Thursday, March 30, 2006

Free at last

Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was kidnapped in Iraq, has been freed, thank God.


Click here to read an entertaining piece recounting the comments of media whores who couldn't jump on the Bush war machine bandwagon fast enough.

Cal Thomas declared (4/16/03): "All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent. Otherwise, they will return to us in another situation where their expertise will be acknowledged, or taken for granted, but their credibility will be lacking."
Well, here's the archive. Just don't hold your breath waiting for any of these people to recant.

It would be funny if the war they were cheerleading for weren't so tragic.


John Dean:

If the early polls are half correct, independent swing voters have had it with Bush. Democrats want no part of him. Moderate Republicans are keeping their distance; they are no longer willing to hold their noses and vote for him.

The big question is whether there will be an "October Surprise" - a dramatic event that will bump up Bush's currently dismal polling numbers, and help his party. Right now, Republican friends tell me they are doing all they can to keep the mid-terms from being a referendum on Bush. They know they have a better chance if they focus on local races - absent an October Surprise. If you have any knowledge of how White Houses operate, you can be sure they are working night and day to pull off such a surprise.

If they do it, Bush will get away with his lawlessness. If not, he and Cheney are in for two very bad years. They have earned them.
Of course, with the touch-screen voting machines installed around the country as a result of the Help America Vote Act, it's possible that the midterms won't be a referendum on anything, just an empty exercise with a predetermined outcome.

With evidence of election "irregularities" rampant, it's time to stop looking at elections in traditional ways and address what is perhaps the greatest threat to our nation since the secession of the South. Instead of worrying about an October Surprise, which Dean says is all but inevitable (can we expect to see the terror alert level raised a color, based on "credible intelligence"?), we should worry about a November Surprise, in which election results differ wildly from exit polls and voters' party registrations -- all in favor of Republican candidates.

You know, like the surprise we had in Ohio in November 2004.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Five questions

Click here for a look at the Sox as they head into the season, which starts Monday against the Texas Rangers. Seems I'm not the only one who wouldn't be suprised to see Jon Papelbon in the closer's role this season.

It just looks like change

Before getting carried away with idea that the Andrew Card resignation is a sign that George Bush is becoming more flexible and responsive to advice he doesn't want to hear, like the Washington Post is,

Bush, his advisers say, has by no means changed his view of what he derisively calls the "chattering class." But the Card move is only the latest sign that -- with his presidency under the stress of low public approval ratings, an unpopular war and a stalled legislative agenda -- Bush is more often deferring to the expectations of Washington conventional wisdom.
go read this piece by Dick Polman, which includes the following nugget:

He replaced chief of staff Andrew Card, a veteran loyalist insider, with budget director Josh Bolten, a veteran loyalist insider.
Well said.

UPDATE: Great minds think alike.

Thrown to the lions

I admit that I thought Tom DeLay's legal problems had something to do with evidence that he broke the law.

There are those who would say Tom DeLay lost his job as House majority leader because he was indicted by a Texas grand jury for money laundering and conspiracy, or because of his extensive ties to lawbreaking lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But they would be wrong.

In fact, the Texas Republican fell from power because he is a Christian.
That, at least, is the view of Rick Scarborough, convener of a conference this week called "The War on Christians."

"I believe the most damaging thing that Tom DeLay has done in his life is take his faith seriously into public office, which made him a target for all those who despise the cause of Christ," Scarborough said, introducing DeLay on Tuesday. When DeLay finished, the host reminded the politician: "God always does his best work right after a crucifixion."
If DeLay is indeed guilty of the crimes he's accused of, I'd sure like to see him held accountable. And because I don't care even a little bit which religion DeLay practices, his faith has nothing to do with my feelings. So how would Rick Scarborough explain my perspective?

Oh yeah. The liberal media.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Remember how Bush repeatedly rejected calls by nervous Republicans to shake up his staff and address his plummeting poll numbers? So much for that.

White House chief of staff Andy Card has resigned and will be replaced by budget director Joshua Bolten, President Bush announced Tuesday amid growing calls for a White House shakeup and Republican concern about Bush's tumbling poll ratings.
Card will be replaced by budget director Josh Bolten. Considering the size of the budget deficit, it'll be a good thing for the country to get him out of that job.

As far as this having the intended effect of bolstering Bush's approval ratings, I don't see it happening. Andy Card isn't why Bush is so unpopular.

You want to get serious about unloading an albatross? Fire Cheney. You can say it's for health reasons. That's a perfectly credible cover story, way more believable than saying he wants to spend more time with his lesbian daughter.

Other possible explanations for Cheney's resignation -- and the White House has my permission to use any of these -- include the following:

*Cheney wants to spend more time getting drunk and shooting defenseless birds.

*Cheney wants to spend more time hunting Harry Whittington for sport.

