Wednesday, November 30

You can't make stuff like this up.

It's not enough that Donald Rumsfeld thinks we can deal with the insurgency in Iraq by renaming it.

Now, we're transplanting American values into Iraq--by cloning the Washington press corps. But we're going them one better (every once in a while a Washington reporter stumbles on something interesting--can't have that). We're actually having our military people write stories, hiring an expensive consultant to translate them into Arabic, and paying newspapers to run them.

Now, that's just more of the same for the Bush League, but here's what I find hopeful: we've managed to inculcate American values so much that one editor said that if he had known the stories had originated with the US military, he would have "charged much, much more".

Isn't that heartwarming?

Monday, November 28

Randy "Duke" Cunningham Pleads Guilty

There's a lot of history behind the guilty plea from Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The guy has been selling knives with the congressional seal for personal profit. The guy has done numerous bad deals (bad for the country-- not for him or the contractors) with defense contractors.

This is someone who willingly and knowlingly participated in serious crimes and deserves serious jail time.

Now let's see if we can get it for Delay, Frist and Rove as well.

Sunday, November 27

Bush needs economists

Apparently, Bush is having trouble filling high-level economic positions. The problem?

"Everybody wants to go back into academia and be respected, so you don't want to say anything too foolish that people are going to laugh at you afterward," Professor Munnell explained.
Which probably explains things like the following:

At times Professor Mankiw, who has returned to Harvard, sounded more like Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, than an economic adviser. "The president is very focused on putting people back to work, at creating jobs," he said. "The president has said that he wants to make the tax cuts permanent. He believes that is important for economic growth."

Domestic Surveillance

In this Washington Post Article, Walter Pincus let's us know just how deep we are into it all.

The answer: we are completely screwed:
The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence.

Saturday, November 26

Teacher investigated for liberalism in quizhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

In Bennington, VT, a teacher is being investigated for some of his quiz questions:
...the school superintendent whose district includes Mount Anthony Union High School has labeled "inappropriate" and "irresponsible" an English teacher's use of liberal statements in a vocabulary quiz.

"I wish Bush would be (coherent, eschewed) for once during a speech, but there are theories that his everyday diction charms the below-average mind, hence insuring him Republican votes," said one question on a quiz...
Now here's the thing: I don't think that's an appropriate question. I think teachers should feel free to express their political views, as long as they don't coerce their students about views of their own. But I also think that this is a manufactured issue, and that for CNN to have picked it up is ridiculous. This is an internal matter, and I have seen teachers do this sort of thing (interject their own opinion into quiz material) in a lot of classes I've taken over the years. It's not a specifically liberal or conservative thing to do, and I don't think we really want to go down the road of pre-approving all material which comes from a teacher with a strong political viewpoint.

Friday, November 25

Hunter Thompson reincarnated?

I ran across this piece by Mark Morford and couldn't help thinking about Hunter Thompson (1970s Hunter Thompson, not the unfunny, uninsightful writer he became). It was a fun read despite the sense that he is trying too hard. An excerpt:

Rove works the room, shakes hands, squeezing a little too hard to remind everyone who "the architect" really is. Everyone understands, even as they furtively wipe their hands on their pants after he touches them. Rove grabs fistfuls of baby shrimp and shoves them into his mouth when he thinks no one's looking, swallows without chewing. He smells like baby aspirin and old bacon.
Associated Press writer Liz Sidoti writes about the tough political choices facing Democrats who may want to run for president in 2008.

WASHINGTON - Sen. John Kerry initially voted in favor of a Republican-sponsored resolution calling on President Bush to explain his strategy for success in Iraq. Minutes later, the Democrat changed his vote.

The scene underscores the risks facing every politician trying to determine an appropriate and politically wise response to war that's become increasingly unpopular with the public.
Here's my suggestion for Democrats facing these choices. Choose integrity. Stop trying to pander to fickle public opinion and figure out the popular choice, because you will fail. Do what you know is right, regardless of what the current Zogby poll says. Be leaders, not followers. Choose integrity.

Someone wants to tax hybrids, because...

