I missed this until now, but the LA Times also has an article concerning the Scalia-Cheney connection. These two men didn't just exchange pleasant greetings recently; they spent days together duck-hunting at a private camp in Louisiana which occurred after the Supremes had agreed to hear the case re: Cheney's energy task force.

Something stinks here, and it's not just the salmon I made for dinner.

Blind Justice?

Several organizations are questioning the propriety of the Supreme Court preparing to consider the case of whether the details of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force can be released in light of the fact that Mr. Cheney, good friends with Justice Antonin Scalia, has recently spent a fair amount of time with the justice. The New York Times has this story on it.

It would seem that Justice Scalia should at the very least recuse himself from this particular case, just on the issue of their relatively close friendship. The highly opinionated and often self-righteous Scalia, however, has said on record that no one can reasonably draw the conclusion that he would be swayed by his close ties to the VP. I would disagree as I suspect many others would.

Wacko Jacko

On a lighter note (at least as light as you can get considering the charges are child molestation), I made the mistake of watching TV yesterday to get real news and found myself confronted by non-stop Michael Jackson coverage instead.

Who else could take an arraignment on child molestation charges and turn it into a music video/circus? I'd love to know what medication he regularly takes so I never consume it by accident. How do people get to be caricatures of themselves, anyway?

I found myself confused as to which was the most offensive: the media playing up to it while ignoring real news, Michael turning this into a "peace and love circus fest", or the people who drove for hours to flock around him to offer support.

Parenthetically, I have to say that I lean toward the idea that Michael's probably not guilty of the charges, at least until we hear some concrete evidence to the contrary. I think the prosecutor has been trying very hard to make some kind of case for years and this latest child is his best hope of doing so. But Michael did himself no favors by paying off that other family on the first set of charges and certainly not by repeatedly going on record to say he continued to sleep (sleep, not have sex) with children who were not his own.

Media Watch

I noticed this link at BuzzFlash and followed it over: the Columbia Journalism Review has started a watchdog site to monitor the coverage of the campaigns.

Considering the bizarre nature of some of the coverage to date, this might be a site worth checking regularly. I want to see their take on folks like Wolf "I'm a Bush whore and I love it" Blitzer and Tim "Can You Tell that a Defense Contractor (GE) Pays Me Millions to Toss Mr. Bush's People Soft Questions with No Followups While I Beat up on the Dems" Russert.

1 in 9 deaths are suicides

I'm horrified today to read that every 1 in 9 non-violent (gasp) deaths of American soldiers in Iraq are suicides.

Of course, you can explain this in a number of different ways. But none allow you to escape the possible conclusion that what our young men and women are being forced to perform there may be so reprehensible to them that they cannot go on. And none allow you to forget that the Army was prepared to go after one young officer for failure to perform his duties - on a charge of cowardice - because he was so strongly affected by the sight of an Iraqi being sliced in two by a military action.

Yes, military suicides have always been a part of war. But this statistic is startlingly high in a war that - according to many letters published in military journals - even our soldiers question the validity of fighting.

Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Where's this democratization we hear about when the administration agrees to allow women in Iraq to give up their rights? Where is the rebuilding? Why are our soldiers held hostage to an Army that won't let them go when their tours are scheduled to end? What will they return to? Will they be greeted as Vietnam-era veterans were?

I remember being a child during Vietnam and having one young vet return to our church one Sunday wearing his uniform. He was asked quietly after the service not to appear in church again wearing his uniform because too many people felt too much confusion and shame about the war to feel comfortable with the wearing of the uniform. This was in a white, Republican, not-exactly-liberal town. He never returned to the church and for years afterward, it angered and confused him that he had given so much only to be treated so shabbily.


On the anniversary of Martin Luther King's birthday last year, our president chose this occasion to say that it was the government's position that educational institutions such as the University of Michigan had no right to weigh ethnicity or skin color in making admission decisions, ignoring the fact that another type of affirmative action, legacy choices, explained how he got into schools like Yale and Harvard with his dismal academic record. The University of Texas, for example, had rejected him.

On this year's anniversary, Mr. Bush chose to visit King's grave to lay a wreath - and needed to employ Atlanta city buses to try to obscure the view of the thousand or more protestors who defeated the police in trying to keep them away from trying to put an end to Mr. Bush's photo opportunity - to "honor" Dr. King. Right after that, he was whisked away to a fund raising dinner in which he never uttered the fallen civil rights leader's name once.

