Friday, September 30, 2005

Ex-official: Board broke with curriculum policy

Carol H. Brown, a former school board member in Dover Area School District, testified yesterday that meetings last summer took on the flavor of an "old-time Christian tent revival," and that she was called an atheist and told she was going to hell by fellow board members.

Brown testified for the plaintiffs in a federal trial that is considering whether "intelligent design," the concept that says biology presents evidence of a master designer for the universe, can be taught in a public school science course.


Kitzmiller v. Dover Area, America's first test of whether intelligent design can be mentioned to school students in a science course, has, as expected, become a case of wide-ranging subject matter. Evolution and intelligent design are the main topics, but attorneys and witnesses also have jousted over Christianity, philosophy, geology, astronomy, chemistry, academic freedom, metaphysics, genetics, Einsteinian law and gravitational theory.

Though the case, which will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court at its conclusion, has serious implications in the realms of science, politics and public education, it has had its lighter, sci-fi moments.

Several times, space aliens have been mentioned as the theoretical identity of the intelligent designer. Time-traveling cellular biologists from the future also were credited.

This week, Dover's attorney's also noted that some serious psychologists continue to research psychic powers, in turn suggesting that real scientists can in fact investigate subjects considered to be paranormal or supernatural.

In the past, when you asked ID proponents exactly who the intelligent designer might be if not God, you could expect an awkward silence or lot of hemming and hawing. It's a relief to know they've got crack paranormal scientistslike Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler and Ray Stantz on the job.

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

I guess tunes are cheaper than body armor

Both of these stories are up on Raw Story at the same time:

1. Receive 3 FREE iTunes music downloads when you sign up to be contacted by the Army National Guard!

2.Troops Wait for Body Armor Reimbursements
Nearly a year after Congress demanded action, the Pentagon has still failed to figure out a way to reimburse soldiers for body armor and equipment they purchased to better protect themselves while serving in Iraq.

Is it even possible to be this stupid on purpose?

Sing, sing, sing

from E&P, The Queen speaks:
I went to jail to preserve the time-honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source. I chose to take the consequences -- 85 days in prison -- rather than violate that promise. The principle was more important to uphold than my personal freedom.

I am leaving jail today because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations relating to the Wilson-Plame matter. My attorneys have also reached agreement with the Office of Special Counsel regarding the nature and scope of my testimony, which satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources.

This enables me to appear before the Grand Jury tomorrow.

Remember Matt Cooper's convenient hail-Mary waiver reception on the courthouse steps, narrowly avoiding his own jail time? One has to wonder if the prospect of ciminal contempt charges was the factor that suddenly made Scooter's oft-offered waiver suddenly seem sufficently uncoerced.

Jeebus, how did it come to this? How did we come to a juncture where a good leftie has to ridicule the newspaper that printed the Pentagon Papers and exposed the Tuskegee experiment? How did the very concept of a free press become so utterly corrupted?

The outing of Valerie Plame was a heinous crime, and the piper really should be paid. I hope this sudden development signals a climax that befits the criminal hubris that put these forces in motion.

Go get 'em, Mr. Fitzgerald.

Update: good discussion here, and here, but I think we are all shooting in the dark tonight.

Calif. Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes gay marriage bill

Arnold Schwarzenegger in a widely expected move vetoed a bill on Thursday that would have allowed gay couples to marry.

The Republican governor had earlier this month indicated he would veto the bill passed by California's Democrat-led legislature. The bill was the first of its kind approved by a state legislature.

Schwarzenegger said he would leave the contentious issue of same-sex marriage to voters and the courts. "I do not believe the legislature can reverse an initiative approved by the people of California," he said in a written statement.

"This bill simply adds confusion to a constitutional issue," Schwarzenegger wrote. "If the ban of same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, this bill is not necessary. If the ban is constitutional, this bill is ineffective."

If you're intelligent enough to read this sentence, it isn't even necessary for me to point out the logical fallacy in the last statement. But how long has Ahnold been arguing that the courts should make laws rather than elected representatives?

Spontaneous Cat Blogging

I actually don't know much about Lulu's politics, but I'm pretty sure she's got a crush on Athenae's ferret.

I like it

via Raw Story:


VR today launches the 'Government Accountability Reward Fund' to induce whistleblowers to come forward with information about criminal activity by high government officials. Specifically, VR has a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of officials involved in the following three incidents: 1) the illegal outing of CIA Agent Valerie Plame, 2) the illegal payment of bribes to Congressman Dennis Hastert, and 3) the rigging of the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio. In the event more than one person provides information or information about more than one incident, the money will be split between the persons.

Perhaps Dame Judith could claim her $100K and make up some of the income lost while in stir?

Judy Miller Walks...

from the Philly Inquirer via Judy Miller Walks... Developing... | The Huffington Post:

Judith Miller, The New York Times reporter who has been jailed since July 6 for refusing to identify a source, has been released, The Philadelphia Inquirer has learned.

Miller left an Alexandria, Va. jail at 3:55 p.m., a jail official said.

She was released after she had a telephone conversation with the Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, sources said. In that conversation, Libby reaffirmed that he had released Miller from a promise of confidentiality more than a year ago, sources said.

I dunno what to read into the fact that the Queen of Iraq is out. If the "sources" are correct, then I think this is good news. WHich would mean that tomorrow (Friday, natch) will be a good day for the Preznit to announce his SCOTUS nominee.

Other than probably mooting my next long piece on the Plame outing, I don't really know how this plays out. Naming Libby doesn't get much converage in this scandal-rich environment. If Fitzgerald wants to make a mark, we are going to need a few high-profile indictments.

What do y'all think it means?

The case of the snark-proof story

So Newsweek lets a sliver of reality in, but where the hell are the rest of the MSM on this?
Sept. 28, 2005 - U.S. intelligence officials and counterterrorism analysts are questioning whether a slain terrorist—described by President Bush today as the “second-most-wanted Al Qaeda leader in Iraq”—was as significant a figure as the Bush administration is claiming.

In a brief Rose Garden appearance Wednesday morning, Bush seized on the killing of Abu Azzam by joint U.S-Iraqi forces in a shootout last Sunday as fresh evidence that the United States is turning the tide against the Iraqi insurgency.

“This guy was a brutal killer,” Bush told reporters in remarks that were also carried live on cable TV. “He was one of [Abu Mussab al-]Zarqawi’s top lieutenants. He was reported to be the top operational commander of Al Qaeda in Baghdad.”

Bush’s comments came one day after Gen. Richard Myers, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. military considered Abu Azzam the “No. 2 Al Qaeda operative in Iraq, next to Zarqawi.”

But veteran counterterrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said today there are ample reasons to question whether Abu Azzam was really the No. 2 figure in the Iraqi insurgency. He noted that U.S. officials have made similar claims about a string of purportedly high-ranking terrorist operatives who had been captured or killed in the past, even though these alleged successes made no discernible dent in the intensity of the insurgency.

If I had a nickel for every No. 2 and No. 3 they’ve arrested or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’d be a millionaire,” says Kohlmann, a New York-based analyst who tracks the Iraq insurgency and who first expressed skepticism about the Azzam claims in a posting on The Counterterrorism Blog ( While agreeing that Azzam—also known as Abdullah Najim Abdullah Mohamed al-Jawari—may have been an important figure, “this guy was not the deputy commander of Al Qaeda,” says Kohlmann.

Come on, the rest of you MSM idiots. The good folks at Blogenlust have done your goddamned homework for you, and listed 32 -- thirty two -- previous lieutenants offered up the same way, with similar fanfare, over the last few years. In a week or a month, they are going to announce the same story yet again. So bookmark this list, and cut and past it into your coverage next time. Easy. Painless. And, on the off chance you still give a rat's ass, accurate for once.

Yeah, I know. If you point out that they have been feeding you shit, you will perforce have to admit swallowing it. But the "double down" gambling scheme only works for so long, folks. Sooner or later, you hit the table limit, and your markers are going to get called.

2 Political Junkies: ABSOLUT CORRUPTION.

Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Photos

I've lost count--isn't this like the 87th time a judge has ordered the release of this stuff?

A federal judge ruled today that graphic pictures of detainee abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison must be released over government claims that they could damage America's image. Last year a Republican senator conceded that they contained scenes of "rape and murder" and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said they included acts that were "blatantly sadistic."

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ordered the release of certain pictures in a 50-page decision that said terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven they "do not need pretexts for their barbarism."

