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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Where would Bush be now?

I guess we're all terrorists:

Defending the Bush administration's efforts to immunize telecommunications companies from any responsibility for their assistance in the likely illegal surveillance of Americans after 9/11, a top national security official said any discussion of US surveillance efforts aids terrorists.

Isn't it funny that anything that's embarrassing for Bush helps the terrorists.

But, I have a question -- a serious question: Where would Bush be now if it weren't for Osama bin Laden? I'd lay odds he wouldn't have won in 2004 (if he actually did win, as distinct from stealing the election) and would now be running another failing corporation.

I might also add, where would Osama be if it weren't for George Bush? My guess is that he'd have been captured or killed in Tora Bora if Al Gore had been President.

So the two are essentially two sides of the same coin. Osama's the head and Bush's the tail.


The Senate Hart and Dirksen office buildings were evacuated today and nobody seems to know just why.

My guess: Bushco wanted to rifle through the files of the Democratic Senators without being disturbed.

See the arguments for telecom immunity be destroyed

Jay Rockefeller defends his telecom immunity spawn in the Washington Post. Glenn Greenwald dismantles every point Rockefeller tries to make piece by piece by piece. The most important point in the end: FISA already provides a defense for good faith belief in legality, only provided that the telecom in question needs to make the case for it. Another good distinction is recognizing the difference between the “days after 9-11” – remember, the FISA law already allows for emergency actions with follow up subpoenas in compelling circumstances -- and continuing the otherwise unlawful behavior long after the company became fully aware that the government had no intention of going through the lawful process.

Nobody thinks that telecoms should not be able to cooperate fully (and very profitably) with the government to fight the terrorists. However, watch for the right wing slime machine to level that accusation expressly or by strong innuendo. Total dishonesty never stopped them before. More than anything, this is about establishing Dick Cheney’s theories of completely unchecked Executive powers, to the detriment of the Constitutional authority of Congress and the judicial branch. It should be a “conservative” issue supreme – to people who are true conservatives, and not ones who claim that mantle but are actually radical right wing reactionaries -- as well as an issue for liberals and progressives. Rockefeller and his compatriots who waved this thing through are going right along with undermining the authority of Congress to make the laws.

Somehow we've got to get traction for Greenwald's powerful arguments.


So, who won last night's debate? In my opinion, John Edwards did a much better job than he has done in the past and may have out shined everyone last night. Too bad he shot himself in the foot by agreeing to take public funding, which will leave him defenseless from the primaries until the Democratic convention -- a fatal mistake. Obama did okay, but only okay. Someone needs to tell Chris Dodd to strike the word "here" from his vocabulary. He used it about 700 times on Meet the Press Sunday, and overused it again last night. I like Dodd, but he just doesn't have the oratorical skills you need.

To my surprise, despite getting beaten over the head by everyone else, including the moderators and the Republicans, Hillary gained ground in my estimation of her. While I disagree with many of the things she has done (and not done), she at least talked a pretty good game last night. I'm getting to the point where I think I can vote for her in the general election without puking.

So, that's my 2 cents worth. It won't get you a ride on the subway.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nader sues Democrats

Well, well, well. Ralph Nader has decided to sue the Democratic Party and virtually anyone in it he can name for torpedoing his 2004 campaign. Hmmmm. Isn't that what the opposing party is supposed to do? Perhaps we should sue the Republicans for torpedoing the Democrats' 2004 campaign.

However, what brought the whole thing to my attention is Nader's attorney, Bruce Afran. As I've mentioned before, Bruce and I have been combatants in the past, when I'm pleased to say, I wiped his slate clean. I have sort of mixed feelings about the guy. On the one hand, I kind of like him because he fell so fully for my trap. I also kind of like him because he's taken on some pretty good causes from time to time. But, he's a bit of an ambulance chaser, and I think he's way off the wall in this one. Just one man's opinion.

Let's do in a few more kids

What we definitely want is more dangerous toys, less government inspection, and a lot more dieing kids. After all, we have a population problem.

Furthermore, most of the kids who will die are the ones who buy cheap toys, so they're mostly going to be black and Hispanic, and no one wants those kids around anyway:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 — The nation’s top official for consumer product safety has asked Congress in recent days to reject legislation intended to strengthen the agency, which polices thousands of consumer goods, from toys to tools.

On the eve of an important Senate committee meeting to consider the legislation, Nancy A. Nord, the acting chairwoman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, has asked lawmakers in two letters not to approve the bulk of legislation that would increase the agency’s authority, double its budget and sharply increase its dwindling staff.

Ms. Nord opposes provisions that would increase the maximum penalties for safety violations and make it easier for the government to make public reports of faulty products, protect industry whistle-blowers and prosecute executives of companies that willfully violate laws.

Hint, hint: Putting poison in your trick or treat candies will go a long way too.

Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds

I see now that the White House is quietly supporting, if not actively aiding and abetting, Egypt in its efforts to become a nuclear power:

The White House on Monday said it had little information about Egypt's plans to relaunch its nuclear power program but declared itself "generally supportive" of civilian atomic power.

"I don't know a lot about it. In general, we are supportive of countries pursuing civil nuclear energy. It's clean burning. It provides electricity in a clean-burning and affordable way for citizens," said spokeswoman Dana Perino.

Curious, isn't it? One of the major reasons the White House always offers up for crumping Iran's efforts to do the same thing is that if anyone else in the Middle East gets nuclear power, then there will be an arms race throughout the area so everyone can get it. Why would Egypt be any different.

Furthermore, it's just what we need -- to have another unstable Arab government with a large underclass of unhappy militants get its hands on nuclear weapons. It's bad enough with Pakistan. Do we really need Egypt in that game?

Oh, I'm sorry. I understand now. Egypt only wants to get nuclear power to make electricity. Iran says they only want to make electricity, but, of course, they're not good guys like the Egyptians. They really want to make nukes. It's all clear now.

Stupidity reins

How does the saying go? You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time. Well, it turns out you don't have to when most of the people are just plain stupid:

Despite President Bush's perpetually abysmal approval ratings, it appears his increasingly hostile rhetoric against Iran has drummed up enough fear of a "nuclear holocaust" or a World War III that a majority of Americans are in favor of a US strike against the country aimed a curtailing its apparent nuclear ambitions, a new poll shows.

The Zogby International survey shows 52 percent of Americans would support a strike on Iran, while 53 percent expect President Bush to launch such an attack before the end of his second term. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is voters' No. 1 choice to deal with Iran, with 21 percent saying they would like to see her take on Tehran from the White House. Republican Rudy Giuliani was voters' second choice, with 15 percent.

How Rove made it the Anti-Civil Rights Division

This piece on the despicable politicization of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is well worth your time. The Democratic Congress may be failing to accomplish a lot of things we wish they could do, but getting stuff like this out through the investigatory power is of tremendous value.

Now, will we get the networks, CNN and MSNBC to spend days and days on this, properly skewering these genuine culprits? Accuse them of racial insensitivity – don’t seem to care enough about deliberate disenfranchisement of blacks to give it the massive attention it deserves – might get somewhere.

State Department handouts

Since Atrios already has his dibs in for Martha's Vineyard, I'll take Nantucket.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Immunity here, immunity there

The story of Blackwater just gets murkier and murkier:

WASHINGTON - The State Department promised Blackwater USA bodyguards immunity from prosecution in its investigation of last month's deadly shooting of 17 Iraqi civilians, The Associated Press has learned.

