Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Quick hits

I don't have a lot of time so just a quick roundup of what I would have blogged if I was connected.

I haven't seen much about this riot in Afghanistan that started after a US military vehicle plowed into some civilian cars around Kabul. It appears the brakes failed. That's another ugly reality of the war you don't hear much about. We've been in the Middle East so much longer than expected that the equipment is failing and they can't replace fast enough.

Former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen shows us how the revolving door between Captiol Hill and K Street work. He left his position in deep debt but "within weeks of leaving office, he was living in a $3.5 million McLean mansion with a swimming pool, a cabana and a carriage house," thanks to his immediately formed consultant company that advertises its "senior level relationships throughout industry and government."

Under the heading, no crime goes unrewarded.
The guy who was convicted of phone jamming in New Hampshire is out of jail
and back to work strategizing for the GOP.

The WaPo takes a serious look at verified voting, noting the increasing alarm among experts at just easily the security of the Diebolds can be breached.

The first of the Abramoff related corruption trials is getting underway with a former aide to Ney who subesequently went to work for Abramoff's lobby firm testifying to the particulars of quid pro quo as practiced by our legislators.

And finally, the religious right gets ugly and begins to eat its own. You have to love how these holier than thou types think nothing of issuing death threats and otherwise intimidating the "faithful" into compliance. One major player is being harassed for muddying the ideological waters with environmental concerns. The extremists don't want anything to distract from their vendetta against gays and the unintentionally pregnant.
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Major connectivity problems

Well, if I ever thought about switching from Blogger into my own domain, today was it I got locked out of the publishing platform last night and haven't been able to get in all day. This is the longest I've ever been knocked out and it's a really weird problem. I occassionally got this error screen before but it always let me in a few minutes later. The worst part is I never got around to installing Haloscan comments here so I can't even answer my comments at this blog nor can I leave comments at blogs that are using Blogger comments.

Anyway, I managed to get in via the laptop at the wifi cafe in town. Unfortunately, this place closes at 6:00 so Im likely to disappear until tomorrow unless they fixed the problem with accessing with my home computer. At least I know I can arrive here earlier tomorrow and get some stuff up.
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

He'll fit right in....

Karl Zinsmeister, President Bush's new domestic policy adviser, and editor of American Enterprise Institute's magazine should fit right in the shoes of the last guy, Claude Allen, who had to leave when it was discovered he was stealing merchandise from big box stores. Good old Karl is not a thief (that we know of) but he is a liar. He posted a heavily edited version of an interview piece, completely changing his criticisms of the White House into compliments, and didn't disclose it until he was caught. He now claims he was misquoted. An odd defense in light of the fact he highly praised the reporter at the time of the original publication.

Apparently that's at the top of the critieria for an appointment in this administration. Must lie, preferably clumsily. I see a medal of freedom in this guy's future.
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Odd nomination

This is puzzling. Why did the White House nominate an avowed environmentalist to head up the Treasury Department? Not that I'm complaining, but Paulsen has publicly criticized the administration's failure to sign on to the Kyoto Agreement as being destructive to the economic future of the US.
As a result, Paulson’s nomination is strongly opposed by a coalition right-wing groups seeking to cast doubt on climate science, such as the National Center for Public Policy Research, describing Paulson as “diametrically opposed to the positions of [the Bush] Administration.”
It seems that every day the evidence grows that the GOP has for some reason decided to throw the elections in 06. I can only think they know the shit is about to hit the fan and they want to be able to blame a Democratic majority on Capitol Hill for it when it turns into a stinking mess.
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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Behind the empty suit in the Oval Office

If there is anyone left in America who thinks George Bush has a clue, this should change their mind. It's been Cheney and his dutiful minion Addington that have been behind the push for the unitary executive all along. They screen any important legislation before it gets to the president's desk, I guess to determine it's need for a signing letter to subvert it.

I would have much more to say on this, but I've been working all day and fortunately, Christy at FDL has already done a really fine analysis and Steve Soto notes the connection to the bald spin of yesterday's WaPo piece that bought into the myth that Cheney was concerned about Congress.
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Blog hopping

Via skippy, comes a really good explanation of net neutrality.

Via Stone Soup
, a great idea for a protest action against satellite surveillance from the infinitely creative Rory Block.

The Pime Collective, tells us about a fabulous protest action that is simple and doesn't tie up traffic. It appears to have started up as a one day protest now that they have their own propaganda film, it appears it will become an ongoing project.

And via The Heretik, here's the quote of the day from a judge's decision criticizing the rampant use of National Security Letters.
“A ban on speech and a shroud of secrecy in perpetuity are antithetical to democratic concepts and do not fit comfortably with the fundamental rights guaranteed American citizens,” wrote Judge Cardamone. “Unending secrecy of actions taken by government officials may also serve as a cover for possible official misconduct and/or incompetence.”
This is one of two decisions in favor of the restoration of constitutional principles in government and Heretik predicts common sense is making a comeback. One can only hope it's not to late to save our republic.
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Walking thesaurus

Who needs a picture when you have a thousand words? Will Durst says it all .

[hat tip Marc Catone]
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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Should they stay or should they go now?

Well we've been sold out by the Democrats in the Senate again on hare brained nominations. Hayden was confirmed by 78-15 vote. WTF? Couldn't the Democrats at least have registered a unified protest vote against him, even if they obviously didn't have the balls to make the NSA an issue -- no doubt because it didn't poll above immigration and gas prices?

Meanwhile partisan hack and Ken Starr lackey, Brett Kavanaugh, was seated on the bench of the DC Court of Appeals by a 57-36 vote. It's so infuriatingly cowardly. This is the guy they blocked for three years and now, when the GOP and Bush's ratings are in the dumper, they can't manage to block him because they read somewhere that the GOP predicted a fight over judicial nominations will energize their base?

What a bunch of idiots. Instead of taking the opportunity to show some gravitas and some serious attention to the hijacking of America by these fringe lunatics, the Dems jump onto the ledge to commit mass suicide over the raiding of Jefferson's office. That may be a matter of concern but no more so than the packing of the courts with ideologues and theologists instead of qualified jurists.

The fools don't realize they're signing their own death certificate by failing to address the business of the people while they're wailing about separation of powers. Hell, we've been pleading with them to do something about that for four years and they don't get concerned until it involves the sanctity of their own privacy? Even if they're not guilty of bribery, it makes them look guilty and self-interested. And frankly, I don't doubt for a minute that mostly everyone with more than three terms is guilty as hell.

Leaving that for the courts and the investigators, Left Coaster has the list of the bums that have got to go based on the NSA vote. I've had it with this party. If they're going to vote like Republicans I'm not going to vote for them and I hope no one else does either. Whatever happens -- happens. It would be worth it to send a message.
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Say cheese

I already mentioned this in the linked piece to DetNews but I can't stop thinking about it. How did we end up with a president that lies so automatically, he can't even tell the truth about what kind of cheese he wants on a Philly cheesesteak?

And it doesn't say much for the mainstream press that only one reporter thought to check out the story and expose the lie, while the rest of the stenos simply reported what the president said as if he was just an "oh gosh" honest man of the people. This is exactly how a silver spoon chomping, trust funded ne'er do well sold that fake persona in the first place.
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A call for equal opportunity bashing

Media matters has a good piece up this week on the uneven treatment by the major media between progressives and self described conservatives. Whereas conservatives are almost invarilbly described as honest, strong and forthright purveyors of mainstream sentiment, progressives are nearly always treated as calculating fringe lunatics that are out of touch with "American values." Republicans are treated with respect for their privacy while no aspect of a Democrat's life is forbidden to the so called "liberal press."

Using the NYT's recent front page treatment of the Clinton's marriage as an example, Media Matters suggests if the mainstream wants to go all tabloid on public figures then they should at least apply the sleazy coverage equally. If Clinton's marriage is fair game, then Bush's should be also.

They're right.
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Spoke too soon --- again

Just great. I no sooner published this suck-up post to the new owner of the Detroit News, than I find out he probably canned my on-line editor in one of his consolidation moves. She didn't say and I didn't ask, but I have a feeling that's why she's leaving.

It's too late to take back the post and I won't address this over there but I'm horribly disappointed to lose Nancy. I think she did a great job with the on-line edition, moving DetNews ahead of the curve in the tranistion of the dead tree media into the cyberworld. I only hope they offered her a better position within the company.