Following that, Mr. Bush took the anniversary as his occasion to install - making an end run around the Senate - a highly controversial, extremely conservative white judge who had fought against the civil rights of Americans, who believes women do not have a choice over their own bodies, and who tried to reverse the charges against two men who had engaged in burning a cross on a black family's lawn.

Such actions are not coincidences. Mr. Bush, through his handlers, is sending a powerful message not just to the black community but to everyone in this country who believes in justice and civil rights, that he will exert his will to undo as many of the civil rights actions made possible through the blood and sweat - and at times, the very lives - of many who fought to achieve them. Every American should be offended.


An Appeal

Regardless of what party you choose to affiliate with (or none) or whom you decide to vote for, let me appeal to any of you who are eligible to vote but not enrolled to register and be sure to vote in the November election.

More than ever, we have a responsibility to make this vote a true showing of the will of the entirety of the American people. Our current policies are not only affecting our lives here but those throughout the entire world. We need a fair vote and one that is as close to possible to one that embraces every eligible American.

Please do it: do it for yourself, your family, your friends, your community, and for the world.

Testing the Ceiling-Less Presidential Limits

John Dean has another excellent analysis available from FindLaw, this one regarding how severely Mr. Bush is testing the legal limits of presidential privilege (and I'm not even going to raise my fury right now over his signing an interim federal appointment to Charles Pickering, that lovely woman-hating, cross-burning-loving man who would not get near a federal judgeship in an intelligent society).

About Dr. Steinberg (Dean)

After making little headway with much of the American public as the wing nuts kept pointing out that Howard Dean's wife is (as they whisper) "a Jew", they've now turned on her because she hasn't dropped her entire career and home life to join her husband on the campaign trail. Even Maureen Dowd - who can be a fairly bright, savvy columnist many times but occasionally seems to lose her senses - has jumped on this bandwagon.

Why doesn't Dr. Steinberg Dean have a right to her life? She spent many extra years in school to become a doctor (and unlike Mr and Mrs Bush, she apparently paid attention in class and learned something), she apparently provided a great deal of the financial support of her family while Howard Dean worked at the rather low paying state positions of Lt. governor and then governor, she has patients she cares for and a son she wants to raise, and she sounds far too talented to just evolve into one of those characteristic political wives.

Anyone who has a problem with this is, sadly, one of those folks who has a problem with any intelligent person pursuing their own life. That she's a woman makes these people all the more sanctimonious, just as they were with Hillary Rodham Clinton.

I'm as sick of hearing about the "selfish nerve" of Dr. Steinberg as I am of all the political pundits focusing on the Democratic candidates' wardrobe choices. Try listening to what they have to say rather than whether one's wearing a mock turtleneck and another has on a 15-year-old suit.

Bush Also Kills Women's Rights in Iraq

Women have lost a lot of their "equality" in Iraq, thanks to a deal authorized by the Bush Administration.

Why should we be surprised? The people behind this administration don't seem to like women anyway, considering their measures here, and the women of Iraq "aren't even Christians" (this from an Email I spotted on one of those Faux News viewer comments).

Bush Kills Hubbell

Report has it tonight that the first victim of Bush's new "let's get men on Mars at any cost" initiative is the Hubbell Telescope. All funding has now been cut to it, after we spent billions to get it up there, billions more to fix it, and it's only started to deliver a wealth of information. Right now, they're still talking about doing the Deep Space Telescope, but it's not supposed to be up and operational until 2011 and because it's not part of Bush's manned-only initiative (read: Hallburton and Boeing only want Mars, not anything else right now - and they're the two companies who've pushed the hardest to colonize Mars), it may also bite the dust.

The Hubbell will become expensive space junk in just a few years so even if the deep space telescope goes forward (and I doubt it), we'll be blind in space for several years between the Hubbell's death and the new telescope's debut.

9-11 Investigative Panel Conflicts of Interest?

How delightful.


Misspeak or?

I hate it when I can't find the remote control for the TV in the dark cave of my office, especially when I accidentally get stuck watching the moronic, Bill O'Whiney wannabe, Joe Scarbrough, before I can turn the set off.

But when it happened tonight, I noticed he was interviewing Rush Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black (a man I've respected in the past for some of his representation), who repeatedly referred to Rush in the present tense as needing and using pain medication.

Didn't Rush stop all these drugs? Didn't he just finish rehab? Did he hire a new maid? Did he buy his own pharmacy or pharmaceutical company?