As a result, it will likely be months before the United States can — if ever — bring criminal charges in the case that has infuriated the Iraqi government.

"Once you give immunity, you can't take it away," said a senior law enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

It looks like anyone and everyone who gave Bush money gets automatic immunity from any crime, no matter how heinous. Of course, then there are the rest of us.

What in God's name would have possessed the State Department to offer immunity immediately in the wake of this horrendous crime?

Petraeus/Chalabi in bed together

You know Petraeus betrayed us when you see that he's now cozying up to convicted felon, Iranian spy, Cheney pal, Ahmed Chalabi.

BAGHDAD — Ahmad Chalabi, the controversial, ubiquitous Iraqi politician and one-time Bush administration favorite, has re-emerged as a central figure in the latest U.S. strategy for Iraq.

His latest job: To press Iraq's central government to use early security gains from the surge to deliver better electricity, health, education and local security services to Baghdad neighborhoods. That's the next phase of the surge plan. Until now, the U.S. military, various militias, insurgents and some U.S. backed groups have provided those services without great success.

The pickings over there in Baghdad must be really slim if they're back to sucking up to Chalabi.

Learning from history

Somebody's trying to force the White House to cough up some e-mails:

A private watchdog group is asking the White House to show immediately that it has not destroyed archives of at least 5 million e-mails that were improperly deleted from internal servers. So far, the Bush administration has refused to provide such assurances.

A motion filed Friday by the National Security Archive seeks to compel the White House to hand over records that show it has maintained backup tapes of the deleted e-mails, as required by presidential record-keeping laws. A nearly identical case from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, another watchdog, seeks similar assurances that the Bush administration has not permanently erased the millions of e-mails exchanged among scores of White House aides.

Now, of course we know that this administration never learns anything from its own mistakes and rarely learns anything from history, but I'm willing to bet they learned one thing from Nixon's history. If you're going to erase the tapes, don't just erase them, burn them and disperse the ashes over the skyline drive. Believe me, these e-mails are never going to see the light of day. They're gone for good. And, the fact that it's illegal to destroy them will be forgotten.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

No social liberal he

I wish the main stream media would stop calling Giuliani a "social liberal." Case in point from McClatchy News:

Even the one social liberal among them, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, strives to paper over his support for abortion rights with his vow to appoint “strict constructionist” judges, a coded message to conservatives that he could name judges who'd oppose abortion rights.

Yes, Giuliani did at one time endorse women's rights and gay and lesbian rights, but that's about it. On any other score he was about a illiberal as they get. He single handedly transported thousand of indigent New Yorkers out of the city to New Jersey and upstate New York without even a shred of due process. That's how he "cleaned up" the city. As a U.S. Attorney, he had a penchant to perp walk people out of their white collar offices even when he had no evidence against them. It was all a stunt. He trampled over civil liberties and civil rights in the city, sneering at the blacks who complained about police brutality.

This man is no "social liberal" in any but the eyes of the most far right evangelical creep.

My thoughts exactly

When I saw that Obama was going after Hillary on Social Security, I had a strong adverse reaction. I see that Atrios did too:

I appreciate that Obama needs an issue, but please don't put social security into the Washington water. Once it gets in there all the serious pundits spend their days figuring out how best to starve granny.

It's a lovely program. It's fine.


The following quotation from a Supreme Court decision has apparently now been classified by the government and may not be disseminated to the public (it's been redacted by the government from an ACLU court filing as inappropriate for public dissemination):

“The danger to political dissent is acute where the Government attempts to act under so vague a concept as the power to protect ‘domestic security.’ Given the difficulty of defining the domestic security interest, the danger of abuse in acting to protect that interest becomes apparent.”

Hey, DOJ, please, please, please come arrest me for publishing this on my blog. If I can't quote things like this in my own country, then to hell with the country.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Publius on HIllary

So sayeth Publius:

Clinton’s Iran vote is a big deal. As a matter of common sense, there’s no reason to vote for any foreign policy resolution entitled “Kyl-Lieberman.” More substantively, she’s not voting in a vacuum. She knows exactly what the effects of these actions are -- and how they make military action far more likely. It’s true of course that she -- wisely -- co-sponsored Webb’s Iran legislation. But I classify that under “hedging her panders.” Depending on what crowd she’s speaking to, she can pull out either the Kyl-Lieberman or the Webb card.

I honestly don’t know what Hillary Clinton personally thinks about this stuff. And, frankly, I don’t care. The problem with Hillary is not what she thinks. The problem is her willingness to support more war-oriented foreign policy to avoid looking like a Woodstock hippy. She did it in 2002 -- and she’s just gone and done it again. And it's something to be sincerely concerned about.

Worse than Stalin

Of course, as long as we're the ones doing it, it's okay 'cause we're the good guys:

An American military lawyer and veteran of dozens of secret Guantanamo tribunals has made a devastating attack on the legal process for determining whether Guantanamo prisoners are "enemy combatants".

The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantanamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as "unconscionable".

His critique will be the centrepiece of a hearing on 5 December before the US Supreme Court when another attempt is made to shut the prison down. So nervous is the Bush administration of the latest attack – and another Supreme Court ruling against it – that it is preparing a whole new system of military courts to deal with those still imprisoned.

The whistleblower's testimony is the most serious attack to date on the military panels, which were meant to give a fig- leaf of legitimacy to the interrogation and detention policies at Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The major has taken part in 49 status review panels.

"It's a kangaroo court system and completely corrupt," said Michael Ratner, the president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is co-ordinating investigations and appeals lawsuits against the government by some 1,000 lawyers. "Stalin had show trials, but at Guantanamo they are not even show trials because it all takes place in secret."

Mind boggling stupidity

The House Judiciary Committee sent out an e-mail to all their whistle blowers from the Justice Department warning them to lay low. Problem -- instead of sending the e-mail bcc, they sent it cc so everyone on the list now knows who everyone else on the list is.

Remind me not to whistle blow to the HJC!

Friday, October 26, 2007

On Malthus

It appears Malthus may have been right, just way ahead of his time:

PARIS: The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.

Climate change, the rate of extinction of species and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, the UN Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.

"The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns," Achim Steiner, the executive director of the program, said in a telephone interview. Efficient use of resources and reducing waste now are "among the greatest challenges at the beginning of 21st century," he said.

What are they so frightened of?

Please explain to me what the Democrats are so afraid of. It's taken them ages to get around to trying for a contempt citation against Harriet Miers and Josh Bolton, and even now that they know that they have the votes, they're tiptoeing all around it:

Conyers said the contempt battle was not aimed at seeking criminal sanctions against Bolten and Miers personally, but would nonetheless surely spark a long legal fight over the reach of executive privilege.

“Remember – no handcuffs,” Conyers said in an interview Thursday, noting that contempt of Congress is a misdemeanor.

Hell, if the shoe were on the other foot, the Thuglicans would have held this vote months ago, and the Dems would be in the clink by now.

I really just don't get it. Every time they pussyfoot like this they just play into the "too weak to fight the commies/islamofascists/whatever" label that the Thuglicans love to pin on them. Now everyone is pinning it on them -- Jack Cafferty, Keith Olbermann, etc.

