Tuesday, March 28, 2006


From AP:
White House chief of staff Andy Card has resigned and will be replaced by budget director Joshua Bolten, President Bush announced Tuesday amid growing calls for a White House shakeup and Republican concern about Bush's tumbling poll ratings.

"I have relied on Andy's wise counsel, his calm in crisis, his absolute integrity and his tireless commitment to public service," Bush said. "The next three years will demand much of those who serve our country. We have a global war to fight and win."

You can almost hear the Prsident slurring and spitting his way through that, eh?

So here's that harrowed "switch up advisors in the Oval Office to get back on track" advice finally put to work, though apparently President Mushmouth didn't quite get the point behind the advice. Ya know, the whole "bringing in some less tainted, more competent people" thing?

Instead, Bush heard "Ya know, Mr. President, maybe you shake up the Oval a bit," and replaced Card with... did you catch it?... his budget advisor. That's right, people, W brought in the guy behind the George W. Bush "China is my blackjack table" fiscal program. A man who, apparently, is so bad at designing budgets that, 4 years after inheriting record surpluses, the best Bush could promise from him was that he could half the record deficits this wanker was accumulating.

And he's failing at that.

Good God, what's next, the President's speech therapist as the new White House spokesman?
"Fer the nexsht three yearsh, thish man will be briefin' you on our shteadfasht progresh in *eyes narrowing* the War On Terra.

God Blesh Merrka"

Sunday, March 26, 2006

the Immigration problem

Now this is a protest (pic via Digby):
This is a shot of a protest of over half a million people in Los Angeles that happened today over the new Republican immigration bill in the House. Another 100,000 marched in Chicago, and there were many others protests across the country.

The bill, which has already passed the House, would (among other things) make simply being an illegal immigrant an aggravated felony, criminalize helping illegals, and build an iron wall across 1/3 of the U.S./Mexico border. Jeralyn at TalkLeft has done a pretty good job putting together info on the bill, and if you're really curious, the ACLU has dealt exhaustively with the subject.

Needless to say, the protesters are right to be ticked off.

Let's be honest, to start off: this is not an easy issue, and there are no simple answers. This Republican bill is particularly ridiculous, however, as the great lesson conservatives should have learned over the last 10 years is that you can't expect to solve the immigration problem simply by being "tough" on it. In point of fact, according to the ACLU we've poured exorbitant amounts of money and manpower into enforcing immigration controls in the last decade, and the result? The number of illegals immigrating doubled.

So what can we do about immigration reform? There are some great ideas here. I don't claim to know all the answers , but what I do know is that, in both politics and medicine, you eradicate the symptoms by treating the disease. As they say, the important question is not who, or what, or when, but why. In this case, there are several "why's." For one, there's worker exploitation. Employers are able to pay illegals less (and probably be a little lax on any number of workers' protection laws) because the illegals lack the ability to appeal to the government to protect them. Thus many industries choose to hire illegals instead of others because it's cheaper. Often, too, it's individual households hiring them: I remember as a kid my grandparents talking about the "hired hands" that came up every harvest season to do various jobs around the farm that they couldn't pay anyone else to do.

This problem has only compounded itself over the years as entire industries were developed around the super-cheap labor provided by exploitation of immigrants, and suddenly changing the situation could mean massive economic repercussions. This partially explains the reckless intransigence of the South toward emancipation, as they had built their entire economy upon oppression: the system couldn't function without it.

There is an even deeper "why" to this problem, however, the answer to which also lies in injustice. The case of Mexico is hugely important to our discussion, as I'm willing to bet it contributes the lion's share of our illegal immigrants. By accident of geography, Mexicans are born in a country lacking the means to take care of them adequately. Yet they're languishing in the backyard of a nation swimming in money with lots of employers just aching for cheap labor, guaranteeing a job and a sweet paycheck to anyone with the cajones to come get it.

The American Dream.

Thus, Mexicans are left with the awful choice of either 1) staying at home with your family, but without money to live the life you want, or 2) leaving your family to go work illegally in a foreign country, making the dangerous trek across the border each time you want to see them again or bring them money. Now, we "natives", being all pro-family and such, want to believe that we'd be willing to risk danger and break the law to protect our loved ones, right? Who wouldn't agree that it's the right thing to do? In fact, the very choice illegals are making here, to leave their homes to go on an often dangerous journey to carve out a better life for themselves and their families in a foreign land, laws be damned, is the exact same decision our own ancestors made.

Thus, for many Mexicans, the decision is so obvious, and contains so many factors out of their control, that it's hardly a decision at all. To channel Malcolm X, on some fundamental level they didn't cross the Rio Grande: the Rio Grande crossed them.

