Sunday, January 28, 2007


The End Is Near... least for me and Blogger. I'm not too keen on converting to the new format, not least because I've had problems doing so, so this is probably going to be one of the last times I post on this iteration of Mercury Rising. I've set up a new version of MR over at When it becomes impossible for us to stay on Blogger, we'll all be jumping over to the WordPress ship -- which is looking pretty spiffy, actually. In the meantime, I've turned off the comments for new posts and put the old ones on global moderation; I'll set up a thread on WordPress for anyone wanting to make comments on posts made here.

UPDATE: Well, I finally did succeed in converting to the New Blogger, which I did mainly out of concern that Glogger (Google/Blogger) would zap all the unconverted blogs. And I'm not impressed, especially as it's screwed up the formatting on the posts. Think I'll stay with WordPress, thanks.


The Spitting Image Redux

Long after the original Evil Hippie Spitter legends were debunked, the NYT -- in the person of reporter Ian Urbina -- is going out of its way to create a new one for the Iraq disaster.

The Urbina piece is an interesting article from the standpoint of propagandistic techniques in the media. For example, it quotes the US total casualty figures, but then quotes the annual Iraqi casualty figures; a less-than-careful reader will not realize that Urbina is comparing apples and oranges here. It lists the total of protestors as "tens of thousands" above the fold, and one has to read near to the end to learn that the organizers of the protest estimated the total at 400,000.

As for the spitting incident described at the very end, it may well have happened. But I would very much bet it did not happen the way it's described. The veteran involved, Joshua Sparling, was an invited guest to last year's State of the Union address (and was singled out for praise therefor by members of the right-wing website FreeRepublic), is alleged by Michelle Malkin to have received a death threat while in the hospital, and has appeared with Sean Hannity. In other words, he's very likely a Republican Party operative in the mold of John O'Neill of "Swift Boat" infamy and the NYT (or at least Ian Urbina and/or his editors) is very careful to avoid telling us about his past.

UPDATE: I posted this over in a diary at DailyKos, and john culpepper posted in the comments section that Ian Urbina actually wrote a piece in 2002 for the Village Voice on how BushCo does psy-ops. So did Urbina simply (and ironically, in view of his authorship of the 2002 piece) forget to check out Sparling's background (which is possible and even probable -- reporters are human too), or is Urbina in on the con?

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Something to Look Forward To

From the House Judiciary Committee web site Wednesday 01/31/2007 - 10:15 AM Room 2141 Rayburn House Office Building Full Committee House Committee on the Judiciary Schedule for the Week of January 29, 2007 Oversight Hearing on: Presidential Signing Statements under the Bush Administration: A Threat to Checks and Balances and the Rule of Law? Pass the popcorn. (H/T libSandy in Salon's Table Talk)


Suhprahz! Suhprahz! Suhprahz! [1]

(Update: With apologies to MEC, who spotted this first and is therefore entitled to give me a dope slap) Via Avedon's Sideshow the AFT proves that, once again, David Horowitz and Lynne Cheney are BS artists in alleging liberal academic bias. Without wasting too much time on the topic, their alleged bias "research" does not meet the minimum standards for research. ___________________ [1]: for anyone under the age of 90, the post title comes from a 20th century technology called a "television" "sitcom," viz. "Gomer Pyle" (pronounced Goh-mur Pie-ell)

Slogan Smackdown

George W. Bush and his enablers: "We're fighting the war over there so we don't have to fight it here." Susan Sarandon, at today's antiwar demonstration: "The war is being fought here, in the hearts and minds and bodies of the people who are returning." I'm with Susan.


Fox News Leaves No Lie Behind

On Fox Noise, as Keith Olbermann calls it, Sean Hannity is going to show the scenes that were deleted from The Path to 9/11 because they slander members of the Clinton Administration.

"This movie was a completely false piece of right-wing propaganda when it was on ABC," said Jay Carson, a spokesman for former President Bill Clinton, "and it will be exactly the same on Fox if they make the unfortunate choice to air it, though it should be right at home."
Fox News got the footage from the film's producer. I wonder whether ABC is okay with that.


A huge antiwar is taking place on the National Mall right now.
C-SPAN is covering it live.
MSNBC is reporting on it, though not covering it live. At the moment, the "disturbing case" of two teenagers videotaping a sexual assault is of greater national importance.
On CNN, they're chatting about the 2008 election.
Why, no, I didn't bother checking Fox News. Should I?
[One hour later] Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Jane Fonda are talking to the crowd on the National Mall.
MSNBC is talking "family money".
CNN is talking about campaign cash for 2008.


Mike Huckabee, Bill Clinton, and Wayne Dumond

So Mike "More Fundie Than Thou" Huckabee is officially announcing that he's running for President. Goody.

Atrios wondered yesterday if Tim Russert, in talking with Huckabee on this week's edition of Meet the Press, would let the words "Wayne Dumond" pass his lips. Well, Russert won't, but I will.

See, Wayne Dumond was a pawn used by Mike Huckabee to attack Bill Clinton in the most vile way imaginable -- and considering the Arkansas GOP ("Justice Jim" Johnson especially) was already spreading the fake Clinton-fathered-a-black-hooker's-kid story (which became the basis for Joe Klein's book Primary Colors), I think you know that this has to be pretty vile indeed.

The short version: Wayne Dumond raped a cousin of Bill Clinton's in Arkansas and was jailed for it, but Clinton's oh-so-moral Republican political opponents, among them Mike Huckabee, worked to free him, alleging that he'd been "framed" -- and then Dumond went out and killed another woman.

The longer version? Just click here.

UPDATE: Atrios has now weighed in at length, with a view to emphasizing the roles played by the Freepers and assorted media folk who should have known better.

UPDATE #2: Wow. This is an honor. Both Murray Waas and Max Brantley -- two guys who in a just world would have the money Jack Welch has now -- have written in to ask me to link directly to Waas' groundbreaking original reporting from 2002 on the Wayne Dumond case. With pleasure, gentlemen!

Friday, January 26, 2007


This Is Not Good

Bush denies preparing attack against Iran Everything Bush says is a lie. We're in big trouble.


Does anybody see a pattern?

May 22, 1999: "There ought to be limits to freedom." 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." July 4, 2001: "Who cares what you think?" April 18, 2006: "I'm the decider." January 26, 2007: "I'm the decision maker." George W. Bush is not going to listen to advice. He's not going to respect Congress. He's not going to obey the Constitution. I wish the talking heads would figure this out.


Onward Christian Soldiers!

From DemocracyNow AMY GOODMAN: And the other connections, Jeremy Scahill, between Blackwater and the Bush administration and the Republican Party? JEREMY SCAHILL: The most recent one is that President Bush hired Blackwater's lawyer -- Blackwater’s former lawyer to be his lawyer. He replaced Harriet Miers. His name is Fred Fielding, of course, a man who goes back many decades to the Reagan administration, the Nixon administration. He is now going to be Bush's top lawyer, and he was Blackwater's lawyer. Joseph Schmitz, who was the former Pentagon Inspector General, whose job it was to police the war contractor bonanza, then goes on to work for one of the most profitable of them, is the vice chairman of the Prince Group, Blackwater’s parent company, and the general counsel for Blackwater. Ken Starr, who’s the former Whitewater prosecutor, the man who led the impeachment charge against President Clinton, Kenneth Starr is now Blackwater's counsel of record and has filed briefs for them at the Supreme Court, in fighting against wrongful death lawsuits filed against Blackwater for the deaths of its people and US soldiers in the war zones. And then, perhaps the most frightening employee of Blackwater is Cofer Black. This is the man who was head of the CIA’s counterterrorism center at the time of 9/11, the man who promised President Bush that he was going to bring bin Laden's head back in a box on dry ice and talked about having his men chop bin Laden’s head off with a machete, told the Russians that he was going to bring the heads of the Mujahideen back on sticks, said there were going to be flies crawling across their eyeballs. Cofer Black is a 30-year veteran of the CIA, the man who many credit with really spearheading the extraordinary rendition program after 9/11, the man who told Congress that there was a “before 9/11” and an “after 9/11,” and that after 9/11, the gloves come off. He is now a senior executive at Blackwater and perhaps their most powerful behind-the-scenes operative. AMY GOODMAN: And electoral politics? JEREMY SCAHILL: Well, Erik Prince, the head of Blackwater, and other Blackwater executives are major bankrollers of the President, of Tom DeLay, of Santorum. They really were -- when those guys were running Congress, Amy, Blackwater had just a revolving door there. They were really welcomed in as heroes. Senator John Warner, the former head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called them “our silent partner in the global war on terror.” Erik Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is married to Dick Devos, who recently lost the gubernatorial race in Michigan. But also, Amy, this is a family, the Prince family, that really was one of the primary funders. It was Amway and Dick DeVos in the 1990s, and it was Edgar Prince and his network -- Erik Prince's father -- that really created James Dobson, Focus on the Family -- they gave them the seed money to start it -- Gary Bauer, who was one of the original signers to the Project for a New American Century, a major anti-choice leader in this country, former presidential candidate, founder of the Family Research Council. He credits Edgar Prince, Erik’s father, with giving him the money to start the Family Research Council. We’re talking about people who were at the forefront of the rightwing Christian revolution in this country that really is gaining steam, despite recent electoral defeats. And what’s really frightening is that you have a man in Erik Prince, who is a neo-crusader, a Christian supremacist, who has been given over a half a billion dollars in federal contracts, and that's not to mention his black contracts, his secret contracts, his contracts with foreign friendly governments like Jordan. This is a man who espouses Christian supremacy, and he has been given, essentially, allowed to create a private army to defend Christendom around the world against secularists and Muslims and others, and has really been brought into the fold. He refers to Blackwater as the sort of FedEx of the Pentagon. He says if you really want a package to get somewhere, do you go with the postal service or do you go with FedEx? This is how these people view themselves. And it embodies everything that President Eisenhower prophesied would happen with the rise of an unchecked military-industrial complex. You have it all in Blackwater.