It should be about the health of kids, not punishing the parents

The “frame” the Democrats should be using about Bush’s veto of SCHIP, and the pusillanimous Republicans who are too afraid to override the veto: It’s about insuring the health of kids who are now at risk, not the parents or the insurance companies. These are children who can’t buy their own health insurance. A bipartisan majority in Congress has found there are too many kids in families with below-average incomes who aren’t getting covered by any health insurance. Children not getting healthcare when they most need it because they aren't insured is a threat to us all. Some Republicans would say it’s selfish parents with lower middle class incomes who won’t go deep into debt to buy insurance on their own. We say it’s tough to pay $15,000 a year for health insurance when your total income is $40 or $50,000. And sometimes it’s impossible because of pre-existing conditions. President Bush and his supporters in Congress are willing to jeopardize the health of these kids in order to punish their lower middle class parents. Above all, he says, he wants to protect the business of the insurance companies. Is that what America wants?

Yes, they are paying a price already, but it should be a devastating price.

I'll believe it when I see it

I hope they're right, but I'll believe it when I see it:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) are surveying the House Democratic caucus to determine whether the caucus will support holding White House Chief of Staff Joshua Bolten and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers in contempt for ducking subpoenas in the continuing investigation into the firing of nine US attorneys.

According Bresnahan of Politico, Conyers said the contempt motion could be brought as "as early as next week," but that Pelosi had not made a final decision on the vote, saying it would be more likely in two weeks.

Democrats believe they have the votes to hold Miers and Bolten in contempt, Bresnahan says. If a criminal contempt resolution passes, it would light new fires in a White House already struggling to stave off additional controversy. The House Judiciary Committee approved a contempt resolution after both failed to show up for a July hearing, but it was not brought to the House floor for a vote.

And, what the hell has taken so long?

On catching terrorists

If you have ten minutes or so, read this story about a woman who learned Arabic on her own, chats up jihadists on the internet, gets their plans, and turns the info over to the FBI (which has no access to the internet itself - being forced to go to the public library to use it). Arguably, she has intercepted more real terrorist threats than the government.

(h/t Hullabaloo)

The FEMA propaganda machine

Atrios pointed me to this article in the WAPO. Ah, FEMA at work. A well oiled engine (of propaganda):

FEMA has truly learned the lessons of Katrina. Even its handling of the media has improved dramatically. For example, as the California wildfires raged Tuesday, Vice Adm. Harvey E. Johnson, the deputy administrator, had a 1 p.m. news briefing.

Reporters were given only 15 minutes' notice of the briefing, making it unlikely many could show up at FEMA's Southwest D.C. offices. They were given an 800 number to call in, though it was a "listen only" line, the notice said -- no questions. Parts of the briefing were carried live on Fox News, MSNBC and other outlets.

…He was apparently quite familiar with the reporters -- in one case, he appears to say "Mike" and points to a reporter -- and was asked an oddly in-house question about "what it means to have an emergency declaration as opposed to a major disaster declaration" signed by the president. He once again explained smoothly.

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker interrupted at one point to caution he'd allow just "two more questions." Later, he called for a "last question."

"Are you happy with FEMA's response so far?" a reporter asked. Another asked about "lessons learned from Katrina."

"I'm very happy with FEMA's response so far," Johnson said, hailing "a very smoothly, very efficiently performing team."

"And so I think what you're really seeing here is the benefit of experience, the benefit of good leadership and the benefit of good partnership," Johnson said, "none of which were present in Katrina." (Wasn't Michael Chertoff DHS chief then?) Very smooth, very professional. But something didn't seem right. The reporters were lobbing too many softballs. No one asked about trailers with formaldehyde for those made homeless by the fires. And the media seemed to be giving Johnson all day to wax on and on about FEMA's greatness.

Of course, that could be because the questions were asked by FEMA staffers playing reporters. We're told the questions were asked by Cindy Taylor, FEMA's deputy director of external affairs, and by "Mike" Widomski, the deputy director of public affairs. Director of External Affairs John "Pat" Philbin asked a question, and another came, we understand, from someone who sounds like press aide Ali Kirin.

Of course, as my wife said when I read this to her, "what difference does it make if they had fake reporters implanted? After all, even all the real reporters theses days are Bush implants, reading from scripted questions that the White House has prepared for them."

Would you hug this man? Eeeeewwww

Now that they discovered that one of the fires in the Southwest was arson (the Harris fire, I think), I hear they are now investigating whether the others were as well.

I have a theory -- I suppose you'd call it a "conspiracy theory." The White House set the fires to a) give Bush a do-over of Katrina, b) create an opportunity for a great photo-op, and c) give him a chance to say "heck of a job, Schwartzie."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Say, "I don't know" and do it again

It seems that Alberto Gonzales and Condi Rice must have attended the same training program on how to answer questions when testifying before Congress. Here are the steps as I see them.

1. Say, "I don't recall."

2. Say, "I didn't know that."

3. Say, "I'll have to get back to you on that."

4. Say, "Given what I've just said, you can trust us that everything is going well and is above board because we said so."

5. Go to Step #1 and repeat.

Paying for performance

Give me a break. The corrupt Kuwaiti contractor that is building (if you want to overstate what they're actually doing) the new U.S. Palace Embassy in Baghdad which is way over budget, way overdue, is not bomb proof as it was supposed to be, is not properly wired, and has a faulty fire detection system, is getting new lucrative contracts from the State Department to build other things at our taxpayer expense:

WASHINGTON — The Kuwaiti contractor that's building the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad — behind schedule and plagued by allegations of shoddy construction and safety flaws — is still winning lucrative new contracts to build U.S. diplomatic installations overseas.

Late last month, First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting Co. was part of a team that won a $122 million State Department contract to build a U.S. consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, according to contract documents.

That's one of at least three State Department jobs, in addition to the Baghdad project, that First Kuwaiti won in association with a U.S. firm, Grunley Walsh LLC of Rockville, Md.

I suppose this is what the Bushies mean when they talk about rewarding performance. Teachers take note!

The sky is falling, the sky is falling. It's al Qaeda

As you may have heard, Fox News claimed that the wild fires in California were set by al Qaeda -- only one of the many claims made for al Qaeda's super powers -- and may have even suggested they somehow controlled the Santa Anna winds.

Keith Olbermann pointed out that the FBI memo Fox was pointing to as "five days" old was actually about 5 years old. It referred not to California but to Colorado. Keith suggested that the next thing Fox might claim is that "al Qaeda causes night to fall." Oh my, oh my. The sky is falling.

He then asked his guest, Rachel Maddow why it is that the Bush administration feels so compelled to ascribe supernatural powers to al Qaeda. Her response was dead on:

They have to come up with super-human powers for Al Qaeda because they want to use Al Qaeda to justify a super-extreme agenda for the United States of America. If you really, really want to radically transform our government and radically transform who we are as a country; if you want East German style policing, and people informing on their neighbors, and you want to get rid of the Fourth Amendment, and you want endless wars conducted for profit; if you want to completely get rid of the safety net function and the regulatory function of the government; if you have an agenda that radical, you better have a really radical justification for it. And so they have to elevate this band of death cults, fundamentalist criminals into a threat that is greater than the Soviet Union ever was when they not only had a military but they had thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at our country. They have to make Al Qaeda even worse than that.

