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February 28, 2005
USANext: All About The Values

I love this...

The group responsible for those ridiculous anti-AARP ads implying that seniors love gay marriage and hate our troops are now accused of stealing the gay guys photo by the guys themselves.

The couple in the photo, Richard M. Raymen and Steven P. Hansen of Portland, Oregon, have come forward through an attorney to demand that USA Next stop using their image, and that the organization publicly apologize for using their image in a homophobic and libelous way. The demand, contained in a letter sent today to USA Next Chairman and CEO Charles Jarvis, references the couples' right to seek damages for the misappropriation of their image.

AMERICAblog

Leave it to the "traditional values" folks...

My Social Security Statement

I'm sure this has been pointed out countless times, but I'd still like to share the following paragraph from my most recent Social Security Statement.

Today there are almost 36 million Americans age 65 or older. Their Social Security retirement benefits are funded by today's workers and their employers who jointly pay Social Security taxes -- just as the money they paid into Social Security was used to pay benefits to those who retired before them. Unless action is taken soon to strengthen Social Security, in just 14 years we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2042 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted. By then, the number of Americans 65 or older is expected to have doubled. There won't be enough younger people working to pay all of the benefits owed to those who are retiring. At that point, there will be enough money to pay only about 73 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits. We will need to resolve these issues soon to make sure Social Security continues to provide a foundation of protection for future generations as it has done in the past.

Now, really, this isn't all that bad. At least it doesn't mention private accounts, or personal keep the gummit outta my bidness accounts, or whatever they're called these days. But it does rely on the basic assumption that the system is in crisis and that if we don't make big changes, all will be lost. Of course, this is simply not the case. Some reforms are needed, but they could be very small and phased in over time. The situation is not nearly as grave as this message makes it out to be. If people believe it's this serious, they'll sign on for the plan that sounds good, even though they don't understand it.

The ironic part of this whole thing is the statement that we must enact reforms in order to "save" Social Security. The Bush administration is not interested in saving Social Security; they want to dismantle it. As Joe Biden (D - DE) said on Meet the Press yesterday, "No matter how you cut it, this real debate on personal accounts is about the legitimacy of Social Security; it's not about the solvency of Social Security."

Social Security, if supported, will be solvent, as it has been for generations. The only real grave danger the system faces is Bush's so-called reform.

As for that reform, it's been met with widespread skepticism even among many Republicans and other conservatives, but that's not going to stop the GOP, no sir. If the public isn't interested in their plan, well they'll just see about that.

White House officials are telling Republican lawmakers and allies on K Street that they must begin to overcome opposition to President Bush's proposal for changing Social Security within six weeks, GOP strategists said yesterday.

The GOP strategists stressed that the six-week goal is not a hard deadline for a political breakthrough, but they said the public's tepid view of Social Security change cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. The directive raises the possibility that Republicans will have to reconsider whether legislation can be passed this year, as Bush wants.

Polls show widespread skepticism of Bush's proposal for creating individual Social Security investment accounts for younger workers, and Democratic lawmakers have voiced nearly uniform opposition. The Washington Post reported over the weekend that some allies of the president are focused on possible split-the-difference deals that would significantly scale back Bush's proposal, yet enable him to claim an incremental victory.

The Treasury Department yesterday announced the formation of a Social Security "war room" and the hiring of three full-time employees to help coordinate and refine the administration's message on the issue. The war room, which the administration is calling the Social Security Information Center, will track lawmakers' remarks to their local news outlets, to help the White House detect signs of Republican concern or Democratic compromise.

Washington Post

My favorite line: "...the public's tepid view of Social Security change cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely."

I'm also totally psyched that I'm now paying for several people to have the full-time job of ramming this down my throat whether I like it or not.

White House officials say they need to "educate the public" about the real problems facing Social Security. What they really mean is de-educate. They don't want you to understand, they just want you to be afraid.

File

If you like-a the photography, you'll like-a this site.

file

Gunner Palace

Last night we went to see Million Dollar Baby (on a scale of 1 to 83, I'd give it a 58), and one of the trailers was for Gunner Palace, billed as a dispassionate look at the lives of one unit in Iraq during the time when the war changed from an easy invasion to a deepening quagmire. I'm very interested to see the film. It looked like Full Metal Jacket, but real.

Grounded

Very interesting article from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette about millionaire John Gilmore of San Francisco. Gilmore is making a principled stand against showing ID when boarding an aircraft, and it may go all the way to the Supreme Court.

His argument, basically, is that knowing someone's name or seeing a government issued ID card has a negligible safety benefit, if any, and the law basically requires a domestic passport, "Your papers, please." Further, the law that requires that we display IDs is classified as "Sensitive Security Information" and not available for public viewing. You must follow the law, but you can't read the law. Since 9/11, more and more information is being classified this way.

I would tend to agree with Gilmore. We have plenty of security at airports in the form of x-rays, metal detectors, and physical searches. Obtaining a fake ID is a simple task for any 14 year old, so what kind of security is it, really?

Anyway, good read.

The Dark Lords of South Dakota

Remember that scene in Empire Strikes Back when Darth Vader double-crosses Lando and takes Princess Leia with him? Lando goes, "You promised you'd leave the girl with me! That wasn't part of our deal!" and Vader is all, "I am altering the terms of our agreement. Pray that I don't alter it any further." Remember that?

That's how I felt when I got home today to a letter from Citibank informing me that they have altered the terms of my credit card agreement.

We had a deal, Citibank! Damn you!

Bloody Monday

Ugh.

bloody day in iraq

HILLA, Iraq (Reuters) - A suicide bomber detonated a car near a crowded marketplace south of Baghdad Monday, killing 115 people and wounding 148 in the single bloodiest attack in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

Reuters

Charge It

The Senate is considering changes to the bankruptcy laws today. These changes are being promoted as advocating personal responsibility and closing a loophole through which people get out of paying back their debts. The reality, of course, is that this change would benefit giant, hugely profitable credit card companies and take away one of the last shreds of protection that poor (and, increasingly, middle class) Americans have.

Consider: Over 96% of people who file Chapter 7 can't afford to pay anything more.

While it may be wise to ensure that those who file for this type of protection do really need it, it's clearly not a significant problem, except for the banks who want to squeeze every possible dime out of the consumer. There is nothing in this new law that would regulate the aggressive marketing of usurious credit plans to the people who can least afford it, nor is there anything to close all of the bankruptcy loopholes use by the rich.

Example: the notorious abuse known as the "financial planning" strategy, by which wealth debtors can buy expensive homes in states that allow it, declare bankruptcy, and be allowed to keep their estates and live in luxury while their creditors get squat.

Write to your Senators NOW and tell them to reject this bill in it's current form. I mean, you know, if you want.

February 27, 2005
Stupid Crime Spree

File under "I Wish I'd Thought of That"...

As US coast-to-coast crimewaves go, it is not in the league of Bonnie and Clyde. It lacks both violence and avarice and is further hindered by an overabundance of pre-publicity.

Undeterred, a couple of students from Cornwall are intent on making American criminal history by spending their summer breaking as many US laws as possible.

Starting in the liberal state of California, they hope to evade the attention of local police officers when they ride a bike in a swimming pool and curse on a crazy-golf course.

In the far more conservative - and landlocked - state of Utah, they will risk the penitentiary when they hire a boat and attempt to go whale-hunting.

If they manage to outwit state troopers in Utah, and perhaps federal agents on their trail, they will be able to take a deserved, but nevertheless illegal, rest when they have a nap in a cheese factory in South Dakota.

"There are thousands of stupid laws in the United States, but we are limiting ourselves to breaking about 45 of them," said Richard Smith, from Portreath, Cornwall.

The journey, which appropriately enough begins in Alcatraz, will cover around 18,000 miles and take eight weeks - provided, of course, that Mr Smith and his accomplice, Luke Bateman, are not apprehended along the way.

Guardian Unlimited

Keep TV Free

The networks and other media owners are trying to restrict what you can do with content by embedding a flag that will prevent you from copying, burning, or sharing. They didn't always feel this way...

In 1967, when one of the first pay TV services was preparing to launch in California, Hollywood and the networks helped defeat the service because they didn't want the competition. Theater owners organized a KEEP TV FREE campaign, with PSAs like this one running in movie houses before feature films.

Though this particular campaign was limited to California, the advertising industry and television networks have long argued a similar case. When Vance Packard, Ralph Nader, Peggy Charren, and other critics attacked advertising in the 1950s, 1970s, and 1980s (respectively), defenders of industry often cited a common refrain: "advertising provides free news and entertainment."

