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Friday Orchid Blogging

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(click the photo to enlarge)

Paph sanderianum

This is not my plant, I don't have the light or the room to grow it, but what a GREAT plant. It takes years to get to the size where it can flower, but look at those flowers.

Anyway, there's not much more I can add, that picture speaks for itself. Some day I want the home and the lighting to grow something like that. Some day.

Enjoy. JOHN Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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So what are the plans for celerate the 4th of July? Pretend we're still the land of the free and home of the brave? Read the rest of this post...

Cliff's Corner

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The Week That Was 6/30/06

Note: Please check out my new regular segment at called Republican Sexcapades. Those who like what I do will enjoy it, for the rest of you it provides a nice, safe place to spit in my face.

Another week. More preposterousness to report.

Well those cunning linguists in the Grand Old Party have been more active than a Republican consultant immersed in a throng of underage lesbians lately. First flapping their jaws about Iraq, then gay marriage, then flag burning, now the New York Times and its treasonous, you know, reporting on stuff in a democracy. Representative Peter King, better known as a former bag man for the IRA, thinks The New York Times should be prosecuted for disclosing their bank-tapping program, so secret it already had a public Web site devoted to it.

So Representative King’s jowls have been all over television lately, shaking as flaccidly as Rush Limbaugh when his luggage gets held up at the airport.

This of course is all part of the plan by the Bush Administration. It is called Operation "We’ve destroyed the budget, Iraq, Ken Mehlman’s night life, Medicare, John McCain’s last shred of integrity, education, the chances of Jenna’s scoring blow in the near future, gas prices and America’s defenses — so let’s distract people with hate so they mightn’t notice how we govern like Nicolae Ceaucescu."

Condi, of course, views this plan of attack as a historical document.

As for the multifaceted right-wing assault on The Times, it’s a given that the media will dutifully report the Administration line about how they leak like Starr Jones after a staple bursts. Without the slightest trace of irony, of course, that an admitted leaker/traitor named Rove is still on the White House payroll, free to spread the reek of day old buckets of KFC and emit global warming from his armpits all within spitting distance of the Oval Office. Or at least close enough for Senator George Allen to hoc a loogy when the camera’s on and he’s chewing a wad of tobaccy to make himself seem all Southern-like.

Speaking of the Virginia cabana boy, this week we got perhaps the best example of how a Democrat SHOULD respond when attacked by one of these atavistic, intellectual croutons trying to take this treasury-wasting, mind-numbing, faux-populist “legislative agenda” out for a spin to attack those who actually intend to do the people’s business. Allen attacked Democratic opponent Jim Webb (former Reagan Secretary of the Navy turned Democrat), implying he was not patriotic because he doesn’t think our Constitution need be amended to outlaw the possibility that Dick Cheney might shoot a hunting buddy in his American flag-draped drawers and go to jail for despoiling our nation’s symbol of its grandeur.

Here was part of the Webb Campaign’s response:
“While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.’s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada. People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield.”
God I hope Democrats can learn from this. In that one statement, Team Webb are exposing what an elitist tool Allen is, all the while mocking his ballot-searching backseat-driving on patriotism. It’s not too late Democrats, pay heed!

Otherwise you’ll just consent to being tarred and feathered by a chickenhawk, you know the kind of man’s man who likes to wear flight suits and ten-gallon hats because its makes the quivering stop momentarily as he ponders the complexities of the modern world or multi-syllabic words. Just remember, you have to be ready to stand up so that the Republicans will stand down.

Otherwise find a way to get the GOP caucus to read one of Peter King’s “novels.” The resulting ulcerative colitis should render even your average GOP candidate unable to manufacture bullshit for at least a few weeks. Read the rest of this post...

Iraq and Vietnam: different wars, similar lessons

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This provocative piece (linked by the inimitable Laura Rozen) does a great job of both critiquing some of the Iraq-Vietnam comparisons and outlining what analogies can appropriately be drawn. Essentially, it proposes that Iraq is kind of like Vietnam in reverse:
In Vietnam, the United States entered a divided country with a simmering civil war and left behind a nasty tyranny. In Iraq, the US has unseated a nasty tyranny but may leave behind a simmering civil war that could lead to a divided country. In Vietnam, fearing a nuclear clash with the Soviet Union or a confrontation with China, the US slid in slowly: first sending technical advisers, then undertaking search and destroy missions, and ultimately engaging in a full-throttle war. In Iraq, the US began full throttle, switched to search and destroy, and is now seriously debating whether to begin sliding out.
Even if Vietnam and Iraq diverge in their respective details, however, some parallels and applicable lessons remain. George Kennan, a foreign policy titan who remains largely unknown to non-polisci majors, weighed in on Vietnam during Senate hearings convened by Senator Fulbright in 1966. By that time, Kennan, Fulbright, and others could see the worrisome future of our Vietnam policy, and the worries then largely reflect the majority (and growing) public sentiment on Iraq.
"[T]here is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than by the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant and unpromising objectives," [Kennan] said. Kennan, were he alive today, would have little patience for the Bush administration's frequent call to stay in Iraq because a commitment was made and so many soldiers have already died. Just because the US had shot itself in one foot, he told the Senate committee, didn't mean it should fire away at the other.
Foreign policy requires constant adjustment and reevaluation, especially during wartime. The Bush administration -- and much of the Department of Defense -- has been stuck in 2003 for three years. It's time (and has been for a while) to reassess and improve our policies and tactics. It's time to change the course. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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Okay, it's the weekend. But keep it going. Read the rest of this post...

White House threatens to smear Dems as pro-terrorist

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This is how the Bush White House treats Congress, as a nuisance to be bullied. And this is how it treats the Supreme Court and the Constitution - as terrorist-lovers.
White House counselor Dan Bartlett says the administration's task now is to determine how to design military tribunals that will pass constitutional muster. Bartlett says Bush could portray any lawmaker who objects to legislation as supporting the release of dangerous terrorists.
So is Dan Bartlett married yet? Just asking. Read the rest of this post...

Orrin Hatch hates our American form of government

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Speaking of the flag burning amendment, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said the amendment would:
"restore the constitution to what it was before unelected jurists changed it five to four." He went on to say, "Five lawyers decided 48 states were wrong."
Those five unelected lawyers, who Hatch holds with so much contempt you can hear the venom dripping on his every word, those lawyers are commonly referred to as United States Supreme Court Justices. They are the highest jurists in all the land, and they are the governmental equal of Senator Hatch. He and they hold the same rank and power in our system of government.

So where does a United States Senator get off talking about justices of the Supreme Court as though they're two-bit thugs? This is the same kind of language Hatch's Republican colleagues have used repeatedly to paint the court as dangerous and even worthy of death, according to one Republican Senator and at least one religious right activist. It's what made Republican Justice Sandra Day O'Connor complain that such intemperate language could incite violence against Supreme Court justices.

Is this the way members of Congress should be talking about an entire branch of our government? About our entire system of checks and balances? Is this the best way to honor the framers of the Constitution, the founders of our country, on this upcoming 4th of July? Trashing the very system of government our men and women in Iraq are giving their lives for? And inciting violence against judges as a way of achieving political goals?

Orrin Hatch owes the Supreme Court, our soldiers, and all Americans an apology. Read the rest of this post...

Wall Street Journal tries justifying why it published classified information about the war on terror

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Good try, WSJ. So, it's bad when the NYT publishes a story about Bush skirting the law on domestic spying, but it's okay when the WSJ publishes the exact same story within hours of the Times. And that's because "no one asked" the WSJ not spill America's top secret anti-terror plans to the entire world. Had someone asked, we presume, they'd have been happy to pull the story. But gosh, no one asked. Sorry.
Some argue that the [Wall Street] Journal should have still declined to run the antiterror story. However, at no point did Treasury officials tell us not to publish the information. And while Journal editors knew the [New York] Times was about to publish the story, Treasury officials did not tell our editors they had urged the Times not to publish. What Journal editors did know is that they had senior government officials providing news they didn't mind seeing in print. If this was a "leak," it was entirely authorized....
So, the Wall Street Journal's argument seems to be that they'd sell America to Osama for a quick buck, so long as no one asked them not to.

Can't have it both ways, Wall Street Journal. Are you journalists or simply shills for the Bush administration? Read the rest of this post...

"How gullible does the administration take the American citizenry to be?"

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Richard Clarke and his fellow terror error expert Roger Cressey have an op-ed in the NY Times today that examines the recent blow-up about monitoring money. That revelation has the entire GOP at war with the NY Times.

The answer to the question is that Bush and company think the American people are incredibly gullible:
Terrorists have for many years employed nontraditional communications and money transfers including the ancient Middle Eastern hawala system, involving couriers and a loosely linked network of money brokers precisely because they assume that international calls, e-mail and banking are monitored not only by the United States but by Britain, France, Israel, Russia and even many third-world countries.

