Saturday, July 05, 2008

More From the Bushco PR Agency

I almost fell out of my chair when I read this mind-bending wankery from Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the New York Times today...

In St. Paul, Mr. Bush will speak on the convention’s opening night, said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary — a tiny bit of news from an administration that typically keeps a close hold on the president’s schedule. The White House and the McCain campaign said the details were still being worked out. But one Republican close to Mr. McCain and Mr. Bush, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the president would give “an important speech” but that a joint appearance was “highly unlikely.”

Democrats face a similar quandary this year in figuring out what to do about former President Bill Clinton after the bitter nominating battle between his wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the party’s presumptive nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
O mah gawd (so many directions I can go in with this)...

You know, I realize that our beloved corporate media absolutely must have their "horserace," and they must perpetuate the narratives that the Dems are hopelessly divided, Obama can't win Latinos, Jews, or white males making less that $50K, and somehow, McCain will become coherent and stop contradicting himself and making basic factual errors about what he has and has not said just in time to unite those unruly "values voters" and achieve electoral victory (and as we know, these "town hall" meeting "play to his strength," or something).

Oh, and also, the Clintons will absolutely overturn the Democratic National Convention in Denver and secure the nomination for Hillary at long last, with assists from Michael Moore, Ward Churchill and Code Pink.

But to draw any comparison to the partially damaged credibility of Bill Clinton due to some of his recent campaign misadventures for Hillary's sake and the utterly ruinous reign of President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History is a whole other level of farce.

This link to BobGeiger.com tells us that on December 19, 1998, three days after articles of impeachment were introduced against Bill Clinton for that little mess with Monica Whatsername (supposedly the low point of his presidency), a CNN/Gallup/USA Today poll showed that Clinton had a 73 percent approval rating. On the other hand, this takes you to a graph showing Dubya's approval ratings over the last three years.

And Stolberg thinks Clinton will have the same problem as Dubya at the Dem convention. The last I checked, no Dem was telling The Big Dog not to show up, as Repug Dana Rohrbacher did with Dubya.

Maybe the Repugs can make Dubya palatable enough to those of his own party if they keep sticking him into softball photo-ops as they have here. Surely there's a petting zoo in the D.C. area somewhere dying for attention...??

Saturday Stuff

It's hard to keep up with all of the screwups (being polite here) by our ruling cabal, so here's a bit of a weekend catch-up post, with Rachel Maddow sitting in for K.O.; one item is the politicization of Justice Department hires and a pending lawsuit over the fact that many were passed over because of their political preference...



...and by the way, what do you want to declare independence from? Speaking only for myself...



...I want to declare independence from this guy.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Friday Stuff

Is it me, or is it somehow appropriate that he has finally, mercifully left us in close proximity to the demise of Bozo The Clown (and by the way, this scurrilous ad, which returned Helms to the U.S. Senate, contains not a word of truth)...



Update 1 7/5/08: Hat tip to The Daily Kos for this.

Update 2 7/5/08: Ring out the old, ring in the "new," I guess.

Update 3 7/8/08: The jokes just keep on coming with Mike "Yuckabee," don't they?

...and K.O. discusses the latest McBush nonsense with Chris Hayes, Washington editor of The Nation.

What This Day Is All About

This was narrated by Bill Barker of Williamsburg, Virginia and edited by Craig Crawford, and it runs for about six minutes (the text of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson).

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Thursday Stuff

Steve Feiffer (sp?) gets into the holiday spirit in California, and the rhesus monkeys need to find a salad bar...



...and thank God Darcy and her family are OK; click here to help her out (h/t The Daily Kos).

(By the way, I believe she is an HTML/XML programmer; the message on her shirt is computer code for ending the war.)

Words To Live By (Mostly)

The New York Times published some excerpts here from graduation commencement speeches on Sunday June 15th, and though I should have gotten to it long before now, I’d like to bring you some excerpts that I thought were particularly good (something to think about as we head into the holiday weekend; I found them to be interesting and uplifting but for one rather obvious exception).

Gavin Newsom
Mayor of San Francisco
San Francisco State University


What is the secret of all success? Winston Churchill, he said it was moving from failure to failure with enthusiasm. ...Guys like Elvis Presley and Michael Jordan, Dr. Seuss, Henry Ford — if you don’t know him you probably drive one of his automobiles — all of them had failure in common.

Jordan was literally rejected from his high school basketball team. Michael Jordan wasn’t good enough. That guy Churchill finished last in his class. ... Henry Ford went bankrupt not once, not twice — three, four, five times went bankrupt. Dr. Seuss tried to publish that darn green eggs and whatever ham, not once — five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-three times he was rejected. Until a publisher finally said, "All right, what the heck do I have to lose?" And Elvis Presley got an F in music.


Bill Nye
Science educator
Harvey Mudd College


When you’re a little over six months into your 31st year, we will probably be over 12 billion — and on our way to 15 billion — humans on earth. Keep in mind also that half of the world’s people have never made a phone call. Their lives are agrarian and rural. Nevertheless, they know our culture and have seen what science and organized technology can do.

I’ve traveled a little, in India, China and Africa. People are walking less and driving more; we’re putting more cars on the road every week. Put roughly: if everyone on earth were to consume, drive, and especially use energy at the prodigious rate that each of us does here in the United States, we would need two more Earths. We don’t have two more Earths. We barely have one.


Clarence Thomas
Supreme Court justice
High Point University


I have no intention of cluttering up your graduation ceremony with ruminations about law, grievances or ephemeral commands on you to solve the world’s problems.

Most of us would do well to solve our own problems. Often, as most of us know, the real battle is conquering ourselves. But I do ask that you give me just a few brief minutes of your time on this most important day.

Let me first confess that I am no good at telling people what to think or how to live their lives. As those of us who take responsibility for our lives, and don’t blame others, know only so well, life has a way of humbling, if not humiliating us.
God, that man is pathetic. I’m soo sorry he continues to live with the burden of a Yale law degree. How about a little inspiration?

J. K. Rowling
Author
Harvard


By any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain without being homeless. The fears my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.

Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged.

I was set free, because my greatest fear had already been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.


Richard Serra
Sculptor
Williams College


I have no problem with the virtual reality on your screens as long as you are aware that it is virtual. My concern is that experience by proxy is a poor substitute for the reality of the interactive space we inhabit.

As a sculptor I believe that perception structures thought and that to see is to think and conversely to think is to see.

The virtual reality of the media, be it television or Internet, limits our perception in that it affects our sense of space. It immobilizes our ability to apprehend actual physical space. Don’t let the rhetoric of simulation steal away the immediacy of your experience.

Keep it real, keep it in the moment. No one perceives anything alike; we only perceive as we are and it is our individual reality that counts.


Jessica Lange
Actress
Sarah Lawrence College


Be present. I would encourage you with all my heart — just to be present. Be present and open to the moment that is unfolding before you. Because, ultimately, your life is made up of moments. So don’t miss them by being lost in the past or anticipating the future.

