Thursday, December 21, 2006

Atrios has been snookered!

It went fine for me, but it looks Atrios' upgrade to the newer, googlier Eschaton has a taken a dramatic turn for the worse. You can still read his hyper-ironic goodness here, for the moment.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

TIME cops out again

I think I just hurt my eyeballs from rolling them so hard. TIME Magazine's Person of the Year is... Nancy Pelosi? George W. Bush? Kim Jong Il? John Murtha?

Nope, it's everyone! Literally... everyone! Joy! As August Pollack put it, it's Everybody Gets A Trophy Day!

Seriously, though, the idea is that, apparently, since lots of people blog and use Youtube and have Facebook accounts, we have, I guess, been more significant than any single person, or something. I really didn't need TIME magazine to tell me that the sum total of everyone who uses the internet has had a greater effect on world events than any single person (nor, by the way TIME, did I need you to know that there are, in fact, a rather large number of people on the planet, and in this country for that matter, who have not used the internet much at all in the past year. They're called the poor, and believe it or not TIME, there are a lot of them. It's a little weird that such a prestigious magazine so callously assumed that EVERYONE, or even just everyone who ever reads TIME, has access to the internet and its requisite tools enough to do things like record Youtube videos.).

There's more to this, though, than just a lame choice for the distinction. It caps a number of questionable choices as of late that the magazine has made to avoid doing anything that could piss off redstate neanderthals who don't get the point of Person of the Year (which, as many of you likely know, is pointing out the person with the greatest effect on current events, be it positive or negative (which is why they could choose Adolf Hitler in 1938). George W. Bush, if I remember correctly, held the distinction both in 2000 and 2004, which can grant even if I don't agree (the person with the most effect on world events in 2000 was not George Bush: it was Bill Clinton) but in 2001 it was Rudy Giuliani. Now one could easily argue that W deserved it more than Guiliani because he actually guided national policy at that time, kicking off the War on Terrorism and going into Afghanistan, but even that's a cop-out.

The person who deserved it in 2001, indisputably, was Osama bin Laden.

That, of course, would be controversial to the mouth-breaters who don't get that this isn't an award, so what did TIME do? They made it into an award. That's why "women whistle-blowers" got it in 2002, and "the American soldier" in '03, and freakin' Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates in '05. Really? In all that time, no Terri Shiavo? Karl Rove? Tom Delay? Howard Dean? Ahmed Chalabi? Project for a New American Century? The Christian Right? Swift Boat Veterans? The Netroots? OPEC? Al Gore?

This is just another example of how the national press is been so cowed by the Right that they're willing to change the rules to appease them, no matter if the Right's beef actually has any merit whatsoever. In fact, TIME itself has been more than a little suspect the last couple of years. Just recently they gave James Dobson a column so that he could his junk science claims on the evils of same-sex marriage, but never bothered to fact-check the column. Or take a look here at the difference between the covers in November 1994 (when the GOP took the House) and November 2006 (when Democrats took the House, both liberal and centrist, in larger numbers than the GOP did at any point since the Eisenhower Administration). And how could we forget their unbelievably grotesque hagiography of Ann Coulter last year?

You can see a more exhaustive list at Media Matters.


The big story today is Reid's statement on W and St. McCain's super-awesome idea to go double-or-nothing in Iraq ("double down" is not the right metaphor, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, and in order for either metaphor to be accurate, you have to remember that American and Iraqi lives are the chips). From Reuters:
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid said on Sunday he would support a short-term increase in U.S. troops in Iraq being weighed by President George W. Bush if it is part of a broader withdrawal plan.

Bush has been talking to experts about a new Iraq strategy and a short-term increase in U.S. troops to help make Baghdad more secure is one idea that has been presented to him.

"If it's for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it," said Reid, who will become the majority leader when Democrats take control of the Senate next month from Bush's Republicans. He spoke on ABC's "This Week" program.

People are freaking out about this statement (just check out dKos tonight!), and clearly the press is planning to run with this as far as they can because the press luuuuvs stories about "Democrats in disarray!" "Democrats go all weak-kneed before the massive codpiece of the W!" "All the sensible, serious people support the latest "one last chance" in Iraq!"

Both, so it seems to me, are relying on a certain "trimming" of the major qualifier in Reid's statement. These people are reading the statement as "I support the president's [and John McCain and Joe Lieberman's] plan to increase troops in Iraq."

But that's not what he says. Look at the original statement again: "If [the president's likely plan to increase troops is] for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it."

Atrios is virtually alone in the blogosphere as someone who caught this distinction:
People seem to be upset that Reid sorta-endorsed the McCain/Lieberman plan to increase the number of troops in the short run. I don't really see it that way - no Senator can expect to micromanage troop levels in Iraq. Reid basically said that he's fine with any strategy which has the goal of getting the troops out by about next Spring. That, of course, isn't the McCain/Lieberman strategy. [emphasis mine]

That last part's the catch. Reid's only saying that he'll go along with a 3 month long surge that actually is part of that "moonwalking" plan the generals were talking about right after the election, a plan to withdraw while appearing to escalate. Whether or not that's a good idea is a different matter, but that's not what the W will probably settle on (and certainly not what McCain/Lieberman is talking about when he advocates for a troop increase). The president is not done in Iraq, he still thinks he can "win" it, and any troop additions will not be part of a withdrawal plan; they'll be part of an escalation, pure and simple. Thus, is the president's surge only supposed to last for 2 to 3 months? No. Is it part of a program to withdraw by this time next year? No.

Then there's no evidence, based on this quote, that Reid is or would ever sign onto an escalation.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

John McCain wants you to STFU

So St. John's in a wee bit o' trouble. Looks like W's actually taking his idea to increase the troop levels in Iraq seriously. Even worse, it comes right on the heels of a Iraq Study Group report that a) recommends a drawdown of troops in 2 years, and b) has ideas widely held as good advice by the public ("widely," as in 79% in some cases!). The problem is, when McCain proposed increasing troop levels, he didn't actually want W to go along with it. That way, when 2008 comes and he has to run against the Democratic nominee, his fellow GOP candidates, and the president, he would have the ultimate debating piece on the signature issue of the day: "Well, ya know Ms. Ifill, we could've won the war if the president had gone along with my suggestion!"

As it stands if W increases troop levels, though, McCain will have been LBJ'ed without even getting elected first!

All is not lost, however, for the Washington press corps' favorite right-winger. After all, at the moment, there's really only one group out there that doesn't have a huge crush on St. McCain: the blogs. In fact, no one hates John McCain more than the kids at Daily Kos, except maybe the kids at RedState. And there's no one louder and no one with a more... troublesome... record for dethroning public figures than the blogosphere.

And leave it to McCain to find a fix for them (and by them, I mean us):
The other section of McCain's legislation targets convicted sex offenders. It would create a federal registry of "any e-mail address, instant-message address, or other similar Internet identifier" they use, and punish sex offenders with up to 10 years in prison if they don't supply it.

Then, any social-networking site must take "effective measures" to remove any Web page that's "associated" with a sex offender.

Because "social-networking site" isn't defined, it could encompass far more than just, Friendster and similar sites. The list could include: Slashdot, which permits public profiles;, which permits author profiles and personal lists; and blogs like that show public profiles. In addition, media companies like publisher CNET Networks permit users to create profiles of favorite games, gadgets and music.

"This constitutionally dubious proposal is being made apparently mostly based on fear or political considerations rather than on the facts," said EFF's Bankston. Studies by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children show the online sexual solicitation of minors has dropped in the past five years, despite the growth of social-networking services, he said.

A McCain aide, who did not want to be identified by name, said on Friday that the measure was targeted at any Web site that "you'd have to join up or become a member of to use." No payment would be necessary to qualify, the aide added.

In this political climate, members of Congress may not worry much about precise definitions.

Bloggers would also be responsible for content posted in the comments section of their blogs, and could be fined $300,000, which would more than bankrupt just about any blogger on the first offense. Thus, McCain gets to chill online political activity (and perhaps annihilate it entirely) while hiding behind the "chasing child molesters" monster.

And he has the gall to do this in the same week that the Republican Congress absolved itself of any wrongdoing in aiding and abetting a sexual predator for 5 frakin' years.

These Republicans, St. McCain included, really are beneath contempt.

