Tuesday, October 31, 2006

more on elections

More on the mechanics of the upcoming US midterm elections. Time writes about the problems with electronic voting machines even absent any intent to manipulate them to one candidate or party's advantage.

And Robert Kuttner writes about the GOP's "stop the vote" campaign in places like Ohio, Florida, and Georgia. The gist -- if you ain't rich or ain't a white evangelical, the GOP would rather you not vote, and they are willing to use force, deception, intimidation, and fraud to stop those who they believe are probably Democratic voters from casting their ballots. Another inspiring example of the Republicans' commitment to true democracy and universal suffrage. Democracy for the wealthy, that is, and universal suffrage for their supporters and dupes...

Meanwhile, American military personnel are being given the chance to vote by email in a Pentagon-funded program. I'm sure the Pentagon is only thinking of the civic rights and duties of its soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen. The fact that the members of the US military tend to vote Republican is just a coincidence.

Seriously, it is a good thing to help them vote. But I wonder about the wisdom of letting them vote by EMAIL. Not the most secure of methods. As an expert who helped prepare a report for the Pentagon notes, "E-mail traffic can flow through equipment owned and operated by various governments, companies and individuals in many countries. It is easily monitored, blocked and subject to tampering."

That's bad.

climate news -- gore, stern report

Tony Blair's government has enlisted Al Gore to push the need for a realistic anti-climate change policy in the US. Gore is certainly qualified -- his attention to environmental issues doesn't seem quite so quixotic, does it, now that evidence of climate change is upon us and the collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf in the Antarctic has been definitively linked to human-induced warmer temperatures.

But my fear is that the US media might treat Gore the climate change expert the way they treated Gore the presidential candidate. I don't think they will -- they seem to like Gore better when he isn't running for office -- but if they DID, we could even step backwards in public understanding of the science (sorry Republicans, it is an important word) and urgency on climate change.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post story on the release of the Stern Report on climate change is here. A couple of notable things that distinguish it from international coverage. First, it was on page A18. You know, where the unimportant news is, while they save the front page for interesting but not quite as important stories about elephants looking in mirrors.

And second, a big part of it was given over to quotes from skeptics -- economists, not real scientists -- saying Stern's report overstates the risks and costs.

I hope the skeptics are right, but you know, melting Arctic ice and other indicators coming increasingly rapidly make me fear the worse.

Monday, October 30, 2006

is 1% too much to pay to preserve our civilization?

The BBC got an advance copy of the British Treasury-commissioned Stern Report on climate change, published today in England. The gist, in business terms: taking significant action to mitigate climate change would cost us 1% of our global GDP by 2050. And inaction would cost 5%-20% of our GDP -- or if you believe the gloomier prognostications, could cost us billions of lives and bring about the end of our modern civilization.

In other words, serious action on climate change would shave the tiniest fraction off of our growth rates for the next 45 years. Hardly devastating to the economy. Although oil and coal industries, and probably Detroit, wouldn't like it. Gosh, from our inaction you'd think there were people with ties to big oil in the White House. Oh, wait...

We don't have decades to act. We need to get started. The de facto Bush Administration is fiddling, and the planet is burning.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

bush's creeping tax hike

The NY Times editors point out what more people are finding out the hard way. While pursuing tax "reform" ("reform" meaning, "giving more to the rich" in the GOP dictionary) de facto President Bush and the do-almost-nothing Republican Congress have not touched the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the AMT is claiming more victims. In effect, this makes a lot of regular people pay MORE in income taxes than when Bush began his "tax cuts."

It was passed over 30 years ago, when a six-figure income was much rarer than today, and was intended to keep the very rich from using various exemptions and dodges from paying little or no tax. Unfortunately, the morons who drafted the legislation didn't index it for inflation. And now it's hitting people who would not consider themselves rich by any means, but because the make something over $100,000 and have deductions for kids, mortgages, and state taxes, find themselves hit by the AMT.

But the GOP is resting easy, because during their tax "reform" they made sure that rich-person-type things -- dividend income, etc -- would not put them in the same trap. So that's okay.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

it's never to late to bring a leader to justice

Former Chilean dictator Augosto Pinochet, who came to office through extra-legal methods, has been indicted in Chile on charges of torture, murder, and kidnapping. Pinochet killed and tortured people allegedly in the cause of security and stability in 1970s Chile.

Do you think this sort of thing generates even the smallest frisson of recognition in de facto President George W. Bush? Let alone for Henry Kissinger, responsible in large part for Pinochet's coup.

cheney clarifies dunking comment

De facto Vice President for Torture and Shooting Old Guys Dick "My Wife Didn't Write a Lesbian Novel" Cheney denies he was referring to waterboarding in that "no brainer" talk radio interview earlier this week. Seems the host referred to "dunking" captives in water. Just "dunking" them.

Doesn't sound like a very effective technique, does it? Maybe the "dunking" happens in scalding hot or freezing cold water. Or maybe they are "dunked" in pesticides to get rid of fleas and lice, quite a humanitarian thing to do.Or maybe the terrorists are told they are being baptized as Christians while being "dunked," in a form of spiritual torture since they would then imagine they will go to hell instead of that special place in heaven where 72 virgins await them.

Or maybe Cheney is full of shit and is just covering his ample ass, shocked to realize that not everybody thinks torture is such a good idea.

virginia, what a race

Just when you thought the Virginia Senate race couldn't get any sleazier, it does. GOP Senator George Allen, the Confederate-flag-worshipping, noose-displaying, N-word-using, macaca-insulting, ashamed-of-mom's- Jewish-background, cowboy-boot-wearing moronic redneck son of a famous football coach, helpfully raised for the public's notice the fact that opponent James Webb had sex scenes in some of his novels about the Vietnman War. (Webb, by the way, was in the military...) Scenes with "explicit incest" or something like that, per Allen's campaign.

Webb fired back, saying the scenes were taken out of context and saying they were nothing like Lynne Cheney's lesbian love scenes in HER 1981 novel, "Sisters." (Read an excerpt, or the whole thing, here.) Lynne Cheney then defended herself, saying (lying, just like her dear husband Dick) that those love scenes weren't explicit and anyway, what about the incest? Webb, to his credit, has not called the Cheney's failures as parents for raising a lesbian daughter, but you have to think if Webb had any gay children, at this point George Allen would also helpfully point that out for our consideration.

I feel like I need a shower.

In a shock, the Ohio Senate race actually appears to be focused on issues like Iraq and the economy, rather than gays, guns and God. Guess DeWine and Brown haven't written any books with a sex scene. Certainly neither of them are accused of making racist cracks.

Friday, October 27, 2006

some things never change

You know, in a way you have to admire Dick Cheney for his sheer stubborness. Being asked a comfortable leading question by a sycophantic conservative talk-show radio host in North Dakota about waterboarding terrorists (they called it "dunking," like what you do to your teacher in a booth at the school fair), Cheney without blinking said again that waterboarding them was a "no brainer." He did say, however that he didn't think it was torture. Funny, we thought it was torture when we sentenced a Japanese officer to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding American POWs during WWII.

