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, May 31, 2007

Wild-eyed chest thumper or whining ranter?

It really is a shame that Fearless Leader was born to multi-millionaires with tremendous political connections. His special blend of inexplicable arrogance and utter worthlessness would've made him the perfect choice for despotic night manager of a Pump 'n Munch. If only he were pitching a fit somewhere in a West Texas convenience store and screaming " I'M the hot dog rotisserie guy!" in a paper hat....

Georgie Anne Geyer writes today in the Dallas Morning News about President Bush’s strange behavior during a recent meeting with “[f]riends of his from Texas.”

But by all reports, President Bush is more convinced than ever of his righteousness. Friends of his from Texas were shocked recently to find him nearly wild-eyed, thumping himself on the chest three times while he repeated "I am the president!" He also made it clear he was setting Iraq up so his successor could not get out of “our country’s destiny.”

This is a new, and even more disturbing, account of the meeting. It's pretty sad when the toned-down version of the story already makes you sound like a lunatic. Not to mention the eagerness of current GOP candidates to both distance themselves from the man while marrying themselves to his disastrous policies.

Welcome to Central Industrial

A couple of years ago, I thought Democrats were missing a big opportunity by not framing conservation measures and cleaner energy as an "energy independence" issue. This article from TNR is an unpleasant reminder of just how big a role corporate cash plays in our election process.

But the strategy comes with a downside: The coal industry has lately latched on to the "energy security" craze by billing itself as the answer to our oil-dependency woes. Specifically, Big Coal is teaming up with an array of Republicans and Democrats to tout liquefied coal as a substitute for gasoline in U.S. vehicles. The country is sitting on vast coal reserves, they reason, so why not use those instead of tossing money at the House of Saud? There's just one catch: Liquefied coal would do little to reduce carbon emissions and, in all likelihood, would make things worse. Nevertheless, the idea continues to gain currency in Congress, in part because "energy security" is a sales pitch few politicians can resist.

Unfortunately for [Big Coal], a recent analysis by the Energy Department found that coal-to-liquid fuel could generate roughly twice the carbon emissions that regular gasoline does. Coal backers counter that, if the carbon released during liquefication could be captured and permanently stored underground, the fuel would be comparable in carbon impact to gasoline--that is, the status quo. But the technology for storing carbon underground remains unproved, and, even if it works, cost pressures may prevent it from being adopted on a large scale, since it could make plants more expensive to build and operate.

The moral of the story: Why bother trying to save the planet if you have enough money to ignore the consequences?

Do the Honky Pokey

Think Progress has a pretty astonishing clip from John McCain's appearance on O'Reilly's show that really takes the cake-- or perhaps capirotada, if we liberals manage to succeed in our diabolical plans.

O’Reilly: But do you understand what the New York Times wants, and the far-left want? They want to break down the white, Christian, male power structure, which you’re a part, and so am I, and they want to bring in millions of foreign nationals to basically break down the structure that we have. In that regard, Pat Buchanan is right. So I say you’ve got to cap with a number.

McCain: In America today we’ve got a very strong economy and low unemployment, so we need addition farm workers, including by the way agriculture, but there may come a time where we have an economic downturn, and we don’t need so many.

O’Reilly: But in this bill, you guys have got to cap it. Because estimation is 12 million, there may be 20 [million]. You don’t know, I don’t know. We’ve got to cap it.

McCain: We do, we do. I agree with you.

I think that could be the most insanely paranoid thing I've ever heard O'Reilly say. And that's what it's all about.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Spam e-mails able to bypass (proposed) strategic defense filters!

I was going to post this as an update to the Star Wars story below, but I thought it merited a post. And I think my analogy will become very clear after these two sentences:

The launch took place at the Plesetsk cosmodrome in northern Russia at 1420 (1020 GMT) on Tuesday.

The missile, called RS-24, can be armed with up to 10 warheads and was designed to evade missile defence systems, the Russian defence ministry says.

SDI has been the Platonic form of 'boondoggle' since its inception. While sci-fi tales of a floating space platform bristling with laser guns gave way to ever-more-humble, but equally improbable, versions that continued to gain tens of billions of dollars in funding before being scrapped.

BushCo, being what it is, took a look at the decades of scuttled systems and failed tests and came to the inevitable conclusion: spend billions more on improbable plans.

Reality, being what it is, has come to the inevitable conclusion: the money was wasted and missile defense is still a pipe dream.

Irony, being what it is, has also reached an inevitable conclusion: Reagan's Folly has cost us more than a hundred billion dollars, and brought about diplomatic tensions and-- because that isn't ironic enough after FEMA, Iraq, the DOJ, et al.-- perhaps the "next generation" in nuclear weapons technology. A new, globalized cold war would just be the icing on the cake.

I might have to hang on to the whole SDI as anti-spam thing. It really is a pretty apt comparison, I think. While spam filters require very sophisticated programming and constant, pricey upgrades, they're obsolete by the time they're introduced. Because all the spammers have to do is reach for another simple and inexpensive way to get around them. Or just launch-- I mean send-- a whole lot more spam messages. Some of it will always get through. And the same, tragically, is true of ICBMs.

Please permit me to blow your mind.

Richard Cohen took time away from shellacking his soft-serve hairdo to write a nice column on the real trouble with Fearless Leader.

Years ago, someone coined the term "neoliberal." I was never sure what it meant, and it has since fallen into disuse, but whatever the case, I'd like to revive (and mangle) the term and apply it -- brace yourself -- to George W. Bush. He's more liberal than you might think.

You recoil, I know. After all, the conventional wisdom is that Bush is the most conservative of all presidents, an advocate of limited government, minimal taxes and, when it comes to the quintessentially liberal concern with civil liberties, the man who gave us the twin black eyes of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. It's an appalling record.

But consider this: An overriding principle of conservatism is to limit the role and influence of the federal government.

But consider this: starting your serious argument by ceding that you have no idea what you're talking about is generally considered a bad thing.

But consider this: Republican obsession with all things Reagan is outright fetishistic, yet he expanded the size of the federal government.

Or consider this: the 25-30% of Americans who still support Fearless Leader and his "appalling record" aren't radicals, liberals, independents or moderates. They're the rank and file of today's Republican party-- people who support their party as zealously as they do the home team. Which is a real shame,

In fact, all the claims that G-Dub isn't really a Republican seem to coincide pretty remarkably with the days when his approval ratings were clearly going to remain in the toilet... and Repubs were getting very, very nervous about election prospects. Before that, he could do no wrong.

But I've really given the piece more time than it's worth. Go ahead and have a look if you want to see just how disingenuous, vapid, and frankly idiotic today's talking heads can be. It's stupefying.

30 years of Star Wars. And 20 years of Star Wars.

I noticed all sorts of Web headlines about the 30th anniversary of Lucas' Star Wars franchise, which gave us three and a half extremely badass movies, two and a half crummy movies, a notorious holiday special, and God only knows how many knickknacks, plastic figures, promotional tie-in collectible soft drink cups, etc. Still, those three and a half movies were awfully cool.

The other Star Wars has been around twenty years, but it's also become noteworthy for involving monstrous sums of money and inspiring a rabid, cultlike following-- only there's nothing badass about missile defense. It sucked from day one, continues to suck, and has the most short-sighted, arrogant and irrational supporters imaginable. I'd rather eat turkey legs at the Ren Fest while dressed as a mugato.

The United States scrapped on Friday a key test of an emerging missile-defense shield after a dummy missile that was to have been the system's target went astray over the Pacific. . .

"We need more demonstrations of the capability and this just delays this," said Riki Ellison of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, a group funded partly by missile shield contractors. . .

The botched test "reinforces the need" to install U.S. 10 interceptors in Poland and a tracking radar station in the Czech Republic as a defense against a potential missile attack from Iran, [Pentagon spokesman richard] Lehner said.

The brief article also mentions the efforts touted as "successes" of the program, but points out obliquely-- in that let's-not-bruise-conservative-egos spirit of balance-- that the tests only worked when they were rigged. So what we really need is some way to convince rogue nations that their missiles aren't complete without an electronic device specifically made to allow our missiles to track them. Oh, and to call us beforehand and let us know the exact time, position, and trajectory of the launch. Then it might work. Occasionally.

