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Marriage is love.
(And thanks to The Mad Prophet for pointing me to this bit of code.)

31.3.04

The Old Grey Lady gets egg on her face
 

The New York Times announced with great fanfare tonight that Google, wanting to up the ante in its competition against Yahoo! and MicroSuck, was unveiling a new e-mail service. It would appear, however, that the Paper of Record has fallen victim to a fairly obvious poisson d'Avril as they say in Paris. (We on this side of the pond call it an April Fool's joke.)

As the Google "press release" should make fairly obvious, this is unlikely to be a serious story. It is dated April 1, 2004, for one. For another, the second headline is "Search is Number Two Online Activity -- Email is Number One; 'Heck, Yeah,' Say Google Founders."

The first graf reads:

Amidst rampant media speculation, Google Inc. today announced it is testing a preview release of Gmail – a free search-based webmail service with a storage capacity of up to eight billion bits of information, the equivalent of 500,000 pages of email. Per user.

That's a gigabyte of e-mail, per user. Free. Anybody with even a little bit of net knowledge should have seen through that one. But it gets better. Among the claims made about Gmail is this one: "And it turns annoying spam e-mail messages into the equivalent of canned meat."

Everybody have a little chuckle, mmm-kay? We now resume our regularly scheduled campaign hysteria.

Stop the presses! There's a commenter at DKos who says s/he works for Google and that the release is factually correct and points to this site as proof. I'm having Ockham's Razor problems here, but maybe it's not a joke after all. We'll see.


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Go Wings!
 

With a minimum of 107 points, the Red Wings clinch the Western Division. It's almost time for the Cup playoffs, baby: I can't wait!


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Save Bob Edwards
 

Thirty-one days left of Bob Edwards on "Morning Edition." That's it. The end of an era is staring us in the face: and it blows. It blows chunks. Big ones.

But all may not yet be lost. Courtesy of Liquidtoast, I discovered the Save Bob Edwards web site. They're close to 10,000 signatures on their petition already, and they have a number of other options for letting NPR know what we think about their half-baked decision to send the most popular rational radio host in the country packing. (Yes, I know that the Limboob is the most popular host overall, but I did specify "rational.")

Stop on by and sign up. And be sure to let your local station know you're pissed off, too. I suspect that may be the most effective means of protest: telling NPR it can stop counting on our support (which they're telling us how much they need all this week) unless it reconsiders this lame-ass decision.


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30.3.04

2,000
 

That's the number of visitors I've had since this blog opened for business (or at least started counting visitors) on February 7, 2004. That, in and of itself, is amazing to me, considering I have a homepage that's been up for close to 10 years and only has about 3,000 and change. Even more amazing is that I hit 1,000 visitors here just about 20 days ago on March 9. My 2,000th came at 19:31:18 tonight from telus.net, and was a referral from a comment I left on DKos.

It's heartwarming and humbling both that people think my little musings are worth reading often enough to get me to 2,000 visitors in under two months. I'll do my best to keep up my end of the bargain if you'll keep reading.


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Aux armes, citoyens!
 

The Repuglican National Commissariat is pressuring the Federal Election Commission to adopt new rules that would have the effect of redefining many nonprofit groups as political committees, thereby forcing these groups to meet significantly more stringent financial and reporting requirements or to forego many of the advocacy and civic engagement activities at the core of their missions. From all accounts, they are motivated solely by the desire to protect the Dear Leader from any picayune criticism of his divinely inspired policies.

To that end, according to andante, The FEC proposes to redefine "political committee" to include any group that:

1. Spends more than $1,000 this year on nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote activity or on any ad, mailing or phone bank that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate; and

2. Supposedly has a "major purpose" of election of a federal candidate as shown by:

(a) Saying anything in its press releases, materials, website, etc. that might lead regulators to conclude that the group’s "major purpose" is to influence the election of any federal candidate; or

(b) Spending more than $50,000 this year or in any of the last 4 years for any nonpartisan voter registration or get out the vote program, or on any public communication that "promotes, supports, attacks or opposes" any federal candidate.

Those regulations would ensnare just about any 501(c)(3) charitable organization, 501(c)(4) advocacy organization, labor union, trade association, or political committee/organization (the "527" groups, as well as state PACs, local political clubs, etc.) that tries to encourage people to vote, helps to register them to vote, or engages in any form of communication to do such things or to "promote, defend, support, or attack" any candidate for federal office. That includes web sites (like this one), e-mails, telephone banks, and probably putting campaign signs in your yard by the time they're done with it.

They've got to be stopped. Since the FEC has graciously consented (which it rarely does) to consider public comment on this question, I move that we give them all the public comment they can handle. But there's a short deadline: comments are due by April 9. They can be sent by e-mail to politicalcommitteestatus@fec.gov, addressed to Ms. Mai T. Dinh, Acting Assistant General Counsel, and must include the full name, electronic mail address, and postal service address of the commenter.

Both MoveOn.org and People for the American Way have talking points available if you feel like letting the FEC have a piece of your mind. What follows is the piece of my mind that I sent them earlier this evening:

By all means, you should consider these proposed new rules to restrict donations to non-profit groups that attempt to educate the American people about the machinations of our leaders. Then, after you've laughed yourselves into a near-coma, you should use them to line the bottom of a convenient bird cage--because that's about the only thing they're good for.

We can begin with the fact that the FEC lacks the standing to make non-profit interest groups into political committees. Both Congress and the courts have already specifically considered--and rejected--such regulation. So pass these rules if you feel you must, but you're going to look like a batch of complete idiots when they're immediately enjoined by a court of competent jurisdiction prior to being stricken from the statute books as unconstitutional prior restraint.

Nor can there be any doubt that these proposed rules are a purely partisan attempt by the Bush régime and its corporate masters to silence anyone who dares to oppose them and their policy agendas. Never mind the fact that Bush lost the election in 2000. Never mind the fact that his policies and those of his corporate masters have bankrupted this country and started an illegal war that is draining off both lives and treasure that could be better used for other, legitimate purposes of our government. The important thing is not to hurt his feelings by having people criticize him. If he wants the job so badly, he's going to have to learn that being criticized is part and parcel of what he does, like it or not.

Lastly, it was never the intent of McCain-Feingold to gag public-interest organizations. In fact, it seems to me that the proposed rules changes run directly counter to the spirit of McCain-Feingold, which was to prevent the political process from being hijacked by special interests and Washington insiders. The rules you are considering will only make it easier for those special interests and insider groups to exert even more complete and effective control over American politics, to the detriment of both American democracy and the American people.

You must reject these mean-spirited new rules, or reveal yourselves to be little more than puppets of the Bush régime. The responsibility is yours. I advise you to consider carefully what you will do.

Spread the word, folks! Don't let BushCoTM get away with stealing the political process a second time.


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We can all relax now
 

Hitler and Stalin, among other re-born "new persons" have declared Sun Myung Moon to be the MessiahTM. Just in case you were wondering.

Hat tip to Atrios for the funny.


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How farkin' cool is that?
 

OK, even if it is one of Skippy's ideas, I'm beginning to think we really should be planning for an eventual manned mission to Mars. (Maybe it's just because I recently picked up a Robert Heinlein sci-fi novel to re-read as a break from nothing but war and death in my assigned reading this semester.)

Or maybe it isn't. We've got good evidence that it used to have liquid water, in appreciable quantities. And now there's evidence of small quantities of methane in the Martian atmosphere, confirmed by three independent research groups. Two of the groups used spectroscopic instruments attached to Earth-bound telescopes. A third used nearly 1700 spectral measurements taken on Mars by the Mars Express rover in January and February. The latter group found about 10.5 parts per billion of methane in the atmosphere.

Scientists are obviously unwilling to draw too many conclusions from not enough data, and have said that these results, though independent and using three different data sources, do not conclusively prove that methane is present in the Martian atmosphere: but the signs are looking pretty good.

One possibility to account for it would be methane-producing bacteria, which would be a very interesting finding indeed, given that Martian conditions are not what we would normally consider hospitable for bacterial life. Another possibility is some non-biological process like an active volcano. That would be an interesting finding in and of itself, since it would suggest there might be geothermal energy that we could tap into to sustain a human presence on the planet, if ever we get there.

And just now as I was considering an ending for this post, I looked above the monitor and spotted the certificate hanging on the wall behind my desk. It's a participation certificate for the NASA Mars Exploration Rover's 2003 mission, dated July 6, 2001. The last sentence above the administrator's signature bears quoting here, I think:

Together, we will journey into space to discover and understand the many wonders of our universe.

Don't it make you just a little bit proud to be a member of the human race?


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The Imperial Presidency Strikes Back
 

Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

In a lengthy and well-reasoned post, Orcinus makes a convincing case that there is more than meets the eye behind the machinations to keep the Condoliar off the witness stand in front of the September 11 Commission. He argues, persuasively, that the BushCoTM agenda is nothing less than the resurrection of the Imperial Presidency last advocated by Tricky Dicky. Shorter version: they want a president (and advisers to that president) who can lie, cheat, steal, dissemble, obfuscate, and break all manner of laws, simply by virtue of being part of the Executive Branch.

