Saturday, September 22, 2007


Fox News to air exclusive, one-hour puff piece about Gen. Petraeus tonight.

Not to sound shrill, but I think this counts as #s 1, 4, & 6 on the creeping fascism checklist.

Hillary's 'Universal' Healthcare?

Hillary Clinton chose this week to make a 'sweeping health care proposal Monday that would require everyone to carry health insurance and offer federal subsidies to help reduce the cost of coverage.' She put the details of her plan up on her campaign website.

Responding to the national sentiment/support for universal health care, she said "It is long past time that Americans and the richest of all countries realize that health care is a right and not a privilege."

But her plan falls far, far short of the type of universal coverage most other countries have. In fact, even calling it a 'universal' plan is a serious stretch of the term and reduces it to a buzzword.

Call me naive, but a single-payer system would seem a far more efficient way of doing this than by trying to "require everyone to carry health insurance." How would the latter work?

As blogger Atrios noted last week, "close to 5% of our GDP is spent on people pushing little bits of paper back and forth between doctors and insurance companies." Under Hillary's system, wouldn't that still be a problem? The only difference it seems to me-- and I admit, I am no expert here-- would be that everyone would have access to said insurance, with some financial support from the government.

Her proposal would hardly make health care a "right and not a privilege", though it's a noteable improvement over the current system. As Michael Moore's movie focused on, even people with insurance are just barely covered, and their companies are always looking for new ways to deny coverage and benefits to them. Does Hillary's system solve that problem? Does it solve the problem of having insurance tied to ones employer in an age where people are constantly moving from job to job? Does it find a solution to the red tape keeping people from getting the care they need? Etc.

Her plan seems to address some of these, but I don't know if it'd really solve them.

Look, I know that the political debate in this country is so ridiculous that a politician can't suggest a national system of health care without the chattering classes freaking out and conservatives warning of the stars and stripes being replaced with a hammer and sickle. But I believe we can do better than this.

[PS- Where do other candidates stand on this? Use the internet mashup debate to find out.]

Yet More Odds and Ends

The world refuses to take the weekend off, so here's more stories of interest...

Rudy Guiliani explains that he changed his position on guns because of... 9/11?!! It makes perfect sense if you're a craven opportunist! Speaking of, Rudy elsewhere explains that the way to pay for tax cuts is... through more tax cuts. What a serious candidate.

I haven't really been following the case of the 'Jena 6' and the surrounding incidents (latest news- here), but these incidents are why people emphasize that racism is alive and well (and complex, natch) in America today. And, yes, that's doubly true in the deep South.

On the federal Do Not Call list? Here's some information on renewal you may need to know.

Russia escalates its claim to be the owner of the Artic, claiming evidence that "the seabed is an extension of their continental shelf". Another fun consequence of climate change.

Finally, Blackwater quietly goes back to work in Iraq.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More Mayor Sanders, Please.

Here's some happy news for a change! The Republican mayor of San Diego (my home away from home every July) has changed his mind and embraced same-sex marriage. He says he now will sign a "resolution that the City Council passed ... directing the city attorney to file a brief in support of gay marriage [with the California Supreme Court]."

Originally, he would only support the politically popular 'civil union' compromise. He says now that "The concept of a 'separate but equal' institution is not something I can support... I want for them the same thing that we all want for our loved ones -- for each of them to find a mate whom they love deeply and who loves them back; someone with whom they can grow old together and share life's experiences."

He acknowledges that his love for his lesbian daughter also helped change his mind.

Salon's Joan Walsh has video of his press conference... here.

This, of course, all occurs as part of a larger battle over gay marriage in California. The state legislature has again passed a bill legalizing gay marriage in the state. Governor Schwarzenegger still intends to veto this bill. One can hope, however naively, that the courage of the Mayor Sanders of his own state will change his mind.

[PS- GOP front-runners have a shameful history of supporting gay civil rights. Shhhh.]

