Patrick Kennedy and the Media In Perspective

The last few days, almost all I've heard about is Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island, son of Senator Ted Kennedy, and his car accident.

Newsworthy? Yeah. But it's wa-aa-aa-aa-aa-aa-y out of proportion to its importance. I mean, a Kennedy abusing drugs or alcohol or involved in an accident is about as rare as Jennifer Lopez getting engaged divorced, or a congressman getting special treatment.

Imagine, however, if the media spent anywhere near this amount of time on:

  • the Rumsfeld issue the other day where, when Rumsfeld was presented with the fact he had lied, they tried to make it sound unfortunate for the poor man that he was "heckled"
  • the Downing Street memo
  • Hookergate
  • exactly how much Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff corrupted the process
  • any of Bush, Cheney, or Rice's lies

And this is just a start.


Blogger and the Date

Does anyone else have Blogger go nuts around midnight and then shift itself back in time?

Fox Most Trusted American News Source? OMG!

Nothing about this is encouraging:

One-quarter of consumers abandoned a news source over the past year because they lost trust in its reporting, according to a new survey that also found the BBC, Fox News and Al Jazeera the most trusted brands in their respective home regions.

Results of a poll of more than 10,000 adults in 10 countries by the British Broadcasting Corporation, Reuters Group Plc and The Media Center were released on Wednesday, with an additional finding that media worldwide were trusted by an average of 61 percent of respondents compared with 52 percent who said they trusted their governments.

"National TV is still the most trusted news source by a wide margin, although the Internet is gaining ground among the young," said Doug Miller, president of London-based research firm GlobeScan, which conducted the polling.

"The jury is still out on blogs," he added. "Just as many people distrust them as trust them."

The survey confirmed that media consumption is shifting online for younger generations, as 19 percent of those aged 18 to 24 named the Internet as their most important source of news compared with 9 percent overall.

Seventy-two percent of all respondents said they followed the news closely, including 67 percent of those 18 to 24 years old.

Asked to name the news source they most trusted, without any prompting, 59 percent of Egyptians said Al Jazeera, 52 percent of Brazilians said Rede Globo, 32 percent of Britons said the BBC, 22 percent of Germans said ARD and 11 percent of Americans said Fox News, each leading their respective nations.

Judge Calls Bushie Justice Department Wiretap Demands "Gobbledygook"

Heh. Most of the JD's requests are nonsense and only seem designed to make Orwell's 1984 Big Brother seem short-sighted and not paranoid enough.

Also from the Financial Times:

A Bush administration regulation that would force internet companies to make it easier for the government to wiretap broadband services and phone calls over the internet was criticised by an appeals court judge on Friday, who characterised the government’s argument as “gobbledygook”.

At the centre of a case brought before an appeals court in Washington is a 2005 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that gives providers of internet phone and broadband services until May 2007 to ensure that their equipment can accommodate police wiretaps. The rule in effect extended to internet companies a 1994 law that had applied only to traditional telephone networks.

Although opponents of the FCC rule say they are not challenging the government’s right to wiretap – only the right of the government to force companies to adopt technology that would make it easier to eavesdrop – the case brings back to the forefront questions about the administration’s use of wiretapping and its reliance on US companies to listen in on phone calls.

The Justice Department has been an aggressive proponent of the rule, claiming that without it, internet telephony could “effectively provide a safe haven for criminals and terrorists who make use of new communications services”.

But a host of civil liberties and university groups challenging the mandate claim that the provision will give law enforcement officials unprecedented access to private networks and force colleges around the country to replace a portion of their networks, at a cost of $7bn.

They also charge that the FCC has gone far beyond the parameters of the 1994 law passed by Congress, known as “Calea”, which was explicit in not applying to the internet.

Russian Media: Cheney's Fighting Words Mark Beginning of Second Cold War

Mr. Cheney is such a diplomatic man of peace, isn't he? ::arf::

From the wires:

Russian media on Friday described Vice President Dick Cheney's harsh criticism of Russia and President Vladimir Putin as the start of a new Cold War.

Cheney's words Thursday at a conference in Lithuania drew a comparison to Winston Churchill's famed "Iron Curtain" speech and reflected the deepening distrust between Washington and a newly assertive Kremlin.

The official Russian response to Cheney's speech has been cautious. But angry reaction from politicians and pundits allied with the Kremlin reflects a chill between two presidents who seemed to hit it off early in their relationship.

In his speech, Cheney accused Russia of cracking down on religious and political rights and of using its energy reserves as "tools of intimidation or blackmail."

Opponents of reform in Russia, the vice president said, "are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade" after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet empire.

There was no public reaction from Putin or the government.

But the prominent business daily Kommersant said Cheney's comments marked "the beginning of a second Cold War" and harked back to Churchill's speech condemning Soviet expansionism in Eastern Europe with the "Iron Curtain" label that defined the East-West divide for decades.
OK, let's put this in perspective.

First, no argument that Russia has been going backwards under Putin. But probably nowhere near as fast or far or furiously as the U.S. has backed away from civil liberties, democracy, and fair elections.

Second, with the War on Terror increasingly seen as a bust, the same people who have been screaming for years that the end of the Cold War ruined all "the really great things in life" like obscene profits and power for the military industrial complex, dirty politicking, and subterfuge are now truly hoping for a return to the days when the U.S. and Russia were dire enemies. The fact that Russia is no longer a super power and the U.S. is fast losing its remaining status as a super power isn't something these fools bother to factor in.

Third, the Financial Times is calling Cheney's tough talk a "serious gamble". From today's FT:
Vice President Dick Cheney’s accusation on Thursday that Russia was using its energy resources as “blackmail” marked the first public salvo by the US in what could be a very fraught run-up to the G8 summit in St Petersburg in July, diplomats in Washington said.

Clearly US-Russian relations are under strain, but analysts differ over just how badly ties have deteriorated since President George W. Bush said famously in 2001 that he had looked into the eyes of Vladimir Putin and “got a sense of his soul”.

There is also debate whether Mr Cheney, a veteran hardliner of the cold war with the Soviet Union, is pushing for a tougher policy on Russia than Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state and a specialist of the Soviet era.

“Putin is no longer regarded by the Bush administration as a reliable partner,” a European diplomat commented. He and analysts involved in briefing the vice president’s office described Mr Cheney as “furious” with the Russian president over what the US sees as serious backsliding in democracy, its use of energy as a foreign policy weapon and its recent refusal to halt the sale to Iran of an air defence system.

Tony Blair: Big Overhaul in the Face of Clear Signs of No Confidence in His Leadership

You've probably heard that Brit PM Tony Blair really rearranged the deck chairs on his version of the Titanic today after his Labour Party had its worst showing in years. But is it enough?

There has been much speculation Blair will be out by the end of the year, despite Blair doing things like cancelling a photo op with King George the Dubya and his purported refusal to stand behind Bush in his saber-rattling at Iran. Consider too that others who stood with Bush, like Aznar of Spain and Berlusconi of Italy are now political history.

Brits are NOT happy with Blair and I believe it's with very good reason. On this score, the Brits showed far more rational discernment than their cousins in "the colonies".

Two More CIA Operatives Question Bush's Intel on War

From MSNBC, but here's just a snippet:

Did President Bush lead our country to war based on faulty intelligence, or did his administration twist and cherry-pick the information for a war they had already decided to start?

Somebody is responsible for this war. Is it the president, the politicians in Congress who voted to authorize the war, the military who saluted Bush three years ago when the war was popular who are now calling for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s resignation, or was it cooked intelligence from the administration?

Two high-ranking CIA operatives who were actively involved in the run-up to the war answered this question and more.

Tyler Drumheller was the CIA’s chief of operations in Europe until he retired last year. He says that the White House ignored warnings that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.

CIA Chief Porter Goss Has Resigned?

That's what MSNBC is reporting right now.

I understand the CIA is a very unhappy place to be these days, largely because they feel their agents are under assault by their own government, the Bush Administration. Porter Goss, however, was a vetted Bushie, and has worried more about siding with Bush than about national security, accuracy, and his own agents.

Three More U.S. Soldiers Dead in Another Iraq Bombing

Story from the wires here.

I'm still incensed that so few in the media yesterday bothered to cite the fact that when Ray McGovern questioned Donald Rumsfeld on his lies going into the war and the WMD at an Atlanta venue yesterday, McGovern told the truth. He had exact, accurate quotes from Rumsfeld.

But the AP and others called McGovern a "heckler" while not bothering to note that Rumsfeld, in fact, had lied and continued to lie on stage when confronted. McGovern is a 27-year veteran of the CIA and has worked tirelessly the last few years to do something this Bush administration and our mainstream media is apparently incapable of doing: working with the truth.

