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


Monday, October 31, 2005

Action Alert: Why We Fight-- Alito Edition

Here's the text of my letter on the MoveOn petition. As I stated earlier, I know that both of my senators will vote against Alito. Nevertheless, it is imperative that we make our voices heard. It took me all of five minutes. Surely you can spare that. And even if you don't want to bother writing your own message, you can spare thirty seconds to sign the petition. Do it. Now.

I feel confident that both of Massachusetts' senators will stand against the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court of the United States. This administration's indifference to the will of the American people is unprecedented, hubristic, and unacceptable.

The appointment to the Supreme Court of a judge with a clear history of opposition to civil rights, a corporatist agenda, and open hostility to the rule of law insofar as it fails to suit a reactionary agenda is an issue that demands the full opposition of the Democratic party. The time for conciliation is over. Under this administration, the Republican party has betrayed everything it once held dear, and acted in ways that are openly hostile to the interests of the American people. The time has come to take a stand, and although the nomination of a jurist like Samuel Alito should not be the last straw for Democrats, it should certainly be seen as a call to arms in defense of the Republic.

I'm no Paine and I'm no Nast, but I try to do my part.

We're number seventeen! Uhm, twenty-two! .... Ah, *cough* would you believe forty-four?

There's a simple explanation for this-- the sneaky liberal media is pretending to parrot GOP talking points so that they can use their whininess to get even more liberal! And hire even more commie reporters like Judith Miller, who's just biding her time by pretending to be a White House stooge and seducing innocent patriots like Scooter Libby into betraying fellow patriots like blah blah blah....

The annual worldwide press freedom index from Reporters Without Borders shows the United States, which is supposedly spreading freedom and liberty throughout the world, is in a fast decline regarding the freedom of its own press.

The report ranked the United States in 44th place, an atomic drop from a favorable position of 22nd held last year, and from a handsome 17th place in 2002.

The organization mentioned that several journalists were expelled from the country since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

South Korea, positioned at 34th place, is improving its image, partly because of open-source media OhmyNews. Any citizen in South Korea can be a reporter, thanks to its policy of posting submissions from people with all backgrounds.

This report makes me think that Ohmyblog might have been a good name for the site. Just wanted to give you one final flesh-crawling moment on my favorite holiday. And isn't an atomic drop a wrestling move? I knew that professional wrestling was big in Japan, but maybe it's a hit in Korea, too. Good to see that they're importing the best that Western culture has to offer. Boo!

Another Alito Fun Fact

The WaPo has this gem in an entry on 'Scalito' that was part of their assessment of potential SCOTUS nominees.

Three years ago Alito drew conflict-of-interest accusations after he upheld a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit against the Vanguard Group. Alito had hundreds of thousands of dollars invested with the mutual fund company at the time. He denied doing anything improper but recused himself from further involvement in the case.

A perfect fit with this administration's philosophy that it's only improper if you're caught. I'm still reeling over last week's statements by Bush and Cheney that showed they have come to praise Scooter, not to bury him. To boast of his patriotism to the American public just as he was indicted on five criminal counts was shameless.

The Alito Files

Think Progress has a nice roundup of Alito's peculiar judicial philosophy. Truly, a man who will capture the hearts of the neo-fascists.

From the predictable:

In his dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Alito concurred with the majority in supporting the restrictive abortion-related measures passed by the Pennsylvania legislature in the late 1980’s. Alito went further, however, saying the majority was wrong to strike down a requirement that women notify their spouses before having an abortion. The Supreme Court later rejected Alito’s view, voting to reaffirm Roe v. Wade.

To the perverse:

In Doe v. Groody, Alito agued that police officers had not violated constitutional rights when they strip searched a mother and her ten-year-old daughter while carrying out a search warrant that authorized only the search of a man and his home.

In short, Alito is just the sort of activist judge the right has been demanding.

UPDATE: I can't help but imagine how the Bush Republicans would react to a moderate or progressive judge who had defended the right to strip search (shouldn't that be a compound word?) ten year-old children. They'd already have an attack ad running on national television. "Joe Judiciary thinks the federal government has the right not only to see your children naked, but to run their jackbooted hands all over those lithe little pre-adolescent bodies. Joe Judiciary-- dangerous for the courts, and dangerous for America."

Make sure your senators aren't going to go all DLC on this nomination. Alito is a freak and an ideologue, and we have to fight. Here in Massachusetts, both senators have already spoken out against the nominee. Time to start writing letters, folks. Three Scalias on the court is three too many.

The vanishing Halloween sentence

Mysterious stuff. TPM has the teaser, and author Marshall says there'll be a follow-up. A story running in today's WaPo was updated to remove the italicized clause in the following paragraph:

On July 12, the day Cheney and Libby flew together from Norfolk, the vice president instructed his aide to alert reporters of an attack launched that morning on Wilson's credibility by Fleischer, according to a well-placed source.

The first must-read piece on Alito

I suspect it won't be anywhere near the last.

James Riley was 22 years old when he and a man named Tyrone Baxter robbed a liquor store in Dover, Del. When the store's owner, a 59-year-old white man, resisted, Riley shot him in the leg. As Riley and Baxter fled, the man threw a wine bottle at them and shouted, "You fucking niggers." Riley fired another shot, hitting the man in the chest and killing him.

As you've probably guessed by now, Riley is black. All of the jurors who heard his case were white; prosecutors used peremptory challenges to remove all three African-Americans on the panel from which Riley's jury was chosen. There were three other first-degree murder trials in Kent County the year Riley was sentenced. Prosecutors struck all the black jurors from those trials, too.

Coincidence? A majority of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit didn't think so. "An amateur with a pocket calculator can calculate the number of blacks that would have served had the state used its strikes in a racially proportionate manner," the majority wrote. The majority did its own math and concluded that if the prosecutors in the four cases had used their peremptory challenges in a race-blind way, five of the 48 jurors in those cases would have been black. "Admittedly, there was no statistical analysis of these figures presented by either side in the post-conviction proceeding," the majority wrote. "But is it really necessary to have a sophisticated analysis by a statistician to conclude that there is little chance of randomly selecting four consecutive all white juries?"

Alito's response:

"The dangers in the majority's approach can be easily illustrated. Suppose we asked our 'amateur with a pocket calculator' whether the American people take right- or left-handedness into account in choosing their presidents. Although only about 10 percent of the population is left-handed, left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections. Our 'amateur with a calculator' would conclude that 'there is little chance of randomly selecting' left-handers in five out of six presidential elections. But does it follow that the voters cast their ballots based on whether a candidate was right- or left-handed?"

It's a classic example of right-wing bigotry. 'Hey, I'm no racist-- I'm the only one ignoring race as a factor.' Not to mention being an incredibly asinine analogy.

Alito's the one.

It's hard to see the right displeased with a guy nicknamed 'Scalito.'

So consistently conservative, Alito has been dubbed "Scalito" or "Scalia-lite" by some lawyers because his judicial philosophy invites comparisons to conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. But while Scalia is outspoken and is known to badger lawyers, Alito is polite, reserved and even-tempered.

Given solid Republican support in the Senate — where the GOP controls 55 of the 100 seats — Democrats would have to filibuster to block Alito's confirmation, a tactic that comes with political risks. Conservatives who denounced Miers as an unqualified crony quickly praised Alito.

The nomination of Alito, a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals since 1990, is one step in Bush's political recovery plan as he tries to regain his footing after a cascade of troubles rocked his presidency.

Ed Kennedy, at least, sounds ready for a donnybrook:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., pulled no punches. "Rather than selecting a nominee for the good of the nation and the court, President Bush has picked a nominee whom he hopes will stop the massive hemorrhaging of support on his right wing. This is a nomination based on weakness, not on strength."

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sunday Funnies

Now, as it happens, a many of my best childhood friends grew up to be very conservative (though generally not on social issues-- those are the ones you've gotta watch out for). And a fella who's pretty much my closest friend as a grown-up is also a conservative, but I like to refer to him as a 'Massachusetts conservative,' which is to say that he's very liberal on social issues and not terribly pleased with the domestic agenda of the current administration. He's also extremely funny-- another trait one doesn't generally associate with Republicans.

So without his permission, and without further ado, I'm going to post some offhand comments he made about the names of right-wing blogs (something I've riffed on in the past and in his company). After all, whatever your political inclination, a stupid title is just that. And here's some proof of just how effortless it is to ridicule zealots of any stripe. At least two of these are keepers, in my estimation. (Not that I'm to be considered an arbiter of comedic taste, you kids out there. Make up your own mind.)

