Wednesday, November 30, 2005

For the troops...

Think war profiteering is limited to Big Time Cheney?

This story in the New York Daily News is jaw-droppingly shocking. David H. Brooks, the CEO of a defense contractor (DHB Industries), threw his daughter a $10 million bat-mitzvah with his profits from the Iraq war. The kicker: DHB makes bulletproof vests.

That's right... a $10 million bat-mitzvah. Not only that: 50 Cent, Aerosmith, Tom Petty, Kenny G, and Don Henley were flown in for the occassion (what a bunch of scumbags) on private jets.

You know, Dennis Kozlowski is sitting in the clink right now for his measly $2 million birthday bash with Jimmy Buffett.

At least Kozlowski only ripped off Tyco shareholders.

Texans guilty of murder

The adult citizens of Texas collectively committed a murder in 1993, acting through the instrument of their state government, when they executed Ruben Cantu, an innocent man.

An excellent Slate piece by Dan Markel describes the evidence of innocence and lays out the heartbreaking story:

While on death row, Cantu wrote, "My name is Ruben M. Cantu and I am only 18 years old. I got to the 9th grade and I have been framed in a capital murder case." Notwithstanding Cantu's protestations, Texas executed him at the age of 26 for his alleged role in a murder-robbery. (Because he was only 17 at the time of the crime, Cantu would have been spared execution had the situation arisen more recently.)

Here's hoping Markel is right that good may come of this:

Looking forward, Cantu's tragic end might well accelerate the gradual dismantling of the death penalty. Other factors—such as the economically forbidding cost of capital punishment and newly galvanized Catholic opposition to executions—are also sure to contribute. Indeed, just last week, a report from New Jersey revealed that the state has spent a quarter of a billion dollars on its death-penalty system even though it has yet to execute anyone. Perhaps that's a sign of success; but $250 million is a lot of money that might have been better used to prevent and prosecute other crimes.

This week the 1,000th person since the "modern period" of execution began in 1976 is scheduled to be killed. How many of those 1,000 were in fact truly guilty may never be known. (Aside from Cantu, serious doubts about two other cases have recently been raised.) But we have found our David Gale. And unlike the movie character, Ruben Cantu was not a willing martyr. It's time for Texas and other states to call a moratorium on executions. It's time to renew the national conversation about whether the costs and consequences of the death penalty are compatible with, and expressive of, the benchmark established long ago by the Supreme Court, namely, "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." Absent compelling evidence that executions (even of innocents) are saving lives through deterrence, one lost innocent is too many. Any more would be a crime.

Is Pope Ratzinger Bi-Curious?

In a bizarre new Vatican edict from the former Grand Inquisitor, the Catholic Church is now welcoming priests who have only a "transitory problem" with homosexuality.

Those with "deep-seated" homosexual issues need not apply.

Perhaps the best take I could find was in, surprise, The Guardian. They're British, so you'll have to forgive the rude pun in the last line:

In short, young priests may have a closet, and they may once have peered out of the keyhole, or even stepped out for a moment, but from now on, the closet door must remain tight shut. Or, to put it another way, homosexuality is very much like smoking - a few years off the fags, and you're all nice and pure again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

How Bush can win

Fred Kaplan at Slate lays out a terrifying scenario. Please someone tell me the flaw in his logic, because it seems like we're gonna get screwed out of all this.

Bush's Can't-Lose Reversal
Wednesday's speech will set the agenda for withdrawal from Iraq.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Monday, Nov. 28, 2005, at 7:14 PM ET

Brace yourself for a mind-bog of sheer cynicism. The discombobulation begins Wednesday, when President George W. Bush is expected to proclaim, in a major speech at the U.S. Naval Academy, that the Iraqi security forces—which only a few months ago were said to have just one battalion capable of fighting on its own—have suddenly made uncanny progress in combat readiness. Expect soon after (if not during the speech itself) the thing that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have, just this month, denounced as near-treason—a timetable for withdrawal of American troops.

And so it appears (assuming the forecasts about the speech are true) that the White House is as cynical about this war as its cynical critics have charged it with being. For several months now, many of these critics have predicted that, once the Iraqis passed their constitution and elected a new government, President Bush would declare his mission complete and begin to pull out—this, despite his public pledge to "stay the course" until the insurgents were defeated.

This theory explains Bush's insistence that the Iraqis draft and ratify the constitution on schedule—even though the rush resulted in a seriously flawed document that's more likely to fracture the country than to unite it. For if the pullout can get under way in the opening weeks of 2006, then the war might be nullified as an issue by the time of our own elections.

The political beauty of this scenario is that, even if Iraq remains mired in chaos or seems to be hurtling toward civil war, nobody in Congress is going to call for a halt, much less a reversal, of the withdrawal. The Republicans will fall in line; many of them have been nervous that the war's perpetuation, with its rising toll and dim horizons, might cost them their seats. And who among the Democrats will choose to outflank Bush on his right wing and advocate—as some were doing not so long ago—keeping the troops in Iraq for another five or 10 years or even boosting their numbers. (The question is so rhetorical, it doesn't warrant a question mark.)

In short, Bush could pull a win-win-win out of this shift. He could pre-empt the Democrats' main line of attack against his administration, stave off the prospect of (from the GOP's perspective) disastrous elections in 2006 and '08, and, as a result, bolster his presidency's otherwise dwindling authority within his own party and among the general population.

No wonder he was crying

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's plea agreement detailed the bribes he accepted. Especially notable are the two antique commodes and the "hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash." When you plead guilty to bribery, do you have to give the stuff back?

• $200,000 toward the purchase of his Arlington, Va., condominium.
• $140,000 to a third party for the "Duke-Stir" yacht, which was moved to his boat slip for his use.
• $12,000 paid to an antique store for three night stands, a leaded glass cabinet, a washstand, a buffet and four armoires.
• $7,200 paid to an antique store for a circa 1850 Louis Phillipe period commode and a circa 1830 Restoration period commode.
• $13,500 toward the purchase of a Rolls-Royce.
• $17,889.96 for repairs to the Rolls-Royce.
• $9,200 paid to a manufacturer for two Laser Shot shooting simulators.
• Hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to him and a company he controlled.

A question I too have asked

Emily Messner at the Post asks: "Why Am I Still Getting E-mails from John Kerry?"

I got an e-mail yesterday from John Kerry urging me to vote in the Virginia election today.
Why am I still getting e-mails from John Kerry?

You know at the end of Ferris Bueller's Day Off -- after the credits have rolled and a wounded
Mr. Rooney has pulled off in the school bus with the gummy bear girl -- when Ferris comes down the hall and says, "You're still here? It's over! Go home. Go!"

That's how I feel about John Kerry. It's time to go back to being the junior senator from Massachusetts. It's over. Go home. Go!

Yes, git! Git I told ya! With your mumbling and bumbling, shitty campaign running, windsurfing bullshit, git on.

