Monday, February 28, 2005
Jeff Gannon and Armstrong Williams may be gone, but the propaganda machine rolls on.
Today Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Charles B. Rangel, and Rep. Sander M. Levin, along with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, and Reps. Obey, Miller, and DeLauro, released a new report that shows how the Social Security Administration has modified its communications strategy to undermine public confidence in Social Security.
The report provides detailed, side-by-side examples of the changes in Social Security Administration documents during the Bush Administration. These changes include:
-- "The Future of Social Security" booklet -- which used to begin: "Will Social Security be there for you? Absolutely" -- now begins: "Social Security must change."
-- Agency press releases on the solvency of Social Security have grown more dire even as the projections of the program's long-term solvency have improved.
-- Agency presentations have eliminated statements that assure beneficiaries that "there is no immediate financial crisis."
-- The annual Social Security statement sent to Americans has dropped the assurance that Social Security will "be there when you retire" and no longer encourages Americans to think of Social Security as a "foundation on which to build your financial future."
At this point I believe such an absurdity is entirely within the realm of possibility. His sins provide ample precedent in kind, though the maginitude of his breaking ranks here might be unprecedented.
I assume that it is impossible to discipline him. Dr. Bloor has informed me that he thinks Killer Joe's constituents actually like the idea of having a DINO -- they get the selfish benefits of a Republican Senator AND the balm against guilt that comes with voting for Democrat.
The party leadership is thus left with only one way to maintain unity on this, the most important issue Congressional Democrts now face -- and perhaps to put a real Democrat in his seat: excommunicate him. Toss him out of the party. Force him and his constituents to resolve the profound cognitive dissonance his very existence perpetuates. If he is going to act like a Republican, make him run as one. And let a real Democrat run against him.
In his first lengthy address since becoming attorney general in early February, Gonzales said people who distribute obscene materials do not enjoy constitutional guarantees of free speech.
'I am committed to prosecuting these crimes aggressively,' he said to a Washington meeting of the California-based Hoover Institution.
The Justice Department is appealing the dismissal of an obscenity case in Pittsburgh in which a federal judge said prosecutors went too far in trying to block the sale of pornographic movies over the Internet and through the mail. The case initially was prosecuted under Ashcroft.
Among other priorities Gonzales noted:
— Ending Senate blocking of judicial nominees, a 'broken process that must be fixed' before there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court.
— Renewing provisions of the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire at the end of the year, saying the law has been an important tool in preventing terror attacks in the United States.
— Amending the Constitution to give crime victims the right to participate in prosecutions and sentencings. "
Mr. Bluememe already commented on some other obscenity cases to which Mr. Gonzales might turn his attention (hint:
I was just wondering why, during his confirmation hearing, AG didn't bother to preview his ideas about what sort of control, exactly, the DOJ should have over Senate rules and procedures.
I'm also wondering why his proposed constitutional amendment limits the participation of victims to prosecution and sentencing. Why is he denying them their god-given right to pull the switch during executions?
"To the Editor:
Harold Ward's Feb. 19 letter ("Global warming and wind turbines") implies that wind turbines do not contribute to global warming. That is false, and directly contradicts the laws of science.
Schoolbooks teach that objects moving through the air generate friction and thus heat, which is not insignificant. It is why meteors and space capsules glow white-hot when flying through the air. Schoolchildren do an experiment in which a paddle wheel is spun inside a closed container and the inside temperature is seen to rise. Wind-turbine blade tines approach the speed of sound, due to their huge diameter. The list of examples goes on and on.
So wind turbines do, in fact, contribute to global warning. It may be tempting to argue that the amount of warming from one turbine is insignificant. But that would be true only because the amount of electricity contributed by one turbine is likewise insignificant -- making the argument an exercise in silliness.
Ward's letter is yet another example of world-saving promises being defended with arguments that violate the most basic principles of science.
NICHOLAS RATTI Jr.
I assume we can look forward to more compelling arguments from Mr. Ratti in the future on topics such as how the use of live vaccines is destined to wipe out the human race, and the like. I'm more interested in the dynamics of publishing this. Goofing around? Misguided sense of egalitarianism? Do they really believe this? At the Projo, it's often hard to tell.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
In a letter dated February 14, 2005 and addressed to U.S. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA), Special Counsel Scott Bloch defends his stormy 13 months in office by pointing to a sharp drop in backlogged whistleblower cases.
“Everyone agrees that backlogs and delays are bad but they are not as bad as simply dumping the cases altogether,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that this letter is the first account that Bloch has released of his tenure and that his office’s report for FY 2004, which ended in October, is overdue. “If the Office of Special Counsel under Scott Bloch is not helping whistleblowers then there is no reason for the office to continue to exist.”
According to the figures released by Bloch, in the past year the Office of Special Counsel—
Dismissed or otherwise disposed of 600 whistleblower disclosures where civil servants have reported waste, fraud, threats to public safety and violations of law. Bloch has yet to announce a single case where he has ordered an investigation into the employee’s charges. Bloch says that 100 disclosures are still pending; and
Made 470 claims of retaliation disappear. In not one of these cases did Bloch’s office affirmatively represent a whistleblower to obtain relief before the civil service court system, called the Merit Systems Protection Board. Bloch says that another 30 retaliation cases remain in the backlog.
In order to speed dismissals, Bloch instituted a rule forbidding his staff from contacting a whistleblower if their disclosure was deemed incomplete or ambiguous. Instead, OSC would simply dismiss the matter. As a result, hundreds of whistleblowers never had a chance to justify why their cases had merit.
If you start from the hypothesis that the last thing anyone in the Bush Administration wants to hear is the truth, the Plame case, the WMD outrage, Gannongate, Armstrong Williams, and now this -- it all makes such perfect sense.
Think we would ever have heard of Linda Tripp under these clowns?
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Principal Sam Ward of Fleming Island High School initially decided to pull Kelli Davis' picture from the yearbook because Davis, who is openly gay, was dressed in boy's clothing.
The School Board took no action to reverse that decision at a Thursday night meeting attended by about 200 people, and superintendent David Owens said afterward it will stand.
Karen Gordon applauded Ward's decision, saying, 'When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds.'"
In that case, Ms. Gordon, shouldn't all of the students be wearing shirts and ties?
Dept. of Old News, Wire Service subsection
The security breach, which included data on a third of the Pentagon's staff, angered lawmakers already concerned after criminals gained access to thousands of consumer profiles in a database maintained by a data profiling company, ChoicePoint Inc.
Bank of America Corp. did not release details of how the tapes were lost, but Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said he had been informed by the Senate Rules Committee that the data tapes were likely stolen off a commercial plane by baggage handlers.
'Whether it is identity theft, terrorism or other theft, in this new and complicated world baggage handlers should have background checks and more care should be taken for who is hired for these increasingly sensitive positions,' Schumer said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, said he hoped the fact that Senate information was among the lost data would spur Congress to pay attention to a 'rapid erosion of privacy rights' due to faulty data security. "
Leahy has this one right. While I feel badly for the DoD employees whose info was ripped off, little would please me more than to learn that any Senator CorpoStooge's data has been cloned to the point of making his or her life pure hell while working through the labyrinthine process involved in recovering one's identity. Schumer's comment is indicative of just how badly the disease has spread in Congress--he argues that the gummint should do a better job of screening baggage handlers, rather than suggesting that the megajillion dollar corporations who have this information be held responsible for transporting it in a remotely responsible manner. This stuff was in checked baggage on a commercial flight?
Friday, February 25, 2005
"Both political parties are to blame for the impasse on confirming President Bush's judicial nominees, says Arlen Specter, Republican chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
'No one wants to back down and no one wants to lose face,' Specter said Thursday in his first interview since disclosing he has Hodgkin's disease.
