4/13/2005

I'm moving

Please visit me at my new and improved site:
http://floridablues.typepad.com
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4/12/2005

The essential difference...

From Hoffmania:
...I think we should bring into the conversation how your taxes are SPENT by Democrats vs Republicans.
Democrats usually spend that money for your benefit on schools, roads, bridges, social programs and clean air.
Republicans spend it on blowjob investigations against Democrats, war, propaganda, shitty humvees, countries in neocon-inflicted chaos and Social Security townhall tours.
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Bill Clinton blasts a Hillary basher...who just married his male partner

From Joe at AmericaBlog:
The NY Daily News has the story. It's actually vintage Clinton...and probably a very accurate analysis of Arthur Finkelstein:
Former President Bill Clinton wasn't about to let just anybody attack his wife - especially a gay Republican operative. Clinton fired back yesterday, suggesting that political consultant Arthur Finkelstein, who has launched a "Stop Her Now" campaign, is suffering from "self-loathing." Finkelstein married his male partner in a civil ceremony in Massachusetts in December, with a few of his conservative clients at the nuptial. "... He went to Massachusetts and married his longtime male partner and then he comes back here and announces this," Clinton said at a Harlem news conference. "I thought, one of two things. Either this guy believes his party is not serious, and is totally Machiavellian in his position, or there's some sort of self-loathing there. I was more sad for him."

Joe comments:
Sounds accurate to me. Finkelstein helped elect Jesse Helms over and over. Something doesn't add up. This was his quote about his nuptials in Saturday's New York Times: "I believe that visitation rights, health care benefits and other human relationship contracts that are taken for granted by all married people should be available to partners," he said. See, Arthur, the problem here is that the people you work to elect don't believe in visitation rights, health care benefits and the other human relationship contracts for gay couples. They don't think of your relationship as human or normal. They hate you.
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DeLay tells GOP to blame Dems for his troubles

From Yahoo News:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, hoping to hold support among fellow Republicans, urged GOP senators Tuesday to blame Democrats if asked about his ethics controversy and accused the news media of twisting supportive comments so they sounded like criticism. Officials said DeLay recommended that senators respond to questions by saying Democrats have no agenda other than partisanship, and are attacking him to prevent Republicans from accomplishing their legislative program. One Republican said the Texan referred to a "mammoth operation" funded by Democratic supporters and designed to destroy him as a symbol of the Republican majority.
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Rick, Rick, Rick...tacky, tacky, tacky

From John at AmericaBlog:
According to the Philly Inquirer, nasty uber-GOP Senator Rick Santorum raised "$200,000 - twice what he had anticipated - from four fund-raising events he held in Florida when he was visiting the hospice where Schiavo's parents were keeping vigil." Gosh, guess that GOP Senate memo was right, Terri Schiavo's death throes were a "great political issue" for the GOP, and for Rick Santorum in particular.
Who knew the culture of life, and one brain-damaged woman's dying days, could be so profitable?
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So is it a democracy or a republic?

From Digby's blog:
From Joe Klein to Ed Koch to every wingnut in the land, the meme of the week is that Democrats are undemocratic because we believe in an independent judiciary and will use the illegitimate minority cudgel of the filibuster to thwart the will of the people. Shame, shame on us.
Yes, we do desire that judicial nominees not be ideologically so removed from our way of thinking as to turn the country in a completely different direction --- like proclaim for the first time, for instance, that the government derives its authority from God rather than the governed. And yes, since the Republicans repealed all the tools they used to accomplished the same tempering of ideology when a Democrat was president, we have threatened to use the only tool at our disposal, the filibuster. This means we have no respect for the majority and are attempting to thwart the will of the electorate, who evidently voted en masse for a radical reform of the judiciary in the last election. Who knew?
Undemocratic. I wonder what one would call impeaching a twice elected president for a personal indiscretion would be? How about redrawing the electoral maps whenever it suits in order to establish a larger majority? Or how about staging a recall less than two years after a scheduled election just because the governor had hit a rough spot in public opinion? (The way Bush is going right now, I wish we had such a thing at the federal level. We could kick his unpopular ass out. But, surely that would be considered "undemocratic" wouldn't it --- if Democrats did it?)
The word "democracy" is sadly being bastardized to such a degree that it's losing its meaning. It's become like Jesus --- a code word for Republicans to bash Democrats. But with all this talk of the filibuster being undemocratic, and it is, it certainly is no more undemocratic than the Senate itself. The Republican party currently represents a majority of states in the Sernate, but the Democrats represent a majority of people. What's democratic about that?
Or how about that relic called the electoral college --- you know the little anachronism that got Junior his first term? Talk about undemocratic. If we are going to start going down the road to a pure democracy then I would suggest that we should probably eliminate both of those institutions.
But it's a funny thing. Whenever I've had conversations bemoaning the undemocratic streak in the GOP these last few years, what with its unprecedented blow job impeachments and recalls and district redrawings and the like, I'm always met with the standard wingnut line "the United States is a republic, not a democracy." Suddenly, we're hearing all this stuff about thwarting the majority. How convenient.
I get tired of pointing out the intellectual inconsistencies on the right. But it is so vast and fertile a subject that I come up against it again and again and again. This is way beyond something as prosaic as hypocrisy. They feel no shame in completely doing an intellectual 180 overnight when circumstances require it. They don't even betray a rueful shrug of the shoulders with a "well you know, it's politics." They argue with the same supercilious, ferocious rudeness on whatever side of the argument serves them at any moment, without ever acknowledging (even, I suspect, to themselves) that just yesterday they were on the other side. Very, very weird.
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"You forgot Poland!!"