Weekend Odds and Ends

I'm going to see Sen. Obama speak Monday. I'm audaciously hopeful about it. Here's news...

The President's big Petraeus propaganda campaign which peaked last week was a complete failure... polls show the testimony "failed to change fundamental attitudes toward the war."

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan... CBS's Lara Logan investigates the state of medical care there.

Mike Johanns, the Agriculture Secretary, resigned this week, amid rumors that he intends to run for the Senate seat that Chuck Hagel will be vacating after next year. And right after a joke in The Onion too!

Larry Craig, still a Senator, turns to the ACLU for help. A closet civil liberties fan?

Which members of Congress are the most corrupt? The answers may (not) surprise you!

In what comes as a huge bombshell, it appears that the right-wing's xenophobic immigration rhetoric is turning off hispanic voters. Fox News, natch, was proud to play its part.

Finally, and not surprisingly, construction of new homes falls to the slowest pace in years.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Decider Holds A Press Conference

The President gave a press conference today and it stands out not for any substantive information gleamed from it... but as a snapshot of what a infantile, petulant frat-boy we have to call our President.

Via Salon, here's some excerpts (video- here). First up-
Reporter: Do you think there's a risk of a recession? How do you rate that?

Bush: You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people's money....

Translation: 'Don't ask me, I'm just the President!' Also, maybe someone should tell him his tax cuts have been part of the problem. And Bush, fiscally responsible? Brain hurt now.

(On a related note... the U.S. dollar? It's basically in the fucking toilet right now.)

Reporter: Sir, Israeli opposition leader Netanyahu has now spoken openly about Israel's bombing raid on a target in Syria earlier in the month. I wonder if you could tell us what the target was, whether you supported this bombing raid? And what do you think it does to change the dynamic in an already hot region, in terms of Syria and Iran and the dispute with Israel, and whether the U.S. could be drawn into any of this?

Bush: I'm not going to comment on the matter. Would you like another question?

Reporter: Did you support it?

Bush: I'm not going to comment on the matter.

Either, a) his knowledge of this is limited, or b) he wants to avoid giving the 'wrong' answer.

And here's the real gem-
Reporter: Mr. President, for Republicans seeking election next year are you an asset or a liability?

Bush: Strong asset.

Reporter: Can I follow?

Bush: No. I knew I made a mistake calling on you in the first place.

Hahahahaha! What a delightful asshole charmer he is! And a real asset to the GOP!

And since he was already getting nasty-
Reporter: Mr. President, back to your grade point average on holding the line on taxes.

Bush: I thought you were going to talk about the actual grade point average. I remind people that, like, when I'm with Condi, I say she's the Ph.D. and I'm the C student and just look at who's the president and who's the adviser. But go ahead...

I'm not Secretary Rice's #1 fan, but ouch, George, that's pretty fucking cold.

Finally, a real softball substantive question about our Iraq policy-
Reporter: What is your reaction to the ad that mocked Gen. Petraeus as "General Betray-Us," and said that he cooked the books on Iraq? And secondly, would you like to see Democrats, including presidential candidates, repudiate that ad?

Bush: I thought that the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack, not only on Gen. Petraeus, but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad...

Wow, I didn't know they let Jeff Gannon back in the White House press corps! Good stuff!

He concludes, "Thank you for your time." No, thank you, George. Thank you.

"Sue, sue, yeah, that's what I'm gonna do..."

This wins as story of the week. From Nebraska-
State Sen. Ernie Chambers is suing God. He said on Monday that it is to prove a point about frivolous lawsuits.

And on what grounds is he suing the almighty?
The lawsuit accuses God "of making and continuing to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons, including constituents of Plaintiff who Plaintiff has the duty to represent." It says God has caused "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects and the like."

The suit also says God has caused "calamitous catastrophes resulting in the wide-spread death, destruction and terrorization of millions upon millions of the Earth’s inhabitants including innocent babes, infants, children, the aged and infirm without mercy or distinction."