In other words, the major networks (in conjunction with the ad industry) have promoted the idea that television is free for decades. Now that viewers have taken their word for it by recording and sharing TV shows freely, the industry has only itself to blame.

Stay Free! Daily

keep tv free

Video: BitTorrent and Quicktime.

World Jump Day: Stupid

The Internets are just full of wonderful uses of people's time, don't ya think?

Someone clearly spent a good deal of time making the site for World Jump Day. The idea is that if, at a specific instant, 600 million people jump at once, it will shift the earth into a slightly different orbit, which will solve the global warming problem.

They have fancy animations and everything.

The problem, of course, is that the whole thing is ridiculous. I suspect that it's a joke, just someone trying to see how many people they can get to sign up (apparently they have over 60 million already).

The reason it won't work is pretty simple: The mass of all those people jumping is already part of the mass of the earth. It would be like trying to make your car go faster by pushing on the windshield. On top of that, the force exerted by even 1 billion average sized people jumping at once would be roughly that of a magnitude 5 earthquake. Those happen all the time and have only the most negligible effect on the earth's orbit. (For example, the magnitude 9 earthquake that caused the Asian tsunami in December shortened the length of a day by 2.68 millionths of a second.)

And now we also see how wasted time on the Internets tends to spread.

Via Kottke.

February 26, 2005
Last Word on HST

Hunter S. Thompson's wife recounts the day he died in a very touching story from the Rocky Mountain News.

When I heard he killed himself, it never occurred to me that it was an act of desperation or sadness. I immediately assumed it was an act of will, that he had ended his life as he lived it, on his own terms and his own schedule. Those closest to him confirm that.

Anita Thompson also echoes the comments that have been made by Hunter Thompson's son and daughter-in-law: That her husband's suicide did not come from the bottom of the well, but was a gesture of strength and ultimate control made as his life was at a high-water mark.

"This is a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure," Anita Thompson said by phone, recounting that she was sitting in her husband's chair he called his catbird seat in the Rockies.

She added: "He lived a beautiful life and he lived it on his own terms, all the way from the very beginning to the very end."

Rocky Mountain News

February 25, 2005
Gannon Blog

It was only a matter of time. JimJeff GannonGuckert has a blog.

jeff gannon

The tagline of blog: "So feared by the Left it had to take me down."

Ha ha! Dude, nobody had ever heard of you until your dumb ass asked that "lost touch with reality" question. We don't fear you, or at least not in the way you're thinking. The only thing we fear about you is that you represent the takeover of our country by evil assholes.

From his "About Me" sidebar:


I'm  baaaaaaack!  If you thought I was going to slink away - then you don't know much about me.  Someone still has to battle the Left and now that I've emerged from  the crucible, I'm stronger than before.

Despite all the pleas from the Left to go over to the 'dark side' and expose the 'corrupt Bush administration' simply isn't going to happen.  My faith and my ideology are rock solid.

Man he's a jackass. And a terrible writer.

By way of the final nail in his credibility coffin, he then cites Ann Coulter's nonsensical rant about this whole stupid story.

Google Maps Now on Safari

If you're a geek like me, you'll be happy to learn that Google Maps now works on Safari.

If you're not a geek like me, you may still Google Maps pretty handy.

google maps

We Doctor Reports, You Decide

Media Matters has the story of how FOX News has taken to altering AP wire stories that contain the phrase "suicide bomber" to read "homicide bomber," the recently preferred terminology of the White House NewSpeak Bureau. At least once, they actually altered a direct quote from Hillary Clinton in this way.

In none of the cases did they mention to their readers that the original content had been changed.

Besides being just another example of FOX's blatant partisanship, this whole suicide/homicide thing is absurd. What sets these bombers apart is not that they are homicidal, since, you know, ALL bombers are homicidal. It kind of goes with the job. The suicide part is what makes this kind of bombing unique.

Idiots.

Debunking the Hypothetical

The geniuses at Powerline, named "Blog of the Year" by Time, have constructed a wonderful man of straw and then dismantled him ably.

Here's how it goes... You see, IF a Supreme Court position opens up, and IF a certain judge (Michael Luttig) were to be nominated, then the Democrats MIGHT raise an objection based on the fact that the judge's father was murdered, potentially causing a conflict in death penalty cases. On what do they base the idea that this kind of objection might come up? Why, nothing at all!

The writer closes with this rhetorical question about the above hypothetical reaction to a hypothetical nomination for an as yet not vacated court seat: "Are the Senate Democrats dumb enough to make this argument against Luttig?"

Yeah, wow. They sure are dumb, those imaginary Senators.

Via apostropher.

U.S. Negotiates With Insurgents

Old George might want to be careful who he calls a terrorist if we're going to be having secret back-channel negotiations with them, since, as we all know, the U.S. doesn't negotiate with terrorists.

The secret meeting is taking place in the bowels of a facility in Baghdad, a cavernous, heavily guarded building in the U.S.-controlled green zone. The Iraqi negotiator, a middle-aged former member of Saddam Hussein's regime and the senior representative of the self-described nationalist insurgency, sits on one side of the table.

He is here to talk to two members of the U.S. military. One of them, an officer, takes notes during the meeting. The other, dressed in civilian clothes, listens as the Iraqi outlines a list of demands the U.S. must satisfy before the insurgents stop fighting. The parties trade boilerplate complaints: the U.S. officer presses the Iraqi for names of other insurgent leaders; the Iraqi says the newly elected Shi'a-dominated government is being controlled by Iran. The discussion does not go beyond generalities, but both sides know what's behind the coded language.

In that guarded pledge may lie the first sign that after nearly two years of fighting, parts of the insurgency in Iraq are prepared to talk and move toward putting away their arms—and the U.S. is willing to listen. An account of the secret meeting between the senior insurgent negotiator and the U.S. military officials was provided to TIME by the insurgent negotiator. He says two such meetings have taken place. While U.S. officials would not confirm the details of any specific meetings, sources in Washington told TIME that for the first time the U.S. is in direct contact with members of the Sunni insurgency, including former members of Saddam's Baathist regime.

Pentagon officials say the secret contacts with insurgent leaders are being conducted mainly by U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers. A Western observer close to the discussions says that "there is no authorized dialogue with the insurgents" but that the U.S. has joined "back-channel" communications with rebels. Says the observer: "There's a lot bubbling under the surface today."

TIME

Between this, Bush making nice with the Frenchies, and the out of control spending, you'd think John Kerry had won in November. Nearly every right-wing bugaboo about his presidency is now a reality.

He Started It
"If you try that again, I'll ram my fist up your ass."

-- Colorado State Rep. Bill Cadman (R), quoted by the Rocky Mountain News, warning a colleague on the floor of the House.

Political Wire

In his defense, Cadman says the other guy started it by calling him "garbage." I'd have to say that what he said is several degrees of classless from "garbage."

February 24, 2005
No Script, No George

If Bush can't have a town hall meeting about Freedom™ in which all the "townsfolk" are screened and all the questions are scripted, well, by god he won't have no town hall meeting at all.

Because, as you know, this trip is about "mending fences," and "pretending everybody likes us." It wouldn't do to have real people asking real questions. If Jeff Gannon can't be there, the whole thing's off.

The much-touted American-style "town hall" meeting the White House has been planning with "normal Germans" of everyday walks of life will be missing during his visit to the Rhine River hamlet of Mainz this afternoon.

A few weeks ago, the Bush administration had declared that the chat -- which could have brought together tradesmen, butchers, bank employees, students and all other types to discuss trans-Atlantic relations -- would be the cornerstone of President George W. Bush's brief trip to Germany [...]

The Germans, though, insisted that a free forum should be exactly that. Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany's Ambassador to the United States, explained to the New York Times last week: "We told them, don't get upset with us if they ask angry questions."

In the end, the town hall meeting was never officially dropped from the agenda of the trip -- instead it was dealt with in polished diplomatic style -- both sides just stopped talking about it.

Der Spiegel

The Playbook

Think Progress is doing a great job of dissecting the so-called "Luntz Playbook" (8 MB ZIP file), a manual on advancing the right-wing agenda written by conservative strategist and general Tool of Evil Frank Luntz.

A couple of the strategies...

1) Everything is about 9/11.

In his memo on how to manipulate American perception on the economy, right-wing spinmeister Frank Luntz advises conservatives to "resist the temptation" to use facts and figures about the economy. (You know, all those pesky statistics about lower wages, unemployment, skyrocketing deficits, etc.) Instead, he advises, you can't go wrong if you continuosly remind people about the terrorist attacks of 9/11. "This is the context that explains and justifies why we have $500 billion deficits, why the stock market tanked, why unemployment climbed to 6%."

