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


Thursday, June 30, 2005

The perfect excuse....?

Here's a disturbing story that's sure to cause consternation to those who are convinced that the administration is just looking for an excuse to launch another invasion*. Condi did a little tough-talking aimed at the Iranians during her most recent tour, and suddenly this gem pops up:

A quarter-century after they were taken captive in Iran, five former American hostages say they got an unexpected reminder of their 444-day ordeal in the bearded face of Iran's new president-elect.

Watching coverage of Iran's presidential election on television dredged up 25-year-old memories that prompted four of the former hostages to exchange e-mails.

And those four realized they shared the same conclusion -- the firm belief that President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had been one of their Iranian captors.

"This is the guy. There's no question about it," said former hostage Chuck Scott, a retired Army colonel who lives in Jonesboro, Georgia.

"You could make him a blond and shave his whiskers, put him in a zoot suit and I'd still spot him."

Scott and former hostages David Roeder, William J. Daugherty and Don A. Sharer told The Associated Press on Wednesday they have no doubt Ahmadinejad, 49, was one of the hostage-takers.

Gee, I haven't heard this much conviction since the run-up to Iraq. There are doubters, though. Recommended reading-- this could be the beginning of something big.

Thanks to OD1 for staying on top of things while I'm sending off zany e-mails to Stephanie Miller. He's the man.

* I admit to being a little worried, but given the way things are going in Iraq, the administration would have to be absolutely bat-shit crazy to try and launch another ground war in the Middle East at this point. And although they might be evil ideologues, they're not just flat-out insane. Uhhhhh..... right?
UPDATE: Hey, conspiracy hedz! I can't believe that I'd already forgotten about the Iranian claims that Bush's flippant remarks about their elections had helped to install a hard-line Islamic regime. That should really give you the willies when you consider this piece of news. For my part, call me a fool, but I still don't think that even this administration is capable of so brilliant an evil scheme. Check out Americablog for another look at how Bush might have influenced the elections in favor of the forces of religious fundamentalism (all right, so it wouldn't be the first time....)

Politicizing baseball

This is probably the first and last time you'll see me linking to an article from the Sports section of any paper, but it's another telling sign of just how reactionary the Republican party has become-- they don't even want liberals to have a stake in a sports team.

If lawmakers start banning people from owning ballclubs just because of their politics or because they have a few woo-woo ideas, there are going to be a lot of shuttered ballparks. Anybody who tries to say that MLB owners should meet a certain standard of political correctness will get knocked back on their butts every time by two simple words: Marge Schott.

It was all right for Schott, the racist collector of Nazi memorabilia, to own a baseball team for years, but it's not for Soros, the billion-dollar philanthropist and Nobel Prize nominee?

That's exactly what some Republicans on Capitol Hill are suggesting, led by Tom Davis, the Republican from Virginia who is trying to steer the sale of the Nationals and who says Soros is just not the kind of person "we need or want in the nation's capital." . . .

You can't help wondering what's behind the outrageous attack on Soros, who isn't even a major partner in the bid for the Nats. (Local entrepreneur Jon Ledecky is the real bidder.) Isn't it strange that rival bidder Fred Malek, the head of the Washington Baseball club, just happens to be a very big GOP fundraiser? And isn't it strange that, in a telephone interview, Davis went out of his way to praise Malek's bid? And isn't it strange that these attacks on Soros from Republicans came on the very day that Ledecky and his partners were being interviewed by MLB?

Davis doesn't bother to hide his agenda. He says straight out that baseball needs to cultivate some good will on Capitol Hill at the moment, given the steroid investigations, and that selling the team to billionaire Soros, a critic of President Bush and a massive financial supporter of liberal causes, would anger him.

Stunning. Highly recommended-- especially for the picture of Tom Davis, who looks like a parody of the doughy, white, corrupt, undead businessman.

How to doctor facts like a moron... errr, pro.

OD1 pointed me in the direction of this excellent WaPo article. You'd think that if the 20th century taught us anything, it's the veracity of Mark Twain's assertion that a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth even gets its pants on-- but the truth always catches up. The Soviet Union, the PRC, the US in Vietnam, the Third Reich, Imperial Japan.... in every case, a long history of lies and propaganda finally fell apart to expose high-level corruption and amorality.

So why can't the Bush administration learn to try the truth for once instead of repeating the same old errors?

For Bush, Bartlett emphasized, the public rhetoric matches the private conviction that his strategy will succeed. But it also leaves Bush in the difficult position of balancing confidence and credibility. The more optimism Bush expresses, the more criticism he draws from Congress and commentators that he is not facing the reality of a tenacious insurgency that, according to U.S. military commanders, remains as potent today as six months ago.

I always like to see pieces that can help me look into the minds of those who actually support these bozos. Highly recommended.

And speaking of doctoring the facts....

The NY Times reports that the Army is finally meeting its recruitment goals:

For the first time since January, the Army met its monthly recruiting goal in June, but still faces what some senior Army officials say is a nearly insurmountable shortfall to meet the service's annual quota.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, told a town-hall meeting at the Pentagon today that the Army had exceeded its June quota, but gave no details. Senior Army officials said in interviews earlier in the day that the Army had exceeded the goal of 5,650 recruits by about 500 people. The Army Reserve also made its first monthly quota since last December, the official said.

Yayyy! Oh, wait. They've been lowering their goals for several months now...

Although the Army will not release its numbers until Friday, it fell about 25 percent short of its target of signing up 6,700 recruits in May, officials said Wednesday. The gap would have been even wider but for the fact that the target was lowered by 1,350. . . .

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the Army's chief of personnel, said in an interview that despite the recent setbacks the Army remains cautiously optimistic that it will make up the lost ground this summer — traditionally the most fruitful period of the year for recruiters — and reach the full-year goal of 80,000 enlistees.

"One number matters: 80,000," Hilferty said. "The Army's fiscal 2005 goal was, is and remains 80,000 recruits."

Others, speaking privately, said the official optimism is sagging rapidly. They note that with only four months left in the budget year, the Army is at barely 50 percent of its goal. Recruiters would have to land more than 9,760 young men and women a month, on average, to reach the 80,000 target by the end of September.


Admin still doctoring the facts to look better

According to the White House, dynamic U2 frontman Bono is a huge fan. According to Bono, they're completely wrong.

The State Department: Bono, lead singer of the Irish band U2 and longtime activist for aid to Africa, echoed Geldof’s praise for President Bush as he told an American television interviewer June 26, “[Bush] has already doubled and tripled aid to Africa.

Bono: The most important and toughest nut is still President Bush. He feels he’s already doubled and tripled aid to Africa, which he started from far too low a place. He can stand there and say he paid at the office already. He shouldn’t because he’ll be left out of the history books. But it’s hard for him because of the expense of the war and the debts.

Is something not seriously, seriously wrong when an administration feels it necessary to cook up wildly inaccurate quotes by pop stars?

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The troubling Ten Commandments ruling

The link is to an excellent online-only article in The New Republic. In dissecting the recent opinions of (specifically) Rehnquist and Scalia, the author demonstrates that indeed, the fundamentalist goal is to gradually nibble away at the wall of church-state separation. And although they go out of their way to sound 'inclusive,' their language betrays them-- they want America to be a Protestant Christian nation, consequences be damned.

Return of the Gilded Age

I've been referring to this administration as being a throwback to the days of the robber baron for years now. Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff are pretty good examples, with their backroom deals in the Marianas islands-- forced laborers in sweat shops creating goods that say 'Made in America.' Then there's Cheney and Halliburton's war profiteering.

Now comes another attempt by the administration to put quick profits ahead of human rights. It's all too familiar.

The Labor Department worked for more than a year to maintain secrecy for studies that were critical of working conditions in Central America, the region the Bush administration wants in a new trade pact.