From the BBC:
Poland has said it will pull its troops out of Iraq when the UN mandate for the stabilisation mission expires at the end of this year. Poland has 1,700 soldiers in Iraq, and leads a multinational security force south of Baghdad. Polish Defence Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the troops' mission would end "at the time of the expiry of the Security Council's mandate".
Several other US allies have also set dates for their troops to pull out.
Italy, with just over 3,000 troops in Iraq, has said it wants to pull its contingent out as soon as possible.
The Netherlands (about 800 troops) and Ukraine (1,600 troops) have begun phased withdrawals of their contingents.
The last Ukrainian troops are due to leave by mid-October.
Bulgaria (about 500 troops) also wants to pull its troops out this year.
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"Let them eat bombs"

From Terry Jones of Monty Python fame, in the Guardian:
A report to the UN human rights commission in Geneva has concluded that Iraqi children were actually better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now. This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations.
It now appears that, far from improving the quality of life for Iraqi youngsters, the US-led military assault on Iraq has inexplicably doubled the number of children under five suffering from malnutrition. Under Saddam, about 4% of children under five were going hungry, whereas by the end of last year almost 8% were suffering. These results are even more disheartening for those of us in the Department of Making Things Better for Children in the Middle East By Military Force, since the previous attempts by Britain and America to improve the lot of Iraqi children also proved disappointing. For example, the policy of applying the most draconian sanctions in living memory totally failed to improve conditions. After they were imposed in 1990, the number of children under five who died increased by a factor of six. By 1995 something like half a million Iraqi children were dead as a result of our efforts to help them. A year later, Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, tried to put a brave face on it. When a TV interviewer remarked that more children had died in Iraq through sanctions than were killed in Hiroshima, Mrs Albright famously replied: "We think the price is worth it."
But clearly George Bush didn't. So he hit on the idea of bombing them instead. And not just bombing, but capturing and torturing their fathers, humiliating their mothers, shooting at them from road blocks - but none of it seems to do any good. Iraqi children simply refuse to be better nourished, healthier and less inclined to die. It is truly baffling. And this is why we at the department are appealing to you - the general public - for ideas. If you can think of any other military techniques that we have so far failed to apply to the children of Iraq, please let us know as a matter of urgency. We assure you that, under our present leadership, there is no limit to the amount of money we are prepared to invest in a military solution to the problems of Iraqi children.
In the UK there may now be 3.6 million children living below the poverty line, and 12.9 million in the US, with no prospect of either government finding any cash to change that. But surely this is a price worth paying, if it means that George Bush and Tony Blair can make any amount of money available for bombs, shells and bullets to improve the lives of Iraqi kids. You know it makes sense.
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Look out for another Florida power grab

NOTE TO FIRST-TIME VISITORS:
Please visit my new location for the Florida election piece:
http://floridablues.typepad.com/my_weblog/2005/04/look_out_for_an.html
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4/11/2005

Why is bin Laden still around?

From Hoffmania's blog:
Look, I know this is old news to many of you, but I'm still surprised at the number of people who are...well, surprised by this nugget of information. So let's run it past y'all again. We'll also be quick to point out that while some will find this to be "Hats by Reynolds" material, the links here aren't of the fringe-formation variety.
Despite Bush's bloviating about how bin laden attacked us on 9/11 because he "hated our freedom"...
Bin Laden's main stated goal while the US had military bases in Saudi Arabia was to get the US military bases out of Saudi Arabia. As the country and the world held its focus on Iraq during March of 2003, something else was happening barely a month later.

U.S. to move operations from Saudi base
Tuesday, April 29, 2003 Posted: 7:08 PM EDT (2308 GMT)
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) --The large U.S. military presence at Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan Air Base is expected to end in the coming months, depending on the security situation in Iraq, U.S. officials told CNN on Tuesday. The decision to move significant U.S. military resources and personnel to neighboring Qatar marks a major shift in U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf region after a longtime presence in Saudi Arabia, currently at about 5,000 troops. More than 100 aircraft and the U.S. Combined Air Operations Center at the base are expected to make the move, and some of those aircraft could be permanently reassigned to the United States, officials said. The center will be moved to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, part of the post-war U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, military sources have told CNN.

