Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who you calling "insurgent"?

Finally, someone at the Pentagon used the phrase "exit strategy" publicly. But, as you might expect, it was as part of a sound bite. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said "Quitting is not an exit strategy."

Know what else isn't an exit strategy? Having no clue how to get out of Iraq. Bush's speech today, which was promised to outline the administration's strategy for victory in Iraq, was merely more of the same tired, vague rhetoric we've been hearing for months. The speech was given in front of an audience at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. Bush and Dick Cheney are so unpopular that they can only give speeches in front of miltary personnel, conservative think tanks and campaign donors. I guess even those fake "town hall meetings" we got so accustomed to during Bush's Destory Social Security tour are too risky.

In addition to defining what isn't an exit strategy (while leaving the definition of what is an exit strategy un-addressed), Professor Rumsfeld on Tuesday once again corrected the English of the press corps and the American people. This time, he tried to un-use the word "insurgents" in reference to the guerillas American troops are fighting in Iraq.

Remember how Rumsfeld et al corrected our use of the phrase "War on Terror" to the more administration-friendly, less succinct "global struggle against extremism"? Heady times. Can the reintroduction of "freedom fries" and "homicide bombers" to the collective lexicon be far off?

S-E-N-A-T-E Senate!

In case you're wondering why Congress can't get started on national health care, look into the Bush administration's use of intelligence to justify invading Iraq, investigate allegations of secret CIA prisons around the world, investigate fraud allegations in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, do something about the genocide taking place in Darfur or figure out if oil company CEOs and/or Raphael Palmiero lied to them:

Sen. Arlen Specter, ardent Eagles fan and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, yesterday (Monday) accused the NFL and its Philadelphia franchise of potentially violating antitrust laws in their treatment of Terrell Owens.

Speaking at a news conference in Harrisburg, Specter (R., Pa.) said he was investigating the matter and might refer it to the Senate panel's antitrust

The senator said the league and the Eagles had effectively blacklisted the all-pro wide receiver by forbidding him from playing and by banning other teams from talking to him. He called such treatment "vindictive and inappropriate."

"It's a restraint of trade for them to do that, and the thought crosses my mind, it might be a violation of antitrust laws," Specter said. "The NFL can have
whatever rules it wants on authorizing suspension or keeping you on the team for the balance of the year, but they can't violate the law."
Umm, shouldn't the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee be ramping up for the Alito confirmation hearings right about now?

Specter apparently thought so too, eventually, saying Tuesday that "I think it's more a matter for them than us because we've got ... a lot of matters which take precedence over this for our own time."

Yeah, like everything.

To Kettle, from Pot

Look who's an expert on ethics.

President George W. Bush on Tuesday verbally slapped a congressman from his Republican party for taking bribes.

Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California resigned on Monday after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million inbribes in exchange for help in securing Defense Department contracts.

"Any member of Congress, Republican or Democrat, must take their office seriously and the ethics seriously," Bush said to reporters during a trip to Texas. "The idea of a congressman taking money is outrageous. And Congressman Cunningham is going to realize that he has broken the law and is going to pay a serious price, which he should," Bush said.
Maybe George will let Duke take the White House ethics refresher course. Funny that his rebuke is limited to members of Congress. Hmm...

Profiles in Conservatism

Here's a little background on one of Bubble Boy's inaugural guests.

Martha Bell founded and operated the Ronald Reagan Atrium I Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Robinson, PA, outside Pittsburgh. She had been a contibutor to candidates and political parties since 2000, mostly Republicans and the GOP.

In 2005, Bell contributed $1,200 to the National Republican Congressional Committee. She attended George Bush's inaugural in January. She received the Alzheimer's Association's Genesis Award and was named a 2004 Pennsylvania Businesswoman of the Year by the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The honor was because of her work with Alzheimer's patients, committee spokesman Ed Patra said.

One of those patients was Mabel Taylor.

On Oct. 26, 2001, Ms. Taylor wandered through a door propped open so employees could go outside to smoke. She was locked in a courtyard outside the building in 40-degree weather, where she died, according to a 38-page police affidavit.

Three state inspections found Atrium was not in compliance with state and federal regulations in January 2001. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decided Atrium could not admit new Medicare or Medicaid patients. That is, until Sen. Rick Santorum, at Bell's urging, requested a fourth inspection of the facility. At the fourth inspection, Arium was finally in compliance with regulations, so Medicare and Medicaid funding were not withheld.

A July 2003 inspecion report by the Pennsylvania Department of Health found that patients at the nursing home wandered around unsupervised. The health department also found evidence of patients falling down and losing weight.

In October 2003, Bell was charged with involuntary manslaughter in Ms. Bell's death. Prosecutors say that Bell told workers to move Ms. Taylor's body from the courtyard where she was found to her bed. Her family was told that she died of natural causes.

In addition to involuntary manslaughter charges, Bell was charged with neglect of a care-dependent person, reckless endangerment, conspiracy, health care fraud, making false statements and theft of payroll money.

The state closed the nursing home in January 2004.

In August, Bell was convicted in federal court of one count of health care fraud and eight counts of making false statements. Her sentencing was scheduled for Friday, but delayed until December 2. Her manslaughter trial in the death of Ms. Taylor was scheduled to begin this month but has been delayed while her attorneys appeal a denial of their motion to dismiss.

Patra, of the Republican Congressional Committee, said the committee was unaware of the charges when they honored her in March, which makes you wonder if the research into their awards goes beyond "did her check clear?"

For all conservatives' bluster about earning things, it seems that either they don't apply that standard to themselves or they're convinced that they earned everything they have, all their money, all their success, all their accolades. In this instance, a woman who just might go to federal prison for the way she did her job was named a businesswoman of the year, apparently only because she gave money to the body that hands out the awards. Similarly, George Bush took the presidential oath of office in January 2001, only because he sued to have counting of votes stopped; and was admitted to Harvard and Yale, only because of his last name.

If it looks like success, it must be success. That, of course, isn't a far cry from the defining principle of the Bush administration: It only has to look like results. And that might explain who the 35 percent are who still approve of how Bush is doing his job.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A little levity

With the indictments of former Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby, former House majority leader Tom DeLay and former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff; the guilty plea by former GOP aide Michael Scanlon; the ongoing investigations into the conduct of Bush's brain Karl Rove and Senate majority leader Bill Frist; and the dignified end to the career of former Califormia congressman Duke Cunningham, I thought I'd link to this to lighten the mood. Enjoy.

Justice? It's not just us

So it's OK to suggest bombing a television station, but not OK to report that someone suggested bombing it?

Two men appeared in a British court on Tuesday accused of leaking a secret document which a newspaper said showed that U.S. President George W. Bush wanted to bomb Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

The hearing came a week after the Daily Mirror reported that a British government memo said British Prime Minister Tony Blair had talked Bush out of bombing the broadcaster's headquarters in Qatar in April last year.

The White House has dismissed the report as "outlandish" and on Monday Blair denied receiving any details of a reported U.S. proposal to bomb Al Jazeera.

Defendant David Keogh, a civil servant who used to work at the Cabinet Office, was charged with making a "damaging disclosure of a document relating to international relations."
If both the British and American governments claim the report is wrong, why is someone being charged with leaking the contents of the document?

Because both governments are choosing their words carefully, appearing to deny the report but not actually doing so. The White House hasn't denied the report, it's merely dismissing it, refusing to dignify the report with an answer. (When was the last time the White House dignified anything, frankly?) Tony Blair denied "receiving any details of a reported U.S. proposal to bomb Al Jazeera." He didn't deny Bush floated the idea. Of course Blair didn't receive details of a U.S. proposal. Does George Bush strike you as someone whose proposals involve details?

In another strange twist, the British government is making it difficult for the defendants to mount a defense.

