More Than $100 Billion Spent By Feds in New Orleans And Much of the Area Has Not Yet Been Touched

Have you seen any of the most recent pictures? Many areas look as bad, if not worse, as in the first days after Hurricane Katrina hit there a year ago. Tens of thousands of families (not just individuals) still await word that they can go home.

Now we hear from the Army Corps of Engineers that the refortified levee system may not stand up to another big hurricane, and there happens to be a storm - right now Ernesto is classified as a tropical storm but it could reach hurricane status before it comes aground the middle of this coming week - about to hit.

Bush promised again today in his radio address to make sure New Orleans would be safe. But all he did was hand huge fortunes over to no-bid contractors who took the money and delivered nothing.

Instead, we get the farce of the Republican sympathizer Rockey Vaccarella who shows up at the White House in a FEMA trailer (uh, this is illegal, btw) for photo ops with Bush and to say that he wants Bush to get another four years in office. Vaccarella apparently has some vacant space between his ears, certainly large enough to house several FEMA trailers.


iPod: The New Way to Learn Another Language

Hey, if iPod really does make it easier to learn a second or any new language, I think we should ALL chip in and buy President George W. Bush the module that allows him to learn English.

God only knows what we might learn if he could only communicate in English!

Taller People Are Smarter, Too?

Wow, this "taller is smarter" phenomenon must explain two seemingly unconnected oddities in my life:

  • when last I visited my doctor, I was measured at just slightly over a half inch taller than my last visit (and no, I was not wearing elevator socks!), which fits in with the fact that my shoe size has gone up several times in recent years
  • I recently took an IQ test because it bothered me that the last time I took one, I had a massive migraine and could not concentrate properly; before I was rated as an IQ of 154 and now it's 177 (thank God they don't test common sense or I'd be nailed - as it is, my partner is certain I'm as dumb as dirt; he really does)
I believe this half inch in height accounts for my 23 IQ points. Not a bad deal!

And if anyone comments here that I'm really short, let me just say (again) that I am extremely tall for a person of my height! Very!

Majority of Americans Do NOT Believe U.S. Is Safer Since 9-11-01

Gee, I wonder why they don't think America is safer. I mean, Mr. Bush - AND Annthrax Coulter - both agree Osama bin Laden is irrelevant.

Bush Loses Another House Ally Over Iraq

The Financial Times reports that Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut has split with Bush over the mess in Iraq:

George W. Bush lost another key ally on Iraq this week when an influential Republican congressman from Connecticut distanced himself from the administration's policy on Iraq.

The White House is having difficulty convincing the public that progress is being made in Iraq, but the president has rejected calls to set a timetable for withdrawal, saying that would be a "huge mistake".
Another report has American troops seriously worried about the "progress" in Iraq (the only progress I see in Iraq is that mortuaries are doing a "killer" business these days).

Coulter Can Dish It But No Way Can She Ever Take It

Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight featured the hilarious, over-the-top video of Annthrax Coulter's appearance Thursday night on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes where she announced that Osama bin Laden was irrelevant and that the war in Iraq is going well and the mess in Afghanistan is going swimmingly.

When the woman filling in for Alan Colmes countered her ridiculous comments, Coulter got mad and eventually ripped off her microphone and stalked off. As Brian Unger (filling in for Olbermann) noted: [the substitute host] determined Ms. Coulter's kryptonite is nothing but simple reason.

Duly noted.

Senate Plan Gives Electoral Votes to Popular Vote Winner

Which doesn't do a damned thing for us if the electronic voting systems are as corrupt as they've already proven they are.


My usual Haloscan comments for some damned reason aren't showing up here despite the fact that everything looks fine. So I've temporarily turned on Blogger comments. ::urp::

Is The Republican Party a Front for Satanism?

Once you read Mimus Pauly's post at Skippy, you will understand - perhaps - why the GOP's stars are positioned rather oddly. This is NOT the orientation of the stars in the American flag. ::cough::

Will Need Editing

You may notice old links, etc. on this revamped template. There are more bugs to work out than at a RAID employee convention.

The Cost of Bush's Iraq War

According to Free Speech Radio News, the Iraq war has now cost each and every American $1,075 dollars, money that could have funded:

Millions of teachers
Hundreds of schools
2.8 million units of affordable housing
15 million four-year college educations

Enjoying it so far?

Blogger Ate My Template

I've put an old version up to get operational but I need to add back a huge amount of custom material. ::ugh::

Uh...Is This Working?

From here, my blog is blank and I haven't been able to successfully post.

The Ugliness of Intolerance

I just read one of several stories about Senator George Allen after his "macaca" incident trying to embarrass a young worker for his opponent; this story made it clear that it was a big "shame" that Allen's re-election bid - as well as his obvious presidential aspirations - might be sidelined by so trivial an event.

It reminded me, of course, about the anti-Jewish tirade Mel Gibson went off on when he was stopped for drunk driving.

As I've mentioned, I grew up in an all white town (our only black resident for many years was the so-called "colored" maid of a wealthy woman) and with a family who was pretty damned racist. In some ways, I feel blessed that I had this experience because it ultimately forced me to look for myself at those different from me and with it, to see how much such differences have come to benefit me.

But while so many voice great surprise that men like Allen and Gibson would utter such racial hatred, the sad part is that I think these issues are far more prevalent than anyone wants to believe. If you were to ask me one big difference between George Bush's brand of GOP vs. liberals or Democrats (and many Dems are far more centrist than liberal or leftist) is that the Bush GOP keeps their racism and hatred under a very thin veneer. Whenever they are alone with those who aren't obviously black or Jewish or Muslim or whatever, they make their hateful feelings rather blatant.

I can't tell you how many times back when I was a reporter that I had - off the record - some well-liked politician or attorney or other bigwig let loose with some really inappropriate stuff. I'm not talking just about politically incorrect; I'm talking about true hatred and fear.

Bush expresses it not just toward races, but even towards the poor. He doesn't understand how they think, he told one friend. Of course Bush doesn't. He was born to the elite in Greenwich, Connecticut and his whole life, despite his many business failures, some friend of his father's or grandfather's (who was great to the Nazis) has been there to bail him out and make him rich.

So don't expect me to lose any sleep feeling bad for George Allen or Mel Gibson or George Bush or the many others out there who open their mouths and some truth happens to fall out sometimes. We need people who can grow a brain, and these men just aren't that good.


Bush Lost The War in Afghanistan

While the Times wrote it yesterday, Bush lost Afghanistan almost before he sent troops in on October 8th, 2001.

Net Neutrality: Could Vermont's Jim Jeffords Be The Deciding Vote?

From MoveOn - I may do it, any other Vermonters?:

Internet freedom is under attack. The House of Representatives has voted to give giant corporations more control over what you see and do online, and corporate lobbyists are pushing for a quick vote in the Senate. Senator James Jeffords could be the deciding vote, but he has remained silent on Net Neutrality. We can change that next Thursday at noon.

In Montpelier, we will deliver thousands of petition signatures from Vermont residents to Senator Jeffords's office. The media will be invited, and we need a big crowd to show Senator Jeffords how important protecting Net Neutrality is to constituents.

Can you help deliver the petitions next Thursday—asking Senator Jeffords to protect Net Neutrality? Please RSVP below.

What: Internet freedom petition delivery to the senator's officeWhere: Senator Jefford's Montpelier Office, 453 Stone Cutters Way, Montpelier, VTWhen: Thursday, 31 Aug 2006, 12:00 PM

Link to RSVP: http://political.moveon.org/event/senatorevent/10762?id=8566-5197410-DSwvFfyI5i.yS4WAlk9qgQ&t=2 Questions? mediaaction@moveon.org

Some senators think the public doesn't care about this issue. They think we don't know companies like AT&T and Verizon are spending millions lobbying Congress to eliminate Net Neutrality and give them more over control of the Internet. But petition deliveries in 50 locations across the nation next week will prove them wrong.

We will deliver thousands of petition signatures to Senator Jeffords along with the diverse SaveTheInternet.com Coalition—which includes local small businesses, consumer groups, Craig from Craigslist, MoveOn, the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, Free Press, musicians REM and Moby, and over 750 other organizations.

Just last week, a similar petition delivery event in New Mexico was covered by local TV, newspapers, and radio. That senator's staff was surprised at the large crowds outside their office, and even invited local residents inside to discuss why Net Neutrality was important to them. The senator definitely got the message that his constituents care—and that message will help us in upcoming senate votes.

Now Apple Recalls Laptop Batteries

With the Dell recall about a week old, now Apple is recalling 1.8 million of its laptop batteries for getting a bit too toasty.

My News Got Interrupted By What???

So I'm sitting there listening to TV news and they broke in to tell me about how Paris Hilton (possibly the most useless human being on the planet - even giving George and the other Bush brothers a run for their ill-gotten money) used a service to hack the voice mail of others, including her "arch nemesis" Linday Lohan.


Background Story About Terrible Attack on Fleeing Lebanese Convoy

Here's a snippet from the tragic story as published in the Washington Post:

"I could never have imagined that there could be an attack on this convoy of 3,000 civilians, men, women and children," said Karamallah Daher, who was driving to Beirut that night with his 80-year-old mother, Neifeh.

