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June 30, 2004
Solitary

Via Talkleft.

Apparently the new punishment for videotaping the outside of a publicly visible building that happens to house an FBI office is 3 months in a 6-by-9-foot cell kept lighted 24 hours a day..

At least that's the punishment if the videotaper is a brown person.

The agent who helped arrest Purna Raj Bajracharya, a Nepali, figured out the mistake in less than a week, but even he couldn't get the guy released.

June 29, 2004
Targeting the Whackos

William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg have a great piece on why the Bush Cheney Hitler ad is not only a shameless and deplorable bit of muckraking garbage, but it's a sign of a truly desperate campaign, if not complete delusion.

Saletan finds it truly disgusting, while Weisberg finds it so ridiculous as to be almost "camp." Weisberg nails it with this:

A state of perpetual optimism is either a dangerous delusion or a calculated pose. In the case of the Bush campaign, it's evidently the latter. Comparing one's opponent to Hitler is not, in fact, the sign of a confident or optimistic candidate. To the contrary, it's the act of a fearful and cynical candidate who is willing to use any tactic to avoid defeat.

But in reaching so far down so early in, Bush has not improved his prospects. Aimed as it is at the surviving members of various John Birch splinter organizations, this ad will win over no one, while alienating and offending many potential Bush supporters. Republicans will spend much time on the defensive trying to explain why their ad is not as revolting and preposterous as it obviously is.

Slate

Really, what the hell were they thinking? I have to admit, the judgement they display is rather encouraging.

Yankee Fans to Cheney: Go Fuck Yourself

Oh I just love this.

Even as my friend Michael called me from his seats at the game, God Bless America was still playing in the background. During the 7th inning stretch at Yankees Stadium, they play God Bless America and show on the big screen pictures of anyone famous who's in the audience that night. Dick Cheney is apparently in the audience, and as soon as his face went up, the entire crowd started booing! As my friend Michael tells it, this is the blue-collar Bronx we're talking about, and Cheney is still getting booed - not a good sign for the Bush-Cheney ticket. As soon as the camera guys realized Cheney was getting booed, they quickly switched the picture on the screen to someone else.

America Blog

Cancelling Elections
WASHINGTON - The government needs to establish guidelines for canceling or rescheduling elections if terrorists strike the United States again, says the chairman of a new federal voting commission.

Such guidelines do not currently exist, said DeForest B. Soaries, head of the voting panel.

Soaries was appointed to the federal Election Assistance Commission last year by President Bush. Soaries said he wrote to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in April to raise the concerns.

--snip--

Events in Spain, where a terrorist attack shortly before the March election possibly influenced its outcome, show the need for a process to deal with terrorists threatening or interrupting the Nov. 2 presidential election in America, he said.

AP

What's the word I'm looking for here? It's on the tip of my tongue... Oh, yeah, "AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Seriously, I can see having some kind of a plan in place in case the actual election is disrupted, i.e. some polling places are blown up or something. To my mind, the plan would be fairly simple: allow people in that precinct to vote later, and as soon as possible. So if an attack literally prevents significant numbers of people from voting, those people and those people only would be allowed the chance to cast their votes at another time or in a different place.

What I'm afraid of is that they're going to try to come up with some plan for what to do if, say, there is a major terrorist attack a day or a week before the election. The reference to Spain here is very disturbing. If there is a major attack on the U.S. in the days before the election, and it influences people's votes, that is not some kind of subversion of democracy -- it is democracy. The events going on in the world -- yes, even including those that happen very close to an election -- are relevant to our choices and should by all means be taken into account. Considering these events does not, I repeat does not, mean that the terrorists have won.

What's next? The stock market crashes right before the election and the administration says, "Hey, we're going to postpone the election until this thing settles down a little bit, because, you know, we don't want this event to reflect on us."

Say it with me now... "AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

June 28, 2004
The Missing Voters

Wow.

It's really hard to imagine a more absurd argument than the one posited by this article.

More than 40 million legal abortions have been performed and documented in the 30 years since the U.S. Supreme Court declared abortion legal. The debate remains focused on the legality and morality of abortion. What's largely ignored is a factual analysis of the political consequences of 40 million abortions. Consider:

? There were 12,274,368 in the Voting Age Population of 205,815,000 missing from the 2000 presidential election, because of abortions from 1973-82.

? In this year's election, there will be 18,336,576 in the Voting Age Population missing because of abortions between 1972 and 1986.

? In the 2008 election, 24,408,960 in the Voting Age Population will be missing because of abortions between 1973-90.

These numbers will not change. They are based on individual choices made--aggregated nationally--as long as 30 years ago. Look inside these numbers at where the political impact is felt most. Do Democrats realize that millions of Missing Voters--due to the abortion policies they advocate--gave George W. Bush the margin of victory in 2000?

The number of abortions accumulate in size and political impact as the years roll along. Like an avalanche that picks up speed, mass, and power as it thunders down a mountain, the number of Missing Voters from abortion changes the landscape of politics. The absence of the missing voters may not be noticed, but that doesn't mean its political impact disappears. As seen during a famine, what no longer exists becomes as relevant as what does.

The Opinion Journal

Is this guy smoking crack? Could anyone's thinking really be so simplistic that they think that all of the people who were never born due to abortions are somehow relevant to our current political landscape? Is there any evidence at all that people who have abortions end up with fewer living children? If there is, this guy doesn't bother to mention it. He just assumes that a good percentage of these unborn children would have grown up to vote Democratic and that liberal abortion rights activists are decimating their own ranks.

It's really scary stupid.

Supreme Smackdown!

Great news from the Supreme Court today.

The Supreme Court ruled today that people being held by the United States as enemy combatants can challenge their detention in American courts — the court's most important statement in decades on the balance between personal liberties and national security.

The justices declared their findings in three rulings, two of them involving American citizens and the other addressing the status of foreigners being held at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. Taken together, they were a significant setback for the Bush administration's approach to the campaign against terrorism that began on Sept. 11, 2001.

"Due process demands that a citizen held in the United States as an enemy combatant be given a meaningful opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral decisionmaker," an 8-to-1 majority held in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, a Saudi-born United States citizen seized in Afghanistan in 2001. Only Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the basic outlines of the decision.

New York Times

Seems like this will unleash a flood of people challenging their detentions. I'm really happy about this. The thought of our government grabbing people, throwing them in jail and deciding that they have no rights is/was profoundly disturbing.

Surprise! You're Sovereign

In a move designed to thwart the insurgents who hoped to thwart the smooth and peaceful transfer of "sovereignty" on Wednesday, we secretly transferred said fake power 2 days early.

At the risk of being overly pessimistic, I have to go with Ezra's take on this. Doing it early and in secret is not a sign of success, it's a sign of fear.

But even I didn't expect this. Not only did the Bush Administration sacrifice the political benefit of the transfer, they did themselves harm. Pushing it up two days and conducting it in a tiny room with few watching leaves the media with no relevant spin save "they were afraid of insurgent attacks". Stunningly, they essentially admitted that they can't protect the country and they've no control over the events.

Pandagon

I guess they figure getting it done without everyone blowing up is worth missing the points they'd score by having a big fancy ceremony. Still, do we really think the insurgents are all bummed now? They're sitting in their spider holes going, "Oh fuck! Those bastards tricked us! What are we going to do now?"

Anyway, I wish the Iraqis luck with their new found "freedom." It sounds really scary.


In related news, The Onion reports that, despite appearances, most Iraqis are still alive.

Meanwhile, Bush's presence in Istanbul (not Constantinople) has turned that mostly Muslim city of about 10 million into a veritable open-air prison, which I'm sure is doing wonders for how we're thought of over there.

June 27, 2004
No Shit Edition: U.S. Losing Influence Abroad

Via Kos

President Bush's trip to the NATO summit meeting in Turkey comes at a time of diminished diplomatic strength, in which international organizations and individual countries have forced his administration into some strategic compromises, foreign policy specialists and diplomats say.

As Mr. Bush tries to press NATO allies to play a greater role in Iraq, he faces resistance from critics of the administration's previously unilateral stances who worry that the Iraq mission may be on the brink of failure, those analysts said.

The resistance from normally friendly countries like Germany, France and Japan, and from international organizations long dominated by the United States, has forced the administration to rethink its plans for security in Iraq and for persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program. "What we are seeing is other nations joining to resist U.S. unilateralism and exacting a higher price," said Cliff Kupchan, vice president of the Nixon Center, an institute in Washington created by former President Richard M. Nixon that specializes in foreign policy. "We've seen pounds of flesh being exacted before. Now it's an aggregate pound of flesh."

New York Times

The post on Daily Kos is right on about how Bush is sadly trying to move himself closer to Kerry's long-held position on foreign policy. Hopefully this tactic won't fool anyone.

There's an interesting idea presented towards the end of the article, that much of the rest of the world is on the horns of a dilemma. Whether their leaders will admit it publicly or not, much of the world strongly hopes that Bush will lose the election. If you think our policies look bad from here, imagine what we look like to the rest of the world, going off half-cocked, putting everyone's lives in danger.

So leaders around the world -- our "allies" -- don't really want to give the Bush administration any diplomatic victories -- in the U.N., NATO, or elsewhere -- that they can use to boost their chances in November. At the same time, of course, some kind of stability in the Middle East is in everyone's interest. As a source in the Times article puts it, the world community's choice hinges on the question. "Are things going so badly that they have no choice?"

So, from this perspective, if the timing is right, the chaos in Iraq is good for the administration. If it gets bad enough that the world is forced to bail us out, and Bush & Co. have enough time to take credit for everything, and assuming that we as a people are dumb enough to believe it, it could help their chances in November.

It's a crazy world.

Crazy, I tells ya.

What Are The NASCAR Dads To Do?

Unfortunately it appears that the thread in question has been taken down, but Atrios transcribes the comments of a Fox Sports announcer at Pomona:

"You think you know Dale Earnhardt Jr.? He advised his crew to go see the Michael Moore movie Farenheit 911. He said hey, it'll be a good bonding experience no matter what your political belief. It's a good thing as an American to go see... and it just shows you that Dale Earnhardt Jr. can reach far beyond the steering wheel."

Gleaned from Atrios' comments on taht post (500 and counting): some readers of the site said Earnhardt should be dismissed anyway because he likes rap music and is friends with Snoop Dogg.

Kerry Won't Cross Picket Line

Via Talk Left.

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry canceled plans on Sunday to address a U.S. mayors conference this week at a hotel that is likely to be ringed by picketing police officers.

"I don't cross picket lines. I never have," Kerry said at Our Lady of Good Voyage church in South Boston, where he attended Mass on Sunday evening.

Reuters

Good boy, John.

Elevating the Discourse
Vice President Cheney on Friday vigorously defended his vulgarity directed at a prominent Democratic senator earlier this week in the Senate chamber.

Cheney said he "probably" used an obscenity in an argument Tuesday on the Senate floor with Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and added that he had no regrets. "I expressed myself rather forcefully, felt better after I had done it," Cheney told Neil Cavuto of Fox News. The vice president said those who heard the putdown agreed with him. "I think that a lot of my colleagues felt that what I had said badly needed to be said, that it was long overdue."

Washington Post

The tag line from the latest Bush/Cheney web video -- the one that shows angry Democrats and Hitler: "This is not a time for pessimism and rage."

It's really hard to overstate what an asshole this guy is (irony intended).

Can you imagine if a Democrat had told the Vice President to "go fuck himself?" What do you suppose the reaction from Republicans would be?

From the Bush's "victory" speech in December 2000:

"Our nation must rise above a house divided," he said in his victory speech in December 2000. "I know America wants reconciliation and unity. I know Americans want progress. And we will seize this moment and deliver."

Well done.

CIA Halts Use of Torture

The CIA has decided to suspend the use of "extraordinary interrofation techniques" (read: torture), techniques that have been approved by the White House but are currently being reviewed by the Justice Department.

CIA interrogations will continue but without the suspended techniques, which include feigning suffocation, "stress positions," light and noise bombardment, sleep deprivation, and making captives think they are being interrogated by another government.

The suspension is the latest fallout from the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and is related to the White House decision, announced Tuesday, to review and rewrite sections of an Aug. 1, 2002, Justice Department opinion on interrogations that said torture might be justified in some cases.

Although the White House repudiated the memo Tuesday as the work of a small group of lawyers at the Justice Department, administration officials now confirm it was vetted by a larger number of officials, including lawyers at the National Security Council, the White House counsel's office and Vice President Cheney's office.

The Washington Post

That last paragraph is pretty interesting. A translation: The White House lied about the origins of the memo.

It's become so commonplace for the White House to lie and then change their story a day or two later that we're not even really mentioning it anymore. Imagine how happy this makes them.

Bush's Ireland Interview

Via Atrios and Kevin Drum.

On Friday night Bush was interviewed on Irish TV by Carole Coleman. It was a rather contentious interview, insofar as Coleman challenged Bush's stock non-answers and tried to insist that he say something that meant anything. The White House is not happy about this deplorable lack of professionalism on the Irish journalist's part. They cancelled another interview with Laura Bush (oh no!) and are just generally pissed.

Here's a transcript of the interview, and supposedly this is the video, though I've been getting server errors on that one. It's probably just overloaded.

The funniest part of the White House's outrage is that all of the questions were submitted in advance.

Now, admittedly, she did interrupt him several times. But he needed to be interrupted. He wasn't answering her questions. She asked a question, he launched into his usual nonsense, so she tried to get him back on track, like, you know, a journalist.

They've really managed to make many people think it's inappropriate to challenge our leaders. They should be fed pre-screened questions and then allowed to evade them at will. Do not interrupt and do not point out that they are not answering the questions. Respect for their office dictates that.

What Europeans seems to understand and we have forgotten is that these people work for us. George Bush is not our boss, he is our employee. He answers to ME, and to YOU. Well, he's supposed to anyway.

I also find it telling that he begins almost every answer in the interview with the words "Look," or "Listen." I'm no psychologist, but it seems to me a strong sign of his arrogance. There is no discussion or consideration of other points of view, he is dictating what the reality is, according to him.

So, wadda ya say? Can we please fire him? Please?