He continues:
Surprised? Don't be. You and the rest of the world were a little preoccupied while that was going on. We all know the "security situation in Iraq" never improved - in fact, it got worse. And today, there's still no "post-war Iraq." Still, by September 2003, we were out of Saudi Arabia. Gone. Just what bin Laden wanted. Run what's happened in the last couple of years through your head - like bin Laden's pre-election day video which worked to Bush's favor - and it all seems to pervertedly make sense, deal-wise. History has recorded what happened - that we now know. History should also record how we've all been lied to over the last few incredibly sad years. Just a factoid to keep in your noggin when the wingnuts come at you with terror talk.
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Jaw-dropping fact

Via the Crooks and Liars blog:
According to today's issue of Parade Magazine: The government spent more than $40 million for the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations but only $15 million for the 9/11 Commission to examine the terrorist atacks of Sep. 11, 2001.
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More US troops questioning Iraq duty

From Al-Jazeera:
As the number of US dead or wounded in Iraq continues to rise, there is growing disquiet in the US army about serving in the two-year-old war. US army figures indicate that since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, about 5500 military personnel have absconded. In 2003 an independent advisory service for US military personnel, the GI Rights Hotline, received 32,000 calls, twice as many as in 2001, from soldiers wanting to leave the military. Some refuse to serve for political reasons, others are just unwilling to go to a country where 1500 US soldiers have been killed and more than 11,000 wounded. Many soldiers who object have already spent time in Iraq and become disillusioned by their experiences.
Camilo Mejia is one of them. He spent six months in a combat unit in Iraq after the invasion, and upon returning to the US for a vacation decided he would not return for moral reasons. He subsequently served a one year prison sentence for deserting. Mejia says his experiences in Iraq shocked him. Some say the promised benefits of joining the army are illusory "The commanders wanted us to get into firefights because they wanted to put that on their resume to make them look better," Mejia told Aljazeera.net. "Thirty people were killed by my unit. About three of those people had weapons." "Once you come home it's really hard not to think about it. You start going back to those moments and it's really hard to justify that," he said. As some soldiers begin their second or even third tour of Iraq, Mejia says many are asking why are they still in the country two years after invasion and after handing over power and overseeing elections. "'What the hell else are we there for?' Soldiers ask themselves this question. It's like there is no ending," he said.
The Pentagon is struggling to maintain enlistment targets. According to army figures the active-duty army in March missed a monthly recruiting goal for the first time since May 2000, and the Guard and Reserve are also lagging. And as the Pentagon struggles to find enough troops to replace already overstretched units in Iraq and Afghanistan, many say it is resorting to measures that amount to an unofficial draft. "We think there is a draft but a different kind because it doesn't include everyone," Robert Dove, an administrator with the Quaker peace group American Friends Committee, told Aljazeera.net. Dove points to the US Army's "stop loss" policy, which prevents soldiers from retiring or leaving the military after they have finished their duty.
Carl Webb says he is a victim of this policy. He went Awol after being given orders to return to duty when he had just finished three years of part-time service in the US National Guard. "One month before I was due to leave they gave me these orders [to return to service] ... I enlisted for three years in August 2001, which meant that my time was up in August 2004. I am saying this is illegal," Webb told Aljazeera.net. "The policy that they have now is the policy of not allowing people to leave or calling back men who are 40 or 50-years-old. It doesn't affect the general public," he said.
Despite the vocal protests of some of those who refuse to serve, there is evidence that the number of desertions has actually declined. "We have had a steady decrease in the number of deserters," a US Army spokeswoman said. "Most of the people who are deserting are continuing to desert for the same reasons. ... The number of people who have deserted for reasons of conscience is very, very small," the spokesperson told Aljazeera.net. To be sure, cases of soldiers coming out against the war and registering themselves as "conscientious objectors" are still far less than the 190,000 claims filed during the Vietnam war. But despite the army's figures, Dove of the American Friends' Committee believes the number of deserters is actually much higher. "There are at least 5000 and I am sure that means there are a lot more. The system is overloaded," he says. Webb says he joined the National Guard simply because he needed to supplement his income. "I didn't have any money. I was broke. I was in debt and there was a $2500 bonus for those who joined, so I sold my soul to the devil," he said.
Camilo Mejia, US Army deserter Critics of US Army recruitment policies say that in a bid to meet their quotas, recruiters often operate in poor communities and lure young people with promises of an education and other benefits. "I think poor people are definitely targeted. We refer to it as a poverty draft. What that really means is that recruiters target low-income people. So when they choose which high schools to recruit people from, they spend a lot more time in high schools in poor areas," Dove said. He said the benefits of joining the US military were usually less than many recruits were led to believe. "You can get up to $70,000 in assistance once you have completed your service. Almost no one gets that... Most people who get any money at all get considerably less than that and a lot of people get nothing," he said. Also, an increasing number of National Guard units are being sent to Iraq, something that has shocked some National Guard recruits. "The National Guard were originally for emergencies within the United States, so a lot of people join the National Guard for a host of reasons, including that when they go for their training camp they will get paid for it," Dove said. "But in the last two years they have been enlisted, and to their great horror they [have found they] can be sent off to war." Both Mejia and Webb have added their voices to the anti-war lobby in the US, attending rallies and speaking about the reasons behind their actions.
"The only way this can be resolved is through protests by the masses," Webb says. For his part, Mejia says he realised while serving in Iraq that the arguments used to justify the conflict were bogus. "You go into an Arab nation, you kill people, you steal their oil, you destroy their country and charge them to have it rebuilt," Mejia said. "You are giving terrorism a whole new life."
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Oil, geopolitics, and the coming war with Iran