*Cheney wants to enlist in the armed forces, because he believes so much in our mission in Iraq. Sure, he had "other priorities" during the Vietnam War, but this time he's ready to contribute.

*Cheney wants to spend more time playing "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City." After all, the company went to the trouble of naming the game after him, so the least he can do is help out Tommy Vercetti.

*Cheney wants to spend more time working on that elusive third DUI conviction. He's so tired of Bush's bragging about having been arrested more times.

*Cheney wants to spend more time securing no-bid government contracts and creating offshore tax havens for Halliburton.

*Cheney wants to get a job as a lobbyist. After all, that's where the real money is, right Jack?

*Cheney wants to spend more time following through on votes he cast as a senator by repealing the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, putting Nelson Mandela back in prison and dismantling the federal Department of Education.

*Cheney wants to spend more time outing undercover CIA personnel.

*Cheney wants to spend more time telling senate Democrats to go fuck themselves.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Roster moves

The Sox have claimed first baseman Hee-Seop Choi off waivers from the West Coast Red Sox, a.k.a. the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Juan Gonzalez, after signing with the Sox and then claiming to have signed with the Oakland A's, reportedly is working out with the Colorado Rockies. The groupthink is that Gonzalez didn't like his chances of getting out of the Sox's minor league system after the Sox traded Bronson Arroyo for Wily Mo Pena.

Whatever. As long as Juan is gone. Let him take up space on someone else's DL.

Hearing, but not listening

Frankly, it's amazing it got this far. And that's only because Feingold threatened to seek a vote by the full Senate.

The Republican-led U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Friday it would hold a hearing next week on a call by a Democratic lawmaker to censure President George W. Bush for his domestic spy program.

In a one-sentence notice, the panel said the hearing would be held next Friday by the order of its chairman, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who has opposed censure.

Feingold, who has attracted little support from fellow Democrats for censure, said unless a hearing was held he would push for a vote by the full Senate on his resolution.
Considering that Specter has called Feingold's resolution "vastly excessive" and the lack of ossification in most senators' backs, I'm not optimistic.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sounding like a candidate

If you didn't know better, you'd think Michael Chertoff was running for office:

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said yesterday that the time has come for the federal government to regulate security at chemical plants, but that it should rely on the industry to devise its own way to meet targets and use private contractors to audit compliance.

In speeches to industry leaders and the Senate this month, Chertoff has led a carefully choreographed election-year push to close one of the most lethal security gaps that experts say the Bush administration has neglected since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Yesterday, he said government should not "micromanage" the private sector by mandating the use of guards, gates or guns and should reward voluntary security improvements, which Gerard's group said have totaled $3 billion since the terrorist attacks.

In response to questions, Chertoff generally backed an industry push to preempt state and local governments from enacting tougher rules. He said inconsistent rules that expose businesses to "ruinous liability" would create "a regulatory regime that is doomed to failure." He criticized as "interference with business" a proposal backed by environmental groups that would require industry to substitute "inherently safer" chemicals and processes.

The Government Accountability Office, Congress's audit arm, concluded in January that the Department of Homeland Security lacked the authority to enforce security requirements, that the success of voluntary measures was unclear and that congressional action was needed. It said the department has identified 3,400 high-priority facilities where a worst-case release of toxic chemicals could sicken or kill more than 1,000 people, and 272 sites that could affect more than 50,000 people.
In response, the head of homeland security is protecting the chemical industry from the expense of safety regulations.

We need leadership. We're getting "a carefully choreographed election-year push."

Monday, March 20, 2006

Phuck Philip Morris

Couldn't have happened to a nicer bunch of corporate scum.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review on Monday a $50 million punitive damages award against Altria Group Inc's Philip Morris unit in the case of a longtime smoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer and then died.

The lawsuit against the tobacco company had been filed in California state court by Richard Boeken, who said he smoked two packs of Marlboro cigarettes a day for decades. Diagnosed with lung cancer in 1999, he was 57 when he died in 2002.

A jury in Los Angeles awarded Boeken a record $3 billion in punitive damages and $5.5 million in compensatory damages. The trial judge then reduced the punitive damages award to $100 million.

A California appeals court last year further reduced the punitive damages award to $50 million, and both Philip Morris and Boeken's widow appealed to the Supreme Court.

The courts reduced the punitive award by more than 98 percent, and the company continued to appeal. I guess not to do so would be to neglect its responsibilites to their shareholders. And far be it for a tobacco company to act in an irresponsible manner.

Speaking of responsibility, tobacco companies can't be penalized enough for the pain and suffering they've caused and continue to cause around the world. And shame on you if you're one of those shareholders. Rationalize all you want, but you profit from the suffering of others. The longer you have owned and continue to own tobacco stock (and defense contractor stock, for that matter), the more blood you have on your hands.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Drill split

Maybe they do these drills on Saturdays because Bush, being more of a big-picture, go-away-for-the-weekend kind of guy, wouldn't bother showing up anyway. Either that or the drills don't lend themselves to photo-ops.

