Thursday, June 30, 2005

Utah Woman Sells Forehead As Billboard


Just when you think you have heard it all, here is another unusual Ebay story -- this one with a close to home connection.

Kari Smith recently auctioned off a very visible part of her body, to be used as advertising space. And the prime piece of real estate in this case... is her forehead.

Smith decided to sell her forehead as ad space, in order to send her young son to private school. So she listed her forehead on Ebay, and it wasn't long before she had a winning bidder.GoldenPalace.com purchased the rights to Kari's forehead, and decided to have the company name tattooed there.

"We're always looking for ordinary people doing extraordinary things," said Jon Wolf of GoldenPalace.com. "And this is definitely an extraordinary thing that she's
doing."
...
By the way, the tattoo on Kari's head is permanent. The final price GoldenPalace paid for her forehead space: $10,000.It is believed that Kari is the first person ever to have a permanent tattoo scrawled on her head for the purpose of advertising.


Excellent move, ma'am. Perhaps that private school will try to teach your kid about dignity, integrity and self-respect -- things he sure as hell ain't gonna get at home.

And for those of you keeping score, somebody at Golden Palace has a serious eBay addiction, having already bought the infamous Virgin Mary on grilled cheese.

Military recruiters want ...Jenna

If Uncle Sam wants you, he has to be able to find you - Yahoo! News/USA Today

Last fall, Charles Moskos of Northwestern University, a prominent expert on military manpower, asked a group of recruiters what would most help them: tripling bonuses or enlisting presidential daughter Jenna Bush.

The recruiters' choice was unanimous: Jenna Bush.


I'd even settle for getting them into the Reserves, though not in a "Champagne Unit" like dear old Dad wound up in.

Mainstream acknowledgement of the rank (pun intended) hypocrisy of the administration and war hawks in general is rare. Kudos to USA Today for running it.

The next war has already started

New piece up @ Raw Story (a week late, but such is life on the left).

U.S. Accused in Iraqi Journalist's Death

U.S. troops allegedly killed an Iraqi television director Tuesday when he drove near a U.S. convoy, colleagues and a hospital official said. The U.S. military said it had no reports of the incident. Ahmed Wael Bakri, a program director for al-Sharqiya television, was the third Iraqi journalist allegedly killed in similar incidents in the past week.


The list of journalists killed in Iraq is long. An amazing number of them died by American hands. And of course there are a bunch we have shot at but either missed or merely wounded -- Giuliana Sgrena, for one.

Seems to me that there are only two ways of looking at this: either the US really is trying to whack as many journalists as it it can, or the violent deaths of 45 non-combatants really was an accident - which must mean that Iraqi civilians are getting mowed down in huge numbers, but we don't hear about the bloodshed unless the victim is employed by a news outlet.

Bank of America to buy MBNA

Bank of America Corp., the second- largest U.S. bank by assets, agreed to buy MBNA Corp. for about $35 billion in stock and cash to challenge Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in credit cards.

Does BofA get Joe Biden with their financial Happy Meal? Or do they have to pay extra?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Failure is Always an Option

Sayeth Billmon:
Under the circumstances, the mindless chants of "failure is not an option" are starting to sound like the desperate prayers of the terminally ill. Failure is always an option -- particularly for morons who launch a war of choice under the impression that they can't possibly lose it.

Is the war hopelessly lost? I tend to think so, although I'm realistic enough to admit that I don't have all the facts, and couldn't interpret them all correctly even if I did. I know there are some military analysts whose opinions I respect who think the war is lost -- analysts such as William S. Lind, who, for all his wing nuttery on cultural and social issues, is one smart cookie when it comes to "Fourth Generation" warfare:

"There's nothing that you can do in Iraq today that will work," said Lind, one of the original Fourth Generation Warfare authors. "That situation is irretrievably lost."

I am starting to believe that the wall of stupid could actually come down.

Harris camp feels 'a stab in the back'

from The Hill:
Frustrated with the White House and a key Republican, supporters of Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-Fla.) 2006 Senate campaign lashed out at the administration yesterday for seeking to convince another prominent GOP official to enter the race.

"It's unimaginable that the White House folks and the National Republican Senatorial Committee would be so disloyal to Katherine Harris, especially after all she has done for the Bush family and the Republican Party," a Florida political operative who supports Harris said. "It's unconscionable and a stab in the back."

Harris backers are irritated that State House Speaker Allan Bense met with White House chief of staff Karl Rove and NRSC Chairwoman Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) this week to discuss challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) next year.

The operative added, "If it is true, they should be ashamed and embarrassed, considering she stepped aside at their request for the president and Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) in 2004. It's her turn."

People loyal to Harris claim her move not to run last year demonstrated her loyalty, noting that the president has already won his reelection bid. Some in the White House were concerned that a Harris run in 2004 would have hurt Bush's chances in the Sunshine State.

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

If true, this is a story without a downside-- (1) It couldn't happen to a nicer or more deserving person; (2) publicizing the way La Famiglia Bush promises its foot soldiers more than it delivers in order to get its dirty work done is an unalloyed good; which (3) should help encourage the legions of shafted cast-offs to leak, backstab and otherwise get even; which might actually, finally work, now that (4) the timing couldn't be better, what with the apparent crumbling of the wall of invulnerability and the increasing willingness of the press to notice all the clothes the emperor isn't wearing.

Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

'Hotel' targets Souter's home

Concord Monitor Online
letter that emerged yesterday from the fax machine in the Weare Town Hall has thrust Supreme Court Justice David Souter's beloved farmhouse into a national debate over property rights.

Souter, a longtime Weare resident, joined in a court decision last week that allows governments to seize private property from one owner and turn it over to another if doing so would benefit a community. Now, an outraged Californian wants to test the ruling - by asking Weare's selectmen to let him replace Souter's farm with a posh hotel.

"A recent Supreme Court decision. . . . clears the way for this land to be taken," Logan Darrow Clements wrote in a letter faxed to town officials yesterday. "The justification for such an eminent domain action is that our hotel will better serve the public interest as it will bring in economic development and higher tax revenue to Weare."

I tend to side with Souter in many cases. This ain't one of them. Sure is a bitch when the chickens come home to roost....

True Lies

More cooked books

Board: Teflon Cancer Risks Downplayed - Yahoo! News
A controversial chemical used by DuPont Co. to make the nonstick substance Teflon poses more of a cancer risk than indicated in a draft assessment by the Environmental Protection Agency, an independent review board has found.

The EPA stated earlier this year that its draft risk assessment of perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts found "suggestive evidence" of potential human carcinogenicity, based on animal studies.

In a draft report released Monday, the majority of members on an EPA scientific advisory board that reviewed the agency's report concluded that PFOA, also known as C-8, is "likely" to be carcinogenic to humans, and that the EPA should conduct cancer risk assessments for a variety of tumors found in mice and rats.

Environmentalists hailed the report, which will be discussed by EPA officials and SAB members in a public teleconference July 6, as an important step in holding government regulators and the Delaware-based chemical giant accountable.


And there's this:
The Labor Department worked for more than a year to maintain secrecy for studies that were critical of working conditions in Central America, the region the Bush administration wants in a new trade pact.

The contractor hired by the department in 2002 to conduct the studies has become a major opponent of the administration's proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

The government-paid studies concluded that countries proposed for free-trade status have poor working environments and fail to protect workers' rights. The department dismissed the conclusions as inaccurate and biased, according to government and contractor documents reviewed by The Associated Press.

It really never ends.

Spinal transplant successful; MSM stands up

As War Shifts, So Does the Message - LA Times
President Bush on Tuesday retooled his original argument for the Iraq war, justifying the U.S. military presence there as the solution to a problem that critics say the war itself caused.

More than two years ago, Bush argued that Saddam Hussein's control over Iraq could make the nation a haven for terrorists. But in his nationally televised speech, Bush asserted that the tumult that has followed Hussein's removal created the same threat.

In the lead-up to the war, Bush presented the invasion of Iraq primarily as a means of preventing the Iraqi dictator from providing nuclear, biological or chemical weapons to terrorists.

After coalition forces failed to find evidence of such weapons, and several investigations did not uncover meaningful links between Hussein and Al Qaeda, the president increasingly stressed the possibility that creating a democracy in Iraq could encourage democratic reform across the Middle East.

In his speech Tuesday before a crowd of soldiers at Ft. Bragg, N.C., Bush still emphasized the cause of democracy. He also mixed optimism about conditions in Iraq with sober assessments of the continuing challenge there.

But mostly Bush defended the war as a means of preventing another terrorist attack on the United States. The most striking argument Bush offered for his policy in Iraq was that the Mideast nation could become a sanctuary for terrorists if U.S. forces withdrew.

