10 Things I Would Change About Congress

Most of the blogger lists are personal. But what could possibly be more personal than the miserable effects this Congress is having on all of our lives?

Here's my list, and chime in with your own wish list in Comments.

The 10 things I'd change about Congress:
1) No more inserting disparate items into other bills (like the "real" ID act snuck into a military spending bill).
2) Stop ALL automatic pay increases every year.
3) Tie their salaries AND their health care to national averages; they make no more than the average income earners AND their health care would be as disastrous and "out of their own pocket" as ours.
4) No party is majority rule for more than two consecutive years.
5) Implement rules that prevents them from taking ANYTHING from lobbyists and, once they leave Congress, they may not work in any capacity for a lobbying group for between 5-10 years from their final day on Capitol Hill. This would cut the number of scumbuckets who adopt disastrous bills and then take lucrative lobbying jobs immediately thereafter.
6) The people - rather than Congress - will develop and enforce the ethics rules Congress must live by.
7) Members of Congress have a choice: they can work on Capitol Hill or their spouse or family member may be a lobbyist; NOT both.
8) They have to work real hours; no more long vacations in which they're absent from the Hill yet nowhere near their home constituency.
9) No more Congress critters also being fundraisers for other Congress critters or for the president.
10) No corporate underwriting of Senators or House Reps. Period.

Beware of Blogs You Don't Know

MissM points out in Comments a danger with using the Next Blog feature on the Blogger Navbar that you see at the top of this page.

Some blogs use controls built into the code to do various things, including trying to identify your computer and your email address so they can deluge you with commercial span as well as to transmit spyware and other nasties.

This blog details one of the problems.

Amusing? Not Really

Perhaps if I were in a more humorous frame of mind (and this country was not headed down such a perilous, perhaps even ruinous path toward a future of regress), I might laugh a bit about two points Mr. and Mr. Bush pushed in the last 24 hours.

First, Dubya appeared at a college commencement in which he told the graduates to commit themselves to America. Mr. Bush needs to look closer to home. His daughters graduated more than a year ago. Except for a brief few weeks on daddy's re-election campaign (just in case the Diebold machines erroneously recorded votes correctly rather than the way they were programmed to spit out Bush as the winner) in which they bared their midriffs and stuck out their tongues at the press, the twins have done diddly shit except run up nightly bar/club bills in the thousands, attend fashion shows and concerts (where middle class wage-earning Secret Service agents were known to buy or use pull to get the rich twins tickets), get drunk, perform sexually provocative dances, smoke dope, and generally break a bunch of the laws that poorer and less white people their age sometimes get jail or prison time for.

Or was Mr. Bush suggesting these college graduates enlist to fight his many wars, including his apparent plans for Iran. If so, he needs again to look closer to home. Except for a week or two of hotshot internships, the twins have never worked a day in their lives. They're available for service. No, I joke not.

Second, we hear Mrs. Bush is in the midwest "promoting women's rights". Really? Isn't that just too funny, considering Mr. Bush is trying to single-handedly turn women back into chattel? Taking women out of combat, trying to make it impossible for them to choose anything but abstinence or pregnancy, insisting that women in the press request security clearance by their married names rather than their given ones, suggesting women should be able to stay home with the kids and leave the "good" jobs for their hubbies (funny since most families need at least two incomes to survive now), and other happy, regressive horseshit.

Mrs. Bush, of course, came of age in a time when her husband was NOT presideent. So she could choose to smoke (and according to some reports, sell) dope and choose, after years of education, to leave her job YEARS before she became a mother (for all the talk about her "years" as a teacher and librarian, she only worked a few years). I mean, a nice Texas lady doesn't actually work. That's for low class people, like Mrs. Bush's cleaning lady.

More Bush Bamboozlepalooza

No shame whatsoever:

MILWAUKEE -- As President Bush resumes his cross-country campaigning to promote his vision of Social Security restructuring, it's no secret that he's relying on outside organizations to help provide the supporting cast.

Yet a memo circulated this week among members of one group, Women Impacting Public Policy, illustrates the lengths to which the White House has gone to make sure that the right points are made at the president's public appearances.

"President Bush will be in Rochester, N.Y., for an upcoming event and has called on WIPP for help," the memo to members stated.

It went on to describe several types of workers the White House wanted to appear on stage with Bush, starting with a young wage-earner "who knows that SS could run out before they retire."

Each participant would represent some aspect of Bush's proposal to let younger workers divert a portion of their payroll taxes into individual investment accounts that they would control. The accounts, in turn, would be part of a broader restructuring plan that would slow the growth of benefits to ensure Social Security's solvency.

"Essentially, everybody needs to be under the age of 29," the memo said. It requested an immediate response, because "we will need to get names to the White House."

The solicitation reflected the latest refinement of the White House sales strategy for Social Security, featuring a heightened emphasis on younger workers. The new theme was on full display today as Bush took his Social Security roadshow to Wisconsin, the 26th state he has visited to promote the restructuring.

"The Empire Strikes Bush"

From WaPo:

"This is how liberty dies -- to thunderous applause."

So observes Queen Amidala of Naboo as the galactic senate grants dictator-to-be Palpatine sweeping new powers in his crusade against the Jedi in the final "Star Wars" movie opening this week.

It's just one of several lines in "Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith," that reveal the movie to be more than just a sci-fi blockbuster and gargantuan cultural phenomenon.

"Revenge of the Sith," it turns out, can also be seen as a cautionary tale for our time -- a blistering critique of the war in Iraq, a reminder of how democracies can give up their freedoms too easily, and an admonition about the seduction of good people by absolute power.

Some film critics suggest it could be the biggest anti-Bush blockbuster since "Fahrenheit 9/11."

New York Times movie critic A.O. Scott gives "Sith" a rave, and notes that Lucas "grounds it in a cogent and (for the first time) comprehensible political context.

Going to Shoot the Messenger on This, Too?

From The Times (and no, these aren't just isolated cases, or a few "bad apples" but a systematic policy of torture and abuse of people whose only "guilt" may be that they are Muslim):

Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Dilawar was an Afghan farmer and taxi driver who died while in custody of American troops.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
Oh, I have no doubt that the Bushies and their apologists like Krauthammer (is The Post crazy for publishing this madman?), Loony Peggy Noonan, Bill "Lies" O'Reilly, and Jonah Goldberg will blame the reports AND the reporters.

Feel the Loathing

First, there was the right-wing radio nutcase who kept talking about how he would kill Michael Moore. Now O'Reilly is threatening a writer, of all things.

This, from Think Progress:

We’re used to Bill O’Reilly edging right up to the line of good taste. This week, however, he stomped well past that line, spinning a bloodthirsty rant on his radio show about LA Times editorial writer Michael Kinsley being decapitated. Why the rage? Kinsley advocated legal representation for the detainees locked away at Guantanamo Bay as a way to improve America’s severely damaged international credibility.

Media Matters gets full credit for exposing O’Reilly’s sick comments. (Plus, they have the actual audio, if you want to listen to it for yourself):

    People who support giving detainee lawyers will “never get it until [terrorists] grab Michael Kinsley out of his little house and they cut his head off… And maybe when the blade sinks in, he’ll go, ‘Perhaps O’Reilly was right.’”

NARAL and Lincoln Chaffee (R-RI)

I was going to post something very much like this, but David Sirota beat me to it. I agree wholeheartedly.

There is a debate raging among some bloggers about whether NARAL - the abortion rights group - was out of line in endorsing Republican Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) in his re-election bid. My take is pretty simple: if folks have a problem with NARAL endorsing Chafee because of Chafee's record on abortion, or because Chafee's challengers have far better records on abortion, that's perfectly fine. However, if they have a problem with NARAL endorsing Chafee simply because he is a Republican, that is not fine - it means folks still just don't understand how important an ideological (as opposed to partisan) infrastructure really is.

NARAL is a group whose mission is to support candidates who agree with their abortion rights positions. You can have all the debates you want about whether that's a good thing or whether its politically palatable - but they are NOT an arm of any party. In fact, if they behave as a partisan arm, they actually do damage to their credibility, and thus their effectiveness. And, most importantly, that goes for all issue/labor/progressive ideological groups. Why?

Simple - because if an issue/labor/progressive-ideology group reflexively and exclusively backs only one party all the time, they are taken for granted and thus lose their power to move the agenda. Consider, for instance, Democrats, labor and trade.

There is a credible argument to be made that more and more Democrats have been permitted to stiff American workers by supporting corporate-written trade deals because labor hasn't been willing to punish them (the SEIU/AFL-CIO fight - however it shakes out - may mean that's changing). There is an argument to be made that if more Democrats felt some sort of pain for screwing over the labor movement, they wouldn't screw over the labor movement as much as some of them do.

Why Aren't the Bushies Condemning Rupert Murdoch?