I say it again: the protesters are right to be ticked off.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

They beat them up!

Uh oh, looks like someone forgot their crazy pills. Here's a snippet of Pat Robertson today, via Crooks and Liars:
ROBERTSON: Ladies and gentleman this is a fascinating book. If you want to, you'd better take your blood pressure medicine before you read it, but it's "The Professors: The 101 most dangerous academics in America" and that's just a short list of the 30-40,000 of them, they're like termites that have worked into the woodwork of our academic society and it's appalling. This is available at CBN.com and book stores everywhere, and you really ought to read it and be informed.

TERRI: It’s interesting that so many conservatives haven't seen this because decades ago we were told that infiltrating education was the way to take over the country, we should have been on alert.

ROBERTSON: They gamed it, these guys are out and out communists, they are radicals, you know some of them killers, and they are propagandists of the first order and they don't want anybody else except them. That's why Regent University for example is so terrifically important and why we're setting up an undergraduate program that hopefully will see shortly 10,000 students, and then from there 250,000 because you don't want your child to be brainwashed by these radicals, you just don't want it to happen. Not only brainwashed but beat up, they beat these people up, cower them into submission. Ahhh! "The Professors", read it.

That's right, people, that socially awkward, uber-introverted, spindly old man in front of the blackboard, the one in the corduroy sportcoat with the elbow patches: he gets together with his spindly buddies, corners a couple of uppity conservative freshmen, and all of a sudden the whole scene is a flurry of broken tortoiseshell frames and shredded MLA handbooks!

Yes, folks, they beat these people up! And cower them into tautologie... er, I mean, submission! And they walk them around like dogs on leashes! And then they cover them in cheese! And make them watch old reruns of "Herman's Head"! AHHHHHH DAMN YOU LIBERALS DAMN YOUUUUUUU!!!!!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Another military torture site???

"A couple of bad apples" strike again. From Editor and Publisher:
Just in time for the third anniversary of the Iraq war, The New York Times offers a bombshell account Sunday on a secret U.S. torture facility in that country that remained in business even after the Abu Ghraib abuses became known.

The article by Eric Schmitt and Carolyn Marshall reveals that an elite Special Operations forces unit took one of Saddam Hussein's former torture centers near Baghdad Airport and made it their own. They called it the Black Room.

"In the windowless, jet-black garage-size room, some soldiers beat prisoners with rifle butts, yelled and spit in their faces and, in a nearby area, used detainees for target practice in a game of jailer paintball," the reporters relate.

How many of these damn things are we gonna find before we hold the people in charge accountable for the obvious, namely that this torture business was ordered from the top? And just what sort of stuff went down there, you might wonder? What kind of "fraternity-style pranks," to channel Rush Limbaugh?
"Placards posted by soldiers at the detention area advised, 'NO BLOOD, NO FOUL.' The slogan, as one Defense Department official explained, reflected an adage adopted by Task Force 6-26: 'If you don't make them bleed, they can't prosecute for it.' According to Pentagon specialists who worked with the unit, prisoners at Camp Nama often disappeared into a detention black hole, barred from access to lawyers or relatives, and confined for weeks without charges. 'The reality is, there were no rules there,' another Pentagon official said.

What bothered me the most about reading this wasn't the paintball. It wasn't the fact that we continued Saddam's work in this awful place. It wasn't even the line about "making them bleed."

It was that the story of Americans torturing people didn't upset me as much as it used to.

Friday, March 17, 2006


For anyone reading this who hasn't heard, Congress has been dealing with a motion by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) to censure the president for breaking the law in conducting wiretapping against American citizens without a court order. Yet, despite the fact that the president's wiretapping (like the president himself) is unpopular, and despite the fact that Democrats have been complaining about the constitutionality of said wiretaps, Democratic senators have reacted tepidly to Feingold's motion. 2 have even said they plan to oppose it. There's some good analysis and discussion of the situation going on at Firedoglake and Glenn Greenwald (speaking of, I'm updating my blogroll, adding a couple of the better sites I've found lately).

The sad thing about all this, to me, is that the Democrats were getting a lot better at actually fighting the Republicans until very recently. Starting with the surprisingly pathetic roll-over for Samuel Alito, however, they've been acting like it's 2001 again and W's approvals are back in the 80's (as many of you know, in fact the opposite is true-- W's ratings are the worst ever, and less than 10 points away from Nixon's when he resigned).

