Saturday, April 30, 2005

Enough Rope

New piece up @ Raw Story.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Died/Laughing

In this photo released by the Department of Defense on Thursday, April 28, 2005, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, soldiers drape U.S. flags over the caskets of members of a Black Hawk helicopter crew prior to off-loading at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. The Black Hawk, part of the 158th Aviation Regiment, 5th Battalion, 12th Aviation Brigade, Giebelstadt, Germany, crashed during a night training mission in Kuwait, killing all four crewmembers. (AP Photo/Department of Defense)
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Apparent Accidental Shooting Leaves One Dead, One Injured

"Osceola County deputies say they've finally gotten to the bottom of a bizarre double shooting that left one person dead. Deputies say one man managed to pull the trigger twice, shooting a friend and killing himself and they say it was all just a terrible accident, a combination of bad judgment and even worse luck.

The bizarre accident happened just after two in the morning early Wednesday. Investigators say four friends, including one teenaged runaway, were driving along Nova Road near Holopaw.

One man, in his 20s, was sitting in the right rear seat playing with a handgun, when it suddenly went off. The bullet passed through the seat in front of him and hit a 21-year-old woman in the back.

'The driver of the car pulled over to check on the lady sitting beside him and the man who fired the shot got out of the backseat of the car,' explained Rivers. That's when, detectives say, he accidentally shot himself in the upper thigh, severing an artery and dying almost immediately."

Very difficult to Stand Your Ground when you shoot yourself in the leg. This may seem "bizarre" now, but look for lots more stories like this in the very near future.

Bush Social Security Plan Would Cut Future Benefits

from the WaPo:

President Bush called on Congress last night to curtail future Social Security benefits for all but low-income retirees in an urgent new effort to address the popular program's shaky finances.

With virtually every Democrat, as well as many Republicans, opposed to his plan for private investment accounts, Bush sought to shift the focus of the Social Security debate to a new proposal that would reduce benefits more as workers' incomes rise.

"I believe the reformed system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most," he said in a nationally televised news conference. "So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off." This is the first time Bush has backed a specific plan to reduce future benefits for tens of millions of Americans.


This marks a dramatic shift in tactics in the Social Security debate. No, not the media telling the truth part, as amazing as that is. I mean the fiendishly clever attempt to use progressivity as a tool to destroy Social Security.

Shrub knows that means-testing Social Security in effect turns it into welfare. And Murkuns despise welfare. In other words, Social Security will retain broad support only so long as it is not seen as income redistribution. Convert it to welfare and you can bleed off support and, as per Grover Norquist's dream, drown it in the bathtub.

In a perfect world I would agree with what Bush is trying to do (the progressivity part, not the destroying Social Security part). But in a perfect world, Hunter Thompson would have let the falling-down drunk Bush drown in Thompson's bathtub.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Bush pushes S.S. program for poor



That's the headline I read regarding tonight's press conference.

What? Wrong S.S.? Says you. This here is a fair and balanced blog. We inform, you decide.

Well SURE it can get sleazier...

Three weeks ago, after reading of Tom DeLay's Physician-of-the-Year (for the low, low price of $1250!) award scam, I asked the rhetorical question, "Could their fundraising actually get sleazier?"

The answer, of course, is that the low can always sink lower.

From The Telegraph Online:

A man convicted of stealing more than $600,000 in a business loan scam received an award from the National Republican Congressional Committee honoring his business leadership and party support.

Ira Stern, 56, of Milford was among hundreds of people nationally to receive the 2004 Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal award, Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Alex Burgos said Wednesday.Recipients were invited to be recognized at a dinner and tax reform workshop in Washington, D.C., on March 15, at which President Bush was the keynote speaker, Burgos said.The awards were given by NRCC, and announced by House Majority Leader Tom Delay and NRCC Chairman Rep. Tom Reynolds of New York, to honor business leaders who support the party, and honor President Reagan’s “vision for an entrepreneurial America.”

“Mr. Stern has served as Honorary Chairman of the Business Advisory Council and has provided much needed support. This award could not have gone to a more deserving candidate,” Reynolds was quoted as saying in the Amherst Citizen newspaper.The NRCC was not aware of Stern’s criminal history, Burgos said.“If that had turned up I can assure you this individual would not have received this award,” he said.Stern said Wednesday he didn’t do much to earn the award.“I believe the Congressional Committee gives that to people who support the Republican Party. I made a very small donation to them, and next thing I know, I was being nominated for businessman of the year,” he said.Public records show Stern gave $250 to the NRCC in 2004.

Let's review: Selling MD of the Year awards to ordinary docs for $1250? Sleazoid. Selling "Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal" awards for $250 to con artists convicted of stealing more than half a mil? Megasleazoid.

On the other hand, you have to admit that there is a certain internal logic to (a) Tom DeLay rewarding thievery and (b) naming the award after Ronald Reagan.

American Theresienstadt

Interrogations Faked at Guantanamo, Witness Says on Yahoo! News

Authorities at Guantanamo Bay staged interrogations of detainees for visiting politicians and generals to give the impression that valuable intelligence was regularly being gathered, according to a former Army translator at the camp.

Former Army Sgt. Erik Saar told CBS television show 60 Minutes that he believes "only a few dozen" of the 600 detainees at the camp were terrorists and that little information was obtained from them.

"Interrogations were set up so the VIPs could come and witness an interrogation ... a mock interrogation, basically," Saar told the program, to air on Sunday.

"They would find a detainee that they knew to have been cooperative. They would ask the interrogator to go back over the same information," he said, calling it "a fictitious world" created for the visitors.


I know, I know. Conservatives accuse us of hysteria when we draw parallels between our actions in the War on Terrah with Nazi Germany. But this one is just so friggin' obvious. Theresienstadt was the fake camp the Nazis used to fool the Red Cross into believng there was no Holocaust. The differences between their actions and ours are getting ever finer.

The really scary part? Read this bit about the "good Germans."

I will have trouble sleeping tonight.

4/29 update: I stand corrected. Theresienstadt was a real camp -- relatives of mine died there, it turns out. But it was dressed up to fool the Red Cross, so the parallels are even stronger.

Theocracy Alert

CBS News Alabama Bill Targets Gay Authors

Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."

Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.


Would you like a nice pink triangle to go with your yellow star?

Theocracy watch

Texas School Board Adds Bible Class

ODESSA, Texas - The school board in this West Texas town voted unanimously to add a Bible class to its high school curriculum.

Hundreds of people, most of them supporters of the proposal, packed the board meeting Tuesday night. More than 6,000 Odessa residents had signed a petition supporting the class.
...
Barring any hurdles, the class should be added to the curriculum in fall 2006 and taught as a history or literature course. The school board still must develop a curriculum, which board member Floy Hinson said should be open for public review.

The board had heard a presentation in March from Mike Johnson, a representative of the Greensboro, N.C.-based National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, who said that coursework designed by that organization is not about proselytizing or preaching.



OK, "theocracy watch" may be the wrong way to refer to where we are. After all, when an actual tornado has been sighted, they call it a "tornado alert."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Ethics war is declared

from The Hill.com:

Republican lawmakers who met yesterday to discuss a proposal by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) to reverse changes to House ethics rules said it is inevitable that their colleagues will file complaints against Democrats once the ethics panel is again operational.
...
Some GOP legislators are upset that they were forced to back down on the ethics rules, handing House Democrats a huge political victory. Others, including Hastert, believed that keeping the rules in place would have inflicted significant, long-term damage on House Republicans.
...
Expectations that Republicans will use the ethics committee, officially called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, to retaliate against Democrats for — as Republicans see it — politicizing the House ethics rules raises the specter that an ethics committee will result in a partisan ethics war.


How utterly predictable. The transition from "he's innocent" to "well, you do it, too" will be seamless.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bush Nominee's Father Led Last Filibuster of Supreme Court Nominee

fromThe Next Hurrah:

It looks like the Senate Democrats really snookered Bill Frist. Yesterday there was talk of a potential "compromise" that would have allowed votes on two of Bush's judicial nominees. Even if Frist had consented to the deal, it wouldn't have been much of a compromise by the Democrats, but now they get to look like they're being reasonable and the Republicans are extremists. Furthermore, if the compromise would have gone through, it would have shed more light on the hypocrisy of the Republican arguments against the filibuster, because one of the nominees is the son of the Republican Senator who used a filibuster to derail the confirmation of a Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court.


Read the whole thing, and lock and load for the coming nuclear (option) winter.

