Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Doan done

Don’t let the door hit your Hatch Act-violating ass on the way out, you corrupt, incompetent hack.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New CENTCOM commander

After the biggest speedbump between the administration and the neocon wet dream of a third concurrent foreign war was forced out, guess who George nominated to replace him? As you might have guessed, it’s a yes man.
Army Gen. David Petraeus, the four-star general who led troops in Iraq for the past year, will be nominated by President Bush to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.

Gates said he expected Petraeus to make the shift in late summer or early fall. The Pentagon chief also announced that Bush will nominate Army Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno to replace Petraeus in Baghdad.

Central Command oversees the wars in Iraq and in Afghanistan.
I guess that with Congress’ reluctance to criticize Petraeus, BushCo feels it needs Petraeus’ credibility (as nobody within the administration has any left) to ease its third march to war.

I can see it now: Soon we will start hearing reports of all kinds of provocative activity by Iran, intelligence reports of WMD development (or the knowledge of how to begin to start to prepare to learn how to develop WMD-related programs), and, just as gas nears $4.50 a gallon and BushCo is in need of a huge distraction, probably around July 4, BOOM! Shock and Awe Part Deux! Neocons watch the explosions and carnage on Faux News with their pants around their ankles, and John McCain poses for adoring black-and-white photos in the White House situation room, jacket off, sleeves rolled up, studying maps and shit with Petraeus, Bush, Cheney and The Gang, looking all competent and involved and presidential, and suddenly the Democrat’s lead in the polls disappears as the rudderless campaign of an uninspiring, out-of-touch septuagenarian is transformed by the steely, squinty glare of a war hero returning to rescue us from the scary brown people who were beginning to start to prepare to learn how to develop WMD-related programs.

We take control of Iranian oil fields and promptly remove their output from the world's oil supply, Halliburton gets a shitload of lucrative no-bid defense contracts and Richard Perle gets his first non-Viagra-related boner since 2003. McCain jumps to the front of the polls and industries throughout the country breathe a sigh of relief as the specter of increased oversight and safety inspections slips away, and Bush and Cheney retire to their multimillion-dollar estates free of the fear of DOJ inquiries into the past eight years. And all it cost was the lives of a couple of hundred thousand Iranian civilians that nobody in D.C. gives a shit about anyway and a few thousand unfortunate U.S. troops. But, hey, as Republicans keep reminding us, they volunteered for duty, so fuck ’em, right?

Of course, the American people lose too. That is, the ones who aren’t rich. Because a vote for McCain, whether inspired by fear or not, is a vote to turn the eight-year nightmare that was the Bush administration into a 12-year nightmare. And, believe me, fear is the only tool left in the bag of a party whose policies for so long have benefitted the few at the expense of the many.

UPDATE: Well, you didn’t think he was suddenly going to start second-guessing BushCo, did you?

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Douchebag of the Week

Colorado State Rep. Douglas Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, the second Republican representative from Colorado Springs to distinguish himself in this space. Residents must be thrilled about how they are being represented.
Disparaging remarks aimed at migrant workers got resident House rabble-rouser Douglas Bruce banned from speaking on a temporary-worker bill today.

"We don't need 5,000 more illiterate peasants in the state of Colorado," Bruce, R-Colorado Springs, told the chamber to an audible gasp.


Monday, April 21, 2008

A prediction

Gas will hit $4 per gallon on May 22. Plan accordingly.

UPDATE: And gas will hit it’s lowest price on November 3. People who think gas prices are driven exclusively by magical “market forces” outside of the control of any individual or group, and not manipulated for political and, ultimately, financial gain, are kidding themselves. I guess they think it’s a coincidence that prices peak just ahead of holidays and drop right before elections.

Maybe the solution to the problem of rising fuel prices is to hold elections every month, so the oil industry can be constantly propping up weak-ass, unelectable Republican candidates.

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Yet another unannounced visit

Well, look who snuck into Iraq like a thief in the night.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made an unannounced visit here Sunday to promote what she called the "coalescing center" of Iraqi politics around the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The visit followed a night of intense fighting in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad after radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Saturday threatened to wage a full-scale war against the U.S.-backed Iraqi government.