Cabinet officials gathered at the White House complex on Saturday for a drill simulating a smallpox attack against the United States.

The four-hour exercise to test the government's response plans was conducted by Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and Centers of Disease Control Director Dr. Julie Gerberding and others.

President Bush, who was spending the weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, did not participate in the exercise at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next to the White House.

Saturday's simulation was the second drill to check the nation's readiness for catastrophic attacks.

Federal officials said that a similar rehearsal in December for pandemic flu showed that saving lives and containing economic damage would require more planning in local communities and increased production of vaccines and medications.
And guess what? Bush didn't participate in that one either. He was too busy going on a bike ride.

Maybe skipping drills makes Bush feel like he's in the Air National Guard again.

'D' for 'Disaster'

As you can see, Medicare Part D works for everyone -- if, by "everyone," you mean Big Pharma.

Medicare Part D, the federal government's new prescription drug plan, has forever changed the way Roxanne Marek and her pharmacist, Bruce Scheinson, do business together.

For the past five years, Marek, of Medford, has gone to the drug store Scheinson co-owns, Centereach Pharmacy and Surgical, to get her prescriptions filled. She likes the accommodating atmosphere there and even calls the place "Cheers," after the friendly bar from the TV show. It's where she has picked up her 30 prescriptions for various ailments, including chronic back pain, lupus and depression.

That all changed on Jan. 1, when the government automatically enrolled her in a new, privately run drug plan. The new plan said she had to switch three of her drugs, won't cover two more and charged her a co-pay of $91.50 for another prescription. But the bigger problem for her are all the new co-pays. Although most are just $1 to $3 each, Marek lives on just $710 a month from Supplemental Security Income payments. Stretched thin by the drug costs, last month she passed on paying her electric bill and isn't sure she can afford the insurance for her car.

Scheinson has problems of his own under Medicare Part D, which was intended to give more seniors drug coverage. He said he has lost more than $50,000 since Jan. 1 because of lower reimbursements under Part D or from co-pays he waived initially because many of his patients, like Marek, couldn't afford them. And he spends far more hours then ever on the phone negotiating with the drug providers. One recent Monday morning, he was trying to help a disabled patient obtain a long-prescribed drug that was no longer covered by the man's new plan.

"This is not a discussion of health," he said as the clock showed he had been on hold 27 minutes. "This is just trying to get a prescription filled to put in his hand."
The story goes on to point out that 37 states (74 percent, if you're interested) are offering emergency drug coverage because so many people were unable to get the medications they need under Medicare Part D.

Commenting on Medicare Part D, George Bush said,

"It can be confusing to people, but if you work through the options ... in the end it is a really good deal," Bush told seniors at Riderwood Village, a retirement community outside Washington.
Imagine how hard you have to fuck up everything else that you travel around the country drawing attention to a train wreck like this.

You don't have to imagine. Just look at Iraq, the deficit, America's reputation around the world, the environment, gas prices, the state of civil liberties, the treatment of detainees, the number of convictions in the "war on terrah," what the NSA has been up to, airport screeners who can't detect bomb-making material, piss-poor port security, and the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.

I guess for the Bush administration, Medicare Part D is about as good as it gets.

Even their successes are failures.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Counterfeit economics

This is a good thing. But something about the justification leaves me scratching my head.

President Bush signed legislation Thursday that strengthens laws targeting counterfeit goods, ranging from knockoff auto parts to fake designer purses.

Bush said counterfeiting costs the United States hundreds of billions of dollars each year. He said it harms businesses and workers by undercutting honest competition, harms consumers by exposing them to products that may have safety risks and hurts the government by reducing tax revenue.
Wait a minute. Something that reduces tax revenue hurts the government? I seem to remember the Treasury Department saying something about White House tax proposals costing the U.S. government tens of billions of dollars.

What was it Treasury said again? Oh yeah.

Making permanent expiring tax breaks for dividends and capital gains, which expire at the end of 2008, would cost the government $7.74 billion in 2008 and $37.02 billion in 2009, Treasury said in its "Blue Book" description of revenue proposals in President Bush's fiscal 2007 budget.

The (Alternative Mimimum Tax) fix would forego $13.66 billion in revenues in the current fiscal year and $20.5 billion in income to the government in fiscal 2007, Treasury said.

The president's proposals to expand health savings accounts, which allow people set aside pretax earnings to pay for medical expenses, would total $5.48 billion in lost revenue in 2007 and $10.24 billion in lost revenue in 2008, Treasury said.
Does that mean Bush's tax cuts are hurting the government?

It sure does, but only here in the reality-based community.

Criminals commit crime

When you lower your standards to boost recruitment numbers, you run the risk of this.

Reports of sexual assaults in the military increased by nearly 40 percent last year, the Pentagon announced Thursday, saying the increase was at least partly due to a new program that encourages victims to come forward.