Like you needed one

from AMERICAblog: Microsoft paying Religious Right leader Ralph Reed $20,000 a month retainer

Yet another reason to hate Microsoft:

AMERICAblog.com has learned that Microsoft is currently paying a $20,000 a month retainer to former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed's consulting firm Century Strategies. Which now begs the question of whether Reed was in any way involved with Microsoft's recent decision to abandon its decades long support for gay civil rights in order to curry favor with anti-gay bigots of the radical right.
...
Interestingly, Microsoft had Reed on retainer during the presidential election of 2000 to apparently help lobby then-candidate Bush on their anti-trust suit (he was actually first hired in the fall of 1998). The contract was terminated after Reed was criticized for a conflict of interest - Reed was working on Bush's campaign. The question arises when Microsoft and Reed revived their work relationship (most observers I've spoken to thought the contract ended five years ago), and what exactly Reed is working on now that the anti-trust issue is over.

Now, just think a minute. Microsoft finds itself under criticism from the local evangelical leader, religious right shareholders, bigoted employees and who knows who else. They don't know what to do. Who do they turn to? Well, if I'm in a religious right pickle, I'd turn to my $20,000 a month retainered religious right consultant, the former leader of the religious right, Ralph Reed.


One of the many legends about evil genius Bill Gates is that at first he underestimated the sea change the Internet would bring in the computing world, but he recovered and turned the Microsoft behemoth around and got them focused on it. But my guess is he didn't factor in the Internet's ability to embarrass Microsoft on this bit of ugliness.

Bush Adds DeLay to Social Security Tour

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) - President Bush is adding a helper to his Social Security road tour: House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is facing allegations of ethical improprieties but is seen by the White House as crucial to pushing Bush's plans through Congress. In Galveston, Texas, on Tuesday, Bush was discussing his proposal to add private investment accounts to Social Security. DeLay was scheduled to attend the event with the president and, along with a few other Republican members of Congress from Texas, fly back to Washington with him on Air Force One.

Far from trying to distance Bush from DeLay's troubles, the White House has responded to criticism from Democrats with steadfast support for the majority leader. Now, with Tuesday's joint appearance, the White House is taking that loyalty to a new level.

Part of the reason is pragmatic. One of the most influential and effective conservatives on Capitol Hill, the man known as the Hammer is regarded by the White House as someone who gets things done - and the administration has proposals, such as changes to Social Security, that need an effective shepherd."
In related news, Judas Priest and Queensryche will be teaming up for a blockbuster nationwide tour this spring...

My initial thought was that letting DeLay join the Bamboozlepalooza tour is as close an admission we're likely to get from Bush that social security reform is toast on a stick. But then it occurred to me that bringing along the current "It" boy for government corruption might be a clever piece of fear-based advertising: "Lookie here. This is the sort of fellow who's keeping an eye on your payroll taxes after they're deducted from your paycheck."

Monday, April 25, 2005

Digby: the real relativists

Digby says what I (and many others) have been saying for quite a while about the futility of arguing with the Republicans on the basis of logic. But, as he usually does, he says it better.

The trouble is that the IOKIYAR (it's ok if you're a republican) phenomenon is not just a little blogospheric joke. It's quite real and it's been demonstrated over and over again. There is absolutely no reason for the Republicans to fear that they will be held to the same standard as they hold Democrats, ever. These lies by Bush appointees are not going to be investigated and they will always remain in the realm of he said/she said, old news, whyareyoubringingthisupnow. Fuggedaboudit.

For instance, Matt brings up the fact that the Bush administration has hired convicted congressional liars from the iran Contra era. But, one must also remember that those same convicted liars were all pardoned by George Bush Sr at a time when he was personally under investigation by a special prosecutor, thus effectively ending the probe. Immediately after Senior left office, however, there began a relentless series of demands by Republicans for special prosecutors investigating a list of shockingly trivial charges that eventually led to the impeachment of the president. The Republicans didn't worry that someone would make comparisons that would embarrass them. They are unembarrassable because they have found that they can ignore the prinicples of relevant difference, the universality principle, the golden rule or whatever you want to call it, and there will be no repercussions.

It may be that this is caused by a media that refuses to take a stance on even factual matters, which leaves people with the impression that there are no standards except those which are imposed by the loudest, the most powerful, the most entertaining or whatever. It's a big problem for us in the reality based community, however, because we remain stuck in this rational mode of argumentation while they careen off into a relativist fallacy whenever they choose.

In other words, there are no rules --- only actions that will keep them in power or strip them from it. The fight each battle separately and don't worry about the one they are going to fight tomorrow. And when the worm has turned and Democrats gain power again, everything will go back to square one and all of the the crimes that we spent that last five years screaming to get covered and investigated will be turned by the Republicans into indictments of Democrats.


Precisely. Unfortunately, knowledge of this fact doesn't change much. We are still faced with the painful dilemma -- do we become the enemy in order to defeat him, or place our faith (a word I use advisedly and sparingly) in both the eventual return to sanity of the American people and the willingness of the criminals who now hold the reins to simply let go when they do?

I know what my answer is. And so I keep banging this tiny drum.

When the JimmyJeff's away...



Say, fella--you wouldn't be bald underneath that dishtowel now, wouldja?

Church/State

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Bush Administration Policy Basis Revealed

Omerta:

1. A code of silence - Never to "rat out" any mafia member. Never to divulge any mafia secrets. Even if they were threatened by torture or death.


2. Complete obedience to the boss - Obey the boss's orders, no matter what.


3. Assistance - To provide any necessary assistance to any other respected or befriended mafia faction.


4. Vengeance - Any attacks on family members must be avenged. "An attack on one is an attack on all."


5. Avoid contact with the authorities.


Of course, these commandments have required a certain amount of modification for their new context. For instance, "avoid contact with the authorities" loses most of its meaning when you are the authorities. However, the Administration's behavior vis a vis Congressional oversight does fit the profile nicely.

Steve Clemons on Bolton

In a short piece in his TWN blog, Clemons nails the importance of Boltons nomination both for the Boy King and for the rest of us.

On the subject of loyalty, Hannah Arendt once wrote:

Total loyalty is possible only when fidelity is emptied of all concrete content, from which changes of mind might naturally arise.
John Bolton's blind loyalty in the past and present to Jesse Helms, Dick Cheney, and to George Bush's successful presidential race in the year 2000 was the type of total loyalty, devoid of content, that now makes it difficult for the White House to cut loose from his troubled campaign to serve as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

If the White House, and particularly Dick Cheney, drop Bolton too easily, other zealots counting on total support from the White House will have to recalculate their affections. The White House does not really care much about the U.N. as an institution, but they do care about sending signals to their most loyal followers that the Bush-Cheney machine won't totally stand behind their people.
Like the other mafia, the Bush cabal runs on a simple rule: above all, obey. They cannot walk away from Bolton without endangering that. It is why there are no small battles with these folks, no compromise for the bigger picture. And it is why the Bolton nomination provides a real opportunity to slow down their juggernaut.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

New Public Broadcasting Chief Wants Conservative Viewers

'NYT' Preview: New Public Broadcasting Chief Wants Conservative Viewers

In this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, Ken Ferree, the new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, says he wants PBS, long considered a liberal bastion, to attract more conservative viewers. "Does public television belong to the Democrats?" he asks.

He also says he still has no idea what led to the recent departure of his predecessor, Kathleen Cox, which according to rumors occurred at least partly because of complaints from conservative groups and the "Postcards from Buster" flap.

"I don't know what led to what," he says.

Asked if he is worried that liberal PBS loyalists may exit, he says: "Well, maybe we can attract some new viewers." More conservative ones? Deborah Solomon asks. "Yeah! I would hope that in the long run we can attract new viewers, and we shouldn't limit ourselves to a particular demographic."
...
Ferree admits that he doesn't watch a lot of PBS shows--"I'm not much of a TV consumer." He likens "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" to Shakespeare but it is just "slow. ... Sometimes I really just want a People magazine, and often that is in the evening, after a hard day."


This not from your run-of-the-mill Hollywood ratings whore, but the head of PBS.

In general I wear being an undesirable demographic as a badge of honor. But this story scares me.

Want to attract the wingnuts? The answer is obvious.

Lie.

Bury truth.

Parrot stupidity.

Then you, too can join the cerebral Botox procession that Fox leads through our nation's living rooms.

Closed courtroom for Sibel Edmonds appeal

More from the front lines in the new separation of powers; that is, the separation of the those in power, and their exercise thereof, from the rest of us:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of the National Capital Area filed an emergency motion Wednesday to open the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to the public during oral arguments tomorrow in a hearing over the termination of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. Several media outlets filed a separate emergency motion.

The move comes in response to an announcement from the court clerk this morning that the argument would be closed to everyone except attorneys involved in the case and Edmonds. Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU National Office, will argue on behalf of Edmonds tomorrow.

