Saturday, December 31, 2005

The question

Note to Midamerica Progressive. I'm still thinking.....

This is all I could think of.

Update: Midamerica challenges me with Afghanistan. My answer.

I didn't forget Afghanistan. I was against it from the beginning and it's the untold story of the failure of the war on terrorism or whatever it's called these days. I've always thought a major ground offensive against such a

We're still fighting that war. There's a death count mounting there regularly that you don't hear about and by destroying the hold the Taliban had on the country, evil as they were and still are, they made the AQ stronger, not weaker by removing an indigenous impediment to their operations. The Taliban kept the AQ in check. The Karzai administration, may be friendly to the US, but it's still only in control of Kabul some four years later - their "democratic elections" nothwithstanding. All we did there was take control of the country out of the hands of the religious zealots and put it back into the hands of the AQ and other assorted bandits including a bunch of pissed off Taliban who survived the offensive.

I can't find a way to call it good.

Update: Midamerica (or midwestern) progressive -- I'm a little confused on which name to use -- disputes my reasoning in comments.

It is a credit to the administration that they accomplished what the Soviet empire could not - routing the Taliban out of Afghanistan.

I have to ask, but did they really rout the Taliban? The Taliban were defeated, not destroyed. They're still in Afghanistan, they've simply gone underground and they continue to wage guerrilla attacks against out troops. They now form alliances with the AQ in order to harass our men.

The Taliban may not have pursued the AQ but I don't think you can really say they were protecting them. After all, in essence, the AQ was a threat to their own power. The most important check they imposed on the AQ's power was in the control of the heroin trade. Poppy production was nearly wiped out under their rule. It has since exploded again, to the point where Afghanistan is again providing the great bulk of that hemisphere's opium base. The profits from this business are not underwriting Karzai's government, they're supporting the AQ and now also the Taliban which even as we speak, you can be sure are attempting to reorganize.

The way I see it, at least we knew where they were when they were in power and had they posed a direct threat to us, we could have dealt with them as we did. All we accomplished was to drive our enemy underground, where they're a lot harder to find, much less fight.

I think the single biggest fallacy in the GWOT is the idea that we can somehow "win" by killing enough terrorists. But you can't possibly kill every single terrorist, nor can you defeat a movement whose members reside all over the world in small pockets rather united as nation-state, using military force. Every time we try, we only make it worse.
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The road less taken

I'm working through the holiday so posts will be mostly random link as you go during the day. I'm trying to catch up on some blogs I haven't been linking to enough lately.

Acoustic Dad has a whole series of posts on the flora and fauna of the Australian outback - at least I think that's what you might call the mountains there. He's got some stunning photos and reminds me that what we call the wilderness in the US is kind of a joke compared to the "wilds" of Down Under. Just start at the top and scroll here and don't miss his insights on the politics back here in the "States."

I see ExPat Brian has followed me over to Gut Rumbles and become a fan of the Acidman. Or does he just go over there to see what I might blurt out next in comments? I'm probably more revealing there than I am on Last One Speaks, which is where I usually post on my personal life.

Scroll down at Brian's pad to see the latest in he and Pearly's handmade cribbage sets. If I ever put up a wish list, I'm going to wish they would make me one someday. And I loved the O Henry-esque Christmas present story. BTW, Brian, I would comment at your site once in a while but I can't unless you allow anon commenting. For some reason my registered name is my private email and you don't want that floating around in this age of robo-spam. I've tried to change it but it screws up the access to my blogs. Anyway, keep scrolling to see his latest Singapore travel tips and his views on US politics from the outside - looking back.

I don't get over to No Blood for Hubris nearly often enough because she's in the middle of my blogroll and whether I start from the the top or the bottom, I often burn out before I get there. She's got a couple of posts on topics I wanted to address and didn't get around to. Expanding on my current obsession with domestic spying, she has a a good post on just who is considered a terr'ist threat to this administration. She also took a swipe at Kathleen Parker's insipid piece that I wanted to blog about and didn't. The piece was so irritating but Hubris cut Parker down to size a lot better than I would have.

I don't link to Annie's Annuals nearly enough either. I have to move her into the politics section on the blogroll as it seems she's posting more political analysis these days, although it always worth a scroll through just to see what song is in her head today. And don't miss this interesting question. It's kind of a Buddhist koan in a Christian sort of way.

And speaking of Annies, it's been way too long since I linked to the charming and inimitable Anntelope. Hours of fun await you at her long standing website, East Village poetry.
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Blog hopping

Mark Morford is really too good. He's has a great year end column up that manages to be encouraging to those of us who fight against the empire every day, puts our critics in their place and is still hilariously funny.

Kathy at Stone Soup doesn't give out her signature recipe as requested by Midamerica Progressive but she does serve up a good Helen Thomas piece I missed, which could explain the sudden crick in my neck and gives us the recipe for ushering in the best of luck for the New Year. Unfortunately since I live alone, it's not going to be easy for me to follow it. I guess on the other hand I use the front door so rarely I could wait until a delivery guy shows up and get him to help out.

Bostonian Exile is suffering from a little malaise over the polarity of the blogosphere and the nation. I been going through that myself lately and left a thought I've been trying to grow into a viral meme.

Midamerica Progressive is looking for his muse and makes a reader request to what I've begun to think of as our group of "Detroit bloggers." I always get the hard questions.
"What is one good thing that the Bush administration has done?"
I read his post after I read this post at Kevin McKeague's place. I had an answer for Kev's question.
The Libbytarian in me wouldn't make any new laws, we have too many already. I would restructure the drug laws making the illegal substances legal and available in a regulated manner.

As for your law, I'm not so sure I like it. I think the problem right now is there's too much money in campaigns and the media blitz goes on too long. McCain-Feingold had the right idea but got it backwards. I think we should limit political ads to the last six weeks before the election. Nothing before. I think it would lead to a much more engaged and informed electorate. The way it is now, by the time the elections roll around, anyone but the most ardent political junkies are bored comatose by the spin. I mean 04 was just ridiculous. You remember the blogger burnout phenonmenon by the time we got to the election?

You need contribution limits,even on indivuduals because the corporate interests are run by rich people. You still have the same problem with undue influence. And I like midwest midamerica's idea about eliminating PACs and corporate donations so only individuals can contribute.

The other obvious solution is to consider term limits, at least on the national level. If they're not worrying about reelection, they won't be fundraising instead of legislating.
I have an answer to Midamerica's question to Boston Exile as well although it can't be printed in polite society. However, I'm still trying to think of an answer to mine.
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Friday, December 30, 2005

Promote yourself

I've been posting a lot at the Detroit News blog in the last couple of days. There's too many posts to link separately. You can get my archives here, including posts on the emerging details of various surveillance programs, a year end review, and a post on the latest setback in Iraq.

Or you could go to the main blog and read all the posts. Ron Scott has a good one on the shakeup in the hierarchy at the Pentagon.
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Go git 'em Al

You can get stomach ache from hypocrisy this rich. The same administration who stonewalled the serious breach of national security for going on years in the Plame leak now sics their pet attack dog Al Gonzales on the leaker who dared to expose the illegal conduct of our president.

If he finds out they damn well better give the guy the Medal of Freedom. Oh wait they only reward incompetency in this White House.
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An impeachable offense

John Dean, former White House counsel to Nixon analyzes the still emerging details of the NSA scandal and finds it to be even more an impeachable offense than the similar domestic surveillance infractions of Nixon that led to his impeachment. As Dean points out, it could have justified immediately after 9/11. It could have been satisfactorily explained as a response to an actual credible threat but there is really no excuse to flagrantly violate the law for over two years when he could have simply gone to a GOP dominated Congress and asked them to change the law to allow it.

I've thought from the beginning that Bush's real agenda was not to save this country but to destroy the republic and with every little chip he takes at the foundations of our current form of government, I'm only more convinced it's true.
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The Abramoff Files

The scandal continues to unravel, exposing a web of corruption so vast as to be almost incomprehensible. The WaPo does a good job today in tracing the many tentacles of the beast called Abramoff. By the time the last rock is turned over, Beltway insiders are predicting a mass indictment the likes of which have not been seen in generations.