He owns BOTH of the papers that showed that pictorial of Saddam in his cell (the tidy whities photo was just one of a photo series they did)?

Isn't THAT endangering American lives and fostering unrest?

And yes, I mean, why besides the fact that Murdoch's properties (like O'Reilly and Faux) have done nothing but kiss up to this administration at the sake of those who watch, read, or listen to their swill?

10 Things I Haven't Done

Tagging on to Amanda of Pandagon who tags on to Roxanne of Rox Populi, here's my list of 10 (of the hundreds of thousands) things I haven't done:

  1. Written the great American novel (yet!)
  2. Watched Survivor, The Apprentice, Fear Factor, or even Desperate Housewives (while I don't respect myself as much as I should, I don't actively try to disrespect my intelligence)
  3. Taken or stayed in a job where I had to lie, cheat, steal, or do harm
  4. Assumed that my brand of religion was better than someone else's
  5. Gone to Florida when I didn't have to do so
  6. Read Hal Lindsey, L. Ron Hubbard, or (for that matter) a romance novel
  7. Voted for or against someone just because of their political party
  8. Taken money in exchange for my opinion or ethics
  9. Had sex in an airplane (chiefly, I just want to get OFF THE DAMNED PLANE even before I get on it, and even before 9/11)
  10. Had children (I raised my younger brother; that was enough)


Really? 49.3% of Americans Believe

...that the government knew ahead of time about 9/11 and intentionally failed to act?

Rick SanctimoniousSantorum, Soon to Be the Former Dog-Lusting Senator from PA

The Disenchanted Forest - a new and delightful find for me using Blogger's Next Blog random-rama - posts on Rick Santorum on an issue I meant to discuss:

Our little friend Rick Santorum spent this afternoon doing exactly what he criticizes others for doing. Today during debates about the filibuster, he likened Democrats who support continued use of the filibuster to prevent our country from become an oligarchy to Hitler:
    'I mean, imagine, the rule has been in place for 214 years that this is the way we confirm judges. Broken by the other side two years ago, and the audacity of some members to stand up and say, how dare you break this rule. It's the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me. How dare you bomb my city? It's mine.'
This past March, Santorum criticized Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) for comparing Republican threats of the "nuclear option" to the rise of Nazism/Fascism in the 1930s:
    "We, unlike Nazi Germany or Mussolini's Italy, have never stopped being a nation of laws, not of men," Byrd said. "But witness how men with motives and a majority can manipulate law to cruel and unjust ends."

    Byrd then quoted historian Alan Bullock, saying Hitler "turned the law inside out and made illegality legal."

    Byrd added, "That is what the 'nuclear option' seeks to do."
At the time, Santorum called for Byrd to retract his comments, saying they "lessen the credibility of the senator and the decorum of the Senate."
Man, will it be nice to be shed of Santorum. I would think the good residents of Pennsylvania would feel the same way.

Life is Just Plain Too Interesting Sometimes

I had a rather excellent interview today for a job that is perfect for me. I have a tendency to get off track in interviews and then suffer from pressure of speech. Today's, however, went marvelously.

Only now, sitting here considering the position, did it really hit me that if I say yes, I have to move 3,000 miles away from the New England I have lived in since birth. Oh, the pay would be definitely worth it and the position would be marvelous (yes, 20 hour days 10 days a week but that's nothing new for me).

But leaving my New England?

No, this isn't the same position I indicated I was going for elsewhere; haven't heard from them (and that's sad, because I think I'd be an excellent addition for them and no, I don't say that unless I really think that's the case). So I'll engage in some magical thinking that - as too often happens - I'll get offered that one, too. The pay is less for that position, but it would be worth it to do something that I feel would make a real difference. Oh dear, there's my non-materialist nature showing again.

Cooking a New War? This Time, Iran

The Stranger at Blah3 brings us this:

I have little doubt that this story will be part of the case for US military action against Iran.
    Iran is circumventing international export bans on sensitive dual-use materials by smuggling graphite and a graphite compound that can be used to make conventional and nuclear weapons, an Iranian dissident and a senior diplomat said Friday.Graphite has many peaceful uses, including steel manufacture, but also can be used as a casing for molten weapons-grade uranium to fit it to nuclear warheads or to shield the cones of conventional missiles from heat.

    With most countries adhering to international agreements banning the sale of such "dual-use" materials to Tehran, Iran has been forced to buy it on the black market, Iranian exile Alireza Jafarzadeh told The Associated Press _ allegations confirmed by a senior diplomat familiar with Iran's covert nuclear activities.

    Phone calls to Iranian diplomats seeking comment were not answered.
Let's all hope that this 'source' isn't Ahmed Chalibi - we all know how well things turned out the last time we took his word.

Nukular Spring

The Farmer posting at Corrente brings us not only some words from Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo, but some much-needed perspective on the issue of the Senate filibuster and what Frist and his froggies are trying to do.

Go read. Saddam in his briefs will still be here when you get back. I might be, IF they haven't given me my own dog pen at Guantanamo Bay.

Women, Combat, and the Numbnuts of Congress

Posted by Riggsveda at the incomparable Corrente (and company) blog:

So John McHugh’s bright idea to restrict women’s combat roles, which would have virtually eliminated their support roles in medical and maintenance units, went down in flames after withdrawing the amendment amidst a howl of protest from veterans and the Pentagon. Instead we get this:
    The House Armed Services Committee approved the narrower provision after Democrats, along with the Army, said the amendment rammed through a subcommittee last week would close nearly 22,000 jobs to women, undermine morale, and hamper operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    "We want women to serve everywhere, except in ground combat," said Rep. John McHugh, a New York Republican. McHugh, chairman of the personnel subcommittee, said the amendment would require Congress to vote before women would be allowed in direct combat units.”
    McHugh is no friend to women, as his voting record shows, and this attempt at faux chivalry stinks of the very sort of discriminatory selectivity the right claims to hate so much when it means giving consideration to groups that have been shut out of equal treatment for centuries.

But this is nothing new. Women are not exempt from the front lines, in this or any war. They have suffered and died in wars since the beginning of time, but have seldom been outright allowed to shoulder the weaponry and exhibit the aggression that might let them fight back. Furthermore, the idea that a woman’s life is somehow of greater value or more precious than a man’s is not only obscene, but merely a bullshit excuse belied by the actual treatment of women and the low value our culture puts on them.

McHugh is part of the Christianist right-wing patriarchy, eager to recapture the good old days of female subservience justified by religious interpretation and primitive biblical texts 3000 years old.

Why I Posted the Saddam Pic

There is a reason and not because I want to make fun of the man. I have no respect for him, of course, but the people in charge of him, Americans, since we're really actually still in control of Iraq, happy horseshit aside, have apparently allowed photos like this to be taken.

The Geneva Convention specifically FORBIDS this kind of thing. So why is it out there?

Tonight, I heard military types insisting that well, Americans weren't the only ones with access to Guantanamo Bay, to Abu Ghraib where the torture occurred, et al. Say what? So we're in charge except when we're not in charge?

Sorry, no. That doesn't fly.

And while Americans might chuckle at Saddam in his tidy whities, what if the picture is of your GI son in his or your Army nurse daughter in her GI issue bra? Or having his Bible destroyed and flushed down the toilet? Like that better? Or your American GI son standing on a box with wires attached to him? Or degraded by having fake menstrual blood smeared on his face, made to pose for simulated sex acts. Still enjoy that? Is it better?

No, it's not.

It's heinous. Regardless of who it is.

The fault doesn't lie with the picture's taker or the publisher either, but with the people charged with responsibility for prisoners of war who allow torture and humiliation to occur so anyone can photograph or report on it.

The United States of America signed on to the articles of the Geneva convention. When our soldiers are captured, we yell loud and hard that the captors must treat them humanely. And yet, every step of the way in the Bush years, we've played with the definition of prisoner, we've allowed terrible abuses at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and in Afghanistan. We've carted prisoners to countries where torture and death is the mode of interrogation and we've grinned and nodded and said fine.

Where's our humanity? Our Christian charity? Our nobility? And where does this leave our soldiers if they are captured?

Apparently Washington doesn't know any better. Perhaps we need to persuade them that they should get smarter.

An Even Worse Sight Than the Asian House

Saddam Hussein in his briefs, answering the age-old question: Boxers or?


Brought to us by Wonkette.

Traffic Oddities

Happened to notice that the traffic on the blog was going nuts today. Assuming the Pentagon was about to raid my home, I checked to see where it was coming from: this post of a logo which has been deemed as the "worst logo EVAR" (sic).

Posted by Xavier at Pibbshow.

...from the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil. Courtesy MSNBC's Clicked column today, which pointed me to BoingBoing.
Well, it's amusing anyway in an anal sort of way.

Gee, I'm So Popular with Folks in Metro DC

In the past 24 hours, my blog has been graced with people from the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Senate Sergeant at Arms, a couple of other military organizations, etc.

