Yet another halo shot

This one from Reuters.

Repeat after me. Mr. Bush is not the divine king who sits between God and mortal man.

And while Mr. Bush claims that God speaks to him, there's no strong indication that Mr. Bush actually listens to anyone (and he tells us himself that he does not read much). My guess is that he often speaks what someone - perhaps Mr. Cheney, or Mr. Rove or Ms. Rice - whispers into a microphone beamed into an earpiece in Mr. Bush's ear. Last I checked, even the Bill Frist-Dennis Hastert led Congress hasn't passed a law making Cheney, Rice, or even Rove God.

It's really pathetic that so-called photojournalists for otherwise reasonably reputable news services keep managing "somehow" to shoot an image like Mr. Bush has a halo or divine aura.

Try for a shot of him holding a platinum spoon to his mouth. It's more apt.

Why Rowland's Lies Aren't New

As someone who lived for awhile in the state where John Rowland is governor (R-Connecticut), I'm sad to see that his actions have left a rising number of people (as many as 88% depending on the polls) wanting him impeached.

Perhaps people have short memories, but Rowland is no newcomer to lies. His initial successful run at becoming governor was predicated strictly on the "absolutely no income tax" platform.

Yet before Mr. Rowland's votes were fully counted - and some say, before the election even happened - Mr. Rowland had a team put together to not only exact an income tax, but a much broader and state-lucrative one than originally envisioned. During his years since, Mr. Rowland has employed a number of additional taxes, mostly aimed more at working class people than the extremely wealthy who line Connecticut's Gold Coast and the Litchfield hills. The latter were the people that this governor always targeted for more largesse; he saw himself as a great mover-and-shaker, so long as the only people shaken up were too poor to be of use to him.

Nor was income tax the only issue he's lied about. He's gotten himself twisted into a number of different things that have come up lightly in the press over the years and smiled away by this governor. His ethics have always been very poor.

I'm sad for the people of Connecticut, especially those lower middle and below income earners who continue to struggle in a state where the governor accepts lovely gifts from wealthy contributors and state contractors. But Rowland's clock has been ticking up a fare of huge corruption for a very long time. It's sad that it took so long for him to be foisted on his own petard (although we're sure Mr. Rowland didn't buy that petard but asked a rich friend to give it to him in exchange for some lucrative state contracts).

Per Request

A few folks reading here have contacted me through the site to ask about my politics and/or my views on certain issues.

If you want easy answers, I'm afraid you've come to the wrong place. Depending on the issue involved, I've tried to reach the best answer that works for me and what I feel could work for others, regardless of where that position falls on the political spectrum.

Take gun control. I was raised in a household where all the men had and learned to use a gun. As a very small child, I was taught to use one. As an adult, I won't have one in my house. I have no reason to have one and no desire to live in a place where guns are present. Guns represent many things, and several of them are to me abhorrent.

Yet I'm not against people having the right to own a gun. That's a personal choice issue. I'd expect everyone to be trained and perhaps registered who has one, and I don't think people need to own assault rifles and Uzis and huge arsenals. But as much as possible, I trust other people to do the right thing related to guns (don't carry 'em to the supermarket or out for a Sunday drive, don't have them loaded and available to angry or young family members, etc.).

Re: drugs, some might call me a libertarian. I'm not sure what I am in this regard. I oppose mandatory minimums because they're being used against small-time junkies and dealers while the major folks walk away with nice plea deals. Many murderers and violent offenders do statistically far less time than some growing pot for medicinal use or some schlep caught with too many hits of acid in his t-shirt pocket (because they weigh the paper and not the tiny drops on it).

Imprisoning users makes no sense, although I have stronger feelings about anyone who provides drugs to children. No child should be able to obtain drugs - be it Xanax from Mom's medicine cabinet, Ecstacy they buy online or at a club, Oxy they get from a friend, pot, or worse. To me, it would make far more sense to control the sale of pot (which to me isn't anywhere near in the same league with heroin, cocaine, or worse) much the same way we control the sale of alcohol and cigarettes to minors. People who need medicinal pot should be able to have it without the government pursuing them; and people in chronic or acute pain should be able to get proper meds without fear that their doctor will be arrested as an abuse facilitator. When I worked with cancer patients, I too often saw doctors reticent either to discuss the anti-nausea potentia of pot or prescribe adequate levels of pain killers to those who are desperate for relief. It's not that doctors don't care; they're scared of prosecution.

