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Contributors (otherwise known as "The Aerheads"):

Walldon in New Jersey ---- Marketingace in Pennsylvania ---- Simoneyezd in Ontario
ChiTom in Illinois -- KISSweb in Illinois -- HoundDog in Kansas City -- The Binger in Ohio

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Packing the Courts

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that the Rethuglicans have one more way they are trying to pack the courts with their henchmen:

Washington -- A little-noticed provision in the massive House budget bill would fulfill the longtime goal of conservatives to split the San Francisco-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, creating a new 12th circuit appellate court and allowing President Bush to name a slate of new federal judges.

Conservatives long have claimed that the Ninth Circuit is too liberal, and that reputation was reinforced by the court's 2002 ruling that reciting the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools was an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

But legal observers say the outcome of such a split is likely to be a more liberal court making decisions for California, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands and a more conservative court serving seven other Western states now part of the Ninth Circuit -- Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.

Terrorists at the Office of the Joint Chiefs?

This is something I was unaware of, if it's true. A former US army intelligence officer, David Dionisi, says that the US Joint Chiefs of Staff once planned an attack against our homeland in order to blame it on Cuba:

They also need to understand their history. In 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented a plan called Operation Northwood, which is now declassified. It proposed conducting mass casualty attacks on American targets and blaming it on Cuba to rally public support for war against Fidel Castro. President Kennedy rejected the plan. So we shouldn't just assume any future attack on our soil is the work of al-Qaida.

Sometimes, when I'm in my most paranoid, conspiracy theory oriented moods, I've suspected someone like Bush might do something like this, but if such planning is standard practice at the Pentagon, that's really scarey.

John Dean to Patrick Fitzgerald

Co-blogger on Scatablog, Marketingace in PA, alerted me to the following open letter John Dean sent to Patrick Fitzgerald following the Woodward revelations. In it, Dean suggests that Fitzgerald should be more aggressive in his pursuit of the leakers and should even take some active steps to have them removed from office prior to trial. In small part, it reads:

In light of your broad powers, the limits and narrow focus of your investigation are surprising... To be a bit more blunt, in historical context, it is certainly less vigorous an investigation than those of your predecessors who have served as special counsel -- men appointed to undertake sensitive high-level investigations when the Attorney General of the United States had a conflict of interest.

It's quite interesting, so you may wish to read the whole thing.

Politics-Canada: Election Campaign 2005-2006:

From my friend, Simon in Ontario, in response to my request for his views on the collapse of the Liberal government in Canada:

Tuesday, November 29, 2005-Monday, January 23, 2006
(Fall of the Liberal Government: Monday, November 28, 2005) Media Release obviously written by a Conservative

Subject: U.S.A. CDC Warning. May also be contagious in Canada. With the cold weather setting in the Canadian strain is said to be heartier according to "Conservative" studies)

The Center for Disease Control has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of Sexually Transmitted Disease. The disease is contracted through dangerous and high-risk behaviour. The disease is called Gonorrhoea Lectim and pronounced "gonna re-elect him."

Many victims contracted it in 2004, after having been screwed for the past 4 years. Cognitive characteristics of individuals infected include: anti-social personality disorders, delusions of grandeur with messianic overtones, extreme cognitive dissonance, inability to incorporate new information, pronounced xenophobia and paranoia, inability to accept responsibility for own actions, cowardice masked by misplaced bravado, uncontrolled facial smirking, ignorance of geography and history, tendencies towards evangelical theocracy, categorical all-or-nothing behaviour.

Naturalists and epidemiologists are amazed at how this destructive disease, originated only a few years ago, from a bush found in Texas.

Victory in Iraq

What is victory in Iraq, if Bush is able to achieve it?

Here's my view of where Iraq is going if we stay on Bush's course and actually manage to get the Iraqi military in a position where they can control the country themselves.

First, the government now in place is controlled largely by the Shiites, who undoubtedly will win in a landslide in the December elections. They will almost certainly take over control of most of the country, possibly leaving the Kurds in the north to themselves. They will institute a theocracy along the lines of that in Iran, and will govern under Islamic Law, with the clegy being the final arbiters of the law. Just how repressive such a regime would become is hard to know, but it seems likely that many of the freedoms we cherish would be denied to Iraq's populace. It's certainly possible the government could evolve into something like that in Iran.

Second, the only decent Iraqi fighting forces now in place (apart from the insurgents) are the Shia death squads. If the Iraqi army ever gets to the point where it can control the country, it will be through these death squads, who are controlled by various Shia mullahs around the country. These groups are at least as vicious as those controlled by Saddam, and mass killings and torture are likely to take place on a scale similar to that in Saddam's regime.

Third, none of these groups that are likely to control the country have any great love for the US, and all have an abiding hatred of Israel. Nothing (apart from a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem) is likely to change that in the short run. So the government we will leave in place is likely to be just about as hostile to our interests as was the Saddam Hussein government. Unfortunately, it is likely to have many common interests with Iran, and the balance of power between Iran and Iraq that used to help maintain some degree of stability in that area of the world will no longer be effective.

The result could easily be an alliance between Iran and Iraq that would pose a very serious threat to US interests in the region.

And, that's what happens if we are victorious!

More likely, the country will just fall into civil war, from which it may take decades to recover.

Meanwhile, no matter what happens, the place will remain a prime breeding ground for terrorists.

In other words, folks, we've already lost this war. There are no good solutions left, and the sooner we get out the better as far as I'm concerned.

Bush Stays off course

As it turns out the "new" National Strategy for Victory in Iraq is nothing more than the old national strategy to fill Halliburton's coffers warmed over with a $3.8 billion kicker for Cheney's old company. Once again the mainstream media was suckered by Bush into reporting that something really new and different was coming down the pike. "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice -- whatever." What do you say to "fool me for the hundredth time?"

It's not my yob

Via Crooks and Liars, I came across this story on the UPI wires where Rumsfeld contradicted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the responsibility of the US forces to stop Iraqi atrocities when they see them. Even the Moonies get a good story once in awhile!

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) -- U.S. forces are obliged to stop inhumane treatment wherever they see it in Iraq, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon news conference Tuesday.

This was news to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who told reporters "the United States does not have a responsibility" to prevent abuse of prisoners or civilians at the hands of the Iraqi military or police forces they are training.

Pace offered the military perspective, which is less accommodating.

"It is absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member, if they see inhumane treatment being conducted, to intervene to stop it," he said.

"But I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it," said Rumsfeld, turning to Pace.

"If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it," Pace said.

Lifelong Republican Switches Sides

Thanks to Andrew Tobias, I came across a column by Joan Ryan of the San Francisco Chronicle about her dad, who is a lifelong Republican and who voted reluctantly for Bush in 2004. Here's some of what he says now.

"...It seems like with Bush lately, whatever he touches turns to crap. And now we're saddled with this guy for three more years. The only thing you can do is to get the Republicans out of Congress next year."
Read the whole thing, it's great!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Yes, the GOP is Uniquely Corrupt

I'm not sorry that I named a Dem in the Abramoff scandal, but it appears that I fell into a Rethuglican trap. They're playing this as, "everyone does it, so who cares." This is just a quote from Digby, but he writes so well:

Political machines are not unprecedented. Patrick Fitzgerald is dismantling both a Republican and Democratic one in Chicago as we speak. We've seen "heckuva-job-Brownies" before. We've seen politicians and business work together to rip off the taxpayers and cheat the little guy many times. We've seen greedy politicians before. But this current national GOP machine is unique in its blatant, in-your-face arrogance and the swiftness with which it descended into utter, all-out corruption such that even a Republican run Justice department cannnot ignore it.

As the Abramoff scandal unfolds, it's important to remember that Jack Abramoff is not just another lobbyist or even just another Republican. He and Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed all ran the college Republicans during the Reagan years. He is a "movement conservative" of the innermost circle of movement conservatives. This is not a fluke. It's endemic to the modern Republican party.

