Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Stinkins 7, Sox 5

After taking the first game of the series 9-5, the Sox dropped game two to the Stinkins Wednesday, 7-5. Tim Wakefield got hit around, giving up 6 earned runs in 6 2/3 innings, but there were several bright spots, even in a loss to the stinkin' Stinkins.

Manny Ramirez has found his stroke and went 3-for-5 with a bomb to center and 4 RBIs last night.

David Riske was effective in his return from the DL, pitching a perfect eighth inning. This is especially important while Keith Foulke struggles with consistency.

Jonathan Papelbon was lights out in the ninth, striking out Derek Jeter and blowing away Gary Sheffield with fastballs. Sure it was Sheffield's first game since going on the DL after injuring his hand against Toronto, but a 95 mph fastball is a 95 mph fastball. Papelbon appears to have the mental makeup needed to be a closer and looks to be taking on the closer's mindset -- I'm the man and I know it, and there ain't shit you can do about it.

Another encouraging sign is that Coco Crisp will return to the lineup soon. With him sidelined, Kevin Youkilis moves to the leadoff spot -- where he has done a fine job -- leaving the bottom of the order depleted. Last night's 7-8-9 hitters were Doug Mirabelli, Alex Cora and Willie Harris, who are hitting .143, .270 and .143, respectively. (Cora's numbers are inflated by his last couple games. He entered the week hitting .172. He has 10 hits this season, half of which came in the last two games.) Fortnately, all three players bring solid defense to the club (Mirabelli's problems in the sixth inning, when he was charged with three passed balls, including a dropped third strike against Alex Rodriguez, were an anomaly).

When Crisp returns, the lineup will look like this:


which is much more formidable.

In the meantime, the Sox send Matt Clement (4-3, 5.36) to the hill against Randy Johnson (5-4, 5.62) tonight in the series' rubber match. Clement is coming off a win against the Philadelphia Phillies in which he gave up 3 earned runs, with 5 strikeouts and three walks in 6 2/3 innings. Johnson, in his last start, gave up 6 earned runs with 3 walks and 5 strikeouts in 5 innings in a no-decision against the Mutts.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Interleague interlude

The Sox are in Philadelphia tonight for the first of three games against the Phillies. Matt Clement (3-3, 5.58) faces Jon Lieber (3-4, 5.50) in a matchup of struggling starters.

The Sox are in first place in the AL East, a half game over the Stinkins, and 7-3 in their last 10 games. They catch the Phils coming off the wrong end of a three-game sweep against the Brewers. The Phils, 6-4 in their last 10, are in second place in the NL East, two games behind the Mutts.

Meanwhile, the Stinkins take on the Mutts at Shea. So if you're one of what appears to be many fans of both the Sox and Phillies, the best you can hope for is that the standings don't change much over the next three games.

Just kidding

So much for that faux outrage the Senate displayed over the NSA's spying on Americans. And I'm not sure, but Hayden and Chuck Hagel may now be engaged.

Seriously, is there anyone this Congress won't rubber-stamp for George Bush?

After more than six hours of sometimes-tense Senate questioning, the confirmation of Michael Hayden to head the CIA still appeared assured.

The four-star Air Force general tried to look forward throughout the long day of grilling, even as senators repeatedly returned to controversies over the eavesdropping work he directed as National Security Agency head from 1999 to 2005.

The CIA needs to look ahead, he said.

"It's time to move past what seems to me to be an endless picking apart of the archaeology of every past intelligence success or failure," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee at his confirmation hearing Thursday. "The CIA needs to get out of the news — as source or subject — and focus on protecting the American people."
Yeah, stop worrying about what we did yesterday. And five minutes ago. And just then. And then.

Republicans gushed over the nominee. "You're going to be one of America's best CIA directors, general," Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., told Hayden.

But some Democrats voiced strong concerns. "General, having evaluated your words, I now have a difficult time with your credibility," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., who cross-examined him about his role in the NSA's post-9/11 warrantless domestic surveillance program.
But if those concerns don't influence Democrats' votes on Hayden, they're as insignificant as stale dog shit.

During Thursday's questioning, Hayden vigorously defended the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program as a legal spy tool needed to ensnare terrorists. But he also acknowledged concerns about civil liberties within the program and others he oversaw at the NSA.

"Clearly, the privacy of American citizens is a concern — constantly," he said. "It's a concern in everything we've done."
But now that the Bush administration has effectively eliminated that privacy, they can stop being concerned about it.

Welcome to rogue state

Add to the chorus of voices calling for the closing of the prison Guantanamo Bay that of the United Nations.

The United States should close its prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and avoid using secret detention facilities in the war on terror, the U.N. panel that monitors compliance with the world's anti-torture treaty said Friday.

The Committee Against Torture also said detainees should not be returned to any country where they could face a "real risk" of being tortured.

