Friday, November 30, 2007

no, this is not a joke

Some news items really just make me go "what the fuck?" No, not ones like another illegal grab for power by the de facto Bush Administration, or about MegaLo Corporation laying off 10,000 people - I don't LIKE those stories, but I understand the radical venality of the Republicans, and the short-sighted drive to raise the stock price by 2 cents for the average American corporation.

No, stories like this are WTF stories - a beauty pageant in the rebellious region of southern Sudan.

It features much of what other beauty pageants feature - attractive women strutting their stuff, contestants wishing for world peace (of particular concern in Juba, which suffered thru a long civil war). And people saying how the beauty pageant is somehow an uplifting event.

Well, it isn't. It's a meat market. Women strip down and show off their tits and ass in various costumes, walking around in absurd hooker-brand high heels to arch their back and thrust their ass out just that little bit more, while drooling men ogle them and the organizers pretend it's about scholarships and presenting a good role model for the children.

They are gross. Hey, I like leering at I mean seeing attractive women as much as 95% of my fellow males (the other 5% or so prefer Mr. America). But these mass cattle calls really leave me cold, and perpetuate a stereotype of womanhood being embodied by a certain look - which in the United States at least involves helmet hair, teeth buffed to a shine with some sort of wax, and a commitment to baton twirling that goes well beyond the normal range.

I've always said they should just judge them by letting them perform certain acts upon the male judges - that would be more intellectually honest.


if you want privacy, stay away from facebook

A tempest has erupted in Facebook's teapot. A new "feature" called Beacon watches what sites Facebook users surf to and then broadcasts that information in some sort of on-line micro-ad. The example cited here is when Sean Lane bought a ring for his wife Shannon and the news headline appeared, "Sean Lane bought 14k White Gold 1/5 ct Diamond Eternity Flower Ring from".

Naturally, Shannon saw the announcement and Sean had to think fast and say it was for her for Christmas, not for the cute chick in accounting he's been banging.

Just joking, Sean - no reason to disbelieve that story. But what if Sean had just bought a book about divorce at Amazon? Or had bought two plane tickets to Jamaica for a long weekend in January after telling his wife he had to fly to the Chicago office to help install a new mainframe?

Yeah, I think this is pretty obnoxious, especially since Facebook at first didn't really give you a meaningful chance to opt out of this particular "feature" - they will now, but you have to remember to do it every time, which is a pain no doubt for concerned Facebook users.

On the other hand, the amount of personal information many people divulge at Facebook or MySpace or even right here at Blogger is INCREDIBLE. I remember randomly surfing thru Blogger blogs and finding some sixteen year old girl talking about some private things - I left her a comment and suggested she consider passwording the blog so only her friends and family can see it, not some stranger like me.

As bad as Beacon is, the worst violations of privacy on the internet are self-inflicted... So think twice about posting the details of your mundane existence!


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

more on social security and compromise

Ruth Marcus comes up with what she terms five myths and a slur on Social Security. The myths are all basically variations on the theme, "it's not broke too bad and we can fix it easily."

It ISN'T broken too bad, although that's not to say that we should ignore it. But it doesn't need the kind of radical procedures de facto President George Bush wanted it to undergo.

Marcus says the slur is, "Social Security is only a big deal to people who hate the program and want to see it destroyed -- or to their ignorant dupes."

Look, some of the people DO want to see it destroyed. There is a significant minority out there - overwhelmingly conservative Republicans - who have never reconciled to FDR's most popular and perhaps enduring social program because it doesn't fit with their stated vision of a truly small government with no entitlements. (Except for the entitlements for big farmers, oil companies, and the like.)

And in any case, Bush's privatization idea perhaps was not intended to destroy Social Security. But it was certainly meant to help line the pockets of financial service companies that would have been given the fat contract to run people's private accounts. And as for fixing it, the $2 trillion we have wasted so far on the Republicans' grand scheme to introduce democracy and stability into the Middle East by invading Iraq (on trumped up grounds, etc) would more than plug any gap in Social Security.

