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Saturday Night Open Thread

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Slow news night because the entire MSM is at the Washington Hilton with the entire Bush Administration at the White House Correspondents Dinner (but no Jimmy Jeff). It's right around the corner....and making a real mess in the neighborhood....

So, anything fun happening? Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Orthodox Easter in a few hours... Read the rest of this post...

Bush STILL Having Prisoners Tortured In Name Of Freedom

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I've been angry and sick for months now about the widespread rape, sodomy, torture and killing of prisoners done in our name by US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and in undisclosed locations we don't even know about. Except for low-level grunts caught on tape and one top figure (who says not without justification that she's the scapegoat), no one in command is being punished. Many in command have been given the Medal of Freedom, promotions and other awards. Many Americans have shrugged and said it's a war on terror and you have to fight hard. Well, you lose when you debase and abandon the principals that made this country great. You lose when our government can grab American citizens on American soil, throw them in a hole and insist that it never needs to answer to anyone ever about what we've done. These Orwellian tactics SHOULD cause an ongoing outcry.

But Bush, to his eternal shame, has made rape, torture and killing in the name of freedom commonplace, dull and in a quiet way even accepted.

It's very clear we now regularly send prisoners to countries we KNOW will torture and kill them to obtain information of dubious value. This washing of our hands is worthy of Pilate and hopefully Bush will be remembered equally with disdain.

The latest charming ally that we send prisoners to?

Uzbekistan. The New York Times reports:

Now there is growing evidence that the United States has sent terror suspects to Uzbekistan for detention and interrogation, even as Uzbekistan's treatment of its own prisoners continues to earn it admonishments from around the world, including from the State Department.

The so-called rendition program, under which the Central Intelligence Agency transfers terrorism suspects to foreign countries to be held and interrogated, has linked the United States to other countries with poor human rights records. But the turnabout in relations with Uzbekistan is particularly sharp. Before Sept. 11, 2001, there was little high-level contact between Washington and Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, beyond the United States' criticism.

Uzbekistan's role as a surrogate jailer for the United States was confirmed by a half-dozen current and former intelligence officials working in Europe, the Middle East and the United States. The C.I.A. declined to comment on the prisoner transfer program, but an intelligence official estimated that the number of terrorism suspects sent by the United States to Tashkent was in the dozens.

A pre-9-11 report by the State Departmen on Uzbekistan said:

The police repeatedly tortured prisoners, State Department officials wrote, noting that the most common techniques were "beating, often with blunt weapons, and asphyxiation with a gas mask." Separately, international human rights groups had reported that torture in Uzbek jails included boiling of body parts, using electroshock on genitals and plucking off fingernails and toenails with pliers. Two prisoners were boiled to death, the groups reported. The February 2001 State Department report stated bluntly, "Uzbekistan is an authoritarian state with limited civil rights."
How can anyone take the US seriously when it claims its fighting for freedom and democracy? Bush supports a military coup in Venezuela because he finds the democratically elected leader annoying? Our allies in the Middle East are Saudia Arabia (the number one financial backer of terrorism around the world) and Pakistan (the number one spreader of nuclear weapon material and know-how)? And now UZBEKISTAN?

It's hard to stay angry. But Bush and a complacent American people are making it easy for me.

Read the rest of this post...

Why Bolton Is So Dangerous

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We've been saying for a while that what's disturbing about Bolton for the UN is not some stupid, "boss from Hell" reputation (though that hardly bodes well for an ambassador). The specific charges of harassment and intimidation are more serious than that. But the real concern is over Bolton's attempt to twist intelligence for political purposes -- the very crime that Bush, Rice, Cheney et al committed over Iraq.

The LA Times makes this connection and nails why Bush wants Bolton so bad:
The soap opera hearings over the president's nomination of John Bolton as U.N. ambassador have had an unintended effect, bolstering what half a dozen investigations of pre-9/11 intelligence failures couldn't prove: an atmosphere in the White House that pushed spies to bend their conclusions to political ends....

Bolton, an assistant secretary of State, was subject to the caution and apparent personal dislike of then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Had he been speaking for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, or on behalf of Vice President Dick Cheney, the pressure would probably have been more successful.

The most important piece of the puzzle, though, is the White House's strong defense of Bolton. "[H]e is someone who has a long record of results in getting things done," said a presidential spokesman last week. "And sometimes you get people mad at you when you get things done. But we believe he's a very capable individual and will do an outstanding job at the United Nations."

All three sentences praise Bolton's style and record. That means behavior like Bolton's must be regarded as not just normal but desirable by the White House. Cheney made a similar defense earlier this week.

Behaving like a boor and a bully is not so rare in government. Using threats to twist the conclusions of career intelligence analysts ought to be. But if Bolton is so admired in the house where the buck stops, it is impossible to believe that he's the only practitioner.
Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft is somehow affiliated with the GLAAD media awards in LA tonight, April 30

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If they dare attend, I hope someone is ready to give them an earful. And if they're just a sponsor, GLAAD ought to follow the LA Gay and Lesbian Center's lead and drop them. Or at least publicly embarrass them at the awards. Hey, that's an idea - any Hollydood types out there know folks going to the awards and speaking? This is a great chance to speak out, and you know the audience will love it, and if Microsoft is in the audience, all the better. Read the rest of this post...

GannonGuckert on HBO - links, and reviews

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Review from E&P
Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Slow weekend, hopefully. Read the rest of this post...

When Blogs Attack

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A blog of disgruntled employees at Los Alamos is focusing attention on the turmoil and anger created by the current director G. Peter Nanos. The New York Times reports:

Four months of jeers, denunciations and defenses of Dr. Nanos's management recently culminated in dozens of signed and anonymous messages concluding that his days were numbered. The postings to a public Web log conveyed a mood of self-congratulation tempered with sober discussions of what comes next....

Dr. Nanos would not comment. A spokesman for Los Alamos, Kevin Roark, said false rumors of the director's resignation had circulated for months....

Several outside experts said that the director's quick departure was inevitable and that the blog's attacks were playing a significant role.

"Nanos is leaving," said Greg Mello, director of the Los Alamos Study Group, a private organization in Albuquerque that monitors weapons laboratories. "The blog changed the climate, giving people an outlet they didn't have before."

Blogs seem to be everywhere. But this one is unusual, in that the Los Alamos National Laboratory, isolated in the mountains of New Mexico, has a long history of maintaining the highest level of federal secrecy. The lab's very existence was once classified. Today, barbed wire rings many of its buildings, federal agents monitor its communications, and its employees are constantly reminded that loose lips sink ships.

The blog ( went public in January and since then has registered more than 100,000 visits, with more than half a million pages viewed and more than 5,000 comments, some extensive. Discussions run on a variety of topics, from the sanctity of retirement benefits to the likely identity of the next contractor who will run Los Alamos.

One more reason for business and government to take blogs very seriously indeed -- and for people who contribute to blogs with postings and comments to be cognizant of the impact we can have. With great power comes great responsibility, as Peter Parker was once told.

Read the rest of this post...

Vietnam has come a long way in 30 years

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In 2002 I spent 5 weeks traveling from north to south in Vietnam and absolutely loved it. Before arriving I wondered whether or not there would be any hostility towards Americans and from the northern villages on the Chinese border right down to the Mekong Delta, the people were openly friendly and loved Americans. Well, Bush wasn't really held in high regard though they loved Clinton who had visited Vietnam not so long ago. Unlike their communist neighbors in SE Asia, Vietnam had a thriving middle class which was great to see.

Not everything was perfect and the government still runs re-education camps and the communist party was commonly referred to as "the mafia" because of their business dealings but overall I loved the Vietnamese and loved the country. Seeing the victims of Agent Orange there and in American VA clinics as well really pissed me off leaving me to wonder about the honesty of Bush's saber rattling at the time about Saddam and chemical weapons.

As Vietnam celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, a few pieces of this story really stood out and just made me laugh. Vietnam has really moved on, as you can see from this tidbit about their celebration parade. I had visited a Western style grocery store in Saigon which was full of Vietnamese dressed in their "Sunday best" but with 2-3 items in the shopping cart but curious to see what the store was all about and to enjoy the airconditioned environment. I had a cart that was semi-filled and took looks of shock and amazement.
Many of the parade floats were sponsored by American companies including VISA and American Express. One float featured women pushing shopping carts loaded with supermarket goods.
Read the rest of this post...

Cool Street art Chalk Drawings

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Ok, I don't have any orchids. (Or even a digital camera.) But here's a link to some very nifty street art chalk drawings. Read the rest of this post...

Use this thread for GannonGuckert's appearance on Bill Maher

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I don't have HBO, but Crooks and Liars is going to tape the show and have it up afterwards. In the meantime, you guys can use this thread to fill the rest of us in on what's happening during the show and how GG does. Read the rest of this post...

Friday Orchid Blogging

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Eplc Orange Crush (Lc. Trick or Treat x Epi. cordigerum)

A new one I got at the NY show a few weeks ago. It's even more stunning in person - those are the real colors, but they're even darker when you see them for real. It's also VERY fragrant, kind of an orange citrus scent (very perfume-like, citrus-y, actually). A really stunning flower. Read the rest of this post...