The contractor hired by the department in 2002 to conduct the studies has become a major opponent of the administration's proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

The government-paid studies concluded that countries proposed for free-trade status have poor working environments and fail to protect workers' rights. The department dismissed the conclusions as inaccurate and biased, according to government and contractor documents reviewed by The Associated Press. . . .

In a summary of its findings, the organization wrote, "In practice, labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent."

The conclusions contrast with the administration's arguments that Central American countries have made enough progress on such issues to warrant the free-trade deal.

Just another case of the White House claiming that up is down to get more money for rich cronies.

US Helicopter "probably shot down" in Afghanistan

Awful timing for Bush, troubling news from Afghanistan. While Fearless Leader was trying to convince an increasingly skeptical public of the importance of invading Iraq, it looks like the job we should have been doing all along in Afghanistan isn't going very well, either.

While there have been stories about the Taliban and various warlords regaining control of parts of Iraq, and their newly-flourishing drug trade (heroin, specifically), we haven't heard many stories of violence against our soldiers. This is bad, bad news.

A US helicopter which crashed in Afghanistan with 17 service members on board was probably shot down, the military said, in what is believed to be the first such incident since the fall of the Taliban.

Rescuers were struggling to reach the Chinook, which came down during an anti-Al-Qaeda mission in the mountainous eastern province of Kunar Tuesday, but the fate of those travelling in the chopper was not known, officials said Wednesday.

The fundamentalist Taliban militia, ousted by a US-led invasion in late 2001 for harbouring Osama bin Laden, claimed responsibility for downing the giant troop-transporting helicopter west of the city of Asadabad.

"Initial reports indicate the crash may have been caused by hostile fire. The status of the service members is unknown at this time," a US military statement said Wednesday.

The numbers on Bush's speech

From Gallup, which acknowledges that while an unusually high percentage of viewers were self-identified Republicans, the response to the speech was unusually low.

The audience was apparently rather small and composed largely of Bush supporters -- 50% of those who tuned in were Republicans, a much higher proportion than exists in the general population but similar to what Gallup has found in polling following other Bush speeches.

Overall, the sample of 323 speech watchers rated Bush's speech in positive terms -- with 46% describing their reaction as "very positive" and an additional 28% "somewhat positive." That is well below average when compared with other major speeches Bush has given, which have averaged a 60% very positive rating in similar flash polls. That includes a 67% very positive rating for the famous "Mission Accomplished" speech he gave aboard an aircraft carrier in May 2003, in which he declared the major fighting phase of the Iraq war to be over.

Unfortunately, they don't offer a breakdown of the numbers by party affiliation. Obviously a significant number of Repubs were unimpressed.

UPDATE: Crooks and Liars points out a tidbit that they say comes from Keith Olbermann-- Only 23 million saw [Bush's speech], down from 34.7 million for his Social Security speech. That's fewer than one in ten Americans, and since the polling data skewed Republican, it suggests that much of th audience was movement conservatives. And it was still a worse outcome than his usual pep rallies. Further evidence that his only supporters these days are the gullible and the brainwashed. Hopefully the right-wing pundits will keep shouting about what a fantastic speech it was, and provide even more evidence that they're nothing more than bootlicking sycophants. That isn't a traditional American value, as I see it.

Comedy, anyone?

Some snappy one-liners and zingers from Letterman's monologue last night:

Tonight President Bush gave an address on the War in Iraq. To my surprise I found out the war is going quite well.

President Bush talked about the good things going on, the Iraqi elections, Homeland Security, and the capture of Russell Crowe.

The war is dragging on, the economy is down, and gas prices are up – and then President Bush left for his two month vacation.

Starting tomorrow to improve his popularity President Bush is going to jump up and down on Oprah’s couch.


Slow news day, with most blogs talking about the speech last night. Predictably, Fox News loved it, as did right-wing bloggers. They applaud him for sticking to his talking points and ignoring criticism.

What bothers the rest of us is that, as this editorial puts it:

Bush didn't explain how a war meant to remove a tyrant believed to wield weapons of mass destruction turned into a fight against Muslim militants, a transformation caused in part by his administration's many errors since Saddam Hussein's defeat more than two years ago. The president also didn't speak candidly enough about the primary mission the United States now has in Iraq, which is not "hunting down the terrorists" but constructing a stable government in spite of Iraq's sectarian divisions and violent resistance from the former ruling elite. It's harder to explain why Americans should die in such a complex and ambitious enterprise than in a fight with international terrorists. . .

The truly mystifying part is that one by one, every reason we were given to invade Iraq has been shown to be a lie and quickly replaced by a new reason. And neither the administration nor their cheerleaders on Fox News feels the least bit compelled to own up to it.

For my money, this the low point:

Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong signal to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve.

So, the soldiers are happier knowing that their government has no plans whatsoever for sending them back to their families. Somehow I doubt that.

Of the more shocking moments was this:

Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job. Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are in fact working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave. As we determine the right force level, our troops can know that I will continue to be guided by the advice that matters: the sober judgment of our military leaders.

Remember, Bush fired the general who suggested that the initial troop estimates were far too low. And there's the stop-loss policy, retired soldiers being recalled, multiple and extended tours, etc. Just a couple of days before this speech, General Abizaid stated that the insurgency is as strong today as it was a year ago.

War? Hell, yes! Service? Uhhh.... (Part 2)

In another striking example of why the GOP should never, ever be allowed to control the military:

By the time I encountered Cory Bray, a towering senior from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, the beer was flowing freely. "The people opposed to the war aren't putting their asses on the line," Bray boomed from beside the bar. Then why isn't he putting his ass on the line? "I'm not putting my ass on the line because I had the opportunity to go to the number-one business school in the country," he declared, his voice rising in defensive anger, "and I wasn't going to pass that up."

And besides, being a College Republican is so much more fun than counterinsurgency warfare. Bray recounted the pride he and his buddies had felt walking through the center of campus last fall waving a giant American flag, wearing cowboy boots and hats with the letters B-U-S-H painted on their bare chests. "We're the big guys," he said. "We're the ones who stand up for what we believe in. The College Democrats just sit around talking about how much they hate Bush. We actually do shit."

So this is the GOP's core constituency now-- patriotism means dressing like a Texas football fan and sending other people off to die in my place. Because, you know, I'm better than you are.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

By the numbers (not the official results)

This is just the first look at how Fearless Leader's speech stacks up against my predictions. Don't worry, you'll all get your money.

References to “September 11″: 5

References to “weapons of mass destruction”: 0

References to “freedom”: 21

References to “exit strategy”: 0

References to “Saddam Hussein”: 2

References to “Osama Bin Laden”: 2

References to “a mistake”: 1 (setting a timetable for withdrawal)

References to “mission”: 11

References to “mission accomplished”: 0

Near as I can figure, you all owe me a thousand dollars. If the number of simpering laughs winds up being less than twelve, consider your money refunded....

Oh, and it's looking as though those who were lucky enough to put their money on 'liberty' are the big winners. Unlike those poor dopes who didn't anticipate massive repitition of the word 'freedom.' (Twenty-one references?!? I'm rich!) Allow me to wait until the official word count rolls in until I start sending out the 'liberty checks.'

DeLay due for a fall?

DeLay has his hooks so deep in the Republican party that no-one wants to tangle with him. And who could blame them? He's given and received so much dirty money you'd be hard-pressed to find a prominent Republican who wouldn't go down with him. Even though workers at one of his PACs have been caught laundering illegal corporate donations and funneling them elsewhere, DeLay is still having parties thrown in his honor by the party.

In the past 10 years, DeLay, who declined to comment for this article, has given $3.47 million directly to House candidates through his political action and campaign committees, more than any other lawmaker.

Three of every four Republicans in the House have received donations from him. And he went to Texas to help negotiate a reorganization of the state's congressional districts that allowed the Republicans to pick up five seats last November, allowing the party to record a net gain of three seats nationwide in the 2004 elections.

Republicans have a 232-202 advantage over the Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The high point of the article is actually part of the headline, which states that DeLay "holds power by funneling cash." You just don't see that sort of honesty in the press these days.

