Friday, December 23, 2005

The Real Muppet Story

I am heading out soon to my rents for Christmas. I'll be gone until after the new year, so I don't know if I will be posting anything before then. I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.

But before I leave, I wanted to blog on something that is very disturbing to me and has been getting little to no news coverage on the MSM. This is about the muppet pelt market that is decimating the cuddly and lovable creatures.

This Christmas season, Muppet skin clothing seems to be in more demand than ever. There are many international treaties regulating muppet pelts, but because they are widely ignored, muppet numbers are reaching all time lows. If nothing is done soon, we may drive muppets into extinction.

I have chronicled the muppet skin trade in the city of New York. You can find scarves, hats and gloves made from these adorable creatures on almost every street corner.

These colorful muppet skins didn't must magically appear. They came from living, breathing, beautiful muppets.

Imagine the number of Fozies that are butchered each year to keep your hands warm. Is pleather really that bad?

But, the market for muppets is not limited to the seamy street merchants selling their wares on Canal Street, along side bootleg purses. You can also find them in all the major retail stores. The above Cookie Monster hide jacket was being sold in Bloomingdales for $1300.

The above boots, made from the hide of the endangered albino Snuffaluphagus were also being sold in the open for a mere $400 at Macy's.

Every once in a while, the NYC police will pay lip service to the international laws banning the sale of endangered muppets. These two disgusting profiteers were busted for selling Gonzo nose, which is believed to be a strong aphrodisiac in many far east cultures. Sadly, not even the whole Gonzo is used. Only the nose is sold.

These New York elitist are out for a Sunday afternoon muppet hunt. They consider it a sport to track down muppets in central park and drive them to a point of exhaustion, where they fall and their stuffing is torn from them by a pack of hounds. This practice is the most inhumane expression of our fascination with hunting muppets.

Look at these poor muppets hiding for their lives. Does this look like "sport" for them? I don't think so.

These lucky muppets survived this round. The riders didn't see them, and the hounds did not pick up the sent of fear and polyester. But chances are, these two won't me so lucky next time. The clock is ticking. Their time is short.

So, as you celebrate the holidays with friends and family, if you are giving the gift of muppet this year, whether in the form of scarves or jackets, think of the intolerable cruelty you are buying into. Think of the muppets! Take back anything muppet skin you bought this year and tell the seller you want your money back... That you will not be party to this disgusting practice. Together, we can end this most barbaric practice.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

When Mistress Ann Speaks...

... conservative men listen. Somehow, wingnut males fall all over themselves when it comes to Ann Coulter. I guess it is some need to be dominated or something. Maybe their mothers didn't hug them... I have no idea. But, they can't get enough of her diarrhea of the mouth. The only thing that comes out is crap.

"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East, and sending liberals to Guantanamo."

My Christmas Present to Y'all

This is my Christmas present to my faithful tens of readers.

I give the gift of Pandora. This is one of the coolest things I have seen in a long time. This website will take take the musical artist of your choice, and play selected songs from that artist as well as similar style artists. I have found a lot of great music this way that I would have never heard otherwise, and I also hear a lot of music that I also know and love. Check it out. I have it on much of the work day.

Chuck Hagel Takes Bush to Task for the Illegal Spying

From the Independant, Chuck Hagel weighs in on Bush's illegal spying scheme. Only time will tell if Congress will actually hold the president accountable. I am guessing no.

"Every president, that we know of, has complied with the law (FISA)," Hagel said. "No president is above the law. We are a nation of laws and no president, majority leader, or chief justice of the Supreme Court can unilaterally or arbitrarily avoid a law or dismiss a law. If the vice president holds a different point of view, then he holds a different point of view."

Based on the facts that are out there concerning whether domestic spying abuses were taking place, Hagel said, there was a "breakdown."

"I take an oath of office to the Constitution," he said. "I don't take an oath of office to the vice president, a president or a political party. My obligation and responsibility are to the people I represent and the country I serve. I do what I think is right for the people I represent and the country I serve." [...]

Hagel, referring to President Ronald Reagan, said people trusted him because he was not a "vitriolic person or one to impugn the motives of people who disagreed with him."

"Never did he do that," Hagel said. "There is no place for that in politics because it debases our system and our process. You can agree or disagree with your leaders and say whatever you like about your elected leaders and throw them out, but I do draw the line on the vilification and impugning of motives because someone disagrees with you."

He said the American people are "sick and fed up" with that type of politics.

"Cheney's poll numbers are very, very low," Hagel said. "This should be about elevating the debate and enhancing America and finding the solutions that we need to move forward. It doesn't help when you characterize people who disagree with you or threaten them or characterize them as unpatriotic or not caring about our people or our security. The American people see through that and it is beneath the dignity of this country."

H/T Kos

The Fat Lady Chooses Not to Sing

The Senate has passed a 6 month extension of the Patriot act:

Senate Votes to Extend Patriot Act for 6 Months

And, voted through the budget cuts, but stripped out the provision to drill in ANWR.

Senate Approves Cuts, but Not Drilling

On the first, Bush was forced to flip-flop on his stance on the renewal of the Patriot act. Originally, he said he would veto a short term extension of the act, and would only accept a 4 year renewal. But since the Patriot act would lapse on Dec. 31st, he would risk being deemed the obstructionist and making Americans "less safe" if he were to allow the act to lapse.

On the second, the Senate agreed to strip the last minute ANWR addition to the budget by Ted "if you aren't from Alaska, you can kiss my ass" Stevens.

Both bills must now be returned to the House to reconcile the bills that they passed. But, here is were things get tricky. Dennis Hastert, the house speaker, shut down the house completely in order to delay any calls for election of new Republican leadership. He has decided to close the House for two additional weeks to give Tom DeLay more time to clear his name and regain his leadership seat.

So, since Tome Delay is more important to the GOP than the American people, the Patriot act may lapse anyway. It will be interesting to see if the GOP will be able to keep their house in order long enough to recall the House and bass the two bills.

Tom DeLay - Then and Now

How ten years can change things.


"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know...I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation." - U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 11/16/95

And now:

Donors Underwrite DeLay's Luxury Lifestyle

WASHINGTON - As Tom DeLay became a king of campaign fundraising, he lived like one too. He visited cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants — all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire.

Over the past six years, the former House majority leader and his associates have visited places of luxury most Americans have never seen, often getting there aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists and other special interests.

Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress.

Put them together and an opulent lifestyle emerges.

(Full Story)

H/T Sirotablog

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

ID Is Not Science

I had not yet had a chance to comment on the intelligent design ruling yesterday in the Dover, Pa. school board case. Without question, the judge made the right ruling. Intelligent design is not a science. This is not to say that it is a false belief, but it is not a science. Nothing about the belief is testable or provable.

But what I find the most interesting thing about this case is the Judge calling the evangelical Christians who put the ID curriculum in place on their blatant perjury. You would want to think that devote Christians would lie under oath, but I guess not.

WaPo- Defending Science by Defining It

WaPo- Judge Rules Against 'Intelligent Design'

FISA Court Judge Resigns in Protest of Bush's Secret Spying

Yeahhhhhhh... I am going to go out on a limb here and take this as a sign that Bush's actions were even more egregious than previously suspected. Judges just don't up and quit like this over a little issue.

Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest
By Carol D. Leonnig and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 21, 2005; Page A01

A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Robertson, who was appointed to the federal bench in Washington by President Bill Clinton in 1994 and was later selected by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist to serve on the FISA court, declined to comment when reached at his office late yesterday.

Word of Robertson's resignation came as two Senate Republicans joined the call for congressional investigations into the National Security Agency's warrantless interception of telephone calls and e-mails to overseas locations by U.S. citizens suspected of links to terrorist groups. They questioned the legality of the operation and the extent to which the White House kept Congress informed.

Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine) echoed concerns raised by Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, who has promised hearings in the new year.

Hagel and Snowe joined Democrats Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Carl M. Levin (Mich.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.) in calling for a joint investigation by the Senate judiciary and intelligence panels into the classified program.

(Full Story)

Transit Strike: Day Two

It is day two of the New York transit strike. My heart really does go out to all of those people who have to endure hours in the cold walking to work or those who can't make it to work at all. Some people are walking 1 and a half to 2 hours into their jobs. But for me, the trip is not so bad. I just strap on my rollerblades...

Head down 5th Ave which has been blocked off to any vehicles except private buses that are running and emergancy vehicles... and of course those of us with bikes, stakes, or skateboards.

This doesn't look too bad for rollerblading, but just a note - "Manhattan" means "island of hills" in native American

The alternative is this

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Congressional Approval?

Letter from Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) to Vice President Cheney regarding NSA domestic wiretapping, July 17th 2003.


More Domestic Spying by the DOD

Here, yet again, is another story about the US government collecting information and spying on domestic groups. The Pentagon is allegedly spying on quaker church groups and gay activists who want to do away with the don't ask, don't tell policy. The military must be able to protect the forces, but going into our churches is crossing the line.

Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?
By Lisa Myers, Douglas Pasternak, Rich Gardella and the NBC Investigative Unit
Updated: 6:18 p.m. ET Dec. 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal...”

The DOD database obtained by NBC News includes nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center. One “incident” included in the database is a large anti-war protest at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles last March that included effigies of President Bush and anti-war protest banners. Another incident mentions a planned protest against military recruiters last December in Boston and a planned protest last April at McDonald’s National Salute to America’s Heroes — a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

(Full Story)

Bush Still Give No Answers

Bush address the issue of the warrantless searches, but still fails to give any real answers as to why he could not do the same thing with a warrant. He falsely claims that due to terrorist suspect changing phones often, the warrantless searches are needed. This, again is a bunch of BS. The courts will give roaming warrants to investigators, which means that the warrant attaches to a person, not a particular phone. If a warrant is issued for Joe Suspect, the government can legally monitor any phone Joe uses, making the president's claim just more BS. You can read my prior posts on the issue here and here

Bush Addresses Uproar Over Spying

The political uproar over President Bush's secret domestic spying program escalated yesterday as the president denied overstepping his constitutional bounds while congressional critics from both parties stepped up their attack and vowed a full investigation...

"This is a different era, a different war," the president said at a year-end news conference in the East Room. "People are changing phone numbers and phone calls, and they're moving quick. And we've got to be able to detect and prevent. I keep saying that, but this . . . requires quick action."

But Democrats and some key Republicans on Capitol Hill were unconvinced, and they questioned whether Bush has violated a law intended to prevent the government from spying on its citizens without court approval.

George Will has an interesting Op-Ed on the issue - Why Didn't He Tell Congress

In a related story, the FBI has been investigating anti-war, environmental groups, etc. The FBI has no information on these groups acting unlawfully, but they are being monitored none the less. Welcome to Stalinism.

FBI Papers Show Terror Inquiries Into PETA; Other Groups Tracked

FBI counterterrorism investigators are monitoring domestic U.S. advocacy groups engaged in antiwar, environmental, civil rights and other causes, the American Civil Liberties Union charged yesterday as it released new FBI records that it said detail the extent of the activity.

The documents, disclosed as part of a lawsuit that challenges FBI treatment of groups that planned demonstrations at last year's political conventions, show the bureau has opened a preliminary terrorism investigation into People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the well-known animal rights group based in Norfolk.

NY Transit Strike

Well, the NY transit strike is on. No subway. No busses. I really feel bad for all of the people who live in the outer boroughs who commute into Manhattan every day. They live pay check to pay check, and if they can't get into work, they don't get paid. I am lucky. If need be, I can go to the local coffee shop which has internet access and work from there.

But for today, I gotta say, I love the strike. I rollerbladed into work today. 5th Ave and Madison were blocked off to all but emergency vehicles, which gave me a clear shot from my apartment all the way into work. Past all the hotels and landmarks, no traffic or traffic lights to worry about. It was cold this morning, but I got to say, it was nice rollerblading into work. And hey, what better excuse for a casual Tuesday.

To everyone else in NY, I wish you the best in getting around during the strike. I hope that it ends before we get any snow or rain.

To lighten the mood, here is the latest from Jib-Jab

H/T for Jib Jab - Linnet

Monday, December 19, 2005

Give Me a Reason

This is a call to all of the conservative bloggers and commenter out there. I have read all the rants as to "protection from the terrorists," "the president knows best," "liberals love terrorists," etc. Enough!

This is what I want:

Give me one valid reason why the President and the NSA could not have done the exact same job with valid warrants as opposed to doing it unconstitutionally?

Just one. That is all I ask.

Update: Siggy, made a valiant effort to answer my question (Why warrantless phone taps), but fell into a common pitfall. He assumed that a warrant is good for only one phone, and since people can now use one time cell phones that a warrant would not allow the government to keep up. This is wrong. The courts can issue roaming warrants which allow the government to tap any phone that a suspect is using. So, this is not a valid reason to subvert the warrant process.

Update: Bush continues to defend the illegal wiretaps but continues to fail to either establish the authority wich gives him the power to do it, or the justification for subverting the constitution. He continues to claim the Constitution and the Congress gave him authority.

Please, just give us one citation Mr. Prsident. Just one citation as to the specific constitutional provision or statute you are talking about. The constitution is not that long. Just give me the general article or amendment and I will look it up myself.

King George and His Illegal Searches

I decided on Friday, when the stories about Bush secret spying came out, to wait to see the explanation and on what authority the President was placing this egregious offense. All we got was a tsunami of BS enveloping the nation. As usual, the president had none, other than his tired "darn it, just trust me!" The President's surrogates keep talking about "inherent powers" of the president. I am sick of the inherent powers. Talk to me about the express rights of the people which is missing from the talking points. It used to be that the conservative mantra was "freedom isn't free." Well, they seemed to have changed that to "security isn't free," and the price we paid was our freedom. There needs an immediate inquiry into Bush's actions.

I will try to break this down into the relevant parts.

A) I watched Condi on Sunday morning and read the interview with Alberto Gonzalez today, claiming that the Congress had authorized this. First, either it was a presidential directive, or it was a legislative authorization. The two are not the same. If the Congress authorized this, than it is not a presidential directive. Since he reauthorized it dozens of times, this leads me to believe that there was no legislative authorization and was only a presidential authorization. Bush may have informed Congress, but that is not the same thing as congressional authorization. Either way, it doesn't change anything.

Second, even if the Congress did authorize it - It doesn't matter. Congress does not have any more authority to act unconstitutionally than the president does. The president cannot authorize searches. The Congress cannot authorize searches. Only the courts can authorize searches.

4th Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

I don't care if every member of congress and the president authorize the search, it is still unconstitutional. The President cannot pass the buck on this one.

B) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act - Bush claims that his authority comes from FISA, which allows the government to monitor domestically in extreme situations. Even with FISA, Bush acted illegally. FISA still requires to get a warrant form a court. There is no exception to this rule. If Bush was acting legally, he would have had a warrant issued for each and every case. He did not. He acted illegally. This is not an issue of if the government can monitor suspected terrorists. They can. This is a question as to the subversion of the 4th amendment and why it was necessary for the President to ignore it.

C) There was no reason Bush needed to subvert the constitution. With FISA, and the other "secret" courts established in the fight against terrorism, there has rarely been a denial of a warrant for a wire tap. Bush could have achieved the same goals and provided the same amount of protection without violating the constitution. If the people being watched were truly dangerous, a judge would have signed a warrant. Bush claims that the illegal searches were done only in limited scope, but we don't know that. The truth is we can't know that without the checks and balances that the founding fathers explicitly wrote into the constitution.

