At Least Two Of The Seven Million Americans Behind Bars Are There For Drug Offenses

[Ed. note: Now, anytime I write about the schizophrenic and often brutal approach to drug offenses in the U.S., not to mention the wildly subjective and non-uniform way in which cases get handled, I get email insisting I must be a pro drug fanatic. Uh, no. A little pot was about all I ever tried more than once. I'm NOT pro drug but I am anti-drug war because a) it has not worked and never will, b)it probably destroys more lives here and around the globe than the drugs themselves, and with laws allowing for seizure of property with no proof and the feds cherry picking who they prosecute and persecute, the system invites corruption.]

Don't know if you bothered to read the rest of the wire service story - or my previous post on the topic - about the shocking rise in Americans behind bars, but if you didn't, there are some additional bits of information many of us find quite surprising.

More than a quarter of those in prison are there for drug offenses with the overwhelming majority of these are pretty low level and usually non-violent (some stats I've seen put it anywhere from 80-98%) drug crimes.

If in doubt, consider this: many of the laws related to drugs allow police and prosecutors to charge based on the weight of drugs they seize. A good example are the scores of people who get 10-20 year sentences or more based on the weight of LSD seized, with the blotter paper upon which the drop of LSD is placed making up almost the entire weight.

Even if you want to defend this particular point, understand that law books are filled with cases where far more than a medium like that blotter paper gets weighed. I remember one case where someone had hidden four ounces of marijuana in a portable TV; while the pot itself may not have gotten someone years in jail, the law enforcement folks decided to weigh the TV in which the pot was concealed which bumped this person into a federal mandatory minimum of at least 10 years.

Can we really afford an approach to drugs where the kingpins walk and do business as usual but the insignificant players go to prison for one, two, or more decades? Where we've destroyed whole countries like Colombia "fighting" the drug war when it's only gotten exponentially worse? When we invade Afghanistan claiming at least in part we'll kill the opium production (actually, the crazy Taliban had it pretty much under control before we landed) only to make the opium crop grow ten- or a hundred-fold every year? And where a lot of the funding for the drug war comes from corporations like alcohol and cigarette and prescription and herbal drug producers - and for-profit drug treatment centers - that simply want consumers to buy their drugs?

Another Unnecessary Bush War Milestone

The "official" death count/war dead tally of U.S. soldiers in Iraq has today reached 2,930.

Meanwhile, the Bush Twins, yet to hold a job since they "graduated" college in Spring 2004, are said to be still celebrating their 25th birthday three weeks after the official date, and even after perhaps one or both were asked by the U.S. Embassy to leave Argentina for their drunk, drugged, nude, and otherwise disorderly conduct.

Argentina: they survived Eva Peron but not Jenna and Barbara.

USA: 5% of World's Population Yet 25% of World's Prison Population

Another story getting no real attention. And mind you, the number of years served for violent crime including murder, manslaughter, and vicious assault, is usually much, much less than the number of years served for possession of even recreational amounts of drugs and the growing of as few as 10-25 pot plants.

Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at (non) work:
Tough sentencing laws, record numbers of drug offenders and high crime rates have contributed to the United States having the largest prison population and the highest rate of incarceration in the world, according to criminal justice experts.

A U.S. Justice Department report released on November 30 showed that a record 7 million people -- or one in every 32 American adults -- were behind bars, on probation or on parole at the end of last year. Of the total, 2.2 million were in prison or jail.

According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College in London, more people are behind bars in the United States than in any other country. China ranks second with 1.5 million prisoners, followed by Russia with 870,000.

The U.S. incarceration rate of 737 per 100,000 people in the highest, followed by 611 in Russia and 547 for St. Kitts and Nevis. In contrast, the incarceration rates in many Western industrial nations range around 100 per 100,000 people.

Groups advocating reform of U.S. sentencing laws seized on the latest U.S. prison population figures showing admissions of inmates have been rising even faster than the numbers of prisoners who have been released.

"The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in locking up our fellow citizens," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports alternatives in the war on drugs.

Israel Won't Rule Out A Preemptive Attack on Iran

[Ed. note: Only Israel and the Bushies seem to think Iran's got anything that poses a true threat in the nuke department: oh, they don't really believe it but they want an excuse to go after Iran. Lying people into war: been too much of that going on.]

This is one of the few constants we can always depend upon from the leaders of Israel: taking a bad situation and trying to agitate it into a worse one.

Yet, while Israel's PM Ehud Olmert - reported by the Jerusalem Post - says there is still time for the United Nations to hit Iran with significant, harsh sanctions, let me point out that Israel regularly commits transgressions for which the U.N. always tries to impose significant sanctions.

What stops them from making Israel suffer consequences for its behavior?

The United States. We always step in and - even when every other U.N. voting member votes yes to stop Israel, the U.S. blocks the U.N. from doing a damned thing.

The good people of Israel, like the good people of the U.S., really need to be more discerning in their choice of leaders. The biggest threat to Israel's existence and to the goal of peace so many very decent Israelis seek is always Israel's leaders and those who tell them what to do.

The Princess Diana Story That Never Goes Away

While I can appreciate a desire to, for once and for all, try to come up with the "final" answer on what happened in the accident that caused Princess Diana's death nearly a decade ago, we never seem to reach that final answer. Instead, ugly facts just keep being regurgitated up so a public starved for royal rubbish can feed like sharks on the vomit.

It's hard to see what is either new or news here that the driver of the car was drunk. Those charges have been around since the time of the accident.

With Darfur, with Iraq, with the widespread starvation in North Korea, with the Christmas tsunami in Indonesia nearly two years ago and the closer-to-home continued devastation of New Orleans and other areas, it seems there are no shortage of tragic and important stories. Unless there was a true "royal" plot to off Diana - which does not at all seem the case - can't we simply bury the Diana stories for once for for all?

You Need A Scorecard To Keep Up With All The People President Bush Blames For Iraq Failures Which Is Everyone But Himself And His Administration

[Ed. note: Just for giggles, let me add that Saddam Hussein's nephew has escaped from prison. Wow, I see the Bushies take Iraq security very seriously.]

A few posts earlier, I noted that President Bush indicates it's up to the American people to come to some concensus on what should be done in Iraq (Cliffs' Notes version: Bush wants Americans to agree blindly with whatever he decides to do). So #1: American people are responsible.

In the last post, I noted the U.S. News & World Report article where Bush plans to take his own sweet time "pretending" to read the Iraq Study Group/Baker-Hamilton Commission report recommendations before he categorically states he's not going to follow any of them. Mind you, I happened to hear yesterday that Bush is planning an extended Christmas vacation of perhaps 2-3 weeks during which Iraq's probably not going to interfere with his naps and "brush cutting". Hope your sons and daughters fighting in Iraq and those causing so much destruction in Iraq also will be able to take 2-3 weeks off with as much leisure care as Mr. Bush & Company. So #2: Baker-Hamilton group is responsible for coming up with a plan Bush can ignore.

And now? Mr. Bush is insisting it is up to Democrats to come up with a plan for Iraq and to speak out. Doesn't matter the numerous times, even since the November 7th mid-terms that Mr. Bush has made it perfectly clear that the Dems can talk until they exhaust their air supply; he ain't listening. So #3: Dems are responsible.

Also, let's not forget that Mr. Bush has said many times - often privately but it does slip out publicly - that the Iraqi people themselves are responsible for the mess in Iraq. Doesn't matter that he does not allow them to make any real decisions for themselves or that what passes for leaders in Iraq right now are merely puppets of the Bush occupation. So #4: Iraqis are responsible.

Finally, giving Mr. Bush yet another entity to blame for Iraq rather than accept his own culpability: Iran has offered to help the U.S. design an exit strategy from Iraq; Mr. Bush, of course, refuses to let anyone discuss this offer with Iran. Of course. #5: Iran - with Syria - is responsible for Iraq (and we might as well throw in the Bush Administration's favorite fall guy so #7: Clinton is responsible for Iraq).

Poppy Bush's People Worried Bush II "Dismissive" Of Iraq Study Group Recommendations

See the US News piece quoted below.

So we're supposed to care that the ever-tearful Poppy (George H. W.) Bush and his aides are worried that President Bush II has yawned and won't even "read" or bother to comment on the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (aka Baker-Hamilton Commission) report for weeks?