"There is no plausible reason why members of the public and the press cannot be present at this hearing, especially since the written arguments of the parties are entirely on the public record,"said Art Spitzer, legal director of the ACLU of the National Capital Area. "The rule of law does not evaporate because an appeal involves national security information."

In its motion, the ACLU noted that appellate arguments are historically open to the public as a matter of law, and that federal circuits have rejected efforts to close them, even in cases involving national security. When the United States asked the Supreme Court to close part of the oral argument in the Pentagon Papers case – a case that involved classified information of the greatest sensitivity – that motion was denied. Likewise, in an appeal in the ongoing prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, an alleged conspirator in the 9/11 terrorist plot, the court rejected the government's move to close the entire hearing.


Whether we are headed toward star Chamber justic is no longer a serious question. There is only a sliver of room left for debate as to whether we have arrived yet.

Sen. Levin Releases Newly Declassified Intelligence Documents on Iraq-al Qaeda Relationship

Now that the American public seems to have swallowed the absurd "blame it all on the CIA" explanation for the total disconnect between reality and our Iraq invasion rhetoric, the Administration seems to be so confident that they have literally gotten away with murder that they are even willing to allow us to see documents proving them liars. They have the media so well trained that they can declassify information that completely undermines their story -- they know it will never displace the michael Jackson trial or Wendy's finger chili on the front page or in the public consciousness.

Carl Levin's own website provides the facts. His conclusion:

As a key part of its case for going to war, the Bush Administration repeatedly suggested that Iraq had a significant cooperative relationship with the people who attacked us on 9/11. The documents provide new, previously classified details demonstrating that Administration statements about the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship were not supported by the underlying intelligence.


In less genteel language:The CIA intelligence wasn't the problem. The lack of intelligence in the white house was the problem.

The Denver Three

The "privatization" of taxpayer-funded public appearances of the President is one of the unambiguous evils that stands a decent chance of tarnishing Shrub's undeserved reputation as a Joe Sixpack kinda guy. (It is also illegal and an affront to all things Constitutional, but I have given up expecting Mr. Sixpack to care about such things.)

The "Denver Three"" -- the folks thrown out of the Denver Bamboozlepalooza tour stop, have a website.

...Monday, March 28, the Secret Service called three everyday people into their offices to discuss why we were kicked out of a presidential event in Denver last week where Bush promoted his plan to privatize Social Security. What they revealed to us and our lawyer was fascinating.

There we were - three people who had personally picked up tickets from Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez's office and went to a presidential event. But as we entered, we were told that we had been "ID'ed" and were warned that any disruption would get us arrested.

After being seated in the audience we were forcibly removed before the President arrived, even though we had not been disruptive. We were shocked when told that this presidential event was a "private event" and were commanded to leave.


This story cries out for publicity. Let's give it some.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Conspiracy to exercise Constititutional rights

GOP Volunteer Probed on Role at President's Speech (washingtonpost.com)

It is nice to see somebody in the MSM finally taking interest in the systematic exclusion of anyone who might even be thinking about protesting at Bush public appearances.

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating whether a Republican volunteer committed the crime of impersonating a federal agent while forcibly removing three people from one of President Bush's public Social Security events, according to people familiar with the probe.

The Secret Service this week sent agents to Denver to probe allegations by three area Democrats that they were ousted from Bush's March 21 event. The three did not stage any protest at the rally and were later told by the Secret Service they were removed because their vehicle displayed an anti-Bush bumper sticker.


White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the man who removed them was a GOP volunteer, but he refused to divulge his name or whether he works in Colorado or Washington. "If someone is coming to an event to disrupt it, they are going to be asked to leave," McClellan said.
...
In the Denver case, Alex Young, 25; Karen Bauer, 38; and Leslie Weise, 39, say they were forced out even though they never verbally protested or displayed anti-Bush shirts or signs. The White House has not disputed this.
...
McClellan said the volunteer had a reason to believe they were planning to protest and rightly removed them. "My understanding is the volunteer was concerned these individuals were going to disrupt the event, so he asked them to leave," McClellan said.

The Secret Service initially launched an investigation in late March to determine if its agents were involved in the incident. It was quickly determined they were not. This week, Mark Hughes, who works for the Secret Service here, contacted the attorneys representing the three people and said agents were flying to Denver for a new phase of the probe.

A person familiar with the probe said the agents are trying to determine whether the man McClellan described as a volunteer was impersonating an agent, a federal crime that carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison.

...
The incident and the identity of the man have become news in parts of Denver. The three Democrats have started a Web site to press their case, and a local columnist has been hounding the White House for the identity of the "mystery man." "It's day 31. The White House stonewalling continues," Denver Post columnist Diane Carman wrote Thursday.

"I don't think it serves any purpose other than to further their political agenda to get into discussing the volunteer," McClellan said.


Ah, yes, Scottie. We can't have protesters furthering their political agenda, can we? Only you get to use taxpayer-funded public events to further a political agenda.

Friday, April 22, 2005

John Dean barks at the moon

FindLaw's Writ - Dean: An Update on the Investigation Into the Leak Of CIA Agent Plame's Identity

John Dean wrote a pretty good piece on where we are on the forgotten Plame investigation. And he makes a pretty persuasive case for JudithFuckingMiller doing a stretch of hard time. But when he gets righteous at the end, he shows a rather tenuous grasp of the ways of an administration much like the one he served:

By now, both reporters, highly sophisticated and as knowledgeable as they are, have long known that they will have to pay their fines, and serve their time, except in the unlikely event that the Supreme Court takes their case and overrules (or clarifies) Branzburg.

But there is one other event that could - and should - save them: It is time for anyone who leaked information to either of these reporters to step forward and reveal themselves.

This is particularly true if the person (or persons) who leaked information to Miller and Cooper was also the person (or persons) who leaked Valerie Plame's CIA identity to Novak and others. For that source to watch Miller and Cooper go to jail for their principles, would be craven indeed: A case of the innocent suffering to benefit the guilty, for as I have explained in a prior column, the leak certainly appears to be a federal felony.

Only Miller and Cooper's source(s), by stepping forward, can prevent a potential miscarriage of justice. He or she must do so forthwith.


I have emptied my snark clip into the two-legged evil running our country many times in the six months I have been blogging here. I try not to unleash much friendly fire. But Mr. Dean, with all due respect: it does not flatter a man of your station and seniority to smoke crack like that. In case you hadn't noticed, "innocent suffering to benefit the guilty" is not merely a by-product of this administration's good works. It is their raison d'etre. It is their shibboleth. It is numbers 1-8 of their real 10 commandments. (9 is "Thou shalt steal," and 10 is "Blame the proles.") It is the unified field theory of Republican quantum mechanics.

And if you think shame is going to lead the felon who outed Valerie Plame to stand up -- if you think anyone in this White House gives a rat's ass about the "miscarriage of justice," you are as naive as you were when Richard Nixon first hired you.

Top Officers in Abu Ghraib Case Cleared

The Army has cleared four top officers — including the three-star general who commanded all U.S. forces in Iraq — of all allegations of wrongdoing in connection with prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, officials said Friday.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who became the senior commander in Iraq in June 2003, two months after the fall of Baghdad, had been faulted in earlier investigations for leadership lapses that may have contributed to prisoner abuse. He is the highest ranking officer to face official allegations of leadership failures in Iraq, but he has not been accused of criminal violations.


New Year's Eve 2004, I linked to a blog that reported all the big events of 2005 in advance. This particular turn of events wasn't on that list, but it could have been -- it was as predictable as Laura Bush's thorazine dosage and Dick Cheney's infarcts. Responsibility for shitstorms never, ever flows uphill.

We've come a long way -- from Whitewater to whitewash.


Wherein Dr. Condiliar learns...

story.putin.rice.ap.jpg

...that some rooms are a bit tougher to work than Senate confirmation hearings.

Breaking liberal-Catholic hearts

From today's Providence Journal:

"Catholic liberals, despite their rather high average level of education, have never understood what kind of religion they belong to -- a profoundly conservative religion, and one whose conservatism is not merely the byproduct of its being led by a gang of old men who never married; rather, its conservatism is of its very essence.

For better or for worse, Catholicism is a backward-looking religion, not a forward-looking one, since its legitimacy rests on its claim to be the custodian of the teachings of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. A religion of that kind is simply incapable of adopting a 'progressive' agenda."

A good, succinct piece looking at just how reactionary Ratzinger is, and how his particular selection really doesn't make much difference in the broader scheme of things. Worth a read.

Evangelicals Want to Strip Courts' Funds

An audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times features two of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders, at a private conference with supporters, laying out strategies to rein in judges, such as stripping funding from their courts in an effort to hinder their work.

