Deconstructing Iraq as Year Three of the War Begins

Great article from TomDispatch that provides a comprehensive overview of where things stand in Iraq: the Iraqi police force, the opening of the National Assembly inside the Green Zone, the pervasive violence, casualty figures, plans for US troops and recruiting problems, war profiteering and corruption, the "coalition," and developments in US policy for the region. It concludes:
Right now, Baghdad may be ungovernable, the insurgency remains fierce, the new Iraqi government unable to chose its leaders, gas lines endless in Baghdad, electricity supplies desperately low in significant parts of the country, allies dropping away, and security dismal, but what-we-worry. After all, above all, chaos or not, we're still there, the self-invited guests who came for dinner, and stayed on and on and on…In fact, though it's hardly mentioned in our media, we've been digging in. Joshua Hammer of Mother Jones magazine reported in a recent issue that approximately $4.5 billion dollars has gone to -- who else? -- KBR for the construction and maintenance of up to 14 "enduring camps" or permanent military bases in Iraq. Many of these bases have a look of permanency that undoubtedly has to be seen to be imagined. And let's just remember what those 14 bases sit on...There's a word that can't really be spoken, or written, not at least in conjunction with "Iraq," or off the business pages of our papers (even though this week, the price of a barrel of the stuff broke $56). Fortunately, I can spell it for you: It's o-i-l...Iraq, as it happens, sits on top of probably the second largest oil deposits in the Middle East (after Saudi Arabia where we've been drawing down our bases for a while) and right in the strategic heartland of the oil lands of the Earth. As far as I can tell, there hasn't even been much oil exploration in the country in the last two decades, so who knows how much of what may lie under its territories? As is too seldom mentioned, the Bush administration is an energy regime with a number of its major players connected at various past moments to energy companies of various sorts...As a group, they quite naturally look on the planet in an energy sort of way and dream of global control, at least in part, in terms of controlling energy flows...The most significant fact of our Iraq War and occupation (and war), which can't be repeated too many times, is that the Bush administration busted into the country without an exit strategy for a simple reason: They never planned to leave -- and they still don't.

One more reason why CNN sucks

From Ari Berman of The Nation:
At 10:42 pm EST on Wednesday night, the top story on CNN.com was "Jury Clears Robert Blake," followed by "Peterson Jury Foreman: Justice Done," and "Lawmakers blast loophole in baseball's steroid policy." The Senate's momentous decision to drill in ANWR was the fourth headline. Bush's appointment of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank wasn't even on the front page. You had to trek all the way over to "World Business" to find that mundane tidbit.

A conservative sounds off about torture

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe:
...Of course the United States must hunt down terrorists and find out what they know. Better intelligence means more lives saved, more atrocities prevented, and a more likely victory in the war against radical Islamist fascism. Those are crucial ends, and they justify tough means. But they don't justify means that betray core American values. Interrogation techniques that flirt with torture -- to say nothing of those that end in death -- cross the moral line that separates us from the enemy we are trying to defeat. The Bush administration and the military insist that any abuse of detainees is a violation of policy and that abusers are being punished. If so, why does it refuse to allow a genuinely independent commission to investigate without fear or favor? Why do Republican leaders on Capitol Hill refuse to launch a proper congressional investigation? And why do my fellow conservatives -- those who support the war for all the right reasons -- continue to keep silent about a scandal that should have them up in arms?

The rapture people

Agents with the FBI's Violent Crimes Task Force arrested a Christian radio station personality as part of a child pornography investigation. Bureau agents began investigating Chris Ruleman, 40, a midday host for Nashville's WFFI, 94FM The Fish, earlier this week after receiving information that he possessed child pornography.

Teachers for Peace

From The Nation:
On March 5, a few weeks short of the two-year anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, a new organization of antiwar activists, Educators To Stop The War, convened in New York City to take a fresh look at ways to resist the US occupation of Iraq. The event marked the coming together of a newly minted coalition of teachers, students, veterans and union members. The conference explored a novel approach to antiwar organizing, linking the success of Bush's prowar campaign to the dismantling of America's education system. "We must be creative in our attempts to counter the action the government has taken," Nancy Romer, a teacher and leader of the American Federation of Teachers, said to open the conference's morning plenary. In practice, during the daylong series of workshops this meant analyzing how Bush's education initiatives have served to advance his military aims. The fact that the majority of soldiers fighting in Iraq are in their mid-20s or younger, and a little less than a year ago there were 2,500 soldiers under the age of 18 serving, hints at a connection between today's education system and military interest among youth. In various ways, the conference's many workshops took up the same question: What is happening at high schools and campuses nationwide to propel large numbers of youth to join the armed forces? According to many participants, interest in the military among youth can be traced to Bush's flawed education policy. In the months following the 9/11 attack, while Bush forged ahead on military proposals, nearly all the domestic issues on the agenda were thrown to the wind, except for one--Bush's education reform: the No Child Left Behind Act. Somehow, a military initiative snuck its way into the education bill. Within the 1,200 pages of NCLB lies a little-known provision that requires public schools not only to allow military recruiters to set up in school but to hand over students' contact information to recruiters. And while the provision does include an "opt out" clause for students, it is even less publicized than the provision itself. Many students have no idea their information is up for grabs in the first place. Last year, only an estimated 2 percent of students chose to protect their information. One of the major workshops of the conference was dedicated to organizing a more effective campaign against recruitment in schools and to making sure students know they don't have to disclose their information. More fundamentally, the conference explored the reasons young people are so vulnerable to military recruiters on school campuses--that is, the lack of alternative paths available to them after high school...By cutting financial aid for college, Bush's 2006 budget proposal reinforces the Catch-22 that many high schoolers face. Under the proposal, Perkins loans, the low-interest loans that help students afford the rising costs of tuition, are to be slashed entirely. And while Bush has proposed raising the maximum Pell Grant by $100 per year, the money for this would come out of funds for forty-eight education programs, including grants for vocational serving largely poor high school students. Moreover, educators are taking the Pell proposal with a grain of salt. During his 2000 campaign Bush promised the same modest increase but opposed a Congressional effort to implement it. Pitted against the costs of college today, the actual purchasing power of the maximum Pell Grant has decreased by 44 percent since 1976. At the same time, the Administration is funneling a record $2.7 billion toward the recruitment of young soldiers. "I remember having only one teacher in high school who might attend a conference like this one today," Mike Hoffman, the founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, told the conference attendees. With the conservative backlash against "leftist" campuses, the climate has only gotten worse. In May 2003 a first-year English teacher was fired from her job at a community college in North Carolina for voicing her concern about the Iraq War in class. "We need our teachers to take a stronger stand," Hoffman said to rising applause.

Iraq and the Media

Two good stories.
The first is a disturbing story from Al-Jazeera from a journalist who witnessed the horrific situation in Fallujah.

The second is an American University School of Journalism study, which concluded that "many media outlets have self-censored their reporting on the conflict in Iraq because of concern about public reaction to graphic images and details about the war. Many journalists said vigorous discussions about what, how and where to publish were conducted, in an attempt to balance fair reporting with audience sensitivities. In addition, journalists used their Internet sites to post material different from what was printed in newspapers or broadcast on TV or radio programs. Nearly one-third of news outlets used their Web sites to disseminate materials online that were not first published or broadcast elsewhere by the organization."

Congress and the long haul

From Will Pitt of TruthOut, a great summary of the issues to start chalking up against the Repugs in preparation for the midterm elections and beyond:
It is going to take me a while to get over the fact that the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve got cashiered because of three Democratic Senators, but then again, it has been a long five years with much blood and tears under the bridge, and my coping skills are now formidable. It is time to talk about the future of Congress. First of all, a discussion must be started about exactly who and what we are dealing with. Say what you will about the GOP majority and their allies in the White House, and there is much to say, but one thing cannot be denied: These folks have mastered the art of distraction and implementation. Consider the last month or so. Bush and his congressional allies jumped up and started waving their arms and shouting, “Look over here! We’re going to privatize Social Security! Look, we’re gonna do it! Here it comes! You can’t stop us!” The Democrats and their activist allies got all gamed up to fight the SS privatization push, and effectively beat the idea to death. Here’s the thing: I believe Bush and his crew knew their SS plan was DOA weeks ago, but kept pushing it to distract their opponents from a bunch of other stuff that got rammed through as if it were on greased skids. While everyone was running around shouting about Social Security, the boys in the back room managed to pass: a) A Bankruptcy Bill that was basically a huge kiss on the lips to credit card companies; b) A Gun Manufacturers Shield Law that bars anyone from suing gun manufacturers for liability in shootings; and c) The ANWR Drilling Fiasco Act, which I already discussed here. Smooth, sly, and very effective. During the Cold War, the U.S. military based all of their strategies on the bedrock concept of the two-war theory, i.e. everything they planned for had to encompass the ability to fight two separate, theater-wide wars in two separate places. Congressional Democrats could learn a thing or two from this idea. They cannot merely be prepared to fight one piece of nutso legislation at a time, because clearly the GOP majority has the capability and intent to put forth a multi-pronged legislative agenda. This will be difficult, akin to the problem of having only ten fingers when there are fifteen holes in the dike, but it has to be done. One way to combat this multi-pronged assault is to approach the entire issue from the perspective of the 2006 midterm elections. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is already preparing for this, and has warned Senate Republicans that votes they cast this week against initiatives intended to help America's communities would come back to haunt them during the 2006 campaign. "Senators are defined by their voting record," said DSCC Executive Director J.B. Poersch. "Senators who vote against priorities like protecting Social Security benefits, making our neighborhoods safer, or providing veterans' health care can rest assured that they will pay a price come election time. We guarantee it." In other words, when you screw veterans, national security and the environment with your publicly-recorded vote, prepare to be in a commercial next year that runs your reputation through a meat grinder.
The ball is already in play on this. Some specific examples:
Republicans Allen, Burns, DeWine, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas voted against $2.8 billion for veterans health care and $2.8 billion for deficit reduction. That’s a commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Talent and Thomas Voted against restoring $14 billion to Medicaid and establishing a bipartisan Medicaid commission. That’s a commercial.
Republicans Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Kyl, Lott, Santorum and Thomas voted against $855 million for Homeland Security grants for first responder programs, port security grants and border patrol agents. That’s a commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas (funny how the same names keep coming up) voted against restoring $1.9 billion in cuts to the Community Development Block Grant Program. That’s a commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, DeWine, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas voted against $7.46 billion for the Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act and deficit reduction. Commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas voted against $4.75 billion for education and $4.75 billion for deficit reduction. Commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Talent and Thomas voted against restoring $5.4 billion to education program cuts and increasing the maximum Pell Grant award to $4,500. Commercial.
Republicans put the bricks to farmers: Allen, Burns, Chafee, DeWine, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas voted against restoring $2.8 billion to agriculture programs. Midwest commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, DeWine, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Talent and Thomas voted against a resolution supporting $1 billion for family planning programs, such as teen pregnancy prevention. Moral values hypocrisy commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, Chafee, DeWine, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas voted against refusing to establish any appropriations bill that allows funds to be provided for "prepackaged news stories" that do not have a disclaimer stating "Paid for by the United States Government" running throughout the presentation. Commercial.
Republicans Allen, Burns, DeWine, Ensign, Frist, Hatch, Hutchison, Kyl, Lott, Lugar, Santorum, Snowe, Talent and Thomas voted against a reserve fund that would provide $71.3 billion for special education programs under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Commercial.