While I love having new people come visit - the Senate and House sergeants, however, are not new, nor is the DoD - I keep thinking their time might be better served looking into their own messiness. I'm just a citizen trying to make sense of all of the mess they've created.

So just to be clear to those people: people like me are not the problem. We're the tax payers, the citizens, sitting aghast at what is going on in Washington. We watch in horror as you folks say one thing, do another, and then deny that you said or did those first things.

Chairman Richard Myers, for example, as well as a spokesman for the Pentagon, have said twice in the past week that the riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan were the result of many things but not Newsweek. Then, yesterday, jumping on the Bush Administration bandwagon, suddenly, Chairman Myers announced yes, Newsweek was the culprit.

But Newsweek is NOT the culprit. Our policies and practices toward detainees - so tiny few of whom are ever found to be involved in any way with terrorism - and toward the people of these countries are the culprit.

We're raised in this country to believe that there is a legal process, that people are innocent until proven guilty, and that we should respect others until the time they prove they are not worthy of our respect. That isn't what we're seeing Washington do.


Vermont Passes Health Care Bill

Story here for those interested.

As I recall, Gov. Douglas is expected to veto it, and this plan is hardly perfect. While "preventive" care would kick in for some in 2006, hospital coverage wouldn't happen until 2009. It's very unclear whether this will result in any lower prices.

The Star Tribute "Gets" It, Too

From them:

The White House has gone ballistic over the retracted statement in the May 9 Newsweek that "investigators probing abuses at Guantanamo Bay have confirmed" that "interrogators, in an attempt to rattle suspects, placed Qur'ans on toilets and, in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet." White House spokesman Scott McClellan flat-out said Newsweek was responsible for causing the rioting in Afghanistan that led to at least 17 deaths. Newsweek editors appear to have accepted that responsibility. They shouldn't have; the White House is simply changing the subject from abuse at Guantanamo to Newsweek's journalism. It would have been prudent, and more responsible, for Newsweek to have confirmed the story with a second source; that failure gave the White House the opening it has now seized to such good effect. Newsweek then compounded the error by going only halfway in its first correction.

Remind Me to Stop Taking These Silly Tests

I saw this one mentioned over at Majikthise (where the testee scored as a Materialist). But no one in my life has ever thought of me - including me - as an Existentialist.

My results:

    You scored as Existentialist.

    Existentialism emphasizes human capability. There is no greater power interfering with life and thus it is up to us to make things happen. Sometimes considered a negative and depressing world view, your optimism towards human accomplishment is immense. Mankind is condemned to be free and must accept the responsibility.

    Existentialist 81%
    Postmodernist 69%
    Cultural Creative 69%
    Modernist 56%
    Idealist 25%
    Romanticist 25%
    Materialist 6%
    Fundamentalist 6%
As you can see, I'm not much of a materialist either. But there's no way I score 25% as a romanticist. I'm more materialistic than romanticist and I'm not much of a material girl.

Personal Observation

I hate to say this and it's almost a clique but... in my experience, it's more true than not that those most apt to sabotage women are other women. As a sex, I think we're both capable of greater range and greatness as a whole than men, yet we're also often the gender that argues most for its limitations.

Now, to be fair, I've mostly worked in almost entirely male dominated jobs. Most of my work - exceptly that done remotely - has not involved working on a peer-to-peer level with other women. And, of course, not all women sabotage other women. I daresay most don't. But in my own experience, for every 1 in 20 males who tries to be sure they let me know they think I'm somehow less than them because I'm female, I'd say maybe 3 in 20 females make it clear they think all of us as women are inferior to men.

I'm reminded of this because of that post on Big Brass Blog about the Homemakers of America. Now, I'm not especially threatened by this group nor do I think there is anything intrinsically wrong with a woman - or a man - choosing to devote her/himself to the family. You might be surprised at how much I perform that role around my own home even though I'm an extremely busy professional woman. Nurture is just my nature, so while I won't take the time to eat one or two meals a day because I've got too much work to do, I stop working for a period of time each day just to make meals for my family.

But I do think there's a certain slipped circuit when someone says, "I recognize I'm the lesser of my mate and it really wouldn't matter who my mate is; since I'm female, the man is always my better."

When I was still quite young, the women's movement was still quite new. Growing up, I heard all the crap about women being less (from my mother and grandmother who both had to work to put food on the table, no less) but I figured it was simply the remnants of the old way of thinking and that the next generation wouldn't buy into this crap. But clearly, I was wrong. Many females half my age - and younger - buy into the old stereotypes just as strongly as my mother and grandmother did.

Are men and women different? Oh yes. Some of these differences don't have anything (much) to do with stereotypes. But different doesn't mean unequal. Part of it has to do with the very different ways boys and girls develop emotionally. Men are taught to set boundaries, to compete, and to see themselves as unique entities while women form a sense of their identity chiefly as it relates to those around them. Some of these differences have blurred over the past 30 years, but not as many as you might expect.

Oh, Please, Let Me Serve My Man! Oooooohhhh

(I am just beyond speech.)

Offered by Big Brass Blog:

I'm not slagging stay-at-home moms in this post. What we're talking about here is a Stepford Wives organization of the AmTaliban designed to encourage a return to "Father Knows Best" and Donna Reed -- Homemakers for America, Inc. (HFA). As far as these women are concerned, the clock has rolled back.
    "We are the homemakers," she explained. "Men build the house. We make the home."

    HFA, a national citizenship organization, formed after an epiphany during the 2004 presidential election as a means of uniting a diverse group of women who share the core values of God, freedom and family. The epiphany soon turned into an organized effort as 26 women gathered together for the first time last November in Dayton, Ohio. These women, who largely differed in age, ethnicity, income and religion, became HFA's first members.
We need to set the founder up with Dr. Hager, the man who likes to sodomize his wife while she sleeps to make sure she fulfills her womanly duties.

Wow, 26 whole women. Now I know Ohio has a much larger population of crazy people than that.

I think I mentioned that I used to field requests for help for a nationally-renowned psychiatrist whose mail from Ohio was always from people who were sure they were possessed by demons. No, I am not joking. They all wanted exorcisms. I kept myself from writing back, "If you can't spell exorcism, you can't have one."

While I Ask This With All Due Respect: What the (Bleep) Is Wrong with Florida?

Stranger at Blah3 brings us one I missed (something considering how I ranted about the three officers handcuffing a five-year-old):

You know, Florida's got some real problems. Those handcuffed, caged 13 year-olds are a clear and present danger.
    An officer has been suspended for zapping a 13-year-old girl at least twice with a stun gun while she was handcuffed in his caged patrol car.

    An internal report by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Llahsmin Lynn Kallead was handcuffed and in the back seat of the patrol car when Officer G.A. Nelson stunned her, the Florida Times-Union reported for Tuesday editions.

    Nelson and his partner had been called to the apartment Kallead shares with her mother Rosie Vaughan because they were fighting Feb. 7.

    Vaughan wanted police to help get medical help for her daughter, who had been hospitalized for observation in the past for emotional disorders, the newspaper said.

    Nelson, a 6-foot-2 officer weighing 300 pounds, allegedly used the low-setting stun mode when the 4-foot-8 Kallead wormed the handcuffs from behind her back and would not do as directed. "The situation was under control at this point," the internal report said.


On Second Thought: Arlen Specter

I've since heard that Arlen called out the undesirable influences of men like James Dobson today; I missed that on CSPAN.

Good for Arlen.

Judge Joan Lefkow Speaks

For those who didn't happen to catch it on Wednesday - and it got only incidental mention on the evening news because, of course, her views aren't convenient to the GOP message, Crooks and Liars brings us this:

    Chicago Tribune: In her first major public appearance since a disgruntled plaintiff murdered her husband and mother in her Chicago home, U.S. District Court Judge Joan H. Lefkow today called for better protection for judges.

    She also asked lawmakers to repudiate recent "gratuitous attacks" on the judiciary by commentators such as Pat Robertson and by some members of Congress.

    "In the age of mass communication, harsh rhetoric is truly dangerous," Lefkow said. "Fostering disrespect for judges can only encourage those that are on the edge, or the fringe, to exact revenge on a judge who ruled against them."
Meanwhile, the heartless cardiac surgeon from Tennessee, Bill Frist, used the word "assassinate" more than once to refer to what he says the Dems are doing to Bush's judicial nominees, of which 208 of 218 have been voted on and seated on the court.

And did you realize that since Judge Lefkow's family was butchered by a right wing extremist, the federal marshals, charged with protecting fed judges, have actually CUT BACK their protection? They say they're overworked. And Congress - seemingly having zero problem with non-right extremist judges threatened and harmed - has no problem with this.