O'Connor's lawyer Neil Clark told reporters after the hearing he had not been granted access to the document but hoped he would before the trial resumes.

"Sometime between now and January 10 I hope that that document will be disclosed to me," he said. "It needs to be disclosed because it's impossible to defend unless you know the case that you're facing."
What's next, Blair's government will hold these guys for three years and then charge them with something completely unrelated? Then disclose that they may be detained whether or not they're found guilty?

Nah. What kind of corrupt regime would resort to such tactics?

It's progress because they say it is

Speaking of not involving details ...

The Bush administration's yardsticks for progress in its fight against terrorism are inadequate and do not show whether the United States is winning or losing, a study by a congressional think tank says.

"Although four years have gone by since September 11, government agencies have still not agreed on criteria to measure progress against terrorism, even though billions of dollars have been spent," said Raphael Perl, author of the internal report by the Congressional Research Service.

"The risk is that without these criteria, we just take action and we measure progress retrospectively against what we've done. And of course since we've done some stuff, we've made progress," he told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

Statistics often cited by U.S. officials -- such as the death or capture of more than two-thirds of top al Qaeda leaders and the seizure of over $200 million in terrorist funds -- do not show how much damage has actually been inflicted on militant groups, the report said.


Administration officials were not immediately available for comment.
And on this report, I suspect they never will be.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Why bother with charges?

I wonder if George Bush remembers that oath thing he took -- twice. Remember George, it was cold, your buddy Rick stood right behind you, you said something about how you would preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States? Remember?

The Bush administration, determined not to yield any ground on the constitutional issues in the case of Jose Padilla, has indicated it may still hold the accused "enemy combatant" indefinitely -- even if he is acquitted of the terrorist conspiracy charges he was indicted on this week.
This development is really fucking disturbing. Read more.


OK, NBC, you can stop pretending the "Today" show is a news program now.

NBC did not interrupt its broadcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade yesterday to bring viewers the news that an M&M balloon had crashed into a light pole, injuring two sisters.

In fact, when the time came in the tightly scripted three-hour program for the M&Ms' appearance, NBC weaved in tape of the balloon crossing the finish line at last year's parade - even as the damaged balloon itself was being dragged from the accident scene. At 11:47 a.m., as an 11-year-old girl and her 26-year-old sister were being treated for injuries, the parade's on-air announcers - Katie Couric, Matt Lauer and Al Roker - kept up their light-hearted repartee from Herald Square, where the parade ends.

Ten minutes later, the upbeat broadcast ended without mention of the accident in Times Square. CNN carried a flash about the accident at 11:51, while the parade telecast was still going on. NBC's cable news network, MSNBC, followed two minutes later. And WNBC, the New York affiliate, carried the news at 12:30 p.m.

But Cameron Blanchard, a spokeswoman for NBC's entertainment division, which broadcast the parade, said that the anchors did not deviate much from the script because it was not clear at the time what had happened. "We had been alerted that there had been an incident," she said. "But no further details had been conveyed to us."

When the balloon failed to arrive at Herald Square at the appointed time, she said, "we rolled with some previously recorded footage."

That said, the situation made for a jarring confluence of scripted and unscripted reality.

At 11:47 a.m., about 7 minutes after the accident, the screen image faded from live coverage of a high school marching band from Kennesaw, Ga., to last year's tape of the M&M balloon. Ms. Couric, advising the audience that it was now looking at old tape, riffed on the balloon's concept of M&M's in distress.

"Now, because of today's windy conditions," Ms. Couric told viewers, "these characters are on video, and if we told you they were not in a panic, we'd be full of hot air."

Ms. Blanchard said she did not know what the announcers knew about the accident at the time.

They knew that their job is to read the teleprompter and go to the bank. What else is there to know? But how responsible of perky, pleasant Katie to tell viewers they were looking at old tape. So what if she didn't explain the real reason why? People have stopped looking to Katie Couric and the "Today" gang for real news long ago. And it's time for NBC to admit as much. Just because the show occasionally cuts to an anchor to read headlines doesn't make it a news program. NFL halftime shows often include local news updates, but I'd hardly call an NFL halftime show a news program.

OK, the parade wasn't scripted reality on the White House level, but it used to be unacceptable for a news organization to alter reality at all -- newspapers don't even flop photos. It's a slippery slope, and the ride isn't much fun.

Disaster alert

Truth is waaaaaaaaay stranger than fiction.

Former FEMA Director Michael Brown, heavily criticized for his agency's slow response to Hurricane Katrina, is starting a disaster preparedness consulting firm to help clients avoid the sort of errors that cost him his job.

"If I can help people focus on preparedness, how to be better prepared in their homes and better prepared in their businesses -- because that goes straight to the bottom line -- then I hope I can help the country in some way," Brown told the Rocky Mountain News for its Thursday editions.

Brown said officials need to "take inventory" of what's going on in a disaster to be able to answer questions to avoid appearing unaware of how serious a situation is.
Now, you would think Mike Brown would know a little something about "appearing unaware of how serious a situation is." But can he really think his failure was due to his inability to answer questions? What about the fact that New Orleans was under water while you dined out and traded e-mail about your wardrobe, Mike? Or the fact you didn't know the Superdome was being used as a staging area? Do you think that might have something to do with the fact that all literate Americans consider you a complete failure?

With his focus on the appearance of competence, it seems Brown is still fuctioning under the guiding principle of the Bush administration: It just has to look like results.

Back to the article:

In the aftermath of the hurricane, critics complained about Brown's lack of formal emergency management experience and e-mails that later surfaced showed him as out of touch with the extent of the devastation.

The lawyer admits that while he was head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency mistakes were made in the response to Katrina. He also said he had been planning to quit before the hurricane hit.

"Hurricane Katrina showed how bad disasters can be, and there's an incredible need for individuals and businesses to understand how important preparedness is," he said.
Whoa, what? Disasters can be bad? I guess that's why they're called disasters.

Brown said companies already have expressed interested in his consulting business, Michael D. Brown LLC. He plans to run it from the Boulder area, where he lived before joining the Bush administration in 2001.

"I'm doing a lot of good work with some great clients," Brown said. "My wife, children and my grandchild still love me. My parents are still proud of me."
They must be the clients he's referring to. Who else would seek advice about disaster preparedness from someone so apparently unsuited for the job? What's next? Michael Jackson starting a babysitting service? OJ becoming a marriage counselor? Ken Lay teaching a business ethics course?

I have a feeling there's another disaster in Mike Brown's future. And it's called Michael D. Brown LLC.

On the bubble

Looks like the jury is close to a verdict on global warming.

There is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any point during the last 650,000 years, says a major new study that let scientists peer back in time at "greenhouse gases" that can help fuel global warming.

By analyzing tiny air bubbles preserved in Antarctic ice for millenia, a team of European researchers highlights how people are dramatically influencing the buildup of these gases.

The remarkable research promises to spur "dramatically improved understanding" of climate change, said geosciences specialist Edward Brook of Oregon State University.
The study, by the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica, is published today in the journal Science.


Levels of carbon dioxide have climbed from 280 parts per million two centuries ago to 380 ppm today. Earth's average temperature, meanwhile, increased about 1 degree Fahrenheit in recent decades, a relatively rapid rise. Many climate specialists warn that continued warming could have severe impacts, such as rising sea levels and changing rainfall patterns.

Skeptics sometimes dismiss the rise in greenhouse gases as part of a naturally fluctuating cycle. The new study provides ever-more definitive evidence countering that view, however.


Today's still rising level of carbon dioxide already is 27 percent higher than its peak during all those millenia, said lead researcher Thomas Stocker of the University of Bern, Switzerland.

"We are out of that natural range today," he said.