The fighting continued during Rice's visit. A ceremony at which she unveiled a plaque commemorating civilian deaths in the Green Zone was briefly delayed by a "duck and cover" alert, one of several during her six-hour visit to the fortified compound housing the U.S. Embassy and much of the Iraqi government.
It can’t be easy delivering an upbeat message of progress in Iraq as bombs rain down on the green zone. But it’s probably harder for those in Iraq to hear it.

If Rice believes her own sunny rhetoric, why was her visit kept secret? Because more than five years after the invasion, Iraq is still rife with violence, chaos and anarchy?

Don’t tell me how great things are there. Show me by having the guts to announce a visit in advance.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

The jersey under the stadium

Click here to bid on the David Ortiz jersey that was hidden in the concrete under the Stinkins' new stadium. Proceeds benefit the Jimmy Fund, so dig deep and bid often.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Food Network flap

Perhaps John McCain imagines that his wife looks cooks like Giada De Laurentiis.


It’s the leadership, stupid

Most of the money concentrated in the hands of the few is not a good thing. Is the richest 1 percent expected to support the entire economy?
The consumer spending slump and tightening credit markets are unleashing a widening wave of bankruptcies in American retailing, prompting thousands of store closings that are expected to remake suburban malls and downtown shopping districts across the country.

Since last fall, eight mostly midsize chains — as diverse as the furniture store Levitz and the electronics seller Sharper Image — have filed for bankruptcy protection as they staggered under mounting debt and declining sales.

But the troubles are quickly spreading to bigger national companies, like Linens ‘n Things, the bedding and furniture retailer with 500 stores in 47 states. It may file for bankruptcy as early as this week, according to people briefed on the matter.

Even retailers that can avoid bankruptcy are shutting down stores to preserve cash through what could be a long economic downturn. Over the next year, Foot Locker said it would close 140 stores, Ann Taylor will start to shutter 117, and the jeweler Zales will close 100.

The surging cost of necessities has led to a national belt-tightening among consumers. Figures released on Monday showed that spending on food and gasoline is crowding out other purchases, leaving people with less to spend on furniture, clothing and electronics. Consequently, chains specializing in those goods are proving vulnerable.
I wonder if this has anything to do with that.
Using Census Bureau data, the study by EPI and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), another Washington think tank, examined the situation in individual states. In 37 states, from the late 1980s to the middle of the current decade, the richest fifth of families got an average $36,300 boost in their annual income while the poorest fifth got just $1,600. In terms of purchasing power, the annual income of the poorest families increased only $93 by the end of the period (To see the study, visit

Another study, by the Congressional Budget Office, using tax data, calculates that the share of national after-tax income going to the top 1 percent of households more than doubled, from 7.5 percent in 1979 to 15.6 percent in 2005. In 2005 alone, the $180,000 average income gain for these rich households was more than three times the average middle-income household's total income.

An academic look at increasing income polarization, written by economists Emmanuel Saez of the University of California, Berkeley, and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics, found that average incomes of the highest-earning 1 percent grew 11 percent year-over-year between 2002 and 2006. The bottom 99 percent saw their incomes grow on average just 0.9 percent annually.
And I wonder if this has anything to do with that.
The richest 1 percent of Americans received about $491 billion in tax breaks between 2001 and 2008. That's nearly the same amount as U.S. debt held by China -- $493 billion -- in the form of Treasury securities.

Thanks to tax cuts, it's now common for the nation's richest bosses to pay taxes at a lower rate than workers. The 400 richest taxpayers paid only 18 percent of their income in federal individual income taxes in 2005 --- down from 30 percent in 1995.

"The drop in effective tax rates for the top 400 filers," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports, "worked out to a tax reduction of $25 million per filer in 2005." It would take 673 average workers earning $37,149 a year to reach $25 million today.
Guess which presidential candidate wants to continue making the rich richer with Bush-style tax cuts and has no intention of ever addressing the federal deficit or national debt? Here’s a hint: His name rhymes with “John McCain.”
Mr. McCain, who made no mention of his previous pledge to balance the budget by the end of his first term, outlined a long list of tax cuts he favored in the speech, which was delivered on the deadline for filing taxes. He called once again for making the Bush tax cuts, which he voted against, permanent, and for cutting corporate taxes, phasing out the alternative minimum tax and doubling the value of exemptions for each dependent to $7,000 from $3,500. He also proposed giving people the option of using a simpler, shorter tax form.
He wants to make permanent tax cuts that he voted against. How low will he stoop in his kowtow to conservatives? He just wants to be president so, so badly. But, as a friend of mine once pointed out, two kinds of people run for office: those who want to be something, and those who want to do something. Beware the former.

