Tuesday, July 31, 2007

who?

I was looking at Texas Tech's football schedule, and the title of this post was my reaction to several of the upcoming seasons's opponents. I mean, sure, I remember the SMU Mustangs and the Rice Owls from the old Southwestern Conference days (where the only non-Texas team was Arkansas, which meant that the Baylor was, like, the 4th best team in the conference!), but I could've sworn they just packed up their football clubs after the dissolution of the conference and focused their extra time instead on sullying the curbs of Lower Greenville and the reputations of Evangelical girls.

At first, however, I was impressed that Tech has scored a gig with Northwestern (not a great school, but at least a non-conference school somebody has heard of) until I saw it was actually Northwestern State. As in Northwestern Louisiana State, in Natchitoches, LA (that's pronounced "NAK-a-tish" for those of you who've never passed through it-- yeah, I know, friggin' Cajuns...).

Is it because they have to find schools within a certain distance or something? Because I still don't get the rationale for playing these shitty schools.

British army handing over Northern Ireland to locals

Finally. From The Guardian UK:
The British army's longest continuous military operation comes to an end at midnight tonight when responsibility for security in Northern Ireland passes to the police.

Operation Banner lasted 38 years and involved 300,000 personnel, of which 763 were killed by paramilitaries. The last soldier to die was Lance Bombardier Stephen Restorick, who was shot at a vehicle checkpoint in 1997.

From tomorrow there will still be a garrison of 5,000 troops in Ulster, but they will not be on active operations and will be available for deployment anywhere in the world.

Security will become the responsibility of the Northern Ireland police, and the British soldiers will have a limited role in supporting them.

The Brits are ending their military occupation, the IRA has disarmed... almost like it's morning in Belfast.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Fred Thompson: trial lawyer for drug dealers

I enjoy Fred Thompson's candidacy to the moral police party more and more every week. From Salon:
The Washington Post has a front page feature on Fred Thompson that focuses on his distinctly un-GOP former life as a litigator.

Before he was elected as a tough-on-crime U.S. senator from Tennessee or played a New York prosecutor on TV's "Law and Order," Fred Dalton Thompson worked as a lawyer who argued against the government's authority to regulate drug paraphernalia or to search a boat packed with 14 tons of marijuana.

Once, two decades ago, he urged that more witnesses refuse to testify before grand juries by invoking their constitutional right against self-incrimination, boasting that "I start on the assumption that my client will not testify." And over the years, lawsuits he filed helped a state worker win reinstatement to her job while exposing a parole bribery scheme and won money for the family of a Marine pilot killed by a helicopter blade when the family could not sue the Defense Department.

The piece also reports that Thompson accepted $1.5 million in donations from lawyers over eight years. While in the Senate, the Post's John Solomon writes, "Thompson routinely voted against legislation aimed at shrinking the size of fees that attorneys could collect and rejected limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, bucking his own party."

So Fred Thompson is a former trial lawyer who represented drug dealers (and big ones at that: 14 tons is a lot of weed), a former senator who opposed tort reform, a former lobbyist who worked on behalf of abortionists, and a former Watergate lawyer who was a mole for Nixon?

Wow, I can't wait until he officially joins the fray! These are gonna make some great negative ads!

condom sense

The latest brought to you by the party of theocracy:
College students returning to campus in a few weeks will be greeted by steep increases in one of the few items they have been able to buy cheap: birth control.

For years, drug companies sold birth-control pills and other contraceptives to university health services at a big discount. This has served as an entree to young consumers for the drug companies, and a profit center for the schools, which sell them to students at a moderate markup. Students pay perhaps $15 a month for contraceptives that otherwise can retail for $50 or more.

But colleges and universities say the drug companies have stopped offering the discounts, and are now charging the schools much more. The change has an unlikely origin: the Deficit Reduction Act signed by President Bush last year. The legislation aimed to pare $39 billion in spending on federal programs, from subsidized student loans to Medicaid. And among the changes was one that, through an arcane set of circumstances, created a disincentive for drug makers to offer school discounts.

Because if we make safe sex more expensive, college students will stop having sex! That's what's gonna happen, right? Guys?

only 2 Republicans have signed onto Youtube debate

From the Washington Post blog (c/o Jeff Jarvis):
Four days after the Democratic debate in Charleston, S.C,. more than 400 questions directed to the GOP presidential field have been uploaded on YouTube -- targeted at Republicans scheduled to get their turn at videopopulism on Sept. 17.

But so far, only Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) have agreed to participate in the debate, co-hosted by Republican Party of Florida in St. Petersburg.
...
Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney, both with dozens of videos on their YouTube channels, have not signed up. Neither have the rest of the Republican candidates, including Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), whose "Tancredo Takes" on his YouTube channel draw hundreds of views. Sources familiar with the Guiliani campaign said he's unlikely to participate...

In an interview Wednesday with the Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, Romney said he's not a fan of the CNN/YouTube format. Referring to the video of a snowman asking the Democratic candidates about global warming, Romney quipped, "I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."

Very telling. You figure there might a whole mess of questions from Republican primary voters that certain GOP frontrunners don't want to answer? Or that the "Republican primary voter" is a breed that the GOP doesn't want the rest of the country to see?

Josh Marshall's gotten some reader comments, and has posted a couple of good points.

The first one:
You realize why Rudy doesn't like the YouTube debate format, right? He doesn't want the NY fire fighter's to get a clean shot at him on national TV.