The discussion took place during a Washington conference last month that included addresses by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who discussed efforts to bring a more conservative cast to the courts.
...
"There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robe off the bench," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, according to an audiotape of a March 17 session. The tape was provided to The Times by the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

DeLay has spoken generally about one of the ideas the leaders discussed in greater detail: using legislative tactics to withhold money from courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said at an April 13 question-and-answer session with reporters.

The leaders present at the March conference, including Perkins and James C. Dobson, founder of the influential group Focus on the Family, have been working with Frist to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominations, a legislative tool that has allowed Senate Democrats to stall 10 of President Bush's nominations. Frist is scheduled to appear, via a taped statement, during a satellite broadcast to churches nationwide Sunday that the Family Research Council has organized to build support for the Bush nominees.

The March conference featuring Dobson and Perkins showed that the evangelical leaders, in addition to working to place conservative nominees on the bench, have been trying to find ways to remove certain judges.

Perkins said that he had attended a meeting with congressional leaders a week earlier where the strategy of stripping funding from certain courts was "prominently" discussed. "What they're thinking of is not only the fact of just making these courts go away and re-creating them the next day but also defunding them," Perkins said.

He said that instead of undertaking the long process of trying to impeach judges, Congress could use its appropriations authority to "just take away the bench, all of his staff, and he's just sitting out there with nothing to do."


Words fail.

FBI protects Osama's right to privacy

Judicial Watch, the public interest group that fights government corruption, announced today that it has obtained documents through the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) has invoked privacy right protections on behalf of al Qaeda terror leader Osama bin Laden. In a September 24, 2003 declassified “Secret” FBI report obtained by Judicial Watch, the FBI invoked Exemption 6 under FOIA law on behalf of bin Laden, which permits the government to withhold all information about U.S. persons in “personnel and medical files and similar files” when the disclosure of such information “would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.” (5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(6) (2000))

Before invoking privacy protections for Osama bin Laden under Exemption 6, the FBI should have conducted a balancing “test” of the public's right to disclosure against the individual's right to privacy. Many of the references in the redacted documents cite publicly available news articles from sources such as The Washington Post and Associated Press. Based on its analysis of the news stories cited in the FBI report, Judicial Watch was able to determine that bin Laden’s name was redacted from the document, including newspaper headlines in the footnoted citations.

“It is dumbfounding that the United States government has placed a higher priority on the supposed privacy rights of Osama bin Laden than the public’s right to know what happened in the days following the September 11 terrorist attacks,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “It is difficult for me to imagine a greater insult to the American people, especially those whose loved ones were murdered by bin Laden on that day.”


As a civil libertarian, I am comforted by the fact that, although he is not a U.S. citizen, and we have no idea where the guy is, our government is intent on protecting the privacy (you know, that right Tom DeLay and Nino Scalia insist doesn't exist) of Osama bin Laden.

War and Piece on Bolton

War and Piece

Good collection of reporting and thoughts on the Bolton quagmire (Bush seems to have a knack for accumulating those).

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Just wondering



Even Bush's rocket scientists are idiots

Yahoo! News - Rice Announces Presidential Run by Mistake

It was a long interview in Moscow, and maybe she was tired from her travels, but for just a moment Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared Wednesday that she would seek the U.S. presidency.

"One day you will run for president?" Rice was asked on Ekko Moskvy Radio.

"President, da, da," Rice readily replied.

That, as nearly everyone knows, even if they are not fluent in Russian as Rice is believed to be, means yes.

"Nyet, nyet, nyet, nyet," Rice quickly added, taking herself out of the race as fast as she'd gotten into it.


Rice's background: "From 1989 through March 1991, the period of German reunification and the final days of the Soviet Union, she served in the Bush Administration as Director, and then Senior Director, of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, and a Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs...She also has written numerous articles on Soviet and East European foreign and defense policy, and has addressed audiences in settings ranging from the U.S. Ambassador's Residence in Moscow to the Commonwealth Club to the 1992 and 2000 Republican National Conventions."

Pigs @ the trough

Yahoo! News - House Approves Broad Energy Bill

The House approved a broad energy bill Thursday aimed at boosting domestic production, including provisions to allow oil drilling in an Alaska wildlife refuge and to shield makers of a gasoline additive from water contamination lawsuits.

The largely Republican crafted bill was approved 249-183 after two days in which the GOP majority turned back repeated attempts by Democrats to add measures they said would reduce energy use, including a proposal for higher automobile fuel economy requirements.

The bill includes $12 billion in tax breaks and subsidies for energy companies, more than the Bush administration said it wanted. Nevertheless the White House strongly endorsed the measure.
...
Contentious issues during debate involved the gasoline additive, MTBE. The bill calls for shielding MTBE makers from product liability lawsuits stemming from contamination of drinking water supplies. Democrats warned the liability waiver would leave the public with billions of dollars in cleanup costs.

An attempt by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., to strip the MTBE assistance from the energy bill was defeated, 219-213.

Capps said groundwater contamination from the gasoline additive has affected more than 1,800 community water systems in 29 states with a potential cleanup cost of $29 billion. MTBE makers, including large oil companies and refiners, dispute that estimate but have argued they need liability protection because of an expected surge in lawsuits.


Yes indeedy. Polluters must be protected against liabilty for polluting. Oil producers must be bribed to produce more oil because, lord knows, $50 a barrel won't get it done. And reducing consumption by encouraging conservation? Heavens, no -- it might reduce the ability of Exxon and Bandar Bush to pay for Tom Delay's skyboxes and Dubya's business ventures.

The looting of the treasury and the public trust is now virtually complete. But it appears the national anesthesia has not worn off, because the public is still fast asleep.

Coming is the mother of all hangovers.

Old-fashioned Republican cannibalism

An excerpt from a radio ad brought to you by Move America Forward:

Wife: Shame on Senator Voinovich. After the Democrats smeared Condoleeza Rice for Secretary of State and Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General, how could Voinovich side with the Democrats in smearing John Bolton?

Husband: It seems like Senator Voinovich has become a traitor to the Republican Party.


You go. Make blind obediance the litmus test for party membership. Disembowel all who waver. Make the battle about Republican versus member of human race, Republican versus sane, Republican versus competent. Win or lose, that's exactly the kind of battle I want to fight.

Holy warriors

Excellent piece on the Ratzinger-Bush alliance from Sidney Blumenthal @ Salon.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Bush energy policy: use more

If you were going to design a computer program to imitate the decisionmaking process behind Bush administration policies, your heuristics would be pretty simple in most cases: choose the outcome that would (a) mosat benefit a small number of large corporations and (b) do the most long-term damage to the welfare of average people. Witness this bone-headed proposal to negate as much as possible the value of buying a fuel-efficient vehicles:

The federal tax man has an eye on those increasingly popular high- mileage vehicles, gas misers whose drivers love going further between fill-ups and saving on sky-high gas prices.
The idea is simple but technologically daunting -- base gas taxes on miles driven instead of on gallons of fuel bought. And advocates say the reason for such a change is also simple -- although such fuel-efficient vehicles as hot-selling hybrids pay less in gas taxes, they're still out on the nation's roads contributing to congestion and wear and tear on an aging infrastructure.


A switch in the way the 18.4-cent-a-gallon federal gas tax is levied could be in the offing, making it more of a user fee than a tax. By unanimous voice vote, the Senate Finance Committee approved legislation Tuesday to establish a 15-member commission to report back within two years on ways to ensure enough tax revenue to pay for the nation's highway, bridge and public transit programs.


High on the list the panel will consider is the per-mile fee that is already the subject of a $1.25 million pilot project in Oregon that will use a special "smart'' odometer coupled with a global positioning system in every vehicle, a system invented at Oregon State University.

Oh, and the third leg of the policy-making stool: collect as much information as possible about the behavior of people in the most intrusive way possible.

Dept. of You Can Too Make It Up

From today's Boston Globe:

Say what?

"THREE MIT graduate students invented a computer program that can spit out randomly selected words to create grammatically correct research reports that make absolutely no sense. Now they have had one of those papers accepted for presentation at a July scientific conference.
...

Jeremy Stribling, Max Krohn, and Dan Aguayo call their paper ''Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- which might have been seen as a tip-off that scientific beaks were being tweaked. After all, why would anyone want to unify redundancy?
...
Their spoof echoes what has become known as the 'Sokal Hoax,' perpetrated in 1996 by Alan Sokal, a professor of physics at New York University. He lampooned Duke University's left-wing cultural criticism journal ''Social Text" by positing in 11 pages of text and 30 pages of footnotes that the physical world did not exist. The journal published the paper, which was titled ''Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity." The reason something like that can slip by editors without an eye blink is that a lot of people in academia think, speak, and write that way -- and they're hardly alone.


