Friday, June 30, 2006

Coalition of the leaving

At least good ol' reliable Tony Blair is in for the long haul.

Romania plans to withdraw its troops from Iraq by the end of this year, Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu said on Thursday.

The announcement regarding Romania's 890 troops follows a similar move by Italy, while Japan began withdrawing its troops from the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq last week.
Oh, to have sane leaders who don't let bravado or pride prevent them from recognizing their mistakes and correcting them.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Unhinged and unlocked

To all you future accidental shooting vitims out there, especially the children: You have to understand -- elections are expensive and they really, really need the money.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to overturn a recently enacted law requiring safety trigger locks on all hand guns sold in the United States.

The Republican-controlled House handed a victory to opponents of gun control by a vote of 230-191.

Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, a Colorado Republican, argued that the added cost of the trigger locks is passed on to gun owners and that they "do not stop accidental shootings." (No word from the esteemed Rep. Musgrave on what does prevent accidental shootings, or if the House even plans to address the problem. I guess there's no special-interest money in that. -- Dr. S)

Last fall, President George W. Bush signed legislation giving gun makers broad protections from civil lawsuits, but that law contained the mandatory trigger lock provision.
This affront brought to you by the United States House of Representatives, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the National Rifle Association. Paid for by you.

A new release from the Supremes

Fortunately, Scalia gets only one vote. And you gotta be impressed, if not surprised, with how reliably obedient Alito has been.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Bush overstepped his authority in ordering military war crimes trials for Guantanamo Bay detainees, saying in a strong rebuke that the trials were illegal under U.S. and international law.

Bush said there might still be a way to work with Congress to sanction military tribunals for detainees and the American people should know the ruling "won't cause killers to be put out on the street."

The court declared 5-3 that the trials for 10 foreign terror suspects violate U.S. law and the Geneva conventions.
Translation: If the Supreme Court says my military tribunals are against U.S. law, I'll just change the law.

As for the Geneva Conventions, the administration never felt bound by them anyway.

And by "killers," Bush is referring to suspects who the government has detained for years, and still lacks sufficient evidence to even charge, let alone convict. But this administration has never been a big fan of proof, and never lets a lack of evidence prevent it from making allegations, taking punitive action or even invading another country.

The ruling raises major questions about the legal status of the approximately 450 men still being held at the U.S. military prison in Cuba and exactly how, when and where the administration might pursue the charges against them.
Major questions that the media and Congress are unlikely to ask.

It was a broad defeat for the government, which two years ago suffered a similar loss when the high court held the president lacked authority to seize and detain terrorism suspects and indefinitely deny them access to courts or lawyers.
And you see the dramatic effect that decision had, because the administration no longer ... uh ...

So this ruling probably will have no effect whatsoever on anything anywhere. First of all, this administration just does whatever it wants to do, without regard for what the legislative or judicial branches say.

Second, these prisoners have been held without charges for years. Does anyone really think that the crack U.S. Dept. of Justice is suddenly going to produce evidence against hundreds of prisoners after all this time? The administration never planned to try these people anyway, so ruling that the military tribunals are illegal doesn't really matter. The Court can rule any way it wants, but these people are going to stay right where they are, without charges, until well after George Bush is put out to his brush-covered pasture. The plan is to stay the course and never admit a mistake until, like Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, Iran, the Gaza Strip, Darfur, bin Laden, the deficit, Medicare Part D, the trade imbalance, the housing bubble, the environment, oil prices and New Orleans, they are someone else's problem.

UPDATE 1: This is how low our expectations of this administration are and how far our standards have fallen:

President George W. Bush on Thursday said he had not fully reviewed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found the current military tribunal system to try Guantanamo prisoners unlawful, but promised it would be taken seriously.
Really? Haven't "fully reviewed" the Supreme Court ruling? Shocking. But will take it seriously? Impressive.

UPDATE 2: Remember what I said above about how this ruling "probably will have no effect whatsoever on anything anywhere"? Well if you didn't believe me ...

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling on war crimes tribunals being held at Guantanamo navy base will have little effect on the detention camp that holds 450 foreign captives, the camp commander said.

"I don't think there's any direct outcome on our detention operation," Rear Adm. Harry Harris, the prison commander, said in an interview this week before the ruling.
Hey, at least he's honest.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Impeachment vote

Berkeley is still ahead of the curve.

The municipal council in the liberal California city of Berkeley plans to give voters a say on a measure calling for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, the mayor said on Wednesday.

A number of local governments across the United States have pressed resolutions urging impeachment, but the Berkeley city council's goal is to be the first to put the issue directly to voters, Mayor Tom Bates said in an interview.
With Bush's approval ratings in the thirties -- and far ahead of Cheney's -- I think I can safely predict that voters will choose in favor of impeachment.

That's ignoring the Diebold factor, of course.

Warmer and wetter

It's not just the coasts that have to worry about global warming.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Up to 200,000 people in the Wilkes-Barre area were ordered to evacuate their homes Wednesday because of rising water on the Susquehanna River, swelled by a record-breaking deluge that has killed at least 10 people across the Northeast.
If water that has been frozen for centuries suddenly returns to the earth's system in liquid form, I think it's reasonable to expect more rain.

Gammons update

From the Boston Globe:

ESPN baseball analyst Peter Gammons, whose Sunday notes column in the Globe had a seminal impact on the way the sport is covered, came out of surgery and was in intensive care last night for a brain aneurysm. Gammons, who had planned to be at Fenway Park last night, was stricken near his home on Cape Cod and air-lifted to a Boston hospital, his wife, Gloria, told the Globe's Bob Ryan. Indications were he will remain in intensive care for 10-12 days, his wife said. Doctors are being cautiously optimistic on his recovery.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery to a journalist who continues to set the bar high for everyone in his profession.

Gammons' first music CD, "Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old," is scheduled to be released on July 4. Proceeds from the album will benefit Theo and Paul Epstein's Foundation to be Named Later. Theo Epstein appears on the album, as do players Trot Nixon, Jonathan Papelbon, Lenny DiNardo, Kevin Youkilis, Tim Wakefield and Bronson Arroyo. "Announcer Boy" Don Orsillo also appears, as do several professional musicians, including Juliana Hatfield and George Thorogood.


Monday, June 26, 2006

How long did you go to J school to get that assignment?

It's not like there's a war on or the government is eavesdropping on phone calls and examining bank records or the world's population is facing a crisis of warming temperatures or there's a healthcare crisis in this country or genocide in Darfur or anything.

The much-anticipated first kiss between husband and wife Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman was "above average," according to the man who married them in Sydney, Australia, on Sunday evening.