Onward Christian Soldiers

Well, it seems that Bush will take the orders Hillary has given and march the country over the cliff:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24 — The Bush administration will announce a long-debated policy of new sanctions against Iran on Thursday, accusing the elite Quds division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of supporting terrorism, administration officials said Wednesday night.

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war.
Let's go kill some Muslims just to say we scored.

Hey guys, let's all join in the crusade!


It's always a bit sad when something you remember fondly from your youth is about to pass away. Today I learned that the Delta Queen, the last of the old time, steam-driven, paddle-wheel river boats is about to be decommissioned because Congress refuses to renew its waiver from a law restricting wooden boats to 50 passengers or less.

As a youth, I knew the owners -- their daughter was in my class -- and I visited the boat many times when it was docked in Cincinnati. I have always wanted to take the luxury cruise they used to offer from Pittsburgh to New Orleans but never got around to it. Now, I guess it's too late.

Just for fun, here's a shot of the Cincinnati waterfront in 1957. River boats by the dozens. And, no, I'm not quite old enough to remember those days!

Ruler of the world

As you probably know, Bush stood up yesterday to order Cuba not to allow Castro's brother to take over and, furthermore, ordered it to dump it's current government system and adopt one Bush likes.

So tell me, since when has Bush become the dictator of everyone in the world? The utter chutzpah of this man is truly inconceivable. He really does believe that he rules the world.

If this kind of crap continues from our country, sooner or later the rest of the world is going to wake up, unite, take up arms against us, and wipe us off the face of the earth. And, we will deserve it, and they will have every right to do so.

Public safety be dammed, we need to protect profits

NASA has been conducting a study of commercial air passenger safety and found there are many more near misses than formerly believed. It deep sixed the report rather than show it to the public. The reason according to a NASA official:

Releasing the data "could materially affect the public confidence and commercial welfare of, the air carriers ..."

Ah. Public safety be dammed. Who cares if they die in a crash? We need to protect the profits of the airlines.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

"Please, please forgive me!" Can Democrats say anything else?

That whipped-puppy apology by Pete Stark was awful. Talk about demoralizing. Equally demoralizing is that none of the big-time “progressive” bloggers seem to care today. What the hell is going on here? Who made him do it? Nancy? Rahm? It really does make you wonder if there aren’t actual goon squads threatening death or dismemberment of their families.

Another round of WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?

It's time for another round of WHO DO YOU BELIEVE?

WASHINGTON - The White House on Wednesday denied that it "watered down" congressional testimony that the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered on the impact climate change is having on public health.

Two sources familiar with the documents said the White House severely edited the CDC director's congressional testimony, removing specific scientific references to potential health risks.

I know my answer. I bet you do too.

Bush logic

Ah, the logic of the Bush brain. He's now planning to bomb the Kurds in order to protect the Kurds from the Turks.

THE Bush Administration is considering air strikes, including cruise missiles, against the Kurdish rebel group PKK in northern Iraq.

The move would be an attempt to stave off a Turkish invasion of that country to fight the rebels.

Makes a whole lot of sense to me. Not.

The more things change, the more they stay the same

The more things change, the more they stay the same:

Americans too often teach their children to despise those who hold unpopular opinions. We teach them to regard as traitors, and hold in aversion and contempt, such as do not shout with the crowd, and so here in our democracy we are cheering a thing which of all things is most foreign to it and out of place - the delivery of our political conscience into somebody else's keeping. This is patriotism on the Russian plan. - Mark Twain

I found that quote at the end of an article by Digby on the Republicans artfule use of Ritual Defamation to cow the Democrats time and time again. The whole article is well worth a read.

A subprime primer

Want to understand the subprime mortgage crisis and get a good laugh at the same time?

Watch this.

Southern Cal fires

I have a daughter living out in the area just north of San Diego. As of yesterday, she and her family were sitting around biting their nails waiting for the evacuation call and hoping it wouldn't come. As far as I know, they're still in their house, but the fire maps look like they have fire to their west and fire to their south, so I'm biting my nails a bit to. My son-in-law sent some pics of what it looked like from their house the day before yesterday. Here's one.

A lot of people are going to need a lot of help. You might think about contributing to the Red Cross or some similar organization.

You've got to start somewhere

Update: After reading this, I retract everything I said below!

I was certainly glad to see that both Hillary and Obama have agreed to support the filibuster of the Senate version of the FISA bill if it continues to contain amnesty for the telcoms once it gets out of the Judiciary Committee. It does prove that any one of our guys would be better than any one of theirs. It's a pretty low bar to set, but I once had a boss who used to say that his goal for new hires was not to shoot the moon but to raise the average quality of the group. You've got to start somewhere.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Republican brainlessness on national security: Think this will stick?

I’m sure this has been done before, but the search for memorable formulations for everything, with zero pride of authorship, must be 24 x 7 x 365.

The Bush-Cheney-Giuliani-Romney-McCain-Thompson-Neocon foreign policy:
Shoot, Ready, Aim.”

Whoops, we weren’t ready with enough soldiers and protection. Whoops, we aimed in the wrong direction anyway. Recipe for disaster or what?

“And they want more of the same Republican ‘Shoot-Ready-Aim’ foreign policy? Just how stupid do they think the American people are?” Let’s hear that 24 x 7 x 365, at a minimum.

Democrats to blame for right wing takeover of GOP? That's rich!

Berkeley economics professor Brad DeLong has a great little analysis of the ethnic aspect of politics today. In his recent book, so DeLong says, Krugman says the rise of the right wing of the Republican Party after the 1960s (and the passage of the Civil Rights Act) was basically due to what Nixon called “the Southern Strategy”: picking up disgruntled white Southerners.

Many commenters to DeLong say that, on the contrary, “The rise of the Republican Party, they maintain, is due to things like the Democrats ‘prioritization of identity politics.’" You hear this a lot. But the Krugman view that it is, indeed, racial politics is buttressed by statistics showing that white males outside the South, despite claims and common wisdom that the Democrats lost the white male vote generally, voted Democratic in 2004 just as much as they did in 1952. Moreover, here is what DeLong says:

It is no accident that the mayor of New York was a guy named Fiorello LaGuardia. It was no accident that the junior senator from Massachusetts was named John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Identity politics was prioritized--by both parties--up the wazoo. Not a problem.

When does the "identity politics" become a problem? It becomes a problem when ethnic balancing leads to the presence of an African-American at the top of the ticket. Blaming the rise of Republican wingnuts on the fact that Democrats start nominating African-Americans for office is not an alternative to the thesis of The Conscience of a Liberal, but a confirmation of it.

Now you might argue that Democratic politicians ought to have reacted to this situation differently. They should have told their African-American voters, workers, and politicians: "This country is still too racist for conventional ethnic-balancing to work now that the 1964 Civil Rights has gotten you the vote. You have to wait another generation to see African-American faces at the top of the ticket, and in the meanwhile vote for white politicians who have your interests at heart and realize the debt that the Democratic Party is running up by making you wait by the door for yet another span of years." Perhaps that would have been the wiser course. Perhaps not. But it was a course the urban Democratic Party was unable to follow.
Seems to me that to say that Democrats are responsible for the rise of wingnut Republicans because they were unable to follow this make-African-Americans-wait-by-the-door-for-another-generation--well, this is the equivalent of blaming the victim of a drive-by for leaving bloodstains on the seats.