The prosecution is pressing its deadline for a deal and it appears at this point that those ensnared by the fine attentions of the lobbyist's lobbyist are going to learn the same lesson many a second wife has learned. If he cheated on his first wife to be with you, chances are he'll betray you down the line. And when Jack cracks, the reprecussions will resound far and wide across the land.

I'm predicting the only surprise will be just how many right wing pundits were on his payroll.
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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Stand for something or stand for nothing

Relative to the NSA surveillance scandal, Digby has some good advice for the Democratic Party and ends with the quote of the day.
I'm of the mind to adopt "give me liberty or give me death" as my personal motto. If I have to kowtow to a bunch of childish Republican panic artists who have deluded themselves into believing that fighting radical Islam requires turning America into a police state, then it's just not worth it.
As I said in his comment section, turn that into a pledge and I'll sign back onto the party.
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Bush switches strategy - while staff short-circuits

Team Bush is rethinking its grandiose domestic agenda and downsizing to a survival plan. Having realized the political capital is spent, they finally understand that the sum total of the Bush legacy will be the war in Iraq and they should pay some attention to it. They're giving up on everything else and are focusing on re-selling the war. WaPo also has some interesting details on the infighting between the Rove camp and the younger crowd on how to spin this, led one assumes by this new guy from Duke who wrote "The Plan for Victory."

That Bush split the difference and did it half one way and half the other suggests Rove's influence may be waning a bit in light of this legal troubles but the inside line is that Bush still mostly only listens to his closest advisors and they've given up on telling him things he doesn't want to hear.

And word has it, they're burning out after trying to spin the multitude of fiascoes for so long. I remember earlier speculation that Card was going to be kicked out. Now the gossip is he wants out. Considering Powell's recent remarks condoning the NSA surveillance scandal, I'm not sure they'll let him go. I think it might be like the legend of the Mafia. Once you're in, the only way out is in a box. They own you forever.
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Calling all bloggers - preserve the evidence

Blairwatch is asking for international solidarity on a new set of leaked documents from the UK proving Britian and the US are complicit in tortue in Uzbekistan.
Craig Murray was the UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, untill his complaints and protest at the use of intelligence gained by torture got too much for Jack Straw and the Foreign Office, who set about attempting to unsuccessfully smear him, and to successfully remove him from office.

The Foreign Office has had the draft of Craig's book for clearance for over 3 months now, and they are doing everything they can to try and prevent him from publishing his side of the story. Their latest attempt to cover their own backs was to inform him, the night before Christmas Eve, that these two documents cannot be published, and that he was to return or destroy all copies immediately.
Murray was outraged and published the materials on his blog. The blog, when I tried to check it is already down but Blairwatch has archived the documents and is asking bloggers to also archive or at least link to the materials.
What are these documents?

The first document is a series of Telegrams that Craig sent to the Foreign Office, outlining his growing concern and disgust at our use of intelligence passed to the UK by the Uzbek security services.

The second document is a copy of legal advice the Foreign Office sought, to see if they were operating within the Law in accepting torture intelligence, and according to Michael Wood the FCO legal adviser; it is fine, as long as it is not used as evidence.
The documents are here and here. Please publish these if you can, and/or link and pass it on.
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More warrantless surveillance

Thanks to Jason for bringing this under the radar news via Electronic Frontier Foundation to my attention. The NSA survelliance is not the only program the administration is utilizing to violate your Fourth Amendment rights.
Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Gorenstein of the federal court for the Southern District of New York issued an opinion permitting the government to use cell site data to track a cell phone's physical location, without the government having to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause.

...Unfortunately, this dangerous new opinion falls into a procedural black hole. Because the DOJ is the only party in these surveillance cases, there's no one left to appeal the decision. Meanwhile, the DOJ has refused to appeal all three times it has lost, despite emphatic requests by the Texas and Eastern District magistrates. The result is that other magistrates across the country won't get clear guidance from the appeals courts on this issue.
It does make you wonder what other surveillance policies have been invented, in circumvention of the law, that we just haven't found out about yet.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

White House cast a wide net in domestic surveillance

I've been meaning to post this but I keep losing the link. But thanks again to Avedon whom I've stolen from shamelessly today, via Phoenixwoman who caught it on the holiday news dump, here it is again

I already posted on this at Detroit News blog so I'll just give a few of the choice grafs here.
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.

A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company said that since the Sept. 11 attacks, the leading companies in the industry have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists.
The communications corps has apparently given them open access to the major switches. No way they didn't end up analyzing the patterns of thousands more Americans than they're admitting to. And yet, mark my words, tomorrow there will be somebody in the comment section in Detroit defending them for doing it because, you know, everything changed after 9/11 and we got to git them terr'ists afore they git us.
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MultiMedia Bytes

A new war themed music videoGod Bless American guns. Very subtle, worth waiting for the sluggish download. [hat tip Paul Wright.

Bagdad blogger Salam Pax has a video diary with a year end analysis of progress in Iraq.
Tom Tomorrow's year end review and he's only on part one. Can't wait for the next installment.

And Fiore Gets Smarter. It's a good one.

[All of the above shamelessly stolen from Avedon Carol]
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Pardon me Mr. Congressman - your tarnish is showing

EJ Dionne delivers the goods on Congressional corruption in his op-ed today. He notes, as we all anticipate, that Abramoff will likely deliver us into the year of the political scandals in 06. But he also notes special prosecutors can't rescue us from the "politics of favoritism that has created a new Gilded Age."
Rarely does a single action by Congress serve as so powerful an example of how the system is working. The recent budget bill, which squeaked through the House and Senate just before Christmas, is a road map of insider dealing. It shows that when choices have to be made, the interests of the poor and the middle class fall before the wishes of interest groups with powerful lobbies and awesome piles of campaign money to distribute.
In every debate, the moderates tried to exact savings by eliminating a small portion of corporate handouts but were voted down by the GOP majority who favored piling the costs of their vaunted tax breaks onto the backs of the poor and the working class. Dionne runs down the examples of pork barrel favortism to their corporate masters but perhaps the GOP logic on how the savings will accrue from their Medicaid cuts explains their priorities the best.
The Medicaid cuts include increased co-payments and premiums on low-income Americans, and the budget assumes savings because fewer poor people will visit the doctor. As Kevin Freking of the Associated Press reported: "The Congressional Budget Office has concluded that such increases would lead many poor people to forgo health care or not to enroll in Medicaid at all -- contributing to some of the $4.8 billion in Medicaid savings envisioned over the next five years."
Taking into consideration the cavalier treatment of the mainly poor and black Katrina victims, it sounds like a polite way of calling for genocide to me. The good news is that due to a genius parlimentary move by Democratic Sen. Kent Conrad, the bill still faces one more vote in January. It's not too late to contact your Congress creatures and tell them to rethink their positions before they find themselves in the unemployment line with the rest of the victims beneficiaries of the new "booming" economy.
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Monday, December 26, 2005

Evo won't play puppet prez to US interests

The White House isn't going to like this. Newly elected Bolivian president Evo Morales has thrown down the gauntlet in a speech to a civic organization. I Believe Only In The Power Of The People by Evo Morales; December 24, 2005. You really must read it all for yourself but here's a couple of random grafs.
It must be said, compañeras and compañeros, that we must serve the social and popular movements rather than the transnational corporations. I am new to politics; I had hated it and had been afraid of becoming a career politician. But I realized that politics had once been the science of serving the people, and that getting involved in politics is important if you want to help your people. By getting involved, I mean living for politics, rather than living off of politics. We have coordinated our struggles between the social movements and political parties, with the support of our academic institutions, in a way that has created a greater national consciousness. That is what made it possible for the people to rise up in these recent days.

When we speak of the "defense of humanity," as we do at this event, I think that this only happens by eliminating neoliberalism and imperialism. But I think that in this we are not so alone, because we see, every day that anti-imperialist thinking is spreading, especially after Bush's bloody "intervention" policy in Iraq. Our way of organizing and uniting against the system, against the empire's aggression towards our people, is spreading, as are the strategies for creating and strengthening the power of the people.

...We have no other choice, compañeros and compañeras ­ if we want to defend humanity we must change system, and this means overthrowing US imperialism.
I'm not entirely comfortable with the rhetoric or the policies of the Chavez, Morales, Castro triad but neither am I alarmed. They speak of economic resistance, not armed conflict and at least the first two should be afforded the respect due to democratically elected leaders.