Also in the "some things never change" category is the fact that the Bush clan -- Papa George, Brother Neil, and Brother Marvin, are all profiting quite nicely from the Iraq war. Gosh, who would have thought that such a visionary foreign policy based on messianic visions of transforming the Middle East into a veritable garden of democracy would also have the nifty side-effect of adding to BushCo's wealth? Such a bonus. Oh, and don't forget Dick Cheney, earning that $34 million retirement package from Halliburton, which has also made a killing in Iraq.

The definition of profiteering is similar to Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity: I know it when I see it.

climate change -- we can pay now, or we can pay later

An upcoming report (to be released Monday) commissioned by Britain's Treasury says that if climate change isn't tackled now, it could cause "the worst global recession in recent history."

A less equivocal word for that would probably be, "depression." Or "complete economic collapse" in the worst case.

It's ironic that the de facto Bush administration hides behind the fact that the economy would (allegedly) suffer from efforts to slash carbon emissions, when it is clear that failure to mitigate climate change could lead to much greater economic damage in the not-so-distant future. Not to mention, in a worst-case scenario, the collapse of modern human civilization. You know, something unpleasant, a scenario where even Halliburton might have a hard time meeting its projections.

Pollution measures are ALWAYS opposed by industry because of the fear of the costs. And the costs have ALWAYS been far, far lower (as much as 90% lower) than the "estimates" by "experts" arguing against the measures. Examples include the cost to reduce airborne particulates in the US in the 1970s, or phasing out CFCs to protect the ozone layer in the 1990s.

There is no reason to think that the same thing -- technological advances resulting from new price signals -- would not also happen with the reduction or elimination of carbon emissions. And the costs of continued "business as usual" inaction are too high to risk for any sane society.

just say "no" to computer voting

An IT consultant writes about the insecurity inherent in computer voting -- even absent intentional manipulation of the zeros and ones that will determine who will next be President/Governor of Ohio/County Commissioner.

As the consultant writes, no, a computer voting machine is NOT like an ATM. An ATM requires two forms of identification (card and PIN) and has a record of exactly what happened where with the card and account, and remembers the outcome of a specific transaction, which can be corrected or even reversed if necessary (ie, a stolen card is used, or the bank accidentally debits your account $20,000,000 when you made a $20 withdrawal). None of that is possible with the vote!

There is no place for such an insecure technology in the most important act of a democracy -- voting.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

save the frog!

No, I don't mean somebody from France (although I recently tried the Arrogant Frog label's Sauvignon Blanc, and it was pretty good).

I mean these folks in Panama, who have set up a couple of rooms in a hotel as a shelter for a Noah's Ark selection of the regions frogs. There's a nasty fungus that has made its way south through Central America that has reached Panama, and scientists and frog-lovers are trying to keep these guys from contracting the fungus. They hope the fungus will not stick around and these frogs can be released back into Panama's forests and jungles.

Good luck.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

gop plays the same old racist card

The Tennessee Senate race to replace Bill "I wanna be President" Frist is tighter than expected, with Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr. staying close to GOP candidate Bob Corker.

So the Republican National Committee has turned to the GOP's old standby in a contest involving a black Democrat: racism. This political ad -- with the RNC responsible for its content -- features a bunch of people saying inane or insulting things about Ford, like "Terrorists need privacy too." Ok, whatever. But it also includes a blonde woman -- a WHITE woman -- saying she met Ford at the "Playboy party" and asking him to call her.

Subtle subtext: Harold Ford is uppity and wants to fuck white women, so all you good ol' boys out there, don't vote for him. Or as Josh Marshall somewhat more politely puts it, 'Harold Ford is an uppity negro who does the wild thing with white women.'

I guess Ken Mehlman's apology to the NAACP in Milwaukee a few months ago for the fact that Republicans used racism for politicaladvantage doesn't apply any longer. Maybe he thought it gave him a clean slate to start over again with the slurs.

are we flirting with disaster?

Can we avert catastrophe? Bill McKibben writes about what some people are trying to do to avert catastrophic climate change in an article that will appear in the New York Review of Books November 16.

I don't know whether it's too late or not, but McKibben points to some encouraging trends, such as the increasing productivity of solar panels thanks largely to work (including government subsidies) in energy-poor Japan and Germany that are driving DOWN the prices of increasingly effective solar panels.

That, plus we should build more nuclear power plants. They have killed far fewer people per plant than coal plants have, especially true if James Lovelock's pessimistic projection that the human race will be reduced to 200 million living in the Arctic because of climate change proves correct.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

cross your fingers

All these news accounts and polls about the Democrats' chances in the upcoming elections make me nervous. This article says some political scientists are predicting a "wave" along the lines of 1994 or 1974 that will sweep the incumbent party out of power.

I hope they're right, but with all the obstacles the challengers face -- the tendency to support YOUR incumbent while wanting others thrown out, increasingly effective gerrymandering, etc -- I still won't believe it 'til I see it.

no, i won't download those tracks

A reviewer in the Post today talks about the latest album by My Chemical Romance, "The Black Parade." She notes it is a "pop-operatic concept album," about a dying man. All the songs are linked and form a story.

And at the end of the article about this concept album, the Post flags a few individual tracks to download.

No thanks. I prefer my music in album-sized chunks. Even on releases that aren't explicitly concept albums, like "The Black Parade" or "Dark Side of the Moon" or "American Idiot," there are usually connections between the songs that make hearing the whole album more satisfying than individual songs.

not staying the course on stay the course

As Peter Baker writes, the White House is changing tack by saying the Iraq policy was never "stay the course." The trouble of course is now voters think promising more of the same in Iraq is really dumb, and so the GOP is denying their policy.

The denial by Tony White and others is simply not credible. Baker effortlessly found three examples of de facto war President George W. "Stay the Course" Bush saying "stay the course", and you know he repeated that mantra countless times, on and off tape. So clearly, as Eugene Robinson writes, Bush and Cheney are either deceiving themselves, or lying to us. I agree with Robinson -- they're liars.

And they don't even have enough respect for Americans to try a convincing lie. They say stuff like this and expect us to believe it just because they are spouting it.

Truthiness, indeed.

Monday, October 23, 2006

obama in '08?

Illinois Senator Barack Obama says he's thinking about running for President in 2008. I don't think it's much surprise that he's considering the highest office -- but a bit of a surprise that he's thinking about it this soon.

He's relatively inexperienced, but hell so was the current de facto President when he ran in 2000.

Obama's a very attractive candidate. Great back story, good politics, and that speech he gave at the Democratic convention in 2004 was wonderful. But is that enough to get the nomination, or win the Presidency?

I mean, shouldn't he arrange to be the son or wife of a President first? Poor planning there, Senator.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

cash in the freezer

An unnamed Louisiana resident has a sound idea about politics: "You find $100,000 in your freezer, I ain't voting for you." He was talking about Congressman William Jefferson, a Democrat, accused of accepting $100,000 in an FBI sting.