Moreover, that rise is occurring at a speed that "is over a factor of a hundred faster than anything we are seeing in the natural cycles," Stocker added. "It puts the present changes in context."

Researchers also compared the gas levels to the Antarctic temperature over that time period, covering eight cycles of alternating glacial or ice ages and warm periods. They found a stable pattern: Lower levels of gases during cold periods and higher levels during warm periods.

The bottom line: "There's no natural condition that we know about in a really long time where the greenhouse gas levels were anywhere near what they are now. And these studies tell us that there's a strong relationship between temperature and greenhouse gases," explained Oregon State's Brook. "Which logically leads you to the conclusion that maybe we should worry about temperature change in the future."
I think the study speaks for itself. Now if only someone in the White House had the balls to tell Bubble Boy something he doesn't want to hear. Hey, tell him it's a story about bubbles! He will be able to relate.

Well, they both avoided the draft

Here's a rare entry that involves both baseball and politics.

Gov. Bill Richardson is coming clean on his draft record -- the baseball draft, that is, admitting that his claim to have been a pick of the Kansas City A's in 1966 was untrue.

For nearly four decades, Richardson, often mentioned as a possible Democratic presidential candidate, has maintained he was drafted by the Kansas City Athletics.

The claim was included in a brief biography released when Richardson successfully ran for Congress in 1982. A White House news release in 1997 mentioned it when he was about to be named U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. And several news organizations, including The Associated Press, have reported it as fact over the

But an investigation by the Albuquerque Journal found no record of Richardson being drafted by the A's, who have since moved to Oakland, or any other team.
When you hear Republicans crowing about this, see how many mention another prominent politician who made a claim about something that didn't happen to polish his resume when he said, “I put in my time, proudly so.”

Bush apologists will argue that it's not the same thing. And they're right, it's not. One is a much more significant misrepresentation of events. Bill Richardson's not being drafted by the Kansas City A's doesn't make him morally unfit to govern New Mexico. But George Bush's not meeting his National Guard obligations makes him morally unfit to send troops to war.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

Best wishes to all of you (even my international readers, for whom it is probably just Thursday) this Thanksgiving. Take a moment to give thanks for all you are grateful for and enjoy all that you've been blessed with.

To our troops, may God bless and protect you, and bring you home quickly and safely. Many Americans oppose the war, but we all are thankful for and proud of you.

And while we're at it, God, I'm sure the Sox would be thankful for a bullpen.


Let me see if I've got this straight.

The Daily Mirror reports that a leaked British government document says that George Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera, the Arabic television station. Other media outlets pick up the report.

The British government quickly warns media organizations that they are breaking the law if they publish details of the leaked document.

When asked about the report, White House spokesman Scott McClellan says, "We are not interested in dignifying something so outlandish and inconceivable with a response," which just happens to be the same tactic Bush used to dodge questions about his past cocaine use.

However, the Bush administration has accused Al Jazeera of spreading anti-American sentiment, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "has called Al Jazeera's coverage 'outrageous' and 'inexcusably biased' and implied that he'd like to see the satellite channel thrown out of Iraq." And in November 2003, two Al Jazeera journalists were arrested and treated to Abu Grahib's world-famous hospitality.

In addition, Al Jazeera's Kabul office was hit by U.S. bombs in 2001. And in 2003, Al Jazeera reporter Tareq Ayyoub was killed in a U.S. strike on Al Jazeera's Baghdad office. In both instances, the United States denied targeting the station.

To me, the British government's warning to the media seems too strange and extreme a step to take if the report was wrong. The British government didn't resort to issuing warnings to media outlets even when details of the famous Downing Street Memo were published. And I'm not going to buy that the British government is just trying to make sure the media have the story right, a la the supposed helping hand Karl Rove extended to Matt Cooper. (Remember that whopper?) To me, it seems like a very unusual and desperate attempt to keep the facts hidden. And I'm not the only one who finds it suprising. According to Reuters,
Kevin Maguire, the Mirror's associate editor, said government officials had given no indication of any legal problems with the story when contacted before publication.

"We were astonished, 24 hours later, to be threatened with the Official Secrets Act and to be requested to give various undertakings to avoid being injuncted," he told BBC radio.
So, after the report is pubished, the British government takes the unprecedented step of trying to chill the media by warning them that they would be breaking the law if they published details of the leaked document, and the "plain talking" White House issues a non-denial denial. Does that lead you to believe that the reports about the document are true or false?

If you said true, then you believe that George Bush wanted to bomb a media outlet based in Qatar, a nation friendly to the United States.

Unsettling, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The X vice president

If you approve of torture, stand behind a large X.

I know it was just a glitch at CNN, but it's the thought that counts.

USA: Charity case

This is how bad it is for the poor under Bush: Poor Americans have gone from being treated like second-class citizens by their own government to being treated like third-world charity cases by a foreign government.

Thousands of low-income Massachusetts residents will receive discounted home heating oil this winter under an agreement signed Tuesday with Venezuela, whose government is a political adversary of the Bush administration.

A subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company will supply oil at 40 percent below market prices. It will be distributed by two nonprofit organizations,
Citizens Energy Corp. and the Mass Energy Consumer Alliance.

The agreement gives President Hugo Chavez's government standing as a provider of heating assistance to poor U.S. residents at a time when U.S. oil companies have
been reluctant to do so and Congress has failed to expand aid in response to rising oil prices.

U.S. Rep. William Delahunt, D-Mass., met with Chavez in August and helped broker the deal. He said his constituents' needs for heating assistance trump any
political points the Chavez administration can score.

Citgo is the Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company and has about 13,500 independently owned U.S. gas stations. It is offering
Massachusetts more than 12 million gallons of discounted heating oil over the next four months, starting in December.

Chavez proposed offering fuel directly to poor U.S. communities during a visit to Cuba in August. He has said the aim is to bypass middlemen to reduce costs
for the American poor -- a group he argues has been severely neglected by Bush's government.
For its part, the Bush administration has threatened to veto a tax bill if a provision that would raise taxes for oil companies isn't stripped out. This threat comes after the major oil companies raked in profits so obscenely large during the last three months that Congress hauled in five oil company CEOs for hearings -- and were promptly lied to by the CEOs.

The five companies -- Exxon Mobil Corp.,Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. -- reported combined quarterly profits of $32.8 billion. That's $356 million per day for the 92-day financial quarter.

Poor Americans have been reduced to relying on the goodwill of the president of Venezuela while our own president does nothing to ensure they will have access to heating oil this winter.

How incredibly fucked up is that?

Argue all you want that Chavez, a vocal critic of the Bush administration, is only doing this to undermine domestic support for a political enemy. But, in addition to asking "What domestic support? Bush and Cheney can't show their faces anywhere but in front of troops and conservative think tanks," I would ask again:

Poor Americans have been reduced to relying on the goodwill of the president of Venezuela while our own president does nothing to ensure they will have access to heating oil this winter.

How incredibly fucked up is that?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Speedy trial

I wonder if the Unites States attorney general is conversant with the provisions of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution. It says something about a "speedy" trial.

Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held for three years as an enemy combatant suspected of plotting a "dirty bomb" attack in this country, has been indicted on charges that he conspired to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas.

A federal grand jury in Miami returned the indictment against Padilla and four others. While the charges allege Padilla was part of a U.S.-based terrorism conspiracy, they do not include the government's earlier allegations that he planned to carry out attacks in America.

"The indictment alleges that Padilla traveled overseas to train as a terrorist with the intention of fighting a violent jihad," Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said at a news conference in Washington. Gonzales declined to comment on why none of the allegations involving attacks in America were included in the indictment.
Well, of course he didn't answer that question. What's he going to say? "Because in three years I couldn't find any evidence to support the original charges"? "Because the original charges are bullshit"? "Because for the last three years I've been too busy dreaming up flimsy legal justifications for torture to focus on the case"?