I mean, we are worried. Our men and women are dying in Iraq and the Iraqis - the people we were told we were going in to "free" - are dying in ever greater numbers due to the violence the Bush Admin's (mis)handling of this war allowed to develop.

So forgive me if I don't give a rat's ass that Poppy Bush is crying again, this time because the 40th or 50th "life line" he's tossed to his megalomaniac son gets sunk. Bush's behavior throughout, but especially his smirking and lying as the situation gets worse and worse, is exactly why I believe we should be considering whether the Bush Administration has and is acting in ways that define treason (rather than "simply" to impeach him and keep the rest of this failed, miserable crew aboard).

From Kenneth T. Walsh writing at U.S. News & World Report:

Former White House advisers to George H.W. Bush are keenly disappointed and concerned about the current President Bush's initial reaction to the report by the Iraq Study Group.

They consider him rather dismissive of the group's conclusions, issued yesterday, which include the view that current Iraq policy is failing. The group recommends a variety of important changes, such as assigning U.S. troops to play more of an advisory and training role and less of a combat role. The ISG also recommends that the United States withdraw most of its combat brigades by early 2008 and that the administration increase diplomatic efforts, including starting talks with Iran and Syria and energetically working toward an Israeli-Palestinian solution.

Adding to the unease were President Bush's comments at his Thursday news conference with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in which he avoided commenting on specifics in the ISG report.

"We have a classic case of circling the wagons," says a former adviser to Bush the elder. "If President Bush changes his policy in Iraq in a fundamental way, it undermines the whole premise of his presidency. I just don't believe he will ever do that."

White House advisers say Bush won't react in detail to the ISG report for several weeks, while he assesses it and awaits various internal government reports on the situation from his own advisers. Bush tells aides he doesn't want to "outsource" his role as commander in chief. Some Bush allies say this is a way to buy some time as the president tries to decide how to deal with rising pressure to alter his strategy in Iraq and hopes the critical media focus on the Iraq war will soften. .

Another Point of American Concensus: While Americans Want Talks Between the U.S. and Iran/Syria, Bush Rejects The Possibility

Once again, Mr. Bush is hell bent to have everything "his way", even if it means going to war without having a single discussion with Iran or Syria first.

This time, however, Americans aren't buying his notion. They want the talks.

BBC: Bush "Confident" Americans Will Reach A "Concensus" That He Will Be Iraq's Savior

From the BBC with my comments below:

US President George W Bush has said he is confident Americans can move beyond political differences and agree a new direction for Iraq leading to victory.

In his weekly radio address, he again praised the report by the Iraq Study Group calling for a change of strategy.

But he made clear he would take no major decisions based upon it alone.
Uh, reality to Mr. Bush: Americans have reached a concensus, one that blows past racial, political, religious, and economic boundaries. The vast majority of Americans believe:
  • You took us into Iraq under false pretenses
  • You and Rumsfeld did such a piss poor job as you took us to Iraq that you turned a "slam dunk", a "cakewalk", a situation where you promised "we'll be in and out in less time than it takes to get a suit dry cleaned" into a nightmare of epic proportions
  • You clearly have no plan for either getting our troops out or for stabilizing Iraq
  • You clearly have no plans to implement all or part of the Iraq Study Group recommendations and we're fairly certain you have not read it (or had Condi read it to you) or have no intention of doing so

So, Mr. Bush, the American people have reached concensus. We are operating in reality - and unfortunately, so too are the Iraqi people - dying in record numbers each and everyday.

What are you, Mr. Bush, going to do?

I believe the American people should impeach you. But, were you an honorable man, you would resign.

Thankfully, we operate under no illusion that you are an honorable man. You should not harbor that delusion either.

Iraqi Death Count May Exceed That of American Civil War But---

Will, as this piece, also by Greg Mitchell, at Editor & Publisher properly asks, American newspapers and media report it?

The Tragedy And The Lies Did Not End With The "Friendly Fire" Death of Pat Tillman

Greg Mitchell brings us the story of another dead soldier whose loss has turned into another sad tale reminiscent of Pat Tillman for the lies and spin told by the military. Read it!

For the past five weeks, in this column, I have spotlighted the misreporting of American deaths in Iraq and among veterans of that war here at home. Over and over, the press -- and parents and spouses -- have been lied to about how young Americans in the military have died.

Now another case, this one involving Jess Buryj, a soldier from Canton, Ohio, who (it turns out) died in a friendly fire incident – shot in the back – has gained some attention.

The U.S. military has tried to blame Polish soldiers for his death, but a soldier who served with Buryi told his parents an American G.I. was actually at fault. Buryj’s father was so shaken by the alleged cover-up that he came to question whether the body they buried was even their son’s.

The Associated Press had announced the death of the soldier back in March 2004, asserting that he had died "while heroically trying to stop an attack on an Army checkpoint." Of course, they are at the mercy of the military for any information.

“Jesse Buryj, 21, of Canton, fired more than 400 rounds at a dump truck trying to crash the checkpoint near Karbala," AP related. "He shot the driver of the truck, which then crashed into the Humvee in which he was riding, an Army sergeant told his mother, Peggy Buryj, on Wednesday morning.

"The official U.S. casualty report said that Buryj had died of "a back injury" caused by "hostile enemy activity." Actually, the dump truck was filled with dirt or sand, not explosives, and was driven by civilians who had no weapons.
"Another Pat Tillman". Read the column and you see that Tillman, sadly, was just one of many - too many.

As I've written before, I really respect Greg's work. But you don't have to be a fan to find his series of columns focusing on the deaths - and the lives - of fallen soldiers riveting.

Like the war or not, these soldiers ostensibly "gave their lives" for the American cause. They deserve our attention. I'm very glad Greg understands that and presents it to us.

Jimmy Carter's "Palestine: Peace, Not Apartheid"

Former president Jimmy Carter, a man I consider to have achieved his full potential and greatness only after he left office, is finding his new book either ignored or drawing fire from those who see any expression of compassion toward Palestinians as "anti-Semitic" or "anti-Israel".

Al Franken and Randi Rhodes To Depart Air America?

That's the gist of this from Radar Online.

E&P: AP Stands By Its Story That Touched Off So Much Violence In Iraq

This refers to an AP story that is considered the "flash point" that led to more than 200 shiites killed in retaliation for the sunni deaths (set on fire) discussed in the piece. From Editor & Publisher:

Charges that The Associated Press had been duped into running a false story on six Iraqis who were allegedly set on fire two weeks ago -- and had used as a source a supposedly fictional Iraqi police captain -- have continued to emerge from conservative bloggers and pundits, despite AP denials and its further reporting on the incident.

The U.S. military has questioned the story and some Iraqi officials more recently asserted that the police captain did not exist.

On Friday, Kathleen Carroll, executive editor and senior vice president of The Associated Press, issued another lengthy statement on the matter. She strongly defended the AP's account and sourcing and denounced criticism of its Iraqi correspondents.

"Questioning their integrity and work ethic is simply offensive," she wrote. "It's awfully easy to take pot shots from the safety of a computer keyboard thousands of miles from the chaos of Baghdad."

Want Some Martial Law With Your Freedom Fries?

From Congressional Quarterly (and it's no prettier than watching Bush make faces at the opera last week):

It’s amazing what you can find if you turn over a few rocks in the anti-terrorism legislation Congress approved during the election season.

Take, for example, the John W. Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2006, named for the longtime Armed Services Committee chairman from Virginia.

Signed by President Bush on Oct. 17, the law (PL 109-364) has a provocative provision called “Use of the Armed Forces in Major Public Emergencies.”

The thrust of it seems to be about giving the federal government a far stronger hand in coordinating responses to Katrina-like disasters.

But on closer inspection, its language also alters the two-centuries-old Insurrection Act, which Congress passed in 1807 to limit the president’s power to deploy troops within the United States.

That law has long allowed the president to mobilize troops only “to suppress, in a State, any insurrection, domestic violence, unlawful combination, or conspiracy.”

But the amended law takes the cuffs off.

Specifically, the new language adds “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident” to the list of conditions permitting the President to take over local authority — particularly “if domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order.”