Don’t be absent from your own life. You will find that life is not governed by will or intention. It is ultimately the collection of these sense memories stored in our nerves, built up in our cells. Simple things: A certain slant of light coming through a window on a winter’s afternoon. The sound of spring peepers at twilight. The taste of a strawberry still warm from the sun. Your child’s laughter. Your mother’s voice.

These are the things that shape our lives and settle into the fiber of our beings. Don’t take them for granted.
Amen.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (7/3/08)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

Disabilities act expansion. Voting 402-17, the House passed a bill (HR 3195) to negate Supreme Court decisions that have narrowed the types of disabilities and number of disabled workers protected by the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act. The bill awaits Senate action.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).
A commendable show of unanimity, if I do say so myself.

Alternative minimum tax. Voting 233-189, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 6275) to exempt 22 million middle-income households from the alternative minimum tax (AMT) this year. To offset the Treasury's loss of $61.5 billion in revenue, the bill would, in part, repeal certain tax breaks for oil and gas companies; change "carried interest" rules so that managers of investment partnerships and hedge funds would pay taxes at a 35 percent rather than 15 percent rate; and set the stage for more timely tax collection on payments from credit-card firms to merchants.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts and Saxton.
It looks like about three different Repug core constituencies would take a hit if this bill were signed into law in its present form (though not under Commander Codpiece; if he hasn’t threatened a veto on this, I’m sure he will shortly).

And this is another gutsy vote by Chris Smith, by the way; he also had some words about Dubya going to Beijing in August here. It’s a shame he’s such an anti-choice zealot, because he sure “stands up” on other issues.

(God, Dubya is a numbskull, especially considering this).

Commuter-fare subsidies. Voting 322-98, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 6052) authorizing $1.7 billion in fiscal 2008-2009 for grants that public transit authorities would use to either reduce fares or expand services, with nearly 90 percent of the outlay allocated to urban areas of at least 50,000 population. A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Pitts, Saxton, Schwartz, Sestak and Smith.
I have to admit that I’m getting disappointed with Joe Pitts; he hasn’t given me a really stupid No vote to pillory him over for a little while now (to help Bruce Slater, click here).

And by the way, as long as I’m giving plugs, here’s one for Bob Roggio running against Jim Gerlach in PA-06 (wonder if Jim will need those dead-of-night robo calls against his opponent this time?).

Senate

Housing-recovery package. Voting 83-9, the Senate agreed to debate a housing-recovery package (HR 3221) that would enable lenders to refinance hundreds of thousands of at-risk mortgages in return for government backing of the new loans.

A yes vote was to debate the bill.

Voting yes: Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D., Del.), Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Bob Casey (D., Pa.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

War funding, GI bill. Voting 92-6, the Senate passed a bill (HR 2642) that would appropriate $162.5 billion to pay Iraq-Afghanistan war costs well into 2009. The bill also would establish a new GI bill, which would pay four years' college tuition for veterans with at least three years' duty who enlisted after 9/11. The bill also would fund 13 more weeks of jobless checks for the long-term unemployed, along with programs such as flood relief in the Midwest, levee rebuilding in New Orleans, global food aid, and Census Bureau upgrades.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Biden, Carper, Casey, Lautenberg, Menendez and Specter
.
And Clueless George gives credit to McCain even though “Senator Honor And Virtue” opposed it (and in the process, as this story notes, Dubya didn’t even mention that four years of books, tuition, and room and board would be paid for).

Almost at 199 days…

This week, Congress is in Independence Day recess until the week of July 7, when the Senate will resume debate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The House schedule has not been announced.

The KevMart Chronicles Continue

I’m not quite sure why, but the Inky ran a long article today on FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, reminding us of how Martin is oh so loved by those wonderful “values voters” out there who are largely responsible for the predicament we have dealt with under George W. Milhous Bush…

"Kevin Martin has been our hero," said Tim Winter, executive director of the Parent Television Council in California, a group with 1.2 million members.
Yeah, well, what a shame that the ruling of their “hero” on “fleeting expletives” was struck down by a federal appeals panel here (with the predictable hissy fit from Martin).

Also…

Martin says the nation's cable problems could be solved by requiring Comcast and other providers to sell cable channels individually, or a la carte. This form of sales could reduce cable bills by allowing customers to buy just the channels they truly like and watch.

Customers who found some cable entertainment distasteful would not have to subsidize the offensive channels that come in 200-channel packages.

Cable companies say the pay-per-channel model actually would cost more and would hurt small entertainment programmers.
I reluctantly have to go along with the cable guys on this because a la carte cable would have the unintentionally harmful effect of shutting out special interest voices that don’t have deep pockets, as noted here.

And concerning the prospect of a new commissioner appointed by a President Barack Obama?

That does not please Martin supporters such as Phil Burress, president of Citizens for Community Values Action in Ohio, who says he has been energized by Martin.

In 20 years, Burress said, "we never had an FCC chairman that cared about the indecency standards and the family until Kevin Martin."
How quickly they forget this guy (I know Howard Stern, for one, will not).

Also…

Martin said the industry needed more competition. He set out to make that happen through regulatory actions that, so far, have helped competitors of cable pay-TV but have yet to control increases in cable prices.

One of his triumphs was instituting a three-month "shot clock" for local towns to act on new video-franchise requests from pay-TV competitors, such as Verizon Communications Inc.

Cable appealed the new regulation. A federal court in Ohio upheld the shot clock - and the FCC head was elated.
Wow, allowing us a “choice” between Verizon and Comcast!

Next time, don’t do us any favors, OK? (We’re fine with FIOS, but still…).

I realize the story primarily had to do with Martin’s impact on cable, but it would have been nice if Inquirer writer Bob Fernandez had bothered to mention Martin’s decision allowing greater ownership of newspapers by broadcast media companies here, earning this resolution of disapproval from Dem Senator Byron Dorgan.

Also, I’m not sure why Martin’s stand on Net Neutrality was ignored; if I didn’t know better, I’d think Martin is acting like he wishes this issue would go away, but fortunately, Dem-appointed commissioner Michael Copps is taking a firmer stand here (and Net Neutrality is an issue regardless of where you reside in the political scheme of things, as the story notes – also concerning Net Neutrality, Comcast played a little game last February noted here that I’m sure David Cohen doesn’t want to discuss).

Also, way down in this link is a note that Martin will approve the merger of Sirius and XM Satellite Radio “on the strength of voluntary commitments the companies had made in a letter dated June 13, 2008.”

Based on the influence of Clear Channel on the Repugs and their acolytes (with CC having showered an unholy fortune on their “Hillbilly Heroin”-addicted star of the airwaves here and satellite as a basis for diverse political opinions, including progressive ones), how much do you want to bet that Martin approves the merger just after he finishes cleaning out his desk and shutting off the lights next January?

Update 7/30/08: OK, so I was wrong about Martin's approval of the Sirius/XM merger, as noted in this Open Left post from Matt Stoller (I was initially shocked by the title and what appeared to be some fawning in the opening paragraphs, but this post is actually quite good - to be fair, though, anybody can look like a hero when going up against Comcast).

