Leftist Boddhisatva

Boddhisatvas love bananas.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

No surprise here: Condi Rice fails

Rice Fails to Win Russian Support on Iran
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed Saturday to persuade Russia to offer new support for a hard line on Iran's disputed nuclear program, despite making a hastily arranged trip to the Russian capital.

Despite lengthy meetings with Russian officials, including a long session alone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, it was clear Russia had not changed its opposition to using the Security Council.
Rice is a something-bordering-on-pathological liar who couldn't convince the Russians to tie their shoe laces, much less go against their own national interests.

Also, I am told, by someone who is fluent in Russian, that she speaks halting Russian with an American accent. I never thought much of her claims that she was an expert on Russia.

Another forgery: all in the name of promoting the War on Terror

Black Ops Outtakes and Bloopers
There's been a great deal of controversy surrounding a letter purported to be from Ayman al-Zawahri, the No.2 man at al-Qaeda, to guerrilla leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The letter caused a sensation because al-Zawahri was said to have chastized al-Zarqawi for attacks on mosques and fellow Muslims and suggested a rift within the movement.

The first thought which struck me was, a letter??--and we thought al-Qaeda was high-tech! Now they're writing letters on parchment delivered by donkey-mail!
Whoever was behind this was friggin incompetent. My bet (joking): is it was Michael Brown. Read for all of the details.

Global warming watch: September hottest in record

Planet Sees Warmest September on Record
Worldwide, it was the warmest September on record, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Friday.
I am not familiar with the models of global warming, but am alarmed at the apparent changing of gears--that is, global changes that are attributable to changes in global temperatures appear to be happening faster and are more dramatic than anything in the 80's or 90's. Global warming has the appearance of snowballing. I'm afraid of the coming avalanche.

A new low in election politics

Republican candidate in Virginia accuses Democratic candidate of being a Hitler sympathizer for his anti-death penalty views:
The Republican candidate for governor is drawing fire for campaign ads that suggest his Democratic opponent is so averse to the death penalty he would have spared Adolph Hitler from execution.

The radio and TV ads feature victims' relatives who tearfully recount the crimes that killed their loved ones and say they don't trust Democrat Tim Kaine to administer the state's death penalty.

Kaine, who says his moral objections to capital punishment are rooted in his Roman Catholic faith, responded with an ad pledging to carry out death sentences "because it's the law."
The Death Penalty is immoral. However, it is also a reflection of the morality of this country.

What disturbs me most, however, is the roping in of Hitler in order to make a specious rhetorical point. Hitler, mind you, killed himself in his bunker at the end of the Second World War.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

DeLay still offensive

Attack Ad Launched Against Earle
Attack ads have become commonplace in political races, but an attack ad against a prosecutor is unusual, to say the least.

McClellan lies and a 'spontaneous' event was scripted

The soldiers, nine U.S. men and one U.S. woman, plus an Iraqi, had been tipped off in advance about the questions in the highly scripted event. Allison Barber, deputy assistant to the Secretary of Defense for internal communication, could be heard asking one soldier before the start of the event, "Who are we going to give that [question] to?"
See a photo of the event. (via Atrios)

Apparently, all talking points to the contrary, Iraq is too dangerous for the President to actually visit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

DeLay's legal defense: offensive

News Item:
Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay's attorneys turned the tables on a Texas prosecutor Tuesday, delivering a subpoena to compel his testimony about his conduct with grand jurors.

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin, who contends there was misconduct by prosecutors, said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle refused the subpoena at his Austin office when he declined to sign a paper acknowledging its delivery. Earle said he had voluntarily accepted the subpoena.

DeGuerin wants Earle and two of his assistants to testify, alleging prosecutors had improper contact with two grand juries that indicted DeLay and one that refused to file charges.

Grab bag

Bush administration to people who live near nuclear power plants: We want you to die!

News Item:
Despite an order from Congress, the Bush administration has not given millions of people living within 20 miles of nuclear power plants access to pills that could help protect them if they are exposed to radiation.

It will be early 2006, at the earliest, before potassium iodide pills are made available to those people. Congress had ordered that the pills, which help prevent thyroid cancer, be stockpiled by mid-2003.

Rep. Edward Markey (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass., said it's "outrageous" that the administration hasn't made the pills more widely available.

Alan Morris, president of Anbex, a company that sells the pills over the Internet, says the government could buy them for only 18 cents per pill. Most people would probably need to take the pills only a few days before the radiation dissipated.
Instead of complying with the law, the Bush administration bickered over who was responsible for it. Pathetic.

The conspiracy is well-known, the executioner is hidden

According to Gardiner, "It was not bad intelligence" that lead to the quagmire in Iraq, "It was an orchestrated effort [that] began before the war" that was designed to mislead the public and the world. Gardiner's research lead him to conclude that the US and Britain had conspired at the highest levels to plant "stories of strategic influence" that were known to be false.

The Times of London described the $200-million-plus US operation as a "meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress, and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein."

Its not schadenfreude, its much more carnal

News Item: (via The Huffington Post)
Focus of CIA Leak Probe Appears to Widen

Mr. Fitzgerald's pursuit now suggests he might be investigating not a narrow case on the leaking of the agent's name, but perhaps a broader conspiracy.

Poll Results: Impeach Bush Now

News Item: (via Bob Harris
Poll: Americans Favor Bush's Impeachment If He Lied about Iraq

By a margin of 50% to 44%, Americans want Congress to consider impeaching President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq, according to a new poll commissioned by AfterDowningStreet.org, a grassroots coalition that supports a Congressional investigation of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
We know Bush lied about the war in Iraq. It is a given. The fact that most Americans don't know the truth is a testament to the a) media's inability to tell the truth, and/or b) the media's ability to distort reality, and/or c) the fact that most Americans are disengaged from the world.

Bush deserves prison for his crimes. Bush is a War Criminal. His administration is a criminal one.