It strikes me how often commentators fail to see that sometimes assuming the worst about Republican motives is accurate. Maybe they were raised not to think badly about people - but the Bush Administration in particular, and Republicans in general in particular since 1994 have given us every reason to think very very badly about them.

Which brings me to an article about the retirement of GOP Senator Trent Lott, the alleged master of compromise. The article bemoans the decline of compromise in Congress, but it just sort of expresses concern in a vague way, "oh gosh isn't this too bad." It doesn't ask WHY the compromise has become a lost art - it is because the radical GOP majority elected in 1994 under bombthrower in chief Newt Gingrich and his venal little hatchetman Tom DeLay were uninterested in compromise, and positively spurned it. Their idea of a compromise, shared by Bush, is "do it MY way and I'll still criticize you about it later and even if there IS a compromise, we'll pervert it." Ask Ted Kennedy how he feels about his compromising early in Bush's first term on education. The short answer is, "screwed."

Twelve years of such behavior doesn't necessarily predispose the current Democratic majority to easy compromise with Republicans - and the fact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has tried to invoke cloture 56 times in less than one year, a record-breaking pace, indicates that the Republican MINORITY is filibustering at a record pace. So much for compromise. Trent Lott's departure won't make it any worse.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

middle east peace talks same as it ever was

You know it's getting late in the second term of an American president - Middle East peace talks are taking place.

De facto President George W. Bush, no student of history he, said he is "optimistic" about the upcoming conference in Annapolis. But not me. There are several obstacles.

First, both the Israelis and Palestinians are bloody minded and stubborn. A pox on both houses.

Second, this diplomatic effort is being spearheaded by Bush and Condi Rice. Sorry, their track record doesn't give any reason to expect success.

And third, you know somehow Dick Cheney, irregular heartbeat and all, will do something to screw it up.


Sunday, November 25, 2007


I read this article about people who will run errands for you - you know, things like changing the TV channel while you are at work so your dog won't see the "disturbing" shows on Animal Planet. Or shopping for a used car for your teenager. Or helping you remember birthdays. And I find myself thinking "lame."

Not about the people offering the services - hey, they can make some decent money doing it, more power to them.

No, I mean their CUSTOMERS are lame. "Lifestyle management" is a euphemism for "taking care of the lazy and disorganized types who have enough money to afford an easy crutch rather than getting a little discipline in their lives."

Lame. Now, I think I'll call out for a pizza - making dinner is such a hassle.


welcome to the machine

The voices are no longer just in your head - things are talking to you more and more. I particularly like the one that says "the moving walkway is ending" at the airport. I have visions of people tumbling over at the end if the voice didn't warn them. (Yes, I know it is helpful for blind people.)

The voices are just the audio component of the machine that we speak to and interact with more and more and more. You know, the automated taxi reservation system, customer service, all the rest - it's more and more rare to get to an actual human being who has more brainpower than the computer program and might actually be able to help you with your problem.

But humans - even humans in India - cost more than a piece of software and a few taped messages. So get used to the voices, and welcome to the machines.


Friday, November 23, 2007

cellphone tracking, no warrant required

The FBI and DEA and other federal agencies have been getting cellphone companies to track the location of various people they are interested in. Oh, and they get this without a warrant or even in many cases without even showing probable cause.

The Department of (In-) Justice says these are always very important cases where lives are hanging on the line and children are in immediate peril. Always. Really. You know, just like all the people who are being tortured in our name no doubt have critical information about an attack that will happen in the next hour, just like on "24."

If these are always such clear-cut cases, then why not GET A WARRANT??? Judges move quick to issue warrants and again, this sort of thing would easily qualify as probable cause and legal permission would be quickly forthcoming.