Someone started a war

Bu$h gave a speech (sic) today in which he said,

You know, I just recently came off a trip to the Far East. By the way, representing the United States of America around the world is one of the great experiences of the presidency. And it struck me that I was in a region of the world where there -- where wars had started.

Third term for Bush

I just received a junk fax that reads as follows:

Direc Fax Surveys

Democracy is taking hold in Iraq!
Bush stepped in and took control in New Orleans!
The US economy is back on track!

Should President Bush be allowed to seek a 3rd. term in office? Yes or No?

There's been a lot of activity that would indicate that the conservatives would like to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution and run George Bush for a third term. There was a bill introduced in the House of Representatives this year to repeal the 22nd Amendment.

What should Congress do about this in 2005/06?

The fax provides a 1-900 number to respond to at $4.00 a minute, with an estimated 4 minutes for the call -- that's about $16 to vote your choice.


Bush's speech (sic) yesterday brings the question of immigration and border control to the surface once again, and it doesn't look like this issue is going to go away soon. It's a hot topic among conservatives (and some progressives as well), and it looks as though the Rethuglicans intend to milk it to the limit in an effort to pander to the public as the 2006 elections near.

Frankly, I don't have any particularly great insights about whether this should be a big issue or not. I do see plausible arguments for tighter border controls to try to prevent terrorists from entering the country, but nothing I've heard about the conservatives' proposals seems to address this issue in any significant way. I do, however, have a number of serious worries about this movement.

First, it strikes me as pandering to the basest racist prejudices of the populace. It is almost exclusively directed at the "brown hoards," particularly the Mexicans, and secondarily, the Arabs. There seems to be some fear that we will be overrun by the brown hoards and somehow lose our identity as a white Anglo-Saxon nation in the process. You never hear anyone complain to any significant extent about the many eastern European immigrants that are arriving daily on our shores. They, of course, are largely white! In my view, anything that panders to these racist instincts in the population is likely to lead to something bad.

Second, I do not see much to fear about these Mexican immigrants stealing American jobs. Kevin Drum had a piece up the other day noting that, since the Mexican border has been tightened, farmers posting job offerings have gotten no takers for those jobs from U.S. citizens. Nobody wanted the jobs, at least not at the wages being offered, and the farmers appeared unwilling to raise the wage rate in order to attract workers. They apparently preferred to let their crops die in the field. Sure, as an economist I know there is going to be some effect at the margin, but I doubt it is very significant.

Third, the Bush idea about temporary, non-renewable work permits strikes me as absurd. Why should a family that has worked here for a number of years be forced to return to Mexico, just so some other family can replace them? I don't get it.

Fourth, the idea of denying citizenship to children of illegal aliens born in the United States seems to undermine the very strengths that made us a great nation.

And, finally, the idea of building a several thousand mile wall to separate the U.S. and Mexico reminds me of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall. It stinks. All of which is quite apart from the economic absurdity of it.

Yes, the borders are probably too porous to prospective terrorists, but these proposals are not the answer.

Death Squads

Today's hot topic seems to be the death squads in Iraq. It's become pretty clear from any number of news reports, including a statement from former Prime Minister Allawi himself, that the Iraqi army has really become a collection of Shiite death squads, operating at the behest of the Shia Mullahs and largely targeting Sunnis. Many people are now referring to this as the El Salvador option, suggesting that the Bush Administration has deliberately fostered these death squads, just as Ollie North, John Negroponte, and others had done in Reagan's administration.

Apart from the Negroponte link, I haven't seen any real evidence to suggest that the emergence of death squads in Iraq is due to a deliberate effort of the Bush administration to promote them. On the other hand, I don't see much evidence that Bush has tried to discourage this development either. And, there does seem to be some similarity between relying now on local death squads to control Iraq and relying on the Northern Alliance to control Afghanistan four years ago.

I suspend judgment on whether the administration is deliberately fostering the development of the death squads, but their very existence demonstrates the total failure of this administration's war policy. As Allawi said the other day, Iraq is now no better than it was under Saddam, and possibly far worse, since we have destroyed the country's already shaky infrastructure and are letting it collapse into a full blown civil war.

Abramoff's poison spreads

It appears that Abramoff's web of bribery and corruption was so widely spun that it even ensnared a Democrat or two. If we're going to go after the Republicans for corruption, then we should at least be consistent and go after the Democrats who do it too. In this case, it looks as though Sen. Byron Dorgan (D, ND) may be ensnared.

WASHINGTON Nov 29, 2005 — New evidence is emerging that the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Jack Abramoff got political money arranged by the lobbyist back in 2002 shortly after the lawmaker took action favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients.

A lawyer for the Louisiana Coushatta Indians told The Associated Press that Abramoff instructed the tribe to send $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan's political group just three weeks after the North Dakota Democrat urged fellow senators to fund a tribal school program Abramoff's clients wanted to use.

Iraq Invasion worst Military Mistake since 9 B.C.

Martin van Creveld, a professor of military history at Hebrew University writes,

For misleading the American people, and launching the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 B.C sent his legions into Germany and lost them, Bush deserves to be impeached and, once he has been removed from office, put on trial along with the rest of the president's men. If convicted, they'll have plenty of time to mull over their sins.
Martin van Creveld is author of "Transformation of War" (Free Press, 1991). He is the only non-American author on the U.S. Army's required reading list for officers.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Shoot a few ragheads for the fun of it

Yesterday, the News Telegraph reported on the trophy videos of employees of a U.S. defense contractor enjoying themselves by shooting randomly at civilian cars in Iraq, in some cases apparently killing or injuring the occupants. The article suggested that the practice might have been the cause of the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. The contractor was rumored to be Aegis Defence Services.

Today, in a diary at Daily Kos, we learn that the U.S. was warned by letter immediately after Aegis was retained for the job that it's owner, Lt Col Tim Spicer, had a history of abusive activities and had asserted, "that soldiers under his command and who commit murder should not be subject to the rule of law."

Apparently, no action was taken to review the appointment of Aegis. Or, if such action was taken, it didn't result in any remedy. Now, it looks like we know the result of those in our government who were asleep at the switch (or worse, if they were in bed with the contractor).

What is truly worrying to me about this war is the effect it is having on us as a nation. We have seen so many claims of torture, abuse, and wanton murder by our own people that we are becoming inured to them, I'm afraid.

As we become de-sensitized to the horrors we are perpetrating, we may even come to accept them as ordinary and necessary. Certainly, that's what it sounds like when you listen to some of the wingnuts on Fox News. Just fraternity-style hazing stunts. Fun for the good ol' boys.

This is certainly a problem with all wars, but it seems especially so with this war. I think even Vietnam, the other war we were lied into, wasn't quite this bad, notwithstanding Mi Lai and similar horrors there. And, the blame clearly lies right at the feet of those who took us into this war and mis-managed it so pathetically.

One More Republican Bites the Dust

Congressional representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-California) plead guilty to several counts of tax evasion and bribery today, according to this article. We've known this was coming, but it's nice to have it confirmed.

To make matters worse, this guy is still active in Congress and sitting on the Defense Appropriations Committee.

Just one more piece of evidence that the GOP is rotten to the core.

Update: It appears he resigned his office this afternoon. Better late than never, I guess.

Rove's Neck in the Noose?

The noose appears to be tightening around Karl Rove's neck. According to Raw Story, Rove's assistant, Susan Ralston, has testified to a grand jury that Rove asked her not to log a call to Time's Cooper in July 2003. She has also given additional testimony about other calls Rove made to members of the press. It appears some of this testimony is in direct conflict with Rove's testimony to the grand jury.