Oh, yes, he advises preying on the emotions tied to the terrorist attacks to distract Americans from the truth about the economy, writing, "Much of the public anger can be immediately pacified if they are reminded that we would not be in this situation today if 9/11 had not happened." It's also an easy way to get President Bush off the hook: Luntz points out that convincing people that the struggling economy is a consequence of 9/11 (as opposed to, say, Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy) will convince people "it is unfair to blame the current political leadership"


Finally, Luntz advises, 9/11 is the perfect way to dodge responsibility for sinking the country in red ink. In a section headed "Without the context of 9-11, you will be blamed for the deficit," he points out "supporters are inherently turned off to the idea of fiscal irresponsibility." The best way to counter that fact? "The trick then is to contextualize the deficit inside of 9/11."

Think Progress

2) Lying Works, Keep it Up!

"Americans still believe the primary cause of the deficit is wasteful Washington spending, not the tax cuts," Luntz says. "So tell them: 'Americans aren't taxed too little. Washington spends too much.'"

Think Progress


That's right! Government has no responsibility to disabuse the public of false perceptions! Encourage them! It works!

For The Love of Hannity

Via Think Progress...

Sean Hannity, he of the shameless, factless rant, has launched his very own dating service.

So for all you lonely conservatives out there (I know you're lonely), all is not lost. Have your fun, but please, don't breed.

WHOO HOO! WHERE ARE ALL THE WILD RIGHT-WING BOOOOOOYS?!

Name: Anna
Location: TX
Age: 42

About who I’m looking for–Fun, outdoorsy, moral, early riser, clean. Boy scout with a wild side. (*_~) Please don’t over-analyze me–half the time ‘I’ don’t know what I’m thinking. Or WHY. Great kisser–yes, you must be that. Christian, obviously. Brilliant, witty, patience of a saint, and so on and so forth. If this is multiple choice, I’m choosing ALL OF THE ABOVE this time.

Oh, the grammar! It hurts us!

Coulter on Gannon

I shudder to post it, but it's kind of entertaining just for its sheer nuttiness. Ann Coulter has really just become a clown. Her arguments are just... well, see for yourself, if you have a strong stomach.

I'll summarize: The only reason liberals are upset about the whole Jeff Gannon thing is because he's gay. They secretly hate gays. Also, since legitimate news organizations have had some scandals in the past few years (Raines, Blair, etc), Talon News is now as legitimate as they. And her final blow to everyone's credibility except hers is that - you'll never believe it! - other people have used pseudonyms too, so what's the big deal?

Allow me to retort: I don't give a rat's ass that Gannon is gay. It's funny though, because he shills for a party that wants to outlaw gays. He pitches softball questions to a President who wants to alter the Constitution to deprive gays of equal rights.

The fact that he uses a fake name, also not interesting all by itself. The fact that he used one to get "temporary" White House credentials for 2 years and no one seemed to notice? Interesting!

Bye bye, Ann. Your 15 minutes are long over.

Gannon on Today Today

Man, this guy is really an unbelievable tool...

His evidence that he was not a plant by the White House?

"If the White House was going to use a plant, wouldn't they pick a better one than me?"

Wow, JimJeff, you must be a freaking lawyer! That's some of that, waddayacallit, unassailable logic!

He then fends off charges that he is involved in pornography and gay male prostitutes by saying that he "cannot go into specifics" but he can assure us that "there is a lot of misinformation out there."

gannon on today

Video

Again, the real story here is that he got into White House press conferences for YEARS with a "day pass" and using a false name, not to mention that the "news organization" he worked for wasn't a news organization. The administration and the congressional leadership strangely don't seem all that interested in looking into these things.

Pop-Up Homeland Security

Question: You're in charge of appointing people to sit on the Department of Homeland Security's "Data Security and Integrity Advisory Committee." Where do you go looking for recruits?

If you answered, "at an adware company notorious for ripping off personal data and selling it to the highest bidder," you're right!

There's a gator guarding your privacy at the Department of Homeland Security.

Among the appointees to the department's 20 member "Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee" is D. Reed Freeman, the "chief privacy officer" of Claria Corporation.

That's the company formerly known as Gator, infamous for its software, a.k.a. GAIN, which stands for Gator Advertising Information Network. It's sadly familiar to many frustrated Web surfers, who have been surprised to discover it mysteriously installed on their desktops serving them extra helpings of ads.

The New York Times, the Washington Post and the Dow Jones Company sued Gator back in 2002 for the way its ads appeared as parasites on their sites. But even though the original Gator software can be considered one of the original plague carriers of the spyware blight -- be careful about calling it that. The company has repeatedly threatened its critics with libel lawsuits for dubbing it "spyware."

The fact that a "privacy officer" for a company that made its name sneaking onto computers all over the word is now helping to determine what should be done with data collected by the Department of Homeland Security might be alarming to some people. But is it really all that shocking? The D.H.S.'s own chief privacy officer is no stranger to the ins and outs of interactive marketing either. She used to work for the online marketing firm, DoubleClick.

Salon.com

Awesome!

February 22, 2005
British Navy Courts Gays

Another example of how most of the Western World is years ahead of us on the issue of gay rights. The British Navy is started to actively encourage gays and lesbians to enlist.

Over here, we're only just now starting to let gay prostitutes into White House press briefings under false names.

Five years after Britain lifted its ban on gays in the military, the Royal Navy has begun actively encouraging gays and lesbians to enlist and has pledged to make life easier for them when they do.

The navy announced today that it had asked Stonewall, a group that lobbies for gay rights, to help it develop better strategies for recruiting and retaining gay and lesbian sailors. It said, too, that one such strategy may well be to advertise for recruits in gay magazines and newspapers.

New York Times

Armed, Untrained, and Protecting Our Borders

This is a great idea...

Intent on securing the vulnerable Arizona border from illegal immigrant crossings, U.S. officials are bracing for what they call a potential new threat this spring: the Minutemen. Nearly 500 volunteers have already joined the Minuteman Project, anointing themselves civilian border patrol agents determined to stop the immigration flow that routinely, and easily, seeps past federal authorities.

They plan to patrol a 40-mile stretch of the southeast Arizona border throughout April when the tide of immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border peaks.


"I felt the only way to get something done was to do it yourself," said Jim Gilchrist, a retired accountant and decorated Vietnam War veteran who is helping recruit Minutemen across the country.

"We've been repeatedly accused of being people who are taking the law into our own hands," said Gilchrist, 56, of Aliso Viejo, Calif. "That is an outright bogus statement. We are going down there to assist law enforcement."

ABC News

I can't think of a single problem that might arise from this plan. Oh, no wait, I thought of one. There's another. One more. Oh, wow, yeah, another one.

February 21, 2005
Queerly Beloved

As we watched The Simpsons last night, I commented to Liz that they were sure gonna get a lot of letters on this one. The episode featured Marge's sister Patti coming out of the closet and a whole mess of gay marriages.

simpsons

L. Brent Bozell, president of the Parents Television Council, criticized "The Simpsons" for addressing the issue of same-sex marriage, though he said he hadn't seen the episode.

"At a time when the public mood is overwhelmingly against gay marriage, any show that promotes gay marriage is deliberately bucking the public mood," he said.

Chicago Tribune

I love that 1) he hasn't seen the episode, and 2) he thinks that our country would be better off if ideas that "buck the public mood" were kept out of site.

Where the hell do these people come from?

Via Pandagon.

America Wants Opposition

This is old, but I forgot to post it..

"American want Democrats to stand up to Bush," the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire reports. "Fully 60%, including one-fourth of Republicans, say Democrats in Congress should make sure Bush and his party 'don't go too far.' Just 34% want Democrats to 'work in a bipartisan way' to help pass the president's priorities."

Political Wire

Now if we can just get the Democratic Congressional leadership to believe it.

The New Face of Liberal Evil: Old People

As is being reported all over the place, a conservative group along the lines of the Swift Boat Veterans for Lying Out Our Asses has popped up to attack the AARP over their opposition to the Preznit's Social Security plan.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20 - Taking its cues from the success of last year's Swift boat veterans' campaign in the presidential race, a conservative lobbying organization has hired some of the same consultants to orchestrate attacks on one of President Bush's toughest opponents in the battle to overhaul Social Security.

The lobbying group, USA Next, which has poured millions of dollars into Republican policy battles, now says it plans to spend as much as $10 million on commercials and other tactics assailing AARP, the powerhouse lobby opposing the private investment accounts at the center of Mr. Bush's plan.