Fecal Flingers

Well is this behavior from the Aggie Corp of Cadets any surprise to anyone? The Corp and the Aggie fans have a long history of not "playing nice with others". Anyone remember the Tech vs A&M game in Lubbock where the Governor Perry's chief of staff was hit by a fellow Aggie. Or even the night and morning before the 1999 "Bonfire Tragedy" game. When players and coaches were harassed by prank calls throughout the night and then when morning came the hotel's kitchen staff didn't show up to make breakfast for UT. Or we can even go back to the early 80's when the Corp pulled their swords on a female SMU cheerleader. I have no sympathy for this non-team or school for that matter. Look what happened in 99 after the bonfire tragedy when UT cancelled its torchlight parade and actually called for unity between the two school's student bodies.

They deserve all the misery that befells them weather it be a shitty football program or just a shitty ( no pun intended) school in general.

I luv this quote.

"They're genuinely embarrassed by the event," Carnochan said. "I know that there are a lot of classy people within that institution, and we have great respect for [them]."

Monday, November 28, 2005


Things are going well in the DC area.

The Supreme Court is literally falling to pieces and people are reveling in our economic resurgence by stealing lampposts from the Beltway to sell for scrap metal.

Where did those pesky jobs go???

Ah I see, how "American" of you General Motors. Coming out, right before the holidays ( I am sure the employees are thankful) and announcing that GM is "laying off" or firing 30,000 workers. I wonder where could those jobs be headed???

From the Timesof India:

NEW DELHI: America's loss is turning out to be India's gain. Within days of announcing 30,000 job-cuts in the US, automobile giant General Motors Corp will this week unveil plans to increase its workforce in India by nearly 30%. The carmaker has decided to add 450 jobs at its existing plant in Halol (Gujarat) as part of plans to expand presence in India - the emerging low-cost automobile hub in the east. "GM is going on a hiring spree in India, and it's add jobs both on the factory shop-floor as well in the executive cadre. GM will this week start the process to hire 450 additional people for its India venture," a senior head-hunter told The Times of India. While it will increase its floor-worker force by 400, another 50 are being added in its executive cadre. "This is in line with the company's plans to expand its presence in India, which GM feels will drive future growth," the source said.

Sherry Boyles for Texas Democratic Party chair

Mike Hailey reports on his Capitol Insider that:

Austin lawyer Sherry Boyles has apparently decided to throw her name into the ring of contenders for Texas Democratic Party chair.

Boyles, a former state party official who fell short in a bid for railroad commissioner in 2002, will join North Texas activist Boyd Richie as the only two candidates so far in the race to replace State Chairman Charles Soechting, who intends to step down when his term ends next summer.

I say run, Sherry, run. While it may have been a bit hard to see her as a natural for RR commissioner, she's ideally suited to be state chair. Her stump speech about being the daughter of a Baptist preacher in NE Texas speaks to Rs and revs up Ds alike.

She knows politics, she's smart, she can raise money, and she's young. You won't see her bringing in George Shipley. We might even see, gasp, some fresh, creative ideas. And hopefully, having worked for, seen, and learned from the devastation caused by Molly Beth, Sherry will actually be able to recruit and keep talented staff.

Also of note:

While Boyles only received 42 percent of the vote in duel against incumbent Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, she finished with more votes than any other Democrat in a non-judicial statewide contest with the exception of John Sharp in the lieutenant governor's race and Kirk Watson in his quest for attorney general that year.

Gimmie a P-R-O-F-I-T! What's that spell?!!?

Low cost drugs for the elderly? Nah. Higher profits for an already extremely profitable industry? Oh yes! Not to mention the employment of an attractive, limber, and more importanly peppy drug dealers... uh, er, oops. Of course I mean salesforce. Why sweat the details of medicine when peddling drugs that may treat one's heartburn, penile malfunction, and vaginal leakage could be treated???

From NYTimes:

T. Lynn Williamson, Ms. Napier's cheering adviser at Kentucky, says he regularly gets calls from recruiters looking for talent, mainly from pharmaceutical companies. "They watch to see who's graduating," he said.

"They don't ask what the major is," Mr. Williamson said. Proven cheerleading skills suffice. "Exaggerated motions, exaggerated smiles, exaggerated enthusiasm - they learn those things, and they can get people to do what they want."

Some good news out of Texas

As reported in NYT, "Union organizers have obtained what they say is majority support in one of the biggest unionization drives in the South in decades, collecting the signatures of thousands of Houston janitors."

In an era when unions typically face frustration and failure in attracting workers in the private sector, the Service Employees International Union is bringing in 5,000 janitors from several companies at once. With work force experts saying that unions face a slow death unless they can figure out how to organize private-sector workers in big bunches, labor leaders are looking to the Houston campaign as a model.

Note that SEIU is one of the breakaways from the AFL-CIO. The secessionists are the future of labor.

With its campaign to organize the janitors, the union has focused on two groups it says are pivotal if labor is to grow again: low-wage workers and immigrants. The janitors, nearly all of them immigrants,
earn just over $100 a week on average, usually working part time for $5.25 an hour.

Focusing on these two constituencies is what has made labor in Los Angeles such a force. Los Angeles is the only major area where private sector union membership is increasing. They should send TX AFL-CIO staff there to learn the model and bring it back home.

The union announced its campaign last April, but two years earlier, it sent a community liaison to Houston who helped line up backing from the city's mayor, several congressmen and dozens of clergymen, including the Roman Catholic archbishop, Joseph A. Fiorenza. The archbishop even celebrated a special Mass for janitors in August and spoke at the union's kickoff rally, telling the janitors that God was unhappy that they earned so little and did not have health coverage.

Way to go Bill White, for backing this. And also this archbishop. We need more religious voices speaking for the left.

Which brings up... Dave McNeely's latest column asking if "our state and national leaders are truly Christian." The answer, No.

To live a life Christ would have applauded, we need to take care of the least of those in our society—the poor, the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the blind, the marginalized, old folks, and most of all, he children just getting started in life.


Think about the recent proposed budget cuts in Washington for services designed to help people at the bottom of the income scale. Meanwhile, think of all the tax cuts designed primarily to benefit not the needy, but the wealthy. Think about the habit in Texas to approve ever more regressive taxes—like a higher and broader sales tax, and gambling -that shift the tax load those who can least afford it.

Think of balancing a budget shortfall in Texas by cutting programs aimed at those who need our help most.

For McNeely that's pretty ballsy.

Best radio interview ever

Ok, maybe not, but it’s pretty good. Colin Powell’s former chief of staff on Democracy Now. It doesn’t get any more damning than a career military intelligence officer who teaches intelligence at the Army War College and was in the middle of this process eviscerating the distortion of intelligence and the decision-making that got us into Iraq. He calls the speech to the UN “the low point” of his professional career, talks about torture and Abu Ghraib, calls for Bush to clean house of the "Cabal" that hijacked the war process, and oh yeah, he’s a lifelong Republican.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Watching the "Watchdogs"

RAW Story, one of Political Asylum's featured links (to your right) has collected all the Freedom of Information requests made by the MainStreamMedia to the Pentagon since 2000.

The top three US newspapers have filed a grand total of. . . (drumroll). . . 40 FOI requests! The capper may be that Fox News filed more requests than The New York Times. The Times, which has clearly been "Rendon-ed" should be ashamed of this -- particularly in light of Miss Run Amok's pathetic toadying for her White House paramours.