Specter will initiate this year's confirmation battles between Bush and the Democrats by holding hearings on the nominations of former Interior Department Solicitor William Myers on Tuesday, a nominee who was blocked last year, and U.S. District Judge Terrance Boyle on Thursday, a nominee who has been waiting for his confirmation hearing since the beginning of Bush's presidency.
While he expects those nominees to undergo severe questioning from Democrats, Specter, of Pennsylvania, is certain the Republicans' 10-8 advantage on the Judiciary Committee can win approval there, sending the nominations to the full Senate.
'When it comes to the floor, as you all know, it is another matter,' he said.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Bush's 'my way-or-the-highway' posture on judicial nominations is the real obstruction.
'There is zero consultation,' Schumer said. 'That is not what the founders intended.'
Specter, however, said Democrats blocked President Reagan and President George H.W. Bush's nominees, then Republicans retaliated by blocking President Clinton's and now Democrats are taking their turn."
Collins and Snowe aren't worth trying to flip, and neither can be counted on to break ranks from the Repub line, no matter how immoral the position (cf. Gonzales confirmation vote). Chaffee is screwed in '06 whether he moves to the left or the right, so expect him to sit quietly in the road with his thumb up his arse for the next two years. And Specter, now in what will certainly be his last term and confronting a life-threatening illness, shows America just what a bold, independent thinker he is by pushing out this logical cow pie.
For all their rhetoric about trying to get their party back, governing from the center and promoting bipartisanship, these people are nothing but puppets who lend an illusory sense of dignity and reasonableness to the Party of the Wingnuts. They have absolutely nothing of real value to offer the senate or the country. Nothing.
'WWJD condoms are a divinely inspired idea and they work like a charm,' says the Rev. Dr. Paul Morehead, whose short-wave radio broadcast from Montgomery, Ala., reaches an estimated 16 million listeners worldwide.
'Don't tell me about hormones. Don't talk to me about unbridled appetites of the flesh.
'When a young man and a young woman give in to Satan, when they strip down like animals in the wild and prepare themselves for a lusty round of heavy petting and full-blown sex, what better reminder for them to buck up than a WWJD condom with the image of our Lord and Savior right there on the package, and then, as a fail safe measure, also on the prophylactic itself?
'I've tested them with my own teenagers and hardly a weekend passes when one of them doesn't come back home with a WWJD condom completely unrolled and dangling unused from his or her fingertips or pushed up under the seat of the car as a badge of honor.
'At the very moment their temptation was strongest, they turned back from sin after seeing the boldly-lettered WWJD logo that signifies, 'Stop! Think! What would Jesus do in this situation?' '
Flabbergasted critics couldn't disagree more.
They say putting Jesus Christ on condoms isn't just tacky, it's a sacrilege -- and they openly wonder if preacher Morehead hasn't lost his mind.
Naysayers aside, Morehead has arranged for a manufacturer to produce 100,000 of the WWJD prophylactics that he plans to sell for $5 a pop over the Internet and through Christian bookstores nationwide.
'All the profits will go to a home I'm building for unwed mothers,' says the preacher. 'A home that wouldn't be needed if those girls had been carrying a WWJD condom."'
Since Mr. Bluememe is off for a few days and was foolish enough to leave me with the keys to the blog, I thought I'd show some junior blogger initiative and import a few pieces from some of my favorite publications. In this case, the Weekly World News.
Now, I don't exactly believe everything I read in WWN--I'm pretty sure they were just spoofin' when they covered the Saddam-Osama romance (and primate love child). But it took a Googling to make sure this was a hoax. Pretty close to a routine press release out of the Department of Health and Human Services these days...
Up next: the latest from UFO Quarterly. Oops! Scooped by Jennings...
Thursday, February 24, 2005
real world distractions
Have fun storming the castle.
The star of hotmilitarystud.com seems to have turned pro some time ago, but the weird is getting weirder.
When the excrement hit the impeller a few weeks ago, Guckert/Gannon vacillated between hiding in a dark recess and offering bizarre, incomplete and contradictory public statements. His "work" at Talon was scrubbed off. Then Talon itself went dark.
Now Mr. Gannongate is back with his own website. There's a sizeable army on our side pushing to get to the bottom of Gannongate. I don't imagine that he is going to be getting a whole lot of top-level help (witness the atrocious grammar and proofreading), and reasonable people could question the number of cards in the deck he is playing with. So this should be quite entertaining.
The recent public focus on Talon News, while much of it malicious, has indeed brought some constructive elements to the surface. It has also brought many kind messages of support, and for that we are extremely grateful.
In order to better serve those readers across the country who enjoy Talon News content and look forward to receiving it each day, we feel compelled to reevaluate operations in order to provide the highest quality, most professional product possible.
Thus, Talon News will be offline while we redesign the web site, perform a top-to-bottom review of staff and volunteer contributors, and address future operational procedures.
We look forward to bringing an even better product to our readers in the future.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
In the tapes, which Wead recorded between 1998 and 2000 while Bush was the governor of Texas and a presidential candidate, the future US leader appears to strategize about the best way to answer potential campaign-trail questions about marijuana and cocaine.
"I wouldn't answer the marijuana question. You know why? Cause I don't want some little kid doing what I tried," Bush is heard telling Wead.
Wead's just-released book, "The Raising of a President," draws on the recordings, which were made without Bush's knowledge.
Wead had told The New York Times that he recorded the conversations because he viewed Bush as a historic figure, but he said he knew that the president might regard his actions as a betrayal.
"Contrary to a statement that I made to the New York Times, I have come to realize that personal relationships are more important than history," Wead wrote to MSNBC.
"I am asking my attorney to direct any future proceeds from the book to charity and to find the best way to vet these tapes and get them back to the president to whom they belong. History can wait," he wrote.
Anybody seen Mr. Wead's kneecaps lying around anywhere?
That sure was fast. Unless you have deposited copies of those tapes with your attorney, along with instructions for their broadcast upon your mysterious disappearance, I would expect that history isn't going to have to wait very long for you, Mr. Wead.
Bobby Eberle, Mr. Talon News, is also a part of the Pro Wrestling Republican Coalition, which, according to their FAQ, "is a grass-roots initiative organization promoting the principles of the Republican Party. The PWRC is made up of wrestling fans, wrestlers, promoters, merchandisers, vendors and wrestling journalists. We strongly believe and support the basic tenent of the Republican Party; Lower Taxes and No Tax Increases, and we will work to achieve that goal."
Perfect. It makes perfect sense that folks who think pro wrestling is a real sport would think Dubya is a real President.
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
This is a day when writers can get away with imitiations. Read the whole thing, but I liked this part:
I think it is improper and disrespectful to whine about this suicide. Thompson was in the game for a very, very long time, and I think it is a safe bet that he was never comfortable. This was a profoundly tortured guy, the smoke from whose ears always made a whole lot of exciting colors that we all enjoyed. It was a great brain to watch but you wouldn't want to live in it, I'd aver. He was a butch motherfucker and I'd bet cash he stuck it out significantly longer than he really wanted to. Let's face it, HST was not one for the nursing home -- he'd have just stolen everyone else's barbiturates and hurt people trying to arm-wrestle.
Unfortunately for Krauthammer, the logic of preemptively defusing the Social Security crisis only makes sense if you believe in the Social Security trust fund, whose existence he just spent all that ink refuting. If you don't believe in the trust fund, it makes no difference whether you start cutting benefits today or in 2018, the first year Social Security pays out more in benefits than it receives in payroll tax revenue. The size of the benefit cut or the tax increase you'd need to eliminate the red ink in 2018 would be the same either way.
Think about it this way: Social Security is going to run a surplus every year between today and 2018. Those surpluses accumulate in the trust fund. The only thing you'd accomplish by cutting benefits or raising taxes today is to increase the size of Social Security's annual surpluses, which would increase the size of the trust fund.
Now, if you believed in the trust fund, you'd agree that this additional money could be used beginning in 2018 to keep paying full benefits to all retirees. But Krauthammer doesn't believe in it. He wants us to tighten our belts today in order to run a surplus that, according to him, we would then flush right down the toilet.