Villainous company -- go here to get tied to the railroad tracks by the guy with the hat and the curly moustache. BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Watcher of weasels -- sounds like he has a peep hole into the men's shower

Sundries shack -- run by the old timer and his mule, dwayne. Come here for your dry goods and don't forget to use the spittoon.

The corner -- you have been very naughty. Go here.

Seven inches of sense -- deeply envious of rival blog 11 inches of sense

Protein wisdom -- only works if you swallow

Moxie -- very very chic. About 100 years ago.

Jawa report -- little man in a cloak with beady glowing eyes. Not recommended for droids.

Drink this -- I beg your pardon. What is this? Alice in Wonderland??

Chief wiggles -- pedophile, house cat or blog?? You decide!

Cheese and crackers -- written by Michael Bolton in a trailer park

Babalu blog -- lucy??? I'm home!!

One thing I'll say about my friends is that they have a knack for ad-libbed comedy, straight off the top of the dome. In this case, since I've taken it upon myself to post the content of a personal e-mail on my site, I'm withholding the identity. On the other hand, if I make a habit of posting our comedic back and forths, you could be introduced to a whole new level of funny. I'll have to ask.

Clinton: It's time to start swinging.

The GOP should be more ashamed of themselves than ever at this point. They're spinning the Libby indictment as being no big deal because there've been no charges of an underlying crime yet. That should sound familiar to anyone who remembers how Clinton wound up facing articles of impeachment. They seemed to think it was pretty serious then even when it didn't involve a war and thousands of American deaths.

Moving on, Clinton gave an address on the floor of the Texas House, and I hope DLC Democrats were paying attention.

"You can't say, 'Please don't be mean to me. Please let me win sometimes.' Give me a break here," Clinton said. "If you don't want to fight for the future and you can't figure out how to beat these people then find something else to do."

Newsweek reports Rove probably in the clear

Now this would be a major disappointment. Rove's entire life is a history of getting away with dirty political tricks, and his sole MO for getting people elected. A scumbag, in short, and one who has consistently managed to dodge responsibility for his actions.

Rove's defense lawyer, Robert Luskin. On Tuesday afternoon, Fitzgerald and the chief FBI agent on the case, Jack Eckenrode, visited the offices of the D.C. law firm where Luskin works to meet with the defense lawyer. Two sources close to Rove who asked not to be identified because the probe is ongoing said Luskin presented evidence that gave the prosecutor "pause." One small item was a July 11, 2003, e-mail Rove sent to former press aide Adam Levine saying Levine could come up to his office to discuss a personnel issue. The e-mail was at 11:17 a.m., minutes after Rove had gotten off the phone with Matt Cooper—the same conversation (in which White House critic Joe Wilson's wife's work for the CIA was discussed) that Rove originally failed to disclose to the grand jury. Levine, with whom Rove often discussed his talks with reporters, did immediately go up to see Rove. But as Levine told the FBI last week, Rove never said anything about Cooper.

I'm no legal man, and of course the Fitzgerald operation has been amazingle leak-proof. But here's how the magazine sees it:

Rove remains in some jeopardy, but the consensus view of lawyers close to the case is that he has probably dodged the bullet.

The big question the article raises-- but none can answer-- is the role of Novak, who blew Plame's cover in the first place.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Official A, Fitzgerald's conference, and more speculation

I should've known that when Fitzmas arrived it wouldn't do anything to reduce the massive amounts of speculation on the case dominating the blogs. In fact, the absence of any other stories is possibly even more glaring than it was earlier this week.

I'm still not interested in trying to read between the lines (something Fitzgerald assured reporters they absolutely should not do, because he was being very careful in his choice of words), so it could be a slow weekend for posts.

I did run across one interesting story today-- Wal-Mart has decided to produce its own video to appear along with the new anti-Wal-Mart film that's been in the works for some time. I'm eager to see the latter, and I can't imagine a corporation going to the trouble to produce (and attempt to sell, no less) it's own PR film. If there's actually a market for it, I can't imagine who it would be. On the other hand, they should be nervous--the only press they've been getting in the last year has been negative, and with good reason.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Libby indicted, resigns

As if you didn't know already. I just wanted to see Fitzgerald's press conference before posting it. He came across as a total professional-- I was impressed. And with not one but five counts against ol' Scooter, the ongoing investigation doesn't bode well for Rove.

Mil Apodos sent along a nice little Scooter in jail image for me, but I can't seem to get it uploaded. I'll try again later.

Update: Bush's statement on the resignation was about 90 seconds long, with no questions from the press. He actually praised Libby's work, and of course used the term 'ongoing investigation' (at which point it was clear that there'd be no Q&A) while talking about the need to 'move the country forward.' Standard protocol with negative news. Then quick as a wink, he speed-walked away. The end.

Bush re-lays egg

I noted a couple of days ago that in the face of everything going wrong with his presidency, Bush is taking another trip to the Iraq well. Speaking at this moment, he's delivering virtually the same speech he gave two days ago. Presumably he figured it'd go over better on indictment day.

Amazing. He's still making the phony Iraq/9-11 connection, still using the 'stay the course' lines, still talking about Iraq's significance as the central front in the war on terror. That particular line was a lie from day one, but now he's made it true-- thanks to the invasion, incompetent occupation 'n stuff.

This is one of those moments that really horrifies me. The United States has a leader who is incapable of doing anything more substantive than giving a focus group-tested laundry list of cliches when the doo-doo hits the fan. The guy's got nothing.

Tom Noe indicted in Coingate

Fitzmas isn't the only Republican indictment set to go down this week. Corrupt GOP booster and reverse Robin Hood Tom Noe is set to take a big fall in Ohio.

Tom Noe, whose failed rare-coin deal with the state has triggered multiple investigations and rocked Ohio’s Republican leadership, was charged yesterday with illegally funneling $45,400 to President Bush’s re-election campaign.

Gregory A. White, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced a three-count indictment against Mr. Noe, saying he used two dozen people as “conduits” to make illegal campaign contributions at a $2,000-a-seat fund-raiser in Columbus.

In doing so, Mr. Noe skirted federal campaign finance funding limits while meeting a pledge to raise $50,000 for the Oct. 30, 2003, fund-raiser. The Bush campaign later named Mr. Noe a “Pioneer” for raising at least $100,000 overall.

The Noe case is the largest campaign money-laundering scheme prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department since new campaign finance laws were enacted by Congress in 2002, said Noel Hillman, chief of the Justice Department’s public integrity section.

Fifty grand in exchange for a crooked investment deal that netted him millions in taxpayer dollars. He might be a criminal, but he's a shrewd businessman. Thanks to the intrepid OD1 for making my day.

Mommy....mommy... Don't look at me! Don't look at me!

Crooks and Liars has an odd little video clip that seems to show Fearless Leader referring to his wife, "a wonderful wife and a wonderful First Lady," as Barbara.

The moment comes about 90 seconds into the 3 meg video. As you'll note in the post, at least one person wrote in to suggest that in fact he does say Laura. But that would take all the fun out of his disturbing Oedipal complex.

The Coward List-- evil people to blotch. Errrr, 'watch.'

Stephen Colbert's take on O'Reilly style blustering stupidity is pretty amusing, although I'm not sure how long it can sustain a show. Perhaps only as long as O'Reilly continues to do laughable stuff like this while he channels Jabba the Hutt. Amazing what some powder and a can of Aqua Net can do, no?

A picture named explode.jpg

Of course, it is bipartisan. Sort of. Here are some of the folks that O'Reilly would give a No-Spin swirlie if they weren't such cowards.

  • Bill Clinton (former president)
  • Andy Rooney (journalist, syndicated columnist, regular contributor to CBS' 60 Minutes)
  • Richard Clarke (former counterterrorism adviser to presidents Clinton and Bush)
  • Roger Mosey (Director of BBC Sport, former head of TV News at BBC News)
  • American Civil Liberties Union (O'Reilly: "Anybody from the ACLU is afraid.")
  • National Public Radio (O'Reilly: "The executives over there are afraid.")
  • Oil and gas industry (O'Reilly: "The heads of the oil companies are afraid.")
  • Bill Moyers (journalist. O'Reilly: "biggest mouth in town")
  • Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (Governor of Louisiana)
  • Ward Churchill (Professor of ethnic studies, the University of Colorado at Boulder)
  • Barbra Streisand (Singer, actress. O'Reilly: "All of these Hollywood people ... I mean, they're way out of control there.")
To quote the Dead Kennedys, "What spirit. What a.... MAN."

