The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Saturday, April 30, 2005

Was Bush wired again? (plus bonus video)

Crooks and Liars makes a good catch-- a 45 second video (featuring a rather lovely CNN reporter appropriately dressed for a cocktail party) that looks mighty fishy as the prez "answers" a question. Note the expression-- it isn't the look of someone thinking about a response, but the out of focus stare of someone listening intently. Complete with stumbling and repetition. Man, I can't wait to see the history books in a couple of decades.



Strange Fruit bonus:

Also from C&L comes a video of Gannon/Guckert's Friday night appearance on Bill Maher's latest show. Since I've already brought up incongruous facial expressions, try to count the number of times that the White House's favorite phony-journalist/gay prostitute working under a pseudonym blinks during the interview. Isn't that one of those classic "how to tell if a person is lying" criteria? Warning: 10 meg download.



Possible turning of the media worm?

All right, I'm swiping this from Salon, too, but that's because they've done the work and laid it out nicely. And I've been unable to access the Internet for the last 36 hours. It's early to be making claims like this, as they acknowledge, but we can at least hope that Bush gets the same treatment that Gore received in 2000-- after all, the accusations about Gore were utterly false, whereas criticisms of Bush are a matter of record. On the other hand, the only sources that Salon cites are those papers that the righties accuse of socialism on a daily basis. Still, it's nice to see.

Ready? Go!

" One hundreds [sic] days into his second term, it's a little early to stick a fork in George W. Bush. But boy, has the tide turned on a president who was so recently the swaggering darling of the national news. The White House had to beg some of the networks to air last night's prime-time news conference; it was the first night of sweeps week, and NBC and Fox couldn't bear the thought that Donald Trump or "The O.C." might be bumped by a not particularly popular commander in chief with little new to say. Bush's media handlers, who value nothing more than the president's reputation for resoluteness, caved in at the last minute and moved up the presser by half an hour so that most of the prime-time entertainment could appear on schedule. Bush made a joke about it all toward the end of the press conference, but, as the New York Times notes, a lot of viewers didn't see it: NBC and CBS had already cut away. . . .

. . .

The Boston Globe says Bush met the press "amid an array of problems, including the stalled nomination of some of his judicial nominees, and of John Bolton to become US ambassador to the United Nations, ethics questions surrounding a key ally, House majority leader Tom DeLay, a sliding stock market, continuing violence in Iraq, and record energy prices."

And the Los Angeles Times headlines its coverage, "Bush Recasts Message on Social Security," then ticks off a litany of problems for which the president apparently has no plan: "The nation's economic growth has slowed. . . . The price of gasoline has soared. . . . Bush's overall popularity has sagged in public opinion polls. . . . The president acknowledged no anxiety over those trends, beyond his concern over gas prices and the economy. 'I'm an optimistic fellow,' he said."

Big Oil: Profits could be higher.

This is amazing. Although the GOP has been making drilling in ANWR a top priority, apparently they've been sneaking the oil companies in the back door and giving them access to other spots-- even though they're already making record profits. So many, in fact, that the oil companies haven't been able to take advantage of all the spots that have opened to them.

From Salon, with a link to the WaPo:

As Congress draws closer to passing budget legislation that includes a provision for opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, other, less publicized federal lands are being drilled for gas and oil at an unprecedented rate. The Washington Post reported late this week that parts of the Rocky Mountain West are now so exposed to industry exploitation that the number of drilling permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management has outpaced the amount of equipment and manpower available to take advantage of them.

That contradicts longstanding claims by the energy industry that restrictive federal regulations have prevented them from getting at America's abundant natural gas deposits. Last year, Big Energy's best friend in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney decried the fact that "large parts of the Rocky Mountain West are off limits." The BLM proceeded to issue an unprecedented number of drilling permits last year, which continues apace, in spite of energy companies' inability to keep up.

"When you have a huge portfolio of unused leases, why does the Bush administration continue to issue more, especially in environmentally fragile areas?" asked Dave Alberswerth, an analyst for the Wilderness Society.

Techinical Difficulties... please stand by

Once again, I've been having some trouble with my computer. But now it's all better, so expect posting to resume tomorrow.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The vote to equip our troops

The Democrats should be flogging this for all it's worth. It's a disgrace, and a perfect example of of the hypocrisy of the GOP.

The Senate voted last Thursday on a bill that would commit $213 million to providing armored Humvees to soldiers in Iraq. It won the votes of 61 senators. 39 senators voted against it-- all Republicans.

A budget's about to pass that grants over $100 billion in tax cuts to the people who need it the least. And 39 GOP senator's couldn't understand putting 0.2% of that to arming the troops instead? When it's been a known problem for well over a year now?

Press events are hard work.

Salon has a nice round-up of Bush's fourth prime-time press conference. It all comes down to two things:

Another GOP bait-and-switch on privatization. Bush tries to sound like a uniter by suggesting a more progressive system for disseminating Social Security benefits. The poor get what they're getting n0w, while middle- and upper- class Americans' benefits are cut. Of course, the point is moot since he still insists on privatization, which will cost trillions, not necessarily lead to higher returns, and send administrative costs way up. Sound conciliatory, but promise nothing.

The vile specter of gas prices was addressed by Bush in the only manner he knows-- let's consume more oil! Showing a pretty sad willingness to ignore pesky issues like 'supply' or 'demand,' Bush's answer to American dependence on foreign oil is to speed up consumption of this non-renewable energy source by asking Middle Eastern countries to produce more. Pretty clever, eh? Sound conciliatory, but promise nothing. Oh, and I almost forgot-- he managed to blame Clinton for the situation!

Meanwhile, not a peep was heard about energy independence, increasing fuel efficiency standards, or anything else that would help wean us from the teat of sweet, sweet crude. It's like he wants to help oil companies or something.

Other highlights:

"John Bolton's only crime might be having too much talent and ability."

"I don't rule based on poll numbers-- which might make me too much of a plain-spoken, hard-working American, unlike the Washington insiders making their back-door deals and playing politics in Congress."

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sell, sell, sell!

You're the president. You want to dismantle a popular social program. The only problem is, whenever you make your pitch more people decide they don't like your idea. Wha'ddya do? Hit the airwaves! The best part is McClellan's statement-- he's talking compromise. In other words, they know they've lost and want to see how much they can get Democrats to cede. (To all Democrats on the Hill: NOTHING!)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush will hold a prime time press conference on Thursday night, his first in over a year, to offer more details about his plans to overhaul Social Security, the White House announced.

The 8:30 p.m. EDT East Room press conference comes at a time when Bush is facing some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency.

Recent polls show he has been losing support for adding private retirement accounts to the Social Security system -- his top domestic priority -- and that the public is increasingly concerned about the direction of the economy and soaring gas prices.

Bush could also face tough questions on Iraq after the top American general acknowledged this week that the insurgency remains undiminished in its capabilities in the past year despite landmark elections and U.S.-led efforts to crush the rebels.

"This is an important period in the national debate over strengthening Social Security," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in announcing the press conference. "The president will talk in more specific ways about his ideas for advancing a bipartisan solution."

Phony G-Man fingered in Colorado

The Secret Service appears to have discovered the man responsible for ejecting three people from Bush's Denver privatization event. And he's the head of the state's Young Republicans. Ahhh, America's youth, doing everything they can to ban free speech and government accountability. From the story:

The real Secret Service says the man who ousted Bauer, Weise and Alex Young from the president's speech was actually a Republican Party staffer. The Secret Service has told the three that the man admitted to an agent that he ousted them because they arrived in a car with a "No more blood for oil" bumper sticker.

The service is investigating that man on possible criminal charges of impersonating a Secret Service agent. He was wearing a dark suit, earpiece and lapel pin.

The Secret Service and the White House know the man's name but have refused to reveal it. The White House has said he was a volunteer "concerned that these people were coming to the event to disrupt the event."

UPDATE: According to a Buzzflash article, this incident actually involves two men-- the one allegedly impersonating a Secret Service agent (which is a criminal act) hasn't been named yet.

Another DeLay ethics violation?

Time has published a photo that serves as a pretty good example of what these GOP clowns are all about-- Tom DeLay puffing away on a Cuban cigar. He joins the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who's on the record proclaiming his love for $2,000 bottles of wine and communist stogies.

But rest assured-- good ol' Tom DeLay still thinks that Cuban cigars are the work of the devil:

"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, according to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a cigar is an economic prop to a brutal totalitarian regime. Arguing against loosening sanctions against Cuba last year, DeLay warned that Fidel Castro "will take the money. Every dime that finds its way into Cuba first finds its way into Fidel Castro's blood-thirsty hands.... American consumers will get their fine cigars and their cheap sugar, but at the cost of our national honor."

