Saturday, May 07, 2005

Of course your personal identity will be safe with RealID! 

(For more on RealID—the Republican's new RFID-enabled digital national ID—see back here.)

I mean, a RealID is a digital ID, so it would be almost impossible to steal!


Whoops! We Seem to Have Misplaced Your Identity
Iron Mountain [is] the dominating presence in the off-site data protection business. Its customers include more than three-fourths of Fortune 500 companies, and it had revenue of $1.82 billion last year, earned largely out of public sight as its unmarked vans shuttled among the back-office operations of its clients.

Last week, however, Iron Mountain lost the luxury of going about its rounds invisibly. Time Warner, one of its clients, disclosed that personal information - including names and Social Security numbers for 600,000 current and former employees - had gone missing six weeks earlier while in the care of an unnamed "leader in data storage."

Gee, this keeps happening, doesn't it?

The data had been, in fact, in an Iron Mountain van, and the few details about the incident that it and Time Warner have grudgingly divulged - such as the fact that the pick-up at Time Warner was 1 of 19 the van made bouncing around Manhattan on the fateful day - raise all sorts of questions.

To begin with, why would such sensitive information be handled less like a guard-this-with-your-life briefcase entrusted to Brinks than like a fungible bundle handed to the Dy-Dee Diaper Service? Why was the data unencrypted? And why were trucks involved at all?
(via the actually doing some reporting on this on Times)

Of course, RealID information is government information. So maybe I'm just being way too paranoid.

After all, there's no reason to believe that your RealID identity would ever be compromised, right?

I mean, just because you swiped your RealID at the airport wouldn't mean that the airlines would give your ID and your travel plans to the government! Oh, wait, that already happened...

Or just because your political affiliation and ID wer available digitally, that wouldn't mean that "overzealous volunteers" would use it to create blacklists! Oh, wait....

Or just because your political affiliation was known, that wouldn't mean you could be kicked out of your church! Oh, wait...

What a loser 

The guy's such a loser, He has to grab the stage from the President of Latvia, fer gawdsake.

After Bush finished, [Host President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia] then explained that they would take four questions _ one for each president. Again, Bush tried to interrupt, saying, "Or you can have all four questions to me," knowing that foreign reporters usually want to use the opportunity to probe the U.S. president.

Vike-Freiberga ignored the remark as she called on a Latvian journalist, and Bush threw his arms up and looked to help from aides offstage. The Latvian journalist said he would prefer to question the U.S. leader, and Bush responded, "Yeah, I thought that might be the case."
(via WaPo)

Way to hide those insecurities, loser.

NOTE I want to thank Harry Reid for introducing a new level of civility to American political discourse. I was going to call Him an asshole. But loser is so much more polite!

UPDATE I forgot to say: How can a man whose wife can tell a good horse cock joke to a national audience possibly be a loser? Let's be reasonable, here

I didn't know Darwin was a Jew! 

Or an American, for that matter. Anyhow, Islamic creationists are at work too: "Evolution is presented as a conspiracy of the Jewish and American imperialists.". Click through the read the hilarious comment of our home-grown theocrat. Politics does make strange bedfellows...

Pharyngula also has a fine set of links The Kansas Creationist Kangaroo court.


08derby.1843"Personally, I like underdogs. If they lose, it's not a terrible surprise, but if they win, it makes you feel so damned good, like finally somehow, somewhere, somebody got some justice."--Riggsveda


More On Honoring Our War Dead 

As an extension to yesterday's post....

Don't miss T. Bogg's celebration of the government's reluctant decision that it is okay to show flag-covered coffins.

In case my recommendation of this not-to-be-missed post by Lance Manion got lost in my verbiage, here's another chance for you to read it.

I think the kids who died at Kent State some thirty-five years ago deserve to be considered as honorary war dead and The Heretik, in his own inimitable way, memorializes them here and here. Another don't miss; in fact I'd linked to them in a brilliant post on the actual anniversary day of Kent State only to have Blogger gobble it up without remorse before it could be born. (recognizing, of course, that such was Blogger's choice if it so chose)Thus, there is lots more up at The Heretik since these two posts; if you haven't been there in the last two days, just start here and start scrolling.

Cui bono .... 

Let's play Hunt the Boeing! Via the New Pearl Harbor via Kos.

Give the Republicans need a time-out and stop RealID 

So, the "nuclear option" would shut down the legislative branch. Is that such a bad thing? I mean, the Republicans are going so totally crazy—breaking the rules to change the rules, threatening to assassinate judges, politicizing Schiavo, and don't get me started on fiscal policy—that it would be a blessing for the country if we sent them to the quiet corner for awhile. And isn't "giving the Republicans a time-out" a much more family-friendly framing than "the nuclear option"?

And maybe when the time-out is over, the Republicans would remember to use their indoor voices. For a change.

One really good reason to shut down the legislative branch is the RealID bill that Congress is about to send to Bush. RealID is, in essence, a system of internal passport controls. Kinda like Russia not under Stalin, but under the Czars. Tim Sparapani, the ACLU's legislative counsel:

"If the states aren't ready within three years, citizens of states that haven't made the changes won't be able to board a flight, take a train, enter a federal courthouse or even go to a Social Security building," if they use their state-issued driver's license as identification, Sparapani said.

For those states that do comply, he said, "this really does, for the first time, create a national identification card and allows every single American to be tracked by all the states and the federal government."
(via Contra Costa Times)

Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center spells out what this means for our democracy:

"The simple answer is that it gives the government greater ability to control the actions of private individuals. It has generally been the view in this country that one of the core aspects of personal freedom is to be free of government control."

"Identification is a form of coercion. It's a way someone says you can't do what you want to do unless you prove who you are."
(via Village Voice)

The Repubublicans tied the RealID bill onto a military appropriations bill, and sold it as being needed to secure the heimat. Of course, RealID is the mother of all hitchhikers: It has nothing to do with Homeland Security; it's an anti-immigrant provision by the same clowns who brought you the Minuteman:

But many of the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attack had student visas and were at one point in the United States legally. The provisions in "RealID" would not have nabbed them.

We suspect the true targets are illegal immigrants, who won't be deterred from coming across the Mexican border as long as American companies keep hiring them with a wink and a nod.
(our own Inky)

But even if RealID starts as "just" an anti-immigration bill, it won't end that way ("First they came for my Nanny..."). After all, the Czars and Stalin only had paper to work with; but we have digital technology!

If only it were some dystopian fiction, but the Senate is slated to pass the Real ID Act next week, which specifies that by 2008 all Americans who want to enjoy privileges such as bank accounts and air travel will be issued what will most likely be RFID-enabled ID cards (Homeland Security hasn’t completely decided which machine readable technology they’ll use, but they’re leaning heavily towards RFID since the chips are already going to be used in our passports). The card will likely take the place of your driver’s license and will store at the very minimum your name, birthdate, sex, ID number, a digital photograph and address, with the possibility of additional data such as a fingerprint or retinal scan. State DMVs will be receiving federal funds to hand over their databases, with the goal of making each state’s data available to all other states.

And I'm sure after all that data somehow escaped from the highly secure ChoicePoint and LexisNexis systems, we've learned from our mistakes, and the system will be completely secure.

And of course, there's no chance, no chance at all, that all the RealID identities will never, never be exchanged with the likes of MBNA for enforcing debt peonage. Wouldn't that synergy be nice? The Bankruptcy Bill and RealID making beautiful music together?

As a final bonus, the bill also give the unelected head of of the Department of Homeland Security the power to set aside all law:

Finally, just for fun, the bill includes a cheery little fascist measure granting the Secretary of Homeland Security “the authority to waive…all laws such Secretary, in such Secretary’s sole discretion, determines necessary to ensure expeditious construction of the barriers and roads” claimed to be vital to national security. No courts are allowed “to hear any cause or claim arising from any action undertaken, or any decision made, by the Secretary of Homeland Security” in this process, nor to order any relief for damages incurred by the exercise of the Almighty Secretary’s unchecked authority. You don’t have to be a tree-hugger to feel wary of giving the non-elected Secretary such singular power to alter the landscape—especially if those roads cut through your back yard.
(via University of Chicago)

And I just know the Republicans would never abuse the law or the Constitution by expanding "expeditious construction of the barriers and roads" to mean, well, whatever the hell they want it to mean.

The only consolation I can see is that bill requires four pieces of ID to get a driver's license. I'd be happy to see long lines at the DMV hung round the neck of the Republican Party... If, by 2008, we have any shreds of Constitutional government and the rule of law left.

NOTE Donate to the ACLU.

No Contest 

Here's some traditional values for ya:
Liberals: We got Bacall.

Right wingnut McCarthyites: you get this:

Any questions?

Interview: Larry King Live, May 6, 2005:

KING: Wait a minute. Are you a liberal?

BACALL: I'm a liberal. The L word!

KING: Egads!

BACALL: I love it. Being a liberal is the best thing on earth you can be. You are welcoming to everyone when you're a liberal. You do not have a small mind. Little picayune things. You want to welcome everyone. Liberal, little picayune thing.

KING: You're open to...

BACALL: You want to welcome everyone. Liberal, I'm a Roosevelt. I'm a -- and I hear anyone say anything about FDR...

KING: You're a new dealer, fair dealer.

BACALL: I'm a total -- and I was a kid and I'm total, total, total liberal and proud of it. And I think it's outrageous to say the l word. I mean, excuse me. They should be damn lucky that they were liberals here. Liberals gave more to the population of the United States than any other group.

KING: Well, Social Security.

BACALL: Everything.


KING: Very well said. Spoken as a true liberal.

BACALL: Don't knock the liberals.

KING: I'm not.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Man, that mint julep recipe sure looks tasty.

And if I didn't have to limit my intake of all the good things in life due to B.S.S. (Bush Stress Syndrome) I think I'd be having one now...

Back to water and dry crusts in the tiny room under the stairs in The Mighty Corrente Building....

Just wild about Harry! 

But this latest, I just don't get:

"[Bush's] father is a wonderful human being," Reid said in response to a question about President Bush's policies. "I think this guy is a loser.

"I think President Bush is doing a bad job," he added to a handful of chuckles.

"He's driving this country into bankruptcy," Reid said, referring to the deficit. "He's got us in this intractable war in Iraq where we now have about 1,600 American soldiers dead and another 15,000 injured."

After the statement was released, Reid phoned the Review-Journal to acknowledge he thought he crossed the line.

"You know the president is in Europe, probably sleeping," Reid said in an interview this afternoon. "But I called (Karl) Rove and apologized for what I said."
(via Las Vegas Review Journal)

I don't get it.

What's to apologize for? I'm sorry I said that the Emperor has no clothes? WTF?

Anyhow how can a man whose wife can tell a good horse cock joke to a national audience possibly be a loser? Let's be reasonable, here.

Greatest headlines of our time: "Delay calls for greater humility" 

I kid you not:

"Just think of what we could accomplish if we checked our pride at the door, if collectively we all spent less time taking credit and more time deserving it," [Tom "Bug Man"] DeLay told the 54th annual National Day of Prayer gathering on Capitol Hill. "If we spent less time ducking responsibility and more time welcoming it. If we spent less time on our soapboxes and more time on our knees."
(via WaPo)

Heartwarming thought.

But Bug Man needs to give his party more credit: There are plenty of Republicans who spend time on their knees...

Bring Me The Rest Of Ricardo Sanchez 

And all the other military top brass who have been so willing to play war and punishment with this ungodly administration. Riggsveda takes care of the Sanchez "head" here.

I'm not sure I agree that General Karpinski "deserves" this demotion; here's the headline on the Wa Po story:
General Demoted, But Cleared in Abuse Probe
And among the more bitter ironies: whereas it was President Bush himself who selected the three key architects of his Iraq policy for bestowal of the Medal of Freedom...

President Bush approved yesterday an order demoting Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski, the only general to be punished in connection with investigations into detainee abuse at U.S. military prisons.

Karpinski's rank was reduced to colonel, and she was issued a reprimand and relieved of her command. But the Army's inspector general recommended the sanctions based on a broad charge of dereliction of duty, as well as on a charge of shoplifting, essentially clearing her of responsibility for the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison.


Pentagon officials have cited Karpinski's punishment as evidence that the military has taken the Abu Ghraib abuse seriously. But the inspector general's report does not link Karpinski's deficiencies to the abuse and, as reported last week, clears four other top officers who were in charge of the war in Iraq....

I think Riggsveda is right that the Sanchez head on a platter is a sufficient symbolic price for the refusal of this administration to come clean on a policy that was approved at the highest level, a policy that was inherently immoral, undemocratically secretive, contrary to solemn, sworn, commitments made by this country in international agreements entered into voluntarily, (in fact, most of those agreements were the result of US leadership when that phrase meant that a good portion of the world was willing to follow such leadership), and which ultimately managed to make us less secure while it damaged our reputation around the world.

Still, it seems to me we need a sequel to plumb the depths of the failures of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, for which General Sanchez is but a handy symbol. Chief among these failures would have to be the deaths and injuries suffered by our own troops and so many more of the Iraqi people. And by "failures" I don't merely mean the decision to go to war, I mean the way it was waged and the way the occupation that followed was conceived of and administered.

However, since we are approaching Memorial Day at the end of this month, let's stay focused on the young men and woman and their families who have suffered the greatest loss. I can't find a better way to do that than to point you to an wonderful post/essay by Lance Manion currently available at his eponymous blog.. I will say no more about it; trust me and go and read it here. And the comments as well. Lance links to three related posts by Tom Watson you should also read, along with the comments, which ask questions about our lack of a national way to grieve..

Both bloggers are accused of using the deaths of soldiers to advance a political agenda. Falsely. The critics have their own politics, of course, but what I found most disappointing was their inability to read the language in which both Tom and Lance speak of our national loss. Words matter, the way words are put together matter. The voice in which these posts are written rings true, and it is an insult to that which unites us as Americans across political differences, not to be able to hear that truth.

Tom also posits a suggestion for the upcoming Memorial Day, about which Lance has questions with which I agree. However, there is something appealing about blogtopia (thank-you skippy) as a whole finding some way to grieve for those of our American families who are the ones who have directly experience the most tragic loses ensuing from our engagement in Iraq. See what you think. Then let Tom, Lance, and/or us know.

I'm usually reluctant to link to old posts of mine, I did some thinking of my own on this subject in November, 2003, stimulated by the occasion of Veterans' Day. If you're interested to see what things looked like back then, you can find the related posts, here, here, and here.

*Corrected for errors caused by the wrong draft being published.

Mint Julep Blogging 

In honor of the venerable Kentucky Derby, I offer you Mint Julep Blogging Friday,top_mint_julep and a little something to go with--a story on making the perfect julep, and a recipe for it as well. First, the recipe:

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water (branch water is ideal)
Fresh Mint
Crushed Ice
Kentucky bourbon (2 ounces per serving)

Make a simple mint syrup by boiling sugar and water together for 5 minutes; cool. (This recipe makes enough syrup for 44 juleps.) Place in a covered container with 6 or 8 bruised mint sprigs. Refrigerate overnight.
Make a julep by filling a julep cup or glass with crushed ice well-packed into the cup, then adding 1 tablespoon of mint syrup and 2 ounces of bourbon. Stir rapidly with a spoon to frost outside of cup or glass. Garnish with a fresh mint sprig and a straw cut short enough so that you almost bury your nose in the mint as you sip.

And now, the story, from a 1937 letter at the Buckner Family website:

"Go to a spring where cool, crystal-clear water bubbles from under a bank of dew-washed ferns. In a consecrated vessel, dip up a little water at the source. Follow the stream through its banks of green moss and wildflowers until it broadens and trickles through beds of mint growing in aromatic profusion and waving softly in the summer breezes. Gather the sweetest and tenderest shoots and gently carry them home. Go to the sideboard and select a decanter of Kentucky Bourbon, distilled by a master hand, mellowed with age yet still vigorous and inspiring. An ancestral sugar bowl, a row of silver goblets, some spoons and some ice and you are ready to start.

In a canvas bag, pound twice as much ice as you think you will need. Make it fine as snow, keep it dry and do not allow it to degenerate into slush.

In each goblet, put a slightly heaping teaspoonful of granulated sugar, barely cover this with spring water and slightly bruise one mint leaf into this, leaving the spoon in the goblet. Then pour elixir from the decanter until the goblets are about one-fourth full. Fill the goblets with snowy ice, sprinkling in a small amount of sugar as you fill. Wipe the outsides of the goblets dry and embellish copiously with mint.

Then comes the important and delicate operation of frosting. By proper manipulation of the spoon, the ingredients are circulated and blended until Nature, wishing to take a further hand and add another of its beautiful phenomena, encrusts the whole in a glittering coat of white frost. Thus harmoniously blended by the deft touches of a skilled hand, you have a beverage eminently appropriate for honorable men and beautiful women.

When all is ready, assemble your guests on the porch or in the garden, where the aroma of the juleps will rise Heavenward and make the birds sing. Propose a worthy toast, raise the goblet to your lips, bury your nose in the mint, inhale a deep breath of its fragrance and sip the nectar of the gods.

Being overcome by thirst, I can write no further."
Me, too.

As usual... 

it's always about the money:
A year after FBI and Homeland Security agents raided his home in a terrorism investigation, Muslim businessman Syed Maswood is lucky to get on an airplane without being detained and searched.

But that didn't stop him from getting an invitation to dine with President Bush.

Maswood, a nuclear engineer who has not been charged with any crime and has been trying for months to get his name off no-fly lists, received an invitation to serve as an honorary chairman at the President's Dinner, a Republican fundraiser with Bush in Washington next month.
(via AP)
That's hilarious, isn't it?

Tells you just how much this stuff we hear from W about the "war on terra" really means, huh?

Faith-Based Economy 

I’m trying hard to make sense of the economic news. Granted, I’m no economist, and I’m lousy at capitalism, but I’m reasonably intelligent and should be able to figure this out. Unless the idea is to make it so complicated that nobody can figure it out.

First, jobs were added in April, but mostly from what I can tell, McJobs in the “retail and service sectors,” while manufacturing is still tanking. So, jobs that don’t pay well or carry benefits are being added.

Yet, “consumer confidence” is down, and unemployment remains the same.

The logic of this defies me. If consumers aren’t buying, how in the hell are jobs being added in retail and services? Unless we’re talking about dollar stores and Waljobs (which is like a job, but not really). And how does unemployment stay the same when jobs are being added? It must be a numbers game. Especially when I hear about all of these massive layoffs.

Economic growth is dropping, but productivity is up. So, more people are working harder to produce more, but that doesn’t translate into growth. Huh? And, in my simple mind, if the jobs that are mostly available are in retail or service, what the hell are these workers producing at a greater rate? Ten McBurgers a minute instead of five? Five shoe sales an hour instead of three?

And the stock market wankers are excited about this. Why? They make more money on their stocks when the workers are getting screwed, I guess.

Wait, if most folks are spending more and more of their income on housing and fuel, how are they affording burgers and shoes? Maybe the retail and service industries include credit card companies? You know, those folks who call the poor schmucks who are late on their payments with threatening messages?

Most people I know who are lucky enough to have decent jobs still live from check to check, and who would be mad enough to live on credit unless they absolutely had to, especially with the new screw-the-sick-and-poor bankruptcy “reform”? Even those with benefits are one serious illness away from going down in flames, and there is no help for those who are employed but don’t have benefits. A diabetic friend of mine was hospitalized following a bout of flu that left his metabolism all out of whack, his kidneys shutting down, and all other manner of badness. He was employed making about $24K at a non-profit and was already signed up with one of those credit counseling places to make reduced payments to creditors. No benefits, but he “made too much” to qualify for any kind of aid. So they wanted to stiff him for $200 a month to pay off a $12,000 hospital bill. He was barely making enough to scrape by already, living with friends, buying insulin and test strips and such without script insurance, making his payments to the credit counseling place. He eventually went bankrupt, and just in time, too. You can bet he was on the phone and mail, but that bastard Salazar voted for the bill anyway, along with 72 other Dems.

I know, none of this is news. But I heard all this chirping on the radio this morning about the "great economic news" and began throwing things and ranting.

The economy is GOOD? Good for whom? Arrrggghh! Sorry. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Bring Me The Head Of Ricardo Sanchez! 

Can you tell I've been feeling shrill lately?
Well, is it any wonder when you see things like this:

"The Army announced that it demoted Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, whose Army Reserve unit was in charge of the prison compound during the period of abuse. Dropping her in rank to colonel required approval from President Bush, and officials said that he granted it on Thursday.
The Army also said it cleared three other, more senior generals of wrongdoing in the prisoner abuse cases, actions that had been previously reported but not publicly confirmed by the Army."
In the meantime:
"Among those cleared by the Army was Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who was the top Army general in Iraq at the time of the prisoner abuses. He has been faulted by some for leadership failures but has never been accused of ordering or sanctioning any abuse of prisoners.
The Army said it could not substantiate two allegations against Sanchez: dereliction in the performance of duties pertaining to detention and interrogation operations and improperly communicating interrogation policies."
The memos! the memos!!

This is so typical...a macro version of placing the blame on a few bad low-level apples. Now that the Army has a head on the pike representing the higher-ups, there will be no need to pretend to care anymore. Karpinski becomes the pelt on the barn wall for Army "justice."

I'm not saying she doesn't deserve it--she does. But she knows that she's being made the convenient scapegoat (and she's been screaming it from the rooftops), and there are so many bigger culprits who will escape because of this symbolic action. Like, say, Ricardo Sanchez, who is being sued by the ACLU for having "direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody" , and Colonel Thomas Pappas, who commanded US military intelligence and police forces and is also being sued by the ACLU on behalf of torture victims because his "policies, patterns, practices, derelictions of duty and command failures caused Plaintiffs’ abuse."

Shrill? I not only want Sanchez on a platter, I want Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney surrounding him with decorative sprigs of dill and a drizzle of chipotle-ancho mayonnaise. Then I'll feed the whole thing to the pigs.

Next We'll Tackle Spontaneous Generation 

The Kansas B of E sitch offers a good time to re-visit a case in York, PA that blew up last November. I offer here a post I did on my own site back then, "Calling Clarence Darrow":

South of Harrisburg, Pennsylvanians in the Dover Area School District have adopted a familiar tack: bringing religion into the classroom.
“The rural, 3,600-student school district, 20 miles south of Harrisburg, is the first in the nation to require the teaching of "intelligent design," a theory that holds that the complexity of the natural world offers overwhelming evidence of a supernatural force at work.”
Not Christianity, per se, but the concept that a deity, not random chance or evolution as understood by scientists, is responsible for the progression of life as it exists. But there is no question that the people who pushed this agenda are Christian fundamentalists who believe in creationism and see this as a way to begin the introduction of that more blatant concept into the school.

"‘The only thing we want to do is provide a balanced playing field for the students, as opposed to just hearing about the theory of evolution,’ said school board member William Buckingham, a self-described creationist.”
Of course, since the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that teaching creationism was unconstitutional, the fundies have been not only fighting that decision, but coming up with something a little slicker to slip in, in its stead. In the meantime, that leaves the teachers, who of course would be the last people anyone would consult, confused and worried about what the outcome may be:

“The high school's three biology teachers, meanwhile, are wondering just what they are supposed to teach. They say they had no input into the new curriculum and worry that they could be sued.”
For those not familiar with it, “Intelligent Design” ostensibly stands alone as simply an idea that a god or supernatural being has set the forces of the universe into motion. But there is no question that it puts theology into the classroom, not as an idea to be studied critically, but as an alternate view of how the world was formed. Writings of Fellows from The Discovery Institute, which underwrites ID research, reveal a politically conservative agenda focused on supporting right-wing Republicans and their policies, and a careful monitoring of creationism legal fights across the nation. Millionaire Howard Fieldstead Ahmanson, deeply involved with the Christian Reconstructionists, poured millions of dollars into supporting the Institute in his attempts to discredit evolution theory. Concerned Women for America gleefully cites the Institute as an ally in its fight to eliminate evolutionary teaching on a webpage dripping with fundamentalist bile.
I don’t have the expertise nor the desire to get into an argument defending evolution here. I’ll leave that to the incomparable Stephen Jay Gould, God rest his soul, who tried endlessly to make people understand that just because evolution was a”theory” did not mean it was untrue or based on error. As he said in Hens’ Teeth and Horses’ Toes, Further Reflections in Natural History:

“Well, evolution is a theory. It is also a fact. And facts and theories are different things, not rungs in a hierarchy of increasing certainty. Facts are the world's data. Theories are structures of ideas that explain and interpret facts. Facts do not go away when scientists debate rival theories to explain them. Einstein's theory of gravitation replaced Newton's, but apples did not suspend themselves in mid-air, pending the outcome. And humans evolved from apelike ancestors whether they did so by Darwin's proposed mechanism or by some other yet to be discovered.”
Funny, though, I’ve never heard anyone adequately explain how accepting the ideas of evolution renders belief in a purposeful creator untenable. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. In the meantime, for a good read on the anti-ID arguments, The Skeptic’s Dictionary has a worthwhile page.

The Earth Does NOT Revolve Around The Sun 

"My dear Kepler, what would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the pertinacity of the asp, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Shall we laugh, or shall we cry?"
--Letter from Galileo Galilei to Johannes Kepler

I've had the luxury of extra time at the keyboard the past few days, but today, time is tight, as Booker T and the MGs could tell you if they were still around.

In the meantime, I'm still marveling at the unintelligent design of the Kansas Board of Education and their pursuit of backwardness:
"Beaming from a laptop to a wide screen, the scientists showed textbook pictures of chicken, turtle and human embryos to try to undermine the notion that all species had a common ancestry. Diagrams of complex RNA molecules were offered as evidence of a designed universe. Dr. Harris displayed a brochure for his Intelligent Design Network, which is based in Kansas, depicting a legal scale with "design" and "evolution" on each side and the words "religion" and "naturalism" crossed out in favor of "Scientific Method."
"You can infer design just by examining something, without knowing anything about where it came from," Dr. Harris said, offering as an example "The Gods Must be Crazy," a film in which Africans marvel at a Coke bottle that turns up in the desert. "I don't know who did it, I don't know how it was done, I don't know why it was done, I don't have to know any of that to know that it was designed."
Can any of you folks out there tell me how looking at pictures of chicken and turtle embryos proves anything at all? "You can infer design by just examining something"? What is that supposed to prove? Meantime, the real scientists and their allies are across the street trying to get a fair hearing from the media by plying them with food, and the whole thing gets weirder by the minute.

Can the trial of Galileo be far behind?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Howie the Whore has awfully thin skin!

Way down at the end of his latest screed, he writes:

Finally, a Daily Kos poster named acbonin criticized The Washington Post's Brian Faler for writing an "occasionally accurate article" on whether the FEC should impose requirements on bloggers. Then he writes:

"As Brian Saler frames it..."

Faler, Saler. Looks like occasional accuracy isn't limited to the Old Media.
(via Wapo)

I love it. Millionaire pundit Howie criticizes a blogger working for free. And for what? A spelling error.

Alpo Accounts: Rep. Bill Thomas? We remember Rep. Bill Thomas! 

Apparently, Rep. Bill Thomas is now the Republican pointman on Bush's Social Security phaseout:

With President Bush's top domestic priority fading fast, Republicans once again have turned to one of their least liked but most effective colleagues: Rep. Bill Thomas, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.

The California Republican saved President Bush's tax cut in 2003, has never lost a vote on the floor and, despite resistance among other House GOP leaders, is poised once again to try to revive the president's proposal to add personal investment accounts to Social Security.
(via WaPo)

Yes, we remember Bill Thomas. He's the guy who tried to have the Capitol Police arrest Democrats on the House floor.

Thomas was a fruitcake then, and he's a fruitcake now.

Hey, good luck to him! I mean, so long as he doesn't try to have Democrats arrested on the House floor again. Too, too '30s Berlin, know what I mean?

Anonymous sources 

As you can see, I'm plowing through The Amazin' Froomkin's online transcript, and it's interesting. I'm actually getting the picture of a Front Page-like reporter who cares about his craft:

Dan Froomkin: That's a very interesting point. Perhaps one solution, short of eliminating [anonymous sources], would be better explaining them to our readers. So: "Blah blah," said a senior administration official who, while anonymous, was designated by the White House to speak on President Bush's behalf." Whaddaya think?
(via WaPo)

Yeah, I knew Hildy Johnson, and, Dan Froomkin, you're no Hildy Johnson, but still, it's nice to see a journalist who cares about the craft.

Maybe, just maybe, there's hope for Pravda on the Potomac, unlike the hopelessly confused, deluded, and drifting toward the shoals Isvestia on the Hudson....

Good journalism 


My role is both to report events and hold the powerful accountable. That's what good journalists do.
(via WaPo)

Damn straight.

And I think that fella who threw the money changers out of the temple... Damn, what was his name? It'll come to me in a minute... Would agree with Dan.

"We create our own reality." 

But Republicans prefer to create their realities in the dark, or behind closed doors, or under rocks, where nobody can see. So it's rare to see a Republican creating reality right out in the open...

But leave it to Doug Feith to draw back the veil:

One day, I asked Feith to describe the importance to him of Lincoln. He admires Lincoln, he said, for many reasons, but in particular for the stalwart way that Lincoln confronted evil. When I suggested that Feith might also admire Lincoln because Lincoln shifted the rationale for his war in the middle of the fighting, Feith replied, with enthusiasm, “I never thought of that. That’s right.”

His answer surprised me. I had expected him to say something like “The Bush Administration has not changed the rationale for the war.”

The next morning, Feith telephoned. He had evidently been thinking about his answer, because he had searched out a better one. He found it in an article by Nicholas Lemann, published in this magazineshortly before the beginning of the war, in which Feith was quoted as saying: “When you can think that if we do things right, and if we help the Iraqis, and if the Iraqis show an ability to create a humane representative government for themselves—will that have beneficial spillover effects on the politics of the whole region? The answer, I think, is yes.”

He read this to me and added, “I must say, I’m damn proud of that sentence. That was right on the nose.”

Feith, though, had left out part of what he told Lemann. “Would anybody be thinking about using military power in Iraq in order to do a political experiment in Iraq in the hope that it would have positive political spillover effects throughout the region?” he asked Lemann. “The answer is no.” He continued: “What we would be using military power for, if we have to, would be the goals the President has talked about, particularly the elimination of the chemical and biological weapons, and preventing Iraq from getting nuclear weapons.”

(via New Yorker)

The first step in decieving others is decieving yourself.

Feith-based policy!

The Itch You Just Can't Scratch 


Via Fables of the Reconstruction, via iFlipFlop.

Sometimes a good visual joke just can't be improved on.


Intellectual Piracy 

films Don't think these scurvy dogs will get away with this:
"TOPEKA, May 5 -In the first of three daylong hearings characterized here as the direct descendant of the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, a parade of Ph.D.'s testified today about the flaws they find in Darwin's theory of evolution, transforming a small auditorium into a forum on one of the most controversial questions in education and politics: How to teach about the origin of life?
The hearings by the Kansas State Board of Education- one part science lesson, one part political theater - were set off by proposed changes to Kansas's science standards intended to bring a more critical approach to the teaching of Darwinism. The sessions provided perhaps the highest-profile stage yet for the emerging movement known as intelligent design, which asserts that life is so intricately complex that an architect must be behind it. Critics argue that intelligent design has no basis in science and is another iteration of creationism."
Infidels! Poseurs! Hand in your sheepskins and reveal yourselves for what you are: mumbling flaks for the most inexcusable retreat from enlightenment ever inflicted on a so-called civilized people.

This insult will not go unanswered.

Could Someone Please Explain? 

To piggyback on Riggsveda's perfect, ideogramic (if that isn't a word it should be; think graphic haiku) post on the rupture of Lyndie England's plea agreement -- could someone please explain to me how it is that Charles Graner is serving a ten year sentence after having been convicted of all counts in a court martial in which the maximum sentence he faced was 15 years, while Lyndie England "originally faced charges that could have sent her to jail for 38 years," which her plea agreement reduced to 11?

There is something admirable about the insistence in our military code of justice that a guilty plea must truly be a recognition of guilt and an eschewal of all defenses of one's illegal actions, although I can understand why England's lawyers tried to present mitigating evidence to get her a lesser sentence than Graner, or am I just crazy in thinking that he has a higher level of responsibility for what happened than Pvt. England?

The straight-up reporting by T.R. Reid in the Washington Post of why England's plea was set aside still leaves me scratching my head that even as lame an institution as our SCLM has shown so little interest in connecting the dots that link Abu Graib to Guantanomo to rendition to the highest levels of this administration.

When the president's name was Clinton, that used to happen within the first twenty-four hour news cycle, whether the dots were real or were actually connectable. Remember when the first charges surfaced that China had managed to penetrate our most closely held secrets regarding our missile technology by means of espionage, and in less than 24 hours, Tim Russert was comparing "the scandal" to the Rosenbergs and the loss of the secret of the atom bomb to the Russians, and linking it exclusively to the policies of the Clinton administration. It mainly turned out to be nonsense, of course, because the leaks had been shaped to present a false picture. But that should have been immediately evident, when one considers the fact that the hardest piece of evidence, a Chinese test of a missile that appeared to utilize American technology, had happened under the first Bush administration, a moment in history for which even the idiot press were invited to meet with every Sunday should have had a difficult time making Clinton responsible.

On the other hand, compare that with just a few of the dots, actually huge smears of mud, presented in this report of what happened at the England trial yesterday.

The surprise mistrial in the high-profile prosecution does not mean the reservist will go free. The Army can charge England, 22, again and even add counts.

But the judge's rejection of her guilty plea -- together with evidence at her sentencing hearing that senior Army commanders tolerated chaotic, dangerous and illegal conditions at the notorious prison outside Baghdad -- could undermine the Pentagon's assertion that the Abu Ghraib scandal was solely the fault of a small clique of enlisted soldiers.


Since her hearing began this week, the judge, Col. James L. Pohl, had expressed skepticism about her admission of guilt. His decision to stop the hearing followed testimony Wednesday morning from a former Abu Ghraib prison guard, Pvt. Charles A. Graner Jr. A military jury in January rejected Graner's argument that he had been following orders and convicted him of abuse at the prison; he is now serving a 10-year sentence for his role in the scandal.

Graner, who in civilian life worked as corrections officer, said that the widely circulated photo of England holding a naked prisoner on a leash was not abuse, but rather a standard method guards use to control unruly prisoners.

One of the charges against England was that she "did conspire" with Graner to mistreat prisoners. If Graner and England believed that use of the leash was proper, the judge concluded, there was no crime.

There is no finding of guilt that can be accepted any longer," Pohl said.

England was an office clerk who had no training as a prison guard when the Army assigned her to Abu Ghraib. She told the judge earlier this week that she followed Graner's direction in the prison "because he was an MP [military police], he had the corrections officer background. He was older than me."


The judge initially expressed concern Monday when England told him she was following the direction of higher-ranking soldiers when she posed for the pictures. Pohl told her that this statement could jeopardize her guilty plea. England then conferred with her lawyers and changed her explanation, saying she knew at the time that what she did was wrong.

Pohl's doubts emerged again Tuesday, when a school system counselor from England's home town, Mineral County, W.Va., testified that she was always a "compliant personality" who preferred to "listen to authority figures."

The judge interrupted this testimony to comment that "you're creating some inference that she had trouble knowing right from wrong."

Other witnesses testifying on England's behalf Tuesday described Abu Ghraib as a putrid, dangerous, overcrowded facility where inmates and their U.S. guards were constantly sick, U.S. soldiers received minimal training and Army commanders failed to apply the Geneva Conventions.

A military doctor who worked at the prison, Col. David Auch, said: "I do not condone what [England] did, but we cannot ignore the lack of leadership her unit received. The chain of command as a whole failed her."

It is now up to the chain of command here at Fort Hood to determine England's legal fate. With no charges pending against her, she will be assigned to office duties, Fort Hood officials said. Her case essentially reverts to the beginning for a third time; England's charges had been thrown out once before when her case was moved from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Fort Hood.

Fort Hood's commander, Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, as the "convening authority" of the Abu Ghraib courts-martial, will decide whether England should be charged again. "He could order another general court-martial. He could call for less stringent punishment. He could even drop the charges," said Capt. Cullen Sheppard, a lawyer in Fort Hood's judge advocate general's corps.

I think he'll have to charge her again, won't he? That's all part of the "a few bad apples" show, isn't it?

Of course, these soldiers are still responsible for what they did; we no longer accept "I was only following orders" as a defense against personal responsibility. I have fewer arguments with the way the military has handled this "scandal" than I have with the way the SCLM has persistently pretended that the Bush administration bears no responsibility for an outrage that has damaged this country at least as much as did what happened on 9/11, for which, interestingly enough, the Bush administration has also never been held to have any responsibility.

This administration has let the military be hung out to dry, when, in fact, it was not the military that came up with the idea that the Geneva Conventions are obsolete. Does anyone else wonder what the second rung of the command really thinks about Donald Rumsfeld?

Just a reminder that it was perfectly possible to "get it" way back in the Spring of 2004, here's what Sid Blumenthal was saying then.

Options & Leadership 

More on Peak Oil, and the politics of consumption, from Richard Heinberg of the New College of California, in an article written by Melanie Gosling for the Cape Times of South Africa. WARNING: Reading this may bum you out. Here’s the gist:

Natural gas extraction will peak a few years after oil, extraction rates for coal will peak in decades, nuclear energy is dogged by unresolved problems of waste disposal and solar and wind energy will have to undergo rapid expansion if they are to replace even a fraction of the energy shortfall from oil. And the enthusiasm about a hydrogen economy comes from politics rather than science, he said.

"Our real problem is that we are trapped in a perpetual growth machine. As long as modern societies need economic growth to stave off collapse (given existing debt-and-interest-based national currencies), we will continue to require ever more resources yearly. But the Earth has limited resources.

"The energy conundrum is thus intimately tied to the fact that we anticipate perpetual growth within a finite system," Heinberg said.

He sketches four main options available in response:

1. Following the US leadership in competing for remaining resources through wars;
2. Wishful thinking that the market or science will come to the rescue;
3. Assuming that we are already in the early stages of disintegration, devoting our energies to preserving the most worthwhile cultural achievements of the past few centuries.
4. "Powering down" - reducing energy resource use drastically through economic sacrifice, reducing the population size and developing alternative energy sources.

"The sooner we choose wisely, the better off we and our descendants will be," Heinberg said.

“Following the U.S. leadership…” The one area where we could lead with our hearts, and we're leading with imperialism, at the end of a gun barrel.

Oh, and Ira Chernus reminds us that the Pentagon is making first-strike plans for the use of its overstock of WMD's: New US Plan for Nuclear Intimidation

So option #1 isn't going to end anytime soon.

It's An Epidemic! 

Thanks to the heads up from alert reader yank in london, who in comments at my last post provided a link to New Scientist on the upcoming HPV vaccine that will prevent most cervical cancers, we read this:
"The trouble is that the human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted. So to prevent infection, girls will have to be vaccinated before they become sexually active, which could be a problem in many countries.
In the US, for instance, religious groups are gearing up to oppose vaccination, despite a survey showing 80 per cent of parents favour vaccinating their daughters. "Abstinence is the best way to prevent HPV," says Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council, a leading Christian lobby group that has made much of the fact that, because it can spread by skin contact, condoms are not as effective against HPV as they are against other viruses such as HIV.
"Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a licence to engage in premarital sex," Maher claims, though it is arguable how many young women have even heard of the virus."
As mentioned, to be effective the vaccine will have to be given to girls just before they are sexually active, and the best age for this is believed to be about 12 years old. This creates two problems in the puritanical/patriarchal mind: giving the vaccine could be perceived as giving permission to have sex, and getting it would impugn a girl's purity prior to marriage.

This was actually anticipated back in November in an article in November's Technology Review, that quoted spokeswomen from the Abstinence Clearinghouse, Concerned Women For America, and Family Research Council. And from them we get the usual reasoned, fair, and logical arguments we've come to expect:
"This thing is motivated by money as usual—and in a worldview that not everyone subscribes to,” says Leslee Unruh, founder of the Abstinence Clearinghouse. Unruh believes that abstinence-only sexual education offers a better approach to preventing the spread of all sexually transmitted diseases. Other Christian values groups, such as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, echo her point of view.
"We know that there is what could easily be called an epidemic of HPV infection, and that needs to be taken seriously,” says Pia de Solenni, an ethicist who serves as director of life and women's issues at the Family Research Council. “However, our concern would be that [a vaccine] really isn't comprehensive, especially when you're talking about administering it to 12-year-olds. It's important to focus on abstinence.” Abstinence, Solenni notes, would prevent not just HPV, but an array of other sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
Many find the idea of incorporating the vaccine into school-entry requirements particularly troubling. “We need to look at this with a serious moral perspective and talk about it some more instead of just imposing it on every parent and every child,” says Wendy Wright, senior policy director of Concerned Women for America . “We're not saying don't make this vaccine available.” But, she adds, giving the vaccine at an early age sends a message. “What they've done is told this 12-year-old, ‘You can now become sexually active,'” she says. “Perhaps they could adjust this vaccine so that it could be taken at a later age.” Solenni concurs, saying that although she still wouldn't endorse it, the vaccine would best be offered only to people who are at least 18 years old. The only form of prevention she supports is abstinence from any sex outside marriage."
What a fucked up world. This is a VACCINE, assholes, not a diaphragm! It's supposed to save their lives!! It's like a polio shot, fools!

Can't somebody do something about the rampant stupidity infecting this country? Isn't there a vaccine fot that?

A Billion Here, A Billion There... 

Shocking, just shocking, the fiscal irresponsibility of Bu$hCo. Or at least it would be if we weren’t living in Bizzaro America. I mean, it’s even worse than we thought. It just never fails—as soon as you think the lying and looting can’t get worse, it does. According to AP:

Iraq became awash in billions of dollars in cash after the U.S. invasion two years ago, often with few or no controls over how that money was spent and accounted for. From the $8.8 billion provided to Iraq's interim government to millions provided to U.S. contractors, investigations have detailed a system ripe for abuse.

The latest indication of that came Wednesday when investigators released a report saying $96.6 million in cash could not be properly accounted for. The total included more than $7 million that was simply gone, according to the report from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

But it’s okay, because congress has refused to allocate any more funds for King George’s Splendid Little War, realizing that it’s a waste of lives and money.

Oh, wait…House Approves $81.4 Billion Iraq War Package

$81.4 billion would buy health coverage for how many kids? How many schools could we build for that? Find out at National Priorities Project

Are You Sick Of Bad News? 

Well, look no further, because we here at corrente are dedicated to not only keeping you informed as to the most egregious horrors of day-to-day life, but also to bringing you the most joyous tidings, as well. Like this:
"Thousands of lives could be saved by a new vaccine that could virtually wipe out cervical cancer when it becomes available next year, it has been reported.
Doctors believe the drug could even end the need for regular smear tests.
The drug, administered with three injections for young girls before they become sexually active, would boost the immune system against the human papiloma virus."
HPV is believed to be the most common factor in developing cervical cancer. Over half a million cases of the cancer are diagnosed each year. Last year it was estimated that over 10,500 women in the the U.S. contracted the disease, despite pap smears and other preventive measures. Of those, almost 4000 were estimated to have died. And it hits African-American women much harder--the death rate is 6.7 per 100,000 for black women, compared to 2.5 per 100,000 for white women.

Pap smears are regular centerpieces in the lives of most women, a yearly requirment growing out of a low-level fear that never goes away. The possiblity of virtually eliminating this fear is well worth celebrating.

Santorum's occcluded privatization front 

Today's temperature is the exclusive property of:
What with being a leading proponent of the Cheney/Bush administration's scheme to divert Social Security funds to Wall Street, overturning Roe v Wade, and preventing homosexuals from undermining the very foundations of this great land, you'd think Ricky would have enough on his plate.

But no. Now he has, in a way, taken up Charles Dudley Warner's 108-year-old challenge: "Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Ricky doesn't propose to actually do anything about the weather, but he is determined to make sure that only certain people talk about it.


According to the Tribune-Review, The National Weather Services Duties Act of 2005, introduced by Ricky on April 14, would, if passed, "bar the National Weather Service from providing any service that competes with the private sector."

In other words, American taxpayers, whose dollars support the NWS, would not, if this wacky legislation were to become law, be able to obtain weather information from that source, because the same or similar service is provided by private weather forecasting companies such as AccuWeather, and the Weather Channel.

Uh oh!, MSNBC is reporting a broken fire hydrant in California, really, I'm not making this up, they even have dramatic helicopter video of the big event. Lots of water spraying around. Very exciting. CNN is half heartedly reporting on a couple of "explosions" in NYCity (fifty first and 3rd Ave) which appears to have maybe (or maybe not) have blown out the back window in an SUV parked in the vicinity of the Bristish consulate. Apparently no-one is dead or injured or really too scared at this point but nevertheless it's a potential eye-popper for the wowsers at both CNN (what isn't these days,) and now MSNBC. I'm sure they'll further refine some mini-drama later this morning.

UPDATE: MSNBC is now reporting that one of the "explosions" was an "echo." No wait, two explosions. No wait, one, no wait two, no wait.... Anyway, according to CNN, so far, the explosive event includes a "novelty-type grenade," an "improvised explosive device," a "toy," a "pineapple," a "lemon," etc... deposited in or near a "planter." That ought to keep the big rogue fire hydrant story buried under the fold. Even if MSNBC does have helicopter video footage. Ha ha. Tough luck MSNBC. Big Media News is a cutthroat racket. Okie dokie.

Hey, you there, wanna buy a barometric pressure reading?


Or Was That "Ringmaster"? 

Already the spin has begun on the Lynndie England trial:

"Judge Tosses Out Abuse Plea After the Ringleader Testifies" reads the head on the NYTimes front page. "Ringleader" being applied in this case to that paragon of masculinity, Charles Graner.


You want "ringleader"?



Suagarland Swaggerdaddy and Comstock Annie! 

...and other poisonous creatures -- Via UNDERNEWS, "the online report of the Progressive Review"...

Curcuit Rider Coulter's Carnival of Comstockery:
YASHODA SAMPATH, DAILY TEXAN - Incessant heckling and shouting culminated in an arrest Tuesday night during a speech by Ann Coulter, an extreme right-wing pundit, at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. Shouts became so pervasive during the question-and-answer session that Coulter informed the organizers she would no longer take questions if the hecklers were not silenced. For a time, the shouts were considerably lessened, until the issue of gay marriage was broached.

Coulter said she supported the definition of marriage as between a man and a woman on the basis that a good woman civilizes and inspires a man to strive for something better, leading to a question that was met with a stunned silence.

"You say that you believe in the sanctity of marriage," said Ajai Raj, an English sophomore. "How do you feel about marriages where the man does nothing but fuck his wife up the ass?"

UT Police officers approached Raj to arrest him, resulting in a mass exodus of protesters chanting, "Let him go.". . .

Just a reminder - Old Times There Are Not Forgotten:
House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was once known as "Hot Tub Tom" for parties he threw in his Texas Legislature days when, by his own admission, he drank up to 12 martinis a night. He fought hard to impeach President Clinton in 1999 and made his name on family values. When asked if he had any advice on keeping a marriage together in Washington, DeLay replied, "Yeah. Move your family here. Don't leave them at home."

What did she know and when did she know it:
PROGRESSIVE REVIEW - One of the leads being investigated in the Chandra Levy case is that Levy was murdered by a professional hit man involved in the local gay S&M scene. Whether or not this proves to be the case, the mere possibility has created unusual problems on Capitol Hill and for the DC police. We hear that some big names on the Hill are extremely nervous at the moment - not because of the Levy mystery itself but because what such a solution might reveal. The MPD could also face possible blowback because of its involvement a few years back in a major gay blackmail scandal, perhaps involving some of the same players. . .

The story is being kept under wraps by news media lawyers - Newsweek and the Village Voice have both spiked articles - but this much can be told: A former Republican congressman wrote a lurid account for Newsmax, allegedly based on knowledgeable sources, that claimed Levy to have been the victim of a gay prostitute who has since returned to his native country. Newsmax quickly removed the story, but it has been the subject of intense media investigation since.

Maybe someone should ask this guy if he has any "funny notions" about who may have turned off Chandra Levy's lights. Ooops, sorry, just sayin'.

Horse Cocky
BTW: I thought Commander Sky Box (the Codpiece Cowboy) was afraid of horses. Guess not.


Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Say, if Al Qaeda's #3 was betrayed by his skin disorder, why hasn't Al Qaeda's #1 been betrayed by his kidney dialysis machine? 

Just asking.

(Skin disorder via Queensland Courier Mail)

Boy, that ice gets awful cold awful fast, doesn't it?

Goodnight, moon 

And if you want to sleep, stop reading now!

RDF caught this and I want to give it the kind of highlighting it deserves:

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated.

And of course, we can be sure the Republicans will treat sunset provisions in a totally apolitical and non-partisan manner, that is fair to all citizens. After all, the Republicans sunsetted the abolition of the inheritance tax in 2001 to massage the budget numbers.... Oh, wait, that proves the opposite, doesn't it?

Somehow, call me crazy, but I have the feeling that anything that doesn't help the uberrich or WalMart is going to get eliminated. Don't you?

NOTE Note from alert reader Osha: See also Kos; the bill that includes this language is not yet passed.

Alpo Accounts: Froomkin misses The Bush "Tell" 

The Amazin' Froomkin:

McClellan promised something new before Bush's Social Security remarks yesterday in Mississippi. But there wasn't much.
(via WaPo)

But (from the link Froomkin supplies) let's look at the transcript:

This is the math, folks, this is exactly what's going to take place unless we do something about it. I'm ready to -- people like me are retiring; we expect the government to make good on the promise, of course. But yet, we don't have enough money coming into the system to do so. So a lot of younger workers out there will be paying into a system that's bankrupt. And that's not fair.
(White House transcript)

What's The Bush "Tell"? When he says "of course," you know He's lying! (And Froomkin discovered this).

So, what lie does this telegraph? That the younger workers won't have their benefits cut under the Bush Social Security Phaseout.


Department of Wow, Ya Think? Color-code terror alerts lack credibility 

Film at 11!

U.S. government officials have issued confusing and at sometimes conflicting statements about the threat of terrorist attack in this country, with the result that the public often doubts the credibility of official pronouncements about terrorism, a congressional report said.
(via WaPo)

Say, has anyone noticed that the terror alerts died down right after the coronation election? I wonder why?

Total Recall 

Today is the anniversary of the Kent State murders. Lest anyone forget.

Sigh. Wonder when they'll formally start shooting us again? I mean, using the military, in formation. I know that brothers and sisters are getting shot every day informally on the streets and in their homes and cars.

Goddam, Kent State seems so long ago. And we're fighting forces now even more pathological than Nixon.


They Eat Their Own (Part Nth) 

Update on this earlier post on Lynndie England's guity plea: the military judge who accepted it has now thrown it out and entered a "Not Guilty" plea on her behalf, saying he's not convinced she knew what she did was wrong. Seems it was the ex-boyfriend/father of their child, the estimable Charles Graner's testimony that sent the judge over the edge:

"Graner, who was convicted separately in the scandal and sentenced to 10 years in prison, testified England was just following orders by placing a dog leash around an Iraqi prisoner's neck and leading the detainee out of his cell.
The technique was legitimate, Graner said.
Pohl excused the jury and admonished the defense team because Graner's testimony, he said, contradicted England's guilty plea Monday.
In making that plea, she admitted her participation and said she knew it was wrong. If she was just following orders, Pohl said, she should be pleading not guilty."

Well, it certainly contradicts Graner's defense, which had been that he was just following orders like a good German. He'd made no bones about his dissatisfaction with England's testimony, saying "well, I hope it gets her a lighter sentence" in the tone of someone who'd just as soon see her impaled on a sharp rock.

I see several things converging here:

    1.) If England truly is on the "slow" side, it doesn't necessarily mean she doesn't understand that it's wrong to hurt human beings; that would mean that lurking inside every learning disabled or mentally slow person in the world is a regular deSade;
    2.) There's no question the administrative shot-callers all the way up to the White House knew what was going on, and if England enters a not guilty plea, their culpability is much more likely to come out. Like the judge said, you can't have a "one-person conspiracy";
    3.) Either way, whether the torture was being done and the pictures taken just for the amusement of the guards, or whether the guards were just following the orders of the higher ups (which we know they were, but it doesn't mean the guards weren't enjoying themselves), this shit is going to once more besmirch the front pages of your local Disturbers. And that means, even allowing for the craven submissiveness of the general media, one more chance for the administration to be exposed for the cruel and psychopathic clods that they are.


Texas lawmakers vote to ban suggestive cheerleading
Now we know what unites both parties:

"Girls can get out and do all of these overly sexually performances and we applaud them and that's not right," said Democratic Representative Al Edwards, who filed the legislation.

Mr. Edwards argued bawdy performances are a distraction for students resulting in pregnancies, dropouts and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

I particularly liked this part:
The bill would give the state education commissioner authority to request that school districts review high school performances.

And not just once, I'll wager. And preferably on the other side of a one-way mirror.

So, again, for those keeping score: for Texan womanhood, bumping and grinding, bad; telling horse cock jokes on national television, just peachy.

Molly Ivins once wrote of a regulation on the books of the Dallas Police force that prohibited hiring male recruits who had had sex with another male since the age of 16, or with an animal since the age of 18. IIRC, Molly called this "The Texas Farmboy Exemption".

I'm beginning to think it's not just about the farmboys.

New Blatant Powergrab? 

A friend sent me this. She was filled with fresh new outrage, although how that's possible these days I don't know. She has a lot of energy, I guess. She wanted to know what we can do to stop it. And I confess, I'm stumped. Letters of outrage? The story sure sounds true. It's in Rolling Stone. If it is true, what CAN we do? The bill has passed.

If you've got something to hide in Washington, the best place to bury it is in the federal budget. The spending plan that President Bush submitted to Congress this year contains 2,000 pages that outline funding to safeguard the environment, protect workers from injury and death, crack down on securities fraud and ensure the safety of prescription drugs. But almost unnoticed in the budget, tucked away in a single paragraph, is a provision that could make every one of those protections a thing of the past.

The proposal, spelled out in three short sentences, would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel called the "Sunset Commission," which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not "producing results," in the eyes of the commission, would "automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them."

The administration portrays the commission as a well-intentioned effort to make sure that federal agencies are actually doing their job. "We just think it makes sense," says Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, which crafted the provision. "The goal isn't to get rid of a program -- it's to make it work better."

In practice, however, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

Torches and pitchforks? Resurrect Jefferson? The whole thing’s at:


Reefer Madness 

Everyone from NPR to the Houston Chronicle is abuzz about the study, "The War on Marijuana; The Transformation of the War on Drugs in the 1990s", done by The Sentencing Project, which shows that a renewed focus on low-level marijuana users resulted in arrests rising from 28% to 45% of total drug arrests from 1992 to 2002. Of the rise in total drug arrests, 80% of the increase came from marijuana arrests of mostly small, recreational users. The price for this is high: the report estimates about $4 billion a year is spent on arresting and prosecution. Think of the health insurance or decent housing that could buy!

Also (unsurprisingly, given the racism of the enforcement mechanisms), although blacks make up only 14 % of the population, they accounted for 30% of arrests, despite the fact that 74% of regular marijuana users are white:
"A Maryland study on marijuana enforcement observed that police officers knew where to go if they wished to make an easy drug arrest, and suggested that they could do so whenever they wished in certain neighborhoods These neighborhoods are those where drug use and selling is most likely to be in public spaces, allowing for easy apprehension. Research by criminologist Alfred Blumstein supports this point, observing that disproportionate arrest rates are due to “a more dense police presence where blacks reside.”
The study also notes that possession cases generally receive longer sentences than trafficking cases. In fact, 24% of marijuana offenders in prison were found to have been first-time offenders with no weapons or trafficking issues.

And despite all this, use of weed has held relatively steady over the years, and NPR reported that approximately 47% of the general population has used it. From an anecdotal point of view, I can tell you I know a good number of folks who are regular smokers. Many are in their 40s and 50s, and all of them are taxpayers and productive human beings who have been smoking for anywhere from 10 to 35 years, and not one of them ever robbed a bank, raped a woman, or went mad. All of them live that part of their lives with a combination of martini-drinking casualness and furtive paranoia, and the idea of putting any of them in jail is not only outrageous, but daft. The fact that they cannot be open and truthful about it relegates them, in many ways, to the shadows in which women who had abortions live, except that being exposed as a person who once had an abortion doesn't put one at risk of jail time.

I'm not going to rant about the stupidity of our drug laws. Even the general public has gotten bored with marijuana as a scare tactic. But the report recommendations are extensive and include suggestions for a national dialogue on decriminalization, and at the very least, we need to heed them.

CYA, Donald 

Excellent piece over at Empire Notes on the outcome of the Lynndie England case, in which she pled to lesser charges yesterday to avoid a heavy sentence. After laying out the evidence presented at the court-martial, Rahul Mahajan breaks it down:
"What was the plea bargain really about?"
Was it about evidential issues relating to Ms. England's crimes or was it -- at least tacitly -- about an agreement to forget about implicating people higher up in the chain of command, indeed to forget about even subpoena'ing them?
It might be argued that prosecutors were actually worried that England's defense would successfully present her as a mentally defective person incapable of understanding what she was doing and get her totally or partially exonerated on those grounds, but I don't think that's how courts-martial generally operate.
The military officers who would make up the jury would know very well that the decision had been made at the top that these few people in the pictures were to be punished and would furthermore not want to cast the military in an even worse light than it already is by agreeing that the military recruits people who can't tell right from wrong and puts them in charge of prisoners.
So, the evidence is far from conclusive, but the inferential case seems to me quite strong, that the real terms of England's plea bargain were about covering the ass of the military hierarchy."
It was ever thus.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Goodnight, moon 

Does anyone besides me think Coingate is probably even worse than it sounds?

Sure, Republican and Bush Pioneer Tom Noe taking money from Ohio's workman's compensation fund and "investing" it in rare coins (!) through his own company (!!) and taking a hefty commission (!!!) is pretty bad, and does make you wonder what the Republicans would do if they got their greedy mitts on your Social Security money.

But what leaps to my (jaundiced, paranoid) eye is the possibility of a money laundering scheme. Noe "invests" in rare coins with a dealer. The dealer "loses" the coins (121 of them have been lost, that we know of). Well, suppose the lost coins really turned up somewhere—say, as an untraceable payment to an (Ohio-based) rogue Diebold programmer, who then cashes them in?

It would be irresponsible not to speculate! And please refer all complaints that contain the words "tinfoil hat" to The Department of No! They Would Never Do That!

IOKIYAR: Two seconds of Janet Jackson's tit, and America reeled! 

But (as Digby points out) let Waura tell a joke about horse's cocks at the White House Correspondent's dinner, and nobody raises an eyebrow.

I saw my in-laws down at the ranch over Easter. We like it down there. George didn't know much about ranches when we bought the place. Andover and Yale don't have a real strong ranching program. But I'm proud of George. He's learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What's worse, it was a male horse.
(via the transscript at USA Today)

You may file a complaint with the FCC here, since the dinner was broadcast on CSPAN (via Blog critics. (The FCC does accept comments on CPSAN, which I assume means that they regulate them.)

Say, did the ("sounds like"...) horse George tried to milk have a bald head?

NOTE Life imitates Corrente once again. We had it right on the bestiality, wrong on the animal. We thought goats. Dang.

Christian Supremacist Watch 

Frederick Clarkson:
This past weekend a big conference titled Examining the Agenda of the Religious Far Right was staged in New York. Over 500 people participated including numerous reporters and several documentary film makers. Conference participants heard an unusually diverse range of critical perspectives on the religious right. I was honored to be among the speakers -- but I spent alot of time in very worthwhile listening.


An unexpected highlight for me was meeting novelist Kurt Vonnegut, who was among many notables who had come to hear as distinguished, smart and often inconoclastic a bunch of journalists, authors, activists, and academics ever assembled to talk about this subject. Nothing quite like it had ever been done before. We can only hope that it will be done again and again, and all over the country.

continue reading NY Conference on Theocracy...


Jeff Sharlet (interview with On the Media - WNYC Radio):
If you go to churches and you talk to regular people, a lot of people on the religious right are talking about civil war, and they're talking about civil war in not a metaphorical sense, in a literal sense. They hope it won't happen, but they are afraid that it might. And I think that has come through this growing metaphor of spiritual war.

continue reading Messiah Complex (transcript)


Via Bartholomew's notes on religion:
...300 school districts are currently offering a course called "The Bible as History and Literature," a course curriculum from the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools (NCBCPS).

America's leading theocrats shower blessings upon the NCBCPS:
The site for the NCBCPS also contains endorsements from a number of PhDs, although that list is not encouraging: the top place goes to a motivational speaker called Joel A Freeman; under him we find J Randall Price, “P.h.D. in Middle Eastern and Asian Studies”. Price is in fact a Christian Zionist fundamentalist most noted for an absurd book called The Coming Last Days Temple. In fact, all the PhDs listed with Bible-related qualifications actually relate to Biblical studies the way Ken Ham does to science: there’s Robert G Cornuke, a crank who spends his time looking for the lost Ark of the Covenant; Roy E Knuteson is an obscure figure associated with the fundamentalist Dallas Theological Seminary (and I mean "fundamentalist" literally, not just as a polemical term).

The advisory committee is also rather alarming and completely devoid of serious Biblical scholars: instead, we find conservative politicians and the likes of D. James Kennedy (plus Rabbi Daniel Lapin as token Jew). Particularly disturbing, but not surprising, is the presence of pseudo-historian David Barton; the course claims to teach schoolchildren about how the Bible was understood by the US Founding Fathers.

Read Learning the Bible from Fundamentalists

"I hope...to see the day when...in...our country we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!" ~ Rev. Jerry Falwell

Max Blumenthal:
The recent right-wing fixation on impeaching judges was conceptualized by David Barton, Republican consultant and vice chairman of the Texas GOP. In 1996 Barton published a handbook called Impeachment: Restraining an Overactive Judiciary, which was timed to coincide with Tom DeLay's bid for legislation authorizing Congress to impeach judges. "The judges need to be intimidated," DeLay told reporters that year.

In 1989 Barton published a book titled The Myth of Separation, which proclaims, "This book proves that the separation of church and state is a myth." The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, in a critique of his 1995 documentary America's Godly Heritage, stated that it was "laced with exaggerations, half-truths, and misstatements of fact." Barton is on the board of advisers of the Providence Foundation, a Christian Reconstructionist group that promotes the idea that biblical law should be instituted in America. In 1991 Barton spoke at a Colorado retreat sponsored by Pastor Pete Peters, an adherent of racist Christian Identity theology with well-established neo-Nazi ties. During the 2004 presidential campaign, the Republican National Committee hired him as a paid consultant for "evangelical outreach." The RNC sponsored more than 300 events for him.


On Monday, April 11, at Senator Frist's invitation, David Barton will lead him and other senators on an evening tour of the Capitol, offering "a fresh perspective on our nation's religious heritage."

Read: In Contempt of Courts, by Max Blumenthal; The Nation, 04.11.2005.


Alpo Accounts: Democrats have a plan; it's called "Social Security" 

EJ Dionne explains why it's important that no bill at all gets passed:

That the president is fixing the Social Security reform game should be obvious. The most basic corruption of the process is the way the Republican congressional leadership has transformed the bargaining that once took place between the House and the Senate.

In the old days, when each house produced different versions of the same bill, a "conference" committee typically including members of both parties from both houses would thrash out the details and reach a compromise. Now the Republicans will concede whatever is necessary to get a bill out of the Senate, even as the lockstep-Republican House produces a right-wing version of the same proposal. In conferences, Republicans routinely freeze out all but the most pliable Democrats. The supposed "compromise" that emerges is not a compromise at all. Democrats who go along become enablers of a game being played with a stacked deck.
(via WaPo)

So, since any "compromise" by Dems is going to get removed in conference, what's the point in compromising? No bill is better than a bad bill.

There's nothing wrong with "obstructing" destructionists!

MBF Watch: Schoolteachers strip searched at Partei Rally 

Nothing must pop Inerrant Boy's bubble:

Two teachers arrested at a 2004 campaign rally for President Bush and strip-searched at a county jail have filed a lawsuit alleging law officers conspired to violate their constitutional rights.

Alice McCabe and Christine Nelson, both in their 50s, were among five protesters arrested at the Sept. 3 rally. The pair were handcuffed, taken to the county jail, strip-searched and charged with criminal trespass. The charges were dropped months later.

"I believe the federal government behaved very badly in this situation," said David O'Brien, the women's attorney.

The lawsuit claims the strip search violated constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. Typically suspects are searched only if authorities have cause to believe they possess a weapon or illegal drugs, O'Brien said.

"We don't think they had a reasonable belief that these two, 50-year-old school teachers had a weapon or contraband in their possession that day," O'Brien said, whose clients requested a jury trial and unspecified damages.

McCabe and Nelson — described in the lawsuit as political novices motivated by their opposition to Bush administration policies in Iraq — attended the rally at a city park, where McCabe held a sheet of paper urging, "No More War," and Nelson wore a John Kerry button.
(AP via Digby)

Well, since they wore Kerry buttons, they couldn't have been Christians, and thus have no place in our the Theocratic States of America. So what's the big deal here? Let's be reasonable, people!

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