Make no mistake about it, folks: John McCain is a rightwing neocon nutjob who wants more government in your personal life, has no respect for the freedoms guaranteed you by the Bill of Rights, and is willing to risk more American lives if it will win him political points. A vote for John McCain in '08 is a vote for more of the same.

notes on the Democratic victory

Sorry, people, looks like the election exhausted me for a while! Hopefully I'm recharged and ready to start up again, but I won't guarantee anything. I will try to keep up with this, though.

So about the election: what a ride, eh? I have to say, we were successful way beyond my expectations. The House looked like it was ours coming in, but I really didn't think we were gonna win the Senate! Obviously, it's only a Democratic Senate pending Senator Johnson's (D-SD) recovery from what appears to be a stroke, but the victory is amazing nonetheless. I would never have guessed that Webb would win in Virginia. That's awful news for the GOP, as the Commonwealth has been trending blue for a while, but does this mean it's reached the tipping point? Virginia's already elected a Democratic governor (to succeed the last governor, who also was a Democrat) and booted a popular Senator and former governor for a Democrat that, contrary to the media narrative, is no conservative. In fact, Jim Webb is an economic populist (as in, pro-worker, anti-big business, raves against rising income inequality), which is the old conservative's bogeyman. Are Virginia's 13 electoral votes going to be in play in 2 years?

A note about the media narrative also: the big story after the election was the election of "conservative Democrats." Everyone was talking about this, from Rush Limbaugh to David Brooks to the front page of the NYT. Only the American media would be so ditzy and gullible that they would believe the right-wingers "conservative Democrat" horseshit after the election of, among others, the first Socialist senator (Bernie Sanders, I-VT)! Jim Webb rails on income inequality; Jon Tester wants to repeal the USA PATRIOT Act; Sheldon Whitehouse (the quintessential Nor'eastern liberal) defeated a Republican incumbent who was both popular and moderate; Ned Lamont won his primary over a centrist Democrat who was, again, both popular and moderate... the list goes on. This was a victory for Democrats of all stripes, but liberals/progressives were more than amply represented in the winner's circle.

And by the way, it's doubly stupid for the media to pretend like conservative Democrats are a new phenomenon. What the hell kind of Democrats do they think people have been electing in the South for the last, I dunno, century?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Before you make any snap judgments on the New Jersey gay marriage decision, please read this post from actual, for-real constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald. Before you make any judgment on any court case, please read said post from actual, for-real constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald. Before you listen to any talking head or pundit say anything about any case ever, please read said post from actual, for-real constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald.

It is probably the best discussion I've ever read about the concept of "judicial activism," what it actually means, and how one does and does not go about deciding if a particular case was decided with sufficient restraint. I can't summarize his point, or highlight the better parts because you just have to read it all. It's not too long, and I really believe the country would be a better place if everyone had to read it.

A side point that Greenwald makes that I want to highlight is the very counterproductive role of the pundit class in all this. We have a journalistic system in America that, for various reasons, is broken, and perhaps its most completely broken part is its punditry. Many of these guys, especially the ones who have backgrounds mainly in "think tanks," are not trotted out on the basis of their expertise, but merely on the fact that they're good at talking in front of the cameras and will take a reliably partisan view of the issue. Think tanks, in fact, along with the demonization of the media via the "liberal media" meme, have been a main avenue of media infiltration by what we can only call "professional conservatives." These are guys who don't actually have much expertise in anything, who went straight from their College Republicans chapter to some rightwing think tank that gives them experty-sounding cred straight to your TV screen (sometimes, but not often, working briefly in journalism along the way), but who are brought on solely to represent the conservative viewpoint. Their job is not to use their expertise to provide genuine perspective (because, again, they have no expertise), but solely to push the debate rightward. They are typically brought in to "balance" an actual expert on subject X, and unlike the expert who may or may not (but let's face it, usually does) end up taking a liberal tack on the subject, they are reliably partisan and always run to the right of the other pundit. Among our professional conservatives are such personalities as William Kristol, Jonah Goldberg, Kathryn Lopez, John Hinderaker, David Brooks, Bill O'Reilly, and all the bloggers and talk radio wankers that make up the rightwing spin machine.

Am I not being sufficiently bipartisan in my smearing? Well, you tell me: how many "professional liberals" can you name, especially ones that actually get interviewed regularly on CNN and FOX? How many liberal "think tanks" do you know of?

These are the guys who get on TV and rail about judical activism, the guys Greenwald takes to task. Anytime you see these wankers, it is extremely important to remember: these people don't know shit. Nothing at all. They just read what you read in the newspapers, thought up a talking point to convince everyone that sounds good when you don't have time to actually think about it, and then got on TV and starting spewing their bullshit for the camera. It's all just a game and the refs are routing for the wingers.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

the michael j. fox ad

Most of you have probably already heard about the Michael J. Fox ad on stem cells that's being run for Claire McCaskill in Missouri. It's now being recut for use elsewhere in the country because it's proven so hard-hitting. Of course, Rush Limbaugh bashed Fox for making the commercial, even mockingly imitating his Parkinson's-induced swaying on his TV broadcast.

But then again, is there anyone out there still in the dark over whether Rush Limbaugh is the biggest douchebag in America?

As Atrios mentioned yesterday, you remember last cycle when all the talking heads freaked out over Fox supporting Arlen Specter (R-VA)?

Yeah, neither do I.

UPDATE: Thanks to MC for catching that Arlen Specter is, in fact, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, not Virginia. I swear I knew that, I just thought one thing and typed another.

news from the tiny African nation Hoogivsashit

I've been trying to wrap my head around this Madonna adoption case when I need a break from politics, and I have to admit, I can't figure this out. What's the problem here?

Here's the answer I've found. From The Guardian:
If the news of the adoption of a tiny black boy by a white pop diva isn't enough, there is an added sensation - Madonna and Guy Ritchie are adopting a boy with a living father. Why are the Ritchies doing this, knowing the controversy it will cause? And how are they going to get around Malawi's tough adoption rules, which require that foreigners be resident in the country for 18 months before adopting a child to ensure that welfare officials have time to monitor their suitability.

Only the Ritchies - and the government that drew up the shortlist - can answer the first question, and neither seems inclined to do so for now. Even though many of the children in Malawian orphanages have lost only their mother, it is highly unusual for these kids to be put forward for adoption by welfare officials.

"Only children without any living parents and circumstances that make it unlikely that they can ever return to their extended family are selected for adoption," says the director of a well-established infant home in Malawi, who asks not to be named. "This was a very unusual case."

Oh, goodness, a white woman adopting a black baby?!? What will the children think? And even worse, the father who put the boy up for adoption isn't even dead yet, and we all know that only orphans deserve to be adopted. Children with living parents, meanwhile, should just sit there --as if on layaway or something-- until the parents strike oil or invent the invisibility cloak or something.

And on top of that, "the Ritchies," as the Guardian crassly refers to Madonna and her husband (no doubt as a subtle pun on the word rich) have the temerity to allow the Malawi government to bend the rules for her just because she's, ya know, donating millions of dollars to improve the plight of orphans there. What. A. Bitch.

I don't understand what all the media's faux moralizing is about here, but I don't like what they're insinuating. Apparently the media now thinks it's wrong for rich people to adopt poor kids, or even more incensing, for white people to adopt black kids. Or rather, what they'll say is they think the rest of us have a problem with it and they're just reporting what we want to hear about, which goes to show you just how out to lunch these jerkoffs are nowadays.

It sounds like there's a little of insinuation that Madonna bribed the government to bend the rules as well, which is also apparently false. In fact, the more I think about this, the madder I get that these wankers are taking something Madonna did that's actually very generous and humanitarian and beautiful, and trying to spin it into something sleazy.

what the president really means

Here's what the State of the Union sounds like with the decoder ring:

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ken Lay goes all "Back to the Future" on us

Unbelievable. From the Washington Post:
A federal judge in Houston yesterday wiped away the fraud and conspiracy conviction of Kenneth L. Lay, the Enron Corp. founder who died of heart disease in July, bowing to decades of legal precedent but frustrating government attempts to seize nearly $44 million from his family.

The ruling worried employees and investors who lost billions of dollars when the Houston energy-trading company filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2001. It also came more than a week after Congress recessed for the November elections without acting on a last-ditch Justice Department proposal that would have changed the law to allow prosecutors to seize millions of dollars in investments and other assets that Lay controlled.
Legal analysts said Lake's ruling closely hewed to a long-held doctrine called abatement, which allows a conviction to be vacated if defendants die before they are able to exercise their right to appeal. Courts typically rule that defendants' constitutional rights to challenge their convictions outweigh other considerations, and the law hesitates to punish the dead, the analysts said.