"I wouldn't say it was the longest [kiss] in history — I've seen some long ones — but it was not too bad," Father Paul Coleman, the Kidmans' family priest, told "Good Morning America."

"Above average, if you want to know the truth."
Much anticipated? By whom? Perhaps by Kidman, Urban and their wedding photograper. And apparently the (sigh) national media.

As a journalist, if this assignment and having to ask a priest this question doesn't destroy your morale, you're in the wrong business.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Deja vu all over again

Ah, the unsubstantiated assurances that their actions are legal, the attempts to hide their actions from the American public, the disdain for the media, the accusations that revelations hurt national security -- this really takes me back.

Vice President Dick Cheney said a secret program allowing U.S. officials to examine thousands of private banking records around the world was a legal and "absolutely essential" weapon in the war on terror, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

Speaking at a fund-raiser for Republican congressional candidates in Chicago on Friday, Cheney criticized the media for disclosing the program, which is run by the CIA in conjunction with the Treasury Department.

For nearly five years since the September 11 attacks, the Treasury Department has been tapping into records of the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications, or SWIFT, for evidence of potential activity by terror groups.

The records examined mostly involve wire transfers and other methods of moving money overseas or into and out of the United States.

Cheney said the Bush administration knew it would likely be criticized for the program -- as it was for the warrant-less eavesdropping of phone calls -- but said it was necessary.

"They are conducted in accordance with the laws of the land," Cheney was quoted as saying in The New York Times. "They're carried out in a manner that is fully consistent with the constitutional authority of the president of the United States. They are absolutely essential in terms of protecting us against attacks."

The Times first reported on the financial tracking program this week in a story that Cheney said hampers U.S. security efforts.
Nothing like deflecting criticism of your questionable activities by accusing those who reveal it of hurting national security, which of course is simply a variation of the attacks questioning its critics' patriotism the administration launched on 9/12.

At this point, I would normally expect the administration to call for an investigation into the source of the leak. But with everyone's phone and e-mail records on file at the NSA, I guess that's not necessary anymore.


Hey, at least he's asking this time.

President Bush on Saturday pressed Congress for expanded veto power to rein in spending, which has exploded during his tenure to $2.7 trillion to the anger of his fiscal conservative supporters.

Government spending was about $1.9 trillion when Bush took office in 2001 but outlays on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a new government prescription drug plan, and lawmakers' pet projects have boosted the total.

Bush, who has not vetoed a single spending bill passed by Congress, has pledged to reduce the budget gap significantly by 2009.

"A line-item veto would allow the president to remove wasteful spending from a bill while preserving the rest of the legislation," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
I would've thought that, given his record, Bush would just start using this authority, without congressional approval, and then trot out Alberto Gonzales to tell everyone that it's all perfectly legal.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Powerful video

Go watch this video by 15-year-old blogger Ava Lowery. Almost as disturbing as the reality of war is that this teenage girl has received death threats for expressing herself.

"Thou shalt not kill" does not have an asterisk after it, assholes.

On a lighter note, watch this video, via Crooks and Liars, of Lowery being interviewed on CNN. The stupid questions just keep a-comin'.

This video is in response to Tony Snow's "It's a number" comment.

Visit Lowery's site, Peace Takes Courage.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ooops, I accidentally made $1.8 million

It just sort of happened that way.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert denied Thursday that he pushed for federal funding for a proposed highway in northeastern Illinois so he and his wife could reap about $1.8 million from land deals near their home in Kendall County.

The Sunlight Foundation, a newly created group whose declared aim is to inform the public about what members of Congress do, has accused Hastert of not divulging connections between the $207 million earmark he won for a highway, the Prairie Parkway, and an investment he and his wife made in nearby land.

The Foundation says Hastert used an Illinois trust to invest in real estate near the proposed route of the Prairie Parkway, and notes that Hastert's 2005 financial disclosure form, released Thursday, makes no mention of the trust. Hastert lists several real estate transactions in the disclosure, all of which were done by the trust. Kendall County public records show no record of Hastert making the real estate sales he made public today; rather, they were all executed by the trust, the Foundation says.

However, Hastert disclosed the transactions on the annual personal financial statements members of Congress are required to file, the Chicago Sun Times reports. But Hastert did not take the extra steps called for in the House Ethics Manual and volunteer that he held land in a secret land trust called "Little Rock Trust," the newspaper says.

In defending himself, Hastert told The Associated Press the land in question was 5.5 miles from the proposed highway.

"So, it has nothing to do with the Prairie Parkway," the Yorkville Republican said. "I owned land and I sold it, like millions of people do every day."

Hastert attorney Randy Evans wrote to the foundation, calling its statements false, libelous and defamatory, and demanding that they be withdrawn and corrected.

Among Evans' criticisms was that the property Hastert purchased is adjacent to Hastert's home and is more than 5.5 miles from the Prairie Parkway corridor.

"This would be like complaining about a purchase in Alexandria, Virginia, based on renovations at the Capitol," in Washington, D.C., he said.

No, not really. Alexandria's population is 128,923, as estimated by the census bureau in 2003. It's area is only 15 square miles, giving it a population density of about 8,595 people per square mile.

Kendall County, Hastert's home, has a population of 79,514 (94.7 percent white, I'll bet you'd be surprised to learn). Kendall County has an area of 321 square miles, giving the county a population density of about 248 people per square mile. So to liken 5.5 miles in Kendall County to 5.5 miles in much denser and busier Alexandria, Va., is pretty much meaningless.

So is claiming that location is irrelevant to the value of real estate. Hastert and his defenders say the location of the land relative to the highway is irrelevant because the highway is 5.5 miles away from the land, implying that the highway is too far away to have any impact on the value of the real estate, and that land closer to the highway would be much more valuable.

Think about that. Would you want to live very close to a major highway, with its traffic, noise and pollution, or would you prefer to live a short distance away, far enough so that the noise, traffic and pollution don't impact your home, but close enough that highway access is just a convenient, leisurely 5.5 mile ride away, through a sparsely populated and probably beautiful prairie?

Hastert attorney Randy Evans would have you liken that ride to a 5.5-mile commute through the dense, big-city atmosphere between Alexandria and Washington, D.C. And in case Evans is unaware, the presence of the Capitol has already driven up real estate prices in Alexandria, so renovating it would have no effect on prices.

The prairie highway, on the other hand, is a new element in the region, not an existing one getting a facelift, so Evans' comparing it to the Capitol is a joke.

Oh, did I say 5.5 miles? Apparently I meant to say 3 miles.