Meanwhile, I haven't posted because I've been catching up on some badly needed sleep but I have a few new posts you may have missed at the DetNews blog. I've been "waxing eloquent" on tax breaks for the rich that ride on the back of poor college students, a look at cheesy logic and state's secrets, another reason to throw the bums out and a small tribute to Lloyd Bentsen who got cheated of fame in the political arena but left a lasting legacy with the phrase, "You are no Jack Kennedy."
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

What gas shortage?

Via ExPat Brian, I stumbled onto this rumor at Prague Twin. It's an e-mail from a tugboat sailor that alleges thousands of barges have been left loaded with unsold fuel in order to artificially create shortages and thus drive up the price of gasoline.

I know it smacks of conspiracy theory but I checked Snopes and they're listing it as undetermined so it hasn't been debunked yet. It's still new.

You would think someone would check it out. I wouldn't think it could be that easy to hide thousands of barges, but what do I know about the maritime business? Nada. It sure would explain a lot about why there's so suddenly shortages though.
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Life imitates art

The tragi-comedy that is our government continues with this news. As part of his defense strategy against his critics, Tom DeLay is citing Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert.
The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with [creator] Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O’Reilly-esque character). ...DeLay thinks Colbert is so persuasive, he’s now featuring the full video of the interview at the top of the legal fund’s website.
How clueless are these people? Bush invites fiction writer Michael Crichton to speak to a panel on global warming and now DeLay proudly cites a satirist as having "debunked" the lies about him. If it wasn't so pathetic, it would be funny.
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Congressmen say the darndest things

I'm whipped and I have to get up in the dark tomorrow morning so just a quick comment on my favorite story of the day, that being the Republican outrage over a Democrat's Congressional office being raided. I find it hilarious that Hastert is demanding return of Jefferson's documents because it infringes on on a Congressman's right not to be accountable to any other branch of government.

Surely he's not unaware that his own impending indictment for bribery in the Abramoff scandal is public knowledge. As a satire, this would be side-splittingly funny.

Not that any legal reaching by the executive branch into new territory doesn't concern me, and this seems to do that, but I understand Jefferson ignored a subpeona. The trouble right now is all three branches of government have come to think themselves as inviolable. Accountability has to start somewhere and the Congress is as good a place as any to start.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Fortress walls work both ways

One of the things that really bothers me about the immigration debate is the ugliness of the dialogue. The anti-immigrant crowd, led by the sneering Ms. Malkin, have struggled to find a broad brush appellation to express their contempt. After flirting with illegal aliens for a while, they apparently decided on invaders. Invaders. As if they were arriving with guns and cannons instead of mops and trowels. As if "they" were just one more enemy of the state rather than producing members of our society.

And if we're to talk of invaders, the WaPo reports there were 24 million legal pedestrian border crossings last year. Many of those were for white middle class Americans going into the border towns for medical treatments and shopping. That doesn't count those who drive. The last time I crossed the border from Tijuana in a car, it took about an hour and half to get past the checkpoint and they were pretty much waving everyone through about a dozen stations.

Americans "invade" Mexico daily in order to save money. Mexicans come here to make money. Border towns, on both sides of the border, depend on on this fluid duality. Those who advocate for building walls to keep "them" out would do well to remember that walls will also keep us in. And a mighty fortress wall is rather an odd symbol of freedom.
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Monday, May 22, 2006

Know thy adversary

The Competitive Enterprise Institute is a right wing, neo-liberal, corporate funded think tank we've all heard of, but I've never looked at their site until today. Their history page is a primer for how to gut environmental protections and consumer safety regulations in ten easy lessons. The scary part is they're so slick, the average Jake is going to believe slick jive like these two very engaging commercials.

For the real life version of their history, you might want to compare the CEI version to the one at Source Watch that fleshes out some of the details that give it more context. A look at their funders should resolve any doubts one might have about where their loyalties lie.

One bit of trivia though was news to me; Michelle Malkin received a fellowship grant from them in 1995, when she was working at the Seattle Times as a columnist. Wasn't that about the time she denounced her "liberal roots?" They used to say you can't buy good press...
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Even if it were legal, NSA surveillance clearly ineffective

Seymour Hersh has an interesting piece in the New Yorker on the telecoms co-operation with the NSA warrantless surveillance of Americans. Here's the key quotes that should set to rest the calls for a retraction from USA Today for breaking the story.
A security consultant working with a major telecommunications carrier told me that his client set up a top-secret high-speed circuit between its main computer complex and Quantico, Virginia, the site of a government-intelligence computer center. This link provided direct access to the carrier’s network core—the critical area of its system, where all its data are stored. “What the companies are doing is worse than turning over records,” the consultant said. “They’re providing total access to all the data.” [...]

“After you hit something, you have to figure out what to do with it,” the Administration intelligence official told me. The next step, theoretically, could have been to get a suspect’s name and go to the fisa court for a warrant to listen in. One problem, however, was the volume and the ambiguity of the data that had already been generated. (“There’s too many calls and not enough judges in the world,” the former senior intelligence official said.) [...]

Instead, the N.S.A. began, in some cases, to eavesdrop on callers (often using computers to listen for key words) or to investigate them using traditional police methods. A government consultant told me that tens of thousands of Americans had had their calls monitored in one way or the other.
If that's not enough to prove the telecoms are complicit in this illegal end run around the Fourth Amendment, Wired has published documents filed by EFF in their suit against AT&T, challenging the judge's order to seal the evidence.

Bush keeps telling us this program is only targeting al Qaeda. If that were true and there really are tens of thousands of AQ supporters in this country, we're in deep doodoo if they haven't managed to catch even one of them with four years worth of datamining at this grand scale.
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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Divided we fall...

The NYT has an editorial on immigration today and this line really struck me.
The Senate's debate has laid bare a hostility to immigrants that is depressing in its spitefulness and vigor.
Depressing is the right word. There's something mind numbingly sad about our country today. We seem to have lost the sense that we're Americans first, not me and my sociological peer group first.

I remember the violence of the civil rights movement. I know historically any new wave of immigrants has been vilified, but I've never seen the country so divided and the populace so damned angry -- about everything. The GOP stoked the embers of bigotry into a conflageration of hatred for their own political gain. Now we're left to sift through the cinders of our national identity, in a perhaps vain attempt, to find common cause.

When's the last time you heard someone call this country the United States of America? I'm not sure the name applies anymore.
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Operation: Thanks for Freedom

You often hear people say they support the troops. For the left, who speak out against the war, it's not easy to show that tangibly to the men and women who are stuck at the front lines and even among those who believe in the war, one wonders, if they don't have someone they care about serving in the military, how have they let the soldiers know?

There is something you can do, right now, to brighten up a unknown soldier's Independence Day spent in Iraq. This lovely lady in Georgia is organizing a card drive. You can buy cards, make cards, or just send a note. Send unsealed cards to:
Mrs. Kat Orr
Thanks For Freedom! Campaign
740 Thompson Lane
Loganville, GA 30052

If you can't get cards together, you can email to Emails will printed and sent to Iraq with the cards. The deadline is June 16, 2006. Please keep it platonic. Nothing of a suggestive nature will be accepted.
Our troops don't have a choice. They're facing death daily while we enjoy our customary lives at home. Please take a moment and show our soldiers you haven't forgotten them.
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Old friends...

The Woodmont was a secret place that came alive in the wee hours of the morning. After the bars closed and the bands packed up, people found themselves sitting around this famous table with various musical instruments in their hands. Bruce Tull would head the table, sitting at his pedal steel guitar, and his mesmerizing tones would create a soundscape background, blurring conversation into song and back again. On this particular night Zeke Fiddler had his hi-tech camera with him and created this moody candlelit film. As Ohlenbusch began to play, Bruce chimed in, Steve Desaulnier picked up his bass, and Kevin O'Rourke grabbed a guitar...
I picked this up from Henning's blog. I believe this was shot in Bruce's kitchen. There's a shot of Bruce, famed pedal steel picker and former Scud Mountain Boy, at the very end of the video. Bruce and Kevin and I were all bartenders at the Baystate Hotel, which was the center of what was left of the music scene in Noho in those years.

Bruce is probably the most nervous person I've ever met in my life. A perpetual motion machine, but brilliant, both intellectually and musically. I loved him and everyone else in the video, like my own family. And I always did love that song. I must have heard it performed live, almost a thousand times...

Sometimes, I really miss those kids.
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Saturday, May 20, 2006

Mother Tongue Twister

Via Elisson, this little quiz seems especially appropriate in light of the preoccupation on Captitol Hill with our national language. These were my results. I'd love to see Bush's but with his academic record, he'd probably fail it.