So that's that. According to the law, Ken Lay was never convicted, never did anything wrong.

I know, I know, it was precedent. I understand that, and I don't wanna be like the conservatives, decrying judicial activism except when it suits my politics. I understand the theory behind it, that one has the right to full access to the law, meaning not just the trial, but the full panoply of legal protections from lawful arrest through fair trial through appeals. And I think I agree with it.

At the same time, though, theory can only take me so far. I can't help but look back at the particular case, at this scumbag who robbed his shareholders, his customers, and his employees of billions, walked away with millions, and at the end of the day, there's no punishment of any kind. Even after being convicted by a jury. And now it's gonna be even harder for all the people he screwed to get any recompense.

Some justice.

the straight-talking Republicans

Watch this:

This is Tom Kean, Jr., the Republican candidate for New Jersey's Senate seat. Why do you suppose he had such trouble with this one simple question?

UPDATE: corrected to show Kean is actually the candidate for New Jersey, not Maryland (that's Michael Steele, RNC Chair Ken Mehlman's BFF). (10-gallon tip MC)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

kangaroo justice

From Common Dreams:
The Navy lawyer who led a successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration's military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay has been passed over for promotion and will have to leave the military, The Miami Herald reported Sunday.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington in this June 29, 2006, file photo. Smith, who led a successful Supreme Court challenge of the Bush administration's military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, has reportedly been passed over for a promotion and will have to leave the Navy. (AP Photo/Dennis Cook, File)

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, 44, will retire in March or April under the military's "up or out" promotion system. Swift said last week he was notified he would not be promoted to commander.

He said the notification came about two weeks after the Supreme Court sided with him and against the White House in the case involving Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni who was Osama bin Laden's driver.

"It was a pleasure to serve," Swift told the newspaper. He added he would have defended Hamdan even if he had known it would cut short his Navy career.

What effect do you think this little bump-off will have on prospective future defenders in Bush's kangaroo court tribunals? What do you think are the chances that those defense attorneys will actually give it 100%, so that the defendants actually get a fair trial?

Not that they're gonna be fair trials anyway, of course, what with the admission of secret evidence that the defense can't try to defend themselves from and all...

half a million dead Iraqis

My God. From the Washington Post:
A team of American and Iraqi epidemiologists estimates that 655,000 more people have died in Iraq since coalition forces arrived in March 2003 than would have died if the invasion had not occurred.

The estimate, produced by interviewing residents during a random sampling of households throughout the country, is far higher than ones produced by other groups, including Iraq's government.
The surveyors said they found a steady increase in mortality since the invasion, with a steeper rise in the last year that appears to reflect a worsening of violence as reported by the U.S. military, the news media and civilian groups. In the year ending in June, the team calculated Iraq's mortality rate to be roughly four times what it was the year before the war."

That comes out to about 500 deaths a day around the country due to the war.

da bomb

Yesterday's Washington Post has a great article by William Perry, who was Clinton's Secretary of Defense from 1994-1997. He lays out a simple timeline of recent US-North Korean diplomatic history:
The Clinton administration declared in 1994 that if North Korea reprocessed, it would be crossing a "red line," and it threatened military action if that line was crossed. The North Koreans responded to that pressure and began negotiations that led to the Agreed Framework. The Agreed Framework did not end North Korea's aspirations for nuclear weapons, but it did result in a major delay. For more than eight years, under the Agreed Framework, the spent fuel was kept in a storage pond under international supervision.

Then in 2002, the Bush administration discovered the existence of a covert program in uranium, evidently an attempt to evade the Agreed Framework. This program, while potentially serious, would have led to a bomb at a very slow rate, compared with the more mature plutonium program. Nevertheless, the administration unwisely stopped compliance with the Agreed Framework. In response the North Koreans sent the inspectors home and announced their intention to reprocess. The administration deplored the action but set no "red line." North Korea made the plutonium.

The administration also said early this summer that a North Korean test of long-range missiles was unacceptable. North Korea conducted a multiple-launch test of missiles on July 4. Most recently, the administration said a North Korean test of a nuclear bomb would be unacceptable. A week later North Korea conducted its first test.

This is pretty astonishing stuff. There are many points worth mining in this article: we could talk about how this is yet another place where Bush has failed to continue the real progress begun by Clinton, just like his failure to restrain the federal budget and to continue the decline in abortion rates nationwide. We could talk about how laughable on their face GOP attempts are to portray themselves as strong on national security, considering Bush's inability even to decide on a policy to pursue vis-a-vis North Korea. Unless, of course, they intentionally embarked on a "swagger toughly and carry a... ah, f&#k it. Whatever" approach to Kim Jong Il. We could even talk about how foolish and mendacious Condi Rice is, who had the audacity to lay blame for North Korean nukes at Clinton's door (c/o Josh Marshall).

Instead, however, I wanna talk about results. Results, as in, surely the Bush Administration knew that such a non-approach to Kim Jong Il would result in a bomb, and doing nothing would result in one faster than doing something, anything, right?

But look for yourselves: does it look like the Bush administration even tried to keep them away from the bomb? Why would the Administration do nothing, literally nothing, other than talk tough in front of the cameras?

The answer, I believe, lies within the question. The Administration was only interested in what it was doing "in front of the cameras," i.e., in maintaining the appearance of being tough on rogue nations, which is a much simpler thing to do. Just like it's not interested in balancing the budget, but rather only in maintaining the appearance of balancing the budget. And maintaining the appearance of fighting for a gay marriage ban. And maintaining the appearance of governing in general.

You see, when your campaign manager is in charge of White House policy, when the same campaign manager is allowed unprecedented influence in foreign policy as well, everything is about politics and nothing is about policy, that is, governing well. That's why Bush introduces gay marriage bans and then refuses to fight for them in congress. That's why he talks about "human/animal hybrids" in his State of the Union. That's why he continues a losing, but "tough"-looking, course in Iraq, having never even bothered to draw up a plan for keeping the peace there. That's why he'll cancel vacation immediately over euthanizing a dead white woman in Florida, but not for the destruction of a Democratic city full of black people in Louisiana.

After all, the destruction of New Orleans is proving to be the best thing that ever happened to the Louisiana GOP: all their opposition in the state disappeared overnight.

If you design an Administration solely to play politics, and not to govern, this is what you get: an Administration not only not governing but incapable of governing. An Administration so well trained only to consider the political/electoral implications of events that its priorities get turned on its head. Thinking in purely political terms, why try hard to keep nukes out of Kim Jong Il's hands when doing so could put you in politically precarious positions (pursuing war while in a weakened state with a war-weary populace or having to negotiate with an Axis of Evil country, thereby weakening your "tough" image) when you could just let China do all the work and hope they can at least delay the inevitable until you get out of office? Besides, you even have a plausible out via the Clinton defense, and Americans are notorious for rallying around Dear Leader when they're
threatened by other countries.

This is why the Bush Administration is so dangerous. This is why they're such a failure at governing. They never really even tried to.

Friday, October 06, 2006


O what a weekend it's gonna be in the world of the gridiron, folks, and the surprises have started already: after losing to NC State the Florida State Seminoles will almost certainly start next week... get this... unranked. You don't hear that too often, eh?

On the home front, Notre Dame has what should (but probably won't) be a cakewalk against possibly the worst Stanford team I've seen in a long time (and that says a lot). How bad are they, you're wondering? Well, for starters, they're winless, as in 0-5 winless. And it gets worse: in 4 of those 5 games they lost by 26 or more, including a 48-10 trip south by Oregon that left vaguely Cardinal-colored splattermarks all over the field.

Well, now that they've been scraped off of UCLA's shoes (this time a 31-0 shutout), they're headed to South Bend for the rematch of a game that really should not have been close (but, of course, was) last season. Most of the players are the same, and most of them are still struggling. On the other hand, at least this time the Irish won't have a kicker with peyote in his gatorade. Hopefully.

Meanwhile, Tech takes on Mizzou, their first chance to upset a ranked team since they screwed the pooch against TCU 2 weeks ago. Color me interested but skeptical. And of course, the big game, the Red River Shootout, is this week as Colt McCoy, Texas Quarterback! (cue Dixieland on banjo) tries to lead the #7 'Horns to a second straight win over #14 Oklahoma (who I hear this year actually have other players besides Adrian Peterson!). This one could be close.