Justice spokesman Dean Boyd said "Law enforcement has absolutely no interest in tracking the locations of law-abiding citizens. None whatsoever." Then they shouldn't mind following the law themselves and getting warrants.

Should we worry? Well, there are plenty of examples of false arrests and even people's assets being seized based on the mistaken idea that the owners were drug dealers. The feds are not always right. As we see from the recent story about the FBI using a discredited forensic method for two years after it was proven not to work, and all the people in prison based in part on such evidence.

We need for the feds (and police and government in general) to follow the rules. That is what the Constitution is for. We shouldn't just shrug and say "somebody else's problem" when sort of disregard for the law is disclosed.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the secret to a less-stressful thanksgiving

Thanksgiving day approaches. The Transportation Security Agency is giving out tips for the once-a-year flyer on how to get through security lines easier (one tip: don't pack any ticking alarm clocks). But bad weather (surprise!) along the East Coast and Midwest threatens to gum up our aviation system and make the roads slick.

How to cope with the crowds? Simple.

Stay home.

Avoid the airport. Keep off the interstates. Don't go more than 10 miles for your turkey fix. Relax. Watch football. And when the news comes on with the stupid mandatory reports about the bazillion people stranded in the terminal at Chicago O'Hare, give thanks that YOU aren't THERE with those other poor sons of bitches.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

more on huckabee

Richard Cohen in his column today advises Mitt Romney, should he be asked by another GOP candidate about "why his religion is not a threat to our cherished way of life", to answer "you first."

Good advice, especially if it's asked by Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister who says "I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives."

If we get Huckabee, we get a President AND a minister. After the bizarrely religious and damaging de facto presidency of George Bush, we can't afford that.


george w, you are no george w

You may have heard of Frances Townsend, one of the national security advisers to de facto President George "W does not stand for Washington" Bush. She was the one who said that the failure to capture Osama Bin Laden was "a success that hasn't occurred yet."

Well, she's quitting, either to go make some bucks or to flee the sinking ship - or both. And in her handwritten letter of resignation to Bush, she writes:
In 1937, the playwright Maxwell Anderson wrote of President George Washington: There are some men who lift the age they inhabit, til all men walk on higher ground in their lifetime.

Mr. President, you are such a man.
Holy ass-kissing, Batman, can you believe this?

I won't even get into all the reasons that Bush has LOWERED the age he inhabits (state-sanctioned torture is a good start). What scares me is maybe Townsend actually believes what she wrote. Clearly, she has quaffed far too much of the Kool-Aid while in Bush's servitude.

Scott Horton has more about the utter lack of comparability between George W. Bush and George Washington.


Monday, November 19, 2007

get serious about huckabee

There has been a boomlet about the Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Huckabee was perhaps most famous for losing a LOT of weight and for trying to enact programs to help the citizens of Arkansas to also grow more svelte and healty.

But recently Huckabee's numbers in Iowa have been improving, helped no doubt by the departure of Senator Sam "Godboy" Brownback from the race. Huckabee is still a dark horse behind Romney, Giuliani and McCain, but no longer is he a complete no-hoper like that lunatic Tancredo.

Huckabee made an appearance on Fox News on Sunday and showed his true spots. Yes, Huckabee is a genial fellow. And full credit to him for his anti-fat campaign. But don't be fooled, Huckabee is a hard-core conservative.

He gave that evidence on Fox. Huckabee is proud of being anti-abortion. But he said, unlike some Republicans, that this is NOT a choice to be left to the states because there is only one right answer.

Huckabee said, "For those of us for whom this is a moral question, you can't simply have 50 different versions of what's right."

Presumably, Huckabee's logic would apply equally to anything else that he and his crowd deem a moral question. You know, things like whether your wife, girlfriend, or daughter should be able to use birth control. Or whether Christian prayer should be mandatory in publicly funded schools regardless of the religious views of students. Or whether any sexual practice they disagree with should be permitted.