And who do you think will benefit the most from McCain’s tax proposal? According to a Center for American Progress report, “the McCain plan would predominantly benefit the most fortunate taxpayers, offering two new massive tax cuts for corporations and delivering 58 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers. The Bush tax cuts provide 31 percent of their benefits to the top 1 percent of taxpayers.” That would be the same 1 percent that will support the entire economy while the rest of us fight over the crumbs that trickle down from their table.

Oh, by the way: Why does McCain hate the troops? OK, maybe it isn’t that he hates the troops. Maybe he just realizes that with his tax plan in place, there won’t be any money for veterans education benefits. That must be the kind of discretionary spending he wants to freeze.

So, if you think things are great now, if you support tax breaks for the people who need them least, if you like seeing troops used as props for political stagecraft while simultaneously being fucked over by the people posing with them, if you like an open-ended commitment in Iraq with no end in sight, if you like leadership that talks about “winning” in Iraq without defining what the fuck that means, if you like an ignorant, ham-handed approach to foreign policy and the economy, and if you like seeing issues like the environment, healthcare, homelessness, poverty, education, the trade imbalance and the deficit all but ignored, then by all means vote for John “Third Term” McCain.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in the other America,
Jenna Bush will wear a "simple and elegant" wedding gown designed by Oscar de la Renta at her May 10 wedding: organza with embroidery, matte beading and a small train -- and yet "still casual." But don't expect any pictures beforehand: Fiance and "major traditionalist" Henry Hager doesn't want to see the dress until she walks down the aisle.

In an interview in the upcoming issue of Vogue we obtained, Jenna reveals that 200 friends and family will attend the informal ceremony at the family's Crawford ranch. The festivities kick off outside at 7:30 p.m. (to beat the heat), followed by dinner and dancing underneath a tent. "I was raised in Texas and it just felt right," she said. "It means a lot to Henry and me to be outdoors. We wanted something organic and low key." She said she considered a White House wedding but decided against it: "That's not really my personality. There's a glamour to it, I know, but Henry and I are far less glamorous than the White House."
Besides, she probably wants her father to attend the wedding, and he’s not usually at the White House on weekends.

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Healthcare costs

More than ever. Here’s the free market’s latest innovation to keep costs down.
Health insurance companies are rapidly adopting a new pricing system for very expensive drugs, asking patients to pay hundreds and even thousands of dollars for prescriptions for medications that may save their lives or slow the progress of serious diseases.

With the new pricing system, insurers abandoned the traditional arrangement that has patients pay a fixed amount, like $10, $20 or $30 for a prescription, no matter what the drug’s actual cost. Instead, they are charging patients a percentage of the cost of certain high-priced drugs, usually 20 to 33 percent, which can amount to thousands of dollars a month.

The system means that the burden of expensive health care can now affect insured people, too.
Guess which presidential candidate is still talking about bullshit like health savings accounts and tax breaks to “increase incentives for insurance coverage” — in short, keeping healthcare in the free market that’s doing such a great job of controlling costs. Here’s a clue: His name rhymes with “John McCain.”


Peak oil

This seems kind of important.
Russian oil production has peaked and may never return to current levels, one of the country’s top energy executives has warned, fuelling concerns that the world’s biggest oil producers cannot keep up with rampant Asian demand.

The warning helped on Tuesday to push crude oil prices to a fresh all-time high above $112 a barrel, threatening to stoke inflation in many countries.
It’s a finite resource, people, and getting finiter all the time.


Monday, April 14, 2008

McCain is the new Dole

I’ve been saying this for a while.


Concrete curse

I guess Gino Castignoli has injected himself into Sox-Stinkins folklore and made himself the answer to what someday will be a very difficult trivia question. He had fun with the rivalry and he didn’t get create a dangerous situation.
A construction worker's bid to curse the New York Yankees by planting a Boston Red Sox jersey in their new stadium was foiled when the home team removed the offending shirt from its burial spot.

