Monday, July 31, 2006

A fool and his money

There's being a fan, then there's this unsettling auction.

Lot 1542. Boston Red Sox Fenway Park Home Dugout Toilet

A symbol of all their waste-d opportunity and flushed dreams, this next porcelain piece was installed prior to the '86 season, which will forever be synonymous with the name Buckner, and removed shortly before the Sox won the Title in 2004. Times weren't all bad though, this toilet did have the chance to catch for Roger
Clemens, and was up close and very personal with the likes of Boggs, Ramirez,
Damon, Dawson, and Pedro. Inside can be found a date of "1986", and the fixture
measures 20"H x 26"L., overall EX+-EX-MT. Comes directly from the ballpark.
That makes this seem almost reasonable.


Friday, July 28, 2006

Minimum help (updated)

Note that it's "political reality" they're giving in to, not "basic human decency."

House Republican leaders, giving in to political reality, plan a vote to raise the $5.15 minimum wage before leaving Washington this weekend for a five-week recess.

"Whether people like it or not, we need to go ahead with it," said Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del., who supports the idea. "There's a general agreement among Republicans (opposing the raise) that "maybe we don't like it much, but we need to move forward with it just for political reasons."
Ah, doing the right thing for the wrong reason. And not a decade too soon.

It was a decade ago, during the hotly contested campaign year of 1996, that Congress last passed an increase in the minimum wage. A person working 40 hours per week at minimum wage makes $10,700, which is below the poverty line for workers with families.

Democrats have made increasing the wage a pillar of their campaign platform and are pushing to raise the wage to $7.25 per hour over two years. (By the way, someone working 40 hours per week for $7.25 an hour would make about $15,000 per year. For a family of three, that's still below the current poverty threshold. And the GOP wants to spread out that raise over three years, not two.)

In June, the Republican-controlled Senate refused to raise the minimum wage, rejecting a proposal from Democrats.

So the poor can expect help from the GOP every time Republican congressmen are worried about their jobs. Once the election passes, expect them to go right back to not giving a shit about anyone who doesn't shower them with gifts, fund their campaigns, or who makes less than six figures.

But, election or no, the GOP does nothing good without adding a little "sweetener" that makes it a little easier for the greedy swine they work for to swallow:

Rep. Howard McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said the GOP would embrace the increase to $7.25 per hour and probably attach a proposal passed last year that would make it easier for small business to band together and buy health insurance plans for employees at a lower cost.

Many Democrats oppose the small business health insurance legislation because it would overrule state laws requiring coverage for procedures such as diabetes care and cancer screenings.
Congressmen are busy people, so maybe the minimum wage just got lost in the shuffle for the last 10 years. After all, they have so many other salaries to nurture, like their own:

Inflation has eroded the minimum wage's buying power to the lowest level in about 50 years. Yet lawmakers have won cost-of-living wage increases totaling about $35,000 over that time. So House GOP leaders are bowing to the inevitable on the (minimum wage) increase.

Forty-eight Republicans, many of them moderates or representing districts with large working-class populations, wrote Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., requesting a vote this week on an increase.

"It is time for Congress to take responsible action to raise the minimum wage and ensure our hardworking constituents can provide for their families," said the letter, drafted by Reps. Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, and Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J.
Whoa, not so fast, Steve and Frank:

Conservatives responded with a letter signed by 31 Republicans asking that no vote be held.

"Quickly increased labor costs unrelated to business conditions will encourage or force employers to fire employees, reduce working hours for existing employees, and/or postpone plans to hire additional employees," they wrote.
Working to block a vote on a minimal increase to a minimum wage that hasn't been raised in a decade. Trying to override state laws that mandate coverage for diabetes care and cancer screenings. It's called Looking Out for the Little Guy, Republican style.

I'm not sure how much more of their help this country can take.

UPDATE: Remember the GOP's taste for sweeteners?

The House of Representatives voted on Saturday to give some of the lowest-paid American workers their first raise in nearly a decade, while also handing a big tax cut to some of the wealthiest.

The House in the early hours voted 230-180 to raise the $5.15-per-hour minimum wage in three 70-cent steps until it reaches $7.25 in mid-2009.

The estate tax cut is estimated to help less than 1 percent of American families at a time of skyrocketing federal debt.

"Workers at the lowest end of the scale are being held hostage to 7,500 families," said Rep. Steny Hoyer (news, bio, voting record) of Maryland, the second-ranking Democrat in the House, who wanted a minimum wage increase bill without the estate tax cut.

Those 7,500 families are the number of wealthy families that would benefit from the estate tax cut. By contrast, some seven million workers would benefit from the increase in the minimum wage.

Republicans argue cutting estate taxes helps small businesses and farmers.
That last part is a lie, but a good-sounding lie. The truth is that this rollback of the estate tax is expected to cost this country more than $300 billion.

That money could pay for the entire Katrina recovery, with $100 billion left over, if Congressional estimates of the cost of the recovery are to be believed. But because that's no longer a priority for the GOP, it won't if House Republicans get their way (fortunately, the Senate probably will not play along).

Along with the Katrina recovery, if the GOP gets its way, the $300 billion also won't pay for proper equipment for our troops, healthcare for the poor and sick, vocational training for welfare recipients, Head Start and other education programs, environmental cleanup programs, more police and firefighters, housing aid for the disabled or homeless, or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Instead, it'll be passed directly from fabulously wealthy parents to their fabulously wealthy sons and daughters. That way, neither the money nor its recipients will ever have to do anything to contribute to American society.