Meanwhile, men like Rush Limbaugh and special people like Noelle Bush (Jeb's daughter) get treatment while anyone else gets jail time.

Religion: I believe very strongly in a sense of God or spirit that is much different from the Protestant and Catholic idea of God I grew up with. My only problem with religion is that it's too often forced upon people ("Here's a sandwich but you have to recite Psalm 23 first" or "You have to live by our rules because we're a Christian country"), and that was never the intent of our forefathers who remembered all too well that religious oppression and intolerance had caused incredible suffering already. People should always have the right to practice - or not practice - the spirituality or religion of their choice so long as they do not impose their belief system on others and legitimize it by calling it law.

Abortion: No intelligent woman chooses abortion easily or as their preferred means of birth control. It's no one's right to insist a woman carry a child to term. If men could get pregnant, trust me - the abortion rules being forced down people's throats now would NOT exist.

OK, this is a start. Now let me go back to reading.

Saddam Was Always the Plan

Why are we not surprised?

Remember all the talk last winter (from Bush, from Condi Rice, from Powell) that war with Iraq was not inevitable and that if it was, it was because of WMD and Saddam's role in 9-11 (since pretty thoroughly and repeatedly disproven)?

According to a CBS interview with Lesley Stahl, in a link I just saw at Buzzflash, the administration began planning Saddam's end within days of the inauguration of Bush 43... 8 months before the World Trade Center and Pentagon were attacked, long before we had any (missing) proof of continuing WMD, and a lot of rhetoric to the contrary.

Now, O'Neill is just one of a long list of people who have tendered this information.

But perhaps it's past time we listen and demand some accountability for a highly preventable conflict that's cost 500 US military lives and 22,000+ US casualties alone (not to mention untold numbers of civilians, journalists, coalition forces, and humanitarian aid folks).

Another Cold War

Bear with me for a moment, because this tale takes awhile to twist its way through.

Up here in the so-called Socialist Republic of Vermont, the bitter cold is upon us, a time when you yelp for joy when you see the thermometer get anywhere near zero rather than stay forever - during the height of a bright sunny day - in the negative range. It comes too soon to forget last winter, when we spent most of 10-12 weeks in a similar state, when even some of the best protected pipes froze and burst, when too many cars died beside lonely road sides, and the search for anything approaching warmth because desperate and primal.

The arrival of the brutal weather this week meant a big change in how life is lived. Services were disrupted as overtaxed power substations went dark on the bitterest of nights, service trucks watch the gas in their fuel lines turn to gel, schools cancelled because class rooms were far too cold to promote anything more than griping about the weather, and efforts just to try to reach one of the far-flung general stores for a few provisions became a huge struggle.

At such times, you lose sleep up here because pets can't easily come and go from their access doors because you know it's too cold for them to be out. But you also have to get up repeatedly to feed the woodstove, to check to see if the power's gone out taking the furnace with it, whether a brisk wind has taken out the pilot light in the gas heater.

Almost every waking moment becomes tense misery because you're too cold, too tired, too wrapped up in so many layers of clothing that you look like the Michelin man even sitting in your living room, too worried about what the cold will mean. You don't want to answer a knock at the door because you know you're letting cold air inside.

Around 6 AM today, after a sleepless night of trying to keep the living room from dropping below 50 degrees because the woodstove couldn't fight the cold alone and the gas heater would not light, I began to think about the corrolation between this and the state of fear our government has done its best to feed since 9-11.

Because of cold and fear, we make excuses not to extend ourselves to people we don't know. We close our doors to strangers. We huddle uncomfortably in the false layers of security trying to warm our souls from the fear surrounding us. We find it hard to always go about our daily lives normally because we're afraid of what's about to happen. We spend outlandish amounts of money trying to keep away the cold of fear, no longer discussing quality of life, just concentrating on staying alive even if the existence is miserable. The fear and cold wears us down to the point where it's hard even to gripe aloud anymore. We're afraid to notice the good things because we don't know what's about to befall us.

But I'm tired of this bitter cold.. and I'm growing tired of the bitterness and fear shrouding this country's existence. For my house, I'm trying to make plans for what I can do to have a better winter next year. For my life, I need to take the steps necessary to make sure that the people who have shrouded my country are not allowed to remain in office for another term.