The criticism, contained in an 11-page report, followed a hearing in Geneva this month on U.S. adherence to the 1984 U.N. Convention Against Torture. The criticism carries no penalties beyond international scrutiny, but human rights observers say it could influence U.S. public opinion and hence the government.

The committee said it was worried that detainees were being held for protracted periods with insufficient legal safeguards and without judicial assessment of the justification for their detention.

"The state party should cease to detain any person at Guantanamo Bay and close the detention facility," the panel of 10 independent experts said.

The committee also expressed concern about allegations that the United States has established secret prisons, where the international Red Cross does not have access to the detainees.
The administration might like to close what for it has become an embarrassment and a liability, but that pesky pathological inability to admit mistakes keeps staying its hand.

How shameful.

The aforementioned visuals

I told you: When you're zooming around in the desert playing border guard, try to look presidential.

A reminder of exactly what we saw today, from Time Magazine, May 1.

1 DEPLOY GUNS AND BADGES. This is an unabashed play to members of the conservative base who are worried about illegal immigration. Under the banner of homeland security, the White House plans to seek more funding for an extremely visible enforcement crackdown at the Mexican border, including a beefed-up force of agents patrolling on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). "It'll be more guys with guns and badges," said a proponent of the plan. "Think of the visuals. The President can go down and meet with the new recruits. He can go down to the border and meet with a bunch of guys and go ride around on an ATV."
In other words, bullshit.

It just looks like results.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Fiscal conservatism

Wow, Republicans sure are good with money.

No Democrats voted for the Republican budget, which sets broad outlines for spending throughout the government.

House Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, addressed conservatives' concerns about deficits saying, "With revenues rising and holding the line on spending we can in fact balance the budget in the next four or five years."

But the House budget forecasts a $348 billion deficit next year and it could be higher since the measure sets aside only $50 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been running at about double that cost annually.

With U.S. government debt rapidly escalating, the budget authorizes a $653 billion increase in borrowing authority next year to total $9.62 trillion.
Just for fun, let's look back at the last budget of Bill Clinton's tenure -- you know, the one with the $237 billion surplus.

The dominant feature of the Administration's budget is not the initiatives it contains, but its restraint with regard to the surpluses. The budget proposes to use the lion's share of the surpluses to pay down the national debt and increase national saving for the benefit of future generations, rather than to consume substantial amounts of the surpluses through either large tax cuts or large program expansions.
Why is that important?

We must do all we can to keep the days of deficits in the past. Budget deficits force the Government to borrow money in the private capital markets. That borrowing competes with (1) borrowing by businesses that want to build factories and machines that make workers more productive and raise incomes, and (2) borrowing by families who hope to buy new homes, cars, and other goods. The competition for funds tends to produce higher interest rates.

Deficits increase the Federal debt and, with it, the Government's obligation to pay interest. The more it must pay in interest, the less it has available to spend on education, law enforcement, and other important services, or the more it must collect in taxes-forever after. As recently as 1997, the Government spent over 15 percent of its budget to pay interest, in contrast to a projected 12 percent for 2000. Continuing surplus will reduce these interest payments further in future years.

In the end, the surplus is a decision about our future. We can provide a solid foundation for future generations, just as parents try to do within a family. For a Nation, this means a strong economy and low interest rates and debt. Alternatively, we can generate large deficits and debt for those who come after us.
Maybe that's what Dick Cheney meant when he said "deficits don't matter."

'Think of the visuals'

When the approval ratings are in the toilet and George Bush is taking a beating on a specific issue, the White House usually responds with a high-profile photo-op that the TV news schmucks can't resist and, the White House hopes, gives the illusion that Bush is engaged in the issue.

Remember this Kodak moment in post-Katrina New Orleans?

Bush may not have been engaged enough to do anything to prevent the devastation caused by the hurricane, or even to immediately return to Washington from his monthlong Crawford vacation to deal with it -- or not to stop off in California for a fundraiser and photo-op, but he sure as shit was engaged in helping to rebuild. Or so the White House would have us believe.

Press accounts of the occasion told a different story.

Bush's motorcade wended its way through the pitch dark down Covington's largely unscathed streets to the brightly lit Habitat site — a small patch of land amid a still-sleeping, modest neighborhood turned into a makeshift TV set.

Dressed for the occasion in hard hat, work gloves and a large wraparound tool belt, the president joined other volunteers hammering nails into a sheet of plywood. The first lady, a cloth nail pouch around her waist, accompanied him. Bush spent most of his time chatting, signing autographs and posing for pictures.
But no matter. It's photo-op time again.

As the Senate debates a major overhaul of the nation's immigration laws, Bush is traveling to Yuma, Ariz. Yuma is the embodiment of the system that Bush frequently describes, where desperate people risk their lives for a chance to earn decent wages from U.S. employers hungry for their labor.