But the attack was underway, just at the entrance to this little community 40 miles southwest of Beirut. Before it was over about 15 minutes later, a half-dozen missiles had been fired and seven people were killed, including a retreating Lebanese soldier, a Red Cross volunteer and five other civilians, and 36 people had been wounded, according to Red Cross and government officials.

The President's "New" Message On War on Terror? "It Could Be Worse!"

I kid you not. That is Mr. Bush's new motto.

Encouraging, eh?

Must Read Nat Hentoff Piece in Village Voice: Supreme Court Rulings and How It Affects Bush "Terrorism" Efforts

Read it here.

The "Accident" of Evolution Being Omitted from Federal List of Education Majors

Sorry, I do not buy that this is a mistake, not in this political climate:

Evolutionary biology has vanished from the list of acceptable fields of study for recipients of a federal education grant for low-income college students.

The omission is inadvertent, said Katherine McLane, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education, which administers the grants. “There is no explanation for it being left off the list,” Ms. McLane said. “It has always been an eligible major.”

Another spokeswoman, Samara Yudof, said evolutionary biology would be restored to the list, but as of last night it was still missing.

If a major is not on the list, students in that major cannot get grants unless they declare another major, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. Mr. Nassirian said students seeking the grants went first to their college registrar, who determined whether they were full-time students majoring in an eligible field.

ABC Primetime: The Myths That Allow The Epidemic of AIDS

ABC Primetime has a fascinating and terrifying report about how AIDS is taking a huge toll on the African-American community here while many, including our politicians and government, see it as a "former" issue. Although blacks constitute only about 13% of the U.S. population, more than 50% of all new HIV cases are black. Black women are dying at 13 times the rate of white women diagnosed with HIV.

One big place for furthering of spread of AIDS is that prisons do not supply condoms and under the Bushies, needle exchange programs for IV drug users is now practically non-existent.

In other words, the blindness that Ronald Reagan had in the 80s that allowed AIDS to become an epidemic in the first place is now being furthered a thousand fold by the Bushies who don't want anyone to use a condom or use drugs.

Following Up Previous Post on GOP, Iran, and Intelligence Agencies

Here's the Washington Post's handling of the same basic story covered here by The Times and in my previous post:

The 29-page report, principally written by a Republican staff member on the House intelligence committee who holds a hard-line view on Iran, fully backs the White House position that the Islamic republic is moving forward with a nuclear weapons program and that it poses a significant danger to the United States. But it chides the intelligence community for not providing enough direct evidence to support that assertion.

"American intelligence agencies do not know nearly enough about Iran's nuclear weapons program" to help policymakers at a critical time, the report's authors say. Information "regarding potential Iranian chemical weapons and biological weapons programs is neither voluminous nor conclusive," and little evidence has been gathered to tie Iran to al-Qaeda and to the recent fighting between Israel and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, they say.

In The "World War III With Iran Isn't Happening Fast Enough for the GOP" Department

Dismayed that Israel left any Lebanese alive in their hunt for Hezbollah and that World War III with Iran has not started yet when mid-term elections are less than 75 full days away, the far right GOP is complaining that intelligence agencies are NOT doctoring the evidence enough to commit us to the nuclear option with Iran yet (let me remind you about my earlier post referencing the Chicago Tribune piece about where so much of Iran's nuclear origins began).

From The Times:

Some senior Bush administration officials and top Republican lawmakers are voicing anger that American spy agencies have not issued more ominous warnings about the threats that they say Iran presents to the United States.

Some policy makers have accused intelligence agencies of playing down Iran’s role in Hezbollah’s recent attacks against Israel and overestimating the time it would take for Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

The complaints, expressed privately in recent weeks, surfaced in a Congressional report about Iran released Wednesday. They echo the tensions that divided the administration and the Central Intelligence Agency during the prelude to the war in Iraq.

The criticisms reflect the views of some officials inside the White House and the Pentagon who advocated going to war with Iraq and now are pressing for confronting Iran directly over its nuclear program and ties to terrorism, say officials with knowledge of the debate.

The dissonance is surfacing just as the intelligence agencies are overhauling their procedures to prevent a repeat of the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate — the faulty assessment that in part set the United States on the path to war with Iraq.

The new report, from the House Intelligence Committee, led by Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan, portrayed Iran as a growing threat and criticized American spy agencies for cautious assessments about Iran’s weapons programs. “Intelligence community managers and analysts must provide their best analytical judgments about Iranian W.M.D. programs and not shy away from provocative conclusions or bury disagreements in consensus assessments,” the report said, using the abbreviation for weapons of mass destruction like nuclear arms.

Some policy makers also said they were displeased that American spy agencies were playing down intelligence reports — including some from the Israeli government — of extensive contacts recently between Hezbollah and members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. “The people in the community are unwilling to make judgment calls and don’t know how to link anything together,” one senior United States official said.
See also: News Analysis: Iran Sanctions Could Fracture Coalition (August 23, 2006)

Jerry Falwell Decries Any Stem Cell Research As Unethical

With initial reports that stem cells can be obtained without the need to harvest unwanted embryos, the Reverend Jerry Falwell claims that even this is unethical.

But here's the deal. I forget when but sometime in the last year or so Falwell was very, very ill. There was even some speculation he would die. But medical research pulled through and gave this hateful, rotten, miserable piece of pork a second chance.

Likewise, a GOP politician from California, one of the far right wingers, recently lost his fight with cancer or some other fatal illness after being kept alive for several more years because of medical research and yes, stem cell treatments. The gasbag didn't want YOU to benefit from stem cells, but he was very, very happy to accept the treatment for himself.

This nauseating, hateful double standard is at the heart of just about everything the far right does: laws are for you but not for me, I should be rich but you should not, I should have this treatment but you should not.

So Many Billions the Feds Spent in New Orleans Yet So Much Remains a Wreck a Year After Hurricane Katrina

The conservative estimate is that the federal government alone has spent more than $100 Billion (with a B!) dollars to refurbish New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina barreled in there one year ago. Most of those dollars went to no-bid contracts (the kind the Bushies love most!) and yet New Orleans still remains a big pile of rubble. Why is that?

Ever Feel Like Taking a Hot Shower After Hearing More About John Mark Karr?

I do.. and even more so after learning his entire family has sold rights to their story (what story would that be???) and hired "talent" agents (talent? TALENT? you need talent to have a family member confess to a brutal slaying?), as well as watching or learning:

  • his first bride, the 13 year old, can't wait to get on camera to say she didn't know him very well when they got married, and she does this by holding her new baby (from a different husband) in front of her on camera like the most important thing she can do is make sure her baby gets tied to a story about the vicious slaying of a 6-year-old beauty queen
  • his lawyers insisting he really IS in command of his faculties even though he says he killed JonBenet Ramsey
  • that besides the gourmet meal which included champagne and chocolate cake, Karr spent nearly a half hour preening himself in the airplane bathroom before they landed
  • that he couldn't tell a reporter how JonBenet died because it would take many, many hours, perhaps days for him to "do justice" to the story
  • how he loves, loves, loves JonBenet who was his one true love (a six year old)
  • how many schools allowed this nutcase to teach
Crap! I need a shower just reciting this!

Holier Than Though Religious Right Isn't Quite As Holy as Before

From AP:

The number of people who consider the Republican Party friendly to religion has dipped below half in the last year, with declines among white evangelicals and white Catholics.

But the GOP remains far more closely tied to religion than the Democratic Party.

The number of people who consider the GOP friendly to religion dropped from 55 percent to 47 percent — with a 14-point drop among white evangelical conservatives and an 11-point drop among white Catholics, according to the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Only a fourth, 26 percent, considered the Democratic Party friendly to religion — about the same as last year.

Religious voters have been a key voting bloc in recent elections with the most devout Protestant, Catholic and evangelical voters leaning strongly toward Republicans.
>..."I don't care if it rains or freezes
longs I got my plastic Jesus
ridin' on the dashboard of my car...
I can go a hundred miles an hour
longs I got the almighty power
right up there with my pair of fuzzy di-ii-ice.

Krazy Katherine Harris

Read her "Baptist Witness" information; man, is she about 1,000 fruit loops shy of a full box! But she's perfect for Florida, I suppose.

Jerusalem Post: Israel May "Go It Alone" in Battle Against Iran

This has me concerned because it really would not be Israel going it alone, but another proxy war front for the United States. Some, including Buzzflash, have suggested this may be Karl Rove's big "October surprise" to keep GOP wins high in the November mid-term elections in just 75 days. Remember, too, the article from the Chicago Tribune about how the U.S. supplied MUCH of Iran's nuclear facility hardware.

Israel is carefully watching the world's reaction to Iran's continued refusal to suspend uranium enrichment, with some high-level officials arguing it is now clear that when it comes to stopping Iran, Israel "may have to go it alone," The Jerusalem Post has learned.