Gonzales also wouldn't say that the only reason Padilla is being charged with anything is to avoid allowing the Supreme Court to rule on how long the United States can keep American citizens in custody without charging them.

Imagine. The Bush administration wants to preserve its ability to detain its own citizens indefinitely, without charging them with any wrongdoing. This course is so wrong-minded that even a Supreme Court that in 2000 ordered that vote counting be stopped and handed Bush the White House -- and has since been stocked with a Bush nominee -- can't be trusted to go along with it.

After three years, Gonzales still couldn't make a case against Padilla on the charges for which he was arrested in May 2002. Could it be that in an administration that includes Donald Rumsfeld that Alberto Gonzales is the most embarrassing member?

Gonzales said Padilla's case would go to trial in September 2006. Does four years and four months sound speedy to you?

Monday, November 21, 2005


You have to understand, big Dick isn't exactly conversant with burdens.

Cheney denounced proposals for a quick U.S. withdrawal from Iraq as "a dangerous illusion" and shrugged off the failure to find weapons of mass destruction. "We never had the burden of proof," he said, adding that it had been up to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to prove to the world that he didn't have such weapons.
Correction, Dick. When you criss-cross the nation alleging that another country has weapons of mass destruction and is threatening our security, when you send American troops to invade another country based on allegations that you made, when more than 2,000 U.S. troops and countless Iraqis die because of allegations that you made, I'd say you have a substantial burden of proof.

Apparently Dick Cheney doesn't think the families of more than 2,000 dead Americans deserve an explanation. I could go off on an obscenity-laced tirade about Dick Cheney's apparent lack of human decency, but I'll let you draw your own conclusions. If you'd like, feel free to leave an obscentity-laced tirade in the comments section. It's the right thing to do, and you'll feel better.

In addition to basically telling everyone who wants answers about why we're in Iraq to go fuck off, big Dick hit a couple of the White House talking points today, softening his rhetoric somewhat as it relates to U.S. Rep. John Murtha, who is everything Dick Cheney and George Bush pretend to be.

Following President Bush's lead, Cheney praised the character of Rep. John Murtha even as he voiced strong disagreement with the Pennsylvania Democrat's proposal last week to pull out all U.S. troops.

"He's a good man, a Marine, a patriot — and he's taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion," Cheney told the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.
Funny, last week Dick called war opponents "reprehensible." I guess he meant those other war opponents. Opponents who, unlike John Murtha, can be publicly attacked by the administration with little fear of politcal fallout. Opponents like, you know, us.


ESPN is reporting that the Sox are about to trade prospect Hanley Ramirez, pitcher Anibal Sanchez and a minor-league pitcher to the Florida Marlins for pitcher Josh Beckett and third baseman Mike Lowell.

The Marlins would have traded Beckett at the deadline last season, but their insistence that Mike Lowell be included in any deal scared off, well, everybody. Lowell hit .236 with eight homers last year, and his big contract made him even less attractive. However, Lowell did win the Gold Glove at his position, and the Sox were able to get the Marlins to pick up some of the dizzying $18 million Lowell is due to be paid over the next two years.

The Sox picked up a solid but injury-prone power pitcher in Beckett -- when he's on, he's among the top pitchers in the league, and even with shoulder problems and his annual battle with blisters he was able to go 15-8 with a 3.38 ERA. But in the process they are getting old at two positions. Lowell will be 32 at the start of next season and will play a positon that could be filled neatly by Kevin Youkilis, who will be 27 next year. And they're moving 22-year-old Hanley Ramirez in favor of keeping 30-year-old Edgar Renteria and his 30 errors at short.

Beckett clearly is the key to this deal. But Beckett will play only every fifth day. If Lowell doesn't start hitting again, this deal could blow up in their faces.

If I were the GM, I would have been trying to trade Renteria.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Nice try, but ...

Tell me you're surpised.

The Bush administration deserves credit for issuing a comprehensive plan to combat pandemic influenza and for seeking $7.1 billion to get it started. But the lengthy document recently issued by the Department of Health and Human Services looks like a prescription for failure should a highly lethal flu virus start rampaging through the population in the next few years. The plan sets lofty goals but largely passes the buck on practical problems. The real responsibilities wind up on the shoulders of state and local health agencies and individual hospitals, none of which are provided with adequate resources to handle the job.


The voluminous document is mostly a laundry list of things state and local health agencies and hospitals should consider in getting ready. Professional groups and academic experts who have pored over the details find them disturbingly incomplete as a guide to action.

The chain of command is unclear, with myriad agencies and multiple levels of government playing a role. Medical or public health interventions are sometimes suggested without enough information to judge their likely effectiveness or downsides. Liability protection for health workers and compensation for those injured by vaccines are not addressed, nor is the issue of how the United States would respond to requests from other countries for vaccines and medicines. Health departments and medical institutions would be left to scramble for extra vaccines or drugs from private suppliers once stockpiles have been exhausted, setting off a race that should be averted by centralized purchases.
As usual, it only looks like results.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

It's a bird! It's a plane!

It's Soundbite Man! Look for the following soundbites from his speech to U.S. troops in South Korea. (And isn't his jacket adorable? He almost looks like what he's pretending to be.) Don't worry, you won't have to look far for the potent quotables. The CNN pool reporter knows to get them all in, and up high:

"So long as I am commander-in-chief"
"making steady progress"
"the sober judgment of our military commanders"
And, of course, the classic "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down"

And what speech would be complete without a reference to 9/11: "We will not wait to be attacked again. We will not rest or tire until the war on terror is won."

It's almost sad to see that the only crowds Bush can speak in front of these days are military personnel. That is, people required as part of their job descriptions to be there and not embarrass the poor, dumb bastard. After all, as he keeps reminding us, he is their commander-in-chief.

But I have to wonder how Bush's use of the word "we" resonates in their ears.

'Beyond the pale'

Another fan of the administration stands up to be counted.

Former CIA chief Stansfield Turner lashed out at Dick Cheney on Thursday, calling him a "vice president for torture" that is out of touch with the American people.

Turner's condemnation, delivered during an interview with Britain's ITV network, comes amid an effort by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, to pass legislation forbidding any U.S. authority from torturing a prisoner. McCain was tortured as a Vietnam prisoner of war.

Cheney has lobbied against the legislation, prompting Turner to say he's "embarrassed that the United State has a vice president for torture. I think it is just reprehensible."

Turner, a retired Navy admiral who headed the intelligence agency from 1977 to 1981 under President Jimmy Carter, stood firm on his earlier remarks Friday and, in a CNN interview, scoffed at assertions that challenging the administration's strategy aided the terrorists' propaganda efforts.

"It's the vice president who is out there advocating torture. He's the one who has made himself the vice president in favor of torture," said Turner, who from 1972 to 1974 was president of the Naval War College, a think tank for strategic and national security policy.


Torture diminishes the country's image and moral stature, forcing other nations to look at the United States "in a very different light," Turner said, adding that such tactics also open the door to retribution.

"We military people don't want future military people who are taken prisoner by other countries to be subjected to torture in the name of doing just what the United States does," he said.


"Torture is beyond the pale. It is going too far," Turner said.
Aaah, what does a retired Navy admiral and former CIA chief know about protecting this country? What does a former president of the Naval War College know about conducting a war? Who is he to second-guess Dick "Other Priorities" Cheney?

I'm tired of having a cartoonish movie bad guy sitting in the office of the Vice President of the United States. OK, sitting in his bunker at an undisclosed location, but you know what I mean.

Hmm. The word "bunker" does little to conjure up the opulence of what are surely luxurious accomodations, but it sure makes Cheney sound like he's roughing it in a military-type setting.