June 26, 2004
Bush Campaign Responds

The official Bush/Cheney campaign blog has posted a response to criticisms of their new web video, the one that juxtaposes images of Hitler with images of Democratic politicans.

Not surprisingly, their response is ludicrous. They claim that John Kerry is a hypocrite because he is denouncing the Bush campaign's use of these images, but he doesn't denounce every liberal who utters the word "Nazi."

Look, Moveon did not produce these ads, did not encourage them, in fact they rejected them. Further, John Kerry has no responsibility to react to statements made by George Soros, Michael Moore or Al Gore. These people do not work for Kerry's campaign, and he is not running against them. The Bush campaign is using these images in a shamefully misleading way, and they are using them against John Kerry. That he has responded to their use is not surprising, and his criticism is not evaded by pointing out that he hasn't responded to other stuff.

Idiots. Scary, mean, evil idiots.

Oh, and is it me or does the "Official Blog" banner on their logo look like it was stolen from a soup can? It really reminds me of some brand, but I can't figure out which.

bush blog logo

June 25, 2004
Michael Savage

I've never listened to Michael Savage's radio show, but I've heard many times that he's insane.

Proof: (from his June 23rd broadcast)

SAVAGE: I'd like to see them [Muslim extremists] hanging from lampposts in the entire Middle East. I'd like to see the Muslim world rise up en masse. ... [T]hen I as an American will believe -- and you know what I'll believe? I'll believe there's a difference between the two. Not until then. Otherwise, until I see that day, that they're strung up from lampposts, they're lying to me. And that they're really secretly getting off on these murderers, because they don't have the guts to do it themselves. Okay, that's when I'll believe in the heart of hearts -- when I see them hanging from lampposts, with their guts hanging out, then I'll believe that there's a difference between radical Islam and the rest of Islam over there. But if I don't see that -- if I don't see the massive uprising against them, I can only assume that they're the shock troops of all of Islam in the Middle East. How do you like that? That's my opinion. I'm not George Bush running for office, and this message was approved by Michael Savage.

Media Matters

This kind of thing really doesn't warrant a response, but I think it's important that we know that this is what is being spewed daily on a nationally syndicated radio show. This is the kind of attitude that we're up against. We have to fight these people, and we have to win.

Bush Cheney Hitler Ad

This is kind of too ridiculous to be believed, but there it is, right on the front page of the Bush-Cheney web site.

The ad, called "Kerry's Coalition of the Wild-eyed," shows clips of various angry Democrats and then ends with some nice piano music and the words, "This is not a time for pessimism and rage... It's a time for optimism, steady leadership and progress."

But guess who they threw in -- twice -- among the shots of angry Democrats (including such notorious firebrands as Dick Gephardt). Go on guess.

It's Hitler.

That's right, Adolf Hitler.

The pretext for such a disgusting juxtaposition is that the clips are from the Moveon.org ad contest. As you may remember, a couple of people submitted ads that compared George Bush to Hitler, the Republicans went nutty about it, and Moveon apologized, even though the ads were rejected by the contest.

So Republicans tried to score political points by feigning outrage over the suggestion of a Hitler comparison by random citizens with video cameras. Now they themselves are using the same images in their official web videos.

Truly shameless.

June 24, 2004
Bark at the Moon

The Gadflyer has video of a news report on the Sun Myung Moon coronation which includes several clips of the event itself.

It is truly bizarre and unsettling to watch a U.S. Congressman putting a crown on a psychopath.

Abu Gareff

The Daily Show has the clip of the president's press conference yesterday, wherein he refers to the "Abu Gareff... ... uhhh... uhh... situation."

Watch the video.

I'm really kind of confused by this kind of thing. Is it actually possible that the President of the United States hasn't heard the words Abu Ghraib enough times to know how to pronounce them by now? At no point in the past two months has he asked, "Can someone get me an Arabic speaker to teach me how to say this correctly? I don't want to look like an idiot." If this was a big topic of discussion among his people, wouldn't he know that it doesn't have an F in it?

See, to me all of that seems impossible. The man is not a complete idiot, despite popular conceptions. Pure evil, perhaps, but not an idiot. So what other explanation could there be?

It doesn't seem too far-fetched to me that they would have people on staff doing a lot of research into psychology. Who knows what kind of data they have on how people respond to public figures. It's obvious to anyone that people do not respond based on sense and reason, they respond in all kinds of fucked up ways. Is it possible that they've decided that by mispronouncing key words, the president gives people the idea, even subconsciously, that this couldn't be too big of a deal? It certainly minimizes the issue, and at the very least provides a less damaging distraction. "Let them make fun of my pronounciation; let them call me stupid. Meanwhile, I'll be over here destroying their precious Republic."

But seriously, George, it's embarrassing. Brush up.

News Update

I may have more to say about some of these items later, but for now, time being fast-moving as it is, I'll just note some important items for the record. I can't be expected to explain everything, can I?

Supreme Court Punts Cheney Case
Their Supreme Judicial Grandnesses refused to order the administration to release records of Cheney's secret Energy Task Force meetings. This issue isn't resolved, but the decision guarantees that the records will not be released before the election.
U.S. Appeals Court Reverses F.C.C's Media Ownership Rules
This one is good news. The F.C.C. really has its head up its ass, and it's about time some of their nonsense was thrown out in court. Now on to the obsenity rules.
Cheney Curses Senator
At the usually tame Senate "class photo," Dick Cheney swore at Senator Patrick Leahy (D - Vermont). The Senate wasn't technically in session, which is the only reason Cheney's action wasn't illegal. Cheney's representative described it as, "a frank exchange of views." Other reports indicate that Cheney said, "Go fuck yourself." Lovely.
President Questioned by Investigators in Plame Affair
Bush was questioned by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as part of his ongoing investigation into the leaking of Valerie Plame's identity as a CIA agent. The administration has been accused of leaking the name as retaliation against Plame's husband Ambassador Joe Wilson, who busted up the whole "Uranium from Africa" story. Seventy minutes is a long time to question a president, and questioning a sitting president in a criminal investigation at all is pretty extraordinary. White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, apparently with a straight face, "No one wants to get to the bottom of this matter more than the president of the United States."

That's all for now. I have more stories in the queue, but I have to eat something or I'll get cranky.

Yikes

Coordinated assault on five citiies kills at least 75 in Iraq.

June 23, 2004
Adaptation

The owners of our building have for many years employed a gardener, a kindly old man who comes around every now and then to mow the lawn and take care of the plantings. And boy are there a lot of plantings. He's planted just about everything you could imagine, and it's all very beautiful. Especially all the roses.

One particular rose that always gets attention is the Fourth of July rose, which we thought the gardener had developed personally, but it turns out he only participated in it's test plantings.

Either way, it's a flashy, splashy rose, as the name would imply. Not to smelly.

The other day I was out front on the phone, fingering the rose petals when I suddenly noticed this little spider sitting on the petals, waiting to kill me. The really weird thing about it is that the coloring of the spider matches the rose exactly. The spider's body is all white with little red splotches on its sides. The red is an exact match for the red on the rose petals.

I did some quick research but I couldn't find a spider quite like this one. Near as I could tell, it's probably some kind of Diaea spider.

I suppose the color match could just be a coincidence; this spider has been that color for a long time, camoflauged with some other plant, and then people developed this rose and the spider hopped aboard. Or, maybe it's a hyper-evolving super spider that will surely destroy us all.

Either way, it was pretty interesting, so I took a picture.

rose

Post Picks Up Moon Story

Finally, a mainstream news outlet has picked up the bizarre story of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's "coronation" in a U.S. government building, attended by more than a dozen lawmakers.

More than a dozen lawmakers attended a congressional reception this year honoring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in which Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons."

At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon's head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was "sent to Earth . . . to save the world's six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent."

The Washington Post

John Gorenfeld has been pushing this story for weeks, it's about time somebody started paying attention to it.

Several of the Congresspeople who attended the ceremony are claiming -- now that the details are out -- that they werre "duped" or "misled" by the organizers.

Unless they genuinely didn't know Moon was involved in this event, which is highly doubtful, it's total bullshit.

Everyone in Washington knows who Moon is and that he's a lunatic. Certainly they all know that he's extremely conroversial. Not knowing the details of whatever event they were going to in no way excuses their having anything whatsoever to do with this man in the first place.

On top of all of this is the fact that this event took place in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, and nobody seems to know who gave the authorization.

June 22, 2004
Oh yeah.. uhh.. Whoops?

As noted a couple of weeks ago, the State Department kinda messed up on that whole "Terrorism was Down in 2003, We're Winning! We're Winning!" report, and has today released the revised edition, now featuring 60% less bullshit!

So it turns out that instead of winning the war on terrorism, we're actually losing, and quite badly. Since we started fighting that particular tactic, it's use has climbed dramatically, claiming more lives than any year in the past two decades.

Everyone is pretending this was just some kind of honest mistake.

Really, I ask you, not how stupid do they think we are, but seriously, how stupid are we?

One cause for the error was that the computer program did not churn out any information after November on terrorist incidents in 2003, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Black said.

New York Times

And what was the cause of nobody NOTICING that a report on terrorist attacks in 2003 only contained data for 10 months? Huh? Hello? Computer program?

If this is the degree of scrutiny given to data generated by computer programs, we're in much more trouble than I thought.

Memo Dump

Froomkin parses today's "surprise" release of prisoner treatment memos and orders by the White House.

So, as usual, the administration is covering its ass so precisely and carefully that one can never say that they have technically lied or technically broken the law. At least not the law once they're finished interpreting it.

I've said this before, but again, this really misses the point. Are we really going to let them off the hook because they didn't technically lie, they only purposely misled? Is our standard for an acceptable government only that they don't precisely violate the letter of the law, regardless of the consequences or morality of their actual actions?

As for the presidential order released today, it says that captured alleged al Qaeda members do not have rights, but that they should be treated "humanely," as long as it's not too inconvenient.

Whew! That's very reassuring.

And how is it that our official policy is that these people "don't have rights?" Have we abandoned the notion of basic human rights altogether?

I don't read anything very convincing in Bush's order. It provides some nice pull quotes if you want to support the White House position, but if you read the whole thing, there's as much latitude as any torturer could want.

The media is already falling for this latest document dump diversion (DDD). The New York Times headline on the subject is Orders by Bush About Prisoners Set Humane Tone. Humane tone? Is that all we need?

In fact, the headline is quite accurate, if completely misleading. The president's orders did set a humane tone, and that's all they did. They did not prohibit the use of torture in all circumstances, and they included enough caveats to allow pretty much anything to happen if someone -- no specification as to who would have to do this -- deemed it militarily necessary or "convenient."

Bush concludes that he can do whatever the hell he wants, but for the time being, he's waving his benevolent hand over the detainees and sparing them torture. You know, as long as it's not inconveniencing anyone.

AP Sues for Release of Bush Service Records

Awesome. And it's about damn time.

Maybe I should have sued.

In case you've forgotten, or were successfully lulled into thinking that Bush already released his records, here's the story:

His complete records are on microfilm in the Texas archives. They can only be released if he signs a waiver to do so. He hasn't signed the waiver. He gave an oral promise to release all of this records and then the White House did release a lot of records, but not the complete records. No one knows how much was held back.

They threw out a bone, hoping the media and the public would go running after it while they quietly buried the juicy pieces. Naturally, this worked exactly as planned. Until now, anyway.

Worst Attorney General Ever

Krugman today:

In April 2003, John Ashcroft's Justice Department disrupted what appears to have been a horrifying terrorist plot. In the small town of Noonday, Tex., F.B.I. agents discovered a weapons cache containing fully automatic machine guns, remote-controlled explosive devices disguised as briefcases, 60 pipe bombs and a chemical weapon ? a cyanide bomb ? big enough to kill everyone in a 30,000-square-foot building.

Strangely, though, the attorney general didn't call a press conference to announce the discovery of the weapons cache, or the arrest of William Krar, its owner. He didn't even issue a press release. This was, to say the least, out of character. Jose Padilla, the accused "dirty bomber," didn't have any bomb-making material or even a plausible way to acquire such material, yet Mr. Ashcroft put him on front pages around the world. Mr. Krar was caught with an actual chemical bomb, yet Mr. Ashcroft acted as if nothing had happened.

--snip--

The discovery of the Texas cyanide bomb should have served as a wake-up call: 9/11 has focused our attention on the threat from Islamic radicals, but murderous right-wing fanatics are still out there. The concerns of the Justice Department, however, appear to lie elsewhere. Two weeks ago a representative of the F.B.I. appealed to an industry group for help in combating what, he told the audience, the F.B.I. regards as the country's leading domestic terrorist threat: ecological and animal rights extremists.

[emphasis mine]

There's more in there -- about how Ashcroft is very fond of allowing government access to all manner of private records, except of course anything having to do with purchasing a gun. See, if you've had a late-term abortion, or registered to vote or been issues a driver's license the government has a right to examine those records. If you've purchased a deadly weapon, though, those records are not only exempt from examination, they are required to be destroyed within one business day of being created.

Very nice.

In other "Ashcroft is Evil Made Flesh" news, NBC News is reporting that at least two high-ranking FBI officials have testified before the 9/11 Commission that Ashcroft blew off direct warnings about al Qaeda in the summer of 2001. Ashcroft himself has testified under oath that he did not.

"Mr. Ashcroft told you that he did not want to hear about this anymore," Democratic commission member Richard Ben-Veniste asked on April 13. "Is that correct?"

"That is correct," Pickard replied.

Testifying under oath the same day, Ashcroft categorically denied the allegation, saying, "I did never speak to him saying that I didn't want to hear about terrorism."

However, another senior FBI official tells NBC News he vividly recalls Pickard returning from the meeting that day furious that Ashcroft had cut short the terrorism briefing. This official, now retired, has talked to the 9/11 commission.

NBC News has learned that commission investigators also tracked down another FBI witness at the meeting that day, Ruben Garcia, head of the Criminal Division at that time. Several sources familiar with the investigation say Garcia confirmed to the commission that Ashcroft did indeed dismiss Pickard's warnings about al-Qaida.

"When you get two people coming forth and basically challenging a sworn statement by the attorney general regarding a critical meeting in the history of the 9/11 event, you raise serious questions about the Attorney General's truthfulness," says Paul Light, a government reform expert and New York University professor.

