Monday, January 31, 2005

Scary Dudes

The minute, the second, the moment that you become discouraged, remember that jokers like Trent from Winds of Change have a forum, have followers, and are taken deadly seriously:

...The bottom line is this: Iran is less than a year away from having operation nuclear warheads. Iran doesn't have tested ballistic missiles to deliver them, but does have access to ISO shipping containers. It also has enough oil money to buy access through any corrupt port of entry in North America and from there via truck to heavily populated American cities.

The invasion and conquest of Iran is now a survival issue for the American people...

Fringe lunatic bloggers with Trent's POV have become enablers for the decision makers in the Bush administration. And yes, it's hair raisingly scary. If you'd like to get an idea of where the "enablers" are coming from, after reading Trent's blog posting, may I suggest you take a few minutes and also read the latest from Bill Moyers - There Is No Tomorrow (use bugmenot.com if necessary...):

One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington.

Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. When ideology and theology couple, their offspring are not always bad but they are always blind. And there is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts...

Recommended: read both articles, one right after the other. It will take a few minutes, but they complement each other very, very well.

There's some really scary dudes out there. Bill Moyers isn't one of them.

What Little George Obviously Missed Years Ago

Schoolhouse Rock and History Rocks with the twins, Jenna and Not-Jenna ... Pity.

Or so it would seem because he munched a foot sandwich in the last week at a meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus -- his first meeting with them in four years, mind you. That's our George. (Cue the laugh track) Dumb Dauphin Sublime.
"President George W. Bush met with the Congressional Black Caucus Wednesday for the first time as a group in nearly four years, but what CBC members said stood out the most was the president's declaration that he was "unfamiliar" with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant pieces of legislation passed in the history of the United States."
Lawdy knows I needed a belly laugh when I got home from work just a bit ago. Bwahahaha... As my grandma Henrietta used to say: Ask, and you shall receive that your joy may be full. Bwahahaha. Haha... and Condi was there Gentle People. Hahaha! I ask you. Is she really a good choice for the job of "minder" for the dear boy? Hehehoho!

It doesn't get too much better than this. Bush tells CBC he's 'unfamiliar' with Voting Rights Act

Freedom's March Continues...

Four Detainees Killed in Iraq Riot

BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. guards opened fire Monday on prisoners during a riot at the main detention facility for security detainees, killing four of them, the U.S. command said. Six other prisoners were injured...

What's Next? Full Censorship?

In the wake of the Armstrong Williams case comes a study by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. It is of High School kids and it finds that fully a third of them think the press should be more restricted. Specifically:
The survey of 112,003 students finds that 36% believe newspapers should get "government approval" of stories before publishing; 51% say they should be able to publish freely; 13% have no opinion.

Asked whether the press enjoys "too much freedom," not enough or about the right amount, 32% say "too much," and 37% say it has the right amount. Ten percent say it has too little.

Woe to all of us who cherish our freedoms if these kids grow up to vote.

There's a lot to say here, about the effect of Bush press policies, the stifling of dissent throughout the Bush Administration, but also about the curriculum of schools, and how NCLB, no matter how many Armstrong Williamses support it, does not promote the critical thinking skills necessary to a healthy Republic.

The children are the future

CNN -- Freedom of What?

I found this article via Slashdot today, and its quite worrisome.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The way many high school students see it, government censorship of newspapers may not be a bad thing, and flag burning is hardly protected free speech.

[...]

Yet, when told of the exact text of the First Amendment, more than one in three high school students said it goes "too far" in the rights it guarantees. Only half of the students said newspapers should be allowed to publish freely without government approval of stories.
In a time where many of us see civil liberties being eroded by the current administration and majority party, one can't help but think of the warning: Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

Spin'ster, teaching that civics class is becoming increasingly more pressing everyday.

U.S. Encouraged By Vote; 83% Turnout Cited

U.S. ENCOURAGED BY VIETNAM VOTE; Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
By PETER GROSE Special to The New York Times. New York Times (1857-Current file). New York, N.Y.: Sep 4, 1967. pg. 2, 1 pgs

Document types: article
ISSN/ISBN: 03624331
Text Word Count 521
Document URL:

Abstract (Document Summary)
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3 United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam's presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.

Thanks to NEPAJim for the fantastic heads up! I wanted to see some authentication to the article before posting, and sure enough, the above is from the ProQuest Archiver at the New York Times. Here's a link to the full article from DKos.

Mixing Politics and Super Bowls

No doubt many ASZers are going to be sick of my fawning over the Super Bowl "bread and circus" atmosphere this week. So, in a preemptive strike, let me just state that I've been waiting 25 years for this week, and I'm gonna enjoy it. Say what you will. Nyah.

In the spirit of the political nature of ASZ, though, let me offer this today from the Philadelphia Daily News:

10 Reasons the Pats Should Lose

• 1. The Pats, surely the most boring team in professional sports, have drained the fun out of the game and replaced it with machine-like proficiency. It's like rooting for a robot.

• 2. The town's most popular politician lost the White House to the most unpopular president in the history of American politics, and now it wants us to trust it with the Lombardi Trophy? I don't think so.

• 3. New England is a region, not a city. Get yourself a city, then come back and play.

• 4. This is a perfect opportunity to end all this nonsense about a "dynasty."

• 5. Pretty boy Tom Brady, who said he wants to be a U.S. senator someday, allowed himself to be used as a tool of the Republican Party by sitting next to Laura Bush at last year's State of the Union address. At the time, he had never bothered to vote in an election. Super Bowl trophies are not for opportunistic hypocrites.

• 6. Their cheerleaders lack sufficient boobage.

• 7. New England, Old England, whatever - Philadelphia fought two wars to rid itself of the crown, and now we're going to let those Tory bastards walk off with the Super Bowl?

• 8. Their fans are smug dilettantes who never supported the team until it was a winner.

• 9. With a win, Bill Belichick will surpass St. Vince Lombardi's post-season coaching record. If this happens, life as we know it will cease to exist.

• 10. Boston already used up its share of sports miracles.


Wake me when it's over

Belichick must've learned public relations from Karl Rove. He has his team so "on-message" that he prohibits his assistants from talking to the press, lest they stray off topic. The New York Daily News reported that even Charlie Weis, the Patriots' offensive coordinator who's leaving next season to coach at Notre Dame, has been denied permission to talk to reporters.

Meanwhile, Belichick is the most unquotable being in the English-speaking world. Asked about the praise that's heaped on his team, he said, "Criticisms are made. Accolades are given. What I try to focus on is our future opportunities and achievements."

No surprise: As a youth, Belichick was a golf caddy for Spiro Agnew.


Ha-ha... oh, shut up

"In the Senate, the vote to confirm Condoleezza Rice as the next secretary of state was 85-13 in favor. 85-13! No, I'm sorry, that's what the score of the Super Bowl is going to be when the Patriots beat the Eagles."

- Jay Leno

Homeland Security - A Change Agent for Inconvenient Liberties

With the Chertoff confirmation hearing coming up this week, DHS is going to be receiving a lot of exposure. As Allan Duncan explains in his latest article, Serious Questions for Michael Chertoff, possible connections between Chertoff and terrorist financing networks have never been adequately addressed. And as if that's not enough, along comes Tom Englehart at TomDispatch to analyze an even more concerning series of articles about the mission and means of the department itself. Englehart introduces a two part posting from Nick Turse, titled The Emergence of the Homeland Security State.

Just keep telling yourself, "9/11 changed everything". The kleptocracy thanks you.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

9 billion in tax dollars are hard at work...

...accruing interest in someone's personal account.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. occupation authority in Iraq was unable to keep track of nearly $9 billion it transferred to government ministries, which lacked financial controls, security, communications and adequate staff, an inspector general has found.
For those of you who need to visualize things to gauge sizes/amounts:

A stack of one billion dollar bills will reach from the ground 120 kilometers upward so that its top 20 kilometers would be immersed in a normal aurora.
By using Google's conversion tool, one can ascertain that 120 km = 74.56 miles. So, multiply that by 9, and you get 671.04.

So, in Iraq, there is an amount of money equivalent to stack of $1 bills over 671 miles high that cannot be accounted for. True, its probably money backed by the Chinese yuan, but thats even worse, because if its a loan, it has to be paid back sometime. Hurray for being almost 22 and having most of my life in front of me! ;-)

I'm dying for someone to remind me that Bush and the Republicans are fiscally responsible.