Meanwhile, a 62-year-old woman taken from Rumsfeld's lie fest was hurt. But the audience, the media among them, just booed at her for calling Rumsfeld a liar.

Sick. Very, very sick.


Good Night!

And - for sure - good luck!

Did You Miss the National Day of Prayer?

One could argue that, with Mr. Bush as president, this country needs all the prayers it can get.

The Ethics Reform Bill Which Does Not Reform and Isn't Particularly Ethical Either

Judd at Think Progress gives us a short and none-too-sweet analysis of the House version of the ethics reform ::choke::choke::choke::choke::gag::

House conservatives just passed their lobbying reform bill by a narrow 217-214 217-213 vote. The Washington Post called the legislation a “sham,” “diluted snake oil” and “an insult to voters.” Instead of the comprehensive reform promised by lawmakers in early 2006, this bill fails to reform parts of the system most in need.

A look at what this bill is missing:
    – No Restrictions on Lavish Gifts: Current gift limits will remain unchanged.
    – No Ban on Free Exotic Trips: Lawmakers will still be able to accept lavish privately-funded trips from lobbyists.
    – No Increase in Lobbyist Transparency: Lobbyists can continue to pay $25,000 or $50,000 for a campaign fundraiser, with no oversight.
    – No Ethics Training for Members: Ethics training will be mandatory for all congressional staff, but not for members.
    – No Revolving Door Slow-Down: A companion piece of legislation to the lobbying bill would require administration officials to wait at least two years after they leave office before becoming lobbyists. But there is no legislation to create a similar two-year waiting period for lawmakers.
    – No Grassroots Lobbying Regulation: There are no disclosure rules “for professional lobbying firms that are retained to spend money on campaigns aimed at stimulating the public to lobby Congress, including multimillion dollar advertising campaigns.”
    – No Enforcement of Existing Rules: The bill “includes no mechanism for enforcing and monitoring old and new rules.”
    – Weak Earmark Reform: The bill restricts appropriations earmarks, but does not reform earmarks in tax and authorization bills.

One of Bush's Hand-Picked Judges Has Apparently No Familiarity with the Word Ethics

From Salon:

Key Democrats denounced Terrence Boyle on Capitol Hill Monday and Tuesday, after a Salon report revealed that the controversial judge, nominated to one of the nation's highest courts by President Bush, violated federal law on conflicts of interest. As the debate over Boyle heated up, the White House acknowledged that Boyle should have recused himself in cases involving companies in which he owned stock -- but continued its support of the nominee.

Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat of the Judiciary Committee, blasted Boyle on the floor of the Senate Monday, calling him "somebody who has violated every judicial ethic you can think of."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi: As Competent with a Rifle as George Bush is With a War, Diplomacy, the Economy, and His Native Language

See al-Zarqawi stand.
See al-Zarqawi hold a rifle.
See al-Zarqawi fumble the rifle.
See al-Zarqaqi keep fumbling with his rifle.

[And see al-Zarqawi rifle fumbling blooper video here.]

See Donald Rumsfeld.
See Donald Rumsfeld lie.
See Donald Rumsfeld insist he did not lie when he lied.
See Donald Rumsfeld claim for the 407th time we killed al-Zarqawi.
Then see Donald Rumsfeld tell us in the very next breath that al-Zarqawi is responsible for putting colored clothing in with the whites in the laundry of Iraq.

DoD Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Calls Out on Lies

Think Progress has the story from today:

Speaking in Atlanta today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was sharply questioned about his pre-war claims about WMD in Iraq. An audience member confronted Rumsfeld with his 2003 claim about WMD, “We know where they are.” Rumsfeld falsely claimed he never said it. The audience member then read Rumsfeld’s quote back to him, leaving the defense secretary speechless. Watch it:
I also noticed Ray McGovern (former CIA) called Rummy a liar.

Amnesty International: Torture of Detainees Widespread in U.S. Custody

Before you just dismiss this report by Amnesty International, as I'm sure the Bushies will, understand this. When Amnesty International talks about human rights and other abuses in lands that the Bushies do not like, the Bushies always cite and recite the Amnesty reports saying "these people know what they are talking about". It's only when Amnesty International speaks frankly about our abuses do the Bushies suddenly do an about-face and declare Amnesty "full of brown stuff".

From Across the Pond, The Guardian: An Imperial President, Bush, Smothering a System of Checks and Balances

The Guardian's Sidney Blumental offers his take on Stephen Colbert, Bush, and the White House Correspondents' dinner:

The most scathing public critique of the Bush presidency and the complicity of a craven press corps was delivered at the annual White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday by a comedian. Bush was reported afterwards to be seething, while the press corps responded with stone-cold silence. In many of their reports of the event they airbrushed out the joker.

Stephen Colbert performed within 10 yards of Bush's hostile stare and before 2,600 members of the press and their guests. After his mock praise of Bush as a rock against reality, Colbert censured the press by flattering its misfeasance. "Over the last five years you people were so good - over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out ... Here's how it works: the president makes decisions ... The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spellcheck and go home ... Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!".

...The day after Colbert's performance, the New York Times published a front-page story on the latest phase of the administration's war on the press. Bush is weighing "the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws". Since the Washington Post exposed the existence of CIA "black site" prisons holding detainees without due process of law and the New York Times disclosed the president's order to the National Security Agency to engage in domestic surveillance without legal court warrants, the administration has applied new draconian methods to clamp down.
"Has the New York Times violated the Espionage Act?" asks an article in the neoconservative journal Commentary by Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior editor, that lays out the case for prosecution. When the Post and Times won Pulitzer prizes for their stories, William Bennett, a former Republican cabinet secretary and now a commentator on CNN, said: "What they did is worthy of jail."

At Bush's orders dragnets are being conducted throughout the national security bureaucracy in search of press sources. And the FBI subpoenaed four decades of files accumulated by recently deceased investigative journalist Jack Anderson in an attempt to exhume old classified material.
Bush takes a different attitude on his own leaking of secrets. Dozens of National Security Council documents were leaked to journalist Bob Woodward for his 2002 encomium, Bush At War. Vice-President Cheney and his staff leaked disinformation to reporters to make the case that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. And Bush and Cheney authorised Cheney's then chief of staff Lewis Libby to leak portions of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq's WMD to sympathetic reporters in an effort to discredit a critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Cruel and Unusual? You Bet

TalkLeft brings us this true horror story on what passes for "humane" state-sanctioned murder billed as capitol punishment and a "deterrment to crime":

Joseph Clark was strapped to a gurney in an Ohio prison yesterday, waiting to die. Technicians spent 22 minutes searching for a suitable vein in which to inject the chemicals that would end his life. After the drugs finally started to flow, Clark grew impatient. After a few minutes, he "was able to raise his head off the gurney and said, 'It's not working.' " The vein had collapsed, forcing technicians to spend more than half an hour looking for another vein.

It seems evident that Clark's death was cruel and unusual. Whether or not he felt physical pain, he was subjected to emotional torture as the minutes dragged by. This is the latest proof that death by lethal injection, far from being a humane alternative to other methods of execution, is barbaric. TalkLeft's recent coverage of the controversy surrounding lethal injection can be found here, here, here and here.

Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, and Intelligent Opposition

The crew at Blah3 has several interesting posts up, but let me note just two right now.

First, Dedalus echoes much of what I've been saying about the president's complete fiction of the "wonderful" changes in Afghanistan since American gunslingers rolled into town:

Either that, or things sure have changed since March. The President's weekly radio address, March 4, 2006:
    My first stop was Afghanistan, and I was thrilled to see firsthand the incredible transformation that has taken place there. Before September the 11th, 2001, Afghanistan was ruled by a cruel regime that oppressed its people, brutalized women, and gave safe haven to the terrorists who attacked America.

    Today, the terror camps have been shut down; women are working; boys and girls are back in school; and 25 million people have now tasted freedom. The Afghan people are building a vibrant young democracy that is an ally in the war on terror. And America is proud to have such a determined partner in the cause of freedom.
The NY Times, yesterday:
    "The Taliban and Al Qaeda are everywhere," a shopkeeper, Haji Saifullah, told the commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, as the general strolled through the bazaar of this town to talk to people. "It is all right in the city, but if you go outside the city, they are everywhere, and the people have to support them. They have no choice." [....]

    "The security situation is not good," Governor[of Uruzgan province] Munib told General Eikenberry and a group of cabinet ministers at a meeting with tribal elders. "The number of Taliban and enemy is several times more than that of the police and Afghan National Army in this province," he said. [....]

