Saturday, December 31, 2005
Santa Puppy wishes you all a Happy New Year!
Brilliantly bungled. Ridgeway article on Bushco depradations against civil rights
James Ridgeway is one of those frustratingly brilliant journalists who manage to bury important stories in a mishmash of sloppy writing.
Let's write it the way it should have been written:
The 9-11 attacks provided the rationale for what amounts to a Bush family coup against the Constitution. From the outset, President George Bush used 9-11 to reorganize and increase the federal government's reach ...It is little wonder both left and right have come together to fight Bush...After all, [the Administration is] directly engaged in overthrowing constitutional government. How did this all come about?
So far, so cool. It's a straight recitation of the train of abuses and it lays the theme of the story: left and right come together to resist excesses.
Then there's a good section on the pre-FISA history:
Between 1960 and 1974, the FBI conducted half a million investigations of so-called subversives, without a single conviction, and maintained files on well over a million Americans. The FBI tapped phones, opened mail, planted bugs, and burglarized homes and offices. At least 26,000 individuals were at one point catalogued on an FBI list of persons to be rounded up in the event of a "national emergency." Hoover was particularly obsessed with Martin Luther King ...Meanwhile, the CIA began spying domestically. The Agency planted informants of its own within the United States, especially on college campuses. Between 1953 and 1973, they opened and photographed nearly a quarter of a million first-class letters, producing an index of nearly 1.5 million names. Under something called Operation CHAOS, separate files were created on approximately 7,200 Americans and over 100 domestic groups.
Again, very good. It would have been nice if he had mentioned that it was Nixon's decision to stop spying on African Americans and the left and shift over to spying on mainstream whites like Jack Anderson and the head of the Democratic National Committee, Lawrence O'Brien, that brought this happy little tyranny crashing down. Yet the name of Nixon is nowhere mentioned.
Ridgeway skips over with a brief phrase one of the most outrageous abuses of the 1980s, the FBIs insertion of agents into groups--many of them religious-- opposing the illegal Central American war. They are believed to have engaged in making death threats and conducting breakins, as well as perhaps attempting to lure peaceful activists into committing violent crimes. You can read the DoJ's version of things here
. There are substantially less generous characterizations of their actions. For example
...an informer who infiltrated the Dallas CISPES (Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador), a group which regularly met in a church, reports that his FBI contact encouraged him to seduce one of the nuns in the group and film it.
It's very hard to thing of anything much more scummy than that, but read much history and you'll find some.
And then, in what troubles me the most about the article, this paragraph:
The shooting at Ruby Ridge and the raid in Waco galvanized not just the right but the heartland against the Bureau. At Ruby Ridge, it was an FBI sniper killing a mother with a baby in her arms. At Waco it was a monstrous assault on a religious enclave. And the Bureau's handling of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995-with botched lab work and lost documents-to this day fuels the controversy over the government's role in that catastrophe. Recent evidence suggests a federal agent may have penetrated the gang that conducted the bombing. The informant told her superior, who sat on the information until long after the bombing.
Um. Let's see. At Waco, four agents attempting to serve a lawful warrant were shot down in cold blood.
At Ruby Ridge, an agent was killed while attempting to serve a lawful warrant.
Aren't they and their parents and widows and surviving children also human beings, worthy of being remembered with at least
the same consideration as Vernon Howell and the people that he burned to death at Waco, or Randy Weaver and his wife?
And there is no "recent evidence" about Oklahoma City, unless "recent" means allegations going back almost 10 years
of involvement by a German named Andrew Strassmeier and an extremist group centered at Elohim City.
So, if what is bringing together left and right is Waco and the federal abduction and torture of Maher Arar, they should stay apart. There is absolutely no comparison.
Ridgeway cheapened and trivialized an important story, of how difficult it is to do good law enforcement while not giving police and intelligence agencies so much power that they commit grave crimes against liberty, by throwing in what are minor abuses.
Resolved: Starting a war with Syria
is was a smart idea
ON NOW: PUBLIC DEBATE
Now in its seventy third exciting day!
Resolved: Starting a war with Syria
is was in America's best interests
Taking the affirmative
: Cowardly Anonymous Right-Whinger
Taking the negative
: Charles Utwater II
Rules: (1) Each side will make an opening statement not to exceed 200 words. Subsequent statements may not exceed 500 words unless in direct response to specific questions.
(2) Any statement must be documented if requested.
(3) Any question formally posed (as indicated by a question mark) must be answered.
(4) Any post containing profanity, language abusive of any ethnic group or nationality, commercial spam, potentially illegal speech such as advocacy of assassination, or any post not in conformity with the Terms of Service of Blogger will be deleted and a suitably edited version substituted. Posts will otherwise be allowed to stand as is.
Bring it on!
[Note to readers: Since we can't find anyone willing to actually defend the idea of invading series, I will soldier on carrying both sides of the argument. These last three weeks have been busy, though, and time has not permitted.
I think it's very interesting I can't get anyone to take ownership of the debating points I offered up in the last post, representing the pro-invasion side. Could it be that 'wingers know I have the sources to prove that they're all bogus?]
Update, 11/29: The US has already begun to wage a second illegal war before losing the first
AMY GOODMAN: Last question, and that has to do with your last section of your piece on this composite American Special Forces team, known as the S.M.U., special mission unit, in Syria.
SEYMOUR HERSH: Well, there's more than one. There's many of them. You know, there's more than a handful of these units. Some are in Syria, some are other places. ...I can tell you right now, inside the American intelligence community, and I’m talking about high up in the community, there's a great deal of concern about these kind of operations...they don't clear it with either the State Department or the ambassador in the country or the C.I.A. chief of station. It's a formula for chaos.
Update, 12/15: I really am working on it. You know how the holidays are.
The latest kerfuffle is CIA agent Michael Scheuer's recent contention that Bill Clinton ordered people disappeared.
However, as Sysiphus Shrugged
shows, this contradicts what he stated earlier, namely as reported by the indispensible Robert Parry, recounting Richard Fricker's interview of Scheuer in SonntagsBlick:
“I don’t think anybody has been released. … People we picked up are being held someplace else. I don’t think we held anyone until after 9/11. But the rendition program initially delivered people to countries where they were wanted. [These people are either still incarcerated] or they’re dead. We never picked up anyone who wasn’t wanted by the authorities.
This would seem to be um, just slightly
different than, say, grabbing a Canadian citizen wanted for nothing at all out of an American airport and shipping him off to Egypt for contract torture on the suspicion that he was an Arab.
Readers of this blog will, I think, find no posts by me on Scheuer-- and not because I have deleted them when reality has become inconvenient, like a certain law professor in Tennessee. If I am wrong, they are there to be found. (PhoenixWoman posted a refutation of a Scheuer claim in August)
While I am always interested in what CIA agents have to say, Scheuer has always struck me as a bit off, even when he was saying things that supported my point of view. He has long been a proponent of the idea that Clinton didn't do enough against Al Qaida. But prior to the connection of Al Qaida to the embassy bombings or the Cole bombing, there was no reason to think that Al Qaida represented a danger greater than any of a zillion nationalist/terrorist groups, including a number of right-wing groups inside the United States. Now, suddenly, he says Clinton declared war on Al Qaida in 1995, to the point he was authorizing extrajudicial killings! This certainly looks like the weathervane blowing in the direction of the wind of convenience.
Sisyphus Shrugged predicts the right-wing blogs will forget all of the hard things they said about Scheuer when he was slamming Bush. I'd call that a good guess. And I'll further guess that most of what Scheuer has claimed will end up in history's dustbin.
Sad that such a person could have ended up in such a responsible position. But that's what you get when people with a narrow (and paranoid) worldview end up in charge of an intelligence agency. Think Hansen and Aldrich Ames.
Another myth falls: Not Russian winter but Russian bugs felled Napoleon
Jon Henley in The Gruadnia
"Ever since his catastrophic retreat from Moscow, the terrible losses suffered by Napoleon's soldiers have been blamed on hunger and the biting cold of the Russian winter. But according to new research by French scientists, the fabled Grande Armée, reduced to 30,000 men by December 1812 from a total of 600,000-700,000 just six months earlier, was actually felled by ...typhus and trench fever"
AP Reporter May Be Paid State Department Operative
Anthony Fenton reported on 12/27on Flashpoints
that Régine Alexandre, an AP reporter and a stringer for the NY Times, was on the payroll of the State Department through the USAID's National Endowment for Democracy. Since May 10, 2004, she has filed at least 10 reports with AP on Haiti. Alexander, a Canadian, was trained by NED to participate in the "nation building" in Haiti while she was active as a reporter. The general story has been confirmed elsewhere
, although it's being spun as being less explosive.