Further evidence that Fitzgerald is after Rove comes in the news that another Time reporter, Vivaca Novak (unrelated to Robert), has been asked to testify in the case about conversations she had with Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, when he was trying to spin the press.

It's hard to see how all this fits together, but it doesn't seem likely that this is leading nowhere. Certainly, Rove's attempt to avoid logging a call to Cooper seems to suggest Rove knew what he was doing was illegal.

Presidential Disability

John Avarosis, at Americablog, notes that there is increasing chatter that Bush has gone off the deep end mentally and may no longer be fit for office (as if he ever was). John points out that the 25th. Amendment provides a way to remedy that by removing him from office without impeachment. Unfortunately, that would make Dick Cheney the president. Frankly, even if Bush is totally batty, I doubt Cheney would be any better, and he might be far worse.

If there were some real likelihood of a foreign power, such as the Soviet Union used to be, attacking and overwhelming us, I might think differently, but there is no such likelihood. Yes, another terrorist attack is a real possibility, but I doubt a Cheney administration would handle that much differently than a madman's administration. We are not prepared to stop an attack, and that is as much Cheney's fault as it is Bush's. And, the hacks, like Brownie, who have been put in charge of emergency recovery operations, are just as likely to have been hired at Cheney's urging as at Bush's. The only difference is that Cheney may be a more deeply evil person than Bush, and may push his anti-democratic agenda even further.

Of course, this is all idle chatter. No matter how mad he is, the Republicans are not going to admit it anytime soon. But, the very fact that we are in a fix where a mad man may be better than our vice president is quite disturbing.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bomb, bomb, bomb

Earlier I posted a comment about how the Bush White House is now claiming authorship of the Iraq withdrawal plan. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a fake withdrawal. Maybe the troops will get out, but the Air Force will come in their stead according to this story.

Inside the Beltway Idiots

Friday night I was watching Washington Week on my PBS channel, and David Broder of the Washington Post, along with several other reporters, was talking his usual inside the beltway nonsense. Apparently he was on pumpkinhead's show today (Press the Meat), and he did it again. This time I have the transcript:

MR. RUSSERT: David Broder, is it possible for official Washington--the president, Democratic leaders, Republican leaders--to arrive at common ground, a consensus position on Iraq?

MR. DAVID BRODER: It's possible, Tim, but they won't get there by arguing about who did what three years ago. And this whole debate about whether there was just a mistake or misrepresentation or so on is, I think, from the public point of view largely irrelevant. The public's moved past that. The public wants to know what we're going to do next in Iraq. It's an untenable situation for it to go on as it has been going for the last six months or a year. And we are beginning to see the outlines of a possible strategy for whittling down the American commitment and turning it over to see whether the Iraqis can or cannot manage their country themselves.

Broder just doesn't get it. God knows why it took all this time, but finally the American public is beginning to get it. They are just beginning to realize that the Bushies have lied to them repeatedly, beginning at least on 9/11 and continuing to this day. Lying about every important thing that comes along. Lying, lying, lying. So, why does Broder think that Bush's approval ratings are in the tank? It's because about 60% of Americans believe he lies repeatedly to them. As Frank Rich said today, "A simpler question might be: What was not a lie?" These people need to get outside the beltway for awhile and see what the rest of us are thinking.

It's the Facts on the Ground that Count

Diplomats may debate the status of the West Bank, but the Jewish settlers know that it's the facts on the ground that count. In an act of deliberate vandalism, the Jewish settlers near Nablus have cut down dozens, perhaps hundreds of olive trees that are the principal source of income for the Palestinian residents of the area. Without a source of income, in all likelihood those Palestinians will have to leave the area, establishing a de facto Jewish dominance in the area that the diplomats will have difficulty undoing.

The Bush Withdrawal

We knew it was coming, but the lie is so bald-faced and transparent that it's truly laughable. Now the White House is claiming authorship of the plan to withdraw from Iraq. They even have the chutzpah to claim that the Democrats are finally catching up to them, as in, "Senator Biden Adopts Key Portions Of Administration's Plan For Victory In Iraq." Digby, tongue in cheek, gets it just right:

As you know, Democrats have long been insisting that the US stay in Iraq indefinitely. It was only through the wise counsel and patient persuasion of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush that they were convinced that a timed withdrawal was the best way to go.

As an indication of what will happen once we have "won the war" and left the country,

The leader of Iraq's most powerful political party has called on the United States to let Iraqi fighters take a more aggressive role against insurgents, saying his country will only be able to defeat the insurgency when the United States lets Iraqis get tough...

... Hakim asserted in a rare interview late last week, the United States is tying Iraq's hands in the fight against insurgents. One of Iraq's "biggest problems is the mistaken or wrong policies practiced by the Americans," he said. [From the Washington Post]

Meanwhile, Iraq's former Prime Minister, Ayad Allawi, informs us that the present government of Iraq is as bad or worse than Saddam's. He is quoted in the Guardian Observer as follows:

'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.'
So, while Bush will claim that we have "won the war," it will be the same kind of hollow victory that we had in Vietnam -- in other words, it will be an utter defeat. That doesn't stop me from siding with those who propose a measured withdrawal because our defeat is inevitable in any event. Just look at how well things are going. Just today, two Congressmen were injured when their vehicle overturned in Iraq on the way in from the airport. Yes, we're going to get out, but I sure hope the incompetent fools who got us into this don't manage to get out without being tarnished by their failure.

Ramsey Clark Defends Saddam

I just came across a bit of surprising news, at least for me. Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark is in Baghdad assisting in the defense of Saddam Hussein. I'm not quite sure how I feel about this. I've always liked Ramsey Clark, and I've always believed that everyone, especially including the quilty, is entitled to the best defense available. I certainly can't fault Clark for joining the defense team. However, I can just hear how this will play out among the wingnuts. Rush and his crew will be crowing about how the Democrats are defending Saddam and are traitors to this country. God knows what Anne Coulter will say. It's pretty hard to go beyond the claims she's already made, but I'm sure she'll try.

Bush Dictatorship Nearing an End?

There's not much new news this morning, but a number of articles hit the press today that seem to me to fit together somehow. First, the New York Times has a piece today on how the President and his men want to have the power to arrest at will anyone they deem an enemy combatant. No judicial review. No trial. Hold them forever. Of course, we've known this for quite some time. Jose Padilla wasn't arrested yesterday after all. Still, it's nice to see someone actually saying it up front and above the fold. Yes, the President wants to be prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner all in one. As one of Nixon's Justice Department officials argued before the Supreme Court, the president in his exercise of his role as Commander-in-Chief has exactly the same powers as King Louis XIV, who said, “La loi, c'est moi.

And, we thought we lived in a democracy, governed by the rule of law to which every man, including the president, was subservient. Think again.

Second, also in the New York Times, behind the subscription wall, Frank Rich as usual writes a great piece on the White House lies and the lying liars who continue to tell them. Here are some of the highlights:

...each day brings slam-dunk evidence that the doomsday threats marshaled by the administration to sell the war weren't, in Cheney-speak, just dishonest and reprehensible but also corrupt and shameless. The more the president and vice president tell us that their mistakes were merely innocent byproducts of the same bad intelligence seen by everyone else in the world, the more we learn that this was not so. The web of half-truths and falsehoods used to sell the war did not happen by accident; it was woven by design and then foisted on the public by a P.R. operation built expressly for that purpose in the White House. The real point of the Bush-Cheney verbal fisticuffs this month, like the earlier campaign to take down Joseph Wilson, is less to smite Democrats than to cover up wrongdoing in the executive branch between 9/11 and shock and awe...