Among the rest, #2 USC takes on a potentially resurgent Washington team (SC will win, obviously, but it will be interesting to see if the Huskies really are on their way back up), and all Hell breaks loose in the SEC: #9 LSU vs. #5 Florida and #13 Tennessee vs. #10 Georgia. Wow.

Oh yeah, and #11 Oregon and #16 California, two of the most perpetually overrated teams in NCAA, face off, too. Yawn.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

the new Katherine Harris

Hang in there, Denny! You can do it!:
A defiant House Speaker Dennis Hastert fought Wednesday to hold on to his leadership post while fractures appeared among his lieutenants and a former senior aide to Mark Foley said he repeatedly had warned Hastert's top aide about Foley's inappropriate behavior toward underage pages more than two years ago.

In an interview with the Tribune on Wednesday night, Hastert said he had no thoughts of resigning and he blamed ABC News and Democratic operatives for the mushrooming scandal that threatens his tenure as speaker and Republicans' hold on power in the House.

I hear magic Kabbala water is the best protection from Democratic secret agents working for Charles Gibson. Viva Generalissimo Mickey! *cue the Imperial March*

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

our CARAAAAAAAZY Hoosier candidates!

So has anyone here seen any of Nancy "Vote for me and I'll send magic ponies to save the universe!" Dembowski? The candidate who "will fix the time zone problem." Seriously, she says she'll fix it. And on top of that, she's gonna give us lower taxes AND better schools! Color me impressed!

What's with all these Democrats with GOP-style delusions?

Oh, and you should also go vote for Steve "I hate Mexicans more than you do" Heim. Did you know that Mexicans sneak all the way up to Indiana and then immediately start drawing Social Security? Yup, and apparently they also move into the emergency room and just start ordering every surgical procedure in the house!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Let us prey...

Now that we've had a couple of days to watch the Foley fiasco unfold, I'd like to try to offer some thoughts. Maybe try to bring a little perspective to the discussion.

I think the whole affair has shown us the sincerity of the valyews-oriented Christian Right as well. From TPM Cafe, we get the official response (4 days down the road) from James Dobson's Focus on the Family. Just for a little perspective, here's their take on the Lewinsky scandal:
When assessing the legacy of Bill Clinton, we can’t overlook his shameful sexual behavior in the Oval Office, and then, his lies under oath to the American people to cover it up. Indeed, it is my belief that no man has ever done more to debase the presidency or to undermine our Constitution -- and particularly the moral and biblical principles upon which it is based -- than has William Jefferson Clinton.

Whew, that thar's some vit-tree-ole! And here's their righteous indignation toward a homosexual pederast Republican preying on adolescent Congressional pages with Republican leadership making sure the story doesn't get out:
"This is not a time to be talking about politics, but about the well-being of those boys who appear to have been victimized by Rep. Foley. If he is indeed guilty of what he is accused of, it is right that he resigned and that authorities are looking into whether criminal charges are warranted.

"This is yet another sad example of our society's oversexualization, especially as it affects the Internet, and the damage it does to all who get caught in its grasp."

That's right, folks. There's no need to bother with questions over anyone's complicity in covering for Foley and making sure that boys continued to be preyed upon in our very halls of government, no question about whether the GOP really deserves the support of Christians sensitive to the country's moral decay.

After all, far be it for Focus on the Family to go all, ugh, shrill over a politician's sexual indiscretions! Just a quiet nod of approval that Rep. Foley was stopped before more boys were molested, that's all you'll be hearing from the eminently unobtrusive, apolitical folks at FoF!



From AP:
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan guerrilla war can never be won militarily and called for efforts to bring the Taliban and their supporters into the Afghan government.

The Tennessee Republican said he had learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated by military means.

"You need to bring them into a more transparent type of government," Frist said during a brief visit to a U.S. and Romanian military base in the southern Taliban stronghold of Qalat. "And if that's accomplished we'll be successful."

Yes, you read that right. No, as far as I can tell, this isn't a joke. After spending 2 years telling us that Democrats want to "cut and run" from Iraq, the Senate Republican Majority Leader wants to cut and run from Afghanistan.

Put another way, Democrats want to redeploy from Iraq so we can concentrate on Afghanistan and the War on Terror. Republicans want to hand Afghanistan back to the Taliban. The Taliban. The guys who really did harbor terrorists, especially Osama bin Laden-led Al Qaeda.

So tell me again, who's gone soft on the terrorists?

Via dKos, a number of rightwing bloggers have already chimed in to answer that question:
The Commissar: "I have decided to vote Democratic this fall."

Ace of Spades: "Goodbye GOP.

Perhaps we should make peace with Zawahiri as well? Let's negotiate, and see what terms we can get as good dhimmis.

The hell with the lot of them."

Allahpundit: "If we're going to do this, just pull everyone out. Don't lend an imprimatur of legitimacy to it by shepherding these medieval savages into a U.S.-backed government. Pull out, admit defeat, and let the Taliban take back the country through force. Then we can really and truly be back to September 10, 2001. Minus a skyscraper or two."

Thursday, September 28, 2006

the unmasking of the maverick

From TPM Muckraker:
The Senate just killed an amendment to ensure federal courts could review the legitimacy of individual' imprisonment on suspicion of involvement in terrorism. The amendment had been proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "It is a fundamental protection woven into the fabric of our Nation," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who supported the measure. It was defeated 48-51, largely along party lines.

Former torture victim Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), portrayed as a "maverick" by earlier bucking the White House on the issue of detainee treatment, voted against the amendment. The White House also opposes the changes the amendment would make to the bill. Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who had also challenged the White House over the bill,
joined McCain in voting against the amendment.

Hey wait a sec, I thought McCain was the principled maverick, willing to buck the administration for Truth, Justice, and the American Way! At least, that's what the McCainites and the media keep telling me!

Some maverick.

the experts agree!

From a group of 609 law professors, in a letter to Congress quoted by Tim Grieve at Salon:
"Taken together, the bill’s provisions rewrite American law to evade the fundamental principles of separation of powers, due process, habeas corpus, fair trials, and the rule of law, principles that, together, prohibit state-sanctioned violence. If there is any fixed point in the historical understandings of constitutional freedom that help to define us as a people, it is that no one may be picked up and locked up by the American state in secret or at an unknown location, or without opportunity to petition an independent court for inspection of the lawfulness of the lockup and of the treatment handed out by the state to the person locked up, under legal standards from time to time defined by Congress. This core principle should apply with full force to all detentions by the American state, regardless of the citizenship of detainees."
These rights are required for there to be a free society. To curtail them-- and by expert accounts, this bill would curtail them for everybody, citizen or otherwise-- would be nothing short of tossing the whole idea of civil rights in its entirety. If the government can deprive you of your freedom whenever it wants for any reason it pleases, you have no rights. Period.

Screw Iraq; we need to save democracy in the United States!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Here is a great article in Salon on the need to preserve habeas corpus from the McCain torture bill from the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

As with so many political issues currently facing us, there are serious outrages in the McCain Torture Bill not getting as much coverage in the news because they're, frankly, less glamorous than waterboarding. The biggest, scariest, most significant of those outrages is the abolition of the writ of habeas corpus for aliens captured outside of the US (and perhaps even of resident aliens, or even US citizens, for all we know: lawyers are still looking over the bill to unravel all its ramifications).

For those of you a little rusty on your political science, here is
a refresher on habeas corpus:
A writ of habeas corpus is a judicial mandate to a prison official ordering that an inmate be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he should be released from custody. A habeas corpus petition is a petition filed with a court by a person who objects to his own or another's detention or imprisonment. The petition must show that the court ordering the detention or imprisonment made a legal or factual error. Habeas corpus petitions are usually filed by persons serving prison sentences. In family law, a parent who has been denied custody of his child by a trial court may file a habeas corpus petition. Also, a party may file a habeas corpus petition if a judge declares her in contempt of court and jails or threatens to jail her.

In Brown v. Vasquez, 952 F.2d 1164, 1166 (9th Cir. 1991), cert. denied, 112 S.Ct. 1778 (1992), the court observed that the Supreme Court has "recognized the fact that`[t]he writ of habeas corpus is the fundamental instrument for safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary and lawless state action.' Harris v. Nelson, 394 U.S. 286, 290-91 (1969). " Therefore, the writ must be "administered with the initiative and flexibility essential to insure that miscarriages of justice within its reach are surfaced and corrected." Harris, 394 U.S. at 291. [emphasis mine]
Most of our modern civil rights were established, at best, with the Bill of Rights, and many not until much later. Habeas Corpus dates all the way back to the Magna Carta in 1215 (Habeas Corpus is the first 2 words of the writ originally delivered to the gaolers of Medieval Britain: Habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, or "Produce the body for the hearing."). It was also the only right considered so important and so universally agreed upon that the Founders included it in the Constitution itself (Article I, section 9).