Thanks to an anonymous friend in the live blogging post below for the tip.

Koufax Awards - Best Post

After many fits and starts, crashed computers, and hospital visits on the part of the fine Wampum staff, it looks like the Koufax's are chugging along again. Two ASZ posts are nominated for "Best Post" - cruise on over, read some of the exceptionally fine competition, and then vote your conscience.

Payola "Thank You" notes will be distributed upon completion of the nomination voting process.

(Tip of the hat to Sweetpea for the 411 and the kind words.)

Tomorrow

Phil Connors ("Groundhog Day"): "What if there is no tomorrow? There wasn't one yesterday."

Bill Moyers: There Is No Tomorrow

From the top: "One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress. For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington."

And if you're still short on belly laughs from the "historic" day of Iraqi freedom there's always one of my favorites, Macbeth. ;-)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Is this a dagger I see before me?

Iraq Polls are Open - Live Blogging

Richard @ 11:30PM EST, 1/29

The polls opened in Iraq about 20 minutes ago. Quite honestly, I don't care whether anyone outside of the Green Zone votes or not today -- only that the violence and bloodshed is kept to a minimum.

Talking heads on CNN and Fox are positively gushing. It's like they're the proud parents of the theocracy that many experts predict will most probably evolve over the coming months. As we go through the day, don't lose sight of the fact that this thing isn't about Iraq. It's a dog and pony extraveganza for America. The ultimate reality show, if you will.

Gah!

Forrest @ 2:45AM EST, 1/30

Signs of a healthy, truly representative government:
AP -- Iraqis Begin Historic Vote Amid Attacks
There were no signs of voting in the Sunni Muslim stronghold cities — and rebel centers — of Fallujah and Ramadi, west of Baghdad. Sunni extremists, fearing victory by the Shiites, have called for a boycott, claiming no vote held under U.S. military occupation is legitimate.
Zogby poll indicates that more than 3 out of every 4 Sunnis will "definitely not vote".

From an Al-Jazeera report, it appears that some of today's violence may appear to be coming from insurgents posing as Iraqi police as 20 vehicles (consisting of an assortment of police vehicles as well as ambulances) have been stolen by insurgents in the last week. Coupled with the hundreds of police uniforms that have gone missing in recent days (thanks k ols from the comments), instead of the police acting as security, we may see "police" gunning down civilians and ramming explosive-laden ambulances into polling places. Also, thanks to the same Al-Jazeera report, I've drawn the conclusion that Samarra must be the San Francisco of Iraq, since the war profiteers and their puppets have deemed the situation there too dangerous to permit voting.

Meanwhile, the head of the local council in Samarra said no citizens would vote because of the poor security situation.

"Nobody will vote in Samarra because of the security situation," said Taha Husain, the head of Samarra's local governing council.

No employees turned up at polling centres in Samarra and police were not to be seen on the streets, an agency correspondent reported.
On a lighter note, there seem to be early signs of voter fraud in Iraq's elections. Sounds like Iraq may need a women's suffrage movement...

Al-Yawer was among the first to cast his ballot, voting alongside his wife at election headquarters in the heavily fortified Green Zone in central Baghdad. As poll workers watched, he marked two ballots and dropped them into boxes, and then walked away with an Iraqi flag given to him by a poll worker.
Gah!

Richard @ 6:45AM

Up very early on this snowy Sunday -- my wife isn't crazy about driving to work in the snow, and I have the 4WD gas guzzler, so I doffed my chauffer hat about an hour ago and drove her in.

One early impression of the Iraq election has pretty much been confirmed: it's nearly impossible to get any unfiltered news on what's happening. Reports are indicating many people have been killed in attacks on polling stations, and that most Sunni areas are not participating in the election.

Despite these downsides, Minitrue reports that it's all wine and roses in New Iraq™ today. Expect the BushCo bobbleheads to be glowing like newlyweds on Sunday talk shows this morning.

I'm going back to bed for a few hours.

Kate @ 6:00AM Pacific

Top 'o the hour "news" on Los Angeles radio... ROFL! "A Historic Day in Iraq! Spirits are high despite 30 people killed in "insurgent attacks"". It doesn't get better than this, Lovelies. Your entertainment for a Sunday on the Happy Bizarro Planet. During commercial breaks you can read some Rude Pundit goodness

Richard @ 9:30AM EST

Reality or pure bullshit? We blog, you decipher:

An Iraqi election official said Sunday that 72% of the eligible Iraqi voters had turned out so far nationwide.

Adel al-Lami of the Independent Electoral Commission, offered no overall figures of the actual number of Iraqis who have voted to back up the claim.

He pointed out that the percentage of registered voters who had gone to the polls in some Baghdad neighborhoods was as high as 95%.

It's hard to say how that's possible when many polling places didn't even open, almost no one was voting in two of the largest cities, and up to 13 bombings at other polling places were reported. Color me just a wee bit sceptical of Mr. al-Lami's numbers.

Richard @ 10:40AM EST

Interesting how Iraq's election can be hailed as "fair and transparent". Paper ballots and ink on fingers were used in Iraq. For all of the high tech wizardry available to U.S. voters, it seems really difficult to get that same "fair and transparent" feeling about U.S. elections.

Kate @ 8:00 AM Pacific

Free Iraq
"Bush called the Iraqi election "a turning point in the history of Iraq, a milestone in the advance of freedom [sic] crucial advance in the war on terror."
At the same time, however, his advisers have downplayed the importance of Sunday's vote by calling it just the first step toward a new Iraqi constitution and fully elected leadership."


And so it goes.

Update 8:25 Pacific: Robert Fisk: What a Bloody Charade

Richard @ 12:20PM, EST

Let's don't forget that the security lockdown was done with a dual purpose in mind - to keep the streets of Baghdad clear, and to bottle up the flow of information.

The various outlets of Minitrue are falling all over themselves this morning proclaiming success. RoveCo did a masterful job of diminishing expectations over the past month or so. Any result short of Zarqawi's crew lighting off a low yield nuclear device outside of the Green Zone was going to be portrayed as stunningly good.

But let's step back for a moment. Out of 5000+ polling places, pool reporters had access to 5 for filming purposes. One of Allawi's stooges claims "72% of voters voted", with absolutely no facts to back it up, but the SCLM immediately siezes on this as gospel, and obiediently reports the figure. Dozens of people are killed in dozens of polling place incidents, but it's spun as eggs and omlettes.

By the time the complete story slips out, this sham election will be old, old news and any corrections will run on page A-27 of New Pravda.

And a quick question which will surely be asked many times in the coming days: did the ends justify the means? More on that later...


Forrest @ 11:45AM Pacific

72 percent, my ass.

"Turnout figures recently announced represent the enormous and understandable enthusiasm felt in the field on this historic day," a commission statement said.

"However, these figures are only very rough, word-of-mouth estimates gathered informally from the field."
Leave it to American regurgitation media to seize on feel-good rumors and report them as feel-good facts.

Forrest @ 12:15PM Pacific

Sometimes I like the guy, but this time he's just an idiot. John McCain says if the elections are successful, terrorism will decline in Iraq.

"The insurgents know that if we can pull off the election, then their days are numbered."
This just doesn't make sense to me.

Will the Iraq Constitution that is supposed to be written after the elections make terrorism more illegal than it already is?

And what about the question of enforcement? Are the Iraqi police and National Guard going to be more likely to remain on their posts in the face of a strong, well funded and organized insurgency that has support from many of the Sunnis that make up 40% of Iraq's population?

Then there's the question of deterrent. I'd imagine that since Iraq will be a "democracy" based on "freedom", that its Constitution would include some requirements for due process of criminals. Seems to me that the possibility of being thrown into the American gulag system would be a stronger deterrent than actually being treated according to law. A military prison system headed by a man who ignores international law is certainly more frightening than a jury of normal citizens.

Maybe McCain meant that statement to apply only to suicide bombers, those whose days are numbered regardless of the political climate just due to their... uhhh... profession.

Richard @ 5PM EST

The gloatfest in Right Blogistan continues.