UPDATE: Physicist Fred Lamb,
who headed up an American Physical Society study of boost-phase interceptors, was reportedly worried that the test might succeed. Not because he hates America (that sure is a versatile accusation, isn't it?), but because it would lead to the erroneous conclusion that "the system has a substantial capability in a real battle situation. That would be a gross exaggeration."

Two bitter tastes that taste foul together

OK. The holiday weekend was nice, although Memorial Day is always pretty dark when you think about it too much. And worse when there's a war on. And worse than that when the people running the show have earned themselves the nickname 'Mayberry Machiavellis' for their singular ineptitude and avarice.

Story 1: U.S. military leaders in Iraq are increasingly convinced that most of the broad political goals President Bush laid out early this year in his announcement of a troop buildup will not be met this summer and are seeking ways to redefine success.

In September, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, is scheduled to present Congress with an assessment of progress in Iraq. Military officers in Baghdad and outside advisors working with Petraeus doubt that the three major goals set by U.S. officials for the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki will be achieved by then.

Enactment of a new law to share Iraq's oil revenue among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish regions is the only goal they think might be achieved in time, and even that is considered a long shot.

Translation: The surge is a bust, so the White House is now trying to move the goalposts. Again.

Item 2: Al Qaeda is a more dangerous enemy today than it has ever been before. It has suffered some setbacks since September 11, 2001: losing its state within a state in Afghanistan, having several of its top operatives killed, failing in its attempts to overthrow the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. But thanks largely to Washington's eagerness to go into Iraq rather than concentrate on hunting down al Qaeda's leaders, the organization now has a solid base of operations in the badlands of Pakistan and an effective franchise in western Iraq. Its reach has spread throughout the Muslim world, where it has developed a large cadre of operatives, and in Europe, where it can claim the support of some disenfranchised Muslim locals and members of the Arab and Asian diasporas. Osama bin Laden has mounted a successful propaganda campaign to make himself and his movement the primary symbols of Islamic resistance worldwide. His ideas now attract more followers than ever.

The ravings of a left-wing crackpot? Not exactly-- the author has an impressive resume, and has worked in Middle Eastern intelligence and counter-terrorism for several decades.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Guess what? Irony!

Because BushCo is still totally incapable of doing anything that isn't exasperatingly irrational. Or replacing a corrupt appointee with a non-corrupt appointee.

WASHINGTON -- The White House is starting to draw up a list of potential nominees to lead the World Bank, and former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a heart surgeon who has traveled widely in Africa, is getting especially close scrutiny for the job.

Frist, potential nominee to lead the World Bank, received quite a bit of scrutiny for his financial dealings, which... well, allow me to cut 'n paste myself.

In June 2000, Senator Frist took $1 million of the money that had been contributed to his 2000 Senate campaign and invested it in the stock market, where it promptly began losing money. In November 2000, Senator Frist sought to collect $1.2 million he had lent his 1994 Senate campaign committee. As a result of the stock market losses, however, Frist 2000, Inc. did not have enough money to repay the loan. Senator Frist solved this problem by having the 1994 and the 2000 campaign committees jointly take out a $1.44 million bank loan at a cost of $10,000 a month interest. Frist 2000, Inc. did not report this debt on its FEC disclosure forms.

Yep. World Bank. Because the man you want (ostensibly) dedicating his life to helping developing nations reduce poverty is the kind of guy best known for abandoning his medical training for a chance to proclaim that a brain-dead husk of a human being is actually a few minutes away from doing musical theater. You know-- a realist. In Bizarroworld....

Thursday, May 24, 2007

"Let's get stupid!"

This isn't going to be a big day for posting because I'm entering vacation mode in anticipation of the long weekend. But I wouldn't want to head into it without just one more hideously depressing reminder of how insane the political state of our nation is under BushCo. Go ahead... it's only wafer-thin.

Q Mr. President, a new Senate report this morning contends that your administration was warned before the war that by invading Iraq you would actually give Iran and al Qaeda a golden opportunity to expand their influence, the kind of influence you were talking about with al Qaeda yesterday, and with Iran this morning. Why did you ignore those warnings, sir?

the president: Ed, going into Iraq we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn't happen. And, obviously, as I made a decision as consequential as that, I weighed the risks and rewards of any decision.

(Translation: I'm not going to answer you, but I will feign concern. Next?)

I could've told them that would happen for a fried baloney sandwich (and not even a $500 billion baloney sandwich), along with millions of other Americans who aren't even Middle East specialists. The above exchange, from today's Rose Garden press conference, led to an entire series of serious-minded questions which met with the carefully reasoned and thoughtful answers we've come to expect from America's worst president.

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you want nothing short of victory, that leaving Iraq would be catastrophic; you once again mentioned al Qaeda. Does that mean that you are willing to leave American troops there, no matter what the Iraqi government does? I know this is a question we've asked before, but you can begin it with a "yes" or "no."

the president: We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It's their government's choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.

Q -- catastrophic, as you've said over and over again?

the president: I would hope that they would recognize that the results would be catastrophic. This is a sovereign nation, Martha. We are there at their request.

(Translation: The most important challenge we face in Iraq is maintaining a number of face-saving options in the face of epic failure.)

Q Mr. President, after the mistakes that have been made in this war, when you do as you did yesterday, where you raised two-year-old intelligence, talking about the threat posed by al Qaeda, it's met with increasing skepticism. The majority in the public, a growing number of Republicans, appear not to trust you any longer to be able to carry out this policy successfully. Can you explain why you believe you're still a credible messenger on the war?

the president: I'm credible because I read the intelligence, David, and make it abundantly clear in plain terms that if we let up, we'll be attacked. And I firmly believe that.

Look, this has been a long, difficult experience for the American people. I can assure you al Qaeda, who would like to attack us again, have got plenty of patience and persistence. And the question is, will we?

Yes, I talked about intelligence yesterday. I wanted to make sure the intelligence I laid out was credible, so we took our time. Somebody said, well, he's trying to politicize the thing. If I was trying to politicize it, I'd have dropped it out before the 2006 elections. I believe I have an obligation to tell the truth to the American people as to the nature of the enemy. And it's unpleasant for some. I fully recognize that after 9/11, in the calm here at home, relatively speaking, caused some to say, well, maybe we're not at war. I know that's a comfortable position to be in, but that's not the truth.

(Untranslatable. But along the lines of "I'm not going to answer your question, but let me assure you that we must continue destabilizing the Middle East and radicalizing its people if we want to be safe from the threat of a destabilized and radicalized Middle East." Oh, and did you know there's a war on?)

And the surge? The one that started was announced in January? How's that going?

the president: But I want to remind you as to why I sent more troops in. It was to help stabilize the capital. You're asking me how much longer; we have yet to even get all our troops in place. . . And as I explained in my opening remarks, all the troops won't be there until mid-June. And one reason you're seeing more fighting is because our troops are going into new areas, along with the Iraqis. And so General Petraeus has said, why don't you give us until September and let me report back, to not only me, but to the United States Congress, about progress.

Five months to increase the number of troops by 10%?!? That's more of a dribble, I'm afraid. General Petraeus? Anything to add?

May 16, 2007: "Come September, I don’t think we’ll have anything definitive in September (although) certainly we’ll have some indicators on the political side in Iraq."

Oh. But there must be some brilliant strategery behind the decision to pull men and equipment out of Afghanistan, where Osama himself was hiding, right? What's your next move in this deadly game of cat and mouse Decider/Commander Guy?

Q Mr. President, why is he still at large?

the president: Why is he at large? Because we haven't got him yet, Jim. That's why. And he's hiding, and we're looking, and we will continue to look until we bring him to justice. We've brought a lot of his buddies to justice, but not him. That's why he's still at large. He's not out there traipsing around, he's not leading many parades, however. He's not out feeding the hungry. He's isolated, trying to kill people to achieve his objective.