Another good one from Michael Klare of TomDispatch:
As the United States gears up for an attack on Iran, one thing is certain: the Bush administration will never mention oil as a reason for going to war. As in the case of Iraq, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) will be cited as the principal justification for an American assault. "We will not tolerate the construction of a nuclear weapon [by Iran]," is the way President Bush put it in a much-quoted 2003 statement. But just as the failure to discover illicit weapons in Iraq undermined the administration's use of WMD as the paramount reason for its invasion, so its claim that an attack on Iran would be justified because of its alleged nuclear potential should invite widespread skepticism. More important, any serious assessment of Iran's strategic importance to the United States should focus on its role in the global energy equation.

You can read the whole thing from the link.
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DeLay Watch...the beat goes on

From the Center for American Progress:
For months, Tom DeLay has tried to avoid culpability for illicitly financed junkets to England, Russia and elsewhere by claiming he didn't know the source of the funding. Last week, DeLay told CNN, "I can't – no Member can be responsible for going into the bowels of researching what this organization, how it gets its money or how it's funded." According to one of DeLay's closest associates, that isn't true. Newsweek reports that Jack Abramoff – the lobbyist who organized the trips – told a colleague "DeLay knew everything, he knew all the details."
Right-wing stalwarts like Robert Novak and Rich Lowry continue to describe criticism of DeLay as partisan. The facts don't back them up. In recent days DeLay "has been criticized in two blue-chip conservative forums: the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times column of David Brooks." This weekend, Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) said, "Tom DeLay should step down as House majority leader" because of his ethics problems. Appearing on ABC's This Week on Sunday, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) said DeLay "has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves."
DeLay's cronies "plan to try to preserve his power by launching an aggressive media strategy." The plan includes "leaks from DeLay allies about questionable Democratic trips and financial matters; denunciations of unfavorable news stories as biased, orchestrated rehashes; and swift, organized responses to journalists' inquiries." The overall message from DeLay will be that "an attack on him is an attack on the conservative movement." The group will also "hold a tribute dinner for DeLay on May 12 at the Capital Hilton."
Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, "journalist" Brit Hume revealed his total inability to asses DeLay's ethical problems. Hume said to host Chris Wallace that the trip to Russia that was financed by foreign lobbyists wasn't a big deal. Hume said, "It's not at all clear that DeLay knew that [the trip was financed by foreign lobbists]. If he had known that, it still wouldn't have probably been illegal, but it would have been questionable." First, according to legal experts, "House members bear some responsibility to ensure that the sponsors for their travel are not masquerading for registered lobbyists or foreign government interests." So ignorance is not an excuse. Second, if DeLay knowingly allowed his trip to Russia to be paid for by lobbyists it wouldn't be "questionable," it would be in direct violation of House ethics rules.
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The American pay cut

From the Center for American Progress:
According to the Los Angeles Times, "For the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut." Corporate profits are high – the economy last year grew 4 percent, more than the 3 percent historical average. Companies didn't feel the need to pass along those profits with increased salaries, however. As a result, in the first two months of 2004, the growth in American wages fell behind the growth in inflation. Compounding the problem, while salaries remain flat, high housing costs, rising health insurance premiums and skyrocketing energy prices have all taken their toll on the finances of American workers, especially the working poor. "The squeeze is especially intense on the 47% of the workforce whose employers don't directly provide their health insurance. For lower-income workers, who are more likely to be uninsured, the falling value of their wages is even more serious because they're more likely to live paycheck to paycheck. And rising food and energy prices take a proportionately higher toll on the poor than on the rich."
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Damn right

"Our Country Has Been Overtaken By Murderous Thugs"
by Cindy Sheehan, co-founder of Gold Star Families For Peace
The is the speech Cindy Sheehan (whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year) made at Riverside Church -- where Martin Luther King gave his "Beloved Community" speech -- during the groundbreaking of the "Break the Silence: Building the Beloved Community" tour. You can read about the tour and Dr. King's speech at the DriveDemocracy.org web site.
Her speech is incredible. Please click on the link above and read the whole thing.
She concludes:
Our country has been overtaken by murderous thugs....gangsters who lust after fortunes and power; never caring that their addictions are at the expense of our loved ones, and the blood of innocent people near and far. We've watched these thugs parade themselves before the whole world as if they are courageous advocates for Christian moral values....and for the spread of democracy. Yet we all know that they are now putting in place, all across this country, a system of voting that provides no way to validate the accuracy of the counting of the votes. Our loved ones have been buried in early graves even as these arrogant thugs parade themselves before the entire world, insisting that democracy is worth dying for, killing for, and destroying entire cities for, all the while they are busy here at home overseeing the emplacement of an electronic voting system that invites fraud at every turn, an electronic vote-counting system that provides no way to validate the votes cast, and that, by it's very design, prohibits recounting the votes. For these men to not see to it that our own system of voting and vote-counting is accurate, understandable and verifiable...all the while sending our loved ones to kill and to die so as to establish a democracy in some far away place......this is just one more staggering piece of evidence that the US government is now ruled by murderous hypocrites...criminals who should be arrested, charged appropriately, confined behind bars, and then tried in a court of law...not only here in our own country, but also in all the other countries which have suffered their incomprehensible greed. In their secret hiding places, while celebrating newly won fortunes with their fellow brass, these men must surely congratulate themselves with orgies of carnal pleasure as they mock the multitudes who are yet so blind as to mistake them for God's devoted servants.
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Update on teenage girls arrested in NY