Man, that's awkward.

Hot off the grill: GOP ethics talking points

Raw Story managed to get their hands on a memo coming from Dennis Hastert's office. Unsurprisingly, it attempts to rewrite the story of Tom DeLay's packing of the House Ethics Committee with Republicans who have received money from his PAC, and some who have contributed to his legal defense fund. They also reworked the rules so that a majority vote is required to initiate an ethics investigation. And there's plenty of name-calling thrown in, too!

The last bullet point might be the most absurd:

"Unlike the obstructionist Democrats who would rather bluster about abuses of power by the Majority than actually come to an agreement on ethics, House Republicans are committed to moving forward and protecting the integrity of the House."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Missouri to pay price for voting red

My home state has had the grave misfortune to fall under the influence of the Blunt family. Daddy Blunt, Roy, is a long-time recipient of big tobacco money, and showed his fealty by divorcing his wife to marry a tobacco lobbyist. Baby Blunt, Matt (I was in his cub scout troop--seriously), has become governor in spite of an utter lack of experience thanks to Daddy's name-- sound familiar? It's the GOP way!

Roy Blunt, in addition to being House majority whip, is also one of the only politicos still foolhardy enough to voice public support for DeLay.

Matt Blunt is eager to go fascistic, too, and I'm sure the party is very proud of him for throwing Missouri's underprivileged to the wolves.

From the LA Times:

Here in impoverished southeast Missouri, nurses at a family health clinic stash drug samples for patients they know won't be able to afford their prescriptions after their coverage is eliminated this summer. Doctors try to comfort waitresses, sales clerks and others who will soon lose coverage for medical, dental and mental healthcare.

"I don't know what cure to offer them," Dr. Hameed Khaja said.

Lawmakers say they feel for those who will lose coverage. But they say also that they have no alternative. . . .

In Missouri, where nearly one in five residents is enrolled in Medicaid, Gov. Matt Blunt is poised to sign the most drastic overhaul of all: a bill that would eliminate the program entirely in three years.

Blunt expects that by then, the state will have established an alternative mechanism for helping the poorest of the poor. But the legislation on his desk does not insist on it. It only states that Missouri Medicaid will cease on June 30, 2008.

In the meantime, the bill severely cuts the existing program, ending coverage for an estimated 65,000 to 100,000 people.

Legislators are still working out eligibility details. But under one leading proposal a single mother of two who earns $3,800 a year would be considered too wealthy to qualify for Missouri Medicaid. The woman's children would still be eligible for free healthcare. But if she gets a better job and starts earning $23,000 a year, they, too, would be bumped off Medicaid — unless she's willing to pay as much as 5% of her income in monthly premiums. The state expects many parents at that income level would be unable or unwilling to pay the premiums, forcing about 24,000 children off the Medicaid rolls.


They might hate evolution, but they can't get enough of Social Darwinism. The Blunts are opportunistic bastards, and that's that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Right-wing monkey-doism hits new low.

Yes, I posted about this last week. But that's beside the point. This piece from Salon shows how far beyond the understanding of real Americans the right-wing has passed. And I'm not posting this as a bit of bomb-throwing, but as a failure of the American press to acknowledge the selfless efforts of a caring American citizen who did what she felt was right.

Marla Ruzicka risked and lost her life in a genuine attempt to ensure a better world for citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan. Her death isn't to be exploited, but it should certainly be acknowledged as an example of selflessness and goodwill, bereft of political opportunism.

Even in saying that, I'm cheapening her death, I'm afraid. But that's the mark of a hero-- she didn't seek a spot in the limelight, and she didn't make a big book deal. She just did what she thought was right. And it was only revealed after she tragically passed away.

I won't be citing her name in comparison to the likes of Tom DeLay or Bill Frist. She deserves better, and I hope that she can be lauded in the future as she deserves, without being a pawn of contemporary politics. Yes, there are a dozen ways in which I could publicize her death to promote a liberal agenda, but I prefer to decry anyone who does try to use her life and death to score political points.

I won't say any more than that, because I'd be guilty of politicizing her actions myself, which I fear I've already done in spite of myself.. I'll leave it at this: Ms. Ruzicka, you were a better person than I for living your convictions.


Here's where it gets ugly, and why it shouldn't be a political issue. Right-wing website Frontpagemag has posted a story suggesting that Ms. Ruzicka was nothing less than a terrorist (link above), and that she got what she deserved. I thought I'd seen it all, but this absolutely makes me ill. For all the right-wing crowing about anti-American liberals, to hear them mocking a woman who lost her life in search of a better world denies everything we stand for as a nation. All of you who consider yourselves Christians should regard this as a call to arms. We're at war, as much as I hate to say it. And the time to fight is now.

UPDATE: No dice on 'Nuclear Option' Negotiations

I'm sorry that I don't have a hard link to this, but I caught wind of it a couple of hours ago and didn't have access to a computer until now.

This morning I wrote about Harry Reid's proposed attempt at working out a compromise with the GOP (particularly Majority Leader Bill Frist) over Bush's previously-rejected judicial nominees. The word was that Reid was willing to approve two of the seven in question (I never heard an explanation as to why the figure wasn't the ten nominees who were rejected during Bush's first term), as long as a Michigan nominee was thrown out and the nuclear option was taken off the table.

Apparently Frist was first to make the announcement that there would be no deal-- all or nothing, and the nuclear option wasn't going off the table. That should be greeted as evidence that these people are the hard-liners, and not Dems. Should.

So I might have been premature in suggesting that Reid was being a weenie. Especially after he's shown himself to be such a shrewd fighter after replacing Tom Daschle. I say that with one caveat. While this might have been incredibly crafty strategy in any other political environment-- that is, putting a deal on the table that's sure to be rejected in the name of saying "A-ha! We're not the obstructionists! THEY are!"-- there's one big flaw. The press doesn't give a damn. And no matter how many Dems point out that they put forth a 'bipartisan' proposal, the GOP is still going to cry wolf, and that's what's going to be reported.

I'll follow up with a source tomorrow.

Bedtime for Syria-WMD conspiracy.

This AP story shows yet again that Iraq didn't have WMDs-- remember when Rumsfeld claimed to know of some five hundred spots where they were in production or storage? But there's more! There's also zero evidence of a clandestine project to transfer the non-existent weapons to Syria (as righties have been claiming for months). Naturally, this won't stop them from claiming that the report must be part of a liberal conspiracy...

From the AP story:

WASHINGTON (AP) - In his final word, the CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq said Monday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has "gone as far as feasible" and has found nothing, closing an investigation into the purported programs of Saddam Hussein that were used to justify the 2003 invasion.

"After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted," wrote Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, in an addendum to the final report he issued last fall.

"As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible."

In 92 pages posted online Monday evening, Duelfer provides a final look at an investigation that occupied over 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts at its peak. His latest addenda conclude a roughly 1,500-page report released last fall.

Reid visits La-La Land

Since Social Security privatization is proving to be massively unpopular, Bush has started to talk about the importance of compromise. Par for the course, right? If you can't have it all, get as much as you can and start down the road to having it all.

Now Bill Frist is ready to "compromise" on the nuclear option-- at a time when most Americans oppose interfering with the filibuster. Worse yet, Harry Reid is talking to him about it. The analysis is this simple: the Democrats still get to live under the shadow of the nuclear option every time the right-wing tries to appoint extremists to the bench, AND they get some of the current crop approved. In other words, the Dems get nothing and the Republicans get to have some already-rejected nominations sent through.

I'm going to send a letter to Reid telling him not to cooperate, and I'd suggest that others do the same. The current Republican party doesn't believe in compromise, as we've seen over and over during the last five years. Why would Reid think they've suddenly had a change of heart?

Here are some numbers on where the public stands:

There's no question about it-- Americans are against the GOP on this. It's no time to compromise.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Iraq: maybe not a smashing success

I'm still ticked about Martin Peretz' piece in The New Republic (a cover story, no less!) whining about liberal disregard for Bush's great achievements in the Middle East. As far as I'm concerned, most liberals are waiting for genuine results before heaping praise on Fearless Leader. And according to the Boston Globe, the military isn't feeling very confident in the situation these days. I'm certainly not gloating about it-- it's just another tragic sign that the Iraq war was mishandled from the start, and things show no sign of improvement. As much as I dislike this administration, I wish that-- given their resolve to invade-- they had at least done it in a way that didn't scream incompetence to even a military know-nothing like myself. Moving on, here's an excerpt:

WASHINGTON -- Insurgents in Iraq have staged increasingly sophisticated attacks in recent weeks, according to US military assessments, moving beyond roadside bombings and suicide attacks to mount large-scale assaults against US and Iraqi forces and civilians.