It's also another example of the classic Republican penchant hypocrisy. They are the party for small-government and state rights, except when a national-level policy is to their advantage. They are the party that supports unfettered market competition, except when they find it politically expedient to give massive subsidies to friendly industries like big oil and big agriculture.

Huckabee also teamed up with Chuck Norris for a TV ad. All very amusing to see Huckabee and Norris riff off of those funny Chuck Norris jokes that circulated a couple of years back, but in this Norris said, "Mike Huckabee wants to put the IRS out of business."

That isn't a mainstream view. That is radical conservatism along the lines of what we have endured for the last eight years under de facto President George W. Bush. A modern society like that of the United States needs taxes to function, period. How does Huckabee propose to replace the IRS' function? Ask for donations?

This simply is not a candidate we can afford to consider, despite the affable facade. Remember the last allegedly pleasant compassionate conservative to seek the Republican nomination? We're still stuck with him and we'll be cleaning up after him for decades.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

the young kool-aid drinkers gather and worship saint ronnie

A bunch of twenty-something College Republican types gathered recently at the Holy Shrine of Saint Ronnie, aka the California ranch owned by the late and not-so-great Ronald Reagan. It was an annual get-together where all the young conservatives can get together and agree how hard it is to get English-speaking help, how Hillary Clinton is such a bitch, how gays are EVERYWHERE now and it was so much easier when they stayed in the closet and you only had to worry about straight teachers molesting the kids, and how things would be great if the media would just give a conservative like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck or Robert Novak or anybody at all on Fox News a chance to make his or her voice heard.

And gosh, some of them are disillusioned. I mean, like as one college girl said, none of the GOP candidates for president are perfect like Reagan. The same student, with the impeccably conservative name of "Coolidge", thought Ann Coulter was just nifty - "a strong woman, and she's incredibly intelligent".

Her blinkers about Reagan, who was certainly not perfect and deserves a lot of blame for the shitty situation we are in after 25 years of conservative ascendancy, and Ann Coulter who even many adult Republicans find a tad over-the-top with her gay-bashing, liberal-hating shtick, are simply precious. She and most of the others present have clearly spent too much of their formative years watching Rush Limbaugh and assuming he was a journalist (with the implicit if disappearing idea of being somewhat objective) rather than the hired gun of the Republican Party's chief propaganda arm, Fox News.

But the Kool-Aid is sweet and mommy and daddy either (a) have plenty of money and just HATE paying taxes for wasteful government programs ("daddy says ALL government programs are wasteful except for the farm subsidies which he likes just fine since he grows cotton") or (b) tell her all the time how the Democrats are a bunch of satanistic atheists so you have to vote for the Republicans who claim to be anti-abortion, even though that is the party that closed the mental institute where Uncle Frank used to live ("wonder where Uncle Frank is nowadays") and has slashed the real minimum wage over the past 25 years ("gosh, my paycheck just doesn't go as far as it used to," says Mommy who recently took a second job).

I don't mind them deluding themselves. I just don't like the fact that the conservative movement has imposed so many of its delusions on the rest of us, damaging the fabric of our country and by condoning torture, illegal wiretapping, and the worse-than-Nixonian "if the President does it, it's legal" doctrine of the de facto Bush White House, shredding the Constitution. Not to mention bankrupting us in Iraq and thru tax-cuts for the rich. Sigh.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

bad and getting worse?

The UNIPCC (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has issued a report that for the first time gets specific about what we could face with runaway climate change. Melting ice sheets, floods, disease, famine.

Think maybe this is worth trying something more than just "aspirational goals" like de facto President Bush keeps on mumbling about?


Friday, November 16, 2007

at least cy young is clean

Wouldn't it be ironic if baseball's home run king (gag) Barry Bonds were actually convicted and were kept out of the baseball hall of fame, as is hit king Pete Rose?