(Translation: I'm completely, irrevocably, batshit insane and should've been shut away in a rubber room years ago-- instead, you're all taking me completely seriously. On the other hand, "He's at large because he isn't in jail" is the most coherent thing I've said in quite a while, so I can see how you might continue to mistake me for a rational adult.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Goodling, the Badling, and the Uglying

Man, you give a hotshot young Dominionist a prestigious spot in the Department of Justice, and how does she repay you? You're on the hotseat, her ass is in the clear, and she decides to stop subverting justice and uphold the law.

If you felt even a faint spark of hope reading that, you have my sincerest apologies. But we're still in Bizarroworld.

First, a pleasant bit of fun from Monica Goodling's otherwise craven and dishonest testimony:

"The mission of the law school you attended, Regent, is to bring to bear upon legal education and the legal profession the will of almighty God, our creator. What is the will of almighty God, our creator, on the legal profession?" he asked, apparently attempting to provoke some reaction.

Goodling wisely dodged. "I'm not sure that I could define that question for you," she said.

As has been reported, Goodling graduated in 1995 from Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., where the school motto is "Christ Preeminent." After spending one year in law school at American University, she transferred to Pat Robertson's Regent University School of Law, in Virginia Beach, Va., where the motto is "Christian Leadership to Change the World." According to the ranking by U.S. News and World Report, Regent is a "forth-tier" law school, accepting more than half of its applicants. Yale, which ranks as the nation's top law school, accepts less than 7 percent of applicants.

Cohen was apparently suggesting that something fishy was afoot at Regent. He apparently didn't think much of Goodling's diploma. He asked if she had an opinion on the roughly 150 Regent alums who have been hired by the Bush Administration.

"I think we have a lot more people from Harvard and Yale," Goodling deadpanned.

"That's refreshing," Cohen shot back. "Is it a fact -- are you aware of the fact that in your graduating class 50 to 60 percent of the students failed the bar the first time?"

"I'm not," said Goodling. "I don't remember the statistics, but I know it wasn't good. I was happy I passed the first time."

But it didn't last long. An oily demagogue from Virginia used the opportunity to pretend that Christians are a persecuted minority in this country. Because he's fine with a DOJ employee who's more than happy to break the law if she thinks Pat Robertson would want her to.

This exchange was more typical of Goodling's cowardly 'nonpology':

Scott: Do you believe that [it was] legal or illegal for you to take those political considerations in mind? Not whether they were legal or illegal, what do you believe? Do you believe that they were illegal?

Goodling: I don't believe I intended to commit a crime.

Scott: Did you break the law? Was it against the law to take those political considerations into account? You've got civil service laws. You've got obstruction of justice. Were there any laws that you could have broken by taking political considerations into account, quote, "on some occasions"?

Goodling: The best I can say is that I know I took political considerations into account on some occasions.

Scott: Was that legal?

Goodling: Sir, I'm not able to answer that question. I know I crossed the line.

Scott: What line -- legal?

Goodling: I crossed the line of the civil service rules.

Scott: Rules -- laws. You crossed the law on civil service laws. You crossed the line on civil service laws, is that right?

Goodling: I believe I crossed the lines. But I didn't mean to. I mean, I...

Scott: OK.

"I don't believe I intended to commit a crime."...?...!...? I'll say one thing for her-- she has a legal mind, knowledge of and regard for the rule of law that rivals anyone in this administration.

Terror. Race. Voting bases.

Tough day yesterday, but I'm back on track. And whad'ya know? The news still sucks.

On April 30 I mentioned the little-covered story of four white southern men who had a big stash of guns, 130 grenades, a DIY rocket launcher(!) and various and sundry explosives. Oh, and lots of racially-tinged 'love it or leave it' paraphernalia, naturally.

Just last week was a story that I missed: a member of the 'Aryan Nation' killing four people in Idaho.

Rick Perlstein wrote an excellent piece on the latest-- reactionary fans of Jerry Falwell who attended the funeral with plans to "napalm protesters."

Stop pretending Islamicists - or environmentalists or animal rights activists (which are, ridiculously, federal law enforcement and non-governmental terrorism-watchers' next most obsessive concern) - are the only imminent terrorist threats to our nation. We now know that students at Liberty University were ready to napalm protesters at Jerry Falwell's funeral. One of the suspects is a soldier at Fort Benning. [UPDATE: Falwell gave the kid a scholarship.]

If the media does not start connecting some dots, they will have abdicated their citizenzship duties. How many times has the nation potentially come within a hair's breadth of suffering a right-wing terrorist attack this spring? As of today, three, or possibly six times - at least that we know about. . .

Recommended reading.

Sadly, this makes the perfect introduction for the latest right-wing attempt to convince all of America that the liberal refusal to demonize all Muslims is going to destroy the nation.

John Podhoretz got in on the fun: I don't object to reporting the fact that our Muslim community is more assimilated and less radicalized than similar communities in Europe and elsewhere. By all means, let's hear about that. But isn't the fact that 13% of American Muslims say suicide bombing of civilians is justifiable significant? Thirteen percent is a significant number.... How about the fact that roughly 1-in-4 young Muslims are sympathetic to terrorism?

Wow! And those are the "assimilated and less radicalized" Muslims! What savages!

Michelle Malkin got in on the fun: "Most U.S. Muslims reject suicide bombings," AP reports. Here's what should be headlined from the article about a new Pew poll (which you can find here): Headline: "One in four younger U.S. Muslims say suicide bombings to defend their religion are acceptable at least in some circumstances..."

Then along came Glenn Greenwald with some of those annoying "facts" that make us liberals such a danger.

The University of Maryland's highly respected Program on International Public Attitudes, in December 2006, conducted a concurrent public opinion poll of the United States and Iran to determine the comparative views of each country's citizens on a variety of questions. The full findings are published here (.pdf). . .

A rather substantial 24% of Americans thought that [bombings and other types of attacks intentionally aimed at civilians] are justified "often" or "sometimes," while another 27% thought they were justified in rare cases.

Did you catch that? That's the same percentage of American Muslims who thought there were occasions when murdering civilians was justified. Elsewhere in his column, Greenwald points out that Iranians asked the same question were much more likely than Americans to say that such attacks are never justified. And, yes, they'll keep appearing on television and publications referred to as conservative intellectuals-- with a straight face. But these days, conservative intellectual is synonymous with cheap demagogue.

Monday, May 21, 2007

More risk, and less reward? Sign me up!

Another longstanding "accuse others of the crime you're committing" tradition of this administration is screwing over the troops. Benefit cuts, the whole Walter Reed scandal, and the fact that their lives are nothing more than a political truncheon for the administration.

The Bush administration had asked for a 3 percent military raise for Jan. 1, 2008, enough to match last year’s average pay increase in the private sector. The House Armed Services Committee recommends a 3.5 percent pay increase for 2008, and increases in 2009 through 2012 that also are 0.5 percentage point greater than private-sector pay raises.

The slightly bigger military raises are intended to reduce the gap between military and civilian pay that stands at about 3.9 percent today. Under the bill, HR 1585, the pay gap would be reduced to 1.4 percent after the Jan. 1, 2012, pay increase.

Bush budget officials said the administration “strongly opposes” both the 3.5 percent raise for 2008 and the follow-on increases, calling extra pay increases “unnecessary.”

You've got to love that show of appreciation for their sacrifices. I've never has a job that requires 80 pounds of gear in 100+ temperatures-- while being targeted by snipers and bombers. But I'm very familiar with shitty wages. As in 'not even keeping up with annual inflation' wages. And apparently even that is too good for our military.

But just being amoral pricks is never enough for the GOP. They wanted to pour a nice compund of salt, vinegar and Tabasco in the wound (although to be fair, not everything BushCo opposed was a total disgrace).

A prohibition on converting medical jobs held by military members into civilian positions drew opposition [from the White House]. “This will eliminate the flexibility of the Secretary of Defense to use civilian medical personnel for jobs away from the battlefield and at the same time use the converted military billets to enhance the strength of operating units,” the policy statement says.

A death gratuity for federal civilian employees who die in support of military operations, and new benefits for disabled retirees and the survivors of military retirees also drew complaints. . .

Refusal by lawmakers to approve Tricare fees for beneficiaries, something administration officials view as an important step in holding down health care cost, also drew opposition, along with a provision imposing price controls on prescription drugs dispensed to Tricare users.