Thanks yet again to OD1 for passing this gem along. As he points out, if the corporate powers that be decide that DeLay is a real hot potato, they'll drop him without a second thought.

Lest we forget....

Uber-Christian Ralph Reed, long identified with fundamentalism and political dirty tricks, once referred to gambling as "a cancer on the American body politic."

I'm not sure if that was before or after he set up a scam with lobbyist/swindler Jack Abramoff that netted them millions of dollars from tribal casinos, but you can read all about it at the site above, courtesy of OhioDem1. Thanks again.

By May 10, records indicate, Reed's company had been paid $1.3 million for work that Abramoff's firm billed to the Choctaw.

Reed's work for the Choctaw continued into 2003, when Alabama lawmakers again considering allowing video poker machines at dog-racing tracks, records show. In March that year, Abramoff and Reed discussed the difficulty in getting the tribe to pay additional bills.

"I have a call in . . . to get some $ on this," Abramoff wrote to Reed. "They are really hurting for money right now, though. The economy is dead there. . . . This really sucks."

"Let me know," Reed responded. Then he changed the subject.

"Give me some dates on Jordan/Wizards," he wrote, referring to plans to attend one of basketball great Michael Jordan's final games with the Washington NBA team.

I find the ease with which they're discussing an extortion racket particularly disturbing.

Wake-up call for John McCain

Way back when, the Senator from Arizona managed to dazzle Democrats with his air of authenticity. Things were going well for him in the 2000 primaries. Then Team Bush opened up its bag of dirty tricks and administered a world-class backstabbing in North Carolina, and that was that for McCain. Democrats still had some hope during the first years of the Bush administration-- McCain seemed to stand his ground as other would-be moderates received friendly calls from the White House and swiftly reversed their stances.

Then McCain started campaigning for Bush. He started appearing at those pitiful Social Security pep rallies. He started to fall in line with the White House. Democrats were disappointed. But prominent Republicans must be thrilled, right? Wellll.......

Grover Norquist, referred to three moderate GOP senators as "the two girls from Maine and the nut-job from Arizona."

I'd say he's pretty much out of allies, and this doesn't bode well for his chances in 2008.

Sneak preview: Bush's Iraq speech

I'm pulling out my crystal ball now... Eenie, meanie, chili-beanie... the spirits are about to speak!

I'm beginning to see something...

....Hard work... progress....

...freedom and liberty....9/11....

...important mission.... Ignore the man behind the curtain!...

....Hard work.... liberty....

... mission.... progress....9/11....

...committment... hard work...

(Repeat 5x)

The Rude Pundit shares my opinion, but states it a little more boldly. Egad!

Oil prices hit all time high. New Humvee model unveiled.

Saudi Arabia prices it, America keeps drinkin' it down. Too bad we still have to wait a few years for an administration that might actually give a damn. This is just the sort of issue that Democrats should be using to hammer the GOP-- red state xenophobes would eat it up

Oil prices rose a dollar to a new record near $61 Monday, driven by the resilience of world energy demand in the face of high fuel costs and worries about oil policy under Iran's new hardline president.

Economic resilience has encouraged speculators to test consumers' ability to absorb higher costs, with only a significant pull-back in demand from an economic slowdown seen likely to tame prices.

"The only cure for high prices is in fact high prices," said Nauman Barakat at brokers Refco in New York. "If you look at demand globally, high prices have had very little negative impact."

To be fair, the new "H3" (wow, even the name could kick yer ass) is smaller than its predecessors.

Franken on Franken

The Guardian has a fun story that looks at Air America vis a vis Al Franken's show. Some good zingers are in there, and it's actually got more raw data on the Air America ratings game than anything I've seen stateside.

I suppose the bad news is that Rush Limbaugh has about 20 million listeners (amazing, isn't it?) while Air America garners about 3 million. The good news is that while the agit/prop maestro has been at it for about fourteen years, Air America has only been at it 14 months.

Tonight the former Saturday Night Live star steps on to the stage at the city's China Club to become the first recipient of the prestigious New York International Radio Festival's World Achievement Award for Breakthrough Radio, which is "only periodically given to one radio on-air talent who has made a great political or cultural impact in his country and/or throughout the world".

"Rightwing radio still does dominate," concedes Franken, "but before Air America it was a monolith." The Right, he patiently explains, cornered the market in talk radio in the late 1980s when the Fairness Doctrine, which ensured that radio stations had to be balanced, was revoked. His nemesis, top-rated talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who claims up to 20 million listeners, launched his station and spawned a generation of copy-cats. Rightwing talk flourished, while there was no real equivalent on the Left.

At least they've got super-bright whites...

After three years and and all those tasty no-bid contracts in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, etc., Halliburton (in which Cheney still holds millions in stock options) is finally being looked at with a critical eye. Stories have poured out of Iraq about billions of dollars in cash simply vanishing under the control of various government and business officials with no accountability. For an administration that can't even equip our troops with the equipment and vehicles they need, they certainly haven't demonstrated any concern about taxpayer dollars lost to war profiteering.

Internal Pentagon audits have flagged about $1.4 billion in expenses submitted by Halliburton Co. for services the firm is providing in Iraq, charges that include $45 cases of soda, $100-per-bag laundry service, and several months preparing at least 10,000 daily meals for a US military base that the troops did not need and ultimately went to waste, according to a report released yesterday by congressional Democrats.

The Defense Contract Audit Agency, which reviews Pentagon contracting, identified $1.03 billion in Halliburton invoices that it questioned as excessive, and an additional $442 million in expenses the company reported that the agency deemed to be insufficiently documented, according to the report.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Sales of 'Newspeak' declining-- White House covers ears, shouts "Lalalalala!""

Dickhead Cheney goes to an interview and claims that the Iraqi insurgency is "in its last throes."

A daring member of the White House press corps asks White House Asspony Scott McClellan if that's the official line. He performed his official duty as admirably as ever by failing to say anything that could be mistaken for an actual answer.

But a new WaPo poll shows that obfuscation and lies aren't even working their magic on the true believers, this time:

As with virtually every facet of the Iraq issue, deep partisan divisions were reflected in views of the current state of the insurgency. More than a third of all Republicans -- 35 percent -- said the insurgents were growing weaker in Iraq, compared to 13 percent of all Democrats and 19 percent of all political independents.

As Daily Kos points out, this doesn't reflect a partisan divide at all. In fact, it's a hell of a lot closer to a concensus than pretty much any aspect of this administration. If it were deeply partisan, you'd expect to see 20% of Dems saying yes, and 20% of Republicans saying no. Not both sides coming within fifteen percent of each other. The real piece of news here is that more than 50% of all Americans have stopped believing this administration's hype.

I swear, John Allen Paulos' book A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper should be required reading for any journalist who gets within five feet of a statistic....

The really sad part about this is that the White House's response to this will be the same as always-- keep lying, just increase the volume. Just goes to show you, you might just fool some of the people some of the time, but you can fool 35% of Republicans all of the time. Just keep a Bible and flag handy... (Go ahead, watch tomorrow's speech on Iraq-- precipitated by no particular event but plummeting aprroval ratings. Make up your own "canned talking point" drinking game.)

New, from the makers of Iran-Contra...

It's more of the same! Ahhh, yes. Who would've guessed that the tough-talking geezers who brought you negotiations with terrorists-- then lied about it-- are giving you another great big helping? Well, me, for one. How these guys keep managing to fool Americans into thinking they're the tough guys is beyond me. They're cowardly, thieving pussies.

From the Times of London, via Salon:

We know that the United States never negotiates with terrorists. Just after 9/11, we heard the president say that you're either "with us" or "with the terrorists," and that the United States won't make a distinction between terrorist groups and those who harbor them. Just the other day, we heard Karl Rove deride liberals for wanting to offer "therapy and understanding" to those who had attacked America.