Now you know why they feel the need to slime the AARP -- with logic like that, smear campaign and misdirection are about all that is left.
The only bar lower than the one for getting a press pass to the White House seems to be the one for getting elected to it.
It was the day to recognize the perpetrator, that “enemy of the Gospel” - Jefferson, according to Christian Heritage officials.
(Christian Heritage officials) cited examples to suggest Jefferson was the enemy of Christians and that Washington was a model Christian, who walked the walk - even begging forgiveness from God when his prayers were not fervent enough.
“Jefferson came disguised as an angel of light by appealing to reason instead of faith - to works instead of the cross,” Humphries said.
Ina strange way this is actually encouraging. I see so much nonsense about how America was founded as a Christian nation, and all of the Founding Fathers were indistinguishable from the Disciples. This is hogwash, and it is good to see acknowledgement of the faulty premise. Jefferson, the primary author of the documents that established our nation, was the guy who said:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State.
The problem, of course, is that rather than admit that perhaps Jefferson's wall is a good idea, they prefer to paint Jefferson as a rogue and a charlatan. But he was in good company:
"The divinity of Jesus is made a convenient cover for absurdity. Nowhere in the Gospels do we find a precept for Creeds, Confessions, Oaths, Doctrines, and whole carloads of other foolish trumpery that we find in Christianity." --John Adams
"Lighthouses are more helpful than churches."--Benjamin Franklin, _Poor_Richard_, 1758
"Ecclesiastical establishments tend to great ignorance and all of which facilitates the execution of mischievous projects. Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise, every expanded project."--James Madison
"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."--Thomas Paine, _The_Age_of_Reason
"One of the embarrassing problems for the early nineteenth-century champions of the Christian faith was that not one of the first six Presidents of the United States was an orthodox Christian."--The Encyclopedia Brittanica, 1968, p. 420
Monday, February 21, 2005
The unprecedented snub has effectively sabotaged Charles's plan to take his bride on a Royal tour of America later this year.
The trip would have been the pair's first official tour as a married couple.
But the US President - a notoriously right-wing Christian and reformed alcoholic - told aides it was "inappropriate" for him to be playing host to the newly-weds, who are both divorcees.
OK, all you new Memians -- help us put together a list of other divorced folks who should also be kept out of the idealogically pure White House. There's Newt Gingrich, of course, and a handful of others listed here like Susan Molinari, George Will, Bob Dole, and of course Rush Limbaugh. But what juicy bits can we dig up on current White House denizens?
Thompson was found dead Sunday in his Aspen-area home of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, sheriff's officials said. He was 67.
Hunter Thompson might just have been the most influential American writer of the last few decades. Changes he wrought were both good (new subjects, a flowering of new styles of reporting, and a willingness to explore deeper meaning in places beyond the explicit assignment) and bad (his insertion of himself into his stories has in other hands often simply become lazy narcissism, and the rules he broke were generally there for a reason, so as with free jazz, lesser talents could claim to be "New Journalists" when they were really just making noise). And then, of course, there were the drugs.
I saw Thompson speak once, in 1985 or 1986. He had been booked as a speaker at Stanford. He showed up late, then rambled incoherently, a bottle of bourbon under his chair. He graciously accepted the joint a student handed him onstage. I couldn't tell if he was playing his self-caricature, or if I was simply seeing the logical consequence of his adoption of Dr. Johnson's statement that "He who makes a beast of himself avoids the pain of being a man." My sense at the time was that perhaps he really did do all the things his books said he did, though I wondered how he could possibly fire up enough synapses to be the guy who wrote about them.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was sort of the Catcher in the Rye for my generation. Even if his life served in some ways as a "this is your brain on drugs" warning about the consequences of his choices, he was a warts-and-all icon, and writing about politics and popular (sub)culture is forever different because of him.
Vaya con dios, you rat bastard.
Update: Thanks to the reader who caught my $%$##! typo -- it is indeed "beast," not best.
GOP Henchman to Blow Up Senior Citizens!
Advisers to Swift Boat Vets to Demonize AARP over Social Security
"Taking its cues from the success of last year’s Swift boat veterans’ campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush’s toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.
The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush’s plan.
'They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts,' said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary for the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. 'We will be the dynamite that removes them.”'
Last year, the AARP backed Bush's $400--er, $720 Billion dollar Windfall to Big Pharma--er, Medicare prescription drug bill. The organization's stance was correctly seen as little more than a transparent effort on the part of AARP poobah William Novelli to get a seat at the Republican Round Table of Politcal Influence and Monetary Gain. Looks like Billy is about to get a good idea of what kind of friends he made last year.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Lone Star Justice
Judge refuses retrial for death row inmate
"A federal judge has refused to order a new trial for convicted killer Anthony Graves despite evidence of misconduct by the prosecution during his 1994 trial.
U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent in Galveston on Thursday upheld a November opinion by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner that said a jury would have convicted Graves despite prosecutorial misconduct.
Froeschner found that Charles Sebesta, former district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, withheld a statement by key prosecution witness Robert Carter that Graves was not involved in the 1992 slaying of six family members in Somerville. Graves was sentenced to death and Carter was executed for the slayings.
In sending the case to Galveston, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Carter's statement, 'if proven, was extremely favorable to Graves and would have been powerful ammunition for counsel to use in cross-examining Carter.'
Froeschner found it should have been made available to the defense, but that a jury probably would have convicted Graves anyway."
I'm not familiar with the case, but two things are worth noting. First, the article also says that the Texas Innocence Network claims to have additional evidence that was not considered by either Kent or Froeschner. Second, whatever was going on here smelled so bad that the 5th Circuit, a historically pro-death penalty court, sent it back to the state.
Certainly a happy coincidence for Judge Froeschner that the state has already executed the exculpatory witness.
Friday, February 18, 2005
'Ever since November, state officials have been crowing about how well Florida ran its presidential election.
Popular early voting, healthy turnout and only a handful of official complaints seemed a testament to voting changes lawmakers passed after the 2000 presidential election debacle.
So it came as a shock to legislative leaders and county elections supervisors when Gov. Jeb Bush unveiled a sweeping proposal Wednesday that concentrated power over how counties run elections in the hands of Secretary of State Glenda Hood.
The bill would give Hood the final word in interpreting state and federal elections law, as well as voter rolls.
It also would grant her the authority to seek fines and criminal charges against county supervisors of election who fail to follow her interpretation of elections law.
The measure is supposed to be a response to a federal law that requires, among other things, a statewide voter database and uniformity in voting.
But critics say it goes far beyond the federal law.
'I kind of like the idea that supervisors should be responsible for maintaining the list. The problem is when they ignore their responsibility,' Bush said.
'There needs to be a means ... for the secretary of state, who is the chief elections officer, to be able to have the wherewithal to sanction and, if necessary, take charge,' he said.
Bush didn't name specific supervisors who he says failed in their duties, but last year he criticized several who refused during the last election to purge voters whose names appeared on a state list of felons, who can't vote in Florida unless they've had their civil rights restored.
The state ultimately scrapped the list, which turned out to be flawed.
Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate in Washington, D.C., said he would support a central official being the final word on elections laws and procedures in some states - but not Florida.
The state has a history of political contamination in its highest elections office, he said, making it unwise to designate that office as the final arbiter on laws and procedures.
'There have been a lot of interpretations by Katherine Harris and her successor that have been partisan interpretations,' Gans said, referring to Hood's predecessor, now in Congress.' (But) if the secretary of state were isolated from politics, that would be fine."'
George is inarticulate to the point of incoherence, has to have his daily briefings abridged (and read to him by aides), and makes decisions based on his "gut feelings" rather than data. Jeb is the ultimate details guy; sure, he delivered Florida big-time last November, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to refine the system. If they weren't both arrogant, Machiavellian assholes who existed solely to accumulate more power, you'd never guess they were related.