In any event, it will be worth watching how this "power of three" develops and I have great hopes for Evo's postive impact on the war on some drugs in a post at Last One Speaks.

Update: I'm not the only one with high hopes for the Morales admininstration. His victory is being hailed among indigenous groups all over the Americas as a omen of better times ahead for the 33 to 40 million indigenous people in Latin America who have suffered poverty and discrimination under imperialist rulers.
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Bush pushes for Anna Nicole

And now for a moment of comic relief. Proving the old adage that politics makes strange bedfellows true, the Bush administration is filing an amicus in the case of Anna Nicole Smith's bitter probate fight over her late husband's fortune and is asking to appear at oral arguments before the SCOTUS. The White House says it's over a technical point of law and they merely seek to protect the right of the feds to maintain jurisdiction over certain state matters. It has nothing to do with her --um-- assets.

AttyTood nails the money grafs.

But here's the part of the story we really didn't get:
Like Marshall, President Bush was a Texas oil man. Both attended Yale. Both held government positions in Washington.

There are differences. Marshall had a penchant for strippers, and the court record before the justices is one of poverty, greed, sex and family rivalry.
Wait a minute, we thought the story said there were differences?

Ha, ha, just kidding. We know that Bush has never been poor.
And as God is her witness, neither will Anna Nicole ever be poor again. I'll bet she's a Republican too.
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You can't buy press like this - or can you?

Speaking of bought off bloggers, the WaPo does a profile piece on the darling of the milbloggers, Bill Roggio, who "was a computer technician living in New Jersey less than two months ago when a Marine officer half a world away made him an offer he couldn't refuse." Seems the glory boys in the Pentagon don't like the mainstream coverage, weak though it is, because it's making them look bad. So they "enlisted" Bill as an embed.

His Fourth Rail fans donated $30 Gs to pay for his ticket and his equipment but still, do you think he really gave up a good job just for patriotism or maybe fame? I suppose it's possible and if so, my hat's off to him for going, but there is this little twist, mentioned almost as an afterthought by the WaPo.
After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog.
It doesn't say but one might conclude a "little" honorarium of sorts may have come with that and I can think of all kinds of lobbyists who might want to underwrite a blogger who only posts "good news." And this is interesting. How do you think he's paying for this bandwidth without a job?
He and two other bloggers launched a new Web site a month ago ( ), where he has posted many stories about his time with the Marines. Most provide detailed accounts of patrols or other outings on which he accompanied U.S. forces.
Funny but I seem to remember that anti-war blogging soldier from out west, Leonard Clark, being arrested and court martialed for allegedly compromising the military operations by doing the same. But then he wasn't working from Pentagon press releases.

Unsurprisingly, the Pentagon finds these pro-war milbloggers reliable, credible and objective, so much so they're now sending their press releases to the whole lot of them. It's certainly working better for them than trying to buy off the foreign press.
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It's only words

The insufferable White House excuser Howard Kurtz, is at it again, reporting that Bush has taken to "summoning" newspaper editors to the Oval Office in an attempt to prevent them from publishing stories he considers damaging to national security. Hah. It's more like he's trying to prevent blowback on the revelations of his illegal civil rights infringements from damaging his political security which according to Howie is only of concern to liberals. Kurtz needs to get out more. Outside of his fellow top ten apologists in the noise machine, even the Bush base bloggers are getting nervous.

Howard also drops a dime in the emerging scandal of bought off columnists and suggests the recent outing of Doug Bandow of CATO is just the tip of the iceberg. That doesn't surprise me, in fact one wonders what think tank might be slipping Howie some cash under the table to keep up the party line, but this disturbs me.
Peter Ferrara of the Institute for Policy Innovation has acknowledged taking payments years ago from a half-dozen lobbyists, including Abramoff. Two of his papers, the Washington Times and Manchester (N.H.) Union Leader, have now dropped him. But Ferrara is unapologetic, saying: "There is nothing unethical about taking money from someone and writing an article."
Maybe they redefined ethics when I wasn't looking. Seems to me that tailoring a piece to a proscribed POV for money without disclosing the connection, even if it jibes with your own opinion, is not that honest.
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Koufax Time

And now for a little shameless self-promotion. It's time for the Koufax Awards again. I don't stand a chance with all the great bloggers already nominated but if you feel like dropping The Impolitic into the mix, you can cut and paste this into the comments here:
Best New Blog: The Impolitic

Most deserving of wider recognition: The Impolitic
If the thread closes, you can email it directly here.
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Only the lonely

I hope everyone had a great holiday and if you didn't - well - at least it's over for another year. Mine was quiet. I only spent a couple of hours at the family homestead doing the present thing but skipped out before dinner. I wasn't in the mood for a big meal and I like to give them some alone time. They get so little of it to spend together.

I thought it was symbolic of the spirit of the season this year that the radio station I listen to my car, which has been playing Christmas carols since Halloween - no exaggeration - stopped playing them yesterday. I'm guessing because the shopping season is over.

I meant to post more last night but I got caught up in holiday movies instead. I love that schmaltzy stuff. I was glad they played White Christmas but I was even more thrilled to discover Disney was airing Cinderella. It was the one with Brandy and Whitney Houston, which is not my favorite. I much prefer the Leslie Warren version but I love the music and it was fun to be home alone and belt out the songs along with the characters.

Rob Smith has a post up about loneliness on the holidays that put me into sort of a introspective mood. I'd have to admit that even though I've spent the holidays alone for many years now, this my loneliest holiday in a long time because I'm so far away from my long time circle of friends. It's not like I would have shown up at the many places I usually get invited to, but not having the option underscored the current solitary nature of my life. It's the down side of being single; not having someone around to share the special moments with. It doesn't make me sad, I rather like solitude but it did leave me feeling a little disconnected.

Still, I have a good enough life and can't complain. I couldn't help but think of those who probably had a much sadder Christmas. The Katrina victims, who are still displaced all over the country. The families of the fallen soldiers who will never have the whole family together again. All the drug war prisoners who will miss their children growing up because of hysterical sentencing out of proportion with their "offenses." All the terminally ill who won't be able to get their medicine because of the DEA's pre-holiday busts of medical marijuana co-ops. All the people who were laid off by the mega-corps, who were let go in such a Scroogish manner to preserve profits.

Then there's the unfortunate temp worker at CNN who lost his job for making one exasperated comment about the infamous Cheney X after the right wing blogs made such a stink about it. I hope they're proud that they took down a minimum wage worker during the holiday season.

And here's to those "compassionate Christians" who declared a war on Christmas greetings and, thanks to their hysterical ranting, got poor Kirby fired from WalMart for actually answering an email using historical facts. I doubt your Jesus is impressed but somewhere yesterday, Rick Dobson raised his glass of Dom Perignon to "all the kooks that keep him in business." He's talking about you and I hope you're all proud of yourselves for turning a sacred holiday of love and giving into something so hateful.

Kirby, wherever you are, I hope your holidays will be filled with joy in proportion to the vitriol you endured for telling the truth.
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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Change your bookmarks

The Heretik has a new home. No worries. The format is a little different but I like the look and the content is just as poetically incisive as ever. Don't miss this post on the scope and privatization of super secret domestic spying. When Heretik connects the dots, the picture is rarely pretty but always complete.
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The Imperial Presidency

Quote of the day goes to Steve Chapman in today's Chicago Tribune column.
But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.
True enough. It draws closer to a dictatorship every day.
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White House cites progress in Iraq

Military brass announced Bush has authorized a draw down of troops in Iraq. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad to hear it but their reason is somewhat disingenous.
They said the decision is an "indication of the remarkable progress Iraq is making. It clearly demonstrates the dramatic increase in capabilities of the Iraqi Security Forces."
Yesterday's "remarkable progress" being, thousands of Iraqis demonstrated in the streets protesting election fraud, (our guy Allawai being out of the running entirely), three American dead, a gun attack on an Iraqi manned checkpoint killing eight and wounding seventeen and a sucide car bomber killed four civilians outside of a mosque. That's just the stuff that makes the news.

With progress like this, please don't tell me what a setback looks like.
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The unbalance of power

Let me get this straight. The defense authorization bill approved by Congress this week protects US prisoners from abuse or mistreatment except you can torture them to get them to "confess" to being enemy combatants at which point they're sent to Cuba and anyone clapped into Gitmo gets even less access to US courts in order to challenge their incarcerations. They're pretty much at the mercy of the military courts.