Chambers also says God "has manifested neither compassion nor remorse, proclaiming that defendant will laugh" when calamity comes.

I hear God has a burnt-out hippie for a son. Better subpoena him and see what dirt we can dig up on the big guy.

Jon and The General

Amid last week's hubbub over Bush's General, Jon Stewart chats with Clinton's General-

[PS- This article in the Sunday Times (UK) by Andrew Sullivan-- 'Petraeus lets slip the ugly truth of this war'-- is an excellent read. The best part is when he lists the different rationales given for the war, as they changed by year. He wonders what 2008's rationale will be. If we leave now, the liberals terrorists win!]

Legislative Followups

Earlier this week, I did two supportive posts on some legislation being brought up in the Senate... a bill to restore habeas corpus rights for detainees, and one to give troops more time at home. Want to know how that worked out? Not well.

The vote on the habeas bill was 56-43 in support. The vote on the troop deployment time bill was 56-44 in support. Wait, you ask... doesn't that mean the bills passed? Hooray!

Actually, no, it doesn't. Because these weren't votes on the bills themselves, but rather votes on whether to "cut off debate"... aka, end the GOP filibusters. Republicans intended to prevent the bills from even being voted on (such courageous men). They succeeded.

(Note: On the troop bill, they proposed a symbolic counter-bill, but that also failed.)

The Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum looks at the GOP's obsession with this filibuster tactic since Democrats took over last January. Looking at charts, he notes that Republicans are "obstructing legislation at three times the usual rate" of filibusters. He laments that the media reports ignore this, simply noting that the bills failed, but not why they failed.

A hopeful sign... the current version of the Reuters story up on Yahoo's main page (as of this writing) leads with this headline: "Senate Republicans block Iraq bill". It's a start.

[UPDATE: Holy shit on a stick, folks... After blocking substantive bill after substantive bill, the GOP did vote on and pass the anti-MoveOn bill. There are no words. Fuck you, GOP.]

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Supporting The Troops?

As Congress debates the war-funding bill later this month (spoiler alert: it's probably going to pass, despite Democratic opposition efforts), an amendment introduced by Sen. Webb (D-VA) is making waves.

Via The Hill, "the amendment requires the Pentagon to give active-duty troops at least as much time at home as they spent on deployments, and mandates that National Guard and Reserve members get to stay home for three years following their one-year deployments."

Sen. Webb defended his proposal in July on 'Meet The Press' by stating there "there is no operational policy that justifies what we've been doing," and that the changes he's seeking are in concert with traditional military policy.

Now the Secretary of Defense is urging the President to veto this if it comes to his desk, "branding it a dangerous 'backdoor way' to draw down forces." As opposed to the 'backdoor' draft methods-- stop-loss programs, multiple tours of duty, 15-month stays, etc -- that have been the reality of the Bush era, eh Bob?

Gates elaborates-
If Webb's amendment were enacted, Gates said it would force him to consider again extending tours in Iraq. He explained that the military commanders would be constrained in the use of available forces, creating gaps and forcing greater use of an already strained National Guard and Reserve.

"It would be extremely difficult for us to manage that. It really is a backdoor way to try and force the president to accelerate the drawdown," Gates said. "Again, the drawdowns have to be based on the conditions on the ground."

Sec. Gates knows full well that any drawdowns the President approves next year (and it's clear it's less than the hype) will not be based on the conditions on the ground. They are based on stretched military reality, the very issue Sen. Webb is hoping to ease.

If that hurts the President's policy, then he needs to come clean with the American public.

Does the White House truly believe his policy (or lack thereof, more honestly) is worth the loss of life, limbs, and treasure we continue to suffer? The President constantly refers to this war as being a battle for the very heart and soul of our civilization... like WWII, but ya know, more serious. And yet he asks for no sacrifices from the public at large, except for the very small number (comparatively) of military families with serving members. If the fate of western civilization itself is at stake, why not call a draft? Besides the fact that he knows that would cut in half what little support the war still has, the larger point is that even President Bush knows this is not a serious war.