'Knuckles' and 'The Shiv' to join Afghani parliament

Ahhhh, the sweet taste of freedom. Now that we've successfully installed a squeaky-clean Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan, we can rest assured that the country will be in the hands of only the most high-minded and idealistic warlords.

As final tallies are being certified, the picture emerging of Afghanistan's first ever fully elected parliament is one dominated by regional strongmen and their allies - men who have ruled this country by gun, rather than the laws they are now charged with crafting.

Afghan officials said this week that the new parliament will likely hold its first session in early December. Only 12 of 34 provinces have had their final results from the Sept. 18 vote certified, but the remainder are expected to be completed shortly.

In the absence of well-defined political parties, it remains to be seen what common agenda will be forged by the 249 new members of the lower house, called the Wolesi Jirga. Preliminary results show 68 women winning seats, the number set aside for them under the law.

But the largest bloc of new parliamentarians, accounting for more than 60 percent, according to the Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) in Kabul, are those suspected of having links to armed groups. Observers fear that these militias will become more difficult to disarm once they gain the prestige and power of elected office.

ExxonMobil profits up 75%

Here's a heart-warming story for you:

Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, on Thursday said quarterly profit surged 75 percent to nearly $10 billion, raking in a bonanza from record oil prices.

The profit was the highest in the company's history, surpassing the record it set in the 2004 fourth quarter. Revenue jumped 32 percent to just over $100 billion.

Two powerful hurricanes ripped through the Gulf of Mexico in the third quarter, disrupting energy operations in the region and sending oil prices and refining margins sharply higher.

Exxon Mobil said net income rose to $9.9 billion, or $1.58 a share, in the third quarter from $5.68 billion, or 88 cents a share, a year earlier.

Yet you can't help but be happy for a cherub-faced charmer like CEO Lee Raymond:

Lee F. Raymond, Chief Executive Officer of Exxon Mobil is seen during the Reuters Energy Summit in New York, June 21, 2005. Exxon, the world's largest publicly traded oil company, on Thursday reported quarterly profit surged, pushed up by record crude oil and natural gas prices. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

Back to Tatooine with you, Jabba!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

How to deal with the high cost of lying

Mil Apodos passes on an article that's all meat and no filler that dares to ask the question: what will the White House do when the indictments strike?

We've already seen one response that's gotten a very tepid reaction: keep talking Iraq. But that's like calling attention to a D+ to distract your parents from an F.

I'm surprised to see the article state that indictees will immediately resign. It's possible, but it would go against everything this administration does-- little guys take the fall for the inner circle, period. Of course, they could resign and still be big players. Sort of like Michael Brown is still pulling down his FEMA salary.

Keep refusing to talk about the issue? Well, duh. Anyone who's listened to a press conference in the last two months has become intimately familiar with the phrase "I'm not going to comment on an ongoing investigation." All you do is shift the response to "I'm not going to comment until the justice system has run its course." Then move on to "I'm not going to dwell on the past. We've got lots of ideas, and we're moving on."

There's one problem with Rep. Mike Pence's (R-IN) suggestion that Republicans start talking about their original agenda-- they've played every card, and the public hates it all. War, energy, Social Security, spending cuts? Nothin'.

The new SCOTUS nomination will certainly "distract" from the issue, but I don't see much to go on except for a "bad apple" defense-- Bush and Cheney had no idea that their underlings were lying to them to advance their own sneaky agendas. Which won't exactly inspire public confidence. Another idea is for them to use Rove and Libby's relatively unknown status (among the general public) to their advantage. Focus on the names no-one knows to protect the big boys. Sadly, the public has become so inured to political corruption that it doesn't really seem to register much anymore. In spite of the fact that the degree of criminality actually is more serious than Watergate.

It's tough to excerpt from the article because there's so much being addressed in it. Have a look for yourself and test your own skills of prognostication.

Will Roy Blunt be implicated in DeLay's shady dealings?

Ahhh, my love/hate relationship with The New Republic. This time it's good news-- their November 7 issue will feature an article outlining my fellow Missourian Roy Blunt's own sliminess as he's risen through the ranks of the House. The Blunt family is a mini-dynasty that demonstrates-- not unlike the Bush family story, not to mention DeLay-- that cash and connections can land even the most incompetent jockeys on a thoroughbred horse. But it can't last forever.

A month before the [2000 Republican National] [C]onvention, a new law had gone into effect requiring that organizations like DeLay's and Blunt's file regular reports with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) listing their contributions and expenditures. But, if you wanted to know exactly how much DeLay and Blunt blew on the 2000 convention, you would have to look elsewhere. That's because the documents their PACs filed for the months just before and after the convention list hardly any contributions or expenditures at all--certainly nothing that would explain the level of spending that took place in Philadelphia. A legal or ethical oversight, perhaps, but, if so, it seems not to be the only one that took place in that heady year, when DeLay came into his own as the most powerful Republican in Congress. The story of the missing convention expenses (and a related tale of the curious path taken by $150,000 that DeLay's PAC gave to Blunt that spring) reveal a lot about the symbiosis between DeLay and Blunt--and the way the two men turned greed and political power into cash.

More fun with College Republicans

Friendly reminder: they're the ones who loudly support the war that two-thirds of the nation now opposed, but can't sign up to fight because they're too important.

"Regardless of my opinions regarding the war in Iraq, it is my duty as a U.S. Marine to serve and I am ready and willing to do my job to its fullest extent," [Bowdoin student Cornell du Houx] said.

Others on campus, particularly his political opponents in the Bowdoin College Republicans, feel differently about his service. Daniel Schuberth, a leader of the Bowdoin College Republicans and College Republican national secretary, said, "I applaud Mr. Houx for his service, just as I applaud any other soldier who is brave enough to take up arms in defense of his country. I find it troubling, however, that one of the most vocal opponents of our president, our country and our mission in Iraq has chosen to fight for a cause he claims is wrong. Mr. Houx's rhetoric against the war on terror places him in agreement with the most radical fringes of the Democratic Party, and I am left to question his logic and motivation."

Paul Franco, one of Cornell du Houx's government and legal studies professors, disagrees.
"He exemplifies democratic citizenship at its best," Franco said of Cornell du Houx. "Though he opposes Bush's war policies, he still feels obligated to fulfill his duty. ... This is the exact opposite of what is done by those supporters of the war who would never dream of fighting in it themselves or sending their own children to fight in it."

Takes your breath away, doesn't it? 'We proudly support all troops who agree with our ideology.' One more thing-- the College Republicans should learn that members of the Army are soldiers. Members of the Marines are marines.

Jebbie continues family tradition of bungling hurricane response.

At last, a story about just how bad the Wilma situation is in Florida. Bush I had Andrew, Dubya had Katrina, and now Jeb shows his family colors by screwing up his own hurricane strike in Florida. If only they could screw things up that didn't affect the lives of hundreds of thousands of people....

MIAMI, Oct. 25 - South Florida was a coast-to-coast mess on Tuesday as millions of people remained without power, huge lines formed for basic supplies and drivers wove through packed, debris-strewn streets with no traffic signals.

Despite Gov. Jeb Bush's assurances that recovery from Hurricane Wilma would proceed smoothly after lessons learned from seven previous storms, the government response looked frayed. In Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, people lined up for ice and water only to learn that government deliveries of both were late.

Many busy intersections had no police officers to guide impatient drivers. Schools and most businesses remained closed as dazed multitudes wandered in search of food, gasoline and cellphone reception. The one bit of luck was blissfully cool air, brought in by the storm, that made the lack of air-conditioning endurable.

A day after Hurricane Wilma struck, leaving at least six dead, power had been restored to several hundred thousand households and businesses by Tuesday evening. But 3.1 million still had no electricity, including about 93 percent of customers in Broward and Miami-Dade Counties. Eleven other counties also reported power failures, many of them widespread. Officials at Florida Power and Light said some customers might have to wait four weeks.

The prez announced that he'll be heading to Florida today, according to the article. Let's see how they try to choreograph this photo-op. "You're doin' a heck of a job, Jebbie."

Miers withdraws nomination

Whatever the official reason (see her letter here), I imagine Miers was just eager to avoid any more of a process that had become about humiliation. It's good to hear some Dems using it to remind people of the fundamentalist hold on the White House.