Meanwhile, the news on the major outlets is this
: Two members of the Organization of American States have been kidnapped in the Haitian capital, police have said...The two OAS employees - a Guatemalan and a Peruvian - were abducted while driving on a road near the international airport. The Haitian spouse of one of the two OAS workers was also abducted with them in Port-au-Prince, police said. They were a short distance away from the Cite Soleil neighbourhood, where several kidnappings and shootings have taken place.
What the Beeb won't tell you is that many of those kidnappings and shootings have been committed by the Haitian...um, government?... and the UN. Flashpoints, on the other hand, tells us that parts of the slums, notably Belaire are turning into ghost towns as a consequence of violent raids by the UN.
In addition to breaking stories the regular media refuses to, Flashpoints is a lot of fun to listen to. Totally over the top. For example, As'ad AbuKhalil saying that the Iraqi press is forbidden to refer to it as the American occupation. What are they, AbuKhalil asked, heavily-armed tourists? I don't endorse Flashpoint's worldview, but every American should listen to it occasionally, if only to understand what real dissent sounds like, and how absolute the propaganda/consensus control of the US is.
Friday, December 30, 2005
Happy New Year and thanks for all the bombs
A prediction of war without end
The Turkish press reports that in a December trip to Turkey, CIA Director Porter Goss “asked Ankara to be ready for a possible US air operation against Iran and Syria.” ... But inquiring journalistic minds should be asking, “What does it mean for Turkey to be ready for U.S. actions against two more Muslim states?”...It’s been suggested that Valerie Plame was outed to impede her investigation of links between the neocons, the American-Turkish Council, and a Turkish nuclear program....The Turkish regime fears its large (20%?) Kurdish minority and the Kurds’ kindred in Iraq, Syria, and Iran. The Kurds are the largest stateless people in the world and have been oppressed historically in all these nations. A key reason Turkey opposed war on Iraq was the prospect of confronting an autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan on its border that might encourage its own Kurds to demand independence....Seymour Hersh has reported that Israel, disillusioned by the U.S. failure to produce an Israel-friendly regime in Baghdad, now feels itself best served by an Israel-friendly Kurdistan sharing its own antipathy to Arab Muslims.
Friday Cat Blogging
Alex, having seen the headlines, checks for surveillance devices.
The Mercury Rising Year End Stock Predictions
Pick your pundit. 2006 will be:
(a) Based on earnings and valuations, Great
(b) Based on valuation and profit growth decline, Volatile but rising, creating buying opportunities
(c) Based on manufacturing sentiment (ISM)Hohum
(d) The onset of winter
And now, Mercury Rising's own economic prognosticator, Charles, will take his stab at it:
Wile E. Coyote left the clifftop five years ago. Because of the massive trade and government deficits, we are pretty sure where he will end up, but the precise path down is uncertain. And, of course, in economics as not in cartoons, it's always possible that he might make it across the canyon.
The question is when he will glance down. Investors do not seem to have noticed that the Dow is where it was five years ago. What that means on practical terms is that stock values have declined by ca. 20% due to inflation. By my reckoning, that puts the Dow at a reasonable level.
But: reasonable only in local dollars. So many dollars have been pumped into the global system that the logical ways for a correction to occur are through (a) inflation, which seems to be happening in a manner not captured by the official inflation index, and (b) currency decline. Investors in gold and commodities (the usual inflation hedge) have not been disappointed. Investors in foreign markets have also done quite well. What is happening is a slow cancer, in which American technological supremacy erodes to serve the needs of the present.
So, I predict that the Dow will continue to decline in purchasing power equivalent. Gold, oil, basic commodities, foreign investments will continue to do well. Investors able to maintain liquidity may be able to scoop up bargains if the pathway of the decline is steep. Of course, they may alse be the worst burned. In 1929, there were buying opportunities, too.
The Wile E. moment comes when investors ask why they should keep their money invested in equities whose real purchasing power is steadily declining, with no prospects of a change. My guess is that at about the time as the Bush presidency no longer becomes viable, the financial Rumsfelds will say, "Sweep it all up." At that moment, there will be a major correction, maybe 20 or 30%. But it still might not be a buying opportunity.
Any suggestions for socially-conscious investors who refuse to make their livelihoods from gold and oil?
Abramoff scam relied on using charitable exempt organizations as conduits for bribes
Thanks to Roger Ailes
for drawing attention to this clip, which I missed.
Among other things, Jack Abramoff set up a religious school, called Eshkol Academy, a "children's charity," the Capital Athletic Fund, and a "think tank," all of them presumably getting tax preferred status. He used them to distribute
"Please make sure the next $1M[illion] from Coushatta [Indian tribe] for me goes to Eshkol Academy directly. Please tell them that we are 'using the school as our conduit for some of activities.' " The e-mail added that "if that won't fly with them, use CAF," referring to the Capital Athletic Foundation, or the National Center for Public Policy Research.
Abramoff repeated the request in e-mails in March and April. The Eshkol Academy "is our front group," the first e-mail said. The second said: "I really need to get those funds into Eshkol asap. Let me know what we have to do."
Now, he learned this from Newt Gingrich and the Abraham Lincoln fund. And, if history is a guide, Republicans copycat successful schemes on massive scale.
Follow the conduits.
Getting The Story On Iraq
By now you've all heard about the Iraqi-American teen, the son of well-connected parents, who decided to go off by himself to see what Iraq was like nowadays (and nearly got himself killed despite his parents' connections).
A group of older kids, college students at Swarthmore, have a better idea.
These college students are using Iraqi phone books and the internet (there are programs like Skype that you can use to call via the internet for free) to call Iraqis and ask them about life in Iraq. The results are then broadcast and net-cast over their college radio station, War News Radio. They're not just talking to Iraqis, either: Kurt Vonnegut's been interviewed by them.
Here's an excerpt from a recent New Yorker piece on them:
A group of enterprising students at Swarthmore College, in Pennsylvania, has some advice for the politically disaffected: If you find the media's Iraq coverage unsatisfactory, pick up the phone. Don't call the Times, or CNN, or Rupert Murdoch; call Baghdad. There are a couple of Iraqi phone books available on the Internet, and plenty of interesting people willing to share their stories directly, from six thousand miles away, many of them speaking decent English. When your phone bill starts to get out of hand, try downloading Skype, software that allows two people to talk free, from anywhere in the world, using computer microphones and a headset.
Amelia Templeton, a senior history major, estimates that she has spoken with twenty-five Iraqis over the past year, and now, as she said the other day, "it's a bad idea to ask me about Iraq unless you plan on listening for a while." One of the Iraqis she spoke with, a painter named Esam Pasha, who is a grandson of the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Said, has even invited her to visit Baghdad. "I was told that if I came he'd pick me up at the airport," she said. "Given what that road is like, how dangerous it is going to and from the airport, that's quite an offer."
I wonder if Riverbend knows about these kids yet?
Thursday, December 29, 2005
Abramoff Restaurant "Signatures" is changing its name
Via AllspinZone, we learn that the Jack Abramoff Restaurant "Signatures" is changing its name.
And they are soliciting ideas for the new name.
My comment to ASZ:
"I bet a lot of the prospective defendants would go with changing the name to “Forgeries”.
That way, they could say it wasn't them who signed the credit card receipts."
And They Say They're Good With Our Money
Like pretty much every other Republican pronouncement of the past hundred years -- ever since Teddy Roosevelt left office -- the claim that the GOP can be trusted with the fiscal reins of government is utter horsepuckey.
They lie about everything, folks. It's as simple as that. (Oh, and Teddy Roosevelt wound up leaving the Republican Party because there was no place in it for a reformist, anti-corporate "Trust Buster" like him. He only got where he was because of a miscalcuation on the part of the robber barons running the GOP; they thought that by "kicking him upstairs" from his activist position as Governor of New York and making him vice-president, they would effectively neuter him.)
Lying Like A Rug: Once Again, IOKIYAR
Tom DeLay's lawyer got caught lying about his client's case. But will the same media that relayed his lies unquestioningly -- as did the Boston Globe, CBS and the AP, and Bloomberg News -- bother to give the corrections, if any, as much publicity as they gave the original lies?
I won't be holding my breath. But I will notify the good folk at Media Matters.
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I Love Anonymous Keyboard Warriors, Don't You?
Especially ones who cut and run with absolutely no intent of having a genuine dialogue.
I wonder: If the anonymous gentleman is so convinced that we must all give up our privacy to placate George W. Bush, then I guess he won't mind if I tell everyone his IP address (188.8.131.52) and location (Ohio State University), right? After all, he shouldn't mind, if he's got nothing to hide, right?