The latter is a matter of great concern, since once again it suspends habeas protections. It's a huge strike against accountability in the executive branch and another dangerous step towards disempowering the judicial check in the balance of power. Just another sign we're sliding into fascism.

Meanwhile, in moment of sublime hypocrisy, US officials are refusing to release detainees into Iraqi police custody because their prisons don't meet our standards. What? They don't waterboard enough?
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Culture of corruption in Kentucky

What is it with Kentucky? They seem to have cornered the market in crony corruption. You have a Republican governor who pardons his entire administration before the investigation into their corruption is completed. He alleges the investigation is paralyzing the government's work and that the investigation is -- stop me if you've heard this before -- a partisan witch hunt by a Democratic prosecutor.

Then you got your highpowered Republican Congressman from Kentucky who routinely trades multi-million dollar Homeland Security contracts for PAC money and promises from the vendors to relocate their manufacturing facilities to his district. He claims there's absolutely no connection between the hundreds of thousands he got in campaign donations and the subsequent awarding of the contracts. The WaPo chronicles the long string of miraculous con-incidences at the link. (That was a typo but I'm leaving it in - it seems to fit)

Did I mention he's a 13-term congressman and after 25 years has reached a high level of power, especially as the first chairman of the Appropriations homeland security subcommittee. Notice a pattern here? This is what happens when politicking becomes a career instead of a public service. Maybe it's time to start talking about term limits.
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Friday, December 23, 2005

Bushenomics and cultural evolution

I'm muy tranquilo from the pill it took to get me through shopping today. I wasn't the only one on tranqs in that little mall. There were a lot of people my age in same state of semi-removed cheeriness but more startling was the absolute lack of Christmas spirit. I mean it's two days away and there not this sense of holiday cheer in the crowds at all. The Bushonomic "experts" can say what they want about the "thriving economy" but that' s not the sense I got from the people trudging through that mall.

I heard parents having to tell their kids Santa wasn't bringing that expensive gift. Too many of them looked they meant it. There wasn't the usual last minute sense of "what the heck it's Christmas and let's jolly well buy a lot stuff" among the crowd at all. Not many shoppers were smiling. No one wished me a Merry Christmas although I used the greeting several times but I did get a tepid happy holiday out of the Hallmark clerk. I think the religious rights' war on Christmas is working down here. People seemed almost afraid to express any feelings.

And they were certainly afraid of spending money. The lines in the high end import store were long but the baskets weren't full and the rest of the mall was relatively empty. There were too many clerks for not enough customers. I think when the numbers come out on this season you'll find WalMart and the big boxes did well but the small speciality businesses will have taken a beating.

I did my part to drive the economy and if you must have the details on my own purchases, I posted it on LOS.
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Krauthammer does the hokey pokey

Well it didn't take long to prove myself right. Right on cue, Clueless "Charles" Krauthammer steps up with the "it's a partisan attack" defense.
Contrary to the administration, I also believe that as a matter of political prudence and comity with Congress, Bush should have tried to get the law changed rather than circumvent it. This was an error of political judgment. But that does not make it a crime. And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.
Oh I get it now, Chuck. "Circumventing" the law is not a crime. Nothing at all like breaking it. Think I'll go out a circumvent a few myself today. I'll just tell the judge I'm not guilty because of the Presidential precedent.
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Daschle - Congress did not grant secret spying authorization

This should have been on the front page, not buried on A04 but it's a bombshell that blows the latest Bush excuses on domestic spying to smithereens. When Bush asked Congress for his "war powers" he asked that language be added at the eleventh hour authorizing carte blanche powers within the borders of the US and the Congress specifically denied that request.

Amazing how the Beltway crowd has suddenly regained long term memories. More importantly they've become willing to share. Hot on the heels of Jay Rockefeller's disclosure of his letter of protest after being informed of the administration's secret war on Americans, Tom Daschle steps forward with this.
"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote. "This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

Daschle wrote that Congress also rejected draft language from the White House that would have authorized the use of force to "deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States," not only against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
The appropriate response here is, Holy police state Batman - Bush wants authority to conduct pre-emptive military strikes against American citizens. I can't to wait to see how the Bush apologists spin this one. I'm betting they call it a partisan attack by Bush haters.
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Impeachment in the air

I don't to seem to have a lot of opinions tonight, mostly I just have observations. I've been sort of grazing through the nets all day and I'm seeing a lot of talk about impeachment. Oh how I love the sound of that word.

Digby has the must read on this one, focusing on the WaPo's pollster Richard Moron Morion and his online forum yesterday. He won't run an impeachment poll because the wording would be biased? Digby, gathering together some stellar posts, makes a mockery of his hypocrisy.

Wired has a sweet interview with Bobby Henderson, inventor of FSM and patron saint of the Pastafarians. I'm behind their Kansas campaign to be included in the science cirriculum all the way.

Arianna at HuffPo a long list of things we all wish we didn't have to remember.

NYT has rumors of an Abramoff deal but who can believe anything they say anymore? Still, if it's true, more than just Ney will be going down.

And Kathy at Stone Soup catches a good impeachment piece and discovers the Bush bulge is back. She points us to evidence that Bush was once again wired for sound when delivering his imperial rebuttal to critics of his secret spying programs. I happened to catch part of that conference myself and thought at the time he sounded coached.
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Promote yourself

I'm blogging about the surveillance society at the Detroit News blog, here, here and here.
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The Miscreant Dynasty

The Age posts an excellent piece by Howell Raines, who looks at how the "Bush generations have enriched themselves while impoverishing the presidency." His basic premise is that political "dirty tricks" have been around since the beginning of our republic but the Bush dynasty has lowered it to a dark art that threatens to permanently taint our form of government.

The money quotes:
Behind George W, there are four generations of Bushes and Walkers devoted first to using political networks to pile up and protect personal fortunes and, latterly, to using absolutely any means to gain office, not because they want to do good, but because they are what passes in American for hereditary aristocrats. In sum, George Bush stands at the apex of a pyramid of privilege whose history and social significance that, given his animosity to scholarly thought, he almost certainly does not understand.
Let's hope the electorate finds an antidote to their poisonous methodology else I think it will infect the whole system. Raines still holds some optimism.
With the right leadership — the kind of flawed, but principled presidents sprinkled through its history — the United States can stop the blood-letting in Iraq, regain its standing in the world, avert the crises in health care and Social Security, and even bring disaster relief to the Gulf Coast.
We live in hope.
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Media bytes

I've been dilly-dallying on the nets today and found a couple of funny bytes. Via The Carpetbagger, we have the inside scoop on John Gibson's meltdown during a segment with Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State on the so-called "war on Christmas."

Gibson, whose self-congratulatory plugging of his inane book was interrupted by Boston's interjecting the small fact that Gibson is outright lying about the incidents he claims proves his thesis on "the war," suffered a total meltdown on air. Even better, Boston reveals the after-air antics of Gibson and his team where Gibson threatens him and warns him never to have a drink in the same bar as himself.

Clearly, Gibson must have composed the book while sitting at the aforementioned establishment, since his assertions are so easily disproved. The only logical explantion is he was shit-faced drunk when he wrote it.

Meanwhile, Froomkin, whose whole column is worth reading today, points us to the greatest adolescent prank of the year - a doctored video of Bush's recent news conference that makes him appear to be drunk [scroll down at link]. Froomkin also provides the real thing. Frankly I didn't see all that much difference. My only complaint on the prank is I wish it was longer. Hilarious.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Ain't nobody's business if they do

The Canadian Supreme Court rendered an decision in a favor of the owner of a private swingers club, ruling that the private acts of consenting adults behind a code-locked door, was not a threat to society.

The judges said that just because most Canadians might disapprove of swingers’ clubs, this did not necessarily mean the establishments were socially dangerous.

Consensual conduct behind code-locked doors can hardly be supposed to jeopardize a society as vigorous and tolerant as Canadian society," said the opinion of the seven-to-two majority, written by Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

"The causal link between images of sexuality and anti-social behavior cannot be assumed. Attitudes in themselves are not crimes, however deviant they may be or disgusting they may appear," the judges said, noting that no one had been pressured to have sex or had paid for sex in the cases the court considered.