Current mood: still waiting for the flood.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Three Iraq Special Forces Veterans Commit Suicide on Returning Home

News Item:
The Army says there appears to be no connection between the men's overseas service and their deaths, and Army investigators found no "common contributing cause" among the three. The fact they were in the same unit is only a coincidence, Special Operations Command spokeswoman Diane Grant said at Fort Bragg, N.C.

Others are not so sure. Steve Robinson, a former Army Ranger and veterans' advocate, said he suspects there were problems in the men's unit — namely, a macho refusal to acknowledge stress and seek help.
It is obvious, and yet it is scrubbed from our national discourse: the essential inhumanity and cruelty of war.

Grab bag

Don't miss this: Don Rumsfeld Bombs Smurf Capital

The fairly accurate story of how Darwin got on that boat, which I found here (at Pharyngula), which as a v. interesting first comment which your should read.

Proof positive: Andrew Sullivan is a Republican hack even, if he is gay.

about face: British to pay damages for storming Basra jail.

Name that cult: Like everything in this nefarious cult, the intent is too look enlightened but in fact to undermine bonding between parent and child to make the child more susceptible to external control from non-parents.

Confirmed: NY Subway Terror Threat a Hoax

News Item:
Iraqi Informant Admits New York Subway Threat Was A Hoax
Leftist Boddhisatva called it, therefore Leftist Boddhisatva can gloat.

Remember, being scared is so pre-9/11!

Current mood: mmm... bananas!

More Important Than Enlightenment Special: Yoko disses Paul

News Item:
In the latest chapter of their ongoing feud, Yoko Ono dissed Paul McCartney's songwriting prowess Monday at Britain's Q Awards.

On hand to collect the Q Special Award honoring late husband John Lennon (on the day after what would have been his 65th birthday) at the annual ceremony in London, analogous to the American Music Awards, Ono took the opportunity to disparage his former Beatle mate.

Ono, 72, recalled how insecure Lennon was as an artist. "'Why do they cover Paul's songs but never mine?' " she told the audience of U.K. music stars and record company execs.

"I said, 'You're a good songwriter. It's not just 'June with spoon' that you write. You're a good singer, and most musicians are probably a little bit nervous about covering your songs.' "

Revealed: Rumsfeld a Master of Sexual Humiliation

Scott Horton discusses the Penatgon's use of regulations against 'improper sexual misconduct' in order to smear people they don't like. (via Atrios)
When all the baseless suspicions against Yee were disproved, the Pentagon turned to its favored technique to punish him. He was accused of improper sexual conduct. In American society today, these words generally relate to conduct that is abusive – unauthorized sexual contact. Not in Donald Rumsfeld’s Pentagon: there they relate to consensual sexual relations between a man and a woman. The consistent factor is that one of the sexual partners has made it on to the Pentagon’s black list for one reason or another.

Quiet Suicide of Urban Liberalism: With Sixty-Nine Stab Wounds in the Back

Nathan Newman discusses the destruction of affordable housing in major cities (in this case New York). (via Atrios)
Enacted in the name of preserving "the character" of local communities, this is more in the nature of a neutron bomb, keeping the buildings while driving out the working class families who once could afford to live in the city. With a projected demand of 300,000 new people looking for housing in the City in coming years, the inevitable result of limiting the housing supply is soaring home prices.

Grab bag

Japanese public opposes keeping troops in Iraq-poll

Cheesey internet tests: On The Would You Have Been a Nazi Test I am an expatriot--meaning I would have left Germany during the rise of Nazism; On The 3 Variable Funny Test I am CLEAN | SPONTANEOUS | LIGHT, aka, according to the test, The Ham. (via Bob Harris)

Harriet Miers is Best Sycophant Ever, letters reveal

News Item:
Harriet Miers, President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, quickly developed a deep and almost gushing admiration for her boss from her earliest days in Texas government.

"You are the best governor ever - deserving of great respect!" she wrote in 1997, in a belated birthday note that was typical of the tone she used in her correspondence with then-Gov. Bush.

More Light on Incident in New Orleans: Victim of Beating Claims He Was Sober

News Item:
A retired elementary teacher who was repeatedly punched in the head by police in an incident caught on videotape said Monday he was not drunk, put up no resistance and was baffled by what happened.

Robert Davis said he had returned to New Orleans to check on property his family owns in the storm-ravaged city, and was out looking to buy cigarettes when he was beaten and arrested Saturday night in the French Quarter.

Police have alleged that the 64-year-old Davis was publicly intoxicated, a charge he strongly denied as he stood on the street corner where the incident played out Saturday.

"I haven't had a drink in 25 years," Davis said. He had stitches beneath his left eye, a bandage on his left hand and complained of soreness in his back and aches in his left shoulder.

Two other officials in the video appeared to be federal officers, according to police. Numerous agencies have sent officers to help with patrols in the aftermath of Katrina.
Interesting, but it appears that some of the officers involved in the incident were Federal officers.

Tragedy in Central America: Guatemala abandons search for victims

News Item:
Rescuers searching for up to 1,400 people buried when a landslide swept away a Maya Indian village finally gave up on Monday, leaving the victims to lie forever encased in a tomb of thick mud.

Five days after a river of mud wiped Panabaj off Guatemala's map, firefighters called off the gruesome and dangerous rescue effort.

Santorum's days in the Senate appear numbered

News Item:
Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record)'s leading Democratic challenger raised thousands more than the incumbent in the three-month quarter that ended Friday.

Campaign spokesman John Brabender said Santorum lost about $1 million in contributions by canceling fundraisers after Hurricane Katrina.

Santorum, the No. 3 Senate Republican, raised more than $1.7 million for the period, while Pennsylvania Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. raised more than $2 million, their respective campaign spokesmen said Monday.
I don't like the fact that the Democratic party is increasingly going to "son of" politicians (here Bob Casey Jr.), however it is important to get Santorum out of the Senate and onto the infomercial circuit as quickly as possible.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Turning the Amazon into a desert: global warming a suspect

News Item:
The worst drought in more than 40 years is damaging the world's biggest rainforest, plaguing the Amazon basin with wildfires, sickening river dwellers with tainted drinking water, and killing fish by the millions as streams dry up.