My friend who passed this item along to me earlier (see link above) called the Homeland Security Office and was told they’ve received so many calls about the two 16-year-old girls arrested in New York that they have assigned this to a case worker.  The woman she spoke with commented specifically on the calls from Florida, so being loud and obnoxious clearly has paid off. My friend says she is still bugging Lieberman and Collins and will let me know if she hears anything new. If you didn’t call, it’s not too late.
Senator Joe Lieberman: 202-224-2627.
Senator Susan Collins: 202-224-4751.
They’re heads of the Homeland Security Committee.
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The Hubris and the Humvee Meet the Girly-Men

From Mark A. R. Kleiman's blog. He writes:
I don't know much about Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, but he sure knows how to criticize an opponent: vigorously and humorously, in ways that tie the opponent's misdeeds to damage to the real interests of real people. The sample below is just a sample. Read it all. National Democrats, please copy.

"It had to happen eventually. Here was California's action-hero governator busy trying to save our state from the special interests and politicians, trying to overturn all those annoying laws that protect workers and consumers at the expense of business, trying to redraw the political lines to his advantage, since he couldn't win in a fair fight (election). And then those pesky girly-men and losers began chasing him around the country, mocking and criticizing him, pointing out his broken promises and his hypocrisy and causing his approval ratings to drop. What's an action-hero governator to do?
First he tried going Hollywood. Using the millions in ‘non-special-interest' dollars he'd raised from all those corporations, he started running TV commercials to explain why his illegal suspension of the law that protects patients in emergency rooms by guaranteeing a minimum number of registered nurses was actually good for patients and nurses.
When nobody bought that, he called in the cops. He had nurses, in uniform, detained and interrogated for daring to be in the same Sacramento theater with him and posing a threat to his safety. But that image did not play well in the media and the cops didn't much care for it either (they understand that in their line of work, nurses may make the difference).
So he tried hitting the mall-circuit. He likes the malls. People stop and applaud, and ask for his autograph and gush all over him… but his challenge to those starry-eyed shoppers to phone their girly-men legislators rarely results in any action. It just garners a little news coverage.
So he decided to try a few of the special-effects tricks he'd learned while making all those ‘first-rate' movies…"
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Filibuster face-off

From the April 10 TIME Magazine:
If Senate Minority leader Harry Reid is spooked by Republican threats to curb the mighty filibuster in order to get President Bush's judges appointed to the bench, he isn't showing it. In a private meeting last week with Reid, majority leader Bill Frist said he wanted a compromise over seven judges whom the President renominated in February and whom Democrats are threatening to filibuster. Reid told TIME Frist didn't give details, but said he would postpone a G.O.P. move to eliminate judicial filibusters until mid-May at the earliest while he works on a deal. Reid's response? Up the stakes.
The Nevada Democrat said that while he welcomed talk of a compromise, he was considering expanding the filibuster threat to include Bush's pick to be U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, whose confirmation hearings begin this week. "We might filibuster him," Reid told TIME. And he added another name to the list of those who might be talked to death: Stephen Johnson, whose nomination to head the Environmental Protection Agency has drawn fire from California Senator Barbara Boxer over a pesticide-testing program involving children.
Reid may be bluffing, and his hardball tactics risk fueling Republican charges that Democrats are obstructionists. But he seems to be playing a stronger hand than his G.O.P. rival. By Friday, Johnson had killed the controversial pesticide program. Frist's party, meanwhile, is showing internal signs of strain. Senate Republicans whispered once more last week that they might not back Bush's plan to create personal accounts as part of his Social Security reform. (Bush aides say he will try to shore up support this week with more details on his plan.) And conservatives were demanding a battle on the judicial nominations right now. "The sooner the better," says a G.O.P. aide. In case Frist, who insiders say has his eye on the White House, didn't get the message, the aide added, "If he's serious about running for President, then this is a crucial issue."
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4/10/2005

Howard Dean rocks on

Via the Suburban Guerrilla blog:
Speaking before the Association of State Democratic Chairs (ASDC), Gov. Howard Dean announced that the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will invest nearly half a million dollars to strengthen the state Democratic Parties in Missouri, North Carolina, North Dakota, and West Virginia. The announcement comes as the ASDC meets for the first time since Gov. Dean was elected Chairman of the Democratic Party. The $465,000 investment was agreed upon while working with the state parties on their specific needs, and will fund a variety of positions and programs. The investment marks the beginning of a broader effort to make the Democratic Party competitive in all 50 states by strengthening state Democratic Parties.
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On liberals in academia