From the Associated Press, regarding proposals to make up for funding deficits in the highway bill:
Proposals for the longer term could be more controversial. One is that owners of hybrids and other alternative fuel vehicles pay a vehicle fee, the argument being that drivers should bear their fair share to fill the potholes and fix the bridges, regardless of how much or what kind of fuel they use.

Good plan. Let's discourage the sort of vehicles which don't rely as heavily on the oil companies and their record profits as the other vehicles.

Al Jazeera and Bush's "Joke"

Yousri Fouda, in a transcript from Democracy Now, re: Bush having to be talked out of bombing Al Jazerrra:
..I just wonder, in light of what happened recently... how many people would have been recruited into the mindset of al-Qaeda because of something like this? I'm talking about mainstream Arabs and Muslims, and even decent human beings, wherever they come from, when they hear about something like this. So we have been hearing a lot about people in our part of the world, ‘They hate America and Americans.’ Well, they might do this, but they used to hate Americans for what they do, not for what they are. Now, with something like this, I wouldn't be surprised that Americans will be hated for what they are.

Jaw Dropping Irony

Michael "Heckuva Job" Brown is starting his own disaster preparedness firm.

"If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses — because that goes straight to the bottom line — then I hope I can help the country in some way," Brown told the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.

Apparently, he has clients already showing interest. Cash in your pensions now, folks.

And showing his ongoing complete and total cluelessness regarding his own incompetence and role in the suffering of an enormous number of people ...

"I'm doing a lot of good work with some great clients," Brown said. "My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me."

Oh, gee. His family still loves him. That makes everything okay, doesn't it, Brownie? How do you think the displaced of Louisiana and Mississipi feel about you? Your family may be proud of you, but America is not.

Thursday, November 24

Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel

Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.

The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.

One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group. Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime. At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.
No pithy quote; I'm speechless.

The Darwin Exhibition Frightening off Corporate Sponsors

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....

From the United Kingdom's News Telegraph:

While the Darwin exhibition has been unable to find a business backer - unlike previous exhibitions at the museum - the Creationist Museum near Cincinatti, Ohio, which takes literally the Bible's account of creation, has recently raised $7 million in donations.

Wednesday, November 23

The Padilla Thrilla

I have read numerous accounts, this morning, of the indictment of Jose Padilla (apparently, according to Padilla's lawyer, the pronunciation I exploited in the title of this post is correct: Padilla doesn't rhyme with Medea).

Not all -- but some -- of the press accounts note the suspicious timing of the indictment. The Bush administration has held Padilla (a US citizen) for three years without charging him with anything (until now). The Bush administration has claimed the right to do this because it has designated Padilla an "enemy combatant". Padilla's challenge to this status and what it means was heading toward the Supreme Court. Apparently, the Bush administration expected an unfavorable decision and made Padilla's case moot by indicting him and, however belatedly, beginning due process against him (the administration has not ruled out resurrecting Padilla's "enemy combatant" status should the trial or something else go awry).

While this case isn't the thrilla the title of this post indicates, it is amazing that there is a general lack of concern, much less alarmed outrage, with respect to the implications of Padilla's situation. Padilla is a US citizen whose constitutional rights have been vacated. By a mere statement of the President of the United States. If any citizen's rights can be vacated on the whim of the president -- even a trustworthy and principled president -- those rights are illusory. Padilla's lawyers (the fact that Padilla has representation is testament to persistence in the face of stonewalling by the administration) hope to maneuver the case, though for Padilla specifically, it is moot, to the Supreme Court. We should all hope they succeed and that the Court rules the way that Bush feared.

This is not about Padilla. We don't really know anything about Padilla (unless you call awareness of the government's shifting accusations against him 'knowing something') -- a situtation that exists by administration design. Even I am not cynical enough to think that Padilla is an innocent pawn, randomly unfortunate enough to get caught up in the administration's attempt to achieve control of the citizenry. However, the day we take the word of the government -- even a trustworthy and principled government -- that abiding by the Constitution is unwise and/or unnecessary, is the day the American experiment in Democracy failed.

"We Have Lost Our Way as a Party"

Lindsey Graham, quoted in this Associated Press article:
If we really want to do well in 2006, we need to have fiscal discipline like Republicans campaigned on," he said. "We have lost our way as a party. Our base is deflated and taxpayers don't see any difference between us and the Democrats.