A Heartwarming Tale
Rescued Hippo, Tortoise Mark Year Together
The unlikely couple of a baby hippo and a 130-year-old tortoise were still together, a year after the hippo was separated from its family by a tsunami.
Owen was living with his family on the Sabaki River when massive waves from the Indian Ocean tsunami reached the East African coast. He was washed into the ocean and stranded on a reef.
Residents of Malindi, a small coastal town, used fishing nets to catch him. He was then taken to the Haller Park sanctuary, where he met Mzee adopted him as a surrogate parent. Owen may have been attracted by Mzee's round shape and gray color that are somewhat similar to that of an adult hippopotamus.
The tortoise at first resisted. But the persistent Owen kept following him around the park, into the pool and trying to sleep next to him.
Mzee relented after several days. As the bond grew, the tortoise even returned signs of affection. They are now inseparable.
A book about the cross-species friendship will be published in March 2006
Schwarzenegger erasing his legacy
Schwarzenegger’s Name Removed From Hometown Stadium
And in Austria, anger over the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams has led to the removal of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name from the stadium in his hometown of Graz. Williams, a former gang leader turned peace advocate and children’s author, was put to death December 13th after Schwarzenegger refused his bid for clemency. The execution caused outrage in the US and around the world. The decision was bitterly condemned in Graz, whose slogan is the "City of Human Rights."
Life Under a Republican Government
Americans stressed, depressed, polls show
New Year is supposed to be a time of hope and fresh starts -- but more and more Americans seem to be stressed out, miserable and depressed, according to two new opinion polls. One long term survey shows that personal misery among Americans is at its highest levels since the early 1990s, with people saddled with woes over healthcare, unemployment, paying bills and romance.
Eleven percent of 1,340 respondents reported being unable to afford needed medical care, compared with seven percent in 1991, and 18 percent said they had no healthcare insurance coverage -- up from 12 percent in the early 1990s.
Some 15 percent of people surveyed said [they] had been unemployed for a month, four points higher than in 1991.
It's interesting that they skipped right over the years since 1991 — you know, the years a Democrat was in the White House. If memory serves, the rates of unemployment and poverty dropped and the number of people with health insurance rose during those years.
Bob Barr on Bush's strategy to escape impeachment
Bob Barr should get on meds and become a Democrat.
came to my attention via Johnny Wendell of KTLK.
Barr, of course, is the loony toon who started the impeachment campaign against Clinton before Grand Inquisitor Ken Starr even found a pretext for it. He runs through wives at the same clip as most of us run through automobiles. He is a total hypocrite who took his then-wife to get an abortion and paid for it even as he was ranting against Democrats for wanting to keep his behavior legal. A friend of the White Citizens... er, Conservative Citizens
Council, he never should have made it to the House of Representatives.
Unfortunately, he's also bright and politically- and legally-ept. So, when he describes the Bushco strategy for staving off impeachment, we should probably listen.
First, he gets the point that most liberal commentators have missed. Bush's statements on the NSA espionage scandal dance around the definitions of "monitor" and "detect." And then he lays out the strategy.
By using the White House counsel's office to bury investigators in a sea of motions, pleadings and memoranda, an administration can drag out an investigation to the point of exhaustion....
A critical component of White House Scandal Defense 101 is rallying the partisan base. This keeps approval ratings in territory where the wheels don't start falling off. The way to achieve this goal is you go negative and you don't let up....
Yet another tactic is to shore up your congressional base in order to avoid or at least control pesky oversight investigations.
Of course, he's part
of that strategy, using the "they all do it" defense to support Bush. He knows that Clinton resisted the Congress not because he had broken the law but because people like Barr were engaged in a coup. He knows that it the grassroots, not the Democratic regulars, who defended Clinton. They didn't do it because they loved Clinton but because they hate totalitarians who use the courts to grab power. But aside from being a world class hypocrite and crackpot, there's much in what Barr says.
Abramoff Money: GOP-Only
Contrary to a newly-minted (and GOP-encouraged) media myth, Republican bagman Jack Abramoff never gave any money to Democrats. Period.
Check it out and pass it on.
Corporations Could Do Well By Doing Good
Covering employees' drug expenses keeps them healthier and at work
If employers would pay more for their employees' prescription and nonprescription medicines, workers and companies could spend less on health care.
It might sound like a radical idea -- spending more for drugs now to save money later -- but the concept is simple: Employers would have more productive workers who would require medical care less often and need fewer days off if employers pay for the medicines that keep employees healthy.
Pitney Bowes Inc., for instance, has saved more than $1 million each year since it cut co-pays for diabetes, hypertension and asthma drugs.
The city of Asheville, N.C., reduced the average annual cost of care for its diabetic workers by $2,000 per person as soon as it started paying the whole cost of diabetes drugs. After the success with diabetes, the city added hypertension and asthma programs and saw similar positive results. And both employers report that the programs have cut employee use of sick time and short-term disability.
The Asheville Project continues to report financial savings and greater worker productivity, said Miall, who now works as a consultant with the American Pharmacists Association helping employers around the country replicate the Asheville Project.
"It's a no-brainer," said Mahoney, who receives regular calls from employers interested in duplicating the Pitney Bowes' co-pay model. "But it's surprising how difficult it was to get the idea across."
The biggest factor is whether CEOs can start seeing employee benefits as an investment, not as an expense.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Right-Wing Politicians: Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Tennessee State Senator Jeff Miller, a "family values Republican", is commanding local businesses not to buy ads in a local weekly paper that dared to report that he was dating another woman while waiting for his divorce to become final. And he was so transparently thuggish about it that he pissed off a lot of these business owners. The paper, meanwhile, is telling him to go pound salt.
Awwwww. Pooooor baybeeee!
Right-Wing Media Moguls: Do As I Say, Not As I Do
Dave Copeland used to work for Dickie Scaife over at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Back in September, he wrote an interesting article about the experience. Early on, he tries to pooh-pooh the idea that Scaife is an evil monster running the paper for purely right-wing ideological reasons, but as we get deeper into the piece, he provides information that undercuts his own defense of Scaife and how he runs the paper:
Critics like to call the Pittsburgh edition of the Trib “a rich man’s plaything,” and perhaps it hurt so much to hear it when I was working there because it was true. Compared to the Greensburg edition of the paper -- and most other newspapers, for that matter -- the Pittsburgh Trib never struck me as a legitimate, for-profit operation. In 2000, I’d heard a rumor that the Pittsburgh edition had recorded a $200,000 profit the year before. That would have been the first profit it had earned since it was formed in 1992. Then again, I suspect a bigger deal would have been made of the profit if it had been true. When the Pittsburgh edition’s Sunday circulation cracked 100,000 for the first time, after all, the feat was recorded with a banner that hung in the lobby for months.
Such concerns made me uncertain about the future I had at the paper. Scaife is 72 and -- if he’s not the immortal devil liberals claim -- has no heir apparent to continue financing the paper’s Pittsburgh edition.
Sounds reminiscent of Sun Myung Moon's blowing off a billion on his Washington Times
, doesn't it? And Moon is Scaife's ideological twin.
Billionaires don't become, much less stay, billionaires by putting long decades and hundreds of millions of dollars into unprofitable business ventures. And media empires have far less tolerance for losses than do most businesses: The Washington Star
was shut down in the 1980s by Time Inc. after only about $20 million worth of losses. Yet Moon and Scaife -- and Murdoch (whose News Inc. empire is kept afloat largely by FOX's entertainment division) and Conrad Black (whose own empire crumbled when his fellow investors decided to cut him loose once he was caught with his hands in the till) -- have lost billions and will lose billions more propping up their pet projects. Why? Ideology, of course.
And the big irony of it all is that these folks who tout the Free Market and the Invisible Hand spend their time and money setting up expensive sheltered workshops where otherwise-unemployable hacks like Neil Cavuto, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter are given millions to spew their nonsense.
By the way, who's reading the Trib's nonsense? Not the people in Pittsburgh, as Copeland notes:
...Though the vast majority of Trib readers live in the suburbs, the paper’s coverage has a city-centric tone, so the two papers [PW notes: the other being the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] chase the same stories and talk to the same sources... Very few people read both newspapers, and despite Cuddy’s hyper-competitive emphasis on beating the P-G, even fewer know when one paper gets a story first. Meanwhile, newspapers everywhere have failed miserably to compete with broadcast outlets and the Internet. The most telling similarity between the P-G and the Trib is that both papers are seeing their subscriber base erode.
Got that? Scaife's reader base is suburban. Meaning white-flighters. Regular Pittsburghers don't read his rag.