By completing "the mission," Bush declared, "we will prevent Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban — a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."

That argument drew instant scorn from some Democrats, who argued that Bush was defending the continued military operations on the basis of a threat that did not exist before the invasion.

"Most Americans are aware that the hotbed of terrorism never existed in Iraq until we got there and it has, in fact, grown increasingly as we are there," Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, Bush's Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, told CNN after the speech.


I had CNN on this morning. Limbaugh squeeze and normally reliable shill Daran Kagan had Republican Congressman Robin Hayes on arguing that Saddam was actually linked to 9/11. Kagan called him on it -- made it very clear he was utterly full of shit.

This is a remarkable turn of events. If major newspapers and the station of 24-hour Missing White Women can stand up, anything is possible.

Weak

Interrogators Cite Doctors' Aid at Guantánamo Prison Camp

Several ethics experts outside the military said there were serious questions involving the conduct of the doctors, especially those in units known as Behavioral Science Consultation Teams, BSCT, colloquially referred to as "biscuit" teams, which advise interrogators. "

Their purpose was to help us break them," one former interrogator told The Times earlier this year. The interrogator said in a more recent interview that a biscuit team doctor, having read the medical file of a detainee, suggested that the inmate's longing for his mother could be exploited to persuade him to cooperate. Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and former Army brigadier general in the medical corps, said in an interview that "this behavior is not consistent with our medical responsibility or any of the codes that guide our conduct as doctors."

The use of psychologists and psychiatrists in interrogations prompted the Pentagon to issue a policy statement last week that officials said was supposed to ensure that doctors did not participate in unethical behavior. While the American Psychiatric Association has guidelines that specifically prohibit the kinds of behaviors described by the former interrogators for their members who are medical doctors, the rules for psychologists are less clear.

Dr. Spencer Eth, a professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and chairman of the ethics committee of the American Psychiatric Association, said in an interview that there was no way that psychiatrists at Guantánamo could ethically counsel interrogators on ways to increase distress on detainees.

But in a statement issued in December, the American Psychological Association said the issue of involvement of its members in "national security endeavors" was new. Dr. Stephen Behnke, who heads the group's ethics division, said in an interview this week that a committee of 10 members, including some from the military, was meeting in Washington this weekend to discuss the issue.

Dr. Behnke emphasized that the codes did not necessarily allow participation by psychologists in such roles, but rather that the issue had not been dealt with directly before. "A question has arisen that we in the profession have to address and that is where we are now: is it ethical or is it not ethical?" he said.
I recall firing off an e-mail to the American Psychological about a year ago asking them for the APA's stance on the participation of psychologists at Gitmo; I received no reply (I'm a member). The APA goes on the record acknowledging there's an issue to be dealt with...last December. So nice of Dr. Behnke and his colleagues to get around to addressing the issue in a timely manner.

Oh, and just in case the committee thinks this is a real brain-teaser:

Principle A: Beneficence and Nonmaleficence

Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons, and the welfare of animal subjects of research. When conflicts occur among psychologists' obligations or concerns, they attempt to resolve these conflicts in a responsible fashion that avoids or minimizes harm. Because psychologists' scientific and professional judgments and actions may affect the lives of others, they are alert to and guard against personal, financial, social, organizational, or political factors that might lead to misuse of their influence. Psychologists strive to be aware of the possible effect of their own physical and mental health on their ability to help those with whom they work.

Worthy cause

Liberal Oasis, via Atrios:

Stand Up For The Strib

The Minneapolis Star Tribune (which has kindly published a few pieces from LiberalOasis) offers an editorial page that, of all the nation’s major dailies, is arguably the most devoted to the truth and the least afraid of the Bush White House.

And it is under attack from the Right for just that reason.

Last week, the Strib not only ran an editorial defending Dick Durbin when Durbin lacked the courage to defend himself, it also ran a lengthy excerpt of Durbin’s speech so readers could examine his words in context and make up their own minds.

Since then, the right-wing Hugh Hewitt has launched a campaign encourage people to cancel their subscriptions to the Strib, in hopes of pressuring the paper to end its defense of real American values.
...
Click here to subscribe, and then email the publisher, Keith Moyer at kmoyer@startribune.com to let him know you’re subscribing because you support the paper’s editorial policy.
Even if you don’t live in Minnesota, you can subscribe and receive the paper via mail, or digitally on your computer.

Lakers draft 17-year old

Instead of shooting for immediate help following one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Los Angeles Lakers looked to the future Tuesday night, making 17-year-old centre Andrew Bynum the youngest player ever taken in the NBA draft.


And if that isn't enought to ensure that Kobe Bryant is no longer the most immature player in a Lakers uniform, recently re-hired coach Phil Jackson has indicated that he is prepared to ask whoever is staying at Neverland on any given night to suit up.

Captives: Terrorists hoped for Bush re-election

via the Jerusalem Post:
Two French journalists who were held hostage in Iraq told a British documentary program that their captors believed George W. Bush's re-election as US president would help radicalize Iraqis.

Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, who were seized in August and released after four months, told the British Broadcasting Corp.'s "Panorama" program that they were allowed to interview the leader of an Islamic militant cell within the group that seized them.

"We felt we were on planet bin Laden," Malbrunot said on the program, which airs Wednesday night.

The cell leader trained with terror leader Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and told them the insurgents supported a Bush presidency because they believed it meant that "there will be confrontation, occupation and radicalization of the Iraqi people," Malbrunot said.


Remember that old saying about how the definition of a liberal is "someone who is usually right, but too soon"?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Another Poorman gem

The music kicks in, and President Bush begins dancing. The tune is recognizable now: it’s Gene Kelly’s classic “Singing in the Rain”. The lyrics are somewhat changed, however.

Cuz Clinton is to blame
Yes, Clinton is to blame
All of our problems
Are easy to explain.
If you’re blaming me for stuff.
Just bring it to halt
Because all bad things that happen
Are Bill Clinton’s fault.


Who knew he was a musical theater person?

White House spiked 2002, 2003 Zarqawi hits to avoid mooting war plans

MSNBC.com
With Tuesday’s attacks, Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian militant with ties to al-Qaida, is now blamed for more than 700 terrorist killings in Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.


This is a seriously old story, of course. But I guess Shrub's plunging poll numbers are the special sauce adding a tiny bit of calcium into osteoporous and brittle spines of the MSM. And so we get yet another story that should, all by itself, spell impeachment, and be acknowledged as a smoking gun.

Any more smoking guns, and the more environmentally sensitive among us are going to have to start requesting that a No Smoking Gun Section of the blogosphere be created.

Oh, never mind. Already exists.

Britons voiced Iraq concerns behind scenes

from MercuryNews.com

Lots of folks have been mining the Downing Street memos for nuggets of useful information. This article focuses on how right some Brits were (in private). I was especially struck by this little pearl of wisdom from
David Manning, Blair's chief foreign-policy adviser at the time, wrote to the prime minister on March 14, 2002, after he returned from meetings with Condoleezza Rice, then Bush's national security adviser, and her staff. "They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean they will necessarily avoid it.''


This observation really captures Bushopia in a nutshell. Tough talk is believed to be the equivalent of action; rose-tinted perception more tangible than statistics and frank assessment -- and body bags.

Sigh

Psychiatrists condemn Cruise mental health remarks

The American Psychiatric Association on Monday sharply criticized actor Tom Cruise for televised remarks in which he called psychiatry a "pseudo science" and disputed the value of antidepressant drugs.
...
During interviews promoting his latest film, "War of the Worlds," Cruise has discussed his deep skepticism of psychiatry to explain his belief in the teachings of the Church of Scientology, founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard.

In one such interview last Friday on NBC's "Today" show, Cruise was asked about his recent criticism of actress Brooke Shields for revealing that she had taken the antidepressant Paxil to cope with postpartum depression.

"Before I was a Scientologist, I never agreed with psychiatry," Cruise said. "And when I started studying the history of psychiatry, I understood more and more why I didn't believe in psychology. ... And I know that psychiatry is a pseudo science."
...
The rebuke from the APA, which represents nearly 36,000 physicians specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of mental illness, challenged Cruise's assertion that psychiatry lacks scientific merit.
I was really hoping that neither of the APAs would dignify his drivel with a response. But if you are going to respond, why wouldn't you point out that Cruise's version of the human condition posits interventions by extraterrestrials and whole range of similar plot twists worthy of a WB network script treatment?

Justice Breyer draws a map

SCOTUSblog has a good summary of yesterday's tortured, hair-splitting decisions about when displaying the Big Ten is and is not appropriate by the guvmint.