Roughing it. Yeah, right.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Slippery oil

When you have the president of the United States in your pocket, you're not going to let a little thing like lying to Congress scare you:

A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.

In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.
As for the heads of Shell and BP, it's amazing how little CEOs claim to know about what's going on in their companies. But I can see how meeting with the vice president's energy task force to help craft the administration's enegy policy could slip below the radar. I mean it's not like that could have a profound impact on the company's profits for at least the next four years.

Apparently the verdict in the WorldCom trial hasn't scared executives away from pleading ignorance.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


George Bush really fooled New York, huh?

Congressional budget negotiators have decided to take back $125 million in Sept. 11 aid from New York, which had fought to keep the money to treat sick and injured ground zero workers, lawmakers said Tuesday.

The tug-of-war over the $125 million began earlier this year when the White House proposed taking the money back because the state had not yet spent it.

New York protested, saying the money was part of the $20 billion pledged by President Bush to help rebuild after the Sept. 11 attacks. Health advocates said the
money is needed to treat current and future illnesses among ground zero workers.

"It seems that despite our efforts the rescission will stand, very sadly, and that is something of a promise broken," said Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. "We will try
hard in the coming weeks, but ultimately Congress will have something of a black eye over this."
Being that it was the White House that originally floated the idea of taking the money back, does that make Bush something of a liar?

Don't worry, New York. Next time you need someone to appear for a photo-op on a pile of rubble and bodies, George Bush will be there.

It just looks like results.

Land rush

How do you think you'd do if you had to find a new place to live in 15 days? Think you'd be able to do it? What if there were more than 50,000 other families looking for new housing at the same time? And what if much of the housing in the community where you were looking was damaged by two major hurricanes?

FEMA thinks that scenario is totally reasonable.

FEMA is stepping up the pressure on some 53,000 families left homeless by hurricanes to leave government-paid hotel rooms and find long-term housing.

The agency said Tuesday that it will stop paying hotel bills by the end of the month for most of the families devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, even though housing advocates fear they won't have enough time to find other places.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had previously set the December deadline as a goal to have evacuees out of hotels and into travel trailers, mobile homes or apartments until they find permanent homes.

Tuesday's announcement marked the first time the agency said it would cease directly paying for hotel rooms that have cost FEMA $274 million since the storms struck.

"There are still too many people living in hotel rooms, and we want to help them get into longer-term homes before the holidays," FEMA Acting Director R. David Paulison said in a statement. "Across the country, there are readily available, longer-term housing solutions for these victims that can give greater privacy and stability than hotel and motel rooms."

"Those affected by these storms should have the opportunity to become self-reliant again and reclaim some normalcy in their lives," Paulison said.

Housing advocates said FEMA has not given evacuees enough time to find homes and sign leases — a process that can take months in rental markets already nearing capacity.
Paulison seems to be operating under the assumption that by paying for shelter for families displaced by Katrina, FEMA is preventing them from being self-reliant, as though the payments are somehow forcing entire families to continue living in hotel rooms against their will. He also appears to think that a family living on the street, with nothing in their pockets but "the opportunity to become self-reliant again" is far better than a family with a roof over its head.

Would a government that really cared about restoring "normalcy" to these people hire Halliburton to do the reconstruction, suspend the Davis-Bacon Act (since restored) or remain silent amid accusations of contractors not paying workers rebuilding the region?

Just another crime

It's starting to seem like breaking the law is a requirement for membership in the Republican party.

The former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting broke federal law by interfering with PBS programming and appearing to use political tests in hiring the corporation's new president, internal investigators said Tuesday.

Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, a Republican, also sought to withhold funding from PBS unless the taxpayer-supported network brought in more conservative voices to balance its programming, said the report by CPB inspector general Kenneth A. Konz.

Tomlinson was chairman of the corporation until September and resigned as a board member earlier this month after Konz privately shared his findings with the board. The report was publicly released Tuesday.
How long until moderate, white suburbanites can no longer ignore the crimes of their party so they can keep a little bit more money? How long will they consider "taxes" a dirtier word than "perjury," "ethics violation," "money laundering," "election rigging," "racism," "fixing intelligence" and "torture"?

Selective indignation

But did the Interior Ministry extract any useful intel?

Iraqi and U.S. officials disclosed Tuesday that more than 170 malnourished Iraqi detainees had been found in a weekend raid at an Interior Ministry detention center and that some appeared to have been tortured.

U.S. and Iraqi forces discovered the inmates when they went into the facility suspecting that individuals there may have been mistreated, the Pentagon said.

In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said the administration found the reports troubling.

"We don't practice torture. And we don't believe that others should practice torture," he said.

"So when there are cases of people being accused of torture, we take that seriously; we view it with concern. And we think that there should be an investigation and those who are responsible should be held accountable."
The State Department's view, of course, depends on who is being accused.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Brother, can you spare some credibility?

It might be useful to take a moment to note whom the administration is quoting to lend credibility to their misadventure in Iraq:

Echoing Bush's stance that the administration was not alone in believing Iraq posed a threat, Rumsfeld quoted former President Bill Clinton and senior Clinton administration officials as warning in 1998 that then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein planned to use weapons of mass destruction.

Rumsfeld also quoted then-Vice President Al Gore as saying later that year that "if you get someone like Saddam Hussein to get nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, how many people is he going to kill with such weapons?"
It appears that Bush's handlers finally realize that nobody in the administration has any credibility, so they decided to support the administration's position by citing people who aren't considered serial liars -- their political opponents. "If Clinton and Gore said it, you know it must be true" is an interesting and apparently desperate strategy. Maybe asking Clinton or Gore to appear publicly with Bush is their next move.

It also might be useful to the administration if we overlook the fact that Clinton said what he did "after he ordered limited military action against Iraq in response to Baghdad's decision to expel U.N. weapons inspectors." Of course, U.N. weapons inspectors were in Iraq again before Bush invaded, and left only because they knew the invasion was immiment.

And, by the way, they didn't find any weapons of mass destruction.

So even when they're trying to set the record straight, administration officials are misleading the American public. That's the thing about cherry-picking information to support a predetermined conclusion: Once you start, it's a hard habit to break.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Ripped off

In case you wonder why Sox fans hate the Stinkins:

Alex Rodriguez won the American League Most Valuable Player award for the second time in three seasons, beating David Ortiz on Monday in a vote that rewarded a position player over a designated hitter.

Rodriguez, in his second season as the New York Yankees' third baseman, received 16 first-place votes, 11 seconds and one third for 331 points from the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Ortiz, the DH for the Boston Red Sox, got 11 firsts and 17 seconds for 307 points. Los Angeles Angels outfielder Vladimir Guerrero received the other first-place vote and was third with 196 points.

"I think defense, for the most part, being a balanced player and also saving a lot of runs on the defensive side, I think was a major factor here," Rodriguez said.
Voters valued defense over clutch. Ortiz was Mr. Clutch all season, as well as in the postseason, a period when A-Rod was, A-Hem, less so:

Voting was done before the start of the postseason, when both the Yankees and Red Sox were eliminated in the first round. Rodriguez hit .133 with no RBIs in a five-game loss to the Angels while Ortiz batted .333 with a home run as the defending champion Red Sox were swept by the Chicago White Sox.
Good voting, chumps. Where was your "most valuable player" when it mattered? Mine was hitting .333 in the postseason. But if it makes you feel better that your .133 hitter played defense in between making outs, good for you.

The most valuable player is valuable in situations that matter most. It's all about clutch. Would you rather have a player who hits 40 solo home runs, none after the sixth inning, in games in which the team goes 15-25; or a player hits 30 home runs but consistently performs in the late innings, when the team needs a hit to tie or win a game -- a guy who, when he steps to the plate, you think, "there's no other hitter I'd rather see at-bat in this situation"?