More fond memories of the Nazis in the GOP south

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From a letter sent by a county commissioner in North Carolina opposed domestic partner benefits. Putting aside the fact that his "facts" are pure lies worthy of Goebbels (he quotes studies by that quack Paul Cameron, the same debunked fool that the religious right groups are now quoting again out of desperation), I wonder what kind of sex Commissioner Bill James has, details folks, ask for details.
You really think that a pool of people (homosexuals) where 45% of them eat feces from the rear end of another male is "normal"? If you do, you are frankly nuts.

A lifestyle where one of their past times is buying gerbils and hamsters from the pet store and cramming them up their rears in an activity called feltching? A group of people who like to urinate on their partners and call them "golden showers"? Where one of the honored members of the Gay Alliance is an organization called the "Man-Boy Love Association" that promotes sex with underage boys?
Feltching? Oh, it goes on and then some. I wonder if Commissioner James drinks his wife's saliva or vaginal secretions? After all, that is what he's talking about above, oral contact during sex. So, we can assume he doesn't do any of that, right? Nothing but missionary, right?

Commissioner Bill James Read the rest of this post...

Don't forget, JimmyJeff is on Maher tonight on HBO

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A show not to be missed. Read the rest of this post...

My commentary in The Stranger

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Just came out. Nothing you haven't heard before, but good because it's in Microsoft's hometown, Seattle. Read the rest of this post...

Jeff/Jim wants to go to the Ball

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Okay, this is pathetic. Page Six in the NY Post has Jeff/Jim whining about not being invited to the White House Correspondents Association Dinner tomorrow night:
DISGRACED former White House reporter/male escort Jeff Gannon can't believe no one has invited him to tomorrow's White House Correspondents Dinner. "It seems to me to be odd to exclude the one person who has brought more attention to the White House press corps than anyone else in years," Gannon tells PAGE SIX's Jared Paul Stern. "Probably many who would want to extend such an invitation already assume I will be in attendance." Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert, quit his job with the conservative Talon News earlier this year after his fake name, lack of journalistic qualifications and male escort connections came to light.
Yeah, that's what it is. Has nothing to do with your past. Maybe people thought you'd be charging the hourly rate. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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Have at it. Read the rest of this post...

ChevronTexaco suffering badly, only manage 20% growth

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What an embarassment to the industry. With Shell raking in 28%, BP 29% and Exxon Mobil leading the pack with 44% Q1 profits the ChevronTexaco people should really ask the government to step in and offer relief in the form of massive tax breaks and state owned property such as former military bases. Clearly with the massive economic growth that the economy is experiencing a mere 20% growth just isn't going to cut it. Please, reach out and call your politicians in Washington and help these suffering people before it's too late. Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft demands neutral position on ethnic cleansing

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Oh man, read it. Pleae read it. It's hysterical. Read the rest of this post...

Define "Gouging," Mr. President

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Love this little tidbit tucked in the AP story about the Bush press conference last night:
"There will be no price gouging at gas pumps in America," Bush said.

He spoke on the same day the world's largest publicly traded oil company, Exxon Mobil Corp., announced that its profit for the first three months of the year had risen 44 percent to $7.86 billion from the corresponding quarter a year ago.
Read the rest of this post...

Friday Morning Open Thread

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It's almost the away Read the rest of this post...

For those who want to privatize trains and subways

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Just look at this. What was once among the best, if the best rail and subway system in the world has now fallen on hard times and high costs. Late trains and high costs do not exactly encourage travelers to use the system and while some cities are trying to reduce traffic in their cities (and reduce pollution) by encouraging public transportation, trashing good systems will force even more people into cars. I detest using trains and the underground in London because it's always so late and unreliable when I need to be somewhere on time. What a pitty it is to see such a mess. Read the rest of this post...

Headline article for the Washington Post

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Bush Social Security Plan Would Cut Future Benefits. At least nobody is trying to sugar coat the garbage that is being churned out this time. Read the rest of this post...

Bush's New Budget: Huge Deficits, Slow Spending On The Sick and $100 Billion in NEW Tax Cuts

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In what was mostly a party line vote, the House and Senate approved a new budget that slowed spending on Medicaid (without tackling that problem in any real way), accepted massive deficits as par for the course, approved $106 billion in new tax cuts for the wealthy and, of course, gave the thumbs up to drilling in Alaska because if we drill in Alaska, there's no reason to push our faltering falling-behind car companies -- which are about two minutes away from begging for handouts like the airlines -- into improving gas mileage, god forbid. Read the rest of this post...

We [heart] Barney. Barney [heart] Microsoft.

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From the Advocate and Sirius OutQ:
Openly gay U.S. representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts weighed in on the growing Microsoft controversy Tuesday with a letter to heads of the technology giant, saying he doesn't buy the company's explanation for withdrawing its support from a piece of gay rights legislation in Washington State. Frank expressed his disbelief that the company, which has a track record of gay-friendly policies, could not muster enough resources to write a statement of support for the nondiscrimination bill, which failed in the state senate by one vote last week.

In the letter Frank said, "It is generally my experience that when highly intelligent people such as yourself say things which are quite implausible, some other reason must be involved." State representative Ed Murray, the bill's prime sponsor, contended that the company caved in to pressure from Ken Hutcherson, a local conservative Christian pastor. Microsoft denies that claim even after it came to light this week that it is paying former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed $20,000 a month for international trade and competition consulting services.

Even Hutcherson said the company is lying and that his threat of a national boycott forced Microsoft to change its position. Frank's letter reminded Microsoft of his previous support of many of the company's "legitimate" public policy goals. And he informed the company's lawyer, Bradford L. Smith, that because of the demands on his time, dealing with Microsoft officials and representatives will now be of a "much lower priority." "Like everyone else in public life, I have many demands on my time, and I can satisfy only some of them," Frank said.
Isn't it nice that Barney Frank, the congressman from Massachusetts, is doing more for the citizens of Washington state on this issue than their own two Democratic senators who sold them out? Read the rest of this post...

So what happened during the press conference?

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I see a massive amount of comments below, figured it's time for another thread anyway. In a nutshell, did anything new come out? Read the rest of this post...

Feel free to comment on the prez's press conference

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I watched for 15 minutes, it's all I could take. Read the rest of this post...

Wash State Senators Cantwell and Murray, both Dems, sell out gays, side with Microsoft

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More worthless, spineless Democrats in name only. These are your own God damn constituents he sold out, not to mention he's giving fuel to the religious right nationwide, and you couldn't give a damn, could you, Senators? Then again, Gates is rich, and when it comes down to it, what really is the difference between Tom DeLay and you two - money talks, doesn't it.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said she was disappointed at the way the controversy has emerged — especially given Microsoft's lengthy record in support of gay rights — but was satisfied with the Gates' answers.

"They have a huge portfolio" of issues that are important to the company and cannot be expected to push all of them at the same time, she said.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said she was reassured by Gates' promise that Microsoft was looking at ways to "revisit" its decision to take a neutral stance on the gay-rights bill it had once championed.
Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft's letter STRONGLY supporting the gay rights bill in 2004

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Oh what a difference a year makes.

Excerpts from a February 2004 letter from Microsoft's manager of government affairs in the state, DeLee Shoemaker, to Rep. Ed Murray:

"Our employees know that they will be treated fairly, without being subject to prejudice or discrimination. An essential element of those policies includes the company's anti-discrimination policy that expressly states that it will not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

"Unfortunately, not all Americans experience this basic protection in their employment. It remains legal in 38 states to fire someone because of their sexual orientation. This is not only bad for business, it is bad for America. House Bill 1809 would simply and fairly extend to Washingtonians the fundamental right to be judged on one's own merits. And it does so without any undue burden on our business environment.

"Microsoft strongly supports passage of HB 1809 and the additional protections it provides in our state's law against discrimination. The principles it fosters are consistent with our corporate principles in treating all employees with fairness and respect."
Then there's this from Microsoft this year:

"Never mind."
Read the rest of this post...

This just in from Atrios...

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What price, fame? He's not gonna know what hit him. Read the rest of this post...

[Insert caption here]

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Open Thread

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What's the latest? Read the rest of this post...

Bill Gates lies to National Public Radio

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I hate to say "lie" because I wanted to trust Gates on all of this. He really has been great on gay issues, and his foundation has been tremendous on AIDS funding. And he personally supports the state gay rights bill. And all of that is great.

So WTF was Gates talking about with NPR today?
NPR: "Was it a mistake to make the steps on the gay rights bill that you did, changing your support."

Gates: "We didn't change... we chose not to get involved in that."
Ok, that was an outright lie and an attempt to mislead NPR and the American public. Microsoft has for years supported this legislation and this year they changed their mind and are no longer supporting it. How in God's name is that not "changing" your position?

I'd like to think Gates has just been misinformed by his staff, but he's a smart man and appears to know what he's talking about here. He seems to have intentionally lied to NPR, and that hardly bodes well for Microsoft's goodwill in handling this entire affair. Read the rest of this post...

Bush Speaks!

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In a rare foray into reality, Bush will hold a press conference Thursday night at 8:30 p.m....and then take questions from (mostly) real reporters. No reason why Jim Guckert shouldn't be there, right? Bush is so used to fake town meetings and making sure everyone he comes in contact is prescreened for "loyalty" that it should be a shock for him to face genuine questions.