Dammit, they're fighting for the freedom to pay whatever pharmaceutical companies demand! Anything less and the Soviet Union wins!

And give up show business?

President George W. Bush said Attorney General Alberto Gonzales continues to have his full support and dismissed as "pure political theater'' Democratic proposals for no-confidence votes on the embattled Justice Department chief.

"He has got my confidence. He has done nothing wrong,'' Bush said today in response to a question during a news conference at his Texas ranch. "I stand by Al Gonzales.''

Obviously, it's insane to suggest that legislative calls for accountability and transparency on the part of another branch of government 'theater.' Put another way, the president is deriding democracy as theater. That could have something to do with the fact that he heads the most corrupt and inept administration in the nation's history.

But one of those rules for dealing with the new GOP is "if they accuse you of it, they're doing it themselves." And the recent veto of the Iraq spending bill makes the point. As you may recall from earlier this month, the 'first CEO president' argues that unlimited funding for his tragic failures in Afghanistan and Iraq shouldn't be tied to any notions of progress or success. Now that's top-notch business policy! And the antithesis of professed conservative values of small government and fiscal responsibility.

But Fearless Leader wasn't about to simply sign his second veto measure in six years. Not symbolic enough. Or, if I may, not theatrical enough. On May 7, 2007, Bush vetoed the bill with a pen given to him by the father of a Marine killed in Iraq. There's certainly nothing wrong with that, if indeed the man asked Bush to do just that, but how did the story and the event become national news if it was a private moment between Bush and a citizen? Hmmmm....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Now I know my (GOP) ABCs...

Amorality, Bullying and Corruption, that is. Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the Iraq War and for-now-at-least Bush appointee to chair the World Bank, has a problem. A problem quite common to conservatives these days. He was put in his position by the Crony in Chief, and used it to push his own extremist ideology-- in ConservoSpeak, 'restore honor and dignity')-- at the World Bank, while proving to be an incompetent and fatuous administrator. Then, of course, using his influence to give an extraordinarily generous promotion and pay raise to his "girlfriend." And denied responsibility until he was caught utterly dead to rights.

That much we know and pretty much expect of any power player in the Republican machine these days. But, like the politicization of the US Department of Justice, peel away that festering outer layer of corruption and you find another, even more fetid layer within. And another. And another.

World Bank General Counsel Ana Palacio was appointed by Wolfowitz in 2005. Among her credentials for the position are strong support for the Iraq war, being a personal friend of Wolfowitz's girlfriend, a volatile temper, and willingness to obstruct justice if it helps a fellow ideologue.

The World Bank's Ethics Committee apparently knew nothing of Wolfowitz's gift to his girlfriend, but a couple of other people did-- attorneys who reviewed the deal and okayed it, albeit while covering their own asses in a way that suggests they were fully aware that this wasn't on the up and up. Their names? Ted Olsen and Eugene Scalia. Scalia? Yes, as in 'son of right-wing ideologue Antonin' and controversial Bush apointee. But don't forget Ted Olsen! He represented Bush before the Supreme Court-- where Eugene Scalia's father Antonin works-- in a case known as Bush v Gore. Then he was given a special appointment by Bush!

I remember in 2000 talking about the complete corruption of the GOP, that the party was rotten to the core. In a way, those were the more pleasant times. Even though conservative friends and family members chided me as a paranoid Chicken Little, I was still able to maintain a faint glimmer of hope that I was, in fact, completely mistaken.

Scope of US Attorney firings still expanding

McClatchy (nee Knight-Ridder) keeps up the in-depth coverage of the US Attorney scandal-- isn't actual investigative reporting great?-- and finds that the list of attorneys sacked for their 'disturbing lack of faith,' to paraphrase Darth Vader, may have risen to ten.

A U.S. attorney in Minnesota, who disagreed with the Justice Department on a case involving voting rolls, was asked to resign early last year.

That little tidbit comes near the very end of the article, but it could be a lot more explosive than it appears. Josh Marshall provides the blow-by-blow. For convenience, I'm going to rewrite the above sentence including more pertinent details:

The sole U.S. attorney in Minnesota, who was placed on the DOJ firing list shortly before leaving the post and had disagreed with the DOJ on a case involving purging the battleground state's voting rolls, was asked to resign early last year. His replacement, Rachel Paulose, an evangelical Christian with limited experience, made headlines for an elaborate "coronation" ceremony including a color guard, choir, and list of "potential problematic reporters" to be closely watched.

For even more fun, you can enjoy her Wikipedia entry. It's a shining example of the sentiment "Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues We write in water." Three or four sentences of high-powered resume material is followed by paragraphs of misdeeds, controversy, unscrupulous careerism, and unmitigated hubris. While it's always sad to see an otherwise-noble soul laid low through a moment's weakness, there's something awfully gratifying to see it work the other way 'round.

One other bit from the McClatchy article, for those stupid enough to stand with BushCo on this one:

That brings to nine the number of battleground election states where the Bush administration set out to replace some of the nation's top prosecutors. In at least seven states, it now appears, U.S. attorneys were fired or considered for firing as Republicans in those states urged investigations or prosecutions of alleged Democratic voter fraud.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Fal Guy

Jerry Falwell is history. And I thought I'd just ignore the whole thing and let his ignominy begin. But it's been as surreal a day as ever on the right-wing blogs, with people defending the bigoted demagogue (and as un-Christian a guy as you could encounter) against..... you know, it's hardly worth the effort at this point, but until the press gets back into shape and the public starts taking it at face value we're stuck with the fight..... liberal hate-mongers, the liberal press, and an America that discriminates heavily against rich, doughy old white guys who spend their lives trying to deprive their fellow men of civil rights.

Yes, from your garden-variety, doom-saying winger blog to such (*cough*) eminent journals of conservative thought as the National Review, today is a day to eulogize the man best known for blaming 9/11 on gays and feminists.

Michelle Goldberg, with commentary by Kevin Drum:

"The religious right's creation myth holds that Roe v Wade so outraged the faithful that they could no longer sit passively on their pews. As the Columbia University historian Randall Balmer has shown, this is nonsense. The Southern Baptist Convention, Falwell's denomination, was officially pro-choice throughout the 1970s; anti-abortion activism was seen as the province of Catholics, a group then widely despised by fundamentalist Protestants. No, what really galvanized the religious right were Supreme Court rulings stripping whites-only Christian academies, like the one Falwell founded in 1966, of their tax-exempt status. Fervent opposition to abortion, which eventually cemented the alliance between conservative Protestant and Catholics, came later."

There's no question that early evangelical leaders were originally drawn to politics by the loss of tax-exempt status for their segregated schools, which happened via a series of court rulings before Roe v. Wade was even a twinkle in Harry Blackmun's eyes. Still, while the SBC may have been "officially" pro-choice during the 70s, it was pro-choice only "reluctantly," and Falwell himself was always virulently anti-abortion and anti-gay. What's more, it was only after abortion and gay bashing were added to the evangelical mix that the Christian Right became a genuine, broad-based "movement."

The Rational, The Reactionary, And The Retarded

There have been a surprising number of articles and op-eds appearing recently that express the same old animosity toward progressive blogs. Right-wing blogs, despite being much more radical and much more goofy, continue to be treated seriously. It's weird, it's disturbing, and it's a bit baffling (sure, I could do the Psych 101 bit and talk about journos feeling threatened or the new journalistic caste system where Katie Couric(!?!) is Queen of Hardjournalismia, but I won't). Eric Boehlert has taken a look at one instance of MSM treatment of the blogs-- the current Department of Justice scandal.

I started writing about the story in January, and I'm neither investigative nor a journalist. Back in January, as Boehlert observes, MSM outlets were deriding the story as nonsense.

And speaking of Time, it was the magazine's Washington bureau chief, Jay Carney, who in January ridiculed [Joshua Michael] Marshall's suggestion that the [U.S. Attorney] firings had dark political overtones, dismissing it as a "conspiracy theory." Two months later though, Carney bravely ate some crow and tipped his hat to online activists for driving the purge saga: "The blogosphere was the engine on this story."