"The autonomy and liberty of members of the public was not affected by unwanted confrontation with the sexual activity in question ... only those already disposed to this sort of sexual activity were allowed to participate and watch," they said.
In other words the government should stay out of the lives of consenting adults. If only our own government would embrace that reasoning.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Bureaucractic logic

You know what's funny about this? Years ago somebody had to sue them to get them to offer random numbers when they were insisting on assigning SS#'s as your license number.
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If Bush wrote sonnets

I've been been a mess the last few days. Seems as good as time as any then to try some poetry. So, inspired by this piece at MSNBC and with apologies to Elizabeth Barret Browning...

How do I violate thee? Let me count the ways.
I violate thee to the depth and breadth and height
My secret agents can reach, while hiding out of sight
For the ending of Freedom and ideal Grace.
I violate thee to the level of every database's
Most unquiet need, by dark surveillance.
I violate thee freely, as men shiver in Fright;
I violate thee freely, as they live in Hell.
I violate thee with a passion put to use
In my old grudges, and with my childish pique.
I violate thee with a lust I seemed to lose
With my lost bourbon, --- I violate thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all I can swipe! ---and as God forbode,
I will violate your progeny even after death.
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Monday, December 19, 2005

The Next Generation

The latest in military hardware, the Raptor, debuts today and it's one sexy warbird. It looks like something out of Star Wars, doesn't it?

Of greater interest to those not as enamored of aircraft as I am though is the comment section to this post. There's an enlightening discussion between a Marine trying to fight the ground war in Iraq and the blogger, who appears to be an Air Force officer.

The exchange reinforced my contention the troops on the ground in Iraq are underequipped. I could also understand the Marine's frustration at having to fight a ground war without the right equipment while the flyboys got such a cool new and very expensive toy that might be good for something someday but was not an essential expenditure right now.

I would have left my comment on the milbloggers site but it was one of those where my username has to be my private email address and I've never been able to change it, so I posted my comment at Acidman's blog instead since he pointed me there in the first place.

An equally interesting thread has developed on that post, along the same lines. I have to say I still agree with the ground guys. Sinking millions into this plane, tres cool as it is, is sort of like spending every cent in your pocket on gardening supplies in January instead of filling your heating fuel tanks first.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

To oversee or not to oversee...

Factoid of the day comes from this WaPo piece reporting the alarming realization within the GOP majority in Congress that the Bush administration has run amok.
[The House Government Reform Committee] issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by the Clinton administration and the Democratic Party between 1997 and 2002, at a cost of more than $35 million. By contrast, the committee under Davis has issued three subpoenas to the Bush administration, two to the Energy Department over nuclear waste disposal at Yucca Mountain, and one last week to the Defense Department over Katrina documents.
No surprise there but this explains a lot about our current governmental dysfunction.
Some experts on Congress say that the legislative branch has shed much of its oversight authority because of a combination of aggressive actions by the Bush administration, acquiescence by congressional leaders, and political demands that keep lawmakers out of Washington more than before.
Yeah, all those lobbyist funded jaunts and taxpayer funded fundraising trips just eat up the schedule. Who has time for oversight much less informed lawmaking? God forbid they show up to do the work we pay them for.

As to why the Congress has failed to investigate the myriad allegations of questionable conduct by the White House? They don't want to "embarrass the administration." I don't know about you but I'm embarassed to be represented by these fools.

Our legislators are as uninformed as the general public. They don't know what's going on or what they're voting about. They just wait for whoever paid for it to tell them how to vote and then it's off to Scotland for some golf.

Hell of a bad way to run a country if you ask me.
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They call it Santarchy

No it's not a new form of voodoo. Just a group of Drunken Santas on a rampage in New Zealand, who pissed on cars, tagged buildings, brawled with security guards and robbed a convenience store.

Maybe it was a training exercise. After all, a fat old guy in a red suit can't be too prepared in these troubled times. I guess they heard Bill O'Reilly say there's a war on Christmas.
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Can we call it a police state now?

Here's the latest salvo fired by the White House in their war on information. Not content with destroying science as means of rational inquiry, they have resorted to intimidating historians. Maybe Bush figures, after that lousy poll came out, if he gets rid of 81% of the historians, history will be kinder to his "legacy." My post on this is at the Detroit News blog and I would add I think Chairman Mao would be proud.

Meanwhile, I'm still stewing over this illegal surveillance. Bush angrily defends it, saying secret domestic spying on law abiding Americans is legal, constitutional and "necessary" to save our lives. There's more than one decision lurking in the law libraries that would contradict that but more interesting to me is the press isn't letting the White House get away with their unsubstantiated blanket statements. Via Think Progress:

On Meet the Press today, Condi Rice couldn't cite the legal authority that makes a blatant violation of the law, legal because it's the President who is doing it.
RUSSERT: What Democrats and Republicans in Congress are asking, what is the authority that you keep citing? What law? What statute? Where in the Constitution does it say that the President can eavesdrop, wiretap American citizens without a court order?

Shorter RICE: I am not a lawyer.
True enough but you would think as National Security Advisor at the time the program was initiated that she would have bothered to check with one, just to make sure it was legal. Of course those were the heady days of high approval polls and the "Bush mandate." Maybe they thought they didn't have to bother because all that "political capital" could buy them anything, including clemency?

Perhaps they should have read this SCOTUS decision before they squandered all that political capital on their little "cake walk" war.
The 4th Amendment protects Americans from "unreasonable searches and seizures" by the government, said then-Justice Lewis F. Powell, a Nixon appointee, delivering the court's ruling, and such freedoms "cannot be properly guaranteed if domestic security surveillances are conducted solely within the discretion of the executive branch."
It looks like they'll end up blaming it all on poor old John Ashcroft though. Around the time that the program started, he said the president could order wiretapping without judicial oversight. I suspect if it comes to that, Johnny will use the God told me to do it defense.
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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Don't explain - it's so rarely necessary

I shouldn't visit Don Surber when I'm cranky. He wrote this awful post excusing Bush's super secret homeland spying program -- aka Operation Tell Them It's to Total Terrorism, or as it's fondly known inside the beltway's upper echelons -- Operation Gov't TTITT.

Anyway, I forgot my own advice and commented twice. I probably made it worse when I ended with this.
If you believe that I have this bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you. It's very famous. It was almost taken down by a renegade band of terrorists wielding blow torches.
Sometimes, I just can't help myself. It drives me crazy. Don is another blogger, like Bostonian Exile, that I think should be on our side. I don't understand why they're not.
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It's not the man, it's the scumbaggery

Viggo Mortensen gets the quote of the day.
“I’m not anti-Bush; I’m anti-Bush behavior,” Mortensen told Progressive magazine. “In other words, I’m against cheating, greed, cruelty, racism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, treason, and the seemingly limitless capacity for hypocrisy shown by Bush and his administration.”
[via Buzz Flash]
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Yes Virginia, it is a state run media

I'm sure you've heard about the secret orders issued by Bush authorizing warrantless domestic spying. I've already posted on this yesterday at the Detroit News blog, but there's one aspect of this that I find especially troubling as noted in today's WaPo.
In an unusual note, the Times said in its story that it held off publishing the 3,600-word article for a year after the newspaper's representatives met with White House officials. It said the White House had asked the paper not to publish the story at all, "arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny."
The WaPo also pre-screened their scoop on the CIA prisons overseas. This raises an obvious question that has so far been unanswered. WTF is the press doing, vetting their articles through the White House anyway? Our press is supposed to be exposing the wrongdoing of our government, not functioning as a pre-approved propaganda mill. Haven't they noticed yet that by buying into the whole "national security - 9/11 changed everything" lie that they're as culpable as the White House for the mess we're in now?

US newspapers wonder why they're becoming irrelevant? It's because they stopped functioning as news sources and focus on infotainment in an attempt to raise profits. Any one who cares about news, is getting it from sources that still employ the methodology of investigative reporting and the readers that only care about news that amuses already has Fox. That crowd only looks at the pictures anyway. If the US press wants its readers back, it should try giving us something worth reading.
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Good riddance

Rumor confirmed. Novak is leaving CNN and will be joining Faux News as an occassional liar contributor. No mention of his earlier tirade when he swore on air and left the set, after which his shows were cancelled.