We get it, or at least we thought we did until we read
this report in the Sunday Times: U.S. military officials have been sitting down to tea with members of the insurgency in the hopes of "negotiating an eventual breakthrough that might reduce the violence in Iraq." . . .

What we find so confusing -- and, we'll admit, a little amusing -- is the Bush administration's efforts to explain it all away. On NBC's "Meet the Press" Sunday, Tim Russert asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld whether the news of the secret meetings means that the United States is now negotiating with terrorists. "No, no," Rumsfeld said. "Look, look, you've got a situation in Iraq where you've got terrorists over here, you've got Sunni insurgents here, the Ba'athist types, and then you've got people who haven't decided what they're going to do, and then you have people supporting the government. Then you have the government. And the goal is to get people to all move towards the support of the government. And it isn't a matter of negotiating with terrorists. There's no one negotiating with Zarqawi or the people that are out chopping people's heads off."

See the GOP. See the GOP spin. Spin, GOP, spin.

Disturbing stuff. On CNN Friday, Dickhead Cheney decided to launch another salvo at Democrats for their continued effort to publicly speak the truth. Last week it was his jabs at Dean-- which gave Faux News the endlessly quoted line of the week. That flap was over Dean saying the GOP is largely a "white, Christian party," which outraged the 83% of the GOP that identify themselves as white Christians.

This time Cheney blithely lies about Senator Chuck Hagel, who had criticized the administration's handling of Iraq (as we all know, everything's just peachy there). How? By falsley tying Iraq to Afghanistan, and claiming-- incorrectly-- that "since 9/11, we've had people like Chuck Hagel and other politicians and we've had people in the press corps and commentators who've said we can't do Afghanistan."

Patently and demonstrably false. But eminently quotable, so you can expect to hear plenty of rightie pundits repeating Cheney's line. After all, they're just quoting what the guy said...

Gallows Humor Mondays

It's funny, but in that tragic way that we're getting so used to in the 21st century. Thanks to Nancy Nurse for sending this my way.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

GOP chair of ethics committee under ethics investigation

Looks like Tom DeLay's efforts to stack the House Ethics Committee with his loyal cronies might backfire. It's kept him from facing a serious investigation to date, but brought even more Republican corruption into the spotlight.

Rep. Doc Hastings, already under fire as chairman of the stalled House ethics committee, accepted a $7,800 trip to England in 2000 from a company he championed for a multibillion-dollar contract at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, records released by an advocacy group yesterday show.

In addition, other records released yesterday by a political Web site show that Hastings, a Republican from Pasco, did not file a required travel report for a 2004 trip to a resort on Stuart Island, B.C. That was paid for by another company also working at Hanford.

Hastings has been under fire for not scheduling hearings on ethics allegations against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

"This raises problems for Hastings as chairman of the ethics committee because one of the main issues he will face — if the committee ever gets its act together — will be privately paid congressional travel," said Larry Noble, director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a campaign-contribution watchdog group.

"If Hastings has the same problems as DeLay, there's a perception of a conflict of interest," Noble said. "He may say that everybody does it, but in his role as ethics chairman, he isn't everybody."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Young Republicans: War? Hell, yes! Service? Uhhhh....

Hooray for Knight-Ridder. While most of the media cowers, they decide to point out the obvious-- young Republicans are happy neo-fascists who promote war while claiming to be too important to fight. View the article, read the quotes. That is, I'm sorry to say, exactly what it comes down to. In the not-so-proud tradition of Viet Nam, the wealthy elite is more than happy to start a war, as long as it's the worthless poor and minorities who do the dying. They win on both fronts-- patriotic, and out of harm's way.

"Frankly, I want to be a politician. I'd like to survive to see that," said Vivian Lee, 17, a war supporter visiting the convention from Los Angeles,

Lee said she supports the war but would volunteer only if the United States faced a dire troop shortage or "if there's another Sept. 11."

"As long as there's a steady stream of volunteers, I don't see why I necessarily should volunteer," said Lee, who has a cousin deployed in the Middle East.

In an election season overwhelmed by memories of the Vietnam War, the U.S. military's newest war ranks supreme among the worries confronting much of Generation Y'ers. Iraq is their war.

"If there was a need presented, I would go," said Chris Cusmano, a 21-year-old member of the College Republicans organization from Rocky Point, N.Y. But he said he hasn't really considered volunteering.

At age 16, Chase Carpenter has.

"It's always in the back of my mind - to enlist," Carpenter, a self-described moderate Republican visiting Manhattan this week from Santa Monica, Calif., said Wednesday on the convention floor. He said he's torn over whether he'd join the military if he were 18.

Others said they could contribute on the home front.

"I physically probably couldn't do a whole lot" in Iraq, said Tiffanee Hokel, 18, of Webster City, Iowa, who called the war a moral imperative. She knows people posted in Iraq, but she didn't flinch when asked why she wouldn't go.

"I think I could do more here," Hokel said, adding that she's focusing on political action that supports the war and the troops.

"We don't have to be there physically to fight it," she said.

Similarly, 20-year-old Jeff Shafer, a University of Pennsylvania student, said vital work needs to be done in the United States. There are Republican policies to maintain and protect and an economy to sustain, Shafer said.

Then there's Paula Villescaz, a 15-year-old from Carmichael, Calif. who supports Bush and was all ears Wednesday afternoon at the GOP's Youth Convention in Madison Square Garden. She doesn't support the war, but she supports the troops and thinks the United States "needs to stay the course" now that it's immersed.

If Iraq is still a U.S. issue when she's 18, Villescaz added, she'll give serious thought to volunteering.

"I'm in college right now, but who knows?" said Matthew Vail, a 25-year-old from Huntsville, Ala., who works with Students for Bush. He said he might consider enlisting after he finishes his degree at the University of North Carolina, but not until then.

Any takers? Any? I'm not crazy about fiery rhetoric (my friend GE sometimes accuses me of being too much of a fence-sitter), but this is just a little too indicative of the new face of the Republican party-- selfishness, elitism, and arrogance define them. And the GOP establishment is spending tens of millions to promote this way of life. There's no other word for it than evil. As much as I hate to say it, this reminds me of all too many of my lifelong Republican friends. In spite of their angry insistence on living in a moral country, they're largely (okay, exclusively, but I'm still in denial even though I know some seriously high-level Republicans) in favor of war, but convinced that they're too important to be a simple grunt. It's the logic of arrogance-- my country needs me as a leader, I'm too good to fight.

If you've seen actual photos of the dead in Iraq-- and you haven't, although I could show you some that would break your heart-- or any war for that matter, you'd know that it's to be avoided in all but the most demanding circumstances (e.g., World War II, which was unquestionably a global struggle of good vs. evil). Yet these teenagers are perfectly comfortable with sending strangers off to die for a war they support while they attend comfy conferences funded by fat, old, white businessmen and ersatz 'Christians.' Because they consider themselves as part of America's ruling class. It's a disgrace. And as a man who's never served in the armed forces, I might not be entitled to speak on behalf of the military, but I don't mind saying this-- I would never send another man to die on behalf of a cause that I believed to be worth dying for.

The obvious point, which the reporter didn't throw in the smug faces of these little bastards, is that recruitment has been below targets-- and even below newly-lowered targets-- in the armed forces. So howsabout some of these little masterminds sign up? Here's my bold prediction of the week: strapping on the family-purchased body armor could interfere with a potentially lucrative career as a right-wing mouthpiece (with one exception, all of my lifelong Republican friends have becomes lawyers).

White House 'puzzled.' Sky still blue.

It isn't surprising that Fearless Leader claims to find it 'puzzling' that people are angry at top advisor Karl Rove for accusing Democrats of supporting terrorists. He's also puzzled by firewater, the thunderstick, and how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

And in what's turning out to be a banner day for linking to rightie crackpots, I'm citing Faux News. But strictly for their willingness to play rent boy for the neo-fascists. Keep in mind

A White House official said Friday the administration finds it "somewhat puzzling" that Democrats are demanding presidential adviser Karl Rove's apology or resignation for implying that liberals are soft on terrorism.