Another Reason To Stand Tall on FISA

Last November (as noted here) a federal appeals court ruled that a branch of the al-Haramain Islamic charity in Oregon could not use a call log that it had accidentally received from the Treasury Department as evidence in a lawsuit that it had been illegally wiretapped by our government (al-Haramain had been officially designated as a terrorist organization with links to al Qaeda). The “state secrets” privilege was used as a Bushco defense at the time.

Even though this ruling basically torpedoed the case of the charity against our government, al-Haramain challenged the so-called “state secrets” privilege, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asked U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker to determine the technical question of whether the state secrets privilege conflicts with FISA (noted here).

Well today, we have our answer (here)…

WASHINGTON — A federal judge in California said Wednesday that the wiretapping law established by Congress was the “exclusive” means for the president to eavesdrop on Americans, and he rejected the government’s claim that the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief trumped that law.



The Justice Department has tried for more than two years to kill the lawsuit, saying any surveillance of the charity or other entities was a “state secret” and citing the president’s constitutional power as commander in chief to order wiretaps without a warrant from a court under the agency’s program.

But Judge Walker, who was appointed to the bench by former President George Bush, rejected those central claims in his 56-page ruling. He said the rules for surveillance were clearly established by Congress in 1978 under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to get a warrant from a secret court.

“Congress appears clearly to have intended to — and did — establish the exclusive means for foreign intelligence activities to be conducted,” the judge wrote. “Whatever power the executive may otherwise have had in this regard, FISA limits the power of the executive branch to conduct such activities and it limits the executive branch’s authority to assert the state secrets privilege in response to challenges to the legality of its foreign intelligence surveillance activities.”

Judge Walker’s voice carries extra weight because all the lawsuits involving telephone companies that took part in the N.S.A. program have been consolidated and are being heard in his court.
OK Senate Dems (and Our Man Arlen? Dare I hope?), here’s yet another legal opinion in favor of sticking to your guns on the issue of telco immunity and ensuring that any changes to FISA law mandate court oversight independent of any other branch of government (and to sign Russ Feingold's petition on this, click here).

By the way, there was a great article in The New Yorker about all of this from last April, but my browser crashes every time I access their site. If you’re running Firefox or anything else besides IE, you may have better luck tracking it down.

Update 7/3/08: What Kagro X sez...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wednesday Stuff

200 days to go, people (ostensibly, a bit of humor)...


Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

...OMIGOD! The "Terrorist Fist Jab" didn't start with Obama!!...



...Sy Hersh talks to Candy Crowley of CNN about Bushco's shenanigans inside Iran (Hersh has been "crying wolf" as far as some are concerned about Iran, but he's a pro, and he's credible, and I don't want anything more to "hit the fan" than what already has)...



Update 7/3/08: I'd expect this from Dana Bash, not Dana Priest.

...and more "Worst Persons" from K.O. (the Kings County story is awful and Turd Blossom is lying as usual, and BMW Direct too; channeling Zero Mostel/Nathan Lane? "If you've got it baby, flaunt it!" - tired of screwing around with MSNBC's videos).

Patrick Murphy Responds On FISA

(Trying to clean out my “in” bin in time for the 4th – posting may be light to normal tomorrow before it trickles out just about entirely for the holiday weekend.)

A friend of mine who shares a sense of outrage over Patrick’s recent FISA vote communicated with our congressman and received the following response (emphasis is from Patrick's response, not me)…

Thank you for writing to me regarding amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Please know how much I appreciate you sharing your views with me as I make the decisions that affect our community and our nation.

My decision to support this legislation was not an easy one nor one I took lightly. This bill deals with the most serious of Congressional debates: How to protect our nation while preserving our constitutional rights. As you know, this bill resulted from a compromise and as with any compromise it is not perfect. Still, I decided to support the final legislation because I believe it strikes an appropriate balance between protecting our fourth amendment rights and giving our intelligence community the tools they need to protect our nation. Under this bill, every time the government seeks to conduct surveillance targeting an American citizen, anywhere in the world, an individual court warrant based on probable cause must be obtained.

As a former professor of constitutional law, making sure that the fourth amendment rights of American citizens are protected is extremely important to me. When the Protect America Act passed the House in August of 2007, I voted against that deeply flawed bill because it did not ensure proper protection of our civil liberties nor did it provide the appropriate check over the Executive branch. My main reasons for supporting the recent compromise FISA bill are as follows:

  • The bill restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. Under this legislation the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be ended.


  • The bill requires individual warrants from the FISA Court, based upon probable cause, to conduct surveillance of U.S. persons anywhere in the world.


  • The bill firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance.


  • The bill ensures that Congress can revisit these issues because the legislation will sunset in 2012.


  • Neither the Protect America Act nor the Senate FISA bill included any of these provisions. Those bills sought to minimize the role of the FISA court, removing any form of meaningful judicial oversight over the President and the Executive branch. That is wrong, and I am proud that I fought against those flawed bills.

    I know that many had concerns regarding legal immunity for telecommunications firms that assisted the government in the Bush Administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program. I fought against the Senate FISA bill which provided 100% retroactive immunity to these companies without any judicial review. The bill I voted for allows U.S. District Courts to review the actions of companies that assisted in post-9/11 intelligence activities to determine whether substantial evidence supports civil liability protection for those actions. This provision does not confer immunity on any government official for violating the law.

    Still, I know that because of this provision many, if not all, of the lawsuits filed against these companies will likely be dismissed. For many, including myself, this was a bitter pill to swallow. As a federal prosecutor, there were times when we had to provide legal immunity to some criminals in order to persuade them to testify against their co-conspirators. I never liked seeing these people get away with only a slap on the wrist, but it was a necessary evil in order to make sure that rapists and killers didn't go free.

    As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, it is my job to ensure proper oversight over the President's conduct of intelligence gathering. If the telecom companies feel that they will be shielded from civil litigation for their involvement with the Administration's illegal warrantless wiretapping program, then they will be more likely to cooperate with Congressional investigators to go after those in the Bush Administration who are truly to blame for the violation of our constitutional rights. I will continue to use my position on the Intelligence Committee to make sure that we keep going after those in the Bush Administration that broke the law.

    The entire debate on updating FISA centered on a question that has been an issue at the center of American democracy since its founding: How to keep our nation safe while making sure that we preserve the constitutional freedoms that we hold dear. I know that you may be disappointed in some aspects of this bill and I share many of your frustrations. Still, as an Army officer and a Congressman, I took an oath to protect and defend the constitution and I believe that I have remained true to that oath. And as a father and a husband, I believe that I made the right vote to keep our families safe.

    Hearing from the families I serve is vital to doing my job right. Thanks again for taking the time to share your concerns and I hope you keep in touch with me on this or any other issue you feel important. To stay informed of my work, or to sign up for my electronic newsletters, please visit my website at http://patrickmurphy.house.gov. Also, please do not hesitate to contact me again if I can help in any way. You can reach my office in Doylestown at (215) 348-1194 and my office in Bristol at (215) 826-1963.
    I admire the fact that Patrick stands up and admits that his vote may very well end up absolving the telcos of civil liability, but again, the question is why he would cast such an odious vote.