Probably true. One can only imagine the reaction of the FDNY posting a scathing video demolishing Rudy's 9/11 cred, how he could possibly answer it, and what that would do to his numbers. Remember, 9/11 is his campaign. That's all he's got. And what are the moderators gonna do, not air the video from the friggin' FDNY? The scandal would probably cause such a ruckus that everyone would end up hearing about it and seeing the video on the Nightly News instead!
Here's the second one:
One of the thoughts that occurred to me with regards to the Democratic Youtube debate was how weird the questions for the GOP candidates could potentially be...As far as issues like illegal immigration and "coercive interrogation techniques" go, how does one ask questions like this in a Youtube format in an amusing way? The differences between the GOP base and the political mainstream can seem less extreme when asked by someone like Wolf Blitzer, but if presented from the standard GOP rank-and-file member of the base, it seemed like a great way to show how unhinged the GOP has become on some of these issues. Personally, I'm surprised the GOP ever got close to agreeing to this format, and once the Democratic debate happened and showed the format in action, I didn't see how it could have been pulled off by the GOP.

I agree that the Republican base, right now, is much farther from independents than the Democratic base, but I kinda think the moderators could weed out the less reasonable-sounding ones. I bet one could find the vids on Youtube (perhaps there's a specific category for the GOP debate? One would think so.) and look for oneself, but I don't really want to subject myself to that.

For what it's worth, I happen to think a debate between a floundering, desperate John McCain and a surging, confident Ron Paul could be fascinating to watch. Romney does contribute some great gag-lines, like "There is a global jihadist movement ... And they've come together as Shi'a and Sunni and Hezbollah and Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood and al Qaeda with that intent" and "I'm pro-life," but other than that everyone else is just a waste of oxygen in these things anyway.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Robert Samuelson can go cheney himself

Shorter Robert Samuelson: Because the Toyota Prius will not single-handedly solve climate change, the only possible reason you would buy one is to make me feel guilty.

News flash to Samuelson: the whole world does not revolve around you. This is the kind of thing that's starting to wear awfully thin, the cynicism that says people don't change their buying habits out of a sense of collective responsibility or a desire to change the world, but rather only because they want an excuse to look down their nose at you.

Of course, it's a bullshit excuse for Samuelson's attitude, anyway; this has nothing to do with his fatuous interpretation of economics or the price of corn or anything else like that. This is all about guilt. If you didn't feel a pang of guilt that you're not doing enough to help the environment, then it wouldn't bother you what other people do with their money and whether they're looking askance at you while they spend it. Not everyone can buy a Prius (we happened to have one fall in our lap), and not everyone likes the Prius or hybrids in general. Different people will do different things to help save the planet, or nothing at all if that suits them. But crying about how Al Gore's making you feel bad is a transparent admittance of guilt, and a puerile attempt at making everyone else change their behavior (for the worse!) so you can soothe your aching conscience.

The great lesson of adolescence/adulthood is learning that there are bigger, more important things out there than oneself, and that, as they say in the movies, "it's not always about you." I'd suggest Mr. Samuelson get crackin' on learning that.

Nancy Snyderman, Robert Bazell, and Susan Dentzer are on Big Health Insurance's payroll

Explains a lot. From Media Matters:
A July 23 Daily Kos diary by "nyceve" noted that three medical correspondents -- Robert Bazell and Nancy Snyderman of NBC News and Susan Dentzer of PBS' NewsHour -- "all participate on the AHIP [America's Health Insurance Plans] Speakers Network." AHIP describes itself as "the voice of America's health insurers" and "the national association representing nearly 1,300 member companies providing health insurance coverage to more than 200 million Americans." Its board of directors consists mainly of insurance-company executives. A July 25 Roll Call article (subscription required) described AHIP as "the lobbying group for the health insurance industry." The Daily Kos diary also noted that none of the bios for the three journalists on the websites of NBC or PBS disclosed the journalists' roles with the AHIP Speakers Network. Each of the reporters was, indeed, listed on AHIP's website as part of its speakers network, but all three names have since been removed from the list.

You got that? Both of NBC News' health correspondents are literally paid by the health insurance companies. The freakin' reporter and the woman Brian Williams turns toward on NBC Nightly News to explain the import of this or that health news to us gets paid money to advance the insurance companies' agenda.

To spell that out for the healthcare debate, they're paid to oppose single payer health insurance and universal healthcare.

Amazing, then, is the fact that there's widespread, tremendous support for universal healthcare in spite of the great lengths insurance companies, HMO's, and Big Pharma have gone to in order to rig the debate in the media.

Michael Moore has something to tell you

Supposedly Michael Moore will be on Leno tonight and "will be making a special announcement on the show." Dunno what that means, but thought I'd give a heads up.

Lady Bird Lake

Very cool. From UT's paper The Daily Texan:
Austin City Council will honor Lady Bird Johnson by renaming Town Lake to "Lady Bird Lake" today. The former first lady helped beautify the lake by spearheading the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail project.

Since Johnson's death on July 11, there have been calls from citizens and Austin leaders for the body of water to be named for her. Lady Bird had declined becoming the lake's namesake in the past.

Members of the surviving Johnson family, including daughters Luci and Lynda, will attend a ceremony during the City Council's meeting at City Hall today.

"I am delighted and not a bit surprised," said Betty Sue Flowers, director of the LBJ Library and Museum. "She was a modest woman."

The city has taken calls and suggestions about renaming the lake in her honor since her involvement with Town Lake beautification began in 1971, said Rich Bailey, a spokesman for the mayor's office. The lakeshore was once a mixture of sand and weeds prone to flooding. Through her efforts, the once unsightly land has now been transformed into landscaped paths, along which Austinites can enjoy pleasant walks and a myriad of outdoor activities.