Keep in mind that since the year 2000 the DoD has been at the center of:

1) A war in Afghanistan
2) A spy scandal with John Poindexter and the "Total Information Awarenesss" debacle
3) Leaked Pentagon documents to Israel (but Franklin was an Israeli spy so it's OK)
4) The creation of a disinformation office within the Pentagon ("Office of Special Plans")
5) Countless scandals about doctored, "sexed-up," and just plain ficticious intelligence about Iraq
6) A phony war in Iraq
7) Torture scandals in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay
8) Countless homicide investigations into people who died in US custody
9) An emerging scandal about the use of white phosphorus as a chemical weapon in Fallujah
10) Countless scandals about DoD contracting during the invasion and occupation (Halliburton?)
11) Please fill in the others because I'm sure I've forgotten plenty (there are just so many!!)

Everything recalled, but the the troops

I love how everything that the troops need for combat or even to recover from injuries resulting from being in combat are being recalled, but the troops themselves still remain in the war zone without the necessary equipment that might protect their well being. Yet another example of the Bush administration "supporting the troops"


The military is recalling more than 18,000 protective vests because they did not meet ballistic test standards when the body armor was made up to five years ago.

It is the second recall in about six months.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Little White Lies

This is a great rebuttal to NYT reporter Scott Shane's shameful whitewash of the possible war crimes committed in the assault on Fallujah.

From Monbiot in the Guardian:

A Pentagon spokesman told the BBC that white phosphorus "was used as an incendiary weapon against enemy combatants". He claimed "it is not a chemical weapon. They are not outlawed or illegal." This denial has been accepted by most of the mainstream media. UN conventions, the Times said, "ban its use on civilian but not military targets". But the word "civilian" does not occur in the chemical weapons convention. The use of the toxic properties of a chemical as a weapon is illegal, whoever the target is. . .

As Peter Kaiser of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons told the BBC last week: "If ... the toxic properties of white phosphorus, the caustic properties, are specifically intended to be used as a weapon, that of course is prohibited, because ... any chemicals used against humans or animals that cause harm or death through the toxic properties of the chemical are considered chemical weapons."
The US army knows that its use as a weapon is illegal. In the Battle Book, published by the US Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, my correspondent David Traynier found the following sentence: "It is against the law of land warfare to employ WP against personnel targets."

The Hypocritical Squeaky Wheels of Justice

Who says we're losing our civil liberties?

It only took the Justice Department 3 years and 198 days (1293 days) to get around to telling Jose Padilla (an American citizen) why he's been imprisoned in a Navy brig without charge or access to his family.

Yay America!

Curiously, the only charge against Padilla is that he was part of a "conspiracy to murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas. Well, what do you call extraordinary rendition (kidnapping and maiming), Operation Enduring Freedom (kidnapping, maiming and murder), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (kidnapping, maiming, and murder)?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Asian Deja Vu

Is it mandatory for a Bush to completely embarass himself on a trip to Asia?

First Pappa Bush churled into Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's lap during a trip in 1992.

Now, Junior -- who is apparently suffering from exhaustion during his extensive vacation from his plummeting poll numbers -- managed to look like a complete jackass while he clumsily tried to avoid more questions.

He oddly meanders from the podium toward two ceremonial doors and tries to yank the handle on each one to escape the press gaggle. Since the doors were just ornaments, they obviously did not open. Leaving Bush standing, slack-jawed and confused in front of the cameras before one of his aides pointed him toward the exit.

Now with hilarious video link!!

Texas Cares About Consumers?

Texas is actually at the forefront of consumer protection litigation with a lawsuit against Sony for their freakishly-bad idea to put digital trojan horses on their CD's that would leave open computers for easy hacking.

Essentially, Sony wanted to destroy your PC if you had the audacity to upload the music from the CD you spent $18 for. From BusinessWeek:

Attorney General Greg Abbott accused Sony BMG of surreptitiously installing "spyware" in the form of files that mask other files Sony installed as part of XCP.

This "cloaking" component can leave computers vulnerable to viruses and other security problems, said Abbot, echoing the findings of computer security researchers.

"Sony has engaged in a technological version of cloak-and-dagger deceit against consumers by hiding secret files on their computers," Abbott said in a statement.

Imperialism's PR Wizard

Do you know who John Rendon is? You should.

Al-Qaeda More Effective Than CIA?

An amazing quote today from CIA director Porter Goss:

"An enemy that's working in an amorphous network that doesn't have to worry about a bunch of regulations, chain of command, rule of law or anything else has got a huge advantage over a stultified, slow-moving bureaucratic, by-the-book organization."

Even the CIA might be surprised to find itself labeled a "by the book organization."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Deep Throat Blowback

So, I guess Woodward's 11th-hour attempted rescue of "Big Time" Cheney backfired... to say the least. Far from blowing Fitzgerald's case... it appears to have fueled the creation of a second grand jury (keeping the story in the headlines for quite a while longer).

From Bloomberg:

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said he will present evidence to a second grand jury in his investigation into who leaked the identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame.

The disclosure, contained in court papers and also announced at a court hearing today in Washington, suggests there may be new charges in the two-year probe.

I'll Stop Robbing Banks if You Promise Not To Convict Me For The Others

That's the juicy nuget center of a bizarre stance by the Republican Party of Texas, which is caught up in the center of a DeLay/TAB-like scandal over inappropriate use of funds.

Not sure why Escamilla agreed to it... I bet Ken Oden wouldn't have. I'm sure TAB/DeLay/RPT were all acting innappropriately independently.

To suggest some form of GOP collusion to violate Texas's one campaign law in order to force redistricting down Texans throats would be CRAZY!!!!

From the Statesman:

The Republican Party of Texas avoided prosecution Thursday by agreeing to stop using corporate money for some political activity.

Although party officials denied criminal wrongdoing, they signed an agreement with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla as he was preparing to present to a Travis County grand jury the results of his 18-month investigation into the GOP's 2002 campaign activities.

Friday Daydreams

If only. . .

Go Murtha, screw you Granger

As has been widely reported:

The congressional debate over the Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq escalated Thursday when a House Democrat with a reputation as a hard-nosed defense hawk called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"It's time to bring them home. They've done everything they can do," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.


Murtha, a 73-year-old decorated Marine veteran who served as an intelligence officer in Vietnam, is widely respected by his colleagues on military matters. His stance has the potential to influence others in Congress who are nervous about falling public support for the war.

Kudos to Murtha for his retort to Cheney:

"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there. I like that," said Murtha. "I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

And screw you to Kay Granger for this remark:

But Rep. Kay Granger, a Fort Worth Republican who also sits on the defense appropriations subcommittee with Murtha, slammed his call for a troop withdrawal as "reprehensible and irresponsible."

Referring to the U.S. war dead in Iraq, Granger said a pullout would mean that "their lives have been lost in vain." As of Thursday, 2,082 American troops had died in combat in Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

This is basically the R position. Sending our military off to die in vain, continuing to let them die in vain, OK. Admitting this is occuring, not OK, unpatriotic.

Jimmy Buffett to campaign for Kinky

Buffett will campaign, in moderation
By BILL ADAIR, Times Washington Bureau Chief

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Singer Jimmy Buffett says he will campaign for only two candidates in the 2006 election: Bill Nelson and Kinky Friedman.


Buffett said he was backing Friedman because "he's an old friend of mine and he wrote a great review of my book in the (New York) Times. "I like what he's doing."