The business world can take a simple idea and turn it into a paradigm with parameters faster than a mouse click -- and the affliction keeps getting worse, no matter how many consultants are hired to promote clarity. The new book, 'Why Business People Speak Like Idiots,' by Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway, and Jon Warshawsky should be required reading in America's suites and cubicles."

Oh, sure, the computer can crank out meaningless research studies. But does it know how to use them to get tenure or knock down six figure consulting fees? Nooooo. I just hate it when people start crowing about how computers can do everything better than humans...

The Bolton subtext?

The White House accused Senate Democrats on Wednesday of trumping up "unsubstantiated accusations" against John Bolton in a bid to derail his nomination to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In a setback to President Bush, Republicans on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday were forced to delay a vote on the nomination to examine new allegations against Bolton of abusive conduct.

"I think what you have are Democratic members of the committee who continue to bring up unsubstantiated accusations. These allegations are unfounded," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.


The Clinton White House, interested in getting things done, walked away from unimportant (and some important) fights. The Bush White House never, ever cedes an inch. THey will pull out all the stops to bring this one to the floor. Maybe this is the reason:

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada has said Democrats were considering filibustering the nomination, which would require a 60-vote majority nearly impossible to attain in the divided chamber.


We know the shortsighted Republicans are itching to trigger the nukular option. Maybe they think this is a better place to make their stand than a judicial nomination. Maybe they would dearly love to see the Democrats use up their bullets on an essentially meaningless (to the Republicans) vote.

Culture of life, Texas-style

Yahoo! News - Texas may have put innocent man to death, panel told

With Texas' criminal justice system the subject of intense scrutiny for a crime lab scandal and a series of wrongful convictions, a state Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday about the possibility that Texas had experienced the ultimate criminal justice nightmare: the execution of an innocent person.

Fourteen months after Cameron Todd Willingham was executed in the nation's busiest death chamber, a renowned arson expert and Willingham's lawyer told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee that they believed Willingham might have been innocent but found nobody willing to listen to their claim in the days before the execution in February 2004.
...
A Tribune investigation of the Willingham case last December showed that he was prosecuted and convicted based primarily on arson theories that have since been repudiated by scientific advances--a fact backed up by testimony Tuesday by one of those experts, Gerald Hurst.

According to Hurst and three other fire experts who reviewed evidence in the case at the Tribune's request, the original investigation that concluded the fire was arson was flawed, relying on theories no longer considered valid. It is even possible the fatal fire at the Willingham home in Corsicana, a small town about an hour south of Dallas, was accidental, according to the experts.


And in Tom DeLay's home state. Imagine that.

FOXNews.com impugns Dubya

FOXNews.com - The Big Story w/ John Gibson - My Word - Was Iraq Behind the Oklahoma City Bombing?


Ten years after the Oklahoma City bombing, Fox News wants to blame it on Iraq (and on Clinton, who had it covered up).

So now the question: So if there is all this evidence, why has the U.S. government ignored it?

Well, for one thing, I submit George W. Bush didn't ignore it after September 11, 2001. He realized then that Iraq was behind a lot of the attacks on the U.S. and it was time for it to stop.


I see -- Bush felt the WMD evidence invented from whole cloth was so compelling, and the spurious Saddam-9/11 connection so solid, that there was no need to reveal a literal smoking gun -- an attack by Iraq on our own soil?

That takes the boy king even further into the pathological than I would have put him. It says not just that he is willing to lie to get what he wants; it says that he would rather offer up weak lies than powerful truth that would, to all outward appearances, be more effective for his purposes. In effect, it says he lies not for expedience, but on principle.

If Fox News says it, it must be true.

I heart Fadda Frank

From today's Providence Journal:

"At St. Francis Chapel & City Ministry in downtown Providence, the Rev. Frank Sevola let his lunch go cold and stood by the TV with his arms crossed.

Father Sevola, 45, watched on TV the balcony at St. Peter's Basilica, where by tradition, a cardinal deacon would appear to announce the new pope. Other priests and chapel workers stood behind sofas, clutching the cushions. 'Oh, somebody's peeking out!' someone said.

'The curtains are moving!' Father Sevola agreed.

'Here we go, here we go,' he said.

'Come on,' Father Sevola urged the TV. 'Who is he?'

On TV, the name of the next pope eked out, exasperatingly slow. 'Josef. . .'

'Oh, yes!' someone in the room said.

'Oh, no!' said Father Sevola.

'Ratzinger. . .' the TV intoned.

Father Sevola grabbed his head. 'I can't believe it.'
...
Some at this inner-city church, whose mission is to serve the impoverished, had been hoping the next pope would come from a Third World country. Father Sevola said he was simply hoping for a new 'spin on the leadership.' Cardinal Ratzinger, he noted, had been an enforcer of church orthodoxy. 'I was hoping for a more pastoral guy. He's not known as real pastoral.'"


My first thought was that this will probably put Frank in hot water with Bennie 16, who would no doubt be able to refer the Fadda to volumes of church teachings that caution against referring to His Holiness as a "guy." But I suspect that the new Pope, that humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord, has already written off this part of the farm as too far gone for salvation.

Wingnut Daily Bugle

Man wants to exorcise Mt. Diablo's name

A deeply religious Oakley man has petitioned the federal government to rename Mount Diablo, calling the current name a profane salute to Satan.
...
"Words have power, and when you start mentioning words that come from the dark side, evil thrives," said Mijares.

"When I take boys camping on the mountain -- I don't even like to say its name -- I have to explain what the name means. Why should we have a main feature of our community that celebrates the devil?"



Gotta wonder how the folks at The Onion can keep coming to work every day. There isn't much room for parody against such a sea of real-world absurdity.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

DeLay fingers the real enemy: knowledge

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay intensified his criticism of the federal courts on Tuesday, singling out Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's work from the bench as "incredibly outrageous" because he has relied on international law and done research on the Internet.

DeLay also said he thought there were a "lot of Republican-appointed judges that are judicial activists."

The No. 2 Republican in the House has openly criticized the federal courts since they refused to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. And he pointed to Kennedy as an example of Republican members of the Supreme Court who were activist and isolated.

"Absolutely. We've got Justice Kennedy writing decisions based upon international law, not the Constitution of the United States? That's just outrageous," DeLay told Fox News Radio. "And not only that, but he said in session that he does his own research on the Internet? That is just incredibly outrageous."

In DeLayadelphia, the Internets are feared because they contain the bugaboos of diversity, skepticism and, in a few isolated pockets, the devil's primary plaything: knowledge. And judges should be held in the castle keep like Rapunzle, with nothing to entertain them but the King James version and, if they promise not to take it too seriously, the (pre-New Deal) Constitution. How dare they do research!

Small state, small senator

Senate Panel Delays Vote on Bolton for U.N.

"In a setback to President Bush, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee delayed a vote on the nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador after a Republican senator said he was not prepared to vote for him on Tuesday.

'I've heard enough today that I don't feel comfortable about voting for Mr. Bolton,' said Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, stunning fellow Republicans who were set to muscle Bush's contentious pick through the committee on a party-line vote.

Without Voinovich's support, Bolton's nomination faced being bottled up in the committee on a 9-9 tie vote that would not advance it to the full Senate.

After Voinovich's comment, Sen. Richard Lugar, the Indiana Republican who chairs the committee, agreed to put the vote off until after the Senate returns from a weeklong recess in early May.
...
Committee Democrats were gleeful. 'We're stunned,' California Sen. Barbara Boxer said. While Democrats knew Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska had reservations about Bolton but were still prepared to vote for him, Boxer said Voinovich took them by surprise.

...
Chafee said he was pleased the vote was postponed. 'I'm still listening,' he said, although he added he tended to support presidential nominees for nonjudicial appointments. "


Listening to what, Senator Chafee? The voices in your head? Let's set aside the fact that Bolton loathes the very existence of the organization in which he is to serve as a diplomat. What part of "serial abuser" and "manipulates intelligence to suit his views" do you not understand? What else do you need to hear to be convinced? Evidence of gunplay? The use of illicit drugs? Unnatural acts with peanut butter? What?

A few days ago, I suggested that given Chafee's voting record on reprehensible appointees, the press need not refer to him as a "moderate" anymore. At this point, "irrelevant" appears to be more fitting.

How they gonna resolve this one?

A New York man was arrested on Tuesday for threatening to kill a Brooklyn federal judge and bomb his courthouse amid growing concern about the safety of the nation's judiciary and their courtrooms.