"Lady Bird Johnson transformed Town Lake from a garbage-strewn eyesore into Austin's scenic and recreational centerpiece," said Council Member Brewster McCracken in a written statement. "Town Lake, and life in Austin, wouldn't be the same without her vision."
...
Johnson played a key role in other environmental projects, which can commonly be seen on Texas' highways, where the wildflowers she encouraged to be planted now line the medians and sides of the roads. Every spring, a vibrant display of bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and primrose, among scores of other wildflowers, can be seen by travelers trekking the vast Texas landscape.

The lake is the second posthumous naming of an Austin landmark after a prominent Texas woman in about two months. In May, the Congress Avenue Bridge across the Colorado River was renamed the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge, honoring the deceased former governor.

This is a great way remember a woman who did so much to beautify Texas. Some of the wildflower patches off the highway are truly striking:


For those of you who've never seen it, here are some shots of Town Lake. My favorite shot of it, though, is this:

That would be a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn, overlooking now Lady Bird Lake.

every dog has his day... in court

Have we all gotten the chance to get our self-righteousness fix today? Yes, yes, you and I are good people, but not like that big mean Michael Vick! And the news about him has been so, well, deliciously provocative!

Seriously though, Vick has been indicted for some truly heinous crimes. And it doesn't look good for him, considering the evidence found on his property and the abundance of witnesses. The charges carry 5 years in prison, and if convicted, the chances of Vick ever playing professional football again are, in my opinion, infinitesimal, and unless Nike is the worst contract negotiator ever, he'll lose his endorsements as well.

And, of course, if he really did this stuff, then he deserves what's coming to him. After all, he's a role model for the kiddies, etc. And the last thing we all want is some jackass football player making dogfighting cool again.

But has all this become a little bit too "To Catch a Predator" to anyone else, like this whole episode really serves no other function than for the American people to do some collective navel-gazing and bathe in our moral superiority?

There's also the matter of why the Feds have suddenly become so interested in a dogfighting case. Perhaps a chance to push certain other stories to the background?

In any case, we supposedly still believe that people are "innocent until proven guilty," so I think Vick should get his jury trial before we cry out for him to lose his job and endorsements and whatever else. And as far as the people threatening to boycott Nike over this go, if you're the boycotting type and you didn't boycott Nike years ago over child sweatshop labor, you're pretty hideously underinformed. And that's beside the sheer irresponsibility of paying this much for sneakers. Seriously, for those of you who have to have high quality sports shoes: it's called Adidas. Look it up.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the Youtube debate

Check it out here. I don't normally recommend debates-- frankly, they're never anything other than exercises in faking spontaneous wisdom-- but this one was quite good. There was, I thought, a little less ducking of the questions than usual, and there were some interesting questions asked that never get asked in other contexts. There were also some great meta-questions, that is questions that move the conversations to the next level or that don't deal with a specific issue but are still important to people. Hence Clinton got asked whether it makes sense to elect yet another Clinton after 28 years of Bushes and Clintons on the ticket. The candidates got asked whether they self-identify as "liberal" and they think the term means. They got asked whether they would include nuclear power in their solution to the environmental crisis, and whether and in what way they would attack energy consumption as opposed to production.

All in all, this debate was music to my populist ears, as the people asked far better questions, and got better answers, than any pundit or reporter-run debate I've seen. Anderson Cooper, incidentally, also happens to be well-suited to this format: he's quick on his feet and very good at focusing questions. He typically did so with a quick statistic or quote from a candidate that redirected people effectively.

Monday, July 23, 2007

on witchhunts

I was reading this post on Orcinus (and you don't have Orcinus in your daily reading rounds, you *really* should), and it got me thinking.

There are certain moments in history that we use as "lessons" for the modern day (whether one can actually use history in this way is not something I'm dealing with here). There's WWII and the need to stand up against evil, for instance. The siege of Troy, and the lesson of trusting enemies bearing gifts. There's the Holocaust and the "banality of evil."

One important historical lesson is that of witch-burning, in the Inquisition and in Salem, Massachusetts. There's a lesson there about hurting others in the name of superstition, about letting fear take hold of a society and allowing fear to cloud our reason, and about recognizing the good in others.

I wonder, though: if you actually believe in witches and sorcery and the need to combat them, with deadly force if necessary, what's the lesson of the Salem witchtrials?

Friday, July 20, 2007

Bash.org

Quote of the Day:
my math teacher staples burger king applications to failed tests

Priceless.

the king is law

From the Washington Post (h/t Josh Marshall):
Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.

The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."

This is huge news. What the president is saying here is that, since all federal prosecutors, including the one in DC, work for him, and since the only way for Congress to contest executive privilege is to refer the case to a federal prosecutor, Congress simply has no power to contest executive privilege. At all.

And what is covered under executive privilege, kids? Answer: anything the president says is covered.

Short of sending the army to occupy the Capitol building, this is just about the most flagrant action a president can take to undo the constitutional system of checks and balances. If this is allowed to stand, then presidents will no longer be subject to serious congressional oversight, because such oversight will now rely entirely on whatever the president allows to be uncovered. Furthermore, this is a full admittance from the president that the Bush Justice Dept. is simply another office in the political wing of the White House, to be manipulated to further the president's prerogative in the quickly deteriorating system of checks and balances.

This, by the way, is precisely why the US attorney purge was so important. Attorneys with integrity become dangerous and unpredictable when asked by their superiors to allow the Republic to be undermined. Something tells me Bush's shills will be a touch more reliable.

Scott Horton at Harpers has a good article on the issue here.