Jefferson deserves to lose his seat. And, applying the same sage advice, so do a bunch of Republicans in Congress and elsewhere. Some of them are accused of breaching the law. Others are guilty of giving the de facto Bush Administration anything and everything they asked for, like approval of torture and the suspension of habeas corpus and tax cuts for the rich.

So remember that. Cash in the freezer is a good reason to vote against somebody. And so is going along with a White House that doesn't give a damn about the Constitution. I hope the latest polls prove true on election day, Diebold willling.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

a handy dandy list of republican scandals, 2006 edition

William Rivers Pitt presents thumbnail sketches of the various Republicans involved in various scandals, ranging from sending lewd emails to teenagers to scamming Ohio taxpayers. Pitt's short list excerpted below, for your convenience. And a short update is available here.

"Jack Abramoff: The disgraced "super-lobbyist" has been nailed for wire fraud, and is cooperating in the investigation into the bribing four Republican members of congress.

Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas): Once the most powerful man in the House of Representatives, Texas congressman DeLay now stands indicted on three counts of money laundering, charges stemming from his all-out attempt to secure a permanent Republican majority in the House. His story isn't finished; the Abramoff investigators have been sniffing around his door for months now.

Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio): Ney has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Jack Abramoff. Ney pulled #4 out of the bag of GOP excuses above, announcing that he has entered a rehab clinic for alcohol addiction.

Tony Rudy: Once the deputy chief of staff for Tom DeLay, Rudy has pleaded guilty to bribing a Republican House member, said member widely assumed to be Bob Ney. Rudy also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from Abramoff in return for favorable actions on Abramoff's behalf by his former boss.

Mike Scanlon: Another Republican lobbyist and former DeLay press secretary, Scanlon has pleaded guilty to stealing millions of dollars from Native American tribes, on whose behalf he was supposed to be lobbying Congress regarding casinos. Scanlon is also cooperating with federal investigators.

Rep. Randy Cunningham (R-Calif.): The California congressman has pleaded guilty to accepting $2.5 million in bribes, in exchange for steering federal contracts to a number of defense firms. Cunningham is currently staring down the barrel of eight years in prison.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.): There isn't much more to say about this fellow, who has joined Rep. Ney in the I'm-an-alcoholic-going-to-rehab club.

Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.): Long considered to be little more than the mush-mouthed front man for Tom DeLay, Speaker of the House Hastert has found himself swept up in the Foley scandal. Several fellow congressmen have said that they warned Hastert about Foley's improper behavior, but nothing was done about it until the Foley emails went public. The watchword for today is "cover-up."

I. Lewis Libby: Cheney's former chief of staff, "Scooter" Libby, has been indicted on five counts of lying to investigators regarding the outing of deep-cover CIA agent Valerie Plame.

David Safavian: Once the head of the White House Office of Federal Procurement, Safavian has been convicted of four counts of lying to investigators regarding a bribe he took from Abramoff.

Claude Allen: Formerly a domestic policy advisor to the White House, Allen was arrested for shoplifting thousands of dollars worth of merchandise from various retail stores.

Brian Doyle: Formerly the Department of Homeland Security's deputy press secretary, Doyle was arrested for attempting to seduce a 14-year-old girl over the internet.

James Tobin: Tobin, who served as the northeast field director for the Republican Senate Campaign Committee, has been convicted on two counts of conspiracy stemming from a phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire during the 2002 midterms. Tobin made dozens of phone calls during this time to the White House political affairs office. He was sentenced to ten months in prison.

Susan Ralston: An aide to White House political advisor Karl Rove, Ralston resigned recently after her multiple meetings with Jack Abramoff became public knowledge. Ralston was also in the habit of accepting gifts, such as tickets to sporting events, from the disgraced lobbyist.

Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.): Doolittle hasn't been convicted of anything yet, but has rolled out the "not a target" line regarding the investigation into Abramoff's bribery scheme.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.): Like Doolittle, Burns has deployed the "not a target" line regarding the Abramoff probe. He is, however, apparently a "target" of the probe, a fact that has his staffers splitting rhetorical hairs at warp speed.

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.): Rep. Dale Kildee, the only Democrat on the House Page Board, dropped an interesting brick the other day. While commenting on a conference call between page board members regarding "other allegations" beyond those directed at Rep. Foley, Kildee said, "It was about other allegations and I'd like to leave it at that. Let me just say, not about Mr. Foley." These "other allegations" appear to be augering towards Rep. Kolbe, who took two former pages on a camping trip several years ago. A federal investigation has been opened to look into the matter.

Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.): The senate majority leader is currently under investigation by the SEC for seemingly taking advantage of insider information to make a killing on stocks, the company attached to said stocks being owned by his family.

Lester Crawford: Once the Bush administration's FDA commissioner, Crawford has been charged in federal court for conflict of interest, and for making false statements related to his investments. He recently pleaded guilty to the charges.

Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.): The home of Weldon's daughter was raided by federal investigators on Monday. The investigators are looking hard at her lobbying firm, and whether her well-connected father improperly steered business her way. Weldon has pulled out #2 above, laying the whole thing off on a Democratic plot to destroy him.

Tom Noe: A four-star Republican fund-raiser in Ohio, Noe has just gone on trial for stealing millions from a fund for injured workers and spending it on himself."

Oh and keep in mind -- these are only Republicans charged with crimes or under investigation for crimes. The list doesn't included the REAL scandals. Deceiving the country into a stupid, disastrous was in Iraq. Tax cuts for the rich, followed by tax cuts for the rich, followed by tax cuts for the rich, while shredding our fiscal health. Torture. The end of habeas corpus. Ignoring climate change.

earth abides

Years ago, I read the 1957 science fiction novel "Earth Abides," by George Stewart. Humanity is reduced to small remnant populations by a virulent plague, but as human civilization wanes, earth abides.

This article in the "New Scientist" takes things even further, imagining how Earth would look if every last human being blinked out of existence tomorrow. An interesting, if kind of creepy thought exercise.

Friday, October 20, 2006

what's the matter with the republicans (again)?

Fearing the poll numbers, the Republicans are returning to their traditional scare tactics, warning us all that Democrats will raise taxes, destroy the US military, and mandate abortion and force us all into gay marriages. Plus they'll send dirty emails to teenagers.

As scare tactics go, I prefer them to the ones the de facto Bush-Rove Administration has indulged in over the past few years on terrorism, culminating in the recent deletion of habeas corpus from our list of American rights.

It's a mark of desperation when a Republican Congressman asks Bush, with his 35% approval rate, to campaign for him. And it's a mark of desperation when a holier-than-thou President, in the middle of "National Character Week", campaigns on behalf of a Republican (Don Sherwood) who is most famous for trying to strangle his young Peruvian mistress. Talk about politics making for strange bedfellows.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

what's the matter with republicans in kansas?

Several former Kansas Republicans are running as Democrats this year, including the one-time head of the Kansas Republican Party, Mark Parkinson. Why? Because they are a bunch of moderate Republicans who've decided the new version radical racist anti-science pro-war 21st Century Bush-Rove Republican Party isn't the party for them.