While this was not news to terrorists, it may, it appears, have been news to some Americans, including some in Congress. But should the press really be called unpatriotic by the administration, and even threatened with prosecution by politicians, for disclosing things the terrorists already assumed?
And, Clarke knows why the Bush team is playing this game. Too bad most of the reporting class (and that means you, CNN) haven't clued in:
There is, of course, another possible explanation for all the outraged bloviating. It is an election year. Karl Rove has already said that if it were up to the Democrats, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi would still be alive. The attacks on the press are part of a political effort by administration officials to use terrorism to divide America, and to scare their supporters to the polls again this year.
Read the rest of this post...

Can't govern, can campaign. That's our "deeply unpopular" President

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There goes Froomkin again, telling the truth and stating the obvious:
The approval-rating bumps Bush was counting on, first from his White House staff shake-up and then from the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, never really materialized, leaving the president in deeply unpopular territory.

Theoretically, Bush could get himself out of this mess by trying to solve some of the problems afflicting his presidency. But campaigning is easier.
Read the rest of this post...

The latest on Net Neutrality

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From TPM Muckraker. Read the rest of this post...

GOP law uses immigrant bashing to screw the poor and disabled

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It's a two-fer for the GOP. They get to abuse immigrants and the neediest people in America in one fell swoop:
Under the rule, intended to curb fraud by illegal immigrants, such proof as a passport or a birth certificate must be offered at the time a person applies for Medicaid benefits or during annual reenrollment in the state-federal program for the poor and disabled.

Critics fear that the provision will have the unintended consequence of harming several million U.S. citizens who, for a variety of reasons, will not be able to produce the necessary paperwork. They include mentally ill, mentally retarded and homeless people, as well as elderly men and women, especially African Americans born in an era when hospitals in the rural South barred black women from their maternity wards....The new provision is part of last year's Deficit Reduction Act, which President Bush signed into law in February. Despite a federal inspector general's report concluding that there was little fraud by noncitizens, supporters said the measure would ensure that Medicaid dollars go only to citizens or eligible immigrants.

Rep. Charles Whitlow Norwood Jr. (R-Ga.), one of the prime sponsors, decried "the outright theft of Medicaid benefits by illegal aliens."
Remember, this is the party of compassionate conservatives, morality and family values. Beating up on the poor and disabled, isn't that just what Jesus would do? Read the rest of this post...

Friday Morning Open Thread

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Interesting week, I'd say. Loved watching Bush getting the smackdown from the Supreme Court. In Bush world, that makes the Court an enemy of freedom...right up there with the NY Times.

The big news today: Bush is taking a road trip to Graceland with the prime minister of Japan. And, they're playing Elvis movies on Air Force One. Wow. Read the rest of this post...

Even more bad news for Blair

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A new poll shows Blair falling behind the new Tory leader David Cameron, 30% to 28%. How long will the Labour Party allow him to drag down the entire party?
The Telegraph said it was the first time any of five successive Conservative leaders had been preferred to Blair since Blair took the helm of the Labour party in 1994 as opposition leader under Conservative Prime Minister John Major.
Read the rest of this post...

Labour AND Tories lose in UK elections

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Lots of fed up voters around the world who just aren't happy with the direction of the mainstream political parties. It's always nice to see Blair get a reality check and the Tories obviously have some work cut out as well. Both parties lost traditionally safe seats in by-elections.
Tony Blair and David Cameron were both dealt by-election blows in heartland seats today.

Voters in Blaenau Gwent, south Wales, failed to re-elect Labour in one of its former strongholds, then the Tories almost lost Bromley and Chislehurst to the Liberal Democrats, previously safe Conservative territory.

In a further setback for the Prime Minister, Labour was relegated to fourth in Bromley and Chislehurst, behind the UK Independence Party.

Read the rest of this post...

Bush stands rebuked

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Great analysis of th Supreme Court decision from the Wash Post:
For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let them.

Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.

For many in Washington, the decision echoed not simply as matter of law but as a rebuke of a governing philosophy of a leader who at repeated turns has operated on the principle that it is better to act than to ask permission. This ethos is why many supporters find Bush an inspiring leader, and why many critics in this country and abroad react so viscerally against him....

"There is a strain of legal reasoning in this administration that believes in a time of war the other two branches have a diminished role or no role," Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who has resisted the administration's philosophy, said in an interview. "It's sincere, it's heartfelt, but after today, it's wrong."
Read the rest of this post...

Tomorrow's paper on today's Supreme Court ruling

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As an aside, the Post story below notes that Justice Stevens is 86 years old. If he doesn't survive through the end of Bush's term, it's all over (not to mention, we'd still need to win the White House in 2008). Even this landmark victory would have likely been lost. The Supreme Court is the last place we have any chance of holding the Bush administration accountable. I hope to God our liberal groups are planning on taking the next nomination seriously. Enough of the in-fighting, enough of the sitting back and holding your tongue when someone else is leading the battle and stinks at it. The next nomination is it. After that, we lose everything.

Washington Post
While the decision addressed only military commissions, legal analysts said its skeptical view of presidential power could be applied to other areas such as warrantless wiretapping, and that its invocation of the Geneva Conventions could pave the way for new legal claims by detainees held at the military facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba....

But the court's action was clearly a setback for the White House. At the high court, its approach to the war on terrorism has suffered the broadest in a series of defeats, and the administration has been sent back to the drawing board in dealing with hundreds of suspected members of the Taliban and al-Qaeda -- at a time when international pressure is mounting to shut down Guantanamo Bay....

Legal analysts said that the court's opinion could lead to a challenge to the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program, because wiretapping is already covered by a federal statute, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, just as military commissions were, in the court's view, covered by the UCMJ.

"The same reasoning would seem to apply to the NSA case, because the argument that the authorization to use military force enables them to ignore FISA goes down the drain," said Joseph P. Onek, senior counsel of the Constitution Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization that opposed the commissions.
"It appears to be about as broad a holding as you could imagine," said one administration lawyer, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the ruling. "It's very broad, it's very significant, and it's a slam."....

In his majority opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens said that the United States was legally bound by Common Article 3, as the provision is known (it is common to all four Geneva Conventions). He said the article "affords some minimal protection" to detainees even when the forces they represent are not signatories to the conventions themselves.
Read the rest of this post...

Video of House Dems taking on the Republicans over bogus NYT-bashing resolution

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"Let's take this resolution for what it is: it is a campaign document...There's never been any oversight of the program. The fact is that because there has never been any oversight of the program, there isn't one person in this body, who will vote on this resolution, who can attest to this statement. They're asking us to vote on something that we absolutely cannot attest to. Not any one of you can attest to this as a fact."
(full speech)

Rep. Maloney (D-NY)
"The Republican party has become masters of cut and run, cutting from the issues so that they can run for re-election in November. This resolution is a diversion. If it was really about condemning leaks of classified information, it would also mention Valerie Plame, Karl Rove, and Scooter Libby. As the Member of Congress representing the district that suffered the greatest loss of life on 9/11, I believe that combating terrorism is a serious bipartisan issue, not a one-sided, last-minute, take it or leave it, Republican-only, political campaign stunt."

Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY)
"They've called the disclosure of the swift anti-terrorist program a disgrace, they've accused a newspaper that first wrote it, the the New York Times, of forcing its "arrogant elitist left-wing agenda" on the rest of the country. If all of this is true, I have no choice but to conclude that our President, President Bush himself, is a disgraceful, arrogant left-wing elitist, because it was Mr. Bush who leaked the story."

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)
"Let's be honest. We are here today because there hasn't been enough red meat thrown at the Republican base before the Fourth of July recess. That's why we are here. So just in the nick of time we have H.Res. 895."

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)
"Others have said yes, it's true that the terrorists learned from Bush Administration statements that we were tracking their financial activities. But apparently they didn't know that that involved banks. Did they think we were going through their pockets? I mean, how can you acknowledge that people knew that they were being tracked financially but no, it didn't involve bank records."

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL)
"Maybe it's the devil who makes them do this. We have flag burning, proposal for constitutional amendments, we have gay marriage, proposals for constitutional amendment, yet, when it comes to the basic freedom and liberty of this country, the press, we are presented with a resolution that condemns them, that's all it does, it doesn't sanction, it condemns them, it's our opportunity to vent and say little things about The New York Times."

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)
"Well, there may be some motive that is political about the selective crying out about information. The swift story bears no resemblence to security breaches, disclosure of troop locations or anything that would compromise the security of individuals."