One senior source said on Tuesday that Iran "flipped the world the bird" by not responding positively to the Western incentive plan to stop uranium enrichment. He expressed frustration that the Russians and Chinese were already saying that Iran's offer of a "new formula" and willingness to enter "serious negotiations" was an opening to keep on talking.

"The Iranians know the world will do nothing," he said. "This is similar to the world's attempts to appease Hitler in the 1930s - they are trying to feed the beast."

He said there was a need to understand that "when push comes to shove," Israel would have to be prepared to "slow down" the Iranian nuclear threat by itself.

Having said this, he did not rule out the possibility of US military action, but said that if this were to take place, it would probably not occur until the spring or summer of 2008, a few months before President George W. Bush leaves the international stage. The US presidential elections, which Bush cannot contest because of term limits, are in November 2008.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, in a meeting in Paris with French Foreign Minister Phillippe Douste-Blazy Wednesday, said Iran "poses a global threat" and needed to be dealt with by the whole international community.
Considering the ecological nightmare Israel let loose when they liberated all that crude as they destroyed a power plant in Lebanon in their fight with Hezbollah, can we trust that they would not unleash a nuclear meltdown by striking nuclear facilities in Iran? I'm not sure.

Saturday Night Live: Big Cast Shakeup At SNL

Even though Saturday Night Live simply doesn't do enough edgy political humor anymore, I have to admit I still tend to watch it more than not. But the cast shakeup being announced is gruesome, considering that Will Forte has been an excellent Bush impersonator:

Yesterday, the speculation, and today, the unconfirmed rumors: TMZ is reporting that Horatio Sanz and Will Forte are out at SNL, and FishbowlNY is reporting that Sanz will be ousted along with Chris Parnell. TMZ quotes an NBC rep who says its "unconfirmed and uncorroborated. We are not commenting" which does not sound like a denial; FishbowlNY cites an "informed tipster." Note that Forte is the current President Bush impersonator (not to mention making his face go red on command as Zell Miller); Parnell is just comedically awesome and we reiterate that we hope he stays around.

Our predictions are here, though of course this may render them somewhat out of date.
I liked Sanz, but he's become someone who spends a little too much time laughing at his own jokes. Parnell is iffy and was fired once before. But I'm very surprised they would oust Forte.

The RightWing Goes After NSA Wiretapping Judge: How Kind of Karl Rove To Make My Point

As I said here, it's been abundantly clear that the far-right has decided to crucify the smart judge who ruled correctly that the NSA Wiretapping was indeed unconstitutional; they would need to, of course, because no one anywhere is EVER allowed to say No to Georgy Porgy Bush. Now Porky..er..Porkpie... uh Karl Rove weighs in.

Lottery Fever Run Amok?

Imagine stealing just to support your lottery habit. Geez.

Darwin and The Holocaust OR The Far Right Christians Will Go to Any Lengths to Spew Hatred In The Name of Christ The Savior

Posted by Diane W. at My Left Wing:

(You might think I'm bummed because Pluto is no longer a planet. But I'm really promoting it because "science under fire" has an impact on all of us, and this is the most recent manifestation of how far the Right will go to invalidate science. - promoted by lorraine)

Just when you think the American Religious Zealots can't get any more absurdly evil in their relentless pursuit of a one-religion, Christimiltiant state, they do. Coral Rodge is producing a TV special on how Hitler's Darwinism caused the Holocaust.

Holy fucking monkeys!
    ~snip~ The mf'ers from the ID movement are ratcheting up their attacks on evolution since they were disemboweled in the Dover decision. They are now mounting a full-out assault on science saying Darwin is responsible for Hitler, genocide, and the world's current condition. Guess the world was perfect before Chucky D arrived on the scene.~
This is nothing but a knee-jerk pavlovian rhetoric to get muscle for their idiotic Creationism, then rephrased to Intelligent Design bullshit. It has LOST in the courts, and they are pandering to a horrendous part of history to try and revoke science in schools, and replace it with (IMO) a fairy fucking tale.

Separation of Church and State anyone???

Proof That Even Tiny Vermont Is Not Immune From Gun Violence

From the wires:

ESSEX, Vt. - A gunman shot five people Thursday, killing two of them, in a rampage through two houses and an elementary school that ended when he wounded himself, police said.

One of the slayings occurred at the school, which was not in session. Police Chief David Demag said he could not confirm earlier reports that the victim was a teacher preparing for the start of classes next week.

One television report said about 30 staff were in Essex Elementary School. At one point, people could be seen running from the school, ducking their heads.

"At this point the scenes are secured and the community is safe," Demag said about two hours after the first reports of a shooting. "We have a suspect in custody. The suspect has identified himself as the only shooter. He is secure."

Demag said the shooter and the other three wounded people were taken to a hospital, but their conditions were not immediately known. The chief said he could not provide the shooter's identity, or a motive other than that the shootings appeared to stem from a domestic dispute.

Demag said one person was killed in the first shooting, which occurred at a home. The shooter then went to the school, where he fatally shot one person and wounded two others, Demag said.

The shooter then went to a second home where he wounded a person before turning the gun on himself, the chief said.

Here We Go Again: Israel Now Orders Nuclear Capable Submarines

Doesn't matter that Israel has never been "cleared" to have nukes, or that in truth, they have had a large nuclear program for decades now. It's just fine for Israel to rub this in the face of their Arab-and-Muslim neighbors while demanding that Iran be kept from having nukes.

From the wires:

JERUSALEM - With the purchase of two more German-made Dolphin submarines capable of carrying nuclear warheads, military experts say Israel is sending a clear message to Iran that it can strike back if attacked by nuclear weapons.

Politics on the Half Shell

Rather than give each of these a separate posting, I'll lump some shorts here:

First, Sanctimonius "Man on Dog Having Sex With Dwarf Cousins" Rick Santorum, the incumbent, is trailing Casey in Pennsylvania's Senate race. Hurray!

Sen. George "macaca" Allen still non-apology apologizing for his racial slurs against someone trailing his campaign. I can think of a few slurs that would be quite apt against Mr. Allen.

Bush revamps his lies done up as "fighting terrorism" message while he supposedly is "haunted" (yeah, right, sure) about the slow response to last year's Hurricane Katrina. Like hell it bothers him; he's no doubt as miffed at poor black New Orleans residents as he is at the Iraqi people for spoiling his good time.

Meanwhile, Dems point to yet more of the Bushies' no-bid contracts awarded for Hurricane Katrina cleanup.

Also, charges against the Kentucky governor have been dropped.

About Frickin' Time: FDA Loosens Access Restrictions on So-Called "Morning After" Pill

This is indeed only a partial victory, but a victory none-the-less (and oh how the piehole pious types will whine and threaten because of it):

WASHINGTON - Women can buy the morning-after pill without a prescription, the government declared Thursday, a major step that nevertheless failed to quell the politically charged debate over access to emergency contraception.

The manufacturer, lawmakers and other advocates said they will press the government to allow minors to purchase the pills over the counter.

The Food and Drug Administration said that women 18 and older — and men purchasing for their partners — may buy the Plan B pills without a doctor's note, but only from pharmacies.
Girls 17 and younger still will need a prescription to buy the pills, the FDA told manufacturer Barr Pharmaceuticals Inc., in ruling on an application filed in 2003.

The compromise decision is a partial victory for women's advocacy and medical groups, which say easier access could halve the nation's 3 million annual unplanned pregnancies.

"While we are glad to know the FDA finally ended its foot-dragging on this issue,
Planned Parenthood is troubled by the scientifically baseless restriction imposed on teenagers. The U.S. has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the Western world — anything that makes it harder for teenagers to avoid unintended pregnancy is bad medicine and bad public policy," president Cecile Richards said.

The Far Right Now Goes After Judge Who Declared NSA Wiretapping Unconstitional

I'm all for full disclosure, but the case of conflict they cite here is teeny (almost microscopic) compared to the many conflicts of much greater interest that even just associate justices Scalia and Thomas as well as former Chief Justice William Rehnquist chose to ignore in their own cases. Judicial Watch has always gone after anyone NOT a far right Republican, so I find them terribly tainted.

From USA Today:

WASHINGTON — A judicial watchdog group contended Tuesday that Michigan U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, who last week struck down a federal warrantless wiretapping program, may have had a conflict of interest in the case.

Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning group based in Washington, issued a news release calling attention to Taylor's apparent membership in a local foundation that gave $45,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan in recent grants. The ACLU of Michigan was one of the parties to the case challenging the surveillance program that was begun after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The lead challenger was the national ACLU.

"This potential conflict of interest merits serious investigation," Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said.

Taylor noted on financial disclosure reports filed in 2004 and 2005 that she is a trustee and secretary of the Community Foundation for Southeastern Michigan. That group says on its website that it has given a total of $45,000 in recent years to the ACLU of Michigan for programs serving gay men and lesbians. Taylor could not be reached Tuesday.

Tuesday's complaint adds to attention that some legal groups have focused on the judge and her approach in the case, rather than the ruling itself.

Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet, who has studied judicial ethics, said, "It certainly is close enough that she should have disclosed it."
And there is far more that requires serious deliberation than this; including the NSA wiretapping itself!