Here's what really chaps my ass. The prevailing wisdom in the Land of Wingnuttery is that we on the left were making small animal sacrifices at the alter of progressive politics, in the hopes of Team Bin-Laden upsetting the Bush Machine. That's how the election in Iraq is being played today. It wasn't a test of a people's will to determine their own destiny, but a horserace between good and evil, and those of us on the left were backing the wrong pony.

I'm really tired of this crap.

Anyway, as Forrest pointed out upthread, the leakage in the feel-good story of "72% participation" is starting. Over the next day or two, expect to see that number drop below the randomly selected "legitimacy" target of 50%.

Over 50 people were killed in election day violence, and as usual, untold scores were injured. I'm not sure anymore what constitutes "acceptable casualties" in Iraq. I do know that if even one person was killed in random violence at a polling place during the U.S. elections, the reaction from Washington would have been blood curdling.

How many times today have the Minitrue talking heads stationed in Iraq used the terms "normal day", "mortar fire", "explosions", and "gunfire" in the same sentence? I quit counting. Sorry, Sheppard, that doesn't meet my definition of "normal".

But I am happy, and yes relieved, for the people of Iraq that this day has passed without mass bloodshed. And I hope that in whatever small measure, this process truly represented a step toward, if not the beginning of the end, then at least the end of the beginning.

At this point, what's more important is what happens when the sun creeps West over the Zagros Mountains tomorrow morning. Hope springs eternal. Maybe it's kind of zen how "hope" is a very human attribute that spans all languages and cultures.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Admin Note: Live Blogging, 1/30/05

Sometime early tomorrow morning, ASZ will open up a "live blogging" thread. The idea is to keep a running commentary going as Iraq election news becomes available. All five members of the infamous "ASZ Leftage" will have the ability to update the thread based on our own observations and reader comments throughout the day on Sunday.

We have no idea how this is going to work out. It's a bit of an experiment - but if our experience with live blogging during last year's debates is any indication, it should be a wild ride. Join us.

Red Alert in the Green Zone

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was hit early Saturday evening by a rocket. A rocket.
A FRIGGIN' ROCKET. So much for the illusion of rock-throwing-deadenders as insurgents. Anyone want to take the bet that the rocket had a "General Dynamics" logo stenciled on the tail fin?

Two Americans were killed in the attack, and more were injured. Outside the Green Zone, mayhem raged despite the "security lockdown". Story here.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents hit the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad with a rocket Saturday, killing two Americans. Militants also set off explosions that killed eight Iraqis and a U.S. soldier and blasted polling places across the country Saturday as Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's government urged Iraqis to overcome their fear of violence and vote in landmark elections...

I've a dreadful feeling about tomorrow. Hope I'm wrong.

When the World Bends and Comes to an End

Imagine for a moment. It's not ending for everybody at once. But just for you and your family now, the ever-present now, in small and large ways. Or so it seems, confined to my finite mind. Locked in here. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because it happened to my family almost seven years ago when my nephew Billy (age 12) was hit by a car on the road in front of his house, sustaining fatal head injuries, resulting in his death. He lived long enough for the doctors to harvest his corneas and kidneys from his life-support sustained body.

That would be enough, I suppose, if it weren't for the aftermath... My sister Shari, Billy's mom, went into a seven-year tailspin. I not only lost my nephew, but I lost my closest friend, my sister, Billy's mom. She's still rocking and rolling, in most part because of his catastrophic death, and in so many ways is inexorably changed and no longer able to "be" with me.

I know this happens all over the Happy Planet -- The human condition... HUA! (tip of the hat to sen. bob) People die. Children die in untimely and horrible ways, but I have only my overlook. I'm here. And it's here and now still in our family. It's always in my face and it's hitting me hard in the last few days. My children are 27 and 32. They were very young adults when Billy died. But, you know, before then I had never thought a lot about them dying young... before that morning in 1998. Funny that, because most of the job of mothers and fathers on our big blue marble is to keep our offspring alive until they are old enough to go off on their own. It's been that way since the beginning of human civilization... keeping the offspring safe to grow to maturity. The thought is just a bit shaded... I'm guessing none of us thinks that to be our job.

And the rest of the world goes on, despite our private pains (and so it goes, and so it goes). Suppose you're someone who has actually embraced the absurdity of it all. Camus, Sisyphus and all. And suppose you're a blogger ... and you hope for yourself to be connected enough to post timely and pithy threads. Imagine that sometimes it all becomes just too much, the family lovelies, and the lovelies on-line. What's a blogger to do?

This blogger thinks all the time about those left after a bombing run in Iraq. She thinks about what happens after the tide goes away post-tsunami. I think about the US military personnel who didn't know what sort of pain they'd leave behind if they died defending some greedy rapacious rulers' notions of how things should wrongly be on the Happy Planet.

It's my day off. I've been awake since 4 AM my time. Too much time to think and feel. Sleep would be better if I could manage it. Blogging about it works, though. Even when in emotionally feverished and grammatically impoverished places I know that I am part of something "huger". It's all an intricate web, after all. I keep looking for more clarity. The seeking of clarity is much of what I love about being at ASZ.

For what it's worth. Kahlil Gibran: "I would that my life remain a tear and a smile".

What's Old is New Again

Fashion trends come, and fashion trends go. What was hot last year on New York designer runways is now passe and on the discount rack in Filene's Basement. However, if you held onto your kitsch clothes from the 80's, well, you're in luck -- and a real fashion trendsetter.

It seems like the business world is jumping on the retro bandwagon. Back in the Reagan era, the "call to arms" for business was breaking up the monopolies and deregulation of those industries suffering under the thumb of oppressive government oversight.

The snowball that started this whole business trend was AT&T - in 1982, a court ruling forced the breakup of AT&T into many separate smaller companies. The reasoning was that one mega-company controlling the communication infrastructure in the country was not a good thing, and stifled development and competition, which were both the holy grail of consumerism.

So, AT&T was broken into regional "Baby Bells", of which Bell Atlantic and Southern Bell were two of the resultant companies. And while the concept of de-monopolization seemed to play out for awhile, the end result is kind of like how the liquid metal, new and improved "T-1000" coagulates back together after being blown into 10,000 pieces. More than 20 years after the AT&T breakup, monolithic megacorps are all the rage again - this time named Verizon and SBC. And, in a strange twist, SBC is making a bid to buy AT&T.

The circle is complete.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Crap. It Looks Like Iran is a Go.

Halliburton to Wind Down Iran Operations

HOUSTON - The oil services conglomerate Halliburton Co. will wind down its operations in Iran and seek to separate its engineering and construction subsidiary KBR from the parent, chairman and CEO Dave Lesar said Friday...

The ultimate "insider trading".

And Martha friggin' Stewart is in jail? Someone get me a bowl of pan fried escarole soup.

Tag 'Em and Bag 'Em

The Department of Homeland Security has come up with a great new way to keep us safe from terrorists. "What's that?" you ask, "Are they implementing a new color-code system, putting more guards on the border, increasing port security, checking incoming cargo, or maybe they're finally getting around to securing the nuclear power plants?"

Hell no! Most of those things would make sense, except the color-codes, and just what color are we at now? Sorry, lost my train of thought. Back to the topic, the DHS is planning a trial run of tagging incoming tourists with a RFID chip.
The US Department of Homeland Security has decided to trial RFID tags in an effort to make sure only the right sort of people get across US borders.

The controversial US-VISIT scheme for those visiting the US from abroad already fingerprints holidaymakers on their way into the country and is now adding RFID to the mix in order to improve border management, the department said.

The trials will start at a "simulated port" in the spring and will then be extended to Nogales East and Nogales West in Arizona; Alexandria Bay in New York; and Pacific Highway and Peace Arch in Washington by the end of July.

The "right sort of people", gee I wonder who qualifies as the "right sort"? I pulled up this additional article on the DHS plans to tag incoming tourists.

I wonder how long it will be, before only the "wrong sort" of citizens will be required to carry a RFID tag.

Copy and Paste isn't Just for Journalists Hacks

By now we've all seen the photo of Cheney at the Auschwitz memorial. Dressed more for blowing snow than attending a memorial. And some have argued that maybe he was dressing for the weather, but look around everyone else dressed with class and kept warm. Does he just not care? Apparently not.
An even more glaring expression of Washington’s indifference apparently went unnoticed—at least by the pliant media. Sections of Cheney’s speech were lifted virtually unchanged from an address given by Bush when the US president and his wife made a quick tour of the camp a year-and-a-half ago

Are they too busy paying off the press to spend a little moolah to pay their speech writers?