The ACLU has sought the release of 87 photographs and four videotapes taken at the prison as part of an October 2003 lawsuit demanding information on the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody and the transfer of prisoners to countries known to use torture. The judge said: "Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed."

What is shown on the 87 photographs and four videos from Abu Ghraib prison that the Pentagon has blocked from release? One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images: "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe." They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.

A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of "rape and murder." Rumsfeld then commented, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."
Worse, indeed. The assministration folks heading up the Department of Delay, Obstruction and Obfuscation couldn't have planned for this to come down the same week that anyone and everyone with an "R" after their names seem to be getting fitted for horizontal stripes. Release the photos, and hope they get lost in the larger shitstorm, or stall some more? Decisions, decisions.

You're missing the point

Guardian Unlimited - US forces 'out of control', says Reuters chief

Reuters has told the US government that American forces' conduct towards journalists in Iraq is "spiralling out of control" and preventing full coverage of the war reaching the public.

The detention and accidental shootings of journalists is limiting how journalists can operate, wrote David Schlesinger, the Reuters global managing editor, in a letter to Senator John Warner, head of the armed services committee.

The Reuters news service chief referred to "a long parade of disturbing incidents whereby professional journalists have been killed, wrongfully detained, and/or illegally abused by US forces in Iraq".

Mr Schlesinger urged the senator to raise the concerns with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who is due to testify to the committee this Thursday.

He asked Mr Warner to demand that Mr Rumsfeld resolve these issues "in a way that best balances the legitimate security interests of the US forces in Iraq and the equally legitimate rights of journalists in conflict zones under international law".

At least 66 journalists and media workers, most of them Iraqis, have been killed in the country since March 2003.

US forces admitted killing three Reuters journalists, most recently soundman Waleed Khaled, who was shot by American soldiers on August 28 while on assignment in Baghdad. But the military said the soldiers were justified in opening fire. Reuters believes a fourth journalist working for the agency, who died in Ramadi last year, was killed by a US sniper.

"The worsening situation for professional journalists in Iraq directly limits journalists' abilities to do their jobs and, more importantly, creates a serious chilling effect on the media overall," Mr Schlesinger wrote.

Boy, are you unclear on the concept. Having a website where grunts show their trophy corpses is out of control. Systematically preventing journalists from reporting the full story in Iraq? That's one of the few goals Rumsfeld seems to be capable of accomplishing.

If you want to show the public what is really going on over there, well pal, you are the moral equivalent of Al Qaeda, and standing orders are going to have a chilling effect -- morgue-slab cold.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Maybe he buys them at Walmart

Via Cunning Realist, Blogenlust has an amazingly long list of al-Zarqawi's "lieutenants," who show an amazing ability to spring up and replace the ones we whack. Pretty damned impressive -- he sems to have more lieutenants than you'd find at a West Point graduation.

Army ends probe on porn site photos of Iraq corpses

The U.S. Army after a brief inquiry has failed to determine whether U.S. soldiers provided grisly photos of people killed in the Iraq war to a porn Web site in exchange for free access to it, officials said on Wednesday.

The numerous graphic pictures posted on the Web site showed men, with their faces visible and wearing what looked like U.S. military uniforms, standing over a charred corpse, mutilated dead bodies and severed body parts.

The porn Web site states the photos were provided by troops in Iraq as well as Afghanistan in order to get free access to its sexual images. Many of the photos, still posted on the site, are accompanied by captions making light of the corpses; for example one photo of a charred body was dubbed "Cooked Iraqi."

The Army Criminal Investigation Command in Iraq conducted the preliminary inquiry within the past week but closed it after concluding no felony crime had been committed and failing to determine whether U.S. soldiers were responsible for the photos and whether they showed actual war dead, Army officials said.

Col. Joe Curtin, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said there currently was no formal investigation into the matter.

Thank you for calling the Federal Office of Officially Pretending to Give a Shit. All of our spinmeisters are currently prettending to care about other emergencies. If the mainstream media is paying attention to your problem, please press 1; if your problem primarily affects people in a red state with more than 20 electoral votes, press 2. If you contributed at least $1000 to the 2004 Bush campaign, relax; help is already on the way. If the media are so distracted by our other screwups that Joe Sixpack has no idea how bad your problem is, please hang up and call the Federal Office of LaLaLa I Can't Hear You.


Karl Rove
Bill Frist
Tom DeLay
Scooter Libby
Richard Perle
David Safavian
Jack Abramoff
Dennis Hastert (a bit premature, perhaps, but worth investigation)
Tom Noe (state level, but was a cog in Bush's CREEP, so it counts)

Who am I missing? (of those who are facing criminal investigation or charges -- Bush and Cheney don't (yet) belong on that list)

C'mon lurkers, help me out here...

Another hole, another shovel

House Republicans on Wednesday will launch a rapid-fire assault against environmental protections on the pretext of helping the U.S. oil and gas industry recover from hurricane damage, environmental groups charge.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Resources Committee are holding separate meetings to finalize legislation on Wednesday, with the aim of combining them into a single energy bill for the full House to debate next week.

The resources panel, led by Richard Pombo of California, wants to lift a ban on Florida offshore drilling, promote oil shale and sell a dozen national parks for energy development.

"This really has very little to do with the hurricanes or relief efforts or even refiners. This is deregulation pure and simple," said John Walke of Natural Resources Defense Council.

Texan Joe Barton's energy committee wants to expand U.S. gasoline production by loosening federal rules that limit pollution when refineries or coal-fired power plants are expanded. U.S. gasoline supplies have tightened since hurricanes Katrina and Rita roared across the U.S. Gulf Coast, closing up to one-fourth of the nation's refining capacity.

House Republicans received a thumbs up from President George W. Bush on Monday when he said environmental rules and paperwork are obstacles holding up U.S. refinery expansions.

Bush specifically criticized the relatively obscure "new source review" rule administered by the Environmental Protection Agency as part of the Clean Air Act. It aims to protect public health by ensuring that refinery expansions do not increase acid rain and smog.

Environmentalists perked up their ears at Bush's remarks, noting that he rarely mentions the program.

"You know darn well that the president doesn't have a clue what new source review is," said Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch. "It's clear that there's a coordinated effort between the White House and Congress to put key environmental protections on the chopping block."

A mere ten days ago, I said this in another context: "Applying this magnificent logic, followed resolutely and in utter defiance of cause and effect, the Secretary of State shows us again that there is no hole anywhere in the world that these chowderheads will not try to dig their way out of."

And here is another hole. Do they face the evidence of global warming presented by the destruction these hurricanes have wrought? Does our conclave of environmental sinners repent?

Bah. Silly rabbit.

An unprecedented environmental disaster is the perfect excuse to roll back environmental protections. Just as record deficits were the justification for tax cuts, and the FEMA Snafu is the perfect excuse to cede more power to the military. Just as more death and destruction in Iraq prove the absurd "flypaper" theory is correct.

A common beef against the Hollywood enviro-disaster pic "The Day After Tomorrow," in which it took a dramatic, overnight climate shift to wake up our government, was that it was unrealistic. I now see that the complaint was justified. If the movie had been accurate, the Cheney figure who ended up as President would have responded by eliminating all environmental regulations and offering subsidies to multinationals that agreed to burn old tires and used motor oil just for the hell of it.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Bill Clinton- 'The era of big government is over' - Jan. 27, 1996

George W. Bush- "The era of big government is back' - September 15, 2005

Tom DeLay - 'And we can do it all with your children's money' - September 14, 2005

One Shot Learning

More columny over @The Raw Story

Pssst... wanna buy a governor?

Props to folks who see ways of using the online world in new and distinctive ways. California nurses, mightily hacked off at the Governator, are selling him on eBay. Of course he's been for sale for some time; this is simply a more democratic and efficent way of soliciting bids.

Perhaps the Golden Palace will bid, and, consistent with past practice, proudly announce their purchase by tattooing Ahnold's forehead with their logo. It will likely change his behavior not one whit, but the truth in advertising wil be a major step forward in American electoral politics. Perhaps it would start a trend: I would pay to put "Big Oil" on Shrub's forehead, and "Halliburton" on the Dick's.

Update: Alas, the Gropinator's peeps obvously got to eBay and had the auction yanked. Or maybe it was the middlemen who were concerned about losing their commissions. Either way, the auction is no more, but the point was made. Bravo.

"Intelligent Design" or the "Theory of Everything?"

Wiley's Non Sequitur.