"They are the boulder in the middle of the highway to personal savings accounts," said Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next and former deputy under secretary of the interior in the Reagan and first Bush administrations. "We will be the dynamite that removes them."

New York Times

They've already started throwing some banner ads around the conservative web that show that they certainly mean business with this smear campaign. The first one is already running on The American Spectator's site, and some clever bloggers dug up the other two by working out the file names.

USANext Ad 1
USANext Ad 2
USANext Ad 3

Nice, huh? The AARP, it would seem, is suddenly an anti-military, pro gay marriage, uber-liberal organization. They're featured with the Mount Rushmore of liberal evil (in conservative eyes) - The Clintons, Jesse Jackson and Ted Kennedy, and then featured in a poll with the ACLU, NAACP and NARAL, those America hating organizations that are always going on and on about freedom of speech, equal rights for blacks, and privacy for women.

Josh Marshall has more here and here.

Watergate O' The Day
The Treasury Department provided assurances that the United States would not obstruct two companies' plans to import millions of barrels of oil from Iraq in March 2003 in violation of U.N. sanctions, according to an e-mail from one of the companies.

Diplomats and oil brokers have recently said that the United States had long turned a blind eye to illicit shipments of Iraqi oil by its allies Jordan and Turkey. The United States acknowledged this week that it had acquiesced in the trade to ensure that crucial allies would not suffer economic hardships.

But the e-mail, along with others released this week by Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Governmental Affairs panel's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, provides evidence that the Bush administration directly abetted Jordan's efforts to build up its strategic reserves with smuggled Iraqi oil in the weeks before the United States invaded Iraq in March 2003.

The illicit oil exports took place outside the Iraq oil-for-food program, which the United Nations administered from 1996 to 2003. While allegations of corruption and mismanagement in that program are under investigation by five congressional committees, the Justice Department and a U.N.-appointed panel, the illicit oil exports outside the program have received less scrutiny. According to investigators, Iraq received more revenue from those exports than from the alleged oil-for-food kickbacks.

Washington Post

As Bob Harris says, it's like a new Watergate every day with these people.

February 20, 2005
RIP HST

Hunter S. Thompson 1937-2005, apparently a suicide.

hunter s thompson

"No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master."

"I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me."

"America... just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable."

"We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark -- the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back."

brainyquote.com

GannonGate

If you haven't been following this whole Jeff Gannon/James Guckert story, you should be. It has everything: White House security breach, gay prostitution, insider political connections, and a stranger silence coming from the Republicans who run the committees who should be investigating. Can you imagine what would be going on right now if Clinton were in the White House? As Bill Maher said the other day, it's hard to believe that it wouldn't involve a torch-wielding mob on Pennsylvania Avenue.

For all the latest, check out AMERICAblog, they're to goto guys on this one.

And watch this video clip of Maher and his guests (Leslie Stahl, Joe Biden, Robin Williams) discussing the issue.

bill maher

As Joe Biden and Leslie Stahl both point out, the real story here is that this guy managed to get a White House press pass using a fake name. You have to be cleared by the Secret Service to get a White House press pass, so there are basically two explanations as to how this happened: 1) The security at the White House is shockingly bad, or 2) he got special treatment.

My money's on #2.

Here's another video, this one of CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewing Gannon/Guckert, and going after him hard with actual research and real honest-to-goodness reporting. Good boy, Anderson. We really don't see this kind of interview much anymore. We likes it.

gannon on anderson cooper

Gannon actually has the nerve to complain that people talking about his salacious past are bringing up irrelevant details of his past that have nothing to do with his job, which is to be a reporter. (He's not a reporter in any but the loosest sense of the world. His "reporting" tends to be limited to repeating Republican Party and White House press releases.) I wonder how he felt when Clinton's personal life was the focus of impeachment procedures. Was his relationship with Monica relevant to his job as President?

"Why should my past prevent me from having a future?" -- James Guckert a.k.a. Jeff Gannon

His former employers have taken all of his articles off of their sites, so the links are no good anymore, but the summaries from a Google search are more than enough to show what a hypocrite this jerk is.

gannon google search

Looks like someone's bringing up old shit, Jeff/James! And how about that story about an AP reporter having ties to Kerry! Wow! Scandal!

Intelligent Design: God is an Idiot

Jim Holt has a piece in the Times' Magazine today about the controversy over the "Intelligent Design" theory. No, sorry, I should have put "theory" inside the quotes too, since it's a theory in name only.

As the proponents of this absurd hypothesis manage to cram it into science curricula around the nation, the problems with the idea just become more and more obvious.

One of my favorite arguments against I.D. is the infinite regress. If the complexity of life on earth necessarily implies an intelligent designer, then the designer must by definition be even more complex, and therefor require a designer of its own, onward to infinity. So, under I.D., it is not possible to have one god; the theory requires infinite polytheism.

Holt brings up another big problem - if I.D. is true, then considering all of the major flaws in biological "design," we must assume that the designer " must have been lacking some divine trait -- benevolence or omnipotence or omniscience, or perhaps all three."

What can we tell about the designer from the design? While there is much that is marvelous in nature, there is also much that is flawed, sloppy and downright bizarre. Some nonfunctional oddities, like the peacock's tail or the human male's nipples, might be attributed to a sense of whimsy on the part of the designer. Others just seem grossly inefficient. In mammals, for instance, the recurrent laryngeal nerve does not go directly from the cranium to the larynx, the way any competent engineer would have arranged it. Instead, it extends down the neck to the chest, loops around a lung ligament and then runs back up the neck to the larynx. In a giraffe, that means a 20-foot length of nerve where 1 foot would have done. If this is evidence of design, it would seem to be of the unintelligent variety.


Such disregard for economy can be found throughout the natural order. Perhaps 99 percent of the species that have existed have died out. Darwinism has no problem with this, because random variation will inevitably produce both fit and unfit individuals. But what sort of designer would have fashioned creatures so out of sync with their environments that they were doomed to extinction?


The gravest imperfections in nature, though, are moral ones. Consider how humans and other animals are intermittently tortured by pain throughout their lives, especially near the end. Our pain mechanism may have been designed to serve as a warning signal to protect our bodies from damage, but in the majority of diseases -- cancer, for instance, or coronary thrombosis -- the signal comes too late to do much good, and the horrible suffering that ensues is completely useless.


And why should the human reproductive system be so shoddily designed? Fewer than one-third of conceptions culminate in live births. The rest end prematurely, either in early gestation or by miscarriage. Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception. Souls bearing the stain of original sin, we are told, do not merit salvation. That is why, according to traditional theology, unbaptized babies have to languish in limbo for all eternity. Owing to faulty reproductive design, it would seem that the population of limbo must be at least twice that of heaven and hell combined.

New York Times

In the end, I.D. is nothing more than a clever gambit by the religious right to take down evolution. They spread lies about evolution and posit this idea as a viable alternative, even though no respectable scientist gives it any credence since it cannot be tested. So even more fundamentally, what this whole mess is doing is creating school systems all over the country where children are being deliberately confused as to what is the basic definition of science itself. As with our political debate, the popular idea these days is that anyone's ideas, no matter how obviously flawed or blatantly biased, are as valid as anyone else's. Demonstrable truth doesn't even come into play.

Finally, to amplify Holt's point a bit, there's this story. What kind of a crackpot designer would come up with this mess?

parasitic twin

February 18, 2005
Halliburton ♥s Iran
Feb. 16 - Only weeks before Halliburton made headlines by announcing it was pulling out of Iran--a nation George W. Bush has labeled part of the "axis of evil"--the Texas-based oil services firm quietly signed a major new business deal to help develop Tehran's natural gas fields.

Halliburton's new Iran contract, moreover, appears to suggest a far closer connection with the country's hard-line government than the firm has ever acknowledged.

The deal, diplomatic sources tell NEWSWEEK, was signed with an Iranian oil company whose principals include Sirus Naseri, Tehran's chief international negotiator on matters relating to the country's hotly-disputed nuclear enrichment program--a project the Bush administration has charged is intended to develop nuclear weapons.

MSNBC.com

What You Stand To Lose

The democrats have put up a nifty little Social Security Calculator to help you determine how much you'd be screwed if Bush gets his "reform" plan enacted.

Naturally, a lot of assumptions must be made to make these calculations, but they're using the only data the government has at this point (How the Calculator Works PDF), so it's likely to more accurate than anything the administration says, since they're just using made up stuff.

As for me - assuming I don't suddenly get a fancy high paying job - I stand to lose $6,249 a year (26%) under Bush's plan. Sweet!

social security

How much will you lose?