D) Bush secret surveillance is contrary to the constitution, the idea of liberty and the founding principals of this nation. Conservatives continue to complain about how the courts are usurping legislative authority. Well, this is were the legislative and executive authority has usurped the courts.

Alexander Hamilton: Federalist 78

For I agree, that "there is no liberty, if the power of judging be not separated from the legislative and executive powers."... The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited Constitution. By a limited Constitution, I understand one which contains certain specified exceptions to the legislative authority; such, for instance, as that it shall pass no bills of attainder, no ex post facto laws, and the like. Limitations of this kind can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing....
There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

We can be safe, and still protect our civil liberties. But we cannot do it when our own government acts above the constitution that sets limits to their powers and ensures our rights. There is no conceivable excuse as to why Bush needed to subvert the courts. There is no conceivable excuse for his action. Once again, this president has deemed himself to be above the law. His powers are derived from he constitution. It is about damn time he starts respecting it.

Update: And for those of you who keep citing the "Use of Force" resolution (S. J. RES. 23), please, oh please, point to out where this suspends the constitution?

Friday, December 16, 2005

More Bribes for Conservative Journalists

If it weren't so bad already in the Abramoff smack down, two conservative journalists, Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, and Peter Ferrara, a senior policy adviser at the conservative Institute for Policy Innovation, took cash payments from Abramoff to write favorable stories about Abramoff's clients.

A senior fellow at the Cato Institute resigned from the libertarian think tank on Dec. 15 after admitting that he had accepted payments from indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff for writing op-ed articles favorable to the positions of some of Abramoff's clients. Doug Bandow, who writes a syndicated column for Copley News Service, told BusinessWeek Online that he had accepted money from Abramoff for writing between 12 and 24 articles over a period of years, beginning in the mid '90s.

While Bandow was forced to resign from the conservative Cato think tank for his misdeeds, Ferrara's boss actually defended the practice.

"If somebody pinned me down and said, 'Do you think this is wrong or unethical?' I'd say no," says Tom Giovanetti, president of the Institute for Policy Innovation.

Neither of the writers ever disclosed that they were receiving money for their favorable reviews.

Op-Eds for Sale


Bush Claims DeLay is Innocent

Yesterday, President Bush publicly stated that he thinks Tom DeLay is innocent of all charges and the White House has defended his comments. The Democrats are upset because they think that this amounts to a form of jury tampering. Sitting presidents usually do not make statements in regards to elected officials in other branches of the government, or in criminal prosecutions in general.

But, I think this is also a tactical mistake by the president. Right or wrong, Tom DeLay has become synonymous with corruption in the US political realm. 76% of Americans as a whole believe that Tom DeLay is either guilty of a crime, or guilty of unethical behavior. In DaLay's own district, he is only polling at a 36% approval rating. With Bush suffering his own ethics crisis, the last thing he needs to do is pin himself to the man that Americans are coming to see as the symbol of all things wrong in Washington. With DeLay indicted, Libby indicted, Rove still under investigation, Abramoff indicted, two of Abramoffs associates pleading guilty, a top GOP officel guilty of election tampering, other Republicans tied to Abramoff, etc. Now was poor timing of the president to back DeLay.

While it is true that without Tom DeLay at the helm in the House, the Republican agenda has suffered. But the Republican agenda will suffer even more if is loses the House in 2006. With Democrats mobilizing a concerted efforts to nationalize what the Republicans would like to call "local" and/or "localized" ethics issues, Bush has played into a political pitfall by nationalizing the issue for the Democrats. Bush is the national face of the Republican party, and now, he has endorsed the man who most Americans see as the most corrupt influence in DC.

The situation has gone from "Tom DeLay is one of hundreds of GOP lawmakers" to "Tom DeLay embodies the GOP." Bush failed to remember - what you say is not always what people hear. What was heard was that Bush does not care about ethics as long as his agenda is passed, or he is unable to recognized unethical behavior.

This has got to be the political gaffe of the week. Luckily for the President, Iraq elections went well and his statements won't get too much press.

Democrats Criticize Bush For Saying DeLay's Innocent
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 16, 2005; Page A04

Democratic leaders sternly criticized President Bush yesterday for saying former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is innocent of felonious campaign finance abuses, suggesting his comments virtually amounted to jury tampering before DeLay stands trial.

"The president of the United States said a jury does not need to assemble, that Tom DeLay is innocent," said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "To have someone of his stature, the president of the United States, prejudge a case is something I've never seen before."

(Full Story)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Bush Acquits DeLay

I liked this one from Benquirer. Don't worry. It is a joke.... or is it....

WASHINGTON - Exactly two weeks after being summoned for jury duty in Texas, President Bush has already fulfilled his civic duty - from a remote location - an underground FOX News bunker.

In his interview with FOX News yesterday, Bush gave fellow Texas Republican Tom DeLay the verdict of not guilty, clearing him of all charges of money laundering, two weeks before DeLay's trial is scheduled to commence. Tom DeLay's aides spent Thursday morning leafletting Austin with photocopies of the newspaper headlines showing the President's verdict.

DeLay's lawyer Dick Deguerin is advising him to pin the newspaper article to his chest during the trial proceedings, an old trick he learned from Charles Manson.

FOX News' Brit Hume commended Bush for fulfilling the civic duty of serving on a jury, only two weeks after his summmons. Although he has refused to comment on the ongoing investigation in the cases of Frist, Rove, Libby, and Cheney, Bush said he was confident that he had seen all the evidence in the DeLay trial.

Hume then compared Bush to Cincinnatus, for taking time off from war to fulfill his civic duty, and then humbly returning to war.

Texas Judge Pat Priest said that he will consider declaring a mistrial even before the trial begins. Considering the President's credibility, Judge Priest believes Bush's declaration of "not guilty" may bias the jury against DeLay.

White House Concedes to Tortue Ban

Sources are saying that the White House will concede to the ban on torture passed by the senate and making its way through the house. This is good news on many fronts. Not only does it re-establish our belief in the rule of law, but it precludes foreign powers in custody of our soldiers, "well, you do it. So can we."

In the unlikely event that there is actually a ticking bomb, I can guarantee you that the soldier or CIA official will not be hung out to dry if torture was used to stop terrorist.

Sources: White House to Accept Torture Ban
By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - After months of resistance, the White House has agreed to accept Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record)'s call for a law specifically banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror, several congressional officials said Thursday.

Under the emerging deal, the CIA and other civilian interrogators would be given the same legal rights as currently guaranteed members of the military who are accused of breaking interrogation guidelines, these officials added. Those rules say the accused can defend themselves by arguing it was reasonable for them to believe they were obeying a legal order.

The congressional officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they did not want to pre-empt an expected announcement later in the day at the White House, possibly by President Bush and McCain...

That put pressure on the White House at a time when the president finds himself defending his wartime policies daily amid declining public support for the Iraq war and his own low standing in opinion polls.

The White House at one point threatened a veto if the ban was included in legislation sent to the president's desk, and Vice President Dick Cheney made an unusual personal appeal to all Republican senators to give an exemption to the CIA.

(Full Story)

WaPo Link on the House - House Supports Ban on Torture

Iraqi Elections Today

As much as I love the schadenfreude of seeing George Bush fail, I hope that the elections in Iraq go well. So far, there have been a few explosions in Baghdad, but the violence has been low. For a good primer on how the elections work in Iraq, check out the Council on Foreign Relations. In fact, check out CFR for info on events and analysis from around the world. It is one the best soreces of "information" and not "news" available.