Your Linguistic Profile::
45% General American English
30% Yankee
15% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

By the way, Bush is definitely against making English the national language. Word has it he prefers Bushspeak. [Okay I made that last part up].
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On the Eve of Corruption

I loved this quote. As the corruption investigations are expanding on Capitol Hill, the guys with the greasy money in their pockets are getting nervous.
Previously, members of Congress thought they were following the rules as long as donations they received were legal. Now, members are worried that Justice is looking at possible connections between campaign contributions and official action.
And long overdue. It's still illegal for them to accept "legal" money in return for pushing a specific cause. It's about time the thieves and liars were held accountable for screwing the taxpayer over. I'm astounded the investigation has become this serious, but I'm not holding my breath for a massive sweep of corrupt Congressmen. It still is, after all, Bush's Justice department.
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Give me a break

From Taylor Marsh, a new wrinkle on the tax breaks that I wasn't aware of. This part we knew.
The tax cut bill that Senate and House leaders have generally agreed upon is expected to save Americans at the center of the income distribution an average of $20 each, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit research organization in Washington.

The top tenth of 1 percent, whose average income is $5.3 million, would save an average of $82,415. Those in the top group would see their tax bill cut 4.8 percent, while Americans at the center of the income distribution -- the middle fifth of taxpayers, who will earn an average of $36,000 this year -- could expect a 0.4 percent reduction in their tax bill, or about $20.

Those who make less than $75,000 -- which includes about 75 percent of all taxpayers -- would save, at most, $110 each. Those making more than $1 million would save, on average, almost $42,000.
But this part is news to me.
First things first for Republicans: get those tax cuts out to the top 1%. As for the middle class tax breaks due to expire, Republicans and Bush say "trust me." I don't. Besides, the second bill for the middle class needs a "super majority," or 60 votes to pass. The first bill, which Bush just signed, had fast track status, meaning there could be no filibuster, no stopping it. So, with Republicans controlling Congress, it's anything but a slam dunk that the middle class will get any break at all.
I thought it was all in one package. It looks to me like chances are good that the middle class won't even see that twenty bucks.
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Friday, May 19, 2006

Mother tongue

Whoopee. Now in addition to a national anthem that no one can sing, we have a national language that our own president can't speak. I hear Bush is against it. I don't blame him. If they make the rules too strict he might end up being deported with the rest of those durn elliterate furriners.
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Wedding vows

If Arlen Spector is the only thing standing between us and a theocracy, we're in trouble. Having failed to save us from a dictatorship by caving in on the NSA investigation, Mr. Spector decided give the crucial to democracy and vital to national security issue of same sex marriage high priority. Holding the committee meeting in an office inaccessible to the public, he forced a vote over the objections of Russ Feingold and the measure passed on party lines. Big surprise.

To add insult to injury, Spector said he is "'totally opposed' to it but believes it deserves a Senate debate." In other words his GOP bosses told him they need a distraction from the corruption scandals, the war and the spending sprees so drag out the favorite wedge issue to charge up the base.

I think they'll find it will backfire on them this time. It'll charge up the fringe loonies for sure but while they're loud, they're still a minority. The moderates and the libertarians who came on board in 04, didn't care about it, in fact they didn't really like it but were willing to trade it off for the other promises of fiscal sanity and national security. All but the diehard are pissed that that didn't get what they voted for. Wasting time with this amendment will only piss them off more.
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'White flight'

If there's any good news to be told in Iraq, these folks aren't telling. In a time honored response to urban blight, anybody with any money is getting out of Baghdad.
In the latest indication of the crushing hardships weighing on the lives of Iraqis, increasing portions of the middle class seem to be doing everything they can to leave the country. In the last 10 months, the state has issued new passports to 1.85 million Iraqis, 7 percent of the population and a quarter of the country's estimated middle class.
Granted they're mostly Sunnis but that doesn't say much for the "unity" government or Iraqi security. The place has become a hellhole. As one reporter put it, if they want the good news from Iraq then they have to make the streets safe enough so a TV crew isn't risking its life to cover a school opening.
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Hello operator...

I see the telecoms want USA Today to retract their story on the phone records, claiming they did not "turn over" records to the government. Forgive me for noting the careful worded denial. No they probably didn't turn them over, as I understand it, they allowed the government to tap in at the source and collect the records themselves. It seems unlikely we'll ever know for sure. As this excellent op-ed points out:
According to Federal Elections Commission data analyzed by The Center for Responsive Politics, Telephone Utilities have given $6,762,966 to Republican Members of Congress since 2004 and more than $15 million since the 2000 election. How tough do you think the questions are going to be from a Republican Congress investigating the role of AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon in turning over the phone records of tens of millions of Americans to the NSA?
I doubt if they'll ever even hold hearings on it. They just fuss around until the next scandal knocks this one out of the spotlight. The way this administration dishes out the scandals, it shouldn't take too long.
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Said elsewhere

I've been posting at DetNews today. Here's a couple you might want to check out. DetNews main page posted the lamest article on Hayden. I had to post a response. Civil liberties concern nominee - well except for probable cause.

There's a lot of hoopla in Michigan with the FBI digging up the place looking for bodies. Me, I think they should let Jimmy Hoffa rest in peace
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Rock and Roll will never die

The political climate of the 60s was as much about the music as it was about activisim. In those days they were often referred to as "protest songs" and indeed in those pre-internet days, music was the means for passing along the memes that defined the 60s generation. Email and text messaging and netroots changed all that and frankly the music, as it became homoginized by the dictates of Clear Channel, suffered for it.

However, if there's a silver lining in the five years of outrage we've suffered under Bush, it's that "protest songs" are making a resurgence. Thanks to Marc Catone for passing along this nice article by Steven Laffoley that celebrates its return. Here's my favorite quotes.
A week or so ago - arriving like a screaming banshee lamenting the dead along a cold, desolate heath - Neil Young and Rock and Roll suddenly roared back, giving a big middle finger to all that has gone wrong with America, and a big middle finger to all those trying to explain away inconvenient truths, again. [...]

So, let's get this straight: Rock and Roll was never meant to be logical, never mean to be intellectual, never meant to be consistent. No, Rock and Roll was meant to be the unfiltered truth - with a zero tolerance for lies.

And by God, it's nice to hear it, again.
Amen to that. If you haven't heard it yet, you can listen to the whole album here.
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Short takes

This is the video of the day. I didn't see the speech but this is doubtless the highlight.

Crooks and Liars hosts the runner-up. Wouldn't it be ironic if our USAG is the progeny of illegal immigrants?
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Who's watching now?

Via Avedon Carol, this piece is over a year old and in light of current events, it's all the more frightening as the editorial's predictions are being realized. Here's one particularly disturbing point.
On March 17, 2003 Bush hired “the former head of the KGB (the secret police of the former Soviet Union), General Yevgeni Primakov,” as a consultant to the US Department of Homeland Security.

Primakov joined another Russian, Oleg Kalugin, KGB (Ret) with the Department of State Security, also as a part of Homeland Security. On January 1, 2005 Kalugin was replaced with the infamous and sinister 'Silver Fox' himself (his former CIA code name), Gen. Markus Wolf. “Wolf was the head of the international intelligence gathering arm (HVA) of East Germany's Ministry for State Security (MfS), or Stasi. Under Wolf (1958 to 1987), Stasi ran a network of about 4,000 agents outside East Germany, infiltrating NATO headquarters and the administration of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt.”

’Stasi and Wolf, were best known for their network of informants inside East Germany. There were spies on every block, who would report "suspicious" activities back to Stasi headquarters.’ These talents are now part of Homeland Security where they oversee spying on American citizens. Initially, this area was a province of the FBI, who introduced “Carnivore” to accomplish it. This controversial program gave the agency access to the online/e-mail activities of suspected criminals. But Carnivore was officially abandoned in January 2005, for a new software program, in tandem with the recent appointments to Homeland Security so that between computer-communications monitoring, and citizen spies, the current government might more easily accomplish their illegal goals. Does this sound like America or like an American intelligence agency?
If you read the whole editorial, it sounds a little tin hattish. For instance, I'm somewhat put off that he's attributing a secret FEMA plan to Nixon when it was Carter who signed that executive order but I'm posting it anyway because I trust Avedon not to post nutcases. In any event, he puts together a sobering scenario that's worth thinking about.
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Quick clicks

Via The Pime Collective, this is a trippy ride into infinity that's sure to throw you into an acid flashback.

And via Avedon Carol, the essential welcome mat for every doorstep in America.
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Judiciary judge thyself...