Parkinson for example, "favors embryonic stem cell research, a woman's right to choose abortion and the teaching of evolution as settled scientific theory." And nowadays in the GOP, that's a difficult place to be.

Of course, the GOP doesn't take defections lying down. A GOP flack, speaking about Paul Morrison, running for Attorney General, said "The Republican Party reflects Kansas values, reflects loyalty and reflects family. It's Mr. Morrison who has changed."

Well, that's patently not true. I don't know how much Morrison may or may not have changed, but the GOP has become much more radical over the past 25 years, and the pace of radicalization has increased since George W. "Trust me, you don't need habeas corpus" Bush stole his way into the White House.

what's the matter with republicans in civil rights?

Love it. The GOP is running ads noting how Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican.

Well, yes he had been, but the context was just a teensy bit different in the 1950s. Back then, segregationist southern Democrats were, well, segregationist, so it was natural for blacks, especially in the South, to be Republican. Plus, the 1950s were before the GOP's "Southern Strategy" had begun. You'll remember that strategy, started by Nixon. Appeal to southern whites thru racism (sometimes subtle, sometimes Jesse Helms blunt) to break the Democratic Solid South.

In cold political terms, it's a strategy that's worked well for the GOP, who by January 2009 will have held the presidency for 28 of 40 years, and now are the dominant political power in the South.

But MLK would have had nothing to do with this version of the Republican Party. MLK actually supported JFK in 1960 and LBJ in 1964, and doubtless would have voted for Hubert Humphrey in 1968.

The 21st Century Republicans. Reduced to stealing positive examples of their alleged commitment to human rights from 40-plus years ago because they have NO genuine examples of their own.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

not just a number

The Pentagon announced that nine more American troops died in Iraq on Tuesday, a particularly bad day even by the bad standards of this bad war, Mr. Bush's Optional Iraq War.

Nine is just a number, as is 2775, the US military toll in Iraq to date. This doesn't include the hundreds of American citizen contractors who have died in Iraq, not to mention British and other troops and contractors. Not to mention the however-many-hundred-thousand Iraqis.

A Washington Post reporter in Iraq was recently given rare permission to attend the farewell ceremony for a young American airman killed by a sniper, LeeBernard Chavis. It's very sad. And the full reality is over 2775 times sadder than this, when you factor in the badly injured who aren't part of the death count.

Mr. Bush's Optional War. It's not even making us safer.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

surprise, surprise, more republican shenanigans

Federal agents raided the homes of Pennsylvania GOP Congressman Kurt Weldon and his lobbyist daughter Karen Weldon, suspicious that Papa may have illegally helped businesses represented by his little princess. Papa Weldon denies this, saying "I've never helped my daughter get anything. My kids are qualified on their own."

Indeed, but they have that one special qualification that most of us don't have -- they have a Daddy in Congress. Of course he helped her. Why else would a lobbyist hire his daughter? Why else do lobbyists hire daughters, sons, spouses, and siblings of politicians to lobby for them? Frequently, they have no real outstanding quality that would differentiate them from hundreds of others except that special little blood tie. Let's not be naive.

The timing of the raids themselves is a bit curious, coming so close to the election, with Weldon facing the first real challenge in years. Apparently the Feds were afraid the investigation was about to leak, and they'd face a damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don't situation about the timing. I'm sure the GOP will accuse the Department of Justice and FBI with secretly doing the bidding of the Democrats.

In other Republican corruption news, turns out that guy who headed the Federal Drug Administration just long enough to postpone action on the morning after pill, Lester Crawford, has been indicted for illegally hiding his ownership of stock in companies regulated by the FDA. That might explain his quick escape from Dodge.

Does all this sound familiar? Hey, the Democrats aren't immune from this sort of thing. But Tom DeLay's K Street project has institutionalized this sort of thing to a higher level. Washington stinks, and the smell comes from all the Republican strongholds -- the White House, the Senate, the House, and K Street.

Monday, October 16, 2006

you, yeah you -- you have homophily!

Probably ALL of you have homophily. But I do too -- it's just a fancy scientific term for "birds of a feather flock together."

Whether it's from some mysterious process that draws together everybody who thought "Joanie Loves Chachi" was brilliant TV (if you thought so, please don't contact me), or more likely just that you and I and the drunk at the end of the bar tend to meet people with similar backgrounds who are in similar situations, and therefore are more likely to think like you do than Kim Jong Il or Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, homophily is a real part of the human condition. And it explains why you can live in your own world where everybody thinks Korn is a great rock band, when the rest of us know that in fact, they really really suck.

Even Kim Jong Il, seen hearing a Korn CD for the first time, knows that.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

let them eat horse

Bo Derek and others are trying to push through a law banning the slaughter of horses in the US for their meat. The US exports 26 million pounds of horsemeat annually to Europe and Japan, and Bo and Company want it to stop, because horses are "flight animals" and "smarter than cows" and "Americans don't eat their horses." The real gist of their argument is, they ride horses therefore don't want horses to be eaten. That, plus slaughterhouses are unpleasant places.

I respect people who argue against eating ANY meat from any animal. Saying we shouldn't kill a horse or tuna or chicken for food is at least a consistent position that I can respect, even as I somewhat guiltily eat my cheeseburger.

The hard part is, once you've established that it is OK to kill animals for human consumption, where do you draw the line?

Intelligence? Maybe a good place to start, but assessing animal intelligence is notoriously difficult. I remember decades ago as a schoolkid being told that animals only operated on instinct, and didn't really think. Well, scientific research continues to blow holes thru that assertion. Crows or dolphins or other animals that learn how to use tools by observation or intuition clearly aren't acting just on instinct. Clearly there are some sort of mental processes going on in the brains of many animals that make them more than just mobile plants.

But even if you could draw up a table, top to bottom, of animal intelligence, where would you draw the line? Horse breeder Anne Russek says horses are smarter than cows, as one reason not to eat them. OK. Then how about pork? Pigs are very intelligent animals, probably smarter even than dogs and up there with dolphins.

And for that matter, what about dolphins and whales? We all think they're smart, but the Japanese eat them, and so do native Americans in the Arctic. And people in Africa and China eat primates -- monkeys, our closest cousins in the animal kingdom.

So with intelligence pretty well dismissed as the way to rank what animals we should be allowed to kill for food, we fall back on culture. People in many countries around the world eat things that we as Americans generally don't regard as food animals -- dogs, cats, dolphins, whales, monkeys, and Bo Derek's biggest beef, horses.

But Bo, if you want to make the cultural argument, how far does it go? Hindus famously don't eat beef -- in fact, they revere cattle so much that they let them freely roam the streets of India. Should we ban eating beef because cows are sacred? Doesn't that trump a horse's status in the US?

I only see two logical approaches to this. The first is the rigorous vegetarian (or even vegan) approach, that humans should kill no animals for food. It's internally consistent.

Or we all agree that we should at least restrict ourselves from eating endangered animals. That would protect many species of whale (but not all) and primates from being eaten. But it wouldn't protect Bo's horses.