Go Bug the President

This is interesting. Bob Novak, the reporter who fist published Valerie Plame's name in his article and disclosed her job working at the CIA on weapons of mass destruction, told other reporters to go ask the president who Novak's source was because Bush is sure to know.

Syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak, who has repeatedly declined to discuss his role in disclosing the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, said in a speech this week that he is certain President Bush knows who his mystery administration source is.

Novak seemed to be a little testy, telling reporters to stop bugging him.

"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C., on Tuesday, according to an account published yesterday in the Raleigh News & Observer. "I'd be amazed if he doesn't."

"So I say, don't bug me. Don't bug Bob Woodward. Bug the president as to whether he should reveal who the source is," Novak said.

This is the first time I have seen Novak take the President to task like this in regards to the leak investigation. But, all in all, Novak is undoubtedly right. Bush knew that Rove and Libby were involved long before it became public knowledge. To think that the White House does not know who the third leaker is by now is absurd.

So Mr. President, here is your third opportunity to be forthcoming. You failed the first two times.

Columnist Says Bush Knows Who Leaked Name

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Math is Hard

At least for the wingnuts over at the World Net Daily. Whoever wrote this piece over at the WND is not busting the bank when it comes to brains or fact checking.

The brain childs over at WND are claiming that the homicide rate in Iraq is 265% higher for residents of California than it is for US troops in Iraq. They used 2,394 reported homicides in California last year compared with 905 deaths of coalition forces in Iraq. WND would be correct if we had 34,000,000 troops in Iraq.

We don't

We have, give or take with non-US troops, 150,000. That means there was one death for every 166 soldiers on the ground in Iraq.

On the other hand, there are just under 34 million people living in California (not counting illegals). That means there was one death for every 14,202 people in California.

Hmmm... where would you take your chances? 1 in 166 or 1 in 14,202?

I would hate to be the waiter who relied on tips from whoever wrote the WND article. 15%... .00015%... it is all the same to them.

A Democratic Agenda We Can All Get Behind

I have stated in the past that it is vital to our national security and economic well being to become energy independent on imported oil.

The benefits are three-fold

First, it will disengage our middle east foreign policy centered around oil so we can concentrate on democracy and humanitarian issues, including the final resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict. As long as we are dependant on middle east oil, our motives for middle east intervention will be seen as oil centric (right or wrong) and any dicisions we do make will always be tempered by our need for their oil. Additionally, it removes the ability for terrorist organizations to claim we invade their lands for exploitation and neo-colonial purposes and ceases our indirect funding of terrorist organizations.

Second, it would cut our trade deficit by a third. One third of the money that leaves our country is to purchase foreign oil. This increases the value of the dollar and decreases the need for foreign capital to be invested in the US in order to keep our economy moving. Every day that we remain dependant on foreign oil, we become more and more dependant on China to buy our bonds, thus weakening our negotiating power with the emerging super power.

Third, like the space race, this can be used as a uniting force in the US to encourage and produce the next generation of scientist, engineers and entrepreneurs. JFK rallied our country to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960's. Education became a patriotic endeavor that vaulted us into the computer era and into one of the greatest economic expansions in human history. A new rally to unite us around common pursuits, instead of dividing us along social partisan lines, is exactly what this nation needs.

Bush's plan to drill in ANWR is moot. ANWR will only produce, at maximum according to geologist at BP, 1% of the total oil consumed in the US. Even if you remove all of the environmental reasons not to drill in ANWR, the fields in Alaska should be held in reserve due to the great chemical resources oil holds. This strategic reserve would ensure that if we were ever cut off from the supply of chemicals and plastics we need for both daily life and military use, we would have a ready supply within months of conflict and about the time our other reserves would be running out.

Democrats seek energy independence by 2020
By Timothy Gardner

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democrats launched a plan on Monday for energy independence by 2020 that seeks to relieve historically high oil and gas prices by cutting reliance on foreign sources of energy.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid (news, bio, voting record) Pennsylvania's Gov. Ed Rendell said greater use of renewable energy, mass transit and domestic fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel could cut oil and gas imports. A plan they unveiled on Monday is called Energy Independence 2020.

President George W. Bush is seeking more domestic production of oil by pushing Congress to include opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling in a bill that could see a vote this week. He also supports heavy investment in hydrogen energy.

Some energy analysts say the United States, which consumes about a quarter of the 80 million barrels of oil the world uses daily, will be dependent on imports for many decades into the future because alternatives only provide a percentage point or two of the country's energy.

Last week homeowners suffered record prices for natural gas as a nationwide cold spike pushed the heating and cooking fuel to above $15 per million British thermal units. Analysts say low temperatures through December could keep a fire under prices.

U.S. oil hit a record over $70 a barrel this summer. They have since fallen as supplies swelled but prices rose above $60 on Monday as the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries paved the way for a cut in output early next year.

Rendell cited Brazil, which has slashed its dependence on crude by making fuel from sugar cane and by producing cars that run on gasoline or ethanol. "If Brazil can do it, so can we," he Rendell.

In unveiling the plan, Clinton told reporters that U.S. dependence on oil makes up one third of the country's trade deficit.

(Full Story)

Iran's President Calls the Holocaust a "Myth"

If this weren't so scary, it would be scary. Iran's right wing president has now publicly called the death of 6 million Jews a myth in order to reiterate his call for the complete destruction of Israel.

We are in sticky situation. We need to disengage in Iraq to deal with the ever growing threat of Iran, but if we disengage in Iraq, Iran may be able to engage themselves in Iraq leading to an even bigger mess.

Iran Leader Escalates Holocaust Rhetoric

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad escalated his anti-Israeli rhetoric Wednesday, calling the Holocaust a "myth" used by Europeans to create a Jewish state in the heart of the Islamic world.

"Today, they have created a myth in the name of Holocaust and consider it to be above God, religion and the prophets," Ahmadinejad told thousands of people in the southeastern city of Zahedan.

His remarks drew swift condemnation from Israel, Germany and the European Commission. Germany said the remarks would affect upcoming negotiations over Iran's nuclear program.

Ahmadinejad last week questioned whether the Nazi destruction of 6 million European Jews during World War II occurred and said Israel should be moved to Europe. He also provoked an international outcry in October when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map."

But Wednesday was the first time he publicly denied the Holocaust. Touring southeast Iran, Ahmadinejad said that if Europeans insist the Holocaust happened, then they are responsible and should pay the price.

"If you committed this big crime, then why should the oppressed Palestinian nation pay the price?" Ahmadinejad asked rhetorically.

"This is our proposal: if you committed the crime, then give a part of your own land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska to them so that the Jews can establish their country," he said, developing a theme he raised in Saudi Arabia last week.

(Full Story)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

FOX Joins the War on Christmas

Those bastardly heathens at FOX news who have berated the secularist for using "Holiday" instead of "Christmas" must have fallen prey to the spells and incantations of the pagan witches and wizards.

That is right... FOX's has a "Special Holiday Section" that uses the word "holiday" 10 times, and not one mention of "Christmas"...

Will the insanity never end?

H/T Kos

Eugene McCarthy

George Will has penned a good article on the late Senator Eugene McCarthy. It is a good read.

The Poet Who Took On LBJ

Also, for a kicker, an interesting post in the Washington Times about the convergance of conservatisim and Bushism.

Dispelling conservative gloom

Another Reason to be Anti-Alito

Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting plan, which was deemed illegal by DOJ staffers, but whos findings were suppressed by the Bush administration, will be heard by the Supreme Court. The reason it was deemed to be illegal by the DOJ, was because it diluted minority districts in order for DeLay to create districts that favored Republicans, thus giving the Republicans a sharp advantage in the House.