WASHINGTON - Under withering attack from conservatives, President Bush abandoned his push to put loyalist Harriet Miers on the Supreme Court and promised a quick replacement Thursday. Democrats accused him of bowing to the "radical right wing of the Republican Party."

The White House said Miers had withdrawn because of senators' demands to see internal documents related to her role as counsel to the president. But politics played a larger role: Bush's conservative backers had doubts about her ideological purity, and Democrats had little incentive to help the nominee or the embattled GOP president.

"Let's move on," said Republican Sen. Trent Lott of Mississippi. "In a month, who will remember the name Harriet Miers?"

Youch. It just came down to the fact that no-one liked her. And she did nothing to help her own cause-- just check out her incompetent responsed on her "take-home test" from the Senate.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

This post is not about Patrick Fitzgerald

It also isn't about speculation on indictments, Rove, Libby, Cheney, Bush's alleged temper tantrums, or anything else that hasn't become official yet.

There. Wasn't that refreshing?

UPDATE: Liar! Liar! I'm a liar! This post is about Fitzgerald as of now! I've been staying away from the "Fitzmas" stuff because it's been pure, uncut rumor-mongering. It's also dominated progressive news sites and blogs almost to the exclusion of other stories this week, which I find very frustrating. I keep hearing suggestions that FEMA has utterly failed again in responding to Wilma in Florida, there are more strange tales coming out about Harriet Miers, there's a report that now Rumsfeld is going to rake in a stock windfall because of a suspect government deal with a drug company called Gilead. But all I see on the blogs is Scooter, Cheney and Rove (I won't add "Oh, my!").

But if you're just dying to get some more crumbs on Fitzgerald, I'm putting my blog imprimatur on this piece that seems to be the tidbit of choice of those in the know. Thanks to OD1 for giving me the URL. Here's the poop:

An uber-insider source has just reported the following to TWN (since confirmed by another independent source):

1. 1-5 indictments are being issued. The source feels that it will be towards the higher end.

2. The targets of indictment have already received their letters.

3. The indictments will be sealed indictments and "filed" tomorrow.

4. A press conference is being scheduled for Thursday.

Wal-Mart to "roll back" worker benefits

Another heart-warming tale from the most cuddly corporation on the planet.

An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."

The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefit costs because critics had attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Ms. Chambers acknowledged that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid.

Their reaction to that last statistic? "Dammit, we can do better! I want 66% of the kids on Medicaid, and I want it yesterday!"

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

W Lays an Egg

Sounds like a nice children's book. But it's the speech he's giving at this very moment. He started off with a bang, by recalling the legacy of Rosa Parks and referring to her as 'Rosa Park.' Way to go, shithead. Then it was on to talking about raising troops' salaries (which he'd previously cut), increasing danger pay (which he'd previously cut), and better health care (which he'd previously cut). Moving on, he of course conflated 9/11 with Iraq. After then conflating Islamist extremists with Iraq (which was the only secular nation in the Middle East until we invaded), he cited their opposition to the American value of 'peace,' which won't do much to reassure anyone outside the continental US, if I may be so bold.

Pretty much the same speech he's been giving for the last two and a half years, but with a reference to 'Rosa Park.' And apparently a guarantee to increase federal spending. I doubt even the right-wing blogs and Fox anchors will say too much about what a rousing speech this was. This horse has been flogged to the point that there isn't enough of it left to spread on a cracker.


Halliburton: Real American Heroes

Step off, GI Joe! Halliburton is taking over as the defenders of the American way in the wake of Katrina. How? By farming out reconstruction work to a company that fired union employees and replaced then with illegal aliens.

Federal officials are investigating how at least 10 undocumented immigrants performed hurricane reconstruction work at a naval base near New Orleans.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback said Sunday that the agency was asked to come to Belle Chasse Naval Air Station on Thursday by base officials. Zuieback said 10 workers were found who were not authorized to work in the United States. They were denied base access, and the agency is investigating "the circumstance surrounding their employment," she said.

Navy spokesman Lt. (j.g.) Sean Robertson said that 13 individuals had been barred from the base. Neither he nor Zuieback could explain the discrepancy between the numbers.

The action came amid growing complaints from area electricians who say they lost their jobs at the base to lower-wage workers.

Read the whole story to get to the Halliburton punchline.

The secret word is....'Iraq.'

In the face of all the unpleasantness facing the administration these days, Bush has a bold new plan to get public support back on his side: talk about Iraq. Why didn't he think of that sooner?

The White House strategy will unfold over the next several days, starting with yesterday's announcement of a new Federal Reserve Board chairman and continuing today with a presidential speech on Iraq at Bolling Air Force Base. Anticipating a barrage of criticism when the death toll hits 2,000, Bush will try to put the sacrifice in perspective by portraying the Iraq war as the best way to keep terrorists from striking the United States again, the official said. He will make the same case in another speech Friday in Norfolk.

Although Bush has made this case often, aides hope the public will be more receptive in the aftermath of the apparently successful referendum vote for a new Iraqi constitution, whose official results will be announced this week.

Foreign debt hits 8 trillion. GOP pushes more tax cuts

I don't recall the last time I saw an AP story that so clearly stated.... the facts. Without embellishment. Without having to quote a Republican as talking about how 'fiscally responsible' the tax cuts are. And all it took was a scandals that could take down the White House and both majority leaders!

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in Congress will try to pass spending cuts this week, after war, anti-terrorism efforts, hurricanes and big tax cuts helped push the government's debt load through the $8 trillion mark.

Sources in the House of Representatives said it likely would be mid-week before Republican leaders know whether they have enough support for spending reductions, including cuts in health programs for the elderly and poor, that go beyond the $35 billion sketched out last spring.

Congress is also debating a Republican-backed plan for more tax cuts, mostly for the wealthy.

The Senate is sticking to the $35 billion benchmark for spending cuts, amid pressure from conservatives in both chambers to cut more money to help pay for $62.3 billion in emergency aid for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The War on Meaningful Action

Yes, this really is a true story. As the White House continues to bungle Iraq and Afghanistan, the southern states deal with a record number of hurricanes (some 4 million are now without power in Florida), top White House staffers, Congressional GOP leaders and possibly even the vice president face indictment for criminal acts, the White House has decided to take decisive action against the nation's enemies. A handful of comedians. I feel safer already.

"It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton's office was also helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court nominee; days later his boss, Harriet E. Miers, was nominated.)

Citing the United States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement." Exceptions may be made, he noted, but The Onion had never applied for such an exception.

The Onion was amused. "I'm surprised the president deems it wise to spend taxpayer money for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion," Scott Dikkers, editor in chief, wrote to Mr. Dixton. He suggested the money be used instead for tax breaks for satirists.

More formally, The Onion's lawyers responded that the paper's readers - it prints about 500,000 copies weekly, and three million people read it online - are well aware that The Onion is a joke.

"It is inconceivable that anyone would think that, by using the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president," wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper's lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: "Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country."

Moreover, she wrote, The Onion and its Web site are free, so the seal is not being used for commercial purposes. That said, The Onion asked that its letter be considered a formal application to use the seal.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Rosa Lee Parks, 1913-2005

DETROIT - Rosa Lee Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a white man sparked the modern civil rights movement, died Monday. She was 92. Mrs. Parks died at her home during the evening of natural causes, with close friends by her side, said Gregory Reed, an attorney who represented her for the past 15 years. Mrs. Parks was 42 when she committed an act of defiance in 1955 that was to change the course of American history and earn her the title "mother of the civil rights movement."

Lesson learned.... Psych!

Make sure your jaw lands on something soft when you read this-- because it's going to hit the floor. Tom DeLay, being indicted for laundering corporate money through his Texas-based PAC apparently decided that towering arrogance was the proper attitude while headed to his booking in Austin.

DeLay's staff disclosed that he flew to Houston on Thursday morning on a corporate jet owned by R.J. Reynolds, a longtime contributor that has flown him to Puerto Rico and other destinations; they said the jet was "used in compliance with regulations." The company, which has also given $17,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund, did not comment Friday.

DeLay was indicted on Sept. 28 and Oct. 3 in connection with allegedly conspiring to inject illegal corporate funds into that 2002 campaign and with allegedly laundering some of those funds through an arm of the Republican Party in Washington to conceal their corporate origin.

Regulations, in this case, mean that for the use of a private jet, DeLay is required to reimburse RJ Reynolds for the cost of a first-class commercial ticket. Not a bad trade-off. Not bad at all.

