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This is why I didn't report on those protests against Iran's supposed torture and murder of gays

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Correction: I earlier wrote that the story of Zach, the kid who was forced into the ex-gay camp, was not true. Zach's story is true - I accidentally mixed that story up with the story of the kid who claimed he was expelled for making a gay movie in high school - that last story is the one that wasn't totally true.

Because it ain't necessarily true. (This article is written by the director of Human Rights Watch's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Project.) You just can't jump on things because they scare and infuriate you IF TRUE. You need to establish some level of certainty before you go off and do the public relations equivalent of invading another country searching for Murder of Mass Homosexuals. As we found out last year with that supposed kid being kicked out of school for making the 'gay movie,' it was a great story, but just not true. Yes he made the movie, but he was never expelled. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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Clearly, we have a lot to have at it. Read the rest of this post...

Top 12 Dems in Congress to Bush: start Iraq withdrawal by end of year

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Iraq is a nightmare. And, a unified, rational approach for withdrawing troops from Iraq by the Democrats (which is supported by the American people) is a political nightmare for Bush and the GOP:
Twelve Democratic leaders of the House and Senate have urged President Bush in a strongly worded letter to begin withdrawing the 130,000 U.S. troops from Iraq by year's end, a sign that Democrats may be uniting on a key election-year issue that has divided the party.

"U.S. troops and taxpayers continue to pay a high price as your Administration searches for a policy" in Iraq, said the letter, signed by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), and 10 other party leaders.
Americans know that Bush doesn't have a plan for Iraq. The GOP was hoping that the Democrats wouldn't offer a plan either. Looks like they were wrong.

Quick update....can't overlook Kenny weighing in for the Repubs:
Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman said in a statement early this evening that the Democrats' withdrawal strategy will "embolden the enemy, encourage more terrorism, and make America less secure."
Um, Ken, Bush has already emboldened the enemy, encouraged more terrorism and made America less secure. Mission Accomplished. Read the rest of this post...

Iraq gunmen attack Iraqi-American Chamber of Commerce, take 26 hostage

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Is this really worth dying for? Read the rest of this post...

Arianna calls on Hollywood to stand up to Mel Gibson's atrocious Jew-hatred

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Arianna nails it. From HuffPost:
Gibson's no-longer-deniable brand of bigotry has led to the extermination of millions -- and continues to fuel much of the strife and suffering in the world today. Which is why Hollywood cannot sit this one out and wait for the reviews to come in....

Bob Iger at Disney needs to pull the plug on two Gibson projects that are in the works. The company is slated to distribute Gibson's latest directorial project, Apocalypto, opening on December 8. They should refuse to do so. And ABC, which is owned by Disney, should, without delay, scrap its head-scratching plan to develop a miniseries about the Holocaust with Gibson's company (yep, you read that right).

Question for ABC: Do you really need to see a script to know that the idea of having a Holocaust-set miniseries produced by a guy who thinks "the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" is a god-awful one?

....For starters, the town's power players need to step up and publicly condemn Gibson's vile comments (in effect, saying in public what they are already saying in private conversations I and many others have had). I mean, it shouldn't be so hard to publicly denounce someone -- even an Oscar-winner -- for being a raging anti-Semite.

But that's not happening. From this morning's Los Angeles Times:
Although many of the town's senior executives are Jewish and Hollywood has a long history of supporting Israel and Jewish causes, there was no widespread public condemnation of Gibson's comments over the weekend. Although some high-level executives privately expressed dismay at the statements attributed to Gibson after his arrest, none of those contacted would speak on the record.
Talk about lacking the courage of their convictions. Which makes Ari Emanuel's no-holds-barred post all the more praise-worthy. But is Ari the only high-profile figure willing to publicly draw a line in the Malibu sand? How disgusting and disappointing is that?
PS Remember, he's a raging homophobe too:
Heartthrob actor Mel Gibson, asked by one of Spain's leading magazines what he thinks of homosexuals, launched into a tirade against gay men.

"They take it up the ass," Gibson told El Pais as he got out of his chair, bent over and pointed to his butt. "This is only for taking a shit," he said.

Reminded by the interviewer, Koro Castellano, that he worked with gays while studying at the School of Dramatic Arts, Gibson added: "They were good people, kind, I like them. But their thing is not my thing."

Castellano said, "But you were obsessed with the thought that if you were an actor, people would confuse you with one of them."

"Yes," Gibson admitted, "but I did it. I became an actor despite that. But with this look, who's going to think I'm gay? It would be hard to take me for someone like that.

"Do I sound like a homosexual?" he asked. "Do I talk like them? Do I move like them?
Read the rest of this post...

Bush to kill successful suicide prevention line

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And why? Because he wants to recreate it WITHIN the federal government so they can get the list of names of every American who calls. How's that for creepy? And guess what that will do? It will stop people, especially kids, from calling the suicide prevention line, so many of them will kill themselves.

Is this what you Republicans voted for? Read the rest of this post...

Appeals Court hears DeLay's ballot status case

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Reports from Texas seem to indicate that the Court isn't inclined to rule in DeLay's favor:
A federal appeals panel indicated today that the ability of Republicans to replace former U.S. Rep. Tom Delay on the ballot rests on whether there was "conclusive" evidence that he had moved to Virginia.

The three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals did not indicate when it would rule. But questions from the panel seemed to favor the Democrats' position that Republican officials could not declare DeLay ineligible for office based on residency prior to election day.
Of course, nothing matters until they issue their decision, but it doesn't look good for the GOP. Basically, the only evidence that the Court has that DeLay has moved is DeLay saying he's moved. That means taking DeLay's word. And, what good is Tom DeLay's word these days? The Court clearly wants more evidence that that.

If the Appeals Court panel, which includes the notorious Edith Clement, rules against DeLay, he'll stay on the ballot. DeLay is still running for Congress as a Republican...and it seems more likely that won't change. The GOP is running out of tricks. So, we still do have Tom DeLay to kick around. Read the rest of this post...

The more things change . . .

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Ever since I was a kid, I've always been interested in the "why" of stories rather than just the "what." It's hard to understand any event or process without knowledge of how it came about, and the why is often what makes things interesting.

Sometimes, if you pay attention, you can see the causes of events before they even happen. For instance, the continued failure to appropriately reform the intelligence community portends continued failures of the community itself. There are both structural and analytical problems with U.S. intelligence, but many of them are eminently fixable with the right leadership . . . which we so sorely lack. Most of the issues are the same ones that we all found out about nearly five years ago, after the most massive intelligence failure in the history of our nation.
The report also criticized continued lack of communication between spy agencies and a cumbersome bureaucracy that governed security clearances. Noting that information sharing within the community is one of the most critical tenets of intelligence reform, it stated that progress on that front was limited to understanding the task at hand.
So progress in sharing within the IC is limited to . . . understanding the task at hand? WHAT?? I mean, I'm happy that all elements of the IC now recognize the common task of, y'know, protecting the country, but maybe communicating better on the actual issues and information might further that common goal.

There's also this fun little nugget, which is the "why" of future articles about how the FBI has become the U.S. version of MI-5. I'm not totally opposed to the idea of a domestic spy agency, but isn't it at least worth a public debate about whether we want to turn our federal police force into an intelligence unit?
The changes at the Federal Bureau of Investigation were also noted in the House report, which concluded that the transformation of the F.B.I. to an intelligence agency with law enforcement power is starting to take root.
These kinds of things happen just beneath the surface of public consciousness, and then everybody is shocked when the detrimental effects are felt down the road. Read the rest of this post...

All politics is local: Chapter 8,346

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Israeli leadership thinks it has to react strongly to provocations to show it's still tough even though it withdrew from Gaza, lest Netanyahu convince the country that only Likud can keep Israel safe. Hezbollah knows that if it can provoke widespread violence, anti-Israeli sentiment will turn into pro-Hezbollah political support. "Moderate" Arab governments, despite their fear of their own internal extremist groups, can't ignore overwhelming public sentiment against Israel and the U.S., which the governments themselves help stoke to take the focus off their own failings, so they join their populations in denouncing Israel. Meanwhile, the realities of war (angry populations, fear of losing, and lots and lots of pictures of corpses) mean that positions get increasingly hardened.

The Bush administration pursues despicable and heartless ideology like "constructive chaos" and "birth pangs of a new Middle East" because that Middle East policy is one of the few ways to shore up support from both the religious right and neoconservatives. And in Iraq, where we're actually adding troops despite all those supposed plans to reduce forces in the fall, the Shia population is furious at Israel, the U.S., and its Iraqi leadership it sees as too acquiescent to both of the former.

Cue denunciation of Israel and the U.S. by Iraqi leadership, both political and religious, in an effort to retain popularity with the population and not be outflanked by the most radical voices (Sadr et al). As I've said before, if the Shia expand their violence from anti-Sunni to anti-Coalition, the U.S. position in Iraq will worsen considerably. And of course, all of this is intertwined, the elements continuously feeding off each other. Read the rest of this post...