Alito, has offered an opinion that he does not believe in the one-man one-vote rule. Alito was critical of the Warren court that established the judicial rule that every American's vote should carry the same amount of importance as every other American's vote. Prior to the Warren court decision, states often had situations where congressional districts were not apportioned by population. Therefore, some people were given less of a voice in our democracy than others. How one-man, one-vote is a bad thing, is beyond me. But, apparently Alito doesn't think it is necessary for a functioning democracy.

So, since Alito would most likely hear the Texas redistricting case, and since he is opposed to the judicial rule of ensuring equal voting rights, it does not appear that the outcome of the hearing will be in favor of the Voting Rights Act.

Just a nother reason I don't like Alito... I wonder if he supports strip searches in order to vote?...

Top court to review Texas redistricting plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that it would decide a challenge by Democrats and minority groups to the controversial 2003 Republican-supported congressional redistricting plan in Texas.

The justices agreed to review a ruling by a federal three-judge panel that upheld the bitterly contested map, which had been strongly supported by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.

DeLay, the former second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, faces money laundering charges in Texas as part of a campaign finance investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The Texas Legislature adopted the redistricting plan after calling three special sessions. Democrats stymied efforts to approve the plan at the first two sessions by leaving the state and denying Republicans a quorum.

Those challenging the redistricting plan argued it amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander by manipulating voting districts to give one party an unfair advantage and that it diluted the voting strength of minorities.

They said the plan shifted more than 8 million Texans into new districts and that it was designed in 2003 to protect all 15 Republican members of Congress and to defeat at least seven of the 17 Democratic members.

(Full Story)

More on the Supreme Court taking on the redistricting plan

CS Monitor - Supreme Court to weigh Texas redistricting

WaPo- Justices To Review DeLay-Led Districting

Monday, December 12, 2005

Need a Gift Idea

Just in case you are looking for a Christmas presant or a Hanik... Chanuk... Festival of Lights presant, check out these neat ideas from Baby Bush Toys.

H/T Ilana

Our Interests Delayed For DeLay

Dennis Hastert and other top Republican house brass are planning to hold the House in recess for an additional two weeks in January in order to give Tom DeLay more time to clear his indictment in Texas. This is two weeks longer than the rest of congress. This move is in order to try to save DeLays top seat in the House Republican leadership from?... other Republicans. Not Democrats, not lefists, not the ACLU, not little green men, but other Republicans.

Yes, that is right. The government will not be fully functioning for an additional two weeks for the one and only reason of forestalling Republican leadership elections. It is not being shut down due to budget disputes. It is not being shut down to protest or to give members more time in their home districts. It is not even being shut down for an extra two weeks to save on heating bills. It is being shut down to save a leadership seat for a man who has been admonished three times by the House ethics committee, has been indicted in Texas, and is tied to Jack Abramoff in connection with quid-pro-quo transactions.

This just goes to show how far out of whack the GOP leadership is. There are many decent GOP Congressmen, but none of them sit in leadership seats. This is absolutely outrageous behavior. If there is anything that shows that the 1994 Republican revolution needs to come to an end, it is when the GOP shuts up shop due to its own infighting.

House leaders giving DeLay time to reclaim post

By Scott Shepard
Monday, December 12, 2005
WASHINGTON — Although there has been some rumbling among Republicans about permanently filling the majority leader post Tom DeLay vacated, House leaders are moving to give the embattled lawmaker from Sugar Land more time to clear away his legal problems and reclaim the post.

The Republican leadership is planning to keep the House in recess almost the entire month of January, while the full Senate plans to return on Jan. 18, almost two weeks after the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings on the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

DeLay's lawyers hope to use that time to get the campaign money laundering charges against the lawmaker dismissed or prevail at trial, clearing the way for him to reclaim his leadership post. Meanwhile, DeLay is maneuvering to try to get a more powerful interim position.

But some GOP legislators, concerned that DeLay's legal and ethical problems are undermining the political standing of the Republican congressional majority, are openly calling for new House leadership elections in January to install a permanent replacement for DeLay in the No. 2 position in the House under Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

"We need to make a fundamental decision early next year about where we need to go," Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., said last week after a Texas judge refused to dismiss felony charges brought against DeLay in connection with the alleged laundering of campaign donations in a 2002 Texas election.

Rep. Chris Shays, R-Conn., a longtime critic of DeLay, was more to the point in his remarks. Having DeLay reclaim the position he relinquished in September after his indictment by a Texas grand jury "would be a disaster" for the Republican congressional majority, Shays said.

But even as he seeks to reclaim his No. 2 spot in the House political hierarchy, DeLay is also trying to claim a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, his one-time power base, as a short-term remedy to his loss of power on Capitol Hill, according to The Hill newspaper.

(Full Story)

French Reported to Have Warned CIA About Niger Claim

These are the reasons I question what Bush knew and when he knew it. As I have said before, I believe Bush honest felt that we would find WMDs in Iraq. But, if he knew that the information he presented to the American people as fact was known to be faulty (or even highly suspected to be faulty), then yes, he did mislead us. In the world of international diplomacy and domestic credibility, the ends do not justify the means. Or, at least, the ends must closely mirror the means. There was a time in our history when an American president spoke, the rest of the world accepted it as fact. We have lost that, and it is as important to the fight against terrorism that we regain it as boots on the ground. Like it or not, we need the rest of the world on our side.

French Told CIA of Bogus Intelligence

By Tom Hamburger, Peter Wallsten and Bob Drogin, Times Staff Writers

PARIS — More than a year before President Bush declared in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Africa, the French spy service began repeatedly warning the CIA in secret communications that there was no evidence to support the allegation.

The previously undisclosed exchanges between the U.S. and the French, described in interviews last week by the retired chief of the French counterintelligence service and a former CIA official, came on separate occasions in 2001 and 2002.

The French conclusions were reached after extensive on-the-ground investigations in Niger and other former French colonies, where the uranium mines are controlled by French companies, said Alain Chouet, the French former official. He said the French investigated at the CIA's request.

Chouet's account was "at odds with our understanding of the issue," a U.S. government official said. The U.S. official declined to elaborate and spoke only on condition that neither he nor his agency be named.

However, the essence of Chouet's account — that the French repeatedly investigated the Niger claim, found no evidence to support it, and warned the CIA — was extensively corroborated by the former CIA official and a current French government official, who both spoke on condition of anonymity.

(Full Story)

Was Rove Tipped Off?

Another New York Times report is now fully embroiled in the Plame/CIA leak investigation. In a hit to the Times already hurting reputation after Miller's role in the leak was uncovered, a second reporter may have tipped off Rove that he had better go back and change his account of things before he ended up on the chopping block along side Scooter Libby. It is still unknown whether rove will end up being indicted, but the picture has been muddied since he seemed to have escaped indictments during Fitzgerald's first go round.

Time Reporter May Have Tipped Rove's Lawyer to Leak

By Carol D. Leonnig and Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, December 12, 2005; Page A04

A Time magazine reporter testified in the CIA leak case that she alerted Karl Rove's lawyer in early 2004 that the top Bush adviser had leaked information to her colleague about Valerie Plame, according to a first-person account published yesterday in Time.

The reporter, Viveca Novak, did not initially tell her bosses at Time that she may have tipped off Rove's lawyer or that the special prosecutor in the CIA leak was interested in the details of her conversation with Robert D. Luskin, Rove's lawyer. As a result, she and Time editors agreed she would take a leave of absence while they contemplate her future at the magazine.