You don't like the DH, don't think it's a legitimate position? Get rid of DH. I'll second that motion right now. But don't punish designated hitters.

David Ortiz was the most valuable player in the American League in 2005. Period.

It just looks like results

Tell me you're suprised:

The U.S. government is not doing enough to protect nuclear weapons from terrorists and its handling of terrorism suspects is undermining America's image in the Muslim world, members of a commission that investigated the September 11 attacks said on Monday.

Although President George W. Bush calls arms proliferation the country's biggest threat and al Qaeda has sought nuclear weapons for a decade, the former commission's chairman Thomas Kean said, "the most striking thing to us is that the size of the problem still totally dwarfs the policy response."

"In short, we still do not have a maximum effort against the most urgent threat ... to the American people," he told a news conference, noting that half the nuclear materials in Russia still have no security upgrade.


"This kind of grade -- unfulfilled, insufficient, minimal progress -- those grades are failing grades ... That is an unacceptable response," Commission member Timothy Roemer said.
In this administration, it's not results that matter, it's the appearance of results. But how it appears to me is that George Bush stops thinking about a problem right after he promises to do something about it. And based on his latest poll numbers, a majority of Americans agree with me.

The bungling continues

The Bush administration isn't quite through fucking up in response to Hurricane Katrina:

Last week a group of survivors filed the first of what are likely to be several lawsuits alleging that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has failed to live up to its responsibilities.

The same basic question is this: Why did the Bush administration focus on trailer parks built by FEMA - which is actually not a housing agency - instead of giving the lead role to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has so much experience on this issue?

The administration rigged up a hastily thought out program that is less flexible and less helpful than Section 8 - and confusing in the bargain. Still focused on tax cuts for the wealthy, the administration is apparently hoping that people who need housing will be frustrated by the difficult process of applying for federal relief dollars and simply give up and go away.
If you keep in mind what I've said before, that the administration isn't interested in results, just the appearance of results, this kind of bullshit makes sense.

So all those wire stories that describe George Bush's woes and refer to "the bungled response to Hurricane Katrina" (for example, this one) should, instead of just cutting-and-pasting from previous stories, adopt language that shows the administration's up-fucking isn't quite complete yet. Something like, "the ongoing bungling of the response to Hurricane Katrina."

After all, Bush still thinks Brownie still has something to contribute to FEMA. Why else keep him on as a "consultant?" Based on his e-mails, maybe he can offer tips on good restaurants and haberdasheries in the Gulf region. Then again, maybe it's because Brownie is Bush's buddy and Bush doesn't see anything wrong with Brownie's collecting a federal paycheck while doing nothing of value to anyone. And after all, just because Anderson Cooper, Oprah and Geraldo have packed up their cameras and headed north, things are still hard in the Big Easy, and the people there still aren't getting the help they need.

Torturous editorial

Here's a response I wrote to an edit by the Wall Street Journal:

Even with Bush approval ratings in the toilet, the WSJ edit board is still carrying the Bush administration's water. It's not like Paul Gigot and the rest of the you on the editorial staff had much credibility before this piece was written, but now in addition to being devoid of credibility, you are morally bankrupt.

It's hard to believe that a bunch of candy-ass chickenhawks like yourselves would second-guess John McCain about the unforseen consequences of banning the inhumane treatment of prisoners. McCain has forgotten more about torture than the entire editorial staff will ever know. And he probably hasn't forgotten much -- something tells me that being tortured is something one doesn't readily forget.

How do you think history will remember this "pro torture" edit? I hope you'll have the courage of your convictions and own up to and take full responsibility for your work, but I doubt it. Not if your history is any road map. But no matter how many times you say "no comment" when asked about this edit in the future, you're still responsible for it, you still advocated torture. Looking back, you'll be ashamed of this low-water mark in your paper's history. Too bad you were too dumb to be ashamed of it on Friday, when you still had the chance to kill the piece.

It used to be that you read the WSJ and house-trained your dog with the edit page. Readers knew it and accepted it. But at some point management has to be held accountable. So I'm done with your paper. As long as you amoral hacks collect a check for contributing to the WSJ, I will acknowledge its existence only to point out what a piece of shit it is and I'll share this edit with anyone who still might be on the fence about your publication.

Have a nice, torture-free day. Unlike you, I don't advocate torture.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Credibility check

It shows how far our government has fallen from the ideal when we have to ask this question: Whom do you believe -- the president of the United States, or a newspaper columnist?

The subject is the new Medicare prescription drug benefit that begins January 1. First, we hear from the president:

"This new benefit is the greatest advance in health care for seniors and Americans with disabilities since the creation of Medicare 40 years ago," Bush said in his weekly radio address.

"With this new prescription drug benefit, Medicare will now help pay for the prescription drugs that can prevent serious illness," he said. "Seniors will get more choices and better treatment, and America will get a Medicare system to fit the needs of the 21st century."
Now, the columnist:

At first, the benefit will look like a normal insurance plan, with a deductible and co-payments.

But if your cumulative drug expenses reach $2,250, a very strange thing will happen: you'll suddenly be on your own. The Medicare benefit won't kick in again unless your costs reach $5,100. This gap in coverage has come to be known as the "doughnut hole." (Did you think I was talking about Krispy Kremes?)

One way to see the bizarre effect of this hole is to notice that if you are a retiree and spend $2,000 on drugs next year, Medicare will cover 66 percent of your expenses. But if you spend $5,000 - which means that you're much more likely to need help paying those expenses - Medicare will cover only 30 percent of your bills.

A study in the July/August issue of Health Affairs points out that this will place many retirees on a financial "roller coaster."

People with high drug costs will have relatively low out-of-pocket expenses for part of the year - say, until next summer. Then, suddenly, they'll enter the doughnut hole, and their personal expenses will soar. And because the same people tend to have high drug costs year after year, the roller-coaster ride will repeat in 2007.

How will people respond when their out-of-pocket costs surge? The Health Affairs article argues, based on experience from H.M.O. plans with caps on drug benefits, that it's likely "some beneficiaries will cut back even essential medications while in the doughnut hole." In other words, this doughnut will make some people sick, and for some people it will be deadly.

The smart thing to do, for those who could afford it, would be to buy supplemental insurance that would cover the doughnut hole. But guess what: the bill that established the drug benefit specifically prohibits you from buying insurance to cover the gap. That's why many retirees who already have prescription drug insurance are being advised not to sign up for the Medicare benefit.

If all of this makes the drug bill sound like a disaster, bear in mind that I've touched on only one of the bill's awful features. There are many others, like the clause that prohibits Medicare from using its clout to negotiate lower drug prices.
Even more disappointing than the question is the answer.

Just a reminder: It'll be 2009, at the soonest, before an elected official has the guts to take on the health insurance industry and give us the universal health care system that this "benefit" pretends to be and that the rest of the industrialized world already enjoys. You'll know who that person is because he -- or more likely she -- won't use terms like "frivolous lawsuits" and "caps on non-economic damages."

How we spent our November vacation

When George Bush finds himself in a hole, he keeps digging.

In a speech Friday at a Pennsylvania Army depot, he trotted out the same tired bullshit rhetoric that worked so well when many Americans bought into the administration's WMD lies, attacking critics of the war for "sending the wrong message" not only to the troops on the ground in Iraq, but also to the insurgents they're fighting.

It seems the only people not getting the message work for the administration. Dig up, George. Up.

It also seems like Bush speaks only before audiences of soliders these days. Being that he's their commander-in-chief, they can be relied upon to not embarrass him, plus the administration has always felt they make good background scenery. Lest you think that's cynical, that this wasn't political theatre:

Bush's political adviser Karl Rove, who is still under the cloud of the CIA leak investigation, hopped Air Force One to attend the speech, an indication that it was a political event.