Since the administration broadened what constitutes “conspiracy” in its definition of enemy combatants — anyone who “has purposely and materially supported hostilities against the United States,” in the language of the Military Commissions Act (PL 109-366) — critics say it’s a formula for executive branch mischief.

Yet despite such a radical turn, the new law garnered little dissent, or even attention, on the Hill.

One of the few to complain, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., warned that the measure virtually invites the White House to declare federal martial law.

It “subverts solid, longstanding posse comitatus statutes that limit the military’s involvement in law enforcement, thereby making it easier for the President to declare martial law,” he said in remarks submitted to the Congressional Record on Sept. 29.

“The changes to the Insurrection Act will allow the President to use the military, including the National Guard, to carry out law enforcement activities without the consent of a governor,” he said.
Now we saw what the government did forto New Orleans and those stuck there with Katrina. Do we really want them to have more power to wreak chaos?

"We're from the government and we're here to ... help you (yeah, yeah, that's the ticket - the chumps will believe it, too).


Don Imus Has His Own Mel Gibson-Michael Richards Meltdown Moment

There was a time when Don Imus was amusing (always more amusing than interesting) for his bad boy routine. Yet, as I've said, even as a fairly young child, I understood that Imus got most of his amusement mileage out of pharmaceuticals of one kind or another and that one day, he would likely pay for the brain cells he was charring. That moment came some time ago, perhaps even before his right hand man, Charles McCord, became a born-again basket case.

With Don Imus so far out on the right wing that one little tilt of his ridiculous cowboy hat would send him crashing down from that branch he's out on, it's probably no surprise to anyone that he's no longer interesting, certainly not amusing, and now, he's just big-mouthed, ugly, self important, and he can't even pretend to hide the considerable venomous hate in his heart.

It's (sadly) also no surprise that Dippy Donny decided to attack the "Jewish management" of CBS radio - which owns his "radio" show on WFAN - as "money-grubbing bastards". ::sigh::

That's the "beauty" of stereotypes, I guess. You don't have to think. You just have to rely on some old, invariably wrong symbolism and hate to beat your point across.

Paul Krugman: "They Told You So"

Read the entire column here (and you should, you really should):

Shortly after U.S. forces marched into Baghdad in 2003, The Weekly Standard published a jeering article titled, “The Cassandra Chronicles: The stupidity of the antiwar doomsayers.” Among those the article mocked was a “war novelist” named James Webb, who is now the senator-elect from Virginia.

The article’s title was more revealing than its authors knew. People forget the nature of Cassandra’s curse: although nobody would believe her, all her prophecies came true.

And so it was with those who warned against invading Iraq. At best, they were ignored. A recent article in The Washington Post ruefully conceded that the paper’s account of the debate in the House of Representatives over the resolution authorizing the Iraq war — a resolution opposed by a majority of the Democrats — gave no coverage at all to those antiwar arguments that now seem prescient.

At worst, those who were skeptical about the case for war had their patriotism and/or their sanity questioned. The New Republic now says that it “deeply regrets its early support for this war.” Does it also deeply regret accusing those who opposed rushing into war of “abject pacifism?”

Now, only a few neocon dead-enders still believe that this war was anything but a vast exercise in folly. And those who braved political pressure and ridicule to oppose what Al Gore has rightly called “the worst strategic mistake in the history of the United States” deserve some credit....
The quotes alone, giving historical perspective into how many intelligent people got Iraq "right" while the Bushies were hell-bent to get it all wrong makes this column an education; read it all.

Iraq War/Fallout From Iraq Study Group Report Roundup

There is just far too many important - and even more infuriating - posts out in the blogosphere (or, as Skippy would call it, blogtopia!) related to the release of the Iraqi Study Group/Baker-Hamilton commission report this week and the loyal Bushies' boorish and bone-headed reactions to it to do even the most critical ones justice. So I've tried to do a quick roundup of those you might want to investigate yourself.

In a must-read article at Salon, Juan Cole (the Middle East expert who blogs at Informed Comment), notes that, "The president's Shiite allies in Iraq really don't like some of James Baker's Sunni-friendly suggestions."

Jon Ponder of Pensito Review notes that "Rightwing propoganda that no ISG members served in the military is a lie." He also writes that, "WaPo says Iraq Report is 'repudiation' of Bush, neocon policies."

Pat Buchanan (who opposed the Iraq War vociferously from before its start) jumped to defend President Bush's big yawn and insistence that he (Bush) didn't even have to read the damned thing, let alone act on its recommendations. Then, in the same breath, Buchanan - on MSNBC's Redneck RivieraScarborough Country last night - stated rather categorically that going into Iraq and starting a war there was the worst mistake the U.S. had ever made. Wow.

The Iraq Study Group report concludes that the Bush-Rumsfeld war policies have failed in almost every single application. Also, that the remaining possibility to change the course there grows fainter every day.

Philip Carter, writing at Slate, says one of the biggest shortcomings of the Iraq Study Group information gathering was that it talked to generals but did not at all seek out the opinions of the grunts on the front lines. I agree there.

The august Glenn Greenwald voices largely the same views I have; that the Baker-Hamilton commission was "a travesty waiting to happen" and "what rational person would listen to people like James Baker?"

From Steve Benen at the excellent Carpetbagger Report: "Professional blowhard Bill Bennett lashed out at the Iraq Study Group yesterday, writing in the National Review that, “In all my time in Washington I’ve never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority. Self-congratulatory. Full of itself. Horrible.” One wonders if he appreciates the irony of Bill Bennett using these words to describe others."

I also agree with AmericaBlog's assessment that the ISG report is a dud that Bush will completely ignore if he doesn't ridicule to death.

This article at Alternet states that the ISG report recommendations pretty much guarantee that Iraq's oil resources will, regardless of whether the U.S. stays or runs from Iraq, will remain in the control of U.S. oil/energy companies.

Columnist Jonathan Landay emphasizes the finding of the Iraq Study Group report that the Bush Administration makes routine practice of underreporting and downplaying the levels of violence that increase almost everyday in Iraq.

Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican, came out yesterday to call the Iraq War absurd and quite possibly criminal in the way it has been carried out by the Bush Administration. While the press has tried hard to ignore what Smith said, Smith's people say that at least a dozen other GOP senators agree with Smith.

William Arkin at Washington Monthly just isn't impressed with the ISG report. Here's his take on it.

For video of how Jon Stewart and "The Daily Show" tackled the ISG, go here. Also, Crooks and Liars' John Amato quotes from ISG panel member and GOPer Lawrence Eagleburger in WaPo:

"Minutes after the Iraq Study Group placed an improvised explosive device beneath the Bush administration's Iraq policy yesterday, panel member Lawrence Eagleburger was asked how President Bush reacted to the recommendations.

"His reaction was, 'Where's my drink?' " the former secretary of state cracked after the commission's White House visit and Capitol Hill news conference. Reaching for his own cola, Eagleburger continued: "He was a little loaded. It was early in the morning, too, you know.""
This barely even scratches a molecule of the surface of what's out there but.... you can share your own favorite/most infuriating links on this topic in Comments (hint hint).

Outgoing GOP-Majority Congress' Priorities? More Financial Windfalls For The Rich!

Why am I not surprised by this post at Think Progress?

In the coming days, Congress will likely pass a “tax extenders” bill to “renew popular expired tax breaks,” such as the “research credit, a deduction for tuition and other college expenses, and a deduction for teachers who spend money out of their own pocket for classroom supplies.”

But Congress has decided to use the bill for partisan purposes. In closed-door negotiations, Congress “added a tax break benefiting high-income taxpayers that was never passed by either the full House or Senate.” The measure would increase the amount that individuals could contribute to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), “thereby allowing those who could make these additional contributions to shelter even more of their income from taxation.”
Ducky. Just ducky.

The Murderers We Pay And Protect: How The Department of Homeland Security and Justice Dept Supports a Paid Informant Who Ruthlessly Murdered Many

Glenn Greenwald introduces us to and analyzes a completely reprehensible example of the lengths (or should it be abysmal depths?) members of the Department of Homeland (In)Security and the Department of Justice - including very senior officials (think Bush's bestest lawyer Al Gonzales along with John Ashcroft) - will go to protect a murderous piece of scum just to buoy up highly questionable case(s) of their own. This is a scandal considered to be on a par with the massive abuses committed by American soldiers (and quite possibly fully sanctioned by Rumsfeld and the Pentagon) at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison. From what I can glean from Glenn, this story is only playing in Britain's The Observer/Guardian and in very limited U.S. papers (Dallas Morning News among the few) when it is indeed an American story (and vicious perversion of justice).