So even though I think horse meat is pretty unpleasant (yes, I've tried it) I can't see a good reason for stopping the practice of slaughtering horses primarily for export. But we should all insist on better regulation of ALL slaughter facilities and for more humane treatment of animals up and down the commercial human food chain.

If you're going to use animals for food, you should at least treat them well before you kill them.

why are bush and rove not worried?

Republicans report that de facto President Bush and his turdblossom brain, Karl Rove, are much more confident about the upcoming Congressional elections that most GOP members. Rove predicts the Repugs will only lose 8-10 seats in the House and will retain their majority.

So why are they not worried, given the polling data, Foleygate, Woodward's book, the deteriorating situation in Iraq, etc? I see three possibilities.

1) Bush and Rove are stupid and don't see the train that'a about to hit them. I'd believe this about Bush maybe, but Rove is a lot of things but not stupid especially when it comes to electoral politics.

2) Bush and Rove are putting on the brave face to avoid depressing Republican turnout (I believe this is true, but not necessarily incompatible with #1 and #3.) Adding to that, Rove bases his relative optimism on the GOP's strong voter-turnout operation. That is at odds, however, with polls that show Democrats are more enthusiastic about this election that Republicans.

3) Bush and Rove aren't worried because they're little friends will make sure GOP losses are limited. Their friends? The good people at Diebold.

I'm sure even as we speak Diebold's President is prepared to deliver key patches to voting machines at the last minute, as he did in Georgia in 2004. Let's see whether a bunch of races where Democrats lead by five points, or eleven points, as the Democratic candidates for Senate and Governor in Georgia did in 2004, are unexpectedly defeated by a "late surge", a surge undetected in otherwise accurate exit polls.

I'm not paranoid. It is rational to be concerned about tactics that have been used before.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

new park, eh?

Canadians have agreed to establish a big national park in the Northwest Territories. It'll be bigger than Belgium, over 8 million acres. And if climate change picks up, it will make a great summer resort, with all the lakes there.

Friday, October 13, 2006

a well-deserved nobel prize

I was glad to see Bangladeshi banker and economist Muhammad Yunus and his Grameen Bank win the Nobel Peace Prize. Yunus and his Grameen Bank launched the concept of microcredit by making tiny loans -- sometimes just a few dollars -- available to poor Bangladeshis way out at the low end of the income distribution. Such people could never hope to get credit from traditional financial institutions. These borrowers -- many of them women -- use these small loans to invest in very small businesses, buying things like sewing machines or cell phones that they could use to earn a living.

The Grameen model has been copied in many developing countries, and frankly has probably had a concrete impact on more poor Bangladeshis and others than the big development projects. Well done, Nobel committee.

warner ducks out

I was as surprised as anybody by Mark Warner's sudden decision NOT to seek the Democratic 2008 presidential nomination. Rumors immediately began about whether there was a scandal afoot, although Libby Copeland in the Post reports that one reason at least for the timing is that Warner friends were about to quit jobs to work for him fulltime.

No question he was a long-shot, with little support in the polls so far. But he is a savvy guy who did a good job as a Democratic governor in Republican Virginia, working with Democrats and pragmatic (as in sane) Republicans to raise some taxes to avert a state budgetary crisis. And he had looks and a lot of his own money to spend -- he was a credible candidate.

Well, he'll still only be 61 in 2016 (only 57 in 2012 if the Democrats lose in 2008)...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

for kenneth blackwell, absence of proof isn't proof of innocence

This Washington Post piece looks at the governor's race in Ohio. Democrat Ted Strickland leads Republican Ken Blackwell by double-digits, and miracle of miracles, Ohio voters are apparently focusing on the issues instead of "values". ("Values" was grossly overstated/oversimplified as an issue in 2004 anyway -- if you combine various other categories like "jobs" and "outsourcing" and "the economy" into one "economy" category, THAT was a much bigger concern. As was Iraq.)

Buried near the end of the article, Michael Fletcher writes, referring to the 2004 Presidential election in Ohio, "But through multiple recounts and lawsuits, Blackwell has been cleared of playing a role in any irregularities."

That is not true. First of all, in many instances the "recounts" were just reprints of the computer-tallied results. With no paper ballots, there was no meaningful ability to recount ballots in many areas. It may be true that none of those recounts or legal actions PROVED that Blackwell "played a role in irregularities" -- but that doesn't clear him. And in any case, his efforts to suppress Democratic votes in Ohio are well documented. Remember when he announced, a few weeks before the November 2004 elections, that any registrations not filled out on a specific weight of paper would be invalidated? The affect, if he hadn't been forced to overturn himself a few days later by the public outcry, would have been to deny the registration of many new voters, who were skewing heavily Democratic. Not to mention the allocation of voting machines -- voters in Republican areas of Ohio had little or no waits because the machines were made plentiful, while voters in inner cities and college campuses waited hours and hours to vote because the machines simply weren't there, often despite the efforts of local election officials to get more in anticipation of the high turnout.

Suppressing the vote isn't an irregularity? Republican election officials in Warren County sealing the building because of a bogus "terrorist threat" on election night isn't an irregularity? Bullshit. This is a very weak effort from the Washington Post. Blackwell's role in supervising Ohio's 2004 election deserves more coverage in an article about his campaign's troubles than a short para with a dismissive final sentence that appears to exonerate him completely. He is "innocent" maybe only in a very technical, Republican sense of the word.

In any case, I fear the GOP will try again to fix things in the Buckeye State. After all, the official in charge of Ohio's 2006 elections is still -- Kenneth Blackwell.

Monday, October 09, 2006

e. coli, encore

Spinach is off the shelves and now California growers have e. coli on their lettuce, too -- another recall.

But if you're thinking of having a burger to avoid the nasty bugs, think again -- a recall in Iowa of 5200 pounds of ground beef suspected of having e. coli. And if you've ever read "Fast Food Nation," you know that our meat supply is MUCH more unsafe than our leafy green vegetables...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

gop spokesman re foley: don't look back

In this piece describing the prospects for Democratic House candidate Tim Mahoney to win Mark Foley's former seat (Mahoney could adopt Lefty Gomez's motto: "I'd rather be lucky than good."), Florida GOP flack Jeff Sadosky said about voters: "They are shocked and horrified by what happened, but understand that's looking backward."

Unless of course it's a Democrat's actions that are in question, in which case you voters should ONLY look back. Even if it means going clear back to FDR to accuse a Democrat, that's OK because the first tactic for a morally bankrupt political party like the 21st Century BushGingrichPublicans is, blame somebody else.

a silver lining for gop on the foley cloud

Well, at least one good thing has come out of the Foley affair for the Republicans. It is knocking the rising death toll for US troops in Iraq off the front of the evening broadcasts. Heck, if the GOP has anything else to confess to, now might be a good time to bring it out!

darth cheney plods on

It's a funny kind of campaign de facto vice president Dick Cheney does -- quiet, behind the scenes, dour, full of bad news and negativity, with the GOP candidates he's campaigning for frequently declining to be seen on stage with him.