You get the idea. There is plenty of grist for the mill, and the loyal opposition needs to take the lead with the DSCC to let the GOP majority know that they are going to become famous in a bad way come election time because of these votes. Give them pause when the next votes come along.

A dark day

Saturday, March 19th, marks the second anniversary of the Iraq invasion.
More than 725 anti-war protests and events are scheduled across the country to mark the anniversary. United For Peace and Justice reports this is more than double the number of actions that took place a year ago to mark the first anniversary of the war. One of the largest rallies is expected to take place in Fayetteville, North Carolina outside the military base Fort Bragg. Main sponsors of that protest include Veterans For Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Military Families Speak Out.


Controlling the narrative

From Slate:
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich claims that "conservative Republicans have mastered the art of the political narrative and, in doing so, exiled Democrats from politics itself." He believes in "four stories that Americans had always heard and that made sense of the world they knew": the triumphant individual, the benevolent community, the mob at the gates, the rot at the top. Arguing that Kerry lost the election because he was unable to tap into these narratives, while Bush's war on terror "powerfully revived the Mob at the Gates tale," Reich insists that Democrats have to regain control over these stories.

Stopping "Joementum"

From Tim Grieve on Salon:
If every liberal blogger in America up and moved to Connecticut, Joe Lieberman might have cause to worry about his job. The junior senator from the Constitution State has been in the cross-hairs of the blogosphere almost daily of late, and not without reason. While Harry Reid is trying hard to keep Democrats united against the worst of the Bush agenda, Lieberman has sided again and again with the Republican majority in the Senate: He voted for the confirmations of Alberto Gonzales, Condoleezza Rice and Michael Chertoff; he voted for the Republicans' class-action reform bill; he has flirted with Senate Republicans on Social Security reform; and while he ultimately voted against the bankruptcy reform bill, he voted for cloture on the bill, helping deny Democrats their last best chance to stop it. Moreover, Lieberman has gone out of his way to criticize fellow Democrats in the process. He's no Zell Miller, but Lieberman didn't win any love among liberals when he lectured his colleagues about the need to support Rice's nomination. And he won't be any more popular once liberals get a load of what he has to say in this week's New Yorker, where he opines that Howard Dean "was wrong on the war and what he was talking about was bad for the country." Bloggers have begun to suggest that it's time for a "real" Democrat to challenge Lieberman in the 2006 primary. It appears they may get their wish. John Orman, a politics professor at Fairfield University, tells the Associated Press that he's thinking about making a run. "Our party's senator is no longer a Democrat," Orman told the AP. "He has joined the Republicrat Party. After 17 years as a safe-seat senator, Joe has lost touch with his party and with his state." Orman may be half-right. While Lieberman has set himself apart from other Democrats, the man Josh Marshall calls "the dean of the fainthearted faction" remains wildly popular among Connecticut voters: According to the New York Times, recent polls show that more than two-thirds of the state's Democrats -- and more than two-thirds of the state's Republicans -- approve of the way Lieberman is handling his job. Orman says he understands that challenging Lieberman would be a challenge, but he sees a benefit in just trying: Having someone run to his left "could make Joe Lieberman be a Democrat for a year."

House gives Gannon a pass

From Tim Grieve on Salon:
The Senate vote on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drew front-page headlines across the country this week. Another vote, this one in the House, got almost no attention from the mainstream media. That shouldn't surprise anyone: The vote concerned Jeff Gannon. On a party-line vote, the House Judiciary Committee rejected Rep. John Conyers' resolution that would have required the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to provide Congress documents regarding "security investigations and background checks relating to granting access to the White House of James D. Guckert (also known as Jeff Gannon)." According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Conyers told his colleagues on the committee that he was seeking the documents through the resolution because the Bush administration had ignored his previous requests. "It simply defies credibility," Conyers said, "that a phony reporter, operating under an alias, who couldn't get privileges in the House or Senate press gallery, could receive scores of consecutive White House day passes without the intervention of someone very high up at the White House." Rep. James Sensenbrenner, the Republican committee chairman, said there was no need for a further investigation because the Secret Service -- the agency involved in giving Gannon/Guckert access in the first place -- had already determined that nothing inappropriate had happened. Although Conyers' proposal was aimed specifically at Gannon/Guckert and simply asked for documents regarding his access to the White House, Gannon/Guckert himself declared the vote against the bill a victory for journalists everywhere. In a statement posted on his Web site, Gannon/Guckert said: "It appears to me that a strong majority on the committee has decided that investigating the background of journalists beyond the standards already in place is unnecessary and perhaps poses a threat to a free and independent press." There are all sorts of threats to a "free and independent press" right now. Investigating how Gannon/Guckert got into the White House wouldn't have been one of them.

Little Lord Fauntleroy

No comment needed here.
From the AP:
(Bush) promoted private accounts...at the Lake Nona YMCA Family Center in Orlando, where he explained how American financial matters have changed over the years. "I was telling Mother in the limousine - I don't remember talking to her about 401(k)s when I was a little guy," Bush said. "I don't remember IRAs, defined contribution plans. This world has changed since I was raised. There's a lot of young kids who now understand what it means to invest, they're comfortable with watching their money grow."

Bill Frist's latest "I'm a doctor" outrage

From Paul Waldman of Gadflyer:
If government data are correct, approximately 268 Americans will die today because of medical errors. Many more will die because they are among the 45 million who have no health insurance, so they put off seeking care until it's too late. Yet today our fine representatives in Congress aren't doing anything about that. They're consumed - when they're not beating their breasts about what Jose Canseco did or didn't inject into Mark McGuire's ass - with the life of one woman in a persistent vegetative state. Terri Schiavo, the Elian Gonzales of 2005. Barney Frank once quipped that social conservatives believe life begins at conception and ends at birth. It now seems that their concern for you will be renewed if your brain ceases to function, but not before. Personally, I don't think it matters whether she lives or dies - her awareness is non-existent, so it certainly won't matter to her. If her parents want to keep her alive, fine. What I can't understand is why in this country we still believe it's morally acceptable to remove a patient's feeding tube and starve them to death, but not to inject them with enough drugs to have a quick, painless end. The medical profession believes there's a distinction between "letting" someone die, which is a sin of omission, and "making" someone die, which is a sin of comission. This is so morally obtuse it boggles the mind. Although it may not matter in the case of Schiavo, who doesn't seem capable of feeling pain, in cases where physicians have the power to hasten someone's death, once the decision is made it simply must be done in the way guaranteed to minimize suffering. Anything else is just barbaric. UPDATE: In an act of opportunistic grandstanding so repugnant it defies description, Republicans in Congress have decided that what they need to do is drag Terri Schiavo's lifeless body before the cameras. Republican leaders in Congress moved today to prevent the removal of a feeding tube from a brain-damaged Florida woman, saying they would subpoena her to appear on Capitol Hill and thus require that she be kept alive. And here's the best part: Schiavo, 41, suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago when her heart temporarily stopped. Court-appointed doctors say she is in a persistent vegetative state, but Senate Majority Leader Frist, a physician, told the Senate he disagreed with that diagnosis after viewing videotapes of Schiavo. In a town packed cheek to jowl with politicians who are full of shit, there may be no one more full of shit than Bill Frist. Sure, he's a cardiologist, not a neurologist, but he knows damn well what a persistent vegetative state is. But then again, he's not quite sure if you might be able to get AIDS from tears and sweat.