The president was to take a tour of the border Thursday, then give a speech aimed at driving home Monday night's prime-time address calling for National Guard troops to help strengthen the border while giving illegal immigrants in the United States a chance at citizenship and allowing more foreigners to enter the country legally to work. He also planned a round of interviews with all the television networks to help sell his ideas, which face tough opposition in Congress.
This sounds like the dog show Time told us to expect.

But the musical chairs is just the first of a two-act makeover. Friends and colleagues of Bolten told TIME about an informal, five-point "recovery plan" for Bush that is aimed at pushing him up slightly in opinion polls and reassuring Republican activists, whose disaffection could cost him dearly in November. The White House has no visions of expanding the G.O.P.'s position in the midterms; the mission is just to hold on to control of Congress by playing to the base. Here is the Bolten plan:

1 DEPLOY GUNS AND BADGES. This is an unabashed play to members of the conservative base who are worried about illegal immigration. Under the banner of homeland security, the White House plans to seek more funding for an extremely visible enforcement crackdown at the Mexican border, including a beefed-up force of agents patrolling on all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). "It'll be more guys with guns and badges," said a proponent of the plan. "Think of the visuals. The President can go down and meet with the new recruits. He can go down to the border and meet with a bunch of guys and go ride around on an ATV." Bush has long insisted he wants a guest-worker program paired with stricter border enforcement, but House Republicans have balked at temporary legalization for immigrants, so the President's ambition of using the issue to make the party more welcoming to Hispanics may have to wait.
Remember, when you're zooming around in the desert playing border guard, try to look, you know, presidential.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day Mom, and all moms.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Well, duh

Bill Clinton's presidency saw low unemployment, economic growth for more than just the rich, progress on cleaning up the environment and good international relations, and he left the country with a record budget surplus, so this really isn't fair.

In a new poll comparing President Bush's job performance with that of his predecessor, a strong majority of respondents said President Clinton outperformed Bush on a host of issues.

Respondents favored Clinton by greater than 2-to-1 margins when asked who did a better job at handling the economy (63 percent Clinton, 26 percent Bush) and solving the problems of ordinary Americans (62 percent Clinton, 25 percent Bush).

On foreign affairs, the margin was 56 percent to 32 percent in Clinton's favor; on taxes, it was 51 percent to 35 percent for Clinton; and on handling natural disasters, it was 51 percent to 30 percent, also favoring Clinton.
Want a horse race? Compare Bush to Nixon. If Bush's 29 percent approval rating is any indication, that contest would come down to the wire.

Friday, May 12, 2006

A new new new new low

I'm getting a strong feeling of deja vu.

President George W. Bush's job approval rating has hit a new low, with 29 percent of the U.S. public saying he is doing an "excellent or pretty good job," down from 35 percent in April, according to a Harris Interactive poll in The Wall Street Journal Online.

The poll of 1,003 U.S. adults said 71 percent of Americans said Bush was doing an "only fair or poor job," up from 63 percent in April. It said the survey was conducted May 5-8 and had a 3 percent margin of error.
But in November, when election results don't reflect this reality, inexperienced exit poll workers, not electronic voting machines with no paper trails, will be blamed.

In the meantime, let's go to the presidential approval-rating scoreboard (drumroll, please):

Bush: 29 percent
Nixon: 27 percent (November 1973)

The scary thing is that Bush probably thinks bombing Iran would improve his numbers.

Bush speak

Here is everything George Bush had to say publicly about Thursday's USA Today story that the NSA is compiling "the largest database ever assembled in the world," chock full of millions of Americans' phone records. His comments on this important matter took two minutes to deliver, according to the White House Web site.

After September the 11th, I vowed to the American people that our government would do everything within the law to protect them against another terrorist attack. As part of this effort, I authorized the National Security Agency to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. In other words, if al Qaeda or their associates are making calls into the United States or out of the United States, we want to know what they're saying.

Today there are new claims about other ways we are tracking down al Qaeda to prevent attacks on America. I want to make some important points about what the government is doing and what the government is not doing.

First, our international activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates. Al Qaeda is our enemy, and we want to know their plans. Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval. Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat. Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities.

We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans. Our efforts are focused on links to al Qaeda and their known affiliates. So far we've been very successful in preventing another attack on our soil.

As a general matter, every time sensitive intelligence is leaked, it hurts our ability to defeat this enemy. Our most important job is to protect the American people from another attack, and we will do so within the laws of our country.

Thank you.
Let's begin where the Bush did, and always does: September 11th. It's the excuse, er, explanation the administration offers for everything it does, legal or otherwise. People swallowed executive branch overreaching so much easier when they were scared, so he's reminding them up front of the specter of terrorist attack. To really hammer it home, he says "al Qaeda" six times in 15 sentences, once while paraphrasing himself ("In other words ..."), once to point out that "Al Qaeda is our enemy." He also says the word "attack" four times.