If government officials are careful not to say publicly that the reason they are displaying the Ten Commandments is to promote religion, and not to say publicly that they are commemorating Jesus as “the Prince of Ethics,” and if they put up this sacred text amid a “display on law or history,” they probably can satisfy the two new decisions.
...
Breyer’s separate – and decisive – opinion in the Texas statehouse grounds case uses a somewhat different, though not contradictory, approach than the one Souter employed. What seemed to make the most difference to Breyer was that the Commandments monument had stood “apparently uncontested for nearly two generations. That experience helps us understand that as a practical matter of degree this display is unlikely to prove divisive. And this matter of degree is, I believe, critical in a borderline case such as this one.”
While others on the Court are certainly guilty of more bizarre and tortured logic in the past, few can lay claim to reasoning as weak-ass as Breyer's. The upshot of this is that anyone and everyone can have their very own Ten Commandments outside a government building, if it's properly camo'd by other displays or presented as a history lesson rather than plain-vanilla evangelism.

The only folks who will get shot down by this set of rulings are the self-aggrandizing zealots who will be more than happy to settle for the publicity their failed efforts will garner. Scores lotsa points toward sainthood in the long run, and, in the short run, towards a governorship.

In 1999, Bush Demanded A Timetable

from Think Progress:

In 1999, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable for exiting Kosovo, and yet he refuses to apply the same standard to his war.

George W. Bush, 4/9/99:

“Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.”

And on the specific need for a timetable, here’s what Bush said then and what he says now:

George W. Bush, 6/5/99


“I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.”


VERSUS

George W. Bush, 6/24/05:

“It doesn’t make any sense to have a timetable. You know, if you give a
timetable, you’re — you’re conceding too much to the enemy.”

I know, I know -- we're so boorishly reality-based. And the GWOT changed everything. And criticising Clinton's wars was A-OK because Clinton WAS the enemy.

But poll numbers seem to indicate that, one by one, Americans are swearing off the Kool Aid.

Monday, June 27, 2005

General admits to secret air war

via Sunday Times - Times Online:
THE American general who commanded allied air forces during the Iraq war appears to have admitted in a briefing to American and British officers that coalition aircraft waged a secret air war against Iraq from the middle of 2002, nine months before the invasion began.
Addressing a briefing on lessons learnt from the Iraq war Lieutenant-General Michael Moseley said that in 2002 and early 2003 allied aircraft flew 21,736 sorties, dropping more than 600 bombs on 391 “carefully selected targets” before the war officially started.



The nine months of allied raids “laid the foundations” for the allied victory, Moseley said. They ensured that allied forces did not have to start the war with a protracted bombardment of Iraqi positions.

If those raids exceeded the need to maintain security in the no-fly zones of southern and northern Iraq, they would leave President George W Bush and Tony Blair vulnerable to allegations that they had acted illegally.


NOW can we start talking seriously about impeachment?

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Iran President-Elect Vows to Pursue Nukes

President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Sunday to pursue a peaceful nuclear program — an effort the United States maintains is really a cover for trying to build atomic bombs.

When our subtle and nuanced foreign policy consists of (a) declaring war on a tactic (terrorism) than can be deployed as easily by folks we like as by folks we don't, and (b) pushing regime change and staking all on a process-focused abstraction (democracy), what do we say about this?

Not much.

Oh, and congrats, Mr. Preznit. You had a key role in electing the Islamic hardliner. Your next war appears to be on schedule, but... who's gonna fight it?

My mistake

So here I was yesterday, getting all righteous and accusing the govmint of maybe sitting on bad Mad Cow test results for a few days so they could release them on Friday night. But it seems this set of test results has been sitting around for the past several months:

Although the Agriculture Department confirmed Friday that a cow that died last year was infected with mad cow disease, a test the agency conducted seven months ago indicated that the animal had the disease. The result was never publicly disclosed.

The delay in confirming the United States' second case of mad cow disease seems to underscore what critics of the agency have said for a long time: that there are serious and systemic problems in the way the Agriculture Department tests animals for mad cow.

Indeed, the lengthy delay occurred despite the intense national interest in the disease and the fact that many countries have banned shipments of beef from the United States because of what they consider to be lax testing policies.

Until Friday, it was not public knowledge that an "experimental" test had been performed last November by an Agriculture Department laboratory on the brain of a cow suspected of having mad cow disease, and that the test had come up positive.

For seven months, all that was known was that a test on the same cow done at the same laboratory at roughly the same time had come up negative. The negative result was obtained using a test that the Agriculture Department refers to as its "gold standard."

The explanation that the department gave late Friday, when the positive test result came to light, was that there was no bad intention or cover-up, and that the test in question was only experimental.

"The laboratory folks just never mentioned it to anyone higher up," said Ed Loyd, an Agriculture Department spokesman. "They didn't know if it was valid or not, so they didn't report it."

On hearing that Friday night, Dr. Michael K. Hansen, a senior research associate at Consumers Union and frequent department critic, reacted skeptically.

"That seems hard to fathom," he said. "If it's true, we have a serious communication problem at the Department of Agriculture. How can we be confident of anything they're saying?"
...
The nation's mad cow testing system is now infuriating both ranchers and consumers. Consumer lobbyists say the flawed results show once again that 15 years of testing has been dangerously inadequate. And now the beef lobby, which has long enjoyed a cozy relationship with the Agriculture Department, is complaining that the testing system is dangerously unpredictable.

Jim McAdams, president of the 25,000-member National Cattlemen's Beef Association, has complained that unexpected testing creates "great anxiety within our industry," and leads to "significant losses."

Thirty-six countries have shut their doors to American beef, virtually wiping out a $3 billion export market, which Australia happily moved into.


Read the whole sordid story here. Then read about how more extensive and "costly" testing might well be more economically advantageous than the ostrich approach here.

And then, enjoy your weekend barbecues, everybody!

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Repeal the 22nd?

via L.A. Daily News:

President George W. Bush for life? Well, not really. But Democrat Rep. Howard Berman would be willing to let presidents give it their best shot.

The Van Nuys congressman this week teamed up with a small group of lawmakers trying to repeal the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to two terms in office.


What Berman REALLY means is that he likes the idea of Clinton in '08 -- BILL CLinton.

John Cleese can still bring it

I assumed since he was a business type that he was likely to favor Bush. Seems not:

In the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths and other territories. Except Utah, which she does not fancy.

Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for America without the need for further elections.

The rest of it, alas, is not about politics, but about his edicts for us as renewed citizens of the UK. But I thought this bitingly correct and vintage Python:

The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer", and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager". The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Knat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.


...but then...

On September 11, 2001, shortly after emerging from his hidey hole and assuming the mantle of Codpiece in Chief, George W. Bush got himself on TV to say this:

"The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts. I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law-enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice," Bush said in a nationally televised address less than 12 hours after what is being called the worst act of terrorism in America's history. "We will make no distinction between those who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

Last week, it was annouced that the CIA had prepared a report that found that

Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in al-Qaeda's early days, a new, classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency has warned. The CIA says this is because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for militants to improve their skills in urban combat.

The intelligence assessment, completed last month and circulated among government agencies, made clear it the view that the conflict was likely to disperse to other countries and Iraqi and foreign combatants were more adept and better organised than they were before the conflict.

Congressional and intelligence officials said the assessment had argued that since the US invasion of 2003, Iraq had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the rise of al-Qaeda during the 1980s and 1990s, as a magnet and a proving ground for extremists.



In other words, Iraq, as a direct result of the policies of one George W. Bush, must be said to be harboring terrorists.

So.... who should we go after?

Turin Shroud confirmed as a fake

Turin Shroud confirmed as a fake: French science magazine - Yahoo! News

PARIS (AFP) - A French magazine said it had carried out experiments that proved the Shroud of Turin, believed by some Christians to be their religion's holiest relic, was a fake.

"A mediaeval technique helped us to make a Shroud," Science et Vie (Science and Life) said in its July issue.
...
It bears the faint image of a blood-covered man with holes in his hand and wounds in his body and head, the apparent result of being crucified, stabbed by a Roman spear and forced to wear a crown of thorns.

In 1988, scientists carried out carbon-14 dating of the delicate linen cloth and concluded that the material was made some time between 1260 and 1390. Their study prompted the then archbishop of Turin, where the Shroud is stored, to admit that the garment was a hoax. But the debate sharply revived in January this year.

Drawing on a method previously used by skeptics to attack authenticity claims about the Shroud, Science et Vie got an artist to do a bas-relief -- a sculpture that stands out from the surrounding background -- of a Christ-like face.

A scientist then laid out a damp linen sheet over the bas-relief and let it dry, so that the thin cloth was moulded onto the face.