According to a report released Thursday, there were 2,374 allegations of sexual assaults reported during 2005, compared to 1,700 in 2004.
Ignoring criminal histories and other signs of serious character flaws does no favors to those who serve in the military with honor and pride. But you don't expect an administration that can't even provide troops in a war zone with armored vehicles to give a shit about that, do you?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Lower and lower

33 and counting ...

Deep doubts about the Iraq war and pessimism about America's future have shattered public confidence in President George W. Bush and helped drive his approval ratings to their lowest level ever, pollsters say.

As Bush launched a series of speeches to drum up support for the war, a new round of opinion polls found growing skepticism about Iraq and distrust of Bush. His image declined sharply, with one poll finding "incompetent" to be the most frequent description of his leadership.

Bush's approval rating dipped as low as 33 percent in one recent poll (link) after a string of bad news for the White House, including uproars over a now-dead Arab port deal, a secret eavesdropping program, a series of ethics scandals involving high-profile Republicans and a bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

The political storm has left Bush's second-term legislative agenda in tatters, threatened Republican control of the U.S. Congress in November's elections and shredded his personal image as an effective leader.

"His strong points as a president were being seen as personally credible, as a strong leader. That has all but disappeared," said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, whose latest independent poll found a dramatic decline in Bush's credibility.

A majority of Americans, 56 percent, believe Bush is "out of touch," the poll found. When asked for a one-word description of Bush, the most frequent response was "incompetent," followed by "good," "idiot" and "liar." In February 2005, the most frequent reply was "honest."
The anvil chained to an anchor that is the Bush approval rating looks to be on a collision course with the most disgraced -- but no longer the worst -- president in American history, Richard Nixon. Let's check the approval -rating standings:

Nixon: 27 percent (November 1973).
Bush II: 33 percent.

Can he do it? Can Bush actually drive his approval rating below that of Richard Nixon? With the launching of the largest air assault in Iraq since the invasion sure to win hearts and minds both here and there, Bush's reaffirmation of his strike-first (before developing an exit strategy, apparently) policy, New Orleans hospitals in crisis mode nearly seven months after Katrina and the new $9 trillion debt limit approved by Congress, it looks like a sure thing.

New fave

See? She's not so dumb.

Pop singer Jessica Simpson has rejected an invitation to meet with President Bush.


Reuters, which first reported the story, quoted people close to Simpson as saying she refused to appear at the fundraiser sponsored by the of National Republican Congressional Committee even after she was offered a private meeting with Mr. Bush.

Looks like I have a new favorite bubble-gum pop singer. I guess I should learn the names of her songs.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


The Sox gave manager Terry Francona a two-year contract extension, through the 2008 season.

Cowering under the dome

From the NYT:

The founding fathers understood that there would be times in American history when the country lost confidence in the judgment of the president. Congress and the courts are supposed to fill the gap. But the system of checks and balances is a safety net that doesn't feel particularly sturdy at present. The (Bush) administration seems determined to cut off legitimate court scrutiny, and the Republicans who dominate the House and Senate generally intervene only to change the rules so Mr. Bush can do whatever he wants. (If the current Congress had been called on to intervene in the case of Mr. Allen, it would probably have tried to legalize shoplifting.)

The Democratic Party is not exactly the last word in prescience, but even the Democrats have put their finger on the mood of the moment, focusing on the theme of administrative incompetence. They're striking the right note, but it's not a tune we can afford to listen to for the next three years.
Well said, but I have even less faith in the "opposition" offered by congressional Democrats. Most are too busy distancing themselves from Sen. Russ Feingold's censure resolution -- "cowering," as Feingold puts it -- to offer any meaningful opposition. Imagine, they're too chickenshit to back something as toothless as censure, too afraid to say "shame on you" to a president whose approval ratings are in the thirties.

What hurts this country as much as a president with no regard for the Constitution is a pack of pussies in the Congress who are too worried about their own jobs to live up to the oath they took to defend the Constitution "from all enemies, foreign and domestic." You weren't sent to Washington to protect your own interests, you were sent there to represent ours. And nearly seven in 10 of us disapprove of the way George Bush is doing his job.

And we're not crazy about the way you're doing yours, either.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Motion carried

Who said the municipal beat is boring?

When the townsfolk gathered in the tiny Vermont community of Newfane for their annual meeting, the agenda was daunting.

There was the town budget to be approved, then the school budget, plus they needed to approve spending $50,000 on the town's property reappraisal.

And, oh yeah. Move to impeach the president of the United States.

And so, at the end of a five-hour meeting, the assembled were asked to consider:

"Whereas George W. Bush has:

"1. Misled the nation about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction;
"2. Misled the nation about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda;
"3. Used these falsehoods to lead our nation into war unsupported by international law;
"4. Not told the truth about American policy with respect to the use of torture; and
"5. Directed the government to engage in domestic spying, in direct contravention of U.S. law;

"Therefore, the voters of the town of Newfane ask that our representative to the U.S. House of Representatives file articles of impeachment to remove him from office."