Hastert business partner Dallas Ingemunson, a former Kendall County state's attorney, questioned the use of the 5.5 mile estimate, saying the distance was "probably less than three miles... as the crow flies." But he agreed with Hastert that the Prairie Parkway had nothing to do with their land deals.
The only interests Congressmen look out for are their own and those of their paying customers. They're not representatives of the people, they're professional agents, greedmongers who go to bat only for other greedmongers who pony up enough money to secure their services. And now that paperless touch-screen voting machines have been installed pretty much everywhere -- on the nickel of a bankrupt federal government, you and your "vote" are irrelevant.

Hottest in 400 years

Why do climatologists hate America?

The Earth is the hottest it has been in at least 400 years, probably even longer.

The National Academy of Sciences, reaching that conclusion in a broad review of scientific work requested by Congress, reported Thursday that the "recent warmth is unprecedented for at least the last 400 years and potentially the last several millennia."

A panel of top climate scientists told lawmakers that the Earth is running a fever and that "human activities are responsible for much of the recent warming." Their 155-page report said average global surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere rose about 1 degree during the 20th century.

The report was requested in November by the chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-New York, to address naysayers who question whether global warming is a major threat.

Last year, when the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, launched an investigation of three climate scientists, Boehlert said Barton should try to learn from scientists, not intimidate them.

The Bush administration also has maintained that the threat is not severe enough to warrant new pollution controls that the White House says would have cost 5 million Americans their jobs.

Climate scientists Michael Mann, Raymond Bradley and Malcolm Hughes had concluded the Northern Hemisphere was the warmest it has been in 2,000 years. Their research was known as the "hockey-stick" graphic because it compared the sharp curve of the hockey blade to the recent uptick in temperatures and the stick's long shaft to centuries of previous climate stability.
Yes, better to let Bush's ruinous economic policies cost people their jobs, while global warming advances unabated.


The Sox acquired 32-year-old righthander Jason Johnson from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named or cash. Johnson (5-8, 5.96), a ground ball pitcher, will make his debut against Florida July 1.

By the way, the Sox completed a three-game sweep of the Washington Nationals, winning 9-3 Wednesday. David Ortiz powered the offense with a grand slam and Jon Lester got the win, giving up one earned run and striking out 10 in six innings.

The Sox outscored Washington 26-9 in the three games.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

They thought it would be a nonviolent war

Spoken like a man who doesn't know what he's talking about.

Vice President Dick Cheney said that while the administration underestimated the strength of anti- American violence in Iraq, he still believes the insurgency is in its ``last throes,'' as he asserted last year.

``I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence we encountered,'' Cheney said in a question-and-answer session following a speech today at the National Press Club in Washington.
Let's be clear: When Cheney says "anybody," he means anybody in George Bush's inner circle who was involved in the decision to invade Iraq. He doesn't mean the experienced military people who told them that they needed a much larger force than they were committing to the invasion and predicted a prolonged insurgency, Mideast experts who predicted the deep ethnic divisions, the intelligence community that provided so much information that the administration ignored, or the millions of people around the world who opposed and continue to oppose the Iraq war.

His comments beg the question: What level of violence did they anticipate in response to invading a soverign nation?

These are the words of a man who spent his youth avoiding military service. Perhaps if Cheney, Bush, Rumsfeld, Rice and/or Wolfowitz had served in some meaningful fashion, they would have had realistic expectations instead of the delusional belief that this would be one of those nonviolent wars just because that's they want it to be.


The phrase "convicted a former Bush administration official" has such a nice ring to it, don't you think?

A U.S. jury on Tuesday convicted a former Bush administration official of four counts of lying and obstructing justice in the first trial to be held in connection with the influence peddling scandal of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

On the fifth day of deliberations, the jury found David Safavian -- a former chief of staff at the General Services Administration -- guilty of four of five counts of lying and obstructing justice. He was not convicted of one count of obstructing investigators.

Safavian, who showed little emotion as the verdict was read, was found guilty of lying about his relationship with Abramoff and his knowledge of the lobbyist's interest in acquiring properties from GSA, the property managing agency for the federal government.
Do you think Safavian's wondering where that pardon is?

Sorry, Dave. Who told you to get convicted before mid-term elections?

Monday, June 19, 2006

You gotta pick your unmitigated disasters

Much better to stay in Iraq with no idea why we're there, no idea what we're doing there, no idea when we'll be done doing it, and no idea what signifies that whatever we did was successful.

President Bush understands there is growing U.S. concern over his handling of the Iraq war but will not rely on polls to determine when to withdraw troops, his spokesman said Sunday.

"The president understands how a war can wear on a nation," White House press secretary Tony Snow said. "Whatever the bleakness is, whatever the facts are on the ground, you figure out how to win. You can't do that by reading polls."

"Most people realize simply pulling out would be an absolute unmitigated disaster," Snow said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said she and other Democrats would introduce a resolution this week calling for a phased withdrawal, noting that Bush signed a defense bill last year calling for that in 2006.

"Three years and three months into the war, with all of the losses, the insurgency, the burgeoning civil war that's taking place, an open-ended time commitment is no longer sustainable," she said.
One of these approaches is sane. Care to guess which one?

A tale of two ballgames

How do you turn a pitchers' duel into a slugfest? Just add bullpens.

Curt Schilling went toe-to-toe with John Smoltz Sunday night, and the results were as one might expect: The starters gave up a combined five earned runs, with 6 walks and 12 strikeouts between them.

By the seventh-inning stretch, the starters were gone. Over the last 2 1/2 innings, the bullpens combined to give up a dozen earned runs.

Needless to say, neither starter was involved in the decision, which went to the Sox, 10-7.

For the fifth time this season, John Smoltz handed his bullpen a lead and ended up with nothing to show for it. Don't expect him to be too eager to veto a trade as the deadline nears and the Braves, who are now 14 games out in the NL East, fall further out of contention. Unfortunately, Detroit probably has the inside track for Smoltz's services: He's a Detroit native and the Tigers look to be playoff-bound, for a change.

The Sox have the back end of their bullpen locked up. It's the middle relief that's a problem, and last night's game was a prime example: Rudy Seanez gave up a 3-run shot to Jeff Francoeur and Mike Timlin was shaky, giving up three hits and two runs in the eighth before pinch-hitter Chipper Jones grounded into a fielder's choice for the second out of the inning, allowing Terry Francona to bring in Jonathan Papelbon to stop the bleeding.

The Sox's middle-relief problems are going to be exposed by the probelms with the starting rotation. David Wells and Matt Clement are both on the DL, but neither was terribly effective before being shelved. Josh Beckett is maddeningly inconsistent of late, and you never know if Tim Wakefield's knuckler is going to feel like dancing (although, fortunately, most of the time it does). The Sox need a starter who can go deep into games and get them to the back of the bullpen, and Smoltz looks like he would be a nice fit. Hopefully the front office was doing more in Atlanta than watching the games.