The purge story illustrates yet another chapter in the growth of the blogosphere, and specifically the emergence of the liberal bloggers -- or netroots -- as an influential news source. Yet despite the significance of the story, and its larger media and political implication, it's telling that The Washington Post has shied away from highlighting Marshall's work on unearthing the scandal.

To this day, despite the fact the purge story continues to gain momentum week after week as more incriminating facts tumble out, and despite the fact that Marshall's work has been lauded by the Los Angeles Times and on National Public Radio, among others, the Post, with its aggressive, expansive media coverage, has not found the time or space to feature Marshall and his team of reporter/bloggers and to spotlight the extraordinary work they've produced. (In total, the Post has printed just a single quote from Marshall regarding the purge story he helped give birth to.)

Boehlert also discusses the curious fact that the Post has also taken the time this year to publish a nicey-nice profile of Michelle Malkin. Go figure. Recommended reading.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Boys Who Cried Lobo

Last Friday, there was a TNR interview with Charles Barkley that I loved (except for the embarrassing faux-hipness of the author). And it reminds me of the crap that John Edwards is getting because he's a self-made man who hopes to assist the working class. (civic-minded millionaires are a bad thing?) Then there's that whole "male Democrats are definitely womany, and quite possibly gay" thing. Odds are that pudgy, middle-aged reactionary white men aren't going to say the same thing about Charles Barkley. For any number of reasons.

CHARLES BARKLEY: Illegal immigration to me is the easiest thing in the world to fix.

TNR: How so?

All they have to do is penalize the people they work for. You should get penalized. It's all poor people who argue over illegal immigration. They want poor people to--I call it divide and conquer. That's all they do is divide and conquer.

The rich people are trying to divide the poor people?

Yes, they got all the money, they got all the power. Whether it's that, or they divide you racially on certain things. They divide you racially, economically, and on things like that. It just splits the vote, and the rich people still end up on top at the end of the day. They control everything.

So is that what interests you primarily--economic issues?

America is divided by economics strictly. You know, people always talk about race, and we have racial problems in this country. Of course we do. But the real issue is the rich against the poor. We've got to get poor white people and poor black people and Mexicans to realize they are all in the same boat. If you in one of those three groups and you are poor, you are going to be in a bad neighborhood, you are going to go to a bad school, and you are going to have strikes against you. You can't commit crimes in good neighborhoods. They will get your ass. Their kids go to private school, or they go to school in a good economic area. But the poor people, they are all in the same boat but they divide you based on race or stuff like that. A lot of these politicians say things like "We've got to stop all these illegal immigrants." I am like, "That is so easy to stop." They are not working for other immigrants.

Terse. Reasonable. Absolutely correct. And the ol' divide-and-conquer strategy is applicable to so many areas-- get poor, white southerners with race panic, affluent suburban moms with terror panic, fundamentalists with gay panic, and militiamen with gun control panic, and no one will pay any attention while you loot the nation. Sweet!

But that sort of straight talk (a term that John McCain seems determined to permanently "ironicize"-- Hey! He's the Ironicizer! Somebody get Maureen Dowd on the line!) is pretty damn rare these days. Case in point:

"The fact that he's not in the room helping to build a bipartisan consensus . . . it's going to be far more difficult to get a bipartisan bill," said Frank Sharry, a pro-immigrant lobbyist. "This guy is my hero on this issue. I am heartbroken that he's not in the room. Heartbroken."

Senators from both parties and senior White House officials are hurrying to negotiate a deal that would give illegal immigrants a path to legal status after clearing criminal checks and paying fines. The plan would beef up border security and put new emphasis on enforcing workplace rules. Democratic leaders have given them until tomorrow to produce legislation before forcing another vote on the McCain-Kennedy bill that failed last year.

In the meantime, the leading Republican candidates for president are distancing themselves from the plan.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who just a year ago characterized the bipartisan efforts as "reasonable proposals," now derides the plans being negotiated in Congress as "amnesty" for illegal immigration.

Former New York mayor Rudolph K. Giuliani, whose record is filled with pro-immigrant speeches and actions, has been largely silent on the debate. And Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, another GOP contender, was a key McCain ally on immigration a year ago but recently renounced his support for the approach.

Which brings me to another interview-- Bill Moyers talking to Jon Stewart. In part about John McCain's recent Daily Show appearance. I highly recommend watching the whole thing if you haven't already.

BILL MOYERS: But something happened [to McCain]. You saw it happen to him. What you saw was evasive action. It wasn't shriveling, it was merely--

BILL MOYERS: But he dropped his head, and you could you could--

JON STEWART: Actually, he began to-- he stopped connecting and just looked at my chest and decided, "I'm just gonna continue to talk about honor and duty and [how] the families should be proud," all the things that are cudgels emotionally to keep us from the conversation. But, things that weren't relevant to what we were talking about.

Sure, maybe it's wishful thinking, but I really thought I could see in McCain's face his momentary bafflement at a reasonable question, followed by his conscious decision to go with the bullshit.

JON STEWART: That's right. There is a there is an enormous contradiction, and it is readily apparent, if you just walk through simple sort of logic, and simple rational points. But the thing that they don't realize is that everyone wants them to come from beyond that contradiction so that we can all fix it. Nobody is saying, "We don't have a problem." Nobody is saying that, "9/11 didn't happen." What they're saying is, "We're not a fragile country, trust us to have this conversation, so that we can do this in the right way, in a more effective way."

Granted, that's the Limbaugh/Coulter school of political discourse, as popularized by the post-... Nixon? Reagan? Gingrich? GOP. But if that's the actual level of political discourse in the United States, and not just one more slimy, poisonous offspring of the 'Republican Revolution,' we're in profound trouble as a nation.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Vanished funds in Iraq underestimated by billions.

I've been very, very pissed off about the money contractors and corrupt officials have stolen from American taxpayers-- at the expense of troops in already-horrible conditions-- for years now. Stories of more than $10 billion that's simply vanished have been around since I started this blog before the election in 2004. What's been done about it? Nothing, of course, although at this point the Democrats have a fairly long list of GOP crimes to try and unravel. On the other hand, if this isn't treason, it's about as close as you can get.

Between 100,000 and 300,000 barrels a day of Iraq's declared oil production over the past four years is unaccounted for and could have been siphoned off through corruption or smuggling, according to a draft American government report.

Using an average of $50 a barrel, the report said the discrepancy was valued at $5 million to $15 million daily.

The report does not give a final conclusion on what happened to the missing fraction of the roughly two million barrels pumped by Iraq each day, but the findings are sure to reinforce longstanding suspicions that smugglers, insurgents and corrupt officials control significant parts of the country’s oil industry.

So.... 5 - 15% of all the oil Iraq has produced has vanished. Given the chaos over there, it's a safe bet that the "declared oil production" is being underestimated by sticky-fingered companies and officials. But even if you take the most conservative estimates of production and loss, that comes to about $5,325,000,000.

The report, by the way, is from the GAO.

"Honest, officer. That prostitute said she was just tired and wanted to rest her head in my lap for a minute."

Credit where it's due, right? I can't help but think that there's nothing more to this than an instinct for self-preservation (usually the corruption of Republican ideologues only becomes apparent after they get a big promotion), but it's nice to see some wingers trying to do something worthwhile. In this case, putting the kibosh on Ken "in flagrante dilecto" Calvert.

A popular conservative blog will step up its efforts this week to force Republican leaders to pull Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.) from the powerful Appropriations Committee. In addition, the website will begin a coordinated effort to target members of the GOP Steering Committee in order to save the party from electoral disaster in 2008, the editor in chief of the site said Sunday.

“This party of ours must be pruned and it must be pruned by those of us who care about it before meeting the butchers sheers in the hands of the voters again in 2008," Erick Erickson, editor in chief of wrote to The Hill. “If they refuse to hear that change is needed, we will wipe them out and replace them with new blood that recognizes that a corrupt party rejected by the voters will not be embraced again by the voters until the corruption is purged.”

On the blog, Erickson on Friday had declared “war” on the GOP leadership because it backed Calvert to join the committee. Erickson objects to the choice, saying Calvert was involved in “several questionable land deals...”