    The Taliban are warning the people to expect more attacks, the shopkeeper, Mr. Saifullah, told General Eikenberry. "During the day the people, the police, and the army are with the government, but during the night, the people, the police, and the army are all with the Taliban and Al Qaeda," he said.
Yeah, well there's always going to be some grumblers and nitpickers on the glorious road to freedom.
Then Stranger brings us this on Las Vegas resolving to oppose the Patriot Act (yay, Vegas!):
Go, Vegas!

    The Las Vegas City Council has passed a resolution opposing the Patriot Act. Las Vegas now joins several other cities across the country opposed to the controversial law.

    Critics say the law infringes on personal rights and freedoms, but President Bush and other supporters say the Patriot Act is vital to the war on terror. The resolution passed by the Las Vegas City Council has no real power but supporters say it will show Las Vegas' commitment to civil liberties.
Damn straight. They want what happens in Vegas to stay in Vegas, so to speak.

Speaking of Being a Total Dick

Will Bunch at Attytood discusses the growing paranoia of Duck! It's Dick! Cheney:

There's a lot for the blogosphere to buzz about tonight, and into that mix comes a fairly explosive profile of Dick Cheney in the new Vanity Fair, written by Todd Purdum. The headline grabbing stuff is going to be the comments by the vice president and his daughter Mary on how the family learned she was gay and their acceptance of it. We don't know what to make of all that -- maybe we're reluctant to comment because we remember John Kerry making an idiot of himself on the subject in 2004.

And truthfully, that's not what's important here. Just the short excepts that we've seen will confirm your worst fears, that the man who steered us into Iraq and is now pushing us toward Iran, and possibly a nuclear war there, is a raving victim of paranoia.

Read it and weep:

    Purdum reports that Cheney travels with a chemical-biological suit at all times. When he gave his friend Robin West and his twin children a ride to the White House a couple of years ago, West commented on the fact that Cheney’s motorcade varied its daily path. “And he said, ‘Yeah, we take different routes so that “The Jackal” can’t get me,’” West tells Purdum. “And then there was this big duffel bag in the middle of the backseat, and I said, ‘What’s that? It’s not very roomy in here.’ And [Cheney] said, ‘No, because it’s a chemical-biological suit,’ and he looked at it and said, ‘Robin, there’s only one. You lose.’”
This is scary stuff, indeed. For those of you under 40ish, "The Day of the Jackal" was a Frederick Forsyth thriller, made into a 1973 movie, that follows an assassin's attempt to kill Charles DeGaulle (Spoiler alert: He misses...duh). For some men, four heart attacks might trigger a kind of fatalism, but the Cheney effect seems to be the reverse, an over-the-top survivalist instinct -- no doubt worsened by his many months brooding in "undisclosed locations" -- and the growing belief that people are out to get him on every street corner.

The Bush Popularity Weight Loss Diet

Update: Buzzflash reports a new University of New Hampshire poll shows Bush's approval rating in the state - which was VERY pro Bush in 2000 and beyond - is down to 30% as well, the lowest of his presidency and a statistical sinkhole the likes of which has not been seen for an American president of the Republican stripe in a pro-Rep state.

Weight Watchers can't help you shed unwanted pounds - or popularity - like Mr. Bush is losing it in these polls. He's now at 30% approval for Iraq... and I'm wondering why he's THAT high except that a certain percentage of people just will not criticize those in authority.

Last I knew, Mr. Cheney is down to a 13% approval rating - from a high of 18%. Yet people are worried that he'll get to be president. I dunno.. I don't think he'd last more than three-four seconds.

Blogs Alive with Stephen Colbert at White House Press Dinner Discussions

The Times tells the story here (or you can just read some blogs directly ::cough::).

New Heights of Irony: Cheney Out Criticizing Russia on Human Rights and Democracy

If this story weren't so damned sad, I'd probably fracture a few ribs from hysterical laughing.

Oh, Russia under Putin HAS gone backwards, no doubt. But nowhere near the lightning fast pace for regression on human rights, democracy, civil liberties, and fairness that the Bushies have brought to America and its neighbors.

One example: Look at the way the Bushies stepped in to make Vincente Fox, president of Mexico, turn around on the issue of decriminalizing small amounts of drugs for personal use. Fox was going to sign it and then suddenly - insert Darth Vader Cheney music here - he's not. We're not content to ruin our own country with this senseless, ever-failing drug war, we have to try to force everyone else down the dark rabbit hole with us.

Hey, trust me, I'm not big on the use of cocaine, heroin, etc. But the drug war has only worked to fill jails with the least significant criminals while the bigwhigs go free. And the Bushies have almost completely ignored the huge rise in crystal meth which seems about the worst shit people can put in their bodies.

Bush Gives the Finger to More Than 750 Laws

But we'll hold hearings on it real soon now. Uh huh. How many items now are the GOP committee heads planning to hold hearings on because the public is upset at how Bush is operating? It's got to be about eight dozen now.

From the Boston Globe:

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing the White House of a ''very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into President Bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.

''There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here," Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. ''What's the point of having a statute if . . . the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?"

Specter said he plans to hold the hearing in June. He said he intends to call administration officials to explain and defend the president's claims of authority, as well to invite constitutional scholars to testify on whether Bush has overstepped the boundaries of his power.

The senator emphasized that his goal is ''to bring some light on the subject." Legal scholars say that, when confronted by a president encroaching on their power, Congress's options are limited. Lawmakers can call for hearings or cut the funds of a targeted program to apply political pressure, or take the more politically charged steps of censure or impeachment.

Check 'Em Out

US News and World Report offers a couple of items worth your time.

First there's Worries Over Israel, and for seniors and those who love/care for them there is Clock is Ticking on Medicare Part D.


So Much for Fair and Accurate Elections...

Not like we've had those since November 2000 anyway but sheesh... From the Financial Times:

The last three election cycles in the US have been marked by controversy not only about candidates, but also about the fairness and accuracy of the voting process. And as voters head to the polls today for primaries in some jurisdictions, the coming cycle promises more of the same.

With about 8,000 separate election authorities managing approximately 175,000 polling places and perhaps as many as 150,000 different ballot forms that include choices for everyone from senator to dogcatcher, American elections are complex even when all goes well. But this cycle sees many states and smaller jurisdictions making last-minute efforts to switch to electronic voting, and early signs of trouble are appearing.

Karl Rove: With Finances Like His...

From CitizenDC at DailyKos:

Have you ever wondered how a man who owns a $1,500,000 house in DC, a $1,000,000+ house in Florida and a $48,000 cottage in Texas manages to survive on $161,000 a year federal salary? It's odd.

Would it raise questions that same man had sold a property to a shell company controlled by his former business partners and that man made between $250,000 and $750,000 profit?

Maybe it would raise further questions if those former business partners that bought the property were raking in millions of political dollars from the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign, the RNC and multiple other Republican candidates? Would that just be a coincidence? Well, those are a string of coincidences that happened to Karl Rove.
Let's not forget all four of Karl's chins!

Associate Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg Has Due Cause for Concern

Let's face it: the watchdog will be looking only at cases that piss off the extremist right. From the wires:

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Tuesday that a Republican proposal in Congress to set up a watchdog over the federal courts is a "really scary idea."

Ginsburg told a gathering of the American Bar Association that lawyers should stick up for judges when they are criticized by congressional leaders.

"My sense now is that the judiciary is under assault in a way that I haven't seen before," she said.

As an example, she mentioned proposals by senior Republicans who want an inspector general to police judges' acceptance of free trips or their possible financial interests with groups that could appear before them.

"It sounds to me very much like the Soviet Union was .... That's a really scary idea," said Ginsburg....

Ginsburg said her confirmation hearings in 1993, and those the following year for Justice
Stephen Breyer, were long but friendly. "That bipartisan spirit has broken down," she said.

Sen. Charles Grassley (news, bio, voting record), R-Iowa, said last week that the judiciary wasn't doing enough policing of itself. His plan would create an inspector general to oversee federal courts including the Supreme Court. The inspector general would be directed to report any judicial misconduct to the Justice Department.

Employees Cannot Force Feed Religion in Workplace

This happens to be one I agree with, as reported by the Sacramento Bee:

SAN FRANCISCO - A county social services department cannot be required to accommodate the belief of an evangelical Christian employee that he must share his faith with clients and others on the job, a federal appeals court ruled Monday.

On balance, said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the constitutional duty of the Tehama County agency to avoid entangling itself in religion outweighs the constitutional right of Daniel M. Berry to promote his religious views.