The casual chat between Novak and Luskin, which took place in the first half of 2004, is now central to Rove's efforts to avoid indictment in the more than two-year-old case. Novak's account in this week's issue of Time does little to explain how a conversation over drinks between Rove's lawyer and a reporter chasing the story could help clear the senior Bush adviser. In addition to raising new questions about the role of journalists in the Plame affair, Novak's testimony provides fresh and significant insight into Rove's campaign to avoid charges in a case that threatens the man President Bush once called the "architect" of his reelection.

Rove is believed to be under investigation for providing false statements about his role in the public disclosure of Plame's CIA employment.

(Full Story)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Chrismahanakwanzica

Apparently some Christian wing nuts are all in a tizzy because Bush sent out 'happy holiday' cards instead of 'Christmas cards.' It makes me wonder if they will ever acknowledge that they are not the only religion in this country and they are not the only religion to celebrate a holiday in December.

Maybe, just maybe, one or two of those cards mailed by Bush are going to Jews (Gasp!). It never ceases to amaze me how close minded some people are.

'Holiday' Cards Ring Hollow for Some on Bushes' List
By Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 7, 2005; Page A01

What's missing from the White House Christmas card? Christmas.

This month, as in every December since he took office, President Bush sent out cards with a generic end-of-the-year message, wishing 1.4 million of his close friends and supporters a happy "holiday season."

Many people are thrilled to get a White House Christmas card, no matter what the greeting inside. But some conservative Christians are reacting as if Bush stuck coal in their stockings.

"This clearly demonstrates that the Bush administration has suffered a loss of will and that they have capitulated to the worst elements in our culture," said William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Bush "claims to be a born-again, evangelical Christian. But he sure doesn't act like one," said Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative Web site "I threw out my White House card as soon as I got it."

Religious conservatives are miffed because they have been pressuring stores to advertise Christmas sales rather than "holiday specials" and urging schools to let students out for Christmas vacation rather than for "winter break." They celebrated when House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) insisted that the sparkling spectacle on the Capitol lawn should be called the Capitol Christmas Tree, not a holiday spruce.

Then along comes a generic season's greeting from the White House, paid for by the Republican National Committee. The cover art is also secular, if not humanist: It shows the presidential pets -- two dogs and a cat -- frolicking on a snowy White House lawn.

"Certainly President and Mrs. Bush, because of their faith, celebrate Christmas," said Susan Whitson, Laura Bush's press secretary. "Their cards in recent years have included best wishes for a holiday season, rather than Christmas wishes, because they are sent to people of all faiths."

That is the same rationale offered by major retailers for generic holiday catalogues, and it is accepted by groups such as the National Council of Churches. "I think it's more important to put Christ back into our war planning than into our Christmas cards," said the council's general secretary, the Rev. Bob Edgar, a former Democratic congressman.

But the White House's explanation does not satisfy the groups -- which have grown in number in recent years -- that believe there is, in the words of the Heritage Foundation, a "war on Christmas" involving an "ever-stronger push toward a neutered 'holiday' season so that non-Christians won't be even the slightest bit offended."

(Full Story)

Fitzy Goes Back to the Grand Jury

Patrick Fitzgerald went back before the grand jury today. It is not known what exactly for, but the best bet is it has something to do with Rove. Recent revelations in the case has given new cause to think Rove may have lied to investigators, only to change his story once he found out that Matt Cooper was going to testify.

CIA leak prosecutor again goes before grand jury

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Six weeks after White House aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby was indicted in the CIA leak case, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald was back at work Wednesday before another grand jury with top presidential political adviser Karl Rove still under investigation.

Fitzgerald did not comment on the nearly-three-hour grand jury session where the prosecutor was accompanied by three deputies and an FBI agent.

After weeks of avoiding many public appearances with the president, Rove has been noticeably at Bush's side this week.

They traveled together Monday to North Carolina for a speech on the economy.

Rove also rode with Bush in his limousine Wednesday across Washington and listened attentively from the sidelines while the president delivered a speech on Iraq.

In the last grand jury activity in the leak probe, on October 28, Libby, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, was indicted on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. Libby resigned and has pleaded not guilty.

(Full Story)

WaPo - Fitzgerald Presents New Information to Grand Jury

By Carol Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 7, 2005; 1:09 PM

Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald appeared this morning to present information to a new grand jury in the CIA leak investigation.

Fitzgerald has been probing for two years what role senior Bush administration officials have played in leaking a CIA operative name to the media in 2003.

With the new grand jury, Fitzgerald continues to consider charges against Karl Rove, White House deputy chief of staff, who failed to reveal to the FBI and the grand jury in the early days of the investigation that he had provided information about CIA analyst Valerie Plame to Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper.

(Full Story)

Shots Fired on Commercial Flight by Air Marshal

The story is still developing

Police: Shot fired on jet at Miami airport

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- A weapon was fired on an American Airlines plane as it was on the runway at Miami International Airport on Wednesday, authorities confirmed.

The weapon was apparently fired by a federal air marshal on board the plane, which was on a stopover during a flight from Medellin, Colombia, to Orlando, Florida, police said.

The Boeing 757 was due to take off for Orlando at 2:18 p.m. ET.

Update: Officials say the man claimed to have a bomb and reached into his bag when shot.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Time to Learn How to Swim

The first recorded displacement of humans due global warming has officially been recorded.

Pacific islanders move to escape global warming

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent
Mon Dec 5, 4:36 PM ET

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Rising seas have forced 100 people on a Pacific island to move to higher ground in what may be the first example of a village formally displaced because of modern global warming, a U.N. report said on Monday.

With coconut palms on the coast already standing in water, inhabitants in the Lateu settlement on Tegua island in Vanuatu started dismantling their wooden homes in August and moved about 600 yards (meters) inland.

"They could no longer live on the coast," Taito Nakalevu, a climate change expert at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, told Reuters during a 189-nation conference in Montreal on ways to fight climate change.

So-called "king tides," often whipped up by cyclones, had become stronger in recent years and made Lateu uninhabitable by flooding the village 4 to 5 times a year. "We are seeing king tides across the region flooding islands," he said.

The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) said in a statement that the Lateu settlement "has become one of, if not the first, to be formally moved out of harm's way as a result of climate change."

The scientific panel that advises the United Nations projects that seas could rise by almost 3 feet (a meter) by 2100 because of melting icecaps and warming linked to a build-up of heat-trapping gases emitted by burning fossil fuels in power plants, factories and autos.

Many other coastal communities are vulnerable to rising seas, such as the U.S. city of New Orleans, the Italian city of Venice or settlements in the Arctic where a thawing of sea ice has exposed coasts to erosion by the waves.

(Full Story)

A Graham of Prevention

I know, I know.... bad pun, but this is an interesting Op-Ed by Lindsey Graham on his amendments to the the ode of conduct in relation to torture by the US. It is worth the full read regardless of your feelings on the issue.

Rules for Our War
By Lindsey Graham
Tuesday, December 6, 2005; Page A29

In my view, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, were an act of war, not a mere crime. Our terrorist enemies don't represent a sovereign nation, wear a uniform, follow the rules of armed conflict or show any regard for humanity. The key difference between them and us is that we care about these things.

Even during a time of war, we have chosen to be a nation of laws, with a different, higher set of values than the terrorists. We should always remember that we are Americans, possessing values superior to those of our enemy, and that there is a proper balance between the protection of our troops and the humane treatment of detainees. This value system is our national strength, not a weakness.

I support President Bush's statement that all detainees should be treated humanely, and I agree with Sen. John McCain that his detainee treatment amendment is about us, not them. With these concepts in mind, the Senate recently acted in a bipartisan fashion in two critical areas of detainee policy.

First, by a vote of 90 to 9 we passed the McCain amendment, which would require all Defense Department interrogation techniques to be standardized and contained within the Army Field Manual. As a military lawyer, I know our original policies concerning interrogation were confusing and contradictory. Unfortunately, our troops have suffered in trying to implement these flawed policies.