The OK-Bow Incident

This is a nicely-done piece in the Boston Globe on an incident in Oklahoma that "brought out the worst" between right-wing blogs and local media.

ON OCT. 1, a tragedy shocked the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman: 21-year-old engineering student Joel Henry Hinrichs III killed himself with a homemade bomb while sitting on a bench about 100 yards away from the university's football stadium, packed with 84,000 fans. Since then, this sad event has mushroomed into a story that touches on some important and controversial issues: vigilance and paranoia in the age of terrorism, and journalistic ethics in the age of the ''new media."

Within days of Hinrichs's death, a number of Internet websites were speculating that he had planned to blow himself up inside the stadium -- and that he was a radical Muslim terrorist. Blog headlines screamed, ''Jihad at the University of Oklahoma?" and ''The Oklahoma Suicide Bomber." Bloggers demanded to know why the mainstream media were ignoring the story, and some supplied a ready answer: The liberals in the media were afraid to ''offend the gods of political correctness" -- as syndicated columnist and blogger Michelle Malkin put it -- by calling attention to Islamic terrorism on US soil.

But was there any substance to the story? Apparently not. According to the authorities, there is no indication that Hinrichs was anything more than a depressed, troubled young man.

Author Young rightfully suggests that the left could just as well be susceptible to this sort of hysteria, but I have to assert that right-wing blogs are much extreme than their progressive counterparts. Rather than being about dissemination of information, they're all too often based on the Bush Republican strategy of fueling anger and hatred. It's much easier to get them to take action that way than through reasoned debate....

Scowcroft voices opposition to Iraq

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Brent Scowcroft was a pretty popular guy with the GOP back in the early nineties. He and Norman Schwarzkopf became household names after the brief and not-so-bloody first Gulf War. Call it Monday morning quarterbacking, but he finally comes out in the New Yorker and states what so many of us have known for a couple of years now. For me, the good thing about it is that another conservative is showing signs of letting this administration go down in flames.

The first Gulf War was a success, Scowcroft said, because the President knew better than to set unachievable goals. "I'm not a pacifist," he said. "I believe in the use of force. But there has to be a good reason for using force. And you have to know when to stop using force." Scowcroft does not believe that the promotion of American-style democracy abroad is a sufficiently good reason to use force.

"I thought we ought to make it our duty to help make the world friendlier for the growth of liberal regimes," he said. "You encourage democracy over time, with assistance, and aid, the traditional way. Not how the neocons do it."

The neoconservatives -- the Republicans who argued most fervently for the second Gulf war -- believe in the export of democracy, by violence if that is required, Scowcroft said. "How do the neocons bring democracy to Iraq? You invade, you threaten and pressure, you evangelize." And now, Scowcroft said, America is suffering from the consequences of that brand of revolutionary utopianism. "This was said to be part of the war on terror, but Iraq feeds terrorism," he said.

Kaye Bailey Hutchison breaks the Iron-O-meter

Here's what the Texas senator had to say in defense of Rove, Libby, et al. on Press the Meat this weekend:

I certainly hope that if there is going to be an indictment that says something happened, that it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where they couldn’t indict on the crime so they go to something just to show that their two years of investigation were not a waste of time and dollars.

Here's what she had to say during Clinton's impeachment process:
The edifice of American jurisprudence rests on the foundation of the due process of law. The mortar in that foundation is the oath. Those who seek to obstruct justice weaken that foundation, and those who violate the oath would tear the whole structure down.

Every day, thousands of citizens in thousands of courtrooms across America are sworn in as jurors, as grand jurors, as witnesses, as defendants. On those oaths rest the due process of law upon which all of our other rights are based.

The oath is how we defend ourselves against those who would subvert our system by breaking our laws. There are Americans in jail today because they violated that oath. Others have prevailed at the bar of justice because of that oath.

What would we be telling Americans -- and those worldwide who see in America what they can only hope for in their own countries -- if the Senate of the United States were to conclude: The President lied under oath as an element of a scheme to obstruct the due process of law, but we chose to look the other way?

I cannot make that choice. I cannot look away. I vote "Guilty" on Article I, Perjury. I vote "Guilty" on Article II, Obstruction of Justice.

Fifty million taxpayer dollars were spent on the investigation of Clinton-- which resulted in a "perjury technicality."

Lt. Col. resigns over lack of equipment

Some people are just never satisfied. Don't those yellow ribbons on the backs of SUV's mean anything to this guy?

A senior army officer serving in Iraq, who voiced concerns over a lack of armoured vehicles for his men, has resigned. Details of the resignation emerged just days after another of Lt Col Nick Henderson's soldiers was killed in a bomb attack in Basra.

Last month the 43-year old commanding officer of 1st Bn Coldstream Guards, who is married with children, made a request to senior officers for extra Warrior armoured personnel carriers.

It is understood that Lt Col Henderson, whose battalion is responsible for security in the southern Iraqi capital of Basra, was concerned that Land Rovers did not offer his men enough protection from terrorist bomb attacks, which have left nine soldiers dead since May. It is unclear whether that request was authorised.

Lt Col Henderson is a highly rated officer who joined the Coldstream Guards in 2003 after transferring from the cavalry. Early in his career he was identified as a high flier and won a place at the Army Staff college, where future senior commanders are taught high-level tactics and strategy. Last night it emerged that Lt Col Henderson had taken voluntary redundancy.

He was said to have been devastated by the death last week of Sgt Christian Hickley, 30, who took the full force of a blast while carrying out a route clearance operation. Sgt Hickley, from West Yorkshire, was due to leave Iraq in the next few days to be reunited with his 24-year-old wife and young son.

He was the third of Lt Col Henderson's soldiers to have been killed in terrorist attacks in recent weeks.

In Al Amarah, 200 miles north of Basra, one of the most dangerous areas under British control, troops no longer travel in Land Rovers, using either Warriors or helicopters to conduct operations. The Army believes that insurgents are using a new type of explosive and a sophisticated detonating device which can easily destroy armoured Land Rovers.

Or maybe our own troops are supposed to take comfort in the fact that no-one has the equipment they need.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Phun with Photoshop

Tom DeLay might have managed to primp and preen his way to a mugshot that makes it look like (in Jon Stewart's words) "it's the best day of his life."

But enterprising individuals with Photoshop can have more fun with DeLay's pinup than you could ever have with one of those giant Barbie heads you give a makeover. Remember those? I wonder if they still make 'em.... I was too busy playing Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots for that crap.

This daring submission posits the hypothesis that DeLay was assuaging his pre-booking tension with a little help from some spraycans. Thank you, anonymous reader! And remember kids, don't launder money-- stick with the paint and plastic baggies.

But wait! There's even more comedy to liven up your Sunday! How about a big ol' batch of editorial cartoons sure to put a paint-huffing grin on your face?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sinclair Broadcasting: From Swiftboating to Billy Budding

Hang on for a brieg excursion into the political Wayback Machine. Before last year's election, stations owned by Sinclair Broadcasting were ordered to air a "documentary" which amounted to nothing more than a propagandistic character assassination of Kohn Kerry. Everyone remembers that, right? And everyone remembers how good it felt when the grassroots rose up in opposition and Sinclair had to back off. But the story went on from there.

. . .[Sinclair's] DC Bureau Chief, one Jonathan Lieberman took a stand, gave an interview to the Balitmore Sun, and called the effort "biased political propaganda, with clear intentions to sway this election ... For me, it's not about right or left -- it's about what's right or wrong in news coverage this close to an election." (. . .)

Sinclair has continued to harass Lieberman ever since. And now comes word the sharks at Sinclair are suing Lieberman for giving the unauthorized interview. "Sinclair," this article
reports, "is also asking the court to order an accounting of the wages Leiberman earned working for another news outlet after Sinclair fired him."

The intrepid OD1 called this to my attention and gives a concise analysis that I'd say is spot-on:

. . .by filing this lawsuit against a former Sinclair employee who violated the cardinal rule of criticizing the prez or those around them, this serves as a warning for current employeees not to get out of line on this. That is, Sinclair Broadcasting is seeking to prevent journalists from doing their jobs, and enforcing the cheerleading rule by the intimidation of lawsuits and a threat to their job.

Maybe you could call this strongarm policy "scared crooked." It really isn't about the legal case. They're just counting on employees to avoid the hassle and conform. (Wow-- two neologisms in one post. I think I'm getting the hang of this.)