Arlen Specter's Brain Has Seen Better Days

I assume the medical treatments are taking their toll since the "distinguised senator from Scotland" (by way of Pennsylvania) has suddenly forgotten how to pronounce the word nuclear.

Here's a hint, Arlen: it's not a magic bullet and atoms don't have a nukulus.


[Ed. note: We're going to try to keep her from watching C-SPAN tomorrow since we're still trying to clean up the table she kicked to slivers watching the Senate today. Who knew this quite, considerate, usually moderately tempered woman could a) kick that hard and b) curse like a sailor with Tourette's? We told her it was a mistake to take that kick boxing class. Now, if you'll excuse us, she's kicking things again.]

Chris Matthews, Joint Chiefs Head Myers

First, Chris Matthews proves there is much less operating between his ears than one might think for an overpaid TV host. He does this again and again, but his fondless for having Deborah Orin of the New York Post (which Chris fawns he reads religiously - his words, not mine) on when few other people touch her is a good indicator of how far up his fat ass his head is buried.

Tonight, dear Chrissie didn't even blink when he reported that Joint Chief's Chairman Myers suddenly changed course tonight; after twice stating the riots had nothing to do with Newsweek, now he says the article "probably fueled" the riots. Yesterday, the Pentagon was STILL saying Newsweek and the riots were two separate matters. In other words, Karl Rove got on the phone and gave his usual, "I'll fuck you like no one's ever fucked you before" threats (which probably only serves to get John Bolton wickedly excited, the little tart).

Really, Dick and Chris? Because I remember references to the Koran destruction long before the Newsweek piece. For example, Stranger at Blah3 also points us here:

One journalist I don't have to exhort to stand up to Bush is the woman who's been doing it probably longer than everyone. Molly Ivins understands that when you stand up to people like Bush, they leave you the hell alone. As usual, she tells the plain truth.
    As Riley used to say on an ancient television sitcom, "This is a revoltin' development." There seems to be a bit of a campaign on the right to blame Newsweek for the anti-American riots in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Islamic countries.

    Uh, people, I hate to tell you this, but the story about Americans abusing the Koran in order to enrage prisoners has been out there for quite some time. The first mention I found of it is March 17, 2004, when the Independent of London interviewed the first British citizen released from Guantanamo Bay. The prisoner said he had been physically beaten but did not consider that as bad as the psychological torture, which he described extensively. Jamal al-Harith, a computer programmer from Manchester, said 70 percent of the inmates had gone on a hunger strike after a guard kicked a copy of the Koran. The strike was ended by force-feeding.

David Sirota Proves the Point I Made Early

Here (and David's usually an excellent and insightful commentator):

From the if-it-smells-like-a-conspiracy-it-probably-is-one department, check this out. At the same time the corporate-owned Bush White House is desperately trying to intimidate the media, one of the Republican Party's major financial contributors is now threatening the media as well.

As Daniel Gross notes (see link below), the financial firm Morgan Stanley is essentially letting publications know that they will be financially punished if those publications have the nerve to aggressively cover corporate scandals.

It seems Big Business and the Bush administration will only be happy if reporters write glowing stories about how everything is just dandy in America, how Corporate America is a bastion of honesty and how the Bush administration is led by angelic heroes. Maybe they'd like to simply eliminate news coverage altogether...we will see if the media cowers. Let's hope they don't.

"Why Would Anyone Enlist Now?"

    Last month, Army recruiters fell 42 percent short of their goal, according to the Army Recruiting Command. They had hoped to sign up 6,600 volunteers; but despite bonuses of up to $20,000 for those willing to report by May 30, they fell 2,779 recruits short.

    Those numbers are ominous. If they continue in the months to come, as seems likely, they threaten not merely our ability to stick it out in Iraq, but also the Army's long-term ability to perform its duties worldwide. And the reason for that decline is obvious.

You can't argue with this. You can't blame young people for not signing up.

The sad part, besides all the dead unnecessarily, besides the fact that most Americans now don't believe it was right, and besides (yes, lots of besides) America's credibility being somewhere subterranean now... if we have legitimate reasons to go to war, who's going to fight it? The Bush twins? They can't fight their way out of a turtleneck sweater.

It also reminds me of that ad/slogan they used to run when I was a child (Vietnam era): "What if they gave a war and no one came?"

Rolling Stone Magazine Isn't The Only One Mystified

Stranger at Blah3 brings us this related to the smoking gun, the trumped up war, and the Downing Street Memo (yes, I link to it often!):

Nice to see RS upping the political content these days. We need 'em now more than ever, and they're doing a real good job.
    I haven't blogged on this outrage for two weeks, assuming naively that this would become front-page, CNN Headline news any day now. You would think, after all, that 90 Congressional Democrats signing a letter to the President demanding that he explain how he could have "secretly agreed to attack Iraq in the summer of 2002, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority" would make a few waves.

    But the U.S. media world has just so far simply shrugged. Where did the major dailies play the story? Washington Post: A-18. New York Times: A-9 (buried in a political analysis handicapping of Blair's electoral chances.) The LA Times: A-3.

    Indeed, search on GoogleNews for mention of the Democrat's letter and you'll get two hits: The Washington Post's ombudsman -- taking his paper to task for not covering it -- and Aljazeera.com.

    You know you're in trouble when the American newspaper taking charge on this story is the The New York Review of Books.
You can say that again.

The "Freedom" Tower

Like probably many of you, I've felt stuck between some fitting remembrance of what happened in lower Manhattan on 9/11 and yet being able to move on. But the designs for what was to replace the towers have left me cold.

The skeletal structure that will cost a king's ransom and won't serve much purpose seems beyond silly and wasteful. It was ridiculous to plan this.

So now, I'm in the rare position of saying Donald Trump's idea of replacing this idea with a much more useful building - on some of the world's most vaulted, expensive real estate - may be a much better way to go. Hell, leaving the site vacant would be better than the skeleton.

We don't need more symbols; we need more meaning and less waste.

Righteous? Right.

From DC Media Girl:

Yes, it’s all fun and games until an abortion provider is shot by a sniper. Why this man is not confined to a rubber room or a prison cell is beyond me:
    At first glance, Neal Horsley appears to be the merry old uncle of his neighborhood on a cul-de-sac in a middle-class Atlanta suburb.

    Irreverent, amusing and animated, Horsley seems for all the world a warm and faithful husband, a friend to children, an iconoclastic conversationalist and wry commentator on the state of the world.

    A second look reveals an entirely different Horsley — the implacable enemy of homosexuals who promises regularly to "arrest faggots," a man who proposes to use nuclear weapons in a bid for Southern secession, the Scripture-quoting theocrat who wants to force his version of Bible law on American society.

    This is the Horsley that rails on about "desecration," "pagans," "lust" and "perverted tolerance."

    And then there is the Neal Horsley who boasts to a young acolyte about having sex with men and with mules, the aging Vietnam War protester who says that "smoking dope, fucking and boozing, that’s who I am naturally."

    The Horsley who served 2 1/2 years in federal prison for dealing hashish oil. The Horsley who put up photographs on his Web site of naked men engaging in homosexual acts and a nude woman engaging in bestiality amid shots of grotesquely maimed fetuses.

America's Hands Are the Dirtiest on the Iraq "Food for Oil" Scandal

Why is this report available throughout other countries but NOT here? Good question.

The United States administration turned a blind eye to extensive sanctions-busting in the prewar sale of Iraqi oil, according to a new Senate investigation.

A report released last night by Democratic staff on a Senate investigations committee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them.

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the anti-war British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua.

In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.

``We looked the other way,'' Senator Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the committee, told journalists yesterday. ``We've got to look in the mirror at ourselves as well as point the finger at others."

Have I Mentioned Inhofe of Oklahoma is an Ass?

Well, I was wrong. An ass is useful whenever you need to poop or sit.

Inhofe is nowhere near that useful.

I was just watching him on CSPAN. Just citing statistics - and from what I've seen from most polls, citing wildly erroneous statistics - is only so useful when you stop to think that a few centuries ago, the majority of people thought the world was flat, that witches are everywhere and demons responsible for all dreams. Also, just having these judges elected by a majority of the people in some states only means so much; I can think of any number of politicians who could not get elected outside their own state. These judges aren't going to sit on state courts but in federal ones.

Then, to boot, Inhofe delivers all this in a soft monotone.

Critical Differences in Frist and the Dem Challengers

Matt Yglesias, posting at Tapped, highlights some important points in the whole filibuster issue before us:

FRIST VERSUS SCHUMER. As Chuck Schumer pointed out on the floor of the Senate this morning, Bill Frist was for filibustering judicial nominees before he was against it!