Wazir Khan, 20, who lives in New York's borough of Queens, was charged with threatening to kill an individual and destroy the Brooklyn federal courthouse, according to federal prosecutors.


So, all you "culture of life" flamethrowers -- what say you here? Now you find yourselves in flagrante delicto with (gulp) a New Yorker who is also (I'm guessing based on the name) a Muslim of Middle Eastern extraction. 'Splain to me how you justify your own threats on our judiciary while condemning him....

I have all day.

Whiskey Bar: Woman of the Year

The next logical Time Magazine cover...

Senate Panel Delays Vote on Bolton to U.N.

Wow.

Yesterday I (like a whole mess of folks in the blogosphere) cited to the letter written by a victim of John Bolton's vindictive nature. It was submitted to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I never would have thought anything would come of it. But perhaps our abilty to widely disseminate this information meant something here -- it wasn't swept under the carpet.

John Bolton's nomination as U.N. ambassador suffered an unexpected setback Tuesday when the Republican-controlled Senate Foreign Relations Committee scrapped plans for a vote in favor of a fresh look at allegations of unbecoming conduct.
...
Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware, the senior Democrat on the panel, read from what he said was a letter from a U.S. Agency for International Development worker in Kyrgyzstan who alleged Bolton harassed her — not sexually — while he was in private practice representing a company.

"She's prepared to provide an affidavit. The letter she sent in, and I'm going to just take a second here, it says, `When I was dispatching a letter to AID, my hell began. Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel, throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door, and genuinely behaving like a madman. I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton then routinely visited me to pound on the door and shout threats.'"

The committee's delay was a surprise, coming after the White House expressed fresh support for Bolton and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid all but conceded the nomination would be cleared for a floor vote.

Handicapping Bolton's chances of confirmation in advance, Reid said it was possible Democrats would try to block it if Republicans pushed ahead with their plans.

The committee's decision left the timetable unclear, but a two-week delay seemed to be the minimum that could be expected.


That's why we do this.

Meet the new boss...

Papal hopeful is a former Hitler Youth - Sunday Times

Despite question marks over Ratzinger’s wartime conduct, the main obstacle to his prospects in the conclave — the assembly of cardinals to elect the new pope — is the conservative stance he has adopted as guardian of Catholic orthodoxy since John Paul named him to head the congregation for the doctrine of the faith in 1981.

His condemnations are legion — of women priests, married priests, dissident theologians and homosexuals, whom he has declared to be suffering from an “objective disorder”.

He upset many Jews with a statement in 1987 that Jewish history and scripture reach fulfilment only in Christ — a position denounced by critics as “theological anti-semitism”. He made more enemies among other religions in 2000, when he signed a document, Dominus Jesus, in which he argued: “Only in the Catholic church is there eternal salvation”.


Anyone who thought, in this poisonously fundamentalist environment, that the Catholic Church would swing liberal is bogarting some good stuff. This is the joy of religiousity -- it is an inherently destabilizing process, because the level of polarization increases like the price of the Virgin Mary on grilled cheese on eBay. How long do you figure before he calls a Jihad on the U.S. Supremes? He may be in the neighborhood, since he is has been

ordered to appear in a court in Texas over a sex abuse scandal. He was named in a suit brought on behalf of three men now in their 20s who claim they were sexually abused as children. The cardinal is accused of obstruction of justice in relation to a Vatican document that emerged in 2003 instructing Catholic bishops to deal with cases of sexual abuse "in the most secretive way."

I read of the new Pope's rabid intolerance and think of Dostoyevsky's Grand Inquisitor. I look at the multitude of religions that claim to embrace the New Testament and wonder, "which would execute Jesus fastest?"

John Kerry jumps the shark

Daily Kos :: Fuck you, John Kerry

I do try to keep the dialog (diatribe?) PG-rated here most of the time. Invective loses power through overuse, but when used sparingly, it is one of the ways language can convey passion without the benefit of "emoticons" which I despise. I'm just quoting here, 'kay?

Seems John Kerry is intent on alienating the only folks left who don't think he is a complete boob. He has signed on as a co-sponsor of a bill to allow pharmacists to decline to sell "objectionable" medications.

If you are someone whose religious beliefs require you to refuse to dispense certain medications to patients in need of said medications, then you should not become a motherfucking pharmacist. The free exercise of religion stops at the point where your religous proclivities require you to harm someone at least derivatively in your care. Can anyone here possibly imagine this debate even being seriously carried out if the issue were Jehovah's Witnesses who became emergency room physicians but refused to administer needed medical treatment? Imagine a Jehovah's Witness doctor who refused to provide a blood transfusion because it was "against God's will." People would be screaming to have his license revoked, not defending his BS "right of conscience." How is the pharmacist case any different? Don't ponder that one for too long, because it's not any different.

I can see the Kerry 2008 campaign now: "We need to pander to the wingnuts, but we need to do it better. I will be a more competent panderer."

If this story is true, I hereby withdraw from the no Kerry-bashing armistice treaty.




Monday, April 18, 2005

John Bolton: Ann Coulter with a moustache

via Daily Kos:

Here is a first-hand, victim's-eye view of the savage asshat we are about to let loose on the UN:

Within hours of sending a letter to US AID officials outlining my concerns, I met John Bolton, whom the prime contractor hired as legal counsel to represent them to US AID. And, so, within hours of dispatching that letter, my hell began.

Mr. Bolton proceeded to chase me through the halls of a Russian hotel -- throwing things at me, shoving threatening letters under my door and, generally, behaving like a madman. For nearly two weeks, while I awaited fresh direction from my company and from US AID, John Bolton hounded me in such an appalling way that I eventually retreated to my hotel room and stayed there. Mr. Bolton, of course, then routinely visited me there to pound on the door and shout threats.

When US AID asked me to return to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan in advance of assuming leadership of a project in Kazakstan, I returned to my project to find that John Bolton had proceeded me by two days. Why? To meet with every other AID team leader as well as US foreign-service officials in Bishkek, claiming that I was under investigation for misuse of funds and likely was facing jail time. As US AID can confirm, nothing was further from the truth.

He indicated to key employees of or contractors to State that, based on his discussions with investigatory officials, I was headed for federal prison and, if they refused to cooperate with either him or the prime contractor's replacement team leader, they, too, would find themselves the subjects of federal investigation. As a further aside, he made unconscionable comments about my weight, my wardrobe and, with a couple of team leaders, my sexuality, hinting that I was a lesbian (for the record, I'm not).




From a publication I'm pretty sure you don't read

i.e., GolfWorld:

"Terri Ilagan, of Seymour, Tenn., sold via eBay the rights to rename herself to support her nine-year-old son Jonah Texeira's golf habit, including his desire to attend the David Leadbetter Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Ilagan, 33, accepted an online casino's bid of $15,199 and henceforth will be known as Goldenplace.com.
...
Goldenpalace.com (the casino), incidentally has garnered publicity for a variety of purchases, among them paying $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich with the image of the Virgin Mary."

Nice to see that the casinos are doing something more sensible with their money when they aren't shoving it into Ralph Reed's pocketses.

I myself am pretty tired of "Dr. Bloor," and would be happy to discuss alternatives. Are you listening, PokerStars?

The wheels on the cash go round and round

Ralph Reed's Zeal for Lobbying Is Shaking His Political Faithful

"In 30 years of culture wars, few conservative Christian standard bearers have traveled further in American politics than Ralph Reed. The former head of the Christian Coalition has been a high-priced communications consultant, a top Bush campaign adviser, chairman of Georgia's Republican Party and now a candidate for lieutenant governor here.

Campaigning in early April at a Republican district meeting outside Atlanta, Mr. Reed talked of his small-town roots in northeast Georgia.

'I'm not going to forget where I came from,' he said. 'I am not going to forget what I stand for.'

But as he completes his journey from Christian advocate to professional politician, Mr. Reed, 43, finds himself carrying some baggage: his ties to an old friend, the Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.


In Washington, federal investigations of Mr. Abramoff, a close ally of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have revealed that Mr. Abramoff paid Mr. Reed's consulting firm more than $4 million to help organize Christian opposition to Indian casinos in Texas and Louisiana - money that came from other Indians with rival casinos.

Mr. Reed declined to comment for this article; he has said publicly that he did not know that casino owners were paying for his services and that he has never deviated from his moral opposition to gambling. But the episode is a new blemish on the boyish face that once personified the rise of evangelical Christians to political power in America.

Some of Mr. Reed's past patrons - including the Rev. Pat Robertson, the Christian broadcaster who set Mr. Reed on the national stage by hiring him to run the Christian Coalition - say his work with Mr. Abramoff's Indian casino clients raises questions about how he has balanced his personal ambitions with his Christian principles."