The decision upheld one by U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton in Sacramento.
It was a rebuff to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had authorized Berry to sue. The federal agency said Berry should be allowed to discuss religion with "receptive" clients and display a Spanish-language Bible and "Happy Birthday Jesus" sign in the cubicle where he counsels them.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge appellate panel, Judge Consuelo Callahan said, "The department's clients seek assistance from Mr. Berry in his capacity as an agent of the state. Accordingly, they may be motivated to seek ways of ingratiating themselves with Mr. Berry, or conversely, they may seek reasons to explain a perceived failure to assist them.

"It follows that any discussion by Mr. Berry of his religion runs a real danger of entangling the department with religion. This danger is heightened by Mr. Berry's admission that unless restricted, he will share his faith with others and pray with them."

Bush-GOP Universal Response to Every Problem: MORE Tax Cuts for the Wealthy

Wow, they're on a roll why the American middle class continues its disappearing act.

From the WaPo:

President Bush and congressional Republicans agreed yesterday on a $70 billion package of tax-cut extensions that they hope will help halt the deterioration of their political fortunes.

The package would extend the 2003 cuts to the tax rates on dividends and capital gains, continue tax breaks for small-business investment and the overseas operations of financial service companies, and slow the expansion of the alternative minimum tax, a parallel income tax system that was enacted to target the rich but is increasingly snaring the middle class.

But the agreement cannot come to a vote until House and Senate negotiators agree on a second piece of legislation containing many of the proposed tax breaks left out of the compromise, according to legislative aides. And the compromise is sure to spark a new round of recriminations from Democrats, who say the Republican Party continues to favor wealthy investors over lower- and middle-income workers, without regard to a budget deficit that is expected to reach $370 billion this year.

Very Interesting Blog Post - Comments about Stephen Colbert, White House, and the Way the Press Ignored Colbert

Check it out from The Swamp in the Chicago Tribune.

Iraq and Its Oil Industry On Verge of Total Collapse

So says the German pub, Der Spiegel:

The British and the Americans are guarding Iraq's Persian Gulf oil platforms -- the troubled country's only real sources of revenue -- like crown jewels. But Iraqi oil is flowing sluggishly at best, while hoped-for investments haven't materialized and the Iraqi oil industry is on the verge of collapse -- both technical and political.

The HMS Bulwark, Her Majesty Elizabeth II's most state-of-the-art warship, has been bobbing at the mouth of the Shatt al-Arab River for days. With its crew of more than 600 men, the amphibious ship, outfitted with landing craft and the latest technology, has a mission in fragile spots in the Persian Gulf -- but nothing happens. The coasts of Kuwait, Iraq and Iran are dimly visible on the horizon. The sea is calm as a dozen fishing boats crisscross the waters around the ship. Sometimes the calm lasts for days.

And then, suddenly, after weeks of monotony, something does happen. Four Iranian patrol boats traveling at high speeds -- 45 knots, or about 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) -- approach the Bulwark from the East. They're manned by members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards -- not regular navy personnel. It's considered an ominous sign.

Captain Clive Johnstone sprints from his cabin to the command deck, and for a moment he loses his typically British cool. "All men without orders leave the bridge immediately!" he barks. Johnstone anxiously has his crew establish radio contact with the Iranians. It takes a few minutes to make the connection, but by then the Revolutionary Guards, or Pasdaran, have already stopped their boats -- at a point they believe marks the nautical border between Iran and Iraq.

The enemy that's making officers of the Royal Navy on the Bulwark so nervous consists of bearded men piloting small, agile, high-speed boats. Even the mightiest warship is vulnerable, as the suicide attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni port city of Aden in October 2000 illustrates. In that incident, explosives hidden on a fishing boat manned by al-Qaida terrorists ripped an enormous hole -- six by 12 meters (19 by 39 feet) -- into the hull of the American destroyer, killing 17 American sailors.

Far more would be at stake if the same kind of attack were to occur here in the northern Gulf. The Bulwark lies at anchor between two giant oil platforms, the Basra and the Khawr al Amaya terminals. Two pipelines running along the ocean floor connect the platforms with the mainland 20 kilometers (12 miles) away. When both platforms operate at full capacity, they can load about 2 million barrels of oil onto waiting tankers -- about as much oil as France consumes in a day, or more than 2 percent of daily global demand. "A successful attack on one of these terminals would raise the world market price by several dollars within hours," says Commodore Bruce Williams, commander of the multinational fleet that monitors the waters off the Iraqi coast from its base on the Bulwark.

Bird Flu Boo-Boo Redux

Chaos is only the START of what I fear from a pandemic in the incapable, manipulative, nasty hands of the Bushies. From US News and World Report:

A flu pandemic would cause massive disruptions lasting for months, and cities, states and businesses must make plans now to keep functioning - and not count on a federal rescue, the Bush administration said Wednesday.

"Our nation will face this global threat united in purpose and united in action in order to best protect our families, our communities, our nation and our world from the threat of pandemic influenza," President Bush said in a letter to Americans noting the release of an updated national pandemic response strategy.

Bush last fall proposed a $7.1 billion plan to prepare for the next worldwide outbreak of a super-strain of influenza. Wednesday's report updates that plan, an incremental step that basically outlines exactly which government agency is responsible for some 300 tasks, many already under way.

Even the most draconian steps, such as shutting down U.S. borders against outbreaks abroad, would almost certainly fail to keep a flu pandemic from spreading here, the report acknowledges - and thus it outlines more limited travel restrictions that would be used instead.

"Stuck in Iraq" Or George and Dick's Excellent Adventure, the Untold Story

Posted by Rozius from Maureen Dowd's column today, "Stuck in Iraq":

Now we see this classic plotline in the Middle East. The inept captors have become the captives. The country the administration precipitously grabbed and overconfidently took over has ended up trapping, draining, flummoxing and alarming the administration, which is more and more desperate to hand it off and escape.

President Bush said Saturday, "As Iraqis continue to make progress toward a democracy that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, more of our troops can come home."

And in an interview in the new Vanity Fair, Todd Purdum asks Dick Cheney whether in his "darkest night" he has even "a little doubt" about the administration's course. "No," Vice says. "I think what we've done has been what needed to be done."

But even if they and their 33 percent unshakeable base are still in denial, there's a growing consensus that their plot was hatched, as O. Henry put it, "during a moment of temporary mental apparition" and that we're the Middle East hostages now, to war and oil.

The Sunday graduation ceremony for nearly a thousand new Iraqi soldiers at a base near Baghdad turned into an ugly melee when dozens of Sunnis declared they would fight only in their home areas, another reflection of growing internecine bitterness.

The Washington Post reported last weekend that American troops in Hawija are growing more distrustful of their Iraqi counterparts, fearing that many soldiers they are training are cooperating with the enemy.

Senator Joseph Biden and Leslie Gelb wrote an Op-Ed in The Times on Monday promoting the idea of "decentralizing" Iraq into three "ethno-religious" groups, even though critics argue that this could make it more likely that the Sunni section would become a haven for Al Qaeda and the Shiite sector an Iranian satellite.

Sam Alito, Right Wing Vote for Sale

This is why Sam Alito NEVER should have been allowed NEAR the Supreme Court.


Talk About Ridiculous: Cheney on a "Freedom Agenda" Tour?

Freedom Agenda? Oh, Mr. Cheney has an agenda alright, but the freedom of normal mortals is NOT what interests him one bit!

From the wires:

WASHINGTON - Vice President Dick Cheney looked ahead Tuesday to a three-nation, six-day trip designed to nurture democracy and advance U.S. interests in lands where political change doesn't always come easily.

Administration officials said a speech in Lithuania on Thursday to leaders of the Baltic and Black Sea regions would be the centerpiece of the journey, which also includes an unusual high-level visit to Kazakhstan.

The final stop was Croatia, where Cheney arranged meetings with leaders of three members of the Adriatic Charter, an organization founded by countries eager for admission to NATO.

While officials hoped Cheney's trip would advance President Bush's second-term "freedom agenda," energy issues, Iran's nuclear program and concerns about Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions also hovered over the journey.

The Soviet Union once occupied many of the countries whose leaders Cheney intends to meet, and President Bush recently expressed concern about the pace of democratization in Russia.

Potemkin Congress Indeed

I think Jon Carroll is RIGHT on the money with this, sad to say. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

There were two very fine photographs on the front page of this very newspaper the other day. The first showed the speaker of the House driving off in a hydrogen-powered car after a news conference on gas prices. The second showed him, about 100 yards down the road, getting out of the energy-efficient car and lumbering toward the SUV that would take him the rest of the way to wherever he was going.

Coming soon -- the Potemkin Congress.