Riiiiiiight... land deals. That hasn't raised any objections to Alaska's Ted Stevens (R-AK), Illinois' Denny Hastert (R-IL), or California's Gary Miller (R-CA) from the right. No, I'd guess it was because Calvert has a legion of greasy little skeletons in his closet-- and righties are genuinely scared about losing power in a big, big way for installing these crooks in the first place.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


My name is Sandwich. Matt Sandwich. And I want to talk justice. Department of Justice.

What's a corrupt administration to do when a scandal just keeps expanding?

Reading between the lines of an article in the Kansas City Star, Josh Marshall thinks he has discovered that the Bush administration canned a ninth U.S. attorney last year.

The victim: Missouri U.S. attorney Todd Graves. . .

Graves was replaced by Bradley Schlozman, whose name may be familiar to Salon readers. . . Alberto Gonzales used a loophole passed as part of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act to appoint Schlozman as a U.S. attorney without Senate confirmation.

Why replace Graves with Schlozman? A Justice Department official told Salon that Schlozman was "one of Gonzales' guys," a proponent, as head of the voting rights section of the Civil Rights Division, of the sort of "vote fraud" actions popular with Republicans looking for a way to keep a lid on the Democratic vote.

What's a corrupt administration to do when the news is filled with stories like this one? (Thanks, Cow.)

Congressional investigators are beginning to focus on accusations that a top civil rights official at the Justice Department illegally hired lawyers based on their political affiliations, especially for sensitive voting rights jobs.

Two former department lawyers told McClatchy Newspapers that Bradley Schlozman, a senior civil rights official, told them in early 2005, after spotting mention of their Republican affiliations on their job applications, to delete those references and resubmit their resumes. Both attorneys were hired.

One of them, Ty Clevenger, said: "He wanted to make it look like it was apolitical."

Or stories like this one:

A U.S. attorney in Seattle was singled out for dismissal in part because he clashed with senior Justice Department officials over the investigation of a federal prosecutor's murder, and he was recommended for removal 18 months earlier than was previously known, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews. . .

Several officials familiar with the investigation said McKay and other officials in Seattle believed that senior Justice officials were not paying enough attention to the case. Sampson did not cite specifics, saying only that McKay had demanded actions that led to conflicts, congressional aides familiar with his account said.

What do you do when a corrupt administration is running the DOJ like the Stasi? We've seen it before, so this will be pretty anti-climactic (pretty sad, when democratically elected-- sort of-- leaders can no longer surprise you with the sheer pervasiveness of their contempt for democracy, the rule of law, and their own country.

But I'll say it anyway. You switch agit-prop themes from "We're innocent" to "it's time to put this behind us and let the healing begin."

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is challenging a House panel to move past the furor over the firings of U.S. attorneys and allow the Justice Department to focus on its mission: fighting crime.

Yep. As Jon Stewart pointed out recently, this administration is apparently incapable of doing anything that is unironic. And as I'm sure you noticed, Gonzo 'n Co. wouldn't be dealing with a House panel if they had just done their jobs!!!

The upside? 40% of the public, including 42% of independents, think it's time to impeach Bush and Cheney.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

(Hopefully Not) Strike Three

The GOP just hasn't been able to catch a break in the last two weeks or so-- not only are the headlines all about their lying, incompetence and greed abroad and at home, but things just keep getting worse in Iraq and (not that anyone's paying attention) Afghanistan.

Normally, that sort of situation calls for a little bit of the ol' Routine 5 from the powers that be, but that nicely timed report of al Qaeda bigwig Abu Ayyub al-Masri's death in Iraq blew up in their faces. In spite of the best efforts of Drudge, et al.

Then there was this lamer, more transparent attempt to swipe the news cycle:

A glance at newspaper headlines suggests the Pentagon's story was taken by some in the press as breaking news. London's Times Online seemed to think so. It ran a present-tense headline, "7/7 'mastermind' is siezed in Iraq." "Al-Qaida aide a big catch, says Pentagon," announced the Chicago Sun Times' story, and Stars & Stripes' front page blared, "Al-Qaida leader at Gitmo after capture."

But read a bit further, and you'll discover that al-Iraqi was captured "late last year" and has been held and interrogated by the CIA since then.

Oops. Not nearly as effective as raising the terror-alert level used to be, but America already knows that was fake. In spite of the winger blogs' attempts to sell it, no one was buying.

Then there was the story about a group of radical foes of the US government who were busted with truckloads of explosives and other dangerous stuff. Unfortunately, the bad guys who were nabbed were white red-staters. Pass.

So now we have another one. And it sounds pretty good... until it starts sounding like a rehash of the Florida shampoo salesmen. Oops, I meant radical Muslim terrorists. Hopefully they aren't lying for once, and we actually did catch some bad dudes. But all those years of watching the GOP lie about their accomplishments tends to make a guy a little skeptical.

The plan, first reported this morning by New York's WNBC television, involved four ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslavia, one man from Jordan and one from Turkey, Justice Department officials said. They intended to storm the World War I-era post and kill as many military and other personnel as possible.

Man, sounds pretty serious, huh? But, the Washington Monthly points out some slightly less chilling information from the same article:

Let me get this striaght: these guys dropped off jihadi videos at a local store, talked to Philly cops about getting a map of Ft. Dix, were still trying to procure weapons after 17 months of planning, and practiced for the attack by playing paintball.

This reminds me of that guy who planned to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Or those dudes who wanted to destroy the Sears Tower but couldn't even afford to buy boots and rental cars, let alone explosives. Or Jose Padilla, who, it turns out, was a deluded schmoe who didn't really have serious plans to do much of anything.

Bush's second favorite historian

Although the recent reports that the White House couldn't get enough of fawning right-wing nutjob, possible white supremacist, and hack historian Andrew Roberts were par for the course (especially in light of his tendency to laud Bush as a brilliant military strategist), I was surprised to learn that Fearless Leader also likes the work of another historian-- who, while an avowed conservative, isn't an American conservative. Ergo, prone to intellectual honesty. And guess what? While Bush apparently thinks his book on the French-Algerian conflict is fabulous, he's "misremembering" the facts and drawing all the wrong conclusions.

Horne then sprung another one of his now-familiar sly rhetorical questions. "Do you think we were enticed into Iraq by Osama bin Laden?"

I replied that Horne had pointed out in his book that it was Insurgency 101 to use terror to make your adversary respond with such disproportionate force that the population goes over to you. "I think we gave him a gift beyond his wildest dreams," I said.

"Yes, we always assume that our adversaries are stronger than they really are," Horne said. "Except when it comes to Germany. Osama is rubbing his hands in glee. Everything's going his way."

I asked Horne how he would rate the Iraq episode historically? One Israeli historian, Martin van Creveld, said that Iraq was "the most foolish war since Emperor Augustus in 9 BC sent his legions into Germany and lost them."

Horne laughed. "Chou en-Lai was asked what he thought of the French Revolution and he said, 'It's a bit too early to say.' I think it's too early to say about Iraq. A tactical disaster, yes. Strategic -- maybe. What I worry about, and I don't know if this is a strategic or a policy disaster, is that we're fighting the wrong war in the wrong place."

What would be the right war in the right place? "I think I would have kept out of Iraq altogether and used special operations to track down al-Qaida," Horne said.

Also worth noting is that Horne thinks leaders shouldn't remain in power when they're demonstrably either "lying or incompetent." A man after my own heart.

Fred "Sincerity" Thompson

I loved this post by Kevin Drum. Now that the right-wing blogs are pitching tents over Fred Thompson's presidential bid ("He's not a RINO like Bush, but the real deal!"), it'll come as no surprise whatsoever to learn that Thompson has a record of pulling 180s on hot-button issues, milking a completely bogus "man of the people" schtick. So.... how is he not like Bush?

Noam Scheiber thinks that before long, everyone will have heard about the phony everyman schtick that Fred Thompson employed during his 1994 Senate campaign:

By the time Fred Thompson decides whether or not to join the presidential fray, you will have heard the story of his red pickup truck at least a dozen times. The truck in question is a 1990 Chevy, which the famed statesman-thespian rented during his maiden Senate campaign in 1994. The idea was that Thompson would dress up in blue jeans and shabby boots and drive himself to campaign events around the state.