"I think Karl was very specific, very accurate, in who he was pointing out," communications director Dan Bartlett said. "It's touched a chord with these Democrats. I'm not sure why."

Congressional Republicans earlier joined the White House in standing solidly behind Rove, saying he shouldn't apologize and that he was outlining a philosophical divide between a president who sought to win the war on terrorism by taking the fight to the enemy and Democrats who questioned that approach.

Keep in mind that as I pointed out earlier, no less a right-wing kook than Rick "Spreading" Santorum has backed away from Rove's remarks.

Republicanism is a dead herring in the moonlight... shines, but it stinks. The latest move is not for getting corporate money out of politics, but introducing more of it. Guess which party benefits more from big business donations? Aren't conservatives supposed to favor a smaller connection between business and government?

From The Hill:

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is scheduled to vote today on a controversial new rule that would allow trade associations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to deduct political contributions automatically from the executives and employees of member corporations.

A draft of the final rule issued this week by the FEC’s office of general counsel is opposed by organized labor and Democratic-appointed commissioners in the agency.

The draft allows trade associations to collect money from corporate members through automatic payroll deductions, a power that one trade-association head estimated would enable associations to boost fundraising by as much as 30 percent. The executives of corporate members of trade associations would have to give permission to deduct from employees’ paychecks automatically, and employees would have to sign up for the programs for money to be withheld from their paychecks.

But it would nevertheless greatly facilitate fundraising for trade associations by requiring them to make their fundraising pitch only once. Under current rules, trade associations must solicit member companies’ employees every time they attempt to collect funds.

Thanks to our man in Ohio, OhioDem1, for pointing this out. The guy (if it is a guy) is practically a co-author, and I'm grateful.

YOU'RE the one who's crazy!

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not comfortable with psychoanalysis as science. Counseling? Fantastic. Assertions that what you're thinking isn't what you're really thinking? Dubious. Freud, after all, is history (except in literary theory). An academic I admire said to me a few years ago that "the only time Freudian analysis is applicable is when an author was writing under the influence of Freud." But I'm getting off track.

Let me start again: Scientology and Tom Cruise are really, really creepy and unquestionably silly. And forgive me for linking to Drudge. And talking about Hollywood. At least people are finally admitting that fascination with celebrity is a useless pursuit.

TOM CRUISE: Matt. Matt, Matt, you don't even-- you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay. That's what I've done.

It may be the case that Ritalin is overprescribed and a crutch for lazy parents and underfunded schools. But it's definitely the case that Tom Cruise is an imbecile. And one who should know-- as a grown-up with a brain-- that Scientology-approved statements don't qualify as scientific studies. Dumbass.

Beating gays for Jesus?

Admitted, the title of this post is inflammatory. But it caught your eye, no?

I first saw the blog in question several weeks ago, but without verification, I didn't want to post it. I may not be a journalist, but I try to stick to the factual. After all, I'd just be giving liberalism a bad name if I pushed sensationalism and phony stories. But thanks to this blog, I can move forward.

The state of Tennessee has begun an investigation in response to allegations of child abuse at Love in Action, a Memphis facility that advertises homosexual conversion therapy for adolescents, according to the state department of health.

K. Daniele Edwards, a spokesperson for Child Services at the Tennessee Department of Health, confirmed an investigation is underway but declined to comment on the details. She noted that she presumes the Love in Action program would require licensing by the state. . . .

"It is our spiritual conviction that sexual behavior outside of heterosexual marriage is considered wrong in the sight of God," said John Smid, the program's director, who describes himself as "ex-gay," according to a partial transcript of the news conference.

"This program is operated on the will of the guardian or parent. We will work with the minor children as long as they are not overtly distracting to their own program or the program of others," Smid added. "If it is shown that the client is overtly treatment resistant, we will work with the parent towards alternative options for their care and overall relational health."

Blogger E.J. Friedman said that he had been corresponding with Zach via e-mail since March and became alarmed when he saw that Zach had begun to write that his world was coming to an end and that his parents were isolating him.

"When I saw Zach had written in his blog, 'all I can think of is killing my mother and killing myself' I felt that clearly something needed to be said about the program," Friedman said.

Christianity doesn't have to be this way. And according to the New Testament, is isn't supposed to be this way. The scary thing is that these headcases feel like they should be proud of this sort of thing in 21st century America.

With Ashcroft gone, common sense prevails.

Everyone knows about John Ashcroft's hopelessly silly insistence on covering up a statue's breast with a curtain that cost some $14,000 of taxpayers' money. But who would've guessed that after he left, the curtain would be quietly retired? Me, for one. My favorite quip on the issue was from (I think) Air America, which went something like "Thank you, John Ashcroft, for protecting us from something that didn't even offend our grandparents."

You know, if would-be Oliver Cromwell (and that's something of an affront to Cromwell) John Ashcroft actually represented the "real" America, wouldn't the curtain still be there? Did someone finally realize that being afraid of a sculpture that depicts the human body is incredibly retarded? Whatever the case, John Ashcroft can go hang out with a replica of David, for all I care. The justice statues are pretty classy as far as I'm concerned.

With barely a word about it, workers at the Justice Department Friday removed the blue drapes that have famously covered two scantily clad statues for the past 3 1/2 years.

Spirit of Justice, with her one breast exposed and her arms raised, and the bare-chested male Majesty of Law basked in the late afternoon light of Justice's ceremonial Great Hall.

The drapes, installed in 2002 at a cost of $8,000, allowed then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to speak in the Great Hall without fear of a breast showing up behind him in television or newspaper pictures. They also provoked jokes about and criticism of the deeply religious Ashcroft.

The 12-foot, 6-inch aluminum statues were installed shortly after the building opened in the 1930s.

And now for something completely different-- zombies!

I love horror movies. Not brain-dead slasher movies, but horror movies with brains and a heart. I'll avoid the cheap joke in that sentence. Although Japan has taught us a couple of lessons lately, the horror film is largely an American original, and an underappreciated contribution to world cinema.

One of the most prominent horror filmmakers of the last fifty years is George Romero. In 1968, he helmed the project 'Night of the Living Dead,' (originally titled Night of the Flesh-Eaters) which has become, in spite of its shoestring budget and grainy black and white cinematography, a revered classic. Not only for its genuine scares and claustrophobic atmosphere, but for its trenchant social commentary on race and class in 1960's America. This is also true of his sequels, which create an original, if bleak, American mythology.

Romero claims to this day that they cast a black American in the lead role for one simple reason: he was the best actor in their pool. And that's what makes him such an admirable American. Romero has always been committed to his hometown of Pittsburgh, and put the welfare of his community ahead of profit or fame. He has always insisted on this, at the cost of working within the Hollywood system and making heaps of money. Even when it meant that he couldn't make movies-- the brilliant Dawn of the Dead was made in 1978, and Day of the Dead in 1985.

The shame of it all is that forty years on, he's still noteworthy for casting black men in lead roles. It's sad that this is the aspect of Romero's work that attracts the most attention-- the simple fact of casting minorities as strong characters is still seen as groundbreaking.

His latest-- and probably last-- zombie epic (Romero is 65) opened this weekend, to largely positive reviews. It will be the first time I've seen one of his films in the theater, and I just wanted to bring it to your attention. In the twenty years since the last installment the country has changed a lot, and Romero has continued to combine horror with social commentary. Many reviewers have made note of Land of the Dead's overt statements on post 9/11 America, the new class struggle in America, and of course, race issues.

If your stomach can take the gore, give it a look-- cast your vote as a consumer for an American original.

Friday, June 24, 2005

How to title this post? Hmmmmm.......

This week, Rick "Spreading" Santorum (who's just dying to be elected to the presidency) was embarrassed-- or at least e-embarrassed-- by reversing his public position on the Bolton nomination within minutes of having a little White House talking-to.