Can't blame them I guess, this article said Cheney's positives were UP to 34% in the Wall Street Journal. And I don't even believe those numbers, since earlier this year I'd seen numbers for Cheney in the single digits. Cheney's speechifying has been effective at raising money for candidates, but even to the GOP faithful, his campaign speech -- which in a nutshell is "if the Democrats take power we will all die" -- is getting old and underscores the fact that today's Republicans don't have much positive to offer.

Unless, of course, you think shredding the Constitution and torturing people (not to mention sheltering pedophiles) is a positive agenda.

yankees go home

Baseball is a funny game. After collapsing late in the season and falling into the wild card slot -- and the dreaded first-round matchup with the Yankees -- the Detroit Tigers got hot, like it was April or May again. They sent the Yankees home yesterday with more good pitching, and my (New York) Yankee-hating heart was lifted.

And the knives are out. Alex Rodriguez is being excoriated for his poor performance. Joe Torre, one rumor has it, will be canned and replaced by Lou Piniella. And George Vecsey, in a column hidden behind the NY Times firewall, said the Yankees were now like the Atlanta Braves - a "nice little season" and an early dismissal in the playoffs. 'Course fans in places like Kansas City and Colorado and Cincinnati and Milwaukee might not think that kind of season was so bad...

I was a bit surprised the Yankees got as far as they did this year -- they are an old team, and you wonder how much longer guys like Sheffield and Mussina and Johnson can be counted on.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

save it for royalty

The Navy launched a new nuclear-powered airforce carrier Saturday, christening it the USS George H. W. Bush. Good thing too, we wouldn't want our current military capacity to be reduced -- after all, the US military budget is only equal to that of every other single country on the planet combined, and then some. And the USS George H. W. Bush can help sweep Al Qaeda's modern navy from the seas. Oh wait... nobody on the planet has a navy with a tenth of the capacity of ours... Well, we'll be ready in case a UFO fleet tries to establish control of the seas.

No matter what you may think of the former president (I must say I preferred his performance as President to that of father, if George W., Jeb, Neil, and Marvin can be used as gauges of how Poppie did), don't you find it a bit disturbing that we name things like this after LIVING politicians? I mean, shouldn't that sort of thing be left to hereditary monarchies? (Insert joke here about US becoming one.)

It's not just naval vessels -- I feel the same way about public buildings. I recognize that the Federal Government should have no role in telling a school district that it can't name its new junior high after Oprah or JonBenet Ramsey or George W. Bush if it wants (and Exxon can name an oil tanker the Condoleezza Rice -- and has).

But the FEDERAL Government at least should set an example and avoid naming ANYTHING after any living American. I mean hell, Poppie Bush already has the CIA HQ named after him, now a carrier?

There's a lot of crap being named after Reagan, thanks in part to the work of odious Reagan-worshipping radical Grover "Friend of Abramoff" Norquist. Wonder if people will start pushing to name things after Dubya?

dusty baker???

Surely Stan Kasten and the Nationals owners aren't serious about possibly hiring Dusty Baker to replace Frank Robinson as manager? They don't need him as a token minority candidate, because they are apparently serious about Braves (Kasten's old team) hitting coach Terry Pendleton. Pendleton looks like a decent choice (he has a good rep as a coach in Atlanta), and Lou Piniella (if he can handle being away from his native Florida) and Joe Girardi (I bet the Lehrners won't yell at the umpires!) are also reasonable candidates.

But Nats, please please please please please don't hire Dusty Baker. Be kind to your young pitchers.

no qualifications needed, and we don't need no oversight either

De facto President George W. "Unitary Executive" Bush again used a signing statement to undermine Congressional intent. This time, he rejects the idea that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency should be required to have certain qualifications.

Guess I could agree. Why should the FEMA Director be qualified and competent when the Decider-in-Chief doesn't have to be?

Oh, Bush also claimed the right "to edit or withhold reports to Congress by a watchdog agency within the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for protecting Americans' personal privacy."

Gosh, wouldn't lawmaking be so much easier if Congress weren't involved?

don't test that nuke, kim

Don't even think about doing that nuclear test, Kim Jong Il. Because if you do, so help me God, the USA will have no choice but to attack...


Friday, October 06, 2006

you might be a republican if...

Larry Johnson at TPM Cafe borrows Jeff Foxworthy's schtick to help you determine whether you are a Republican. Funny, but he forgot a couple of points.

If you can say with a straight face that the estate tax that hits under 1% of Americans is unfair (and even then leaves 85% of the estate to the heirs), you might be a Republican.

If you can forget your own college days (or Congressional days, like Foley's or Gingrich's or Livingston's) to tell people that abtsention is the only acceptable form of birth control, even to the point of de-emphasizing the role of condoms in preventing disease, you might be a Republican.

If you got hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars from Jack Abramoff but now can't quite be sure whether you've even met him, you're either in a state of extreme amnesia or you might be a Republican.

If you urge young women not have an abortion, but don't see any need to provide access to adequate health care or schools for the children, you might be a Republican.

If you claim to be pro-life on abortion, but are ready to execute criminals, and don't see any contradiction in those positions ("culture of life"?), you might be a Republican.

If you can actually give speeches in public lamenting the fact that Strom Thurmond didn't win the Presidency and otherwise engaging in carefully coded racism, you might be a Republican.

I could go on, but it makes me depressed.

reading about clinton makes me think about bush

I just finished reading David Remnick's interesting, long New Yorker article on Bill Clinton as ex-President, and I couldn't help making the contrast with the current maximum leader, de facto President George Walker Bush.

A couple of things really struck me. First was the passing reference to how, when Bill and Hillary left the White House in 2001, they were broke and didn't even own a house. Being Governor of Arkansas and President of the US really doesn't pay all that well, and they'd been financially crippled in having to defend themselves against Paula Jones, Ken Torquemada Starr, and all the rest. Sure, Bill and Hillary both made big bucks on their books, and Bill is a popular speaker who commands big speaking fees. But I compared that to how both George Bushes entered politics already rich, from the efforts of their grandfathers and great-grandfathers. And in George W. Bush's case, from parlaying a $600,000 stake in the Texas Rangers -- most of it in the form of free loans -- into a $15 million payoff just a few years later, a 25-fold increase on his investment when the value of the team overall merely doubled. Of course, having your poppie as President didn't hurt.

A second thing was how Clinton, although a bit defensive on his relative inaction on AIDS and strongly (and accurately) stating the case that he took terrorism seriously and tried to get Bin Laden, bluntly admits he was at fault for not doing more on Rwanda. He admits he was wrong, and he apologizes. When pressed, Dubya admits his big mistake is approving the trade of Sammy Sosa. Otherwise, he's just perfection in his own mind.