Tuesday, November 22

If you weren't paying attention today...

Some headlines:

Vatican says active gays not welcome in priesthood (which is news because...?)

Far right group to use Macy's parade to spread antigay message: Focus on the Family will be handing out "stress balls" (which are 85% less gay than they sound) at the parade with a web site telling us we can change our sexual orientation.

Fox News Won't Show Ad Opposing Alito apparently because now Fox is pretending to care about honesty.

Cheney to Headline DeLay GOP Fundraiser; no comment necessary.

Legislator Said to Dispute Schmidt Comments, which is a nice way of saying that not only did Schmidt attack Murtha on the floor of Congress but she did so by making up big fat lies.

And finally, Newspaper probe points to wrongful Texas execution, but hey, why worry about making mistakes when you're killing people?

Bush Wanted to Bomb Al-Jazerra?

I didn't think I could have a lower opinion of this administration. Then I heard about this monstrosity.

A quote:

The Daily Mirror reported that Bush spoke of targeting Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, when he met Blair at the White House on April 16, 2004. The Bush administration has regularly accused Al-Jazeera of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for anti-American sentiments.

I am so far beyond disgusted. Sometimes I can find humor in some of the complete and utter idiocy I hear from these people.

This is so far beyond acceptable. We so need to get rid of these clowns.

From a few months back, but in relation to due process...

This American Life is probably my favorite show on the radio [sorry Rachel, but you're definitely next :-)].

A few months ago, they had an episode called The Arms Trader (real audo format). Here's the summary:
The U.S. government spent two years on a sting operation, trapping an Indian man named Hemant Lakhani whom they suspected of being an illegal arms dealer. It's one of the few cases that has gone to trial in the War on Terror, and one the Justice Department has pointed to as one of their big successes. In the end, they got Lakhani, red-handed, delivering a missile to a terrorist in New Jersey. The only problem was, nothing in the sting was what it appeared to be. Including the missile.
There is no terrorist involved in this story: just a pathetic man who did something incredibly stupid. No plot was foiled. No risk was averted. A salesman got duped into badly attempting to commit a crime.

But hey, it looks good on paper.

Jose Padilla charged

A US citizen held for more than three years on suspicion of planning an attack with a "dirty bomb" has been indicted on criminal charges in Miami.

Jose Padilla been under military arrest since 2002 and was one of only two US citizens designated an enemy combatant.

The Bush administration had resisted calls to try him in civilian courts, and last month a court upheld its right to hold Mr Padilla indefinitely.

The US Attorney General is to discuss the indictment at a news conference.

If due process does not apply to Jose Padilla, it doesn't apply to any of us.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
--Benjamin Franklin

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression."
--Thomas Paine

Simple News Roundup

Today's links:

From November 17th Pentagon admits White Phosphorous as a Weapon and today THE US MEDIA IS IGNORING THE FACT THAT the Pentagon ITSELF classifies it as a chemical weapon.

A methodist church just apologized for anti-gay rulings

And, apparently, having to spend some time with a gay man can make you mentally ill.

Monday, November 21

Exodus

France does not have a Jewish problem. France has an anti-Semitism problem.

"Not one Frenchman will be free so long as the Jews do not enjoy the fullness of their rights. Not one Frenchman will be secure so long as a single Jew - in France or in the world at large - can fear for his life."
--Jean-Paul Sartre, Anti-Semite and Jew, 1948

"Liberty" Counsel

Maybe the first lawsuit should be against those in the religous right who insist that it's illegal to pray in school. Fake martyrs do not amuse me.

Love thy neighbor as thyself, even if he is a "grinch."

Evangelical Christian pastor Jerry Falwell has a message for Americans when it comes to celebrating Christmas this year: You're either with us, or you're against us.

Falwell has put the power of his 24,000-member congregation behind the "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign," an effort led by the conservative legal organization Liberty Counsel. The group promises to file suit against anyone who spreads what it sees as misinformation about how Christmas can be celebrated in schools and public spaces.

My goodness. It almost sounds as if there is no such thing as a middle ground between being the official state religion and being an oppressed minority. Sounds like a classic false dilemma fallacy to me.