Social Security cooking the books? (Part II)

This is something I never saw before, but have suspected to be the case. According to this NYT 2005 report, The Social Security Administration itself, with the majority of trustees being Bush-appointed, tried to conscript employees into duplicating the President’s phony scare tactics about Social Security to promote the private accounts initiative -- and dipping into the trust Fund for that purpose. Apparently, the politicization effort met some professional resistance.

It’s worth having in your tool chest when the subject is raised again.

Just turn him off

As I've been scanning the blogs this morning, I come across three or four screaming and yelling about what an idiot Glen Beck is and asking why CNN keeps the creep on the air. Here's a case in point from Digby.

Hey, wake up guys/gals, they keep him on the air because you guys/gals are watching him! They don't care whether he says he hates his mother if that gets a few people to watch the adds.

Frankly, I doubt you'd get more than a 10% recognition rate in a national poll to the question, "Do you know who Glen Beck is?" And half of those would know some other Glen Beck.

If you just watch something else when he's on, your anger index will go down a lot and probably your blood pressure along with it.

If only I'd known he was that cheap

For a man who has been endowed with a vast fortune, it strikes me as strange that he can be bought this cheaply:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 22 — Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping.

If I'd known in advance that the telcos could bribe this guy for only $42,000, I'd have taken it on myself to raise $50,000 to bribe him the other way, with my own money if I couldn't get it from others.

Just goes to show, it doesn't take much to bribe these professional bribe takers in Washington.


Of course, to be fair, there's another take on this. Rockefeller is so rich that there's no way $42,000 would influence him to change his mind about something on which he had strongly held opinions. Hence, he must have no strongly held opinions.

In fact, I think this is the real explanation. From everything I've seen him do on this committee, before and after the 2006 elections, I think he has proven himself to be an airhead.

Free at last

Free at last, free at last!

I'm just home from three days in hospital. Sudden onset of high fever, no other symptoms. Tentative diagnosis of pneumonia with no symptoms. Antibiotics. Fever comes down on second day. Home again! Yeah!

Remind me next time -- never, never, never go to the ER. Arrived 5:00 p.m, admitted 4:30 a.m. 'Twas a long night.

Actually, I'm not entirely free. More like out on parole. Have to return in three weeks to check with my parole officer (MD).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Clinton does not equal Cheney in a pantsuit

Anonymous Liberal says this about Andrew Sullivan’s argument that Hillary Clinton will be just as bad on expansion of executive power as Bush and Cheney have been: balderdash. I agree. Strong executive? Sure, but there’s a hell of a difference between FDR, Truman, JFK, Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton, who were generally considered to be strong executives because they aggressively pursued substantive agendas, and the “Unitary Executive” and signing statements nonsense of this Republican administration – or Iran-Contra defiance under Reagan and George Bush I:

No one who would possibly be tapped to serve in Clinton's Office of Legal Counsel would subscribe to their fringe views. So there is no way that a Clinton administration would adopt anywhere near as hard a line on executive power issues as this administration has. It's just not possible.

Moreover, nothing could possibly do more to reawaken Republican concern for civil liberties and checks and balances than a Clinton presidency. Indeed, the combination of a massive Bush hangover and the return of conservative Clinton paranoia might be just the perfect storm necessarily to roll back some of the excesses of the Bush/Cheney era.

As readers of this blog know, Clinton is not my preferred candidate, but the idea that she's Cheney in a pant-suit is just crazy.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One Party Government

From the lead editorial in today's NY Times:

Every now and then, we are tempted to double-check that the Democrats actually won control of Congress last year. It was particularly hard to tell this week. Democratic leaders were cowed, once again, by propaganda from the White House and failed, once again, to modernize the law on electronic spying in a way that permits robust intelligence gathering on terrorists without undermining the Constitution.

...We were left wondering who is really in charge, when in a bipartisan press release announcing the agreement, the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Kit Bond, described the bill as “a delicate arrangement of compromises” that could not be changed in any way. The committee’s chairman, Jay Rockefeller, didn’t object.

... It was bad enough having a one-party government when Republicans controlled the White House and both houses of Congress. But the Democrats took over, and still the one-party system continues.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Harry Reid hearts Rush Limbaugh on the Senate Floor

Here's what our democrat leaders (slur intentional) are doing with their time on the Senate floor: Harry Reid claiming he just LUVS Rush Limbaugh -- read it and puke as I am doing while I write this:


Send them all off to the slaughterhouse. They deserve it more than the cattle that are standing there waiting to die.

I feel like puking

I really am getting totally discouraged, virtually to the point of despair. You work and work to get Democrats in power, and when they finally are, you find they are just as eager to destroy our country and its Constitution as the Rethuglicans were. Jay Rockefeller and Dianne Feinstein pushing for telecom immunity and then Harry Reid, essentially saying he will ignore Chris Dodd's hold on the bill. Hillary Clinton voting to give Bush the power to invade Iran. Nancy Pelosi more eager to get a bill denouncing genocide 100 years ago than to get the troops out of Iraq were we are practicing modern day genocide.

I feel like puking.

So let's do nothing

Bush science adviser says limitations on global warming are meaningless. All this from a man who has no training or experience whatsoever in climate science. From the Washington Post:

The president's top science adviser said yesterday there is no solid scientific evidence that the widely cited goal of limiting future global temperature rises to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels is necessary to avert dangerous climate change, an assertion that runs counter to that of many scientists as well as the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

John H. Marburger III, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said at a news conference that the target of preventing Earth from warming more than two degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, "is going to be a very difficult one to achieve and is not actually linked to regional events that affect people's lives."

So, since we don't know at exactly what temperature each species will fry, it's best to do nothing at all. He'll probably be saying the same thing once the temp is up 3.6 degrees and most of Florida is under water. Well, at least then we won't have to worry about hanging chads. There's a silver lining to every cloud.

Syria bombing stories are Cheney leaks

It took them awhile to see the obvious. I posted on this five days ago:

One US intelligence source familiar with the events expressed concern about recent news reports describing Syria as having a functioning nuclear weapons program and cautioned against attributing those reports to the US intelligence community.

“The allegations that North Korea was helping to build a nuclear reactor have not been substantiated by US intelligence,” said this intelligence official, adding, “ but that hasn't stopped Dick Cheney and his minions at the NSC, Elliot Abrams and Steve Hadley, from leaking the information [to the press], which appears to be misleading in the extreme.”

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Let's waterboard Mukasey. Maybe then he'll get it.

I think the man must have failed Logic 101:

During the second day of his Senate confirmation hearings, Mukasey was asked if he believed water boarding "was Constitutional."

"If water boarding is torture, torture is not constitutional," Mukasey said, claiming that he was not familiar with the specifics of the process.

No, you idiot. Torture is unconstitutional even if waterboarding is not torture. The "if" "then" construction here makes no sense. And, furthermore, we all know that waterboarding is torture.

So where is Obama?

Now that Chris Dodd has thrown himself in front of the Bush bus at what may turn out to be substantial cost, where the hell is Obama? It seems to me that he's done next to nothing to stop the Democrats mad dash to embrace Bush's destruction of the Constitution. And, I don't even ask where Hillary is. She's sleeping in the Lincoln bedroom.

Chris Dodd blocks Senate FISA bill with telcom amnesty

Chris Dodd just sent me the following e-mail following my call to his office to request that he place a hold on the FISA bill (not that my call had anything to do with his decision):

It's been a busy day, but I wanted take a moment and let you know that I have decided to place a "hold" on legislation in the Senate that includes amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President's assault on the Constitution by providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.