Novak says he needs a rest. I didn't know he was 75 years old but that being the case, it's certainly time for the old blowhard to be put out to pasture.
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Friday, December 16, 2005

Hot off the rumor mill

Posting has been light because I've been fighting off some kind of bug while I'm struggling through the work week but this unconfirmed tip from a discussion list is rather delicious.

Work has it that Novak is about to "resign" from CNN. Do you suppose it has anything to do with that crack he made about Bush and the Plame leak yesterday?
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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Corrupt cronies circle the wagons

Speaking of our supreme news aggregator Froomkin, he has a kick butt column in today's WaPo that shows Harris how it should be done.

Right off the top we learn that Bush came out on national television and proclaimed Tom DeLay innocent. Not to mention he bolstered all the other indicted criminals in his party and proclaimed the new Brownie is - Heckuva job Rummy.

So Bush can't answer specific questions about the ongoing investigations into his White House staff and other corrupt cronies but he can go on national TV and proclaim them generally good old boys and probably innocent? Can anything be more prejudicial to the prosecution of these cases?

Meanwhile, Dan catches this bombshell that the The Raleigh News & Observer dropped into cyberspace yesterday.

Newspaper columnist Robert Novak is still not naming his source in the Valerie Plame affair, but he says he is pretty sure the name is no mystery to President Bush.

"I'm confident the president knows who the source is," Novak told a luncheon audience at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh on Tuesday. "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.' "

Why haven't we impeached Bush yet? Dan has the polls showing 39% of the country believes he should be in contrast to the 26% that thought Clinton deserved that fate during the height of Monicagate.
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Don't explain - it's so rarely necessary

I'm finding the Froomkin "controversy" rather amusing. John Harris, politics editor at The Washington Post got all terroritorial and mouthed off against Dan and every time he tries to explain, it makes it bigger.

Personally, I love Froomkin and I've never mistaken him for a member of the White House steno gaggle on Harris' side of the editorial fence since he writes like this. Harris is pissed off that Dan called them out on being lap dogs for the administration. If he doesn't like the label then he and his troops should start acting like journalists instead of executive secretaries.

I mean really, Jimmy Olsen asked better questions than they have for the last five years.
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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Change is inevitable

Mikevotes has a brilliant post at Born at the Crest of the Empire about the ultimate demise of the GOP's stranglehold on power. He blames it on Nixon. I think he's right. And in the comment thread, there's a fascinating explanation about how redneck Republicans were born.

While you're at Mike's place, I'd suggest you take a tour through the rest of the blog as well. There's too much to even list, just scroll, even if you only read blogs to look at the pictures. He always captures the best of the day.

It's uncanny how much we think alike, only he says it better than I do. This post certainly speaks for me. Tomorrow's election is the next "watershed moment" in Iraq. I truly hope it works and the Iraqis will see more peaceful times ahead.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Bush sort of admits mistakes

I actually managed to watch some of Bush's speech yesterday and was struck by a couple of things he said but didn't get around to blogging it. In the interim, EJ Dionne pretty much summed up my impressions along with dispensing some much needed advice to the Dems. The money quote:
Bush actually admitted that “things did not always go as planned” in Iraq, and that last January's elections “were not without flaws.” From an administration that never admits mistakes, that's progress.

Message to Democrats: buck up. Message to Republican ad makers: Democracy is about improving government through the uninhibited exchange of ideas. And, yes, our soldiers and enemies are watching.
The one thing Dionne didn't remark on is George's new facial tic. He's beginning to get it under control. It wasn't nearly as pronounced in this last speech, but I think when he lies, he does this thing where he rolls his lower jaw. Every time I see him do it, I keep thinking of Rove backstage, pulling his strings.

In any event, with a giveaway like that, he would make a hell of a bad poker player.
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Free speech 'zones' shrinking

Long time activist and uberfriend, Ben Masel checks in with an analysis of the "new" Patriot Act and finds a disturbing section. I'm just going to post his email verbatim.

Section 602 of the Conference Committee's version of Patriot Act makes holding an un-authorised sign at a Democratic or Republican National Convention, a Presidential or VP appearance, and any other event designated by the Secret Service as a "national special security event" a felony punishable by a year imprisonment.

A not farfetched interpretation would have made felons of the entire Wisconsin Delegation to the 1968 Democratic Convention, when Mayor Daley ruled them out of order for moving to adjourn the Convention and reconvene outside Daley's bailiwick.

Section 603 makes a seperate offence of entering the Convention with forged credentials, possessing such, or even perhaps the time-honored tradition of sharing ones' entry pass to a friend.

Full text of the pending PATRIOT ACT renewal, including the "Joint Explanatory Statement" from the GOPers on the Conference Committee.
Un-authorised signs? Still think you can call us a free country?
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Family matters

Wingnuts apparently fall very far from the family tree.

"Fox News Sunday" anchorman Chris Wallace says father Mike Wallace has "lost it" - after the legendary CBS newsman told the Boston Globe last week that the fact George Bush had been elected president shows America is "[expletive]-up."

"He's lost it. The man has lost it. What can I say," the younger Wallace lamented to WRKO Boston radio host Howie Carr on Friday.

"He's 87-years old and things have set in," the Fox anchor continued. "I mean, we're going to have a competence hearing pretty soon."

Wallace Jr. quickly dispelled any notion that he was joking. When Carr suggested that his comments were likely to be covered by NewsMax, he responded: "You know what? Fine. Go ahead. Call them. That's fine. I'll stand by that."

Returning to the topic of his father's competence, Wallace Jr. explained: "He's checked out. I don't understand it," beyond the fact that Wallace Sr. has "problems with the war."

It seems to me the competency hearing should be held on the son. What a disappointment he must be to his father, who was a real reporter and a damn fine journalist in his day.
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Diebold shakeup

Something is going on here. Diebold announced a big executive reorganization with Walden W. O'Dell -- the man who promised Ohio to Bush and delivered it -- resigning from the company and its board of directors, effective immediately. They go on to issue a really weird press release based on "forward projections" and then follow it up with a lot list of caveats so they can't be sued for making them. I thought the mention of changing state laws rather revealing.

I can only hope they sense a change in the temperment of the public and foresee the backlash coming against electronic voting. As for O'Dell resigning, it does present the delicious possiblility that he is about to be indicted for election fraud - but I suppose that's but a pipe dream.

Update: It's not a dream. Reading on, I see Brad Blog has the info I missed.

...the filing of a securities fraud class action litigation against the company, O'Dell and other current and former members of their Board of Directors is now imminent. The BRAD BLOG has learned that the case may be filed in Ohio Federal District court as early as today or tomorrow. We will, of course, have more details when that occurs.

And The Impolitic will be waiting for this news. It's been such a good year compared to last for politics. Libby, DeLay, Frist, Ney, Abramoff, Rove still a possibility, etc., etc. How cool would it be to live to see all these thugs get taken down by the karmic kickback?
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Making a list

I'm back to work today through Friday so it will be mostly night blogging and the odd link I can put up while the tyke is napping. Here's one now.

If you're considering your last minute Christmas gift needs, a contribution to Buzz Flash helps a worthy cause and comes with a huge choice of premiums including many of the must read books for political junkies and a very cool Clueless George goes to War pin.

By the way, if you're not subscribed to the Buzz Flash free news alert, you should be. No better way to keep ahead of the news.
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Monday, December 12, 2005

White House pushes for ANWR

The White House is sending in its enforcers to browbeat Congress into attaching the ANWR oil drilling amendment to the "starve the poor" budget slashing bill.
"We must expand domestic production of oil and natural gas in environmentally responsible ways, starting with ANWR," Energy Secretary Sam Bodman echoed in a statement.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? How do you destroy a pristine wilderness in an environmentally responsible manner? Any five year old could tell you what we must do is develop alternative sources of fuel to reduce our reliance on oil. And as Clinton pointed out, our economy, particularly in the job market, would benefit from the development of new industries related to alternate power.

This is common sense, not rocket science. How do they keep getting away with this crap?
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The Abramoff Files

The WaPo has a great graphic tracing the money and illustrating that all lobbyists will hedge their bets. The Dems won't slide out of this scandal unscathed but unsurprisingly the GOP look destined to take the big hit when this one plays out.