'America would back Israel attack on Iran'
"President George W Bush added a new twist to the international tension over Iran's nuclear programme last night by pledging to support Israel if it tries to destroy the Islamic regime's capacity to make an atomic bomb.
Asked whether he would back Israel if it raided Teheran's nuclear facilities, Mr Bush first expressed cautious solidarity with European efforts, led by Britain, France and Germany, to negotiate with Iran.
But he quickly qualified himself, adding that all nations should be concerned about whether Iran could make nuclear weapons.
'Clearly, if I was the leader of Israel and I'd listened to some of the statements by the Iranian ayatollahs that regarded the security of my country, I'd be concerned about Iran having a nuclear weapon as well. And in that Israel is our ally, and in that we've made a very strong commitment to support Israel, we will support Israel if her security is threatened.'
His comments appeared to be a departure from the administration's line that there are no plans to attack at present and that Washington backs European diplomatic efforts. The remarks may have reflected Mr Bush's personal thinking on an issue causing deep concern in Washington.
Moments later, Mr Bush was asked another question on Iran and appeared to return to his script - this time emphasising the need for a diplomatic effort."
This article should have been titled "Bush paints bullseyes on backs of 140K U.S. troops in Iraq." Does this loose-lipped, hypermacho fuckwit think that Iran is going to sit around and wait for a first strike if they think one is coming?
"AUSTIN – A newly unveiled House bill would make it much tougher for pregnant minors to get an abortion and would impose criminal charges against parents or anyone else who pushes the child to terminate her pregnancy.
Current Texas law requires a minor to notify a parent of her intent to get an abortion. If the potential for abuse exists, then she can ask a court to allow her to have an abortion and bypass the parental notification.
Under the proposed law by Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, a minor would have to get a parent to sign an affidavit of consent.
The bill, filed Thursday in the State Affairs Committee, also provides a potential misdemeanor jail term for doctors who disregard the law. Conversely, the bill says that an adult who tries to coerce a child to have an abortion is subject to a felony charge. Coercion ranges from a threat to inflict bodily injury to exposing 'a person to hatred, contempt or ridicule.'
Joe Pojman, director of the Texas Alliance for Life, said the bill protects both a parent's right to approve medical procedures performed on an underage daughter and a girl who wants to have her baby.
'If she gets the consent of a parent, then the doctor cannot provide the abortion unless she consents herself,' Mr. Pojman said.
'And that consent cannot be coerced, meaning a parent cannot drag a child into an abortion clinic and force her to have an abortion against her will,' he said. 'That would be a serious offense under Texas law."'
The Perfect Logic of Jesusland: a minor is not competent to decide to have an abortion, but she is competent to decide not to have one. The proposed law also raises the bar for a minor to avoid parental consent, and strips away current provisions to protect confidentiality in court proceedings. Let's hope the Morning News's spring fashion supplement includes tips on what to wear to the New Shotgun Wedding.
The day before President Bush's inauguration, listeners tuning in to the Detroit sports station WXDX-AM were suddenly greeted by the sound of braying donkeys. By the time Bush was taking the oath of office, the radio station had new call letters and a full schedule of liberal talk shows.
WXDX-AM -- now known as WDTW-AM -- is one of 22 stations owned by Clear Channel Communications Inc. that have switched to a liberal talk format in the last year. This month, KTLK-AM in Los Angeles became the latest Clear Channel station to adopt the format.
Those who track broadcasting trends say there's money to be made in liberal talk radio. Todd Webster, a consultant for Washington-based liberal talk show producer Democracy Radio, said Clear Channel is expected to introduce the left-leaning format on 20 more stations by the end of the year.
"There is a tremendous appetite out there for progressive talk," he said.
Webster said that even as recently a year ago, no one thought Texas-based Clear Channel, a media conglomerate that owns 1,200 stations -- including Twin Falls radio stations KEZJ-FM, KLIX-AM and KLIX-FM -- would ever become partners with upstart liberal talkers.
"There has been a tectonic shift in the industry from all of the big brains and the head honchos saying, 'Nobody wants to listen to a bunch of whiny liberals on the radio,"' Webster said.
The partnership might seem surprising because of Texas-based Clear Channel's conservative reputation. Clear Channel CEO Lowry Mays and his wife gave $65,000 to the Republican National Committee in the last election cycle, and two-thirds of the company's federal donations went to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
I just love irony.
The D.C. Chapter of Free Republic, an independent grassroots organization, will be holding a demonstration at the White House this evening in support of former Talon News White House Correspondent Jeff Gannon and the rights of other reporters to do their jobs without fear of being destroyed by the political establishment.
The group will also be bringing attention to several First Amendment-related issues pertaining to the current imbroglio. Among them are the unconstitutional efforts of Democratic congressmen to determine who is a reporter and efforts by the establishment media to shut out Internet-based news sites from having access to government press conferences.
Yeah, boys, that's it -- we're all about shutting out the blogs. And could someone point me to the place in the Constitution where it prohibits Congress from asking who gets passes to the White House press room?
I sometimes try to get a peek at the Freeper parallel universe. This satisfies my need for rubbernecking for a while.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
But the district's most recent agreement with the Putnam County Health Department ends by April and the district lacks funding to run a sex ed program on its own, said Schools Superintendent David Buckles. He said the county's teen pregnancy rate has always been high — especially among younger teens.
'Putnam County is the third highest county in the state in births to girls aged 10 to 14 years,' Buckles said, citing a 2002 report by the state health department. 'It's really pitiful.'
According to the report, an average of 2.5 girls for every 1,000 in the county are mothers at that age, compared to 0.8 young women for every 1,000 in the state.
Before 2002, Putnam had the highest pregnancy rates for that age group in the state, Buckles said. 'We've got kids in middle school and elementary school that are having kids and we have to figure out a way to educate them' on sex-related risks, he said.
A written statement by Buckles on why the district opts to teach abstinence-based sex education refers to some of the risks.
'There is no such thing as safe sex,' the statement reads. '... We believe deviating from abstinence-based sex education might encourage safer sex, but could result in pregnancy or the contracting of sexually transmitted diseases.'"
I'm going to sleep much better tonight knowing that our children are learning essential skills in critical thinking and logic from dedicated educators like Mr. Buckles.
In fact, the folks at the Palatka (FL) Daily News might well be some of his former students. Nowhere in the article does the reporter or any other interviewee even hint at the idea that doing something besides "more of the same" might be in order.
In both the House and the Senate, Democrats are struggling to figure out how best to deal with the issue. No one is touching the sexual elements of the story; rather, the focus is placed on what Democrats see as a continued campaign of media manipulation that involved such columnists as Armstrong Williams.
In the House, where Democrats have been aggressively pursuing an inquiry into the discredited reporter, members are still looking at how to respond. The office of the congresswoman leading the charge for an inquiry said that other member’s offices are quietly expressing support.
Others expressed frustration with the Post piece. One senior House aide told RAW STORY he appreciated the story, but felt it still didn’t do it justice.
'To me, the really amazing thing is that you know have the clear record of a guy who was a fake reporter from a fake news organization asking fake questions at a presidential press conference with a very questionable pass, and the best the mainstream media can do is an article in the C-section of the Washington Post,' the aide said."
My, but this story is developing slowly, isn't it? Nothing like a photo montage of a guy with a stiffie to stop Beltway insiders dead in their tracks...
I was annoyed by the early stories suggesting that the Dems were less likely to take on Gannongate because of the sex angle. But this tactic is fine. Indeed, I can think of nothing more enjoyably surreal than watching a bunch of senators question witnesses about minutiae such as press pass forms filled out in triplicate, while everyone in the hearing room is actually thinking "eight inches cut."
And oh, Mr. Senior House Aide? This story only goes to the A section of the WaPo if you guys get off your asses and put it there.