The alarmingly senseless Sensenbrenner has been a busy little beaver this month. Hot on the heels of legislation seeking to expand our government's ability to datamine ISPs for our surfing habits, the NYT notes in an editorial today, he is proposing a new bill to establish an inspector general who would have the power to investigate federal judges. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently remarked, what a scary idea. The editorial explains the cause for concern.
...The bills contain sweeping language authorizing investigations into "matters pertaining to the judicial branch." And there is nothing to prevent an inspector general from opening an investigation into why a judge handed down a particular decision or sentence.

Even if the bills were improved by including language that expressly limited the inspector general to examining ethical issues, the danger would remain that an inspector general would go after judges to punish them for particular opinions. The Republican majority in Congress has frequently denounced judges' rulings and even threatened retribution.
The judiciary most certainly is in bad need of oversight. Instances of questionable ethical conduct are frequent and well documented. However a bill that dilutes the separation of powers and risks political interference in the judicial process is clearly not the solution. As the editorial notes, now would be the perfect time for the judiciary to come up with an enforceable ethics guideline of its own.

The GOP is desperate to recapture its "value based" base. Those would be the religious radicals who think anyone to the left of Phyllis Schlafly, is a "liberal activist judge." These folks don't threaten just retribution. They issue death threats in the name of God and pray fervently for the infidels to be smote down by his hand. And it's this deep pocketed, lunatic fringe minority the GOP seeks to placate with this sort of ill-advised tinkering with the system.

The hubris on Capitol Hill has reached epic proportions. In recent weeks they have proposed legislation eliminating independent counsel investigations into governmental misconduct - including their own. Now they propose this bill that threatens to intimidate judges with oversight by their branch of government, the net effect being the destruction of another layer of checks and balances so wisely incorporated by our Founding Fathers.

One shudders at the damage these so called Representatives of the people might do in the next six months. We can only hope our weak-kneed opposition party keeps it to a minimum and the voters will respond appropriately to this blatantly self-serving pandering at the ballot box. November can't come soon enough for me.
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Throw all the bums out...

The WaPo finally picks up on the mood of the electorate I've been talking about for months.
Cumulatively, the results Tuesday were the latest signals of brewing unrest that could threaten incumbents of both parties in the November elections. [...]

But there are signs of broader disaffection. A new Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 55 percent of those surveyed said they are inclined to look around for someone new rather than support their incumbent members of Congress this fall, the highest level of anti-incumbency since the 1994 midterm elections that dethroned Democrats on Capitol Hill.
The Dems would do well to note this trend. What they do in the next six months inside the Beltway will determine whether they get a return ticket in November. Idle posturing and political grandstanding are not going to win any votes this time around. The Democrats may well still be able to engineer a 1994 style sweep but the faces on Capitol Hill in December may not be the old familiar ones they expected to find.
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hate mail to love

In response to a lighthearted post on Paul McCartney's divorce a new critic surfaced with the best putdown -- ever.
"You won't get any competition from me. John was my favorite -- may he rest in peace."

No kidding. You would have better luck with John. He is in no position to run away, Libby.

Rex Pierson, Detroit, MI

Reading it for the third time still makes me laugh out loud.
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Blogged elsewhere

I've been posting a few items at the DetNews blog that I won't repeat here but I'll give you the links because my co-bloggers have been busy and they're dropping down the page fast.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has decreed women's photographs cannot appear in the media among other odious restricitons on the press. I wonder if it's time for George to 'spread some democracy' to Saudis?

I weigh in on the political upset in PA with Populism is the new Centrism.

Some expanded thoughts on domestic surveillance and trading liberty for security.

And if you're interested in my personal history, I took a sweet little trip down Memory Lane, here.
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Sensenbrenner strikes again

It's always for the children. Couched in terms of netting pedophiles lurking on the web, the ever-senseless Sensenbrenner introduced a bill to get your ISPs to snoop on you. This is the same rocket scientist who proposed legislation mandating 2 years in prison for anyone who didn't turn their kid over to the police if they found them with a joint and wanted to pass out 5 year sentences in the event you were caught giving your sister one of your leftover pain meds for her toothache.

This new proposed privacy violation is being offered up to appease the "social conservatives" who are clamoring for more nanny legislation. Here's the money quote that tells us why we should be afraid.
Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington, called Sensenbrenner's measure an "open-ended obligation to collect information about all customers for all purposes. It opens the door to government fishing expeditions and unbounded data mining."
One more piece in the police state puzzle that the Bush believers will be sure to ignore or trivialize.
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lives in the balance

A nice Jackson Browne anti-war video. It seems you may have to hit the start button twice to make it work.

As a counterpoint, here's brutally graphic galleries assembled by After Downing Street of photos taken in Iraq. I didn't get far. The pictures of the injured children break my heart.
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Even a broken clock....

Years ago this quizilla was going around and pronounced me to be the most like Thomas Friedman. I scoffed at the time. I can't stand the pompous know-it-all but it turns out we do have something in common. FAIR reveals that Friedman suffers from a terrible mathematical deficiency. He rivals my legendary ineptitude with his tenous grasp on linear time measurement.

The poor man has been predicting a resolving moment in six months time in Iraq since 2003. He's been wrong fourteen times so far. Well to be fair, the last three predictions aren't over six months old yet. I'm rooting for him though. I'd love for him to be right one of these times and the law of averages must be working its way towards his favor.
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The eye of the beholder....

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House continues to minimize the importance of domestic surveillance and suggests the left has become overwrought in the absence of irrefutable evidence. Under the theme, we just don't know yet:
...There is no reason to call for an investigation – yet. But I am a little more amendable to Arlen Specter’s ideas about finding out some additional details on these programs including the Senator trying to get a better idea of exactly who they are targeting.

....“Backtracking” would seem to indicate something much less intrusive and less alarming; they would already have a suspect’s phone records that showed the ABC News phone number.
Unfortunately, as Glenn Greewald points out, the White House just did an end run around judicial review of the investigation. The Hill reports Spector caved to White House pressure and agreed not to require the Bush administration seek a legal judgment on the program from a special court set up by FISA. This effectively prevents the program from being tested in the courts for the foreseeable future.

As for backtracking being less odious, Rick ignores that they used the Patriot Act provision allowing the now infamous National Security Letters to obtain the information. NSLs are rarely, if at all, challenged since they were enacted as part of an anti-terrorism package. When our journalists are considered to be terrorists by our government, we're in deep trouble. I left this comment at Rick's blog.
FBI, CIA, NSA, it's all just one big happy family under the new intelligence patriarch, John "Iran-Contra" Negroponte. Considering his role in that affair, it's only prudent to view the current revelations about domestic surveillance with some alarm. Arkin just put up a list at the WaPo of 500 datamining programs currently in use by our government. I don't care who's in office, I don't want our government abridging our privacy in this manner. In the absence of convicted criminal conduct, I don't think commercial databasers should be allowed to collect it either. The complilation of a complete dossier of every single US resident strikes me as decidely un-American. What is freedom, if not the right to live one's life without constant surveillance?

And whether the ABC revelations are real cause for concern or not, it just goes to illustrate only one of the possible abuses this database lends itself to. If you wait until the day the government sends in their health police to round up all the diabetics who eat too much sugar and puts them in "health camps" for their own good, it will be too late.

Yes Rick, we don't KNOW for sure. But I have to ask, how are we supposed to find out if this administration or some future one is up to no good? Somehow I don't think they'll have an attack of conscience and confess.
I admit I don't have the answer to that question, but I'm pretty sure it's not, let's wait and see how much farther they'll go in breaching the constitution. We may not have hard evidence -- yet -- but the circumstantial evidence that domestic survelliance is much broader than we dared dread, is becoming rather substantial. It would be folly to ignore it.
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Visual aids

Every picture tells a story. Here's the sequel to Red State Nation. In, Don't it Turn my Red States Blue?, Bush has pretty much burned through his "political capital" in just over a year.
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Rove's last stand?

This one made me laugh. Rove, doing a statistical two step around reality, steps into a heckva cliche that has become shorthand for fraud and gross incompetence. He tried to dance his way out of it, but only made it worse.

EJ Dionne ignores the verbal blunder and zeroes in on the heart of Rove's travelogue into unreality.
Most astonishingly, Rove tried to make the case that Bush's tax cuts actually left the rich paying more. Everyone knows the Bush cuts in levies on dividends, capital gains and inheritances overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. But here was Rove playing class politics by arguing that the wealthy now pay a larger share of total income taxes than they did before Bush.