Monday, December 26, 2005
British genocides in India could top Stalin's reign of terror
"His stack is bigger than mine" crow the body-stackers who claim virtue for their nation-team based on how many people get killed.
People like Robert Conquest and Bill Buckley thrill in pointing to how humane the United States is relative to Stalin's USSR or Mao's China because in the 20th century
we only killed a few million civilians in places like Vietnam, Hiroshima, and the Philippines. Our nineteenth century was a lot uglier.
But the truth is more complicated. The truth is that great powers universally, or nearly universally, indulge in mass murder. Monbiot
explores that complexity in a review of books on British genocides:
In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, published in 2001, Mike Davis tells the story of famines that killed between 12 and 29 million Indians. These people were, he demonstrates, murdered by British state policy. When an El Niño drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at the height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4m hundredweight of wheat. As the peasants began to starve, officials were ordered "to discourage relief works in every possible way".
And in Africa,
Three recent books - Britain's Gulag by Caroline Elkins, Histories of the Hanged by David Anderson, and Web of Deceit by Mark Curtis - show how white settlers and British troops suppressed the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya in the 1950s. Thrown off their best land and deprived of political rights, the Kikuyu started to organise - some of them violently - against colonial rule. The British responded by driving up to 320,000 of them into concentration camps. Most of the remainder - more than a million - were held in "enclosed villages". Prisoners were questioned with the help of "slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums, flogging until death, pouring paraffin over suspects who were then set alight, and burning eardrums with lit cigarettes". British soldiers used a "metal castrating instrument" to cut off testicles and fingers.
Americans are understandably discouraged and troubled by misdeeds in Iraq. It's important to keep the perspective that our generation is part of a struggle for human dignity that has gone on for thousands of years. America is neither better nor worse than any other country because the stack of dead from slavery and the wars against the Native Americans is shorter than Stalin's stack. In every national moment in which we reject torture and murder, we become angels to the world. In every national moment in which we give in to our darker impulses, we become its devils.
As for Stalin, the best democidal estimate I have seen shows him still with a slightly bigger body count than Lord Lytton. But the numbers are very poorly founded. I corresponded with a Russian who had gone through the national archives and says they are so disordered and fragmentary that the actual number of people killed by Stalin could be far smaller. When it comes to homicidal maniacs, one should never look at the numbers. It's the thought that counts.
All fall down: ethnic tensions exacerbated by energy price instability
While we focus on the Middle East, fault lines open up all over the world. Any one of them could shake our comfortable little nest, with repercussions in the oil market, shipping, or currency instability. Say, for example, this one:
Russia and Ukraine are on the brink of a political crisis over gas prices that symbolises the widening gulf between the two former Soviet countries.The state-controlled Russian gas monopoly, Gazprom, is threatening to cut off flows on January 1 if Ukraine does not agree to pay quadrupled prices for the energy that comprises a third of its needs....Kiev has retaliated by threatening to increase tariffs for gas transit to western Europe and raise the rent paid by the Russian navy to keep its Black Sea fleet in the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol.
Of course, Europe is one of our best customers. Energy shocks there could tip the world into recession.
As could lots and lots of other things.
Ed Schultz stand-in could help stifle Beltway arrogance
I like this challenger
28. Michigan 11 (38) (Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) vs. Radio Talk Show Host Tony Trupiano (D))
The entry of Trupiano has Dems excited about taking the most winnable GOP-held seat in Michigan. While this gerrymandered district will present a challenge, McCotter has never seen a strong opponent. This is exactly the type of race we can win with a tide.
I'm listening to him asking a caller as he stands in for Ed Schultz, "Who likes to be lied to!?"
This should be the Democratic slogan for 2006.
What Bush has accomplished in Iraq: Ethnic cleansing of Christians, deathsquads, "collateral damage"
I came across this
via Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment:
It is unclear just how many Christians live in Iraq. At the beginning of the war, most estimates put Iraq's Christian minority at 800,000 people, or three per cent of the population. Christian activists say that tens of thousands have fled the country since the start of the war, but accurate numbers on the Christian migration are unavailable.
I stumbled across this
horrific possibility by way of Truthout:
There's some evidence that the murderous chaos unleashed by Shi'ite death squads may not be "an accident" but part of a carefully crafted American strategy, as the Bush administration has constantly added fire to the ethnic furnace as the best diversion to not address Iraq's tremendous social tensions. An atomized and terrorized society is much easier to manipulate, while at the same time the non-stop bloodshed is the perfect justification for "staying the course". ... Already in June 2003, proconsul L Paul Bremer's coalition hands were hiring Saddam's Mukhabarat pals for "special ops" against the Sunni Arab resistance, while "torture central", Abu Ghraib, was again operating in full force under American management. In the Shi'ite south, the Badr Organization - the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq's (SCIRI's) militia - as well as Muqtadar's Mahdi Army were gaining ground. The Badr was finally formally incorporated into the Interior Ministry, where Sunni units had also been carving up their own turf (under the protection of Allawi). The former Ba'athist Sunnis - and later the Shi'ites - benefited from the invaluable knowledge of American "counter-insurgency" experts who organized death squads in Colombia and El Salvador, as well as retired American Special Forces soldiers.
And there's this, which suggests twice as many civilians as insurgents are dying
RAMADI, Iraq -- U.S. Marine airstrikes targeting insurgents sheltering in Iraqi residential neighborhoods are killing civilians as well as guerrillas along the Euphrates River in far western Iraq, according to Iraqi townspeople and officials and the U.S. military.
Just how many civilians have been killed is strongly disputed by the Marines and, some critics say, too little investigated.
The Marines say the civilians are being killed by insurgents. The 200 million pounds of bombs the Marines dropped are all perfectly targeted.
So of course the Marines would be strongly in favor of bringing in UN and journalistic observers, right? Just so that the world can be certain that the insurgents are the killers?
Sunday, December 25, 2005
Yuletide Puppy Blogging!
Forgot to take the camera today, but he hasn't changed much since this pic was taken last month:
What arcane thoughts could be swirling in that puppy brain of his?
(Oh, and LetterMan: I told the folks about the skijoring idea, but they don't get enough snow in the area for that to work out. Such snow as they get tends to vanish pretty quickly.)
HAPPY Holidays and have a Cool Yule, everyone!
Sampson slays the Bushistines
William Sampson, author of Confessions of an Innocent Man
was on C-Span. He presents important and new information on torture and the war on terror.
1. The claims of links between Iraq and al Qaida were, according to Sampson, obtained by torture of people in an Egyptian jail. I will have to double check, because I thought that at least some of these doubtful claims were based on uncoerced information, but just the fact that torture was used for any part of the case raises the suspicion level even higher.
2. Sleep deprivation can cause organ failure and death.
3. There are forensic methods by which victims of torture can prove what happened to themselves, including an imaging protocol that measures the pattern of blood return to the foot by which beatings of the foot can be proven.
This guy is awesome. One can see the strength of a Gandhi or a King in him. How many people could endure torture in a Saudi jail, then come around in two years and talk about it with passion and internal calm? I see Sister Diana Ortiz, tortured two decades ago, and she still obviously suffers it, like a crucifixion without end.
I think I'll say a prayer for her, and for all of those who have suffered under Caesar.
Check out Vietnam charts on GothamImage
blog has a nice set of charts on how statistics were used to portray progress in Vietnam.
Anyone with nostalgia for those good old days of Bob McNamara and the Five O'Clock Follies? They're a collector's item.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
FOX Loves Nazis, Part Two
A Nice Christmas Gift
Damien Thorn Ralph Reed is really, really, really got his butt in the wringer.
These people have operated without hindrance for so long that I really think they're incapable of staying within the law -- which causes them big problems when somebody finally calls them out for breaking it.
The Holiday Dump ... On Your Liberties
For newswatchers, Thanksgiving to New Year is the busiest season of the year.
You can count on it.Every Friday, every holiday, news that would embarass the Bush Administration if it weren't the Bush Administration gets dumped
(Lichtblau and Risen in the NYT, for those who don't have AOL:
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said....What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects.
Or it might point to radical militant librarians, vociferous vegans, or quiet Quakers.
A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.
This solves the government's little problem on being forbidden to "collect" data or retain it longer than 90 days. They let the phone company do it for them.
And if the Bushco privatizes the snooping function, he thinks he can blame any excesses on Halliburton or whoever gets the contract.
This is very, very dangerous stuff.
Perfect for a holiday dump.
The as yet unrebuked sin
It's forbidden by Deuteronomy, and yet people calling themselves People of the Book do it:
When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by wielding an axe against them; for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down; for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee?
Making war by destroying nature, especially trees that bear food, is to destroy the staff of life itself. It is to express contempt for what God creates to feed one. It is hubris.