Politicians are trying very hard to convince us that they have not been cowering before the mighty oil companies for just ever. They are talking bravely of taxing windfall profits, and prohibiting accounting tricks that keep profits high, and -- well, a bunch of stuff that will never happen. Bill Frist is talking about giving each of us $100 just for being ourselves. He feels our pain. Well, no, he doesn't, but he's hired someone to feel our pain.

Is there a more transparent trick than "Vote for me and I'll give you $100"? It's beyond satire. What's next? Free orgasms? Wait, they're already free. The system works.

It is equally amusing watching the oil companies explain how their record profits are not profits as such, and that with the costs of exploration and the growing need for energy and -- did you even try to follow it? We're rolling in money, but we're not actually rolling in money! This is not money! We are not here! Unless you're a stockholder, in which case we are here and this is money.

One might say to the American people: What did you expect? You voted for a guy who made his money in the oil business. (What he did in the oil business: not so clear.) You voted for a vice president who set energy policy by having secret meetings with oil company executives. You were in favor of a war that was fought to guarantee our oil supply. You cheered when economy-stimulating tax cuts were enacted. You are now paying $3 a gallon at the pump in what Daniel Yergin has called "the permanent shortage," and you feel betrayed? This was an act between consenting adults; it's a little late for buyer's remorse.

Not that one would expect the Democrats to do much better. Our political institutions are, in the area of corporate governance, largely irrelevant. The government couldn't help even if the government wanted to help. That train left the station 30 years ago.

Is the Congressional Sex Scandal Starting to Be Noticed By the Mainstream Media?

At least ABC News Online discovered it. Story here, with a snippet:

The Congressional payoff scandal may soon be known as the Congressional sex scandal.

The FBI is now investigating whether hookers were part of the scheme used by defense companies to get lucrative contracts.

We already know about the cash, cars, mansions and yachts that changed hands in the case of disgraced former Congressman Duke Cunningham.

But now sources close to the investigation tell us, as well as the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, that sexual favors may have been part of the deal.

The allegations include descriptions of Washington, D.C. poker parties in hotel suites, where prostitutes were brought by limousine as part of the entertainment.

No comment from the owner of the limousine company, a man with a long criminal record who just happened to get a $20 million contract to provide limousine service for the Department of Homeland Security.

200 Abramoff Visits to the White House in Less than 10 Months?

It was reported today that super-GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff, just in the first 10 months of the Bush presidency in 2001, signed into the White House more than 200 times! That amounts to about one visit each and every business day.

Remember, too, that in 2001, one would expect that the White House would have had more to worry about than Indian gaming casinos and the other stupid ass stuff Abramoff peddled. Yet - instead of stopping the terrorists on 9/11 or coming up with an energy plan NOT authored by Halliburton, Exxon, Texaco-Chevron, and Enron - people at the White House were busy making Mr. Abramoff's every request come true.

Then remember this was ONLY the first 10 months of the Bush presidency. We can only guess right now what happened during the other five years before the Abramoff story broke and the GOP, so greedy, was no longer trying to hide any of the excess.

I'm raging mad.

Poor, Poor President Bush: He Can Dish Out Soldiers to a Faked War But Can't Take Any Criticism

From US News and World Report (and boo fucking hoo that Bush didn't like it):

Comedy Central star Stephen Colbert's biting routine at the White House Correspondents Association dinner won a rare silent protest from Bush aides and supporters Saturday when several independently left before he finished.

"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow."

Colbert's routine was similar to what he does on his show, the Colbert Report, but much longer on the topic of Bush, suggesting that the president is out of touch with reality. Aides and reporters, however, said that it did not overshadow Bush's own funny routine, which featured an impersonator who told the audience what Bush was thinking when he spoke dull speech lines.

In fact, some aides crowed over reports that the president easily bested Colbert in the reviews of both comedy acts.

No Honor Among Medal of Honor Thieves

This sounds both sad and somehow uniquely American. Sheesh.

From ABC News:

A proliferation of phony heroes is prompting such groups as The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation to lobby for tougher laws to punish the impostors.

The organization reports that there are 113 living recipients of the nation's highest military award, but an FBI agent who tracks the fakes said impostors outnumber the true heroes.

"There are more and more of these impostors, and they are literally stealing the valor and acts of valor of the real guys," said Agent Tom Cottone, who also works on an FBI violent crime squad in West Paterson, N.J.

Some fakers merely brag about receiving the award and that's not illegal but some impostors wear military uniforms and bogus medals. The FBI has about 25 pending investigations of such phony heroes, said Cottone.

Anyone convicted of fraudulently wearing the Medal of Honor faces up to a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. But there's no such penalty for other medals.

Net Neutrality: Keeping a Democratic Web

Here's another important editorial from The Times, something we should all be thinking about right now with both some Dems as well as too many Reprehensibles (far worse than regular Republicans) looking to take over the Internet to divide and conquer against us:

"Net neutrality" is a concept that is still unfamiliar to most Americans, but it keeps the Internet democratic. Cable and telephone companies that provide Internet service are talking about creating a two-tiered Internet, in which Web sites that pay them large fees would get priority over everything else. Opponents of these plans are supporting Net-neutrality legislation, which would require all Web sites to be treated equally. Net neutrality recently suffered a setback in the House, but there is growing hope that the Senate will take up the cause.

One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page.

But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.

That would be a financial windfall for Internet service providers, but a disaster for users, who could find their Web browsing influenced by whichever sites paid their service provider the most money. There is a growing movement of Internet users who are pushing for legislation to make this kind of discrimination impossible. It has attracted supporters ranging from MoveOn.org to the Gun Owners of America. Grass-roots political groups like these are rightly concerned that their online speech could be curtailed if Internet service providers were allowed to pick and choose among Web sites.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee defeated a good Net-neutrality amendment last week. But the amendment got more votes than many people expected, suggesting that support for Net neutrality is beginning to take hold in Congress. In the Senate, Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, are drafting a strong Net-neutrality bill that would prohibit broadband providers from creating a two-tiered Internet. Senators who care about the Internet and Internet users should get behind it.

The Times Gets My Applause for This Immigrant-Oriented Editorial


Warnings of a crippling immigrant boycott did not come true yesterday. The economy survived. But what may not survive — we hope — is people's willful misunderstanding of the nature of the immigrant-rights movement.

The worst among our citizens and politicians are eager to depict illegal immigrants as criminals, potential terrorists and alien invaders. But what we saw yesterday, in huge, peaceful rallies in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Denver, New York, Atlanta and other cities, were regular people: the same types of assimilation-minded moms, dads and children we wistfully romanticize on holidays devoted to, say, St. Patrick and Columbus.

If these extraordinarily positive events were a protest of anything, it was the idea of the immigrant as temporary and unwelcome guest worker. The marches flew in the face of theories that undocumented workers want nothing but to labor unnoticed and separate from the nation that employs them to make its meals, trim its hedges and slaughter its beef.

These immigrants, weary of silent servitude, are speaking up and asking for something simple: a chance to work to become citizens, with all the obligations and opportunities that go with it.

Our lawmakers, to their discredit, have erected barriers within barriers, created legal hurdles and bureaucratic hoops, and dangled the opportunity for lowly guest-worker status without the citizenship to go with it. It is an invitation to create a society with a permanent underclass deprived of any ladder to something better. It is a path to creating a different, and lower, vision of our country and ourselves.

It is not only the border-obsessed Minutemen who should be shamed by yesterday's joyous outpouring. Lawmakers who have stymied comprehensive immigration reform with stalemated name-calling and cold electoral calculation should listen up. A silent, shadow population is speaking with one voice. The message, aimed at Washington but something the whole country should hear, is clear: We are America. We want to join you.

Bush, Rumsfeld Call More and More Americans 50-70+ to Iraq

Doesn't this seem a little sad? Especially when you consider we have NEVER had war situations where we've called 50-75 year-olds back to active duty like the Bush-Rumsfeld crew.


A grandmother in eastern Iowa is getting one last call to duty.

Janet Grass, 52, had planned to retire from the military in about 10 months after spending 19 years in the U.S. Navy Reserve. Instead, she has been ordered to leave her job as a special-education teacher in Cascade to do security work in the Middle East.

"They're changing my career just as I'm retiring," she said.
Gee... perhaps Barbara Bush at 80 could be drafted. She looks a bit like a Bradley tank, don't you think?

Cato Institute: President Bush in Ceaseless Push for Power, His Way

As reported by the Financial Times:

President George W. Bush had shown disdain and indifference for the US constitution by adopting an “astonishingly broad” view of presidential powers, a leading libertarian think-tank said on Monday.

The critique from the Cato Institute reflects growing criticism by conservatives about administration policy in areas such as the “war on terror” and undermining congressional power.
The pattern that emerges is one of a ceaseless push for power, unchecked by either the courts or Congress, one in short of disdain for constitutional limits,” the report by legal scholars Gene Healy and Timothy Lynch concludes.