The longer version is even scarier. Emmet G. Sullivan, the judge hearing the Cheney energy panel case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, offers a few examples of what it might mean if the Bushies get their way in re-establishing an Imperial Presidency (taken from the memorandum opinion in Judicial Watch v. National Energy Policy Development Group, 233 F. Supp. 2d 16 [2002 U.S. Dist.], 63-64):

The implications of the bright-line rule advocated by the government are stunning. Even if this Court were to consider the question of what separation of powers standard to apply without the benefit of precedent, it would reach the conclusion that the government’s position in [sic] untenable.

That's the good news. At least one federal court finds the government's position unworkable. Now for the really, really bad news. Here's what Judge Sullivan thinks the Bushies would like the Supreme Court to say is the meaning of "executive privilege":

Any action by Congress or the Judiciary that intrudes on the president's ability to recommend legislation to Congress or get advice from Cabinet members in any way would necessarily violate the Constitution. The Freedom of Information Act and other open government laws would therefore constitute an unconstitutional interference with Executive authority. Any action by a court or Congress that infringes on any other Article II power of the President, for example, the President's role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces and the national security concerns that derive from that role, would violate the Constitution. Any congressional or judicial ruling that infringes on the President's role in foreign affairs, would violate the Constitution. Clearly, this is not the law. Such a ruling would eviscerate the understanding of checks and balances between the three branches of government on which our constitutional order depends. (Emphasis in original.)

The ghost of Richard Nixon must surely be smiling. Though, please God, not for long.


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29.3.04

Women and children first
 

As usual, Josh Marshall nails it. Quoting what he calls "a late story from NBC," he said:

You know something's wrong -- when an administration is truly out of control -- when they discuss their dirty tricks on background.

Look at what this is: using the CIA and the classification process for an explicitly and exclusively partisan purpose, at the direct behest of the White House. Call me old-fashioned but back in the good-old-days this used to be done with a bit more indirection, subterfuge and cover, no? (Emphasis in original.)

If you listen very carefully to the strident screeching of the BushCoTM flacks, you can hear the strains of "Nearer, My God, to Thee" playing in the background. Their ship is on the way down, and I think at least the brighter ones among them are starting to figure that out. It will be interesting to see who's still around come November. (The fewer of them, the better, say I!)


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The eyes are open and the lips are moving, but nobody's home
 

OK, listen up, Bushies. I'm going to say this once, and once only. I promise to use simple words so you won't misunderestimate my meaning. Ready? Here we go:

The...Condoliar...must...testify...under...oath...and...in...public.

There are no other available options that are acceptable to me and to growing numbers of American citizens. Yet the Bush régime just keeps on diggin', hoping that it can hit on some magic formula short of having the Condoliar face the klieg lights and the cameras and then having to swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. (Not that she has all that much of an acquaintance with the truth, mind you: but at least when she lies under oath, we get to send her to prison.)

There really are no constitutional legs on which to stand. Nor is there any precedent to fear here. It's not even technically true that the commission is in fact an arm of Congress.

So get the fuck over yourselves, Skippy and Karl and Condi, and send her down to the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, Bible at the ready. We're not settling for anything less.


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I'm seconding andante's motion
 

You should read this. It's the perfect slam-dunk of BushCo's "over-the-top" meme about Kerry's having the audacity to quote from the single most popular book in history.


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And now for something completely different
 

Here's a bit of good news:

Sex stimulates the brain and makes people more intelligent, according to a top German researcher.

Werner Habermehl, from the Hamburg Medical Research Institute, says that regular sexual intercourse promotes intelligence.

He said that love making not only excited the body but also the brain and the increased amount of adrenaline and cortisol hormones that are produced stimulates the grey matter, reported magazine Unicum Campus.

"Sex makes you more intelligent in that experiences are collected that can be used later on in areas of life not linked to sex," said Habermehl.

He added that the added injection of endorphins and serotonin that resulted from an orgasm strengthened self-confidence - giving the body a mental as well as physical work out.

Orgasms. They're not just for fun anymore.

Update: I wonder if the Repugs' performance in the last couple of weeks is indicative of the fact that they haven't been getting laid much?


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This is just rich
 

I guess I can be grateful that the abysmal quality of the liturgies around here has kept me away from Mass lately. Seems that at least in Boston yesterday some parishes were showing an eight-minute antigay marriage video, and that one gay Catholic stood up at the end of it to denounce it as "the most contemptuous, vile, slanderous piece of political propaganda that I have ever seen in a Roman Catholic church."

Now comes this bit of, uh, commentary from someone claiming to be faithful to the Magisterium. (I am reproducing her commentary ad verbam, exactly as it appeared):

Social Security will have to be taken away from the poor to give to the rich gay men as 'benefits'. There is no getting around it. There is only so much 'money' to go around - benefits cost money. Once all the homosexual and lesbians line up for their 'benefits'...Eventually, the people giving the money for the benefits are going to say 'We ran out of money' 'We don't have this kind of money'...and then the bar will be raised on 'who' gets the benefits. The poor and elderly will have to pay more for their medicine perhaps. They will 'cut' medical procedures from being eligible, they will pay 'more' for their medications - some who already cannot afford them. They may die as a result....They will tell the poor people that if they are a family of four, and they make 20,000, they can't have any more benefits. They will raise the bar, pretending this is enough money to live on....so that the two lawyers, the reporter and the lawyer, the rich, will enjoy their 'benefits'.

If there was a rational argument anywhere in there, I missed it. It seems to have escaped this commentator's notice that gay men and lesbians pay payroll taxes, too--so why on earth shouldn't they get benefits paid for by those taxes? And perhaps if Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey and his corporate masters hadn't handed over the keys of the U.S. Treasury to the wealthy, we could afford to pay benefits to married gay couples, provide a reasonable prescription drug benefit to the indigent and the elderly, and maybe even put roofs over the heads of the homeless, or food on the tables of all those who go hungry each night in this land of the putatively free and the home of the too-infrequently brave.

But you know what they did to Jesus for suggesting stuff like that. Maybe we'd be better off to go quietly and docilely to Mass and not bother to interrupt the nice priest, even when he is selling his soul to the devil.

Updated to make minor grammatical edit.


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In case you weren't already having trouble sleeping
 

After fighting like crazy to keep the (unclassified) report buried somewhere deep inside the memory hole, the Pentagon has released portions (censored, of course) of a document commissioned to study the U.S.'s ability to respond to bioterrorism. The report, quoted in the New York Times, "concludes that the nation is woefully ill-prepared to detect and respond to a bioterrorist assault."

The Paper of Record continues:

In a sweeping assessment, the report identifies weaknesses in "almost every aspect of U.S. biopreparedness and response." But perhaps equally significant is the two-year battle over the Pentagon's refusal to release the study. That struggle highlights the growing tension between public access to information and the government's refusal to divulge anything it says terrorists could use to attack Americans.

Or, apparently, that Americans might use to protect against terrorists. Case in point:

Censored parts of the document were read to a New York Times reporter. In one instance in the redacted version, the summary states, "The fall 2001 anthrax attacks may turn out to be . . . to confront." The deleted passage reads: "the easiest of bioterrorist strikes."

Well, duh! I could have saved them at least a hundred grand (it cost $150,000 to produce the study) and told them that much. Anthrax isn't all that hard to get, or to grow, or, once you've done the really hard work to get the spores and treat them so they're capable of spreading through the air properly, to disseminate. It's a heck of a lot harder to do something with botulism (though that bacteria is a little easier to raise, at least as long as you've got access to an incubator that can exclude oxygen), or bubonic plague. The truly nasty things like Ebola are beyond the capability of anybody but government or government-level agencies to produce. Any terrorist who tried home-growing Ebola would likely succumb to the disease long before he could spread it among the general public.

Shorter version: Pentagon commissions study from a non-secret research firm that conducts hearings that are not classified. BushCo is actually implementing many of the study's findings. But BushCo doesn't want to tell anybody what they're doing (perhaps because they don't want to tip off the terrorists, but the cynic in me, prompted in part by the Clarke Slime Machine this past couple of weeks, also wonders what's in the report that would make BushCo look bad).

Stupid BushCo! (Not like that's anything new, really.)


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Faux News: Unfair and Unbalanced. Now with Extra Bigoted Bits
 

Atrios has posted a transcript of a segment that aired last Tuesday on Faux News' The O'Reilly Factor. The "Follow-Up" segment dealt with "the various demographic shifts throughout America" and estimates by the Census Bureau that by 2050 "white Americans will make up less than 50 percent of the population."

The "guests" were a demographer from the Brookings Institution and the editor-in-chief of American Demographics magazine. O'Reilly more or less dropped a bigoted turd in the punchbowl every time he opened his mouth, starting from his initial assumption that this population shift was due to "illegal immigration, millions of people coming in here and the higher birth rate among Hispanics in America."

At the end of the transcript, the talking-head from Brookings concluded that over the next 50 years we would be seeing "this phasing out or fading out of the white baby boom population." To which O'Reilly responded, "Yes. We'll all be dead. Thank God, right?"

Would that your bigotry and your white supremacism in sheep's clothing would die out with you, Billy-boy.


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Good thing they can't do this at home!
 