Oh please, oh please, oh please let him be indicted for perjury. That would be so sweet.

Krugman, take it home:

After my last piece on Mr. Ashcroft, some readers questioned whether he is really the worst attorney general ever. It's true that he has some stiff competition from the likes of John Mitchell, who served under Richard Nixon. But once the full record of his misdeeds in office is revealed, I think Mr. Ashcroft will stand head and shoulders below the rest.
Draft Bruce

Some guy has put Giants Stadium on hold for September 1, the first day of the Republican National Convention in New York City, and is mounting a campaign to convince Bruce Springsteen to play.

Bruce is a great symbol of what America really is, and he's the kind of guy that knee-jerk liberal haters can't hate. Plus he's a frickin' musical genius.

So, yeah, I'm on board.. Draft Bruce!

Yeesh

Since they didn't want their name on Michael Moore's new film, it's pretty interesting that Disney is releasing this movie on July 2.

From watching the trailer, I gather that it's a serious look at how American is great, and there are some really nice people here.

It really makes you think, doesn't it?

June 21, 2004
The Real Election

A great site that explains how the Electoral College works and presents a nice map of likely votes this fall, based on state polls instead of national polls, which seems to be a much more relevant way to do things.

As someone pointed out somewhere but I forget where, we don't have one election for president, we have 51 (including D.C.), with some being much more important than others.

electoral vote map as of jun 2004

Current tally:
Kerry - 302
Bush - 232
Needed to win: 270

If you live in a "weak" or "barely" state, you're on the front lines.

Oh, and for any of our friends overseas who may be reading this, please Tell An American To Vote! (Unless they're a Republican, in which case you needn't go out of your way.)

Mmmm, That's Good Sovereignty

Another one from Kos.

A transcript of an email sent by a White House press secretary to an unidentified news organization:

----Original Message-----
From: Pamela Stevens
Sent:
To:
Subject: FW: Iyad Allawi for tomorrow

Any interest in having Iyad Allawi on tomorrow -- as you know, he is the new interim prime minister of Iraq.

Pamela Stevens
Assistant Press Secretary
The White House
202 456 6311


-----Original Message-----
From:
Sent:
To: Pamela Stevens
Subject: RE: Iyad Allawi for tomorrow

[cut]

Would he be from Baghdad? Is he doing other shows?


-----Original Message-----
From: Pamela Stevens
Sent:
To:
Subject: RE: Iyad Allawi for tomorrow

yes. baghdad and I did pitch him to other shows

As Kos asks, isn't it a bit irregular for the White House to schedule the press appearances of foreign leaders?

Republicans Maintain Ban on Casket Photos

Via Kos.

The Republican-controlled Senate today defeated a bill that would require a change in rules which forbid photographs of our soldiers bodies returning from Iraq.

flag draped coffin

Howlingly Bad Journalism

The Daily Howler picks up on two articles describing John Kerry's Father's Day weekend in Nantucket, one by Jodi Wilogren of the New York Times and one by Nedra Pickler of the Associated Press.

If you want the basic gist of these articles, it is this: John Kerry is rich. Very rich. Most Americans are not rich. George Bush may be rich, but his ranch is hot and probably wasn't very expensive. Besides, when he's there, he works hard clearing brush. He doesn't kite surf, whatever that is.

Some truly amazing paragraphs:

His Boeing 757 campaign plane was grounded in Washington on Friday night when the weather prevented landing at Nantucket's airstrip, which has seen only one jet of such size before.

--snip--

"The wind died," Mr. Kerry, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told reporters as he cruised by on the 32-foot Contender, a gentleman's fishing vessel said to cost about $150,000.

--snip--

Mr. Kerry and his family did dine out Saturday night at the Pearl, where sauteed yuzu-dusted day boat sea scallops go for $36, with his fellow senator from Massachusetts, Edward M. Kennedy, his wife, Vicki, and her parents. But on Sunday afternoon, he canceled a beachside brunch at one of the island's most expensive restaurants, with aides explaining that his two adult daughters preferred a quiet meal at home.

--snip--

Mr. Kerry has been coming here regularly since at least 1995, when he married the ketchup heiress Teresa Heinz at the three-story, five-bedroom house she owns on Brant Point, where the clothing designer Tommy Hilfiger also has a home and H. Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, recently sold one. Valued at $9 million in 1995, the house...has a large screened-in porch, decorative columns, and a green-and-white love-seat swing on its sandy front lawn.

--snip--

Though some Democrats were concerned about the image of their wealthy candidate frolicking among the fabulously wealthy here on an island where the average home sells for $1.4 million, Mr. Kerry insisted not only on coming, but also on trying to kite-surf, a dangerous combination of waterskiing and parasailing with basic equipment costing about $2,500.

--snip--

The weekend was Mr. Kerry's first real holiday since the week he spent at his wife's Sun Valley, Idaho, home in March, where he was widely photographed snowboarding. It was reminiscent of President Bill Clinton's vacations in borrowed houses on nearby Martha's Vineyard, and a sharp contrast to President Bush's frequent brush-clearing forays on his sweltering ranch in Crawford, Tex.

The New York Times

And if you think that's bad, check out Pickler's article, headlined -- I'm not kidding -- Kerry pauses to enjoy weekend of wealth and sub-headlined -- still not kidding -- The senator's support of programs for the poor contrasts with his affluent background.

After a week of campaigning for the less fortunate, John Kerry went on vacation with the fabulously wealthy.

Kerry is a rich man who promotes the Democratic ideal that government should do more to help the poor.

He moves between both worlds, spending the past week traveling to downtrodden places like South-side Columbus, Ohio, and the affluent island playground of Nantucket.

Not since President Kennedy have Democrats been prepared to nominate a man of such riches. President Clinton didn't own a home until he left the White House and President Carter was a peanut farmer. Both grew up poor in the South, as did President Johnson before them.

Kerry was educated at boarding school in Europe, prep school in New England and at Yale. He married two wealthy women and his second wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is heir to the $500 million Heinz food fortune.

Like Kerry, President Bush is a Yale graduate who has benefited from his wealth and family connections. But Bush spends his down time trying to be more of an everyman, preferring to spend vacations at his Texas ranch clearing brush.

"Most Americans don't sit in Martha's Vineyard, swilling white wine," he said at the ranch two years ago.

News-Leader

Why yes, George, that's true. Most Americans also don't get into Yale despite poor grades, have large energy coorporations and Major League Baseball teams given to them on a silver platter or get out of service in a war because they have important daddies. Jerk. Oh, also, most Americans didn't vote for your punk ass.

And then there's this:

Kerry says he and Bush are both lucky to come from privilege, but that the difference between them is in the values they now fight for. Kerry says Bush favors the wealthy, and Kerry plans to raise taxes on people making more than $200,000 a year to pay for health care, education and other programs he says would uplift all Americans.

Still, Kerry doesn't hide his membership as one of America's moneyed elite.

Still? What is that "Still?" He wants to increase the share of taxes paid by the wealthy and reduce the burden on the poor, not to mention giving everyone health care and education, but, "Still," he doesn't hide his wealth. The word "still" here implies a relationship between the two things. I guess the relationship she means is that rich people, even those who seek to help the less fortunate by devoting their entire lives to public service, are supposed to be liars. They're supposed to act like they're just like everyone else, staging photo ops showing how "average" they are. What is the matter with John Kerry? He seems like he's going around honestly being himself. Is that really a quality we want in a president?

Pretty Well Confirmed

This from Reason.

Noted without comment.

June 17, 2004. Vice President Cheney talking to CNBC's Gloria Borger.

Borger: "Well, let's go to Mohamed Atta for a minute, because you mentioned him as well. You have said in the past that it was, quote, 'pretty well confirmed.' "

Cheney: "No, I never said that."

Borger: "Okay."

Cheney: "Never said that."

Borger: "I think that is . . . "

Cheney: "Absolutely not. What I said was the Czech intelligence service reported after 9/11 that Atta had been in Prague on April 9th of 2001, where he allegedly met with an Iraqi intelligence official. We have never been able to confirm that nor have we been able to knock it down."

On Dec. 9, 2001. Cheney talking to NBC's Tim Russert.

Cheney: "Well, what we now have that's developed since you and I last talked, Tim, of course, was that report that -- it's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack. Now, what the purpose of that was, what transpired between them, we simply don't know at this point, but that's clearly an avenue that we want to pursue."

Washington Post

CNBC Transcript | Meet the Press Transcript

Poor Man I Kiss You

Once again, some hilarious and spot-on parody from The Poor Man.

June 20, 2004
Wal-Mart

For any of you out there who still find yourself lured by Wal-Mart's "low" prices, read this paragraph from a handbook Wal-Mart gives to managers:

Staying union free is a full-time commitment. Unless union prevention is a goal equal to other objectives within an organization, the goal will usually not be attained. The commitment to stay union free must exist at all levels of management--from the Chairperson of the "Board" down to the front-line manager. Therefore, no one in management is immune to carrying his or her "own weight" in the union prevention effort. The entire management staff should fully comprehend and appreciate exactly what is expected of their individual efforts to meet the union free objective.... Unless each member of management is willing to spend the necessary time, effort, energy, and money, it will not be accomplished. The time involved is...365 days per year....

The Nation

The rest of the article is worth reading. What are we really willing to trade to save a couple of bucks on some shoddy merchandise?

Now, please, for the love of all that is good and decent, stop shopping there.

no wal mart

P.S. - It could surely be pointed out that I support many businesses whose practices and/or politics I don't agree with and it's therefore hypocritical for me to admonish people not to shop at Wal-Mart.

I disagree.

I certainly don't expect anyone (including myself) to research the background of every company or person they do business with. But when we know about bad practices, we're responsible for the choices we make. This is particularly true when we have so many other options.

Wal-Mart also deserves to be singled out as one of the most powerful companies in the world when it comes to labor practices. They employ more people than anyone else and their practices are being used as justification for anti-unionism by other companies. They are at the top of the chain, so if we're going to take one stand, it should be this one.

McCain No Longer Cool

Can we stop talking about him as Kerry's Vice President now?

I like John McCain only because he's probably one of the most honest people in Congress. I don't agree with a lot of his politics, but I admire that he seems to say what he thinks regardless of party line. That's good.

But he's still a hawk, and he still strongly supports Bush, a completely indefensible position in my mind. Seeing him go out and shill for Bush is sad, and distinctly lowers my opinion of him. He's been all over the place disagreeing with the president's policies on Iraq and the War on Terra -- the only policies Bush is campaigning on -- and now he's on the Bush road show. It certainly cals into question my characterization of him as honest.

Billmon has more.

Relationships, Ties and Contacts, Oh My

Three words: Relationship, Ties, Contacts.

The administration this week has been aggressively trying to say that these things are all the same thing. They said Iraq and al Qaeda had a "relationship," they said there were "ties" between the two. In September 2002, the president said, "The war on terror, you can't distinguish between al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror."

Now the 9/11 Commission has clearly said that there is only evidence of "contacts" between Iraq and al Qaeda, and absolutely no evidence of a "relationship" or "ties."

The administration's wording has been very careful here, forcing the commission members to say that, technically, there is no conflict between what they have found and what the administration has been saying. What they're all missing, though, is that there's a huge difference in what they're implying. The discourse surrounding this government has become so fucked up that our press corps seems to think it can only criticize that which has been categorically stated, and that blatant implication, conflations and rhetorical tricks are fair play and not to be questioned.

The basic and obvious problem of the Relationship-Ties-Contacts lie is that it goes in the wrong direction. The administration is implying that the vague implies the specific, instead of the other way around. Their logic is terrible, but that doesn't mean it doesn't sound convincing to many people.

The New York Times on Thursday called for the president to apologize to the American people for misleading them about the connection between Saddam and 9/11. The only scenario in which I can imagine this happening is about 3 weeks before the election. If the polls are looking really bad for Bush, maybe we'll get some kind of last ditch bullshit mea culpa, in which he acknowledges all of the misinformation but doesn't actually take personal responsibility. He'll promise to fire most of his cabinet, transferring blame away from himself, and launch lots of investigative committees in hopes that the public will fall for his "charm" and "honesty" and give him another chance.

It's probably not a very likely scenario, but these days I don't like to dismiss any possibility as too duplicitous for these guys. I think Bush and his boys will literally do almost anything to stay in power, short of nothing I can think of. And if it worked, if we as a people fell for it and reelected him, I just don't know what I would do. I hear New Zealand's nice.

Mr. Bush is right when he says he cannot be blamed for everything that happened on or before Sept. 11, 2001. But he is responsible for the administration's actions since then. That includes, inexcusably, selling the false Iraq-Qaeda claim to Americans. There are two unpleasant alternatives: either Mr. Bush knew he was not telling the truth, or he has a capacity for politically motivated self-deception that is terrifying in the post-9/11 world.

New York Times

Philly Gets it Right

The Philadelphia Inquirer has a great editorial on the Bush lies about the Iraq - al Qaeda connection.

In the letter the President sent Congress explaining his decision to invade, he wrote: "The use of armed force against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

What impression was he trying to leave there? We report, you decide.

Also, Billmon at Whiskey Bar has a very good and detailed account of the past few days' lies.

The Idiocy Packing Problem

How many ridiculously stupid ideas can you fit into seven sentences? Trent Lott tries to find out:

Q: You recently created a stir when you defended the interrogation techniques at Abu Ghraib.

A: Most of the people in Mississippi came up to me and said: ''Thank Goodness. America comes first.'' Interrogation is not a Sunday-school class. You don't get information that will save American lives by withholding pancakes.

Q: But unleashing killer dogs on naked Iraqis is not the same as withholding pancakes.

A: I was amazed that people reacted like that. Did the dogs bite them? Did the dogs assault them? How are you going to get people to give information that will lead to the saving of lives?

NY Times

Uh, Trent, to be perfectly blunt I'm afraid that if we decided our national morality on what most of the people in Mississippi said, we'd be in a lot of trouble. I'm sure there are some good, progressive folks down there, but they have a history of being a tad behind on the whole human rights thing.