Mere existence is not life.


Speaking of (non) intelligence...

The Daily News suggests today re: foreigners who don't like the new measures of fingerprinting and background checks (the same ones that would not have stopped a single one of the hijackers of the flights on 9-11) that "if they don't like it, they can go fly a kite."

I'm sure they support that our government is complaining that a few other countries, notably Brazil, have decided to fire back with similar treatment for Americans.

"Do as we say, not as we do."

CBS' Dick Meyer Says it Well

Re: No Child Left Behind. And he's very right - the Democrats who happily voted for it are just some of the people whining that it's egregious. And it is. The only successful thing to come out of NCLB is that the Armed Services can do everything in their power to recruit YOUR child into Mr. Bush's non-stop war machine. Education isn't what Mr. Bush has in mind: smart people often don't volunteer for the military (that's not a slam, but far fewer kids in college or post-college opt for the military compared to those who can't/don't complete high school) and besides, smarter people ask pesky questions like, "Exactly where is that WMD?"

Now we need manned missions to the Moon and Mars?

Like hell we do. Manned missions are not science missions; they're PR engagements. The Prez is only behind a Moon mission because the Chinese plan to land there by 2009, and Bush wants to put up a "No Trespassing" sign to greet them. Maybe he wants men on Mars because he's looking for Saddam's Weapons of Mass Disappearance. Or maybe he wants to place nukes there to shoot at aliens. Who knows with this man? No expense is too great and no motivation too base so long as he doesn't pay any price for it.

If the point is PR and "superiority" rather than real science, let's spend the money on educating our kids, providing health care for our poor, developing non fossil fuels, and paying off Mr. Bush's grave and rising debt.

Did Former Treasury Secretary...

Paul O'Neill really refer to the president as "a blind man in a room full of deaf people"? I'd only seen it referenced on Sludge.. er... Slug... er...Grudge...uh... Fudge... damn it... Drudge Report. God knows I hold Matt Drudge in the same high respect I usually hold only for special types like most of Enron, Richard Perle, the WorldCom brass, and George Will and ALL of Faux News.

The Bush Girls

A new book is due out on Laura Bush, described as "the perfect wife", in which much is made of her poor twin daughters.

First, I find it amazing that Laura Bush is so often seen as a woman to be admired. Oh, she loves talking all the time about being a teacher and librarian, but this woman has worked just a few years in her entire life. I keep hearing how she left work to raise her girls... but Mrs. Bush didn't have children for 5 years after she left the work force.

Her grasp of the language - while nowhere near as bad as her husband's - can leave a person wondering what the standards were 30-40 years ago for becoming a teacher and librarian in Texas. She does not seem particularly well-read, she tries her best to reflect the fact that she tries not to think about anything unpleasant, and according to this book, she does nothing but make excuses for those girls of hers.

While many 22-year-olds are over in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting this war, or working very hard in college to maintain their scholarships so endangered under this president's administration, or working hard to support their families, this privileged pair jet everywhere, break all the rules, get their Secret Service bodyguards to bail boyfriends out of jail and buy them concert tickets, and barely seem to have time for college classes. But you get the impression education is not really a big issue in the George W. Bush family anyway.

If the perfect wife is a "yes woman" who loves shopping and spending her wealthy hubby's money with no concern where that money came from, then yes, Laura is a perfect wife. If "perfect American girls" are defined as those with no sense of responsibility or justice, who regularly party with the same marijuana other peoples' children would be in jail for possessing, who go to good schools even with their very poor grades, who love to have their pictures taken with "those leftist" Hollywood stars and at fashion shows while other people their age are fighting and dying for their father's war, and whose only accomplishment in life is to be born into the right family, then Jenna and Barb are the perfect presidential daughters.

And I thought my family was dysfunctional. Sheesh.

Speaking of the Hunt for WMD

The New York Times on Thursday informed us that the Bush Administration has quietly removed the 400-member WMD search team from Iraq. That's strange. Colin Powell basically told us today that the search was far from over, and wait and we'll see proof of the WMD.

I used to respect Colin Powell. Losing that respect has saddened me greatly. Granted, not as sad as watching what's happened to my country since January 21st, 2001 but... pretty sad none the less.

