Thursday, January 31, 2008

‘Young democracy’ in action

Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh

Here’s a story out of Afghanistan, which is one of the make-believe successes George Bush mentioned in that dog-and-pony show called the State of the Union address. This happened exactly one week before the SOTU but, somehow, didn’t make it into the speech.
A journalist in northern Afghanistan, Sayed Parwez Kaambakhsh, has been sentenced to death for blasphemy in a summary trial in which he had no legal representation and no opportunity to defend himself.

Sentencing took place in a closed session of the lower court of Balkh region on January 22.

“It was about four pm when guards brought me into a room where there were three judges and an attorney sitting behind their desks. There was no one else,” Kambakhsh told IWPR.

“The death sentence had already been written. I wanted to say something, but they would not let me speak.

“They too said nothing. They just handed me a piece of paper on which it was written that I had been sentenced to death. Then armed guards came and took me out of the room, and brought me back to the prison."
For more, check out Crooks and Liars here. That site asks everyone to join an e-mail campaign in support of Parwez and in support of justice. I may not be amplifying that request by repeating it here, but if it reaches one more person, it’s worth doing.
You can join in an e-mail campaign to plead for Perwiz’ life and freedom with e-mails to the following. Since any appeal he files will be heard in the same “court” as his sentencing, human rights groups are asking people to include a request that his case be moved to the courts in Kabul:

Presidential Office:

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)

The Supreme Court of Afghanistan

And by contacting the The Embassy of Afghanistan at:

Main Telphone: 202.483.6410
Main Fax: 202.483.6488

So far, President Karzai has been silent about the Perwiz case but hopefully international pressure can encourage him to speak up for freedom of the press and a fair judiciary.
Please take a minute and make your voice heard.

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Letterman on the SOTU

Concise yet thorough, eh?

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008


It’s a good thing George Bush finds life inside the bubble so comfortable because it looks like he’s going to have to spend the rest of his life there, as many people want nothing to do with him.
Methodists opposed to a George W. Bush Presidential Library, museum and policy institute at Southern Methodist University here are mounting a last-ditch effort to block a nearly completed deal by throwing the decision to a regional church conference in July.
Frankly, being unwelcome in all but the smallest, most ignorant social circles is a small price for Bush to pay for his administration’s crimes. He deserves prison, but it appears shunning will have to do.

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Rudy 9iu11iani

Noun, verb, 9/11, dropping out.

UPDATE: This should be a real boost for McCain, assuming he picks up both of Rudy’s supporters.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bottom-line it for me

I will take that as a “no.”

That even Bush’s mouthpiece can’t say the country is better off now than before the National Nightmare that is the Bush presidency should tell you everything you need to know.

It’s telling too that, when in doubt, Perino ran right to 9/11. But then every conservative cockroach does that when someone turns on a light.

I hope Rudy 9iu11iani doesn’t sue her copyright infringement.



I haven’t posted about — and didn’t watch — the State of the Union address for the same reason I don’t post about — or watch — the various bobbleheads on Faux News: They are all full of shit. I gave up on watching Bush give the SOTU years ago, when it became clear that it was never going to be more than the touting of accomplishments by a “president” who hasn’t accomplished anything.

For the facts behind George Bush’s fictions, click here and here.

I’m looking forward to next year, when a grown-up presumably will be in the Oval Office again, and the SOTU might actually be useful for more than just a drinking game.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Let’s do the time warp again

The GOP parties like it’s 2003.
During the Republican presidential debate last night, Mike Huckabee suggested that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction, but that they were moved prior to the war. In making this observation, Huckabee compared Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to an Easter egg hunt.
Lest you think this delusion is unique to the Huckster, remember that Mittens still thinks it’s possible that the WMD were moved, too.

Of course, none of these weak-ass explanations guesses theories explains why Saddam didn’t use his WMD to defend Baghdad against an invading army. I guess he preferred to hide his weapons in another country and be toppled and executed, just to make the United States look foolish when his weapons couldn’t be found.

By the way, Huckster, the party line is that the WMD were moved to Syria, not Jordan. Pay attention man! At least Mittens got the line right, and he thinks it’s OK to tie a dog to the roof of his car before driving 12 hours from Boston to Ontario, Canada.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Good news

We have less than a year to go until the Bush crime organization is sent into permanent exile.

Unless you count that pesky leap day.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Forked tongue

Nothing to see here.
The White House possesses no archived e-mail messages for many of its component offices, including the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Vice President, for hundreds of days between 2003 and 2005, according to the summary of an internal White House study that was disclosed yesterday by a congressional Democrat.