Tonight the spectacle of interleague play continues, with the Sox at home against the Nationals. And speaking of starting pitching probelms, the Sox send Kyle Snyder to the hill. Snyder was picked up off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.

Off waivers from the Kansas City Royals.

Interim pitching coach Al Nipper told the Providence Journal that Snyder has "had problems elevating balls in the zone. If he can keep the ball down in the zone, being the tall kid that he is, he can create a good downward plane."

Snyder appeared in one game this season for the Royals, a slugfest against the Texas Rangers that the Royals won 16-12. Snyder pitched two innings, giving up 10 hits and 5 earned runs, for an ERA of 22.50. He also notched two strikeouts.

Snyder will be opposed by Tony Armas Jr. (6-3, 4.18).


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Congress doing the people's work

Well, the people who run this particular drug company.

A day late and possibly several million dollars short. That is the prospect facing one Massachusetts drug manufacturer unless it can get a helping hand from Congress.

Legislation in the House would give the agency overseeing patents discretion in approving late requests for patent extensions. The legislation, which some critics call the ``Dog Ate My Homework Act," is based on a request that arrived one day too late for government consideration.

The events leading to the bill's introduction began Feb. 14, 2001, when the US Patent and Trademark Office received an application from The Medicines Co. for a patent extension on its heart drug Angiomax.

That was one day later than the application deadline -- no later than 60 days after the Food and Drug Administration approves the drug for commercial use and sale. There are no exceptions to that window, so patent officials rejected the application.

Ten lawmakers, including at least two from Massachusetts, have cosponsored a bill that could reverse that decision. The bill gives the director of the patent office the discretion to accept an application if filed fewer than five days after the deadline. The applicant also needs to show that missing the window was unintentional.

The stakes are huge. The Medicines Co. recently told stock analysts and investors that it expects Angiomax to generate more than $500 million in sales in the United States by 2010. The drug is an anticoagulant that prevents clot formation during angioplasty.

The company has expanded its lobbying presence on Capitol Hill to push the legislation. It spent $440,000 on lobbying last year -- more than double what it had spent over the three previous years combined, according to FEC Info., a company that tracks lobbying disclosure reports.
I seem to remember the issue of deadline extensions coming up recently. What was it George Bush said?

"Deadlines help people understand there's finality, and people need to get after it, you know?"
When you have money and lobbyists at your disposal, there's apparently more than one way to "get after it."

ps. Don't hold your breath waiting for a pool reporter to ask Bush about his feelings concerning deadlines in relation to this bill, or to explain any inconsistency or changes in his position.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Body men and water carriers

Apparently Blake Gottesman, George Bush's "body man," is giving up his job as Waylon Smithers to attend Harvard's School of Business, even though he has no undergraduate degree.

I can't decide what's most unbelievable about this story. Let's start with the lede:

It's been a great week for President Bush, but there's been at least one dark cloud: One of his closest aides is leaving the White House this week.
And I thought they were going to say the dark cloud was that the 2,500th U.S. troop was killed in Iraq. But that Blake Gottesman resignation thing is bad, too.

By the way, to bolster its claim that it has been a great week for Bush, ABC news offers a link to this story, about what a great week it has been for Bush.

Again, the gushing starts in sentence one:

It's been the kind of week that President Bush and the beleaguered White House have only dreamed about.

A spate of polls now shows a slight rise in public confidence in the war in Iraq after Bush conducted a high-powered summit at Camp David on the Iraq war, made a surprise trip to Baghdad to meet with troops and newly elected Iraqi government leaders, and then returned home to a triumphant Rose Garden news conference.

In addition, Bush's top adviser, Karl Rove, learned he would not face charges related to the 2003 leak of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.

This may have been the president's best week ever.
Finally, ABC gets around to pointing out that Bush's approval rating is still in the thrities, which means that more than 6 of every 10 Americans disapprove of the job he's doing, but marginalizes that majority by saying "Some critics say the White House may not have real cause for celebration." And even though a "spate" of polls now shows a slight rise in public confidence in the war in Iraq," the story fails to cite one or point out that "fifty-four percent said they still believe the war is going either very badly or moderately badly, down from 60 percent in March. And 55 percent said they believe the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was an error -- a figure unchanged from an April survey." Or that 61 percent of U.S. adults said they disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation with Iraq.

The story goes on to point out that "there are now some building blocks in place for permanent improvement." Something tells me that if the administration hadn't already abandoned the phrase "turned the corner," ABC would have used it right about there.

If the week when the United States reached the grim milestone of the 2,500th troop death in Iraq "may have been the president's best week ever," it goes to show just how low the bar has been set for success in this administration.

The bottom line is that the White House pulled out all the stops this week, with a high-profile "Iraq summit" at Camp David and then Bush's five-hour layover in Baghdad's Green Zone. You better believe they want some mileage for that effort, and that mileage is these ABC stories and the entire "great week" storyline.

But getting back to Body Man Blake, ABC's story on that situation continues:

Blake Gottesman is leaving to attend Bush's alma mater, Harvard School of Business. Gottesman has no undergraduate degree, but in rare cases, the school makes exceptions.
Hmm, I wonder who hooked him up with that gig?

Like "The West Wing" presidential aide Charlie Young — played by Dule Hill — Gottesman is rarely more than a few feet from the president. Even in Baghdad earlier this week he was there in uniform.
I guess everyone in the White House gets to play military dress-up eventually. It was just this week that we were treated to this image of new WH press secretary Tony Snow and Bush counsel Dan Bartlett dressed like men with spines, though I don't think they're enjoying dress-up as much as George Bush did that time on the aircraft carrier.

It's not a job for those with weak backs.

"I think that bag weighs 80 pounds or so," Rove said. "I think if you were special forces, with 80 pounds of equipment and weapons, you might get in the Blake Gottesman mode."
It's not like a quote like that bolsters arguments that our troops were sent into battle by a bunch of draft-dodging pussy chickenhawks who have no idea what battle is like or anything.

And Rove is the guy Bush is lucky to have around.

How much does that water weigh, ABC?

Culture of corruption

This just goes to show how far our government has deteriorated, that the government is populated with thieves and liars, and surrounds itself with even more thieves and liars.

While some workers at Ground Zero were hauling away debris, government records show that government contractor Kieger Enterprises was hauling away donated supplies, apparently including tens of thousands of bottles of water, taking them back to its headquarters in Minnesota and selling them for profit.

And for that, the company was never charged, apparently because the government's own theft from Ground Zero was so widespread.