I also have to wonder what this has to do with Christianity and all that loving thy neighbor stuff. It seems to contradict Matthew 6:6 as well--But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Curveball

Check out this L. A. Times Story on how easily Curveball was able to sucker those looking for a reason to go to war.

In Today's News...

From AP:
The House agreed to reinstate sales of mining lands at cheap prices as part of its budget cut plan approved Friday, a move that could transfer into private hands up to 20 million acres of public lands on Western ranges, national forests and even national parks.
North America's largest Jewish group decided to go on the record opposing Alito.

Biden figured out which way the wind was blowing and decided that maybe, after all, it might be okay to Filibuster Alito.

Porter Goss insists that the CIA's methods are unique but not torture.

And, finally, Michael Scanlon, a partner of Abramoff, has just been charged with "conspiring to defraud American Indian tribes of millions of dollars in a scheme that lavished trips, sports tickets and campaign donations on a member of Congress."

There's other stuff about Iraq in there, too, but really, we all know where that's going (insert flushing sound here).

The Pathway to Eugenics

I love the questions raised by Sophiny in the Eugenics article.

It seems to me that we're in a real bind here. I think that science and scientific discovery is important, but if we don't grow in wisdom as we move forward with science, that's a bit of a problem. Right now we, as a culture, seem to be rejecting both science and wisdom.

Sunday, November 20

Survival of the Fittest or Pathway to Eugenics?

This article from today's New York Times talks about objections to a new test that can detect Down's Syndrome.


The fear, says the article, is that more women will abort if they know the child is going to have some kind of disability. This will in turn lead to less support for people fighting for disability rights, less money for research into Down's Syndrome and other genetic conditions, and so on.

I don't know if I like that argument. It kind of reminds me of people who say that deaf kids shouldn't learn how to read lips because using sign language makes them more identifiably deaf and therefore more able to be Deaf and Proud. I mean, I'm all for supporting disability rights, but not to the extent that we should hamper scientific progress. That's like saying we shouldn't try to improve cancer treatments because we run the risk of putting oncologists out of business.

What does concern me about tests like these, though, is the whole Gattaca element to them. I think we're coming every closer to a world where we're modifying our children's genes as easily as we can edit a web page. Scary stuff.

And in other news...


Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right'
... in which we discover that there are (who knew?) major religous figures who do not agree with the wingnut branch of the Republican party.

Thanks to Americablog for catching this one.

And while I'm thinking about it...

I should mention that I think that the Republicans have completely lost their ability to strategize. They are reacting out of complete and utter fear at this point, and it's going to be their own destruction.

I have never been a fan of the Republican party, but I remember when it wasn't under control of the Randall Terry wing.

I never thought I'd say this, but this gang makes me miss Ronald Reagan.

My Oh My...

I do declare: it looks as though our congress just had a meltdown.

Some key moments
[...]
"To cut and run would invite terrorism into our backyards, and no one wants to see troops fighting terrorism on American soil," Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Friday night after the House, as planned, rejected a GOP-written resolution for immediate withdrawal.
[...]
"Congress in strong, bipartisan fashion rejected the call to cut and run," White House spokesman Scott McClellan, traveling with Bush in Asia, said a statement. Earlier Friday, the president called an immediate troop withdrawal "a recipe for disaster."
Now here's the thing: Murtha never called for an "immediate troop withdrawl" of any sort.

More:

Republicans hoped to place Democrats in an unappealing position — either supporting a withdrawal that critics said would be precipitous or opposing it and angering voters who want an end to the conflict. They also hoped the vote could restore GOP momentum on an issue — the war — that has seen plummeting public support in recent weeks.

Democrats said it was a sham and quickly decided to vote against the resolution in an attempt to drain it of significance.

Pelosi is right-- this was a disgraceful attempt to deal with a serious issue.

What the AP doesn't note, by the way, in this exchange:
"He asked me to send Congress a message — stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message — that cowards cut and run, Marines never do," Schmidt said. Murtha is a 37-year Marine veteran and ranking Democrat on the defense appropriations subcommittee.

Democrats booed and shouted her down — causing the House to come to a standstill.

Is that Schmidt's own caucus surrounded her to shut her up as well. At least some of them understood that what she was doing hurt them a lot more than it did Murtha.