Using cotton wool, he then carefully dabbed ferric oxide, mixed with gelatine, onto the cloth to make blood-like marks. When the cloth was turned inside-out, the reversed marks resulted in the famous image of the crucified Christ.

Gelatine, an animal by-product rich in collagen, was frequently used by Middle Age painters as a fixative to bind pigments to canvas or wood.

The imprinted image turned out to be wash-resistant, impervious to temperatures of 250 C (482 F) and was undamaged by exposure to a range of harsh chemicals, including bisulphite which, without the help of the gelatine, would normally have degraded ferric oxide to the compound ferrous oxide.

The experiments, said Science et Vie, answer several claims made by the pro-Shroud camp, which says the marks could not have been painted onto the cloth.


In a related story, Florida Governor Jeb Bush dismissed the scientific evidence as irrelevant and announced that he intended to open an investigation into whether Michael Schiavo was responsible for planting the fake shroud in a French church in the year 1357.

Deep in the Heart of Darkness

They don't seem to be ingesting massive quantities of hallucinogens or other mind-bending substances, but the memory of Hunter Thompson is kept alive by the guys covering the Young Republicans convention for campusprogress.org this week:
But really, what disturbs me the most is the utter disrespect and scathing cold-heartedness these students display for anything to the left of Tom DeLay. During the Leadership Institue session a presenter asked the crowd, "What makes you angry?" The answers:

1. Liberals
2. Hippies
3. Gays
4. Democrats

Eek. Now, if these answers had been "tax hikes" and "abortion", I'd understand because those are policies, but instead, these are people. The students' anger and passion are driven towards negative stereotypes and blatant hatred for various groups of people. And they're enthusiastically encouraged by their leaders.


CRNC


...here are some highlights from Rev. Jesse Lee Petersen's speech. (He is the head of BOND: Brotherhood Organization of New Destiny, and he is basically Jesse Jackson's sworn enemy.)

- "I am an American, not an African-American."
- The Civil Rights movement destroyed black people's sense of self-respect and their compass for what's right.
- The Civil Rights Movement took the men out of their homes and prevented black people from thinking for themselves.
- It is not racism but lack of moral character that causes problems for black people.
- The black leadership succeeds by keeping black folks angry.
- Now Muslim folks are moving in and trying to take over.
- "I don't care what people say, but (Muslim people) don't like us!"
- America has already given black people all it has to give.
- On reparations, he emphasizes the fact that all the slaves are dead.
- On those who want reparations, he says, "Instead of reparations, how 'bout a free ticket back to Africa?" (Raucous laughter.)
- "The Democratic battle is ordained by the devil."
- "It's not white vs. black, it's good vs. evil."
- "White folks need to get over their fear of being called a racist."


Yeoman's work, I'd say. They deserve our thanks, and, possibly, our leftover hallucinogens.

Judith Fucking Miller

AlterNet: MediaCulture: The Sins of Judith Miller

In the hierarchy of slime that ranks politicans, televangelists and creators of reality TV, quite possibly the lowest rung is occupied by apparatchik reporters: those who wear the rainments of truthseeker and enemy of darkness, yet obfuscate, shade and flat-out whopperize on behalf of pure evil. Robert Novak has epitomized this ilk for decades; but he is far too well-known as a partisan hack to have much effect any more. And so Judith Fucking Miller has become the poster child for journalistic evil -- in a real sense, we can blame her for the Iraq quagmire. She didn't start it, but she is still arguably what lawyers call "but for" causation: If the New York Times had not beat its war drums so loudly, if it had called bullshit on the whole leaking-of-lies charade starting almost three years ago, we might not be there now. The Administration trumpeted the reporting of the "liberal" Times in support of its Kafkaesque war story; in my view, there are gallons of blood on her hands.

Having shilled the loss of 1700 American and perhaps fifty times than many Iraqi lives, not to mention a few hundred billion dollars transferred to the likes of Halliburton, Ms. Fucking Miller's work on that cause was done. How else could she be of service to the dark lords?

Russ Baker @ Alternet:
Despite having essentially admitted in a written apology, long ex post facto, that its reporter helped to promote a fallacious rationale for an unnecessary invasion and catastrophically protracted occupation, the Times has not put Miller out to pasture. Instead, it has moved her at her request to another challenge: covering scandal wherever it might rear its head within the United Nations.

This is an ironic assignment, since it was the success of the UN's peaceful approach to controlling WMD in Iraq that underlined the wrongheadedness of the pro-invasion clique that supplied Miller with her faulty "scoops."

Over the past year, she has produced a plethora of stories, chock full of innuendo and allegation but short of independent journalistic verification, suggesting that UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is a bad man and perhaps a corrupt one, and that, by extension, the UN is hardly worth respecting and funding, much less including in geopolitical decision-making.

Most of Miller's sleuthing centers on contracts handed out in connection with the so-called Oil for Food program (which got indispensable staples to the Iraqi people during the embargo). Miller's articles typically take murky evidence and create in readers' minds the sense that there's something deeply wrong in the UN's command structure, when in fact, there may not be. At worst, the malfeasance there pales by comparison to what goes on in Washington day after day.

Since March, Miller has been largely invisible, but last week she returned to the UN dirt beat with a vengeance. On June 15, she came up with goods that at first looked damning. Her article, "Investigators To Review Hint of Annan Role in Iraq Oil Sales," dealt with a memo that seemed to indicate that Secretary General Kofi Annan may have had more contact with a UN contractor for whom his son worked than he had previously admitted. Miller makes it clear that the company in question, Cotecna, has been belatedly forthcoming with information about how it got the UN contracts. But in the penultimate paragraph, she drops this little bomb: "A new internal audit showed that Cotecna had not made the $306,305 in payments that [a UN investigative] panel said might have gone to Kojo Annan [Kofi Annan's son]."


Nothing remotely ironic there to me -- the UN was right on Iraq, and Judy in Disguise was wrong. By the twisted logic of King George, the UN had to be punished for this transgression. And so it sent uber-hack Ms. Fucking Miller to do that voodoo what she do.

And what do you know, her trademark -- the "reliably" sourced whopper that is eventually exposed as, well, a complete, whole-cloth fabrication, and an awkward, ineffectual disavowal by her employer -- is again the result.

Worst. Reporter. Ever.

Friday night news dump/Mad Cow Madness Redux

Odd, isn't it, how these test results always seem to come back from the lab late in the day on Friday?

Tests have confirmed mad cow disease in a U.S. cow previously cleared of having the brain wasting illness, the Agriculture Department said Friday. It is the second case of mad cow disease in the United States.

An internationally recognized laboratory in Weybridge, England, confirmed the case of mad cow disease after U.S. tests produced conflicting results, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said.
...
"I am encouraged that our interlocking safeguards are working exactly as intended," Johanns said.

"This animal was blocked from entering the food supply because of the firewalls we have in place. Americans have every reason to continue to be confident in the safety of our beef," he said.
As a starving grad student in NYC, I lived in more than one apartment that involved involuntary cohabitation with cockroaches. Terminating the odd roach that happened to wander across the floor during daylight offered a token feeling of victory, although it was just that: a token victory. It was understood that the victim was the cockroach equivalent of a Mad Cow "downer," a bug so stupid, old or otherwise disoriented that it was unable to adhere to standard principles of roach self-survival. It was also understood that he certainly had thousands of savvier, inaccessible friends hiding in the walls.

Does the same sort of formula apply here? I have no way of knowing, but unfortunately, neither does anyone else, because the Feds have made it their business to adamantly oppose more extensive testing, even on a voluntary basis.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Faux News: Rehnquist's Legacy: A Balanced Court

FOXNews.com - Politics - Rehnquist's Legacy: A Balanced Court

I try to avoid wandering into Wingnuttia, but everyonce in a while a stray URL leads me into one of the other Internets and the signposts make clear that I have entered the Twilight Zone.

I just stumbled onto Fox News' site for only a few seconds, but I am still reeling. Here are the second and third 'graphs in their Rehnquist puffery:
Rehnquist's reputation as a fair-minded jurist earned him widespread, bipartisan admiration throughout his tenure. However, he has frustrated many on the right who had hoped he would side with more socially conservative positions.

The 80-year-old chief justice of the United States, born in Wisconsin, active in the Republican Party during his years as an attorney in Arizona and highly regarded as a former assistant attorney general for President Nixon, appears to be nearing his professional twilight.
Yeah, that's the ticket -- Rehnquist is a centrist who disappoints conservatives.

Read John Dean's book "The Rehnquist Choice" and tell me again how well regarded he was as an AAG. Read about how his Republican "activites" in Arizona included preventing minorities from voting. Read about how this "fair-minded" jurist argued in favor of "separate but equal" and against ending segregation.