And the predictable punchline:

[I]n fact, the red pickup is even phonier than Scheiber and Somerby make it sound. Not only was the truck rented, but Thompson didn't even deign to drive the thing himself. . .

Basically, he just drove the thing the final few hundred feet before each campaign event, and then ditched it for something nicer as soon as he was out of sight of the yokels.

Wow, the GOP hopeful that kooks are writing love letters to is actually a smarmy prick with contempt for the working class? I can hardly (yawn) believe it.

More at the link-- including the rather sensible reaction from the Daily Howler that we probably won't be hearing any more about this as long as the Democratic candidates do anything more extravagant than live on rice and beans in Quonset huts.

Still, it would be awfully nice if some journalist out there somewhere could point out that while Gore, Kerry and Edwards are all wealthy men, they actually mean to do something for the rest of us-- unlike the wealthy men who've run the show for the last six years and don't give a damn who they fuck over.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Action News!

I'm in a bit of a hurry today, so I'm going to go with the ol' roundup method of covering a handful of stories all at once. But they're good ones, let me tell you.

*Mitt Romney has another sci-fi moment-- maybe he really is the true heir of Reagan's legacy.

In France, for instance, I'm told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow and how different from the Europe of the past."

Actually, I think I know what he's talking about. There's an Orson Scott Card novel in which marriages actually are contracted out for seven years (don't ask how I know). And Romney is a big fan of sci-fi. So maybe that explains it. Except that most people don't, you know, confuse space tales with real life.

The author of the post doesn't point out that Card is a fellow Mormon, and although I enjoyed The Memory of Earth (then the series starts going downhill fast) it's probably time for Romney to start dialing back the references to "alternative religion" authors. The series is, after all, a re-imagining of Biblical themes.

*Health care? Why care?

Federal officials said that the fastest-growing type of Medicare Advantage plan generally does not coordinate care, does not save money for Medicare and has been at the center of marketing abuses. . . .

Moreover, those plans may be more expensive than traditional Medicare for some patients, because the co-payments for some services may be higher. The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission says that the cost to the government is also higher because it pays the private fee-for-service plans, on average, 19 percent more than the cost of traditional Medicare.

The Republican party: help us help you pay more for less.

*I knew BushCo hated intelligent people, but.....

Half of the 14 career lawyers hired [at the Dept. of Justice] under Schlozman were members of the conservative Federalist Society or the Republican National Lawyers Association, up from none among the eight career hires in the previous two years, according to a review of resumes. The average US News & World Report ranking of the law school attended by new career lawyers plunged from 15 to 65.

I suppose I'll forgo any comment about the GOP and stupidity.

*More trouble with Chinese exports:

Toxic syrup has figured in at least eight mass poisonings around the world in the past two decades. Researchers estimate that thousands have died. In many cases, the precise origin of the poison has never been determined. But records and interviews show that in three of the last four cases it was made in China, a major source of counterfeit drugs.

Panama is the most recent victim. Last year, government officials there unwittingly mixed diethylene glycol into 260,000 bottles of cold medicine - with devastating results. Families have reported 365 deaths from the poison, 100 of which have been confirmed so far. With the onset of the rainy season, investigators are racing to exhume as many potential victims as possible before bodies decompose even more.

Hey, it's one thing if they treat their own workers like slaves, but now they're messing with the good ol' US of A, right? I'll bet American multinationals start demanding reform immediately! Or not....

*More honor and virtue from the White House:

Remember how George W. Bush -- aka, the President Formerly Known as the Decider -- declared himself "the commander guy" earlier this week?

It turns out that he didn't. Although the original White House transcript of Bush's speech before the Associated General Contractors of America had the president describing himself as "the commander guy," a revised transcript now up at the White House Web site makes it clear that Bush said he was only "a commander guy."

He misspoke, he was taken out of context, and he is in no way saying he believes that he's above the law. Except for all that law-breaking, and the signing statements, and dirty elections, and politicizing the DOJ, FDA, etc....

*The MBA president strikes again:

Earlier this year, the U.S. Army awarded one of its favored defense contractors, Raytheon, a $70 million contract to develop a new system to combat rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), which have killed nearly 40 Americans in Afghanistan and more than 130 in Iraq. . . .

But an NBC News investigation of the contract selection process reveals that at almost every turn, Raytheon was given a significant competitive advantage over other defense contractors, including an Israeli firm whose system was extensively tested and found to be highly effective.

Man, the Army sure drives a hard bargain under "the commander guy"! Too bad it's the multi-billion dollar equivalent of "sure would be a shame if something happened to your family."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"17th time's the charm... I hope."

Okay. Bear with me for a second. On Tuesday, conservative pundits took yet another crack at the "this justifies everything we've been through in Iraq" gambit. It was the second report that Iraq's top terrorist dog had been killed. And within hours, it was proven to be another fake. Worse, it was suggested that all the folks eagerly passing the story along were dupes of al Qaeda. As I wrote then, the effect seems to have been to take a news day featuring zero al Qaeda and turning it into a reminder that they're doing just fine, thanks, and playing us for suckers.

Naturally, they were hoping it would get the public eye off of that endless list of BushCo investigations, resignations, and general debacles. It didn't work.

Of course, if today's GOP is known for anything, it's that absolute refusal to draw any sort of lesson from anything, ever. So they were back the very next day with another felicitously timed story about a smashing success in the GWOT that, needless to say, wasn't what it seemed. Just another capture kept tightly under wraps for months-- until the White House needed to press the "distract public" button for the umpteenth time.

Facing a mountain of bad news, the Bush administration needed some good news heading into this weekend. Its "AIDS czar" abruptly resigned after admitting he used an escort service that's facing federal prostitution charges. Two batches of new documents were released in the widening U.S. attorneys purge case. Condi Rice indicated she'd refuse to comply with a House subpoena to discuss Iraq War intelligence, and the President earned a career-low 28 percent approval rating in a new poll.

The administration got its good news: One of Al-Qaida's top leaders was captured. But when Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, who is believed to have planned the July 7, 2005, subway attacks in London, was captured -- sometime last fall -- raises questions about whether the timing of the story's release was guided by newsworthiness or an effort to combat an unflattering news cycle.

A glance at newspaper headlines suggests the Pentagon's story was taken by some in the press as breaking news. London's Times Online seemed to think so. It ran a present-tense headline, "7/7 'mastermind' is siezed in Iraq." "Al-Qaida aide a big catch, says Pentagon," announced the Chicago Sun Times' story, and Stars & Stripes' front page blared, "Al-Qaida leader at Gitmo after capture."

But read a bit further, and you'll discover that al-Iraqi was captured "late last year" and has been held and interrogated by the CIA since then. Not even the transfer of custody of al-Iraqi to the Department of Defense's Guantanamo Bay facility is breaking news: According to the New York Times that switch happened a week ago. ("Al-Qaeda Bigwig Transferred from One U.S. Agency to Another" doesn't have the same sensational appeal.)

Just a friendly reminder of the many fun and exciting ways in which a political party can say "Ignore the man behind the curtain!"

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Stars and Stripes of Corruption

Many thanks to the Rampaging COW for passing on a little news from my home state. I've contended for years now that Missouri has become DC writ small-- a family dynasty of incompetent neo-fascists whose sole interests are wealth and maintaining power, largely through the flag-wavin', butt-kickin', God-fearin' BushCo strategy-- with the same coffer-emptyin', civil rights-violatin' results. This is an absolute must-read.

Accusations about voter fraud seemed to fly from every direction in Missouri before last year’s elections. State and national Republicans leaders fretted that dead people might vote or that some live people could cast more than one ballot.

In fact, the threat to the integrity of the 2006 elections was seen as so grave that Bradley Schlozman, the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and later the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, twice wielded the power of the federal government to try to fix it.

Even the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly stepped into action.

Now, six months after freshman Missouri senator Jim Talent’s defeat handed Democrats control of the U.S. Senate, disclosures in the wake of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys show that GOP campaign to protect the balloting was not as it appeared.

In fact, no significant voter fraud was ever proven.