Some great insights from The Poor Man's blog:
...Jonah Goldberg (of the uber-conservative National Review online) engages in a little bit of speculative sociology about the persistant liberal bias among the engineering and hard science faculty, which, among assorted asinanities, engages in a little shell-game wherein “the most liberal members of the science faculty are probably the least likely to be able to find work elsewhere”, unlike the (also disproportionately liberal) engineering disciplines, although, he concedes, “I don’t have the data to back this up handy”. Brad DeLong, who works at a major research university in the Silicon Valley area, offers the following suggestion:
Perhaps Goldberg could go ask some scientists and engineers why they aren’t Republicans. Do a little legwork. I know that when I ask scientists and engineers why they aren’t Republicans, I get back five answers:
1. From libertarians, because the Republicans are really hostile to individual freedom: they want to control people’s lives and boss people around.
2. From biologists, because Republican politicians say they don’t believe in evolution.
3. From chemists and physicists, because Republican politicians pretend to believe that CO2 molecules created by human action have a different radiation-absorption spectrum than other CO2 molecules.
4. From all corners, because Republican politicians are the tools of lobbyists and do not respect the evidence about anything.
5. From all corners, because Republican politicians don’t understand how important investment in education is for the future of America–they have no idea where our current wealth and health really comes from.

The Poor Man continues:
In response to this request, Goldberg asks some National Review-reading Republican engineers why engineers aren’t Republicans. The answers are: A) they are all Republicans, it’s a lie of The Syndicate, B) they would all be Republicans, but for the devious machinations of The Syndicate, and C) DeLong is a jerky jerk head. As someone with an MSE who has worked in the aerospace industry, let me offer the observation that I have no idea which way people in this field vote, I don’t particularly care, and I wouldn’t invest too much significance into it either way. I will offer the observation that “data” is not the plural of “anecdote”, nor is it the plural of “tangentially related temper tantrum”, and leave it there. It is typical, though, that in response to a pretty reasonable request that when speculating about the beliefs and opinions of party A, you might actually ask party A why they think the way they do, Goldberg cherry picks a few responses from his fellow travellers speculating about the beliefs and opinions of party A, and considers the matter settled in his favor. It is also typical that Goldberg would be complaining about institutional political bias and people being unable to earn their keep in the private sector, while writing for the friggin’ National Review, a job his mom got for him. If there is anything that binds all Wingnuttians together, no matter what their particular creed, it is a complete lack of interest in either the outside world or their relationship to it, except insofar as it can be used to perpetuate the faith. Secular Wingnuttia is simpatico with Theocratic Wingnuttia, and all that is required to maintain this relationship is the one to pretend that the other doesn’t really exist. This is why it is so important for the National Review crowd (and Peter Beinart, and their other allies) to pretend that foreign policy somehow won 2004 the Republicans, despite the fact that Rove knew perfectly well that the scourge of Massachusetts faggotry would be what decided the race, and the polls proved him out. (Looking at the polling, I can’t help but infer that the number of people who were generally aware of the ballpark facts about Iraq - WMD, ties to terrorism, etc. - AND were moved to vote for Bush by their support of the war, was indistinguishable from zero. “Moral values” not only put him over the edge; it turned the tide.) There is no problem, so long as you don’t let the right hand know what the other right hand is doing.
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C-SPAN plays the fool

The Orcinus blog provides some excellent background on the truly bizarre handling by C-SPAN of a scheduled appearance by Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt, whom they proposed "balancing" with Holocaust denier David Irving. Click the link to read about the whole saga. Orcinus concludes:
Regrets about terminology notwithstanding, C-SPAN's approach to this subject makes clear that it has a great deal to learn about how extremists like Holocaust deniers operate. They count on the ignorance of those unfamiliar with their tactics to handle them "fairly" -- which is to say, to treat their lies as though they merely represent another viewpoint, and thereby spread their vicious falsifications into the mainstream. Sunday's broadcast was a classic case of this.
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Make sex a top issue in 2006

From Chris Bowers of MyDD:
Let's fight the culture war, but let's fight it on our terms.
If you hadn't already noticed, the modern conservative movement wants to control every aspect of sexual activity and intimate relationships. They want to control marriage, they want to control women's fertility, they want to keep teens from knowing about sex, they want to stop gay people from doing it, they want to ban contraceptives, they don't want anyone to talk about masturbation, and they certainly don't want to see boobs on television. The implications of this have echoes throughout history. As a smart blogger once noted: 'One of the parts of fascist ideology that gets forgotten is how much it fixated on sex and reproduction. Not just the racial purity laws, but its disciplining of sex and reproduction in service to the state. And, if we look at this specific aspect of fascism, then we can point in this country to a creeping fascism that is aimed directly at the body, pleasure, sex, and reproduction."
Sparta would be proud. However, Americans hate it...So many seemingly individual "issues" are being fought on this front: gay rights, reproductive rights, sex education, the battle over contraceptives, FCC regulation. However, they are all connected under the larger banner of whether or not the government should control people when it comes to sexual activity, intimacy and reproduction. And it does not matter whether or not you are a women, because conservatives want to control male sexual activity as well (although they clearly put more effort into controlling women).
Democrats need to be open and loud about this. I guarantee that making sex a campaign issue will draw huge headlines, I guarantee that the majority of the country is on our side, and a guarantee it will reach a lot of people who otherwise would not have voted. Here is a simple campaign slogan: keep Republicans out of your bedroom. Conservatives are from Sparta, liberals are from Athens. I don't think many Americans would have a difficult time deciding in which ancient city they would rather live.
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A national security issue for the Dems...