Right-wings' foot soldiers breaking ranks

I can't remember who said this, so I'm going to have to paraphrase in a big way. The reason the Roman empire became so vast wasn't because they were the strongest, the smartest, the most fierce in battle or the most cunning, but because they were the most organized.

That's what we've seen time and again in the GOP victory strategy. From the top White House officials, down through the high-profile pundits, and on to the lowliest bloggers and College Republicans, message discipline has been the key.

A sterling example is the "Schiavo memo" which Florida Republican Mel Martinez accidentally handed to a Democratic senator. The one that suggested the Schiavo case would be an excellent political issue to club Democrats with.

Within a twenty four hour period, I marvelled as the story unfolded and the party line went from A) it was a forgery by some wily Democrat, to B) Martinez had it, but didn't even know it existed among all the other papers in his hand, to C) it was the work of one over-zealous staffer (a bad apple, if you will). And from top to bottom, the entire right wing deftly switched the narrative and threw their full weight behind each successive claim.

Aside from the sleaziness of it and the disregard for what actually happened, it's an impressive show of organization. But for the first time that I can remember under the reign of Bush II, there's confusion from top to bottom. The generals in the White House are nowhere to be seen, DeLay and Frist have been defanged, and that's left the pundits, Fox anchors and bloggers in a state of utter confusion.

Every once in a while, I'll pull one of military history analogies out of my butt, but an example of organization saving the day is the revolt of Boudicaa in Roman-controlled Britain. Her forces of 100,000 or more were crushed by a Roman force of some 5,000. And it was for two simple reasons. The Romans chose the terrain, and the troops were utterly disciplined. The rebellion broke like water on rocks against the tight Roman wedge formation.

The last week, where no-one can decide which corrupt GOP leader to defend and which to cut loose, has shown that once they lose party discipline, they don't have anything to fall back on. That they can be beaten, turned against one another, and thrown into disarray. The big question-- since it's largely because of their own corrupt leadership-- is how can we get them to do that?

Miers: To withdraw or not to withdraw?

Last night on the News Hour, David Brooks stated with utter certainty that Harriet Miers would not withdraw. More to the point, he believes that Bush wouldn't allow her to withdraw. We've certainly seen a zillion examples of his tenacity-of-a-spoiled-child unwillingness to budge on an issue when he isn't getting his way, but Brooks didn't drop any hints on why he's so sure of this. And today's Moonie Times disagrees. I think.

The White House has begun making contingency plans for the withdrawal of Harriet Miers as President Bush's choice to fill a seat on the Supreme Court, conservative sources said yesterday.

"White House senior staff are starting to ask outside people, saying, 'We're not discussing pulling out her nomination, but if we were to, do you have any advice as to how we should do it?' " a conservative Republican with ties to the White House told The Washington Times.

The White House denied making such calls.

"Absolutely not true," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said.

But the conservative political consultant said that he had received such a query from Sara Taylor, director of the Office of White House Political Affairs.

Miss Taylor denied making any such calls.

Well, that clears things up. Actual news on the GOP seems in short supply these days-- a lot of writing on the blogs and even in the nation's papers has been little more than speculation and gossip this week. Frustrating, but we can still look forward to hearing something factual from Fitzgerald on the Plame investigation next week. Right?

GAO examines accounts of vote fraud

It's good to see the wheels grinding away on this issue. There obviously isn't much chance of substantive action while the GOP controls both legislative branches, but the issue needs to be kept alive.

"[C]oncerns about electronic voting machines have been realized and have caused problems with recent elections, resulting in the loss and miscount of votes."

That's just one of the chilling revelations from the non-partisan Government Accountability Office's (GAO) 107-page report on the security of Election Voting Machines in America as just released moments ago. The report confirms many of the greatest concerns expressed by those who have called for Election Reform since the deeply flawed 2004 Presidential Election.

The report "analyzed over 80 recent and relevant reports related to the security and reliability of electronic voting systems." The results confirm a range of security vulnerabilities and violations in Electronic Voting Machines in recent elections and the accompanying systems used to administer elections in the United States of America. It goes on to say that the issues brought to the attention of the GAO by elected representatives, activists and other concerned citizens, "merit the focused attention of federal state and local authorities responsible for election administration." (. . .)

Examples of Voting System Problems and Vulnerabilities.
  • Cast ballots, ballot definition files, and audit logs could be modified.

  • Supervisor functions were protected with weak or easily-guessed passwords.

  • Systems had easily picked locks and power switches that were exposed and unprotected.

  • Local jurisdictions misconfigured their electronic voting systems, leading to election day problems.

  • Voting systems experienced operational failures during elections.

  • Vendors installed uncertified electronic voting systems.
  • Friday, October 21, 2005

    DeLay's lawyer lies, gets caught

    Who says the blogs don't make a difference? The press might be too lazy to spend a couple of minutes fact-checking, but at least they're being forced to correct themselves sometimes. Think Progress caught DeLay's attorney making a false claim about MoveOn in an attempt to have a judge disqualified from the case.

    The AP story, as it originally appeared:

    The judge, Bob Perkins, has been a contributor to Democratic causes. DeLay’s attorney pointed out Friday that those causes include, which is now selling a T-shirt with DeLay’s picture on it.

    The corrected piece:

    The judge, Bob Perkins, has been a contributor to Democratic causes, including So, DeLay's attorney asked the judge to recuse himself. Attorney Dick DeGuerin said has been selling T-shirts bearing the likeness of Tom DeLay's mug shot. Perkins replied that he's neither seen nor bought such a T-shirt, and that the last time he contributed to was before last year's election, when they were mostly helping Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry.

    In a statement, said that DeLay's lawyer "has either bad information or lied in court."

    This won't stop Fox & Fiends from repeating the claim, undoubtedly, but at least we're catching the press in their errors as they happen.

    A conservative look at corruption in Iraq

    It's been no secret for at least the last year and a half that a pretty big chunk of reconstruction money meant for Iraq wound up just disappearing (mostly into the pockets of American Coalition Provisional Authority appointees and contractors). My last estimate was about $14 billion. In this article, a former CIA official puts it at $20 billion. And there's been no accountability, no paper trail, and certainly no pressure from Republican officials to get to the bottom of what's probably the biggest heist in American history-- and a national disgrace of unprecendented proportions.

    Money also disappeared in truckloads and by helicopter. The CPA reportedly distributed funds to contractors in bags off the back of a truck. In one notorious incident in April 2004, $1.5 billion in cash that had just been delivered by three Blackhawk helicopters was handed over to a courier in Erbil, in the Kurdish region, never to be seen again. Afterwards, no one was able to recall the courier’s name or provide a good description of him.

    Paul Bremer, meanwhile, had a slush fund in cash of more than $600 million in his office for which there was no paperwork. One U.S. contractor received $2 million in a duffel bag. Three-quarters of a million dollars was stolen from an office safe, and a U.S. official was given $7 million in cash in the waning days of the CPA and told to spend it “before the Iraqis take over.” Nearly $5 billion was shipped from New York in the last month of the CPA. Sources suggest that a deliberate attempt was being made to run down the balance and spend the money while the CPA still had authority and before an Iraqi government could be formed.

    A must-read. It walks an uncomfortable line between so-shocking it's funny and too shocking to be funny. Mostly the latter.

    And the big question we're left with is this: why, in the face of monumental corruption and an enormous theft of American taxpayer dollars, is this getting no coverage from the mainstream press?

    Let's not forget the little (corrupt) guy

    What with all the high-level Republicans being indicted on Capitol Hill, it's easy to forget all the state-level corruption going on in the Grand Old Party. So here's a Friday tribute to the great state of Kentucky, whose proud Republican officials do their best to emulate the big boys of the Beltway. Congratulations, guys!

    A Kentucky Republican Party official, whom Gov. Ernie Fletcher let have a Capitol office and taxpayer-funded secretary, and another party official were indicted Thursday on charges of conspiracy to commit political discrimination.

    State GOP Treasurer Dave Disponett, who is also on the state Board of Elections, and Bowling Green attorney J. Marshall Hughes were indicted on misdemeanor charges for allegedly plotting with administration officials and others to base rank-and-file personnel decisions on candidates' political affiliations.

    The charges are the first outside of state government in the investigation that has been going on since May. Disponett and Hughes are some of Fletcher's close supporters and their names have appeared frequently in e-mail exchanges about job candidates.