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
"They tell us that they're protecting our civil liberties while they're tapping our phones and spying in our libraries and looking into our bank accounts. They tell us to trust us on everything. They tell us to trust us on -- trust them on everything because they're protecting their civil liberties. Well, I don't think I can trust this administration to protect my civil liberties and those of the people that I serve." Read the rest of this post...

CNN, come on, please report the real story here

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I'm watching Wolf Blitzer interview Andrea Koppel, reporting from the US House where they've just passed a resolution condemning the media for reporting classified stories about the Bush administration's law-breaking and near law-breaking domestic spying programs. Listen to the way Andrea Koppel describes the vote:
This doesn't have the force of law but Republicans hope it sends a strong message not just to the media but to those who leak within the Bush administration.
Or, this was part of a much larger and ongoing Republican effort to:
  1. Chill any criticism of the Bush administration;
  2. Delegitimize Bush critics (e.g., the media) by labeling them as liberal and un-American in the eyes of the American public;
  3. Help George Bush's sagging poll numbers by shifting the focus and blame for his incompetent handling of the war on terror to the "liberal media" and by changing the story from high gas prices and the failed war in Iraq;
  4. Deflect the real story that Bush is yet again spying on American citizens in possible violation of the law without obtaining a court order; and
  5. Force yet another vote on a do-nothing issue in order to divide Democrats and ultimately use this as an election issue rather than focusing on the real problems facing Americans.
But come on, reporting this as "real" news without mentioning the entirely political motivation behind the entire effort? You really think this resolution came up because Republicans hope to send a message? A message to the voters, sure. This is yet another political ploy to invoke the war on terror to shore up the Republican poll numbers. And not even mentioning that is neither fair nor accurate. Read the rest of this post...


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Satire on Rush Limbaugh's recent woes:
Rush Limbaugh Announced as New Viagra Spokesman

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- NEW YORK – June 28, 2006 -- Pfizer Inc. today announced conservative talk radio commentator Rush Limbaugh has been signed as the new spokesman for the company's erectile dysfunction drug, Viagra (sildenafil citrate). Limbaugh went public with his use of the medication following a security incident June 26 at the Palm Beach International Airport....

Pfizer is hoping the Limbaugh "dittohead" following will give a boost to sales. "His listeners will buy into anything he says, so we're hoping that transfers into them buying our product. With a doctor's prescription, of course."

Previous Viagra spokesmen have included Senator Bob Dole and NASCAR driver Mark Martin. The addition of the controversial radio personality to the Pfizer stable seems to indicate the drug manufacturer intends to target an increasingly conservative demographic.

However, Pfizer's representative denied reports that ultra-right-wing commentator and author Ann Coulter was also being wooed to push the erection-enhancing medication. "We feel that would be antithetical. As clinically effective as Viagra has proven to be, it has its limits."
Read the rest of this post...

Glenn Greenwald on the significance of today's Supreme Court decision

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I've read about half the decision, it's horrendously thick and complicated. Glenn is a lawyer too and always has a good thorough take on complicated legal issues, so I'm going to defer to him at this initial juncture. Check out his analysis of what today's decision means. One interesting point Glenn makes, he agrees with Judd at ThinkProgress, who is also a lawyer, that today's ruling has some serious implications for Bush's arguments in the domestic spying cases.
And, at the very least, the Court severely weakened, if not outright precluded, the administration's legal defenses with regard to its violations of FISA. Specifically, the Court:

(a) rejected the administration's argument [Sec. IV] that Congress, when it enacted the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force in Afghanistan and against Al Qaeda ("AUMF"), implicitly authorized military commissions in violation of the UCMJ. In other words, the Supreme Court held that because the AUMF was silent on the question as to whether the Administration was exempt from the pre-existing requirements of the UCMJ, there was no basis for concluding that the AUMF was intended to implicitly amend the UCMJ (by no longer requiring military commissions to comply with the law of war), since the AUMF was silent on that question.

This is a clearly fatal blow to one of the two primary arguments invoked by the administration to justify its violations of FISA. The administration has argued that this same AUMF "implicitly" authorized it to eavesdrop in violation of the mandates of FISA, even though the AUMF said absolutely nothing about FISA or eavesdropping. If -- as the Supreme Court today held -- the AUMF cannot be construed to have provided implicit authorization for the administration to create military commissions in violation of the UCMJ, then it is necessarily the case that it cannot be read to have provided implicit authorization for the administration to eavesdrop in violation of FISA.
Read the rest of this post...

Senator Grassley: corporate apologist, sex obsessed and American expat hater

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Senator Grassley from the Hawkeye state is making news again because he wants to tax prostitutes and everyone associated with the sex industry. This is without a doubt a critical issue during times of war and the IRS is no doubt hot to jump on the issue of chasing down what is probably a large cash-based industry so you just know how easy it will be to follow through with his latest idea. Just another episode in the GOP obsession with sex.

The courageous Grassley loves cutting taxes for big corporations but just like he hates all things related to sex, he also hates Americans living overseas and he made sure to punish them in the latest tax bill. Forget that Americans abroad are in fact, living abroad so they are not using American resources but instead are generally helping American business and organizations abroad, Grassley just knows that Americans abroad are somehow getting a free ride. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation thinks that this double taxation is a bad idea, though they were kind enough to Senator Grassley to leave his name out of this article and avoided calling him a dumb ass but even though they blasted the expat double taxation. Hell, Americans abroad already have second class votes and politicians who won't respond to them because they don't care. (Actual issues don't mean much to the Dems Abroad either who are more focused on being an ego stroking social clique and overal boredom factory, at least that's the case in Paris.)

So is this the best the GOP can do? Slash more corporate taxes, throw red meat to wingnuts over sex and punish fuzzy foreigners who are actually American but he can't admit it? What a brave man the senator is. Aren't we lucky to have such leadership during this critical time in our history? Read the rest of this post...

Dear Abby,

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Dear Abby,

Your longstanding support for equal rights for gay men and lesbians has been amazing. You are a consistent voice of tolerance that reaches Americans of every walk of life in every state. But in today's column, I think you flubbed.

You tell the story of a man about to be married and how this man's gay brother, who is also his best friend, refuses to be the best man at his brother's wedding (or even attend) because it would be a reminder that gays are not permitted to marry in America (outside of Massachusetts). You tell the man to respect his brother's decision.


I support equal marriage rights for gay Americans, but I'm not going to ruin my brother's wedding over it. That strikes me as well-intentioned, but terribly wrong. Unless the guy's brother is a big homophobe, there is no reason to boycott his wedding. It's cruel and hurtful and selfish, and does nothing to help the civil rights of gay men and lesbians other than making us look rather petulant and mean.

Again, I don't want to knock gay brother for taking a stand - oh that more gays (and progressives) did - but gay bro needs to be slapped upside his head on this one. He has many enemies in America, but his loving brother isn't one of them. If the brother wants to make a point, he should be bring a date to the wedding - a male one.

JOHN Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Further news on the Supreme Court decision? Read the rest of this post...

BREAKING: 5-3 decision, Supreme Court smacks down Bush over Gitmo detainees

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UPDATE: Here's the entire decision.

UPDATE: Did the Supreme Court just gut Bush's illegal domestic wiretapping program?

UPDATE: ScotusBlog says this decision is huge, and about far more than the media realizes.
More importantly, the Court held that Common Article 3 of Geneva aplies as a matter of treaty obligation to the conflict against Al Qaeda. That is the HUGE part of today's ruling. The commissions are the least of it. This basically resolves the debate about interrogation techniques, because Common Article 3 provides that detained persons "shall in all circumstances be treated humanely," and that "[t]o this end," certain specified acts "are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever"—including "cruel treatment and torture," and "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment." This standard, not limited to the restrictions of the due process clause, is much more restrictive than even the McCain Amendment. See my further discussion here.

This almost certainly means that the CIA's interrogation regime is unlawful, and indeed, that many techniques the Administation has been using, such as waterboarding and hypothermia (and others) violate the War Crimes Act (because violations of Common Article 3 are deemed war crimes).
UPDATE: Washington Post:
The Supreme Court today delivered a stunning rebuke to the Bush administration over its plans to try Guantanamo detainees before military commissions, ruling that the commissions are unconstitutional.
Just coming in now.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

The ruling, a rebuke to the administration and its aggressive anti-terror policies, was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, who said the proposed trials were illegal under U.S. law and Geneva conventions.
Not so quaint after all, those Geneve Conventions.

This is apparently the Ahmed Hamdan case, the "driver" of Osama bin Laden. The court said Bush overstepped his authority in setting up military war crime tribunals to deal with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The government has to come up with new procedures to either repatriate the detainees at Gitmo, let them go, or try them. The Geneva Convention must be applied, and the US has not properly established the military commissions to try the detainees

More in a bit. But note one thing. The Supreme Court is now 7-2 Republican to Democrat. The court is even further to the right than it was when Bush took office since he replaced Sandra Day O'Connor with Alito, who is far to the right of her.