Heat wave in America, heat wave in Europe, but don't tell Bush and the Republicans that this is global warming

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The midwest.

And Europe.

But seriously, trust the Republicans - they say it's nothing. Just like they say that condoms don't work, that the earth is really 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs lived alongside modern men. Oh yeah, they also told us that we'd be greeted like liberators in Iraq and that the war would be over in a matter of weeks, was it?

Note from Joe: Washington is under an "excessive heat watch." I've never heard of such a thing before. Neither has John. Read the rest of this post...

Since Disney/ABC has Jew-hater Mel Gibson directing a mini-series about the Holocaust, I was wondering what other mini-series they might consider...

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Disney/ABC present...
Black Like Me, by David Duke.

The Harvey Milk Story, by Jesse Helms.

The American Presidents, by Squeekey Fromme.

A Brief History of Time, by George W. Bush.

The Laramie Project, by the Rev. Fred Phelps.

I'm Just a Bill, by Joe McCarthy.

The Wonderful Field of Nursing, by Richard Speck.

Kids Say the Darndest Things, by John Wayne Gacy

And of course...

The Naked Chef, by Jeffrey Dahmer.
Yours? Read the rest of this post...

Iraqi Interior Ministry may be replaced because things are so bad

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Everything is falling apart in Iraq. Bush would call this an opportunity. Read the rest of this post...

The war in Iraq really is still happening -- and Americans are really still dying

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Frank Rich has a brilliant column today about how the US news media is basically ignoring the war in Iraq:
CNN will surely remind us today that it is Day 19 of the Israel-Hezbollah war — now branded as Crisis in the Middle East — but you won’t catch anyone saying it’s Day 1,229 of the war in Iraq. On the Big Three networks’ evening newscasts, the time devoted to Iraq has fallen 60 percent between 2003 and this spring, as clocked by the television monitor, the Tyndall Report. On Thursday, Brian Williams of NBC read aloud a “shame on you” e-mail complaint from the parents of two military sons anguished that his broadcast had so little news about the war.

This is happening even as the casualties in Iraq, averaging more than 100 a day, easily surpass those in Israel and Lebanon combined. When Nouri al-Maliki, the latest Iraqi prime minister, visited Washington last week to address Congress, he too got short TV shrift — a mere five sentences about the speech on ABC’s “World News.” The networks know a rerun when they see it. Only 22 months earlier, one of Mr. Maliki’s short-lived predecessors, Ayad Allawi, had come to town during the 2004 campaign to give a similarly empty Congressional address laced with White House-scripted talking points about the war’s progress. Propaganda stunts, unlike “Law & Order” episodes, don’t hold up on a second viewing.

The steady falloff in Iraq coverage isn’t happenstance. It’s a barometer of the scope of the tragedy. For reporters, the already apocalyptic security situation in Baghdad keeps getting worse, simply making the war more difficult to cover than ever. The audience has its own phobia: Iraq is a bummer. “It is depressing to pay attention to this war on terror,” said Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly on July 18. “I mean, it’s summertime.” Americans don’t like to lose, whatever the season. They know defeat when they see it, no matter how many new plans for victory are trotted out to obscure that reality..
He's right, of course. And even though Americans aren't paying attention to the war in Iraq, those American soldiers everyone talks about supporting are still dying in Iraq:
The Marines, from Regimental Combat Team 7, died Saturday in Anbar province, the heavily Sunni Arab region west of Baghdad that includes such flashpoints as Ramadi and Haditha, a U.S. statement said without further details.

So far this month, 44 U.S. service members have died in Iraq -- including 10 in Anbar province during the past week. That underscores the threat to U.S. troops from Sunni insurgents, despite the attention paid to recent sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in Baghdad.
Iraq is a real bummer for those soldiers and their families. Read the rest of this post...

Round up of the morning papers

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  • At least 23 killed in ambush near Baghdad, Wash Post.
  • More corruption from GOP House Appropriations chair, Jerry Lewis, Wash Post.
  • Millions of American men are turning down jobs that they think are beneath them. Give me a break, NYT.
  • GOP Governor Mitt Romney talks about "tar babies." Romney/Gibson '08? Boston Globe.
  • Rave reviews for Dixie Chicks concert tour, Boston Globe.
  • Baghdad gunmen kidnap 25 people. BBC.
  • Karl Rove talks about the "corrosive role" journalists play in politics, then screams "psyche!" NYT.
  • Disney and ABC plan to go ahead and let Mel Gibson make a TV miniseries about the Holocaust. Working title: "The fucking Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world." LA Times.
Read the rest of this post...

Let's start the morning right

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The view from my friend Joe's place last night. Click the picture to see it large. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Checking the morning papers nows Read the rest of this post...

Bush's delusions about the Mideast further undermining US credibility

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Contrary to most of the rest of the world, the White House has been saying that the latest Mideast war is really an opportunity:
"This moment of conflict in the Middle East is painful and tragic," Bush said in his radio address Saturday. "Yet it is also a moment of opportunity for broader change in the region. Transforming countries that have suffered decades of tyranny and violence is difficult, and it will take time to achieve. But the consequences will be profound for our country and the world."
That viewpoint is openly mocked by foreign policy experts:
[Richard] Haass, the former Bush aide who leads the Council on Foreign Relations, laughed at the president's public optimism. "An opportunity?" Haass said with an incredulous tone. "Lord, spare me. I don't laugh a lot. That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. If this is an opportunity, what's Iraq? A once-in-a-lifetime chance?"
Good point. Bush and his foreign policy crew talk a good game. But their track record is one of abysmal failure. What in anything Bush has said or done in foreign policy (or any policy for that matter) provides even a sliver of hope that he's right this time? NOTHING. Read the rest of this post...

Excellent Dan Savage editorial in the Sunday NYT on same-gender marriage

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

Kennedy says Alito and Roberts misled Judiciary Committee

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Big surprise there. Actually, this is a very good op ed by Kennedy, do read it. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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I hear it's hot in DC :-) Read the rest of this post...

Is US actually pushing escalation of Mideast war?

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Read Josh Marshall's post on this subject of escalation. It's enlightening in a very frightening way -- and helps explain the seemingly hapless way the US has conducted itself during this war:
There's a mix of public and private communications going on between Jerusalem and Damascus. Israel is trying to assure Damascus that they don't plan or want to expand the war to include Syria. Syria is clearly worried that they will and has their troops on full alert. Israel is also warning in no uncertain terms that Syria getting involved will spark massive retaliation.

But there are persistent signs that the US is egging Israel on to bring the war to Damascus.

Here's a clip from the end of an article today in the Jerusalem Post ...
[Israeli]Defense officials told the Post last week that they were receiving indications from the United States that the US would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria.
And there are other ominous indications of the US pressing for expansion the Israelis don't seem to want.

There's more here than the US not wanting a ceasefire before meaningful changes on the ground have happened in south Lebanon. Or at least I fear there is. This started because Israel doesn't want and won't tolerate a menacing militia building up on their northern border and lashing out with occasional raids or missile attacks, especially in the context of withdrawals from other areas.
The Israelis aren't interested in a war with Syria, but we are.

This is scary stuff. Read the rest of this post...

Seniors learning the Bush/GOP drug plan is a disaster

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The seniors are realizing that they're getting screwed. They have to be reminded every day that this is Bush/GOP plan:
The calls are starting to come in from shocked or angry seniors. They have just learned that their Medicare drug plans are maxing out on early coverage and that they must now spend $2,850 from their own pockets before coverage will resume.

"I can't pay for my medications," one man told Howard Houghton of the Fairfax Area Agency on Aging the other day. "What do I do?"
There's only one thing to do: In 100 days, change the Congress. Read the rest of this post...

What would happen if Americans actually had to watch real images of war?

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This morning, I woke up to CNN"s coverage of the bombing in Qana. There was a riot in Beirut at U.N. Headquarters. The CNN Beirut reporter, Brent Sadler, started his report like this:
In the beginning, there was a spontaneous reaction as Lebanese watched the Qana attack unfold on their television screens. Now, unlike CNN, we take a view that not all the most graphic and horrific pictures from such an attack are shown on our screens, but in Lebanese homes and across the Arab world, uncensored pictures of the aftermath of the Israeli airstrike had been broadcast, and that has hit home deeply in the psyche of the Lebanese.
Does the edited and sanitized coverage of news by American media give us a warped view of war? Would Americans react differently if we saw "graphic and horrific pictures," not only in Lebanon, but in Iraq? The U.S. government won't even show pictures of the caskets of the soldiers who died for their country.

Imagine if we had to face a daily barrage of death and destruction. Would Americans become immune or would they begin to realize the horrors of war?

We hear stories about the number of dead and some video of the aftermath of incidents. Most Americans have already turned against the war in Iraq. What would Bush do if the media actually covered the war in an unedited manner, like in most of the rest of the world?

The American media conglomerates are complicit in the censorship. But what are they supposed to be protecting us from? Read the rest of this post...

Israeli air strike kills 34 children

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Israeli said it targeted Qana because it was a base for hundreds of rockets launched at Israeli, including 40 that injured five Israelis on Sunday. Israel said it had warned civilians several days before to leave the village.
So here's the ethical question of the day. Someone is firing hundreds of missiles at your citizens each day, and launching them from civilians areas because think they think you won't hit back (or hope you do, and thus kill civilians, causing a storm of bad publicity). As for the civilians, it's an open question whether they are helping harbor the guys with the missiles or not, i.e., whether or not they have a say in telling Hezbollah to take a hike (and if they do have a say, would that change your answer)?

So the question is this, under those circumstances, what do YOU do as the leader of country that's receiving 100 rockets a day raining down on your cities?

Second question, which I've posed before. At what point does a local citizenry become responsible for the crimes it supports? When Israel is on the receiving end of bombs, I hear a lot of talk about how every Israeli is a legitimate target because they all support the government. So does the same apply to every Arab, every Muslim, every southern Lebanese, and every American?

I'd just like to see some real discussion of where the line is here, and why some folks seem to care less when the targets are Jewish civilians. Read the rest of this post...

Normal evangelicals are starting to fight back

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Thank God, and about time.
Mr. Boyd finally became fed up, he said. Before the last presidential election, he preached six sermons called ‘The Cross and the Sword’ in which he said the church should steer clear of politics, give up moralizing on sexual issues, stop claiming the United States as a ‘Christian nation’ and stop glorifying American military campaigns.

“When the church wins the culture wars, it inevitably loses,” Mr. Boyd preached. “When it conquers the world, it becomes the world. When you put your trust in the sword, you lose the cross.”....

“More and more people are saying this has gone too far -- the dominance of the evangelical identity by the religious right,” Mr. McLaren said. ”You cannot say the word ‘Jesus’ in 2006 without having an awful lot of baggage going along with it. You can’t say the word ‘Christian,’ and you certainly can’t say the word ‘evangelical’ without it now raising connotations and a certain cringe factor in people.

“Because people think, ‘Oh no, what is going to come next is homosexual bashing, or pro-war rhetoric, or complaining about ‘activist judges.’
That is the reason Christians are feeling oppressed. Not because of Mel Gibson's "fucking Jews," and not because of the ACLU. Christians are feeling oppressed because their own wacko evangelical fringe has so abused Christ as to make him a bad word. When I was a kid, it was a badge of honor to be a regular church-goer - it meant you came from a good family. Nowadays, if you say you're going to church on Sunday, my first thought is usually "is he going to hate me because I'm gay?"

America is less tolerant towards religion. And that's because the religious right has used religion as a sword against everyone its disagrees with. And that creates enemies. Not just for the religious right, but for the God on whose behalf they claim to speak. Read the rest of this post...

I'm pwn3d

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This is what I wake up to this morning. Sushi in all his glory, inside my suitcase. Then, no less than two minutes after taking that picture, I'm busy typing and I hear some noise behind me. This is what I find.

Now, I don't claim to understand cats, but I think we have a contest going for Uncle John's affection. Or a contest for Uncle John's subjugation. Hard to tell. Read the rest of this post...

New York Times editorial: Dump Lieberman, Vote Lamont

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The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.

As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party ? his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. ?What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?? he asked in an interview with New York magazine. ?You've got to agree 100 percent, or you?re not a good Democrat??

That's far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration?s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates....

And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were ?more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq? than on supporting the war?s progress.
Bingo. Despite what Barney Frank thinks, we are witnessing the dismantlement of our democracy in a rather frightening manner. We are watching the public disagree with this president's action in record numbers,yet do nothing about it. And we are watching a Democratic party trip over itself in its confusion over how and whether to oppose turning American democracy into some kind of police state.

As some new French friends said to me last night over dinner, if so many of you don't like Bush - 60-some percent in all the recent polls - then why don't you do something about it?

Good question.

Part of the reason we don't is because we have Democrats like Joe Lieberman who give aid and comfort to the dismantlement of our democracy. It's difficult enough to stand up to post-9/11 Republican charges that Dems are soft on Osama, but when one of your own joins the Bush brigade and accuses fellow Dems of simply speaking out for partisan gain, that makes it excruciatingly difficult to continue speaking up because it gives the Republicans the perfect weapon to use against any Democrat who dares speak out. See, just like Joe said, the Dems don't care about September 11, they don't care about national security, they simply care about scoring political points at the expense of all of our lives.

That is why this blog, at least, can't stand Joe Lieberman. America can't afford any more Joe Liebermans at this juncture in our history. We are turning into a police state. No, there are no ovens and mass executions in America. But if people believe that the only lessons we learned from World War II, from fighting the Soviets, and from every other war, cold and hot, that America ever fought is to simply avoid genocide, well, that's a rather short-sided lesson to take from history.

I hate to quote Star Wars as the authoritative word on freedom, but there was a hell of a quote in the last film:

"So this is how democracy dies, to thunderous applause."

And currently, the lion's share of that applause in the Democratic party is coming from Senator Joseph Lieberman.

It's not about the war. It's about our country. Read the rest of this post...

Sunday Talk Shows Open Thread

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Looks like it's all Lebanon. Why does anyone think the U.S. Government, which can't solve it's own Iraq quagmire, is going to be able to solve this one? And does the media even remember the Iraq quagmire?
FOX NEWS SUNDAY....: Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns ; L. Paul Bremer , former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq; Steven A. Rosenberg , chief surgeon at the National Cancer Institute.

THIS WEEK (ABC....: Burns ; Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon ; seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong .

FACE THE NATION (CBS....: Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora ; Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres .

MEET THE PRESS (NBC....: Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman ; Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahmoud .

LATE EDITION (CNN), 11 a.m.: Burns ; Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.); Syrian cabinet minister Bouthaina Shaaban , and Israeli Tourism Minister Isaac Herzog .
Read the rest of this post...

It's no wonder Iraqis are not impressed with Bush-style democracy

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Morgues in the Valley of Peace have more corpses than they know what to do with because of the excessive violence. Remember all of the rosy outlooks that we heard at the beginning of the invasion? When are we going to hear more from that crowd so they can fill in the gaps between their words and the realities on the ground today?
The men who wash the bodies and wrap them in white cloth according to Muslim custom have gained a first-hand view of the ferocity of Iraq's rising sectarian violence.

Kareem al-Haidari said he usually handles 50 to 60 bodies each Friday, the Muslim holy day on which more and more Iraqis are praying for the safety of their loved ones.

"There are usually signs of torture and mutilation like the drilling of eyes and skulls, or severed limbs," he said.

Read the rest of this post...

Nearly 2/3 of Army's combat brigades not ready for wartime missions because of Bush incompetence

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Great, now the Republicans' incompetence is destroying our military readiness. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread and a little Paris blogging

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Just got back from a really nice dinner, or what the Italians might call a spaghettata. Get a bunch of friends together, whip up a simple meal, put way too many people around way too small a coffee table, and eat. It was the birthday of Chris' wife Joelle, and her brother called to invite them to his bday dinner. They'd already left for the south, so he invited me, which was incredibly nice since I've only met him once. Anyway, just a really nice evening with a lot of people I didn't know. And interestingly enough, everyone at the party hated Bush.

Anyway, by popular demand, here is Nasdaq in all her Weight Watchers glory (I can't really tell that she's fat, but apparently she is).

And here are a few other photos from the past 24 hours. First, the series of cafes down the block:

Next a rather popular late-night crepe stand, also down the block (on Blvd. Montparnasse, for those in the know):

Guy on the metro, waiting for the train:

Guy on the train (without eye candy, there is no life):

The new Metro train. It has no driver. And all the cars are connected, you'll note that you're looking at the inside of two cars. It's pretty cool. I have no idea how, in a country as union-strong as France, they got away with a train that has no driver.

Read the rest of this post...

Gay-hating neighbor gets hers in court

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And I can't wait for the fundies to freak out over this one. They'll scream First Amendment and how the Bible will now be outlawed (and I'd love to have them explain to us, under oath, where the Bible directs us to threaten and harass people with AIDS in their own homes). Then let them defend these kind of actions as they would pertain to someone who is black or Latino, since, after all, it's "protected" speech. Physically threatening them, and basically trying to drive them from their home because of their race. There wouldn't even be anything to discuss.

The court did a great job here, and the fundies are again showing their true colors. Mark my words, the national religious right groups WILL jump on this case and defend the AIDS-hating bigot, and then, again, we'll know the true color of their character. Read the rest of this post...

It's painful for Lieberman to say he's a Democrat

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Nagourney takes a look at candidate Joe Lieberman. For me, the most illustrative quote in the article -- and one of the most telling of the campaign -- comes from Chris Dodd, his fellow Senator from Connecticut:
“I said, as painful as it is, the first words out of your mouth and the last words out of your mouth every time you speak have to be ‘I’m a Democrat,’ ” Mr. Dodd recounted on Thursday. “You can say whatever you want after that.”
That really sums up Lieberman. Painful to say "I'm a Democrat." Read the rest of this post...

52% want US out of Iraq in 12 months

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And the rest can send their kids. Read the rest of this post...

Blogging is hitting the big-time in France

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Who knew? Read the rest of this post...

Bush proposing new legislation that would permit him to throw any American in jail, forever, without a trail or attorney

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We reported this, briefly, this morning. Over at DailyKos they've excerpted more of the worst of the article.

This is police state legislation, not American legislation. You simply cannot give the government the authority to throw whichever American citizen it wants in jail permanently, with no trial and no attorney, simply because some government bureaucrat "suspects" you have ties to terrorism. There is no evidentiary basis for "suspects." It's simply a gut decision.

This is the legislation of a police state. And I suspect Bush and the Republicans are offering this as their last-ditch effort to spare the Republicans in the elections this fall. Try get a police state and watch the Democrats scramble in disarray, unable and unsure if they want to challenge it.

In the meantime, the Republicans have now gone beyond bashing gays and Muslims and women and Latinos for political gain. They've now decided to declare a police state in order to win the election.

Anyone, and particularly any Republican, who doesn't stand up against this legislation doesn't deserve to be called an American.

This is simply disgusting. Read the rest of this post...

Mel Gibson, while being arrested, reportedly starts yelling about "the fucking Jews"

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And they apparently have the arrest report to prove it. And video.

I want to hear what the religious right, oh Israel lovers that they are, have to say about their hero the film producer now. More from the NY Daily News:
A blitzed Mel Gibson launched into an obscenity-laced tirade when he was busted on suspicion of drunken driving early yesterday, threatening an officer and making anti-Semitic and sexually abusive remarks, according to a police report.

The "Passion of the Christ" director repeatedly said, "My life is f----d," according to the report by Los Angeles County Deputy James Mee, which was obtained by The celebrity news Web site posted excerpts of the handwritten report...

According to the incident report obtained by, the Road Warrior embarked on a belligerent, anti-Semitic outburst when he realized he had been busted.

"F-----g Jews. The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," Mee's report quotes him as saying.

"Are you a Jew?" Gibson asked the deputy, according to the report.

The actor also berated the deputy, threatening, "You motherf----r. I'm going to f--- you," according to Mee's report.

The actor also told the cop he "owns Malibu" and would spend all his money "to get even with me," Mee said in his report.

TMZ quoted a law enforcement source as saying Gibson noticed a female sergeant on the scene and yelled at her, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar t--s?"

Deputy Mee then wrote an eight-page report detailing of the incident, but higher-ups in the sheriff's department felt it was too "inflammatory" to release and would merely serve to incite "Jewish hatred," TMZ said.
Read the rest of this post...

Religious right suing to put porn star in public school as teacher

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Never thought I'd see the day that the religious right would fight to put a porn star in a supervisory role over our children. But, you see, she's a Christian so it's now okay. The fact that I'm a Christian and a gay man, that makes me akin to a pedophile to these people. But this woman got laid on camera for cash and she's okay as a role model. Imagine what they'd say if it was a gay teacher who had done gay porn? Then again, it's not like the religious right actually gives a damn about the word of God, or anything they profess, so we shouldn't be surprised when they contradict themselves.

Do as I say, not as I screw. Read the rest of this post...

Your morning coffee

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What's interesting in the morning papers...

- AP: US citizens suspected of ties to terror can be detained indefinitely and denied access to a court of law under new Bush-sponsored legislation. Which begs the question, so you mean all those 5,000 Americans whose phones Bush tapped because he suspected them of having "ties to terrorism," they could be locked away forever under this new law, and that's a good thing?

- Wash Post: House passes legislation raising minimum wage and cutting estate tax.
- Wash Post: Robberies surge in DC (surprise)
- NYT: Six shot at Seattle Jewish center.
- NYT: Bush intimidation of whistleblowers continues.
- AP: Joe Lieberman faces political abyss Read the rest of this post...

Christian right hero Mel Gibson arrested for drunk driving, 0.12 alochol level

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So how does drunk driving and speeding fit with Christian values? Another wingnut hypocrite.

Whose child would Jesus kill while drunk? Read the rest of this post...

Dan Savage lets the chief justice of Washington State have it, in person, over his decision against gay marriage

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I love Dan. (You'll recall he's the guy responsible for creating the word "Santorum" - Google it.) Read the rest of this post...

What's the matter with Meade Kansas?

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Homophobia is rampant. All because of a rainbow flag. Read the rest of this post...

Prediction: There will be NO minimum wage increase this year

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The House Republicans are going to great pains to make sure that the minimum wage increase never gets signed in to law. It's so disgusting. The same crowd that has given themselves $31,600 in raises over the past few years, still wants Americans to make $5.15 an hour.

There will probably be a vote later today on the minimum wage in the House, BUT, and this is a major BUT, it's designed to lose. They'll attach poison pills language in the House to ruin the substance of the bill and they'll make sure that whatever passes will die in the Senate. They're such brilliant strategists when it comes to screwing the poor.

Their latest gimmick is to tie the minimum wage to the Paris Hilton tax cut. Not kidding.

Can't bring gas prices down. Can't even begin to address the Iraq disaster. Can't shrink the deficit. But, screw the minimum wage while giving a HUGE tax break to Paris Hilton, they're all over it.

So, the GOP has a "stay the course" mindset on the minimum wage, too. Why not? Only 85% of Americans support the increase.

Interesting coincidence. Oprah's show today is about living on the minimum wage. Members of Congress need to try it. They wouldn't last a day. Read the rest of this post...

Friday Cat Blogging

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This is Sushi. Nasdaq has been hiding ever since they had a fight over the cat toys I brought. Well, it wasn't really a fight. Sushi attacked Nasdaq for having too much fun. There were two toys, but Sushi needed both. You understand. Read the rest of this post...

Cliff's Corner

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For Republican Sexcapades on The Young Turks (hypertext link not working for some reason) go to: mms://
Link to more on Lieberman here and here

The Week That Was 7/28/06
Another week. More preposterousness to report.

Schadenfreude is such an underrated feeling. It has been largely difficult to enjoy it as it pertains to President “wow Russia’s really big,” because the colossal disaster that is his presidency has caused countless casualties at home and abroad, wrecked our finances, made us such a pariah Sudan won’t take our phone calls, turned Norm Coleman’s dad into Ace Bigelow, destroyed our environment and made solving world crises about as clear as Christopher Hitchens’ vision after the Wild Turkey runs out.

But we can surely enjoy life’s guilty pleasure of cackling at the Lifestyles of the Corrupt and Crazy who have enabled our president to do such damage to this country over the past 5+ years. And the last week or so has been especially bad for three of these GOP stooges.

First there was the loss in the Georgia primary by Francisco Franco and Anita Bryant’s lovechild, Ralph Reed. This was a real shame because a victory would have allowed his swearing in as lieutenant governor to coincide nicely with his bid to achieve pubescence.

You may remember Ralph as the titular head of the Christian Coalition, the smiling, facile brat who conservatives foisted upon us to equate Christianity with his perverted vision of the righteous path in which America would presumably turn into Phyllis Schlafly’s house. Without the gay kid of course. And the mother who’s never around because she’s always out working. And…well you get the point.

Later Ralph became the man in charge of George W. Bush’s southern dirty tricks division in 2000 and 2004, touting our president’s abiding Christian values and translating retard into English when Bush was in the neighborhood. Yet, it turns out Ralph's not-so-Christian habit of lying, stealing and cheating to play Native American tribes off against each other, so he could in the words of an email to his good buddy Jack Abramoff “start humping corporate clients” (insert Republican joke) wasn’t a big seller. Promoting the banned-religion, forced-abortion nightmare that is the Marianas Islands probably didn’t help much either. For some reason conservatives got a bit worked up about these things.

His mother probably put it best, when quoted in a recent GQ article. “I used to tell people he was going to be either President of the United States or Al Capone.” Now I don’t want to go out on a limb here, but let’s just say Geraldo will probably be opening Ralph’s empty vault on live television in twenty years after giving away U.S. troop positions on Fox using only his mustache.

Two other self-deluded, monomaniacal, intellectual ring-dings, Katherine Harris and Ken Blackwell, are also finally getting the pay back they deserve for doing everything in their power to cheat Bush’s way to victory in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004, respectively.

Harris’ mascara is running for Senate, and she’s fired everyone from the interns to her breast-pump at least three times (and many others have just quit). In fact, a friend of mine familiar with the situation says she is absolutely bipolar, ignoring everyone’s advice, thinking the world is out to get her and berating her staff constantly. I’m just waiting for her to jump up on Oprah’s sofa.

Numerous other reports suggest that she is, let’s just say, living out a daily Girl, Interrupted existence. I must pause, because now I’m all choked up. Particularly when I look at Republican poll numbers that show her losing to Senator Bill Nelson 60% to 22%. But I guess it kind of sucks when you whore yourself out to the Bush brothers and place a blemish on American democracy and all you get is a lousy t-shirt (which is a bit too tight). Yet, she’s still the GOP's best ongoing-reality series. I think it has been tentatively named "Pearls Gone Wild." With a backup title of "The Bitch is Completely Out of Her Skull."

Finally there is the self-hating, Bible-thumping, con-man known as Kenneth Blackwell. He’s one of three black men running for statewide office as a Republican this year, so they can try and pretend their conventions don’t look like Wimbledon. Blackwell’s working hard to suppress votes in this election as he did in the last one, in his capacity as Ohio’s Secretary of State.

Blackwell likes sending a limited number of broken-down machines to large college towns and urban areas, while making sure every vote is counted in neighborhoods where he is the punch-line of most jokes after the raconteur looks over his shoulder. But it will be at least a little tougher to suppress Rep. Ted Strickland’s 47% to 27% lead over him in Ohio governor’s race.

Perhaps it was a bad idea to own stock in the ever-so-reliable Diebold machines he would love to use throughout the state. Or have ideas so shallow George Allen understands them without playing Pictionary.

Regardless, Blackwell and his Dominionist allies will be doing what they can to bring a Dominoes Pizza-like existence to Ohio, so he and Harris must be shown, like the good Mr. Reed, that membership in Loonsville doesn’t have its privileges. Read the rest of this post...

Arab support for Hezbollah increasing

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In news that's roughly as shocking as Lance Bass coming out, Arab popular support for Hezbollah is surging. At the beginning of this latest conflict, Israel had unprecedented support (not explicit, but there nonetheless) from Arab governments that viewed Hezbollah's actions as unnecessarily provocative. Now, with Israel's strategy of bombing everything that might be connected to Hezbollah combined with surprisingly able Hezbollah fighters preventing outright Israeli victory, Arabs are viewing Hezbollah not as foolish instigators but as the champions of the anti-Israel cause. Not good.

Middle Eastern governments, with the exception of Syria and Iran, really don't like Hezbollah. Why would they? Hezbollah is an Islamist Shia group in the midst of Sunni secular governments. Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have enough problems with their restive Islamist populations without Hezbollah mixing things up, but now the popular support for Hezbollah is forcing those governments to change their stance. Read the rest of this post...

White House admits that our troops in Iraq aren't really dying for the war on terror anymore

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I'm sure the remaining few Americans who still support this fiasco are going to love this. As Dan Froomkin at the put it:
President Bush and national security adviser Stephen Hadley yesterday for the first time publicly acknowledged the momentous shift in the role for U.S. troops in Iraq, from fighting terrorists to trying to suppress religious violence.

This sea change was described in such understated terms that it was eclipsed by news about the crisis in Lebanon. Bush described a change in tactics; Hadley called it a repositioning.

But it's a historic admission: That job one for many American troops in Iraq is no longer fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, or even insurgents. Rather, it is trying to quell an incipient -- if not already raging -- sectarian civil war, with Baghdad as ground zero.

Arguably, that's been the case for quite a while. But having the White House own up to it is a very big deal.
Read the rest of this post...

Frist gives the GOP their message: We're staying the course

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Yesterday, the Democrats offered a New Direction for America. Today, we learn the GOP mantra for 2006 via Hotline on Call:
"We're for staying the course in Iraq and the war on terror."

-- Senate Maj. Leader Bill Frist on the GOP's '06 nat'l security message, "Hannity and Colmes," FNC, 7/27
So there you have it. The choice for 2006: "A new direction" or "Stay the course."

The New York Times poll released yesterday found that 66% of Americans think we're on the wrong keep on that "stay the course" message, GOP. Read the rest of this post...

The Chimp and his poodle are doing their presser now

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Anyone watching Bush and Blair? Bush started by trying to make a joke about the open mike at the G-8. It's all fun and games for him.

Commentary please...

UPDATE: Love this comment from Jenius:
Whew! So relieved to hear that one of Bush's top priorities will be to rebuild civilian infrastructure so that the homeless Lebanese can return and have a place to live.

I wonder if the Lebanese got to see any Katrina coverage.
Ugh, this thing is painful to watch. Think about it -- the future of the world is in the hands of these two clowns. Read the rest of this post...

Chevron caps out big Big Oil week

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Record profits and plenty of smiling faces on one side, groaning and anger on the other. Same same, but different. Fortunately George Bush is an oil man and he promised to jaw bone the industry and you know he has us in mind. He's a compassionate conservative, of course, so he feels your pain. Read the rest of this post...

Bush extends duty for thousands of US troops in Iraq. He was serious when he said there'd be no withdrawal.

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It's time the American people took George Bush at his word. Yes, he's incompetent and a bit dumb, but he's been pretty consistent with his foreign policy. And Bush said he wasn't going to withdraw from Iraq, and he means it. So if you like US troops being bogged down in Iraq for the next several years - Bush himself said the next president would have to decide if the US ever pulls out (nice cop out) - then keep voting Republican. They've already told us repeatedly that theirs is the party of war. You like war, vote for them. Read the rest of this post...

What is MSNBC's policy on airing "nigger" jokes? And what is Verizon's policy on sponsoring "kike" jokes?

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It's a fair question, since MSNBC now has a clear track record of broadcasting live, uncensored "fag" jokes with no concern whatsoever. Their latest offense? Airing Ann Coulter, uncensored, calling Al Gore a "total fag."

You'll recall that MSNBC recently had no problem airing Chris Matthews and Don Imus making "fag" jokes about the movie Brokeback Mountain. Oddly, however, MSNBC had no problem censoring liberal Rachel Maddow when made she made a comment about Ken Mehlman being gay, and didn't even use the word "fag."

So MSNBC has no problem with broadcasting the word "fag" on the air, no problem with homophobic gaybashing on the air, but MSNBC does have a problem when a liberal simply making a comment about a conservative being gay. That's when the MSNBC censors come ripping in.

It's nice that in the quest for relevance MSNBC has now stooped to Ann Coulter's level by repeatedly airing bigotry in an effort to boost ratings. So we're assuming "nigger" jokes, "kike" jokes, and "spic" jokes are right around the corner at MSNBC? It would be nice to hear from MSNBC as to their corporate policy on airing such jokes - okay or not?

Then again, it was clearly Rachel Maddow's own fault that she got censored. She called Ken Mehlman "gay," after all. Had she simply called him a "fudgepacking fag," she'd have passed MSNBC's censors with flying colors.

TAKE ACTION: Feel free to contact MSNBC's advertisers, and management, and ask them if they have a policy against airing "nigger" jokes on the air. You can find their contact info on the left side of this page, and the contact info for a few of their advertisers.

Hey Verizon, can you hear me now? Read the rest of this post...

Laura Bush's pet Iraq project: a mismanaged failure

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Here's one of those projects that the Bush crew was pushing as the underreported good news from Iraq. It was a particular favorite of Laura Bush. In reality, it's another Iraqi disaster:
Now it becomes the latest in a series of American taxpayer-financed health projects in Iraq to face overruns, delays and cancellations. Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers canceled more than $300 million in contracts held by Parsons, another American contractor, to build and refurbish hospitals and clinics across Iraq.
Bechtel made a lot of money from the project. The Iraqis accused that company of serious mismanagement. The Iraqis could figure that out, but not the U.S. government.

Maybe Laura should pay a "surprise visit" to her pet project to see what happened. Read the rest of this post...

Tony Blair coming to Washington to help boost Bush's polls and help Republicans in the fall elections

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No other explanation for why Tony Blair suddenly needs to hop on a plane and come to the White House for an official visit. It's all about trying to make Bush look more presidential, look like he really does have a handle on this crisis, and more generally, to distract America's attention from the disaster that the Republicans have made of our country and every other.

This is why some people are dog people rather than cat people. Dogs simply love you, and will do whatever you want, no matter how much you mistreat them. Sure, it's dumb love and a bit pathetic, but isn't that why we love them?

Read the rest of this post...

Sushi says it's time for an Open Thread

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Read the rest of this post...

Real world impact of GOP silliness in action

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The upcoming Ken Burns PBS documentary on WWII could be in violation of the new GOP-Bush approved "indecency" law. It's fine for Bush to cuss like a sailor but the words of WWII vets can either be bleeped out or maybe they can just dub the interviews with happy, cheery words about the battlefield experiences. And the GOP cries about political correctness? Where does it end with the wingnut loonies? They always have plenty of time for wasting time on issues like this but can't find a minute to step back and evaluate serious issues. Read the rest of this post...

Maybe this is what's clogging those "tubes"

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Ted Stevens, wake up. Instead of destroying an equal platform, how about you spend your time doing something about spam instead? Since you are so clueless about such an important issue that you know nothing about other than the talking points that you mangled, I'm not talking about the tinned stuff that has a remote connection to actual meat.

UPDATE from Joe: You've seen Stevens "tubes" diatribe -- now picture him on the Daily Show:
Mocked by comedian Jon Stewart for calling the Internet a bunch of tubes, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens said on Thursday he is open to going on Stewart's popular "Daily Show" for a rebuttal.
Read the rest of this post...

GOP feeds farmers ahead of critical election

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Screw the poor, forget about free market and take care of that 2% of the population over everyone else. Hmmm, what's the trend here? How is it that dropping a few bucks to help a person in need in America is socialism yet lavishing corporate special interests with millions and billions is OK? Read the rest of this post...

Ready for a "New Direction"?

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There are just over 100 days left til Election Day. The Democrats have released their agenda and message:
The document, which carries the title "A New Direction for America," is a brief compilation of six themes Democrats have been pushing in various ways all year:

# National security

# Jobs and wages

# Energy independence

# Affordable health care

# Retirement security

# College access for all

"This 100 days is about drilling in the different direction we as Democrats will take this country," said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
The House version of the plan is here. America desperately needs a new direction. The GOP "stay the course" strategy is a disaster -- it's literally killing people. Read the rest of this post...

House GOP may allow vote on min. wage -- with poison pills, of course

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The question is how much the GOP will do to screw up the vote:
“American workers deserve a fair vote on a minimum wage increase, not a vote on a bill that’s larded up with harmful provisions,” said Representative George Miller of California, the senior Democrat on the Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Lawmakers and senior officials said the details of the proposal were still being developed. Members of the leadership said they expected that the plan would be to raise the pay scale gradually, reaching at least $7.25 an hour over about two years.

Others suggested that the legislation could also be tied to a Republican proposal to create small-business health plans, which they say could decrease the costs of health insurance for small employers.
Word from the Hill is that the GOP will definitely offer several poison pills to undermine the legislation. The Republicans spend a lot and energy screwing over the poor. Someone should suggest legislation that members of Congress make the minimum wage. Read the rest of this post...

Michael Steele keeps making his "scarlet letter"/Bush bashing scandal worse

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Typical Republican. He's denying and blaming everyone else. But, his own campaign approved the "off the record" quotes trashing Bush and his fellow Republicans. Via Political Wire:
Today, the Maryland Democratic Party sent Political Wire a copy of an email between Steele's communications director and Millbank giving approval for use of Steele's quotes and discussing the terms of the story. The email makes clear Steele's campaign knew about the story in advance and was even given the opportunity to approve the quotes in the story.
Read the rest of this post...

What kind of loser bashes firefighters trying to save his state?

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Conrad Burns. Read the rest of this post...

Threats against judges at record pace

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Disturbing, but not surprising, especially when the GOP makes judge bashing one of their top political priorities:
Threats and inappropriate communications have quadrupled over 10 years ago. There were 201 reported such incidents in the 1996 government spending year and 943 in the year that ended Sept. 30, the Marshals Service said.

This year alone, the Marshals Service has had 822 reports of inappropriate communications and threats, a pace that would top 1,000 for the year.
Read the rest of this post...

US House report criticizes Bush administration intelligence work related to war on terror

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The Bush administration has a pre-September 11 mentality.
U.S. intelligence has a poor understanding of threats against the United States, nearly five years after the September 11 attacks prompted the U.S. war on terrorism, according to a report released on Thursday.

The unclassified report on intelligence reform, issued by a House of Representatives intelligence oversight subcommittee, cited continued weakness in America's spying ability and warned that poor management had placed high-altitude espionage such as spy satellites at risk.
Read the rest of this post...

George Bush's CIA or the Keystone Cops?

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You decide. Read the rest of this post...

Stephen Colbert strikes back

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From Crooks and Liars. Read the rest of this post...

Open thread

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Sushi and Nasdaq went insane over their little catnip toys. I'm still trying to catch it on vid. Tomorrow's big mission: to find a fan (ventilateur, I know now, in French), since there ain't no AC in this friggin country. Read the rest of this post...

$1,318 per second last quarter

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Guess who? Sounds like they also need a juicy tax break, courtesy of the middle class taxpayers. Read the rest of this post...

US Army kicks out Arabic linguist because he's gay

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After all, how important really is stopping the next September 11 when there are more important issues like gays to worry about. The Republicans are simply obsessed with cultural issues, to the expense of national security and every other problem facing this nation. In this case, they went so far as to blatantly violate their own Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, launching an eight-month investigation - eight months, folks - in order to catch this guy simply for being gay. That is simply an absurd waste of resources during war time.

We have yet to catch Osama bin Laden. We are convinced that we will be struck again. And the Bush administration is more interested in wasting time and resources going after gays. This is what the Republican party has become.
A decorated sergeant and Arabic language specialist was dismissed from the U.S. Army under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, though he says he never told his superiors he was gay and his accuser was never identified.

Bleu Copas, 30, told The Associated Press he is gay, but said he was "outed" by a stream of anonymous e-mails to his superiors in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C....

An eight-month Army investigation culminated in Copas' honorable discharge on Jan. 30 -- less than four years after he enlisted, he said, out of a post-Sept. 11 sense of duty to his country.

Copas now carries the discharge papers, which mention his awards and citations, so he can document his military service for prospective employers. But the papers also give the reason for his dismissal.
Finally, read this part of the story. The Army went out of its way to find 'the gay' and kick him out. This isn't just a flagrant violation of policy, it's an incredibly screwed up, and deadly, look at what the Bush administration's, and this Pentagon's, priorities really are. Finding Osama clearly isn't one of them.
Shortly after Copas was appointed to the 82nd Airborne's highly visible All-American Chorus last May, the first e-mail came to the chorus director.

"The director brought everyone into the hallway and told us about this e-mail they had just received and blatantly asked, 'Which one of you are gay?'" Copas said.

Copas later complained to the director and his platoon sergeant, saying the questions violated "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

"They said they would watch it in the future," Copas said. "And they said, even specifically then, 'Well, you are not gay are you?' And I said, 'no.'"
Read the rest of this post...

Senator Harry Reid is victim of identity theft

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Huh. Gosh, do you think privacy might actually be a good issue for Democrats to jump on? Oh that's right, I've been saying this for a good ten months. Silly me.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid discovered this week he was the victim of identity theft after someone used his MasterCard number to charge about $2,000 at a Wal-Mart and other stores in Monroe, North Carolina.

The Nevada Democrat said he found out someone had obtained the number after opening his bill Tuesday night.
There's a part of me that thinks the Democrats don't even deserve to take back Washington. Short of Iraq, there is NO other issue that I can think of that keeps popping into the news with weekly tragedies other than privacy. And the issue, privacy, affects so many issues that progressives care about, from contraception to abortion to gay rights to domestic spying to your tax returns and medical records. This is a perfect issue to stealthily forward a progressive agenda and overtly address the real needs of every single American. It's a no brainer. Or so you'd think. The Democratic party and its leadership are nowhere to be found on this issue.

If they can't seize on political manna from heaven when it drops in their lap twice a week for ten months, then seriously, what good are they?

Sigh. Read the rest of this post...

Almost everyone hates Congress

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28% approval rating for Congress. Bush is at 36. And by the GOP's definition, most Americans hate America:
More than twice as many respondents — 63 percent versus 30 percent — said the Iraq war had not been worth the American lives and dollars lost.
Read the rest of this post...

"Waiting to get blown up"

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US troops speak out about Iraq, and they're not happy:
"It sucks. Honestly, it just feels like we're driving around waiting to get blown up. That's the most honest answer I could give you," said Spec. Tim Ivey, 28, of San Antonio, a muscular former backup fullback for Baylor University....

Spec. Joshua Steffey, 24, of Asheville, N.C... said he wished "somebody would explain to us, 'Hey, this is what we're working for.' " With a stream of expletives, he said he could not care less "if Iraq's free" or "if they're a democracy."
Just remember. You're there because George Bush lied to the country and now is putting his ego above your well-being and the mission. He won't withdraw you, no matter how bad things get, no matter how lost the mission really is, because that would mean admitting a mistake. So, some of you will die - a lot of you will die - to save George Bush's face.

This is what you get when you vote Republican. Read the rest of this post...

A Presidency of dangerous setbacks

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The Washington Post has an article that deconstructs the disaster that is the Bush presidency. It's one failed policy after another. And, the U.S. and the world are more dangerous because of him:
For the president, the timing could not be much worse. In a second term marked by one setback after another, the White House was in the midst of a rebuilding effort aimed at a political comeback before November's critical midterm elections. Now the president faces the challenge of responding to events that seem to be spinning out of control again, all but sidelining his domestic agenda for the moment and complicating his effort to rally the world to stop nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea.

The crisis imperils one of Bush's signature ambitions. This is a president who eschewed Middle East peacemaking of the past as futile, embarking instead on a grand plan to remake the region into a more democratic, peaceful place. A year ago, a wave of reform seemed to take hold. Yet today radicalism is on the rise, Iran is believed to be closer to nuclear weapons and Bush is sending thousands more troops to Baghdad to quell spiraling violence.
This article is worth a read. Almost every paragraph is another compilation of Bush's incompetence. Read the rest of this post...

Thursday Morning Open Thread

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Let's get it started. Read the rest of this post...

Shell quarterly profits only increase 40%

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We really need to help them out, now more than ever. Only $7.32 billion in profit for the previous three months. Read the rest of this post...

Greetings from Paris

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I've arrived.

I'm at Chris in Paris' place, just got in about an hour ago. One of the best bakeries in Paris, at least for croissants, is across the street so I stopped in, luggage and all, as soon as I got off the bus from the airport. I've already downed the two in the photo, working on the third. The cats have welcomed me back like nothing's changed. Little do they know I have cat treats and catnip toys waiting for them in my bag.

Anyway, I'm about to survey the news, then grab a quick nap.

Read the rest of this post...

Another Bush legacy - loss of confidence for the nation

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Crushing the American spirit and dreams for the future: Mission Accomplished.
According to the poll, 65 percent say they feel less confident that life for their children's generation will be better than it was for them. In December 2001, the last time this question was asked, respondents — by a 49-42 percent margin — said they were confident life would be better for their children.

In addition, only 27 percent think the country is headed in the right direction, while 58 percent say they are less confident the Iraq war will come to a successful conclusion.

And among those who believe that the nation is headed on the wrong track, a whopping 81 percent believe it's part of a longer-term decline and that things won't get better for some time. Just 12 percent think the problems are short-term blips.

If the Democrats are unable to capitalize on this in the fall, the party might as well just pack their bags and disappear.

Read the rest of this post...

Bush plan will allow India to build 50 (more) nuclear warheads per year

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With India-Pakistan already in a very tense relationship, I don't see where adding more nukes is going to help settle the situation. I hate to flog a dead horse, but what the hell is Bush thinking? Does the world really need an arms race in the region or anywhere? With the recent deadly bombings in India and the continuing conflict in Kashmir, throwing more bombs into the mix can't possibly be helpful. The GOP congress is trying to add in last minute changes, which India rejected immediately, so it will be interesting to see how they vote in this election year. Read the rest of this post...

NSYNC star is gay

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Hey, I don't make the news, I just report it.

(Glad to see ABC gave a plug to our pal, Andy Towle, from Read the rest of this post...

White House hosts birthday party for Energy bill

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I wish this was a joke or a headline from "The Onion." Unfortunately, it's another joke on the American people. Only the Bush White House and the GOP could be celebrating energy policy these days. They're apparently quite proud of the energy bill that passed last year. But, Think Progess explains what a difference a year makes:
One year ago today, Congress finalized the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which lavished $14.5 billion in tax breaks on energy firms, nearly 60 percent of which went to “oil, natural gas, coal, electric utilities and nuclear power.”

One year ago, the average national gas price was $2.14. Today, it’s $3.00. The country is no closer to ending its addiction to oil, and fuel economy standards are still stuck at 27.5 miles per gallon (where they’ve been for 20 years). Meanwhile, “five of the world’s largest energy companies are expected to report combined second-quarter profits next week of more than $30 billion.”
Yeah, a celebration for screwing the American people. Read the rest of this post...

Retaking Baghdad . . . part deux

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I saw the report that more troops are being moved to Baghdad yesterday, but I wanted to refrain from commenting until numbers were announced. Reports vary slightly, but the New York Times says that the total number of new troops to Baghdad is 8,000, half U.S. and half Iraqi, so let's go with that one.

I don't know how exactly many Iraqi forces are in Baghdad, but according to the Times there are about 7,200 U.S. troops there. So while this increase is a solid percentage change, the actual total number of U.S. troops per Baghdad resident is still extremely low. Baghdad has 6 million people, so we're going to go from 1 U.S. soldier for every 833 Iraqis in Baghdad to 1 per every 536. Further, as of last month, there were reportedly about 45,000 Iraqi forces operating in Baghdad, so this big new operation increases that number by a whopping . . . 11%. I find it very hard to believe that this difference will have a significant effect. As usual, this is a policy change that the administration (and the press) are making sound like a much bigger deal than it really is.

The Times article goes on to say that Baghdad will now be subject to an "oil spot" strategy, wherein areas will be secured and then expanded outwards. In theory, the oil spot idea is generally beneficial in counterinsurgency, as you build local support and control/expand rather than play whack-a-mole like we have been. But, unfortunately, I think it's probably too late for this to be effective. Doing it right will require ceding much of the city to other influences, especially the Shia militias, which will consolidate power and set up mini-governments throughout the various neighborhoods. And because of the relatively small number of total troops, the Coalition will eventually be faced with the choice of either moving troops -- thereby abandoning the oil spot strategy -- or waiting for Iraqi troops to get the numbers and capabilities to take the areas themselves. Don't hold your breath.

But here's the most ridiculous thing: just six weeks ago, there was a much-balleyhooed "Baghdad Offensive," which reportedly involved 75,000 Iraqi and Coalition troops. It was supposed to retake the city, and military leaders and pundits predicted that the insurgents would be routed and order restored. So obviously that didn't exactly go according to plan. And more to the point, if 75,000 couldn't do it, how are an extra 8,000 going to make a difference? Or maybe, just maybe, this announcement is, dare I say, politically motivated? Because six weeks ago, President Bush was making a Surprise Visit to Baghdad, at which he and Prime Minister Maliki announced the massive Baghdad operation. Now Prime Minister Maliki is visiting to the U.S. and there's a new plan to secure Baghdad. Well, I'm sure it's just a coincidence. Read the rest of this post...

Cong. Hinojosa blasts English language bill as "code for official discrimination"

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The GOP wants to make immigrant bashing a campaign issue for their base. Congressman Hinojosa called it what it is:
Congress' standoff over immigration legislation flared into emotional rhetoric Wednesday over a House proposal to make English the nation's official language. A Hispanic lawmaker said that was "code for official discrimination."

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, lashed out at Republicans during a House hearing on the proposal, saying the effort was designed by the House majority to "derail comprehensive immigration reform and fan the flames of anti-immigrant sentiment before the election."
You gotta love the GOP sponsor's response:
Rep. Mark Souder, R-Ind., said without an organized, official language, "we are all going to descend into chaos."
This shows just how out of touch the GOP is. Descend into chaos. Like the chaos in Iraq? Or the chaos after Katrina? Rising oil prices and global warming could descend us in to chaos. But non-english speakers? Get serious. Read the rest of this post...

Scarlet Letter Steele says he was only joking

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Yesterday, in a Washington Post article, we learned that a "GOP Senate Candidate" identified later as Michael Steele was bashing Bush and the GOP. Today, we learn that he was only kidding:
Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele on Wednesday called President Bush his "homeboy," reversed course on having the president campaign for him and said he was joking when he described his Republican affiliation as a scarlet letter.

The Maryland lieutenant governor, under fire for his comments, told WBAL radio that his remarks were supposed to be off the record with a handful of reporters. Instead, Steele's campaign confirmed Tuesday that he was the unnamed Senate candidate who had assailed the Bush administration and Republican-controlled Congress in a story in The Washington Post.

"I've been quoted as calling the president my homeboy, you know. And that's how I feel. ... It's a term of affection and respect for his leadership of our country in a difficult time," Steele, who is black, said in the radio interview.
Let's see. What makes more sense? Telling the truth when one is hiding behind the cloak of "off the record" or telling the truth after you've busted.

Steele, like the rest of his GOP colleagues, can't be trusted. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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

Thanks to the Republicans, the world hates us, more than ever

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The 50% of you (or so) who voted for George Bush and the Republicans have this as the legacy you've given to your children. Call it the Pottery Barn rule of elections: You vote for it, you own it.
Distaste for America runs so deep that, for example, at the recent World Cup in Germany the American team was the only one asked not to display its national flag on the team bus. In South Korea, traditionally a U.S. ally, two-thirds of people under 30 said in a recent poll that if there were war between North Korea and the United States, they would side with North Korea.

"Anti-Americanism runs deeper and is qualitatively different than in the past, when it was largely attributable to unpopular U.S. policies," Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, says in a new book on the subject, "America Against the World."
Read the rest of this post...

Dump Condi, conservatives reportedly telling Bush

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Poor Condi. Yet another bright career on the verge of being destroyed by Team Bush. I particularly like the swipe at Colin Powell never being loyal to Bush.
Conservative national security allies of President Bush are in revolt against Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying that she is incompetent and has reversed the administration's national security and foreign policy agenda.

The conservatives, who include Newt Gingrich, Richard Perle and leading current and former members of the Pentagon and National Security Council, have urged the president to transfer Miss Rice out of the State Department and to an advisory role. They said Miss Rice, stemming from her lack of understanding of the Middle East, has misled the president on Iran and the Arab-Israeli conflict.

"The president has yet to understand that people make policy and not the other way around," a senior national security policy analyst said. "Unlike [former Secretary of State Colin] Powell, Condi is loyal to the president. She is just incompetent on most foreign policy issues."
Miss Rice? Try Dr. Rice. I can't prove it, but I suspect we may have a little case of black-itis going on amongst the conservatives. God forbid the party even consider putting a single (why is that?) black woman at the head of its presidential ticket in 2008. They're looking to take down Condi now. It's also possible that they're looking for a scapegoat for all of Bush's foreign policy disasters. Better to blame the "black chick," the conservatives are thinking, than have Bush's failures be ascribed to the Republican party at large. Read the rest of this post...

Republican bait-and-switch on religion

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Our latest videoblogging from PoliticsTV.

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Top Republican pundit says Bill Clinton is gay

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Ann Coulter is beloved by a large swath of Republicans. When she repeatedly acts like an idiot, we need to remind her fans and all the other Republicans out there that this is who is representing their party, and this is what their party stands for today.

As Charles Barkley said, "I was a Republican, before they lost their minds." Read the rest of this post...

Wash. State Supreme Court upholds gay marriage ban

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Another major setback to the court strategy for gay marriage. This time in Washington State:
The state Supreme Court upheld Washington's ban on gay marriage Wednesday, saying lawmakers have the power to restrict marriage to unions between a man and woman.

The 5-4 decision leaves Massachusetts as the only state to grant full marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. It was the latest in a series of significant court rulings favoring gay marriage opponents.
NOTE FROM JOHN: First, I have to wonder whether we need a cultural and political strategy (answer: YES) to go along with this court strategy. It's not like judges rule in a vacuum. We've done very little to try to convince the public of the rigtheousness of our side in this debate, then we wonder why the courts slam us down. (Having said that, 3 months before the election is NOT the time to run ads on this issue, as noted yesterday.)

Second, we need a political-court strategy - you don't win court cases when conservative GOP judges keep being appointed to the court.

And finally, this "legalize marriage" court strategy looks increasingly like a runaway train, out of our control and stealing all the oxygen from the good work that's been done over the past decade on job discrimination and so much more. You pick your battles strategically. (Well, you do if you want to win, and have any political sense.) No one is saying we roll over and play dead. But I am saying that we only have so much time and so much money - we need to use those limited assets wisely. And blowing the entire wad on marriage strikes me as foolish and counterproductive. Someone in the community with some influence needs to stand up and say "enough already," and get our agenda back. Read the rest of this post...

ConocoPhillips - 65% profit increase last quarter

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Wow. How 'bout a tax break for those folks? Read the rest of this post...

Iraqi tribes begin to assert themselves

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This is actually somewhat encouraging. Iraqi tribes have been largely overlooked in the political process, but in many parts of the country, especially the rural areas, they are the most vital influence on daily life. Many of them fight each other, but relatively few are overtly Islamist, so when confronted with fundamentalists (like those in Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army), some tribes are beginning to push back. The U.S. should be scrambling to engage tribal leaders and supporting detente among tribal elements.

If tribes can help secure rural areas, the support for insurgents and/or Islamist Shia forces may decline, giving them less room to operate and less national legitimacy. Read the rest of this post...

"Yo Blair!" comes to DC, still searching for his dignity

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Must really sting being the leader of a great nation and still playing second fiddle to Condi, who has such a powerful record of success in international affairs. That "special relationship" that everyone loves talking about is only special in that Blair gets invited to the Bush ranch while others are denied that impressive honor. Wow. I love the Blair apologist interviewed in this AFP article who has to stretch all of the way back to Kosovo to find an example of it not being a one-sided relationship. And since Bush?

Uh guys, that was during Clinton and Clinton has been gone for a while. Help me out here, but I can't think of an example of where Blair had any meaningful positive impact on Bush's policies. I would argue the opposite, that without The Poodle going along with the neocon strategy of invading Iraq, Bush probably would have not gone it alone because those 50 troops from Tonga and Mongolia might not have been enough to give Bush enough confidence to invade. Since Bush and Blair have connected, Blair has submitted on the major issues and has been an enabler. Woof, woof. Come get your Beggin' Strips, Tony. Read the rest of this post...

Wednesday Morning Open Thread

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Good morning. What happened overnight? Read the rest of this post...

Reckless tax cuts and wild spending creating problem for Treasury

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The credit card congress strikes again. Hacking at tax revenue for the richest Americans and spend-now-think-later policies are putting the pinch on Treasury who has to find a way to make it all work. The Bush-era GOP magic economic formula sounds a lot like Reagan era voodoo economics except Reagan didn't have the black hole of spending for Iraq to contend with and even so, climbing out of that hole was hard enough.
The report acknowledged the debate delicately, saying "the issue of how, or even if, these policies need to be financed remains a source of discussion among economists."

But the Treasury's view reflects "a recognition the federal government has to finance the tax relief" to avoid a rise in government debt, Robert Carroll, deputy assistant secretary for tax analysis, said in an interview.

The report stressed that the economic effects of extending the tax cuts "depend crucially on whether they are financed by lower spending or higher taxes in the future."

Read the rest of this post...

Bush "Obviously the violence in Baghdad is still terrible"

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Gosh, ya don't say? If the boy in the bubble says it, it's OK but for anyone else to say it, they're anti-American and the reason why the war is failing. Forget that it's failing due to bad policy, it's the critics who are responsible for the violence and chaos. When will the GOP allow an honest discussion on this disaster so we can actually create a plan and move on? Probably not until they lose an election and are forced into a corner, would be my guess. Then again, Bush's recognition of the violence is somewhat of a starting point but we're a long way away. Read the rest of this post...

T-Mobile caves to far-right extremist group

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Michael calls them to task. Read the rest of this post...

A whopping 4% of Americans think "morality" is the nation's top problem

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Honey I shrunk the fundies. Read the rest of this post...

Bush will move more US troops to Baghdad to deal with worsening situation there

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Which begs the question as to where these troops will come from? Elsewhere in Iraq? Probably. But can they be spared elsewhere in Iraq? No. It's not like the rest of Iraq suddenly got better and we have US troops to spare. So now we're going to make the rest of Iraq less safe, and our troops in those regions less safe, to deal with the worsening situation in Baghdad.

Big mess all round. Read the rest of this post...

WTO trade talks dead in the water until at least 2008

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Typical. Everyone is pointing the finger at each other but there's so much blame to go around in this never ending fight to protect special interests and clear desire to avoid competition that would help poor nations develop and pull themselves out of poverty. Despite Americans complaining about the need for poor countries to apply free market trade and help themselves improve their economic situation and despite Europe talking about helping these countries, it's once again bullshit and lies for good PR. (Think neocolonial fishing deals in Africa.)

Let's not kid ourselves with this latest failure and its implications. The top economies of the world obviously prefer this situation and of course they will continue their same old lines in the future but make no mistake, they don't want change. The "free market" talk is just talk. Hell, just look at the so-called free market in the US and how absolutely false and rigged for special interests it is. To even use the phrase "free market" is fraudulent and a sad joke.

Well, I guess everyone can now get back to complaining about those poor nations who just can't go it alone and who always want money and rich countries will write more checks for aid and then keep complaining. Like it or not, we're stuck with this situation until at least after the next presidential election. Read the rest of this post...

Open Thread

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Apparently, the french cuff/scarlet letter Republican hating Republican has revealed himself: It's Michael Steele from Maryland. That was fun.

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

Ancient port uncovered in Turkey

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I love this kind of stuff. Read the rest of this post...

88 million Americans potentially exposed to ID theft since 2005

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Nothing to see here, no possible issue worthy of concern at all. The upside here is that it hasn't reached 100 million, yet. And remember that 88 million is what has been "reported" so it's bound to be a conservative number. Read the rest of this post...

Is GOP Senator George Allen the guy running from his own Republican label?

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The DSCC thinks so. And let me just add, it was George Allen who told me once that he loves French Vanilla coffee. Note the reference to "French cuffs" below. Someone has rather coquette tastes.

Does Allen Think Bush Is A Political Albatross?

Today’s Washington Post features a column about a mystery Republican Senate candidate – who lacked the courage to be identified by name – speaking critically of George Bush and the GOP. From the way this candidate was described, it sounds like it could have been George Allen – someone who is in a tight Senate race and who agrees with Bush over 95% of the time. Even if it wasn’t Allen, though, does Allen agree with Mr. Anonymous?

CLUE: The candidate is “immersed in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country.”
REALITY: Allen has been called “weaker than he ever has been” in his Senate race this year, and his opponent Jim Webb has been called his “worst nightmare.”

CLUE: The candidate stayed off the record “to avoid a public brawl with the White House.”
REALITY: Allen says he supports Bush “when he is right,” which must be 97 percent of the time, because that is how often Allen votes with him.

CLUE: The candidate allowed that he opposes a pullout from Iraq, agrees with Bush's veto of human embryonic stem cell research, and supports constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and flag burning.
REALITY: Allen thinks everything is fine in Iraq, opposes stem cell research, and backs the constitutional amendments.

CLUE: The candidate “hit Bush from the right, such as when he opposed Bush's proposed guest-worker program for immigrants.”
REALITY: Allen voted against the Senate’s immigration reform bill, and accused Bush of making a “straw man argument” on immigration.

CLUE: The candidate wore “a monogrammed shirt, French cuffs sprouting cuff links coordinated with his necktie.”
REALITY: With cowboy boots? Well they do dress funny in California. (Allen’s birthplace)
They dress even funnier in San Francisco. Read the rest of this post...