The greater coordination and larger scope of the attacks has prompted some commanders to reexamine their belief that the insurgency was on the wane, even though the number of daily attacks has fallen since the landmark Jan. 30 election, according to leading US military officials.

Senior military strategists, speaking privately, also said they worry that insurgents are making inroads toward sparking a full-blown sectarian war and offered cautions about recent predictions that the United States could significantly reduce its forces from the current 142,000 within a year.

But don't just take the Boston Globe's word for it-- the Christian Science Monitor offers the same analysis:

The Strange Fruit story gets even weirder

Looks like the Gannon/Guckert story is taking a turn for the sordid.

From Raw Story (see the whole piece here .) This story comes as close as anyone has to demonstrating that Guckert had a boy-toy in the White House.

"In March, 2003, Guckert left the White House twice on days he had never checked in with the Secret Service. Over the next 22 months, Guckert failed to check out with the Service on fourteen days. On several of these visits, Guckert either entered or exited by a different entry/exit point than his usual one. On one of these days, no briefing was held; on another, he checked in twice but failed to check out."

Also, help yourself to a handy (yet gruesomely kinky) refresher course on Guckert's history of prostitution from AmericaBlog (see it here ) complete with apparently false claims to be an ex-Marine.

Frist lies, media complies

Another blogger hat trick. I'm linking to Kos, since all the pertinent links are there, although the relevant parts of the story come from TPM and Eschaton. The word is that (after the NYT article I cited last week where the GOP is starting to use the term "constitutional option"-- see 'The return of Newspeak.') Republicans want the media to stop using "nuclear option," which they themselves seem to have invented. It just isn't polling well.


"I've been made privy to the internal communications of a number of national news organizations at which there are now running arguments over whether to go along with the Republican claim that 'nuclear option' is a Democratic epithet or term of abuse which should be banned except in cases where Democrats are directly quoted using it."


On November 14, 2004, there was the following exchange on Fox News:

WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about one of them, because some Republicans are talking about what they call the nuclear option, and that would be a ruling that the filibuster of executive nominees is unconstitutional, which would require not 60 or 67 votes but only a simple majority of 51.

FRIST: Yes. That's right.

WALLACE: Are you prepared to do that?

FRIST: Oh, it's clearly one of the options. I've always said it's one of the options.

What it basically -- it's called the nuclear option. It's really a constitutional option. And what that means is that the Constitution says you, as a Senate, give advice and consent, and that is a majority vote. And then you vote on that, and that takes 50 votes to pass.

On November 16 he said to NPR:

Sen. FRIST: If we continue to see obstruction where one out of three of the president's nominees to fill vacancies in the circuit court are being obstructed, then action would be taken. One of those is the nuclear option.

Just like Bush's claim to have never said 'privatization.' The media caved on that one. I predict another cave here.

UPDATE: Media Matters has tracked down the origin of the term 'nuclear option,' and it comes from Mississippi GOP senator Trent Lott. Nevertheless, various press outlets are already falling like dominoes to be first to let the Republicans rewrite this bit of history:

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Proof that Merck lied about Vioxx safety?

The NYT cites e-mails between Merck executives and scientists that show the company knew the risks of Vioxx and concealed the findings:

"In an e-mail exchange about Vioxx, the company's most important new drug at the time, a senior Merck scientist repeatedly urged the researcher to change his views about the death "so that we don't raise concerns." In later reports to the Food and Drug Administration and in a paper published in 2003, Merck listed the cause of death as "unknown" for the patient, a 73-year-old woman.

The discussion of the death is contained in several previously undisclosed Merck records, including e-mail messages from Dr. Edward M. Scolnick, Merck's top scientist from 1985 until 2002, and from Dr. Alise S. Reicin, a vice president for clinical research, that indicate Merck's concerns about data contradicting its view that Vioxx was safe.

In one e-mail message, Dr. Scolnick said the drug trial that included the woman's death had "put us in a terrible situation." In others, he fiercely criticized the F.D.A. and said he would personally pressure senior officials at the agency if it took action unfavorable to Vioxx. As lawsuits against Merck over Vioxx move toward trial, the documents could help plaintiffs paint a picture of the company that is at odds with Merck's public statements that it had no evidence of Vioxx's cardiac risks until last fall."

Proof of DeLay violating House rules?

The Washington Post claims to have proof that DeLay charged his Scotland golf trip to a credit card owned by lobbyist Jack Abramoff:

"The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.

DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.

House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay, who is now House majority leader, has said that his expenses on this trip were paid by a nonprofit organization and that the financial arrangements for it were proper. He has also said he had no way of knowing that any lobbyist might have financially supported the trip, either directly or through reimbursements to the nonprofit organization.

The documents obtained by The Washington Post, including receipts for his hotel stays in Scotland and London and billings for his golfing during the trip at the famed St. Andrews course in Scotland, substantiate for the first time that some of DeLay's expenses on the trip were billed to charge cards used by the two lobbyists. The invoice for DeLay's plane fare lists the name of what was then Abramoff's lobbying firm, Preston Gates & Ellis."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Afghanistan: Woman stoned to death.

Although the Taliban was ousted in 2001, there have been at least two instances of women being stoned to death for alleged adultery. From the BBC (once again, the bad news comes from abroad):

"The killing is said to have taken place in the Urgu district of north-eastern Badakhshan province.

A local Afghan government official confirmed the death, and said the government would investigate the case.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said the woman had been sentenced to death by a decree from the local religious scholar.

Under Afghan law, cases such as this should go through the local courts."

The return of Newspeak.

I've already written that Cheney has come out in favor of ditching the fillibuster, in spite of his previous claim of neutrality. Now I've spotted the GOP's new tactic to make this unpopular proposition sound really good to the public. It just took a while to get it through the focus groups. From that liberal rag, the New York Times.

The final paragraph:

"Current Senate rules require 60 votes to close debate on a confirmation, allowing Democrats to thwart the action by mustering 41 votes. Republicans want to lower the threshold for closing debate on all nominations to a simple majority. Democrats call this the nuclear option, while Republicans call this a constitutional option."

At least, as of yesterday they call it that.

State Department finds corruption among Iraq contractors

You probably haven't heard a whole lot about the corruption of the White House's cherry-picked contractors working in Iraq-- unless you look at international news sources, that is. Aside from the $8.8 billion that just went 'missing' from the Coalition Authority, there's plenty of other dirt being dished out by our own government. So why aren't we hearing about it from our own journalists?

From the Asia Times (full story above):

NEW YORK - The Halliburton corporation, already the Iraq war's poster child for "waste, fraud and abuse", has been hit with a new double whammy. A report from the US State Department accuses the company of "poor performance" in its US$1.2 billion contract to repair Iraq's vital southern oilfields.

And a powerful California congressman is charging that Defense Department audits showing additional overcharges totaling $212 million were concealed from United Nations monitors by the administration of President George W Bush.

The new overcharges bring to $2 billion, or 42% of the contract amounts, the grand total of questionable bills from Halliburton.

According to Representative Henry Waxman, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives sub-committee on government reform, "both the amount of Halliburton's overcharges and the extent of the information withheld from the auditors at the UN's International Advisory and Monitoring Board [IAMB] were much greater than previously known".

Waxman said the Defense Contract Audit Agency, which monitors all Pentagon contracts, had identified Halliburton overcharges and questionable costs totaling $212.3 million - double the total amount of known overcharges under Halliburton's Iraq oil contract.

In one case, Waxman said, the overcharges exceeded 47% of the total value of the task order.

But the Defense Department - at Halliburton's request - withheld the new amount from IAMB, the UN audit oversight body for the Development Fund for Iraq, Waxman charged.

The thing is, Truman and a Democratic Congress launched an investigation into war profiteering by American contractors during WWII. The GOP has no interest in saving taxpayer dollars-- just sweeping it under the rug.

Know Your Foe

The May, 2005, issue of Harper's has two articles well worth reading. They don't put any content online, but I recommend picking up and issue for these:

Inside America's Most Powerful Megachurch, by Jeff Sharlet

Feeling the Hate with the National Religious Broadcasters, by Chris Hedges

The timing is perfect in light of the fundamentalists' recent mobilization to change the face of American government.