The more we learn about the road to Iraq, the more we realize that it's a losing game to ask what lies the White House told along the way. A simpler question might be: What was not a lie? The situation recalls Mary McCarthy's explanation to Dick Cavett about why she thought Lillian Hellman was a dishonest writer: "Every word she writes is a lie, including 'and' and 'the.' "

..."We're not going to sit by and let them rewrite history," the vice president said of his critics. "We're going to continue throwing their own words back at them." But according to a Harris poll released by The Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, 64 percent of Americans now believe that the Bush administration "generally misleads the American public on current issues to achieve its own ends." That's why it's Mr. Cheney's and the president's own words that are being thrown back now - not to rewrite history but to reveal it for the first time to an angry country that has learned the hard way that it can no longer afford to be without the truth.

Remember, one of the arguments the Bushies advance for why they have the right to arrest and detain Americans and others without trial or judicial review is that they are our elected leaders, and we should TRUST them. What better evidence could we have of their trustworthiness (not) than the evidence of the lies they told in the lead up to the war and the lies they are now telling to cover up their deception? Frankly, I don't trust ANY government to have these kinds of powers, but especially not THIS government!

Finally, this morning, there's the news that the British Parliament may begin a full scale investigation of the lies told by the Blair Administration in the lead up to the war. That may be the closest we will get to an investigation of Bush, and I doubt it can fail to find culpability here. Will the U.S. press pick up on it? Who knows. But, if it does, that may be the final blow to this dictatorship. We can only hope.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Abramoff's Long Arm

I haven't been able to really keep up with the Abramoff affair, but maybe that's what makes it so much fun. It looks as though it may implicate quite a few Republican Congressmen and maybe a Senator or two. It might even reach further into the White House. After all, it already has taken down one deputy secretary at the Interior Department, David Safavian. Both the Wall Street Journal (subscription only) and the Washington Post are reporting that this thing could grow to be really big. I'm just hoping the S hits the fan in time for the 2006 elections.

Iran gets it right for once

It's a rare event, but for once I agree with Iran's president. The Associated Press reports:

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's hard-line president said Saturday the Bush administration should be tried on war crimes charges

Red Saturday

Black Friday sure didn't last long. I went to the mall this morning, and the parking lot was nearly empty. I guess my wish in yesterday's post has almost come true. Somehow, I doubt the press will report low turnout. The whole thing is hype anyway.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The Long March of Dick Cheney

This article by Sidney Blumenthal on Dick Cheney is worth a read. It begins:

The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power. When it matters, the regular operations of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department have been sidelined.

Canadian public hearings on Exopolitics - Weirdsville

I have no idea about the accuracy of this source or the underlying factual basis for the extraterrestrial activity claims implied, but this is truly weird.

The article begins:

(PRWEB) - OTTAWA, CANADA (PRWEB) November 24, 2005 -- A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.”

By “ETs,” Mr. Hellyer and these organizations mean ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.
It goes on to say that Mr. Hellyer claims Bush has authorized the U.S. to build a military base on the moon potentially to shoot down UFOs, thereby threatening the world with an inter-gallactic war which might otherwise have been headed off by diplomacy.

Depressing Environmental News

The U.K.'s Guardian writes that Rutgers University researchers warn that,

Global warming is doubling the rate of sea level rise around the world, but attempts to stop it by cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be futile, leading researchers will warn today...

"The main thing that has happened since the 19th century and the beginning of the modern observation has been the widespread increase in fossil fuel use and more greenhouse gases," said Professor Kenneth Miller, who led the study. "We can say the increase we're seeing is much higher than we've seen in the immediate past and it is due to humans."

... According to Prof Miller, there is little chance of slowing the rising tide caused by global warming. "There's not much one can do about sea level rise. It's clear that even if we strictly obeyed the Kyoto accord, it's still going to continue to warm. Personally, I don't think we're going to affect CO2 emissions enough to make a difference, no matter what we do. The Bush administration should stop asking whether temperatures are globally rising and admit the scientific fact that they are, but then turn the question around politically and say: 'We can't really do anything about this on any kind of cost basis at all'," he said.

I'm not sure that Professor Miller's conclusion is strictly logical. Just because reducing emissions won't stop the sea level rise doesn't mean we shouldn't try to reduce the emissions. More emissions will just accelerate the rise, as well as creating many other problems.

I might also ask how much it will cost not to solve the problem? Just because those costs are "external" to the market system and not priced out in day to day commerce doesn't mean they aren't real. And, it strikes me that in the end, rising sea levels are likely to be very costly indeed. Imagine New York City and London under water.

Headlines that Could Have been Written Whenever

Virtually every newspaper in the country, as well as every news organization, seems to have the same headlines every year on the day after Thanksgiving: "Shoppers flock to stores in record numbers," or words to that effect. I did see a twist on that in today's Cincinnati Enquirer, "Shopping Lines form at 2:30 am" for a 5:00 am opening at a local Wal-mart. Somehow, I just can't imagine sitting around in my car from 2:30 am till 5:00 am to get to shop at Wal-mart. I can tell you truthfully that my bed was much more comfortable.

I know that it wouldn't be good for the economy, but just for a change wouldn't it be fun if some year the headlines read, "Mall parking lots empty on Black Friday?"

Brownie's New Job

I know everyone else is onto this too, but it's just too good to resist. FEMA's "Brownie" has decided to start a disaster preparedness consulting firm. As if that isn't good enough, Josh Marshall points out that, according to an AP report, Brown said officials need to "take inventory" of what's going on in a disaster to be able to answer questions to avoid appearing unaware of how serious a situation is.

That's the story, Brownie, you've got to look like you're on top of things even if you're not.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

A Benchmark Event

You can't Google us yet, but you can Yahoo us now!

Have a good turkey and enjoy your Thanksgiving day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Mean Jean not so popular at home

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a poll up asking whether its readers have a more favorable or less favorable view of Jean Schmidt following her comments on the House floor last Friday. Now remember, Cincinnati is one of the most conservative cities around. As of the present time, the poll shows about 78 percent in the "less favorable" column.

The paper also informs us that Schmidt is planning a trip to Iraq after the turn of the year. I wonder if she will venture outside the "green zone." I rather doubt it. She'll go there, talk to some of the senior brass to get the party line, shake a few hands and fly home believing the same bull she believes now.

Bomb Al Jazeera

Up till now, I have refrained from commenting on the U.K. Daily Mirror's revelation yesterday that in 2004 Bush had planned to bomb Al Jazeera's main offices in Doha, Qatar, but that Tony Blair had talked him out of it. The Daily Mirror is not necessarily known for it's accuracy, and the accusation is so weird that I doubted it. However, the fact that the U.K. is now gagging the press under the Official Secrets Act and prosecuting two people for leaking the document suggests to me that there is substance to the claim. It also suggests that the other attacks on Al Jazeera by U.S. troops in Iraq may not have been the accidents the Pentagon claims they were. At least one reporter was killed.

Attacking reporters is bad enough, but threatening to bomb the offices of a news organization in a friendly country really seems to me to be beyond the pale. Just think for a moment of all the innocent employees, guests, and others who might have been killed if those offices had been bombed.

Any president who would seriously consider this kind of act should be impeached and convicted immediately. I fear the man is totally deranged.

Happy Thanksgiving

Rule of Law

Steve Clemons tells us he attended a Washington party and movie viewing last night where Chris Dodd introduced the flic --"A Man for All Seasons" Steve quotes the following passage from the script, a passage that seems particularly on point these days:

Sir Thomas More

-- There's no law against that.

William Roper

-- God's law!

Sir Thomas More

-- Then God can arrest him.

William Roper

-- While you talk, he's gone!

Sir Thomas More

-- Go he should, if he were the Devil, until he broke the law.

William Roper

-- Now you give the Devil benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More

-- Yes, what would you do?

William Roper

-- Cut a road through the law to get after the Devil? Yes. I'd cut down every law in England to do that.

Sir Thomas More

-- And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned on you...

...where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast...

...Man's laws, not God's, and if you cut them down...