Buffett told the students that countries are like rock 'n' roll bands, with three basic types:

democratic (with a small D) bands with four equal members who each want to kill each other;

benevolent dictatorships (he puts himself and his Coral Reefer Band in that category);

the ego-centric band, which has a leader "who doesn't give a damn about anybody else."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Smoking ban kills beloved bar, Owner forced to turn to Wal-mart

Lovejoy's closing in March
By Joe Gross

Lovejoy's Bar and Taproom soon will be no more.

The beloved hangout at 604 Neches has been a downtown staple for 12 years, but plans to close toward the end of March.


"This has been coming for quite a while, but it came to a head through October," Tait said. "It's not just the numbers thing," he said blaming the smoking ban for driving the final nail into the bar's coffin.

"As a 25 year vet of the hospitality business, I hate the fact that I walk into work everyday and face negativity because people aren't allowed to do what they enjoy doing, which is have a cigarette with their beer" Tait said. "It's just uncomfortable. When your patrons tell you every day that they're not enjoying themselves, what are you going to do?"


"I'm thinking about opening a Wal-Mart," Tait said. "Those guys make money."

Reid and Abramoff

Sigh... from the NYT:

"Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Norton on March 5, 2002, also signed by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev. The next day, the Coushattas issued a $5,000 check to Reid's tax-exempt political group, the Searchlight Leadership Fund. A second Abramoff tribe sent another $5,000 to Reid's group. Reid ultimately received more than $66,000 in Abramoff-related donations between 2001 and 2004."

GOP's Long History of Bribing Secretaries of State

Why there isn't a law prohibiting secretaries of state from engaging in political activities during presidential election years is beyond me. Hell, prohibit them from any "campaigning" that doesn't have to do with their own.

From the AP:

Former presidential hopeful Phil Gramm testified Thursday that he never approved thousands of dollars in consulting payments to former Gov. George Ryan's daughters and staff in return for Ryan's endorsement. And he said his aides would not have condoned such a deal, either.

``It's sort of like the difference between love and prostitution,'' the folksy former Texas senator testified, drawing gasps and laughter from spectators at a hearing with the jury out of the room. ``You don't pay people to like you.''

Ryan, 71, and lobbyist friend Larry Warner, 67, are on trial on charges of fraud and racketeering. Among other things, Ryan is accused of using his position as Illinois secretary of state during the 1990s to collect cash and other gifts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Suggest a title for Shrum's new book

Shrum-Di-Dum-Dum:Liberal To UnveilMysteries Of ’04

By Ben Smith
Robert Shrum, the political consultant whose words and ideas have helped define the Democratic Party for 40 years, has signed a contract to write his first book.

At age 62, Mr. Shrum has been a writer for most of his career, and is, in his way, one of America’s best-known. Phrases like “Come home America” and “The dream shall never die”—both part of the political lexicon—are his. But beginning with a stint as a speechwriter for John Lindsay (a Republican who became a Democrat in the early 1970’s), Mr. Shrum has given and sold his words to others. The only books he’s taken credit for writing are a series of debate manuals that he wrote for the American Enterprise Institute to help pay the bills at Harvard Law School.

The new volume, sold for six figures to Simon & Schuster and expected to be released in the spring of 2007, will be all his.

“It’s about politics and what I’ve seen, the lessons I draw from it,” Mr. Shrum told The Observer in a
telephone interview, adding that he didn’t think the book would fit into the usual categories of political publishing. “I don’t know how you separate the fabric of your experience from the vision you have of where the party is or where the party ought to come out.”

Mr. Shrum declined to discuss the book in any further detail, though it was sold based on a thick partial manuscript, according to his agent, Flip Brophy.

So far, possible suggested book titles include:

"My Life As A Loser"
"The Pied Piper of a Desperate Party"
"Overweight and Out of Touch"
"How to Profit From Failure"
"Candidates I Have Loved and Failed"

Suggest your own...

Dan Savage has an interesting proposal:.

If the Republicans can propose a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, why can't the Democrats propose a right to privacy amendment? Making this implicit right explicit would forever end the debate about whether there is a right to privacy. And the debate over the bill would force Republicans who opposed it to explain why they don't think Americans deserve a right to privacy - which would alienate not only moderates, but also those libertarian, small-government conservatives who survive only in isolated pockets on the Eastern Seaboard and the American West.

Of course, passing a right to privacy amendment wouldn't end the debate over abortion - that argument would shift to the question of whether abortion fell under the amendment. But given the precedent of Roe, abortion rights would be on firmer ground than they are now. So, come on, Democrats, go on the offensive - start working on a bill.

Savage thinks it could finally put to rest whether the undefined "right" to privacy in the Constitution protects abortion, sodomy, birth control, etc. I don't know how the hell you actually word a constitutional amendment like that, but why the hell not? Then we can challenge drug laws with it.

I also think privacy is good issue for the Dems generally, esp. when the enemy is big corporations. By making privacy a core value, we could talk about genetic discrimination by insurance companies, identity theft, government databanks and the PATRIOT Act.

It could help us in the new battleground states of the West. Brian Schweitzer could run on it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Quote of the day

"It's kind of like virginity. It is hard to get back." -- Pollster John Zogby on Bush regaining the public trust, Houston Chronicle, 11/15

Hard to get back... unless you're born again!

Learn How to Start Over If You’ve Lost Your Virginity. Also, Grammy Winner Rebecca St. James says, "True Love Waits."

Stepping on His Dick.

What's it gonna take to indict this piece of shit? It seems to me he has a long sorid history of lying under oath... at least here in Texas.

From the L.A. Weekly:

Karl Rove is a brilliant (and brutal) political tactician. Whether or not you accept that Bush won the 2000 election, it was Rove who made a mediocre governor with a second-rate policy mind president of the United States. Rove is also a self-taught American-history scholar (he never finished college). He is a self-made multimillionaire, earning every cent he ever made gaming the American political system. And he is a master of the complex public-policy issues that bore and bewilder Bush.

None of these qualities makes Rove a good defendant or prudently self-interested subject of a criminal investigation. In Washington, until he was caught up in Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame’s name, Rove avoided being put under oath — until his four appearances before the federal grand jury handling the Plame case. Grand-jury proceedings are secret, so little is known about how Rove fared in the questioning that resulted in the indictment of Dick Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby. Yet Rove’s performance under oath in Texas is revealing, and suggests that while testifying before Fitzgerald and the grand jury, Rove might have stepped on his dick (to use a legal term of art from the state of Texas).

Monday, November 14, 2005

R.I.P. America?

Sen. Lindsay Graham, with the blessing of the White House, has proposed an amendment to gut Habeas Corpus -- the linchpin of the American judicial system known as "The Great Writ."

This is truly frightening in that Franz Kafka's "The Trial" will become our reality, rather than a cautionary tale.

This amendment will rid the government of the burden of proof when arresting, detaining, and possibly executing people -- including U.S. citizens. Kafka's Star Chamber will become our reality.

I have called my two worthless senators to urge them to support the "Bingamen Amendment" which would overturn Graham's fascist power-play. I would STRONGLY URGE THAT YOU ALL DO THE SAME. This is not another bullshit call to arms, THIS IS FOR REAL!!!