According to the New York Times, he'll weigh in for ten minutes or so on Social Security, his failing plan to gut it and high gas prices. White House official Scott McClellan insists Bush will "talk in more specific ways" about his plan for Social Security. You mean, after a year of insisting its in dire straits he might actually commit to naming a specific idea or two?

Shame on the reporters if their first question doesn't focus on wondering why Bush insists on privitization when he says that solvency is the big problem and he's already admitted that privitization won't help increase solvency by a single penny. (Not to mention create trillions of dollars in debt over the next decade.)

What questions would you ask Bush if you had the chance? Read the rest of this post...

Exxon Mobil profits even higher than massive profits at BP

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So the president is chummy with our friends in Saudi Arabia who just can't do us enough favors and now his other friends are raking in massive profits on the backs of average Americans. In case the idiots in the White House missed it, the economy is hitting a soft patch. It's so nice to see that we have an administration that cares about average Americans. Read the rest of this post...

And the editorial cartoons begin

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About Microsoft and Ralph Reed, from Danziger! Read the rest of this post...

Blair Lied To UK During Leadup To Invasion Of Iraq

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Hey, here's one more thing Bush and Blair have in common: it's become increasingly clear to the British people that Tony Blair lied about the legal advice he was given before the invasion of Iraq. Per UK's The Independent:

The publication of Lord Goldsmith's report last night could prove to be the "smoking gun" that shows Tony Blair misled Parliament and the country over the war.

Last night, Mr Blair - unaware that the report was about to be leaked - was caught out still claiming on Sky News that the advice from the Attorney General "didn't change".

Professor Peter Hennessy, an expert on constitutional affairs, said: "The whole thing reeks." Dominic Grieve, the Tory legal affairs spokesman said: "There has been a gross deception."

Families of some of the British soldiers killed in Iraq said they were preparing a legal case against the Prime Minister, based on the leaked document.

No wonder those two get along so well.

Read the rest of this post...

Ahnold's Tanking

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AP reports Governor Arnold's popularity is falling fast in California:
In the latest poll, Schwarzenegger had a approval rating of 45 percent. His disapproval number was 47 percent. Eight percent were undecided.

Sixty percent of the likely voters polled in January approved of the governor's job performance and 33 percent disapproved.
So, he's not invincible. Read the rest of this post...

Thursday Morning Open Thread

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I've had some coffee....what's going on? Read the rest of this post...

Hey Today Show - Bill Kristol is a right winger, not an objective journalist

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I hate getting so pissed off first thing in the morning.

The Today show did one of its first interviews this morning on the subject of John Bolton's flailing nomination. They told about the full scale campaign by the White House to get the nomination passed. Then to get the story, Matt Lauer did an interview with William Kristol from the Weekly Standard. Yes, they did a one-on-one interview with one of the leading commentators from the right wing who is part of the White House campaign to confirm Bolton.

Um, that's not really news. It's a campaign ad.

Right off the bat, Kristol said he had talked to people at the White House who told him the nomination was making progress. He also admitted that Bolton was his friend.

Basically, the Today Show gave Kristol a prime spot to deliver the White House's spin. They treat Kristol as an objective journalist. He's not.

If the Today Show wants the White House spin, put someone on from the White House. Don't pretend you are talking to a reporter who can give you the story. If you want to talk to a reporter, use someone who doesn't advertise their right wing credentials. And, here's an idea: if you are going to put on someone with an agenda, include someone from the other side. That's called a debate. And I bet, you could have found someone who disagreed with Kristol...if you had looked.


I had to email the Today Show:

Now, I need some coffee. Read the rest of this post...

What's wrong with this group?

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The US is criticizing the re-election of Zimbabwe to the UN Commission on Human Rights and with good reason. Whether or not the US is living in a glass house as Zimbabwe is claiming is well grounded considering Gitmo and the recent Pentagon report on the torture scandal at Abu Ghraib that somehow just happened with amazing similarity to events at Gitmo and in Afghanistan. Looking at the list of countries who are part of the UN commission really just makes me shake my head in disbelief. Serious change is needed at the UN if it wants to join this new century.
The 15 members elected Wednesday to three-year terms, replacing replace nations whose terms had expired, were: Botswana, Cameroon, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Australia, Austria, Germany and the United States.
Read the rest of this post...

Odessa, TX adds Bible Class

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Who needs the seperation of church and state anyway? That's only for lefties up north. Read the rest of this post...

Benedict and the thin end of the wedge?

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Fun times ahead as Pope Benedict is already talking about Europe and the "unrenounceable Christian roots of its culture and civilization". The reactionaries who love the guy feel that way because he focuses on many of the core issues of the supporters of European Catholocism. (I have my suspicions about just how focused he will be on the developing world and the particular issues that impact those areas, but the jury is still out.) OK, he holds on to the core supporters that make up a small minority of Europe but focusing on the Christian roots of Europe doesn't really sound like reaching out to me.

He can evangelise in Europe all he likes but starting from this point, I don't see many people jumping on board. Modern Europe is much too diverse both ethnically and religiously to buy this tired old story. Read the rest of this post...

Bush on high oil prices - isn't he a little late?

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So has anybody actually called him on the silly statements that he's making on the high cost of oil?
"Technology is the ticket," said Bush, calling today's tight energy markets "a problem that has been years in the making" and will take time to resolve.
First off, this is a president who came from the oil business so if this is the reason (and that is an "if") why the hell is he only raising it now that middle class families as well as US businesses are feeling the pain? Shouldn't he have made this an issue back in 2000 if this was such a burning issue? Second, if the industry is such a mess, why are the petroleum companies showing record profits right now if it's all such a mess? They don't really seem to be suffering much now, do they?

I know that Bush doesn't read polls because he's such an independent guy and heavens no, he just does his own thing but why's he being such a wimp on this and blaming someone else (in this instance, it's sort of just "them") for a problem that he's been sitting on for years as well? Sorry, but if you are only now raising the issue, it must not have been much of an issue in the past. Read the rest of this post...

Ok, THIS is Nazi Germany in America

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I dare ANYONE to tell me that we are NOW off-base comparing this kind of Nazi crap to what happened in Germany. This is outrageous and terrifying.
Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.

"I don't look at it as censorship," says State Representative Gerald Allen. "I look at it as protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children."
I'm sorry, but the south really needs to clean up its act, along with the Republican party. This man should be thrown out of the party and out of the Alabama state house. This is reprehensible.

Gay groups, PLEASE pick this up and make it an issue. This is your chance, grab it, use it, run with it, and force the GOP, the religious right, and the south to grow the hell up once and for all and take some responsibility for themselves.

And may I just say to anyone from Microsoft who is reading this that THIS is why we are so upset with you, this is why we are so freaked out, this is why we are so scared that your capitulation to the religious right could start an entire wave of businesses throwing us under the bus, a bus we're already sitting on the back of. Can you understand our fear about what is happening to our country? Can you now understand why it is so important for you to take a stand for what you've always defended until now? Read the rest of this post...

Late night open thread

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Go Read the rest of this post...

New AP story on Microsoft

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They just keep on coming. Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft, please keep letting your general counsel speak

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Microft's General Counsel, Brad Smith, seems to have a career death wish. The man just can't shut up, and he can't stop digging a deeper and deeper hole for his bosses.

Now, remember, Smith is the guy who pretty much created this entire debacle for Microsoft. He's the guy who met with the employee gay group. And let me remind you of what happened at that little meeting:
At the April 4 meeting, Smith told members of GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, that the company had switched its official stance to "neutral" on the bill, and took personal responsibility for the decision. He characterized the shift as part of a broader general review of company policy designed to more precisely formulate criteria for determining when Microsoft should involve itself in "social issues," but also disclosed the pressure that had been brought to bear on him by Hutcherson.
Yes, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith is personally responsible for axing the gay rights bill.

He's also the guy who met with the religious right preacher and, according to the preacher in a new article in Seattle's "The Stranger" (the alternative weekly that broke this story last week), Smith told the preacher that the company was still supporting the civil rights bill when they met earlier this year. This totally contradicts what Microsoft is now claiming - namely, that they didn't JUST drop their support, i.e., because the preacher pressured them.
Hutcherson said that he asked for a meeting with Microsoft after becoming upset that two company employees had testified in favor of the bill on February 1. He first met with Smith and three other lower-ranking executives on February 23.

At that meeting, Smith made it clear to the pastor that the company supported the bill, Hutcherson said. Smith told him, he said, that the company had recently been asked by GLEAM, the gay and lesbian employees group at Microsoft, to come out in favor of same-sex marriage, but the company had said no. Smith went on to say that Microsoft did support the anti-discrimination legislation, and he described it as a “civil rights issue”—a red flag for Hutcherson, who is African American—Hutcherson said. The pastor recalled asking Smith a question: “You won’t stand up for two men or two women getting married, but you will put your power behind a guy who wants to dress up in a dress and come to work?”

Smith replied, according to Hutcherson’s recollection, “That’s our policy. We thought this is a good bill to stand behind.”
Funny, that's not what Smith says now. Smith says they decided LAST FALL OR WINTER to be neutral. There's more:
[The religious right preacher Ken Hutcherson] said that eventually Smith agreed to meet with him again sometime in mid-March.