All in favour?: 129. All opposed?: 21. Meeting adjourned.
Similar motions were carried in Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro and Putney.

Click here to read the response from U.S. Rep. Bernie Sanders. Short version: "No."

UPDATE: Sanders has signed on to John Conyers' (D-Mich.) legislation calling for an investigation into whether Bush committed impeachable offenses.

Coincidentally, Sanders is running for Vermont's open Senate seat.

Congressmen sure are responsive to the will of the people when they're up for election.


Sure, a resolution to censure is nearly meaningless. But given the flaccid opposition the Democrats have provided so far, it's a start.

A liberal Democrat and potential White House contender is proposing censuring President Bush for authorizing domestic eavesdropping, saying the White House misled Americans about its legality.

"The president has broken the law and, in some way, he must be held accountable," Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, told The Associated Press in an interview.
The resolution says the president "repeatedly misled the public" before the disclosure of the NSA program last December when he indicated the administration was relying on court orders to wiretap terror suspects inside the U.S.

"Congress has to reassert our system of government, and the cleanest and the most efficient way to do that is to censure the president," Feingold said. "And, hopefully, he will acknowledge that he did something wrong."
I wouldn't count on that. Remember what happened last time Bush was asked about his mistakes? From the White House Web site:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. In the last campaign, you were asked a question about the biggest mistake you'd made in your life, and you used to like to joke that it was trading Sammy Sosa. You've looked back before 9/11 for what mistakes might have been made. After 9/11, what would your biggest mistake be, would you say, and what lessons have you learned from it?

THE PRESIDENT: I wish you would have given me this written question ahead of time, so I could plan for it. (Laughter.) John, I'm sure historians will look back and say, gosh, he could have done it better this way, or that way. You know, I just -- I'm sure something will pop into my head here in the midst of this press conference, with all the pressure of trying to come up with an answer, but it hadn't yet.
Doesn't sound like someone with a lot of experience recognizing his own missteps.

The president's action were "in the strike zone" in terms of being an impeachable offense, Feingold said. The senator questioned whether impeaching Bush and removing him from office would be good for the country.

In the House, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, is pushing legislation that would call on the Republican-controlled Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeachment.
Which is akin to asking Raphael Palmiero if he ever used steroids, speaking of strike zones.

(Senate Majority Leader Bill) Frist, appearing on ABC's television show "This Week," said that he hoped al Qaeda and other enemies of the U.S. were not listening to the infighting.

"The signal that it sends, that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander in chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that is making our homeland safer, is wrong," Frist said.
Yeah, and I hope they don't know that Bush's domestic approval rating is in the 30s. And I really hope they don't know that big Dick's approval rating is in the teens.

Frist is still peddling that "dissent emboldens our enemy" crap. Except, of course, when that dissent comes from an unassailable source, like Jack Murtha. Then it's "legitimate."

A longtime critic of the administration, Feingold was the first senator to urge a withdrawal timetable for U.S. troops in Iraq and was the only senator to vote in 2001 against the USA Patriot Act, the post-Sept. 11 law that expanded the government's surveillance and prosecutorial powers. He also voted against the 2002 resolution authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq.
And that is exactly the reason he can make the statements he's making and introduce a censure resolution -- because he has a record of opposing the administration's madness when so many of his colleagues were enabling the administration to get us into the messes we're in today (they just wanted to be popular sooooo badly). Karl Rove and the other GOP attack dogs will still go after Feingold, but at least they can't use a vote in favor of the war or the USA PATRIOT Act against him.

Sure, Feingold is laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run. But, regardless of why, he's doing the right thing. And I don't see any of his colleagues stepping up to the plate.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Just another rogue in the gallery

Really, the only thing shocking about this is that it was so amateurish. To be shocked that a Republican would break the law is a sign of either insincerity or inattention.

President Bush on Saturday said he was shocked and saddened to learn that former domestic policy adviser Claude Allen was charged with theft for allegedly receiving phony refunds at department stores.

Allen, 45, was arrested Thursday by police in Montgomery County, Md., for allegedly claiming refunds for more than $5,000 worth of merchandise he did not buy, according to county and federal authorities. He had been under investigation since at least January for alleged thefts on 25 occasions at Target and Hecht's stores.
Allen, who had been the No. 2 official at the Health and Human Services Department, was named as domestic policy adviser at the White House in early 2005. He resigned abruptly on Feb. 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family.

The night of Jan. 2, after an alleged incident at the Target in Gaithersburg, Md., presidential spokesman Scott McClellan said Allen called White House chief of staff Andy Card to tell him what had happened. The next morning, Allen spoke in person with Card and White House counsel Harriet Miers.