Nearby, scores of piranhas shook in spasms in two inches of water -- what was left of the once flowing Parana de Manaquiri river, an Amazon tributary. Thousands of rotting fish lined the its dry banks.

The governor of Amazonas, a state the size of Alaska, has declared 16 municipalities in crisis as the two-month-long drought strands river dwellers who cannot find food or sell crops.

Some scientists blame higher ocean temperatures stemming from global warming, which have also been linked to a recent string of unusually deadly hurricanes in the United States and Central America.

Rising air in the north Atlantic, which fuels storms, may have caused air above the Amazon to descend and prevented cloud formations and rainfall, according to some scientists.

"If the warming of the north Atlantic is the smoking gun, it really shows how the world is changing," said Dan Nepstadt, an ecologist from the Massachusetts-based Woods Hole Research Institute, funded by the U.S. government and private grants.

Department of the obvious: Londoners Blame Iraq War for Bombings

News Item: (via Juan Cole)
72 per cent of respondents in London believe Britain’s participation in the Iraq war contributed a great deal or a fair amount to the Jul. 7 bombings.

Answering my question: Sen. Russ Feingold says it's time to admit the war was a disaster.

Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold has latched his political future to the third rail of American foreign policy. This summer, he proposed a date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq: Dec. 31, 2006.
Read the whole interview at Salon.com.

Department of Justice decides not to enforce an unjust law, just this once though

Item: (via Atrios)
In the latest twist in the Bankruptcy Potboiler, the Justice Department has announced that it will waive enforcement of portions of the new bankruptcy law for Louisiana residents and some Mississippi residents. They got it right: On the eve of the effective date of the new laws, they see that the bill is a terrible mess for people who are in desperate financial trouble. Hurrah for the Justice Department for saying they will back off this terrible bill. Notice that to provide even minimal protection for people following a catastrophe, the Justice Department must offer wholesale waiver of enforcement of multiple provisions that Congress specifically put into the bill. That's pretty strong evidence that the changes in the law are going to have a hard impact on families in trouble--including those who don't get a special hurricane break.
If Congress really wanted to get a handle on rising bankruptcy rates they would slap some sense into the credit card companies--the very companies that give them millions in campaign contributions.

Senator Levin calls for Iraq Pullout, if, if, if...

News Item:
The senior Democrat on the US Senate Armed Services Committee said the United States should put withdrawal from Iraq on its political agenda, if ethnic and religious factions in the country fail to reach a genuine political settlement before the end of the year.
Who will be the first US Senator to call for an unequivocal withdrawal? Who will be the first to say that the Iraq invasion was a disaster? Who will be the first to say that it was immoral? Who will be the first to call President Bush a War Criminal?

Still waiting...

Still the bodies float downstream.

Fire destroys Wallace and Gromit warehouse

News Item:
All the props and sets from the Wallace and Gromit movies were feared destroyed in a fire on Monday, the day after the plasticine pals' debut feature film went straight to the top of the North American box office.

Production house Aardman Animations said a blaze at a warehouse in Bristol, western England, was thought to have wiped out its entire history, including models, memorabilia and awards from the Oscar-winning Wallace and Gromit short films.
No, not as devastating as the earthquake in Pakistan...

Do sex-crazed extremists give Islam a bad name? An Arab TV show comes under fire.

News Item:
A new television series being broadcast around the Middle East tells the story of Arabs living in residential compounds in Saudi Arabia and the militant Islamists who want to blow them up so they can collect their rewards in heaven — 72 beautiful virgins.

One of the show's writers, Abdullah Bjad, is a Saudi and self-described former militant who was consulted on religious aspects of the script. He said that just before one of the 2003 attacks on a residential compound in Saudi Arabia, an attacker who was in contact with his superiors was "heard on the mobile phone counting down the seconds to the 'beautiful maidens.' His last words were: 'One second to the 'beautiful maidens.' He then blew himself up."

"The series is aimed at those who have not made up their minds about terrorism yet," he said, puffing on a cigarette in his studio in Damascus.

"We want to tell them that Islam is a religion of tolerance, peace and dialogue," he added. "It's not a religion of violence."

Grab bag

Don't call it racism, call it something else.

News Item:
Three New Orleans police officers are facing battery charges after investigators reviewed a videotape showing two patrolmen repeatedly punching a 64-year-old man accused of public intoxication and a third officer grabbing and shoving an Associated Press Television News producer who helped capture the confrontation on tape.

Davis, who is black, was subdued at the intersection of Conti and Bourbon streets. Three of the officers appeared to be white, and the other is light skinned. The officer who hit Matthews is white. Defillo said race was not an issue.
Racism is the issue. If it were a white drunk the situation would have been entirely different.

Shame, America. Shame.

Bush has a plan for the coming flu crisis? Uh-oh, says New York Times.

News Item:
A draft of the Bush administration's final plan for dealing with a likely Pandemic flu outbreak shows the United States is woefully unprepared for the potential disaster, The New York Times reported on Saturday.

The Times said it obtained a copy of the plan which has been years in the making and is expected to be released later this month. A spokeswoman for Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt told the paper the document it had was a draft and had not been finalized.

Perhaps the numbers don't speak the truth? Perhaps they do?

Could Gore Even Win Again?

Gore has been thoroughly slimed by the Republican Noise Machine, and as of yet not only has he not recovered, he might even be sinking further. Like many others before him, he was slimed in a completely unfair manner, and mostly for telling the truth. However, that does not change the fact that any Gore run would be extremely difficult right now, and that nay poll where he trails is not exaggerated by the Incumbent Rule or anything else. In fact, because he has 100% name ID, if anything, his deficits in current poll would be exaggerated.
I think a great leader is someone who has been in the crucible and has come out stronger, better, a fighter. I believe Al Gore has been in the crucible and would be a great President. Speaking through the Republican Noise Machine to convince others of that... I'm not even sure Buddha could do that.

Pandemonium for old people: the new Medicare drug plan?