So what can Congress do? That's the big question from here. They have to find a way to get their case to the Supreme Court. Despite what the president expects, there is one recourse the Congress still has: inherent contempt, whereby the Congress would actually have the Sergeant-at-Arms arrest the person refusing to testify and put them in the Capitol jail (yeah, I didn't know they had those, either). And either chamber can do with a simple majority vote. Then the president's only recourse to getting his employee back would be... taking them to the Supreme Court.

Marty Lederman notes another option as well, namely filing a civil action in a federal court.

And there is, of course, a third option.

It all comes down to Speaker Pelosi and her willingness to take this to the next level.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

one hell of a throwaway remark

From Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic:
Why doesn't John Edwards's hair equal Mitt Romney's face paint?

The primary difference is definitional: The centerpiece of Edwards's campaign is his anti-poverty efforts; he presents himself as a dedicated messenger for the cause, and he likes expensive haircuts, bought a gimungous house, etc. etc. His credibility as a messenger comes into question when he spends money ostentatiously. (The haircut was inadvertently billed to the campaign, a spokesman later said).

There is a difference in the political reality: fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards.

Fairly or unfairly, there's also a difference in narrative timing: when the first quarter ended, the press was trying to bury Edwards. It's not so much interested in burying Romney right now -- many reporters think he's the Republican frontrunner. [emphasis mine]

I'll leave his "primary difference," its twisted logic, its broken morality, and its ridiculous implications aside for now, because I want to focus on the other 2.

Look at his "difference in the political reality." That's an incredible admission from a journalist, eh? That the national political press corps is trying to bury Edwards because they just don't like him?!?! Wow. That answers sooooooooo many questions right there (like, for instance, the truth behind his "primary reason").

So much for that vaunted press "objectivity," eh? And do we really wonder whether that is "fairly or unfairly?" I think we all know which one applies here.

It's also good to know that being "the Republican frontrunner" means that the press will not be interested in "burying" you. That, too, explains a lot. Especially about the last 2 elections.

So much for that vaunted "liberal media."

So remember, kids, the reporter has admitted it openly: if you're the Republican frontrunner, no matter how blatant your hypocrisy, the Washington press corps will not be interested in pointing out your flaws. If, however, you advocate for the poor and don't at least pretend to be one yourself, the press will hate you and try to "bury" you.

the upside of elfdom

From AP:
Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, who is a vegan, has been hospitalized with "severe" effects of apparent food poisoning.

The 60-year-old congressman from Cleveland became sick Sunday night while flying to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to address the national Longshoremen's convention. He went ahead with the speech Monday but immediately returned home and was hospitalized in the Cleveland area.

Wait, wait, wait a minute... Dennis Kucinich is sixty?! This guy?
with this wife?:

I thought he was 45 at the most. There's an argument for veganism!

Flynt has Madam's phone list, ready to out more

That's right, people. The founder of Hustler Magazine promises to keep up the show. From Crooks and Liars:
Larry Flynt told Larry King that he has at least 30 more names to release in his quest to expose Republican hypocrisy. And ye shall be shocked at a certain Senator that he has left unnamed so far.
...
FLYNT: We’ve got good leads. We’ve got over 300 initially. And they’re down to about 30 now which is solid.

KING: When are you going to print?

FLYNT: Well, the last thing now is we don’t know if we want to let it to drip, drip, drip or we want to go with everything at once.

KING: You mean you might release 30 names at once?

FLYNT: A good possibility.

KING: Will we be — I don’t want to get into names yet. Will we be shocked?

FLYNT: Yes.

KING: Were you shocked?

FLYNT: I was shocked, especially at one senator but…

KING: One senator especially?

FLYNT: Yes.

So who is it, I wonder? I know everyone's putting money on the Republican family values men like Rick Santorum, Bill Frist, and Tom Coburn, but I've really got a hunch here. Remember, it has to surprise Larry Flynt. My guess:

Kay Bailey Hutchison.

You gotta admit, it would be surprising!

What's your guess?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

the fallacy of the "God gap"

Here, from Mahablog, is a really good discussion of the God gap and its history. I highly recommend it.

"procedural roadblock"

This is getting ridiculous. I have to be honest, I've never actually seen a double-standard all across the media that they've fought so hard to maintain in the face of all logic and evidence. Or at least, one that's stricken me as such.

This, however, is just so out of bounds, so egregious, that you have to wonder what the hell is going on behind the scenes. Marshall flags material from McClatchy, Reuters, the Washington Post, and Diane Sawyer all going to great lengths to avoid calling what the GOP is doing "filibustering."

Diane Sawyer is convinced that it was Harry Reid who did the filibustering!

What the hell is going on here?

Lugar backs down

From the New York Times:
A handful of Republicans who have distanced themselves from President Bush on the war in Iraq refused Tuesday to back a plan to withdraw American troops from the conflict, leaving Senate Democrats short of the support needed to force a vote on their proposal.
...
Senators Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Pete V. Domenici of New Mexico, two senior Republicans who recently delivered a high-profile criticism of the administration’s Iraq policy, also planned to oppose the Democratic plan, aides said.

What'd I tell ya? Richard Lugar is all talk. Or are we expecting his own nonbinding bill to force change?

Chump.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

speechless

After all this time, the press finally ends their boycott on the word "filibuster" and reports:
During the July 17 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, co-anchor Diane Sawyer falsely claimed that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) "vows to filibuster, talking all night to close out all topics besides a vote on Iraqi troop withdrawals." Sawyer was referring to Reid's plan to hold an all-night Senate debate prior to the July 18 cloture vote on a Democratic proposal to withdraw troops from Iraq. However, by planning to extend the Senate session throughout the night, Reid is not "vow[ing] to filibuster," as Sawyer reported. Rather, he is highlighting the Republicans' blocking of an up-or-down vote on the proposal; in other words, it is the Republicans who are filibustering the withdrawal proposal by requiring that 60 senators vote for the amendment in order for it to pass.