At least Cy Young, long dead with a record for most wins that will never be approached, appears unlikely to run into legal problems.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

don't go back to breezewood

How amusing - today an article extolling the attractions of Breezewood, Pennsylvania. Never heard of it? You're lucky. It's a small town in eastern Pennsylvania that is at the intersection of I-70 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Except, unlike 99.99% of the other intersections along the interstate system, you actually have to get OFF of I-70 and drive a couple of hundred yards along US-30 thru the "heart" of Breezewood to get onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

And unless you're doing this at 3 AM, this means a slow crawl thru a soul-less strip of motels and fast food joints, a change of roads that should take 30 seconds requires 5, 10, even 15 minutes depending on traffic.

Why is this interchange so screwy? Why, when I-70 was built and it approached Breezewood, did they not do a regular intersection. Curiously, nobody seems to know.

So here's my theory. An unscrupulous cabal of Breezewood businessmen and landowners back when the interstate was being built realized they could make big bucks if enough drivers were forced to drive thru the center of town. And they paid off a few corrupt officials in the Federal and State governments, and probably had some engineer reassigned to Idaho to keep him from proposing a NORMAL intersection. And now, those Breezewooders are laughing all the way to the bank, and you're stuck in one more avoidable traffic jam.

Don't fall for the plot. If you're going west from the DC area, skip Breezewood and its dubious charms. This Post article reads like they took a Breezewood press release and ran it unedited. Hey, it's Breezewood, not the White House. Instead take I-68 west thru West Virginia and I-79 North to reconnect to I-70. No tolls. And better yet, no Breezewood traffic jam.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

giuliani wrong on medicine

We know Rudy Giuliani, like many a politician, doesn't let truth get in the way of a good statistic to make his point. Rudy, flip-flopping from his mayoral era support for taxpayer funded medical care, is not opposed to it - no doubt wanting to keep the donations from big insurance companies rolling in.

Eugene Robinson has a good column pointing out some of the facts about the vaunted American private medical system and the "socialized" (such a bad word) ones in places like Germany and Britain.

You probably already know that we pay more per person than any country in the world for medical care. You'd like to at least think that if we're paying Cadillac prices, we're getting the best care possible.

But, as Robinson writes, "'s the bottom line: The United States ranks dead last in life expectancy, at 77.9 years, among the countries surveyed. Britain is next to last at 78.7, while Australia is first at 80.6. The United States also has the worst infant mortality by far, at 6.89 per 1,000 live births; second-worst is New Zealand at 5.7. We're paying more and dying more, or at least sooner."

So - pay more, die earlier. You don't need to be an economist to realize you aren't getting value for money on that.


Monday, November 12, 2007

unexpected news of the day

While going through the headlines today a very very unusual event jumped out at me. No, not the fact that de facto President George Bush actually visited an Army rehabilitation facility for injured troops - admittedly an odd event, since usually Bush visits military bases as a way to get a safe audience to cheer him on.

Nope, the Cincinnati Bengals' victory over the Baltimore Ravens is what caught my eye. The Bengals won, 21-7. It was in Baltimore, so a road victory by the unimpressive Bengals is a bit of a surprise, but that's not what was weird to me. After all, 21-7 is a pretty normal football score.

But the Bengals didn't do it the easy way with three touchdowns. Nope, they got to 21 with SEVEN field goals! Shayne Graham (admit it, you hadn't heard of him either before) had a pretty good day at the office, and actually tied an NFL record for most field goals in a game, done three times before, last time in 1996.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

a one-man example of republican scandals

Talking Points Memo's muckrackers have done a great job of compiling the indictment of Bernie Kerik, former Giuliani top cop and briefly de facto President Bush's nomineee to be secretary for the Department of Homeland Security. Read the list; highlights include:
several counts of tax fraud;
false statements (when filling out paperwork for the DHS job)
That was just the indictment handed down on Friday. There's plenty more, including taking extravagant gifts from Mafia figures and using New York detectives to do his personal work, like hunting for his mistress's cell phone. Verily, Kerik would have fit in very nicely in the Bush Administration.

we're all chubs

(D-Listed stole the obvious headline, "It's A Fat World After All.")