Friend of mine met with some local health care providers and consumers. People have no idea what they're in for. Some drugs with no substitutes aren't covered at all. Some generics give some people side effects, but the name-brand stuff won't be covered. If you don't sign up for a plan on time, you get penalized. You get put into a default plan. Then there's the big donut hole -- what one person called "an abyss." All kinds of shit.

What you have are all sorts of Catch-22s aimed at cutting the cost -- which is through the roof anyway -- so that the R's could run on passage of the bill in 2004. Unfortunately they won't be able to run on its actual implementation. They'll be running from it.

Democratic moral of the story, going into the '06 midterms: don't let Republicans write social insurance legislation.

Republicans would tell you that it is your moral imperative not to get sick.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Coverup at the CIA: speculation as to causes

In case anyone's wondering what is the real reason that Porter Goss is refusing to make public the CIA IG report, here's a little clue:

George Tenet is not going to let himself become the fall guy for the September 11 intelligence failures, according to a former intelligence officer and a source friendly to Mr. Tenet.

Clooney to remake Network

News Item: (Washington Post)
These days, whenever anyone writes about Chayefsky's flick, which won several Oscars including Best Screenplay, the word "prescient" is always attached.

Longtime news anchor Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, is toiling at the lowest-rated evening newscast.

He is given two weeks' notice and that night, on the evening news, tells viewers he will commit suicide on the air on his final broadcast.

He's effectively canned, but the network is persuaded to let him apologize on the air the next night and go out with dignity. Instead, he rants again and ratings go through the roof. The network, encouraged by an ambitious young executive (Faye Dunaway), gives him his own nightly segment and bills him as the mad prophet of the airwaves; ratings are stupendous at first, but then begin to lag. The network decides to hire members of a terrorist organization to assassinate him on the air.

Clooney told the AP that when he screened the film for a group of "young people," none of them recognized that it was a dark satire:

"I couldn't understand it, [then] I realized that everything Chayefsky wrote about happened. . . . And so, suddenly, the idea that the anchor is more important than the news story, and that you'd be doing sort of reality-based shows, all happened," Clooney said in the interview.

Provocation: Sam Harris argues for Atheism

Of course, people of faith regularly assure one another that God is not responsible for human suffering. But how else can we understand the claim that God is both omniscient and omnipotent? There is no other way, and it is time for sane human beings to own up to this. This is the age-old problem of theodicy, of course, and we should consider it solved. If God exists, either He can do nothing to stop the most egregious calamities, or He does not care to. God, therefore, is either impotent or evil. Pious readers will now execute the following pirouette: God cannot be judged by merely human standards of morality. But, of course, human standards of morality are precisely what the faithful use to establish God’s goodness in the first place. And any God who could concern himself with something as trivial as gay marriage, or the name by which he is addressed in prayer, is not as inscrutable as all that. If He exists, the God of Abraham is not merely unworthy of the immensity of creation; he is unworthy even of man.

There is another possibility, of course, and it is both the most reasonable and least odious: the biblical God is a fiction. As Richard Dawkins has observed, we are all atheists with respect to Zeus and Thor. Only the atheist has realized that the biblical god is no different. Consequently, only the atheist is compassionate enough to take the profundity of the world’s suffering at face value. It is terrible that we all die and lose everything we love; it is doubly terrible that so many human beings suffer needlessly while alive. That so much of this suffering can be directly attributed to religion -- to religious hatreds, religious wars, religious delusions, and religious diversions of scarce resources -- is what makes atheism a moral and intellectual necessity. It is a necessity, however, that places the atheist at the margins of society. The atheist, by merely being in touch with reality, appears shamefully out of touch with the fantasy life of his neighbors.
Current mood: eating the bananas you do not believe in.

Another war sckeptic is born

"Baghdad - US-led forces have bombed eight bridges on the Euphrates River in western Iraq to stop insurgents using them, US military spokesperson Major General Rick Lynch said Thursday.

Why is this a big deal? Because we are actually destroying infrastructure in a country we occupy. We are saying that the military value of the bridges to the insurgancy is greater than the value to us in either a military or economic/social way. This can be compared to the use of chemicals to destroy the jungle in Vietnam. Not because it caused cancer but because it was the long term destruction of some portion of the country.

As a solider I have been involved in this war in one way or another since 1990. I was in Baghdad early on when we actually thought we could rebuild the country. It was a tough decision then to cut down the trees on the airport road then but when you are getting shot at, you have to do something. Now we are blowing up bridges. For the first time I believe we have lost. For the first time as a military professional I think we have no way of winning this. We are willing to destroy the basic structures of the country to deny the enemy their use. This means we have no other way to deny them the use of these assets. We can't stop them, the Iraqi Army can't stop them, the Iraqi police can't stop them and we can't collect enough intelligence to make the enemy pay for using what should be choke points.

There is no way to sugar coat this. This is a MAJOR development. That we have made it public is also a big deal because every other military professional in the world knows we are done. This war may go on for a long time but the conclusion is decided as far as I can see. I never imagined I would see this day.
The war was lost before the first shot was fired. In war there is more than one high ground one must secure in order to secure the overall advantage which will lead to victory. The moral high ground was something the Bush Administration was never going to achieve. But it willfully thew advantage after advantage into the fire for short term political reasons.

I will say this again, Bush is a War Criminal and deserves prison for his crimes.

Source: Threat to New York Subway System Not Credible

News Item: (read down)
A counterterror official, who was briefed about the threat by Homeland Security authorities and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the intelligence did not reflect "on-the-ground, detailed, pre-surveillance" methods consistent with credible information. Rather, the official said, the intelligence was similar to "what can be found on the Internet and a map of New York City."
Somebody is blowing smoke.

Disaster in the making: Katrina work goes to officials who led Iraq effort

News Item:
Top officials who managed U.S. reconstruction projects in Iraq have been hired by some of the same big companies that received those contracts and which are now involved in a rush of deals to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.
"These people make Baby Jesus Cry."