The New York Times is reporting that U.S. forces padlocked the offices of a popular Baghdad newspaper yesterday. The reason? "[T]he occupation authorities accused it of printing lies that incited violence."

Yeah. That's Truth, Justice, and the American WayTM in action for ya. Never mind due process of law, never mind freedom of the press. They print stuff we don't like, we shut 'em down.

The citizens of Baghdad got it right: "Thousands of outraged Iraqis protested the closing as an act of American hypocrisy. ...'Where is democracy now?' screamed protesters."

Of course, if the government could do that here, I probably wouldn't be able to quote from the New York Times anymore. Or the Washington Post, or the Faux News Network, MS-GOP. And the Limboob would have been strung up on the nearest lamppost long since.


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Maybe it's time to change the rules
 

I mean that in several senses. I certainly think it's past time when Democrats and outraged Republicans started questioning "politics as usual" as it is practiced under the Bush régime. I'm also thinking it might be time to change a few of the rules of the House and the Senate.

I started having these almost-midnight thoughts after Houston left a comment on my Bill Frist post from yesterday. He (and Wanda, an earlier commenter) wanted to know "where the fuck were the Democrats?" A fair question.

My initial thought was that they probably weren't even in the chamber at the time. I was operating under the assumption that Frist had made his snarky remarks about Clarke under special orders: you know, those late-night speeches that people make to an audience of C-SPAN cameras and nobody else. But it seems I was wrong. The Congressional Record for the Senate on March 26, 2004, indicates that Frist's speech was the twelfth of 29 items discussed that day, and that the Senate adjourned for the weekend at 12:07 p.m., after starting business at 9:30 a.m. Unless Clarke's statement was made outside that window of time and inserted into the record afterward, he made it while the Senate was in session.

The seventh item of business was titled "Morning Business," in which under the Senate rules individual senators could speak for up to 10 minutes on anything of interest to them. The first such item was Tom Daschle's discovery of a backbone, threatening to hold up all future Repug judicial nominees if Skippy tries to subvert the normal confirmation process through another recess appointment of a wingnut ideologue. So good on him for that much. The next item was Senator Reid's (D-NV; the minority whip) comment on Repug character attacks against Richard Clarke. That was followed by a rebuttal from Texas' other Repug senator, who was in turn rebutted by Minnesota Democrat Mark Dayton. Frist's snark-attack was the last such item under "Morning business."

So there were obviously at least a few Democratic senators in the room. Two of them appear to have at least factually contradicted Frist's ludicrous charges against Richard Clarke.

But Houston rightly points out "If Bill Frist had gotten up in the House of Commons and said what he did, he would have been booed down." And that's where my second potential change comes into play.

The conduct that Houston suggests appears to me to be prohibited under Rule XIX of the Standing Rules of the Senate, which reads in pertinent part:

1. (a) ...No Senator shall interrupt another Senator in debate without his consent, and to obtain such consent he shall first address the Presiding Officer...

2. No Senator in debate shall, directly or indirectly, by any form of words impute to another Senator or to other Senators any conduct or motive unworthy or unbecoming a Senator....

4. If any Senator, in speaking or otherwise, in the opinion of the Presiding Officer transgress the rules of the Senate the Presiding Officer shall, either on his own motion or at the request of any other Senator, call him to order; and when a Senator shall be called to order he shall take his seat, and may not proceed without leave of the Senate...

All of that is standard parliamentary procedure (hardly surprising, since "standard parliamentary procedure" derives in large part from the rules of government bodies). And I'm sure it's intended to ensure an orderly course of business and proper decorum.

Our friends across the pond see things somewhat differently. Although an order in the House of Commons from 22 January, 1693 does state:

To the end that all the Debates in this House should be grave and orderly, as becomes so great an Assembly; and that all Interruptions should be prevented; Be it Ordered and Declared, That no Member of this House do presume to make any Noise or Disturbance, whilst any Member shall be orderly debating, or whilst any Bill, Order or other Matter, shall be in reading or opening: And, in case of such Noise or Disturbance, that Mr Speaker do call upon the Member, by Name, making such Disturbance: And that every such Person shall incur the Displeasure and Censure of the House.

and although the current House rules provide that "Members should be heard without interruption" and that MPs who violate that rule can be silenced by the Speaker, the House of Commons is a rather more boisterous legislative environment than is the American Congress. MPs will frequently at least murmur their assent (or their displeasure) with a point being made during debate, and while they do not generally mention an opponent's name at all, instead calling them something along the lines of "The Honourable Member for X" or "My Right Honourable Friend," that's about the only limitation on what they may then say about an opponent or his/her proposals.

The British have been at this parliamentary democracy thing for a while longer than we have, and their system does seem to work reasonably well. I don't see any reason why we couldn't let our legislators be a little more human in going about their normal business, so long as it doesn't get to the point of turning the daily sessions into something like the State of the Union message, which is typically interrupted by lengthy, meaningless applause on the order of 50 times or more.

Another British parliamentary custom I'd love to see introduced over here is Question Time. Once a week, unless the House is not in session or the Prime Minister is indisposed, out of the country, or otherwise not available for it, s/he has to personally show up in the House of Commons and take questions from the MPs on any subjects they care to raise. The PM can defer to other ministers if they are better able than s/he is to address the point, and I believe s/he can also indicate to the member raising the question that an answer will have to be looked up or that more work is needed before it can be answered, and make arrangements for doing so. But otherwise, the PM is on the hot seat and directly accountable to the legislators.

I grant you, this probably poses a little separation of powers problem, since in the United Kingdom the Prime Minister is, technically, a member of Parliament as well as the head of the government, whereas the President of the United States is decidedly not a member of Congress. Still, I think it would be salutary to see Bush having to come down and take questions from Democratic members of Congress eager to ask him about, say, Richard Clarke's revelations, or why he wouldn't agree to sit down with the 11 September Commission for more than an hour, or why his lying National Security Adviser won't agree to testify under oath, each and every week, until satisfactory answers are fothcoming or Bush gives up and goes home in disgrace. Of course, the flip side to that happy picture is that we'd probably have heard nothing but even more Monica Lewinsky questions for most of President Clinton's final term in office, and then we'd probably have had to deal with the pictures of some of the Goopier members of the House wandering around with big ol' tents in the front of their trousers: and that's just not an image I want in my head. Ever.

Updated to add context for Frist's remarks.

Updated again (thanks to commenter CJ for catching the boo-boo) to correct Mark Dayton's home state from Ohio to Minnesota. (In my defense, it was late when I was working on this post, and Mike DeWine's listing is right underneath Dayton's. It was an honest mistake, I swear!)

Third update: See Daschle's after-the-fact comments on the whole mess.


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28.3.04

Then shut the f**k up, Condi!
 

Condoliar Rice has--again--refused to testify publicly and under oath before the September 11 Commission. She has all the time in the world to write op-ed pieces for the Washington Post and to go on 60 Minutes and make all kinds of allegations and accusations. But she steadfastly refuses to go before the commission, raise her right hand, and repeat any of them under oath.

The Condoliar is sticking to her tired old story that sitting national security advisers "do not testify before the Congress." Nice try, but no cigar for the Condoliar. At least two of her predecessors have testified in Congress, albeit on matters that were ultimately far less crucial to the political future of their bosses.

Therein, I believe, lies the real reason Condoliar is unwilling to go testify. She doesn't want to drive another nail into the coffin of the preznit's failing chances to get a second term in the White House. Neither, I suspect, is she willing to commit perjury, which she might have to do if she were to repeat under oath some of the (self-)contradictory statements she has already made in public.

I'll give her that much: not wanting to commit perjury suggests she still has a couple of moral fibers left in her somewhere. But they are about the only saving graces she has left. As far as I'm concerned, she shouldn't wait until the end of Skippy's term, just under 300 days from now. She should quit and see if anybody in the world is willing to hire someone who is so obviously damaged goods. She stands zero chance of being confirmed to any post in another Bush régime. Nor is it looking all that likely that there will even be another Bush régime.

Thanks be to God on that score, say I.


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7,000
 

That's roughly the number of hits that Jesse of The Gotham City 13 got yesterday after getting a mention from Atrios.

Couldn't happen to a better blogger. Now lemme see, what can I do around here to attract that kind of notice? ;-9


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How does he breathe with his head so far up his arse?
 

At a campaign event in New Mexico on Friday our clueless aWol preznit proposed to make high-speed internet access universally available in the United States by 2007 "to keep America competitive and innovative." According to the Reuters report, Skippy went on to say that "It's important that we stay on the cutting edge of technological change, and one way to do so is to have a bold plan for broadband."

This is just so fundamentally wrong-headed, on so many different levels, that I literally don't know where to start in picking it apart. Sure, it would be great if we could have high-speed net access in every home in this country. It would also be nice if we could achieve world peace, end hunger and poverty wherever they occur, see to it that nobody ever had to make a choice between eating or buying the medications they need to keep them alive (and better still, a medical system that provided superlative care to anyone who needed it and didn't ask them to hand over their first-born to pay for it).

As I remarked in a comment on a post on this topic at Collective Sigh, high-speed internet access doesn't even make my list of things I want my government to be working on. Not to say it's not a worthwhile goal, just that there are far too many more important ones ahead of it for me to think that it's something we should be wasting our time with right now.