Considering how careful lawyers are with their language, I doubt it was merely an accidental slip that Mr. Black kept referring to Rush's pill popping in the present tense. But then, perhaps Rush needs to pop 50 Oxycontin a day to handle the cognitive dissonance of insisting for years that criminals had no right to privacy while he insists he does, or all the names he's called the ACLU over the years when the ACLU has stepped in to help on his side in his court fight (and Rush has gratefully accepted that help from an organization Bill O'Reilly just called a major fascist group).

But, boys and girls, if you were in Rush's position and your lawyer got on TV and announced you were still using, you probably would not be sitting in your lush Palm Beach house tonight as he is. You'd have your collective asses sitting in police lockup.

It must be a grave left-wing conspiracy, to use Rush's phrase, that allows him to be treated so much better than anyone else - save for Jeb's daughter or GW's tipsy twins - would be.

$1.5 Billion to Promote Marriage

Do we really need to budget in an additional $1.5 billion just to promote marriage in this country? I think the answer is no.

The issue isn't getting people to marry. Heterosexuals do it everyday. In fact, many of the people who so loudly proclaim the need for morality and decency and family values have been married 3 or 4 times and been engaged in one or more very messy, family-breaking affairs (Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, Henry Hyde, Dan Burton, Bob Dole, GW's brother Neil, George Will, to name but a tiny few). I was reading something about a well-heeled woman in Florida, big in the nursing home business and an avid and affluent Bush supporter, who was espousing family values as she ticked off her four marriages.

No, the reason they want to add another $1.5 billion to the national debt is to try to promote heterosexual marriage as an alternative to gay relationships. Forgive me, but as a heterosexual involved in a long-time relationship (almost 16 years), I don't find myself threatened by homosexuals who would like some legally sanctioned ceremony. I grew up being taught by gay teachers (long before I understood what it meant), having friends who were gay, working for and with gays and doing business with gays and never once felt that they were a threat to my continued heterosexuality.

It's ironic and oh so terribly apt that a recent study said that those who felt the most challenged by homosexuality seemed far more likely to be fighting homosexual urges in their own lives. I'm very sympathetic if Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney and the right wing feel so challenged by these urges that they need to do everything in their power to deny homosexuals any rights to enjoy the same legal and social benefits they enjoy as married heterosexuals, but I'll be damned if I want more tax dollars wasted because of it.

I sound like a broken record, but we have vets without the health care they were promised when they sacrificed, men and women being sent off to war without proper equipment and body armor, children kept from a normal school schedule because of budget shortfalls, violent (rather than non-violent) criminals being let out of prison early because prisons are broke, and millions of people out of work. That $1.5 billion could be spent in much more suitable, effective ways.

Paul O'Neill Unplugged

Andres Martinez has an excellent piece in today's The New York Times related to Paul O'Neill and this administration.

While you're checking the OpEd page, read the recommendation for Connecticut John Rowland (R) to resign. He needs to go. A noble man - a term the WH likes to toss around a lot lately - would have left long before this; Mr. Rowland may be concerned there's a pocket he has not picked yet. But you have to give the GOP in Connecticut credit for seeing this mess for what it is and going ahead with impeachment discussions since Mr. Rowland won't step aside himself. At this point, he deserves to be removed with all the embarrassment that involves rather than save face through resignation.

Issues of Loyalty

A great deal has been said the last few days, particularly since the disclosures from Paul O'Neill in the new Ron Susskind book, regarding people who "betray" the president, who "stab him in the back", who question the commander in chief.

Let's set aside for a moment the issue of Mr. Bush in particular because my take on this is that it does not matter if the president in question is a Dem or GOPer (or other).

Mr. O'Neill - and others who have come forward like him - are indeed appointed at the pleasure of the president. However, to whom should the greater loyalty be directed: the specific president or the people of the United States?

The American public deserves to know exactly how the war in Iraq came to happen, and it seems especially important since the versions of the reasoning have so often changed. It does make a difference if the plan was to take out Saddam from the beginning rather than, due to intelligence we were told supported the Bush Administration's view that Saddam and company presented a true danger to America, we went to war only grudgingly.

Mr. O'Neill's disclosure of the discussion of finding a way to rid the world of Saddam is critically important because the claim is now from the White House that these plans were simply an extension of a 1998 plan from President Clinton for regime change in Iraq. Even though another official has come forward to support Mr. O'Neill's claims of the strong emphasis on taking out Saddam and dividing up Iraq's oil fields months before 9-11 (and remember, there are no ties between Saddam and Osama based on evidence presented thus far), Mr. Rumsfeld claimed yesterday we were just doing Clinton's job (albeit better) and suggested O'Neill was making up a lot of this stuff.