    He seems to be saying that the provision ensuring that surveillance can not be carried out against any American without a court order trumps the immunity question, which is a bit of a red herring I think, since that was provided for in this country as part of the 1978 Act. And I can understand how our government may need to conduct surveillance on short notice, but the law has already been amended to accommodate that; the original law allowed for surveillance without a court order for three weeks, but that is now a year.

    I know Patrick knows all of this, and that is what makes his vote all the more disappointing (and once more, here’s Russ Feingold).

    A Summer Dubya "Two Minutes Hate"

    President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History tells us from the White House web site today that…

    Next week I'm going to travel to Japan for the eighth and final G8 summit of my presidency.



    As I said the other day, we need people who not only make promises, but write checks, for the sake of human rights and human dignity, and for the sake of peace."
    This link from March 2003 tells us of our POW mistreatment in Iraq (3rd) as well as the laughable inclusion of some nations in the "Coalition Of The Willing" (remember them?); this from May of that years tells of how we shielded human rights abusers; this notes the response from our allies to the revelations of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in March 2005 (no word of anyone protesting the claim of former Judge Advocate General (JAG) Kyndra Miller Rotunda that Gitmo is “really more like a Boy Scout camp than a prison camp” here, by the way); and this notes our own human rights violations in Iraq from May of 2005.

    You may now return to your regularly scheduled propaganda.

    Another Blissful Union Thwarted

    I don’t know about you, but I’m just so bummed right now that Blockbuster has withdrawn its million-dollar hostile bid to take over Circuit City (here).

    I mean, here we have Blockbuster, a company sued by the state of New Jersey over fraudulently hiding its late fees (here), sued also by Netflix over patent infringement since BB tried to allow customers to rent videos by mail (here – Netflix is great, by the way) and sued also by a Texas woman because BB participated in the Facebook Beacon program and shared her rental information online without her permission (what geniuses – here).

    And they were all set to purchase Circuit City, a company sued for age discrimination (here) as well as violations concerning the California “Do Not Call” law (here), and in addition to that, a gang that faced more legal action in NJ on charges of false advertising and consumer fraud (here). What a match it would have been!

    Sharing each others’ litigation costs alone would have driven both of them out of business eventually (and I toiled for far too long at Unisys, so I know all about companies resulting from crappy mergers).

    Has Tom Manion Learned From His Masters?

    According to this story in the Bucks County Courier Times, the Republican (!) mayor of Riegelsville, PA has some issues with a fundraiser conducted for Tom Manion, the Repug challenger against Patrick Murphy for the PA-08 U.S. House seat...

    According to the letter, originally filed by Tom Myers of Riegelsville on June 19, a fundraising event that was described as a “champagne reception” for Manion's campaign was held at Worth & Company Inc. in Pipersville March 25.

    It's illegal for corporations to make political contributions. In his letter, Myers claims Manion's campaign violated this law since there's no record that the campaign paid the company anything to cover the cost of the event, according to a campaign finance report filed with the FEC in April.

    Myers also claims in his letter that a Worth & Company employee had organized the fundraising event. Under federal campaign finance law, corporations may only use employees to work at fundraising events if payment for those services is received from political campaigns in advance.

    Manion said that the charge is false and “we're doing everything aboveboard and doing it the right way.”
    OK, Manion deserves the benefit of the doubt so far. But this wouldn’t be the first time that Worth (which hosted “Senator Honor And Virtue” a couple of days ago) has played fast and loose with the rules if the charge turns out to be true (as noted here).

    (By the way, McBush’s Worth visit came at the height of the flap over what Wes Clark said in response to a question by media shill Bob Schieffer of CBS on Sunday about McCain’s POW experience being qualification by itself to be president. I haven’t said anything because my A list “betters” have quite rightly pointed out that this is another case of the “Clinton rules” in play, whereby our beloved corporate cousins spin a story in as uncomplimentary a way as possible against the Dems, even to the point where they make stuff up. Namely, they reported that Clark demeaned McBush’s service, which is a lie. And Clark is right that no one experience from either candidate qualifies that person to be president, no matter how courageous or commendable. And I thought Obama was wrong to bail on Clark, though politically, I could see the calculation behind trying to have it “over and done with” as quickly as possible.)

    “Dubya The Dud” Becomes “Dubya The Stud”?

    This Think Progress post tells us that, with many of the economic stimulus checks in the hands of loyal Americans doing their best for the economy, guess which industry has seen an immediate benefit?

    If you said porn, then you’ve automatically entered yourself in the drawing for free passes to the Bunny Ranch in Las Vegas!

    (just kidding…)

    An independent market-research firm, AIMRCo (Adult Internet Market Research Company), has discovered that many websites focused on adult or erotic material have experienced an upswing in sales in the recent weeks since checks have appeared in millions of Americans’ mailboxes across the country.

    According to Kirk Mishkin, Head Research Consultant for AIMRCo, “Many of the sites we surveyed have reported 20-30% growth in membership rates since mid-May when the checks were first sent out, and typically the summer is a slow period for this market.”
    And can you say “irony,” given the fact that this administration once set out to bust the “adult entertainment” industry by appointing John Asscroft as Attorney General (as noted here)?

    Well, I’m sure these guys are happy anyway…



    Update: And by the way, feel free to insert your own "pumping" snark here.

    The Tainted Tomato Travesty

    NBC News chief science correspondent Robert Bazell tells us here that that mystery of the salmonella-tainted tomatoes will likely remain exactly that…

    The FDA and the CDC, the agencies responsible for the investigation, said that tainted tomatoes remain “the lead suspect,” and offered their recommendations on what kinds of tomatoes you should avoid and what is safe to eat. You can see those recommendations here.

    But in a conference call with reporters Tuesday, government investigators grew increasingly testy as more and more outside experts criticize their efforts.

    "I just think they're really screwing this one up," said Dr. Michael Osterholm, a professor at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota's former state epidemiologist, who has discovered the source of tomato contamination in other outbreaks.

    Osterholm says the current investigation has been characterized by a lack of cooperation and communication among agencies, as well as some faulty methodologies—especially the failure to do "case control" studies as they look for the source of this rare salmonella strain.
    (More info is here.)

    You know, as bad as this is, I would hate to think of what would happen if we suffered an even more widespread outbreak of some worse pathogen traveling through our food, air, or water.

    And even a modest examination of the root cases here yields the following: this link takes you to a report from the Committee on Government Reform now headed by Henry Waxman about FDA weaknesses under Bushco (he was the ranking minority member at the time this was published). And it identifies “the usual suspects”; declining FDA budgets, declining food safety inspections, and inadequate enforcement and regulatory action.

    Also, from here…

    Although the FDA claims that there are procedures in place to resolve disagreements, employees continue to say that they experience intimidation and reassignments when they raise issues about the integrity of the FDA's work. In fact, the UCS survey found that over one-third of the scientists said they could not openly express any concerns about public health within the FDA without fear of retaliation.