Then he blithely indicates that information from these tortured prisoners has saved American lives. Not only is there no evidence of this, but we've had at least one American civilian's beheading directly attributed to the abuse, and most experts agree that torture as an interrogation technique is actually counter-productive.

As for whether or not the dogs actually bit them, I'll use the same logic to imagine a scenario I would truly like to see:

Imaginary press conference:

REPORTER: Mr. President, why have you continued to imply a connection between Iraq and al Qaeda despite a complete lack of evidence of such cooperation, and a report by the bipartisan commission you yourself reluctantly created clearly stating that no such connection exists?

BUSH: The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. [real quote]

REPORTER: Sic 'im boy!

DOG: BARK! BARK! SNARL! GROWL! BARK! SNARL! BARK!

BUSH: Okay, okay, I lied, I'm sorry. I'm a complete douchebag! Please impeach me, I'm a total failure! Just get the dog away!

I mean, come on, it's not like to dog bit him or anything. How else are we going to get information out of these people? Being nice clearly doesn't work.

June 17, 2004
Talking Points

First posted by Atrios and submitted by one of his readers, is some investigation into this photo of Bush (high-res image, big file).

The photo is from a cabinet meeting today, and the reader noticed that Bush's notes were visible on the table in the photo. He did some rotating and zooming and so on and managed to read some of it.

I did some of my own rotating and zooming and so on to try to get more.

bush notes
Click to view larger

The right side does appear to be a list of reporters' names and who they work for. This doesn't particularly shock me, though you would think after three and a half years he would know some of these people. The left side is more intriguing to me.

What I can make out is:

Saddam was a threat --

Sworn enemy of US

Destabilizing force

Volatile part of world

That's all I can make out with any certainty.

Now I'm sure this is totally common and mundane. Politicians always have notes or teleprompters or whatever. What strikes me about this though is the content of these notes. These are not just issues he wants to remember to touch on, this is all he's going to say, over and over again. And considering how oft-repeated all of these themes are, you'd think he could do it without notes by now.

Something about it seems really creepy to me.

George Bush Insists He Is Also A Dick

We all knew Cheney was flippin' nuts, and well, we all sorta knew George was kinda out there too, but still...

QUESTION: Mr. President, why does the administration continue to insist that Saddam had a relationship with al Qaeda, when even you have denied any connection between Saddam and September 11th, and now the September 11th commission says that there was no collaborative relationship at all?

BUSH: The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al Qaeda, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.

This administration never said that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated between Saddam and al Qaeda. We did say there were numerous contacts between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. For example, Iraqi intelligence officers met with bin Laden, the head of al Qaeda, in the Sudan. There's numerous contacts between the two.

I always said that Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction against his own people. He was a threat because he was a sworn enemy to the United States of America, just like al Qaeda. He was a threat because he had terrorist connections, not only al Qaeda connections, but other connections to terrorist organizations; Abu Nidal was one. He was a threat because he provided safe haven for a terrorist like Zarqawi who is still killing innocents inside of Iraq.

Washington Post

Notice how "contact" has now been conflated with "cooperation." They pretend they never said and never implied any cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda, even as they continue to imply it. The 9/11 Commission's Staff Statement establishes that al Qaeda tried to enlist Iraq's help in his fight with the United States, but Iraq turned him down. This is what they refer to as "contact."

My question is, if this constitutes enough evidence to go to war, why don't we start cluster bombing ourselves? After all, al Qaeda operatives surely live and work within our borders, and have undoubtedyl spoken with Americans, perhaps even enlisting their help with some task -- changing a tire, buying some fertilizer, change to play Ms. Pac Man -- and so America is clearly linked to al Qaeda and this means war.

In all seriousness, while the president is being exceedingly careful with his words to avoid any technical lies, shouldn't we be a bit concerned that he has to be so careful with his words to avoid proving himself to be a misleader and a liar? It's like a little kid sticking his hand in your face and saying, "I'm not touching you, I'm not touching you, you can't do anything, I'm not touching you."

Someone, please, smack the bastard.

June 16, 2004
Atom Here, Atom There
Two teams of scientists report today that for the first time they have teleported individual atoms, taking characteristics of one atom and imprinting them on a second.

New York Times

teleporter

Ghost Prisoners
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, acting at the request of George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, ordered military officials in Iraq last November to hold a man suspected of being a senior Iraqi terrorist at a high-level detention center there but not list him on the prison's rolls, senior Pentagon and intelligence officials said Wednesday.

This prisoner and other "ghost detainees" were hidden largely to prevent the International Committee of the Red Cross from monitoring their treatment, and to avoid disclosing their location to an enemy, officials said.

New York Times

Speaks for itself.

No Class

Via Pandagon.

Less than two weeks after Reagan's death and conservatives are already exploiting his image to try to get Bush reelected, and to smear Kerry. And the Reagan family is not happy about it.

The ad shows Kerry, a Vietnam veteran, testifying to Congress in 1971 that "we cannot fight communism all over the world and I think we should have learned that lesson by now."

Former President Ronald Reagan is then seen at the Berlin Wall in 1987, saying "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." That's followed by Bush telling rescue workers at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks: "I can hear you, the rest of the world hears you, and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon."

The Reagan family's spokeswoman said Tuesday that permission is needed for anyone to use Reagan's likeness in an ad because doing so implies that he endorsed one candidate over another.

"No one has requested the permission to use his image in an ad, nor would we feel it appropriate to give such permission at this juncture," Joanne Drake said. "We protect his image very carefully, particularly as it relates to politics."

Dodgeball

Tom Tomorrow may get to go to the star-studded premier of Farenheit 9/11, but thanks to my new job in the independent media, I got a free pass to a preview screening of Dodgeball tonight.

Take that, Tom.

dodgeball

If anyone's interested, Dodgeball is not nearly as bad as you may imagine. It had many genuinely funny parts, and comparatively few really terrible ones. Any movie that ends with the line, "Fuckin' Chuck Norris" is good by me. Get as stoned as you can manage first, it'll surely be even better.

9/11 Commission Finds Cheney Is A Dick

Dick Cheney on Monday:

He was a patron of terrorism," Cheney said of Hussein during a speech before The James Madison Institute, a conservative think-tank based in Florida. "He had long established ties with al Qaida."

A.P.

The 9/11 Commission today:

There is "no credible evidence" that Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq collaborated with the al Qaeda terrorist network on any attacks on the United States, including the Sept. 11, 2001 hijackings, according to a new staff report released this morning by the commission investigating the hijacking plot.

Although Osama bin Laden briefly explored the idea of forging ties with Iraq in the mid-1990s, the terrorist leader was hostile to Hussein's secular government, and Iraq never responded to requests for help in providing training camps or weapons, the panel's report says.

Washington Post

And lest anyone think Cheney is just a rogue lying son-of-a-bitch, we have this exchange from the White House Press Conference yesterday, showing that his boss is backing up his dirty lies:

Q Can I ask about Vice President Cheney, because yesterday he repeated what is a very controversial claim. He said that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda. Does the President believe that Saddam Hussein had long-established ties with al Qaeda?

MR. McCLELLAN: We certainly talked about the ties with terrorism between the -- between the regime that was removed from power, and we talked about those ties prior to the decision to remove that regime from power. So that was well-documented. Secretary Powell went before the United Nations and talked about some of those ties to terrorism, as well. And Zarqawi is certainly a senior al Qaeda associate who was in Iraq prior to the decision to go in and remove the regime from power.

Q There's also al Qaeda in the United States. That does not mean the United States is cooperating with those members of al Qaeda. Just by the presence of someone does not mean there's a cooperation.

MR. McCLELLAN: But, remember, we're talking about an oppressive regime that was in power in Iraq that exercised control over that country. And go back and look at what we documented, Norah. We documented all this, and I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.

Q So today you're saying the President does agree there were long --

MR. McCLELLAN: We stand by what we've said previously, in terms of the regime's ties to terrorism, yes. And I think that's what the Vice President was referring to.

Q The President said there were no ties in the run up to the war.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, that's a mischaracterization. There were clear ties to terrorism between the regime --

Q He said there were no ties with al Qaeda.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- certainly supporting suicide bombers in the Middle East.

Q Are you repudiating what the President said?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think you're talking about September 11th.

Talking Points Memo

June 15, 2004
Tom Tomorrow on Farenheit 9/11

Tom Tomorrow got to see the premiere of Farenheit 9/11 last night.

His description.

In an interesting side note, this is from a review of the film on the Fox News Site, if you can believe it:

As much as some might try to marginalize this film as a screed against President George Bush, "F9/11" � as we saw last night � is a tribute to patriotism, to the American sense of duty, and at the same time a indictment of stupidity and avarice.

Also, several groups of nutballs are trying to pressure movie theaters to not screen the film, saying -- apparently unironically -- that the film is unAmerican and to censor it would be the patriotic thing to do.

Naturally, this will only make the film more successful. The more they yell and scream about it, the more people are going to want to see it. Some of these groups have also posted long lists of email addresses of theater chain employees and instructed their followers to email and say they don't want the film shown. Kos points out that this has completely backfired, as the theaters are being flooded with emails supporting the film.

Stupid wingnuts.

Bush and Clinton

In a surreal bit of political theater, the Bushes hosted the Clintons at the White House yesterday for the unveiling of Bill and Hillary's official portraits, which will take the place of Bush's parents' pictures.

Everyone made jokes and pretended to like each other, it was all very strange. Bush's jokes were fine, his delivery was, as usual, bizarrely terrible. Right in the middle of the punch line, he'd stumble and look at his notes.

When it was Clinton's turn to talk, he was gracious but offered some thinly veiled shots at the new guy:

This is a great country.Politics is noble work.I've just been doing some interviews in connection with my book, and I told Mr. Ryder (ph) yesterday, I said, "You know, Most the people I've known in this business, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, were good people, honest people, and they did what they thought was right. And I hope that I'll live long enough to see American politics return to vigorous debates where we argue who's right and wrong, not who's good and bad.

Snap!

And there was this, too:

Talking about his favorite portraits in the White House, he [Clinton] finally settled on one of another president, from a century ago, who knew a thing or two about military pre-emption.

"If you look at that picture, Theodore Roosevelt, who was known as our most macho, bully, self-confident president," Mr. Clinton said, "you look at that picture and you see, here's a human being who's scared to death and not sure it's going to come out all right."

Church & State

I'm a couple days late on this one, but for the sake of the record, Bush specifically asked Vatican officials in a meeting on June 4 to help him get American Bishops on his side.

In a column posted Friday evening on the [National Catholic Reporter] paper's Web site, John L. Allen Jr., its correspondent in Rome and the dean of Vatican journalists, wrote that Mr. Bush had made the request in a June 4 meeting with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state. Citing an unnamed Vatican official, Mr. Allen wrote: "Bush said, 'Not all the American bishops are with me' on the cultural issues. The implication was that he hoped the Vatican would nudge them toward more explicit activism."

Mr. Allen wrote that others in the meeting confirmed that the president had pledged aggressive efforts "on the cultural front, especially the battle against gay marriage, and asked for the Vatican's help in encouraging the U.S. bishops to be more outspoken." Cardinal Sodano did not respond, Mr. Allen reported, citing the same unnamed people.

Arhghhghghhghhghghg! This man will, it seems, literally do anything to keep his job. He doesn't seem to have a shred of respect for anything. Specifically asking the Vatican to "nudge" American Bishops to help with his reelection? How low can you possibly get?

"It is just unprecedented for a president to ask for help from the Vatican to get re-elected, and that is exactly what this is," Mr. Lynn said. Linda Pieczynski, a spokeswoman for Call to Action, a liberal Catholic group, said, "For a president to try to get the leader of any religious organization to manipulate his fellow clergymen to support a political candidate crosses the line in this country."

Josh Marshall has more one this here and here.

June 14, 2004
More Disgruntled America Haters To Issue Statement Against Bush

From the L.A. Times:

WASHINGTON -- A group of 26 former senior diplomats and military officials, several appointed to key positions by Republican Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, plans to issue a joint statement this week arguing that President George W. Bush has damaged America's national security and should be defeated in November.

The group, which calls itself Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, will explicitly condemn Bush's foreign policy, according to several of those who signed the document.

Also Reuters, Pandagon and Talk Left, among others.

This is pretty amazing. It sounds like this is going to be a hard group for wingnuts to lump together as having some kind of personal grudge against the adminstration, as is their tendency. Is there any precedence for this kind of thing?

Those signing the document, which will be released in Washington on Wednesday, include 20 former U.S. ambassadors, appointed by presidents of both parties, to countries including Israel, the former Soviet Union and Saudi Arabia.

Others are senior State Department officials from the Carter, Reagan and Clinton administrations and former military leaders, including retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East under President Bush's father. Hoar is a prominent critic of the war in Iraq.

The official reaction so far is nothing, but Cliff May had this to say:

A Bush administration ally said that the group failed to recognize how the Sept. 11 attacks required significant changes in American foreign policy. "There's no question those who were responsible for policies pre-9/11 are denying what seems as the obvious -- that those policies were inadequate," said Cliff May, president of the conservative advocacy group Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

"This seems like a statement from 9/10 people [who don't see] the importance of 9/11 and the way that should have changed our thinking."

That's a very clever little slogan, Cliff, the whole 9/10 - 9/11 thing, but it doesn't change the fact that you're a douchebag.

The pre-9/11 policies were inadequate... why? Because they failed to stop one attack which cost 3000 lives? Obviously that was a major mistake and a huge tragedy, but did it warrant a shift so radical in American foreign policy that we are now widely considered to be in more danger than ever? Let's be realistic: terrorist attacks will happen. They've happened all over the world for decades, but we're the only country that decided that the one and only major attack on our soil justified turning a century of relative progress on its head.

June 13, 2004
Movie Weekend

Liz has been out of town this weekend, which means I go to a lot of movies. Well, two.

Yesterday I saw the Harry Potter movie with some friends. That was entertaining, if a bit long. You could have easily cut a good 30-40 minutes out and not lost a thing. Would have been better, actually. Overall, though, a good fantasy dealie with halfway decent acting and a cool horse-chicken.