ANWR: Don't give up yet

From DailyKos:
It is not time to give up. This battle can still be won. We must take the following steps immediately.
1. Focus on defeating the entire Senate budget. This is a distinct possibility, if we can cobble together a coalition of Arctic Wildlife Refuge drilling opponents and enough fiscally conservative Republicans to oppose this bloated, deficit-expanding budget. It is very common for budgets to go unapproved. Dems can offer to support the budget if Arctic Wildlife Refuge drilling is removed.
2. The House budget does not include a provision for Arctic drilling. This is somewhat of an anomaly, as the House has been much more enthusiastic in the past about drilling the Arctic Wildlife Refuge than has the Senate. The budgets will have to undergo a reconciliation process, and maybe we can use this as another bottleneck to protect our national treasure.
3. Worst-case scenario--the budget passes both houses with a provision to open the Arctic Wildlife Refuge for drilling. Then we take it to the corporations. BP and ConocoPhillips, while not model corporate citizens, have renounced their desire to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. We can support them by only buying gas from them and their subsidiaries, while boycotting ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco, the satan-spawn corporations behind this administration and drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. We can hit them where it hurts. A majority of Americans oppose drilling the Arctic Wildlife Refuge, and we can get many of them to boycott the soulless Houston bastards behind this crap.
Boycott update: Call these two corporations and tell them you refuse to buy their gas until they promise not to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge.
ExxonMobil: (972) 444-1000
ChevronTexaco: (925) 842-1000

Call these two corporations and thank them for refusing to drill in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. Inform them that they will benefit from your boycott of ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco.
BP: (281) 366-5174 and (202) 457-6603
ConocoPhillips: (303) 649-4065

Faux News

From Jane at firedoglake:
...WaPo's Howard Kurtz finally admits that Fox news isn't, er, "fair and balanced." In covering the Iraq war last year, 73 percent of the stories on Fox News included the opinions of the anchors and journalists reporting them, a new study says. By contrast, 29 percent of the war reports on MSNBC and 2 percent of those on CNN included the journalists' own views.These findings -- the figures were similar for coverage of other stories -- "seem to challenge" Fox's slogan of "we report, you decide," says the Project for Excellence in Journalism. On another day I might be tempted to file it under "no shit, Sherlock" and let it go at that. But I guess I'm not finished bitching about Faux News this week. I haven't read the 617 page report, but nobody with a lick of sense really needs to spend that much time determining that Fox delivers anything but "news" -- all it really takes is 5 odious minutes with, say, Shep Smith. And how do all Fox broadcast personalities know to stay "on message"? [A] Detroit News story last week called it "consciously biased" -- without attribution -- and quoted onetime Fox producer Dan Cooper as saying: "In the morning, everyone is told what today's key issues are and how those issues are viewed by Fox News. The entire staff understands how the organization feels about them." The sad thing is that people really think that what Faux is presenting is news. People like several in my (extended) family, who will look at you with a straight face and tell you Faux is the most unbiased of all the networks. And they are, not surprisingly, people who just haven't had the type of education that fosters critical thinking and media awareness. Which is just where David Horowitz and NCLB want everyone to be. (And) if you haven't seen the superb Robert Greenwald documentary Outfoxed, which exposes the media's "race to the bottom" lead by Faux News, I can't recommend it highly enough. If you are a teacher and want to use Outfoxed for a class, Robert will send you a copy for free if you drop him a note through his website here.

Moral imbecile

Mark Crispin Miller on BuzzFlash:
I've long argued that Bush is not an imbecile -- that he boasts a certain species of political intelligence which we overlook at our own peril. (Also, I agree with others who have argued that he's suffering from some kind of physical or mental deterioration, and has got much worse over the last few years. To which we'd have to add that his ostensibly unbounded power has had its utterly predictable effect on him.) The notion that he's just a gibbering halfwit is a rather pleasurable one to many who detest him. I've always argued, and still think, that the situation is in fact much worse than that. In one sense, though -- and it's exceedingly important -- Bush is a sort of imbecile: a moral imbecile. How much of this relates to, say, his neurological condition, and how much of it relates to the condition of (what we would have to call) his soul, I don't pretend to know. But there is something definitely missing there. For one thing, he's incapable of what child psychologists call reciprocity. He can't see things from any viewpoint other than his own, which he deems always right because it's his; and if you see things differently you're wrong, and bad, because your viewpoint isn't his. (He's often made it clear that he and God see things exactly the same way.) And then there's his amazing incapacity to recognize the difference between truth and lie. Specifically, he seems to be unable to perceive that his own propaganda lies are propaganda, or -- sometimes? often? -- that they're even lies. He also seems unable to perceive that claims of which he disapproves, or with which he disagrees, are not propaganda. As I note in "Cruel and Unusual", he once rejected the idea that big food corporations ought to be required to list all the ingredients in their products: "I sense they want to run a propaganda campaign," he said -- referring to those who wanted all ingredients clearly listed. On the other hand, when he refers to "history," he's usually referring to some propaganda lie that, since everyone (him included?) bought it, must be precisely what occurred. So here he is today, refusing or unable to perceive that there is something deeply wrong -- illegal, immoral, unethical and ultimately lunatic -- with his regime's vast covert propaganda program. Since "there is a Justice Department opinion that says ... these pieces are within the law" and "factual," there can be nothing wrong with them, he said. Ignorance of the law is no excuse -- and neither is denial of reality. To say that he should be impeached does not begin to do him justice.

The fake malpractice "crisis"

From the Tallahassee Democrat:
A comprehensive study of medical malpractice claims in Florida since 1990 shows no sharp increase in lawsuits relative to population growth and a modest increase in the size of settlements, according to two Duke University professors. (One of the study's authors) said the data in the study came from public records filed at the Florida Department of Health since 1975, when a law was passed to require medical malpractice insurance companies to file extensive information annually on claims. The medical malpractice controversy has been a hardy perennial in the Legislature. After intense lobbying by insurers and doctors and a special session in 2003, lawmakers passed a bill that placed caps on damage awards in medical malpractice cases in hopes of stemming insurance rate increases. And last November, voters approved three constitutional amendments dealing with the issue...Trial lawyers say the number of lawsuits and the size of awards have not increased enough to justify premium increases sought by insurers. The Duke study shows that average awards, in 2003 dollars, have increased from $176,603 in 1990 to $300,280 in 2003...Finally, the report concludes the "vast majority of million-dollar awards were settled around the negotiation table rather than in the jury room." Of the 831 million-dollar awards reported since 1990, 63 were awarded by juries. The rest occurred as settlements. Of the 37 claims that received awards of $5 million or more, only two claims went before a jury - the rest were the result of settlements. "At this stage," the report says, "debate about the role of juries in so-called 'mega' awards is misplaced insofar as Florida is concerned." The study comes on the heels of a similar report from the University of Texas that was released last week. Assembled by four law professors, the Texas study mirrored the Duke report. "The rapid changes in insurance premiums that sparked the crisis appear to reflect market dynamics, largely disconnected from claim outcomes," the report said.

Terri Schiavo's husband speaks out

This is very sad.
From the St. Pete Times:
Michael Schiavo says he looks into his wife's eyes and sees no spark of consciousness, no recognition, no glimmer of any sort of response. He says he wishes he did. And he invites Gov. Jeb Bush to have a look himself. "If he had any care at all," Schiavo said, "he would take us up on the offer and visit Terri and examine the record. He hasn't. He could come and sit in that chair and talk." Schiavo said Tuesday in a rare interview that he would gladly allow Bush to visit his wife, Terri Schiavo, at the Pinellas Park hospice where she lives to see her condition. During the hourlong interview at his attorney's office in Dunedin, Michael Schiavo said he believes state and federal lawmakers have little information on his wife and have acted to serve politics, not medicine. "They're all pandering to the religious groups and the antiabortion groups and the Christian Coalition," said Schiavo, 41, a registered nurse. "They're doing this for votes. There's not one person up there who would say, "I would take Terri's place.' I'd like to see who would. Who there would take Terri's place?" The interview comes as the date for removing his wife's feeding tube approaches Friday. Both state lawmakers and Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, are working furiously to find a way to keep her alive. "Jeb Bush's personal feelings can change the law?" Schiavo said. "We have to save her life? Who's he to make that decision?" Schiavo said he didn't expect the governor to take him up on an offer he said he has made before. "He was 20 minutes away from Terri on Saturday" in Seminole and didn't stop by the hospice, Schiavo said. "Lawmakers shouldn't be in this. They should not be butting their nose in private family matters." And Schiavo's response to a move by the Department of Children and Families to intervene in the case: "DCF can't even keep track of kids in their care and they want to stick their noses in my business?" Schiavo said he tires of people watching a video clip on the Schindler's Web site and concluding from it that his wife can recover. "There's a whole other world on the other side of that Web site," he said. Schiavo said he has avoided interviews with reporters because he doesn't have anything to prove. He said his family and friends and the courts all believe Terri Schiavo would not want to live by artificial means. He said he has tried to continue living his life despite the right-to-life groups that have protested against him, even outside his Clearwater home. And he acknowledges there have been some intrusions on his life. For example, he said, someone recently got a hold of his phone bill and an investigator has been calling friends. Still, for the most part, Schiavo said he is able to go out in public without people trying to convince him that his wife should live. "Never, since this started, has one person come up to me and said, "You're wrong,"' he said. Schiavo said in the early days, he was like the Schindlers. He said he wanted to believe she would get better. He did everything, Schiavo said, to help her, even taking her to California for treatment. Time eroded hope of any recovery at all, he said. "Terri doesn't talk. That's so ludicrous," he said of people who suggest Terri Schiavo sometimes tries to speak. "Look at her CAT scan. The cerebral cortex is completely gone. Terri's emotions are gone. What's there is a shell of Terri. There's nothing there anymore." Schiavo said he was puzzled when, in recent weeks, people began offering him money to walk away as his wife's guardian. A businessman offered him $1-million. Someone else offered $10-million. He turned both down. "I laughed," Schiavo said. "It was absolutely bizarre. They should take their money and use it to educate people about dying and living wills. Give it to the legislators. They need a lot of educating about that. Ten million? Start a foundation. Teach people how to do living wills properly. You want to give me $10-million? That will keep a foundation going for a while. They could write your living will for free." Schiavo said Floridians should be enraged at lawmakers for meddling in the private affairs of families.