If the Democrats ever want to run Congress again, they're going to have to internalize one single immutable fact about the American electorate: they only vote for people with the integrity to fight for their beliefs. In a way, it's almost like it's the only thing they look for in their candidates. Republicans have not done well because of what they stand for; in fact, surveys show that, on the issues, the American people's beliefs line up well to the left of the Republicans, and even some Democrats (with the exception of gay marriage). Rather, Americans vote for Republicans simply because they appear to stand for something. Democrats got the boot in '94 not because their message was wrong, but because they looked corrupt and spineless.

So, to the DC Democrats: FIGHT. No more running. No more pussyfooting around, no more sidestepping or backing down or handwringing. For the love of God, stop these jackasses before they do any more damage.


Monday, March 13, 2006

John McCain is a figment of your imagination

(picture via Ezra Klein)

I'm glad the netroots are finally getting around to disenfranchising the American media and public of the wildly inaccurate picture they have of John McCain, but I'd sure love to hear someone in the media besides Paul Krugman give this some air. From Paul Krugman, columnist for the New York Times (no link because it's behind a pay firewall):
So here's what you need to know about John McCain.

He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.

He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes don't just place him at the right end of America's political spectrum; they place him in the right wing of the Republican Party.

And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition to the White House. But when it matters, when the Bush administration's ability to do whatever it wants is at stake, Mr. McCain always toes the party line.

It's worth recalling that during the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush was widely portrayed by the news media both as a moderate and as a straight-shooter. As Mr. Bush has said, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

This isn't all, either. , McCain was for Bush's Social Security privatization plan, and as I noted back in November, he gives speeches at racist organizations, has kneeled at the throne of Jerry Falwell (a man he demonized during the 2000 elections) and is for Intelligent Design and a gay marriage ban in Arizona (he got so much "maverick" air play for voting against a federal ban, but he actually was for it: it's just that he wanted the states to be ones who pull the trigger).

Everyone needs to understand that John McCain is great at PR and image maintenance. He has a pretty good bead on what people like to see, and he plays the part when the cameras are rolling. He's like other supposedly "moderate" Republican senators in this way, like Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, or Arlen Specter. He talks a lot of talk for the cameras, then walks into the Capitol building and meekly toes the party line, just like Snowe and Hagel weep and wail about illegal wiretapping and then cave for the president the moment he shows a hint of displeasure, or when Specter grandstands about the Senate's role to protect Americans from bad judicial nominations and then votes to confirm Sam Alito, one of the worst Supreme Court candidates since Robert Bork (and incidentally, one who did little little to hide the fact that he would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade-- yet Specter plays up his "pro-choice" cred every election).

I think (at least I sincerely hope) that McCain's obsequious cleaving to W will come back to bite him in '08. It just seems like a serious miscalculation to me, and it would be a fitting end for the career of a man who thrived on PR and political calculation instead of conviction and principles.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Profile in Libertarianism: FDR

This quote explains exactly why I think the Libertarian party is fooling itself in thinking it has a) any understanding of what "freedom" would even look like, or b) any sense of morality and decency. 10-gallon tip to FDL for finding the right words from a living rebuke of Libertarianism, Franklin Delano Roosevelt:
This Republic had its beginning, and grew to its present strength, under the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. They were our rights to life and liberty.

As our Nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness.

We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. "Necessitous men are not free men." People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.

In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race, or creed.

Among these are:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.

America's own rightful place in the world depends in large part upon how fully these and similar rights have been carried into practice for our citizens. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


A couple of great posts today(specifically "Sign O' the Times" and "The Republican Revolution...") on FDL. Greg talks about deregulation and the ridiculousness of the idea behind it:
Businesses exist for one reason only : to make money. I don't begrudge them that, but I do think one of the big lines that separates the two parties is that Democrats by and large think our laws should protect Americans from amoral entities, while Republicans are content with pretending that corporations have our best interests in mind. Of course, if a company is actually held to that same standard later, "pro-business" shills are quick to point out that their obligation is to shareholders.

He poses this inconsistency another way later:
When a politician talks about 'deregulating' something, what he really means is getting rid of the laws that 99% of the time exist for a damn good reason...For a party that prides itself on its common sense, [Republicans] seem smitten with the retarded idea that the only thing that stands in the way of corporate titans keeping the environment clean (to cite one example) are the laws that mandate the very thing they're refusing to do.

Exactly. This is something I've been harping on for a while as well, though I never connected the Republican equivocations about the "obligation... to shareholders." This type of ideological inconsistency is a pretty clear indicator of insincerity in my opinion. It's normal for people to be somewhat inconsistent, but usually it's because there's they just haven't completely explored, or "unpacked" as philosophers say, the ramifications of their beliefs on a certain subject. Sorta like when an anti-Roe v. Wade person goes to a fertility clinic because they haven't considered the connection between abortion and in vitro fertilization (i.e. in order to fertilize you, they have to kill an awful lot of other fertilized eggs). Or when someone who's vehemently anti-Disney pays money to see a Touchstone picture, not considering the fact that, since Touchstone is owned by Disney, they're in fact paying Disney to see the movie.