It's not an easy read whatsoever; I cannot even summarize it here in any abbreviated capacity and still do it any justice whatsoever. But I strongly encourage you to take the time to read it.

Glenn's posts on it are here and here. You can find The Observer/Guardian piece here. Glenn also cites Narco News, an anti-drug war publication, with doing much of the original investigative legwork; you can find Narco News' piece here.

Another Weapon I "Missed": Israel's "Ethno-Bomb" To Hurt Arabs While Leaving Jews Unharmed

Also from Wired:

Israel is reportedly developing a biological weapon that would harm Arabs while leaving Jews unaffected, according to a report in London's Sunday Times.

The report, citing Israeli military and western intelligence sources, says that scientists are trying to identify distinctive genes carried by Arabs to create a genetically modified bacterium or virus.

The "ethno-bomb" is reportedly Israel's response to the threat that Iraq may be just weeks away from completing its own biological weapons. [Ed. note: Iraq? Iraq? Iraq? They must be Iran, but three-plus weeks after Wired posted it, there is no correction.]

The "ethno-bomb" program is based at Israel's Nes Tziyona research facility. Scientists are trying to use viruses and bacteria to alter DNA inside living cells and attack only those cells bearing Arabic genes.

The task is very complex because both Arabs and Jews are Semitic peoples. But according to the report, the Israelis have succeeded in isolating particular characteristics of certain Arabs, "particularly the Iraqi people."

Dedi Zucker, a member of the Israeli parliament, denounced the research in the Sunday Times.
"Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and our experience, such a weapon is monstrous and should be denied."

Last month, Foreign Report claimed that Israel was following in the ignominious footsteps of apartheid-era research, in their supposed efforts to develop an "ethnic bullet."
This is so very bad that it is impossible for me to believe that the Bush Administration and Pentagon weren't the ones truly behind it. "Monstrous" does not begin to describe what this is, nor can I help but wonder what the reaction would be if Arabs had developed such a weapon targeted only at Jews. The outrage would be deafening yet this story, from mid-November, has gotten almost no attention whatsoever.

You Say Hello And The Pentagon Shoots You Goodbye!

With the Bush Administration's and Pentagon's great preference for bigger and better and scarier weapons over anything as wussy as sane and well-reasoned strategies, can it be any surprise whatsoever that we have a new weapon - the Goodbye machine - designed to make people scarce in a public gathering? [Ed. note: If it works, I assume the Bushies will start using it on the White House press corps starting with octogenarian Helen Thomas and moving on to NBC's David Gregory who they want fired and charged with treason for asking tough questions.]

From Wired:

The crowd is getting ugly. Soldiers roll up in a Hummer. Suddenly, the whole right half of your body is screaming in agony. You feel like you've been dipped in molten lava. You almost faint from shock and pain, but instead you stumble backwards -- and then start running. To your surprise, everyone else is running too. In a few seconds, the street is completely empty.

You've just been hit with a new nonlethal weapon that has been certified for use in Iraq -- even though critics argue there may be unforeseen effects.

According to documents obtained for Wired News under federal sunshine laws, the Air Force's Active Denial System, or ADS, has been certified safe after lengthy tests by military scientists in the lab and in war games.

The ADS shoots a beam of millimeters waves, which are longer in wavelength than x-rays but shorter than microwaves -- 94 GHz (= 3 mm wavelength) compared to 2.45 GHz (= 12 cm wavelength) in a standard microwave oven.

The longer waves are thought to limit the effects of the radiation. If used properly, ADS will produce no lasting adverse affects, the military argues.

Documents acquired for Wired News using the Freedom of Information Act claim that most of the radiation (83 percent) is instantly absorbed by the top layer of the skin, heating it rapidly.

The beam produces what experimenters call the "Goodbye effect," or "prompt and highly motivated escape behavior." In human tests, most subjects reached their pain threshold within 3 seconds, and none of the subjects could endure more than 5 seconds.

"It will repel you," one test subject said. "If hit by the beam, you will move out of it -- reflexively and quickly. You for sure will not be eager to experience it again."

But while subjects may feel like they have sustained serious burns, the documents claim effects are not long-lasting. At most, "some volunteers who tolerate the heat may experience prolonged redness or even small blisters," the Air Force experiments concluded.

The reports describe an elaborate series of investigations involving human subjects.

The volunteers were military personnel: active, reserve or retired, who volunteered for the tests. They were unpaid, but the subjects would "benefit from direct knowledge that an effective nonlethal weapon system could soon be in the inventory," said one report. The tests ranged from simple exposure in the laboratory to elaborate war games involving hundreds of participants.

The military simulated crowd control situations, rescuing helicopter crews in a Black Hawk Down setting and urban assaults. More unusual tests involved alcohol, attack dogs and maze-like obstacle courses.

In more than 10,000 exposures, there were six cases of blistering and one instance of second-degree burns in a laboratory accident, the documents claim.

As you can likely imagine, I seriously and profoundly doubt this weapon is quite so tender and delicate and non-harmful as they allege.

[Ed. note: I do have one little question, however. Won't the "Goodbye" weapon get in the way of those innocent young schoolchildren and grateful old ladies the Pentagon and other Bushies keep insisting will run out to greet American troops with blown kisses, bouquets of flowers, and warm, fresh slices of falafel berry pie? I would think so.]

Your Paycheck May Not Be Any Fatter, But Your Email Inbox Is!

This is because the amount of spam (unsolicited advertising) delivered to email users has roughly doubled. Ouch.

As The Supreme Court Sits Twiddling Its Collective Thumbs

The New York Times points out a bit of information that seems to have gone unnoticed elsewhere.

Namely, that the Supreme Court - in this time rife with conflict and vexing issues - finds itself with time on its hands because the number of cases on its docket has dwindled down to a record low number. From that Times article:

On the Supreme Court’s color-coded master calendar, which was distributed months before the term began on the first Monday in October, Dec. 6 is marked in red to signify a day when the justices are scheduled to be on the bench, hearing arguments.

The courtroom, however, was empty on Wednesday, and for a simple reason: The court was out of cases. The question is, where have all the cases gone?

Last year, during his Senate confirmation hearing, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said he thought the court had room on its docket and that it “could contribute more to the clarity and uniformity of the law by taking more cases.”

But that has not happened. The court has taken about 40 percent fewer cases so far this term than last. It now faces noticeable gaps in its calendar for late winter and early spring. The December shortfall is the result of a pipeline empty of cases granted last term and carried over to this one.
So what do you think is up in Scotus-ville?

John Lennon: "Give Peace A Chance"

With the anniversary of his murder at the hands of a self-described nobody (Mark David Chapman) who wanted to kill someone important in order to become a somebody himself, let us both remember John Lennon fondly for reasons that go far beyond his time with "The Beatles" and heed his advice:

Give Peace a Chance

Another Editorial Writer Agrees: Bush Is The "Worst President Ever"

In addition to the "Move Over, Hoover" piece by Douglas Brinkley in The Washington Post I cited earlier, Eric Foner also makes the case in The Post that George Bush may live in infamy (my words, not Foner's) as the worst president in American history. [Ed. note: I would argue Bush might actually lay claim to a spot on the top 10 list of worst world leaders ever - a much loftier accomplishment.]

A big snip, go here for the rest.

Despite some notable accomplishments in domestic and foreign policy, Nixon is mostly associated today with disdain for the Constitution and abuse of presidential power. Obsessed with secrecy and media leaks, he viewed every critic as a threat to national security and illegally spied on U.S. citizens. Nixon considered himself above the law.

Bush has taken this disdain for law even further. He has sought to strip people accused of crimes of rights that date as far back as the Magna Carta in Anglo-American jurisprudence: trial by impartial jury, access to lawyers and knowledge of evidence against them. In dozens of statements when signing legislation, he has asserted the right to ignore the parts of laws with which he disagrees. His administration has adopted policies regarding the treatment of prisoners of war that have disgraced the nation and alienated virtually the entire world. Usually, during wartime, the Supreme Court has refrained from passing judgment on presidential actions related to national defense. The court's unprecedented rebukes of Bush's policies on detainees indicate how far the administration has strayed from the rule of law...