    Disponett is a Lawrenceburg builder. For more than the first year of Fletcher's administration, Disponett had an office in the state Capitol, as well as a state-provided secretary and prime parking place. Fletcher has said Disponett consulted on hiring political appointees.

    Hughes is a Bowling Green lawyer, whose firm has offices around the state and specializes in injury lawsuits. He is listed on the party Web site as being a district chairman.

    Disponett and Hughes were at-large Kentucky delegates to last year's Republican National Convention.

    Previously, the grand jury has indicted 11 current or former members of Fletcher's administration. After the first nine were indicted, Fletcher issued blanket pardons intended to cover all those charged in the past or future.

    WSJ not keen on Miers

    Things aren't looking any better for Harriet Miers, between her lackluster (to say the least) response to the Senate questionnaire and inability to find anything positive to say for herself. And the right still isn't buying it. Let's just hope we don't see any defenses from the left based on the idea that "she might surprise everyone" and go progressive. Let her sink, people. How much luckier could we get in not having to risk all to block a nomination ourselves?

    The Supreme Court nominee praised as "meticulous" and "detail-oriented" had to admit on her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that she had been suspended from the District of Columbia bar because she'd forgotten to pay her dues. And then, in a follow-up letter, she had to admit that she'd forgotten to mention in her Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire that she'd also been suspended from the Texas bar after having forgotten to pay dues there. Embarrassing.

    What was her qualification for the Supreme Court again?

    In an editorial today, the Wall Street Journal declares that George W. Bush's second Supreme Court nomination has proved to be a "political blunder of the first order." The Journal stops short of calling on Bush to withdraw Miers' nomination -- maybe she will "prove to be such a sterling Senate witness that she can still win confirmation" -- but it says that Miers is already suffering from the perception, "fairly or not," that she is "simply not able to discuss the Constitutional controversies that have animated American political debate for two generations."

    More fractious fun with diesenchanted Republicans

    Could it be? Just as the Bush Republicans appear set to collapse under their own corrupt weight, principled Republicans seem to be cropping up everywhere in what we can only hope is an attempt to reform their party into one that puts the interests of the nation before personal finance.

    While the recent nomination of Hariet Miers for the Supreme Court by George W. Bush may have revealed more than a few cracks in the usually lockstepped Conservative Movement in America, Daniel Borchers has been calling out "fake Conservativism" -- as we refer here at the Brad Blog to those who use the tenets of the true Conservative Movement merely for cynical, opportunistic political gain -- for years.

    Borchers' organization, Citizens for Principled Conservatism (CPC) is currently in-production of a documentary named The Truth About Ann which aims squarely at political and religious hypocrisy of Rightwing commentator and author, Ann Coulter.

    As well, Borchers has created and released exclusively to Brad Blog, a PowerPoint presentation entitled "The Gospel of Ann".

    The presentation, which we've converted into downloadable streaming video, excoriates the controversial Coulter's religious opportunism. It was inspired, according to Borchers, "by Ann Coulter's 'jaw-dropping' expression of faith in God, a faith which otherwise seems so empty in everything Coulter does."

    Indeed, Coulter's "faith" may be as empty and phony as her self-proclaimed "conservative" beliefs. The presentation points out the recent TIME Magazine profile of Coulter which implies that she is a member of Redeemer Presbyterian, an evangelical Christian church in New York, and yet the ministry at the church never seems to have heard of her!

    The Redeemer church, "whose non-political stance is well-known, disavows all hateful and hostile speech," according to Borchers' presentation, had to "Google" her name to figure out who she was! Apparently Coulter is not a member of that church at all!

    They've got the video, and you'll probably want to have a look. Enjoy.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    TNR Stupidity Watch

    The New Republic is still convinced that Democrats need to tack right politically. Which I still insist is odd, given the subterranean approval ratings of the GOP these days. After all, these guys won by talking like liberals, then legislating like fascists. Case in point: the Governator. (I didn't want him to win the election, but he even fooled me into thinking he'd be a moderate.) Anyway, here's the post in its entirety:

    Okay, so she's pro-life. But the 1989 questionnaire Harriet Miers filled out for Texans United for Life doesn't warrant the histrionics coming from liberal opinion leaders. Women's rights groups are calling Miers's views "draconian." While on CNN last night, legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin portrayed Miers as an extremist:
    [S]he stakes out a position that is to the right of President Bush, to the right of Robert Bork, to the right of people who want to overturn Roe v. Wade. They want to amend the Constitution so that nobody can get an abortion, not return the issue to the states. ... Now, obviously, she was running for Dallas City Council, not Supreme Court there. So, we don't know how that would affect her judicial philosophy. But, come on. You get a pretty good sense.

    But do you? It's not like Miers was asked to outline her views on abortion rights in an essay. It's not like she was answering even-handed questions written by a non-partisan group. And it's not like there was any attempt to gauge the depth of her support. She was limited to answering "yes" or "no" to leading questions--using pro-life terminology, posed as if Congress or the Supreme Court had already voted yes--formulated by a pro-life PAC. It doesn't give you much of a sense of anything other than that she thought the PAC's endorsement would help her city council race. And you certainly can't say that she's to the right of the president, unless you somehow have evidence that Texas gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush once filled out a similar survey. Barring that, liberals should tone down their outrage and take care that their rhetoric doesn't go further than the questionnaire in shoring up conservative support for Miers.

    "But do you?" (Cue scary music.) Here's an elementary school-level question for the author: when all we know about Miers' views on Roe v Wade is that she opposes it (and that she's the nominee of an avowedly anti-choice president who openly courts the religious right), isn't it reasonable to assume that.... she opposes it? Apparently this particular commentator chooses to believe that yes or no questions just don't provide us with the answers we need. Maybe I'm just being naive by taking the word of the president, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and the candidate herself. But on the other hand, the author is ignoring the word of the president, James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.

    But not for me...

    I might not be morally bankrupt-- in fact, I might even be running a surplus of 'moral capital.' You see, I'm a pretty nice guy when it comes down to it. But I definitely qualify as "cash poor." That's student life for ya.

    Which brings me to this story (courtesy of the elusive Mil Apodos), which definitely proves that instant karma isn't going to get me.

    On a whim, U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg pulled into a gas station in Washington this week and bought $20 worth of Powerball tickets. As he was leaving, a clerk ran after him because he had left one of the tickets behind.

    "She was a very pleasant young woman; she might have kept it and for all I know it might have been the winning ticket," he said in a telephone news conference.

    Gregg collected a check for $853,492 from the Powerball Lottery on Thursday.

    According to his latest financial disclosure form, Gregg has between $1.5 million and $6.2 million in stocks and other major investments.

    What will he do with the lottery money?

    "Whatever my wife tells me what to do with it?" he joked, saying he would turn the winnings over to the Hugh Gregg Foundation, which supports New Hampshire charities and is named after Gregg's late father, a former governor of New Hampshire.

    At least in this case the lottery will actually help the needy, instead of being a sneaky regressive tax....

    DeLay's mugshot is a glamour shot

    I wonder how you swing something like this. Even in my passport photos I always look like the living dead, and this guy looks as primped and made up as.... well, let's just say that those of us hoping for Nick Nolte are a disappointed lot today. We don't even get him holding the obligatory sign. What a gyp!

    But, as promised, here it is:

    Welcome to the big house, Tom DeLay. You sure got a purty mouth. Mind if call ya "Tom The Lay"?

    (Thanks to several of my hermanos for the link, including the inimitable OD1 and the elusive Mil Apodos.)

    Halting the spread of Santorum

    Ah, this is good to see. All part of the awakening that seems to be going on as the country realizes we've been sold up the river by crooked Republicans who shield themselves with the Bible (and the de rigueur snap-on hair). The only people getting what they want from this administration are oilmen and other corporate fatcats, and they aren't exactly a huge voting bloc. Just the providers of a huge campaign war chest.

    And let this be a reminder of just how easily the GOP can be sent packing in the face of organized local support. Santorum has gone from receiving an entirely-too-charitable profile in the NY Times magazine to being written off by his own party with more than a year to go before his next election. Couldn't have happened to a bigger freak. When you're a devoit Catholic and you've got nuns writing papers about what a dick you are (remember that?), the jig is pretty much up.

    “This is how the Republicans operate,” sighs a veteran GOP campaign manager close to Santorum. “Even if you agree with their agenda, they’ll abandon you if you’re behind in the polls and move on to the next-most important race.”