By standardizing procedures in one document, our troops will know what's in and out of bounds. To attempt to recapture the moral high ground, we also reaffirm our long-held position that federal agencies will not engage in techniques that violate standards against torture or inhumane treatment of detainees under the laws of armed conflict.

Any efforts to create exemptions to the McCain amendment will, in my opinion, do far more harm than good, as they may set precedents that could jeopardize our troops in future conflicts. We will win this war by showcasing the differences between the United States and the enemy.

I believe we can have sound interrogation techniques and aggressive detention and prosecution policies for enemy combatants without eroding the values for which we are fighting.

(Full Article)

Justice DeLayed 'til Early Next Year

Tom DeLay was successful in getting one of the 3 charges against him dropped yesterday (NYT, WaPo, LAT, USAToday). The charge of conspiracy was dropped because his actions were in 2002 and the law did not take effect until 2003. The more serious counts of money laundering were upheld and the judge will proceed to trial starting early next year.

This is a big disappointment for DeLay who was hoping for a quick resolution to the indictment. DeLay was forced to step down as a party leader due to the indictment and cannot regain his post as long as he remains under the indictment. As with any political group, other Republicans are coveting the open position and are planning on holding elections for a new party leader early next year. This would permanently replace DeLay's position.

But, that may be a moot point. Tom DeLay is suffering big time in his home district of Sugar land Texas. A just release CNN poll puts DeLay behind hypothetical Democratic contenders 36% to 49%, meaning that even if he is not convicted, it may difficult for him to even be re-elected (Link). But, that is not stopping Dick Cheney from coming to DeLay's rescue. Cheney dissed the White House Christmas party to go host a fundraiser for DeLay (birds of feather

Monday, December 05, 2005

The More Things Happen, the More Things Stay the Same

Less than a week after Randy "Duke" Cunningham plead guilty to taking bribes from defense contractors to stear business their way, the same group of big money defense contractors are holding a fundraiser for Tom "ethics is for pansies" DeLay, who has already been bitch slapped by his own lack of ethical standards. You would think that someone might be smart enough to distance themselves from the same group that just help bring down another Republican, but DeLay just won't quit.

Even if DeLay can weather this storm and recover his leadership position in the House, how long could it be before he is again under some sort of investigation. Unfortunate for the short term, but fortunate for the long term, DeLay is like every other career criminal. They just can't live by the same rules that the rest of us do. When you have no moral compass, you never learn a "lesson" and go on the straight and narrow. You just look for the next opportunity to score big at someone else's expense.

Sooner or later, DeLay will go down in disgrace. It is just a question of when and how much damage he does to those who surround him in the mean time.

Breakfast of DeLay Champions
By Al Kamen
Monday, December 5, 2005; Page A19

SAVE THE DATE! The "Defense Industry Reelection Event" for former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is at 8:30 a.m. Thursday at the Capitol Hill Club.

Join Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) and many of their colleagues who are getting together to help the embattled DeLay, who may actually have a competitive race next year.

The sponsors are a half-dozen defense lobby heavyweights: Greg Dahlberg , a former Army undersecretary and former aide to Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), now with Lockheed Martin; Northrop Grumman's Diane Harper ; American Defense International's Michael H. Herson ; Letitia White of Copeland Lowery & Jacquez; defense consultant Al Jackson ; and Doug Ritter of General Dynamics.

This is not a coffee and doughnuts affair. We're talking a sit-down with maybe some bacon and eggs, possibly even a pancake or two. Better yet, you can rub shoulders and set up golf outings with key GOP members of the two powerful House committees, including Henry Bonilla (Tex.), Ken Calvert (Calif.), Rodney P. Frelinghuysen (N.J.), Kay Granger (Tex.), Howard P. " Buck " McKeon (Calif.), Todd Tiahrt (Kan.), Roger Wicker (Miss.) and Joe Wilson (S.C.).

As would be expected, attending this event is an honor, albeit an expensive one. A "Host" PAC runs you $5,000 -- though maybe you can take home leftover bagels. You can be honored as a sponsoring PAC for $2,500, or you can make your individual donation for only $1,000. Please make checks payable to the Tom DeLay Congressional Committee.

(Full Story)

Erosion of Our Voting Rights

The New York Times does a good job ripping into the Bush political appointees decision to overrule a team of DOJ staff attorneys consensus that the Tom DeLay, Texas redistricting plan violated the 1960's Voting Rights Act.

But The Washington Post's Dan Eggen reported last week that the Justice Department has been suppressing for nearly two years a 73-page memo in which six lawyers and two analysts in the voting rights section, including the group's chief lawyer, unanimously concluded that the Texas redistricting plan of 2003 illegally diluted the votes of blacks and Hispanics in order to ensure a Republican majority in the state's Congressional delegation. That plan was shoved through the Texas State Legislature by Representative Tom DeLay, who abused his federal position in doing so and is now facing criminal charges over how money was raised to support the redistricting.

The Post said the lawyers charged with analyzing voting rights violations were overruled by political appointees, and ordered not to discuss the case. The Justice Department then approved the Texas plan, which had been under review because the voting law requires states with a history of discriminatory election practices to get electoral map changes approved in advance.

The fact that the DOJ Staff attorneys unanimously found it to be a violation and were overruled by political appointees may lead to a re-examination of the redistricting plan. DOJ opinion carries a lot of weight with the judges and with the 73 page suppressed memo coming to light, it likely that new litigation will ensue over The Bush administrations egregious suppression of this memo.

The story goes on to examine the new voter laws in Georgia.

This outrageous case is only one way in which the Justice Department under John Ashcroft and now Alberto Gonzales has abused its law-enforcement mandate in the service of the Republican majority. Last month, the Post reported that political appointees also overruled voting rights lawyers who rejected a Georgia law requiring that voters without a picture ID buy one for $20 - at offices that were set up in only 59 of the state's 159 counties. The Justice Department falsely claimed that the decision to O.K. the law - which was little more than a modern-day version of a poll tax aimed at reducing turnout among poor minorities - was made with the concurrence of the career lawyers. A federal court later struck down the law, properly.

I have opposed this law in the past on this blog. I understand the need to ensure that only those who have the right to vote are allowed to vote. Voter fraud is a major impediment to democracy. BUT, the law does little to really ensure voter fraud does not happen.

First, the law that requires picture ID only affects voting at the polls. According to the persons in charge of running elections in Georgia, the State of Georgia has had no complaints of people showing up at the polls claiming to be someone they are not. Since this new law will not stop this kind of fraud (since it is not happening), it is just a poll tax.

Second, the law liberalizes absentee ballot voting. This, according the the State of Georgia election officials is where the voting fraud does occur.

So, the law basically makes it easier for fraud to occur where is already is occurring, and makes it harder for people to vote where fraud is not occurring. How is this a valid law?

The Bush administration has filed only three suits for violation of voting rights since taing office and has a dismal record for protecting the poor and minority vote in this nation. This is one of the many ways that Bush looses more and more credibility every day.

Fixing the Game

Friday, December 02, 2005

Wingnuts... Relax... Take a Deep Breath

Christmas stamps have not been banned by the US postal service. I have seen this rumor posted all over the wingnut blogs (wigbang, Micelle Malkin, etc). Please, take a moment and breath deeply. Everything is going to be.... ok....

Religious stamps not outlawed after all

By Dennis B. Roddy, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The annual brouhaha over whether it's Christmas or "the holidays" spilled over into the U.S. Postal Service this week, with the Internet and public conversation awash with horror that no new religiously themed stamp was printed for the 2005 season.