At that meeting, “[Smith] said, ‘We are going to be neutral. This is the conclusion we’ve come to,’” Hutcherson said.
Again, this is consistent with what the gay employees allege as well, that Smith told them in early April that the company had "switched" its view to neutral - not that the change had occured 5 months prior to that.

It's funny how both sides, the gays and the evil pastor, seem to agree on one thing - Microsoft General Counsil Brad Smith is the bad guy in this whole affair. He's the one who supposedly told both that he had just recently changed Microsoft's position on the bill to "neutral" partly as a result of pressure from the preacher. Amazing how numerous witnesses at separate meetings with Smith supposedly got the story wrong but SMITH got it right in both cases.

Oh but there's more. Remember the openly-gay state representative who was the chief proponent of the gay rights bill? Look what he had to say about Brad Smith in the first Stranger story:
State Rep. Ed Murray, a gay Democrat representing Capitol Hill and the prime sponsor of the bill, confirmed that Smith also told him about the pressure from Hutcherson during an awkward and at times heated March 29 conference call in which they discussed the company's decision to end its active support for the bill.
Now, isn't that amazing. A THIRD person and a THIRD conversation with Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith in which Smith allegedly linked the religious right pastor's pressure to the company having ONLY RECENTLY dropped support for the bill. But all three sources, from three different meetings, are wrong about what happened at those meetings, and Brad Smith is right about each one. Amazing coincidence, isn't it?

And of course, he wouldn't be doing his job if Microsoft's wonderful general counsel didn't give yet another quote to tick off the gay community, effectively blaming us for this entire scandal. In the new Stranger article Smith says:
“I regret the company is being depicted by some as a company not committed to those principles [of diversity].”
Yes, well, Brad, I'd say we regret that Microsoft is foolish enough to keep you on the payroll, but I'd actually have to take that back. We're pleased as punch that you're not yet paying the price for your handling of this entire situation.

I mean, it appears that you're the one who messed up relations with the gays, who messed up relations with the preacher, who messed up relations with the openly-gay member of the state legislature who is not only one of the most powerful politicians in the state but who also oversees the committee you need for your company's expansion, and you are publicly blaming America's civil rights community for the entire situation Microft finds itself in.

And then you turn around and mouth off to the press blaming the victim. All that does is fuel the flames of this controversy, fan the media, and tick off gays and their allies even more.

So, Mr. Gates, if you're reading this blog, please give Brad a big fat raise. He's making our job easy.

Then again, you could always fire Smith, blame the entire mess on him, go back to your original pro-gay positions on everything and we could all move on. Read the rest of this post...

Spanish Cardinal says gay marriage will lead to Auschwitz death camps

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Would somebody tell these idiots to just shut and go away already. How dare a Catholic cardinal speak in such a manner? Yes, Spain permitting gays to wed will lead to death camps. Though perhaps he's right. If the Catholic church and America's Taliban have their way, this may very well be the direction we're heading. And let's face, Pope Hitler Youth knows a thing or two about Nazism. Read the rest of this post...

This just in...

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US House votes overwhelmingly to rescind corrupt GOP ethics committee rules that basically castrated the entire committee. Na na na na na. Read the rest of this post...

Air America gets the Secret Service while the religious right gets nothing?

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Air America's apparently inappropriate joke about Bush and gunshots gets a Secret Service investigation but the religious talking SERIOUSLY about how Stalin had the right idea about what to do about judges when he murdered millions of people, THAT apparently doesn't raise an eyebrow. This is how dictatorship starts, folks - an extreme government starts to use its police state powers against political opponents in an arbitrary and partisan fashion. We should be in the streets demanding a similar investigation of the religious right for threatening judges.

Here liberal non-profits, non-profits, I have a treat for you... Read the rest of this post...

Tech mag bashes MSFT

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I hate when they get off message. Apparently this was a big week for Microsoft and we got them off message. I'm sorry. Hopefully next week will be better. Oh wait, no it won't. Because you still haven't come clean and fessed up to your mistake. Oh well, the war goes on.

From CRN:
Microsoft is now caught between the evangelical right and liberal lefties, not a pretty spot. You gotta think that the company had hoped to be garnering gushing headlines this week over 64-bit Windows and Longhorn rather than this brouhaha. To parrot the company's own flackies, the hubbub has caused a lot of "off message" chatter.

But isn't it kind of refreshing that not even Microsoft can control the buzz even at WinHEC, its annual love fest/strategy session with hardware partners? You get the feeling that Gates, Ballmer, Allchin et al. have watched too many reruns of "The Ten Commandments" and absorbed a Pharaoh-like mindset when it comes to press, partners and users. They seem to think the Pharaoh's "so it is written, so it shall be done" mantra applies to them and their pronouncements. After all the false starts around Longhorn and its much-celebrated, now modularized, pillars, they still think we should be agog about that operating system. Sorry fellahs, you're gonna have to prove it.

Actually, the analogy to Cecil B. DeMille's "Commandments" —a cult fave--continues. Even though the Pharaoh decreed that all Jewish first-born sons be dispatched to prevent the emergence of a threat, the notable exception was Charlton Heston, er Moses. As Ralph Reed could probably tell you, Moses lived on, much to the Pharaoh's detriment.
Read the rest of this post...

Jon Stewart beats up on Microsoft

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UPDATE: It might help if I gave you the real link. Try this. Love that man. Read the rest of this post...

Another open thread, while I peruse the news

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More Microsoft updates on the way - how fun! Read the rest of this post...

Boehner v. McDermott: Why it matters to bloggers

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Yesterday's edition of The Hill had a piece about an ongoing legal battle launched by Congressman John Boehner (R-OH) against Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA).

McDermott’s legal predicament stems from his leaking to several newspapers a transcript of an audiotape recorded by a Florida couple with eves-dropping equipment of a conference call of GOP leaders on how to handle issues surrounding then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).

Boehner sued McDermott for violating his privacy and McDermott has since admitted that he provided the tape to reporters.

McDermott, however, has consistently argued that the First Amendment protected his decision to share confidential material with the media.
In these days of the DeLay scandal, it's easy to forget how contentious things were back in the heyday of Newt Gingrich. His hubris brought him down. And a few missteps along the way illuminated the issue. One of those missteps was that conference call among GOP House leaders that is at the subject of the case.

A couple in Florida overheard the conversation on their scanner. When they figured out what was going on, they taped it. They handed the tape to Rep. Jim McDermott who was the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee investigating Gingrich. McDermott gave the tape to the press.

So, why is Boehner suing? John Boehner was on that conference call from his cell phone in Florida. It's because of him that the call could be taped. Boehner (who is one of the "tort reformers" in the House - hypocrite) got a lawyer and sued McDermott back in 1998. This case has been up and down in the Courts for years. In the latest go round, Boehner prevailed for the first time. He was awarded $60,000 in damages and $50,000 in punitive damages -- plus legal fees which are over $600,000 so far. The D.C. Court of Appeals upheld that decision last week.

So why should this case interest bloggers -- on both sides of the spectrum? A Supreme Court case, Bartnicki v. Vopper, with similar facts found in favor of a reporter based on the First Amendment. However, despite that decision, a lower court determined that the facts in the McDermott case were different because he knew the tape was illegally obtained. In a law review article, "Tales of the Tapes" which appeared in the Fall 2004 issue of "News Media and the Law," author Grant Penrod explained the cases and how they affect journalists:

The issue is incredibly important for the news media, said Lee Levine, a media attorney who represented Vopper at the Supreme Court.

"Are we going to permit the government to regulate truthful transmission [of information] on matters of public concern because of someone else's illegality?" he said. On a practical level, reporters regularly receive information that arguably has some flaw in how it was obtained, such as through a leak or a whistleblower, he added.
Okay, you have to know this is serious if I am quoting law review articles. But this is key....McDermott got a very hot and salient piece of information -- which was factual -- and provided it to the media. And, it was a big, big story for the major newspapers at the time. But, the two folks who obtained it, did so illegally. McDermott had nothing to do with how the information was obtained. But now, McDermott may be found liable.

It seems to me that Boehner is pursuing this case out of political vengeance. He desperately wants to be back in leadership. McDermott is a great target for the right wing. His position on the Ethics Committee helped bring down Gingrich which they've never forgotten. And, McDermottt is a stalwart liberal who never wavers.

This case impacts bloggers who get tips and information all the time. If Boehner's case holds, every blogger could be liable for the dissemination of information provided to them by sources.....if the source didn't get that info. legally and the blogger had any knowledge of how it was obtained. "Tales of the Tape" provided this analysis:

Before Boehner, Levine said it was assumed that if the media did not participate in an illegal interception or recording, publication of the contents of the recording was protected by the First Amendment, but that is no longer clear.

"What is clear," Levine says, "is that if you receive an illegally obtained document . . . literally over the transom without any forewarning that it is coming and it is on a matter of public importance, you should be OK in publishing."
Yikes. It doesn't sound that clear...and "should be OK" isn't all that comforting. This will have a chilling effect. Even the MSM gets it. The major papers and networks have filed amicus briefs in the case on McDermott's side.