Brown Blames 'Dysfunctional' Louisiana

Former FEMA director Michael Brown aggressively defended his role in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday and blamed most coordination failures on Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security, the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.
His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.
Brown in his opening statement said he had made several ``specific mistakes'' in dealing with the storm, and listed two.

One, he said, was not having more media briefings.

As to the other, he said: ``I very strongly personally regret that I was unable to persuade Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin to sit down, get over their differences, and work together. I just couldn't pull that off.''
That Marguerita Brownie is pointing fingers at others for the tragic and in some instances plainly avoidable deaths in NOLA is hardly surprising; refusing to take responsibility for one's actions is a key prerequisite to getting a job in Commander Cokehead's administration.

What I thought was more telling was Brown's assertion that the absence of media briefings on his schedule, not the media's, was his biggest mistake. The administration's penchant for controlling spin is so big and pathological that they can't even distinguish bad press from the real emergency at hand.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Speaking of mass-media whoring...

I watched some of Aaron Brown on CNN tonight. A short segment purported to take on the "question" of whether global warming had anything to do with the destructive power of Katrina and Rita. Arguing that there is (to a greater or lesser degree) a strong case that human activity is making these things worse were a parade of bona fide academics. Arguing to the contrary (because hey, that's what fair and balanced news is all about) was some guy (I think it was Steven Milloy) from the Cato Institute.

Now I thought Cato was about winger politics, not swimming upstream on science. So I let my fingers do the googling. And I found this brilliant summary of the way global warming "experts" including the Cato clan, have been created, bought and paid for by Exxon.

Yo, CNN... don't you think this is just a wee bit relevant to the "he said, she said" nonsense that you seem to think qualifies as journalism?

Independent media = Al Qaeda

The Guardian: Guantanamo inmate says US told him to spy on al-Jazeera

The US military told an al-Jazeera cameraman being held at Guantánamo Bay that he would be released as long as he agreed to spy on journalists at the Arabic news channel, according to documents seen by the Guardian.
The journalist has been in the prison without charge for three-and-a-half years after being accused by the US of being a terrorist, allegations he denies. He claims that he has been interrogated more than 100 times but not asked about alleged terrorist offences. Instead, Sami Muhyideen al-Hajj says US military personnel have alleged during interrogation that al-Jazeera has been infiltrated by al-Qaida and that one of its presenters is linked to Islamists.

This reminds me of the joke (I think it came from the Daily Show) about how Bush doesn't have gray matter between the ears, he has black and white matter. There are only two kinds of media as far as the Bush mafia is concerned. There is the corporate whoreocracy, which they effectively carry in their back pockets, and there is everybody else. By daring to cast this train wreck of an administration as, well, a train wreck, Al Jazeera makes itself the Enemy, interchangeable with all other elements of said Enemy. Al Jazeera, Al Qaeda, Al DiMeola, whatever.

Greenspan: Homeowners could weather price drop

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, softening his concern about a possibly overheated housing market, said Monday that many homeowners have enough equity to cushion the shock if prices drop.

On housing, Greenspan continued to register concerns about soaring house prices and some people taking out risky mortgages to buy expensive homes that they otherwise couldn't afford.

But he indicated that most homeowners are in a fairly good position in the event that house prices drop.

"The vast majority of homeowners have a sizable equity cushion with which to absorb a potential decline in house prices," he said. Less than 5% of home borrowers were highly leveraged, according to one measure, he cited.

When I read this, my first thoughts were of all the cautionary articles I'd seen throughout the year talking about how many people were in way over their heads. Factoids from the first one I pulled out, an MSM column published last December:

Nearly 9% of the mortgages made last year were subprime, or made to people with troubled credit or uncertain finances. That’s up from 4.5% in 1994. In terms of volume, $388 billion in subprime-mortgage loans were originated in the first nine months of this year -- more than triple the amount made eight years ago, according to Inside Mortgage Finance Publications, a Bethesda, Md., company that provides news and statistics to the residential-lending industry.

Zero-down loans totaled more than $80 billion last year. They were virtually nonexistent a decade ago. Another relatively recent phenomenon is the 125% loan. It allows people to borrow more than their homes are worth.

More than one-third of mortgage applications in recent weeks have been for adjustable, rather than fixed-rate, mortgages. ARMs expose consumers to more risk, because their payments can rise along with interest rates.

Interest-only loans were, until five years ago, almost exclusively a product for the wealthy, who had plenty of real estate exposure in their portfolio. Now they’re being pushed as a viable alternative for the average Joe -- who is probably underestimating the potential risk he’s taking on. Interest-only loans now make up 25% of all the loans that are securitized, or sold to investors, and are even being pushed in the subprime market.

These kinds of numbers suggest to me that Greenspan's figure of 5% at risk is pretty rosy. But even if it's accurate, what's the "tipping point" wherein a limited number of foreclosures or personal bankruptcies start undermining the economy (national or local)? I'm certainly no economist, but if five percent of Rhode Islanders went bust tomorrow, I'm pretty sure it would mean wider-spread Bad Things and affect my financial well-being as well.

Bush: Gov't May Tap Petroleum Reserve

You have to give him credit: the man has balls of cast iron. Faced with forty-ish approval ratings on everything he touches, still recovering from the debacle of his guitar-strumming nonresponse and his FEMA director's marguerita-driven obliviousness as a major American city (literally) went under, and looking so vulnerable that the tabs are reporting that he's fallen off the wagon as well as his bicycle yet again, what does Chimpy McCodpiece decide to do? Why, ram some failed legislation down the throats of the American public and throw some cash at his drinking buddies:

President Bush urged Americans on Monday to cut back on unnecessary travel to make up for fuel shortages caused by Hurricane Rita. He prepared to take his seventh trip to the Gulf Coast.

Bush said the government was ready to release fuel from its emergency oil stockpile to alleviate high prices. And he suggested he would name a federal official to oversee the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast - after local officials first produce a vision for their rebuilt communities.

The president spoke after he attended a meeting at the Energy Department in which officials told him they still were trying to assess the damage to oil production and refineries in Rita's path.
Congress plans to move quickly this week on legislation aimed at providing incentives for refinery expansion or constructions and provisions that are aimed at more energy production, especially natural gas. Other bills would ease some air pollution requirements on refineries, open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling and allow states to override existing bans on natural gas drilling in coastal waters.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the president wants to work with Congress to increase refining capacity and expand environmentally responsible oil and gas exploration, although the White House is still reviewing the new proposals that will be debated this week.
Do those congressional plans sound familiar? They should. They're so malignant and misguided that they didn't even merit inclusion in the Preznit's Omnibus Giveaway to Big Oil Energy Policy Act of 2005.

If Satan's sense of humor is as twisted as I imagine it to be, the fires in the Narcissist-in-Chief's room in hell will be fueled with renewable energy sources. Which is to say, they will never, ever go out.

MSM Math



Almost the same, right?

Of course, the fair and balanced thing is to give them both equal exposure -- that is to say, virtually none.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Weekend Wanker: Christopher Hitchens

The pleasures that come from watching total wingnuts are somewhat different than those that come from watching the much rarer birds, the tortured, conflicted souls who must somehow live with the dissonance that comes when authoritarian knee-jerkings inhabit a body that somehow also retains logic receptors.

The unadulterated whacko offers amusement, but the game becomes tiresome; taking on the occasional Alan Keyes or Pat Robertson is intellectual junk food because they offer no substance.

Watching the more intelligent conservatives try to reconcile thinking with supporting the War on Terrah and its leading practitioner is far more nutritous.

Andrew Sullivan usually entertains in his doomed quest for the spot in the Republican Party where intelligent openly gay men are accepted. And so amid his potpourri of other positions, some of which make perfect sense, you get well-argued nonsense like Sullivan’s passionate defense of the flypaper theory, or his foam-at-the-mouth reaction to Noam Chomsky on Real Time last year.

I had not spent a lot of time exposed to Hitchens’ ranting, so I was surprised to see from his appearance on Real Time that he was cut from similar cloth.

As with Sullivan, he offered a number of reasonable views and criticisms of Bush here and there. But his blind spot, as with Sully, is his absolute adherence to Bush’s insane approach to radical Islam.

Where Hitch went off the deep end was his justification for wholesale slaughter of thousands of Muslims by reference to 18th- century Muslim pirates who, according to Hitch, justified enslaving the white sailors from the ships they captured by reference to the Koran. For Hitch, it seems, that is enough to forever taint the Koran as a Holy book, and by extension all who embrace it.