New FCC nominee makes Michael Powell look like Howard Stern

From the WaPo:
President Bush has chosen Kevin J. Martin, one of the Federal Communication Commission's leaders in the crackdown on indecency, to succeed the agency's outgoing chairman, Michael K. Powell, the White House said yesterday. Martin, 38, is one of the FCC's three Republican commissioners and has been considered the front-runner to head the agency, which is the government's chief regulator of the media and telecommunications industries. He does not require Senate confirmation because he already is a commission member...Some public-interest and artists groups, such as Massachusetts-based Free Press and the District's Center for Digital Democracy, expressed concern. The FCC under Martin is likely to be more active on indecency than under Powell, who proposed more than $4 million in fines over the past four years, more than all other former FCC chairmen combined. Martin often said that indecency fines proposed in the past year were too low, and he called for broadcasters to be fined for each utterance or depiction of indecent material within a program.

Sham of a Congress

From a NYT editorial:
The Republican majorities in Congress have begun another of their deficit-deepening wrangles over the annual budget with a shameful rejection of the pay-as-you-go discipline that helped the nation achieve healthy surpluses in the 1990's. Instead, the two houses are busy invoking sham versions that make a show of mandating cuts in selective programs, while once again ignoring lost revenues and mounting debt on the other side of the ledger. True Paygo, as the abandoned discipline is known, mandates that when deep deficits loom, any proposed tax cuts and program enrichments must actually be paid for by specified savings or new revenues elsewhere in the budget. Worried Republican moderates and Democrats failed to restore this tool yesterday in the Senate. Real pay-as-you-go discipline disappeared along with budget surpluses as the result of a souring economy, the war in Iraq and the serial Bush tax cuts. Yet this is the one emergency tool most needed if the White House and Congress are ever to deliver on their campaign promises to somehow, someday, tackle deficits estimated at $4 trillion-plus across the next decade. Paygo was at the heart of the last display of honest, bipartisan budget discipline in the 90's. A proposal by Senator Russell Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, to restore this obvious force for good was rejected, 50 to 50, in the Senate. That vote provided a sad answer to one of the major budget questions this week as the world watches for believable evidence that the government might begin to rationally confront its own profligacy.

GOP turns chickenshit on town hall format

From USA Today:
Republicans in Congress have a game plan to avoid "March madness" when they go home this weekend to talk to constituents about Social Security during a two-week holiday recess. Shaken by raucous protests at open "town hall"-style meetings last month, House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio and other GOP leaders are urging lawmakers to hold lower-profile events this time...This month, Republican leaders say they are chucking the open town-hall format. They plan to visit newspaper editorial boards and talk to constituents at Rotary Club lunches, senior citizen centers, chambers of commerce meetings and local businesses. In those settings, "there isn't an opportunity for it to disintegrate into something that's less desirable," says Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference. Republican leaders are urging their party's lawmakers to take the spotlight off themselves by convening panels of experts from the Social Security Administration, conservative think tanks, local colleges and like-minded interest groups to answer questions about the federal retirement program. The shift in venues and formats, Santorum says, is aimed at producing "more of an erudite discussion" about Social Security's problems and possible solutions. Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gauntlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month.

What an asshole. Typical conservative comeback: If you don't agree with me, you must be stupid.

More fiscal insanity...

From the WaPo:
By the narrowest of margins, the Senate protected one of President Bush's top priorities on Wednesday by rejecting a drive by Democrats and moderate Republicans to make it tougher to approve future tax cuts. The 50-50 vote -- one shy of the majority needed -- averted a major headache for congressional leaders and avoided a replay of the embarrassing setback they suffered a year ago. Then, the Republican-run Congress failed to complete a budget because the Senate approved the tax-cut limitations and the more conservative House refused to go along. Advocates of restricting new tax reductions had hoped to gain supporters because of the government's dismal fiscal situation, which has seen two consecutive federal deficits with little relief in sight. Last year's shortfall hit $412 billion. "They have become openly hostile to balancing the budget," one sponsor, Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., said of GOP leaders. "Openly hostile to anything that gets in the way of tax cuts, regardless of what the consequences are for our budget or the economy. That's a sad moment."

And from Al-Jazeera:
The House voted 388-43 for the bill that includes a measure rejecting Bush's plan to use part of the money to build an embassy in Iraq, potentially delaying construction. "The bill involves sizable amounts of money designed essentially to support our troops wherever they may be but especially in the Middle East," said House Appropriations Committee chairman Jerry Lewis, a California Republican. If approved, the bill would bring to almost $300 billion the amount Congress has authorised in emergency war spending since US-led forces invaded Iraq in March 2003. The bulk of the funds - $77 billion - would cover defence costs to help pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That money, $1.8 billion more than Bush asked for, would be used to buy new weapons, body armour and medical supplies for troops. Democrats largely supported the Republican-written bill but said Congress was not providing enough oversight of how the money was being spent. They cited a military audit released on Monday that said leading US defence contractor Halliburton, once headed by Vice-President Dick Cheney, may have overcharged the US government by more than $100 million under a no-bid oil deal in Iraq.

Mel Martinez and the ANWR Vote

This must be complete BS. Martinez can't REALLY believe the Bush Mafia would keep their word. But according to the Orlando Sentinel:
U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez said he voted to allow oil production in an Alaskan wildlife refuge today only after getting a promise from the Bush administration to extend a moratorium on drilling off Florida's shores for five more years, through 2012. A National Wildlife Federation official called that concession "crumbs" because it offers no assurance of a long-term or permanent ban on natural gas and oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Environmentalists say the petroleum industry and congressional supporters see the vote for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, as a step toward opening areas offshore from Florida and other coastal states. "It's not at all clear that Sen. Martinez got anything that wouldn't have occurred anyway in the short term," said Adam Kolton, the National Wildlife Federation's director for congressional affairs. "He got crumbs, frankly." Kolton pointed out President Bush made a campaign promise not to allow drilling off Florida and his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, remains a staunch opponent. The governor, however, will be out of office after next year and the president after 2008. Interior Secretary Gale Norton promised the moratorium extension in a letter to Martinez. She also wrote that the administration will continue a policy of not offering new leases within 100 miles of Florida in the eastern gulf even if they would be outside the moratorium areas. Kolton also questioned whether Martinez will have any better luck passing a permanent offshore drilling ban than other lawmakers who have tried before and failed. "Is the administration going to support that bill?" Kolton asked. "Is (Rep.) Tom DeLay going to support that bill?"

Didn't matter to Mel that most Floridians oppose ANWR drilling. Many of us know that opening ANWR is essentially a symbolic move: Win the battle over the most contentious piece of oil-related geography and you've opened the door to raping and pillaging other unspoiled areas.
I'm sure the oil rigs off the Gulf Coast will look beautiful to the tourists.


From the Borowitz Report:
Fake Moustache Falls Off Veep During Press Briefing

The White House press corps was rocked by another scandal today as a man thought to be a professional journalist was revealed to be Vice President Dick Cheney wearing a fake moustache. The shocking discovery took place during a daily briefing at the White House in which spokesman Scott McClellan took the following question from a reporter he referred to only as “Herb”: “Wouldn’t you agree that President Bush’s plan for reforming Social Security totally rocks?” Before Mr. McClellan could respond to the question, the reporter’s moustache suddenly fell off his face, revealing him to be none other that Vice President Cheney. Mr. Cheney, unaware that his disguise had fallen off and seemingly oblivious to the audible gasps of the journalists in the room, continued: “And wouldn’t you agree that anyone who opposes it hates our country?” After adding, “And isn’t everything in Iraq going really well these days?” the vice president noticed that his fake moustache was on the carpet at his feet. He then quickly excused himself and bolted out of the room. Hours after the incident, the White House took great pains to explain Mr. Cheney’s dual role as vice president of the United States and obsequious journalist. “For the past three years, we have consistently stated that Vice President Cheney has been in a secure, undisclosed location,” Mr. McClellan told reporters. “That location was, in fact, the White House press room.” Elsewhere, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that she would not run for president in 2008 “unless the Democrats nominate somebody really easy again.”