The 2005 study -- whose credibility the White House attacked this week -- identified 473 separate days in which no electronic messages were stored for one or more White House offices, said House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.).
Perhaps White House mouthpiece Tony Fratto meant that no e-mails were sent or received on those 473 days when he said “We have absolutely no reason to believe that any emails are missing; there's no evidence of that.

“We have no evidence and we have no way of showing that any email at all are missing.”

Well, other than the White House’s inability to produce e-mails from 473 days during the period 2003-2005, eh Tony?

I can see why reporters keep showing up for White House press briefings: There’s so much useful, reliable informaiton shared there. Why, if reporters were to miss that dog show, they’d be absolutely lost, their minds swimming with misinformation.

All I know is there’s nothing odd about the White House attacking the credibility of its own internal study, which it refuses to make public. Nothing at all. Got it?

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Republican Taliban

Another GOP greedhead.
A former Republican congressman from Michigan was indicted Wednesday on federal charges of money laundering and obstruction of justice. The charges involve his work as a lobbyist for an Islamic charity accused of illegally funneling about $130,000 to an Afghan warlord labeled a terrorist by the United States government.

The former congressman, Mark D. Siljander, who was defeated for re-election in 1986 after three terms in the House, was accused by a federal grand jury in Kansas City of accepting $50,000 in stolen government aid money as his lobbying fee from the now-defunct charity group, the Islamic American Relief Agency.
In his defense, Siljander probably isn’t a terrorist sympathizer (but for all I know, he could be). He probably is just so blind with greed that he will do anything for the right price—even doing business with and enriching our nation’s enemies.


And why not? It’s not like he’s the only Republican in bed with questionable partners. George Bush Sr. was an adviser to the Carlyle Group while members of the bin Laden family had millions invested in the company. As chairman of Halliburton in the late 1990s, Dick Cheney did business in Iran in violation of U.S. law. And George Jr. received an investment of $50,000 in Arbusto, his struggling oil company, from James Bath, his friend from the Texas Air National Guard, at the time when Bath just happened to be the U.S. business representative of Salem bin Laden, brother of Osama bin Laden.

Not allegedly.

So Siljander is chump change, really.

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So much for the moral high ground

Click on the image to enlarge.

Kinda makes you nostalgic for the days when the nation’s biggest scandal was over a blowjob, huh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Worst cover story ever

It’s just the White House doing its part to be “better conservers.”
The White House has acknowledged recycling its backup computer tapes of e-mail before October 2003, raising the possibility that many electronic messages — including those pertaining to the CIA leak case — have been taped over and are gone forever.
Now we’re supposed to believe the White House recycles? That what was on those destroyed recycled tapes probably could have put a lot of key administration officials in prison for a long, long time is surely just a coincidence.

So now the administration has to deal with the reality of admitting that it violated the Presidential Records Act by allowing those tapes to be destroyed. But the blame for that can be assigned (I chose that word specifically because I believe it best reflects how the Bush administration handles these sort of things) to some low-level administrator or technical assistant — hey, perhaps even to an outside IT contractor hired to preserve those records! Yeah!

You don’t think George Bush is going to take the blame for illegal activity taking place in what is alleged to be his White House, do you? He's 61 years old and has made it this far through life without taking responsibility for anything. Why whould he start now?

Violation of the Presidential Records Act is surely nothing compared with the charges George, Dick, Karl, Alberto, Harriet and God knows who else might face if those e-mails were to become public. Which is exactly why they won’t. The Bush administration is finally winding down and the track-covering has already begun. Executive order 13233 allows ex-presidents or their designees to seal that president’s records for any reason, for as long as they want. The CIA destroyed tapes that were said to depict its agents torturing detainees. This e-mail tape “recycling” program is just more of the same, another attempt by Bush to keep his records secret, just like he tried to do with his gubernatorial records in Texas. And you can expect to see it over and over, in nearly every federal agency this administration has fouled with its corrupt, incompetent cronies, until Januaury 20, 2009, when, mercifully, the door to the White House will close behind George Bush for the last time.

As a friend of mine likes to say, when you have nothing to hide, you hide nothing.

In the end, it’s just another interesting parallel between the failed administrations of George Bush and Richard Nixon. That tapes might lead to the downfall of both administrations makes perfect, poetic sense.

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Big Brother

Does it measure employees’ physical revulsion to its use?
Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.

The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.


Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states.

The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.


The US Patent Office confirmed last night that the application was published last month, 18 months after being filed. Patent lawyers said that it could be granted within a year.
And I don’t see any potential for the for-profit healthcare industry in this country to exploit stress, heart rate and blood pressure data on worker bees. Nope, no potential for that information to be misused at all.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

The candidates on healthcare

An interesting NPR piece on the coverage the candidates have for themselves and that they offer their campaign staffers.