Ray McGovern article

Tom Paine currently features an excellent piece by veteran Intelligence professional, Ray McGovern, head of an organization of former Intelligence people who tried to warn us before the war that a lot of the intelligence related to Iraq and other matters was being deliberately manipulated to put the best spin on the Admin's side of things.

Like Ray, I was less than amused to see that the head of security at Dulles International Airport just outside of DC was arrested - during that peak bogeyman time of the holidays - for driving around the airport "under the influence." Our security is drawn from drunks and color code systems - and for this, we pay many billions each year.

Justification for Iraq War

In the face of the report details yesterday that the Carnegie group says Iraq had no weapons program except on paper and that we'd pretty much annihilated their efforts with the first Gulf War, I've heard almost non-stop interviews of Colin Powell in which few tough questions were asked, while he was allowed to say again and again that the decision to go to war was correct and that he stands behind what he told the UN Security Counsel.

Just now, I looked at CNN's "unscientific" poll, with about 120,000 respondents so far, with results showing that just 54% currently believe war with Iraq was unjustified since they [apparently] had no weapons program. This obviously leaves 46% of that poll's respondents believing it was justified even without WMD.

All the revisions on the issue aside, again and again WMDs were given as the core rationale for going to war with Iraq. The "seeking Democracy" and other spins were late excuses - and even those haven't panned out. David Kay, the man who promised us all throughout spring and summer that we were going to be dazzled with the results of his personally led search for WMD, failed to find or report anything and, over Christmas while only 3 people were paying attention, Mr. Kay resigned.

We've spent hundreds of millions just on the so-called search alone (and some $400 million more has been requested for the search's continuance), billions on the war (and many billions more on the so-called reconstruction), hundreds of American and coalition soldier lives, more than a dozen journalists (and many of these dead from specific, documented US action), dozens of civilian US contractor lives, and thousands of Iraqi lives.

For that, we have instability in much of Iraq, whole villages and cities barb-wired shut so that no one can get in or out, our armed services are severely strained, we're closing schools for 1 or 2 days a week here so we can finance rebuilding there, no democracy in operation there, and Rumsfeld and Company are busy continuing to award no-bid, sweetheart deals to Bechtel, Halliburton, et al.

Oh yeah, and while our troops are over there risking everything, the GOP and the Prez have been busy stripping military pay, education for the kids of military folks, hiding the wounded and the dead from public scrutiny,cutting veterans' benefits, letting the IRS and other government organizations go after the citizen soldier families on back taxes, medical bills, and other issues... the list goes on ad nauseum.

For you 46% who feel war was justified without the WMD, exactly what do you believe here? Aside from people who are either neocon in their mindset or those who work or make profits from the military industrail complex, I'm completely mystified.


The GOP's Flippancy Re Hitler and Holocaust

While we're still hearing outrage from Ed Gillespie and the RNC about the MoveOn.org entries that compared Bush to Hitler, Richard Cohen in today's Washington Post column digs up what I've been looking for related to Super GOPer Grover Norquist comparing the poor mega-wealthy to Holocaust victims because of the estate tax that Mr. Bush conveniently removed (and see yesterday's link to a New York Post piece comparing Howard Dean to Hitler).

I know I lie awake at night wondering if it's tougher to be a member of the Walton/WalMart family worried about protecting their claim to being some of the world's wealthiest humans or to be confined to a Nazi death camp. Wait. No, I don't.

Who's Lying?

What I've seen of this site so far, I like.

That Club for Growth Dean ad...

As a Vermont taxpayer, let me say a few words about the couple engaging in nasty-isms in the ad.

“Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading . . .Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs.”

Tax hiking? Oh, were you folks one of the billionaires like Dick Cheney who got a significant tax cut under Mr. Bush? Most of us have seen anything but a tax cut; in fact, more and more low-to-mid-range workers have noted that the IRS is looking much more closely at their $20-50K a year income than they do at the rich folks with all the tax shelters.

Government expanding? The only way you could expand the government more than has already been accomplished under Bush is to make every American a federal employee. No one's expanded government like this EVER. Or made all this expansion in the areas where you can see no demonstrable effect. We pay Tom Ridge an embarrassing fee for coming up with those 5 colors of terror.

Latte drinking? In Vermont, we take our coffee strong, black, from a can, and if it's been sitting on the woodstove for two days, all the better.

Sushi eating? I think not. The most common time for eating sushi in Vermont occurs when the power goes out and you can't cook the fish before you serve it for dinner.

