The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.

The court scholar serving Hermann of Thuringia.
The scholar


Letter to Weekly Standard

Bill Kristol came out against US performance in Iraq, suggesting that the US effort there was short of personnnel. I wrote the following letter to him:

28 February 2006

Bill Kristol
The Weekly Standard
1150 17th Street, NW Suite 505
Washington, DC 20036

Subj: Your statement on Fox News Sunday that US has
...not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq”

Dear Mr Kristol,

As a liberal blogger, I won’t belabor the pre-war estimates of the manpower needed to overthrow Saddam Hussein AND to stabilize Iraq in the aftermath. As Rumsfeld has said [paraphrasing] “Ooh Gawwd! I’m like, sooo sick of hearing about how Shinseki was right and I was wrong!!”

My question is, how come I don’t recall you and Limbaugh and Coulter and Hannity, etc., etc., making pitches for people to enlist in the Army? It became obvious to me during the much-longer-than-planned battle at Umm Qasr that the Iraqi army America was facing was a great deal tougher than the rag-tag, unmotivated recruits we routed during the 1991 war. Granted, I had nine years in the Navy and was a military history buff long before that, but my information sources were all strictly public and non-classified. I can’t believe that I saw the significance of this and that the US chain of command didn’t.

At the time, I was unaware of the dilemma faced by the US commander at the three-square-mile ammo dump at al Qa-qaa. He apparently had to choose between making the charge towards Baghdad and between leaving behind enough troops to properly secure that dump. Again, there’s no question that people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Feith and anybody else in that chain of command was aware of the shortage of personnel that dictated that fateful choice.

I suspected at the time but have not run across any evidence that their shortage of personnel persuaded the Army not to try and prevent the entirely predictable, wholesale orgy of looting and destruction that followed the fall of Baghdad. But I’ve simply never found credible the explanation that the folks in charge were just too stupid to realize the horrible PR black eye the chaos would give to the US occupation. The difficulty of managing the reconstruction of Iraq, heck, of maintaining Iraqi society in the meantime, also seemed obvious to me at the time. A bureaucrat without an office is like a pilot without a plane or a sailor without a ship, i.e., more or less useless.

Given that the need for more “boots on the ground” was blatantly obvious long before Bush’s aircaft carrier “Mission Accomplished” speech and that the need for more troops became even more obviously necessary once that insurgency began in earnest by August 2003, it’s a mystery to me why you and other conservative spokespeople have never once made any serious recruiting pitches to your conservative and Republican followers.

Why is that?

Richmond L Gardner
PN3(Ret), USN, 1991-2001


The US press, Rice & Mideast diplomacy

Now y'see, this is what annoys me about the US press. These are the last four paragraphs in a 10 kilobyte story about Secretary of State Rice trying to bring the blessings of democracy to the Mideast.

In the Arab world, the impression left by Rice's trip -- which also included stops in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates -- was that she was on a mission to round up support to punish a series of U.S. enemies, such as Hamas, Iran and Syria. The campaign against Hamas, formally known as the Islamic Resistance Movement, drew particular scorn because it was seen as hypocritical to want to punish a group that had achieved power through democratic elections. The United States and the European Union have designated Hamas a terrorist organization.

The skepticism in the region was reflected in the blunt questions posed to Rice by Arab journalists.

In Saudi Arabia, a female journalist, dressed head to toe in a black abaya, demanded: "How is it possible to harmonize the U.S. position as a nation supporting freedom of expression and the right of people to practice democracy with your effort to curb the will of Hamas?"

Egyptian Television's Mervat Mohsen also rattled off a series of tough questions. "American calls for democracy have unwittingly brought unprecedented support for the Muslim Brotherhood, but you're not happy with the Muslim Brotherhood in power," he said. "Is this some kind of designer's democracy then, Dr. Rice?"