Additionally, on the July 16 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes asserted that Reid is "filibustering his own bill."

Yes, you read that right. Diane Sawyer just reported that it's the Democrats who are filibustering.

This is insane.

Senate's impending all-nighter

It's funny, now that there's a full press boycott on the word "filibuster," I had no idea what the point of this was until I stopped relying on the press to tell me and went to the blogs. Here's some snippets of what I was reading in the papers. From TPM:
This article from Reuters manages to get through an entire article on the filibuster the Democrats are going to force senate Republicans to go through with without ever actually using the word 'filibuster'. It's almost a thing of beauty in its negative capacity of bamboozlement.

Some choice quotes ...

U.S. Senate Democrats, hoping to raise pressure on President George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans to pull troops from Iraq, have scheduled an around-the-clock war debate starting on Tuesday.


and

Democrats have all but publicly acknowledged that they will be unable to pass their end-the-war amendment because opposition Republicans are insisting on 60 votes for a victory.


That's not a good sign.

You figure maybe that's the whole point of why Reid is doing this, i.e., to force the press to acknowledge the obvious?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Thought for the Day

"And I think anybody who doesn't wear an Infallible Tikbalang Ward is a fool. Do you just want to be abducted by a Tikbalang? Think about it. Have you ever heard of anyone being led to their doom in the forest by a Tikbalang who was wearing an Infallible Tikbalang Ward? Of course not. That's why they call them infallible!"

Discuss.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

WTF Reuters?!

Here's the title of the latest Reuters article, from Andrea Hopkins:
Americans tired of Iraq war, split on withdrawal

And here's the opening text:
Americans are tired of the Iraq war and doubt victory will ever come, but remained split over President George W. Bush's vow on Thursday to stay the course in Iraq despite a report showing limited progress.
...
A USA Today/Gallup poll this week showed more than seven in 10 Americans favor withdrawing nearly all U.S. troops by April, and several surveys show the approval ratings for Bush, a Republican, are at the lows of his presidency.[emphasis mine]

On what planet is agreement between more than seven in 10 people "split?" And this doesn't show that people are "tired" or "doubting victory will ever come" (though they are), this number shows that people want us to leave, or "withdraw."

It also pointedly undercuts the second part of the article, beginning with:
Americans were divided over the president's stand.

The proof of this fatuous claim? They found two people, yes 2 people, who disagreed with each other. Every poll on the planet shows that Americans are not at all "split" or "divided" about the president's "stand" in Iraq, including the one she cited at the top of the frakin' article, but hey, Reuters found 2 schmoes from Ohio who have different opinions, so it's all relative, right?

Nice work, guys.

contempt of Congress charges against Miers pass out of committee

From AP:
CAPITOL HILL (AP) - A House panel has cleared the way for contempt proceedings against former White House counsel Harriet Miers.

Miers today obeyed an order from President Bush and did not appear at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing. Miers had been subpoenaed to testify about the firing of 8 federal prosecutors.

Addressing the empty chair, the panel's chair, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, ruled that White House claims of executive privilege were out of order. Current White House counsel Fred Fielding has asserted that executive privilege gives Miers "absolute" immunity.

The subcommittee voted 7 to 5 to sustain Sanchez's ruling.

She knows there is no legal backing for this whatsoever. Harriet Miers knowingly broke the law because Bush told her to.

Remember, everyone, our president wanted to make this woman a Supreme Court Justice.

when Ann Coulter gets invited on your show

this is the conversation your viewers get subjected to. But it's ok, because she sells books.

It's hard to imagine why anyone would care what a ghastly person like her has to say.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

our liberal media

For anyone with lingering beliefs that this media is liberal (that means you, Camille Paglia), here's the good people of MSNBC, not FOX, not the Wall Street Journal, and at least one of whom actually reports for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, looking heartbroken over the collapse of their guy's campaign. And it ain't John Edwards:

Of course, he's been the media's favorite at least since 2000, when he referred to them as "my base." Tucker Carlson, typically liberal news show host, explained it well (h/t Atrios):
McCain ran an entire presidential campaign aimed primarily at journalists. He understood that the first contest in a presidential race is always the media primary. He campaigned hard to win it. To a greater degree than any candidate in thirty years, McCain offered reporters the three things they want most: total access all the time, an endless stream of amusing quotes, and vast quantities of free booze.
...
I saw reporters call McCain "John," sometimes even to his face and in public. I heard otherse, usually at night in the hotel bar, slip into the habit of referring to the Mccain campaign as "we"- as in, "I hope we kill Bush." It was wrong, but it was hard to resist.

Hey, Senator Lugar: talk is cheap

So there was a big Iraq War bill that got voted on in the Senate today, introduced by Senator James Webb (D-VA), former Secretary of the Navy. It was on troops readiness, specifically that the Administration has to allow soldiers a modicum of time for training before sending them into the meat grinder. It was recommended by the Iraq Study Group, and though it didn't pass McConnell's FILIBUSTER, it did get the votes of no fewer than seven Republicans, a virtual miracle in today's lockstep groupthink GOP:
Chuck Hagel (co-sponsor)
Olympia Snowe
Susan Collins
Gordon Smith
John Sununu
John Warner
Norm Coleman

Notice any names missing? Maybe the name of a certain "very serious," "very wise and trustworthy" senior senator from Indiana? I never thought such an "esteemed" legislator would deny American soldiers adequate training so that he could protect the men behind a war more unpopular than Vietnam.