The President and his supporters love to hide behind the troops and use them as political shields. So it's not surprising that when people call attention to the reality of life for them (ie. the Walter Reed scandal), the White House gets defensive. But while the Democrats may indeed lack the votes to end this unserious war during Bush's term, the least they can do is fight to give the real help needed to those who continue to fight it for them.

[PS- Mark Kleiman has some strategy suggestions for Democrats on the war funding debate.]

"Oh, black water, keep on rollin'..." (Pt. II)

The outcome's uncertain, but Iraqis are taking the Blackwater incident very seriously...

AP: U.S. suspends diplomatic travel outside Green Zone

Odds and Ends

I saw Alan Greenspan on the 'Daily Show'. He looks old. Here's the news...

Fresh off of lying to Congress last week (which I think used to be a crime or something), director of national intelligence Mike McConnell went back this week to... apologize for having deceived the nation demand that Congress authorize even more unchecked spying power to the executive branch. View hearing clips: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Voting rights for Washington DC? The issue, once again, died in the Senate.

Free at last! The NY Times officially ends their pay-subscription 'Select' system.

Conservatives hold 'Values Voter Debate'... and the front-runners wisely stay away.

Gen. Abizaid, formerly of CENTCOM, says "Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran." He warns against the alarmist hype, saying, "Iran is not a suicide nation."

Finally, journalist warmonger Michael Leeden goes to a Toby Keith concert to hang out with rednecks ("a.k.a. real Americans")... unaware that many "real Americans" do not, in fact, support neverending war. How odd.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Defend Habeas Corpus? Yea, Sure, Why Not?

Senators Leahy, Dodd, and Specter are spearheading an effort to undo the damage of last Fall's Military Commissions Act (though the latter, umm, actually voted for it). They are urging concerned voters to contact their Senators about this.

You can also sign on to become a citizen co-sponsor... here.

How Far We've Come

While its editorials still lean decidedly right-of-center, the NY Daily News readers continue to send in letters that I think better reflect what actual people are thinking. A letter in today's edition for example-
Manhattan: President Bush's new goals in Iraq - stability, no safe haven for Al Qaeda and a bulwark against Iran - all sound a lot like Iraq under Saddam Hussein. It's further proof that more than 3,700 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died for nothing.

Laurence G. Hirsch

Or to quote Dick Cheney, "How many dead Americans is Saddam worth... not very many."

(The Post, meanwhile, still focuses on the hypocritical 'controversy' that affects no one.)

'Dishonest, Hypocritical, Dangerous, and Irresponsible'

Having announced that he is not seeking a new term in next year's elections, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is free to be as honest as he wants. And boy, was he ever honest in this interview with Bill Maher this past Friday-

[The whole show was a great discussion... watch it here: Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.]

Monday, September 17, 2007

President Bush Nominates Mukasey For Attorney General...

...And I think I'm okay with that.

President Bush announced the nomination this morning of retired federal judge Michael Mukasey to replace ol' Gonzo as Attorney General (see video- here). No, he wouldn't be President Blueduck's choice, but I think it's a good pick by Bush standards.

Last week, it was reported that the President's top pick for the job was former Solicitor General, Ted Olson. This caused anger on the left, as Olson had a reputation of being a hardcore partisan warrior. Senator Majority Leader Reid announced publicly that Olson would not be confirmed by the Senate. One week later and voila... we get a different nominee. A rare victory for Senate Democrats. May it give them the courage they need to stand up on the war funding bill.

Many liberals remain apprehensive about Mukasey, who of course is a loyal conservative and Republican (Huffington Post chose to lead with his connections to the Guiliani campaign). But this isn't scandalous... Bush is a Republican president, he picked a Republican to run his Justice Department. Nothing inherently wrong with that.

The real issue is whether he will run an independent, competent Department, or allow it to remain a political arm of the Republican Party electoral apparatus, as Alberto Gonzales turned it into. There is no evidence yet to suggest the latter would be the case.