This is statistical flimflam, of course. It leaves out payroll taxes, which hit most Americans the hardest. And the wealthy are paying more of the total share of income taxes, even though their rates are much lower, because their share of national income has gone up. Rove's numbers actually prove the rich are getting richer. But the fact that Rove tried to sound like William Jennings Bryan is the surest indicator that the administration is worried about its image as protector of the privileged.
Much as I loathe Rove, I've never thought of him as a useful fool. It's hard to believe he could publicly express such crass indifference to the economic degradation of the middle class. Surely Rove is not so stupid that he doesn't realize "repeating the propaganda" won't fill the empty pockets of the taxpayers. What was that definition of insanity again.....
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Sunday, May 14, 2006

The greening of WalMart

That WalMart is now planning to offer organic foods in their product line speaks volumes about consumer concern over genetically modified crops and the overuse of pesiticides on the monolithic farms that deliver most of the produce available in the grocery stores. The organic farming industry is said to welcome WalMart's entry in the market but as the NYT points out in an editorial today, we might want to hold off on popping any champagne corks over WalMart's "enlightment."
But here are the pitfalls. Wal-Mart will now become the 800-pound gorilla among the other, slightly smaller gorillas that have tried repeatedly to weaken the Agriculture Department's definition of what organic means. There is no chance that Wal-Mart will be buying from small, local organic farmers. Instead, its market influence will speed up the rate at which organic farming comes to resemble conventional farming in scale, mechanization, processing and transportation. For many people, this is the very antithesis of what organic should be.
WalMart's entry into this arena is not out of any great desire to "go green." It's motivated solely by greenbacks. They desire to draw in the more affluent shoppers who patronize the "whole foods" stores that have sustained the organic farming industry until now. While we can applaud the move for making healthier food available at a more affordable price for lower income consumers, we might want to hold the accolades until we see if the small organic farms who pioneered consumer acceptance of organic food in the first place will suffer the same fate as the countless number of other locally owned mom and pop enterprises that were driven out of business when WalMart flooded the market with its slash and burn pricing on cut-rate merchandise from foreign sweatshops.

Bigger is not always better and in the case of WalMart, if we look to past history, its foray into organic foods could signal the beginning of the end of any real meaning for the organic label and the diminishment, rather than the enhancement of consumer choice.
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Say it with sig lines

Quote of the day thanks to a forum mate at the Danbury News Times on-line forum. Rev. Jim Bridges will be adding this as his sig line on future emails.
NOTICE: Due to Presidential Executive Orders, the National Security Agency may have read this email without warning, warrant, or notice. They may do this without any judicial or legislative oversight. You have no recourse nor protection save to call for the impeachment of the current President.

He graciously offers free use of the meme for anyone who would like to adopt it as their own.
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If Gore had been appointed president....

Crooks and Liars has the video of the day. They post a clip of Al Gore's recent appearance on Saturday Night Live where he gives a presidential speech from the Oval office. Some great one-liners.
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Rove resignation imminent?

I have to admit I'm still a little leery after the disappointment at Fitzmas of wasting any energy on the happy dance until I see Fitz on the courthouse steps in front of a bank of microphones but Jason Leopold is saying it's a done deal. Rove has been indicted. Perjury charges seem definite. No definitive word on obstruction of justice. Please God, let me live long enough to see that slime do the perp walk into the penitentiary.

On a related note, Newsweek reports that Fizgerald has submitted a "smoking gun" document into evidence in the Libby case that could possibly take Cheney down. That being a copy of Wilson's article with hand written notes in the margin suggesting courses of action to rebut Wilson's allegations. It's getting so I can't follow the timeline on this one anymore but apparently, the timing of this document would suggest that Cheney lied through his teeth on what he knew and when he knew it. If it keeps going like this, we won't need to impeach these thugs. We can just indict the whole lot of scumbagoes.
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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Dataming 101 - choose your parameters wisely

More on the largest database in the world. Experts say the NSA's project is a waste of resources in terms of detecting terrorist cells. As one put it, it's counterintuitive to make the haystack larger when you're looking for a needle. Check out the "social network analysis" model for yourself. Can you tell the difference between an AQ cell and a Fortune 500 company? It beats me but I made a guess.

[hat tip Tim Meehan]
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All around the May polls

I really do try to stay away from polls but since the WaPo made an issue of their skewed poll yesterday, I'd note that today's Newsweek poll more accurately reflects the public sentiment I've observed and echoes a similar DetNews poll.
According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA’s surveillance program “goes too far in invading people’s privacy,” while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism.
That feels about right but it still astonishes me that almost half of America doesn't feel the magnitude of the datasweep is disturbing and doesn't see the inherent danger in the administration's circumventing the law -- again. What do you want to bet that 41% are mainly FoxNews viewers?
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The Perils of Annthrax

I saved this link to skippy's post about the latest troubles of the Princess of Smarmy Smear a couple of days ago and forgot to post it. It's still worth reading, if only for the killer punch line.
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Friday, May 12, 2006

Rove rumors

I swore I wasn't going to indulge in speculation about indictments this time until I see Fitz on the steps giving a press conference, but I do love Jason Leopold. His speculation is just too delicious, not to share.
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Ring Wing Nut House goes nutty

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House puts up a somewhat hysterical post in response to what he calls, "the hysterical drama queens of the left," related to the concerns raised over the latest revelations of just how widely the NSA's net was spread. He says:
I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the exaggerations about the “danger” that the country is becoming a dictatorship, a word they throw around with the practiced ease of someone who has no idea what an actual dictatorship looks like. I’m sick of the ginned up outrage against anything and everything the Administration has done in the past 5 years to protect us. I’m sick to death of these immature, emotionally unstable, intellectually dishonest philistines whose foot stomping tirades have begun to resemble the wailings of teenage girls who put on melodramatic, angst ridden histrionics over the tiniest of slights.
I'm sick of it too. I'm sick of otherwise intelligent bloggers refusing to acknowledge the painful truth that not only did our president lie to us, his policy decisions, driven by politically partisan concerns, endangered us more. We are not better protected than we were on 9/11 and Bush is out there swaggering around with his cowboy indiplomacy trying to stir up trouble all over the world. Doing a damn good job of it too. Why aren't the right's kewl kids getting all jacked up about the vast increase in terrorist incidents in the last three years?

I'm sick of being treated like a deranged dilettante for suggesting that the demonstrable pattern of deceit and disastrous results from this administration are a legitimate basis for concern over future abuses and circumventions of the law. I'm fed up with being called treasonous for exercising my right to petition my government via public dissent, to abide by the rule of law. And I'd like to ask just how many dictatorships Rick has lived in that qualifies him to be the arbiter of what they are not? Me, I look to the lessons of history and present day events have a hauntingly familiar ring.

Rick seems to think it significant that the first poll comes in at 2-1 with a general unconcern among the public about the matter, the implication being we should temper our rhetoric in response. You know I'm not much for polls, but by that logic, I have one that says 70% of the country disapproves of the job Bush is doing as president, so shouldn't he be calling for Bush supporters to temper theirs as well?

I'm sorry he took this hot-headed position. I was rather counting on him to recognize the danger of the scheme. As Palast pointed out in the post below, it's not just the datamining per se, it's what they could and surely will do with it. The potential for abuse -- wilfull or accidental -- is just too enormous to let pass without scrutiny.

It's not at all unreasonable to ask for an accounting of how the program is being employed, along with some appropriate proofs, since Bush repeatedly denied the program included this kind of datamining right up until the leak came out.
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Surveillance laws meant to be broken

Greg Palast in an op-ed at BuzzFlash reminds us that government surveillance is not the half of what we should be worried about. The real threat is privatized data-mining and the main villian is Choice-Point who collects the data legally for "commericial" purposes and then sells it to our government, who are legally forbidden to collect it themselves, for their databases. Just another end run around the laws meant to keep the government out of our private lives and another nail in the coffin of our civil rights.
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Listen - do you want to know a secret...

I'm astounded by the reaction of the remaining supporters of the Bush administration to yesterday's news that the NSA warrantless domestic surveillance encompassed the phone records of strictly domestic calls of millions of Americans. Surely, I thought, after Bush repeated insisted that only international calls were being intercepted, that only a couple of thousand calls were involved and only calls suspected of having a connection to terrorist organizations were being databased, the magnitude of the White House lies on this program will give pause to the stalwart Bush loyalists. Incredibly, even such brazen misrepresentation and wilful violation of telecom privacy laws in order to build what is being called by some "the largest database ever assembled in the world," can be excused by the Bush believers as no big deal. I guess the lesson there is never underestimate the power of cognitive dissonance.