It would have been nice to have gotten Rice's answers to these very good and relevant questions, just as it would have been useful to have placed these quotes at the beginning of the piece so as to have given readers a better flavor of the obstacles that Rice was facing in trying to convince Arabs that the US was serious about democracy. As it is, the US is having a difficult time covincing Arabs that it isn't simply using democracy as a cheap talking point, as something to be dragged out when convenient and ignored when it conflicts with other foreign policy goals.


More hysterical justifications

ON SEPT. 11, 2001, three planes carried death and destruction to American targets.

Wow! That was quick! A conservative arguing that we should surrender our Constitutional rights in exchange for false promises of safety delivered by an administration that doesn't even seem to care about seaport security. Usually, people at least wait a couple of sentences before gnashing their teeth, rending their garments and screaming "9-11! 9-11!" Notice what the author then does in the next paragraph. Note especially the two passages I've emphasized:

On Sept. 14, Congress passed a resolution giving George Bush authorization to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against the masterminds of the attacks. In those dark moments, we resolved to use any means at our disposal to deter future attacks.

The first passage cites what the legislation that was passed actually said. The second cites what some citizens, by no means all citizens, felt was necessary to be safe.

Daschle, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota who helped negotiate the resolution with the White House, said the resolution did not grant President Bush authority to order warrantless spying on Americans suspected of terrorist ties. Daschle said warrantless wiretaps of Americans never came up in the negotiations.

"I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps," Daschle wrote in an article on the Post's opinion page. "I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance."

Daschle said the White House sought, but failed, to have included in the resolution language that would have given the president war powers within the United States. He said he refused "to accede to the extraordinary request for additional authority."

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text."

The following statement then, is dishonest in the extreme:

...the same body that enacted FISA issued the enabling authorization. And contrary to what some critics claim, the resolution was not limited to sending troops into Afghanistan. Read the language.

The language is quite clear and specific and, as Daschle says, does not authorize warrantless wiretaps.

It's naive to believe that the NSA controversy is about privacy.

This is a highly cynical and insulting statement. It completely denies that anybody with an opinion different from the President's could possibly be sincere or is arguing in good faith, as an American citizen who wants the best for his or her fellow citizens. Naturally, there is no attempt to prove this statement by any citation of facts or evidence.
Is this a controversy about "executive power, its limits and its prerogatives"? Of course it is, no doubt about it. Nor is there any doubt that citizen privacy and what the Constitution, specifically the 4th Amendment, says about "unreasonable searches and seizures" is also at issue. There's no reason whatsoever to suggest that Congressional opponents are being in any way dishonest or cynical.

But a clear and unbiased examination of this administration's actions shows that, at the very least, Bush and his advisers believed that they were acting under a constitutional umbrella.

There is no reason to disparage this statement. We can grant the Bush Administration the honest belief that it was and is acting within the law of the land. But their belief that what they were doing was legal does not translate into "What they were doing was legal." Somebody can sincerely, even fervently believe in something. That doesn't make it true.

The administration briefed key members of congressional oversight committees as well as the chief judges of the FISA court. If any of these individuals felt that the program crossed into illegality and, worse, unconstitutionality, they could have spoken up years ago.

Actually, they could not have done so as the following passage shows:

...according to a newly released letter sent to him that month by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, raised concerns in the letter, which was declassified with several redactions and made public yesterday by her staff. [emphasis mine]

If Pelosi's letter had to be declassified before she could share it with the public (The same article states that "The substance of Hayden's response one week later, on Oct. 17, 2001, was redacted.") then there is no mystery whatsoever as to why opponents of the program did not speak up. They were only permitted to speak privately to the Administration and the Administration didn't care very much for their views.

Not being sure of her case, the author feels obliged to close with yet more 9-11 horror:

...the screams of the innocent and the smell of burning flesh.
...their blood will not have been shed in vain.

Bush Administration vs seaport security

A mere 13 days after the attacks of September 11 in 2001, two committees, one from the Senate and one from the House, agreed to ask the Secretary of Transportation to develop recommendations for strengthening seaport security, the issue was considered that important. Four years later, the Bush Administration has aroused bipartisan fury and astonishment by trying to hand control of US seaport security over to a company wholly owned by the United Arab Emirates. "The Bush administration says it found no security risk in the deal but would not elaborate, saying the details are classified."