What's up with the little evil kid, though? He's laying on the evil a bit thick, isn't he? We get it, he's bad, he doesn't have to hiss every single word. It's like Frodo and that damn pained expression he managed to keep on his face for 18 hours or however long those movies were.

The best part of the movie was the lady in front of us when we were buying tickets. She was with a couple of kids and she said everything about two notches too loud. It was as if she had calibrated her voice precisely so that everyone in both ticket lines couldn't help but hear her.

"Are there any tickets left for the 4:30 Shrek 2?"
The teenage girl taps the computer screen at least 12 times, finally answering, "Yes."
"Oh good. One adult and two children and yes, I will donate $1 to the diabetes research."
"Uhmmm, this week it's cancer research."
"Oh, well that's fine."

I gave them a dollar too, because their guilt tactics are very effective. Maybe the movie studio could just donate 1% of their profits and just go ahead and cure cancer. If they can spend $50,000 on the special effects on their logo, they can maybe spare some. I'd settle for a crap logo.

Today it was The Day After Tomorrow, which was really, in every real sense, stupid as hell. If you've seen Deep Impact, you've seen this movie. Replace the asteroid with a killer instant Ice Age and the space mission with Dennis Quaid trying to get to his son in frozen New York and there ya go. If you haven't seen Deep Impact, well it's also exactly like Armageddon, Independence Day and about a thousand other movies.

I've noticed that movies have taken to killing people in more and more gratuitous and graphic ways, in this case dropping buses on them and smacking them into oblivion with flying billboards. It's sort of cartoonish, but still just seems unnecessary, designed only to make the audience wince.

And then, as if a massive, global climate change inside of one week that can freeze people to death right in their tracks isn't enough of a problem for our heroes, some mean-ass wolves escape from the zoo and go on a rampage. I had to applaud the filmmakers' spunk for throwing in some mean, nasty, computer-generated wolves.

Much has been made of the political overtones of this film, some calling it "The Movie the Bush Administration Doesn't Want You To See." The character of the Vice President in the film -- looking an awful lot like Dick Cheney -- is the guy who won't listen to the scientists until it's too late and he's doomed millions with his inhuman blindness and lines like, "our economy is just as fragile as the environment." He says this while tornados are leveling Los Angeles.

My favorite weird political moment, though, had to be when everyone was being evacuated south and Mexico closed its borders. Americans were cutting fences and wading across the Rio Grande, but apparently not being hunted by dogs as people are when they go in the other direction. After some negotiations, they agreed to open the border in exchange for the United States forgiving all Latin American debt.

I love it. Sock it to us.

Military Tribunals

A fascinating look into the "system" of military tribunals set up by the administration and the Defense Department to handle "enemy combatants" in today's New York Times Magazine.

The story revolves around Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, a Navy lawyer assigned to defend some of those held in Guantanamo Bay. Instead of rolling over or working for plea bargains, Swift has filed a lawsuit in federal court against president Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld alleging that the tribunal system violates the Constitution, federal law, the Geneva Conventions and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

An optimist by nature, Swift was inclined to believe that the post-9/11 military-tribunal process would be fair. But over the course of the spring last year, as the Defense Department continued to define the workings of the military tribunals, his hopefulness began to fade. He learned that under the emerging system, his client, should he be assigned one, would not necessarily be able to see the evidence against him. Hearsay would be permitted, and there would be no appeals process beyond a four-member review panel handpicked by the secretary of defense. What is more, the Defense Department (in effect, the prosecution) was not only defining the crimes worthy of trial by military tribunal but also doing so only after hundreds of suspects were already in custody and had been repeatedly interrogated. In theory, crimes could be retrofitted to suit the testimony of prisoners.

''It was like a Monty Python movie,'' Swift says. ''The government had this wonderful suit of armor, a lance and a sword. And I had been given a sharp stick.''

Their case hinges on another case currently before the Supreme Court, which should have a decision later this month. This is one to watch.

June 12, 2004
Kerry Rocks

John Kerry's high school garage band, The Electras, cut an album in 1961, which has been rereleased now that he's running for President.

Check out Kerry Rocks for some info and an mp3 mix clip of the album, and the new "official" site for the band.

kerry rocks
click to enlarge

Reagan Demythologized

Atrios takes on the current spate of blather about Reagan and provides a list of common errors.

  • The House and Senate did not both come under Republican rule during Reagan's time.
  • The Berlin Wall did not come down when Reagan was in office.
  • Reagan is not the president who left office with the highest approval rating in modern times.
  • Reagan was not "the most popular president ever."
  • Reagan did not preside over the longest economic expansion in history.
  • Reagan did not shrink the size of government.
  • Reagan did preside over what was at the time the "biggest tax cut in history" but it was almost instantly followed up by the "biggest tax increase in history."
  • Reagan was not "beloved by all." He was loved by some, liked by some, and hated by some with good reason.

I avoided the coverage of Reagan this week as much as I could. I respect his service to our country, in an abstract kind of way, but I'm very uncomfortable with anyone being so instantly mythologized in this way. Ours is (supposed to be) a country of laws and not of men. Ronald Reagan was not, and is not, America, he was just a man. He was not a King and he was not a God, he was an actor and a politician. We can and should thank him for his service to our country, but not more than we honor and respect the service of many others, and arguably less.

In the end, the only part of Reagan's death that actually struck a real emotional note in me was his, and his family's, struggle with Alzheimer's. A truly tragic disease, I can hardly think of a more terrible way to spend the last years of one's life or a more terrible thing to watch in a loved one. His letter to the American people announcing his disease and that he would be withdrawing from public life is unquestionably honest and moving.

Too bad our current president is more interested in pandering to his religious fanatic base than investing in -- or even allowing -- research that could end Alzheimer's.

Remembering Reagan

All the important stuff.

New Bush Ad

Credit where credit is due: The Poor Man, The Poor Man, The Poor Man.

Non-exclusive Slapnose clip:

poor man bush ad clip

Reagan Jr. on Bush

Kevin Drum pulls out this very interesting quote from Ron Reagan, Jr.'s eulogy for his father yesterday:

Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians, wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference.

I wonder to whom he could possibly be referring?

bush and jesus

Memo Logic Applied To Motorcycles

Fafblog, which I've been told is brilliant, brilliantly applies the administration's logic concerning the torture memo to regular life.

Also, after you've read a few things on Fafblog, you not only feel enlightened and entertained, but everything else looks pink for a few seconds, thanks to their crazy green background and some principle of light and eyeballs.

WTF, Indeed

I really don't know what to say about this. Take a look at these pictures too.

What the fuck is THAT all about?

Honestly, I have to say I don't pay much attention when bloggers talk about Sun Myung Moon. He seems to be clearly a nut, and a very well-connected nut who runs a very conservative newspaper that has somehow managed to seem credible to some people. You know, standard Nut Runs Conservative Media Outlet, Has Ties To Major Political Figures stuff.

This, though, this is just weird and scary. Is he the King now?

June 10, 2004
Bush on Torture

President Bush was questioned about the torture memo repeatedly today. No matter how specific the questions became, though, he kept on pretending he was answering them.

President Bush said Thursday that he expects U.S. authorities to follow the law when interrogating prisoners abroad, but he declined to say whether he believes torture is permitted under the law.

Pressed repeatedly during a news conference here about a Justice Department memo saying torture could be justified in the war on terrorism, Bush said only that U.S. interrogators had to follow the law.

Asked whether he agreed with the Justice Department view, Bush said he could not remember whether he had seen the memorandum. "The authorization I issued was that anything we did would conform to U.S. law and would be consistent with international treaty obligations," he said.

A second questioner asked Bush whether he would authorize "any means necessary" to elicit information from a prisoner who had information about an imminent terrorist attack. The president replied: "What I've authorized is that we stay within U.S. law."

Pointing out that the administration lawyers who wrote the memo believe terrorist suspects could be tortured without violating the law, a third questioner asked whether torture was ever morally justified. "Look, I'm going to say it one more time," Bush replied. "Maybe I can be more clear. The instructions went out to our people to adhere to law. That ought to comfort you."

Washington Post

No, Mr. President, it doesn't comfort me. What would comfort me is if you would address a direct question with a relevant answer once in a while. You often hold yourself up as a great shining light of moral certainty, surely you can answer the question, "Is torture ever morally justified?" Is it? Huh? Come on, you sonofabitch, answer the question.

The clever thing about Bush's is that since his lawyers and Justice Department have set about changing the laws as they regard torture by crafting complex and disgusting legal arguments, technically by ordering torture he could still be said to be instructing people to stay within the law -- as he sees it.

Charm City Is Watching You
From the Inner Harbor to the Bay Bridge, local and state homeland security authorities are beginning to build a regional network of 24-hour surveillance cameras that will first go live this summer in Baltimore.

The closed-circuit video surveillance system of public spaces will begin in the Inner Harbor by summer's end, and a $2 million federal grant accepted by the city yesterday will expand the cameras into downtown's west side by early November.



"We're trying to build a regional network of cameras," said Dennis R. Schrader, director of homeland security for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

What of privacy concerns raised by groups opposed to cameras constantly monitored by retired police officers or college students?

"We're at war," Schrader said.

Baltimore Sun

Ugh.

Listen; saying, "We're at war" is not a good justification for doing whatever you want and taking a big shit on all that we hold dear. Okay? Freakin' idiots.

Speaking of freakin' idiots, John Ashcroft was called before the Senate Judiciary Committee the other day, where he flatly refused to turn over the torture memo, citing as his reason, "I don't want to." Okay, that's not a real quote, but you get the idea. He said he was refusing to turn over the documents not on the basis of any law but because he "believes" that the executive branch must be able to rely on secret information being given to the president.

Now, this is true, in a sense, but it's called Executive Privilege, and Ashcroft didn't invoke it. In fact, he was very specific in saying that he was not invoking executive privilege, or any other law (Jon Stewart suggested perhaps a "Writ of Douchebaggery").

Senators Biden, Kennedy and Durbin tried to explain to Ashcroft -- the Attorney General -- that you can't just refuse to answer questions from Congress because you don't feel like it. You either have to plead the Fifth Amendment, invoke Executive Privilege, or something. Otherwise, your in contempt of Congress, something the Senators mentioned as a possibility for Ashcroft.

Man that would be sweet.

UPDATE :: Luke posts a link to the Daily Show clip about this whole thing. Very funny, very scary, I was very lazy for not digging it up last night.

New York Court Backs Gay Marriage
A New York court has ruled in favour of gay marriages saying that failure to do so would breach the equal rights laws written into the state's constitution.

In its ruling the court in the town of New Paltz also dismissed the charges against local mayor Jason West who wed dozens of gay couples in February.

BBC News

iConstitution

Got an iPod?

Get this portable U.S. Constitution, so next time you run into John Ashcroft, you can sit down and read it to him.

ipod constitution

June 9, 2004
The Devil in the White City

So far, my favorite thing about my new job is the long bus ride to and from.

Besides being a big booster of public transit and eager to put my $3 a day where my mouth is, I've finally found some time to read books. I read craploads of stuff online, but my book reading had really started to fall behind. It was taking me weeks and weeks, if not months, to get through a book, and many books once begun were never finished.

Anyway, it's nice to have captive time like that, away from the computer and the TV. It's one of the things I loved and missed about New York. I'm sure this benefit of the job will move to #2 as soon as I get my first paycheck.

The book I finished today is The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. If you like American history and amazing yet true stories of the kind that make you think, "I can't believe I've never heard about this before," this is the book for you. Well, it's a book for you. It's good.

Ann Coulter is Really, Really, REALLY Dumb

Is anybody crazier than this woman? It's far too easy to take shots at her, but I can't resist. She's got to be the most irrational person in the country with any kind of significant soapbox.

She was on The O'Reilly Factor on May 27, hawking the paperback version of her most recent "book." Some moments:

O'REILLY: But all seven polls, the ones that come out on a fairly regular basis, he's down significantly, and I think Abu Ghraib hurt him, don't you?

COULTER: Well, more than Abu Ghraib, the media is in campaign mode. I suppose the question is, why isn't he soaring in the polls? He's running against a nitwit, the war is going magnificently well, the economy is picking back up, why isn't he at like 80 percent?

O'Reilly, being slightly less than completely batshit, is forced to challenge her on this staggeringly absurd statement.

O'REILLY: But, you know, I've talked to all of our Fox News political analysts. These are not raving liberals, all right, Ann? None of them come close to telling me the war is going magnificently well. What do you know that all of the Fox News military analysts don't know?

COULTER: People like to be picky and especially if it's their area of expertise -- I mean, ask them what it is that isn't going well. If you look at what everyone was saying before the war began, many liberals that you had on your program were predicting, you know, hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties, retaliatory terrorist attacks at home, we would never get Saddam, it was going to be harder, bloodier than catching Osama bin Laden. The people would not rise up, they would be fighting in the streets, the urban warfare, Turkey was going to attack. These are just some of the things that were being predicted, and none of that has happened.

Oooh, she's got a point there. Oh, wait. No she doesn't.

O'REILLY: I'll tell you. Here's what he thinks has gone wrong. Not enough troops on the ground, number one.

COULTER: Yeah, but that's not a problem. That's something that can cause a problem.

O'REILLY: Well, it's a problem in the sense we can't provide the security that we need to provide for the country to be free.

COULTER: But it's pretty darn safe over there.

O'REILLY: Our Fox correspondents in Baghdad won't go out of the hotel. That's not a good sign, Ann.

COULTER: I wouldn't go out of the hotel in Washington, D.C.

Anyway, she goes on to claim that Rush Limbaugh never said that the torture at Abu Ghraib was no big deal, that the only source of information on how the war in Iraq is going that she trusts is Donald Rumsfeld, and that instead of reporting on the systematic torture of prisoners by our military, seemingly directed and specifically justified by the highest levels of our government, the media should be running four weeks of stories about Pat Tillman.

Now before you dismiss all of this as the ravings of an obvious lunatic -- which is certainly is -- let me chillingly remind you that this woman has sold over a million copies of her books.

Not to mention her talking doll.

Up With Terrorism
WASHINGTON -- The State Department is scrambling to revise its annual report on global terrorism to acknowledge that it understated the number of deadly attacks in 2003, amid charges that the document is inaccurate and was politically manipulated by the Bush administration.