Indeed, almost all the Democratic candidates offer health insurance to their campaign workers. The lone holdout, ironically, is Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who advocates the most generous tax-funded health plan of any candidate.


Republicans, on the other hand, are a more mixed lot. McCain and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani offer health insurance to their campaign staff; Reps. Ron Paul and Duncan Hunter don't, largely because staffers are volunteers.


And when asked how the candidates get health insurance for themselves, the campaigns of Giuliani, former Sen. Fred Thompson (TN), former Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR) and former Gov. Mitt Romney (MA) wouldn't divulge details. It's worth noting that, as a resident of Massachusetts, Romney is required by law — a law which he helped pass — to at least have health coverage.

It's a shame those candidates won't talk about their own coverage, says health policy analyst Marilyn Moon. Because knowing what kind of coverage they have would help illustrate how the health-reform plans they're proposing for everyone else — plans that rely more on having individuals buy their own insurance — might or might not work.

"One of the difficulties in terms of assessing these health-care plans is actually illustrated by the situations of some of these candidates. Not all of them might qualify for good coverage under the plans that they have offered," Moon says.

That's because Giuliani and Thompson are, like McCain, cancer survivors. And in the individual health-insurance market, says Moon, at least under current rules, people who have had cancer or another serious disease often can't buy health insurance at any price.
Maybe this explains why Rudy 9iu11iani and Frederick of Hollywood are running in the first place.


Bush, moved by Holocaust Memorial visit, bombs Auschwitz

Another entry in my ongoing public audition for The Onion.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Just days after being moved to tears by a tour of Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial, President Bush ordered the bombing of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest and most notorious Nazi concentration camp during World War II.

During his visit to Yad Vashem, Bush asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice why the United States didn’t bomb the camp during the war, and she reportedly replied, “Because the prisoners we would have been trying to save were there.”

“With the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] pulling the plug on our original plans, I figured, why not?” Bush said in explaining his order to bomb the site, in southern Poland. “Did I mention that the NIE does not reflect my own views?”

The former concentration camp was operating as a museum and memorial to the millions of victims who died there. It was unclear how many staff and visitors were there at the time of the bombing.

“Today we have righted one of history’s great wrongs: Not bombing something when the opportunity presented itself,” Bush said.

“Never again,” Bush added. “Never again.”

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fear factor

There it is.

Ask corporate lobbyists which presidential contender is most feared by their clients and the answer is almost always the same -- Democrat John Edwards.

The former North Carolina senator's chosen profession alone raises the hackles of business people. Before entering politics, he made a fortune as a trial lawyer.

But beyond his profession, Edwards' tone and language on the campaign trail have increased business antipathy toward him. His stump speeches are peppered with attacks on "corporate greed" and warnings of "the destruction of the middle class."

He accuses lobbyists of "corrupting the government" and says Americans lack universal health care because of "drug companies, insurance companies and their lobbyists."

Despite not winning the two state nominating contests completed so far, with 48 to go, Edwards insists he is in the race to stay. An Edwards campaign spokesman said on Thursday that inside-the-Beltway operatives who fight to defend the powerful and the privileged should be afraid.

"The lobbyists and special interests who abuse the system in Washington have good reason to fear John Edwards.

"Once he is president, the interests of middle class families will never again take a back seat to corporate greed in Washington," said campaign spokesman Eric Schultz.

Open attacks on the business elite are seldom heard from mainstream White House candidates in America, despite skyrocketing CEO pay, rising income inequality, and a torrent of scandals in corporate boardrooms and on Wall Street.
Keep that in mind next time the evening news devotes only four seconds to coverage of the Edwards campaign, or the next time you hear about Edwards' haircut instead of his position on the issues.

Since the corporate media won't inform you, click here and do it yourself.


Friday, January 11, 2008

In a nutshell

This is how pathetic the GOP field of presidential candidates is: On the Strait of Hormuz “incident,” Ron Paul makes the most sense.
“Guess what, today the Navy commander of the fifth fleet was on ABC and announced that, “you know, that voice might not have come from those vessels.” So what does that mean? Was there a rush to judgment on this [Strait of Hormuz incident], ready to go to war? … And we don’t need another war, and this incident should not be thrown out of proportion to the point where we’re getting ready to attack Iran over this.”
Yes, that Ron Paul.

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Stupid is

as stupid does.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stupidity + Corruption =

The helicopter was hovering over a Baghdad checkpoint into the Green Zone, one typically crowded with cars, Iraqi civilians and United States military personnel.