As the NYT points out the White House would have continued to operate this vast and intrusive program without our knowledge, forever, if they hadn't been caught and one hopes our DC lawmakers read and act on this advice.
Congress must stop pretending that it has no serious responsibilities for monitoring the situation. The Senate should call back Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and ask him — this time, under oath — about the scope of the program. This time, lawmakers should not roll over when Mr. Gonzales declines to provide answers. The confirmation hearings of Michael Hayden, President Bush's nominee for Central Intelligence Agency director, are also a natural forum for a serious, thorough and pointed review of exactly what has been going on.
Really, it's well past time for our entrenched career politicians to forget the fundraising and remember their job description requires them to exercise oversight over presidental excesses that threaten to destroy over 200 years worth of checks and balances. The events of 9/11 reminded us that we can't afford to be complacent about outside threats to our national security. The ill conceived and anti-democratic policies perpetrated by this administration since 9/11 should also remind us that we need to be just as vigilant, if not more, to internal threats that would compromise, if not destroy, the freedoms so many generations of Americans fought to acquire for us in the past and in whose name our troops are dying for today.
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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Who will pay the piper for tax breaks?

That new tax breaks for the wealthy will be passed on Capitol Hill is a given. They have already cleared Congress and the Senate is poised to quickly follow. It's not surprising given that most of our legislators are in the top ten percent of income earners. These breaks will undeniably benefit them. Equally certain is that the average American will be paying the tab. The NYT examines how the latest Congressional Ponzi scheme involving Roth IRAs will play out.
Current law doesn't let well-off Americans switch to Roths because it assumes — correctly — that they don't need extra help from the government to build their savings. Changing that rule will be a great deal for them. Income tax is due up front on the amounts that are shifted into Roth accounts, giving lawmakers a temporary burst of revenue to mask the true cost of their continuing tax-cutting spree.

But over time, Roths are a big revenue loser, because there's no tax on the earnings that accumulate in a Roth, even when the money is withdrawn. Because Roths are set up to avoid taxes in the future, they are especially attractive to people who believe that tax rates will go up over time.
It's a belief well grounded in reality. The house of cards that underpins Bushenomics will eventually collapse. One assumes the White House is hoping it won't happen before they leave office so they can blame the next administration, but this rule change will protect the assets of the big campaign donors among the have-mores when tax increases inevitably become necessary in order to pay for this reckless deficit spending. Once again the ever shrinking pool of middle class Americans will be footing the bill.

As a companion editorial in the NYT points out, it's difficult to believe the tanking GOP think this wholesale sellout of middle American's financial security will be a winning strategy.
After five years of duplicitous fiscal policy, Americans are catching on. And Republicans who see tax cuts as an automatic vote-getter may be in for a rude shock. Some two-thirds of Americans now say that the president's priorities, which clearly include ever more tax cuts, do not reflect their own.

This administration has been extraordinarily successful in painting their irresponsible policies as being constructive and reasonable. On paper it looks good, but all the pie charts and power point presentations in the world can't disguise the simple fact that for middle class Americans, there's no money in the bank and our quality of life has vastly diminished under GOP leadership.
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No need for oversight - NSA has investigated itself....

To add insult to injury, the Justice Department just shut down an independent investigation into the the NSA project because they were denied security clearances..
Brian Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said that the N.S.A. program was "highly classified and exceptionally sensitive" and that "only those involved in national security with a specific need to know are provided details about this classified program." He said the legality of the eavesdropping program had been reviewed by other Justice Department offices and by the N.S.A. inspector general.
Great. Those who authorized the illegal activities investigated themselves and found themselves to be appropriately outside the law. This administration is making anarchy look like an attractive option.
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Extreme datamining paves the way to full out fascism

The Blogtopia buzz of the day will be USA Today's piece on the true extent of the NSA dataming program. It's as we've been saying right along, they're not targeting terrorists only, they're compiling a database that includes every resident of this country -- well except for the customers of Qwest, who has thus far refused to be browbeaten into complying with any requests not authorized by the courts.

I posted my reaction at DetNews so I won't repeat it. I might note in passing however that I predict they will be mainly be using this data to circumvent the Fourth Amendment and other existing safeguards against warrantless surveillance in order to prosecute the war on some drugs. That's the standard MO. Violate the druggies' rights now in order to set a precedent for violating everyone's rights tomorrow.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Luttig leaves the bench

I don't quite know how I feel about this. Michael Luttig resigned from the federal bench to take a job at Boeing. This strikes me as particularly egregious.
At Chicago-based Boeing, Luttig, 51, who lives in Vienna, will face a number of legal issues. Boeing is trying to settle Justice Department investigations into the illegal hiring of an Air Force official and its use of a rival's proprietary documents to win a rocket launch contract. The hiring probe resulted in guilty pleas in 2004 by Boeing's former chief financial officer, Michael M. Sears, and Darleen A. Druyun, a former Air Force procurement official who became vice president in charge of Boeing's missile defense systems.
The dirty little secret of the law is it's as much about who you know as it is about what you argue and there's something about this trade up (or would that be down) to the defense contractor that smells unethical. It's certainly so rare an occurrence that there's unlikely to be a law of ethics to cover it. It stinks of a payoff.

On the other hand, one can't fail to remember Luttig's strongly worded decision in the Padilla case. He clearly had reached his limit on executive power so they may have forced him out. I'd like to think he left as a kind of personal rebuke to the White House. I suspect it's more likely he thought the money was worth the trade off on the lifetime appointment since it's apparent he'll never be on the short list of SCOTUS again. I certainly hope he wasn't forced out or worse bought off. That would only feed my theory on the approaching martial law.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

News to peruse

I'm back on the schedule and off to bed but here's the reads of the day.

The military is running a video short for recruitment purposes in an agreement with United Airlines. The troubling part is the video doesn't identify the military as the producers.

Speaking of recruitment, the pressure on the recruiters is tremendous. Still it doesn't excuse allowing an autistic kid who's barely able to mainstream in high school to enlist.

The folly of campaign consultants and those who consult them.

Molly Ivins on Hookergate.
"Any journalist who claims Hookergate is not a legitimate scandal is dead—has been for some time and needs to be unplugged."
A good op-ed that brings up an interesting point. Should Rove quit his White House job because of a conflict of interest. In other words, why should taxpayers pay for his GOP campaign work? We shouldn't.

The geopolitical nightmare. It was always about the oil and the neo-cons lost it.
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Loving hate

As most of you know, my new hobby is hanging around right wing blogs. It's not the best hobby for someone whose blood pressure is already pretty bad, and I bite my tongue so often it's a miracle I haven't taken it clean off, but regardless of the sometimes truly horrifying commentary I see there, I've become fond of many of them as people. I like to think some of them have become a little fond of me because that's how we're going to build a people's movement and take the system back. By discovering that we aren't so different and the enemy isn't [insert hated ethnic and/or political group here], it's the corrupt people who govern us.

I've survived as a regular on these blogs by holding my piece. I rarely comment on the hate threads that I find so appalling. But I read it all and try to understand why they hold such contempt towards people they don't know. Tell you the truth I still don't get it and one of the recent disturbing trends I've been noticing is the widening of Islamo-hatred to include all Muslims and the religion itself. I wondered how this meme was spreading.

Dean Esmay in a brilliant post has the answer. It seems there's a particularly vile viral email making the rounds and he dissects and debunks the disinformative diatribe bit by bit. An easy enough task but a lenghty one and he does it superbly. I wish I had posted that. It's well worth the time to read in full.

It astounds me that the people who pitch this meme don't realize they're doing the government's dirty work -- for free. While they foment hate and suspicion between the classes, the government is quietly taking over all our lives. [via]
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Monday, May 08, 2006

Something else behind CIA shakeup?

I'm not sure what to make of this. The White House pick to replace Goss also has a connection to the Cunningham bribery scandal.
While director of the National Security Agency, Gen. Michael V. Hayden contracted the services of a top executive at the company at the center of the Cunningham bribery scandal, according to two former employees of the company. [...]

As an MZM employee, King was involved in a number of controversial projects. In 2002, he was a key adviser to the team creating CIFA, the Pentagon's domestic surveillance operation. In 2004, he was one of three MZM staffers who worked on the White House Robb-Silberman Commission, which recommended expanding CIFA's powers.
I have a bad feeling about this. If the Cunningham connection isn't what forced Goss out then why the sudden switch? Could he have balked at facilitating some new nefarious White House plan? Call me paranoid but with the preferred candidate being military, former head of the NSA and unable to grasp the complete meaning of the Fourth Amendment, I'm now thinking this is all about taking another step towards martial law. How better to enforce the power of the unitary executive?
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Rove's reckoning coming due

The WaPo engages in some lengthy speculation on the rapid approach of Rove's reckoning day in the Plame case searching through the clues to build a respectable theory for a possible charge of perjury. I don't have a theory myself. I'm going to leave the speculation to the pros and wait and see what Fitzgerald has to say.