A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of minds of rancid tapioca.

Massive Crack Opens In Earth In Texas

A massive crack in the earth opened up last week in Claude, Texas and its creating a stir among geologists.

Geologists said Tuesday the crack was a joint in the earth's crust. They believe the opening is the result of a weak point in the joint where one spot slips away from the other.

Some parts measure more than 30-feet deep and it drained what use to be a pond. Experts say earth cracks are common but the size of the crack in Claude is not.


Too late. Dubya moved to Washington years ago.

What Tax Cuts Cost

Funding for job training, rural health care, low-income schools and help for people lacking health insurance would face big cuts under a bill passed Friday by the House.

The measure, which passed 250-151, contains $142.5 billion in spending under Congress' control for labor, health and education programs. That's essentially a freeze at current levels.

But new demands, including $870 million to administer the new Medicare prescription drug program, have forced cuts in scores of programs.

The cuts include the outright elimination of 48 programs whose current budgets total $1 billion. Among the programs to be eliminated is the Healthy Communities Access Program, currently funded at $83 million, which helps communities offer health care to the uninsured.

Also eliminated is the $205 million budget for an Education Department grant program targeted at low-income and underachieving schools.


Trickle-down economics at work.

Extraordinary

ROME (AP) -- An Italian judge on Friday ordered the arrests of 13 CIA officers for secretly transporting a Muslim preacher from Italy to Egypt as part of U.S. anti-terrorism efforts - a rare public objection to the practice by a close American ally.

The Egyptian was spirited away in 2003, purportedly as part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program in which terror suspects are transferred to third countries without court approval, subjecting them to possible torture.

The arrest warrants were announced Friday by the Milan prosecutor's office, which has called the disappearance a kidnapping and a blow to a terrorism investigation in Italy. The office said the imam was believed to belong to an Islamic terrorist group.
I've been wondering when one of our tenuous "allies" would pipe up about the way we treat their countries as playgrounds for our black bag jobs. I imagine trying to whack Giuliana Sgrena didn't help endear our boys to the Italian authorities any.

What we euphamistically call "extraordinary rendition" has a bunch of less sterile names when other people do it. Kidnapping, for instance. Violation of soverignty, when done in other countries. Unconstitutional, when done here. An act of war, if anyone had the reach to do it to any of our top war criminals.

The Potsdam of Oil

The London Line : Iraq: The carve-up begins

We knew this was always what it was really about: divying up the oil. Like we did with Russia and England at Potsdam the tail end of WWII, we are carving up Iraq's booty.

The Iraq war has so far cost America and Britain £105billion. But the financial clawback is gathering pace as British and American oil giants work out how to get their hands on the estimated £3trillion worth of oil.

Executives from BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old firm, are expected to congregate at the Paddington Hilton for a two-day chinwag with top-level officials from Iraq's oil ministry. The gathering, sponsored by the British Government, is being described as the "premier event" for those with designs on Iraqi oil, and will go ahead despite opposition from Iraqi oil workers, who fear their livelihoods are being flogged to foreigners.


Let freedom reign.

Big Chief Triangle

Dr. Bloor has admonished me for my failure to comment on the return of Phil Jackson to the Lakers. I would ignore his entreaty, but he threatened to blog about golf, so here goes.

Until Kobe turned the team for the ages into his own personal junkyard, I had been a Laker fan for almost 20 years, through the good times and the slightly less good times. The he drove off four Hall of Famers. I don't live in Big Brown anymore, and I ran out of reasons to give a damn.

I noticed that Jackson had decided to come back (which I attribute more to his relatiohship with Lakers owner Jerry Buss' daughter than to a desire to hook up with his least favorite man-child), but at this point my Kobe vitriol has run its course. Talking about the goings on with the Lakes is kinda like talking about the travails of the (Utah) Jazz -- I feel no allegiance to either place, and both teams have absurd carryover names that fit the current locations like Kobe fits the triangle. I read the news of the Lakers like I read the news of Tom Cruise's pedophilia -- quickly, with my usual disdain for rubbernecking, and in the hope that I can avoid retaining what I have seen.

You... you... Frenchman!

Digby has an inspired way to bait the Republicans who go ballistic everytime someone on the left so much as whispers a nazi reference, no matter how tempered, and no matter how egregious the the thing americans are doing:

Compare our follies with those of the French.
It seems to me that the Pentagon planners who held that screening of "The Battle of Algiers" were, perhaps, trying to get that message across, at least if one were to take the movie at face value. Its central premise is that it was French tactics (like torture) that fueled the FLN rather than defeated it in the long run. But, as the Slate article points out, it also shows (incorrectly) that torture works in the short run --- and that may have been the lesson that was taken to heart.

But regardless of whether the Pentagon actually studied and approved of French tactics in Algeria, or if anyone took those screenings seriously, it's pretty clear that we're on the same path. (And don't be too sure they didn't. Apparently, half of Washington was devouring "The Arab Mind" a completely discredited piece of sociological crap, so it wouldn't be surprising. These Republican Intellecutals, after all, tend to believe what they want to believe.)

And, since Nazis, Soviets and Commies of all stripes are off limits when describing our failing and immoral tactics, I think we should just fall back on every Republican's favorite whipping boy -- the cheese eating surrender monkeys.

I can't wait to hear Orrin Hatch stand up in the Senate, bursting with wounded national pride as he reflexively clutches his antique pearl choker, and dolefully expresses his outrage that the Democrats would ever say that Americans are like the French. I have no doubt that the high priests of right wing radio would start speaking in tongues and the FOX News analysts would go into full-on head spinning, green vomit, Linda Blair mode.

And maybe, just maybe, the absurdity of it all will finally hit home with the Democratic establishment, the press and the American people. After all, in the "who's the traitor" game, the Democrats are supposed to love the French, who hate America just like they do only...now they hate the French? Whose side are we on again?

I like it.

Bloomberg's indirect approach denounced

Michael Bloomberg is apparently miffed by Karl Rove's statement that liberals were wimpier than conservatives in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But the self-described liberal Republican mayor couldn't quite bring himself to criticize the White House's top political aide by name yesterday - which drew ringing denunciations from Democrats.

Democrats howled for Rove's scalp yesterday. But Bloomberg, who wasn't afraid to call himself "a liberal" during the 2001 race, took the high road - and avoided the words "Karl Rove" like a pothole.

In an enigmatic "Statement by Mayor Bloomberg on 9/11 Attacks" e-mailed to reporters, the mayor said, "We owe it to those we lost to keep partisan politics out of the discussion and keep alive the united spirit that came out of 9/11."He added that "9/11 was an attack on all of America. ... We have tried to keep politics out of the discussion," but didn't mention the right-wing Rove.

"For four years, New Yorkers have had to put up with a mayor who has consistently been afraid to take on George Bush," Democratic Committee Chairman Herman "Denny" Farrell Jr. said in a statement. "His utter failure to repudiate Karl Rove's ugly and divisive comments demonstrates yet again that he is willing to put his loyalty to the White House ahead of his commitment to New York."

Sorry, Mikey. The whole lot of "Moderate Republicans," "Centrist Republicans," "RINOs" or whatever else you're calling yourselves these days get no slack on this one. If you can't find the heart or integrity to denounce comments as disgusting, offensive and divisive as Rovenstein's, you're just another member of their team.

In the words of Athenae et al at First Draft: Not. One. Inch.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Bush's Brain

I'm as offended as anyone by Karl Rove's screed whilst speaking to George Pataki, et al the other night, and the counterattack coming from the left is, largely, absolutely spot-on in content and tone. But no one should forget what this is really about, and no one should fail to hammer the point home when commenting to the media:

Doctor Rovenstein's monster has approval ratings in the low 40's. What was once referred to as a Key Front in the War on Terrah is now commonly referred to as Bush's War. Junior's Secretary of Defense spent the morning browbeating the Senate by admitting that he has in fact tendered his resignation on (at least) two occasions, and the abridged version of the CIA's latest assessment on Iraq is basically "we reeeeeeeally fucked this up." Doctor Rovenstein sent his boy on a two-month roadtrip, pocketses stuffed with political capital, to push the Crown Jewel of his domestic policy this term, and all he got back from the American people was a T-shirt saying "Don't Screw with My Retirement."

Doctor Rovenstein's monster has approval ratings in the low 40's. Of course he's going to make a lot of desperate, offensive and incendiary comments about the opposition party. At this point, he has few other options.