When the most recent "Patterns of Global Terrorism" report was issued April 29, senior Bush administration officials immediately hailed it as objective proof that they were winning the war on terrorism. The report is considered the authoritative yardstick of the prevalence of terrorist activity around the world.

"Indeed, you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight" against global terrorism, Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said during a celebratory rollout of the report.

But on Tuesday, State Department officials said they underreported the number of terrorist attacks in the tally for 2003, and added that they expected to release an updated version soon.

Several U.S. officials and terrorism experts familiar with that revision effort said the new report will show that the number of significant terrorist incidents increased last year, perhaps to its highest level in 20 years.

L.A. Times via Yahoo News

The original report of the report claimed that terrorist attacks were at the lowest level in 34 years. Highest level in 20 years, lowest level in 34 years. Wow, that's some seriously ambitious lying!

The story gets more ridiculous as it goes on. A "senior official" claimed the errors were "clerical." They stopped counting terrorist attacks on November 11, yet issued a report on data for the entire year, an absurdity a State Department official blamed on a "printing deadline."

Did the printing deadline also require them not to mention that by ending their count almost 2 months early they failed to include several major terrorist attacks, "including bombings of two synagogues, a bank and the British Consulate in Turkey that killed 62 and injured more than 700?"

There's more. It's so unbelievable I can't even stand it.

Beating Our Own

So, you know how our leaders keep saying that torture is not a policy of the U.S. military and that all of our captives are treated humanely?

Reversing itself, the Army said Tuesday that a G.I. was discharged partly because of a head injury he suffered while posing as an uncooperative detainee during a training exercise at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The Army had previously said Specialist Sean Baker's medical discharge in April was unrelated to the injury he received last year at the detention center, where the United States holds suspected terrorists.

Mr. Baker, 37, a former member of the 438th Military Police Company, said he played the role of an uncooperative prisoner and was beaten so badly by four American soldiers that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and seizures. He said the soldiers only stopped beating him when they realized he might be American.

Bruce Simpson, Mr. Baker's lawyer, said his client is considering a lawsuit.

NY Times

Ouch.

Man, we really, really suck.

Remember When AIDS Was Funny?

Neither do I.

Apparently, though, the fact that hundres of gay men had died of this horrible disease was a laugh riot to President Reagan's spokesman.

Sick. I don't care that AIDS hadn't erupted into a full-blown epidemic at that point, this guy is joking around and laughing about hundreds of people who have died or are stricken with an incurable disease. And this isn't just any insensitive douche bag, this is the spokesman for the President.

Sick. Read it.

Pray For Reason

Now that I work for The Stranger, I might as well plug "our" articles. I'll be honest, though -- I'm not plugging any of the crap, only the good stuff.

For example, I won't be plugging this article, because I didn't like it. Don't like it one bit.

However, I will loudly (LOUDLY) plug Neal Pollack's Church & State article, which appears today.

This article should be read by, and should terrify, any sane person.

The central nugget:

Writers for alternative newspapers on the West Coast generally aren't prone to making hyperbolic, paranoid statements, but I'll smash the mold: Our country is being run by a lunatic Christian cult.

Pollack argues convincingly what many of us already knew but might have been afraid to accept: Bush is not just a religious guy like many of my friends are religious, or even like the guy underlining passages in the bible on the bus yesterday. He's a complete nut. He believes that God Himself has appointed him president of the United States, and that his actions in the Middle East may bring about the Apocalypse, something apeshit psychos like him think is a good thing.

He also points out the existence of a group called the "Presidential Prayer Team" -- membership: 2.8 million -- that encourages its members to pray daily for president Bush, and to pray specifically for his success in whatever initiative he's currently promoting.

Example:

Pray for the president as on Monday he begins a series of speeches detailing the handover of power to the Iraqi interim government. Pray for godly wisdom and protection as Mr. Bush delivers Monday's speech at the Army War College which will be followed by a speech each week at other sites.

Pollack is countering this movement with one of this own: Pray For Reason. I'm not a praying kind of guy, but I fully support this. Many of you probably are praying kinds of guys (and praying kinds of gals, and praying kinds of.. others), so please go to his website, and please consider the following prayer next time you find yourself kneeling by the bed:

Dear [Higher Power of Choice], give us the will to restore religion in this country, as our Founding Fathers intended, to an abstract guiding principle, not the theologically unsound justification for a twisted foreign policy. Let us fight our enemies with peace and wisdom, not anger and indiscriminate force. Allow our country to serve as a symbol of what's good in humankind, not what's corrupt. Most of all, grant us the strength and wisdom to remove President George W. Bush from office. In your name, we say: Amen.

Amen.

Good News

Via Political Wire:

Democrats "got some good news in their uphill battle to take control of the House," the Washington Post reports. "The Supreme Court has rejected a Republican-backed plan to redraw the congressional districts in Colorado in a way that would have favored GOP candidates."

The Rocky Mountain News notes Republicans "were disappointed, but indicated the fight might not be over. They still have some hope of overturning the decision based on a case still pending in federal court."

Religious Riders
House Republican leaders have tacked on to a major jobs bill a provision that would give religious leaders more freedom to engage in partisan politics without endangering the tax-exempt status of their churches.

Conservative Christian groups have been pushing for such legislation for years, while civil liberties organizations and religious minorities have opposed it. But unlike past proposals, which were stand-alone bills, the current provision is attached to a huge tax bill that House leaders have placed on a fast track for consideration.

Washington Post

A bill that's main purpose it to "cut the top corporate tax rate" and "provide other tax relief to businesses" in order to spur job growth, and they tack on a "Fuck the First Amendment" provision.

The provision also would allow clergy members to commit three "unintentional violations" of the tax rules on political activity each year without risking the loss of tax-exempt status.
June 8, 2004
Pogo Was Right

The Washington Post has posted a scathing editorial about the "torture memo," quoted here in its entirety.

THE BUSH administration assures the country, and the world, that it is complying with U.S. and international laws banning torture and maltreatment of prisoners. But, breaking with a practice of openness that had lasted for decades, it has classified as secret and refused to disclose the techniques of interrogation it is using on foreign detainees at U.S. prisons at Guantanamo Bay and in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a matter of grave concern because the use of some of the methods that have been reported in the press is regarded by independent experts as well as some of the Pentagon's legal professionals as illegal. The administration has responded that its civilian lawyers have certified its methods as proper -- but it has refused to disclose, or even provide to Congress, the justifying opinions and memos.

This week, thanks again to an independent press, we have begun to learn the deeply disturbing truth about the legal opinions that the Pentagon and the Justice Department seek to keep secret. According to copies leaked to several newspapers, they lay out a shocking and immoral set of justifications for torture. In a paper prepared last year under the direction of the Defense Department's chief counsel, and first disclosed by the Wall Street Journal, the president of the United States was declared empowered to disregard U.S. and international law and order the torture of foreign prisoners. Moreover, interrogators following the president's orders were declared immune from punishment. Torture itself was narrowly redefined, so that techniques that inflict pain and mental suffering could be deemed legal. All this was done as a prelude to the designation of 24 interrogation methods for foreign prisoners -- the same techniques, now in use, that President Bush says are humane but refuses to disclose.

There is no justification, legal or moral, for the judgments made by Mr. Bush's political appointees at the Justice and Defense departments. Theirs is the logic of criminal regimes, of dictatorships around the world that sanction torture on grounds of "national security." For decades the U.S. government has waged diplomatic campaigns against such outlaw governments -- from the military juntas in Argentina and Chile to the current autocracies in Islamic countries such as Algeria and Uzbekistan -- that claim torture is justified when used to combat terrorism. The news that serving U.S. officials have officially endorsed principles once advanced by Augusto Pinochet brings shame on American democracy -- even if it is true, as the administration maintains, that its theories have not been put into practice. Even on paper, the administration's reasoning will provide a ready excuse for dictators, especially those allied with the Bush administration, to go on torturing and killing detainees.

Perhaps the president's lawyers have no interest in the global impact of their policies -- but they should be concerned about the treatment of American servicemen and civilians in foreign countries. Before the Bush administration took office, the Army's interrogation procedures -- which were unclassified -- established this simple and sensible test: No technique should be used that, if used by an enemy on an American, would be regarded as a violation of U.S. or international law. Now, imagine that a hostile government were to force an American to take drugs or endure severe mental stress that fell just short of producing irreversible damage; or pain a little milder than that of "organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death." What if the foreign interrogator of an American "knows that severe pain will result from his actions" but proceeds because causing such pain is not his main objective? What if a foreign leader were to decide that the torture of an American was needed to protect his country's security? Would Americans regard that as legal, or morally acceptable? According to the Bush administration, they should.

pogo

The Torture Memo

I haven't had time to read it, having had to work all day and then go watch the The Mariners lose, and now having to go to bed, BUT here's the full torture justification memo.

Someone wanna give me the gist of it?

Law professor Michael Froomkin has this to say (and lots more):

I cannot exaggerate how pernicious this argument is, and how incompatible it is with a free society. The Constitution does not make the President a King. This memo does.
The Great Taxicator

Paul Krugman today.

Krugman clearly and simply points out that the myths about Reagan's tax policies are just that; myths. As is the constantly repeated line that he's "the most popular president in modern times." In fact, that honor goes to Bill Clinton.

The important stuff, though, is about his tax policy. Reagan actually showed a bit of sense in raising taxes after it was clear that his initial tax cuts did not have the desired effect. Bush, who loves to pretend he's Reagan's successor, doesn't exactly have the same response to unwelcome facts.

Go. Read. You.

June 7, 2004
Set Aside The Laws
To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

(emphasis added)
from a memo prepared at the request of Donald Rumsfeld, outlining the legal basis for torture

The full details are extraordinarliy well covered at Whiskey Bar but here's the main idea from Josh Marshall:

So the right to set aside law is "inherent in the president". That claim alone should stop everyone in their tracks and prompt a serious consideration of the safety of the American republic under this president. It is the very definition of a constitutional monarchy, let alone a constitutional republic, that the law is superior to the executive, not the other way around. This is the essence of what the rule of law means -- a government of laws, not men, and all that.

More from the Washington Post:

"It is by leaps and bounds the worst thing I've seen since this whole Abu Ghraib scandal broke," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "It appears that what they were contemplating was the commission of war crimes and looking for ways to avoid legal accountability. The effect is to throw out years of military doctrine and standards on interrogations."

--snip--

"It's really unprecedented. For almost 30 years we've taught the Geneva Convention one way," said a senior military attorney. "Once you start telling people it's okay to break the law, there's no telling where they might stop."

The White House had this compelling and detailed response:

But a spokesman for the White House counsel's office said, "The president directed the military to treat al Qaeda and Taliban humanely and consistent with the Geneva Conventions."

Oh. Well, case closed, then.

So Anthony, How Was Work?

It was fine, thanks for asking.

A Chink In The Armor
The United States and its allies are winning some battles in the terrorism war but may be losing the broader struggle against Islamic extremism that is terrorism's source, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Saturday.

The troubling unknown, he said, is whether the extremists -- whom he termed ''zealots and despots'' bent on destroying the global system of nation-states -- are turning out newly trained terrorists faster than the United States can capture or kill them.

''It's quite clear to me that we do not have a coherent approach to this,'' Rumsfeld said at an international security conference.

His remarks showed a level of concern about the long-term direction of the U.S.-led global fight against terrorism that Rumsfeld rarely addresses in public.

[emphasis mine]
source

This is a remarkable departure from the administration's script, and this isn't the first time he's done it. Remember the memo?

Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental? My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists? The US is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions.

Matt Yglesias points out that the painfully obvious answer to the question, "Does the US need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?" is YES.

June 6, 2004
Bush vs. Straw

The Poor Man (have I recommended him yet? I do.) pulls a stunningly blatant example of Bush ignoring a question, creating his own question, and responding to that from the transcript of Tom Brokaw's exclusive interview with the president in Normandy.

Brokaw: Is that the essence of the difference between the United States and Europe these days, that we're more inclined to use war as an instrument, and the Europeans are less inclined?"

Bush: "I think that's an unfair characterization. War is the last resort. Now, if the British say 'more inclined,' it kind of sounds like we're anxious to use?"

Brokaw: "No, I don't mean that. But the --"

Bush: "You know, I'm not. It's the last resort. On the other hand, we are at war. In other words, I think what you should be asking is, if I might be so bold--"

Brokaw: "Go ahead."

Bush: "--is am I willing to use the military in a time of war? And the answer is absolutely.

Poor Man stops quoting there, and that's enough for the Bush vs. Straw argument. Bush takes a specific -- if kind of silly -- question about our willingness to use war as an instrument, and changes it into, "Will I defend America? You bet yer ass I will." The real failure here, of course, is Brokaw's in not following this up at all.

Bush continues..

Bush: ... We are at war. And maybe some might not see us at war. But I clearly see a war, and I see a danger for America. And I feel it's my solemn obligation to wage that war. And perhaps, that's where some of the anxiety comes forth.

"Maybe some in Europe don't see us at a time of war. I have-- I recognize that the enemy declared war on us. And I will continue to wage that war using all the assets of the United States and continuing to rally other nations to join in that war."

Brokaw: "And conversely, do you think that the Europeans are being unrealistic about the real nature of the war on terror?"

Bush: "You know, I -- that's up to the pundits and the scribes to figure out. My job is to continue to rally them, is to say, 'Look. We are at war. And we're in danger. We're in danger in America of another attack.

"I mean, one of the worst things that happened in my judgment was, is that the al-Qaida killed innocent people in Spain, and the al-Qaida leadership think that they affected the outcome of the election. And--"

Brokaw: "Don't you think they did?"

Bush: "Well, no question they affected the election. Whether or not they affected the outcome is another question. But I do-- it's not what I think. It's what they think is what worries me. It worries me that the al-Qaida leadership says, 'Well, we may be able to affect the election of the United States. We may be able to, you know, change the outcome of democracy by killing.' And, you know, it's a dangerous period for the free world. And I spend time explaining that to people.