After locating the shirt in a service corridor behind what will be a restaurant in the new Yankee Stadium, construction workers jackhammered through the concrete Sunday and pulled it out.
I doubt this would’ve had much of an impact on the Stinkins’ fortunes. Besides, I have a feeling Steinbrenner’s kids will do more to hurt that organization than an old jersey.

And anyway, I heard Castignoli planted 34 David Ortiz jerseys in the stadium concrete. Or did he? Better get out those jackhammers.

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A little justice

It’s not the economy keeping this shitheel out of work. It’s the fact that he’s a hack whose name is practically a synonym for dishonest.
Alberto R. Gonzales, like many others recently unemployed, has discovered how difficult it can be to find a new job. Mr. Gonzales, the former attorney general, who was forced to resign last year, has been unable to interest law firms in adding his name to their roster, Washington lawyers and his associates said in recent interviews.

He has, through friends, put out inquiries, they said, and has not found any takers. What makes Mr. Gonzales’s case extraordinary is that former attorneys general, the government’s chief lawyer, are typically highly sought.
He’s lucky this is all he has to deal with. If we had a perfect government, he would be preparing for his perjury trial right now.


Friday, April 11, 2008

The party of fiscal responsibility

With the emphasis on “party,” not “fiscal responsibility.”
Federal employees charged millions of dollars for Internet dating, tailor-made suits, lingerie, lavish dinners and other questionable expenses to their government credit cards over a 15-month period, congressional auditors say.

A report by the Government Accountability Office, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, examined spending controls across the federal government following reports of credit-card abuse at departments including Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs.

The review of card spending at more than a dozen departments from 2005 to 2006 found that nearly 41 percent of roughly $14 billion in credit-card purchases, whether legitimate or questionable, did not follow procedure — either because they were not properly authorized or they had not been signed for by an independent third party as called for in federal rules to deter fraud.

For purchases over $2,500, nearly half — or 48 percent — were unauthorized or improperly received.

Out of a sample of purchases totaling $2.7 million, the government could not account for hundreds of laptop computers, iPods and digital cameras worth more than $1.8 million. In one case, the U.S. Army could not say what happened to computer items making up 16 server configurations, each of which cost nearly $100,000.

Agencies often could not provide the required paperwork to justify questionable purchases. Investigators also found that federal employees sometimes double-billed or improperly expensed lavish meals and Internet dating for many months without question from supervisors; the charges were often noticed only after auditors or whistle-blowers raised questions.


In response, both OMB and GSA agreed with portions of the report. But GSA administrator Lurita Doan noted the vast majority of federal employees use their cards properly and that many oversight measures already are in place.
You remember Lurita Doan, right? She’s the incompetent, partisan crony Bush appointee who attended a videoconference meeting with J. Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, and asked, “How can we help our candidates?” in violation of the Hatch Act. She also tried to deliver a no-bid contract worth $20,000 to a personal friend. Watch her pathetic attempts to defend her conduct here.

Leadership sets the tone, and the tone the Bush administration has set is “The rules don’t apply to us.” This, friends, is a culture of corruption in action.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Infotainer

It’s interesting that ABC News listed this story under “Entertainment.” Was Walter Cronkite considered an entertainer?
The [name of source deleted because its edit page is a steaming pile of shit], citing unnamed CBS News executives and people close to Katie Couric, said on Wednesday she could leave her job as anchor of the low-rated "CBS Evening News" well before her contract expires in 2011.

CBS and Couric both issued statements downplaying the story while stopping short of an outright denial.

The report comes as CBS continues to lag in third place in the network news ratings, far behind NBC and ABC, 19 months after Couric's much ballyhooed debut as the first woman solo anchor of a major U.S. evening newscast -- for a salary reportedly worth $15 million a year.
Hard to believe that people didn’t take her more seriously as a journalist, huh? When you sell your credibility, it’s hard to get it back.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Next stop: $4 per gallon.
Oil surged to a record high over $112 a barrel on Wednesday after a government report showed a sharp drop in U.S. inventories ahead of the summer driving season.

