Saturday, June 30, 2007

For Those Trying To Eat Healthy...

...Here's a helpful article-

Yahoo Food: The Musts and Myths of Organic and Locally Grown

Meanwhile, in Iraq...

Here's a quick roundup of the good news from Iraq...

From the instantaneous-regret/soft-bigotry-of-low-expectations department, this-
President Bush held up Israel as a model for defining success in Iraq, saying Thursday the U.S. goal there is not to eliminate attacks but to enable a democracy that can function despite violence...

The sad thing is I do know what he meant by this, but if his new revisionist idea of 'victory' is to have a state like Israel-- a functioning country, though under the constant threat of war, the political ramifications of whose existence has lead to regional instability-- then we are truly fucked. The President said of this, "that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq." Yikes. Just... yikes.

Meanwhile, via Reason magazine, snapshots of Iraqi democracy-
...[On Sunday] two Sunni Arab blocs boycotted a Parliament session, demanding the reinstatement of the speaker.

The speaker, Mahmoud Mashhadani, a Sunni Arab, was put on leave at the request of a broad coalition of Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds, after incidents in which he lost his temper at other members and struck them or allowed his guards to rough them up...

...Iraqi forces raided the home of Culture Minister Asad al-Hashimi today [Tuesday] after an arrest warrant accused him of masterminding the 2005 assassination attempt of a secular Sunni politician who was once a top aide to Ahmed Chalabi...

Sounds like the type of government Dick Cheney would be proud of.

And anyone looking at the 'benchmarks' our government is supposedly using to judge the progress in Iraq will be severely depressed. It seems that President Bush yelling at them is not motivation to get things together.

Finally, Glenn Greenwald explores the latest propaganda tactic by the administration (aided on by a gullible, incurious media)... referring to everyone in recent weeks that we're fighting in Iraq as being, or having some connection to, 'Al Qaeda'. Of course, as the McClatchy Newspapers bureau reports, "U.S. military and intelligence officials, however, say that Iraqis with ties to al Qaida are only a small fraction of the threat to American troops. The group known as al Qaida in Iraq didn't exist before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, didn't pledge its loyalty to al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden until October 2004 and isn't controlled by bin Laden or his top aides."

The reason for this is pretty obvious. The insurgency is as bad as ever. Just because we stopped focusing on it-- and because we have now chosen to arm both sides-- does not mean the problem is any less worse off than it was in 2005 or 2006, etc... But it is also clear that the administration has little to gain politically from hyping up the insurgency, because that reminds Americans we are fighting (indefinitely) a war that is not ours, and that-- as even Petraeus and Gates have said-- only a political solution will end things.

As for whether that political solution will come before one for Israel/Palestine, you'll have to ask President Bush.

Nope, No Scandal Here...

The seventh Justice Department official to resign in recent months did so yesterday, as usual on a quiet Friday afternoon. This time it was Rachel Brand, assistant attorney general for legal policy. Maybe it's a good thing the President won't let AG Gonzales resign, because pretty soon, he'll be the only one running the place.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Fear of the Other

Jon Stewart and John Hodgeman fill us in on the dangers we face from immigrants...

[Related reading: Senate dashes hopes and immigration bill (NY Daily News)]

Weekend Odds and Ends

Anyone have an extra iPhone? I'm willing to pay up to $27 for it. Regardless, here's news...

Lots of questions surround a defused car bomb plot in London, perhaps tied to the arrival of a new Prime Minister.

Hey, speaking of teh terror, the Supreme Court agreed to hand down another 5-4 decision potentially challenge the administration's detainee policies again: "Rejecting Bush administration arguments, the Supreme Court reversed course and agreed Friday to review whether Guantanamo Bay detainees can use the civilian court system to challenge their indefinite confinement."

Back in domestic news, Rep. John Dingell (D- Auto Industry's Pocket) and some other assholes on the House Energy and Commerce Committee defeated plans to move forward with a Senate proposal to increase gas mileage standards to 35 miles per gallon. If only liberals were as active and passionate on issues like this as the conservative base was to kill the immigration bill.