The Truth Can Hurt: Some of Iran's Nuclear Facilities Were Supplied By None Other Than the United States of America

MUST READ: From today's Chicago Tribune:

In the heart of Tehran sits one of Iran's most important nuclear facilities, a dome-shaped building where scientists have conducted secret experiments that could help the country build atomic bombs. It was provided to the Iranians by the United States.The Tehran Research Reactor represents a little-known aspect of the international uproar over the country's alleged weapons program. Not only did the U.S. provide the reactor in the 1960s as part of a Cold War strategy, America also supplied the weapons-grade uranium needed to power the facility--fuel that remains in Iran and could be used to help make nuclear arms.

As the U.S. and other countries wrestle with Iran's refusal this week to curb its nuclear capabilities, an examination of the Tehran facility sheds light on the degree to which the United States has been complicit in Iran developing those capabilities.

Though the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, has found no proof Iran is building a bomb, the agency says the country has repeatedly concealed its nuclear activities from inspectors. And some of these activities have taken place in the U.S.-supplied reactor, IAEA records show, including experiments with uranium, a key material in the production of nuclear weapons.

U.S. officials point to these activities as evidence Iran is trying to construct nuclear arms, but they do not publicly mention that the work has taken place in a U.S.-supplied facility.The U.S. provided the reactor when America was eager to prop up the shah, who also was aligned against the Soviet Union at the time. After the Islamic revolution toppled the shah in 1979, the reactor became a reminder that in geopolitics, today's ally can become tomorrow's threat.Also missing from the current debate over Iran's nuclear intentions is emerging evidence that its research program may be more troubled than previously known.

The Bush administration has portrayed the program as a sophisticated operation that has skillfully hid its true mission of making the bomb. But in the case of the Tehran Research Reactor, a study by a top Iranian scientist suggests otherwise.

Sad Symbolic Act of Intolerance

About a month ago, on East Hill Road where I live, a sign with a dove stating "War is not the answer" appeared out of nowhere placed along a narrow part of the dirt road almost where you would have to know it was there to see it. I was quite pleased to discover it actually because the town of 600 where I live happens to be about the only reddish purple town in Washington County - you're more apt to see Republican signs than anything else.

Today as I ran down to Cabot to get some food, I noticed that, after a month of that sign surviving bad drivers, horrendous storms, etc., the sign had been vandalized.

Oh, the sign was still there, but someone had gone to some degree of effort to cut out the part of the sign with the dove of peace. The words remained, but all the dove was gone. It would have been much easier to destroy the entire sign or to remove it altogether than to take one piece.

Murtha: Situation in Iraq Continues to Worsen

Contrary to the rather "encouraging" words I read each morning when CentCOM sends me press releases (yes, they do - and I read each one), Jack Murtha says things are getting even worse in Iraq not better as the Bushies claim.


While attention is always elsewhere, the crisis in Darfur gets worse with each day. Go here to learn more.


Attention, Snowflake Babies!

Stem cells without fat, middle-aged, break-all-the-commandments-Monday-through-Saturday-but-redeem-themselves-on-Sunday Christians unable to have their snowflake wunderkind.

Speaking of "Is Bush An Idiot?"

I notice Slate has a piece up entitled, "The President's Truly Moronic Press Conference" (referring to yesterday's "psyche" bending "stay the course" speech) while WaPo's Eugene Robinson opines about "The President From On Another Planet." Here's a snip-snip:

For a moment there, I was almost encouraged. George W. Bush, the most resolutely incurious and inflexible of presidents, was reported last week to have been surprised at seeing Iraqi citizens -- who ought to be grateful beneficiaries of the American occupation, I mean "liberation" -- demonstrating in support of Hezbollah and against Israel.

Surprise would be a start, since it would mean the Decider was admitting novel facts to his settled base of knowledge and reacting to them. Alas, it seems the door to the presidential mind is still locked tight. "I don't remember being surprised," he said at his news conference yesterday. "I'm not sure what they mean by that."

I'm guessing "they" might mean that when you try to impose your simplistic, black-and-white template on a kaleidoscopic world, and you end up setting the Middle East on fire, either you're surprised or you're not paying attention. But that's just me.

As for George Bush, what on earth is on his mind?

WaPo: "The 'New Middle East' Bush Is Resisting"

Poor, poor, poor President Bush: the Iraqis aren't just ungrateful, they are downright mad at how the Bushies have "occupied" their country to the point where I now hear some "man on the street" interviews suggest it would be better if Saddam Hussein returned (and there's no doubt how bad he was!) while the Arab and Muslim world didn't like Bush's proxy war fought by Israel in Lebanon for yet another "terrorist" group we can't blow up with a single five ton bomb. That war went so badly you would swear Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-and-Rice choreographed it to the point where Hezbollah has become the hero of the Middle East to many civilians.

We Are What We Do: America As Ur-Fascist

You've no doubt seen one or more variations on this, but look at the 14 ways to become a good "blackshirt" and tell me which - if any- don't apply to America under George W. Bush. True, Bush can't spell fascist, but he's sure good at turning the country into one.

Thanks to Web billionairess and Bush neighbor, dudlee, for the link.

Maureen Dowd: "Where Is Euphrates Etiquette?"

Maureen Down, in "Where Is Euphrates Etiquette?" tackles Mr. Bush's petulant, twelve-year-old-like distinct lack of understanding for anyone who doesn't agree with him, The Decider:

You know W. is burned up at the Iraqis.
You know Rummy got disgusted with nation-building ages ago. (In Baghdad in April, Rummy doodled at a news conference while Condi went on about her hopes for Iraq's future.)

You can tell that Condi has grown fed up with the intractable mess in Iraq because she's so focused on the intractable mess in Lebanon.

And certainly Dick Cheney has given up on those obstreperous Iraqis to move on to the more gratifying task of plotting how to liberate Iran and Syria.

W., unschooled in Middle East quicksand politics, learned the hard way that too many Iraqis prefer jihad to Jefferson. The Iraqi forces can't stand up so we can scamper out. The Shiites we gave the country to prefer Iran and Hezbollah to the U.S. and Israel. And our rebellious yet incompetent Iraqi puppets have had the temerity to criticize both the U.S. and Israel for brutal behavior in the region.

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child, as the Bard said, and the Bush administration has always condescendingly treated Iraq as though it were an ungrateful child. Rummy, Paul Wolfowitz and Republican lawmakers liked to compare the occupied nation to a tyke on a bike. "If you never take the training wheels off a kid's bicycle,'' Wolfie would say, "he'll never learn to ride without them.''

Thom Shanker and Mark Mazzetti of The Times reported that the president seemed dissatisfied this week in a private meeting at the Pentagon with his war cabinet and outside Middle East experts.

"I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally — that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget,'' one person who attended the meeting told The Times. "The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success." Another said that W. was confounded that 10,000 Iraqi Shiites would take to the streets to rally behind Hezbollah.

W. is sick of holding on to the bike as his legacy crashes. He wants to see some gratitude from his charges — pronto.

The Iraqis have no doubt offended W.'s keen sense of loyalty. He went back to sack Saddam to make up for his father's lack of loyalty to the Shiites who were slaughtered after Poppy encouraged them to rise up, and now the Shiites show little loyalty to W.

Carole O'Leary, an American University professor who is working in Iraq on a State Department grant, told The Times that Mr. Bush offered the view that "the Shia-led government needs to clearly and publicly express the same appreciation for United States efforts and sacrifices as they do in private."

Naturally, Tony Snow denied that President Resolute was frustrated. But if W. can behold how his plans have backfired and not be frustrated, then he's out of touch with reality. And the reason W. is meeting with outside experts is to demonstrate that he is, too, in touch with reality. Even though he doesn't use that expertise to reshape his plan in Iraq, which shows again that he's out of touch with reality.

Reviewing Paul Bremer's book in The New York Review of Books, Peter Galbraith wrote: "In Bremer's account, the president was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the [Coalition Provisional Authority] would publicly thank the United States. ... Bush had only one demand: ŒIt's important to have someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq.' ''

You can take the boy out of Kennebunkport, but you can't take Kennebunkport out of the boy. The erstwhile black sheep is now as obsessed with manners as his dad. He's furious that he got no thank-you note from the Iraqis for the big present of allowing them the opportunity to be like us. They refused our gift, after everything W. did for them — invading their country under the false pretense of protecting our country, shattering their shaky infrastructure, and starting a shame spiral that's led to civil war.

His foreign policy has been more force majeure than the noblesse oblige of his father and grandfather. But now he has embraced noblesse, and puzzles over why the poor Iraqis do not feel more obliged after being blessed with America's philosophical, economic and political riches. How on earth do these benighted folk not understand the difference between the good guys and the bad guys?