So Boehner is out for vengeance against McDermott. In that quest, he could seriously stifle the flow of information. Fortunately, this case isn't over yet. McDermott is appealing and it will probably end up in the Supreme Court. It is costing McDermott a bundle....which is probably part of the plan, too.

Pay attention to this one, folks. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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Have at it. Read the rest of this post...

Hastert Caves on Ethics: I'm willing to step back

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Signaling a major retreat, Speaker Denny Hastert is going to notify Leader Pelosi that the GOP will repeal of some of the controversial ethics provisions according to the Associated Press:

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, leading a Republican retreat, said Wednesday he stands ready to scrap controversial new ethics rules, possibly by day's end.

"I'm willing to step back," Hastert told reporters after a closed-door meeting with members of the GOP rank and file.

Later, in a brief Capitol interview, he said he expected the full House to vote on reversing the rules. Asked whether that would take place later in the day, he replied, "I hope so."
The Democrats have played this one masterfully. The ethics issue has to be hurting badly for Hastert to make such a major concession. And, of course, the devil is in the details with that crowd. But, it sure looks like Hastert is caving to pressure.

I don't know what's more laughable, the GOP denial that they changed the ethics rules to help Tom DeLay or their assertion now that this reversal will help Tom DeLay clear his name. Whatever. This whole ethics issue is about Tom DeLay. Period. Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft and Ralph "The Right Hand of God" Reed

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Robert L. Jamieson Jr. kicks butt.

Love his column today in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer...hometown paper for our friends at MSFT. Seriously, read the whole piece. But a few highlights:

The man dubbed "The Right Hand of God" has fingerprints all over Microsoft. Still.

Ralph Reed is more than a Friend of Bill -- he is a paid GOP consultant, getting $20,000 a month from Microsoft to help shape the software behemoth's image in the global marketplace.

Judging from Reed's past -- he was the former head of the evangelical Christian Coalition -- that means serving up vitriolic viewpoints about gays and lesbians.

Judging from Microsoft's actions -- the company just yanked its support of a legislative bill in Olympia to protect gays -- the Reed brand of insight is shining through.
Jamieson lays out very clearly what Microsoft doesn't seem to comprehend:

From the outside, it appears Microsoft was influenced by Reed -- a man who has President Bush's ear, has a following of millions of conservative Christians who think homosexuality is a sin, and who pushes the evangelical agenda every chance he gets.

Microsoft may not have hired Reed for his social views, but once he gets in the door it's a full-on Holy Roller revival.
Jamieson gives Ballmer and Gates credit for soul-searching. Of course, if they had stayed the course, that wouldn't be necessary. But his final line is killer:

This is also true: When Microsoft faced the question of the gay rights bill it let the right hand of God draw the line in the sand in the wrong place.
Read the rest of this post...

Seattle Paper on Microsoft and Reed, adds Norquist and throws in a touch of DeLay

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Microsoft's home town paper, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is keeping up the drumbeat on the on-going saga over Microsoft and gay rights. This one includes Ralph Reed and adds a couple of the other leaders of the right wing to the mix:

The article starts with a very strong defense of Ralph Reed from the company, which is not a surprise since the title of the piece is "Microsoft defends ties to Ralph Reed":

Microsoft Corp. is paying social conservative Ralph Reed $20,000 a month as a consultant, triggering complaints that the well-connected Republican with close ties to the White House and to evangelist Pat Robertson may have persuaded the company to oppose gay rights legislation.

Reed, who got his start in politics by running the Christian Coalition for Robertson and who had a senior role in President Bush's 2004 campaign, is a leading figure in the social conservative movement that spearheaded opposition to gay marriage, stem cell research, abortion, gambling and other issues.

Microsoft spokesman Mark Murray said the company has hired Reed on several occasions to provide advice on "trade and competition issues." He said Reed's relationship as a consultant with the software company extends back "several years."
Despite Reed's prominent role as a leader of the homophobic right wing, Microsoft claims they never used him to consult on "social policy issues:"

"Microsoft has worked with Century Strategies for the past several years on trade and competition issues," Murray said. "Century Strategies has never advised Microsoft on any social policy issues -- nothing related to anti-discrimination legislation."
Okay, maybe they can hire Phyllis Schlafly to work on their next microchip since areas of expertise don't seem to matter. They do love those hard-core right wingers out there in Redmond apparently. Because from the P-I, we also learn that Microsoft also had in its stable of consultants Grover Norquist, the guru of the right wing:

Nor is Reed the first prominent Republican hired by the company. Records show that Microsoft paid Grover Norquist $60,000 in 1999. Norquist is founder of Americans For Tax Reform, an influential conservative group that has close ties with the White House and with Republican leaders in Congress.
The P-I also gives credit where credit is due -- to Americablog:

Invoices show that Microsoft is currently paying Reed's firm, Century Strategies, $20,000 a month.

Murray confirmed that the invoices, which were first reported by the Web log Americablog, were authentic.
What would a scandal be these days without some kind of link to Tom DeLay. The P-I raises the question of whether these relationships are all part of Tom DeLay's nefarious campaign to control the lobbying world:

Republican leaders, most notably House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, have told companies that they need to shift business to Republican-leaning firms or lobbyists if they want a reception on Capitol Hill. The initiative is called the K Street Project, after the street in Washington, D.C., where many lobbyists have offices.
So, we are now entering week two of this scandal which shows no sign of abating. In fact, it keeps growing. Read the rest of this post...

Bush Trying To Cover Up Explosion In Terrorism On His Watch

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Last year, Bush's State Department lied to the American people by underreporting the number of terrorist incidents in an attempt to pretend Bush had done a better job fighting the bad guys than the numbers indicated. It had to resubmit a new report with adjusted numbers and admit its "naughtiness."

This year, Condi Rice just decided not to report any terrorist incident numbers at all. Too late, the Washington Post reports:

The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week.

In Iraq, terrorist incidents increased "dramatically" from 22 to 198, which puts the lie to Bush's claim that things have stabilized since the handover to an interim government last summer.

"Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing," said Larry C. Johnson, a former senior State Department counterterrorism official, who first revealed the decision not to publish the data.

After a week of complaints from Congress, top aides from the State Department and the NCTC were dispatched to the Hill on Monday for a private briefing. There they acknowledged for the first time the increase in terrorist incidents, calling it a "dramatic uptick," according to participants and a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).

And before you think we're getting all partisan:

Both Republican and Democratic aides at the meeting criticized what a GOP attendee called the "absurd" explanation offered by the State Department's acting counterterrorism chief, Karen Aguilar, that the statistics are not relevant to the required report on trends in global terrorism. "It's absurd to issue a report without statistics," said the aide, who is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. "This is a self-inflicted wound by the State Department."

Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft employees reportedly circulating letter to Gates and Ballmer

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Raw Story has the intel. Read the rest of this post...

Congress Awash In Sleazy Junkets

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USA Today reports that privately financed travel by Congressmen and Senators has totaled about 5400 trips in the last five years -- half of them paid by non-profits who don't need to disclose who is paying the bills. The total cost of these private junkets? About $16 million.

For a government that spends billions of dollars, is it really necessary to ransom our politicians' souls for a measley $16 million just so they can cozy up to big business and take nice golfing trips?

Here's an easy fix: ban ALL travel financed by outside groups of any nature. If you are a Congressman or Senator you CANNOT accept any travel -- not a private jet to Scotland to hit the links; not a taxi down the street.

Create an annual slush fund for travel for these politicans, divide it up evenly, with more for seniority and more for heads of committees, who'd presumably need to travel more. Let them spend the money as they will, be it vacation or fact-finding mission, but EVERY SINGLE TRIP will be detailed and every one will be reported annually by law to their constituents, including price, length and purpose of stay and so on. Once they're spending OUR tax money, see how often they go on that "fact-finding" trip to London or Fiji, with money spent on golf and tennis and scuba diving. Since lobbyists and non-profits would be BANNED from giving them these gifts, it would be one less source of sleaze in our government. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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News? Read the rest of this post...

The overwhelming smell of sleaze with the GOP

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Bush says that he doesn't do nuance and sees everyting as black or white but now we're seeing a steady trend of overlooking corruption not to mention ethical and moral oversights. Heaven forbid the administration ever takes action to punish corporate robbers who misled American investors. Payment to Halliburton after over-charging the government (i.e. American taxpayers), also no problem. Manipulating intelligence risking US foreign policy, this American lives and spending American money seems to be OK as well and what the heck, why not let those same people represent us at the UN. Now we have the president coming out supporting the poster-boy for political corruption, Tom DeLay.

While I love the new emphasis that this brings to DeLay as well as the Social Security program that loses ground every day, what does this say about an adminstration that talks about morals? What does this say about the ethics of this team? Does the GOP hold Americans in such contempt that they feel it's OK to rub this continuous stream of abuses in our faces?

Yes, Bush is taking a risk here and he's used to taking risks but sooner or later the truth somehow always catches up. The smell just gets worse and worse every day. Read the rest of this post...

More love for Big Petroleum by Bush

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Now that he's done showing his deep friendship for the Saudi Crown Prince (I can't say I would list Saudi Arabia as a close friend, let alone a friend of the US) Bush is throwing out another bone for the petroleum business because apparently the energy boondoggle just wasn't enough. Now he's offering up closed military bases to be used as refineries. I can only imagine the nice deal that they would be getting on those properties.