Let's see...the casinos pony up wads of cash for the righteous Mr. Reed to battle against Satan's efforts to establish (Native American) casinos. Whatever happens to fall out of Big Ralph's pockets ends up in the coffers of The All-American Family Chastity Counsel or the USA ChristoRepublican Heritage Center to Scourge the Seven Deadly Sins or some similar cabal. In an effort to get the word out about their good works, these organizations hire consultants to hawk their ideologies on the rubber chicken circuit and cable infotainment shows. Consultants like...Bill Bennett! After Bill finishes telling Timmy Russert that the Godless Hillary Clinton is responsible for the federal deficit and all of the unwanted pregnancies in the US, he cashes his check and takes a limo up to the Donald's place in Atlantic City, and...

Why journalists are better than bluggers...

Time Magazine posts "Commies for Kerry" pic to accompany its fawning cover piece on Ann Coulter, which even the goddamned Freepers know and admit is fake staged by Bush supporters. (Comment on the Freeper site: "Man oh man, do I love Useful Idiots")

See, journalists have standards. Bluggers are just ... heathens.

One of these things is not like the others

As compiled by David Sirota:

Knight-Ridder reports today that the Bush administration announced yesterday that it has "decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered."

When unemployment was peaking in Bush's first term, the White House tried to stop publishing the Labor Department's
regular report on mass layoffs.

In 2003, when the nation's governors came to Washington to complain about inadequate federal funding for the states, the Bush administration decided to
stop publishing the budget report that states use to see what money they are, or aren't, getting.

In 2003, the National Council for Research on Women found that information about
discrimination against women has gone missing from government Web sites, including 25 reports from the U.S. Department of Labor's Women's Bureau.

In 2002, Democrats uncovered evidence that the Bush administration was
removing health information from government websites. Specifically, the administration deleted data showing that abortion does not increase the risk of breast cancer. That scientific data was seen by the White House as a direct affront to the pro-life movement.


A steaming pile from George W. Bush:

"I believe in open government," Bush said at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "I've always believed in open government."

(Bush's comment was in the context of explaining that he doesn't send emails because he doesn't want us reading them. So maybe they are all alike.)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

More from Scalia's interlocutor

via Wonkette:

The NYU law student who stuck it to Nino Scalia explains:

Although ... my question was legally relevant, as I explain below, an independent motivation for my speech-act was to simply subject a homophobic government official to the same indignity to which he would subject millions of gay Americans. It was partially a naked act of resistance and a refusal to be silenced. I wanted to make him and everyone in the room aware of the dehumanizing effect of trivializing such an important relationship.

If we are very lucky, and our country wakes from this theocratic nightmare, this guy's question will resonate the way Joseph Welch's "have you no shame, sir?" ended Joe McCarthy's reign of terror.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

MaxSpeak, You Listen!: EAT THE RICH

Excellent post on the estate tax unravelling. My fave part is the dig about the myth of estate taxes costing widows the family farm:

We do know of at least one family farm forced to liquidate under Government Oppression. That was the chicken farm of a lady who, along with other landowners, was expropriated so that the stadium of the Texas Rangers could be built. The culprit was a well-known acolyte of enterprise and freedom. O Justice, where art thou?

The easy way to eliminate reality-based terror!

from the Kansas City Star:

The State Department stopped publishing a terrorism report after the terrorism center concluded there were more attacks in 2004 than in any year since the report began in 1985.


Several U.S. officials defended the decision, saying the methodology the National Counter-Terrorism Center used for the report may have been faulty and may have included incidents that were not terrorism.

But other officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered the report eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

“Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public,” said Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.

A senior State Department official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the allegation that it was being done for political reasons was “categorically untrue.”

According to Johnson, statistics that the National Counter-Terrorism Center provided to the State Department reported 625 “significant” terrorist attacks in 2004. That compared with 175 such incidents in 2003, the highest number in two decades. The statistics didn't include attacks on American troops in Iraq.


Remember Ron Suskind's piece in the NYT Magazine shortly before the 2004 election? He got that immortal quote from a senior Andministration official about how Suskind (and by extension, the reast of us heathens) live in the insignificant "reality-based community?" Well this is how the rubber meets the road with that kind of thinking.

"A report (generated by an agency we control) concludes that what we are doing isn't working? So kill the messenger by spiking the report! Easy. No report, no problem."

"In our world, Osama is on the run (when we admit he exists), we are winning the war on terror, and freedom is on the march. If you can't see that, you must be one of those commie liberal judge types, and we are watching you."

(Note: preceding remarks are not an actual quote from any actual undead Bush official, though the author is confident that parking Condi or Wolfie for a few hours of good old-fashioned torture fraternity hazing in Abu Ghraib would be more than sufficent to obtain such quotes.)

Friday, April 15, 2005

Harry Shearer, investigative comedian

Harry Shearer's radio show, imaginatively called "Le Show," has some bitingly funny bits, but often simply proves how difficult it is to fill a half hour of air with truly funny stuff. Last time I listened, he was playing off-camera tapes of Dan Rather, and they didn't strike me as funny or newsworthy.

But this is incendiary stuff.

If the conservative guests on Fox News' "Hannity and Colmes" sound especially on-message, that's because they're being coached by the best:

Sean Hannity himself.

On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo's former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn't brain-dead.

Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday's episode of his weekly radio program, "Le Show," Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.

"Just say, 'I'm here to tell what I saw,'" Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. "No matter what the question, 'I'm here to tell you what I saw. I'm here to tell you what I saw.'"

Hannity adds helpfully: "Say, 'I'm not going to be distracted by silliness.' How's that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I'm talking."

On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. "I don't have any opinions or judgments. I was there," she declares

After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: "We got the points out. It's hard, this isn't easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren't they?"



When my favorite conservative newsman, JimmyJeff GannonGuckert, appeared at the National Press Club last week, he punditzed thusly: "You can hardly call Fox News conservative."

Almost right. Only a minor change to word order is required. When the guests are coached by one of the hosts, who then preens after "we got the points out," I think the correct statement is "You can hardly call Fox Conservative news."

"Investigative comedian." I like the sound of that. We need a bunch more of them, since we sure as hell don't have any "investigative journalists" anymore.

Bush Says His Privacy Must Be Protected

President Bush said Thursday that the public should know as much as possible about government decision-making, but national security and personal privacy — including his — need to be protected.

"I believe in open government," Bush said at a meeting of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. "I've always believed in open government. I don't e-mail, however. And there's a reason: I don't want you reading my personal stuff."

Bush once was a prolific e-mailer. But he signed off from cyberspace just before taking office in 2001 after lawyers told him that his presidential e-mail communications would be subject to legal and archival requirements.

"There's got to be a certain sense of privacy," Bush said. "You're entitled to how I make decisions and you're entitled to ask questions, which I answer. I don't think you're entitled to read my mail between my daughters and me."


But...but...Mr. DeLay (see previous post) says Americans wouldn't have a right of privacy if not for those cretinous librul judges. And Alberto Gonzales and John Ashcroft say they have to read our personal messages to make sure we aren't terrorists or something.

This stuff is all so confusing.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wingnuttery in a can: DeLay on the Constitution

Transcript of interview with Tom DeLay - The Washington Times: Nation/Politics - April 14, 2005:

Q:"You've been talking about going after activist judges since at least 1997. The [Terri] Schiavo case gives you a chance to do that, but you've recently said you blame Congress for not being zealous in oversight.

Mr. DeLay: Not zealous. I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them. "


Repeat after me, Tom:

"I pledge allegiance, to planet Remulak...."

Liar, liar, leather chaps on fire!

Daily Kos :: Quantico Search Reveals NO Guckert USMC Records

James Dale Guckert, aka "Jeff Gannon," never served in the United States Marine Corps, according to the Personnel Management Support Branch located at Marine Corps Base Quantico (MCBQ).

ePluribus Media volunteer researcher RenaRF visited the Virginia base March 30, 2005, and requested a hand search of all records, as recommended by Marine Corps lead archive technician Armando Nunez after he failed to find files on Guckert in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted last month and documented in a previous diary.
...
The searches at Quantico were conducted by Social Security number, as well as by birth date and last name, with no hits on any combination of the criteria in either the computerized or microfiche records.

At the completion of the search, Smith stated that Guckert had never served in the United States Marine Corps.


As reported at dKos a month ago, and duly noted here, JimmyJeff's questionable story is being, um, questioned.

But let's put things in perspective. It isn't like he lied about which side of an invisibile dotted line in the river between Viet Nam and Cambodia he was piloting a swift boat on, right? And he isn't lying about sex.... oh. Never mind.