But look on the bright side: Maybe, if you watch MTV Cribs long enough, you'll be invited into the homes of these trust-funders to see how the money not being spent on body armor for the troops is put to use. You gotta admit, heated indoor swimming pools are SWEET.

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said that, before this election year, House Republicans "never raised a finger to help these individuals" who earn the minimum wage. He's right, of course, but he should have addded, "and almost certainly never will again."

Even when faced with contentious election fights, Republicans can't stop fucking the little guy to "help" the extremely wealthy. Makes you wonder how any person of conscience could vote Republican.

Well, if you're not super rich, they need you a lot more than you need them. They need you to keep believing their bullshit about how Democrats will take your guns away, about how we're winning in Iraq, about how eliminating mercury from your water will cost you your job, about how they're fighting to keep gas prices down, about how there's still serious debate about the reality of global warming, and about how this nation of immigrants is threatened by immigration. Most of all, they need you and your children to pay for the tax cuts they give to the people they really represent.

Give 'em what they deserve in November.

More scapegoat anyone?

Time for more photo-ops near the Mexican border.

The economy's growth slowed sharply in the second quarter, logging just a 2.5 percent pace as consumers tightened their belts and spending on home building nose-dived. Inflation, however, shot up.
The trouble for the GOP is that when you ruin everything you touch, it gets hard to find an issue to campaign on.

But House Republicans think they found one.

Republicans suggested they would hit back hard on immigration, as House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.) announced a schedule of 19 immigration hearings, mostly in border states, through Sept. 1. A House-passed bill deals primarily with border security.
So, you see, it's not just the meat-processing industry that needs illegal immigrants.

As soon as they run out of bombs

I guess the body count isn't high enough for the Bush administration yet.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she would return to the Middle East "when it is right" but gave no timetable, dashing hopes she would launch a new Middle East peace drive on Friday.

It was unclear where she would go to next but Rice indicated it was too early to use her diplomatic muscle and push for a ceasefire between Lebanon and Israel, which has been pounding Hizbollah in southern Lebanon for over two weeks.

"I am going to return to the Middle East. The question is when is it right for me to return to the Middle East," she told a news conference after taking part in a global security forum in Malaysia.
Meanwhile, in reality,

Warplanes repeatedly bombed hill villages near the southern port of Tyre and hundreds of artillery rounds crashed across the border from Israel, killing 10 people, including a Jordanian.

Three people died in air strikes in the eastern Bekaa Valley, Lebanese security sources said.
Not yet, Condi. Not yet.

UPDATE: It's time.

President George W. Bush said on Friday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will return to the Middle East on Saturday for more talks about the conflict in southern Lebanon.
No word on when her credibility will arrive in the region.


The United States is called out by another UN committee.

The US should immediately shut all secret detention facilities used in its campaign against terror groups, the UN Human Rights Committee has said.

The committee called on the US to give the International Red Cross prompt access to those held in such jails.

The UN panel said the US should increase its efforts "to ensure the rights of poor people and in particular African-Americans are fully taken into consideration in the (Katrina) reconstruction plans with regard to access to housing, education and health care."

There should also be a moratorium on the death penalty, which appears to be imposed disproportionately on minority groups and poor people, the report concluded.

The committee's findings came after it held a two-day hearing in Geneva last week into US compliance with the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The committee said it was concerned by "credible and uncontested" information that the US had detained people "secretly and in secret places for months and years."

The US "should only detain persons in places in which they can enjoy the full protection of the law," the report said.

The committee's call comes two months after a separate UN body, the UN Committee against Torture, urged Washington to close its detention camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
First the UN Committee against Torture, now the UN Human Rights Committee.

No wonder conservatives hate the UN. To them, it's out of line to criticize torture and holding prisoners without charges or evidence at secret detention facilities, but A-OK to torture and hold prisoners without charges or evidence at secret detention facilities.

Look what we've become under George Bush: History's biggest banana republic. What shame this administration has brought on our great country.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Peace schmeace

Who needs "fake peace" when you can have real war?

President George W. Bush said on Thursday he wanted an end to the conflict in southern Lebanon as soon as possible but that he did not want a "fake peace" that would only delay fighting.

Bush's comments, made during a picture-taking session with Romanian President Traian Basescu, reflected the U.S. position that Washington wants a "sustainable" ceasefire that addresses the threat of Hizbollah in Lebanon instead of an immediate ceasefire.

"Look as soon as we can get this resolved, the better, obviously. But it must be real and it can't be fake. And so there's a serious diplomatic effort making sure there is a lasting peace, not a fake peace," he said.
So serious that it took Condi Rice 13 days to even go to the region. So serious that Bush took time away from his weekend at Rancho Relaxo to make some phone calls.

Meanwhile, as Bush pontificates about "fake peace," there's a real war going on.

Israeli warplanes and artillery hammered Lebanon again on Thursday and the Beirut government said up to 600 people may have been killed in Israel's 16-day-old campaign against Hizbollah guerrillas.

Lebanese Health Minister Mohammad Khalifeh said hospitals had received 401 bodies of people killed during the war launched by Israel after the Shi'ite guerrillas captured two of its soldiers and killed eight in a cross-border raid on July 12.

"On top of those victims, there are 150 to 200 bodies still under the rubble. We have not been able to pull them out because the areas they died in are still under fire," he told Reuters.