That view was echoed last week by former congressman Bob Barr, a Republican, who called on Congress to exercise “leadership by putting the constitution above party politics and insisting on the facts” in the debate over illegal domestic wiretapping of terrorist suspects.

On Thursday Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the judiciary committee, noted: “Institutionally, the presidency is walking all over Congress.”

Mr Healy and Mr Lynch argue that Mr Bush has also failed to protect the right to political free speech by approving a bill that eliminated “soft money” contributions to political parties. He had also cracked down on dissenters, with non-violent protesters being harassed by secret service agents whenever Mr Bush appears in public, it said.

Iran, Israel and the United States

The Iranian president today threatened that if the U.S. attacks his country, their first retaliatory attack will be against Israel. That sounds bad; it truly does.

Yet before we just give a knee-jerk reaction, let's look at some facts behind it.

First, Israel has been trying to get the U.S. to go after Iran for sometime. Many authorities, even those on the far right, agree that if the U.S. goes to war with Iran, the ONLY partner we will have will be Israel, which isn't such a good thing.

Second, in fact, there was very little outrage expressed by anyone when Israel last year was threatening to strike nuclear targets in Iran despite the fact that this would cause a world emergency. You can't hit a nuclear target without massive death and destruction and a change in the world environment. Very little of the coverage I've read and heard today offer the fact that Israel has already threatened them which isn't any better than Iran threatening Israel.

Third, Israel isn't some little helpless country. They have one of the four largest, most advanced militaries in the world although they also happen to be one of the smallest countries in the word. How did they get so powerful? Because the U.S. hands them more in aid, especially military aid, than any other country on the planet.

Fourth, Israel has very dirty hands in terms of black ops and military strikes, along with the Mossad, their secret military group. They wrote the book on "strike first and then find a justification for it later".

So I would NOT like to see Iran strike Israel, but I want just as little for Israel to attack Iran or Israel to goad the Bushies into going after Iran. We don't need Israel writing our military policy for us just because the extreme right considers Israel valuable for the Rapture to occur.

Skippy's Blogtopia!

I'm not quite sure I understand exactly what the fuss was about when Skippy (of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo fame) tried to contribute to advertising to help defray costs of the YearlyKos event and why the publication's people had such a problem letting Skippy identify himself the way he wished to except that - probably like many of you - I have noticed that a little bit of notoriety among some bloggers seems to go to their heads (I am not talking about skippy, who remains the same lovable 'roo he has always been).

But I do know this - Skippy definitely coined the phrase blogtopia as a nice alternative to "the world of blogs" and the "blogosphere" and I am pleased as punch (that's punch, not Krazed Konservative Kool-Aid) to be part of Skippy's version of blogtopia.

I also don't feel that having a huge number of hits or getting oneself constantly invited to political shindigs and having one's picture taken endlessly with political hacks necessarily makes a blogger a Master of the Universe (since even in the progressive end of blogtopia, only the male bloggers matter it seems).

But then, I'm just a female blogger so what do I know? ::cough::

The Privacy Invasions Never End with the Bushies

From today's Washington Post:

The FBI sought personal information on thousands of Americans last year from banks, Internet service providers and other companies without having to seek approval from a court, according to new data released by the Justice Department.

In a report to the top leaders of both parties in the House, the department disclosed that the FBI had issued more than 9,200 "national security letters," or NSLs, seeking detailed information about more than 3,500 U.S. citizens or legal residents in 2005.

The report, released late Friday, represents the first official count of NSL use. It was required under legislation that extended the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law.

The count does not include other such letters that are issued by the FBI to obtain more limited subscriber information from companies, such as a person's name, address or other identifying data, according to the report. Sources have said that would include thousands of additional letters and may be the largest category of NSLs issued. The Washington Post reported in November that the FBI now issues more than 30,000 NSLs each year, including subscriber requests.

The Justice Department report also outlined a continued increase in the use of secret warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The secret court that oversees the law approved a record 2,072 orders for clandestine searches or surveillance in 2005 -- an 18 percent increase from the year before.

The new statistics provide the latest measure of the government's rapidly expanding anti-terrorism activities, which include a wide range of secret warrants and powers aimed at monitoring suspicious behavior and preventing attacks.

Vermonters: Pay Heed, Take Action

Fellow Vermonters, this is an especially important issue here. While we've stopped the disastrous electronic voting machines, Vermont is still committed to use Diebold (ugh!) optical scanners to count our paper ballots which clearly leaves room for error and fraud.

Please read the following from the Vermonters for Voting Integrity and, if you see the problems I do, take the recommended action ASAP. Thank you!

Sent: Monday, May 01, 2006 4:32 PM
Subject: Do you trust Diebold electronic voting machines in Vermont?!?

Dear Concerned Vermonter,

You probably have heard about some of the problems with the Diebold electronic voting machines we use here in Vermont.Vermonters for Voting Integrity is a group of concerned citizens, working together to address this issue, by raising awareness and fighting to improve the security of our state's election system. From time to time we will let you know when there are action items, or news you should know about.

In brief, we would like to make sure everyone is aware of these basic facts concerning our election system:

1) The Diebold optical-scan system that is used to count most of the votes in Vermont has been found to have illegal software code on it.

An independent testing agency stated:"Memory card attacks are a real threat: We determined that anyone who has access to amemory card of the AV-OS, and can tamper it (i.e. modify its contents), and can havethe modified cards used in a voting machine during election, can indeed modify the electionresults from that machine in a number of ways.

The fact that the results are incorrect cannot be detected except by a recount of the original paper ballots."The "interpreted code" found on the memory cards is like a "back door" that allows anyone at LHS or Diebold to alter the results of an election, without leaving a trace of evidence. This type of code is specifically banned by the Federal Election Commission for this very reason.In other words, with a very important election coming up - including for Governor, Senate, and Congress, the results of the election could be altered and we would never know. Our democracy is seriously at stake!

2) When this vulnerability was discovered, several other states' election officials took action. The machines we use have been banned in many other areas. Our Secretary of State thus far has not responded.

3) Our election system in Vermont is currently not audited. This means if election fraud took place, it would never be detected.

4) The Secretary of State has the power to conduct random audits, which would provide a means to detect election fraud if it were to take place. According to Title 17 Section 2493 (a) (2):"The secretary of state may conduct a random post election audit of any polling place election results for a primary or general election within 30 days of the election."

IMPORTANT ACTION ITEM: Vermonters for Voting Integrity urges all citizens to contact Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and ask her to use her authority under the Constitution to conduct random audits in the coming November election. Please ask Ms. Markowitz specifically to conduct random hand-count audits on no less than 5% of the ballots that are counted and tabulated by the Diebold optical scan system. Here is the contact information:

Deb Markowitz
Vermont Secretary of State's Office
26 Terrace Street
Montpelier, Vermont 05609
(802)828-2363 email: dmarkowitz@sec.state.vt.us

Kathleen S. DeWolfe
Director of Elections & Campaign Finance
Office of the Secretary of State
26 Terrace St.Montpelier, VT 05609-1101
(802) 828-2304email: kdewolfe@sec.state.vt.us

In addition to this important action item, Vermonters for Voting Integrity encourages you to:

1) Forward this email to friends and associates. Encourage others to sign up for our mailing list (by contacting us at vermontvoters@solarbus.org). The key to getting the Secretary to take action is to show that a lot of people are concerned. This will only happen by grass-roots effort. Please do your part by passing this on and discussing the subject with others. If everyone got just one friend to join our list, it would double in size immediately!

2) Visit our website for more updated information on this important subject: http://solarbus.org/vtvoters

On the website you can find more details about the issues discussed in this email. Please encourage others to visit the website too.


Neil Young's Let's Impeach the President: The Lyrics

Here you go:

    Let’s impeach the president for lying
    And leading our country into war
    Abusing all the power that we gave him
    And shipping all our money out the door
    He’s the man who hired all the criminals
    The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
    And bend the facts to fit with their new stories
    Of why we have to send our men to war
    Let’s impeach the president for spying
    On citizens inside their own homes
    Breaking every law in the country
    By tapping our computers and telephones
    What if Al Qaeda blew up the levees
    Would New Orleans have been safer that way
    Sheltered by our government’s protection
    Or was someone just not home that day?
    Let’s impeach the president
    For hijacking our religion and using it to get elected
    Dividing our country into colors
    And still leaving black people neglected
    Thank god he’s cracking down on steroids
    Since he sold his old baseball team
    There’s lot of people looking at big trouble
    But of course the president is clean
    Thank God

Puerto Rico Shut Down

Just about everything in Puerto Rico is closed!