...and you're just the man to do it... you really think you could stand upright in the wind that would blow then?

Yes. I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety's sake.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Some News of the Day

Here's some news of the day that I found interesting (from various sources):

The marine that Jean Schmidt quoted in her rant on the House floor against John Murtha (which she later retracted) says he didn't say the things Jean Schmidt quoted him as saying. So, where does that leave Jean? My guess is that her constituents are rueing the day they voted for her.

The Iraqi government has semi-officially ordered the U.S. to leave Iraq and has stated that insurgents are justified in attacking U.S. troops there. Seems to me that this is a pretty big story, particularly when Bush and Cheney are labeling the Dems who want us to withdraw as traitors.

Fox News has refused to air an anti-Alito ad on the grounds that it is factually inaccurate. Others who have looked at it don't find any major inaccuracies. Funny that Fox now finds the need to fact check ads. Think of all the Bush-Cheney ads that Fox did air that were riddled with factual inaccuracies. Seems to me we need to think about legislation requiring the media to air paid advertising without regard to its political content.

Re-Writing History

Isn't it amazing how the Republicans manage to accuse the Dems of doing the very things they themselves are always doing. Re-writing history seems to be the latest one from Cheney, Bush & Co. Now, Scalia says it's all Gore's fault that the Supreme Court got dragged into the 2000 Presidential election.

Via Josh Marshall, this article in the New York Post:

November 22, 2005 -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says the high court did not inject itself into the 2000 presidential election.

Speaking at the Time Warner Center last night, Scalia said: "The election was dragged into the courts by the Gore people. We did not go looking for trouble."

Talk about re-writing history. My recollection is that it was the Rethuglicans who appealed the Florida Supreme Court ruling to the Supreme Court, not the Dems.

Phosphorus, revisited

Yesterday, I commented on the use of white phosphorus by the U.S. in Fallujah. The Pentagon is saying there was nothing wrong with that because white phosphorus is not considered a "chemical weapon." Now, via Think Progress, we find a formerly classified 1995 Pentagon intelligence document titled “Possible Use of Phosphorous Chemical.” The document reads, in part,


Economics of Happiness

There is an interesting post on the economics of happiness over at Max Speak, You Listen! Here's a snippet, but the whole thing is worth a look.

When someone in a neighborhood builds a McMansion, the utility (happiness) of most other people in the neighborhood declines.

Frank proposes taxes on luxury consumption, but clearly the deeper problem is simply the rising inequalities of wealth and income in the US (and in most other countries also). That the Nordic countries are all ahead of the US in measured happiness is simply not at all surprising in light of all this, given their far greater egalitarianism, which has been preserved.

The Dems' Wimp Factor

Avedon Carol, guest blogging for Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly, writes what's been on my mind for awhile. Here's the gist:

I've been thinking for a long time that there has to be some way to put pressure on the party leadership to read the damned weblogs!

Really, it's shameful to see them going on television and falling for - and even repeating - RNC spin and falsehoods. They need to study-up, and it's just plain stupid to ignore the fact that the information is available gratis and easy to find.

It's pretty obvious that the level of discourse at places like Liberal Oasis, Daily Kos, MyDD et al. is significantly higher than the stuff that comes out of the party itself, and it's about time they acquainted themselves with what's really going on...

If Democrats would spend more time reading The Left Coaster and Political Animal and less time listening to the tediously bland fraidy-cats they use as political consultants, they would know more, have plenty of verbal karate at their fingertips, and be prepared for all the lies that come out of the RNC...

Democratic politicians are just too easily embarrassed about all the wrong things. If you compare me with Michael Moore, I'm not embarrassed - I just say, "Michael Moore was right about the invasion, and you were wrong." I can say this because I've actually paid attention to what Michael Moore has said and what the facts behind it are. No one should be ashamed to be compared with Moore; they should be ashamed to be backed down by people who think saying, "Now you're in Michael Moore territory," makes a worthwhile point They should be able to retort with, at the very least," Now you're in FOX News territory."

...Look, the right-wing lies about liberals and about issues, pure and simple. They spin and fabricate and spread hate. You don't defeat that by cowering in the corner, you defeat it by shining the bright lights on it. They lie. We have the issues, we have the facts, and the American people agree with us, All we have to do is say it out loud.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Republican Priorities

By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff | November 20, 2005 WASHINGTON --

Back in the mid-1990s, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, aggressively delving into alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration, logged 140 hours of sworn testimony into whether former president Bill Clinton had used the White House Christmas card list to identify potential Democratic donors.

In the past two years, a House committee has managed to take only 12 hours of sworn testimony about the abuse of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.


Digby has a piece on torture today that really rings true with me, but it is so depressing to see how far this country has fallen from where we once thought it was. Here are some highlights:

A society that can so easily discard it's legal and ethical taboos against cruelty and barbarism, is an unstable society to begin with.

At this rather late stage in life, I'm realizing that the solid America I thought I knew may never have existed. Running very close, under the surface, was a frightened, somewhat hysterical culture that could lose its civilized moorings all at once. I had naively thought that there were some things that Americans would find unthinkable --- torture was one of them...

Now that we've let the torture genie out of the bottle, I wonder if we can put that beast back in. He looks and sounds an awful lot like an American.

Presidential Do-Over?

Via Crooks and Liars, I learn that Saturday Night Live ran a skit this weekend mimicking a Fox News Report on Bush and his current activities. The whole thing was a hoot, but one particular line really got to me. The faux newswoman was commenting on how far Bush had fallen in the public opinion polls. "If he falls any further," the reporter declared, "his grades will be so low some suggest that he may become the first president in history not to graduate at the end of his term and have to repeat his time in office."

I've been wondering how the wingnuts would justify appointing Bush a permanent dictator when his polls were so low. But, this is a bit of a twist that I hadn't anticipated.

Phosphorus and the New York Times

The New York Times ran an article by Scott Shane this morning on the U.S.'s use of phosphorus weapons in Fallujah. The article ridiculed the U.S. response to the allegations as incredibly inept, which they were. However, the article went on to discount the various allegations.

As you may recall, the story of U.S. use of phosphorus seems to have originated with an Italian TV documentary. What troubled me about today's article is that it impugned the Italian documentary with a broad brush. For instance:
The half-hour film was riddled with errors and exaggerations, according to United States officials and independent military experts.
Yet, the article never details what those errors and exaggerations were (with two exceptions, one noted later), leaving the reader with the distinct impression that the allegations of U.S. mis-deeds were totally unfounded.

One of the specific critiques of the Italian film in the article was:
Italian public television showed a documentary renewing persistent charges that the United States had used white phosphorus rounds, incendiary munitions that the film incorrectly called chemical weapons, against Iraqis in Falluja last year.
This may be technically true, but it is my understanding that international conventions have banned the substance, and the U.S. has decided to thumb its nose at those conventions. Indeed, the article itself seems to suggest this at a later point when it says,
Daryl G. Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, a nonprofit organization that researches nuclear issues, was more cautious. In light of the issues raised since the film was shown, he said, the Defense Department, and perhaps an independent body, should review whether American use of white phosphorus had been consistent with international weapons conventions.
But, then the article goes on to state unambiguously,
It [the Italian documentary] incorrectly referred to white phosphorus shells - a munition of nearly every military commonly used to create smoke screens or fires - as banned chemical weapons.
So, what are they, banned or not? As I said, my understanding has been that the U.S. is largely alone in having failed to recognize the international conventions banning the use of phosphorus as a weapon and, particularly, its use when civilians are at risk. The Times may be technically correct in some sort of word-smithing sense, since if the U.S. says they are not banned, it is, of course, true that they are not banned by the U.S. But, what about worldwide standards? After all, the President says we do not torture detainees, but he defines the techniques we use as non-torture when any normal person believes they are torture. I tried to Google the question to an authoritative source to determine whether their use is common or not, but was unsuccessful in finding anything on the net. So as it stands, I really don't know. I doubt the Times writer does either, which is what bothers me about this article. Basically, Mr. Shane seems simply to have swallowed and regurgitated what his Pentagon sources told him without going much further. If true, this is the sort of stenographic reporting which I have found so distasteful in the Times since father Sulzberger turned the paper over to his son.