More Drumbeats of Mr. Bush's Next War? Syria Warns Against Border Deployment

From AP:

BEIRUT, Lebanon - Israel's foreign minister said Wednesday the situation in Lebanon was "explosive" while Syria's president says the deployment of international troops along the Syria-Lebanon border would be a "hostile" act.
It won't matter to Bush and the neocons that:
  • our military is so far overstretched now as to be practically useless
  • we have never before had a military that requires so many people OVER the age of 50 to fight and which must accept so many recruits who cannot pass basic testing
  • our military is so poorly trained now and often does not ship out with even basic tools needed to survive
  • all Bush's other wars have bankrupted us and returned us to record levels of national debt (while Bush can't give enough tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans)
  • The Bushies with Rumsfeld have NEVER won a war they've started; that each war that is supposed to be a "cakewalk" has become a quagmire
  • the whole world already despises and distrusts us and we'll be even more villified if we go to war in Syria and/or Iran
  • we will further destabilize the Middle East, just as Iraq helped lay the crumbling foundation for the devastation of Lebanon

And these are only the high points!

Paul Krugman: Tax Farmers, Mercenaries, and Viceroys

Also straight from the OpEd pages of The New York Times (well, with one side trip through The Progressive American and I'm still kicking myself for missing his appearance with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show last night), here is Paul Krugman's latest, "Tax Farmers, Mercenaries, and Viceroys", with a snippet here of what truly is a nightmare scenario:

Yesterday The New York Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service would outsource collection of unpaid back taxes to private debt collectors, who would receive a share of the proceeds.

It's an awful idea. Privatizing tax collection will cost far more than hiring additional I.R.S. agents, raise less revenue and pose obvious risks of abuse. But what's really amazing is the extent to which this plan is a retreat from modern principles of government. I used to say that conservatives want to take us back to the 1920's, but the Bush administration seemingly wants to go back to the 16th century.

And privatized tax collection is only part of the great march backward.

In the bad old days, government was a haphazard affair. There was no bureaucracy to collect taxes, so the king subcontracted the job to private "tax farmers," who often engaged in extortion. There was no regular army, so the king hired mercenaries, who tended to wander off and pillage the nearest village. There was no regular system of administration, so the king assigned the task to favored courtiers, who tended to be corrupt, incompetent or both.

Modern governments solved these problems by creating a professional revenue department to collect taxes, a professional officer corps to enforce military discipline, and a professional civil service. But President Bush apparently doesn't like these innovations, preferring to govern as if he were King Louis XII.

So the tax farmers are coming back, and the mercenaries already have. There are about 20,000 armed "security contractors" in Iraq, and they have been assigned critical tasks, from guarding top officials to training the Iraqi Army.

Like the mercenaries of old, today's corporate mercenaries have discipline problems. "They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath," declared a U.S. officer last year.

And armed men operating outside the military chain of command have caused at least one catastrophe. Remember the four Americans hung from a bridge? They were security contractors from Blackwater USA who blundered into Falluja — bypassing a Marine checkpoint — while the Marines were trying to pursue a methodical strategy of pacifying the city. The killing of the four, and the knee-jerk reaction of the White House — which ordered an all-out assault, then called it off as casualties mounted — may have ended the last chance of containing the insurgency.

Yet Blackwater, whose chief executive is a major contributor to the Republican Party, continues to thrive. The Department of Homeland Security sent heavily armed Blackwater employees into New Orleans immediately after Katrina.

To whom are such contractors accountable? Last week a judge threw out a jury's $10 million verdict against Custer Battles, a private contractor that was hired, among other things, to provide security at Baghdad's airport. Custer Battles has become a symbol of the mix of cronyism, corruption and sheer amateurishness that doomed the Iraq adventure — and the judge didn't challenge the jury's finding that the company engaged in blatant fraud.

Bob Herbert: "The Truth Puts You In Jail

With no hyperbole required, one of the worst offenses anyone can commit in Bush's America is to tell the truth; never before in history has the truth been seen in the U.S. as a grave, even traitorous act. Bob Herbert of The New York Times spells out one such example in his August 21st column, "The Truth Puts You in Jail":

The problem with the way the United States government dealt with Abdallah Higazy had nothing to do with the fact that he was investigated as a possible participant in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.

He was caught in a set of circumstances that was highly suspicious, to say the least. It would have been criminal not to have investigated him.

On the morning of the attack, Mr. Higazy, the son of a former Egyptian diplomat, was in his room on the 51st floor of the Millenium Hilton Hotel, which was across the street from the twin towers. He fled the hotel, along with all the other guests, after the attack. But a Hilton security guard said he found an aviation radio, which could be used to communicate with airborne pilots, in the safe in Mr. Higazy's room.

When Mr. Higazy returned to the hotel three months later to pick up his belongings, he was arrested by the F.B.I. as a material witness and thrown into solitary confinement. Federal investigators were understandably suspicious, but they had no evidence at all that Mr. Higazy was involved in the terror attack.

And that's where the government went wrong. In the United States, a free and open society committed to the rule of law, you are not supposed to lock people up — deprive them of their liberty — on mere suspicion.

The government could not link Mr. Higazy to the attack, and yet there he was, trembling in a jail cell, with no reasonable chance of proving that he was innocent.

This was cruel. It was unusual. And it was a blatant abuse of the material witness statute. People arrested as material witnesses are supposed to be just that — witnesses — not criminal suspects. (The witnesses are taken into custody when there is some doubt as to whether their testimony can otherwise be secured.)

When a person is actually arrested for a crime, the government has certain important obligations, including the obligation to provide a prompt arraignment and to demonstrate that there is probable cause that the suspect had committed the offense.

Mr. Higazy was held as a material witness while investigators searched for something to pin on him.
How many more Higazy's are out there? Or rather, IN some place like Gitmo or Abu Ghraib or disappeared into one of the secret CIA facilities? More and more, this is happening not just to immigrants or visitors to our shores but to U.S. born American citizens whose only real guilt is failure to agree with the Bushies.

Why Is The GOP Shunning Its Own Republican Candidate for Senate in Connecticut?

President Bush has come out and said he will not support his own party's candidate for the U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut currently held by Joseph Lieberman who went Independent after he was defeated for the first time in the Democratic primary vote in early August. Clearly, all the big GOP cheese like Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman are also throwing their weight behind Lieberman. So what's behind the shunning and ostracization of Lieberman's GOP adversary by his own party?


On Arabs and Zionism Plus Why Attacking Iran Is A Bad Idea

From BadTux, the only blogger to boast a birthday suit (as a penguin) that is also a tuxedo, two good posts.

The first ("Eliminating The Zionist Regime") discusses the dialogue we keep hearing that all Arabs and Muslims want to commit genocide against Israel and Jews (like me, BT doesn't seem to find many who want this).

The second is,"Why Attacking Iran Is a Very Bad Idea."

All Ramsey Case, All the Time

Was it just me or were some of you both horrified and sickly amused that - thanks to an intrepid Fox photographer willing to "rough it" by traveling expensive business class on Thai Airlines - the media spent all day yesterday and part of today detailing what allegedly JonBenet Ramsey killer, John Mark Karr, had to eat (yumm.. jumbo fried prawns and champagne!) and that he chose to watch a Tom Cruise movie during his flight home?

Then we heard that Karr told a reporter she would have to spend "many, many hours" with him to be able to do his story of killing the six-year-old justice. Attention seeking behavior? Nahhh.

The highlight today was having his attorney appear on camera to tell us that he is not a nut and that he really DID kill the little beauty queen. Boy, you want a lawyer like that when you're up against a serious crime. Then there are all the trailer types who have come out to say he "likes to rub on children" but he was nice otherwise. Plus his two wives - the one he married when she was 13 and the one he married the day after she turned 15.

Plus there is "Solved or Suckered: The Mystery of John Mark Karr" at Newsweek.

While Much of "The Internets" Are Kept From Iranians, Iran's President Blogs

Story here about Iran's first blogging president, Ahmadinejad.

Ted Koppel's "The Price of Security: Terror Fight vs. Civil Liberties

Ted Koppel has upcoming a three-hour special, "The Price of Security", that could be both compelling and informative:

Over the course of three hours, Koppel describes the genuine security threat facing the United States. But he cautions that in the course of addressing that threat, the Bush administration has been undermining some of the freedoms on which the country was founded. “The executive branch,” he tells NEWSWEEK’s Brian Braiker in a recent interview, “has taken unto itself certain rights and privileges and powers that it probably should not have without some judicial or legislative oversight.” Koppel also discusses why he’s addressing this topic on a cable channel as opposed to his former network, ABC, and offers his take on the new crop of evening news anchors.

NEWSWEEK: These tensions are certainly not new. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. World War I saw the abuse of the Espionage and Sedition Acts.

Ted Koppel: Exactly. The difference is that—I don’t know if you’re familiar with the term much in vogue at the Pentagon these days—they refer to this now as the “long war,” by which they mean it is a war without end. We can expect to be in this war for a generation or more to come.

So this tension, then, between civil liberties and fighting this long war is not going to go away any time soon.

That’s correct. Now the question is whether you accept the fundamental premise of the Bush administration, which is that we are in an existential struggle—that is an actual term that they have used. The Bush administration has this nightmare, and it’s a legitimate nightmare, not that there will be another 9/11 but that there could be a 9/11 with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons. That would totally undermine almost everything we’ve come to believe in in this country. It could change America in ways we couldn’t even begin to envision.