Yet the top priority for Bush the Republican Congress right now is the curtailing of that right for anyone detained abroad. Of course, there is PLENTY wrong with the McCain "I Heart Waterboarding" Bill (I just can't help but wonder, why on earth would Bush want so badly to have Congress officially absolve everyone involved in torture from any future punishment just 6 weeks before Republicans may lose Congress? Hmmm...), but the sudden disappearance of what you might call "the first civil right" is a pretty freakin' huge step in the wrong direction.

In fact, has any free society ever existed without habeas corpus? Is it even possible to have a "free" society without it?

I fail to see how.

It seems that there's a little bit of slippage in the debate over habeas corpus rights as well. Democrats are talking about the merits of having this right in general, whereas Republicans and conservatives are only talking about preserving this right for non-citizens captured overseas, since that is apparently not quite as far down the road to totalitarianism.

Bushistas foolishly suppose that Jefferson, Madison and Co., when articulating the concept of inalienable rights in our most hallowed documents, were only talking about American citizens. It is patently obvious, however, that the founders intended for constitutional protections to apply to everyone, whether citizen or otherwise. Furthermore, contrary to the conservative "rights for terrorists" attack, civil rights by their very nature apply not just even, but especially, in case the person is suspected of a crime (remember, despite what Bill O'Reilly says, in a land where the accused are innocent until proven guilty, we're talking about alleged terrorists-- the whole point of due process is to more correctly ascertain guilt).

Bush apologists will then argue that the McCain "Habeas Shmabeas" bill would only apply to non-citizens outside the country's physical boundaries. Yet even assuming that those people are the only ones made vulnerable by this monstrosity (a big huge "if"), the bill would still contravene the spirit of the law because, again, do you really think the Founding Fathers only considered people on American soil to be "created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights" (yes, I know, that's in the Declaration of Independence, but surely that can be used to ascertain the founders' intentions when dealing with constitutional issues)? Now admittedly, civil rights in their legal manifestation are only understood to expressly apply to people currently in the country, but that's not because the founders thought that only American citizens deserve civil rights. Rather, it's because all American law generally only holds jurisdiction on American territory, which apparently Guantanamo Bay somehow is not.

Any advocacy of stripping habeas corpus rights from detainees, then, is in contravention of the Founding Fathers' understanding of human rights, and is a vile twisting of the law that will work to undo that which it is supposed to uphold: the protection of all humans as created equal and endowed with inalienable rights.

Which is the prerequisite to a free society.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

they can still torture

From the Washington Post (c/o Digby):
The compromise language gives the
president a dominant -- but not exclusive -- role in
deciding which interrogation methods are permitted by
that provision of the treaty. It also prohibits
detainees from using the Geneva Conventions to
challenge their imprisonment or seek civil damages for
mistreatment, as the administration sought.
The biggest hurdle, Senate sources said, was
convincing administration officials that lawmakers
would never accept language that allowed Bush to
appear to be reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions.
Once that was settled, they said, the White House
poured most of its energy into defining "cruel or
inhuman treatment" that would constitute a crime under
the War Crimes Act. The administration wanted the term
to describe techniques resulting in "severe" physical
or mental pain, but the senators insisted on the word

Negotiations then turned to the amount of time that a
detainee's suffering must last before the treatment
amounts to a war crime. Administration officials
preferred designating "prolonged" mental or physical
symptoms, while the senators wanted something milder.
They settled on "serious and non-transitory mental
harm, which need not be prolonged."

These definitions appear in a section of the
legislation that specifically lists "grave breaches"
of the Geneva Conventions that might bring criminal

For lesser offenses barred by the Geneva Conventions
-- those lying between cruelty and minor abuse,
putting them at the heart of the intraparty dispute --
the draft legislation would give the president
explicit authority to interpret "the meaning and
application" of the relevant provisions in Common
Article 3. It also requires that such interpretations
be considered as "authoritative" as other U.S.

But the language also requires that such
interpretations be published, rather than described in
secret to a restricted number of lawmakers. That
provision was demanded by the dissident lawmakers, who
resented the administration's past efforts to curtail
the number of members who were told of its policies.
The provision also affirms that Congress and the
judiciary can play their customary roles in reviewing
the interpretations, a statement that Senate sources
say the White House vigorously resisted.

A senior administration official, who spoke on the
condition of anonymity, said in an interview that
Bush essentially got what he asked for in a
different formulation that allows both sides to
maintain that their concerns were addressed
. "We
kind of take the scenic route, but we get there," the
official said.

The New York Times editorial board is suitably pissed:
On other issues [than defendants seeing
evidence against them, which the Administration is
already backing out of
], the three rebel senators
achieved only modest improvements on the White House’s
original positions. They wanted to bar evidence
obtained through coercion. Now, they have agreed to
allow it if a judge finds it reliable (which coerced
evidence hardly can be) and relevant to guilt or
innocence. The way coercion is measured in the bill,
even those protections would not apply to the
prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

The deal does next to nothing to stop the president
from reinterpreting the Geneva Conventions. While the
White House agreed to a list of “grave breaches” of
the conventions that could be prosecuted as war
crimes, it stipulated that the president could decide
on his own what actions might be a lesser breach of
the Geneva Conventions and what interrogation
techniques he considered permissible. It’s not clear
how much the public will ultimately learn about those
decisions. They will be contained in an executive
order that is supposed to be made public, but Mr.
Hadley reiterated that specific interrogation
techniques will remain secret.

Even before the compromises began to emerge, the
overall bill prepared by the three senators had fatal
flaws. It allows the president to declare any
foreigner, anywhere, an “illegal enemy combatant”
using a dangerously broad definition, and detain him
without any trial. It not only fails to deal with the
fact that many of the Guantánamo detainees are not
terrorists and will never be charged, but it also
chokes off any judicial review.

Digby has a nice summary:
So the good news is that these fine
Republicans were all able to sit in Dick Cheney's
Senate office and hash out what "amount of time that a
detainee's suffering must last before the treatment
amounts to a war crime" in the last three days. We can
sleep better tonight knowing that they decided that
the suffering must do "serious and non-transitory
mental harm, which need not be prolonged." Excellent.
And now we know that "cruel or inhuman treatment" that
would constitute a crime under the War Crimes Act is
comprised of "techniques resulting in 'serious'
physical or mental pain, rather than 'severe.'" That's
just the kind of "clarity" they've been looking for.
On with the interrogations.

Oh and they will leave it up to the president to
decide if standing shackled naked in a cold room with
ice water splashed randomly on you for 72 hours is
torture. Or if being forced to walk around on a leash
like a dog or have fake menstrual blood smeared all
over your face is degrading. (I wonder what he'll

The best part is that they might let the prisoners see
classified evidence used against them that's been
redacted or summarized, nobody who was tortured will
be able to sue the government or hold anyone in it
legally liable and there's a nice fat habeas corpus
loophole so these embarrassingly innocent people down
in Gitmo will stay under wraps.

And from the
Washington Post editors
In short, it's hard to credit the
statement by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) yesterday that
"there's no doubt that the integrity and letter and
spirit of the Geneva Conventions have been preserved."
In effect, the agreement means that U.S. violations of
international human rights law can continue as long as
Mr. Bush is president, with Congress's tacit assent.
If they do, America's standing in the world will
continue to suffer, as will the fight against

This is truly unbelievable. I know I've been hearing people say that St. McCain will do the big Fold, that this was all bullshit kabuki to preserve McCain's maverick reputation and make Senate Republicans look eminently reasonable going into the final stretch of the elections.

Yet I was starting to hold out hope that, for once, McCain and Co. would actually make a real stand, that their principles would prevail against electoral shenanigans. At least they might wrangle with each other too long to actually pass any legislation, I thought.

But that which those of who've watched McCain closely the last year or two feared actually happened. The Republicans stand united against fair trials and for the very things we referred to as "torture" when the
Viet Cong did them to St. John McCain the Sensible Republican.

It was all about image. Scruples had nothing to do with it.