I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.

It's about delivering results -- and as I've said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution.

But we shouldn't have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country's most treasured document.

That's why I am stopping this bill today.

I've gotta run, but please visit my campaign website for more details.

I just donated $100 to his campaign.

Dems fold on all fronts and run home crying to mommie

Yesterday the damn Dems did what only the damn Dems can do. They caved on every front. The announced they would lose the veto override on S-CHIP and would compromise even further with the Republicans to bring up a new bill that Bush will sign, a move that killed any possibility of getting an override. Now the Thuglicans can just wait and vote for something they can show their constituents that looks like children's health but isn't. The Senate Intelligence Committee decided to give Bush everything he wants and more in FISA, including retroactive immunity for the telcoms. And, the House FISA bill, which looked better since it didn't give immunity to the telcoms was blocked by the Thuglicans, so they're back to square one on that too.

So, explain to me why when the Dems were in the minority, they were unsuccessful at blocking anything Bush did, but now that the Republicans are in the minority, they can block everything -- even in the House?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nobel laureat DNA discoverer: Blacks dumber than whites

It's really hard to believe anyone would say this today:

One of the world's most eminent scientists was embroiled in an extraordinary row last night after he claimed that black people were less intelligent than white people and the idea that "equal powers of reason" were shared across racial groups was a delusion.

James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner for his part in the unravelling of DNA who now runs one of America's leading scientific research institutions, drew widespread condemnation for comments he made ahead of his arrival in Britain today for a speaking tour at venues including the Science Museum in London.

Most people today agree that performance differences on tests are almost totally attributable to the environment, not to innate intelligence. Furthermore, there's a wide range of intelligence among all races, and the are many, many blacks more intelligent than the majority of whites. So, even if there were some small difference in the group "average," it certainly doesn't make sense to project that difference to everyone in the group. Hell, by the same standards, we might well conclude that whites are dumber than Asians. Maybe it's true, but I don't want to be treated as a second class citizen because of it. There are plenty of dumb white and Asian kids too. Let's make sure we direct our policies to the needs of the particular individuals, not to the members of a race. Some kids, white, black, and yellow need extra help. Let's give it to them. Some kids, white, black, and yellow are super bright and need special handling because of it. Let's give it to them as well. The purpose is to help everyone be all that he/she can be. To classify someone as stupid just because of his/her race is counter-productive, and those who do it ought to be labeled "stupid" too.

Stop the useless pandering

I'm glad to see that the Armenian resolution won't pass:

WASHINGTON — Key congressional opponents of an Armenian genocide resolution claimed Wednesday that they had the votes to kill the measure, as one-time supporters continued to abandon the controversial declaration.

I'm certainly sympathetic to the Armenians, but this happened over a hundred years ago, and poking Turkey in the eye now over it, when they are more or less indispensable to our troops in Iraq. I feel strongly that this is a waste of precious time to pass a meaningless motion that has no force of law to do anything. It's simply a way for politicians to pander to their constituents without doing anything worthwhile. [Note: Pelosi in particular is pandering]


Earlier this week Scott Redd said this:

The director of the National Counterterrorism Center, the primary US organization responsible for analyzing terror threats, told NBC News that the nation is probably not “tactically” safer from the threat of terrorism following the invasion of Iraq.

Asked by reporter Richard Engel if the war in Iraq had created a “giant recruiting tool” for terrorists, Center head Scott Redd said that “in the short term, that is probably true. But the question is you’ve got to look at this, I believe, in the long term strategic view.”

“Tactically, probably not,” Redd said in response to a question about whether the US is generally safer after having invaded Iraq. “Strategically, we’ll wait and see.”


Today, he announced his retirement:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chief of the nearly three-year-old National Counterterrorism Center announced his resignation Wednesday, vacating an important post in the Bush administration's efforts against al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

I'm sure it's just a coincidence.

[h/t the Carpetbagger]

Chutzpah - Blackwater defies arrest

I guess when you own a private army, you can successfully defy an arrest:

A defiant Blackwater Chairman Erik Prince said yesterday he will not allow Iraqi authorities to arrest his contractors and try them in Iraq's faulty justice system.

Fewer than one in four

Bush approval drops below 25%:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Deepening unhappiness with President George W. Bush and the U.S. Congress soured the mood of Americans and sent Bush's approval rating to another record low this month, according to a Reuters/Zogby poll released on Wednesday.

The Reuters/Zogby Index, which measures the mood of the country, also fell from 98.8 to 96 -- the second consecutive month it has dropped. The number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped four points to 66 percent.

Bush's job approval rating fell to 24 percent from last month's record low for a Zogby poll of 29 percent. A paltry 11 percent gave Congress a positive grade, tying last month's record low.

Of course, Congress is even worse. Why it is that our Democratic leaders can't figure out the reason they're in the tank is beyond me. If they simply stood up and did something to stop this runaway president and his henchmen, we'd all be cheering them on as heros.


The recognition now being given to the Dalai Lama is well deserved. Unfortunately, China considers him to be a pariah. There's no question in my mind that were he permitted to return to Tibet, he would help to reconcile the Chinese and the Tibetan people far more than the Chinese are able to do without him. Of course, they may not want reconciliation with what they consider a backward, inferior people. They may just want to steal the land and destroy the Tibetan culture altogether. It's most unfortunate.

If you have a chance, I recommend you see the flick "Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion." What's left of the Tibetan culture may not last much longer.

Right wing formula for productivity: I wish I could take this job and shove it -- but I can't

The right-wing foaming mouth brigade – people who launched the attacks on the Frost family like “Stalkin’ Malkin” (blogger Michelle Malkin) and, of course, Rush Limbaugh -- has turned its attention to another family that has agreed to give a human face to the S-CHIP debate. So here’s what one Mark Hemingway said at The Corner in the National Review Online. See if you can spot the absurdity for a so-called “conservative” to say (other than the unseemly sarcasm for an article about a baby with a heart defect and her family).

On the conference call, Dara admitted to me that she and Brian had been talking about having children since before they were married. She further admitted that after they were married she voluntarily left a job at a country club that had good health insurance, because the situation was “unmanageable.” From there she took a job at a restaurant with no health insurance, and the couple went on to have a baby anyway, presuming that others would pay for it and certainly long before they knew their daughter would have a heart defect that probably cost the gross national product of Burkina Faso to fix. But not knowing about future health problems is the reason we have insurance in the first place.

Now, pause for a second. Are you reading this at your computer at work, in a job that you don’t particularly care for or even downright detest because you have a spouse and child that depend on you? You wouldn’t be the first or last person to make that choice.

Think about that: “. . . in a job that you don’t particularly care for or even downright detest because you have a spouse and child that depend on you? You wouldn’t be the first or last person to make that choice.” Now that is unfortunately all too true a statement, but Mr. Hemingway’s point is that it is what the baby’s family should have done. So this alleged conservative, who would no doubt be the first to claim he is ardently pro-business, sees no problem for American businesses if some or many of their employees despise the work they do but stay in the job they hate for the health benefits. Now there’s a recipe for national competitiveness and a thriving economy. In fact, freeing up employees to seek jobs they do like without being bound down by the fear of losing health insurance has been one of the critical arguments in favor of taking that burden off the backs of American companies.