Democratic candidates held another debate last night, this one focusing on race issues.

Author/blogger Glenn Greenwald interviewed Helen Thomas on the state of the media, and the Bush administration. I just picked up his latest book-- "A Tragic Legacy: How a Good vs. Evil Mentality Destroyed the Bush Presidency" -- and highly recommend it.

Finally, Bill Moyers shares his thoughts on the Rupert Murdoch/Wall Street Journal deal.


Anyone going to see 'Live Free or Die Hard' 'Ratatouille' Michael Moore's 'Sicko' tonight?

I remain skeptical that DC politicians can ever get past the wingnuts doing the lobbyists' bidding by screaming "sociAlizEd mEdiciNe!1!" anytime someone discusses universal care proposals, but others are more hopeful. As usual, I really want to be proven wrong here.

[UPDATE (6/30): CNN analysis- ''Sicko' numbers mostly accurate; more context needed']

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Senate Subpoenas Wiretapping Docs / George W. Nixon Says 'No'

This was the big news yesterday-
The Senate Judiciary Committee subpoenaed the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's office Wednesday for documents relating to President Bush's warrant-free eavesdropping program...

...The committee wants documents that might shed light on internal squabbles within the administration over the legality of the program, said a congressional official speaking on condition of anonymity because the subpoenas had not been made public...

And the White House, this morning, right on cue, shrugged this pesky 'Senate' off-
President Bush, moving toward a constitutional showdown with Congress, asserted executive privilege Thursday and rejected lawmakers' demands for documents that could shed light on the firings of federal prosecutors...

Apparently the White House isn't familiar with how a subpoena works.

"With respect, it is with much regret that we are forced down this unfortunate path which we sought to avoid by finding grounds for mutual accommodation," White House counsel Fred Fielding said in a letter to the chairmen of the Senate and House Judiciary Committees. "We had hoped this matter could conclude with your committees receiving information in lieu of having to invoke executive privilege. Instead, we are at this conclusion."

Translation: 'Why weren't you Senate jerks satisfied with the cherry-picked nuggets we were considering giving you? I know we've stonewalled and perjured ourselves through this thus far, but don't you trust us?'

The President's sole shield here is the notion of "executive privilege" (a fight President Nixon took all the way to the Supreme Court 33 years ago and lost). Has Bush stacked the federal bench with enough loyalists to secure a different outcome? I'm skeptical, but time will tell.

Getting to the heart of the matter-- the President's assertion he has the right to wiretap without warrants in violation of existing law, based solely on his say-so-- new revelations came out earlier this week that further undermine the administration's already-weak argument that the rubberstamp FISA court isn't fit for the super-scary post-9/11 world. Royce C. Lamberth, former presiding judge of the FISA Court itself, revealed that-
Lamberth's defense of the court's speed and efficiency came after senior Bush administration officials said its procedures were too cumbersome to meet counterterrorism needs in the post-9/11 world, and created a system of warrantless wiretapping by the National Security Agency that did not include judicial review.

Taking direct aim at the administration's assertion, Lamberth noted that members of the court had approved almost 99 percent of the FISA applications presented. He added that he could not see a better way of conducting such surveillance.

"What the president did with the NSA," Lamberth said, was "a proposal for a worse way."...

...He said he was driving near the Pentagon on his way to work on Sept. 11, having been to the dentist, and recalled, "My car was engulfed in smoke, and I couldn't move." He called for help, and the FBI came "to get me in a position where I could get Justice to start approving FISA [warrants]. . . . By the time the FBI got to me in my car, I had already approved five."

This supports the idea that the President went rogue for the sake of it. He's the Decider.

Lamberth also said-
"We have to understand you can fight the war [on terrorism] and lose everything if you have no civil liberties left when you get through fighting the war....The executive has to fight and win the war at all costs. But judges understand the war has to be fought, but it can't be at all costs. We still have to preserve our civil liberties. Judges are the kinds of people you want to entrust that kind of judgment to more than the executive."

Ugh. Can you believe Ronald Reagan appointed this moonbat to the federal courts?