Every paragraph from this story makes you want to pound your head against a wall. Here's a taste, but by all means go read the whole thing.

Once-secret documents obtained by The Associated Press show a disaster supply management company went unpunished for Sept. 11 thefts after the government discovered FBI agents and other government officials had stolen artifacts from New York's ground zero.

As firefighters searched for survivors after the Sept. 11 attacks, heat from the World Trade Center's smoldering ruins burned the soles off their boots. They needed new ones every few hours, and Christopherson made sure they got them. The moment that crushed Christopherson's faith was when his employer dispatched the trucks to the warehouse for those supplies, donated by Americans.

Federal prosecutors eventually charged KEI and some executives with fraud, including overbilling the government in several disasters, but excluded the Sept. 11 thefts. Officially, the government can't fully explain why.

Heather Tasker, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office in New York, declined to discuss the KEI case. The whistleblowers, however, said they've never been contacted by New York prosecutors.

FBI documents indicate the government, in fact, was preparing to charge KEI with Sept. 11 thefts.

A March 2002 entry in the FBI's "prosecutive status" report states the U.S. Attorney's office in Minnesota intended "to prosecute individuals who were alleged to be involved in the transportation of stolen goods from New York City after the terrorist attack." A followup entry from Sept. 6, 2002 lists the specific evidence supporting such a charge.

The lead investigators for the FBI and the Federal Emergency Management Agency told AP that the plan to prosecute KEI for those thefts stopped as soon as it became clear in late summer 2002 that an FBI agent in Minnesota had stolen a crystal globe from ground zero.

That prompted a broader review that ultimately found 16 government employees, including a top FBI executive and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, had such artifacts from New York or the Pentagon.

"How could you secure an indictment?" FEMA investigator Kirk Beauchamp asked. "It would be a conflict."

The government also didn't prosecute any of its employees for taking souvenirs, claiming it lacked a policy prohibiting such thefts.
The government lacks a policy prohibiting theft?


Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go pound my head against a wall while the MSM largely ignores this story.

Thursday, June 15, 2006



The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that 2,500 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war since it began more than three years ago.

The grim milestone was announced just hours before the House was to begin a symbolic election-year debate over the war, with Republicans rallying against calls by some Democrats to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
In related news,

President Bush, just back from Iraq, dismissed calls for a U.S. withdrawal as election-year politics and refused to give a timetable or benchmark for success that would allow troops to come home.
I guess Bush doesn't believe it's possible that calls for the withdrawl of troops are based on the desire to see the killing end, especially when the troops are bravely fighting while their leaders have a hard time defining the conflict's goals, what constitutes "victory," or how long it will take to achieve that victory, whatever it may be.

No, in Bushworld it's election-year politics, even though calls for the withdrawl of troops have been made pretty much as long as the troops have been in Iraq and aren't all of recent, election-season vintage. Even though polls show that 61 percent of the American public, the vast majority of whom are not running for public office, disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, and that public disapproval has been in that range for more than a year.

So I guess it's 2,500 and counting.

'Hold them indefinitely without explanation'

This would be significant if the Bush administration weren't already doing what the ruling allows. So this is just legal cover for the administration to keep on keepin' on, a piece of paper to satisfy a file, and will have no practical effect on the government's activities.

A federal judge in Brooklyn ruled yesterday that the government has wide latitude under immigration law to detain noncitizens on the basis of religion, race or national origin, and to hold them indefinitely without explanation.

The ruling came in a class-action lawsuit by Muslim immigrants detained after 9/11, and it dismissed several key claims the detainees had made against the government. But the judge, John Gleeson of United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, allowed the lawsuit to continue on other claims, mostly that the conditions of confinement were abusive and unconstitutional. Judge Gleeson's decision requires top federal officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft and Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, to answer to those accusations under oath.
I'd argue that this is a slippery slope and the ruling will soon be expanded to include American citizens that the regime believes to be aligned with its enemies, but the administration already reserves the right to hold such people indefinitely without charges, right Jose Padilla?

But even though it will have no impact on the government's activities, it's dangerous because it seeks to legitimize the illegitimate. And I'd say that the values inherent in the Constitution are a steep price to pay to get John Ashcroft on the witness stand.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I guess Harvard hates America

Why should this policy be different from any other?

President George W. Bush's signature No Child Left Behind education policy is failing to close racial achievement gaps and will miss its goals by 2014 according to recent trends, a Harvard study said on Wednesday.

It said the policy has had no significant impact on improving reading and math achievement since it was introduced in 2001, contradicting White House claims and potentially adding to concerns over America's academic competitiveness.

Bush's No Child Left Behind Act was meant to introduce national standards to an education system where only two-thirds of teenagers graduate from high school, a proportion that slides to 50 percent for blacks and Hispanics.

The study released by Harvard University's Civil Rights Project said national average of achievement by U.S. students has been flat in reading since 2001 and the growth rate in math has remained the same as before the policy was introduced.
Of course, this isn't news in the education community, where

The National Education Association (NEA), joined by local school districts in Michigan, Texas, and Vermont and by ten NEA affiliated state teachers associations (and the state of Connecticut), has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Education (ED), challenging the enforcement of the No Child Left Behind Act's (NCLB) accountability standards.

According to the suit, the gap between the spending authorized by the law and the actual amount that goes to the states has been growing since NCLB was passed. Further, a number of calculations by the states show that even the authorized amounts would not be enough to provide the tutoring and greater school time that low-achieving students would minimally need to reach the bar.
Just another failure for the pile. The Bush administration has ruined everything it has touched.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

No charges

Bush adviser and all-around scumbag Karl Rove will not be charged in Pat Fitzgerald's ongoing CIA leak investigation.

Dick Cheney better make an appointment with his lawyer (good thing he's not busy doing much of anything else), because this could mean Rove has agreed to cooperate. The rift between Bush and Cheney's staffs is well known, and if Libby is planning to show his cards, potentially making Cheney an even bigger liability than he already is, why shouldn't Rove cut a deal and stay out of prison?

Sorry, Dick, but that's how it goes. You lie down with dogs, you wake up indicted.

And I'm not the only one who thinks this investigation is far from over.

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Top secret

If things are going so well in Iraq, why was it necessary to keep the trip a secret even from members of the Cabinet?

After dinner with his cabinet at Camp David on Monday night, President George W. Bush said he was tired and wanted to read.

Instead, he sneaked off the heavily guarded grounds, boarded a nondescript helicopter for Andrews Air Force Base and then a secrecy-cloaked flight to Baghdad.

Bush had slipped away, pleading exhaustion by saying, "I'm losing altitude," and later seemed jubilant to have pulled off his presidential disappearing act.