Now you'll find plenty of flip-flops on this point between both parties, but here's a key point. Democrats, to my knowledge, have never, ever taken the position that blocking judges from getting votes on the floor was unconstitutional (as opposed to just "unfair" in some sense) nor have they ever denied that preventing such blocking would require the Senate's rules to be changed. In many ways, this has become the key issue. Irrespective of the merits of ending judicial filibusters, the reality is that the Senate rules do, in fact, allow them. Frist clearly took the view that they were allowed just a few years ago when he was busy participating in one. If he's changed his mind on whether they should be allowed, that's fair enough. Even if he hasn't really changed his mind and is just being an opportunist, well, that's politics. But the nuclear option isn't just ending judicial filibusters, it's ending them by breaking the rules of the Senate. That's unacceptable.

From my own research, I've found that Frist, and several of the GOP arguing for the end of the filibuster, certainly have used this option in the past.

This, to me, smacks of the situation we saw with the ethics committee: the GOP changed the rules once to punish the Dems, then changed them again to "save" Tom DeLay and have once again changed them because there was so much public backlash.

The new GOP is all about changing the rules to give them an additional unfair advantage, above and beyond the unfair advantage they seem to have in "faulty" voting machines.

Matt also notes at Tapped, quite fairly I think, that Frist seems way outmatched in this challenge, unable to answer basic questions or to accept the flak his measures are generating. This, even with the media happy to report in a slanted fashion, often misidentifying key facts.

Frist often strikes me as amazingly dim, especially for someone who frequently points out his qualifications as a "leading heart surgeon". There was that silliness where he couldn't answer questions about how AIDS is spread, his obfuscation about past Senate actions (and his own), and then there was the debacle of his "diagnosing" Terri Schiavo by videotape, then claiming that when his office was flooded by videotapes from perspective patients, claiming it was Dems wanking on him when it wasn't; people wanted his "miracle" diagnosis by video. Aligning himself with the Dobson "faith based everything" crew was just the icing on an already poorly constructed cake.

I also notice a lot of flop sweat appearing on his brow. He should be careful; sweat can loosen his hair plugs.

Giving the Public the Finger (as in Wendy's chili)

I noted here a few weeks back that I have some real problems with how California sheriff officials and Wendy's handled the whole "finger in the chili" story. As noted, I've got zero sympathy or tolerance for anyone who concocts such a story to get money, no matter how financially desperate they are. But the sheriff's office and Wendy's went on the attack against the plaintiff long before they had any proof the story was BS, with a view toward intimidating the woman in the press. Character destruction is a frequent tool of corporations - and the US government, especially in the Bush years - to keep people "shut up".

I recognize, too, that Wendy's was indeed damaged by the whole situation and in a way that was not insignificant.

But let's put all that aside right now. Instead, recall the original stories of the finger. We heard several times that the finger was small, feminine, and appeared almost professionally manicured. The press reported this several times when the story was new.

Now notice that the finger supposedly came from a "machinery" accident involving a man who was doing paving work or something similar. He caught his finger in some machinery and the digit was severed.

What's the chance that a burly guy doing paving work would have a small finger that looked very feminine and well manicured?

Oh, this is apropos of almost nothing, but it sure seems curious. I remain far more concerned about what the sheriff types, the corporations, and the press will do to people who do find crap in their food that shouldn't be there.

Since the Wendy's case, there was another in which a fellow on the east coast found a severed finger, this time in a container of frozen yogurt. In this case, sure enough, the finger wasn't planted but the result of an employee accident.

But the press and the court of public opinion essentially convicted the customer who found the finger. Yeah, the guy seemed to be a bit of a jerk, not offering to return the severed finger in case it could be reattached to the employee who lost it; instead, he kept it in his home freezer to pull out to show friends and the media. Few of us can quite appreciate that. But the store selling the yogurt also had done nothing to try to recover the finger before the customer found it. Instead, they relied on the media to "do its job" of embarrassing the unwitting - and albeit dim-witted - customer who discovered it.

The media's role is NOT to serve the corporate masters. The police also should not assume that role.

Ney on High? Hardly

Related to the Newsweek debacle this week, Ohio Rep Bob Ney (R) has been exceptionally vocal and critical, calling Newsweek's actions "criminal".

Yet Mr. Ney seems to own an extremely glass-fronted home for such a passionate stone-thrower. Indeed, Mr. Ney is strongly implicated in the lobbyist free-for-all that is clipping the wings of that little GOP angel, Tom DeLay. That his name hasn't come up as often as Hot Tub Tom's is fortunate for him, but the investigation is ongoing.

Fortunate for him, too, that the GOP has been spinning attention at Newsweek and trying to have Norm Coleman turn Brit MP George Galloway on the spit this week, thus reducing the amount of press time given to the DeLay lobbyist issue and the delicate subject of "ethics" with our Congress critters, America's own heavy-handed role in the Oil for Food scandal, America's policy of torture and shame against detainees (few of which have ever been found to either be terrorists or involved even marginally in anti-US actions), and the like.

Thankfully, too, the press has given little attention to that nutcase Neal Horseley's admission that not only is he happy to have so-called abortion doctors live in fear for their lives thanks to his actions, that he also not just consumes large amounts of illegal drugs but also has a fondness for sex with mules (this offered by him in an interview).

Yes, these political types keep telling us how moral and righteous they are compared with the faithless whore Democrats, but when was the last time you heard about a Dem or an Independent using kids and farm animals for sexual gratification? Or telling their congregation how to vote? Or denying the right to worship to others? Or telling a GOP member what to do with his or her body?

Watching the Senate Discussion of Frist's "Nuclear" Option and These Strange Judicial Nominees

While I'm going nuts juggling five very different books right now - not to mention the many distractions of my personal life (chaos!) - I find myself riveted to the Senate floor coverage on C-SPAN.

Cut aside the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle, and you see that 208 of 218 of Mr. Bush's nominees have gotten that "clear up or down vote" that Frist says the Democrats have obstructed. Think about that: 208 out of 218. When was the last time you fared so well in your proposals or desires?

The 4-7 most controversial candidates were ones that were previously rejected by the Senate as "too extreme", "too far out of the mainstream". They haven't gotten a vote yet. Mr. Bush, instead of trying to work with the Senate, simply smirked and submitted these same names again and demanded they get life-time bench appointments. We hear that behind the scenes, Karl Rove worked with Priscilla Owens, for example, to keep her from taking a post on the Texas Supreme Court to keep her available for the president's desired spot.

The more you research these candidates, the more uncomfortable you should become. These are people who - despite the right's lovely lofty rhetoric - are very scary. They are very pro-corporation and very anti-individual. They have voted to oppose very common sense issues and they have sneered at humans with disabilities, humans with justifiable concerns about what their employers demanded they do, at the individual's right to choose.

I don't see this as a Republican vs. Democrat issue. I see this as the president's insistence that he fill the courts with people who will always side with this administration, always side with corporations against their employees, always side with the right's most extreme views to the detriment of America as a whole.

Again and again today, I've heard senators who are "comfy" with Bush outright lie. One says now Atty Gen Gonzalez never opposed Priscilla Owens, for example. But that's not true. Gonzalez' opposition to her views and rulings is part of the record. Yet that's how emboldened some GOP politicians have become; they'll lie in the face of incontravertible evidence, against the best interests of the American people, and then claim that any attempt to shine light on these lies is "an act against people of faith."

Yet most of us are people of faith. The war, in fact, is not against people of faith but waged BY a very select group of people who feel that their faith is the only one that matters. They're waging it in the House and Senate, in the courts, in the press, everywhere they can.

We need to let those 7 GOP senators who are undecided or haven't signed on to the killing of the filibuster that the filibuster needs to remain; we need to be able to say no to Mr. Bush who has used and abused his power since before the Supreme Court positioned him in the White House, not allowing the 2000 vote to be counted in total.

Say NO! Say it loudly, say it proudly, say it often, and say it with the knowledge - because you've done the legwork and thinking - that No is the right response.

The Job of the Press and Why We Need to Resist the Bushies' Efforts to Change it

As much as we ridicule the press and we see shortcomings and spin in what they do, we have to understand its role in public life, regardless of the country, the president, and the specific circumstances.

At its core, the job of the press is to inform. Not all journalism is about stings, and reporting on corruption, et al, but that's a very vital part of what the press should do.

For years, many of us have screamed bloody murder about what it means for the press to be increasingly dependent on a few corporate master owners. There's a reason for that and I'm glad the first cries were sounded well in advance of 9/11 and the Bush years of non-stop war.

If you have to depend on your boss (say General Electric, which has a big stake in any US-involved war) for your paycheck as a journalist (and most journalists are NOT the well paid celebrities of TVdom), you've got a built-in conflict when that boss doesn't want you to expose corruption and greed and the improprieties of war. Gone, sadly, are the times when a Katie Graham of the Washington Post would stand up to the White House and corporate masters in order to expose a Watergate.

Add to that mix the problems inherent on trying to report about the "crap" an administration or a Department of Defense does in a time of war. There's a fine line between good reporting and what some might consider treasonous behavior that may endanger either troops, or undercover spies, etc.