It is of course possible to overstate risks to US security as opportunity costs due to increased vigilance are great. "Educational visa applications in the United States fell by almost 100,000 from 2001 to 2003, reflecting in part the hassle created by homeland security." More inspections at border checkpoints may mean milllions of dollars a day in lost business and
increased immigration controls are known to hurt industry. The Bush Administration has been accused of trying to paint an image of a "border out of control." in order to sell Americans a guest-worker program that "virtually eliminates the possibility of establishing residency and citizenship for the 8 to 10 million undocumented workers and their families currently residing in the U.S."

The Bush Administration appears to have been rather stunned by opposition to the deal with the UAE as there has been little concern about the fact that "China's biggest state-owned shipper runs major ports in the United States, as do a host of other foreign companies". Still, there are concerns about the UAE and the investigation that seven members of Congress are calling for are required by law anyway.

Currently, the Bush Administration has decided to take a highly aggressive approach to defending the deal, the President even going so far as to threaten a veto if the deal is derailed.

UPDATES: The Administration appears to have taken the tack of "The President is a clueless moron" by having Bush say that he wasn't really aware of the proposal yet. Ms Seal feels
that Bush is lying.

Democrats notice: "Gee, that's funny! Many of the Republicans screaming and yelling about the deal have been opposing seaport security measures for years now!"

White House has financial ties to Dubai firm. Can we say "crony connection?"

Huh! So liberal opponents of the deal are motivated by racism, eh?

Do business and national security REALLY mix?


War with Iran? Prediction is set for March 28th

[Originally written 2/12, revised 2/17]

Is the Bush Administration trying to launch a war on Iran? With the tight secrecy and known dishonesty that the Administration has demonstrated in the past, any conclusions are necessarily tentative. There are many reasons to believe an attack is on the agenda, but strong reasons to think that an attack will never take place.

News from the AP on US posture towards Iran:

“WASHINGTON (AP) -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is asking Congress for $75 million in an emergency spending bill to support democracy in Iran, Bush administration officials said Wednesday.”

“The money, to be included in a supplemental 2006 budget request the White House is expected to soon send Congress, will be used for radio and satellite television broadcasting and for programs to help Iranians study abroad...”

If the situation were reversed and Iran was requesting money to “support democracy” in the US and in that spirit, to fund “radio and satellite television broadcasting” from satellites and transmitters in Mexico and Canada, the likelihood is about 100% that Americans would see that as an attack on America's political institutions. The fact that the requested $75 million is termed as an “emergency” measure also suggests that the Bush Administration is in a hurry to establish a presence in Iran, whether it's to set up scouting locations to prepare for an offensive later on or to get a fifth column started up so as to weaken Iran from within.

This request continues a very disquieting trend dating from the “Axis of Evil” State of the Union speech in 2002 where Iraq, North Korea and Iran were described as partners threatening the world with Weapons of Mass Destruction (A phrase dating back to 1937, but that did not enter popular usage until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.) and which all required an aggressive response. The trend was continued in (selected passages from) the latest State of the Union speech:

“At the start of 2006, more than half the people of our world live in democratic nations. And we do not forget the other half -- in places like Syria and Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, and Iran...”

“Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this world toward peace.“

“Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity. (Applause.)”

“The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon -- and that must come to an end. (Applause.) The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. (Applause.) America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”

“Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran. (Applause.)”

So what is the likelihood that the US will invade Iran? According to William Engdahl, the US faces very formidable obstacles in doing so:

“Iran a vast, strategically central expanse of land, more than double the land area of France and Germany combined, with well over 70 million people, and one of the fastest population growth rates in the world, is well prepared for a new Holy War. Its mountainous terrain makes any thought of a US ground occupation inconceivable at a time the Pentagon is having problems retaining its present force to maintain the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations.”