At least 437 people, most of them civilians, have been confirmed killed in Lebanon, according to a Reuters tally. Fifty-one Israelis, including 18 civilians, have been killed.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader issued a worldwide call Thursday for Muslims to rise up in a holy war against Israel and join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from "Spain to Iraq."
Yeah, this is WAAAAY better than "fake peace."

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More massive profits

This is all our fault, for not being better "conservers."

Exxon Mobil Corp. said Thursday it earned $10.36 billion in the April-June period, the second largest quarterly profit ever recorded by a publicly traded U.S. company.

The earnings figure was 36 percent above the profit it reported a year ago. High oil prices and the growing global appetite for fuel helped boost the company's revenue by 12 percent to a level just short of a quarterly record. Its shares briefly rose to a new high.

The results topped Wall Street expectations but came in behind Exxon Mobil's record profit of $10.71 billion set in the fourth quarter of 2005.
To offer a little perspective to a number so large, earning $10,360,000,000 over the April-June period equates to earning almost $114 million a day.

How'd you do over the April-June quarter? Better than last year? Better than in 1999?

The earnings report was a cherry on top, happy ending to a party celebrating the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which helped make it all possible.

Ho hum, more rampant incompetence

We're so accustomed to Bush administration corruption and incompetence by now that this doesn't even rate a raised eyebrow. But imagine the reaction of the GOP and the assholes at Fox and the WSJ if this happened on Clinton's watch.

Hey, it's only national security that's being compromised. You know, the issue that's Bush's strength.

The multibillion-dollar surge in federal contracting to bolster the nation's domestic defenses in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has been marred by extensive waste and misspent funds, according to a new bipartisan congressional report.

Lawmakers say that since the Homeland Security Department's formation in 2003, an explosion of no-bid deals and a critical shortage of trained government contract managers have created a system prone to abuse. Based on a comprehensive survey of hundreds of government audits, 32 Homeland Security Department contracts worth a total of $34 billion have "experienced significant overcharges, wasteful spending, or mismanagement," according to the report, which is slated for release today and was obtained in advance by The Washington Post.

The value of contracts awarded without full competition increased 739 percent from 2003 to 2005, to $5.5 billion, more than half the $10 billion awarded by the department that year. By comparison, the agency awarded a total of $3.5 billion in contracts in 2003, the year it was created.

Among the contracts that went awry were deals for hiring airport screeners, inspecting airport luggage, detecting radiation at the nation's ports, securing the borders and housing Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Investigators looking into those contracts turned up whole security systems that needed to be scrapped, contractor bills for luxury hotel rooms and Homeland Security officials who bought personal items with government credit cards.
But don't worry, the Bushies are still clinging to the fictions that the administration is making the country (and the world) safer, and will cut the deficit in half by 2009.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ill-suited for pretty much anything

I agree that the terms "electronic surveillance inside the United States" and "ill-suited for tracking al Qaeda and other militant groups" belong in the same sentence. But somehow Michael Hayden misses the target. Given his illegal domestic spying program's track record, that's probably something we should get used to.

CIA Director Michael Hayden told senators on Wednesday that the requirement of court orders to carry out electronic surveillance inside the United States was ill-suited for tracking al Qaeda and other militant groups.

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the intelligence official who crafted President George W. Bush's domestic spying program also said international phone calls targeted by warrantless surveillance are the most valuable to protecting national security.

"Why should our laws make it more difficult to target al Qaeda communications that are most important to us -- those entering or leaving this country," said Hayden, an Air Force general who set up the administration's eavesdropping program in 2001 as director of the National Security Agency.
Of course, Hayden is a tool of an administation that considers the Constitution ill-suited as the basis for a system of government.

Listening to Hayden, you'd never know that the laws he's referring to were in place long before the domestic spying program he masterminded. I'm pretty sure that makes the domestic spying program illegal.

And for all the alleged value of his warrantless domestic surveillance program, the United States has exactly one terror conviction it can point to -- Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of his role in the 9/11 attacks even though he was sitting in a prison cell on September 11, 2001. Or two, if you count Iyman Faris, who pleaded guilty of plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch.

Perhaps a look at the attacks the administration claims to have thwarted will show the program's value. Let's see, there was the one against the Brooklyn Bridge, as mentioned above; the Liberty Tower, or Library Tower, or U.S. Bank Tower, or whatever it's called, in Los Angeles; the Holland Tunnel, or some other New York transportation target, depending on whether you believe the New York Daily News or the AP; and of course the plot to destroy the Sears Tower by the celebrated "Miami 7."


At least the program's piss-poor record should make it easy for the Senate Judiciary Committee to determine if it qualifies as "valuable," and if it's worth the damage it's doing to the Bill of Rights.

For an idea of the real value of the warrantless and therefore illegal NSA domestic spying program designed and championed by Hayden, which is supported by, you know, facts, click here.

How to tell if you're unpopular

If this happens, you're unpopular.

A woman who won the Nobel Peace Prize 30 years ago drew applause from Australian schoolchildren today by saying she'd like to kill President Bush.

"I have a very hard time with this word 'non-violence,' because I don't believe that I am non-violent," said Betty Williams, 64, according to the Australian newspaper. "Right now, I would love to kill George Bush."

The audience at Brisbane City Hall – mostly schoolchildren – clapped and cheered, the paper said. The event was the Earth Dialogues forum.
Williams obviously poses no threat to Bush as she's extremely unlikely to carry out this fantasy of hers. And I think it goes without saying, given the content of this site, but I'll include anyway the requisite statement that all killing is wrong and I would not support an actual effort to kill Bush, just as I don't support any effort to kill any other human being.