If the US is giving up in the short term and planning long term, why in the world is Bush and the GOP focusing primarily on the petroleum business? If we're talking long term, shouldn't alternative energies be the primary focus instead of an afterthought or not a thought at all by the GOP Congress?

Are we talking about the United States of America or the United States of Oil? This is a complete fraud that is being shoved down our throats. Read the rest of this post...

The only real question for Bolton is

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...why do you continue to want to cook the books to make information match your political goals? Congress can prepare dozens of questions but it really just boils down to the widespread tactic these days both in Washington and Wall Street of cooking the books. Wall Street has been pretty mild with those who have been active cookers and in Washington, baking information to fit your political goals seems to take you places without much of a cost either, until now.

As Americans, shouldn't we expect more? Read the rest of this post...

Republicans On The Run #3: GOP Caves On Ethics Committee

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The Washington Post reports that the GOP has caved on the ethics committee.

House Republican leaders, acknowledging that ethics disputes are taking a heavy toll on the party's image, decided yesterday to rescind a controversial rule change that led to the three-month shutdown of the ethics committee, according to officials who participated in the talks.
I especially loved their "positive" spin on this.

A congressional aide said that changing the rules will mean "a couple of great days for Democrats" but that Republicans have calculated this will deny them long-term use of the ethics issue heading into next year's midterm elections.
Uh actually, changing the rules to coddle a serial ethical violater, trying to insist that even someone indicted on serious charges could be party leader and punishing Republicans who try to hold everyone -- including DeLay -- to reasonable ethical standards is still going to play badly in 2006. Read the rest of this post...

Republicans On The Run #2: GOP Coalition on Social Security Falling Apart

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The Washington Post reports that the senate Finance Committe holding hearings on President Bush's plan to dismantle Social Security reveals the Dems are united and the Republicans are badly divided.

One GOP witness repeatedly disparaged the White House's approach to Social Security changes, bolstering Democratic contentions that it would lead to politically untenable benefit cuts. Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) questioned the wisdom of adding trillions of dollars in federal debt in the coming decades to finance the president's plan. And Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) seemed to signal intractable opposition to converting part of the defined Social Security benefit to variable returns from stock and bond investments.

I'd give credit to the Dems for doing a good job but with one caveat: the Republicans have been idiotically bad on this and so many other issues that simply standing still has allowed the Dems et al to look like political geniuses. When the other guy is shooting himself in the foot, all you have to do is avoid the ricochet. Read the rest of this post...

Republicans On The Run #1: Bolton Nomination REALLY In Trouble

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The vote on Bolton was pushed back to May 12. And now Bush's worst fear has appeared: the committee looking into Bolton is actually going to gather facts. Yep, the Senate panel is going to interview up to two dozen people in the next two weeks (including some who support him). As stories of more distortions of intelligence by Bolton pile up, it's looking very very bad. My prediction: Bolton bows out before the vote. Read the rest of this post...

NY Times on Microsoft, Again

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NY Times has yet another story on the Microsoft story. This one ties a lot together and includes the Ralph Reed story which you read here last night...and the article cites Americablog:
Critics, including gay rights activists and people inside and outside the company, have produced a flood of e-mail and comments on Web logs over the past few days with outraged reaction to the company's decision not to support the bill. They have also attacked the company for paying Ralph Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition and a close ally of the Bush administration, as a communications consultant.

Company officials said Mr. Reed had been on retainer for several years. He earned $20,000 a month over the last six months, according to invoices obtained by, a left-leaning Web log run by John Aravosis, a writer and political consultant.

Mr. Reed remained on the Microsoft payroll even after a controversy erupted in 2000 over his lobbying Gov. George W. Bush, who was then a candidate for president, on behalf of Microsoft during its antitrust battles, while also serving as an adviser to Mr. Bush's campaign. Mr. Reed later apologized for creating the appearance of a conflict.

The critics also contend that Mr. Gates's comments to The Seattle Times contradicted those of Microsoft's chief executive, Steve Ballmer, who sent a companywide e-mail message last Friday explaining the decision not to support the bill as part of a larger reconsideration of the role the company should play in social debates.
Kudos to John for his great work on this one. Read the rest of this post...

Speak for yourself

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From the Washington Times:
The bloggers are frustrated would-be editors, journalists, private detectives and a multitude of others craving recognition for their special knowledge in a wide variety of subjects and specialties. A blog and an attitude are the only requirements to become an instant pundit with a worldwide audience.
Better than writing for a would-be newspaper.

Actually, the article is interesting and also odd. It talks of a new DARPA program to sniff blogs for secret terrorist messages (the icing is on the donuts at the Deli). Then it goes off into this kind of blog-love, though it conveniently mentions the liberal blog scandals, CNN, Rather, while forgetting our favorite man-whore (I'll bet he complains). Read the rest of this post...

Family Research Council head reportedly has ties to white supremacists and former KKK-man David Duke

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I'm so stymied I can't even think of a joke.
Four years ago, [now head of the Family Research Council Tony] Perkins addressed the Louisiana chapter of the Council of Conservative Citizens (CCC), America's premier white supremacist organization, the successor to the White Citizens Councils, which battled integration in the South. In 1996 Perkins paid former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke $82,000 for his mailing list. At the time, Perkins was the campaign manager for a right-wing Republican candidate for the US Senate in Louisiana. The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign Perkins ran $3,000 for attempting to hide the money paid to Duke.
Read the rest of this post...

Bush's gay holiday

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Honestly, I'd rather not know. Read the rest of this post...

Senate Dems. are protecting the Majority of Americans

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For the GOP, the nuclear option debate (as they named it) is about majority rule, among other more nefarious things. If it is, the Democrats need to filibuster to protect the majority of Americans who they represent. Imagine that, representing your constituents instead of the radical, right wing.

I did a little quick math (at the suggestion of Dan in LA). I looked at the populations in the states using 2000 census data. Then, I compared that to Senate representation.

There are 13 states with split delegations so I didn’t count them.

Of the remaining states, 16 states have two Democratic Senators while 21 states have two Republicans.

The states represented by two Democrats have a population of 117,650,000 americans

The Republican states are comprised of 112,848,000 americans

So, the Democrats need to have the filibuster to protect the majority of citizens whom they represent. Read the rest of this post...

How about neither

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Courtesy of cartoonist Gary Huck. Read the rest of this post...

Help support independent media

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Just an occasional reminder that donations are always welcome. Of late, I've devoted most of my work hours to AMERICAblog, by my own choice. Partly because I love what we're accomplishing here, and partly because your past donations have given me the luxury of doing it (i.e., this has become much of my income rather my freelance consulting). Thus, every few weeks, I'm going to post a reminder here seeking donations. Nothing is required, but all is welcome. Thanks, JOHN

And if this button isn't working, it seems to have problems for some users, use the donate link at the top of this column. Thanks again. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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I'm watching the pilot of the original Battlestar Galactica. It's weird, I don't even remember it. Of course, I was 15 at the time, but I remember the series, just not the pilot. It's good :-) Read the rest of this post...

Supreme Court Scandal: Right Wing Activist Scalia and Thomas Pay Deference to Foreign Courts

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So make up your minds already. Scalia et al yelled and screamed when other Justices mentioned in one ruling that virtually every country in the world refuses to kill the mentally retarded and minors.

But now, in another ruling, Scalia and Thomas insist it's perfectly fine to pay attention to the legal rulings of courts overseas. A man filling out a form said he'd never been found guilty of a crime punishable by more than a year in prison by "any court." His lawyers argued that "any court" meant simply any US court and not any court in the world, so he was fine to not mention his conviction in Japan. Today the Supreme Court agreed.

But in a dissent, Scalia and Thomas and Kennedy said the statutes were clear and that the man's conviction in Japan meant he was prohibited from possessing a gun in the US. I'm sure the NRA will denounce Scalia as an activist judge trying to put our country under the thumb of foreign leaders, right? Either you can take international law into consideration or you can't, so they need to make up their minds and get a little consistency.

In this particular case, it seems not unreasonable. But imagine: you fight for human rights and democracy in China and get jailed for five years and then you move to the US and get treated like a criminal? Is that what Scalia wants to do? Give the dictatorial rulings of commies the same weight as a conviction in Texas? Outrageous! Dang activist justices. Read the rest of this post...

'Fire Ralph Reed,' lead gay group demands:

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From Equal Rights Washington, today:
Equal Rights Washington demanded today that Microsoft Corporation sever its relationship with the Former head of the Christian Coalition Ralph Reed, who according to news reports, earns $20,000 a month from the company.

“We’re dismayed to hear that Microsoft has on the payroll Ralph Reed, the founder of the Christian Coalition. Mr. Reed's policies are not the policies of Washingtonians, nor should they be the policies of a world class leader like Microsoft,” said George Cheung, Executive Director of Equal Rights Washington. “Having Ralph Reed on the payroll certainly puts into question Microsoft’s commitment to equal rights.”