Engdahl also documents a very close and increasingly closer trade relationship between Iran and Russia, suggesting that Russia desire to be a “global player”. Others suggest that Iran is "playing" Russia and is pursuing a hostile and contradictory course. Engdahl points out that China is also heavily involved and has sold Iran “...thousands of tanks, armored personnel vehicles, and artillery pieces, several hundred surface-to-air, air-to-air, cruise, and ballistic missiles as well as thousands of antitank missiles, more than a hundred fighter aircraft, and dozens of small warships. “

It appears then, that a US invasion of Iran would involve the US in a global conflict with the US and possibly Europe facing off against their old Cold War nemeses Russia and China. It's also noteworthy that the US appears to be fighting to maintain the hegemony of the Dollar versus the Euro. So is such a scenario likely to occur? Unfortunately, the US has not been acting like a responsible power for the last several years.

Pillar describes for the first time that the intelligence community did assessments before the invasion [of Iraq] that, he wrote, indicated a postwar Iraq 'would not provide fertile ground for democracy' and would need 'a Marshall Plan-type effort' to restore its economy despite its oil revenue. It also foresaw Sunnis and Shiites fighting for power.”

“Pillar wrote that the intelligence community 'anticipated that a foreign occupying force would itself be the target of resentment and attacks -- including guerrilla warfare -- unless it established security and put Iraq on the road to prosperity in the first few weeks or months after the fall of Saddam.' "

Yet, we see that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq anyway and appears to have relied upon a “faith-based” strategy, founded mostly upon wishful thinking.

Let's also remember the comment by an anonymous Bush aide (Who many people believe was Vice-President Cheney):

"The aide said that guys like me were 'in what we call the reality-based community,' which he defined as people who 'believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.' I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. 'That's not the way the world really works anymore,' he continued. 'We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality -- judiciously, as you will -- we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.' ''

It would be very, very nice to believe that the Bush people have developed a sober, sensible plan based upon reality and not upon wishful thinking, but that appears to be a pretty long shot.


Copy of letter to Time Magazine

John Dickerson being interviewed by Al Franken

First off, I agree with commentators who have stated that the whole era started by Bob Woodward, the whole idea that “If we get really close to our sources, we can get great scoops” has reached the end of its' useful life. If a whistleblower needs to reveal that, say, their supervisor is an arrogant, close-minded 24-year-old who is confusing his role with that of a KGB political officer, then the whistleblower will obviously need a way to access reporters and obviously needs to have his or her identity protected.

But for reporters to be cultivating close personal relationships with Bush Administration figures like Karl Rove is just sad. If Rove needs to get a story out, I assure you he'll find a way. There's simply no need for reporters to bend over backwards in order to make it easy for Rove to get his talking points out.

I'm not arguing Rove should be betrayed or outed, I'm arguing that reporters shouldn't be cultivating close relationships with people in his position in the first place. The situation with President Bush's story about foiling a 2002 plot to attack towers on the West Coast is one that demonstrates the usefulness of an arms-length relationship with ones' sources. Reporters who were not closely associated with the Bush Administration were able to dig up the fact that the mayor of LA didn't know anything about the alleged plot. The reporters with close personal relationships could tell the public what the Rovian talking points were and that's about it.

The whole Judith Miller story is a perfect example of a reporter getting all of these great, wonderful, fantastic “scoops”, in return for the devil's bargain of giving up her skepticism and allowing herself to be used to get out the Administration's talking points. She and Time Magazine appear to have acted like victims of the “Stockholm Syndrome” and everybody in both organizations acted like they all had to preserve the personal relationship that one or a few reporters had cultivated, even if it meant lying to the American public (or the functional equivalent thereof) by simply quoting Administration stories and denials as though there were no other side to the story.