Buster Bunny and Hot Lesbian Action

You know, sometimes this country literally turns my stomach. I'd like to take a moment to thank the radical right for trying to drag my country back into the 19th century.

The head of PBS has ordered an internal review of the children's show "Postcards From Buster" after Education Secretary Margaret Spellings and other critics attacked an episode that featured real-life lesbian mothers.

Pat Mitchell, president and chief executive of the Public Broadcasting Service, said in an interview Thursday that she had asked an internal team to analyze events leading up to the controversial "Buster" episode. The team will outline the chronology and seek input from the series' producers at Boston public television station WGBH, Mitchell said.

PBS is taking the steps because it "wants to avoid confusion and controversy," she told the Los Angeles Times. Mitchell also left open the possibility of an external review of "Buster" if the team were to find that further study was needed.

"Buster" features an animated rabbit that travels the world, learning about various people and cultures. In the criticized episode, the title character travels to a farm in Vermont to study how maple sugar is made. Among those encountered are two lesbian couples, although they are never identified as such on-screen.

LA Times

Oh, and PBS should be ashamed of itself for folding so easily in the face of this nonsense.

Hot Military Stud Reporting

In case you haven't heard about this yet, a guy calling himself Jeff Gannon (real name James D. Guckert) has managed to get credentials to attend White House press conferences and even ask the President himself direct questions, despite being not only not an actual reporter, but being an actual $200/hr escort (that means prostitute).

The whole story is by turns bizarre, hilarious, and incredibly disturbing.

Frank Rich goes over it in The New York Times.

Most importantly, the Daily Show tackles the issue as only they can.

It's all very funny, I know, but keep in mind that our government is using our money to pay for this horseshit, and a very slight majority of voters still seem to be buying it. They might even be your neighbors. Look the doors, there's no telling what they're capable of.

Not So Nuclear Option

This is funny...

You'll recall that Senate Republicans led by Majority Leader Dr. Bill "AIDS Is In Your Tears" Frist are considering invoking the "nuclear option" to prevent Democratic filibusters of judicial nominees. You WILL recall that. Do it.

Well, a doe-eyed freshman Senator, little Johnny Isakson (R-Ga) apparently didn't get the memo.

Isakson, noting he had just been in Iraq, said he asked a Kurdish leader if he worried that the majority Shiites would "overrun" the minority Kurds. And "he says, 'Oh, no, we have a secret weapon.' . . . And when asked what it was, he said one word, 'filibuster,' and then proceeded to describe their study of American democracy and our republic."

"If there were ever a reason for optimism about" giving more aid to Iraq, Isakson said, "it is one of their minority leaders proudly stating one of the pillars and principles of our government as the way they would ensure that the majority never overran the minority." The Democrats gleefully distributed his remarks.

Washington Post

Yes, Senator. It is really heartwarming to see the new Iraqi minority learning lessons from the great political system that your party is working its ass of to dismantle here at home. Fills me with the old time pride.

Bush Wins on Calss Action Suits

Funny people, these small government, states' rights conservative Republicans...

Today Bush will sign legislation which will move most class action lawsuits from state courts to federal courts, a measure which will in effect make it harder for many calss action suits to be heard at all, and give them a chillier reception when they do get heard.

Just another way the Bush administration and Republicans in Congress are protecting America's business interests from the vile and greedy American citizen.

Virtual Stan

I don't know why, but I like it.

virtual stan


February 17, 2005
Breakfast in Neverland

The Stranger (I work there) got Boing Boing'd today for Jason Huntley's awesome Michael Jackson cover (it's made of breakfast cereal)...

michael jackson

February 16, 2005
Strongly Undesirable

I guess I'm a little late to this one, but it's very important news, so...

Iraq's Ayatollah Sistani has his very own website, featuring a handy Q&A section on the laws of Islam. You can learn a lot here...

Question: Is anal intercourse permissible.?

Answer: Permission is bound to wife's agreement, but it is strongly undesirable.

He takes a slightly harder line on hand-shaking..

Question:Are shaking of hands with girls allowed?

Answer:It is not permissible.

And woe be to the man who wants to have a game of chess..

Question:Is playing a chess allowed?

Answer:It is absolutely unlawful.

And finally, the ever popular masturbation question..

Question:If my wife wants me to masturbate in front of her, is it then allowed?

Answer:You are not allowed to do it with hand, but your wife is.

Matt Yglesias also points out that the Ayatollah Khamenei, Supreme Leader of Iran, has a similar section on his website, featuring remarkably specific queries...

Q 238: While digging a canal in a cemetery changed into a public square a bone belonging to a corpse buried 40 to 50 years ago is found in it. Is there anything wrong in touching such bones for the purpose of viewing them? Are the bones impure [najis]?

A: The bone of a Muslim corpse that has been given ritual bath [ghusl] is not impure [najis], though it is obligatory to bury it under the ground.

And..

Q 74: If the lower part of a small quantity of water [qaleel water] that flows downward without pressure comes into contact with an impure substance [najasah], will its upper part remain pure [taahir]?

A: The upper part of the flowing water will be clean if the water can be said to be flowing from a higher plane to a lower one.

And finally, the roundup wouldn't be complete without a little anal play...

Q 801: Is it permissible to bring out the semen by stimulating the prostate gland by one's own finger through the anal passage so that semen is discharged without an orgasm and without causing bodily weakness?

A: The above-mentioned method is not permissible, as it is one of the instances of unlawful masturbation.

Oh, and before anyone accuses me of being insensitive to the laws of Islam, don't bother. I'm an equal-opportunity religion derider, ask anyone.

U.S. v. U.S. P.O.W.s

This is a good one...

Marc Cooper points to an LA Times story about American soldiers who were held prisoner by Saddam Hussein's regime during the 1991 Gulf War, some of them at Abu Ghraib, where they were tortured, as apparently is the custom at that place.

In 2003 a U.S. court awarded these soldiers compensation from Iraq, which goes along well with statements our own Defense Secretary has made about the victims of our torture.

"I am seeking a way to provide appropriate compensation to those detainees who suffered grievous and brutal abuse and cruelty at the hands of a few members of the U.S. military. It is the right thing to do," Rumsfeld told a Senate committee last year.

LA Times

Well, guess what? The Bush administration has launched a court battle against the U.S. soldiers to prevent them from collecting the damages. They claim that the current government of Iraq has been absolved of all guilt (by virtue of our having taken over the place), and needs the money for other stuff.

Congress tried to step in, but that was quashed too..

The administration also succeeding in killing a congressional resolution supporting the POWs' suit. "U.S. courts no longer have jurisdiction to hear cases such as those filed by the Gulf War POWs," then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said in a letter to lawmakers. "Moreover, the president has ordered the vesting of blocked Iraqi assets for use by the Iraqi people and for reconstruction."

You gotta love these guys.. they truly have no shame.

Nuclear Option

Ari Berman at The Nation details how Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Bill Frist, are maneuvering to institute a rule change - known as the Nuclear Option - that would prevent the Democrats from mounting a successful challenge to a Bush judicial nominee.

Under the "nuclear option," Republicans would ask the chamber's presiding officer, who happens to be Vice President Dick Cheney, whether Democratic filibusters are unconstitutional. After Cheney rewrites history by declaring them so, only a simple majority of 51 votes is needed to uphold the ruling, as opposed to the 60 votes required to break a filibuster or the 67 votes required to change the rules under normal procedures. If invoked, the next Supreme Court opening could be filled without any Democrat support, even if four Republicans defect from the party line.

The Nation

Naturally, the Republicans are being entirely hypocritical on this, having blocked fully one-third of Bill Clinton's appeals court nominees. The Democrats blocked just 10 of 229 Bush appointees during his first term, but the Republicans are still ranting and raving about the Democrats "obstructing" the process.

Obviously, the idea that the minority has some limited power to block the majority from ramming through anyone they want is there for a reason. When convenient, the Repugs are happy to take advantage. Now that the shoe is on the other foot, even though that means they are in a far more powerful position overall, they insist on having total power.

Oh, and in their trademark Newspeaky style, they've taken to calling the nuclear option the "constitutional option." Frankly, I'm starting to think that if we as a country are retarded enough to let these people get away with this nonsense, we deserve what we get. Just don't act all surprised.

Kyoto, Oil, and You

As the Kyoto treaty goes into effect today, despite the U.S. shunning, I'm reminded of Thomas Friedman's column from this weekend, linking our pathetic stance on environmental issues with Islamic terrorism.