Volvo driving? OK, there you have a point. But most Volvo drivers up here have them because a) it snows here about 200 days of the year leading to some of the more treacherous roads in the nation and b) they've got a Volvo graveyard in their dooryards from which to harvest parts. That ain't eliticism. It's practicality.

New York Times reading? Guilty, even if the addition of columnist David Brooks has plummeted the Gray Lady's standards to remarkable new depths. But believe it or not, many of us aren't proud of the fact that we have a president who can't read. That he can't seem to think is a tad scary, too.

Hollywood loving? Where? Here, we seem to prefer independent films.. some of them even with plots and sub-titles. We read books here, too. Texas should try it sometime.

Left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs? Yeah, Vermont is just so left-wing. I guess that's why so many people here work 2-5 jobs to try to pay their taxes, educate their children, and pay for their own medical care. Having a brain and choosing not to use it seems pretty freaky in my book.

Do just a tad of research and you'll find that the "tough talking, Jesus loving, God appointed master stategist in the White House" created the ranch in Crawford, TX out of whole cloth, found religion only when it would help his incredibly mediocre career (even when his father's friends were very generous in bailing Neil, Marvin, and Georgie out of all the businesses they bankrupted), and probably can't articulate a single thought that requires polysyllables.

While this ad couple's children might get called up to fight, Mr. Bush's brazen twins are busy attending fashion shows and rock concerts.

David "Babbling" Brooks in The New York Times

So much has been penned lately in blogs related to newcomer David Brooks' columns in The New York Times that I've avoided the topic. But his column yesterday was a bit beyond the pale and has generated even more focus.

As I think I've mentioned before, I rather liked David Brooks from his appearances with Mark Shields on the Lehrer News Hour on PBS each Friday. What I like best about both of them is that while they're partisan, I rarely feel like they forget that they're supposed to try to be fair as well, in their presentation. Translation: it's not over the top, as so much of the debates get to be.

Brooks' writing elsewhere, however, always struck me as a disappointment. He's not the writer Shields is and his writing always seemed "GOP first" and content second. I don't enjoy any column - regardless of the argument being made and regardless of party being represented - if I feel like I'm being clobbered by someone's politics before I understand their point.

I was surprised when the Gray Lady took him on as a new columnist (I miss Bill Keller), not because he's a Republican but because I don't think he's a strong writer. But disappointment doesn't begin to describe the effect I'm left with after reading most of his columns in The Times. They're not just poorly written but often ludicrous (Safire but without the bite or the years of experience). Each entry seems worse than the one before.

Tuesday's, centering on "the so-called neoconservative cabal", was a new low. After hearing for more than a year that anyone who criticizes any aspect of the Bush Administration is a traitor and that anyone who criticizes any of Israel's policies is an anti-Semite, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that Brooks would tell us that anyone who thinks there's a neocon cabal is an anti-Semite.

Silly me. It hadn't occurred to me to check the religious affiliation of the people responsible for much of what I've abhorred about our military actions in the last few years. I knew Wolfowitz was a Jew because I heard him refer to himself as such in an interview or a speech but for the rest - Cheney, Perle, Krystal, Woolsey, Rumsfeld, Gingrich and the whole "New American Century" crowd - I have no idea and not much interest. It's what they say and what they've gotten our country to do that gravely concerns me.

I assume, according to Mr. Brooks, that Mr. Perle is also an anti-Semite because he's not only acknowledged neo-conservatism, he insisted recently that we're only seeing the beginning of a whole century or more of its force, actions and triumphs.

I've read nothing that implies that neoconservatism is Jewish in origin (well, save for a few right wing conservative rather than neoconservative sites). If anything, some of the PNAC's positions would seem to endanger rather than support Israel's existence. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that PNAC, in its approach to the Middle East, has already caused danger by pushing efforts that have fueled excuses offered for the rise in violence in Israeli and Palestinian territories and the rise of anti-Semitic behavior around the world. To me, neocon war-mongering and imperialism are reprehensible. So are the actions of ANY people who target another people simply because of their chosen religion (or skin color, or income level, or a host of other things we conveniently use in "us vs. them" debates).

Where exactly does anti-Semitism come into this debate, Mr. Brooks? Are you just looking for a nasty tag and you'll use it regardless of whether it makes any logical sense whatsoever? What are you trying to achieve? What's your purpose? And finally, how dare you?