Instead, the Republican preoccupation with voter fraud was part of a wider effort to protect the GOP majority in Congress with a series of measures to dampen Democratic turnout. They included stiffer voter ID requirements, wholesale purges of names from lists of registered voters and tight policing of liberal get-out-the-vote drives.

Few have endorsed the strategy with more enthusiasm than White House political guru Karl Rove, and nowhere has the plan been more apparent than in Missouri.

An example of the ensuing ugliness:

- The Missouri General Assembly - with the help of the White House - narrowly passed a law to require every voter to show a photo identification card, a restriction that the secretary of state estimated would disenfranchise 200,000 voters. The state Supreme Court voided the law as unconstitutional before the election.

- Two weeks before the election, the St. Louis Board of Elections sent letters threatening to disqualify 5,000 newly registered minority voters if they failed to promptly verify their identities - a move instigated by a GOP appointee that may have violated federal law. After an outcry, the board rescinded the threat.

Dial M... for Moron.

I like to check in with sites dedicated to debunking e-mail forwards every once in a while. Not just because there's always something goofy/entertaining/weird going up, but because panicked chain letters (remember those from the late nineties?) still pop up all the time. And reading through those is frighteningly similar to reading right-wing blogs. It's been a while since I dove in, so let's see what been going on in 2007, shall we?

February, 2007: Four score and twenty MURDERS ago!

This is the first time I've seen the "Clinton body count" letter, but I certainly remember Jerry Falwell eagerly pushing the idea that the most obsessively scrutinized president and first lady in history were somehow running a murderous drug-running business.

All of these folks are indeed dead and it might all just be a tragic coincidence--- But I wouldn't want to be on their list of associates (just to be on the safe side)!!!!!!!!!!!


This is what happens when you have dirt on the Clintons...

That's followed by a list of more than 40 "mysterious deaths." Yep, more than 40. But in this case, one of the first rules of chain letters is still the best: there's an inverse relationship between exclamation points and reliability.

February, 2007: Brother, can you spare a MURDER?

The "Christianity on the brink of extinction" theme is as baffling as it is ubiquitous, but it's successfully made the jump to Fox News and publishing, it apparently still works with the gullible.

The U.S. Mint hopes the redesigned $1 coin will win acceptance with consumers.

It does not have In God We Trust on it. Another way of leaving God out.

Send this on and let consumers decide if it will win acceptance or not.

Terse, relatively calm. Accurate? Oops. While the image in the message shows the face of the new coin, In God We Trust is clearly present... on the side of each coin.

March, 2007: Come on, baby, light my MURDER!

Naturally, the business about Al Gore's (gasp!) electricity bill turned into a nutty, fact-free reactionary chain letter. The clincher manages to cover another e-mail red flag: cite a source.

­­­­­­The Tennessee Center for Policy Research is an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan research organization committed to achieving a freer, more prosperous Tennessee through free market policy solutions.

It helps if the source isn't easily actually a rabidly partisan and far-from-independent bunch of right-wing hacks, but I'm sure the forward button was hit long before wingers got to that point.

April, 2007: The choice of the MURDER generation!

Juvenile screeds are regularly ascribed to people who had nothing to do with them, although why you'd pick Jay Leno as a fount of folksy, right-wing wisdom is beyond me (as a latte-sipping sushi eater waging the war against Christianity, of course).

The other day I was reading Newsweek magazine and came across some poll data I found rather hard to believe. It must be true given the source, right?

The Newsweek poll alleges that 67 percent of Americans are unhappy with the direction the country is headed and 69 percent of the country is unhappy with the performance of the president. In essence 2/3s of the citizenry just ain't happy and want a change.

So being the knuckle dragger I am, I started thinking, ''What we are so unhappy about?''

No, 'knuckle dragger' that you are, you concocted a moronic tirade that has nothing to do with current events and started sharing it with perpetually outraged conservatives.

Fact is, we are the largest group of ungrateful, spoiled brats the world has ever seen. No wonder the world loves the U.S. , yet has a great disdain for its citizens. They see us for what we are. The most blessed people in the world who do nothing but complain about what we don't have , and what we hate about the country instead of thanking the good Lord we live here.

I know, I know. What about the President who took us into war and has no plan to get us out? The President who has a measly 31 percent approval rating? Is this the same President who guided the nation in the dark days after 9/11? The president that cut taxes to bring an economy out of recession? Could this be the same guy who has been called every name in the book for succeeding in keeping all the spoiled ungrateful brats safe from terrorist attacks?

It's much longer than that, of course, and while it didn't come from the mouth of any late-night comedian, it did come from the neo-fascists at World Net Daily. Who are at least smart enough to realize that a cross in one hand and a flag in the other are still sufficient to fool 25% of Americans all the time.

And there you have it. Now you shouldn't need to bother with that half of the blogosphere for another four months or so. I do recommend following those links, though. The breakdown of all the falsehoods is thorough and entertaining.

Action Alert: Saving 'Net Radio

Here's something worthwhile-- an attempt to save the Internet from yet another attack courtesy of giant corporations. Net Neutrality has turned out to be a winning issue for Democrats (one that even righties supported), and we've managed to prevent the gutting of PBS twice now. Now it's streaming audio. I happen to be a very big fan, and while my Congressman, Ed Markey, is on the right side of all of these issues, I'd certainly encourage sending some letters. After all, this issue won't garner the passion of the other two.

A ruling by an obscure regulatory agency threatens to silence Internet radio. After intense lobbying from the recording industry, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) is about to mandate exponential increases — by as much as 1,200 percent — in royalties paid every time webcasters stream a song online.

If these unfair rules are allowed to go into effect on May 15, many public, independent and smaller Internet radio stations will have to shut down. At stake is the diversity of musical choice that the Internet has come to represent for more than 50 million listeners.

Follow the link. Help out. I'm doing my part.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

I, Messiah

Fearless Leader, December 4, 2006 (emphasis mine):

[Brit] Hume: I just spent some time in the company of people who are for you, who are worried about you ...

[Buffalo] Bush: Yeah.

Hume: ... just as you described your parents. They think that your presidency has run aground on the shoals of Iraq and that you must be - they feel almost sorry for you. What do you say to those people?

Bush: I don't think people are - at least the ones I run into, I had a bunch of our buddies from Texas up here this weekend and they're kind of - they look at you and go, man, how come you're still standing. It's not so much the presidency on the shoals because of difficult decision I made, it's more the weightiness of this thing must be impossible for anybody to bear. And I tell them it's just not the case, that I am inspired by doing this job. I believe strongly in the decisions I have made. I firmly believe that we are responding to this initial challenge of the 21st century in proper fashion.

The Nelson Report, April 30, 2007:

Sometimes insider gossip seems to confirm what all us outsiders think we're seeing, so, for what it's worth...we're hearing that some big money players up from Texas recently paid a visit to their friend in the White House. The story goes that they got out exactly one question, and the rest of the meeting consisted of The President in an extended whine, a rant, actually, about no one understands him, the critics are all messed up, if only people would see what he's doing things would be OK...etc., etc.

I've got an idea as to what the 'one question' was: "In light of your determination, resilience and heroism, could I have your autograph-- on this government contract?"

Dr. Shmekel & Mr. Hyde

There's something very, very disconcerting about watching Joe "Independent Democrat" Lieberman's continuing metamorphosis from conservative Democrat to neo-fascist.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) led a panel discussion today at the American Enterprise Institute discussing “options for restoring civility in American politics.”

Lieberman and Boehner both decried the harsh incivility in politics today while portraying themselves as paragons of independence and cordiality.

Lieberman described his own politics as “stand[ing] up for what I believe is right and…work[ing] across party lines to get things done.” As for the rest of politics, “The majority of people are sick of it. They think our political system is sick.” Lieberman blamed “attack ads, the kind of divisiveness of the cable news coverage of politics, talk radio,” and bloggers who “have added another dimension of vituperation toxicity to it.”

Breathtaking. At least he's sticking to his guns on one issue-- his belief that 'bipartisanship' means trashing anyone to your left in front of audiences to your right. Somewhere out there, Ambrose Bierce is smiling.