Furthermore, I'll posting an action alert from the Center for Constitutional Rights that explains the whole nightmare scenario and lists key senators for you to call (all of which I have called this morning). PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE call your senators.



When the Graham amendment passed in the U.S. Senate yesterday, the clock began ticking on human rights in U.S. detention facilities. If we do not act now, non-citizens held by the Bush Administration in Guantánamo will lose the fundamental right to challenge their detention and know what they are charged with, and America will no longer be a country where everyone is equal before the law. The Graham amendment jeopardizes the rights of non-citizens everywhere in the world.

Join CCR in calling and writing your senators today and this weekend to tell them to support the Bingaman amendment – a critical amendment to the Graham amendment that may be introduced Monday. THIS IS A REAL EMERGENCY. STOP THIS ASSAULT ON THE RULE OF LAW, CALL YOUR SENATORS NOW!
The Graham amendment creates a legal black hole of almost unimaginable proportions for those swept up by the Bush Administration’s “war on terror.” The Supreme Court ruled last year in CCR’s case, Rasul v. Bush, that the detainees at Guantánamo have the right to challenge their detention in U.S. court – they did not want the Executive branch of the government to be able to lock people up and throw away the key. If the Bingaman amendment does not pass, the Bush Administration will have successfully stripped federal courts of jurisdiction to hear the cases of the Guantánamo detainees.

The last time this country suspended habeas corpus was for the internment of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans during World War II, a travesty that is now universally recognized as a blot on our nation’s history.
While the Administration and its supporters have tried to characterize the men being held at Guantánamo as the worst of the worst against all evidence, the fact is that even the military has admitted that they often apprehended the wrong people. Some were children, most have no ties to Al Qaida, many were turned over to the U.S. for bounty, and many more were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. If they have no way to appeal their innocence or their status, they will be left to rot in detention indefinitely.

The assault on the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts comes as allegations of secret CIA detention facilities around the world dominate headlines; the Bush Administration has consistently sought to put itself above the law and evade oversight and accountability for torture and other abuse. It is no secret that arbitrary indefinite detention and widespread prisoner mistreatment have taken and continue to take place at Guantánamo and other U.S.-run facilities. If the Graham Amendment is not curtailed, it will only serve to reinforce the growing perception in the world that the United States has become an enemy of human rights.

The Graham amendment creates a thousand points of darkness across the globe where the United States will be free to hold people indefinitely without a hearing and beyond the reach of U.S. law and the checks and balances of the courts enshrined in our Constitution. As has been the practice of this Administration, this latest scheme was accomplished stealthily and in secret. The Center for Constitutional Rights, with your help, vows to continue to fight for the rule of law. We will not allow American democracy to be eroded a little at a time, until, finally looking around, we can no longer recognize what has become of this democratic nation.

It was not only human rights groups like the Center for Constitutional Rights, but many in the military or retired from the military who opposed the Graham amendment: Judge John Gibbons, who argued the landmark CCR case Rasul v. Bush before the Supreme Court, John Hutson, Dean of Franklin Pierce Law Center and former Judge Advocate General of the U.S. Navy, and the National Institute for Military Justice, among others, wrote open letters to the Senate to oppose the dismantling of habeas corpus. To read the letters in opposition to the Graham Amendment, click here.
Your message will be sent to your senators, plus the key senators below. PLEASE ALSO CALL OR FAX THESE SENATORS:
Collins (ME) T: (202) 224-2523 F: (202) 224-2693
Snowe (ME) T: (202) 224-5344 F: (202) 224-1946
Dewine (OH) T: (202) 224-2315 F: (202) 224-6519
Mccain (AZ) T: (202) 224-2235 F: (202) 228-2862
Warner (VA) T: (202) 224-2023 F: (202) 224-6295
Hagel (NEB) T: (202) 224-4224 F: (202) 224-5213
Nelson (NEB) T: (202) 224-6551 F: (202) 228-0012
Conrad (ND)T: (202) 224-2043 F: (202) 224-7776
Landrieu (LA) T: (202)224-5824 F: (202) 224-9735
Lieberman (CT) T: (202) 224-4041 F: (202) 224-9750
Wyden (OR) T: (202) 224-5244 F: (202) 228-2717

Friday, November 11, 2005

Rove Undercuts Pillar of GOP Judicial Tactics

Obstructionism is the common charge hurled at Democrats when opposing the most strident of lunatics that Bush the Second has put up for appointment.

Democrats are quick to counter that Bush has just as many of his picks appointed as Clinton did. However, their argument is usually chalked up as partisan spin -- or some irrelevant side note to the story.

Well, at a recent speech to the Federalist Society, turd-blossom made the Democrats case for them. From the WashPost:

Noting that the Senate has confirmed about 200 of Bush's judicial nominees, Rove said that among the president's greatest contributions "are the changes he's brought about in our courts and our legal culture" and added that "those changes would not have been possible were it not for the Federalist Society."

How was he able to do that if Democrats are obstructing all his selections?

Help Get the NYT to Correct Judy Miller's Farewell Error!

As blogged earlier on P.A., Judy Miller couldn't help leaving the New York Times without one final exaggeration -- this one dealing with her own faulty intelligence.

As discussed earlier, Judy Miller is rewriting history and casting her shameful protection of a White House insider as a fight for a federal shield law. She claims she went to prison to protect her source, thereby making her a First-Amendment martyr and an advocate of the federal shield law.

In her farewell letter to NYT readers, she claims her stay in jail was "twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail for this cause."

The only problem is... she's wrong -- AGAIN. In 2001, Houston freelance writer Vanessa Leggett was incarcerated for 168 days for refusing to turn over her sources and records to a Houston grand jury. While at a newspaper in Austin, we covered Ms. Leggett's case and ran a counter on our opinion page for every day she spent in jail.

At that time, we even opined for a federal shield law (a stance I now do not support). But her case was very much about the First Amendment and protecting her sources and records -- the exact cause Judy Miller has claimed for her imprisonment.

This is not a grey area. This is a GLARING FACTUAL ERROR in Judy Miller's final New York Times piece. One final embellishment for dear old Judy.

Please send emails to the New York Times at and demand a correction. They won't do it!!! Instead, they'll run these non-offending letters instead of correcting their reporter, just one last time.

Below is the text of a letter I have already sent them (receiving only an automated reply telling me not to expect to be contacted):

Dear Editors,

In her farewell letter to readers of the New York Times, journalist Judith Miller claimed she spent 85 days in jail in order to protect a source.

Furthermore, she adds that those 85 days were "twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail for this cause."

That is incorrect. In 2001, Vanessa Leggett, a Houston-based journalist spent 168 days (ironically, roughly twice as long as Miller's imprisonment) in jail for refusing to turn over her notes and sources from interviews she was conducting for an upcoming book. Leggett's widely-publicized incarceration came after she was ruled in contempt for not turning over her sources after a grand jury subpoenaed her documents and sources. Sound familiar?

I know Ms. Miller has made a career out of exaggeration and hyperbole. It's a shame the NYT copyeditors let her get away with one final embellishment.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

There's Always Fox News. . .

Judith Miller, the war-whore turned journalism martyr, has resigned from the New York Times (hooray, surely its reputation has been saved!).