OK, got that? Religion used to justify bad acts. Therefore, religion and its followers bad, and deserving of foreign occupation, torture and other benefits of our enlightened assistance.

By Hitchen's logic, of course, Catholicism is equally irredeemable (the Inquisition did not end until 1834), and our own Republic (and, by extension, the religion of its leaders) is forever benighted by its embrace of slavery, which did not end until well after the episode Hitchens rides like a remora.


So much for bake sales for bombers...

The Observer via Shakespeare's Sister:

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt…

The public's reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration's attempt to offer citizens 'a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

Remember the Vietnam-era slogan?

Well, kids, our schools are even worse off than they were then, but I think we can now rule out bake sales for bombers, given the unwillingness of the neocons to lift a finger to support their own adventurism in Iraq.

This is amazing stuff, and deserves to be publicized far and wide.

Entergy New Orleans files for bankruptcy in wake of Katrina

via MSN Money, which is no coincidence:

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The New Orleans subsidiary of Entergy Corporation is declaring bankruptcy.

The move by Entergy New Orleans into Chapter Eleven protection comes as it works to restore gas and power service to the city. The request for "debtor-in-possession" financing would have the parent company make up to 200 (m) million dollars in loans to the utility. It's asking that up to 150 (m) million of that loans be approved on an interim basis.

Without sorting through reams of mind-meltingly boring court filings to get to the true details, this is a bit speculative. But as I noted previously, Entergy does big business with NBC's parent GE. If Entergy uses the bankruptcy to walk away from big debts to GE, it will be interesting to see how it affects NBC's coverage.

Oh, right... corporate never dictates editorial policy. Silly me.

Ball Four redux

Nationals suspend chapel leader after comments about Jews

The Washington Nationals on Tuesday suspended clubhouse credentials for a prayer service leader after a flap over comments about Jews.

Club officials said Jon Moeller will not be allowed access to the locker room while the team investigates. Meantime, the Nationals have asked the Christian ministry Baseball Chapel, which oversees clubhouse prayer services, to provide a replacement.

An article published Sunday in The Washington Post described outfielder Ryan Church asking Moeller if Jews are "doomed" because they do not believe in Jesus — to which Moeller reportedly nodded.

In a team statement issued Tuesday, Church said, "I am not the type of person who would call into question the religious beliefs of others."
It's possible that Church's question was a reflection of genuine naivete rather than bigoted malice, but if it wasn't, he shouldn't be surprised to eventually find himself in hell stepping into the batter's box day after day against Sandy Koufax. And Sandy ain't going to be pitching for the home team.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Whiskey Bar: Heart of Darkness

I wrote my own Heart of Darkness a few months ago. Billmon's is better, and it is just a (long) blog post, in which he works his way through the real-world pros and cons of immediate withdrawal from Iraquagmire. His analysis is just so dead nuts.

No excerpts. Just read it.

Chance the President

MoDo mocks Dubya's flailing Rita response. She quotes his brittle defense of his field trip to Northcom.
"See, Northcom is the main entity that interfaces - that uses federal assets, federal troops, to interface with local and state government. I want to watch that relationship."

Remember "Being There?" Chance the gardner (Peter Sellers) says, "Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch."

And many of the fools around him, seeing what they wanted to see, thought Chance a wise man, too.


Daily Kos: I'm On the Verge of Saying Screw the Anti-War Rally

I was seriously considering heading up to the local anti-war rally today. But when I went online yestarday to find the particulars, I saw that the march was about a bunch of other issues, including issues/positions I wanted nothing to do with. So I stayed home. Others, I now see, had a similar reaction:
Watching clips of the Answer Anti-War Rally, all I see are things that I want nothing to do with. I am a staunch supporter of Israel, and its fundamental right to exist. I bet you that the majority of Americans who are against the war are too. Yet I watch this rally and see people basically supporting the Hamas, etc., and the suicide killings of innocent Israelis in cafes, on buses, etc.

If you want to break down the coalition of people against the war, turning this into a hate the Jews/Israel party is an easy way to do it. So, I suggest this: back the f--k off other issues, and concentrate on the one issue that unites us, and unites this community with the majority of the American people: The Iraq War was A Mistake, and the US should pull out as fast as possible. As a subsidiary to this: George W. Bush is responsible for the biggest foreign policy blunder (i.e. Iraq) since at least Vietnam, and should be held accountable. Going beyond this to other pet issues of the so-called far-left is going to break this coalition down and kill the common cause.

If I wanted to be funny about it, I would compare this situation to the way in Monty Python's classic "Life of Brian" the People's Judean Front is too busy squabbling with the Judean People's Front to ever get around to dealing with the Romans. But this ain't funny -- it is totally counterproductive. Which makes me think about the Spartacus Youth Leauge, a group that mucked things up at my college long ago. Though they claimed to be far-left, I always thought they were so effective at splintering, and thus neutering the rest of the leftists that they were probably CIA plants. Reading in my alumni magazine that the leader of our campus Sparts became a commodities trader after graduation did little to change my view.

So stop this shit, please. U.S. out of Iraq, period.

Score one for the blogs

The Left Coaster: Top Republican Tells Post: Laura Has Taken Away Bush's Swagger

The Left Coaster quotes herd animal WaPo, which, mirabile dictu, is following the herd now tugging at Bush's entrails:
(A) growing number of Republicans inside and out of the White House have noticed an administration less sure-footed and slower to react to the political environment surrounding them.
A top Republican close to the White House since the earliest days said the absence of a "reelection target" and pressure from first lady Laura Bush and others to soften his second-term tone conspired to temper Bush's swagger well before Katrina hit. "A reelection campaign was always the driving principle to force them to get things together," said the GOP operative, who would speak candidly about Bush only if his name was not used. He said the "brilliance of this team" was always overstated. "Part of the reason they looked so good is Democrats were so discombobulated." Since the election, this official said, White House aides reported that Laura Bush was among those counseling Bush to change his cowboy image during the final four years.
William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, said the psychological turnabout started with the failed Social Security campaign, billed as the number one domestic priority six months ago. "The negative effect of the Social Security [campaign] is underestimated," Kristol said. "Once you make that kind of mistake, people tend to be less deferential to your decisions." This coincided with a growing number of Republicans losing faith in Bush's war plan, as Republicans such as Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) openly questioned the president's strategy.

When I talk with friends who do not spend large slugs of time in our corner of the blogosphere, I find myself having to explain and justify what we do. Beyond talking to ourselves, it is not always obvious what we accomplish. The WaPo won't come right out and say it, natch, but to me, this is pretty dramatic evidence that what we did made a difference.

The Bush plan to destroy Social Security required that they be given free reign to once again define black as white and have carte blanche to control the terminology and tenor of the debate. As with the invasion if Iraq, these criminals can get what they want only by using language and visuals in a giant game of 3-card monte. But this time they failed. The left hemiblogosphere was relentless in hammering the MSM every time they parroted White House talking points and used misleading or false statistics. Stars like Josh Marshall did important work in holding the feet of every individual Senator and Congressperson to the fire -- if they so much as waffled, we all knew about it, and the feedback loop was very effective in helping Harry Reid keep the Dems in Congress in line. And as the Rovians are now admitting, those small deflections started an unraveling that is spreading to everything else this cancerous cabal touches.

Individually, I am a gnat on the ass of an elephant. Together with a multitude of other pests, we are dragging down their malignant dreams of empire.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The George W. Bush National Yellow Elephant Sanctuary

Ballsy genius:

Just shoot me

The Times:Liberal star may stand to terminate Arnie's career
WARREN BEATTY is considering a challenge to Arnold Schwarzenegger for the governorship of California next year in what could be a battle of the celebrities.
Speculation over Mr Beatty’s political ambitions began after he addressed a nurses’ union on Thursday. To wild applause and chants of “run, Warren, run”, Mr Beatty, a long-time liberal campaigner, promised to campaign against Mr Schwarzenegger’s “insulting and bullying” attacks on nurses, teachers and firefighters.

Mr Schwarzenegger, 58, a Republican and naturalised American who harnessed his Hollywood star appeal to win a “recall election ” victory two years ago, recently said that he would run again for the governorship. Polls show the one-time Mr Universe’s popularity’s to be dwindling, though the Austrian-born Mr Schwarzenegger still hopes to change the constitution so that he may one day be able to run for the White House.