That means that even with the most conservative Supreme Court in decades, Bush still got slapped down for his handling of civil liberties under the war on terror. Enough of this "activist judges" bs. Even the Republican-run court slaps down Bush (and apparently the legislative branch gets slapped too).

And what a surprise:
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a strongly worded dissent, saying the court's decision would "sorely hamper the president's ability to confront and defeat a new and deadly enemy."

The court's willingness, Thomas said, "to second-guess the determination of the political branches that these conspirators must be brought to justice is both unprecedented and dangerous."

Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito also filed dissents.
Three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse would have given Bush a blank check, big surprise. And had Roberts been involved, he recused himself, it's not hard to imagine that he'd have supported Bush's power grab as well. One more vote folks, and there is no stopping this administration. The next Supreme Cour vacancy, if it's one of the reasonable judges, and there will be no more checks on this administration. Read the rest of this post...

Bush is on the warpath -- against Democrats and the media

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Campaign 2006 will be all war all the time. Bush has nothing to run on, so he's running on the biggest failure of all -- Iraq. He can't vanquish the insurgents in Iraq and he can't capture Osama, but he's playing the tough guy against the Democrats and the press. And, like the Bush strategy for Iraq, the campaign strategy is based on lies and falsehoods:
With opposition to the war threatening to hurt the GOP in this fall's congressional elections, Bush gave an impassioned plea for voters to re-elect Republicans who have supported his national security policies. He repeatedly pointed his finger in the air to emphasize his points and at several points his voice rose to a shout.

"Make no mistake about it, there's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done," Bush said. "They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off and the world will be worse off."
As Think Progress noted, White House aide Dan Bartlett couldn't really name anyone who wants to wave the white flag. But we all know that doesn't stop Bush from saying it. He lies.

In the new campaign speech, Bush, whose staff outed an undercover CIA spy, had the audacity to say this:
"There can be no excuse for anyone entrusted with vital intelligence to leak it, and no excuse for any newspaper to print it," Bush said.
How can anyone take this line of attack seriously when the biggest offenders work for Bush? Read the rest of this post...

Hey Media: That's what the communists did

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Last night, I watched Paula Zahn interview Susan Milligan, a reporter with the Boston Globe who also chairs the committee on credentials for House and Senate correspondents about the NY Times smear.

Paula was giddy because Congressman JD Hayworth wants to have the press credentials yanked from the Times.

Milligan gave the answer that every reporter needs to hear:
But the important thing here is the principle, is that we don't let Congress tell the press what they can and cannot publish. You know, I -- I lived in Eastern Europe for five years during the 1990s and reported there. And I know what happens in countries where the government tries to suppress or intimidate or censor the press, because that's what the communists did to my friends.
Yes, that's what communists did -- not what nations with freedom of the press do.

Paula Zahn seemed completely oblivious to the fact that she was doing an interview about the government of the United States bullying and censoring the press. She seemed oblivious to the fact that she is also a member of the media. Unfortunately, Zahn is acting like most of the press.

I also saw Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC actually say that this action by the Bush administration wasn't necessarily political. She really should know better.

Note to reporters: If the Bush administration can threaten the NY Times with espionage, they can do the same thing to you. You all reported on the Times story. Does that make you all accomplices to treason?

STOP treating this attack on the NY Times like it's some normal story where both sides deserve a fair hearing. It's not.

Has the media in America been so emasculated by the Bush administration that they are not willing to defend the First Amendment? Read the rest of this post...

Thursday Morning Open Thread

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Should be an interesting day. The U.S. Supreme Court will issue the Guantanamo decision -- the NY high court could issue their gay marriage decision -- and the GOP nitwits in the House are debating a useless resolution on "leaks." Andrea Koppel from CNN breathlessly showed the 7-page document this morning....not sure if it includes an actual authorization of war against the NY Times.

What else? Read the rest of this post...

Bush somehow discovers an extra $160M to throw around

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We didn't have billions to fight global warming, but we somehow found billions for an unnecessary war in Iraq. Just the same, Bush and the GOP don't have any problem at all with millions of Americans having their personal data stolen and lost week after week after week after week but now that they feel pressure over the VA data loss, they take money away from food stamps and student loans to help with credit counseling for veterans who were impacted.

Now I sympathize with those vets but what the hell is wrong with having a plan for all Americans? I know flag burning is an issue that everyone in the country wants to talk about because it's happening on every doorstep of America, but can't Congress and the WH find a few minutes to put together a comprehensive data protection plan for everyone? I suppose when you are beholden to special interests that fund your political campaigns it's just a lot easier to spend taxpayer money instead of demanding a comprehensive program that might force those financial donors to spend money protecting data. It's just another knee jerk reaction by a rudderless team who are drifting. Read the rest of this post...

GOP smear campaign specialist convicted of child molestation charges

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Oh the moral superiority within the GOP. Read the rest of this post...

NYT: Iraq War Ends Silently for One American Soldier

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

Fascinating story in the NYT about an (east) German soccer player

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I loathe sports. And this article is fascinating. The reporter uses the fact that the captain of the German national soccer team is originally from East Germany to weave a larger tale about east and west and how Germany has changed for the better and not-so-better after re-unification. The article is just great, do read it.

It got me thinking about when the Wall fell. It was November of 1989. I was there during the week it fell. I was working on the Hill and we had a trip planned to Europe to attend the arms control talks, and we had a scheduled stop in Berlin and East Germany. We just so happened to arrive literally days after the Wall metaphorically came down. The wall was still there, and the East German guards were on top of it pointing machine guns at us as we Germans and Americans and every other foreigner in that town ran to the wall and chipped away at it as best we could (it was concrete, not very chip-able). It was amazing.

I remember it being 2AM and it was colder than hell out. I was walking the wall with a friend, and there were still tons of people. We were looking for any chink we could find in order to get even a small piece of it. I finally found a two-foot stretch of re-bar (basically, big long metal pole that goes inside of concrete to help be its frame, I guess), sticking halfway out of the wall. I twisted and pulled and pushed that thing for 20 minutes to try to get it to break off, and as I did so, pieces of the wall, only a few inches across, but with paint on them (!), started to come off. Finally, the re-bar, now hot as hell from the torquing back and forth, broke off. I was ecstatic. I had quite possibly one of the most unique souvenirs ever from the Berlin Wall. (Yes, I brought it on the plane, but such was the advantage of traveling with Congress, we had our own plane.)

The thing that really makes me melancholy about the entire thing is the overwhelming sense of history of the moment. The Berlin Wall was no more. Eastern Europe was imploding. Countries were becoming liberated that had been police states since before I was born. It was an amazing time to care about the world. There was such hope and excitement. History actually worked.

And now, look at how incredibly screwed up the world is yet again. A lot of it is our fault, and there are no more communists to blame. Read the rest of this post...

As George Felix Allen, Jr. has just learned, don't mess with VA Democratic Senate challenger Jim Webb

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God bless Jim Webb:
Republican Sen. George Allen attacked his Democratic challenger's opposition to a flag-burning amendment, and James Webb retaliated by calling Allen a coward who sat out the Vietnam War "playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada."

The statement by a senior adviser to Webb, a decorated veteran and former secretary of the Navy, went to extraordinary lengths to question Allen's fortitude, even repeatedly using the middle name the senator detests and never uses, Felix.

"While Jim Webb and others of George Felix Allen Jr.'s generation were fighting for our freedoms and for our symbols of freedom in Vietnam, George Felix Allen Jr. was playing cowboy at a dude ranch in Nevada," said Webb strategist Steve Jarding in the statement Tuesday....

"People who live in glass dude ranches should not question the patriotism of real soldiers who fought and bled for this country on a real battlefield,"
Jarding said.
Then there are the final two paragraphs of the article, the absolutely best part:
Webb left the Republican party over Bush's handling of the war in Iraq. He has written novels informed by his Vietnam experience and a recent non-fiction book "Born Fighting."

Allen is a first-term senator mentioned as a possible 2008 presidential candidate. While he was a student at the University of Virginia, Allen worked summers at ranches in the Southwest.
Read the rest of this post...

Giant Bat-Eating Centipede

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No, not Ann Coulter. A very creepy YouTube video that ThinkProgress graciously brought to our attention, the creeps. Then again, a little break from political mayhem probably isnt a bad thing. Still, I'm now totally creeped out.

Read the rest of this post...