Historians are loath to predict the future. It is impossible to say with certainty how Bush will be ranked in, say, 2050. But somehow, in his first six years in office he has managed to combine the lapses of leadership, misguided policies and abuse of power of his failed predecessors. I think there is no alternative but to rank him as the worst president in U.S. history.

Bush: The Worst American President Ever

This story from Sunday's Washington Post was one of several I wanted to post this week only to get sidelined by a dead phone and Internet connection. Whether you still support Bush or despise the man, I think this article deserves a thorough and unbiased-as-possible read. After all, it is not often an editorialist goes out on a limb and claims that one man's presidency is a textbook example of how not to behave as president, which is what Douglas Brinkley writes about George W. Bush here in a piece entitled, "Move Over, Hoover".

A snippet:

Bush has two more years to leave his mark, he [Reagan biographer Lou Cannon] argued. What if there is a news flash that U.S. Special Forces have killed Osama bin Laden or that North Korea has renounced its nuclear program? What if a decade from now Iraq is a democracy and a statue of Bush is erected on Firdaus Square where that famously toppled one of Saddam Hussein once stood?

There is wisdom in Cannon's prudence. Clearly it's dangerous for historians to wield the "worst president" label like a scalp-hungry tomahawk simply because they object to Bush's record. But we live in speedy times and, the truth is, after six years in power and barring a couple of miracles, it's safe to bet that Bush will be forever handcuffed to the bottom rungs of the presidential ladder. The reason: Iraq.

At first, you'd want to compare Bush's Iraq predicament to that of Lyndon B. Johnson during the Vietnam War. But LBJ had major domestic accomplishments to boast about when leaving the White House, such as the Civil Rights Act and Medicare/Medicaid. Bush has virtually none. Look at how he dealt with the biggest post-9/11 domestic crisis of his tenure. He didn't rush to help the Gulf region after Hurricane Katrina because the country was overextended in Iraq and had a massive budget deficit. Texas conservatives always say that LBJ's biggest mistake was thinking that he could fund both the Great Society and Vietnam. They believe he had to choose one or the other. They call Johnson fiscally irresponsible. Bush learned this lesson: He chose Iraq over New Orleans......

Bush's Iraq: While Loyal Bushies Thumb Nose At Baker-Iraq Study Group Report, 10 Soldiers Die in 4 Separate Iraq War Incidents on Wednesday

[Ed. note: As Buzzflash notes, the Wednesday death toll for U.S. troops has now grown (officially) to 11.]

Shameful. Unnecessary. And those 10 sadly wildly pale in comparison to the hundreds of Iraqi civilians who died in the same time period (less than 24 hours).

Anyone Braving The Blogger Beta Jump?

I'd be interested in hearing from those bloggers who use Blogger for their platform and who have either made the jump to the Blogger Beta (which is having some problems with 3rd party apps, I read) or decided against it.

I'm specifically interested because the beta allows us (finally) to have categories like other decent blogging platforms. But I have enough frustration in my life so... ::popping Excedrin and Rolaids::

Murdoch Follows Cover of "Iraq Surrender Monkeys" In New York Post With Plea From Dead Soldier's Family: "Don't Quit"

In a followup to my post about Murdoch's referral to the Baker-Hamilton "Iraq Study Group" recommendations making them "Iraq surrender monkeys", the Aussie born millionaire is not done yet.

In fact, it's funny how President Bush's "I'm no quitter" message for today is matched so beautifully by Rupert Murdoch's New York Post whose cover - at least the one shown online - is that of a dead soldier (killed in Iraq) and a plea from his family, "Don't Quit."

Ask who in the Bush family is serving in the military. Ask who among Murdoch's family serves in this war or those among his top investors, top editorial board, etc.

I did a search just now and could not come up with a single one.

Propaganda. Ain't it great?

[BTW, Bush has quit MANY things in his life. The National Guard, for example, well short of meeting his requirements to have his service there keep him from being shipped to Vietnam. He's "quit" boards - usually just before being kicked off them - and companies, just as they went bankrupt under his leadership.]

Rupert Murdock, The New York Post, And The War Mongerers Eating The War Mongerers

[Ed. update: Murdoch's Post mocks those readers who were horrified by or found absurd the "Iraq Surrender Monkeys cover by labeling the letters from them, "Going Bananas Over 'Surrender Monkeys.'"]

As you no doubt heard, after the Iraqi Study Group (ISG or a/k/a the Baker-Hamilton commission) released its findings, those who profit so lucratively from the Bush war machine could not contain their anger. One of those was Rupert Murdoch and his henchmen (and most of Murdoch's top assassins are men, at least fitting the general definition even if their balls have been surgically removed).

The New York Post, owned by Murdoch, rushed out its front page where photos of two monkeys had been modified so that Baker's head appeared on one and Hamilton's on the other, with the banner headline, "Surrender Monkeys."


But Rupert Murdoch is our William Randolph Hearst of today. He'll do anything to perpetuate wars and hate because it's great for circulation. Just as Hearst manufactured a war to boost circulation, Murdoch and many like him helped George Bush and Dick Cheney manufacture reasons to go into Afghanistan and Iraq - and now Iran and elsewhere.

Let me suggest, however, that anything that is bad for Mr. Murdoch's circulation - or the audience numbers at Fox News - is probably good for both this country and the world.


Join Us To Celebrate Human Rights and Impeachment Day on Sunday, December 10th

Details here at After Downing Street.

Thanks to Buzzflash for the link.

Ready To Be Ordered To Iraq, Despite Your Civilian Status, To Fight Bush's War?

You better me. As Tom Shoop at GovExec tells us, that's one of the plans under consideration, ordering American civilians to Iraq against their will. (But, of course, the Bush Administration does NOT believe in a military draft. Oh no!)

With the situation in Iraq "grave and deteriorating," the United States must begin the process of shifting troops out of the country, members of a bipartisan panel said Wednesday. But at the same time, the group recommended, the Bush administration must make sure that it has sufficient civilian personnel in Iraq -- if necessary, by ordering some employees to serve there.

"The nature of the mission in Iraq is unfamiliar and dangerous, and the United States has had great difficulty filling civilian assignments in Iraq with sufficient numbers of properly trained personnel at the appropriate rank," wrote members of the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker II and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., in their report. For example, panel members said, the United States still has "far too few Arab language-proficient" officials in the country.

To address the problem, the group recommended that the secretaries of State and Defense and the Director of National Intelligence put the "highest possible priority" on language and cultural training for military personnel and civilian employees about to be assigned to Iraq. And, the report said, if not enough of the latter group volunteer to go to the country, "civilian agencies must fill those positions with directed assignments."
Hell, I'll go. IF they let me teach the Iraqis how to protest.

Paul Krugman: "Two More Years"

[Ed. note: If you are - or were - a parent with a son or daughter in one of Bush's interminable, vicious, never-ending wars, how might you have responded? Tell us in Comments.]

In the case of President Bush, two more years will seem like a freakin' eternity. Read the whole Krugman column here, but a snippet follows:

At a reception following the midterm election, President Bush approached Senator-elect James Webb.“How’s your boy?” asked Mr. Bush.

“I’d like to get them out of Iraq, Mr. President,” replied Mr. Webb, whose son, a Marine lance corporal, is risking his life in Mr. Bush’s war of choice.

“That’s not what I asked you,” the president snapped. “How’s your boy?”

“That’s between me and my boy, Mr. President,” said Mr. Webb.

Good for him. We need people in Washington who are willing to stand up to the bully in chief. Unfortunately, and somewhat mysteriously, they’re still in short supply.

You can understand, if not condone, the way the political and media establishment let itself be browbeaten by Mr. Bush in his post-9/11 political prime. What’s amazing is the extent to which insiders still cringe before a lame duck with a 60 percent disapproval rating.

Look at what seems to have happened to the Iraq Study Group, whose mission statement says that it would provide an “independent assessment.” If press reports are correct, the group did nothing of the sort. Instead, it watered down its conclusions and recommendations, trying to come up with something Mr. Bush wouldn’t reject out of hand.