Vice Fucking Embarrasment.

Three-fer

When the Armstrong Williams story first broke, a lot of people in Left Blogistan opined that his special graft was a small part of a very big problem. Looks like conventional wisdom wasn't too far off the mark. Payola-gate has claimed three journalists paid hacks, and there's probably quite a few more where they came from.

From BlondeSense: And then there were three!

Another Day in Paradise

The pre-election security "lockdown" in Iraq appears to be having little practical effect. From AP:

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Insurgents killed five American soldiers in separate attacks Friday in Baghdad and blasted more polling stations across the country, sending a message that if Iraqis suffer deaths and injuries on election day, "you have only yourselves to blame."

A U.S. Army OH-58 Kiowa helicopter crashed Friday night in southwestern Baghdad, U.S. officials said. There was no word on the fate of the crew. Four Iraqi police were killed in a car bombing in Baghdad.

...In the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi, residents said the rebels decapitated six Iraqis from the majority Shiite community Friday. Shiites, who comprise 60 percent of Iraq's 26 million people, are expected to turn out in large numbers for the election in hopes of gaining power after generations of suppression by minority Shiites.

...Elsewhere, insurgents hit designated polling centers in at least six major cities across the country. Gunmen attacked a school to be used as a polling station in Kirkuk, killing one policeman, officials said.

...Bombs blasted three more schools designated as polling sites in the city of Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad. A mortar shell landed on a house close to a school believed to be used as polling site in Ramadi, wounding two women and two children, a hospital doctor said.

...In southern Iraq, a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police vehicle, killing one officer and wounding three others, said police Lt. Col. Karim al-Zaydi. The attack occurred in the town of Zubair, south of the port city of Basra.

...Also Friday, insurgents shelled a U.S. Marine base south of Baghdad, injuring three American troops and three civilians, the military said.

And meanwhile, the Occupation Office of Propaganda (Baghdad Division) is taking some lessons from the masters of Newspeak back in Washington...

"We are getting close to finishing off al-Zarqawi and we will get rid of him," Saleh said.

Every meal's a banquet; every day's a holiday.

Listen, I want the suffering and mayhem to be over for Iraqis as much as anyone on the planet. The bullshit and lies and spin and spritzing perfume on the pig is not going to make this election any more valid or any less dangerous from a participation standpoint.

Believe me, I understand that there are some in Iraq who will risk life and limb to select their own leaders. The illusion of self determination and/or manifest destiny is a powerful thing. And I wish those Iraqis who choose to run the gauntlet this coming Sunday nothing but goodwill.

I can't help but feel, though, that all this farcical charade will prove is that America isn't the only place in the world populated by suckers.

Postcards from the Edge of Reality

Every morning, I wake up in my bed, and recognize my surroundings. The only problem is, when I open my front door and step outside, the landscape is changing so quickly that I no longer recognize the country I was born in.

What's up with that?

PBS show with gay parents pulled

By CARL HOOVER Tribune-Herald entertainment editor

Friday, January 28, 2005

Waco fans of 'Postcards From Buster,' an animated Public Broadcasting Service children's program featuring Buster Baxter the rabbit, won't see him visiting Vermont kids with lesbian parents after PBS pulled the Feb. 2 episode from national distribution.

The public television service took the action after newly appointed Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings blasted the episode in a letter written to PBS president and chief executive officer Pat Mitchell.

'Many parents would not want their young children exposed to the lifestyles portrayed in the episode,' Spellings wrote, questioning the amount of federal funds used for it."...

TGIF! What's Bugging You?

It's been a few weeks since we've run an "open" thread (like all of them aren't open and careen wildly off topic anyway...)

So, what's on your latte-sipping progressive mind?

Holla.

CNN at It's Finest


Ya gotta love those "experts". I snatched the photo from Big Brain Boy. I wonder if they're in agreement on whether Bush is a uniter or divider.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Iraq Elections, via Minitrue

From a Minitrue spokesperson, Occupation Office of Propaganda:

'If you're in Falluja, you'll be able to vote in Falluja."



"If you're in Ramadi, you'll definitely be able to vote in Ramadi. It will be safe. It will be secure,' he said."



"On 30 January there will be elections in Mosul, and there will be elections throughout Nineveh Province. It's not going to be easy, but it will be done."



In both Nineveh and al-Anbar provinces, voters have been unable to register to vote so far, and will only be allowed to do so on the day of the poll.

How's Your Constitution?

I've been poking around in the comment threads again and came up with something that scared the crap outta me. So, if there's a constitutional scholar out there, please chime in.

A third term for Bush?
by James L. Secor
    No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of President more than once. - AMENDMENT XXII, Passed by Congress March 21, 1947. Ratified February 27, 1951.

In the wake of George W. Bush's first electoral victory, detractors have focused on possible illegalities, mostly involving voting violations that any incompetent needs in order to succeed. Perhaps all of this hoopla makes people feel better but they are getting caught up in the furor of the moment and losing sight of the true significance of this election. It will be, perhaps, a mystery as to why Mr. Bush won his first term as an elected president; but people were maybe happy that a third term could not be had. And. . .

This is it folks. Those who figured, after this election, we would be rid of George W. Bush might want to think again. They are wrong: a third term can be had. The XXII Amendment is quite clear on this. George W. Bush has only been elected to the Presidency once. His first term he was appointed, not elected. And, during his first term, he was not sitting during part of some other President's term of office.

Is this correct? Could bush get another term on a technicality? I'll be in the bathroom worshipping at the porcelain portal, come get me when you've figured it out.

When Inmates Run the Asylum

Baghdad - out of control:

..Starkly put, Baghdad is not under control, either by the Iraqi interim government or the American military.

On the bright spring day in April 2003 when marines helped topple Mr. Hussein's statue in Firdos Square, Baghdad, more than any other place in Iraq, was the place American commanders hoped to make a showcase for the benefits the invasion would bring.

Instead, daily life here has become a deadly lottery, a place so fraught with danger that one senior American military officer acknowledged at a briefing last month that nowhere in the area assigned to his troops could be considered safe.

... It was on Haifa Street that masked insurgents with drawn pistols ambushed three Iraqi election workers last month, forcing them from their vehicle, making them kneel in the road and shooting them in the head. Dozens of other attacks have made the street synonymous among the people of Baghdad with imminent death.

Every American attempt to root out the insurgents has failed, and their dominion is written loudly in graffiti on freshly painted, and repainted, walls. "Long live the resistance!" they say. "There is no God but Allah and his Prophet!"; "Death to the Americans and their Iraqi lackeys!"...

Just a few more of those deadender's breathing their last gasp...

The Dynamics of Lying

In a Salon article this morning, Sidney Blumenthal reiterates that the Bush administration is stretching the U.S. military dangerously thin:

...The administration has no strategy for Iraq or for the coerced American Army plodding endlessly across the desert. Rep. Tauscher wonders when the House Armed Services Committee, along with the rest of Congress, will learn anything from the Bush administration that might be considered factual: "They are never persuaded by the facts. Nobody can tell you what their plan is, and they don't feel the need to have one."

Rep. Tauscher is quite right. But then, many of us have been saying the exact same thing since day one, when congress authorized Maximum Leader's excellent adventure on October 2, 2002. Saner voices screamed "rush to judgment" and "show me the facts" -- and we knew, we inherently knew, that the Nazi-style rhetoric in the rush to war didn't match the dog-and-pony show.

Nearly two and one half years since a cowed congress lit votive candles at the altar of the Cult of Bush, America Oceania continues to sacrifice both lives and treasury in the name of the neocon prophet, Leo Strauss. The fantasy world that the mass media portrays continues to exist at stark odds with the portraits of reality that manage to sneak past the Orwellian press release filtering of Minitrue.

Since the moment the sabers started a public rattling against Saddam, a few Generals have been brave enough to point to the fact that not only does the emperor have no clothes, but his coterie are dancing around fairly naked themselves. It's depressing to note that those few who have been possessed by the audacity to question the wisdom and staffing levels of the preemptive invasion of a previously sovereign nation no longer occupy their positions of influence. But then, F├╝hrerprinzip allows for no dissent. Bush's own loosely organized (but highly effective) Sturmabteilung makes sure the sheep remain in a relatively straight line.