Women and weight in America

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This is the reason a woman's contract wasn't renewed on morning television:
[Barbara] Walters didn't discuss on the air why Reynolds, an original cast member who's been on the show for nine years, wasn't being asked back. She said in an interview Tuesday that research showed audience members were turned off by [Star Jones] Reynolds' dramatic weight loss and glitzy wedding to banker Al Reynolds in 2004.
Now, Starr Jones occasionally gets on my nerves. But firing a woman because the audience didn't like the fact that she lost weight? When she used to, frankly, be enormously obese. And this is a problem. Geez.

As this is a show geared towards women, I guess I'd have thought they'd be less weirded out by someone's weight (let alone the idea that someone was obese and now is a healthy weight). Anyone want to fill me in on what's going on here? Read the rest of this post...

Murtha's a tad more complicated than right-wing veteran haters (or we) might want to admit

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UPDATE: Per Media Matters, via Atrios, it's not totally clear what the story is about Murtha and the NYT.

Interesting catch from The New Republic's blog.

Military hawk, and now Iraq war opponent, Cong. John Murtha (D-PA) apparently called the New York Times to urge them NOT to run last week's story about how Bush is spying on private bank records. As TNR notes, this seems to contradict what conservative bloggers were alleging, that Murtha urged the Times to run the story. But what they also note, which Joe and I were actually talking about the other day, is that Murtha, while our hero on the war (now), is a rather conservative fellow sometimes - but sometimes not, it's a pretty weird mix. Check out his rankings on the following congressional scorecards:
17% - Human Rights Campaign (gay civil rights)

0% - NARAL (pro-choice group)

34% - Humane Society

44% - ACLU

74% - NAACP

50% - John Birch Society (insanely conservative)

50% - Eagle Forum (Phyllis Schlafly)

53% - Christian Coalition

100% - National Education Association (they're a good education group)

56% - League of Conservation Voters

78% - Children's Defense Fund

45% - US PIRG

92% - National Rifle Association
Read the rest of this post...

Hasn't anybody else noticed...

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...that had George Bush not skirted the law with his various domestic spying programs, had George Bush actually gotten the appropriate court approval and warrants necessary in order to conduct such unprecedented spying on Americans, none of these recent "revelations" would have been as newsworthy?

What made last week's New York Times story so newsworthy was the fact that, yet again, the Bush administration was caught spying on Americans without following the normal court procedures expected in a democracy. Procedures that separate America from common dictators.

That's news. And news of George Bush's own making.

Had the story simply been that the Bush administration was doing x, y, and z to fight the war on terror, but that Bush had followed the law and gone to the courts to make sure our rights were being protected, he'd have a much stronger argument, I think, against newspapers that simply wanted to publish details of our spy programs "just for the fun of it."

But in all the recent cases, it seems that the Bush administration has skirted the law, or at least skirted the courts, and in many instances they seem to have also lied about it. If George Bush would start playing by the rules, maybe he'd have fewer stories about how he breaks the rules.

The New York Times deserves a medal for its reporting, as does USA Today and everyone else who has had the nerve to challenge this increasingly dangerous and incompetent man we have sitting in the White House. Read the rest of this post...

Scores of House Republicans defect in defiance of new "family values agenda" being pushed by House leaders to woo far-right in upcoming election

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Wow, they lost because of other Republicans deserting them. So much for the campaign ads blaming Democrats.
House Republicans failed Wednesday to advance a bill protecting the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Only a day earlier, the GOP had placed the measure on its "American Values Agenda" in hopes of bolster the party's prospects in the fall election.

But Republicans could not muster a simple majority on the issue in a committee where they outnumber Democrats by six....

A simple majority is required to report a bill to the House floor with a favorable committee recommendation. The House Judiciary Committee split 15-15 on the pledge bill Wednesday; Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., joined 14 Democrats to oppose it.

Ten of the committee's 23 Republicans did not show up for the vote. The chairman, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said he would try again for a majority on Thursday.
Read the rest of this post...

Bush administration previously told reporters FAR MORE about US efforts to track terrorist finances than the NYT reported last week

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This is what we call explosive stuff. Reporters are coming forward to document just how much the Bush administration already told journalists about their supposedly super secret spying they do on financial records in order to catch terrorists. We now know that the Bush administration already told reporters FAR MORE about this program than anything the New York Times reported last week. Yet Bush and his surrogates are accusing the NYT of treason.

Well, get in line. It appears the Bush White House is once again at the head of the line when it comes to making classified leaks.

From DefenseTech:
Bush administration officials have been lining up to condemn The New York Times for revealing a program to track financial transactions as part of the war on terrorism. But if the Times’ revelation about a program to monitor international exchanges is so damaging, why has the administration been chattering about efforts to monitor domestic transactions for nearly five years?

Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, many journalists — including this one — were briefed by U.S. Customs officials on Operation Green Quest, an effort to roll up terrorist financiers by monitoring, among other things, "suspicious" bank transfers and ancient money lending programs favored by people of Middle Eastern descent.

I interviewed Marcy Forman, director of Green Quest, at her Washington offices in December 2001, when I was a writer for Government Executive magazine. Our meeting was sanctioned by Customs' public affairs office, and came at a time when the White House was eager to talk about all the work federal agencies were doing to hunt down terrorists. Forman told me the kinds of people, transactions, even locations that the government was targeting. (These are details, it should be noted, that the recent Times piece did not reveal.) Among the potentially sensitive items Forman told me, which were published:

“Operation Green Quest is focusing on the informal, largely paperless form of money exchange known as hawala, which is Arabic for ‘to change.’”

“Few undercover agents can penetrate Middle Eastern communities and money laundering rings because they look like outsiders and don't speak the language…. As a result, Green Quest has to be more clever, by setting traps on the Internet and working to flush currency traffickers out of their hiding places.”

“Treasury and FBI investigators have identified hawala as a means by which the alleged Sept. 11 terrorists may have received money from overseas.”

“Green Quest investigators, who've spent their careers dismantling money laundering rackets, were blindsided by the existence of the system. ‘Most of us couldn't spell hawala’ before Sept. 11,’ Forman said.”

“The agencies' [involved in Green Quest] cooperative efforts have recently culminated in raids of alleged money laundering operations that aid suspected terrorist networks.”

“Green Quest also wants to lower the threshold at which bank deposits and electronic funds transfers must be documented. Dropping the ceiling from $10,000 to $750, Forman said, may force money traffickers to try to get their cash out of the country by hand. They would then be subject to capture by a beefed-up cadre of Customs Service officers at border crossings, airports and seaports.”
Read the rest of this post...

Did Cong. Tancredo (R-CO) burn an American flag for his book cover?

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Sure looks like it. And even if he burned an image of an American flag to make the book cover, it's the same thing. Or is flag burning okay so long as the protesters have massive posters of US flags that they burn? Read the rest of this post...

Every conservative loves a fascist

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Funny, the conservative National Review Review seems to think NYT journalists should be kicked out of the White House, yet the National Review no problem with GOP prostitute (literally, he was a hooker) Jeff Gannon parading around the Bush White House as a "journalist" on nearly a daily basis for two years.

Ah those Republican family values. No hooker left behind?

Oh, and since the Wall Street Journal also reported on Bush's latest domestic spying scandal, I assume the National Review wants the WSJ kicked out of the White House and tried for treason as well? Read the rest of this post...

Obama is right (mostly)

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UPDATE: You can read Obama's speech here.

I think Senator Obama (D-IL) is right. Democrats should do more to court evangelicals and people of faith. But that doesn't mean they should be stupid about it.

Stupid would mean supporting flag burning and displays of the Ten Commandments and backing off of their support for the civil rights of gays and lesbians and women - all to woo supposed people of faith. Stupid would also be worrying about the Pledge and school prayer (sorry Obama, you're pandering). That's not how you court THE RIGHT people of faith. The people of faith who make gay-bashing and abortion and the Pledge their number one priority will never support Democrats. Hell, they barely support Republicans.

And in any case, do we need to become as phony as the Republican party, supporting these feel-good-but-do-nothing issues rather than trying to solve real problems in America, in order to convince believers we're actually okay?

What do I propose instead?

What about the death penalty? It's an issue on which I suspect people of faith are sharply divided. What about the environment? Global AIDS and world poverty? Poverty in America? These are all issues that go to the core of what it means to be a Christian.

For far too long the only people talking about God have been nutjobs in the far-right of the Republican party. God, to them, is simply a good cover story to push bigotry and discrimination that is no longer acceptable in society unless you pretend it's a God-thing. Then you just might get away with it. The effect? People pull away from God since the only evidence of God they see in the public square are the crazies. If Democrats put a bit more faith in their action, while avoiding the crazy-aunt wing of the Republican party, there could be something here.