And now President Bush wants to dismiss Congress and ask us to trust him? How unamerican.

Senate on Immigration: ¡No!

Well it looks like all the crazy right-wingers (the National Review writers have been particularly insane for weeks) got to their Senators between Tuesday and today, because the temporarily-resurrected immigration bill has again been murdered, maybe for good this time-
The Senate drove a stake Thursday through President Bush's plan to legalize millions of unlawful immigrants, likely postponing major action on immigration until after the 2008 elections...

...Senators in both parties said the issue is so volatile that Congress is highly unlikely to revisit it this fall or next year, when the presidential election will increasingly dominate American politics...

...It was a victory for Republican conservatives who strongly criticized the bill's provisions that would have established pathways to lawful status for many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants. They were aided by talk radio and TV hosts who repeatedly attacked the bill and urged listeners to flood Congress with calls, faxes and e-mails....

Thank God, the country is safe again from Mexicans... but for how long!??!??!

On Tuesday, Mark Kleiman shook his head at how the GOP was allowing its crazy base to force it to commit political suicide in killing this bill (that's karma for you... they spent years feeding this beast, and now are shocked that it finally bit them back).

I had a similar conversation with a friend last night. The shortsightedness of the conservative base is, as always, stupifying. This bill-- while unquestionably flawed; hampered down with corporate garbage like the "guest worker" program-- was probably the best bill one could hope for under a Republican president. The base wants a tougher bill... one that is enforcement-only and tells the illegal immigrants to go back home. But they aren't getting that bill. As the article notes, we aren't getting any bill for the remainder of the Bush presidency.

In all likelihood, the next President will be a Democrat [*knock on wood*]. The more the Republican party reminds Americans how insane and out of touch they are-- which is more and more, according to polls-- the likelier that outcome is. And do conservatives expect that the immigration reform bill to come out of the next administration, and under what will still likely be a Democratic House and Senate, will treat immigrants like petty criminals and build a brick wall along every inch of our southern border? If so, give me some of what they're smoking.

Without realizing it, these xenophobic conservatives have helped lead the path to an immigration bill in 2009 or 2010 that I will feel more comfortable with... paths to citizenship, saner security measures and employer sanctions, no guest-worker paid slaves. I appreciate that, but I don't think that's what they had in mind.

Conservatives should've taken this bill when they had the chance. The implosion continues.

Darn Those Activist Judges

Another moonbat ruling from those liberal activist judges on George Bush's Supreme Court.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Profiles in Courage

Back again to the September farce, and another example of orchestrated war 'opposition'...

Sen. Lugar (R-IN) made a bit of a buzz in the past day or two when he gave a speech urging the president to change course in Iraq "very soon." He also stated that "Our continuing absorption with military activities in Iraq is limiting our diplomatic assertiveness there and elsewhere in the world," and also that "The window during which we can continue to employ American troops in Iraqi neighborhoods without damaging our military strength, or our ability to respond to other national security priorities, is closing." OMG, TEH PRESIDENT LOST A KEY SENATE ALLY, naive war opponents cheered.

As always with Republicans, actions speak louder than words... on this, their lack of action.

Dig a bit closer in coverage of the speech and you find that-
However, [Lugar spokesman Andy] Fisher said the speech does not mean Lugar would switch his vote on the war or embrace Democratic measures setting a deadline for troop withdrawals.

Talk about burying the lede.

Expect more stories just like this as the Fall approaches... And come September, all those super sensible pundits will fall over themselves to praise the GOP faux-rebellion, as Republicans in both houses of Congress declare loudly, "We're mad as hell, and we're still gonna take it a lot more!"

The GOP are the desperate carnies and the media is the gullible mark. As usual, I'd love to be proved wrong. But my cynicism has sadly been accurate in regards to this war.

Washington Post Exposé... Dick Cheney Is A Monster! (Concluded)

The fourth, and final, part of the Washington Post's series of articles on the Cheney vice-presidency is out... it's entitled 'Leaving No Tracks'. This part focuses on Cheney's influence (read: dominance) over energy and environmental policy. As with the previous installments, we pretty much knew this before, but now we have frighteningly specific details.