"The POTUS is on board," he shouted to reporters traveling with him as he boarded Air Force One, using White House shorthand for president of the United States.

Only Bush's innermost circle -- Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and first lady Laura Bush -- knew where he was going on Monday. The rest of the Cabinet expected to see him at Camp David on Tuesday for a teleconference with Iraqi leaders.

But by morning at Camp David, Bush had already arrived in Iraq for a meeting with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
And I'm concerned that Cabinet members, who should know better, fell for what might be the world's worst cover story.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

God Bless the Oakland A's

They've taken the first two games of their series with the Stinkins, allowing the Sox to maintain their 1/2-game lead in the AL East. Meanwhile, the Sox lost two of three in New York and split two games against Texas.

Today the Sox have the doubleheader they were supposed to have yesterday -- if the rain in New England is finally over. In the early game, Josh Beckett gets the ball and will try to keep it in the ballpark. Beckett's numbers (7-3, 5.27, 55K) closely resemble those of his opponent, Kevin Millwood (7-3, 4.65, 57K). The difference between the pitchers so far this season has been how often they've been victimized by the long ball. Millwood has given up 7 home runs this season, compared with the 16 moonshots yeilded by Beckett (Jon Garland of the White Sox has given up, 19, the most in baseball).

However, in eight career starts against the Sox, Millwood has given up six homers, including one to David Ortiz in the season opener April 3, which the Sox won 7-3. Beckett has had only one start in his career against Texas (April 5), and kept the ball in the park. Beckett also has managed to keep the ball within the confines of Fenway, yeilding zero homers in four starts at home this season.

The nightcap of the day-night doubleheader (what a ripoff the owners have created) will feature former Red Sox pitcher John Wasdin (0-0, 0.00) against current Red Sox pitcher David Pauley (0-1, 6.55). Wasdin is a recent call-up from the minors who pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings in relief against Chicago last week. This will be his first start of the season.

Rookie Pauley will make his Fenway debut after a ND May 31 at Toronto and a loss Tuesday to the Stinkins. He's been hit around in his two career starts to the tune of 19 hits and 8 earned runs in 11 innings pitched.

The A's send Barry Zito (6-3, 3.28) to the hill in the Bronx to try to complete a sweep of the Stinkins. He will be opposed by Shawn Chacon (4-1, 5.21).


Friday, June 09, 2006

Michael Berg walks the walk

Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg, a contractor who was beheaded in Iraq, considers death a bad thing. His reaction to news of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as told to CNN's Soledad O'Brien:

"Well, my reaction is I'm sorry whenever any human being dies. Zarqawi is a human being. He has a family who are reacting just as my family reacted when Nick was killed, and I feel bad for that.

"I feel doubly bad, though, because Zarqawi is also a political figure, and his death will re-ignite yet another wave of revenge, and revenge is something that I do not follow, that I do want ask for, that I do not wish for against anybody. And it can't end the cycle. As long as people use violence to combat violence, we will always have violence."
O'Brein's reaction to his lack of bloodlust? Surprise.

O'BRIEN: I have to say, sir, I'm surprised. I know how devastated you and your family were, frankly, when Nick was killed in such a horrible, and brutal and public way.

BERG: Well, you shouldn't be surprised, because I have never indicated anything but forgiveness and peace in any interview on the air.

O'BRIEN: No, no. And we have spoken before, and I'm well aware of that. But at some point, one would think, is there a moment when you say, 'I'm glad he's dead, the man who killed my son'?

BERG: No. How can a human being be glad that another human being is dead?

O'BRIEN: There have been family members who have weighed in, victims, who've said that they don't think he's a martyr in heaven, that they think, frankly, he went straight to hell."
So Berg actually lives the belief, that many on the right purport to hold, that we should value all human life, instead of just using the notion to outlaw abortion. And people react to him as if he were an alien.

Some may say that reaction is based on the way Berg compared George Bush to Saddam Hussein.

BERG: Well, you know, I'm not saying Saddam Hussein was a good man, but he's no worse than George Bush. Saddam Hussein didn't pull the trigger, didn't commit the rapes. Neither did George Bush. But both men are responsible for them under their reigns of terror. (Watch

I don't buy that. Iraq did not have al Qaeda in it. Al Qaeda supposedly killed my son.

Under Saddam Hussein, no al Qaeda. Under George Bush, al Qaeda.

Under Saddam Hussein, relative stability. Under George Bush, instability.

Under Saddam Hussein, about 30,000 deaths a year. Under George Bush, about 60,000 deaths a year. I don't get it. Why is it better to have George Bush the king of Iraq rather than Saddam Hussein?

O'BRIEN: Michael Berg is the father of Nicholas Berg, the young man, the young businessman who was beheaded so brutally in Iraq back in May of 2004.
But to that, O'Brein said nothing.

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Thursday, June 08, 2006

Supporting the troops

CBS News on the 5.56 mm bullets U.S. forces are using in Iraq.

"The lack of the lethality of that bullet has caused United States soldiers to die," says Maj. Anthony Milavic.

Milavic is a retired Marine major who saw three tours of duty in Vietnam. He says the small-caliber 5.56, essentially a .22-caliber civilian bullet, is far better suited for shooting squirrels than the enemy, and contends that urban warfare in Iraq demands a bigger bullet. "A bullet that knocks the man down with one shot," he says. "And keeps him down."

Milavic is not alone. In a confidential report to Congress last year, active Marine commanders complained that: "5.56 was the most worthless round," "we were shooting them five times or so," and "torso shots were not lethal."

In last week's Marine Corps Times, a squad leader said his Marines carried and used "found" enemy AK-47s because that weapon's 7.62 mm bullets packed "more stopping power."

Here at the Picatinny Arsenal in New Jersey, the government's own engineers have done the most extensive testing on the 5.56 since 1990 and issued two draft reports.

In the first, dated 2004, the 5.56 ranked last in lethality out of three bullets tested.

A second draft, dated last month, confirmed that rating, ranking the 5.56 dead last in close-quarter combat.

The army issued a final report last week that concludes in essence that those test results are wrong and misleading. It argues the 5.56 has the "same potential effectiveness" of the 7.62 during the heat of battle.

Either way, there's no questions that if the Pentagon did have any questions about this bullet, it would face some very expensive modifications to the M-16.
Which I'm sure has nothing to do with the official assessment of the ammunition.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Gay bashing amendment rejected

That should be the last we hear about this until Bush's approval numbers fall again, which should be just about ... what time is it?

The Senate on Wednesday rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, dealing an embarrassing defeat to President Bush and Republicans who hoped to use the measure to energize conservative voters on Election Day.