Right there in the first sentence with the obilgatory 9/11 reference is the phrase "within the law." This is keeping with the administration's policy of pretending that domestic surveillance without the approval or oversight of the FISA court is legal. It's not, but George Bush doesn't let that stop him from saying it. And why should he? With the United States attorney general essentially his personal attorney and Supreme Court Justice Tony Scalia having proven so compliant and reliable, what does Bush care about "legal," other than its public-relations value?

"First, our international activities strictly target al Qaeda and their known affiliates." Bush would have us believe that the international aspect of this spying effort was small and limited, with a laser-like focus on its target.

Maybe he meant by comparison.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said.
Perhaps thousands isn't enough to explain the scope of the international side of this.

President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants.

But (Russell) Tice (a longtime insider at the National Security Agency) disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions if the full range of secret NSA programs is used.

"That would mean for most Americans that if they conducted, or you know, placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum," Tice said.
If the administration knew enough about al Qaeda affiliates in the United States to tap their phones, heavily armed agents would be busting down their doors. But the administration doesn't know enough to tap their phones, and so is checking every international call it can get its ears on, hoping to get lucky. Sure al Qaeda is the target, but in their effort to get them, they're spying on everyone. It's the bloodless equivalent of firing into a crowd and hoping to hit the person you're shooting at.

"Second, the government does not listen to domestic phone calls without court approval." Seriously, does anyone still think that the administration cares about court approval? This administration doesn't ask permission, and here's why (scroll all the way down):

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events.
And a power mad administration like this one isn't about to put itself in a position to be told "no."

"Third, the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful and have been briefed to appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat." Again, Bush assures us that the domestic spying program is legal. It's not, but he seems to believe that saying it is often enough will make it so. Or prevent Congress from enforcing the law, which is just as good. Reagrding the claim that the "appropriate members of Congress, both Republican and Democrat" were told what the administration is up to, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, in his censure resolution in March, said:

Congress Did Not Approve This Program: The extremely limited briefings of the President’s warrantless surveillance programs to a handful of Congressional leaders did not constitute Congressional oversight, much less approval. In fact, the failure of the President to keep the Congressional Intelligence Committees “fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities” was a violation of the National Security Act.
"Fourth, the privacy of ordinary Americans is fiercely protected in all our activities." I guess we're just going to have to take his word for it.

"We're not mining or trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans." No? The NSA is collecting phone records of millions of Americans (and would be collecting data on millions more if Qwest would have fallen in line like Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth reportedly have), building a database of unprecedented size, reportedly looking for calling patterns.

That sounds like mining the personal lives of Americans to me, and apparently to most speakers of the English language:

Data Mining: A type of database application that looks for hidden patterns in large groups of data.
Bush wraps up with the usual bullshit about how leaks about administration wrongdoing threaten the security of the nation, drops in another "enemy" and "attack," and another reminder that all this is completely legal.


Fast friends

See? All that talk of friction between Condi and Rummy was bunk. Sure they might not agree on how many thousands of mistakes the administration made in invading Iraq (including invading Iraq), but when it comes to the important business of hiding prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross, they're right on the same page and working together famously.

The United States has again refused the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) access to terrorism suspects held in secret detention centers, the humanitarian agency said on Friday.

The overnight statement was issued after talks in Washington between ICRC President Jakob Kellenberger and senior officials, including Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.

"Mr. Kellenberger deplored the fact that the U.S. authorities had not moved closer to granting the ICRC access to persons held in undisclosed locations," the Geneva-based agency said.

Kellenberger said: "No matter how legitimate the grounds for detention, there exists no right to conceal a person's whereabouts or to deny that he or she is being detained."
Just like two peas in a pod. Or a CIA black site detention center. Either or.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

You are being watched

Does creating a database of every phone call made in the United States seem like an intelligent, efficient or legal way to hunt terrorists? If you said yes, you might have what it takes to work in the Bush administration.

The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.
The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

"It's the largest database ever assembled in the world," said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is "to create a database of every call ever made" within the nation's borders, this person added.

For the customers of these companies, it means that the government has detailed records of calls they made — across town or across the country — to family members, co-workers, business contacts and others.

The three telecommunications companies are working under contract with the NSA, which launched the program in 2001 shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the sources said. The program is aimed at identifying and tracking suspected terrorists, they said.

Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, nominated Monday by President Bush to become the director of the CIA, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. In that post, Hayden would have overseen the agency's domestic call-tracking program. Hayden declined to comment about the program.
So Michael Hayden wasn't picked to head the CIA because of his intelligence background, but because He's On Board.

The NSA's domestic program, as described by sources, is far more expansive than what the White House has acknowledged. Last year, Bush said he had authorized the NSA to eavesdrop — without warrants — on international calls and international e-mails of people suspected of having links to terrorists when one party to the communication is in the USA. Warrants have also not been used in the NSA's efforts to create a national call database.

In defending the previously disclosed program, Bush insisted that the NSA was focused exclusively on international calls. "In other words," Bush explained, "one end of the communication must be outside the United States."