And yet, contempt for God's gifts has become the norm in the West Bank settlements
Even though another 100 olive trees were cut down this week, and even though 15 complaints were filed to the police, and even though, in total, we are talking about property destruction amounting to thousands of trees in the northern West Bank, the law enforcement agencies have yet to make any effort to locate the settlers responsible, and no arrests have been made.
But worse things are done.
To paraphrase Luke 12:6-7, is not one human being worth many olive trees?
...Gideon Levy tells the story of Mahmoud Shawara, a 43-year-old father of nine, who left for work on his donkey one day from his house in the village of Nuaman, near Bethlehem, was arrested by border policemen, and, after he refused to accompany the soldiers without his donkey, was tied to the donkey. The frightened donkey then galloped toward the village; Shawara sustained serious injuries all over his body, and ultimately died in great pain in the hospital to which he was taken by eyewitnesses. Although the Department for Investigating Policemen found no relationship between the border policemen's behavior and Shawara's death,testimony indicates that this is an abusive practice well known to Palestinians. It even has a nickname: "the donkey procedure."
Similar things go on in Iraq, committed with our tax dollars. There is much too much contempt for what God has created.
Christmas and Hannukah overlap for about six hours this year. Jews celebrate the miraculous oil that burned eight days, long enough to purify the temple from Seleucid paganism. Christians celebrate the light that Love brings to those who accept His sovereignty.
The first blessing of Hannukah is "Praised are You, Lord our God, King of the Universe, Who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to kindle the Hanukkah lights."
How can anyone celebrate the sanctification of the commandments while cutting down trees and human beings with equal indifference to what the Torah says?
Friday, December 23, 2005
Arkin: EVERYone is being wiretapped
Arkin says it's a guess.
But he's in the business of making guesses after he already basically knows.
He focuses on a section 126 of the reauthorization of the Patriot Act
Data-mining is defined in Section 126 as:
"a query or search or other analysis of one or more electronic databases, where--
(A) at least one of the databases was obtained from or remains under the control of a non-Federal entity, or the information was acquired initially by another department or agency of the Federal Government for purposes other than intelligence or law enforcement;
(B) the search does not use personal identifiers of a specific individual or does not utilize inputs that appear on their face to identify or be associated with a specified individual to acquire information; and
(C) a department or agency of the Federal Government is conducting the query or search or other analysis to find a pattern indicating terrorist or other criminal activity.
Congress is seeking assurances that "the privacy and due process rights of individuals" is protected in the course of the government using massive databases of non-publicly available data; both proprietary databases and its own compiled intelligence and law enforcement databases to "search" for terrorists and terrorist connections.
My comment on his blog:
And your privacy is assured because the same people who think that a search that does "not use personal identifiers of a specific individual or does not utilize inputs that appear on their face to identify or be associated with a specified individual" preserves your privacy are the same people who think that "Joe Wilson's wife" does not identify Valerie Plame.
Let's face it. When Neil Bush runs the S&L, your money is not safe.
This Doesn't Surprise Me
It makes sense that Murray Waas would be one of Jack Anderson's apostles. If Jack were alive, hale, and fifty years younger, he'd be blogging along with Murray.
It also is absolutely unsurprising that the establishment media disliked him intensely. He had the "access" they claim to prize, but he didn't get it by kissing people's rings -- he did it by talking to their secretaries, and/or having his energetic and young staffers talk to them. Anderson's reach was so legendary that, as Waas notes, the CIA was afraid of him.
Boston Globe: Bushco wiretaps all calls abroad
Well, they So-Called Unbiased Media is getting closer to the truth. Charlie Savage of the BoGlobe:
The National Security Agency, in carrying out President Bush's order to intercept the international phone calls and e-mails of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda, has probably been using computers to monitor all other Americans' international communications as well, according to specialists familiar with the workings of the NSA....specialists said the agency serves as a vast data collection and sorting operation. It captures reams of data from satellites, fiberoptic lines, and Internet switching stations, and then uses a computer to check for names, numbers, and words that have been identified as suspicious.
...Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin said that Fourth Amendment privacy rights can still be violated without human contact if the NSA stores copies of everyone's messages, raising the possibility that a human could access them later. The administration has not revealed how long the NSA stores messages, and the agency has refused to comment on the program. [General] Hayden, now the deputy director of national intelligence, told reporters this week that under Bush's order, a "shift supervisor" instead of a judge signs off on deciding whether or not to search for an American's messages.
So, we've established that the NSA intercepts massive numbers of messages, may store messages it has no right to see, and is breaking the law by using a "shift supervisor" instead of a judge to decide who to wiretap.
But there's another shoe to drop, and that's what is happening to domestic-domestic calls.
We quoted Martin Garbus on this many posts ago. He says they're being illegally tapped, too. And they're almost certainly being processed en masse, scanned and stored without proper controls, just like every other message.
Someday, you'll read that in the newspaper you pay hundreds of dollars for.
Postscript: In Michael Scherer's notably flabby Salon piece, Crypto Man
, he does manage to come up with the code name for the program that "monitored the communications of Vietnam War protesters like Joan Baez and Jane Fonda:" Minaret. He also gives a good quote: If you want to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens, you go to court. If you don't, you go to jail," Bamford says. "If you want to change the law, you go to Congress."
Where State-Sponsored Religion Leads: to Atheism.
More than half the secondary schools in Wales inspected in the past four years break the law by failing to pray every day, a BBC survey has revealed. All state schools should hold an act of worship each day, either for all pupils in assembly or as a class-based prayer. But in the 149 secondaries inspected, 81 failed to meet the legal obligation.
according to the BBC
. So many school children, especially at the primary school level, are
being led in prayer on a daily basis. Almost all of the rest have frequent or occasional school-led prayer.
About 15% of people in England and Wales
are atheists and 78% Christian, while in the US, with its godless public schools,
, with 82% call themselves Christians and only 1% identify themselves as atheists.
What school cafeteria food does for teenagers's culinary instincts is what state-sponsored prayer does to their religious instincts. In addition, coercion of what should come from the heart leads teachers and principals into hypocrisy and dishonesty.
God is never mocked, least of all by the godless hypoChristians demanding school prayer.
And Now for Something Completely Different
Harry Potter is good for children
Despite his enthusiasm for Quidditch and jet-powered broomsticks, the youthful wizard appears to have had a benign effect on his fans, researchers have found.
Compared with earlier crazes for in-line skating and microscooters, which clogged up accident and emergency departments with sprained ankles and broken limbs, the Harry Potter craze has been surprisingly injury-free.
Stephen Gwilym, an orthopaedic surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, and colleagues... found that in the two weekends when the latest Harry Potter books were launched - 21 June 2003 for The Order of the Phoenix and 16 July 2005 for The Half-Blood Prince - injuries to children fell to their lowest level.
Alarmingly, but in a spirit of festive fun, the researchers suggest that there may be a place for "a committee of safety-conscious talented writers who could produce high quality books for the purpose of injury prevention". Apart from the irreparable harm that this would do to children's literature, they acknowledge that it could trigger "an unpredictable increase in childhood obesity, rickets, and loss of cardiovascular fitness".
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Fed Bank President: Pie to arrive post-election
, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, gave a speech today that left me shaking my head.
First of all, Lacker is the sort of person that has almost ideal credentials for this sort of position. He has a modest education, not the New England Ivy League degree that leads some graduates to become arrogant or obsessed with theory over pragmatism. He has taught at a Midwestern Ivy college. Economics, even. And, most important, he came through the ranks of the technical elves at the Fed. He doesn't originate in the Boesky/Milken or Ken Lay school of finance.
He doesn't seem to be a crony, a Randian, or someone beholden to brokerages or financial houses. I assume he's a Republican, but he doesn't give to either party that I can find. So, he doesn't trigger my BS detector.
One of the really bizarre features of the talk was the presence of a Chinese ideogram behind his head. As symbolism, this was not well thought out.
Lacker is very optimistic about the economy for 2006. Housing may cool a but, but business investment will rise. Core inflation (i.e., excluding volatile things like energy) is stable. Only ca. 1.2% annualized on personal consumption expenditures. Expectations of inflation are well-contained (i.e., workers don't think they can get raises). And the gorilla in the closet [*], multifactor productivity, is good. Businesses, having bought computers and software in the 1990s, have learned to use them. He sees employment as rising. He doesn't see the flat yield curve (similar returns on short term as long term bonds) as a sign of a recession. There's no reason it should be. But why would anyone put money into ten year bonds if they can get the same rate of return on 3 month bonds? One reason alone: if they see interest rates falling.