Mr Beatty, 68, has been involved in politics since 1968, when he campaigned with Robert Kennedy, who was assassinated that year. He also supported Senator George McGovern.
On Thursday Mr Beatty attacked the proposals of Mr Schwarzenegger to limit state spending and reduce the power of Democrats in the legislature. The proposals have encountered entrenched opposition, forcing the Governor to take the measures directly to voters with a special election in November.

Mr Schwarzenegger believes that his celebrity power will overwhelm the electorate. The involvement of Mr Beatty, however, could change that.

Government is not showbusiness,” said Mr Beatty, as delegates of the union convention repeatedly interrupted him with standing ovations.

And yet in next year's race for governor, the good people of California -- all eight of us -- could be faced with a choice between a has-been actor with a history of womanizing and no relevant experience on the one hand, and Arnold on the other.

This is just wonderful.

I went into hiding from my 49-state friends when the Gropinator became my governor. I consoled myself with the knowledge that I had voted against every actor* I could. Now what?

*(A long time ago, Robert Klein had a talk show. Huntz Hall was once a guest. Klein brought up the fact that a young Ronald Reagan had appeared in a "Bowery Boys" short. Klein asked him if he had ever imagined that Reagan would ever become President. Hall replied, "Are you kidding? I never imagined that he would ever become an actor.")

From what I little know, I like a lot of Beatty's politics. But somehow I just don't see how the best response to the opinion of the rest of the country that we in California really are star-struck, shallow fools is to prove them right. Again.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

"Christian" School expels student for having two moms

via Americablog:
A 14-year-old student was expelled from a Christian school because her parents are lesbians, the school's superintendent said in a letter.

Shay Clark was expelled from Ontario Christian School on Thursday.

"Your family does not meet the policies of admission," Superintendent Leonard Stob wrote to Tina Clark, the girl's biological mother.
Please make sure you are sitting down, because Mr. Bluememe is about to quote Scripture:

Do not hold against us the sins of the fathers;
may your mercy come quickly to meet us,
for we are in desperate need. Psalm 79:8.

Yet he did not put their sons to death, but acted in accordance with what is written in the Law, in the Book of Moses, where the LORD commanded: "Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sins." 2 Chronicles 25:4.

But what do I know. I'm just a poor Pastafarian.

How Convenient the Church Lady used to say.

The good Doctor Bloor reports that Dr. Lester Crawford, who took the reins at the FDA as a spring chicken of (depending on when his birthday falls) 66 or 67 years young a mere three months ago, is retiring because "it is time at the age of 67 to step aside."

He also informs us that Senate Majority Leader and admitted cat vivisectionist Dr. Bill Frist is blinking into the SEC's klieg lights over a recent Martha Stewart-ish stock sale. As reported elsewhere, Dr. Frist's sold his Hospital Corporation of America stock, which was worth perhaps $5 to $25 million, and which he had presumably held since his father founded the company in 1968. The reason he suddenly sold? No, not the looming announcement of poor results, which sent the stock skidding, and which, utterly by coincidence, was announced less than two weeks after the sale. As Frist's spokesperson explained, ''To avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest, Senator Frist went beyond what ethics requires and sold the stock."

Since both men are doctors, and the Hypocritical Hippocratic Oath is commonly understood (though as it turns out, not in so many words) to require that physicians "first do no harm," logic compels us to conclude that it is the view of Republican doctors that lying through your ass does no harm. Which, when you think about it, explains a great deal.

Embattled Commissioner of F.D.A. Resigns

Lester M. Crawford resigned as the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration this afternoon, telling his staff that at 67, he is ready to retire.

Dr. Crawford has been in the post only since July, yet his tenure was marked by several controversies, including delays on the approval of over-the-counter sales of the morning-after pill and questions about whether the F.D.A. had acted quickly enough to inform consumers about dangers involving popular medicines like the pain pill Vioxx and antidepressants like Zoloft.

In an interoffice memo he addressed to "all-hands," Dr. Crawford gave no other reason for his abrupt resignation other than to say that "it is time at the age of 67 to step aside. I am doing so with deep gratitude to the President and both Secretaries of Health and Human Services for whom I have been privileged to serve."

Dr. Crawford has worked for the agency off an on since 1978, serving as deputy commissioner before he was named acting commissioner and then commissioner. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael O. Leavitt accepted Crawford's resignation "with sadness," a spokeswoman for the department, Christina Pearson, told The Associated Press. "We thank him for his service and wish him well."

Asked if he was forced to resign, Ms. Pearson declined further comment, calling the matter a personnel issue.
During his consideration for the top post, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Patty Murray of Washington threatened to keep the nomination from the floor unless Dr. Crawford prompted his agency to make a long-delayed decision on whether the so-called morning-after pill may be sold over the counter.

An inquiry into reports of the affair found some inconsistencies between his and the woman's explanations of some of their interactions, but investigators found no evidence of an affair, and no senator wanted to pursue the issue further.
"Ms. Pearson later explained that Dr. Crawford's abrupt departure from the FDA building, accompanied by security personnel carrying boxes of his personal effects, was an 'honor guard' in recognition of his fine service."

Given that his controversies were simply at BushCo's bidding and the pre-confirmation affair rumors are old news, it's hard not to wonder if some variation of the dead girl/live boy dynamic is in play here.

Agency Calls On Frist About Timing of Stock Sale

A spokesman for Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, said Thursday that the Securities and Exchange Commission had contacted Mr. Frist's office about the sale in June of his shares in HCA, the giant hospital company founded by his family.

Mr. Frist, whose brother Thomas F. Frist Jr. is chairman emeritus and the largest individual shareholder of the company, disclosed earlier this week that on June 13 he asked the managers of blind trusts controlling many of his assets to sell any of his remaining shares in HCA.

The sales occurred just as the share price reached a new peak and shortly before the company's announcement in mid-July of lower-than-expected quarterly results sent the price tumbling.

I liked that headline--the SEC "Calls On" Senator Frist. Hearing the doorbell ring on a sunny Sunday afternoon to see that SEC Agent Smith is "calling on" you is, I would imagine, only slightly less awful than opening the door and seeing a hooded guy with a scythe.

If this goes down, it would have the semi-hollow feeling of getting Capone on tax evasion, but I'm happy to live with anything that works.

Pastafarians rejoice!

House OKs Faith As Head Start Hiring Issue

The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances.

The Republican-led House approved a bill that lets churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion, yet still receive federal tax dollars.

Democrats blasted that idea as discriminatory.

Launched in the 1960s, the nearly $7 billion Head Start program provides comprehensive education to more than 900,000 poor children. Though credited for getting kids ready for school, Head Start has drawn scrutiny as cases of financial waste and questions about academic quality have surfaced nationwide.

Overall, the House bill would insert more competition into Head Start grants, require greater disclosure of how money is spent, and try to improve collaboration among educators in different grades. Yet on Thursday, the dispute over religion eroded the bipartisan support for Head Start's renewal.

The House passed the bill 231-184; only 23 Democrats voted for it.

Mr. Bluememe, that incorrigible prankster, sends links like this along to me knowing full well that my head explodes when reading them. But there will be no flying gray matter today! Think of it--no longer will the educations of our little rotini and gnoccheti be corrupted by those who have not been touched by His Noodly Appendage, and who cling to the dogma of baser religions with their patently absurd notions about the origins of the universe.

No, by the time our little ones reach grade school, they will not only be little reading demons, they will be fully versed and wholly literate in the Word of the FSM, from Angel Hair to Ziti. And when the time comes, they will ace the SAT examinations tailored to FSM adherents that will be cheerfully distributed by our learned friends at the Educational Testing Service.

Sword, meet Pen

Sharon Olds has long been one of my favorite poets. Aside from being a sublime and powerful writer--there are still huge swaths of The Father that I can't get through without tears and goosebumps, and it's not even her best stuff--it was nice knowing that someone at NYU had a soul during the years that John Brademas was executing his scorched earth policy toward Greenwich Village and areas of academic study that did not attract corporate dollars (it was nice having Galway Kinnell around, too).

Another reason to love her is that she's a pretty good letter writer, too:

Laura Bush
First Lady
The White House

Dear Mrs. Bush,

I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on September 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.

In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.
So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books and meet some of the citizens of Washington, DC. I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, and to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture and another country--with the resultant loss of life and limb for our brave soldiers, and for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" and forced on the people by distorted language, and by untruths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny and religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance and diversity our nation aspires to.
I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war.

But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

As the editors at The Nation pointed out, Jules Feiffer similarly shredded an invitation from the First Lady a few years back, for pretty much the same reasons. Maybe Ron Silver can make himself available to do a reading from "My Pet Goat."