Nevertheless, the avatar of Republican eagerness to retain power-- integrity be damned-- felt compelled to take a stand against Rove's proclamation that Democrat= terrorist.

This coming from the guy who boasted about spending an evening forcing his children to kiss a corpse (can't find a link, but it's straight from the gentleman's mouth, folks). It doesn't bode well for the right.

According to the post, Texan phony-baloney Kaye Bailey Hutchinson (who is rep0rtedly not running for re-election) has no problem agreeing with Rove that democratic and patriotic is an inherent paradox. That officially makes her a bitch and a half. (I was going to use the C-word, but you don't need my help to come to that conclusion-- just check out one of her carefully-orchestrated and shamelessly opportunistic appearances before the public.)

Class and family values

It's no secret that evangelical Republicans are staunchly anti-pornography (although they don't seem to mind prostitution). But with increasing numbers of pornographers joining the GOP's ranks, whaddya do!?!

More hilarity from the Daily Show via Crooks and Liars. If you can manage the 16-meg download, it's entirely worth it. Hysterical.

Porn "star" and newly-minted Republican Mary Carey interviewed by Stephen Colbert


Action Alert: Turn up the heat on Rove

It's genuinely surprised me that so much press has been generated over Karl Rove's pitiful and propagandistic comments that Democrats support terrorism. Coming on the heels of the feigned Republican "outrage" over Senator Dick Durbin's perfectly reasonable comments on Gitmo, it's just one more example of the GOP's commitment to power and money-- even when it comes to slandering millions of patriotic Americans.

The link above is to a petition started by John Kerry that calls for the firing(!) of Rove. It just takes a second to sign up, and we've won one battle this week with the restoration of funding to CPB.

One small step toward saving public broadcasting

It's only a battle and not the war, but the GOP has (for now) backed down on its threat to take away the funding for the CPB. As Bill Moyers put it, real journalism terrifies the Republicans, because the truth would destroy them. It also goes to show you that writing letters, making calls, and even signing petitions makes a difference. After all, the primary concern of righties is staying in power-- that even trumps their devotion to money and influence.

Big Bird and National Public Radio won a reprieve Thursday as the House restored $100 million that had been proposed as a budget cut for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The 284-140 vote demonstrated the enduring political strength of public broadcasting, whose supporters rallied behind popular programs such as "Sesame Street," "Postcards From Buster" and "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

The Public Broadcasting Service undertook a high-profile campaign to rescind the proposed cut. Lawmakers were flooded with letters and phone calls.

Rove reminds Dems to stop attacking their own

But will they learn the lesson? Unlikely. Once again, we see that while Republicans feign outrage as a way of life, they won't hesitate to slander tens of millions of Americans to score a few points. From Salon, a nice roundup of Karl Rove and the GOP's latest machinations:

As you ruminate today over Karl Rove's slanderous comments in New York -- that liberals wanted to respond to 9/11 with "therapy and understanding," that the true "motives of liberals" is to put U.S. troops at risk -- you might want to remember this. Rove isn't just a political consultant anymore. He's a highly paid federal employee.

Rove collects $157,000 a year as a senior advisor to the president. That would be $157,000 of "your money," as George W. Bush would surely put it in any other context.

And if you're not happy that $157,000 a year of "your money" is going to a man that just slandered a broad swath of the American public, well, you're not alone. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, who not long ago found himself apologizing to Rove for calling Bush "a loser," has just turned the tables and called on Rove to apologize for or resign over his remarks. Here's Reid's statement:

"I am deeply disturbed and disappointed that the Bush White House would continue to use the national tragedy of September 11th to try and divide the country. The lesson our country learned on that terrible morning is that we are strongest when we unite together, that America’s power is in its common spirit of democracy and freedom.

"Karl Rove should immediately and fully apologize for his remarks or he should resign. The lesson of September 11th is not different for conservatives, liberals or moderates. It is equally shared and was repeatedly demonstrated in the weeks and months following this tragedy as Americans of all backgrounds and their elected representatives rallied behind the victims and their families, united in our common determination to bring to justice those responsible for these terrible attacks.

"It is time to stop using September 11th as a political wedge issue. Dividing our country for political gain is an insult to all Americans and to the common memory we all carry with us from that day. When it comes to standing up to terrorists, there are no Republicans or Democrats, only Americans. The Administration should be focused on uniting Americans behind our troops and providing them a strategy for success in the war on terror and the conflict in Iraq. I hope the president will join me in repudiating these remarks and urge Mr. Rove to take appropriate action to right this terrible wrong."

The response from the White House so far? Press Secretary Scott McClellan says that Rove was just "talking about the different philosophies and our different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism."

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Cindy Sheehan on Hardball

Mrs. Sheehan, who has been so eloquent in her opposition to the war, is able to avoid being accused of many of the right-wing talking points on the war (e.g., liberals hate the troops, want us to fail, etc.) because her son died tragically in Iraq. Crooks and Liars has this video clip of her appearance on Hardball-- which has a guest host, thankfully. Also appearing is a woman whose son was wounded in Iraq. She represents the sheep who think that supporting the government no matter what wrongs they commit is the proper course of action.

Video-WMP Video-QT (4.5 megs)

I couldn't be happier that she is the spokeperson of anti-war Americans. Sounds like a remarkable family.

Cindy Sheehan is one of the founding members of Gold Star Families for Peace-- follow the link above to visit the site.

UPDATE: I sent an e-mail to Cindy Sheehan, and she responded personally within half an hour. She's the real deal, and I'd encourage everyone out there to make a donation to her site. She's receiving national attention, and doing an outstanding job of stating the case against war in Iraq in the manner of an expert debater. She's eloquent, softspoken, incisive, and immune to the typical right-wing, talking head bullet points that paint anti-war activists as cowardly traitors. And she deserves the full support of the liberal blog community. Do your part. Give ten dollars toward her efforts. She's making opposition to the war and the duplicity of this administration the focus of her life, and as she wrote to me, "If everyone did a little something like you everyday..people like me would not have to do a lot of something." Do your part. Keep contributing, keep writing letters. Stay active.

Press growing a spine?

It's nice to see reporters finally showing the guts to question the administration when they're being openly lied to. Why, this is the second time in a week! And it only took five years!

This exchange is straight out of Catch 22. Or a 1984 parody.

Q Scott, how concerned is the administration about the potential for Iraq to become a sort of training ground for Islamic extremists who may go back to their home countries and use these techniques to destabilize their governments? There's a new report on that recently.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me mention a couple things. As the President has said for some time now, Iraq is a central front in the war on terrorism. Wherever you stood before the decision to go into Iraq, I think we can all recognize that the terrorists have made it a central front in the war on terrorism.


Q Just following up on that question, you said at the outset of that, the terrorists have made it a central front in the war on terrorism. I thought it was a central front in the war on terrorism before we invaded.

MR. McCLELLAN: It is. It's part of the war on terrorism, yes.

Q It was.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it is.

Q It is now --


Q Was it prior to --

MR. McCLELLAN: Both. It's part of the war on terrorism, David.

GOP definitely NOT still politicizing 9/11

This is truly outrageous. The GOP has been flogging this issue for almost twenty years in a demagogic attempt to get flag-waving Archie Bunkers fired up in the name of eroding the right of free speech. But the crusade to ratify a flag-burning amendment hit a new low this week when everyone's favorite corrupt California Rep., Randy "Duke" Cunningham decided to rob a few graves:

Ask the men and women who stood on top of the Trade Center," said Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif. "Ask them and they will tell you: pass this amendment."

Critics accused the amendment's supporters of exploiting the attacks to trample the right to free speech.

"If the flag needs protection at all, it needs protection from members of Congress who value the symbol more than the freedoms that the flag represents." said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., whose district includes the site of the former World Trade Center.

Another billion for Halliburton

It's a good thing that Cheney is just receiving a couple hundred thousand a year from Halliburton at this point, instead of actually working for them. Otherwise there might be suspicions of conflict of interest...