Osama hasn't been caught, but you might be....

Wired.com has a lovely story about the many ways the Patriot Act is being used against US citizens. After their story leaves you thinking, read Robyn Blumner's piece in the St. Petersburg Times.

Happy Anniversary

On this day in 1789, the United States held its first-ever presidential election.

Let's make a note of this and plan to celebrate by making certain we exercise our right (not our privilege) to vote in November, less than 300 days from today. Vote like your life depends on it. It just might.

Even the Washington Times noticed...

that much of the country wants all or part of the Patriot Act repealed, when Bush quietly signed all the important issues he wanted in Patriot II over the weekend Hussein was captured.

What's that quote from Ben Franklin about anyone who gives up a permanent liberty for temporary safety not deserving either liberty OR safety?


More on British Airways Flight Issues

Now the New York Post tells us that our government is sure - at least, that's what they told Scotland Yard - that a she-bomber would plant explosives in her womb (ouch) and detonate them while onboard the BA plane.

But the Department of Homeland Security official interviewed for the article didn't seem to know anything about the specific threat.

I'm still left wondering why none of these stories match up. Go read the European press, and you'll see even greater discrepancies than the ones in various US-based publications.

In the Right Direction

I feel like I say this so rarely, it's more important to state it when it happens, but I think President Bush is taking at least a tiny step in the right direction regarding registration of non-US workers. It's a vast over-simplification to call this a great step, but at least it's a step. For once, Mr. Bush is going against his conservative base in even offering this fledgling program.

The Right loves to jump on this issue, talking about people crossing from Mexico to take our jobs. But the truth is far more complicated than this: a) most of the jobs they take are jobs that are far less attractive to US workers and b) a lot of American employers have used them for years, with a passing nod from the Immigration Department.

Non-US workers in this country, doing our work, paying our taxes, and trying to lead decent lives in which they hope one day to become citizens or to be able to return home with enough to support their families seem to represent no danger to us.

Even up here in rural Vermont, you see immigrant workers arrive to work on farms in the fall. Maybe we're just unusually fortunate up here, but invariably, the people I see working here in these circumstances are a pleasant, hard-working crew who don't cause police problems, are very friendly, and when they talk, they talk of sending the larger American dollars back home to support their elderly parents, their kids, to buy a tiny piece of land back home, or to send a child to college.

The farmers they work for don't operate with a big profit margin (we tend to shun large-scale agri-business in a state where smaller, more organic and cooperative concerns are encouraged), and most of these farmers - the ones I've talked to anyway - say it's very tough for them to find local labor willing to fulfill their harvest needs.

A final point tonight

Perhaps someone can explain to me why the American press and Bush administration is telling us that all these flights from overseas are being cancelled or delayed because of "grave security concerns", while the French say this is not true and the British press tells us that the British Airways flights were prevented because there was a dispute among the pilots' union about flying with an armed American sky marshal aboard.

Do we really expect tourism money from overseas next year? I can't imagine why.

How the Labor Department "Helps" You.

Read this lovely article on how the Labor Department is helping employers find ways to avoid paying overtime to low income workers. We certainly can't have anyone making more than $200 take-home pay for working a 50-hour work week, can we?

What We've Come To...

Several news programs today were aghast as they reported that MoveOn.Org had the nerve to allow a user-submitted movie to its "Bush in 30 seconds" ad competition (one which likened Mr. Bush to Hitler) to be on its site and viewable to those who chose to review the ads being considered for said competition. GOP folks are joining with the Simon Wiesenthal Center - that must be a first - to demand every Democratic candidate put MoveOn.Org down because of it.

Funny, but when this discussion was occurring - Wolf Blitzer's show was one of them - none mentioned this tasteless New York Post column likening Howard Dean and his followers to the Hitler brownshirts.

Moveon.org does an admirable job, I think. It would have been inappropriate for them to censor themselves what they were asking their public to review and rate. They didn't endorse the ad which linked Bush to Hitler. The same cannot be said of The New York Post in choosing today's opinion columnist where The Post made an active editorial decision by running it.

If people have the nerve to dish it, they need to have the skin to accept some of the splatter-back.

Don't miss this one

Buzzflash has a link to a 12-19 opinion piece which appeared in USA Today called "My Silence Will Not Be Bought" by one of several widows not taking the government deal to accept money rather than sue over the events of 9-11-01.