Stifling academic freedom in Florida

This is good.
Editorial from the Daytona News-Journal:
It's almost a college ritual -- staring at a paper with a lower-than-expected grade and looking for an answer. It's not fair, the thought process runs. The professor didn't like me because I'm gay/ straight/ a woman/ a man/ a Christian/ a Jew/ an atheist/ conservative/ liberal/ white/ black/ Asian/ Hispanic. . .Usually, the complaints are just a way of ducking personal responsibility for below-par performance. Sometimes, however, they're justified. That's why Florida's public universities have established impartial third-party grievance processes to hear disputes over bias in the classroom. These procedures -- established at every state university -- seem to be working fine. Florida doesn't have an "academic freedom" problem. So why are lawmakers looking for a solution? For an answer, look north. Florida is one of a dozen states targeted by a Washington, D.C-based group waging an intimidation war against what it sees as an overwhelming liberal bias among the nation's university faculty. Students for Academic Freedom is pitifully short of evidence supporting the need for such legislation. But that hasn't stopped the group from pushing for new laws that give students a right to an "unbiased" education. That includes the right to be "graded wthout discrimination on the basis of their political and religious beliefs." It also includes a prohibition against "instructors who persistently introduce controversial matter into the classroom or coursework that has no relation to the subject of study and serves no legitimate pedagogical purpose." It declares that "freedom of speech, freedon of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of conscience of students and student organizations will not be infringed upon." Finally, student fees (which usually support campus organizations) will be distributed on a "viewpoint neutral basis." Lofty stuff, and it sounds good. But the practical effect of the bill would be to chill professors and students from talking freely about issues -- including controversial ones -- for fear that someone might be offended. The bill includes a slight hedge against that chilling effect in its declaration that professors and instructors can't be hired, fired or disciplined for their political or religious beliefs. But that's not enough to merit passage. Students and professors already have protection against religious discrimination, and grievance procedures that protect them from arbitrary, unfair professors. What they don't need is legislation aimed at protecting them from hearing ideas that challenge, upset or even anger them. That silences professors asking them to think for themselves instead of spouting a party line. That fails to prepare them for the day when they'll leave academia and enter the "real" world, with all its opinions, conflicts and -- on occasion -- unfairness. There's no evidence that Florida students need this legislation, and plenty of reason to believe the state's public university system could suffer for it.

Join the Progressive Majority

From Gloria Totten of Progressive Majority:
"Every committed progressive I meet with from across the country asks me the same questions - what's next for progressive politics? and how do we win?. Progressive Majority has a proven strategy for winning - 41% of our farm team candidates won their state legislative races in 2004. Immediately following Election Day, we began recruiting candidates in Colorado, Washington, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona for the next elections. Our field staff has poured over the maps and they know exactly where we have opportunities to make gains at the state and local levels. And we're making it our job to find a real progressive leader who will run for office in each of those districts and win. Winning starts with these vibrant leaders - it's why Progressive Majority focuses full-time on candidate recruitment. Please forward this e-mail to people in Arizona, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, and encourage them to sign up for Progressive Majority now. They can help us identify men and women who are leaders in their community - PTA presidents, school teachers, firefighters - people who may not think of themselves as leaders because they're not elected - yet! - and tell us why we need their leadership. Progressive Majority is working with up-and-coming talent to equip them with the tools and skills they need to win elections."
Click here to join ProgressiveNet.

Arianna: Failing Logic 101

She writes:
I just got back from a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth. Didn't ride the Teacups, though. Because I wasn't in Disneyland but in Washington, D.C., where everyone is walking on air, swept away by the Beltway's latest consensus: President Bush was right on Iraq, and, as a result, Tomorrowland in the Middle East will feature an E-ticket ride on the Matterhorn of freedom and democracy. The political and cultural establishment has gone positively Goofy over this notion. In the corridors of power, Republicans are high-fiving, and Democrats are nodding in agreement and patting themselves on the back for how graciously they've been able to accept the fact that they were wrong. The groupthink in the nation's capital would be the envy of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il...How did this cozy unanimity come to pass? Is it something in the water, a byproduct of Bush gutting the EPA? But then I thought back to my time at Cambridge, taking a course in elementary logic, studying the Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle. For those of you in need of a refresher on the concept, here's an example from the first chapter of my Logic 101 textbook: "All oaks are trees. All elms are trees. Therefore, all oaks are elms." See how easily you can go from point A to point Z, jumping over all the important steps in between? So: We invaded Iraq. Change is afoot in the Middle East. Therefore, the Middle East is changing because we invaded Iraq. Q.E.D. G.W.B. See how simple it is? And how illogical? The Bush White House has been masterful at this infantile reasoning: America is free and democratic. Terrorists attacked America. Therefore, terrorists hate freedom and democracy. And that's all anyone needs to know. What makes this particularly seductive is the historical longing of Americans for political consensus. It's no accident that the European idea of a loyal opposition never took hold here in the New World. Instead, Democrats are all too eager to suspend disbelief and go along with the fairytale the president is telling about freedom and democracy on the march, and the happily-ever-after future of the Middle East. But flip the page on this "Once Upon a Time" fantasy and what's revealed is a very ugly war story--a bloody narrative we hear shockingly little about on our daily news. Maybe the four people Brian Nichols killed in Atlanta are more important than the tens of thousands killed in Iraq. Or maybe Bush's fairytales have inoculated us to the daily horrors of life over there. The dream is so wonderful that, in its name, we accept all sorts of nightmares. In truth, I doubt the people of Iraq are going to bed with visions of Thomas Jefferson dancing in their heads. Not when their days are filled with random bombings and checkpoint shootings and kidnappings that have become commonplace. And six weeks after so many of them risked their lives to go to the ballot box, there is still no new Iraqi government in place. And what about the highly touted changes going on elsewhere in the Middle East? The "cedar revolution" in Lebanon turned out to be only part of the story, as 500,000 pro-Syrian demonstrators took to the streets of Beirut last week to denounce U.S. involvement in their country. What's more, the competing protests were ignited by the assassination of the anti-Syrian former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which wasn't--as far as we know at least--the handiwork of George and Condi and Wolfie. The local elections in Saudi Arabia were a start--but women weren't allowed to vote and only half of the seats were up for grabs, with the rest appointed by the royal family. In the meantime, a new report from the State Department found that "the record of human rights abuses and violations in Saudi Arabia . . . still far exceeds the advances." In Egypt, President Mubarak's promise to open future elections to competing parties hasn't been accompanied by the lifting of the current repressive emergency laws that, among other things, ban all public demonstrations and allow citizens deemed a threat to national security to be held indefinitely without formal charges. Nor did it stop the recent arrest of Ayman Nur, a leading opposition figure in Egypt. So remind me: What exactly are we celebrating? As much as I hate to rain on the president's Democracy Parade, the fact remains: Holding an election is not the same thing as establishing a democracy. Just ask the people of Russia. Or Algeria. Or Haiti. Or Africa. Indeed, there have been more than 50 elections in Africa over the past decade and a half--but the continent is not exactly a hotbed of political freedom. The truth is, the vast majority of Arabs remain skeptical of U.S. motives. So as long as the idea of democracy is equated with America--and promoted by America--it will be much harder for real democracy to take root in the Middle East. Especially when it is democracy accompanied by 150,000 U.S. troops. And can we really blame the Arab world for its skepticism about the Unites States' sudden commitment to freedom and democracy? After all, it wasn't that long ago that Dick Cheney was opposing the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa; Donald Rumsfeld was cutting deals with Saddam Hussein; and the CIA was overthrowing Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran, and installing the Shah. And President Bush continues to make nice with Mr. Putin, Gen. Musharraf and the House of Saud. And let's not forget that the great underpinning of the president's devotion to spreading democracy throughout the world is his oft-stated belief that more freedom will lead to less terrorism--a belief for which he has offered little evidence. Mohammed Atta was exposed to all the freedom and openness America has to offer. So was Timothy McVeigh. That didn't stop them from leading the two deadliest terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. Each was driven by a fanatical ideology, not by a hatred of freedom and democracy. The most dangerous aspect of the president's newfound dedication to freedom is that it completely ignores the fact that his aggressive push to liberate the people of Iraq has made us much less safe here at home. And this, more than anything else, is the highest priority of any government. Yet our ports, railways and borders remain porous. Our first responders remain underfunded. Our troops are stretched way too thin. And the war in Iraq has been both a breeding ground and a training ground for the next generation of Islamic terrorists. But the White House continues to razzle-dazzle the Beltway with its command of the Undistributed Middle: The president invaded Iraq. There have been no terrorist attacks in America since 9/11. Therefore, the invasion of Iraq has made us safer--and lit the torch of freedom throughout the Arab world. In any freshman course in logic, this reasoning would collapse, shot full of holes. In Washington, it's become the conventional wisdom.


From the LA Times on Bush's March 16 press conference:
Asked about the notion that terrorist groups such as Hezbollah might become political players in some Arab countries as part of the movement toward democracy, Bush offered a quip on a topic for which he typically reserved the gravest of tones:
"Maybe some will run for office and say, 'Vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America.' " More likely, he suggested, even Palestinian candidates would campaign on local issues such as filling potholes.

Support the Count Every Vote Act

Please sign the petition at:
The Count Every Vote Act of 2005 was introduced by Senators Boxer, Lautenberg, Kerry, and Clinton. Here are some of the comments on it so far:
* Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has joined as a co-sponsor.
* The New York Times (February 22, 2005) described the Count Every Vote Act as "the gold standard for election reform." Among the provisions of the bill it singled out: "Paper records for every vote cast...restrictions on political activity by voting machine manufacturers...and minimum standards for the number of voting machines per precinct." As the Times stated, the bill would also prevent states from using "onerous identification requirements to turn away eligible voters..."
* Other organizations have begun to mobilize support for the Count Every Vote Act, such as The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and People for the American Way.
* More than 116,000 citizen co-sponsors from every state have signed so far.
Please support this legislation.