So now we have him not only kicking the ass of the "People Don't Think I Should Defend America" straw man, but transitioning nicely into the ridiculous and terrifying talking point that a vote for Kerry is a vote for the terrorists. This idea pisses me off so much I have trouble talking about it. It basically amounts to a threat to the voters: if America is attacked again, and you change your mind about the direction our country is heading in response, you are on the side of terrorists and you're handing them a victory.

The truth, of course, is that another attack on the United States could quite justifiably change someone's mind about Bush's leadership, and that change has nothing to do with the will of the terrorists. If we have to take into account what some psycho hiding in a cave might think about our leadership when we vote, that's when we're handing them a victory. Instead, we can take a serious look at whether or not our current leaders have made that future attack more or less likely. Is this hypothetical attack a response to the war in Iraq, which many believe was completely unnecessary and was demonstrably launched under false pretenses? Is is not reasonable for us to remove from office those who chose that path, leading us farther into the abyss?

It is absolutely shameful for our president to be bringing up the Spanish election in this way. Spain is a democracy and the people voted. Analyzing why they voted the way they did and claiming it as a victory for terrorists insults the democratic ideals we're supposedly promoting.

Shame on you, George. You're really such an unbelievable tool.

Examples

Perhaps an example of the conservative reaction to the coverage and discussion of Reagan's death I mentioned in the previous post is warranted.

From The Corner:

MRC's Brent Baker reports: Virtually all of the broadcast and cable network coverage, in the hours after the late Saturday afternoon EDT announcement of President Ronald Reagan's passing, forwarded praise and admiration. There were, however, several exceptions where journalists incorporated liberal, anti-conservative spin to denounce Reagan's policies.

CNN on-screen text: "BY-PRODUCT OF 'REAGANOMICS': HUGE BUDGET DEFICITS." ABC's Sam Donaldson blamed the big deficit on Reagan for "stubbornly" refusing to raise taxes; CBS's Jerry Bowen highlighted "the nagging perception" that in their post-White House years "the Reagans were cashing in on their Washington years;" MSNBC.com's obituary raised the Bitburg cemetery incident and blamed Reagan for the S&L scandal.

The New York Times obituary ran through a litany of liberal spin points against Reagan: Ketchup as a vegetable, how cutting Social Security disability benefits "furthered the perception that the administration was heartless," how the October of 1987 stock market plunge meant "economists' warnings that the administration was mortgaging the country's future were finally heeded." Plus, thanks to Reagan, "more people were living below the poverty line, and homelessness became a national concern."

source

So pointing out that we had huge deficits during and after the Reagan years and that some people didn't like him is "liberal, anti-conservative spin?" What would we call it if they left these incontrovertible facts out? Oh yeah, "fair and balanced."

This is the dreaded "liberal bias?" Can we for one second imagine what kind of stuff we'd be reading from conservatives if Bill Clinton had died yesterday?

Anyway, I don't want to get too much into this debate. As I've said, I don't have strong opinions on Reagan, though I'm learning a lot in the past couple of days. It's sad that he died, in the sense that it's sad when anyone dies, and particularly of such a cruel disease as Alzheimer's. Still, we should all be a little uncomfortable when criticizing him stops being allowed.

Reagan Redux

I've let my first post on the passing of Reagan sit for about a day, and that's probably enough. With full respect to his family and all, it disturbs me a bit that many seem ready to start chiseling his face into Mt. Rushmore starting tomorrow.

Let's be a bit realistic here. As I said in my previous post, his presidency, like all others, was full of controversy and he was not loved by nearly all Americans. As a person, and as our leader for the better part of a decade, he had a great influence on our country and on the world, arguably a greater one than many other presidents. But to ignore the controversies and divides over his policies is just to lie. To paint those who would point out that his policies were not, and are not, universally loved as disrespectful or unpatriotic is just crap.

As Jesse wisely notes at Pandagon, the conservative reaction to Reagan's death and to the coverage of it shows the real change Reagan affected on the right. Instead of really aligning themselves with his policies, they simply align themselves with the man. His memory is practically deified, much as George Bush is today by his staunchest supporters. The failures and bad results of his policies don't matter, he can do no wrong. Theirs has become a cult of personality, a cult of us-versus-them-ism. Reagan is good, those who would criticize anything he ever did, bad.

Anyway, I predict growing weary of hearing about Reagan in the next couple of days. Not because I don't care, but because anytime someone's death elevates them to a higher moral position I grow weary and not a little bit depressed. Particularly now, this year, I'm afraid that his death and the subsequent reluctance to criticize him or his political descendants will throw support to Bush.

And as you may have noticed, I don't like Bush.

June 5, 2004
Ronald Reagan Dead at 93

reagan

I was pretty young when Reagan was President, so I don't have any very strong personal feelings about him. He's the guy I remember as "The President" when I was a kid, but I was hardly into policy back then.

What I do know is that his presidency, like most, was full of good and bad decisions. His legacy as the man who saw the way to the end of the Cold War is pretty strong and he will be remembered forever for that. The threat of global nuclear war today is almost zero, thanks largely to Reagan. His dealings with Gorbachev precipitated the fall of the Soviet Union, and many millions of people have been freed from tyranny as a result. So thanks, Ron, for that.

(It's interesting to note, as DHinMI does over at Kos, that Reagan bargained with the Soviets despite the advice of such familiar names as then -Defense Department official Richard Perle and then-Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney, who argued that such negotiations would endanger the free world.)

There were, of course, down sides. Iran-Contra springs to mind. Supporting the rebels in Afghanistan was probably a good idea at the time, but it's had serious consequences that we can all see today.

As with any President, people will debate his successes and failures forever, but today he's dead and my sincere condolences go to his family. I'll join others in cautioning that those who disliked Reagan should be sensitive and respectful. Gloating over someone's death changes nothing and feeds directly into the right's stereotypes of the left. He's dead, just be nice. We can debate his policies later.

The Washington Post has biographer Lou Cannon's thorough obituary.

Fahrenheit 9/11 Preview Review

Finally, a glimpse of Michael Moore's new movie.

The trailer is pretty hilarious, and maddening of course.

My favorite scene is when Moore is stopping Congresspeople on the street and asking them to agree to have their children enlist in the Army. Sure, it's over the top, but I don't see the harm in making our legislators think about the real human costs of their decisions.

At the end, there's a shot of Bush outdoors, saying his version of 'hello', "I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers." As the camera pulls back, Bush holds up what appears to be a 3 wood and says, "Now watch this drive."

fahrenheit 911 clip

Just Tell Them You Don't Know

Here's this week's winner of the Never Offend Anyone -- Even The Very Stupid Award.

From a commenter to this post at Reason.

I taught "Merchant of Venice" to seniors one year; in it there's a line where one character is insulting another, by saying something along the lines of "He damns the ears of all who hear him, by calling him 'fool.'" One of the kids asked me what that meant, so I explained that one of the lesser-known verses of the Book of Matthew has Jesus saying that anyone who calls another a fool will be damned. (I recited chapter and verse, though I can't remember it now.) I went on to talk about the very funny use Voltaire made of that in his essay "The Jesuit Berthier" (an angel tells a priest to stop giving his stupid, boring sermons, because instead of winning souls for God he's endangering the souls of all who hear him, because they all call him a fool), and explained also that this is why cartoony villians [sic] in movies developed the habit of using "Fool!" as their default insult; for people familiar with the Bible, the fact that the villian [sic] always says "Fool!" is just one more proof that this is an evil, evil dude.

"So anyway," I said to the class, "back in Shakespeare's day, when people were far more familiar with the Bible than they are now, instead of insulting someone by saying 'You are a fool,' you'd say 'You are a--well, I can't SAY what you are because then I'd go to hell.' That's what he's doing in the play."

Next day I get called into the principal's office; some parents were FURIOUS that I had told their kids that Jesus said anyone who says 'fool,' will go to Hell.

"But he did," I pointed out.

"It doesn't matter, Jennifer. You can't insult kids' religions."

"Well, the kid asked me what that line from the play meant! What was I supposed to do?"

"Just tell him you don't know."

So, you can't insult someone's religion, even if the "insult" is a direct quote from their religion. What the principal meant to say was, "You can't contradict what people THINK their religion is about, regardless of how wrong they are." Another example would probably be to explain to neoconservative Christians that Jesus wasn't really all about preemptive war. Blasphemy!

This is what happens when we let our shitball education system last for more than one generation. The earlier generation has kids, and they go to school, and since their parents are COMPLETE IDIOTS and the administrators of the schools are scared shitless of the idiot parents, the kids are forced to be as stupid as their parents, or if possible, stupider.

June 4, 2004
Big News

Sorry for the dearth of postings lately, but big brewings is afoot around the Slapnose offices, and I'm not just talking about our metaphor mixing or sudden change in narrative style.

What am I talking about? I'm talking about a job.

That's right, I am now almost officially gainfully employed! You are looking at the website of the new Webmaster/Graphics Administrator for The Stranger, Seattle's most hippest alternative newsweekly.

So starting Monday, I will be getting up some time before 9 a.m. everyday and going to work until 5 p.m. I'll probably have to start going to bed at a reasonable hour most of the time and I'll have to find my pants.

Oh my. What have I done?

This change in my life will certainly have an effect on Slapnose, but I'm going to try my best to keep things going here. Postings may not be quite as frequent, or they may just be a bunch of them in the evenings, but I'm going to try.

That is all. When next you see me, I'll have benefits.

June 3, 2004
Tenet Resigns

George Tenet has resigned as head of the CIA.

Tenet has long been made the scapegoat for 9/11 intelligence failures, so this isn't a great surprise. The line that he's resigning for "personal reasons" is obviously ridiculous, though.

Mr. Bush announced the resignation in a way that was almost bizarre. He had just addressed reporters and photographers in a fairly innocuous Rose Garden session with Australia's prime minister, John Howard. Then the session was adjourned, as Mr. Bush apparently prepared to depart for nearby Andrews Air Force Base and his flight to Europe, where he is to take part in ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the Normady invasion and meet European leaders — some of whom have been sharply critical of the campaign in Iraq.

But minutes later, Mr. Bush reappeared on the sun-drenched White House lawn, stunning listeners with the news of Mr. Tenet's resignation, which the president said would be effective in mid-July. After that, Mr. Bush said, the C.I.A.'s deputy director, John McLaughlin, will be acting director.

The president praised Mr. Tenet's qualities as a public servant, saying: "He's strong. He's resolute. He's served his nation as the director for seven years. He has been a strong and able leader at the agency. He's been a, he's been a strong leader in the war on terror, and I will miss him."

Then Mr. Bush walked away, declining to take questions or offer any insight into what Mr. Tenet's personal reasons might be.

source

Flippin'-Floppin'-Lyin' BEEEEEATCH

Many have pointed this out, from Atrios to Jon Stewart.

Today Bush had this ridiculous load of crap come out of his mouth:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. Chalabi is an Iraqi leader that's fallen out of favor within your administration. I'm wondering if you feel that he provided any false information, or are you particularly --

THE PRESIDENT: Chalabi?

Q Yes, with Chalabi.

THE PRESIDENT: My meetings with him were very brief. I mean, I think I met with him at the State of the Union and just kind of working through the rope line, and he might have come with a group of leaders. But I haven't had any extensive conversations with him.
...

Q I guess I'm asking, do you feel like he misled your administration, in terms of what the expectations were going to be going into Iraq?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't remember anybody walking into my office saying, Chalabi says this is the way it's going to be in Iraq.

source

If you see the video (here it is), it's almost as if he's not really sure who this Chalabi guy is. "Oh yeah, I think I met him once, shook his hand."

Uhh, HE SAT BEHIND YOUR WIFE AT THE STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS!

Atrios digs up some more easily available evidence that Bush is a dirty liar, first from Meet the Press in February:

Russert: If the Iraqis choose, however, an Islamic extremist regime, would you accept that, and would that be better for the United States than Saddam Hussein?

President Bush: They're not going to develop that. And the reason I can say that is because I'm very aware of this basic law they're writing. They're not going to develop that because right here in the Oval Office I sat down with Mr. Pachachi and Chalabi and al-Hakim, people from different parts of the country that have made the firm commitment, that they want a constitution eventually written that recognizes minority rights and freedom of religion.

And then when Bush made his surprise Thanksgiving visit to Iraq, we have this picture..

bush and chalabi

And this story:

President Bush says he had a "good talk" for about 30 minutes November 27 with four members of Iraq's Governing Council at Baghdad International Airport, following his surprise meeting with U.S. troops there.

Briefing the White House press pool accompanying him on Air Force One as he returned to the United States after the two-and-one-half-hour stop in Baghdad, Bush said he and L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, met with Jalal Talibani, the current president of the council, Raja Habib Khuzaii, Ahmed Chalabi, and Mowaffak Rubaie.

Oooooooh, I really don't like this guy. Really. He sucks.

Iraq and the U.N.

Via Kevin Drum:

Asked how big a role the American administration had in forming the government and selecting the prime minister and president, Brahimi reminded reporters that American Ambassador L. Paul Bremer runs things in Iraq.

"Bremer is the dictator of Iraq," he said. "He has the money. He has the signature."

He later added: "I will not say who was my first choice, and who was not my first choice ... I will remind you that the Americans are governing this country."

Sadoun al Dulame, the head of a Baghdad research organization and polling center, said he spoke with Brahimi last week and that the diplomat was discouraged.

"He was very disappointed, very frustrated," al Dulame said. "I asked him why he didn't say that publicly (and) he said, 'I am the U.N. envoy to Iraq, how can I admit to failure?'"

source

Wow. Pretty strong words. Kinda flies in the face of what Bush said yesterday:

QUESTION: Sir, where you surprised at the way the Governing Council took command of the selection process? And are you concerned that the new President has had some criticisms of the United States?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't -- from my perspective, Mr. Brahimi made the decisions and brought their names to the Governing Council. As I understand it, the Governing Council simply opined about names. It was Mr. Brahimi's selections and -- Ambassador Bremer and Ambassador Blackwill were instructed by me to work with Mr. Brahimi. As we say in American sports parlance, he was the quarterback. And it seemed like a good group to me. I mean, they're diverse, as I mentioned, a number of women are now involved in the government, which is a positive step for the citizens of Iraq.

source

See, that sounds like Brahimi was completely in charge. How weird. If I didn't know better, I'd say George Bush may be playing a little fast and loose with the truth here.