The saner voices that can grab media attention and a microphone (or a column-inch worth of ink on page A-23) are still marginalized, despite clear evidence that the U.S. military is becoming broken beyond any short term repair. Yet even this morning, the propaganda blustering continues: "...shifting troops to a training mission", "...Iraqi self determination", "...Iraqi army responsible for security". While it can be agreed that all of these are noble goals which need to be achieved, none are going to happen in the near future. And it's way past time for BushCo to be upfront about the challenges which lay ahead.

Here's what I see happening: BushCo has woven a web of lies that are spinning in a tighter and tighter circle. The dynamics of lying are thus - to continue an illusion, a little lie must be supported by increasingly larger (and more shrill) lies, and finally (in most cases) the entire web of lies crashes like a pyramid scheme under its own weight. Any eight year old child can attest to this inherent dynamic of lies and deceit. Perhaps BushCo is starting to become concerned, because the date that the lies compress to a critical mass is fast approaching.

While January 30th certainly doesn't represent a line of demarcation (in that I don't expect the BuchCo Lie-bomb to go "prompt critical"), the concentration of lies, particularly on impact to the readiness of U.S. armed forces, will have wound tightly to the inelastic center. There's not much room left for "give" or compression.

On this Holocaust Memorial Day 2005, it's a good time to reflect on the causes of and precursors to an event that is universally acknowledged as not only a failure of the people of a single country, but of mankind as a whole.

The systematic extermination of 6 million souls, and the loss of millions of more lives in the military folly of a madman, began with small lies that seduced a nation with jingoistic superiority.

O O O O -- What's With the "O's"?

Those aren't "O's", they're little white stickers, just large enough to cover a "bubble" on a ballot.
Serious Election Fraud Allegations Emerge out of Clermont County

Serious new election tampering allegations have emerged from an Ohio county, where witnesses allege that stickers were placed on presidential election ballots, RAW STORY has learned.

Several volunteer workers in the Ohio recount in Clermont County, Ohio have prepared affidavits alleging serious tampering, violations of state and federal law, and possible fraud. They name the Republican chief of Clermont's Board of Elections and the head of the Clermont Democratic Party as complicit in allegedly illicit acts.


RawPrint has the affidavits of four witnesses.

Guess whose bubble was covered up and whose was filled in. Winter Patriot breaks it down over at the BradBlog.

Voting In Iraq - A No Win Situation

If you thought voter suppression was bad in Ohio and Florida you haven't seen this article. Chilling warning to Iraqis: Vote and you die
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The black sedan made its way down Madaris Street, the young men inside tossing leaflets out the window.

"This is a final warning to all of those who plan to participate in the election," the leaflets said. "We vow to wash the streets of Baghdad with the voters' blood."

The pamphlet gets pretty graphic and specific on the blood-letting. Nobody's going to thank us for bringing this brand of democracy to them. And yes, we (the US) did this.

Gerrymandering - Delay Style

It seems everybody's favorite barbarian is unhappy with the legislators he's been dealt. So what's a barbarian to do when denigrating your adversaries with taunts of "girly-man" doesn't inspire cooperation? Why you do what every reptilian republican does, petition for a special election to redraw the districts.

Schwarzenegger strengthens calls for special election
SACRAMENTO, Calif., Jan 26 (Reuters) - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said on Wednesday he would kick off an ambitious campaign as early as next month to force a special election that could rewrite California's political map and change what he calls "business as usual."

Appearing frustrated with his efforts to work with the Democrat-dominated legislature since taking office a little more than a year ago, the moderate Republican said 2005 was the year to force a vote that could amount to a defacto no confidence vote in lawmakers.

I'm not from California, so don't have a handle on what the Gropenator's been up to or against, (if you want to insert a dirty pun here go ahead). Maybe Kate can fill us in on how the gov's doing. Ok, that sounded bad and I DID NOT mean to imply that Kate has THAT kind of knowledge of the gov, but being a resident of the state she should be able to fill us in on the state of the state -- if she's still talking to me that is.

I Could Be A Quaker Friend

Eyes Wide Open is one way of counting the cost. Boots on the Ground. Appeals to my anarchist artist-poet heart.

Photos of the American Friends Service Committee exhibit in Chicago, Illinois

NYC-Central Park

Toledo, Ohio

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

They also have an exhibit to represent a "percentage" of the Iraq civilian deaths using pairs of everyday people shoes.

Old minds do war without ceasing, and say there is no other way. New minds find different ways.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Mehlman on "The Dreaded Liberal Media Filter"

Too funny if they weren't so serious:

RNC Seeks Donations to Push Bush Agenda:

..."The president has great goals for our country: a growing economy, strong homeland and national defense, tort and Social Security reform and affordable health care. But we need your help to get the president's message past the liberal media filter and directly to the American people," wrote [Ken] Mehlman, Bush's 2004 campaign manager. Mehlman asked donors to give $25 or more...

It's really getting to be time to look at putting the house on the market and checking out the immigration laws in some third world tin pot dictatorship nation...this is really getting beyond my capacity to deal with...

(deep breath...deep breath...they're overreaching...they're overreaching...)

Torture's All the Rage!

Never, NEVER, NEVER ask how low this administration can sink, because they'll show you.

Winter Patriot has been guest blogging over at the BradBlog while Brad's taking a well deserved rest. This is how the administration is supporting the troops:
Tortured POWs Win Judgement Against Iraq;
Justice Department Seeks To Overturn It!


Guest blogged by Winter Patriot

If you needed any further proof that the American government doesn't give a damn about its soldiers, here's a story to make you cry ... again! It looks like our Justice Department has fallen so deeply in love with torture, that in their view, it's not only OK for our guys to torture their guys, but it's also OK for their guys to torture our guys!

I quote the following passages from an article written by John Norton Moore, published by Slate, and headlined: Abuse of Trust: The POW scandal you haven't yet heard about.

Moore writes:
    This nation has a special responsibility to prevent the torture of Americans held as prisoners of war. Our POWs have been brutally tortured at command direction in war after war, including the Korean, Vietnam, and most recently, the Gulf War; and it's clear that we need to do whatever we can to break this pattern. Yet when 17 of our tortured Gulf War POWs and 37 of their family members said "enough" and joined together to bring a historic civil action to hold their Iraqi torturers liable, they were shocked — having won their case in federal court — to find the Department of Justice seeking to erase their judgment and "absolve" their torturers.


This is just a small taste of the whole pile. Finish the rest over at BradBlog.
The fallout from this shitstorm will follow ALL our troops from now on.

Chertoff Confirmation Hearings Scheduled

I received the following email from Allan Duncan today. If you recall, Allan was the investigator who first nailed down the connection between Michael Chertoff and alleged terrorist financier Magdy Elamir.

I just found the time and date of the Chertoff confirmation hearings and wanted to make you aware. I have copied the info below and have also copied info on members of the commitee that will be questioning him. I just sent an email to Senator Carl Levin but his website states that he only responds to citizens from Michigan so I don't know if he'll get the info or not.

If any of you have contacts with any of the members who may be friendly to actually questioning Chertoff about his links to Dr. Magdy Elamir, I would appreciate it if you could contact them. Their names are hyperlinked so you can go to each Senators website and either send them emails or call them.

Time is running out. The hearings are a week from today!!!

Here's the information:

U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs
Title: Nomination Hearing
Date: 2/2/05
Time (EST): 10:00 AM
Place: Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rm. 342

Hearing to consider the nomination of Michael Chertoff to be Secretary of Homeland Security.

Committee Membership

Republican
Susan M. Collins Chairman (R-ME)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)
George V. Voinovich (R-OH)
Norm Coleman (R-MN)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Lincoln D. Chafee (R-RI)
Robert F. Bennett (R-UT)
Pete W. Domenici (R-NM)
John W. Warner (R-VA)

Zell Miller Memorial Republican Lite
Joseph I. Lieberman Ranking Minority Member (D-CT)

Democrats
Carl Levin (D-MI)
Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI)
Thomas R. Carper (D-DE)
Mark Dayton (D-MN)
Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Believe it or not, this one might actually be turnable with the right pressure in the right places. Though I don't expect Lieberman to rock any Bush boats, the rest of the Dems could stick together. There are at least two Republicans on the committee that could hypothetically be flipped - Chafee and Bennett. Warner can be a pitbull, but he's still solidly in the Bush camp.