Let's see... Dick Cheney hates the environment, loves big business and deregulation, and sold policy to the highest bidder. In short, he's your modern Republican in action. He's just more openly vile about it.

Odds and Ends

New 'Die Hard' movie out. Does Bruce still have the stuff? I'll find out later. Now, news...

Gordon Brown is now officially British Prime Minister today, promising "a new government with new priorities." Basically, Blair's liberal domestic leadership, minus that Iraq crap.

Tony Blair, meanwhile, will become a Mideast envoy. I'm sure he'll be very well received.

Hey, speaking of, here's your tax dollars at work: "The United States has invested $19 billion to train and equip nearly 350,000 Iraqi soldiers and police... but the ability of those forces to provide security remains in doubt, according to the findings of a bipartisan congressional investigation to be released today... 'We have no idea what our $19 billion has gotten us,' said Rep. Martin T. Meehan (D-Mass.)."

Federal relief money to New Orleans has been limited, so the town has been turning to private funding sources to help with some much-needed tasks, such as public works projects. Anyone watch Anderson Cooper lately? He still keeping anyone honest?

Finally, this just in.. young people are more liberal than the older generation!

She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named: 'Obama's A Terrorist!' / Hannity: 'No, He's a Black Separatist'

A fair and balanced discussion of Barack Obama occurred on Monday's 'Hannity and Colmes'.

What's amusing is Colmes trying talk to You-Know-Who as if she were an actual person, and not simply a walking caricature of the craziest of the conservative base (a "drag queen impersonating a fascist", as Andrew Sullivan once called her). Colmes' boss Hannity believes it all, though. And so do the people who watch his show and buy her books.

It's She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named's only use... she tells us out loud what others are thinking.

[PS- Elizabeth Edwards, a much better campaigner than her husband, calls in to say hi.]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Student Scholars to Bush: 'Respect Human Rights!'...

...Bush to student scholars: 'Oh, you think I care? Aren't you adorable?'

The story-
President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States...

..."The president enjoyed a visit with the students, accepted the letter and upon reading it let the student know that the United States does not torture and that we value human rights," deputy press secretary Dana Perino said.

The students had been invited to the East Room to hear the president speak about his effort to win congressional reauthorization of his education law known as No Child Left Behind....

"[T]he United States does not torture"??! Congrats, kids, you just got your first lesson in spin.

I'm sure you can look forward to hearing from your commencement speaker, Torboto-

Senate on Immigration: ¡Sí!

The Republican Party's base of energetic xenophobes just had a collective heart attack... the Senate voted 65-34 to revive the struggling immigration reform bill. It must pass another cloture vote on Thursday before it can move to a final vote.

Between then and now, of course, it will pelted with dozens of amendments either intended to boost conservative (send them all back! build the fence!) or liberal (path to citizenship) support. Many expect it to collapse under the weight of all of this.

Blogger Atrios, meanwhile, gets to the heart of why this bill has spiraled downward-
It's no mystery that there's opposition to a bill which is a messy compromise between opposite agendas. Conservatives hate it, and prominent Democratic politicians haven't really expended any effort to make the liberal case for it. It's sold as a fix to a problem, without either the "fix" or the "problem" being clearly defined. It's Broder Politics at its worst.

The more liberal view of immigration is much more popular than I ever imagined, and it's a shame that Democrats haven't used the opportunity to rally any support for that view. It's what happens when legislation begins as behind-the-scenes compromise.

A shame, of course, because there was a fleeting chance to make some substantive changes.

Washington Post Exposé... Dick Cheney Is A Monster! (Continued)

The third part of the Washington Post's series of articles on the Cheney vice presidency is up... this is one is entitled 'A Strong Push From Backstage'. A strong push? My dad used to give me a strong push on the swings. This is more like a scorched earth policy to governing.

Anyway, this part focuses on Cheney's influence on policy/legislative matters.