June 2, 2004
Caption Contest

Best one wins a cup of homemade chocolate syrup.

bush at air force academy
Lemme go, Cadet! I think I saw Osama behind the bleachers!

Bush to Jeebus: Sabe Me

The Bush campaign is brazenly recruiting supporters from churches in Pennsylvania, threatening the tax-exempt status of them there churches.

President Bush's re-election campaign is trying to recruit supporters from 1,600 religious congregations in Pennsylvania -- a political push that critics said Wednesday could cost churches their tax breaks.

An e-mail from the campaign's Pennsylvania office, obtained by The Associated Press, urges churchgoers to help organize "Friendly Congregations" where supporters can meet regularly to sign up voters and spread the Bush word.

"I'd like to ask if you would like to serve as a coordinator in your place of worship," says the e-mail, adorned with the Bush-Cheney logo, from Luke Bernstein, who runs the state campaign's coalitions operation and is a former staffer to Sen. Rick Santorum, the president's Pennsylvania chairman.

"We plan to undertake activities such as distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation," the e-mail says.

The Internal Revenue Service prohibits political campaign activity, for or against any candidate, from taking place at all organizations that receive tax exempt status under a section of the federal tax code -- including most churches and religious groups. Violators could lose their tax breaks and face excise taxes.

A Bush-Cheney spokesman said that they "did not mean to imply that religious supporters should actually congregate for the president at their places of worship."

Oh I see. They didn't mean to imply it, they meant to just come right out and say it: "I'd like to ask if you would like to serve as a coordinator in your place of worship... distributing general information/updates or voter registration materials in a place accessible to the congregation."

"I have never in my life seen such a direct campaign to politicize American churches -- from any political party or from any candidate for public office," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn of the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. "By enrolling churches in an election scheme like this, I think the Bush-Cheney campaign is actually endangering those churches' tax exemptions without even the courtesy of telling them that they run a risk."
Army Not Into Extra Armor

A soldier in the 351st MP Company asked his peacetime boss, Sheriff Ed Dean of Ocala, Florida, to send extra bullet-proof vests to put on the unprotected floorboards of his company's Humvees. Like a good Support Our Troops guy, Sheriff Dean gathered all the old vests he could find, and even had other departments do the same. Word is they collected over 1,200 pieces of body armor.

Wow. Heroes, right?

Uh, no. In fact, the soldier who made the request is getting a whole lot of shit for it.

See, sending the Army surplus bullet-proof vests to line their unarmored Humvees draws attention to the fact that our soldiers are running around in unarmored vehicles. That John Kerry voted to deny body armor to the troops is a key Bush campaign lie, so this can't be allowed. And really, what's a few more blown off legs?

Bush Lawyers Up

Bush has had a meeting with a lawyer in case he is targeted by the Valerie Plame investigation.

"The president has said that everyone should cooperate in this matter and that would include himself," the spokeswoman said.

Riiiiiiiight.

Chalabi

This keeps getting better and better.

Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi leader and former ally of the Bush administration, disclosed to an Iranian official that the United States had broken the secret communications code of Iran's intelligence service, betraying one of Washington's most valuable sources of information about Iran, according to United States intelligence officials.

--snip--

The F.B.I. has opened an espionage investigation seeking to determine exactly what information Mr. Chalabi turned over to the Iranians as well as who told Mr. Chalabi that the Iranian code had been broken, government officials said. The inquiry, still in an early phase, is focused on a very small number of people who were close to Mr. Chalabi and also had access to the highly restricted information about the Iran code.

Some of the people the F.B.I. expects to interview are civilians at the Pentagon who were among Mr. Chalabi's strongest supporters and served as his main point of contact with the government, the officials said. So far, no one has been accused of any wrongdoing.

More on this from Josh Marshall, Pandagon and Matt Yglesias.

Cheney and Halliburton

More on this story about the email suggesting that the Pentagon "coordinated" with the Vice President's office in awarding no-bid contracts to Halliburton.

CNN has the story today, and reports that Democrats want an investigation. Naturally, there won't be one because Republicans get to decide whether or not to have hearings.

Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont:

"This is the same Congress that during the Clinton administration would have five new investigations started by midday Monday, and just add to them all week long," Leahy said. "Now they won't hold hearings, no matter what it is -- if you have cost overruns or anything else -- they just refuse to hold hearings, but of course they should."

Of course they should. And of course they won't. Because they're assholes, of course, and they hate America.

The award for most despicable statement goes to Mary Matalin, senior Bush-Cheney campaign adviser and inexplicable wife of the bald guy from Crossfire.

"Halliburton itself has lost close to three dozen workers over there in Iraq," Matalin told NBC's Today show. "I mean, just let it go."

Oh, of course. Some Halliburton employees have been killed in Iraq, which naturally should lead us to forget about the possibly illegal awarding of their contract. See how that works? If you investigate Halliburton's contracts, you clearly don't care about the families of dead Halliburton employees, you pig dog.

June 1, 2004
Fallacy, Bush Style

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post gives some nice examples of George Bush's favorite technique for fallacious argument : The Straw Man.

This is when you caricature the argument of your opponent, and then refute the caricature. Finding examples of this technique in politics is no great task, but Bush makes it all too easy.

In the typical speech, Bush explains the prewar intelligence indicating Saddam Hussein had such weapons, and then presents in inarguable conclusion: "So I had a choice to make: either trust the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time."

Missing from that equation is the actual choice Bush confronted: support continued U.N. weapons inspections, or go to war.

And my favorite:

There seems to be no end to the crazy positions the straw men take. Indeed, some have argued in favor of deeper recessions. "Some say, 'Well, maybe the recession should have been deeper,' " Bush said last summer. "That bothers me when people say that. You see, a deeper recession would have meant more families would have been out of work."
Flip-Flopper-In-Chief

The Center for American Progress has updated their list of Bush's policy reversals. Print out a copy and keep it handy for your next encounter with a wingnut.

Speaking of such encounters, this weekend I was at the house of a friend of a friend, a graduate of West Point and a conservative. We had a respectful, if spirited, discussion, but one that I still found somewhat disturbing. Most of it was typical "liberal media bias" theories, which I attempted to knock down with some success. I wish I had more facts at my fingertips when it comes to these things. Maybe I'll start printing out The Gadflyer's Ammo Dumps on these issues and carrying them around with me.

Anyway, when I mentioned NPR as one of our more reliable and balanced news sources, he scoffed as if I had cited the Xinhua News Service.

I didn't have this at the time, but lo-and-behold, a report by FAIR on the perception and reality of bias at NPR.

"Republicans not only had a substantial partisan edge," according to a report accompanying the survey, "individual Republicans were NPR's most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance." In addition, representatives of right-of-center think tanks outnumbered their leftist counterparts by more than four to one, FAIR reported.

Citing comments dating to the Nixon administration in the 1970s, the report said, "That NPR harbors a liberal bias is an article of faith among many conservatives." However, it added, "Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR."

--snip--

Overall, Republicans outnumbered Democrats by 61 percent to 38 percent, a figure only slightly higher now, when the GOP controls the White House and both houses of Congress, than during a previous survey in 1993, during the Clinton administration.

So there ya go. Take that.

This is pretty typical conservative boilerplate, though. The most disturbing and shocking point made by my conservative host was certainly this: Islam is a religion that specifically advocates the killing of all non-Muslims.

Boing! Eyes bug out of head, jaw drops to floor, brain struggles to find response other than, "Are you fucking nuts?!?"

When regained my composure a bit, I tried to explain that Islam is a religion very much like Christianity and Judaism, and in fact derives from the same texts and that radical militants are no more a commonplace part of the Muslim faith than doctor-killing pro-lifers are a mainstream part of Christianity.

It turns out he was referring to Prophet of Doom, a book which argues that the Koran "orders the faithful to wipe infidels out to the last, to deceive them, to ambush them, to enslave them, to torture them, and to murder them. This is not [author Craig] Winn's opinion; it is the only rational conclusion that can be drawn."

Sounds reasonable.

What was this post about? I forget.

Abortion Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

Some good news:

A federal judge Tuesday declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional, saying the measure infringes on a woman's right to choose.

source

As Jesse suggests, I'm sure we'll hear a lot about how this decision comes from San Francisco and less about the decision itself.

There are other challenges to the law still pending in Nebraska and New York.

Krugman

It's certainly worth reading all of Paul Krugman's column, but if I'll justify the existence of this site by pulling out the good parts anyway.

Last week The Washington Post got hold of an Office of Management and Budget memo that directed federal agencies to prepare for post-election cuts in programs that George Bush has been touting on the campaign trail. These include nutrition for women, infants and children; Head Start; and homeland security. The numbers match those on a computer printout leaked earlier this year -- one that administration officials claimed did not reflect policy.

Got that? A memo directing federal agencies that there will be cuts coming -- but only after the election -- in programs that Bush has been taking credit for in his campaign.

The end result of current policies will be a large-scale transfer of income from the middle class to the very affluent, in which about 80 percent of the population will lose and the bulk of the gains will go to people with incomes of more than $200,000 per year.

I can't back that assertion with official numbers, because under Mr. Bush the Treasury Department has stopped releasing information on the distribution of tax cuts by income level.

(emphasis mine)

How about that? The wealth of our nation will transfer to the already very rich, but we can't prove it because they've stopped releasing information on tax cuts. The numbers looks bad? Stop letting people see them.

Krugman does dig up numbers -- from other sources, since our government isn't talking -- the big one being the much touted average tax reduction of $1,448 per family.

A little something about averages: they can be very misleading. A hackneyed example: I'm sitting in this room here, typing away. My income right now is hovering right around $0. For the sake of argument, let's say I make $5000 this year. Suddenly there's a knock at the door. Why, it's Bill Gates, stoppin' by for a chai latte! Bill Gates makes, oh, let's say $100,000,000 a year.

Now let's figure out the average income of the people in my apartment: Okay, 100,000,000 plus 5000 is 100,005,000, divided by 2 people in the apartment, that comes to... $50,002,500. And there you go, you could accurately say that the average income in my apartment is over 50 million dollars. Does this make me a millionaire?

This is exactly the kind of math that the Bushies are using when they talk about "average tax reductions per family." Some families -- very few -- are getting HUGE tax reductions, while most families get very small reductions, if any.

In fact, the 257,000 taxpayers with incomes of more than $1 million received a bigger combined tax cut than the 85 million taxpayers who make up the bottom 60 percent of the population.

Most of us probably remember getting those nice $300 checks in the mail. It's like free money, it's hard not to like. But there's a small problem: it's a lie. It's nothing more than a bribe for the votes of people who don't know much about economics, which includes most of us. You get a nice check in the mail and take the family out to dinner, or better yet, save it. "Wow, thanks Mr. Bush!" Meanwhile, your Social Security benefits are being cut and your children have 15 year old textbooks. Is it worth it?

Krugman: "It's as if someone expected gratitude for giving you a gift, when he actually bought it using your credit card."

There's a basic principle of economics that many Americans seem to be missing: There's no such thing as a free lunch. This is well established. You can't get something for nothing. If you increase spending on one thing, and don't raise taxes or find another way to increase revenue, something has to be cut.

Lately there's been a lot of talk about gas prices. It's the same thing. People believe it is their inalienable right to both drive a car that gets 10 miles to a gallon of gas, and to pay $1.25 for that gallon. Sorry, you have to choose.

Of course, voters would never support this agenda if they understood it. That's why dishonesty -- as illustrated by the administration's consistent reliance on phony accounting, and now by the business with the budget cut memo -- is such a central feature of the White House political strategy.

Right now, it seems that the 2004 election will be a referendum on Mr. Bush's calamitous foreign policy. But something else is at stake: whether he and his party can lock in the unassailable political position they need to proceed with their pro-rich, anti-middle-class economic strategy. And no, I'm not engaging in class warfare. They are.

Shocker: Cheney is a Liar

More from Time Magazine. Who would have thought they were doing any actual journalism over there?

Cheney on Meet the Press last September:

Citing the [Halliburton] company's role in rebuilding Iraq as well as Cheney's prior service as Halliburton's CEO, Russert asked, "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?" Cheney's reply: "Of course not, Tim ... And as Vice President, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the Federal Government."

That's pretty clear, right? "I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form or contracts..." Not a lot of wiggle room there.

Time digs up an email, sent by an Army Corps of Engineers official.

Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.

The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids.

Well jeez, "action has been coordinated with the VP's office?" Let's go back and check Cheney's statement:

No influence of contracts : Influence is certainly implied in this email.
No involvement : I'd say coordination smacks of involvement.
No knowledge of in any way, shape or form : Again, coordination without knowledge seems hard.

Impeach. Imprison.

Ashcroft on the Outs

Time is reporting sources who say, "Ashcroft will not be the A.G. by Christmas if Bush wins."

Is it just me, or is it a bit unsettling when the entire cabinet is "falling out of favor" one by one? We haven't seen Condi since her testimony before the 9/11 Commission, half the Congress wants Rumsfeld to resign, Powell is "tired" and rarely seen except when apologizing for contradicting Bush, Cheney is running around the country making shit up about Kerry, and now Ashcroft. Am I forgetting anyone?

Sure, I'm leaving out all the others nobody ever heard from to begin with, but who cares about them. It seems to me that as Bush's numbers continue to fall, the strategy may be to stick with the president and his personality, which many people insanely seem to find charming, but distance him from all these other wackos.

I sure hope it doesn't work. Surely it is a reflection on the president himself if his hand-picked cabinet -- the prime architects of the war in Iraq -- is completely falling apart. Surely the American public is smart enough to realize that we can't reelect the guy on a platform of, "Hey, give me another chance! I'm a nice guy!"

Right?

Memory Hole Banned in Iraq

The Memory Hole, a site which posts raw documents largely gained through Freedom of Information Act Requests, is reporting that the military's content filter in Iraq is blocking access to the site.

The site is classified by the filter as "Extreme;Politics/Religion."

Interesting that our troops who are over there "spreading democracy and freedom" are being prevented from accessing a site which posts documents created by our own government. Very interesting indeed.