I turned it off before the end. According to news reports, he mentioned only one of the twin deficits, in current account (mostly trade) and explained why he thinks it is sustainable (the US is regarded as a good place to invest; not exactly a satisfying explanation). He didn't mention government deficits.
I don't think the deficits are sustainable. I see inflation expectations in rising gold prices. Admittedly, these are manipulated by gold bugs and their
inflation expectations. And the reduction in refinery capacity thanks to Katrina has created demand pull inflation. Try buying roofing shingles. Last I checked, the Home Depot site wasn't even quoting them. I hear they're rising in price by 2% a month
. And the US as an investment destination-- well, if you put your money in Brazil or China or Europe in 2000, you're a lot richer. If you put it in the US, you aren't. Granted, the Pacific has its tsunamis and Latin America has its revolutions and Europe has Blair, Merkel, Berlusconi, and Chirac/Sarkozy. But if America looks safe compared to that, the world really is in trouble.
I did figure out one thing. If China gets out of line, the US can let the Middle East less Saudi Arabia collapse into chaos. That would totally screw Europe and Asia. Of course, after their economies collapse, so would ours.
Anyway, Lacker says the good times roll in the USA through much of 2006, leaving the pie to arrive in the nation's face after the next election. If Bush actually does cut and run, he could actually get away with Grand Theft America.
[*] not because it's gay. Just because it's very important, and because figuring out what it is is not so easy.
Friday Cat Blogging
Cats doing what they do best: sleeping, or at least pretending to.
Just Confirming What We Already Knew
FOX (or at least one of its South Carolina affiliates) loves Nazis, specifically those of the Stormfront variety. (Via Atrios, who also has these interesting links, here and here, and here, for your perusal.)
Anyone who is the least bit surprised by all of this should remember that Stormfront and other like-minded racist and Neo-Confederate white supremist groups were in the forefront of the GOP's efforts to shut down democracy in Florida in 2000. They and FOX News are both dedicated to conservative goals.
Then and Now
Six days ago:
Mr Bush, in an effort to force passage of the bill, warned on Friday he would veto any temporary extension of the [USA-PATRIOT] act.
The White House is hailing the Senate's vote to extend the Patriot Act for six months, a day after vowing President Bush wouldn't accept a short-term extension.
Lifted from SusanG at Daily Kos
. As she points out, the important question is whether anybody's paying attention to the blatant hypocrisy and dishonesty.
Another Reason the 4th Circuit Court Scolded Bush
Kevin Drum has read Judge Luttig's opinion, and observes,
They also want to know why the government provided them with a completely different set of facts than they provided to the civilian court in Miami. They want to know why the government provided more information about the case to the media than they did to the court. And finally, they want to know why the government did all these things even though they must have known that these actions rather obviously undermined their own public arguments about the importance of the war on terror:
They have left the impression that the government may even have come to the belief that the principle in reliance upon which it has detained Padilla for this time, that the President possesses the authority to detain enemy combatants who enter into this country for the purpose of attacking America and its citizens from within, can, in the end, yield to expediency with little or no cost to its conduct of the war against terror — an impression we would have thought the government likewise could ill afford to leave extant.
And these impressions have been left, we fear, at what may ultimately prove to be substantial cost to the government’s credibility before the courts, to whom it will one day need to argue again in support of a principle of assertedly like importance and necessity to the one that it seems to abandon today. While there could be an objective that could command such a price as all of this, it is difficult to imagine what that objective would be.
In other words, if the government's own actions make it clear that they consider the war on terror to be little more than a game designed to expand presidential power, how can they expect anyone else to take it seriously either?
Is there anybody left in this country who still believes Bush tells the truth about anything
Senator Whiny Little Crybaby
Poor Ted Stevens, or as they call him in Alaska, "Teddy Warbucks". He didn't get away with violating Senate rules to open up the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, and now he's in a major sulk. You'd think somebody who's been around long enough to be President Pro Tem would have learned by now how to suck it up and act like a grown-up. But no, he's telling anybody who will stand still long enough that 'This is the saddest day of my life'.
For about nine hours, other senators wandered on and off the Senate floor while chatting with colleagues and trying to find a way to thaw the freeze that settled in after Stevens lost a vote on Alaska oil drilling.
He had lost the vote, but the question remained for all those hours--what would he do, concede or fight?
His junior colleague from Alaska, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, estimated that she and Stevens spent about three hours mulling the question after the noon vote failed to cut off a Democratic filibuster. In the meantime, Stevens stayed off the floor.
"He had to breathe," Murkowski said.
And, as if we needed further proof that he's a Republican, he's blaming other people for the whole shameful episode:
Then, Stevens said, a group of House Democrats came to him and asked him to put ANWR language on the defense appropriations bill. He said he felt justified in doing so, given that each house had approved the idea and given the urgency of the nation's economic and security needs for domestic oil.
He's also claiming that he inserted the ANWR provision into the defense spending bill, in violation of Senate Rule 28, for the sake of the victims of Hurricane Katrina:
Stevens said his effort to channel the future ANWR money to the Gulf Coast was a sincere effort to help people there. It grew from empathy for the Gulf residents, a feeling strengthened during a visit to New Orleans by his recollection of the 1964 Alaska earthquake, he said.
"I saw one town disappear. I saw a third of my city, Anchorage, disappear," Stevens said. "You have to have that experience to understand how I felt when I went to New Orleans."
The vote, he said, was for the people of the Gulf Coast.
But the saddest day of his life was yesterday, when he didn't get away with mangling Senate rules — not the day he saw the devastation from Katrina, or the day the earthquake destroyed a third of Anchorage.
He's not sad for the people of the Gulf Coast; he's in a snit because he's been trying to put oil derricks in the wildlife refuge since the day it was created in 1980, and he can't get his own way even by cheating.
Let us recall the previous saddest day of Senator Stevens' life: the day
then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle held the Senate in session past its scheduled adjournment date in order to deliver a Patients' Bill of Rights, and Senator Stevens complained that it was delaying a planned fishing trip.
Whiny little crybaby.
(This post is dedicated to Alaskan blogger LetterMan
Peru is where Alberto Fujimori, Latin America's version of the hard-nosed, super-competent super-executive that George W. Bush was supposed to be, was running his own version of quasi-dictatorship and domestic spying.
And now he's paying the price for it:
Early on in Fujimori’s first term, the government started tapping the phones of a large number of Peruvian citizens, including journalists, members of civil society, and politicians. Sophisticated phone tapping equipment was set up in various buildings rented throughout the city of Lima, and specialized personnel were assigned to start intercepting and transcribing calls. Such large-scale interception of private calls not only subverted the rule of law, but facilitated the Fujimori government’s concentration of power and erosion of democratic institutions.
Fujimori has been charged before Peruvian courts with planning and implementing, in conjunction with Montesinos and others, the illegal phone tapping scheme. He has also been charged with using state resources for the purchase of the phone tapping equipment and to pay the personnel who conducted the tapping.
There is strong evidence pointing to Fujimori’s direct involvement in the scheme. Montesinos, for example, has testified as to his participation in the scheme, stating that it was all ordered by Fujimori.34 He has also stated that the equipment was purchased and the personnel were paid with funds from each of the armed forces, as well as the SIN, with Fujimori’s authorization.35 These statements have been corroborated by Matilde Pinchi Pinchi, Montesinos’s former assistant and accountant, who has testified that on numerous occasions she saw Fujimori order Montesinos to intercept specific phones of congressmen, journalists, and others. She has also testified that Montesinos kept Fujimori informed about the transcripts of the intercepted calls.36
Other witnesses have testified that one phone tapping center was even set up in the Palace of Government, following Fujimori’s direct orders.37 Army Brigade General Gerardo Luis Pérez del Águila, who served as the head of the Military House outside of the Palace of Government, has testified that when he discovered the equipment’s presence in the Palace, he ordered that it be disconnected, but then received specific orders from Fujimori to reinstall the equipment.38
Numerous technicians who conducted the tapping have testified as to their activities, giving specific names of politicians and journalists whose calls they intercepted.39 Equipment used to conduct the tapping has also been recovered and identified.40
Wanted: Honest (or at least principled) Conservatives
Michael Bérubé's looking for them.
This fella is probably one. Glenn Greenwald is another.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Human Rights Watch notes bloody past of PM Ahmedinaj's cabinet ministers
A major problem with US media is that there are so few genuinely independent outlets. One of the most different sources of news, one that I read all too rarely, is IPS News
In a report titled "Ministers of Murder: Iran's New Security Cabinet", Human Rights Watch (HRW) charged that Ahmedinejad's interior minister, Mustafa Pour-Mohammadi, played a major role in the summary executions of thousands of political prisoners in 1988 and is also implicated in the 1998 so-called "serial murders" of five prominent dissidents when he served in the Information Ministry.