Friday Cat Blogging


Credit or Blame

I'm watching C-SPAN right now, the beginning of a Senate hearing on the credit industry. The Banking committee members are making their opening speeches. The majority seem to think that the problem with the credit card industry is that low-income people — college students in particular — get credit cards and use them, and then they can't make the payments. The focus has been on credit-card holders using their cards responsibly. I'm waiting, but I'm not going to hold my breath, for somebody to mention the shame of credit-card companies raising the interest rates far beyond the borrowers' ability to meet the payments, much less pay down the debt. We used to call it "usury", and it used to be a crime. [edited to add:] I should have given the committee chair, Senator Dodd (D-CT) some credit. The first witness, Elizabeth Warren of Harvard Law School, is talking about predatory charges and fees. ...It certainly does look like the Democrats are going after the Bankruptcy Factory that the credit industry has become. [now that the broadcast is over] It certainly was interesting to listen to representatives of Big Banks claim they didn't impose predatory interest and penalties, and then hear the consumer advocates cite examples where they most certainly did.


Brothers In Arms Redux

Ian Williams wonders why all those people who are loudly raking Jimmy Carter over the coals for using the A-word (apartheid) in connection with the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians, were and are silent over the fact that, as Chris McGreal noted last year, Israel was one of South Africa's best buddies during the apartheid days. Israel even gave Pretoria the Bomb. From McGreal's piece titled "Brothers in Arms":

Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster - a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler - to make a state visit. [...] Vorster's visit laid the ground for a collaboration that transformed the Israel-South Africa axis into a leading weapons developer and a force in the international arms trade. [Alon] Liel, who headed the Israeli foreign ministry's South Africa desk in the 80s, says that the Israeli security establishment came to believe that the Jewish state may not have survived without the relationship with the Afrikaners. "We created the South African arms industry," says Liel. "They assisted us to develop all kinds of technology because they had a lot of money. When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money. After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies. "We were involved in Angola as consultants to the [South African] army. You had Israeli officers there cooperating with the army. The link was very intimate." Alongside the state-owned factories turning out materiel for South Africa was Kibbutz Beit Alfa, which developed a profitable industry selling anti-riot vehicles for use against protesters in the black townships.
Pretty bad, eh? The next bit's even worse:
The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa's development of its nuclear bombs. Israel was embarrassed enough about its close association with a political movement rooted in racial ideology to keep the military collaboration hidden. "All that I'm telling you was completely secret," says Liel. "The knowledge of it was extremely limited to a small number of people outside the security establishment. But it so happened that many of our prime ministers were part of it, so if you take people such as [Shimon] Peres or Rabin, certainly they knew about it because they were part of the security establishment. "At the UN we kept saying: we are against apartheid, as Jewish people who suffered from the Holocaust this is intolerable. But our security establishment kept cooperating."
There's much, much more on this at the links above.


Bottomless greed

Ted Kennedy on Republican obstruction to raising the minimum wage: "We have now had amendments that have been worth over 200 billion dollars… Amendments that have been offered. We've had amendments on education of 35 billion dollars. We've had health-savings amendments that will benefit people with average incomes of $112,000… We've had those kinds of amendments and we're looking at the Kyl amendment at 3 billion dollars. But we still cannot get two dollars and fifteen cents -- over two years. Over two years! "What is the price, we ask the other side? What is the price that you want from these working men and women? What cost? How much more do we have to give to the private sector and to business? How many billion dollars more, are you asking, are you requiring? "When does the greed stop, we ask the other side? That's the question and that's the issue." For most Republicans, the greed does not stop. The following voted to eliminate the minimum wage entirely (bold means up for re-election: Alexander (R-TN), Allard (R-CO), Bennett (R-UT), Bond (R-MO), Brownback (R-KS), Bunning (R-KY), Burr (R-NC), Chambliss (R-GA), Coburn (R-OK), Cochran (R-MS), Cornyn (R-TX), Craig (R-ID), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Enzi (R-WY), Graham (R-SC), Gregg (R-NH), Hagel (R-NE), Hatch (R-UT), Inhofe (R-OK), Isakson (R-GA), Kyl (R-AZ), Lott (R-MS), McCain (R-AZ) McConnell (R-KY), Sununu (R-NH), Thomas (R-WY)

Shots? What shots?

Lies and the lying liars The UN mission in Haiti says four people were killed when its peacekeepers expanded their presence in the Cite Soleil slum of Port-au-Prince. A spokesman said six other people were injured in what he described as exchanges of fire with criminals. On Wednesday, when the operation took place, another UN spokesman had said there had been no reports of casualties or much of a reaction to the operation. (emphasis added)

Proof That Keith Ellison Has Made The Big Time

You'd think that by now, the nutcase right would have finally got over Keith Ellison's having been seated as a member of Congress. But you'd be thinking wrong. Check this out, from a dingbat named Ted Sampley. It's currently making the rounds of the racist wing of the wingnut circuit:

Democrat Keith Ellison is now officially the first Muslim United States congressman. True to his pledge, he placed his hand on the Quran, the Muslim book of jihad and pledged his allegiance to the United States during his ceremonial swearing-in. Capitol Hill staff said Ellison's swearing-in photo opportunity drew more media than they had ever seen in the history of the U.S. House. Ellison represents the 5th Congressional District of Minnesota. The Quran Ellison used was no ordinary book. It once belonged to Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and one of America's founding fathers. Ellison borrowed it from the Rare Book Section of the Library of Congress. It was one of the 6,500 Jefferson books archived in the library. Ellison, who was born in Detroit and converted to Islam while in college, said he chose to use Jefferson's Quran because it showed that "a visionary like Jefferson" believed that wisdom could be gleaned from many sources. There is no doubt Ellison was right about Jefferson believing wisdom could be "gleaned" from the Muslim Quran. At the time Jefferson owned the book, he needed to know everything possible about Muslims because he was about to advocate war against the Islamic "Barbary" states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Tripoli. Ellison's use of Jefferson's Quran as a prop illuminates a subject once well-known in the history of the United States, but, which today, is mostly forgotten - the Muslim pirate slavers who over many centuries enslaved millions of Africans and tens of thousands of Christian Europeans and Americans in the Islamic "Barbary" states.
It goes on and on from there. (Of course, Sampley doesn't mention that "over many centuries", white Christian European slavers were just as industrious. But I digress.) If Mr. Sampley's name rings a bell, it's because he is a well-known smear artist and professional tinfoil-hat conspiracy nutjob. He's gone after such high-profile targets as John McCain and John Kerry with his smears. Here's what John McCain has to say about him:
"I strongly caution reporters who may be contacted by or are interested in Mr. Ted Sampley and the various organizations he claims to represent, and his opinions on the subject of Senator Kerry, or any subject for that matter, to investigate thoroughly Mr. Sampley's background and history of spreading outrageous slander and other disreputable behavior before inadvertently lending him or his allegations any credibility." "I am well familiar with Mr. Sampley, and I know him to be one of the most despicable people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. I consider him a fraud who preys on the hopes of family members of missing servicemen for his own profit. He is dishonorable, an enemy of the truth, and despite his claims, he does not speak for or represent the views of all but a few veterans. The many veterans I know would think it a disgrace to be considered a comrade or supporter of Ted Sampley."
For once, John McCain and I are in complete agreement. UPDATE: Another article with the same theme has been circulating in conservative circles in the past week, and was actually published as a letter to the editor in the print edition of today's Winona, Minnesota Daily News; I'll post a link to it later, should it go up on the WDN website. (Update the Second: And here it is.) Not only that, it also transmits a typically-bogus right-wing piece of non-history, apparently acquired from right-wing fantasist David Barton -- namely, the claim that John Randolph, not Keith Ellison, was the first Muslim member of Congress. (Which would be perfectly true, except for the fact that Randolph wasn't a Muslim. D'oh!)