The Bush administration said Wednesday it would seek to reinstate an indictment against a California pornography company that was charged with violating federal obscenity laws. It was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' first public decision on a legal matter.
Billed as the government's first big obscenity case in a decade, the 10-count indictment against Extreme Associates Inc. and its owners, Robert Zicari, and his wife, Janet Romano, both of Northridge, Calif., was dismissed last month by U.S. District Judge Gary Lancaster of Pittsburgh.
Lancaster ruled prosecutors overstepped their bounds while trying to block the company's hard-core movies from children and from adults who did not want to see such material.
The Justice Department said it will appeal the ruling to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia. While acknowledging the importance of the constitutional guarantee of free speech, Gonzales said selling or distributing obscene materials does not fall within First Amendment protections.
You gonna prosecute the publisher of these obscene pics, too? If not, expect to see them from the attorneys for the defense, Mr. A.G.
It's hard to believe the White House could hit rock bottom on credibility again, but it has, in a bizarre maelstrom that plays like a dark comedy. How does it credential a man with a double life and a secret past?
"Jeff Gannon" was waved into the press room nearly every day for two years as the conservative correspondent for two political Web sites operated by a wealthy Texas Republican. Scott McClellan often called on the pseudoreporter for softball questions.
I'm still mystified by this story. I was rejected for a White House press pass at the start of the Bush administration, but someone with an alias, a tax evasion problem and Internet pictures where he posed like the "Barberini Faun" is credentialed to cover a White House that won a second term by mining homophobia and preaching family values?
Thanks, MoDo, for hitting on the real issue -- not the fundamental issue (why he was really there, and called on), but the crowbar that we all need to stand on to crack open the real scandal.
Frank Rich takes on Gannongate today, too. While it is good to see the MSM finally touch this story, the profound weirdness here is this: The normal course has been that the regular "news sources" break stories and the blogosphere reacts and comments. In this case that chain of causation has been inverted: The news desk seems to be leaving it to us to do the heavy lifting, and OpEd clucks and scolds. There was some of this in the Dan Rather imbroglio, but that one made the front page and got abundant coverage, so I count this one as different.
If FOIA requests still worked, we could do their entire job, and I might never have to read a newspaper again.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The Toyota figures compare with 6.72 million vehicles sold globally last year by Ford, which had long maintained the number two spot behind General Motors Corp.
While Ford has struggled to benefit from its acquisition of Sweden's Volvo, Toyota has posted higher profits and plowed them into North America, China and Southeast Asia, boosting output and sales.
General Motors is the world's top automaker with sales of 8.59 million vehicles in 2003.
When gasoline in the U.S. starts costing $3 or 4 bucks a gallon -- and it will -- GM is going to find selling Hummers and its other dreadnaught-class barges about as easy as selling cancer. That is when hybrid-intensive Toyota will slide right past them into the number one slot, finishing the revolution they helped start in 1973.
I'm certain there are at least a handful of folks at GM who are smart enough to know about peak oil and how utterly unprepared they are for another hike in oil prices. But their leaders are content to burn Rome while America plays. And they seem to have been taking lessons from the tobacco companies in their approach to global warming. So I will have sympathy for their employees when the end comes, but will shed no tears for their shareholders or management.
And to those who cling to "buy American" slogans -- do you mean the Ford from Mexico, the Honda from Ohio, the BMW from South Carolina, or the Pontiac from Canada?
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) waded into Republican territory yesterday, releasing a whip count of 29 Republicans he says are on record opposing “all or major parts of President Bush’s plan” for Social Security reform.
Given the GOP’s 14-vote margin in the House, Hoyer reasons that Republicans will need to initiate a more serious conversation with Democrats if they are nursing any hopes of passing a plan this session.
Hoyer’s cross-aisle whipping is indicative of the Democrats’ swelling confidence that the Social Security debate cuts in their favor and tracks with Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel’s (D-Ill.) strategy. He has been attempting to brand vulnerable GOP lawmakers who appear open to the president’s proposal, despite their stated opposition to privatization, as “flip-floppers.”
Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told her colleagues in a closed-door meeting that Democrats should not “shoot until we see the whites of their eyes,” according to a leadership aide.
Republicans acknowledged that there are divergent views in their party but disputed Hoyer’s whip count, arguing the he had tied generic statements opposing “privatization” with blanket opposition to allowing some younger workers to divert a small portion of their payroll taxes into personal accounts.
“If Steny Hoyer did more complete research, he would find a lot more than 29 that are against privatization,” said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
This is no time to let up, but I am just about ready to call this fight.
It has been so easy, and I am so used to the good guys being out-thought out-hustled that I am starting to wonder what we are missing. Was the whole thing some subtle Trojan horse? Was Karl Rove beating us at yet another game we didn't know we were playing?
The Carlyle Group returned $5.3 billion to investors last year, more than double the $2.1 billion it returned the previous year, according to a summary the firm released Monday, Feb. 14, of its investment activities for 2004.
"It was our best year ever," said William Conway Jr., the Washington-based private-equity group's co-founder and managing director.
Who is the Carlyle Group? Take a look.
And how do they make so much long green? They would prefer that you don't look, but you might want to sneak a peek.
I guess it is kinda like rooting for a sports team -- the rest of us are supposed to just bask in the reflected glory while our heroes take home the spoils.
The Ohio Senate is considering a bill that would censor Ohio colleges and universities. The so-called “Academic Bill of Rights” is truly as a misnomer, as it is really an “academic bill of restrictions.” The ACLU of Ohio opposes passage of this bill because it could be used to curtail academic freedom and to encourage thought policing in our institutes of higher education. The bill would have a chilling effect on freedom of inquiry on Ohio’s campuses. For example:
· The bill forces the board of trustees, of both public and private schools, to adopt policies about what can and cannot be taught.
· Under the bill, faculty would be discouraged from teaching anything “controversial” – a vague term that could pertain to any number of topics including evolution, history, or religion.
I hope they will make "Brave New World" required reading, because if they are going to make this level of Newspeak --calling direct governmental control of college-level academic content a "bill of rights" -- part of the DNA of this brazen attempt to control education, everyone ought to at least know something about its origins.
Ohio is home to both the right-wingnuts who apoplected about Mapplethorpe's photos in Cincinnati and a few very progressive colleges, like Oberlin. The country's most restrictive anti-gay ballot initiative passed in Ohio in November, but that was merely the opening shot in a long-term pogrom. The goal seems to be to drive the infidels out of the state entirely.
I'll have more to say on the far right's assault on academia in a future column.
A test of the controversial US missile defence system failed on Sunday - the second time this has happened in recent months. The failure has once again drawn condemnation of the programme from critics.
An interceptor missile sited on an island base in the Pacific Ocean was meant to obliterate a test ballistic missile in mid-flight, but it failed to launch, officials from the US Missile Defense Agency (MDA) revealed on Monday. "Preliminary indications point to a fault with the ground support equipment, not the interceptor missile," it says.
The target missile, carrying a mock warhead, did launch from Kodiak, Alaska at 0922 local time. But the interceptor missile - a rocket carrying a "kill vehicle" that detaches and homes in on the target - failed to get off the ground at the Ronald Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Island in the central Pacific.
It will take 60 days to ready another test. Reuters reports that Bush's 2006 budget proposal would slash spending on ballistic missile defense, the single largest U.S. research and development project, by $1 billion to about $8.8 billion.
So, your multi-billion dollar shoot-down-bullets-wth-bullets system fails, yet again. How's a free-spending big-government team keep their chin up? Remember Reagan's favorite joke about how the kid finds a pile of turds in the barn and begins smiling because there must be a pony in there somewhere? Here's a little of that old-fashioned sunny-side-upism for you:
It was a failure, but the Alaskan Command says its part in a U.S. missile defense system test Sunday was flawless.
Members of the Legislature’s Joint-Armed Services Committee were briefed on military issues Tuesday in Juneau. Sunday evening a missile was successfully launched from Kodiak as part of a test of the missile defense system. However, military officials say an interceptor missile in the central Pacific did not launch.