[PS- The Daily Show did their usual hilarious take on the Cheney news last night.]

The No-Shit Headline of the Day

Christian Science Monitor (via Yahoo): 'In Sudan, China focuses on oil wells, not local needs'

That does seem to go around, doesn't it?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Supreme Court Just Says No To 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus'

The free speech rights of dumbass teenagers just got a little less free-
The Supreme Court tightened limits on student speech Monday, ruling against a high school student and his 14-foot-long "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner.

Schools may prohibit student expression that can be interpreted as advocating drug use, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court in a 5-4 ruling...

...Frederick [the student] said the banner was a nonsensical message that he first saw on a snowboard. He intended the banner to proclaim his right to say anything at all...

And in the politics-make-strange-bedfellows aspect of this case-
...Conservative groups that often are allied with the administration are backing Frederick out of concern that a ruling for Morse would let schools clamp down on religious expression, including speech that might oppose homosexuality or abortion...

Of course, that aspects gets trickier, because while the Constitution does protect free speech, it also establishes a separation between church and state (though the current Court is taking a light hand on these matters for now), so expressing religious messages in a public school puts you in murky waters. Not that I object to religious groups having the right to hold after-school meetings at school, as long as it's the same as other voluntary groups.

One could also make the argument that divisive rhetoric-- ie. anti-gay rhetoric-- does have a proven detrimental effect on a school environment (as anyone who's been bullied at school for any reason can attest), whereas some teenagers holding up a 'Bong Hits' sign outside school grounds affects only stuffy old geezers and principals.

Something tells me that this Court thinks differently than I do, though.

[PS- Oddly enough, in a separate case decision today, the Supreme Court used free-speech rights to knock down an aspect of recent campaign finance reforms, now loosening restrictions on "corporate and union-funded television ads that air close to elections." I guess I agree with the general concept of the ruling, but it's a sad day when special interest groups' rights are better protected by the Supreme Court than that of the average Joe.]

Odds and Ends

I've got a case of the Mondays, so I'm gonna grab dinner at Chotchkie's Applebees...

Christie Whitman, who no doubt regrets ever accepting the job of EPA chief at the beginning of the Bush administration, was forced to testify today before a congressional committee, over the statements made by her and other officials after 9/11 that the air in downtown Manhattan was safe. She decided to pass the buck for this, blaming the terrorists and Rudy Guiliani.

In equally stupifying news, Tony Blair (who's stepping down as Prime Minister this week) is apparently being tapped as an international envoy for the Middle East by the European Union, Russia, United Nations and United States. Have these morons learned nothing in the past few years? People in the Middle East aren't dumb, and they are prone to anger (justifiably so, in many cases). So how do they think they will react when a disgraced world leader largely complicit in a war that is tearing the Middle East part is sent as an envoy there? Insulted and angry, I imagine.

Meanwhile, Paul Wolfowitz's fellow disgraced neocon, Robert Zoellick, has been ok'd to succeed him as the new World Bank chief.

Conservatives to Bush... 'Since our support for this shitty war of yours is based not on principle, but on pure partisan reasons, if you don't knock off this immigration reform crap, we will drop the war like the explosive hot potato it is, you dirty Mexican-sympathizer.'

Finally, CNN decides that Paris Hilton is more important than the healthcare debate.

Washington Post Exposé... Dick Cheney Is A Monster!

Six and a half years into the administration, the Washington Post realizes that our Vice President is a walking constitutional disaster. Seriously, though, they're publishing a good, if late, series of articles on 'The Cheney Vice Presidency'. For those who've been paying attention the past few years, it confirms what we know, with frightening inside stories and examples.

Parts 1 and 2 are up now.

Part 1-- "'A Different Understanding With the President'"-- is the primer, looking at Cheney's efforts to expand presidential power and his own. One, of many, revelations is that the infamous Gonzales 'torture memo' (calling the Geneva conventions "quaint", etc) was actually penned by Cheney's lawyer, David Addington. They just had Gonzales sign his name to it. Not sure if that's supposed to make us feel better about ol' Gonzo, considering the Justice Department is run by a guy who's apparently a puppet of people like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove.