In particular, says Newsweek, the report “will set no timetables or call for any troop reductions.” All it will do is “suggest that the president could, not should, begin to withdraw forces in the vaguely defined future.”

And all this self-abasement is for naught. Senior Bush aides, Newsweek tells us, are “dismissive, even condescending” toward James Baker, the Bush family consigliere who is the dominant force in the study group, and the report. Of course they are. That’s how bullies always treat their hangers-on.

Even now, it seems, the wise men of Washington can’t bring themselves to face up to two glaringly obvious truths.

The Iraq Surrender Group?

Keith Olbermann says that's how the "hate-based" community in Washington, mostly of the far right persuasion, refer to the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group report.

And what is this with the reports of commissions WE as taxpayers fund then selling the full reports as books on Amazon.com? Do we each get royalties? They did the same damned thing with the 9/11 Commission report which the Bushies and Far Right also ignored like it was done by "cheese-eating surrender monkeys".

News Flash: Florida Voting & Election Results May Not Be Valid

I know! Hard to imagine, isn't it?

From AP:

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean called for another election in the race to replace Rep. Katherine Harris), saying the declared Republican winner should not be sworn in until election questions are sorted out.

"You cannot seat someone if you don't have an election that's valid," Dean said in a taped interview scheduled to air Sunday on a Tampa Bay-area news channel. The St. Petersburg Times reported the comments in its Thursday editions.

Democrat Christine Jennings is contesting her loss to Republican Vern Buchanan and has sued for a new election. On Thursday, Jennings said she will ask the U.S. House to take the extreme measure of conducting its own investigation into the election.

State officials certified Buchanan as the winner by just 369 votes. But Jennings claims that touch-screen voting machines in Sarasota County malfunctioned in the District 13 race and possibly cost her the election.

More than 18,000 Sarasota County voters who marked other races didn't have a vote register in the House race, a rate much higher than in the rest of the district.

"There are 18,000 people who may have voted, and we don't know what happened to their votes. You can bet that if the Republicans were 500 votes short they'd be calling for a new election, and they'd be right," Dean said.

The state is conducting an audit of the Sarasota voting machines.

Giuliani, Hillary Clinton Face "Hurdles" In 2008 Presidential Bids

Oh, cry me a river for two people who should never be allowed near the White House.

Both Rudy and Hillary will practically break their necks racing hard to the right to try to get a position neither deserves.

Republican Lawmakers Adopt Shameful, Spiteful, Hurt America Strategy

Steve Benen at The Carpetbagger Report analyzes a report from The Wall Street Journal and tells us why this is not only shameful, it really rises to the occasion of criminal (I'd call it treasonous):

What offends me is not just that Congress hasn’t done its job, and not just that they’re complaining about feeling “tired,” and not just that congressional Republicans are already whining about having to work a little harder next year, it’s that GOP lawmakers are intentionally screwing things up for next year.
    Like a retreating army, Republicans are tearing up railroad track and planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern when they take power in Congress next month.

    Already, the Republican leadership has moved to saddle the new Democratic majority with responsibility for resolving $463 billion in spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. And the departing chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas (R., Calif.), has been demanding that the Democrat-crafted 2008 budget absorb most of the $13 billion in costs incurred from a decision now to protect physician reimbursements under Medicare, the federal health-care program for the elderly and disabled.

    The unstated goal is to disrupt the Democratic agenda and make it harder for the new majority to meet its promise to reinstitute “pay-as-you-go” budget rules, under which new costs or tax cuts must be offset to protect the deficit from growing.

It’s like they’re pouring a little salt in the soil after burning the place down.

If this were merely a consequence of the GOP’s inability to govern, it’d be a frustrating shame. But instead, this is an intentional, spiteful strategy.

Family Values

While Senator Sam Brown Nose Brownback calls for more "family values" (which, with this current crop of Republicans, usually means something far more obscene than how Charlie Manson envisioned and implemented it), the press politely reports that there are "mixed reactions" to Mary Cheney's pregnancy, the third in her union with another woman.

Mary, as you may recall, is often on the government payroll in one way or another, so while Congress tells you your gay son or daughter doesn't deserve any rights, you get to pay for Mary's.

Some of the reactions:

  • "Carrie Gordon Earll, a policy analyst for the conservative Christian ministry Focus on the Family, expressed empathy for the Cheney family but depicted the newly announced pregnancy as unwise."
  • "Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America described the pregnancy as "unconscionable."

    "It's very disappointing that a celebrity couple like this would deliberately bring into the world a child that will never have a father," said Crouse, a senior fellow at the group's think tank. "They are encouraging people who don't have the advantages they have."
    " [If you have ever seen or heard one of the people - the majority who seem to be men; Concerned Women is an anti-gay group organized by men - from Concerned Women for America, you probably cracked a rib laughing as hard as I did to hear that they have a think tank."]

Touching Base on the Bush Administration Wars Scorecard

Let's see, during the Bush Administration, there has been an all-out war on:

  • the truth and those who tell it
  • the U.S. Constitution
  • democracy
  • fair elections
  • religious freedom, including the freedom not to believe in any higher power
    the American worker
  • taxpayers and the Middle Class
  • science
  • public education
  • common sense
  • health care
  • a woman's right to choose
  • attempts to sanction corrupt politicians and no-bid contractors like Bechtel and Halliburton
  • anyone NOT a born-again Christian
  • efforts to curtail the damaging effects of mega corporations that pollute the air, waterways, land
  • free speech in general and any blogger to the left of Ann Coulter specifically
  • American soldiers, their families, and soldier benefits (while we permit dramatic overpayment of independent contractors working in the same kind of jobs in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere)
Now, this is only a partial list. By the time the Bushies are done, I suspect it will take a library the size of the Library of Congress facility in metro Washington to hold the list of those the Bushies have waged war against.

But feel free to remind me of those I failed to note in the major battles listed above.

So Ultra Conservative Jews AND Parts of Africa Are Decades Ahead of American Policy on Gays

Even while the right wing talking heads politely ignore the news that Mary Cheney, the "celebrated" openly gay daughter of VP Dick Cheney (who is also rumored to be the leading contender to take over leadership of hell when Satan succumbs), is pregnant with the third child for her and her lesbian partner, comes some news I think is quite shameful.

Oh, it's not shameful at all that rather ultra conservative Jews and many parts of South Africa now accept gay couples and civil unions and such (and that conservative Jews are now quite willing to allow gay rabbis).

No, it's shameful that the so-called leaders of the United States of America, a country that got its start (after being stolen from Native Americans) as a new land free of the religious and social intolerance of Mother England, gags at the very notion that at least 10% of its citizens are NOT heterosexuals, let alone that homosexuals would like to live together in a legally sanctioned monogamous relationship.

Followup To Hotel Cards, Identity And Financial Data Theft, And Overall Security

Andrew of 618 Rants, with plenty of experience in law enforcement and security, gives us more information here and here on the apparent urban myth of hotel card keys and more in followup to my previous post of something from Andrew Tobias via Kevin Drum posted here on my blog.

Andrew also offers more details at his blog, starting here.

It's Amazing: Both Newt Gingrich And Iran See Eye To Eye

Funny how it is that when Iran blocks access to YouTube, the right wing works up its usually righteous indignation (with one fool going so far as to suggest that this was tantamount to sufficient reason to go into Iran and "whoop their savage asses").

Yet when Newt Gingrich less than two weeks ago suggested it would be fine and dandy to close down access to any Internet site that didn't perpetuate the lies of Washington, D.C., these same assclowns (borrowed again from Jurassic Pork at Welcome to Pottersville) cheer it as sage truth too long in the pronouncement.

Bah Humbug on Winter

I just got back from a harrowing trip down to pick up Ben (my handsome, charismatic Plott hound-golden retriever mix who has me totally pussy puppy whipped) from his Thursday playgroup.

For hours now, it's been raining, then sleeting, and then snowing. Of course, by the time I got behind the wheel of my 4-wheel drive, there were white-out conditions and at 4 PM, no light whatsoever left in the skies. Then I got to crawl, limp, skate, slide, and evasively manuever my way down Bliss Road (man, is that road poorly named) toward even more tertiary roads leading to East Calais (which only in Vermont is pronounced, "callous"), around drivers with no four wheel drive who also could not see where they were going and those with four wheel drive who think it's like permission to go 50 on one lane back roads that sometimes do not see a plow or sander for days.