Still, a Nobel Peace Prize winner says she wants to kill Bush, and is applauded by children. That's pretty funny.

Monday, July 24, 2006

13 days late

Oh, look who finally decided that it makes sense to try to stop a war.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a surprise visit to Beirut to launch diplomatic efforts aimed at ending 13 days of warfare. Prime Minister Fuad Saniora told her his government is hoping to "put an end to the war being inflicted on Lebanon."

Saniora has pleaded with Washington to press Israel to call a cease-fire in bombardment that has demolished Lebanon's infrastructure and killed hundreds. President Bush has opposed an immediate cease-fire, saying the root cause of the conflict must be resolved.


At least 384 people have been killed in Lebanon, including 20 soldiers and 11 Hezbollah fighters, according to security officials. At least 600,000 Lebanese have fled their homes, according to the WHO — with one estimate by Lebanon's finance minister putting the number at 750,000, nearly 20 percent of the population.

Israel's death toll stands at 36, with 17 people killed by Hezbollah rockets and 19 soldiers killed in the fighting.

Officials were trying to speed the delivery of aid along bomb-shattered roads to the south where they're needed most — although Israel has not defined a safe route to the region. Tens of thousands have fled the war zone, packing into the southern port city of Sidon and other refuges.
Meanwhile, the only things the United States is speeding to the region are cruise ships and more bombs.

It's a shame Condi didn't speed there, too. If she had, maybe more of this could have been prevented.

Standing in front of this 8-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed, the "conflict in the Middle East" and the "cost of war" seem endless and suffocating. His pain cannot possibly be imagined as he shakes uncontrollably in and out of shock. He has blood coming from his eyes.

His name is Mahmood Monsoor and he is horribly burned. In the hospital bed next to him is his 8-month-old sister, Maria -- also burned. Screaming at the top of her lungs is the children's mother, Nuhader Monsoor. She is standing over her baby, looking at her son -- and probably thinking of her dead husband. The smell of burned flesh is overwhelming.

This story, for the Monsoor family, started out as a typical one, probably one that most of us have experienced. They had simply gone on a family vacation to some lovely sunny beaches, but these beaches were in southern Lebanon.

The six of them, like thousands of others, were fleeing the fighting -- trying to get north, waving white flags, when an Israeli bomb or missile slammed into their car.

The father, Mohammed Monsoor, was killed instantly. His children all were wounded. His wife, who is now crying over two of the wounded children, was in the best physical condition. But as would be the case for any mother and wife, her life, in many ways, ended the minute the car exploded into flames.

The other two Monsoor children, Ahmed, 15, and Ali, 13, are in surgery. Doctors can't tell me if they will make it. They walk away, their heads shaking. Optimism is not a word that breathes truth in this place.


Politics creeps into the ward like the blood that runs on the floors. "Clearly he is Hezbollah," says one of the doctors outside the room -- sarcastically referring to 8-year-old Mahmood, whose screams can be heard from the hallway. His screams now blend with the wails of his mother, matching the baby's cries.
Tell me again why it took 13 fucking days to decide that this has to stop.

It's not just the deficit

For Democratic opponents of the Bush administration, it's about more than just money.

President Bush's penchant for writing exceptions to laws he has just signed violates the Constitution, an American Bar Association task force says in a report highly critical of the practice.
The ABA group, which includes a one-time FBI director and former federal appeals court judge, said the president has overstepped his authority in attaching challenges to hundreds of new laws.

The attachments, known as bill-signing statements, say Bush reserves a right to revise, interpret or disregard measures on national security and constitutional grounds.

"This report raises serious concerns crucial to the survival of our democracy," said the ABA's president, Michael Greco. "If left unchecked, the president's practice does grave harm to the separation of powers doctrine, and the system of checks and balances that have sustained our democracy for more than two centuries."
So that's starting a war in Iraq under false pretenses, disengaging in Middle East with tragic results, making the United States an international pariah with unilateralism, an unprovoked invasion and by embracing torture, bankrupting our nation for generations, doing nothing to stop the progression of global warming, and threatening the very survival of our democracy.

You gotta admit, that's an impressive amount of damage, certainly more than I ever thought George Bush was capable of doing -- especially considering the amount of time he spends on vacation.

Seriously, if there's one thing -- ONE! -- that this administration has done right; one situation that has been improved, or even simply not made worse, for this country or the world through the Bush administration's handling of it; one success this administration can point to, I'd love to know what it is.

Has there ever been another failure this perfect and complete?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Peace through war

Apparently the Bush administration doesn't understand why an immediate cessation of killing is desirable.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, embarking on a diplomatic mission to the troubled Middle East, said she would work for "stability and lasting peace" instead of the immediate cease-fire demanded by much of the rest of the world.
A cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon would be a "false promise" if the root causes of the conflict are not addressed, the top U.S. diplomat said.

"An immediate cease-fire without political conditions does not make sense," she told reporters.
Yeah, so keep right on shooting and bombing and killing. It's good for the peace process.

As part of its fractured plan for peace in the region, the administration is expediting a shipment of bombs to Israel.

The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, American officials said Friday.

The decision to quickly ship the weapons to Israel was made with relatively little debate within the Bush administration, the officials said. Its disclosure threatens to anger Arab governments and others because of the appearance that the United States is actively aiding the Israeli bombing campaign in a way that could be compared to Iran’s efforts to arm and resupply Hezbollah.