Halliburton Co. won a contract potentially worth more than $1 billion to support U.S. troops in the Balkans and other areas in Europe.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers contract was awarded to Halliburton subsidiary KBR despite ongoing allegations of overbilling by the unit, the largest U.S. contractor in Iraq. Halliburton has consistently denied wrongdoing.

Halliburton is guaranteed a minimum of $5 million for the first year and an additional $1 million for each of the four optional years under the contract, which replaces the Balkans Support Contract awarded to Halliburton in May 1999, the Army Corps said in a release. The U.S. may spend up to $1.25 billion for the company's services in the five-year period.

Iraq is the new black for terrorists

You know how we funded the mujahadin in the 80's, under Reagan? After the Soviets left, we had trained and equipped terrorists with a fanatical hatred of America. Including Osama bin Laden. Well, thanks to this administration's incompetence, we're creating a new generation-- trained and equipped.

A classified report from the U.S. spy agency says Iraqi and foreign fighters are developing a broad range of deadly skills, from car bombings and assassinations to tightly coordinated conventional attacks on police and military targets, the official said.

Once the insurgency ends, Islamic militants are likely to disperse as highly organized battle-hardened combatants capable of operating throughout the Arab-speaking world and in other regions including Europe.

My friend GE, who brings bad things to light, suggests that the administration would be perfectly happy with another terrorist attack-- keeps people's minds off the economy, GOP corruption, the growing gap between rich and poor, erosion of civil rights, etc.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption, Part VI

Unbelievable. Under W, the business of exchanging corporate cash for political favors has doubled. This story is shocking, disturbing, and an absolute must-read.

The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent. Only a few other businesses have enjoyed greater prosperity in an otherwise fitful economy. . . .

In the 1990s, lobbying was largely reactive. Corporations had to fend off proposals that would have restricted them or cost them money. But with pro-business officials running the executive and legislative branches, companies are also hiring well-placed lobbyists to go on the offensive and find ways to profit from the many tax breaks, loosened regulations and other government goodies that increasingly are available. . . .

The Republicans in charge aren't just pro-business, they are also pro-government. Federal outlays increased nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2004, to $2.29 trillion. And despite the budget deficit, federal spending is set to increase again this year, especially in programs that are prime lobbying targets such as defense, homeland security and medical coverage.

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption, Part V

From a White House transcript. Republican parents and children aren't about to enlist because they think they're America's nobility.

Q Is the President concerned about the recruitment being down in his home country, he can't get -- you know, some day you may give a war and no one will come? And, also, the second part of the question, is there any member of the Bush clan who is in the military service now, that you know of?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'd have to go check; that's a pretty large clan, as you --

Q Would you do that?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- as you referred to. In terms of -- and certainly there are members of the family that have served and served very admirably in the Armed Forces.

Q I'm not talking about the past, I'm talking about now.

MR. McCLELLAN: And in terms of your question on recruitment and the recruiting efforts, I think the Department of Defense has briefed on that recently and they've talked about their efforts to address some of the concerns that you bring up. I would refer you --

Q I asked if the President was concerned.

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, it's something he talks to his military leaders about, and they keep him apprised of their efforts.

Q Is the President concerned?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q Is the President concerned?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, it's something he's kept apprised about, but I think you ought to look at the Department of Defense, and the way they have characterized it is the way I would....characterize it. They briefed on it recently, and they talked about their efforts to do a better job of recruiting people to volunteer for the military forces.

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption, Part IV

This appeared on Keith Olbermann's MSNBC show last night. The number of leaked British documents that prove Bush lied to the nation to pursue his vendetta now stands at EIGHT.

U.S. scrambling to establish a link between Iraq and al Qaeda is so far frankly unconvincing. . . . For Iraq, 'regime change' does not stack up. It sounds like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.

- March 22, 2002

From a memo from British Foreign Office Political Director Jack Ricketts to British Foreign Minister Jack Straw

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption, Part III

From the Toledo Blade. No commentary necessary.

The national media scrutinized every detail of the high-stakes political battle, as President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry crisscrossed Ohio, energizing their bases and reaching out to swing voters in the Buckeye state, which ultimately decided the race by fewer than 120,000 votes.

At the same time - beneath the surface and out of public view - allegations were swirling that Tom Noe had laundered contributions into President Bush's campaign, and facts were emerging that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation had lost $215 million meant for injured workers in a Bermuda hedge-fund.

Now, more than six months later, those bombshells have created the biggest state government scandal in decades in Ohio. Democrats are charging that Republican leaders suppressed the potentially explosive information until all the votes were counted to save the President's re-election campaign.

The Blade has learned that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Ohio knew of the campaign-finance allegations against Mr. Noe about three weeks before the November, 2004, election, giving it little time to do a thorough investigation.

Mr. Noe, a Toledo-area coin dealer, was chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in northwest Ohio.

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption, Part II

From AP. No commentary necessary.

A casino-rich tribe wrote checks for at least $55,000 to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political groups, but the donations were never publicly disclosed and the tribe was directed to divert the money to other groups that helped Republicans, tribal documents show.

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, told the Coushatta Indian tribe, a client, to cancel its checks to the DeLay groups in 2001 and 2002 and route the money to more obscure groups that helped Republicans on Medicare prescription drug legislation and Christian voter outreach.

DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority and Americans for a Republican Majority never reported receiving any checks from the Louisiana tribe to federal or state regulators, their reports show. The donations, however, are recorded in memos and ledgers kept by the tribe.

"Enclosed please find a check for $10,000 to the Texans for a Republican Majority. This check needs to be reissued to America 21," Abramoff wrote the Coushattas in a May 2002 letter obtained by The Associated Press.

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption

From Raw Story. No commentary necessary:

A contract awarded to a Halliburton subsidiary in June 2000 while Vice President Dick Cheney was still at the helm of the firm spawned the detention centers at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Raw Story has discovered.

The contract, which allocated funds for “emergency construction capabilities” at “worldwide locations,” authorized the Defense Department to award Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root any number of specific naval construction deals abroad.

Pegged at an “estimated maximum” of $75 million in 2000, the deal mushroomed to $136 million by 2004. Some $58 million was dedicated to detention centers at Guantanamo Bay alone, with another $30 million in a second contract.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Trouble for the Dukester

Things aren't looking any better for Rep. Randy Cunningham. You'll remember that he's being investigated for accepting hundreds of thousands in assets by a contractor in his district-- then securing millions in government contracts for the nice man. Looks like the nice contractor is also responsible for contributing tens of thousands to Republican congresspeople-- and coercing his employees into doing the same.

The guy can't hold a candle to Noe, the 'Pioneer' who raised hundreds of thousands for Bush/Cheney, then found himself the recipient of some $50 million in Ohio state investment funds. Which then disappeared.

You can say this about GOP operatives-- they make a huge return on their investments.

UPDATE: (From today's LA Times) Would you hand $40 million to one of the few people who was able to lose money — big money — in the recent Southern California real estate market?

You did. MZM Inc. received that much in U.S. defense contracts in 2003, the same year that the company's president and chief executive bought a house in the San Diego area for $1,675,000. The seller was Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego), a member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense who has supported MZM's bid for contracts.

Also unclear is why Cunningham is living on Wade's yacht docked on the Potomac River and whether he is paying market-rate rent, as he claims. Even if he is, this smacks of the kind of coziness that makes taxpayers shudder.

The FBI is reportedly investigating the house sale. Good thing, because there is no longer a functional House Ethics Committee to look into such matters. Republicans, vexed by reprimands of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), gutted the committee's membership and weakened its rules.

America: too fascistic for tourists?

More fun with the Daily Show, featuring my personal favorite correspondent, Rob Corddry. The issue is the decline in tourism to America. People are worried not by the threat of terrorism, but by being treated like criminals by Americans. In the best Daily Show tradition, it's funny-- but it makes you think.