Remember this, all you McCain fans, remember. Because every time I hear anyone say something that the Maverick is anti-torture or is "a good man" or "has morals" or "is worth voting for," I'm going to throw this in your face. He used his signature issue for electoral gain, and shamelessly pretended that he won after giving the Bush Administration the prerogative to torture people and use their confessions in kangaroo courts.

What a scumbag.

Monday, September 18, 2006

meritocracy now

From the Washington Post (c/o Digby):
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

This is how the Bush Administration prosecutes the War on Terrorism. These are the people we're supposed to consider the Serious Adults Who Will Protect America.

And they didn't just adopt this tactic in Iraq. Here's the Wall Street Journal on the reconstruction of New Orleans:
Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.

"The desire to bring conservative, free-market ideas to the Gulf Coast is white hot," says Rep. Mike Pence, the Indiana Republican who leads the Republican Study Group, an influential caucus of conservative House members.

There is no such thing as Republican pragmatism. There is only wild-eyed ideology with these kooks.

I actually feel sorry for sensible, Burkean conservatives: there really is no party for you anymore. At least the Rockefeller Republicans have the Democratic Party!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Black Knight is circling Baghdad!

Unbelievable. From AP (c/o AMERICAblog):
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi security forces will dig trenches around Baghdad and set up checkpoints along all roads leading into the city to try to reduce some of the violence plaguing the capital, the Interior Ministry said Friday.
"We will leave only 28 inlets to Baghdad while all other inlets will be blocked. Supports will be added to the trenches to hinder the movements of people and vehicles. The trenches will be under our watch," he said.

He did not have any details, but did say that there would be no concrete walls or razor wire. Khalaf also did not know how deep or wide the trenches would be.

"They will surround Baghdad," he said of the trenches.

In modern warfare, trenches are used to shield your soldiers from machine guns. What they're building is a much older technique: it's called a moat.

Ann was here

The first gubernatorial election I remember, and remember taking sides on, was in 1990. I remember a spunky, sharp-tongued woman with the beehive hairdo who looked and sounded like the quintessential Texas matron mother making Clayton Williams, a typical rich whitebread oilman who's kind had been running the show since...what, Reconstruction?..., look like a fool when she beat him despite being decidedly left of the rest of the state (and, though no one would ever admit it, a woman).

A woman who was punished at the polls 6 years later for having the sheer chutzpah to allow avowed homosexuals to serve in her administration and to feel some apprehension at the idea of executing 14-year-olds.

In her short time in office, she built an impressive record of achievements and breaking down old walls. Here is a good article on that from Salon. Yet, what I remember most about Ann Richards was that, as a speaker, she was great on her feet and sharp as a tack. Some of her highlights:

While campaigning for Governor, she was asked if she supported or opposed the death penalty. She said, "I will uphold the laws of the State of Texas." The reporter then asked, "But what would you do if the Legislature passed a bill repealing the death penalty?" to which she replied, "I would faint."

Someone told me a story about Richards and a black judge being honored at some awards dinner. As everyone was filing across and shaking their hands, one white guy showed that he was clearly uncomfortable/hiding contempt over the judge as he clumsily congratulated him. The man then looked at Ms. Richards and, not recognizing her, asked, "Well, hello darling, what are you here for?" Without missing a beat, she pointed to the judge and replied, "He's my husband."

Ann Richards on How to Be a Good Republican:
1. You have to believe that the nation's current 8-year prosperity was due to the work of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, but yesterday's gasoline prices are all Clinton's fault.
2. You have to believe that those privileged from birth achieve success all on their own.
3. You have to be against all government programs, but expect Social Security checks on time.
4. You have to believe that AIDS victims deserve their disease, but smokers with lung cancer and overweight individuals with heart disease don't deserve theirs.
5. You have to appreciate the power rush that comes with sporting a gun.
6. You have to believe...everything Rush Limbaugh says.
7. You have to believe that the agricultural, restaurant, housing and hotel industries can survive without immigrant labor.
8. You have to believe God hates homosexuality, but loves the death penalty.
9. You have to believe society is color-blind and growing up black in America doesn't diminish your opportunities, but you still won't vote for Alan Keyes.
10. You have to believe that pollution is OK as long as it makes a profit.
11. You have to believe in prayer in schools, as long as you don't pray to Allah or Buddha.
12. You have to believe Newt Gingrich and Henry Hyde were really faithful husbands.
13. You have to believe speaking a few Spanish phrases makes you instantly popular in the barrio.
14. You have to believe that only your own teenagers are still virgins.
15. You have to be against government interference in business, until your oil company, corporation or Savings and Loan is about to go broke and you beg for a government bail out.
16. You love Jesus and Jesus loves you and, by the way, Jesus shares your hatred for AIDS victims, homosexuals, and President Clinton.
17. You have to believe government has nothing to do with providing police protection, national defense, and building roads.
18. You have to believe a poor, minority student with a disciplinary history and failing grades will be admitted into an elite private school with a $1,000 voucher.

I'm pretty sure that every liberal Texan's love for Molly Ivins is founded upon the apparition of Ann Richards still jaunting around somewhere in their psyche. There was a lot of hope for the Lone Star State in those days, now seemingly so long ago.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

the real lesson of Lamont/Chafee

M.J. Rosenberg at TPMCafe catches something in the Ned Lamont and Linc Chafee wins that everyone else in the media seems to have missed in all the hoopla about incumbents and liberals and George McGovern (where do they come up with this shit?).

Both candidates are anti-Iraq War.

Lamont's case is obvious, but it's easy to forget that Chafee was the lone Republican vote against the Iraq War.

stealing elections in under 1 minute!

Scary. Here's a video of Princeton researchers rigging a Diebold voting machine in less than 60 seconds.

Go the Youtube. Uprate this video. Show it to everyone you know. If you live in a district that uses it, write your congressman. And your senators. And your state senators and state reps. And your mayor. And your local news.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

blogospheric self-regulation

For some rubbernecking, The Office-style fun, check out the hoopla over this post from Avedon, guest posting on Eschaton. It's a good point that he quotes:
The American Airlines ticket agent who checked in Mohammed Atta on 9/11 later committed suicide - unlike the man in charge who, being briefed on the potential threat, told his briefer, "Okay, you’ve covered your ass."

Yet, it makes Brendan Nyhan at the American Prospect have an acute attack of cranial-rectum inversion syndrome (which, in full disclosure, happens occasionally here on the Ranch as well). Apparently, aside from mistaking Avedon for Atrios and saying that Atrios approved of said quote above, he titles his post "Liberal bloggers politicize a suicide" and quips:
Is nothing sacred? And do they want Bush to commit suicide out of remorse, as the post suggests? This is just vile.

His point is asinine, the kind of Chris Matthews "Gotcha" that assumes the speaker actually meant the most inflammatory interpretation you could possibly tease out of a certain quote, combined with the New Republic's annoying habit of quoting one or two bloggers (usually out of context or culled from comment threads) and implying that all liberal bloggers are saying X. And he is appropriately beaten senseless for it in the comments, starting with a response from Atrios himself:
Leaving aside your other usual reading comprehension issues, I didn't write the post.

God you're an idiot Brendan.

That sets the tone for the rest of the comments, and Nyhan ends up having to retract or alter nearly the entirety of his post.

Nyhan then becomes Atrios' Wanker of the Day.

This is why blogging can be a scary thing-- you have to be thick-skinned, just in case someone with a readership the size of Atrios' catches you in a Moron Moment.


This is for all you people who, like me, read The Trial or 1984 or Darkness at Noon and were actually frightened by them. From The San Francisco Chronicle (c/o Glenn Greenwald):
Two relatives of a Lodi man who was convicted of supporting terrorists have been cleared to return home from a long trip to Pakistan, ending a five-month standoff in which the U.S. citizens were told they had to cooperate with the FBI to get off the government's no-fly list, a federal law enforcement official said Tuesday.

"There's been a change," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity and would not detail the reason for the move, which was made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Lodi residents Muhammad Ismail, a 45-year-old naturalized citizen born in Pakistan, and his 18-year-old son, Jaber Ismail, who was born in the United States, were never charged with a crime. But they are the uncle and cousin of Hamid Hayat, 23, who was convicted in April of supporting terrorists by attending a Pakistani training camp and is awaiting sentencing.

The most striking aspect of this entire travesty was the sheer lawlessness of it. There was never any document issued to these citizens or their lawyers stating what the restrictions were or the basis for them. Instead, they were given multiple inconsistent explanations as to why they were barred from returning -- all delivered orally and informally by a shifting mix of airline security agents and representatives of the FBI. They were essentially trapped in some caricature of a Kafka nightmare where they were barred by unseen powers from returning to their country without any explanation as to what, if anything, they did to provoke that punishment and without being able even to know for certain who imposed the punishment.