And it said that the new minister of information, Gholamhussein Mohseni Ezhei, led a campaign in the late 1990s that resulted in the closure of more than 100 newspapers when he served as prosecutor general of the Special Court for the Clergy. He is also alleged by credible sources to have ordered the killing of an influential political activist, Pirouz Davani, in 1998....
Of the two ministers, Pour-Mohammadi's record is the most ominous. In 1988, according to the report, he played a key role in a programme that resulted in the execution of thousands of political prisoners, most of whom had already been sentenced to prison terms.
The programme was launched toward the end of the Iran-Iraq war after an unsuccessful effort by the Iraq-based Mojahedin-e Khalq (MeK) to topple the government in Tehran.
Another interesting tidbit. There may be significant fissures in the Iranian government:
The latest HRW report may well add to that impression and even have repercussions in the Majlis, whose mainly conservative membership has itself been made uneasy by the president's radical rhetoric and appointments, according to the report's main author, Hadi Ghaemi.
Several nominations by Ahmedinejad to cabinet posts have been rejected by the Majlis. And in what was taken as a sign of growing concern about his direction, nearly 100 deputies have called for the impeachment of his defence minister in response to the fatal crash last weekend of a military transport plane.
From the York Daily Record, via Atrios:
Investigate perjury in Dover ID case
William Buckingham and Alan Bonsell wanted to bring God into high school biology class, and in the process, they lied.
They lied about their motives.
They lied about their actions.
They lied about what they did or didn't say at public meetings.
They even lied when they claimed newspaper reporters lied in stories about Dover school board meetings.
In his ruling on the Dover case, U.S. Judge John E. Jones III said it was "ironic" that individuals who "proudly touted their religious convictions in public" would "lie" under oath.
Yes, ironic - at the very least. But also sinful according to the 9th Commandment.
And perhaps also criminal. We can only hope that the appropriate authorities are investigating possible perjury charges in this case.
And while they're at it, maybe they can find a way to make the Discovery Institute reimburse the school district for the legal fees they had to pay for this nonsense.
Another Dope Slap for Dubya
You know it's a bad day for Bush when the judge delivers a lecture along with the ruling.
Appeals Court Slams Administration on Padilla Detention
A U.S. appeals court, acting in the case of alleged "enemy combatant" Jose Padilla, today rejected the administration's move to avoid another Supreme Court review of its powers of detention, blasting the government in unusually blunt terms for its behavior in the case which, it said, may have significantly damaged "its credibility before the courts."
...J. Michael Luttig, a conservative often mentioned on the administration's short list for the U.S. Supreme Court... said the government's actions created the appearance "that the government may be attempting to avoid" Supreme Court review in a matter of "especial national importance."
He also suggested that the government's actions in the Padilla case may possibly have had negative consequences for "the public perception of the war on terror" and "also for the government's credibility before the courts in litigation ancillary to that war.
Maybe it's just my nasty suspicious mind, but I can't help wondering about the real reason for the court's wrath over Bush's shamelessly hypocritical maneuverings. Excerpts from the decision seem not so much to express outrage over the shameless hypocrisy as to reveal annoyance that Bush may have undermined his claims of unlimited executive power as Commander in Chief.
The government's behavior, Luttig said in conclusion, has "left the impression that the government may even have come to the belief that the principle in reliance upon which it has detained Padilla for this long time, that the President possesses the authority to detain enemy combatants who enter this country for the purpose of attacking America and its citizens from within, can, in the end, yield to expediency with little or no cost to its conduct of the war against terror -- an impression we would have thought the government likewise could ill afford to leave extant.
"And these impressions have been left, we fear, at what may ultimately prove to be substantial cost to the government's credibility before the courts, to whom it will one day need to argue again in support of a principle of assertedly like importance and necessity to the one that it seems to abandon today.
That sure sounds to me like, "Look, you've got a good thing going, don't blow it by being so bloody obvious that you don't believe your own legal arguments will hold up!"
Whatever message Judge Luttig was hoping to send to Bush, I wonder whether the Supreme Court will pay particular attention to the decision's repeated conclusion that Bush has undermined his own credibility in the Padilla case.
Another Hour, Another GOP Lie Debunked
Sorry, wingnuts: The NYT didn't aid Osama this week. But if you're looking to go after a newspaper for aiding and abetting bin Laden, might I suggest the Washington (Moonie) Times?
New American export: the Eternal Investigation
Heaven knows that the only issue on which I unreservedly agree with George Galloway on is the need to refuse to bow one's knee before power. Power needs
to be exposed, laughed at, ridiculed, and publicly humiliated lest it grow into tyranny.
I am offended by the way in which Galloway has been repeatedly subjected to investigation, just as I was offended by the Eternal Investigation of Bill Clinton. People who believe that we are a nation of "laws and not men" understand that the use of the law as a tool to beat people down is an intolerable abuse.
And so we learn that the British Charity Commission, stating that its last investigation was incompetent, promises us that a new one won't be:
"'The Mariam Appeal has been wound up, but we do need to go back and make sure that everything has been done properly.' The Commission said that its inquiry would take into account the evidence that underlies reports recently published by the US Senate's permanent sub-committee on investigations, and the UN's independent inquiry committee into the Oil for Food programme in Iraq.
'This is a different focus from the original inquiry opened in 2003,' said the Commission's statement."
They had all the books before. They just didn't look at them.
I also deplore Senators Coleman and Levin accusing Galloway of perjury and refusing his offer to debate the issue publicly. I don't know whether Galloway is innocent or not, but there's no doubt in my mind that Coleman and Levin have behaved like dirty little cowards on this.
Hey! Look! Spinal Columns!
Not only is the "Patriot" Act filibuster still going strong, but the Senate Democrats just flipped Bush the bird on his ANWR end-run attempt.
Amazing! Looks like even the Blue Doggers have figured out that there's no point in sticking by a crazy, violent C-i-C who's currently polling at 35% and isn't even in your own party.
Iraqi elections: massive intimidation and even violence in Sh'ia, Kurdish regions
There's an interesting interview at KQED
. Larry Diamond, a CIA analyst, says that the Shi'ite and Kurdish militias intimidated and beat voters.
Conyers, Dean, Feingold, Et Cetera
While the lily-livered, GOP-placating DLCers/Blue Doggers cower under Karl Rove's couch, the real Democrats -- the ones like John Conyers, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Russ Feingold -- are leading the charge against Emperor Thirty-Five Percent.
John Conyers: Censure Bush. AND Impeach Him.
Howard Dean: Sign onto my FOIA request, so we can see what BushCo's been hiding in RE: domestic spying.
Ted Kennedy: Somebody give Dick Cheney a copy of the Constitution, OK?
Russ Feingold: I'm throwin' down on you, BushCo.
Harry Reid: And Russ has my full backing on this. Filibusters Ahoy!
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
First Amendment 1, IDiots 0
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III has ruled that teaching "Intelligent Design" in science classes would violate the First Amendment prohibition against government sponsorship of religion.
The ruling is one long dope slap. From the conclusion:
The proper application of both the endorsement and Lemon tests to the facts of this case makes it abundantly clear that the Board’s ID Policy violates the Establishment Clause. In making this determination, we have addressed the seminal question of whether ID is science. We have concluded that it is not, and moreover that ID cannot uncouple itself from its creationist, and thus religious, antecedents.
Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock assumption which is utterly false. Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general. Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a divine creator.
To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.
The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy. It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.
Those who disagree with our holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge. If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court. Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and ultimately unconstitutional policy. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.
Since the voters of Dover, PA, threw 8 of the 9 IDiots off the school board (the 9th wasn't up for re-election) last November, it's unlikely the ruling will be appealed. And anybody inclined to screech "liberal activist judge" will come up against the cold, hard fact that Judge Jones was appointed by George W. Bush
Monday, December 19, 2005
L'Etat c'est Shrub
Have you contributed to DemocracyNow lately? Here's today's biggie:
James Bamford: ... The NSA, on the other hand, does it wholesale, where they take entire streams of communications coming down from satellites, which can contain millions of communications, and they sort of intercept those communications with large dishes and filter the information through very quick computers that are loaded with names of people, words that they're looking for, and at one point they -- one listening post in the central part of England, for example, they intercept two million pieces of communications an hour. So that's emails, faxes, telephone calls, cellular calls and so forth. So, it's an enormous amount of eavesdropping, and Senator Frank Church, back in the mid-70s, when he was conducting his investigation of NSA, said that if NSA's technology were ever turned on the American public, there would be no place to hide.
Amy Goodman:... I mean, forget the moral implications, the legal implications, the constitutional implications -- can it actually hurt efforts to protect national security?