Let's try taking a rational look at this. For internet access to mean anything at all, that would also require there to be a computer in every home in the United States. According to an August 2000 survey by the Census Bureau, barely half of all U.S. households (54 million, or 51 percent) had one or more computers in them. Another 50 million or so computers, capable of interfacing with a broadband network. Assuming a price of around $800 for each, which seams reasonable at today's rates, that means $40 billion just for the computers.

Then you've got to have electricity to run them, and be able to afford a cable modem or a DSL line: more money that many people simply don't have--because they're too busy wondering where their next meal is coming from, or how to put shoes on their children's feet, or even how to keep a roof over their heads.

I guess we're to conclude that Bush isn't interested in solving those problems. That must come from having lived a privileged life (as Ann Richards so eloquently put it, he was born on third base but thinks he hit a triple) and never knowing real want, always having a mommy and daddy and rich friends or investors to bail one out whenever trouble hits. Perhaps he should get out more among real people in this country, and spend less time hobnobbing with his corporate masters.


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27.3.04

Lies and the lying liars who tell them
 

Bill Frist has got to be thanking his lucky stars for Article I, Section 6 of the U.S. Constitution:

The Senators and Representatives shall ... in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their Respective Houses, and in going to and from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.

If it weren't for that last clause, Frist could be deep in the shite. At the very least, given what Josh Marshall is reporting, Frist revealed himself to be criminally clueless. If he were anyone else, and had he made the same remarks anywhere but the well of the Senate, Frist could be standing in front of a judge trying to argue his way out of a charge of criminal slander.

In an address Frist delivered in the Senate, he accused former counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke of having perjured himself in testimony before Congress, given that there were inconsistencies, Frist claimed, between testimony he gave this week before the September 11 Commission and testimony Clarke had given to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002. That latter testimony, conveniently, is classified, although there is some movement in Congress to declassify it--probably in the hope that it can be used to impeach Clarke's otherwise apparently impeccable criticism of the Bush régime's bungling of the War on Terra.

Here's what Josh had to say on what transpired next:

A few hours after accusing Clarke of perjury, [Frist] admits that he has no idea -- not just no idea whether he perjured himself, which is a fairly technical question, but no idea whether there were any inconsistencies at all. (Emphasis in original.)

That anyone, let alone the Senate Majority Leader, would publicly impugn anyone without knowing for a fact that the accusations he was making were true, disgusts and appalls me. That Frist would do so in a squalid, partisan attempt to smear a dedicated public servant who has come forward to speak embarrassing and politically damaging truths about the régime currently in power boosts the slime factor on this incident to Brobdingnagian proportions.

Bill Frist should be ashamed to show his face in public ever again. He should resign his seat in the Senate and slink home to Tennessee in disgrace, there to spend the rest of his life working to provide free health care to the poor in penance for his sins--of which this incident is, sadly, only the latest in a long, long line. Not that he'd ever do that, of course. He simply doesn't have the class.


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26.3.04

It's not looking good at NPR
 

I just received this, uh, "communiqué" from NPR after I contacted them to express my outrage at their having fired Bob Edwards as host of "Morning Edition" effective the end of next month:

I am delighted that NPR and I have agreed on all of the details of my new duties as a senior correspondent. My new role will allow me to continue serving NPR listeners and will include profiling interesting and noteworthy people from all walks of life.

I plan to be here at NPR for the long haul. I am leaving a post that I have loved and have given my heart to. I now look forward to the new challenges ahead of me and continuing to be a significant part of NPR and the amazing program lineup.

Morning Edition will continue to be my first source for news. I encourage all of its listeners to stay with the program. It will continue to bring them the most in-depth and thoughtful journalism in broadcasting. I hope you continue to listen and support your public radio station.

The e-mail was titled "Statement by Bob Edwards," but it doesn't really have that authentic ring to it that I've come to associate with Edwards' style. Besides which, while he may have every "plan to be ...at NPR for the long haul," ultimately it's not his call to make. If the same idiots who fired him from "Morning Edition" don't like his work in whatever new post they assign him to, I can't imagine they'd have any qualms about firing him a second time.

But it is heartwarming to know that apparently those of us who have been bitching and asking NPR executives what the hell they were thinking when they made the decision have apparently scared them enough that they're beginning to worry about losing listener support. Considering that the national spring pledge drive starts this weekend, I'm thinking it would be a good time to vote with our dollars. Until I know what's going to happen with "Morning Edition" (i.e., they aren't going to hand it over to Juan "I Kiss Republican Arse" Williams), I'm not renewing my membership.


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Sound collision!
 

'Cuz it looks like the U.S.S. BushCo not only isn't the great hulking behemoth it appeared to be a couple of months ago, preparing to steam full-speed over any puny opponents in its path to winning re-election in 2004: the puny little warship-wannabe is also about to run hard aground on some very inconvenient facts.

According to Salon (via Orcinus), a former FBI translator called before the commission by Charles Grassley asserted that the U.S. should have been at FearCon Ernie or Elmo ("high" or "severe," respectively) in the summer of 2001. His assertion is based on a claim that the FBI had detailed information well before Sept. 11, 2001, that terrorists were likely to attack targets in the United States using airplanes as weapons:

Edmonds is offended by the Bush White House claim that it lacked foreknowledge of the kind of attacks made by al-Qaida on 9/11. "Especially after reading National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice [Washington Post Op-Ed on March 22] where she said, we had no specific information whatsoever of domestic threat or that they might use airplanes. That's an outrageous lie. And documents can prove it's a lie."

Bring 'em on, brother! Let's take these mo-fos down!

Update: Oh, yeah, as Carlo Secondo reminded me, in case the above doesn't make you start thinking about driving over to the Home Depot and stocking up on plastic sheeting and packing tape*, it was reported this morning on NPR (and in the Wall Street Journal) that the GestapoDepartment of Homeland Security is $1.2 billion in the hole and has frozen hiring for border guards and Customs police. You know, the people who are supposed to be the last line of defense at our borders against terrorists and other nasty people who want to bring in things to cause problems. Seems that it's taken this long to sort out all the different budget programs in the departments that were merged into DHS, and they've just found out they're in the red. Maybe. They're not exactly sure.

Just like I'm not exactly sure why it is I'm supposed to feel safer with this batch of morons on the job.

*Buy the clear packing tape. Unlike duct tape, it's not permeable to gases.


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This just in
 

The Condoliar may be on the way out: "As she prepares to leave her job at the end of the year, Ms. Rice, the president's national security adviser, now finds herself at the center of a political storm, furiously defending both the White House and her own reputation."


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25.3.04

Knock, knock, knockin' on heaven's door
 

Or, yet another nail in Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey's coffin.

In an interview yesterday with the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, Richard Clarke demolishes the propaganda being put out by Condoliar Rice and all the rest of Skippy's attack hamsters. Among the really devastating bits are the first four paragraphs (JB is Julian Borger, a Washington-based reporter for The Guardian):

JB: Condoleezza Rice wrote today in response to your book - that the Bush administration did have a strategy for eliminating al-Qaida and that the administration worked on it in the spring and summer of 2001? Is that true?

RC: We developed that strategy in the last several months of the Clinton administration and it was basically an update on that strategy. We briefed Condi on that strategy. The point is that it was done before they came to office and she never held a meeting on it. It was done before she asked for it.

JB: What about the claim that the administration did work hard on the issue?

RC: Its not true. I asked - on January 24 in writing to Condi - urgently for a meeting on cabinet level - the principal's committee - to review the plan and I was told I can't have that. It had to go to the deputies. They had a principals meeting on September 4. Contrast that with the principal's meeting on Iraq, on February 1. So what was urgent for them was Iraq. Al-Qaida was not important to them.

(Emphasis added.) Even more telling is this response from Clarke in reply to a question about whether there had ever been any "principals meetings" about al Qaeda:

It didn't come up in the principal's meetings. Between April and July only four of the 30 or 35 deputy principal meetings touched on al-Qaida. But three of those were mainly about US-Pakistan relations, or US-Afghan relations or South Asian policy, and al-Qaida was just one of the points. One of the meetings looked at the overall plan. It was the July one. April was an initial discussion of terrorism policy writ large and at that meeting I said we had to talk about al-Qaida. And because it was terrorism policy writ large [Paul] Wolfowitz said we have to talk about Iraqi terrorism and I said that's interesting because there hasn't been any Iraqi terrorism against the United States. There hasn't been any for 8 years. And he said something derisive about how I shouldn't believe the CIA and FBI, that they've been wrong. And I said if you know more than I know tell me what it is, because I've been doing this for 8 years and I don't know about any Iraqi-sponsored terrorism against the US since 1993. When I said let's start talking about Bin Laden, he said Bin Laden couldn't possibly have attacked the World Trade Centre in '93. One little terrorist group like that couldn't possibly have staged that operation. It must have been Iraq.