U.S. crude settled up $2.37 at $110.87 a barrel after peaking at $112.21 and eclipsing the previous record of $111.80 hit March 17. London Brent settled $2.13 higher at $108.47 a barrel after hitting an all-time high of $109.50.
Remember when we were all shocked when oil closed above $100 for the first time? That was only 50 days ago. And by the end of next month, $112 a barrel will look like a bargain.

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I hope John McCain stops by the African Market while he’s there.
Promising to try to woo black voters, McCain told radio interviewer Tavis Smiley, "I know that I'm not going to get a majority of the African-American vote. But I'm going to campaign all over this country. I'm going to go to South Philadelphia, I'm going to go to the Black Belt in Alabama . . ."

If McCain wants to win over black voters, first he'd better know where to find them.

South Philly has changed from a mostly Italian-heritage enclave to one that includes growing numbers of Asians and Hispanics. According to the latest census, while Philadelphia is a majority-minority city, African-Americans are less than a third of the population in South Philadelphia.
Someone get this guy a map so he can make a campaign stop at his own ass.


Douchebag of the Week

McHenry is the douchebag on the left.

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) makes his second, and probably not last, appearance in this space, the stupid fuck.
The Pentagon told a North Carolina lawmaker Tuesday that he couldn’t re-air a video he'd shot in Baghdad after accusations surfaced that he breached operational security in detailing enemy rocket attacks.

Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Republican, traveled to Iraq with other lawmakers for the first time on March 22. The video was the second incident stemming from that trip that has drawn unwanted attention to McHenry. Earlier, he was criticized for berating a guard in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone for not allowing him into a gym there because the congressman did not have the proper identification credential.

The new criticism stems from a video that was featured on his Web site last Friday. Shot in the Green Zone, it showed McHenry gesturing to a building behind him and saying that one of 11 rockets “hit just over my head.” Then he named two other places struck by the rockets.

On Monday, a veterans group called accused McHenry of giving away intelligence information that could have aided terrorist organizations in targeting the Green Zone.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

$4 a gallon

Here’s the government doing the advance work of the oil industry and preparing you for the blow that’s coming.
Retail gas prices could climb as high as $4 a gallon this summer, but prices at such lofty levels will make many Americans think twice about hitting the road this summer, the Energy Department said Tuesday.

High prices and a weak economy are expected to cut demand for gasoline by about 0.4 percent during the peak summer driving season, the department's Energy Information Administration said in a monthly report on petroleum supplies and demand. Overall consumption of petroleum products will drop by 90,000 barrels a day this year. Previously, the EIA had projected petroleum consumption would rise by 40,000 barrels a day.
The EIA predicts a drop in demand after it predicted a rise in demand. Yet both conditions somehow lead to higher prices. Isn’t that amazing?

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Petraeus on the Hill

The esteemed general goes to Washington to peddle the administration’s view of events in Iraq before the Senate Armed Services Commitee. John McCain tries to make himself look like an informed party and all presidential and shit, but that doesn’t go well. And Capitol police remove a man who interrupts the proceedings by yelling, “Bring them home!

Let me bottom-line it for you: Bush is not going to withdraw from Iraq. Period.

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Ten things

You should know about John McCain. Click through for sources.

1. John McCain voted against establishing a national holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Now he says his position has "evolved," yet he's continued to oppose key civil rights laws.

2. According to Bloomberg News, McCain is more hawkish than Bush on Iraq, Russia and China. Conservative columnist Pat Buchanan says McCain "will make Cheney look like Gandhi."

3. His reputation is built on his opposition to torture, but McCain voted against a bill to ban waterboarding, and then applauded President Bush for vetoing that ban.

4. McCain opposes a woman's right to choose. He said, "I do not support Roe versus Wade. It should be overturned."

5. The Children's Defense Fund rated McCain as the worst senator in Congress for children. He voted against the children's health care bill last year, then defended Bush's veto of the bill.

6.He's one of the richest people in a Senate filled with millionaires. The Associated Press reports he and his wife own at least eight homes! Yet McCain says the solution to the housing crisis is for people facing foreclosure to get a "second job" and skip their vacations.

7. Many of McCain's fellow Republican senators say he's too reckless to be commander in chief. One Republican senator said: "The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He's erratic. He's hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me."

8. McCain talks a lot about taking on special interests, but his campaign manager and top advisers are actually lobbyists. The government watchdog group Public Citizen says McCain has 59 lobbyists raising money for his campaign, more than any of the other presidential candidates.