And what I love about the coverage of this is that there is so little mention that Puerto Rico is an American colony. One would think we might have something to do with the trouble there.

Outing of CIA Operative Valerie Plame Directly Impacted on U.S. Ability to Spy on Iran's Nuclear Ambitions

Hmmmm... as reported by The Brad Blog:

Shuster attended the White House Correspondent's Dinner. He was able to get a short interview with Joe Wilson. Republican operatives have renewed their baseless claim that Valerie Plame-Wilson's identity was not classified. For her part, Valerie Plame-Wilson stood silently by as her husband rejected the well used right-wing talking point.

More importantly, David Shuster reports that sources have told him how National Security was damaged when Valerie Plame-Wilson's identity was leaked by the White House. His sources say that she worked with gathering intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction. The outing of her name specifically damaged the ability to collect intelligence on Iran's nuclear capabilities.
So the Bushies outed the one person who could tell us if Iran really is a threat (which I don't believe it is, at least not for years to come)?

Boy, when the Bushies fuck up, they FUCK UP!

It Never Gets Any Better Because They Refuse to Learn From History and Mistakes

The more I read about this, the angrier I get and the more I want every occupant of Washington, D.C. replaced forthwith!

From ABC News

Most of the changes in natural disaster preparedness proposed by the White House and Congress since Hurricane Katrina are years away at best, leaving the Gulf Coast and other areas vulnerable to new devastation.

Only a few of the 211 suggested improvements from three federal reports will be ready when the hurricane season starts June 1, and limited dollars and political squabbling already are complicating the progress.

"Nature doesn't care about reports," said Kathleen Tierney, director of the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado. "Nor does it care about the fact there are people still suffering, and we're not ready.

"The big question in everybody's mind is whether entities that proved themselves incompetent to handle Hurricane Katrina can become competent by the summer of 2006," Tierney said Friday. "So far, we've seen no evidence of that."

Separate investigations by the House, Senate and White House delved into managing an emergency response to a storm as massive as Katrina, which stretched across 90,000 square miles:

The House report did not make any recommendations for change. It did conclude that local, state and federal officials lacked any sense of urgency in preparing for catastrophic disasters.

The White House inquiry focused on flawed federal plans and confusion during the storm, which hit Aug. 29. The report made 125 recommendations, including 11 to be completed by June 1, including plans for evacuating victims, ably tracking supplies and delivering quick information from disaster zones.

The Senate report, portions of which were released last week, offered 86 recommendations, most notably replacing the Federal Emergency Management Agency with a more potent successor. The report made the case for more money local, state and federal responders, without saying how much or the source of the dollars.

Impeachment By the People, in Petitions from Vermont

As Constant at Constant's Pations tells us, the paperwork from Vermont was delivered in Washington, D.C., today looking for a vote on articles of impeachment against Mr. Bush.

Read Constant's Pations for more details and background information on the procedure.

Truthiness: Records Start to Show Frequency of Abramoff's Visits to Bush White House


Whoa! Censorship Again, This Time Directly Among White House Correspondents?

Have you heard on TV or in mainstream newspapers about Stephen Colbert's appearance before the White House Correspondents' dinner on Saturday?

Probably not. If you know about it at all, it's from blogs and Web sites and some trade publications such as Editor & Publisher.

The question is why? TV has certainly shown coverage of the event... but always the skit with Mr. Bush and his "double" which I didn't find terribly amusing. I mean, having an evil idiot for the leader of the "Free" World is worse than a mere embarrassment.

The only one to mention the dinner and Colbert's performance in the last two days on TV is Chris Matthews on "Hardball" tonight. But he showed no clips. He put the non-discussion of Colbert down to the fact that Colbert went over like a lead balloon, wasn't funny, was "mean" to Bush.

Since when does the media have the job of telling us what they've decided is too "mean" for us to see and judge for ourselves? I've actually spoken electronically with more than a few Republicans who thought Colbert was right on target.

So Who Has Used...

LatestBlogNews to search for blog keywords?

Hmmm... What's Up with Blogger?

Did it get into Karlo's secret stash of Falafel and clam fritters or DailyRead's Smoked Salmon salt water taffy, MissM's 140 Proof Maker's Mark Bourbon pancakes or Peter and Xavier's Philly Steak Cheesecake? Or perhaps a toxic mix of ALL?

It's burping up old posts while eating new ones.

The "Psychology" of Bush Nicknames

See, I would have called it psychopathology myself, with cutesy names like "Turd Blossom" for Karl Rove. But from eTalkingHeads, here you go.

Speaking of Out-of-Control Gas Prices and the Evil Games the Bushies Play

Check this out from the LA Times:

WASHINGTON — Gasoline prices will remain high for years to come and will be largely unaffected by a new White House plan to bring them down, Bush administration officials said Sunday.

Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said the United States faced an oil price "crisis" because surging demand from such countries as China and India had outstripped supply, and he predicted that it would be "two to three years before suppliers are in a position to meet the demands."

The suppliers have lost control of the market," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."Gas prices approached record highs last week, further angering motorists and putting a scare into lawmakers seeking reelection in six months.

The rise in fuel prices is the No. 1 concern of a plurality of Americans, recent polls show.

Iran Is Just One Big Political Game to the Bushies...

But we pay the price in crazy gas prices, more global hatred toward us, higher taxes, more demand on our troops, more attacks against American interests and those of our political allies, an American dollar in freefall that may never go back to its once lofty status...

From Josh at Talking Points Memo:

Mark Schmitt is pointing our attention exactly where it should be: Be warned. The White House is now telling us that engineering a confrontation with Iran is a key part of their plan to resuscitate the president's dismal approval ratings in time to survive election day.

And this is probably as good a time as any to address the question we hear more and more from Democrats: how do we prepare for whatever it is Karl Rove has cooked up this election season? How do Democrats or this or that Democratic candidate 'inoculate' themselves from this year's version of the Swift Boat scam?

With respect, this is loser talk. The 'how will we defend ourselves' conversation is an example of the malady itself masquerading as the cure to the disease.

On a battlefield there is a name for armies that spend all their time and energy planning and conditioning themselves to defend against their opponents' attacks. They're called defeated armies. You defend yourself when and where you must. But you do everything you can to maintain the initiative. And that pretty much always means bringing the attack to the other side.

The Bushies' Thick Veil of Secrecy Just Gets Deeper and Deeper

From the Chicago Trib:

WASHINGTON -- As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as "top secret" or "confidential," one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney.

A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and "any other entity within the executive branch" to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney continues to insist he is exempt.

Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office's secrecy when such offices as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is "not under any duty" to provide it.

That is only one way the Bush administration, from its opening weeks in 2001, has asserted control over information. By keeping secret so many directives and actions, the administration has precluded the public--and often members of Congress--from knowing about some of the most significant decisions and acts of the White House.

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the administration has based much of its need for confidentiality on the imperative of protecting national security at a time of war. Yet experts say Bush and his closest advisers demonstrated their proclivity for privacy well before 9/11:

Starting in the early weeks of his administration with a move to protect the papers of former presidents, Bush has clamped down on the release of government documents. That includes tougher standards for what the public can obtain under the Freedom of Information Act and the creation of a broad new category of "sensitive but unclassified information."Not only has the administration reported a dramatic increase in the number of documents deemed "top secret," "secret" or "confidential," the president has authorized the reclassification of information that was public for years.

An audit by a National Archives office recently found that the CIA acted in a "clearly inappropriate" way regarding about one-third of the documents it reclassified last year.-

The White House has resisted efforts by Congress to gain information, starting with a White House energy task force headed by Cheney and continuing with the president's secret authorization of warrantless surveillance of people inside the United States suspected of communicating with terrorists abroad. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) recently threatened to withhold funding for the surveillance program unless the White House starts providing information.

Why Did the Bushies Pass Up So Many Opportunities to Capture Al-Qaeda's Supposed #1 Man in Iraq?

The "gunslinger" claim is ridiculous since the Bushies have never hidden their "cowboy" status. Instead perhaps, the Bushies want to keep this bogeyman, just like Osama bin Laden, on the run so we can claim to have an enemy to be terrified about, fight against.

From Australia's The Age:

The United States deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to kill the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before the March 2003 US-led invasion of that country.

The claim, by former US spy Mike Scheuer, was made in an interview to be shown on ABC TV's Four Corners tonight.

Zarqawi is often described as a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, whose supporters masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

Mr Scheuer was a CIA agent for 22 years - six of them as head of the agency's Osama bin Laden unit - until he resigned in 2004.