U.N. Drafts Rules of Engagement for International Peacekeeping Forces

As demanded by Israel, the U.N. has come up with guidelines for the International peacekeeping force yet to arrive in Lebanon. From MSNBC/Newsweek:

Proposed rules of engagement for an expanded U.N. force in southern Lebanon would allow troops to open fire in self-defense, protect civilians and back up the Lebanese army in preventing foreign forces or arms from crossing the border, according to a U.N. document obtained Tuesday.

The 20-page draft was circulated to potential troop-contributing countries last week by the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which is trying to get an additional 3,500 troops on the ground by the end of next week to strengthen the 2,000 overstretched U.N. peacekeepers already there.

The rules of engagement for the expanded force — which is authorized to grow to 15,000 -- have held back some potential troop contributors because of concerns that their soldiers would be required to disarm Hezbollah, which has controlled southern Lebanon.

Israel Moves Into Gaza Yet Again

Three Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces even before the Israeli military moved back into Gaza to start a new offensive early Wednesday morning, their time.

Amnesty International: Israel Committed War Crimes During Attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon

It was really only a matter of time before someone - here, Amnesty International - formally charged Israel with war crimes based on what was perpetrated in Lebanon during its efforts to eradicate Hezbollah.

LONDON - Amnesty International on Wednesday accused Israel of war crimes, saying it broke international law by deliberately destroying Lebanon's civilian infrastructure during its recent war with Hezbollah guerrillas.

The human rights group said initial evidence, including the pattern and scope of the Israeli attacks, number of civilian casualties, widespread damage and statements by Israeli officials "indicate that such destruction was deliberate and part of a military strategy, rather than 'collateral damage.'"

Amnesty International, whose delegates monitored the fighting in both Israel and Lebanon, said Israel violated international laws banning direct attacks on civilians and barring indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks.

"The scale of the destruction was just extraordinary," said Amnesty researcher Donatella Rovera, who visited Lebanon during the war and co-authored the report.

"There is clear evidence of disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks."

The group urged the United Nations to look into whether both combatants, Israel and Hezbollah, broke international law.

Amnesty International said it would address Hezbollah's attacks on Israel separately.

Say Yes to Freedom and Privacy; Say No! to Cheney-Specter Wiretapping Bill!

Go, act!

Stop the Cheney-Specter Wiretapping Bill

Contributed by Working Assets

In a clear victory for our constitutional rights, a federal court recently found the President's warrantless domestic wiretapping program to be unlawful and unconstitutional. (Working Assets is proud to have supported the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that resulted in this judgment.)

However, Senator Arlen Specter has worked closely with Vice President Cheney to develop a bill that would cede even more power to the executive branch -- and tries to strip us of our Fourth Amendment right not to be wiretapped without a warrant.

Specter's bill, S. 2453, would give the Administration new authority to obtain blanket "warrants" for its domestic wiretapping program -– as well as for any other wiretapping programs it desires. Once it obtains this blanket permission, the Administration would apparently be exempt from the Fourth Amendment's requirement to show a reason for each wiretap and obtain a warrant. (The legislation does not directly address the fact that the wiretapping program was just declared unconstitutional in a U.S. District Court.)

S. 2453 would also:
  • Send all court cases involving warrantless surveillance –- including cases currently pending in Federal courts -- to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, which is completely off-limits to lawyers without the highest security clearances.
  • Allow these cases to be dismissed for "any reason" with no chance for appeal.
  • Remove other protections, enabling the White House to freely conduct data-mining of your private information.
Simply stated, if we want to preserve the Fourth Amendment to our U.S. Constitution, this bill must not be allowed to pass the Senate.

Call to action - Tell your Senator to vote no on S. 2453.

Joementum Already Losing Steam?

A new poll reported by CNN says that the lead Senator Joseph Lieberman supposedly gained after losing the Connecticut Democratic primary to challenger Ned Lamont has apparently vaporized.

Followup on the Mother Jones, Gary Webb, Judith Miller Piece

BadTux - a fellow blogger - shares with us in Comments his personal knowledge of journalist Gary Webb's death which, for me, puts an end to the speculation that he was offed directly by someone else.

This is in reference to my post about the Mother Jones article asking whether you would prefer to read disgraced NY Times reporter Judy Miller or the late Gary Webb.

In The "Sometimes, Life IS Fair" aka "Neuter That Tomkat!" Department

Having grown up in Connecticut and around Lime Rock Race Track where it wasn't unusual to see Paul Newman and John Wayne and Henry Kissinger, etc. I'm not much of a celebrity watcher because I learned early enough that they urinate and pass gas just like the rest of us. But one "celebrity" who has always bugged the hell out of me is Tom Cruise, mostly because he is sooooo fake. Remember his character in "Magnolia"? I believe very strongly that that IS Tom Cruise - the closest thing to real "Tomkat" gets.

The other day, when he did this whole publicity thing to get his name and picture attached to those separated Siamese twins out in Utah, I thought that Cruise had reached a new low (tough for him considering his behavior with the issue of depression, with his latest rented baby -strange that he can't seem to have one in a normal manner - and his efforts to somehow prove he's macho and heterosexual). If he wanted to help the little girls' family, that's fine. But what he really wanted was the publicity, which seems kind of crass.

So I was delighted tonight to hear that Viacom decided to drop his contract, perhaps finally realizing there is something really wrong with this "man". Of course, he also managed to drop in less than a year from the 11th most important "star" to the 197th and his last few movies haven't done too well.

Bush Unplugged?

Remember how, when the Bushes arrived at the White House, we heard how the "adults" were taking over from the frat house escapades of the Clinton years? Yeah right sure.

From U.S. News and World Report's "Washington Whispers" we get "Animal House at the White House" with a president who can't get enough fart jokes!

He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.
Apparently Bush forgot his paranoia with his ridiculous display at rubbing the German leader's back while she looks aghast.

New Book Says Flight 93 Was Shot Down on 9-11

The (UK) Daily Mail (quite the tabloid) has a long piece on this book due out this week: Flight 93: What Really Happened On The Heroic 9/11 ‘Let’s Roll’ Flight by Rowland Morgan.

All I will say about it is that there should not be the prolonged debris field for a crashed plane, yet Flight 93 had one spanning quite a distance.

I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist but I think the official version of what happened to this plane (and the three others) differs markedly from the truth.

Marines Start Involuntary Call-Up of Troops

[Ed. note: May I point out once again that the Bush twins have not bothered to get a job since they graduated college two-and-a-half years ago? Granted, they won't pass a drug or alcohol test but go ahead and send 'em to Iraq. Perhaps then Bush would change his "stay the course" dangerous, idiotic ideology. Send Cheney's daughters, too - all the gay one has to do is "lie" and she can join.]

As the number of Americans opposing our involvement in Iraq is at record levels (two-thirds now want us out of Iraq), and Bush had his silly "stay the course" business at yesterday's "psyche-bending" press conference (text transcript of the August 21st Bush remarks here), Marines are now about to begin an involuntary call-up.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post seems ready to admit Iraq is in a civil war, something the Bushies - always opposed to reality - will not accept.

Marines Start Involuntary Call-Up of Troops

[Ed. note: May I point out once again that the Bush twins have not bothered to get a job since they graduated college two-and-a-half years ago? Granted, they won't pass a drug or alcohol test but go ahead and send 'em to Iraq. Perhaps then Bush would change his "stay the course" dangerous, idiotic ideology. Send Cheney's daughters, too - all the gay one has to do is "lie" and she can join.]

As the number of Americans opposing our involvement in Iraq is at record levels (two-thirds now want us out of Iraq), and Bush had his silly "stay the course" business at yesterday's "psyche-bending" press conference (text transcript of the August 21st Bush remarks here), Marines are now about to begin an involuntary call-up.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post seems ready to admit Iraq is in a civil war, something the Bushies - always opposed to reality - will not accept.

Oops... Forgot One: Why the U.S. Let Lebanon Bleed

I don't find this Newsweek piece offers all the answers, but then it's difficult because of the many strange and tortuous bonds that exist between the U.S., Israel, the Middle East, and our "Saudi" friends.

As much as I feel the U.S. should support Israel, I do not think we need to continue hurtful relationships that allow both Israel and the Saud royal family to commit atrocities under the tacit approval of the U.S.

Hizbullah: Rebuilds and Regroups As Ceasefire Continues On Shaky Feet

Newsweek has the story. Remember that the 34-day active violence period in Lebanon brought with it some large surprises:

  • that the Israeli army could lose when it's bigger and better powered than almost any other military in the world; with it, the military sustained a fair amount of loss of soldiers
  • that Israel showed no restraint in attacking areas where civilian casualties would be great; then they claimed they had been given a "green light" to do so (presumably from the Bushies)
  • that Hezbollah managed to hold sway when Israel seemed to actually believe they could destroy it and are still claiming they can
  • that very quickly, the Israeli population turned from very strong support of Israel's efforts in Lebanon into much criticism

Blogging From Baghdad: Fuel Crisis Worsens

Read this Baghdad blog: Three years ago, the Bushies insisted that the battle with Iraq would pay for itself because the Bushies would effectively steal the world's third largest supply of oil from them during the American occupation. Now? Iraqis are paying wildly high prices because we've fucked things up so badly there that oil has to be imported to Iraq for their use.