We've done so much damage in the world as a result of 9-11, it's perhaps important to remember how some of the immediate victims of that day feel right now.

The "Rush" to Judgment

Much is being made - mostly by right-wing sites and shows like Joe Scarbrough on MSNBC - of a report by a Florida newspaper that their investigation shows that only one person has been charged in recent history with so-called "doctor shopping" (where you attempt to get the same prescription from multiple doctors), related to the case of Rush Limbaugh.

But when did Rush get charged with doctor shopping? To the best of my knowledge, he has not been. Instead, Florida officials are trying to investigate whether Rush was involved in that practice. I know it's fun to beat your chest and make your case seem more desperate and unfair, but shouldn't you wait to beat and scream once he is charged, if he ever is?

And that's the point, at least here. Rush may never be charged with doctor shopping. But the difference between Rush's case and probably so many other drug cases is that Rush has the legal team and money to keep the prosecutors from actually reviewing the records they subpoena'd in order to make this decision whether to go forward.

I can't help but imagine that if anyone else had been in possession of more than 2,000 pills (and perhaps far more than that, according to some press reports), it wouldn't matter if the pills were Paxil or Oxycontin: a prosecutor could certainly levy charges of possession with intent to distribute/sell. You wouldn't have to go forward on charges of doctor shopping or money laundering or improper possession of a controlled substane without a prescription, although you might be able to do so. The mandatory minimums the conservatives love to endorse would seem appropriate for keeping someone who horded pills like that behind bars even without any additional charges.

But then, that's another difference between Rush and other cases - a point we saw in the case of Lauren Bush, Jeb's daughter, in her attempt to falsify a prescription for Xanax and then being found with contraband at the treatment center. Money and connections will get you into a treatment center; the rest will go to jail for as long as a mandatory minimum can demand.

And yet Rush - who insisted that enough white people weren't doing hard time for drug crimes and they should be found out and locked away - has not been booked and printed, not spent a second in jail, and has managed to keep prosecutors from so much as reviewing his medical records.

Do I think Rush needs to do 15 years in prison? Hey, I have to admit the imagery makes me grin but no. Addicts deserve treatment. They deserve it whether they're Rush Limbaugh, Darryl Strawberry, or some Joe or Janet no one's ever heard of without money and connections.


Media Whores returns from the pasture...

It's great to see that Media Whores Online is back. And considering they returned only today, they've already got well more than 2,000 votes in their Vote for Media Whore of the Year competition.

I see Tim Russert has an impressive lead, but I'm surprised at a few names not listed. Surely, Wolf Blitzer has earned a rightful place there, along with Bob Novak, Diane Sawyer, the infamous Judith ("My God, there are WMDs hidden even in my underwear") Miller, Lou ("Code Orange is great for holiday shopping") Dobbs, Christopher ("I don't drink, really") Hutchins, to name but a few. Thankfully, no one on Fox pretends to be a journalist and sadly, this is true for most of CNN and MSNBC, too.

And speaking of people who play journalists on TV, word has it that MSNBC has signed Deborah ("duh") Norville, GE's answer to Paula Yawn Zahn. Yeah, Helen Thomas may not have plastic surgery every 6 months and isn't blonde, but I'd sure prefer spending an hour with her.

Osama's only dangerous when it's convenient?

Whenever the administration doesn't find it useful to acknowledge a reported new bin Laden tape, it seems we hear a lot of "might be old" and "might not be him".

But apparently because it behooves them right now - with the Code Orange nonsense costing taxpayers at the federal level more than $1 billion a week and likely to cause major financial problems for various state and local groups, too - suddenly this bin Laden tape is oooooh so scary and forboding. "We should see a major attack within a week" was today's catch phrase, with many folks stating that everytime bin Laden releases a tape, we see a major attack. If this is true, why has the administration downplayed so many of them in the past?

And while we're in the realm of the dangerously nonsensical, why is the administration making bin Laden out to be such a threat again when for months - after "we'll get him dead or alive" didn't exactly pan out (9-11-01 is over 28 months ago now) - Bush, Rumsfeld, and company told us Osama didn't matter anymore, he was marginalized, he has no real support structure left? Remember? Suddenly Saddam was the Big Bad Wolf about to huff, and puff, and blow our homes down while Osama was a non-issue.