9. McCain has sought closer ties to the extreme religious right in recent years. The pastor McCain calls his "spiritual guide," Rod Parsley, believes America's founding mission is to destroy Islam, which he calls a "false religion." McCain sought the political support of right-wing preacher John Hagee, who believes Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for gay rights and called the Catholic Church "the Antichrist" and a "false cult."

10. He positions himself as pro-environment, but he scored a 0—yes, zero—from the League of Conservation Voters last year.

And this is the best the GOP has to offer.

By the way, which of these items illustrate McCain’s alleged “maverick” tendencies? He looks like a garden-variety Republican to me.


Monday, April 07, 2008

The usual suspects

You know how you always said how handy it would be to have all those Republicans convicted of crimes together on one list? Well, now there’s Republican Offenders. It’s kinda like a K-Tel music compilation, but instead of shitty ’80s songs, it’s Republican criminals. And there’s a lot of them.


Friday, April 04, 2008

Martin Luther King

It was 40 years ago today that Martin Luther King was killed. Under mysterious circumstances. By a “drifter.” At the height of the government’s crazed-lone-gunman craze. But not to worry. The Justice Department did a half-assed investigation in 2000 that found no evidence of a consipacy. Click here to read the King family’s thoughts on that investigation. The transcript of the conspiracy trial in which a Tennessee jury found in favor of the King family is here.

Click here to read more and to listen to King’s final speech, at the Mason Temple in Memphis. It’s still as powerful and inspiring as ever.

By the way, John McCain is in full damage-control mode today. It seems the maverick Republican senator voted against a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King in 1983. And when then Arizona Gov. Evan Meacham rescinded the state holiday in 1987, McCain supported the decision.

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Looks like someone can’t sprint to the finish fast enough.
With the NATO summit meetings consistently running two hours over schedule most of the day, President Bush abruptly got up and left the last formal session of the day, not bothering to wait for an official summit photograph of all the leaders.

Bush is no fan of windy meetings and evidently had had his fill. He left behind Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to represent him for the rest of the session, which concerned NATO operations in Afghanistan, but his departure was so sudden and unexpected that he left some of his motorcade behind, inculding his press pool, when he got into his car and headed back to his hotel.
This a day after incurious George tried unsuccessfully to cut short a press conference with Romanian president Traian Basescu, a faux pas that flies in the face of the tradition of allowing the host to determine when the presser is over.

Sprint faster, George! Faster! In fact, if you just want to go ahead and quit now, I think that would be OK with just about everybody in the world.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

The torture memo

John Woo’s shameful legacy, in 81 pages.

Part One.
Part Two.

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Douchebag of the Week

Douglas Feith, the “fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth.”
“This year I was really a player,” Feith said, thinking back on 2002 and relishing the memory. I asked him whether, in the end, he was at all concerned that the Geneva decision might have diminished America’s moral authority. He was not. “The problem with moral authority,” he said, was “people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes, to put it crudely.”
UPDATE: We have co-winners, courtesy of Darrell Issa.

The California congressman who called the Sept. 11 attacks "simply" a plane crash ran for cover Wednesday under a barrage of ridicule from fellow Republicans, first responders and victims' families.
UPDATE 2: Is there no end to the douchebaggery? Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC):

We spent the night in the Green Zone, in the poolhouse of one of Saddam’s palaces. A little weird, I got to be honest with you. But I felt safe. And so in the morning, I got up early — not that I make this a great habit — but I went to the gym because I just couldn’t sleep and everything else. Well, sure enough, the guard wouldn’t let me in. Said I didn’t have the correct credentials.

It’s 5:00 in the morning. I haven’t had sleep. I was not very happy with this two-bit security guard. So you know, I said, “I want to see your supervisor.” Thirty minutes later, the supervisor wasn’t happy with me, they escort me back to my room. It happens. I guess I didn’t need to work out anyway.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Pentagon Papers leaker

Daniel Ellsberg, on Iraq, Bush and Cheney:
The man who leaked secret documents about the US war in Vietnam has a name for the invasion of Iraq.

"Supreme war crime."

He also has appellations for President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney: "domestic enemies of the constitution" and "war criminals."