As a result, domestic call records — those of calls that originate and terminate within U.S. borders — were believed to be private.

Sources, however, say that is not the case. With access to records of billions of domestic calls, the NSA has gained a secret window into the communications habits of millions of Americans. Customers' names, street addresses and other personal information are not being handed over as part of NSA's domestic program, the sources said. But the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information.
In other words, Bush lied. If this suprises you, you haven't been paying attention.

Fortunately, this is sure to outrage voters, and with an election coming up, Congress just might pretend to care. Unfortunately, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-KS, is likely to continue to block any effort to scrutinize the administration's domestic surveillance activities -- what it likes to refer to as its "terrorist surveillance program."

The only problem with that title is that the administration is spying on Americans. Your activities are almost certainly being tracked as part of this program. Well, are you a terrorist?

UPDATE: From Susie (do yourself a favor and visit her site): Hooray for Qwest!

One major telecommunications company declined to participate in the program: Qwest.

According to sources familiar with the events, Qwest’s CEO at the time, Joe Nacchio, was deeply troubled by the NSA’s assertion that Qwest didn’t need a court order — or approval under FISA — to proceed. Adding to the tension, Qwest was unclear about who, exactly, would have access to its customers’ information and how that information might be used.

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest’s lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA’s explanation did little to satisfy Qwest’s lawyers. “They told (Qwest) they didn’t want to do that because FISA might not agree with them,” one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest’s suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general’s office. A second person confirmed this version of events.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A new new new low

I wrote on April 29 that "George Bush soon will look back fondly at the heady days when his approval rating was a robust 32 percent."

Well, soon is now.

President Bush's approval rating has slumped to 31% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, the lowest of his presidency and a warning sign for Republicans in the November elections.

The survey of 1,013 adults, taken Friday through Sunday, shows Bush's standing down by 3 percentage points in a single week. His disapproval rating also reached a record: 65%. The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.

Bush's fall is being fueled by erosion among support from conservatives and Republicans. In the poll, 52% of conservatives and 68% of Republicans approved of the job he is doing. Both are record lows among those groups.

Moderates gave him an approval rating of 28%, liberals of 7%.
Let's go back to the presidential approval-rating scoreboard (drumroll, please):

Bush: 31 percent
Nixon: 27 percent (November 1973)

I really think it would be a nice gesture for the Nixon family to send W. a thank-you card. Someone's sure to read it to him.

The Gitmo is go

Could this be the beginning of the end of a shameful chapter in American history?

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, is set to trigger a diplomatic row between Britain and the United States by calling for Guantánamo Bay to close.

The decision by the government's chief legal adviser to denounce the detention centre in Cuba as 'unacceptable' will dismay the Bush administration, which has continually rejected claims that the camp breaches international laws on human rights.

But Goldsmith will tell a global security conference at the Royal United Services Institute this week that the camp at Guantánamo Bay must not continue. 'It is time, in my view, that it should close.' An urbane lawyer who eschews the limelight, Goldsmith is not known for shooting from the hip in such unequivocal terms; however, it is clear he has harboured grave doubts for some time over the legality of Guantánamo under international law.

'There are certain principles on which there can be no compromise,' Goldsmith will say. 'Fair trial is one of those - which is the reason we in the UK were unable to accept that the US military tribunals proposed for those detained at Guantánamo Bay offered sufficient guarantees of a fair trial in accordance with international standards.'
But the views of Britain's AG and George Bush really aren't that far apart in terms of closing the Gitmo prison and fair trials. Why, Bush paid lip service to fair trials just last week.

President George W. Bush said he would like to close the U.S.-run prison at Guantanamo Bay -- a step urged by several U.S. allies -- but was awaiting a Supreme Court ruling on how suspects held there might be tried.

"Our top court must still rule on whether they should go before a civil or military court," he said.

"They will get their day in court. One can't say that of the people that they killed. They didn't give these people the opportunity for a fair trial."
Yeah, these killers, these guilty suspects, can be assured of a fair trial from an impartial jury. The reason they've been detained for so long without trial or, in most cases, charges is that their guilt is so certain. I guess Scooter Libby is the only person on earth whom Bush considers innocent until proven guilty. Oh, and Tom DeLay.

The comments about Gitmo came during the same interview in which Bush said his best moment in office was that time when he caught a really big fish in his (stocked) lake.

U.S. President George W. Bush told a German newspaper his best moment in more than five years in office was catching a big perch in his own lake.

"You know, I've experienced many great moments and it's hard to name the best," Bush told weekly Bild am Sonntag when asked about his high point since becoming president in January 2001.

"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound (3.402 kilos) perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.
Hey, cut the guy some slack. If you detained hundreds of suspects indefinitely because you couldn't find enough evidence to support charges (even though you were certain of their guilt), created the mess that is the Iraq war, staged photo-ops while New York smoldered and New Orleans drowned, and presided over record budget and trade deficits while wages fell and energy prices and health care costs skyrocketed, you'd find it hard to identify the best moment, too.