The Republicans hate us for our freedom.

the threat from Al Qaeda

Digby sez:
I just heard Tucker Carlson casually say that he told his "lesbian leftist friend" (probably Rachel Maddow), "when al Qaeda takes over you'll be the first one hung up by your thumbs."

I would really love to hear by what scenario these piddling chickenhawks see al Qaeda "taking over" the United States of America. Super secret laser beams from Mars? How?

What children these people are.

I think this is a point that should be obvious, but is not for far too many people in this country. Put another way, here's Josh Marshall's take:
The point is that al Qaida itself does not pose an existential threat to our civilization. It can kill hundreds or even thousands of us. There's the outside chance of a catastrophic attack perhaps with hundreds of thousands of death, though most of the people Fallows spoke to think that it's far, far harder for al Qaida to get, say, a nuclear device than people imagine, particularly with the reduced means of al Qaida today. But if al Qaida itself doesn't threaten our civilization itself, our possible reactions to al Qaida's threat do. This is a elementary point about assymetrical warfare and the ways that a relatively weak group like al Qaida can leverage our own tremendous power against us.

This seems persuasive to me as an argument and it also seems borne out by the evidence of the last five years.

Our geopolitical and diplomatic posture certainly seems diminished. And I don't think there's any question that our military capacity has been reduced, both in the concrete sense of the grinding down of preparedness that has taken place in Iraq and also in the way that the limits of our military power has been displayed in that disastrous endeavor. Perhaps most of all though, I wonder about what we have allowed to happen to our national character.

There is no country or militant group on the planet that can destroy America, or topple our government, or abolish our way of life except our own. Only we have the capacity to do that.

And that's precisely what George Bush and co. have been doing these last 6 years.

Edward R. Murrow once said that we are not descended from fearful men. Yet the Bush Administration specifically and intentionally uses a type of rhetoric to instill fear in the American people. Of course, they also use a number of policies to achieve that end (our ridiculous color-coded terror alert comes to mind-- quick quiz: of course you know that we have spent lots of time on terror level: red (severe) through yellow (elevated), but how many days have we spent on terror level green (guarded) or blue (low)? Think about the shape of an egg for a hint). But that's really not an end, it's a means. Then what is the end, you might wonder?

The end is always the same in these stories: it's power. People-oppressing, freedom-annihilating slippery-slope power. Perhaps that sounds alarmist, but you tell me: if the president gets what he's already openly fighting for, if his unitary executive theory wins out and the president gains the power to selectively make or break the law in wartime (and in the kind of "War on Terror" type wartime that lasts many decades), including laws enshrined in the Constitution, international treaties and congressional statute, along with the ability to punish or imprison both foreigners and American citizens for indefinite periods of time and without due process of law, how, exactly, would this still be a free society?

That is why, as many before me have said, the national discussion on the threat of terrorism and Iraq and Iran and Syria and appropriate solutions to said threats is deeply unserious. It's because we have no sense of perspective when it comes to these questions, and those sober personalities who dare to try and give us that perspective are aggressively challenged and talked down by the clowns in charge.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ethnic Rally

From the campaign website of conservative favorite and Republican presidential hopeful George Allen:

You know it's bad when this Texan laughs at the f&%king rube Virginians have voted for over and over again. That there's a level of dumbassitude I wasn't expecting even from Senator Felix Macaca.

Worst. President. Ever.

Here is a long but great article from Salon taking a slightly different tack on W. Instead of Bush the Idiot, it offers us the exploits of Bush the Extremist. The writer also brings in an array of quotes, events, and rage-inducing (furiferous?) plots that you may have forgotten, making lots of interesting connections and weaving all the cacophony of the last 6 years into a mostly compelling narrative.

I, for instance, had forgotten that Bush's national security team met to discuss an invasion of Iraq 10 days after his first inauguration. And that the idea of a presidential signing statement was devised by none other than Rehnquist-aide Samuel Alito during the Reagan Administration.

There's one particular idea I've been hearing a lot of people bounce around lately, and that's neoconservatives as the intellectuals heirs of the Leninists/Trotskyites of the 20th century. Like totalitarians without a social conscience, I guess. But wouldn't that just make them run-of-the-mill authoritarians, even (in W's case) monarchists?

Not that it's not still an apt comparison, of course.

Monday, September 11, 2006

the war is over in 1/3 of Iraq... and the US lost

From The Washington Post:
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country's western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost."

Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province's most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.

Quite the Sunday bombshell, isn't it? We may have now lost the Iraq War in one of the provinces.

And how big is Anbar province, you may be wondering?

The same guys who screwed this pooch wanna take us to Iran now, too!

Had enough? Support the Democrats.

the "peacetime" constitution

From the San Francisco Chronicle:
UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer was one of the Bush administration's chief legal theorists, summarized its view in his forthcoming book, "War by Other Means":

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.''

I'm pretty sure the fact that Separation of Powers only applies when we're not at war with anyone or anything will be news to EVERY F&#KING CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER IN THE COUNTRY.

It sure was to Glenn Greenwald, who is also a constitutional lawyer:
The Constitution is actually pretty clear on that score. Article I says "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" -- Article II says the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" -- Article III says "the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in . . . inferior Courts." That arrangement isn't really a side detail or something that shifts based on circumstance. It's pretty fundamental to the whole system. In fact, if you change that formula, it actually isn't the American system of government anymore.

John Yoo (Mr. "Shifting Gravity," above) is the guy who provided the intellectual backing to Bush's "Unitary Executive" theory (the one about how the president becomes Supreme Overlord of the Universe whenever he decides it's time of war). This is the guy that the Republican White House thinks is the cream of the crop of America's constitutional scholars. The guy who thinks Separation of Powers is a thing of the past.

This will be the prevailing view in our government until the Republicans get booted out of office. And not one second before.

9/11 exploited

On my RSS for the Washington Post:
Bush Honors 9/11 Anniversary - 10 hours ago
Worried CIA Officers Buy Legal Insurance - 10 hours ago
Bush Joins in 9/11 Moment of Silence - 20 minutes ago
Moments of Silence Mark 9/11 Crashes - 23 minutes ago
In Crises, People Tend to Live, or Die, Together - 10 hours ago

That's 4 stories about or referencing 9/11, and one about CIA officers preparing to get sued for torturing people.

I'd say that sums up our current media (and political) environment pretty well.

what we have to look forward to

From Andrew Sullivan at TIME:
Next week, I'm informed via troubled White House sources, will see the full unveiling of Karl Rove's fall election strategy. He's intending to line up 9/11 families to accuse McCain, Warner and Graham of delaying justice for the perpetrators of that atrocity, because they want to uphold the ancient judicial traditions of the U.S. military and abide by the Constitution. He will use the families as an argument for legalizing torture, setting up kangaroo courts for military prisoners, and giving war crime impunity for his own aides and cronies. This is his "Hail Mary" move for November; it's brutally exploitative of 9/11; it's pure partisanship; and it's designed to enable an untrammeled executive. Decent Republicans, Independents and Democrats must do all they can to expose and resist this latest descent into political thuggery. If you need proof that this administration's first priority is not a humane and effective counter-terror strategy, but a brutal, exploitative path to retaining power at any price, you just got it.

Digby predicts the conscientious conservative trio are going to do what the Prez's would-be opposition has been doing for 6 years now: go on TV and get up on their high horse, bemoaning the direction the president is taking our country in, and then go into the Capitol Building and fold like a cheap suit.

I'm just surprised Arlen Specter didn't take another opportunity to slide up to the cameras and do his faux vertebrate finger-wagging act. Admittedly, he's still not finished pushing his FISA evisceration bill (no seriously, it makes the president's pursuit of a FISA warrant to wiretap Americans optional). I guess he can only cave on one principle at a time.

a quick note on tomorrow

It's unfortunate that the 5 year "anniversary" of 9/11 falls on a midterm. It's even more unfortunate that it falls on a midterm in which the Republicans stand to lose, and lose big.