The munitions that the United States is sending to Israel are part of a multimillion-dollar arms sale package approved last year that Israel is able to draw on as needed, the officials said. But Israel’s request for expedited delivery of the satellite and laser-guided bombs was described as unusual by some military officers, and as an indication that Israel still had a long list of targets in Lebanon to strike.
Another soild decision by the Bush administration. I don't see any way this plus the administration's lethargic mosey toward peace (also called "walking" in Texas) could foster anti-American sentiment in the region.

I guess the administration's timetable for a cease-fire is based on when we run out of bombs.

By the way, add two more days to Bush's record number of vacation days. While the world spirals into chaos, he's weekending at his "ranch" in Texas.

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Five years later

Another example of why the Constitution is so good, and the Bush administration so bad.

An Algerian man believed to be the last domestic detainee still in custody from a national dragnet after Sept. 11 — and who was cleared of links to terrorism in November 2001 — was set free this week, his lawyer said Friday.

Benemar Benatta, 32, went to Ontario, Canada, where he is seeking political asylum, after being released from a Buffalo immigration lockup Thursday, attorney Catherine Amirfar said.

"After five years, he had become all but hopeless," she said. "Now he's cautiously optimistic."

Benatta was among 1,200 mostly Arab and Muslim men detained nationwide as potential suspects or witnesses in the investigation following the terrorist attacks. The government has refused to discuss their fate, but human rights groups have said they believed the former Algerian air force lieutenant was the only one still in custody.

Heather Tasker, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, refused to discuss Benatta's release, which was first reported by The Washington Post.
So I guess that leaves only the untold number of detainees held at Gitmo and CIA black sites around the world without charges.

Of course, the government isn't talking about them, either.

Priorities revealed

As you know, understanding things never has been a Bush administration priority.

From 2002 until this year, NASA’s mission statement, prominently featured in its budget and planning documents, read: “To understand and protect our home planet; to explore the universe and search for life; to inspire the next generation of explorers ... as only NASA can.”

In early February, the statement was quietly altered, with the phrase “to understand and protect our home planet” deleted. In this year’s budget and planning documents, the agency’s mission is “to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.”

David E. Steitz, a spokesman for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, said the aim was to square the statement with President Bush’s goal of pursuing human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars.

But the change comes as an unwelcome surprise to many NASA scientists, who say the “understand and protect” phrase was not merely window dressing but actively influenced the shaping and execution of research priorities. Without it, these scientists say, there will be far less incentive to pursue projects to improve understanding of terrestrial problems like climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.
The administration's approach to greenhouse warming has been to pursue the opposite of understanding, and since seizing the White House has worked to muddy the water to the point that average Americans have little to no understanding of the issue or its importance.

Just another mess for the next person to clean up, along with Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, North Korea, Guantanamo Bay, the budget deficit, the trade deficit, healthcare, education, and flat earnings growth for everyone but the wealthy. And the dozens of other failures that I didn't mention.

And, by the way, like halving the deficit, "human spaceflight to the Moon and Mars" during this idiot's illegitimate "watch" isn't going to happen.

912 days and counting...

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The safest place on earth

According to NRA logic, that would be Iraq, right Mr. LaPierre?

Seif has never fired a gun. He wouldn't know how one worked, he says. But that did not stop him buying both a pistol and an AK-47 assault rifle last month.

In Baghdad, it can seem everyone these days is armed, a mark of violence that is ever more anarchic and prompting efforts by the government, U.S. military, and even militia leaders, to curb rogue gunmen, especially among majority Shi'ites, who threaten what the prime minister has called the "last chance" for peace.

Terrified by the thought of being caught up in the sort of street violence seen in several Baghdad neighborhoods in the past week, when dozens of people have been gunned down by squads of militants, Seif typifies Baghdad's spreading gun culture.

"I honestly don't know if I am ever going to use my guns," he said, showing how he keeps them at the ready in his car. "But it certainly makes me feel better these days.

"Why shouldn't I buy a weapon. Everyone else has one," said the 26-year-old, who works for a foreign company.

"It's very easy to get them," he added -- one of his friends keeps rocket-propelled grenades in his car for longer journeys.
Me, I pack a cooler for longer journeys. That's how I roll.

But nobody will mess with Seif now, boy. He's got himself some guns, and therefore has no reason to worry about his safety for another minute, if you believe the NRA.

Actually, this Iraqi man has good reason to be scared. And oftentimes it's scared people who buy guns. But unlike in Iraq, where chaos is rampant and unspeakable acts of violence are committed daily, many gun buyers in this country are scared simply of people who look different, that someone's going to try to take their stuff, or anything they don't understand. And why confront these fears when it's so much easier to buy a holster full of courage?


While we're in up to our necks and without a plan in a country that we know had no WMDs and posed no serious threat to the United States,

Israel has hit hundreds of targets in Lebanon as part of its effort to force the release of two soldiers captured by Hezbollah guerrillas, a top Israeli general said Thursday.

Israel intensified its attacks against Lebanon on Thursday, blasting Beirut's airport and two Lebanese army air bases near the Syrian border, and imposing a naval blockade. More than 50 people have died in violence following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah militants.

Warplanes punched holes in the runways of Beirut's international airport and two military air bases, attacks that could draw the Lebanese army into the conflict.
And North Korea is believed to have several nuclear weapons. And Iran is enriching uranium. And Darfur is barely distinguishable from Auschwitz.

But remember, we're winning.