    Congressman (Maurice) Hinchey (D-NY) released a statement on June 24, 2006, in response to the report, which he said, "shed light on the serious and widespread problems at the FDA."

    "One of the more disturbing findings of the study," he said, "is that more than half of the scientists at the FDA said their job satisfaction has decreased over the past few years during President Bush's time in office."

    "Under this president," he noted, "the FDA has decided to let politics overrule science."
    "Water wet, sky blue" I know, but it bears repeating.

    We saw it with the way in which Vioxx, Bextra, and other drugs were mismanaged, Rep. Hinchey stated, and "in the agency's repeated efforts to preempt state law in order to minimize drug company accountability under former Counsel Daniel Troy."
    And this prior post tells us of allegations concerning another possibly flawed safety study used by FDA head Andrew von Eschenbach when testing the drug Ketek, with his agency allowing a researcher convicted of fraud to conduct one of the studies.

    And what of the CDC? Well, this other prior post tells us that agency head Dr. Julie Gerberding instituted a bonus program to reward top officials at the expense of the agency’s scientists (I’m sure morale soared after that). And to say they were slow to react when the matter of formaldehyde in FEMA’s trailers became public is an understatement.

    I know some of these links are from 2006 and 2007, but the same people have been running these agencies since that time. Given that, I honestly don’t expect that the “culture” in these agencies has changed one bit.

    Let’s just hope and pray that we can manage to hang on until we’re governed by adults again and responsible people are put in charge; government is only “the enemy” when we make it so by refusing to oversee those we elect to office as well as the ones those elected choose to appoint to run the agencies tasked with ensuring our safety.

    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    Tuesday Stuff

    "The Pap Attack" tells us all about the PNAC crowd, the "pay no price, bear no burden" bunch...



    ...Sweet Mother of Abraham Lincoln! First Satullo "finds the nut" - and now Smerky too??!! Kudos to him, actually (now wait for the "other shoe to drop")...



    ...and by the way, Crooks and Liars tells us here that the Federal Marriage Amendment, which of course would ban gay marriage (an amendment I don't support, by the way - call me whatever names you want, within reason) was reintroduced this week; that's ridiculous enough, but two of the original sponsors were "Diaper Dave" Vitter and Larry Craig, so with that in mind, here's a "tribute" to Senator Wide Stance, who gets a mention in this spoof of Baba Wawa's book (long setup, I know)...



    ...and this has been cracking me up all day (h/t Avedon Carol)...



    ...and finally, how awesome is Russ Feingold anyway (h/t The Daily Kos).

    Our Most Popular Export These Days

    Returning a bit to the Chris Satullo column from earlier today, I wanted to take note of this story; apparently, we’re trying to help create “the miracle of Abu Ghraib” south of the border…

    Videos showing city police practicing torture techniques on a fellow officer and dragging another through vomit at the instruction of a U.S. adviser created an uproar Tuesday in Mexico, which has struggled to eliminate torture by lawmen.



    One of the videos, first obtained by the newspaper El Heraldo de Leon, shows police appearing to squirt water up a man's nose – a technique once notorious among Mexican police. Then they dunk his head in a hole said to be full of excrement and rats. The man gasps for air and moans repeatedly.

    In another video, an unidentified English-speaking trainer has an exhausted agent roll into his own vomit. Other officers then drag him through the mess.

    “These are no more than training exercises for certain situations, but I want to stress that we are not showing people how to use these methods,” Tornero said.

    He said the English-speaking man was part of a private U.S. security company helping train the agents, but he refused to give details.



    Some human rights groups complained when the U.S. Congress dropped a requirement for independent verification of human rights improvements from a US$400 million drug-war aid bill, most of it for Mexico.
    Even though we have been having an ongoing debate in this country for the last few years over whether or not we, in fact, condone torture (within the rarified circles of punditry and politicians more than anywhere else), court ruling after court ruling has acknowledged that, yes, in fact, we do.

    And like many of you I’m sure, I was always taught that we weren’t supposed to do that. In fact, we were supposed to oppose countries/regimes that engaged in that sort of thing every way we should short of waging war against them (or taking that most drastic of all steps if all else failed, in concert with other reasons actual or imagined).

    But one of the true obscenities of the horrific Bushco regime has been its tacit endorsement of torture as an instrument of policy, no matter what they say (and why should we accept the word of liars anyway, especially on this?). And another obscenity is our wearisome acceptance of it, amidst dealing with the avalanche of bad outcomes due to the incompetence and malevolence of our ruling cabal.

    Yes, we can’t control what people in government do at every moment. But we can stand up and bitch when enough is finally enough; the existence of torture in our name anywhere in the world is horrible, but now it is officially in our own hemisphere and sanctioned by “(an) English-speaking man (who) was part of a private U.S. security company helping train the (Mexican) agents, (though)…he refused to give details.”

    Here’s a link to our elected representatives. Before you head out of town for the holiday, or fire up the grill, head to a swimming pool or attend a parade, contact them and tell them about this story. And tell them you don’t condone torture in our name, regardless of where in the world it is taking place.

    Ever!

    (And tell them to return that human rights verification to any "drug war" money they ever appropriate in the future, as long as you have them on the line.)

    And then, drop Chris Satullo a line and tell him about it.

    Happy “Bring ‘Em On” Day, Dubya!

    Believe it or not, tomorrow is the fifth anniversary of that infamous utterance by President Highest Disapproval Rating In Gallup Poll History, as noted here.

    To commemorate the occasion, I happened to find this terrific post by the milblogger Mac called “The Amphibious SUV” which tells us what a typical Baghdad day must be like.

    (I hope Dubya doesn’t read this, or else he may be tempted to give the “Officer” a medal.)

    (By the way, good to see our preznit hard at work on the crucial issues of the day...)

    Update 7/4/08: Apparently others have noticed too.

    Time For A July Blogger Ethics Panel

    In the print edition of the New York Times, a quarter-page ad appears on today’s Op-Ed page from “a concerned private citizen” citing a variety of misinformation on the issue of energy and gas, in particular, the alleged positions of Democratic candidates (primarily Barack Obama, of course).

    This is a sampling…

    The Democrats claim that the oil companies presently are authorized to drill where 80 percent of our oil and gas resources are located. The fact is that 84 percent of our continental offshore shelf is off limit (sic) to exploration or production.
    The “80 percent” claim can be verified from this article, according to Connecticut U.S. House Rep Chris Murphy (with the 80 percent comprising 68 million acres). And the Connecticut Post also tells us that the offshore shelf is quite rightly off limits, in accordance with the policies of both Poppy Bush as president and Jeb Bush as former governor of Florida (and regardless, it would take years to yield any oil from the shelf; hopefully, this will never be an issue because drilling there will never take place).

    And just when you thought the following lie had been refuted forever…

    The Chinese are preparing to drill in Cuba waters less than 50 miles off the coast of Florida into a huge dome of natural gas.
    Ugh...