Disneyland in California has shut down the "Small World" ride for a few months to refit it so us big fat types can fit on it. Seems that Homo Disneylandus is bigger now than in 1960 - the average man weighs 191 pounds, 15% more (166 pounds); women are up from 140 to 164 pounds over the same period. So the boat rides are literally scraping the bottom and it isn't because of a build-up of fiberglass layers as Disney diplomatically claims.

Mmm, think I'll get me another triple burger and a milkshake.

Friday, November 09, 2007

"an overwhelming experience that induces horror"

No, I'm not referring to the de facto Bush Administration as "an overwhelming experience that induces horror" - although come to think of it, that's pretty accurate. That is part of a quote from Malcolm Wrightson Nance, who used to teach US Navy personnel how to endure torture. As part of his education, Nance was waterboarded. Here is how he described it before the House hearing on torture:

"In my case, the technique was so fast and professional that I didn't know what was happening until the water entered my nose and throat. It then pushes down into the trachea and starts the process of respiratory degradation. It is an overwhelming experience that induces horror and triggers frantic survival instincts. As the event unfolded, I was fully conscious of what was happening: I was being tortured."

But hey, bad guys deserve it and besides, that's how we get the information we need to let Jack Bauer save the US of A, right?

Wrong. "Nance and Air Force Colonel Steven Kleinman, a senior intelligence officer with decades of experience, said waterboarding is an ineffective tool for gathering information. Nance said that waterboarding sets off a fear of impending death and that people will say anything to get out of it."

It's a broken record but it needs to be repeated to counter the ceaseless stream of lies and evasions from the Bush Administration's minions. Waterboarding is torture, and therefore illegal. Torture is also immoral. And it is ineffective. And it ruins our international reputation, in Iraq and everywhere else. And (although a much lesser concern) it either warps those who perform torture, or even worse is enjoyed by the sadists who find themselves in the place to do torture on behalf of the state.

It degrades America. It is wrong. It must be stopped.

So maybe Congress can quit passing pork-laden water bills (what a waste as the first over-ride of a Bush veto) and pass a bill making this even MORE explicit. And dare Bush to veto that.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

another surge coming up?

Even as the so-called surge continues in Iraq (and we hit another record high in fatalities among American service members this year), the early signs of another surge are already showing up - homeless veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Some of the people who help homeless veterans say that these veterans are appearing on the streets even quicker than the Vietnam generation did.

We've all seen the stories about inadequate armor for our people in Iraq. We know that although the medical ability to save lives of badly injured troops that would have died is literally a life-saver, it also means we will have more veterans with completely disabling injuries (physical and mental) to care for.

The Veterans Administration likely won't be able to afford to help such increased numbers of the injured, the mentally disturbed, and the down-on-their-luck veterans at current funding levels.

But the de facto Bush Administration doesn't give a damn. The least you can do when you send men and women oversees to serve in a warzone (even in an illegitimate war like Iraq) is to take care of the ones who don't come back in good shape.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

corporate welfare, rural version

We're not really quite the free market economy we pride ourselves on being in the United States. For example, some key agricultural products are given subsidies by the Federal government. As Michael Gerson writes, cotton is a particularly egregious example - American cotton farmers, average income over $125,000 a year, get guaranteed 72 cents a pound for cotton when the world price is 57 cents.

Who pays? Well, for starters the American taxpayer. And any American consumer that buys cotton products.