What Democrats need to remember is that they should find the God in their own values, not change their values (which no one will believe anyway) to embrace someone else's warped hatred masquerading as piety.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. Barack Obama chastised fellow Democrats on Wednesday for failing to "acknowledge the power of faith in the lives of the American people," and said the party must compete for the support of evangelicals and other churchgoing Americans.

"Not every mention of God in public is a breach to the wall of separation. Context matters," the Illinois Democrat said in remarks prepared for delivery to a conference of Call to Renewal, a faith-based movement to overcome poverty.
Read the rest of this post...

Mixed decision on Texas re-districting

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Gerrymandering is acceptable. State legislatures can re-district any time they want. But minority voting rights must be protected:
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of the Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay but threw out part, saying some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights.

The fractured decision was a small victory for Democratic and minority groups who accused Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democratic incumbents out of office.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said Hispanics do not have a chance to elect a candidate of their choosing under the plan.
Read the rest of this post...

Senate likely to vote on net neutrality today

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See who hasn't made up their mind yet and voice your opinion. The anti-neutrality crowd would like you to believe that the Big Telcos will be honest and fair with the internet but looking at how they've trampled on our privacy, actively providing the government with information without warrants and considering the market dynamics of the telecom industry (prices on a steep decline even with GOP anti-competition help) I just don't see them as honest brokers at all. Also, looking at how this GOP dominated Congress and administration have botched everything they touch, I'd rather they not get involved with this situation. Read the rest of this post...

GOP House leaders will devote rest of Congress to far-right special interests, will lock up House with debates on guns and abortion

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Because what America really needs right now is more guns on the streets. And the biggest problem facing our troops in Iraq is abortion in America. The Republican controlling the US Congress aren't even pretending to address the problems of regular Americans anymore. They're afraid they may lose their seats in the fall elections so they're trying to pass every piece of special interest legislation they can, before it's too late:
Other bills are certain to spark controversy.

One would to strip the Supreme Court and other federal courts of jurisdiction over cases challenging the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance. The legislation is a response to a 2002 Appeals Court ruling that held the pledge is unconstitutional because of the presence of the words "under God." A federal judge made a similar ruling last fall, citing the appeals court precedent.

Another measure would block the payment of attorney fees in challenges to the display of the Ten Commandments in public areas and other, similar church-state lawsuits.

An abortion-related proposal would require that some women seeking to end their pregnancies be informed the procedure "will cause the unborn child pain" and they have the option of receiving drugs to reduce or eliminate it. A separate measure would ban human cloning, a prohibition that cleared the House in the previous Congress.

Two measures relate to the rights of gun owners. One would prohibit the confiscation of legal firearms during national emergencies, barring practices such as the one that officials said arose in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit.

The measure is backed by the National Rifle Association, which has hailed the recent passage of a state law in Louisiana. "The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina became the proving ground for what American gun owners have always feared: the day that government bureaucrats throw the Bill of Rights in the trash and declare freedom to be whatever they say it is," Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, said in a statement posted on the organization's Web site
Yes, for Republicans that was the true lesson of Hurricane Katrina. Not enough guns. Read the rest of this post...

Wednesday Morning Open Thread

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The fun never stops...what do we need to know now? Read the rest of this post...

Bush and Paulson want to meddle with Medicare and Social Security

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So tell is it that we can mysteriously pull money from the sky for failed wars that have nothing to do with the real war on terror yet it's time to have bi-partisan agreement on cutting Medicare and Social Security? Of course this is a partisan shot-across-the-bow and Paulson hasn't even passed through the Senate yet, so how exactly is this reaching out in a bipartisan way? How about focusing on the problems of that beast before tampering with critical social programs that Americans rely on? The only problem with those programs is the continued assault on those programs by the GOP.

I don't know who Paulson has been talking with in the posh boardrooms of Goldman Sachs, but on Main Street USA, what I hear people talking about is the criminally high health insurance costs. I hear about people with terminal and long term health care issues who receive notices from their insurance company that they have hit their life time maximum payout and are scrambling to find solutions. I hear families talk about paying hundreds of dollars up to $1,000+ per month for crap insurance with high deductibles. I hear people wonder why corporate executives are showered with perks, benefits and mega payouts while their own benefits are being cut to the bone, funding those programs for the select few.

Overseas, I hear American expats wonder why the US still demands filing and paying taxes (even more now thanks to Republican Senator Grassley) when they don't live there while American companies move their corporate offices overseas and get a free ride, something which is virtually impossible for individual citizens to do.

So is Main Street USA living in a bubble or is it Paulson and Bush? Read the rest of this post...

Italy protests killing of Bruno the bear

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The Italian environment minister is quite upset about the Bavarian environment team that had the patience of a two year old who feared that Bruno might "someday" attack a human despite the only human interaction being when hikers followed Bruno and upset him, so they killed him. My German friends are equally furious about the killing of Bruno and tell me the story is front page news there and a hot topic of debate right now, right up there with the German national team in the World Cup. How did these nature-haters even get jobs working with the environment?
Italian Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio said in Luxembourg at a European Union session on the environment that the bear, a protected species, should have been shot with tranquilizers and transported back to Italy. The Italian news agency Apcom said Scanio complained that his German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel, appeared unaware of Italy's offer to send specialists to capture and repatriate the animal.

"We consider very serious and irresponsible the shooting of a bear, which was an example of a protected species being reintroduced in Italy," Scanio told reporters. "It is not credible that the EU asks all the world to protect species threatened with extinction, such as elephants or rhinoceroses in Africa, and then allow a protected bear to be slain on its own territory."

Like he said.

Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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So have the Republicans done anything else to trash the Constitution or abuse our troops today? Read the rest of this post...

Senate Intelligence chief, Pat Roberts, blasts Karl Rove for highly-sensitive intelligence leaks, demands White House conduct damage assessment

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Not really.

Actually, Pat Roberts and George Bush are busy trying to take away the First Amendment.

Somewhere Osama bin Laden is beaming with pride over what Pat Roberts and George Bush have done to America... so Osama doesn't have to. Read the rest of this post...

Who replaced Christopher Hitchens with the crazy drunk guy?

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I hate when that happens. Hope he's okay. Read the rest of this post...

Flag burning? How about an amendment to stop Troop Burning?

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Seriously. The flag is doing fine last time I checked, but as for our soldiers in Iraq, that's a different story.

George Bush and the Republican party don't give a damn about our military unless elections are around the corner, then they talk about the troops and parade them in uniform at campaign events as if they were nothing more than a cute baby to be ogled and later ignored.

When it comes to our military, the Republicans feel it's expendable. There is apparently no cost in lives, no cost to our national esteem, no cost in dollars, that will override the Republican mania with using our military as a political weapon against ourselves. George Bush and the Republican party couldn't care less about victory in Iraq - they know they lost Iraq a long time ago. But they do care about George Bush's ego and his inability to ever admit a mistake, so they'll keep or troops in Iraq, watching our soldiers die as the situation gets worse and worse, simply because it would be embarrassing for George Bush to admit he lost the war in Iraq.

Republicans don't care about our troops. Oh they talk a good talk, and love to accuse Democrats of hating the military. But as Atrios wrote once, if he really hated the military he would simply send them to war in the wrong country, in insufficient numbers, with insufficient equipment, and without a plan for victory - and oh yeah, he'd keep them there to die long after we'd already lost.

That's the sign of a real America-hater.

So when do we pass a constitutional amendment to protect our troops, from Republicans? Read the rest of this post...

Iraq debates foreign investment policies

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While the Bush administration flogs a "stay the course" message and the media focuses primarily on the troop withdrawal issue, the nuts and bolts of trying to get Iraq on its feet are largely overlooked. The economic efforts, in particular, are what will really make or break the nation (assuming it can avoid an all-out governmental collapse). Which is why I would really like to see more analysis on issues like foreign investment there.

According to the article, Iraq's parliament will probably approve a law that allows non-Iraqi investors to have 100 percent ownership of companies, untaxed profit transfers, and 40-year rent leases (with the significant exception of natural resources -- including oil). Most troubling to me is the untaxed profit transfers. While the objections in the article are mostly about the ownership element, Iraq clearly needs foreign investment to help its economy, and I doubt companies would risk investing if they couldn't have ownership control. But I would think it'd be possible to require some level of reinvesting or other benefit to the country and its people, rather than just pulling out all profits to the companies and businesses of other nations.

I'm not an economist, and I'd be curious to hear from people more educated than I. My initial skepticism is based on three factors: first, the law was reportedly written over two years ago, under the Bremer administration of Iraq. Since Bremer's tenure was such an unmitigated debacle, I'm reflexively suspicious of anything that he or his cronies created. Second, it seems there should be measures to keep some of the profits in Iraq. Finally, anything that even gives the impression of Western corporate exploitation is a terrible idea for PR reasons alone.