The last thing I thought of was prompted by this excerpt from Remnick's story, where Clinton spoke at a school about the important of exercise and good diet to avoid becoming fat:
After Clinton was introduced, he stripped off his jacket and sat on a high stool. “When I was a little boy,” he said to the kids, “I was bigger than almost all of you. Now there are more kids like I was.” He told them about learning to exercise more and suggested they watch a show on Nickelodeon called “Let’s Just Play Go Healthy Challenge.”

When the question period began, a chubby kid, no more than seven, nervously held the microphone and asked Clinton, “What if you don’t have the channel?”

His quavery voice betrayed such a sense of terror and deprivation that a lot of the kids laughed. What? No Nickelodeon? It’s basic cable!

Clinton had clearly heard the laughing and seen the terror in the kid’s eyes, and he sensed the embarrassment that would likely haunt his nights, and so he said, “A lot of people don’t have the channel. So that’s a good question. A great question.”

The jaws of life! The boy smiled. His whole body seemed to relax. The laughing stopped. It was a great question!
I then imagined George W. Bush responding to that boy. I'm sure he would have come up with a confused half-smile, half-sneer. Rather than quell the laughter at the boy's expense, he would have chuckled himself. Rather than implicitly assure the boy that he wasn't alone in not having cable TV in his house, after a couple of semi-nervous laughs, Bush would've said something like "Well, ya better tell your parents to get cable TV," with the (probably unspoken but possibly uttered) subtext of "What's wrong with you, your parents welfare deadbeats or something?" And the boy would have been crushed as the laughter would have redoubled.

Because that would demonstrate in a small way our "compassionate conservative" president, who has no patience for views that differ from his, and no ability to understand people who don't share his privileged background and narrowminded thinking.

In any case, it's hard to imagine George W. Bush as an ex-President doing things like raising money for AIDS research in Malawi and South Africa. He'll probably hit the golf circuit and make big money giving speeches to the corporate elite, more Jerry Ford than Clinton or Carter.

hey, hastert didn't quit yet

Glad to see the House will investigate itself over GOP-Protected-a-Pedophile-Gate. They'll probably be really really thorough -- in trying to find a way to pin this on some Democrats.

minor league baseball players and the families who host them are a clear and present danger to the republic and apple pie

It's bad enough having an incipient police state, where the Tsar I mean de facto President can have people (including American citizens) locked up indefinitely on his own say-so, without having to produce any evidence, and has authorized his military and intelligence agencies to torture people in the name of the American people.

But couldn't we at least have an INTELLIGENT police state? A lady in Virginia called Kim Gore who works for the Army is under investigation for hosting a bunch of young foreign men for a few months at a time in her house.

The foreign men? Minor league baseball players, from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, and the Netherlands Antilles, who play for the American-as-apple-pie Potomac Nationals.

"The Army said it is reviewing Gore because she had access to a secure computer network while working at home with foreign nationals living with her..." The Army wouldn't say more because it wants to protect Gore's privacy. Guffaw.

Seems Gore was allowed to work at home for three days because she was feeling bad from the treatment she was undergoing for breast cancer. But some bright bulb at Fort Belvoir with too much time and too little common sense read a profile in her hometown newspaper about Gore and her family hosting these young players in the news and began to worry that maybe she was dumb enough to let them look over her shoulder while she worked at home those three days in August.

Is this stupid or what? Or is the Army worried that the next group of Nationals minor leaguers could include a slugging centerfielder from Pyongyang and a slick double-play combo from the Tehran Ayatollahs?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

foley, and why the right-wing noise machine is pushing its democratic-plot theory

So, why IS the Republican right-wing noise machine (not to mention Denny Has-been I mean Haster himself) pushing the conspiracy theory that the Democrats knew about Foley and his pages 10 months ago but waited until now to reveal it?

The surface answer is, to muddy the waters and give its minions something to hold on to, no matter how flimsy.

The real, core answer is, because that is EXACTLY WHAT THEY WOULD HAVE DONE if the Congressman in question had been a Democrat, and a Democratic Congressional leadership had failed to act.

class war?

Yes, there is a class war going on -- just ask rich man and mega-investor Lou Dobbs.

what once was a crime is now an acceptable technique

Walter Pincus notes our progressing attitudes about waterboarding. In 1947, the US-run Tokyo War Crimes tribunal sentenced a Japanese military officer to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding people.

In 1968, a photo of an American army unit using waterboarding against a Vietnamese prisoner reportedly prompted an investigation.

And today, although Congress says it thinks it's outlawed waterboarding, the de facto Administration refuses to say whether it is acceptable or not -- although it HAS been used extensively since 9/11 with the explicit permission of the White House and its lackeys in the Department of Justice.

At this rate, by 2025 we'll be waterboarding junior high school students to force 'em to rat out on their pot-smoking buddies.

Remember when the American government used to oppose torture and support human rights? Gosh, those were the days.

more proof that republican leadership knew damn well what foley's interest in those pages was really like. plus, scientology!!!

I don't know anything about Kirk Fordham, until yesterday chief of staff for GOP Congressman Tom Reynolds. Before working for Reynolds, he was for ten years chief of staff for Mark Foley. And in 2003 Fordham went to Denny Hastert's office telling them about Foley's behavior and begging them to do something about it.

Obviously, they didn't do anything. Why? No doubt because as I've said before, the Republicans don't give a shit about you if you aren't one of them -- and they'll protect a pedophile if he's THEIR pedophile, and will only abandon one of their own if the heat gets too close. Courageous protectors of family values, those guys. And Fordham could have done more earlier to protect the pages from his boss's skeevy attentions.

The Department of Justice is getting involved, warning people not to destroy emails or other documents related to Foleygate -- although I'm sure their pace of investigation will be slow enough to get safely past the November elections. As usual in Washington, the coverup seems more threatening than the original crime.

Meanwhile, Foley is safely in a rehab center. Well, maybe it isn't so safe -- it's run by Scientologists. Nice to see L. Ron's people sheltering a pedophile. Think they'll get any credit from the GOP for holding their black sheep incommunicado for thirty days? But it'll be longer. I'm sure the scale of Foley's terrible alcohol addiction, which NOBODY noticed before last Friday, by the way, will simply require him to remain in the tender care of the Scientologists -- who owe Foley a few political favors -- until at least the second Wednesday in November.

I'm not sure what would be worse -- facing the music publicly or having a bunch of loony Scientologists blathering on at you about your thetan levels and Xenu and all that crap.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

foley, foley, foley

You just knew that after claiming an alcohol problem that the next revelation about page-pursuing Republican ex-Congressman Mark Foley would be that he'd been molested by a member of the clergy. And sure enough, today his lawyer told us that. Not making excuses, the lawyer said, just getting the facts out there. Oh yeah, right.

Meanwhile, Denny Hastert turned to that safest source, the right-wing radio circuit, for some friendly attention and understanding from Rush "Oxycontin" Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, who solicitously pitched him softballs designed to let Hastert show that he wasn't guilty of anything when he and other Republican leadership didn't do anything about Foley. And now, there are reports from other former pages that clear back in Foley's first term (1995-97), outgoing pages were warning the incoming groups to "watch out for Foley."
Republicans complain of a double standard on Congressional sex scandals. The difference -- Democratic Congressional leadership DIDN'T COVER IT UP! They investigated Gerry Studds and censured him (and Republican Phil Crane), they didn't just sweep it under the mat and hope nobody would notice.