From the former article:

"[New Life's founder Pastor Ted] moved the church to a strip mall. The was a bar, a liquor store, New Life Church, a massage parlor. His congregation spilled out and blocked the other businesses. He set up chairs in the alley. He strung up a banner: SIEGE THIS CITY FOR ME, signed JESUS. He assigned everyone in the church names from teh phone book they were to pray for. He sent teams to pray in front of the homes of supposed witches-- in one month, ten out of fifteen of his targets put their houses on the market."

Pastor Ted also boasts of speaking to Bush or an advisor every Monday. Witch hunts in the 21st century-- welcome to the United States.

Salazar socks it to Frist

Looks like the Dems are fully aware of the problems that would result from establishing a theocracy. From Colorado's Rocky Mountain News:

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ken Salazar, D-Colo., intensified his war of words with Focus on the Family on Thursday, accusing its evangelical Christian leaders of trying to turn the United States into a theocracy.

"I think that the way Focus on the Family and the conservative right wing is attempting to take the country will threaten the basic cornerstone of our freedom," Salazar said in an interview. . .

Salazar, a Democrat and lifelong Catholic, blasted the ads on Wednesday, saying Focus on the Family was "hijacking" Christianity and becoming an appendage of the Republican Party. The ministry reaches millions of evangelical Christians through the leadership of its founder, James Dobson.

"I think the kind of attack that is being used against (Democratic senators) and against me has the potential of moving our country to abandoning the freedom of worship which we enjoy in this country, and moving toward the creation of a theocracy," Salazar said.

After his first verbal barrage on Wednesday, a Focus on the Family spokesman said Salazar was aligning himself with Democratic senators who allegedly showed an anti-Catholic bias in rejecting one of the appeals court nominees, former Alabama attorney general William Pryor.

Salazar responded Thursday with a terse letter to Dobson. In it, he defended Senate colleagues of various faiths, and he called on Dobson to repudiate a Focus board member who once referred to Catholicism as "a false church."

Highly recommended reading.

BONUS: Two behind-the-scenes evangelical players, James "SpongeBob GayPants" Dobson and lesser-known head of the Family Research Council Tony Perkins, were caught explaining just how they planned to replace the judiciary with like-minded evangelicals. Please keep in mind that they've also berated lifelong Christian and Republican judges who aren't right-wing enough. Frist and DeLay were also on hand at the event.

From the LA Times:

". . .the taped discussion among evangelical leaders provides a glimpse of the road map they are drafting as they work with congressional Republicans to achieve a judiciary that sides with them on abortion, same-sex marriage and other elements of their agenda.

"There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robe off the bench," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, according to an audiotape of a March 17 session. The tape was provided to The Times by the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

DeLay has spoken generally about one of the ideas the leaders discussed in greater detail: using legislative tactics to withhold money from courts.

"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said at an April 13 question-and-answer session with reporters."

Full story here:

Cheney: Bring on the mushroom cloud!


“There is no justification for allowing the blocking of nominees who are well qualified and broadly supported,” Cheney said. “The tactics of the last few years, I believe, are inexcusable, particularly when you are dealing with men and women of the caliber of those nominated by George W. Bush. By any standard of judicial merit, they are fully qualified to serve and by any standard of fairness, they deserve a vote in the United States Senate.”

Democrats say it is Cheney who is trying to reinvent Senate history by changing the filibuster rules.

“The White House has always wanted to reduce the Senate’s power and the fact that Vice President Cheney is encouraging this abuse of power should strengthen the Senate’s resolve to resist,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

One of the previously-rejected and newly-resubmitted nominees is Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. Among the critics of this "well qualified and broadly supported" nominee? Alberto Gonzales. Read on:

As White House Counsel and spokesman for the Bush administration’s legal policy, Alberto Gonzales has, not surprisingly, defended the nomination of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen to the Fifth Circuit, claiming that she is "superbly qualified" and minimizing their differences when both served on the state supreme court. Measured by their opinions when they were both on the court, however, Gonzales’ view was very different just a few years ago.

Although they served together for a relatively short time in 1999-2000, Gonzales wrote or joined more than a dozen opinions sharply criticizing opinions written or joined by Owen on the court. In most of these cases, Gonzales, a strong conservative on the court, was part of the majority that rejected ultra-conservative Owen dissents as ignoring the plain meaning of the law or otherwise engaging in improper judicial activism to try to reach a particular result. In what could be a close vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Owen’s nomination, the decisive factor could be the concern that Owen has allowed her ideology to get in the way of her responsibilities as a judge.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Hey, Reed and Norquist-- you got a little Abramoff on you.

Two fundamentalist power-brokers, Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist, have been "served," as they say. From Roll Call:

Americans for Tax Reform, for which Norquist serves as president, is refusing to disclose its donor list to the Senate committee, said two officials with the group. Reed�s firm, Century Strategies, is complying with the subpoena. Senate investigators are seeking four years' worth of records detailing Century Strategies' business dealings with Abramoff and GOP political consultant Michael Scanlon and entities under their control, said several sources familiar with the issue.


The relationship between Abramoff, Reed and Norquist goes back to the early 1980s when all three worked together for the College Republicans.

Let that be a warning to you, young Christian soldiers. To paraphrase Mark Twain, "A lie can travel halfway 'round the world before the truth even gets its pants on, but the truth always catches up."

Powell vs. Bolton

Colin Powell, no longer on the administration payroll, is doing what he thinks is right. It's pretty refreshing.

From the WaPo story:

Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell is emerging as a behind-the-scenes player in the battle over John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, privately telling at least two key Republican lawmakers that Bolton is a smart but very problematic government official, according to Republican sources.

Powell spoke in recent days with Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.), two of three GOP senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who have raised concerns about Bolton's confirmation, the sources said.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I think I'll have the pie.

After a rash of conservatives getting hit in their mugs by yummy pies, it was a liberal's turn. Only it wasn't a pie. It was a body-tempterature stream of tobacco juice in the face of Jane Fonda, who (like her right-wing conterparts) declined to press charges.

But it doesn't end there. I posted earlier on Sean Hannity's righteous indignation at this outbreak of "assaults" at the hand of young liberals that David Horowitz referred to as "fascists."

But it didn't take long for Hannity to use his Fox News piehole (hehhehheh) to mount a subtle defense of this latest "assault." Am I naive for thinking that there will come a day when he can't fool the public anymore?

(Link to Hannity & Colmes transcript-- edited and abridged by Fox, naturally:,2933,154189,00.html)

If you act now, you can even check out a story on the media firestorm *snicker* generated by what Fox calls Ann Coulter's "controversial" photo on Time. Has anyone but Coulter said so much as a word about it?

The Potemkin Village: Fox Version

This is the sort of thing that I just don't expect to see-- Fox News sort of acknowledging that the White House's "Town Hall" meetings are totally scripted. Or maybe it's appropriate on the week that Rupert Morlock went on the air to defend Fox News against accusations of (gasp!) bias. You can see that here, by the way:

Excerpt (full article above):

“He is the president, and regardless of affiliation, everybody should have the opportunity to go and see the president,” said Aaron Johnson, spokesman for Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo. “It shouldn’t be the job of anybody to make sure the crowd is 100 percent sympathetic.”. . .

. . .A week before a Bangor, Maine, event in which fist lady Laura Bush was scheduled to campaign for her husband, the [New York Times] reported that ticket seekers were asked to fill out questionnaires, stating home and e-mail addresses, Social Security numbers and pledges of support for the president.

More recently, The Albuquerque Journal reported that people seeking tickets through New Mexico Republican Sen. Pete Domenici's office for a March 22 Social Security event were quizzed about their support of the president ahead of time.

The article still manages to stack the deck, by limiting criticisms to such radical organizations as the dreaded New York Times (the exception being the first paragraph above), and providing dismissive rebuttals by right-wing thinktanks that most readers have probably never heard of. So it boils down to he said/she said coverage without a fact in sight.

Now that I think about it, why am I even writing this?

News grim for Ford as well as GM-- and a modest proposal

The story above is from the BBC: Ford announces that its first quarter profits fell 40% this year, just a week after GM announced a loss of over a billion dollars.

Here's my pitch-- the auto lobbies continue to fight against CAFE standards that would increase fuel efficiency. They also continue to lose money in a big way. Consumers are getting angrier about fuel prices that show no sign of going down (Bush just expressed his concern this week, blaming Congress for failing to give him an energy bill).