Dick Lugar: cowardly and immoral.

filibuster

It's good to see I'm not the only one upset about this strange turn in our supposedly "liberal" media. Why is the media refusing to call it a "filibuster" when the Republicans do it, after crucifying the Democrats for merely debating doing it? From AMERICAblog, we see Roll Call referring to GOP filibusters as "the need for 60 votes for passage of any measure — one of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-Ky.) chief tactical tools this year." You'd think a newspaper concerned about space would use a shorter phrase, like "filibuster."

The best part of the Roll Call article: when Reid complained about the fact the GOP is filibustering everything, here's how they printed it:
"In fact, Reid and McConnell traded barbs on the floor over the process for debating the bill, with Reid saying McConnell's insistence on pre-setting 60-vote thresholds for all Iraq-related amendments amounted to a defacto filibuster. Sixty votes are required to cut off a filibuster."

News flash: requiring 60 votes to bring a bill to a vote in the Senate... can only be done via filibuster.

Meanwhile, here's today's Washington Post:
But the GOP leadership's use of a parliamentary tactic requiring at least 60 votes to pass any war legislation only encouraged the growing number of Republican dissenters to rally and seek new ways to force President Bush's hand.

A free cookie if you can guess what the name of that "parliamentary tactic" is called!

There you go again, Cardinal...

From Rawstory:
The Vatican set itself on a collision course with other Christian faiths Tuesday, reaffirming the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church in a corrective document which it said was designed to clear up recent "erroneous" doctrine.

The document's central claim, that only the Catholic Church is "the one true Church of Christ", is likely to revive a debate which has dogged the Vatican's relationship with rival Christian denominations for decades.

Such faiths, namely the Protestant and Orthodox churches, "lack elements considered essential to the Catholic Church," it said.

The document is the second strong reaffirmation of Benedict's traditional conservative line in the space of a few days. On Saturday, he issued a decree bringing back the old Latin mass alongside the modern liturgy.

Yes, Benny, this is exactly the way to save the Church: hold service in a language nobody understands and imply that other Christian denominations are going to Hell. Don't think that's what he's saying?
It restates key sections of a 2000 document the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, “Dominus Iesus,” which set off a firestorm of criticism among Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the “means of salvation.”

Say what you will about John Paul II, he at least thought Protestants and Orthodox were going to Heaven, too.

And what "elements," by the way, are essential to the Catholic Church that other denominations lack?
Central to that identity [of the Catholic faith] is the idea that eastern or Orthodox churches were suffering a "wound" because they do not recognize the primacy of the pope.

It said "the wound is still more profound" in "communities emerging from the Reformation" -- the Protestant and Anglican churches.

Is the pope offering salvation to other Christians only if they bow to himself? Ya see, the Pope has Peter's keys to Heaven, and when he ordains priests, they also have access to the keys, and that's why they can hear confession, absolve sins, perform baptisms and, most importantly, hold Communion. If your preacher wasn't ordained by the man with the Keys, well...

Heckuva job, Benny, this is exactly why the Church is hemorrhaging followers: because the Church's relationship with other churches meant that Catholics were unsure where to go. Perhaps their unseemly proximity to heathens like Anglicans and Methodists was clouding their faith. Or maybe because they just weren't getting enough Latin in their lives. Certainly it couldn't be because the Church looks like a bunch of tools because it preaches against science and birth control and it hoards wealth while its followers starve and its clergy rapes boys and it tells people that God only wants people with penises running God's Church.

Righto, Benny. The problem was your followers were fraternizing with the Lutherans.

"prostitutes and other politicians"

Finally, a nice traditional Luzianna scandal! From The New Orleans Times-Picayune (c/o Josh Marshall):
U.S. Senator David Vitter visited a Canal Street brothel several times beginning in the mid-1990s, paying $300 per hour for services at the bordello after he met the madam at a fishing rodeo that included prostitutes and other politicians, according to Jeanette Maier, the "Canal Street Madam" whose operation was shut down by a federal investigators in 2001.

The line I pilfered for the title pretty much says it all. And yes, it does say a fishing rodeo. Probably this one, in Biloxi, MS. Unfortunately, it's not nearly as weird as it sounds. The fishing rodeo, that is, not the, ya know, whathaveyou...

Monday, July 09, 2007

SiCKO


Well done. Devastating. Go see it.

It was pointed out to me earlier today that movement conservatives have a specific litany of complaints about nationalized healthcare systems: you have to wait in long lines, you get low-quality care, you'll have to consult a bureaucrat instead of a doctor for your serious medical questions, doctors aren't given incentive to take the best care of you...

The interesting thing about that list is that, of all the healthcare systems in the western world, you know which one these characteristics describe most accurately?

Ours.

Fred Thompson: male prostitute!


Wow, it was a bad campaign week for Freddy. From The LA Times (c/o Josh Marshall):
Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.

A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.

His task was to urge the administration of President George H. W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money, according to the records and to people who worked on the matter.

You got that? Hollywood Fred actually lobbied Bush 41 against the gag rule! Thompson's goons are, of course, saying it never happened, but the man himself?
"I'd just say the flies get bigger in the summertime. I guess the flies are buzzing," said Thompson, who is considering running for president as a social conservative. He refused comment on whether he recalled doing the work.

Wow, dodgy and an asshole!

Meanwhile, the power tools and other rightwing hacks are preparing another defense: lobbyists shouldn't be accountable to their patrons because they don't necessarily have to believe in someone's cause to lobby for it. Yeah, have fun with that defense, guys.