If any of these Senators are from your state, ask them to ask the right questions. If you need a reminder of what the questions might be, here's a link. And lastly, there might be some more questions tossed out for the asking in the next day or so.

Again, this is a nomination that is not desireable in the least, if for no more reason that Chertoff's apparent view on the Bill of Rights. But defense of the Bill of Rights is a losing argument. Any shot at derailing the nomination has to start with the shady connections between Chertoff and the New Jersey based-terror network in the mid to late '90s.

More to follow...

More Funnies

I'm glad Josh Marshall has the time to dig these things up - wish I didn't have to "work" for a living...



Thanks Generals!

All these guys deserve a thanks for us for their letter to the editor yesterday against the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales as Attorney General. No, I don't think it turns any tide, but it is important that high-profile men and women such as these speak up, and we should thank them whenever it happens.

Short Excerpt:
The United States’ commitment to the Geneva Conventions — the laws of war — flows not only from field experience, but also from the moral principles on which this country was founded, and by which we all continue to be guided.


Oh, that letter to the editor appeared in the usually liberal commie pinko source, Stars and Stripes. I wonder what that says about what the soldiers on the lines think. . .

Admin Note

Haloscan is blowing chunks this morning. I think it's overloaded with all the crap that's going down today. Keep trying.

Opium is the Opium of the Masses

From Daniel Quinn's "Beyond Civilization", page 78:
"When Marx made his famous pronouncement, opium itself was not a drug of the people, so what he was getting at is that religion is the public's cheap narcotic. He could not have guessed, perhaps, that opium itself (in one form or another) would eventually become the opium of the people, despite its cost.

As things get worse and worse for us, we're going to need more and more of all the things that give us relief and oblivion and all the things that get us revved up and excited. More religion, more revolution, more drugs, more television channels, more sports, more casinos, more pornography, more lotteries, more access to the Web -- more and more and more of it all -- to give ourselves the impression that life is nonstop fun. But meanwhile, of course, every morning we must shake off the hangover and forget about fun for eight or ten hours while we drag our quota of stones up the side of the pyramid. What life could possibly be sweeter than this?"

Discuss at will.

Note: Quinn's Web site is here: Ishmael.org

Surely this is Connected

The Greater Alabama Boy Scout Council is being investigated by the FBI for inflating their enrollment figures on grant applications. It's not just in Alabama, but the same problem exists in the Atlanta area, where the Coucil claimed 20,000 African American scouts with a head count closer to 500. Sounds like Bush Administration math.

Let me say that I am an Eagle Scout, as was my father. A picture of him as a boy in his uniform sits on my bookshelf. My three brothers are all Eagle Scouts. And I will be attending my nephew's Eagle Scout induction in the Spring.

I expressed myself long ago about the Boy Scout policy concerning gay leaders and boy, that it was against inclusive principles long in place in the organization, and that the policy would lead not just to dozens of agencies cutting their ties, as United Ways in many cities have done, but also that the policy would weaken the moral fiber and authority of the organization. So what comes with the Boy Scouts scrambling for funding in the face of the United Way pulling it? Cheating and lies.

It's time for reform of that organization, but I'm sure what we'll hear, as they've firmly aligned themselves with the religious right (a huge amount of their funding is now given by the Mormon Church), is denial. It is sad that such a proud organization has sunk so far.

Yet there is hope. The volunteers on the front ranks are evidently diming out their superiors. Let's hope they don't get the shaft.

Skyrocketing Budget Deficit

Today's Los Angeles Times reports that budget estimates, again, are worse than we feared. Yes, Bush, who promised he would get HIS deficit under control is looking at more record-setting. Not that we didn't know this before. . .

I hear Repugs talk about legacy, and this is one that comes to mind. It is, in effect, a tax increase on the next generation, a generational shift in the tax burden, and that's a message that needs to be pounded in. Taxing our children is not a family value, nor is it ethical. Sure, we can point to propaganda and IRaq and Abu Ghraib and all sorts of other actions as unethical acts that demena our country, but we on the progressive side should always remember Mr. Carville's words: "It's the economy, stupid."

In the next four years we need to make sure the Repugs OWN this deficit. Heck, it appears now we can make Repug Congressmen and Senators OWN it at the mid-term elections.

Reinstitute the Draft

I've come to the conclusion that, quite simply, it's the only way the level of passive resistance to the illegal war and the neocon thunderthugs is going to be brought to a critical mass.

And no, I no longer know where the trigger point is between passive and active resistance. But if I were a betting man, I'd lay odds that we find out in the not to distant future...

Helicopter "Crash" in Iraq Kills 30 Marines


Breaking news from CBS:

(CBS/AP) A U.S. Marine transport helicopter crashed in western Iraq, killing at least 30 on board according to initial reports. Insurgents staged attacks against U.S. forces, schools to be used as polling stations and political party offices on Wednesday, as they pressed a bloody campaign to undermine Iraq's weekend elections.

Is it a quagmire yet?

More info as it develops...

Listen, I'm a vet. But I'm going to quit feeling bad for these folks in uniform over there very quickly from here on forward, and particularly after Sy Hersh's claim last night on TDS that BushCo is ready to let freedom march into Iran as soon as the summer (if you missed Hersh on TDS last night, catch the repeat tonight -- it's scary).

The U.S. is stacking bodies of its own sons and daughters like so much cordwood. Until the families and soliders themselves start a peaceful resistance to this futile endeavor, it ain't gonna stop.

Iraq today, Iran tomorrow, Syria the day after. And yes, there's going to be a draft. There has to be.

Once again, BushCo (sigh) lied.

Update, 9:45AM - From Rising Hegemon, a visual representation of today's events.

And, from comments at Eschaton, a reminder that not only did 380 tons of RDX go missing, so have 4,000 SAMs (reported in November, 2004 in the Washington Post).

Armstrong Williams, Meet Maggie Gallagher

Yeah, you guessed it. More of the Bush Administration propaganda machine is coming to the surface.

This time it is the Department of Health and Human Services who has paid a journalist to write favorably for them, and the journalist [sic] is Maggie Gallagher of National Review Online. Here's the Washington Post lead slug:
In 2002, syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher repeatedly defended President Bush's push for a $300 million initiative encouraging marriage as a way of strengthening families.

"The Bush marriage initiative would emphasize the importance of marriage to poor couples" and "educate teens on the value of delaying childbearing until marriage," she wrote in National Review Online, for example, adding that this could "carry big payoffs down the road for taxpayers and children."

But Gallagher failed to mention that she had a $21,500 contract with the Department of Health and Human Services to help promote the president's proposal. Her work under the contract, which ran from January through October 2002, included drafting a magazine article for the HHS official overseeing the initiative, writing brochures for the program and conducting a briefing for department officials.

Let's all remember, folks, that the White House claimed that the Armstrong Williams incident was "isolated," and Scott McClellan claimed that he knew of no other arrangement like that with Williams. Sounds like making sure he staked his claim to deniability beforehand.

Maggie defended herself, of course. She may be a "defender of marriage," as she might put it, but she shows herself to also be a defender of unethical behavior. The National Review ought to distance themselves now and also call their folks in for a meeting -- odds are they have a couple more folks on the Bush payroll.

Grandma Eats Cannabis

This is a fun little story from Britian. Ok, anything that doesn't involve Iraq, Bush, or the enormous deficit that's going to do us in is fun. It seems like the Brits are struggling with how much "medicinal" marijuana you can have, whether you can grow your own, and if you can form a "club" and have a member buy and distribute to the other members.

Grandmother ran cannabis cookery club for neighbours
A retired restaurateur has admitted raising a kitty with other pensioners to buy cannabis which she used in her recipes for "medicinal purposes".

Patricia Tabram, a grey-haired grandmother, turned to the drug in an attempt to offset the effects of tinnitus, mild depression and pains after a car crash.
...
Tabram, 66, was formally cautioned in May last year for possession and cultivation of cannabis after 10in high plants were found growing in her loft. A month later she was caught with 242gms of the drug worth around £850 and self-seal bags for distribution to other people who she declined to name.