In a letter to the public, she further attempts to rewrite history. For months she assured the public she was only going to jail because she was honoring her confidentiality agreement with Scooter. Now we find out it was actually to highlight the need for a federal shield law for journalists.

Why would she want to do that? Please note the irony: Without her going to jail (due to the lack of a federal shield law), she wouldn't have been able to highlight the federal shield law!

The quickest way for a journalist such as her to regain lost credibility for being an administrative mouthpiece is to get tossed into the clink for a couple of weeks for "protecting a source" in the absence of santioned protection. Why would she want to deny other journalists the same PR tool?

She is a walking example of why NOT to have a federal shield law for journalists. The threat of jail will keep journalists honest in choosing which sources to trust and whether or not they believe enough in what they're writing to risk imprisonment. Taking away the last vestiges civil disobedience that journalists have left would be the nail in the coffin.

Here's the text (hold your nose):

On July 6 I chose to go to jail to defend my right as a journalist to protect a confidential source, the same right that enables lawyers to grant confidentiality to their clients, clergy to their parishioners, and physicians and psychotherapists to their patients. Though 49 states have extended this privilege to journalists as well, for without such protection a free press cannot exist, there is no comparable federal law. I chose to go to jail not only to honor my pledge of confidentiality, but also to dramatize the need for such a federal law.

After 85 days, more than twice as long as any other American journalist has ever spent in jail for this cause (yeah! fuck all those OTHER pussy journalists), I agreed to testify before the special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s grand jury about my conversations with my source, I. Lewis Libby Jr. I did so only after my two conditions were met: first, that Mr. Libby voluntarily relieve me in writing and by phone of my promise to protect our conversations ("the aspens turn in clusters, because their roots connect them"); and second, that the special prosecutor limit his questions only to those germane to the Valerie Plame Wilson case .

Contrary to inaccurate reports ("inaccurate," like say, all your stories on Iraqi WMDs?), these two agreements could not have been reached before I went to jail. Without them, I would still be in jail, perhaps, my lawyers warned, charged with obstruction of justice, a felony (the horror!). Though some colleagues disagreed with my decision to testify, for me to have stayed in jail after achieving my conditions would have seemed self-aggrandizing martyrdom or worse, a deliberate effort to obstruct the prosecutor’s inquiry into serious crimes (to which you were just an innocent witness!).

Partly because of such objections from some colleagues, I have decided, after 28 years and with mixed feelings, to leave The Times. I am honored to have been part of this extraordinary newspaper and proud of my accomplishments here – a Pulitzer, a DuPont, an Emmy and other awards – but sad to leave my professional home.

But mainly I have chosen to resign because over the last few months, I have become the news, something a New York Times reporter never wants to be (well, how did she expect to become a supposed martyr for the federal shield law without becoming "news"?).

Even before I went to jail, I had become a lightning rod for public fury over the intelligence failures (and failures of journalism in the "paper of record") that helped lead our country to war. Several articles I wrote or co-wrote were based on this faulty intelligence, and in May 2004, The Times concluded in an editors’ note that its coverage should have reflected greater editorial and reportorial skepticism.

At a commencement speech I delivered at Barnard College in 2003, a year before that note was published, I asked whether the administration’s prewar W.M.D. intelligence was merely wrong, or was it exaggerated or even falsified. I believed then, and still do, that the answer to bad information is more reporting (yes, more bad reporting will solve all our problems). I regret that I was not permitted to pursue answers to the questions I raised at Barnard. Their lack of answers continues to erode confidence in both the press and the government.

The right of reply and the obligation to correct inaccuracies are also the mark of a free and responsible press. I am gratified that Bill Keller, The Times executive editor, has finally clarified remarks made by him that were unsupported by fact and personally distressing (I can only imagine her pain). Some of his comments suggested insubordination on my part. I have always written the articles assigned to me, adhered to the paper’s sourcing and ethical guidelines, and cooperated with editorial decisions, even those with which I disagreed.

I salute The Times’s editorial page for advocating a federal shield law before, during and after my jailing and for supporting as recently two weeks ago my willingness to go to jail to uphold a vital principle. Most of all, I want to thank those colleagues who stood by me after I was criticized on these pages (all seven of you). My response to such criticism can be read in full on my web site: (remember, she doesn't want to become "news").

I will continue speaking in support of a Federal shield law. In my future writing, I intend to call attention to the internal and external threats to our country’s freedoms – Al Qaeda and other forms of religious extremism, conventional and W.M.D. terrorism, and growing government secrecy in the name of national security – subjects that have long defined my work. I also leave knowing that The Times will continue the tradition of excellence that has made it indispensable to its readers, a standard for journalists, and a bulwark of democracy (if only more papers tolerated mediocrity, faked stories and let reporters lie to trick our nation into war).

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I Love Helen Thomas

From the official White House transcript of Scotty McClellan's press gaggle yesterday. All apologies for the length but anyone interested in how to NOT run a press conference should read this whole thing:

Q I'd like you to clear up, once and for all, the ambiguity about torture. Can we get a straight answer? The President says we don't do torture, but Cheney --

MR. McCLELLAN: That's about as straight as it can be.

Q Yes, but Cheney has gone to the Senate and asked for an exemption on --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, he has not. Are you claiming he's asked for an exemption on torture? No, that's --

Q He did not ask for that?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- that is inaccurate.

Q Are you denying everything that came from the Hill, in terms of torture?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you're mischaracterizing things. And I'm not going to get into discussions we have --

Q Can you give me a straight answer for once?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me give it to you, just like the President has. We do not torture. He does not condone torture and he would never --

Q I'm asking about exemptions.

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me respond. And he would never authorize the use of torture. We have an obligation to do all that we can to protect the American people. We are engaged --

Q That's not the answer I'm asking for --

MR. McCLELLAN: It is an answer -- because the American people want to know that we are doing all within our power to prevent terrorist attacks from happening. There are people in this world who want to spread a hateful ideology that is based on killing innocent men, women and children. We saw what they can do on September 11th --

Q He didn't ask for an exemption --

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are going to --

Q -- answer that one question. I'm asking, is the administration asking for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: I am answering your question. The President has made it very clear that we are going to do --

Q You're not answering -- yes or no?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, you don't want the American people to hear what the facts are, Helen, and I'm going to tell them the facts (HA!).

Q -- the American people every day. I'm asking you, yes or no, did we ask for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: And let me respond. You've had your opportunity to ask the question. Now I'm going to respond to it.

Q If you could answer in a straight way.

MR. McCLELLAN: And I'm going to answer it, just like the President -- I just did, and the President has answered it numerous times.

Q -- yes or no --

MR. McCLELLAN: Our most important responsibility is to protect the American people. We are engaged in a global war against Islamic radicals who are intent on spreading a hateful ideology, and intent on killing innocent men, women and children.

Q Did we ask for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are going to do what is necessary to protect the American people.

Q Is that the answer?

MR. McCLELLAN: We are also going to do so in a way that adheres to our laws and to our values. We have made that very clear. The President directed everybody within this government that we do not engage in torture. We will not torture. He made that very clear.

Q Are you denying we asked for an exemption?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, we will continue to work with the Congress on the issue that you brought up. The way you characterize it, that we're asking for exemption from torture, is just flat-out false, because there are laws that are on the books that prohibit the use of torture. And we adhere to those laws.