As one reassuring example of his judicial independence, Glenn Greenwald looks at how Mukasey handled the Jose Padilla case. As he notes, Mukasey "repeatedly defied the demands of the Bush administration... and ruled that Padilla was entitled to contest the factual claims of the government and to have access to lawyers. He issued these rulings in 2002 and 2003, when virtually nobody was defying the Bush administration on anything." He furthers add, though, that he also ruled that "President Bush had the authority to detain American citizens, even those detained on U.S. soil, as 'enemy combatants'." So while this ruling is a mixed bag, it does show that Mukasey's ideas on the rule of law are his own.

Perhaps it is this streak of independence that is worrying so many conservatives.

Bush cultist Mark Noonan over at Blogs for Bush laments that "One might have preferred a good fight over the AG post." Yes, that's what matters to the right... trumped-up political fights! Yay! His cohort at that site, Matt Margolis, is furious that Bush has 'appeased' the Democrats, also lamenting the loss of a fun fight over Ted Olson. He then expresses confusion at the idea that the President may have ever overstepped the Constitution. Being conservative isn't enough for the base. For them, you have to do what Alberto Gonzales did... and make John Ashcroft look like Ramsey Clark.

So, in conclusion, with Gonzales and Rove gone from their days of scheming, I think that Mukasey is the best nominee we can expect to keep the Justice Department safe for the remainder of Bush's term. I remain interested, of course, to hear his take on the Gonzales era of Justice-- and how he intends to undo the damage-- during the confirmation process.

Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and The Emmys

The Emmy Awards were last night and while I didn't watch (no nomination for Jack Coleman from 'Heroes' = me boycott!), I can view highlights via YouTube.

For the Best Writing in a Variety, Music, or Comedy Program category, each show (The Colbert Report, The Daily Show, Late Night w/ Conan O'Brien, the Late Show w/ David Letterman, and Real Time w/ Bill Maher) submitted a funny video to accompany the names. The best of these were from the Conan crew and the Daily Show.

Elsewhere on the show, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert debated whether award shows are eco-hypocrisy. Colbert shot Stewart down, reminding him that "If entertainers stop publicly congratulating each other, then the earth wins." And finally, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert give Ricky Gervais' award to Steve Carell.

"Oh, black water, keep on rollin'..."

A potentially sad day for war profiteers everywhere...

AP: Blackwater license being pulled in Iraq
The Iraqi government said Monday that it was pulling the license of an American security firm allegedly involved in the fatal shooting of civilians during an attack on a U.S. State Department motorcade in Baghdad.

The Interior Ministry said it would prosecute any foreign contractors found to have used excessive force in the Sunday shooting. It was latest accusation against the U.S.-contracted firms that operate with little or no supervision and are widely disliked by Iraqis who resent their speeding motorcades and forceful behavior...

It adds that "Unlike soldiers, they are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice." Privatized war = fun!

Odds and Ends

It's Monday morning and the news was talking about OJ. Is it 1994 again? Here's real news-

First up, the benefits of catastrophic climate change! From the AP: "Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane... The waters are exposing unexplored resources, and vessels could trim thousands of miles from Europe to Asia by bypassing the Panama Canal." Woooo!

The President finally signs the Democrats' ethics reform bill. Daily Kos has a point-by-point breakdown of the changes the law makes to lobbying practices.

Moonbat Alan Greenspan says war was about oil? OMGZ NO WAYZ!

News from our rarely-acknowledged Secretary of Defense: "The Bush administration is committed, for now, to using diplomatic and economic means to counter the potential nuclear threat from Iran, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday." Bold added by me. What's Cheney think about this diplomacy, Bob?

Finally, disgraced ex-ABC News consultant Alexis Debat has ties to key neocons.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Weekend Video Theatre: 9/11 Forever!

Stephen Colbert salutes the patriots who wish every day was September 12, 2001-