Officials blamed a malfunction with ground-support equipment.
“I would tell you that we have had flawless target launches from Kodiak complex, and you read the newspaper concerning the interceptors over the last two attempted tests. I would anticipate that those tests will continue in the near future,” said Carrol Chandler, commander of the Alaska Command.
The test launches cost $85 million each. Sunday marked the second failure in the last few months.
Let your smile be your nuclear umbrella.
Supporters of President Bush's judicial nominees have hired the same media firm used by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for their efforts to defend the next nominee for any upcoming Supreme Court vacancy.
The aggressive media style of Creative Response Concepts (CRC) will be met by a "war room" already set up by the liberal People For the American Way (PFAW) on the other side, indicating that the next Supreme Court fight is likely to be one of the nastiest in history.
CRC made a splash in the summer promoting the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group that questioned the legitimacy of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry's war medals, his claims about his Vietnam War service, and his anti-war stance upon returning to the United States.
The group has been hired into the judicial battle by the Federalist Society, the influential conservative judicial organization from which many of Mr. Bush's nominees have been picked.
The Federalist Society, as Boyden Gray intoned on Fresh Air this morning, is a "debating society." So how come a friendly little group dedicated to the art of balanced verbal pugilism needs to hire the bare-knuckle team that helped to bring you "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth?"
Perhaps it is because the Federalist Society ain't your ordinary debate club. The Federalist Society is to debating as Tony Soprano is to "waste management." You can get a bit of the flavor on these folks here. Their membership list -- Scalia, Bork, Starr, etc.-- tells you what these guys are about. They are deadly serious about turning the courts upside down with a very specific agenda. And they are very, very close to the tipping point. When they are done, everything you believe about what courts are supposed to do and the very idea of justice will be as quaint as a hoop skirt.
CRC's public client list is here. It includes paragons of virtue such as Regnery Publishing (Swift Smear, Michelle Malkin), the RNC, the Christian Coalition, and the Contract
As you may know, Alan Keyes has a gay daughter. Unlike that old softie, Dick Cheney, he seems none to pleased about it. And unlike Mary Cheney, Maya Keyes, who was planning to enter Brown University as a freshman, is loud, proud -- and homeless. Dad threw her out.
Maya these days is currently residing with individuals affiliated with PFLAG, or Parents, Friends, and Family of Lesbians and Gays. She was able to keep a bag of her belongings at a friend's house. She's been using library computers to communicate.
Coming out of the closet to her parents was more of a process, however, than an event, she recalls. "My parents have known I was queer for a couple of years now. They were in denial about it. They thought I was just queer in a phase. And after a while they said, we can't support the decisions you're making. It's not just that I was queer that was a problem, but that I was willing to talk about it."
Well, Mr. Keyes, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Enter The Point Foundation.
On Thursday, the Point Foundation, a Chicago-based charity that provides scholarships to students "who have been marginalized because of their sexual orientation," decided to pay Maya's expenses so she can begin her studies at Brown. "Many of the students we support have been disowned by their families because they've been honest about who they are," said the foundation's executive director, Vance Lancaster. "Maya's situation is especially poignant because of her father's position, but it's a situation that happens every day to hundreds of kids across the country." This year, Point has received more than 1,200 applications for about 40 scholarships.
Maya Keyes is looking for answers to all those conservatives who e-mail her about how she's going to burn in hell and to all those liberals who e-mail her about how she's a traitor because she won't disavow her father. And then there are the people who think she's a whiny brat, "that I'm immature for thinking that I want my parents to talk to me."
So quick, who is exemplifying family values here?
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
"WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is defending the president's faith-based agenda against criticism from a former White House staffer who alleges the president gained politically from his vow to let religious-affiliated organizations use federal money to help the needy, but lacks a commitment to the initiative.
David Kuo, former deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says that as soon as the president announced his faith-based agenda, 'hackneyed church-state scare rhetoric made the rounds,' yet congressional Republicans matched Democratic hostility with 'snoring indifference.'
Kuo, in an article posted on the religious web site, beliefnet.com, argues that Capitol Hill gridlock could have been eased with minimal West Wing effort, but that over time, it became clear that the White House didn't need to expend Bush's political capital for 'pro-poor' legislation.
'Who was going to hold them accountable? Drug addicts, alcoholics, poor moms, struggling urban social service organizations, and pastors aren't quite the NRA,' Kuo said of the powerful National Rifle Association lobby."
Sorry, Mr. Kuo, no one is going to hold them accountable. The disenfranchised groups you mentioned haven't taken the time to set up the PACs they'd need to gain access to so much as a twenty-two year old congressional aide, and this certainly won't be chased down by the sheeple in Corporate Media, who can't be bothered to move beyond those tidy WH press releases.
Thanks for your time, Mr. Kuo. Enjoy your fifteen minutes, and then have a seat over there with the others who have exposed the administration for what it is. I think the chair next to Ms. Whitman is open.
A U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday that two journalists must testify before a federal grand jury about their confidential sources in an investigation into a leak that exposed the identity of a covert CIA operative.
The three-judge panel ruled that New York Times reporter Judith Miller and Matthew Cooper of Time Magazine must comply with a subpoena from a grand jury investigating whether the Bush administration illegally leaked the officer's name to the news media.
The decision upheld a ruling by a federal judge that Miller and Cooper were in contempt of court and should be jailed for refusing to testify about their confidential sources. Miller and Cooper each face as much as 18 months in prison.
No decision that puts Judith Miller on ice can be all bad, but the overall impact here is devastating, and exactly what our ruling cabal wanted when they set this Kabuki theater production in motion.
If reporters are forced to reveal sources, those sources dry up. Which means, of course, that whatever pathetic remnant of actual reporting the press still does will be reduced even further. Intimidating sources has always been at the heart of Bush's MO here.
Lest you think that this is a principled decision and that the courts are somehow above the fray, consider that this decision was handed down by none other than Judge David Sentelle. Read about how he made his conservative bones here and here -- just so happens he was the guy who (a) overturned the Iran-Contra convictions that would have put Poppy Bush in a world of hurt if the convicted underlings had flipped and (b) put the boil known as Ken Starr on Bill Clinton's ass.
The world is filled with the most amazing coincidences.
The Left Coaster read the fine print, and appeared to have generated enough heat to force them to cheat a little less the next time, which sends the results tumbling to earth:
A week after the most recent Gallup Poll for CNN and the USA Today claimed that Bush’s approval rating shot up to 57%, using a sample that had a 9 percentage point advantage for the GOP over Democrats (37% GOP, 28% Democrats), Gallup came out with its own poll last Friday. This poll, not done for CNN or USAT, and not bull-horned through the media and seemingly lost in the late Friday news dump, shows that Bush’s approval rating plummeted in one week to 49%, with his disapproval rating now up to 48%. As yet, I do not have the party ID breakdowns from Gallup on the Friday poll, but I suspect they will show something less than a 37% GOP-28% Democratic breakdown.
How often is there a 16% swing in a public opinion poll in one week?The answer is never, of course, and L.C. explains why these results are so utterly bogus. What he can't explain is why this poll, which is based on an accurate sample, is getting nowhere near the press play as the one that preceded it. Couldn't be media bias....
Two environmental campaigners who fought an epic legal battle against the US-based McDonald’s fast-food chain have emerged victorious from the European Court of Human Rights.
The Strasbourg-based court on Tuesday declared that their "fair trial" and "freedom of expression" rights had been breached by the UK court process, which resulted in them facing damages claims of £76,000.
Helen Steel and David Morris were members of a small environmental and social campaign group which targeted McDonald's in the mid-1980s. In the course of this, a six-page leaflet was produced and distributed, called "What's wrong with McDonald's?".
The US-based fast-food chain, however, countered by suing the couple for libel. This, in turn, paved the way for the longest trial in English legal history, lasting from June 1994 to December 1996.