How hard would it be for the president to announce his support for "an Apollo project for energy." Encourage automakers to move toward efficient hybrids, encourage young people to go into the sciences to respond to a national goal. Presto-- auto manufacturers could create jobs and capture market share in what is obviously the future of automotive technology, and we could set a goal in education. Oh, and here's the frosting-- we reduce our dependence on foreign oil at a time when demand in India and China is skyrocketing. Doesn't this sound like a plan that would please the right and the left politically?

Here's the slime-mold beetle in the ointment: the oil industry would be pissed. And that wouldn't fly with this administration or their funders. So we can pretty much forget it for a few years.

Rice Rattled in Russia

Rice's apologists like to point to her extensive background in Russian language, politics, etc. For an expert, she sure sounds like a dumbass. This story from Reuters is a couple of days old, but pretty amusing. Especially these gems:

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried out her rusty Russian in a Moscow radio interview Wednesday, only to get caught out by a question on whether she might run for president.

"Da (Yes)," Rice answered in Russian, before realizing her misunderstanding and hastily adding "Nyet" (No) -- seven times. . .

. . . Apparently meaning to say that she would like to do her next interview in [Russian], she chose a verb that sounded more like "to earn money" than the Russian for "to do."

"You understand it will be very difficult because I am out of practice, and in your language there are these awful cases!" she continued. "It's very difficult for us, and it is very difficult to talk without making mistakes."

Tee-hee-hee. But, really, I'm fluent.

Words to Live By

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know...I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation." - U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 11/16/95

Ew... that's awkward.

Politicizing Homeland Security. Again.

The LA Times has a story on HS's report of possible domestic terrorist groups:

A recent internal Homeland Security document lists the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front with a few Islamic groups that could potentially support al-Qaida as domestic terror threats.

The document does not address threats posed by white supremacists, violent militiamen, anti-abortion bombers and other extremists that Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., called "right-wing hate groups."

Uncaging chinchillas? You'd better watch yourself-- that's bad for business.

Bombing federal buildings? (Whistling, looking up in air innocently)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Boxer leads another charge

Wow. According to the WaPo article linked to above:

"On Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told her senior staff she was disappointed about the stream of allegations and said she did not want any information coming out of the department that could adversely affect the nomination, said officials speaking on the condition of anonymity."

Note the plural there-- 'officials.' Not just one. That doesn't make it true, but if it is, it's illegal.

Senator Boxer brought this fact to Rice's attention today.


I am sure you are aware that Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the President is to appoint Ambassadors "by and with the Advice and Consent of the senate." As such, the Senate is fully vested with the authority to investigate executive nominations to ensure that they are qualified in tenns of experience, temperament, and conduct."

Way to go, Senator.

USA Today repeats a hoary lie

And Media Matters is there!

Here's what an op-ed in today's USA Today claimed (link above):

"Democratic me-tooism can be seen in the efforts by some Democrats to seek out pro-life candidates such as Bob Casey Jr., son of the late governor of Pennsylvania, who was snubbed at the 1992 Democratic convention for his pro-life views. But atoning for bad manners by seeking out a candidate who is at odds with one of the party's defining principles is an extreme form of political self-mortification."

And here's where Media Matters lays the hurt down:

"As Media Matters for America has pointed out on numerous occasions (here, here, here, here, and here) Casey was denied speaking time in 1992 over his refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket, not his anti-abortion views. Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Sens. John Breaux (D-LA) and Howell Heflin (D-AL), and five other governors who opposed abortion rights did address the convention in 1992, as detailed in a September 16, 1996, article in The New Republic on the Casey myth. In addition, anti-abortion speakers have spoken at every Democratic convention since 1992, including Breaux in 1996 and 2000, former House Democratic Whip David Bonior (D-MI) in 1996 and 2000, and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2000 and 2004."

The author of the oped is a political science professor from Rutgers. Why would he repeat a claim debunked NINE years ago? And why didn't anyone at the paper check it out?

The Coulter non-controversy and mainstream journalism

The Daily Howler has an alarming take on the Coulter piece. Not only does it point out several of her more egregious lies (which she compounded in this week's story), but asks why real journalists-- and some of the more prominent liberal bloggers-- aren't saying anything about the piece. Very well done. Check it out.

Voinovich: this back was made for stabbin'

I can't believe I'm linking to the hackalicious National Review, but I wanted to provide yet another example of how the GOP is more than happy to destroy a fellow party member at the first hint of disobedience.

Enter John Voinovich, Ohio Senator. During the Bolton hearings yesterday, he prevented a Republican power play to force an immediate vote on the nomination. Shrewd, considering how much worse his nomination is looking these days.

Voinovich's crime? Saying that he wanted "more information" before voting on the matter.

That was enough to get him branded as a wimp, a sucker and an unreliable stooge, since any questioning of Bolton's record is nothing more than a groundless Democratic attack.

The right-wing blog Power Line chimed in, too, using words like 'slander' to describe the proceedings and 'ludicrous' to describe Voinovich's actions.

And it didn't even take 24 hours...

UPDATE: Move America Forward, the group behing pressuring theaters into refusing to screen Fahrenheit 9/11 has already put together an attack ad against Voinovich.

Jeffords will not run in '06

What a shame. Vermont's Independent Senator Jim Jeffords, citing health concerns, announced today that he won't seek re-election in next year's election. From

"Liz, as you know, is battling cancer and will soon have to undergo another round of chemotherapy," he said. "There have been questions about my health and that is a factor as well. I am feeling the aches and pains when you reach 70. My memory fails me on occasion, but Liz would probably argue this has been going on for the last 50 years."

The surprise announcement immediately triggered a political scramble and the state's sole congressman, independent Bernie Sanders, all but announced his candidacy within an hour.

For most, though, the focus was on Jeffords, whose decision to abandon the GOP in 2001 placed the Democrats in control of the U.S. Senate and made him a national hero among Democrats and a villain among Republicans.

A Question of Words

I've wrestled with the idea of using the word fscistic to discuss the current incarnation of the Republican party, as long-time readers will know. I've been uncomfortable with the idea for a long time (in true liberal fashion, I felt obliged to question myself). Finally, I decided that the hunger for power, the cronyism, the manipulation of information, the use of religion and nationalism to keep Americans frightened and angry, the increase of corporate power under the guise of populist initiatives-- it's pretty much the definition of fascism.

This morning, this very issue was discussed in the final hour of Air America's Morning Sedition. You'll be able to download the show, commercial-free, through this link:

They also talked about an article written in 1944, by FDR's vice president, Henry Wallace.


"If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. Most American fascists are enthusiastically supporting the war effort. They are doing this even in those cases where they hope to have profitable connections with German chemical firms after the war ends. They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."

This is a must-read, and a chilling piece.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Take a few minutes to write Time

I couldn't resist chiding the editors of Time for going with Ann Coulter this week-- especially in light of the Ruzicka story (although part of me feels ashamed for posting this, and thus 'politicizing' the issue). Text follows, and I'd encourage you to send your own letters to

I suspect that running Ann Coulter on the cover of your magazine this week generated plenty of buzz, controversy, and the increased sales that result.

But considering that Ms. Coulter has been a prominent public figure for years now-- as a biased 'flame-thrower,' as you acknowledge on the cover-- was she really an appropriate choice for one of America's most prominent news weeklies?

The choice itself wouldn't have been enough to prompt a letter from me if it hadn't been for the appearance last week of a story that is genuinely newsworthy: the April 16th death of Marla Ruzicka at the hands of an Iraqi suicide bomber.

Ms. Ruzicka has spent the greater part of several years in Afghanistan and Iraq fighting for the dignity and well-being of ordinary citizens of those countries who have suffered from the ugly realities of war.

According to the New York Times today, she was active in raising tens of millions of dollars to aid citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq who have been the innocent victims of military action.

Meanwhile, Ann Coulter is making catty remarks about her cover photo on your magazine being a "liberal conspiracy." (

I, for one, would rather hear about a woman who lost her life fighting for the betterment of others-- conservative OR liberal. Instead, we were treated to photos of the right-wing group "Communists for Kerry," complete with false captions.

Time may have managed to spike sales for the week, but you've done so at the expense of your reputation.

A Time cover story that would actually be newsworthy

It's a shame in more ways than one that Time felt obliged to give a reactionary dilettante face time this week. Especially when there's real news to be covered.

From the NY Times story linked to above (it goes without saying that this is a must-read):

A picture named 18amer.jpgAn American Aid Worker Is Killed in Her Line of Duty

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 17 - For more than two years, Marla Ruzicka worked to get help for innocent civilians caught in cross-fires here. A 28-year-old Californian with blond hair and an electric smile, she ran a one-woman aid group.