Steve Soto of the Left Coaster argues that Dems should make energy a national security issue. He quotes from a NYT article:
...Steep increases in gasoline prices tend to have repercussions as much political as economic. "This is not just an economic problem," said Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster. "It is also, in the public judgment, a national security problem. There is a widespread belief in the country that the problem could be solved or a real dent made in it, but that this administration, because it is tied to big oil, is unwilling to take the steps necessary to reduce our dependence on foreign oil." The rise in oil and gasoline prices could also provide another reason for the nation to embrace Mr. Bush's call for the spread of democracy in the Middle East, a source of nearly 20 percent of the nation's oil. A more stable, democratic Middle East would presumably reduce concerns about interruptions in the flow of oil. For now, though, the first signs that the seeds of democracy are germinating in the region are being accompanied not by lower crude oil prices but by near-record highs. And Democrats say they intend to use gasoline prices to reopen issues they have previously invoked to hold up the Bush energy bill, among them their call for an increase in fuel economy standards.
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John Dean on the "nuclear option"

Dean thinks it likely that Senate Republicans will use it. To quote Dean via the Crooks and Liars blog:
The Democrats do have one final weapon in their arsenal. If Republicans try to remove the filibuster option, then Democrats can try to make the Republicans play by all the Senate's Rules, construed literally. That, in turn, would bring the Senate's business to a halt - save for the barest essentials - and thus, Congress' business as well, for the House cannot pass laws without the Senate. The Senate operates largely by "unanimous consent," which enables it to waive the myriad rules of procedure. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made clear that should the Democrats destroy the filibuster option, he will not "enter into any consent agreements" except regarding matters that affect U.S. troops or are necessary for the continuity of government operations. In effect, the Democrats have the option of nuclear winter. If they don't rely on this counter-tactic - with the hope of restoring Republicans to their senses - they might as well pack up and go home. No longer would there be an opposition party in the Senate.
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US viewed as the enemy by many Turks

From the WaPo:
In Turkey, heralded as the model of a Westward-looking Muslim democracy, sales records were shattered this spring by a book that imagines a U.S. invasion of this nation, a longtime U.S. ally. Polls show an overwhelming majority of Turks regard that scenario as a real possibility. As the Bush administration ramps up efforts to improve the American image in the Muslim world, the magnitude of the challenge is starkly visible in this country of 70 million, long seen as a bridge between East and West. Polls suggest that few countries have turned more dramatically against the United States than Turkey.
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Who produced the fake "Niger uranium" documents?

Seymour Hersh had a piece in the New Yorker a while back in which he explored the question. An excerpt:
...The C.I.A. assessment reflected both deep divisions within the agency and the position of its director, George Tenet, which was far from secure. (The agency had been sharply criticized, after all, for failing to provide any effective warning of the September 11th attacks.) In the view of many C.I.A. analysts and operatives, the director was too eager to endear himself to the Administration hawks and improve his standing with the President and the Vice-President. Senior C.I.A. analysts dealing with Iraq were constantly being urged by the Vice-President’s office to provide worst-case assessments on Iraqi weapons issues. “They got pounded on, day after day,” one senior Bush Administration official told me, and received no consistent backup from Tenet and his senior staff. “Pretty soon you say ‘Fuck it.’ ” And they began to provide the intelligence that was wanted...
...Who produced the fake Niger papers? There is nothing approaching a consensus on this question within the intelligence community...(One) explanation was provided by a former senior C.I.A. officer. He had begun talking to me about the Niger papers in March, when I first wrote about the forgery, and said, “Somebody deliberately let something false get in there.” He became more forthcoming in subsequent months, eventually saying that a small group of disgruntled retired C.I.A. clandestine operators had banded together in the late summer of last year and drafted the fraudulent documents themselves. “The agency guys were so pissed at Cheney,” the former officer said. “They said, ‘O.K, we’re going to put the bite on these guys.’ ” My source said that he was first told of the fabrication late last year, at one of the many holiday gatherings in the Washington area of past and present C.I.A. officials. “Everyone was bragging about it—‘Here’s what we did. It was cool, cool, cool.’"...“They thought that, with this crowd, it was the only way to go—to nail these guys who were not practicing good tradecraft and vetting intelligence,” my source said. “They thought it’d be bought at lower levels—a big bluff.” The thinking, he said, was that the documents would be endorsed by Iraq hawks at the top of the Bush Administration, who would be unable to resist flaunting them at a press conference or an interagency government meeting. They would then look foolish when intelligence officials pointed out that they were obvious fakes. But the tactic backfired, he said, when the papers won widespread acceptance within the Administration. “It got out of control.”
Like all large institutions, C.I.A. headquarters, in Langley, Virginia, is full of water-cooler gossip, and a retired clandestine officer told me this summer that the story about a former operations officer faking the documents is making the rounds. “What’s telling,” he added, “is that the story, whether it’s true or not, is believed”—an extraordinary commentary on the level of mistrust, bitterness, and demoralization within the C.I.A. under the Bush Administration. (William Harlow, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency had no more evidence that former members of the C.I.A. had forged the documents “than we have that they were forged by Mr. Hersh.”)
The F.B.I. has been investigating the forgery at the request of the Senate Intelligence Committee. A senior F.B.I. official told me that the possibility that the documents were falsified by someone inside the American intelligence community had not been ruled out. “This story could go several directions,” he said. “We haven’t gotten anything solid, and we’ve looked.” He said that the F.B.I. agents assigned to the case are putting a great deal of effort into the investigation. But “somebody’s hiding something, and they’re hiding it pretty well.”
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Predatory Alaska politicians