The two defendants - who denied publication, and put forward a range of libel defences - were refused legal aid, and so represented themselves with some help from volunteer lawyers. McDonald's, by contrast, had a qualified legal team.
"Given the enormity and complexity of (the trial process), the Court does not consider that the correct balance was struck between the need to protect the applicants' rights to freedom of expression and the need to protect McDonalds' rights and reputation," it concluded.
"The more general interest in promoting the free circulation of information and ideas about the activities of powerful commercial entities, and possible "chilling" effect on others are also important factors to be considered in this context, bearing in mind the legitimate and important role that campaign groups can play in stimulating public discussion," it added.
The Court awarded Helen Steel E20,000 and David Morris E15,000 for non-pecuniary damage and just over E47,300 for costs and expenses.
Though there are a number of ways in which our British friends seem more evolved than we are, freedom of expression ain't one of them. This case got massive publicity when it was crawling through the British courts a decade ago, and I thought it had ended, badly for the folks speaking out against McFood. Now a higher court has effectively reversed. Welcome to federalism, Governor Blair.
Monday, February 14, 2005
If true, this is a remarkable story:
To head off this threat of a Shi'ite clergy-driven religious movement, the US has, according to Asia Times Online investigations, resolved to arm small militias backed by US troops and entrenched in the population to "nip the evil in the bud".
Asia Times Online has learned that in a highly clandestine operation, the US has procured Pakistan-manufactured weapons, including rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, ammunition, rockets and other light weaponry. Consignments have been loaded in bulk onto US military cargo aircraft at Chaklala airbase in the past few weeks. The aircraft arrived from and departed for Iraq.
The US-armed and supported militias in the south will comprise former members of the Ba'ath Party, which has already split into three factions, only one of which is pro-Saddam Hussein. They would be expected to receive assistance from pro-US interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's Iraqi National Accord.
A military analyst familiar with strategic and proxy operations commented that there is a specific reason behind procuring arms from Pakistan, rather than acquiring US-made ones.
"A similar strategy was adopted in Afghanistan during the initial few years of the anti-USSR resistance [the early 1980s] movement where guerrillas were supplied with Chinese-made AK-47 rifles [which were procured by Pakistan with US money], Egyptian and German-made G-3 rifles. Similarly, other arms, like anti-aircraft guns, short-range missiles and mortars, were also procured by the US from different countries and supplied to Pakistan, which handed them over to the guerrillas," the analyst maintained.
The obvious reason for this tactic is to give the impression that the resistance acquired its arms and ammunition from different channels and from different countries - and anywhere other than the United States.
So it plays out like this: We invade and overthrow the government. After all our other rationales (ties to Al Qaeda, WMDs) turn out to be wrong, we claim the reason we killed as many as 100,000 Iraqis and leveled their infrastructure was to bring them democracy. We trumpet their election as a resounding success. And when they choose leaders not to our liking, we begin arming some of the folks we overthrew in the first place in order to help them get back in power.
Can I have my lobotomy now, please?
So how come their web page hasn't been updated since Friday the 11th? Was Gannon/Guckert the last "reporter" out the door, and did he turn out the lights?
2/15 Update: OK, so the website has now been updated -- somebody's still there. But the content is laughable -- no way there is even a single full-time reporter there. If these guys are a legitimate news organization, so are we.
As I was reading the Americablog thing, it occurred to me that one mechanism at work here is the tradeoff between ethos and logos. For those of you whose memories of rhetoric and comp are mercifully dim, the three basic modes of rhetorical appeal are ethos, pathos, and logos. Pathos is the appeal to emotion, logos is the appeal to reason, and ethos is the appeal based on trust. In other words, in order to get someone to buy your argument, ideally you want it to be factually accurate and logically coherent (logos), emotionally powerful (pathos) and articulated by someone credible (ethos). However, if your argument is very long on one, it can afford to be short on one or two of the others. For instance, if you pour on enough pathos, nobody will notice that your logos is crap. THe right wing is extremely good at that kind of argument, for instance.
Increasingly, in our media culture, "ethos" is really about branding. People have identified certain news outlets as trustworthy and continue to trust them whether or not their reporting actually validates that trust.
But here's the problem: because these MSM outlets are used to skating by on ethos and pathos, they are really falling down on the job when it comes to logos. They already have the public trust, and they are very good at manipulating emotion (especially broadcast journalism). These things are now easy for them. Logical argument based on factual evidence is difficult--and more important, it's difficult to sell, because it takes longer for people to process. So that's really not what they're into any more.
In the blogosphere, where new blogs are being born every day and nobody knows who's paying for these people or where they come from, most everyone is starting from zero when it comes to ethos. Certain blogs are now well-known enough to be 'branded,' but most of them aren't. You're not going to believe a story just because you found it on a blog *unless* it comes attached to hard evidence. That's why that Americablog spends more time dumping all the evidence than it does on analysis (or, as he admits up front, proofreading)--because he knows that unless he comes across with evidence, nobody is going to buy it. If he were Wolf Blitzer, he wouldn't have to care; but since he's not, he does.
And that's why the blogosphere is taking over. Bloggers HAVE to use evidence if they want to be credible.
I cop to being a logos-driven guy, so I appreciate it when I am given a simple framework that explains so neatly my abandonment of tradtional news sources.
The whole thing is worth a read.
Gannongate is just the sort of scandal that Raw Story sinks its editorial teeth into. While much of the uproar has focused on the salacious aspects, I have been focused on the ways it tarred the Administration for letting him into the Press room and giving him such prominence. I was worried that the tabloid aspects would crowd out the more important story. Now there's this tying them back together:
Some question whether Gannon may have leveraged a personal intimate relationship with someone at the White House to gain access to President Bush. Guckert also says he was given access to an internal memorandum which named then-covert CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Such leveraging of personal relationships have seen increased scrutiny after the resignation of former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who admitted to having an affair with a male staff member.
Sources have intimated possible relationships with members of the White House staff.
RAW STORY has been told that the White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan visited a gay bar in Austin, Texas, on March 19, 1995. The date was placed exactly as a local memorial service was held on the same day.
The source, who would only comment on condition of anonymity, reserved comment on whether McClellan was actually gay, but said he was frequently seen at gay clubs. Another source also confirmed this account.
“He was often seen in gay clubs in Austin, Texas and was comfortable being there,” the Texan said. “He’s been seen in places that normal people who are looking for heterosexual relationships are not seen alone.”
If true, this could turn into the biggest story of the year, though I am again concerned that the gay angle will crowd out the bigger stories of access for hire, manufactured pseudonews, etc. But if Gannongate becomes a story about how Guckert slept his way into the White House, we are in for one wild ride.
Brad Friedman catches CNN doing their Jeff Gannon/Judith Miller White House conduit thing a bit too obviously.
Two stories posted in the last week on the CNN website, one on nukes in Iran last Wednesday, and another on nukes in North Korea on Saturday, both use the same aerial photograph of the same purported nuclear power plant!
But one is supposed to be in Iran and the other is supposed to be in North Korea!
A Fox by any other name would smell as putrid.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
We don't know that the reason Guckert "resigned" was because of the personal stuff. It's just as likely he was asked to leave because he had brought attention to himself and embarrassed the White House. Who knows?
But I think we all can agree that publicly discussing people's sex lives, really should be out of bounds. Sexual witch hunts are wrong. I just don't know what's come over people.
Digby then quotes from a few of the naughty bits in the Starr report.
It's all a big sham. Remember, the voters are from the music industry.
Are you suggesting that the voters never actually bother to listen to the CD's they recommend for awards?
Believe me, if the voters had bothered to listen to my CD, it would never have been nominated. My CD is disgusting, degrading filth, and I'm offended to be included.
Indeed, that may explain why the producers of the Grammys declined to make you a presenter, despite repeated requests from your record company.