Friday, July 06, 2007

FOX news vs. Mr. Rogers

I don't really know what to say. From ThinkProgress:
This morning, Fox and Friends asked, “Why is it at the end of every term, these kids who on the bubble…they come in and beg for extra credit so they can get an A?” Citing a report by a university professor, Fox speculated one possible answer: “Blame Mr. Rogers! Because Mr. Rogers had an optimistic message where everyone was special even if they didn’t deserve it.” During the segment, one chyron read: “Mr. Rogers’ Mixed Message: ‘You’re Special.’” Another chyron asked: “Is Mr. Rogers Ruining Kids?: Sense of Entitlement.”

Who are these monsters? And by the way, if by "special" one could mean "unique," then yes, actually all children are special. It's a biological fact proven by our DNA. Furthermore, considering that any one of them has virtually unlimited creative potential and since we as a society give children preferential treatment and consider them particularly valuable, yes, children are special. Why are we even having this conversation? Has the conservative movement truly gone this far down the rabbit hole?

back to Chris Matthews

It appears that Matthews' new hobbyhorse is the apparent hypocrisy of liberals who do not support Libby's commutation and yet also decried the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Matthews' logic here, however, is flawed for the reason that usually gets him into trouble: his knowledge of politics is a lot wider than it is deep. Interestingly, unlike David Broder, who glosses over the details, Matthews frequently loses sight of the forest through the trees. Perhaps he just has to spend so much time listening to spin that it's hard to keep him perspective properly oriented.

Libby's commutation=Clinton's impeachment is wrong for 2 reasons:

1. Bill Clinton was never convicted. Chris Matthews has on multiple occasions brought up this canard about how 50 Republicans voted to impeach him, but it's irrelevant because 50 other senators, plus the VP, voted to acquit (and as we've seen, getting 50 Republican senators to vote for something unjust is not exactly the hardest thing in the world to pull off, especially when they think it will benefit them politically). Civil charges, meanwhile, were not pursued (h/t Media Matters, .pdf).

2. There was no underlying crime. Clinton supporters have been on the rampage about this for years, and they're completely consistent on this point: Clinton lied about cheating on his wife, and adultery is not illegal. Outing an undercover CIA agent is a felony. That Fitzgerald chose not to prosecute Karl Rove and/or Dick Armitage for the leak itself is irrelevant, as prosecutors do sometimes choose not to litigate crimes for a variety of reasons. The act of outing a CIA agent is a felony, and it has been attested again and again, by Fitzgerald himself and by various of Plame's former superiors, that she was undercover and working on Iranian WMD at the time of her outing. Ergo, Scooter Libby lied to cover up a crime, whereas Clinton lied to cover up an embarrassment.

It really takes deliberate obtuseness (or way too much time spent listening to other people's bullshit) not to understand this very simple point.

General Odom on "playing chicken with the troops"

You may have heard by now that General William Odom, Ronald Reagan's old NSA chief, is now calling for withdrawal. But look at this, from his essay on the matter:
To force [the president] to begin a withdrawal before [he leaves office], the first step should be to rally the public by providing an honest and candid definition of what "supporting the troops" really means and pointing out who is and who is not supporting our troops at war. The next step should be a flat refusal to appropriate money for to be used in Iraq for anything but withdrawal operations with a clear deadline for completion.

The final step should be to put that president on notice that if ignores this legislative action and tries to extort Congress into providing funds by keeping U.S. forces in peril, impeachment proceeding will proceed in the House of Representatives. Such presidential behavior surely would constitute the "high crime" of squandering the lives of soldiers and Marines for his own personal interest.

Apparently Odom suspects the same thing I do, and that in my interpretation, Barack Obama does as well: if Congress cuts off funds, the president may keep the troops there anyway, threatening to let them run out of bullets, and dare Congress not to pass a funding bill to save them, hence Obama's verbiage about "not wanting to play chicken with our troops."

This is what even Republicans have been hinting at and implying all this time when they say "defunding the troops" or "defunding the war endangers the troops." What could they possibly mean other than the Commander in Chief letting the troops run out of bullets? And for that matter, why aren't Democrats screaming from the rafters that this is what the Republicans are telling us?!?!

Violent Femmes

THE LEZBOS ARE COMIN' TA GITCHA!!! WITH PINK PISTOLS!!!

What a bunch of dumbasses. And no, it's not reliable, in case any of you were wondering.

it wasn't just FOX News

From Media Matters:
Before the November 2006 midterm elections, NBC News political director Chuck Todd predicted several times that if the Democrats won "control of Congress" and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) became speaker of the House, then President Bush's "approval rating will be over 50 percent by the Fourth of July next year." In fact, as of July 4, 2007, Bush's approval ratings are far below 50 percent. Indeed, a recent analysis by the weblog RealClearPolitics.com of national polls conducted between June 11 and June 28 placed Bush's average approval rating at 30.5 percent. Will NBC News question Todd about his inaccurate prediction?

Todd appears to have first made this claim during the October 27, 2006, edition of NBC's Today.

This is what happens now during election periods: even the mainstream news networks try to convince us that we should elect Republicans. This was the political director of NBC News making this Hannity-worthy prediction, people!

It's remarkable, too, how myopic the claim is on its own, regardless of its source. Bush's approvals had been below 50% for a year and a half at this point, and people's opinions of pretty much everything he stood for had gone completely sour. How could Democrats possibly make him look better? Presidents who had recovered before (though exceedingly few had ever had such a prolonged period of low approval ratings) had completely reworked their political strategies in the face of defeat to remake their image. Reagan replaced his cabinet, for instance, while Clinton took a sharp turn toward "the center" and became a master of compromise so as to get things done. There was no evidence that Bush was at all willing to do the former or capable of the latter, even in the face of political decimation, and history has borne that out.