Which is it and why is the press pretending all this intermediate disqualification of Osama didn't happen? I can almost understand the American public being confused, but those covering these stories know better.

When - please when - does this Administration get held accountable for all the shifts, even if they'll never be held accountable for allowing 9-11 to happen at all?

Sunday's Democratic debate

I don't know that I should even ask how many actually watched the candidates' debate yesterday. After all, there was competing "early" tax filers, game watchers, people catching up on holiday-postponed jobs and these debates are indeed tough even for the more inclined viewer, because watching more than 4 people debate is like an unsatisfying tennis game (and I remain sure of the fact that no game is as fun watching as playing).

What struck me more than the debate itself was the early and late headlines coming from it. Before it began, Wolf Blitzer on CNN always sounded so incredulous as he asked people, "Can any of these people even think they can win against George W. Bush?" Polls and Republican-owned and controlled electronic, paperless voting machines as well as the conservative Bush/Reagan appointed Supreme Court majority aside, I don't see Mr. Bush as unbeatable.

But even after the debate began, I saw interim headlines like, "Lieberman trounces Dean", "Dems gang up on tiny state governor", and "Dean's Biggest Fight with Other Dems."

First, as I've said before, I haven't chosen my candidate. Dean, I thought, was a good governor of my state. I think some of what worked well for him could work well for our country. Nor do I think the things people typically hammer Dean for are legitimate. Reading many of the more right-oriented blogs over the weekend, I saw some pretty incredible charges about Dean's convenient Christianity, questioning his faith because he's married to a Jew and has Jewish children, horror over his training at a Planned Parenthood center (I'm sorry folks - Planned Parenthood does FAR more than perform abortions; much of the cases I've seen them handle are breast exams, Pap tests, fertility and infertility counseling, and helping women find the best birth control method - all delivered at a sliding scale cost so that poor women can be caught early for signs of disease and cancer), that he didn't protect the VT nuclear plant (please tell me which of the nuclear plants are safe - as I recall, every one of them offers huge concerns), and that he's hiding something by not requesting his VT records be unsealed.

Go to any of the VT newspaper sites, and you can pretty much determine Dean's record just from their archives. But the records are just one of a number of convenient excuses to jump on Dean.

What I find far more interesting is that Karl Rove and company keep putting out word that they want a match-up between Dean and Bush. There are rumors going around that Rove is actually raising money for Dean to ensure he's the candidate. There are many different things that could mean, just from a strategy standpoint - some of them indicative of the possibility that Rove and Bush want just the opposite, any candidate but Dean. Jeb Bush on Saturday or Sunday said Dean wouldn't make it because all he's done is summon "mock anger" (his term).

I don't know, Jeb. I can think of a few things for people to be angr about. Let me just tick a few off:

- no one has taken accountability for the series of events that allowed all those different incidents on 9/11 to occur
- in fact, this administration has done almost everything in its power - and perhaps a few things outside of it - to be sure that a full independent investigation into the events of 9-11 has not occurred
- that there turned out to be truth to the old conspiracy tale that Bush allowed the U.S.-based bin Laden family to leave the country after 9-11 when none of the rest of us could travel
- huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while some of the most disadvantaged are removed from health and housing programs, public assistance, and even decent public education
- an administration so corporate friendly that they've been wanting to push a special tax cut just for those companies sending jobs overseas - not to encourage them to keep jobs here, but to reward them for removing jobs from the US workforce
- a foreign policy that has left us hated in much of the world and thus, in more danger of extremists acting out upon us
- a shift in tax policy to make more and more of the burden borne by the lowest income earners
- draconian measures enacted by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security that makes it possible for them to monitor every aspect of our lives and potentially confine us without due process
- a recovery that is noticeably invisible to most Americans

Sadly, I haven't begun to start this list. More so than perhaps any other Administration at any time in our history, this one has instituted measures or forced their policies through to change the very fabric of the American ideal and way of life.

I don't see those who are angry wanting to "trump" Republicans or see Bush carted off to prison. We're not fighting against the GOP or Bush. We're fighting for what America has meant to us. We're fighting for the America we wanted our children raised within. We're fighting for justice. We're fighting not to have to watch everyone who doesn't earn $100K/yr or more wither and die. We're fighting to be respected in the world again. We're fighting for smarter kids rather than the emphasis on smarter bombs.