It's an interesting argument, one I happen to agree with.

The basic hypocrisy is this: the Bush administration and conservative leaders in general tend to favor a hands-off approach to environmental laws. They don't think the government should tell business what to do, and they believe that pollution controls hinder business growth. They think that leaving industry to police itself is enough. They consistently oppose legislating energy conservation, such as raising fuel efficiency standards for cars. And, of course, Kyoto.

The link to terrorism comes in when you consider that a huge portion of the money we spend on oil goes to countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. Our government is making a lot of noise about Iran's nuclear weapons programs, while back home the oppose policies that would rob these regimes of income. So, in essence, we're paying our enemies, and the less attention we pay to energy conservation, the more aggressive these states can become, since they become more financially independent.

So if you drive a Hummer or some other gas-guzzling behemoth and it has a "Support Our Troops" ribbon on it, you're a hypocrite. If you want to really support our troops and their mission in the Middle East - whatever that is this week - you may want to consider how much your lifestyle is funding the people who are trying to kill them.

We use more energy than any country in the world. Oil prices are not going to go down over the long term, they will only go up. Think about it.

By adamantly refusing to do anything to improve energy conservation in America, or to phase in a $1-a-gallon gasoline tax on American drivers, or to demand increased mileage from Detroit's automakers, or to develop a crash program for renewable sources of energy, the Bush team is - as others have noted - financing both sides of the war on terrorism. We are financing the U.S. armed forces with our tax dollars, and, through our profligate use of energy, we are generating huge windfall profits for Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan, where the cash is used to insulate the regimes from any pressure to open up their economies, liberate their women or modernize their schools, and where it ends up instead financing madrassas, mosques and militants fundamentally opposed to the progressive, pluralistic agenda America is trying to promote. Now how smart is that?

New York Times

Jailing of Journalists Upheld

The two reporters being charged with contempt of court for refusing to disclose confidential sources in the Valerie Plame affair have lost their latest appeal.

Neither reporter actually used the information in an article, but the three-federal-judge panel determined that was irrelevant.

Robert Novak, meanwhile, is the only person who did write publicly that Valerie Plame was a covert operative. He hasn't been charged with any crime. The only (reasonable) explanation for that would be that he has cooperated with the grand jury. He has no comment.

Scariest about all of this is all of the secrecy involved.

Aspects of the case remain secret. Mr. Fitzgerald submitted secret evidence to the appeals court that neither the reporters nor their lawyers were allowed to see. And the public version of Judge Tatel's concurrence includes eight blank pages along with the notation that they have been redacted.

That is scary, Ms. Miller said.

"I risk going to jail," she said, "for a story I didn't write, for reasons a court won't explain."

The New York Times

February 15, 2005
R.I.P. Wilson the Fat Cat

Begin pity party

Sadly, my wonderful little sister Carolyn's wonderful fat cat Wilson was attacked by a dog this past weekend, and after struggling at the vet for 2 days, she had to put him down this morning. I hate to think of pets dying - the last time I lost a pet I was a wreck. I felt like I had lost my best friend. I feel like Roo is my damn kid sometimes, and shudder to think of his getting hurt or having to make a decision like Carolyn had to make.

Anyway, the other sad part is that Leen's vet bill for this whole affair is over $2400. She's kind of screwed. I don't typically do this, but I figured I'd use my bully pulpit here to appeal to anyone who's feeling a little charitable to toss 5, 10, or 20 bucks her way (no more than 20, though, or I'll feel bad). I know it would help her out tremendously.


No PayPal account required.

Okay, that's it. End pity party. Back to our regular programming... Bush sucks.

February 14, 2005
Tighter Bankruptcy Laws
Republican leaders in Congress began clearing the way yesterday for swift passage of legislation backed by the credit card industry and opposed by consumer groups that would make it harder for consumers to wipe out debt through bankruptcy.

Washington Post

Hey, who better to look out for your financial well-being than credit card company lobbyists? They only want what's best for the country, after all.

Now, sure, I'm all for personal responsibility, and if you ran up too much credit card debt buying big screen TVs and getting cash advances in Vegas, well, that was stupid.

But what they're trying to do here is make it much harder for people to file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which wipes clean your debt, never to be repaid. Obviously, it's already pretty hard to get this kind of protection and it can be overruled by a court if they think the law is being abused. In addition, if you file Chapter 7, you have to give up most of your assets and "other essentials." In other words, there are already protections in place.

Republicans and lobbyists like to pretend that this is just a big free ride and all manner of people are using it as a free pass. Of course that's not even close to true. You know some people, right? Do you know anyone who is just itching to declare bankruptcy?

No, many people who are forced into bankruptcy are regular people who fall on hard times, most often as a result of medical bills. So the proposed solution isn't to construct a more equitable health care system, but to make it harder to find relief.

Studies by the nonpartisan American Bankruptcy Institute show that about 3 percent of the people who file Chapter 7 could actually afford to repay even a portion of their debt. The credit card company lobbyists say it's more like 10 percent. They also claim to be remotely credible.

What they don't dispute is that the companies they represent are experiencing booming profits and continue to offer credit to just about anyone, often specifically targeting those who can least afford it and who least understand how to use it responsibly.

For more on the credit card industry, I recommend Frontline's "Secret History of the Credit Card". You can watch the whole episode online, but at the very least everyone should read Eight Things Every Credit Card User Should Know.

Example: Did you know that you rates can be raised if you're late on payments to anyone, not only to the lender in question? So, if you miss a car payment, your credit card company can raise you interest rate, even though they have absolutely nothing to do with your car financing.

Wal-Mart Very Slightly Punished, But Then Again, Not At All

It was announced on Saturday that the Department of Labor had reached a settlement with Wal-Mart over their violations of child labor laws in three states. The company was ordered to pay $135,540 (.000055 percent of annual revenue) and has agreed to get 15 days' advance notice the next time the government wants to investigate any other "wage and hour" accusations, which include failure to pay minimum wage and overtime as well as violations of child labor laws.

That'll show the bastards! Let's see them recover from this!

... several department officials suggested that the provision for 15 days' notice might give Wal-Mart an opportunity to hide violations.

John R. Fraser, the government's top wage official under the first President Bush and President Bill Clinton, said the advance-notice provision was unusually expansive.

"Giving the company 15 days' notice of any investigation is very unusual," Mr. Fraser said. "The language appears to go beyond child labor allegations and cover all wage and hour allegations. It appears to put Wal-Mart in a privileged position that to my knowledge no other employer has."

[Assistant labor secretary for employment standards] Ms. Lipnic countered,.

"We usually call employers before we go to investigate," and said there was "nothing uncommon or unprecedented about that."

New York Times

Ah yes.. Ms. Lipnic is a very good Bush functionary. She has clearly taken Karl Rove's seminar, "Being Evil: It's Really Not That Hard." See how the criticism is that 15 days' notice puts Wal-Mart in a privileged and unprecedented position and she counters by saying they usually call before they go to investigate?

Why it's as if these crazy critics are just yammering about an agreement to do what they already do! What a bunch of yammering crazy critics!

Of course, what she doesn't refute is that an agreement with a company to always give a specific amount of notice is unprecedented. She doesn't refute that because, of course, it's the truth and she's a liar. Speaking the truth burns her throat.

Several federal employees voiced concern about a Jan. 10 e-mail message sent by the director of the Little Rock, Ark., office for the Labor Department's wage and hour division after the settlement was reached, that said, "Wage & Hour will not open an investigation of Wal-Mart without first notifying Wal-Mart's main office and allowing them an opportunity to look at the alleged violations and, if valid, correct the problem."

But Cynthia Watson, the division's Southwest regional director, said advance notice would speed compliance. "We are seeking to centralize the points of contact in order to get the people involved to resolve the issue," Ms. Watson said.

And there you have it. "Centralize points of contact." In other words, Wal-Mart broke the law. As part of their punishment, they will be allowed to handle any and all future illegal activity in this area internally and without the messiness of a public investigation. Because really, who would that benefit?

February 12, 2005
Gates of New York

The New York press, and Nightline, has been all a twitter lately over "The Gate", Christo's latest art project. I really wish I had the chance to see it in person.

the gates

Every story I've seen or read on the project includes the requisite hater, someone from the Sierra Club or just some random crank who declares that The Gates are "ugly" or "an inappropriate use of public space." It's a shame these people have lost their sense of wonder. Whether you like the particular aesthetic of the project or not, it seems to me a good thing regardless. It doesn't have to mean anything, it's just pretty.

And if you really don't like it, it'll be gone forever in two weeks, so get over it.

I like it.