The president first learned of Allen's planned departure and the January incident in early February. But since Allen had passed the usual background checks and had no other prior issues that White House officials were aware of, "he was given the benefit of the doubt," McClellan said.
Nobody bothered to tell Bush about this for a month after finding out. But Bush doesn't live in a bubble.

Before you join George Bush at the Claude Allen pity party, let's review a bit of his professional history.

Allen is a self-described born-again Christian who got his start in politics working for Jesse Helms (R), the conservative former North Carolina senator.

Allen stirred controversy as Helms's campaign spokesman in 1984 by telling a reporter that then-Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. -- Helms's opponent -- was politically vulnerable because of his links to the "queers." He later explained that he used the word not to denigrate anyone but as a synonym for "odd and unusual."
Hmmm. I'd say that a self-described born-again Christian African American who worked for Jesse Helms -- a senator whose racist history includes opposing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and accusations by the Justice Department that he threatened 125,000 black voters with jail if they tried to vote -- and was twice nominated unsuccessfully for 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is a little "odd and unusual."

Being a prominent Republican and a former member of the Bush administration accused of a crime might be about the least odd and unusual thing about Claude Allen.

Change not needed

So much for that.

The drive for a tighter lobbying law, just two months ago a major priority on Capitol Hill, is losing momentum, a victim of shifting political interests, infighting among House Republicans and a growing sense among lawmakers of both parties that wholesale change may not be needed after all.
You mean, Congress didn't really want to see restrictions on the lobbyists who shower them with gifts and riches but were just doing it because there's an election coming up and voters seemed awful mad about that whole Abrmaoff thing, but now that the public has been distracted by the possibility of a nation that helped fund the attacks of 9/11 taking over operations at several U.S. ports, which are among the least protected points of entry to this country, they're going to sweep the whole thing under the rug?

Shocking. Not Cladue Allen shocking, but still.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Great minds

Could there be a Redsoxville reader at the Christian Science Monitor?

America's trade deficit has been setting records with such frequency that it seems almost tiresome to hear it again: Another month, another $68.5 billion.
Given yesterday's entry on this very site, it appears that great minds do indeed think alike.

Another month, another record. Ho hum.
Note to the CSM: I like the cut of your jib.

More evidence

Is the jury still out on global warming?

Whales, walruses, seabirds and fish are struggling to survive the changing climate of the Bering Sea, their northern feeding grounds perhaps permanently disrupted by higher temperatures and melting ice, scientists reported Thursday in the journal Science.

By pulling together a broad range of observations and surveys, an international research team concluded that they are witnessing the transformation of an entire ecosystem in a region home to almost half of all U.S. commercial fish production.

All in all, the researchers said, the Arctic climate of the northern Bering Sea is in full retreat, yielding to the sub-Arctic system of the south.

The changes are "profound" and perhaps irreversible, even if cold weather eventually returns, the researchers said.

Wildlife experts long have worried about the response of single species to the region's fickle weather patterns, which can fluctuate dramatically from one decade to the next. From season to season, they have cataloged puzzling but apparently unrelated die-offs of seabirds, rare algal blooms and odd migration patterns.


Overall, the Arctic is warming at twice the global average rate.
I do hope that jury George Bush talked about hurries back. You know, before the Nevada desert becomes a beach.

How low can he go?

A new poll, a new low.

More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.

Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq — the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.

"I'm not happy with how things are going," said Margaret Campanelli, a retiree in Norwich, Conn., who said she tends to vote Republican. "I'm particularly not happy with Iraq, not happy with how things worked with Hurricane Katrina."

Republican Party leaders said the survey explains why GOP lawmakers are rushing to distance themselves from Bush on a range of issues — port security, immigration, spending, warrantless eavesdropping and trade, for example.
Not because Bush's ideas are wrong for the country, mind you, but because GOP lawmakers are worried about their own electability. If Bush were popular, these weasels would line up behind any stupid idea the administration proposed (can you say "tax cuts during wartime" and "USA PATRIOT Act"?)

"You're in the position of this cycle now that is difficult anyway. In second term off-year elections, there gets to be a familiarity factor," said Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., a potential presidential candidate.

"People have seen and heard (Bush's) ideas long enough and that enters into their thinking. People are kind of, `Well, I wonder what other people can do,'" he said.
Yeah, familiarity. That's the problem. Unless he means that the American people are finally onto Bush.

Sen. Brownback's inane explanation doesn't account for the fact that, as the story reports, Clinton and Reagan had approval ratings in the mid 60s at this point of their presidencies. Nixon, the story says, was in the 20s.

I guess people were real familiar with him.

The poll suggests that most Americans wonder whether Bush is up to the job. The survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday of 1,000 people, found that just 37 percent approve of his overall performance. That is the lowest of his presidency.