For the 4-wheel drivers mentioned above, here's a piece of advice: four wheel drive does NOT make up for both too much testosterone and an IQ hovering around the 11 points President Bush boasts.

Hotel Card Keys: Gateway To All Your Secure Personal Information Or Urban Myth

[Ed. update: See the update to this noted here, with thanks to Andrew (not Tobias) for the information he shared.]

Andrew Tobias, by way of Kevin Drum at Political Animal of The Washington Monthly, provides some tips on how to secure your private and personal financial information and details from theft (identity or otherwise), among them the advice to destroy rather than turn in the card keys you get when you stay at a hotel or motel.

This, Tobias reports, is because the card key gets encoded with all your details, including credit card number, your home and work address, etc. When you leave, employees and others can access the details still encoded on that card key.

While comments left at Kevin's indicate the card key information may be more urban legend than vital tip, Kevin says the rest of Tobias' recommendations look quite solid.

Robert Gates, The Confirmation Hearings, And The Democrats' Response

Was I the only one who sat aghast that the Democrats practically kissed Robert Gates, Bush's chosen successor to Donald Rumsfeld at the Department of Defense/Pentagon and a man formerly tied to the many evils of Iran-Contra? [See the Maureen Dowd column I quoted from earlier.]

I certainly did not find Gates the great "refreshing" "breath of fresh air" and "honest man" that the Dems did.

I don't get it. I simply do not.

And I got positively nauseated when I heard Gates keep saying how he was making a "major sacrifice", that he would give up a much more lucrative position just to serve his country.

Right. That's why Rumsfeld is so much richer today than he is when he left Bechtel to destroy both Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as our military.

Give me a freakin' break. Gates is taking the job because he will make out like a bandit, both directly and through sweetheart deals and kickbacks he will receive both now and after.

The only ones undercompensated at The Pentagon are the men and women sent into the line of fire - and the Afghans and Iraqis who get handed $100 or $200 whenever we wipe out their house or their families.

That is criminal.

Maureen Dowd: "Goodness, Gracious! The Truth!"

Read it all here but a healthy nibble follows:

First Junior took over the house with grandiose plans to remodel it and make it the envy of the neighborhood. But then he played with matches and set the house on fire. So now he’s frantically trying to stop the flames from torching the whole block.

The Bush administration has gone from a breathless plan to change the Middle East to a breathless plan to preserve it, from democracy promotion to conflagration avoidance.

That was the cold shower offered yesterday by Robert Gates, the former C.I.A. chief, on his way to being unanimously endorsed as the new defense secretary by a Senate panel craving a cold shower.He told the Armed Services Committee, peppered with wannabe future presidents, that the American occupation could lead to a Baghdad as hostile as Tehran, and set off “a regional conflagration” if Iraq is not deftly handled in the next couple of years.

Mr. Gates asserted that if America left Iraq in chaos, Iran and Syria could encroach more, and Turkey and Saudi Arabia might jump in to stop the ethnic cleansing of Sunnis by Shiites. “We’re already seeing Hezbollah involved in training fighters for Iraq,” he said. “I think all of that could spread fairly dramatically.”

It was the sort of realistic assessment that never came from Rummy, except when he privately admitted in a classified Nov. 6 memo that their Iraq strategy was “not working well enough or fast enough,” offering a silly hodgepodge of wildly tardy or dubious options, like telling the Iraqis to “pull up their socks.”

It was chilling to see in print that the man who spent nearly four years overseeing the war did not have any idea what to do in Iraq; his basic plan was not so much to fix the problem as to lower expectations. The memo, reported by Michael Gordon in The Times on Sunday, offered the following lame-brained prescriptions to manage perception:
    “Announce that whatever new approach the U.S. decides on, the U.S. is doing so on a trial basis. This will give us the ability to readjust and move to another course, if necessary, and therefore not ‘lose.’ ”
And this:
    “Recast the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) — go minimalist.”
So with the Pentagon deciding whether to Go Big, Go Long or Go Home, Rummy urged the White House to Go Minimalist and simply streamline the spin...
Read the rest.

Pearl Harbor Day

As much as I've heard and read (around dead services) about the horrors of Pearl Harbor Day, now a 55-year-old memory, I can't help but think that what happened to the soldiers and sailors in Hawaii that day ultimately paled in comparison to what the U.S. did in its response.

Japan attacked military vessels in Pearl Harbor in a time of relative peace.

But we fire bombed downtown Tokyo and we not only wiped out untold numbers of Japanese civilians in Nagasaki and Hiroshima - not to mention left generations affected by the radioactive damage - we used World War II as an excuse to enter the nuclear age which has changed the world in more negative ways than positive. Today, we still have not figured how to handle nukes even as the Bushies can't develop new nuclear weapons fast enough to suit King George.

By all means, join me in saluting those American soldiers who died 55 years ago today. But we should also recognize the far more massive collateral damage we wrought not only on Japan, but also on ourselves and the rest of the world.

Rumors Of My Desperate Escape to Canada Are Wildly Exaggerated

Actually, the idea that I would do something so dramatic has a certain appeal. Sadly, however, such is not the case.

After three weeks of off-again/on-again phone and Internet service, everything went dead late Monday. Each day, Verizon promised it would be fixed by 9 PM that very night. Each night, of course, this did not happen. Only slowly did it occur to Verizon that the "major cable" damage they fixed Tuesday night was only the start of the problems here.

To make lovely matters even more perfect, something "blew" in the neighborhood early this morning, which also removed the only working utility: electricity.

Now, thanks to a dutiful and very thorough Verizon technician who would not stop until he uncovered the source of the failed service (I wish I had gotten his name as I thanked him, but I called Verizon and asked them to pull the tech's name and place a "customer commendation" in his file), phone service with Internet service is back and the power is restored (although the serious snow and ice we're getting now may make that a temporary phenomenon).

I'll post a little before I have to do the 4-wheel-drive through rising snow drifts thing in a short while. Later tonight, I hope to catch up.

If you were expecting email and you have not gotten it, be aware I've got a slew of it sitting in my Outbox. But I have to download a new version of the mail software because Outlook Express corrupted on Monday (oh joy, oh bliss).


Vermont's Senator Patrick Leahy, The U.S. Constitution, And Bush

At Odum's Green Mountain Daily, you should read why Vermont's U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy says President Bush should not simply be worried, he should be terrified. This seems to relate specifically to Leahy's return as chair of the Senate Judiciary Commitee (goodbye Arlen Specter) but more generally to the Bush Administration's rape, pillage, and nuking of the U.S. Constitution and the rights of the American people.

For those of us who have felt a bit like Leahy was going to sit in the bleechers for the rest of the Bush Administration, we're pleased to hear this.

Despite The Reality That Electronic Voting Grows Ever Less Accurate, Even More Insecure, Checks and Balances Get Nixed

Before I get into the story from the wires on Monday (yesterday), let me give you some background about the corrupt backdrop under which this refusal to protect the vote by the same people who are charged with upholding the U.S. Constitution and the will of the American voters.

I've posted before that just because the November 7th mid-term elections appear to have worked just satisfactorily enough to allow some non-Krazy Konservatives to win, we saw far more rather than less problems with electronic voting. No less than 12 states - and some reports put this at much higher, perhaps 75-80% - reported failures and oddities that placed into serious question where the announced winners were in fact the victors given the degree of uncertainty.

From a technical standpoint, we should be seeing a reduction in such problems with each election where these machines are used. Instead, we're seeing a phenomenal increase which makes no sense from a logical perspective but certainly seems convenient to those who might want to rig the voting results.

After all, considering how well these massive problems have worked to the advantage of the Bushies, they certainly have no desire to make such electronic voting work better. In fact, Bush signed into law the Help America Vote Act which, if it did anything whatsoever, guaranteed that the insecurity and validity of electronic votes pretty much violates the notion that a registered voter who casts his or her ballet can expect to have that vote counted accurately, if it gets counted at all.