In Other News, Researchers Announce That Water Is Wet

WP by way of Atrios:

Memo to Tim Russert: Dick Cheney thinks he controls you. This delicious morsel about the "Meet the Press" host and the vice president was part of the extensive dish Cathie Martin served up yesterday when the former Cheney communications director took the stand in the perjury trial of former Cheney chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Flashed on the courtroom computer screens were her notes from 2004 about how Cheney could respond to allegations that the Bush administration had played fast and loose with evidence of Iraq's nuclear ambitions. Option 1: "MTP-VP," she wrote, then listed the pros and cons of a vice presidential appearance on the Sunday show. Under "pro," she wrote: "control message." "I suggested we put the vice president on 'Meet the Press,' which was a tactic we often used," Martin testified. "It's our best format."
Well, golly gosh dang, we didn't need Cathie Martin to tell us that. Jack Welch has boasted about how he turned Tim Russert from an alleged lefty into a nice little corporate tool:
In private, Welch was proud to have personally cultivated Tim Russert from a “lefty” to a responsible representative of GE interests. Welch sincerely believed that all liberals were phonies. He took great pleasure in “buying their leftist souls”, watching in satisfaction as former Democrats like Russert and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews eagerly discarded the baggage of their former progressive beliefs in exchange for cold hard GE cash. Russert was now an especially obedient and model employee in whom the company could take pride.
Why do you think I use the phrase "GOP/Media Complex" to describe the American media of the past thirty-odd years?

Thursday, January 25, 2007


The Double Standard is alive and well

Maria Bartiromo is one of the few personalities on CNBC with some brains and some talent. I have often admired how she manages to ask tough, thoughtful questions of corporate execs and get them to like it. So Jon Friedman of Dow Jones has managed to concoct what looks to me like a pseudoscandal peripherally involving Bartiromo. The basic issue, according to Friedman is that "Todd Thomson, the head of Citigroup's wealth-management division, exited at a time when the financial company's stock price has lagged that of its rivals and the management has been widely criticized for failing to rein in expenses. On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal's page-one story noted that Thomson used more than $5 million from his department's marketing budget to sponsor a new TV show for the Sundance Channel. The program's hosts were scheduled to include actor/director Robert Redford and Bartiromo. ...the Journal said the embattled and 'angry' Citigroup CEO Charles Prince told directors that the expense was one of Thomson's lapses of judgment -- 'from improper use of Citigroup's jet to ... spending Citigroup money on functions featuring Ms. Bartiromo.' But Friedman goes way beyond there. "Has anyone noticed how CNBC has covered The Story? And you couldn't blame anybody for smirking. Actually, they meant: Has anyone noticed how CNBC has NOT covered The Story (smirk, smirk)...This saga goes beyond being titillating gossip... CNBC's neglect seems like something of a scandal in itself....Bartiromo has worked hard to defuse her sex-kitten image. " This sounds to me as if Friedman is trying to imply that there's a sexual relationship between Bartiromo and Thompson. If that read is correct, it would be particularly scummy because it sounds as if the facts contradict it: "Officials at the company maintain the network and Bartiromo have done nothing wrong. They don't want to inflame a touchy situation by dignifying what insiders describe as scurrilous rumors." Scurrilous rumors like the one Friedman is trying to stoke. From an ethical standpoint, Thomson may have been trying to buy influence at CNBC by giving Bartiromo a ride on the Citigroup jet and by sponsoring a show that Bartiromo would co-host. Bartiromo would have been wise to decline the former, but-- as the Republican Congress demonstrated--it's in an ethical gray zone. The latter is normal business. And Thomson's boss Chuck Prince is probably a mostly interested into deflecting attention away from his own performance onto subordinates. Word is his days are numbered. I don't think this story would pass the laugh test if it involved a man. You tell me.

Stephen Colbert Explains Bush's Health Insurance Plan

"It's so simple. Most people who couldn’t afford health insurance also are too poor to owe taxes. But...if you give them a deduction from their taxes they don’t owe, they can use the money they're not getting back from what they haven't given to buy the health care they can't afford."


The New Moonie Times

Jack Welch -- the hardcore conservative Republican who was one of those who early on heeded William Simon's call for rich cons to take over the US media -- has his sights set on destroying for good the once-proud Boston Globe:

Jack Welch gave a glimpse yesterday of what life might be like at The Boston Globe under his ownership. During a segment titled “Why Jack Wants The Globe” on the CNBC show “Squawk Box,” the former General Electric Co. chairman said local newspapers should get out of Iraq and focus on news closer to home. “You’ve got to make the newsroom not control the world,” Welch told the cable show’s host Carl Quintanilla and Michael Wolff, a media critic for Vanity Fair magazine. “I’m not sure local papers need to cover Iraq, need to cover global events,” Welch said. “They can be real local papers. And franchise, purchase from people very willing to sell to you their wire services that will give you coverage.” Welch’s vision for the editorial focus for local newspapers would be a departure for the Globe, which has staffers reporting from Iraq and Washington, D.C., and dedicates much of its opinions section to national and global issues.
Jack Welch is the guy who was CEO of General Electric from 1981 to 2001. He acquired NBC for GE in 1985 as part of the RCA deal, and in 1993 had hired former Republican National Committee chair Roger Ailes to rework NBC's news division, particularly its CNBC channel, to be more to the GOP's liking. (Ailes was then hired in 1996 by another right-wing media mogul, Rupert Murdoch, to create and run FOX News. Funny how that works.) Welch took great pride in corrupting former liberals like Chris Matthews and Tim Russert, seducing them with cold hard cash and then boasting about it:
In private, Welch was proud to have personally cultivated Tim Russert from a “lefty” to a responsible representative of GE interests. Welch sincerely believed that all liberals were phonies. He took great pleasure in “buying their leftist souls”, watching in satisfaction as former Democrats like Russert and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews eagerly discarded the baggage of their former progressive beliefs in exchange for cold hard GE cash. Russert was now an especially obedient and model employee in whom the company could take pride.
He also was rooting for George W. Bush in 1999:
Shortly after George W. Bush declared his candidacy for president in June of 1999, General Electric Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jack Welch was contacted by Bush political advisor Karl Rove. Welch later informed associates that Rove told him a Bush administration would initiate comprehensive deregulation of the broadcast industry. Rove guaranteed that deregulation would be implemented in a way that would create phenomenal profits for conglomerates with significant media holdings, like GE. Rove forcefully argued that General Electric and the other media giants had a compelling financial interest to see Bush become president.
Welch's interest in NBC's newsroom and in a Bush victory also showed in his activities during the 2000 election, as the Chicago Tribune's Phil Rosenthal noted last October and Robert Parry noted in January of 2003. It's obvious what Welch intends to do to the Globe. And not nice.



This article by Stephen Lendman, on the nationalization of the right-wing Venezeulan TV station that helped orchestrate the attempted dictatorial coup in 2002 and its constant promotion of sedition afterwards, has a somewhat, ah, hyperbolic tone that irritates the hell out of me -- and I'm sympathetic to its conclusions. The sheer level of factual information, presented in its proper context, is attention-grabbing enough. Here's a few key excerpts:

On December 28, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias delivered his annual "greeting speech" to the National Armed Forces (FAN) and announced the operating license of TV station Radio Caracas Television (known as RCTV) broadcasting on VHF Channel 2 won't be renewed when it expires on May 27, 2007. The station played a leading role, along with the other four major commercial private television channels in the country controlling 90% of the TV market, in instigating and supporting the 2002 aborted two-day coup against President Chavez. Later in the year they acted together again in similar fashion as an active participant in the economically destructive 2002-03 main trade union confederation (CTV) - chamber of commerce (Fedecameras) lockout and industry-wide oil strike that included sabotage against the state oil company PDVSA costing it overall an estimated $14 billion in lost revenue and damage. A collaborative alliance of the five media "majors" that include Globovision, Televen, CMT and Venevision (owned by billionaire strident anti-Chavista Gustavo Cisneros who's called the Rupert Murdoch of Latin America because of his vast media holdings) along with RCTV began their anti-Chavez campaign soon after Hugo Chavez assumed office in 1999. In addition, 9 of the 10 major national dailies were part of the joint corporate effort to harm Chavez's popular support and undermine his legitimacy even before he had a chance to implement his socially democratic agenda now flourishing under his Bolivarian Revolution. [...] The corporate media alliance, that included RCTV, had prior knowledge of the April, 2002 coup plot that was apparent from the front page of national daily El Nacional in a special day of the coup April 11 edition of the paper printed before it began and headlined: The Final Battle Will Be in Miraflores (the presidential palace). The same day, another daily, The Daily Journal (an English language paper), headlined on its front page (also printed in advance of the coup's initiation): State of Agony Stunts Government. In the days leading up to April 11, 2002, Venevision, Globovision, Televen and RCTV suspended regular programming replacing it with anti-Chavez speeches and virulent propaganda featuring strong rhetoric and calling on the Venezuelan people to take to the streets on that day they knew in advance had been scheduled for the coup. They blared it was "For freedom and democracy. Venezuela will not surrender. No one will defeat us." This went on continuously in tone and content practically announcing a call to arms insurrection on the scheduled coup date asking people to participate supporting the overthrow of their democratically elected president and government. On April 10, one day before the coup, General Nestor Gonzales got air time on the major corporate broadcast media announcing the high military command demanded Hugo Chavez step down from office or be forcibly removed. The day following the coup, the dominant commercial media revealed their involvement in it, and on one April 12 Venevision morning program military and civilian coup leaders appeared on-air to thank the corporate media channels for their important role, including the images they aired while it was in progress, stating how important their participation was to the success of the plot. It failed two days later largely because of mass public opposition to it with huge crowds on the streets supporting their president in far greater numbers than those favoring the coup-plotters. It was also later revealed the two-day only installed Venezuelan president Pedro Carmona had used the facilities of Gustavo Cisneros' Venevision as a "bunker" or staging area base of operations and was seen leaving its building heading for the Miraflores to take office as president of Venezuela on April 11 in flagrant violation of the law. [...] ... a managing producer of the station's El Observer news program testified to the Venezuelan National Assembly that he and others at the station got orders on the day of the coup from RCTV's owner that on April 11 and the following day: "No information on Chavez, his followers, his ministers, and all others" was to be allowed on-air on the station. Instead the corporate media falsely reported Hugo Chavez had resigned when, in fact, he'd been forcibly removed and was being held against his will. They all knew it because they were told in advance and were part of the scheme. On April 13, when hundreds of thousands of Chavez supporters took to the streets, the corporate media TV stations ignored them and instead broadcast old movies and cartoons like nothing of importance was happening. Even when the coup was aborted and pro-Chavez cabinet members returned to the presidential palace, it got no coverage on corporate-run TV or in the dominant print media. In addition, state television was taken off the air suppressing any truth coming out that lasted until Chavez supporters took over the station and began broadcasting real information to the public for the first time after the coup and until things returned to normal following it. Even after Hugo Chavez was freed and returned to the Miraflores, the only station broadcasting it was the state-owned channel. The dominant private media instead maintained strict censorship in a further collaborative act of defiance. They refused to admit or inform the public that Hugo Chavez was returned to office because the people of Venezuela demanded it and succeeded in spite of all obstacles impeding them. [...] The dominant Venezuelan corporate media remained defiant even in defeat and showed it only months later that year in December, 2002 when a second de facto planned coup plot against Hugo Chavez began. This time it took the form of the opposition declaring a "general strike" that was reported that way by the corporate media even though, in fact, it was a management-imposed lockout workers had no part in or wanted. News reports falsely portrayed it as an oil industry workers' strike supported by laborers and management. It was not as it was planned and implemented by high level managers and executives in the oil industry who sabotaged equipment, changed access codes, and locked workers out of computer information systems halting production. The action devastated the Venezuelan economy. It threw many thousands out of work, affected other businesses, caused many to go bankrupt, and effectively destabilized the country for over two months. During this period, the corporate media took full advantage launching an information war against the Chavez government. Again the four main TV stations suspended all regular programming replacing it with pro-opposition propaganda round the clock non-stop for the 64 day strike period denouncing Chavez and only stopping when the strike ended. [...] After Hugo Chavez announced RCTV's VHF license wouldn't be renewed, 1BC president (and owner of RCTV) Marcel Granier responded: "We all know what this is all about. They are trying to abolish freedom of speech and force the media to obey Government rules." He also falsely tried claiming his license ran until 2012 because it was renewed for 10 years in 2001. William Lara, head of Venezuela's Ministry of Information and Communications, explained the license, in fact, was gotten in May, 1987 and had only been resubmitted in 2001 because of the passage of a new communications law that year. Lara also said in a subsequent press conference Chavez's move against RCTV should come as no surprise and added this move is not a "revocation or expropriation" of the privately-owned RCTV but just the "termination" of its license. Lara said Chavez intends to "rescue" the channel for the Venezuelan people. RCTV will still be able to operate on public airwaves via cable and satellite, and Channel 2's concession will either be given to an RCTV worker cooperative, a public-private consortium, or to the state for use as an entertainment channel with state Channel 8 (VTV) becoming a 24 hour news channel and both channels henceforth airing a better mix of socially responsible programming. The result will be greater democratization of the public airwaves with less control of them in the hands of media oligarchs and more of it given to the people of Venezuela. This is how a functioning democracy is supposed to work. It can't if public airwaves are controlled by corporate media giants operating in their own self-interest while ignoring issues vital to the public welfare the way oligarchs do it in Venezuela. [...] If any part of the US media - corporate run, controlled or otherwise - reported the kind of strident anti-government propaganda intended to incite public hostility, violence and rebellion the way the Venezuelan dominant media do, they'd be subject to indictment on charges of sedition and possibly treason against the state - offenses far more serious than just the right to remain operating. During the 2002 April aborted coup and later anti-Chavez insurrection in the form of a general strike and management-imposed oil industry lockout, the Venezuelan corporate media acted in league with the oligarch opposition coup-plotters trying to overthrow democratically elected Hugo Chavez and his government. In the US, this would be a violation of several laws at least including seditious conspiracy under Section 2384 of the US Code, Title 18 which states: "If two or more persons in any State or Territory (of the US)....conspire to overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the (elected) Government of the United States, or to levy war against them, or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to seize, take, or possess any property of the United States contrary to the authority thereof, they shall each be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both. They might also be charged with treason under Article 3, Section 3 of the US Constitution that defines this crime that's a far more serious offense and may be subject to capital punishment for those found guilty. Its definition under Section 3 states: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort." It would then remain for the courts to decide whether any individuals by their actions of trying to subvert and overthrow a duly constituted government would be guilty of this crime or any sub-category under it explained below. That might, in fact, happen, especially in the current US climate where the law is what the chief executive says it is, and the courts are stacked with supportive judges willing to go along. Consider what crimes are related to treason in the US and how easily Venezuelan corporate media actions to subvert Hugo Chavez might fall under them. [...] The oligarchs running the Venezuelan corporate media might contemplate that fate and be grateful they operate in democratic Venezuela and not in the truly harsh environment of the United States. Of course, they won't, their anti-Chavez campaign will go on unabated, and it will be supported by their counterparts in the US and Bush administration labeling Hugo Chavez a ruthless tyrant trying to destroy free speech and democracy and calling for his head.


E.J. Dionne Knows A Real Man When He Sees Him

Testify, E.J.!

In his reply to President Bush's State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, Webb defined the two central moral issues that animate most of the Democratic Party's rank and file: the mess in Iraq and the fact that the fruits of a growing economy are not being shared by all Americans.

Then Webb did something rather astonishing: He didn't fudge on his language or try to take the hard edge off his impatience with the status quo. [...] Many Democrats tremble that they will be accused by some right-wing Web site or presidential spokesman of waging class warfare. Webb made clear that there is a class war going on and that the wrong side is winning it.

"When I graduated from college, the average corporate CEO made 20 times what the average worker did," Webb said. "Today, it's nearly 400 times."

Yes, that's a standard sort of line from your standard progressive speech. But then came this arresting sentence: "In other words, it takes the average worker more than a year to make the money that his or her boss makes in one day."

Examine that closely. How many politicians out there raising campaign contributions from rich people are willing to use "boss" instead of a more respectful locution?

And by talking about the time it takes someone to earn a buck, Webb makes it impossible for anyone to forget how vast the inequalities in our society have become.

Webb knows whom he is fighting for. "We're working," he said, "to get the right things done, for the right people and for the right reasons."

On Iraq, Webb did not mince his words about Bush's responsibility. "The president took us into this war recklessly," he declared.

Instead of qualifying this strong statement, Webb backed it up: "He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the Army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command. . . . " The list more than supported Webb's next thought, that "we are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed."

E.J. Dionne knows a real man when he sees him -- perhaps because he is one himself, one of the few remaining in mainstream US journalism.