Suddenly, on that May day in 2005, the copter dropped CS gas, a riot-control substance the American military in Iraq can use only under the strictest conditions and with the approval of top military commanders. An armored vehicle on the ground also released the gas, temporarily blinding drivers, passers-by and at least 10 American soldiers operating the checkpoint.

“This was decidedly uncool and very, very dangerous,” Capt. Kincy Clark of the Army, the senior officer at the scene, wrote later that day. “It’s not a good thing to cause soldiers who are standing guard against car bombs, snipers and suicide bombers to cover their faces, choke, cough and otherwise degrade our awareness.”

Both the helicopter and the vehicle involved in the incident at the Assassins’ Gate checkpoint were not from the United States military, but were part of a convoy operated by Blackwater Worldwide, the private security contractor that is under scrutiny for its role in a series of violent episodes in Iraq, including a September shooting in downtown Baghdad that left 17 Iraqis dead.

“You run into this issue time and again with Blackwater, where the rules that apply to the U.S. military don’t seem to apply to Blackwater,” said Scott L. Silliman, the executive director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at the Duke University School of Law.

Officers and noncommissioned officers from the Third Infantry Division who were involved in the episode said there were no signs of violence at the checkpoint. Instead, they said, the Blackwater convoy appeared to be stuck in traffic and may have been trying to use the riot-control agent as a way to clear a path.

Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for Blackwater, said the CS gas had been released by mistake.

“Blackwater teams in the air and on the ground were preparing a secure route near a checkpoint to provide passage for a motorcade,” Ms. Tyrrell said in an e-mail message. “It seems a CS gas canister was mistaken for a smoke canister and released near an intersection and checkpoint.”

She said that the episode was reported to the United States Embassy in Baghdad, and that the embassy’s chief security officer and the Department of Defense conducted a full investigation. The troops exposed to the gas also said they reported it to their superiors. But military officials in Washington and Baghdad said they could not confirm that an investigation had been conducted. Officials at the State Department, which contracted with Blackwater to provide diplomatic security, also could not confirm that an investigation had taken place.

In a written statement, the State Department said the international chemical weapons convention “allows for the use of riot control agents, such as CS, where they are not used as a method of warfare. The use of a riot control agent near a checkpoint at an intersection in the circumstances described is not considered to be a method of warfare.”

Yet experts said that the legal status was not so clear cut. “I have never seen anything that would make it permissible to use tear gas to get traffic out of the way,” Mr. Schmitt said. “In my view, it’s an improper use of a riot control agent.”

“It just seemed incredibly stupid,” he wrote. “The only thing we could figure out was for some reason, one of them figured that CS would somehow clear traffic. Why someone would think a substance that makes your eyes water, nose burn and face hurt would make a driver do anything other than stop is beyond me.
So idiots drop tear gas on Iraqi civilians and American soldiers at a peaceful checkpoint in order to clear traffic. Their employer, Blackwater, claims the Dept. of Defense investigated the incident, but the State Dept. can’t confirm whether that’s true. Meanwhile, the State Dept. defends the action because dropping tear gas on civilians and American soldiers at a peaceful checkpoint “is not considered to be a method of warfare.” The fact that it was incredibly stupid and dangerous doesn’t appear to be an issue for State, which, after all, contracted with Blackwater to provide security.

And if you’re not going to make a big deal over 17 murders (can you say “immunity”?), why sweat this? What’s a little CS gas between business associates?

UPDATE: Speaking of those 17 murders:

Shortly after Blackwater guards shot and killed 17 Iraqi civilians on Sept. 16, the firm “repaired and repainted its trucks immediately,” essentially “destroy[ing] evidence that Justice Department investigators hoped to examine.” Blackwater responded that any repairs “would have been done at the government’s direction.” The State Department refused to comment.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

More expensive and less effective

Attention Hillary and Barack: The time for compromise, half measures and “big table fantasies” on this urgent issue is over.
France is tops, and the United States dead last, in providing timely and effective healthcare to its citizens, according to a survey Tuesday of preventable deaths in 19 industrialized countries.

The study by the Commonwealth Fund and published in the January/February issue of the journal Health Affairs measured developed countries' effectiveness at providing timely and effective healthcare.

The study, entitled "Measuring the Health of Nations: Updating an Earlier Analysis," was written by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It looked at death rates in subjects younger than 75 that could have been prevented by timely and effective medical care.

The researchers found that while most countries surveyed saw preventable deaths decline by an average of 16 percent, the United States saw only a four percent dip.


The 19 countries, in order of best to worst, were: France, Japan, Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Had the United States performed as well as any of the top three industrialized countries, there would have been 101,000 fewer deaths per year, the researchers said.
John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich both support a fundamental tranformation of the U.S. healthcare system. No wonder the corporate media pretends they don’t exist.

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