Sign that kid up

from theNew York Post Online Edition:

You know that hoary old movie cliche where a kid in the stands at a baseball game makes a spectacular catch of a foul ball and the manager says, "sign that kid up"?

When U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke Tuesday night at NYU's Vanderbilt Hall, "The room was packed with some 300 students and there were many protesters outside because of Scalia's vitriolic dissent last year in the case that overturned the Texas law against gay sex," our source reports. "One gay student asked whether government had any business enacting and enforcing laws against consensual sodomy. Following Scalia's answer, the student asked a follow-up: 'Do you sodomize your wife?' The audience was shocked, especially since Mrs. Scalia [Maureen] was in attendance. The justice replied that the question was unworthy of an answer."

If this kid isn't broken beyond all redemption when they release him from Gitmo a few years from now, I think we ought to make him Elliot Spitzer's replacement as New York Attorney General. That is the best 1-2 punch I have seen in a very long time, and Scalia walked right into this guy's fist. Either sodomy is illegal, and thus the public's business, or it is within the "sphere of privacy" so ridiculed by guys like Scalia. Scalia's response is an elegant demonstration of his blatant hypocisy.

Inspired. Brave. And unless we put him up on our collective shoulders and make him too famous to hurt, probably a prelude to tragedy.

Memo to the mainstream media: what this guy did? That's your job. Watch and learn.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Whiskey Bar: Gin Rummy

Billmon throws high heat at the Sec. of Defense. Funny. Sad.

Wonkette on the President's Joystick

Well, not literally. As far as we know.

While the President's iPod has been getting all the press this week, a Wonkette.com reader says it's not even Dubya's favorite digital entertainment device. Normally, we'd be wary of passing along unsubstantiated rumors of a non-sexual nature. But since a New York magazine writer says Sy Hersh says it's O.K. to say stuff in public lectures that you wouldn't say in print, just pretend you're at a public lecture and that Sy Hersh, rather than an anonymous Wonkette.com reader, is telling you this:

"My friend told ME that the secret service agent's sister told HIM that the secret service agent told HER that the president spends two hours a day every day playing video games. So part of everybody's daily routine at the white house are these two hours of downtime while POTUS manipulates his joystick."


I do get tired of braying about the double standard here - When Bill Clinton had Monica manipulate HIS joystick, it led to impeachment. So where is the outrage about the current POTUS -- the most powerful man in the world -- wasting two hours a day manipulating his own? Does SpongeDob know about this?

Everything you know (about the Stock Market) is wrong

More spleen vented over @ Raw Story.

Dubya the scofflaw

Boing Boing: Bush's iPod filled with infringing goodness

Bush's iPod filled with infringing goodness
President Bush has a treasured iPod full of songs that were decanted into it by a media strategist. This makes him: a downloader, an INDUCEr, a Darknet user and an infringer. Who'd a figgered the prez for a copyfighter?


Sure, but this all happened before he was born again (again), so it doesn't count.

CIA Agent Seeks to Subpoena Gonzales, Tenet

via t r u t h o u t:

A former CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan prisoner plans to call former agency Director George Tenet and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as witnesses to aid his defense that he was acting under government authority.

David Passaro's witness list was made public for the first time Tuesday along with a score of other documents after The News & Observer, The Associated Press and The Washington Post asked a court to release them. The news organizations had complained that the federal government's prosecution of Passaro, the first U.S. civilian charged under the Patriot Act, was secret because so many documents were under seal.
...
Passaro is scheduled to be tried July 11 on the assault charges. Because Passaro was working as a CIA operative, much of the evidence against him is classified, which has caused court filings that would typically be public to be filed under seal. Federal authorities even had to build a special secure room at the federal courthouse in Raleigh to house all the classified information.

The bulk of the court records released Tuesday involve Passaro's efforts to see evidence against him. Some documents were redacted, or crossed out, to keep classified information from being made public.

In one defense motion, an entire page was redacted. In another, the defense asks for access to evidence that might prove his innocence. What that evidence might be remains unknown -- the list that followed was redacted.

The documents give a fuller look at the main contention of Passaro's defense: that he was only doing his job.

"Mr. Passaro asserts that he acted under the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and President George Bush, acting in his capacity as commander-in-chief," federal public defender Thomas P. McNamara wrote in one filing. Passaro makes a similar argument in a pending motion to have his assault charges dismissed, arguing that the interrogation was needed to protect U.S. troops from rocket attacks.

Beyond Tenet and Gonzales, who used to serve as Bush's legal counsel, Passaro also wants to call as witnesses:

David S. Addington, counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney.
U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Jay S. Bybee in Las Vegas.
Law professor John C. Yoo of the University of California at Berkeley.

Bybee and Yoo are former Justice Department officials who drafted legal policy advocating aggressive interrogation techniques with detainees.


I abhor the "good German" defense -- as a defense. As an antidote to the de facto immunity the real war criminals have achieved, I applaud it. If we do not have the will to prosecute up the chain, then the best we can do is hope the patsies do the dirty work for us by pulling their so-called superiors down with them.

A friend from high school went to West Point in the late 1970's, when Viet Nam was still a vivid memory. He told me about how the admonishment that a soldier should not obey an illegal order was a big part of his training. I wonder if that still holds true today.

Oh, THAT John Bolton

Reading John Bolton's CV, I was a little unclear on why Karl Rove picked him for the U.N. spot. Bolton hates the U.N., of course, which is good enough to get the U.N. spot all by itself. But Bolton's hotheadedness apparently torpedoed Shrub's North Korea policy (such as it was), and there is no greater crime oon the Book of Bush than disloyalty.

So why Bolton? This link takes you to a picture from the famous hanging chad days in Florida in 2000. The Dapper Dan on the right with the "got milk?" moustache? That's right.

Sgrena on 60 Minutes tonight

This should be interesting.

Journalist and former hostage Giuliana Sgrena says that the American military is lying about the shooting at a security checkpoint in Iraq that wounded her and killed an Italian intelligence officer.

Days before the Pentagon is expected to release the results of its investigation into what happened at the checkpoint, Sgrena tells Correspondent Scott Pelley that shortly after her release by insurgents, American soldiers in Baghdad opened fire on her car without any warning.


Unfortunately, the powers that be will dismiss the report as more CBS bias, and dismiss her as (a) a Commie, (b) a furriner, (c) a reporter, and (d) inconsistent with their worldview, which is the most effective damnation of all. Inconvenient facts are simply no longer considered.

The really interesting question is whether CBS will air the damning charge already raised by Naomi Klein that Sgrena's vehicle was shot from behind.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Latin, Italian... whatever

President Speaks to Press Pool
Aboard Air Force One
En route Waco, Texas
...
Q Just to follow up on that, Mr. President, a couple questions about the Pope. One, I noticed at one point you had your glasses on and you were following along -- I'm not sure if you were looking at the homily at that point or maybe, did you have one of those guides that --

THE PRESIDENT: I did. It's hard to follow -- my Spanish is not very good -- (laughter) -- nevertheless, it is decent enough to pick up sounds that then can help me follow the Italian.

Q Had you ever been to a Latin mass before; I imagine you've been to an English mass?

THE PRESIDENT: No, never been to a Latin mass.


Well, shee-yit, Clem. Them furriners is picky ain't they? Why should we give a cuss if they is talking one of them funny languages or another, so long as it ain't...

(wait for it)

FRENCH!

News of the weird

An odd twist for an ex-dominatrix / S&M specialist-turned-bureaucrat says she endured harassment from her superior -- a former client

When Susan Peacher hung up her latex evening gown and wooden paddle for a job with the federal government, the former dominatrix thought she was done with abuse.

She went to work for the Treasury Department in San Francisco, but when she arrived at her new job, she found that one of the office managers was a former client.

This man wouldn't leave her alone, she said in a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit, charging that he sexually harassed her, attempting to kiss her in the elevator, telling her she had "luscious lips,'' and repeatedly asking for "sessions.''

When she objected to the salacious advances, Peacher says, the manager manipulatively became her direct supervisor and downgraded her performance evaluation. When she complained to higher-ups, coming out of the closet about her previous line of work, she says she was retaliated against and given little to do.

Rather than sit idly at her desk, Peacher spent her time studying workplace harassment and labor law. She also accumulated an arsenal of damning evidence: phone logs, e-mails, documentation of encounters with her alleged harasser.

Last month, Peacher, 45, reached a settlement with the government, which did not admit liability or fault. She will receive $35,000 in compensatory damages, $25,000 in attorney fees, a job transfer, approval to work at her South Bay home one day a week, and the restoration of almost 800 hours of assorted leave.



If San Francisco ever feels the need to do an I (heart) SF"-style PR campaign, I sure hope this story gets used.



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