Gene Lyons: "Has the Iraq debacle taught this president anything at all?" No. This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


The 2004 Election Was Rigged

Via JMM, this from M.R. Kropko of the Associated Press Two election workers were convicted Wednesday of rigging a recount of the 2004 presidential election to avoid a more thorough review in Ohio's most populous county. Jacqueline Maiden, elections coordinator of the Cuyahoga County Elections Board, and ballot manager Kathleen Dreamer each were convicted of a felony count of negligent misconduct of an elections employee. They also were convicted of one misdemeanor count each of failure of elections employees to perform their duty. Prosecutors accused Maiden and Dreamer of secretly reviewing preselected ballots before a public recount on Dec. 16, 2004. They worked behind closed doors for three days to pick ballots they knew would not cause discrepancies when checked by hand, prosecutors said. Special prosecutor Kevin Baxter did not claim the workers' actions affected the outcome of the election — Kerry gained 17 votes and Bush lost six in the county's [rigged and very partial] recount. So... why were they willing to break the law rather than risk having to do a full recount?

Shorter presidential speech (updated)

"Didn't like that stick in the eye? Here, have another." Palast: There was that tongue again. When the President lies he's got this weird nervous tick: He sticks the tip of his tongue out between his lips. Like a little boy who knows he's fibbing. Like a snake licking a rat. In his State of the Union tonight the President did his tongue thing 124 times -- my kids kept count. But it wasn't all rat-licking lies. Yes, it was.

Studies 'Proving' Universities Have a Liberal Bias — Are Biased

Inside Higher Ed reports that a new study applies the standards for academic research to studies looking for bias in university professors, and finds them lacking. Lacking in academic standards, that is, but chock-full of bias.

Lee’s analysis finds some support for the first theme. “Taken together, these studies at best suggest that college faculty members are more likely to be Democrats than Republicans,” he writes. However, even on this theme, he notes that the studies tend to exclude community college faculty members and to focus on faculty at elite institutions — probably skewing the results. The second theme takes a more thorough beating in the study. “Among the most serious claims the authors make is that this liberal dominance results in systematic exclusion of conservative ideas, limited promotion opportunities for conservative faculty, and expression in the classroom of liberal perspectives that damage student leaning,” Lee writes. “These claims, however, are not supported by the research. Basic methodological flaws keep a critical reader from accepting the conclusions suggested by the authors.” The flaw Lee identifies most frequently with this theme is one in which researchers note a correlation and — in Lee’s opinion — then see a causal relationship without sufficient evidence that one exists. [...] Lee said that to test the validity of the studies, he wanted standards that could not be considered partisan, so he used a 2006 statement by the White House Office of Management and Budget about objectivity in research. Based on that statement, he asked five questions about each of the faculty bias studies: Can another researcher with a different perspective replicate the results using the information provided by the author? Are the definitions used in the studies clear enough? Does the research eliminate alternative explanations for the results? Do the conclusions follow logically from the evidence? Has the author guarded against assumptions that could introduce systematic bias into the study? Using this framework, Lee gives the studies failing grades. Four studies had data that could be replicated, and he gave three studies acceptable reviews on clarity of terms, but it was downhill from there, and he argues that none of the reports can truly back up their contentions.
So why do these studies consistently discover a liberal bias in institutions of higher learning? Maybe it's because their purpose is not to ask whether there is bias, but to find it. The studies were commissioned or carried out by organizations such as the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, which has created a blacklist of professors it considers too liberal, in order to discourage the presentation of liberal viewpoints in academic settings. Projection: It's not just for movie theaters.

Jim Webb Kicks Elephant

Crooks and Liars has the video and transcript of Jim Webb's rebuttal to the State of the Union Address. Beginning to end, it's a powerful dope slap for Dubya. A few highlights:

...this is the seventh time the President has mentioned energy independence in his state of the union message, but for the first time this exchange is taking place in a Congress led by the Democratic Party. [...] In the early days of our republic, President Andrew Jackson established an important principle of American-style democracy - that we should measure the health of our society not at its apex, but at its base. Not with the numbers that come out of Wall Street, but with the living conditions that exist on Main Street. [...] We owed them [our national leaders] loyalty, as Americans, and we gave it. But they owed us - sound judgment, clear thinking, concern for our welfare, a guarantee that the threat to our country was equal to the price we might be called upon to pay in defending it. [...] These Presidents [Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower] took the right kind of action, for the benefit of the American people and for the health of our relations around the world. Tonight we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.


I Am Soooo Glad She's Not My Congresswoman

Minnesota's very own answer to Katherine Harris shows that when it comes to schoolgirl crushes on sons of Poppy, Cruella DeVil has nothing on the pint-sized princess from the Sixth Congressional District. And kudos to Holden and Hesiod over in the comments thread for this Eschaton post for digging up various other of Michele's Greatest Hits, including this: All you scientists are wrong! Global warming's a myth! Serious students of nuttiness are strongly urged to check out the landmark CityPages article on her, especially the sidebar. Too bad that the rest of the local media was too cowardly to talk about any of this until CP did it first. (Of course, the reticence on the part of the StarTribune has nothing, nothing to do with the fact that conservative Republican D.J. Tice, who used to edit the Twin Cities Reader, runs the Strib's political newsroom. Right?)


It's The Tax Cuts For The Rich, Stupid!

Wonder why the US Government is drowning in debt? It's because Bush cut the taxes for his rich buddies. Here's the proof, courtesy of the (Republican-run, at the time of this chart) Congressional Budget Office circa October 2006, by way of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

Congressional Budget Office data show that the tax cuts have been the single largest contributor to the reemergence of substantial budget deficits in recent years. Legislation enacted since 2001 has added about $2.3 trillion to deficits between 2001 and 2006, with half of this deterioration in the budget due to the tax cuts (about a third was due to increases in security spending, and about a sixth to increases in domestic spending). Yet the President and some Congressional leaders decline to acknowledge the tax cuts’ role in the nation’s budget problems, falling back instead on the discredited nostrum that tax cuts “pay for themselves.”
The exact percentages are, as shown in the graphic over at the CBPP site: 51% - tax cuts, 33% - military and related spending, 10% - entitlement programs, and 6% - discretionary spending.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Channeling Mary McCarthy

My summary of the State of the Union address:

"Every word [he] says is a lie, including 'and' and 'the'."
Jim Webb gave a great rebuttal. One of the most telling points he made is that Bush has mentioned "energy independence" in every one of his State of the Union addresses, and has yet to do anything to achieve it. We can expect more of the same.

And The Fun Begins

From the Guardian today (via Atrios):
``They're trying to set me up. They want me to be the sacrificial lamb,'' Wells said, recalling the conversation between Libby and Cheney. ``I will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected.''
WHAM! It's a Cheney-Rove Slugfest! Who will throw the other under Fitzy's bus first? Or will they BOTH go down?

Reverend Evil and the Lie Machine

If a Christian ever needed proof that a fundamentally evil force is behind the Republican Party, s/he need look no further than the Unification Church and its Washington Times and Insight magazine. The head of the Unification Church, Sun Myung Moon, pretends to be a replacement messiah, because he says that Jesus failed. Unlike Jesus, he is immersed in finance, and part of that finance is the buying and selling of fundamentalist leaders. The Church engages in bizarre sexual practices such as mass arranged marriages. The word that comes to mind in "antiChrist." Bob Parry has an important article out that shows how Insight started a bogus story about Barack Obama attending a Muslim “madrassah” when he was six years old, a smear that was then attributed to operatives of Hillary Clinton. The shrewdness of Moon’s Insight magazine story is that it hit two enemies with one anonymously sourced stone, a strategy of slime and divide straight from the textbooks of a spy agency like the CIA. It does this every campaign season: In Election 1988, Moon’s Washington Times floated a story that Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis had psychiatric Election 1992, it bannered an accusation that Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton had worked for the KGB... in Election 2000, when George W. Bush was seeking the White House, the Times pushed allegations that Vice President Al Gore was “delusional”; in Election trumpeted attacks on Sen. John Kerry’s patriotism. Moon has supposedly poured $3 BILLION into his money-losing publishing empire. Who has this kind of money to waste? Who is the real power behind Moon?

Monday, January 22, 2007


Mexico, January 22nd, 2007

Via Ojitos in Mexico, a good radio program on Oaxaca by National Radio Project. If you want to understand the situation, this program from mid-December is one to listen to. The International Civil Commission on Human Rights concluded that the events in Oaxaca were the result of a strategy by the government to terrorize the populace. Regarding Joel Gallegos Jiménez, an alleged robber lynched in San Blas Atempa, it turns out there were 50 police present for an hour prior to the lynching. Shades of Mississippi. The uses of the tortilla: food, plate, napkin, cover... and social stability.

HRC: Lieberman In A Skirt?

If she and/or her spokescritters keep reinforcing Republican bullcrap memes for their own political gain at the expense of the party and ultimately the country, that comparison will wind up to be all too apt.


Little kids in jail. In America.