UPDATE: From that same bizzare interview, this nugget of Bushian wisdom:

That's George Washington, the first President, of course. The interesting thing about him is that I read three -- three or four books about him last year. Isn't that interesting? People say, so what? Well, here's the "so what." You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone. If they're still analyzing the presidency of George Washington -- (laughter.) So Presidents shouldn't worry about the history. You just can't. You do what you think is right, and if you're thinking big enough, that history will eventually prove you right or wrong. But you won't know in the short-term.
Talk about having your way with words.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mystery solved

Another Bush appointee failed, and damaged a federal agency in the process. Where's the mystery in that?

Porter Goss said Saturday that his surprise resignation as CIA director is "just one of those mysteries," offering no other explanation for his sudden departure after almost two years on the job.
But look here Scoob -- a clue!

But as he walked out the glass doors of Langley headquarters yesterday, Goss left behind an agency that current and former intelligence officials say is weaker operationally, with a workforce demoralized by an exodus of senior officers and by uncertainty over its role in fighting terrorism and other intelligence priorities, said current and former intelligence officials.

"Now there's a decline in morale, its capability has not been optimized and there's a hemorrhaging of very good officers," (former senior CIA official and interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center until last July John O.) Brennan said. "Turf battles continue" with other parts of the recently reorganized U.S. intelligence community "because there's a lack of clarity and he had no vision or strategy about the CIA's future."

Goss, then the Republican chairman of the House intelligence panel, was handpicked by the White House to purge what some in the administration viewed as a cabal of wily spies working to oppose administration policy in Iraq.

The perception that Goss was conducting a partisan witch hunt grew, too, as staffers asked about the party affiliation of officers who sent in cables or analyses on Iraq that contradicted the Defense Department's more optimistic scenarios.
So Goss wasn't sent to the CIA to make the agency better at protecting the American people, he was sent there to purge anyone who disagreed with the administration's predetermined policy to invade Iraq. As a result,

"Unfortunately, Goss is going to be seen as the guy who oversaw the agency victimized by politics," said Tyler Drumheller, a former chief of the European division. "His tenure saw the greatest loss of operational experience" in the operations division since congressional hearings on CIA domestic spying plunged the agency into crisis, he said.
And the CIA is just another federal agency damaged by the paranoid politics of George W. Bush.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Drunk? A Kennedy?

Is it standard operating procedure for the Capitol Police not to administer a field sobriety test to someone who crashes his car into a barricade and then staggers around his car? Does anyone at the Capitol do his job properly?

Police officers were told not to give U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy a sobriety test after his traffic accident, police labor union officials say.

Superiors told the officers instead to drive the Rhode Island Democrat home after the accident early Thursday, according to Greg Baird, acting chairman of the U.S. Capitol Police union, who called for an inquiry.

The police report, seen by CNN, includes an observation that Kennedy appeared to have been drinking and his ability was impaired.

Officers at the scene said (Kennedy) appeared intoxicated, law enforcement and congressional officials said.

Baird said when two sergeants arrived at the accident scene after the initial two officers, they conferred with the watch lieutenant on duty.

Afterward, the sergeants told the other officers to drive Kennedy home. His car had been damaged, police said.
An ABC News report includes this observation:

The president of the Washington chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police has told ABC News that an officer smelled alcohol on the breath of Rep. Patrick Kennedy after he crashed into a barricade early Thursday morning.

"He did seem to be intoxicated based on the odor of alcohol and his appearance," said Lou Cannon, who was not on the scene but described the assessment made by officers who were there.
Way to go, Pat. Way to perpetuate that drunken Kennedy stereotype.

If he wasn't drunk, the police didn't do him any favors by not field testing him. But it sure sounds like he was. And if he put people's safety at risk because he can't leave the bottle alone, he deserves no special treatment and should be punished.

Before the GOP gets too excited about this, they would do well to remember one of their own recently was involved in a similar incident, in which he was conveniently not subjected to a sobriety test. But instead of crashing his car into a concrete barrier, he shot a man in the face with a shotgun.

Faux News said at the time that incident was no big deal. Let's see how they treat this one.

Then again, who cares? Better to ignore them completely.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Language skills

Between George Bush and the MSM, does anyone have any?

The White House on Thursday disputed an account of President George W. Bush singing the U.S. national anthem in Spanish during the 2000 presidential campaign, saying his Spanish is not that good.
The White House is going to have to do better than that, because his English isn't that good either, but that doesn't stop him from mangling it on pretty much a daily basis.

That George Bush doesn't know something of course isn't the most interesting thing in the article. The most interesting part says more about the media than about Bush.

But last week, (Bush) said he thought the national anthem should be sung in English, after the "Star-Spangled Banner," or "Nuestro Himno," made its debut with a new Latin beat and Spanish lyrics.

Bush's wife, Laura, appeared to disagree.