Bush shared the stage with a tan Army depot vehicle, and banners behind him read "Strategy for Victory." "Hail to the Chief," which is rarely played to mark
Bush's arrival, blared from speakers in the warehouse.
Hmm. Bush stood before a banner that read "Strategy for Victory." Given that the administration has been hammered for not having any such strategy in Iraq, if Bush were to reaveal a strategy, that would be big news. But this is all the AP story about the appearance says about strategy:

Bush's speech was part of a coordinated White House effort to bolster the president's waning credibility and dwindling support for the war, in which at least 2,056 U.S. troops have died.
Why, that sounds like the sign was referring to a strategy for a public-relations victory, not for a victory in Iraq.

As for how big Dick spent Veteran's Day:

Bush chose to go on the road this Veterans Day to make his forceful defense of the war, leaving Cheney in Washington to attend traditional wreath-laying ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery.
Remember Dick's speech when he accepted the GOP nomination for Vice President in 2000?

"Just before you settle down on the landing pad, you look upon Arlington National Cemetery...its gentle slopes and crosses row on row," Cheney said. "I never once made that trip without being reminded how enormously fortunate we all are to be Americans, and what a terrible price thousands have paid so that all of us...and millions more around the world...might live in freedom."
Touching. Only one problem:

The graves in Arlington are marked with white headstones, rounded at the top. According to the Veterans Administration Web site, "Following World War I, a board of officers adopted a new design to be used for all graves except those of veterans of the Civil and Spanish-American Wars. This stone was of the slab design referred to as "General" type, slightly rounded at the top, of American white marble, 42 inches long, 13 inches wide and four inches thick.
I wonder if big Dick found those crosses row on row as touching up close as when he was flying over them, apparently never looking down.

As for Senator Rick "he spells it with a silent 'P' " Santorum spent Veteran's Day, he was in Philadelphia, speaking to the American Legion. His mouthpiece said Thursday that the Senator, who by the way is trailing in polls in his re-election bid, wanted to attend the "event" with the wildly unpopular president (after all, what would be better for Santorum's numbers than to be associated with a president boasting an approval rating of 37 percent?), but conflicting schedules made doing so impossible.

Santorum's staff and the White House tried to juggle the schedule, but the two events are both set for midday, and it would have been impossible to make it
work, (Santorum spokesman Robert) Traynham said. "The senator really wants to be there," he said, but "to cancel now would be completely disrespectful to the
Does this sound like someone who wanted to share the stage with Bush while he defended the war?

In a speech in Philadelphia, Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., criticized how the war has been presented to Americans — both by the media and the White House. Afterward, Santorum said the war has been "less than optimal" and "maybe some blame could be laid" at the White House. "Certainly, mistakes were made," Santorum said.
Was Santorum's spokesperson lying? Well, do you think a senator facing re-election and trailing in the polls would pass on the opportunity to appear in his home state with the president if he thought the appearance would help him? If so, I guess you believe that single women spend Saturday nights washing their hair, too.

Santorum's people know what happened in Virginia. They may be dishonest, but they know an albatross when they see one.

Don't wait for Veterans Day. Thank a veteran every day.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hot stove league

Usually hot-stove rumors involve players. But in Boston, rumors are swirling about a potential return for former GM Theo Epstein. is reporting that while the team interviews candidates for Epstein's old job, some continue to hope that Theo and Larry Lucchino can iron out their differences, smoothing a path for Epstein to return to his former position.

Some in the ownership group hold out hope that Epstein can resolve his differences with Lucchino and return as the GM. Contrary to some reports, Lucchino has not rejected that idea, and wants Epstein back, (Peter) Gammons reported.
Boston Dirt Dogs has more.


The election-day results are in, and they don't look good for Republicans. Let's review:

Democrats won important governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia. In New Jersey, U.S. Sen. Jon Corzine defeated some other multimillionaire of moot identity. This enables Corzine to pick his own successor in the Senate, and that person is expected to have a leg up in the 2006 election. In (former?) red state Virginia, Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine won easily over Republican Jerry Kilgore. This despite an 11th-hour appearance in which George Bush threw his clout behind Kilgore.

Despite, or because of?

"This is a red state, he came in on Election Eve and he had no discernible effect," (University of Virginia political scientist Larry ) Sabato said. "If anything, he may have cost Kilgore some votes."
A popular president has coattails. An unpopular one has concrete shoes.

In California, voters rejected all four of the ballot initiatives backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, dealing a blow to the Republican just a year ahead of his re-election bid. That is, if he runs.

In New York, RINO Michael Bloomberg won handily. And it only cost him $80 million to $100 million of his own money. Being that Bloomberg is a Republican only because it was the path of least resistance to the mayor's office in 2001, even this isn't really a win for Republicans.

As if all that weren't enough, Bush's buddy Tony "Landslide" Blair was dealt a setback in Parliament today.

Britain's Tony Blair suffered his first major parliamentary defeat as prime minister on Wednesday over new counter-terrorist powers, raising fresh questions about his authority.

The elected House of Commons voted by 322 to 291 against plans to let police hold terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge, as about 40 members of Blair's Labour party refused to support him.

Blair had dramatically recalled his two top ministers -- finance minister Gordon Brown and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw -- from abroad in a bid to avoid defeat, but to no avail.
Spin as they might, the GOP has received the message loud and clear: We've had enough. Enough of your incompetence, enough of your failures, enough of your eroding of our rights, enough of your indictments, enough of your lack of ethics, enough of your corruption, enough of your attacks on opponents, enough of your moral bankruptcy, enough of your war, enough of your lies.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Enemies list

What's a Dr. got to do to get listed? I would think being a disappointed idealist would be enough. Well, a disappointed idealist with a blog.

Do you think they're trying to re-create the Nixon White House?

Thanks Susie. See ya on the list.

Little white schoolhouse

I guess this is part of restoring honor and dignity to the White House:

The White House on Tuesday began mandatory, hourlong briefings for an estimated 3,000 staffers on ethics and the handling of classified information in response to the indictment of a top official in the CIA leak investigation.

Among those who attended the first ethics briefing were some assistants to the president with top security clearances, White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not among the first group, although he was expected to attend an ethics class later this week.

The White House counsel's office will conduct presentations on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for those aides with security clearances. Briefings for other aides in the White House and the executive office of the president will follow.
Five years ago, the scandal coming out of the White House was about whether the chief executive received oral sex from a woman who was not his wife. Today, the scandals coming out of the White House include staffers who need a refresher course in how to handle classified information (although if you believe the special prosecutor, they expertly collected and disseminated classified information in the CIA leak case, which is the impetus for the classes); the aforementioned CIA leak; the bungled response to the biggest natural disaster in the nation's history; whether the chief executive fixed intelligence around a predetermined policy to start a war on false pretenses and whether the chief executive violated the Geneva Conventions by approving the torture of prisoners.

How very honorable and dignified.

Slippery slope

Ignore one element of the Geneva Conventions, and soon you're likely to ignore others as well.

U.S. forces in Iraq have used incendiary white phosphorus against civilians and a firebomb similar to napalm against military targets, Italian state-run broadcaster RAI reported on Tuesday.


An incendiary device, white phosphorus is used by the military to conceal troop movements with smoke, mark targets or light up combat areas. The use of incendiary weapons against civilians has been banned by the Geneva Convention since 1980.

The United States did not sign the relevant protocol to the convention, a U.N. official in New York said.
Oh, so it's OK then.

GM by committee

Don't believe the spin the Sox are putting on their decision to send a committee of four to the GM meetings in Palm Springs, Calif.