This sounds vaguely plausible unless you go back and look at the record. Both Secretary of State Colin Powell and NSA chief Condoleeza Rice both told us early in 2001 that we were NOT seeking regime change, that disarmament was the objective. We also heard repeatedly that Mr. Clinton was a pathological liar and cheat and that this administration would be following almost nothing of what had been put into place under Mr. Clinton's leadership. As recently as the summer of 2000, now VP Dick Cheney was arguing before Congress (in his position then as head of Halliburton) that things had changed so much in Iraq since the Gulf War that we should be doing business with Saddam.

So if these now public officials were saying one thing to us and doing an entirely different thing behind the scenes, we need to know this. While I can appreciate that the Bush Administration would not like these facts divulged,I feel Mr. O'Neill's greater loyalty should be to the country he served rather than the man who put him in the job.

It seems to be increasingly clear that the interests of the American people may not be the same thing as the interests and goals of its president or the people around him. It makes one wonder why the president and his people are so derisive of any press that dares to ask questions rather than simply accept carefully worded press releases from the White House. However, much of the press has not served the American public well in this regard. They've been very "loyal" to the president, to our detriment.

I think we desperately need more people like Paul O'Neill to tell us what really happens in this administration while I believe it matters very little whether the president and his people like it or not. They're supposed to be representing us and working for us rather than treating us like a pesky detail.


OK, I lied...

If Mr. Bush changed that sentence around to "nobody has ever done more to diminish human rights", I'd nod my head in earnest agreement.

Ask the people of Africa whom he shortchanged after making all those promises on AIDS assistance (the new GOP spin seems to be that HIV infection is grossly exaggerated in Africa). Ask women who've watched their reproductive rights eroded under his watch. Ask homosexuals who've been given the finger by this president. Ask seniors who are about to see real Medicare funding disappear while the big pharmaceutical firms cheer.

Or just ask many of the American people who've watched their jobs disappear while their own taxes were raised, who've watched national security become a joke, who are expected to buy rhetoric even when they can't afford medical care and groceries, who are supposed to believe that "no accountability" voting machines are honest, who watch their schools eviscerated and their children prodded to go off to wars with shifting justification....

Ths list sadly goes ever onward.

No Comment

"No President has ever done more for human rights than I have."

Who said this? George W. Bush, in an interview with Ken Auletta in The New Yorker, as reported by Lloyd Grove in The Daily News.

Paul O'Neill

The investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame took months to even see an acknowledgement that the DoJ was looking into the matter. It took more than a year to appoint a panel to investigate 9-11 and initially was to be led by Henry ("The man even Nixon thought was too secretive") Kissenger, and funded at just $3 million (compared to $50 million for the Columbia shuttle disaster) with a short time period in which to work. NO serious governmental investigation was ever launched into what happened in Florida in the 2000 presidential election and none yet into why our we went to war against Iraq using faulty, exaggerated and clearly wrong information about the presence of WMD and Saddam's supposed connection to Al Qaeda.

But in just about 12 hours from the time CBS' 60 Minutes showed Paul O'Neill (former US Treasury Secretary) making comments the White House might not like, there was already talk from high-ranking GOP and Admin officials that they needed to investigate - and not investigate whether the charges he made about Mr. Bush, deficits, and the early Saddam talk were true but about a document supplied by Mr. O'Neill that they say should have been classified.


Higher Gas Price? Just Say Thanks to GW

Gas prices in many parts of the country have taken a record jump, the steepest climb in some time.

While you can blame the extreme cold in the Midwest and the Northeast for some of it, much of the thanks goes to Washington. The high deficit, the gravely devalued American dollar, and our own policies are all factors cited in the price climb, not just by OPEC but others. While the government also keeps telling us what a boom economy we're in, people are consuming more gas at a time when OPEC has limited production. And our government is increasing its in-stock reserve past record levels - for no clear reason, especially since GW has always prohibited its release during gas crunch times - which further limits the amount of gas available for you to buy to fill that monster SUV Mr. Bush said you could write off on your taxes.

The "Whiteness" of Vermont

And no, I'm not referring to our October-May snow cover in the northern part of the state either.