    And this CNN Money article, by the way, tells us that when U.S. House Rep Edward Markey of MA chided an oil industry flak for the fact that no drilling is currently underway on the 68 million acres in question, he received the following answer…

    "No one is sitting on leases these days," said Rayola Dougher, senior economic advisor for the American Petroleum Institute. "Those making those assertions don't understand the bidding and leasing process."
    Oh really? Then how come none of the geniuses of Big Oil saw this coming? They’ve had these leases for years – why didn’t they determine when drilling should begin to increase supply to try and lower the pump price?

    (The above question is pretty much irrelevant as far as I’m concerned; the answer is that I’m paying a shade under $4 a gallon in Jersey and about $4.20 in PA to fill up the Doomsymobile.)

    So (getting back to the original ad), I wondered just who exactly this “concerned private citizen” was anyway.

    Well, his name is Jack E. Caveney. And with the miracle of a little Googling, I found this link that tells me that Caveney is director of technology for Panduit Corporation (and is a big-time habitual donator to Repug candidates and party organizations).

    And this story tells us that…

    Panduit, a supplier of wiring and communication products, is building its business in Qatar and the rest of the Gulf region.

    The company is just starting to take its first orders for a selection of new projects in Qatar including Shell's Pearl gas-to-liquids plant.



    Panduit has looked to improve it (sic) profile in Saudi Arabia by taking a targeted approach to product approval with the country' (sic) national oil company. It currently has eight high-volume products, which it knows Saudi Aramco uses, going through the pre-approval process.
    Oh, and did I mention that Caveney spends a good amount of his ad decrying development of alternative energy sources?

    As the Church Lady used to say on Saturday Night Live, “well, isn’t that special?”

    I’d sure like to see the Times engaged in not quite so much hand wringing over anonymous sources and maybe a little more about attribution in issue ads (just don’t publish Michael Gordon if he indulges in that practice, OK?). If Caveney wants to spend the money on the ad, that’s his right, but it’s the Times’ obligation to tell us that, on this issue anyway, he’s a lot more than “a concerned private citizen.”

    With Gates Gone, MS "Customer Service" Remains

    Even though (as I noted last week) a certain Bill Gates no longer works at the company he co-founded, he can rest assured that the Microsoft tradition of “we’re going to do everything possible to shove our upgrades down your throat, and it’s up to you to download all the service pack updates to correct the fixes that we’ll make it damn near impossible for you to discover” lives on.

    I was reminded of this by the news yesterday that, although reports of the demise of Windows XP have been, as they say, greatly exaggerated, it’s going to be harder to buy a computer with that operating system loaded, with Vista offered instead.

    I’m not a tech guru by any means, and I don’t know if Vista is particularly horrible or not, but I happened to come across this review by Randall Stross in the New York Times Sunday which tells us…

    Vista is the equivalent, at a minimum, of Windows version 12 — preceded by 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, NT, 95, NT 4.0, 98, 2000, ME, XP. After six years of development, the longest interval between versions in the previous 22-year history of Windows, and long enough to permit Apple to bring out three new versions of Mac OS X, Vista was introduced to consumers in January 2007.

    When I.T. professionals and consumers got a look at Vista, they all had this same question for Microsoft: That’s it?



    Painfully visible are the inherent design deficiencies of a foundation that was never intended to support such weight. Windows seems to move an inch for every time that Mac OS X or Linux laps it.

    The best solution to the multiple woes of Windows is starting over. Completely. Now.



    Microsoft should not wait to begin work on the big switch; it will take many, many years to prepare. Apple had the helpful goad of desperation. Avadis Tevanian, who worked on microkernel research as a Ph.D. student at Carnegie-Mellon, then on the Next operating system, followed by nine years at Apple where he oversaw the transition to Mac OS X, recalled how the decision was made when Apple’s market share was stuck at 3 percent and the company was losing money. I asked Mr. Tevanian if he thought Microsoft could pull off a similar switch.

    “Perhaps, but I don’t know if it has the intestinal fortitude,” he said, “At Apple, we had to. It was a matter of survival.”
    And though I’ve read that Vista looks nicer for some people’s tastes than XP (and supports tabbed browsing? Yee Hah! – but, uh…Firefox has been doing that for awhile now already, and much better too), I also came across this…

    Vista is less responsive in basic file opens than XP Pro.It's hard to find things. Some simple things in XP which were 1-2 clicks are 4-6 clicks. For example checking IP status. XP: Right click on Network Neighborhood, Properties, Right click LAN, Status. In Vista, you have to drill down through many more layers.Hiding data. People really hate Windows hiding information. We want the Details view to always be the default, not icons. Folders should always open in Explorer mode. We always want to see ALL file extensions and never hide OS files.
    Yep, nothing like Microsoft “tradition,” is there?

    (oh, and by the way, slick move to get rid of the pull-down menus in Word '07, guys - snark.)

    Dubya Defiles Sacred Ground

    This is sickening…

    I write as a Virginian, the father of four graduates of Mr. Jefferson's university and of another who is an alumnus of the university Mr. Jefferson himself attended.

    I have just spoken with Emily of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation to register our family's dismay that President George W. Bush has been invited to speak at Monticello on July 4th. I cannot imagine a greater insult to Mr. Jefferson, who played such a huge role in securing for us the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of this great Commonwealth and country. George W. Bush at Monticello? Desecration of what until now has been hallowed ground.

    Emily explained that the Foundation had decided that it could invite the office of the president, without appearing to invite the present incumbent. That distinction is one worthy of the lawyers whom the Bush administration hired to justify torture, ignoring the dictum of another Virginian, Patrick Henry, that practices like the rack and screw must be left behind in the Old World.

    Those who invited the president to Charlottesville to help celebrate the Declaration of Independence, which asserted basic freedoms that Mr. Bush has now curtailed, dishonor Mr. Jefferson in a most offensive way, scandalize our children and grandchildren, and desecrate Monticello itself.

    A shameful day for the Commonwealth.

    Raymond L. McGovern
    Arlington, Virginia
    To learn more, click here.

    A New Birth Of Courage?

    The person responsible for this utter mess (Chris Satullo of the Philadelphia Inquirer by name) wrote the following column today about the upcoming holiday.

    I don’t know where he’d been keeping all of this insight and fortitude, but I’m glad he finally decided to present it at long last.

    Put the fireworks in storage.

    Cancel the parade.

    Tuck the soaring speeches in a drawer for another time.

    This year, America doesn't deserve to celebrate its birthday. This Fourth of July should be a day of quiet and atonement.

    For we have sinned.

    We have failed to pay attention. We've settled for lame excuses. We've spit on the memory of those who did that brave, brave thing in Philadelphia 232 years ago.

    The America those men founded should never torture a prisoner.

    The America they founded should never imprison people for years without charge or hearing.

    The America they founded should never ship prisoners to foreign lands, knowing their new jailers might torture them.

    Such abuses once were committed by the arrogant crowns of Europe, spawning rebellion.

    Today, our nation does such things in the name of our safety. Petrified, unwilling to take the risks that love of liberty demands, we close our eyes.

    We have done such things, on orders from the Oval Office. We have done them, without general outrage or shame.