The Rational Underground

Call Leftist Boddhisatva crazy if you want, but I’m inclined to believe that the latest New York City subway bombing threat is one of two things: a hoax or a hoax.

The first scenario plays out like this: Mayor Bloomberg needs a little extra “push” to help him ride out the election, and President Bush needs something, anything, to break his freefall in the polls. We all know that the Boston terror alerts during the 2004 Democratic National Convention were politically inspired. A “credible threat” is found in Iraq—subtly reinforcing the idea that Iraq is a threat—and is made public in time for a massive NYPD deployment in a made for the evening news event. Bloomberg looks good. The NYPD gets overtime pay. And somehow this benefits Bush.

The second scenario plays out like this: a prisoner in one of the US’s Abu Ghraib-style prisons in Iraq decides to blow smoke up the ass of his interrogator. Perhaps the prisoner has heard of the London Underground bombings. What’s a city in the United States that he has heard of, something that inspires him, in between his sexual humiliation sessions: New York. He tells his military interrogator that there are a number of bombs ready to explode in the New York Subway system. The interrogator fills all the rest of the details, in his overeagerness to show results, and the United States is put on alert.

Odds: 100:1 this is real, 1:1000 that it is a hoax.

Place your bets.

UPDATE: See this post at The Left Coaster.

IAEA, ElBaradei Share Nobel Peace Prize

News Item:
Mohamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency that he heads won the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for their efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.
This is the second peace prize in the past few years that steps on Iranian fingers. However, I can't help but wonder if this latest is something of a scolding to the United States and the Bush administration.

'Victims of Communism Memorial' Planned: 'Victims of Democracy' Memorial to be built in Baghdad next year

News Item:
The 90-square-foot monument would be built on National Park Service land one block west of the Capitol. A central feature will be a bronze Goddess of Democracy statue similar to the papier-mache and Styrofoam statue erected by pro-democracy students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square during 1989 demonstrations.
I agree with the general concept that Communism is bad. However, I think a more fitting tribute would be to make our Democracy here in the United States a little more Democratic (and I'm not talking party politics here).

American Public Starting to Wise-Up to Bush's Handling of the Katrina Aftermath

News Item:
Americans are losing confidence that the federal government will wisely spend billions of dollars set aside for recovery from Hurricane Katrina, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

"They're doing a bad job with the money," said Larry Washington, of Bonham, Texas, who complained about companies from outside the region getting rich, noncompetitive contracts to build mobile shelters at the expense of local businesses.

"I guess they just want to make the corporations rich," he said. "They're doing it for their buddies."

Follow-up on William Galston and Elaine Kamarck

But it turns out that's not the whole story, because in Off Center Hacker and Pierson also provide a ton of evidence that, congressional results notwithstanding, Americans haven't become any more conservative over the past three decades. Nor has the activist base of the Democratic party become more liberal. Rather, it's the activist base of the Republican party that's gotten more extreme.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

What's up with Air America Radio?

Business is booming at Air America; so Limbaugh and O'Reilly have started spreading lies about the network's looming bellyflop.
I am a big fan of Morning Sedition, with its blend of humor, thoughtfulness, and good-old fashioned partisan yelling. In fact, I have come to dislike the local news show which cuts Morning Sedition off at eight o'clock in my home market. I'm not fond at all of Jerry Springer... but then I'll always have fond memories of Rachel Maddow's show at that time slot. Al Franken is great, but I am happy that Katherine Lanpher is leaving. She might be a nice person, but Franken needs someone peppy to help keep up the pace. There are times when the Al Franken show seems languorous. Randi Rhodes is wonderful, even if she has certain, probably valid, obsessions. I could go on.

Perhaps Democratic Candidates Need to Create Myths?

News Item:
To regain political power Democrats must abandon favorite election myths, adopt a strong position on national defense and pick candidates who connect with average voters, two political analysts from the party said Thursday.

Political scientists Elaine Kamarck and William Galston, both Democrats, warned that the most important first step is to abandon beliefs they describe as "election myths."
The myths the political scientists identified are:
  • The belief Democrats can win if they just do a great job of mobilizing their base. Republicans have improved at mobilizing their own base, so Democrats need to do more than that.

  • The theory demographic changes over time will make Democrats a majority, a questionable concept with the Hispanic vote increasingly up for grabs.

  • The belief Democrats can succeed politically if they simply learn to talk more effectively about their positions.

  • The strategy of avoiding cultural issues, playing down national security and changing the subject to domestic issues. National security is too dominant a concern now.

Ross Perot where are you?

The total National Debt is now $7,932,709,661,723.50. (via Brad DeLong)

Before George W. Bush we had budget surpluses and the federal government was well on its way to paying off the national debt. Even with the recession of 2000-2001 and September 11, sound fiscal policy would have kept the US in the black (or at most only dipping in the red). Instead, we have a reckless, fiscally malfeasant administration committed to a tax cut and spend policy which has destroyed the financial stability of this country and threatens economic catastrophy. Folks, the only thing keeping this ship sailing is the near universal belief that the United States is too big to sink.

There are so many things we should be doing as a nation instead of engaging in crony capitalism (i.e.: Halliburton) and engaging in unnecessary, fruitless, and expensive wars. For example we should be:
  • Catching bin-Laden.

  • Rebuilding Afghanistan (there's something of a civil war happening there, did you know?).

  • Investing in light rail, subways, and mass transportation.

  • Revolutionizing alternative fuels.

  • Reinvesting in cities.

  • Agreeing to the Kyoto accords in principle, if not on paper, and pushing for major changes in pollution in this country.
Just a few thoughts, really.

follow-up: Could Venezuala trigger a US currency melt-down?

Listen to the Aardvark

Al-Jazeera on American public diplomacy
Al-Jazeera's website (in Arabic) has a big feature exploring American public diplomacy: "America's attempts to improve its image.. to where?" It's fascinating.

Unrelated but fascinating: the Koranic telephone, over at Nur al-Cubicle.

Temporary House Majority Leader Blunt Caught Doing the Dirty with Tom DeLay

News Item:
Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.