Video-WMP Video-Real Audio

(Links are to Crooks & Liars)

Dean keeps fighting.

Just what we need to start seeing more of. I say let Howard Dean be the lightning rod for the Democrats-- it isn't going to shift votes to the Republicans at this point ("they might be fascists, but that Dean is just too brash"), and it'll keep Fox and the right-wing blogs distracted like a shiny set of keys. The trick is to keep the wussy faction of the Dems from piling on, too...

''We are going to be much tougher and in-your-face with the Republicans when they say things that aren't true," Dean said, in an apparent response to criticism outside and inside the Democratic Party that he is using over-the-top language to rally his party.

Dean also responded directly to Cheney, who last week said of Dean, ''Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does."

''I don't care if Dick Cheney likes my mother or not; we are going to fight back," Dean told a boisterous crowd of about 300 Democrats at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. ''I think it's great that Dick Cheney went after me. At least they know there's a Democratic Party that's not going to put up with this stuff anymore.

''As the head of the Democratic Party, I will not be lectured about morals by Tom DeLay and Rush Limbaugh." he said, referring to the House majority leader and the prominent conservative radio host.

Troops lack basic equipment-- two years into war.

It's been months since the dust-up over a soldier grilling Rumsfeld on why they didn't have standard equipment. Rumsfeld hemmed and hawed. The right-wing pundits accused the soldier of being "tricked" by a reporter into smearing the admin by a left-wing nut.

But guess what? The problem is still rampant in Iraq, and it has to be rectified. But don't mind me-- I'm just being anti-American by undermining the president's authority. And, I guess, so are the Marines. Why do they hate freedom?

The [Marine Corps' inspector general's] report, obtained by the Globe, says the estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah. . .

The Marine Corps' mission, among the most difficult of the 140,000 American troops in Iraq, is to help stabilize a huge swath of Iraq where popular support for the insurgency is highest and where more sophisticated enemy tactics have been introduced, including larger and more effective improvised explosive devices, the roadside bombs that are the single biggest killer of American troops in Iraq.

But the report says that about a quarter of the Second Marine Expeditionary Force's Humvees lack sufficient armor to protect troops against roadside bombings, including 1,000 vehicles that have yet to be fitted with armor plates to protect the undercarriage.

From UK (again!): WMD claims bogus

As the right-wing blogs and pundits try to claim fraud on the Downing Street Documents, more evidence of Bush's phony build-up to war keeps coming.

A key Foreign Office diplomat responsible for liaising with UN inspectors says today that claims the government made about Iraq's weapons programme were "totally implausible".

He tells the Guardian: "I'd read the intelligence on WMD for four and a half years, and there's no way that it could sustain the case that the government was presenting. All of my colleagues knew that, too".

Carne Ross, who was a member of the British mission to the UN in New York during the run-up to the invasion, resigned from the FO last year, after giving evidence to the Butler inquiry.

Monday, June 20, 2005

The dangers of apppeasement

Gulp. I'm pleased to say that I still had my eyebrow raised after the "compromise" over the nuclear option. Cynics fretted that the Democrats had caved in for no reason (again!), while right-leaning Democrats (e.g., the New Republic) were delighted at the perceived victory. My primary concern was the pivotal question of whether or not we had the votes to maintain a filibuster, and I didn't see proof either way. At the same time, we gave a pass to some totally whacked-out judges, while the GOP didn't even agree to axe the filibuster.

Looks like the cynics win again. According to the right-wing Weekly Standard, the GOP got all the right-wing activist judges they wanted, and the Democrats are once again taken to the cleaners after playing nice. At least TNR is coming clean...

Since the agreement, the three prime targets of Democrats--Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, William Pryor--have all been confirmed, plus two other less controversial nominees. And more conservatives are in the confirmation pipeline. ...

Considerable credit goes to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Without his pressure to enact the so-called nuclear option barring filibusters of judicial nominees, the deal leading to the string of confirmations would not have occurred. ... Another result was to declare, as the Gang of 14 senators did, that the filibuster may be used to block a judicial nominee only in "extraordinary circumstances." Who decides when these circumstances occur? The answer is Republicans. Reid said the nuclear option is "off the table." But it's not. ...

The fight over judges showed again the fecklessness of Reid. He mischaracterized the upshot of the Gang of 14 deal because he actually believed it was a triumph for Democrats.

Jeez, here I am agreeing with the Weeky Standard. That isn't a pleasant feeling.

Soldier begs for $600-- Halliburton given $30 million

Astounding. After all the reports by the White House that we're doing our best, our troops are STILL being sent into Iraq without the equipment they need! We might have gone to war with "the army we have," but is that still a valid excuse 2 years later? Our soldiers can't count on the government for standard military equipment, but the GOP is talking about the evils of the estate tax? Sick, sick stuff.

Marine Pfc. Jeremy Tod, 19, called home with news that his superiors were urging him and fellow Marines to buy special military equipment, including flak jackets with armor plating, to enhance the prospects of their survival. The message was that such purchases were to be made by Marines with their own money.

"He said they strongly suggested he get this equipment because when they get to Iraq they will wish they had," Tod said. Total estimated cost: $600.

In other news, Halliburton has just been awarded another contract worth up to $500 million to expand Guantanamo detention facilities. Republican values at work, folks.

Newspeak, Part 11,438

From the Prospect's blog:

[Neil] CAVUTO: But now President Carter has said, sir, shut [Gitmo] down. Joe Biden said shut it down. Do you think it should be shut down?

BUSH: Well, you know, we're exploring all alternatives as to how best to do the main objective, which is to protect America. What we don't want to do is let somebody out that comes back and harms us. And so we're looking at all alternatives and have been.

By "looking at all alternatives," of course, he meant expanding its capacity by 40 percent.

Action Alert: MoveOn petition to save NPR/PBS

MoveOn launched a petition last week in the hopes of collecting 500,000 signatures stating opposition to the GOP attempts to reshape public broadcasting into another right-wing propaganda source, or failing that, destroy it. Let's face it-- PBS' Now and Frontline are just about the only credible news sources left of broadcast television. And do we really need to hear Grover singing songs about the End Times?

The good news from MoveOn is that their initial goal of 500,000 has become a goal of 1,000,000. That's because they've gathered over 800,000 signatures. Let's keep it up. The fight is on, and this is a battle with both fundamentalist Christians and right-wing corporate moguls.

Sign up. Pass it on.

Rice: US in Iraq for a generation

This will come as news to anyone in touch with reality. A mountain of White House quotes are out there in which good, honest men like Cheney and Rumsfeld state that US involvement in Iraq would be short and sweet. But the Ministry of Disinformation has decided to tweak those rosy assessments just a tiny bit:

Condolleeza Rice on Fox News, 6/19: "[T]he administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq."

That would be a lie.

Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03:

[M]y belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly. . . (in) weeks rather than months

Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03:

It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.

Former Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 3/28/03:

The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid…

MORE documents leaked from UK Foreign Office

Thank God some British official gives a shit about the future of America. If these documents keep coming out, and we keep demanding that the press do its job, we'll win. No matter how many derisive articles Dana Milbank writes.

increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.

The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.

The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was.

The decision to provoke the Iraqis emerged in leaked minutes of a meeting between Tony Blair and his most senior advisers — the so-called Downing Street memo published by The Sunday Times shortly before the general election.

Democratic congressmen claimed last week the evidence it contains is grounds for impeaching President George Bush.

Those at the meeting on July 23, 2002, included Blair, Geoff Hoon, then defence secretary, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, and Sir Richard Dearlove, then chief of MI6. The minutes quote Hoon as saying that the US had begun spikes of activity to put pressure on the regime.

Needless to say, the righties are going all out to claim that the Downing Street Memo is a forgery. Which is odd, considering that several attendees of the meeting have confirmed that it's genuine. And here are more confirmations. My daring prediction: that won't stop them from spreading the forgery claims.