Do Administration sources offer useful information behind closed doors that help reporters understand the story better and so report it better? Perhaps, but that understanding can't be shared with the public. If reporters instead got their info from Congresspeople or other folks who have received classified briefings, but who are speaking on the record, that might be a way to square the circle. You could receive information, all of which can be shared with the public, but it would be coming from an informed source who understands how it all fits together. If politicians don't wish to reveal how decisions are made or what goes into their decisions, then they're the primary losers as the public will lose faith in them. By giving reporters insights that reporters can't share, the public loses as reporters then lose sight of who they're responsible to and of how much information can be shared.

As a member of the public I ask you, please maintain an arms-length distance from your sources. There is absolutely no percentage whatsoever in getting so close to these people that reporters start losing their skepticism and objectivity and begin lying to the American public in order to maintain their close, cozy and confidential relationships.


Gonzales attempts to defend warrantless NSA spying

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began his opening statements as to why the Bush Administration directed the National Security Agency to spy on perhaps thousands of American citizens. Republican Senator Arlen Specter expressed skepticism about the Administration's story, Specter told Gonzales that even the Supreme Court had ruled that "the president does not have a blank check." Lawyer and liberal blogger Glenn Greenwald explains in an interview why the NSA spying case is of bipartisan concern. "The reality is-is that the scandal is about whether or not we live under the rule of law and that is not a conservative or a liberal debate-that is an American value..."

In an oft-quoted segment, Gonzales maintains that well...yes, al Qaeda members are aware that they are under surveillance, "But if they're not reminded about it all the time in the newspapers and in stories, they sometimes forget." which is apparently meant to suggest that the American people will be tipping off al Qaeda if they talk to much about such things.

Local political analyst Dick Polman points out that Democrats and liberals are all over the place on the issue. There is no one "liberal position", with progressive blogs expressing astonishment that "There are no email blasts from Senate offices, no elected rep teams organized to fling quotes and talking points at the press, no bloggers coordinating fifty possible small tasks..." to Governor Tom Vilsack declaring that "If the president broke the law, that's unacceptable. But I think it's debateable whether he did". In any event, the Attorney General seems to find disarray among the opposition very convenient as the blog firedoglake notes that Gonzales doesn't seem terribly inclined to answer questions from Democrats, even though he appears to answer very readily when Republicans ask questions.

The Bush Administration, meawhile, has made it quite clear that it intends to come out of this looking good, at all costs:

"Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November."

" 'It's hardball all the way,' a senior GOP congressional aide said."

The blogger Digby finds it very highly likely that the Administration was and is spying on domestic political opponents.

UPDATE: This story was posted on PhillyIMC and picked up by the National IMC.


Gonzales' upcoming testimony on NSA spying

DailyKos looks at the preview of Gonzales' testimony that will be delivered Monday:

Gonzales also plans to chastize the media, saying "Contrary to the speculation reflected in some media reporting, "the terrorist surveillance program is not a dragnet that sucks in all conversations and uses computer searches to pick out calls of interest."

Really? Someone forgot to tell Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff:

"Now, what we're trying to do is gather as many dots as we can, figure out which are the ones that have to be connected and we're getting them connected," he said.

While refusing to discuss how the highly classified program works, Chertoff made it pretty clear that it involves "data-mining" -- collecting vast amounts of international communications data, running it through computers to spot key words and honing in on potential terrorists.

Hey, if the Bush Administration had released the surveillance logs to people that we, the citizens of the United States could trust to tell us the truth, well maybe we wouldn't be having such a problem with speculation.

Dunno, with both a terroroist attack on the SuperBowl predicted and the Bush Administration getting increasingly impatient with Iran, seems like the testimony might never take place. AmericaBlog wonders "With what Army?" Oh, and Richard Perle argues for striking Iran sooner rather than later.