On issues, Bush's approval rating declined from 39 percent to 36 percent for his handling of domestic affairs and from 47 percent to 43 percent on foreign policy and terrorism. His approval ratings for dealing with the economy and Iraq held steady, but still hovered around 40 percent.
Maybe this means Bush will get to vacation through the entire month of August again this year instead of campaigning for GOP Congressmen and gubernatorial hopefuls.

Oh, I'm sorry. That's unfair. He didn't vacation throughout August last year -- he cut that vacation short, to only 29 days.

My bad.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Record breaker

Another month, another record. Ho hum.

The U.S. trade deficit widened more than expected in January to a record $68.5 billion, as record imports fueled by high oil prices outstripped record exports propelled by stronger foreign demand, a U.S. Commerce Department report showed on Thursday.

The monthly trade gap swelled 5.3 percent from a revised estimate of $65.1 billion in December. It also surpassed a median forecast of $66.5 billion made by Wall Street analysts.

January's biggest ever monthly deficit follows a record annual trade deficit of $723.6 billion in 2005. The trade gap would easily set a new record, exceeding $800 billion, in 2006 if it continued to run at the pace set in the first month of the year.
You would think that after a budget surplus that was transformed into record deficits in two short years, after tax cuts for the wealthy while troops go without armor for their bodies and their vehicles, after unfunded mandates for education, after an economic recovery that hasn't led to a significant increase in jobs or real wages, analysts, like the rest of us, would know not to underestimate the ability of the Bush administration to mess things up.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Always low standards!

So we're clear on where I stand.

You won't see any of this shit on my site. Guaranteed.

Brian Pickrell, a blogger, recently posted a note on his Web site attacking state legislation that would force Wal-Mart Stores to spend more on employee health insurance. "All across the country, newspaper editorial boards — no great friends of business — are ripping the bills," he wrote.

It was the kind of pro-Wal-Mart comment the giant retailer might write itself. And, in fact, it did.

Several sentences in Mr. Pickrell's Jan. 20 posting — and others from different days — are identical to those written by an employee at one of Wal-Mart's public relations firms and distributed by e-mail to bloggers.

Under assault as never before, Wal-Mart is increasingly looking beyond the mainstream media and working directly with bloggers, feeding them exclusive nuggets of news, suggesting topics for postings and even inviting them to visit its corporate headquarters.
The good Doctor adheres to journalistic principles and standards, so you can rely on what you see here. The news and opinions you see here are supported by facts, not what I wish were facts, and are not fed to me by some PR flack. There's no hidden agenda here. The agenda here is to exercise my First Amendment right to free speech while it still exists, to express my opinion that George Bush is the worst president in American history and my hope that he is removed from office and held accountable for his crimes. And, when the baseball season starts, to talk a lot of Red Sox.

But the strategy raises questions about what bloggers, who pride themselves on independence, should disclose to readers. Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, has been forthright with bloggers about the origins of its communications, and the company and its public relations firm, Edelman, say they do not compensate the bloggers.
Wal-Mart isn't paying them? Shocking. Hey, at least they're consistent.

I guess that means that the bloggers in question really believe that Wal-Mart shouldn't be forced to pay more to provide health insurance to its workers. I, on the other hand, believe that Wal-Mart shouldn't have to be forced to pay more for employee health insurance. I would hope that basic human decency would make such a bill unnecessary. But most corporations value money more than the health of their employees. And corporations are supposed to value money above everything else. Which is why we need laws forbidding them from saving money by cutting corners in areas like worker safety and waste disposal.

And that's why it's stupid to leave it to corporations to provide health insurance to their employees. Health insurance costs money, the only thing most corporations care about. So when health insurance costs get to be too high, as they are now, you get exactly what we're getting now -- employers raising the amounts that employees pay toward their health insurance while wages stagnate , or eliminating the benefit altogether. It's a reprehensible thing to do, but it makes Wall Street cheer.

When, oh when, is the United States going to enter the 20th Century and adopt a single-payer system? When is fiscal common sense going to trump the millions paid by health insurance companies to lobbyists and campaigns? When will more than half of the members of our legislative branch start working for the people instead of the special interests? When will we be able to go to a doctor and have the first question be about our health and not about our insurance?

Hmm. This was supposed to be a rant against Wal-Mart. OK. I never shop at Wal-Mart. Ever. Doing so enables them to pay less-than-livable wages -- the average pay of an "associate" working at Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the United States, is less than $20,000 per year -- and enables them to make part-time employees wait two years before becoming eligible for health insurance, 180 days for full-timers.

The company recently announced changes to its health insurance coverage. One reform is to reduce that two-year waiting period for part-timers. Another reform is expanded access to a plan that covers three doctor visits and three generic prescriptions per year.