Why Wolfowitz

A good analysis from Jim Vallettee of TomPaine.com on why the Bush regime chose the Wolfman to head the World Bank:
Over decades of political work, Wolfowitz and longtime buddies Donald Rumsfeld and Cheney have mastered the art of packaging raw geopolitical and corporate objectives into initiatives named otherwise. Strategic oil fields have preoccupied them in and out of office. It is almost a natural progression for the Bush/Cheney administration to want someone this steeped in blood and oil in charge of the World Bank. He was a weapon of mass deception for corporate quests in Iraq. At the Bank, he can serve the same function under the cloak of poverty alleviation. Wolfowitz long advocated for the Iraq invasion, partly on the basis that Saddam Hussein controlled a lot of the world’s oil. In 1998, he advocated the creation of a “liberated zone” in Southern Iraq, and the creation of a “provisional government to control the largest oil field in Iraq and make available to it, under some kind of appropriate international supervision, enormous financial resources for political, humanitarian and eventually military purposes,” in testimony before Congress. “Saddam’s supporters in the Security Council—in particular France and Russia—would suddenly see a different prospect before them. Instead of lucrative oil production contracts with the Saddam Hussein regime, they would now have to calculate the economic and commercial opportunities that would come from ingratiating themselves with the future government of Iraq." With the invasion of Iraq, Wolfowitz executed a similar agenda, using oil resources as a lever for economic, military and commercial opportunities. Occupied Iraq represents the main “development” experience of this would-be World Bank honcho. Wolfowitz helped orchestrate the U.S. reconstruction agenda, first by trying to strong-arm non-coalition Europeans into canceling Iraq’s debt...He has never vocalized opinions on debt cancellation accumulated by other odious regimes, as far as the public record reveals. After the Europeans did not fall in line, Wolfowitz said the spoils of war—er, reconstruction contracts—should go only to those countries that supported the U.S. invasion....Over the ensuing months, billions of dollars of oil export revenues flowed through the Coalition Provisional Authority-controlled Development Fund for Iraq (DFI)—and into the Bush/Cheney administration’s favored corporations...The Bank’s reticence to finance projects in Iraq may have pushed Cheney and gang over the edge, ushering the embodiment of U.S. unilateralism into his anointed role. With Wolfowitz in charge, the World Bank may be able to complete what the Iraq invasion started two years ago: U.S. corporate control over the world’s second-largest oil reserves.

A really bad day...

From Will Pitt of Truthout:
So...to recap:
Neocon warlord Paul Wolfowitz will head the World Bank;
The White House illegally puts out fake news reports, and the Justice Department does nothing;
Another $81 billion of your money and mine is to be poured onto the Iraqi sand;
The GOP majority in Congress is preparing to trash 200 years of Senate tradition in order to post a number of certifiably insane people to the bench;
Kevin Martin, a conservative Christian activist for the GOP, will now chair the FCC;
The Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve, one of the most ecologically pristine areas remaining to us, will be paved and drilled for its tiny amount of petroleum.
And that was just yesterday.
The list of appalling and abominable and flatly criminal acts perpetrated by this administration is literally becoming too long to manage. I suppose this is what happens when the entire government is owned by one party. I suppose this is what hapens when that one party is owned lock, stock and barrel by a cancerous combination of oil companies, weapons manufacturers and Rapture-happy fundamentalist Christians who think God put dinosaur bones in the ground to mess with our heads. This is what happens when the ‘opposition party’ sells its people down the river. Let us be clear: The Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve is about to be ravaged for one reason. Three Democratic Senators jumped the fence and voted with the drill bits, undoing a twenty-year-long fight to preserve the land. Senators Landrieu, Akaka and Inouye were the reason this went 51-49 the wrong way. Advocates for drilling in ANWR have said the issue is nobody’s business but the Alaskan people’s, so there is some irony in the fact that one Senator from Louisiana and two from Hawaii – the three of whom are a combined 20,000 miles away from Alaska - made the difference here. Mary Landrieu’s constituents include a bustling petrochemical industry out there in the Gulf, and I guess Akaka and Inouye somehow think drilling in Alaska will make Hawaii’s expensive gas a little cheaper. Seems worth it, don’t you think? This isn’t the first time Ms. Landrieu has gone sideways on an important vote. She voted in favor of cloture on the ruinous bankruptcy bill, and then voted for the bill itself. In a statement about her ANWR vote, Landrieu said, "My colleagues and I have been encouraged in recent days that a revenue-sharing measure is forthcoming that will benefit our coastal oil- and gas-producing states. Hopefully, we'll be able to get this done this year, just as we have helped Alaska today." Yeah. Thanks for the help. Here’s the thing, Mary: Democrats from all across the country contributed to your campaign in 2002. A lot of people worked very hard for you. Your victory was one small bright spot in the debacle that was the 2002 midterm elections, a debacle that included the death of Paul Wellstone, a man whose eyes you could not now meet were he alive today to see how you’ve been voting. A lot of people helped you, and ANWR belonged to all of us. Your betrayal here is epic in its proportions, yet sadly all too common these days...This weekend, a global protest will be taking place. Here in America, there will be demonstrations in 574 cities and towns in all 50 states. Ostensibly, this protest is to be aimed at the anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It needs to be about more than that now. It needs to be about public, vocal citizen action in and of itself. It needs to be about We The People reaching out to the one recourse we have left while we still have it: The streets, our numbers and our voices. Yesterday was a bad, bad day. Today and tomorrow will probably be worse, and next month isn’t even to be contemplated. You are running out of options, so you’d better make use of the few arrows left in the quiver: Economic boycotts and the streets. Put your boogie shoes on.

Democracy - by George?

From Juan Cole on Salon:
The Bush administration could genuinely push for the peaceful democratization of the (Middle East) region by simply showing some gumption and stepping in to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. There are, undeniably, large numbers of middle- and working-class people in the Middle East who seek more popular participation in government. Arab intellectuals are, however, often coded as mere American and Israeli puppets when they dare speak against authoritarian practices. As it is, the Bush administration is widely seen in the region as hypocritical, backing Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and of the Golan Heights (the latter belonging to Syria) while pressuring Syria about its troops in Lebanon, into which Kissinger had invited Damascus years ago. Bush would be on stronger ground as a champion of liberty if he helped liberate the Palestinians from military occupation and creeping Israeli colonization, and if he brokered the return of the Golan Heights and Shebaa Farms to Damascus in return for peace between Syria and Israel. The end of Israeli occupation of the territory of neighbors would deprive the radical Shiite party in Lebanon, Hezbollah, of its ability to mobilize Lebanese youth against this injustice. Without decisive action on the Arab-Israeli front, Bush risks having his democratization rhetoric viewed as a mere stalking horse for neo-imperial domination. Bush's invasion of Iraq has left the center and north of the country in a state of long-term guerrilla war. It has also opened Iraq to a form of parliamentary politics dominated by Muslim fundamentalists. This combination has little appeal elsewhere in the region. The Middle East may open up politically, and no doubt Bush will try to claim credit for any steps in that direction. But in Jordan, Yemen, Lebanon and elsewhere, such steps much predated Bush, and these publics will be struggling for their rights long after he is out of office. They may well see his major legacy not as democratization but as studied inattention to military occupation in Palestine and the Golan, and the retrenchment in civil liberties authorized to the Yemeni, Tunisian and other governments in the name of fighting terrorism.

No dice on Iraqi government

From Reuters:
Iraq's new parliament met for the first time on Wednesday, more than six weeks after it was elected in historic polls, but without a government as rival sectarian and ethnic blocs bicker over a coalition deal. Several Baghdad streets were closed and traffic restricted to try to thwart insurgent attacks, but guerrillas fired a rocket or mortar barrage into the fortified Green Zone compound before the meeting began...The Shi'ite Islamist alliance that won 140 seats -- just over half of the 275-member National Assembly -- and the Kurdish coalition that came second with 75 seats are deadlocked in negotiations over a government that have dragged on for weeks. There is tentative agreement that Ibrahim Jaafari of the Shi'ite Dawa party will be prime minister and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani will be president, with a Sunni Arab candidate probably being offered the job of parliament speaker. But talks have stalled over Kurdish demands to expand their northern autonomous zone to include the strategic oil city of Kirkuk and the fate of the Kurdish peshmerga militias, which Shi'ites want to be absorbed in Iraq's official security forces. The Kurds also want guarantees Iraq will remain secular...The delay in forming a government has angered many Iraqis, after more than eight million people defied suicide bombers and mortar attacks to vote in the Jan. 30 elections.

A great idea from...Ralph Nader!