As Darwin famously said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Perhaps the PR consequences of such rigidity were not totally obvious at the time (i.e., whether his ratings would remain the same, buoy slightly, or continue their decline), but such a dramatic rise was out of the question for anyone paying attention.

Luckily for Mr. Todd, there are no consequences in today's media for inaccurate (even dishonest) reporting or electioneering masquerading as prophesy. I have a feeling we'll be waiting for that apology for a long time.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

prediction time

Prediction time? PREDICTION TIME!!! *bom bom bom*
................................

The keynote speaker at the 2008 Republican National Convention will be...
Senator Joseph I. Lieberman (CFL-CT).
................................

Every week he gets a little more comfortable trashing his party, and every week he gets pushed to go just a little bit further. His hawkishness on Iraq is starting to cause ideological fractures in other areas, like torture. And he's already endorsed the Republican in the big race nearest to CT: Maine Senator Susan Collins.

The transformation of Joe Lieberman from (D-CT) to (R-Military Industrial Complex) is fully underway, and far more advanced than most are willing to acknowledge. He's no longer any more Democrat than Republican, and he's fully admitting to that. It's not a campaign slogan, people.

That's not to say necessarily that he'll officially switch to Republican, as that would offer him tremendous disadvantages (like, say, losing his committee chairs) and no advantage to speak of. He ran his last re-election campaign on Republican money with Republican staff, so he doesn't need to formally switch to get that perk. If there's another 50-50 Senate, though, he'll switch, and if the Dems pad their majority in '08 and Reid repays his treachery by stripping his committee assignments (which should absolutely happen), he'll switch.

But make no mistake, people: by the time Campaign '08 gets into full swing, Lieberman will be working for the bad guys.

Fred Thompson: mole for the Nixon Administration

Unbelievable. From The Boston Globe (h/t Digby):
The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.

Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.

"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."

We've been wondered why the anti-Hollywood right swoons every time an actor decides to run for the GOP nod, but I'm now wondering about a different issue: how come these actor-turned-Republican presidential candidates always seem to have some history of being a mole for the bad guys?

Interesting fact: Among the members of HUAC during the period when Reagan provided them with lists of potential communists in the Screen Actors' Guild (of which he was president) was a California congressman named... Richard M. Nixon. And it all comes full circle.

War on July 4th

I thought the War on Drugs and War on Terrorism were pretty crazy, but this is just too far, man!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Libby sentence commuted

Ah, more of that famous George W. Bush mercy toward criminals...:
Bush has granted fewer pardons -- 113 -- than any president in the past 100 years, while denying more than 1,000 requests, said Margaret Colgate Love, the Justice Department's pardon attorney from 1990 to 1997.

In addition, Bush has denied more than 4,000 commutation requests, and hundreds of requests for pardons and commutations are still pending, Love said.


But remember, it was only his prison sentence that got axed. So let that be a lesson to all of you potential criminals out there, if you try to lie to a grand jury and obstruct a federal investigation, you might end up having to, uh, pay a fine.

Meanwhile, Scoot's friends are pushing for Fitzgerald to be subject to charges of prosecutorial misconduct for, I guess, punishing the wrong kind of people. Wouldn't that be peachy, if all this mess ended with Scooty getting off scoot-free and Patrick Fitzgerald's career being destroyed?

Speaking of investigations, Marcy Wheeler at The Next Hurrah, who's an expert on the Valerie Plame outing, believes that W opted for a commutation instead of a pardon to keep Libby from saving his own ass by talking, while preserving his 5th amendment rights. That would, so the argument goes, make W's move technically obstruction of justice. Josh Marshall says that this is actually the most infuriating part of W's decision, not simply the moral double-standard for his buddies. Remembering that the president is in all likelihood a party in the investigation derailed by Libby (and further derailed by inoculating Libby from flipping), and that the vice president most certainly is a party, changes the entire context of the decision and snaps it into perspective.

Someone on dKos made a good point: does this mean that Paris Hilton got a tougher penalty than Scooter Libby?

Or, as Steve Benen says, is this amnesty by another name? Are we now going to hear conservatives busting out with: "It's not amnesty, he'll still have to pay a fine!"

Monday, July 02, 2007

Um, what?

It's truly amazing what an acute case of "The Stupid" conservatives come down with for 3 months after Michael Moore makes a movie. It's like suddenly every new event or statistic that anyone mentions about anything must be marshaled to refute Michael Moore and whatever he's advocating at all costs, no matter how much of a stretch it is. Logic is no longer necessary; merely the faintest whiff of logic will suffice.

Honestly, I don't even get what some of these people are trying to argue.

Romney's dog poop story: an explanation

I just read a commenter who suggested that it was a "canary in the coalmine" maneuver: once the dog couldn't hold it anymore, he knew he had to pull over to let the kids go.

why a Democrat will be president in '09

This is what the GOP presidential candidates sound like on the 2nd most important issue to American voters. The most important issue, as you might guess, is Iraq, and "Yay surge!" isn't exactly the answer most Americans want to hear on that, either (66% want us to do something in Iraq, but "stay" isn't it, I'll put it that way).

The Republicans can talk about evil Messkins and scream "JACK BAUER!!!!" all they want, but the simple fact is that, at the end of the day, the American people have a particular set of issues they care about for which the Republican party has no answer. All they have left is scare tactics and tax cuts, and it looks like both are (finally!) losing their charm.