Bear in mind also that we have now experienced two (2) presidential elections in which there is strong cause to believe that the "winner" who took office was NOT the one who received the majority of the votes. In both cases, Bush assumed office when it was mighty clear that something really rotten was going on, so rotten in fact that a large number of Americans (Dems, GOPers, and Indies) believe today that it is very likely Mr. Bush did not carry the majority of the votes in either case.

Now, with this in mind, read this stunning bit of information on how our government at the federal level is working very hard to protect not the integrity of our elections OR the Constitution OR the right of every voter to have his vote counted fairly and accurately - instead, they choose to protect cheaters, thieves, and yes, traitors (and yes, there is good reason why this text appears in blood red):

A federal advisory panel on Monday rejected a recommendation that states use only voting machines whose results could be independently verified.

The panel drafting voting guidelines for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission voted 6-6 not to adopt a proposal that would have required electronic machines used by millions of voters to produce a paper record or other independent means of checking election results. Eight votes were needed to pass it.

The failed resolution, proposed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer scientist and panel member Ronald Rivest, closely mirrored a report released last week that warned that paperless electronic voting machines are vulnerable to errors and fraud and cannot be made secure.
How fortuitous that in both 2000 and 2004, the biggest problems occurred in Florida (2000) and Ohio (2004); in both cases, the person in charge at the state level to certify the elections just happened to be a Republican Secretary of State (Katherine Harris in Florida, Ken Blackwell in Ohio) who also just happened to be coordinating and promoting the campaign for the Republican presidential candidate.


Confirmation Hearings for Rumsfeld Replacement Start Tomorrow (Tuesday)

Ugh... Bush family loyalist Robert Gates' confirmation hearings begin tomorrow to "push him through" as the replacement for "dismissed" (or "resigned") Department of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. If you wonder why Bush wants him in, this line (besides the "Bush family loyalist" label) should make it clear:

In written testimony to the committee, Gates said he supported President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 and indicated that he would oppose a quick exit for U-S troops.
In other words, Gates - just like Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and NSA's Stephen Hadley, et al - sees no mistakes as having been made and - regardless of how many more billions in taxpayer money spent without accountability and how many more U.S. and coalition forces, along with journalists and perhaps more than a million Iraqs die.

Must be nice to feel that confident in the face of all evidence to the contrary.

Police Kill A Teen Suspected in PlayStation 3 Theft

What is wrong with this picture?

A teenager accused of robbing a student of two new Playstation 3s on the day the popular game consoles were introduced was shot to death by police sent to arrest him.

Peyton Strickland, 18, was killed Friday at a house he shared with three roommates, New Hanover County Sheriff Sid Causey said.

“If this boy would’ve come to the door, opened the door, we probably wouldn’t be talking,” the sheriff said Sunday.

Roommate Mike Rhoton said Strickland was unarmed, but may have been holding a video game controller when he went to the door as it was bashed in by officers.
Unarmed. Theft of a Playstation 3. Worthy of shooting a teen dead? They also shot his dog who I guess must also have been wielding a game controller.

Perhaps they mistook him for Sean Bell, the young black groom who, as he left a NY "men's" club also unarmed after his bachelor party, was shot dead by five NYPD officers who fired 50 rounds into Bell and two of his friends.

A Few More Words on John Bolton, Bush, And The Next American U.N. Ambassador

While I truly am thrilled that John Bolton (see my previous post today), who may go down in history as the worst U.N. ambassador the U.S. has ever appointed to the job, has "resigned" (with the Bushies, you can never be sure whether it's a resignation, a dismissal, or some other subterfuge), it's hard to feel like it's time to dance a jig.

Bolton was - as so very many Bush appointees have and continue to be - a clear "fuck you" to both the United Nations and the world community as a whole. If the Bush Administration has done anything well besides ruin everything, it's always finding the worst possible person for any position and then sticking with it regardless of how much the world implodes.

Thus, the 3rd thing I thought as soon as I heard Bolton was leaving was, "Who are the worst possible candidates to be U.N. ambassador with Bolton gone?" Surely, the president will appoint him/her/it, but only if the person rises to the label of "worst possible" candidate.

Some possibilities include (I sit here shuddering at the thought):

  • Charles Manson (talk about a man with family values!)
  • Pat Robertson (few men of God have ever spent so much time recommending who should be murdered and yet, even when he threatens the Secretary of State, for example, he does not get picked up on terrorist threat charges!)
  • Gene Simmons (dumb, arrogant, and only concerned with himself - sounds like a Bushie to me)
  • Bill O'Reilly (wait until he discusses falafels and loofahs with the Saud folks)
  • Mel Gibson (he'll be a real hit with the Israeli delegation)
None of these people has any experience in true diplomacy, in the proper workings of the U.N.. or in playing fairly and decently with others as part of a team. Which, sadly, would place them high on Bush's list. Bush only wants someone in the U.N. job who will not work well with the rest of the U.N.; he demands someone with his own "vision" which is complete and utter disregard for the U.N. and the rest of the world. Bolton, as Bush told us himself, got sent to the U.N. to "reform" it, meaning to bitch slap all the other U.N. members until they realize that the ONLY important member of the U.N. is the United States.

Next, I take real issue with this story from the AssPress about Bolton which the sub-head: "Bush loyal to the end". Oh, the mainstream media just loves, loves, loves touting Mr. Bush's famed loyalty. But loyalty to whom?

Bush certainly isn't loyal to the American people in general or even to those who worked so damned hard to get him "selected" by the Supreme Court in 2000 or cheated the vote again in Ohion in 2004. Nor has Bush been loyal to Rumsfeld ("I'm keeping him to the end" only to "dismiss" him two days later), to Paul O'Neill, to Colin Powell, to George Tenet or any of the others. As I've written here before, "Bush loyalty" is "a streetcar named Undesirable" which only travels in one direction: toward Bush, rather than from Bush.

But - knowing Bush would want nothing to do with someone who would be good at the U.N. - who would you recommend? I'm having a tough time of thinking of someone who would be good at the job who hasn't already served in a much loftier post (given that the Bushies see the U.N. as "a bunch of dumb foreigners").

A Dear John Letter We Like: Bolton Resigns From Post As U.N. Ambassador He Never Should Have Held

So John Bolton is resigning to "spend more time with [his] family"? Great news for the rest of the world, although I feel sorry for his family.

When Bush appointed John Bolton as U.N. ambassador, it was against pretty much global protest. Bolton, with a long history the rump-kissing those more powerful than him while stomping on lesser beings (yeah, sounds like someone George Bush could feel a kinship with), was considered the absolute wrong choice for the job by everyone except Bushies who are ever eager to rub everyone else's nose in their own dirty, shit-stained diapers. While Great Britain was about the only country to support Bush's decision, even those loyal to Tony Blair the Bush lap dog cried foul soon thereafter. I believe it was no less than Jack Straw - who formerly welcomed Bolton into the job - who declared Revoltin' Bolton a very bad choice just a weeks after his appointment.

And there's the rub (in more ways than one). Even with the GOP running everything (into the ground) in Washington and elsewhere, Bush couldn't get them to give Bolton a clear appointment. So Bush waited until his Republican zombies were on vacation in August 2005 to give Bolton a recess appointment. He's pulled a lot of this crap. Didn't matter to Bush that Bolton has no more diplomatic skills than he himself does or that Bolton was yet another "great Christian family values" type who apparently loved cheating on his wife and visiting some of New York's kinkier sex clubs. This seems to be a trait of all these great family men, from Newt Gingrich to Gingrich's interim replacement as Speaker of the House who turned out to have about 26 mistresses while he pushed for Bill Clinton's impeachment for fellatio with a consulting adult.

Then, before the mid-term elections back on November 7th, Bush decided to trot Bolton back out to get him that GOP-weighed appointment since Bush's "kiss of the mafia don" would only give ol Revoltin' the ambassador's post until January. Even then, few wanted anything to do with Bolton. And when the GOP-rigged voting machines failed to fake the vote they wanted, Bush decided to keep backing Bolton. For reasons that escape me, Democrats now in the majority said they probably would not bend over backwards to force him out (nor would they willingly bend forward since Bolton has a reputation for jumping anything in front of him).

Good riddance to very stinky, very obstructionist, very combative garbage.