Filling the Congressional Cop-Out Gap
An Idea for Local Peace Groups and Local Peace Activists
by Ralph Nader

Dear Member of Congress (Representative and two Senators):
According to a Harris poll last month, 59 percent of Americans want US troops brought home within the next year. We are among them. You are not listening to us. Here is what we propose: To meet with you in a public auditorium with the media invited on [insert date]_ when you say you will back in your state (district). We wish to discuss specifically with you the following issues:
1. Do you support continued funding of the Iraq War and occupation without a specific exit strategy and timetable?
2. Will you announce an exit strategy for Iraq?
3. Will you investigate contracting abuses found by DoD auditors regarding the reconstruction of Iraq?
4. Will you investigate the $9 billion dollars unaccounted for in the Coalition Provisional Authority budget in Iraq?
5. How will you hold President Bush accountable to Congress?
If we do not hear favorably from you within a week of your receipt of this email (or letter or fax), we will double the number of signatures and renew the request.
If one week later we do not hear from you, we will again double the number of signatures and present some of us at your local office so you and your staff can meet your constituents.
If a week later we do not hear from you, we will peacefully and diligently street march in front of your local office to secure your attention.
You have often said how much you want to enjoy hearing from your constituents - well, here we are. Please do not take this as a hostile message; rather it is an effort to indicate to you the serious urgency we take to ending the occupation of Iraq and bringing U.S. troops home as soon as possible. Civilians, little children and soldiers are dying or being seriously injured every day.
In the meantime, we would appreciate answers to the following questions:
1. Do you have a summary of Paul Bremer's vast directives which are still the governing authority of Iraq? These include extending Saddam's ban on trade union organizing and allow a U.S. takeover of Iraq businesses.
2. Have you protested to President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld that they do not officially disclose the injuries to our troops there, diseases and severe mental trauma when they do not occur in combat situations - even if they are evacuated from Iraq? If yes, send us a copy of your letter. If not, why not?
3. Will you sign a simple pledge that henceforth you will vote against any attack on another nation unless Congress itself declares war as required by the U.S. Constitution? See: The United States Constitution's War Powers Clause, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11.
4. Finally, would you propose a very selective service draft just for the children of members of Congress? The purpose of this request is that such a draft will focus the responsible attention on members of Congress in terms of realistic risks and consequences from the initiation of military hostilities.
(signed by a group of constituents)
cc: members of the press and many other interested parties

Harry Reid prepares to go nuclear

From an excerpt of the letter he wrote to Bill Frist about Frist's plans to destroy the filibuster:
On behalf of every Democratic Senator, I urge you and your colleagues to reconsider this course of action, which would remove one of the constitutional checks and balances that has served our country so well for over two centuries. I also want to describe the likely effect of this so-called "nuclear option" on the operation of the Senate. The role of the Senate in the confirmation of presidential nominees is a central element of our democracy. The Framers of the Constitution created a system of checks and balances to limit the power of each branch of government, and in that way to protect the rights of the American people. The Senate's review of judicial nominees is especially important because federal judges are the only government officials to receive lifetime appointments. These men and women will serve on the federal bench for decades, making far-reaching decisions that affect all Americans. Every citizen has an enormous stake in this debate. Federal judges apply the laws that Congress passes to protect the environment, guard against discrimination and punish criminals. They give life to the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, the free exercise of religion and other vital constitutional rights. The Senate's role in the confirmation of judges is as important as any of our duties.

You can read the entire letter and his speech on the steps of the Capitol from the link above.


Here's how they voted

As you can see below, several Repubs and the lone Independent senator came over to the right side on this one.
If three Dems hadn't sold out, we would have had the votes on this, folks.

Yea 49
Ban Drilling

Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Carper (D-DE)
Chafee (R-RI)
Clinton (D-NY)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corzine (D-NJ)
Dayton (D-MN)
DeWine (R-OH)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Jeffords (I-VT)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (D-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
McCain (R-AZ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Obama (D-IL)
Pryor (D-AR)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sarbanes (D-MD)
Schumer (D-NY)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Wyden (D-OR)

Nay 51
Allow Drilling

Akaka (D-HI)
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Allen (R-VA)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burns (R-MT)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Frist (R-TN)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lott (R-MS)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Santorum (R-PA)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Talent (R-MO)
Thomas (R-WY)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Open for Drilling

The bastards actually did it.
From the AP:
The Senate, by a 51-49 vote, rejected an attempt by Democrats and GOP moderates to remove a refuge drilling provision from next year's budget, preventing opponents from using a filibuster - a tactic that has blocked repeated past attempts to open the Alaska refuge to oil companies. The action, assuming Congress agrees on a budget, clears the way for approving drilling in the refuge later this year, drilling supporters said. The oil industry has sought for more than two decades to get access to what is believed to be billions of barrels of oil beneath the 1.5 million-acre coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the northern eastern corner of Alaska. Environmentalists have fought such development and argued that despite improve environmental controls a web of pipelines and drilling platforms would harm calving caribou, polar bears and millions of migratory birds that use the coastal plain. "We won't see this oil for 10 years. It will have minimal impact," argued Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., a co-sponsor of the amendment that would have stripped the arctic refuge provision from the budget document. It is "foolish to say oil development and a wildlife refuge can coexist," she said. The 19-million-acre refuge was set aside for protection by President Eisenhower in 1960, but Congress in 1980 said its 1.5 million acre coastal plain could be opened to oil development if Congress specifically authorizes it.

It's true...

From the AP:
President Bush on Wednesday tapped Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who has been a lightning rod for criticism of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other defense policies, to take over as head of the World Bank. Bush told a news conference that Wolfowitz, now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's top deputy, was "a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job at the World Bank. That's why I put him up."

I'll refrain from commenting on how Bush defines "compassionate and decent." It almost goes without saying how low that bar is set in his regime.
I love this quote too:
"He is a man of good experience," Bush said. "He helped manage a large organization .... a skilled diplomat, worked at the State Department."

I guess now we'll see how long it takes for the World Bank to become FUBAR.

The New PC

From Sean Gonsalves on Alternet:
...Being "politically incorrect" is not the same thing as having the courage to "speak truth to power." There's nothing courageous or truthful in publicly proclaiming that Indians, for example, shouldn't be "so sensitive" about the racist imagery of sports team mascots. It's downright callous. Say hello to the new PC, which turns Jesus' famous words on their head by condemning the splinter in other people's eyes while ignoring the lumber in their own. The new PC is about doling out scarlet letters through public moralistic scrutiny of individual private behavior with little or no concern for matters of public interest or institutional morality. So the new PC, for example, considers President Clinton's sex sins and his lying about something that all unfaithful men lie about to be worthy of impeachment hearings. But devotees of the new PC are apparently willing to accept, at face value, the word of war planners that the Iraq WMD hype was the result of "mistaken" intelligence, and the "war on terror" torture scandal is essentially a "liberal media" conspiracy to "aid and abet the terrorists" by sensationalizing the behavior of "a few bad apples," despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The inadequate funding of "No Child Left Behind Act" (doublespeak at its best)? So what, says the new PC. Cut my taxes!...Enticing desperate, poor teenagers to join the "all volunteer" military with promises of employment and education benefits while exposing them to the horrors of war? No big deal for the new PCs, just don't burn my flag.


Alabama Getaway

There's this from USA Today:
The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a constitutional challenge to an Alabama law that makes it a crime to sell sex toys. The high court refused to hear an appeal by a group of individuals who regularly use sexual devices and by two vendors who argued the case raised important issues about the scope of the constitutional right to sexual privacy. The law prohibited the distribution of "any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." First-time violators can face a fine of up to $10,000 and as much as one year in jail. The law, adopted in 1998, allowed the sale of ordinary vibrators and body massagers that are not designed or marketed primarily as sexual aids. It exempted sales of sexual devices "for a bona fide medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial or law enforcement purpose."

Then there's this from WHNT-TV News in Alabama:
A woman arrested for holding an anti-war poster at Auburn University Montgomery during President Bush's Social Security speech last week was released by a Montgomery magistrate, who said the protester was expressing her right to free speech. According to a police report, the woman was handcuffed because she refused to protest inside a predetermined area on campus where other protesters demonstrated. The woman held a sign reading "Stop the War!" outside the gym where Bush was speaking last Thursday. She refused to give her name to authorities and is listed as Jane Doe in court documents. She was released from the Montgomery County jail Thursday evening when Chief Magistrate Patrick Murphy said the sign was a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment. Murphy said the woman did not have to identify herself because there was no probable cause she committed a crime.

I was born and raised in Bama. No wonder I'm such a head case. It's a confusing place.

The Nelson Amendment

Daily Kos notes:
Today, Senator Bill Nelson introduced a Social Security "sense of the Senate amendment", which read in its entirety: "It is the sense of the Senate that Congress should reject any Social Security plan that requires deep benefit cuts or a massive increase in debt." Rather unremarkable, except that in addition to all 44 Dems and Jeffords, the amendment also garnered votes from five Republicans -- Collins, Snowe, Dewine, Specter, and Graham. In other words, five Republicans are now on record as opposing any Social Security plan that would would either add to the deficit or would cut benefits. The GOP (with five exceptions) just voted for deep Social Security cuts and massive debt. Start cutting the ads.

The beast within

I found a great blog called "Body and Soul," whose author is an excellent writer. I put together a few posts that I found particularly compelling with regard to the moral cesspool our country is sinking into:

(2004) was an election to decide whether this was a country of human beings or of monsters. After the election...I think I was more disturbed by what Bush's election seemed to tell me about my neighbors than I was by what it boded for the future. Over the past few months I've caught myself many times, in traffic, staring at a Bush bumper sticker still clinging to the back of a car, and wondering about the people inside, glancing over at elderly couples, and college students, and vans with a carpool's worth of kids, and wondering how come I see no signs of anger or irrational fear. These are the people who voted for torture? That girl singing along with the radio in her car? That lady to whom people have entrusted their children? Quite illiberal, that thought. I get furious at Bush for dividing people into good and evil, as if evil were not something that runs through all of us, and here I am, trying to see it stamped on faces like the mark of Cain. I decided it was too difficult to believe those nice-looking people chose evil, and so I made every effort not to believe it...Most people did not know that torture went far beyond the pictures from Abu Ghraib that they saw on tv. (I did my best to ignore the fact that the pictures were shocking enough that they should have caused any decent human being to want to find out what was behind them.) People voted on other issues entirely. (I tried hard not to think about what kind of people thought any issue discussed last year was more important than this.) Americans are idiots. (Why is it so much more comforting to believe that people are stupid than that they're dancing with Mr. D?) I've been very depressed about politics the past few days. My comforting illusions are shattering...I've been following these stories for a long time, probably longer than is good for me. They don't surprise me. But I've been telling myself for a long time that if these things started pouring out, day after day, people would not be able to turn their backs. A lot of it is coming. And I don't think anyone who didn't care six months ago cares now. Last weekend, the excuses for torture sounded panic-stricken to me. It seemed to me that facts were becoming harder and harder to ignore, and people who needed excuses were coming up with ones so feeble even they knew it. God help us, I think those feeble excuses will do the trick. Even the excuse that exporting torture to cheap-labor foreign prisons keeps our taxes down will work. The Wal-mart frame is already available.