This story from the Seattle Post Intelligencer, via Guerrilla News Network, argues that, as politicians move in to make a buck, the risk to wildlife in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is growing. Besides oil spils and dumping, recent reports show the killing of grizzlies, increased trophy hunting, and resumed killing of wolves. A history of contempt for and exploitation of nature continues.
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Frank Rich: Culture of death

Another excellent column from Rich in the NY Times. An excerpt:
...Mortality - the more graphic, the merrier - is the biggest thing going in America. Between Terri Schiavo and the pope, we've feasted on decomposing bodies for almost a solid month now. The carefully edited, three-year-old video loops of Ms. Schiavo may have been worthless as medical evidence but as necro-porn their ubiquity rivaled that of TV's top entertainment franchise, the all-forensics-all-the-time "CSI." To help us visualize the dying John Paul, another Fox star, Geraldo Rivera, brought on Dr. Michael Baden, the go-to cadaver expert from the JonBenet Ramsey, Chandra Levy and Laci Peterson mediathons, to contrast His Holiness's cortex with Ms. Schiavo's.
...What's disturbing about this spectacle is not so much its tastelessness; America will always have a fatal attraction to sideshows. What's unsettling is the nastier agenda that lies far less than six feet under the surface. Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living. When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul's vision of a "culture of life." This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time. Yes, these politicians oppose abortion, but the number of abortions has in fact been going down steadily in America under both Republican and Democratic presidents since 1990 - some 40 percent in all. The same cannot be said of American infant fatalities, AIDS cases and war casualties - all up in the George W. Bush years. Meanwhile, potentially lifesaving phenomena like condom-conscious sex education and federally run stem-cell research are in shackles.
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"Who's better off?"

From a speech to the US House by Representative Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas:
...This willingness to give up hard-fought personal liberties has been especially noticeable in the atmosphere of the post-September 11th war on terrorism. Security has replaced liberty as our main political goal, damaging the American spirit. Sadly, the whole process is done in the name of patriotism and in a spirit of growing militant nationalism. These attitudes and fears surrounding the 9-11 tragedy, and our eagerness to go to war in the Middle East against countries not responsible for the attacks, have allowed a callousness to develop in our national psyche that justifies torture and rejects due process of law for those who are suspects and not convicted criminals. We have come to accept pre-emptive war as necessary, constitutional, and morally justifiable. Starting a war without a proper declaration is now of no concern to most Americans or the U.S. Congress. Let's hope and pray the rumors of an attack on Iran in June by U.S. Armed Forces are wrong.
A large segment of the Christian community and its leadership think nothing of rationalizing war in the name of a religion that prides itself on the teachings of the Prince of Peace, who instructed us that blessed are the peacemakers-- not the warmongers. We casually accept our role as world policeman, and believe we have a moral obligation to practice nation building in our image regardless of the number of people who die in the process. We have lost our way by rejecting the beliefs that made our country great. We no longer trust in trade, friendship, peace, the Constitution, and the principle of neutrality while avoiding entangling alliances with the rest of the world. Spreading the message of hope and freedom by setting an example for the world has been replaced by a belief that use of armed might is the only practical tool to influence the world-- and we have accepted, as the only superpower, the principle of initiating war against others. In the process, Congress and the people have endorsed a usurpation of their own authority, generously delivered to the executive and judicial branches-- not to mention international government bodies. The concept of national sovereignty is now seen as an issue that concerns only the fringe in our society.
Protection of life and liberty must once again become the issue that drives political thought in this country. If this goal is replaced by an effort to promote world government, use force to plan the economy, regulate the people, and police the world, against the voluntary desires of the people, it can be done only with the establishment of a totalitarian state. There's no need for that. It's up to Congress and the American people to decide our fate, and there is still time to correct our mistakes.
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