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Justice, American style

Just grab up everyone you can, and worry about charges later. Or don't.

Police on Thursday detained about 350 people for questioning in the Bombay train bombings amid suspicion that Kashmiri militants could be linked to the attacks that killed at least 200 people.

The detentions came as a man claiming to represent al-Qaida said the terror network had set up a wing in Kashmir and praised Tuesday's bombings.

A senior intelligence official said the government was taking the claim seriously and authorities were trying to trace a call the man made to a Kashmiri news service.

"Our immediate effort is to locate the caller and ascertain the authenticity of the claim," the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "The government is taking it very seriously."

There have been allegations that Islamic militants fighting to wrest predominantly Muslim Kashmir from India have ties to al-Qaida, but Thursday's statement would be the first time Osama bin Laden's network claimed to have spread to Indian territory.
Five years, billions of dollars, thousands of dead Americans and tens of thousands of dead Iraqis, and al-Qaida is expanding.

It seems like Bush's War on Tactic is having the exact opposite of its intended effect.

And that, folks, is what's known as failure.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fun with real audio

Adam Carolla does the only sensible thing one can do when confronted with a phone call from an asshole. Click here to listen (by way of Crooks and Liars).

Sox squared

Curt Schilling takes the ball for the Red Sox today as they try to sweep Chicago and hand Jose Contreras his first loss of the season.

Contreras (9-0, 3.31) hasn't lost a regular-season game since August 15 against Minnesota. Schilling (10-3, 3.63) is coming off a loss to Tampa Bay.

David Ortiz is red hot as the break approaches. He hit his major-league leading 31st home run of the season Saturday in a 9-6 win. He also leads the majors in RBIs, with 86.

This is the Sox's last game before the All-Star break. They're sending three players to Pittsburgh -- Ortiz, Mark Loretta and Jonathan Papelbon. Manny Ramirez will not play because of an injured right knee.

From the What Year is This Department, Nomar Garciaparra of the Dodgers was voted onto the NL All-Star team in the final round of fan voting. Nomah is batting .360, with 11 homers and 54 RBIs for the West Coast Red Sox.

Looking beyond the break, the Sox are home for four games against Oakland, starting Thursday. They follow that with three against Kansas City and one against Texas before heading to the West Coast.



Doesn't begin to describe the nightmare and chaos that is Iraq.

Gunmen roaming a Baghdad neighborhood on Sunday killed at least 40 unarmed Iraqis as soon as they identified them as Sunnis, emergency police said.

Ala'a Makki, a spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party -- Iraq's main Sunni political movement -- said the victims included women and children.

He called the killings in Hay al Jihad "one of the biggest massacres of Sunnis."

Gunmen -- mostly "young reckless teenagers" -- started to pick up Sunni youth and execute them in public, while others went door-to-door looking for Sunni families who stayed behind, Makki said.

After warning one Iraqi woman she had 10 seconds to leave, the gunmen killed her and her children, Makki said.

A member of the Iraqi Islamic Party was dragged out of his house at 7 a.m. and executed, he said.

A witness in the Hay al Jihad neighborhood said he walked outside his home and saw the main street lined with bodies, and the attackers setting fire to homes.
Is it fair now to say that there's civil war in Iraq?

With news like this out of Iraq, expect more bragging about the allegedly surging economy from the administration.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

By the way

Did anyone notice this?

President Bush denied reports Friday that the CIA had disbanded a special unit hunting Osama bin Laden.

"It's just an incorrect story. We have a lot of assets looking for Osama bin Laden," Mr. Bush said.
Hmm, that's strange. A lot of people seem to be under the impression that the unit was indeed disbanded, including the CIA.

The CIA has closed down a secret unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, according to intelligence officials.

The terrorist tracking unit, known inside the spy agency as "Alec station," was disbanded late last year and its analysts reassigned to other offices within the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, the officials said Monday.

The decision is a milestone of sorts for the agency, which created the unit before bin Laden became a household name and bolstered its ranks after the Sept. 11 attacks, when President George W. Bush pledged to bring bin Laden to justice "dead or alive."

The realignment reflects a view that Al Qaeda is no longer as hierarchical as it once was, intelligence officials said, as well as growing concern about Al Qaeda-inspired groups that have begun carrying out attacks independent of bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

CIA officials said that tracking bin Laden and his deputies remained a high priority, and that the decision to disband the unit was not a sign that the effort had slackened. Instead, the officials said, the realignment reflects a belief that the agency can better deal with high-level threats by focusing on regional trends rather than on specific organizations or individuals.

"The efforts to find Osama bin Laden are as strong as ever," said Jennifer Dyck, a CIA spokeswoman. "This is an agile agency, and the decision was made to ensure greater reach and focus" for counterterrorism efforts.
I wonder what decision Ms. Dyck was talking about, or how she, a CIA employee, came to be under the mistaken impression that the unit was closed.

OK, since that scenario is ridiculous, I can only presume that Bush was lying.

That already makes more sense.

It wouldn't do to have opponents scoring political points, especially on the issue that is Bush's alleged strength. So Bush just denied it. It's not like members of the liberal media are going to call him on it or defend themselves, even though he basically accused them of getting the story wrong.

Remember when that kind of thing used to bother professional journalists?

Neither do I.

There's more

You know what this means, right? They're not just listening to our phone calls, monitoting our e-mail and examining our bank records. The Bush administration is doing even more to invade our privacy and monitor our activities -- we just don't know what yet.