Because of this, the reader is left with the possibly false impressions that a) the Italian documentary was some irresponsible foreign rant against the U.S., and b) that the U.S. was not culpable in any way for its use of phosphorous in Fallujah. Of course, the real point of the article is that the U.S. bungled its attempt to cover up the non-crimes it had committed in Fallujah, a conclusion with which we can all agree.

If anyone has more definitive information on the status of phosphorus as a weapon in international weapons conventions, let me know.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Can't get Out?

Oops, someone's already using the bathroom.

(via Atrios and many others)

More Evidence of Bush Lies

Everyone seems to have picked up the LA Times story today adding just one more significant fact to the growing mountain of evidence that Bush and his thugs lied us into the war. This one has to do with the unreliable informant known as "curveball." Here's the lede:
The Iraqi informant's German handlers say they had told U.S. officials that his information was 'not proven,' and were shocked when President Bush and Colin L. Powell used it in key prewar speeches.
I don't know whether anyone noticed it on Meet the Press today, but when Pumpkinhead asked Murtha if he thought the intelligence had been manipulated, he replied that he was confident the President wouldn't have done anything like that. Gad, the mountain of evidence is staring them in the face, and they still don't get it, do they? Presidents are supposed to be good people, so no one can bring themselves to believe that we have a bad one. Well folks, we do.

Jewish Leader Likens Religous Right to Hitler

Via America Blog, I learn this:
HOUSTON (AP) - The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a "monopoly on God" while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's.
Somehow, I don't think that's going to sit very well with the Christian crazies (ccs).

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Bush Presidency Near Death

The Macon Telegraph carries an interesting story about the near terminal condition of the Bush Presidency. Here are some excerpts, but the whole thing is worth a read.

Conservatives' mission: save Bush presidency

Knight Ridder Newspapers

Let's put it in Texas terms: President Bush is trying to blast his way out of Credibility Gap.

He is plummeting in the polls, with still no indication that he has hit bottom. A solid majority of Americans now give him the lowest approval ratings since Richard Nixon - a verdict that seemed unimaginable when he was reelected one year ago - and, even more ominously, he is now judged by the majority to be an untrustworthy leader who lured the nation into war on false pretenses.

So it's no surprise that the Bush administration is in campaign mode,


He promised that he would "restore honesty" to the White House; yet today, nearly six in 10 Americans tell pollsters that Bush is untrustworthy.

It may be too late for Bush to win them [the independents] back... according to pollster John Zogby, only 28 percent now side with the president.

Zogby said by phone: "Trust is like virginity. Once you've lost it, you don't get it back. That's what happened to Lyndon Johnson during Vietnam, and Nixon during Watergate. And Bush doesn't have much wiggle room to improve his status anyway, because, at this point, half the nation already hates his guts."


Given all this restiveness about Bush, it's debatable whether he can win back the American majority by shifting the focus to his critics - and assailing them as weak-kneed opportunists who are endangering the troops.


It's also debatable whether Cheney is the ideal person to employ this tactic... Cheney is the guy who repeatedly insisted that Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta had met in Prague with an agent for Saddam Hussein - even though the Czechs, the CIA and the FBI told the White House, long before the war, that no such meeting had occurred; in 2004, Cheney denied on CBS that he had ever described the Atta story as "pretty well confirmed" - even though he was captured on tape by NBC using those exact words in 2001. And Cheney maintained in 2002 that there was "irrefutable evidence" of an Iraqi nuclear program, even though, long before the war, the Energy and State Departments had concluded otherwise.

George Casey a Traitor?

Yesterday, the Republicans in Congress spent most of the night accusing Rep. Murtha and other Democrats of being traitors for proposing a withdrawal from Iraq. So, I guess when someone else proposes a withdrawal, it's fair to call them a traitor too -- right?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The top U.S. commander in Iraq has submitted a plan to the Pentagon for withdrawing troops in Iraq, according to a senior defense official.

Gen. George Casey submitted the plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. It includes numerous options and recommends that brigades -- usually made up of about 2,000 soldiers each -- begin pulling out of Iraq early next year.

Why Now?

The question several people have started asking is why did Bob Woodward and his source, Mr. X, go public now? After all, they've kept the fact that Mr. X leaked Valerie Plame Wilson's status as a CIA Agent to Woodward a secret throughout all the continuing debate over the subject for over two years. So, why come clean now?

Kevin Drum suggests one possible answer: Once Woodward heard Patrick Fitzgerald's news conference about the Scooter indictment, he realized that his own source, Mr. X, must have lied (or at least mis-spoken) when he testified to Fitzgerald, else Fitzgerald would have known that the Scooter to Judy Miller leak was not the first. As it was, Fitzgerald said that Scooter was the first known leaker. So, at that point, perhaps Woodward called his source and told him that he had better come clean with Fitzgerald on his own, just in case Fitzgerald comes after Woodward. Then, presumably Mr. X did indeed come clean (or partially so) by calling Fitzgerald, who later called Woodward to testify.

If so, this suggests that Mr. X may well have lied to Fitzgerald in his original testimony. Maybe Fitzgerald has enough to prove that. We'll have to see. And, of course, there is some possibility that Mr. X is Dick Cheney. Wouldn't it be interesting if the V.P. got indicted?

Friday, November 18, 2005

California Voting Machines

As most regular readers know, I have long been concerned about the use of touch screen voting machines, particularly Diebold machines, in this country. There is some pretty good evidence that both the 2004 and 2005 elections in Ohio were stolen by rigging these machines to favor the Rethuglicans. Now, it seems that the Rethuglicans are trying to foist Diebold upon Caleeforneeyah without public hearings.

Raw Story reports that the Republican Secretary of State disbanded the Voting System Panel (VSP) in California (which had rejected Diebold machines in the past) just days before public hearings were to be held on a proposal to recertify the machines the VSP had previously de-certified. The Secretary of State said that a tape recorder would be available at the site of the so-called Public Hearing for anyone who wanted to speak, but that officials would not be present. Meanwhile, it looks as though the Secretary of State plans to sneak the Diebold machines back into use without any further evaluation.

Raw Story is not necessarily the most reliable source, but if this is true, it is really troubling. If the Republicans were really serious about Democracy, they would never be doing this. Their very actions suggest that these machines are rigged.

The Fitzmas Gift that Keeps on Giving

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a sign he may seek new or revised charges in the CIA leak case, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said on Friday his investigation would be going back before a grand jury.

Vice President for Torture

The U.K.'s ITV interviewed Admiral Stansfield Turner:

A former CIA director has claimed that torture is condoned and even approved by the Bush government.

The devastating accusations have been made by Admiral Stansfield Turner who labelled Dick Cheney "a vice president for torture".

via Crooks and Liars.

Good for a laugh

Try this link to a public service announcement for a good laugh. A friend, who may become a regular contributor to Scatablog, sent me this.

You're Doing a Great Job, Brownie

From today's NY Times:
A North Carolina man who was charged yesterday with accepting kickbacks and bribes as a comptroller and financial officer for the American occupation authority in Iraq was hired despite having served prison time for felony fraud in the 1990's. The job gave the man, Robert J. Stein, control over $82 million in cash earmarked for Iraqi rebuilding projects. [Emphasis added].
Where do they get these guys?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Good News

There were several pieces of good news today.

First, Rep. Jack Murtha (D., Pa), a former marine and traditionally a hawk, called for an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. The Rethuglicans are already swiftboating him, but this looks like it may be a turning point.