P.S. -- Sorry for the lack of updates lately. Sometimes I need a little break from the politics. But here's a little recap of recent events:

Bush's Budget: Ridiculous. This guy calls himself a conservative? Please. Not to mention that they're not counting the money for our various wars or for his Social Security scuttling plan, but are counting revenue from drilling in ANWR, which hasn't been approved by the Congress, and has in fact been rejected several times. In short, a pack of lies. Big surprise.

North Korea: They come right out and say that they have nukes, and they're actually in range of American soil, but we're playing this one cool. Iran, on the other hand, we're going after full bore because some of their political dissidents have reported a weapons program. Gee, that sounds familiar.

Latah.

Big Day For The Big Man

happy birthday dad

You too, Mr. Lincoln.

February 9, 2005
Ouch

flu virus

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. While most healthy people recover from the flu without complications, some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious complications from the flu.

CDC

February 7, 2005
Down, Dirty, and Demoted

Traffic around the old 'nose suddenly spiked yesterday, so I checked the stats and most of the new hits are coming from people searching for some variation on "national guard mud wrestling pics". Thanks to the wonders of web searching, this query leads people to this post of mine from last February.

Naturally this piqued my curiosity. A new military scandal? This time with muddy ladies? Reenactments of that scene in Stripes?

It turns out that's pretty much right. Some soldiers have been demoted after throwing a mud-wrestling party at Camp Bucca in Iraq.

The News reported the debauchery at Camp Bucca after receiving more than 30 photos of female G.I.s stripped to their undies and cavorting in a mud-filled pool as their male comrades in arms cheered them on.

The incident allegedly was organized by sergeants, and involved men and women assigned to guard Iraqi detainees transferred there from notorious Abu Ghraib prison, according to an Army report obtained by The News.

Investigators quoted a witness who said that sergeants involved also were lending their rooms to male and female soldiers for sex parties.

But, said Eve Bucca, "We are still very proud of the camp and of the men and women who serve there."

NY Daily News

And yes, there are pictures, you sickos.

February 6, 2005
Henhouse Hell

Yikes.

... an agrarian revolution in Southeast Asia and China that has more than doubled poultry production in barely a decade, bringing pickup trucks, air conditioning and other trappings of prosperity to long-destitute peasants and more protein to the diets of hundreds of millions of ordinary Asians.

But with chickens now packed into farmyards alongside other livestock, international health experts warn that conditions are set for a bird flu pandemic that could kill millions worldwide if the virus developed into a form capable of spreading among humans.

...

U.N. agriculture officials say farmers can take simple steps to prevent the disease from spreading. They can require that workers disinfect their shoes, change clothing and spray their vehicles before entering a poultry farm. They can ban outsiders from chicken sheds, keep other animals away and keep egg trays and cages clean.

But farmers resist such measures, health and agriculture experts say. And governments in the region lack the money, manpower and, at times, political will to enforce these requirements on an industry that has become a vital component of economic growth.

As a result, the prevalence of the infection in birds makes a new, more deadly human outbreak likely. Public health experts say it is only a matter of time before the flu strain remakes itself, unleashing a disease that is both highly lethal and as easy to catch as an ordinary flu bug.

If this occurs, World Health Organization officials predict that, in the most optimistic scenario, 2 million to 7 million people would die worldwide and that the toll could potentially reach 100 million. Health experts say the virus has already exhibited traits similar to those that caused the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, which is estimated to have killed about 40 million people.

(emphasis mine)
Washington Post

Yikes.

Social Security Flip-Flop

Cheney today admitted that the administration's plan to "reform" Social Security involves borrowing $758 billion over the next 10 years, and then "trillions more after that." Even those staggering sums are the result of some number-fudging, as Host Chris Wallace pointed out.

All this while the President tours the country touting his reform plan and conning people into thinking it will "save" Social Security.

Problem is, it won't. It will kill Social Security, and that's exactly their intention.

Bush added new details to his proposal for individual accounts, under which workers could direct some of the taxes now paid for Social Security to mutual funds investing in stocks and bonds.

In a significant shift in his rationale for the accounts, Bush dropped his claim that they would help solve Social Security's fiscal problems -- a link he sometimes made during last year's presidential campaign. Instead, he said the individual accounts were desirable because they would be "a better deal," providing workers what he said would be a higher rate of return and "greater security in retirement."

A Bush aide, briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity, was more explicit, saying that the individual accounts would do nothing to solve the system's long-term financial problems.

Los Angeles Times

Josh Marshall asks, "At what point does this proposed policy collapse under the weight of its own ridiculousness?"

Soon, I hope, but not too soon. I'd like to see him talk about nothing else for a few more months while everyone realizes what a load of crap the whole thing is. See how much "political capital" he has left then.

Bush Hates Veterans

Keep this in mind the next time you see Bush doing a photo-op with wounded soldiers or talking about respect for our veterans.

President Bush's budget would more than double the co-payment charged to many veterans for prescription drugs and would require some to pay a new fee of $250 a year for the privilege of using government health care, administration officials said Sunday.

The proposals, they said, are in the $2.5 trillion budget that Mr. Bush plans to unveil on Monday. White House officials said the budget advanced his goal of cutting the deficit, which hit a record last year.

"We are being tight," Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Fox News Sunday." "This is the tightest budget that has been submitted since we got here."

New York Times

Fantastic

Via Atrios...

In Omaha on Friday, a divorced single mother named Mary Mornin tells the president, "I have one child, Robbie, who is mentally challenged, and I have two daughters."

"Fantastic," the president exclaims, and he tells her she has "the hardest job in America, being a single mom."

Later, the 57-year old Mornin tells Bush that she works three jobs, which the president deems "uniquely American" and "fantastic." He asks her if she gets any sleep.

Washington Post

Yeah, you know what, it is uniquely American for a single mother of a 3, one mentally disabled, to have to work three jobs. It's fucking FANTASTIC!!

What an asshole.

Bush Bulge Revisited

FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) has a fascinating look at the entire timeline of the bulge on Bush's back during one of the presidential debates.

bush bulge

As it turns out, the Times pursued a major story on this, using the findings of the NASA image analysis expert Robert Nelson, but the editors killed the story because of its potential to affect the election. They paper lied about the story for months, claiming it was never pursued, but has since admitted that it was.

Imagine living in a country where the "paper of record" kills a story about the president possibly being fed answers during a debate because it might affect the election. Scary, no? Let us put it out of our heads.

Bush the Salesman

Mark Leibovich puts the Bush Social Security pitch in perspective. It's a sales pitch, using all the manipulative techniques of the sales industry.

It's interesting that according to surveys, the least trusted profession in America is "national politician" followed closely by "car salesman." Maybe they should just merge the categories.

Top Bond Fund Manager Criticized Bush Plan
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Bill Gross, manager of the world's largest bond fund, is criticizing President Bush's plan to privatize part of Social Security.

Gross, managing director at Pimco, called the argument about the solvency of Social Security "silly" and said it was an example of the president not focusing on more important issues, such as the budget deficit.

The president's argument for individual Social Security accounts is meant "to promote an agenda that has little to do with seniors and more to do with Bush, his ownership society, and ultimately his domestic legacy alongside the likes of Ronald Reagan and FDR," Gross wrote in comments posted on Pimco's Web site.

"Without a blockbuster of a program in his second term it is unlikely that Bush can go very far in the history books on the back of a paltry 3 or 4 percentage point tax cut for the rich," Gross wrote.

CNN/Money

Tough Sell

It's great to see that, even in the reddest of red states, Bush is facing a tough sell on his Social Security plan.

It's going to be fun to watch him lose this battle. Josh Marshall is covering every moment diligently.

Meanwhile, the White House's new budget calls for sharp cuts to farm subsidies, which I'm sure will be popular with that Rural American Heartland with which he so often falsely identifies himself.

Naturally, the one proposal that's never on the table when it comes to the budget is taking back the tax cuts for the rich. Instead, he wants to make them permanent. Screw the farmers, protect the millionaires. A real man of the people.

Slapnose, Producer

To my many other titles, we can now add "Film Producer."

1 second film frame

The 1 Second Film is a project to make a 1 second IMAX film. It will be the world's biggest shortest film.

The concept:


The 1 Second Film is animated. There are 12 frames that create the animation; each frame is a GIANT 5ft x 9ft painting that had it's own director and was painted by hundreds of people during an all-night event.

Each of the 12 giant frames will be filmed twice to create the 24 frames in one second of film. After the film's World Premiere, the paintings will be on exhibit and sold to raise money for charity.

...