But with all of the war and efforts being done ostensibly in "our name" as citizens, the role of journalists is more rather than less important. We need to know what is being done, and we need to know when practices of our government violate the "rules of war" or our laws, or Constitution. If we don't, there is no check and balance and we end up with far worse than what we saw with Vietnam.

The Bushies have used their corporate relationships to forge a situation where the corporate masters are VERY concerned with what is allowed to go out in the mainstream media. At the same time, the Bushies want to insist that journalists become an arm of their propaganda machine (and no administration has devoted itself to propaganda and talking points like this one has). Simultaneously, they've done whatever they can to distance the American public from the press through forcing reporters to be "embedded" in the military making it hard for a reporter to distinguish between being part of the troop effort, through numerous attacks on reporters who try to do original reporting, and just in general making statements and instituting programs that make it clear in what low regard they hold journalists and the media.

When I see a study like the one reported the other day where 22% of Americans feel the government has the right to censor the press, I get scared. Even more want checks and balances used against the press. Scarier still.

What they're saying, essentially, is that they're willing to have partisan politicians control everything, where the politicians - because they're concealing so much - have no accountability to the public who vote them into office, and to allow this to go on with no journalist trying to dig around and find what is going on. This isn't just blind faith, it sets up catastrophe and disaster that goes well beyond a few corrupt pols. It allows pols to become a machine with unbridled power.

The situation with Newsweek is an example of all that is wrong here. Bushies don't allow anyone to speak on the record who isn't spinning "facts" their way. They very much control the press' access to anything and everything.

To sit there and point fingers at Newsweek and say Newsweek is responsible for the anger in the Arab/Muslim community for reporting on one of a system of practices and policies the Bushies have put into place that have been reported on several times over four years is preposterous. The story of the Koran destruction wasn't new. The first occurrence of this occurred in news reports maybe 2-3 years ago. US practices and policies endanger lives, including the lives of our troops, the safety of Americans here at home, and destabilize the entire world.

Now, Newsweek isn't blameless in this. But their chief fault here was to cave under the Bush machine. They make it harder for any other reporter from any other organization to try to get at the truth.

You can't say, "Well, we're at war so the rules change" because Mr. Bush is the one who's had us in a constant state of war - with no apparent end in sight - and he's set up a situation where the press isn't supposed to question any of this. But anger should not be directed at the press for reporting, but at the Bushies for doing.

Think about what you're saying if you agree that the press should be kept out. You're essentially saying it's OK to go to war on false pretenses, OK if thousands die needlessly, OK if Mr. Bush bankrupts the country, OK if corruption takes over everything.

Killing the messenger (Newsweek) won't fix anything.

The "Father" of "Intelligent Design

Interesting reading.

More Essential Galloway

DailyRead is back - from apparently some exceptional fishing - at TrailingEdge Blog and brings us more from Brit MP George Galloway's testimony:

(Excerpt from This is London)
    Mr Galloway rejected a claim in the sub committee's report that he had had "many" meetings with Saddam Hussein, saying he had only met the former dictator twice.

    "I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him. The difference is that Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns," he said.

    Mr Galloway said he had a record of denouncing Saddam's regime "in the most withering terms" since the days when Senator Coleman had been an anti-Vietnam War protester.

So Much for the Defeated Taliban and Afghan Warriors

Gee, for all the vanquishing we supposedly did, there does seem to be more than a couple of Taliban and other anti-US fighters left in Afghanistan.

From the UK Independent:

American soldiers in the mountain valley of Deh Chopan expect to be targeted by an unseen enemy. But the amateurish hit-and-run attacks of the Taliban - wildly fired rockets and mistimed roadside bombs - rarely inflict casualties. It was a shock, then, when a patrol was ambushed a fortnight ago with rocket-propelled grenades and sustained small arms fire. Six Americans were wounded. Two had their legs blown off. Two more were wounded badly enough to require evacuation to Germany for surgery.

The outcome of the ferocious five-hour battle was predictable enough - withering air power obliterated the Americans' enemies - but not before a US unit had suffered serious casualties and was forced to fall back before a determined enemy assault. A couple of days later nine Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers died when they were ambushed by machine-gun fire as they got down from a truck in Kandahar province - the newly formed ANA's worst-ever combat loss. Then two US marines were killed in a cave where they had insurgents pinned down.

This wasn't what US military planners were expecting at the start of this spring's "fighting season" when the snow thaws in the mountains. After all, Afghanistan is supposed to be the war that the American military has won. The official emphasis has changed from combat operations to "hearts and minds" programmes. American soldiers in the mountain valley of Deh Chopan expect to be targeted by an unseen enemy. But the amateurish hit-and-run attacks of the Taliban - wildly fired rockets and mistimed roadside bombs - rarely inflict casualties. It was a shock, then, when a patrol was ambushed a fortnight ago with rocket-propelled grenades and sustained small arms fire. Six Americans were wounded. Two had their legs blown off. Two more were wounded badly enough to require evacuation to Germany for surgery.
The took out Marines. Marines far bigger, better fed, better equipped, better trained.


Our "Friend", the Tyrannical Leader of Uzbekistan, Strikes Some as Much, Much Worse than Saddam Hussein

Bush picks our friends and they're almost always terrible, terrible people.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

One of the rebel leaders in his country says that he makes Saddam Hussein look like "a choir boy." And Sunday, British Foreign Minister Jack Straw said there had been a "clear abuse of human rights" in rioting in his country where the CBC reports police and troops have been accused by aid groups of killing as many as 700 people, including women and children.

But Uzbekistan's president Islam Karimov, who denies his troops opened fire on civilians, is "seen by Washington as an important ally in its so-called war against terrorism and provides it with a key air base in central Asia," and so he is unlikely to be strongly condemned, reports the Guardian.

But Radio Free Europe reports that last week State Department spokeman Richard Boucher said the US had in fact continued to criticize Tashkent's human rights record in the annual report issued by the State Department.

The Telegraph's editorial says the main reaction by the US government to what Mr. Straw had so quickly condemned as a human right abuse was for both sides to "work out their differences peacefully." This response, the Telegraph argues, undercuts President Bush's calls for the spread of democracy in other parts of the world.
Ah, but Mr. Bush doesn't want democracy abroad anymore than he wants it here; he just wants the words, to appeal to shallow minds while he rules absolutely and encourages other tyrants to do the same.

Frist Ignores History and Claims Obstructionism When 200 Judicial Nominees for Bush Have Already Had Votes

Exactly! From The Times:

Republican majorities blocked more than 60 judicial candidates during the Clinton administration by denying them committee hearings through the use of anonymous "blue slip" holds by individual lawmakers and a variety of other tactics just as effective, if less visible, than the filibuster. The majority leader, Bill Frist, who is zealously planning to smash the Senate rules, took part himself in a filibuster of a Clinton appeals court nominee.

But the majority leader is ignoring that history. With his eye clearly on a presidential run, he is playing to his party's extremist gallery by orchestrating a hazardous rules change that would block Democrats from following his example on a few of President Bush's most ideologically extreme and least qualified judicial nominees.

Democrats have hardly been obstructionists in their constitutional role of giving advice and consent; they have confirmed more than 200 Bush nominees, while balking at a mere seven who should be blocked on the merits, not for partisan reasons. This is a worthy fight, and the filibuster is a necessary weapon, considering that these are lifetime appointments to the powerful appellate judiciary, just below the Supreme Court. In more than two centuries, only 11 federal judges have been impeached for abusive court behavior. Clearly, uninhibited Senate debate in the deliberative stage, with the minority's voice preserved, is a crucial requirement.

Some "Do" Get the Hypocrisy about the White House and Newsweek

From Greg Mitchell at Editor and Publisher:

There's nothing funny about riots and torture, but it's not hard to find the dark humor in certain aspects of the uproar over Newsweek's regrettable Koran-flushing item. Only one of the comedic highlights was White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan lecturing the media on Monday about losing “credibility,” given the administration's track record on WMDs in Iraq and other critical issues.

Just last week, McClellan suggested to the same reporters that President Bush had been informed about the D.C. evacuation scare, only to admit later that the president had been out of the loop. And who can forget: This is the man who brought us Mr. Credibility himself, Jim Guckert, a.k.a. Jeff Gannon.

Even more ironic, this is an administration that helped sell a war on intelligence often based (as in Newsweek's case) on a single source. Remember “Curveball”? The mobile biological labs? Now McClellan reminds the media about standards that “should be met” before running a story.