When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
My prediction: House Republicans are going to kick themselves for not going with the gay guy.

Pythons potential threat to Everglades ecosystem

News Item:
The tail of an alligator protruding from the ruptured gut of a python, which had swallowed its foe alive, bore witness to a fierce and unusual battle between two of the deadliest predators in Florida's swamps.

Park rangers, who photographed the remains of the two huge reptiles in the Everglades National Park, say the clash demonstrates the threat to the fragile swamplands posed by a growing population of non-native Burmese pythons.

Pythons, thought to have abandoned by pet owners, have been multiplying in the large swath of swampland, and environmentalists fear the exotic intruders threaten to overrun the national park, preying on native species.

A Must Read: Reality sends chills through halls of power

A truly horrible summer that seemed unending is finally fading away, and the cold winds of reality are blowing down the collars of a president and the key players in his administration. Those winds could foretell an even more terrible winter ahead.

The folks who prided themselves on sticking to the message like grass-burrs on a hairy dog suddenly are all over the map on everything that counts when you are a lame-duck president whose party is going into a critical midterm congressional election next year.

Pentagon employee pleads guilty to spying for Israel

News Item:
A Pentagon employee has admitted in court he provided classified defense information to an Israeli diplomat and two employees of a pro-Israel lobby group.

Lawrence Franklin, 58, a specialist on Iran, Iraq and terrorism issues, worked at the time of the events for the number-three official at the Pentagon, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith.

Asked how he pleaded on three charges against him, Franklin told US District Court Judge T.S. Ellis: "Guilty, your honor."

Franklin was charged in June with having transmitted secret information about an unidentified Middle Eastern country to an Israeli diplomat and two employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in 2003 and 2004, and with unlawful retention of classified materials.

Steven Rosen, AIPAC's former political director, and Keith Weissman, formerly an Iran expert at the organization, are suspected of having passed along information furnished by Franklin to Israel.

A Spy in the House of Cheney

News Item:
ABC News has broken the story in the last half-hour that a Marine has admitted to spying while working in Dick Cheney’s office for the last three years undetected.

"The information was transferred mostly by e-mails," said U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie at the time of Aragoncillo's arrest. Since that arrest, officials say Aragoncillo has started to cooperate. He has admitted to spying while working on the staff of Vice President Cheney's office.

So let me get this straight; the guy [Cheney] who told us that we would be at risk if John Kerry was elected has had a spy working under his nose for three years.
At first glance, the marine-spy's motive seems to have been to try to promote democratic reforms in his native Philippines. If true, then this is somewhat ironic.

David Kline: Ambushed by Bill O'Reilly

Item: (via Daily Kos)
If you're interested in how shows like the O'Reilly Factor work, then let me explain how the ambush against Media Matters -- and against political blogs in general -- came about.
Insight into how Fox and O'Reilly operate.

Nine Senators Vote for Torture

Item: (via Atrios)
The Senate's 90 to 9 vote suggested a new boldness among Republicans to challenge the White House on war policy. The amendment by McCain, one of Bush's most significant backers at the outset of the Iraq war, would establish uniform standards for the interrogation of people detained by U.S. military personnel, prohibiting "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment while they are in U.S. custody.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Two quick updates on Iraq at Nur al-Cubicle

Operation "Block the Vote": Is the US military deliberately targetting Sunni areas in order to suppress votes against the Iraqi constitution?

Iraqi "Parliament" Reverses Course: Sunday's parliamentary action has been rescinded and the upcoming referendum will proceed as originally provided by the US-imposed Transitional Administrative Law.

Look who won on Social Security: We Did!

This is as official a conceession speech as you'll get from this president. It's over.
Current mood: banana split.

The Leftist Boddhisatva on Harriet Miers

There are two themes in the mainstream media on Harriet Miers’s nomination to the Supreme Court. The first is that Harriet Miers is not sufficiently conservative enough to satisfy the Republican base. The second is that Harriet Miers is a crony, and her appointment is something akin to Michael Brown’s disastrous, as it turned out, appointment to be head of FEMA.

Let us lift, as much as we can, the shroud of illusion and dismiss the conservative opposition to Miers. As much as it makes liberals and leftists squirm with pleasure to see the President discomfited by the raving howls on the right, Meirs’s appointment to the Supreme Court is not a victory for our side. Furthermore, like most right wing storms, for all its thunder there will barely be a trickle of rain. In the end, for all their resentment at not getting exactly what they want, conservatives (and especially conservative Senators) will chalk up Meirs’s nomination as a victory for their side of the aisle.

Rather, given the scorched-earth nature of politics (in the media-verse) today, it would have been much more significant had the President appointed a so-called strict-constructionalist, or an originalist, or a card carrying member of the secret inner order of the Federalist Society. The Democratic opposition in the Senate was severely compromised by the filibuster deal. (And of course, these issues do not exist in a vacuum. The entire Democratic party is partially paralyzed by its inability not to support the President’s damn War in Iraq. But let’s, in the interest of not confounding one stench with another, skip the Iraq War entirely.) The lack of any strong opposition to Roberts as a matter of principle—on the principle that the Senate should have the right to look into an appointee’s past and to know exactly whom they are voting for—further hobbled the Democratic party’s ability to maneuver on judges in the US Senate. The time was right, Conservatives rightly believed, to appoint another firebrand along the lines of Judge Scalia... or better yet, another vacuum-head along the lines of Judge Thomas.

Had the President appointed a right-wing wet dream, it would have provided a profound opportunity to break or recreate the Democratic opposition in the Senate. And, significantly, such a gambit would have likely succeeded.

However, our moral dwarf President is not someone who keeps his eye, however much he says he does, on the big picture. Facing ever-dwindling popularity poll results and cumulative catastrophes to which there is little he can do after-the-fact, but much that he should have done before..., President Bush’s view of the world is shrinking. In addition to admonishing the White House staff to turn off the lights in order to conserve energy he is increasingly consumed by little tasks and unable to deal with the greater burdens of power. He is also turning more and more to a shrinking talent pool. He appointed his long-time adviser and power broker, Karl Rove, to oversee the Katrina corporate giveaways, err... construction efforts. And now he has turned to his White House Counsel and long time Texas crony Harriet Miers to be his Supreme Court nominee.