XicanoPwrhas been following a story in which Immigration has imprisoned a family. Here's how Texas Civil Rights Review describes it: (Faten and Maryam Ibrahim, in jail. Image from Texas Civil Rights Review) The Ibrahims came to the United States legally and applied for asylum. They have been honest and forthright with immigration from the beginning. They were denied asylum and have filed to reopen their asylum case. In the meantime, the family is to be deported and is being held in jail! As an American citizen, the 2-year-old daughter was ripped from her mother’s arms and is in a foster home. ... The pregnant mother, Hanan Ahmad, is in one cell with her 5-year-old daughter, Faten. The 7- and 12-year-old sisters – Maryam and Rodaina - share another cell. The 15-year-old boy, Hamzeh, is in yet another cell at T. Don Hutto jail. The father and husband, Salaheddin Ibrahim, is being held in another jail in Haskell , Texas. Born in the US, the youngest daughter, only 2-years-old, is living with strangers in a foster home. The little 5-year-old girl, Faten, is constantly getting in trouble with the guards yelling at her to stand still during population counts, which are taken four times daily. Maryam, the 7-year-old cries for her mother at night. Or listen on Flashpoints This government is getting very old, very fast.

Bush Supports the Troops Again

Case Workers for Wounded Laid Off

Defense Department officials have laid off most of their case workers who help severely injured service members, sources said. The case workers for the Military Severely Injured Center serve as advocates for wounded service members who have questions or issues related to benefits, financial resources and their successful return to duty or reintegration into civilian life - all forms of support other than medical care. The center officially opened in February 2005, with its primary offices in Arlington, Va., but also hired advocates at hospitals around the country.


The other occupation

Haiti under the UN According to residents of Cite Soleil, UN forces attacked their neighborhood in the early morning hours of Dec. 22, 2006 and killed more than 30 people including women and children. For many this was a repeat of UN military operations on July 6, 2005 when more than 26 people were killed in a successful assassination attempt on Emmanuel "Dred" Wilmer and four of his closest followers.... The irony is that the attack on Dec. 22 seems to have been triggered, not by a surge in kidnappings as claimed by the UN, but by another massive demonstration of Lavalas supporters that began in Cite Soleil. About ten thousand people demonstrated a few days before for the return of president Aristide in a clear condemnation of what they called the foreign military occupation of their country.... Footage taken by HIP videographers shows unarmed civilians dying as a result of indiscriminate gunfire from UN forces on December 22, 2006. Although the UN denied firing from helicopter gunships, an unidentified 28 year-old man dies on camera stating that he was shot in the abdomen from a circling UN helicopter raining death upon those below.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Mexico, January 21st, 2007

Economic stress in Mexico is getting more severe, as food prices skyrocket. Falling oil prices are putting pressure on revenues. Oaxaca remains under the boot heel; APPO offices were bombed and a peaceful march was attacked by state police in a particularly savage way. Violence is at high levels. Joel Gallegos Jiménez, allegedly a robber, was lynched by hanging in the Tierra Blanca section of San Blas Atempa. The PRD has an opportunity to sweep legislative elections in Oaxaca in August and municipal elections in October. Juan Velediaz has a piece in El Universal regarding the relationship between FeCal and the armed forces. Seems that no one believes he actually won the election. So, he's creating a Praetorian Guard. Basically he's made the Army, Navy, and Marines the new police force. Sort of like in Iraq. At the moment, he's running spots portraying the military in a positive light, using them in anti-drug operations, and paying off what Carmelo Terán Montero calls an overdue bill to a military that has been held in little regard: boosting bennies and improving force quality. The latter is probably code for recruiting from the middle class instead of the poor, but maybe I'm too cynical. Proceso has a piece on Defense boss Guillermo Galván Galván, who elevated Marco Antonio Meza Barajas, with roots in the Dirty War in Nayarit in the 1970s. Professor Enrique Plascencia de la Parra blandly compares Calderon to Aleman, a not particularly attractive comparison given the Hardingesque corruption of that regime.

What Good Is a Nonbinding Resolution?

In the same segment of Fox News Sunday in which Joe Biden dope-slapped BushCheney, Senator Carl Levin explained why he's co-sponsoring a nonbinding resolution opposing the escalation instead of something with more teeth in it.

WALLACE: Senator Levin, if you really believe that this is the wrong policy, to send 20,000 more American service men and women into Iraq, why not take hard action to stop it? LEVIN: It will be a very powerful message if a bipartisan majority of the Congress say that they disagree with the increased military involvement in Iraq. It's so powerful that the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said that they're going to filibuster against this bipartisan resolution — two Democrats, two Republicans. So the power of this resolution is a first step to urge the president not to deepen our military involvement, not to escalate this matter. That is a first step. If the president does not take heed to that step, at that point, you then consider another step. But the worst thing we can do is to vote on something which is critical of the current policy and lose it, because if we lose that vote, the president will use the defeat of a resolution as support for his policy. The public doesn't support his policy. A majority of the Congress doesn't support his policy. And we've got to keep a majority of the Congress — or put a majority of the Congress in a position where they can vote against the president's policy, because that is the way in which we will begin to turn the ship around that is leading us in the wrong direction in Iraq.
Sen. Levin is 100% right that losing a vote on the issue would be disastrous, that it's necessary to start with a vote we can win. I notice that Sen. Levin says it will be a powerful message, but doesn't specify that it's a message for Bush. I hope he knows by now that Bush's response to any Congressional action opposing the escalation will be "who cares what you think"? The message isn't that Bush has to change his mind — because he can't and he won't. Bush's response will be the message: he believes he is not answerable to the American people. As Levin said, making that plain is the first step to being able to take the political risks to rein Bush in. It's ironic. This is exactly how Bush justified the invasion of Iraq: set Saddam Hussein up to defy a United Nations resolution, then use that defiance to justify moving against him.

Good for Senator Biden

I have never watched Fox News Sunday before (it's Faux News, after all). But today, on impulse, I turned it on (on the local Fox affiliate, not Faux News Channel) and was rewarded by seeing Joe Biden respond to the predictable "If you don't support Bush, you're a traitor" accusation from Chris Wallace with a roundhouse dope slap:

WALLACE: Senator Biden, I know that this is not your intent, but, in fact, wouldn't your resolution send a message that would embolden our enemy and discourage our troops in the field? BIDEN: Absolutely not. And not only does Carl Levin and Joe Biden and Senator Hagel and Senator Snowe, but the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Iraqi Study Group, every single person out there that is of any consequence knows the vice president doesn't know what he's talking about. I can't be more blunt than that. He has yet to be right one single time on Iraq. Name me one single time he's been correct. It's about time we stopped listening to that ideological rhetoric and that "bin Laden" and the rest. Bin Laden isn't the issue here. Bin Laden will become the issue. The issue is there's a civil war, Chris. I said way back in November last year, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, I said, "Does anyone support using American troops to fight a civil war? I don't, and I don't think the American people do. But if we fail to force a political consensus, that's exactly what we will have." That's what we have. That's what the president has to deal with. And he's doing it the exact wrong way. And he's not listening to his military. He's not listening to his old secretaries of state. He's not listening to his old friends. He's not listening to anybody but Cheney, and Cheney is dead wrong.


Scratch A Conservative, Find A Racist: True Then And Now

Brad DeLong reminds us of what The National Review, the "respectable" voice of conservatism, thought (and probably still thinks) of Martin Luther King Jr.


Just for fun

Things you don't see every day

Saturday, January 20, 2007


On This Day in History

On January 20, 1783, representatives of the United States and Britain signed a "Cessation of Hostilies" agreement (ratified by King George on February 14) to end military actions in the Revolutionary War. The United States had lost more battles than it won. But the losses were never decisive enough to convince the colonies to give up. And then they gained a powerful ally that had so abiding a hatred of Britain that it was willing to back the rebels against a superior force. Ultimately, the rebels' determination to control their homeland and willingness to turn to a former enemy for help drove the British out of the American colonies. There's a clue there for somebody.



20 U.S. service members killed in Iraq today

At least 20 American service personnel were killed in military operations Saturday in one of the deadliest days for U.S. forces since the Iraq war began, and authorities also announced two U.S. combat deaths from the previous day. The day's worst loss came from the crash of a U.S. Army helicopter northeast of Baghdad that killed 13 service members. An attack Saturday night blamed on militiamen in the city of Karbala killed five soldiers. Roadside bombs killed another soldier in the capital and one in Nineveh province north of Baghdad.
And the slaughter of Iraqis continues:
Police reported at least 16 Iraqis slain in attacks Saturday. In addition, officials said 29 bodies were found in Baghdad and three in the northern city of Mosul, most of them showing signs of torture — a hallmark of killings by sectarian death squads.
Yes indeed, George, when the American people see that sending more American troops in Iraq results in more American troops dying, there will be a surge of support for your cunning plan. Or maybe not.