"I don't think there's anything wrong with singing it in Spanish," said told CNN in an interview on Wednesday.
Appeared to disagree? Is the media so cowed that it has to softpedal something as insignificant as the first lady wandering off message? How can they be expected to honestly report something significant, like, oh, I don't know, that Bush lied us into a war in Iraq and has plans to invade Iran?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

No Benjamin for you

Oh, man! And I had it all figured out what I was going to do with my $100. I was going to buy two tanks of gasoline. It was such a great idea, because two tanks is all I need to get through the entire summer.

Oh well, so much for that.

A Republican proposal to provide taxpayers with $100 rebates to compensate for higher fuel prices appeared all but dead on Tuesday, with leading Congressional Republicans saying that it had quickly fallen flat.

"I just think that trying to satisfy voters with a $100 voucher is insulting," said Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House majority leader. "Over the weekend, I heard about it from my constituents a few times. They thought it was stupid."

Other Republicans in the House and Senate did not mince words either.

"It was a silly idea," said Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona, a member of the Republican leadership, who predicted that the rebate would not be in the final energy package when it reached the floor.
But some Republicans have no appetite for admitting or walking away from a stupid idea.

Nevertheless, (Sen. Bill "Catkiller") Frist stuck by the rebate, calling it "a good idea" that makes up for having to pay nine months of federal gasoline taxes for the typical motorist.

"Every voter I've talked to has been excited of the fact that they get $100 tax relief," said Senator Rick Santorum, the Pennsylvania Republican who is in a tough re-election fight. "It does give a temporary help to consumers who are faced with higher prices."
Hmmm. Sen. Boehner of Ohio said his constituents thought it was stupid, and Ohio is right next to Pennsylvania. Makes you wonder how many voters these representatives actually talked to. And Santorum's ridiculous comment that voters are excited about such a half-assed attempt to address what for many is a serious financial hardship, a measure that has no impact whatsoever on the underlying problem or on record oil company profits, makes you wonder what color the sky is in his little world.


Low marks for the U.S. from Amnesty International.

Torture and inhumane treatment are "widespread" in U.S.-run detention centers in Afghanistan, Iraq, Cuba and elsewhere despite Washington's denials, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

In a report for the United Nations' Committee against Torture, the London-based human rights group also alleged abuses within the U.S. domestic law enforcement system, including use of excessive force by police and degrading conditions of isolation for inmates in high security prisons.

"Evidence continues to emerge of widespread torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees held in U.S. custody," Amnesty said in its 47-page report.

It said that while Washington has sought to blame abuses that have recently come to light on "aberrant soldiers and lack of oversight," much ill-treatment stemmed from officially sanctioned interrogation procedures and techniques.
Yeah, it's just a couple of renegade hillbillies on the night shift. In Cuba. And Iraq. And Afghanistan. And in all those secret CIA "black sites" whose existence the goverment won't comment on but Mary McCarthy was fired for revealing.

Some coincidence, huh?

Speaking of the UN, circle January 2007 on your calendars. That's when Congress can do something about that recess appointment of John Bolton. Let's see if it actually does.

Deficit Expansion Act

Republicans have a history of calling things what they're not (think Healthy Forests, Focus on the Family). Maybe Democrats should start calling things what they are.

Congressional Republicans reached tentative agreement on a $70 billion tax-cut package that would extend tax breaks on investment income for two years, a Republican U.S. Senate aide said on Wednesday.

Negotiators are working on a second tax bill that would extend popular tax breaks for businesses such as the research-and-development tax credit, the aide added.

The bill that was negotiated by Republicans in the Senate and House of Representatives would extend through 2010 the 15 percent tax rate for capital gains and dividends that was the centerpiece of Bush's 2003 tax cut. That tax break currently is set to expire at the end of 2008 and the top tax rate on long-term capital gains would revert back to 20 percent, while dividends would be taxed the same as other income.
But remember, shrinking government tax receipts is going to halve the massive deficit George Bush created with his last round of tax cuts. Don't let common sense mislead you, it will. You'll see.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Sox 7, Stinkins 3

It's always a big story when the Stinkins come to Fenway, but Monday night's game came with some interesting sidebars. The game marked the return of Johnny Damon and Doug Mirabelli to Fenway.

Doug Mirabelli?

Usually a trade for a backup player doesn't generate the attention that the reacquisition of Mirabelli did. But then again, most backup players don't have private jets chartered to fly them cross country, don't change into their uniforms in the back of a police vehicle on their way to the ballpark and arrive five minutes before game time.

But the most anticipated old face, if not the most warmly welcomed, was Damon, who jumped to the hated Stinkins during the offseason. Damon was greeted with a mix of four parts boos, one part applause for his first at-bat, and he tipped his helmet to the fans and Sox dugout, changing the mix to roughly three parts boos, two parts applause. He was cheered loudest when he promptly flew out to Trot Nixon. Damon and Mirabelli each went hitless in their return to Fenway, though Mirabelli reached on a fielder's choice.