    Abu Ghraib. Guantanamo. CIA secret prisons. "Rendition" of prisoners to foreign torture chambers.

    It's not enough that we had good reason to be scared.

    The men huddled long ago in Philadelphia had better reason. A British fleet floated off the Jersey coast, full of hands eager to hang them from the nearest lampposts.

    Yet they pledged their lives and sacred honor - no idle vow - to defend the "inalienable rights" of men. Inalienable - what does that signify? It means rights that belong to each person, simply by virtue of being human. Rights that can never be taken away, no matter what evil a person might do or might intend.

    Surely one of those is the right not to be tortured. Surely that is a piece of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

    This is the creed of July 4: No matter what it costs us, no matter how it scares us, no matter how foolish it seems to a cynical world, America should stand up for human rights.

    No, not even the brave men who picked up a quill, dipped it in ink and signed the parchment that summer day in Philadelphia lived up perfectly to the creed. But they did something extraordinary, founding a new nation upon a vow to oppose all the evil habits of tyranny.

    That is why history still honors them.

    But what will history think of us, of how we responded to our great challenge? Sept. 11 was a hideous evil, a grievous wound. Yet, truth told, it has not summoned our better angels as often as our worst.

    We have betrayed the July 4 creed. We trample the vows we make, hand to heart.

    Don't imagine that only the torturer's hand bears the guilt. The guilt reaches deep inside our Capitol, and beyond that - to us.

    Our silence is complicit. In our name, innocents were jailed, humans tortured, our Constitution mangled. And we said so little.

    We can't claim not to have known. The best among us raised the alarm. Heroes in uniform, judges in robes, they opposed the perverse logic of an administration drenched in fear, drunk on power.

    But did we heed them? Hardly. Barely . . .

    We were so busy. Soccer practice at 6. A credit card balance to fret. The final vote on Idol.

    We left it to those in power to keep our precious selves from harm. Whatever it took.

    We took the coward's way.

    The world sees this, even if we are too dim to grasp it. We've lost respect. We've shamed the memory of Jefferson, Adams and Franklin.

    And all for a scam. The waterboarding, the snarling dogs, the theft of sleep - all the diabolical tricks haven't made us safer. They may have averted this plot or that. But they've spawned new enemies by the thousands, made the jihadist rants ring true to so many ears.

    So put out no flags.

    Sing no patriotic hymns.

    We deserve no Fourth this year.

    Let us atone, in quiet and humility. Let us spend the day truly studying the example of our Founders. May we earn a new birth of courage before our nation's birthday next rolls around.
    These are admirable sentiments, and the temptation is to say, “Well, we voted the Repugs out of Congress in 2006, and nothing much changed.”

    On the big issues (particularly the war, and possibly FISA the way things are going, though there are signs of life, in particular the Bingaman amendment discussed here), that’s certainly true. But elect Obama (despite his current desire to support the sham FISA “compromise”) and increase the majority of the Democrats in Congress, and see what happens next.

    And by the way, speaking of the regime responsible for everything Satullo rails about here, Patrick Barry of Democracy Arsenal brings us this little slipup from their designated mouthpiece.

    Monday, June 30, 2008

    Monday Stuff

    Click here to tell the Mickey Mouse network what you think of this piece of garbage from Jake Tapper; I'll wait for a similar piece of "satire" towards McCain and his "VP vetting" process, and I'm sure I'll keep waiting too...



    ...today's "Kristol Mess" moment (wankerific, Bill!)...



    ...and K.O.'s Special Comment on Obama and FISA; sounds like Olbermann has come around to the Glenn Greenwald view of things (nothing yet from Greenwald in response, though this sounds spot-on to me).

    "We're All Mad Here"

    I’m sure this story will be remembered primarily because, as stated here…

    A federal appeals court reviewing evidence at Guantanamo Bay compared a Bush administration legal argument to one made by a hapless, dimwitted character in a 19th century nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll.
    However, I’d like to emphasize not just the rather original sourcing used by the court to chastise our ruling cabal (“I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true,” according to “The Hunting Of The Snark” written in 1876), but the fact that, for the first time, “a court…reviewed the military's decision-making and considered whether a detainee should be held.”

    The detainee in question is Huzaifa Parhat; the story continues…

    Parhat is one of a group of Chinese Muslims, known as Uighurs, being held at Guantanamo Bay. Their case has become a diplomatic and legal headache for the U.S., which has tried to find a country willing to accept the Uighurs (pronounced WEE'-gurs) even as it defended its decision to hold them as enemy combatants.

    The Justice Department concedes that Parhat never fought against the U.S. and says it has no evidence he was planning to do so. The case hinges on Parhat's connection to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a militant group that demands separation from China. Parhat says he considers China, not the United States, the enemy.

    The Justice Department says the U.S. has classified intelligence that ETIM is affiliated with al-Qaeda, though officials did not identify the source of that intelligence either to the judges or to the military reviewers.

    ...

    The judges said there's credible evidence the source of (the) intelligence (that led to Parhat’s imprisonment) is the Chinese government, “which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs.”
    So great; our “friends” in China decide to get rid of some of their “undesirables” by just spreading the word through channels that they’re affiliated with al Qaeda, and we’re just supposed to take that at face value? Can you say “Mariel Boat Lift”?

    (And by the way, anybody out there who has either voted to effectively abolish the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution through support of the FISA “compromise” pertaining to judicial review of search and arrest warrants – I hope you’re reading this, Patrick, and I’m not too thrilled by some of the statements from Barack Obama on this either – should take heed of Bushco’s laughable interpretation of “due process” here.)

    All of this brings to mind another Lewis Carroll quote, I should point out:

    Sentence first, verdict afterwards.

    He's "Hat" His "Fill" Of Bushco Screwups

    The New York Times reported the following on Saturday…

    The Justice Department announced Friday that it would pay $4.6 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Steven J. Hatfill, a former Army biodefense researcher intensively investigated as a “person of interest” in the deadly anthrax letters of 2001.

    The settlement, consisting of $2.825 million in cash and an annuity paying Dr. Hatfill $150,000 a year for 20 years, brings to an end a five-year legal battle that had recently threatened a reporter with large fines for declining to name sources she said she did not recall.

    Dr. Hatfill, who worked at the Army’s laboratory at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., in the late 1990s, was the subject of a flood of news media coverage beginning in mid-2002, after television cameras showed Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in biohazard suits searching his apartment near the Army base. He was later named a “person of interest” in the case by then Attorney General John Ashcroft, speaking on national television.
    This is actually an update to this post from last February, which notes, among other items, that the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention had ended in turmoil in July/August 2001 with no new agreement reached that included international inspections of US government laboratories, and the scare took place in October of that year, implying that an agreement could have averted the tragedy.

    The post also tells us that Hatfill left Fort Detrick in 1999, making it highly unlikely that he could have obtained and delivered the anthrax-laced letters.

    And if you want to get an indication of the true “Keystone Kops” nature of Bushco’s investigation…

    After Dr. Hatfill came under suspicion in the anthrax case in 2002, an F.B.I. surveillance team began following him everywhere, and a small motorcade sometimes trailed his car around Washington.