(Hat tip to Juan Cole for linking the article.) Read the rest of this post...

Flag vote in US Senate goes down in flames

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The ACLU reports that it lost by one vote, thank God. But cheer up Republicans, you don't have the flag to make a mockery of but you still have fag-bashing.

Here's an article about it. Read the rest of this post...

Surgeon General foolishly sides with science

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How dare he step on the freedom and liberty of smokers who pollute the air of non-smokers. Can't those selfish non-smokers just hold their breath during dinner or at work and wait to breathe until they are outside? And those whiney babies and kids who are especially prone to the negative impact of second hand smoke? They can breathe when they're 18 and leaving home but until then they're just going to have to not breathe and learn to live with it.
Some 126 million nonsmokers are exposed to secondhand smoke, what U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona repeatedly calls "involuntary smoking" that puts people at increased risk of death from lung cancer, heart disease and other illnesses.

Moreover, there is no risk-free level of exposure to someone else's drifting smoke, declares the report issued Tuesday -- a conclusion sure to fuel already growing efforts at public smoking bans nationwide. Fourteen states have passed what are considered comprehensive smoke-free workplace laws, those that include restaurants and bars.

But the surgeon general is especially concerned about young children who can't escape their parents' addiction in search of cleaner air: Just over one in five children is exposed to secondhand smoke at home, where workplace bans don't reach. Those children are at increased risk of SIDS, sudden infant death syndrome; lung infections such as pneumonia; ear infections; and more severe asthma.
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Open Thread

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Has the U.S. invaded the NY Times yet? Read the rest of this post...

Senator Dewine (R-OH) wants to spy on you

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Next to Specter, Dewine is the biggest enabler for Bush's illegal spying on Americans. Read the rest of this post...

Hysterical sketch from Aussie TV

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Seriously, watch this. Read the rest of this post...

Ann Coulter fans weigh in

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I only hope some day to be as good an American as this guy who just emailed me.
Nice thing about free speech is you can lie and make up everything as you go along and call yourself anything you want. It amazes me how people like you who obviously hate the United States so much continue to live hear [sic]. Places like Iran and Cuba, and Ecuador [Ecuador?] would love to have you. Of course if you stay hear [sic] you always can start a home grown terrorist group to kill as many devil Americans as you want. And by the way you should love [Bill] Gates if you check out his wonderful charity a little more. It seems everything he does is geared to help the poor disadvantaged minorites. [Bastard!] The only problem is there are more poor and disadvantaged white people in this country than black and Indian people put together. Now that is what a nice liberal like you is all about right. Make up all the myths and lies you can as you go along and then call yourself Americablog. And come on curse me all you want as liberals are want [sic] to do. People that lie all the time are the first ones to do that because they have been caught in their lies. Ann Coulter tells liberals the truth and gets attacked viciously.
No, the nice thing about free speech is that if people like you had your way, people like you would be in jail. Read the rest of this post...

When is Viagra not Viagra?

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When it's the same color pill as OxyContin:

You'll recall that last night I wrote about how this Rush Limbaugh story seems to be missing some key fact. Why would they detain him at the airport for three hours just for having a vial of Viagra? Well, one of our readers weighs in.
Perhaps this might explain some confusion you have with Rush's pills "labeled as Viagra": Viagra are blue pills. Zoloft is also a blue pill. Xanax in the higher doses are blue pills. Oh, and what color is Oxy-Contin? Yes: Blue. You're right that there well may be something more here.
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Atrios says: Stand Up

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He's right. Listen to Atrios. The Bush team is trying to silence the media. They want to charge reporters and newpapers with treason. That's beyond Nixonian. It's Stalinist. Stand up:
As treason charges against the New York Times (but not, oddly, the Wall Street Journal) are getting thrown around on various "respectable" news outlets by people working in "journalism" I think it's probably time for the serious reporters at those outlets to inform management that their resignations will be forthcoming if it doesn't stop.

Silly people like me have been trying to warn you for years - you created, cultivated, nourished, and promoted these people. They're one of you. Take a stand, because pretty soon it's going to be too late.
It's more than very annoying to watch television reporters treat this issue like it's just another story...or worse, like it's some kind of political competition between the Bush administration and the New York Times. This is way more serious. It's dangerous. Treat it that way. Read the rest of this post...

Senator John Warner is so powerful, he's stopping the wind

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Well, Warner is stopping wind energy at least. When one of my friends explained this to me the other day, it seemed outrageous, given the state of energy in the country. But, it's true. Warner inserted language in to a defense bill that is seriously hampering wind energy in the country. Warner took the action in January, but the ramifications are now being felt.

Despite all the claims of looking for new energy sources, the Senator from Virginia has actually prevented wind energy projects from moving forward. If there was a real policy reason, it would be one thing. But, it's really about his own personal interest.
Congress ordered the study about wind farms and their effects on military radar in a last-minute amendment to a national defense bill in January.

The language apparently was added because of a wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts. Some residents of the Cape Cod area oppose the project on grounds that the machines will spoil their views and kill migrating birds.

The author of the amendment was Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who, the Chicago Tribune reported, has tried previously to block the cape project.

In March, the departments of Defense and Homeland Security issued an interim policy that they would contest any new windmill farms "within radar line of sight of the National Air Defense and Homeland Security Radars" until the study is completed.
This is government at its worst. Another petty Senator putting his private interests before the interests of the country. And it's despicable the way they use the military like this. Read the rest of this post...

More incompetence from the GOP

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The reverse Midas touch in action. Everything the GOP gets its hands on turns into a mess. International relations? Disaster. Iraq? Don't even ask. Earmarks 'til the cows come home and padding personal wealth? Where do we start? With total control over all three branches of the government in DC, the GOP has ruined FEMA so badly and now taxpayers are looking at paying the price (again) for GOP incompetence to the tune of a few billion dollars. Wow. There is no one to blame when the GOP owns everything.

If you want more of the same - more failed wars, more special interests, more scandals, more destroyed government programs - you should continue voting for the GOP. More of the same means more incompetence:
A hotel owner in Sugar Land, Tex., has been charged with submitting $232,000 in bills for phantom victims. And roughly 1,100 prison inmates across the Gulf Coast apparently collected more than $10 million in rental and disaster-relief assistance.

There are the bureaucrats who ordered nearly half a billion dollars worth of mobile homes that are still empty, and renovations for a shelter at a former Alabama Army base that cost about $416,000 per evacuee.

And there is the Illinois woman who tried to collect federal benefits by claiming she watched her two daughters drown in the rising New Orleans waters. In fact, prosecutors say, the children did not exist.

The tally of ignoble acts linked to Hurricane Katrina, pulled together by The New York Times from government audits, criminal prosecutions and Congressional investigations, could rise because the inquiries are under way. Even in Washington, a city accustomed to government bloat, the numbers are generating amazement.

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Bush is really, really mad at leakers (unless they work for him)

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Bush is angry about news leaks again. He can't win the Iraq war so apparently he's declared war on the New York Times. It's really amazing that the press corps doesn't just break in to laughter when Bush gets like sanctimonious on this subject. Bush's top aides leaked national security secrets for partisan political reasons. That kind of leak is perfectly acceptable to the the Bush administration:
President Bush said Monday it was "disgraceful" that the news media had disclosed a secret CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects. The White House accused The New York Times of breaking a long tradition of keeping wartime secrets.

"The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror," Bush said, leaning forward and jabbing his finger during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters in the Roosevelt Room.
It's really amazing that the press corps doesn't just break in to laughter when Bush gets like sanctimonious about leaks. Read the rest of this post...

Tuesday Morning Open Thread

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It's stopped raining momentarilty here in DC. This city doesn't handle weather well at all...

Start threading the news.... Read the rest of this post...

Too much nature terrifies German officials - Bruno the bear killed

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Bavarian environment officials, clearly shocked at the site of actual wildlife in their environment, ever so slightly got carried away with a single bear knick named Bruno. It's not like situations like this have ever occurred anywhere else in the world, providing some ideas for addressing the hungry and curious bear. Imagine that, the bear was hungry and failed to hit the secret bear drive through restaurant. Catch and release proved to be too much for the environmentally aware officials and after hikers followed Bruno and approached Bruno, triggering a reaction from him, the Bavarian brain trust decided that it was just too hard to trap him so they found a local hunter who shot and killed him. Ugh. How absolutely mindless are those officials? Patience and creativity are clearly not required for the job. Read the rest of this post...

So is this where the US is headed?