Mirabelli also grounded out to start the bottom of the eighth, when the score was tied 3-3. Jonathan Papelbon was already up in the bullpen, and Jason Varitek was coming in to catch him in the ninth.

So why did Mirabelli hit in the eighth? I know he went through a lot to get to the ballpark in time to catch Tim Wakefield, but a .154 hitter batting in the eighth inning of a tie game against the Stinkins -- a game he's coming out of anyway? It was perhaps Terry Francona's only misstep of the game, one he more than made up for by pitching out with an 0-2 count to Damon to catch Bubba Crosby trying to steal second.

Francona bucked convention by bringing Papelbon into the game after David Ortiz gave the Sox a four-run lead with a three-run homer off another player returning to Fenway, Mike Myers. Myers, like Damon, jumped from the Sox to the Stinkins and was greeted less than warmly by the fans.

Many managers would have left Mike Timlin (W, 3-0) in the game because it no longer was a "save situation." But this is only a two-game series, so there's less worry about using your closer when it isn't absolutely necessary. More importantly, this is the Stinkins and the biggest game of the season so far. Winning this game gives your team an emotional lift greater than what comes with beating any other opponent, and stings the losing team a little more. Plus, a four-run lead against the Stinkins is a three-run lead against most other teams, so technically it may not have been a save situation, but tell that to Red Sox Nation.

Finally, it was a great opportunity to get your young closer introduced to the pressure of the Sox-Stinkins with the heat turned down just a little bit. And Papelbon responded admirably, pitching a perfect ninth, striking out Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada.

Tonight they do it all again. The Stinkins will be re-introduced to hard-throwing Josh Beckett (3-1, 4.50). Beckett last faced the Stinkins in the final game of the 2003 Series, when he beat them 2-0. Beckett will be opposed by Shawn Chacon (3-1, 4.56).

Monday, May 01, 2006

May Day

The day of protest - called the Great American Boycott of 2006 by organizers - included rallies in Center City (Philadelphia), where police said about 7,000 people gathered at 6th and Market Streets, as well as in Camden and Kennett Square.

About 200 protesters marched across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from a Camden event and met a contingent of about 800 departing a Latino immigrant forum in Philadelphia to march to the afternoon event a block from Independence Hall.

In southern Florida, thousands of protesters gathered in a vacant lot in Homestead, a community with a large Mexican population 35 miles south of Miami, a Homestead police spokesman said. They are expected to head to other rallies in Miami, including one at the Orange Bowl.

12:50 p.m. Latest crowd estimate from Chicago police: 300,000.

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Thousands of Mexicans marched through the capital and boycotted U.S. stores on Monday to support illegal immigrants demonstrating for more rights in the United States.

Thousands of people clad in white shirts marched from northwest Denver to the state Capitol this morning as part of a national day of action to draw attention to immigration rights.

The group, estimated by Denver Police to be as high as 75,000 people, walked for more than 30 minutes from Viking Park at 29th Street and Federal Boulevard to the Capitol.

The white that many marchers wore was intended to symbolize their peaceful march. Some pushed strollers and others carried backpacks and coolers filled with food and water as they headed for a noontime rally downtown.

Tens of thousands of undocumented workers and their supporters demonstrated today across the Los Angeles area as they flexed their political and economic muscles in support of an overhaul of national immigration policy.

More than 100,000 people marched through downtown Los Angeles to congregate around City Hall, the third major demonstration to rock the city in less than two months. Festive, even jubilant, demonstrators paraded to the Latin rhythms. At Spring and 1st streets they heard the blaring of Neil Diamond's "We're Coming to America."

The crowd overflowed City Hall Plaza and filled the green areas that serve as a buffer for the official buildings. Dressed in white for peace, people waved American flags as they roared what they hope would be a demand heard across the nation in Washington.

The city (of Seattle) is expecting 15,000 people to participate in the march, which begins at Judkins Park at 20 Place South and South Lane around 4:30. Marchers will travel to the downtown Federal Building on Second Avenue, where they will hold a rally.

Republican National Committeeman Randy Pullen, a key supporter of an Arizona law passed in 2004 to limit public services for illegal immigrants, believed the demonstrations would backfire.

"I think it galvanizes average Americans into believing that there's a real problem that needs to be solved," he said. "The other thing that I think is important to note is these demonstrators here today do not speak for law-abiding Latino American citizens."

Roberto Aguilar, an Atlanta construction worker originally from Mexico City, says he was fired after he marched at a demonstration last month. The 25-year-old, though, felt it was important to return Monday.

"If we don't come out, they're going to paint us as criminals," Aguilar said. "We've only come here to earn money with the sweat of our brow."

As you can see Roberto, the GOP is going to paint you as criminals no matter what you do. So you might as well protest and make life a little less comfortable for them.

Meanwhile, in Iran, evidence that we're not really all that different.