Thursday, September 22, 2005

ACLU sues Homeland Security for arresting, spying on vegans who protested ham

via Raw Story:

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta on behalf of two vegan protesters who were subjected to imprisonment, arrest and harassment by Homeland Security officials, RAW STORY has learned.

The lawsuit stems from a Dec. 2003 incident, when vegans Caitlin Childs and Christopher Freeman were protesting on public property outside a Honey Baked Ham store in Georgia's DeKalb County.

After the protest, the duo noticed they were being watched and photographed by a man in an unmarked car. They approached the car and wrote down the make, model, color and license plate number on a piece of paper. They then noticed the unmarked car was following them.

According to the ACLU suit, the car contained both a uniformed police officer and an undercover detective, later identified as Homeland Security Detective D.A. Gorman. The two pulled in behind Childs and Freeman and ordered them to exit their car.

Gorman then demanded that she turn over the piece of paper on which she had copied his license tag number. Childs refused to hand the paper over, and was handcuffed.

She was searched a male officer, despite her request to be searched only by a female officer, the ACLU says.

Both Childs and Freeman were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. Police confiscated the piece of paper and Childs' house keys. Both were released from custody, but neither the piece of paper nor the keys were returned. The county has not pursued a criminal case.

Sure, all you commie symps think there is something wrong here. But perhaps you have forgotten... Hitler was a vegetarian. Nothing more need be said.

Be who we want (the party) to be

Shakespeare's Sister led me to this wisdom from a comment on the driftglass blog:
I'm just as critical as anyone else who complains that the Democratic Party hasn't done enough to distinguish itself from the Republicans, by and large.

This presents a number of options:

1) Despair that both parties suck and give up.
2) Despair that both parties suck, but since one sucks marginally less than the other, support it.
3) Despair that both parties suck and try to start a third party.
4) Wait until, by act of Divine Grace, some messianic candidate will appear who will fix things.
5) Work with others who feel as you do to gain control over one of the parties.

Since I started paying attention, in the mid-seventies, progressives have mostly been bouncing back and forth between choices 1, 2, 3 and 4.... while the right-wingers chose Door Number 5.

Here's the thing about these options, respectively:

1) Giving up means that your opponent has won. Not an option, given our opponent.

2) This works fine, assuming can resign yourself to electing people who suck marginally more or less than one another.

3) This is doomed to failure for a number of reasons. In a winner-take-all system, third party candidates are spoilers at best. And the voting reforms needed to change the winner-take-all nature of national politics won't happen: The bloated, inertial bodies of the Democratic & Republican party will stand together in concert to impede the way of the establishment of any 'progressive' party.

4) Messiahs get crucified. (c.f. The Dean Scream, Gary Hart, RFK, and an endless array of others ) If we’re to take our country back, it isn’t going to be because some great political giant will come along and make the Bad Men Go Away: if there isn’t sufficient ground work, even a giant can be brought down by an army of Lilliputians. To effect political change, you need a bunch of people who can give air cover and ground support to even the most exemplary of leaders. Especially them.

5) This is the strategy that worked for the right-wing loonies who blight our nation... back when they found themselves in a similar fix to the one we're in now. The media was against them. They didn't have the presidency, the house or the senate. For them, 1964 was like our 2004. You know how crazy the media made Dean seem to the Man in the Street? That was Barry Goldwater 40 years ago: "In your guts, you know he's nuts". So what did they do? They took the long view and decided that a Republican Party without much going for it was the perfect Host Organism for them. Why start from scratch when there's an organization with a national presence that one can take control of?

If I'm reading driftglass right, he's saying that if you don't like these Democrats, then it's time to raise us up a whole new crop. But to do that, we have to plant seeds, water them, fertilize them, and not just stand around waiting to see if this year the crops look better than the field we left fallow last year.

On a personal level, because I don't like a whole lot of the Democrats we've got now, I'm trying to become the kind of Democrat I want to see more of. It's an inside job.

I think we’ve got to look to each other, starting on the local level, in our communities... to build a political climate in which we rise up through the ranks... supporting each other with time and money... and increasingly occupy positions of influence and authority in order to institute the changes we desire and desperately need.

If you think that'll take time, you're absolutely right. There's no time to waste.

But if anyone has got a better alternative, I'd love to hear the plan.

In a sense, we who blog have started this process. We congratulate ourselves for our successes, but they are small and isolated at this point. Blogging is still kind of hermetic and elitist. Taking over the party is, unfortunately, neither of those things.

Somehow, we need to get from here to there. And maybe the way to do it is at really is at the schoolboard and city council level, just like the wingnuts did it.

Republicans to World: We think he sucks, too

From that sneaky little shit, Niedermayer Novak:

Bashing Bush in Aspen

For two full days, George W. Bush was bashed. He was taken to task on his handling of stem cell research, population control, the Iraq war and, especially, Hurricane Katrina. The critics were no left-wing bloggers. They were rich, mainly Republican and presumably Bush voters in the last two presidential elections.

The Bush-bashing occurred last weekend at the annual Aspen conference sponsored by the New York investment firm Forstmann Little & Co. Over 200 invited guests, mostly prestigious, arrived Thursday night (many by private aircraft) and stayed until Sunday morning for more than golf, hikes and gourmet meals. They faithfully attended the discussions presided over by PBS's Charlie Rose on such serious subjects as "global poverty and human rights" and "the 'new' world economy." The connecting link was hostility to President Bush.

"All discussions are off the record," admonished the conference's printed schedule.

Consequently, I will refrain from specifically quoting panelists and audience members. But the admonition says nothing about personal conversations outside the sessions. Nor do I feel inhibited in quoting myself. Even if I am violating the spirit of secrecy rules, revealing criticism of Bush by this elite group, and the paucity of defense for him, is valuable in reflecting the president's parlous political condition.
Poor dears; It's so hard being a Republican these days. No truth to the rumor that they all volunteered to return their obscene windfalls of recent years.

And a question for the editors at Is having the Douchebag of Liberty articulate his thinking about "secrecy rules" some sort of inside joke?

Eloquence... and the opposite

MoDo vents in her latest piece, "Message: I Can't":

There's nothing more pathetic than watching someone who's out of touch feign being in touch. On his fifth sodden pilgrimage of penitence to the devastation he took so long to comprehend, W. desperately tried to show concern. He said he had spent some "quality time" at a Chevron plant in Pascagoula and nattered about trash removal, infrastructure assessment teams and the "can-do spirit."

"We look forward to hearing your vision so we can more better do our job," he said at a briefing in Gulfport, Miss., urging local officials to "think bold," while they still need to think mold.

"Sodden pilgrimage of penitance." Wow. A lot more better than.... oh, screw it.

Sure, sure. the ability to put together sentences is not at the top of the list of qualifications for President for most people. But Shrub's language deficit isn't an outlier -- it is a damned good predictor of his incompetence in pretty much every other sphere.

America, we can do more better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Billmon: Appeasing North Korea

A few days ago, in an improvident and uninformed moment, I actually gave the Bushies credit for progress on the North Korean situation. Billmon knows better, and explains what a hypocritical mess they made of this one, too.

Serves me right.

Maybe NOLA isn't the only thing that isn't dry anymore...

Here's a lede you would've never expected to see on bluememe: Check out this story over at the National Enquirer:

Faced with the biggest crisis of his political life, President Bush has hit the bottle again, The National Enquirer can reveal.

Bush, who said he quit drinking the morning after his 40th birthday, has started boozing amid the Katrina catastrophe.

Family sources have told how the 59-year-old president was caught by First Lady Laura downing a shot of booze at their family ranch in Crawford, Texas, when he learned of the hurricane disaster.

His worried wife yelled at him: "Stop, George."

Following the shocking incident, disclosed here for the first time, Laura privately warned her husband against "falling off the wagon" and vowed to travel with him more often so that she can keep an eye on Dubya, the sources add.

"When the levees broke in New Orleans, it apparently made him reach for a shot," said one insider. "He poured himself a Texas-sized shot of straight whiskey and tossed it back. The First Lady was shocked and shouted: "Stop George!"

"Laura gave him an ultimatum before, 'It's Jim Beam or me.' She doesn't want to replay that nightmare — especially now when it's such tough going for her husband."

Bush is under the worst pressure of his two terms in office and his popularity is near an all-time low. The handling of the Katrina crisis and troop losses in Iraq have fueled public discontent and pushed Bush back to drink.