If it weren't so deadly serious, I'd be busting a gut laughing. A hackish pundit, trying to tell one of the chief authorities on terrorism in the National Security Agency that he's wrong on who's responsible for a terrorist act. Like the PNAC had better intelligence sources than the NSA. Somehow, I'm just not seeing it: especially since PNAC appears to have gotten most of its "information" (to give it the maximum possible benefit of the doubt) from Ahmed Chalabi and his batch of liars in the Iraqi National Congress. And their information wasn't even as good as what any idiot could've gotten by reading the Ba'athist daily papers out of Baghdad with a reasonably critical eye. It is to laugh, if it weren't enough to make one cry.

Other disturbing statements from Clarke's interview include an allegation that most of the principals meetings that were held focused on "Star Wars," Russian policy (Condoliar's specialty) and China. Clarke definitely believes that BushCoTM came into power looking to go into Iraq: he says "they used the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse to test their theories" on reshaping the Middle East. He also feels that, while it might not have been possible to stop the attacks on 11 September, there was at least a chance of doing so, had the Bush régime bothered to concentrate on the problem instead of running off on Iraqi wild goose chases and golf vacations in Texas. Then there's this bit of high political explosive:

JB: Condoleezza Rice argued today that when President Bush was asking you to find evidence linking September 11 to Iraq, he was simply showing due diligence, asking you to explore the options.

RC: That's very funny. There are two ways of asking. There's: 'check every possibility - don't assume its [sic] al-Qaida look at everybody'. That's due diligence. Then there's the: 'I want you to find every shred of evidence that it was Iraq and Saddam' - and said in a very emphatic and intimidating way, and the other people who were with me got the same impression as I did. This was not due diligence. This was: 'come back with a memo that says it was an Iraqi attack'.

JB: And when you didn't find any evidence, the memo was bounced back?

RC: Yes

In other words, they knew what they wanted to do, and they only wanted to cherry-pick the evidence to find justification for that predetermined course of action. And they fucking did it while the firefighters Bush wants to use as stage dressing for his re-election campaign were still pulling bodies out of the wreckage of the worst terrorist act ever committed on U.S. soil.

That's criminal negligence at best. At worst, it's outright treason--and if it could be proven to the satisfaction of a competent court, I would seriously consider volunteering for the firing squad that would put the responsible members of the Bush régime to death for their crimes.

And on the main talking point of Bush's Flying Disaster Monkey Squad of Spinners:

JB: The White House is suggesting that this is sour grapes from a Clinton holdover, scoring political points.

RC: I was a Bush [senior] holdover. I'm not a registered Demcrat. I don't want a job in the Kerry admin. What I want to do is to provide the American people with a set of facts and let them draw their own conclusions.

To quote from a famous Bach cantata, "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," 'Wake up, the voice is calling us.' Let's stay awake until Bush is safely shoved back down his spider holeranch in Texas, 300 days from now.


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Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
 

Cold War, here we go again! Agence France Presse is reporting that Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey is reneging on a nuclear-arms treaty with Russia. And it was Skippy's régime that negotiated the damn treaty in the first place.

According to an unnamed (gee, what a surprise!) "top administration official," the reason for refusing to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the levels specified in the Moscow Treaty is that "it must hedge against an uncertain future." Yeah.

Did it ever occur to the Moron-in-Chief that one of the reasons our future is uncertain right now is precisely because of the kind of head-up-the-arse decisions like this that he's made ever since he stole the presidency in 2000?

First he didn't want to negotiate with North Korea. Then he did. Then he didn't again. Then he sorta did, but only if there were other people at the table. Then he wanted to violate the non-proliferation treaty so he could buy or build a few bunker-buster bombs (probably to use in case he couldn't get at Saddam any other way for trying to off Poppy). And now this.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. But get your ass out and vote to send this loser home 300 days from now!


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Why I love Bob Edwards
 

The following is an excerpt from a speech Bob Edwards, the soon-to-be-former host of NPR's "Morning Edition," gave about a year ago at the University of Kentucky. (Sorry I can't be more precise than that; my source was rather vague on the details.) It may be one reason the NPR senior administration felt it was time for him to move on, despite being the second-most-popular radio host in the nation, right behind the Limboob. (And if there were any justice in the world, the Limboob would be so far down in the rankings there wouldn't be enough OxyContin in the world to get him high enough even to see Bob Edwards' numbers.)

So, Bob, think you can do better? Well, yes, I do. So here's what I would ask the President of the United States if he were here tonight.

"Mr. President, you're asking for $76 billion to pay for this war, and you'll probably go back to Congress to ask for more. Given the fact that there'll be severe deficits for as long as you are President, why not let your tax cut slide?"

"You offered an attractive bribe to Turkey in exchange for permission to use Turkey as a base from which to invade Northern Iraq. Was the vote of the Turkish parliament to refuse the offer an example of the democracy you're trying to establish in the Middle East?"

"How did you expect to win international approval for your plan to invade Iraq when you have repeatedly told the rest of the world that the United States is ready to act alone in virtually every field, as witnessed by your withdrawal from international treaties and agreements having to do with the environment, war crimes and other matters that the rest of the world considers important?"

"Mr. President, at your news conference last month, you mentioned the Sept. 11 attacks no fewer than eight times, even though no one asked you about Sept. 11 -- they were asking you about the invasion of Iraq. The Sept. 11 attacks were carried out by al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. Will you please elaborate on the connection, if any, between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, who, if his videotapes are to be believed, has about as much affinity for Saddam Hussein as you do?"

"Mr. President, you have spent billions of dollars on homeland security to see the nation's capital paralyzed by a North Carolina tobacco farmer driving his tractor onto the Mall. Did [Homeland Security] Secretary [Tom] Ridge miss a memo or two?"

"Does pre-emptive military action without provocation set a bad example for other countries who can claim actual provocation? India and Pakistan over Kashmir, for example. Greece and Turkey over Cyprus. South Korea, provoked almost daily by North Korea."

"And speaking of North Korea, Mr. President, who is the worse dictator -- Saddam Hussein or Kim Il Jong?"

"Kim is weeks away from turning North Korea into a nuclear power if he hasn't already done so. Saddam only dreams of becoming a nuclear power, so why is he a bigger priority than Kim? And why don't you send your so-called precision bombers to take out the one plant in North Korea that you know to be a potential source of nuclear weapons?"

"When I interviewed your wife, Mr. President, she said the best byproduct of ousting the Taliban from Afghanistan was the liberation of Afghan women. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told me the same thing when I asked him what the U.S. achieved in its war in Afghanistan. If the liberation of Arab women is so important to your administration, then why is the United States not invading Saudi Arabia?"

"Sir, would you say your policy of non-involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is working out? If so, for whom?"

"Is it possible that the war in Iraq will result in regime change in Great Britain?"

Well that's just a sampling of the questions I'd ask, though in more peaceful times I'd be likely to ask about labor laws, media ownership concentration, freedom of information, government secrecy, suspension of civil liberties, the environment, energy, corporate corruption and most assuredly health care reform.

You can read the rest in larrycoates' diary over at DKos.

And perhaps, if we're very, very lucky, Bob Edwards will get the chance to ask Skippy a few of those questions, either as an NPR senior correspondent or as the restored host of the show he's owned for 25 years, and as Skippy is about to recede back into the shadows of insignificance where he should have been these last three and a half years.


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So, what'cha think?
 

The old coloration was not growing on me very much, so I'm experimenting a little in the hopes of finding something better. This scheme is based on the colors of my alma mater. But while I bleed purple and gold, I'm not sure it's the right thing to do for a blog. I do have the old template saved, so I can resurrect it in a hurry. But let me know what you think.

Update: Several of you commented that it was hard to read black on purple text. Is this any better?


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Something tells me they won't run the boards
 

I'm not usually a fan of celebrity tournaments on Jeopardy! They often dumb down the clues, and the celebs spend so much time yukking it up with each other and with Alex that there are usually tons of clues left on the board.

This one may be worth watching, though perhaps for a different reason. I want to see Al Franken take down Nooners and Tucker! I'm hoping to watch Kweisi Mfume wipe the floor with Ari Fleischer! Oh, wait. This is Jeopardy!, not Celebrity Deathmatch.

Still, it ought to be fun to watch the "power players" week to be broadcast sometime in May. But given the way many of these talking-heads behave, I'm betting they'll leave even more clues than usual behind on the boards.


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24.3.04

Galloping forward into the past
 

Zell Miller has endorsed Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey for preznit and has formed a Democrats for Bush group, slamming Democratic nominee John Kerry for being, as he put it, "out of step" with the party.

Well, I guess if anyone would know what being "out of step" with the Democratic Party might look like, it would have to be Zell Miller. Although he's listed with a "D" after his name, he's about as much of a Democrat as I am a ladies' man. In other words, he's not.

I have two related questions. First, whyinhell hasn't Miller gotten it over with and joined the Repugs? He votes with them, the Dems haven't seen him at any of their functions in so long they probably wouldn't recognize him, and Miller is so far out of mainstream Democratic territory that you probably couldn't see the Democratic Party platform from where Miller stands even with the aid of the Hubble Space Telescope. So what's keeping you? (Or, as the Greeks would have said two and a half millennia ago, "What's keeping you from dying?") Change your affiliation and be done with it. You're not fooling anyone, you know.