It's a variant on the old formula, "The beatings will continue until morale improves." Happy employees means they aren't being worked hard enough. Bet the Japanese and the Europeans agree with Mr. Hemingway, though. Or maybe not.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Krugman gives the short course on Social Security

But now casual talk about the need to “fix” Social Security is creeping back into the discourse. Folks, Social Security is in pretty good shape; it’s not clear that there even is a long-run shortfall, and if there is it’s a much less pressing problem than many others. The only reason we hear so much about Social Security is that there are powerful political forces that want to kill it, for ideological reasons.

Repeat for the zillionth time: there is no crisis in Social Security. What we do know is merely that, based on formulaic projections by the Social Security Administration – projections that have consistently been too pessimistic (by a substantial margin) over the past 15 years – we might have a funding problem that begins in about 34 years from now. But over that 15 year period before now, with current Social Security withholding revenues coming in at higher levels than expected, and a "Baby Boom Surplus" being built up faster and bigger than expected, we are still not going to have to start tapping that surplus for another 10 years or so – which is about what they’ve been saying ("10 years from now") for the last 15 years. The day sometime around 2040 when the Surplus is supposed to run out keeps getting moved out, too. The difference between the start date and the exhaustion date has gotten wider, too. That’s not a crisis. It’s something to watch – for the experts to watch – because the formula with all kinds of projections about the future says we might have a problem. And we don't want to mess with Social Security. But not a crisis.

The long downhill slide

Cheer up, it's almost ski season, and the slopes look pretty nice. Of course, you won't be able to afford the trip to the Swiss Alps -- or even the Canadian Rockies.

Value of U.S. dollar in Canadian Dollars

Right wing values

So sayeth Glenn Greenwald:

These "rugged individualists" of the frontier, these swaggering skeptics and despiers of government power, these Burkean defenders of individual liberty who hate "centralized government" and -- above all else -- are guided by "a deep suspicion of the power of the state," now want to vest virtually unlimited secret power in the President to spy on Americans. Has there ever been a political movement more antithetical to the political values they pompously espouse than the right-wing movement -- those "small government" Authoritarians -- epitomized by National Review Editors?

Hillary wants to attack Iran too

I'm afraid Bush has created a monster that just won't go away. It now looks like Hillary has caught the Bush bug:

Hillary Clinton today moved to secure her position as the most hawkish Democrat in the 2008 presidential race, saying she would consider the use of force to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear programme.

In an article for Foreign Affairs magazine intended as a blueprint for the foreign policy of a future Clinton White House, the Democratic frontrunner argues that Iran poses a long term strategic challenge to American and its allies, and that it must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons.

Randi Rhodes mugged in New York

Update: Turns out this whole story was cooked up by some rumor monger.

Air America star, Randi Rhodes, was beaten up by a mugger on Sunday night near her New York Apartment it what may have been an attack by the right wing goons:

Randi Rhodes was mugged on Sunday night on 39th Street and Park Ave, nearby her Manhattan apartment, while she was walking her dog Simon.

According to Air America Radio late night host Jon Elliott, Rhodes was beaten up pretty badly, losing several teeth and will probably be off the air for at least the rest of the week. At of late Monday night we have not able to locate any press accounts of the attack and nothing has been posted on the AAR website.

…Elliott was extremely agitated when he reported on the incident. He opened his show by saying "it is with sadness that tonight I inform you that my Air America colleague Randi Rhodes was assaulted last night while walking her dog near her New York City home."

Pointing out that Rhodes was wearing a jogging suit and displayed no purse or jewelry, Elliott speculated that "this does not appear to me to be a standard grab the money and run mugging."

"Is this an attempt by the right wing hate machine to silence one of our own," he asked. "Are we threatening them. Are they afraid that we're winning. Are they trying to silence intimidate us."

While it's too early to tell whether this was an attack by the goons, it's certainly true to form for the neo-nazi con crowd. Their priestess, Ann Coulter, has repeatedly called for the killing of liberal judges.

What's that about rats and sinking ships?

Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison will not seek re-election after her current Senate term and may leave before her term ends in 2012 to run for Texas governor, a spokesman for the senator says.

I guess it isn't any fun not being in the majority anymore where you're able to rubber stamp Bush's shredding of the Constitution.

Who cares what the law says?

Absolute, utter disregard for the law:

Verizon Communications, the nation's second-largest telecom company, told congressional investigators that it has provided customers' telephone records to federal authorities in emergency cases without court orders hundreds of times since 2005.

The company said it does not determine the requests' legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations.

In an Oct. 12 letter replying to Democratic lawmakers, Verizon offered a rare glimpse into the way telecommunications companies cooperate with government requests for information on U.S. citizens.

Verizon also disclosed that the FBI, using administrative subpoenas, sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. Verizon does not keep data on this "two-generation community of interest" for customers, but the request highlights the broad reach of the government's quest for data.

As one of my former bosses used to believe, the law is for everyone else, not for me.

Ridding the nation of the scourge of public education

As you probably know, the "every No Child Left Behind" act requires failing schools to be shut down. In California, almost two-thirds of the schools are failing under the NCLB rules.

... more than 1,000 of California’s 9,500 schools are branded chronic failures, and the numbers are growing. Barring revisions in the law, state officials predict that all 6,063 public schools serving poor students will be declared in need of restructuring by 2014, when the law requires universal proficiency in math and reading.

“What are we supposed to do?” Ms. Paramo asked. “Shut down every school?”

Simple answers to simple questions: Yes!

That was the whole point of the bill. To destroy the public school system. After all, public education is socialism, and we couldn't have that, could we?

Monday, October 15, 2007

America's unlawful enemy combatants

It seems that the Blackwater security guards in Iraq may be deemed "unlawful enemy combatants" under international agreements. Here's the LA Times on the story:

WASHINGTON -- As the Bush administration deals with the fallout from the recent killings of civilians by private security firms in Iraq, some officials are asking whether the contractors could be considered unlawful combatants under international agreements.

The question is an outgrowth of federal reviews of the shootings, in part because the U.S. officials want to determine whether the administration could be accused of treaty violations that could fuel an international outcry.

But the issue also holds practical and political implications for the administration's war effort and the image of the U.S. abroad.

People out of uniform, not within the chain of military command, conducting open warfare in a foreign territory are almost by definition unlawful combatants.

Inept Democratic leadership

Steve Soto at the Left Coaster makes a very good point. Pelosi and Reid just plain don't know how to get things done:

Yesterday, in appearances on the weekend chat fests, Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer said that they would keep trying to get something done on SCHIP once a Bush veto is sustained in the House by the GOP leadership. From a negotiation perspective, Pelosi may have just made it easier for House Republicans to sustain the override, now that they know they will be let off the hook for their vote against kids this week when the Democrats give them another opportunity later in the session to save face on the issue. This is an example of why the current Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are inept at power politics, at a time when Bush is sending a message that he wants a compromise, which in Bush speak means “I’m willing to give you another chance to do it my way.”