Reporters at today's press briefing pressed McClellan on why he now denounces the idea of articles based on a single source when he routinely demands that they rely on just that in White House backgrounders. Or as one put it, "it sounds like you're saying your single anonymous sources are okay and everyone else's aren't. "

Now, this is not to say that Newsweek did not do harm, and relying on a single source's say-so was (as per usual) stupid. The magazine got wrong that the specific report in question contained a reference to the guards flushing a Koran. E&P has been as tough on breaches of journalism ethics as anyone; witness our reporting on Jayson Blair, Jack Kelley, even Mitch Albom. And we dutifully highlight the various surveys that arrive (one just yesterday) showing public doubts about those ethics.
Keith Olbermann also "gets" it:
Or would somebody rather play politics with this? The way Craig Crawford reconstructed it, this one went similarly to the way the Killian Memos story evolved at the White House. The news organization turns to the administration for a denial. The administration says nothing. The news organization runs the story. The administration jumps on the necks of the news organization with both feet - or has its proxies do it for them.

That’s beyond shameful. It’s treasonous.

It’s also not very smart. While places like the Fox News Channel (which, only today, I finally recognized - it’s the newscast perpetually running on the giant video screens in the movie “1984”) ask how many heads should roll at Newsweek, it forgets in its fervor that both the story and the phony controversy around it are not so cut-and-dried this time.

Firstly, the principal reporter on the Gitmo story was Michael Isikoff - “Spikey” in a different lifetime; Linda Tripp’s favorite journalist, and one of the ten people most responsible (intentionally or otherwise) for the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Spikey isn’t just a hero to the Right - the Right owes him.

And larger still, in terms of politics, this isn't well-defined, is it? I mean Conservatives might parrot McClellan and say ‘Newsweek put this country in a bad light.’ But they could just as easily thump their chests and say ‘See, this is what we do to those prisoners at Gitmo! You guys better watch your asses!’

Ultimately, though, the administration may have effected its biggest mistake over this saga, in making the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs look like a liar or naïf, just to draw a little blood out of Newsweek’s hide. Either way - and also for that tasteless, soul-less conclusion that deaths in Afghanistan should be lain at the magazine’s doorstep - Scott McClellan should resign. The expiration on his carton full of blank-eyed bully-collaborator act passed this afternoon as he sat reeling off those holier-than-thou remarks. Ah, that’s what I smelled.
And the Los Angeles Times - by way of bush 'roo Skippy - gets it as well:
according to chaos theory, the flapping of a single butterfly's wings can trigger a hurricane halfway across the globe, a phenomenon known as the "butterfly effect." now the bush administration thinks it has detected something that might be called the "newsweek effect." it says the magazine's publication of an item in its may 9 issue, alleging that u.s. guards flushed the koran down a toilet in order to humiliate prisoners at guantanamo bay, was a cause of riots in afghanistan and pakistan last week that left at least 14 people dead.

we'll leave it to the scientists and philosophers to debate the finer points of chaos theory. what we can say here is that the "newsweek effect" is exaggerated...

the more interesting question may not be how newsweek goofed, but why the muslim world is so ready to believe the story. for all the administration's huffing and puffing about newsweek getting the story wrong, it has produced such a catalog of misdeeds at abu ghraib and guantanamo that almost any allegation is instantly credited abroad. the administration itself has said that 11 soldiers have been disciplined for abusing prisoners at gitmo.

the united states has already been convicted in the court of world opinion for its treatment of its prisoners, and that's the administration's fault, not newsweek's.

Next, on GOPBS, Your Public Right Wing Broadcasting System

The General is at it again.. and we love him for it.

Go read the whole hysterical thing and then stop laughing because Tomlinson may make it true.

Luis Posada

This man was responsible at the very least for 73 deaths - many of them young people part of a sports team - when he helped down an airliner as an act against Cuba. For us to bully the other countries of the world into submission to turn over whom we deem as terrorists and to act to protect Posada is indeed hypocrisy. Posada was trained and paid by our government to commit acts of terrorism. But he's completely unrepentant. Even today, he said he would not renounce violence; he would do whatever he could to bring down Castro.

I'm no great lover of Castro; no one looks at how Cuba has gone who can respect him. But damn, the only reason he's still in power is because the U.S., in blind support of powerful, rich Cuban Americans who were not "the little people of Cuba", has gone after Castro so often that we've triggered support for Castro from other quarters. Until 15 or so years ago, Russia offered protection for Castro; since then, there have been other protectors. Castro will die of old age before "we get it". We're still fighting a war we lost more than 40 years ago. If these ancient Cubans get back to Cuba, the first thing they would do is throw "the little people" out of their homes and become the nasty ruling class they were before Castro kicked them out.

But I'm not terribly interested that Castro wants Posada. The point is that this man - this monster of our creation - needs to be tried and sentenced for his crimes, as surely as anyone else who has committed acts of terror.

Until today, US officials hedged and pretended they didn't know where he was - bullshit, since Posada moves frequently around the Florida Cuban community. Now he's in US custody, but watch them not turn him over. Then they'll puff up and act righteous when some other country won't turn over a suspect with no where near the evidence against him of Posada.

Galloway's Testimony Only Got Very Careful Replay Tonight

The same few sound bytes were used over and over again, where they were used at all - and a bad time for The Daily Show to be (yet again) on hiatus - but what was heard was priceless. From my read of the situation through various Brit and EU newspapers, and what I know here at home, Galloway did not speak a single dubious word.

Stranger at Blah3 puts it less.. uh... diplomatically than I would but far more appropriately. Click here to see his whole piece with more of the Galloway testimony and Coleman nut roasting:

No wonder they shut down the meeting in less than a half hour. Coleman's nuts are probably still in his throat.
    "Senator, I am not now, nor have I ever been, an oil trader. and neither has anyone on my behalf. I have never seen a barrel of oil, owned one, bought one, sold one - and neither has anyone on my behalf.

    "Now I know that standards have slipped in the last few years in Washington, but for a lawyer you are remarkably cavalier with any idea of justice. I am here today but last week you already found me guilty. You traduced my name around the world without ever having asked me a single question, without ever having contacted me, without ever written to me or telephoned me, without any attempt to contact me whatsoever. And you call that justice.

    I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction.

    I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.

    I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001.

    I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.
You could tell how effective Galloway had been by a) how CSPAN didn't show it live b) and especially, Wolf Blitzer kept laughing nervously and making it sound like Galloway was a nutty old fart. I'd forgotten what politicians with balls are like. We see it so rarely here; mostly, they just talk big and then hide behind Pat Robertson's and James Dobson's skirts. And yes, I said skirts.

Frist Goes "Nucular"

[Ed. note: Don't get her started on the legislators' and president's inability to say "nuclear".]

So Frist is expected to use the nuclear option today when he tries to force a vote through on the president's most controversial court nominees. I'm watching the Senate Dems briefing on CSPAN, apparently recorded this morning.

If there's anything good to be had from this, I think it's very possible that Frist is killing his own chances at a successful 2008 GOP presidential run. With 70-80% of voters opposed to the killing of the filibuster rule, it's always possible a few of them will remember who was so determined to serve as executioner.

This man does to government what he did from kittens he adopted from animal shelters: guts them and experiments on them while they're still alive.

George Galloway - Anyone Watching This?

He's not taking this second round of accusations lying down.

He's the Brit MP who first, the Bushies painted as Saddam's best friend and was disproved, and now they accuse of being a major benefactor of the "Oil for Food" scandal (another issue on which Bushies have profited). So far, the only proven entity is that he opposed the Iraq War.


The Pain Felt Isn't Shared By All

Red Harvest posts an important point I've kept meaning to cite. Namely:

A federal bankruptcy court has authorized United Airlines to default on pension benefits for some 120,000 employees. Instead of receiving the benefits for which they bargained, these workers will receive mere cents on the dollar from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). And United is hardly through balancing its books on the backs of its workers. The company is seeking to extract some $725 million in further cost savings out of wages and benefits, on top of labor concessions already totaling $2.5 billion a year.

The pain is not exactly being shared all around. United CEO Glenn Tilton, for example, won't lose one penny of his $4.5 million pension, which is protected by a trust established shortly before the company filed for bankruptcy. Likewise, United's attorneys, from the powerful Chicago-based firm Kirkland & Ellis, will not have to sacrifice their exorbitant fees. As of March, the firm had billed some $54 million. One attorney, who billed at an hourly rate of $540, claims to have worked a staggering 3500 hours on the United bankruptcy in 2004 (the equivalent of 9.5 hours every day including weekends and holidays), for a total of nearly $2 million.

Even in bankruptcy, it seems, the rich get richer and the poor get screwed.

Dave Chappelle: The Issue is That He's Black, No?

CNN especially has been treating the story of Dave Chappelle with all the breathless coverage of The Runaway Bride.

But I can't help thinking if the story here, at least for them, is that he's black. Whites in the media - and beyond - just can't understand how a black man walked out on a $50 million deal that gave him exclusive creative control over his own show. Whites have walked out on such deals and not garnered anywhere near the attention, which is why I question whether it's Chappelle's skin color that is driving so much of the speculation.