She told police that she had clubbed together with a group of elderly people to obtain cannabis for various medicinal reasons. Carl Gumsley, her defence counsel, told Newcastle Crown Court: "She had purchased it on their behalf."
...
...she said that she was writing a book entitled Grandma Eats Cannabis.

She said: "If they send me to jail I can finish writing my book about the merits of medicinal, herbal cannabis. I want people to know NHS medicines are poisoning them instead of treating their illness. If Jeffrey Archer can write a book in prison, so can I."
...
"The most popular recipes I have are for lemon and lime cheesecake and chicken and leek pie. I want to publish a cook book with all of them in."

Ok, I KNOW there are some of you out there that can't wait for Amazon to start selling her book, well it's not available yet, but this one is.

Ass-Kickin' CREW

These guys have had enough:

CREW Files Bar Complaint Against Attorney General Nominee Alberto Gonzales
The complaint alleges that Gonzales inaccurately portrayed his role in appearing before a Texas court when President Bush, then Governor of Texas, was summoned for jury duty. Gonzales has claimed that although he appeared in court with the Governor, he merely observed the defense counsel make a motion to strike the Governor from the jury panel and then when asked by the Judge whether the Governor had any views on this, replied that he did not.

In marked contrast, Michael Isikoff, reporting for Newseek, has written that the defense lawyer, prosecutor and judge involved in the case all recall the incident differently. In their version, Gonzales asked to have an off-the-record conference in the judge’s chambers where Gonzales then asked the judge, David Crain, to strike Mr. Bush from the jury, arguing that the Governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant. Isikoff writes that Judge Crain found Gonzales’s argument “extremely unlikely” but out of deference, agreed to allow the motion to strike, which the defense lawyer then made.

CREW’s complaint alleges that by misstating the facts surrounding the conversation in the judge’s chambers Gonzales may have violated 18 U.S.C. §1001, which makes it a federal crime to make false statements to a congressional committee. The complaint further alleges that Mr. Gonzales has violated two Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure: 8.04(a)(2) which prohibits lawyers from committing crimes that reflect adversely on their honesty or trustworthiness; and 8.04(a)(3) which prohibits lawyers from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

CREW’s Executive Director Melanie Sloan stated, “The marked contrast between the version of events Mr. Gonzales provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee and the version told by the three other individuals involved – the prosecutor, the defense lawyer and the judge – is enough to require the State Bar of Texas to investigate this matter.” Sloan continued, “Violations of the bar rules can lead to disbarment. The Senate should delay voting on Mr. Gonzales’s nomination until this matter is cleared up or face the prospect of having an Attorney General who has lost his bar license.”


While CREW is on the legal case, 12 US Generals weigh in on why Gonzo "The Torturer" is wrong for the job.
Gonzales not right fit for GIs

As retired professional military leaders of the U.S. armed forces, we are deeply concerned about the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales to be attorney general. We feel that his views concerning the role of the Geneva Conventions in U.S. detention and interrogation policy and practice have put soldiers in harm’s way.

During his tenure as White House counsel, Gonzales appears to have played a significant role in shaping U.S. detention and interrogation operations in Afghanistan; Iraq; Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere.

Today, it is clear that these operations have:

* Fostered greater animosity toward the United States;
* Undermined our intelligence-gathering efforts; and
* Added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world.
...

Human Rights Watch isn't too fond of Gonzo either.

So how long until the Bushies play the race card on this one?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

An Interesting Media Slice from South Carolina

I just thought this was interesting. Maybe purely coincidental, but interesting none the less. All headlines below are verbatim and in printed order from the Beaufort (S.C.) Gazette, a red state paper in a red state. Is the bloom coming off the Bush rose? Is the honeymoon over? Can we start the impeachment proceedings yet?

Democrats say Rice misled about Iraq war
White House: Deficit will hit record $427B
Pollsters warn on Social Security overhaul
Education secretary condemns PBS show
Challenges to federal marriage act dropped
Bush wants $80B more for Iraq, Afghan wars

Who Said That?

From Watching the Watchers comes this little quiz:
This so-called ill treatment and torture in detention centers, stories of which were spread everywhere among the people, and later by the prisoners who were freed… were not, as some assumed, inflicted methodically, but were excesses committed by individual prison guards, their deputies, and men who laid violent hands on the detainees.

Can anyone tell me who said that? Was it:

A) George W. Bush
B) John Ashcroft
C) Donald Rumsfeld
D) Someone else

Watching the Watchers has the answer and more fun quotes and comparisons.

Ted Turner is taking aim at Bushs' official propaganda arm, Fox News.

Ted Turner called Fox a propaganda tool of the Bush administration and indirectly compared Fox News Channel's popularity to Adolf Hitler's popular election to run Germany before World War II.

Turner made those fiery comments in his first address at the National Association for Television Programming Executives' conference since he was ousted from Time Warner Inc. five years ago.


Heh.

FUCK Bush!

Evidently that can get you in trouble in Denver. Seems regular old cops have now picked up the Bush Administration habit of stifling dissent and are threatening folks with arrest for crude bumper stickers. What's the over/under for a full-scale police state in the US, anyways? November 4, 2009?

That sound you hear is the signers of the Declaration of Independence rolling over in their graves.

We are so screwed.

We Taught Them Well, Unfortunately

Or maybe they are just continuing a culture that was there long before Saddam, and NEVER included democracy, as we shall see next week.

What's that, you say? Human Rights Watch is reporting widespread torture by Iraqi forces against insurgents.

That sound you hear is U.S. moral authority whimpering.

The Perfect Political Cartoon

Regardless of the political differences I might have with Joshua Micah Marshall, he has absolutely been carrying some heavy water on the Bush Social Security Privatization / Phase Out Ponzi Scheme. If we're able to tuck Social Security safely back into its lockbox, it will be largely due to the efforts of folks like Josh. But he warns, correctly, that significant minefields still lay ahead.

And, Josh points everyone to this Tom Tolbert editorial cartoon from the Washington Post, which is probably closer to the truth than anyone in a place of political power cares to admit:



Starring John Kerry in...Ishtar, the Sequel

Thanks to ASZ reader Eric for picking up this outstanding David Podvin commentary!

It appears that John Kerry is planning to seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, and assuming that General Custer is still unavailable, some Democrats will doubtlessly support the senator. I will not be joining them because, despite what many consider irrefutable proof to the contrary, I am not crazy. At least not that crazy, which isn’t saying much. Even the lunatic who shot Reagan to impress Jodie Foster isn’t that crazy.

Kerry was unable to beat pitiful George W. Bush, whose record of incompetence is matched only by his record of graft. If Thomas Jefferson was the mind of the presidency, and Abraham Lincoln its heart, then surely Bush is the plumber’s cleavage. Nevertheless, the Purple Heart-laden Kerry was totally helpless against attacks on his patriotism by a deserter whose military career consisted of safeguarding Alabama taverns from Ho Chi Minh...

It only gets better from there...

On Crossing a Threshold

Exactly who is the sham Iraqi "election" actually being held for? Iraqis or Americans?

From AP, via the Baltimore Sun:

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- An American hostage pleaded for his life with a rifle pointed at his head in a video released today while 11 Iraqi police died in fierce clashes and gunmen assassinated a senior judge in slayings highlighting security risks ahead of this weekend's elections.

On a day that the U.S. military said six American soldiers had died, interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi also said the time was not right to talk of a U.S. troop withdrawal and that Iraq must first build up its security forces to confront the insurgents...

Then, RossK at Gazetteer blogs about a recent Riverbend posting where basic human services (like, water) are being used as a bribery point to get Iraqis out to vote. Shorter Riverbend: "You vote for our guy, we'll turn your water back on."

There's no question that a threshold is being crossed this coming Sunday in Iraq. The concept of "threshold crossing" is usually a metaphor reserved for hope and anticipation of the future, though. Iraqis (and yes, many Americans) are approaching this threshold with a sense of resignation and dread.

Maximum Leader, His Lawyer, and the Stripper

Bada bing, bada boom.

Newsweek is running an online story that will hit their print edition on January 31. In a macro sense, the article is standard political fluff. Attorney General-in-waiting Al "Torture Memo" Gonzales' nomination is being held up, with Democrats awaiting satisfactory answers to questions that have been posed to Gonzales.