The Real News in the Downing Street Memos

The British reporter who brought us the DSM explains why we are all missing the point:

American media coverage of the Downing Street memo has largely focused on the assertion by Sir Richard Dearlove, head of British foreign intelligence, that war was seen as inevitable in Washington, where "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

But another part of the memo is arguably more important. It quotes British Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon as saying that "the U.S. had already begun 'spikes of activity' to put pressure on the regime." This we now realize was Plan B.

Put simply, U.S. aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone were dropping a lot more bombs in the hope of provoking a reaction that would give the allies an excuse to carry out a full-scale bombing campaign, an air war, the first stage of the conflict.

British government figures for the number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq in 2002 show that although virtually none were used in March and April, an average of 10 tons a month were dropped between May and August.

But these initial "spikes of activity" didn't have the desired effect. The Iraqis didn't retaliate. They didn't provide the excuse Bush and Blair needed. So at the end of August, the allies dramatically intensified the bombing into what was effectively the initial air war.

The number of bombs dropped on southern Iraq by allied aircraft shot up to 54.6 tons in September alone, with the increased rates continuing into 2003.

In other words, Bush and Blair began their war not in March 2003, as everyone believed, but at the end of August 2002, six weeks before Congress approved military action against Iraq.

The way in which the intelligence was "fixed" to justify war is old news.

The real news is the shady April 2002 deal to go to war, the cynical use of the U.N. to provide an excuse, and the secret, illegal air war without the backing of Congress.


Important, criminal doings. Impeachable offenses all. But if the press and populace don't care about being lied to, they aren't going to pay any attention to a little thing like an undeclared illegal war, either.


What we mean when we talk about the Ownership Society

Government Power to Take Property Backed by Top Court


Local governments have broad power to take over private property to make way for shopping malls, office parks and sports stadiums, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled.

The court said government agencies can constitutionally take property in the name of economic development -- and even transfer it to another private party -- as long as the landowners receive compensation. The 5-4 ruling today came in a case involving land near a Pfizer Inc. plant in New London, Connecticut.

``Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government,'' Justice John Paul Stevens wrote for the court in Washington. He said the justices ``decline to second-guess the city's considered judgments about the efficacy of its development plan.''

The ruling is a setback for property-rights advocates angered by what they said is an increasingly common practice, now used thousands of times a year.

``Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random,'' Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said in dissent. ``The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms.''
...
New London is seeking to raze a residential neighborhood to make room for a five-star hotel, luxury condominiums and office buildings near the Pfizer research facility. The city says it is trying to reverse decades of economic decline.
Hell, if this is all about economic development and boosting the tax base, why not run some real deadbeats outta town?

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Social Security: Republicans doing St. Vitus Dance

It is serious stuff, of course, but the latest from Team Snafu is pretty goddamned funny. Let's review the history of the 2005 assault on Social Security, which has stopped looking like a Mac Sennett film and started to look like St. Vitus' dance:

1. The Sky is Falling -- the aerial bombardment that preceded the ground assault was the insistance that Social Security was in Big Trouble -- the first goal was to try to convince us that the program was in such danger that something simply had to be done to save it. An essential part of that doomsday scenario was the assertion that the trust fund -- the roughly $1.5 trillion we have been prepaying against the coming rainy day -- was a myth.

2. Only Privatization Will Save Us -- despite the failure of the opening gambit to convince most folks of the problem, Maximum Leader then rolled out his panacea, insisting that only privatization would save us from a "flat bust, bankrupt" Social Security system.

3. Privatization is at least Part of the Solution -- in the face of consensus that privatization would in fact make the problem worse, the Bush shills retreated to claiming that private accounts could at least be "an important part of any solution," walking quickly past the obvious fact privatization is so fiscally poisonous that that any plan that included private accounts could be made more effective by excluding them.

And, finally, when even Congressional Repugs would have nothing of it:

4. Screw Solvency, Gimme Privatization NOW! -- The latest Ponzification to come out of Republican Fredonia turns all that has come before on its head. Solvency of Social Security is no longer within a country mile of the discussion. And the mythical, don't-count-on-it trust fund? Now it is the funding source for the private accounts.


Dean Baker, co-director for the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, said Republicans were essentially arguing that private accounts were the only way to force them to stop spending Social Security money. "If I were a Republican, I'm not sure I'd want to make that argument," Baker said.

McCrery also conceded that contributions to the accounts would end in 2017 unless a special board he envisions devised a way to continue funding them.

Jason Furman, a private account foe at the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, said contributions would dwindle to just $40 in the last year before the surplus ends. He also said the cost of administering the accounts would overwhelm any benefit.


So, to review:

1. We are faced with dire problem X;
2. I offer solution Y.
3.OK, so problem X won't actually be solved by Y, but we can do Y and still solve X.
4. OK, OK, OK. Forget about solving X, let's just do Y for the hell of it.

Makes perfect sense to me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Eejitous

via Reuters: CIA says Iraq is now a terrorist training ground

The CIA believes the Iraq insurgency poses an international threat and may produce better-trained Islamic terrorists than the 1980s Afghanistan war that gave rise to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, officials said on Wednesday.

A classified report from the U.S. spy agency says Iraqi and foreign fighters are developing a broad range of skills, from car bombings and assassinations to coordinated conventional attacks on police and military targets, officials said.

Once the insurgency ends, Islamic militants are likely to disperse as highly organized battle-hardened combatants capable of operating throughout the Arab-speaking world and in other regions including Europe.

Fighters leaving Iraq would primarily pose a challenge for their countries of origin including Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

But the May report, which has been widely circulated in the intelligence community, also cites a potential threat to the United States.


I wonder who will get the key assignment of rewriting the report to conform to the Administration's "last throes" rhetoric?

Taft didn’t tell of golf outings

Already under fire for his administration’s role in an investment scandal, Gov. Bob Taft admitted yesterday that he failed to disclose a number of golf outings as required by state law.

One of Taft’s playing partners on at least one occasion was scandal-tarred Toledo coin dealer Thomas W. Noe, a wellplaced source said on condition of anonymity. The men played at Toledo’s storied Inverness Club, the source said.

But it was unclear whether Taft was required to disclose to the Ohio Ethics Commission any golf he played with Noe. If the governor paid his own way, he would not be required to report it.

Taft’s office refused to confirm that Noe and the governor played golf together at Inverness, where Noe is a member, but Taft did ’fess up to a number of previously undisclosed outings with still-to-be-named golf partners.

The admission will prompt an investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission, which could refer charges to the Franklin County prosecutor. If Taft knowingly filed a false financial-disclosure statement, he could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine, or both.
...
Taft and administration officials have faced hard questions in recent weeks about a pair of investment scandals brewing at the bureau, including the coin investment with Noe and the loss of $215 million invested with MDL Capital Management of Pittsburgh.

The rush to amend disclosure statements followed subpoenas for records issued by state Inspector General Thomas P. Charles to Taft, members of his staff and other public officials. On May 23, Charles asked Taft’s office for records because he found during his investigation that "certain members of the governor’s staff may have received lodging accommodations and other items" from Noe.

Taft said in a June 14 letter to the Ethics Commission that it has "recently come to my attention that I failed to list a number of golf outings or events on my financial disclosure forms over the past several years."
...
In a statement, Taft said he takes "full responsibility" for any omissions but declined further comment "on the advice of counsel."

Round of golf at the fabled Inverness Club: $125. Sleeve of Titleist V1 golf balls: $15. Round of drinks at the turn: $20. Lunch at the nineteenth hole: $75. Evidentiary value in ethics investigations and negative publicity for scandal-wracked Republicans: Priceless.

AP: Tribe Told to Reroute DeLay Checks

A casino-rich tribe wrote checks for at least $55,000 to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political groups, but the donations were never publicly disclosed and the tribe was directed to divert the money to other groups that helped Republicans, tribal documents show.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, told the Coushatta Indian tribe, a client, to cancel its checks to the DeLay groups in 2001 and 2002 and route the money to more obscure groups that helped Republicans on Medicare prescription drug legislation and Christian voter outreach.

DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority and Americans for a Republican Majority never reported receiving any checks from the Louisiana tribe to federal or state regulators, their reports show. The donations, however, are recorded in memos and ledgers kept by the tribe.

"Enclosed please find a check for $10,000 to the Texans for a Republican Majority. This check needs to be reissued to America 21," Abramoff wrote the Coushattas in a May 2002 letter obtained by The Associated Press.

America 21 is a Nashville, Tenn.-based Christian group focused on voter turnout that helped Republican candidates in the pivotal 2002 elections that kept DeLay's party in control of the House.

Several months earlier, the tribe was asked to cancel a $25,000 check to Americans for a Republican Majority and to send that money instead in August 2001 to a group called Sixty Plus that helped Republicans in their two-year effort to get a Medicare prescription drug benefit through Congress.

Nice to see the Bugman back in the news. And I would normally be upset about how other news seems to be generally crowding out coverage of his travails, but I'll take DSM coverage any day.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Bush says he will visit Vietnam next year

Better late than never, I guess. I wonder if Cheney will pull another deferment out of his ass to avoid going?

Jesus' General & Op Yellow Elephant

The General usually hits his target, but doesn't always go after big game. This time I think he has the perfect target in his sights -- shaming Young Republicans into enlisting in the military.

Great artwork, great cause.

Animal Rights Extremism a Priority for FBI

Because you never know when you might run out of missing white women.

Wasteland

from The Huffington Post:

Which brings me back to this weekend. If you were to get your news only from television, you’d think the top issue facing our country right now is an 18-year-old girl named Natalee who went missing in Aruba. Every time one of these stories comes up, like, say, Michael Jackson, when it’s finally over I think, what a relief, now we can get back to real news. But we never do. When one of these big league nonstories ends, they just call up a new one from the minors... and off they go with another round of breathless reporting. Anything to not have to actually report actual news.

Here are the number of news segments that mention these stories: (from a search of the main news networks’ transcripts from May 1-June 20).

ABC News: "Downing Street Memo": 0 segments; "Natalee Holloway": 42 segments; "Michael Jackson": 121 segments.

CBS News: "Downing Street Memo": 0 segments; "Natalee Holloway": 70 segments; "Michael Jackson": 235 segments.

NBC News: "Downing Street Memo": 6 segments; "Natalee Holloway": 62 segments; "Michael Jackson": 109 segments.

CNN: "Downing Street Memo": 30 segments; "Natalee Holloway": 294 segments; "Michael Jackson": 633 segments.

Fox News: "Downing Street Memo": 10 segments; "Natalee Holloway": 148 segments; Michael Jackson": 286 segments.

MSNBC: "Downing Street Memo": 10 segments; "Natalee Holloway": 30 segments; "Michael Jackson": 106 segments.

How can network "news" executives sleep in the face of such absurdity -- absurdity of their making? We need to hammer these statistics and keep them front and center until these court jesters answer for their dereliction.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Can't imagine why I didn't see this one on Fox...

JTW News - 82 Iraqi MPs Demand Occupation Pullout


Eighty two Iraqi lawmakers from across the political spectrum have pressed for the withdrawal of the US-led occupation troops from their country.

The Shiite, Kurdish, Sunni Arab, Christian and communist legislators made the call in a letter sent by Falah Hassan Shanshal of the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA), the largest bloc in parliament, to speaker Hajem Al-Hassani, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

“We have asked in several sessions for occupation troops to withdraw. Our request was ignored,” read the latter, made public on Sunday, June 19.


Somehow I have trouble envisioning this particular manifestation of flowering Iraqi democracy getting much traction in Washington about now.

And if they really want to get the American troops out of Iraq, they should hide a missing white woman in Iran.

The White House's White-Out Problem

Think Progress has a long, well-documented list of egregious rewritings of scientific reports. Sad, but important. If only ours was so Tinkerbell a world that only those who believed Bush's lies had to suffer for them.

CPB Chairman's Emails Cite White House Authority

The authority of the White House was invoked in decisions being made at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by its chairman, according to emails obtained by NPR. The chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, has repeatedly denied accusations that he has attempted to politicize the agency during his tenure, which began in September 2003.
Tomlinson goes over the line, and then lies through his teeth about it. Story here.

Soldier Sues Over Guantanamo Beating

from the LA Times:
A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a botched training drill at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison for detainees has sued the Pentagon for $15 million, alleging that the incident violated his constitutional rights.

Spc. Sean D. Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he volunteered to wear an orange jumpsuit and portray an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.

Baker, a Gulf War veteran who reenlisted after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, was medically retired in April 2004. He said the assault left him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems."


What happened to this GI shouldn't happen to a dog -- which is precisely the point those of us in the "blame America first" crowd have been howling about for about two years now. For those of us who oppose things like torture and the death penalty, there are no difficult fact patterns. But if you think it is OK to snuff or beat the snot out of some people but not others, sooner or later you end up here. I don't know what the Republican goon squad will have to say about this one -- anything they say will set off cognitive dissonance louder than Big Ben.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Vote-Rigging Feared in Iran Election

Vote-Rigging Feared in Iran Election - Yahoo! News

TEHRAN, Iran - The front-runner in Iran's presidential runoff sought to rally moderates Sunday by warning that his hard-line opponent would run a totalitarian regime. The statement from the campaign manager for Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani came amid suspicions the powerful Revolutionary Guard would rig the runoff vote for conservatives.

Rafsanjani's campaign manager, Mohammed Baghir Nowbakht, said Friday's runoff was crucial because hard-liners would not tolerate differences of opinions if elected and would run a "totalitarian" regime.

"They would never let other groups participate in the government," he said.


Deja vu' -- that strange feeling that one is seeing something that has happened before...

Deja vu' -- that strange feeling that one is seeing something that has happened before...

Meanwhile, in the other America...

Big "thanks" to Bush from middle east

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's spy chief used just two words to respond to White House ridicule of last week's presidential election: "Thank you." His sarcasm was barely hidden. The backfire on Washington was more evident.

The sharp barbs from President Bush were widely seen in Iran as damaging to pro-reform groups because the comments appeared to have boosted turnout among hard-liners in Friday's election — with the result being that an ultraconservative now is in a two-way showdown for the presidency.

"I say to Bush: `Thank you,'" quipped Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi. "He motivated people to vote in retaliation."


I'll bet he gets fan mail from Karimov in Uzbekistan, too.

This week in Condiliar

from Think Progress:

This morning on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if “the Bush administration fairly [can] be criticized for failing to level with the American people about how long and difficult this commitment will be?” Rice responded:

[T]he administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq.

Does she even know when she is lying anymore? Does she care?

A weekly series may not be enough to keep up.

Spanking the lapdog

Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | New US move to spoil climate accord

Extraordinary efforts by the White House to scupper Britain's attempts to tackle global warming have been revealed in leaked US government documents obtained by The Observer.
These papers - part of the Bush administration's submission to the G8 action plan for Gleneagles next month - show how the United States, over the past two months, has been secretly undermining Tony Blair's proposals to tackle climate change.

The documents obtained by The Observer represent an attempt by the Bush administration to undermine completely the science of climate change and show that the US position has hardened during the G8 negotiations. They also reveal that the White House has withdrawn from a crucial United Nations commitment to stabilise greenhouse gas emissions.


Part of the quid pro quo by which a godfather manages his troops is loyalty. So it is mystifying to me how Bush expects to keep his British lapdog loyal to him when Bush keeps buggering Blair at every opportunity. Maybe Blair himself is the source of all the docs that have been coming out in the UK papers...

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Commissioners OK Ave Maria project

Collier County commissioners gave a unanimous thumbs-up Tuesday to the $220 million development of a new Roman Catholic university and a town that could have 11,000 dwellings in the next 10 years.

Ave Maria University, spearheaded by Domino's Pizza founder Thomas Monaghan, and its town, developed by Barron Collier Companies of Naples, will be built in eastern Collier County, 5 miles south of Immokalee and just west of Camp Keais Road.
...
Monaghan, a Catholic philanthropist, is the largest donor to the university, which is run by lay Catholics and not by a diocese or religious order.

Barron Collier, one of the largest landowners in Florida, donated 1,000 acres for the university and will develop another 4,000 acres into a surrounding town.
...
Plans call for the university, which now operates in The Vineyards area of Collier County, to open its new campus in the fall of 2007, said the Rev. Joseph Fessio, provost.

Dormitories, academic buildings and a church will be built during the first phase of the university.

A large church, called an oratory, will also be built. It has been scaled back in size and design from original plans. It was designed as a soaring glass and steel structure that would seat about 3,300 and reach 15 stories high."
...
Dwellings in the first neighborhoods of the new town will also be ready for occupancy in 2007.

The town will offer dwellings from rentals for low-income workers to luxury homes on golf courses.
...
Early construction of roads and utilities will be directed by the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District, a special taxing district approved by the Legislature and Gov. Jeb. Bush.

The development will donate a total of $7.8 million worth of right of way land — a total of 150 acres representing 13 miles of roadside — necessary to improve roads in the area.
The set from the Truman Show, only with lots more churches? Petting zoo for American clergy? I sure don't know, but I'll be happy to kick in for expansion if it means wrangling all of the holy rollers into one congressional district.

Maybe Jebbie's latest intrusion into the private affairs of the Schiavo family is his first bid for canonization...

U.S. Pressure Weakens G-8 Climate Plan

Bush administration officials working behind the scenes have succeeded in weakening key sections of a proposal for joint action by the eight major industrialized nations to curb climate change.

Under U.S. pressure, negotiators in the past month have agreed to delete language that would detail how rising temperatures are affecting the globe, set ambitious targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and set stricter environmental standards for World Bank-funded power projects, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Negotiators met this week in London to work out details of the document, which is slated to be adopted next month at the Group of Eight's annual meeting in Scotland.

The administration's push to alter the G-8's plan on global warming marks its latest effort to edit scientific or policy documents to accord with its position that mandatory carbon dioxide cuts are unnecessary. Under mounting international pressure to adopt stricter controls on heat-trapping gas emissions, Bush officials have consistently sought to modify U.S. government and international reports that would endorse a more aggressive approach to mitigating global warming.


I am far beyond being amazed at how far our Preznit and his cronies will go in trying to exterminate truth. But I can still be amazed at the folks who prove susceptible to their pressure.


Donate or the kitten gets it

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Alas, the Poor Man has crapped out on bandwidth again. Go do the right thing here.

Stupidity in a can

Sure. I had a 'Sclade, with dubs. But I still sometimes felt, you know.. inadequate.

So then I traded in on a Hummer. Getting 8 miles per gallon while driving solo in an 8,000-pound vehicle makes my package swell, but sometimes I still feel kinda small. See, I get kinda carsick if the road isn't smooth, and all the really butch guys go off-road with their rides. My package shrank every time I rolled up to the corner Starbucks in my virgin ride and saw the streaks and clods of of real environmental destruction all over the big boys' rides.

Well, my manhood has been revived by one crafty Brit, who is selling the answer to my prayers: Spray-on Mud:
For owners who don't want it to look like they're driving an unnecessary gas-guzzler, a little splash signals that the vehicle spends time tackling the back country.

The product is the brainchild of Colin Dowse, a businessman from Shropshire, England, a village close to the Welsh border.

"Spray-On Mud is an urban camouflage designed to give the impression that you are a serious off-roader,'' he said.

Dowse, a Web designer, came up with the idea about a year ago while sharing a few pints with friends at a local pub.

It's genuine local dirt -- strained to remove stones and other debris -- mixed with water and a secret ingredient that Dowse says helps it stick to a vehicle's bodywork.

...Dowse said he can barely keep up with Internet sales of the product at $14.50 a quart.

Couldn't make it up if I tried...

U.S. Newswire : Releases : "DeLay: The Case for U.N. Reform..."

House majority leader Tom DeLay:
"The pervasive corruption at the U.N. is not a problem -- it is a crisis. No one denies this, and in response to the overwhelming evidence, the Democrat substitute says the reforms in the underlying bill should happen. But, Mr. Speaker, it is not enough to say these reforms should happen -- they must happen, and they must happen right now.

"We shouldn't be asking the U.N.'s leaders to make these reforms -- we need to tell them. The American people are today underwriting rampant corruption -- 22 percent of it, to be precise -- and it needs to stop."


Next: Dick Cheney complains about lack of transparency in U.N. governance.

Same as it ever was...same as it ever was.. same..

from the Los Angeles Times:

The Bush administration altered critical portions of a scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cattle grazing on public lands before announcing Thursday that it would relax regulations limiting grazing on those lands, according to scientists involved in the study.

A government biologist and a hydrologist, who both retired this year from the Bureau of Land Management, said their conclusions that the proposed new rules might adversely affect water quality and wildlife, including endangered species, were excised and replaced with language justifying less stringent regulations favored by cattle ranchers.

Grazing regulations, which affect 160 million acres of public land in the Western U.S., set the conditions under which ranchers may use that land, and guide government managers in determining how many cattle may graze, where and for how long without harming natural resources.

The original draft of the environmental analysis warned that the new rules would have a "significant adverse impact" on wildlife, but that phrase was removed. The bureau now concludes that the grazing regulations are "beneficial to animals."

Eliminated from the final draft was another conclusion that read: "The Proposed Action will have a slow, long-term adverse impact on wildlife and biological diversity in general."

Also removed was language saying how a number of the rule changes could adversely affect endangered species.

"This is a whitewash. They took all of our science and reversed it 180 degrees," said Erick Campbell, a former BLM state biologist in Nevada and a 30-year bureau employee who retired this year. He was the author of sections of the report pertaining to the effect on wildlife and threatened and endangered species.

"They rewrote everything," Campbell said in an interview this week. "It's a crime."

Look! Over there! Isn't that Michael Jackson with a missing white woman?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Kaye Grogan alert

Since the Poorman's blog seems to be on the fritz... check out her special brand of triple-distilled stoopidity.

A sample of her latest insight:

Yes, I'm talking about the God this nation was founded on! I bet you folks thought our government was just being accommodating, and perhaps they were at the time, when they foolishly agreed to tell all foreigners "to come on over!" Maybe it's time to go back and do a little research on who came up with the rilliant . . . but not so brilliant long term decision, to allow people of other cultures to come over and challenge the American traditional values.



I'll leave the mocking to the master.

Another angle on DSM

The focus has been on the rush to war in Iraq -- a topic that has been ignored far too long. It is fine with me if it stays there for a good long time.

But there is another angle here -- one that ought to put another nail in SHrub's coffin when the time comes. As with so much of this sordid mess, it has been hidden in plain sight for some time.

Sayeth once and perhaps future good guy Bob Woodward, from a 2004 60 Minutes about Woodward's hagiography, "Plan of Attack:" :

“Gets to a point where in July, the end of July 2002, they need $700 million, a large amount of money for all these tasks. And the president approves it. But Congress doesn't know and it is done. They get the money from a supplemental appropriation for the Afghan War, which Congress has approved. …Some people are gonna look at a document called the Constitution which says that no money will be drawn from the Treasury unless appropriated by Congress. Congress was totally in the dark on this."

Think about that for a second. Now that everyone finally seems to understand that Iraq was a cock-up from day one; now that Osama has been footloose for almost four years post-9/11; now that a handful of folks in Congress are starting to learn to pronounce that unfamiliar word "Con-sti-tu-tion" -- an in-your-face, explicit statement that Boy Blunder secretly diverted Congressionally earmarked funds from the pursuit of Bin Laden to his family vendetta.

That there's an impeachable offense, people.

Putting two and two-faced together

Did HRC's Birch out GOP congressman? - GAGV News - The Empty Closet


Elizabeth Birch of the Human Rights campaign (HRC) has been accused of outing a member of Congress by telling the story of an anti-gay congressman who, eight years ago, privately asked her how people know if they are gay, and stated that he had “loved men”.

At a Gay Pride Forum in Washington, D.C. on June 3, Birch was commenting on reaching out to foes of gay rights. She said that in 1995 she and HRC then-Political Director Daniel Zingale had met with an unnamed conservative Republican congressman, who had been “derisive and demeaning” in his attacks on gay rights legislation.

Birch said that the politician held her and Zingale back after the meeting, and when his staff had left, he asked them, “So how do you know?… You know, how do you know if you’re that way?”
...
Birch said that the meeting took place shortly after the congressman had created a controversy in 1995 when he referred to gays as “homos” on the floor of the House of Representatives. The Washington Blade says that media reports and background facts indicate that the congressman was Randall (“Duke”) Cunningham, “an arch-conservative from San Diego”. Cunningham was apparently the only member of the House who called gays “homos” on the House
floor at the time.

Two gay Democratic activists in San Diego confirmed the first week in July that Birch told members of that city’s Democratic Club a nearly identical story in 1996, at that time directly identifying Cunningham. Harmony Allen, Cunningham’s press secretary, stated that Cunningham never met with Birch and never made any comments about loving men. She said the Democratic activists lack credibility and are motivated by political gain.

Cunningham has always been considered one of the most virulently anti-gay members of Congress. HRC gives him 17 points out of a possible 100 in their current congressional scorecard.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), who has been on the receiving end of Cunningham’s homophobia, said, “He tends to blurt out stuff on gay issues. He seems to be more interested in discussing homosexuality than most homosexuals.”


So it seems that perhaps David Dreier is not the only self-loathing closeted gay Congressman from Southern California.

What makes this double-good fun is that Cunninghams' chestnuts are being roasted on an open fire for reasons totally unrelated to his apparent sexual hypocrisy. Josh Marshall has been all over the sale of Cunningham's house (at roughly 2X market) to a defense contractor who just happened to score a large deal afterwards, and who also owns the yacht Cunningham has been living on when in Washington. Homophobic AND gay AND corrupt? Priceless.

And the best part about outing a virulent homophobe is that it will reinforce the "gay bashers are actually self-loathing queers" meme, which if nothing else should shame a bunch of them into shutting the hell up.



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