Last year, Wal-Mart rolled out a Value Health Plan that costs $11 a month for workers, and $9 a month for their children, said company spokeswoman Jennifer Holder. The health plan includes three doctor's visits per insured individual, and three maintenance medications annually.
About this plan, the New York Times wrote

That plan allows for several prescriptions and doctors visits before a $1,000 deductible kicks in. But it is unlikely to cover a complicated illness or expensive hospital stay during the first year, when there is a $25,000 insurance cap. In addition, out-of-pocket payments range from $300 for prescriptions to $1,000 for hospital stays.

Gee, thanks.

Another lowlight is the re-establishment of the company town -- Wal-Mart's experiments with in-store health clinics in Arkansas, Indiana, Florida and Oklahoma. The company charges associates only $45 to $50 for access to health care, Wal-Mart style.

And you better believe that even these shitty half-measures wouldn't be happening if not for the state laws that some idiot bloggers are railing against at the behest of Wal-Mart.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Compared with this, a 34 percent approval rating doesn't look so bad.

Tens of thousands of Indians waving black and white flags ... rallied Wednesday in New Delhi to protest a visit by President Bush.

Surindra Singh Yadav, a senior police officer in charge of crowd control, said as many as 100,000 people, most of them Muslim, had gathered in a fairground in central New Delhi ordinarily used for political rallies.

"Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show our anger. We have only one message — killer Bush go home," one of the speakers, Hindu politician Raj Babbar, told the crowd.

Bush arrives in India later Wednesday for a three-day visit focused on strengthening the emerging strategic partnership between India and the United States.
Bush has received receptions like this almost everywhere he has gone pretty much since assuming office, but now the media are starting to acknowledge the protests. The protests, however, were not always this large or angry. But the most amazing thing about this story is the very next sentence:

While Bush remains more popular in India than he is in many other countries, some here object to U.S. policies, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When you go to a place where you're relatively popular and are greeted by a massive angry mob, you know you're not doing something right.

Confidence game

This doesn't exactly fill me with confidence.
Bush Confident Bin Laden Will Be Captured
President Bush, on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan, vowed Wednesday to stand by this emerging democracy and "not cut and run" in the face of rising violence. He also predicted Osama bin Laden would be captured despite a futile five-year hunt.

"I'm confident he will be brought to justice," Bush said, standing alongside Afghan President Hamid Karzai outside the presidential palace.
And here's why ...

Bush Confident Warrantless Wiretaps Legal
President Bush Says He's Confident That Warrantless Surveillance Program Is Legal (my nominee for subhead of the year, by the way)
President Bush again defended his program of warrantless surveillance Thursday, saying "there's no doubt in my mind it is legal." He suggested that he might resist congressional efforts to change or expressly endorse it.
And ...

President Says DeLay Is Not Guilty of Money Laundering
President Bush said yesterday he is confident that former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of money-laundering charges, as he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.
And ...

Bush Confident Miers Will Be Confirmed
The White House said Monday that President Bush is confident Harriet Miers will be confirmed to the Supreme Court, even though a Democrat on the Senate panel that will hold hearings on her nomination said she doesn't have the votes.
And ...

Bush: Spending cuts, no tax hikes, for Katrina
‘I’m confident we can handle it,’ he says of anticipated $200 billion outlay
WASHINGTON - President Bush said Friday the federal government must slash unnecessary spending to pay for Gulf Coast reconstruction, but he ruled out raising taxes. “You bet it will cost money, but I’m confident we can handle it,” Bush said.
And ...

Bush Confident Iraq's Democracy Will Be Successful
President Bush expressed his confidence that the Iraqi people will succeed in their efforts to establish “a democratic and peaceful Iraq that represents all Iraqis.”
And ...

Bush Rejects Delay, Prepares Escalated Social Security Push
Despite polls showing support for the plan slipping, Bush is confident he is winning the first phase of the public debate over Social Security and has no plans to significantly alter his strategy for enacting the most dramatic changes ever to the venerable system, said senior White House officials who have talked to Bush.
And ...

Bush confident of finding banned Iraqi weapons
President Bush dismissed what he called "revisionist history" about the war in Iraq on Tuesday, and his spokesman said the president is still confident a Pentagon-led search will find Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction.
And ...

Bush Offers Kyoto Alternative
President Bush outlined a voluntary plan Thursday to slow the growth of global warming gases in place of the mandatory cuts demanded by the widely accepted Kyoto treaty he rejected last year as harmful to the U.S. economy.
"Today I'm confident that the environmental path I announce will benefit the entire world," Bush said.

With Bush's approval rating at 34 percent -- he's gaining on Dick Cheney (18 percent) -- it appears he inspires confidence only in himself. And, given the through-the-looking-glass history of this administration, it appears that when Bush says he's confident about something, we can be pretty confident that it either isn't so or won't happen.

Bush confident about economy for 2006
CHICAGO (AP) — President Bush shrugged off a report showing weaker-than-expected job growth on Friday and declared that "the American economy heads into 2006 with a full head of steam."
Uh oh. I'm confident that it's time to start stuffing the mattress.