On Saturday afternoon, Ms. Ruzicka became a casualty herself. A suicide bomber attacked a convoy of security contractors that was passing near her car on the airport road in Baghdad, killing her and her Iraqi driver, United States Embassy officials in Baghdad said.

Ms. Ruzicka had worked in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. She took great risks, often traveling to talk to Iraqis without the guards and armored cars that reporters here tend to rely on. She also had an extraordinary gift for promoting her cause, whether in Iraq or Washington.

She worked with Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, to get $2.5 million for civilian victims in Afghanistan, and later, $10 million for victims in Iraq. Last week another $10 million was authorized for the Iraq program.

"She was the one that persuaded us," Mr. Leahy said Sunday afternoon in a telephone interview. "Here's someone who at 28 years old did more than most people do in a lifetime."

Ms. Ruzicka was deceptively girlish in person. She often arranged parties for the foreign correspondents here and in Afghanistan. She was in her element, with her distinctive giggle always audible over the music. But she used the occasions to lobby reporters to write about the things that mattered to her.

The evening before she died, she visited this reporter in Baghdad to talk about civilian casualties. She spoke with affection about a 2-year-old girl she was helping, whose parents and other relatives were killed by a missile in 2003.


What a tragedy, and what a waste of a human life. For my part, I'm not comfortable with using this to club the right (thought Lord knows they deserve it). But Ms. Ruzicka deserves to be recognized as a hero and a great American. If you see any coverage of her story, please pass it on.

Revolution is HOT, HOT, HOT!

A little comic relief for you, courtesy of a blog that I just stumbled across today. The (American edition of) the Economist, dated March 5-22, 2005, has a pretty hot cover. Link and funny-yet-creepy analysis above.


Oh, baby! I'm in luuuuuuv! Apparently Middle Eastern dissent looks a lot like a wet t-shirt contest... Maybe this is what inspired Martin Peretz to write his otherwise-laughable encomium of Bush's foreign policy. (See the article via my April 4 post Gimme that ol' time DLC religion.) One final thought-- Betty Boop!?!

Bullshit Artist Makes Good!

I'd be remiss in not calling this to people's attention, since it's garnering a lot of attention on the blogs. As everyone knows, Ann Coulter is on the cover of this week's Time magazine. I can't bring myself to read the piece, although the author claims to have had difficulty finding outright lies in any of her writings (to paraphrase Norman Mailer, "It isn't writing, it's typing").

Here's one: in her book 'Treason,' she cites a prominent New York Times columnist: "Thomas Friedman sniffed that racial profiling was not 'civilized.' He blamed twenty years of extremist Muslim attacks on, I quote, 'religious fundamentalists of any stripe.'"

Friedman's column was printed on December 26, 2001: "If everyone flew naked, not only would you never have to worry about the passenger next to you carrying box-cutters or exploding shoes, but no religious fundamentalist of any stripe would ever be caught dead flying nude."

I'd say that qualifies as a lie, and not just 'spin.' It gets worse. One of the photos in the Time article itself propagated a lie. Here ya go-- photo and caption:

Demon and Idol: Protesters blast Coulter at the G.O.P. Convention in New York City last year.

To any shrewd observer, the web address on the poster would suggest that all wasn't right-- 'Communists for Kerry'? That would be because the group consists of enthusiastic college-aged Republicans hoping for just the sort of coverage that Time gave them. Six months after the fact. And when it had become quite obvious that the group was "satirical" in nature. That didn't stop Fox News from taking them at face value either.)

Time has since renamed the caption and included a caveat:

Pro-G.O.P protesters at the Republican Convention in New York City last year

Correction: the original caption incorrectly stated that these protesters were blasting Coulter.

Jeez, can you believe the bias of that darn liberal media? The link at the top will take you to a more comrehensive take on the story, plus some ugly stories about other activities of these fun-loving college scamps.

UPDATE: Coulter has already raised a stink about the cover shot. She frames it as a liberal conspiracy to make her look bad (gasp!), but it really is sort of an unpleasant photo. Dye job, mannish features, lined face. For a middle-aged woman who trades in pouty little girl-isms, it isn't exactly right-wing j.o. material.

It plays out as another member of the committed Stacked Deck Club crying foul over a representation that isn't airbrushed perfection. Bill O'Reilly is a proud member, too, after claiming that Al Franken's publisher airbrushed his photo to make him look bad.

Salon kisses Schweitzer butt

And frankly, I don't have a problem with it. I've talked about how much I like Schweitzer myself, and I've said good things about Ed Schultz, too. Both are red-staters, sportsmen, an increasingly popular Democrats. They're also fantastic speakers who do a Truman-esque job of talking straight, talking compassionate, and being utterly unassailable as effete East coast latte swillers. And although I don't think they have the magic formula for helping Democrats back into power, they could do the very great service of returning red-staters back to the Democratic party. Although the right has done a convincing job of portraying Hollywood actor Reagan and New Hampshire rich-kid Bush as downhome guys with a hankerin' for flannel shirts, we're the party of conservation, individual rights, and the working class.

You can see the article above, and it's worth signing on for the one-day free subscription if you aren't familiar with Schweitzer.

I don't think I have any special insight, but I did grow up in the rural midwest and I've been mystified by the GOP's ability to win over my peeps-- even though they inevitably push an agenda that hurts these folks (a la "What's the Matter With Kansas?")

Bolton vote delayed

This is excellent news, and I've been waiting for it all afternoon. As with DeLay, the longer Bolton has to wait on a confirmation vote, the more ugly information comes to light. At the very least, he's a committed ideologue and isolationist with a violent streak.

And in spite of a White House effort to keep Republican senators in line, it looks like some of them are having an attack of conscience (Voinovich and Hagel, specifically). And it's past time. Is it too much to ask that we have a UN ambassador who isn't on the record as opposing the very notion of a United Nations?

From C-Span's homepage:

"The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Richard Lugar (R-IN), held a business meeting to discuss John Bolton's nomination as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In place of today's expected vote, another business meeting will convene after the April recess, to review information and hold a vote."

My prediction is that this sinks Bolton-- the far right wouldn't have been pushing so hard for an immediate vote if they were confident with their choice. This means more time to uncover his dark side, and more time for his bizarre background to become common knowledge. Or at least it will if the mainstream press doesn't just drop it immediately...

UPDATE: I mistakenly included Dick Lugar on the list of GOP senators who were having second thoughts about Bolton. Apparently he was trying to force the vote. And Rhose Island senator Chafee, after hinting that he wasn't thrilled with Bolton, caved in to the party line. 'Matt Sandwich regrets the error.'

Rove: White House backs DeLay

This is the sort of thing that we hope will come back to haunt the GOP, especially since DeLay is pretty clearly guilty of some criminal activities. On the other hand, this administration doesn't have to face re-election. Nevertheless, they could be putting the GOP in jeopardy by choosing sides on this one. From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House stands "strongly" behind Tom DeLay amid ethical questions over the House majority leader's fund- raising and overseas trips, deputy chief of staff Karl Rove said Monday.

Rove, the strategist who ran President Bush's two presidential campaigns, said DeLay, a Texas Republican, has been the target of partisan attacks by "desperate" Democrats.

"Tom DeLay is going to continue to be a strong and effective majority leader for the Republicans in the House," he said on CNN's "Inside Politics."

Is it the mid-90's all over again?

In the latest edition of Charlie Cook's "Off to the Races," it sure sounds that way. many progressives have sarcastically suggested that it would be a good thing for Tom DeLay to keep his position for a while-- considering the endless reports of corruption that have dogged the House Majority Leader recently. The more that's uncovered, the more Republican members of Congress are implicated in ethical lapses and outright corruption.

Here's a chunk of Cook's column:

. . . over the last week, Democratic leaders seem to have finally found -- or stumbled upon, depending upon one's perspective -- an effective message. The broad theme that Republican Senate and House majorities have shown a pattern of arrogance and abuse of power is one that might prove a winner for them, because a variety of charges can be used to support it with different voters and constituents likely to embrace different justifications.

For some it is the threatened change in Senate rules to end the filibustering of judges, for others, the changes in the House Ethics Committee's chairmanship, membership and rules after Majority Leader Tom DeLay's, R-Texas, admonishment last year, and for yet others it was the Terri Schiavo case, in which Congress stepped into territory previously thought of as the purview of the states and courts.

While Democrats are hardly likely to articulate this thought, there is a pattern of that arrogance of power, an abuse of the minority that Democrats were so guilty of from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, before they lost their majorities in 1994. But now the GOP is the guilty party. I've always felt that if you live in Washington long enough, you'll see just about everything happen at least once, and here it is.