Christopher Pyle: It entirely overwhelms the agents who are doing the analysis by gushing in this much information from so many agencies on so much trivia. The whole system is based upon the assumption that the way you find a needle in a haystack is to add more hay.
Martin Garbus: I think that one of the things that we should be aware of is the way the argument by the Bush administration has shifted. First, when they admitted to this wiretapping, they were saying it was wiretaps for surveillance between domestics and people overseas. Now, they’ve admitted it's the wiretapping and investigation of people within the United States, domestic calls to domestic calls. Secondly, the way the argument has shifted: The argument originally had been that the mandate, given as a result of September 11, gave the President the power to do this, as it gave him the power to do torture, as it gave him the power to restrict detainees, as it gave him the power to stop habeas corpus. The argument has now shifted. They're no longer claiming that it's that particular enactment which gives him this authority. This is a straight constitutional argument, saying that under the Constitution, he has the power to protect the United States, and he can do anything under the Constitution to protect the United States, and therefore, he now has a constitutional power, not a statutory power, and that was, again, the argument in the Nixon case.
Now and Then
George W. Bush today:
"To say `unchecked power' basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject."
George W. Bush on December 19, 2000:
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
Makes me say "Hmmm". You, too?
The REALLY Big Question...
...is how Paul Schersten can show his name in public after our own Charles Utwater II gave him spanking after spanking.
GOP/Media Axis Censors Sane Christians
One of the reasons that so many educated people overseas shake their heads in wonder at America is because we look to them to be a nation purely of Fundamentalist yahoos and snake-oil salesmen. Now granted, the yahoos and the Republican Party have a decades-old symbiotic relationship, but the fact is that they aren't the only churches out there. Unfortunately, you'd never know that to see how the GOP/Media Axis censors the sane and non-bigoted mainstream and liberal churches.
Followers of political matters will see something very familiar in how the most back-benched of Republicans can -- so long as he or she's not a known maverick or Bush critic -- get media coverage just by clearing their throats, yet press conferences called by Democratic legislators, even the heavy hitters, are routinely ignored.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'
There's so much going on sometimes that it's tough to know where to start. For instance, here's an incomplete list of known Republican corruption scandals currently bubbling that have resulted in actual legal action:
-- TreasonGate (aka PlameGate, aka Fitzmas)
-- Conrad Black's scandal (aka Canadian/UK Fitzmas)
-- The WMD and other lies in the run-up to invading Iraq
-- The New Hampshire phone-jamming scandal
-- The war profiteering going on in Iraq and Afghanistan
-- The Texas redistricting scandal
-- The DeLay/Abramoff scandal (make that the DeLay/Abramoff/Ney scandal)
-- The Frist not-quite-so-blind-trust scandal
And now, we can add a second Frist scandal: The Frist use-a-charity-as-a-way-to-give-money-to-one's-cronies scandal. Check it out:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's AIDS charity paid nearly a half-million dollars in consulting fees to members of his political inner circle, according to tax returns providing the first financial accounting of the presidential hopeful's nonprofit.
The returns for World of Hope Inc., obtained by The Associated Press, also show the charity raised the lion's share of its $4.4 million from just 18 sources. They gave between $97,950 and $267,735 each to help fund Frist's efforts to fight AIDS.
The tax forms, filed nine months after they were first due, do not identify the 18 major donors by name.
Frist's lawyer, Alex Vogel, said Friday that he would not give their names because tax law does not require their public disclosure. Frist's office provided a list of 96 donors who were supportive of the charity, but did not say how much each contributed.
The donors included several corporations with frequent business before Congress, such as insurer Blue Cross/Blue Shield, manufacturer 3M, drug maker Eli Lilly and the Goldman Sachs investment firm.
World of Hope gave $3 million it raised to charitable AIDS causes, such as Africare and evangelical Christian groups with ties to Republicans — Franklin Graham's Samaritan Purse and the Rev. Luis Cortes' Esperanza USA, for example.
The rest of the money went to overhead. That included $456,125 in consulting fees to two firms run by Frist's longtime political fundraiser, Linus Catignani. One is jointly run by Linda Bond, the wife of Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.
The charity also hired the law firm of Vogel's wife, Jill Holtzman Vogel, and Frist's Tennessee accountant, Deborah Kolarich.
Kolarich's name recently surfaced in an e-mail involving Frist's controversial sale of stock in his family founded health care company. That transaction is now under federal investigation.
Go read the whole thing. It's amazing.
Back By Puppular Demand!
Here he's snoozing after a vigorous five minutes of wrestling down a chew toy.
Illegal Spying: More Prevalent Than We'd Like To Think
Saturday, December 17, 2005
Saturday Night Puppy Blogging
The puppy in a pensive mood. Which lasted all of three seconds.
This Made Me Happy
I was thinking about Charles' post on the violent deaths of both a large chunk of the Amazon rainforest and the nun trying to protect it, when I got a card from a friend.
She's planted fifty trees for me! And over in Honduras, which like Brazil has lost much of its rain forests to greedy developers.
Want to plant a few trees, too? Here's how my friend did it.
Friday, December 16, 2005
Friday Cat Blogging
"Other cat? What other cat?"
More Cracks In The Facade?
Some more cracks in the worldwide neocon invincibility facade:
* The Feingold-Craig bipartisan filibuster of the
They Hate Us Because Of Our Freedoms, So Let's Go Totalitarian Patriot Act has survived the first attempt to kill it -- and by a decent margin.
* It looks like Ted Stevens' (R-Bridge to Nowhere) attempt to load up a defense spending bill with all sorts of junk, including the attempt to open up ANWR to drilling, will get filibustered as well -- and a number of Republicans are also joining in on this one.
* Neocon LINO (Labour In Name Only) Bush Buddy Tony Blair has just had his Screw The Teachers And Students Because I Can Education Reform Bill shot down by a coalition of Labour and Socialist backbenchers, which will force him to go with hat in hand to his Conservative buddies for the votes needed to ram this thing through. If he doesn't get the votes, he could be done as Prime Minister as he's already had a major defeat on his efforts to ram through a British version of the They Hate Us Because Of Our Freedoms, So Let's Go Totalitarian Patriot Act.
Violence against earth and human life
This is the Amazon rainforest.
is a story you should read about a real heroine who we know, sadly, only in death.
This Shocked Me
It's not shocking that the Bush people are looking to make an end run around McCain's torture ban by reserving the right to define torture any way they wish.
But it is shocking that the New York Times is telling us about it -- and right on their editorial page, not buried somewhere like the classified ads:
...Mr. McCain's amendment is attached to a malignant measure - introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and now co-sponsored by Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee - that would do grievous harm to the rule that the government cannot just lock you up without showing cause to a court. This fundamental principle of democratic justice must not be watered down so the Bush administration does not have to answer for the illegal detentions of hundreds of men at Guantánamo Bay and other prison camps.
Mr. Graham's original measure would at least have barred the use of coerced confessions from prisoners like those at Guantánamo. But the current version actually appears to allow coerced evidence. Lawmakers were also discussing language that would strip United States courts, including the Supreme Court, of the power to review detentions. Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law at Yale University, said that Congress had not attacked the courts in this fashion since Reconstruction.
Mr. Bush had barely announced his deal with Mr. McCain before Attorney General Alberto Gonzales made it crystal clear that the administration would define torture any way it liked. He said on CNN that torture meant the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental harm, and repeated the word "severe" twice. He would not even say whether that included "waterboarding" - tormenting a prisoner by making him think he is being drowned.
Then Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, announced that he would oppose the McCain measure unless the White House guaranteed in writing that it would have no effect on intelligence-gathering. Mr. Hunter's legitimate concerns have already been addressed with a provision that would allow C.I.A. agents to defend themselves against torture charges by saying they were following legal orders. That protection is already provided to uniformed soldiers. The latest objections by Mr. Hunter, who has helped Vice President Dick Cheney try to block Mr. McCain's amendment, are just a smokescreen.
What is at stake here, and so harmful to America's reputation, is the routine mistreatment of prisoners swept up in the so-called war on terror. The Senate voted 90 to 9 for the McCain measure without the extra baggage. And the House passed a nonbinding resolution supporting it. Both should stand firm. The nation and its fighting men and women need moral clarity, not more legalistic wiggle room.
It was also pleasantly shocking to see that the NYT actually mention, on Page One and above the fold, Bush's secretly authorizing the National Security Administration in 2002 to do wiretaps on domestic phone calls.
Though really, since the NSA already monitors every phone call made from the US to an overseas location, this is merely an official recognition of a de facto
policy that's been around a long time
More blogs about politics.