I do like this though. Rove's forgetfulness defense is why would he lie the first time when he knew he would be exposed? All that "remembering" the details later was the real thing, honest. One might remind him that at the time of his first appearance, they had a lid on it and it looked like he was going to get away with it, but surely a man known for his acute memory of the most trivial political minutiae will eventually "remember" that on his own.
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YouTube, you lose...

Well I see my suggestion about making a DVD of Stephen Colbert's appearance at the White House Correspondent's dinner was taken to heart. Unfortunately, it won't be Colbert who makes the dough on this one. CSPAN is selling the video itself for $24.95 a pop. On a darker note, CSPAN successfully prevented YouTube from hosting clips of the performance only to turn around and grant rights to Google to host it instead on their video upload site.
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Sunday, May 07, 2006


So many links, so little time....

I don't know about you but I'm loving this buzz I've been hearing all week that Rove is about to do the perp walk. Here'sone more voice in the crowd that's saying Rove is on the ropes. I'm not normally a person who rejoices in other's misfortune but I have to admit that seeing this thug indicted would make me feel, I don't know, somehow validated and yes -- very happy.

But enough daydreaming, dark days are still upon us. West Point has ordered an group of alumni who formed an antiwar organization to cease and desist in the use of the words "West Point". They say it's because the group didn't ask for permission first and has nothing to do with their politics. Right. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the systematic suppression of dissent in the last five years.

Meanwhile, Bush has settled on a new name for the Global War on Terror. From now on we're to refer to the conflict as World War III. Think about that for a minute -- world war -- as in anywhere and with anyone in the world and the guy with his finger on our nuclear trigger thinks of himself as The Sole Decider. Just like the Wizard of Oz.

To end on brighter note, it's been way too long since we basked in the brilliance of Mr Sun. He's given up on politics for health reasons and will be shining his snarky gaze on pop culture only for the foreseeable future. Nonetheless, he hasn't lost his searing wit or his entrepreneurial spirit. For those of you caught up in the current fever over the Da Vinci Code, I give you The Da Vinci Coat. No God fearing American should be without one.
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When a good blogger goes bad

Eugene Volokh posted an incomprehensibly bad theory -- just as an intellectual exercise -- in what could only be a lapse of insanity or a desperate bid for attention. I'm not going to link to it but his basic premise is that maybe unwanted sexual touching is only more illegal than accepted forms of non-consenual touching, such as someone grabbing your elbow to get your attention because of the possibility of involuntary sexual arousal. He also stretches this logic to ponder whether public masturbation should be a matter of law or do we want to criminalize the behavior of some guy jacking off next to us on the subway simply because we find it icky and/or involuntarily stimulating?

Belle Waring at Crooked Timber has the ultimate answer. The comment sections in both places were fascinating. This is the legal eagle crowd, so it's all very polite and cerebral. I added this more earthy response at Crooked Timber.
I'm with Belle. WTF? This is not a thought exercise, it's mental masturbation. It's a wet dream disguised as intellectual discourse. There's something utterly sad about pretending it's some kind of deep legal reasoning. I think it speaks more of some deep repressed sexual conflict than legal or sociological inquiry.

Perhaps Volokh should consider this thought exercise. If he feels like sticking his hand down my pants to test his theory, I'll have to test my theory of involuntary sexual arousal by trying to rip his testicles off. I wonder if he would object to that? He might only find it objectionable because it would possibly arouse him. I mean, how different is that than a tap on the shoulder? Feh.

Reading the comments and subsequent posts at Volokh's made me feel like I had fallen into an abyss and come out in an alternate universe. They were suggesting that adults engaging in public sexual activity on a playground should be dealt with by society and not as matter of law. I would have asked them what exactly they expected "society" to do to express their disapproval of a guy masturbating on the bench, if not arrest him? It didn't seem worth it but really, should the parents tar and feather him, blungeon him, or just stand there and shout at him to go away? We do have too many useless laws but this is not one of them.

I should delink Volokh for this one. This sensationalism for sensationalism's sake is what's turning Blogtopia into a cesspool.
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You will become assilimated

Via Loaded Mouth, I hear Americablog actually asked if we should consider not criticizing the Democratic Party until after the elections. I have to ask, WTF? Why is that even a question? It's like Kos all over again. Power can seduce even the most well meaning into ill advised compromise. Jemunds at Pandagon has the right answer. He pretty sums up my feelings on the matter.

Shorter version: Screw them. They haven't done anything for me in a decade and I'm not pussyfooting around for the good of the party anymore. If they want my support they have to earn it this time. Ideology is dead. It's all about repairing the system now and the Democratic machine is as much a part of the problem as the GOP.
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Sunday reading list

I'm in such a weird sleeping pattern the last couple of days. I've been staying up till the wee hours and then sleeping in till noon so all my posting is late. I've been doing some cruising this morning afternoon and here's some news you can use.

Thanks to Salt Spring News for the encouragement on my net neutrality post.

Via Stone Soup here's thelatest slap in the face to the taxpayer. A new tax bill that's set to pass through the House and Senate. Read it and grind your teeth.

Via No Blood for Hubris, a little something for the climate disruption skeptics to chew on. I guess Exxon didn't get around to funding any think tanks there because China is becoming concerned about the Tibetan ice caps melting. At the rate they're going they'll lose 50% of their mass every ten years. Do the math and then figure out to squeeze water out of dust bowls.

On a lighter note, I want to move to Voidsville. For one thing Neil Shakespeare would be your neighbor. Sure beats Mr. Rogers. And if you've ever wondered what the difference between George Bush and the Planet Earth is, well Left of Center has the answer.

I can't top Blogenfreude at Agitprop when it comes to the catch of the day. Did our president really say the high point of his five years in office was catching a fish? Sadly, when you think about it, that really is his biggest accomplishment. It was a rather big fish.

The lovely Avedon at The Sideshow doesn't write full length posts often enough for me, but when she does, her analysis always slices through the bullshit with razor precision. Must read of the day is her post on the media suicide watch. She gets it just right about how the media mavens are getting it completely wrong.

I won't be bothering to post much on the upcoming profile of Dick Cheney in Vanity Fair since this post says everything worth saying about the vice-imperial's paranoia. Suffice it to say that a man who keeps a hazmat suit with him at all times and believes The Jackal is out to get him doesn't really inspire my confidence in national security.
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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Points of viewing

How about that, I've been debunked. Exposed as a duped and gullible member of the Fox Hating echo chamber, merrily spreading my slanderous smears against the sainted fair and balanced ones. Jeez, now that I know the truth from the Fox News defense team, I feel like slapping myself for being so silly as to think a call from, or immediately accepted by, a senior official from the White House was telling.

I mean, I should have remembered that Chris Wallace is in the habit of chatting up the White House during a live broadcast, why -- nearly every news cycle. And Chris always breaks in with an update directly from the White House when Kristol is saying such nice things about them. And only a deluded soul like myself could conjecture that Kristol's subdued tone, after the phone call, meant he felt just a little initimdated.

Give us a break Dollar and show us the money clips. As the very brief video clip so helpfully provided showed, Kristol looked a bit shaken after the call. But we were discussing what happened prior, so where's the footage of Kristol before the call and of Chris Matthews breaking in? That's the real story, but how deluded am I, that I expect a defender of Fox's theory of fair and balanced reporting to stay on point?
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Punditry made easy

I ran across this in the wee hours this morning. Media Reality Check needs one itself. It accuses the media of inciting the public into a rage over gas prices at a time the economy is "really booming." It cites as proof of bias, aired testimony from 151 Americans who are selling their valuables and going without medicine to pay for gas.