If you listen to the arguments made by Democrats today, they are almost word for word the arguments made by then-Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and outraged Republicans members on a regular basis, particularly after the heavy-handed Democratic seating of Rep. Frank McCloskey after the contested Indiana 8th District election in 1984. To me, that election was Fort Sumter, the first real shot in Congress' own not-so-civil war. And if you listen just as closely to the defensive arguments of Republicans today, you will hear the case made by the majority Democrats then: "We are in the majority. We have the responsibility to govern. The minority just wants to yell and scream and throw rocks."

Thanks to The Rampaging COW for sending this to me.

Documentary on the state of journalism

The link above will take you to a site where you can watch John Kane Pappas' documentary "Orwell Spins in His Grave" online for free. Running time is about 100 minutes. It's also downloadable.

It features interviews with some eminently respectable journalists, and focuses on the consolidation of media control in the country, its potential impact on journalism, and the ramifications for the American public.

Recommended viewing, and thanks to GE (who brings bad things to light) for bringing it to my attention.

Meet the new Pope

The verdict is in, and those who have been predicting a more conservative top dog had it right. Cardinal Ratzinger has chosen the name Benedict XVI, and here's what the BBC has to say about him:

"While many theologians strive for a Catholic Church that is more open and in touch with the world around it, Ratzinger's mission is to stamp out dissent, and curb the "wild excesses" of this more tolerant era.

He wields the tools of his office with steely efficiency. By influencing diocese budgets, bishops' transfers and even excommunications, what an opponent calls "symbolic violence", Ratzinger has clamped down on the more radical contingent of the Church.

He has even claimed the prime position of the Church of Rome over other Christian Churches. Although he has apologised for this, he has never been so contrite about excluding liberation theologians, more progressive priests or those in favour of the ordination of women."

I think it's safe to say that American fundamentalists will resume their Catholic-bashing very soon. And nothing personal, but this picture makes him look kinda like Gollum after Botox. Nice hairline, though.

Monday, April 18, 2005

MoveOn airs Hoyer attack ad

This is odd and disappointing news. House Minority Whip Stenny Hoyer of Rhode Island voted for the bankruptcy bill, and the MoveOn PAC has mounted an attack on him and several Republicans who supported the bill. I think the ads are a bad idea for several reasons.

1. It gives the right ammo for the nest Hoyer election.

2. It allows the right to continue to portray MoveOn as a bunch of far-left radicals, and the Democratic party as divided and angry.

3. Considering that Hoyer's vote really didn't matter-- the bill was going to pass anyway-- they should use contributions to fight weak GOP candidates, and not attack Democrats.

This bothers me for the same reason that The New Republic's forays into 'New Democrat' mentality bother me. The problem the left faces is an increasingly authoritarian and corrupt GOP-- not 100% party unity. Rome is burning, and there isn't much point in singling out a fireman for not carrying a full bucket of water. We all need to be working to extinguish the flames.

Republican Culture of Death, Take Two

From New Scientist magazine comes an account of fundamentalist opposition to life-saving vaccines. Since medicine promotes immoral behavior. From the article:

DEATHS from cervical cancer could jump fourfold to a million a year by 2050, mainly in developing countries. This could be prevented by soon-to-be-approved vaccines against the virus that causes most cases of cervical cancer - but there are signs that opposition to the vaccines might lead to many preventable deaths.

The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.

In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.

The All-Spin Zone

In the same week when John Bolton is being accused of bullying underlings into producing intelligence that he wanted to hear-- as opposed to, say, the truth, the White House has decided to pull the plug on another group that isn't telling them what they want to hear. From Knight-Ridder:

WASHINGTON - The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Several U.S. officials defended the abrupt decision, saying the methodology the National Counterterrorism Center used to generate statistics for the report may have been faulty, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.

Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

Frist's anti-judiciary appearance bothers some colleagues

From Raw Story:

In his profile of Frist, which appears in the April 25 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 18), Fineman reports that even some Bible-belt Republicans were troubled by Frist’s planned involvement in a nationally televised prayer service to be held at a megachurch in Louisville next Sunday. (The service focuses on the need to ease the Senate filibuster debate rule so that the Republican majority can confirm Bush’s most controversial judicial nominations. Frist’s role: a four-minute videotape stressing a secular argument-that presidents deserve “up or down” votes on all picks.) The sponsoring Family Research Council’s flame-throwing message-- filibusters are anti-Christian-- predictably infuriated Democrats. And Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Newsweek, “Questioning a senator’s motives in that way is a very dangerous precedent. That goes to a level where the Senate has never gone before. It is a very unhealthy turn of events.”

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The poop on Bolton

I haven't linked to Flak Magazine in a while, which is sad. This piece remedies the situation, and brings to attention not only some quotes we've all heard from Bolton, but some info that might be new to many from his confirmation hearings.

BIDEN: You said that the peace enforcement operations and nation building should, quote, "be relegated to history's junk pile at the first opportunity," end of quote, because they result in, as you said, quote, "American personnel and resources being committed to UN operations far removed from America's vital interests," end of quote, even though they wouldn't be there unless we — if we didn't want them there, we could veto the effort.

It gets worse. Recommended reading. There's still time to lean on Republican senators like Chafee and Hagel, who appear to be toying with the idea that doing the right thing for America might be wise.

UPDATE: The WaPo has even more disturbing revelations about Bolton.

John R. Bolton -- who is seeking confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations -- often blocked then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and, on one occasion, his successor, Condoleezza Rice, from receiving information vital to U.S. strategies on Iran, according to current and former officials who have worked with Bolton.

In some cases, career officials found back channels to Powell or his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, who encouraged assistant secretaries to bring information directly to him. In other cases, the information was delayed for weeks or simply did not get through. The officials, who would discuss the incidents only on the condition of anonymity because some continue to deal with Bolton on other issues, cited a dozen examples of memos or information that Bolton refused to forward during his four years as undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

George Will opposes SocSec privatization

Swiped straight from Crooks and Liars (sorry, guys). If you have a fast connection, this is well worth a watch. It'll make you feel all warm inside.

George Will makes the case against private accounts for Social Security

George thought he was defending the economy while discussing the recent huge drop in the stock market. Sam Donaldson used Will's own graph to point out the problem with taking money out of Social Security and investing in the stock market.



Wills' comeback is prompt, but embarrassingly weak.

The Free Market WORKS for Afghanistan!

The BBC reported this tragic tale from Khabul, and it serves to remind us how valuable an ownership society can be. As in $120,000 a year, dude! That's like 12 bucks per dead child!

Afghanistan's internationally renowned charity for street children, Aschiana, survived the Afghan wars of the 1990s and the Taleban era.

However, the free market economics of Kabul's post-war boom now seem a more potent enemy than rockets and bombs.

Aschiana, which means "the nest" and provides support, food, education and a refuge to 10,000 street children, faces the closure of its main centre in Kabul.

It is the victim of rocketing rents and land prices rather than artillery.

The charity's compound on Char Rahi Malik Asghar, which it has occupied since 1997, has been sold by its owner to an international company.

A five-star hotel will be built on the site.

In other news from Afghanistan comes this story about how well we've managed to make the country safe and peaceful:

"A bomb planted by suspected insurgents has destroyed five oil tankers outside an American military base in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan."


Christians support right to life... errr, death.

If only these stories were more surprising. A 14-year old in Canada is being treated for cancer. But the family, Jehovah's Witnesses, insist that their right to deny treatment be respected.

More evidence that the religious right isn't about the right to live or the right to die. It's about institutionalizing their brand of religion. From Crooks and Liars (original story above):

"Only a society that had gone truly rights-mad would declare that a 14-year-old Jehovah's Witness being treated for cancer should be able to refuse a potentially life-saving blood transfusion as an act of conscience. No 14-year-old in Canada should be permitted to die for her religious beliefs -- or the beliefs of her parents, which may amount to the same thing."

In Canada, a judge of the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that doctors should be allowed to treat the girl according to medical necessity. Obviously, 14 year-olds lack the maturity to make the best decisions on how to protect themselves from serious harm or death. They can be easily pressured and manipulated by misinformed adults. One can only wonder how the Schiavo wingnut cavalry would respond to a similar case. Would the faithful members of the "culture of life" support this kind of judicial intervention? We doubt it. But we also doubt they would be foolish enough to mount the kind of insane demonstration we've recently witnessed to protest the judge's ruling. That would truly expose them as the fanatics they are.

Hastert caught up in Abramoff's problems

Full story above, with lots of info on Abramoff's GOP connections. Recommended reading.