Recent news reports highlighted Microsoft’s decision to withdraw support of HB 1515, the Anderson-Murray Anti-Discrimination Bill, that failed by just one vote in the State Senate. “Microsoft needs to come clean about its relationship with Ralph Reed. Having Ralph Reed on the payroll, coming on the heels of Microsoft’s decision to withdrawal support from the Anti-Discrimination Bill, certainly looks bad.”

“Microsoft’s reputation as a fair-minded company is rapidly slipping away from them, and if Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer are really interested in running a fair-minded company, they would fire Ralph Reed today.”

Earlier today, Equal Rights Washington also demanded that Microsoft take immediate steps to improve its relationship with the LGBT community in Washington State. For a copy of the letter sent to Microsoft, go to:
Read the rest of this post...

Senator Reid: 2. Senator Frist: 0

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Loser. Read the rest of this post...

Latin America To US: Yankee Go Home

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While the Middle East remains a quagmire, the rest of the world gets little attention from Bush. Not Africa, which is in turmoil thanks to a plague Bush refuses to use the best medical advice to combat. And certainly not Central and South America.

USA Today has a thoughtful lead editorial looking at how fragile democracy is in that once promising region. The clock is rolling back in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and on and on.

Certainly Venezuela is shaky. Its leader Hugo Chavez just kicked out the US military, ending a 35 year old relationship. Now why is the leftist Chavez angry at the US? Oh yeah, that's right. About the only action Bush took in the last five years south of our border was to SUPPORT A MILITARY COUP to overthrow the democratically elected Chavez. Democracy is on the move, except when Bush wants to support a dictatorship that spreads nuclear weapson and know-how (Pakistan), a monarcy that spreads terrorism (Saudi Arabia) or just hates a democratically lected leader that won't kowtow to the US and so supports the military thugs who want to thwart the will of the people (Venezuela). And we wonder why people around the world don't buy Bush's rhetoric.

Finally, nearly a million people in Mexico marched to support the mayor of Mexico City. He may be a populist, he may be a leftist, but he represents the will of the Mexican people. Wanna bet Bush hates him and will snub him whenever Bush gets the chance?

Ah, democracy. Ain't it inconvenient, Mr. President? Read the rest of this post...

Gates v. Ballmer: Heads of Microsoft now at odds over gay policy

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Wow. Microsoft is really tripping over themselves. Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer now have enunciated diametrically opposed positions on the recent gay rights debacle.

In today's Seattle Times, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates said the company might reconsider its gay-right position, NEXT YEAR:
Microsoft may re-evaluate whether to support state legislation that would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians, Chairman Bill Gates said yesterday.

Gates said Microsoft was surprised by the sharp reaction after it became known that the company took a neutral position on the perennial measure this year, after actively supporting it in previous years.

"Next time this one comes around, we'll see," he said. "We certainly have a lot of employees who sent us mail. Next time it comes around that'll be a major factor for us to take into consideration."
Putting aside for a moment the "I know I beat you, honey, but if you're really good and stay with me, maybe next year I'll stop" aspect of the quote, Gates just flat out contradicted Microsoft President Steve Ballmer in his now-infamous company-wide email.

Basically, Ballmer said the company pulled their support for the gay rights bill because they no longer want to get involved in "social issues," meaning civil rights debates. Why? Ballmer tells us it's to avoid angering anti-gay religious right employees and shareholders:
"It's appropriate to invoke the company's name on issues of public policy that directly affect our business and our shareholders, but it's much less clear when it's appropriate to invoke the company's name on broader issues that go far beyond the software industry - and on which our employees and shareholders hold widely divergent opinions.

We are a public corporation with a duty first and foremost to a broad group of shareholders. On some issues, it is more appropriate for employees or shareholders to get involved as individual citizens. As CEO, I feel a real sense of responsibility around this question, and I believe there are important distinctions between my personal views on policy issues and when it's appropriate to involve the company."
Well color me confused. If Microsoft can change its mind so quickly after facing unexpected criticism, it adds weight to the argument that the company really DID cave to radical right-wing threats, whether they came from one anti-gay preacher or a concerted effort by homophobic employees and shareholders and who knows who else.

Not to mention, how can Microsoft support the legislation next year when the same problem will exist then that does now - the religious right will be ticked? I mean, what will be different next year that wasn't true this year? And in any case, Microsoft will still be ignoring it's bigoted employees and shareholders next year if they endorse the bill, and I thought the company wanted to embrace the bigots in the spirit of diversity?

And knowing that Ralph Reed is giving Microsoft advice, only adds to the creep factor and suspicion.

This scandal has been kicking around for a week now and shows no sign of abating. That's mostly because Microsoft has completely bungled it. They totally underestimated the power of the Internet. Which is more than ironic since they helped mold it. But they also refused to come clean. They thought they could finesse the controversy with PR spin, and got caught.

Sadly, Microsoft seems hell-bent on destroying the very climate of diversity they purport to value, and HAVE valued for so long. Worse yet, they're setting a new standard for corporate intolerance and don't even know it, or care.

But then again, how could they? Between Gates and Ballmer, Microsoft can't even figure out what the company's policy really is. Read the rest of this post...

We see...

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Read the rest of this post...

Half of all Americans think Bush lied about WMD

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Uh oh. Read the rest of this post...

Good News In Iraq...Almost

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This is kind of sad. The bad news coming out of Iraq has been so relentless ever since the elections that the closest the US can come to some good news is "almost" capturing the insurgent Zarqawi. I guess Bush has to take what he can. Here are some other possible headlines he can suggest to the MSM:

Bush Almost Guts Social Security
Tom DeLay Almost Neuters Ethics Committee While Claiming To Call For Investigation Of Himself
Cheney Almost Smiles

Any suggestions? Read the rest of this post...

Wash Post, front page of Business Section - MICROSOFT

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How do you spell, PR disaster? Read the rest of this post...

Time for an open thread

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Why don't companies ever listen? Read the rest of this post...

Forget the compromise - Senator Rove says "No Way"

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Last night, there was talk that Frist and Reid were discussing a compromise on the "nuclear option." Forget that now. The real Majority Leader, Karl Rove, says NO according to USA Today:

Karl Rove rejected a compromise with Senate Democrats Monday on long-stalled nominations for the federal judiciary...

In an hour-long interview with USA TODAY and Gannett News Service reporters and editors, Rove, deputy White House chief of staff, dismissed suggestions from Democrats that they might drop threats to use filibusters to prevent votes on Bush's judicial nominees if the president would withdraw a few of the most controversial names....

Bush wants votes on seven federal judge nominees who were blocked in the last session of Congress. The filibuster allows 41 senators to block action on the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said he's prepared to change the rules to ban filibusters against judicial nominees. Such a tactic would alter Senate tradition and could bring Senate business to a halt. Reid and other Democrats have threatened to retaliate by slowing or blocking all but the most vital legislation.

"We believe that every judicial nominee deserves an up or down vote," Rove said. "The process is not well served by these political games."

Rove said Bush tried to end the stalemate when he renominated just seven of the 10 nominees who had been blocked last year. But "I saw no change in tone" among Democrats, he said. "The flamethrowers ... came out within moments."
I guess that ends that. They have a MANDATE after all. Except, as Chris pointed out below, the American people don't agree with Bush these days on just about everything -- including the nuclear option.

Josh Marshall has a very insightful post about why the Dems. might be engaging in the negotiations. As usual, he is probably on to something. Read the rest of this post...

BP profits skyrocket in Q1

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BP ought to be sending out Christmas cards to all of the freedom loving folks who love driving those SUVs and inefficient cars and trucks. Aren't you just thrilled that the petroleum industry is receiving a nice, juicy tax cut while they're raking in the bucks like this? Don't forget that to criticize the fleecing of America is un-American so go ahead and give a big hug to our friends in the oil industry that are helping to maintain freedom and democracy and leaving middle America with the bill. Fuel conservation ain't American so please help the cause and fill 'er up. Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft paying Religious Right leader Ralph Reed $20,000 a month retainer

View Comments | Reddit | Tumblr | Digg | FARK has learned that Microsoft is currently paying a $20,000 a month retainer to former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed's consulting firm Century Strategies. Which now begs the question of whether Reed was in any way involved with Microsoft's recent decision to abandon its decades long support for gay civil rights in order to curry favor with anti-gay bigots of the radical right.

You can find copies of the invoices here:
- Six months of payments to Ralph Reed's Century Strategies.
- Detailed April invoice for $20,000 to Century Strategies.

Interestingly, Microsoft had Reed on retainer during the presidential election of 2000 to apparently help lobby then-candidate Bush on their anti-trust suit (he was actually first hired in the fall of 1998). The contract was terminated after Reed was criticized for a conflict of interest - Reed was working on Bush's campaign. The question arises when Microsoft and Reed revived their work relationship (most observers I've spoken to thought the contract ended five years ago), and what exactly Reed is working on now that the anti-trust issue is over.

Now, just think a minute. Microsoft finds itself under criticism from the local evangelical leader, religious right shareholders, bigoted employees and who knows who else. They don't know what to do. Who do they turn to? Well, if I'm in a religious right pickle, I'd turn to my $20,000 a month retainered religious right consultant, the former leader of the religious right, Ralph Reed.

And which side do we think the former head of the religious right would favor were he advising Microsoft what do when trapped between the Scylla and Charybdis of the gays vs. the religious right?
A. Stick to your guns and defend the gays? or
B. Find a way to stiff the gays and move more in line with the religious right?
Well, shiver my timbers, Microsoft ended up going with option B.