My second question, though, is a bit more pointed. Why in the name of all that's holy do the Democrats let this asshole get away with calling himself a Democrat? Are they so desperate that they don't want to part with a seat in the Senate that they don't control anyway? Sure, Miller shows up on the D side of the aisle in the phone book. But when it comes time for a vote, you won't see him anywhere near his alleged party comrades. Instead, he'll be over on the other side of the aisle, spending time withsucking up to his "real friends," the Repugs. So what on earth have you people got to lose by kicking his sorry cracker ass out? He's an embarrassment to real Democrats, and the party leadership, in letting him hang on and enjoy the privileges (if there are any) of being called a Democrat, just look like wishy-washy wimps.

It's time (and then some) for Zell to go.


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Drop everything and look at this!
 

(You won't be sorry, unless one of the things you failed to drop was your drink, and as a result some of it is shortly to be dripping down your monitor and sinking into your keyboard.)

Jesse at The Gotham City 13 has put together a simply fabulous collection of "White House KoolAid" packets. Go check 'em out.

I mean it! Why are you still here?


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Another good comic
 

I gather this is the start of a week-long series on the same theme:

And a hat tip to Doug in SF at DKos for pointing me to it.


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AWOL again
 

Here's another funeral that Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey couldn't be bothered to attend, though he made much of the people who were being remembered. Doubtless he's too busy hoovering up cash for his re-selection campaign, or trying to find a shovel big enough to dig out from under the piles of crap that have landed on his (deserving) head in the last week.

I've said it before. I'll say it again. And I'll probably have to keep saying it on a regular basis for the next couple hundred days: George W. Bush, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself. Again.


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Attack of the (F)lying Disaster Monkey(s)
 

Go see Tom Toles' cartoon for today.


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23.3.04

I don't believe this shit!
 

NPR has fired Bob Edwards as host of "Morning Edition" effective April 30. No substantive reason was given for the change, although NPR Senior Vice President of Programming* Jay Kernis, in a separate statement on the decision, said "In his new position as senior correspondent, Bob will have more time to pursue stories that are of interest to him, place those stories on different NPR news programs, and get to wake up at a normal hour for the first time in a quarter of a century."

(*If this decision is indicative of Kernis' overall job performance, I have to say I hope this title is only temporary, and that whoever they get to replace this boob will actually have something between his/her ears other than a hard vacuum.)

I've been listening to Bob Edwards most weekday mornings since I was in high school, way longer ago than I care to think about. His mellifluous voice is a delight to wake up to, and I have found his reporting to be insightful, humorous, and rigorously balanced. I wish I could say the same about some of his colleagues at National Public Radio.

My one potential consolation in this matter is that Edwards is slated to become the senior correspondent for NPR News, so he won't be going away altogether. My hope is that he will displace current "senior correspondent" and "one of America's leading journalists"* Juan Williams, who within the last month let two egregiously bald-faced lies from Gooper commentators pass by him without even a whimper of complaint. If Edwards' leaving "Morning Edition" means that Williams will get shunted back to an assignment that's more in keeping with his talents and abilities (if he has any), that will be a trade-off I can live with, though I do not rejoice to contemplate it. God help the management staff at NPR if they so much as think of replacing Edwards with Williams: they can kiss my membership checks goodbye at that point, and I suspect that I won't be alone in that decision. Until a decision is reached about a permanent replacement, NPR's Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne will co-host "Morning Edition."

(*I'm not making this up. That's from the first sentence of Williams' NPR biography--just follow the link to read it for yourself.)


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Hand the man a cigar!
 

Quoth E. J. Dionne, on what Mustang Bobby called Fat Tony's "recusal refusal":

True, Scalia's impartiality can't be questioned. It can't even be imagined.

That one's gonna leave a mark! (It's in the Washington Post).


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22.3.04

Sticks and stones
 

Atrios points to this fine letter to the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

I was wondering why the Republicans believe that hearing a four-letter word on the radio is more damaging than death or catastrophic injury. Consider that the Bush administration wants to increase FCC fines for indecency up to $500,000 per violation per station, yet at the same time, it wants to restrict noneconomic damages in tort cases to $250,000 or $350,000.

So if a DJ says a four-letter word on the radio, the harm is so appalling that a fine of $500,000 per word, per station is justified. But if someone is paralyzed, killed or otherwise catastrophically injured, the most the family could get for the (noneconomic) loss would be up to $350,000.

Apparently, Republicans have reworked the children's adage about words never hurting to: "Sticks and stones may break someone else's bones, but words will hurt me worsely."

Dennis Mulvihill, Cleveland

Chalk up another one in the "Damn, I wish I'd said that" file.


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Better break out the brie, boys!
 

We may know where Osama was hanging out until recently. Care to guess who found him? It was those effete snobs, the French! The garçon will be here tout de suite to serve you your corveau, M. Bush.

Update: Minor grammatical edits.


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The sins of the fathers
 

The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting today (subscription required) that a Japanese university has revoked its offer of admission made to one of the daughters of Shoko Asahara, the leader of the Aum Shinrikyo sect responsible for the deaths of 27 people during a sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system in 1995. The president of the university was quoted as saying, "Because of who she is, she is likely to prompt uneasiness, and might deprive other students of the opportunity to study in a calm environment."

The woman, who was not named, had passed the university's entrance examination and been granted admission. The story went on to note that all of Asahara's "children have faced discrimination in schools and frequently have had to relocate because of hostile reactions from neighbors. Many educational institutions have refused to accept the children."

I'm having a hard time with this one. On the one hand, I could certainly see how having the daughter of a convicted terrorist murderer sitting next to one in lecture could be disturbing, particularly if one were related to a victim of the attacks. But on the other hand, how would the average student know that? And are Japanese instructors so completely unable to keep order in their classrooms that they couldn't deal with any incidents that should arise?

It's one thing to say that someone who has committed a crime shouldn't be allowed to enroll in a college or university. (I don't happen to think it's right, unless the crime was forgery or otherwise lying on one's application or about one's educational credentials, but a case could reasonably be made for the opposite viewpoint.) But their relatives? Where do we start drawing the line? Immediate family? The whole generation? Clan and sib and all descendants, in perpetuity?

This is a wrong call. I hope the university will reconsider (and if not, that some other equally good university will give the young woman a chance to do something better with her life than suffer for merely being her father's daughter).


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Et vos, Screaming Eagles?
 

Or, as Atrios headlined it, "Potemkin Troops":

Bush, wearing a green Army jacket, received an enthusiastic welcome from the troops, who stood on the post's muddy parade grounds under bright sunshine and chanted "U.S.A.!" Before Bush appeared, small U.S. flags were handed out, and an officer gave instructions to the troops on how to receive the commander in chief. "We're going to show him a lot of love by waving flags," the officer said. Telling the troops not to salute, he added: "You're going to wave and clap and make a lot of noise. . . . You must smile. We are happy campers here."

Why on earth would they be happy campers at Fort Campbell, which has suffered the highest casualty rate of any post in the U.S. Army in Bush's war on terra? And excuse me? I'd have thought that any puke of a first lieutenant stupid enough to refer to parachute troops as "happy campers" would have been quietly reassigned post-haste, lest he meet with an untoward accident on his next training mission. And while I hate the man and everything he stands for, Skippy for the moment is the commander in chief of the armed forces, and as such he rates a salute from its members when in uniform. Flag-waving just looks silly.


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Me likee!
 


From Slate and UComics, respectively, via Barefoot and Naked.


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Score one for The Economist
 

Someone at The Economist appears to have grown a pair. Kos has just posted a screen-shot of their cover for this week's issue. The cover picture shows four playing cards (all aces, about which more in a minute) bearing the faces of Tony Blair, John Howard (prime minister of Australia), Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey, and José María Aznar. Aznar's face has a big red "X" through it, under the headline "One down, three to go?"

My only argument about the cover is that Skippy got the ace of spades card. In the original Bush régime deck, Bush only rated the king of diamonds. The ace of spades went to Ronald Dumsfeld. King of spades was Paul Wolfowitz, queen of spades was Condi the Liar, and jack of spades was Richard Perle. Big Dick got to be ace of diamonds. I think that lineup more accurately reflects the hierarchy of power in the BushCoTM régime.


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9/11: For The Record
 

Or "Not for the record," as the case may be. I find it extremely interesting, and even a bit sinister, that Condi Rice apparently has all the time in the world to write propaganda pieces trying to demonstrate that she and her boss aren't complete fuck-ups on counterterrorism policy. But she will not testify before the September 11 Commission.

Could it be that she knows she couldn't say under oath the same things she says in the Washington Post without laying herself open to a perjury indictment? Or has she forgotten what happened the last time a presidential adviser tried to assert executive privilege to avoid testifying before a congressional panel. I'm pretty sure the Washington Post did a couple of stories on that occasion, even if one of the writers of those stories, Bob Woodward, is now acting as Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey's cheerleader-in-chief.

Besides which, as I said last night, I want proof. A "he said/she said" debate, particularly when one of the participants in that debate is Condi the Known Liar, is not going to meet my standard of proof. Show me the documents, show me the meeting logs. Try trotting out someone from the Bush régime that still has credibility (if there's anybody left over there who does). Condi Rice can use up all the ink and newsprint in the world, if she can get the editors to give it to her. It still won't make her assertions into the truth, or make anybody with a functioning cerebral cortex believe what she says.