Remember -- the Republicans care far more about themselves and their big-money donors than they do about the rest of us. And they are used to enjoying immunity for their wrong-doings -- a dangerous attitude of entitlement.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

foley affair bubbling along

The Mark Foley scandal demonstrates just how the Republicans work. I was gonna say more about it, but Eugene Robinson put it pretty well in his column today, so I suggest you read that.


I always like to point out when I agree with something said by somebody in the de facto Bush Administration -- you know, to be fair and balanced like Fox News. Anyhow, yesterday Condi Rice, responding to the story that CIA chief George Tenet told her on a July 10, 2001 meeting of plans for a massive terrorist attack, said "What I am quite certain of, however, is that I would remember if I was told -- as this account apparently says -- that there was about to be an attack in the United States. The idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible."

I too find it incomprehensible that the National Security Advisor of the United States would fail to act urgently given such a warning from the Director of the CIA.

But apparently, that's what happened.


Monday, October 02, 2006

on torture, the usa is keeping good company

Lawyer and law professor Joseph Margulies has an interesting op-ed piece about torture in today's Washington Post. He points out that during the Korean War, the North Koreans tortured some 36 captured American pilots into "admitting" their role in a US plot to use bacteriological weapons against North Korean civilians. Two points make this relevant today.

1. The North Koreans used methods that the de facto Bush Administration approves for use in interrogations, such as stress positions (i.e., standing or sitting in uncomfortable positions for many hours), sleep deprivation, isolation, and marathon interrogation sessions. Margulies accurately calls this "touchless torture." The Administration says it isn't torture.

2. The 36 Americans confessed to a non-existent plot. In other words, they told the captors what the captors wanted to hear.

I imagine that 1950s North Korea, like the US today, denied that they tortured anybody. For the North Koreans, extracting false information satisfied their needs -- a propaganda coup "proving" the US was involved in attacks against civilians. They didn't need to use the confessions as the basis for further investigations or arrests or defensive programs.

The people (at all levels of the US government) charged with protecting us from terrorism are fools if they believe the confessions they are getting out of inmates in our torture chambers at Guantanamo, in Iraq, and elsewhere are accurate. And they are criminals if they are knowingly satisfied with false confessions.

et tu, espn?

At first I was surprised to read at Daily Kos that ESPN inserts fake cheers when Republicans are introduced at sporting events, and fake boos when Democrats appear on screen. The most recent example was when Papa Bush was at the Super Dome last Monday for the first NFL game in New Orleans since Katrina. When you remember among other things Barbara Bush's assertion that Katrina refugees at the Astrodome had it pretty good, the torrent of boos that became apparent when ESPN had to switch from its feed to that from the official presiding over the coin toss makes even more sense.

Then I remembered ESPN is owned by Disney -- the media company that had Mel "Passion of the Christ/I hate Jews" Gibson working on a miniseries about the Holocaust. And ESPN in turn is owned by ABC, which aired the GOP's propaganda piece, "The Path to 9/11" completely whitewashing the Bushies and making it clear that it was all Bill Clinton's fault.

And I remembered that ESPN had hired Rush Limbaugh as a sports analyst. And that ABC had hired once-funny comedian turned right-winger Dennis Miller for Monday Night Football. You'll recall that after 9/11, Miller became a paranoid lunatic willing to give up all of our civil liberties to make us all safe from terrorists.

And I wasn't surprised any more. We can't avoid the right-wing noise machine even when watching baseball or football.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

just a little reminder that the bush administration did jacksh*t about terrorism before september 11, 2001

A helpful little article in today's Washington Post relays the story of how CIA Director George Tenet (Clinton appointee, Bush Medal of Honor recipient) and his senior terrorism people tried throughout early 2001 to get then-National Security Advisor Condi Rice to pay attention to their urgent concerns that a big attack was imminent. In fact, the CIA had been trying to get Rice to win permission for the CIA to take greater actions against Al Qaeda. However, that months-long effort, and the extraordinary July 10 meeting that Tenet arranged with Condi specifically to address, all failed to engage her attention. Condi it seems was too busy focusing on ballistic missile defense and other stuff.

Good article, but would have been better if not buried on page A17.

Remember this as the de facto Bush Administration -- including Rice -- and Fox News and ABC-TV all try to play up the idea that somehow 9/11 was all Bill Clinton's fault. As Clinton said on Fox News, he tried and tried to get Bin Laden. He wanted to invade Afghanistan BEFORE 9/11 but couldn't get basing rights from Uzbekistan (he also couldn't get the CIA and FBI to certify that Al Qaeda was responsible for the bombings of two American embassies in East Africa). Clinton tried and failed (but succeeded in thwarting the Millennium plot).

Bush? Didn't even try. He was already planning for the invasion of Iraq. Which, of course, was not involved in 9/11.

republicans like their pedophiles

The Foley scandal gets richer with the in-fighting in the GOP House leadership. Tom Reynolds refuted Speaker Denny Hastert's claim that he hadn't known about the Foley penchant for sending sexually explicit emails to young Congressional pages. But Hastert and others in the GOP did know, they knew for months, and they kept quiet until one of the young men who had gotten emails from Foley told an adult about it.

Why? Because the Republicans will always protect their own, even an apparent pedophile. That makes a bit of a mockery of the GOP laws to crack down on sex crimes against minors, which included Congressman Foley as a co-sponsor.

So when you vote, remember: Republicans will protect a known pedophile because they care about their fellow party members more than young Congressional pages or frankly than anybody else, with the possible exception of their campaign contributors. And Jack Abramoff.

pitcher: clemens used drugs

Former major league pitcher Jason Grimsley has told federal investigators the names of several former teammates that used performance-enhancing drugs. The names have been blacked out, but apparently include Miguel Tejada, Brian Roberts, Jay Gibbons, and David Segui (who has confirmed use of human growth hormone under a doctor's care) of the Baltimore Orioles, and Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros.

I have long believed that Clemens used steroids. We slam (correctly) Barry Bonds for doing so over the past six seasons or so, noting the ungodly increase in his body mass and the unprecedented surge in his power numbers after age 35, at a time when most sluggers are slowing down. Aaron and Ruth didn't hit 250 homeruns after turning 35. But look at Clemens. He was also a long, lean player when he was a young major leaguer who bulked up to be almost unrecognizable compared to his twenty-year-old self (and Clemens beefed up much earlier than Bonds). He has also pitched uncommonly well at an age when most pitchers were washed up, not just staying on a major league roster, but dominating the league. Like Bonds. Except Clemens is white, and didn't break the single-season home run record nor pass Ruth and challenge Aaron. And Clemens is not as big a jerk as Bonds.

Clearly, like Bonds, a big part of that was hard work and natural talent. But I think it is just as clear that the Rocket was hitting the pharmaceuticals hard.