And the poor cotton farmers in places like Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Mali (all in West Africa). Our subsidies drive up US production, driving up global supply and therefore pushing down global prices. And the cotton farmers of West Africa, who needless to say don't get subsidies and don't make $125,000 a year, are screwed.

toles on torture

Again, Tom Toles nails it...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

listen to what the republican candidates are saying

There are two topics that I believe are fundamental to the survival of the United States as a prosperous democracy - climate change, which could damage, perhaps very badly, our prosperity, and the erosion in the name of "security" of our civil liberties, perhaps best demonstrated by the current de facto Bush Administration's use of torture.

And two separate bits in the Post today showed how truly appallingly BAD most of the major Republican presidential candidates are on climate change and torture. In this article, we see how all the Democrats are advocating major cuts in our greenhouse gas emissions. You know, so we can still visit Miami without using a glass-bottom boat, and so Kansas still boasts ambers waves of grain, not amber dunes of sand.

What do the Republicans say? Rudy Giuliani says we shouldn't be too hasty. I'm sure he would want us to carefully assess the situation for an hour or two before leaping out of a bus that just caught on fire too. And Fred Thompson makes an absurd comment that there must be SUVs on the other planets since they are growing warmer, too. Maybe Fred would like to study the legal system of Saturn to make recommendations on torture, too.

And Richard Cohen notes how Giuliani, Thompson, and Mitt Romney want to keep Guantanamo open because they are unaware of any torture there. Apparently, they seem to think that unless you actually SEE it, it doesn't exist. I wonder if they believe in radiowaves? Can't see them either.

Giuliani goes farther, of course, disparaging the idea that sleep deprivation is torture. Sleep isn't just a pleasurable activity. It is an essential physiological need for humans. Eventually, sleep deprivation can cause a complete mental collapse and ultimately, death. Would Giuliani say that depriving water or food or air to detainees were also not forms of torture?

To be fair, John McCain, although not my favorite politician, is on the correct side of both these issues. He is the only major Republican candidate whose election might not be a complete disaster for the United States.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

not to gloat, but...

If you needed any final proof that the 2007 version of the Notre Dame football team truly sucks, this is it. They lost in overtime to Navy for the first time in 43 games. Last time Navy beat Notre Dame, Lyndon Johnson was President, the Beatles were a hip new act out of Liverpool, no man had landed on the moon, and a young buzz-cut cadet called Roger Staubach was the Navy quarterback.


no matter what dick cheney says, waterboarding = torture (again)

An interesting column here from a lawyer who used to be a JAG with the Nevada National Guard. Evan Wallach reminds us again that the US has long considered waterboarding to be torture.

We even convicted Japanese prison of war camp guards specifically on charges of torture through the use of the water cure, aka waterboarding.

Remember, we have a (de facto) administration that refuses to admit that waterboarding is torture. Their way of ensuring they obey US and international laws against torture is to define what they allow their CIA and military interrogators to do as being "not torture."

Welcome to Bush-Orwellian America. I hope it ends in January of 2009.


taking that hollywood thing a little too far

A senior adviser and moneyraiser for Fred Thompson by name of Philip Martin has an interesting past. Specifically, convictions for selling drugs in wholesale amounts back when he was in his twenties - marijuana and cocaine. Martin isn't just some contributor - he is one of four co-chairman for Thompson's presidential campaign.

Martin had some other legal problems before he (presumably) went legitimate, such as being charged with illegal bookmaking (he did a plea bargain to conspiracy). And he did jail time.

Fred Thompson presents himself as a law and order candidate. I know Hollywood has different standards, and personally I could not care less about selling drugs - that should be legal. Be interesting to see how this plays out though. If it had been one of Hillary Clinton's or John Edwards' or Barack Obama's people, we would never hear the end of it. But Republican lawbreakers and philanderers usually get nicer treatment from Faux and CNN and the rest.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

gop still trying to steal 2008 election

Remember that Republican idea to apportion California's electoral college vote by congressional district, thus ensuring about 20 extra votes for a Republican presidential candidate? Well, California Republicans are still trying to get this idea on the ballot as a state initiative.