I particularly liked this little tidbit:

President Bush has acted swiftly to unify and streamline our efforts to secure the American homeland. He has transformed the FBI into an agency dedicated to catching terrorists and preventing future attacks.

In a word, NOT!. Just yesterday, the Washington Post (a paper I would assume that Condi the Liar reads) contained a front-section story about how John ("Can't Show a Statue with Bare Boobs") Ashcroft gutted (the reporter's actual words were "cut by nearly two-thirds") an emergency request for counterterrorism funds by the FBI just days after the terrorist attacks. It is now 917 days since Skippy went on national television and proclaimed that he'd catch Osama bin Laden "Dead or Alive." The FBI seems to be spending more time infiltrating and intimidating groups that protest the preznit and his aWol policies on issues foreign and domestic than it is on catching international terrorists. Their record on domestic terrorism is even more laughable--or would be, were the subject matter not deathly serious (literally).

Update: the Center for American Progress has put out a timeline, based on government documents, demonstrating just how completely the Bush régime has fucked up on terror. Kos has a summary posted.

Nor, I think, will this assertionlie hold up to scrutiny:

Despite what some have suggested, we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing to attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles...

Just reference the 1999 report to the National Intelligence Council that said "terrorists associated with bin Laden might hijack an airplane and crash it into the Pentagon, White House or CIA headquarters." Let's see. Bin Laden? Check. Hijack? Check. Airplanes? Check. Pentagon? Check. Oh, but wait. That report was produced during the Clinton administration, and, you know, they didn't really leave us anything when we took over. It's not like Richard Clarke tried to meet with us, or anything, you know, give us a heads-up about what to expect. Oh, wait. They did. Oops!

Condi the Liar's closer is a real howler:

Because of President Bush's vision and leadership, our nation is safer. We have won battles in the war on terror, but the war is far from over. However long it takes, this great nation will prevail.

She may have a point with her last sentence. We do have a history of coming from behind to pull victory from defeat. But that first sentence is surely not something I'd want to have to state under oath in a court of law. From where I sit, this nation will only be safe when Condi the Liar, Big Dick, Ronald Dumsfeld, and Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey are all given the heave-ho and we get some sane, reasonable people back holding the reins of power again. If we're lucky, many of the Bush régime's top people will end their days wearing numbered orange jumpsuits for all the lies they've told, all the lives they've squandered, and all the fuck-ups they've committed since stealing power 1157 days ago.

Update II: Another country is heard from. Thanks to andante for the link.)

Update III: Atrios offers a point-by-point refutation of specious claims made by BushCoTM today against points raised by Clarke last night.


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21.3.04

"Rebuttal"? I don't think so!
 

If there's anybody still left out there who believes there's a liberal bias in the media, they've got to be on drugs. Reuters is reporting what they call "a detailed point-by-point rebuttal from the White House" of charges leveled against the Bush régime by former counterterrorism adviser Richard Clarke:

In an unusually detailed statement seeking to debunk what it labeled "myths" from Clarke's book, the White House denied the assertion that Bush did not treat al Qaeda as a serious threat before it attacked the United States.

"The president specifically recognized the threat posed by al Qaeda and immediately after taking office the White House began work on a comprehensive new strategy to eliminate al Qaeda," The White House said.

"The president specifically told (national security advisor) Dr. (Condoleezza) Rice that he was 'tired of swatting flies' and wanted to go on the offense against al Qaeda, rather than simply waiting to respond."

Clarke, who headed a cybersecurity board before resigning, is set to testify this week before the independent commission investigating the 2001 hijacked airplane attacks in New York and on the Pentagon that killed some 3,000 people.

The White House rebutted Clarke's charge that before the Sept. 11 attacks the administration was focused on Iraq rather than on al Qaeda and that immediately after the attacks it searched for a way to blame Saddam Hussein.

Clarke said Bush took him aside the day after the 9/11 attacks and ordered him to "see if Saddam did this. See if he's linked in any way."

Clarke said he responded that al Qaeda was responsible and that Iraq was not linked to the attacks. However, he agreed to look into Bush's request and again found no cooperation between Saddam and al Qaeda.

Deputy national security advisor Steve Hadley disputed Clarke's characterization of the president's request.

"The point, I think, is that of course the President was trying to find out who caused 9/11... And he couldn't rule out the possibility that it might have been Iraq, and he asked for the intelligence that we had on a possible link between Iraq and 9/11," Hadley told 60 Minutes.

The OED defines "rebuttal" as "Refutation, contradiction." Contradiction, maybe. Rebuttal, no way. At least if there's nothing more to the statement than Reuters reported, all we have are assertions, and assertions made by people who don't have much in the way of credibility--especially on this issue. "The White House said" just isn't going to cut it for me: where's the proof? Show me documents, show me meeting logs, bring forth multiple witnesses to back up the assertions, then we can talk. Until then, this is Repug spin trying to draw attention away from a devastating rebuttal of the Bush régime's oft-repeated assertion that it's the best answer to terrorism.


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Too scary even for the Repugs
 

Color me surprised. About a year ago, Minnesota state representative Arlon Lindner, in a floor debate, claimed that the Nazis had never persecuted gays and lesbians during the Third Reich:

It's rewriting of history," said Lindner. "I was a child during World War II, and I've read a lot about World War II," he said. "It's just been recently that anyone's come out with this idea that homosexuals were persecuted to this extent. There's been a lot of rewriting of history.

Actually, as I and many others pointed out, Lindner clearly hadn't read enough history. But Lindner refused to withdraw his remarks or to apologize for them. Within days, Lindner had also slandered people living with HIV/AIDS.

In a surprise move Saturday, the Minnesota Republican Party refused to endorse him for another term. Lindner blamed the party leadership for "turning against him." In other words, "It's not my fault." Seems to be the Gooper mantra for 2004.


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I second the motion!
 

After DINO Joe went on Faux News to say that he "found no basis" for the substantive charges leveled by Richard Clarke at Skippy the Lying Disaster Monkey's handling of the war on terra, Billmon comments:

If I see nothing else accomplished before I die, I hope I at least live long enough to watch that stinking whore run out of the Senate, and, if possible, out of the Democratic Party.

I'd be proud to second that motion. Joe Lieberman was an embarrassment in 2000, a bad joke in the Democratic primaries, and he's just become a liability. It's time for Joe to go.


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Rules for gentle readers
 

QuickSauce offers three very good reading rules, which I'm going to condense here:

  1. Don't put all the classics in one basket.
  2. Don't expect THE meaning to pop out at you so you can then put the book down and go on your merry way.
  3. Don't expect poetry and philosophy to be like a cheeseburger and Bruce Willis action movies.

I'm going to add a few of my own:

  1. Don't be afraid to try new things.
  2. Do come back to favorites, or things that you're not sure you understand.
  3. There's always time for reading. I read while waiting in line, on long train rides or in airplanes, when I'm eating alone. You have as much time as you're willing to make.
  4. If you're in a library and you find something you like, browse the shelves nearby: chances are, you'll find more.
  5. See a movie you like? Look through the credits or on the box cover to see if it was adapted from a book, then get the book. Same thing if you hear something quoted in the film and a source is given.

Be adventuresome in your reading. Don't be afraid to try something because it's too "highbrow" (or, conversely, because it's allegedly "lowbrow"--there's an awful lot of good writing out there in sci-fi and fantasy novels, and even some good romance novels).

And do the same with music. Just because it's on the Top-40 list doesn't mean it's good, but neither does it mean that it's automatically crap. Dare to be different: don't just listen to what everyone else does, and for heaven's sake, don't waste your time on obvious crap. Life is too short for bad literature, bad music, or bad food.


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Pay attention, class!
 

If you're planning to watch Richard Clarke's interview tonight on 60 Minutes, Billmon has a homework assignment for you that might help put it in perspective.

It should also be required reading for the Kerry campaign people and anybody else who's planning to take on the Repugs' slime-machine. You just know they're going to be in full vomit mode on Monday....


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20.3.04

Very....interesting (but stupid?)
 

Via TBogg, I learn that there's an organization of bands dedicated to the premise "that life is sacred from fertilization until natural death - with no exceptions, no compromise, and no apologies. Rock for Life is dedicated to this fight until abortion is abolished and a respect for the gift of life is restored."

Let's leave aside for the moment the fact that out of the very extensive list of bands TBogg posted from the organization's web site, I recognized a grand total of none of them. I'm not exactly a pop-culture maven, preferring to spend my time listening to music that has melody, harmony, maybe even a little fugue or counterpoint, and if I can't understand the lyrics, it's because they're being sung in a language I don't speak.

But I found it just a mite, um, hypocritical, shall we say, that this bunch o' bands say they believe life is sacred from conception to natural death "with no exceptions, no compromise, and no apologies"--and yet when they get to the end of their screed, they don't mention the other side of the pro-life spectrum. In other words, where's the condemnation of capital punishment? Can we say, "Self-referentially incoherent," boys and girls? I knew you could!