It must be nice to be a right wing blogger. No need for nuanced views. Independent thinking not allowed. You got your talking points -- liberal media is bad -- and you run with them. Don't these people ever read anything but each other? It's like the town treasurer at the Cummington Town Meeting used to say, "You can cook the books any way you want, but the fact is, for the average Jake, there just ain't no money in the bank."
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When the president's word is law

Glad to see this story get some legs. The NYT editorializes on the Boston Globe's piece about Bush's signing statements. It adds its own strong condemnation of our power hungry president and reminds me that I didn't address the Alito connection in my earlier post. From the editorial:
The founding fathers never conceived of anything like a signing statement. The idea was cooked up by Edwin Meese III, when he was the attorney general for Ronald Reagan, to expand presidential powers. He was helped by a young lawyer who was a true believer in the unitary presidency, a euphemism for an autocratic executive branch that ignores Congress and the courts. Unhappily, that lawyer, Samuel Alito Jr., is now on the Supreme Court.
I said from the beginning that Roe v. Wade was a red herring and the wrong litmus test to be using to raise objections to Alito's confirmation. I raised the alarm then about the unitary executive theory but no one listened. No one believed then, what I've been saying for at least three years. This is a malovelent administration bent on creating a fascist dictatorship and they're willing to go to any lengths to destroy our democratic form of government. It doesn't sound so far fetched now, when you consider this.
Since the Reagan era, other presidents have issued signing statements to explain how they interpreted a law for the purpose of enforcing it, or to register narrow constitutional concerns. But none have done it as profligately as Mr. Bush. (His father issued about 232 in four years, and Bill Clinton 140 in eight years.) And none have used it so clearly to make the president the interpreter of a law's intent, instead of Congress, and the arbiter of constitutionality, instead of the courts.
Now the price for our "opposition" party's complacency will become apparent. If the Democratic Party manages to flip control of the legislative branch and bring the presidential excesses before the courts, it seems certain Alito will rule in favor of a power grab which he authored himself. Here's hoping he's not very persuasive behind the chamber doors or that distant sound you'll be hearing will be the gears of our system of checks and balances grinding to a halt.
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Building a better Democrat

A lot of people have been remarking a developing trend among the GOP these days. It seems they're embracing their inner populist and trying to rebrand themselves as the people's party -- in other words, as old style Democrats, only better. Rather ironic since the Democrats have been trying to rebrand themselves as better Republicans since 1994. EJ Dionne posts a fascinating column on the phenomenon featuring a recent breakfast date with Rick Santorum. As Dionne notes, "When one side starts making the other side's argument, you don't need to be a pollster to know which belief system is in the ascendancy."

It's going to be an interesting summer.
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Friday, May 05, 2006

More on the Goss/Cunningham connection

If you're just getting caught up on the emerging scandal growing out of the Duke Cunningham case,Alternet has the backstory and conveniently connects the dots between this scandal and Porter Goss' abrupt resignation. Fascinating stuff. I know it's always been so, but the sheer scope of Beltway corruption under this administration continues to astound.
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Smithsonian must choose - public or private

The back door privatization of our public resources continues apace with the Smithsonian's secret deal with Showtime. I find Smithsonian Secretary Lawrence Small's justification seriously outside of the bounds of logic. He claims it will expose the collection to to new audiences. It would also significantly preclude small independent producers from accessing the publicly held works unless they can afford Showtime's fees. This may well generate revenues to keep paying Small's $813,000 salary but it's difficult to see how it's in the public's interest.

At least, for once, the Congress responded in a timely and appropriate matter by chastising Small over the contract and forbidding any such future deals and cutting some of the public funding. They should go a step further and either negate the Showtime deal or completely cut the public financing of the institution. The Smithsonian shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways.
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Goss says goodbye

Sorry I didn't show up here yesterday. Every once in a while I lose my good sense and post comments on some of the rightwing blogs I visit and then feel obligated to defend my points. It's a lot of thankless work and time consuming but sometimes it feels like maybe you've cracked through the assumptions just a little and it sort of makes it feel worth it. Of course sometimes it feels rather more like banging your head against a brick wall but nonetheless, it still requires follow through in either case. In any event I think the round is over so it's time to look at the breaking news again and this is certainly interesting.

Porter Goss is resigning. I'm not sure what to make of that. I thought he was a rather loyal minion of the White House. I certainly didn't see it coming and it's hard to see any PR benefit to it in terms of the illusionary "shake-up" that Bolten is presently engineering. One can only think that in the next few weeks we'll see some scandal emerging with Goss squarely in the middle. That would fit the pattern established by the rest of the recently indicted White House loyalists.

Update: When in doubt trust Joe Gandelman to have the latest scoop. I found this pretty juicy.
The lively Internet tabloid Sploid minces no words about why it thinks this resignation took place — and gives a no-holds-barred account. A small part of it:
But the growing "Hookergate" scandal connected to convicted criminal Duke Cunningham and CIA executive director Dusty Foggo may have finally wrapped its whorish tentacles around Goss' neck.

"Something happened," neo-conservative magazine editor William Kristol said on Fox News this afternoon. "It's going to be a bad few days. We're going to discover something ... It will be something not good for the Bush Administration."

Fox News actually got a phone call from a "top White House official" during Kristol's damning comments, and Kristol was cut off so Bush mouthpiece Chris Wallace could say the Goss resignation is just a harmless part of the "White House shakeup." Sure.
I find that phone call rather telling. I may have called this one too long. It's beginning to appear that whatever it is, will come out sooner than later.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

An independent news source in the offing?

Here's a startup company based in Canada that shows promise for the future of news reporting. Real News Network has a good business plan and I like their mission statement. I hope they can acheive their lofty goals. I'll certainly be watching to see what happens with the launch and if they manage to pull it off, I'll be a big supporter. It's exactly what we need right now.
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Power to the people

This is a good sign. The NYT weighs in on behalf of net neutrality. Perhaps this will pique the interest of the all too many who have dismissed this as alarmist or a simple economic issue. I've heard the argument that the net has been filtered regularly right along. That's true enough but what they're not grasping is the difference between filtering and controlling the content.

Selling preferred search ranking is irritating but a necessary function of keeping the content relatively free beyond paying for general access. Rendering sites inaccessible or unuseable by manipulating their download speed is whole new frontier of consolidation. Thankfully, many Americans understand the danger and have responded to petitions and contacted their Congresspeople. It's working. As the editorial notes:
The House Energy and Commerce Committee defeated a good Net-neutrality amendment last week. But the amendment got more votes than many people expected, suggesting that support for Net neutrality is beginning to take hold in Congress. In the Senate, Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, and Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, are drafting a strong Net-neutrality bill that would prohibit broadband providers from creating a two-tiered Internet. Senators who care about the Internet and Internet users should get behind it.
What might have quietly passed through the House Committee never to be debated on the floor has now become public knowledge thanks to the freedom of association we currently enjoy on the internets. This power to organize is precisely what we could lose if we don't continue to keep the pressure on our legislators. If you're a blogger, join the coalition. If you're not, visit Save the Internet to see how you can help protect our last free marketplace of ideas.
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Ain't that pretty at all...

Well I got lost in the YouTube uploads for a couple of hours this afternoon. It's addictive. They add a new page about every minute or so and although a lot of it is junk, it's fascinating to see what people will post in a public forum. Speaking of junk, I ran across this vlog from the woman who does that insipid Atlas Shrugs. She's a darling of the right, highly ranked in the blogosphere and one of those big time Pajamas Media bloggers. You know the ones that are going to supplant the MSM with their timely coverage. She's exactly the way I imagined her to be considering the "quality" of her written work.

I'm sorry but if this is the "tipping edge" analysis that is supposed to be the future of Blogtopia, we're in deep trouble.
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Is Andy Card's cousin really crazy

I first heard about Susan Lindauer a while back and to tell the truth I didn't pay much attention at the time but she's been in jail for a long time now and on Thursday she's due in court for a competency hearing. It's a scary story and I already posted on this at DetNews so I won't repeat it here. I'll just add that it may sound like a crazy conspiracy theory but my gut is telling me Lindauer is being railroaded because she is the smoking gun that could prove once and for all just how deeply Bush and the WHIGers betrayed our country.

Call me crazy but I think she's sane. I think at least she shouldn't be allowed to be "disappeared" without notice. But decide for yourself.
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Dear Mr. President

Hey, how about it? Miss technoidiot figured out how to get the YouTube thing to embed into the blog. Having finally remembered to check the source code, I discovered the deep and complicated secret html. This is really going to bowl you over. You use embed tags... Anyway, I was motivated to figure it out because this video just blew me away. I watched it ten minutes ago and I still have goosebumps. It's a recut version of an Indigo Girls song and the graphics and the music are stunning.

Funny how I found this. I was following a link out of my referrals to the blogshares page on Last One Speaks and I clicked on the number one blog, Joe My God. He appears to be a gay, possibly Jewish blogger. Hard to tell why he's listed under drug blogs but he's got a nice little pad over there. Very gay, very eclectic and apparently a very popular blog. I left him a comment but I doubt he'll ever see in the hundreds he gets there.
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