The "Environmental President"

In my posts on the SOTU, I wondered about the lack of any reaction from progressives to Bush's promises to adopt more environmentally-friendly, sustainable methods of moving our automobiles and heating our homes. Rush Limbaugh was quite convinced that liberals "ought to be having multiple orgasms" over Bush's alternative energy proposals. His analysis of those proposals appears to be right on the mark, though: "He's just putting this stuff in there to, you know, to ameliorate the -- everybody in the audience. Gotta give everybody something in a State of the Union address, even the environmentalist[s]."
So how have the alternative-energy solutions fared within two days of their being announced? Well, er, um, not so much, actually:

Diplomatically, Mr. Bush's ambitious call for the replacement of 75 percent of the United States' Mideast oil imports with ethanol and other energy sources by 2025 upset Saudi Arabia, the main American oil supplier in the Persian Gulf. In an interview on Wednesday, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said he would have to "seek an explanation" from Mr. Bush.

And today:

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports
By Kevin G. Hall
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally. [emphasis added]

Ah well, so much for the "environmental president". Not that anyone on this side of the aisle believed him anyway.


Analysis of 2006 SOTU

From Bush's 2006 State of the Union speech:

No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam – the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder – and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East, and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder. Their aim is to seize power in Iraq, and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan … or blow up commuters in London … or behead a bound captive … the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated: We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.

This is a part of the speech that was delivered in a slow and sober manner, but the language here is absolutely hysterical. I don't mean hysterical in a funny “Ha-ha” sense, I mean hysterical in an arm-waving, screaming, running-naked-down-the-street sense. Are “terrorists” (This word is, as always, very vaguely defined and universally applied to the national enemy of the moment, pretty much regardless of the actual tactics or methods used.) like bin Laden “serious about mass murder”? Duh! Bin Laden engineered 9-11 (Allegedly anyway. Websites like 911Truth have serious questions about that.) so of course he's “serious” about it! As is quite normal for Bush, he engages in “straw man” arguments. He accuses people of asking questions nobody ever dreamed of asking or of making assertions that no one ever dreamed of making. Who is America is honestly under the impression that bin Laden is not serious?

“Their aim is to seize power in Iraq”. Okay, let's take this claim at face value. Is there any serious possibility that such a thing could be done? People have counted the foreign jihadists among insurgent casualties (No, there's no way to tell what proportion of the jihadists are al Qaeda.) and among prisoners taken in the field. I have yet to see a serious estimate above 7% and most of them are in the range of 3% or 5%. Now, if the jihadists wanted to take over from within a peaceful society, if they wanted to launch a surprise coup and suddenly take control, this plan might make a bit of sense. How they are supposed to wrest control of Iraq from a well-armed and organized insurgency doesn't make any sense at all. Might Zarqawi be the Dr Moriarty of Iraq, the e-e-e-evil mastermind behind the Iraq insurgency? Doubtful. The Middle East Institute published a study in August 2003 on the Iraq insurgency that remains one of the better and more sober views of the insurgency that I've seen. They estimated that there were up to 15 separate, independent groups engaged in armed combat with the American occupiers of Iraq. I find it very highly doubtful that al Qaeda will remain operating in Iraq for as much as a month after American soldiers have been driven out or after a negotiated withdrawal has taken place. To delay a withdrawal from that country for fear al Qaeda will take over is just plain silly.

The best way to break this addiction [to oil] is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly 10 billion dollars to develop cleaner, cheaper, more reliable alternative energy sources – and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.

Nearly $10 billion? Hey sounds real good! Oh, by the way, how much profit (Not gross earnings, profit) did Exxon stash away for just this last quarter? Oh, $10.7 billion. So the President thinks that putting as many research dollars into replacements for oil as a single company has profited by in a single quarter amounts to a serious program?!?!? Puh-leez!!

Oh, and...

FACT - BUSH PUSHED FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY CUTS IN LATEST BUDGET: President Bush's FY06 budget request for the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) energy efficiency and renewable energy programs envisioned "reductions totaling nearly $50 million - an overall cut of roughly four percent." [Renewable Energy Access, 2/28/05]

The reaction of the audience I watched the SOTU with was also quite interesting. Basically, their reaction was non-existent. Not surprising, as Bush has done little or nothing to press for already-proven technologies. How many wind-power station openings has Bush or any member of the Bush Administration gone to? LeftCoaster summarizes the Bush Administration approach to energy issues.