Q We did ask for an exemption; is that right? I mean, be simple -- this is a very simple question.

MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered your question. The President answered it last week.

Q What are we asking for?

Q Would you characterize what we're asking for?

MR. McCLELLAN: We're asking to do what is necessary to protect the American people in a way that is consistent with our laws and our treaty obligations. And that's what we --

Q Why does the CIA need an exemption from the military?

MR. McCLELLAN: David, let's talk about people that you're talking about who have been brought to justice and captured. You're talking about people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad; people like Abu Zubaydah.

Q I'm asking you --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, this is facts about what you're talking about.

Q Why does the CIA need an exemption from rules that would govern the conduct of our military in interrogation practices?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are already laws and rules that are on the books, and we follow those laws and rules. What we need to make sure is that we are able to carry out the war on terrorism as effectively as possible, not only --

Q What does that mean --

MR. McCLELLAN: What I'm telling you right now -- not only to protect Americans from an attack, but to prevent an attack from happening in the first place. And, you bet, when we capture terrorist leaders, we are going to seek to find out information that will protect -- that prevent attacks from happening in the first place. But we have an obligation to do so. Our military knows this; all people within the United States government know this. We have an obligation to do so in a way that is consistent with our laws and values.

Now, the people that you are bringing up -- you're talking about in the context, and I think it's important for the American people to know, are people like Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh -- these are -- these are dangerous killers.

Q So they're all killers --

Q Did you ask for an exemption on torture? That's a simple question, yes or no.

MR. McCLELLAN: No. And we have not. That's what I told you at the beginning.

Q You want to reserve the ability to use tougher tactics with those individuals who you mentioned.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, obviously, you have a different view from the American people. I think the American people understand the importance of doing everything within our power and within our laws to protect the American people.

Q Scott, are you saying that Cheney did not ask --

Q What is it that you want the -- what is it that you want the CIA to be able to do that the U.S. Armed Forces are not allowed to do?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not going to get into talking about national security matters, Bill. I don't do that, because this involves --

Q This would be the exemption, in other words.

MR. McCLELLAN: This involves information that relates to doing all we can to protect the American people. And if you have a different view -- obviously, some of you on this room -- in this room have a different view, some of you on the front row have a different view.

Q We simply are asking a question.

Q What is the Vice President -- what is the Vice President asking for?

MR. McCLELLAN: It's spelled out in our statement of administration policy in terms of what our views are. That's very public information. In terms of our discussions with members of Congress --

Q -- no, it's not --

MR. McCLELLAN: In terms of our members -- like I said, there are already laws on the books that we have to adhere to and abide by, and we do. And we believe that those laws and those obligations address these issues.

Q So then why is the Vice President continuing to lobby on this issue? If you're very happy with the laws on the books, what needs change?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, you asked me -- you want to ask questions of the Vice President's office, feel free to do that. We've made our position very clear, and it's spelled out on our website for everybody to see.

Q We don't need a website, we need you from the podium.

MR. McCLELLAN: And what I just told you is what our view is.

Q But Scott, do you see the contradiction --

MR. McCLELLAN: Jessica, go ahead.

Help Fund Treason!

Poor I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Jr.

Few high-administration officials have the foresight to make sure they have lots of money in the bank to cover future legal bills before they out clandestine CIA agents (working on WMDs) for mere political retribution. Unfortunately, Scooter was one of them.

So, times are tough for felonious Benedict Arnolds. What could help him more (or possibly be more inappropriate) than an anonymous legal fund?

Now, shadowy supporters of Fake War/The White House Iraq Group/PNAC/Neo-Con Imperialism/Doctored Intelligence/Felonious Behavior can give money to help defend Scooter and bail out Bushie!

Hear that Bush Pioneers and Republican Sugar-Daddies? If you give generously to Scooter, he'll get off, and Bush's popularity will once again reach the stratosphere, thereby allowing him to ram even more unpopular anti-working class legislation down the gullets of Americans for another three years!

Here's more on your exciting new opportunity to help Poor Scooter (from the NYT):

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice Presiden Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, is establishing a fund to help pay for his legal defense in the C.I.A. leak case, and associates of Mr. Libby have begun soliciting money from his friends and Republican donors, lawyers and people who have been contacted about the fund said on Tuesday.

Ms. Comstock declined to comment. Other people who have been told of the fund said that their understanding was that names of the donors would not be made public, but that some decisions about how the fund would operate had yet to be made. With Mr. Libby having left government, there is no legal requirement for any public disclosure.
But in establishing the fund, Mr. Libby is opening himself to questions. Legal and campaign finance specialists said he could face scrutiny about whether any financial assistance he might receive from allies of President Bush and Mr. Cheney was going to finance a defense strategy intended in part to minimize harm to the administration.

For the apologists...

Sorry for all the torture posts lately, it's just something that really, really (really) bugs me.

For all the apologists for Bush who are trying to create some "wiggle room" between what the world is witnessing first hand about America-brand Torture, you should ponder the following:

Even the CIA, on whose behalf all these efforts to allow torture are supposedly being done, is doubtful these new torture powers are legal (if not completely and utterly reprehensible):

A classified report issued last year by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general warned that interrogation procedures approved by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks might violate some provisions of the international Convention Against Torture, current and former intelligence officials say. The previously undisclosed findings from the report, which was completed in the spring of 2004, reflected deep unease within the C.I.A. about the interrogation procedures, the officials said. A list of 10 techniques authorized early in 2002 for use against terror suspects included one known as waterboarding, and went well beyond those authorized by the military for use on prisoners of war.

Let me just put this in context: The vice-president of the nation that advertises itself (with quite a big budget) as the "shining city on the hill" to the rest of the world is holding hostage the funds to wage his own bogus war and the funds that would put body armor on the unwitting US troops prosecuting said bogus war so that he might override Congress's express wishes and allow clandestine intelligence services (who aren't even sure this is legal) to torture and perhaps murder people in shadowy gulags around the world without any trial or type of adjudication whatsoever.

Himmler of Honduras Bails on Cheney

Wow. You know it's bad when the architect of the darkest days in the violent history of Honduras decides even YOU are nuts.

From the UPI (via my dad):

U.S. intelligence czar John Negroponte is declining to support Vice President Dick Cheney's effort to exempt the CIA from law banning mistreatment of detainees.

"It's above my pay grade," he told a secret briefing for Senators last month, Time Magazine reported Sunday, adding that Negroponte then "artfully dodged another question about whether the harsher interrogation tactics Cheney wants the agency to be free to use actually produce valuable intelligence."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Beer beer beer!

Drinker's Delight: Beer May Fight Disease
A Unique Compound in Ale Intrigues Oregon Researchers

Along with tea, coffee, red wine and chocolate, beer may be added to the list of foods containing disease-fighting micronutrients.

Nov. 7, 2005 —

"Mmmm … beer."

This oft-repeated sentiment of Homer Simpson is a mantra for the millions of beer drinkers in the United States. As popular as beer is, however, it often has gotten a bad rap as a calorie-loaded beverage that only serves to create paunchy beer bellies and alcohol-fueled lapses in judgment.