Chappelle isn't my kind of comedian although, to be fair, I'm not sure what my type of comedian is. Most comedians irk me. I'd rather spend an hour being tortured at Gitmo (no, Bushies, this is NOT an invitation to do so) than sit through most stand up comedy, and I'd be willing to take a week at Gitmo to avoid standup by Ray Romano, Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, etc. and I'd go two years at Abu Ghraib to be spared a half hour of Dennis Miller. More tolerable are some of the women and high-energy guys: Ellen DeGeneres isn't too bad, nor is Dennis Leary, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and I adore George Carlin usually. I sort of liked the late Mitch Hedburg.

But I have to say that some of the skits on his show are brilliant (I'm not a regular watcher but my partner is, and he enjoys Chappelle immensely). I was floored to learn he's only 31; largely because he seems far more mature and his talent seems advanced for his age.

I'm more than willing to take his comments in a recent interview at face value: that he needs to sit back because he's questioning whether the voices in his head are cutting edge comedy or indicative of a deeper problem. I don't tend to believe some of the rumors that he's "just another star strung out on drugs" or "just trying to get $100 million" or "afraid of success." To watch Chappelle is to see his brilliance and to realize there's some deeply disturbing shit underlying it. I have no idea of his background; I just know what I've seen on TV.

Chappelle in some ways seems like an unlikely TV star. Not just because he's got one hell of a potty mouth. But because TV really isn't that big on brilliance. To me, "South Park" isn't brilliant. It's like Beavis and Butthead before it; goofing on everyone by someone (in SP's case - 2 someones - who feels superior to it all without any apparent justification for that superiority. Give me Jon Stewart on The Daily Show over SP anytime.

Cheney: A Bad Thing Gets Worse

So Bob Woodward says Cheney may throw his hat into the race for 2008, after the VP had stated categorically several times that he would not.

Before the righties begin to clap, stop and consider a few things:

    * Cheney is the architect of almost every horrible thing this Admin has done
    * Cheney disagrees with you, at least publicly, on the issue of the GOP's intolerance over gays, but only after his daughter was so publicly outed
    * Those base closures always occur on Cheney's watch
    * Remember Lynn's racy lesbian novel? Heaving bosom to heaving bosom?
    * Energy policy always gets worse under Cheney, whose wallet gets fatter with every gas price increase
    * I don't think Cheney has quite the slavish interest in extreme religion you do either; Cheney is not a fundamentalist which - by your definition - makes him a non-Christian
    * Statistically speaking, you probably served in war or had to pull strings to avoid it; Cheney is great with ordering sons into war, but he pulled every trick in the book to avoid serving himself ("I had other priorities", he said dismissively)
    * And on a purely personal note, Cheney has all the charisma of ... wait.. Darth Vader, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, and the antichrist all have more charisma than Dick; never mind!

Report Critical of DoD Secretary Rumsfeld Pulled

From WaPo:

A government commission studying overseas military bases sent Congress a report that included criticism of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's strategy, then removed the document from the commission Web site after the Pentagon complained that it divulged classified information.

The congressionally appointed panel contends that the 262-page report is based only on public sources, and several commission officials say they believe the Defense Department was annoyed because their conclusions include harsh criticism of some elements of Rumsfeld's plan for streamlining the military.

An official involved in the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the Pentagon's primary complaint appeared to be that the report specified Bulgaria and Romania as countries U.S. forces would rotate through for training, rather than using a more vague regional identification such as Eastern Europe.
Always the anonymous government source.

Not Good: 22% of Public Feels Government Should Censor Journalists

From Editor & Publisher:

A survey to be released Monday reveals a wide gap on many media issues between a group of journalists and the general public. In one finding, 43% of the public says the press has too much freedom, while only 3% of journalists agree. And just 14% of the public can name "freedom of the press" as a guarantee in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in the major poll conducted by the University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy.

Six in ten among the public feel the media show bias in reporting the news, and 22% say the government should be allowed to censor the press. More than 7 in 10 journalists believe the media does a good or excellent job on accuracy -- but only 4 in 10 among the public feel that way. And a solid 53% of the public thinks stories with unnamed sources should not be published at all.

Perhaps the widest gap of all: 8 in 10 journalists said they read blogs, while less than 1 in 10 others do so. Still, a majority of the news pros do not believe bloggers deserve to be called journalists.
No doubt, the same people who scream about "overreaching government" when it comes to gun control or giving the "rare" wrist slap to overreaching religious groups are the 22%, which is roughly the 28% we know as the hard-core Bushies.

And Yet More

This, from Raw Story, indicating the Koran allegations - as I believe I've noted before - are not new:

Contrary to White House assertions, the allegations of religious desecration at Guantanamo published by Newsweek May 6 are common among ex-prisoners and have been widely reported outside the United States, RAW STORY has learned.

Several former detainees at the Guantanamo and Bagram airbase prisons have reported instances of their handlers sitting or standing on the Quran, throwing or kicking it in toilets, and urinating on it.

Where the Newsweek report likely erred was in saying that the U.S. was slated to acknowledge desecrating the Quran in internal investigations, and in relying on a single anonymous source to make grave allegations. But reports of desecration are manifold.

One such incident—during which the Koran allegedly was thrown in a pile and stepped on—prompted a hunger strike among Guantanamo detainees in Mar. 2002, which led to an apology. The New York Times interviewed former detainee Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi May 1, who said the protest ended with a senior officer delivering an apology to the entire camp.
"A former interrogator at Guantanamo, in an interview with the Times
And yet the 101st Fighting Keyboard brigade is already branding this "Rathergate II" and adding Isikoff- the breaker of the Lewinsky-Tripp scandal - to the scalps they wear on their Wal-Mart-purchased belts.

If Isikoff is part of the Vast Left Wing Conspiracy, then I'm a Reagan disciple. And, btw, I'm not.

The Rioting Began Before the Newsweek Piece Hit

This is just one of the many indicators that Newsweek has been set up to take the fall over the rioting (principally in Afghanistan, but similar riots occurred in Pakistan as well):

Drudge and other right-wingers have been quick to dub this recent surge in violence the “Newsweek riots.” But let’s not forget that this anger has been boiling for quite some time.

Before the Newsweek report even hit the newsstands, the Associated Press was already noting a “revived Taliban-led insurgency” and the Agence France Press said there was “an upsurge in violence by suspected Taliban rebels” which had left two U.S. Marines dead.

This is not to suggest that Newsweek’s report did stir passions among Muslims across the globe. But there’s a deeper issue at play here. The United Nations reported in February that living standards among Afghanis was among the world’s lowest. While it may be convenient to attribute the surge of violence to a few lines in a magazine article, the real story is more complicated.
Just a note: I removed the link to Drudge. I don't Drudge.

More important than Matt (and my dog's stool is more important than Matt), is this item also pointed out quite ably by Think Progress:
Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan lectured the media about a “journalistic standard that should be met” before running with a story. Fine, but isn’t there also a political standard of accountability that should be met as well? McClellan’s issue with the Newsweek story was that it was “based on a single anonymous source who cannot personally substantiate the report.”

Remember when we learned that the evidence for Iraq’s supposed mobile biological weapons labs came from an unrel iable source? What was McClellan’s response then?

QUESTION: Does it concern the President that the primary source for the intelligence on the mobile biological weapons labs was a guy that U.S. intelligence never every interviewed?

MCCLELLAN: Well, again, all these issues will be looked at as part of a broad review by the independent commission that the President appointed… But it’s important that we look at what we learn on the ground and compare that with what we believed prior to going into Iraq.
The White House is quite comfortable with going to war on shaky evidence but they have a much loftier standard for the media.

Josh Marshall: We Should Be Worried

On the Newsweek-White House issue:

I haven't followed every particular about the case of this blow-up over the article in Newsweek. But I do see a clear pattern -- a White House trying to decapitate another news organization.

The parallels with CBS are obvious. [snip snip snip]Here we have today Scott McClellan, the president's press secretary, specifically demanding further disavowals of the story from Newsweek. That should trouble anyone. The White House is not a party at interest here. Perhaps the people who have been falsely accused are. Perhaps the Pentagon could demand an apology if the story turns out to be false. Or the Army. Not the White House. They are only involved here in as much as the story is bad for them politically.

We are already seeing a wave of violence, at least some of which preceded the publication of this article, being blamed on the reporters in question here. That is a vivid reminder of the responsibility all journalists have to get stories right. At the end of the day, though, the responsibility for the deaths of those who were killed rests with those who killed them, nowhere else.

(As Andrew Sullivan rightly notes, in terms of severity it is actually not that easy to distinguish between this alleged conduct and lots of stuff we know for a fact did happen at Abu Ghraib, Gitmo and other places.)
The stench of this is getting stronger, which really makes me wonder what this debacle is being used to cloak.