    Increasingly dubious about Santorum’s chances, Capitol Hill sources report GOP powerbrokers have refocused their attentions—and dollars—on Doug Forrester, a little-known party hack who’s currently embroiled in a dead heat race with multi-millionaire Democrat Jon Corzine for New Jersey’s governorship.

    Now we just need to figure out a way to exploit GOP willingness to kill their wounded. You know, speed up the process a bit.

    Powell's Chief of Staff rips "Cheney cabal."

    Wow. Yet another thread in the GOP traves... errr, tapestry unravels. Let's see, Majority leaders of the House and Senate facing charges. A White House conspiracy expose a secret agent's identity for political payback. Lying to get us into an unpopular war. Voter fraud. Coingate. Harriet "Laughing Stock" Miers.

    The bad news is that Colin Powell isn't trying to salvage his reputation by speaking truth to power. But at least this guy is. Pretty much a must-read.

    Vice-President Dick Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the government's foreign policy apparatus, deciding in secret to carry out policies that had left the US weaker and more isolated in the world, the top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell claimed on Wednesday.

    In a scathing attack on the record of President George W. Bush, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Mr Powell until last January, said: “What I saw was a cabal between the vice-president of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made.

    “Now it is paying the consequences of making those decisions in secret, but far more telling to me is America is paying the consequences.”

    Mr Wilkerson said such secret decision-making was responsible for mistakes such as the long refusal to engage with North Korea or to back European efforts on Iran.

    It also resulted in bitter battles in the administration among those excluded from the decisions.

    “If you're not prepared to stop the feuding elements in the bureaucracy as they carry out your decisions, you are courting disaster. And I would say that we have courted disaster in Iraq, in North Korea, in Iran.”

    The comments, made at the New America Foundation, a Washington think-tank, were the harshest attack on the administration by a former senior official since criticisms by Richard Clarke, former White House terrorism czar, and Paul O'Neill, former Treasury secretary, early last year.

    Mr Wilkerson said his decision to go public had led to a personal falling out with Mr Powell, whom he served for 16 years at the Pentagon and the State Department.

    Brownie target of more FEMA finger-pointing

    It looks like Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff was just the first to decide that the time was right to pile on disgraced FEMA head Michael Brown.

    FEMA officials did not respond to repeated warnings about deteriorating conditions in New Orleans and the dire need for help as Hurricane Katrina struck, the first FEMA official to arrive conceded Thursday.

    Marty Bahamonde, a FEMA regional director, told a Senate panel investigating the government's response to the disaster that he gave regular updates to people in contact with then-FEMA Director Michael Brown as early as Aug. 28, one day before Katrina made landfall.

    In most cases, he was met with silence. In an Aug. 29 phone call to Brown informing him that the first levee had broke, Bahamaonde said he received a polite thank you from Brown, who said he would check with the White House.

    "I think there was a systematic failure at all levels of government to understand the magnitude of the situation," Bahamonde said.

    The testimony before the Senate Homeland SecurityCommittee contradicted Brown, who has said he wasn't fully aware of the dire conditions until days later and that local officials were most responsible for the sluggish response.

    Pretty convenient to come clean when someone else has already taken the fall, but "that's the government for ya," as they say.

    It's good to keep a hard man down.

    The mysterious Cipher helps me indulge in one of my favorite vices: schadenfreude over religious hypocrisy (but takes me to task for it at the same time, leaving me feeling conflicted).

    [T]he Republican candidate for Attorney General, Bob McDonnell — who has earned the nickname “Taliban Bob” for his obsession with sodomy and his gay-baiting of a woman (Newport News Circuit Judge Verbena Askew) he suspected of being a lesbian — once employed a pedophile as his campaign manager! That’s right, McDonnell’s former top aide, Robin W. Vanderwall, was convicted on July 26, 2004, for “attempted indecent liberties with children.” According to the Virginian-Pilot.

    Ironically, Vanderwall was a third-year student at Regent University Law School when he was arrested for attempting to have sodomy with what he thought would be a 13-year-old boy (but turned out to be a police officer ready with handcuffs). Regent, of course, is the school founded by Pat Robertson “to provide exemplary education, from a biblical perspective…embodied in the person of Jesus Christ, and enabled through the power of the Holy Spirit. Soli Deo Gloria.” Apparently, it didn’t work in Vanderwall’s case.

    The best thing about the story is that this guy didn't get to destroy the lives of any children. Hooray for police busts of pedophiles!

    Frist used stock sale revenue for own campaign

    I'd say his already-dashed presidential hopes have now sunk even lower. Into a negative percentage, which isn't even possible.

    WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist paid $72,012 from his own pocket to his 2000 re-election campaign fund in August, two months after he was notified that trustees had sold millions of dollars of his stock in HCA Inc., the hospital chain founded by his father and brother.

    That Aug. 30 payment was disclosed in Federal Election Commission filings last Friday. The documents also show the campaign fund on the same day paid off a $349,107 outstanding loan from U.S. Bank Corp.

    Both transactions enabled the Tennessee Republican to close the Senate campaign fund in anticipation of his retirement from the Senate next year and a possible run for the White House in 2008.

    Chertoff: Katrina was FEMA's fault

    Wow. Katrina is way off the news radar these days, so it's probably a good time for officials to start piling on Brownie. But at least it's honest, if not timely.

    WASHINGTON -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency's lack of planning, not the failures of state and local officials, was to blame for much of what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told member of Congress today.

    The assessment by the most senior administration official to answer legislators' questions since the hurricane struck in late August contrasted sharply with testimony offered earlier by former FEMA Director Michael Brown. Brown had blamed the "dysfunction" of Louisiana state and local officials for the problems that hobbled the relief effort.

    "From my own experience, I don't endorse those views," Chertoff said.

    He told lawmakers that he found the governors and mayors of the region to be responsive as the crisis unfolded.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    DeLay ordered to say cheese.

    Get ready to hear the Fox-coined phrase "criminalization of politics" from your local right-wing pundit. Because something wonderful has happened to the corrupt Texas politician. Hopefully Fitzgerald's Plame investigation will produce fruit as sweet as this.

    A Texas court issued a warrant Wednesday for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to appear for booking, where he is likely to face the fingerprinting and photo mug shot he had hoped to avoid.

    Bail was initially set at $10,000 as a routine step before his first court appearance on conspiracy and money laundering charges. Travis County court officials said DeLay was ordered to appear at the Fort Bend County jail for booking.

    The warrant was "a matter of routine and bond will be posted," DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said.

    The lawyer declined to say when DeLay would surrender to authorities but said the lawmaker would make his first court appearance Friday morning.

    Every progressive with an Internet connection is champing at the bit to obtain the mugshot. Believe me, if one turns up you'll see it right here-- complete with indicted snap-on hair.

    Bill O'Reilly gets a Daily Show smackdown

    And, as always, Crooks and Liars has the video. Long live Crooks and Liars! (The website, I mean. That's just the sort of quote that could be used against me someday.)

    Why O'Reilly was willing to face Jon Stewart on his home turf is beyond me. But I'm glad he did, because he gets to look like a giant douche AND a turd sandwich.

    But don't take my word for it--see for yourself. (6.7 meg download)

    Silly me. I realize why he went on the show. So that he could go on his own show and talk about what a fearless man he was to confront the French-coddling, hate-mongering, Bush-bashing insane radical fringe of the American left.

    She's my daughter! She's my sister!

    Salon has a nice roundup of the latest rumors in the Plame investigation. So if that sort of thing is your bag, you can get all the stories you want from them.

    Libby? Rove? Miller? Hadley? Cheney? The answer is we have no idea, although the NYT writes today that there won't be any indictments this week.

    Now move along, folks, there's nothing to see here. Yet.

    'Lying or incompetent' question is answered!

    Yesterday I pointed out Bush and McClellan's insistence that nobody knew anything about Miers' stance on Roe v Wade. But anyone with access to a newspaper knew plenty-- so were they lying, or just idiots?

    The answer is: lying! (Although that doesn't preclude that they're also incompetent.)

    White House press secretary Scott McClellan said that, as Miers was being vetted by her White House colleagues before her nomination, Bush "was informed of the views she had expressed as a candidate for public office back in the late '80s." McClellan said that aides had heard of but not seen the questions from the antiabortion group and that the president did not ask her whether she still holds the same views.

    Miers handed over the one-sheet form along with her answers to a lengthy questionnaire the Judiciary Committee asked her to fill out in preparation for the confirmation hearings the panel will conduct, probably in early November.