Supporters knew they wouldn't achieve the two-thirds vote needed to approve a constitutional amendment, but they had predicted a gain in votes over the last time the issue came up, in 2004. Instead, they lost one vote for the amendment in a procedural test tally.

Wednesday's 49-48 vote fell 11 short of the 60 required to send the matter for an up-or-down tally. The 2004 vote was 50-48.

Supporters lost two key "yes" votes — one from Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who has changed his mind since 2004, and another from Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., who did not vote this time because he was traveling with Bush.
I guess know we'll be subjected to Bush administration attacks on activist lawmakers who ignore the will of the people and are legislating from the legislature.

Seriously, if the administration were serious about this gay marriage ban nonsense, or thought the proposal had even the remotest chance of passing, don't you think Hagel would have shown up at work to contribute his "yes" vote?

Now that that nonsense is out of the way, perhaps Congress can stop wasting time and address some serious issues.

The U.S. House of Representatives began debate Tuesday on the Senate-passed version of legislation that would increase the fines broadcasters pay for airing indecent speech, with a vote expected on the legislation Wednesday.
Or not.

Abdicated responsibility

They must be allergic to authority.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter reversed course Tuesday, announcing he will not call on phone company executives to testify on their cooperation with the government in a secret eavesdropping program run by the National Security Agency.

The senator from Pennsylvania acknowledged his reversal was forced upon him by his Republican colleagues in a private session prior to the afternoon hearing. The announcement was promptly decried by several Democrats, who accused Specter of caving in to the Bush administration.

"We have abdicated our responsibility," shouted Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts.

"You have given up the store," complained Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., in denouncing the move. "You're just walking away."
As much as the Bush administration is rightfully vilified for its efforts to concentrate power in the executive branch, its amazing how much help it gets from the branches that it is marginalizing.


Keyboardist Billy Preston, 59, one of the greats.

What a tangled web

Judging by reactions to this report, Marty is on to something.

Fourteen European nations colluded with U.S. intelligence in a "spider's web" of secret flights and detention centers that violated international human rights
law, the head of an investigation into alleged CIA clandestine prisons said

Swiss senator Dick Marty said the nations aided the movement of 17 detainees who said they had been abducted by U.S. agents and secretly transferred to detention centers around the world.

Some said they were transferred to the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and others to alleged secret facilities in countries including Poland, Romania, Egypt and Jordan. Some said they were mistreated or tortured.

Marty provided no direct evidence but charged that most European governments "did not seem particularly eager to establish" the facts.

"Even if proof, in the classical meaning of the term, is not as yet available, a number of coherent and converging elements indicate that such secret detention centers did indeed exist in Europe," he wrote, saying this warranted further investigation.

He listed 14 European countries — Britain, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Bosnia,
Macedonia, Turkey, Spain, Cyprus, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Romania and Poland
— as being complicit in "unlawful inter-state transfers" of people.
He may not have proof yet, but take a look at the reactions to the report.

Some, including Sweden and Bosnia, already have admitted some involvement.

Officials in Romania and Poland denied the allegations Wednesday.

Poland's prime minister denied Wednesday that CIA planes carrying terror suspects ever stopped or dropped off prisoners in Poland.

"This is slander and it's not based on any facts," Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz told reporters in Warsaw.
Really? Slander? Maybe he should ask around a little before issuing a categorical denial.

Former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski admitted he had heard of a few cases of secret landings by CIA planes in Poland, saying it was "natural" in the global fight against terrorism.
Yes, it's natural to abduct citizens off the street with only scant evidence and without even being sure they are who you think they are, drug them and fly them to countries whose regimes are known to practice torture, detain them for months or years without notifying anyone about their whereabouts, then maybe drop them off in the middle of nowhere and deny anything ever happened. Totally natural.

Our feelings about whether abducting and torturing citizens is a natural way to combat terror aside, we have an apparent differnce of opinion among highly placed Polish government officials regarding Poland's complicity in the CIA's rendition program.

Romeo Raicu, head of Romania's parliamentary committee overseeing foreign intelligence services, told The Associated Press: "There is no evidence there were such detention bases in Romania."
And, of course, a classic Bush administration-style non-denial denial. That there is no evidence is not in question. But a man in a position to know whether these facilities existed didn't deny they existed. But he did throw in a little responsibility shedding, another classic learned at the knee of the Bush administration.

He noted that agreements with the U.S. and NATO allow their aircraft to land in Romania and to fly over Romanian territory.

"The responsibility for what those planes transport is not Romania's responsibility," he said.
Which brings us to Tony Blair:

"I have to say, the Council of Europe report has absolutely nothing new in it," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said.
Takes you back to the heady days of the Downing Street memo, when "Downing Street claimed the document contained 'nothing new.' " And we all know how well that statement reflected reality.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Wanted: Leader

Last throes, indeed.

Gunmen in police uniforms abducted up to 50 employees of Baghdad transport companies in broad daylight on Monday, Interior Ministry sources said, as a crisis over filling key security posts deepened.

They carried out what appeared to be a coordinated operation along a street that is home to several firms offering transport to Syria and Jordan, police said.

"It took them about five minutes to take people away. One, two, three, four -- one after another," said witness Hamza Ali, recalling the men with rifles and strapped with grenades who suddenly showed up in 10 pickup trucks.
While that was happening, the person who started the war in Iraq was doing this:

President Bush rallied support Monday for a ban on gay marriage as the Senate opened a volatile, election-year debate on a constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex weddings.

"Our policies should aim to strengthen families, not undermine them. And changing the definition of marriage would undermine the family structure," said Bush, who raised the issue's profile with an event at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Boondoggle boon

Hey, they have to do something to fill all that time they're not in session.

Members of the U.S. Congress and their aides took free trips worth nearly $50 million paid for by corporations, trade associations and other private groups between January 2000 and June 2005, according to a study released on Monday.

Some of the 23,000 trips featured $500-a-night hotel rooms, $25,000 corporate jet rides and visits to popular spots such as Paris, Hawaii and Colorado ski resorts, said the study, by the Center for Public Integrity, American Public Media and Northwestern University's Medill News Service.

The study found that many of those who picked up the tabs were at the same time seeking to shape legislation on Capitol Hill or win federal contracts.
"In many instances, trip sponsors appeared to be buying access to elected officials or their advisors," the study said.
So if you were wondering why Medicare Part D is such a fucking joke or why Congress is doing nothing but holding photo-ops in response to runaway gas prices, now you know.

And the next time you're wondering how you can get your representative to, you know, represent you, try footing the bill nearly 11.5 trips per day for four and a half years. That's apparently what it takes to get their attention.