The Sox sent Ben Cherington, director of player development; Jed Hoyer, assistant GM; Peter Woodfork, and former player Craig Shipley. Who they didn't send is one person who has the authority to make decisions without checking with at least three other people (if you don't count Larry Lucchino or John Henry, and you should).

The committee assures us that Theo helped them prepare for the meetings and they expect to be able to consult him with questions that arise during the week.

Yeah, that's as good as having him there.

Let's hope this doesn't turn into a friggin' circus in which these four are tripping over their dicks trying to consult each other on every stupid little rumor and wild offer and end up accomplishing nothing.

With nobody clearly in charge of making decisions, the Sox could miss out on some talented players while they're sending e-mails back and forth and waiting for calls back from Boston and each other while teams with GMs are getting things done.

The front office needs a closer as much as the team does. If 2003 taught us anything, this committee shit doesn't work.

'We do not torture'

What does your Bullshit-O-Meter look like when you read this?

The U.S. government is aggressively taking action to protect Americans from terrorism but "we do not torture," President Bush said on Monday, responding to criticism of reported secret CIA prisons and the handling of terrorism suspects.
The link has a photo in which our Car-Salesman-in-Chief appears to be trying not to smile as he lies his way out of another embarrassing situation.

Let's review. Bush says "We do not torture." At exactly the same moment, Vice President Dick Cheney is turning the screws on Congressional Republicans to exempt the CIA from language that John McCain (R-Ariz.) has proposed for inclusion in the military budget and the Senate backed by a 90-9 vote.

Here's the "McCain language" you've been hearing so much about. You can see why the administration objects enough to summon big Dick from his bunker.

(a) IN GENERAL.--No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.

(b) APPLICABILITY.--Subsection (a) shall not apply to with respect to any person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense pursuant to a criminal law or immigration law of the United States.

(c) CONSTRUCTION.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect the rights under the United States Constitution of any person in the custody or under the physical jurisdiction of the United States.


(a) In General.--No individual in the custody or under the physical control of the United States Government, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
(b) Construction.--Nothing in this section shall be construed to impose any geographical limitation on the applicability of the prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment under this section.

(c) Limitation on Supersedure.--The provisions of this section shall not be superseded, except by a provision of law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act which specifically repeals, modifies, or supersedes the provisions of this section.

(d) Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Defined.--In this section, the term ``cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment'' means the cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984.
By the way, all 9 "nay" votes were cast by, say it with me, Republicans. The Nay-voting Nine are as follows:

Wayne Allard (R-CO)
Christopher Bond (R-MO)
Tom Coburn (R-OK)
Thad Cochran (R-MS)
John Cornyn (R-TX)
James Inhofe (R-OK)
Pat Roberts (R-KS)
Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
Ted Stevens (R-AK)

Here's hoping that these nay-voters embrace their record with pride and feature this particular vote frequently and prominently in all their future campaign ads. Feel free (it's still a relatively free country, after all) to contact these gentlemen and let them know how proud you are of them and how proud they should be.

The one abstention from the vote was Jon Corzine (D-NJ). Maybe he couldn't make up his mind. Or had car trouble. Or was abducted by aliens. Most likely, he was neglecting his day job while running for governor in New Jersey (it appears somebody noticed that former governors have a better shot than former senators at being elected president).

My, we are wandering far afield. Getting back to the point, Bush says "we do not torture" at the same time that Cheney is pressuring Republicans on the Hill to exempt the CIA from language that prohibits torture. The administration's stance is that "the measure would 'restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bringing terrorists to justice.' "

How? If you're not practicing torture, how does prohibiting torture restrict you?

Mind you, Cheney isn't trying to defeat the amendment entirely, he just wants the CIA to be exempt from its provisions. The CIA, of course, is alleged by the Washington Post to be running the network of secret prisons that the Bush administration won't confirm or deny even exists. The non-denial should tell you everything you need to know about the existence of these prisons. Have you known this administration to pass on an opportunity to discredit a critic? If the Post were wrong about these prisons, wouldn't the president (not Scott McClellan, the president) be saying so ad nauseum? Wouldn't the nine assholes listed above be passing meaningless resolutions condeming the "partisan attack journalism" of the Post? Wouldn't Fox News, Rush and Bob Novack have been deployed by now?

Note too the language of Bush's denial. He keeps saying that the way prisoners are being treated is legal:

"Anything we do to that end in this effort, any activity we conduct, is within the law," Bush said. "We do not torture. And therefore we're working with Congress to make sure that as we go forward, we make it possible, more possible to do our job."
The reasons Bush can hide behind calling what's going on at the hands of American captors legal are that his attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, he of the "quaint" Genenva Conventions, said it is; the fact that the administration has been creative in classifying its prisoners, calling them "enemy combatants" instead of "prisoners of war," thereby withholding the internationally accepted POW status from the prisoners; and their extraordinary policy of "extraordinary rendition," not just another form of outsourcing in which the administration lets someone else do their waterboarding cheaper and more efficiently, but by keeping prisoners off American soil, the adminstration deprives them of legal protections they would otherwise have.

So, when your president says "we do not torture," what he means is, "as far as you know, we don't practice torture, and no judge will say we do."

In short, to paraphrase a former president, it depends on what the meaning of "torture" is.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Dr. is in

I apologize for the last several days of no posts. I have spent the last week-plus moving my base of operations and my ISP took a few days to transfer the service to the new location. But it appears that the power is flowing once again, so I'm back.

Quite a bit has happened while I was away. Harriet Miers "withdrew" her nomination and was replaced by a judge who conservatives are confident will do their bidding -- remember the Right's objections to Miers had nothing to do with her lack of qualifications, it was all about whether she could be counted on to play ball.

George Bush, suffering from sagging approval numbers at home, decided to ride out the storm not at his dumbass ranch (that's where he rides out real storms, not metaphorical ones), but in Latin America, where the people of Argentina reminded him how popular he is around the world. In case you think the protest was fueled entirely by opposition to FTAA and not opposition to Bush, I offer this, one of my favorite lines in the riot coverage:

The protesters, armed with large wooden clubs, began smashing storefront windows and setting at least one bank on fire just outside the gated summit security zone. One restaurant with anti-Bush posters plastered across its windows was untouched.
But perhaps the biggest news of the last week or so is that Patrick Fitzgerald indicted "Scooter" Libby, and that he appears to have his eye on an even bigger fish (can you say "Dick"?). Libby has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of justice, perjury et al, and his trial promises to drag on for a very long time. Too bad for him that January 2009 is so far away, or Georgie might give him that pardon right now. But Bush is already suffering from Nixonian approval ratings, and giving a get-out-of-jail-free card to an insider accused of felonies wouldn't help matters. With all the talk of loyalty in this administration, it's clear that it only flows uphill and the higher-ups will fuck their underlings if it's in their best interest to do so.

In Red Sox Nation, the big news, of course, is that Theo is leaving the team. Contract negotiations broke down and he's out. It can't be easy walking away from your dream job, not that most of us ever will have to worry about that. Then again, most of us don't have a giant pile of money to cushion the blow. You'd expect a bidding war for his services from teams with a GM opening, but the Phillies just hired former Toronto GM Pat Gillick (another idiotic old-boy network hiring there), and the Dodgers and D-Rays aren't exactly known for big spending and won't offer Theo what he's looking for and definitely won't provide him with the kind of payroll he was used to working with. Theo's best bet might be to run for governor of Massachusetts after Mitt declares for president (another Massachusetts governor with no shot). Bringing the World Series trophy to Fenway after 86 years should translate into some votes in baseball-crazy Beantown.

In other Red Sox news, Jason Varitek won a Gold Glove award. That should look good on his mantle next to his team Defensive Player of the Year Award he received from Redsoxville.