But that negative image may begin to fade: Research is showing that beer could join the ranks of other guilt-inducing but wildly popular foods — chocolate, coffee and red wine — as a possible disease-fighter.

It turns out that beer hops contain a unique micronutrient that inhibits cancer-causing enzymes. Hops are plants used in beer to give it aroma, flavor and bitterness.


What Stevens and others are discovering is that xanthohumol has several unique effects. Along with inhibiting tumor growth and other enzymes that activate cancer cells, it also helps the body make unhealthy compounds more water-soluble, so they can be excreted.

Most beers made today are low on hops, however, and so don't contain much xanthohumol. But beers known for being "hoppy" — usually porter, stout and ale types — have much higher levels of the compound. Oregon's microbrews ranked particularly high, Stevens said, which is not surprising: U.S. hops are grown almost entirely in the Northwest.

Still, no one knows how much beer is needed to reap the benefits. Mice studies show that the compound is metabolized quickly by the body, so it's hard to get a large amount in the body at one time, Stevens said.

"It clearly has some interesting chemo-preventive properties, and the only way people are getting any of it right now is through beer consumption," he said.

By the way, I love that the reporter who wrote this piece is "Joy Victory". How appropriate. I'm drinking a sixer of Sierra tonight!

Why You Should Vote for Jerry Kilgore in VA

Straight from the horse's ass:

``The thing I like about this fellow is he grew up on a farm,'' Bush said in a brief stop on his return from a South American trade mission. ``He doesn't have a lot of fancy airs.''

Curveball and The Knuckleheads

"Curveball," the source who (in)famously filled NYT reporter Judy Miller's willing head with visions of phantom WMD's and mythical mushroom clouds, is back -- literally.

Not only has Ahmed Chalabi not been discredited as an embezzler and fraudster (in fact, type the word "embezzler" into Google and you get his name!!), he is now getting advice from the WHIGs (White House Iraq Group) on how to win in the Iraqi elections!

Here's a tip Chalabi: Hire Wally O'Dell and Diebold. You can't lose! (In fact, "You can't lose with Diebold" should be their new slogan, with all copyrights going to me of course).

More from the Guardian (because you won't read this in the New York Times!):

Ahmed Chalabi comes in from the cold today, arriving in Washington to meet senior Bush administration officials for the first time in two years - despite lingering allegations that the Iraqi politician provided bogus pre-war intelligence, and a continuing investigation into whether he passed US secrets to Iran. . .

At the time Condoleezza Rice, then national security adviser, promised a criminal investigation into the charges, but it appears to have made little progress (as these investigations do in the Bush White House).

He is due to meet Ms Rice at the state department tomorrow, and John Snow, the treasury secretary, today. He is also expected to see Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, and possibly the vice-president, Dick Cheney. With the Iraqi election so close, President Bush will not meet Mr Chalabi or any other Iraqis (oh, because THAT would look bad).

Mr Chalabi is repositioning himself in Iraqi politics in anticipation of the December 15 elections. He has withdrawn from the Shia Iraqi United Alliance and recruited his own list of candidates, presenting himself as a secular liberal. However, he has maintained links with the Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, while reinforcing his claim to be a bridge between Iraq and Iran by visiting Tehran before his US trip.

Mr Chalabi told the New York Times that he had warned Iranian leaders against meddling in Iraqi affairs. However, Iranian and Arab press reports quoted him as saying Iran was playing "a very positive and constructive role in the formation of the Iraqi government".

In fact, they should pull Judy Miller away from her memoirs and reunite the old gang!

Monday, November 07, 2005

From the 'Are You Shitting Me?!?' file

Despite Karl Rove's stated plan to get ministers at evangelical churches around the nation to openly support George Bush and tell their flock that John Kerry was the devil, something like this happens.

I remember one of the favorite rants of the GOP during Clinton's terms was that he targeted political opposition with the IRS. Well then, what the hell is this???

From the Los Angeles Times (via my Dad):

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election. In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.
Image courtesty of

The Wonderful World of Semantics

PANAMA CITY, PANAMA (AP)- President Bush vigorously defended U.S. interrogation practices in the war on terror Monday and lobbied against a congressional drive to outlaw torture.

``There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again,'' Bush said. ``So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law.''

He declared, ``We do not torture.''


Before you laugh, Bush is techically telling the truth. Of course the US government doesn't torture... "torture" is illegal both in international law and is outlawed in our Bill of Rights by the Eighth Amendment. Our military and intelligence agencies "interrogate vigorously."

Now... if Bush/Cheney has its way and gets the House-Senate conferees on the Defense Appropriations Act to strike John McCain's anti-torture amendment, THEN we "torture."

Then there was that pesky torture memo that keeps biting them in the ass. Sorry, I mean the "interrogation" memo.

Big Brother and Friendster

In one of the most disturbing glances into the loss of our civil liberties, the Washington Post yesterday featured a story about the huge uptick in the use of "national security letters" to circumvent our constitutional rights.

Despite from issuing the big-fat "I told you so!" to people who think the PATRIOT Act was a good idea, I would urge anyone to read this article and in particular, the FBI's use of "contact chaining" to drag innocent people into the murky morass that is "counterterrorism."

So, if the FBI has an ALLEGED terrorist suspect, through contact chaining, they can now investigate anyone who has come in contact with them (no matter how arbitrary), and can investigate anyone who as come in contact with the person that came in contact with the alleged terrorist suspect.

To better understand how broad the net the FBI can now cast, we'll use a popular Internet common area. On the Friendster website, the program notes how many friends you have by degrees. For instance, I have 25 actual friends listed as "first degree." That number jumps to 1052 when you include all their friends as "second degree" friends of mine. By the time you get to the "third degree," I supposedly have 43,887 friends.

See where this is going? If I was supposedly a "person of interest" to the FBI, they would now be authorized to capture all kinds of information (PERMANENTLY) on 43,887 people. Now, imagine if they have hundreds of suspects (which they do)...

Please read more of this Post article to understand our police state:

Ready access to national security letters allows investigators to employ them routinely for "contact chaining."

"Starting with your bad guy and his telephone number and looking at who he's calling, and [then] who they're calling," the number of people surveilled "goes up exponentially," acknowledged Caproni, the FBI's general counsel.

But Caproni said it would not be rational for the bureau to follow the chain too far. "Everybody's connected" if investigators keep tracing calls "far enough away from your targeted bad guy," she said. "What's the point of that?"

One point is to fill government data banks for another investigative technique. That one is called "link analysis," a practice Caproni would neither confirm nor deny.

Two years ago, Ashcroft rescinded a 1995 guideline directing that information obtained through a national security letter about a U.S. citizen or resident "shall be destroyed by the FBI and not further disseminated" if it proves "not relevant to the purposes for which it was collected." Ashcroft's new order was that "the FBI shall retain" all records it collects and "may disseminate" them freely among federal agencies.

The same order directed the FBI to develop "data mining" technology to probe for hidden links among the people in its growing cache of electronic files. According to an FBI status report, the bureau's office of intelligence began operating in January 2004 a new Investigative Data Warehouse, based on the same Oracle technology used by the CIA. The CIA is generally forbidden to keep such files on Americans.

Data mining intensifies the impact of national security letters, because anyone's personal files can be scrutinized again and again without a fresh need to establish relevance.