This inconsistency, however, is on the very same issue, and anyone who gets paid to develop their political philosophy (like political parties) would catch this inconsistency. A genuine believer would untie that knot, but these guys don't bother, because their primary loyalty is not to their ideology or, for that matter, their voters. Voters are slack-jawed sheep who can be convinced to support even the most blatant lie. Just like corporations themselves, their primary loyalty is to their shareholders, i.e. big business, the Republican party's biggest donors.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

don't bite the hand that bribes you

He's been getting called names like "crook" and "con-artist" by guys who courted his attention. Conrad Burns has smeared him again and again. Dennis Hastert gave back his money. George W. Bush pretended to have never heard of him. Now arch-lobbyist Jack Abramoff enthusiastically spills his guts to Vanity Fair after being sold down the river by the very Republicans that used to rely upon him for campaign cash:
The newly elected House majority leader, John Boehner, Republican of Ohio, also doesn’t know Abramoff, but Abramoff’s clients gave him $30,000 over the past few years, and ate many meals at Signatures.
Then ,most important, there’s President Bush.“I, frankly, don’t even remember having my picture taken with the guy,” he has said. But how about those 10 or so photographs of him with Abramoff, or with Abramoff’s sons, or of Laura Bush with Abramoff ’s daughters, apparently taken during all of those meetings that never took place? And the time when the president joked with Abramoff about his weight lifting: “What are you benching, buff guy?” How about the invitation to the ranch in Crawford, where Abramoff would have joined all of the other big Bush fund-raisers?Abramoff didn’t go to that—it fell on the Sabbath, which, as an Orthodox Jew, Abramoff observes—but how about that speech Bush but how about that speech Bush gave to big donors in 2003, when Abramoff sat only a few feet away, between Republican senators George Allen (Virginia) and Orrin Hatch (Utah), and was the only lobbyist on the dais?

The article is long but good. It has everything you need to know about Abramoff (minus the dumbass tripe about "Abramoff-related tribes" giving money to Democrats-- it's been proven pretty thoroughly at this point that Abramoff directed tribes to give less, not more, money to Democrats), plus some interesting quotes from the man himself. I especially recommend the part where he raves like a scorned lover at the reporter's comment that Newt Gingrich says he doesn't know him.

more Jon Stewart

In reply to Grimsaburger, who said: "Maybe they just don't get it when no one's telling them when to laugh."

That's exactly what I'm starting to think as well. I noticed, reading one critic, that after bashing Stewart for being too tepid and too nice to Hollywood (clue #1), they noted his few shining moments, which eerily coincided with the moments where the audience laughed the most (clue #2).

First of all, I thought Stewart eviscerated Hollywood; my only worry was that he was being so hard on them that the audience would turn on him. And about the "high points", sure, those moments were funny, but I thought it was fairly obvious that most of the humor (and the sharpest barbs) came at Hollywood's expense, so it would stand to reason that TV viewers would find it funnier than the live audience, which is exactly what one should expect of Stewart.

Of course, if you've become so conditioned by TV that you only know something's funny when the audience is shown a blinking "Laugh" sign, I guess you might not notice.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Post Secret

Easily the most deliciously haunting website I've ever seen: PostSecret.com.

These are real cards people made and sent in.

Jon Stewart and the Oscars

Saw the Oscars Sunday night. Enjoyed them for the most part, and I liked that there wasn't just one movie that swept the whole show like 2 years ago. Kinda thought Brokeback should've gotten more, though.

So what's up with the punditocracy pooping all over Stewart's performance? Everything I read mentions him as being "tame," "boring," and "falling flat." What the hell are you talking about? Stewart was the biggest iconoclast the Academy Awards has had up there up there in years. Didn't any of these wankers see his response to that sanctimonious montage of films tackling controversial subjects when he looked at the camera, donned that signature smirk, and said,
"And the best part was, none of those issues was ever a problem again."

Famous musician arrested for beating his girlfriend

Before you read any further, guess which musician.

Who's your guess: Lars Ulrich, Tommy Lee, Toby Keith? From AP:
The musician Yanni was arrested at his home after an alleged domestic dispute with his girlfriend, authorities said.

Yanni, whose legal name is John Yanni Christopher, was arrested early Friday and faces a domestic battery charge, according to a police report.

This just in: Yanni and Charlie Daniels are going on tour together, Kid Rock to open for them.