Since 1966, the Postal Service has issued a Christmas stamp that includes the Madonna and Christ child, listed as "traditional" stamps, using classic works of art. Last year's reproduced a painting by 15th-century Italian artist Lorenzo Monaco. The religious stamp usually is accompanied by a separate printing of nonreligious Christmas stamps. This year's theme: Christmas cookies.

But patrons looking for a new religiously themed stamp this year are getting leftover Madonna printings from last year, touching off a wave of reports that the Postal Service was planning to discontinue religiously themed Christmas stamps.

"It's absolutely not true," said Diana Svoboda, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh district. Next year's printing will include a new Madonna and the price stamped over her left shoulder will explain why a new one wasn't printed this year: Rates are going up to 39 cents per letter Jan. 8.

"We had an overabundance of religiously based stamps from last year," she said. The Postal Service needed to sell its overstock of Madonna stamps and didn't want a fresh crop of outdated stamps sitting in the drawers for next year.

(Full Story)

H/T Atrios


College football regular season is almost over and Saturdays will need some entertainment and I was also thinking about the national deficit.

So I was thinking - kill two birds with one stone - A pay-per-view Thunder Dome between politicians with the proceeds going to pay down the national debt.

Think of the match ups

Ted Kennedy vs. Dennis Hastert - no worry about hitting below the belt since neither man has seen their penises in decades.

Barbara Boxer vs. Kay Bailey Hutchinson - I would give Kay the edge on this one, but I still think Barbara would put up a good fight.

Barack Obama vs. George Allen - Obama, hands down. He may be slight, but you can tell he is quick on his feet.

John Murtha vs. Jean Schmidt - lets see who really is the coward.

Who's with me?

Political Appointees Overruled DOJ Lawyers on Texas Redistricting

Go figure. Bush administration political appointees overruling DOJ lawyers who found the Tom DeLay congressional redistricting plan to be a Voting Rights Act violation. Who wudda thunk...

Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 2, 2005; Page A01

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

"The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect," the memo concluded.

The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options.

But the Texas legislature proceeded with the new map anyway because it would maximize the number of Republican federal lawmakers in the state, the memo said. The redistricting was approved in 2003, and Texas Republicans gained five seats in the U.S. House in the 2004 elections, solidifying GOP control of Congress...

The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule. The memo was provided to The Post by a person connected to the case who is critical of the adopted redistricting map. Such recommendation memos, while not binding, historically carry great weight within the Justice Department...

Mark Posner, a longtime Justice Department lawyer who now teaches law at American University, said it was "highly unusual" for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding such as the one in the Texas case.

"In this kind of situation, where everybody agrees at least on the staff level . . . that is a very, very strong case," Posner said. "The fact that everybody agreed that there were reductions in minority voting strength, and that they were significant, raises a lot of questions as to why it was" approved, he said.

(Full Story)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Plan... We don't Need No Stink'n Plan

Yesterday, Bush unveiled his "Plan for Victory" which I find kind of ironical.

Snow Job Mission Accomplished Posted by Picasa

WaPo has a pretty good lowdown on the Bush plan... or basic lack there of. Bush's biggest problem is that he has no credibility left. He is never proactive in correcting mistakes and only reacts after money, time and energy is wasted and Americans are completely fed up with his lack of action. I guess this is why all the companies he ever ran, were run into the ground. It really gives me a glimpse into why all of his MBA professors at Harvard were so disappointed in him as a student. It was not just because he was arrogant and bragged about how his dad got him in. It was because as a manager, he sucks.

An Offering of Detail But No New Substance

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 1, 2005; Page A01

Thirty-two months after U.S. forces invaded Iraq, President Bush's advisers concluded that his message of "stay the course" has been translated by a weary American public as "stay forever." And so yesterday the president tried to reassure the nation that he has a comprehensive vision for beating the insurgency and eventually bringing U.S. troops home.

The message was hardly subtle as the White House posted a 35-page "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" on its Web site and hung dozens of "Plan for Victory" signs behind Bush as he addressed midshipmen in Annapolis. But it was intended to reshape the argument against critics who have been gaining traction with congressional calls to withdraw troops immediately or at least set a timetable for pulling out.

Instead of sticking to general statements of resolve as in the past, Bush offered specific examples of what he called progress in building an Iraqi army that can take over the fight from U.S. troops. And in a rare move for a president loath to admit mistakes, he admitted some without ever using the word, granting that "we've faced some setbacks" and that "we learned from our early experiences."

But broadly Bush gave no ground to critics who want a major course change, and the plan he released yesterday offered nothing new substantively. Short of changing conditions on the ground, Bush faces enormous challenges in turning around public attitudes on the war. The American people have grown increasingly sour on Iraq in public polls, and most no longer approve of the way the president is handling the war.

"That's the trick for the president -- he has to turn around public opinion when he's at a low point in the polls," said John Weaver, a political strategist for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). "What they've got to do is win this argument and correct the misinformation that's out there about what's going on in Iraq and do so while leveling with the American people that it's going to be a long, hard slog."

The latest speech won Bush few converts in Washington, with opposition leaders rushing out critiques, in some cases even before he had finished speaking in Annapolis. "The president was basically repackaging things and saying everything's fine when every day we read that things are not fine," said former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright. "I so wish I could believe him. I like to believe an American president. But he's got such a credibility issue."

(Full Story)

Randy "Duke" Cunningham's Guilty Plea hangs Heavy on Congress

The investigation into Duke's dealings with defense contractors could entangle additional republican congressman in the web of corruption. Even if they did nothing technically illegal, just being part of the dealings could further enhance the GOP's "culture of corruption" tag.

Contractor spends big on key lawmakers

By Matt Kelley and Jim Drinkard, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — A San Diego businessman under investigation in the bribery case of former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham is a well-known GOP fundraiser whose generosity to key members of Congress came at the same time his company saw large increases in its government contracts, public records show.

Brent Wilkes, the founder of defense contractor ADCS Inc., gave more than $840,000 in contributions to 32 House members or candidates, campaign-finance records show. He flew Republican lawmakers on his private jet and hired lobbyists with close ties to those lawmakers.

Wilkes' charitable foundation, which aids sick children and military families, honored congressmen at black-tie banquets and donated to their favorite causes. Wilkes was also a "Pioneer" for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, meaning he raised at least $100,000.

With help from two committee chairmen, ADCS got more than $90 million in government contracts since its founding in 1995, helping propel Wilkes from an obscure businessman to a millionaire prominent in Republican circles.

Neither Wilkes nor any other congressmen have been charged with crimes, and the donations and contributions are legal so long as they weren't intended to influence official actions. The links illustrate the connections between lawmakers who oversee defense spending and a contractor seeking some of that money...

Since 1994, Wilkes and ADCS gave $40,700 in campaign contributions to Rep. Duncan Hunter, a San Diego Republican who now chairs the House Armed Services Committee. Hunter has acknowledged that he joined with Cunningham in 1999 to contact Pentagon officials who reversed a decision and gave ADCS one of its first big contracts, for nearly $10 million. Hunter's spokesman, Joe Kasper, said the congressman was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Another California Republican, Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, led panels that ordered the Pentagon to continue programs that aided ADCS when Pentagon officials wanted to cut them. Lewis got $71,253 from Wilkes and his employees in donations since 1993. Wilkes gave Lewis donations and met him at various events, Lewis spokesman Jim Specht said, but "he never talked with him about a defense project."

Before becoming the Appropriations chairman this year, Lewis led the subcommittee that oversees defense spending. In the late 1990s, that panel directed the Pentagon to continue converting paper documents to computer records, the work that ADCS does. Pentagon officials had tried to end the program's funding.

The 1999 defense budget, for example, directed $45 million be spent on document conversion. Wilkes and his employees gave Lewis $7,000 in campaign contributions the day after his subcommittee's first hearing on the bill.

(Full Story)