Second, the Democrats, together with about 24 moderate Republicans, turned back the spending cut bill in the House today. The bill will still probably get through, since the Republicans will add it to an omnibus bill forcing their membership to vote it through before the end of the year, but it sure is fun to see the Republican leadership losing their clout.

Third, as noted in an earlier post, the Harris Interactive poll puts Bush's favorable ratings at the all time low of 34%. My, does it feel good to have some other people on our side for a change. The public seems to finally be waking up -- their prolonged sleep was not for want of this Rooster crowing from day one.

Mainstream Media Sucks

Marty Kaplan at the Huffington Post has a great post on how the mainstream media continues to suck. Here are some highlites.

Mainstream journalism has cancer. The diagnosis – stage three, terminal – was made this week, by anyone with eyes to see...

But the coverage of the battle between the White House and the Democrats over the use of prewar intelligence, and the reporting on l’affaire Woodward, is the end of the road for the mandarin gatekeepers...

The worst – and this is what pushed me over the edge – is the disgraceful mischaracterization of the impact of the Woodward revelation on Fitzgerald’s case against Libby. With the exception of Keith Olberman, everyone is parroting Libby’s lawyer’s lie that this disproves Fitzgerald’s assertion that Libby was the first person in the Administration to leak Valerie Plame’s name. Fitzgerald, of course, didn’t say that. He said that Libby was “the first government official known to have told a reporter.” This is not a small distinction; it is not quibbling about words. If Woodward hadn’t decided that the World-According-to-Bob rules meant that he could keep his mouth shut while the Grand Jury was still empaneled, then Fitzgerald would have been able to add the leak to Woodward to his timetable. (And if Libby hadn’t thrown sand in Fitzgerald’s eyes, the investigation could have gone deeper.)

And yet now the Washington Post, ABC News, CNN, NBC and the AP have spread the lie, and soon every lazy stenographer on the planet posing as a journalist will gladly cut and paste this Republican propaganda into their narrative of the most troubling chapter in modern American history. What does it say about the news profession when most of the voices determined to ensure accuracy are onliners working without benefit of staffs below them, editors above them, or brand-name seals of approval from the priesthood?

I added the emphasis.

Update: I might add that the media coverage of the Republicans' decision to "do away with the Alaskan bridge to nowhere" was equally misleading. From most of the articles I saw, you would have thought that the bridge project was doomed. Instead, the same amount of money originally earmarked for the bridge is now to be given directly to the State of Alaska, so they can spend it on the bridge. There is not one penny of savings in this move, and in all liklihood the bridge will still be built.

The Evil Cheney Monster

The evil Cheney Monster is at it again, accusing the Democrats of lying and treasonous activities. [As usual, projecting his own actions upon his opponents]. Just look at him here ...

via The Left Coaster.

Maybe its The Economy

We keep hearing how well the economy is doing, so I thought I would focus on a few statistics to see how well things really are going for the average Joe and Jill.

Since Bush took over in January 2001, total private employment has grown by a meager 572,000 persons through October of this year, a mere 0.107 percent annual compound rate of growth . The average hourly earnings of these folks (in constant 1982 dollars) have grown a mere 6 cents from $8.03 in January 2001 to $8.09 in October 2005. [Based on Bureau of Labor Statistics seasonlly adjusted estimates] Meanwhile, the population has been growing at an average annual rate of about 1.6% per year, about 15 times faster than the growth in private employment, according to the Census Bureau. If private employment had grown at that rate since 2001, there would be 5.7 million more people employed today than are actually employed. What are those 5.7 million people doing? Good question. No answer. Somebody must be feeding them, I would think. So, if you took the money made by those who are actually employed and spread it over the number that would have been employed if those extra 5.7 million were working, the average hourly earnings of those in that pool, have actually fallen from $8.03 in January 2001 to $7.70 by October 2005. Hmmm. Doesn't look so good to me!

Update: To make matters worse according to the BLS, the typical worker works fewer hours now than in January 2001. The average has fallen from 34.2 hours per week in January 2001 to 33.8 hours by October 2005. Hence the average worker's take home pay has actually declined (in real terms) by about a half a percent since Bush took office.

Bush Approval drops to 34%

Bush's Approval Rating
Falls Again, Poll Shows

November 17, 2005

President Bush's positive job rating continues to fall, touching another new low for his presidency, the latest Harris Interactive poll finds.

Bush's current job approval rating stands at 34%, compared with a positive rating of 88% soon after 9/11, 50% at this time last year, and 40% in August.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

U.S. Admits using "Banned" Chemical Weapons in Iraq

The U.S. finally admitted it used a banned substance (banned by everyone but us, that is) in Iraq. I guess we need someone to lead a preemptive strike against the U.S. to rid us of our banned weapons.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon on Wednesday acknowledged using incendiary white-phosphorus munitions in a 2004 counterinsurgency offensive in the Iraqi city of Falluja, but defended their use as legal.

Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. military had not used the highly flammable weapons against civilians, contrary to an Italian state television report this month which said the weapons were used against men, women and children in Falluja who were burned to the bone.

"We categorically deny that claim," Venable said.

"It's part of our conventional-weapons inventory and we use it like we use any other conventional weapon," added Bryan Whitman, another Pentagon spokesman.

Venable said white phosphorus is not outlawed or banned by any convention. However, a protocol to the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons forbids using incendiary weapons against civilians or against military targets amid concentrations of civilians.

The United States did not sign the protocol.
All this denying does not alter the fact that Italian TV has pictures and other documentary evidence of the non-existent men, women and children being snuffed by this horrible stuff.

Republican turns on Bush

From the Washington Post:
Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) strongly criticized yesterday the White House's new line of attack against critics of its Iraq policy, saying that "the Bush administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them."....

Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and a potential presidential candidate in 2008, countered in a speech to the Council of Foreign Relations that the Vietnam War "was a national tragedy partly because members of Congress failed their country, remained silent and lacked the courage to challenge the administrations in power until it was too late."

"To question your government is not unpatriotic -- to not question your government is unpatriotic," Hagel said
My, my. Pretty soon, I think Bush may begin to melt, just like the wicked witch of the West.

Fitzmas and Bob Woodward

The following from the Washington Post:

Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.

In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.

Looks like there may be big things still to come from Fitzmas!

Update: Steve Clemons has some interesting insights into this:

Immaculate Conception

For some time now, I've been wondering why Bush and his neo-conservative thugs spend so much time pushing freedom and democracy around the rest of the world when they are destroying our own freedoms and democracy at the very same time. It just doesn't seem to make sense. (Of course, you may properly call me an idiot for expecting anything associated with Bush to make sense). Even today, I read in the headlines about Bush pushing China (from a safe distance in Japan) to grant its people more freedoms. Well, I finally came up with a potential logical explanation (we used to call these "immaculate conceptions" at my former workplace): I suspect that the neocons believe that democracies are inherently weak. Hence, by forcing the rest of the world to democratize, we weaken them, strengthening ourselves by comparison. Since the ultimate goal of the neocons is world domination by the U.S., this strategy makes perfect sense. Meanwhile, we strengthen ourselves at home by destroying the very freedoms we are attempting to foist upon the rest of the world.

A working hypothesis, at least. Seems to me it fits pretty well.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Torture and the Ticking Time Bomb

This, from Alex Tabarrok, via Kevin Drum:

It does not follow from the "ticking time bomb" argument that torture should be legal. The problem with making torture legal is that the government will abuse its powers. I do not trust the government, any government, to use this power responsibly. Leviathan must be heavily restrained, especially when it comes to torture.

Here is where economics can make a contribution. By making torture illegal we are raising the price of torture but we are not raising the price to infinity. If the President or the head of the CIA thinks that torture is required to stop the ticking time bomb then they ought to approve it knowing full well that they face possible prosecution. Only if the price of torture is very high can we expect that it will be used only in the most absolutely urgent of circumstances.