By very large margins the public supports the Democrats on this issue and soundly rejects the position taken by the House Republican leadership that "most people don't want government-run health insurance.” In a CBS News/NYT poll back in February, when given the choice between the current system and a single payer government-run system, by a 48%-37% margin more respondents favored government-run insurance. At a time when the GOP and the White House says they are only willing to extend coverage to all low income uninsured children, a staggering 84% of respondents wanted SCHIP expanded to cover all uninsured children, not just low and middle income children. And 67% were willing to pay more in taxes for SCHIP to cover all uninsured children. If two thirds of the public is willing to pay more in taxes to insure all children, and if Pelosi is signaling that the next effort will be aimed at covering the same number of kids as the vetoed version does, then why doesn’t Pelosi just come out now and tell the White House and House Republicans that she and Reid will be sending the same bill back to the White House, thereby telling those wavering GOP representatives that their vote against kids this week will be all for naught when the same bill comes up again to do them even more political damage?

They're reading your mail

George W. Bush is reading your mail and planning how to slap you in Guantanamo.

The Department of Defense has conspired with the FBI to "circumvent the law" in accessing hundreds of Americans' telephone, e-mail and financial records, say two civil liberties groups that released reams of new documents obtained in a contested public records request.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has challenged the Bush Administration's post-Sept. 11 spying authority, says the Pentagon has issued 455 National Security Letters in concert with the FBI to obtain Americans' private information it is not entitled to receive.

"The documents make clear that the Department of Defense may have secretly and illegally conducted surveillance beyond the powers it was granted by Congress," ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said. "It also appears as if the FBI is serving as a lackey for the DoD in misusing the Patriot Act powers. At the very least, it certainly looks like the FBI and DoD are conspiring to evade limits placed on the Department of Defense's surveillance powers."

And, now that we know he was doing these things even before 9/11, what possible justification is there for it? Of course, our Democratic leaders are just going to give him even more powers to do this. Who cares about privacy? Who cares if the government breaks down our doors and trashes our houses without warrants? No one, it seems.

War at all costs

It's truly amazing how these guys who have never faced an armed enemy in their lives really love to promote wars of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions. From Kevin Drum:

WAR....Over at The Corner, they are — seriously — discussing whether we should have continued WWII by turning around after we took Berlin and mounting a massive assault on the Soviet Union, a topic most of us thought was put to rest about 60 years ago. "Settling Soviet hash," they call it. I guess they must have temporarily run out of current wars to promote. Tomorrow's topic: Should Britain have invaded Argentina after regaining the Falklands?

It truly boggles the mind.

Subverting the Constitution

About the only thing Bush is good at is finding every conceivable way to subvert the intent of the Constitution:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 — For now, the most powerful law enforcement official in the federal government is a 47-year-old lawyer little known outside Washington.

Or inside Washington, for that matter.

He is acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler, who is running the Justice Department until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate to replace Alberto R. Gonzales. Mr. Keisler had been in charge of the department’s civil division.

The No. 2 and No. 3 officials are also acting — Deputy Attorney General Craig S. Morford and Associate Attorney General Gregory G. Katsas. More than a quarter of the department’s 93 United States attorneys around the country are “acting.”

At the top of the Department of Homeland Security, there is an acting general counsel, acting under secretary for national protection and acting assistant secretary for strategic plans. At the Department of Health and Human Services, the $600 billion-a-year Medicare and Medicaid programs have had an acting administrator since last fall.

Scholars and other researchers who study the federal bureaucracy say the situation in those agencies is becoming increasingly common elsewhere in the Bush administration.

With only 15 months left in office, President Bush has left whole agencies of the executive branch to be run largely by acting or interim appointees — jobs that would normally be filled by people whose nominations would have been reviewed and confirmed by the Senate. In many cases, there is no obvious sign of movement at the White House to find permanent nominees, suggesting that many important jobs will not be filled by Senate-confirmed officials for the remainder of the Bush administration. That would effectively circumvent the Senate’s right to review and approve the appointments. It also means that the jobs are filled by people who do not have the clout to make decisions that comes with a permanent appointment endorsed by the Senate, scholars say.

Who needs "interim" appointments when "acting" appointments serve equally well. You get 210 days for each acting appointment and another 210 if you then nominate that person for the permanent post. That's 420 days. Bush only has 462 days left on his throne.

Did I say "only?" Every one of those 462 days seems like an eternity in hell.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Beltway exception to the rule of law

Glenn Greenwald posts a very good essay here on how the Beltway culture is trashing the rule of law – from poor, sad Scooter Libby and that mean old Republican prosecutor and that nasty, draconian, unfair Republican judge, to the absurd demand that the telcos be made retroactively immune to any lawsuit for violating eavesdropping law, even though neither the telcos nor the administration will tell Congress what it is they did that they should receive immunity for. And now we find out it began not after 9-11, as has been represented, but within weeks after the inauguration. (Now why am I suspicious that it was Cheney’s office driving this? Just paranoid, I guess.)

Greenwald’s big point is that it’s the willingness of the government to abide by the same rule of law that applies to everyone else that distinguishes an advanced society from a third world country – and that under Bush and Cheney, we have been rapidly moving towards the latter with cheerleading from the Beltway chattering class.

I'm a skeptic

I have a somewhat different take than some about David Sanger's and Mark Mazzetti's piece entitled "Analysts find Israel Struck a nuclear project inside Syria" in today's NY Times. Rather than illuminating anything, as some in the blogosphere have suggested, I think it actually muddies things quite a bit.

In the first place, nowhere does this article identify who these so-called "analysts" are. Not even a general description, like "high placed officials at the Pentagon" for example. Nor does it explain why the so-called "analysts" are not identified by name -- e.g., "they wished to remain anonymous because of the classified nature of the subject." None of that. Nothing whatsoever to disclose anything about these "analysts."

Second, other recent articles (and even this one) tell us there was disagreement withing the government about the intelligence information on which this was bases. Presumably, many in the government didn't believe the Israeli data proved this was a nuclear project.

Third, we know from inference, if nothing else, that the side inside the government promoting the Israeli strike had to be the Cheney side fighting, once again, against the evil commies at the State Department. (Isn't it strange that Rice begins to look good, if only by comparison to Cheney?)

Fourth, we know that Cheney frequently leaks information to the press to tip a story in his favor.

So, here's the way I connect the dots. This was a deliberate, but disguised, leak from the Cheney side of the house to stir the pot against Syria and North Korea (Cheney is reportedly really pissed that Condi struck a deal with the Koreans). Frankly, I don't think this leak adds one iota to what we know about the strike. It's likely to have just as much substance to it as Cheney's claim that he knew the Iraqis were harboring al Qaeda terrorists in their midst. I'm a skeptic, and I wish the NY Times reporters were a bit more skeptical. They report this as if it were a fact -- no qualifiers whatsoever.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cackle away

Over at Talking Points Memo, they criticize CBS for this piece:

During the twelve-minute interview, the former first lady chuckled in response to Olbermann. But she never unleashed the highly-scrutinized, overly-analyzed belly laugh known as "the cackle" that has been the focus of national media over the past few weeks. Which raises the question: Has the tightly-managed Clinton campaign put the kibosh on the cackle?

But the don't criticize it for the use of the word "cackle." Now, in my experience the only creatures that cackle (apart from egg-laying hens) are witches and ugly old biddies (think witches cackling over the boiling cauldron in Macbeth), so it strikes me that the use of this term to describe Hillary's laugh is both sexist and totally inappropriate for a supposedly unbiased news organization.

But, then again, the right wing seems to be controlling all our media these days, so I guess we can't count on them being unbiased.