While torture's received all of the media play in this particular confirmation process, one of the outstanding questions has to do with his representation of Maximum Leader in a little issue in Texas back in 1996. The story itself is no major secret, and it's been in the press previously - but maybe there's an angle that no one had previously considered.

Here's a short synopsis - back in 1996, while governor of Texas, Dubya was called for jury duty in a drunk driving case. When he filled out his jury duty questionnaire, he failed to answer the question, "have you ever been accused in a criminal case?".

In the years since, (and Molly Ivins even touches on it in her book, Bushwhacked), speculation evolved that Dubya didn't fill out the question because it would have potentially exposed his own drunk driving conviction that occured in Maine in 1976.

His lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, requested a chambers meeting with the judge, prosecutor, and defense attorney to get Maximum Leader off the hook in both answering the question and serving on the jury of this specific case. The upshot of the meeting was that all parties apparently agreed to Dubya not serving because of a potential "conflict of interest" as governor.

This whole story is a bit odd. Certainly, if a governor receives a jury summons in the mail, he has many "outs" right up front. Dubya would have never even had to show up at the court. His potential service had advanced to the point where he was being empaneled for a specific case. It would be easy to leap to the conclusion that he actually wanted to serve, very publicly, and show his propensity for dispensing a little Texas justice at a local level in a relatively minor case.

But then he walked into the political hornet's nest of a drunk driving trial. Yet, still, a 20 year old DWI could easily be written off as "youthful indiscretion" if it ever came out, particularly in Texas. Nobody would bat an eye. And even back in 1996, Governor Dubya's walks on the wild side in his younger days weren't exactly state secrets. Verily, he had accepted Jesus in his life, so all past sins were forgiven.

Or was that even the issue?

Let's play dimestore novel writer for a moment. How's this for a plot line?

The drunk driving case involved a stripper from an Austin gentleman's club. What if a certain governor was fond of a little Bada Bing action every now and then? And what if, as he walked into the courtroom with the rest of the jury pool, he looked over at the defense side of the courtroom, and was surprised by who was sitting at the table? And what if the local magistrate began talking to the jury pool about the selection process, explaining the standard protocol and questions that are asked of all potential jury members by the prosecution and defense lawyers - one of which is:

"Do you know the defendant?"

Monday, January 24, 2005

bin-Laden Bounty - Up to $50 Million?

If BushCo was smart - really smart - they would have made the bounty $1 Billion about 3 years ago.

Seems like it would have been money well spent and a hell of a lot cheaper than the money that's been spent since chasing ghosts.

No one will rat him out for $25 million. Or $50 million. Or $50 billion. Doesn't anyone understand that it's not about the money? However, a billion or so a few years back would have probably mobilized a fairly crack team of mercenaries, informants, free marketeers, and tin pot dictators to zero in on his location.

Legal aspects, you say? Shoot, BushCo doesn't much care about the legal aspects of anything else about the War on Terra™ , so why would a few potential legal entanglements get in the way?

So much "duh", so little time...until the 3rd annual Spring Offensive Against Terror:

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US State Department said no decision had been made on doubling a 25-million-dollar bounty for terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, but it left open the possibility.

Time Magazine reported that the administration of President George W. Bush was likely to raise the bounty on Al-Qaeda's chief to 50 million dollars by the end of February...

I Have Good News and Bad News...

Whoops! I Fibbed. Only Bad News.
""We are going to go through one of the most trying financial times in U.S. history, including the Great Depression," Schiff says." (Peter Schiff, CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital.

From Forbes: Doom For The Dollar--And Everything Else

Just some lunch hour fun...

Stupid Idea #124,784

Linking Social Security Benefits to Gender, Race
Prominent GOP congressman proposes tying Social Security Benefits to race, gender
The Republican chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which handles finances, floated the prospect of tying Social Security benefits to sex and race on Sunday during Tim Russert's "Meet the Press."


Transcript

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you something else you said at the National Journal Forum that raised some eyebrows: "Women are living longer relative to men today than they were in 1940. Yet, we never ever have debated gender-adjusting Social Security. ...But, at some point if the age difference continues to separate and more women are in the workforce and you have more of an equality of pay structure in the workforce, at some point somebody might want to suggest that we need to take a look at the question of whether or not actuarially we ought to adjust who gets what, when, and how."

A gender adjustment--what does that mean?

REP. THOMAS: Well, it was one of my ways of getting people to focus on the issue of age. To move from 65 to 68, which we did in 1983, was a benefit cut. But it also creates hardships based upon the occupation that you have, and it creates inequities on who you are and how long you live. You could just as easily have a discussion about occupations as to when would be a fair or an unfair time to require. We also need to examine, frankly, Tim, the question of race in terms of how many years of retirement do you get based upon your race? And you ought not to just leave gender off the table because that would be a factor.

Now, there are people who are saying, "Gee, this is great. We can get them into a box and maybe we can win some seats in the next election over this issue." This ought not to be about the next election. This is about how we have an opportunity given to us by the president, his willingness to work with us to solve some problems that are here and now, but will only get worse. If we're not in a crisis now, we're in a problem. Wait a few years. We will be in a crisis. We ought to examine all opportunities to solve the problem. Then we can dismiss them. But to not look at them denies us an opportunity to have yet another way to solve our problem.

MR. RUSSERT: So if someone is a woman and they live longer, they would get less per year?

REP. THOMAS: It's not that you would do it; it's something that you need to look at. Because if you extend the age beyond 78, if you go to 80 or 82, all of those concerns about race, occupation and gender are exacerbated. And you shouldn't just extend the age without understanding the additional complications and unfairness that you're bringing into the system. That's the point I'm trying to make. Don't look for a simple solution like shifting age without realizing you're creating additional problems for yourself down the road. Same thing with payroll tax. Same thing with individual accounts or other ways to bring additional revenue in the system. All of them should be examined. None of them should be labeled with the pejorative with an opportunity to try to gain seats in the next election. You are doing a disservice to the society if that's your intention in this debate. My goal is to get it as broad as possible, look for bipartisan support and give the president a bill on his desk that he can sign that addresses the real societal inequities that we have with seniors.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think Congress, Mr. Chairman, would accept any formula that said that people would be treated differently because of their gender or their race?

REP. THOMAS: If we discuss it and the will is not to do it, fine. At least we discussed it. To simply raise the age and find out that you've got gender, race and occupational problems later, I would not be doing the kind of service that I think I have to do. You and I have been around quite a while. We went through the '80s. We went into the '90s. And now we're in the 21st century. We saw the choices that were made in the past. We went to the well over and over again with the same old solutions which really aren't solutions. We've reached the point where we have to fundamentally examine it in my opinion. The president has given us that opportunity. We ought to take it.


Yep, let's use all the hot points to keep this out in front. Just don't look at the other hand holding the Medicare/Medicaid cards.

Essential Government Services

One of the essential functions of any local government north of the 35th parallel is to clear the streets after it snows.

So why is it a full 48 hours after a medium sized storm and I'd be better off hitching up a dogsled than driving a vehicle with actual wheels? It's not like there wasn't advance warning to prepare and stage snow removal equipment.

Bad government services don't only happen on the federal level...

Argh.

So Where Were These People on November 2?

Sleeping in a spider hole?

Or were they just convinced that Kerry had no better plan to disengage from the quagmire?

Monkey Boy™ owns this, along with the 51%'ers who supported him.

On eve of Iraq vote, war less popular in US:

...Only one-third of the Americans surveyed in a Harris poll last week said they expect the January 30 vote to help quell violence in Iraq, where more than 1,360 US troops have died since the March 2003 invasion and an insurgency shows no signs of abating.

Thirty-four percent said the situation will get better in Iraq after the vote, while another 34 percent said things will remain the same and 25 percent said the situation will get worse, according to the poll of 2,209 adults by Harris Interactive.

'It has taken a while, but now Americans seem to be more conscious of the war and its impact,' said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.

'Many Americans at first gave the benefit of the doubt to (President George W. Bush) out of patriotism, out of confidence in him.

'Now we have a majority of people saying the war was a mistake,' Cain said.

Some days, you just want to scream...



Freedom of Information Act - Under Attack

Pam's House Blend has the skinny on the FBI's attempt keep you from knowing what you have a right to know.

The Unknown
As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

—Donald Rumsfeld, Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing