Thursday, June 30, 2005

Chris Mooney recently wrote about Rick Piltz, a senior official in the government climate research program who resigned in March. In a complaint document, Piltz wrote:
I believe the overarching problem is that the administration ... does not want and has acted to impede forthright communication of the state of climate science and its implications for society. I have not seen a situation like the one that has developed under this administration during the past four years, in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program in its relationship to the research community, to program managers, to policymakers, and to the public interest.
Recall that Christine Todd Whitman resigned from the EPA for many of these same reasons.

This problem is epidemic, like a cancer spreading throughout the entire government apparatus. The partisan whims of the current administration are overly-influencing and pressuring every nook and cranny of every department, program, and policy. From the rigged press (Gannon et al), to faith-based initiatives, to the PBS "overhaul," to Ray McGovern's recent testimony about how CIA intel has been corrupted by intense pressure from this administration.

The impact of the harm that Bush has wrought throughout the government is so widespread and far-reaching that it will likely take many administrations in the future to fix all of the wrongs and get things back to where they were at least generally respectable and trustworthy. Granted, the government has never been perfect or without flaws, however it's never undergone this kind of rampant partisan makeover, esp. not to this degree.

Much of the transformation has filtered down into the blood-and-guts of all departments and divisions, affecting individuals that have normally been protected or shielded from such influence in the past. Prior presidents typically focused on effecting change through the very top officials, leaving the more career government workers alone to get the real work done, free from political interference or pressure. Not the case with GW, with analysts such as Piltz (and as Ray McGovern describes) feeling the heat and in turn lobbyists stepping in to pick up the slack.

Hopefully, with the country finally rid of GW in '08, we'll eventually be able to restore the government to the more democratic and Constitutional institution it once was (it's been so long, I can hardly recall....).

UPDATE: The "influence" continues.
Hmm, how strange. Rick Santorum and Arlen Specter are at opposite ends over the stem cell debate -- go figure. Hey Rick, can I ask: with Specter being pro-choice and all, and now perhaps to your surprise you discover he's for stem cell research, why is it you decided to endorse him last year over his pro-life challenger, Pat Toomey? I thought you've made it very clear that there's no room for compromise when it comes to abortion and such related issues? But apparently when it comes to politics, and you have a clear choice between a pro-choice incumbent senator and a pro-life challenger, then it's OK to go with the pro-abortion guy.... How does he explain his way out of that one? (He does seem to spend most of his time trying to clarify his statements -- mainly because he frequently makes outrageous remarks for the benefit of his far-right constituency, and then does the backtrack-and-clarify move that we've seen so often from the GOP).

Anyone who doesn't see Santorum for the hypocrite and typical-politician that he regularly exemplifies is a fool.
In the most recent issue of Forbes, the chairman of the magazine, "pardoned for Iran-Contra" Caspar Weinberger, is perplexed. He just can't fathom why Bolton isn't sailing through the Congress: "it's hard to understand how anyone could fail to see that we need to appoint a strong, highly intelligent ambassador to the UN."

I think everyone is for a "strong, highly intelligent" person to represent us in the UN -- however, as much as the right-wing would like for it to be so, the case against Bolton is not that simple. If it was just the fact that Bolton is an ornery guy who can be abrasive at times, then the bipartisan resistance would be nowhere near as stalwart. What Weinberger and the rest of the right refuse to see is Bolton is about intimidation regarding intelligence; this is the huge concern. He has a history of threatening colleagues in an attempt to have them change intel to better match his views, i.e. fix the facts to the policy. Uh, that's a big difference from being just a tough SOB.

In the Boston Globe yesterday, Robert Kuttner discusses the whole Bolton morass. He reminds us that "our allies so distrust Bolton on the sensitive negotiations over Iran's nuclear program that they made sure to exclude him from high-level meetings in Washington last January." That's just wonderful. Kuttner also states, "It is ironic that Bush may run roughshod over the legislature, on the very holiday that celebrates our liberty, and at a time when we are urging fledging democracies to protect minority rights. The Constitution provided the recess appointment prerogative mainly for emergencies before there were year-round sessions of Congress, when senators traveled to Washington by horse and buggy."

As with the Supreme Court nominations, where it's been reported that Bush is opting for confrontation over compromise, he's doing the same here. In fact, when was the last time this administration compromised on anything? Oops, forgot, it's emperor GW and we are but his mere peasants.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I highly recommend StumbleUpon.com, a terrific and fun way to surf the web.

So let’s try to get this straight. We invaded Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, except he didn’t, and because he was tied in to the attacks of September 11, except he wasn’t. We’re staying in Iraq, President Bush said tonight, because terrorists with the same ideology as those behind 9-11 have congregated there since we arrived.

Iraq is now the “central front” in the war on terror, the president said. And just how did it become that? Whatever the ghastly defects of Hussein’s Iraq, it was not a playground for terrorists. There was no terror in the old Iraq but Hussein’s own, which was a nightmare for his own citizenry, but not a threat to ours. Now, Bush argued, Iraq is in danger of becoming something it never was -- the equivalent of Afghanistan under the Taliban. But it’s Bush’s war that transformed the country and created that threat, if we are to believe Bush’s own assessment of the danger that the Iraqi terrorists pose.
-- Harold Meyerson
Also, great comments by Max Blumenthal. And ThinkProgress.org.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Perhaps a bit dated, but just over a week ago Rush Limbaugh stated the Downing Street Memos may be fake. From there, the right-wing flogosphere caught fire, spreading this baseless assertion in lightspeed fashion.

They'll keep trying to come up with another CBS incident. But how often does something like that come along? The odds of two high-profile forged documents happening bang-bang on the heels of each other are rather slim, wouldn't you say? And who would dare try something like that given the ensuing fallout from the CBS thing?

Their thirst for another is very telling (read: desperate).
"...the question on the TV screen illustrated the times we live in -- times when facts can exist in a separate universe from opinions. And a country in which science is not seen as a matter of black and white but increasingly of red and blue."
<...>
"They don't have to win the scientific debate, they only have to muddy the water."
The Wall Street Journal never disappoints when it comes to their editorials. Although I realize I should just ignore them, I just can't. It's like smelling the spoiled milk.

A recent "think" piece was written about global warming, and how -- SURPRISE -- it's all just a bunch of hooey. Thankfully, Realclimate.org responded with a lengthy retort, clearing the air of the Journal's MANY mistakes.

It's no wonder Kevin Drum writes, "the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, a wretched assemblage of hackery that's unequalled in America for its dangerous and calculated intellectual dishonesty." Please remember this the next time you read anything credited to the WSJ editorial staff.
  • FOX News postures for war concerning Iran. Nothing like "Fair and Balanced" reporting.

  • Between 1987 and 2002, obesity-related private health spending has soared, from $3.6 billion to $36.5 billion. This is and will continue to be a HUGE problem. Remember, insurance companies eventually began to ask people if they were smokers....

  • With Rehnquist reportedly due to retire very soon, the LA Times reports that while GW could choose from among several judges which could win confirmation very easily (implying they're not overly partisan), he will likely choose to confront the Senate, thereby selecting a divisive, controversial candidate. In other words, in light of the Dems caving and agreeing to that pathetic filibuster deal (recall: they have the right to filibuster, as long as they don't use it), their reward will be a fight in earnest provoked by Bush. Let's see what kind of spine the Dems have now -- they brought it on themselves.

  • So Rove now officially has a role in policy making. Is this news to anyone? The Downing Street Memos are not new news, and yet this is? With his new title of "deputy chief of staff," only now does Rove have a hand in policy -- hah! Yeah, up till now Karl has been a quiet operator with little influence.... Next to Cheney, Rove is actually running this country!
  • Monday, June 27, 2005

    Not much more needs to be written about Ed Klein's book on Hillary Clinton. It's been universally panned by reviewers of all partisan flavors.

    That said, it was a delight watching Joe Conason on Al Franken's Sundance radio/video show this past Friday. (Audio is here and here, and a transcript is here). He is more of what we need to see from the left: use of a tough, unshakable approach with facts, reason and logic at the ready, pounding away in search of truth. Joe absolutely shredded this Klein character -- to the point where Al would have to make hand gestures to Joe to back off, else risk having Klein simply sign off.

    However, despite all of Klein's pathetic, feeble attempts at answering the many questions posed by Joe and Al, he never once threatened to bag the interview because first and foremost, as he admits, he simply wants to sell books. He's in it for the money, period. He didn't mind as much that he was being used as a human punching bag as long as his book was being mentioned. In fact before he started the interview, he wanted to make sure Al fully plugged the book at the start.

    All too often we see an interview like this (e.g. Tim Russert) where the guest is able to worm his/her way through with replies that are really just non-answers. Next thing you know, they're wrapping up for a commercial. Here we were able to see Joe not let the wriggling, sweaty guest get off so easy. And note that Conason was NOT being rude per say as much as he was being persistent, repeating questions politely until he could get an answer, and for those answers that were just absurd, Joe would quickly call Klein on it, laying out the facts. It was just beautiful.
    "Iraq insurgency in 'last throes'" -- Dick Cheney, 5/31/05

    "The insurgency could go on for any number of years" -- Don Rumsfeld, 6/26/05
    You'd think these mental giants would at least be able to get on the same page with their propaganda. Perhaps that's the point: just fire off complete opposite statements and confuse the public. It's what they try to achieve (confusion, that is) on global warming and countless other issues.

    Is it too much to ask for some clarity and consistency? It's called credibility -- how can they expect any of it with such obfuscating nonsense coming from the top? Either these guys don't have a clue or they're purposefully looking to mislead and play games with policy. Worse yet, it's likely both.

    Saturday, June 25, 2005

    The Jerk Just Makes Things Up

    This past week on Al Franken's video version of his radio show (on Sundance), Al showed extended footage from a Bill O'Reilly "Factor" show in which Bill was caught doing what he does best -- fabricating supposed facts. To see O'Reilly go on and on in his brow-beating way, repeating completely made-up facts over and over, is truly disturbing. A good summary appears on www.oreilly-sucks.com:
    Bill was caught lying about the marriage rates in Sweden, and that they passed a gay marriage law. Both of those statements are lies, marriage rates have not declined in Sweden, and they did not pass a gay marriage law.

    O'Reilly falsely claimed that in Sweden, "marriage between men and women declined drastically since gay marriage was legalized there. These stats are irrefutable. They're government statistics," O'Reilly insisted. In fact, recent demographics show that since Sweden passed its 1994 "Registered Partnership Law" establishing same-sex civil unions, marriage rates have increased.

    Despite O'Reilly's claims, "gay marriage" is not legal in Sweden, or in other Scandinavian countries. Those countries have versions of civil union laws that offer both heterosexual and homosexual unmarried couples most of the same rights as heterosexual married couples.

    Contrary to O'Reilly's claim that the number of heterosexual marriages has declined in Sweden since the domestic partner law took effect in 1995, marriage rates for people aged 15-64 years rose to 7.0 per 1,000 people in 2000 from 6.0 in 1995. According to figures from the Statistical Office of the European Communities.

    O'Reilly's false claim was a reference to an argument by Stanley Kurtz, a research fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution. So O'Reilly's Government statistics turn out to be right-wing propaganda from a conservative think tank. But even Kurtz did not say marriage rates in Sweden have declined because the partnership law was passed. That was the spin O'Reilly put on his research, good job Bill, you have crossed into the twilight zone again.
    The web site does offer this bit of good news:
    Factor Ratings Dropping at Alarming Rate: Since October of 2004 the O'Reilly factor ratings have dropped from a monthly average of 3.1 to a monthly average of 1.7 in May of 2005. This all started in October after the O'Reilly phone sex scandal with Andrea Mackris.
    Zbigniew Brzezinski rips GW today, saying "This war has been conducted with tactical and strategic incompetence. And ... America finds itself more isolated than ever before, the object of unprecedented international mistrust. Our nation also deserves an honest explanation for how we ended up in Iraq. And we deserve a realistic definition of success for a war that increasingly threatens to become a quagmire."

    Concise but every sentence so true.
    "When a president's job approval numbers stay consistently below 50%, he starts losing support on Capitol Hill. Members of his own party feel free to distance themselves and members of the opposition party are emboldened to attack." -- Charlie Cook, publisher of the non-partisan Cook Report
    As I've been saying here for months, get ready for the GOP implosion. Slow and steady signs of such have been on the increase. Be patient, it will happen.
    Kevin Drum:
    Let me just put this in fairly simple terms: Al Jazeera now broadcasts the words of Senator Durbin to the Mideast, certainly putting our troops in greater danger. No more needs to be said about the motives of liberals. -- Karl Rove
    It's one thing to make belligerent pronouncements that contrast conservative toughness with liberal wimpiness. It's nasty and demeaning, but hardly something we haven't heard before. The Al Jazeera passage, on the other hand, goes considerably further: it says specifically that the motive of Dick Durbin and others who criticize prisoner abuse is to put our troops in danger. He didn't say Durbin was merely careless, he said Durbin wanted to put our troops in greater danger. That's treason.

    Generally speaking, I tend not to get too bent out of shape by occasional rhetorical howlers. It's just part of the game. But calling Durbin and his fellow liberals traitors — which is clearly what that passage suggests — really is beyond the pale coming from a highly placed political official, isn't it? Or am I missing something here?
    Kevin, let's not mince words: Rove is simply evil. Many say he's merely very good at his craft. So was the wolf in "Three Little Pigs." Rove is as much a deplorable disgrace to their side as Al Sharpton is to ours -- only ten times worse.

    If there's a Hell, Rove will....

    Friday, June 24, 2005

    James Wolcott:
    But now that it's clear even to Bush fantasists that the poll numbers on Iraq aren't going up and down, they're only going in one direction, and picking up speed as they descend, they're [White House flacks and their shoeshiners in the media] saying that the opinion of the American people must be discounted for their own good. The will of the people must take second place to the wiser, stronger will of those in charge. The most ludicrous poll-dismissing ploy was attempted by David Brooks, who harkened back to George Washington at Valley Forge. It was not a parallel flattering to Bush. George Washington served with his troops at Valley Forge, endured what they endured. Bush froze on 9/11 and hasn't done a single thing since that would inconvenience him, his supporters, or his Republican donors.

    Historical parallels have lost their spine-stiffening efficacy. We're all Churchilled out, this isn't 1939 or 1865 or 1776, the disaster is unfolding here and now and in front of our eyes and if Republican conservates want to perservere despite eroding support then they should pull all those future lobbyists and leeches out of the Heritage Foundation dorm and march them over to a recruiting station, where they can learn how to shoot off something besides their Rush-quoting mouths.
    There's a growing -- though still small -- group of advocates who favor the warming of the planet. They feel that humans changing the climate is not such a bad thing.

    Here's an example:
    A warmer climate would produce the greatest gain in temperatures at northern latitudes and much less change near the equator. Not only would this foster a longer growing season and open up new territory for farming but it would mitigate harsh weather. The contrast between the extreme cold near the poles and the warm moist atmosphere on the equator drives storms and much of the earth's climate. This difference propels air flows; if the disparity is reduced, the strength of winds driven by equatorial highs and Arctic lows will be diminished.

    Warmer nighttime temperatures, particularly in the spring and fall, create longer growing seasons, which should enhance agricultural productivity. Moreover, the enrichment of the atmosphere with CO2 will fertilize plants and make for more vigorous growth. Agricultural economists studying the relationship of higher temperatures and additional CO2 to crop yields in Canada, Australia, Japan, northern Russia, Finland, and Iceland found not only that a warmer climate would push up yields, but also that the added boost from enriched CO2 would enhance output by 17 percent.
    Go crazy with air pollution and smog! As Martha Stewart says, "It's a good thing!" (Forget the fact that we breathe in O2 not CO2).

    OK, running with their logic (gulp!), if it's OK to mess with God's creation (Earth, nature), then why is not likewise A-OK to mess with everything else that God created -- such as human embryos (stem cell science)?

    In nearly every instance, those who favor or paint an optimistic picture of global warming are right-wingers, the same folks who are more often than not on the opposing side of stem cell research. Seems like there's an inconsistency here (wouldn't be the first time for such folks -- but that's seemingly A-OK).
    "They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want." -- Dick Cheney, on Gitmo prisoners, 6/23/05

    Apparently, a tropical paradise:



    Who knew?


    MUST READ

    Thursday, June 23, 2005

    Other terrific items from The New Republic....

    A young woman, as an intern at the right-wing Heritage Foundation, expresses interest in work that "will be useful in her intended career as a pharmaceutical lobbyist." TNR writer Ben Adler comments,
    Many contemporary conservatives see no distinction between the interests of big business and conservative ideology. This crony capitalist conservatism, the sort of conservatism practiced by the Bush administration, isn't true economic conservatism. A true economic conservative believes that government should not favor one company over another, or one industry over another, so as not to distort the free market. The pharmaceutical lobbyist, on the other hand, believes the government should favor her company or her industry regardless of whether it creates inefficiency in the economy as a whole.
    True words indeed.

    And this sterling item from Ryan Lizza:
    For a president who began his second term famously promising to spend political capital, George W. Bush is looking increasingly bankrupt. Everyone knows the scorecard.
    <...>
    Bush’s job approval ratings have dropped into the mid-40s, a sudden loss of confidence that no second-term president has experienced since Richard Nixon. Bill Clinton’s approval rating never dropped below 53 percent during his troubled second term—impeachment notwithstanding.
    Yes, you read that correctly. GW's approval rating is more than 10 points lower than Clinton's worst rating during his impeachment debacle. That truly puts into perspective just how badly the wheels have fallen off this administration. Ouch.

    More lunacy from the WSJ "think" page.

    The New Republic recently wrote about Peggy Noonan's as-usual rigorous and bracing reasoning, this time about Mark Felt. She wrote (my bolds):
    What Mr. Felt helped produce was a weakened president who was a serious president at a serious time. Nixon’s ruin led to a cascade of catastrophic events—the crude and humiliating abandonment of Vietnam and the Vietnamese, the rise of a monster named Pol Pot, and millions—millions—killed in his genocide.... Is it terrible when an American president lies and surrounds himself by dirty tricksters? Yes, it is. How about the butchering of children in the South China Sea. Is that worse? Yes. Infinitely, unforgettably and forever.
    First, can you guess who reminds me of the words I bolded? Hmm, surrounds himself with "dirty tricksters," someone's coming to mind, give me a second -- oh yeah, GW! Iraq, 1700+ dead U.S. soldiers, thousands of dead Iraqi children -- that's pretty bad too, Peggy.

    OK, so let me understand, according to Noonan's "logic" it's better (or less worse) to allow presidents to lie, and commit crimes. But I seem to recall a certain president got caught in a lie about BJs with an intern (not a crime) and I believe Noonan didn't like that one bit! Oh, and I don't think any kids died as a result.

    Although wait a minute, if Clinton had not lied, than Gore likely wins, and we then don't go to Iraq, and thus no dead Iraqi kids -- by gosh she's right!

    Right-wingers were all in a tizzy about Sen. Durbin's "outrageous" comments, and then their leader (Rove) makes some truly abhorrent and outrageous statements about 9-11 and liberals. How much lower can this group sink?

    "The universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster."

    Steve Gilliard writes about an interesting observation:
    "Anyone on the right who wants to get noticed has to start their own blog. Why? Because of comments. Most right blogs lack them. Which, besides moral cowardice, inhibits growth.... You have Redstate, which routinely bounces people, and the trogodytes of LGF and the see no evil crowd of Tacitus for comments. The rest may well be better off without them. Powerline's owners send back responses which would embarrass angry drunks. Imagine if they had to deal with posts on a daily basis? The same with the rest of the crowd. Token negro LaShawn Barber routinely threatens posts she doesn't like with the FBI. So why don't they want to talk to their readers? Because they can't deal with the challenge."
    I experienced just what Steve is talking about over at INDC Journal. Several months ago, I frequented this right-wing blog that to its credit allows for comments. However, as Steve describes, just because they offer the ability to submit comments does not mean that they're actually receptive to the idea(s). I entered a few brief comments or questions which was immediately met with attack-dog replies, more often than not of a personal nature than actually addressing the content of my comments. It got ugly!

    Participating in this barrage of attacks was the blogger himself. It didn't take long for him to ban me from making any further comments on his site. I'm not tech-proficient enough to know how he was able to do this but he did. All for simply making comments or questioning things that were posted on the site -- with no foul language used on my part or anything abusive.

    I wasn't surprised. O'Reilly shouts down dissenters on a regular basis. It's what they do. Sadly, those more reasonable viewers or listeners just seem to tolerate it or look past it. You'd think if their positions were so solid they'd invite healthy debate. Ah, but that's the problem.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2005

    The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. -- GW Bush, 5/1/03

    WASHINGTON, June 21 - A new classified assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency says Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days. -- NY Times, 6/22/05

    Here's a question: why so many apparent "mistakes" in environmental government reports, requiring needed editing and correcting by Phil Cooney and the like within the administration? You'd think there would be an outcry of sorts given this continuous problem. Shouldn't there be an investigation on why such shoddiness has remained a constant problem regarding these reports? (I could go on and on with such rhetorical questions -- you get the point).

    Also, Robert Novak -- the dean of whack-job right-wing columnists -- recently wrote that Europeans are all for Kyoto because they know (and desire) it will bring down the U.S. economy to their level. In other words, their true intentions for wanting to address global warming is actually out of spite against the USA. They seek revenge for our prosperity and quality of life.

    It's no wonder I hardly ever see a left-leaning blog (much less right!) ever cite or discuss anything Novak has to say because it's nearly universally accepted that he's not to be taken seriously and is a 100% partisan hack. He'll write any kind of nonsense to push his agenda. Notice the above conspiracy theory has zero hard proof, just his crazed surmising. It's what he does. The Chicago Sun-Times should be ashamed.

    Of course, Novak fails to see that in these modern times, America's economy and Europe's economies are closely joined (interconnected) and have a high degree of correlation. Regional economies have become global. If we go down, so do they, even lower in this case (no parity achieved). Any economist worth his/her salt will concur with this widely-accepted point, and the Europeans are not stupid and understand this fact.

    The only idiot here is Novak.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2005

    The fairly new head of the CIA, Porter Goss, is interviewed in Time this week. When asked if he knew where Osama bin Laden was, he replied, "I have an excellent idea of where he is. What's the next question?" Hmm, that sounded very definitive.

    So then why not go get him? His response, "you're dealing with a problem of our sense of international obligation, fair play. We have to find a way to work in a conventional world in unconventional ways that are acceptable to the international community."

    What? You've got to be &*%$# kidding me!! Fair play??? If memory serves, we didn't need, ask for, or respect such international cooperation, agreement, or consideration when it came to invading Iraq. But for some odd reason, they now need it to capture the main figure responsible for 9-11 (vs. Iraq which had nothing to do with 9-11).

    Can it get any more insane with these guys?

    Monday, June 20, 2005

    And another joins the reality-based side of global warming:
    WASHINGTON - The US Senate's top Republican energy bill negotiator [Pete Domenici], risking a break with the White House over the global warming issue, on Friday said the United States must act to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gases.
    Bush/Cheney will soon be the last hold-outs.
    Bush may go "nuclear" concerning Bolton
    WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Democrats blocked John Bolton's confirmation as U.N. ambassador for the second time Monday and President Bush left open the possibility of bypassing lawmakers and appointing the tough-talking former State Department official on his own.
    <..>
    At a White House news conference earlier Monday, Bush sidestepped a question on whether he would circumvent the Senate and appoint the fiery conservative to the ambassador's post when Congress leaves Washington for the July 4 holiday.
    <..>
    Bush has the power to install Bolton during the Senate's upcoming July 4 break. The so-called recess appointment would only last through the next one-year session of Congress — in Bolton's case until January 2007.
    <..>
    No president has used a recess appointment for a U.N. ambassador since 1970, when the Senate Historian's Office began keeping records, said one of the historians, Betty Koed.
    I will be absolutely shocked if this arrogant, never-admit-mistakes small man in the White House withdraws Bolton's nomination. Instead, he'll most certainly act like a dictator and override the Senate, appointing his choice. He will decree!
    When does it end!
    The Bush administration altered critical portions of a scientific analysis of the environmental impact of cattle grazing on public lands before announcing Thursday that it would relax regulations limiting grazing on those lands, according to scientists involved in the study.
    Oh, and this gem:

    Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, in a column on Friday, suggested that the congressional forum the previous day on the Downing Street memos was something of a joke. In his opening sentence he declared that House Democrats “took a trip to the land of make-believe” in pretending that the basement conference room was actually a real hearing room, even importing a few American flags to make it look more official.

    Oddly, he seem less interested in the far more serious “make-believe” that inspired the basement session: the administration’s fake case for WMDs in Iraq that has already led to the deaths of over 1,700 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis. No, Milbank used the valuable real estate of the Post--its only coverage of the event--to mock Rep. John Conyers, who arranged the meeting, and his “hearty band of playmates.”

    This fun-loving “band” included a mother who had lost her son in Iraq.
    I urge everyone to catch repeats of these hearings on CSPAN. I did and what's immediately striking is the shoddy quality of the room. It appears as if this very important hearing -- much more important than the nonsense that went on regarding Clinton's Monica incident -- is being held in a cramped bomb shelter. Sadly, it actually occurred in a basement.

    Also, as much as the "liberal" media has attempted to explain away the DS memos as old news, in watching this forum I learned many things I didn't already know. And I stay fairly current on news items, so just imagine how much John Q. Public doesn't know about this entire reprehensible affair.

    In particular, 27-year CIA analyst Ray McGovern has some amazing revelations and anecdotes to convey. It's truly astounding that everything about this matter is not getting more play in the news outlets. Never let a r-wingnut tell you again that the media is biased against their side. Maybe, maybe that was the case 40 or 50 years ago, but in no way shape or form is that the case now.

    Sunday, June 19, 2005

    First, Happy Father's Day!

    As I've written here before, Kevin Drum's web site is the best political blog out there IMHO. A daily must-read.

    He recently made the following terrific point, a sort of Catch-22 for the Dems:
    The problem, as Niall Ferguson and others persuasively argue, is that our current troop strength isn't nearly enough to defeat an apparently well armed and highly motivated insurgency. Without more troops we're doomed to failure.

    If this is true — and it seems to be — the logic of the situation is inescapable: since we're in an unwinnable situation with the troops we have, and raising more troops is impossible, we're asking soldiers to die for nothing. The obvious answer is to pull out of Iraq, and there's a growing push among Democrats, 41 of whom have just created the Out of Iraq Congressional Caucus, to do just that.

    But here's the depressing thought: what happens if Democrats press for withdrawal and get their way? What then?

    Liberals are fond of Vietnam analogies, so I've got one handy here: it will play out just like the aftermath of that war did. Something like this:

    1. Democrats demand an end to the war. Increasingly, polls appear to back them up.

    2. Under pressure, a Republican president finally does just that. After some suitably face saving nation building and treaty signing, troops are withdrawn.

    3. As virtually all observers fear, Iraq then falls into bloody civil war. Hundreds of thousands die. Neighboring countries are pulled in. Eventually, a new dictator, perhaps a Shiite ayatollah, takes control and forms a passionately anti-American government.

    4. Once again, America will appear to have been humiliated by a ragtag army. And despite the fact that polls seemed to demonstrate support for withdrawal, the aftermath will sit poorly with the American public. What's more, they'll know who to blame: Democrats.
    Drum summarizes, "Democrats will push for withdrawal, eventually they'll get their way, and the country will blame them for the resulting chaos and defeat. Dems will argue that it would have happened anyway, but the public won't buy it. The Republican party, which should get the blame, will get off scot free."

    So, if the Dems (correctly) press for an Iraq exit, and get it, and Iraq gradually spirals into bloody chaos, guess who will get blamed? Yup, the GOP will jump all over the chance to nail all resulting problems on the Dems. I wouldn't be surprised if Rove has been hoping for the Dems to play into this trap.

    Thus, the Catch-22: do the right thing for the good of the country and risk being blamed for any eventual problems by the majority political party originally responsible, OR sit idle and do nothing, and therefore avoid doing the right thing and American soldiers continue to die with no end in sight.

    We wouldn't have to worry about such a dilemma if we could count on the general public to see clearly and recognize who (and what) deserves blame (and credit), however past precedence -- including the Vietnam War example -- leaves much to be desired.

    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    Bill Clinton was on Al Franken's radio show on Friday. Clinton brought up a good point: notice the Congress has been all over the UN's oil-for-food program, demanding investigations and reforms, and yet we hear not a peep about the missing $8.8 billion in Iraq. Where's the outcry in Congress for getting to the bottom of what happened to nearly $9 billion dollars? After all, we have a $400+ bil. deficit (not counting the MANY billions spent on Iraq), every billion helps.

    Can you imagine what the Republicans would be doing if a Dem-controlled Congress and/or Presidency managed to lose track of $9 bil.?? It would be pound-the-table indignation blaring from talk radio, FOX, etc.

    Friday, June 17, 2005

    Wal-Mart provides health insurance for less than 50% of their workers, compared to Costco which insures 96% (source: TNR.com). In fact, Wal-Mart workers were eligible for $2.5 billion in federal assistance in 2004.

    Because Wal-Mart employees are so underpaid and lacking benefits, we taxpayers must chip in to help foot the bill. Remember that the next time you shop at Wal-Mart (or do as I do and opt for Costco).
    By now, we've heard about many polls showing Bush's numbers at new lows. The NY Times poll has just 42% saying Bush is doing a good job. Just 33% approve of the GOP-controlled Congress, with nearly 75% of Americans saying this GOP-controlled Congress did not share their priorities.

    I thought an interesting sidenote was that after this past November's election Bush's poll rating was just 51%. Both Reagan and Clinton had numbers nearing 60% when each of them were fresh off their second-term victories. To a point, Bush's numbers were already slumping in a relative sense months before this recent plunge.
    From Kevin Drum:
    JEB BUSH'S CHRISTIAN CHARITY....I wasn't going to blog about this, but I can't myself. This is truly beyond belief:
    Gov. Jeb Bush said Friday that a prosecutor has agreed to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, citing an alleged time gap between when her husband found her and when he called 911.

    ....In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, the governor said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m. on Feb. 25, 1990, and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

    "Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay," Bush wrote. "In light of this new information, I urge you to take a fresh look at this case without any preconceptions as to the outcome."
    The Bush children have always been distinguished by a fiery unwillingness to back down combined with an almost bestial pursuit of revenge against anyone who has ever crossed them. They don't want to beat their opponents, they want to destroy them.

    This, though, simply beggars the imagination. What kind of human being would keep a vendetta like this alive at this point?
    A common right-wing retort to the autopsy report has been that the left is morbidly lingering on this tragic death. Actually, the left was responding to a news item (the autopsy report) and closing the loop on a private family matter that was dragged before the national spotlight by the right-wing fringe folks. If anyone is lingering and belaboring this matter to the point of morbid fascination, it's Jeb Bush.
    As I've said before, soon GW (and Cheney) will be the lone voice asking for more research regarding global warming. Check here and here for the latest entities to join the reality-based community.

    Meanwhile, Bush's people continue to doctor reports and fudge the facts:
    The administration's push to alter the G-8's plan on global warming marks its latest effort to edit scientific or policy documents to accord with its position that mandatory carbon dioxide cuts are unnecessary. Under mounting international pressure to adopt stricter controls on heat-trapping gas emissions, Bush officials have consistently sought to modify U.S. government and international reports that would endorse a more aggressive approach to mitigating global warming. (Washington Post)

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    The Wall Street Journal editorial page has to be viewed as comical. I read it and try to keep a straight face, but can't as hard as I try.

    Today, the page bemoans the lack of a middle in the Democratic Party. Are they so completely delusional as to not see the irony in what they accuse? If anything, it's the GOP that has long lost its middle, verging so far to the right that many REPUBLICANS are on the record stating this fact. Christine Whitman, Chris Shays, John McCain, John Danforth, Paul O'Neal, just to name a few.

    Because the GOP has shifted so far to the right, and have just a few Snowe's and McCain's, what at one point in time might be considered a moderate Dem is now considered a flagrant liberal. The terms "middle" or "moderate" are relative and these days, such a central position is much farther right than it was ten or twenty years ago. Example: Goldwater was considered extreme right-wing in the '60s and yet today he'd be a run-of-the-mill Republican; also, Reagan would be considered moderate whereas at the time he was regarded as a hard-right conservative.

    Oh, and this nugget from the editorial: "As tough as these columns have been on the current Republican majority in Congress, Democrats bear their share of the blame for its dysfunction." Anyone, please send examples of this "toughness" they mention. I often read their editorials (beats reading the comics) and I don't recall such frequent GOP blastings.

    The editorial concludes with "Many conservatives have watched the left's hostile takeover of the Democratic Party...." First, what are they talking about? Proof, we want proof, names, anything! But secondly, it's much easier to make the case that the extreme right-wing contingent of the GOP has successfully taken over their party. And again, many within the GOP have publicly stated this fact.

    Kevin Drum is right when he states the WSJ has "the most dishonest editorial page in the country."

    USA Today has an article today that reinforces what Eugene Robinson recently wrote about in the Washington Post. Namely, that attractive, white women who tragically are kidnapped, abused, etc., almost always get featured on the 24/7 news channels and soon become a national obsession. Meanwhile, the many other not-as-photogenic, and typically non-white, females who are likewise missing, beaten, raped and murdered, etc., don't get a mention.

    A few days ago, I heard that pillar of morals, Bill Bennett, crowing on his radio show about how Robinson's piece was just absurd. Bennett went on and on for about a good minute stating that the premise of the column was outrageous and off-base -- however, not once did he provide any supporting evidence to his opinion(s). He just dismissed it with his rambling it-just-couldn't-be platitudes and then cut for a commercial. That good, hard substance from the right, so refreshing.

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    From ThinkProgress.org:

    Freshly-released autopsy results reveal that Terri Shiavo was blind:

    Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin concluded that…her brain was about half of normal size when she died. …

    Thogmartin says her brain was “profoundly atrophied” – and that the damage was “irreversable.” He also says, “The vision centers of her brain were dead” – meaning she was blind.

    Which makes Dr. Frist’s expert “diagnosis” all the more outrageous:

    Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), a renowned heart surgeon before becoming Senate majority leader, went to the floor late Thursday night for the second time in 12 hours to argue that Florida doctors had erred in saying Terri Schiavo is in a “persistent vegetative state.”

    “I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office,” he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. “She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli.”
    Boy, if Dr. Frist was so wrong about what would seem to be his true expertise, one has to wonder about how wrong he has been, and can be, on other matters....
    "Culture of Life"

    Jimmy Swaggart:
    "I'm going to be blunt and plain: If one [homosexual] ever looks at me like that, I'm going to kill him and tell God he died," Swaggart said.

    Swaggart also said that politicians who are undecided on the issue of same-sex marriage "all oughta have to marry a pig and live with him forever."
    And he has how many followers? Scary, scary times.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    A terrific post by Keving Drum, displaying both the utter idiocy of the The Wall Street Journal editorial page and another example of the Reagan myth.

    Also, check out Frank Rich's Sunday column. He helps confirm what John Dean recently wrote an entire book about: how Bush & Co. are worse than Nixon and his bunch.

    A segment:
    Such is the equivalently supine state of much of the news media today that Mr. Colson was repeatedly trotted out, without irony, to pass moral judgment on Mr. Felt - and not just on Fox News, the cable channel that is actually run by the former Nixon media maven, Roger Ailes. "I want kids to look up to heroes," Mr. Colson said, oh so sorrowfully, on NBC's "Today" show, condemning Mr. Felt for dishonoring "the confidence of the president of the United States." Never mind that Mr. Colson dishonored the law, proposed bombing the Brookings Institution and went to prison for his role in the break-in to steal the psychiatric records of The Times's Deep Throat on Vietnam, Daniel Ellsberg. The "Today" host, Matt Lauer, didn't mention any of this - or even that his guest had done jail time. None of the other TV anchors who interviewed Mr. Colson - and he was ubiquitous - ever specified his criminal actions in the Nixon years. Some identified him onscreen only as a "former White House counsel."

    Had anyone been so rude (or professional) as to recount Mr. Colson's sordid past, or to raise the question of whether he was a hero or a traitor, the genealogical line between his Watergate-era machinations and those of his present-day successors would have been all too painfully clear. The main difference is that in the Nixon White House, the president's men plotted behind closed doors. The current administration is now so brazen it does its dirty work in plain sight.
    The revolving door:
    Exxon Mobil confirms Cooney will join company

    DALLAS (MarketWatch) -- Philip Cooney, a former White House official who resigned last week, will join Exxon Mobil in the fall, a spokesman for the company confirmed to MarketWatch late Tuesday.
    So much for spending more time with the family....

    Monday, June 13, 2005

    Mike Malloy was recently ranting about the "fascists" (Republicans) and how is it the Dems can stand it, and that they should "just walk out," shut down the government.

    Given the infamous lack of Dem spine, for my own sanity I've come up with a theory as to why they just take it. I believe a good number of the Dems like having such extreme Republicans in power. Huh? Why? Because it increases their chances of getting reelected. But how? The extreme and strident nature of these Republicans helps to incite great emotion in voters for the Dems; such passion motivates and gets out the vote for many of these "spineless" Democrats. GW, Rove, DeLay, Cheney -- in a disconcerting way, they comprise a bread-and-butter meal ticket to insure the reelection of a good number of Democrats.

    Look, in the end, what politicians of any party affiliation desire most is to get to serve another term. That, Mr. Nader, is what makes both parties very much alike. Yeah, it would be great to be the majority party (who doesn't enjoy that?), but barring such an occurrence the trade-off in this case is viewed as fair to them.

    Sounds selfish, cynical, and not high-minded enough, but that doesn't mean it's not true. I have a strong feeling this is a whopper of a dirty secret in certain Dem circles. Just remember, the Sierra Club (and related organizations) did very well during the James Watt years, and they're undoubtedly receiving healthy donations with GW in office. The same holds true for religious and "family values" groups when it comes to the "evil" Howard Stern.

    Boogeymen can serve a valuable purpose for some -- an unfortunate fact for most of us.
    Cheney is like the old curmudgeonly grandfather who sits at the kitchen table mumbling obscenities and nonsensical, bitter insults. Endearing he is not.
    "I've never been able to understand his [Howard Dean] appeal. Maybe his mother loved him, but I've never met anybody who does. He's never won anything, as best I can tell,'' Cheney said in an interview to be aired Monday on Fox News Channel's "Hannity & Colmes.''

    Dean was elected governor of Vermont five times between 1992 and 2000. (AP)
    The Left Coaster has more lies from the seemingly senile VP:
    Saddam has reconstituted nuclear weapons?
    Insurgency in "last throes"?
    Never suggested a connection between Saddam/Iraq and 9/11?
    Saddam harbored Zarqawi?
    Kerry voted for tax increases 98 times?
    Edwards hometown paper calling him Senator Gone?
    Edwards' charges about Cheney and Halliburton being false?
    LC goes on to say, "One thing we can say about Dick Cheney. He's 'not the kind of individual you want to have representing' any human being. Mr. Cheney can certainly continue in his position as a key spokesman of the Republican Party despite having done business with America's top enemies (members of the Axis of Evil) while he was at Halliburton. That alone shows what the GOP stands for."
    Basically the entire world is coming around to the same view(s) regarding global warming -- except GW. The beauty of living in a non-reality-based fog. The climate, Iraq, tax cuts, social security -- facts be damned!

    Sunday, June 12, 2005

    The government official who doctored climate reports has resigned. Surprise, surprise, he decided to "spend time with his family." Well, they are the family values party (tee hee). Wonder if they'll replace this lawyer/lobbyist with a, gulp, scientist?

    Saturday, June 11, 2005

    This interactive graphic says it all. Move the dollar sign, watch our leader follow (and poetically, his nose grows like Pinocchio).

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    Growing tired of hearing that The New Republic is an extreme liberal publication (mostly described as such by those who likely have never read it), I submit the following:
    DEAN IDIOCY WATCH

    The idea of Tom DeLay expressing righteous indignation over anything these days is preposterous. But there was DeLay, or rather his spokesperson, ripping into Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean this week for Dean’s comments about the embattled House majority leader: “Leading a party with no ideas, no solutions, and no agenda, Howard Dean’s latest antics, which previously earned him a rebuke from his own party, shows the sad state the Democrats have sunk to.” People can quibble over whether the Democrats have no ideas, no solutions, and no agenda; but there is, alas, no denying DeLay’s point about the idiocy of the Democratic Party’s titular head.

    The antics to which DeLay’s flack was responding occurred on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Host Tim Russert had asked the DNC chair whether he was slandering DeLay when, in a speech to a Democratic group a few weeks earlier, he said: “I think Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston, where he can serve his jail sentence down there courtesy of the Texas taxpayers.” Rather than concede that he might have gotten a bit ahead of himself, Dean dug in. “I don’t think I’m prejudging him,” Dean replied before ticking off all of DeLay’s various transgressions and noting that the representative is under investigation by a Texas district attorney for violating campaign finance laws. “Now, the question is,” Dean continued, “where is this going to end up? I think there’s a reasonable chance that this may end up in jail.”

    Maybe. But it’s hardly the DNC chair’s place to be making predictions about what a judge and a jury might decide—especially since DeLay hasn’t actually been indicted!
    I'll await someone sending me something similar from National Review and the like.
    Reminder: next time you hear a r-wingnut yammer about majority should rule regarding the filibuster (i.e. 51, not 60), suggest then they should agree with abolishing the Electoral College as Gore received more votes than Bush in 2000. The majority was stomped on then -- where was this similar outcry? (crickets)

    Thursday, June 09, 2005

    Chris Mooney writes about Andrew Revkin, the NY Times reporter who has repeatedly written about the Bush administration's dishonesty and meddling when it came to government reports concerning the environment. Chris lists a number of links to the stories Revkin has published over the past few years.

    Scoundrels will be scoundrels. They know nothing else and it's what they do. Almost more so to blame is the silent public, who apparently expresses a greater degree of emotion and alarm over the Michael Jackson trial or Schiavo's private tragedy. Until voters express rage in numbers and demand change, Bush/Cheney/Rove will continue. They realize very little seems to resonate with the public -- at least of any real importance -- so why fear any backlash? They doctor environmental reports, they doctor intel, they doctor up energy policy by allowing lobbyists and corporations to write it, they doctor up prepackaged TV news, they doctor Bush's military records -- when will we demand a stop to these vile abuses?
    James Taranto in Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com:
    Our item yesterday on John Kerry*, his military records and his Yale transcript prompted this criticism from a reader:
    Your failure to acknowledge that John Kerry's Navy records contained praise from (future) members of the Swift Boats outfit demonstrates your lack of integrity and your fundamental dishonesty. You are a shill. Congratulations.
    "The Swift Boats outfit," of course, is the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and sure enough, yesterday's Boston Globe did say this:
    The records, which the Navy Personnel Command provided to the Globe, are mostly a duplication of what Kerry released during his 2004 campaign for president, including numerous commendations from commanding officers who later criticized Kerry's Vietnam service. . . . An earlier release of the full record might have helped his campaign because it contains a number of reports lauding his service.
    OK, so we goofed. We should have noted this yesterday. The reason we didn't is that we remembered reading in the paper that the Swift Boat guys were a bunch of liars, so we assumed their praise was not to be trusted.
    The usually snide and snarky Taranto never ceases to amaze. How can anyone read this and not perceive the gamed idiocy he attempts to pull off? Okay, so many of these Swift Boat vets offer praise in military records from decades ago, and yet what Taranto wants us to believe is that they're telling the truth now. So they were lying during, or right around, the war, yet many, many years later is when they're not likely compromised or have agendas and therefore see the light and tell the truth. Well now that we're all conjecturing, oh yeah, that sounds highly plausible.

    Of course, the day before, Taranto pointed out the brilliant reason that Kerry didn't release his records: because it would've disclosed his Yale grades which matched Bush's. Oh yes, that's it, as opposed to releasing the records then to negate the Swift Boat smears with the disclosed praise. Ah, the bracing mind of Jimmy boy.

    This guy is the most revoltingly-bad rightwing columnist on the scene right now. Smug, snarky, not as bright as he projects -- just your classic "Doug Neidermeyer" a-hole.

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    Amazing. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote that it was Jimmy Carter who "laid the groundwork" which "eventually brought down the Soviet empire." Wow. For so long we've had to hear 100% credit given to Reagan, and only Reagan, in this regard. Wow.

    A depressing graphic, to say the least:

    Source: Jobwatch.org

    Also, NY Times columnist Bob Herbert recently cited the following:
    For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent of the population between 1950 and 1970, those in the top 0.01 percent earned an additional $162. That gap has since skyrocketed. For every additional dollar earned by the bottom 90 percent between 1990 and 2002, Mr. Johnston wrote, each taxpayer in that top bracket brought in an extra $18,000.

    It's like chasing a speedboat with a rowboat.
    Although this most recent recovery has been a long, drawn-out one, one trend has continued unabated: the wealthy distancing themselves from the not-as-wealthy. But where's the outrage? Oh, that's right, it's much more important to rid the country of "liberal" judges and gay marriage.

    How ironic, the right-wing that so fervently supports Bush and the sanctity of marriage, now have to confront news that divorce is up BIG for active soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. No doubt putting added strain on such marriages are the extended leaves due to an undermanned military.

    So thanks to Rumsfeld's meaner, leaner fighting force, our soldiers are more vulnerable -- both their physical welfare as well as emotional.

    More outrageous environmental news out today concerning Bush's covert efforts to doctor science and basically mislead (again) the American public on a very important issue.

    This time we have a White House lawyer who freely edited climate reports:
    A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.

    In handwritten notes on drafts of several reports issued in 2002 and 2003, the official, Philip A. Cooney, removed or adjusted descriptions of climate research that government scientists and their supervisors, including some senior Bush administration officials, had already approved. In many cases, the changes appeared in the final reports.
    <...>
    Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

    Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.
    Meanwhile, this statement is released today by the national science academies of 11 countries:
    "It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. The scientific understanding of climate change is now sufficiently clear to justify nations taking prompt action."
    We'll no doubt hear the inane call for even more research from the right-wing nuts, claiming to be unconvinced despite the current massive body of evidence. I can at least understand those who stand to gain monetarily by burying or fudging the facts (such as energy lobbyists, oil companies, utilities, etc.), what I don't understand is John Q. Public going along with this BS.

    Speaking of which here's a story that explains how Exxon influenced Bush's decision to pull out of Kyoto. Of course, up till now, Exxon denied any such involvement. Remember this story the next time you see a warm-and-fuzzy pro-environment Exxon ad in a magazine.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Regardless of what the Republicans would like us to believe, the filibuster "compromise" was a clear loss for the Dems. This feckless agreement is basically the GOP saying: you Dems can have your right to filibuster -- just as long as you don't exercise it. Wow, what a victory.

    The New Republic makes some very good points on the matter:
    The moderates have done something else typically maddening. They have redefined the center of debate to the rightward position demanded by the pull of Republican extremists. Back in the Clinton years, the idea that a president could shove judges down Congress’s throat was a foreign one. Republicans clearly thought so, because they used all manner of blocking tactics (albeit less visible ones than the filibuster) to stop dozens of Clinton nominees. Sure, Democrats howled in protest. But they never resorted to changing Senate rules.

    In the Bush era, by contrast, Republicans have gradually removed various means of blocking judges and mounted a fierce assault on the filibuster. The filibuster still holds, for the moment. But allowing the confirmation of three radical Bush nominees—Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and William Pryor—in exchange for a Democratic promise to filibuster only in “extraordinary circumstances” created a false equivalence between the extremity of the GOP’s approach and the Democrats’ simple adherence to Senate rules.

    Moreover, when the filibuster fight comes to a head again—as it will—the Democrats’ task will be made all the more difficult not only by the need to demonstrate “extraordinary circumstances,” but by the implication that the three Bush nominees the deal effectively confirmed, whom the liberal establishment treated as something close to worst-case picks, did not constitute “extraordinary circumstances.” That sets the bar awfully high. (Even some conservatives have fretted over Brown’s onetime suggestion that she observes a higher law than the Constitution.) Furthermore, what happens should Bush choose one of these three to fill the next Supreme Court vacancy? The answers to these questions all seem to favor the Republicans.
    In response to Cheney's reassurance that the insurgent attacks in Iraq are in the "last throes," congressional representatives from both parties felt the need to go on record to express doubt in the accuracy of his statement. (Can we trust anything this administration has to say when bipartisan clearing-of-the-air is a necessity?).
    Military commanders in Iraq privately told a visiting congressional delegation last week that the United States is at least two years away from adequately training a viable Iraqi military but that it is no longer reasonable to consider augmenting U.S. troops already strained by the two-year operation, said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.). "The idea that the insurgents are on the run and we are about to turn the corner, I did not hear that from anybody," Biden said in an interview.

    Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.), who joined Biden for part of the trip, said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and others are misleading Americans about the number of functional Iraqi troops and warned the president to pay more attention to shutting off Syrian and Iranian assistance to the insurgency. "We don't want to raise the expectations of the American people prematurely," he said.
    <...>
    "The administration has failed to level with the American people," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "It's terrible because they refuse to provide a full picture of what is really happening there."
    <...>
    "I cannot say with any confidence that that is accurate," said Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), a member of the House International Relations Committee. "I think it's impossible to know how close we are to the insurgency being overcome." (Washington Post)

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    The Nation has an excellent article further fleshing out details in the Downing Street memo. It explains how Bush & Co. were in "full combat mode," beginning the Iraq war before it was officially declared. Rear Admiral David Gove is quoted as saying in November 2002 that pilots were then "essentially flying combat missions." Recall the war didn't "start" until March 2003. Talk about an impeachable offense....
    ------------
    In a recent NY Observer column, Joe Conason wrote about the right-wing's outrage over the filibuster compromise and how "the leaders of the religious right -- who demanded the 'nuclear' obliteration of legislative traditions in their pursuit of judicial theocracy" denounced the eventual resolution. It should come as no surprise that these folks were a bit perturbed. It's how they think. To them, the Bible is absolute, beyond compromise. The problem is that's not the case with politics, public policy, democracy -- in short, the American way of governmental existence! They refuse or neglect to shift gears. Newsflash: we're not a take-it-or-leave-it theocracy, but rather a republic, which means the minority is represented, heard, and respected. There is no singular voice (God) but rather many opinions, all of which merit consideration.
    ------------
    This item from a right-wing blog just left my head spinning. The writer takes issue with this letter from John J. Donohue to the NY Times stating that Giuliani didn't deserve a Nobel Peace Prize for crime falling in NYC because it was in part due to abortion being made legal in the 1970s. Crime fell in other cities during this same time period. The blogger retorts, "I'm just curious if Professor Donahue also beleives that it's possible that the person who was going to find the cure AIDS, Lou Gehrig's Disease or some other fatal disease was also a victim of abortion?"

    Causal facts vs. sheer conjecture. Hey blogger, how about young children killed by handguns in homes. These same young kids could've grown up to "cure AIDS, Lou Gehrig's Disease or some other fatal disease" and yet I don't hear the right-wing clamoring for tougher gun laws. More of "love the fetus, hate the child."

    Also, I could've won the lottery today if I just remembered to play it (I can pose this hypothetical on a daily basis). Oh, and stem cell research could help a child live who may go on to cure cancer -- yet, this research is opposed by the religious right. Or stem cell research could help a more mature, older scientist who is on the verge of a crucial breakthrough in his anti-cancer work, and yet is ailing in health and requires more time to finish.

    Where does the idiocy end?

    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    With regards to Adam McKay's post, for anyone who can remain intellectually honest (a big "if" as Adam rightly centers on), if a Clinton administration nominated a so-obviously-not-qualified Bolton, we would've never heard the end of it. This guy is a clown, with many more better qualified candidates waiting to be nominated, and yet we're stuck with him. Why? Because Bush/Cheney/Rove are willing to go fifteen rounds and similar to their unwillingness to admit to any mistakes surrounding 9-11 and during the entire Iraq invasion and occupation, to withdraw Bolton is an admission of weakness in their mind. Forget competence and what the country deserves; hoist utter mediocrity or less at us and then defend it tooth and nail to show your principled. Pathetic.

    By the way, the right-wingnuts defend this guy simply because Bush nominated him, period. Several Republicans who have not yet succumbed to "Stepford GOP" syndrome realize he's not fit for the job. What I keep reading from the outer fringe is he's a kick-ass dude -- just what the UN needs to shake it up (reform). Yeah, the same cowboy BS we heard leading up to the Iraq invasion.

    Well, for that matter, why don't they only support the hiring of public school teachers who are on the record criticizing public schools. Bolton is on the record with harsh criticism directed at the UN. Heck, let's just hire teachers who hold a kick-ass, take-no-prisoners attitude towards public education. (I anticipate I'll be getting many a "congrats Ed for finally seeing the light!" from many an r-wingnut).

    That kind of thinking is easy, and lazy, and dangerous. Problem: Iraq, solution: blow it the f*ck up. Problem: UN, solution: blow it the f*ck up. Etc. etc.

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Great post by Adam McKay on Arianna Huffington's meta-blog. He sounds like he's going through the same sanity check that I find myself going through on a daily basis. He's asking real, honest questions and would hope to get honest, deliberate answers, but sadly he's likely to receive the same snarky, myopic, wise-ass retorts that I receive from right-wing readers. As far as I can tell, most of them are narrow-minded dim bulbs that have a huge chip on their shoulder about their station in life; I've found that the GOP is very much a party of the 1) super wealthy, and 2) those who are not super wealthy -- and are very pissed off about this fact.

    Here's Adam's post:
    If you happen to be a W. Bush supporter who's skimming through the Huffington Post to see who the liberal traitors and agitators are, I have some questions for you. And these are honest, "I really am looking for an answer" questions, not rhetorical snarky questions.

    I'm really looking to figure out this divide in our country between the so-called true patriots and the shiftless liberals. So help me out and then when you see me on the road with my "Wal-Mart: Low Wages, Low Morals...Always" bumper sticker, feel free to flip me off.

    Now I already fully admit that I'm a liberal idiot and cynical godless appeasement junkie, so there's no need to call me that. Oh, and also, I'm a Hollywood smart-ass and a Prius driving hippy. I won't get into the fact that I was raised in a lower class background and I hadn't been to Hollywood until five years ago. Plus, even though I believe in a strong military and supported our attack of Afghanistan and Serbia, you can call me a weak-kneed pussy. It's really okay. I get it. So here are my questions...

    Who do we go to for honest critical reporting of this administration, or for that matter, any of our leaders? If the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, the Nation, this blog and anyone who criticizes the President, Corporate America or Tom Delay are all liberal rags, then who is the voice that's okay to listen to? This is an honest question. Help me out here.

    And when people like Richard Clarke, Paul O'Neil and even Senator McCain are dismissed as bitter or self-motivated, then who is cleared for an honest assessment? College professors, artists, labor leaders, scientists or Hollywood types? Not unless they endorse the right, like Bruce Willis or the Terminator. Those are good Hollywood types.

    Now surely we can agree on this: every administration does some things wrong. Clinton passed NAFTA and got a blowjob. Reagan traded arms for hostages with Iran. And Nixon had a grand old time. So we know no administration is perfect. And we also know that it's important to be aware of these mistakes, abuses of power or incidents of influence-peddling. So who do we go to? Is it Fox News? ...Really?... Honestly?... Rupert Murdoch is the watchman of American Democracy? Is it the New York Post? Or Rush Limbaugh? Now, I'm open-minded enough to consider the fact that it may be. But when was the last time the Post or Limbaugh criticized anything that anyone affiliated with the Bush administration did? So I'm confused here. I would never go to a doctor who covered up facts about my health because he's supportive and proud of my body or is afraid of coming off seditious to the chest cavity of Adam McKay. I wanna know. So who? Who is it cool to listen to?

    If Dick Cheney came out tomorrow and said, "We should all be in jail. We started a war based on information we knew to be false, we've let big business write our energy policy and we outed a CIA spy as political payback," would he then be dismissed as "bitter" or a turncoat? Once again, I really want to know.

    Okay, so lately it seems like Tom Delay has stepped out of the pack and raised his hand and said "Hey! I'm pretty awful." And the corporate and religious right has backed him 110 percent. So my question is this: do you, as a right-leaning American, really, honestly, in your heart of hearts, believe that he is a good man? And by "good man," I mean someone who's not concerned with personal power but is focused on the health of our nation and the best for the most. Really? Is there anyone out there who really, truly, honestly thinks this? Because we know there are pretty bum Democrats and pretty lousy people everywhere you look. I'm not fond of Joe Lieberman. And I'm also not crazy about Democrat Mayor Daley of Chicago. So really? Can you honestly and in the spirit of truthfulness tell me that Tom Delay is good for this country and is a caring man? Really? And if you can, that's cool, too. I'm just curious as to how and why. So help me out.

    Okay. That's it for now. But please help me out. I'm trying to get what's going on in this country. I really am. It's confusing. I thought we all wanted kind of the same things (a strong economy, clean air, opportunities, good world standing, peace, good schools) but lately I'm being told that if you criticize or question these Bush guys or Pat Robertson dudes you are automatically a dirty liberal. I've always considered myself pretty moderate so I don't get it. But I'm open to some answers that don't involve name-calling. I really am.

    Again, sadly too many of those he's addressing are so far gone off the edge in terms of partisan, blind hate and refusal to even think - instead inanely cheering for a team - that his sober plea will either go unanswered or receive a ton of idiotic, snarky responses.

    Thursday, June 02, 2005

    The Wall Street Journal recently had an editorial about Bush's stem cell policy. They were basically making the case that GW's stand against stem cell research was really not a big deal, that private research could more than make up for the ban on federally-funded research.

    As is usually the case with most of WSJ's editorials, I read the piece and felt my brain shrink. Where to start....

    They write, "Recall what the President's August 2001 decision actually did. It allowed federal funding for research on existing stem-cell lines where, he said, 'the life and death decision has already been made.'" With the recent bipartisan bill passed, it was stipulated that those embryos in fertility clinics that were destined to be destroyed (and there's lots of these each year) could be used for research. So a "life and death decision has already been made" for these embryos: they're going to be incinerated. Why not instead use them for research and thus work towards extending life?

    With regards to WSJ's contention that private R&D is still free to research all they want, that it's just federally-funded research that gets slapped, it's another instance of the Journal preaching with a lack of facts or knowledge. The fact is an enormous number of big breakthroughs in research have not come from private research but rather federally-funded research. It's a lesser know fact but the list of products that originally stemmed from research funded by you and I (as opposed to a Merck or Pfizer) is astounding. What these huge pharma companies often do is swoop in and buy the rights to such research after it's nearly finished so that they can then manufacture and market products to us. In effect, we then pay twice: we first pay for the research and we again pay for the final product.

    But the point is most of these drugs would never have existed if not for federally-funded research. To assume otherwise, that private research would've completely replicated such discoveries is ludicrous -- particularly when you recognize that most pharma companies only want to allocate research dollars to low-risk/high-probability efforts, which results in things like Viagra. It's the federal research that focus more on the less-certain yet bolder efforts that frequently yield huge, meaningful payoffs.

    The Journal states "the federal government has also made 22 fully developed embryonic stem-cell lines available," yet it doesn't mention Bush originally promised 60 lines, and many scientists say only 17 (not 22) are usable. Nice deletion.

    The Journal then praises action being taken at the individual state level. (Have you noticed this trend by the way? Our federal government is so lacking and out of touch with the true concerns of citizens that states are picking up the ball). If the Journal praises such state-level initiative, then why the need for a federal ruling (Constit. amend.) on gay marriage? More hypocrisy from the right -- tough for them to stay consistent.

    Polls show that most Americans favor their tax dollars being used for stem cell research -- as opposed to the Iraq war, where most Americans now oppose the occupation.

    What more evidence does one need to see that GW is catering to a select group in this country (the religious right), a minority as opposed to the majority of Americans? A bitterly divided Congress was able to come together to pass a bipartisan bill on this subject, with 50 Republicans defying Bush/Rove/DeLay. It's become nakedly obvious to many in his own party that he's ventured too far in governing strictly to please one group of rapid voters.

    What I love most is the delicious irony of seeing Arlen Specter spearhead the effort against Bush in this stem cell fight. Recall that Bush endorsed pro-choice Specter over pro-life Toomey in the PA Senate race last year. Hah! The pro-choice guy turns around and bites GW in the ass -- a thing of beauty! Reason and true concern for life trumps politics.

    UPDATE: Another big problem with private R&D. This bought-and-paid-for research has been the focus of many of the recent recalls involving fatalities.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    Here's another gem of an exchange from our class-act, brainiac leader:
    MS. MORNIN: That's good, because I work three jobs and I feel like I contribute.

    THE PRESIDENT: You work three jobs?

    MS. MORNIN: Three jobs, yes.

    THE PRESIDENT: Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that. (Applause.) Get any sleep? (Laughter.)
    Mind you, Ms. Mornin is a divorced mother in her late fifties with three children, including a mentally-challenged son. Can't you just feel the empathy from Prez Compassionate Conservative? With that couldn't-help-himself little joke and snicker laugh at the end.

    The sad part is we can all easily picture this dope doing this, his eyes gesturing up and down frantically as he giggles. But at least he once again commits a truthful gaffe, stating it's "uniquely American" to be working three jobs. And how "fantastic" that she's doing that, as if she wants to slave over three jobs. How clueless is this guy?

    Enough with some media whores writing that the President is not as dumb or ignorant as people believe -- this guy is absolutely big-time stupid, period.

    I wrote a few days ago about an increasing number of military personnel speaking out (finally) about the shortage of soldiers in Iraq. Here's another example.

    But don't worry, Cheney has declared that the conflict is in its "last throes" and will be over when Bush exits office. Before you sigh in relief, recall the promises "They will greet us with roses in the streets" and the war will pay for itself in Iraq's oil money, and "Mission Accomplished" and....