Two observations. One is that this is unconstitutional. The Constitution clearly says that state legislatures decide how to cast their votes in the Electoral College. The California assembly could adopt this idea if it so chose, but an initiative like this would not be constitutional.

And two, this isn't such a nifty idea that Republicans in states like Texas or Indiana want to do the same thing.

And before you get any ideas that maybe apportioning the electoral college vote nationally on a congressional district basis might be smart, think again. Currently, gerrymandering is bad enough because it skews Congressional representation and encourages extremes on the left and the right. Making the presidential vote also dependent gerrymandered districts would just compound the problem.


Friday, November 02, 2007

you know who they work for

Today we have a report that the head of a federal agency (and other senior officials) took lots of trips at the expense of the various industries said agency is supposed to regulate. Just another day in Republican Land, in the de facto President George Bush wing.

The agency this time? The Consumer Product Safety Commission. Yes, those people who are supposed to announce recalls when some cheap toy could put your child in danger of being blinded or killed are accepting vacations from the toy industry.

Of course, the CPSC says these trips met their conflict of interest standards. Which is true, since for the Cheney/Bush Halliburton Administration, conflict of interest is defined very generously. Basically, you'd have to be on the payroll of a corporation to have a conflict of interest - hell, just like Dick Cheney, still getting money from Halliburton.

Remember, as we add this little morsel to the handy dandy list of Republican scandals, who the GOP really works for. They work for the corporations and big business. They work for the elite. The don't give a shit about your daughter who just got sick off that toxic toy. They just need to be able to finagle or steal enough votes to keep power and to keep lining their pockets and "regulating" themselves.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

bush defending waterboarding again

George Bush has threatened Congress. He says, if the Senate doesn't confirm Michael Mukasey because of concerns about whether he thinks waterboarding is torture or not, there would be no attorney general because the standard would be too high.

Yes, the President (de facto) of the United States of America, the Leader of the Free World and Promoter of Democracy, believes that attitudes about torture should not be relevant in a confirmation hearing for the country's senior legal official. And further, he believes that no "responsible nominee for attorney general" could meet the Senate's impossibly high standard of agreeing that waterboarding is torture and as such, should be illegal, mmkay?

Speaking to reporters, I (Heart) Waterboarding Bush said "It's important for Congress to pass laws and/or confirm nominees that will enable this government to more effectively defend the country and pursue terrorists and radicals that would like to do us harm." Doubtless, the radicals include Democrats and anybody else who opposes the radical Bush/Cheney program to dramatically increase presidential power to encompass basically ANYTHING as long as they say it is for national security purposes.

An aside - I suspect Mukasey personally believes that waterboarding is torture and therefore illegal under US and international law. The fact that he cannot admit this fact before the Senate shows that he will likely be as compliant an attorney-general as Alberto Gonzales, willing and able to ignore the clear meaning of law and inconvenient truths in order to advance the White House agenda. This means he would be a typical Bush appointee, and therefore Congress would be eminently within its legal rights to refuse to confirm him.

And again, it makes me sick as an American and a supporter of democracy and human rights, and a believer in the idea that America can be a force for good in the world, that the Bush Administration has made "American torture" a topic for serious debate.

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equal treatment

American diplomats are facing a draft to serve in Iraq, and they aren't happy. Guess I can't blame them - plenty of soldiers are also equally unhappy about being forced to serve in Iraq.

But I was struck in reading this story that American diplomats get TWO WEEKS of training before being sent to Iraq. That doesn't seem like much - American military personnel are always training and we've all seen the TV news reports about the elaborate training they get in pseudo-Iraqi towns and villages set up in the US' southwestern deserts. What do they train diplomats in two weeks? How to avoid incoming mortars?

But there is some equality in treatment between our military and diplomats - one diplomat said she had served in Iraq, came home with post-traumatic stress disorder, and the State Department refused to authorize medical treatment for her.

Classy. And she won't even be able to rely on Veteran Administration hospitals.