There is a line of worry among left-of-center bloggers: that Harriet Miers is a kind of insurance policy. That should the President or the President’s pro-torture policies ever receive their due day in court, she will act as a partial umpire and cover the President’s ass. There may be some truth to this paranoia-inspired Machiavellian interpretation of Miers’s appointment. But, really, does the truth really matter (to this President)?

No, there is little to do and little that can be done. That Miers will be appointed is something of a sure bet (her background and age somewhat preclude shady business dealings or a torrid sex life). Furthermore, given the way they rolled over on Roberts, it is unlikely that there will be any Democratic opposition to her nomination in the Senate.

There are however, several questions that need to be raised, and loudly, in the public sphere. She should be asked, and made to answer, what her position on revisiting prior Supreme Court decisions is? How will she judge such cases? Does she believe that the Constitution implies, or has inherent, a right to privacy? This is not to ask her directly about Roe v. Wade, although perhaps that should be done too, but to put her on the record about her approach to constitutional law.

The other issue that should be raised is her relationship to the President. Clearly her appointment can be fairly judged as cronyism. She might be, one hopes, a competent crony, but her closeness to the President surely influenced his overly high regard for her. She should be asked to lay out how the search for Judge Roberts (which she conducted) was conducted. She should be asked what qualifications she would look for in a Supreme Court nominee. She should have to defend herself.

Leftist Boddhisatva’s prediction: Miers will be the next Supreme Court Justice and there’s not much we can do about it. In the end, she will look far more moderate than Judge Roberts, and we might very well be looking at her as a just carrier of the legacy of Sandra Day O’Connor (who, despite the applause, is, in my opinion, a partisan wench).

Disagreeing: Steve Soto, eRiposte
Agreeing: The Washington Note

New law will require marriage as a legal condition of motherhood

Republican lawmakers are drafting new legislation that will make marriage a requirement for motherhood in the state of Indiana, including specific criminal penalties for unmarried women who do become pregnant "by means other than sexual intercourse."
Women: say hello to reproductive slavery. Men: say hello to the slavery of your mothers, and really yourselves.

Democrats: the Other Pro-War Party

If Iraq isn't on the Democratic agenda in 2006, we will lose. A party will never sweep to power if it holds the same minority position on the most important issue of the day as the current governing party. I am starting to wonder if Democrats in D.C. have the ability to grasp this, or if they even care.
So true. So true.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Six Democratic Iraq War Vets Seek House Seats

News Item:
Lawyer Patrick Murphy and five other veterans of the Iraq war are asking questions about President Bush's policies in Iraq as part of their broader Democratic campaigns to win congressional seats in next year's elections.
A nice-ish article which balances one Republican Iraq war veteran candidate with six Democratic Iraq war veterans. Why?

Current mood: grrr.

Pentagon has yet to reimburse soldiers for Iraq gear

News Item:
Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said on Monday Pentagon staff had been working hard on the issue.

"And my sense is that they are pretty close to finalizing what the policies and procedures will be for that," Whitman said, though he declined to predict when the rules would be ready.
Perhaps Whitman can spend less time reading Rumsfeld's little red book of gobbledygook and a little more time kicking the asses of those who are holding up the process. Oh wait, that would violate the chain of command... Well, fuck the chain of command.

Current mood: you are on your own.

Early dirt on Miers: not your average potting soil

Just when we thought that Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers had no paper trail, we find that the law firm that she was heading at the time paid $22M to settle a class action law suit for assisting law firm clients in defrauding investors[.]

Newsweek outed her on July 17, 2000 as the front person to squelch the AWOL allegations from the Texas National Guard[.]
Unlike some, I find it difficult to believe that Miers's nomination is part of a grand Machiavellian scheme (i.e.: for stacking the court with sympathetic judges who will rule in favor of torture, against human rights, and for dictatorship, etc... etc...) and easy to believe that Miers's nomination is a symptom of cronyistic excess. Whenever Bush's troubles increase, the circle of people who he trusts to handle important details (i.e.: the reconstruction of Louisiana) shrinks.

My sense is that Miers will be far more centrist than anyone on the right would like. But that could also be wishful thinking.

Current mood: mystery banana.

Does Judy Kneepads Land a Book Deal?

Sources tell me that Judy Miller is telling friends that she has made a $1.2 million book deal with Simon & Schuster.
Somthing tells me that Simon & Schuster is looking for a tax dodge.

Current mood: my book will be about bananas.

Monday, October 03, 2005

New-Car Smell Emerges As Auto Safety Issue

News Item:
Anyone who's pulled away from the dealer's lot in a shiny, new sedan knows the seductive scent of fresh plastic, paint and upholstery that evokes a rush of pride and consumer satisfaction.

But that unmistakable new-car smell may soon be heading the way of the rumble seat: recent research linking it to a toxic cocktail of harmful chemicals is spurring efforts by Japanese automakers to tone down the fumes.

The new-car smell emanates largely from chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that leach from glues, paints, vinyls and plastics in the passenger compartment. The fumes can trigger headaches, sore throats, nausea and drowsiness. Prolonged exposure to some of the chemicals can lead to cancer, though there's no evidence linking that to concentrations in cars.

Critics liken the problem to so-called sick-building syndrome, which traces some illnesses to similar agents seeping from the walls, carpets and fixtures of new buildings.

Just sitting in a new car can subject riders to toxic emissions several times the limits deemed safe for homes or offices by some health authorities, though the problem tends to dissipate after about six months, according to a 2001 study by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
VOCs are used as inhalants by teenagers (and others) looking for a cheap high. It all makes sense in a big-picture sort of way, doesn't it?

Maybe we can persuade car companies to replace the new car smell with the smell of bananas.