The Turnaround Continues

In keeping with the declining ratings and readership of right-wing media nationwide, it gives me great pleasure to report that KTNF at 950 AM is the only local talk-radio station to have gone up in the Arbitrons over the past year, going from 1.0 to 1.7 of the local listening audience from the fall of 2005 to the fall of 2006. KTNF is the local Air America affiliate. The biggest losers: -- KSTP 1500 AM, the oldest hate-radio station, which used to carry Limbaugh and still carries plenty of right-wing squawkers, went from 4.6 to 3.2; -- KTLK 100.3 FM, which went from smooth jazz to a right-wing hate-radio format with Limbaugh and various other talkers, and whose ratings tanked from 2.8 to 1.9 despite (or maybe because of) a hugely expensive yearlong publicity campaign that has the faces of said talkers plastered on billboards all over town; -- WWTC 1280 AM, aka "The Patriot" and the home station of right-wing nutjobs too hateful for KSTP or even KTLK, went from 1.4 to 1.0. That's right: Little non-hater station KTNF, with a miniscule budget, is currently beating the most vicious haters in town, is about to overtake the most-expensively-promoted haters, and is on a path to overtake the oldest group of radio haters by this time next year. Makes me smile to type that.


The problem with payday loans

Brad DeLong discusses in a predictable manner the issue of high interest rate loans. The basic point-counterpoint is (point) high interest rates are unfair to the poor vs. (counterpoint) they represent an option that would be otherwise denied to the poor, namely gambling that if they get out of one disastrous situation, they will be able to get out of another (i.e., the loan). My feeling is that the answer is to raise wages and make health care universal. That takes care of 95% of the problem. But there's a problem with payday loans that the comfortable people discussing them don't know about: payday loans facilitate unscrupulous companies to place completely baseless liens against elderly people, especially non-English speakers. I became aware of this when a payday lender, acting through a collection agency, demanded the payment of hundreds of dollars from an elderly Hispanic woman of my acquaintance. Inquiring into the matter on her behalf, I was told that they could tell me nothing. Indeed, this is true; the law forbids them. But after some indirect inquiry, I determined that the charge was assigned to an address located in an urban park. The collection agency had not even verified the address they were calling to make sure it was occupied by humans rather than squirrels. Even more troubling, the collection agency never provided a description of a good or service that supposedly had been provided. The law demands that they do. They simply phoned with a demand, which may well have been fraudulent, against an elderly person whose English skills were presumably poor. Now, imagine that this is systematic, that the payday lender presents a certain number of charges it knows to be fraudulent. If some fraction of those from whom money is demanded aren't able to respond effectively, or if they die, they payday lender may well collect a certain amount of blood money to which it is not entitled. I have no proof that this incident was fraud. But, you know, a few months later, another collection agency attempted a similar thing against the same woman. On being told that the previous matter had been referred to the attorney general, they did not renew the contact. Maybe they checked their records and found an error. The problem with payday loans is that they create perfect camouflage for the commission of fraud against the most vulnerable. They need to be eliminated.

Underestimating the Carnage

Jon Weiner of The Nation explains why the recent UN estimate of 34,000 Iraqis killed in 2006 is almost certainly much too low.

The first problem with the UN count is that refers only to civilians--and thus almost certainly omitted deaths of Iraqi policemen, soldiers, insurgent fighters, and members of private militias like the Badr brigade. [...] The second problem is the UN's methodology, which relied mostly on tallying official death certificates.... But many bodies found in mass graves or ditches are unidentified. And there's another problem: according to the L.A. Times, "Victims' families are all too often reluctant to claim the bodies. . . . for fear of reprisals."
So the UN estimate doesn't include all the reported deaths, and doesn't take into account the deaths that go unreported, or unrecorded. It also includes only Iraqis killed by violence. It doesn't take into account "nonviolent" causes such as disease and malnutrition, which have drastically increased because of the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure. Weiner points out,
None of the reports in leading newspapers mentioned the other count of Iraqi deaths: the Johns Hopkins study reported last October in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet. They estimated that 650,000 Iraqis had died as a result of the war--600,000 from violence and 50,000 from other war-related causes.
That conclusion was almost universally rejected by politicians and the news media when it was first reported. The figure was just too appalling. But the methodology, including the sample size from which the estimate was calculated, is much sounder than the methodology the United Nations used. We must face the truth: the invasion of Iraq hasn't liberated the Iraqi people, it's decimated them.

In Case Anyone's Forgotten...

Charles Murray, who in a decent media universe (one that didn't suck up to right-wing conservative racists) would never get so much as a letter to the editor printed, once again cons the persons behind a nominally-respectable paper into letting him use its paper to spew stuff even he must know is utter bollocks. Yes, that Charles Murray. The racist crossburner Charles Murray. Didn't know about the crossburning, eh? Well, check this out: It's from the very end of an article by Steve Perry in the Twin Cities weekly paper CityPages, January 15, 1997:

THIS FRIDAY BELL Curve perpetrator Charles Murray will be in town to speak at the Center of the American Experiment. I mentioned this to a friend the other day, and he reminded me of a little-told story from Murray's past. Near the end of his high school days in Newton, Iowa, Murray and some of his pals went out one night and burned a cross next door to the police station. To my knowledge, the reams of coverage accorded Murray for his pseudo-scientific apologia on behalf of racism have produced only two mentions of this incident. One was in a 1994 New York Times Magazine profile, the other a bit later on the Donahue show. In both instances Murray protested that he had no idea as to the racial significance of cross-burning. There were only two black families in Newton in those days, an old school chum of his added in the Times piece. Well. As it happens, I grew up just 30 miles away from Murray's central Iowa hometown, in an even smaller farming town with no black families at all. But somehow I managed to learn what cross-burning meant by the time I finished high school, and I expect Murray did too.
Whenever the name of Charles Murray comes up, it is my sacred duty to bring this up as well.


It Isn't Paranoia

It isn't paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Political storm clouds gathered again over the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina as former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown said party politics influenced decisions on whether to take federal control of Louisiana and other areas affected by the hurricane. [...] Brown, speaking at the Metropolitan College of New York, said he had recommended to President Bush that all 90,000 square miles along the Gulf Coast affected by the devastating hurricane be federalized — a term Brown explained as placing the federal government in charge of all agencies responding to the disaster. "Unbeknownst to me, certain people in the White House were thinking, 'We had to federalize Louisiana because she's a white, female Democratic governor, and we have a chance to rub her nose in it,'" he said, without naming names. "'We can't do it to Haley (Barbour) because Haley's a white male Republican governor. And we can't do a thing to him. So we're just gonna federalize Louisiana.'"
How many people died because the Busheviks withheld federal aid, trying to force Governor Blanco to surrender the state to them? Is negligent homicide a "high crime" and therefore grounds for impeachment? And why has it taken so long for "Heck of a Job Brownie" to tell us about this? The cowardice of the Busheviks disgusts me as much as their moral bankruptcy. If he were a real patriot, he'd have blown the whistle as soon as he found out Bush let people die while he tried to seize more political power. (H/T Salon's Table Talk)

Friday, January 19, 2007


Semi-Official Skinny on the Anthrax Attacks

If you wanted to understand the anthrax story, the Dec. 4 issue of C&EN has a pretty comprehensive rundown. It's amazing how much BS the press has printed. The bare facts are these: On Oct. 15, 2001, an aide to Majority Leader Tom Daschle opened a letter. Tan powder consisting of anthrax spores burst out of the envelope and spread through the Hart Office building. On Nov. 16, 2001, an unopened letter with anthrax spores was found in the offices of Senator Pat Leahy. Leahy is the guy currently stripping the hide off of the posterior of Alberto Gonzales. The media quoted experts saying that the anthrax had been "weaponized"-- coated with silica or some other substance to make it disperse. The sources for this misinformation were Tom Ridge and Maj. Gen. John S. Parker. Armed Forces Pathology scientist Florabell G. Mullick did find elemental silicon, but that might have been native to the coating of the spore. Just a maybe, understand. Matthew S. Meselson of Harvard University said the spores were exceptionally pure, but had not been milled. William C. Patrick III, an Army germ man, said that such purity was achievable by repeated washing of the spores. Meselson thinks triboelectricity could have caused the spore dispersion. Media said that only a few people could have manufactured this material, and that they would have had to have access to sophisticated equipment. This was wrong. The material was, according to its DNA sequence, from the mis-named Ames strain. The Ames strain was derived from a Texas cow that died in 1980. Its bugs were cultured by Texas A&M's VetMed Diagnostic Lab, and shipped it to USAMRIID. Richard H. Ebright of Rutgers says that the Ames strain was not widely distributed, that only 12-20 labs had access to it and that all of these were "US and allied biodefense" labs. Of course, if A&M did what most labs did, they probably kept a sample and shared it around with their buddies. Same with the other 12-20 labs. Just sayin'. NBC Nightly News reported that the water used to make the spores came from the northeastern US. I guess this is based on the isotope ratio of the oxygen. But this could be meaningless, since one can buy media and water. At any rate, Ebright says that northeastern US + Ames strain limits the suspect labs to USAMRIID, U. Scranton, and maybe Battelle Columbus. FBI scientist Douglas Beecher recently published a paper on the methodology used to analyze the material in Applied & Environmental Microbiology. He says-- without explanation-- the anthrax was not weaponized. The purity of the material is the one thing pointing to high technical skills by the criminal. The FBI has failed dismally in identifying a suspect and, except for Beecher, has clammed up. This is not so complicated that the newspapers couldn't have told us. Why didn't they?