At the center of The 1 Second Film is an idea of perfect moments: an idea that the perfect moments in life are often the smallest. Is it possible to create perfect moments?

The 1 Second Film is as much concerned with the process in which a moment is created as it is with the final result. By using animation, a great deal of time and effort is compressed into a single moment. The film is a collection of the moments in which it was created.
1secondfilm.com

The moment they have chosen is a 1 second clip of a woman having an orgasm. Not a bad choice. Certainly, "a great deal of time and effort is compressed into a single moment" applies here.

The credits following the film will last an estimated 60 minutes and feature a documentary as well as the name every producer, among them Pierce Brosnan, Kevin Bacon, Spike Jonze, Stephen Colbert, and ME.

All proceeds benefit the Global Fund for Women, which, judging solely on their name, is a good cause.

February 3, 2005
No Butt

This is just wonderful. Waldo Jaquith passes along the news that Virginia is planning to come out with license plates that say "TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE" and have "two interlocked golden wedding bands over a red heart."

Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-Prince William, who sponsored the legislation, said it would merely embrace 4,000 years of history on marriage and show children that "traditional marriage is fundamental."

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Okay, first of all, this 4,000 years of marriage thing is baloney. Marriage the way these idiots think of it is a fairly recent invention. If we're embracing 4,000 year old definitions of marriage, why not have "IF MY WIFE DISOBEYS ME, I'LL KILL THE BITCH" license plates? Or "ONE MAN, ONE WOMAN (OF THE SAME COLOR)"?

Again, this debate is no different than the debate we had in this country over interracial marriage several decades ago. I don't see too many people defending the "traditional marriage" viewpoint from back then. This, too, will be revealed to be the simple bigotry that is is in due time. Pity those on the wrong side now.

Waldo has made his own version of the new plate, emphasizing what these jackasses are really on about.

no butt

While your over there, throw a couple bucks to his Virginia Family Values PAC, which is fighting these people.

In a way, it would be hilarious if they do approve these plates. They can't possibly require that one be in a "traditional marriage" to get one, so I can imagine that lots of gays and gay activists will get them, with funny vanity slogans to go along (a bit more subtle than the one above), and display the plates next to a bumper full of gay pride stickers.

A Hell of a Lot of Fun

Noted without comment..

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A senior U.S. Marine Corps general who said it was "fun to shoot some people" should have chosen his words more carefully but will not be disciplined, military officials said on Thursday.

Lt. Gen. James Mattis, who led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, made the comments at a conference Tuesday in San Diego.

"Actually it's quite fun to fight 'em, you know. It's a hell of a hoot. It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right up front with you, I like brawling," said Mattis.

"You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil," Mattis said during a panel discussion. "You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them."

In a statement, Gen. Michael Hagee, commander of the Marine Corps, praised Mattis as "one of this country's bravest and most experienced military leaders."

"While I understand that some people may take issue with the comments made by him, I also know he intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war," Hagee said.

"I have counseled him concerning his remarks and he agrees he should have chosen his words more carefully," Hagee added.

Maj. Jason Johnston, a Marine spokesman at the Pentagon, said Hagee did not plan any disciplinary action against Mattis. Johnston declined to provide details of how Hagee had counseled Mattis, calling it a private matter.

At a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he could not comment on the remarks, but Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the general as having set a stellar example for troops in his service abroad.

Mattis is commander of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia, south of Washington.

My Way News

Ah, screw it, I'm going to comment.

This guy is a dick. I am frankly flabbergasted that the Marines aren't going to discipline this guy. Worse, they can't even manage to condemn what he said. The statement that he "intended to reflect the unfortunate and harsh realities of war" is partially true, since by his very existence he reflects those things, but mostly a crock of shit. His intention was to say how much fun he has blowing people away, nothing more. That someone of his obvious intellect could rise to the level of General is a true credit to our nation.

General Mattis, if you're reading this, I have a question:
Where's your honor, dirtbag?

February 2, 2005
Democratic Response

On the Democratic response...

Man these guys are stiff. It's no wonder that the folksy Bush schtick works better than this Frankenstein routine. They've been watching too much tape of John Kerry's campaign. Nancy Pelosi needs to blink more and not use the word 'therein,' and Harry Reid's gotta lay off the little fake laughs.

On the issues, I'm right there with you guys, most of the time, but for the love of god, someone get these people a media consultant.

SOTU

Full text as prepared.

Center for American Progress filters the lies for you.

My favorite part, besides when the Democrats booed his ass over the Social Security lies, was certainly his announcement of a war on frivolous asbestos lawsuits. It's about freakin' time.

I also liked when he demanded an up or down vote for all judicial nominees.. what a weird thing for the majority party to recommend.

Broken Promises

Tonight is Bush's State of the Union address, the annual speech in which he says a bunch of stuff that sounds really good but he has no intention of actually following through on.

The Centers for American Progress reminds us of all the broken promises Bush has made in his past SOTU (that's what cool people and/or total geeks call them) addresses. Here are a few...

BROKEN PROMISE 2004 – NUCLEAR SECURITY: Last year, President Bush charged, "America is committed to keep dangerous weapons from dangerous regimes." Under Bush's watch, North Korea's nuclear arsenal is thought to have quadrupled. Charles Pritchard, formerly Colin Powell's top official dealing with North Korea, has warned for months that "the White House lacks an effective strategy to dissuade North Korea from building up its nuclear arms." And while the U.S. sat passively on the sidelines, North Korea may have sold nuclear material to Libya. In fact, instead of stepping up efforts to secure nuclear materials, a recent Harvard University report titled "Securing the Bomb: An Agenda for Action," finds "less fissile materials were secured in the two years after Sept. 11 than in the two years before."

BROKEN PROMISE 2004 – TAX CUTS: President Bush touted his massive tax cuts in last year's State of the Union, saying, "The tax relief you passed is working." Think again. President Bush drained resources from domestic programs for middle-class families to give a tax windfall to the nation's wealthiest. For example, the Bush tax cuts for the richest 1 percent of Americans will cost $148 billion this year alone. "That is twice as much as the government will spend on job training, $6.2 billion; college Pell grants, $12 billion; public housing, $6.3 billion; low-income rental subsidies, $19 billion; child care, $4.8 billion; insurance for low-income children, $5.2 billion; low-income energy assistance, $1.8 billion; meals for shut-ins, $180 million; and welfare, $16.9 billion."

BROKEN PROMISE 2002 – POLICE AND FIREFIGHTERS: In his first State of the Union address after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush vowed to support local first responders, saying: "We'll increase funding to help states and communities train and equip our heroic police and firefighters." He didn't follow through. Last year's Homeland Security appropriations bill signed by President Bush cut funding for first responders by nearly $500 million and shortchanged programs vital to local fire departments. Today, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), budget cuts have left at least two-thirds of the nation's fire departments understaffed, and nationwide, firefighters "are arriving to fires later each year, with barely over a third of fire departments meeting standards for response time." In his most recent budget, Bush also eviscerated the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which puts police officers on the street, cutting it from $481.9 million to $97 million.

Progress Report, 2/2/05

He's full of shit. Keep it in mind.

Side note: The Centers for American Progress have also announced a new blog, Think Progress (thinkprogress.org | RSS Feed). They will be live-blogging the address tonight, with special guest blogger John Podesta, CEO of American Progress.

February 1, 2005
Bush's Ploy

This is lovely.

Republicans are coming right out and saying that parts of the agenda that Bush will advocate in his State of the Union address tomorrow night are not so much policies pursued on ideological grounds but gambits designed to take money and voters away from Democrats and solidify Republican control of government for years after he leaves office.

President Bush's agenda for the next four years, much of which he will highlight in his State of the Union address Wednesday night, includes many proposals that would not only change public policy but achieve an ambitious political goal: stripping money and voters from the Democratic Party and cementing Republican dominance for years after he leaves office.   One of the clearest examples is an effort to limit jury awards in lawsuits against doctors and businesses. The caps might not only discourage "frivolous" lawsuits, as Bush argues, but also deprive trial lawyers of income from damage awards that they could then give to Democrats.

"If we could succeed in getting some form of tort reform passed -- medical malpractice reform or any of part of that -- it would go a long ways toward ... taking away the muscle, the financial muscle that they have," said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who ousted Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle last fall despite a heavy flood of trial lawyer money backing the Democrat.

LA Times

Remember this whenever you hear these assholes talk about tort reform as though they care about lowering the price of health care and protecting doctors and blah blah blah. Their goal is to have lawyers make less money because lawyers give money to Democrats. That's all. They don't give a rat's ass about you.