Israeli Blockade

If the U.S. is so worried about Iran it needs to impose financial sanctions to make them play by the rules, perhaps the Bushies could exert the same energy toward Israel and impose economic sanctions against them if they won't end this blockade which continues to hurt Lebanon. Or withhold the four billion plus in aid we give Israel every year.

U.S. Wants to Impose Economic Sanctions on Iran

You know, I would have zero problem with the U.S. trying to force the U.N. to put economic sanctions on Iran if this weren't so damned political. Some of the very things the U.S. cites Iran to be guilty of apply equally or far more so to Israel and to the U.S. itself.

Mother Jones: Who Would You Rather Read? Judy Miller or Gary Webb?

Buzzflash points us to a good article in the current Mother Jones asking who you would prefer to read: Judith Miller who is the disgraced former NY Times "journalist" who basically delivered Pentagon press releases rather than bother with investigative research or Gary Webb, a man purported to have committed suicide after his reputation was called into question when he broke the story of the CIA dumping drugs into black communities to try to ruin them.

I've always wondered if Webb indeed did commit suicide. But I've never found anything definitive either way, whether suicide or murder. I do know that there are many ways the folks in Washington, D.C. can destroy the credibility of a person who blows the whistle on them.

The Hearts and Flowers Greeting American Soldiers in Iraq Must Have Very Sharp Thorns...

Because, as of yesterday, 2,610 U.S. soldiers have been killed there. And today, four more soldiers joined that number.

But civilians die at a much more accelerated rate: more civilians died in Baghdad ALONE last month (about 3,000 men, women, and children) than U.S. soldiers have died during the entire war.

Doomsday Bust?

Unless my mental Middle East clock is wrong, it has just become August 23rd in Iran and elsewhere. This means we passed the doomsday date of August 22nd without the rapture coming unwrapped.

Much Uncertainty Surrounds International Peackeeping Force in Lebanon

Almost all of the Middle Eastern news sources I read on any given day highlight strongly a real uncertainty as to the viability of the ceasefire - with the U.N. agreeing that Israeli raids and actions are in direct violation of the truce brought about by U.N. Security Council resolution 1701 (I think it's 1701, but I may be wrong)- as well as the future of the still-to-be-formed international peacekeeping force.

Part of the problem with the peacekeepers is that Israel is demanding to run the show, which probably cannot work. It's like having the fox in charge of henhouse security, something the Bushies love to do but just can't play well in the Middle East. Various European countries, initially relatively eager to supply peacekeeping troops, are now balking because of the rules Israel (and with it, the U.S.) are demanding.

Complicating matters is that while the ceasefire is brand new, Israel has announced it will do everything possible to kill Hezbollah's leader, Nasrallah and disarm Hezbollah forces; at the same time, Hezbollah is providing the only aid currently getting in to the much-harmed Lebanese civilians.

Say Hello to...

Semitism.net - it's a nice find with links to Middle Eastern blogs.


"Lessons From Lebanon"

Reader CK points us to this from War Nerd (a snippet, go there to read the whole thing) re: Israel, Hezbollah and Lebanon and the Middle East war mess:

Of course all these moves would've been wasted if the Israelis had caught on to what Hezbollah was up to, which leads to another lesson, one I'm always preaching: in asymmetrical warfare, Intelligence is everything. Or in this case, counterintelligence. Israeli intel, Shin Bet and Mossad, has been the real strength of the IDF for a long time. They're the best and most ruthless intelligence agencies since the USSR went bankrupt. But they had no idea what was waiting for them over the border. That's incredible, the most shocking news of all.

Remember, the IDF has instant access to all US military satellite intel, so this means that our tech intel was just as ineffective as Mossad's more traditional infiltration methods. That means Hezbollah, a huge organization with branches in every street in South Beirut and South Lebanon, has a scary effective counterintelligence branch. We all know the CIA is useless, but when Mossad and Shin Beth can't even penetrate the lower levels of a mass movement like Hezbollah, then the world has turned upside down.

And it has, folks. That's why this is such a huge, huge war. No matter what the waterheads on CNN try to tell you, the IDF lost totally, and every force configured like it -- such as, oh, the US Army or Air Force -- lost too. The Gophers are beating the shit out of the gardeners on this course. The gophers just kicked the shit out of Tiger Woods.

It's hard to say who gains in the long run.

A Shocker? "Hezbollah Is Not a Terrorist Organization"

Before you turn red and explode, read this piece - "Hezbollah Is Not a Terrorist Organization" - in its entirety. There is a great deal of good information and perhaps, a much needed shift in thinking in this whole Israel-Hezbollah-Lebanon mess. Personally, I had to read through it several times before I felt like I "got" it.

Here's a snip:

The challenge we face is to respect our enemies enough to know how to hang onto what is ours. To be strong enough to fight them when they come to kill us. But to be strong enough, as well, to remain open to those who want to find a way to live and let us live as well.

In the end, the Lebanese people no more want a Hezbollah state than we want a Kahane state. The Lebanese people are not terrorists. The label terrorist is much too simple. We love to use it, but it can blind us to the complexities of reality, and the fact that things, and even those we label terrorists, can change over time.

Think, for one brief moment, about Menachem Begin.

War Loss Compensation Differs by Race/Religion

Remember I posted about how there were many appeals here in the U.S. specifically to compensate the Jews hurt as part of the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah conflict, when Israel lost about 42 civilians (including many Arab Israelis), while we weren't seeing any of this appeal directed toward Muslims or Lebanese Christians, or anyone NOT an Israeli Jew?

Well, here comes Israel's Ha'aretz with a piece entitled, "Second Class Compensation": as you read, you see there is not only a very complicated formula for war compensation within Israel, you also note that Arab-majority villages in Israel were left out altogether.

Mind you, I would argue that the tens of billions in damage in Lebanon ought to be born by the people of Israel.

Imagine A Whole Sweltering Summer in the Middle East With No Electricity...

It's more than a fantasy for most if not all of Gaza and for the past month-and-a-half, in Lebanon, too. Israeli strikes at power plants have wiped out all hopes for electricity for months.


And if and when they restore power, it's very likely Israel will take them out again.

Israel's Biggest Problem

Probably the most important information that Israel's enemies took from the Israeli military attack on Hezbollah in Lebanon is that despite Israel's incredibly large and extremely well equipped military machine, formerly considered unbeatable except by the U.S. itself, is that Israel can indeed lose a fight.

Hezbollah, despite everything we've heard about how Iran and Syria pour hundreds of thousands and millions each year into it (and this is still just a fraction of how the U.S. funds Israel in dollars and equipment), stood up remarkably well against Israel while most of those dead on Israel's side were their own soldiers.

That Israel is beat-able is probably the worst outcome Israel could have from their 34-day long foray. And their insistence on continuing the fight now after a ceasefire is in place (insisting they will kill Nasrallah (imagine Hezbollah saying it would kill Olmert?) promises to make Israel lose even harder.

While you aren't hearing and reading about it through U.S. news groups, Middle East news outlets such as al-Jazeera and Israel's Ha'aretz cover increasingly louder calls for Israel's head of the military, Peretz, as well as Prime Minister Olmert to resign. However, the Washington Post gives a hint of this when it writes about how Olmert is dismissive of the protests in Israel.

Snakes On A Plane?

[YouTube video here]

Only when Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney are both traveling on Air Force One simultaneously.


Another Example of Israel (And The U.S.) and Double Standards

Here, Israel has kidnapped two Hamas politicians.

It's being reported here and in Israel as proper law.

But imagine how the story would be treated if Hamas kidnapped two Israeli cabinet members? There would be hell to pay.

This is one hell of a double standard being applied. I don't want the U.S. operating with double standards and I sure as hell don't want my tax money to fund Israel's double standards.