Friday Cat Blogging

"If only I had opposable thumbs."


Kneeling In Front Of Republicans: It's Not Just For The WHCA

It's not just the White House press corps that cowers in fear whenever a Republican clears his throat.

You're mayor of New York City. It's the day before your annual "State of the City" address. You want certain aspects of your speech to be teased in the next morning's papers, but you don't want a bunch of outside voices raining on your parade, dissecting your speech before you've even hit the podium. So, your people phone up city hall reporters, preview some of your proposals, provide anonymous quotes on portions of the speech you'd like highlighted, and insist that reporters not do any additional reporting or seek outside comment until the day of the speech. [...] And then, on the morning of your speech, you revel in seeing your version of events reprinted in papers throughout the city, featuring only quotes from unnamed people on your team ("officials said" and "aides said") touting only bits of the speech you chose to emphasize. (See, for example, the NY Post's headline yesterday: "$1B Tax Break For Bloomy Boomtown," and lede, "With revenues overflowing and the economy roaring, Mayor Bloomberg today will unveil a $1 billion tax cut, marking a stunning turnaround of the city's fortunes from the dark days of 9/11..." and, further along, "As opposed to increasing the size of government, the mayor believes that a good portion of surplus revenues should go back into the hands of the taxpayers of New York City," said one senior mayoral aide...")

Just try to imagine the firestorm that would have ensued if a Democrat had tried this stunt. Yet the New York media goes along with like meek little lambs.


And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

Looks like Holy Joe Lieberman can't hold the Senate Democrats hostage any more. Most excellent.


Patrick Leahy, Real Man

'Nuff said.


Memo To White House Correspondents' Association: It's Not 1987.

Wow, I do one little diary on DailyKos, and look what happens. :-) Seems that everyone wants to hear about the White House Correspondents' Association's cowardly efforts to make sure they never get deservedly reamed out in public ever again by the likes of Stephen Colbert. The funny thing is that if this had happened twenty years ago, nobody outside of Rich Little, the WHCA and the readers of the Las Vegas Review-Journal would know about it. But this is 2007, baby! If you've been to DailyKos in the last twenty-four hours, you know about it. (And not just from my diary, either.) If you've been to E&P in the last twenty-four hours, you know about it. If you've been to AmericaBlog in the last twenty-four hours, you know about it. If you've been to Eschaton in the last twenty-four hours, you know about it. If you've been to Attytood in the last twenty-four hours, you know about it. And that's just the sites that I know have mentioned it. There are many others, I'm sure. Welcome to the Web, WHCA. We hope you enjoy your stay. UPDATE: (hat tip to Will Bunch, who is a real prince): The WHCA says this morning it didn't give Little any explicit instructions not to bash Bush:

But Scully replied: "I cannot be more clear that we never mentioned Iraq, we never gave him any guidelines," says Scully, who is also a senior producer at C-SPAN. "The only thing we told him is that we want to follow the policy of the Gridiron Dinner, which is 'singe, don’t burn'."
So either Rich Little lied then, Mr. Scully, or you're lying now. Admit it: You never thought you'd get caught.

Thursday, January 18, 2007



Assorted neat photos from The Guardian


This is hilarious:

In a ruling sure to make philandering spouses squirm, Michigan's second-highest court says that anyone involved in an extramarital fling can be prosecuted for first-degree criminal sexual conduct, a felony punishable by up to life in prison. "We cannot help but question whether the Legislature actually intended the result we reach here today," Judge William Murphy wrote in November for a unanimous Court of Appeals panel, "but we are curtailed by the language of the statute from reaching any other conclusion." "Technically," he added, "any time a person engages in sexual penetration in an adulterous relationship, he or she is guilty of CSC I," the most serious sexual assault charge in Michigan's criminal code.
So far, this is just mind-bogglingly stupid. Here's what kicks it over into hilarity:
The ruling is especially awkward for Attorney General Mike Cox, whose office triggered it by successfully appealing a lower court's decision to drop CSC charges against a Charlevoix defendant. In November 2005, Cox confessed to an adulterous relationship.
Could Cox be, erm, hoisted by his, erm, petard? Possibly:
Murphy didn't return my calls Friday. But Chief Court of Appeals Judge William Whitbeck, who signed the opinion along with Murphy and Judge Michael Smolenski, said that Cox's confessed adultery never came up during their discussions of the case. "I never thought of it, and I'm confident that it was not something Judge Murphy or Judge Smolenski had in mind," Whitbeck told me Friday. But he chuckled uncomfortably when I asked if the hypothetical described in Murphy's opinion couldn't be cited as justification for bringing first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges against the attorney general. "Well, yeah," he said.
But of course, prominent Michigan Republicans (and yes, Cox is one) are very much of the "Do as I say, not as I do" school of selective enforcement:
Cox's spokesman, Rusty Hills, bristled at the suggestion that Cox or anyone else in his circumstances could face prosecution. "To even ask about this borders on the nutty," Hills told me in a phone interview Saturday. "Nobody connects the attorney general with this -- N-O-B-O-D-Y -- and anybody who thinks otherwise is hallucinogenic." Hills said Sunday that Cox did not want to comment.
Gee, I wonder why.



Image by Iman Bilge Ceylan, a Turkish photographer, and reproduced by the BBC.

The US Protects Terrorists

You'd think that the US would gladly allow the extradition of a guy who is the prime suspect in blowing up an airliner in 1976, killing all seventy-three people aboard. But bringing a mass murderer to justice is not as important as grovelling before the group I call Los Cobardes, which is run by the mobsters and brothel-keepers that Fidel Castro kicked out of Cuba and who have done so much to make Miami the vice-ridden vacation spot it is today.


Kenneth Tomlinson, Dirtbag Sans Pareil

It never fails. Whenever a conservative moralist of any sort gains national prominence, you just know that in reality the guy (or gal) is dirtier than a Las Vegas mobster. (And, in the case of Bill Bennett, may actually know a few Las Vegas mobsters. But I digress.) Today's conservative-moralist hypocrite is our old buddy Kenneth Tomlinson, last seen resigning in shame and disgrace from his position as Chair of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, his efforts to turn PBS into an electronic conservative megachurch having been short-circuited by the discovery of his rampant corruption. But even in the face of his peccadillos, his ties to the Bush Junta were strong enough to keep him safely ensconced as chair of the Broadcasting Board of Governors -- until now. Semms that Ol' Ken has decided to abandon ship rather than face oversight by the new Democratic Congress. Awwwww. Pooor babeeee. Here's a collection of Tomlinson's greatest hits, courtesy of NewsCorpse:

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that “improperly used his office, putting a friend on the payroll and running a “horse-racing operation” with government resources.”

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that presided over the Voice of America as it closed its Baghdad bureau because they could not retain journalists to staff it.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson who sheepishly resigned as chair of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting in advance of a report that found that he violated the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that paid $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists that were not disclosed to the Corporation’s board.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson that had taken overtly partisan steps to remake the CPB as a publicly financed Fox News - hiring Tucker Carlson and Paul Gigot and recruiting a former co-chairman of the Republican National Committee as president of PBS.

This is the same Kenneth Tomlinson engaged in ethically-questionable tactics to discredit Bill Moyers, former host of PBS’ Now.

Now this same Kenneth Tomlinson is jumping ship rather than face the newly elected Democratic majority in the senate that would be unlikely to reconfirm him anyway. And in his message to the President, in a pique of denial and self-righteousness, he declares:

“I have concluded that it would be far more constructive to write a book on my experiences rather than to seek to continue government service. Accordingly, I ask that you nominate another person to serve as chairman of this board.”

I think we can expect that his book will reveal that he was a victim of the secular progressive cabal that his hero Bill O’Reilly rails against. We can expect that he will deny any wrongdoing and that he only tried to serve his country. Nevermind all the evidence against him, we can expect to learn that it was actually another scoundrel that was responsible for these misdeeds (probably Bill Clinton).

In short we can expect that the book will reveal the very same Kenneth Tomlinson. An alligator doesn’t change its scales.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

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