Max Blumenthal at the Huffington Post covers the incident cited by Bush as to the reason he's asking for his NSA spying program to continue. Was America's inability to put wiretaps onto suspected members of al Qaeda the reason 9-11 succeeded? Hardly. The reasons had more to do with simple ineptitude and incompetence. Tom Tomorrow also has a great piece on that.

As for Bush's earnest and heartfelt peans to liberty and democracy and all that fine stuff, firedoglake has a post on how Cindy Sheehan was treated when she wore a t-shirt to the SOTU address that conflicted with the happy-happy joy-joy images that Bush and his image-makers preferred. We mean, y'know, protest and all that is fine and dandy, but well, y'know, it's gotta be the right sort of protest, it has to fit in with the themes of the day and all.

State of the Union
Observed at Arch St United Methodist Church
31 Jan 06

Moderated by Rev Robert Hynicka - Arch St
Ed Schwartz - Institute for Study of Civic Values
Rev James Allen - Vine St Memorial Baptist Church
Rabbi Avi Winokur - Society Hill Synagogue
Sister Mary Scullion - Project HOME

Just how dedicated IS this president to establishing a society on the model set forth by John Winthrop and William Penn?
Values are the focus of tonight's talk.
Alito represents a backwards move. Death of Coretta Scott King is not a hopeful sign either. It'd sure be nice to receive some sign that the president or someone, cares about the many problems outlined.
The difficult life of those in poverty. 13,000 families have income equal to those of 20 million other families. 100 million people have less than 1% of nation's wealth.
About quarter of nation is really struggling financially, tomorrow Congress considers bill to reduce deficit. We must make it happen.

(2100 = 9:00pm)

2100: Introductions and cheering for individual guests. Presume that lengthy cheering indicates short speech.
2108: President finally announced
2112: Enters. Acknowledges CSK. Calls for goodwill and mutual respect. We can choose to take on challenge or seek an easier life.
2116: Mentions 9-11
2117: Mentions purple fingers and other democratic "triumphs".
2118: "Radical Islam" is the enemy. They seek "totalitarian control" over Mideast. Lots of clapping in Congress, Audience quite calm here.
2120: Rejects false comfort of isolationism. Seeks to marginalize insurgency.
2122: Declares "We are winning"
2123: Critical decisions NOT made by politicians in Washington DC
2124: Criticizes critics.
2127: Introduces first guest of honor. Calls upon Americans to "never forget sacrifices of military families".
2130: Democracies of Mideast will not look like our own. Criticizes Iran. We respect Iran but look forward to democratic Iran.
2132: Mentions AIDS, other problems.
2133: Keep watch for terrorism here at home.
2134: Reauthorize Patriot Act! Mentions 9-11 again.
2135: Terrorist surveillance program i.e. NSA spying program
2137: Economy in great shape. Against protectionism. Immigrants necessary.
2140: Tax cuts led to four years of uninterrupted growth. Pushes for permanent tax cuts. Big applause for that one.
2141: Cutting $14 billion next year. Wants line-item veto. Wants to rein in entitlement spending. Congress failed to act on Social Security. Audience here laughs. Wants bipartisan solution to problem of baby-boomers.
2145: Calls for orderly, secure borders.
2147: Wants to use health info tech to reduce costs.
2148: Medical liability reform gets enthusiastic applause. Calls for alternative energy sources. Congress sounds very enthusiastic. Audience here wants to see actual progress.
2153: Calls for compassionate, decent, hopeful society. Things are wonderful and people have quietly progressed.
2156: Mentions Roberts & Alito.
2157: Calls for banning of all cloning technology.
2159: Wife
2200: $85 billion spent on Gulf Coast.
2203: Ends. Audience here quiet and impassive throughout.

Speakers started out with pro-Bush speaker. Every single other speaker anti-Bush, one of whom read out Fourth Amendment. Speaker points out that one companie's profit for one quarter equals total spending on all alternative energy research.

Speakers after comments universally critical.