A culture of abuse doesn't stay in the box...The problem isn't just that certain people, already prone to that sin, will be given license to practice it and won't know when to stop. Evil isn't something that exists over there in the other guy, but not in me. Whatever penchant for cruelty exists in each of us will come to the surface. And at some point you end up with a country in which people can look at pictures of abuse, read about men beaten while hanging from the ceiling, or children raped and set upon by guard dogs, and move on, perhaps even find some sick enjoyment in the spirit of vengeance. They won't react to the evil done by their leaders. They won't care. Or worse, they will approve. Maybe we're already there, in which case this is less a matter of politics than of saving souls. I can't think of any effective political response to this situation. There's no way to "frame" abuse so that people who don't care will care. The only way to talk about it is -- with or without religious language -- as the most important moral issue we face.

(One group) strikes me as especially hard to reach. These I call Right-Wing Postmodernists: most of them are media folk or educated young people. They regard arguments from liberal premises as tired, old hat, so Sixties, been there done that. The Right-Wing PoMos will be there when the trillion-dollar arena opens, to cheer on the torture and death of American enemies on the sand, and call the entertainment "inspiring." Oh, I forget. They're already doing that. From the RWPMs' point of view, our gladiatorial circus is Iraq, brought to us by TV and the Internet. From the POV of the Right-Wing Postmodern media, the WOT has been the greatest show on earth, and they aren't going to allow a rewrite of the frame story so late in the production.

This last paragraph provides a great description of some of the students I teach. To quote one of them who was defending her conservative views to her fellow students a couple of years back: "I love Fox News, and I love the war."

"Sick of 9/11"

By Gerald Ensley of the Tallahassee Democrat:
I'm tired of Sept. 11, 2001. The attack by terrorists is ruining this nation.
I'm tired of what Sept. 11 has done to free speech. Colorado University professor Ward Churchill is on the verge of being fired for talking frankly about Sept. 11. How can anyone not believe U.S. policies overseas have helped fuel terrorism? So what if he called Sept. 11 victims "little Eichmanns," in reference to the architect of the Jewish holocaust? It was just a metaphor. But what he said is not the issue. The issue is that universities should be sanctuaries for radical and unpopular ideas. Allowing free-talking professors is how we protect dissent and advance understanding, which are the basis of a free society.
I'm tired of what Sept. 11 has done to American justice. We're jailing suspects in Cuba, Afghanistan and Thailand without charges, without access to attorneys and without notification to human-rights organizations. We're torturing suspected terrorists in Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Jordan. We used to be better than Third World barbarians. Now, we're just another country of thugs.
I'm tired of what Sept. 11 has done to airline travel. Tired of pat-down searches of grandmothers. Tired of taking off my shoes to board a plane. Tired of ridiculous parking restrictions. When the terrorists come, do you think they'll say, "Oh, look, I'm not allowed to park in front of the terminal; I guess I'll take this load of explosives somewhere else"?
I'm tired of what Sept. 11 has done to public buildings. Tired of having to empty my pockets every time I walk into the Capitol. Tired of going through a metal detector at the county courthouse. Tired of having to sign in and out to visit City Hall. Do you really think a sign-in sheet will stop a terrorist?
I'm tired of the Department of Homeland Security, which sounds like a Big Brother nightmare - and behaves like it. I don't want live in a country that keeps no-fly lists or videotapes people at ballgames.
I'm tired of the irrational fear of people who worry they'll be a victim of terrorism. Life is a crapshoot every day. You could be hit by a bus or a tsunami. You could develop cancer or pneumonia. The Sept. 11 attacks killed 2,819 people - fewer than the number of people killed in boating accidents each year. Instead of supporting every measure that purports to stop terrorism, demand better health care, safer vehicles and more scientific research.
I'm tired of the ridiculous notion that every place in America is a target. They're coming to Tallahassee because the president's brother lives here. They're going to bomb the Super Bowl because it's America's big game. They're going to gas a YMCA in Topeka because it's an American institution in the American heartland. Everything in America is American. Everything can't be a target.
I'm tired of red-orange-yellow alerts. Osama bin Laden and his gang took 20 years to launch Sept. 11. If they had another shoe to drop, they would have already.
Sept. 11 was a criminal act. Those responsible ought to be pursued, arrested and punished. But it didn't happen because reasonable safeguards weren't in place or because we weren't aware of terrorism. It occurred because bad guys always find a way around safeguards, and terrorism is a product of evil people. To erode our legal protections, to escalate our levels of security or to live in daily fear of terrorism will not protect us against evil. It will only diminish the lives and freedoms of good people. That's wrong. And I'm tired we keep forgetting that.

Joke thief

This is a hoot. From the WaPo:
A joke President Bush told recently in Montana struck several readers as very familiar when it was recounted in yesterday's Style section. In Bush's telling, the joke involved a city slicker asking for directions in Livingston and being told to look for two 'cattle guards.' Now, everyone in cowboy country knows a cattle guard is a metal grate that keeps livestock from straying. But this fellow is so clueless, he asks: 'Hey, what color uniforms do those cattle guards have on?'
But in 1978, when Dubya was running for Congress in Texas, the very same joke was on him.
Nicholas D. Kristof has the details, in a New York Times story from 2000, describing that 1978 congressional race:
"A candidate forum was under way, and his rival was needling Mr. Bush with an oft-repeated joke in which he was the punchline, a yarn that reinforced a perception of him as a spoiled rich kid from back East. Kent Hance, the Democratic candidate and a smooth-talking good old boy, was telling a yarn about working in a field along a rural road. Then along came a fancy car. 'It was a Mercedes,' drawled Mr. Hance, raising his eyebrows, and the audience tittered knowingly at the hint that Mr. Bush was the kind of man more comfortable in a Mercedes than a pick-up. 'The guy rolled down the window and wanted to know how to get to a certain ranch.' Mr. Hance recounted how he'd given the man directions, telling him to turn right after a cattle guard, a metal grate ubiuitous in rural roads to keep livestock from straying. 'Then,' Mr. Hance continued, 'he said, "what color uniform will that cattle guard be wearing?"' The audience roared with laughter, and just to be sure that the voters got the connection with the Connecticut-born Mr. Bush, Mr. Hance said he had noticed something else about the Mercedes: 'It had Connecticut license plates.'"
Bush lost that race.

Just a few questions for Karen Hughes...

From Tim Grieve on Salon:
George W. Bush's media advisor, confidante and alter ego will return to Washington soon -- apparently to become the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. If that's the job Bush picks for Karen Hughes, she'll have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. And if that's the case, we've got a few questions we'd like to see Hughes answer under oath -- and not just the one about how, exactly, her experience as a TV news reporter in Texas prepares her for the job of rebuilding the image of the United States in the Middle East.
1. When you abruptly ended a 1998 interview in which Dallas Morning News reporter Wayne Slater was talking with Bush about his arrest record, were you trying to prevent Bush from admitting that he had been arrested for drunk driving in 1976 or were you covering up some other arrest?
2. In ghost-writing Bush's autobiography, "A Charge to Keep," you claimed that Bush took it upon himself to volunteer for the Texas Air National Guard and suggested that he continued flying for the TANG long after he actually did. Did you believe those statements were true when you wrote them? Did the president?
3. Did you out Valerie Plame? And if you didn't, who did?
4. When Wolf Blitzer asked you last year how abortion would factor into the presidential race, you said: "I think after September 11th the American people are valuing life more and realizing that we need policies to value the dignity and worth of every life. . . . The fundamental difference between us and the terror network we fight is that we value every life." Do you believe it is fair to equate Americans who support abortion rights with terrorists?
5. You know the president better than just about anyone. What was that bulge on his back?

Republican bullies

From P.M. Carpenter on SmirkingChimp.com:
...As too many know from childhood experience, schoolyard bullies act, through the instrumentality of raw power, as though they're exempt from rules of respectful behavior toward others. In short, they can push you around because they make the rules -- rules that change according to personal whim and momentary advantage but enforced with exacting regularity. You, as a target of bullying, are to suffer these rule changes silently, lest you be labeled a crybaby, or worse. And what, I put to you, is more symptomatic of today's Right than bullying? From their threatened change in Senate rules to the routine "outsourcing" of torture, conservatives simply do not believe that decent standards of conduct apply -- to them. They hold the power, hence they are exempt. You'll take it and you'll like it. They make the rules, no matter how conversely harmful the new rules might be when they find themselves in the minority once again and once again subject to others' power (at which point no doubt, they'll cry foul and demand fair treatment), or when our military men and women find themselves captive to equally unprincipled rules. The obvious questions arise: How intellectually mature is a political party whose core personality meshes with that of a prepubescent, schoolyard bully? And what cognitive precepts are likely to emerge from such a fundamentally immature personality -- one that taunts the opposition through name-calling, rather than critiques through analysis? The obvious answer? Ideational acorns, if you will, fall not far from the tree.