He told Four Corners that during 2002, the Bush Administration received detailed intelligence about Zarqawi's training camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Mr Scheuer claims that a July 2002 plan to destroy the camp lapsed because "it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers".

"Mr Bush had Zarqawi in his sights almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn't shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq," he told Four Corners.

If You Think the American Dollar is Weak Now, You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet

Seriously. Meanwhile, the president tells us all is grand and glorious, which it is, if you are a billionaire. But the middle class is dying and the poor are worse off still.

From the (UK) Sunday Times:

THE dollar has embarked on a big decline that will see it fall against all leading currencies, according to analysts.

The plunge is being prompted by America’s $800 billion (£438 billion) current-account deficit, they say.

The dollar has been under pressure following last weekend’s meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers, which emphasised “global imbalances” and said currencies should reflect economic fundamentals. Then China raised its key interest rate to 5.85%, its first hike for months, and Ben Bernanke, the new Federal Reserve chairman, hinted that American rates would pause at 5% after a rise in May.

Analysts say that without interest-rate support, the dollar will be weighed down heavily by America’s imbalances.

“I think this is it,” said Tony Norfield, global head of currency strategy at ABN Amro. “The dollar has been supported by high yields but markets are saying that is no longer enough. The question for policymakers is going to be how to manage the dollar’s decline. It won’t be a one-way street but the fall is likely to be biggest against Asian currencies.”

The euro has already risen to an 11-month high of more than $1.26, while the dollar is at a three-month low of 113.70 against the yen. The Canadian dollar, known by traders as the “loonie”, rose to a 28-year high on Friday, boosted by a hike in Canadian interest rates.
We need to get the Bushie crew out of the White House and off Capitol Hill if there is to be any hope of saving this country. The longer they stay, the worse the damage and the more irreversible the effects.


May Day, Indeed

Today is the day three years ago when George W. Bush had the nerve to pack the crotch area of his flightsuit full to make it look like he had balls, to pretend he could fly an aircraft to land on the aircraft carrier and - the worst deception of all - stand there under a banner pronouncing "Mission Accomplished" while he told us all major combat operations in Iraq were over.

More than 2,000 American soldiers have died since that day. Countless thousands of civilians.

The Iraq War may end up costing us more than one trillion (that's $1,000,000,000,000) in costs and all credibility and compassion in the eyes of the world.

How dare you, Bushies? How dare you?

Belated Happy Birthday to MSOC!

While I remembered to wish David Anderson at In Search of Utopia a Happy Birthday yesterday, I did not realize 4/29 was also the birthday of the fine and fantastic Mary Scott O'Connor (MSOC) of My Left Wing.

Happy birthday, MSOC!

Mission Accomplished? Only if the Objective was Death, Chaos, and Debt

Greg Mitchell at Ed&Pub takes a look back three years (the anniversary of "Mission Accomplished" is tomorrow, Monday) at the most silly aircraft carrier stunt which started rather than ended some of the bloodiest battles of the war which never should have been fought.

What's interesting about this is that Mitchell does a lead-in to what other journalists and pundits at the time were saying about Bush and the war.

Go read. I'll be here contemplating my navel when you return.

Speaking of Crummy Rummy

Forbes Magazine offers some possible successors as Secretary of State should The Donald decide to deprive the world of his "leadership".

As you can expect - since we've heard it before - there are names like Joe Liebermans on this list. He'd be a rotten selection, of course.

Just "Say Uncle, Rummy"

From Maureen Dowd of The Times at ToppleBush:

Even some State Department officials thought it was like watching a cranky, eccentric uncle with an efficient, energetic niece.

Rummy was ordered to go to Iraq by the president, but he clearly has no stomach for nation-building, or letting Condi run the show. He seemed under the weather after a rough overnight ride on a C-17 transport plane from Washington into Baghdad. And Condi's aides were rolling their eyes at the less than respectful way the DefSec treated the SecState as she tried to be enthusiastic, in her cheerful automaton way, about what she considers the latest last chance for Iraq.

A reporter in Baghdad asked Rummy about the kerfuffle when Condi talked of "thousands" of tactical errors in Iraq. Rummy later noted that "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest" and that anyone who said that had "a lack of understanding" about warfare.

She's just a silly girl, after all.

He could have taken the opportunity to be diplomatic about the diplomat, but he's incapable of that, so he just added more fuel to the fire.

"She's right here, and you can ask her," he said, pointing to Condi, who said she had not meant errors "in the military sense." She must have meant mismanagement in the civilians-mucking-up-the-military sense.

The former "Matinee Idol," as W. liked to call him, is now a figure of absurdity, clinging to his job only because some retired generals turned him into a new front on the war on terror. On his rare, brief visit to Baghdad, he was afraid to go outside Fortress Green Zone, even though he yammers on conservative talk shows about how progress is being made, and how the press never reports good news out of Iraq.

If the news is so good, why wasn't Rummy gallivanting at the local mall, walking around rather than hiding out in the U.S. base known as Camp Victory? (What are they going to call it, one reporter joked, Camp Defeat?)

In further evidence of their astute connection with the Iraqi culture, the cabinet secretaries showed up there without even knowing the correct name of their latest puppet. It turned out that Jawad al-Maliki, the new prime minister-designate, considered "Jawad" his exile name and had reverted to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

On the cusp of the third anniversary of "Mission Accomplished," Rummy was still in denial despite the civil war, with armed gangs of Shiites and Sunnis going out and killing each other and Balkanizing whole communities.

When a reporter asked him what the U.S. had to do to get the militias under control and stop the sectarian dueling, he answered bluntly: "I guess the first thing I have to say is we don't, the Iraqis do. It's their country. It's a sovereign country. This is not a government that has an 'interim' in front of it or a 'transition' in front of it. It's a government that's in for a period of years and undoubtedly, unquestionably, will be addressing the question as to how they can best provide for the security of all of their people."

Yeah, let's leave it up to what's-his-name. We broke it. What's-his-name can fix it.

The assertions that Iraq is largely peaceful were belied yesterday by our own government. A State Department report on global terrorism counted 8,300 deaths of civilians in Iraq from insurgent attacks -- more than half of all those killed by terrorists worldwide -- and noted that violence is escalating. The elections have clearly not quelled the violence, and terrorists are said to be trying to turn Iraq's Anbar province into a base for Al Qaeda and other militants. (And since it's our State Department, you've got to figure it's soft-peddling things.)

April was the most lethal month for U.S. soldiers this year; at least 67 died.

Frank Rich: The Downing Street Memo Proved Quite Accurate

Finally! Frank Rich is back in his Times spot.

Raw Story brings us highlights from Rich's column (Times Select subscribers can, of course, read the whole thing), and it's a beaut!

The Downing Street memo -- minutes of a Tony Blair meeting with senior advisers in July 2002, nearly eight months before the war began -- has proved as accurate as "Mission Accomplished" was fantasy. Each week brings new confirmation that the White House, as the head of British intelligence put it, was determined to fix "the intelligence and facts" around its predetermined policy of going to war in Iraq. Today Bush tries to pass the buck on the missing WMD to "faulty intelligence," but his alibi is springing leaks faster than the White House and the CIA can clamp down on them. We now know the president knew that the intelligence he cherry-picked was faulty -- and flogged it anyway to sell us the war.

The latest evidence that Bush knew that "uranium from Africa" was no slam-dunk when he brandished it in his 2003 State of the Union address was uncovered by The Washington Post: The coordinating council for the 15 American intelligence agencies had already informed the White House that the Niger story had no factual basis and should be dropped. Last Sunday, "60 Minutes" augmented this storyline and an earlier scoop by Lisa Myers of NBC News by reporting that the White House had deliberately ignored its most highly placed prewar informant, Saddam's final foreign minister, Naji Sabri, once he sent the word that Saddam's nuclear cupboard was bare.

"There was almost a concern we'd find something that would slow up the war," Tyler Drumheller, a 26-year CIA veteran and an on-camera source for "60 Minutes," said when I interviewed him last week. Since retiring from the CIA in the fall of 2004, Drumheller has played an important role in revealing White House chicanery, including its dire hawking of Saddam's mobile biological weapons labs, which turned out to be fictitious. Before Colin Powell's fateful U.N. presentation, Drumheller conveyed vociferous warnings that the sole human source on these nonexistent WMD labs, an Iraqi emigre known as Curveball, was mentally unstable and a fabricator. "The real tragedy of this," Drumheller says, "is if they had let the weapons inspectors play out, we could have had a Gulf War I-like coalition, which would have given us the ((300,000)) to 400,000 troops needed to secure the country after defeating the Iraqi army."
To refresh your memory on the Downing Street Memo, go here and here.