Lynndie England: 'worse things' have happened at Abu Ghraib

News Item:
A US soldier convicted of humiliating and abusing Iraqi prisoners said in an interview she knew of "worse things" happening at Abu Ghraib and insisted military commanders were fully aware of what was going on in Iraq's infamous jail.
I am, perhaps strangely, sympathetic with England as I fully believe that the behavior she was engaged in at Abu Ghraib was at the behest of military intelligence. I also believe that General Sanchez, Secretary Rumsfeld, and President Bush should also be tried for Abu Ghraib... but let's just call that a conviction that the immorality displayed at Abu Ghraib goes all the way to the top.

Ulcer Australians Win Nobel Prize in Medicine

News Item:
Australians Barry J. Marshall and Robin Warren won the 2005 Nobel Prize in medicine on Monday for showing that bacterial infection, not stress, was to blame for painful ulcers in the stomach and intestine.

The 1982 discovery transformed peptic ulcer disease from a chronic, frequently disabling condition to one that can be cured by a short regimen of antibiotics and other medicines, the Nobel Prize committee said.
Current mood: bananas.

Grab bag

Committee for a Weak, Pro-American, Sycophantic Europe

Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, Gary Schmitt and other members of PNAC (the Project for a New American Century) are launching a new club called “Committee for a Strong Europe.” They just began inviting politicians and pundits from both side of the Atlantic to join. The honorary chairmen will be the former Spanish prime minister José Maria Aznar and Senator John McCain.
Current mood: condescendingly utopian.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dems Agree to Recommend Early Primaries

News Item:
Democrats trying to change their presidential primaries for 2008 agreed Saturday to recommend that at least two other states join Iowa and New Hampshire in voting during the opening days of the nominating campaign.

Longtime Democratic activist Harold Ickes of Washington argued that the current calendar moves too quickly. Ickes noted that Democrats worked for a faster selection process of a Democratic nominee in 2004, and by March the party had all but nominated Massachusetts Sen.
John Kerry.

"We wanted to shut down the system and get our candidate out early," Ickes said. "If ever there was a foundering ship that was it. The longer we went on, the lower we went down in the polls. If we'd had a year we'd have been down around zero."
I agree with the intent, but disagree with the process. I also think Ickes is right.

Current mood: I almost always vote bananas.

U.S. Seeks to Iraqify a Post-Castro Cuba

News Item:
Fidel Castro looks like the 79-year-old he is, and the Bush administration has big ideas for Cuba once he departs.

When that day comes, U.S. officials want to leave little to chance about the island nation's political fate. They are prepared to go to some lengths to ensure that the communist system Castro created goes out with him.

It is official U.S. policy to "undermine" Cuba's planned succession from Castro to his brother Raul, 74. Just how that process would unfold is not clear.

"We are looking to support a genuine transition to political freedom for the Cuban people," said Caleb McCarry, the State Department official recently put in charge of transition matters for Cuba.

Wayne Smith, a Cuba expert and former U.S. diplomat who long has advocated establishing normal U.S. relations with Cuba, said he is outraged by the administration's plan. It is "blatant intervention in the internal affairs of another state," Smith said.

"They talk about how we are going to oversee and facilitate the transition. Who gives us that right?" Smith asked.

The president of Cuba's National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, likens the U.S. plan to an annexation or occupation of Cuba. He says the U.S. would regard Cuba "as a piece of land administered by the U.S."
After decades of interference, including multiple assassination attempts against Castro and support of the brutal dictator Batista, and after the stunning failure of Iraq the United States has no moral authority to impose democracy on anyone, especially Cuba.

Current mood: no banana republics, please.


Source to Stephanopoulos: President Bush Directly Involved In [Valerie Plame] Leak Scandal

Unlike Atrios, Leftist Boddhisatva does not plan on drinking to celebrate the misfortunes of others; but in this case, given the character and power of the individuals concerned, he may do a few jumps, leaps, and shouts. Hmmm.

re: John Roberts the New Chief Justice

In response to Steve Clemons
re: While John Kerry was off debating who was and wasn't a hero in yesteryear's wars, he should have been saying: "It's the Supreme Court, stupid."

Most voters have either forgotten what the Supreme Court is or underestimate its importance in the grand scheme of things (How many know that Miranda is a Supreme Court decision?).

The presidential election is about convincing voters that 1) the candidate is a good guy, 2) the candidate is a leader, and 3) the candidate genuinely cares about the voter. Based on that calculus, Kerry was not a bad candidate, but he wasn't necessarily the best candidate (not to rehash that subject).
I haven't set up my anon-o-email yet, and am a little lazy when it comes to that sort of thing... thus I cannot comment on certain blogs.

'Iraq guilt' mars morale, recruitment at British army: top general

News Item:
Army morale and recruitment are suffering because troops are seen as "guilty by association" with Prime Minister Tony's Blair's decision to invade Iraq, Britain's top soldier claimed.
Current mood: not snarky.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Grab bag

Essay of the week: fire in the lake, by Hunter

And might I just add ... Republicans impeached a duly elected president over a trivial sexual matter and one year later installed a moron in the presidency by one vote on the Supreme Court. Handwringing from the likes of them about partisanship is a truly impressive and unprecedented act of phony, shit-eating Phariseeism --- which is really saying something.

You will be Democratic, Or Else!

How Many No. 2s Are There?

Florida: hunting season on tourists and Floridians begins tomorrow.

What's amazing is that all these sleaze and corruption has bubbled forth while the GOP controls the entire governmental apparatus. Imagine if we had the Senate and/or House and subpoena powers?

FBI Admits to Wiretapping Wrong Numbers under PATRIOT Act

Karen Hughes has exhibited her diplomatic creditials as a tittering nitwit with a tin ear on an ideological mission.

Rival communities rallied around a democratic Constitution, the insurrection put down by Iraqi security forces, gradually replacing US and British soldiers: this is the dream scenario of the Americans. Is it a realistic strategy or a fantasy?

Ask me how I missed this

Another space tourist: American Millionaire Lifts Off Into Space

More Important Than Enlightenment