A Washington source said: "The sad fact is that he has been sneaking drinks for weeks now. Laura may have only just caught him — but the word is his drinking has been going on for a while in the capital. He's been in a pressure cooker for months.

"The war in Iraq, the loss of American lives, has deeply affected him. He takes every soldier's life personally. It has left him emotionally drained.

The result is he's taking drinks here and there, likely in private, to cope. "And now with the worst domestic crisis in his administration over Katrina, you pray his drinking doesn't go out of control."

This is some seriously scary shit. But I am skeptical. I don't believe for a minute that "He takes every soldier's life personally."

The article quotes Dr. Justin "Bush on the Couch" Frank, who does think Bush may be drinking again. But if the folks at the Enquirer had actually read the book, they'd know that there's no way the emotionally crippled Bush is capable of the kind of empathy that feeling the suffering of others requires.

He may indeed have reverted to being a wet drunk, but the cause is related to the suffering of others only because they reflect back on him and raise the temerature in his own personal stewpot.

Things that make you go "hmmm." Not.

Robert Reich wonders aloud about why BushCo is so eager to use their competitive leverage to drive down workers' wages as they rebuild the Big Easy, even while they see no reason to use the same leverage to solicit bids that might take some money out of the pockets of the folks at PfizerHalliEnron.

Worth a listen.

Immune Response?

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - Valero Energy Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Bill Greehey said Hurricane Rita's impact on U.S. crude oil production and refining could be a "national disaster."

"If it hits the refineries, and we're short refining capacity, you're going to see gasoline prices well over $3.00 a gallon at the pump," Greehey said in a Tuesday night interview.

Valero became the largest U.S. refiner earlier this year when it completed the purchase of Premcor Inc. Valero operates refineries in Port Arthur, Houston, Texas City and Corpus Christi, Texas -- all potentially in the path of Hurricane Rita.

"It's going to be coming across the (U.S.) Gulf (of Mexico)," Greehey said. "There's a lot of oil platforms, oil rigs, (natural) gas platforms, gas rigs. It could have a significant impact on supply and prices, and then, depending on what it does to the refineries, there are still four refineries that are shut down. So this really is a national disaster."

Remember the Gaia hypothesis?
Courtesy Wiki:
Gaia theory today is a spectrum of hypotheses, ranging from the undeniable (Weak Gaia) to the radical (Strong Gaia).

At one end is the undeniable statement that the organisms on the Earth have radically altered its composition. A stronger position is that the Earth's biosphere effectively acts as if it is a self-organizing system, which works in such a way as to keep its systems in some kind of meta-equilibrium that is broadly conducive to life.

If you accept that global warming is (a) real, (b) caused and/or exacerbated by the burning of fossil fuels, and (c) highly destabilizing to the system, then a series of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes aimed at our oil infrastructure seem to suggest a remarkably evolved and sophisticated immune response trying to rid the global organism of a pathogen.

Now that's a version of "intelligent design" I can get behind.

Chafee to back Roberts for court

From today's Providence Journal:

Republican Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee said yesterday that he will vote to confirm federal appellate Judge John G. Roberts Jr. as chief justice of the Supreme Court, despite his concern that Roberts may seek to restrict abortion rights.

Even if he proves to be a staunch conservative, Chafee reasoned, Roberts would not disturb the court's narrow majority in favor of abortion rights or move the court to the right on other key issues because he would be replacing another staunch conservative -- the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

Besides, Chafee asserted, Roberts has given encouraging signals that he will respect the judicial precedents in favor of legal abortion and other positions that Chafee favors.

"We were all bowled over by the depth of his intellect and his accomplishments," Chafee added of Roberts.
The candidates for Chafee's seat in next year's election split along party lines when surveyed on the Roberts nomination. Secretary of State Matt Brown and former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats, said they oppose the nomination principally because Roberts did not make clear during his confirmation hearings that he supports abortion rights.

Cranston Mayor Stephen P. Laffey, a Republican, issued a printed statement in support of "this mainstream nominee," as he called Roberts. Laffey declined to answer questions about his position.
Chafee noted that crucial elements of a woman's right to abortion have been affirmed in a series of 5-to-4 votes in the high court. "O'Connor was one of the five and Rehnquist was one of the four," he said, reasoning that a conservative replacement for the conservative Rehnquist would not change the result in similar cases.
Some allies in the abortion-rights camp, he said, have told him "they understand" his position.

This is so completely unfuckingsurprising that I could barely bring myself to read the text. The boilerplate article, which I assume the Projo keeps on permanent file is: Chafee announces support for BushCo nominee/appointment/foriegn policy folly/domestic policy disaster/attempt to shred bill of rights du jour; Projo directly or implicitly reminds readers that he is a "moderate" Republican who actually opposes many of the specifics of issue at hand that he is about to support through his vote; Chafee offers up lame-ass excuse for voting against stated moderate beliefs; Projo offers quote from righter-wing whacko--Steve Laffey has been particularly convenient lately--in a redoubled effort to persuade readers that Chafee is moderate.

I'd be interested in finding out exactly how some of Chafee's "allies in the abortion-rights camp" have found a way to "understand" his reasoning. Maybe the chuckleheads at NARAL can clarify.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Adventures in Poll Shitting

The Mystery Pollster crunches Dubya's tanking numbers. Katrina is not his biggest problem. "Strong and Decisive Leader" is the number the insiders seem to care about, and it was heading south before, though it has gotten bunches worse after Katrina:

The coining of a new oxymoron

The Texans-only scramble to win the George W. Bush Presidential Library surged into high gear on the eve of today's deadline as Arlington and six other contenders bid for a prize laden with international prestige and hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits.

George W. Bush Presidential Library? Let's see... a basement filled with millions of classified documents no one will ever be allowed to see; Karl Rove's first edition of Machiavelli's "The Prince;" an urn containing the ashes of the Bill of Rights; and 100 declassified copies of the only book Shrub was ever seen actually reading, though it is a mystery why scholars would venture to Texas to thumb through "My Pet Goat."

Alaska to Katrina victims: Drop Dead

You probably recall how the recent federal highway bill/pork-fest contained gajillions of ridiculous pet projects, the wors of which were a cope of bridges to nowhere in Alaska. Does Alaska's Congressman Don Young have any compassion for the victims of the worst disaster on U.S. soil in generations?

"'They can kiss my ear!' Young boomed when Sam Bishop, Washington correspondent for the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, asked him about the many pleas to redirect the bridge money.

'That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard,' Young went on, noting that Louisiana did quite well in his highway bill.

And, the congressman said, he helped the seafood industry donate more than $500,000 for hurricane victims. (That was at the 'Seafood Invitational,' a charity golf tournament Sept. 9 in Roslyn, Wash., Bishop reported Friday.)

'I raised enough money to give back to them voluntarily,' he said, 'and that's it!' "

Mr. Young appears to have forgotten the Alaska Earthquake of 1964, which registered somewhere between an 8.6 and a 9.2, caused a tsunami, and would have caused major damage and a killed lots of people if more than a few hardy souls lived there back then.

We'll be sure to remember your generosity, though. Dick.

Silver whining

Silence isn't golden for Silver

Actor Ron Silver says he has had fewer movie offers and dinner invitations since he parted political company with his Hollywood colleagues and spoke at the Republican National Convention last year.

But he is sinking his teeth into his new role: conservative activist. Today, Silver will release a documentary on DVD called "Broken Promises," a scathing criticism of what Silver considers the failures of the United Nations on its 60th anniversary.
"Broken Promises" has at its root the betrayed vision of an idealistic youth from the Lower East Side.

Silver grew up in a modest Jewish neighborhood, and his way to escape his parochial world, where everyone was defined by ethnicity and race, he says, was to go to the U.N. and just wander around.

"When I took that bus uptown and I saw those flags lined up on 1st Avenue, it opened up an entirely new world to me," he said. "There was such a sense of pride I felt.

"But over the years, that pride turned to disappointment, even anger, as he witnessed the U.N. repeatedly fall short of its noble goals, he said.
The hourlong DVD begins with the U.N.'s creation of Israel in 1948 — a seminal event that resonated in Silver's family and neighborhood but also had consequences far into the future.

The film reflects his conviction that the way the U.N. shifted from peacemaker to arbitrator, treating Arabs and Israelis as equals, foreshadows a fatal flaw in the organization's structure.
The notion that the U.N. should be lambasted for "treating Arabs and Israelis as equals"--as if that was ever the case--tells you more than you need to know about the film. But what I'm really wondering is how much time Silver devotes to discussing the U.S.'s involvement in U.N. corruption and our penchant for undermining U.N. missions.