In a sharply worded letter to President Bush in May, an important Congressional ally charged that the administration might have violated the law by failing to inform Congress of some secret intelligence programs and risked losing Republican support on national security matters.

The letter from Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, did not specify the intelligence activities that he believed had been hidden from Congress.

But Mr. Hoekstra, who was briefed on and supported the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program and the Treasury Department's tracking of international banking transactions, clearly was referring to programs that have not been publicly revealed.
Hmm. Between combing library records, sneek and peek searches and all the illegal eavesdropping we already know about, it's hard to imagine what else these criminal swine are up to. But I'm pretty sure they had someone read this, and that they know you read it, too.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Tunnel vision

The NY Daily News reported today that terrorists planned to attack the city's transportation system by attacking tunnels. Frightening story, but strange in many ways.

The first thing that stands out in the AP version of the story is that "FBI agents monitoring Internet chat rooms used by extremists learned in recent months of the plot." The story goes on to mention that "Lebanese authorities, acting on a U.S. request, have arrested one of the alleged plotters, identified as Amir Andalousli" but doesn't say when that arrest took place.

For that information, or something resembling that information, you have to go to the Daily News story, which says "The News has learned that at the request of U.S. officials, authorities in Beirut arrested one of the alleged conspirators, identified as Amir Andalousli, in recent months."

Why the months-long delay in making the announcement? This seems oddly reminiscent of John Ashcroft's announcement (from Moscow) of the Jose Padilla arrest (in Chicago). In that case, the announcement was made June 10, 2002, though the arrest was made on May 8.

For an explanation of why the Padilla case went down the way it did, consider Paul Kurgman's take:

For an example of changing the subject, consider the origins of the Jose Padilla case. There was no publicity when Mr. Padilla was arrested in May 2002. But on June 6, 2002, Coleen Rowley gave devastating Congressional testimony about failures at the F.B.I. (which reports to Mr. Ashcroft) before 9/11. Four days later, Mr. Ashcroft held a dramatic press conference and announced that Mr. Padilla was involved in a terrifying plot. Instead of featuring Ms. Rowley, news magazine covers ended up featuring the "dirty bomber" who Mr. Ashcroft said was plotting to kill thousands with deadly radiation.

Since then Mr. Padilla has been held as an "enemy combatant" with no legal rights. But Newsweek reports that "administration officials now concede that the principal claim they have been making about Padilla ever since his detention — that he was dispatched to the United States for the specific purpose of setting off a radiological 'dirty bomb' — has turned out to be wrong and most likely can never be used in court."
Another problem is that every single source used in the Daily News story is unidentified, and the paper doesn't even bother to explain why that is. It's not until the 22nd paragraph of the 24-graf story that the paper finally points out that one of the sources "spoke on condition of anonymity." Did the other sources request anonymity, or did the paper just not bother to identify them? Maybe the reporters forgot to ask their names.

In addition, it's difficult to say exactly how many sources the paper DN used for the story. Well, maybe it's just me. See if you can tell how many people the paper talked to for the story. Here's how the sources are cited, in the order they're cited:

a counterterrorism source
one source
a source
another senior counterterrorism source
a source
a counterterrorism souce
one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity

Not one person spoke to the paper on the record. Kind of strange considering the story ostensibly is about an intelligence and law-enforcement success.

The only person to speak on the record was Washington-based FBI special agent Richard Kolko, who issued a statement to AP Radio. The FBI declined to comment on the record to the Daily News.

And what did Kolko say? "At this time we have no indication of any imminent threat to the New York transportation system, or anywhere else in the U.S." Not exactly a confirmation. In fact, the statement doesn't address anything in the Daily News story at all.

But the weirdest thing of all is that the AP and DN don't even agree on the alleged target of the alleged plotter(s). The Daily News:

The FBI has uncovered what officials consider a serious plot by jihadists to bomb the Holland Tunnel in hopes of causing a torrent of water to deluge lower Manhattan, the Daily News has learned.

The plotters wanted to detonate a massive amount of explosives inside the Holland Tunnel to blast a hole that would destroy the tunnel, everyone in it, and send a devastating flood shooting through the streets of lower Manhattan.
In the next to last graf of the story, the paper refers to the plot as "the Holland Tunnel plot."

The AP, however, is not so sure about that:

The Daily News reported that the plotters wanted to blow up the Holland Tunnel, the southernmost link between Manhattan and New Jersey, in the hopes of flooding New York's financial district. The desired effect would be akin to the flooding that ravaged New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the newspaper said.

A government official with knowledge of the investigation said while the alleged plot did focus on New York's transportation system, it did not target the Holland Tunnel.
So it's not clear who's announcing the foiling of the alleged plot, or what was targeted by the plot. What we know is a person named Amir Andalousli was arrested "in recent months" for allegedly plotting, uh, something against something at some point in the sort-of recent past.

Lest the lack of clarity in this story remind you of the odd announcement of the arrests of the "Miami Seven" that the feds annouced with such fanfare last month, even while announcing that the alleged plot was more "aspirational than operational," the DN has got that covered.

Sources contrasted the chat room jihadists to the seven wanna-be Al Qaeda cell members arrested in a poor area of Miami by the FBI last week, who appeared to have no capability of carrying out plots they hatched to bomb FBI offices in several cities including New York.

"This is more advanced than the Miami Seven," said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
An anonymous source making an unsubstantiated and apparently unquestioned claim. Good enough for me.