Friday, March 03, 2006

CENTCOM now monitoring blogs

Ok, I'm a little creeped out. This is from their own website (c/o Georgia10 at DKos):
U.S. Central Command officials here took notice [of blogs] and created a team to engage these writers and their electronic information forums.

McNorton said the team contacts bloggers to inform the writers about any given topic that may have been posted on their site. This outreach effort enables the team to offer complete information to bloggers by inviting them to visit CENTCOM's Web site for news releases, data or imagery.

The team engages bloggers who are posting inaccurate or untrue information, as well as bloggers who are posting incomplete information. They extend a friendly invitation to all bloggers to visit the command's Web site.

"Now (online readers) have the opportunity to read positive stories. At least the public can go there and see the whole story. The public wants to hear these good stories," he said, adding that the news stories the military generates are "very factual."

From his desk at CENTCOM headquarters here, Army Reserve Spc. Claude Flowers of the 304th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment from Kent, Wash., fights in the global war on terrorism daily in his own way. It is an effort, officials here said, that is making a big difference in the communications arena in the online world.

This is just crazy on so many levels. If you read the article, you actually feel like you're being propagandized; it has the tone of those 1950's infomercials the government released, with the surreal happy music in the background and all that.

This line is priceless: "The public wants to hear these good stories," he said, adding that the news stories the military generates are "very factual."" Of course, your expected response now is "Oh good, glad to know it's "very factual"!" The fact that they go out of their way to mention that their work is "very factual" should be a red flag anyway: have you ever gone up to hand a paper to a teacher and said, "Now don't worry Mr. X, it's very factual..."?

Frankly, what the hell do English-speaking blogs (I think that's a safe assumption since any Arab-speaking military personnel would have more important jobs) have to do with the War on Terrorism anyway? Are they even interested in winning the war in Iraq, or just in convincing us that they're winning it? Furthermore, how does the military benefit from us wrongly believing that we're winning?

The only people I can think of that benefit are Republican officeholders, and it's not the military's job to protect Republicans approval ratings. Maybe if the Republicans had been busy trying to help the Army win its War on Terrorism, instead of using the army to win Republicans elections, we would be in a little better shape in Iraq and Afghanistan right now.

And of course corollary to that, I'm sure you're all just as s**t-tickled as I am to know this is where my tax dollars are going, instead of, ya know, body armor for the troops or other such sundries.

US Congress at Italian PM's beck and call

Congress: what a bunch of buffoons:
We set aside legislative business and filed into the House Chamber only to hear right-of-center media billionaire Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi speak in Italian with no interpreter. Organized applause was prompted at certain points from the uncomprehending crowd (Members of Congress plus "blue-coated interns, sent in to fill empty seats").

C-SPAN snubbed the event -- a Joint Session of Congress! (Doesn't C-SPAN cover everything?) But the rousing reception aired live overseas, on Berlusconi's own TV stations, skirting his country's equal-time laws in a tough election cycle.

Berlusconi's Italian papers laud the show as one of the most warm receptions from the US Congress to an Italian leader.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

a new spin on the "brothel law"

From the St. Louis Dispatch (c/o AMERICAblog):
Olivia Shelltrack finally has her dream home. Her family moved into the five-bedroom, three-bath frame house in Black Jack last month. But now she fears she and her fiance face uprooting their children because of a city ordinance that says her household fails to meet Black Jack's definition of a family.

Shelltrack and Fondray Loving, her boyfriend of 13 years, were denied an occupancy permit because of an ordinance forbidding three or more individuals from living together if they are not related by "blood, marriage or adoption." The couple have three children, ages 8, 10 and 15, although Loving is not the biological father of the oldest child.

"I was basically told, you can have one child living in your house if you're not married, but more than that, you can't," she said.

This law is actually one that I've heard of before. As you Lubbockites may know, such a law exists in Lubbock as well, although it's more typically described as a "brothel law" down there. Apparently laws of this sort have multiple uses.

In fact, I've heard that South Bend has one, too.

Of course, something they don't discuss in the article is that these laws are also legal loopholes to discriminate against gays or discourage them from adopting (where such loopholes are necessary, anyway). I experienced manifestations of these laws myself as discrimination against college students, who were forced into the ghettos because they were the only places with homes we could afford between just 2 of us, even though some nicer areas had larger homes that 3 or more of us could've afforded together (and we wouldn't have had to deal with our cars getting broken into every couple of months).

Such a brilliant law, so versatile in its ability to screw so many people all at once!

(and by the way, did any of y'all catch the color of the woman vis-a-vis her children? Ya think that might have something to do with her getting nailed by this law? Just sayin'.)