The top twenty individual donors are fascinating. He's low on the list but this is the first time I've seen our Misleader in Chief mentioned in context with the dirty money. You have to wonder why it's never mentioned in the articles.
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Shorter Bush: Spare the social program and spoil the poor

From today's WaPo, why the midterms in 06 will be so important.
"However improbable the odds at this point or modest his short-term goals, aides say, Bush still subscribes to Rove's long-held dream that his will be the transformational presidency that lays the groundwork for a Republican majority that can endure, as Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal coalition did, for a half-century or more. Once he gets past the midterm elections, Bush plans to introduce a concept that, if anything, is even more ambitious than his failed Social Security plan: a grand overhaul that would include not only that program but Medicare and Medicaid as well."
If Americans give this man another Republican thugopoly in the Congress - we won't have an America left in 08. At least not one we recognize anymore.
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Pro-peace and pro-soldier

I already did a longer post at the Detroit News blog explaining the backstory on this, but I want to post this here as well because it's a really good idea, even if I did get it from Malkin. It arises out of an ugly card received by a wounded soldier. This seems an appropriate antidote to that kind of hateful speech.
I called Walter Reed to find out the best way to send a bunch of cards to soldiers, and was directed to the Red Cross office at Walter Reed. The gentleman I spoke to said to bundle multiple cards in one big manilla envelope and send them to the Red Cross office and they will distribute them. He was a nice man who is a wounded soldier himself. The address I was given is:

Red Cross
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue NW
Heaton Pavillion
Washington, DC 20307

The man said they can also use stamps, gloves and stocking caps at the Red Cross office there.
On a related note, it's too late of course to send cards to our troops overseas but Malkin also linked to site where you can send an email to a soldier. I have my doubts whether they will deliver a message signed with a pro-peace disclaimer but I'm going to try it anyway. I think it would be good for the soldiers to know that we're fighting the administration at home and haven't forgotten that they are stuck with fighting this stupid war.

You would have thought the war bloggers would have jumped this idea themselves, but I don't see much outside of these two doing it. One guy is urging the wingnuts to send cards to the ACLU to piss them off. Kind of a dumb campaign really. Having worked with the organization for 18 years, I can tell you, they love free speech and will find it amusing. It should brighten up their holidays immensely.
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Death dishonored

Following up on this post, at Born at the Crest of the Empire MikeVotes has the photo that's worth a thousand words. Does this look like the sort of treatment a war hero deserves? And how horrible for the parents to have to pick up their child like he was some appliance at the Home Depot?

While you're at Mike's place, stick around and read the rest of the blog. I suggest you simply start at the top and keep scrolling.
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Sunday, December 11, 2005

Opening Pandora's music box

This is so cool, I'm cross posting it. I just got the best present by wandering over to The Living Rockumentary, blog of Henning's School for The Dead, my old pals from the Baystate Hotel era. Brian, the busiest drummer in the Happy Valley, had a post up on the best music website, ever.

The aptly named Pandora has this Music Genome Project that creates a playlist for you. Basically if you hit the listen now button at the top right of the screen, it asks you for a favorite song or artist. It plays that and then chooses other songs and artists based on on that choice.

I put in the Youngbloods, so it's searching for challenging intrumentals with complicated lyrics for me. You can reject the ones you don't like. I've only rejected two so far. And I love not knowing what's coming next. It's like getting a present every 3 to 5 minutes.

It's a little spooky because every time you reject something, it modifies the list to exclude that song and I assume assigns some psychological criteria to your profile. You can also modify the lists in other ways and download music. Brian explains that part here. I suspect it's some government plot to compile a database but I joined anyway. So far the music has been worth it.

I signed up for the free service that says you have to listen to ads, but so far I haven't heard any. You can hear it ad free for three bucks a month. I'm going to wait to see how often I listen to it once the novelty wears off, before I decide. But an hour in, I'm really loving it.
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How Bush "honors" the war dead.

Soldier's bodies are being sent home on commerical airliners as freight, -- "stuffed in the belly of a plane with suitcases and other cargo."

John Holley and his wife, Stacey, were appalled to discover this when informed their only child should be picked up at the freight dock of the local airport. Since his parents were in the military, they made some phone calls and "with the help of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, Matthew was greeted with honor and respect."

You would think our government would want to treat all the victims of its "noble mission" with equal respect without Congressional intercession. All those carefully crafted photo-ops with Bush crying crocodile tears with the families of the fallen are just a PR crock. It's clear this administration thinks of our men and women in uniform as mere numbers to fulfill their ambitions and does not value them once they've made the ultimate sacrifice and are no longer useful to their goals.

Dead heroes are supposed to come home with their coffins draped with the American flag -- met by a color guard, not a freaking fork lift.

Meanwhile, SoCal Pundit has the nerve to disparage the parents of this soldier and questions the motivation of their complaints about such disrespectful treatment of their only child.
I feel for the family but can’t help thinking they have motives that go beyond how the bodies arriving from war. This is a bullsh** story purposely written to allege that The Bush Administration does not respect our fallen heroes. Is anyone else getting sick of this false indignation by those that disagree with our foreign policy? It cheapens the sacrifice that those who have fallen have made.
Like it cheapens their sacrifice less by being shipped home like a cargo container of raw beef? There you go folks - you can pick up your son right there next to the pallet of cheap socks from China? I had a couple of things to say in SoCal's comment section.
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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Defining moral bankruptcy

Rather a sad commentary on the state of our society. The online Merriam-Webster dictionary announces the most looked up word on its site is - integrity. Apparently, it's been so long since people have seen it they forgot what it is.
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DeLay delayed

Tom DeLay may have been able to grease the wheels in Congress but the wheel of Justice turns slowly and his hopes for a speedy disposition of his criminal case have been dashed.

Not only must he stand trial with his co-defendants but his pitch for an expedited schedule on the trial hit a snag as well.
"I am fine with setting up the pending pretrial motions for the week between Christmas and New Year's, and with planning a trial setting early next year, but I cannot require the state not to appeal my ruling," Priest wrote.
You can almost hear the wolves circling inside the beltway. Hastert can't keep DeLay's seat open forever. Not that the up and coming candidates are any better but there is some small satisfaction in seeing that smug SOB get his comeuppance.
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The Abramoff Files - the cast

Nothing really new here but the UK Times on Line summarizes the Sleazegate scandal neatly and comes up with a handy chart to keep track of the players.
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Tis the season

Hat tip to Terry Donovan for these crazy Christmas gifts.

I'm torn between the The Playmobil Airport Security Check Point and this. Kiss and Bajs?
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Friday, December 09, 2005

The world without Ron

Thanks to all who sent their condolences on the loss of my friend, both here and privately. I appreciate the support and I'm making my peace with his spirit. Oddly, it was the blogging that split us apart more than anything. He was a stalwart Republican and an unwavering Bush supporter.

We stopped hanging around so much as the moral disintegeration of the administration's agenda became more difficult to deny. Since the blogs took up so much of my life, we had less to talk about. He liked it better when I was bitching about my screwed up love life instead of political corruption.

We drifted away from being everyday companions but we never lost touch and the connection was always still there when we managed to get together. I guess that's why it hit me so hard even though I've barely spent time with him in the last 3 years.
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GOP bites its own foot

Matt Drudge is wetting his pants with excitement over his scoop on the new GOP attack ad . It's pretty pathetic. Bad production values and pure smear. Guess they're just shooting to keep the bottom 20% of their support with this one.

I think they still don't understand that a majority of Americans believe those statements so when they attack the Dems, they attack ordinary citizens too. You would have thought they would learned from their smear campaign in Viriginia that the swift boat thing doesn't work anymore.
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The world according to Rummy

Some enterprising blogger with more time and better technical skills could make a hobby of charting the conflicting statements Rummy has made on the troop levels in Iraq. Today's prediction:
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday he expects some 20,000 U.S. troops to return home from Iraq after next week's elections, and he suggested that some of the remaining 137,000 forces could pull out next year.