Ellsberg leaked a sheaf of documents that would become known as the "Pentagon Papers" in 1971, a secret history of the war in Vietnam in which the Pentagon conceded the war was unlikely to be won. At the time, Ellsberg worked as a Pentagon consultant.

“We have gone far from the constitution,” he said. Staying true to constitutional values are “not synonymous with obeying the president.”
I can’t say that I disagree.

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It seems that kudos might be in order for Wal-Mart after its decision not to attempt to collect money that former employee Deborah Shank won in a lawsuit after being permanently disabled in a traffic accident.

Shank was a Wal-Mart employee in 2000, when she was suffered permanent brain damage in the accident. She was covered under the company’s healthcare plan, and the company covered her medical expenses. But when the family won a suit against the trucking company involved in the accident, Wal-Mart sued the Shanks, seeking to be reimbursed for the money it paid out for Deborah’s care.

The practice of seeking reimbursement for healthcare costs from damages victims are awarded in lawsuits is called subrogation. It’s basically one way for insurance companies try to mitigate their risk and collect free money.

Wal-Mart’s insurance policy states that the company is entitled to this money, and the courts agreed. Wal-Mart sued and won. The Shanks appealed and lost. The Supreme Court, which made this ridiculous practice easier in a 2006 decision, refused to face the results of its past action, declining on March 17 not to hear the case.

Legally, Wal-Mart is entitled to collect that money and its decision not to attempt to collect it deserves praise because it brings a measure of peace to a family that so desperately needs it. But that doesn’t mean the decision doesn’t deserve scrutiny.

By pursuing this lawsuit, the company was taking a public-relations beating. Not that it cared: Just last month, after the Supremes turned a blind eye to this case, Wal-Mart mouthpiece Daphne Moore said, “It’s a very sad case, and we understand that people have a very emotional and sympathetic reaction,” but gave no indication that the company was planning to do anything but collect that money.

Another issue, which may better explain Wal-Mart‘s about face, is the practice of subrogation itself. The practice of collecting awards for someone else’s pain and suffering is very lucrative for the insurance industry, and Wal-Mart certainly didn’t want legislators examining the issue, especially when there’s a cause célèbre like the Shank case for them to rally around. It’s entirely possible that pressure was brought to bear by insurers who didn’t want to risk having having this revenue stream legislated away.

This whole mess is just one of many, many damaging commentaries on the state of healthcare in this country. And there are so few success stories unique to our system to balance them out. And this comes at a time when Elizabeth Edwards has called out John McCain for his shitty healthcare proposal. (In attempting to continue the disastrous policies of one “president” Bush, it appears McCain is invoking the campaign slogan of another President Bush: Stay the Course.) This case would not have happened in Canada. Or France. Or Norway. Or Spain. Or England. Or the Netherlands. Or Cuba. Or Portugal. Or Italy. Or Germany. Or Switzerland. Or Poland. Or Brazil. Or Argentina. Or Austria. Or Belgium. Or Bosnia. Or Bulgaria. Or Croatia. Or the Czech Republic. Or Denmark. Or Estonia. Or Finland. Or Georgia. Or Greece. Or Hungary. Or Iceland. Or Ireland. Or Malta, Or Liechtenstein. Or Luxembourg. Or Romania. Or Russia. Or Serbia. Or Slovakia. Or Slovenia. Or Sweden. Or Australia. Or new Zealand. Or Brunei. Or India. Or Kuwait. Or Qatar. Or the United Arab Emirates. Or Saudi Arabia. Or Israel. Or Japan. Or Malaysia. Or South Korea. Or Seychelles. Or Sri Lanka. Or Taiwan. Or Thailand. Or Chile. Or Costa Rica. Or Uruguay.

(I just have to point out that I copied and pasted most of that list. But even just typing “Or” took a while. I’m glad that so many countries have sensible healthcare, but it’s so disappointing that we are not among them.)

Anyway, I’m glad Wal-Mart decided to let the Shanks put those funds toward Deborah’s care. I’m on the record as skeptical about its motives, but at the end of the day — nearly three years after suing the Shanks and nearly eight years after Deborah’s horrible accident — the company did the right thing. And, for the Shanks, that’s probably all that matters.

God bless the Shank family.

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