Other nitpicky observations from the DN story:

"The plotters wanted to detonate a massive amount of explosives inside the Holland Tunnel to blast a hole that would destroy the tunnel, everyone in it, and send a devastating flood shooting through the streets of lower Manhattan." This description of the alleged plot isn't attributed to anyone, and should be.

"It is assumed by officials the thugs would try to use vehicles packed with explosives." ... It's as though they were determined to use the passive voice.

"Al Qaeda founder Bin Laden has often urged his followers to "bleed" America financially." ... Nice first reference. Note to editors: "Bin" is not this scumbag's first name. Makes you wonder who they think "Osama" is.

Considering how little we know about this alleged plot, the timing of the annoucement an unspecified number of months after the arrest, the lack of on-the-record corroborating sources, the proximity to the November elections and the Bush administration's track record regarding such annoucements, I'm going to go on record (somebody has to) as saying this "announcement" is probably bullshit.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


So is that jury ready to render a verdict yet, or what?

Global warming and the early snowmelt it brings apparently help fuel wildfires that are far bigger, more frequent, and longer lasting than those of previous years, according to a report released today in the online edition of the journal Science.

And wildfires are expected to get worse, the study says, as Earth's average global temperature rises.

The authors analyzed more than 1,100 large wildfires between 1970 and 2003, and discovered a dramatic increase in the number of wildfires, beginning in 1986.

"Wildfire frequency was nearly four times the average of 1970-1986, and total area burned by these fires was more than 6½ times its previous level," according to the report. The greatest increase in large wildfires — 60 percent — has been in the northern Rockies.

The problem is twofold, say scientists: Temperatures are rising, which makes fires more intense and harder to fight during fire season. In addition, warmer temperatures cause mountain snowpack to melt away weeks too early in most years now, leaving local drought that turns brush into the perfect dry fuel.

The scientists also found that the wildfire season is expanding. The period between the first and last wildfires has increased 78 days since 1987, according to the report.

And the fires are burning longer.
With George Bush either convinced that nothing can be done about global warming or simply unwilling to do anything about it, it's long past time for some adult leadership in this country.

So click here to register to vote.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Independence Day

It's July 4th. Do you know where your freedom is?

Today we celebrate the rejection of tyranny. Today we celebrate the declaration that
"all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

While we celebrate, our government is listening to our phone calls, reading our e-mails and tracking our bank records, and calling for charges of treason to be brought against those who inform us of its activities. It continues to send our brave troops to fight an unjustified war. It seeks tax breaks for the wealthiest of the wealthy while 45.8 million Americans have no health insurance, while 37 million Americans -- including 10 percent of U.S. families -- live in poverty, and while the city of New Orleans continues to struggle to recover from a hurricane that struck nearly a year ago.

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government."

Do you agree today with George Bush, who said "the state of our Union is strong"? Me, I agree with Susie.

Thank God we have baseball.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Did I say 9/11?

I meant 2/11.

The U.S. National Security Agency asked AT&T Inc. to help it set up a domestic call monitoring site seven months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, lawyers claimed June 23 in court papers filed in New York federal court.

The allegation is part of a court filing adding AT&T, the nation's largest telephone company, as a defendant in a breach of privacy case filed earlier this month on behalf of Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp. customers. The suit alleges that the three carriers, the NSA and President George W. Bush violated the Telecommunications Act of 1934 and the U.S. Constitution, and seeks money damages.

"The Bush Administration asserted this became necessary after 9/11,'' plaintiff's lawyer Carl Mayer said in a telephone interview. "This undermines that assertion."
Dick Nixon ain't got shit on the paranoid, law-shattering swine in the Bush administration.

Searching with their eyes closed

Perhaps we should charge The Guardian with treason, too.

The US government said it could not find the men that Guantánamo detainee Abdullah Mujahid believes could help set him free. The Guardian found them in three days.

Two years ago the US military invited Mr Mujahid, a former Afghan police commander accused of plotting against the United States, to prove his innocence before a special military tribunal. As was his right, Mr Mujahid called four witnesses from Afghanistan.

But months later the tribunal president returned with bad news: the witnesses could not be found. Mr Mujahid's hopes sank and he was returned to the wire-mesh cell where he remains today.

The Guardian searched for Mr Mujahid's witnesses and found them within three days. One was working for President Hamid Karzai. Another was teaching at a leading American college. The third was living in Kabul. The fourth, it turned out, was dead. Each witness said he had never been approached by the Americans to testify in Mr Mujahid's hearing.
I guess none of the witnesses made any phone calls or sent any e-mails or conducted any bank transactions. Otherwise, the administration's various illegal surveillance programs certainly would have found them.

Anything to avoid a trial, eh Alberto?

Free Speech Zone

That's funny, I thought the entire country was a "free speech zone."

At least one peace activist was arrested today for trying to pass out leaflets near military recruiters at the Taste of Chicago.

A 21-year-old community college student was taken into custody after she refused to comply with requests from police to move away from the recruiters.

She was passing out leaflets titled "The Bitter Taste of the Military," which discusses military spending on recruiting.

The arrest occurred after the leafletters -- working with a Quaker organization and wearing T-shirts identifying themselves as "Peace Recruiters" -- held a press conference.

They said police had asked them on Friday to restrict their activities to a designated "Free Speech Zone" at Grant Park. The activists defied the police request after the press conference ended.
In so many of these cases, charges are never brought because the people arrested haven't broken any laws. The "offenders" aren't arrested as much as they're removed and their activities stopped.

And isn't that really the point?