Groundhog Day

US military planners are considering extended tours of duty for some units in Iraq if more US troops are needed for the upcoming elections there, a Pentagon spokesman said Monday.

Lawrence DiRita, the defense department's chief spokesman, said it was "entirely possible" commanders would want to boost the force in Iraq beyond its current level of 140,000.

"And I guess the thinking at the moment is, if we did need more and it was based on rotations, how would that work?" he said.

"And what would the impact be on units that might wind up getting extended a week or two beyond their one year?"

DiRita denied, however, that the reassessment of force levels was prompted by a surge in suicide bombings that have killed more than 200 civilians in Iraq over the past week.

"That's not a good way to determine how good or bad things are, by how many things are exploding," he told reporters.

Actually, Larry, most of us think that is an excellent measure. It certainly seemed to be the metric that Dear Leader wanted to use after a number of buildings and airplanes exploded on our soil four years ago. And I expect that the folks in Baghdad (you know, the ones O'Lielly worries can't get a cup of coffee) would validate that indicator as well.

Fact is, there seems to be an all-you-can-eat soup and IED bar over there, and Iraq is going to continue to need more troops than we have right up until the time when our military just plain breaks under the strain. In just a few months, extending tours with stop-loss orders is going to stop working. Then you are going to find that there is no artifice that will stop the losses.

That didn't take long

Kunstler's right on track:

Officials predict home-energy crisis as winter heating bills skyrocket

Public officials are warning that record-high energy prices coupled with lower federal heating-assistance funding could result in a heating crisis this winter for low-income and elderly people.

"There is an imminent emergency confronting millions of low-income Americans unable to afford the cost of rising energy prices," said Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, in a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Federal officials are forecasting an expensive winter. The Energy Information Administration, the statistical branch of the U.S. Department of Energy, predicts heating oil to be between 29 percent and 33 percent higher this winter than last winter, and natural gas to be 52 percent higher than last winter.
At a news conference yesterday at the Cranston home of Aram A. Ohanian, Reed and representatives from the state Energy Office and community action programs, called attention to the looming crisis for low-income families.

"In winter, we call it the heat-or-eat dilemma," said Darlene Lemoi, weatherization program director for West Bay Community Action.

Many people will be faced with the difficult choice of paying for food or paying their heating bills, she said.
They may as well go to the grocery store. If this winter is anything like the last two, there isn't a chance in hell they'll be able to cover their energy bills. And if you think they were slow in responding to Katrina, just watch the Feds on this one. Nothing easier to ignore than a slow, untelegenic crisis in the blue states.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Liberal blogging and columning are thankless tasks. Not so thankless as appearing in staged photo ops in destroyed cities, perhaps, but thankless, nonetheless. It is rare that even exemplary left-of-center work (not that I claim such status for my own scribblings, mind you) receives the encomiums of the established intelligentsia, let alone the imprimatur of a major think tank. So I am fairly bursting with pride with the news that my humble efforts have been recognized and rewarded.

Say hello to the newest Senior Recidivist at the Poor Man Institute for Freedom and Democracy and a Pony.

Mainstream media, please give me a few days to complete the paperwork with our in-house attorneys and publicists before rushing to book me on talk shows, panels, etc.

And because I know that with such notoriety will inevitably come the temptation to compromise my integrity, let me assure one and all that I am no Armstrong Williams. My opinions are not for sale. My forehead, on the other hand, is accepting bids.

Bottom looks like up

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's vow to rebuild the Gulf Coast did little to help his standing with the public, only 40 percent of whom now approve of his performance in office, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released Monday.

Just 41 percent of the 818 adults polled between Friday and Monday said they approved of Bush's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, while 57 percent disapproved.

And support for his management of the war in Iraq has dropped to 32 percent, with 67 percent telling pollsters they disapproved of how Bush is prosecuting the conflict.

Holy boat anchor, Batman. I had no idea these numbers could, uh, take on water so fast.

Perhaps this will help turn things around:
David Safavian, who oversees $300 billion of annual federal purchasing as director of the Office of Procurement Policy, has been arrested for three criminal charges relating to obstruction of a federal investigation. He resigned quietly last Friday.

RAW STORY previously reported that ex-gambling lobbyist Safavian had, "quietly advanced the interests of former clients under the cloak of a vocally anti-gambling Utah congressman" Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT). Safavian was Cannon's chief of staff.

The indictment refers to a 2002 trip arranged by Jack Abramoff, a Washington power lobbyist who arranged a trip to Scotland that took powerful House Rep. Bob Ney golfing. Abramoff was joined on the trip by former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed and David Safavian. According to the charges, Safavian "allegedly aided a Washington, D.C., lobbyist in the lobbyist's attempts to acquire GSA-controlled property in and around Washington, D.C."

OK, maybe not. But have no fear, Bush stalwarts. There's always the Fitzgerald investigation, and the possibility that Tom Delay will follow Abramoff to the big house. And Rita.

And the chance, if we are all really lucky, to see your man in some new fall colors:


The always-sagacious New York Times editorial board this morning:

In recent days, the United States judicial system and the Communist government of China both reached shameful milestones. In the United States, the New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been jailed for more than 75 days. Another employee of The Times, Zhao Yan, marked a full year in prison in China.


No one, except the Chinese authorities, knows precisely why Mr. Zhao was grabbed in a restaurant on Sept. 17, 2004, but it apparently was retaliation for The Times reporting in advance that the Chinese leader Jiang Zemin would retire. Mr. Zhao had nothing to do with that article, but the government has since charged him with leaking state secrets, a capital crime.


We are not suggesting that the American justice system can be compared to China's. Although the government shrouded its case in secrecy, Ms. Miller was allowed hearings and appeals. There has not been even a hint of due process for Mr. Zhao, who has no hope of justice if he goes to trial.

Well, that's pretty much exactly what they're doing here, isn't it? What a bunch of self-aggrandizing, disingenuous chuckleheads.

Actually, the differences in Zhao's and Miller's case are crucial. In China, they're keeping Zhao on ice because they can't risk the bad publicity that would go with executing him. In D.C., they're keeping Judy Kneepads on ice because they can't risk the bad publicity that would go with giving her a Medal of Freedom.

The hazards of dial-up blogging

Happily, high-speed connex is pending, although I've been saving this one since didn't want my busted dial-up service to keep from posting on it:

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Happily, the Dems didn't let them steal this one. But isn't it just like the SCLM to try to put it in Dewey's pocket?

Kunstler out-pessimisms me

All kinds of assumptions about the okay-ness of our recent collective behavior are headed out the window. This naturally beats a straight path to politics, since that is the theater in which our collective choices are dramatized. It really won't take another jolting event like a major hurricane or a terror incident or an H4N5 flu outbreak to take things over the edge -- though it is very likely that something else will happen. George W. Bush, and the party he represents, are headed into full Hooverization mode. After Katrina, nobody will take claims of governmental competence seriously.

The new assumption will be that when shit happens you are on your own. In this remarkable three weeks since New Orleans was shredded, no Democrat has stepped into the vacuum of leadership, either, with a different vision of what we might do now, and who we might become. This is the kind of medium that political maniacs spawn in. Something is out there right now, feeding on the astonishment and grievance of a whipsawed middle class, and it will have a lot more nourishment in the months ahead.

Can you think of anything to counter him with that doesn't sound like it comes from the soundtrack to "Annie"?

The devil's due

N.Korea accord reached, but so far just words

BEIJING (Reuters) - North Korea promised to give up its nuclear weapons program on Monday, defusing a high-stakes crisis, but skeptics said the deal hammered out in Beijing was long on words and short of action.

South Korea, the United States, Japan, Russia and China -- the other players in the six-party talks -- in exchange expressed a willingness to provide oil, energy aid and security guarantees.

Washington and Tokyo agreed to normalize ties with the impoverished and diplomatically isolated North, which pledged to rejoin the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

"The joint statement is the most important achievement in the two years since the start of six-party talks," Chinese chief negotiator Wu Dawei said. The seven-day session ended with a standing ovation by all delegates.

South Korea's unification minister, Chung Dong-young, went further, saying the agreement would serve as a first step toward dismantling the Cold War confrontation between the two Koreas.

I am as grudging in my acknowledgement of achievements by Team Bush as anyone. And everyone seems to be properly cautious in evaluating the latest news here. But even I have to admit that this development sounds like it is both important and genuine progress.

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