Listening to Al Sharpton go after Howard Dean for Vermont's rather record statistic of being about 98% white and that Dean had no people of color in his cabinet made me think again of when I first arrived here to live (my mother's family is from Vermont and I chose to return). After the first few weeks, I happened to notice a black man at a gas station and glanced at his license plate: North Carolina, and remarked to my partner, "It seems odd that the first person of color I've seen here took this long and he appears to be from a different state."

I'm not sure what factors in here in terms of the "whiteness" of Vermont. Unless you live in the deep southern part of the state (we're long but not wide), it can be a very difficult place to live. It's expensive considering the services available, but I don't think this explains it. Some of the explanation, I suspect, lies in the New England tradition of being dismissive of almost anyone who hasn't lived in an area for at least 20-30 years and/or three or more generations. It's tough for anyone to move into a small community and start life there knowing no one. My first year here I felt like I was marooned. Some mistook me for a "N'Yawker weekender". It's much better now, but I've heard many stories about different people who couldn't manage to survive their first year.

But I don't think that's the only factor in keeping us so lily white. After three and a half years here, however, I don't think it's overt racism. A good part of Vermont is diverse in its cultural, music, and other options. The people of color I do see and meet appear well integrated into their communities. So this matter still has me scratching my head a bit.


It's Not Just Our Economy, Stupid

This coming week, Mr. Bush will begin a tour in which the message will be not only "more tax cuts", but to make all the previous tax cuts permanent. In preparation for this, he's spoken several times of the great unemployment report in December.

But there are so many problems with this that you really don't need an economist like Paul Krugman or The Economist to begin to spot them.

Every month, the Labor Department has to correct the previous month's "favorable" report. The correction is almost always for the worse. The Bushies certainly aren't the first to fudge these, particularly coming up on an election year. But what's insidious with them is that they don't tolerate bad figures so people who don't quickly find new jobs are removed from the stats faster and faster. Listen to Bush and Company, and these long-term unemployed are all entrepreneurs and new small business owners. I doubt that's the case.

For example, we keep hearing that 900,000 or perhaps even 2 million people are out of work. But how does that jive when we've learned that more than 3 million are out of work JUST in manufacturing? And manufacturing hasn't been the only group to bleed.

Remember how the tax cuts were going to stimulate the economy and create jobs? The government predicted at least 150,000 jobs would be created in December alone. In reality, about 1,000 were. Few of the jobs created in the past six months pay a salary that is commensurate with a family being able to pay its normal living expenses.

Where the economy has been stimulated has been in a few areas of the stock market, and in luxury purchases. Most mortals these days don't dabble in the stock market because they saw the big losses. Most mortals are also not buying yachts and Rolls Royces. But CEOs who saw the most massive tax cuts did NOT use that money to fuel the creation of jobs. They pocketed it. CEO salaries have continued to climb ever upward, despite the scandals and the huge layoffs.

Congress voted itself another large pay hike, while many Americans with jobs are working more hours, expected to produce far more within those set hours, and sometimes taking a pay cut just to keep those jobs. Meanwhile, Mr. Bush makes twice what most of his predecessors made as president, and he's taken more vacation time of any president in US history. Much of the time he is on the clock, he's fund raising. Not for us. For a race in which he initially has no challengers.

But even if you set ALL that aside, including this moronic vision of his in which he'll cut all other spending to NASA except for manned Moon and Mars missions, and see our role in the world. The American dollar is in free fall against the Euro. Part of this is directly answerable to the policies we've enacted in the past three years.

There are global industry partners who say now that America won't be a major market force in a few years and that America is no longer a good investment. Tourism from other countries is apt to drop considerably thanks to our new "security" measures, too.

The International Monetary Fund says American fiscal irresponsibility now endangers the entire world economy.

With all this said, exactly where is the great economic recovery?

Ashcroft: Will Seek Death Penalty Against Runners

Hey, it's not as wild as it sounds.

A new report shows that naturally occurring cannabinoids, lipid molecules produced by our own bodies, may be responsible for the "high" experienced by those who engage in prolonged periods of serious exercise rather than the endorphins generally credited with the phenomenon. The study, published in NeuroReport, and conducted jointed by the Georgia Institute of Technology and UC at Irvine, says that the effect matches that felt by users of marijuana.

Somehow, you just know US Attorney General John "Let the Turkeys Soar" Ashcroft will be rounding up marathon runners next. The only enjoyment he seems to sanction is self-flaggelation and shooting people. I keep imagining the kind of field day a psychoanalyst would have with Mr. "Cotton Mather was a Leftist Liberal" Ashcroft.