It's disgraceful. It's continuing fallout from last year's Super Bowl halftime show. Why do I have to pay for Janet Jackson? I should be up on that stage. Everyone knows it.
The Grammy judges are notorious for bad choices, so you might actually win.
In that case it will be the first Grammy to ever go to an album with a song dedicated to roundworm."
Have we ever faced a similar Social Security challenge before? Yes. During the Reagan presidency in 1983. Working together, Democrats and Republicans, we resolved the challenge then just as we can do now. So why would an otherwise optimistic George Bush turn into a prophet of pessimism on Social Security?
Because, his initiative is not about meeting the challenges of Social Security to keep it sound; it is not about bringing together Democrats and Republicans as Ronald Reagan did to ensure that full benefits will be there for all Americans. It is about one thing and one thing only: destroying Social Security.
How do I know that? Am I being partisan? Am I being unfair by stating in a very clear way that I believe the true goal here is to destroy Social Security? Not at all. I am simply telling the truth as told by this very White House.
On January 6, 2005, the White House wrote a Social Security memo. Although marked “not for attribution,” fortunately, we have it.
The most telling sentence in the entire memo is this: “For the first time in six decades the Social Security battle is one we can win – and in doing so, we can help transform the political and philosophical landscape of the country.”
Imagine: for six decades – that’s 60 years – the right wing has been after Social Security.
The memo also lays out the first priority for the White House and that is to “establish an important premise; the current system is heading for an iceberg” – thus explaining the use of the words “crisis,” “bankruptcy,” and “collapse.” By the way, he has also used the phrase “train wreck.”
Lots more good stuff. Read it.
Doug Marlette, the Incredible Drawing Chimp
Saturday, February 12, 2005
President Bush promised to listen to "any good idea" for fixing Social Security on Saturday as he sought to coax reluctant lawmakers into joining his effort to overhaul the retirement program.
But Democrats signaled little interest in working with Bush unless he scraps the centerpiece of his plan -- allowing workers to shift up to 4 percentage points of their payroll taxes into private stock and bond accounts.
"I will work with members of Congress and listen to any good idea that does not include raising payroll taxes," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
"But we cannot pretend that the problem does not exist," he said, as he repeated his warning that Social Security was headed for bankruptcy.
Transition costs for the private accounts would be required because the government would need to make up the difference between payroll taxes that are diverted into the accounts and those needed to pay benefits of current retirees.
In an interview on Thursday in USA Today, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said the trillions that would need to be borrowed for the private accounts were the "Achilles heel" of Bush's Social Security program.
Don't believe for a second that Bush actually wants to listen to anything remotely resembling reason. But even pretending to listen is a very un-Dubya move, and speaks volumes about the degree to which they know that they have overplayed their hand on Social Security.
Credit is due to the lefty websites that have crunched numbers, framed arguments and generally helped to keep pressure on the Democrats in Congress to close ranks. I am more encouraged by how the Democrats and the blogosphere have worked this than I have been about anything political in months. I figure another month or so of this and the battle will be largely won. They won't admit defeat, of course, but you are going to hear Social Security come up about as often as that other "one that got away" -- Osama bin Laden.
"I expect when it's all said and done the rice industry will sustain cuts. The question is how much?" said Rehermann, who along with 5,300 other rice growers in Northern California received $260 million in federal crop subsidies in 2003.
From North Dakota wheat country through the Midwest Corn Belt to the South's cotton fields, farmers who considered their government payments guaranteed are worried.
In many farm states that helped re-elect Bush in November after never hearing any campaign talk about cutting their payments, there is a sense of betrayal.
"I'm not happy. I voted for George Bush," said cotton grower John Rife of Ferriday, La.
By proposing such cuts, Bush has reignited a long debate in farm communities and urban America about the government's Depression-era practice of subsidizing what are now the world's most productive farms.
Critics say the subsidies benefit mostly large agribusiness corporations rather than small family farms, contribute to excessive federal spending and act as a barrier to free trade. An EWG analysis found that 10 percent of recipients get 72 percent of the nation's farm aid.
Personally, I agree with the "critics" referenced above that, however noble farm subsidies may once have been, they are now corporate welfare, and should largely be phased out. I must also admit that Shrub's specific proposal actually sounds rather progressive.
But the schmuck the AP quoted? Mr. Rife, if you are a struggling working or middle class guy and expected Dubya to cover your ass; if you thought he somehow shared your "values" and are thus the living embodiment of Thomas Frank's What's the Matter With Kansas; if you bought the Republican con about how they were your friends -- then I am only sorry that your comeupance has such dire costs for the rest of us.
Kos helpfully suggests that you donate everytime you hear the Dean Scream, although this would surely put us all into bankruptcy in short order. The current (and I would imagine the ongoing) spin by the Corporate Media Stooges is that the Dems have installed a lunatic, and the infamous soundbite undoubtedly will be run more than Viagra ads on wingnut radio shows.
If this be psychosis, make the most of it.
Jim Towey, who heads the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, says Bush has asked for an additional 150 million dollars -- a 63-percent increase -- for five programs. The money would be used for maternity group homes and programs for drug treatment, prisoner re-entry into society, mentoring the children of prisoners and the Capital Compassion Fund.
Towey says the increases reflect Bush's belief that the initiatives -- many of them in partnership with religious charities -- provide effective service and more options to those in need.
As we have already seen with Shrub's support of abstinence programs, Bernard Kerik, etc., not to mention his "belief" in WMDs in Iraq, what this fool believes is highly correlated with the objectively false. So despite the existence of a "reality-based" scoring system created for the express purpose of finding out which programs really work, the Administration makes decisions based on Dubya's intuitions.
I am sure it is just a conincidence that his inuition results in the transfer of millions of tax dollars to his political base, and away from agencies with unionized civil servant workers.
Friday, February 11, 2005
The White House said it continued to support a six-nation process designed to negotiate the elimination of the communist country's nuclear armaments.
But with that process stalled, administration officials were beginning to discuss the possibility of referring the issue to the U.N. Security Council as an alternate approach.
The objective there would be to impose international sanctions to persuade North Korean leader Kim Jong Il to abandon his weapons program.
Kim wants bilateral. Bush wants six-ulateral. Nobody blinks, nobody talks. A splendid start to Condi's resurrection of diplomacy.
So here's U.S. proliferation policy in a nutshell: if you don't have nukes, but the Neocons see the mark of the devil on you, we attack and invade you unilaterally. We claim the U.N. is useless, archaic, inept, toothless.
If you do have da bomb, the U.N. is magically rehabilitated, and the U.S. finds religion in equivocation, stalling and de-emphasis.
Sounds like a pretty powerful incentive to develop WMDs, eh?
Anyways, here was my favorite passage:
"Although Press Secretary Scott McClellan and others at the White House knew that Gannon was not his real name, they always referred to him by that name, he said in the interview. 'My professional name is Jeff Gannon, and that is what people called me,' he explained. 'It is like Kirk Douglas; they do not refer to him when they meet him by his real name.' Guckert, who said he was 47 years old, had never been married, and has no children, revealed that he'd used the Gannon name since 2001 and vowed to keep using it."
Kirk Douglas? The one that starred in Spartacus? Of all the names to pull out of your hat....Maybe he'd be interested in getting together with General J.C. Christian to watch a few selections from the General's extensive collection of gladiator movies.
Gannongate Gannongate Gannongate!
Well here's a chance to make some headway, dropped into our laps like hot military manna from heaven.
Referring to the Talon/Gannon/Guckert thing as "the Gannon story" or the like is lame. Hasn't anyone been paying attention to how the Republicans do this?
If Dan Rather can be driven off the air with a -gate consisting of nothing more than bradcasting a story that (a) was indisputably accurate, (b) used documents that were undisputed in their content but were (c) of questionable provenance, this surely rises to that level.
Gannongate! If we all speak in one voice and hang the -gate suffix, now synonymous with scandal, we add legs to this vital story. So come on and get with the meme program...