A long delay in paying for a fund-raiser at an eatery owned by scandal-plagued Jack Abramoff could prove embarrassing to a GOP Mr. Clean

Signatures restaurant, the expense-account haven owned by super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has hosted at least 60 GOP fund-raisers since it opened on Washington's Pennsylvania Ave. NW in early 2002. But the June 3, 2003, lunchtime gathering was special: The guest of honor was House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), and the event was a relatively intimate gathering dominated by lobbyists from Greenberg Traurig, the law and lobbying firm where Abramoff then worked.

The problem? Nobody paid for the lunch -- or reported it in disclosure documents as an in-kind contribution -- as federal election law requires, BusinessWeek Online has learned. The tab -- which Hastert's office would not disclose -- was paid only this month, around the time that BusinessWeek Online began to investigate fund-raisers for Republican politicos held at Signatures. Hastert's office says his staffers uncovered the oversight.

Capitol Hill Republicans are sweating over fallout from their relationships with Abramoff. The lobbyist is under investigation by two Senate committees and a criminal task force involving the Justice Dept. and the IRS for allegedly defrauding his clients -- Indian tribes flush with casino cash -- out of millions of dollars.

DeLay continues assault on judges

Disturbing stuff. And I'm glad that Salon provides a link to Falwell's program to train Christian judges. In other words, activist judges. DeLay is right on one thing-- separation of church and state isn't in the Constitution. It's in the First Amendment. What a dick. I saw a Christian speaker more than a decade ago at my high school (it's OK, it was a Catholic school) who used the same argument. This attempt to mislead the public by giving half the story is nothing new.

". . .DeLay's ambitions are farther-reaching than hog-tying the Democrats on spending. He suggested that Congress, having been out to lunch for the last century or so, really needs to step up now, especially to rein in those pesky courts. "I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them."

"We're having to change a whole culture in this -- a culture created by law schools," he went on. "People really believe that these are nine gods, and that all wisdom is vested in them." (Was he talking about the Rev. Jerry Falwell's new program for aspiring attorneys?)"

Homeland Security? Anyone?

Full story above.

WASHINGTON (AP) - Security at U.S. airports is no better under federal control than it was before the Sept. 11 attacks, a key House member says two government reports will conclude. The Government Accountability Office - the investigative arm of Congress - and the Homeland Security Department's inspector general are expected to soon release their findings on the performance of Transportation Security Administration screeners.

"A lot of people will be shocked at the billions of dollars we've spent and the results they're going to see, which confirm previous examinations of the Soviet-style screening system we've put in place," Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told The Associated Press on Friday.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Science Saturday

At the risk of sounding terribly preachy, I thought I'd share some thoughts on how the current administration-- and their fundamentalist bedmates-- are dealing with science on a variety of issues.

We're all familiar with evolution vs. creationsim. I've written about this before. Rather than argue a point that is pretty much universally accepted by scientists, and opposed only by a small percentage of reactionary preachers and a fervent minority of Christians, I thought I'd direct anyone interested to the book "Summer for the Gods," a Pulitzer prize-winning account of the Scopes "Monkey Trial." It's of interest not only for the origin of the debate between science and religion, but for the way in which the issue was demagogued by both sides. Also, it provides an illuminating window into the origin of the conflict in America a la "framing the debate"-- especially peculiar considering fundamentalist William Jennings Bryant was also a staunch advocate of labor rights and militantly opposed to a corporate state. In short, he was a committed New Testament Christian. He defended his faith, and he defended the common man. Hopefully those are the individuals we can count on in the struggle against theocratically-minded Christians. I suspect that the issue has become such a touchstone for American fundamentalists because of its inherent "Us vs. Them" mentality. Eggheads are mounting an assault on religion, etc. What it boils down to is that evolution is based upon more than a century of scientific observation of the world around us-- and a small number of Christians oppose that concept. The simple fact is that science and religion aren't at odds. They don't even have anything to do with one another-- it comes down to observation vs. faith. Two entirely different concepts.

Global warming is an issue that's received strange coverage over the last decade or so. The concensus among scientists is so overwhelmingly in support of the contention that human activity has affected global climate that I honestly don't feel compelled to provide links. Maybe we'll get lucky and the far right will start to denounce science as a 'liberal conspiracy,' since a persecuted minority of GOP-funded hacks are willing to go on the record denouncing the observations of 95% of the scientific community.

Stem cell research could be the wedgiest of wedge issues. In spite of the fact that these are unfertilized eggs that will otherwise be-- literally-- thrown in the trash, the "pro-life" crowd howls about the sanctity of life, although they believe it to begin at conception. Although I can't back this up with a hard source, I read in The New Republic about five years ago that some 35% (if memory serves) of fertilized eggs spontaneously abort within a few weeks of conception. Call it 'murder by chance' if you like. The fact remains that the religious right is working feverishly against scientific research that could save lives using cells that don't fight within their own definition of sentience or life.

Bush has had an on-again, off-again affair with the idea of a manned mission to Mars. Mostly off, since every time he mentions it, the public is largely opposed to the idea. That might be due to common sense concerns, rather than a carefully considered look at the actual science involved in such a mission, but people certainly have the right idea. It would cost tens, if not hundreds, of billions at a time when we are already slashing programs designed to help Americans live day-to-day. And the scientific concensus, again, is that there's no point in undertaking the endeavor at this point. Consider this fact alone: we currently have two robotic rovers on the surface of Mars that have functioned well beyond their expected lifespan. They are collecting and relaying scientific data on a regular basis and have done so for well over a year, returning images with a much higher resolution than that of the human eye.. A human expedition couldn't improve upon this state of affairs, and would involve a much higher financial cost, in addition to risking human lives.

An issue that is beginning to concern not just conservationists, but hawkish Republicans, is America's continuing dependence on oil. Which I hear costs a lot these days. In spite of the fact that oil is an unsustainable resource, and that its further consumption involves continued complicity with totalitarian regimes in the Middle East, one would expect that the administration would promote an agenda that works toward weaning America away from increased consumption of oil. Nevertheless, the tax credit for American citizens who buy fuel-efficient hybrid cars is expiring, while the credit for those who purchase Humvees will continue. The legislative branch continually rejects any increase in fuel efficiency standards, thanks to intense lobbying efforts by the automotive industry. Naturally, if an auto manufacturer produced a car that was fuel efficient, they'd stand to make a killing, just like Honda and Toyota, which were the first companies to produce hybrid vehicles.

On this last issue, I have to admit that I was inspired by a phrase that Al Franken used. He called for "an Appolo project on renewable fuels." Elegant, simple, and cheap. It encourages young Americans to pursue the sciences, its goal benefits the well-being of the planet, and it has the romantic, pioneering sound of a truly worthy mission. Which, of course, it is.

I haven't provided a single link in this story. In a sense, that's because the scientific and economic data is so overwhelmingly obvious that I consider it irrelevant. And that's the first time I've made such an assertion on this site. Also, as I look back over the post, it's the preachiest entry on the blog to date. I apologize for that. At some point in the near future, I'll make an effort to investigate each of these issues more thoroughly, and provide documentation.

Instruments of Darkness

Some disturbing posts are up at Kos dealing with the mobilization of fundamentalists. Senator Bill Frist is leading the troops, and the scope of his crusade is becoming more and more clear. Starting with the "The Battle of Schiavo," it's been a non-stop assault on judges-- even conservative Christians appointed by Republican presidents-- and more inexplicable claims that the only acceptable America is one dominated by a single branch of a single religion. We've seen the attacks on science and choice simmering for decades, but for the first time Christian fundamentalists feel confident enough in their political power to actually make a move on a national level. I hate to say "I never thought it could happen here," but we're staring it in the face.

From the NYT editorial:

Senator Frist is to appear on a telecast sponsored by the Family Research Council, which styles itself a religious organization but is really just another Washington lobbying concern. The message is that the Democrats who oppose a tiny handful of President Bush's judicial nominations are conducting an assault "against people of faith." By that, Senator Frist and his allies do not mean people of all faiths, only those of their faith.

It is one thing when private groups foment this kind of intolerance. It is another thing entirely when it's done by the highest-ranking member of the United States Senate, who swore on the Bible to uphold a Constitution that forbids the imposition of religious views on Americans.

Read the editorial, then skip over to Kos for the posts on Frist's Cleansing War over the last day.

(Nice how they use ' filibuster' as a four-letter word here-- surely a coincidence that it comes at the time of the so-called nuclear option. And they don't point out that it was GOP stalwart and Southern Baptist Strom Thurmond who "abused" the filibuster to block civil rights.)