More on Israel, The Middle East, Power and Responsibility

While a few people have asked me why I've spent so much energy in posts on the Israel-Lebanon-Hezbollah battle since it's not directly about the United States, I respectfully disagree. The carnage a trois in Lebanon very much IS about the U.S. in a number of different ways. For example:

  • The U.S. funds Israel more than most other countries put together; a huge amount of that aid is in the form of military equipment which made the tiny land of Israel possess the third or fourth largest, best equpped military in the entire world. This fact does NOT go unnoticed in the world, especially the Muslim world. Much of the hardware used to devastate Lebanon was American-made and American supplied.
  • There is indication from a number of different sources that Bush and Israel were playing war games behind the scenes, before the advent of the July commencement of open combat by Israel against Hezbollah to see if such a war could be extended to Iran and Syria.
  • Related to the last point, a number of right wingnuts, including Newt Gingrich, have specifically endorsed a conflagration between the U.S. and Iran and/or Syria because the GOP could use World War III to its advantage; Glenn Beck and others have joined the "war to end all wars" rhetoric.
  • Political leaders in the U.S. from both parties rushed to defend Israel and make it sound like an us against them war even though poll after poll showed Americans wanting to remain neutral and take NO action in the Israel-Lebanon war.
  • Bush Administration policies have widened the divide between Muslims and the Western world. Example: Anyone who sends even a few dollars to Arab or Muslim charities runs the risk of being picked up on funding terrorism charges (which is not a danger if people fund extremist Zionist organizations in and around Israel).
  • Whenever the rest of the world through the United Nations attempts to sanction Israel for its egregious behavior, the United States ALWAYS steps in to stop such action. This happens time after time after time.
While a lot of time and energy gets spent on discussing how many Arab nations do not want to allow Israel to exist (and much of that is true), what is missing from such is that Israel increasingly advocates actions and efforts that seem to imply Israel does not want its Arab/Muslim neighbors to exist. This is what is discussed in the letter from 18 writers published in the Nation that I referenced last week. Examples:
  • Israel is usually the aggressor in any violence except the smaller phenomenon of suicide bombers
  • Israel does not respect borders; example: when they decided to build that dividing wall between Palestinian land and Israeli, they seemed to go out of their way to usurp Palestinian property to build it and often cut off Palestinian farmers and tradesmen from their own property
  • Israel has often wiped out the infrastructure of their neighbors, including power plants, hospitals, schools, bridges, etc. knowing that these people are too poor - and that Israel usually controls to some degree their ability to rebuild or move beyond their limited geographical areas
Israel MUST be held accountable. Just as all Arab/Muslim nations must respect Israel's right to exist (and many now do), Israel must respect Arab/Muslim nations' right to exist.

"Israel's Unilateralism"

From the good folks at Anything They Say, a post which echoes some of my own thoughts:

Hardly anyone expected the UN cease-fire to last long between Israel and Hezbollah and Israel's blatant violation of the agreement was no surprise. They said they would do what they wanted and they did. The raid's effectivesness, of course, is hardly part of the equation. Accountability, too, is not a feature of Israeli foreign policy, mimicking as it does, Bush's own transgressions against international law. Hezbollah and Lebanon also appears well into violating the agreement, as The Osterely Times has noted. The Lebanese army was supposed to disarm Hezbollah as part of the cease-fire and not only are they refusing to so, but officers are advising Lebanese troops that "support for the resistance" is military doctrine.

But the madness, it seems, is not limited to reigniting the fighting in Lebanon, for Israeli forces have just abducted the Palestinian deputy prime minister, bursting into his home Saturday morning. Nasser Shaer now shares jail cells with eight cabinet ministers and a some 24 members of the Palestinian Authority parliament, along with 10,000 other Palestinians. Palestinians have little recourse in the matter, as Israel stomps about at will with apparently little restraint. The abduction of Shaer, considered to be a moderate and a "pragmatist," will certainly serve to alienate and radicalize him. There are reasons to do this if Israel's goal is to avoid future talks and act unilaterally. At this point, it seems clear that everything Israel is doing is designed for just this purpose.

Since Hamas' election victory, Israel and the US have been trying to undermine the government and Israel's initial raid on Gaza came just as the Fatah party and Hamas were consolidating an inter-party agreement, with Hamas apparently ready to reconsider its long-held position against the state of Israel, as it had been required to do in order to achieve "legitimacy" in the international arena. In the twisted weltanschaaung of the Cheney administration, this sort of agreement was entirely untoward, as a mitigated Hamas position would then actually produce "someone to talk to," which the Israelis have said was lacking with a radical Hamas government. What better way to remove the threat of negotiation than to simply round up the government -- especially the "pragmatists" -- and toss them in the can? Suddenly, and once again, there's "no one to talk to."

"Stay The Course" Even When The Course Happens to Run Through Hell and Over the Top Of Mount Everest

Also from the Nation, some important stories.

First, which follows upon my post earlier about Bush and his "stay the course" insistence:

Lost in Iraq

David Corn writes that the President's latest press conference is not the sort of stuff that will hearten a nation. Bush remains lost in Iraq, with the rest of the country (and the world) held hostage by the mistakes and miscalculations he will not concede.
You may want to follow this with John Nichols' question on The Nation blog: "Is It Time to Censure a Lawless President?" (personally, I think censure is too light; these men are traitors and war criminals).

Also, in the "Anything That Has Ted Stevens' Name Attached You Know Will Be Bad for You" department:
Congress Poised to Unravel the Internet

Senator Ted Stevens has no idea how the Internet works, but he's asking Congress to remake it to suit the interests of the telecommunications industry. Can progressives apply the pressure to kill this bill?
And last but hardly least, "War of Words" OR "A Dictionary of Republicanisms"
War of Words
Katrina vanden Heuvel writes that the fight over political rhetoric continues, as the GOP seeks to distort public discourse. Help us update our Dictionary of Republicanisms (aka GOP doublespeak).

The Nation on Joementum: "Who's A Democrat?"

From The Nation:

Who's a Democrat?

William Greider writes that the question of party identity takes on weird new relevance now that Joe Lieberman is cross-dressing in Connecticut. Defeated once as a Democrat, tiresome Joe is now running again as an independent. Only he professes he’s still a loyal Dem at heart. How can we know he’s not lying?
Many, and most of them far right wing types, cite Jim Jeffords defection from the Republican party as very much akin to what Lieberman has done here in jumping ship from Democrats who declined to support him for his fourth term bid as U.S. Senator from Connecticut.

However, I do not see the two men and their situations as directly comparable. Here are some of the differences as I perceive them:
  1. Jeffords jumped ship outside of election time while Lieberman has only done it to try to keep his seat
  2. Jeffords did not embrace the Democratic Party when he moved from the GOP on May 24th, 2001 while Lieberman has fallen all over himself to kiss up to the Republicans
  3. Jeffords had majority support for his decision while Joe does not; in fact, his primary support is from the GOP
  4. Lieberman has changed allegiances ONLY because Democrats refused to support him; with Jeffords, he had a very legitimate point in saying that the Republican party as it had come to quite a different platform had made it nearly impossible for moderate GOPers to be part of the party
  5. Jeffords did not change his ideology whereas Lieberman has, embracing the whole "Democrats hate our freedom and are the agents of al Qaeda"
  6. Jeffords actively discussed and solicited feedback from voters who had elected him when he chose to move from Republican to Independent status; Lieberman however is pretty obvious that he has joined with the GOP (and not really as an Indy although that's how he's running) just to save his ass in November; Joe cares not at all how the voters feel and only wants to keep his plush job

More Diversion: John Mark Karr and the JonBenet Ramsey Murder Case

Did you happen to hear that Karr, the fellow who claims (sort of sideways) that he "accidentally" killed the six-year-old "beauty" queen JonBenet Ramsey after he drugged and raped her (which pathology reports say did not happen) is back in the U.S. awaiting extradition to Colorado?

In a bizarre twist to this case, some doctor announced he was involved in treating Karr. What's interesting is that this doctor specializes in transgender operations, meaning taking (in this case) a man and changing him into a her.

Normally, I would pay little if any attention to this, but this story is just so bizarro. A lot of what Karr has supposedly said do not match the facts as known. The college professor who Karr supposedly confessed to just happens to have a new book on the case being released now, which doesn't exactly pass the smell test.

One thing I do note - because I haven't had much use for these people otherwise - is that the Ramsey family, including Patsy's own, are quick to say no one should just assume this man is guilty. It's very possible this man is only guilty of being a real nutjob, and may perceive of himself (just watch his manner of movement, his clothing) as really someone about the age of JonBenet when she was killed.

I've heard there was also child pornography found on his computer or among his possesions. If true, that's really bad. But I think this man may actually be looney tunes enough that this is a case of legitimate psychiatric illness rather than just some guy who gets his sick kicks off child porn. I see a distinction there, although I realize some might argue the point.

Iran, Nukes, And The August 22nd "Doomsday" Dialogue

According to authorities, Iran refuses to allow U.N. inspectors in to assess their nuclear materials and capabilities. Tomorrow, there is expected to be some kind of showdown where Iran actively contests any attempt to monitor its nuclear program.

Tomorrow is also the much-hyped Doomsday date, a big deal in the Muslim calendar because it's supposed to be the day that Mohammed ascended into heaven. You no doubt over the weekend saw lots of video footage of Iran performing tests, making its military play war games in the event of an attack by the West (which would be us), et al. To me, it sounded like a lot of the drumbeat toward war we saw with Iraq, but on a much grander scale.

As I've posted too many times before, I don't see how the United States, with the largest nuclear arsenal in the world and growing exponentially under the Bushies, gets to tell other countries they can't have nukes. Personally, I would prefer NO ONE had nukes. But that aside, I just don't see how it's far that the U.S. can have the largest arsenal, that the U.S. helped Israel develop one of the world's larger nuclear arsenals when they aren't supposed to have them at all, and yet the U.S. and Israel can threaten an attack on Iran because Iran is now starting to develop them.