Part 2-- "Pushing the Envelope on Presidential Power"-- follows up on the first part, narrowing in on Cheney's attempts to expand wartime powers, specifically in the treatment of detainees. It follows the history of these policies from 2002 through the present.

Salon's Tim Grieve summarizes the top 10 findings from the stories thus far.

Quote of the Day

"I don't know why someone else's marriage has anything to do with me. I'm completely comfortable with gay marriage."
--Elizabeth Edwards, who attended the pride parade in San Francisco yesterday.

Now if only she could get her husband and his fellow candidates to say the same thing.

Is Our People Learning?

According to a new Newsweek poll, 41% still believe that...
...Saddam Hussein’s regime was directly involved in financing, planning or carrying out the terrorist attacks on 9/11, even though no evidence has surfaced to support a connection. A majority of Americans were similarly unable to pick Saudi Arabia in a multiple-choice question about the country where most of the 9/11 hijackers were born. Just 43 percent got it right — and a full 20 percent thought most came from Iraq.

Imagine how even more unpopular the war would be if people actually understood it fully.

More 'disheartening' results from Newsweek.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: Gay Pride Edition

This weekend is Pride Weekend. It's basically a slightly gayer version of St. Patrick's Day, with rainbow flags instead of shamrocks. I myself will be marching down Fifth Avenue in some sort of parade. I hope my BFF Bloomberg will be there!

Anyway, this video is from a 1999 episode of Michael Moore's old show, "The Awful Truth" (which is on DVD, yet "TV Nation" isn't?). In it, Moore fills up a bus fulla gay people and visits all the states that still had anti-sodomy laws on the book. And along the way, he bumps into our old friend, Pastor Fred Phelps. Enjoy!

[PS- There's a clip in there of Sen. Trent Lott speaking about gays on a political talk show called "The Right Side with Armstrong Williams". Yes, that Armstrong Williams.]

Wake Me Up When September Ends

Listening to all the generals and whatnot blathering about on the pundit shows have made me realize that, despite his outwardly dumb behavior and appearance, President Bush is as shrewd as ever. He responded to the post-midterm momentum for withdrawal by... escalating the war instead. And he's managed to beat the Democrats at every turn in their opposition to it. He's also now gaming the debate/dialogue about the coming months so brilliantly, it will be nigh impossible to end all of this.

Here's why the 'surge' as political strategy was always gonna be win-win for the Bush crew.

Let's say that they can make the case come September that it's showing signs of progress (which would be false signs anyway, because 'securing' an area via an indefinite occupation is NOT a long-term solution), then they will say they've earned the benefit of the doubt and that they need more time to finish the job. And let's say that come September that things are as bad or worse than ever (more likely than not), then they will use the increased violence as a reason to stay longer, so that they can finish the job.

Get it? Either way, the White House gets to demand to stay longer, thereby fulfilling its oft-stated goal (for those who actually pay attention to this shit) of dragging this out so they can dump it on the next President to end. No exit strategy, just more war.

And those 'angry' Republicans will once again coalesce to the President's whims, because having tied themselves so tightly to the war, they will not know how to free themselves. So they will say that they agree that we need to give this more time because David Petraeus of Nazareth said so. And if you disagree, you hate the troops and want us to fail and help the terrorists!!!!

The Democrats, in turn, will freak out, because they really do believe that the GOP will abandon this war soon (hence all their talks about putting 'pressure' on vulnerable Republicans). They will try some hard-hitting measures-- revoking the 2002 war authorization, etc-- and fail, thanks to Joe Lieberman and the aforementioned GOP, ultimately settling on more rhetorical resolutions expressing dissent. Why? Because their consultants will tell them that really taking action to end the war will play bad in the polls... even though reality is just the opposite.

In short? Same shit. Different month. This disaster won't end until people get REALLY pissed off. As Principal Skinner once said, 'Prove me wrong, children, prove me wrong'.

[Related: Iraq: The Battle of September Has Already Begun (Arianna Huffington)]