I'll Say Anything to Get the Job

So, what does this say about Alito?
AP - WASHINGTON - Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito distanced himself Tuesday from his 1985 comments that there was no constitutional right to abortion, telling a senator in private that he had been "an advocate seeking a job."
Seems to me that a man who will say anything just to get a job is not likely to be a trustworthy applicant to the Supreme Court. After all, if he would say anything to get the job in the Reagan Administration, wouldn't he lie even more to get one of the most prized jobs in the land?

Subscription screens

From the Washington Post, via a friend:
"It may be unpopular in the blogosphere, but the New York Times has signed up 135,000 subscribers at 50 bucks a pop for online access to its columnists and other bonus material (plus an equal number of print subscribers who get the service free). Other news outlets are surely taking note."
Unfortunately, this may mean that other papers will put their content behind a subscription screen. So, yes, this should be unpopular in the blogosphere.

Ohio Election Theft (again)

The following is from The Free Press. I find it quite chilling.

Has American Democracy died an electronic death in Ohio 2005's referenda defeats?
by Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
November 11, 2005

While debate still rages over Ohio's stolen presidential election of 2004, the impossible outcomes of key 2005 referendum issues may have put an electronic nail through American democracy.

Once again, the Buckeye state has hosted an astonishing display of electronic manipulation that calls into question the sanctity of America's right to vote, and to have those votes counted in this crucial swing state.

The controversy has been vastly enhanced due to the simultaneous installation of new electronic voting machines in nearly half the state's 88 counties, machines the General Accountability Office has now confirmed could be easily hacked by a very small number of people.

Last year, the US presidency was decided here. This year, a bond issue and four hard-fought election reform propositions are in question.

Issue One on Ohio's 2005 ballot was a controversial $2 billion "Third Frontier" proposition for state programs ostensibly meant to create jobs and promote high tech industry. Because some of the money may seem destined for stem cell research, Issue One was bitterly opposed by the Christian Right, which distributed leaflets against it...

A poll run on the front page of the Columbus Dispatch on Sunday, November 6, showed Issue One passing with 53% of the vote. Official tallies showed Issue One passing with 54% of the vote...

Its precision on Issue One was consistent with the Dispatch's historic polling abilities, which have been uncannily accurate for decades... This poll was based on 1872 registered Ohio voters, with a margin of error at plus/minus 2.5 percentage points and a 95% confidence interval. The Issue One outcome would appear to confirm the Dispatch polling operation as the state's gold standard.

But Issues 2-5 are another story...

Issue Two was designed to make it easier for Ohioans to vote early, by mail or in person...

The November 6 Dispatch poll showed Issue Two passing by a vote of 59% to 33%, with about 8% undecided, an even broader margin than that predicted for Issue One.

But on November 8, the official vote count showed Issue Two going down to defeat by the astonishing margin of 63.5% against, with just 36.5% in favor. To say the outcome is a virtual statistical impossibility is to understate the case. For the official vote count to square with the pre-vote Dispatch poll, support for the Issue had to drop more than 22 points, with virtually all the undecideds apparently going into the "no" column.

The numbers on Issue Three are even less likely.

Issue Three involved campaign finance reform... The Sunday Dispatch poll showed it winning in a landslide, with 61% in favor and just 25% opposed.

Tuesday's official results showed Issue Three going down to defeat in perhaps the most astonishing reversal in Ohio history, claiming just 33% of the vote, with 67% opposed. For this to have happened, Issue Three's polled support had to drop 28 points, again with an apparent 100% opposition from the previously undecideds.

The reversals on both Issues Two and Three were statistically staggering, to say the least.

The outcomes on Issue Four and Five were slightly less dramatic. Issue Four meant to end gerrymandering by establishing a non-partisan commission to set Congressional and legislative districts. The Dispatch poll showed it with 31% support, 45% opposition, and 25% undecided. Issue Four's final margin of defeat was 30% in favor to 70% against, placing virtually all undecideds in the "no" column.

Issue Five meant to take administration of Ohio's elections away from the Secretary of State, giving control to a nine-member non-partisan commission. Issue Five was prompted by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's administration of the 2004 presidential vote, particularly in light of his role as co-chair of Ohio's Bush-Cheney campaign. The Dispatch poll showed a virtual toss-up, at 41% yes, 43% no and 16% undecided. The official result gave Issue Five just 30% of the vote, with allegedly 70% opposed.

But the Sunday Dispatch also carried another headline: "44 counties will break in new voting machines." Forty-one of those counties "will be using new electronic touch screens from Diebold Election System," the Dispatch added.

Diebold's controversial CEO Walden O'Dell, a major GOP donor, made national headlines in 2003 with a fundraising letter pledging to deliver Ohio's 2004 electoral votes to Bush.

Every vote in Ohio 2004 was cast or counted on an electronic device. About 15%---some 800,000 votes---were cast on electronic touchscreen machines with no paper trail. The number was about seven times higher than Bush's official 118,775-vote margin of victory. Nearly all the rest of the votes were cast on punch cards or scantron ballots counted by opti-scan devices---some of them made by Diebold---then tallied at central computer stations in each of Ohio's 88 counties.

According to a recent General Accountability Office report, all such technologies are easily hacked. Vote skimming and tipping are readily available to those who would manipulate the vote. Vote switching could be especially easy for those with access to networks by which many of the computers are linked. Such machines and networks, said the GAO, had widespread problems with "security and reliability." Among them were "weak security controls, system design flaws, inadequate security testing, incorrect system configuration, poor security management and vague or incomplete voting system standards, among other issues."

With the 2005 expansion of paperless touch-screen machines into 41 more Ohio counties, this year's election was more vulnerable than ever to centralized manipulation. The outcomes on Issues 2-5 would indicate just that.

The new touchscreen machines were brought in by Blackwell, who had vowed to take the state to an entirely e-based voting regime...

Though there were glitches, this year's voting lacked the massive irregularities and open manipulations that poisoned Ohio 2004. The only major difference would appear to be the new installation of touchscreen machines in those additional 41 counties.

And thus the possible explanations for the staggering defeats of Issues Two through Five boil down to two: either the Dispatch polling---dead accurate for Issue One---was wildly wrong beyond all possible statistical margin of error for Issues 2-5, or the electronic machines on which Ohio and much of the nation conduct their elections were hacked by someone wanting to change the vote count.

If the latter is true, it can and will be done again, and we can forget forever about the state that has been essential to the election of every Republican presidential candidate since Lincoln.

And we can also, for all intents and purposes, forget about the future of American democracy.

Updated November 13, 2005
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of HOW THE GOP STOLE AMERICA'S 2004 ELECTION AND IS RIGGING 2008, available at and, and, with Steve Rosenfeld, of WHAT HAPPENED IN OHIO, available from The New Press in spring, 2006.
Sadly, it appears that the people no longer have the right to vote in this country.

Why Now and Not Then?

Today, the New York Times published an unusually long edititorial criticizing Bush for perverting the intelligence basis in the lead up to the Iraq war. Many other papers are now doing the same, including the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. But, why now? Virtually everything we know now about this we knew back in 2002 and early 2003. There really isn't any new information of any great consequence that wasn't around then. Why didn't they get on this bandwagon back then? Many of us knew Bush was lying almost as soon as he got back from cowering somewhere out west after the Twin Towers fell. What's happened that makes it okay for the papers to say now that he was lying when they couldn't say it then? Is it just that they now think this is the popular view. Do they just read the polls to determine what news is popular to cover? Boy, is that a great way to run a newspaper!

Of course, that would explain why so much time is dedicated to covering the case of a missing white woman in Aruba, when the thousands of missing black women and children in Philadelphia are ignored.

Three cheers for the fourth estate.