"If conditions permit, we could go below that," he said in the latest administration hint of at least a modest reduction next year.
Wasn't that equivalent to cutting and running last week? And let's not forget torture. There's another rich category for an archivist. We don't torture of course but today's propaganda:
The Pentagon chief also said he believed the White House and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would "end up working something out" during negotiations over legislation standardizing interrogation techniques and banning mistreatment of foreign terrorism suspects in U.S. custody.
Standardizing interrogation techniques? No wonder Rummy is going off his rocker. He must dizzy from this much spin. I guess their new strategy is shocking and confusing the public into compliance. If they change their statements every day, no one will know what they really mean - unfortunately, including themselves.
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Kansas gone crazy

What the hell is the matter with Kansas? Do you think the genetically modified corn is mushing their brains? First they mandate ID in science classes and now they forbid the speaking of foreign languages, e.g., Spanish within the school walls?
"It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.' "
A teacher overheard that conversation, sent them to the prinicpal and they were immediately suspended. These are sort of people that complain the ACLU protects too many rights. They're the reason we needed the ACLU in the first place.
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The Abramoff Files - new player with plea deal

It's all over but for the indictments. Ney is going down. "Federal prosecutors have all but finalized a plea agreement with [Adam Kidan], a second business partner of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for cooperation in the ongoing criminal investigations..."

The only question left is, will Jack crack? If he cuts a deal, Ney is going to have a lot of company in court.
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Rice ends trip on what positive note

This Glenn Kessler quote really pisses me off.
The governments may be satisfied, but with the European publics primed to believe the worst about the Bush administration, the debate is not yet settled. Rice faced a difficult rhetorical challenge on her trip -- and it may be some time before it is certain that her message resonated beyond elite circles.
Primed to believe the worst? When are these people going to get it? It already is the worst. Iraq is in a civil war and the US occupation has become the flypaper for terrorist recruiting. Not to mention the escalating terrorist bombings in the European and Middle Eastern countries.

The propaganda ain't selling in Peoria anymore, much less the European nations, who outside of the aforementioned attacks, get some actual news coverage not mediated by the White House. There is no bloody positive note, except among the elites who are profiting from the spoils of warmongering.
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

GOP thugocracy reconfirms Police State Patriot Act

If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of your civil liberties being trampled.
House and Senate Republican negotiators, after arguing for months over their differing versions of the USA Patriot Act, have reached an agreement to extend the law that gives the government expanded powers to investigate suspected terrorists, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter announced today.
You'll notice it doesn't mention any kind of bi-partisan consensus. There is however, bi-partisan dissent. Unfortunately I don't think it's enough but Goddess bless Feingold for offering to filibuster.

The White House is happy enough with what they have so far - coverage for domestic spying for as long as Bush can possibly remain in office. They consider it a win and it is a great victory for the corrupt crony club that is currently running this country, but what a great loss for the American people.

They don't use The Patriot Act for terrorists, they use it against political dissenters and for ordinary crimes. And when they do occassionally use it to bag a possible terrorist, they can't make their case with the evidence they collected under the Act. They don't care. Now that they lost in a court of law, they're just going to deport the guy. They could do that without the Patriot Act.

Meanwhile they're free to spy on and otherwise harass anyone they perceive to be a threat to their political power. I just can't understand how the Bush bloggers don't get this and continue to support these thugs.
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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ronny would have hated this post

I just found out today that a dear friend of mine from Noho died suddenly on Monday. I've talked a little bit about it on Last One Speaks but I'm really off kilter so I'm just going to post some links and call it a night.

I didn't see the speech but Center for American Progress already has the critique and it's not pretty. Read it all for yourself, but here's a key point.
After three years and billions of dollars worth of reconstruction efforts, it is no longer appropriate to lay the blame for Iraq's economic woes on the imprisoned tyrant. The prime cause of current reconstruction woes is the Iraq insurgency, which is not being countered effectively by the president's current military strategy. Stuart Bowen's report noted that "more than a quarter of all reconstruction funds had been spent on security costs to protect contractors, hundreds of whom have died in Iraq." And as long as Bush administration refuses to shift our military strategy, both Iraq's economy and security will suffer.
Meanwhile, a Diebold whistleblower effectively admits the company screwed with election tallies.
Although the source stopped short of directly charging Diebold with fixing elections, Dieb-Throat said that management “felt that if they controlled an election company, they could have great influence over the outcome.”
I have to ask again, why is a private company counting public votes anyway. This is traditionally the purview of citzens.

Via Buzzflash, the must read Maureen Farrell, now on Part III of her series, Modern History You Can't Afford to Ignore. If you haven't read the first two, start with the links at the bottom.

Underreported story of the week. How the White House has failed in homeland security measures. We're paying a ton of tax dollars for pork barrel projects instead of actual security measures. These thugs at 1600 want another terrorist attack because they think it will boost their ratings again. They're all but issuing hand engraved invitations.

I didn't get past page two of this WaPo piece without wanting to vomit. Maybe you'll have better luck.

I mean, what's with the puff piece allowing Luskin to spin Karl as some kind of hero while they're talking about how he's such a good spin doctor? It seems the WaPo can't decide whether they want to live in the administration's pocket or step back out and be a real newspaper again.
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Freedom ain't free

Juan Cole has an excellent post explaining how Bush managed to turn Iraq into a theocracy. It's too complicated to excerpt anything. It's a concise history that traces back to before the war but you have to read the whole thing to get the context. You will however, recognize the names of the major players. Fascinating to see how inter-related the events were.
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We wish you a happy holiday...

As my tyke is fond of saying, OH NO. Don't tell Bill O'Reilly but Laura Bush offended Christians at the annual White House Christmas party for tots.
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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No time for Hillary

I've been saying this since day one but here's another reason that Hillary Clinton should not be the Dem's candidate in 08.

The pandering to the extremists aside, and I don't see the point of burning flags, but aren't there more important problems facing our country today?
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God be with them

I'm late getting to this but I just love Molly Ivins. The money quote:

Some Christians seem to me inclined to lose track of love, compassion and mercy. I don't think I have any special brief to go around judging them, but when the stink of hypocrisy becomes so foul in the nostrils it makes you start to puke it becomes necessary to point out there is one more good reason to observe the separation of church and state: If God keeps hanging out with politicians, it's gonna hurt his reputation.
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GOP corruption in the crosshairs

It blows my mind how a guy like Captain Ed, who's really a decent sort in spite of his Bushtopian tendencies, can defend a scumbag like Tom DeLay. The Hammer as you've probably heard by now dodged half a round of bullets this week when a judge dismissed one of the charges against him. Unfortunately the Exterminator's dream of getting greasy palms back on the steering wheel of power are still thwarted by the remaining charges.

What doesn't surprise is that the scumbag in chief, Dick Cheney, will be headlining a fundraiser for DeLay's legal fees although it seems to be a rather singularly stupid move politically, as Joe Gandelmann points out.
Cheney is — once again — providing the very worst imagery for the GOP. To be sure, there are many Republicans who will defend DeLay...but there are also some that will want to keep a distance because the DeLay story is going to reinforce perceptions that the GOP has grown arrogant and corrupt in power.
From his pleading for permission to torture to his unflagging support for his criminally corrupt cronies, Cheney has become a walking political disaster area. It suggests to me that he knows he's going down in the Plame scandal and is using his position to sweep up whatever shards of shattered neo-con dreams he can, for as long as he still holds it.
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No defense for the indefensible

This WaPo editorial gets it half right on extraordinary rendition. The White House response via Condi Rice's latest "let me show you my balls" tour in defense of the practice is doing more harm than good. The Left Coaster has a good rundown on just how it's compromised our ability to gain useful intelligence from these prisoners and ruined our already shaky foreign relationships with the European countries.

Meanwhile, I have a real problem with this editorial statement.
"Ms. Rice did offer some persuasive arguments, including that "captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice"....
I don't find that persuasive at all. Isn't the whole deal about the occupation supposed to be about bringing American style justice and freedom to the Middle East? How compelling an argument can be made while denying justice to detainees by conducting the same torture-based interrogations that we supposedly attacked Saddam for employing?

The WaPo gets it right in the end however, and offers up the obvious solution. The White House should stop fighting John McCain and embrace his amendment to ban torture outright.
Once a clear ban on inhuman treatment is in place, the administration will have no legal reason to hold al Qaeda suspects in secret foreign prisons. Even better, Ms. Rice will have more credibility the next time she declares that the United States does not engage in torture.
Amen to that. The sooner the White House realizes "the propaganda" is not selling to anyone but its most deluded supporters inside and not at all outside of our borders, the safer we'll be.
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