End around

This is what George Bush meant back in December when he declared in an Oval Office photo-op that he was accepting Sen. John McCain's call for a law banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror.

The Pentagon has decided to omit from new detainee policies a key tenet of the Geneva Convention that explicitly bans "humiliating and degrading treatment," according to knowledgeable military officials, a step that would mark a further, potentially permanent, shift away from strict adherence to international human rights standards.

The decision could culminate a lengthy debate within the Defense Department but will not become final until the Pentagon makes new guidelines public, a step that has been delayed. However, the State Department fiercely opposes the military's decision to exclude Geneva Convention protections and has been pushing for the Pentagon and White House to reconsider, the Defense Department officials acknowledged.

The detainee directive was due to be released in late April along with the Army Field Manual on interrogation. But objections from several senators on other Field Manual issues forced a delay. The senators objected to provisions allowing harsher interrogation techniques for those considered unlawful combatants, such as suspected terrorists, as opposed to traditional prisoners of war.

The lawmakers say that differing standards of treatment allowed by the Field Manual would violate a broadly supported anti-torture measure advanced by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). McCain last year pushed Congress to ban torture and cruel treatment and to establish the Army Field Manual as the standard for treatment of all detainees. Despite administration opposition, the measure passed and became law.

For decades, it had been the official policy of the U.S. military to follow the minimum standards for treating all detainees as laid out in the Geneva Convention. But, in 2002, Bush suspended portions of the Geneva Convention for captured Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. Bush's order superseded military policy at the time, touching off a wide debate over U.S. obligations under the Geneva accord, a debate that intensified after reports of detainee abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
So it's just another in an ever-growing list of instances of the Bush administration ignoring laws it doesn't feel like obeying.

During his campaign for president, John McCain will certainly tout his high-profile opposition to the Bush administration's policy of torturing prisoners and his resistance to administration pressure to back off the anti-torture amendment.

But what is less clear is what he will do in response to this end-around by the administration. Is he really interested in guaranteeing humane treatment for prisoners, or was the whole amendment and show of resolve in the face of administration pressure just fodder for his '08 presidential run?

If McCain does nothing about this obvious effort to render his amendment meaningless, we'll know it was all for show.

You want to be leader of the free world, senator? Then show some leadership. The ball's in your court.

Evil Schill, good cause

Curt Schilling's battle against ALS enters the video game world.

Schilling will appear as a villainous character in the online game Everquest II today and on June 6 and 7, while the Sox play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Every time a player defeats the virtual Schilling, Sony Online Entertainment creators will make a donation of $5 — up to a maximum of $10,000 — to the ALS Association.
To take on Schill, click here.

Meanwhile, the Sox are in the Bronx for four games against the Stinkins. Tonight Josh Beckett (7-2, 4.46) faces Mike Mussina (7-1, 2.42).

Beckett is coming off a poor outing in Toronto, in which he gave up 10 hits and 7 earned runs in 4.2 innings, but struck out 7. However, Beckett has won 4 of his last 5 starts, including a May 9 win against the Stinkins, in which gave up 3 earned runs in 7 innnings and struck out 7.

Mussina had a streak of 5 straight wins snapped by a string of three straight no-decisions, games in which the Stinkins went 1-2. He's coming off a complete-game win against Detroit in which he struck out 5 and yeilded only an unearned run.

The pitching matchups for the rest of the series shape up as follows: David Pauley (0-0, 12.46 -- he will be making his second career start) vs. Chien-Ming Wang (5-2, 4.82) Tuesday; Schilling (8-2, 3.86) vs. Jaret Wright (3-3, 4.12) Wednesday; and Tim Wakefield (4-7, 4.05) vs. the Big Eunuch (7-4, 5.53) Thursday.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Welcome news


The board of governors of the American Bar Association voted unanimously yesterday to investigate whether President Bush has exceeded his constitutional authority in reserving the right to ignore more than 750 laws that have been enacted since he took office.

They include a former federal appeals court chief judge, a former FBI director, and several prominent scholars -- to evaluate Bush's assertions that he has the power to ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Bush has appended statements to new laws when he signs them, noting which provisions he believes interfere with his powers.

Among the laws Bush has challenged are the ban on torturing detainees, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and ``whistle-blower" protections for federal employees.

The challenges also have included safeguards against political interference in taxpayer-funded research.

Bush has challenged more laws than all previous presidents combined.

The ABA's president, Michael Greco, said in an interview that he proposed the task force because he believes the scope and aggressiveness of Bush's signing statements may raise serious constitutional concerns. He said the ABA, which has more than 400,000 members, has a duty to speak out about such legal issues to the public, the courts, and Congress.
The courts and Congress also have an obligation to act while power is concentrated in one branch of the federal government, but it's pretty clear that wasn't about to happen.

Too bad the task force's conclusions don't require anyone to do anything, and its conclusions will be ignored like everything else George Bush doesn't want to hear.


Friday, June 02, 2006


Let me guess: Rogue privates acting on their own, and so not a reflection of those higher up the chain of command, like at Abu Ghraib? And like the widespread prisoner abuse, the April shooting of an Iraqi man, the massacre at Haditha and this are just coincidences?

A third set of allegations that U.S. troops have deliberately killed civilians is fueling a furor in Iraq and drawing strong condemnations from government and human rights official. "It looks like the killing of Iraqi civilians is becoming a daily phenomenon," the chairman of the Iraqi Human Rights Association, Muayed al-Anbaki, said Friday after video ran on television of children and adults slain in a raid in Ishaqi in March.

Al-Anbaki's comments came a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki upbraided the U.S. military over allegations that Marines killed two dozen unarmed civilians in Haditha, calling it "a horrible crime." They were his strongest public comments on the subject since his government was sworn in last month.

U.S. commanders have ordered new ethics training for all troops in Iraq. But the flow of revelations and investigations threatens to undermine Iraq's new government and public support in America for President Bush's management of the war.
That last sentence, of course, begs the question: What support in America for Bush's management of the war?


Next time someone asks you "Can thousands of people be wrong?" refer to this as you deliver an emphatic "YES!"

The debut album by Oasis, the band that best spread the Britpop craze of the 1990s, has been voted the greatest album of all time in a major music poll published.

"Definitely Maybe," which featured chart-topping hits such as "Live Forever" and "Supersonic," beat "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by the much-loved Beatles into second place in the survey of more than 40,000 music fans.
Regardless of what Noel Gallagher and some survey respondents think, the Beatles probably farted melodies better than any Oasis song. The Beatles carved their mark deep into history, while Oasis' impact is little more than a touch football play scratched into the dirt with a twig.