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You really have to wonder if this is precisely what the Bush administration would like to see in the US. State certified news that's part of the glorious state propaganda machine.
News organizations that report on emergencies without authorization or issue fraudulent reports would be fined between $6,250 $12,500 under the draft law, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

The legislation defines emergencies as industrial accidents, natural disasters, health and public security crisis.

The draft law was discussed Monday by Chinese lawmakers in the first of three planned legislative hearings. Following the hearings, the law could come into effect in about four months, Xinhua said.

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In much more important news

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Two characters die in the next and final Harry Potter book. When does that damn thing come out anyway? Read the rest of this post...

Equifax quietly loses data records

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The company that is selling credit services and keeping records of seemingly every move we make has managed to quietly lose 2500 records of their own employees. Just like the rest of the corporate world and our own government, Equifax is having a little problem with privacy. Read the rest of this post...

I feel like there's something missing from this Limbaugh story

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I have a hard time believing that US Customs is going to detain you for a vial of Viagra. Whether or not the prescription is in your name (Limbaugh's lawyer is now claiming that Limbaugh got the prescription in his doctor's name to avoid embarrassment - which is a bit odd, since Bob Dole is on TV hawking the stuff). It just sounds odd. Odd, as in, something's missing from this story. How much Viagra did they find? Did they find anything else? I just have a very hard time believing that they found, say, 20 pills of Viagra and detain a guy. What are we missing here? Read the rest of this post...

Senator Specter pretends to be a real boy, again

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Enough already. How many times do we have to watch the charade of Senator Specter getting weelly weelly mad at the Bush administration for breaking every law on the planet and ignoring Congress, only to find Specter refuse to hold hearings, refuse to swear in witnesses when he does hold hearings, then in the end work out a deal that totally exonerates every crime the Bush administration has ever committed?

Seriously, enough already. It's getting old. Time to throw the Republicans out and get a Democratic Congress that will actually hold George Bush in check, rather than enabling him. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Wasn't that a fun evening? Read the rest of this post...

BREAKING: Rush Limbaugh reportedly detained at airport for possession of illegal drugs

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Getting the story now.
Sources have confirmed to CBS4 News that conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been detained at Palm Beach International Airport for the possible possession of illegal prescription drugs Monday evening.

Limbaugh was returning on a flight from the Dominican Republic when officials found the drugs, among them Viagra.
This is very bad. Limbaugh may have just violated the plea agreement that protected him from further prosecution:
Under the terms of the deal with prosecutors called a pretrial diversion, to be filed Monday, Limbaugh will be cleared of the charge if he stays clean for 18 months and doesn’t violate any laws, Black said.

Limbaugh has publicly acknowledged being addicted to pain medication.
But there's more. Limbaugh was apparently bringing in Viagra that wasn't his (no word on anything else). The previous arrest was for Limbaugh's supposed addiction to pain killers. Viagra has nothing to do with pain killers. So, was there more to the case before, or is there more to the case now? Either way, I can't imagine the judge is going to look kindly on this. Read the rest of this post...

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki backtracks on amnesty, withdrawal timeline. Here's what it means...

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As John would say, this is interesting. Apparently under pressure from other leaders of the UIA (a Shia coalition in which Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's Dawa party is a member), Maliki has dropped crucial language from his national reconciliation plan, softening it considerably.

Most reports are attributing the changes to internal UIA negotiations, so it's impossible to know the extent to which US Ambassador Khalilzad or other US figures affected the adjustments. My guess is that the US probably supported the changes, but there are plenty of domestic Iraqi political reasons for the UIA -- especially the powerful SCIRI party -- to argue against amnesty. Many Shia leaders simply don't believe there is such thing as a legitimate resistance, and they are itching to punish Sunnis both for past injustices and for the insurgency (regardless of definition as "nationalist" or "terrorist").

Removal of withdrawal language is, I think, less rooted in domestic politics and therefore more likely to have been influenced by Bush administration officials. Maliki (and/or the other leaders) also took out language regarding "death squads" and militias, which I'm sure SCIRI leaders demanded, as SCIRI's militia, the Badr Corps, has been most frequently accused of those kinds of actions.

I previously was harsh regarding the potential for amnesty, but I want to reiterate a point I made then: amnesty may very well be good policy as part of an endgame scenario, i.e., a cease-fire among Iraqis and a turnover of military power from U.S. to Iraq (a.k.a. withdrawal). But even thinking about that requires somebody to negotiate with, some person or group that actually has the power to bargain on behalf of The Insurgency. Right now that doesn't exist, and obviously there's really no such thing as a unilateral cease-fire. So the changes in this document may also tacitly admit the reality that even if the Iraqi government was prepared to offer certain incentives to fighters in exchange for peace, there's nothing like Sinn Fein or even an Arafat to haggle out the details and, more importantly, enforce it on that side.

When I was in Iraq, one of the running (mordant) jokes we made after especially stupid meetings, foolish dictates, screwed up operations, etc. -- which happened with alarming regularity -- was to look at each other and say, simply, "Forever." As in, "We're going to be here... forever."

So my basic reaction to this posturing, politicking, and bickering, is: Forever. Read the rest of this post...

ABC News slams Bush hard over global warming

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Read this. It's really quite an amazing slam on Bush. From ABC News:
In the White House, only hours after that old elm had fallen, Bush was addressed by a reporter, thus: "I know that you are not planning to see Al Gore's new movie, but do you agree with the premise that global warming is a real and significant threat to the planet?"

"I have said consistently," answered Bush, "that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary ... to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil..."

The President -- as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find -- is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said -- as he also did a few weeks ago -- that "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" ... well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called "the flat earth society level."

Not one scientist of any credibility on this subject has presented any evidence for some years now that counters the massive and repeated evidence -- gathered over decades and come at in dozens of ways by all kinds of professional scientists around the world -- that the burning of fossil fuels is raising the world's average temperature.

Or that counters the findings that the burning of these fuels is doing so in a way that is very dangerous for mankind, that will almost certainly bring increasingly devastating effects in the coming decades.

One small group of special interest businesses leaders -- those of some fossil fuel companies -- have been well documented by journalist Ross Gelbspan and others to have been fighting a PR campaign for 15 years to keep the American public confused about the wide and deep scientific consensus on this.

They've aimed, as Gelbspan explains, to keep us thinking that (to borrow the president's words this morning) "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" -- though no open and thorough journalism this reporter knows of can find any such thing.

Drenching waters, president's words, high judges' scrutiny, worried voters, journalists scrambling to get their arms around this enormous story, oil executives looking at spread sheets while they explore for more oil in Canada and the Arctic, and one elm down ... so far.

Meteorologists predict more heavy rain this week along the mid-Atlantic seaboard.

Climatologists predict much the same for the coming decades.
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Alito upholds death penalty

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If you're a person of faith who is troubled by the death penalty, and if you supported George Bush's recent Supreme Court appointment of Samuel Alito, then you need to know that you supported the continuation of the death penalty.

Not as warm and fuzzy as you thought, these conservative judges, eh?

Life is a lot more nuanced than always voting Republican. Read the rest of this post...

Today's Iraq casualties: 16 dead, including one US Marine; 56 wounded

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Stay the course, and the band played on. Read the rest of this post...

Republican House Speaker Denny Hastert's $200 million personal pork

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Yes, Hastert netted $2 million as a result of his own earmark. This is what happens when one part controls the ENTIRE federal government - the Republicans have the White House, the Congress and the Supreme Court. And anyone is surprised that years of that control have made them corrupt? Read the rest of this post...

Polls continue to worsen on Iraq

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See, this is the one (or three) inescapable fact about the war in Iraq. The situation will continue to get worse, US troops will continue to be attacked, and the American public will continue to lose confidence in the war effort. There is no way other than an outright victory to turn it around. And victory isn't going to happen because Bush has already lost the war. No matter what stunts Bush pulls, things will get worse, and the American public will know it. Read the rest of this post...

Please sir, may I have some oversight?

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Pathetic. Check out the headline. Bush MAY ALLOW Senator Specter to do his friggin' job? Well bully for him, and for Senator Specter who seems to think congressional oversight involves crawling on your hands and knees and begging the president's permission.

It's time we elected a Congress that actually does its job. We need to restore the balance in Washington. The Republicans controlling Congress need to be thrown out. Read the rest of this post...

Put Afghanistan on the list of Bush foreign policy disasters

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No surprise to anyone who follows the news -- although it's probably a surprise to the Bush White House -- Afghanistan is a mess. The country is spiraling out of control:
Many Afghans and some foreign supporters say they are losing faith in President Hamid Karzai's government, which is besieged by an escalating insurgency and endemic corruption and is unable to protect or administer large areas of the country.
Bush abandoned Afghanistan to launch the war against Saddam Hussein. Read the rest of this post...