Now a few questions for Microsoft:
1. When did Microsoft hire Ralph Reed and Century Strategies again?

2. Did Microsoft have Reed/Century on retainer at any time during the 2004 election, when Reed was in charge of Bush's re-election campaign in the southeast? And if so, doesn't the same conflict again come to a head, paying $20,000 a month to a senior official in the Bush campaign?

In fact, the earliest invoice I have starts on 11/01/04, that's BEFORE the election. So Microsoft had Reed, a senior Bush campaign official, on the payroll while he was working on the campaign. Why?

3. Why did Microsoft hire Ralph Reed/Century again? What issues is the former head of the Christian Coalition providing guidance on?

4. Did Microsoft ever confer with Ralph Reed about social issues, such as, but not limited to, the current decision to abandon support for the Washington state gay rights bill?

5. Will Microsoft now abandon its contract with Ralph Reed since it has determined it no longer wishes to be involved in "social issues"? After all, social issues (like gambling) are Ralph Reed's specialty - what possible interest could Microsoft have in the former head of the religious right that don't involve his knowledge of, well, the religious right?

6. As asked the FIRST time Microsoft hired Reed six years ago:
"But Reed is known principally not for tax cuts but for opposition to abortion, gay rights and other tenets of the Christian conservative agenda. So what gives? What is a cosmopolitan outfit like Microsoft doing hooking up with Pat Robertson's former right-hand man?"
What, indeed.

PS I know for a fact this is for real, Ralph Reed and his firm are currently on retainer with Microsoft. Read the rest of this post...

The Bully's Pulpit

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Seattle Times commentary:
Heaven help us.

A purported man of God threatened to advise his congregation to boycott Microsoft products unless the company pulled its support of an anti-discrimination bill that would include gays and lesbians.

And it worked. Pastor Ken Hutcherson of the Antioch Bible Church got what he wanted. The bully made people cry.

Lawmakers stood weeping on the Senate floor Thursday as House Bill 1515 was defeated by a single vote.

Now we know the true meaning of being a "blue" state. It is against the law here to discriminate against people based on their age, race or religion. But if they're gay or lesbian, well, it's open season....
Read the rest of this post...

GOP pushing numerous losers - latest WaPa/ABC poll looks bad for GOP

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Hmm, maybe some people in the GOP were a little too impressed with their "mandate" in November. Who ever would have thought that it wasn't quite as impressive or as much of a mandate as they proclaimed? With rumors of a negotiation on the "nuclear option" coming, it should not be too much of a surprise considering the strong objections to changing Senate rules in this latest poll. Going down the list it certainly looks like Bush and the GOP have their work cut out for themselves as "private accounts" continue to lose support and Bush's approval ratings continue to stagnate in the 40's.

The GOP is clinging on to a pile of losers so I only hope that the Dem's take full advantage of the moment. If the tables were turned, we all know that the GOP would be beating the Dem's like a drum so don't forget it and keep piling on. Read the rest of this post...

Cool, Bush adding DeLay to Social Security tour

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Damn, I didn't think such an event could happen but this is great. Please, please, please give DeLay more visibility on a tour that is losing badly out in the field. I have to wonder just what the WH is thinking bringing in DeLay to the Social Security tour but from my perspective I love it. Now when the media cranks out articles about the highly unpopular program they can include a few paragraphs about the DeLay series of scandals, helping the rest of the nation discover what a gem he is. Beautiful. Read the rest of this post...

WMD search in Iraq officially over

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I guess we can expect a lot of hoopla in the White House to announce the results, right? Oh, I forgot the reasons for invading Iraq have all changed and somehow WMDs are not important, now that the evidence has shown they weren't there. Credibility and facts are for wimps. Read the rest of this post...

Compromise on the Nuclear Option?

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Both Reuters and the Associated Press are reporting a possible compromise is evolving on the nuclear option. AP puts it like this:

In private talks with Majority Leader Bill Frist, the Senate's top Democrat has indicated a willingness to allow confirmation of at least two of President Bush's seven controversial appeals court nominees, but only as part of a broader compromise requiring Republicans to abandon threats to ban judicial filibusters, officials said Monday.
Stay tuned. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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Lots going on. Read the rest of this post...

Microsoft employees strike back on the blogosphere

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There are some amazing Microsoft employees openly blogging about the way Microsoft abandoned the gay community. I've already mentioned Robert Scoble who has been incredibly brave in defending us publicly, and now there is Adam Barr who wrote a wonderful response to CEO Steve Ballmer's recent email to staff about the situation.

Here's what Adam had to say:
Scoble got permission to post Steve Ballmer's company-wide email about stories that Microsoft had caved to pressure to not support a state anti-discrimination bill.

More specifically, Ballmer states that Microsoft did not decide to stop supporting the bill after two employees testified in favor of it in February, and a local pastor threatened to launch a boycott. Instead, Ballmer says that the company decided in January, when planning its legislative agenda for this year, to be neutral on it, as opposed to supporting it like it did last year.

Scoble says he is disappointed because Microsoft is appearing to cave to anti-gay forces. I disagree with that accusation -- I do believe Ballmer when he says the decision was made in January. It's an unfortunate case where someone asks you to do something and you were already planning on doing it, it's hard to prove that the two were unrelated.

BUT, there is a suspicious part in Ballmer's memo:

"What message does the company taking a position send to its employees who have strongly-held beliefs on the opposite side of the issue?

The bottom line is that I am adamant that Microsoft will always be a place that values diversity, that has the strongest possible internal policies for non-discrimination and fairness, and provides the best policies and benefits to all of our employees.

I am also adamant that I want Microsoft to be a place where every employee feels respected, and where every employee feels like they belong. I don't want the company to be in the position of appearing to dismiss the deeply-held beliefs of any employee, by picking sides on social policy issues."

That, Steve, is a crock, and you must know it. Look, what this says to me is that the following sequence happened:

1. Microsoft sponsored the bill last year.
2. Some employees complained about Microsoft's sponsorship -- not in February of this year, but sometime last year.
3. In respons to employee complaints, Microsoft decided not to sponsor it this year.
4. The company came up with the rationalization above, about how sponsoring the bill could make anti-gay employees feel discriminated against.

Steve, first of all, can we cut this "murderers are victims too" line of thinking? Do you agonize about hurting the feelings of employees who enjoy looking at porn on their computers? What about those who like to post internal schedules on public forums? Do you stay up at night worrying about their feelings? I doubt it.

Second, what you said is wrong. If an employee has deeply-held beliefs that woman are inferior, or a certain ethnic group has negative character traits, the company certainly has no qualms (nor should it) about dismissing those beliefs, no matter how deeply held. I just did my 30-minute anti-harassment self-training that all employees are required to go through, and obviously if someone decides to run around the hallways shouting anti-gay slogans, they will be disciplined in a way that they would not if they ran around the hallways shouting anti-seafood or anti-deodorant slogans. The company supports free speech up to a point, but beyond that, when personal belief becomes harassment, the decision has already been made which one wins.

So I'll allow that Microsoft's decision to not support the anti-gay bill was made in January, but that decision looks very very very very very very very very very very suspicious. I don't think anything fishy happened this spring, but I do think something fishy happened last fall.
Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Blah Read the rest of this post...

LA Center writes Microsoft today, demand they return award and erase mention from Web site

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The LA Gay and Lesbian Center blasts Microsoft again today after several days have past and Microsoft still refuses to even talk to the center. They want their award back.

Here's a pdf copy of their letter.

And here's my action alert to help the Center get its award. Read the rest of this post...

Bolton: This Is Starting To Tick Me Off

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Late last night, John posted a Newsweek story that even foreign officials had been complaining about the behavior of John Bolton, Bush's nominee for the UN.

And what do I find on page A-8 of the SundayNYT? A feature on newly released email about Bolton battles that should have been on A-1. The most serious charge against Bolton is that he pressured intelligence analysts to change their findings to suit his political aims and -- when they said they'd given him all the leeway they could -- he harrassed them and tried to get them fired. Bolton's fights were not with one or two recalcitrant intelligence analysts that proved annoying.

According to these emails, Bolton fought with and tried to strong arm and inspired complaints from:
1. The State Department's bureau of intelligence and research (INR)
2. The National Security Agency
3. Defense Intelligence Agency
4. Central Intelligence Agency

These are serious, serious allegations and yet the media keeps playing this off as if Bolton's just some sort of jerky boss. I'm just about riled up over the placement of this new information when I find the FRONT PAGE story in the New York Times Week in Review section, which boils the whole Bolton controversy down to his being a "mean" or just "tough" boss who is rude to his subordinates.

What is their problem? They bury the story on A-8 revealing Bolton's come to blows with virtually every intelligence agency in our government over his desire to distort their findings. Then they trumpet the idea that Bolton is just the boss from hell. There is literally one paragraph in the middle about these serious charges and the rest is puffery about how Washington is always filled with jerks. But who are most of the examples? Senators and Presidents and White Hosue Chiefs of Staff. And what DON'T those people have in common with a potential UN ambassador? They're not DIPLOMATS. Read the rest of this post...