware progressive" instead.

 Either way he's a wise man, so I'll close this as I opened it with a thought from the Rev.:

One woman asked: "So why NOT us? If we contain the wisdom and grace and love and creativity of Jesus, why shouldn't we be the ones involved in politics and setting laws?"

Mr. Boyd responded: "I don't think there's a particular angle we have on society that others lack. All good, decent people want good and order and justice. Just don't slap the label `Christian' on it."

Can I get an Amen?