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Nader a no-show
 

He Who Shall Be Ignored seems to have taken my attitude (and one that I share with a number of others) more to heart than even we could have hoped. Mustang Bobby, quoting the Boston Globe, pointed out that HWSBI's campaign headquarters has an unlisted telephone number and no visible office. Nor has HWSBI said much of anything since telling the Democratic Party, in effect, "Neener, neener, neener."

Bobby asks:

This is a joke, right? Who ever heard of a campaign headquarters with an unlisted phone number? Since he announced back in February, I haven't heard Word One from Nader, and I hope to keep it that way. I don't know exactly to what extent his candidacy in 2000 played in screwing things up, but I'm not interested in contemplating it this time around either. I also think he's a rotten candidate regardless where he stands on issues or even if I agree with him on them (which I don't), and if you think John Kerry has a too-serious and stilted campaign demeanor, Ralph Nader makes him look like Chris Rock. Anyone with that serious an attitude is in the wrong business.

I'm with him. The less HWSBI says or does, the happier I'll be. If he does in 2004 what he did in 2000, I suspect there will be a few people looking to remove his liver with a dull spoon, before they hit the road to Canada or overseas, just ahead of ReichsführerAttorney General Ashcroft's GestapoHomeland Security agents.


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19.3.04

A preview of coming, uh, attractions on "60 Minutes"
 

If anybody out there still watches 60 Minutes (I stopped eons ago, but it seems like they still have most of the same correspondents!), this Sunday's episode might be a good one to tune in. According to Reuters, in an interview they conduct with Richard Clarke, described as a "former White House anti-terrorism advisor," he alleges that BushCoTM "considered bombing Iraq in retaliation after Sept. 11, 2001 even though it was clear al Qaeda had carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon" (emphasis added).

Clarke, who had served as a cybersecurity advisor to four presidents and left in February 2003 when his functions were subsumed by the GestapoDepartment of Homeland Security said he was "surprised administration officials turned immediately toward Iraq instead of al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden."

But it gets better:

Clarke said he was briefing ...Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld among other top officials in the aftermath of the devastating attacks.

"Rumsfeld was saying we needed to bomb Iraq. ... We all said, 'but no, no. Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan," recounts Clarke, "and Rumsfeld said, 'There aren't any good targets in Afghanistan and there are lots of good targets in Iraq."'

"Hello. My name is George W. Bush. You tried to kill my father. Prepare to die." (Hat tip to andante, who first made the Inigo Montoya connection.)

But this shit isn't anything near as funny as The Princess Bride. Shout it loud and long around the 'sphere, and if any of y'all happen to know any really good investigative reporters or media contacts for the Kerry campaign, hook 'em up. We need to nail the sumbitches for this. Big time.


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Mercury falling
 

And I don't mean the title of one of Sting's better albums, alas.

You remember mercury. That silvery stuff they used to put in thermometers and that chemists (and kids) used to play with when it spilled, because it's one of the very few elements that's liquid at room temperature, and it has such fun properties.

Anyway, it's really Not A Good Thing to play with. We've known that for quite some time, and the EPA has had regulations on mercury emissions for decades. Then along comes BushCoTM. Next thing you know, the scientists at the EPA are told to shut up while industry lobbyists rewrite the environmental laws to allow for increased mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants.

Via The Fulcrum comes the latest entry in the BushCoTM "I Can't Believe It's Not Chutzpah" file:

Worried that mercury in fish poses a hazard to youngsters — while still trying to stress the health benefits of seafood — the government issued new guidelines Friday for eating fish.

Women who are pregnant, nursing or may become pregnant, and young children should not eat certain kinds of fish that tend to be high in mercury, said Lester Crawford, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration. (From MS-GOP.)

If it weren't so sad, I'd be laughing my arse off right about now. "Mercury is BAAAAAAAAAAD! But if we keep it out of the environment in the first place, it would cost a lot of money and piss off our corporate masters. So let's just tell everybody not to eat too much fish. That way, we can get the cattlemen and the pork lobbyists and the poultry people on our side, too."

Bush/Cheney 2004: "Who cares what you think?" (Courtesy of Orcinus.)


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Who's to blame for 11.ix.2001? (Hint: It ain't Kerry)
 

As my regular readers know, I'm not a big fan of using 11 September 2001 for political gain. The Repugs keep trying, but I think it just got a lot harder. (And a big ol' hat tip to TBogg, though I will say he should have given us a bit more context before hurrying us off to read it.)

Here's the conclusion of the piece (and the rest is just as good):

One FAA agent delivered a security warning that was forwarded to the proper agency by the Senator who received it. Meanwhile, dozens of alarm bells were blaring in the White House, and especially in the Oval Office, about impending attacks using airplanes against prominent targets. This particular chapter of the 9/11 blame game would be uproariously hilarious if it were not so completely absurd.

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So much for "Buy Amurrikan"
 

In what can only be described as a world-class gaffe on the part of BushCoTM, Atrios is reporting (citing Newsday) that the web store for BushCoTM official merchandise (why anybody would want to buy that crap anyway is beyond me, but....) had inadvertently (or so a representative of the supplier claimed) sold a campaign shirt that was made in Mexico and a fleece pullover that was made in Myanmar (formerly Burma).

I'm not even going to make the obvious comment about the irony of a campaign that wraps itself in the American flag at every possible opportunity and will even go out of its way to make up opportunities to do so selling foreign merchandise. That would be easy, and it would be largely irrelevant. I'm sure our Repug friends could come up with all sorts of good fiscally conservative reasons for why buying non-American goods was a better business decision.

But the Burmese pull-over has some political bite to it. As Atrios notes, "Bush last July signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, saying 'The United States will not waver from its commitment to the cause of democracy and human rights in Burma.'"

Unless, apparently, it can get a really good deal on campaign merchandise there.


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Torture Lou!
 

(Yes, I stole it from Atrios. Sue me!)

Anyway, Lou Dobbs wants to know if BushCoTM are going about the War on Terra correctly. Go tell him what you think.

Update: While you're at it, go torture CNN, too. They want to know if the War on Iraq has been successful or not.


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Once around the park
 

It's Friday (Deo gratias!), and that means it's time to take a look 'round my colleagues at The Liberal Coalition and the other blogs I read, and see what they've been having to say this past week. Here's today's blogaround:

  • Scout has a withering critique of the situation in some of our urban schools, from an anonymous soldier in the education trenches. Shorter version: it's far from being a pretty picture, and NCLB isn't helping any.
  • Mustang Bobby got "seagulled" by his boss yesterday and is still climbing out from under the resulting pile of paperwork. But he did have an interesting (and possibly prescient?) encounter with a John Kerry campaign solicitor that's well worth the read. And if you haven't already, go savor the most recent installment in his "Writing on Writing" series. Links to the other parts of the story so far are at the top of that post.
  • Trish Wilson, blogg, and Scout (making an encore appearance) are all up in arms over Virgin Airways' promotion of a urinal shaped like a woman's mouth. (Eeeuw! That's enough to keep me out of the loo for the duration of a transatlantic flight in and of itself!)
  • Chris Brown picks his favorite Allman Brothers' tunes to go with Campaign 2004
  • Edward wants to encourage people to call on their congress-critters to ensure that we have a paper trail to follow even if voting becomes electronic in 2004. (I should also point out that the good folk over at True Majority are running a parallel campaign to get the secretaries of state or other responsible officials in each of the 50 states to take action even if Congress won't.)
  • Carlo Secundo (it just sounds better in Italian ;-9) has a sobering reflection on why we really shouldn't be calling it the "first anniversary" of the War on Iraq.
  • Tom Spencer takes up a guest blogging spot at corrente and takes the Puppet Master-in-Chief to task on several accounts.
  • NTodd would like more help in giving John Kerry some turkee.
  • Rook is feeling a little glum. Send him some cheer, stat!
  • Jesse has found the perfect article to put the kibosh on the "Bush Qaeda" spin that the defeat of José María Aznar was somehow a "victory for terrorists." (Upyernoz has another one.)
  • andante finds some sobering job news (which I'm sure BushCoTM will ignore or try to spin away).
  • It's Craptastic is giving away free pens to the first five people that become MoveOn members.
  • Echidne notes the sudden turn-around on the "crimes against nature" front in Dayton, Tenn.
  • David, at blogAmY, wants to know if there are any U.S. news organizations left that are worth watching/reading/listening to. If you know of any, drop by and give him a shout.
  • Bryant offers up a deconstruction of possible reasons why BushCoTM might be going so negative so early in the campaign season.
  • Ezra is coming around to the view (which I tend to share) that you really can't lump the U.S. and its allies (or former allies, or currently pissed-off allies....) into a generic "West" or "western civilization." I know that will make it rough for BushCoTM to cast the 2004 elections as The Battle of The World Civilizations®, but I call 'em like I see 'em.
  • Good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I came across this from TBogg. He's calling the War on Iraq "Operation Inigo Montoya." If you don't get the reference, well, shame on you, but here's a crib sheet.
  • Doug offers up another episode in the ongoing drama "Ann Coulter is a Lousy Writer and She Isn't Even That Hot."
  • Quicksauce gets it. Scalia, in what can hardly be a surprise, does not.
  • Mark points to a "Which Grunge Band Are You?" quiz.

That should keep you reading for a while. Happy Friday!


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