Watch out for all the hype and pseudo-solemn occasions drummed up to scare the shit out of you and make you feel all warm and fuzzy about the glory days of King W. It's going to be ugly, it's going to be crass and it's going to be utterly and completely craven. And there's going to be A LOT of it.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

boycott Disney

Well, they did it. Disney (via their proxy, ABC) aired, commercial-free, 3 hours of conservative Republican propaganda today, while taking a dump on the graves of 3,000 people and wiping afterwards with their (and ABC's) credibility (Tim Rutten at the LA Times refers to "the smoking ruin that is ABC's reputation). The Walt Disney Co. has officially taken sides in the election and has joined with Turdblossom in his attempts to fool Americans through lies and deception (please turn to your copy of Karl Rove's The Republican Party Guide to Winning Elections, p. 218, to the entry titled "Swaying the Low-Information Voter").

The reviews are, umm, mixed. I love this one from the Chicago Sun-Times:
I once sat in a car forever waiting for my mom to come out of a grocery store. I thought that was the definition of "interminable." I had no idea "The Path to 9/11" was in my future.

This is what happens during 4 1/2 lonnnng hours of "Path." Terrorists talk about killing Americans for Allah. FBI and other security officials try to track them but fail. 9/11 happens.

You don’t say.

This is the most anticlimactic, tension-free movie in the history of terrorist TV.

It’s hard to fathom a brouhaha brewed over such a bore. ABC has received tens of thousands of letters — including one from Bill Clinton’s office — insisting "Path" is wildly inaccurate and should not air. But ABC still plans to air the two-part movie.

Controversy could boost viewership, except "Path" is the dullest, worst-shot TV movie since ABC’s disastrous "Ten Commandments" remake. It substitutes shaky handheld cameras and dumb dialogue for craftsmanship. It could not be more amateurish or poorly constructed unless someone had forgotten to light the sets.

An appalling secondary concern is the tone makes almost every pre-9/11 American look like a fool.

Look, there’s a security guard yawning while terrorists plant the 1993 bomb at the World Trade Center. How dare a security guard work while tired.

Oh, hey, there’s an airline agent checking in a 9/11 terrorist even though he has a carry-on bag. Stupid airline agents.

Excuse us all, writer Cyrus Nowrasteh and director David L. Cunningham, for not acting like Hitler Youth in the glory days before ordinary Americans knew commercial planes could be turned into missiles.



Interestingly, in this week's Sunday Post was a report that W, unlike Clinton, was demonstrably distracted from the hunt for bin Laden:
On the videotape obtained by the CIA, bin Laden is seen confidently instructing his party how to dig holes in the ground to lie in undetected at night. A bomb dropped by a U.S. aircraft can be seen exploding in the distance. "We were there last night," bin Laden says without much concern in his voice. He was in or headed toward Pakistan, counterterrorism officials think.

That was December 2001. Only two months later, Bush decided to pull out most of the special operations troops and their CIA counterparts in the paramilitary division that were leading the hunt for bin Laden in Afghanistan to prepare for war in Iraq, said Flynt L. Leverett, then an expert on the Middle East at the National Security Council.

"I was appalled when I learned about it," said Leverett, who has become an outspoken critic of the administration's counterterrorism policy. "I don't know of anyone who thought it was a good idea. It's very likely that bin Laden would be dead or in American custody if we hadn't done that."

As with the rest of reality, the true story's exactly backwards from the Disney/ABC version.


WASHINGTON - There’s no evidence Saddam Hussein had ties with al-Qaida, according to a Senate report issued Friday on prewar intelligence that Democrats say undercuts President Bush’s justification for invading Iraq.

Bush administration officials have insisted on a link between the Iraqi regime and terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Intelligence agencies, however, concluded there was none.
It discloses for the first time an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam’s government “did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.”

Bush and other administration officials have said that the presence of Zarqawi in Iraq before the war was evidence of a connection between Saddam’s government and al-Qaida. Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike in June this year.

Meanwhile, in fantasyland:
Rice, giving a series of interviews ahead of the fifth anniversary of the September 11 Al-Qaeda attacks on the United States, brushed aside a recently released US intelligence report (PDF) saying there was no evidence Saddam's regime was helping Al-Qaeda obtain such arms.

"There were ties between Iraq and Al-Qaeda," she said on Fox News Sunday.

And in the Oval Office in Fantasyland:
As recently as two weeks ago, President Bush said at a news conference that Mr. Hussein "had relations with Zarqawi.''

No wonder 40+% of the American people still believe there was a relationship. That number includes everyone in the White House.


FOOTBALL!! or, Penn Splat

Well, it looks like people are going to be singing a different tune about Brady Quinn this week, as Notre Dame beat the everlovin' dogshit out of Penn State 41-17. The game was actually a lot more one-sided than the score would indicate, as Penn St. scored 2 touchdowns after both teams benched their starters and brought out the B team. So yes, when Brady left the field today, it was 41-3. Our D is for real this year.

The big game of the day, of course, was #1 Ohio St. vs. #2 Texas, which the Buckeyes won handily. I was routing for the 'Horns, but this wasn't exactly a surprise. On the other hand, I was actually impressed with the young Texas QB with the ridiculously stereotypical name (Colt McCoy? come on, you know he made that up). He hasn't figured out how to inspire confidence in his teammates yet, but that will come as he earns their trust, and in the meantime he showed he has the accuracy, power, and poise under pressure to lead a bigtime time. He's gonna be great in a couple of years, no question about it.

In other news, at this point Tech is in overtime against freakin' UTEP. WTF? Leave it to Tech to screw the pooch in one of their early season snoozers.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Swaying the Low-Information Voter"

You may have heard by now about the upcoming ABC movie The Path to 9/11 that they plan to air without commercials on Sept. 10 and 11. There may be some things about the movie you haven't heard about, however, like the fact that it's conservative propaganda, about as factual as Team America: World Police:
They got the small stuff wrong such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed instructing Ahmed Rassam to carry out the millenium attacks. Then they got the big stuff wrong, this fantasy about how we had a CIA officer and the Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Massoud looking at Bin Laden and they breathlessly call the White House to say we need to take him out and the White House said no. I mean it’s sheer fantasy. So, if they want to critique the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, based on fact, I think that’s fine. But what ABC has done here is something straight out of Disney and fantasyland. It’s factually wrong. And that’s shameful.

That was from a Bush Administration anti-terror official. Here's more from Digby on that keystone episode of the movie:
As most of you have probably read by now, the movie features an entirely fabricated scene --- and it's a doozy. Here's Rush Limbaugh gleefully describing it:

"So the CIA, the Northern Alliance, surrounding a house where bin Laden is in Afghanistan, they’re on the verge of capturing, but they need final approval from the Clinton administration in order to proceed.

So they phoned Washington. They phoned the White House. Clinton and his senior staff refused to give authorization for the capture of bin Laden because they’re afraid of political fallout if the mission should go wrong, and if civilians were harmed…Now, the CIA agent in this is portrayed as being astonished. “Are you kidding?” He asked Berger over and over, “Is this really what you guys want?”

Berger then doesn’t answer after giving his first admonition, “You guys go in on your own. If you go in we’re not sanctioning this, we’re not approving this,” and Berger just hangs up on the agent after not answering any of his questions."

Richard Clarke vociferously denies that this ever happened and it is most definitely not part of the 9/11 commission report. This is apparently a key scene, perhaps the most important scene in the movie, in that it indicts the Clinton administration for being too soft and weak to take out bin Laden when they had the chance. Rush certainly does seem to love it. Unfortunately, it just ain't true.

Greenwald, who is very quickly becoming my favorite online voice, has a great post exposing the notion of Clinton's inattention to Al Qaeda as demonstrably revisionist. I strongly suggest you read it for yourself.

As the last couple of days have gone on, the story just kept getting weirder and weirder. We found out that ABC sent copies of the movie to Rush Limbaugh and various rightwing bloggers, like Hugh Hewitt, to vet the movie (Rush just luuuuved it, if that tells you anything), yet didn't send it to any progressive voices or bloggers, or any Democrats for that matter. Then we found out that they didn't even vet the movie with any of the Democrats on the 9/11 commission, which the movie claims to be based upon, nor did they show it to President Clinton, Sandy Berger, or Madeline Albright, 3 people ferociously vilified in it. When Clinton's office requested a copy, they refused him.

And when confronted about the gross inaccuracies in the movie, ABC responds that it is "a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 commission report, other published materials and from personal interviews."

In other words, it's not so much the truth about 9/11 as "Law and Order: 9/11." Don't tell that to the kids who are being shown the movie as teaching material, however.

Don't like that ABC is polluting the midterms with pro-Bush propaganda? Then do something about it.

Even just calling your ABC affiliate and raising Hell would do a lot of good.