    In May 2003, an F.B.I. surveillance car ran over Dr. Hatfill’s foot in Georgetown as he approached the car to take the driver’s picture. He was given a ticket for “walking to create a hazard” and was fined $5.
    Also (in the “it is to laugh” department)…

    An F.B.I. spokesman, Jason Pack, said the anthrax investigation “is one of the largest and most complex investigations ever conducted by law enforcement” and is currently being pursued by more than 20 agents of the F.B.I. and the Postal Inspection Service.

    “Solving this case is a top priority for the F.B.I. and for the family members of the victims who were killed,” Mr. Pack said.

    But Representative Rush Holt, a New Jersey Democrat whose district was the site of a postal box believed to have been used in the attacks, said he would press Robert S. Mueller III, director of the F.B.I., for more answers about the status of the case.

    “As today’s settlement announcement confirms, this case was botched from the very beginning,” Mr. Holt said. “The F.B.I. did a poor job of collecting evidence, and then inappropriately focused on one individual as a suspect for too long, developing an erroneous theory of the case that has led to this very expensive dead end.”
    Of course, no one could have predicted this (and thanks for sticking us with the tab for your incompetence, Mueller and Asscroft).

    Update 8/1/08: Here and here; to say all of this is curiouser and curiouser is an understatement (with this story stirring things up once more).

    Punditocracy, Heal Thyself

    David Broder in the WaPo yesterday (here), “calls on politicians to think about their role as educators of the public and on the public to demand straight talk from those who would be president.”

    No word on accountability for Broder and his fellow shills in the Beltway media, of course…

    Complaints about vacuous official rhetoric and the "dumbing-down" of presidential speeches, news conferences and interviews are standard fare. (Scholar Elvin T. Lim of Wesleyan University) found strong evidence to support those complaints, not just in his interviews with retired speechwriters but in the presidential texts themselves.

    In what must have been a heroic effort, he applied standard techniques of content analysis to state papers of every president from Washington to the second Bush. His tool is something called the Flesch readability score -- a measure of the average number of words per sentence and the average number of syllables per word. The higher the Flesch score, the simpler to get the meaning.

    Applied to the annual State of the Union addresses, the average score has doubled from the first few presidents to the last few. Those "messages were pitched at a college level through most of the 18th and 19th centuries," Lim says. "They have now come down to an eighth-grade reading level." The same trend, but more pronounced, is found in inaugural addresses. Their average sentence length has dropped from 60 words to 20.

    Simplification has its advantages, if it serves to increase public comprehension. But it comes with a huge risk: The complexity of real-world choices can be, and often is, lost.
    And you know this column is just full of the dreaded “conventional wisdom” because former shill slavish follower sycophant of The Sainted Ronnie R Peggy Noonan is quoted as saying that "the only organ to which no appeal is made these days -- you might call it America's only understimulated organ -- is the brain."

    This would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    This tour de force Media Matters post on Broder by Jamison Foser from April 2007 tells us, among other things, that…

    During the 2000 presidential campaign, Broder used his perch at The Washington Post to heckle Al Gore for telling the American people, in detail, what he would do as president. No, we are not making this up. Broder described Gore's convention speech as "a request to step inside a seminar room, listen closely and take notes," adding, "Never has a candidate provided more detailed information on his autobiography and the program initiatives he plans. One more paragraph and he would have been onto the budget of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. ... [M]y, how he went on about what he wants to do as president. ... For all his Washington experience, Gore does not seem to have grasped Bush's point that a chief executive is smart to focus on a few key reforms, rather than dissipating his leadership on a crammed agenda. Or perhaps Gore just felt it necessary to throw a bone to every one of the constituency groups in the Democratic Party."
    And do you really have to ask what The Dean Of Beltway Journalism thought of what Dubya said at the Repug convention in Philadelphia in 2000?

    Lifted by an acceptance speech of exceptional eloquence and powered by a party enjoying unusual unity, Texas Gov. George W. Bush embarks on the final stage of his quest for the White House with prospects that almost measure up to his brimming self-confidence.

    [...]

    [T]he acceptance speech he delivered Thursday night was a success.

    It contained almost everything good political rhetoric can provide -- humor, personal warmth, effective jibes at the opposition and glimpses of what his father, the former president, used to call "the vision thing." And Bush had rehearsed it enough to make it his own.
    As Foser tells us…

    Reading Broder's reaction to Bush's speech, you wouldn't have known whether Bush made mention of a single policy, proposal, or issue in his speech. You would, however, have learned that "Bush is seen by the public as a stronger leader -- and, by almost any measure, a man more likely to help cure the poisonous partisanship of the capital city."

    With a superman like David Broder leading the fight for less substance and fewer details, nobody should have been surprised by Thursday night's Democratic debate, in which moderator Brian Williams asked candidates about haircuts and horse-race polls, and repeatedly dumbed down the debate with questions instructing the candidates to raise their hands in response, or to "say a name or to pass." No details, please -- our titans of journalism might nod off. Just raise your hand and move on.
    Whacking Broder as if he were a piñata of sorts is easy sport I know, but his utter pomposity makes it impossible to avoid doing it. But unlike playing something like a child’s game at a birthday party, “breaking him open,” metaphorically speaking, would not yield candy I’d expect, but something else considerably more pungent and equally attractive to flies and other insects.

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    A New Low In Punditry

    MoDo in the New York Times today (here)...

    It’s hard to fathom why Obama should be mau-maued into paying off the debt that Hillary and Bill accrued attacking and undermining him, while mismanaging the campaign and their nearly quarter-billion-dollar war chest so horribly that one Hillaryland insider told The New Republic that it bordered on fraud.
    This Free Dictionary link explains that the verb "mau-mau" (I didn't know it existed either), means "To attack or denounce vociferously, especially so as to intimidate."

    So apparently Dowd is telling us that the Clintons threatened Obama into helping Hillary to dig out of her financial hole?

    Proof? Anywhere in sight? Hello??

    Or does the individual who is perhaps the most vacuous of the Times' celebrated pundits mean to conjure images of a Kenyan uprising against the British in the 1950s, reminding us once more of Obama's race (with The Free Dictionary also describing mau-mau as "the sound of the voracious gobbling of a hyena")?

    And as I pondered all of this sick absurdity, I also read a letter by fellow columnist Gail Collins defending Dowd and, by extension, criticizing Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt for his "assault" on Collins' "sister" columnist...

    The sharpness of her wit makes her commentary particularly painful to those who are on the receiving end. That’s also why so many readers love her and exactly what The New York Times pays her to do.
    Oh yes, I just love to endure Dowd's relentless, almost mechanical rehashing of every real or imagined political banality that she happily foists on us twice a week (how many more ways can she spin the "his Venus, her Mars" narrative?), leaving it to the reader to dig for any nugget of reasonable, coherent thought that may exist amidst all of her tripe. How that makes my day.

    And I am ever so grateful to Collins for reminding my of that (who no doubt was mau-maued by Dowd into writing a letter in her defense).